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!

REVIEW | Monster Jam Pittsburgh 2020

This post is a review of Monster Jam which our family attended the Pittsburgh opening night of. Thank you to Feld Entertainment for the tickets in exchange for this post.

Our night at Monster Jam Triple Threat (which is in Pittsburgh until Sunday, February 9) was full of HIGH OCTANE FUN. With six competitions full of surprises, our whole family found something to cheer about. 

This year’s tour is titled “Triple Threat” because it includes stunts by the drivers with monster trucks, ATVs, and speedsters. Our favorites are the monster trucks, but the ATVs and speedsters break up the competition (and give our lungs a break from the heavy dust). Compeitions on the monster trucks included a race, 2-wheel stunts, donuts, and freestyle.

What surprised us? 

Even though Megalodon lost the nose of his truck during the 2-wheel competition, he won 4 of the 6 competitions and was able to complete all six…then win the entire event. We are pretty sure his backflip (a first in the Pittsburgh arena!) is what won it.

El Toro Loco came from behind in his first round of speedster racing and cut off Pirates Curse for a spot in the semifinals (but went on to lose in the semifinals to Megalodon). 

The four tires on a monster truck weigh about 645 pounds combined!

Our row made it on the jumbotron between the 5th and 6th competitions.

Some of the judges zone scores were lower than we expected. Judges Zone is an online voting for the fans to score 1 to 10 how we felt the trucks performed.

 A Family Tradition

Monster Jam has become a family tradition for us. We look forward to our night at the indoor dirt track! What is a family tradition that your family looks forward to each year?

If you’re interested in going, there is one show left on Sunday 2/9, 2020. Read our first post to get all the details + tickets!

Megalodon, the winner!

Make a Difference

Support the St. Jude mission: Finding cures. Saving children.®  Text MJAT3 to 78533 to donate to Monster Jam’s support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospial and make a difference in the lives of kids with cancer. Love the “This Shirt Saves Lives” shirt that the drivers wear under their gear? Texting and donating is the way to get it! 

Missed the Pittsburgh event? 

The Tampa event will be airing on NBC-SN on February 11, 2020 and there are more nationwide events including the May 2-3 championship. 

A Look Back at 2019 – Your Favorites

This post contains affiliate links. That means that when you shop through links we suggest, we receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. To be 100% transparent, 2019 was a tough year for our family. I (Mom) blogged about it over on my newish personal space and we’re moving forward with strength in 2020! That tough year even presented itself here on the blog – it was our quietest year (in number of posts, visits, comments, and shares) ever and we’ve been around since 2012 at this site address and 2010 at our old “.org” site. Wowza. But nonetheless, you continued to visit – especially in December – and keep things happening for us here at ‘lil Burghers. THANK YOU!

Taking a Look Back at 2019 Top Posts

While we try to focus on highlighting our favorite Pittsburgh-area activities, you readers are still coming here for the holiday ideas, the family memories, and more. This helps us understand what to “stop, start, and continue” for 2020 but is also really fun to look into. Let’s start with a run-down of the top five visited posts in 2019:

Elf Pets: A New Tradition – this post first showed up in the blog during that era of time before the Twins were born! It continues to be a top post year after year, and Lily and Olaf continue to bring joy to our family’s Christmas traditions. Have you adopted an Elf Pet along with (or even instead of) your Elf tradition?

A Winter Break: Castaway Bay – Our family took two trips to Sandusky, Ohio in 2019 and absolutely fell in love. The first one, which we blogged about here, was a mid-winter trip to Castaway Bay, an indoor waterpark where it is always 82-degrees. As I’m writing this wrap-up, it’s a rainy day in Pittsburgh and all I can think about is how great of a weekend it would be there instead.

Whole30 MistakesAnother slightly older post but it is still helpful as I’m sure plenty of you will be headed down a path of making healthy changes in 2020. While I don’t follow the Whole30 Lifestyle, it is really good for resetting your body and finding out what works and doesn’t work for you. But goodness do I miss the potatoes I ate on that plan!

Essential Eyebrow Solution – Do yinz like my eyes or something? Blushes, but realizes that another older post has yet again taken the top of the year! The theme here is helpful information brings reads, I guess. This is a product I used in 2017 and haven’t used since I ran out of it, but eyebrow hair isn’t a mystery to me anymore – have you read my post “Torn Down”?

The Struggle: Finding Therapists – As I said when I started this post – 2019 was a true rough one for us. It involved Greg (Dad) and me finding a therapist to help rebuild our marriage and it was not as easy as we thought it was going to be. Thank you for listening to that part of our story!

2019 Top Products

As you know, this site is an affiliate of Amazon and often suggests products you might love. Have a look at the products you bought most of in 2019 (click on the images to check them out and/or purchase).

Purple Paper – we love having some colored paper around for craft projects and this paper is a great bright one!

Spray Bottle – Ava’s can’t live without hair product requires that she start her day with damp hair. This spray bottle is so helpful with that task!

Waterproof Phone Pouch – these were a must for our trip to Hawaii and allowed us to capture some pretty great photos underwater.

Cereal Dispensers – Isla just loves staying at hotels and having cereal come out of these dispensers would probably be simply dreamy for her. How fun!

Bocce Ball Set – Camping continues to be a family tradition that we love to do and write about. Having games like Bocce Ball make the time even more memorable.

2019 Top Nine on Instagram

To finish out our journey looking back at 2019, check out our Top Nine Photos from Instagram and make sure you’re following us there, too!

Did you have a favorite 2019 moment that you’d love to share? Comment below!

Get MOVING with Kids Of Steel (March 2)

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Are your kiddos ready to run in the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon’s Chick-fil-A Kids’ Marathon? The ‘lil Burghers are excited to start hitting the trail to get their “official” training going, but first we’ll be checking out this event on March 2:

Join the Kids of Steel team from 9 AM to 12 PM on Saturday, March 2 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to kick off training season and get race day ready! There will be a selfie station, nutrition lessons from Let’s Move Pittsburgh, runs on the indoor track and several family-friendly training activities led by local fitness experts.

Source: P3R Events

Check out the full schedule of events and then RSVP here today!

PSST! If you still need to sign up for the Marathon or Half, make sure you do and let them know I sent you by using WILLISDSGPM19 as your code when you sign up. You’ll save $10 when you do! Register here.

Monster Jam Pittsburgh Wrap-Up

My eyes are burning from the dust and I might not have a voice tomorrow, but getting the opportunity to take all four kids to Monster Jam tonight was INCREDIBLE. We are thankful for our partnership with Feld that makes this possible and as always bring you our honest opinions.

Monster Jam Pittsburgh Wrap-Up

Triple Threat is in town for the weekend, bringing thrills in the form of Monster Trucks,  ATVs, and speedsters. With races, freestyle and donut competitions, the drivers behind Monster Jam rock the arena for two and a half hours!

The Bigs and Twins had an enjoyable time cheering on their favorites including a Pittsburgh local (Special Operations Black Ops), Monster Jam women Scoopy Doo and El Toro Loco, Zombie (Ava’s CLEAR favorite), and the legendary Grave Digger.

We covered most of our moments over on Instagram, but saved a few for you here. Read our original post to see how you can get tickets for the remaining Pittsburgh shows tomorrow and Sunday.

Another December

It’s hard to believe that another December has come around. They warned me when I became a mom that time would fly, but I had no idea it would happen so fast.

This month, I’m trying to make it not just another December, but one full of giving and mindfulness and love. I pray to remain centered on what matters the most, not just in this season but all year-round.

Because the thing is, soon I’ll be a mom waiting for my kids to come home for Christmas break, then a grandma waiting to travel to see my grands open their gifts. At least that’s my prayer. But I realize as another December rolls around that life is so precious and that God’s plan could change all this in a moment.

So as we enter another December, I ask you to stop and take some time to think about the ways you’re spending your days and moments. Can the laundry wait? (The answer’s yes, even though I know from experience folding three weeks of six people’s clothing is not fun.) Do the cupboards need scrubbed? (Nope, and I wasn’t planning on looking, friend, and I still won’t!) Do the books need read? (Yes, by the light of the tree or a fireplace.) Do the hugs need to last so long? (Yes. Always.)

May your December be off to a great and beautiful start. xoxo

(Taking a moment to just breathe and enjoy our city!)