Author Archives: Mathew Bell

Items to Bring to a Festival in Retrospect

I just got back from one of the US’s largest music festivals of the year, Bonnaroo. There’s not much more that I can say about the festival itself other than you’ve got to go to understand the love, positivity, and amazingness that humans can bring together in one weekend.

A big part of the experience is camping out among tens of thousands of festival attendees, and that means for 4 to 5 nights straight. This can be a hectic and unsettling experience for people new to that sort of thing, but I can guarantee that over 90% of people who visit Bonnaroo learn to love what it means with getting to know your neighbors, being out in the wilderness, and adapting to a totally new way of life for 5 days of the year.

With that comes learning what to bring each year, though, and every single time I go, I notice something that would be extremely convenient for the next year. Here’s a few of the items I’ll be bringing to Bonnaroo next year and every year forward:

Storage bins.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN

Shipping supplies and boxes and whatnot are something a lot of people don’t expect to bring to a campsite, but you wouldn’t believe how useful an organized set of storage boxes actually is. By the end of the weekend, I was searching for a few items and taking up more time and stress than was needed, so next year I’ll be looking at different office and shipping supplies such as cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins.

Lanyard koozies.

Didn’t know these were a thing until this year, but it’s exactly what you think it is: a lanyard that hangs around your neck and has a foam pouch for your beer to hang from your neck while keeping your hands free. They looked cool and were super useful.

Sun reflector.

I’m looking into getting a big one of these for next year in order to reflect the morning sun away from my camp in the mornings. It’s not just the light that bothers you, though; it’s the heat that can be brutal and cause you to lose precious sleep.

Comfortable and supportive shoes.

This should seem like a no brainer, but a lot of people like me know how great Tevas and Chaco sandals can be. The problem is, at night or during particularly long days of being on your feet, very comfortable shoes are a godsend when you just want your feet to not hate you. I made the mistake of bringing an old pair of tennis shoes this year when I should’ve had a better pair for standing and walking all day at times.

DIY Jerky Pt. 1

Making your own things, whether it’s related to your home, your entertainment, or what you consume, is always going to be cheaper and more rewarding than purchasing it from other people. The downside to all of this, though, is that you have to spend more of your time.

Think about it, though. If there was no downside (i.e., time and effort), then everyone would be making their own stuff and businesses wouldn’t exist. That’s why the saying time is money is and always will be true: because if it’s more convenient and quicker for you to have someone else do it for you, they will for money.

I’m always an advocate for DIY, however. Wood projects? Do it on your own. Dinner? Cook it yourself. No matter what it is, I’ll try to do it on my own before paying someone else unless it’s a highly specialized thing that I just cannot do on my own.

One of those things I’ll be making this week is my own beef jerky. First off, jerky prices are absolutely insane when you think about it. Whether you’re having it sent to you in some shipping boxes online (which is arguably cheaper than getting it from any local store) or buying it off of shelves, jerky is priced way too highly for a lot of products that are subpar or worse.

Instead, I prefer to make my own jerky. While it does involve some time and patience, it always ends up turning out tastier than anything I’ve ever bought from a store and I save more money doing it. I really don’t know why I don’t make it more often.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when making your own jerky is the cut of meat you’ll be purchasing and curing and the type of cure/seasoning/salts you’ll be using to actually cure it before dehydration.

Those factors are what determine the flavor more than anything (and even the consistency and toughness). Perhaps you want to go for a slightly fattier cut of meat, or maybe you want something leaner. That’s where you’ve got some give and take in the process to perfect what suits your own taste buds. For me, I prefer a specific brand of seasoning and cure salts that I order online. So, when I see those shipping boxes arrive at my house, I know it’s go time and the jerky will be aflowin’ within days.

DIY is Better Than Paying Someone Else Extra

When it really comes down to it, I’m a DIY kind of guy. I didn’t use to be this way, first off. In fact, I was pretty big on buying things premade simply because time was more valuable to me than anything. If I had to do it myself, I’d pass on it. I felt my money got a lot more mileage out of buying me more time and less work.

Well, that was the lifestyle before. But the past few years have shown that I’m actually far more inclined to do my own work and put my own time towards something if it means saving money. Don’t ask me what changed, honestly. I think it was just maturity and aging that made me realize my money was worth saving for other things, especially since doing things on my own has taught me how to be better at those very tasks.

That’s why I do my own packaging if I’m going to ship a few boxes to some family or friends. I know that a lot of shipping stores will offer to do it for you and package for you, but I find that rates are higher this way. Instead, I try to gather what shipping supplies I do have and put those to use for shipping by packing the boxes all up, taping it off, printing my labels out, slapping them on, and simply paying for shipping once I arrive to the shipping drop off location. By using my own shipping supplies, I’m able to save by buying in bulk and staying away from others doing the work for me.

This is exactly why I’ve begun to do my own stuff with wood working, repairing things around the house, changing my own oil, and always cooking my own food. Sure, others can do those things for you, but it always comes at a price that I just cannot justify when I know I could tackle it on my own with a little bit of patience, time, and learning.

It’s no wonder my dad has done all this stuff on his own from the get go. I’m beginning to understand what makes a conscious homeowner when these tasks are concerned. Rather than have others handle your problems at a price, just do it yourself. There’s no easier way to put it than that. Is it easier for you to just shell out extra for someone else to do it? Yes. Is that the way you want it done, though? Probably not.

Hobbies = Passion

Have you ever created your own things out in the shop or somewhere in your home and felt extremely accomplished and proud of your work? To me, it’s one of the best feelings simply because you did it 1) on your own time and 2) with your own money. And the best part? It’s all outside of work, it’s usually something you really have been wanting to do whether it was an interest or for someone else, and it’s all YOUR work.

That’s how I got hooked on making my own cornhole boards. I never thought I’d enjoy it or be good at it, but the best way to get ahold of a pair of boards is to make your own. With a few old shipping boxes broken down and placed beneath you as you work, your cleanup will be much easier, from spilled paint or stain to lots of sawdust beneath your project.

In fact, despite only having made 4 pairs of boards, I’ve got a buddy who has made his own too, and I’m thinking about asking him if he’d want to set up a sort of side business for both of us where we simply met up, made a few pairs of boards every other weekend or so, and then sold them to people willing to pay $200 for a pair of well done, regulation boards.

That’s exactly how extra money is made and how you can become incredibly skilled at something. The more you do it, the better it will be. The more passion you put into it, the more skilled you’ll become because you love it. And the more you can get someone else in on it, the more you’ll stay committed to your craft and give it the time it needs.

Of course, this extends to things that you’re not selling, too. My mom has a wreath shop back home where she will send wreaths off with friends, family, and really anyone that asks. They’re seasonal, they’re holiday themed, and they’re for big life events in general. So, despite not making any money on her wreaths, she has grown a huge selection of crafts, wreaths, and other garland that she will exchange with people, and her wreaths seem to get better and better every single month. Because she’s passionate about them.

That’s really all this takes. Having the right materials and supplies, like the cheap wood you can get at your local department store or a few shipping boxes that you’ve used for easier cleanup. Whether you’re doing something for your home, gardening outside, making cornhole boards or wreaths, or even doing some sort of art or cooking for others, make it a hobby you love and a passion you don’t want to live without. That’s when the good stuff begins to happen.

Overnight Hiking Trips and Proper Supplies

This past weekend I made my first overnight backpacking trip at a local state park. I’ve been meaning to go for months now, but the stars finally aligned for me and my friends with good weather, an open weekend, and the right supplies.

I will say that it was one of the more taxing endeavors I’ve ever carried out. I underestimated just how much work it takes to hike 10 miles with a 30 pound pack on my back and lots of up and down hills to navigate. By the end, though, I felt extremely accomplished, and I was proud of everyone for having a great time, roughing it for a night, and getting up early the next morning to hike the last half of the trail.

Those sorts of trips are wildly underestimated in terms of the preparation needed. And I say this from a physical perspective and accounting for appropriate gear and things to bring along.

One thing I realized we could’ve used more of was supplies. Be it office or shipping supplies, we could’ve afforded to take some extra cardboard or paper for kindling. In fact, other shipping supplies like tape would’ve also been extremely useful in binding our food packs together for the night. We ended up tossing all of our open food bags and uneaten snacks into a sack, tying that sack to a string and a rock, and tossing the rock over a tree branch to suspend it in the air for the night, out of reach of raccoons and other critters.

But had we had some tape, we could’ve further sealed the bags in order to prevent any scents from escaping. Unfortunately, we did attract the attention of a few raccoons that evening (which impacted my sleep some). But overall, everything worked out quite well.

Going forward, another thing I’ll be keeping in mind is water supplies. We underestimated how much water we would need for camp, and that accounts for cooking and having something to drink with dinner while also having some water for sleeping at night (which I’m often found slugging water in the middle of the night).

So maybe I need to ration my water better while on the trail. Or perhaps we didn’t try hard enough to go out of our way to reach a water source to filter and have along the way. Whatever the case, packing more water from the get go isn’t the best idea considering your pack being weighed down is something you don’t want unless those things are absolutely necessary. And since we could get water out in nature, there’s no reason to carry more than needed.

When You Can’t Make It Home to See Your Parents

I’m often guilty of not seeing my parents as much as I could despite living just two hours away from them. The thing is, if I’m going to make a trip home to see them, I want to be able to stay for at least a night. A two hour trip there and back is absolutely doable in one day, but I just feel like that decreases my time spent with them while also increasing my stress of driving in a single day.

So when it comes to more “minor” holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I often don’t make it home since 1) I’m usually doing other things with my girlfriend’s family who already live in town and 2) there’s just not enough time in the weekend to dedicate 4 hours driving back home.

Deutschland, Neu-Isenburg, Familie, Windenergie

So, that’s why I like to usually pack up something small in some shipping boxes and send them to my parents for more minor holidays like these. It lets them know I’m still thinking about them while also saving me major time and stress in driving and planning out a full weekend.

The good thing is that my parents never mind and always understand that my schedule is busier than theirs, so they’re always accommodating and happy to see me when they can. The better thing is that I can still give them the time of day they deserve by showing I care and thought of them with a few gifts shipped to their home. They always appreciate anything unexpected like a new shirt I found or a book that made me think of them. It’s cheap and easy for me and pleasant for them without causing any sort of hurt feelings among our relationship.

Recently I’ve found that sending my dad a new hat or a tee shirt I thought he’d like is the best for him. He’s always liking more hats and wearing stuff that he knows I, myself, enjoy wearing (which is funny because I used to want to dress like him and now the roles are reversed).

As for my mom, she’s the reader in the family. So sending along a book or some sort of craft or materials for her wreath shop will make her day instantly. She’s always down to read something new, use something for her wreaths, or make something she hasn’t ever made before.

Ultimately, showing your parents you care is what matters most. It doesn’t have to be something extravagant or expensive. As long as they see you’re thinking about them, even if you can’t make it home, they’ll be quite proud to call you their child.

3 Packaging Supplies You Didn’t Know You Needed

When it comes to being the most prepared you can be for a move or even just for transporting new furniture and decor back into your home, there’s nothing better than having the right shipping supplies available to make transportation of certain materials and items much easier, safer, and efficient.

The thing is, there are a lot of shipping supplies out there that some of you may not be aware of. While moving boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape may be quite familiar to you, would you be able to name off other products that movers use on a daily basis to make their job easier and more efficient? Probably not.

With that said, check out these three moving supplies to increase your knowledge on the wide variety of supplies out there for your own convenience.

Moving blankets.

These are some of the most handy things out there that have more than one use for your move. More than anything, moving blankets are like large, thick quilts used to protect bigger furniture from rips, tears, scratches, and more. Basically, they’re just cushioning and a material in between to help preserve the nature of your furniture and belongings so that nothing becomes damaged or broken. The last thing you want to happen when moving is add more to the stress of the move.

As another use, though, moving blankets are amazing for transporting heavy pieces of furniture without wheels across flooring that’s prone to scratching. Not only do the blankets protect your floor, they also make it a heck of a lot easier to move things around in tighter spaces.

Padded wrapping paper.

As an alternative to moving blankets, you can use padded wrapping paper instead. Basically, this looks like brown paper bags that have cushioning built in so that it can be wrapped around pieces of furniture to prevent any sort of scratching or tears. While this is more of a temporary, lighter weight material for moves compared to the permanent heavy duty nature of moving blankets, it can be quicker and easier to use in a pinch.

Stretch plastic wrap.

This kind of looks like Saran wrap and is available in different dimensions to fit your needs. They’re great for wrapping drawers so that they don’t come flying open in transit like you’re probably used to. This stuff is pretty great for protecting softer furniture from rips and tears, too. Heck, it prevents your furniture from getting dirty or wet, too.

Music & Tattoos

Last weekend I was in the mood to listen to my record player. So, I started going through some of my vinyl record collection, all housed in old shipping boxes, and I came across one of my favorite albums out there.

For me, being able to really digest an album in its entirety means a lot more than “listening to music” as most people do today. Songs are the moneymakers in today’s music industry, which has unfortunately driven a lot of artists away from the art that is making an entire album. While I may be generalizing some, pop music has taken off and stayed strong through the last few decades simply because those musicians are willing to sacrifice their art for far more money. You can’t even blame them, though, because who wouldn’t want to get paid more?

But some artists aren’t willing to sacrifice their artistic design and their own influence on a record. They know the process, the emotions, the creation, and the experience of it all is far too intertwined to compromise for fame and money. They’re the few who prefer to keep it to how it used to be. They want to make real music.

Sturgill Simpson is one of those artists, and he’s my favorite musician out there because of his take on the music industry. He’s too old school to care about fame and money and big lights. Instead, he forges his path through experimental country music. And if anyone ever fit the bill of against the grain, it’s Sturgill.

So as I listened to his second album on my record player, I got to thinking about life and expression and art, and I realized I finally came across the perfect image and idea for my first tattoo. You see, I’ve long been the guy to say “I want a tattoo, I just never can decide on something once and for all”. But that suddenly changed when I settled on a tattoo idea based off of one of Sturgill’s tracks on his second album.

Such introspection and deep thought (combined with my favorite artist’s classic voice) led me to a better realization of myself and being able to finally be decisive on a topic that I really do need to be absolutely certain about. If I had never dug through my shipping boxes to find a few records I wanted to listen to, I’m not sure I would’ve ever come to the decision that I know what I want for a tattoo now.

Picking Up Your Home Can Pick Up Your Mood

I get pretty stressed when the house is out of order, things are laying around in places they shouldn’t be, and for the most part, everything is just in a state of constant disarray.

Honestly, I’m probably like most people who find these things bothersome and stressful, and by the time you even want to do something about it, it’s too big to tackle all at once (which only adds to the stress even more).

The problem with handling this sort of recurring situation is getting to the root of it all: and that’s organization.

But organization is an intangible sort of thing, you know. It’s hard to nail down what it means to be organized and how to instill such a “skill” in yourself. The good thing is that a lot of it starts with the type of storage and supplies you have around your home. The more tools and containers you have to be organized, the more likely you are to be successful at keeping everything cleanly and in order.

So, that’s where I started recently with my girlfriend. We got a few containers meant for storage purposes and some other basic shipping supplies like packing tape and sharpies so that we could mark on the containers to show what goes where. The good thing about such tape, too, is that it can easily be peeled off and replaced if you happen to dedicate that container to other items.

Since we’ve taken the time to actually get things in order and have dedicated spaces for an assortment of items, things have been so amazing around our home. Nothing is ever scattered out and about anymore. And we’re so, so much better about keeping things picked up and in their right spots. It’s amazing how a few containers, some shipping supplies, and a will to do it all can completely transform the way you keep your home in order.

And even better than all of that is how happy and relaxed we are in our home as of late. The amount of stress that can build up within you when you’re surrounding by a state of disarray is criminally underrated. Only after getting everything cleaned up and constantly spotless did I realize how much less stressed I felt each evening after coming home from work. There’s no other way to put it than saying I’m just genuinely happier and healthier (mentally, especially) because of the changes we’ve made.

What Is “Too Many” Boxes?

I grew up in a household absolutely stocked with cardboard shipping boxes. While that may bring to mind a house stuffed full of different sizes and shapes of boxes in every room, that’s not exactly the case.

For a little bit of context, both of my parents have worked for the post office all of their lives. So, it’s really no surprise that we always had a gajillion cardboard boxes on hand for any given scenario.

Heck, Christmas time was always super easy considering there was always another box to use for wrapping gifts in. I never had to seek out bags or other containers to wrap any gifts in. I’d just go to the back room, grab a handful of boxes that fit the various items I wanted to wrap, and went to work. It was always super convenient around the holidays that we had so many boxes.

The funny thing, though, is that we never really got much use out of these abundant shipping boxes for the rest of the year. I mean, if we ever actually had to ship something, I’d know where to look for a box that fit whatever it was I’d be sending. But in regards to other uses for boxes, we didn’t find many.

It comes as no surprise that we’d have such an overabundance of cardboard boxes in our home, though. Considering that my parents basically lived at the post office, they happened to bring home a lot from time to time to keep our stash up to date and fully stocked.

When I look back on all the boxes we had, I can’t help but feel like we could’ve made more use of them throughout the year. Whether we wanted to do crafts, use them for practical things like kindling or storage, or even recycle half of the stock of boxes since we never used even that many, I feel as if we had far too many boxes.

In reality, though, my mind is probably imagining far more boxes than we actually had, especially because my most vivid memories of that back room were from my childhood. And when you’re a kid, everything is much bigger and grandiose than when you’re an adult and have a greater sense of perspective. Overall, the impressive collection of boxes never cost my family a penny, so I suppose that’s why we always had an “overstock” of boxes. Why not have more than you need if it’s not costing you anything, right?