Essential Fireworks Safety Tips


Independence Day is here, and all summer long, people enjoy amazing displays of fireworks. From the spectacular hometown shows to the simple backyard celebration, pyrotechnics are an essential part of the party.

But according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 240 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday. Don’t spend a night in the hospital when you can easily prevent injuries to eyes, hands, fingers by observing some simple safety tips.

Courtesy of the American Pyrotechnics Association:

– Store fireworks in a cool, dry place

– Always read and follow the directions on the label

– Always have an adult present when handling fireworks

– Never give fireworks to young children, even sparklers!

– Use fireworks outdoors in a safe, non-wooden area

– Having a working garden hose or bucket of water handy

– Keep everyone a safe distance away from fireworks

– Light only one firework at a time

– Never re-ignite a firework that doesn’t light the first time or one that has finished its display

– Never carry fireworks in your pocket

– Don’t throw fireworks at another person

– Keep pets indoors and away from fireworks

– Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers

– Keep spectators at a safe distance

– Always wear safety glasses when igniting fireworks

Also, make sure the fireworks you light are legal! You can find out state laws regarding fireworks here:

Curious where fireworks are going to happen this year? I’m happy to share with you my favorite spots to celebrate: 614-565-8161 or


10 ways to have a hassle-free Thanksgiving

(21415977BPT) – From cooking an extravagant turkey dinner to readying the house for guests, hosting Thanksgiving is a lot of work. This annual day of thanks should be focused on connecting with family and enjoying each other’s com pany, not worrying if the bird will be dry or the kids will be bored. These 10 smart ideas will streamline your Thanksgiving holiday so you can relax and enjoy it to the fullest.

Plan ahead. Start planning Thanksgiving up to a month in advance. Get solid RSVPs so you know how many people to expect. This makes planning meals, organizing activities and rearranging chairs/furniture much easier. Pick up the phone or send out a nicely crafted event email with a RSVP request.

                                                                           Inspire gratitude. Don’t let the reason for the season get lost in the holiday hubbub. Simply get blank stationary or gift tags at the store and hand them out upon your guests’ arr21415691ival. Have each person write down one thing they are thankful for and add it to a bowl. After dinner, pull them out one by one, reading each out aloud and guessing who wrote it.

Visit a restaurant. Mix things up this year by eating your Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. You won’t be alone; an estimated 15 million people choose to eat at a restaurant for their turkey day feast. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, for example, is one option open on Thanksgiving. You can enjoy a traditional, homemade holiday meal featuring roasted turkey and homemade sides like sweet potato casserole – all without the stress of cooking and cleaning at home. Learn more at

Sleep and exercise. Get a good night’s rest the evening before the big day — it will help you stay focused and relaxed. Furthermore, don’t interrupt your exercise routine. Workout in the morning to release healthy endorphins that reduce stress levels. (Plus, then you don’t have to feel guilty about having a second slice of pie.)

Keep kids busy. Keep kids from bouncing off the walls by planning a few simple activities. Create “busy bags” for each child with fun activities they can do on their own, such as counting cards, puzzles, dominos and memory games. These are great on-the-go or at home. Another idea is to create special kid spaces throughout the home, such as a table with crayons and paper or a corner with blankets, pillows and picture books. If the weather is nice, create a scavenger hunt list with things that are in the yard.

Order in. Forget slaving for hours in the kitchen when you can order in and eat in the comfort of your home. Feed six with Cracker Barrel’s Homestyle Turkey n’ Dressing Family Meal To-Go complete with gravy, a sampling of sugar cured ham, choice of three quart-sized country sides, cranberry relish, biscuits and corn muffins.

Create festive table decor. If you do grab a Thanksgiving meal-to-go from a restaurant or cook at home, it’s simple to create a memorable tablescape that embraces the feeling of fall. Instead of place cards, write guests’ names on miniature pumpkins. Skip tapered candles and instead scoop out the top section of a few apples and add tea lights. Cluster or line them up in a row to create eye-catching ambiance.

Prime the pumpkins. No need to buy extra bowls, just reach for your favorite gourds. Pumpkins add elegance to any setting when used as bowls. All you have to do is carve and line them with tin foil or place a smaller bowl inside. Now you have the perfect way to serve dip and chips or add ice to stylishly chill drinks.

Delegate duties. Trying to do it all makes for a stressful Thanksgiving and almost guarantees something will go wrong. If you’re overwhelmed, take up offers to help. From asking Aunt Susy to watch the children and Uncle Joe to set the table, delegating can be the key to Thanksgiving happiness.

Schedule breaks. Make time to rest and enjoy your family on Thanksgiving. You don’t need to slave away for hours in the kitchen only to eat and immediately clean up the entire mess. When you’re done, everyone will be heading home! Enjoy the parade, read to little ones, and savor a cup of tea with Grandma

5 truly meaningful ways to show your patriotism this Memorial Day and beyond

21413776(BPT) – “Expressions of patriotic enthusiasm are as bright and thrilling as fireworks, but they dissipate as quickly,” Washington Post blogger Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in a July 2014 examination of patriotism among American youth. Yet most Americans consider themselves patriotic, even if their definitions of the term vary slightly or even greatly, multiple surveys show. While politicians and political parties may be satisfied with fireworks and rhetoric, average Americans seek meaningful ways to show their love for their country, such as supporting veterans and active-duty service members.

With Memorial Day kicking off the start of summer and its many patriotic celebrations, including Military Appreciation Month throughout May, here are five ways you can show your patriotism and make a difference at the same time:




1. Support veterans and active-duty military.

Taking care of the people who serve our country is an important way to show patriotism. You can show your support in many ways, from hiring veterans if you’re a small-business owner to participating in business initiatives and organizations that help active-duty service people and veterans. Plenty of organizations can help you show your support.

“As a veteran, I’ve seen firsthand the value of community support for members of the military,” says Preston Funkhouser, facility services project manager for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Funkhouser served in Saudi Arabia, in Iraq in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, and in Kosovo. “We’ve hired thousands of veterans in various positions throughout our company, and we have supported organizations like the USO, the National Military Families Association and Wounded Warriors that lift up our servicemen, servicewomen and veterans.”

Showing support can be as simple as visiting with a veteran in your neighborhood, putting together a care package for someone serving overseas, or making a purchase from a merchant who donates a portion of the proceeds to a military support organization. You can find a comprehensive list of support organizations online at

2. Vote.

Despite the concept of a participatory government being a fundamental tenet of America, recent voter turnout in this country has been historically low. In 2014, it was the lowest since World War II; about 36 percent of Americans eligible to vote did so, according to the United States Election Project. Yet in a Fox News poll, 93 percent of respondents said they believed voting was a patriotic thing to do.

Turnout is usually higher in years with a presidential race, but don’t just wait for a big election. Vote in your municipal, school district, county and state elections, too. Take your children with you so they learn about the process and the importance of voting. It’s the American thing to do.

3. Fly the flag – the right way.

Three patriotic holidays occur in the summer: Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day. It’s a perfect time to begin displaying the flag – and turn it into a year-round habit. “Displaying the flag is a wonderful way to show respect for our country and for everyone who has defended it throughout our history,” says Funkhouser. “All 634 of our Cracker Barrel stores display an American Flag beside the fireplace and have free brochures at the cashier counter on how to properly display the American Flag.”

There are right ways – and wrong ways – to display the flag. For example, illuminate the flag at night if you’ll be displaying it ‘round-the-clock, but never hang it with the union – the blue and white stars field – downward; that’s a signal of distress. Read the federal Flag Code for more information on the proper way to display the flag.

4. Visit and support a national park.

The National Parks Service protects many of the country’s greatest natural and historic treasures – and they’re available for the enjoyment of everyone. Many national park and historic sites are free, but some do charge admission. When you pay your admission fee or make a voluntary donation, you’re helping the National Park service continue to preserve America’s cultural and natural history.

The wide variety of sites and locations means virtually every American is within a reasonable drive of a National Park site. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a week-long family vacation, you can find a National Park location that will provide a fun, educational and patriotic experience.

Patriotism doesn’t have to be something that burns brief and bright, and then fades until next summer. Meaningful acts of patriotism, like supporting members of the armed forces, can shine throughout the year.

5. Participate in The Four-Star Salute.

Check out the online charity auction,, to purchase great items and packages with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting military families. The auction runs from May 11 through Memorial Day in honor of Military Appreciation Month with all proceeds benefitting the USO (United Service Organizations).

The importance of maintaining family traditions through the holidays

20801433_web(BPT) – Holiday celebrations are a time for family, food, and fun. Part of what makes each holiday a special occasion are the family traditions that are celebrated and passed down each year.

Research shows traditions are important to families because they build strong relationships between generations. Because these customs are so cherished, children often remember these special experiences from the holiday season more than the toys or gifts they receive. Additionally, traditions can teach children about important values like family and community.

Here are a few reasons why traditions matter and how they create lasting memories:

* Traditions bring people together – There’s nothing like preparing a holiday recipe that’s been handed down from one generation to the next. It’s a wonderful time to reminisce about how the recipe brings back fond memories of holidays past while at the same time creating new memories as you prepare and enjoy the dish with the help of family and friends.

“Traditions are an important part of celebrating the holidays,” says Marnely Rodriguez-Murray, of the food blog Cooking with Books. “Many of them revolve around special-occasion food – and those familiar tastes and smells have the ability to bring families of all shapes and sizes together.”

* Traditions can evolve over time – As families change, so do traditions. Embrace these changes by creating new traditions or refining old ones. You can help make the holidays more special and memorable by giving others a chance to make suggestions for starting new and improving existing traditions.

“Millions of family traditions include sharing Hickory Farms gifts filled with signature sausages and cheeses before a holiday meal, when entertaining or while unwrapping gifts,” said Rodriguez-Murray. “This year, start a new one by secretly dropping a piece of their new Signature Chocolate Collection into someone’s hot cocoa when they aren’t looking. They’ll be both surprised and delighted.”

Available at and at Hickory Farms Holiday Market locations nationwide, these products can become a new family holiday tradition.

* Traditions are just plain fun – Traditions produce long-lasting memories for everyone, like the annual family Thanksgiving football game or everyone opening their matching pajamas on Christmas Eve, because they have the ability to make people laugh and smile. What’s more, these joyful traditions give family members something additional to look forward to each and every year. The repetition of these moments over time builds anticipation as each holiday season returns, enhancing the excitement, joy and fun for all.

Make this holiday season special by creating and preserving family traditions that will last a lifetime.

Rush to Buy Homes During the Holidays?

SONY DSCHome owners may be doubtful that the months of November and December will bring about a home sale. After all, aren’t potential buyers sidetracked with the holidays and likelier to postpone their house hunt due to bad weather and shorter days?

But sometimes the “off-peak” time to sell can actually be the perfect moment for sellers. Several studies show that, on average, homes listed in November and December are more likely to sell, sell more quickly, and more closely approach the asking price, according to an article at

A 2011 study conducted by® found that 60 percent of real estate professionals advise their sellers to list a home during the holidays because they believe it’s an opportune time to sell. Nearly 80 percent of the real estate professionals surveyed said that more serious buyers emerge during the holidays, and 61 percent say less competition from other properties makes it an ideal time to sell.

Thanksgiving is particularly good, the article notes. Buyers may have held out through the busy summer months hoping to find a better deal, but now they may be searching with increased urgency. Some buyers may be motivated to close before the end of the year for tax purposes. They can purchase a home late in the year to deduct home purchase costs on their taxes, such as points, interest, and property taxes. Also, certain sellers who sold their homes during the summer season may be facing a capital gains tax. They may be highly motivated to buy in November to avoid paying capital gains tax (since closing on the purchase of another house is required within 180 days).

Source: “Why November Is the Best Month to Sell Your Home,”

Post Holiday Cleanup

The holiday season has come and gone, and it’s now time to begin packing away your holiday decorations. While cleaning up after the holidays can be a drag, it doesn’t have to be. Follow these simple post-holiday clean up tips, and your home will be back to normal in no time.
Organizing your holiday decorations when you pack them away is a good way to save yourself the hassle when you go to decorate next year. Using large plastic containers can help you organize your decorations. They can also save you space in your basement or attic. Be sure to pack your decorations away in groups and mark each container, this way you can easily find each room’s decorations.
When packing away tree decorations, pack fragile ornaments in bubble wrap or shredded paper and place them inside smaller boxes. Tree lights should also be neatly packed away; a good trick is to wrap them around a piece of PVC piping. Artificial trees should also be cleaned of all tinsel and garland and stored in the original box making sure not to crush or break any of the branches.
Wreaths can be easily stored by attaching the wreath to a heavy-duty clothes hanger. Cover the wreath by cutting a small whole in a trash bag and feeding the hook of the clothes hanger through the hole. You can then easily hang the wreath to prevent damage and ensure use year after year.
Taking down your holiday decorations doesn’t mean sacrificing a lot of time. Keep in mind these tips and remember to stay organized and you will be on your way to enjoying a new year.

Throw a Memorable and Safe Holiday Party

Throwing a holiday party is a great way to celebrate the season with friends and family. From great food and drinks to decorations and songs, here is everything you need to know to have a memorable and safe holiday gathering.
Decorations can set the mood for your party. Whether you are looking for a formal feel with dark burgundies or hunter greens, or a relaxed environment with bright reds and greens, partygoers are sure to remember a well decorated party. Candles and white lights can also set a winter mood. Keep in mind, though, that the open flame of a candle can be unsafe around small children. Place candles in safe environments away from any decorations as to avoid catching on fire.
Food is also a key to any good holiday party. A major complaint of party hosts is spending too much time in the kitchen. Avoid this by preparing foods that can be served at room temperature. This also invites people to eat when they are ready instead of serving food at one time.
Holiday parties are not complete without festive drinks. Remember though, if serving alcohol at your party, do it responsibly. Stop serving alcoholic beverages at least one hour before the party ends to ensure safe travels. A good way to limit the consumption of alcohol is to have premixed drinks such as punch, this way you can control the amount of alcohol in each drink. Be sure to also provide an array of non-alcoholic drinks for guests who prefer not drink.
Keep these few tips in mind when planning your next holiday party. Just remember, the most important part of any party is to enjoy the festive time with family and friends.

Selling Your Home During the Holiday Season

The holidays are here, and the only gift you want is a “sold” sign in your front yard. In past years, it’s been difficult to sell a home during the winter months. It’s an extremely busy time of year, any an expensive one at that. However, selling your home during the holiday season doesn’t have to be hard.
If you’re determined to sell your home this holiday season, consider these tips.

Create curb appeal. Clear your driveway, walkways and stairs of snow and ice. Spruce up the front door with a wreath and a holiday welcome mat. Decorate the outside of the house with a few holiday lights. You can also put candles in your windows. However, remember to decorate tastefully; a little goes a long way when it comes to decorating.

Appear welcoming. Turn on the porch or garage light in the evening, as if you’re expecting guests. Keep the house warm and toasty. It will be much appreciated by visitors during these cold months. Light your fireplace (if you have one) to create a cozy feeling. Want a more friendly touch? Bake cookies! Your home will smell delicious, and you’ll have wonderful treats on hand. Not into baking? Put a drop of vanilla extract on a cookie sheet and place in the oven a few minutes before guests arrive; it will have the same effect as baking.

Don’t go overboard. Decorate the interior with a few holiday trinkets, but be careful not to overwhelm potential buyers. They need to see beyond these decorations that will only stay up one month of the year. Buyers will appreciate your holiday spirit, but are also interested in the look of your home as it will appear year round.

Keep in close contact with me, your real estate agent. You don’t want to have a showing in the middle of entertaining friends and family. Make sure that I’m aware of your schedule and alert me as soon as possible if something comes up.

How to Choose the Perfect Bouquet for Mother’s Day

(ARA) – Whether it’s your grandmother, mother, wife or friend, flowers continue to remain one of the most popular gifts to give on Mother’s Day. Make this her most memorable Mother’s Day yet by giving her something that reflects her unique personality and style. From contemporary to casual, Laura Milder, ProFlowers designer and floral expert, offers tips on how to make sure your bouquet selection will be the perfect fit for the personality and style of that special mom in your life.
Modern mom – She’s hipper than you, always has the latest editions of “Vogue” and “Vanity Fair,” and knows what’s “hot” before everyone else. For mothers that are always keeping up with the latest in fashion and design, shopping for flowers online is a surefire way to match the right bouquet to her contemporary style. This Mother’s Day, trends point towards simplicity and taking a break from the hectic pace of life. Monochromatic bouquets such as french tulips and dendrobium orchids or potted orchids have a very modern look. Short arrangements have a very hip appearance when placed in small round or square vases.
A “cause” for celebration – She is a nurse, chef, therapist and best friend all rolled into one. If you recognize this “super” mom, choose a flower arrangement that also makes a difference. Select a bouquet that gives back to a charity of your mom’s choice, such as one from the ProFlowers Pink Ribbon Collection, which raises money and awareness for breast cancer. For mom’s who are a little more eco-friendly, chose an organic arrangement or go for a beautiful flowering plant or bulb garden that will be admired long after Mother’s Day.
A mother like no other – A free-spirited mom lives in the moment and never misses a beat; she loves to get creative and always has a paintbrush or camera close by. A great way to mirror your mom’s unique personality is to add some personal touches to your gift. Collect old pieces of broken china and porcelain to create a unique mosaic vase or let your inner artist out by painting a flower clay pot with a personal message or design. Any “original” mom will love this unique work of art, whether it’s outside in the garden or inside on the windowsill.
A twist on the traditional – Dinner at six, coffee at seven and bedtime at ten. For moms and grandmothers who tend to stick to their everyday routine, there are many time-honored, traditional floral arrangements to choose from. Graceful bouquets of pale pink roses, purple butterfly asters or white lilies are ideal for Mother’s Day. Presentation is everything, so add a little twist by wrapping a cylindrical or hourglass vase in a sheer fabric or cloth and securing it with a pretty ribbon.
Whether her style is traditional, modern or just plain over the top, has an arrangement that is sure to suit any mom this Mother’s Day.
Courtesy of ARAcontent