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Scattered Sundays

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we know nothing. But also, our ability to roll with the punches has grown this year. We’ve had to change plans (and by change, I mean cancel), become nimble, and embrace the weirdness.

If you had “I would be eating takeout in a Target parking lot on a cold December Sunday night for a family fun night” on your “WTF 2020 bingo card”, then congrats, you’re a psychic.

My sister recently told me about a restaurant a few (very conservative) towns over that has been very vocal about social justice issues. And we wanted to support them. It is an hour round-trip to get to this place, but I mean, what the hell else do we have to do with our time these days?

We decided to make it a family adventure night. We got takeout from the place (it was fantastic!) and went to the Target parking lot for a safe and well-lit place to eat it.

While we were in the parking lot, I saw an email from Jack’s school that the Giving Tree deadline for gifts was the next day. Embarrassingly, I hadn’t seen previous announcements about it, but it’s never too late. Especially when you’re in a Target parking lot. 🙂

I was able to view the digital list of kids on the Giving Tree and was overjoyed to see that almost every kiddo had their gifts purchased. We found a four-year-old who wanted snow boots, and went in and picked out the coolest pair of snow boots in the history of snow boots. Do they come in size 10 women’s? Asking for a friend…

dinosaur snow boots

We used the shopping trip as an additional opportunity to discuss privilege with the boys. Here was a kiddo who needed boots for Christmas, whereas my boys only ask for toys and fun things. We discussed needs vs wants and all of us agreed we were so excited for that little boy to open those boots on Christmas morning.

I’m not sure how much these talks move the needle with my kids, but I look at it like erosion. The Grand Canyon wasn’t built in a day, and my kids won’t always understand big concepts right away. But I want my nagging voice in their head during these moments as they grow up.

Nothing makes me happier than when I hear one of them yell “no means no and stop means stop the first time every time” when they are fighting. They may not realize how important those words are now while they’re trying to fart on each other or are smacking each other in the balls for “fun” (I will never understand boys), but at some point, it will very much matter.

After we ate our burgers and bought giving tree gifts, we drove around and looked at pockets of Christmas lights that some locals “in the know” (thanks Martha and Amy!) had told us about. I’m not sure if it is because people are bored, or if more people are deliberately putting up more lights this year to give others something to do, but we’ve noticed A LOT more houses are decorated this year. And we’re totally here for it, and appreciate those homeowners very much for running up their electric bill for our enjoyment.

My boys are loving the lights this year and it keeps them from constantly hounding Troy to decorate our house. With the kitchen work, Troy and I are pretty maxed out on doing anything “extra” this year. So, I *may* have told the boys we couldn’t do lights outside this year because there is no power to the deck because of the kitchen remodel. Thankfully, neither of them has noticed that we have the fridge plugged in on the deck…

The kindness of our house-painting neighbor has been overwhelming. Last week I told you he had offered to texture, prime, and paint our kitchen/dining room for free. He did it over three days and spent 25 minutes each day working on it. Each coat would have taken us HOURS!

I used that freed up time to make Almond Roca and Old-Fashioned Fudge. I was able to mail out some packages of those to loved ones around the country. The kindness of our neighbor allowed me to pay that joy forward and let people know we were thinking about them…in the form of sugar.

a room under construction

The paint is Benjamin Moore “white opulence” which oddly enough is also the shade of makeup I wear.

Our neighbor wrapped up the painting on Monday, and I had planned to take down the plastic on Tuesday and do some deep-cleaning. When I realized that afternoon that everything was dry, I gleefully started ripping down plastic and attacked the dust, drop cloths, and mess with a vengeance. 

Troy and I cleaned for hours. I haven’t been this excited since I packed up the kitchen eight weeks ago to start the demo process. The drywall dust and clutter had been with us for over a month, and it felt amazing to deep clean the ish out of the house. I wasn’t able to take a walk outside that day, and yet I still clocked in 18,000 steps and a 97-minute workout.

a room under construction

So much more room to do activities! I will never get tired of seeing how open this space is now! Also, you can see the fridge through the window on the deck behind the dining room table. Klassy.

The next morning I went into the kitchen (to get something from the deck fridge), and I cannot tell you the joy of walking into that space without having to pass through three layers of plastic sheeting. I would love to bottle that happiness and give it away for free to all of you.

We had two glorious days of a clean house before Troy and my father-in-law started on the floor. We had to install hardibacker over the surprise asbestos-filled linoleum that we found under the old flooring. It was either go over it or spend $3,700 to have it safely removed. No brainer decision!

The flooring took 1.5 days because as always, no new skill is easy or fast. 🙂 We only got away with laying down five full sheets of hardibacker before we had to start making cuts and adjustments around thresholds and tight corners. I had to run to the hardware store on day two to get just one more board so they could finish. So close!

We had swept, shop vac’ed, and mopped the floor before starting, but the hardibacker still kicked up some dust that crept into the living room and hallway. We anticipated this, and thankfully, the clean up took 10 minutes as opposed to hours. With the hardibacker down, all the remaining dust is now locked into place. Phew!

Since Troy and my father-in-law did 95% of the work with the floor, I offered to secure each board. Each 3×5 sheet of hardibacker has 55 circles (I counted!) on it that indicate where you need to sink a screw (TWSS). We had put 21 sheets down. It wasn’t my favorite task of all time, but it’s all getting us towards the goal of finishing this project. Side note: whatever professional flooring installers charge, it should be double.

When Troy was buying the hardibacker at the hardware store, he had two different people give him really helpful flooring advice that saved us a lot of work, AND offer to help him load up his truck.

I think 2020 has had moments where it has been really hard to believe in the goodness of people. Between the people at the hardware store and our neighbor helping us out (and of course my FIL and BIL), Troy said that this project has redeemed his faith in humanity.

And I haven’t even started telling you about a blog reader who used to work for IKEA kitchens who has been invaluable in giving me advice during this process.

a man putting a piece of hardibacker on a floor

Bye-bye 2 layers of hideous old flooring. The next owner can deal with you!

On Tuesday I tackled painting the inside of our front door. The same front door I covered with three coats of primer back in spring. It’s a really old wooden door that had been stained with a VERY dark color but never painted. Like everything in this house, it was very much stuck in the late ’70s. It has deep grooves in it (some as deep as 1/4 in) that used to attract dust and fluff, causing me to have to vacuum it monthly. Yes, I had to vacuum our door.

a large brown front door

It was like if the Death Star was a door.

The first coat of paint went on and that dang door acted as it had never been primed. It was just sucking up the paint. Rude! I had hoped for just one coat, but I was forced to do two.

I very much resented the extra coat, but it does look so much better, even if the whole thing took over four hours (each rectangle on the door with all its nooks and crannies took 5 minutes for that first coat paint). I did tell Troy we would move before I ever painted that thing again.

My friend Mary, said the wooden grooves in the door really bother her and she needs me to just replace the whole thing for her. I have yet to see the $3,000 for a new door deposited into my paypal from her, so we’ll just have to make do with this one. 🙂 

a large white front door

You can see the deep wood grooves that bother my friend, especially near the door handle. 

My father-in-law and brother-in-law are coming over today and we’re starting the process of installing cabinets. We only have three small upper cabinets and are tackling those first. IKEA has you install cabinets on a “rail” system, which is a new process for all of us. Wish us luck.

If we get those three hung with limited issues (hee hee, never), we’ll probably also work on some of the lower cabinets. “We” built many of the cabinets back in October and have been storing them in my inlaw’s basement.

We went and got the frames and some extra pieces this week and now they’re adding to the overall look of “hoarding clutter meets Sarah’s nightmares” that we have been living with since November. Look for our feature in the upcoming “how not to decorate” issue of Architectural Digest.

We’re still weeks, if not months away from finishing this project, but somehow, hanging cabinets feels like a really big milestone. I’ll undoubtedly be posting photos of the install process today over on Instagram stories, so hop on over there if you don’t want to wait until next Sunday for photos. 

a little kid sleeping with a santa hat on

Jack’s school had a really cool drive-thru holiday event on Thursday. They decorated a bunch of trunks with holiday themes and passed out candy through car windows. Santa even pelted my front seat with peppermint patties. Ha!

Making do and changing expectations are par for the course in 2020. I’m constantly in awe of the teachers and staff who make these events happen. The kids are so hungry for a sense of normalcy and these things are so appreciated. 

It was weird giving teacher gifts this year. I don’t remember giving teacher gifts for my teachers after elementary school, but if ever there is a time to give extra thanks to educators, it is 2020. For Bennett’s preschool teachers, I got gift cards to a local drive-through coffee stand. It was a way to say thanks and support a local business. Win-win!

But because our school district never started in-person learning this year, Jack’s teachers are all remote. I had to do Starbucks gift cards via email. Starbucks does not need our money, but I couldn’t exactly mail gift cards from the local place.

Speaking of saying thanks, this is your gentle reminder to tip your mail carrier, delivery people, and garbage/recycling people if it is in your budget. We also tip our milkman because we’re quaint AF and have a milkman.

I always forget about this group of workers until the last minute. I usually give cash and homemade goodies, but I don’t think anyone really wants homemade goodies from strangers this year. Fingers crossed for an epic handmade gift opportunity for the 2021 holiday season.

Both boys are “out” of school for two weeks. In previous years, this was a 14 day period where I wanted to choke them on the daily. I will still probably have that reaction, but after 10 months of being quarantined, two weeks seems super doable this time around.

I do not have time to make more fabric gift bags this year. But guess who is making more fabric gift bags? Me. I’m not sure if our gifting habits changed this year, or if some bags accidentally walked away last Christmas, but I seem to be done a few. What is it they say about the cobbler having no shoes?

I’ve had Christmas fabric cut and pressed, just waiting to be sewn since um, last Christmas. So at least the prep work is done for me.


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What I’m Listening To This Week

One of my favorite podcasts, How I Built This, interviews the founders of giant companies. I was so excited to see the episode this week was actually interviewing one of my former coworkers, Brandon Beck.

Brandon and I worked together at a firm in Lost Angeles for a few years until he went off and co-created one of the largest video games in the world – League of Legends. I mean, he created a multi-billion dollar franchise, and I make food puns for a living. We all define success differently…right? ????

What I’m Reading This Week

I am still working my way through The Lost Family. It’s very slow going for me, just like all non-fiction books have been for lately. Plus, working on the kitchen during the day means I am working on my actual job later into the night and not reading. Normal reading schedules will resume at some point!

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Mary Clare left this five-star review on our Addicting S’mores Bark {Pin this recipe}:

I love all things s’more. So when I saw this recipe, I was all in. I splurged on the GOOD chocolate and you can tell the difference. Though, if I wasn’t eating it myself I’d likely use regular Hershey bars and it would still be amaze-balls. I’m a lazy baker. So if prep time is going to take longer than 20 minutes, I’m O.U.T. The prep took about 4 minutes.  I will be making a second batch this weekend to give to neighborhood friends since they are jealous of my pics (and my awesomensss, let’s face it). Thank you for a delish recipe. Now onto eating….

a plate of chocolate smores bark with mini marshmallows

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Instant Pot Egg Bites – Learn how easy it is to make this delicious copycat Starbucks Instant Pot Egg Bites recipe. No Instant Pot? This recipe also teaches you how to make these Whole30 and paleo egg bites in the oven. {Pin this recipe}

whole30 egg bites on a plate with chimichurri

Whole30 Vegetable Recipes – You’ll love to make these easy, healthy, and compliant Whole30 Vegetable Recipes week after week. Each recipe is gluten, dairy, and grain-free. These delicious and quick dishes can be made in the oven, Instant Pot, air fryer, crockpot, or stovetop. {Pin this recipe}

9 photos of whole30 vegetable recipes

Instant Pot Ravioli – This delicious Instant Pot Ravioli is a simple weeknight dinner that the whole family will love. Packed with flavor and ready in a flash, you’ll find yourself making this pressure cooker pasta every week!{Pin this recipe}

a white bowl of pasta with red sauce

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

  1. Air Fryer Potatoes – crispy and packed with so much flavor. {Pin this recipe}
  2. Apple Pie Eggrolls – (humble brag alert), this recipe was featured in a Buzzfeed round-up along with those air fryer potatoes, and yeah, this was a busy post this week!  {Pin this recipe}
  3. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – super easy and freezer-friendly.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. Old-Fashioned Fudge – ’tis the season for this delicious and EASY recipe. My friend Anne shared this recipe with me and SHE got it from her aunt. {Pin this recipe}
  5. Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Rice – the coziest and tastiest easy rice dish ever. Every single time I make it, Troy gets so excited like it is a brand new recipe.  {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Our meal plan got screwed up last week. Jack had a drive-through holiday event at school and we ended up working on the kitchen up right up to dinner one night. So you’ll see a few repeats that were meant to be enjoyed last week.

Monday:: Air Fryer Taquitos, Instant Pot Garlic Rice, and salad.

Tuesday:: 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.

Wednesday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Thursday:: Early popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Friday:: Christmas and TBD what that looks like.

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:: Outdoor Christmas with my sister’s family. My BIL is installing a new ceiling-mounted outdoor heater on their covered patio. We’re getting takeout from a local small business, eating outside, and watching the boys open gifts.


What are you having this week?


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10 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. Having a bit of PTSD with the drywall dust….two remodels that were 20 years apart, I still shudder!

    LOVE the open room…and the door, WOW! Mad props, girlie!

    Merry Christmas from the Midwest 🙂

    • Oh my, that is a long time to be holding on to that dust stress! 🙂 But yes, there is so much dust that I’m sure you’re still finding some sneaking out of places.

      Belated Merry Christmas, and a happy new year!

  2. I think more people are decorating this year. We have some streets near us that are doing advent windows so a different house decorates their window every night. It gives us an excuse to go for a walk and see the latest windows which is nice.

  3. The kitchen is looking amazing!!!

    Emma’s birthday is tomorrow, so we are having all of her favorite foods (which are all crap meals- bagels for breakfast, hot dogs and fries for lunch, and gf/df mac and cheese for dinner) and we will be binging Marvel movies (we got her phase 3 part 1). The rest of the week we will have roasted chicken with veggies, fish and rice, and that’s as far as I planned.

    While I personally do not like Starbucks coffee, as a company they are a large supporter of military and military spouses, so I don’t mind buying something there occasionally.

    Those winter boots are super cute!

    • I didn’t really know this, glad you shared! My husband was in the Navy when we dated and were married and my parents are both retired Navy chiefs so I get weepy with gratitude for our troops REAL quick. I mostly drink coffee brewed at home or at my work’s kitchen but I do like espresso and have no access to an espresso machine so a couple times a month I pay way too much for a giant cup of delicious, sweet caffeine. I always feel the need to justify it so this helps, haha.

      • I will say this, they also offer really good benefits to even part-time employees. The founder’s mom had to get a job when he was young to prevent the family from falling into poverty, so he is very protective of working people. My cousin worked there for years and I believe full-time benefits start at 24 hours a week.

    • Happy belated birthday to Emma! I’m so late in responding to comments, but I hope her special day and crap food was exactly what she wanted.

  4. Can’t wait to see a finished kitchen, love the updates.

    And can’t wait to try out your airfryer recipes. Last week we’ve decided we want one, and asked for recommendations from the people we know who already own one. They only used it for fries or snacks (we’re Dutch: frikadel or kroket/bitterbal). So I’ve send them all a link to your airfryer recipes. Like Theres a whole other world out there you can use the airfryer for. Now we just have to wait for a good sale to buy one ourselves.