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Scattered Sundays

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Happy Easter to those who celebrate! It’s a doubly happy day in our house because it is also Jack’s 12th birthday today! It’s hard to believe it’s been a dozen years since this kiddo came into the world.

a mom and son outside

I mean, he MIGHT be my kid. Yah think?

Jack was a hard baby and a hard kid. But he has grown up to be such a kind and thoughtful young man. He’s responsible, considerate, and has a heart that is almost too big for his lanky string-bean body.

This was his second quarantine birthday. None of us ever expected last April that we’d still be in this situation. But here we are. The kids have adapted better than the adults.

We did another drive-through birthday. I saw a meme a few months ago that said something like “in 50 years you’ll know the adults who grew up during quarantine because they’ll hear a car horn and ask whose birthday it is”. Facts.

We’ll be seeing Troy’s parents and sister later today for Easter/Jack’s birthday. Half of all the adults are fully vaccinated (hurray!) and we’ll be working hard to remain safe and distanced.

I’m making a birthday cake for Jack and strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my father-in-law’s birthday. His birthday is next week but we’re celebrating early.

2 brothers on a couch in a black and white photo

On Thursday Jack decided to go for a run with me. He is one of those annoyingly naturally gifted runners, but he hadn’t been out in a LONG time so we decided on “only” a 3-mile run.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when he is the one who asked to stop twice and he slowed ME down. We got to the end and he was breathing hard and I wasn’t even winded!

Yes, I’ve been training and he hasn’t been. But, it was a good reminder to me that there is something to be said for just slogging through and doing the hard work when something doesn’t come to you naturally.

2 brothers in the woods

Children of the corn woods

Jack’s school had conferences this week. They were through Zoom and only 10 minutes long, but we were able to speak with most of his teachers. All his teachers were complimentary of his work ethic and respectful classroom participation. It was a vast and welcome difference from the start of his school career. 🙂

His math teacher said that since the kids have returned to on-campus learning 2x a week, they had seen at-home participation drop to only 20%. That means that on the three days a week they’re not in school, only 20% of kids are doing the work.

She mentioned that Jack is part of the 20% and how much she appreciated that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, teachers are doing the Lord’s work right now. It’s impossible and nobody is loving this giant cluster. Everyone is OVER IT.

I did tell her that we don’t monitor Jack’s work but that he knows to ask for help if he needs it. I explained that we have told him that both Troy and I already passed sixth grade and it is officially HIS job now. She loved hearing that and said she appreciated that he is following through with his responsibilities on his own.

a boy in a cardboard box boat

I crushed through five recipe photoshoots this week and I’m happy to have them in the rearview mirror. Photos are my least favorite part of this job. I would be perfectly happy to just post the recipe, no photos, no tips or tricks, or anything else. That’s the dream. But, I can tell you after blogging for 7 years with crappy photos, nobody looks at blogs with crappy photos. 🙂

If my prayers are answered and both kids are in school full-time in fall (THE DREAM), I am going to trial run a photoshoot week. I’d be churning out a month’s worth of photos in 4-5 days. I told Katie my genius idea and her response was “it sounds like hell”. Indeed it does.

I’ve always been a “rip the band-aid off” kind of girl. I do the work I dislike first because then the rest of the day seems easy in comparison. I work out in the morning when I can so it’s not hanging over my head all day.

So, doing 4-6 week’s worth of photos in a few days so that I don’t have to think about it for another month? That sounds pretty ideal to me. We’ll see.

Speaking of working out, I’m trying out some “bodyweight” workouts (i.e., just using the weight of your own body) via the Peloton app on my phone starting tomorrow. I used it last summer for some guided runs, and you can try it out for free for 30 days. I’m hoping they let me do another trial run. Hee hee.

I’m looking to get stronger without going to a gym or group classes and without any special equipment. I’m committed to trying it out for 30 days to see how I feel. I can always try something else or go back to doing nothing at all.

a boy in an army helmet

And yes, that is a piece of foil on the floor. Why does he have foil? You’d have to ask Bennett cause I have no idea.

Bennett is full-on obsessed with WWII and naval battles right now. I’m not sure how this developed, but he has always been really interested in the water. It started with sharks, and fishing/crabbing, and has moved onto military campaigns. Troy and I joke his water obsession is because he was born in a birthing tub.

There are hundreds of drawings of battleships littering Bennett’s room. He somehow acquired an army helmet and wears it nonstop with some military vest that I also don’t know how we came to own.

This week he started hyper-focusing on the medic’s role in the military and has been making medic “patches” out of paper and markers. He plasters them with 40 pounds of scotch tape to his helmet and doctor’s kit and runs around rescuing his stuffed animals “in the field”.

a boy in an army costume sitting on a chair

I came out into the living room to find him sitting quietly in full “uniform” on one of the chairs he dragged out of his room. I asked him what he was doing, and he said praying in church before they stormed the beach. So, I guess we’re now in full-on D Day mode.

Has anyone finished their taxes yet? I’m doing ours this week. I don’t mind it but never really look forward to it. I mean, who does? I’d love to get everything done by mid-Feb, but I swear that our documents trickle in via email and mail until mid-March every year. Wish me luck and good luck to all who are also taking care of it this week.

Our chickens are cranking out eggs like it is their job. Oh wait, it is. We have 12 chickens total and are getting almost a dozen eggs a day. Two of our girls are OLD and the fact that they are laying at all is pretty much a miracle. By now, they should be in full-blown henopause.

We eat a lot of eggs but truly cannot keep up at this point. We’re giving dozens away to friends, family, and neighbors each week. One of my friends told me her local foodbank will accept hardboiled eggs from home flocks. I called ours and they don’t (whaaaa), but will accept fresh eggs to give to their employees and volunteers.

I will also be hard-boiling two dozen in our Instant Pot this week to drop off at our church. We have a community resource coordinator who works with the homeless population that our church serves. She and I thought it would be an easy way to provide quick and healthy protein to those who come by needing it.

Our state is opening up vaccines to all on April 15th. It had been scheduled for May 1st, so I’m thrilled! Here is to hoping I can stalk the websites well enough to get an appointment. I cannot wait to do my part to get this dang thing OVER WITH. Bring on normalcy and hugs. So.Many.Hugs.

In the Garden This Week

Busy, busy week in the garden!

This week I built a super low-cost season-extender/row cover/mini greenhouse for one of our raised beds. My first attempt was a major fail, but I eventually figured it out.

Here’s what I did: I placed 6 pieces of rebar in the raised beds (each cost about $2.29). Then, I fit 1/2 inch PVC pipe ($2.79 each) on one end and then bent and insert the other side to the opposing piece of rebar. I ended up cutting 14 inches off of each pipe to get it the height I wanted.

I cut and stretched some heavy-duty plastic (from the painting section of the hardware store $2.99) over the PVC pipes and clipped them into place with some clips we already had on hand.

2 photos showing a raised bed garden

I would have preferred to use longer pipes to make the plastic higher, but I kept them shorter for safety reasons. These are along the road and our neighbor’s driveway is on the other side of our raised beds. She’s in her late 80s and is a bit of a shorty, and I have no desire to make it harder for her to back her car out.

I’m planning to replace the plastic with shade cloth for the summer to see how long I can extend the growing season for greens. Eventually, I’ll remove the PVC pipes because this bed will be for growing cucumbers in mid-summer.

I’ll set up one of our DIY garden trellises and if the cukes grow quickly enough, they will provide shade for the greens. But eventually, the lettuce will bolt (go to seed) and need to be pulled. Salad is just not meant for the summer growing season, even in the cool maritime Northwest.

I’m hopeful that I can use this setup for fall/winter growing. If we lived in a place where we got heavy snow and more aggressive weather, I would have probably set this bed up with six PVC pipes and used thicker greenhouse plastic.

piles of dead garden growth on cement

The weather was so nice this week that when the boys weren’t in school, we all wanted to be outside as much as possible. It lined up perfectly with both boys actually sleeping in, so I was able to crank out so much computer work first thing in the morning when I am most productive anyway.

Crushing my to-do list before breakfast gave me a bit of wiggle room for gardening work while the boys played. Our raspberry patch has been a hot mess since last November. I normally trim the canes (raspberry vines/”sticks”) back each fall, but you know, remodel.

I tackled it early in the week and am so pleased with the results. I cut all the dead canes off at the ground and trimmed any dead ends on the taller canes. Removing all the undergrowth allowed me to see that the morning glory (also known as “bindweed” in some parts of the world) was making its yearly appearance with a vengeance.

Nothing makes me angrier in the garden than morning glory. It is extremely invasive and almost impossible to remove. The root system is extensive and if you don’t get the entire root, the vine grows back stronger. It’s like foliage from a horror movie.

We’ve had it in the raspberry patch forever and six years ago, I removed all the raspberries, dug out ALL the dirt, and replanted the raspberries. Didn’t matter. The morning glory returned within a year.

By mid-summer, it usually explodes in growth so much that it has intertwined with all the raspberries, slowly choking them out. Once it is that tall, it’s impossible to remove and devastates our raspberry crop. Morning glory is a big jerk like that.

So this year, I was determined to start the battle early. Removing morning glory is not an easy task; it’s trench warfare. Some of the vines I removed were over nine feet long! By the time I had taken out all I could reach, my arms looked like I had fought a bear. #worthit 

I don’t have a good before photo, but here is the after. Everything is tidy and all the old undergrowth is gone. If you’re not a gardener (you’re probably not actually reading this…), think of it as the best haircut after your hair has grown out and has been nasty for months.

a weeded raspberry patch

Doing this intensive weeding also made me realize I have not added compost to the raspberries for…um…six years? I saw a bit of new baby raspberry cane growth coming up, so I’m going to wait a few weeks and then add a few inches of chicken compost to the soil. And then probably top it off with straw or some woodchips to help with moisture retention this summer.

I also finally got the peas planted this week. I added some lettuce to that raised bed and removed all but one of the cilantro plants that had gotten pretty leggy (long spindly weak stems) over the last six months.

Eventually, I’ll put our other garden trellis in here for the peas to grow up, but with nighttime temps below freezing, I really wanted this bed covered for a bit. I had an old janky piece of gardening fabric that I draped over the bed and secured with garden staples. In a week or so when the lows aren’t in the 30s, I’ll take this off and let everything grow and be happy.

Housekeeping

Starting tomorrow, Butcher Box will be offering their Essentials Bundle through April 15th. They are still offering their most popular promotion – Ground Beef For Life through tonight.

What’s in the Essentials Bundle:

  • High-quality meat you can trust—get up to 7 lbs total of FREE chicken breasts, pork chops, and ground beef in your first ButcherBox order.
  • Dinner’s on us. Get up to 7 lbs of chicken breasts, pork chops, and ground beef for free in your first ButcherBox order. Butcher Box 

What I’m Reading This Week

I had just finished Beartown (hard, haunting, but beautifully written) and decided I needed something light and engaging.

So, I started reading a book that I was really looking forward to. But, barely two chapters in and I returned the ebook to our library. It was written 90 years ago, and I understand times were different, but the blatant racism was just not ok.

There was a foreword from the author’s family that was added in the 80s saying they think their mom would have written things differently if she had written it today. That’s all well and good, but I just couldn’t get past how damn offensive it was.

Instead, I found The Best of Me, by David Sedaris. It’s a collection of his best stories from over the years. I’ve read many of his books before, and having all my favorites in one place has been a treat.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Christine’s five-star review on our Instant Pot Gnocchi Soup {Pin this recipe} made my week/year!

Holy crap balls this friggin’ soup is so damn good.  I legit had to stop eating once I started to message Sarah to tell her that.  Make this soup it’s a winner!!  A+ all around!!

a spoon lifting a bite of gnocchi soup

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Freezer Spaghetti Sauce – This delicious homemade Freezer Spaghetti Sauce is so simple to make and is made with common pantry staple ingredients. You can simmer it on the stove, or set it and forget it in a slow cooker. {Pin this recipe}

souper cubes with marinara sauce

Healthy Green Pea Salad – This Healthy Green Pea Salad couldn’t be any easier! It’s a simple make-ahead vegetable dish that is packed with flavor and uses frozen peas and Greek yogurt. {Pin this recipe}

a white bowl with healthy green pea salad and a bronze spoon

Confessions – Everyone’s favorite post of the month.

A woman with a finger up to her mouth saying "shhhhh"

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. Instant Pot Garlic Rice – I made this twice this week! One to have with Air Fryer Tofu, and another time for food photos and then portioned it into Stasher bags and froze it for meal prep. {Pin this recipe}
  5. How to Freeze Spinach – here comes gardening season!  {Pin this tutorial}

Meal Plan

Monday:: Patio dinner at my sister’s. We’re calling it “Burgers and Bros” so that the cousins can safely play outside.

Tuesday:: Takeout to support a local small business. God willing, the boys will be spending the night at their grandparents and we don’t have to get food that THEY WANT.

Wednesday:: Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana and salad. I found some potatoes in the garage that were not long for this world. That makes them perfect for this soup!

Thursday:: Air Fryer Chicken Taquitos + testing a new Instant Pot dish + salad.

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: This asparagus and stir fryer dish I ripped out of a magazine. We got some steak in our Butcher Box order that came on Tuesday, so we only need to get asparagus to make this happen.

Sunday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

 

What are you having this week?

 

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13 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. I love the pictures this week. The boys look so grown up. I remember your stories from Jack starting school, pregnancy with Bennet. Blows my mind, I have been reading your blog for so many years, but I love it! I am also so glad read that you thought of your neighbor when creating your greenhouse cover. We need more considerate people in this world. We have amazing neighbors. I feel like we are the crappy ones, but they love us anyway.

  2. I noticed you using the Souper Cubes in your marinara sauce post the other day. I found out about them last fall when the Facebook vanilla co-op I’m in had a post for folks to share their business. I bought the whole line – 2 tablespoons, 1/2 cup, 1 cup, and 2 cup.  I love that I can freeze up portions of a recipe that makes 8 servings (for example) instead of getting sick and tired of that food around serving 5 and wasting the rest! I’ve also used them to make giant ice cubes and am thinking about trying to bake in one since they are safe to 400 degrees. 

    • I’ve seen them around for a while, and I think they were actually created by a food blogging couple. I have only used them for the marinara and I’m a total convert!

      Let me know how the baking goes. I’m intrigued.

  3. Happy Easter!

    I decided recently I needed to add a little bit of strengthening to my all-walking exercise plan.  Now I do 30 push ups, 30 sit ups, and 30 tricep push ups in the morning and 60 squats at night (while I brush my teeth).  There is absolutely no scientific reason for the number 30.  I just realized how pathetic I was to start so I started with one of each and added one more each day for a month (or two, in the case of the squats) and stuck with 30.  I plan to add a plank and lunges next month, now that I’ve been successfully sticking with these for a few months.

    This week we’re having chicken biryani, tacos, pasta with ground turkey/tomato/artichoke sauce, steak (for my husband’s birthday dinnner—yup three birthdays in two weeks) and Thai curry.  I’m so excited that my local grocery store (HEB) has started selling two different kinds of Thai curry sauce in their store brand that are as good as take out and it’s an excellent way to use whatever veg I have on hand.

    • Ha, I do something similar when I’m doing work at my computer. Like you, there is no reason behind the number of reps that I do.

      Happy multi-birthdays. That turkey sauce thing sounds fantastic! I’m not huge into curry but I like Trader Joe’s green curry sauce. Have you tried that one?

  4. Happy Easter! Wanted to let you know none of your butcher block links are working. Maybe they work for other people? My raspberries are getting green leafy buds and I’m so excited!!!! I got a few handfuls last year so this year should be better?  fingers crossed! If I’d never started reading your blog 1000 years ago I’d have never tried growing them so thank you for your inspiring and hilarious posts. 🤗

    • That’s weird. Thanks for letting me know. Fixed now!

      Generally with berries things improve in year two. We went from sticks in year one to a full-on 10 feet tall patch in year two.

  5. Your photos are always great! Maybe view them as food candids because your kid candid pics are adorable & then you’ll enjoy taking them more?! I’ve been using the peloton app since the first COVID lock down here in MN last spring, I absolutely love the yoga & body weight strength classes, barre is sneakily brutal too.  Do you mind me asking where you got your couch & teal chair? You might have posted but I’m looking for kid friendly furniture & wondered if yours was easy to spot clean? Thanks & have a Blessed Easter! 

    • Honestly, it is the clean-up that makes me hate the photos. The kitchen gets destroyed for just one recipe. Assuming things improve in fall with covid, I’m tempted to hire a friend to be a kitchen assistant.

      Barre is not for me, but I can only imagine how tough it is!

      Couch/chair from a very very VERY exclusive boutique called costco.com. 🙂 We bought them in early January (free shipping) so I haven’t needed to clean them yet. The couch was pretty firm at first but has softened up. I’m not 100% sold on the longevity of the fabric. BUT it was the perfect couch for our space. Our old one was giant and blocked off 1/3 of our dining room.

      • Haha Le Costco boutique-awesome I was eyeballing their great furniture prices & with kids and animals it’s just not worth it to spend a lot! 
        I’m a messy chef as well, so I get that! My oldest two (16 & 14) love earning extra chore money-so that helps tons around here 

      • Our last couch was also Costco and it held up really well. Can’t beat the prices either.

  6. Happy birthday Jack! I’m so glad I’ve been following you for most of his amazing journey. Watching him grow into himself has been awesome. Keep up the good work mama!

    The base just opened up the vaccine to all military dependents, so I’ll be making an appointment this week. I hope they are able to figure out one for the younger crowed, but if not, Emma turns 16 (WHAT!?!?!?) in December, so she’ll be able to get it then at least.

    I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was great! I love the fresh perspective on creativity. I’m going to try to get Emma to read it also.

    We have some raspberries that have been growing in a giant pot for YEARS! Last year we didn’t get very many berries and the canes are looking a little rough so I think this year I’ll completely empty the pot and fill it with fresh soil, then replant the canes. We moved back into a house a month ago, so I’m also going to transplant some of the raspberries to the yard as well as get a few other veggies planted.

    I love Bennett’s interests! How fun! Have you seen The History Guy on YouTube? He has some short history videos Bennett may like.

    We should have our taxes filed by the end of the week. We had to wait FOREVER for the W2 from the job I had over the summer in MI.

    If you are looking for other bodyweight works, I like Nerd Fitness. They have a few free plans I believe.

    • There is no possible way Emma will be 16 this year! Lies!!!!! I’m so glad you can get a “jab” soon. Fingers crossed you can find an appointment time without any trouble.

      Moved back into a house? RV life wasn’t for you? I don’t blame you on that.

      I haven’t seen that youtube channel but I bet Bennett would love it.