3 Emergency Plumbing Tips To Avoid Costly Damages

Let’s face it, with the changing weather we’ve been having this year, there are sure to be emergencies when it comes to plumbing in Pittsburgh this December and January. Yup, Mom said it and might regret it, but she’s ready to handle it thanks to these emergency plumbing tips that will help avoid costly plumbing damages.

Bathroom Tub

The Reality of Owning Homes and Plumbing in Pittsburgh

Plumbing emergencies are faced at one time or another by every homeowner, but with historic homes, deep rooted trees, old brick roads under asphalt and cement, plumbing in Pittsburgh just makes our area a unique place to have these issues. In our home, we have a main pipe that is terra cotta and runs from the front yard straight through the middle of the pad our home sits on. Roots from the two trees that used to be in our yard have attacked it. Any damage means our heated floors would be torn up. Yikes.

Knowing this, I’ve prepared for emergencies with these tips that I hope not to have to use (especially not over the holidays, but yet did have to in 2017). Figured it would be a great gift to share with you!

Emergency Plumbing Tips

Prepare ahead…and after.

As best as you can, prepare. Review these tips, look for the things you’ll need and keep tools and supplies ready and organized. If you’re going on a trip, we’ve already shared some ideas on our blog to get ready for that, just scroll back a few posts.

After you’ve found a leak, you’ll want to use towels and a mop to get any excess water up. Fans, open windows (if it isn’t too cold) will help get the moisture out as well. If you can get the pipe dry enough to seal with tape, use duct tape (though not waterproof) or a rescue tape to wrap up the leak until you can get help from a professional (if needed).

Know where your main shutoff valve is.

Many Pittsburgh homeowners have a basement (maybe even a Pittsburgh Potty!), others may be like us and live on a pad and have a utility area. Your main shutoff valve is there. When you notice drips (or pours), go to that valve and turn it clockwise as far as you can get it to go. Water will no longer flow anywhere in the house, keeping all areas as safe as can be from further damage.

Shut off Sink (or toilet) Valves.

If the leak seems to be isolated to a particular bathroom or kitchen fixture, you can simply shut the valve right at the fixture. One time the twins stuffed the kids’ sink with tattoo papers and the sink needed drained, so Dad shut off the valve to that sink only while working on the fix. The rest of us still had water, which was a perk.

Know What an Emergency Is – and Get Help!

It is always okay to admit you need help when it comes to your home and health. Plumbing is no exception. If you’ve discovered a plumbing emergency such as a clog, a leaking pipe or water heater, overflowing toilet, flooding tub, or no water at all – call in a professional. Use the tips above while you wait for them to get on-site. You’ll be glad you did.

Gateway Clipper Holiday Cruises – Pittsburgh

The Gateway Clipper Holiday Cruises offer three family-friendly events in December 2021 that you won’t want to miss. The weather is agreeable for daytime trips on the Pittsburgh Three Rivers and this is a great time to make family memories!

Christmas Ornament with text Gateway Clipper Fleet to promote Gateway Clipper Holiday Cruises for kids
Source: Gateway Clipper

Check out everything that the Gateway Clipper Holiday Cruises have to offer – as of the posting of this blog (December 15), there is still availability for all three options!

Santa Story Time Cruise

The Santa Story Time Cruise is offered on Saturday, December 18. The boat will leave Station Square at 10:30am and return at noon. There’s a super special guest, as if Santa himself wasn’t enough! BUDDY THE ELF will be there, too!

Cost: Children 1-12 $20; Adults $32
When: December 18, 10:30am-noon

Santa Fun Kids Cruise

Dance along with the kids, Santa, and a DJ while enjoying the decorated (and already beautiful) Pittsburgh skyline! This option is similar to other Gateway Clipper Holiday Cruises that adults might be familiar with, but full of kid-friendly fun. The ‘lil Burghers have done these dance party cruises for school trips and parties and absolutely love seeing our city from this point of view and dancing. Snacks and drinks are available at an additional cost.

Cost: Children 1-12 $20; Adults $32
When: December 18, 1:30-3:30pm; December 19, 1:30-3:30pm

Princess & Superhero Ball

Ring in the new year (yep, 2022 is upon us!) a few days early with the Gateway Clipper’s family friendly celebration at this ball. Kids will see their favorite princesses and superheroes from the movies they know and love. Not only will these characters be there, the DJ will be playing songs from their favorite movies and shows as the boat sails down the Three Rivers. This event is one day only!

Cost: Children 1-12 $20; Adults $32
When: December 29, 1:30-3:30pm


If you aren’t looking to take one of these Gateway Clipper Holiday Cruises (maybe it is too cold for you or your calendar is jam packed), consider a Gateway Clipper gift card for your person’s stocking.

Maybe the Gateway Clipper isn’t your family’s jam this time of year but you still love all things Pittsburgh. Check out our Pittsburgh Fun category for more ideas to check out!

Need something Pittsburgh themed for your gifts? Check out love, Pittsburgh for so many options!

Pappy Jack

Every year at Veteran’s Day Mom threw away the papers asking the students to bring in a photo of any family Veterans or Active Military. With no military connection in our immediate family, Mom felt some disconnect. But Isla knew better. She remembered Pappy Jack, her great grandpa she never got to meet.

How it Started

On visits to Pappy and Grammie’s, our curious Isla would see photos of a young man with a familiar smile. She’d ask who he was and learn it was her great grandfather on Pappy’s side, Pappy Jack. She’d learn more of his story and eventually connect the dots that not only should Pappy Jack be honored on Veteran’s Day, but so should Pappy Dave on Grammie’s side.

It filled Mom’s eyes with tears and heart with joy that Isla wanted to remember two of the men who shaped her life so much. Isla seemed so interested in knowing them. They were gone long before she was even a thought. Pappy Jack passed when Mom was in Kindergarten. Pappy Dave when Mom was a High School Junior. But it was like Isla knew them anyways.

Even though the papers had made it to the trash, Mom worked with Miss D to be sure the girls could honor their Veterans.

How it Went

Isla put together her poster for Pappy Jack and also has since taken Pappy’s photo and he is sitting on her vanity. (Guess we’re going to have to get you a new one for your table, Pappy!)

And Ava, it seemed fitting to have her make a poster about Pappy Dave because this girl seems to have his face and smile and love for laughter/silly jokes.

They understood the assignment.

Girls holding pictures of their great grandfathers who are military veterans

Wreaths Across America 2021

In addition to honoring their Great Grand Pappies on Veterans Day, the ‘lil Burghers, Pappy and Grammie will be remembering the heroes next Saturday, December 18, 2021. It is officially going to be recognized as Wreaths Across America Day, following a Senate ruling on December 10.

Wreaths Across America Logo
Source: Wreaths Across America Staff

Mom’s company was able to sponsor over 100 wreaths this year to be placed on the graves of Veterans in a cemetery in Ohio, and while we are unable to participate this year, we are hoping to be able to get a chance to in a future year.

To learn more about the powerful, emotional story of this annual tradition, here is a press release that was shared with us to tell you more.

Washington, D.C.December 10, 2021 – The Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King designating Saturday, December 18th, 2021, as “Wreaths Across America Day.” A convoy of volunteers will travel from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery to lay Maine-made balsam wreaths at the headstones of American veterans interred there.

“Wreaths Across America is a powerful demonstration of respect and appreciation for our veterans – both those that we’ve lost and those still with us,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “We are so proud that this heartfelt expression of gratitude originated in our great state and has become an enduring symbol of our nation’s gratitude for veterans’ valor and sacrifice. This resolution remembers and honors America’s veterans this holiday season, while also teaching younger generations of the sacrifices that have been made to secure our freedoms and to defend our liberty.”

The general public can register to participate in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery here.

Thousands of volunteers are expected to lay the wreaths at the graves of each American veteran.  In addition to Arlington National Cemetery, volunteers will place wreaths at 3,100 locations nationwide.

The full resolution can be read here.

# # # 

About Wreaths Across America

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. 

For more information or to sponsor a wreath please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

6 Top Plumbing Priorities Before You Leave for Vacation

Before you leave behind your plumbing in Pittsburgh for a long vacation follow our steps!

If you’re about to head out of town for an extended holiday vacation, you’ll first want to make sure your home is properly prepared. This is especially important when it comes to your plumbing in Pittsburgh. All too often, vacationers come home from a relaxing trip to a burst water pipe or some other stress inducing plumbing issue. Not only are plumbing issues while you’re away very stressful, they can also cause more damage to your home. To avoid coming home to expensive plumbing issues, follow our tips before you leave for your next long trip.

1. Make Sure To Turn off the Main Water Supply

To prevent any issues, turn off the water supply for your plumbing in Pittsburgh before leaving

A water main shutoff looks like a wheel or lever with a water pressure dial.

So, you’re getting ready to leave for the holidays and you want to make sure your plumbing in Pittsburgh stays functional for when you return. The first step you should take is turning off your water main. To locate your water main, you should search for a valve located in your basement. Then to ensure that the water main is completely turned off, try running your tap to make sure the water has stopped flowing through your pipes. 

By turning off the water main, you are preventing any major leaks from occurring in your home. The weather gets very cold in some places during the holidays, which causes pipes to freeze and burst. If your water main remains running while you’re out of town and your pipes freeze, you’ll likely be looking at an expensive set of repairs. You can also save money on your water bill by turning off your water main while you’re away.

Turning off the water should be your first step to prevent a lot of incidents from occurring while you are away. In most homes, the main water valve is in the basement and looks like a wheel or lever. For your final step, run the tap for a while to make sure that the water valve has been closed.

2. Find a Housesitter to Check on Your Plumbing

It’s a good idea to get a housesitter to make sure your plumbing in Pittsburgh is working properly

Hiring a house sitter is important for lots of reasons including preventing plumbing issues.

Though it’s important to turn off your water main to prevent damaging leaks and save money, you also shouldn’t leave your pipes dry for too long. If your pipes are without water for more than 2 weeks, there is a chance of adverse consequences. First and most unpleasant, sewer gases can build up in your pipes. Second, your pipes can begin to wear down and crack if they aren’t being used regularly.

To avoid these issues, recruit a trusted neighbor to check on your plumbing in Pittsburgh while you’re away. Instruct your housesitter to turn on the water main, and check for any leaks or any odd smells. Then, once they’ve verified there aren’t any issues, they should turn the water main off again.

3. Keep Your Swimming Pool Pump On

If your swimming pool is still open, it’s a good idea to keep the pump running while you’re away

Pool pumps and sprinklers still need water while you’re away.

Before you go ahead and shut off your water main, know that there are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, fixtures like pool pumps or sprinkler systems will require water while you’re away. If you don’t have these fixtures on your property, you have the OK to turn off your water main. However, if you have an open pool or are using a sprinkler system for your yard while you’re away it’s a better idea to turn off the appliances in your home individually.

Should you turn your water main fully off, you could end up coming home to an algae covered pool and dead grass — and nobody wants to come home to that.

4. Before You Leave, Close All Faucets and Check for Leaks

Avoid wasting water while you’re away by ensuring no water is leaking from your home fixtures

Your leaky faucet is a major water waster so it’s best to fix it before you leave for vacation.

Leaky faucets may seem like little more than nuisance, but they actually can run up your water bill over time. This problem is compounded if you go away for a long time. Depending on how long you’re gone, a leaky faucet could cost you hundreds of dollars. So, before you leave on your trip, make sure that there is no water leaking out of any faucets or other appliances in your home. Check each faucet, toilet, and sink and once you’ve determined there are no leaks, youre ready to go. Again, this is a good step to take if you need to keep your water main turned on while you’re away. 

5. Remember to Turn Off Your Water Heater

Water heaters use a lot of energy, so remember to to turn off your water heater before you end up overpaying on utilities

If you don’t turn off your water heater you can end up paying the price in utilities.

Turning off your water heater is one of the most important things to remember before you leave the house. Water heaters use a lot of energy and can add to your utility bills while you’re away. To prevent this from happening, simply use the dial at the base of the water heater and turn it off. Once you turn off the water heater, double check to make sure that there is no water leaking out of the bottom, as this is a sign you will need to replace your water heater. 

6. For Extended Trips, Call a Professional to Inspect Your Plumbing

Once you get the “OK” from your local plumbing company, it’s time to hit the road

Avoid any surprises upon return by hiring a plumber to inspect your home.

If you are leaving for more than 2 weeks for the upcoming holidays, it is a good idea to schedule your annual plumbing inspection before you leave. That way, if there are any current issues with your plumbing in Pittsburgh, your local plumber will be able to fix them before you leave. Peace of mind is an important part of a relaxing trip, so make sure that your plumbing is ready to go when you take your next trip.

Don’t come home to a plumbing disaster! Follow these tips and your plumbing will be prepared for your next extended vacation. Happy traveling!

Preserving through Pandemic: Pittsburgh’s Cultural District

PITTSBURGH — With the highly anticipated return to normal activities, the reality of what it has taken for us to get from March 2020 to August 2021 is really setting in. Through it all, I’ve placed a confidence in my faith and the science that has helped us as we’re preserving through pandemic.

For the Willis house, that has meant getting used to wearing masks in most settings. We’re “half vacinated” – three of the six of us are eligible and the others are ready! The biggest change is that we have had to adjust our usually fully packed schedule and haven’t been as “cultural” as we’re used to.

The ‘lil Burghers enjoying a July evening at Mellon Square, Pittsburgh

One of the things I’ve realized that we really miss are making it to in person performances. (The last one we were able to attend as a family was Monster Jam in 2020!)

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: 9/17 – 11/30

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has announced what they are doing to keep guests to their indoor performances as safe as they can and yet move forward through November 30, 2021.

According to a press release from Pittsburgh Cultural Trust on August 19:

Masks will also be required inside venues should levels of community COVID-19 transmission in Allegheny County reach ‘substantial’ or ‘high’ as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (status available at: covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). Some events are subject to exception from this rule and will require audience members to remain masked regardless of community spread. These shows will be noted as such at all points of ticket purchase, alerting buyers of the mask mandate. Ticket buyers will also be contacted by guest services to confirm attendance requirements prior to the event. Real-time vaccination and masking requirements, and any updates, will continue to be available on each organization’s website (listed in boilerplate information).

The vaccine and masking policies begin with the return of indoor performances on September 17, 2021 and are currently set to run at least through November 30, 2021. Health and safety policies will continue to be regularly evaluated and adjusted based on community health data, and public health and government guidance.

Guests will be required to be fully vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theater with their valid ticket and driver’s license or government issued identification. “Fully vaccinated” means that on the date of the performance, a guest has received their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, at least 14 days prior. 

All individuals entering a Cultural District venue must be vaccinated with exceptions for children under the age of 12 and people with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination. Guests who fall into one of these exception categories must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 24 hours of the performance start time. COVID-19 tests must be administered by an official testing center. Self-administered tests will not be accepted.

This family is happy for the work the Roadmap to Reopening committee has done here in our city. While these measures might not be the most comfortable, it’s a way we can show how Pittsburgh is preserving through the pandemic.

Click here to read more about how Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is handling the current status of COVID-19.

Tiny Dancers

When Isla was a baby, one of the only things that would soothe her to sleep was Elton John’s song, “Tiny Dancer”. It was no surprise that this twirling, pink-loving girly-girl would be begging to be in dance class when she reached the age to get started.

Becoming Dancers

Unfortunately, Mama missed sign-ups when “Beatsy” (Isla’s nickname because she’s always moving to a beat) was three and four. Whomp. Then when the time came for enrolling a five-year-old, Mama paused and remembered how things went with Arianna in gymnastics at that age (not so awesome for both kiddo and parents). Isla promised that she would stay in dance and that she’d love it, so she was enrolled in a class with a friend from church – a motivator to make sure she was ready to go every week for rehearsal.

If there was something good about COVID and the restrictions, Mama is not afraid to admit that the fact that our dance studio didn’t allow parents in during classes was a BLESSING. Isla was very happy to keep her dance moves secret and have an hour of “independence” each week.

After the fall soccer season, Ava felt like she was missing out on being involved in “stuff” and asked if she could dance with Isla. Again, a kiddo promised to give it her all and catch up with the routines. Thanks to a discount at the dance studio, Mama willingly said sure and the twinnies were officially all in.

Our dancers loved their Danskin Now leotards for rehearsals. Their ballet shoes were extremely cheap and wore throughout the season but at $9 a pair, they felt like a steal! Tap shoes were another must have and while we had a tough time matching their shoe sizes, the twins ended up with these shoes for jazz. We did give these ones from Amazon a try, but they literally fell apart at Isla’s first rehearsal!

Spring Recital Day

The twins kept their tiny dancer moves a secret until recital day – not even letting anyone “spy” on them when classes had to go virtual for a few weeks. Even on photo day they weren’t so happy to show us their outfits, but did pause for a cute photo for Dad before hamming it up with their dance team.

Recital day was one of the most exciting days for these two. They had three songs to perform and were all about it. Ava was a little nervous but Mama and the Bigs assured her that it would be all good. We teased her that if all else failed just “shake ya booty” but she said everyone would be watching and laugh. We tried to tell her that was the point, to make it fun, but she said NO WAY and kept the booty shaking to bouts at home (ha!).

Due to the pandemic restrictions, their recital was outdoors and nicely done by the dance studio. The twins stayed in place under their group tent and danced their hearts out when the music came on. Their smiles were HUGE and they have been talking about the evening for days.

Our family is so grateful that we gave these girlies a shot at finding something they love. Looking forward to fall classes already.

Mommmmmm! The sun!
Hamming it up with Bubby after getting their dance on
Big Big is crazy proud of them!

While Mama gave dance a few seasons as a kid, these two just might be dancers for life like their Daddy. Bring on the glitters and feathers everywhere, right?

Tell us: What is your favorite way to keep your body moving?

Pure Cleaning with Essentials

The past week has been a tough one in our house. Mom tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday and we’ve been trying to keep things cleaner than ever so everyone stays safe. The use of disinfecting wipes has always been essential in our home, but we really ramped that up. And the timing, if possible, was perfect because our latest shipment ARM & HAMMER™ Essentials™ Disinfecting Wipes had been delivered. We are a brand ambassador with Arm & Hammer in 2021 and receive product and compensation as part of our partnership.

Now is a time that we not only need to keep the house clean on our regular schedule, but it is also a time we’ve been really thinking about how we can do some pure cleaning. We’ve always known that chemicals can be harsh and toxic, and who hasn’t scrunched their noise at the smell of strong cleaners? Yet at the same time, we want the confidence that what we’re cleaning our homes with is safe.

Arm & Hammer has taken some of that guess work out for us. While it isn’t 100% natural like a cloth + water + elbow grease, the products in this line are safer and kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. That sure makes mom feel a bit better with the germs around and is the way we’ll be cleaning here for awhile.

Essentials Disinfecting Wipes

With two fresh scents (Lemon Orchard and Renewing Rain), these disinfecting wipes also come in 40 or 80 wipe containers. Our go to has been Renewing Rain because it is a (good) unique smell that makes us think spring.

Also, for those of you with sensitive skin it is good to note that you do not need to wear gloves when using these wipes – with no harsh chemicals or Quats (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds). If you have any concerns about the ingredients, check out the product’s ingredients list.

How We Use the Essentials

Mom went through four wipes cleaning down the surfaces of her office as she prepared to go back to work. This was the place she was most often before getting sick, so it made sense to wipe everything in there down extra carefully. And yes, you can use these wipes on electronics – just be sure to wring the wipe out before using on screens and keyboards.


In addition to the office, these wipes can be used on doorknobs, in the car, and in the bathroom. They’re great for classrooms (psst, Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up) and gyms, too! We got the whole family, including the twins, in on the fun of cleaning with confidence as we went around the house wiping everything down.

(And yes, everything included the kitchen. Food contact surfaces do need to be rinsed with water after using these wipes.)

After this past year of being in and out of quarantine / stay-home-orders, the bottom line is we parents want to keep our kids safe from not only germs but from chemicals. These wipes give us that simple balance without having to worry about the protection we know we need. Arm & Hammer is a brand name that has been in this family for a long time (anyone else have the box of their baking soda in the fridge growing up) and a name we can trust.

Aside from cleaning products, what is something that has been essential to your daily live in the pandemic? Comment below and be sure to follow us on social media for more fun.

21 Ways to Say Thanks to Teachers

The 2020-2021 school year is quickly coming to an end. Whether your kiddos are virtual, hybrid, or in-school, one thing is for sure. This is a year to say THANK YOU to teachers in a big way. Don’t let Teacher Appreciation Week slip by. This is a week celebrated in the United States from May 3-7, 2021. Here are 21 ways to say thanks to the teachers in your life during this week.


21 Ways to Say Thanks to Teachers

As a former teacher, I can tell you that even the little gestures for teachers go a big distance, and that comes from someone who never had to teach in a global pandemic. Because (kids) I’m always forgetting about this week, I decided to not only get ahead of this week but to share some ideas that I would have loved as a teacher so you aren’t falling in the last minute trap.

NOTE: Some teachers may not be accepting physical gifts because of the pandemic. Consider some of the virtual items listed and be ready to be flexible. Their safety = your child’s safety, too!

Personalized Gifts

If you’re reading this in mid-April, there is still time to get something personalized as a way to say thanks to teachers. Consider:

  1. A tote they can carry to the pool this summer and with papers in the fall. Personalize it with the teacher’s last name or a big initial to make it mean more!
  2. Etsy has some adorable skinny tumblers for your teacher’s favorite morning or evening drinks. This chalkboard looking one is super adorable and affordable.
  3. Speaking of Etsy, there are lots of options for door hangers with the teacher’s last name. I couldn’t pick a favorite, so here is a whole list of options!
  4. If you have a Cricut, check out what is on sale on their supply site or in your craft stash and make a shirt or sign for teacher right at home.
  5. Pass down some of the books your kids have moved up from and at the top of the stack put a personalized stamp for the teacher to use when adding to their classroom library.

Shop Local – Gift Double!

When you shop locally, you’re not only gifting your teacher but you are helping a local business keep growing. Here are five our our favorite local spots to shop for unique/Pittsburgh themed gifts that are sure to please. If you are not local to Pittsburgh, consider these shops (most of which do have shipping) or shops local to you.

6. Kittanning’s Appalachian Outpost is constantly stocked with 100% local groceries, wall hangings, and (mom’s favorite – ) wooden crafts.

7. Find something pretty and unique at Sarver’s Emma + Jane Shoppe. Can’t pick just one thing? Ask about gift cards so they can either order online or stop in to the shop themselves – everyone needs a visit to this adorable store at some point!

8. Armstrong teachers will soon be able to grab a cup of coffee or a scrumptious bakery treat while enjoying their (much deserved) summer break. Kittanning offers two amazing places to do this – Ispirare Coffee and Curly Tail Coffee. Not from K-Town? These alone are worth the trip to our part of the state!

9. Oakmont Candle Works is the place to get a handpoured candle in the Pittsburgh region. If you’re too tempted by Oakmont Bakery being basically right around the corner (totally a bonus reason to go here), consider shopping online. Some favorites from this house are “Frog Hollow”, “Pillow Talk”, and “Clean Cotton”.

10. Male and female teachers can benefit from some pampering at a salon. Rae of Color in Ford City offers gift cards for services that include a barber, hair cuts and colors, and nail services. This is our family’s go to place for cuts these days!

The Sentimental Gifts

These gifts would work for any student anywhere to give to their teachers. Full of heart, they will be sure to bring a smile (or even a tear) to their face. Of these ways to say thanks to teachers, these might just be our favorite.

11. Ask your child 5 questions about why they are thankful for their teacher and send them the answers via email each day of the week.

12. Have your child write or draw their favorite thing they learned this year.

13. Record a video of your child thanking their teacher and email it to them on National Teacher Day (May 4, 2021).

14. Here is a whole collection of printables as a way to say thanks to teachers – all things you can make or recreate at home!

15. Fill a paper Scandanavian Woven Heart Basket with some candies and goodies. Mom made these with Grammie one year for Valentine’s Day and they were a hit!

Other Ways to Say Thanks

16. Gift cards to places like the Apple Store, Amazon, or Target aren’t taking the easy route. You’re letting the teacher decide what they want.

17. This bracelet is a sweet sentiment – maybe pair it with a perennial flower.

18. Make a basket of items from Dollar Tree’s Crafter’s Square – supplies they can use to prep their classroom for next year, perhaps.

19. If you have photos from the classroom, consider making a photo collage or book using Shutterfly’s current specials. There is always something sweet to gift at a great price!

20. Gifting for multiple teachers? Put together some teacher survival kits with some of these ideas.

Keep it Simple

21. Just say thanks – in a card, an email, or a phone call. Letting your child’s teacher know you are grateful for them will mean the world.

Other Ways to Say Thanks

This list is definitely not every idea out there for saying thanks. Comment with your favorites that you have either given or received.

Consider sharing on social media with #ThankATeacher during the week and tag your child’s teacher(s). How will you say thanks in 2021?

5 Things You MUST Spring Clean in 2021

Out with the old, in with the new. Spring is here and it is time to rid our homes of the stale, stagnant funk that the winter of 2020 has left behind. I know it isn’t just our house – the past twelve months have left so many things feeling “ick”, right? Listen, you’re a busy parent juggling virtual school, working from home, keeping up online social connections. We get it! But there are 5 things you must spring clean to start this new season off sparkling. And even better, what we’re suggesting is a list of chores perfect for your ‘tweens and teens!

Spring Cleaning with Enzyme Cleaners

Before that list, it is important that we address the need to safely clean your home. In this house, we are fans of trying to be as non-reliant on chemicals as we can be, but let’s be honest – with 6 humans, 2 fur babies, and the occassional frogs, cave crickets, and snails inhabiting our rooms, sometimes we do need to clean with more than water and our elbow grease.

That’s why our family is spring cleaning with enzyme cleaners this year. These cleaners break down stains that come from proteins and bacteria – like human and pet bodies. We are not ashamed to say that we live in our home and that involves some funk, bloody noses, sweat, grass stains, and more.

5 Things We MUST Spring Clean

Hand me downs!

Not only do we need to wash the size 5/6 six bins of summer clothes we’ve saved for seven years to hand down to the twins, we need to organize them! Anyone else struggle with their kids keeping the rainbow-organization that you fell in love with while binge watching pandemic Netflix? Sigh.

The twins’ hand me down summer clothes will simply go in our HE washer with 1/2 a scoop of Biz powder. Even though the clothes have been in totes in our attic, the blend of enzymes will help to dissolve those odors and even stains.

Sports Gear

With three kids in soccer and one in softball, the grass stains are real. Before our seasons begin next week we will be putting together a solution of some Biz powder and water to scrub the mud and grass from the fall season (hey, it was a busy time for us) and get ready to sparkle on the field.

The Entry Carpets

Pittsburgh winters bring salt, water stains, and mud onto our entryway carpets. It took the days of abundant sunshine recently for us to realize just how stained these areas have gotten. We’ll be spraying the foot and paw prints with KidsNPets Stain & Odor remover!

Beach Towels

We are more than ready to plan a getaway to the beach. Our beach towels will need a good run through the washing machine to freshen up – they are stored in our kids’ bathroom and have been known to smell a little mildewey at the start of the season.

Bath Towels

It seems redundant, but with the spring weather, we are washing towels far more often…and with more sun we have more sweaty days. Adding Biz to every few loads of towels helps keep that fresh feeling in our active lives.

Our Tools of Nature

We need cleaners ready to tackle these messes, so we’re armed with two stain fighters (Biz and KidsNPets) that help speed up the stain fighting process. These products are natural and non-toxic (making them safe for our humans and pets). They are part of a family of household products that consumers know and trust. Both are part of how we’re tackling the things we must spring clean this year.

Our blog has partnered with them in order to bring you this information, but as always we are open to hear your best cleaning hacks. Make sure to comment below with one thing you will be spring clearning this season.

The Pittsburgh Potty (That Wasn’t)

This is the tale of the Pittsburgh Potty that wasn’t. It is a story I keep meaning to write because it is memorable, but I keep thinking no one would want to hear about our plumbing issues. But the thing is, we all have toilets and I’m sure stories about them, this being one of the more tame ones. So on we go, with the story of our Kittanning home and the potty that helped me get the bathroom of my dreams. 

What is a Pittsburgh Potty? 

Let’s just say any home repairs or remodels involving plumbing in Pittsburgh takes innovative solutions to handle our uniquely set up, historical homes! For those of you who are not ‘Burghers, it would be best to start out with telling you what a Pittsburgh Potty is and how they came about. 

Pittsburgh Potty

Many Pittsburgh area homes have basements…unfinished ones at that. In those basements, many homes have a toilet. Many times that toilet is standing all alone in an odd spot. In my grandparents’ home in Wilmerding, I remember that it was right in the middle of the floor, but at some point my Pap had put walls up and a shower curtain (I think, or at least that is what I want to remember). In our home in Tarentum, it sat on a pedestal of cement, a true gem of a throne where if you used it (we did not because it was disgusting), you were wide in the open to the hair salon station that also graced that basement (not a Pittsburgh thing). And nearby to our current home, my parents’ Ford City house had one along one of the basement walls – right out in the open, too. 

Oh, and often there was no sink nearby to wash your hands. If you were lucky, there might be a laundry tub (or hair washing sink), but more often than not, it was do your business and go about life…I guess. Ah, the days before hand sanitizer?!?! 

Plumbing in Pittsburgh, THERE?

Now that we know the what, why were they built? I can’t imagine that anyone would really want to do their business all out in the open like these toilets made possible. (Though funny enough, I recently stayed in a timeshare room where the toilet was wide open to the soaking tub, so there’s that.) 

There are several stories – and I’m sure your Pittsburgh area Realtors can share some really fun ones – but the most logical one I have heard about why they are found in the basement is that it was to avoid having to clean up backed up sewage lines on the main living floors. These are often homes that were built pre-World War II, so you can only imagine where plumbing techniques have changed since then. Oh, do we get this

Our Closet Potty

The home we live in was built in the 1940s and without a basement, but with a Pittsburgh-ish Potty. I’d imagine the “room” it was in was at one point a large, open utility room that eventually was closed off for a little bit of privacy and to hide the boiler and such. In the case of our experience, the toilet was in a closet. Not unlike the Pittsburgh tradition, there is no sink to be found. 

When we first moved in, this was the sole toilet on our downstairs level, so the kids were potty training in it, the grands would use it, and it was right next to what used to be my office. Needless to say, that toilet got traffic. 

In the summer of 2019, we found out that that toilet of ours never should have been. We literally flushed money down it in getting plumbers to help us solve the problem to find out that it was backed up with at least five years of “solid waste” that had started leaking into our laundry room. (Sorry to those of you who visited at this time and may have experienced the stench that was…at the same time our 20+ year old HVAC blew.) Awful. Just awful. 

The reason being, it was just a toilet sitting on a normal old drain pipe, which means that pipe expected things like toothbrush spit and laundry gray water to be flushed down it. Not our 10-year-old’s favorite emoji. You get it. 

Not our toilet and not a Pittsburgh Potty but one with some privacy.

The Happy Ending for our Pittsburgh Potty

Thankfully, plumbing in Pittsburgh has come a long way and we were able to cement up that nasty situation and get the bathroom of my dreams, but you’ll have to keep an eye out on my lifestyle blog to find out exactly how that ended up. 

In short, we do have a toilet on our main floor once again, but this time it is a grinder and not in a closet but in a spa-like third bathroom. Thank goodness that things have come a long way since then and our only struggle is how to get the new roll of toilet paper when it runs out. At least for now. 

My only regret? I think the closet toilet is the only “before” photo we’re missing from our recent home renovations!

Tell us something unique about your house – we love houses with character and hearing the stories behind them!