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Scattered Sundays

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Like many people in the US and around the world, I’ve been glued to the news about Texas and other southern states that were hit by a winter storm. As a parent (and former caregiver of a medically fragile adult), my heart broke thinking about people trying to keep their families warm and safe with very few options.

A podcast that I listen to, Pantsuit Politics, had a great episode discussing the storm. One of the hosts put it best when she said, during events like these, there are three questions that need to be asked and in this order:

  1. (Immediately) How can we help?
  2. (After) What can we learn?
  3. (After) How do we fix this so it doesn’t happen again?

Since we’re still in question 1 mode (how can we help), I’m linking this article from The Texas Tribune that has tons of links and suggestions on where to donate. It has info on mutual aid funds organized by the city, as well as national/global organizations, like the Red Cross, where dollars can be put to work immediately.

In terms of question two (what can we learn), I hope this will be asked by local and state governments as well as by individual families. I know we do this in our household after any big event. There is absolutely no way to plan for everything in life, but I’m always willing to learn how to prevent that same thing from happening to me again!

After an extended power outage one winter, we made the decision to get a wood stove. No, this is not possible for every family, nor is it practical in many regions of the country. I mean, c’mon, how often is someone going to use a wood stove in Texas? Once every 10 years? And where will they even get affordable firewood?

But stocking up on batteries, extra blankets, and even things like hand warmers are something all of us can do. After a different extended power outage at our house (see? we’re always learning with every event), we stocked up on battery-operated candles from Costco. They are not something that will last forever, but they were safe for us to have around the kids. The best solution is the one that works for you and your budget.

a kid making snow angels

My blogging friends and I were giggling last spring when I posted this tutorial on how to can water. I had people ask me why would anyone in the US need access to clean drinking water? Well…because things happen.

I used to joke with friends that I wanted to start a blog called “Non-Scary Prepping” because I think people get so overwhelmed thinking you either have to be either an off-grid survivalist or someone who is just screwed when emergencies happen.

Can I keep a well-stocked pantry and a well-stocked freezer? Yes, but for our family, that was a year-long process as our budget allowed. But most families can do a little something right now to make sure they have a few gallons of safe drinking water on hand. Baby steps my friends, baby steps. 

The idea that you have to be able to survive for a week on your own seems daunting and in most cases, many people just shut down and go into ostrich mode. But, here’s the thing – you can totally do this in baby steps. It’s not all or nothing.

You can download this list of our pantry essentials as a starting point for your family. In that post, I even talk about how to afford to stock a pantry overtime on almost any budget. You don’t need buckets of freeze-dried food and MREs to be prepared for natural disasters. But can I convince you to buy an extra container of peanut butter and some crackers on your next shopping trip? I bet I can. 🙂

There is also a totally free way to give yourself an additional resource in emergencies. Lean in close while I whisper this secret to you. Ready? Get to know your neighbors. Yep, that’s it.

Can’t leave your house? The people closest to you are your best bet in a pinch. With your neighbors, you can share resources, watch out for each other, and have someone with whom you can laugh at the situation. We’ve had some neighbors who were real stinkers, but finding the gems is worth the effort of saying hi to the people who live near you.

There is no way to prevent every single thing from going wrong in life. If a storm, power outage, pandemic-related store clearing, or anything like that, caught you off-guard, gosh, it happens. Give yourself some grace.

And then chat with the people you love and ask the question “what can we learn from this, and how can we be more prepared next time”? Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk on non-scary prepping. And go donate to Texas if you can!

a kid sitting on a chair made out of snow

We ended up with 8 inches of total snow after three storms by Monday morning. It’s not a lot for places that are used to snow, but it seemed like so much for us. It was really windy Friday and Saturday nights, and the drifts were over a foot in some places around our house.

There were two days straight of sledding, but by Sunday afternoon, it was clear our time was limited. We had created a pretty incredible sledding/luge path on our steep hill. With temps warming up that night, I had planned to shovel out the path. I didn’t think our neighbors who were going to finally start venturing out, needed to deal with a sheet of ice courtesy of the Cook family bobsled team.

As we were sledding that afternoon, I noticed a snowplow pass our hill four or five times. I figured they were either diligently clearing the road below us, or they were waiting for us to finish sledding so they could plow our hill.

We told the boys the fun was probably over, and we decided to take a walk to a small park for a snowball fight. We were barely a block away from our road when I saw the plow go up our hill. It had definitely been waiting to pounce as soon as we left.

It’s odd that they got to us on day two of the storm, considering our road was unplowed for EIGHT days when we had over 16 inches of snow in 2019. But either way, I was really touched that the plow driver was kind enough to just let us have fun while it lasted. Sledding is not common around here, and we soaked up every minute that we could.

Right before the plow came, Troy and I had just finished shoveling our neighbor’s driveway for her. So she had a nice clear driveway…except for the giant pile of snow at the entrance. Ha! After our walk, I cleared that out and considered it my workout for the day. And like all good workouts, this one ended with me making and enjoying hot chocolate.

a man working on a kitchen remodel

With some of the extra “at home” time thanks to the roads, Troy tackled more of the kitchen punch list. All toe kicks are now in, and the back of the island cover panel has been attached. It was the final piece of the project that my inlaws have kindly allowed us to store in their basement.

Troy also added some trim to the rest of the island so that you can’t see the wooden base he built to raise the island to normal-people height. 🙂 

a photo of a kitchen

We did discover a “whoops” on Wednesday while I was cooking. Last week (two weeks ago? Time no longer has meaning), Troy installed all the remaining drawer and cabinet handles. Checked it off his to-do list and I’m sure that felt amazing. Buuuuuuut, best-laid plans, right?

a oven handle hitting a drawer handle

Honestly, I couldn’t stop giggling. That corner of the kitchen is tight and we knew it would be when we designed it, but frankly, there weren’t a lot of other options. So, next up on the to-do list: switch the position on that handle and fill the hole on the cabinet face. Thankfully, it’s a white cabinet so it’s easy enough to fill and hide that hole. First world problems my friends, first world problems.

Growing up, my mom had this weird duck head that had been attached to the side of a cabinet that she used as a towel holder. My sister and I naturally made fun of her for it, because it was cheesy AF.

Welp, when my family moved back into this house, that dumb duck head was still there. And Quackers, as he came to be known, eventually grew on me. I made sure he was saved before we started demo back in November.

There is no great place near the sink in the new kitchen to hang it, so Quackers has been repurposed as an apron holder in our pantry. I think my mom would have been pretty pleased to see that he survived the remodel and was still being used. That dumb duck is at least 40 years old.

aprons hanging up in a pantry

Guess what I did this week? Signed Bennett up for kindergarten! I know, right? Just like Jack, we’re hoping he will be open-enrolled at the school that is not our “home” elementary. We won’t find out if he is accepted until spring, so fingers crossed until then.

There is a new principal at the school, so hopefully, the office staff will put in a good word for us. I feel like I should just send an email that says “hey, do you all want homemade cinnamon rolls at Christmas again? Better accept Bennet too”! 🙂

a workout report

I had a goal last week with my self-appointed reluctant running program (<—trademark pending. HA!) to hit three miles. But, the snow and ice kind of made that um, dangerous.

This week, the snow was finally cleared enough on the shoulders for me to head out on Wednesday. My goal was three miles, and I did it! 

Even though it was 37 degrees when I did my 3 miles, I was quickly reminded that my face gets bananas sweaty and bright red when I run. Like, so red that people probably feel like they should stop and ask if I am ok. Maybe it is a Norwegian situation? All I know is that my face stays hot pink for hours after I run, and pours sweat for an extended period of time. It’s really lovely.

The farthest I have ever run was 3.10 miles during my couch to 5k last spring, and my new goal is 3.5 miles. I’m going to have to adjust my route because it is very hard to find enough flat space so I don’t have to go up our intense hills. I’m headed out this morning and you can follow along on Instagram stories to see if I pass out.

flowers in the snow

We are actively purging our freezer and have been creating some pretty interesting meals lately. I love the challenge of getting creative with the ingredients you have on hand, and deep-cleaning makes me very very happy.

This week, the process of getting the cover panel on the back of the island took a lot longer than expected and ran right up until dinner time. My planned dinner got scrapped, but thanks to the freezer, we had dinner on the table in under 20 minutes.

I made a batch of Garlic Butter Green Beans with frozen green beans and “freezer garlic pucks” as our veggie. I grabbed some pasta from the pantry and a batch of Air Fryer Meatballs from the freezer. I had doubled the batch and frozen half a few weeks ago. Dinner was great, and I always say a little thank you to past me for throwing future me a meal prep bone.

I currently have an organic turkey from Butcher Box and a frozen pie from a fundraiser at Jack’s school taking up a lot of space in our garage freezer. The plan was to have the turkey when we did “makeup” Thanksgiving with everyone. I feel like at this point I just need to make the damn turkey.

I’m also discovering we have A LOT of frozen berries from our 2020 garden. Like a lot a lot. Loads of frozen raspberries, frozen strawberries, frozen blackberries, and frozen blueberries from our micro-farm.

Goals for this summer: eat more fresh berries and freeze less! Also, more smoothies now, even though it is winter. The kids can put on a sweatshirt. And stop whining.

snow on a road

Between last week and his second appointment on Wednesday, Jack lost four of his five spacers. All were related to what he was eating. One got replaced, but three came out less than 48 hours before he needed his second set so we just let it ride.

He also got fitted for his expander and (some technical word I can’t remember) arch thingy. We have another week of spacers and then I guess we just wait for his mouth hardware to be shipped to the office. He’s doing well and we’re all collectively learning what foods are not great to eat.

His school is also opening up sports in just a few weeks! He’s so excited. They’re being run as intramural for this school year. Anyone can play and it is free. And “teams” are made up of kids who attend school on the same two days. 

I think he’s going to get frustrated playing with kids who may not know the rules, but honestly, he can shut it. I think this will be an amazing opportunity for kids who may not be very athletic to try something new with limited pressure.

a homemade valentine's day card

Troy wins Valentine’s Day

In “ha ha, oh, the irony” news, this week I became the vice president of my church council. Yes, they know I have a potty mouth. No, I don’t curse at church (or around my kids). And, remember, Jesus hung out with the flawed, and not the people who tried to project perfection. The flawed are more fun anyway. 🙂


I was targeted by an ad for Flo vitamins on Instagram a few weeks, and they got me hook, line, and sinker. I totally bought them.

I’ve been taking these (delicious) gummy vitamins for a week now, and my stupid adult acne has greatly improved. I’m honestly shocked and so pleased. You can try Flo for yourself and take $10 off your first order by clicking here.

What I’m Listening To This Week

It might seem weird, but this week I listened to myself on a podcast. ???? Jenna, from Sip Bite Go, launched a new podcast called My Weird Food Obsession.

She interviewed me a few weeks ago (while I was hiding in my (turned off!) car in the garage to get away from my noisy kids!) about how gardening, canning, and raising chickens on a tiny lot keeps our family well-fed and happy.

What I’m Reading This Week

I finished Lilac Girls in about 48 hours earlier this week and LOVED it. Highly recommend.

I started Surviving the White Gaze after reading a snippet about it in a magazine. It is a memoir about a woman who was the only Black person growing up in her town in New Hampshire. The storytelling and conversational tone of the book make for an engaging read on a challenging subject.

Another thing I read this week was this article on how to create a sustainable kitchen from Redfin. And um, yours truly is quoted in the article!

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Darlene left this five-star review on our Air Fryer Pizza Rolls {Pin this recipe}:

Made these tonight and they were wonderful. They crisped up perfectly. The only change was due to how my air fryer operates.  I cooked them for 7 minutes and my machine tells me to flip at the halfway mark. 

A stack of pizza rolls on a grey plate with a bowl of marinara and a bowl of parmesan cheese

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Air Fryer Chicken QuesadillaThis delicious Air Fryer Chicken Quesadilla comes together in just a few minutes with just a few ingredients. Perfect for fast dinners or snacks, they’re also easy enough for kids to make on their own. {Pin this recipe}

A hand holding a quesadilla with cheese being pulled

Chocolate PorridgeInstant Pot Chocolate Porridge is a delicious and filling way to start your day. This vegan and dairy-free chocolate quinoa breakfast bowl is the perfect make-ahead breakfast. {Pin this recipe}

a white bowl of chocolate quinoa topped with berries

Honey Ginger Syrup Learn how easy it is to make your own Honey Ginger Syrup for mocktails, tea, and lemonade. You’ll love this ginger simple syrup in so many recipes! I also included vegan substitutions! {Pin this recipe}

honey ginger syrup in a jar with a spoon and fresh ginger on a wooden board

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

  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 – the childhood favorite with none of the burns on the roof of your mouth.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. Air Fryer Tofu – welcome to the top five! This crispy plant-based dish is the perfect base for adding your favorite sauce. {Pin this recipe}
  5. Air Fryer Chocolate Chip Cookies – a no-brainer. These cookies rule. {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Week two of the freezer clean-out continues. There is a solid chance I am going to keep this going for another few weeks.

Monday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Tuesday:: Instant Pot Beef Stew and homemade garlic bread.

Wednesday::  Air Fryer Tofu with Garlic Parmesan Rice and salad.

Thursday:: Air Fryer Taquitos with leftover rice and salad.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Sunday:: Chicken teriyaki in the Instant Pot. I have some organic chicken thighs and drumsticks that came in our last Butcher Box and we will never do much with them. So they’re going into the IP to get shredded and then served over Instant Pot Jasmine Rice with salad on the side.


What are you having this week?


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15 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. This storm, man…Oregonian here, we lost power for 2 and a half ish days, which I’m so thankful it wasn’t longer considering there are still those in the state without power and have been for over a week now. But I’m not gonna lie – it was frustrating seeing the houses one block over all lit up while ours was dark and cold. We were thankfully able to go to my parent’s house for showers and to charge devices (and so I could get some work done!) Meanwhile my sister lives in Texas with her family-they have been EXTREMELY fortunate to not lose power. I’m so thankful for that for them, but it makes me so so sad to read all the stories of everyone else who is struggling.

    Your duck makes me laugh. In our family, we have a blue duck that has become the Christmas gift booby prize. Years ago, my dad opens his Christmas gift from his mom and it’s this blue, wooden carved duck. He was thoroughly confused why she was giving it to him….until she proudly proclaimed “You like the Oregon Ducks team! It’s a duck!” We try not to pass it around every single year, since it’s more fun if everyone forgets about it until they open it, but it always makes us laugh and think of my grandma who passed last year.

    • It really does seem to be a hit or miss thing with how it impacted people/communities/neighborhoods. I’m glad you’re safe and my heart breaks for those who weren’t. It’s an impossible situation.

      I love the duck tradition!

  2. As a southerner and an engineer, the Texas thing and our issues here at home, have really intrigued me. Especially the 3rd question: what are we going to do going forward? I really appreciate you’re view of stocking up and the battery candles are great ideas. We actually used our hurricane water to defrost a pipe. My thoughts went to infrastructure, contractors, and what reasonable changes can be made for such a freak event in the future. Katrina was our horrific moment but, 8 years or so ago, we had a small storm named Issac that hit just a few miles west of us (less than 100 miles). It was a small, weak Cat 1, but it sat and dumped water for three days. Hurricane Harvey was a Cat 4 but it sat on top of Houston and dumped water. Those were true life changers where people now want to run for smaller storms. It used to be that I was still fighting to go to work in a Cat 1. We sat through Zeta (Cat 2) and it wasn’t as bad as some of the summer storms we have. But it was blowing and going, leaving out after two or three hours. But this freeze is not predictable. I’m sure there will be some changes going forward, but not many as the cost to build taking snow loads and frozen pipes into account start to become apparent. Then, after the next freeze, or the next, then changes will start happening. We’ll still only buy two or three heavy pairs of pants for our kids per year because they’ll have outgrown them by the next time they’re needed. I’ll be interested to watch how this changes anything, if at all, going forward. I am still thinking I’d hurricane Sandy that caused so much devastation up the East coast. Have they incorporated hurricane winds into designs? Does anyone still stock up “just in case”? Was it a once in a lifetime instance? Or can we expect more lotter these unthinkable, unpredictable disasters in the future? Sorry to write so much. This has been rattling around for a while.

    • I think with these once-in-a-lifetime storms it would be impossible to ever fully prepare or secure the local infrastructure. As soon as “everything” is done to prevent the same damage from happening again, a new threat will materialize.

      I hear you on asking the question about what makes sense to fix/plan for, and what do we think is excessive. We’re an area that only gets a big snowstorm every 3-5 years, and as a result, we never have enough snowplows to deal with those storms. Because it would be silly to spend precious dollars stockpiling equipment that we rarely need. And so when those storms do come, we’re all stuck home for a week.

      Be safe!

  3. Thanks for the shoutout for Texas! It’s been really bad but we are cleaning up the damages. The burst pipes caused incredible damage, and about 1/3 people I know had that happen. The worst damage happened in unmanned places, such as my church which flooded overnight and has to be gutted.  

    Everyone is tired and stressed and cold.

    Rep. Dan Crenshaw has a good podcast episode on why this happened. The short answer is “yes.” Was it environmental change? Yes. Did the wind turbines fail? Yes. Did fossil fuels fail? Yes. Did nuclear fail? Yes. Were houses not insulated correctly? Yes. There are a thousand problems to fix, but we will get through it.

    And once stores restock, I’m going to buy myself more flashlights and some of those fake candles!

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your church and any of your neighbors who were impacted by the burst pipes. It all seems like it will take SO long to fix because there are only so many plumbers and contractors in the area.

      I think “yes” is the right answer. Like in most crises, there is never any single cause, but a “death by 1,000 cuts” situation.

      Not sure if you’re a Costco member, but they have free online delivery for non-perishable items if you spend more than $75. I just checked their website and they a few LED candle options, including a 12-piece votive packet for $16.99. You would likely also be able to get bottled water, etc.

  4. Both my kids had the mouth expander (Herbst appliance).  It is not that bad lol. The only thing they had a hard time eating was spaghetti because it would get wrapped around the appliance.  You will have to rotate it however often he needs it per the orthodontist.  We wrote on the bathroom mirror how many times they needed it done and each night we rotated it we marked it down. This way we would remember if it was done and how may we had left to go. 

  5. Your air fryer recipes always look so tempting! We don’t have an air fryer though!  also, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to make the things because I’d be doing like five batches just enough to feed everyone!  I feel like I need to look into all the old logging camp, one giant pot, style recipes! Just make them all a pot of chili every day! Ha, they would love that ???? I feel like we’ll be making huge meals for the next 18 years as the three littlest will be all teenage boys at once! ???? then if we have all the kids over for holidays. Holy cow. 

    We usually have 4 full five gallon containers of water and one in use. But I’ve been thinking (especially after this!) that we should have at least one five gallon jug for each member of the family. I feel like we always shop in bulk. It’s just hard to find places to store stuff. It will be so nice once we move somewhere more permanent to get everything set up and unpacked properly. 

    I love your kitchen! What a bummer about the handle. But at least it’s a relatively easy fix! 

  6. If you are into prepping, you might like some of the information on LDSprepper on YouTube.  He has many gardening videos and preparation  videos for other unexpected things.

  7. Thank you for giving the space in your weekly update to include resources to Texas and general emergency preparedness. The climate crisis is leading to these “once in a century” storms happening more frequently then well… once in a century. On a lighter note, I have loved watching your kitchen come together! That drawer handle is too much, though. I also enrolled my kiddo for Kindergarten this week (your blog post actually reminded me to log in and verify that I had uploaded all the appropriate documents; which I hadn’t, so THANKS!). I am glad that Jack is doing do well with in-person/hybrid school! I am hesitantly optimistic for our secondary students to return in early March. We shall see!

    • “Hot is getting hotter, cold is getting colder, and wind is getting windier” – Pantsuit Politics. “Once a century” is no longer a thing, and it’s pretty scary and can catch so many of us off-guard.

      The handle still makes me giggle.

      Yay for kinder and I’ll raise a glass to your family when your daycare bill plummets. 🙂 I remember feeling like we were millionaires when Jack went to kinder.