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?


Getting Your Chevron On

Good morning! Kevin and I are headed back to the USA today! When this post goes up we’ll be somewhere over the Atlantic. We’re so excited for our last guest post, though! 

I know Carissa from church and love her blog! She has an adorable son and writes about being a mommy, DIY, and a little bit of everything else. Check out her blog, Hooked on the Howards!


First of all, Thank you Jess and Kevin for all of your tips and tricks when it comes to DIY! I think I speak for everyone when I say you inspire me to get projects done around my house.

When we moved into our house, we had absolutely no furniture in our guest room, office, dining room or what is now Landry’s room. We have slowly started working on each room in our house. We’ve painted (a little) and bought some furniture. One of my New Year’s goals was to finish the guest bedroom. So today I would like to show you the new window treatment!
Here is the before picture.
It’s not bad, but I wanted it to be cuter and more inviting. We had the curtains from our apartment, so we just hung them in there. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the curtains are tan and the bed spread is yellow, so they don’t match at all!
window cornice
Materials needed:
  • Spray adhesive
  • Fabric of your choice (measure your window to find out how much you will need 1yd = 3ft)
  • Batting of some kind (I bought fake snow that you would lay on a table around Christmas time. I got it after Christmas for 75% off. It worked perfect for what I needed)
  • Plywood – we used .25″ thick plywood, but the hubby said it was hard to cut because it splintered. So if you can get thicker plywood, I recommend it.
  • Heavy duty stapler
  • 2X4
Step 1:
Measure your window and cut the wood. Make sure you account for the wall between the edge of the cornice board and the window. If you cut it too short you won’t have any over hang.
Step 2:
We attached the side we used 2X4s as our sides. We also cut one at a diagonal so to allow us to hang it (more on that later).
Step 3:
Cut the batting, make sure you leave some for overlap so you can staple it.
Step 4:
Go outside and spray the wood and the batting. Put a nice thick layer on, then wait a few minutes for it to get tacky. Every spray is different, so read the instructions to know how long to wait.
Step 5:
Once both piece are tacky, put them together and bring them inside.
Step 6:
Lay the fabric pattern side down. Make sure everything is lined up straight. (I was using a chevron pattern I had to line everything up and make sure it was straight. If you are using other fabrics you might not have to do that.)
Step 7:
Start Stapling. We saved the corners for last and got the sides done first. Remember you can always add more staple, but it is very hard to remove them without ripping the fabric. So less is more in the beginning.
Step 8:
The corners, there really is no easy way.
Step 9:
Hang. This is where our diagonal cut comes into play. I did not want to screw or nail through the fabric, so my husband (being the genuis that he is) screwed one board cut at a diagonal to the board before we started and the other to the wall cut at the opposite angle. This way all we had to do set them on top of each and the board slid towards the wall and stayed.
Here is the after picture! I love how it turned out! (I used the leftover fabric to make a decorative pillow to tie the whole look together.)
Before and After:

Paint: 7 Ways to Wow

Good morning! Today we left Rome for the last stop on our Europe trip, a 24-hour layover in London! We’re so excited to be back in the UK but so not ready for this trip to be over! To help us finish it in style we have Krystle from Color Transformed Family here today to teach us seven ways you can transform your home with paint!

Not only is Krystle a phenomenal blogger and mom to a gorgeous baby girl, but she and her husband are working towards adopting a child from Hong Kong! Their story is really inspiring, so be sure to check out their (ongoing) adoption story!


Hi! My name is Krystle and I am so excited to be guest posting here at Little House Big Heart today while Jessica is off having a wonderful time in Europe! I’m the girl behind the blog, Color Transformed Family, where I like to share all things design, family, and life changing happening in our lives.

 photo colortransformedfamilyheader.jpg

Today I thought it would be fun to look at:

7 Ways to Use Paint

1. Furniture
Painting furniture is a great way to do a quick update to a room as well a give an old piece of furniture new life.
 photo after.jpg

My husband and I found this old Duncan Phyfe table for twenty bucks at a yardsale. It had seen better days and was quite beat up but with a little sanding and some paint it’s hard to recognize it now. The best part is that I made my own chalk board paint for the top of the table so that I kids can draw color on it!
Painted furniture is also a great way to add bold color to the room. Like we did with this changing table in my daughter, Noah’s room.

 photo dresser.jpg

2. Artwork
Creating your own artwork is a great way to decorate your house on a budget. Craft stores are great about offering a two for one or 50% discount on canvases and craft paint is super inexpensive. If you don’t feel brave enough to get your Monet on just yet another affordable way to update your home decor is to give an old frame a fresh coat of paint…or give new life to some old pottery with just a few coats of paint. photo DSCN4922.jpgBoth of these projects can be completed in an afternoon and if you are brave enough… get the kids to help.

3. Wall/Cover Plates photo DSCN3938copy.jpg
Ok. This one is super easy. If you live an older home like me your probably have inexpensive beige (or white if you’re lucky) cover plates for your light switches and electrical sockets. Replacing them with satin nickel or bronze cover plates can become expensive quickly. However, with a little spray paint you can update your existing ones and it will only set you back a couple of bucks. We did this last summer to our cover plates in our bedroom and now almost one year later they are still holding up well. No scratches or chipped paint on any of them!

4. Walls
At first this one seems like an obvious way to use paint. Coat a brush and spread it on the walls. Right? Well, yeah. But you can also add a silver metallic glaze over the paint for a super elegant accent wall or maybe a touch of shimmer for your powder room. photo after.jpgThis project may take a day or two but is sooo worth it in the end.

5. Planters photo backyard.jpgBig colorful planters look great on a deck or integrated into your landscape design. Bright vivid colors really stand out against all the green foliage. If all you have on hand is old plastic planters don’t run out to buy new ones just take some time to give your existing ones new life with a little spray paint. A few coats of paint and they look like new. Plus it will be easy to update them in a few years if your color preferences change.

6. Knife Stand
 photo finishedstand.jpg
This cute idea I saw on Pinterest and just had to give it a try myself. Update your plain jane knife stand with a fresh coat of paint to match your kitchen decor. We are currently in the long DIY process of renovating our kitchen. I went straight from painting the walls Sherwin William’s Lemon Chiffon to painting our knife stand the same color. I love how it brings a little of the Lemon Chiffon to the counter areas and dresses up the look of the previously drab knife stand. This could potentially be done with several items in your kitchen… recipe stand, flower vase, picture frames.

7. Glass (in the medicine cabinet)
Painting glass is great for privacy and an easy way to add some color to an otherwise bland room. Is anyone catching a drift here? Need some color… paint!
 photo DSCN3613.jpg
My name is Krystle and I struggle with organization. There I said it. Haha! So painting the glass in our medicine cabinet was the perfect solution to hiding all our junk. This same method could be used elsewhere too. For instance with vases.

The list above is definitely not an exhaustive list of different ways to use paint but it’s enough to get your creativity juices flowing. What are some of the creative and unique ways you have used paint? What is your favorite paint medium… acrylic, oil, spray, latex?

I want to give another huge “Thank You” to Jessica for letting me be her guest blogger for today. I hope to see you all soon over at Color Transformed Family.

For more Color Transformed Family follow me on:

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, or RSS.

For the Moms in Your Life

Happy almost Mother’s Day! Kevin and I are enjoying Rome! We’re really wishing we could have brought everyone we love with us on this trip to share all the amazing experiences with them (especially our moms)!

Here today to share some great Mother’s Day gift ideas is my favorite Canadian blogger, Christine from Casa-de-Christine! Christine is a newlywed blogger and a really talented artist! When you’ve read her post here, run over to her blog and check out the painting of her dog, Jixer, she did! It’s awesome!


Hi Little House Readers! I am so flattered that Jess and Kevin think I’m capable of holding down the fort for them while they are away enjoying Europe! I hope I don’t let them down!

I wanted to take this chance to discuss some Mother’s Day gift ideas. It’s coming up soon and deciding what to get each year is always a struggle for me. I mean- mom’s are pretty great! It’s hard to find something worthy of conveying what they mean to you. I tried to round up some good ideas for a few different categories so hopefully if you’re still searching for the right gift, one of these will be just what you were hoping for! These are not projects done by me, please click the coordinating link (in number form) below the images for the original source and/or tutorial.

For the fabric loving mom

fabric gift ideas
1,  2,  3

A table runner is a fun gift idea- whether it be DIY-ed like this one shown with a cute cross stitch detail or something store bought. They can be used everyday or on special occasions and will always remind her of you.

This fun embroidery hoop art is adorable and so fun! Print family photos on fabric and then add some fun details like a necklace or neck tie with embroidery thread. Do a set of you and your siblings- I’m sure she’ll love it!

Print a treasured family recipe onto dishtowels or an apron. Maybe it’s something she made with her mother before you or just a favourite recipe you remember from growing up.

For the gardener mama

plant gift ideas
1, 2, 3

These hand painted flower pots are adorable. Go for an abstract look like this, tape off some simple stripes or try a dipped look. Fill it with a simple plant and you’re set.

These chevron wood planters are amazing. DIY a set or find something similar store bought. A unique planter is a great addition to your mom’s home and something she can treasure for a long time.

Terrariums are super popular right now. They are beautiful and low maintenance. Spice it up by adding a fun detail like a small figurine or animal.
For the foodie Ma

food gift ideas
1, 2, 3

Everyone loves some home made baked goods! Your mom will surely appreciate you taking the time to bake up something yummy and the best part is you can taste test the extras. It’s for her safety after all. The butterscotch shortbread cookies, salted caramel sauce or glazed lemon loaf are all fantastic ideas. Package it up with some bakers twine and craft paper or in a fun jar and you’re set!
For the art loving mother

art gift ideas
1, 2, 3

These exploded flower prints are amazing. Click that link (#1 above) and check them out. A few of these in frames would be gorgeous!! You could always snap some of your own photos to recreate it in true DIY style too.

This gather sign would be great in a kitchen or dining room. I don’t know about your family, but my mom’s house is where we always gather as a family. It would look great hanging by itself, over a doorway or as part of a gallery wall.

Follow this tutorial (#3 above) to format text into a letter or shape. I think this could be great if you used the lyrics to a favourite song that makes you think of your mom or a lullaby she sung you growing up. Maybe a favourite story or poem from your childhood. There are so many options. Put it in the shape of something that is meaningful or pretty and it’s a sentimental gift that will surely impress your mom.

Can’t leave out the Grandmas!! 

gift ideas for grandmas
1, 2, 3
Grandmas always love things that are made by or remind them of their grand kids. Modge Podge some of their artwork to the top of a decorative box. It looks chic, is functional and reminds them of their sweet grand child- doesn’t get better than that!
Make a photo book mark of their favourite grandchildren using a photo. They will surely smile every time they use it.
Embroider a favourite drawing onto a tea towel or apron. It’s such a sweet detail and a fun way to incorporate kid art into the home in a chic way.
Hopefully some of these ideas will spur your creativity and you’ll find just the right thing to show your mom how much you care! When it comes down to it though, it’s really all about spending some time with them and taking the time to call or do some small gesture to let them know you love them and are thankful for them.
Here’s to all the mom’s out there!

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?

Loving Your Little House

Good Morning, again! Kevin and I are leaving Florence this morning and making our way south to Rome! We’re so excited about this portion of our trip! We’ve both been to Rome before, but never together! And while we’re enjoying our trip, we’re really missing the Little House.
Here today to share why she loves her Little House Flat, is Annabel from Annabel Vita! On her blog, Annabel covers everything from recipes and sewing to the best places to swim in the Loire Valley, France! I love reading her blog and I hope you do, too!
PS. Annabel, your flat is almost 200 years older than the Little House! She was built in 1940 (and we think she’s old)!
Hey Little House lovers!I’m Annabel Vita and I live in a teeny flat in small city in England with my very tall soon-to-be husband and my enormous collection of baskets. Although I often yearn for more space, there are some things I love about living small and I thought I shared them with fans of Jess and Kevin’s Little House.

1) Clean up is a breeze! I can hoover pretty much our entire flat from one socket. If people are coming over and the place is a tip, I can get it from chaos to calm in about an hour, tops, including cleaning the kitchen and bathroom.

2) Every corner of our home is filled with something we love. We still have some bits of filler/Ikea furniture, but we have a few pieces that we love love love and the fact our flat is so small means it feels just full of treasured things.

treasured things
3) Mr V and I are always close. Even if we’re at opposite ends of the flat, we can still talk. I love that. (He doesn’t love it when I follow him into the tiny kitchen and get in his way, but that’s a different story.) Having a small flat means our living room is our TV room, office, sewing room and dining room.We often spend weekend days in the same room working on different things and it’s just lovely and companionable. One day, I’d love to have a sewing room of my own but I’d miss being in the same room all the time.

favourite furniture

4) Everything is to hand. It takes a special type of kitchen ballet to make a fancy meal or bake a cake in our kitchen as there is so little counter space, but all the ingredients and all the tools are right within reach. I love getting in there with the door shut, putting the radio on and making things. It feels like my own little world!

tiny kitchen

5) I kind of love how little clothes storage we have. It means I have to ruthless edit what I keep out every season (excess is under the bed or at my mum’s house), but it makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier. I honestly think I’m better dressed now than I was when I lived on my own with a huuuuuge wardrobe crammed with all my clothes.
limited clothing storage

6) If you read my blog you’ll be bored of hearing me say this, but honestly what I love most about living small is the opportunities it gives us. Our location is so incredible it makes me want to throw privacy to the wind and hand out my postcode so you could google it! We also have large windows and incredible original features from when the property was built in 1745. These are things we couldn’t afford if we had more space, and they all add up to a home that makes us really, really happy, even if it’s pretty small.

living room desk

Thanks Jess and Kev! I hope you’re having a wonderful time away and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to hear all about it.

Feeling Bubbly

Hey bloggy friends! Kevin and I are headed to Florence today! Our trip is almost half over already – I guess time flies when you’re having fun!

Today we have one of my best blog friends, Ashley from Attempts at Domestication, here to teach us how to make her adorable burlap bubble wreath! It’s one of my favorite projects she’s done so far, but be sure to head on over to her blog and check out some of her other awesome projects (like her gorgeous nightstands and DIY dining room curtains)!


Hello there LHBH readers! I’m Ashley from Attempts At Domestication, it’s so nice to meet you! 🙂

While Jess and Kevin are soaking up the luxuries of Europe I’m here sharing some one of my favorite seasonal DIY projects, making wreaths. My favorite wreath I’ve made to date is my burlap bubble wreath.


All you need is about 2 yards of burlap, a foam wreath form, and a pack of sewing pins. If you want to make a wreath like this you really need to use foam, it makes it WAY easier. Start by wrapping a few strips of burlap around the form, so there’s no white foam poking through and pin it in place. I had already jumped into the project at this point but you get the idea.


Now it’s time to make your “bubbles”. Start with a piece of burlap that’s around 4″x4″ (I definitely didn’t measure each square, just eyeball it).


1. Fold the square in half to make a triangle by bringing two corners together. (I used the blue pin to help show you which way I was folding and pinning.)

2. Bring the left corner of the triangle down and line it up with the bottom corner on the front side.

3. Fold the right corner down and line it up on the back side. This is your “bubble.”

4. Pin the bubble to you wreath. It helps if you try to pin it behind the other bubble to hide your pins. I really had to do this since I used colored pins. (They were on sale ;))


Keep going around the circle until you have a full wreath. Don’t worry about decorating the back, unless you really want to, but the wreath will lay flatter on your door without bubbles on the back.


The best part about this wreath is that it can be decorated differently for each season. In the fall I attached a few leaves and some brown ribbon…


…and in the spring I made some fun fabric flowers to brighten things up.


If any of you try this project out I hope you’ll let me know! Happy crafting!

Thanks so much for having me Jess! I hope you’re having a blast! 🙂

Viva I’Italia!

Good morning! After an amazing day in Innsbruck, Austria yesterday, we’re finally in Italy! We’re here in Venice until tomorrow, then hop a train south to Florence and Rome! Follow us on Instagram (@littlehousebigheart) and twitter (@lilhousebgheart) to see some pics from the trip!

And today, here to help us all get in touch with our inner Italian is Rebecca from Happy Accidents!

Rebecca’s a newcomer to the blogging world (and a fellow engineer) but I’m already in love with her blog (especially these adorable Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cupcakes)! She’s here today to share her amazing trip to Italy with us, so sit back and enjoy her phenomenal photos! When you’re done here, pop over and check out her blog!


First I want to say THANK YOU to Jess (and Kevin) for letting me guest blog for them.  I only just started blogging and have recently been super busy (we sold a house, moved into an apartment then bought a house and moved in there all within 1 month) but I hope to get a lot more active in blogging and Little House Big Heart has been a great inspiration to me for over a year of following along [LHBH EDIT: Aw, Rebecca, we’re blushing!].
When Jess posted they would be going to Italy, I was excited to volunteer to share some Italy insight and blog about my trip there almost 3 years ago.  Let’s look at some of the sights I really enjoyed and I’m sure we’re all excited for Jess and Kevin to see so we can hear about the entire experience.
After a brief layover in Munich Germany (Jess and Kevin visited here, too), we landed in Rome and got a taxi ride in to the city.  When planning our trip we decided to go on a tour because neither my Mom nor I have been much of a traveler.  We chose Collete Vacations and I could rave about them for weeks.  Everything was thoroughly planned out, we had plenty of free time to explore on our own and we even got to see sights I didn’t even think of when we decided on the locations in Italy we wanted to visit.  In our Italian Vistas tour we got to see everything we wanted and more.  It may have been more expensive than planning out ourselves but the convenience of the travel was worth it.  And they only left without us once…
Rome was absolutely fantastic.  I could have spent 2 weeks there alone.  There are a million sights to see.  We walked around on our own twice and covered only parts of the city.  My parents have since gone to Rome twice (lucky ducks) and still find new things each time they are there.  My main points of interest were the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Vatican (although it’s technically its own country).  None of these places disappointed.
During our free exploring time in Rome we headed “downtown” to see all the sights it offered.  Our hotel was only a couple blocks from so many points of interest, mainly the old and new forum.  Various churches such as Basilica de Santa Maria Maggiore (dedicated to the Virgin Mary), San Pietro in Vincoli (home of the statue of Moses) and San Pietro in Vincoli (build to house the chains that bound St. Peter).
Panoramic of the Old Forum.  Much of it was destroyed and built over top of.
Museo Sacrario delle Bandiere – remarkable marble carvings
Having taken a class in college on Ancient Greece and Rome I was fascinated by the Colosseum.  It’s prominent anywhere in downtown Rome and allows for incredible photos.  I could have looked at it all day.  Pictures don’t even do it justice.  The layers of history, the views of the city from it, the SIZE…all amazing. 
I seriously can’t get over this giant beauty
Some of the “new” forum on the right
You don’t know what old is until you visit Europe and personally I feel Rome. 
Viewing the different levels from the inside
The Trevi Fountain is the best place for a relaxing stop during the afternoon.  It’s a bit of a walk from “downtown” Rome, but the water makes it cool in hot weather and the gentle sounds of water are so relaxing.  We got sandwiches and gelato (YUM) and spent an hour or so here. 
Just can’t get enough of this picture
Myth has it that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand you’ll come back to Rome someday.  Of course they told us this BEFORE telling us that going to the Vatican technically meant leaving Rome and coming back.  But it worked for my Mom to come again so I’m sure it will for me someday.  Hope Jess and Kevin don’t miss a chance to throw a coin!
The Pantheon in Rome is a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome.  The most fascinating feature of this building to me (as an engineer) was the that the circular part of the building is built entirely out of unreinforced concrete which has stood for over 2,000 years with a hole in the middle (the oculus) open to the sky.   It really is an architectural wonder.
Spectacular with the sun shining in
The portico connected to the rotunda is held up by 8 LARGE granite columns.  My parents said there is a fabulous cafe across the street from here where they spent many evenings sipping wine and enjoying the sights
We spent a long afternoon in the Vatican.  First we visited the Vatican Museum and walked through various galleries of art, sculptures, maps, painting and various other “collectables”.  We couldn’t take pictures in the Sistine Chapel so we got a briefing out in the gardens ahead of time.  It’s amazing in there.   I’m not Catholic but it represents so much.  Having been here actually made the election of the Pope much more interesting to me this year.  The painted ceiling depicting The Last Judgment, knowing the time and energy Michelangelo put in to it, is breathtaking. 
Map room with paintings on the ceiling
Leaving the Sistine Chapel we went into St. Peter’s Basilica.  Architecture in here including the dome (which is the largest in the world) is astonishing.  There is enough history here to explore for hours.
I hope Jess and Kevin really enjoy taking in the sights and history of Rome, but don’t forget to have some fun too.
After taking a boat trip to The Island of Capri out of Naples (I heard they have great pizza) and another boat afterwards to Vietri Sul Mare, we headed to Pompeii the next day.  Again, it was hot, but the sights and history were captivating.  I spent a unit of a class in College learning about Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius so this was another trip I was excited for.  How anything is left standing after the natural disaster and all these years is inconceivable. 
Streets along the shops
Inside a shop
Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but the buildings that still stand and layers of materials for construction is so interesting to see. 
A fun fact about Pompeii is they have welcomed stray dogs to call this home for years.  Various mosaics that survived even show the love for dogs.  As dog lovers themselves, I think Jess and Kevin would enjoy this.
After a drive along the coast and through a bit of Tuscany we made it into Florence.  The tour hit some sights of Florence such as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and then gave us little self-exploring time. 
The Façade is the collective work of various artists
The Duomo
We also saw models of famous statues such as The Statue of David by Michelangelo.  We actually visited the Accademia Gallery where the original statue is kept but there are no picture allowed.
Palazzo Vecchio (David is off to the right)
Another stop of our tour took us to the Basilica de la Santa Croce.  The tombs of many famous artists are here such as Leonardo De Vince.  The architecture in this church is so intricate (what church in Italy isn’t?).  The detailing on the ceiling really caught my eye.  DIY anyone?
I’d highly recommend that Jess makes sure she gets a chance to explore the shopping carts.  It’s never ending and you could seriously get lost, so drop bread crumbs. 
Which way do I go?
Ponte Vecchio.  Bridge with various shops, unfortuantely our only exploring time was late
Although we didn’t get to be here more than a day I can say it’s a city of beauty and fashion from the people to the buildings. 
Hotel rooftop terrace
Our last stop in Rome was Venice.  It’s awesome to see how EVERYTHING is done by boat from the police boat to food delivery.  We left our luggage at the first dock upon arriving in the bus and since we walked to the hotel we watched them unload the boat with it at the hotel.  A little bit of throwing was involved…word to the wise, keep your wine bottles separated or else they might break…someone was NOT happy their new leather jacket from Florence was soaked, oops. 
 Hello Canals!
On our first afternoon in Venice we took a boat to the Island of Murano where they are famous for glass blowing.  In 5 minutes this gentleman turned a blob of melted glass into a glass horse.
Craftsmanship at it’s finest
The canals are a lovers’ paradise.  So beautiful and romantic.  We had a bit of a rainy stay here but it did clear up enough one afternoon to allow us to enjoy our gondola ride.  I really hope Jess and Kevin get to enjoy this with a bottle of wine.  Or a 2 liter of wine….
The waiter tried to convince us to get the big bottle (on right) but we said we wouldn’t drink that much, after 2 regular bottle we then bought the middle sized on.  When in Rome…(I mean Venice)
The boat dropped us back off at the Piazza San Marco where we visited St Mark’s Basilica.  The floors of the church actually roll like soft waves.  The weight of the building, build from various sources of marble are so heavy that the floor has shifted over time.  Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside.  Venice sits on shallow waters and individual “islands” are held up by piers or large floatation devices.  Have you seen James Bond Casino Royale?  It’s not all movie magic!
Extraordinary color variations in the marble.  Very grand indeed
Another must visit near to St. Mark’s Plaza is Doge’s Palace.  It was once the residence of the Doge of Venice but is now a museum.  It features the Bridge of Sighs linking the palace and the prison which is named as such because you could apparently hear the sighs of the prisoners inside.  It was undergoing architectural restoration when we visited so we got just a little view from the outside and were able to walk through inside and look out.  At least prisoners had some nice views of the Canals.
I don’t spot any prisoners in orange stripes!
Anyone wondering how the tour company left us once?  We were at the Spanish Steps in Rome on the first night, wandering around as a loose group and the tour guide said meet back here in 15 minutes so we can walk to dinner.  We got to the meeting spot a few minutes late and they were gone.  We stayed close by for a minute or two (found a couple who was also left) then the tour guide came back for us a few minutes later.  It was still a great night though with wine and pasta topped off with Italian espresso!
Anyone else been to Italy or the other spots Jess and Kevin are visiting?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.  I can tell you I only touched on everything these beautiful cities (and Italy) have to offer.

How to Survive Your Kitchen (or Lack Thereof)

Good morning, everyone! Kevin and I are trying to make the most of this rainy day in Munich by going on a self-guided, impromptu foodie tour of the city and maybe having a beer or two here and there.

Today we’re excited to have the first of two guest bloggers from the UK, Karen from Well I Guess This is Growing Up! Karen and her husband Joe are newlyweds (and I mean really, really newly weds) with a fabulous fixer-upper. It’s pretty inspiring to see how far they’ve come with what they started with, so make sure to go give them a read when you’re done here!


Hello! I’m Karen. I’m new around these parts. Like Jessica and Kevin, I’m a newlywed – since last month so like, really newlywed – and me and my husband (still feels weird saying that!) are trying to spruce up our home of 2 years, one paycheck at a time.

One of the things I have enjoyed so much in that time is tracking our progress through blogging, and reading all about the other people out there in the same boat as us! Hooray, we are not alone!
So, as DIY is a big focus around these parts, and I so very much want to make a good impression to the readers of Little House Big Heart I thought this is what I’d discuss today. We’re all renovating or decorating at some point, so I wanted to give some of my personal top tips on how to live without a kitchen.

Yes, you read that right. Perhaps I should explain…Our house was abandoned when we bought it. It had not been updated since it was built in the 1940s and had no heating, double glazed windows, bathroom or kitchen. (I know what you’re thinking, how did anyone even live here, right?)

Almost two years later I’m very happy to say we have introduced most modern housey related items into the home such as a bath tub and radiators and I’m happy to report they get along like a house on fire. Scrap that, terrible analogy….But the kitchen is next on our list. Sure there was a room dedicated to a kitchen. But with no sides, cabinets or cooking appliances whatsoever, I think it would be a stretch to label it this. Needless to say, we’ve had to get creative whilst we save up to renovate and install this “kitchen” later in 2013. In the meantime, here’s how we survived:

1. Everything is a kitchen side
When you don’t have any real home for utensils, the kettle or a microwave, it’s easy to feel a bit lost. We were lucky enough to find a wooden table left in the house. After a strong scrub, it’s now home to our microwave, toaster and dishcloths. Score! Our washing machine is now our official kitchen side which is used to prepare all the food – Just call me Mrs Glamorous! Seriously though, if you’re struggling, get to your local charity stores or see what’s going on Freecycle (or I hear Craigslist is good in the USA!) I bet you’ll find some good quality furniture to tide you over. As long as it’s clean, use it! You’ll look back years later and have a good giggle trying to make a round of tea on the floor of your hallway because there was nowhere else to do it when you moved in.. Not that this happened to us or anything…

2. Sign up to discount and voucher websites
The first 2 weeks we lived in the house we ate nothing but takeaways and boy did me and my waistline regret that. However, there is nothing wrong with signing up for offers and taking advantage with exploring your local area whilst you’ve got a good excuse to! One thing about being unable to cook properly is that we have really found the greatest little restaurants nearby. Not a great solution for everyday but if you’re renovating in a short period of time (like normal people do! – Why didn’t I think of that?) you may as well make the most of it!

3. Get creative
You don’t need a huge fancy oven to prepare your meals. Have you seen those mini versions with one hob and a microwave size oven? That will do! We bought an oven second hand for £40 as the house didn’t have one – it’s from the 1950s and now only 2 hobs work. But, we’ve managed! It helps me get creative and keep cooking simple. Plus, it’ll make my return to baking that bit more special, when we have a full oven again. Cakes all round!

karen kitchen

4. Keep essentials close
We have no storage whatsoever. Want to see where I keep my pots and pans? They’re still in a cardboard box. After almost 2 years. Anything in the way of baking items, or fancy crockery is still in storage, because quite frankly, we can’t use them! But, items such as the kettle, a few essential pans and microwavable bowls are all in one box, ready to go. Why complicate things?

karen kitchen 2

5. Get a barbecue
I honestly don’t think we would have eaten if it weren’t for our BBQ – and you know what, we got a bargain one for £3. Can you believe that? If the weather is good, make the most of it and eat Al Fresco. And hey, even if it’s NOT good. We had a family gathering last Bonfire Night (Do you guys have that in America? It’s just a bit excuse for fireworks, it’s fab!) It was Winter, therefore raining and cold, but we put up a marquee in the garden, asked family to bring some food and we put the barbecue on, and watched fireworks with some burgers. It was awesome.

I know most normal people take to renovating their home in a shorter space of time, but just in case anyone else is suffering without a fully functional kitchen, I hope you enjoyed reading my tips and know that you aren’t alone! Here’s to 2013 and the year of the Kitchen for me!

Chippity-Doo-Dah, Chippity-ay!

Good morning! Kevin and I landed in Munich about fifteen minutes ago (3:45pm local time, 8:45am CDT), so our vacation has officially started!  And here to help us kick it off in style is Kelly from Corner of Main!

Kelly is truly a girl after my own heart! She’s an engineer-turned-eye-doctor and has not just one, but two Kevins in her life: her hunky husband and her incredibly cute baby boy!  On her blog she shares tons of great DIY ideas, recipes, and pictures of her adorable Kevins.

She’s got a great post for you today, so read up here and then head over to Corner of Main to check out more of her blog! Oh, and thanks Kelly!


Hi Everyone! It’s Kelly from Corner of Main. Thanks so much for letting me stop by, Jess and Kevin! Today I am bringing you an awesome tip that I read in This Old House Magazine. It’s a simple way to touch up chipping paint without having to drag out a big ol’ gallon of paint or clean brushes (or all the other fun that comes along with painting).

PaintBeforeAndAFterThis is a Before and After photo of a wall in our nursery. The chair rail was painted white when we moved in, and we put more white paint over it. Unfortunately we realized that whoever painted over the wood trim initially either didn’t sand the wood or didn’t use primer, because it is constantly chipping now! This wall happens to be right behind our rocking chair, so it gets banged into daily. We don’t really feel like stripping the paint, starting from scratch, or lugging the gallon of paint upstairs every other day, so we have been living with the dings…until last week that is!

A couple of months ago I read a great tip in This Old House Magazine and I am happy to share it with you! An easy way to touch up paint without having to deal with the mess and clean up of painting is to fill a small nail polish bottle with your paint color and use it as needed. Genius! As soon as I read this tip I knew I was going to try it in the nursery. It took me a while, but eventually I took out an old bottle of nail polish and some nail polish remover…


I used clear polish just in case there was any pigment leftover (I doubt that was necessary, but I figured what the heck). I began by pouring what was left in the polish bottle in the trash. I then attempted to remove the remainder by pouring nail polish remover into the bottle. This did not work…so definitely skip that step! Go right to the acetone. Kevin had some in the basement, and because it is so strong it worked like a charm. I filled the little bottle up with acetone, closed it up, shook it around, poured it out, and boom…


Clean bottle and brush all ready for paint!

I then made a small funnel with an old water bottle and painters tape (I just had some laying around, I am sure any type of tape would be fine). Obviously I then used the funnel to pour the paint into the tiny bottle.

CollagewithfunnelMake sure you put something on your table first…if you are anything like me you will spill/blob/drip paint all over.


So, that’s it! Now you are ready to do some touching up! This idea can be used for so many things. I know we can use it in our dining room…one too many dog toys hitting the wall has caused some paint to chip off the trim, or in the kitchen…our painted kitchen cabinets have seen better days and I don’t know if we are ready to repaint all of them. So many possibilities!

What do you think? Do you have any chipping paint that could benefit from this? Do you have any other painting tips?