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Scattered Sundays

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Last weekend, our neighbor who is a general contractor came over to answer some tile questions for us. He mentioned that our other neighbor is a drywall ninja and we should have just used him because he barely charges people he knows. Argh!

On Monday, Troy asked him to come over to consult on one tricky part of our drywall mudding. He gave some good advice and we thanked him for sharing his expertise.

Then on Wednesday night, I was out locking up the chickens and saw him in his yard. I asked if he would be interested in taking the three full sheets of drywall we had. Free of charge of course. 

He said he didn’t need it but asked if we wanted him to come to texture the walls and ceiling for us. For free. Renovation angels do exist.

Um, yes, yes we would be interested, please and thank you. He came over on Thursday, but after doing a walk-through, it was determined that we weren’t actually at the point for texturing.

We were so appreciative of the advice, but I have to say, I had a 30-second bout of internal groaning. Troy had worked so hard on the sanding, and I had spent five hours cleaning and covering surfaces on Wednesday (for the texturing), and I finally felt like most of the dust was gone. 

a table and chairs stacked in a living room

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Since we raised the ceiling in the kitchen and took down a wall, the place on the ceiling where those two rooms now meet needed some extra work. He also said we’d never be able to match the texture that was on the dining room ceiling.

He recommended they quickly mud the ceiling and then Troy could sand it off the next day. Troy said that our neighbor did 90% of the work in the amount of time it took him to do 10%. It was a lot like when Bennett “helps” with home improvement projects.

Our neighbor also lent us his pro sander, and on Friday Troy sanded and primed the ceiling. Again. The neighbor came over yesterday to texture the space and easily saved us 8 eight hours and loads of swearing. He would NOT accept any money but I did make him some of my super soft whole wheat chocolate chip cookies.

All of my friends had no idea what I was talking about when I said texture. One even thought it meant we were putting popcorn back on the ceiling. HELL no! Almost all walls have a light texture on them, otherwise, it would just be primed and painted drywall. The type we used is called “orange peel”.

a white kitchen wall

We also made the decision to hire him to paint the kitchen. It makes life so much easier, it will be done well, and in 1/10th of the time it takes us. He’s coming later today to prime the walls and then will be back tomorrow to paint. He’s still insisting on doing it for free, but he has no idea how stubborn I can be. I will give him cash if it is the last thing I do.

Once the walls and ceiling are painted, we’re laying down the leveling surface for the floors. Dare I say that this week we might actually be putting in some of the cabinets? AND saying farewell to the plastic sheeting that has been up for seven weeks…hold your breath; this could actually happen.

We’re very lucky to have been given help from friends and family and to have access to my dad’s kitchen downstairs. I’m in awe that we have actually made this project happen and I know it is slow going, but we’re very fortunate. I don’t take the blessing for granted a single second of the day.

feet standing on a dusty floor

How I long to deep clean and pamper this whole house. All in good time.

Two weeks ago, Jack went to the orthodontist and they took a bunch of photos and 3D images. On Thursday, we went in to get “the plan” for fixing his poor crowded mouth. The plan is…a lot of work and is set for a 32-month schedule, starting in February.

He’s going be getting spacers for three weeks, and then an expander on top for 6-9 months, and something called a (long word I can’t remember) arch on the bottom. That’s all meant to create space in his mouth so that braces can go on and actually do their job in late 2021 or early 2022.

He’s a bit leery but asked a lot of good questions and the staff member who helped us was really good with him. His analytical brain needs data for peace of mind.

We also found out that the way our ortho’s office does braces is pure voodoo! When my sister had them, she had her mouth open for over two hours while they put them on.

Now, a few weeks before the “install”, they take a mold of your mouth. And then they assemble most of the hardware in this mold and then pop it into your mouth and do some quick work to get things settled. Then they pull the mold back, and voila, braces. It takes like 20 minutes now! Witchcraft.

a white dish with almond roca

 

I made my annual batch of my Nana’s almond roca yesterday. If you don’t live in the western United States, you might know almond roca as “toffee crunch”, “English toffee” or “buttercrunch”. West coast people call it almond roca due to a Washington-based company that started selling it by that name in the 1920s.

My Nana used to ship it to us from her winter place in Palm Springs. We would all stalk the front porch around Christmas, just waiting on that box. We’d eat a bunch and then slowly start hoarding it around the house. When my Nana passed away, the recipe went with her.

My aunt eventually found the really old recipe card (you can find a photo of it here), and like all “dump” cooks in my family, it was more of a “guide” than a recipe. She spent YEARS trying to decipher the instructions until she finally perfected it, just like Nana’s. 

The recipe itself is easy but finicky. If that makes any sense. You must use a candy thermometer, and it requires a butt-ton of stirring. Toffee will not be ignored and requires you to be present when making it. Long-time reader Amy makes it for her mother-in-law and the first year she made it, she “yelled” at me for how sore her arm was. Almond Roca is like a delicious edible crossfit.

It’s super easy to store and ships well, so it really is a good make-ahead holiday gift. Or, you could just make some and hide it around the house. No judgement.

a boy with a saw and a tree branch

Yep, this seems safe

I woke up on Thursday morning in a cold sweat, realizing I had forgotten to make and order the boy’s annual photo book. This started with Bennett’s first Christmas when “we” gave Jack a Shutterfly book of the two of them. He spent hours looking at this book and loved it so much we decided to make it an annual thing. The collective “we”, just like the “we” that sanded the drywall this week.

When Bennett turned three, he wanted his own book, so I started ordering two and HE loved them as well. And here I was, two weeks before Christmas, realizing that I hadn’t even made it, let alone ordered them.

Thankfully I was able to throw one together in a few hours (I used to write poems and cute captions but eff that noise, I stopped that after two years) and get it ordered. Even with economy shipping, it *should* be here by Christmas Eve. Phew!

The new chickens are proving to be annoying AF! Two of them keep getting into our yard and tearing up the grass by the coop. The other two are getting into the neighbor’s yard, despite the fact that I have blocked off every single access point I can find. Thankfully they just hang out on a brush pile and aren’t harming any plants.

At least two of them are laying pullet eggs, which I call “training bra eggs”. They’re small little practice eggs. The two who are getting into the neighbor’s yard might be laying, but I’m convinced they are laying over in their yard and that is pissing me off! Stop giving away my breakfast, you feathered skanks.

If you’re looking for a 2021 calendar, my recommendation is the same one I have made for the last six years. This Mom’s Planner calendar is our favorite, even though I wish it wasn’t called a “mom” calendar. It’s not flashy but it’s so practical and I buy one every year. This year, my cousin sent me one as a gift because I bought one for her last year and she loved it.

It’s always cute, has tons of room, and each member of the family gets their own line on the calendar. The boys know to check their own line to see what’s up for the day. I mean, Bennett can’t read what is on his line, but he can tell if something is happening with his schedule that day. 

2 bowls of food

These bowls are 3x the size of normal bowls

For years, readers have asked me about meal plan delivery services. And I always told them I would never use them because the packaging was excessive. And then I realized I didn’t actually know if that was true. With using a loaner kitchen and being super busy with the fourth quarter of the year, I decided now was the time to actually find out for myself.

On Black Friday, I signed up for Sun Basket, using my own money. I didn’t get a media/blogging discount or anything. I will be also be trying out others, all using my own money. My rule for blogging has always been if I won’t spend MY money on it, why would I tell you it’s ok to spend yours.

So, here is my 100% honest review of Sun Basket: Signing up was a giant PITA, but I think that was due to my unique mailing issues. It’s something we run into with multiple companies. We live in a small town where you must have a PO Box. UPS and FedEx will not deliver to a PO Box and USPS will not deliver to our homes. It’s a giant cluster and we deal with this weekly.

I had to sign up with my sister’s address and then go back and forth with the customer service agent (who was very helpful) until they could change the address on my account to my actual address. During this, things got mixed up and somehow I ended up getting my order a week before I thought it was coming. This messed up my meal plan but first world problems, right?

Cost Pros/Cons

  • Cons: It was expensive compared to how I normally cook! I paid $62 for 8 servings (2 meals for 4 people at $7.75 per serving). It would have been $1 cheaper per serving if I had ordered a third meal. Also, I didn’t realize how quickly I would have to cancel my subscription, and thus I am paying for two more meals for this coming week. They look good, but I really just wanted to try the service for one week and be done with it.
  • Pros: If you order a lot of takeout or rely on convenience meals from the grocery store, the cost would be comparable or actually slightly cheaper.

Quality Pros/Cons

  • Cons: some of the produce had wilted a tiny bit by the time I made the meal. But chances are that is because I had to wait a few days to make it because I wasn’t expecting the delivery. Also, one of the zucchini in our meals was really small. If I had been relying on that to be the only base of my “zucchini ribbons”, I would have been bummed.
  • Pros: everything was organic and the protein was free-range and grass-fed.

Packaging Pros/Cons

  • Cons: the packaging was more than I would have created with my normal shopping (reusable mesh produce bags, buying things in bulk), the box it came in was large but recyclable, and I had to toss the single-use ice pack thingy. If you put produce in plastic bags and buy small packages of things, this packaging would actually be less. Also, I wish they had large serving sizes instead of multiple small servings. So, I ordered 4 servings of each meal and my ingredients came 2x for each recipe. So that meant two small jars of sauce, 2 small jars of a veggie brine, 2 plastic bags of shredded carrots, etc. I wish they could just scale up the ingredients to account for people cooking for more than two people. 
  • Pros: they were very thoughtful about what needed to be in its own package and what could be in “loose” in the paper bag. The only thing I couldn’t recycle or repurpose was the packaging the protein came in, and that would be similar to my normal cooking habits. But who knows if other recipes have more packaging. The little plastic containers were recyclable if you didn’t want to reuse them. I found out they are NOT dishwasher safe. I tried to clean them to repurpose them for homemade lip balm and hard lotion bars and they got warped in the dishwasher, even with the air-dry option on. 

food on a white board

The Actual Recipe Pros/Cons

  • Cons: each recipe was promised to take no more than 25 minutes, but I think it would be a little longer if you weren’t someone who cooks a lot. I wish they had included meal prep tips to make it more accessible to someone who desperately wants to throw a homemade meal together in a flash. For one of the recipes, you were instructed to make a quick pickle of some veggies. It really was easy (I only had to slice radishes), but a tip in the recipe card that “it can be made up to two days ahead” would give non-cooks more options.
  • Pros: Sun Basket had tons of menu styles (veggie, paleo, kid-friendly, traditional, etc,.) and I think I picked paleo. We had a Vietnamese-style zucchini noodle dish and a chicken tortilla soup. Both were DELICIOUS and really easy to make. You can choose your protein for each dish, including vegetarian (they have a plant-based chicken or tofu), and I think it is easy to adapt to your family’s tastes. They really were ready in the time they said they would be (I even had to stop in the middle of making one dish to help Bennett find a stuffed sloth he had put into a canning jar and left somewhere in the house…) with limited dishes dirtied. You get a printed recipe card with step by step instructions and I think trying new things and flavors will help motivate me to cook these dishes in the future with ingredients I buy.

Final Verdict

  • My biggest concern about it was the packaging and I was pleasantly surprised by how little waste there actually was.
  • I think the cost is prohibitive for many families, especially if you need to scale up more than 4 servings. What I paid for one meal is what I would normally spend on 2-3 dinners using high-quality ingredients I purchase in bulk (and yes, I realize not everyone has the ability to buy in bulk).
  • If you rely on takeout a lot and want to cook at home/try new things/expand your palette, doing Sun Basket a few meals a month might be a good change of pace. I do not see this being a constant part of our meals, but then again, my job is creating new recipes for busy families. I’m always making new things because it is my passion.
  • If you don’t like cooking or don’t want to waste mental energy on meal planning, it’s a great option. It can help get you out of a rut, but you are paying a convenience fee for that.
  • I do have a discount code if you want to try it out for yourself. You can get $40 off your first order by signing up here.

We headed out to get our Christmas tree on Monday. It is a huge tree farm and masks were required. I giggled a bit since there were only two other families there and it’s outdoors on like 40 acres, but we, of course, wore our masks. It’s not about us, and if the owners wanted it or were required to mandate it, then no skin off my nuts.

Jack once again humored me and let me take the “before and after” photo. I wish I had taken them each year, but it’s never too late. I think in 2023 the photo will be him holding me. Look how much bigger his feet got in 12 months!

a mom and son in 3 different photos

The boys decorated the tree while Troy and I spent more time cleaning up the kitchen mess. Until of course, it was time for the annual “have B put the star on the tree”.

a dad and son putting a star on a christmas tree

Housekeeping

 

Butcher Box is back with their Free Bacon For Life promotion! And not only are they offering free bacon for the life of your membership, but new subscribers can get an additional $10 off their first box.

Butcher Box also partners with Rakuten and is offering an additional $4 cashback. If you’re new to Rakuten, you’ll get an additional $20 cashback. Get your Free Bacon For Life here.

What I’m Listening To This Week

I might be the worst true crime fan ever, because I just found out that Forensic Files has a podcast! They’re fast and informative episodes and have the soothing voice of late host Peter Thomas.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Long-time reader, Laurel left this five-star review on our Copycat Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup {Pin this recipe}:

This soup is quick (even on the stovetop), hearty and fricking delicious. I am not a natural with soups, my mum holds the soup queen title, she enjoyed this and went back for seconds. My belly is full and happy and there are plenty of leftovers ❤️

a bowl of chicken gnocchi soup on a grey plate with a white napkin

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Air Fryer MeatballsThese juicy Air Fryer Meatballs are so easy to make and are packed with tons of flavor. Baked, not fried, they are perfect for fast dinners and cook in only 10 minutes! No air fryer? You’ll also find oven-baking methods in the post. {Pin this recipe}

a plate with spaghetti topped with air fryer meatballs

Eggnog Bread PuddingImagine waking up to the amazing scent of this delicious Eggnog Bread Pudding baking in your oven. Spoil your family (and yourself!) with this special make-ahead breakfast. {Pin this recipe}

maple syrup being poured over a plate of bread pudding

PS, that’s Jack’s hand!

Lotion Bar Recipe – This three-ingredient Lotion Bar Recipe makes incredible and moisturizing DIY lotion bars. They are so easy to make and can be prepared in only 10 minutes! {Pin this recipe}

a lotion bar in the shape of honeycomb on a grey cloth with wax and other lotion bars on a white board

Addicting S’mores BarkAddicting S’mores Bark is an easy recipe with melty chocolate, soft marshmallows, and crispy graham crackers. This simple dessert bark makes a perfect handmade gift for the holidays. {Pin this recipe}

a plate of chocolate smores bark with mini marshmallows

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

  1. Air Fryer Potatoes – crispy and packed with so much flavor. {Pin this recipe}
  2. Air Fryer Pizza Rolls – so easy to make and freezer-friendly and you can personalize them to your taste.  {Pin this recipe}
  3. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – super easy and freezer-friendly.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. Air Fryer Fried Pickles – Making me wish I canned pickle chips this summer.  {Pin this recipe}
  5. Whole30 Pot Roast – this post did well on the interwebs this week, primarily Facebook groups. {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Monday:: Creamy White Bean Soup + homemade garlic bread. I need a veggie-forward dinner for lunch leftovers, and I need a way to use up some heavy cream we have.

Tuesday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Wednesday:: A Sun Basket meal because I forgot to cancel in time. Alas. I want to use it the day it comes to make sure everything is fresh.

Thursday:: The second Sun Basket meal.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: Parmesan Crusted Steak and Potatoes Sheet Pan Dinner from Lemons and Zest. I have everything on hand (I’m going to use frozen asparagus) and we have some nice steaks from our Butcher Box order.

Sunday:: Another soup recipe I am testing out for the blog.

 

What are you having this week?

 

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One comment on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. Yay! Love that you have such an amazing community! Maybe instead of “forcing” cash on your neighbor, you can find an organization he supports and make a donation in his name?

    Good job Jack for asking questions! The spacer can be super uncomfortable right after you adjust it. If he does pain meds, maybe try giving him a little before you adjust it. Have you figure out what he will eat on popcorn night? The list of foods Emma couldn’t eat made her already limited diet more difficult.

    I made the pork roast last night, but I’m not sure I did it right as the meat came out a little tough. The hubby and kiddo didn’t seem to mind seeing as it was in tacos and they love tacos! We have party wings and beef stew meat in the fridge, so those are on the menu this week. We do freezer meal Friday’s (makes me less likely to cave and buy them during the week). And we will probably finish up the pork with BBQ sauce and rice.