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Scattered Sundays

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We had two days in a row of almost 60-degree temps this week. It was gorgeous and it seemed like flowering trees were literally budding in front of our eyes. This means it is 100% my own fault for not realizing I should have started taking my allergy meds.

By mid-morning on Tuesday, I was sneezing so hard that my face was swollen and my eyes would barely open.

a woman's face with allergies

This is how selfies work, right?

We had been hauling firewood that morning from a job site that is on my walking route. The week before I had seen they were making a ton of firewood from some trees they had chopped down for the upcoming build. It took me 30 minutes of walking to various job sites and trying to track down the foreman, but I got one heck of a deal on a cord of wood for next year.

If you’ve never tried to navigate a wheelbarrow and stack firewood while sneezing every 3 seconds, well, you have truly lived a good life. The sneezing was excessive and relentless. By 6 pm, I threw in the towel and declared myself done. I told the boys Troy was their only parent for the rest of the night and they needed to leave the swollen and squinty lady on the couch alone.

And then I poured myself into bed at 8:30 pm. It’s not fun to watch TV when you can barely see the screen, and I’m sure the constant sneezing made the dialog hard for Troy to hear. It was just easier to give up and sleep.

Over-medicating myself with multiple kinds of allergy-meds during the previous day finally worked, and I woke up the next morning mostly back to normal. From now until October, Claratin and I will be thick as thieves.

a stack of firewood

Deep inside me, 13 year old me is screaming “see Mom and Dad? Tetris is TOO A LIFE SKILL”.

I completely filled our woodshed with what we hauled that day, plus what we had leftover from previous cords. There is nothing more pleasing to a Type-A person who likes to be outside and working than to create a well-stacked woodpile. It truly makes me happy. The .photo above only shows one layer of the firewood. I added another in front of it.

Troy’s cousin also had some trees taken down last weekend, so on Friday, we headed over there to get a truckload for ourselves. It was so great to see people that we love. Be gone, Rona. I miss my people.

a boy and a stuffed sloth

It takes a lot of patience to teach a sloth to read.

I had so much fun reading your comments last week about our DIY island that we (mostly Troy, but um, I created the idea of it) cobbled together. So I thought I’d share the “heart” of the kitchen today, by walking you through our side-by-side sets of drawers behind the island. All the drawers have these liners from IKEA. Each cabinet is 30-inches wide.

silverware in a drawer

The left set has a hidden drawer in the top drawer. We store our silverware, reusable straws, plastic canning jar lids in the bottom part. I feel like this drawer could house more items, but I have yet to figure out what they are. The top/hidden drawer has our knife storage, cutting boards, and Bennett’s placemat for art projects. 

I truly hate knives in a drawer, and we had a magnetic knife bar on the wall in the old kitchen. I LOVE magnetic knife storage but wasn’t willing to put holes into the backsplash just to store knives. We ended up with this wooden drawer block and it’s fine. Whatever. Not remotely exciting.

knives and cutting boards in drawers

The middle drawer has the dishes we use day in and day out. IKEA drawers do not have solid sides, and I was a bit worried that things might shuffle around too much and fall through the side rails. So far, so good and our dishes stay put and don’t shift. I think the drawer liners have a lot to do with that.

white dishes in a drawer

The bottom drawer is all our glass food storage. I wanted a cool organizer for all the lids that I could keep in one place, but the drawer was not deep enough to make it work. Instead, we just mainly store everything with the lids on, stacking only a few of the bigger containers. Our fridge is also pretty full of leftovers, so this drawer is pretty empty today.

And if I am being 100% honest, this drawer is usually a bunch of containers with the lids askew on top to let them air dry. I refuse to hand-dry dishes when the air does it FOR FREE, and the lids are never fully dried after the dishwasher is done. It’s fine. I just place the lids near the containers and the next time I open the drawer, things are magically dried. I then pop the lids on.

glass containers in a drawer

The set of drawers to the right does not have a hidden drawer and this was by choice. We use the top one to hold our drinking glasses and mugs. I had to purge our mug collection pretty hardcore to make everything fit in one drawer. But it is something we should have done years ago. Glasses and mugs were stacked 2-3 deep in the old cupboard and it was never fun to try to get anything out of there.

glasses and mugs in a drawer

The middle drawer is the holding zone for the baking/mixing squadron. All of this stuff was crammed into a tiny cupboard in the old kitchen, and yep, it was dish Tetris to try to get anything. My big 8-cup Pyrex is something I use almost every single day. I love that I don’t need to remove 15 other bowls to use it.

I have two really cool old Pyrex bowls in here that used to belong to Troy’s grandma. They are workhorses and are in near-perfect shape despite 50+ years of use. Just like a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, I think these bowls have layers of memories attached to them.

bowls and baking items in a drawer

I also have two, yes, two sets of measuring cups. It’s a wonderful luxury and love that I don’t have to wash and dry everything when I am doing a big batch cook/baking project. This drawer also houses our immersion blender which gets used almost daily.

We also store our cheese grater in here. I’m not sure who in our family first discovered this cheese grater, but I can tell you it’s the best cheese grater in the history of the world.

It comes with a lid so you can store grated cheese (awesome meal prep option) and it is more ergonomically comfortable vs a box grater. If you have arthritis, this is the kitchen tool for you. We used to buy them from IKEA, but I no longer see them on their website.

a blender and food processor in a kitchen drawer

The bottom drawer stores all the important things that may not get used daily but I love to have them in an easy-to-access place. I have our stand mixer attachments, our blender, and our food processor (plus attachments) down here. In the old kitchen, they lived in a cabinet near the fridge and it was a nightmare to get anything down.

Jack got his expanders in recently, and we’re officially on the road to braces. He’s been a champ for the most part, but very frustrated at how they limit how he talks and eats. 

I’m sure it is frustrating, but after hearing how “this will never get easier” (after only having them for 30 minutes…), I instituted a 20-minute policy. For 20 minutes each day, he was able to complain, moan, and whine all he needed to about the expanders. And then the rest of the day, he just needed to believe he would eventually be able to adapt.

Within 24 hours, he was talking and eating much easier. We were all relieved, especially Jack. We waited a week to start the turning process, and I think our first attempt could best be described as “needing as many arms as an octopus”. I positioned him close to a window and tried to use that little key while also holding a flashlight.

Like everything, I’m sure it will get easier and less like an episode of Monthy Python. We’re supposed to turn it twice per week, and he goes back in early April to have them check the progress. I have no idea how long he’ll need to be wearing it, but God willing, it won’t be a long-haul.

a before and after of a room

Yep, this is the same room. 25 years(ish) apart. Any question about why I hate clutter? And that is my sister. I was never a brunette. ๐Ÿ™‚

After all, was said and done with the kitchen, we had over-budgeted for the project. We then also got the stimulus like most of the country. We made the decision in early January to hire a local small business to replace some of the 40-year-old windows in the living and dining room.

The house had all aluminum windows that would weep in the fall/winter and pump heat in during the summer. They might as well have been plastic sheeting.

One window that sits behind our couch was so crappy that wind would blow into the house through the top and whistle. Troy has sealed it but nothing really moved the needle. The person sitting nearest that window was always under a blanket.

Troy and my father-in-law have slowly replaced old windows in our house as time and budget have allowed. But these windows are the giant honking beasts that would need to be installed on a second story, and for that, you want the pros handling it.

We had received quotes from a few companies and ended up going with a guy who runs a very low-tech but hardworking business. He was the only one who showed up on time to give us a quote and that is a HUGE thing for me.

a livingroom

New windows (except the triangles at the top)! Happy happy day.

Due to the wonky global supply chain, it took six weeks to get the inventory in, but they were finally able to do the project this past week. It was a two-day job, but holy smokes, what a difference!

They did four of the windows on the first day, and that night, our house was too warm for a fire. Before, we would have to light a fire each evening to keep the drafts at bay.

Not having the black frames on the old windows makes the space look so much bigger and brighter. And I think we already know that the living room was already pretty dang bright. The morning after everything was installed, our upstairs was a whopping four degrees warmer than normal when I woke up at 5 am.

Besides the timeliness, I have to say this crew won me over from the moment they showed up. It was garbage day and the truck had just finished dumping our can. Jack was headed out to put it away, and one of the crew members had already jumped out of their work truck and moved it to the side of the house.

It wasn’t even in their way. It was just one of those little things that show me these people go the extra mile to do a quality job. They were great to work with over both days and were more than tolerant of Bennett constantly trying to get their attention with a stuffed baby Yoda and/or stalking them in camo gear.

a kid in a battle helmet and gas mask

After having a bag of homegrown garlic sitting on the kitchen floor for…um, three weeks now, I finally bit the bullet Wednesday night and made more frozen garlic pucks. It’s not even hard and doesn’t take that long, but I just could not get the motivation to even get started.

I made Lorie’s Chicken Parmesan Casserole last week and it was fantastic! The boys would have licked their plates if I had let them, and Jack was so happy to eat something that was easy to navigate with his expanders. But, I was out of garlic pucks and had to chop three cloves of garlic by hand. That is what finally made me get my butt in gear.

We’re now stocked up on pre-chopped garlic for probably 3-4 months. And yes, I know I can buy a jar of minced garlic and it is cheap. But I find that those jars don’t give me the robust flavor I want, and I think the garlic is super bitter.

Lately, I’ve been posting lots of “meal prep” over on Instagram stories. Basically, they’re just me using my food processor to make soup veggie freezer packs, chop garlic for the freezer, chop onions to freeze, etc. 

I get more comments about these stories than any others, and it shocks me. I mean, there is nothing sexy about meal prepping. I had a few readers go out and get a food processor just to start meal prepping veggies, and lots of people have sent me photos of their own prepping inspired by my stories. My friend Elaina said she is never chopping an onion by hand again.

Seriously, NOTHING makes me happier than getting those comments and seeing people prepping in their stories. The ability to have ingredients on hand to create fast but healthy meals is what saves my butt each and every week. If I had to chop garlic or onions or carrots for every dish that required them, I would never have dinner on the table before bedtime.

Being able to grab a bag of chopped carrots, celery, and onions and throw a garlic puck into the Instant Pot to make a soup or something on the fly, is like a delicious edible insurance policy.

With that in mind, and complying all the suggestions I got from you last week about our upcoming spring cooking challenge, I’m excited to announce the topic will be Prep Once, Cook Twice“. Details (like a start date!) are still being decided on by the committee (it’s just me…), but if you’re interested in hearing more about when everything is finalized, you can sign up here.

Never fear, being on the waitlist does not mean you’re signed up for the challenge. It’s just a great way for me to share information and keep you updated when it is time to sign up.

What I’m Listening To This Week

All of my childhood dreams have come true because Unsolved Mysteries now has a podcast! You’re welcome world. Everything 80s is already back (seriously, stop it with those acid-washed mom jeans, you look a fool), so why not grab some Bagel Bites and Pudding Pops, crack open up Crystal Clear Pepsi and listen to some spooky mysteries?

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Long-time reader, Tiffani left this five-star review on our Creamy White Bean Soup {Pin this recipe}:

This was such an easy and delicious recipe. Even my kids liked it and I have some picky eaters! It makes a lot more than I expected it too and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow. I served it with warm buttered sourdough and it was perfect for sopping up any broth in the bottom of the bowl. I highly recommend giving this one a try. 

a spoon in a bowl of vegetarian soup

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Frozen Berry CakeThis Incredible Frozen Berry Cake is so easy to make using pantry ingredients. A perfect make-ahead breakfast, you’ll love how this low-sugar yogurt cake comes together in just a few minutes. {Pin this recipe}

frozen berry cake on a plate with a fork topped with yogurt and a sprig of mint

How to Grow Garlic – Garlic is one of the easiest things to grow in a home vegetable garden. Learn all the tips you need to know on how to plant garlic in fall or spring. {Pin this recipe}

heads of garlic

Roasted Frozen Asparagus – Once you know how to cook frozen asparagus, you’ll make it part of your weekly dinner rotation. It’s so easy to roast frozen asparagus for a fast and healthy side dish all year long. {Pin this recipe}

frozen asparagus on a grey plate with a lemon slice

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

  1. Air Fryer Potatoes – skip using the oven and make these crispy taters in the air fryer.  {Pin this recipe}.
  2. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – vegan/vegetarian as written, but you can make your version to your tastes.  {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 Pretzel Bites – always a good reminder that I need to make another batch of these for the freezer. {Pin this recipe}
  5. Air Fryer Chocolate Chip Cookies – a no-brainer. These cookies rule. {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

I continuing our freezer purge this week. We’ll need some fresh items, but I’m definitely making a dent in our garage freezer.

Monday:: Instant Pot Mac and Cheese and Garlic Butter Green Beans (we use frozen green beans in the winter).

Tuesday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Wednesday:: Instant Pot Chicken Pot Pie Soup + biscuits. I already have the veggies prepped and in the freezer. Hurray!

Thursday:: A new blog recipe I am testing out + a veggie dish that I am taking photos of too.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Sunday:: Air Fryer Pretzel Dogs and fresh-cut veggies. I haven’t made these in forever, and plan to triple the recipe and freeze extras for quick heat and eat meals.


What are you having this week?

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10 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. We recently bought a second set of measuring cups (a 1c, 2c, and some massive monster – 4c I think?) to add to our 1c and 2c.
    How did we live without them? I had to tell my husband twice yesterday that the “baby 1c” was in the dishwasher and it had eggs in it.
    We have that same cheese grater as well – something we inherited from my cousin. It’s super handy and pretty much the only one we use now. Spoiler alert! It is much easier to use when the lid is not under the grater. Hot tips from me to you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I love when people name silly household things like “baby 1c”. We do the same thing and it makes me feel normal to hear others do it too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. We’re neck deep in a remodel, living in our basement which is like an apartment, so yay for bedrooms and bathrooms and a kitchen, but there is not enough room for my kitchen to run well. Everything’s buried behind layers of other things and seeing your deep wide organized drawers made me want to run upstairs and get more work done because it’s coming! Someday it’s going to happen! Your space is beautiful and I’m so happy for you.

    Also, one of the only things my kids remember about a certain vacation spot is that it’s where we turned their expanders…

    • Cooking Tetris is so frustrating, no matter the situation. I hope your remodel goes quickly and you get to “move-in” very soon!

      “Was the Grand Canyon where we turned it one click, or two”?

  3. “Just like a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, I think these bowls have layers of memories attached to them.”
    LOVE this!! I, too, have dishes and cookware with history and I use the ish out of them.
    I’ve also gifted each one of my adult children one of our wedding gifts for their kitchens. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. As someone who does not have a dishwasher and must occasionally hand dry some dishes in order to have any space at all in her tiny kitchen, storage container lids are the worst! I will let one of those bad boys hang out in the dish drainer for a week if it means not trying to hand dry that tiny little lip around the edge (okay a week is an exaggeration).

    Love the drawers! Question: did you plan ahead of time what you wanted to go where? It seems like you must have for proper drawer size but I cannot even fathom the amount of time/mental effort that had to take.

    Also, yay for good windows! We live in a rather drafty rental and I totally get you on the window thing. Some guys from the property management company came out and measured a few months ago so fingers crossed for new windows this year!

    • Yes! The little lip is the worst. We didn’t have a dishwasher when we lived in Los Angeles, and I would play “dish strainer Tetris” just to not have to towel dry those dang lids.

      I had a really REALLY good idea of where stuff was going to go before we designed the kitchen. Since we were working with the thrifted countertops, we knew approximately how the kitchen would need to be set up. The sink placement was already set since it was cut into the counters. We knew the dishwasher would have to go to the right of that, and that kind of helped determine everything from there.

      Some things changed once everything was built simply because I over or underestimated a certain space. But generally, everything is pretty much where I wanted it.

      I hope you get new windows too. It makes such a difference. Last night was the first night since November that we have not lit a fire in the woodstove.

  5. where did you get the clear plastic rectangle bins that are holding your plastic mason jar lids and your immersion blender? I went on last week’s post and did not seem them listed.