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Q&A | Refurbs, Prereqs, Shopping with Littles, & a Yeast Roll Problem

It’s a Q&A day…let’s dive in!

I am curious about the refurbished items that you have purchased, such as the electric kettle from eBay. I have always shied away from buying used electronics and appliances online. Have you done this before and are you pleased with your purchases?


I usually just make sure there is a reasonable return period and I make sure to test the item as soon as I get it.

Electric kettle on countertop next to a toaster.

My kettle from eBay!

I also only buy from reputable sellers with plenty of feedback. I would not, for instance, buy a used iPhone from a random person on craigslist, but I will buy a refurbished iPhone from Amazon Warehouse Deals.

Also, I tend to tread with less caution if the item is a lower dollar amount. The electric kettle was not nearly as big a risk as an iPhone, so I didn’t feel too much stress about it.

A pink iphone with a happy camper sticker on the back.

I keep bringing up the risks of iPhones, but I have had lots of success with buying refurbished iPhones through Amazon Warehouse Deals. I have never been brave enough to buy one on eBay, though!

And I most definitely am not brave enough to buy an iPhone from a person on Facebook Marketplace…there are even fewer consumer protections in place there (which makes me think that shysters would be more likely to try to sell there.)

A pink phone in a blue backpack pocket.

Buying brand new is the lowest risk option, of course.

But buying second-hand is (usually) the lowest price option.

So every shopper has to weigh their risk tolerance and find the sweet spot between A) risks and B) saving money.

Kristen, I’m puzzled at all these courses you’re having to do before going to nursing school. In my state in Australia you just go straight to university after school and begin your degree.


Kristen holding a back to school sign.

I’m not sure how it works in every state in the U.S., but at my school, there are certain classes you have to take before you start the two-year R.N. program.

For instance, you have to take Anatomy and Physiology 1 and Intro to Biology before you can even apply to the program, and you have to have some general ed. classes done, such as English, math, and so on.

Then once you get into the nursing program, the classes are 100% nursing-related.

I could put off developmental psych and microbiology and do them concurrently with the nursing program, but I figured I’d rather knock out everything I can beforehand.

That way, my workload will be as manageable as possible when I’m in the nursing program.

When your kids were little, did you have a set grocery shopping day that you planned around? Or did you try to go when your husband was home and could stay with the kids? Did you keep enough food at all times that you could skip groceries for a few days if necessary? 

We used to live in a very tiny house and it just made more sense to only store the food we ate for just that week. Now we have slightly more storage (and a baby and toddler!) and I’m trying to adjust our food strategies. You are so resourceful and practical and I’d love to hear your advice from that phase of life.


Yes, when my kids were little, I generally did have a set day that I went grocery shopping. Since I homeschooled, I had to take all of the kids with me every time, so I tried very hard to only go once per week.

Life has changed so much for me; now it’s no biggie for me to run out for an ingredient or two, but when I had to load up four small people for every trip, even a “quick” stop was not very quick, especially in the winter when I had to get everyone bundled up.

Kristen, Lisey, Sonia, and Zoe

circa 2008

I remember in this stage of life, one afternoon I realized I did not have the buns that were necessary for my dinner plans. And it felt like so much work to take all the kids out to the store, I immediately decided I would just bake buns because that seemed much less overwhelming.. Ha.

I know some people are organized enough to go every two weeks (or less), and I did make occasional efforts to that end. But honestly, it felt like so much work to try to stretch the trips; it was easier just to go once a week.

An organized pantry shelf.

That said, I always had a chest freezer and a pantry shelf in my laundry room, so it’s not like we were totally out of food at the end of 7 days! I always have a stash of food around, often comprised of things I bought in bulk or got on sale.

I’d suggest that you experiment and see what works for you. You might land on something that’s perfect for this stage of life.

But then you will have to experiment again at some point because the only constant thing in parent-life is….change!

I am not an experienced baker, but decided to try my hand at making batch of whole wheat buttermilk dinner rolls (not your recipe).
Everything seemed to be working out. First rising looked good.

However, after I split the dough into 12 portions, made round balls and placed them on a prepared cookie sheet for the second rising, the dough didn’t hold its shape. The rolls spread out and flattened. They did still rise, but were huge disks, not nicely shaped dinner rolls.

Is this a result of not kneading enough prior to the first rising?
Kneading was very difficult because the dough was very sticky. The recipe cautioned not to add additional flour.

Please help.


That sounds like a too little flour problem; most people do err on the side of adding too much flour, which is probably why the recipe mentioned being careful about that.

Kristen kneading bread

But perhaps you are one of the few new bakers who erred on the side of too little flour.

Proper roll dough should hold its shape a bit after you knead it, but it should be soft enough to relax a little if you plop it onto the counter in a ball.

If it’s like Play-doh, it’s way too stiff and it won’t rise. If it flattens out right away, that’s too soft and you need more flour.

Here’s what my dough looks like after kneading:

yeast dough on counterop.

I doubt your flat rolls were caused by improper kneading, but just in case: you can usually tell if a dough is sufficiently kneaded by poking your finger into the dough.

kneaded oatmeal bread dough

If your finger indentation bounces back quickly, then you have kneaded enough to develop the gluten in the flour.

If your finger indentation doesn’t bounce back at all (or it’s slow to bounce back), then you could knead the dough until it does pass the finger indentation test.

dough before rising

I hope that helps!

Readers, if you have input on any of these questions, do share in the comments.

P.S. Got a question for a future Q&A post? Send me an email.

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suellen roley

Friday 8th of July 2022

I don't even know for sure how old my major appliances (oven and refrigerator) are, as they were here when I moved into this house (where my father lived) in 2005 (and I had visited for several years before that, and the current appliances have been here for as long as I can remember). I operate under "if it ain't broke, don't fix (or replace ha ha) it."

Freezer, microwave, bread maker, ice maker, Instant Pot, all about a year old. Unused Keurig about 6 years old (major impulse purchaser here) Washer and dryer about 8-9 years old. TV in bedroom came over on the Mayflower, and was used then. The big screen in the living room is about 5 years old.

Major ouch replacement in January 2021 was the hot water heater, but it was well past its life span :) probably original to the house (1986).

Next big ouch will be some sort of HVAC system, as the heat pump failed in December of 2021 (22 years old so I certainly got my stepmothers' money's worth out of it). So far space heaters and wood heat for winter, fans for summer. Looking to replace heat pump with one or more mini-split units.


Friday 8th of July 2022

eBay is actually a great place to buy electronics. Look for Certified Refurbished items. We just bought a Dyson Animal V8 vacuum on eBay. It had been returned and was fully refurbished. It came looking brand new and included a full warranty. We paid $279, it lists for $450 on Amazon.


Thursday 7th of July 2022

I forgot to add about grocery shopping with my kids--I loved it. I only had one toddler at a time since my two kids were 8 years apart, so that helped. But I loved being face to face with the kid in the cart seat, to talk, laugh, kiss the top of a head. We always went with a list the kids helped create, and when my kids saw something they wanted that wasn't on the list, the answer was "that's not on the list this week, maybe next week". We enjoyed smelling and feeling fruits and veggies, talking about other purchases. We cook from scratch, so mostly buy ingredients, not products. That kept us out of the soda, chip, cookie and cereal aisles generally, and we never bought candy at the check out counter, so my kids didn't even think to ask for it (and if they did "not on the list this week" would have sufficed). I only had one meltdown one time from one kid. We put the perishables away and went out to the car., and it never happened again. When my kids got bigger they helped pick the items and load the cart and helped me figure out which item was the best price.

My kids were known to the grocery store staff. The bakery offered free cookies to kids so my kids loved that. The lady at the fish counter once took a lobster out of the tank to walk around to my daughter's delight, and gave my youngest a small package of smelt for free because she was intrigued with their shiny silver color. The checkers knew their names and often gave them balloons or stickers.

I miss those days now that my kids are adults. I hope I get to do this with grandkids some day.


Thursday 7th of July 2022

I used to work for admissions at a nursing program. There was a long waitlist to get into the program. The nursing-specific classes needed to be taken in a certain order, and some of those classes had Anatomy and Physiology (General and/or Advanced) as pre-requisites ( and others). So what was happening is that they would have 20 spots for a first semester nursing class that required General Anat, and 20 spots for a nursing class with no pre-reqs. So they would attempt to take the first 20 on the waitlist, but (for example) only 15 were ready for the class that needed the pre-req. so there would be five empty seats that could have been used by someone else on the waitlist. So they transitioned to requiring pre-reqs (Like Chemistry, Anatomy and Phys, for examples) be completed BEFORE you were accepted into the program. It helped support student success, and efficient utilization of the school resources (classes were full of prepared students). The drop out rate dropped dramatically.


Thursday 7th of July 2022

This makes a lot of sense to me. I hear that 50% of people who attempt Anatomy and Physiology 1 don't pass the first try. So, I imagine that some of these prerequisites weed out people who were not going to survive the nursing program anyway. It's kind of a pre-selection process before you even apply to nursing school.


Thursday 7th of July 2022

I guess I was wondering if that roll dough got too hot, and the yeast started to die...

Or it was old yeast?

You're right, normally the second rising just makes them even puffier.

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