Pumpkins, perils & more: Have a fun, safe Halloween


halloween pumpkins in front of a scary house

It’s the season of the pumpkin! Everyone seems to love pumpkin flavored foods, and there may be a reason for that. Psychologist think that the smell  of pumpkin spice produces a nostalgic feeling that brings us right back to Grandma’s house.

But have we gone too far? Eater magazine designates 65 Pumpkin Spice Foods That Have No Business Being Pumpkin Spiced. It’s pretty subjective – some people just can’t get enough.

Apparently, animals of all species have caught the human pumpkin craze, too – here’s how zoos around the world are celebrating Halloween with pumpkins for their residents.

Some people prefer to carve pumpkins rather than to eat them. Want to carve some pumpkins that will be the envy and fright of the neighborhood? Here are a few ideas for extreme Halloween pumpkins from Tom Narvone of  ExtremePumpkins.com. One of our other favorite pro carvers is Ray Villafane – you can see a few samples of his work and get a few tips in the clips below.

Remember to carve safely – use kits or patterns to make things easier and make carving an adult activity. We think the scariest place to be on Halloween is the emergency room.

Here are some other Halloween safety tips:

Home Safety

  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Take care not to overload electrical circuits with lights.
  • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
  • Keep porches and walkways well lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards; Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway.
  • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
  • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.

Kid Safety

  • Consider parties and visits to charity based Haunted Houses as an alternative to Trick or Treating
  • Equip kids with flashlights. Add day-glo or light-reflective tape to their costumes.
  • Make sure costumes are fire-safe and flame-resistant.
  • Ensure costumes and masks don’t impair vision or present a tripping hazard.
  • Make sure kids are dressed warmly and have comfortable, non-slip footwear.
  • Costume accessories and props should be short , pliable, and soft – no hard, long, pointy, or sharp objects
  • Inspect all candy before kids eat it. Be alert for choking hazards and watch for anything that is loose or unwrapped.
  • Don’t let kids walk while eating candy on a stick is very dangerous if they trip.
  • Don’t let kids eat homemade treats unless made by someone you know very well
  • Stick to familiar neighborhoods and familiar houses
  • Kids shouldn’t enter any homes unless they know the neighbors well
  • Kids without adults should keep in groups
  • Walk on sidewalks. Complete one side of the street, cross carefully, and complete the other side.
  • Use cross walks and crossing lights whenever possible.

Pet safety

  • Don’t forget about your pets – they could be upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish. Keep them inside and away from the door so they don’t frighten or nip at your guests.
  • Be careful not to let your pets eat candy, which can be toxic to them.
  • More: Halloween Perils For Pets … and People, Too

Winterizing: Money saving ideas for heating your home


house wrapped in a sweater to illustrate energy efficiencycy

If you are dreading winter heating bills, it might be a good time to think of ways to save money now before the cold weather kicks in. You can find out how your energy use compares through EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick,. Answer questions about your use for a simple assessment of your home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes. Your energy supplier may provide a similar assessment so you night check there too,

Experts recommend that annual maintenance can help keep your heating bills to a minimum:

Other money saving ideas might involve modernizing or upgrading your systems :

  • Install a “smart” programmable thermostat – learn about Energy Star certified smart thermostats
  • Earn federal tax credits for installing solar heating systems. Tax credits for Solar Energy Systems are available at 30% through December 31, 2019. The credit decreases to 26% for tax year 2020; drops to 22% for tax year 2021 then expires December 31, 2021. Existing homes and new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify. For more information, see Solar Energy Systems to learn about solar water heaters and solar panels.
  • Find Product Rebates & Other Special Offers on Energy Star products from energy vendors in your area – enter your zip code

State energy programs and incentives for New England & New York

 

Autumn in New England: What to see & do


colorful fall trees with leaves carpeting the ground

If leaf peeping is on your agenda this holiday weekend, here’s the latest weather and foliage reports from NECN. Overall, the foliage season is always enjoyable here in New England, but meteorologists say that this year will not be among the most spectacular displays. Our recent mild temperatures have slowed things down a bit and erratic weather patters and drought have taken a toll:

“All told, this autumn’s colors in New England will feature a notable absence of some maple oranges and reds. This makes our 2017 dominant colors yellow from birch and poplar, bronze from hickories and red/brown from oak. All of this, taken together, combines for a lovely display … just not the dazzling explosion of colors we’re used to – instead, a display heavily weighted toward yellow and brown.”

Don’t let that stop you — our local fall foliage is one of the wonders of nature and always puts on a show, even in the “off’ years. Here are some ideas for planning things to do over the holiday weekend and the next few weeks. If your wanderings take you north, be alert for wildlife since it’s peak season for human-animal collisions. It’s always a god idea to have your local independent insurance agent’s phone number or app handy on your mobile phone just in case.

Yankee Magazine is a great source of info on seasonal activities. Download their free foliage app, Leaf Peepr, as well as a free Ultimate Guide to Autumn in New England, available at the same link. They also offer:

Live Fall Foliage Map – Where’s the best New England fall foliage right now? The live fall foliage map lets fall-foliage fans report and track the evolution of autumn color in New England.

Peak foliage Map – This is a fun map: “To see how the color rolls through New England, click on the “play” button to the right. As the map changes, so will the calendar as it highlights the approximate peak dates for different parts of the region. Happy leaf-peeping!”

For ideas on where to go and what to do, see the articles listed under each map on the above links. The articles include:

  • 10 Places to Visit in New England in Fall
  • Favorite Fall Foliage Drives in New England
  • The best corn mazes in New England from Maine to Rhode Island.
  • Best Apple Orchards in New England
  • Fall Foliage Train Tours
  • 5 Best Pumpkin Festivals in New England
  • 12 New England Fairs to Visit This Fall

Discover New England also offers many great autumnal suggestions. They offer a brief explanation of what autumn colors are all about. Be sure to check out the Guide to New England in Fall, with a state-by-state breakdown, and information on

  • New England fall events
  • New England fall food festivals
  • New England fall scenic drives
  • New England fall foliage maps

Infographic and expert tips for Cyber Security Month


October is National Cyber Security Month – an annual reminder to safeguard your digital information and review your online safety practices. It’s a good time to ensure your software is up-to-date and take a few moments to review expert advise to ensure you have maximum protection against emerging threats.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the National Cyber Security Alliance, a private consortium. Whether you are an individual, a family or a business, each of these links offer tips, tools and resources to help you stay safe online. We’ve included an infographic below.

Here are some other tips from cyber security experts

Infographic with syber security tips