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Scattered Sundays

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A few weeks ago I set up our tent in the yard. The boys played in it, read in it, and like our daily hell, argued in it. Each day it was up I could hear our grass slowly dying under it.

But having a place for my pasty kids to play outside without tackling them to put on sunscreen…well, it was worth every dead blade of grass.

We set a deadline for putting the tent away (always the worst part of tents) and promised the boys we would all sleep in it one night. How bad could it be? Famous last words!

Troy and the boys got everything set up while I worked. It was 8 pm and we were ready to climb in and read books…and it decided to rain for the first time in three weeks. Naturally.

Being true Pacific Northwesters, we camped out anyway. You’ll love this video on how PNW people really camp. This was easily 75% of my camping experiences growing up.

4 people smiling in a tent

It did stop raining eventually, but we found out that our neighbor likes to talk at an obscene volume until 11 pm and leaves her TV on all night + windows open. Between that and Troy’s snoring, I’m not sure anyone got a great night of sleep. But the boys loved it.

The next morning, Troy said if we ever had to “bug out” and head for the hills, he was going to steal someone’s RV because we would not survive without solid walls. Fact.

Thanks to the rain, the tent had just enough moisture to trap all the dust from the dead lawn on it. It was a two-day process of hosing off the outside of the tent and then hanging it on the clothesline before I finally folded it and packed it up.

This is the tent we own and have had it since 2013 and have never actually camped with it. Oy. But, it’s a fantastic tent and it makes one heck of a grass-killer. 🙂

2 boys and a man reading in a tent

You know what’s been in the news a lot lately? Voting! And do you know who has been voting by mail their entire life? Me! Washington State is one of a handful of states that only holds elections via mail-in ballots. You know what is amazing? Mail-in voting!

During the 2018 election, Washington State had 142 cases of suspected voter fraud. That is .004% of the 3.1 million ballots cast. (source) And a fun fact for my poli-sci nerds, Washington State has only had Republican Secretaries of State for at least 25 years.

I talk to my friends on election days and cannot believe they have to get up early and go vote before going to work. Voting in-person seems antiquated to me and a giant barrier for anyone who is employed and/or has to deal with daycare. Yeesh!

So, take it from me, a vote by mail pro/veteran, this is totally possible. Also? I’m a giant political nerd. My BA is in Criminal Justice and I was one, three-credit course away from having a minor in Political Science.

I spent my early 20’s working for the Washington House of Representatives (for both parties! Yep, both.), and read political news stories voraciously throughout the day. With those bona fides presented, let’s chat how YOU can vote safely and smartly this November!

  1. Check your Secretary of State’s website to make sure your voter registration is actually correct.
  2. If you’re able to sign up to vote by mail, do so!
  3. If voting is required in-person in your state, AND you are young and healthy, sign up to be a poll worker. On average, poll workers are older and retired individuals. You know, those most at risk during cold/flu/pandemic season. You can get more info at Every Last Vote.
  4. If voting is required in-person in your state, and your state offers early voting, vote early! There will be fewer lines and you can free up space on election day for others. But unlike current misguided AF advice…do not vote often. That is illegal.
  5.  If you’re voting by mail, send in your ballot AS SOON AS YOU CAN. Many states will allow your vote to count as long as it is post-marked by the election deadline (check the rules for your state). But don’t wait that long people, send it in early!
  6. Even better, if your state offers ballot drop locations, turn it in there. It’s freeeeeeeeee and you don’t have to burden the postal system with your ballot. Washington State has almost 500 secured ballot drop boxes across the state. These only showed up in the last year or so. Before that, we dropped them at our county courthouse to make sure they were received.
  7. If you’re voting by mail, many states have the option that let you sign up to receive a text or email notifying you when your ballot has been received. That’s rad. Do that.
  8. Do not allow the complexities of the upcoming election cycle to intimidate you to stay home. Your vote is important and democracy is not a spectator sport.
  9. And to recap: Vote early. Don’t vote often. That’s illegal.

And now there will be a quick quiz and then you can all pass my voter education course. 🙂

a bottle of cleaning spray

IKEA’s way of naming things never gets old.

Jack starts school on Wednesday, and I guess we’re as ready as we’ll ever be. Our district is all online, but students could choose between online all year or a “flex” option. The flex option means the district will evaluate the situation after nine weeks to see if it is safe to transition some students back to in-person instruction a few days a week.

We chose the flex option because there is nothing to lose. If things magically get better (they probably won’t, cause as a country, we’re a bunch of giant selfish buttheads), Jack can go back to school a few days a week. And we can continue online if schools reopen and we still don’t feel like he should be in-person.

He had a Zoom “open house” this week and got to “meet” all his teachers. He’s super excited and bounced out of his room after each session to tell us which friends he got to see. I’m still confused as to how he’s going to do PE and woodshop remotely, but I guess we’ll all learn.

I really want to have him do some (free) online typing training during fall quarter. I took typing in eighth grade, and it was so valuable. If you watch me on a computer vs Troy (who screwed around in HIS eighth-grade typing course…), it’s clear how actual guided training is beneficial. Do you know of any great online resources?

This week I headed to IKEA to start the order for our kitchen remodel. Originally we were slated to start in mid-September, but life happened and it will be pushed back to November. #firstworldproblems.

We decided to get all the supplies that we could NOW, and my lovely inlaws are letting us store things in their basement. My thinking is if businesses shut down again in fall, we at least have most of the stuff we need to get started.

Because remodeling while being stuck in the house with kids who are homeschooling isn’t remotely a set up for needing marriage counseling 5x a week. 🙂

The IKEA website showed almost everything we needed was out of stock, but I wanted to get started anyway. Due to the low supply info from the website, I took my car instead of the truck. You can imagine my surprise when the packing people rolled out this cart.

2 carts full of boxes at IKEA

I sent the photo to Troy and he told me I could always return anything that didn’t fit in the car. Being stubborn, that was NOT an option for me. It was all going to fit because there had to be SOME winning in 2020.

I wish my mom were still alive so I could tell her that spending my tween years playing Tetris endlessly WAS actually a life skill I needed. 🙂 There was a guy on his phone in the loading zone the entire time I was packing the car. When I finally shut the trunk, I turned around and yelled “you better put down your phone and clap for me”. And he did. And I freaking earned it.

a car packed with boxes

Side note for remote woodshop. Could someone get credit for putting together kitchen cabinets? Asking for a friend.

I was chatting with a reader over on Instagram and she mentioned that she couldn’t wait to follow along with the kitchen remodel process. Can I be honest with you? I really want to share it, but I feel 78 layers of conflict about it.

On the one hand, we’ve been preparing for this for nine years. And our “new” countertops were actually salvaged (for free) from a teardown kitchen project.

But on the other hand, I’m worried that posting renovation info will come across as tone-deaf during a time when people are losing their jobs and homes. I’ll never forget during our peak of “brokeness” during the Great Recession, a friend was talking about a new awesome yogurt she loved.

And then I saw it was $1.19 and just couldn’t justify the cost. That feeling of despair has always stuck with me and guided how and what I share online. So, things are weird and I’m not sure what to do.

In the Garden This Week

Same same – tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, herbs, cucumbers, and squash. The greens I put in last week are looking great, but with 10 days in the ’80s in the forecast, I feel like I need to put a shade cover over them.

We picked our last batch of free roadside blackberries for the freezer. Till next year!

I finally got the second truckload of topsoil for our third raised bed, and planted carrots, beets, and more greens. It’s always an experiment to see what will grow in the fall.

I had big plans to can a ton of tomatoes in September, and honestly, I just don’t want to. I’m going to freeze a ton and then plan to can later in the fall. You know, when the kitchen is torn to shreds and we are putting together cabinets. Because that’s how I roll.


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To enter, visit this page and follow the instructions. This giveaway is open until 11:59 pm PT on Wednesday, September 9th. Open to US residents only.

Can’t wait for the giveaway to be over? You can head over to Naked Bacon and try their amazing products for yourself! You can use coupon code “sustainablecooks10” to get 10% off any order.

What I’m Reading This Week

I finished The Guardians (it was fine. Like a fast food version of a book) and started Station Eleven. I had no idea what this book was about, but it was available at the library for download.

Turns out it is about a pandemic that changes the world, so…I’m going to say terrible timing on my part. That being said, the book is really well written, and hey, maybe I’ll learn something to prepare me. Yeesh.

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Instant Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup A big bowl of Instant Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup is pure delicious comfort food. This soup has an amazing and flavorful creamy broth paired with veggies and delicious tender chicken. No pressure cooker? No problem! You’ll also find directions to make this soup on the stovetop. {Pin this recipe}

a spoon lifting a bite of gnocchi soup

Crispy Butternut SquashLearn how to cook the best Crispy Butternut Squash you’ve ever eaten! This baked and healthy side dish is paleo, Whole30 compliant, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian. {Pin this recipe}

a white scalloped bowl with cubes of crispy butternut squash with afork on a white board

Canning Potatoes: Follow this step by step tutorial to learn how simple Canning Potatoes can be. Having canned potatoes on hand means your favorite soups, stews, side dishes, and roasts can be ready in a flash. {Pin this tutorial}

3 jars of canned potatoes on a wooden board

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

That attention hog, mojito mocktail is actually #3 (oh, how the mighty have fallen), but let’s focus on the other top recipes. 

  1. Canning Peaches – because everyone wants to can something that looks like a tiny fuzzy butt. {Pin this tutorial}
  2. How to Can Pears – my nephew used to call these “candy pears” even though I use an ultra-light syrup. {Pin this tutorial}
  3. Canning Tomato Soup Base – Think healthy Campbell’s without 50 days worth of sodium. {Pin this tutorial}
  4. Canning Whole Tomatoes – One of the easiest canning projects for newbies and pro canners.  {Pin this tutorial}
  5. Whole30 Pot Roast – this post blew up in some Facebook groups this week.  {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Troy and I are started our “Whole30 Lite” on Saturday, so you’ll see that reflected in all our meals. It’s also really hard to find compliant meals for takeout, so I have reduced it to once per week. We have been getting takeout 2x per week to support local small restaurants, but we’re just not able to keep that going for a few weeks.

Monday:: Chef salads, with bread on the side for the boys.

Tuesday:: BLTA zoodles, with leftover bread on the side for the boys.

Wednesday:: Green Beans in Tomato Sauce with some sausage thrown in for protein. I’ll be missing the parm on this one! Boys will have a homemade frozen pizza to celebrate the first day of school. Even though it will be 1 billion degrees.

Thursday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Friday:: Popcorn and leftovers for the boys, and grilled kebabs and salad for us.

Saturday:: Chicken tacos over salad. I’m making a bunch of chicken at once and using leftovers for Whole30 Chicken Salad.

Sunday:: Burger bowls (burgers over salad) with a side of roasted potato wedges.

What are you having this week?


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60 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. Typing lessons, Mavis Beacon! They have a free version. They also have a kids version. I bought this on cd, 20 years ago and it had lessons, exercises and GAMES!

    • I second Mavis Beacon!  
      I also purchased it a little less than 20 years ago and forced the kids to do it.  They can both type about 75 words per minute and have both been paid, in university, for typing notes for others (legitimately, through the school.  Not anything shady)

      • I love anytime a parent says “forced a kid” to do something. Cause we’ve all been there and we know they come out better for it!

  2. Apparently at my sister’s school the PE teacher is teaching health for the first time ever. I think kitchen remodel should definitely count as woodshop credit!

    • All I can picture is the PE teacher from The Wonder Years teaching reproduction. HA!

      • I need to see of that show is available yo stream anywhere. I remember watching it occasionally as a kid and enjoying it but it was only when I caught a random rerun. I’d love to finally see it all the way through. Was the wonder years PE teacher anything like the one on Mean Girls? Lol

  3. I loved Station Eleven and had totally forgotten about it!  Off to see if the author has any new books…

  4. I have been voting by mail for 20ish years (military absentee). This is the first year we’ve been way ahead of the curve and set everything in motion as soon as possible. We REALLY want to make sure our ballot gets there in time.

    I say share your remodel. Yes, some people will be put off by it, but your loyal readers will totally want to know how it’s going. I know I am super excited for you!!! Plus, it gives people something to focus on other than the dumpster fire that is 2020. Of course that’s just my two cents worth.

  5. Anyone who follows you knows you’ve waited and saved for years for this kitchen renovation, and are doing a lot of it yourselves – I think if you want to post about it, we’d love to follow along!

  6. We used IKEA for our kitchen cabinets. They are amazing. We just put together a cabinet every few nights and got them assembled in no time. The quality is awesome and I would use them again.

  7. I feel like assembling cabinets wouldn’t count for wood shop (because all the cutting and measuring and ‘technical’ stuff is done for you and you are just putting a puzzle together.  A tough, confusing puzzle…)  But is should count for SOMETHING.  It sounds like your district is doing a great job with back to school planning.  I worry about what is going to happen next week.  And I don’t even HAVE kids in school any more.
    Honestly, I don’t know how you have been managing to have take out twice a week as it is.  I live in Toronto where options are pretty much unlimited and I would not want the much take out!   (even though I hate cooking)  I feel like we would be really fat and unhealthy with all that salt and fat and crap that restaurants put into their food (that all makes it oh-so-delicious)
    I feel you on the raining in a tent thing.  We’ve been going to a charity-off-road-camp every year for the last 7 years (except this one), and it rains EVERY year.  You’ll never guess what didn’t happen this year during what should have been our camping extravaganza…..   Soggy tents are THE WORST.  I always set ours up in the yard once we are home, up on every outdoor chair we have so that air can circulate around all sides and dry EVERYTHING.  We use two tents, one small, good one for us to sleep in and one taller one for our gear. And to sit in when it is raining. One year, I had to set it up (we only used one back then) in my living room because it was still raining out!  That was fun.

    I’m not sure what I love more: That you got everything into the car, or that you got the guy to applaud you!

    • I was totally kidding about the woodshop credit. 🙂 But that being said, I don’t think I ever cut a single thing in woodshop. It was mostly gluing things together that the teacher had cut out for us. Maybe advanced woodshop you got use the saws.

      For takeout, we’ve been very picky about where we go. Once per week, I was getting this giant Greek salad that was PACKED with greens. The other times if we got something that wasn’t as healthy, I usually split mine with Bennett and always paired with veggies from home. That kid and I make a thing of chicken teriyaki and rice last for 3-4 meals.

      • Oh, how times change….  I know I am older than you.  And in a different country….  But “back in my day” (hahaha) we did everything in shop,  marked it, cut it, drilled it, attached it, sanded, put a finish on it….  I still have a faint scar on my wrist where I slipped while sanding the edge of a piece of sheet metal.  That was in grade 8.  It wasn’t very deep, but it was right over my vein and I was a wee bit dramatic about it and was sure I was going to die.  My Dad still has, and uses, that item.

        Maybe that is why they don’t even TEACH wood shop here any more!  It had been phased out by the time my oldest got to grade 8 (same school as I went to!!), she only got Home Ec. (I got half a year of Shop and half a year of Home Ec.).  And my youngest didn’t get either subject!

        For the take out….. it never even crossed my mind that you were getting parts of meals, and not full meals for take out.  That is pretty smart!

  8. THANK YOU for sharing your perspective on mail-in voting! It is so powerful and important. I think you are so mindful of others and the greater good; I personally like seeing projects in progress and before/after shots. Because you are so budget and environment-conscious, would it help you feel better if you included some of that information as you renovated your kitchen? It would give everyone helpful tips to do the same, while still daydreaming 🙂 And we all need a little escape every now and then!

  9. I am trying to up my typing skills and found a FREE on line program called the typing club. It has some games as well as lots of practice. I’m not sure it would work for someone who has no typing skills but is worth a try.

  10. Putting kitchen cabinets together should definitely count as wood shop. We’re a week into remote learning, gym class involved running laps around the inside of the house. Running laps inside our house turned into an obstacle course because we have 3 cats that won’t move and dog that insisted on running right in front of her