Handyman Wednesday: Installing a Screen Door

Hi everyone! Kevin’s here as a follow up to my last post on buying a screen door.  It is now installed in the Little House and it was a pretty painless process.  I had my awesome dad in town to help me, so that made life SO much easier (thanks Mom and Dad!)


I’m going to keep this pretty high level because every door is different.  Most importantly, read ALL the instructions before you start.  I put a couple of screws in the wrong place because I didn’t read everything first.  A couple other things to remember:

1. You can’t do this alone.  Don’t try.


2. You need plenty of space.  Like a yard to lay the door down in.

Door in Yard

3.  Assemble all tools before starting.

More Tools for hanging a door  Tools

4. Don’t try to hang the door when a storm is coming in (we may have made this mistake).


Here are the basic steps.  It’s quite easy if you have the tools and the people to help.

Step 1.  Determine if the door is right hung or left hung (see the last handyman Wednesday for this)

Step 2. Measure and cut the trim pieces for the door using a hacksaw.

Cut Trim PiecesStep 3. Hang the trim pieces using the included screws.

Hang Trim Pieces


Step 4. Hang door and hinges on trim pieces (there should be a diagram for this in your instructions).

Step 5. Drill holes for hardware.

Screen Door Hardware Template  Holes for screen door hardware  Drill holes for screen door hardware


Step 6. Install faceplates.



Step 7. Install hardware.  This was way easier than I thought.  Basically it came in two pieces and you just have to tighten one screw to make the whole thing stay together.

Install Door Hardware


Step 8. Install the slower-downer-bar-thing-that-makes-the-cool-noise (yes, that’s the official terminology…trust me).

IMG_9082  IMG_0376


That’s it.  Test out your new door!  I would say for your first door allow about 3 hours.  The directions will inevitably be confusing and you’ll have to refer to Mr. Google for some advice (or in my lucky case Mr. Dad).

Here’s a picture of the finished product (we need to paint the trim now!!!):




Let us know what you think!  We love this door because our cat and dogs can look outside without jumping on anything, and if we ever have smoke in the kitchen (cough, never happens, cough), we can lower the screen on this bad boy and air the house out.


If a bee is allergic to pollen would it get the hives?  Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?  Why does a dog get mad at you when you blow in his face, but stick his head out the window when you take him for a car ride?


Handyman Wednesday: Ditch the Cable

Handyman Wednesday Returns (sort of).  Jess and I were online the other day when we saw that Best Buy was giving a $25 gift card for ANY Windows XP laptop that worked.  We just happened to have 2 of these laptops sitting around doing nothing.  Why not recycle them and get paid to do it?


Then came the problem: what do we buy?  Fortunately, I already had an idea.  The Roku Streaming Stick for $50 (Amazon Link).  If you’ve also been on Amazon the past couple weeks, you’ve noticed they released Fire TV.  This is basically a streaming service for your TV so you can watch Amazon, Netflix, etc on your TV without connecting your laptop to it.  The Roku Stick, which launched in late March, does the same thing… only better (because it’s so much smaller, cheaper, and you don’t need to find a place for the box!).


All you have to do is plug this little guy into your HDMI port and USB port on the back of your TV, and connect to the wi-fi (there are on-screen instructions to help you).

roku stick TV Installation

It was PAINLESS.  Your grandma and grandpa could set this up on their own.  Then, using the included remote (which is an AWESOME little thing and works from anywhere in the house), you can stream your Amazon Prime content, your Netflix, your Hulu Plus, and over 1000 other services directly to your TV.  Plus, there are 4 buttons that launch the most popular apps.


Honestly, you’ll only use 5-10 of these 1000 services, but who’s counting.  Here’s my favorite channels:

1. Amazon Prime (it’s AWESOME)

2. Netflix (We will be getting this when we ditch DirecTV at the end of our contract)

3. Hulu Plus (Don’t have this yet either).

4. Pandora

5. Blockbuster Movie Rental (No need to go to the store any more)

6. RedBox

Previously I had a ChromeCast and I found it useless.

Roku Stick vs Chromecast

You can’t stream videos from your laptop easily with the ChromeCast, there is no remote so you have to use your phone, and they don’t have Amazon Prime.  Trust me, pay the extra $15 and you’ll be well rewarded for your investment with Roku.  Disclaimer: I did NOT get anything for writing this.  No freebies, no money, no anything.  I paid for this just like you would.  I did, however, get a lot of enjoyment for my nerdy self.

Any questions or thoughts?  I’d love to hear them!  How does a shepherd count his flock without falling asleep?  Why do people say heads up when you should duck?  Have ex-cowboys become deranged?


Tips for Traveling on the Cheap: Transportation

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - TransportationKevin and I travel. A lot.

Since we’ve been married, we’ve visited nine countries and we’ll be visiting at least three more on our big trip in March.  That means by our third wedding anniversary in June, we’ll have visited at least twelve countries together*.  On top of that, we’ve taken several weekend getaways to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, Austin, Oklahoma, and more.  You might wonder how we manage to do it all (sometimes even we wonder).  While Kevin and I are both blessed to have very good jobs as engineers, we still have a mortgage, car payment, student loans, bills, savings accounts, retirement, and home renovation, not to mention a large furry family to take care of.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Transportation

At Redondo Beach on our honeymoon, just before leaving for Tahiti

So how do we do it? This week we’re sharing the tips and tricks that allow us to afford to travel both domestically and internationally year in and year out while still managing to be (mostly) responsible adults. Check out Tip #1: Timing is Everything here!

Transportation: Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

As much as we’d like it all to be so, there’s not much vacation in a stay-cation.  To really get away, you have to, well, get away.  That means traveling. How you travel depends on where you’re going and how much you want to spend getting there.


Depending on where you’re going, getting there might be more than half the cost of your entire trip. For example, the round trip tickets for our trip to Southeast Asia in March would cost over $1,500 a person.  We paid $43.  How? One word.


Kev and I are crazy about earning miles. Kevin flies American Airlines for work and is thankfully allowed to keep all the miles he earns for personal use. We have American Airlines credit cards that earn us miles and try to stay in hotels that have a mileage reward when you stay. We even chose a new savings account based on the number of miles we’d earn by opening it.  I’ve filled out surveys, played silly games, and entered contests all for the sake of a few miles.

Basically we’re mile sluts.   We’ll do anything for them – and it pays off.  We’ve not paid more than taxes on any single international flight we’ve taken together. Conservatively, I’d say miles have saved us over $7500 in plane tickets.  Our personal rule is to purchase domestic flights and save our miles for our big international trips.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Transportation

Nice, France from the Air

For our domestic getaways, we let the prices dictate where and when we go. Typically, we use Google Flights to help us find when and where is cheapest to get away. We also usually wait until we have hotel and rental car awards to use to help save on the total cost of the weekend.  The example below is for my birthday weekend. Looking at the map, we’d probably end up going to Denver.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - TransportationAnother trick we use is to buy giftcards from  Giftcard Granny for the airline we’re flying (usually American), then use them to purchase our flights.  If you’ve not used Giftcard Granny, it’s a great resource for buying discounted giftcards.  For example, American Airlines giftcards are 5% off today.  It doesn’t seem like much, but every little bit helps.

We also never check bags, even when they’re free.  After spending two weeks in Europe last year with only a carry on each, we’ve become the Jedi Masters of packing light.  It saves on baggage fees, makes it less likely for your luggage to get lost, makes getting around your destination easier (B&B without an elevator? No problem! Hotel a mile from the train station and the buses have stopped running? No problem!), and overall makes traveling much less stressful.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - TransportationTrains

Booking trains overseas can be a little tricky, but we love to travel that way. Sure, Europe has great discount airlines that offer super-cheap fares, but for us, part of the journey is playing cards and sipping so-so coffee from the dining car as our train winds gently through the countryside.  Our trip through the Alps between Munich and Venice (with an overnight in Innsbruck, Austria) was one of the highlights of our last vacation.

Little House Big Heart 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap Transportation

On the scenic train from Innsbruck, Austria to Venice, Italy

The easiest way to book train tickets in Europe (the only place we’ve taken them) is through RailEurope.  It’s a meta-site, meaning that it sells tickets for many different European railway companies.  They’re not always the cheapest, but they do offer discounts to “youth,” meaning  anyone under 26.  If you’re looking to get the best fares, try booking directly through the rail company you want to travel with.  They usually have better prices than what you can find on RailEurope. Oh, and plan your travel using DB Bahn, a German train company. They have schedules for most major train companies on their website and can help you find the best route for you.

In Asia, we’ll be traveling from city to city by plane only because it seems that air-entry visas seem to be easier than land-entry visas. Go figure.


Kev and I rent cars on most of the trips we take here in the USA.  Sure, most places have some form of public transit, but we love the freedom of really getting out and exploring.

We usually book our rental cars in advance, sometimes as early as when we book our flights.  Normally, we book through Hotwire.com and choose their “Hot Rate.” You won’t know which company you’re booking through until you’ve paid, but since we’re usually picking up/dropping off at the airport, we typically don’t care who the rental is through.

To get the lowest rates on your rental car, make sure that you’re picking up and dropping off from the same location if possible – most companies charge an extra fee if you don’t.  Also, double check your car insurance policy before leaving home. Odds are, it covers you for domestic rental cars. If it does, waive the insurance provided by the rental company – you’re covered already.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Transportation

We rented a car in LA so we could drive a little way up HWY 1 and into the hills around Malibu.

Make sure your rental agreement has unlimited mileage (you don’t want any added fees for driving too far) and make sure to return your car in the 24-hour window.  Rental cars are typically billed on a 24-hour basis, meaning that if you rent at 2:00 pm one day, you should turn the car back in by 2:00 pm on the day it’s due to avoid more fees.  Oh, and opt to fill up the car yourself instead of paying for a fill-up plan. Gas is ALWAYS cheaper elsewhere.

If you’re planning on renting a car internationally, things change a bit.  Some insurance companies don’t cover foreign rentals, so you’ll want to double check with your company before declining the rental company’s insurance (been there, made that mistake).  You may also need an international driver’s license, obtainable through AAA.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Transportation

We got lost driving around Loire Valley, France and ended up in gorgeous mustard fields in 2012

Two last things on international car rentals: manual transmissions are the norm in many international destinations (Europe included), so if you aren’t familiar with how to drive a stick, you’ll probably want to request an automatic transmission. Also, remember that international traffic laws can vary from those of the US, so read up on where you’ll be driving before hitting the road.

Check out all our travel tips here: Tip 1, Tip 2, Tip 3, Tip 4, and Tip 5

*For the curious, we’ve visited French Polynesia, the UK, Belgium, France, the BahamasGermany, Austria, Italy, and Vatican City and will be visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Japan (and potentially Cambodia) in March.

Dog Proofing, Take 1

We’ve been working on a garden here at the Little House for three years in our DIYed raised garden bed.

DIY raised gardenThe first year our baby veggies succumbed to the heat and drought. Last year, the tree-pocalypse took down the garden fence, allowing the puppies to get in and dig EVERYTHING up.

We were left with something that looked like this:

Little House Big Heart Garden Repair 1The fence was broken in several places, the old tomato cages were still hanging out, and a years worth of pecan leaves covered everything. The first step was to get rid of the tomato cages and leaves.  The garden looked like the surface of the moon when we’d raked everything up with all the holes the dogs had dug.

Little House Big Heart Garden Repair 2A quick round with the staple gun fixed the chicken wire fence… mostly. Even with its nip and tuck, the fence still sagged here and there.

Little House Big Heart Garden Repair 4In order to provide more of a barrier to the dogs and to help the fence stay nice and tight, we decided to add a top railing to the garden. We used pressure treated 1x6s (leftover from our deck repairs a year ago).

Little House Big Heart Garden Repair 5Last, but not least, we tilled the existing soil and augmented it with 10 bags each of top soil and natural compost.

Little House Big Heart Garden Repair 6We’re all ready to start planing next weekend! It seems so early to start planting, but every North Texas planting guide I’ve found suggests planting things like lettuce, spinach, and onions now.

Oh, and we’ll probably be hanging the gutter gardens soon!

Felt Good

This is the last holiday post for a while, I promise. I just have to share the felt food I made for my nieces with you, though.

Christmas Florida 6 dI made each niece a sandwich with fixin’s,

Christmas Sandwich 2 Christmas Sandwich 1strawberries and carrots,

Christmas Strawberriea can of peas (complete with green pompom “peas”),

Christmas Peas PleaseChristmas cookies (with bead “sprinkles”),

Christmas Cookiesfried eggs (that fold up and fit inside plastic Easter eggs),

Christmas Eggersand drumsticks.

Christmas Drumstick

I also made bowtie pasta and milk cartons, but don’t have photos of those to share.  We put everything into a small metal shopping basket so the girls could go “grocery shopping.”

Christmas Florida 6I had so much fun sewing food for them! I used plain craft store felt (at $0.25 a sheet) and embroidery floss. I got my inspiration from Pinterest (most came from here). Everything was hand sewn using a blanket stitch and I started in late October. I sewed on most of my lunch breaks and finished the last bit of food on the plane to Indiana.

The girls loved their food and have (according to our sisters) been playing with it nonstop. I keep seeing new ideas on Pinterst though, so I doubt this will be the last of my felt toy adventures.



Almost There

Our office renovation is almost at an end. All we’ve left to do is hang some art and our diplomas (which reminds me that I need to order my diploma frame) to call it 100% done.

We laid down our new rug last week and in spite of the kitty troubles we’re having with it, we love how it makes the space cozy and pulled together. All in all, I think that the little room has come a long way, from a long, confused space to a functional mudroom/office.

Office Before

Office Renovation 2013

Kev and I are each loving our desks. Kev has a computer monitor on his since he does homework here pretty often.

Kevin's deskMy desk isn’t used as much as it should be (I really need to start writing my posts ahead of time), but I’m hoping that I’ll want to spend more time here since it’s looking so snazzy.

Jess' Desk


What do you think? Could you work in this office? Any suggestions on art?


Thursday Dilemma: (Friday Edition): Ikea Shoe Cabinet

OK.  Let me start this post by saying how much we at LHBH love IKEA.  You can find some really fashionable furniture/accessories/plants there for affordable prices.  Who doesn’t love a good deal, right?


Now let me tell you why we don’t like IKEA.  Everytime we go we spend money.  We find things we didn’t know we needed.  Thank you IKEA marketers, great job!

On our last trip, we found something that could make our office more functional, but we resisted on buying it before we got your opinion.

We need some form of storage in our office.  We have those cubicles, but Kevin comes in through the back door with muddy shoes, coats, work bags, etc. and he has nowhere to put them.  We could use a cubicle, but it may look cluttered.  That’s when we came across this bad boy (here’s the IKEA link).


We were envisioning it on the right side of this picture…Office Progress

Behind where the plant is now (another Ikea buy I might add).



The downside is the price.  At $129,  we would do a lot with this room.  The entire floor cost less than $1000.



We also found this one on the website for $99:



So, what are your thoughts?  Were we crazy not to buy it?  Should we stick with what we have?  Is anyone else really really happy it’s Friday?

The Next Big Thing

Now that our deck repairs are finally finished (you can read more on our deck here, here and here), it’s time to move on to the next big thing in our yard (and there’s plenty to choose from).

If you’ve not seen it, here’s what we’re going for: a large expanse of grass, a decomposed granite patio with fire pit, bar, and eating area, and a fully functional deck for entertaining (and this is where we started).


We’ve booked the sprinkler system install and are on the verge of booking the fencing contractor, so the next big thing in the yard is the decomposed granite patio. We started laying it out this weekend to see what it’ll look like when we’re done.

Future patio

If you squint your eyes and use your imagination, you can start to see the patio take shape.

This area will have our future fire pit. Right now, we’re leaning towards a mobile copper pit instead of the stacked stone pit we’d originally envisioned.

Future Fire Pit

Opposite the fire pit area will be our bar and food prep area. We’ll be moving our grill down here and have a place for our kegerator to slide in for parties. I’ve connected the stakes with white lines so you can see the shape we’re going for better.

Future Bar

It’s really rough (we didn’t measure this out, just eyeballed it and stuck stakes in the ground), but we’ll be pouring the concrete foundation soon.

We’re really getting antsy for the big pieces of the yard to come together. Once the fence is finished, we’ll build the patio and a day or so after the sprinklers go in we’ll lay the sod. We only have 32 days to get everything finished!!