DIY Citronella Candles

Good morning!

I hope y’all had an awesome weekend; I know we did! We spent as much time outside as possible this weekend since Dallas decided to have some unbelievable late June weather (it was only 90). Of course, we had to fight off the giant, man-eating Texas mosquitoes with baseball bats… but that’s to be expected, right?

Well not anymore.

My lovely sister Steph is back with us today doing her very first guest post on how she makes her (amazing) homemade citronella candles to send those pesky skeeters packing.

Homemade Citronella Candles Little House. Big Heart.


Hey, Little House. Big Heart. readers!  I hope you like my recipe for homemade citronella candles! The regular store bought candles weren’t cutting it for us, so I decided to make my own!

  • What you need TO BUY:
    • Glass or metal containers: I originally planned to make my own using old tin cans, but I found these at a garage sale for free. They were the perfect colors, except the now blue buckets were once pink. I spray painted them to match Jess’ Talavera-themed patio.


    • Wax: I chose soy way from Hobby Lobby because it burns slower and cleaner. A 2lb bag made 5 candles. The cost was $9.99, but I waited until they had a sale on candle making supplies and snagged it for 50% off, $4.99.
    • Wicks: I bought the thickest wick I could find at Hobby Lobby which was also in a package containing 13 feet of wick. That was was way more than I needed but it was only $2.79 and also 50% off (so I only paid $1.39).
    • Wick Sustainers: Again I found these at Hobby Lobby for $2.49 for a pack of 20. They were also 50% off so I paid $1.24.
    • Pure Citronella Oil: I bought mine here at Bulk Apothecary. Because I wanted to make a lot of candles, I went ahead and purchased a larger quantity, 1lb for $24.36.
    • Additional Scents (if desired): I researched scents that go well with Citronella and found that both Lemon Verbena and Eucalyptus were recommended as complementary “smells”. The Lemon Verbena was $2.99 at Hobby Lobby for 0.5oz (only $1.49 after the 50% discount) and the Eucalyptus was $6.99 at Hobby Lobby for 0.5oz ($3.49 after the 50% discount).
    • Super Glue or Hot Glue (if you really want to be perfect)
  • What you need FROM HOME:
    • Measuring Cup
    • Microwavable Safe Bowl that you don’t care if it gets ruined
    • Spare or plastic fork
    • Teaspoon or if you have a baby or toddler in the house one of their medicine droppers works perfect.
    • Scissors
    • Pliers
    • A few sticks from the yard
    • A tarp, trash bag, or newspaper to work on if you want

    DIY Citronella Candle Ingredients


1)      Make sure your containers are clean

2)      Measure wicks so they stick up about 1.5” about the top of the container

3)      Slide your “cut to length” wicks through the wick sustainers (the little metal discs), then use needlenose pliers to pinch the wicks between the metal and secure them in place. Be sure you do not let too much of the wick show through the bottom of the sustainer or your wick will not sit evenly on the bottom of your candle. You make have to bend the circular metal part of the sustainer to straighten it back out after to pinch the wick in place.

4)      This is the step where you would glue your wick sustainer to the bottom of your container if you wanted. I chose not to do this, because well, honestly, I was being lazy. I didn’t have any super glue and was too lazy to hunt down the hot glue. Thank goodness I had little desire to be a perfectionist while making these!

5)      Next take the sticks you found in your yard and cut (or just break) them so they are a few inches larger than the “mouth” of your container.

6)      After your glue is dry, pull the wick up and tie it loosely to one of your sticks so they will be held in the center of your candle when you pour the wax. If you aren’t sure about the whole “stick from the yard” deal, Hobby Lobby does sells sticks that you can use for this purpose.

Wick Stick

7)      Now it’s time to melt your wax. Measure 5 cups of wax out and pour it into your microwavable safe container.

8)      Add your scents. Now, when I researched “how much citronella to add” all of the websites said 3-9 drops…… Upon “trial-and-error” I decided that 3-9 drops was no-where near enough for me. I mean, not even close. The whole reason I decided to make my own citronella candles was to make one that would definitely repel pesky bugs. With that being said, I added 3 teaspoons (or three droppers full) of citronella oil and ½ a teaspoon of either additional scent (but not both combined).

Wax and Essential Oils for DIY Citronella Candles

9)      If you want to add color to the wax, Hobby Lobby sells coloring in several different forms, liquid, wax, etc. I’ve also heard that you can add crayons for color, but I’ve not tried this nor do I think it would be the best solution.

10)   Melt the wax and scents in the microwave. It took my little microwave just 4 minutes to fully melt the wax and scents.

Melt Wax in Microwave

11)   Now use your “spare” fork and mix up your wax, be sure not to splash. Not all your wax will be melted when it comes out of the microwave, but that’s okay. Just keep stirring and it’ll all melt.

Melty Wax

12)   Pour your wax into your containers. If you can avoid it, try not to get the wax on your wick. However, if you do. It’s not a huge deal. It will melt off and the only problem it might cause is when you go to light the candle for the first time. It may be hard to get started and keep burning but once you get it fully lit there won’t be any issues.

Pour in your Wax for DIY Citronella Candles

13)   Once the wax has fully re-hardened, carefully untie your wicks from the sticks.

14)   Cut the wicks so they are just ¼ to 1/3 inch above the top of the hardened wax.

trim your wicks

15)   And, TA-DA! Light your candles and enjoy your BUG FREE outdoors.

Finished DIY Citronella Candles

DIY Citronella Candles Little House Big Heart

The candles above are for Jess (EDIT: I can’t wait to get them!), but we made lots more for home. You can make them in just about anything that’s not flammable. I hope you try them out because they’re seriously better than the ones you buy at the store!


Have you ever made homemade candles before? Do you think store-bought citronella candles even work? Do you have giant skeeters in your neck of the woods?


Finishing the Backyard

After our two week trip to Europe, and impromptu camping trip to Oklahoma for Memorial Day weekend and a bout with food poisoning, I think we’re finally back to business around the Little House.

Our main goal at the moment is to push through and finish the backyard. We’re so close to being 100% done with this project that we don’t want start anything else until we’ve finished.

Outdoor Target String Lights Over Patio

So what do we have left to do?

We’re nearly done painting the deck. Once that’s finished, we’ll be able to make the final push to the end.

Capture 3

I think that if we work at it, two more weekends can have our backyard completely finished and we can get started on our next project… the office floor!

How do you push through to the finish of projects? What projects are you trying to finish up?

Backyard Envy

Good morning! Today Kevin and I are taking in all that Rome has to offer. We’re planning on heading to the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-The-Walls and visiting it’s chocolate making monks, then heading a little ways away to tour a catacomb!

I’m so excited for today’s guest blogger, Kristen from Popcorn on the Stove! She was one of my very first bloggy buddies and I’ve really enjoyed watching she and Joe make their NYC apartment(s) home over the last two years (wow, has it really been that long?!). When you’re done here today check out POTS for everything from book reviews and vegetarian (and not) recipes to awesome DIY and indoor gardening!


Hi everyone!  My name is Kristen and I blog over at Popcorn on the Stove.  I’m very excited to be guest posting today on Little House Big Heart because this blog is one of my daily reads 🙂

After watching Jess and Kevin transform their backyard, I developed a bit of backyard envy.  Joe and I currently rent so the backyard we have are shared with the renters of three other apartments.  That means that we can’t do anything major here, but a girl can dream, right?  Below are some of our must haves for our future backyard:



1)  When I imagine our future backyard, I imagine an outdoor sectional like this one from Target where all of our friends and family can hang out on.  I love that there’s an ottoman in this set that will provide extra seating when needed – plus, the cushions are in a neutral so I’ll be able to use different throw pillows for extra pops of colors or seasonal decor (like stars and stripes for the Fourth of July).

2)  Growing up, we would have family reunions at my aunt and uncle’s house in the Catskills.  It was in a secluded area so there was a lot family bonding time.  One of my favorite activities was roasting marshmallows around a fire pit.  No matter how many mosquitos were biting me, I would stay out there until we ran out of marshmallows.  I’d like to get our own fire pit like this CobraCo Cast Iron Copper fire pit from Home Depot.  I think the copper will look great outside, and I like that it’ll be moveable.  

3)  One of Joe’s must-have items is a hammock so I went on the hunt.  My favorite option is this Quilted Sunbrella Hammock from L.L. Bean.  I love that it’s reversible so you can have the stripe or solid green side up – it’s sort of like getting two for one.  Another bonus is that this hammock is quilted, so that means it’ll be extra comfortable.  

4)  Clear Globe Lights (like these lights  from Target, which are what Kevin & Jess have).  I love the look of them so they are definitely a must have!

5)  Another piece that we’d like to have in our backyard is a Weber Charcoal grill like this one I found on Amazon.  We currently have a small one, but it would be nice to have a taller option.  Another bonus is that since it’s wheels, we can move it around and keep it out of the way.

6)  As soon as we get a backyard, I’m going to start planning out a garden.  I’m going to have all of my favorite herbs but expand it to have a ton of fruits and veggies.  Along those lines, I’d like to invest in a lemon tree and Joe would like to invest in a fig tree.  We’re not sure where we’re going to settle down (and that will determine what trees we actually can get) but it’s nice to plan.  One option would be to get a Meyer Lemon tree from Four Winds Growers.  This one is already in a pot so I could keep it indoors during the winter.

So, let’s hear it – did you get backyard envy after Kevin & Jess unveiled their progress?  Were you caught daydreaming about your ideal backyard?  What are you must haves?

The End of Treemageddon 2013

They came for the tree yesterday. Finally.

It only took a crew of four about 2.5 hours to completely dismantle the tree and remove it from the yard.

tree removal

Now we’re almost back to normal (except for a little sawdust here and there).

No Mo Tree

Is it weird if I want to get the shop vac out and vacuum the yard?


On the upside, we won’t have to try and find firewood this summer for the fire pit (which miraculously survived). We’ve got PLENTY.


And just a sneak peak of what we hope to share with you next week: deck progress! We’re loving how it’s turning out!

Deck Progress

Finishing the deck in on our pre-trip to do list, so hopefully we’ll be able to share the finished deck with you next week. Oh, and I’m so excited about my packing post! Can’t wait to share that either!

Don’t TREEt Me Like That

The running joke around the Little House this weekend was to pause, look out a back window, and exclaim “Holy Cow, Honey! There’s a tree in our back yard!” The more we laugh about it, the less upset we are by it.

Broken hackberry

Here’s some shot of the carnage. First, the tree from the back corner of the yard looking towards the house and deck (except there’s a tree in the way and you can’t see them).

Tree From Back Corner of yard

Next we have the tree as viewed from the patio, looking towards the Little Garden. You can see the tree resting on our shiny not-so-new-anymore copper fire pit.

Tree Looking towards Garden

And what used to be a vintage antique metal rocking chair.

Smashed Antique Metal Rocker

The tree barely grazed the deck, so fortunately all of our hard work on it wasn’t in vain.

Just missed the deck

On the other hand, our garage  didn’t fare so well. The tree landed on the garage and rolled off, punching a hole in the roof and breaking all of the roof trusses. The worst part? The roof on the garage was just replaced this winter.

Broken Roof Struts in Garage

Hole in Garage Roof

If you stand at the corner of our deck and look towards the garage (even though you can’t see it), the tree takes up almost the entire backyard.

Tree from front Corner of yard

The insurance man comes on Thursday, but he said we can go ahead and get the tree removed in the meantime (something we’re going to jump on as soon as we can… we’re worried the new baby grass under the tree is going to start to die from simple lack of sunlight).

Thanks so much for all your support last Thursday! We were so bummed and you all made us feel so much better about it! Y’all rock our socks!

The Story of an Inconvenient Tree

On a dark and stormy not so long ago (at 4:45 am CDT) there came such a crash at the Little House that it sent the dogs to howling and woke their unfortunate owners of their peaceful slumber. What was this crash, you ask?

It was the kind, shady patio tree caught in a gust of wind from an evil cold front. Try as it might, the old hackberry tree couldn’t resist the evil wind. It creaked and it groaned and it crashed to the ground, shaking the Little House and scaring the whatsis out of all who heard it.

The Tree 2

The Tree 3

The Tree

The Little Family was sad for the kind old hackberry tree and for their new backyard (that had put hundreds of man hours into remodeling). They vowed to avenge them, promising to rebuild the backyard better than it was before (depending on what the insurance man said).

Thanks for bearing with this crazy cell phone post, guys! We and the house are all okay! When it’s safe to go outside (we have a downed power line under the tree) we’ll take some better pictures for you (and the insurance man).

Operation Finish the Deck: Part 2

We sent email out last week to those of you (awesome) bloggers who offered to help us out with guest posting while we’re on vacation next month, so if you haven’t seen yours yet let me know !

Yesterday, we shared how we cleaned and prepped our deck for staining.

Today, we’re going to share how we stained our deck ourselves (and I have to say, for two people who had never stained anything before it turned out pretty darn nice).

Deck Stained

Once you’ve cleaned, prepped, and dried for a full 24 hours, you’re ready to stain! We used Baker’s Gray Away, a locally produced oil-based stain (Go Texas!) that our fencing contractors were gracious enough to leave behind. We chose oil-based because it’s the best at protecting outdoor wood, even if it is a bit more of a hassle than latex-based stain.

With any stain, one of the most crucial steps is mixing. We used a large drill mixer, but in a pinch you could go crazy with a paint stick.

Kevin And His Tools

Drill stain Mixer

To apply the stain we used a paint pad on a broom handle and a natural bristle brush recommended for oil based stain. Kevin ran the paint pad, staining three deck boards at a time from top to bottom.

Difference in Stain vs Unstained Wood

I followed behind with the brush and a Solo Cup of stain, back brushing any heavy spots and working the stain into the cracks in the deck. When we finished three boards, we moved onto the next three (we did three at a time because that was a far as I could reach with my brush).

Deck Stain Back Brush

The important thing to remember about staining your deck is that the stain isn’t just there to look good; it does a job protecting your wood, too. That’s why it is really important to make sure that you get any exposed surfaces completely covered with stain. Any area that isn’t stained is a potential weak spot for mold, mildew, and rot.

Once we finished the entire area, we allowed it to dry for about an hour. After an hour, we wiped down any still-wet spots with a lint free cloth. If you skip this step, the still-wet areas will get gummy and attract dust and dirt.

Try to keep off the deck for at least 24-hours after you finish staining.

Deck Stain DIY

Now that we’ve finished staining the deck boards, all we have to do is paint the railings! Operation Finish the Deck is nearing its end!


Have you ever stained a deck before? Did you use oil-based or latex stain? What’s your best deck-staining tip?

Operation Finish the Deck: Part 1

Way back in February we finished replacing all of the existing boards on our deck.

Little House Big Heart - Completed Deck Repairs

Since then, we’ve been busy laying sod, building a decomposed granite patio, and enjoying springtime in Texas. This weekend, we decided it was time to stop smelling the flowers and start finishing the deck. Enter Operation Finish the Deck. Our mission this weekend was to stain the deck with the leftover stain from our fence restoration (that our fencing contractor graciously left behind for us).

We had an entire day’s worth of work ahead of us before we could break out the stain bucket, though. Each and every end had to be sanded and rounded (with our awesome new electric sander… I’m in love).

Sand Rough Edges

Once the sanding was finished, we had to clean the deck. Even though we’d replaced all of the decking with new pressure treated pine, it needed to have its surface prepped for staining. This meant cleaning with a chemical deck cleaner that removes both surface dirt and any oils or residue that might prevent the stain from penetrating evenly. After a little reasearch, we went with Olympic Deck Cleaner.

Olympic Deck Cleaner

It was super easy to use. Just apply with a sprayer (and ignore the fact that I don’t have any makeup on).

Deck Cleaner Sprayer

Once you’ve applied the cleaner, you simply wait ten minutes and hose it off, no scrubbing required.

Rince Olympic Deck Cleaner

You’re left with a squeaky clean deck ready to be stained.

Olympic Deck Cleaner After

Once you finish rinsing the cleaner off the deck, just walk away. Leave it alone for a full 24 hours. You want the surface to be 100% dry before you apply that first drop of stain.

Check back tomorrow to see the staining process. Until then, here’s a sneak peak of where we’re at now!

Deck Stained

What projects did you tackle this weekend? Was your weather as gorgeous as ours?

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Slowly but surely the backyard is coming together.

This weekend we tackled the string lights. Honestly, I don’t know why we’ve been putting it off for so long; this project was super fast and easy.

Outdoor Target String Lights Over Patio

The only part of the entire project that might  cause any issues at all is the outdoor outlet. If you don’t have one, you’ll likely have to have an electrician drop a line from your attic and install one for you. Luckily for us, the previous owner had already done that!

Outdoor Outlet

The next step was to add hooks to string the lights on. We used basic hooks from the hardware store that we had lying around in our junk drawer. They were easy to install; just drill a pilot hole to the size specified on the packaging, then screw in the hook.

pilot hole



Last but not least, string your lights! We went with these lights from Target. We bought them this spring for about $13 a box.

Target String Lights

The result is amazing. I’ve just been sitting out back on the patio every night, looking up and smiling at my little twinkle lights. It makes the patio seem so much more cozy and finished.

Outdoor String Lights Over Patio

The lights go from the tree to the house to the garage and back to the house. We had to connect several strands together to get them to be long enough, but you really can’t tell (PS. always check on the box how many strands can safely be connected together).

Long View of Patio String Lights


Target String Lights In Tree

We still need to paint and stain the deck and benches, landscape, and paint our vintage metal rockers, but we’re even as it is our backyard is so much better than it was before.

Hot Tub Before

What did you tackle this weekend? Don’t the lights make the patio feel like a little room?

Handyman Wednesday: Weed and Feed (Plus Kill the Bugs)

Hi everyone, it’s the Hubs again for another edition of Handyman Wednesday.  It’s that time of year again.  Time to start paying attention to your yard, killing the bugs, and fertilizing the grass.  If you own grass and don’t fertilize, you need to definitely consider it.  The investment is relatively small (especially if you just laid $600 in sod like we just did).

Tools Required:

1. Spreader:  I like this model from Scotts.  It has an “Edge Guard” knob so I only spread fertilizer straight and left.  This way, it doesn’t get in my flower beds and kill plants.

Scotts Edge Guard2. Weed and Feed: This is simply the nutrients to help your grass thrive mixed with weed killer to kill all the bad stuff.  Don’t get it in your flower beds though, or you can kiss them goodbye.  We got a kind with Fire Ant killer mixed in too!


3. Old pair of shoes (you don’t want to get the fire ant killer on your feet)

4. Watering hose

How to:

1. Set the spreader pouring speed by turning the knob on the back.  If you buy Scotts weed and feed and a Scotts Spreader, it should have the recommended setting.  Our setting was 4-1/2.  Also turn on the “Edge Guard” on the front of the spreader.

Set the spreader to 4.5

2. Fill the spreader with the weed and feed.  My bag covered 5000 square feet, so I used about half a bag on my front yard.

Fill the spreader with Scotts Weed and Feed

Fill the spreader with Scotts Weed and Feed

3. Pull handle and walk around yard.  It’s that simple.

Spreading Weed and Feed on the Yard

Spreading Weed and Feed on the Yard

Spreading Weed and Feed on the Yard

4.  You’re done.  Turn your sprinkler system on for about 15 minutes, making sure to cover the entire area.

Or, if you’re like me and don’t want to waste water: wait until the evening before a rain.  I remember my dad always running outside when it started to sprinkle and fertilizing the yard.  Trust me, you want to do this if you want a pretty yard…and it’s a good excuse to add an awesome spreader to your garage.

Do you fertilize?  When one of our friends found out we were fertilizing last night and couldn’t hang out, she thought we were trying to make a baby (we are not trying yet).  If someone leads but no one follows… are they just out for a walk?  Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?  How do you know if honesty is the best policy unless you’ve tried some of the others?  If the FBI breaks your door down do they have to pay for it?