Commemorating Memorial Day

Memorial Day is this Monday, and we always think of it as the unofficial start of summer, a day of BBQing or shopping, a (possible) long weekend away from work and perhaps traveling to see family and friends.

But it is also a day where we remember those who died serving our country.

My family and I will be traveling to see some relatives and enjoy a BBQ. But we’ll also spend some time at a local National Cemetery placing flags on fallen solders’ gravesites.

What are your Memorial Day weekend plans? Let me know.

I came across some fascinating Memorial Day facts from wallethub.com that I’d like to share with you:

  • 75% of Americans plan to BBQ over the Memorial Day weekend
  • 41.4% of Americans are likely to take advantage of Memorial Day deals
  • 39.3 million Americans plan to travel over the Memorial Day weekend (a 2.7% increase over 2016)
  • 88.1% of Memorial Day weekend travelers will drive to their destination (a 2.4% increase from 2016)
  • 2.9 million people are expected to travel by plane over the Memorial Day weekend (5.5% increase over 2016)

And some sobering statistics:

  • 42+ million: The number of veterans who’ve served the country in war time
  • 1.3 million: Members of the armed services have lost their lives in conflict
  • 260,000: Graves at Arlington National Cemetery that are adorned with American flags each Memorial Day

Reminder: Our Panel Support Center will be starting the Holiday Weekend a little early. Our team will be available Saturday from 10 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET to assist you. We will be closed on Monday in observance of the holiday. We’ll be back on Tuesday May 30, at 9 a.m. ET.  

Get Out And Garden!

If you haven’t already done so (depending on where you live), now’s the time to get out and work on your garden. My husband and I have spent the last few (dry) weekends raking and cleaning up, getting ready to start our planting.

Gardening is a favorite hobby for many people. And even if it’s not your favorite activity, many people still do it. In fact, according to gardenresearch.com, 74% of all U.S. households participated in lawn and garden activities in 2016. The average amount spent on gardening per household was $407.

Food gardening and flower gardening were the most popular gardening activities, according to the National Gardening Survey. About one out of three households participated in food gardening (36 percent) or flower gardening (34 percent). Households spent an estimated $3.6 billion growing vegetables, fruit, berries and herbs and $2.7 billion on flower gardening.

Do you like to garden? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do in the garden? What do you not like to do? (For me, it’s weeding. UGH!)

Anyone have any good gardening tips they’d like to share? Let me know, I’m always interested in learning more about gardening.

Don’t Forget To Scan Your Garden-Related Purchases
Please record all your lawn and garden purchases. Many of the items you might buy for your garden or lawn are large or come in big, bulky packages or containers, such as topsoil, fertilizer, wood chips, rakes, wagons, wheelbarrows, and so on. These types of items are typically stored away in garages or sheds before and after use, so before you store these don’t forget to scan them.


Send Us A Picture Of Your Garden
Have a nice picture (or two) of your garden you’d like to share? Well, just send it to news@ncppanel.com and we’ll try to publish it here in the blog or in an upcoming NCP Newsletter! (Please send the photo as a .jpg attachment.)

Enjoy your weekend, and get outside if you can!

Celebrating The Moms In Your Life

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. This year, my husband will be cooking dinner for me, my mom, and my mother-in-law. It should be interesting!

While my kids usually make me a special gift, I know a lot of other mothers get gifts purchased from a store or restaurant. According to the National Retail Foundation, total Mother’s Day-related spending is expected to reach $23.6 billion, compared with last year’s previous record of $21.4 billion.

What are Americans planning to buy the moms in their lives?

Here are the top items being bought, according to the National Retail Foundation:

  • Greeting cards: 77.9%
  • Flowers: 68.5%
  • Dinner or brunch: 55.9%
  • Gift card(s): 45.0%
  • Clothing or accessories: 36.9%
  • Jewelry: 35.5%
  • Other: 24.3%
  • Spa day, etc.: 24.2%
  • Books or CDs: 20.8%
  • Housewares or gardening tools: 19.5%
  • Consumer electronics: 14.9%

Speaking of floral purchases, NCP panelists are certainly purchasing a lot of flowers for mom. Here’s the rundown of which months have had the highest recorded purchases of flowers, according to NCP data:

  1. May
  2. June
  3. December
  4. April
  5. July
  6. November
  7. March
  8. September
  9. October
  10. February
  11. August
  12. January

How do you celebrate the mothers in your life? Let me know!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

 

It’s Spring Cleaning Time!

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to start my spring cleaning. But I decided that this weekend my family and I were going to do a nice, deep cleaning.

In particular, my husband and I wanted to make sure our kids – who are still fairly young (9 and 11) – learn the importance of keeping things nice and clean. But I wasn’t sure of what’s the best way to engage them.

So I found some tips from Rasmussen.edu that I will be using to help get them get going:

  1. Use a cleanup song: Find a song the kids like, and sing it as many times as you can possibly stand it!
  2. Ensure the chores are age-appropriate
  3. Start with one-step commands: The task should be small, perhaps no more than 5 – 10 minutes. Once they’re finished, make sure to give some positive reinforcement.
  4. Focus on the successes: Make the chores fun by focusing on what your child is learning and doing well.
  5. Don’t give in and do it yourself
  6. Make sure you are also having fun

Spring cleaning is an excellent opportunity for your kids to learn responsibility and grow their self-confidence. Are there any tips you have for getting children to chip in with the cleaning? I’d love to hear about them!

Remember: At this time of year, it’s important to remember to scan all of your spring cleaning item purchases for both indoors and outdoors, such as brooms, mops, disinfectants, storage bins, rug cleaners, trash bags, lawn care/garden products, and so on. Also, before you put large, bulky items such as topsoil and fertilizer into the garage or shed, please scan them first so you don’t forget about them.

Happy cleaning!

NCP: One Of The Best Companies To Work For

Wow, this is great news! I am so proud to say that NCP – for the third year in a row – has been named one of the best companies to work for in New York State!

Last week, a number of NCP associates traveled to Albany, the state capitol, where the company was honored at a public awards dinner. There were 45 companies in the category for small/medium-sized employers with 15 to 249 U.S. employees.

The Best Companies to Work for in New York State awards are celebrating 10 years of recognizing the best employers in the state. It is a distinctive program that evaluates and ranks the best places of employment based on employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as workplace practices and policies.

To be considered for participation, companies had to enter into a two-part survey process and fulfill the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be a for-profit or not-for-profit business or government entity
  • Be a publicly or privately held business
  • Have at least one facility in the state of New York
  • Have a minimum of 15 employees working in the state of New York
  • Be in business a minimum of 1 year

Again, we are so proud to have been awarded this honor.

Thanks, and have a great day!

Time To Head Outside!

No matter where you live, the days are getting longer. And depending on where you live, temperatures are starting to rise! That’s certainly true where I live.

To me, that means one thing: Time to go outside and have fun!

There are a number of state and county parks not far from where we live. My husband and I decided to try and take the kids hiking at these parks as often as possible. We both think it’s great to get out in the fresh air and experience the plants and trees and birds and animals that you run across in a park.

Hiking is one of many different outside activities. What are some of your favorites? Let me know!

Here are the most popular outdoor activities by participation rate, according to a survey issued by The Outdoor Foundation:

Youth (ages 6 – 14) Participation No. of Participants
1. Running/Jogging/Trail Running 24.2% 19.9 million
2. Bicycling (Road, Mountain, BMX) 20.6% 16.9 million
3. Camping (Car, Backyard, RV) 18.2% 15 million
4. Fishing (Fresh, Salt, Fly) 18% 14.8 million
5. Hiking 13.1% 10.8 million

 

Adult (ages 24+) Participation No. of Participants
1. Running/Jogging/Trail Running 14.9% 31.6 million
2. Fishing (Fresh, Salt, Fly) 14.6% 30.9 million
3. Hiking 12.5% 26.4 million
4. Bicycling (Road, Mountain, BMX) 12.3% 26.1 million
5. Camping (Car, Backyard, Backpacking, RV) 11.8% 25 million

Have a great day – and if you can, go outside!


Never Bored With Board Games

My family and I love to play board games. Playing board games is not just for raining days, it’s great anytime. All I have to do is take Monopoly or Clue out of the closet, maybe make some popcorn or something else that’s healthy, and we’re all ready to go!

I know many people who really enjoy playing board games with their family and/or friends, and some even have designated “game nights.” We’re all so (electronically) connected nowadays, it’s just nice to get away from the screen for a while.

Did you know that playing board games is popular throughout the world? Global sales of games and puzzles have grown from $9.3 billion in 2013 to $9.6 billion in 2016, according to Euromonitor International, with expected year-on-year growth of more than 1% this year.

So what board games do you like to play? Let me know!

Here are some of the top board games of all time, according to Ranker.com:

  • Apples to Apples
  • Arkham Horror
  • Axis and Allies
  • Backgammon
  • Battleship
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Candyland
  • Carcassonne
  • Checkers
  • Chess
  • Chutes and Ladders
  • Clue
  • Connect Four
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Cranium
  • Dominion
  • Don’t Break the Ice
  • Go
  • Mahjong
  • Monopoly
  • Operation
  • Pandemic
  • Pictionary
  • Power Grid
  • Risk
  • Scattergories
  • Scrabble
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Smallworld
  • Sorry!
  • Stratego
  • The Game of Life
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Trouble
  • Uno
  • Yahtzee

Don’t forget if you purchase a board game (or a video game), please make sure to scan the barcode and tell us about the purchase.

Thanks, and have a great day – hopefully by playing a board game with your friends or family!

Keeping Your Info Secure

Anytime I read or watch the news, there’s always a story about someone getting access to information that they really shouldn’t be able to. We’ve been thinking about that a lot here and are taking additional measures to help ensure your information is secure.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

  • CAPTCHA!

We added a new CAPTCHA feature (it’s pronounced “Cap Cha”) to the NCP homepage.

CAPTCHA, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” (now there’s a mouthful!), is a system that allows only humans, not computers, to access a website.

By using this human touch it keeps any unauthorized computers from being able to access our website.

I have to use this on a lot of websites I visit, but noticed they don’t always look the same. Some CAPTCHA programs require you to type in a set of numbers or words. Others require you to click on pictures. Some simply require you to select a checkbox. (There’s even a CAPTCHA at the end of this post, for those who want to comment on the blog. If you don’t see it, click on the “Leave a reply” link.)

In the case of the NCP website, we’ve added a box at the top of the page near where you log in. After you enter your login information, you must click the check box marked “I’m not a robot.” The program will confirm your identity and proceed with the login.

Sometimes the program will randomly double-check a person’s identity and present you with a series of pictures. As I was reviewing our site, I have been asked to click all the pictures of trucks or storefronts, for instance.

We’ve had some of our panel members looking for an alternative to clicking the pictures. Here’s what we found: you can use the headphone symbol at the bottom of the images. If you click on that symbol, you will hear a few numbers. Simply type in those numbers to get access to the site.

Again, the idea is to prove that it’s a human who wants to access the website, not a computer. We just want to make sure it is really you!

  • More Complex Password

We’re also asking panelists to create a more “complex” password. This password must be more than eight characters, contain at least one number, one letter and one of the following special characters: ! @ $ * _ – ?

Like me, you may need to use a password like this for other reasons, such as when you access your bank’s website or app.

To change your password,

  1. Visit https://www.ncponline.com, but don’t log in yet!
  2. Select “Forgot Password.”
  3. Follow all the steps as prompted.
  4. Your temporary password will be emailed to the email address we have on file.
  5. Once you receive it, return to our website and log in using your temporary password.
  6. Once you have logged in, please create a new, secure password that you can easily remember.

We have put these measures in place to safeguard the security of your information. Over time, we are hopeful that you will find CAPTCHA easy to do. Please also make sure to update your password right away!

 

 

April Fools!

Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day. Many people enjoy playing tricks on family, friends, and co-workers. Are you going to play a prank on your family like switching the bags inside two boxes of cereal or sticking “googly eyes” on things in the refrigerator? Do you typically do anything for April Fools’ Day? If so, let me know!

Speaking of pranks, here are some interesting ones, courtesy of cnn.com:

  • Early 1950s – The BBC runs a “news” item about the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland.
  • 1985 – Sports Illustrated runs a 14-page story by George Plimpton about a Mets pitching phenom named Sidd Finch. The reclusive, skinny Finch has a 168-mph fastball (which he credits to meditations in Tibet) and a host of quirks including carrying a French horn at all times and wearing only one hiking boot while pitching.
  • 1986-present –Press releases for the [non-existent] New York City April Fools’ Day Parade have been issued every year since 1986.
  • 1996 –Taco Bell Corp. runs a full-page ad in several major newspapers claiming it has purchased the Liberty Bell and is renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell.”
  • 2004 – TheNational Public Radio show “All Things Considered” runs a story about the post offices’ new ‘portable zip codes’ program. Based on people being able to keep their phone number even if they moved, the program was designed to represent “a citizen’s place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape.”
  • 2008 – The BBC runs a video clip of flying penguins as part of a story for its series “Miracles of Evolution.” The presenter explains that the penguins escaped the cold, harsh Antarctic weather by flying to the tropical rainforests of South America.

Enjoy the day!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which is always a fun holiday that my family likes to celebrate. And like most holidays, it is big business!

According to the National Retail Federation, total spending for St. Patrick’s Day-related products and events are expected to reach $5.3 billion this year. More than 139 million people plan to celebrate the day, with average spending of $37.92 per person.

How do people plan to spend the day? According to the National Retail Federation:

  • 82.5% will wear green
  • 31.4% will make a special dinner
  • 27.5% will attend a party at a bar/restaurant
  • 23.3% will decorate their home or office
  • 15.2% will attend a private party
  • 15% will attend a parade

Let me know how – or if – you’re going to be celebrating the holiday. And no matter what you do, please be safe!

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day!