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Insuring Winter Vehicles

Do you drive specialty vehicles in winter?  A snowmobile or an Artic Cat?          www.snowcatservice.com                 


Does your business use a snowplow or a Zamboni?      www.goodmedizen.com                               

These are not vehicles that are usually covered under your normal auto or homeowners policy.  These are vehicles that are associated with higher risk than your personal truck or sedan.  A snowmobile can travel at high speeds over uneven ground and off road.  An Artic Cat or a snowplow are often used in bad visibility weather making driving conditions more dangerous. Because of the higher risk, insurance carriers insure these separately.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of insurance that cover your unusual form of transportation.

  1. Snowmobile – specialty motorcycle policy
  2. ATV – specialty auto policy
  3. Sno-Cat – commercial auto policy
  4. Snowplow – commercial auto policy
  5. Ice Resurfacer – business equipment

Insurance for these vehicles is similar to auto insurance, because the same financial risks apply.  Most policies have collision, comprehensive, liability, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages available.  Pricing for these policies vary greatly, by vehicle, state, age of drivers, deductibles, etc.  Check with a local agent for details.

If you don’t have a winter vehicle yet, you may want to get one of these – NOT!

2016 is going to be a great year.  Ride safe and have fun!

—E. A. Cooke

To learn more about commonly misunderstood insurance terms and other insurance topics subscribe to the Avanti Reader via RSS, follow Avanti Business and insurance Services on Facebook or Twitter (@AvantiInsurance) to receive notifications of future posts.

New Year’s Resolutions

I used to make New Year’s resolutions. I’d make ’em and break ’em.  I don’t do that anymore. I set yearly goals, instead.

What’s the difference?  Attitude.

A new year’s resolution is something you think about in the back of your mind, but don’t really intend to do. Yeah, it’d be nice to do this, but you have other things to worry about.  For example: This year you’ll quit smoking… but you don’t sit down and figure out how to do that. You just hope that because you said you’d quit, and you start your wishing on January 1st, it will magically happen.  It won’t.  If you make a new year’s resolution and you don’t immediately succeed, you say, “Oh well, blew it again this year” and let it go till next year.

New year’s resolutions are often a setup for disappointment.

How are goals different? Goals are like business plans.

You have a goal. You sit down and examine what has kept you from your goal so far.

What behaviors are affecting your success or lack thereof? How will you change those behaviors?  What steps can you take?  Which steps have worked in the past toward your goal, and which haven’t?

Remember!  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

What time frames and deadlines will you apply to your goals?

What will you do to get back on track when you screw up? Because you will screw up.  Change is hard.  You have to work at it. Assume that you will screw up to a certain extent, and then it won’t be so devastating as to make you quit trying.

This is how serious people make plans.

Make goals that are attainable. Reasonable. Within reach.  None of this “I’m going to lose 100 pounds this year”.  This goal is too big and too vague.  Can some people do this?  Sure, but most would find it impossible. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

First, do your homework.  What are the diets that are out there, and how much scientific evidence is there to back up each one’s validity.  Choose carefully, because it’s much easier to lose muscle than it is to lose fat. Make sure that your diet is sustainable long term. You want to stay healthy or there’s really no point in dieting.

Next make small goals that will help you get to the bigger goals.  Try, “I’m going to cut sugar out of my diet in January”.  “I’m going to cut out starches (potatoes, rice, etc.) in February.”

Make goals for your personal life.  Make goals for your business life.  You can do more than one thing at a time, as long as your goals are reasonable. Remember when you were in school and studied five subjects all in the same week?  Sure, you didn’t have a job then, or kids running around your ankles, but if you’re really serious, you will find an hour a day to work on a project or two.

In the first quarter of this year, I’m getting the website for my new business up and running.  What kept me from getting it done last year?  I wanted to do it myself and I don’t know anything about websites!  Talk about a recipe for procrastination!  So, I will do my homework and investigate what to look for in a web designer and management company and hire someone to build my website.  Notice this is a project that is manageable and I’ve given myself a deadline in which to complete my task.

I’m going to work my body better than last year.  I know from experience that my body feels better when it is strong and flexible.  I enjoy weight lifting and have been doing it for ten years or more.  I have added some yoga and stretching to keep myself limber as I age.  Last year, my biggest workout problem was consistency.  So, I won’t say “I will be at the gym every morning at five a.m., or I have failed”.  No, I say, “I will aim at being at the gym every morning, but most likely I will make it three or four days a week. Three or four days a week consistently will still be an improvement over last year.” My body will love me for it.

Neither of these goals needs to get in the way of the other.  They are both reasonable and attainable.  And since one of them should be finished by the end of the first quarter, I can add other goals for later in the year.

New Year is a time for re-evaluation.  For renewal.  For progress.  When you set reasonable goals and accomplish them, they give you satisfaction, self-confidence, and determination to keep moving forward.  They enrich your life.  Not only do you get things done, accomplishment has a delightful side effect:  Happiness.

Happy New Year!

—E. A. Cooke




The Truth About Santa Claus

The origins of Santa Claus seem mostly forgotten as our culture becomes more and more secular and mass-market oriented.  Here’s a reminder of where the jolly ole’ guy came from.

Saint Nicholas

The Santa Claus legend began with Saint Nicholas, born late in the third century A.D., to Christian parents on the Mediterranean coast of then Lycia (modern day Turkey).  When his parents died of plague while Nicholas was still a child, he went to live with his Uncle Nicholas, Abbot in Lycia. He grew in the tradition of the church and eventually became Bishop of Lycia.

Icon_c_1500_St_NicholasThere are dozens of stories of good works and miracles surrounding Bishop Nicholas, that led to his Sainthood. Stories of Bishop Nicholas warning sea captains of bad weather to come, when he was traveling with them. Even when he was elsewhere, he was said to come to them in dreams. Another story tells of the Bishop raising murdered children from the dead.  As a result, St. Nicholas was known, even in his own lifetime,  as the patron saint of sailors and children.

One story that stayed with the Santa Claus legend, involved a poor family with three daughters. Women of the time were often sold into slavery if their families could not come up with a dowry to attract a husband. So Nicholas came by at night and left gold in a stocking hanging by the fire to dry. The oldest daughter now had a dowry and was married. Bishop Nicholas visited two more times and when the father finally found out who his benefactor was, he fell on his knees to thank the Bishop. Nicholas bade him be silent and praise God instead.

In another story, Bishop Nicholas settled a legal dispute which saved three innocent people from being killed by an angry mob. Hence, “he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice”.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas is a conglomeration of various characters from the different cultures that have conquered the British Isles. At ancient Anglo mid-winter festivals, a pagan figure, representing the coming of spring, would wear a long, green hooded cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe, later personified in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as the ghost of Christmas past.

Spirit of Christmas PresentWhen the Saxons conquered Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, the Saxon Father Time, also known as King Frost or King Winter was added to the pagan legend. Someone would dress up as King Winter and visit the homes of the village, sit by the fire, eating and drinking offerings in exchange for the hope of a mild winter — a bit like the Brit’s tradition of mince pies and whisky for Father Christmas, perhaps? Later to become America’s cookies and milk.

John Leech – Christmas Past

The puritans had a problem with Father Christmas and succeeded in driving him underground for a long time, but he made a comeback during Queen Victoria’s reign. The new Father Christmas was greatly influenced by America’s Santa Claus as he appeared in Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas, published anonymously in 1823 as The Night Before Christmas:‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…”

Santa Claus

Some say Santa Claus comes from Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of St. Nicholas, brought to America by the Dutch settlers to the New Amsterdam area (modern New York City). Others say Santa is descended from Father Christmas.  The truth seems to be that again we have combined folklore to come up with a new character. Part St. Nick, part Father Christmas, America’s Santa Claus has become synonymous with gift giving.

Norman Rockwell's Santa

Norman Rockwell

Belief systems mutate over time, legends grow and change.  Whichever version of the legend you subscribe to, the Avanti staff wishes you…

God Bless Us, Everyone.

—Tiny Tim, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Peace on Earth, Goodwill To Men

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1864)

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

—Clement Clarke Moore

Though it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.

—Mel Torme

Spirit of the Season

Just a few comments on attitude at this crazy time of year.  People are rushing everywhere to buy “things”.  We’re all checking off items on list, after list, after list.  Presents for the kids.  A bottle of bubbly for Aunt June.  The secret ingredient for Mom’s Special Gravy.


The roads are full of ice and idiot drivers.  The parking lots are packed and you can’t park even slightly close to the store.  Inside the mall people are pushing, shoving, and according to the news, actually fighting over merchandise.


Why do we do this?  So we can make our families happy?  Does this look like happy?

My husband and I occasionally give each other Christmas presents, if we really need something, but very rarely.  A nice bottle of Irish Cream and a fire in the fireplace is precious to us. A holiday season without stress, that’s our gift to each other.

We don’t exchange gifts with the cousins we celebrate with.  Why?  Because for us the gift is their company.  The gift is the feast.  The gift is knowing we have family to eat, drink, and be merry with.  We don’t need anything else.

XmasDog_xw600_xh399Christmas is a celebration of love, or it should be.  You don’t have to be religious to get into the holiday spirit.  If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, and you don’t believe in Christmas, just know they are wishing you good things. It doesn’t matter if it comes out Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays.  Someone is still wishing you well.

So before you scream at the guy who pulled into the parking space you were hoping to use, mellow out and remind yourself – this is a season of “good will toward men”.  There really is joy in giving. Even if you’re just giving up the parking space and walking another few feet.  You’ll burn a few more of the extra calories from all the holiday treats you’ve been eating!  So smile, and quit with the Grinch attitude. This is a happy time, if you let it be.

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Season’s Greeting! Good things!

—E. A. Cooke

How To Winterize A Vacant Home

houseAre you one of many people who chases the sun? If you pack up for warmer climes in winter, this is information you need.

I found a terrific article on preparing your house for winter if you leave town on vacation during the winter months.  I will summarize here, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. The article goes into wonderful detail.

The article covers five areas to attend to: plumbing and utilities, the kitchen, the rest of your home, outdoor areas, and security.  They suggest you make a check list so you don’t forget anything.  Makes sense to me.

Winterizing your home while you’re away will keep disasters like burst pipes from happening.  In the insurance business, vacant homes are considered high risk for many kinds of losses. If an insured were not to take common sense precautions, not only does the risk of problems increase, an insurance company could refuse or limit claims due to negligence.

Plumbing & Utilities:

  1. Turn off the water at the exterior. Open all faucets and drain all waterlines, blow the lines of excess water, close the sink and tub drains.  Drain indoor or outdoor pools, fountains and other sources of standing water. Follow manufacturers’ directions to drain dishwashers and refrigerators.
  2. Turn down the thermostat to a level adequate to keep the inside temperature above freezing and to keep things dry.
  3. Unplug all appliances, including microwave ovens and TVs.
  4. For long absences, shut off gas hot water heaters completely.


  1. Clean out the refrigerator. Empty the freezer. Wash the refrigerator and freezer thoroughly. Place an open bag of activated charcoal on the inside of the open refrigerator.
  2. Remove all food from the pantry.
  3. Guard against insects and rodents. Wash trash containers. Use a botanical rodent repellent under the sink and on counters.
  4. In areas subject to freezing, remove all bottled liquids because their containers may burst when their contents freeze.
  5. Take all the trash out before you leave.

Rest of Home:

  1. Wash everything: linens, bedding, towels. Open empty drawers and closets; use mothballs in the others. Vacuum carpets and floors to get rid of crumbs or other sources of food that may attract rodents.
  2. Remove all fire hazards.
  3. Close flues and dampers.
  4. Arrange for indoor plants to be watered, if necessary.

Outdoor Areas:

  1. Protect the yard and garden.
    1. Arrange to have the lawn mowed and shrubbery trimmed.
    2. Cover any plants that are frost intolerant.
    3. Arrange to have your garden watered if necessary.
  2. Store outdoor furniture.
  3. Lock away expensive vehicles. Pleasure craft such as boats, ATVs, bicycles, canoes, kayaks and cars should be locked in a garage or storage shed. Block window views into this storage space.

Security Measures:

  1. Lock your house at all entry points. Close window shutters.
  2. Make it look like someone is home. Buy a couple of light timers and set them up to turn on automatically in the evenings.
  3. Do not leave valuables in a vacation home that may attract thieves. Take all small valuables with you.
  4. Stop your mail. Stop any other routine deliveries as well. Pay your bills before you go. Ask a neighbor to be on the lookout for packages which may come to you by UPS, FedEx or any another service.

Finally, have someone make regular check-ins.  Leave them a key and your contact information.

After doing all the things suggested in the article, your home should be safe and secure. And after doing all these things, you really will need a vacation!

At the risk of repeating myself, thanks for reading.

—E. A. Cooke

To learn more about commonly misunderstood insurance terms and other insurance topics subscribe to the Avanti Reader via RSS, follow Avanti Business and insurance Services on Facebook or Twitter (@AvantiInsurance) to receive notifications of future posts.

Winter Pet Care


Taking care of your pet in the winter involves many of the same aspects of taking care of yourself and your family. Dogs, cats, horses, etc. are mammals just as we are, after all. Snow, ice, wind and cold temperatures affect animals much the same way they do us.

Walking the dog:

  1. Protect your pet’s paws against cold, frostbite and discomfort by rubbing them with petroleum jelly before going out. Even better, use pet booties.
  2. Don’t leave your pet outside longer than it needs to do its business.
  3. Towel or wash off your pet’s paws and belly when you get back from a walk. This will dry/warm the animal and get rid of any salt or chemicals put down as ice melt which may be poisonous to your animal. Watch to make sure you pet isn’t licking these poisons off the paws or legs.


If your animal must be outside:

  1. They should have a shelter that is out of the wind, large enough to turn around in but small enough to capture their body heat.
  2. Some type of bedding should be available for warmth. Blankets work well with dogs; extra hay for horses or better a horse blanket.
  3. Food and water should be available around the clock. Cold temperatures dehydrate animals just as they do us, and we all burn extra calories just to keep warm.


General tips:

  1. Humidify your home.  You’ll enjoy the extra moisture too!
  2. Keep animals inside as much as possible. Animals suffer from frost bite and hyperthermia just as human’s do.
  3. Trim your animal’s coat if necessary to keep it from getting matted due to ice and snow; but don’t shave your animals. They need the coat for warmth.
  4. Bathe your animal on warm days. Being wet in the cold weather will get animals sick just as it could you.
  5. Make sure you animal has a warm, dry place to sleep.
  6. The outside rule about food and drink work inside too. Always have water available and increase the amount of calories your pet eats.
  7. Don’t leave an animal in the car! Just as in the summer, when a car can become an oven, in the winter a car can become an ice box.
  8. Make sure your pet has no access to poisons.  Anti-freeze spills are lethal. Rat poison tends to be used more in winter to keep out warmth-seeking rodents. Make sure your pet can’t get to these.
  9. Use pet friendly ice melts instead of dangerous chemicals.
  10. Lastly, check the engine compartment of vehicles before turning over the engine. Small animals may crawl in seeking warmth.


Baby yourself!  Baby your baby!! You’ll both have a better winter.

As usual, thanks for reading.

—E. A. Cooke

To learn more about commonly misunderstood insurance terms and other insurance topics subscribe to the Avanti Reader via RSS, follow Avanti Business and insurance Services on Facebook or Twitter (@AvantiInsurance) to receive notifications of future posts.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day. Though we all celebrate differently, we all have things to be thankful for.


The First Thanksgiving” (1915), by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

Some years it seems harder to tally up the good things. This year is hard. The economy is still stagnant.  Many, many Americans are out of work. The world seems to be burning, here, in Europe and in the middle east. Politics are crazy all over the world.

And yet… we do have things to be grateful for. Yes, I know it’s mushy, but when times are hardest is when we need to remember all the things that make such times bearable. Friends, family, random acts of kindness.

Americans tend to gather for a day (maybe a whole weekend) of feasting, football, and family. In 1621 the pilgrims feasted with their neighbors, Native Americans, to celebrate having a roof over their heads and food on the table.  We take those things for granted usually. Sometimes the only thing we remember to be thankful for is having the day off from work.


While that is worth celebrating, take a moment to remember there are people worse off in the world than you. People hungrier, colder, more raggedly dressed. Lend someone a hand this weekend, in any way that presents itself and be grateful for what you have.

And enjoy your celebration.

Happy Thanksgiving!

—E. A. Cooke