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!

It’s Time For Some March Madness!

This Sunday, March 12, is known as “Selection Sunday.” That’s when the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee reveals which 68 teams have made the tournament, and which region (East, Midwest, South, West) they’ll play in. Then, starting next week, the games begin!

My husband is a big college basketball fan. People in his office pass around a bracket sheet listing the 68 schools; he then fills in the sheet and guesses who will progress through the tournament all the way to the championship game. I recently found out this is known as “bracketology.”

Are you filling out a bracket this year? Do you, or anyone in your household, watch any of the games? Which school do you want to win the tournament? Let me know!


I never realized that March Madness was such a big thing, economically speaking. Here are some interesting (and crazy) facts from wallethub.com:

  • $4 billion: Corporate losses due to unproductive workers during March Madness
  • $9.2 billion: Estimated amount wagered on the 2016 NCAA tournament
  • $8.9 billion: Estimated amount wagered illegally
  • 70 million tournament brackets completed in 2016 vs. 129 million ballots cast in the presidential election
  • 1 in 9,200,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s 9.2 quintillion!): Odds of filling out a perfect bracket
  • Two times: Easier to win back-to-back Mega Millions lotteries, buying one ticket both times, than it is to fill out a perfect bracket
  • 17.8 million: Number of people who watched the 2016 title game between North Carolina and Villanova (down 37% from 2015)
  • 17.5 million: Barrels of American beer produced each March (14 million barrels are produced in all other months)
  • 19%: Increase in pizza orders by fans after losses vs. wins
  • 9%: Increase in dessert orders after losses vs. wins

I hope your favorite team wins! Thanks, and have a great day!

Kids And Cellphones

Uh oh! My soon to be 11-year-old son has been asking for a cellphone. And my husband and I are not sure if we should let him have one.

To help make that decision I took a look at The Nielsen Company’s fourth-quarter 2016 Mobile Kids Report, which provided insights from parents of kids aged between 6 and 12, and found some interesting information.

According to Nielsen, 45% of kids had a service plan at 10 – 12 years old. The most predominant age when kids got a service plan was age 10 (22%), followed by 8 years old (16%) and ages 9 and 11 were tied at 15%.

The vast majority (93%) are on the same plan as their parents, and 72% have all mobile wireless services including voice, messaging and data.

There are many reasons why parents get their kids wireless service before they turn 13, such as the following:

  • Being able to get hold of their child easily: 90%
  • Child can reach out to the parent: 90%
  • Parent can track child’s location: 80%
  • Child has been asking for a phone for a while: 66%
  • Parent wants to get their child familiar with mobile technology: 65%
  • Parent has good family/shared wireless plan to cover additional lines: 62%

But, parents being parents, we still have many concerns:

  • The phone could be lost easily: 77%
  • Smartphones pose too much distraction: 72%
  • Children might spend too much time with their device: 71%
  • Lack of control of what content kids would see online: 68%
  • Children might not know how to use their phones responsibly: 67%

According to the report, the best ways to address these concerns is to include better safety controls and features to block inappropriate content (55%), better usage controls to limit access (48%) and better service plan options for children (34%).

So once a child has a phone, what do they do with it? According to Nielsen, the top activities include the following:

  • Text messaging: 81%
  • Downloading apps: 59%
  • Playing preinstalled games: 53%
  • Mobile internet/accessing websites: 53%
  • Live video calling: 46%

Wow, that’s a lot to think about. I’m going to discuss all these points with my husband before we make a decision.

What age do you think is appropriate for a child to get his or her own cell phone? What do you think of kids having phones? Let me know!

Thanks, and have a great day!

Will You Be Watching The Oscars Ceremony?

As you may know, I really like movies. So I can’t wait to watch the Oscars this Sunday night!

One of my favorite things is to watch the red carpet event to see what people are wearing and what they have to say. But it’s definitely a long night, because the actual awards seem to go on forever! I know I’ll be exhausted come Monday morning!

This year I did get a chance to see a few of the nominated movies. I really liked Hidden Figures, and also enjoyed La La Land.

Did you see any good movies this year? Let me know what you liked. I’m always looking for some good recommendations!

Along with movies, you know I also love interesting data. So here’s some Oscar-related information, courtesy of wallethub.com:

  • $696: The value of the 24-karat gold-plated Oscar statuette
  • 225: The number of countries and territories in which the Oscars will be televised
  • $2.1 million: The cost of a 30-second commercial during the Oscars telecast
  • 34.4 million: The average viewers of the 2016 Academy Awards, which were the least viewed Oscars since 2008
  • 217 minutes: The length of the 2016 Oscars broadcast
  • $42.8 million: The total cost of the Oscars ceremony
  • $30,000: The cost of the 16,500-square foot Oscars red carpet
  • $100+ million: The amount Hollywood spends on awards-season lobbying each year
  • $300,000: The cost of mailing watermarked screeners to Oscars, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes voters
  • $15,000: Jimmy Kimmel’s hosting fee

If you watch the Oscars, I would love to hear what you thought about the show, so let me know!

Have a great day!

Redeeming Gift Cards

I received a number of gift cards for the holidays, and I finally got around to start using some of them. Ah, that spa day was great! (Thanks to my husband for giving me such a thoughtful gift!)

I also received some gift cards for stores that I really don’t go to often, which I’ll discuss a little later.

I know most people get or receive gift cards, so I was curious to see if there was any information on how many people actually use them. I found some fascinating information from giftcards.com:

  • Over $100 billion is spent on gift cards annually
  • 93% of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card annually
  • Consumers spend an average of $213 per year on gift cards
  • 72% of customers will spend more than the value of their card
  • On average, the recipient will spend 20% more than their gift card value
  • 90% of gift cards are used within the first 60 days

When it comes to unused gift cards, roughly $1 billion went unspent last year, according to marketwatch.com. That’s a lot of money!

According to usatoday.com, there are some things you can do with your unwanted gift cards:

  • Regift it: Give the card to a family member or friend who could use it
  • Sell it: There are many websites that will buy your unwanted gift cards. Just search “sell gift cards”
  • Donate it: Give the gift card to a religious organization, food bank or school, or search for “donate gift cards”

I thought donating gift cards was a good idea, so I’m going to donate a few that I know I won’t use.

Did you receive or buy gift cards? What do you do with the ones you may not want? Let me know!

Thanks, and have a great day!

Valentine’s Day is Coming!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and as you may know, it’s one of my favorite holidays! My husband and I are planning to go out to dinner, and as you can see from the data below, quite a few other people are also going out.

As you know, a lot of money is spent on Valentine’s Day gifts. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $136.57, down from last year’s record-high $146.84. Total spending is expected to reach $18.2 billion, down from $19.7 billion last year, which was also a record. (These sales figures include purchases for significant others as well as friends, family members, and even pets.)

According to the NRF, these are the top purchases that people will make for Valentine’s Day:

  • Candy (50% are planning to purchase; spending expected to be $1.7 billion)
  • Greeting cards (47% percent; $1 billion)
  • An evening out (37% percent; $3.8 billion)
  • Flowers (35% percent; $2 billion)
  • Jewelry (19% percent of shoppers; $4.3 billion)
  • Clothing (19% percent; $1.9 billion)
  • Gift cards/gift certificates (16% percent; $1.4 billion)

Here’s another interesting statistic I found (on statisticbrain.com): 53% of women surveyed said they would end their relationship if they didn’t get something for Valentine’s Day. Hmm, I’m not sure what to make of that!

I wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day, and remember if you buy flowers, candy, or clothing, you can record these purchases, even if they don’t have a barcode. If you have a scanner, use the Barcode Reference Booklet. If you use the NCPMobile App, use the onboard Non-Barcoded Items Listing.

Have a great day!