Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Fun Facts About The US Flag

I would have written a completely different post about the US Flag and US Flag history if we weren't in the middle of such uncertain times. So, given our circumstances at the moment, I figured I could discuss different activities about the US Flag for kids to work on when they're home from school. 

Besides various worksheets, videos, coloring pages that are easily available for download, there are a number of online resources for homeschool curriculums that are free or discounted heavily for parents and teachers. (Due to the current situation, many businesses have stepped up to help to make sure parents can continue their child's education at home.) 

You can also create your own worksheets and puzzles with some facts about the flag. 

Fun Facts About The US Flag

Did you know that the flag actually has to be in bed at sunset each night? Not only that but the flag also needs to be awake at sunrise each and every morning! 

The designer of our current flag was a high school student who received a B- from his teacher for his project. 
Robert G. Heft of Lancaster, Ohio, created the current design in 1958. President Dwight D. Eisenhower picked Robert's flag out of 1500 entries! 

6 American Flags have been planted on the moon. Neil Armstrong planted the first one on the moon in July of 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission.  Of the 6, only 1 has been removed. So there are 5 left standing. (The first one is no longer on the moon!) 

There have been 27 versions of the American Flag. There was a mistake made when North and South Dakota became states because some flag manufacturer's thought they would be combined into just 1 state. So, there was a version with 39 stars.

Vermont and Kentucky were states 14 and 15 and the flag changed from 13 stripes to 15 stripes. However, when there were more states added, there were discussions as to whether or not they would constantly add more stripes to each state. So, they decided to go back to just 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies.

The US Flag that we have today is the very first flag to have lasted for 50 years. At one point, we had 17 different versions of the flag over a 50-year span!

There is just a time when burning the flag is acceptable. If the flag is damaged beyond repair, the US Flag Code does state that you can, in fact, burn it in order to dispose of it with dignity.

Just like a lot of us, the US Flag has a few nicknames! You have probably heard someone use one of those nicknames. One of the first nicknames was, "Old Glory". Another popular nickname a lot of people still use is, "Stars and Stripes".

The American Flag has been on quite a few trips! Not only has it been taken to the moon but, in 1909, Robert Peary traveled to the North Pole and took a flag that his wife had sewn and put it in the ice.
In 1963, Barry Bishop took a flag with him on his trip to the top of Mount Everest!

According to the US Flag Code, the flag should never be flown in bad weather. If it must be flown at nighttime, it must be illuminated.

History suggests that the colors of the flag were chosen because red represents valor, white represents liberty and purity and the color blue represents justice and loyalty.

The proper way to view the flag when it's on display is by facing the flag with your right hand over your heart. You've probably done this at school or right before a baseball game or a hockey game!
On August 3, 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress that would designate every June 14th as  National Flag Day. Our current president, Donald J. Trump celebrates his birthday on June 14th too!

There are so many fun facts about the flag! This is just a short list but if you want to impress your friends (or your teaches!) check for more at your local library or online. If you're bored and looking for things to read about or learn about, you could also start memorizing the states and even include the order in which they became stars on the flag!

You could also check out Flags Unlimited for more fun facts and to purchase one of your very own!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Gift Ideas For The Man In Your LIfe

It’s the thought that counts. That’s what many people say about being presented with gifts that are unwanted, unnecessary or downright confusing. It’s a noble opinion, but it doesn’t help those individuals who struggle with finding the perfect present. Gift-giving anxiety plagues many shoppers, and it’s especially troublesome when one is charged with purchasing a gift for the proverbial man-who-has-everything. Father’s Day spending reached a record $16 billion last year, much of that adding to America’s fathers’ ever-growing collections of socks, ties and coffee mugs. With dad’s day on the horizon, get your father something he truly wants this year. Here are two gift ideas that will make him happy.

Science and History

Remember all those times your dad bugged you about your school studies? It just might not be because he recognized the importance of a good education. Many fathers continue to enjoy academic interests throughout their lives. If he’s a science and nature lover, take an active role in building a mineral collection or purchase a telescope and spend some quality time under the stars. To treat a history buff, take him on a day trip or mini-vacation to a Colonial community, Civil War battleground or Old West landmark. Even gifts like films and books about history will be appreciated.

Sports and Recreation

When dad’s a sports enthusiast, you’ll surely score when giving him game tickets to watch his favorite team play. If his fandom flirts with fanaticism, consider gifting him a jersey or other sports memorabilia autographed by his childhood idol or current favorite. If he’s a hands-on sporting type, treat him to a fishing or hunting adventure, or even spend an afternoon together in your favorite wild spaces hiking, trail biking or whitewater rafting.

Whatever you decide to do for your dad, do it together. The thing that matters most is spending quality time with the ones you love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Painting For Adult Beginners

Have you ever wanted to learn how to paint? This hobby is an excellent way to improve focus, relieve stress and provide a creative outlet for many people. However, many adults don't know how or where to begin when it comes to painting. If you're ready to give this form of artful expression a try, follow these three tips to set yourself up for success.

Start With the Right Supplies

When it comes to buying paint supplies, there are numerous materials to choose from. Visit an art supply store long beach ca and talk to an employee with experience in your area of interest. They can help you choose which products are worth the investment for beginners, and which should be reserved for more serious artists. You may be surprised that your initial purchases should be relatively inexpensive.

Consider a Class to Learn Basic Techniques

It's difficult to sit down and paint with no previous experience or instruction. Search for classes online or at a local studio to help you understand the basics of painting, including value, tones and perspective. Even just a few sessions with a pro can give you the information you need to paint successfully on your own.

Find Inspiration from the Artwork of Others

One of the most difficult processes in painting is working from real life. Instead, start by emulating the works of other artists to help you get a firm grasp on your basic skill set. Over time, you may find that it's easier to come up with your own original ideas and subjects.

Keep it Stress-Free

Learning to paint takes practice. Make the learning experience enjoyable by creating a relaxing environment in your home. Pick a time that's quiet and eliminate distractions. Choose a location in your home that helps you feel at ease and play your favorite music to promote leisure and focus.

If you're ready to give painting a try, follow these steps for a great start. With the right approach, you can enjoy a new hobby and stick with it for years to come.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Finding The Perfect Gift For Any Occasion

Have you ever been invited to a party and you had no idea what type of present to bring? Perhaps it was a birthday party for your grandfather, a baby shower for your best friend’s newborn, or a retirement celebration for a co-worker. No matter what the occasion, when you don’t have the right gift idea, you can become frustrated. Here are some gift-giving ideas to help you conquer the conundrums associated with gifts.

For Children

If you want to find a present that will delight, educate, and not replicate something someone else is bringing to the children’s part, look for one of the themed gifts Richmond VA at an online kid’s boutique. You can find puzzles, science equipment, and even dress-up costumes.

For Newborns

The quintessential gifts for newborns are plushies, diapers, or wipes. Why not give something that will last for years, such as money in a savings account? You could also look into clothing, bedding, or get together with other gift-givers and purchase a significantly large gift such as a bedroom set.

For Acquaintances

For those co-workers or retirement parties, look for cookie bouquets, fruit baskets, or quirky gifts. You may not know the person well, but you can always please someone with a tub of popcorn, a gift card, or a gardening basket.

For Grandparents

Let’s face it; if your grandparents want something, they probably have it. So, what do you get for someone that has everything? If they have a pet, opt for a framed picture. If they love chocolate, try a candy bouquet. If your grandparents complain about cold feet, get them some colorful socks that make a bold statement.

Finding the perfect gift can be a breeze if you look at the tips given above. Think outside the limits of ordinary gifts, and you will find just what you need to delight the recipient at any party.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Are Credit Cards The Best Finance Solutions?

Whether you're just starting out or you've been here for a while, you've probably received a "Pre-Approved Credit Card" envelope in your mailbox or you were at your favorite store when the cashier says, 'Oh, you could save 25% off of your total today if you apply and get approved for our store card!" I've been there. A million times it seems and yes, it is so very hard to not give in and take the usually very hefty discount and start collecting 10,000 points to receive a rewards gift card to use on my next purchase! I have turned many down but when it comes to a shop I actually buy from, even if just for a big purchase once a year, I will take it! But, is this a smart move? That all depends on you and how much you can handle. It can turn into an extremely dangerous game if you fall into the traps.

Are Rewards Cards Worth It? 

They sure are! OK. Well, they sure are IF you will actually use the rewards and the rewards don't require you to spend a fortune just to collect a measly $10 gift card. They also aren't too worth it if you have to pay an annual fee . Especially when the annual fee ends up costing more than what your reward redemptions are. 

If you have the time to spend on your credit cards each month or even each week and you aren't going to go crazy shopping until you've used up your credit limits, you could be taking advantage of some very serious rewards and getting the most bang for your buck! This will require checking in with your accounts and reading the fine print. Lots of fine print. It's probably a wise idea to be able to understand the fine print too. 

Card A is offering no interest for the first 12 months AND they are offering double rewards points for your purchases. Besides that, you just saved $150 on your very first purchase because you opened this account. But, your interest rate will be 24% after your introductory period. If you don't use it again until today's shopping trip is paid in full and you pay the balance off before your 12 months expires, you could earn an additional $100 in gift cards for this retailer. Not to mention, having the extra available credit sure would bump your credit score up a few points! So far, everything sounds great! You just need to have self-discipline and be sure to stick with your original plan. It's OK to maybe use it a few more times just to gather another $50 rewards card just as long as you can still cover that balance before the 12 months period is up. (If you can't afford to cover the full balance, your card will charge you interest on the original balance and all at once. This could lead to even bigger problems. It could end up putting you over your credit limit.

Card B features the same, no interest for 12 months (again if you do not pay your balance off in full by the due date, they will pile all of the interest from the entire 12 months for the entire balance onto your bill.) There is also an annual fee of $39 unless you spend $1000 a year and reach their "Platinum" rewards level. You just have to be cautious when reading the fine print that comes along with your card. They will tell you about the highlights of their program but it is up to you to find out that you have to spend a certain amount each year before you get the ultimate rewards points and the extra free gift on your birthday and anything else they throw in there to make it sound good. Depending on how often you will use the card and how often you already shop there, you might want to skip this card or you might want to go ahead and accept it so you can take advantage of the initial savings but pay it off and send it back afterward.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have? 

This is entirely up to you. It all depends on how much you can handle and how much time you have to be sure your bills are paid on time each month and you are reading everything that is on your contract. If you're well versed on credit cards and are quite savvy (and responsible!)  when it comes to getting cash back from your online shopping, earning rewards, not paying interest or paying minimal interest, and you aren't going to go nuts and spend to your limits and only pay the minimum, go for it! You still need to be careful because applying for too many credit cards or having too high of a balance could end up damaging your credit score

Everyone's situation is different but one thing is for sure, applying for too much credit at once could make you appear to be a "risky" borrower. Along with having too many "hard inquiries" on your credit, banks may turn you away because you seem too desperate since you just applied for 8 lines of credit. One credit card application usually results in about 5 points being removed from your score. Typically, you'll have those few points back in about 6 months as long as everything else goes well. If you're planning on house shopping or even car shopping, those few points could affect you so you may want to plan and schedule applications responsibly. 

Credit card debt affects 30% of your FICO score so you will want to keep those balances down. Most experts recommend using only 10% (max) of your available credit. Having credit available to you helps your credit score and will show lenders that you are a responsible borrower. 

If you're not a fan of credit cards but would like to build your credit up so you have more options in the future when buying a home or another big purchase, you should at least apply for 2 credit cards. Ideally from 2 different networks. Make the most of it by researching the best rewards plans that best suit your lifestyle! I don't personally fly so I never bother with any sort of card that offers airline miles. There are so many perks and bonuses tacked onto credit cards it can seem overwhelming when looking for the best option but, it's well worth it to find rewards you would actually use. 

Life happens and sometimes no matter how responsible we are and how excellent our credit is, things can happen that are completely out of your control. It happens to almost everyone at least once (some of us more than once!) Of course it's always best to make sure you can pay for what you're spending and always make your payments on time and even try to pay more than the minimum each month. (There do seem to be disagreements as to whether it's best to keep paying your balance in full each month or paying just more than the minimum. I believe this is also a personal preference. I usually opt to pay double the minimum for most of my cards.) But don't be so hard on yourself if you hit a rough spot. There are options and finance solutions. Just keep your head up and plan on bouncing back as soon as you can!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Allergic In A World Full Of Dogs

Dogs seem to be everywhere people are nowadays and while dog lovers are thrilled to have their best friends along with them everywhere they go, allergy sufferers tend to have a hard time finding any actual “dog free” zones. There are restaurants, campgrounds, even hotels who will accommodate dogs but, where do people go if they can’t bear to be near them? Of course, service dogs are extremely important and it’s great they are accepted in so many places. People who rely on them deserve to go about their day to day lives and they should be able to come and go freely. But what do people do who can’t breathe around them? Worse yet, what would someone do who would require a service dog and is allergic to their own service dog at the same time? I imagine allergy medicine or a series of shots would have to suffice. But, do we just take allergy medicine every day before we head out just in case we run into a dog?

It’s almost a taboo subject considering you can’t find too much online about this topic. When I search for dog allergies and phrases such as “Can dogs and dog allergies make me sick?” the majority of the search results are about dogs who have allergies and dogs that are sick. It seems you have to dig and dig to even find any kind of help or possible tips on relief! Premier Allery & Asthma has a great blog with lots of advice for people with peanut allergies, cat allergies, even sesame allergies.

You may have heard the phrase, “But, people can’t be allergic to dog hair!” or they may have tried to explain that there are breeds of dogs that nobody is allergic to. (Hypoallergenic dogs!) But that’s not entirely true. Besides the fact that the majority of allergy sufferers actually have a problem with dander than they do dog hair, the real source of allergies is often a protein that is in the saliva or urine of cats and dogs. This protein sticks to the dead, dried flakes, which is dander. So, while you may be able to find a hotel advertised as having “allergy-free rooms” not only will you most likely pay a lot more money for your room, if it’s a hotel that regularly accepts dogs in other sections of the hotel, there could still be dander floating around.

Oh yes, and as for these magical hypoallergenic dogs, they simply do not exist. Your friends might tell you absolutely cannot be allergic to their dog or you could have a dog of your own if you spend the money on one of these mythical creatures. It’s just not how it works. Sure, there are some dogs that are often advertised as being “hypoallergenic” but this is typically only because they don’t shed as often as other dogs. Could someone who is allergic to dogs still have a dog for a pet? Sure thing! This will require some potential changes in your home but people do successfully keep a pet or bring a new pet into their home even when they’re sneezing and rubbing their eyes. (Allergies can also cause dry, itchy skin and quite a few other concerns. People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems so there are several ways our bodies can react to what it thinks is a virus or bacteria.)

First, if you haven’t already had an allergy test to determine the actual underlying issue, you could contact Premier Allergy & Asthma and schedule a consultation. (If there isn’t a location close to you, you can find a local allergy specialist or clinic in your area.) If you find that you are indeed allergic to your furry friend, there are a few ways to help manage the dander in your home. Your doctor will be able to help with any suggestions and you can also start here:

I'm allergic but I refuse to give up my pet!

1) Keep your pet out of your bedroom and other rooms you spend a lot of time in.

2) Keep your pet outside a little extra but only when weather permits!

3) Remove your carpet and choose some nice hardwood flooring. If you must keep your carpet, start stocking up on carpet cleaner because you should do this frequently.

4) Bathe your pet weekly.

5) Room air cleaners with HEPA filters can help remove dander from the air.

6) Plastic mattress covers could help at least keep dander out of beds.

7) Frequent vacuuming may actually be worse than you think. Your vacuum may cause the dander to fly around the air for quite a while longer which could cause allergy symptoms to be worse. You could go the extra mile and grab a newer vacuum with a HEPA filter but, this could still cause a cloud of dander to float around the air.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Don't Stress Over Customer Success Over The Busy Holiday Season

Customer success is hugely important at any time of the year but it is vital to succeeding during the holiday season. I feel like an expert after the issues and problems I’ve had over the past couple of months, especially during the big sale days such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday. I frequent most of the same shops online and offline and I am always in the market for new businesses. If something new catches my eye (or my kid’s eyes) or I see a brand who brings something new to the table. (Typically on social media.) I love to seek out new, unique brands and products and depending on their “attitude”. I may or may not make a purchase and I may or may not come back year after year, month after month. If I fall completely in love with the brand or whatever it is they’re selling, I’m probably going to tell everyone I know about them whether online or offline. Being a business owner myself, I try to reverse the roles and fix what I need on the business end.

Attracting customers is essential if you want to stay in business! This is where your marketing comes into play.  A social media presence is a must these days and if you throw in a customer service team or a customer service representative to operate online, you’re golden!

There are so many companies out there with active social media accounts and then there are some who are nowhere to be found. Personally, I prefer a company that is active online, available to help with questions and maybe even troubleshoot any technical issues. A little sense of humor or your brand’s own personality also wouldn’t hurt! I’m sure you’ve seen Tweets from some of the extra hilarious brands. (Mainly Wendys) While there are a few others out there who emulate the Wendys Twitter account, some failing, some holding their own, there are others who are doing their own thing and doing quite well. Of course, this isn’t necessary to survive but, it does get people talking and sharing online… 

Wendy’s isn’t just a funny account. They are there every single day, replying, advertising, tackling customer complaints, and fixing any problems that may pop up. If you ever read their Tweets and replies, including those to customer complaints, you’ll find that they take a very friendly approach and this satisfies the customer, more often than not. It seems they’re sometimes, “too cool” for many to really want to flip out or argue. The customer just wants the situation resolved so they can get back to eating their fries and reading and Retweeting their Tweets. There are a lot of brands out there to take lessons from and they all share the same thing in common. They are often there, never too busy to respond to a customer and they resolve the problem swiftly and with grace. Thes interactions aren’t just being noticed by that one customer but by many others who are aware of the type of personality your brand has. New customers are interested in knowing how hard it will be to get in contact with you and how simple resolutions will be. 

Of course, not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook. You’ll still need a team to respond to emails, calls, even letters. The most important thing is to stay on top of your customers and make yourself as available as possible so that they and others can see how much you actually care. Make your customer service availability public information. One of the most annoying tasks for a busy customer, especially during the holiday season, is having to chase after a brand just to ask a question. If you don’t already have an email newsletter or a blog, now is a great time to start one! You can make these things easy to find directly on your website and at the bottom of every email. 

Unless you are a brand who makes the only one of it’s kind with absolutely nothing to compare it to and positively nothing at all in this galaxy comes anywhere close to whatever that thing is, you’re going to need to retain your customers. In other words, keep them. Win them over and make sure they won’t ever be tempted to leave. No, there is no need to hand out millions of dollars in free products to keep them. This is also where special sales or discounts come in but, for the most part, selling a quality product, standing out from the rest, listening to concerns, complaints, resolving issues, letting your customer know you’re grateful. Customer success plays a vital role in any business. No matter how big or small.