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  • 15 Self-Care Resolutions for an Amazing New Year

    This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Making New Year’s resolutions is easy; keeping them can be difficult. This year, instead of limiting your resolutions to things you have to force yourself to do (like exercising whether or not you feel like it), treat yourself to rewarding self-care goals you’ll look forward to every day, and make this your healthiest year ever. I’m not saying you have to set a daily self-care goal (although I love that idea!). Once a week—or even a monthly goal—is still a great way to take care of yourself. Think about this—how often did you practice self-care this past year? Did you get a manicure just because you love relaxing in the chair while someone works on your hands, or did you rush to get your nails done because you had to look nice for an interview or photo op? How often do you get enough sleep? Do you take naps because you’re exhausted, or do you take a leisurely nap with a guided meditation that transports you to another place and time and refreshes your body and soul? If you have trouble remembering how often you spent time truly taking care of yourself this past year, or if you know you put everyone else’s needs above your own, now is the perfect time to make a positive change and give yourself the love and care you deserve. What is self-care? Self-care is simply the practice of taking care of yourself. It means attending to your own needs and well-being. You can choose a specific area of your life to practice self-care, such as physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, or professional areas of your life. Choose one or several, and find ways to enrich that part of your life and improve your well-being one small step at a time. Here are some ideas to get you started. Take a nap Napping often feels like a luxury that we deny ourselves because we think we need to be busy doing something, or we’ll be deemed lazy. But studies show that napping is actually healthy. A short nap can boost your memory, improve your mood, make you more alert, and decrease stress. My favorite place to nap is in a hammock. I love the gentle swinging motion, like a breeze is rocking me to sleep. *sigh* My favorite napping hammock is the Go Hammock by Go! Outfitters. It’s lightweight and compact but unfolds into a luxurious 11’ with enough width to lay diagonally or at an angle. Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure You don’t have to go to a spa to treat yourself to the perfect mani-pedi. Sure, it feels great to sit back and relax while someone else massages your hands and smooths your heels, but if you’d rather stay home and take care of your fingers and toes, try treating yourself to a mani-pedi kit you can use over and over again. Create a spa experience at home No time for regular trips to the spa? Bring the spa home and create your own little sanctuary to use day or night. I would personally rather stay home and relax than fight traffic and worry about making a reservation. You can make your own bath bombs or shower steamers, set up an aromatherapy diffuser and soothing music, or purchase a spa kit to turn your bathroom into your own little piece of heavenly bliss. Learn self-massage Whenever I get a massage, my muscles are tight all over again by the time I drive home through rush hour traffic. Learn self-massage techniques, and say goodbye to stress while you relax in the comfort of your own home. My favorite neck massager is the Resteck shiatsu neck massager my husband gave me a couple of years ago. I use it regularly, and it’s still working as perfectly as it did the day I unwrapped it! Enjoy your favorite craft Crafting and creating are self-care techniques that benefit multiple areas of your life. Besides giving you a creative outlet, creating new things stimulates your mind, provides visual and sensory stimulation, and can add beauty to your home or wardrobe. If you have a favorite art or craft or you love to cook, set aside time to indulge yourself in the joy of creating! Learn something new What if you don’t have a favorite art or craft, but you’d like to learn to knit, crochet, or play a musical instrument? I say go for it! It’s never too late to learn something new and boost your self-confidence while increasing your skills. Even learning a small musical instrument, like a harmonica (with a beginner’s how-to book like this!), will add to your skillset and promote a sense of accomplishment. Read a book Reading increases your vocabulary, stimulates your brain, and can carry you away into a world of imagination. Pick your favorite genre, and snuggle up with a fluffy blanket and a good book for self-care that boosts your mind without physical demands on your body. Give yourself a facial Whether you prefer a clay mask to a peel-off mask or a jade roller to dermabrasion, a home facial is completely customizable for your skin type and budget. Sip tea Relaxing with a warm cup of herbal tea is one of my favorite ways to spend the early morning hours. Before the rest of the household wakes up, I can pour my cup of tea and watch the sky change colors as the sun slowly appears over the horizon. Tiesta Tea makes a lovely chamomile and lavender blend that is perfect for evening settling-in, and if you’re looking to add an eye-opening caffeine vibe to your morning routine, their Chai Love blend is the perfect morning pick-me-up! Take a weekly bubble bath Bubble baths have a special place in my heart. The first house we lived in had a bathroom completely decorated in pink—even the sunken bathtub, toilet, and sink were a pale, rosebud pink. My mom used to give me bubble baths in that pink tub and instilled in me the love of soaking in warm, scented water heaped with mounds of luxurious bubbles. If you enjoy a relaxing bath, set time aside at least once a week to skip the shower and take a leisurely soak instead. Spend time doing something you love every day You deserve a little time to yourself every day. Set a goal to spend a few minutes each day doing something special just for you. You can recite an affirmation, listen to a favorite song, sing at the top of your lungs, or dance like no one’s watching. What you do isn’t as important as choosing something that makes you feel absolutely awesome! Walk through an art gallery Viewing art is good for the soul. If you’d rather walk through an inspiring or beautiful gallery instead of creating art of your own, try looking up free days at your local art gallery, or buy a yearly membership to save money while supporting the gallery’s work. Go to a museum Museums teach us about other cultures, history, and people. When we visit a museum, we are empowered to build bonds within our community and learn from the past to benefit the present. Find a museum that includes the types of displays and information that make you feel inspired—whether a nature museum, a historical museum focused on a small town, a living history museum, or an open-air museum. Spend time in nature Spending time in nature helps us be more active, breathe fresh air (and breathe deeper), reduce stress, and clear our minds. Forest bathing (also known as the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku) reduces stress hormone production and is an accepted part of Japanese preventative health care. For me, the ultimate in self-care is when I can walk among the trees and take a nap in the shade on a sunny afternoon. I used to take my border collie hiking with me, and when we’d get tired, we’d lay out a blanket under a tree and just look up at the sky until we started to doze. You don’t need a whole forest at your disposal to benefit from spending time in nature. Even walking through a park or along a country road can ease your mind and let you escape from daily life stressors. Try a new meditation technique Do you enjoy meditation but get bored with the same practice? Spice up your mindfulness activities by learning a new technique. If you usually practice seated meditation, try a walking meditation instead. If you practice meditation in silence, try guided meditation for a new twist. Yoga nidra (yogic sleep) and qi gong are additional ways to benefit from meditative practices aside from a static seated pose. Conclusion Taking care of yourself is important, and self-care practices are the perfect way to make sure you are caring for number one. After all, you need to take good care of yourself to be able to take care of those around you. Start your new year off right by setting a resolution to add self-care resolutions to your personal routine and create an amazing new year for an even healthier new you!

  • 21 Must-Have Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy Dog Lovers

    My dogs love being outside. Whether we’re hiking, camping, or just enjoying a nap in a swaying hammock (talk about boosting mental health benefits!), they treat every day as if it were a brand-new adventure. Dogs are not just pets. They are wonderful off-grid companions—and they can also be helpful assistants around the homestead. From herding livestock and warning you about intruders to helping you de-stress after a long day, dogs will find a way to work themselves into your heart and your daily routine. Can you tell I'm a dog person? If you’re wondering what holiday gift to give your favorite homesteader’s dog or your favorite dog lover, here are 21 ideas to get you pointed in the right direction! This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Gifts for dog lovers Need gift ideas for the dog lovers on your list? Check out my gift guide below. If you’re looking for gifts for the dog, scroll down to the next section! Dash Dog Treat Maker: You live off the grid so you can raise healthy, organic food, right? Why not treat your dog to the same level of care by making your own healthy dog treats in this cute, bone-shaped treat maker? Dog lover’s welcome sign: Make sure your guests know your dogs come first by displaying this welcome sign near your entryway. A funny calendar: Need a gag gift for a dog lover or a white elephant gift exchange? How about this Pooping Pooches calendar? (It’ll be sure to get a laugh!) Outdoor dog run: There are times when a well-trained dog can run loose on the homestead and other times when it’s best to keep your pup safely contained. But what if you don’t have a backyard fence? Gift this large outdoor welded wire dog run to keep larger dogs (and small dogs) protected from predators and close to home. Insulated dog house: My dogs live in my house, but I’ve known a lot of farmers who let their dogs sleep in the barn or yard with the livestock. If you’re looking for a safe, warm place outdoors for your working dog to get out of the weather for a few minutes or overnight, try this extra-large insulated dog house. Two layers of wood with styrofoam insulation sandwiched between the layers make the thick walls perfect for keeping in the heat. Dog training books (herding dogs): Books are always a great gift! Herding Dogs: Progressive Training gives insight into the history and herding practices of different breeds with tips and instructions for handlers of all experience levels. Dog training books (hunting dogs): If you enjoy hunting, having a hunting dog as your companion can be helpful for retrieving fowl and finding game. Tom Dokken's Retriever Training: The Complete Guide to Developing Your Hunting Dog is a good book to start with if you’re training your first retriever, and How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves is highly rated by several top hunting dog magazine editors. Other dog training books: Do you love super-active, highly intelligent herding breeds like Aussies, corgis, and border collies? Or what about a dog breed that hunts small game, like a Parson Russell terrier? These breeds aren’t for beginning dog owners, who may have difficulty keeping up with their dog’s need for a job and mental and physical stimulation. Teach Your Herding Breed to Be a Great Companion Dog: From Obsessive to Outstanding can help would-be herding dog owners sculpt their favorite breed into a companion by explaining how to redirect herding instincts and boundless energy into productive, well-mannered behaviors. Training tools: If your favorite dog aficionado enjoys hunting, why not give them some tools for training their hunting companion? The SportDOG Canvas Dummy training bumper is weighted (choose from puppy or standard) and holds a scent to get dogs used to sniffing out waterfowl and game birds. Automatic ball launcher: This is a gift as much for the human as it is for the dog (our corgi LOVES hers!). This automatic ball launcher will help your dog run off some energy and give them mental stimulation (and give you a break) as they learn to reload the balls into the chute on their own for hours of fetching fun. Dog agility set: A big backyard is a perfect place to set up an agility course to help your canine companion work off some energy and learn a new skill. This agility set comes with weave poles, a tunnel, and jumps you can collapse and pack away during the off-season. A new coffee mug: If the dog parent on your list loves coffee almost as much as they love their dog, try gifting this I Work Hard So My Dog Can Have A Better Life coffee mug for their morning cuppa. Rescue dog sign: Why does everything about rescue dogs make me cry? Maybe because the best gift is the gift of hope and companionship! If your favorite dog lover adopted a rescue pup, gift them this sign to let the world know how important their furbaby is. Gifts for dogs Now that you’ve explored my suggestions for gifts for dog lovers, how about gifts for the dog? Dog gifts can include anything from toys to puzzles to a comfy new dog bed. (But if you ask my girls, they’ll always go straight for the toys!) Even a dog with acres to play on can get bored on rainy days when she’s stuck in the house. I’ve collected links to some of my favorite boredom-busting dog toys and accessories for the dog who loves adventure. Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel: My girls love sniffing out these squeaky little squirrels and pulling them from the log. Six plush squirrels fit inside the soft tree trunk—and if you really want to keep your furry friend busy, you can hide a few training treats in between the squirrels for extra hunting fun! Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound: Both of my dogs love this intermediate puzzle dog toy, but what else would you expect from a problem-solving terrier and a corgi? With three types of puzzles to solve—lifting the white bone-shaped lids, opening the red boxes, and sliding the red boxes to reveal a secret hiding spot—this toy will help keep your active pup’s mind stimulated and make mealtime more fun. TRIXIE: The TRIXIE Mini-Mover and Move-2Win dog puzzles are a level-3 challenge for dogs who love solving advanced hide-and-seek problems. I especially love that these puzzles are top-shelf dishwasher safe (see manufacturer’s directions). Snuffle Mat: Snuffle mats help dogs practice their foraging skills. They’re also great for slowing down dogs who like to gulp their meals! The TOMAHAUK snuffle mat can be tossed in the washing machine to freshen it up after your wild one finishes dinner. Reflective collar: The Joytale Reflective Collar is an affordable option if you’re looking for a way to make your dog easier to spot at night. The nylon collar is lined with padded neoprene for extra comfort. If you’re looking for a collar that lights up, try the Illumiseen LED rechargeable dog collar. I haven’t tried this one myself, but reviewers love it (one even used it for his alpaca). Just remember to keep it charged so you can find your buddy in the dark. Outward Hound Life Jacket: Lucy loves playing in the water, but she has been known to swim until she’s so exhausted that I have to go into the pond after her and bring her back to land. Outward Hound makes life jackets for dogs who enjoy swimming or boating, and the top grab-handle makes it easy for you to pull your pooch to safety. GPS dog tracker: Always know where your best friend is with this waterproof GPS dog tracker that attaches to their collar. Install the app on your phone and track your pup in real-time—no subscription fee required! It works with Google Maps and has a 9-mile tracking radius. SportDOG remote trainer: The SportDOG remote trainer is expandable and works with up to six dogs at once. I like the options for tone and vibration, although there is a static option for dogs who need a little extra reminder (please work with a professional dog trainer before using static collars on your dog). This trainer has a ¾ mile radius and an easy-to-read OLED screen. Bonus dog gift idea: I was first introduced to dog chews made from yak’s milk during a dog expo in Denver. These odorless, natural dog chews are long-lasting and easily digestible. Your doggie gift recipient will love them! There are seemingly endless ideas for gifts for dog lovers and their canine companions. I hope my list helps you get started to find the perfect gift! Need more gift ideas for the holidays? Click here for gift suggestions for writers, gardeners, and off-grid chefs!

  • 17 Gift Ideas for Writers and Book Lovers

    I’ve talked before about how writing in a journal relieves stress—but for those of us who love to write, journaling is only the tip of the iceberg. Falling into a story and getting lost in adventures with the characters is a sweet escape from daily drudgery. Whether you’re guiding the characters on their journey (or they’re telling you what to write!), or you’re reading your favorite author’s latest tale, this gift list is sure to have something that appeals to bibliophiles of every genre. This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Literary T-shirt Do you have trouble saying no to requests for your time when you’d rather be catching up on the next chapter? This funny Hamlet T-shirt will help get your message across loud and clear. Literary tote bags Having too many book bags is like saying you can have too many books—impossible! This cotton canvas library card tote bag is perfect for carrying your latest reads plus a notebook and pen so you can jot down those spur-of-the-moment ideas for your next great novel. Temporary tattoos I’ve never committed to a tattoo … I know I’d change my mind as soon as it was finished! If you’re looking for your next arm inspo or, like me, want to try on a tattoo without committing to it 100%, you’ll love these temporary literary tattoos that you can apply with water and remove when you want to change things up. Vintage journal I love the look and feel of a vintage leather journal. I gave one to my daughter for graduation and immediately fell in love with the crinkly, antique-style pages. The hand-stitched binding is beautifully done, and each journal is packaged in a sturdy gift box that protects it during shipping. Solar desk lamp This solar desk lamp helps save the planet while your favorite protagonist saves the day. Let sunlight charge this lamp near a sunny window and use the stored energy to light up your bedtime story or charge your cell phone. Wizard bookends Bring a little magic to your bookshelf with these antique-style wizard bookends. The feather quill pen and ink on one side and melted candle on the other will add the perfect touch to your fantasy book set or your Edgar Allen Poe collection. Shakespeare magnetic doll I used to play with paper dolls, but I never owned one that looked like the bard himself! Dress up your fridge while you dress up Shakespear with this magnetic dress-up doll playset. Gift it to a young aspiring writer, or keep it for yourself to add a little quirkiness to your kitchen. Funko literary figures Invite Stephen King to sit by you while you dive into one of his classic tales of mystery and horror. Well, maybe not the real Stephen King, but this Funko Pop! Stephen King doll will gladly look over your shoulder while you re-read The Shining. Literary socks While we’re on the topic of The Shining, how about these kinda creepy socks with the Grady Twins (one for each ankle)? If you’re into something with a little more cuddle and a little less scare, try these Out of Print socks for literature lovers. Zipper pouch Get organized with this Out of Print zipper pouch that can hold cosmetics, pencils, a mini first-aid kit, or other tidbits and trinkets. Card catalog Store tea bags or organize small desk supplies with this retro card catalog. The nine wooden drawers each have a metal handle and a little slot for the label of your choice. Fingerless gloves You won’t say Nevermore to these Poe-inspired fingerless gloves. Keep your hands warm and leave your fingers free while snuggling up with your next page-turner. A new coffee mug I just can’t get enough of these mugs with quotes from famous literature. Choose from Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, or a coffee mug with the titles of banned books (that we still read anyway). Novel tea Now that you’ve picked out a new mug, how about the perfect tea to go with it? Gain some early morning inspo with the literary quotes on each tea bag in this English breakfast Novel Teas set. 2TB flash drive Keep a backup copy of everything you write with this 2-terabyte flash drive. Store it in a fireproof safe for extra security, or carry it on your keychain, so your writing goes with you everywhere. Bamboo lap desk You don’t have to sit at a desk to write, but setting your laptop on your lap isn’t the most comfortable, either. A cushioned lap desk is the perfect solution to raise the height of your laptop or tablet while you recline on the sofa or lounge in bed and create to your heart’s content. Literary candles If you love the smell of old books, you’ll love this set of literary candles! The scent of old scrolls and old and new books alike will fill your home while you gaze off into the distance and procrastinate on starting your next writing project. Need more gift ideas? If you still need ideas, I’d love to help! Check out my other gift idea posts, like 19 Creative Gifts for Gardeners and Homesteaders or 21 Kitchen Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Off Grid Chefs! If you're looking for a gift for your favorite dog (or dog lover), check out 21 Must-Have Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy Dog Lovers!

  • 19 Creative Gifts for Gardeners and Homesteaders

    This article contains an excerpt from the “Ultimate Off Grid Gift Guide for Modern Homesteaders.” Click here to read the full article. There’s something refreshing about getting my hands dirty in the garden and knowing that food is growing to feed my family every month of the year. Even in the snowiest months of winter, I have roots buried below the frost line in my garden, waiting for the first warm days of spring to send up shoots and grow with renewed vigor. Sunchokes and garlic cloves stay fresh under the soil, ready for me to dig up a handful to prepare comfort food as needed. I leave the extras so they can sprout and divide (or multiply!) in the spring and summer months, but I can harvest a few here and there no matter the season. Winter holidays might not seem like the best time of year to give gardening gifts, but if your loved ones are like me, gardening supplies are always a welcome beacon of the spring that is yet to come! This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Yard and garden Gardening gloves: Gardening can be tough on hands and fingernails. Protect your loved one from splinters and callouses by gifting them a pair of rubber-coated gardening gloves or rose pruning gauntlets to protect tender forearms. Heirloom seeds: Is your favorite off-gridder worried about the apocalypse … or do they simply enjoy gardening? Either way, a seed vault with non-GMO, heirloom seed varieties is sure to be a serious gardener’s delight! Composting bin: Composting outdoors in the winter can come to a halt when temperatures drop below freezing. Give this cute indoor compost bin to keep kitchen scraps out of sight until the weather warms up. Compost barrel: Compost should never be stinky, but it can be dirty (and backbreaking) work to turn a large compost pile with a shovel. Save your loved one’s back and the mess by gifting them a tumbling compost barrel. Indoor gooseneck grow light: An indoor grow light is a necessity for seedlings and herbs that have been brought indoors for the winter. This gooseneck grow light provides full-spectrum lighting for those little plants you just can’t bear to leave outside. Trail camera: Solar trail cameras recharge with the sun, so you never have to worry about running out of battery in between camera checks. By adding wireless technology (and a monthly wireless plan), you can see images from your trail camera on your phone day or night. Choose a trail camera with high resolution and long-distance views plus infrared so you won’t scare the critters away at night. Chicken coop: Although I’ve always let my chickens have the run of the yard, a chicken coop is a great way to start baby chicks or keep banties safe from hawks. This nifty chicken coop with a wire run is great for beginning hobbyists. Cast iron dinner bell: My dad could never hear my mom yell for dinner when he was out in the workshop at the back of our acreage. She kept a cast iron dinner bell, like this one, hanging from the porch rafters and sent me out to ring it when supper was ready. Rain barrel: Rain catchment is an excellent way to save water and use it in the garden during a dry spell. How about gifting a rain barrel kit (made from recycled materials) to supplement your loved one’s water supply? Gorilla cart: This is one of those things that you don’t think you need until you actually need it! I love using a gorilla cart to lighten my load and haul groceries, bags of feed, and gardening soil. Get one with removable sides to make unloading even easier. Gathering basket: I can’t count how many times I’ve gone out to the garden thinking there would only be a few tomatoes to pick and ended up using my shirt to carry loads of tomatoes, squash, and peppers into the house. A gathering basket makes life much easier and keeps my shirt clean. And for gathering eggs, try this egg gathering apron with individual pockets to prevent the eggs from cracking against each other. Poultry balm/chicken first aid: While we’re talking about eggs, how about gifting your off grid hobbyist with a chicken first-aid kit or some poultry balm to help those little chickies stay healthy and protected from leg sores? Newspaper pot maker: Talk about sustainable living! Turn sheets of paper into biodegradable seedling pots with this handy wooden newspaper pot maker. Steel forged garden tools: Anyone who lives off the grid and raises their own food knows that having the right tools for the job makes all the difference! Gift your gardener some sturdy, steel forged garden tools. If you think they already have all the gardening gear they need, how about something a little different, like a hori hori knife for cutting through roots or stems and poking holes for planting seeds? Walking stick for your wildcrafting and gathering hikes: I enjoy wildcrafting, and sometimes looking for berries takes me a little further into the wilderness than I had originally planned. I love my Black Diamond walking poles—they’re collapsible, lightweight, and easy to carry in my pack. Tree diapers: A tree diaper refills during rain and slowly releases the water back into the soil to keep young trees protected from drought. If your off grid loved one is trying to establish an orchard or planting fruit trees for the yard, tree diapers will help establish a moist growing medium for their newly planted saplings. Rain gauge: Why depend on the local news to find out how many inches of rain fell on the garden last night? Give this glass rain gauge to your favorite gardener, and they’ll never have to wonder how much moisture fell. Arbor Day membership: I’m all for planting trees! Give two gifts in one with an Arbor Day Foundation membership. Your loved one will not only become a member, but they’ll also receive free trees as part of the deal. Boot scraper: All that mud needs to go somewhere, and tracking it in the house on the bottom of your boots isn’t an option. How about giving an industrial-strength boot scraper so the dirt can stay outside where it belongs? Need more gift ideas? Check out these 21 Gift Ideas for Outdoor Chefs!

  • 9 Essential Off Grid Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

    This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Thinking of moving off the grid and becoming more self-reliant? Living in a remote location and providing for yourself is different from living in town and having the ability to go to the store or out to eat when you need something or don’t want to cook. And there are many things on a homestead that can break or need repairs. Just how far you live from town can help determine how self-sufficient you need to be, but even if you’re only a few miles from a small town, you will still need some basic skills to get by when help isn’t immediately available. You might not be able to get a repair person to fix something in your home—like your well pump—for days. You’ll want to be able to harvest food and preserve it for the lean months. You need to know some basic survival skills—like how to start a fire—in case you have days with particularly bad weather. And learning some basic first aid skills is a definite must. Thankfully, most people who want to build an off grid life are avid learners and do-it-yourselfers, so learning new skills and honing old ones is more of an adventure than another chore on the to-do list. If you’re dreaming of living an off grid lifestyle but don’t know how to get started—or you’re waiting to find the perfect piece of property and want something to do in the meantime—you can always start by learning new skills or improving the skills you already have. This is the first article in a series to help you gain the essential skills you need to live off grid. We’ll go over the basic ideas here and delve into more details on each topic in future posts. What skills do you need to live off grid? You don’t need a degree or a certificate in off grid living to build a sustainable lifestyle. But you should have a few basic skills under your belt to see you through day-to-day chores and hard times alike. Here are a few essential off grid skills every homesteader should have. Basic repairs Stuff breaks, and when it does, someone has to fix it. Learning to spot problems early can save money in the long run. If you use solar energy for electricity, regularly inspect your solar panel and batteries, and keep them clean so you’ll spot any irregularities early on. Make sure the wires are intact and firmly attached, and check your inverter to make sure it’s working properly. If you live where it snows, you’ll need to clean snow off your solar panel array using a soft brush to maintain your system’s efficiency. Wind systems also need regular maintenance and cleaning. Check the concrete foundation under your wind turbine so you can catch small cracks and fill them before they grow into a problem that compromises the foundation’s integrity during the next freeze-thaw cycle. You should also check the bolts and blades on your small wind turbine. Tighten bolts that have started to work loose, and make sure the leading edge of the turbine’s blades are free from damage, like cracks and erosion. Your water source and pump will also need regular maintenance. You may be able to fix small issues yourself, like replacing a switch or repairing a pipe. But bigger issues with the submersible pump require a call to your local well company. A septic system needs to be professionally inspected every one to three years, depending on the recommendation from your septic installer and the type of septic system you own. Regular maintenance—like keeping trees and shrubs away from the drain field and using septic-friendly cleaning products—can lengthen the timespan between pumping the system. Rain catchment systems, including gutters and the rain barrel you use for water storage, must be kept free of leaves and debris. And although you might not have a sprinkler system to blow out before the first deep freeze of the year, you’ll need to drain your rain barrel and detach the garden hose to avoid splitting or busting the barrel, pipes, or hoses when the weather turns cold. You can learn to do minor household repairs, like fixing a leaky faucet, touching up paint, and cleaning sink drains. Find detailed information on basic repairs in books such as The Encyclopedia of Country Living and Beginner's Guide to DIY & Home Repair: Essential DIY Techniques for the First Timer or through searching online resources. Build a fire If you enjoy off grid living, then you probably also love the smell of a warm, crackling campfire. But when you live off the grid full time, fires are not just for camping trips. You depend on them to warm your home and cook your food, and a steady fire can be a lifesaver. Building a fire is an essential bushcraft skill, but it comes in handy at home, too. Learn how to build a fire without matches or a lighter, and you’ll immediately feel a renewed sense of security and self-sufficiency. Gardening One of the main reasons people begin homesteading is to grow and harvest food. I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I watch seedlings grow from seeds I saved from last year’s harvest—and filling my pantry shelves with jars of home-canned, homegrown goodness? No trip to the grocery store can match that feeling of self-sufficiency and preparedness. Grow heirloom, non-GMO and non-hybrid varieties for hardier plants with seeds you can save to grow again and again. Harvesting Whether you’re harvesting fruit from your orchard or wild, native trees and shrubs, learning to watch the seasons and harvest fruits in their prime is an essential skill. If you’re used to grabbing fruit from bins in the grocery store, you may think harvesting food from the wild is something you can do on demand. But that isn’t how nature works. Plants that grow in a natural environment in sync with the seasons can have fruit ripening over a span of time—and the date range can vary slightly from year to year depending on rainfall, hours of sunlight, and soil conditions. Spend time in nature watching plants grow and see how they change with the seasons. Soon, you’ll be telling the weather by the way leaves turn or by the activity of the birds in your area instead of tuning in to the local news. Food preservation Along with learning to grow and harvest food comes food preservation. Food preservation is an essential homesteading skill when you’re living off grid. Building a root cellar and learning to dehydrate and can foods will stretch your harvest into the lean months of winter. How reassuring is it to know that you have your very own healthy grocery store equivalent in your at-home food storage? Shelves lined with jars of fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow are a comforting sight to behold. Follow safe canning precautions when you learn to preserve food, and you’ll be able to feed your family all year long. I particularly love the Ball canning books, like the Ball Complete Book of Home Canning, as a reference for how long to water-bath can and pressure can specific recipes. Wildcrafting Wildcrafting is the art of using wild plants for medicine and food (although some refer to food harvesting strictly as foraging). If you live in an area with any kind of plant life, some of those plants can be made into herbal medicines or used as supplemental food sources. I recommend consulting with an herbal expert in your area and using several sources to verify which plants grow locally. You can sign up to go on an herb walk and read books such as Wild Edibles: A Practical Guide to Foraging, with Easy Identification of 60 Edible Plants and 67 Recipes and other edible and medicinal plant field guides to gain knowledge. Sewing and mending I’m not going to suggest that you have to start sewing all of your family’s clothing when you live off grid. But it is important to learn how to do some basic sewing and mending to save money and trips into town. Sewing a button on a shirt and mending the hem on a pair of pants requires minimal skills, and the only tools you need are a needle, thread, and scissors. Nicki Callahan has a wonderfully simple video on YouTube that shows hand-sewing techniques, such as sewing on a button. If you already know some basic hand sewing techniques but need ideas for upcycling used clothes, try Wear, Repair, Repurpose by Lily Fulop for fresh, new ideas. Cooking I’m always amazed when I realize that not everyone learns to cook when they’re growing up. My mom turned the holiday baking over to me by the time I was twelve years old, and when I was sixteen, I had to start cooking dinner one night per week. One of my daughters loves to cook anything and everything. Another one learned to love baking at an early age and is now the cupcake and brownie master of the family. But some of my other children had no interest in learning to cook while growing up. They’re learning these skills as adults, and that’s okay, too! Cooking is part of food preservation and another one of the essential homesteading skills. After all, you probably won’t be able to get pizza delivery to your remote off grid home. Learn to boil water, and you’ll be able to make pasta and soup. Learn to make basic bread (like tortillas and flatbread), and then expand your skills so you can maintain your very own sourdough starter and bake fresh rolls for the holidays. If you already have basic cooking skills but need some hacks to make life a little easier, click here to read my post on 15 Off Grid Cooking Hacks to Save Time and Fuel. Animal husbandry Animal husbandry is another piece of the sustainable living puzzle. Knowing how to raise chickens for eggs, a backyard cow for milk, and sheep for wool is a skill that most modern Americans lack today. Yet as our society turns more toward sustainable living and moves away from mass production, these skills are being relearned and recognized for the value they hold. One quick look and you’ll see how the bright, orange yolks of home-raised chickens are so vividly different from the pale yellow centers in eggs from chickens raised in confinement. And the only cooking oil that’s practical to raise at home is butter from the family cow. (You need a lot of equipment to make your own vegetable oils, but butter churning is a super-easy skill to master.) Another benefit of raising livestock? Organic fertilizer for your garden! Goats and rabbits produce dry pellets that you can put in the garden right away. Cow, horse, and chicken manure are considered “hot” and should be aged before application to avoid burning your plants with a high concentration of nutrients. First aid I think first aid is the skill that worries me the most. What do you do if there’s an accident, but the closest hospital is an hour away? I’m CPR certified and I’ve taken basic first aid certification classes, but the advanced wilderness survival first-aid course I planned to take was canceled (thanks to the pandemic). I need to add it back to my to-do list! If you’re not a doctor, nurse, or EMT, you could probably polish up your emergency first aid skills. Take a class from the Red Cross, buy a how-to book, and put together a first aid kit or two. (How about one for the house, one for the car, and one for the barn?) One more thing you should know … Whatever your current skill level is, there is always more to learn. If you yearn for a sustainable lifestyle and plan to move off the grid, begin gaining skills now. You’ll be so much better prepared when you finally start living your off grid life!

  • 10 Ideas for Hidden Rooms, Safes, and Secret Compartments

    Gone are the days of hiding things in cookies jars and under doormats. People know where to look, and you’ll need to get creative to keep your treasures tucked away. When you start looking for a safe or lockbox, keep in mind what it is that you’re trying to hide. Do you need something that fits in your bag for work so you can keep a little extra cash on hand without having it in your wallet, or do you need to lock up your guns and ammo when you come home from a hunting trip? Do you need a fireproof safe, a waterproof lockbox, or just a hidey-hole in the house because it’s fun to have secret hiding places? Whether you’re looking for an ultra-strong fireproof safe or just somewhere to stash a few dollar bills, this list of 10 ideas has something for everyone. This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Diversion safe: A diversion safe looks like a common household object. The idea is to hide something in plain sight by making it look like something it isn’t. A diversion safe may look like a hairbrush, a lipstick tube, a lightbulb, or a classic book on your bookshelf. Even something as simple as a mason jar filled with beans or rice can hide a small bundle of rolled-up bills inside. Rhino safes: Rhino safes are built to withstand fire and force. From small gun safes to the Longhorn Nightstand to vault doors, Rhino Metals has sturdy metal safes of every size. Fake rock key safe: Fake rocks are a type of diversion safe with just enough room to hide a spare key in case you get locked out of the house. Many of these are cheaply made—you’ll want to buy one that looks as realistic as possible so it can blend in with your landscaping. Rub a little dirt on it and tuck it in some mulch under a bush to complete the effect. Tactical Traps: Tactical Traps designs home furnishing with locking, hidden compartments to keep your guns out of sight. Buy a floating shelf or check out their end tables in a variety of colors and patterns. Portable safes and lockboxes: The drawback to a portable safe is that someone can pick it up and carry it away. The benefit is that you can take it with you when you travel. If you need a small, lockable safe to store jewelry, your checkbook, or small documents and you aren’t worried about someone stealing your safe, you may like a Master Lock portable safe. Small enough to travel with, you can listen to your music by utilizing the earbud port and secure the safe to an object in your hotel room with the attached cable. Wall clock: Do you need a place to stash something small, but you don’t need to lock it up? Clocks are another type of diversion safe. Hung on a wall and high out of reach, a wall clock diversion safe can protect a few small items and keep them out of reach of children. (A picture frame with a secret compartment is another alternative you can hang on a wall.) False electric outlet: You’ve probably seen this one in movies, and if you place it in an obvious location, someone else may figure out what it is. But behind a piece of furniture, a false electrical outlet diversion safe is one more place to hide small valuables in any room. Locking desk: Locking file cabinets are an obvious place to store important documents. But have you thought about using a desk with locking drawers or even a desk will a rolltop that locks once you close it? If you want to double the protection, store a small, fireproof document safe inside the drawer. Armoire: Originally designed to hold clothing, armoires have found a new life in today’s world by providing attractive storage for televisions, entertainment systems, and computers. Add a lock to any armoire door to make it more challenging for thieves to run off with your TV or computer. Hidden room: The ultimate in secrecy and what every good mystery lover dreams of is a hidden room. Rotating bookcase, anyone? Disguise a door with paneling to make it blend in with the rest of the room, or place a perfectly sized false bookcase in the opening to hide access to your secret hideaway. You’ll need Murphy hidden door hardware to complete the job. Whatever kind of secret storage you’re looking for, whether to deter thieves or keep valuables out of the reach of children or guests, having a secure hiding place for money, jewelry, important papers, and other precious stuff will give you an added sense of security. Looking for more secret stash ideas? Check out my post on Secret Spaces to Stash Your Stuff!

  • Secret Spaces to Stash Your Stuff (Minimalism without Loss)

    This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. The rule growing up was “A place for everything and everything in its place.” If we needed to look for something, we always knew right where to find it. And if it were something my mom didn’t want to have come up missing (like her favorite gardening shovel), she’d put a piece of masking tape on it with her name printed in bold letters. That didn’t mean we lived a minimalist lifestyle by any means. We had plenty of stuff. It was just neatly stacked, arranged, or organized in a certain place. Always. White statuettes lined the ornate shelves on our antique pump organ that an ancestor had brought out West in the 1800s, and each one needed to be carefully wiped and shined and put back in its spot. Our rolltop desk had cubbies assigned to stamps or envelopes or writing pens or the checkbook. Holiday dishes were tidily stacked in the china cabinet. Wooden spoons were in a holder on the butcher block, and knives were in the knife block next to the stove where little children couldn’t reach. Our house was a joy to behold with all of the knickknacks and doodads. Everywhere you looked was a delight for the eyes. Which made Saturday morning chores a hassle. We had shelves of neatly arranged ceramic and porcelain bird figurines that had to be dusted, and each bird had to be put back exactly where it had been to maintain the balanced look my mom had so carefully achieved. Every nook and cranny on that rolltop desk, which I loved and dreamed of writing at, had to be freed from its weekly collection of dust and particles. I didn’t carry that deeply-instilled weekly dusting habit into adulthood. Admittedly, I may skip dusting things for a weekend here and there or only dust what is most visible to guests if I’m in a hurry. I do love a clean house, and I adore the look of minimalist interior design. But I’m not willing to give up my stuff to achieve the look. Which leads me to today’s writing rant: Secret Hiding Places to Stash Your Stuff (or how to achieve a minimalist look without throwing anything away). What is minimalism? Let’s start by discussing what minimalism is and what it isn’t. A minimalist lifestyle is characterized by using simple design for maximum impact. It is about living intentionally and purposefully instead of filling your space (and life) with unnecessary mishmash. By cutting down clutter and providing places for your eyes to rest among neutral colors and clean lines, you can create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere. And did I mention how much easier it is to clean a room with minimalist design? I might even say it again, because that’s what truly got me started researching minimalism in the first place. Hidden cabinets Cabinets are the perfect place to store items that you don’t want to display. You can organize to your heart’s content to make the best use of your space and keep everything within easy reach but out of sight. Not all cabinets have to be disguised. If you have the luxury of designing your kitchen, add plenty of cabinets and make sure they go to the ceiling. You won’t collect dust bunnies on top, and you can use the extra storage space to keep your holiday dishes safe (although you may need a stool to reach them) . Hidden cabinets can be installed in the unused space under stairs, behind a mirror (use a wood-framed mirror for the cabinet door), or behind a picture frame. You can turn a column at the end of your kitchen island into a handy hidden cupboard, too, by removing a side panel and reattaching it with concealed hinges and a magentic latch. If you plan on building hidden cabinets, you’ll need hardware that fits the job. Here are a few of the items you might need: Concealed hinges and push latches: Use concealed hinges and magnetic push latches, so no hardware is exposed. After all, it isn’t hidden if you can clearly see it. You’ll need at least two hinges if you’re building a single cabinet. The style of hinges depends on whether you’re using a pre-built cabinet door with inset holes for the hinges or if you’re building the door yourself and need the hinges to attach to a flat surface. Of course, if you have the right tools, you can drill insets in your home-crafted doors, too, but let’s keep this simple. Use soft-close hinges like this one for doors with predrilled inset cups. If your doors are flat on the back where you plan to attach the hinges, use surface-mount hinges like these. If you don’t need a deep cabinet, framed mirrored cabinets (like a medicine cabinet but bigger) serve a dual purpose of hiding smaller (or narrower) items and reflecting light into the room. You can either cut your wall and inset your 3-inch deep framed mirror so that it is flush with the wall (you’ll need to use a magnetic push latch top to open this kind of mirrored door) or buy a ready-made mirrored cabinet to hang on the wall like this locking jewelry safe. Consider other creative options for hidden cabinet doors, like pictures and paintings with a hidden hinge (you’ll need one of these to attach the frame to the wall). Small cabinets When you’re shopping for hidden storage compartments, think outside the box and come up with other uses for an item. Often, you can remove or redesign the inside to fit your purpose. Small items can be tucked away inside of hidden mini-cabinets. Keys can fit inside the small space a hidden door reveals in a wall coat rack, like this one that’s designed for weapons but could just as easily be used to hide the keys to your recreational vehicles, guest house, or bunker. Floating shelves with hidden storage look lovely hanging on a wall in your minimalist bedroom or bath, and no one needs to know that’s where you keep your multitude of nail polish colors. If you want to build your own floating shelf, you’ll need hidden brackets to hang them with. Try these heavy-duty invisible brackets for your next project. How about building a mantel over your living room fireplace to store your Christmas stockings out of sight? Put hinges on the lower edge inside the front panel, and use a strong magnetic latch to hold it closed. You can push on the top edge to swing the front down and retrieve your holiday decor. The mantel pictured below could easily be converted into secret storage, and removing a few display items from the top would lighten the load on chore day. Shelves with baskets Combine the hanging shelf idea with a row of pretty baskets to store items without completely disguising their whereabouts. All your visitors will see is a uniform design—not the extra washcloths or travel-sized shampoo bottles you keep on hand for guests. You can go larger by using standing shelves or storage cubes and lining them with baskets or fabric cubes to store toys, craft supplies, your yarn stash, or gadgets and canned goods in the kitchen. Try this storage cabinet with six pretty baskets, or my favorite, the Better Homes and Gardens cube organizers. Under the bed You know those cube organizers I just recommended? We have several sets and even built an under-bed storage system for my daughter by laying the 5-cube organizers on their sides (back to back) and putting her twin-sized box springs and mattress on top. She used the cubes on one side of the bed for storing books and put fabric cubes filled with socks and T-shirts on the other side. If you don’t want to redesign your bed with cubes, under-bed storage boxes (like these stackable bins with lids) fit beneath a standard bed frame and protect your seasonal clothes, boots, and blankets from dust. Another option is to build a platform bed with a wood base and drawers that give the room a clean, sleek look. Put your feet up Have you seen storage ottomans? Perfect for providing extra seating or giving your feet a place to rest when you settle in for the evening, storage ottomans come in round, square, or rectangular shapes and a variety of fabrics and finishes to match your interior style. Use ottomans to hide the remote control from toddlers (they’ll probably figure it out anyway) or to store toys or extra throw blankets. Go big with hidden rooms Want to go bigger instead of smaller? How about hiding an entire room where you can store large items or a whole pantry? Of course, to hide a room, you’ll need a hidden door—and to hide a door, you’ll not only need some carpentry skills, but you’ll also need hardware. You can get Murphy Door hidden hardware here. The hinges pivot so your secret bookcase (a.k.a., door) can swing around to reveal your secret room. Pretty cool, huh? What about if you don’t have carpentry skills to build a Murphy door? The Murphy Door store has pre-built solutions. Furniture End tables with doors instead of shelves, sofas with hidden storage in the armrest, and china cabinets all hide the miscellaneous stuff that would otherwise be sitting on a table or countertop. If you have end tables with legs, consider swapping them for ones with doors or at least a drawer and shelf. Looking for a new coffee table? Get one with a top that lifts off to reveal storage space inside. And if you really want to keep stuff protected in an end table, take a look at the Longhorn Nightstand by Rhino Metals. Picture it in an industrial farmhouse-style room or a man cave. Are you thinking about getting a new side chair or redesigning the benches for your dining area? Consider chairs and benches with lifting seats and hidden storage beneath. Office space As much as I didn’t like cleaning that old rolltop desk, I loved how easy it was to close the top and hide the mess. If you have a home office—or an area where you sit to pay the bills and use the computer—consider a rolltop desk or a desk with a hutch so you can close it mid-project without exposing your work to prying eyes. Bookshelves Bookshelves might seem like an obvious place to store your stuff, but most bookshelves have a less-than-minimalist look and provide ample opportunity for dust to collect. Hide bookshelves by installing sliding barn doors in front of them. You can also use barn doors to hide your television and gaming devices, electronics, or entertainment and stereo system. Install your new barn door with a soft-closing slider kit to prevent your door from smacking against the stopper. Conclusion If you want to achieve a minimalist look with hidden storage, use space to your advantage. Incorporate shelves, cube storage, and cabinetry and hide your treasures behind doors and in baskets to show a minimalist aesthetic without giving away your family heirlooms or giving up your hoard of crafting supplies. Creating a minimalist home is easy if you have enough hidden storage space. Want more ideas for reducing the stress in your life? Click here to read my post on 17 Ultimate Stress Relieving Gifts, and follow us on social media so you’ll see all our new posts as soon as they’re published.

  • 17 Ultimate Stress Relieving Gifts for the Holidays or Any Day

    Relaxation is good for your health, and it’s always nice to be pampered. But not everyone will spend money on themselves for a day at the spa or at-home self-care items. So why not spoil your loved ones (or yourself!) and give some helpful tools to enhance anyone’s self-care routine! This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Aromatherapy candles Mrs. Meyer’s candles are made with natural ingredients and without testing on animals. Choose lavender for relaxation or lemon verbena for a clean, bright fragrance. For long-burning, paraffin-free soy candles with a crackling wooden wick and exotic fragrance combinations (like eucalyptus orange or bergamot with jasmine), try Benevolence Los Angeles. They donate part of their proceeds to charity, so you’re really giving two gifts with every purchase. Wax melts made from soy or beeswax If you prefer wax melts instead of candles for your aromatherapy experience, try Happy Wax. Their soy wax melts are paraffin-free and come in classic scents. Try their Spa Day mix with fun little bear-shaped melts in lavender chamomile, sage and cedarwood, and eucalyptus spearmint. Meditation books If you or your loved one enjoy meditation and mindfulness activities, try gifting a book to give them new scripts and techniques. Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health, and Find Peace in the Everyday by Matthew Sokolov has information on mindful eating and how to do a body scan to see where you are holding stress in your body. If you’d prefer something a little more classic, try You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, by Thich Nhat Hanh. Gratitude journal Journaling for stress relief can benefit people of all ages, as I demonstrated by showing a page from my childhood journal in my article on creative journaling. To get started, give a guided journal, like this one by Allison Task, MS PCC. The daily prompts and lined pages make writing every day easy. If you prefer a more creative approach, give a bullet journal with dotted pages that can be decorated and doodled to your heart’s content. Adult coloring books When I was diagnosed with an issue that would require major surgery (don’t worry, I’m all better now!), my sister sent me a gift box with adult coloring books and markers. They were a lovely distraction that helped me live in the present and put my worries aside. If you know someone who enjoys coloring, they’ll love these Mogyann dual-tip coloring pens. Blankets Snuggle moments are a wonderful way to relax. Plush sherpa blankets and thermal cotton throws are pure luxury year after year. If you’re looking for something made from natural fibers but don’t want cotton, try this Bamboo Cable Knit Throw. Weighted blanket If not just any blanket will do, try gifting a weighted blanket to ease anxiety, release stress, and sleep soundly. I prefer a weighted blanket on the lighter side, so this knitted 10-pound blanket works for me. Games for mindfulness Mindfulness does not always require stillness. It’s the act of focusing on the present moment and letting go of the past and present—putting worries and anxiety away and releasing them so you can enjoy your life right now. For ideas on how to practice mindfulness without just sitting in the lotus pose, try The Self-Care Bucket List or these Stress Less Cards with 50 mindfulness activities. If you have a little meditator on your gift list, how about giving them the tools to learn some self-care, too, with Meditation Cards for Kids? Soaps and bath Self-care affects all areas of our lives. Bring a little extra pampering into the bathroom by gifting some luxurious scrubbing soaps or some water mint and rosemary bubble bath. Bath accessories come in masculine scents, too. For all the fragrance without the bubbles, try gifting a set of coconut and hemp bath bombs made with essential oils, like patchouli and sandalwood. If you’re into the DIY scene, try making homemade sugar scrubs or shower steamers for a completely personalized gift. Lotion and massage oil Lotions and massage oils nourish the skin and provide the ultimate in stress reduction. This ylang ylang and ginger massage oil smells absolutely heavenly and makes skin silky soft. Face mask from natural ingredients What’s a spa day without a face mask? Clay face masks draw impurities from the skin and help remove dead cells. Try this Moroccan Red Clay mask, crafted with botanicals and lightly scented with rose. Lip mask Don’t forget to take care of those pouty lips! A collagen-boosting overnight lip mask is the finishing touch to the perfect facial. Neck massager I’m not a stranger to neck pain, so when I received this shiatsu neck massager as a gift, I immediately tried it out. Let me tell you—it worked wonders on my sore muscles. I use it several times a week for tight shoulders and a stiff neck. It costs less than a single massage and stands up to repeated use. Mine even came with a car charger for those long trips when we travel to spend time with family. Self-care calendar Need a reminder to take care of yourself? The Bliss Collections Daily Planner will give you a gentle reminder to take care of yourself while you’re making your to-do list and taking care of everyone else. Pedicure items The perfect gift for someone who’s always on their feet (got any nurse or teacher friends?), a massaging foot spa is sure to be a welcome addition to your gift recipient’s self-care toolkit. Warming slippers While we’re on the topic of tootsies, how about a plush pair of snuggly-soft warming slippers for those chilly evenings in front of the fire? Warm them up in the microwave (follow the manufacturer’s directions) and slip them on to instantly banish the chills. Mindful magazine subscriptions For the gift that keeps giving all year, buy a subscription to Mindful magazine. I bought my first subscription when the magazine was new, and it has continued to grow and provide me with helpful tips ever since. Do you have any outdoor-loving adventurers or off-gridders on your holiday gift list? If so, head on over to our Ultimate Off Grid Gift Guide for Modern Homesteaders and have a look around!

  • 21 Kitchen Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Off Grid Chefs

    Outdoor kitchen accessories are not always the same as what you’d use indoors. Gifts for grillers and smokers need to be able to handle high heat, residue from smoke, and exposure to the elements. It’s even better when outdoor kitchen gifts use renewable resources instead of requiring a connection to the grid. If you’ve run out of ideas for off-grid gift giving or you want something a little more practical than the newest trend in luxury BBQ gifts, check out our gift ideas for both indoor and outdoor off-grid chefs. This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. This article contains an excerpt from the “Ultimate Off Grid Gift Guide for Modern Homesteaders.” Click here to read the full article. Ancient Cookware: Handcrafted clay cookware adds an artisanal touch to any table. This beautiful Chamba Soup Pot looks just as lovely indoors as it does simmering on the grill. Enameled Cast Iron Tagine: The cone-shaped lid of a tagine circulates steam to cook food evenly and keep it moist. Cast iron keeps food warm longer and is sturdy enough to be used over a gas burner or in an oven. Sun oven: Your favorite off-grid chef will love you for picking out a solar oven to save them from hovering over a fire when they want to cook outdoors. GoSun is my favorite portable solar oven, and they have several models and sizes to choose from. Nonelectric food dehydrator: Hanging, screen-covered food dehydrators are the most economical (and energy-free) way to dehydrate fruits and veggies. But if your off-grid gift recipient generates their own electricity, I recommend Nesco food dehydrators to quickly and efficiently dry several stacked trays of goodies at once. I’ve used the same Nesco dehydrator for close to 20 years, and I finally gave it to my daughter this year when I bought myself a new Gardenmaster from Nesco. Kelly Kettle: Need a holiday gift for a coffee lover? Kelly Kettles are pretty amazing. Think rocket stove plus tea kettle all in one. By using twigs and other natural fuel sources, you can bring water to a boil in just a few minutes. Make coffee or tea, rehydrate freeze-dried foods, or fill a hot water bottle! Water bottle with filter: How about a water bottle to keep your off-grid buddy hydrated when they're out in the wilderness? The Survimate water filtration bottle not only has a replaceable filter that lasts for around 1500 liters of use, but it also has a little compass on the lid to help your loved one find their way back to the path. Berkey: We’ve been using our Big Berkey for over two years, and we still love it. We bought our Berkey while still connected to city tap water (yuck!). It does an excellent job of filtering out all the undesirable chemicals to make our drinking and cooking water safer for us and our dogs. Canning supplies: Gardening goes with living off the grid. But you have to do something with your excess harvest, so why not gift some much-needed canning supplies? If they have plenty of jars and lids already (can you ever have too many?), give them some canning accessories to make life easier. I bought these silicone gloves back in 2020, and they have been my best canning buddy ever since. Hand-powered blender or mixer: Sure, you can chop fruits and vegetables with a knife and knead bread by hand, but what if you want to make a smoothie? The GSI Outdoors Vortex Blender can puree fruit into a delicious breakfast drink completely off the grid. All you need is a little elbow grease. Sprouting seed sampler: I try to keep sprouts growing indoors all year long, and in the winter—when our garden is buried under snow—we rely on fresh microgreens for sandwich fillers and smoothie additions. Gift a sprouting seed sampler pack to add some variety to your loved one’s indoor culinary garden. Thermal cooker: Thermal cookers keep food hot for hours without using any electricity, and they're a practical gift for outdoorsy types who like to go camping. Simply fill with food and liquid that has been brought to a boil, and a thermal cooker will continue the cooking process by trapping heat with a vacuum seal. My favorite? The Stanley Adventure Stay Hot Camp Crock! Fermenting kit or glass weights: I adore these glass fermentation weights! I keep mine in continual use for fermented salsa and, in the fall, fermented sunchokes. Glass butter churn: Some things are just easier when you have the right tools. Churning butter is one of those tasks. If your off-grid chef makes butter at home, gift them a glass butter churn that will look just as pretty on the counter when it’s not in use. Butter keeper crock: Butter was always kept in a crock on the counter when I was growing up. Always the perfect consistency for spreading, we never had to take butter from the fridge to let it soften so we could spread it on toast. How about gifting some vintage charm reminiscent of a French country kitchen with a Butter Bell butter crock? Wooden utensils: My mom always used wooden spoons when she cooked. They were equally well-loved for stirring a pot of sauce or mixing pound cake batter. If you want to gift something other than the average wooden spoon, may I suggest a set of wooden spurtles? Spurtles are a Scottish utensil for stirring soups, stews, and porridge. Plus, it’s fun to say! Sprout bag: One of the issues I’ve had when growing sprouts is not getting enough water back out of the jar … and then the sprouts start to spoil. A hemp sprout bag eliminates that problem by allowing more airflow through the tiny, growing seedlings. Hand-operated grain mill: This hand-crank grain mill does an amazing job of turning wheat berries into flour. I’ve used mine successfully for wheat, oats, and barley. Cooking pot tripod: If your gift recipient enjoys cooking over an outdoor fire but doesn’t have a great way to support their soup kettle over the flames, think about getting them a cast iron cooking tripod so they can hang their kettle or dry their socks! Afghan pressure cooker: You know how fast a pressure cooker can cook a meal. But most pressure cookers have plastic handles or other meltable parts that are not intended to be exposed to fire. An Afghan pressure cooker is different—it’s made to handle the heat! Gift this, and your off-grid gift recipient can pressure cook over a campfire or in a fire pit. Camp stove: I truly don’t know what I’d do without my Camp Chef Explorer camp stove; it’s not just for camping. It’s strong enough to support my All American Pressure Canner, and with two burners, I can use the second one to sterilize more canning jars in a pot of boiling water at the same time. 21. Reusable grocery bags: Just because someone lives off grid doesn’t mean they never need to go shopping. There are still occasional items they’ll need to run to town to pick up. These heavy-duty reusable shopping bags will support them in reducing their carbon footprint by avoiding single-use plastics when they shop. Want more ideas for living the off-grid life? Check out this article on 9 Essential Off Grid Skills!

  • Ultimate Off Grid Gift Guide for Modern Homesteaders

    This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Some people are easy to buy for, and others have a unique way of looking at life—and need a unique gift to match their taste. I’m talking about people who love living off the grid, connecting to nature, and the outdoors. People who would rather go for a wilderness walk searching for wild edible plants than stream shows on TV. People who spend more time with their backyard chickens than waiting in line at Starbucks. People who are willing to brush snow off a solar panel in exchange for not being connected to local public utilities. You get the idea. These self-reliant individuals appreciate sustainable, environmentally friendly gifts made with renewable resources. We’ve got a gift idea for every budget and every season—whether you’re shopping for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas gifts, or a birthday or anniversary present. So if you’re buying for a casual off gridder, a modern homesteader, or an off grid weekend warrior, this off grid gift guide is sure to have something they’ll love. Can’t wait to see them smile when they open the box? Let’s get started! Solar gift ideas Flashlight: Flashlights are something we like to keep handy in our house. There are several solar flashlights on the market, and all of the ones I’ve seen have such a small solar panel that it takes many hours (like … a couple of days’ worth of sunlight) to charge them fully. Instead, try this tactical flashlight that can plug into your solar-powered generator, a USB battery bank, or the 12V in your car. My husband loves his, and the light is super bright. Portable solar panel: A portable solar panel lets you charge your devices when you’re away from home. We use this folding portable solar panel that can charge our phones or tablets with USB—and it can charge a car battery, too! Solar generator: Solar generators offer a clean, quiet alternative to (noisy) gas generators. This Jackery solar generator is powerful enough to run appliances, a TV, your laptop, or an electric grill. Solar phone and tablet charger: With five panels and a detachable wireless charger, this BLAVOR solar charger will help your off grid friend stay connected to you while they disconnect from the grid. Solar LED desk lamp: How about a solar desk lamp for the off grid book enthusiast or student? Make sure the solar panel on the lamp is exposed to direct sunlight through a sunny window, and you’ll have enough power to read by (or charge your USB device) at night. Solar lights: Need to find the path to the chicken coop at night? How about lighting the backyard for an evening cookout around the fire pit? These waterproof LED solar lights have a motion sensor, so they’ll only be on when you need them. Now you’re cooking! Sun oven: Your favorite off grid chef will love you for picking out a solar oven to save them from hovering over a fire when they want to cook outdoors. GoSun is my favorite portable solar oven, and they have several models and sizes to choose from. Nonelectric food dehydrator: Hanging, screen-covered food dehydrators are the most economical (and energy-free) way to dehydrate fruits and veggies. But if your off grid gift recipient generates their own electricity, I recommend Nesco food dehydrators to quickly and efficiently dry several stacked trays of goodies at once. I’ve used the same Nesco dehydrator for close to 20 years, and I finally gave it to my daughter this year when I bought myself a new Gardenmaster from Nesco. Kelly Kettle: Need a holiday gift for a coffee lover? Kelly Kettles are pretty amazing. Think rocket stove plus tea kettle all in one. By using twigs and other natural fuel sources, you can bring water to a boil in just a few minutes. Make coffee or tea, rehydrate freeze-dried foods, or fill a hot water bottle! Water bottle with filter: How about a water bottle to keep your off grid buddy hydrated when they're out in the wilderness? The Survimate water filtration bottle not only has a replaceable filter that lasts for around 1500 liters of use, but it also has a little compass on the lid to help your loved one find their way back to the path. Berkey: We’ve been using our Big Berkey for over two years, and we still love it. We bought our Berkey while still connected to city tap water (yuck!). It does an excellent job of filtering out all the undesirable chemicals to make our drinking and cooking water safer for us and our dogs. Canning supplies: Gardening goes with living off the grid. But you have to do something with your excess harvest, so why not gift some much-needed canning supplies? If they have plenty of jars and lids already (can you ever have too many?), give them some canning accessories to make life easier. I bought these silicone gloves back in 2020, and they have been my best canning buddy ever since. Hand-powered blender or mixer: Sure, you can chop fruits and vegetables with a knife and knead bread by hand, but what if you want to make a smoothie? The GSI Outdoors Vortex Blender can puree fruit into a delicious breakfast drink completely off the grid. All you need is a little elbow grease. Sprouting seed sampler: I try to keep sprouts growing indoors all year long, and in the winter—when our garden is buried under snow—we rely on fresh microgreens for sandwich fillers and smoothie additions. Gift a sprouting seed sampler pack to add some variety to your loved one’s indoor culinary garden. Thermal cooker: Thermal cookers keep food hot for hours without using any electricity, and they're a practical gift for outdoorsy types who like to go camping. Simply fill with food and liquid that has been brought to a boil, and a thermal cooker will continue the cooking process by trapping heat with a vacuum seal. My favorite? The Stanley Adventure Stay Hot Camp Crock! Fermenting kit or glass weights: I adore these glass fermentation weights! I keep mine in continual use for fermented salsa and, in the fall, fermented sunchokes. Glass butter churn: Some things are just easier when you have the right tools. Churning butter is one of those tasks. If your off grid chef makes butter at home, gift them a glass butter churn that will look just as pretty on the counter when it’s not in use. Butter keeper crock: Butter was always kept in a crock on the counter when I was growing up. Always the perfect consistency for spreading, we never had to take butter from the fridge to let it soften so we could spread it on toast. How about gifting some vintage charm reminiscent of a French country kitchen with a Butter Bell butter crock? Wooden utensils: My mom always used wooden spoons when she cooked. They were equally well-loved for stirring a pot of sauce or mixing pound cake batter. If you want to gift something other than the average wooden spoon, may I suggest a set of wooden spurtles? Spurtles are a Scottish utensil for stirring soups, stews, and porridge. Plus, it’s fun to say! Sprout bag: One of the issues I’ve had when growing sprouts is not getting enough water back out of the jar … and then the sprouts start to spoil. A hemp sprout bag eliminates that problem by allowing more airflow through the tiny, growing seedlings. Hand-operated grain mill: This hand-crank grain mill does an amazing job of turning wheat berries into flour. I’ve used mine successfully for wheat, oats, and barley. Cooking pot tripod: If your gift recipient enjoys cooking over an outdoor fire but doesn’t have a great way to support their soup kettle over the flames, think about getting them a cast iron cooking tripod so they can hang their kettle or dry their socks! Afghan pressure cooker: You know how fast a pressure cooker can cook a meal. But most pressure cookers have plastic handles or other meltable parts that are not intended to be exposed to fire. An Afghan pressure cooker is different—it’s made to handle the heat! Gift this, and your off grid gift recipient can pressure cook over a campfire or in a fire pit. Camp stove: I truly don’t know what I’d do without my Camp Chef Explorer camp stove; it’s not just for camping. It’s strong enough to support my All American Pressure Canner, and with two burners, I can use the second one to sterilize more canning jars in a pot of boiling water at the same time. Reusable grocery bags: Just because someone lives off grid doesn’t mean they never need to go shopping. There are still occasional items they’ll need to run to town to pick up. These heavy-duty reusable shopping bags will support them in reducing their carbon footprint by avoiding single-use plastics when they shop. Yard and garden Heirloom seeds: Is your favorite off-gridder worried about the apocalypse … or do they simply enjoy gardening? Either way, a seed vault with non-GMO, heirloom seed varieties is sure to be a serious gardener’s delight! Compost barrel: Compost should never be stinky, but it can be dirty (and backbreaking) work to turn a large compost pile with a shovel. Save your loved one’s back and the mess by gifting them a tumbling compost barrel. Trail camera: Solar trail cameras recharge with the sun, so you never have to worry about running out of battery in between camera checks. By adding wireless technology (and a monthly wireless plan), you can see images from your trail camera on your phone day or night. Choose a trail camera with high resolution and long-distance views plus infrared so you won’t scare the critters away at night. Chicken coop: Although I’ve always let my chickens have the run of the yard, a chicken coop is a great way to start baby chicks or keep banties safe from hawks. This nifty chicken coop with a wire run is great for beginning hobbyists. Cast iron dinner bell: My dad could never hear my mom yell for dinner when he was out in the workshop at the back of our acreage. She kept a cast iron dinner bell, like this one, hanging from the porch rafters and sent me out to ring it when supper was ready. Rain barrel: Rain catchment is an excellent way to save water and use it in the garden during a dry spell. How about gifting a rain barrel kit (made from recycled materials) to supplement your loved one’s water supply? Gorilla cart: This is one of those things that you don’t think you need until you actually need it! I love using a gorilla cart to lighten my load and haul groceries, bags of feed, and gardening soil. Get one with removable sides to make unloading even easier. Gathering basket: I can’t count how many times I’ve gone out to the garden thinking there would only be a few tomatoes to pick and ended up using my shirt to carry loads of tomatoes, squash, and peppers into the house. A gathering basket makes life much easier and keeps my shirt clean. And for gathering eggs, try this egg gathering apron with individual pockets to prevent the eggs from cracking against each other. Poultry balm/chicken first aid: While we’re talking about eggs, how about gifting your off grid hobbyist with a chicken first-aid kit or some poultry balm to help those little chickies stay healthy and protected from leg sores? Steel forged garden tools: Anyone who lives off the grid and raises their own food knows that having the right tools for the job makes all the difference! Gift your gardener some sturdy, steel forged garden tools. If you think they already have all the gardening gear they need, how about something a little different, like a hori hori knife for cutting through roots or stems and poking holes for planting seeds? Walking stick for your wildcrafting and gathering hikes: I enjoy wildcrafting, and sometimes looking for berries takes me a little further into the wilderness than I had originally planned. I love my Black Diamond walking poles—they’re collapsible, lightweight, and easy to carry in my pack. Tree diapers: A tree diaper refills during rain and slowly releases the water back into the soil to keep young trees protected from drought. If your off grid loved one is trying to establish an orchard or planting fruit trees for the yard, tree diapers will help establish a moist growing medium for their newly planted saplings. Arbor Day membership: I’m all for planting trees! Give two gifts in one with an Arbor Day Foundation membership. Your loved one will not only become a member, but they’ll also receive free trees as part of the deal. Boot scraper: All that mud needs to go somewhere, and tracking it in the house on the bottom of your boots isn’t an option. How about giving an industrial-strength boot scraper so the dirt can stay outside where it belongs? Wood splitting, fire starting, and heavy-duty jobs Gloves: Leather work gloves, wool gloves for warmth, and even glove liners make a great gift idea or stocking stuffer. I bought these Merino touchscreen-compatible glove liners a couple of years ago. They’re perfect to wear under mittens, and I can still answer my phone or send a text without having to expose my fingers to the cold. Farmer sleeves: It’s easy to get scrapes and scratches when you’re out in the garden or working with animals. Gift a set of farmer sleeves to protect your friend’s arms while they’re doing chores. Trucker’s friend demolition ax: This might say it’s designed for professional truck drivers (who also spend a lot of time off the grid), but this multitasking tool has just as many uses around the homestead. Use it for chopping branches, prying nails, and chipping ice. Canvas firewood bag: Waxed cotton canvas firewood bags make transporting kindling and small logs a breeze. I like this rectangular one from WhiteDuck because the open ends don’t limit the length of the logs we put inside. Kindling splitter: Chopping wood is hard work. The Kindling Cracker makes the job easier by holding the log in place over a sharp blade while you whack it with a large hammer (or even another piece of wood). Chainsaw or folding saw: There’s always stuff that needs to be done on an off grid homestead, so saws are a necessity. Why not give a heavy-duty folding saw like this one or a cordless chainsaw? Log rack for firewood: Outdoor firewood can be stored under a porch or overhang or covered with a tarp to keep it dry. But indoors, you need a rack to keep it within easy reach of your fireplace or wood stove. Why not gift a pretty log rack to help keep everything in its place? Fireplace bellows: I remember using wood and leather fireplace bellows at our cabin once I was old enough to help with the fire. Save your off grid friend’s lungs and give them a bellows so they’ll stop blowing on the fire. Lightable fire-starter pellets: Starting a fire is easier with fire-starting pellets. I like these charcoal and tumbleweed fire starters by Melt Candle Company. Communication Hand crank radio: Hand-crank radios alert you to weather bulletins and emergencies when the power is out or when you’re off the grid. This wind-up weather station can charge your phone and play MP3s. BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1 Satellite Phone Kit: Satellite phones provide global coverage to remote areas for either emergency or ongoing communication. Make sure your loved ones can reach you when they’re out of reach of cell phone service. GPS plus GMRS: Garmin offers a high-sensitivity GPS and two-way GMRS radio combo in their Garmin Rino series. You can even send text messages between units—just remember to buy one for each of your off grid buddies. Walkie-talkies: Do you have an outdoor-loving kid on your list? Walkie-talkies are fun (and useful) for kids and adults of all ages. If you’re tired of trying to keep in contact with your children when they’re hiding out in their tree fort, a pair of walkie-talkies might be just the solution you’re looking for. So you can always keep them warm Zippo hand warmer: My hands get really cold in the winter, and having cold hands makes doing outdoor chores challenging. I was given this Zippo refillable hand warmer for Christmas last year, and I’ve been amazed at how well it works! I can fill it with lighter fluid, light it, and keep it in my pocket to warm my hands as needed. Mr. Heater: Mr. Heater makes indoor-safe propane room heaters to keep you toasty in a cabin or a tent. The one we bought can be used with both small and large propane tanks. Make sure your gift recipient follows the manufacturer’s safety instructions to use this propane heater indoors safely. Wool socks: Merino wool is soft and does a wonderful job of keeping you warm. How about keeping your loved one’s toes toasty by including some cozy merino wool socks as a stocking stuffer this year? Natural cotton blankets: For another warm and cozy idea, how about gifting a waffle-weave cotton blanket for snuggling up on the sofa or layering on the bed? For bookworms and game players Books for off grid living and homesteading: You can never have too many skills, and one of the best ways to learn new skills is by reading books written by experts. Gift a book to your homesteading friend to help them maximize their abilities. Homesteading magazine subscription: I always look forward to the next issue of my favorite magazine. Give a subscription to a magazine targeted at self-reliant individuals, like Self-Reliance or Mother Earth News. Farmopoly: Whether you play the traditional or one-hour version of this game, homesteaders are sure to enjoy a TV-free evening playing Farmopoly. More games: Need more game ideas for nonelectric entertainment? How about The Farming Game, which touts being “invented on the seat of a tractor,” or Life On the Farm, where you compete to see who can retire first! Wild edibles books: As an avid wild edible foodie, I can attest to the value of spending time outdoors harvesting berries and dandelion roots. Try gifting a book that describes wild edible plants and how to harvest and use them ethically. Other items for the home Natural soaps and lotions: People move off the grid to get away from noise and chemicals and to reconnect with nature. Support your loved one’s sustainable lifestyle by giving them soaps and lotions made without harsh chemicals, parabens, or phthalates. Avalon Organics makes lotions that are free from synthetics and are vegan and cruelty-free. Beeswax candles: Ethically harvested beeswax, provided by beekeepers who love their bees, makes naturally sweet-smelling and long-burning candles. Try these pure, unscented taper beeswax candles if you don’t have a local beekeeper or candlemaker nearby. Hand-crank clothes wringer: My great-grandmother used an old wringer washer, and I’ve always wanted one for myself. Not that I want extra work when doing laundry, but I like the idea of doing things manually and reducing the amount of electricity I use. If you or your gift recipient like the idea of wringing clothes the old-fashioned way, give this hand-crank clothes wringer a try. Low-powered washing machine: Washing machines pull a lot of power. But a low-powered washer—like this one that can wash 8 pounds of laundry—can run off a generator or the inverter for a solar system without wasting energy. Candle by the Hour 80-Hour Vertical Candle: Candlelight is always charming, and sometimes it’s simply necessary. This 48-hour beeswax courting candle looks amazing whether it’s lit or not. Now that you’ve picked out the perfect gifts, it’s time to start thinking about wrapping them! For eco-friendly ideas, pile them in a gift basket or wrap them with recycled paper. You can also tie small gifts in a tea towel with a raffia bow, or use newspaper for wrapping boxes. Bonus gift idea #70: How about making some DIY sugar scrubs and gifting them in Mason jars? Looking for even more great homesteading gift ideas? Check out my friend Samantha's gift guide at Homesteading Tips 101!

  • Using Scented Candles for Stress Relief

    This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. I love walking into a room filled with the fragrance of a scented candle. There's something about the way warm scents rise on the air and welcome you home. Candles are soothing, and their fragrances can calm us down or lift our spirits. But why are candles relaxing? Can you really use scented candles for stress relief? Let's examine some of the reasons why candles are good for stress relief—and justify your desire to bring more candles home. I mean, we all like to make excuses for our splurges! Gentle, diffused light The soft glow from a candle creates a soothing atmosphere that helps us calm down and create a quiet space. This gentle, diffused light is similar to early morning or late evening hours when the sun sits below the horizon, and our eyes are protected from the harsh brightness of midday (or fluorescent office lights). Focused attention Candles help us with meditation by giving us something to focus on. The mesmerizing dance of the flame helps us bring our thoughts back to the present moment. Candles can help with meditation, yoga, and tai chi or add to the ambiance when we take a luxury bubble bath, sit quietly sipping tea, or when reading a favorite book. If you'd like to try a candle gazing meditation for stress relief, just follow these simple steps: Light a candle, and dim all other lights in the room. Place the candle where it will be at eye level a few feet in front of you when you are comfortably seated on the floor or in a chair. Rest your hands in your lap, and take three deep, slow breaths with the out-breath lasting slightly longer than the in-breath. Then return to normal breathing. Let your eyelids relax, but try to keep your eyes open, gazing at the candle's flame. Let the image of the flame be your focus. Imagine that you are breathing the light in and out with each breath. If you feel the urge to close your eyes, allow them to softly close and visualize the image of the flame in your mind as you continue to breathe the light in and out. Continue this practice as long as you feel comfortable. Aromatherapy candles You've heard the hype about essential oils, but how does aromatherapy work? Aromatherapy stimulates our scent receptors. These receptors send messages to our nervous system and limbic system (which controls emotions). Different essential oils produce a variety of responses, including relaxation, improved sleep, and happier moods. Kevill and Green, in their book Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art (Crossing Press, 2009), provide evidence that scented candles and aromatherapy oils can improve well-being. To benefit from aromatherapy, choose candles made with pure essential oils (not artificial fragrances), and select scents known for their relaxing qualities. Not sure which essential oil fragrance to choose for your aromatherapy candle? These are some of my go-to scents for stress relief: Lavender Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils and aromatherapy fragrances. Believed to promote relaxation and encourage restful sleep (so long, insomnia!), lavender is a favorite for pillow sachets and nighttime diffusing. Add a lavender candle to your collection for those sweet dreams moments. I really like this Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day lavender-scented soy candle! Clary sage Clary sage might be related to culinary sage, but its sweet, herbaceous fragrance reminds me of an early morning herb walk. Clary sage is believed to help us release tension and inspire inner balance. Sweet Orange Sweet orange must be one of my favorite year-round fragrances. Combined with lemon in the spring or cinnamon in the fall and winter months, sweet orange brings its clean, citrus scent into my home no matter the season. Sweet orange has been shown to reduce anxiety and lessen feelings of depression. Peppermint Peppermint essential oil adds a bright note to any aromatherapy experience. Especially popular around the holidays (candy cane scented candles, anyone?), peppermint has been shown to improve mental function and reduce stress. Vanilla Vanilla is my favorite flavor, and I love the sugar cookie fragrance that fills my home when I burn a vanilla candle. This warm, comforting smell brings me back to carefree childhood days and freshly baked treats. Vanilla pairs well with many other fragrances, too. Try combining it with almond—or sweet orange for a Creamsicle-inspired scent. Frankincense Frankincense has a sweet, woody fragrance that calms the mind and decreases feelings of stress and anxiety. If you're making your own soy candles (beeswax works, too!), combine frankincense with myrrh and sandalwood so you can de-stress after all those holiday parties. Ylang ylang Ylang ylang's bright floral fragrance is believed to soothe away stress, tension, and sadness. It combines well with jasmine or eucalyptus. Use ylang ylang scented candles during your meditation and envision yourself walking through a field of flowers on a warm, sunny day. Artificial fragrances What if your favorite fragrance isn't an essential oil? Familiar fragrances, whether natural or artificial, evoke memories and emotions. If you've ever wondered if scented candles help with mental health, there is some evidence to show that the positive associations we make with certain smells can help restore feelings of calmness and relieve stress. If the scent of clean linen (like this Yankee Candle) reminds you of grandma's house, or apple cinnamon brings back memories of a special holiday, I say go for it! Although artificial fragrances are not the same as aromatherapy, use the fragrances you love, and you will still benefit from the relaxing quality of scented candles. Should I choose soy candles or beeswax candles? Soy candles and beeswax candles are dominating the scented candle market, and for a good reason. Traditional paraffin wax candles (paraffin is a petroleum byproduct) release toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. These toxins are known to be carcinogenic and can cause issues with asthma and allergies. Some soy candles have paraffin added to make the wax harder and longer-lasting. But you can also find candles made from a blend of pure soy wax and beeswax. Soy candles and beeswax candles release fewer toxins into the air (without the soot!) and are considered by many to be a healthier alternative. What about the candle wick? If the crackling sound of a fire soothes your soul, look for candles with a wooden wick (a cotton wick is silent). Wooden wicks make a natural crackling sound that provides gentle background noise for your meditation or book snuggling. What else should I know? The US does not require manufacturers to list all ingredients in scented products, so if you have an adverse reaction, it might be to something that isn't listed on the label. Use plant-based ingredients that are not tested on animals when making candles, and stick to natural essential oils for your fragrance combinations. To sum it up … If you're still asking yourself if candles can really be used for stress relief, the answer is yes. By choosing a fragrance that evokes feelings of calmness and relaxation and selecting candles made with natural ingredients, you can add beauty and pleasing scents to your home, bath, or meditation practice. How do you use aromatherapy in your daily life? Share your ideas with us, and we'll add them to an article or share them on social media!

  • 15 Off Grid Cooking Hacks to Save You Time and Fuel

    This site is supported by our audience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I only recommend products I love and/or use. Those of us who use off grid cooking methods know that fuel is a precious resource. Whether you're using solar power stored in batteries, a gas generator, propane, butane, wood, wood pellets, or charcoal—that fuel must come from somewhere, and it has to be replaced. Even if you’re cooking in a solar oven and using the sun as your power source, your hours of sunlight are limited, and you need to cook with daylight hours in mind. To save precious cooking fuel and power sources, I’ve created a list of 15 cooking hacks to save you time and resources. Prep your food first Wash, trim, and chop your ingredients before you start up your heat source. You don’t want to waste fuel heating pots and pans when the ingredients aren’t even ready. Have everything prepped and ready to go so you don’t accidentally burn part of your quick-cooking meal because you forgot to prep one of the ingredients. Size matters Foods cook faster when there’s more surface area and less distance for the heat to travel. The smaller your ingredients are, the greater their surface area, and the faster the heat will reach the center of each of the bits and pieces. Stir-fry meals cook up in minutes because the meat and vegetables are in bite-sized pieces. A mandoline can help you evenly slice fruits and veggies. You’re grate! Use a grater to make quick work of root vegetables like carrots and beets. The tiny slivers will cook almost instantly when they hit the hot pan. Go boneless Boneless meats cook faster. If you’re removing the bones yourself, save them to make stock or bone broth. You can use it for soups and stews or bone broth, or pressure can it to use later. If you have a freezer, you can freeze the bones to use another day. Use your meat mallet For recipes where chopped meat isn’t practical, use a meat mallet to flatten steaks and chicken into even thicknesses. Slice meat thinly or pound it into thin, flat pieces (like you’d do for chicken fried steak). Watch closely once you put it on the heat so it doesn’t overcook! Uniform pieces Make sure your ingredients are uniform in size so they’ll cook in the same amount of time. It’s not fun to bite into a raw potato cube followed by a mushy bit of something else. Bake in portions Size matters when you’re baking, too. Smaller baked goods will bake quicker, saving fuel and time in front of the oven. Convert cakes into cupcakes by decreasing your baking time by ⅓ to ½. Make mini loaves of bread, or use the bread dough to make breadsticks or dinner rolls. Cupcakes and minimuffins are perfect for baking in a solar oven. Try using silicone baking cups when baking with the sun! For even quicker bread, make pita bread on a hot baking stone in your outdoor oven, or cook tortillas, chapatis, or naan in an iron skillet or griddle over a low flame. You can even use less cooking fuel when baking pies by making them into little tarts or turnovers—perfect for parties and dinner guests or a late-night sugar craving. Use the right pan Use a pan the appropriate size for your food and cooking method. Don’t put a giant pan on a small flame. You want even heat distribution but not overcrowding, so size your cooking vessel appropriately. Shallow, wide pans might cook food more quickly, but if it’s too big for your heat source, you’re defeating the purpose. Put a lid on it Cover your pot or pan with a lid to trap heat. As long as you’re not frying or caramelizing an ingredient, pop a lid on it and trap the steam and heat inside. Cook under pressure Talk about lids! Use a pressure cooker over your propane or butane burner, or plug in your Instant Pot if you have an electricity source. Pressure cooking locks in the heat and pushes it through your ingredients in a fraction of the time. This is especially helpful for long-cooking grains like rice. For outdoor cooking over a fire, try an Afghan pressure cooker (which can be used on a regular stove as well). Regular pressure cookers with plastic handles are not meant for cooking over a campfire—the food could be unevenly cooked, and the handles may melt. But an Afghan pressure cook is designed to handle the heat. Lower the flame Decrease the flame once the water is boiling. Even pasta will cook with water at a simmer instead of a full rolling boil. Save gas by using a lower flame whenever possible. This counts for things like hard-boiled eggs, too. Once the water boils, remove it from the heat and cover the pot--the heat from the boiling water will continue to cook the eggs even after the boiling has stopped. Preheat Remember when I said not to heat your pans while you’re prepping ingredients? That’s still true—you don’t want to heat your oven or pans too early. But preheating them at the right time—right before you put in the food—will save time and fuel in the long run. Preheat your pan, so foods start cooking the instant you add them. When cooking with fire, make sure you have the flame or coals just right before you put the food on so you make the most efficient use of your wood. Double up Sometimes it’s more practical to cook a large batch instead of making smaller portions. Make double batches when it’s more practical—like when cooking soups and stews, large portions of meat, rice, or beans. You can eat leftovers the next day, freeze portions for another meal, or pressure can the extras to store for later use. If you’re slow cooking in a fire pit, double the amount of brisket, pork, or chicken. You’ll need to increase the number of coals you’re using, but not as much as you would if you were starting from scratch another day. Beans, beans, the musical fruit Dry beans can take hours to soften. Speed up cooking time by soaking the beans overnight while you sleep. For old or stubborn beans, add baking soda to your soak water or cooking water. Use About 1 tsp per cup of soak water or ¼ tsp per pound when cooking. Thaw foods or bring to room temp Always use safe thawing methods, but try to bring meats to room temperature before cooking them. You won’t waste any fuel while you’re letting it rest, and you won’t drop the temperature of your pan as much when you add the food. Chew on this Living off the grid has its pros and cons, and one of the most enjoyable is using a variety of creative cooking methods instead of getting into the habit of putting something on the electric range or popping leftovers into the microwave. But along with the creativity comes a need to protect the resources you’ve carefully stored. By paying attention to how you cut and portion your ingredients, doubling batches when practical, and using leftovers to your benefit, you’ll have more time to enjoy those evening sunsets you moved off grid for in the first place! Now that you have extra time after dinner, why not relax in a warm bubble bath and soothe away the stress of the day? Or, if you're in the mood to do a little shopping, check out our Ultimate Off Grid Gift Guide!

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