A Teaser And National Can it Forward Day

There’s something about August that always reminds me of watermelon, tomatoes, and plum jam.  There are a surprising number of watermelon farms in Indiana, where I grew up, and the melons would be at their sweetest in the late summer.  We’d always pick up a few from one of the roadside stands and have them cut up in the fridge for easy snacking.  This was also the time of year my mom and grandmother really got canning fever.  By August, my family’s garden was rolling in tomatoes (which we’d can for future pots of chili in the fall and winter) and the plum trees were dripping with fruit (which also got canned into golden, sweet, sticky plum jam).

Little House. Big Heart. | Easy Home Canned Tomato Juice

Late summers in Texas give a slightly different (but still familiar) picture.  Instead of plums in my parent’s back yard, we have a friend’s fig tree that is positively drooping with almost-ripe figs.  Our garden is scarce in tomatoes, but we have tons of peppers.  And then there’s the watermelon – Texan watermelon, instead of Hoosier.

What’s a girl (and her unwitting husband) to do with all this bounty?  I don’t know, maybe make Chili-Peach jam with some juicy Texas peaches?  Or maybe some fig jam perfect for a fancy cheese plate? Or maybe whip up a Watermelon-Basil gin fizz? Oh, the possibilities!  There might even be a giveaway or two…

All that (and more) is coming to the Little House soon. In the mean time (to whet you canning appetite) be sure to check out Ball Brand’s (of ubiquitous blue Ball jar fame) International Can-It-Forward day live stream here.  They’re mixing up some really great recipes that just might get you inspired!  I’m excited to be working with them on the recipes I mentioned about (hasn’t it been to long since I posted a recipe anyway?)!

International Can-It-Forward Day 2014

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Reality Check

Let’s be real here, folks.

Our bathroom reno has taken over EVERY portion of our lives.  We’re spending every spare waking minute working on that thing… which only leaves the sleeping minutes for writing stellar blog posts.  This is why we’ve recently brought you gems like Save our Maters (because we don’t have time to figure it out ourselves) and The List of Doom (we already have the list, why not post it?).  Writing when we should be sleeping just isn’t working out for us. Or for you.

We promise, promise, promise there are some wonderfully crafted, well thought out, Pin-worthy posts coming (DIY bubble chandelier? Free Laundry Printable? Fig Jam Recipes? Giant Bathroom Reveal Spectacular?!).  But for now, we don’t want to be posting just to be posting. We respect you guys to much to be putting out junk posts just because it’s Friday and Oh-My-Gosh-We-Don’t-Have-A-Post-Hurry-And-Come-Up-With-Something!

So in the coming weeks as we’re working to get a functioning bathroom back in the Little House (it’s been 57 days, folks), we may not have our usual three posts a week.  Stick with us though, because it’s about to get exciting around the Little House and we really, really want you to share it with us.

And to wrap things up… here’s some pictures from our last vacation that I never got around to sharing, because what’s a blog post without a couple pictures?

BKK Cooking Class 4 BW LHBH

A tuk-tuk driver navigates his way through one of Bangkok’s many open air markets.

 

Angthong 1 LHBH

Fishing boats sit anchored off Angthong National Park in Thailand

 

Koh Samui Sunset 2 LHBH

The sun sets over Bang Po Beach on Koh Samui, Thailand

 

Hanoi 2 LHBH

Telephone cables criss-cross a busy street in Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Save our Maters!

Hey guys!

Just take a second and look at how gorgeous our tomato plants are. They’re big, green, and….

Little House Big Heart - Save our Tomatoes 2

they haven’t produced a single tomato all summer.  Sure, they’ve produced a few blooms (but not many), but as far as fruit goes, it’s a big fat zero.

We need help.

Are you a green thumb guru? Do you talk tomato?  Give us some advice, please!  Our tomatoes continue to grow here in Dallas until November, so there’s plenty of time to get some fruit out of them!

Do you have any advice on how to get our tomatoes to fruit?  Have you ever had this happen?

The Warm Fuzzies

For the most part, whoever built the Little House did a fantastic job.  For a 74-year-old pier and beam house, it’s remarkably square.  Instead of traditional plaster, the original walls are Sheetrock, a product that wasn’t used extensively until about ten years after the LH was built.  And yet… there’s not a stitch of insulation in the walls.  In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised us; most homes built before WWII didn’t have wall insulation… but they need it.  Why?

Allow me to get on my engineer soapbox for a moment (feel free to skip this bit):  insulation increases the thermal resistance of your home’s walls, basically making it harder for heat to move through them. This means that in the summer, it’s harder for heat to get into your house.  In the winter, it’s harder for it to get out of your house (technically speaking, heat always travels from warm to cold, so in the winter it’s never the cold getting in – it’s the warm getting out).

Why does all that matter?  A well insulated home stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, meaning you use less energy keeping the temperature where you want it.  It’s not worth tearing down walls to add insulation, but if you happen to have the drywall down anyway, throw some insulation in the walls.  It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and it’s easier to install than you think.

Little House Big Heart - How to Install Insulation

When installing insulation, the larger the R-value, the better.  You’ll also want to get the right sized insulation for both your stud spacing and stud size.  Our studs are 2x4s and are on (roughly) 15″ centers, so we bought the largest R-value insulation in that size that Home Depot carried.  Depending on your sizing, you can find insulation all the way up to R-30 (and above). In our case, that was R-13.  One roll set us back a whopping $12.80.

Little House Big Heart How to Install Insulation 1

A few notes on insulation safety: fiberglass can be nasty stuff. Be sure to wear long pants and sleeves, gloves, and even a mask when installing insulation (PS. I realize Kevin isn’t wearing long pants in the photos below… he got a stern talking to for it :) ).

Step 1:

Measure you walls and the insulation.  You want the insulation to go from ceiling to floor, so measure accordingly.

Little House Big Heart How to Install Insulation 2

Step 2:

Cut you insulation to size using a utility knife.  It’s helpful to use a board to compress the insulation so that you can cut through all the layers at once (ignore the scribbles on our board, we drew out plans and made cut lists on scraps of wood).

Little House Big Heart How to Install Insulation 3

Step 3:

Place your insulation in the wall and staple the flaps to the studs, being careful not to compress the insulation into the wall (you want to keep things fluffy).

Little House Big Heart How to Install Insulation 5

Step 4:

Repeat. It took less than an hour to insulate our entire bathroom (granted, it is tiny).

Little House Big Heart How to Install Insulation 6

The bathroom is on the west side of our house and gets full afternoon sun.  We can already tell that it’s staying cooler in there thanks to it’s new insulation.  For less than $13 and an hour, it’s a big difference.

Does your home have insulation? Have you ever installed it? Is your husband also too suborn to always wear the proper DIY-ing attire?

Venting My Frustration

For the most part, our bathroom has been surprisingly painless (knocking on every piece of wood I can find).  We’ve not found any water damage other than what we repaired on the subfloor, no termite damage, nothing, really, that we couldn’t handle 100% ourselves… that is until we unearthed the tub’s vent stack and thought we had to call a plumber.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 1

When our house was built in 1940, cast iron was a very common piping material.  However, at some point in the Little House history, there was a transition from cast iron to galvanized pipes…  not everywhere though; that would be too easy.  Someone decided to transition from cast iron to galvanized inside the wall between the kitchen and bathroom.  It required a coupling that looks like it should be on an episode of Doctor Who, not inside a wall.  However, the biggest problem with this coupling was that is stuck 2 inches past the wall stud, making it impossible to put our Hardibacker cement board up.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 2

So what is a vent stack anyway? A vent stack is a pipe that usually exits through your roof that allows for there always to be neutral (or atmospheric, if you like) air pressure behind the water in your drains, preventing it from backing up (which is a bad thing, I promise). They are completely necessary (have you ever seen Mike Holmes go crazy when he opens up a bathroom and doesn’t find a vent stack?!), so there was no way we could just rip that sucker out of the wall. The only solution was the flange/coupling had to be replaced by something a little slimmer and trimmer.

Unsure of what to do next, we turned to our dads (via text, of course).  Both came back with the same general consensus: we could do this ourselves. All we needed to do was to use our reciprocating saw to cut out the coupling and galvanized pipe, then replace them with new couplings and PVC.  We weren’t sure what type of coupling to use either – Should we put steel brackets on them?  Use a galvanized coupling? Use a black Fernco coupling? – but our dads had a solution for that one, too.  My dad let us know that black Fernco couplings would offer us the most flexibility, while still being strong enough to hold both pipes.  It also had the advantage of being the easiest of the three options to install… which is always a plus.

Once we had all our supplies, we headed home to cut the old pipe out of the wall. I personally enjoyed this because I got to put my reciprocating saw to the test.  Cutting through cast iron isn’t easy, and we went through three $7 blades on that one pipe.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 3

Things to remember if you have to cut cast iron:

1, Go full speed.  You won’t get through it if you don’t.

2. Have someone hold the pipe so it doesn’t shake.  Fortunately Jess did this for me.

3.  Don’t put a hole in the other side of the wall…more to come on that when we repair the kitchen wall.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 4

After cutting through the cast iron just below the bell flange, I went up in the attic and cut the galvanized pipe just below where it exited our roof. Then I replaced it with PVC and a Fernco coupling.  Jess had the fun job of removing the galvanized steel pipe through the bathroom and feeding the PVC back up to me  [WIFE EDIT: That sucker was HEAVY], then seating the PVC in the new 2”x1.5” Fernco reducing coupling.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 5

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It worked like a charm. The vent stack tucked perfectly into it’s spot in the wall and we were able to install our Hardiebacker over it (but that’s another post).

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 7

In the end, the cost of what we used was:

2” to 1.5” Flexible PVC Coupling – $4.93

1.5” to 1.5” Flexible PVC Coupling – $3.84

Fernco2

10’ of 1.5” PVC – $5.13

1 and 1 half in pvc pipe

 

Total Cost: $14… much less than calling in a plumber!

 

Doing your own plumbing is not for everyone (and not all cities allow homeowners to do their own plumbing, so check that before you start), but if you’re willing (and allowed) to give it a go, it can really save you a lot of time and money spent on a plumber!
Have you had any plumbing surprises in a renovation?Is a pessimist’s blood type B-negative? Why does the Easter bunny carry eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs. Why does caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?

 

The Little House and the List of Doom

Last night, Kevin and I sat down to make a list of everything left to finish on the bathroom.  Our thought was that because we’re so close to being finished, it would motivate us to see how short the to-do list is.

*cue the maniacal laughter*

The list is NOT short… not even a little short. If you made list of short things (like my attention span, Bruno Mars, and springtime in Texas), our to-do list would not be on it.  In fact, our to-do list probably wouldn’t even be allowed in the same room with the list of short things.

Yet.

We have a plan, guys.  We’re going to break this bad boy into bite-sized chunks to make it seem a little more manageable (and to keep us from going nuts).  First bite needs to be small enough to create a snowball.  That way we get more and more motivated.  Also, crossing things off lists just motivates the heck out of me. I tried to get Kevin to put everything we’d already done on the list so we could cross it off and feel good about ourselves, but in the end we agreed that the list was long enough as it was.

So without any further ado… the list.

Little House Big Heart Bathroom To Do List

Told you it was a long list. Our new goal is to finish the bathroom by Labor Day. We have a camping trip planned for the beach then and don’t want to have the bathroom hanging over our heads while we’re playing Frisbee with the pups in the surf.

Are you a lister? Do you lists help you work better or overwhelm you? Do you think there’s any way in Heaven we can finish by Labor Day?

[Shower] Curtain Call

Hey guys!  We’re going to start tiling on the bathroom tonight!  I’m so ridiculously, incredibly, little-kid-on-her-birthday excited.  Today is day 42 of the reno, so tiling feels like the light at the end of a way-longer-than-expected tunnel.

Tiling has got me thinking about the finishing touches in the bath.  I know were going to go with crisp white towels (hellllo bleachable linens), but I haven’t decided on a shower curtain yet.  Originally, we had planned on painting the walls a pale grey and going with the navy striped West Elm shower curtain we showed in our mood board.

Little House Big Heart Bathroom Mood Board Gray Navy

Now that we’ve painted the room a velvety navy, I don’t think that shower curtain will work out. I’ve found a few others I like, but can’t decide on which is my favorite.

I’m really in love with this navy Greek key shower curtain from Ballard Designs.  It’s $85 (which is pretty steep for a shower curtain), but I won a $50 gift card to Ballard Designs at haven, bringing my price down to a much more managable $35.  The more I look at this one, the more I think I could DIY it…

Ballard Designs Greek Key Shower Curtain

I also love this ruffly shower curtain from Anthropologie (let’s face it, I love everything from Anthro).  It’s so whimsical and feminine; I think it would contrast with our really geometrical tile and give it a little bit of softness.  They’re out of stock online, but most of their other shower curtain run in the $90 range.

Anthro Scallop Shower Curtain

I also really liked this West Elm Dotted Stripe shower curtain.  The pattern is subtle, but not so subtle you don’t see it.  I really like the texture in this option, too, and at $49 its price point isn’t out of the ballpark.

West Elm Dotted Stripe Shower Curtain

I’m really torn on which of these I like this most… and I haven’t even looked at Target or Home Goods yet. 

Which curtain would you choose? Does $100+ for a shower curtain seem a bit nutty to you, too? Would you check out some local stores before getting one of these?

A Little Bathroom Reno: How to Repair a Damaged Subfloor

It’s been a couple weeks since we shared anything on our bathroom renovation.  To be honest, we’ve been so busy working on it, we haven’t had time to write about it.  Like we’ve said before, not having a functioning bathroom in our house is a great motivator to do nothing but work every spare minute we have.

After demolition, the first step in putting everything back together was to start repairing the subfloor. When we demoed the floor we found old water damage (from leaks that were fixed long before we bought the house) in a couple places.  The Little House was built in 1940, so we were expecting something to be wrong with the subfloor.  The issues we found were relatively minor, so we knew we could fix them ourselves.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair A Damaged Subfloor Repairing a subfloor isn’t a task to take lightly; if not done well, it can cause big headaches down the road.  That being said, if you’re relatively handy (ie. you can use a tape measure, a drill, and a saw), repairing your own subfloor is a pretty easy job that you can definitely tackle yourself (we have faith in you).

Little House Big Heart Subfloor Damage

STEP 1:

The first thing to do when finding subfloor damage is to determine the cause.  Was it termites? Are the little buggers still hanging around? You probably want to call an exterminator either way to make sure that the problem is under control.  If the damage was caused by water, make sure that the leak has been repaired.  If you’re not comfortable with checking out the plumbing yourself, have a plumber come out to make sure everything is hunky-dory.

STEP 2:

Remove the damaged parts of the subfloor.  In our case, this meant just prying up the damaged planks.  If you have a plywood subfloor, you may need to get out a circular saw to remove all of the damaged wood.  Regardless of what type of subfloor you have, make sure you remove everything that looks damaged.  In the end, you should have a nice, clean hole in your floor.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair Subfloor Damage 2

STEP 3:

Once you have your hold cleaned up, you can measure and cut your new wood to fit.  We used 1×6” planks since that was what our original subfloor was constructed out of, but if your floor was plywood, you’ll want to go back with that.  You may also have to “sister” your joists if they were damaged or if you don’t have a say to screw into them. This means you may have to bulk them up by screwing additional wood to their sides.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair Subfloor Damage 3

STEP 4:

The last step is fastening your repairs.  You can use screws or nails, but if you’re repairing the subfloor in a wet location, be sure and use coated deck screws or deck nails.  This way, should the area ever get wet again, you fasteners won’t rust.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair Subfloor Damage 4

Depending on what you’re doing, you may be done at this point.  Because we needed to build up the original subfloor, we went a step farther and laid down 23/32” plywood (why they use such an arbitrary measurement, I have no idea) CDX exterior grade plywood.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair Subfloor Damage 5 

Little House Big Heart How to Repair Subfloor Damage 6

Sometimes it feels like we’re not getting anywhere, but we’ve come so far on the bathroom since we took these photos! In fact, we’re ready for tile!

Have you ever had to repair subfloor damage in your home? Did you do it yourself or call in the pros?

Bathroom Confessional

36 days.

That’s how long it’s been since there has been a functioning bathroom at the Little House. We put up the last (and I swear by all that is holy it IS the last) coat of mud on the drywall last night and are oh-so-close to the home stretch on this one… but we’re not there yet. Hold on folks, it’s about to get wordy.

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Needless to say, not having a toilet in our house for 36 days is starting to get to us. We started this project thinking it would take three weeks, tops… but we forgot we still have a life to live. We have to take a night here and there and do laundry, to clean house.  We have church commitments and work commitments and blog commitments (Hellllo, Haven!).  Some nights, we’ve just taken off because if we had to stand in that tiny bathroom one more minute we’d scream.  At each other. Not quietly.

And that’s happened, more lately now than in the beginning.  We had no idea the inner demons that could be summoned forth by a little box of drywall mud, but trust me.  They’re there and they aren’t pretty.  A few nights ago we were so mad at each other we could barely see straight over a not-so-straight corner mud job and it hit me.  The drywall demons had us.  We were focusing on what was going wrong with the bathroom and forgetting all the good things we were getting out of it.

So I put my big girl pants on, apologized for letting the drywall demons get to me (and maybe for calling Kevin a name we can’t repeat on here), and suggested we make a list of all the great things we were getting out of remodeling our only bathroom (did I mention ONLY?).

In no particular order, here’s the things we came up with:

1. We’re doing it right, not fast.  Sure, it’s taking forever, but that’s because we’re making sure every little detail is done correctly and thoroughly.

2. By doing the work ourselves, we’re saving so. much. money. that we can use for, I don’t know, our next crazy around-the-world trip?

3. We’re learning new skills. Neither of us had done much by way of plumbing before, nor had we ever done much framing or drywalling.  We’re old pros at all of that now!

4. We’re getting to spend a lot of time together.  When this is all said and done and I have a gorgeous marble floor to sit on and reflect back on the project, I think what I’ll remember most is not driving each other mad (and we’ve done plenty of that), but talking for hours while we worked together. Solving problems together we didn’t think we could do ourselves.  Singing along to Disney radio on Pandora at the top of our lungs (through our respirators).

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5. We’re getting a ton of new tools and renting a few more awesome ones.  Can anyone say Jackhammer? New 18V DeWalt jig saw?

6. We honest-to-goodness appreciate our western luxuries more.  Hands down one of the best parts of Haven was having a toilet and shower.  You don’t miss things like that until you don’t have that luxury anymore.

7. Although it’s definitely not why we started the reno, it does provide a lot of blogging material!

8. All of the difficulties we’ve encountered has given us a reason to plumb the depths of our dads’ knowledge.  And they know A LOT.

9. We can take pride in telling people we did it ourselves.  It may sound petty, but I can’t wait for the first person to say “No way!” when I tell them we did every single inch of the bathroom ourselves, from the plumbing to the electrical to the tiling to the decorating.

10. We’re learning about our ourselves. For example, we will never own another one bathroom house and drywall mudding brings out the worst in us.

11. We’re learning about construction materials and techniques which we’ll be able to use to help our friends and readers!  We never want to recommend something we haven’t personally used ourselves and know to be awesome!

12. We’re getting to put all of our fancy couponing and deal making skills to the test.  I won’t reveal how much we’ve saved so far, but it’s a pretty big number. As in 3 zeros big.  They don’t call us the Coupon Kids for nothing!

13. We’re increasing our home value and saleability.  The Little House is one of the few single bathroom homes in our neighborhood, so making sure it’s an awesome one will definitely help our saleability and home value in the long run.

14. We’re earning a ton of Home Depot Pro Rewards. We should probably have bought stock in the company before we started this reno, but pro rewards are the next best thing!

15. We’re going to have an awesome bathroom when we’re finished.  Seriously, guys.  I’m so excited.  It’s going to be classy and clean and GORGEOUS.

Everyone has told us that if our marriage can withstand home renovations, it will be able to withstand anything.  I don’t know how true that is, but if it is true, I expect I’ll be driving Mr. Beals up the wall for a long, long, long time to come.

Have you lived through your own home renovation? How did you stay sane through it? Any tips for us newbies?

Oh, Thank Haven [Recap 2014]

You know you had a good weekend when it’s Tuesday morning and you’re still sleepy and wondering where the heck the weekend went… and that’s pretty much where I’m at right now.  I spent this weekend at the Haven Conference in Atlanta brushing up on my blogging skills and meeting some amazing women.  I wish I’d taken more photos, but with all the sessions, swag, drinks, and dancing, I was just too busy to take any!

Everything kicked off with a fantastic keynote speech by Chip Wade (who I found out is a fellow mechanical engineer!). Seriously, any time he wants to come and make some Elbow Room in the Little House he is more than welcome.  I’m just kidding.  But seriously. Come convert our attic, Mr. Chip Wade.  We’ll give you carte blanche.

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I attended some fantastic sessions that boosted my blogging confidence and helped me realize where I want LHBH to go.  The Blogging Trade Secrets session with Laura, Jen, Erin, and Dusty was AMAZING. I mean, mind-boggling good.

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I also really loved the Working with Brands session with Brittany, Diane, and the awesomely funny Mandi.  Not only did I really enjoy this session, but one of the best moments of my weekend was Mandi dancing on me (and I mean on me) to get me on the dance floor Friday night.  Her fearless spirit is so infectious I was out on the dance floor in no time (hence the lack of sleep)!

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Next year, I’d love a few classes on web design/Wordpress wrangling, the business side of blogging, and maybe a couple on how to grow your blog.

Another highlight of the weekend was meeting (and rooming with) one my long time blog besties, Ashley from Attempts at Domestication.  This girls is seriously so much fun! If it weren’t for her I might have spent the whole weekend hiding in my room.

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I was also lucky enough to meet Kim from Newly Woodwards and Michelle from Decor and the Dog.  It was so fun to finally get to put names (and voices!) with faces!

Haven Picture

(photo from Ashley)

I met a TON of amazing women this weekend, including (but not limited to) Rachel (and her sweet little one), Amanda, Anna, and Kelly.  They (and their blogs) are amazing and definitely worth adding to your Bloglovin’ feed (and your Instagram and Twitter and whatever other social media you can follow them on).  We had some really great conversations and even started our own club, Oversharers [not] Anonymous.  Okay, not really. But we could have.

Haven-sorority-squat

(photo by Amanda)

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Moen Kitchen

(photo from Ashley)

I did get my hands dirty at the Ryobi power tool workshop.  For the most part though, I stuck to the blogging sessions – this girl is no stranger to power tools!

Ryobi Tool Workshop

I learned so much at Haven that I can’t wait to implement here on the blog!  Kevin and I are so excited about the changes we’re noodling on (yes, noodling is the technical term) and we can’t wait to share them with you.

What did you do this weekend? Have you ever met any of your internet friends? Are you a stranger to power tools?