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Scattered Sundays

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Who has two thumbs and a functional kitchen? This girl!

a woman in a purple top in a kitchen

No, it’s not “finished”, but it is definitely functional and I feel joy every second when I’m in there! We still have lots of things to do (floating shelves, toe kicks, window sills, back panel for the island, doors for the pantry, trim, trim pieces closing the gaps around the cabinets, and more drawer pulls to name a few items on the punch list), but on Monday night, I told Troy to take a week off. There was nothing pressing enough to not take a breather.

Sunday night was a huge milestone moment that I am sure our neighbors have been excited about for three months. We finally were able to take the fridge off the deck!!! It took a full 30 minutes to bring it in because we had to make sure not to scratch the wood floors, and one of the wheels seemed busted. By minute 25, it felt personal.

I had to deep clean it on Monday morning because all that time outside left it filthy! It was dirty and dusty on the outside, and the door seals had mildew on them from getting hit by rain during a few storms. It took me almost 90 minutes to deep clean it inside and out. Barf.

a photo of a kitchen

Then the plumber came later that morning to hook up our sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher. Could we have done it ourselves? Probably. Do I want to accidentally flood our new kitchen? Definitely not. 

A few weeks ago when our countertops got installed, “we” had to install a brace to get the sink to fit correctly. I think the issue was with the cabinet and not the sink or the counters. The lovely people who gave us the countertops also gave us their old sink, so everything should have been shipshape.

Anyway, the brace was this extra white piece of wood from IKEA that is meant to fill gaps. It’s not meant to be in our sink cabinet. After the plumber left on Monday, I stared for a minute at the sink cabinet and just started laughing.

Troy, taken aback by this reaction said “what”? I pointed at the cabinet and said “that brace is covering the holes for the hinge doors. We can’t put doors on the cabinet”. Troy was not amused, which made me laugh harder. Because, of course, we’d get to this huge moment of the remodel, only to realize we can’t put doors on the ugliest cabinet in the kitchen.

By that time, it was dinner time, so he couldn’t do anything about it anyway. I made our first dinner in the kitchen (whole wheat rotini, Garlic Butter Green Beans, and cast iron skillet garlic bread) and we all just smiled and enjoyed the moment.

For the record, Troy “has a plan” for the sink cabinet. It will work out. And no, we’re not putting up a little curtain there. 🙂

When planning the kitchen, and dreaming about knocking down the wall between the living room and the kitchen, I had visions of putting food on the island as it came off the stove and letting the kids set the table. And that is exactly what happened! I had goosebumps.

Growing up, my dad called it a “one butt kitchen” in that if there was more than one butt in there, it was too crowded. The fridge was also positioned in a way that if you needed to open the doors, no one could come in or out of the kitchen, or basically move anywhere. On Monday night, being able to just put dinner on the counter while people served themselves was a true dream come true.

Without cabinet doors on the sink, and no toe kicks, we realized how loud a dishwasher is without anything to muffle it. Thankfully, we generally only run it at night, but it is pretty darn loud. The kind of white noise machine that would make me pee the bed.

To be clear, we never read the manual. It’s a dishwasher, and we figured we could just wing it and we have been busy. I was devastated when I realized there was no “eco-dry” option on it as our old model. We usually run the dishwasher on air dry mode, open up the doors when it is done and let everything air-dry overnight. It uses less energy (which saves us money) and I am convinced it doesn’t warp more delicate items like heated dry does.

When I picked out this dishwasher on, I was only looking for one feature – a flat third rack option. This is for items like bigger cooking utensils, lids, or even baking sheets if you want. I was hyper-focused on finding that and didn’t pay attention to air-dry features.

After a few times running the dishwasher, I looked at the illuminated “heated dry” button and realized I could just “un-select” it to turn that option off. Doh! But at least we now know. Also, don’t assume you can figure out new appliances while you’re also doing 100 other things at the same time.

a kitchen island with a stainless steel counter

You can see stacks of wooden legs underneath that we still need to install.

While the plumber was here on Monday, I used that downtime to organize the pantry. We didn’t expand the pantry in any way, but the layout has made it a much more efficient space. I can fit a lot more on the shelves and don’t have to stack all my jars like I used to. 

After looking at lots of pantry systems and hating them all (wire shelves are the organization system of satan), I paused and realized what I really wanted was just simple shelves, almost like bookshelves. And then I yelled at Troy (he’s now used to me just shouting out random ideas), “I’m just going to buy bookshelves for the pantry”. And I did!

The pantry is not very wide by modern standards (it was built to be used as half pantry and half coat closet…oh, the 80s…), but it is very tall because the right half of it has a vaulted ceiling. I ended up with one standard-sized Billy bookshelf from IKEA, and one “half” Billy. A complete pantry system for $108. And a super-smart reader let me know that I could buy extra shelves. 

I built the shelves Sunday night but did not put the backs on. We fit them into the pantry, and I was relieved to see that my measurements were actually correct (they rarely are) and the shelves fit side by side with about 1 cm to spare.

I got a lot of questions on Instagram about how sturdy this set up will be. Very very sturdy. Don’t worry. Troy secured them to each other and then used braces to secure them to studs in six different places. The end of the world can come and these shelves would still be standing. Plus, they’re meant to hold actual books, and a shelf full of books is a lot heavier than a few jars of food.

One of the best parts of the pantry “revamp” was adding a light. The pantry is right next to the entryway and the entryway doesn’t have any lights. Because everyone was high on quaaludes in the 80s and never once thought that people would want to actually see when they walked into the house.

With our old super dark brown front door, no lights, and a dark brown door on the pantry, it became a black hole at night during the fall and winter. Good luck finding what you wanted; like cooking roulette. The new light in the ceiling is really a treat but I do keep forgetting it is there and haven’t used it nearly enough.

an organized pantry

I finally got the pantry how I wanted it and asked Troy what he thought. He said it looked like the pantry in the home of a serial killer. I was so honored because that is exactly the look I was going for. Say what you will about serial killers, but most of them are pretty organized individuals. 🙂

We still have huge Costco shelves in the garage for our overflow food storage and all my home-canned items. Without that storage, this pantry would look A LOT different and be a lot more crowded.

I technically took the week off from work (thanks for your patience on that) and it was a great decision. I was able to finish up organizing the kitchen, help with little projects, we finally got all the construction crap off the front porch, I stacked firewood and made a ton of kindling, and I walked every day! Monday through Thursday, I hit over 22k steps and it felt fantastic. 

With all that extra time, I got about 95% of the kitchen set up and squared away. There are still some things to do, and I know that I might change my mind on where some things go. Question: would you like a “tour” of the organization next Sunday or in a stand-alone post? I do plan to do a big wrap-up post with details, reviews, and before and after photos when all the finish work is done.

a wall oven and cabinets in a kitchen

In the old kitchen, we had laminate counters that I am convinced were made out of asbestos and steel wool. Nothing damaged that surface. As a result, we never put anything under our air fryer to prevent any warping. Generally, air fryers are fine on all materials, but I have seen some people in air fryer Facebook groups commenting that an air fryer damaged their counters.

Now that we have counters we care about, I looked for a way to keep everything in good condition. Honestly, I’m sure that nothing would happen to the counters, but why chance it?

I grabbed a leftover piece of floor tile and two old cork hot pads and Troy hot glued them to the tile. It works great and I can “scoot” the air fryer across the counter if I need to. I think it turned out pretty darn good if you ask me! And it was totally free.

an air fryer on a tile on a counter

Bennett turned five on Thursday. FIVE! If you’re bored, you can read his birth story here. Please enjoy the part where while I was in labor, Troy fell asleep with his hand palming my face while he was “comforting” me. 

On Thursday, Troy took the boys to the dentist (we really know how to celebrate birthdays in the Cook house!) and I stayed home to frost Bennett’s birthday cake and deep clean the house. I finished everything before they were back and was texting with friends that I was debating between working or lighting a fire and sitting on the couch and reading a book.

They all urged me to sit and read, and I commented that if I did that, I would at least have something to write about for my Sunday post. And that in a way, it was a great way to relax and work at the same time. Self-employment habits die hard. 🙂

After a lot of discussions, Troy and I decided to have his parents and sister and her little family over for cake and presents. Troy’s dad and sister’s husband had already been over at the house helping us with the kitchen. We always wore masks, but it seemed weird to suddenly act like no one could enter our house after the kitchen was done. “Thanks for your help in making our dreams come true, now GTF out”.

Plus, rates are falling pretty dramatically in our county and the middle school kids are going back to school in a week. It’s such a weird and crappy time to make decisions. We scheduled the cake/presents for right before the boy’s bedtime so it wouldn’t be a long event. Everyone wore masks and socially distanced as much as possible and I had windows open to keep the airflow going. 

Bennett asked for a white cake (he thinks it is a white cake but it is really this yellow cake recipe that I have used for years) with chocolate frosting in the middle and red frosting and Skittles on top. It looks like a fever dream, but it is exactly what he wanted.

a boy with a red birthday cake topped with skittles

The thing around his neck is his mask pulled down to blow out the candles.

Everyone was generous and he got more magna tiles, books, and “army guys”. Unlike Jack at this age, Bennett will happily play by himself for extended periods of time. Of course, that comes the downside of him absolutely trashing the living room multiple times a day.

A messy living room filled with toys

Bennett does not GAF about messes and clutter, and he will walk barefoot over a pile of Legos while maintaining eye contact with you. I think that is at least one sign of psychopathy. But, if you need to get work done, he will totally and happily destroy a space by himself and let you be.

Troy and I got him kid binoculars and a big crab trap. Which he then filled with stuffed animals, a blanket, and himself and played with it for almost an hour. 

a kid in a crab trap with stuffed animals

This child will sit on the back of the couch (even if you have told him 4000 times not to) and just stare at the water all day long. I mean, he’ll do that after he absolutely destroys the living room and fills it with toys. Now, he has his own set of binoculars and can look out at the boats like a tiny old sea captain who never takes off his jammies.

After all was said and done with the kitchen, we ended up with extra “parts” from IKEA that we never used. I’m headed back on Tuesday to return a bunch of stuff and man, that will feel great! Slowly but surely, our “piles” around the house are getting smaller and this will be a financial win that also helps us declutter.

What I’m Listening To This Week

Calling all nerds, calling all nerds! This episode of America Dissected was so fascinating from a public health policy standpoint. I learned a lot and geeked out on all the data and theory.

What I’m Reading This Week

I finished Dear Child on Wednesday and the ending definitely surprised me. I’m usually good about predicting twists, but Dear Child and The Guest List have both pleasantly “got” me at the end.

I did find Dear Child disjointed because it is told from the viewpoint of three different people, and they each get “mini” chapters within each chapter. The multiple viewpoints were important, but it still felt like it was jumping around. As an aside, The Guest List had the same model of storytelling and I never felt like it was as jumbled.

I’m finally reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. It’s not something I would have read on my own, but Katie sent me the kindle version for my birthday. Thus far I have realized that it is a book that is not meant for me. I am not this book’s audience, but I’m glad it is out there for the people who do need to hear it.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Long-time reader, Mary F, left this five-star review on our Tortilla Pizza recipe {Pin this recipe}:

Of course, this gets 5 stars. It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s pizza, it’s delicious! I heated mine in my cast iron skillet on the stove VERY slowly. Good crunch on the bottom. And the sky’s the limit as far as toppings. I don’t have to sacrifice for others in this situation. Win for me!

A tortilla pizza with pepperoni and basil on a grey plate

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

After five years of a rigorous posting schedule, I took an entire week off this week! But, I couldn’t let another month go by without publishing everyone’s favorite post, Confessions! You can really all those silly confessions, here.

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

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

I’m not sure what is going on, but air fryer recipes were still on fire this week! Maybe seasonal? Summer all my top posts are canning recipes, but it seems like fall and winter everyone is (healthy) frying all the things.

No air fryer? Remember, ALL my Instant Pot and air fryer recipes also include conventional cooking instructions. I design my recipes so that you don’t need special equipment to make them yourself.

  1. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – vegan/vegetarian as written, but you can make your version to your tastes.  {Pin this recipe}
  2. Air Fryer Potatoes – skip using the oven and make these crispy taters in the air fryer.  {Pin this recipe}.
  3. Air Fryer Pizza Rolls – like a healthier homemade version of my teenage self’s favorite snack.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. Air Fryer Pretzel Bites – so fast and easy to make and they’re SO GOOD. Oh, and the dough freezes like a boss and you can cook these while they are still frozen! {Pin this recipe}
  5. Air Fryer Cookies – this post has been creeping up in the rankings, and this week it overtook Air Fryer Pickles for popularity. {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Monday:: Air Fryer Tofu, Garlic Parmesan Rice, and salad.

Tuesday:: Instant Pot Lentil Soup and homemade garlic bread. I’ll use the final stasher bag of frozen soup veggies that I rage-prepped while watching the news on January 6th. I’ll need to make more soon but would prefer to do it during calm news days.

Wednesday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Thursday:: Air Fryer Taquitos and salad.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: Air Fryer Meatballs (I’m making a double batch and freezing half uncooked for future meals), over pasta with red sauce, and Garlic Butter Green Beans on the side. If you’re curious, I’ve been using frozen green beans for months to make this dish. It tastes almost identical and works until green beans are back in season.

Sunday:: Takeout to support a local small business.


What are you having next week?

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11 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. Your kitchen is beautiful!!! I’m jealous – mine is from 1976 with peeling formica decorated with ivy. ha ha ha

  2. Your kitchen is amazing and I’m so jealous 🙂 I would love a post that includes links to items (specifically the white bins in the pantry and the floor mat by the sink) and pictures of course.

    • The white bins are from IKEA:

      If you don’t have one near you, they do ship non-furniture items for a super reasonable rate. I think their furniture shipping rates are exorbitant.

      The floor mat by the sink is from Costco. My sister got one five years ago and it’s still fantastic. I just happened to stumble on it at the store last week. I couldn’t find it online but in the stores they are only $29.99.

  3. Your kitchen rocks !!! I have loved every post/instagram as your renovation proceeded. WOW ! All that space, the height, the ‘get around everything with ease’, more than one bum space – and all the LIGHT. Love seeing your organization, your pantry, that wonderful floor tile, everything. 5 year old birthday boy/dino is a happy guy.

    A tour / or a stand alone post – either would be great. I love details.

    Hugs to you all.


  4. I am so excited for you and your kitchen!  My kitchen ‘refresh’ has been popping up in my FB memories lately.  This time, two years ago, I was super excited because I only needed my cabinet doors put back on and my backsplash done.   Right a this very moment, it needs the counter and sink cleaned, but first I need to clear off the counter.  It is a mess, I’ve been making stuff (including huge mess).  I keep exactly four things on my counter tops, so having crap scattered all over it is horrible.  But once I start, it should only take about 15-20 minutes.
    I absolutely want to see a walkthrough!!!   It doesn’t matter to me if it is it’s own post, or a Sunday one. Whatever is easiest for you.
    Bennett sounds like a really fun kid!  I love your sea captain in jammies description.  hahahahaha.

  5. Your pantry makes me so incredibly jealous…when we bought our house, the pictures in the listing made it look like there was a pantry with a door – omg! Imagine my disappointment when we got there and it was actually a door to the stairs down to our family room. We still bought the house, but I literally have no space for, well, anything. Food is crammed into upper cabinets, and pots/pans come spilling out of the one tiny cupboard I have them crammed into on a regular basis. Our house was built in 1962 so…apparently they didn’t need storage back then.

    Maybe it’s a youngest-kid thing, being able to play by yourself? I’m the youngest of 4 and used to quite happily play in our basement by myself for HOURS when I was a kid. Basically the only reason I would come up was to get warm (the basement wasn’t finished and had concrete floors…) or eat. No one bothered me and the only time I saw my parents was if they came to do laundry (ah, ’90s childhood. No helicopter parents there! Lol)

    Seriously though, congrats on having the kitchen (mostly) done! Know that the rest of us are writhing with jealousy but also totally happy for you 🙂

    • Oh, no! What a fakeout for you guys on that pantry. We lived in a 1940s apartment in Los Angeles and I totally understand what you mean by lack of storage. We also only had one outlet in the whole room.

      I too had that lovely 80s/90s free-range childhood. It was lovely.

  6. That pantry = pronography. Gorgeous!! I am so excited for you to have a kitchen you love. A good kitchen makes the cook in our house (lol not me!) so happy.

    Bennett cracks me up. What a character. I hope his birthday was fab.

    I’m curious to ask – I think you have a pellet stove. I did a quick search on the blog for “pellet stove” and not much info came up. We’re considering a pellet stove insert – do you like yours? Would you share what brand it is?

    Happy Sunday!

    • It is a Lopi Evergreen wood burning stove. We had a pellet stove growing up and I am sure they still pretty efficient. But around here, it’s super easy to find firewood. People sell it out of their backyards.