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Scattered Sundays

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I don’t want to bury the lead, so I’ll just let you know my test was negative (as expected)! Troy was able to return to work and all is as normal (as possible) again in our house.

And a happy happy Easter to all who celebrate! We will have online church later this morning (it’s not the same, but it’s something) and then a small dinner with just the four of us tonight. Earlier in the week, the boys made Easter cards for a few women at church and mailed them. Good luck to the person who gets Bennett’s card…he insisted on an obscene amount of tape.

Ha, just realized that Jack spelled his brother’s name wrong!

When I sit down to write these posts, I struggle lately with what to say. There is literally nothing going on in my life other than forced homeschooling, work, and trying not to strangle the children.

If you gave me 100 years to write a horror movie, as an extrovert I could never come up with something more terrifying than people being sick and scared and I’ve been told to stay at home and not go hug them. It’s like Get Out became Stay In.

On Monday our governor announced that school was closed for the rest of the year. In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), most schools start for the year the week after Labor Day and end in the third(ish) week of June. So my children are potentially home until September. Who knows for sure. The world is in a holding pattern.

You know when you’re watching a movie and there is a giant explosion and the characters “wake up” and can’t hear anything but a high-pitched ringing? That was me while watching the governor’s press conference. Once he said “school is closed for the remainder of the year”, I stumbled around in a daze like an extra from The Hurt Locker.

I was heading out to walk anyway and it was excellent timing so I could ugly cry in private. For many of us, this lockdown started around March 13th, but for me, my work/life balance has been out of whack since January 27th. Between January 27th and March 13th, one to three males in my house were sick at any given time. If you are good at math, male sickness is 342.87% worse than any female illness.

The day school was closed, Bennett was actually home sick with one of his random high fevers (they come every 4-6 weeks so we call them “his period”). All three dudes had taken turns being sick and effing up my work week for almost two months. The spring was supposed to be a turnaround for their health and for letting me get back to work.

I have/had HUGE plans for my blog this year. My content calendar has been set for all of 2020 since November 2019. I had my photoshoots scheduled out one quarter at a time, which allowed me to get ahead and start working on Q4 (Oct-Dec) content as early as May. On March 13th, for the first time ever, I was two weeks ahead with written content. 

God sure has a funny way to reminding us that we are not in control. And for a type-A extrovert (if you’re familiar with Meyers-Briggs, I’m an ESFJ), the moral of this lesson has been a hard one to wrap my head around.

Being able to work from home and still earn income, even if it has been reduced, is a great privilege. And overall, we’re amongst the lucky ones. The ability to social distance is a privilege. But like many, I mourn and long for a return to normalcy and health for the world.

I had a conversation with someone on Instagram who was feeling down because someone she follows seems so put together with this. Here’s the dirty little secret about people projecting perfection on social media: they’re effing lying. They’re just as scared and screwed up as the rest of us.

They choose to show you the good times but I promise you there are bad times too. Never compare your life to someone who is only willing to show you the highlights. You also deserve the blooper reel.

Some days I am ok. And somedays I am not. But I promise you that I’ll never hide my failures that lead to my successes. Warts and all. That’s what you get here. And fart jokes. 🙂

The 2008 recession leveled Troy and me. It was absolutely horrible and most days I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to climb out the suckfest we had gotten into. My morning routine was: get up at 4:30 am, work out, sob in the shower, and then commute 2.5 hours a day for work. 

We couldn’t afford therapy, so I started a blog. I’m not saying it is the solution for everyone, but it worked for me. This August will be the 10 year anniversary of this blog (original site was called “Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity”. What a mouthful! TWSS) and I could never have predicted that a site I started to share our journey to brokeness would have evolved to this. Thanks for being part of that journey with me. 🙂

This was the official first week of structured online schooling for Jack. Our district has a late spring break and since nobody knew what the in heck was going on with coming back to school, everything was in a “hurry up and wait” mode.

The teachers are doing the best they can with the limitations everyone is facing. Jack was able to do a Zoom call with his class on Monday and he was so happy to see his friends again. We borrowed a Chromebook from school to make it easier for him to do all the assignments. The work has been fine though I do need to find a way to supplement it. As of now, we’re just letting him read as much as he wants.

Mini drawf apple trees. They max out at 6-8 feet tall. Perfect for micro-farms.

We continue to work on the couch to 5k training app. I took a week off for a sore hamstring and it has felt harder to get back to it this time. Jack and I continue to train (i.e., he pretends he can’t run the entire time while humoring me) with his friend who lives on our running route.

We “pick him up” on the way, run with 6 feet between us, and then “drop him off” at his house. I call it our social distancing distance training. It seems to be good for everyone’s soul. But next time I train myself to run, I am not picking the two fastest kids at school as my running partners.

Our remaining chickens are quite old now but some of them are still laying sporadically. I never stop being excited when I find eggs in the nesting box. We can’t raise chicks (whaaaaaa) because those adorable little fluff balls would kill Troy. Allergies are lame.

Adding to our flock requires us finding good-hearted people who are willing to raise them for us for three to four months. At that point, they’re big enough to be outside all day, every day and can be integrated into our flock.

One of Troy’s coworkers has a large property and raises chickens every year. He snagged six chicks for us at the farm store before the world went to hell with the hope that at least four will survive to come live at the Cook Family MicroFarm.

The boys have been thinking hard about names (three-year-old Jack is the reason we have a chicken named “Poo Poo Sandwiches”), and I’m excited to see what we end up with! We got two new birds last summer from a friend but they turned out to be roosters. Whoops. One was white and orange and the other was all black and silver. We named them BB-Egg and Kylo Hen.

Jack is campaigning for continuing a Star Wars theme and has suggested “Princess LAY-Ah”, and I am trying to convince the boys that “C3-Peep-0” is both hilarious and topical. Emperor Cluckadine?

Bennett’s preschool is still open but we have chosen to not send him until social distancing orders have been lifted. His teacher called me the other day to see if I would like a homework packet for him (of course I said yes!). I asked how they were doing and if they had everything they needed.

She mentioned they hadn’t been able to find masks anywhere for the staff and so they were all just trying to be as safe as possible. I offered to make masks for them, and will be working on that project this week. I’ve already made 20 ish for family members and would love to be out of mass mask production, but kids are disgusting on a good day and these teachers are surrounded by boogers.

The pattern I use is from Wholefully and it’s a beginner-level project. Finding elastic can be challenging though. If any readers sell masks or elastic, please feel free to drop contact information in the comments.

For Jack’s birthday last week, we got him an adult bike. His knees were hitting the handlebars on his old one and it was a one-speed. You cannot ride our hills successfully with a one-speed! He is loving the new freedom of being able to go more places. We’ve been throwing the bikes in the back of Troy’s truck and heading up to a rural church parking lot for more space to ride.

I’m considering investing in a bike that Troy or I can ride with a kid seat in the back for Bennett. That will give us all more freedom and fresh air this summer no matter what is dictated by public health needs.

Our roads are too narrow for a kid bike trailer thingy (<—-official name), and I think Bennett is too small (and lazy) to use one of those tag-along bikes for any long period of time. What has worked for you and your kids?

I have seen a big increase on Facebook and Instagram around people asking me gardening questions. I was even interviewed for this online piece on why now is a great time to start a home garden.

I love the enthusiasm but do want to caution that people don’t go overboard if it is their first garden. I am someone who usually jumps into any project with both feet, but a garden often requires patience, and “easing in”.

It has taken us almost nine years to have our gardens where they are today. Nothing is accomplished overnight. Gardens test patience and expectations. Think long-term as well.

Sure, we’re all at home right now but what happens when the world returns to “normal”? Can you commit the same amount of time to your garden when your work schedule resumes? It is ok to expand and refine your garden every year.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are a few posts that might pique your interest: How to Plant Garlic, Homemade Seed Tape, How to Build a Raspberry Trellis, Vertical Strawberry Planters (these are great if you don’t have a lot of growing space), and DIY Garden Trellises (these are fantastic for raised beds and can be folded for storage at the end of the growing season).


I am stealing this directly from my blog wife (community property!), Katie from Hey Nutrition Lady. But because I’m not a Canadian living in Sweden, I’m using words like “favorite” instead of “favourite”. 

People have been making a great effort to support small businesses in their communities that are struggling as a result of the situation at hand, so I wanted to remind you, since you’re my favorite people, that blogs are small businesses too. But unlike other businesses, we give away everything we produce for free. That”s a pretty stupid business model if you ask me. 🙂 It costs you nothing (but scrolling past some ads) to read a blog.

For many of us in the food space traffic is up considerably right now, since people are cooking. But at the same time, ad revenue is dropping more and more each day. Most of us are earning at least 50% less than we were at the beginning of March, and it’s set to keep dropping more by the looks of things. 

The good news is that there are several easy ways you can support your favorite bloggers (whomever they may be) for free. First of all, all you need to do is show up! Showing up costs you nothing.

Visit our sites, poke around in the recipe categories, and see what you can find. Oh, and part of the fun of looking back in the archives is finding the hideous photos of my earlier posts. We’re talking dumpster fire at a fertilizer factory territory.

If you like something, share it with a friend! Literally just email or text them the link so they can check it out. Don’t print recipes out (save paper! be sustainable!) rather, visit the site each time you make a recipe. Share posts on Facebook, pin to one of your food boards on Pinterest, tag us on Instagram and just spread the word!

Oh, and follow us on those social media channels too. Do you know that brands determine the number of social media followers when deciding what to pay a blogger for a sponsored post? What a racket!

And while you are looking at the recipes, if you use the “jump to recipe buttons”, do a scroll back up and down the post to scan for questions we spend so much time writing. Do you know how much easier our jobs would be if we just put a recipe and two photos in a post? So simple!

But those pro tips are there for you so you can successfully make the recipe the first time, every time. Jump to Recipe is a service we offer our readers who are in a rush (we get it! We are too), but it often cuts revenue by 30%.

If you’re doing a lot of online shopping (who isn’t these days?) see if your favorite blogger has an affiliate link before making any purchases. If you’re ordering through Amazon, affiliates will earn a commission on anything you purchase even if it isn’t the item we are suggesting.

Let’s say you’re interested in my absolute favorite kitchen item ever but decide the shipping time doesn’t work for you. But when you’re there and happen to buy gluten-free dog food grown in a hydroponic garden (I assume that is a thing?), I’d get a small percentage of that. And it does not add to the cost of your item. To make it even easier, you can even bookmark my Amazon Shop which I use to track good deals for you.

Thanks loves. We’re all in this together!

What I’m Listening To This Week

I have loved the podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression for years. The host, John Moe has clinical depression and interviews other celebrities and artists who have some form of mental illness. It’s a wonderful podcast and they now have a sister podcast called The Tremendous Upside, where Women’s Hall of Famer Chamique Holdsclaw interviews pro athletes who get real about their mental health.

What I’m Reading This Week

I finished up Wild and it inspired me to re-read a book I read a decade ago and LOVED called A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. You can see all the books I’ve read in 2020 here. Or maybe the last 15 years? Who knows…time no longer has meaning.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Kezia left this five-star review on our Instant Pot Tortilla Soup With Rice post (non-Instant Pot instructions are of course noted in the recipe!) {Pin this recipe}:

Yum yum yum! Huge hit in our house, my four-year-old and husband both declared this to be their favourite dinner, and the 16-month-old wanted us to feed her for a change as she couldn’t get the full spoon to her mouth day enough. I used 1 and 1/3c of dried black beans and brown rice, cooked for 22 minutes on high which was perfect. I also used the 5c of ‘garbage soup’ aka the best stock as I was using dried beans, and substituted passata plus additional seasonings for the vegetable juice. Best of all I only needed 10 min of hands-on time, and dinner was served within the hour. Thanks Sarah!

a bowl of tortilla soup on a cutting board with cilantro and limes

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Vegetarian Lentil NachosThese cheesy Lentil Nachos are a super fast and tasty snack or meal that can be made from pantry staples. Personalize your batch of vegetarian nachos with your favorite toppings and ingredients. {Pin this recipe}

Salmon Cakes From Pantry StaplesThese healthy and freezer-friendly Paleo Salmon Cakes are outrageously tasty! Using canned wild salmon, this recipe is a speedy paleo, Whole30 compliant, or gluten-free dinner. You’ll flip for these gluten-free salmon patties! {Pin this recipe}

a platter of paleo salmon cakes with cilantro and chimichurri

Homemade Hamburger BunsFull of flavor, these Simple Homemade Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns are hearty and delicious. They are so easy to make, you’ll never buy store-bought again! {Pin this recipe}

whole wheat hamburger buns on a baking rack against a black background

20-Minute Meatless LasagnaWhip up the world’s fastest Gluten-Free Lasagna and have it on the table in under 25 minutes! This meatless lasagna will become your new go-to weeknight dinner. {Pin this recipe}

a baked gluten free lasagna in a white baking dish

Hasselback Roasted Beets With Goat Cheese – I almost didn’t post this recipe. I wrote and photographed it back in February before the world became the Upside Down. With people eating from their pantries, it felt weird to publish a post calling for goat cheese and hazelnuts.

But at its base, it is very much a “depression-era” style of recipe, i.e., roasted root vegetables that flourish in home gardens. No goat cheese in your fridge? Leave it off. Can’t afford to sell a kidney to buy hazelnuts? You can leave them off, no ifs, ands or hazelbutts. If you have root veggies to roast and some olive oil, you can make this recipe work for you. {Pin this recipe}

A grey plate with roasted beets topped with goat cheese, hazelbuts, and parsley

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

Lots of people were getting un-lit on our Virgin Mojito this week. Let’s take a look at the other top posts y’all were enjoying.

  1. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – as always, non-air fryer instructions are included in the post.  {Pin this recipe}
  2. Instant Pot Beef Tips – non-Instant Pot instructions are includes in the post.  {Pin this recipe}
  3. Air Fryer Pickles – as always, non-air fryer instructions are included in the post.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. How to Freeze Spinach  {Pin this recipe}
  5. Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Rice  {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Monday:: Instant Pot Mac and Cheese. I opened a can of evaporated milk a week or so ago and I think I should probably use it up asap. Veggies on the side and I’ll probably add a bit of diced leftover ham.

Tuesday:: Lasagna. I found a box of whole wheat lasagna noodles in our garage that expired in 2018, so I figured let’s give it a shot, right? 🙂 I’ll add kale from the garden to the red sauce and we’ll have salad on the side.

Wednesday:: A new Instant Pot soup recipe I am working on for you! And I’m photographing a new bread/roll recipe and we’ll have that (and you’ll get it on the blog in a week or so). I have had to make the damn bread recipe FOUR times to get it right. Over it…but excited to share. 🙂

Thursday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night

Saturday:: Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings. This didn’t happen last week.

Sunday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

What We Bought This Week

Azure Standard (click here to learn more about this buying club): $32.54. I didn’t take any photos because I’m trying to not use my phone after touching purchased goods. It was 12 lbs of organic Russet potatoes, 3 lbs of organic onions, and a box of oatmeal cookie Z bars for the boys.

Smith Brother’s Farms: $38.52. Our standing order usually comes to $14.97 each week, but I’ve been taking advantage of the delivery service to add more items that I would ordinarily buy from a standard grocery store. It keeps us out of stores, and we get to support a local business.

Local farm: $11. My favorite vendor from our local farmer’s market is offering curbside pick up.


What are you having this week?


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33 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. The Hilarious World of Depression sounds a lot like a podcast I listen to called The Mental Illness Happy Hour. The host is Paul Gilmartin who used to host the TV show Dinner and a Movie. You might like it. I’m definitely going to check out your show. With the world gone crazy, I don’t need to add to mine!

  2. I’m home with the kids and answering emails during the day and then have been going into work at night. I realized this weekend (hubby and I had three full days together) that I miss adult conversation. I also miss being able to ignore people. I can’t tune my kids out. The first thing I’m going to do out of quarantine is sit at the library/Barnes and Nobel/coffee shop, and quietly ignore everyone around me. My kids are tired of me too. My 9 year old has been extra testy with crying accusations of “You NEVER told me!” over small things. He threw two fits while dying eggs over little things. I had to have them dye separately. It also didn’t help that my hubby didn’t exactly jump up and tend to all the kids needs this weekend. I don’t know if I have another month and a half in me. Our stay at home is through the end of April but I’m guessing they’ll extend it until hurricane season. I can’t even imagine having to run right now. Out of town hotels are trying not to rent to people from my area.

    • I think you’ve nailed it on the head – being able to ignore people. It sounds so glorious at this point, doesn’t it?

      Hurricane season adds a whole extra layer of hell to this.

  3. I’m so glad you started this blog and I am so thankful that I found it!

  4. So with you on not following someone’s highlight reel! I love that you keep it real with everyone 🙂 right now sucks. Sometimes it sucks a little less, but it sucks. It’s one giant suckfest and some days we don’t have to pretend to find all the positives and can just be sad for what we’re missing, what we’ve lost and what will never be the same.

    Also great advice on the gardening. Over here people are buying out seeds like crazy and I wonder what will happen when things are back to normal! It’s hard enough to keep a herb garden alive haha.

    • I think “but it sucks” needs to be the motto of 2020.

      Do things grow better for you in winter or summer? Is it too hot in summer for stuff to survive?

  5. Happy Easter!! I’m no longer particularly religious (raised Catholic though) but I’m struggling with not being able to celebrate the holiday with family. I did finally see my parents on Friday for the first time in a month – took some cat food over to them and we had a lovely conversation in the driveway. But knowing that it’s a gorgeous sunny day and we’d be gearing up to go over there, and do an egg hunt with my nieces, and have ham and potatoes, drink wine, and celebrate…arg. Finding the positives – my parents have done awesome with staying home except for senior time grocery shopping, my brother and I both work essential jobs and have so far remained healthy, and the last couple days really have been gorgeous outside.

    I can’t believe your blog is almost 10 years old! My bookmark for your page still says Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity – I’ve been around since, oh, probably 2012. Weirdly enough, back then I was an unemployed military wife trying to save money, now we’ve switched and my husband is the one unemployed thanks to the business closures…we’ve come so far since then, and I am thankful that we’re in a much better place financially, but it’s still stressful. You are legitimately the only blog that I even have bookmarked, much less that I follow on Facebook and actually read almost all of your posts (I might miss one here or there, but that’s usually when they’re recipe posts for things I would never get hubby to eat lol)

    At any rate, that’s a long ramble – I hope you guys have a wonderful Easter Sunday, and keep doing what you do! We’ll all be here 🙂

    • Whoever imagined that driveway conversations would mean so very much to us these days.

      Awww, you’re an OG reader!! Thanks for sticking around for so long. 🙂

  6. So my sister is currently looking for teaching jobs and making plans for a future classroom as a way to deal with some anxiety. She was telling me about a website called Teachers Pay Teachers where you can buy lesson plans and curriculum from other teachers. She knows I like the Montessori method and that I’m considering homeschooling in the future and told me that you can buy homeschool curriculum on there as well (and some of it is even Montessori). I don’t know how much anything is but you can create an account just to browse from the sounds of it so it may be something to consider to give Jack some extra work to do.

    • Yes, TPT is a very popular way for educators to make side money. If they do it correctly, they easily make more money than teaching which is a super sad statement about how much we value education in this country.

      Another one of my readers is a teacher who earns extra money teaching via an online platform called VIP Kids. If you want to email me with your sis’ contact info, I can put you in touch with the reader.

      • That is incredibly sad. She was planning to do VIP kids this summer to make some money but apparently they aren’t hiring right now? At least that’s what she saw a couple weeks ago. She is currently working on completing her masters so I don’t think she wants to take on anything else at the moment.