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Scattered Sundays

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Last Sunday we had the most 2020 Christmas celebration at my sister’s. My brother-in-law installed a heater in the ceiling of their porch and they binder-clipped up canopy sides/tarps on two sides to create an outdoor dining experience. Five-stars, highly recommend that establishment.

Man, 2020 was weird. Good riddance yah big jerk of a year. Don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you.

The weather was 42 degrees and drizzly, and even with the heater, it was chilly. I was wearing fleece leggings under jeans, a sweater, a coat that I rarely wear because it’s too hot, a hat that a lovely reader knit for me, two pairs of Darn Tough socks, and insulated Bog boots. My fashion blog drops tomorrow!

After we got back from my sister’s, Troy and I got to work on the kitchen. I finished building some projects I had been working on. When I was done, I hauled all the remaining cardboard down to Troy’s truck. I’m not sure if you know, but most county/town dumps will let you recycle cardboard for free. And we had A LOT of cardboard.

As I’m carrying armload after armload of cardboard, covered in bruises and cuts, my neighbor remarked “Troy sure is working hard on that kitchen”. You guys. I almost raged.

I realize from where she sits outside to smoke, she can only see into the part of the kitchen where Troy has been working. She cannot see our worktable where I have been assembling drawer after drawer after mothertrucking drawer. She couldn’t see the fact that I have so many bruises it looks like I’ve been attacked by a screwdriver.

Troy is definitely the one who knows what he is doing (along with my father-in-law who has given us valuable advice), but my grunt work keeps this project moving too. Between the two of us, we’re putting the “we” in sweat equity. But, I didn’t say any of that to my neighbor. I simply mumbled “yeah, we’re both working really hard” and went and unloaded my 30th armload of cardboard.

The boys and I took that load to the dump the next day, and let me tell you, you’ve never seen a line of trucks like people unloading cardboard the Monday after Christmas. Holy smokes! At our dump, you have to climb a small set of stairs to empty cardboard into two dumpsters.

Due to social distancing, you can only have one person at a time on that platform. There were lines of people with armloads of cardboard just waiting for their turn. Instead of being grumpy at waiting, I was imagining how happy all these people were to have a nice clean house free of cardboard. My love of decluttering kept me company in line.

With Mount Cardboard cleaned out of our basement, I went on a purging/cleaning spree that night. It felt SO good. We’re down to less than five boxes of things to assemble (all need to wait until the plumber does his thing), so the pile of projects had shrunk considerably. 

We suddenly had space to organize and declutter. There was room to move and put things away instead of just dumping them in the general area. When we were done, Bennett walked in and said “what the heck happened down here”? I said, “we cleaned”. It felt GREAT!

a kid sleeping with lots of stuffed animals

Tuesday brought us yet another trip to IKEA to return some things and get four drawer faces we were missing. That afternoon I finished building all the drawers while Troy was installing the drawer tracks. If you’re looking at building a kitchen with a partner, I highly recommend splitting the tasks like this. I assembled and he installed. It kept things moving quickly.

By 3 pm on Tuesday, everything was assembled. It felt like a HUGE milestone. While I hauled (more!) cardboard and cleaned up, Troy built a quick platform for the island out of 2x8s and then connected all the cabinets to create the tall person prep station of my dreams. It will be four inches taller than the rest of our counters, and I’m so excited about it.

a man standing in a kitchen under construction

Reminder: the cabinets are white. The blue you see is protective plastic.

When I told my (6ft 7in) dad that it was a tall person island, and he remarked “no, that is an island for a normal person. Everything else is built for the abnormally short”. Facts. The kitchen is perfect for me. Everyone else can use Bennett’s step stool when they visit.

The free counters we took from our friend’s old kitchen do not cover the island. I thought for a long time about what surface to get for it. I didn’t want to try to find something that matched the other counters because it would be impossible. I loved the idea of butcher block but they’re so fussy and it might be a trainwreck considering this is our cooktop.

After evaluating lots of different options, I finally had an “ah-ha” moment and loudly declared that we were getting stainless steel for the island. I tracked down a guy who makes them in his barn, and he built me exactly what I wanted. And it absolutely includes a small overhang on the end just to hold my food mill for canning tomato soup and canning applesauce. Priorities.

a kitchen under construction

Troy and I placed the counter it on the island and then spent 30 minutes tearing the plastic off. Holy smokes that was one protective layer! When we finally got it uncovered, I squealed with glee because I LOVE it so much. It’s boy-proof and will hold up to the constant use this kitchen will get.

I’m also looking forward to how easy it is to clean. I know that the fingerprints will drive me bananas at first, but I already clean my counters like 10x a day, so whatever, no biggie. 

We built this kitchen for reality and not a display, and this island will be a freaking workhorse. But it’s also going to be so darn pretty when we get the cooktop in there. Is it weird that I want to sleep in the kitchen for a solid week when we’re done with it?

Good news – we found a countertop person! “Bad” news – he isn’t available until January 10th. That gives us a very long “pause” on projects that will move this space forward. Instead, we’re going to focus on the little finish work tasks that we can tackle now.

I cleaned the nasty walls of the pantry and did a quick paint job with some leftover paint that we had. I do not care that it doesn’t match any other walls…but it does match the front door if that matters to you. Which counts for nothing.

But it’s a pantry and the doors will be closed most of the time so pretty much nobody cares. And if anyone looks that closely or cares that much, well, they’re not welcome in my house anyway.

an empty pantry with paint supplies

As anxious as I am to start organizing, it doesn’t make sense until the counters are installed. We still need to fully secure the cabinets to the rail system (we’re waiting until the countertop guy gives us the “yep, everything is where it should be, you have the all-clear”) and I’m sure the counter install will be a dirty process where things fall into the cabinets below.

Even as Troy reminded me we can’t move into the room yet, I still did some initial cabinet organizing. I set up a pots/pans organizer I got for Christmas, just to see what it looks like. I measured and cut all the drawer mats that I got from IKEA on one of our multiple trips. 

I fit drawer organizers (also from IKEA) into spaces just to imagine what they will look like. I tested to see if my spices and oil bottles would fit in the space I had planned for them (they do!). Dreaming about organizing is what I’m using to fill the time between now and the countertop install.

With the counters scheduled for next Sunday, that allowed us to plan out the rest of the big tasks. Our backsplash and floor tile days have been set. The plumber comes on the 25th and (knock on wood), that is the last of the subcontracting work. Mark it down – the 25th of January should be the move-in date for this project. That will put us just five days shy of four months for everything. I’m very much looking forward to that day.

This kitchen is nine years in the making. Nine years of planning, dreaming, and budgeting. Nine years of thinking “what if”. And not for one second do I forget that this project would not be possible without YOU.

Kate Ahl, the owner of Simple Pin Media sent out a newsletter this week to her subscribers. In it, she mentioned, “I wasn’t planning to ever do it perfectly, but I was going to work as hard as I could to solve at least one problem that people had”.

When I started this blog 10 years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing. Heck, I still don’t know what I’m doing. But you kind people have stuck with me through the growing pains and silliness.

Your support and readership (let’s say that is a word) have made this project possible. I mean that literally; this blog has funded the entire project. So, it’s not my kitchen, it’s ours. And for you, I’m grateful today and all days.

2 kids playing with cars in a living room

Troy built them a little “arena” for the Battle Bots they got for Christmas from my dad. And yes, that dishwasher box is still in my living room, and yes, it is covered in holes because the boys have been stabbing it with pens.

On Wednesday, I could no longer take the Christmas clutter and took down the decorations and tree, like an organizing hurricane. When everything was cleaned and put away, the differences between my children were on full display. Jack said, “finally, it looks so clean in here. I can breathe again”. And Bennett declared that in no uncertain terms, I would NOT be putting his mini Christmas tree away. So I guess that is staying up all year?

While my upper body was in the attic grabbing the Christmas decor tubs, I noticed what looked like a tent bag in one corner. It turned out to be a pack and play. We are four years past needing a pack and play, and that of course, sent me down a rabbit hole of what the heck else was up there.

Turns out it was a lot. I found two tubs of cloth diapers, and three tubs of kid clothing. Jack was the first baby on my side of the family, and since then, my sister, my cousin, and I have had a total of five boys. All boys. No girls. Nary a girl.

That means two things: 1) all of our bathrooms are war zones and 2) we never have to buy clothing. Ever. There is a revolving door of boy clothes that is constantly passed around the family. And two of Troy’s cousins now have boys younger than Bennett, so I give half of our old stuff to them, and a half back to my cousin for her youngest.

My cousin just did a purge of their clothing and dropped off over 12 bags of clothes that I had just stuffed into a closet because there was no space anywhere in my house that wasn’t covered by IKEA boxes. Wednesday night found me in the (newly-cleaned!) basement sorting through those bags, plus things that Bennett had outgrown.

This process usually takes me at least two days, and I repeat it at least every six months. But it is a small price to pay for none of us having to buy anything. And when I’m done, everything looks so clean and organized and it makes my Type-A heart so happy. 

The boys go back to school this week! Jack is still virtual as our district never started in-person learning this school year. The initial plan was for middle school kids to return to the classroom two days a week in November. Then it was December.

Right before winter break, our governor relaxed the guidelines for kids to return to the classroom. I haven’t told Jack anything because I don’t know what the future will hold. And his heart has been broken so many times this year that I’m pretty much only going to tell him two days before they’re supposed to go back. When/if that ever happens.

Bennett is in school three days a week and I’m fearful that his freakouts at drop-offs will return for a few weeks. We were finally doing so well, and I really hope that there is little to no regression. I’m 100% not interested in him being a barnacle at the preschool gate.

Whatever this week, month or year holds for you and your family, I wish you/us all the luck in the world. I’m not seeing anyone declare that 2021 will be “their year”, but I think at the very least, we can all hope that it’s not the full-on dumpster fire of 2020.

Housekeeping

If you’re cleaning out any closets in January, make sure you check out ThredUp for a great way to sell your unwanted clothes. ThredUp is a giant online thrift store and is the only place I buy clothing these days. The prices are fantastic, not buying new clothes is wonderful for the environment, and you can make some cash off of your old clothes. Win-win! Check out ThredUp for yourself and get $20 off your first order

What I’m Listening To This Week

There is a great new comedy Law & Order SVU podcast called “That’s Messed Up”. The two hosts recap SVU episodes and then discuss the real-life crime that inspired the episode. It’s funny and entertaining, but do heed the explicit label if little ears are listening.

What I’m Reading This Week

I finally finished The Lost Family this week and started/finished Wolfpack at the recommendation of a reader. Wolfpack was a super-fast read – like 45 minutes tops. I liked it, but I don’t think it was for me. Honestly, I don’t struggle with confidence or standing up for myself. If you do, this book is a great read, and I think it should be required reading for girls 10 or older.

It looks like I finished 31 books this year. You can see the list of everything I read here. The best non-fiction book I read was Educated by Tara Westover. Best fiction was a tie between The Golden Cage, The Alice Network, and Station Eleven.

The most impactful book I read in 2020 was also the one that made me the angriest. The Color of Law was one of those books that gives so much clarity to the world, even if it made me want to throw my ancient kindle against the wall every three minutes. It’s a very hard book to get through, but if I could make it mandatory reading for everyone, I absolutely would.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

I snorted hard while reading this five-star review that Hannah left on our Overnight Cinnamon Rolls {Pin this recipe}:

I don’t even really like cinnamon rolls, but I thought these would be easy for Christmas morning. They were and very delicious. I reduced the amount of cinnamon the second time I made them because I don’t really like cinnamon (why am I, someone who doesn’t like cinnamon or cinnamon rolls making these?) but that should be a strong testimonial as to how delicious and easy these really are!

a cinnamon roll on a plate

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Easy Healthy Meal PrepEasy Healthy Meal Prep is the ultimate guide to tips and tricks for prepping and serving healthy meals. Quick and efficient weekly meal prep is your secret weapon for speedy weeknight meals. Discover time-saving meal prep ideas and delicious family dinner recipes. {Pin these tips}

two glass containers with meal prepped food and forks

Trader Joe’s Whole30 Shopping List – The most comprehensive Trader Joe’s Whole30 Shopping List ever! A printable Whole30 shopping list and Whole30 recipes to help you rock every single day of your round. {Pin this list}

Confessions – everyone’s favorite post of the month.

A woman with a finger up to her mouth saying "shhhhh"

The Essential Whole30 Costco Shopping List – The only Whole30 Costco Shopping List you’ll ever need! A printable Whole30 shopping list and Whole30 recipes to help you rock your homemade meals, meal prep, and have a successful round. {Pin this list}

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

Based on the traffic I was getting to these posts this week, it seems like everyone and their mother got an air fryer for the holidays. Holy smokes, it was a good week to be a blogger that has air fryer recipes! 🙂

  1. Air Fryer Ranch Potatoes – no clue how so many people are finding this recipe, but it has been on fire for a few months now.  {Pin this recipe}
  2. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – this recipe was included in a big roundup from Tasty and people were in a clicking mood. {Pin this recipe}.
  3. Air Fryer Pickles – I want a big plate of these right now. All the yummy fried “pickleness” without the oil weighing down your belly all day.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. Air Fryer Pretzel Bites – you can use sesame seeds or kosher salt, but I highly recommend getting your paws on some pretzel salt if possible. Chef’s kiss!  {Pin this recipe}
  5. Air Fryer Tofu – we have this at least every other week. The boys like to dip theirs in salsa. And you know what? It’s really freaking good.  {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Monday:: Baked potato bar & salad

Tuesday:: Reshooting an old recipe for better photos.

Wednesday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Thursday:: Testing out a new recipe. For you. You’re welcome.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Sunday:: Testing out another recipe. 2021 is going to be busy!

What are you having this week?

 

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17 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. That kitchen is going to be so awesome! The stainless countertop sounds super cool.

    My folks stayed with me for several weeks while their kitchen was redone (thanks, busted dishwasher…) and they decided to redo a bunch of other flooring in the house while everything was torn up anyway. We spent a few days around Christmas unpacking boxes and getting everything put back away, then took the boxes to the recycling drop-off after Christmas… and YES, holy smokes, there was already a freaking MOUNTAIN of cardboard there. It was crazy.

    I LOVE ThredUp! I just ordered a bunch of stuff from there, and I’m filling up my 4th bag of stuff to send back to them. It’s awesome.

    • I remember you saying that in fall. Did their remodel really only take a few weeks? I guess that is the difference between using pros and um, using us as contractors. HA!

      The cardboard mountain situation is real. As I was there, an employee had to open the second cardboard dumpster just to accommodate it all. We dropped off another (and thankfully much smaller) cardboard load on Monday and the place was deserted.

      ThredUp rules so hard.

      • Yep! They did a lot of that kind of stuff on their own in their younger days, but not so much anymore. The kitchen stuff was covered by insurance, and the same contractor was able to do everything else too. They were really good – super quick, super clean, super easy.

  2. I had serious sticker shock when the hand me downs ran out. I also did the twice a year trade out of clothes. Thank the Lord those years are gone, but they seriously kept my girls clothed until their teens.

  3. Oh my,  what a kitchen it will be! That island is a glorious tribute to functionality and smooth lines. 

  4. I am SO EXCITED for you to have the kitchen of your dreams!! You inspire me with all your hard work, discipline, and planning. Thank you for sharing your kitchen journey!

    The few times we got hand-me-downs, Emma and I were so excited! She always hated breaking in new pants and I hate buying clothes 😁

    My camper is currently a giant mess as I pulled everything out this morning to try to reorganize and purge, then got distracted by a craft project, then Emma asked me to go for a walk, and now I am sitting on the couch surrounded by the mess I need to clean up. Better get to it!

    • So funny you said that because when you sent me that photo of the book I noticed a bunch of bins in the background. I figured you guys were organizing! I hope it ended up being a finished project.

  5. It looks like a kitchen now!  The island looks amazing.
    I am very excited for you.  We “refreshed” our kitchen about 2 years ago (I say “about” because began in November and was done early, early March) We kept existing cabinets and appliances and  just got a new floor, counter and backsplash.  Plus a paint job, and my handy husband built me a custom stand for the microwave and toaster oven.    
    Never try to hire contractors over December,  that just makes the project take longer because they and the suppliers want to spend the holidays with their own families.  We learned that the hard way.  
    I love my kitchen and it still makes me happy when I walk into it.  Since you actually enjoy cooking, I expect that you will feel that x10! 

    I know how you feel about being cleaned up after Christmas.  We took all the Christmas stuff down yesterday, and I just got done cramming it all in the space under the stairs.  (You can tetris A LOT of crap in that tiny space!  Once I catch my breath from that big job I am going to put away the last of the Halloween stuff (yes, Halloween) that Hubby keeps saying that he wants to organize before putting away.  I have decided that he has had plenty of time and I am tired of kicking it every time I go to the freezer.

    I don’t know if you remember (you do have a awful lot of readers, so I don’t expect you to), but this time last year, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our granddaughter.  Now, I need to wrap up her birthday gifts for when she turns one on Thursday!  She has been my shining light during this past horrible year.  

    I have a “baby Yoda” like the one that is face down on Bennetts bed!  I haven’t even seen The Mandalorian, but when I saw that toy, I just couldn’t leave it at Costco.  I got it with birthday money I have been hoarding since March!

    Looking forward to the next kitchen update.

    • Time no longer has meaning anyway, so you could say 2 months, 2 years, or 2 decades and it would all sound legit. 🙂

      Yes, I remember you waiting for your granddaughter! My, how is that already a year ago (see comment above about time no longer having meaning)? Happy birthday to her!

      Good eye – the baby yoda is from Costco. I picked them up from our Costco for Troy’s aunt to gift to the boys and her grandson.

      • She will have a happy birthday for sure.  My daughter is very excited about it and has oodles of plans for a “party” (thanks to the lockdown, it is family only, and not with her friends as originally intended) that the little girl will not even remember.  My other daughter is going over a day or two before to help blow up some of the gazillion balloons her sister has.  hahahahahaha.
        She also really likes the baby Yoda doll.  Apparently it has very chewable ears (but no teeth marks yet, surprisingly)
        The Halloween suff is now put away as close to ‘properly’ as I could do it.  And my workout gear is accessible.  I just need to find my ambition.

  6. I have enjoyed your blog for years now. Always full of good advice and hilarious too. Thank you x

  7. I love your new kitchen!!  Proof that 2020 wasn’t a total waste!  My district starts slowly returning tomorrow.  Fingers crossed for Jack that when he goes back it is successful.  Happy new year and thank you for sharing all your hard work.  

  8. Kitchen is looking amazing- gotta love that sweat equity!  I tried your air fryer meatballs and they were delish.