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Scattered Sundays

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Back in May, I received a jury duty summons. I opened it with dread, but not the dread that most people feel when they get these. For you see, we had plans in June and I was devastated to think I was going to miss my life-long dream of being on a jury.

And wouldn’t you know it, my summons was for that week – the only week we had made plans in the last ten months. I rescheduled for this coming week, because…this week is my birthday. And I couldn’t think of anything more fun to do on my birthday than potentially serving on a jury. YES, I am cool, thanks for noticing!

So far, they don’t need me for tomorrow, but fingers crossed for the next day! If they don’t need me, I think I’m finally going to try to do my Yellowstone/Dutton Ranch 10k on Tuesday, which is my actual 40th birthday.

I’ve been “training” for a 10k using a running app, but it has never had me run more than 4.6 miles yet. I think sometime earlier this year (February?), I did 5.5 miles for some random reason. It doesn’t seem like a huge stretch to get to 6.2 miles from where I have been. Famous last words?

My friend Katie finished a Couch to 5k training program and thoughtfully pointed out the privilege of being able to train for such things. The time off work to make it happen, having a safe place to run, being able to afford comfortable shoes, etc. And it’s so very true.

I took up the 10k goal a few months ago when I decided that I wanted to improve my fitness by improving my strength and endurance. And I think I have definitely been successful in increasing both. I’ve moved up in weight for my dumbbells three times now!

a child with pj over his head

In the fall of 2019, Troy and I met up with some friends in Palm Springs who were celebrating their 40th birthdays. Elaina, one of the friends, has long been asking me what I will be doing for my 40th. I didn’t have actual plans, and then a global pandemic went ahead and solidified those nonexistent plans into a big fat pile of nothing.

This did not sit well with Elaina, and on Friday she surprised me with a special birthday scavenger hunt that involved trivia about our friendship. To take a fun and thoughtful idea and then adding trivia to it…that’s pretty much the best birthday gift ever!

The only catch was that I had to wear a black and pink sash and a pink tiara while doing these things. Pink is my least favorite color, so it was a nice little “hee hee” to go along with the gift. The first stop was to get an iced latte at my favorite local drive-thru coffee stand.

a woman holding a cup of coffee

From there, I drove to a place to get a pedicure. I had been planning on getting myself one next week, so this was a real treat. My feet were NOT a real treat for the poor lady who helped me because my toes are so jacked up right now from running. This was also a huge concession from Elaina since the idea of someone touching anyone’s feet is highly revolting to her.

a woman in a crown in a pedicure chair

Yes, I am smiling behind my mask.

After that, I got my next clue and headed to have lunch at a nice local cafe that has outdoor dining. I had soup, fries, and they picked out a piece of chocolate cake for me and sang Happy Birthday.

a woman in a coat in a restaurant

My next clue was a two-parter and I got the first one, but was totally stumped on the second one! She said that stumping me was my gift to her. 🙂 I still got my final destination/gift, which was a lovely massage at a local place.

cake on a plate with a kindle

It was such a sweet and thoughtful gift and you know, also involved a quiz. Fingers crossed that we’re not in another pandemic around our 50th birthdays and can actually celebrate those in person. Who knows, by then we may be in a house doing Golden Girls-style communal living. Speaking of the Golden Girls, these are hilarious.

After five (or more…) years of not seeing a doctor other than a dentist or eye doctor, I finally went for a complete check-up/physical this week. I ended up seeing a naturopath that I have seen twice in the last 12 years (I legit never need a doctor). I had tried to meet with my lady doctor for an annual, but get this: she was booked until November. November of 2022.

(Mini soapbox time) It’s no secret that I think the healthcare system is totally broken in the United States, and that I think some form of universal health insurance is a basic human right. One of the arguments people make against universal care is that “the wait times will be too long”.

I’m a middle-class chick with amazing health insurance, a flexible work schedule, and all the privilege that goes along with that. And I still could haven’t seen my doctor for 14 months. So let that just sit and marinate for just one damn minute.

I got a clean bill of health from the naturopath and also did some bloodwork on Thursday morning that I am waiting to hear back about. The orders for the bloodwork included fasting for 12 hours; no problem there. When I run in the morning, I run “fasted” which simply means I prefer to not eat before I run.

Except, I woke up that morning like a petulant child who had been told they couldn’t eat, and all I could think about was FOOD. Waking up at 5 am and not having my blood drawn until 9:15 made the morning seem stupidly long. I celebrated in the car with a little dish of Frozen Berry Cake.

a pic of a boy and a monster from Monsters University

Jack had another track meet this week and did really well! He took first for 75m hurdles, second for the 400m run (dash?), and second for the 200m hurdles and it looked like fourth for the long jump. This boy is officially hurdles obsessed.

We have four more track meets and then it is wrapped up for the season. This year was an experiment in how our life would look with both kids doing activities, one of them doing multiple activities, and one of us (me) having a leadership role on the team. And it was chaotic for sure, but I think we have (and will) survive it ok.

Would I choose this to be our normal schedule all year long? Heck no! Jack will be trying out for select soccer in spring, which is also when cross country starts. I’m still not sure what we’ll do about that. Like I always tell the boys: “during pandemic times, we can plan about one week ahead”.

If I don’t have jury duty on my birthday, I talked to my boss and am going to try to take a real day off. That boss is a real punk but can be reasoned with. At times. It’s me. I’m the boss.

I’m going to do the 10k, then go get a birthday iced latte and head to Goodwill to try to find some “new” weights and some fall/winter sweaters. After that? Going to get my flu shot and schedule my first mammogram, cause I really know how to party.

I have a strict “no TV during the day” rule but will listen to podcasts all day long because they don’t distract me while I work. I think I’ll come home after my flu shot and finally finish watching The Office after working my way through nine seasons over the last year. It won’t be as much fun as what I did for my 31st birthday (you can read about that here), but it should be decent!

A return to actual to goodness rain this week brought our lawn fully back to life. It’s amazing what a few days of rain can do! With the rain returning, I had to dust off my super high-tech outdoor phone protective device to use while I’m walking. It’s also known as a quart Ziploc bag. 🙂

There is almost no weather that stops me from my daily walk; it’s all about the right gear. A few friends use waterproof sneakers, and I may go that route eventually. For now, I wear my Bogs ankle boots with some running inserts as insoles. I slap on a baseball cap and my safety vest, and it’s a whole “fashion” mood.

The rain made me so excited for soup…not that I ever actually need a reason to be excited by soup! My soup recipe archives are proof enough of how much soup owns my heart. On Sunday, I made Instant Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup, but without the chicken. Honestly, I can take or leave meat in most soups. And since I live with all dudes, none of them ever notice when I leave it out. 

We also made a batch of Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana and I forgot how much I love that soup! We have a few days of gloomy weather coming up this week and I’m going to make Chicken Pot Pie Soup because I love it almost as much as I love listening to my kids whining about the peas in it.

This week I posted some stories on Instagram showing how I make soup veggie “freezer packs” using our food processor. In about 5 minutes, I can chop enough onion, and slice enough celery and carrots for multiple batches of soup. If you’re already chopping veggies for one meal, you might as well double or triple it for future meals.

I have tutorials on how to freeze carrots, celery, and onions individually, but when it comes to soup veggies, I freeze them all together in reusable silicone freezer bags (I like both Stasher and Ziptop bags (use coupon code sustainablecooks15 for 15% off) for soup veggies). You can throw the veggies into soups still totally frozen, or thaw them in the silicone bag in the microwave. Such a time saver!

It has been so long since we had rain that I had forgotten about the gloomy grey during the day. Which I am totally fine with because in another life I was definitely a Viking princess and am built for Nordic weather. My middle name should be hygge. But this week I had to dust off my “eyesight” desktop lamp that I use in fall and winter to save my already crappy vision while I work on my laptop.

I got my knives back from KnifeAid this week! Altogether, it took six days for them to receive, sharpen, and return five knives to me. We’re super happy with how dang sharp they are, and will absolutely use them again. And because I’m a weirdo, I think this would make a great holiday gift. FYI, I paid for our service and there is no referral or anything.

In the Garden This Week

I did a big garden clean-up mid-week and I feel so much better about the space. I ripped out a rose bush that I have never liked and it was always in the way. I trimmed up the asparagus “patch” (it’s just one plant), did some weeding, and used the leaf blower to clean up all the walkways.

a rose bush on a walkway


Blueberry picking continues, and I was harvesting multiple pints per day earlier in the week. It’s bananas to me that there are still so many ripe berries, but who am I to question nature? Delicious, delicious nature.

The apples we grow in our mini drawf trees are VERY tart, and last weekend Jack really wanted to do something with a few of them. I ended up peeling and slicing three of them and then putting them in the middle of a piece of thawed puff pastry.

I topped the apples with homemade brown sugar and a bunch of cinnamon (cinnamon is a condiment in my eyes) and put a few little dabs of butter on top of that. I brushed a bit of heavy cream on top of the puff pastry, sprinkled it with demerara sugar, and then baked it at 400F for about 25 minutes.

The butter proved to be messy, and I was thankful I had put a piece of parchment down on the baking sheet before putting it all in the oven. But…it was DELICIOUS. And so easy! I think we might repeat it again soon since I always keep puff pastry in the freezer for fast desserts or dinners (like puff pastry pizza pockets) or appetizers (like Baked Brie in Puff Pastry).

a screenshot of a text conversation



Meal prep saves my butt multiple times per week. I would seriously not be able to cook without it. If meal prep is not second nature to you, check out my Prep Once Cook Twice workbook. It includes five weeks of meal plans, shopping lists, and detailed meal prep tips to help you become a meal prep ninja.

a mock up of an ebook

What I’m Listening To This Week

Make Me Smart is a podcast I have loved since it first came out. They had an episode this week that clarified a lot of questions I had about the US’s immigration/refugee/asylum process. This episode gave me a lot to think about and I learned a buttload as well.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Jenny left this five-star review on our Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana {Pin this recipe}:

So good! We make this all the time and EVERYONE we’ve ever shared it with loves it!

a bowl of dairy-free instant pot zuppa toscana with kale

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Chicken and Bacon RisottoThis delicious Instant Pot Chicken and Bacon Risotto is a one-pot weeknight dinner that is packed with amazing flavors. Ready in a flash, this pressure cooker risotto eliminates the long cook time and constant stirring of a stovetop version. {Pin this recipe}

a spoon scooping chicken and bacon risotto onto a grey plate

How to Dry PearsLearn all about drying pears in a food dehydrator or in the oven. Dried pears are a delicious snack, or add them to baked goods and oatmeal for a tasty treat. {Pin this tutorial}

dried pears in a mason jar

How to Freeze ApplesLearn all the tips and tricks for Freezing Apples to stock your freezer with this delicious fruit. Learning how to freeze apples sets you up for amazing baked goods, smoothies, and desserts all year long. {Pin this tutorial}

apple slices on a baking sheet

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. How to Can Pears – our family’s favorite canned fruit! {Pin this recipe}
  2. Canning Apple Butter – this post has both canning and freezing instructions. And it will make your house smell AMAZING. {Pin this tutorial}
  3. Canning Applesauce – such a tasty sauce that can be made without any added sugar. {Pin this tutorial}
  4. Canning Peaches – this post is close to slipping out of the top 5, and that is expected given the seasonality of it. {Pin this recipe}
  5. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – for the first time in a long time, we have a non-canning/preserving recipe back in the top 5! {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Everything is subject to change depending on jury duty!

Monday:: Instant Pot Chicken Pot Pie, biscuits (for the pot pie), and a side of lots and lots of whining from the kids about the peas in the soup.

Tuesday:: Takeout from a local small business for my birthday.

Wednesday:: Troy is making dinner and we have a track meet.

Thursday:: Troy is making dinner and we have a track meet.

Friday:: Testing a new recipe in the Instant Pot.

Saturday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Sunday:: TBD


What are you having this week?

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20 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. Happy 40th Birthday!! 

  2. Happy Birthday!

    I switched to Kaiser about 12 years ago, and while I’m usually able to get the care I need in a semi-timely fashion I find some aspects of it incredibly frustrating. I came from a GP from whom I could get a physical, pap, and skin check all in one appointment, with referrals out only when necessary for more specialized care. With Kaiser that requires 3 different appointments with three different providers (and related copays). Both times I was pregnant I rarely got to see the same provider more than twice and obviously didn’t get anyone I knew for the actual labor and delivery. My assigned GP and my kids pediatrician have been changed at least 3 times. I am immensely privileged to have had consistent health coverage (which is ridiculous, access to competent healthcare that doesn’t risk bankrupting people shouldn’t be a privilege) but since switching it feels incredibly impersonal and inconsistent. The healthcare system needs so much work.

    I am convinced dirt could be wrapped in puff pastry and taste good. Trader Joe’s carries all-butter puff as a seasonal item during the holidays and I saw last time I was there that it’s back. It’s super tasty and the price is excellent, especially for one made with actual butter. I always stock a few before it goes away again around the new year.

    • Oh, that is so frustrating! I wonder if it is regional though? I have a friend in SoCal who has Kaiser and LOVES it. Sees the same docs all the time, says the referral process is simple, etc. Maybe it’s more about population density?

      When I was with an HMO years and years ago, I had a similar experience that you did.

      I just added that puff pastry to my next TJ’s trip. It’s 30-45 min away, so we don’t go often. But all-butter puff pastry would make a delicious dirt tart. 🙂

  3. Just a heads up on your mammogram… look at your calendar and schedule it during that section of the month when your boobs are NOT tender… like maybe a week after your period, before you ovulate. And Happy belated 40th birthday. Your Princess Scavenger Hunt sounds like it was a lot of fun. a very thoughtful gift.

    • Great tip, thank you! I’m scheduled for next Friday which is in the magical window you suggested.

      So far I am rocking this being 40 thing. 🙂

  4. Thank you Sarah. Your apple butter canning information was very helpful. I did use your canning procedure and it was very simple.5 stars

  5. Happy Birthday, Sarah! I hope your day is all you want to be. And if you are to serve on a jury, I hope your experience is better than mine.

    I will try to be succinct . . . my first time serving on a jury. This was many years ago and I was in my late twenties. There were multiple defendents being sued over a real estate issue. It involved bad stuff with oceanfront property that today would be worth several million dollars. The owner was not happy and proceeded to sue the developer, the soils engineer, the platform builder, and a couple of other people involved in the building of this home. After nearly three weeks of testimony (yes, it was a loooong trial!), one of the defendents was being questioned. All of a sudden he leaned toward one side, opposite from the judge (who later said he thought the defendent was reaching into his briefcase). I could see that the defendent was in a serious health crisis and waited to see if anyone was going to do anything. Nope! So, on one of the only three days I work pants, I stood up and hurdled the jury rail, ran up to the man, pulled him off his chair, and immediately started to assess for breathing. He was not. I also couldn’t get a pulse. So, I started CPR on him and brought him back. The paramedics arrived and transported him to the hospital. After the trial was over a couple of weeks later, the judge dismissed the jury and asked that I remain behind. The judge, in the presence of all of attorneys, told me that the man had left the hospital that afternoon, refusing medical care. That evening, he suffered a major stroke and was currently in a coma from which he was not expected to recover. I still haven’t decided if I did a good thing, bringing him back. But, I know I would do it again if the need were ever to arise.

  6. Happy birthday!  I will keep my fingers crossed that you get called for a really interesting trial!

    I made a big pot of potato and leek soup today, even though it’s sunny and 88 here.  All weather is soup weather!

    One and a half more weeks of cross country here!  I’m so glad my girl has done it and loved it but it sure will be nice to have that hour and a half back every day!  My husband has committed to train with her in the off-season and I’m already looking forward to seeing how well she’s going to do next year!

    • I feel like you and I would rock shirts or aprons that say “All weather is soup weather”!

      Lady, I so feel you on that! I’m counting down the days until track is over. Great to have had the experience, and GREAT to be done with it. Fingers crossed you get through it with ease!

  7. You would be loving it down here. All the downed trees make woodchips for days.

  8. Aloha Sarah… everything in this blog post was interesting, fascinating(links to podcasts,etc.) and especially I read with joy your birthday blog post from the way back time and all the wonderful things you gave back on your birthday… but the most amazing and made me tear up was you let your Mama hold you in her lap … I know you have a spot in Heaven as you are a truly good and loving human… Mahalo, Steph AND a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you  Sarah… 

  9. What did you use to cook with while waiting for your knifes to come back? Mine desperately need to be sharpened but I’m not sure what to do while they’re gone

    • My dad lives with us and has a full kitchen in his apartment, so I used his chef’s knife when needed. I planned my meals around not needing my knives but there were a few times that I had to use his.

      Also, you pay per knife, and the savings are pretty small with adding additional knives. Depending on how many you have to sharpen, you could send half in and use what you have at home. When you get your others, send the rest in. That’s what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to borrow from my dad.

  10. I love the birthday scavenger hunt your friend set up! Such a cool idea. I turned 30 last year and didn’t really celebrate it; my fiance and I just got take-out from my favorite Indian place which we don’t go to often so it was a nice treat.

    I was in Target yesterday and found some of the snack size Zip Top bags on clearance! This will be my first foray into reusable Ziplocs so I’m pretty excited about it.