Build Your Home Emergency Kit with These Essentials

home emergency kit - candles

Is your house prepped for an emergency? Adding a few simple items – like candles – to a home emergency kit can make you ready for anything. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

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If the wide range and vast number of natural disasters that have impacted the US in the last year are any indication, we need to be ready. When you watch these events unfold on the news, it’s easy to feel like they’re happening in a parallel universe. But, you never know when disaster will come knocking at your back door. That’s why having a home emergency kit prepped is so important.

Last December, we had just put up our Christmas tree and were enjoying a glass of wine in its light when we noticed the sky turn orange. Within hours, we had evacuated out of the path of the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California history at the time. Over the next few days, I thought about everything I assumed we’d lost. Ultimately, the incredible efforts of the firefighters saved our neighborhood. But it taught me a valuable lesson.

With that in mind, I’ve started putting together a home emergency kit. From my research and based on recommendations from various disaster preparedness agencies, here are the seven items we should all have stocked and ready.

home emergency kit - pantry

Stock your pantry with the essentials. Image: Switlana Symonenko/Shutterstock

Food & water

While facing disaster meant evacuating for us, it can also mean you need to batten down the hatches. If you get trapped at home and need to quite literally wait out the storm, you’ll need food and water. It’s recommended that you have enough water for three days of survival, and experts say “enough” means one gallon per person per day.

Keep plenty of nonperishables stocked that you can prepare without a heat source, too. And if you rely on an electric can opener, tuck a manual into your emergency prep area. Generally, you should have enough food stocked in your pantry to last you a week and should put three day’s worth in your go bag (more on that below).


If you lose electricity, light will be key. Give yourself a few different options in your home emergency kit. While flashlights are easier if you need to head outside, lanterns can make it less of a chore to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Plus, they’re handy if you need to perform any task with both of your hands.

It’s a good idea to have a mix of solar and battery operated lights and plenty of extra batteries. Throw some candles in the mix, too. They can add a nice sense of calm during an emergency and can save you from having to fumble around for batteries in the dark.

home emergency kit - bag

Have a bag packed and ready to go. Keeping a carry on ready makes it easier to get out the door. Image: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

A go bag

The one thing I wish I’d had ready to grab was a go bag. This can save you a ton of stress when you need to hurry out the door. In addition to the few days’ supply of food, add a few changes of clothes and personal hygiene essentials. Then add medication (a seven day supply), cash and important personal documents.

These should include birth certificates, the deed to your house, proofs of insurance, passports and social security cards. If you have a filing system where you keep these documents normally, keep them all in one folder. Then, put a visual reminder (like a big yellow tag that reads “DOCUMENTS”) on your go bag so you remember to grab it.

Cell phone chargers

During an emergency, being able to keep in touch with loved ones can take an absolutely huge amount of stress off you. Make sure you have cell phone chargers ready in your home emergency kit. Just like the lights, you want to mix up your power sources. Batteries come in handy at night, but solar power is an essentially infinite power source if you can find sunlight.

Since your phone will be an essential tool during a disaster, prep it. It’s smart to store a note in your phone with important emergency contact numbers, like the number for your local fire and police departments. Also, download some local maps so you can access them even if your cell service goes down.

home emergency kit - first aid

Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be this conspicuous, but it does need to be stocked. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

First aid kit

When a disaster comes your way, you can’t predict what it will bring. You should have a stocked first aid kit at the ready in your home emergency kit. It’s a good idea to put a smaller version in your car, as well.

Hand-crank radio

Nothing is quite as stressful as having a disaster coming your way – and not knowing what’s coming next. A hand-crank radio can keep you in the know. An NOAA weather radio is a reliable option and you can grab it on Amazon for just $40. That’s a small price to pay for information when that information can help bring you peace of mind.

N95 mask

In California, we’ve learned the importance of N95 masks for keeping smoke out and keeping lungs healthy. But in the few days after the Thomas Fire, every store in our area was completely sold out of these masks. Have a box on hand so you’re ready.

These aren’t just applicable for fires, either. Disasters can stir up airborne debris or cause gas or fumes to be released into the air. Having a mask handy can help you avoid respiratory problems.

Do you keep a home emergency kit ready? Let us know in the comments!

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How to Make Your Vacation Rental Appealing to Winter Guests

With over 4 million short-term vacation rentals competing for bookings on sites like HomeAway and Airbnb, catching the eye of a great guest can be tough. Keep your vacation rental top of mind this winter by making it look like a cozy space for vacationers to rent. Make a few wintertime tweaks, update your listing and off you go!

Warm up your decor

You don’t have to completely redecorate, but making a few adjustments can quickly add a wintry getaway feel to your Airbnb or HomeAway rental. Think fuzzy blankets, lots of textures and warm colors. Create an island vibe with greens, blues, oranges and yellows. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Add seasonal throw pillows and cozy textures with deep, lush colors. Complete the theme with seasonal decor. Replace summery sisal rugs with warm, comfy rugs. You can also turn your bathroom into a comfortable space with a fresh, new shower curtain and seasonal scented soaps. This can make your vacation rental feel warm and inviting.

Fill a mason jar with water and pop in some beautiful blooms. Put up your most memorable vacation photos, maps of local attractions and cool travel art. Include some locally-sourced decorations in your space. This could be as easy as filling a small dish with stones or other mementos you’ve picked up on your own travels. Use keepsakes from your favorite trips to decorate the rooms, inspire your guests and spark conversation.

Play up winter activities

Your guests aren’t just sleeping and showering at your rental property — they’ll be hanging out, having fun and ready to live it up like a local. Help them enjoy their stay even more by giving their winter adventures a jump start. Winter essentials like these will make them hit that Book button!

  • Indoor dining and lounging area with great furniture
  • Fire pit for friends and family to gather around
  • Cozy couches for afternoon relaxing
  • Local guidebooks and magazines, plus a personal list of your favorite activities and restaurants
  • Books and board games for rainy days

Showcase a warm air conditioning unit

There’s nothing worse than arriving at a beautiful vacation rental and discovering that it’s freezing cold and you can’t sleep at night. Make sure your guests’ environment is as comfortable as their own home — with the right air conditioning unit.

Before your winter rental season starts, change your air filters and get your air conditioning unit serviced. You should also consider investing in a regular maintenance agreement that includes spring and fall service, so you’ll be ready for guests year-round. It’s an affordable way to have peace of mind that your renters will be comfortable during their stay.

If you’re outfitting a new Airbnb rental or upgrading your HVAC unit, look into getting a ductless cooling and heating system. Ductless systems are very popular for rentals and allow your guests to control their own temperature and comfort. And because ductless systems are a closed system with no ductwork, they’re more energy efficient and will help you save money on electric bills.

Spread the word and share pictures

Once you’ve turned your space into a vacation haven, be sure to take new photos and update your rental listing. Don’t forget to update your property’s title and description to mention the updates you made for the winter travelers. It could be as simple as GREAT WINTER GETAWAY. These words and images will paint the perfect picture, so potential guests can imagine themselves enjoying the ideal vacation week or weekend in your home-away-from-home.

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Freshome Holiday Gift Guide: Travel Gifts for the Jetsetter

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Do you know someone who always seems to be traveling somewhere new and exotic? Shopping for someone with an Instagram feed that can compete with National Geographic’s? Check out these modern and unique travel gifts for jetsetters.

travel gifts for the jetsetter

1. Small Cork Globe

travel gift ideas

You can put a pin in each spot you visit with this small cork globe from CB2, $80.

2. Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask

gifts for jetsetters

This silk mask contains charcoal to detox your eye area for a more restful look. Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask from CB2, $26.

3. Double Leather Charger Roll Up

smartphone travel accessory bags

Looking for useful travel gifts? The leather roll can be monogrammed and is an elegant way to organize smart phone accessories and chargers. Double Leather Charger Roll Up at Mark & Graham, $79.

4. Izola Travel Shave Kit

christmas gifts for travelers

With this travel gift, your grooming essentials are safely organized in this low-profile mirrored travel case. Izola Travel Shave Kit at CB2, $30.

5. Carry On Moscow Mule Cocktail Kit

christmas gift ideas for travelers

This FDA-approved cocktail kit adds the flavor you need to your alcoholic beverage. Carry On Moscow Mule Cocktail Kit at Amazon, $17.

6. Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter

travel Christmas gifts

A series of color-coded adaptors that can snap together like Legos makes a great travel gift. Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter at Amazon, $25.

7. TRTL Travel Neck Pillow

This award-winning neck pillow allows you to sleep comfortably on a plane, train or long road trip. TRTL Travel Neck Pillow at Amazon, $30.

8. Whitney Winkler Posie Passport Holder

travel gifts

Flowers were big in home decor this year, and this passport holder ensures you travel internationally in style, too. Whitney Winkler Posie Passport Holder at Anthropologie, $24.

9. 23andMe DNA Test

travel gift ideas

This easy to use DNA test will help you discover your global origins. 23andMe DNA Test at Amazon, $69.

10. Sony Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones

gift ideas for travelers and jet setters

Sony’s wireless earphones are perfect for traveling on trains and airplanes, thanks to the noise-cancelling feature. Sony Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones at Amazon, $178.

11. Canon IVY Wireless Bluetooth Portable Mini Photo Printer in Rose Gold

travel tech gifts

You can print vivid images on the spot with this compact mobile color printer. Canon IVY Wireless Bluetooth Portable Mini Photo Printer at Amazon, $129.

12. Tablet Sounds Portable Speakers

travel gift ideas for jet setters

This modern, graphic case houses a set of speakers and can also hold cables, a smartphone or tablet. Tablet Sounds Portable Speakers at West Elm, $80.

13. Olloclip Mobile Photography Lens Box Set for iPhone X

tech travel gift ideas

Turn your iPhone into a professional camera by adding a snap-on lens. Olloclip Mobile Photography Lens Box Set for iPhone X at Apple, $100.

14. Ray Of Light Power Bank, Photo Light And Mirror

travel gifts

This small, multitasking travel accessory charges your phone, as well as allows you to touch up or groom, thanks to the mirror and LED light. Ray of Light Power Bank, Photo Light and Mirror at Pottery Barn, $20.

Do you have any other ideas for great travel gifts? Let us know in the comments!

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7 Celebrity Haunted Mansions Where It Feels Like Halloween Every Day

Celebrities are just like us, except they have more money, more fame and bigger haunted houses. Just in time for Halloween, we present you with seven celebrity haunted mansions that vary from unsettling to downright horrifying. At these houses, Halloween is an everyday event.

1. Amy Winehouse’s Camden Flat In London

celebrity haunted homes

Amy Winehouse’s haunted flat. Image: House Network

Amy moved out of her house because she was scared to death of a little boy that haunted her. In an interview, Amy said that the ghost, named Henry, would scratch her. The night before her death, several witnesses heard screams, drums and animal howls coming from her flat. Since her death, her parents have listed her home.

2. The Benedict Canyon House Where Sharon Tate Was Murdered

The home where Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson’s followers had a long, disturbing history. Image: Pinterest

We all know the horrific story of how Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson and his followers while at a party in this home. But this house was disturbing long before this event. It was originally owned in the 1920s by an MGM producer, Paul Bern, who gifted it to his wife, actress Jean Harlow, when they married.

Jean was so disturbed by the home she begged Paul to sell it. He unfortunately shot himself in the home four months later. According to House Crazy, Harlow moved out after her husband’s death but later died, at just 26 years old, from kidney disease.

In the years that followed (and before the horrible Manson massacre), two other people committed suicide in the house and one person drowned in the pool. Several sightings of male ghosts were reported throughout the years, including Paul Bern’s.

3. The New York City Apartment Building Where John Lennon Was Shot And Rosemary’s Baby Was Filmed

celebrity haunted houses

The building is surrounded by large, modern high rises and looks rather ominous. Image: NY Post

John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived at the exclusive Dakota on the Upper West Side when he was shot to death outside his door. According to the NY Post, Yoko Ono saw his ghost sitting at his white piano years after his death. She claims John turned to her and said, “Don’t be afraid. I am still with you.”

But it’s not just Lennon’s ghost that haunts the building. Lennon himself claimed there was a “crying lady ghost” wandering the halls. Other residents claim there’s a little girl that roams around.

The Dakota’s original owner had an interest in the paranormal and would often hold seances in the building, perhaps ushering in an array of ghosts that have moved in with the living.

4. Nicolas Cage’s Serial Killer Mansion in New Orleans

celebrity haunted mansions

The LaLaurie mansion, where slaves were often abused and murdered by Madame LaLaurie. Image: Wikimedia

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Nicholas Cage said, “I once lived in the most haunted house in America. The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans used to belong to Madame LaLaurie, a well-known 19th-century socialite and serial killer. I bought it in 2007, figuring it would be a good place in which to write the great American horror novel. I didn’t get too far with the novel.”

Nick sold the mansion less than two years later. Passersby still report hearing screams coming from the house.

5. Jayne Mansfield’s “Pink Palace” In Beverly Hills

celebrity haunted mansions

Jayne in her pink shag bathroom. Every room, as well as the exterior, was pink. Image: Curbed LA

According to American Hauntings, Jayne Mansfield was cursed. She died in a horrible car accident where reports say she was decapitated. Soon after her death, endless tragic incidents occurred in her beloved Pink Palace:

  • Ringo Starr had the home painted white when he moved in but claimed that the pink shade would seep through the new paint.
  • Jayne’s friends refused to go back in the house because they felt like they were being watched.
  • The son of the next owner of the Pink Palace found Jayne’s pink Honda and took it for a drive. He was killed in an accident the moment he exited the estate. His family moved out the same day.

The house was demolished in 2002.

6. Adele’s Haunted English Mansion

Adele refused to stay a single night alone in her sprawling mansion. Image: Daily Mail

Adele was so creeped out by the noises in her former rental that she hired a female bodyguard to stay with her. She vowed to never spend a night alone in the house and eventually moved out.

In an interview with Anderson Cooper for 60 Minutes, she said, “This bit is quite scary, really,” as they walked through a dark hall.  The 25-acre West Sussex property was a convent before, complete with a chapel.

7. Marylin Monroe Is Still Busy Making Appearances

celebrity haunted mansions

The home where Marylin Monroe lived and died. Eyewitnesses claim she still makes appearances. Image: Variety

According to several eyewitnesses, Marylin Monroe seems to be busy haunting places. She’s regularly seen in her former home where she died, and in the Roosevelt Hotel.

The Roosevelt Hotel was where she was staying in Hollywood when her modeling career took off. There have been sightings of her in her old suite 1200, her favorite Cabana Room Suite #246 overlooking the pool and in mirrors around the hotel.

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How to Get Your Home Ready Before You Go on Vacation

Before you can think about this getaway, you need to prepare your home. Source: Vacation Homes of Key West

Do you have a vacation checklist for your home? It might take a little extra work to get your home ready for vacation, but you’ll be able to relax more once you’re at your destination. Consider this your checklist for peace-of-mind while you’re getting away.

Make it look like someone is home

Schedule your lights to make it look like someone is home. Source: bhh Partners 

Vacation season is prime time for criminals to make a visit. Take a few precautions to make your home look lived-in while you’re away.

  • Park at least one car in the driveway, so it looks like someone’s at home
  • Hold all mail and packages or ask a neighbor to bring in your deliveries
  • Bring in your spare keys
  • Put your lights on a timer to mimic your family’s typical schedule
  • Mow your lawn and trim hedges
  • Set up smart locks for helpful neighbors and pet sitters
  • Play it safe and don’t mention your travel plans on social media

Clean your house before you vacation

Nobody wants to come home to a stinky situation. Keep your vacation vibe going by taking time to tidy up before you head out. That way you can come home and rest, instead of cleaning up a mess. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer. Take out the trash — check every room. Vacuum, dust and wipe down counters and sinks. And finally, make your bed, so you can sink right in when you get back.

Set electronics and appliances to energy-saving mode

With energy-saving mode on your electronic devices you’ll save money while you’re away. Source: Nest

If you’re gone for 3 days or more, take a vacation from your electric bill by dialing back your energy usage.

Set thermostats up to 85 degrees in the summer and as low as 55 degrees in the winter. If you have pets staying at home while you’re gone, choose a setting that will still keep them comfortable. If you use smart home automation, turn your thermostat off completely so it won’t turn on every time your neighbor brings in the mail. Again, if you have pets staying in the house, keep the thermostat on and set at a comfortable temperature.

Unplug small electronics, especially chargers, which continually draw electricity and can increase your electric bill. Close blinds and curtains to keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Then your air conditioner and heater won’t have to work too hard while you’re on vacation. Put the water heater on vacation mode if it has that option, so it operates more efficiently and gets a well-deserved break.

Checked everything off your list? Then you’re all set. Enjoy your vacation and relax knowing you’ll come back to happy home and lower energy bill.

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