Sustainable Cooks
First Time Visiting? Start Here!

Scattered Sundays

I had quite the adventure earlier this week. Frankly, it was the kind of thing that a true crime fan is constantly waiting for their whole lives to happen.

Jack had practice and I stayed “in town” to bring him home. During the practice, I was going to pick up our dinner and finally run an errand to a small boutique store I had been trying to visit for a solid 7 months.

One morning in the drop-off line at Bennett’s school, I noticed the car next to us had an air freshener that was of the character, Rip from Yellowstone. It was the funniest and weirdest thing I had ever seen, and naturally, I asked her where she had found it.

And I had been trying to visit the store ever since to get it for my friend. It’s in a weird part of town where parking is annoying. And every time I was actually near there, the store was closed. Or when it was open, I had the boys with me and didn’t want to go in and deal with it.

But it was FINALLY my opportunity to stop in and get this air freshener. I had: time to kill, no kids, the store was open, and I could park far away and walk to it. No street parking during rush hour for me!

I walked in to find the store mostly empty. There was one customer who was making a total mess of a sales bin, and an employee who had the store phone up to her ear. I assumed she was very busy and so I browsed for a minute.

After noticing she was continuing to talk on the phone, I walked up to the counter. She came to help me, the phone still to her ear but not really saying anything to the person on the phone. My brain registered “hmmm, this is weird. Nobody does that; employees don’t talk on the phone while helping customers”.

I asked about the air freshener and she noted they were currently out of them but then loudly said her boss was on the phone and she would ask her if they were planning on restocking them.

That was my second “hmmmm” moment. Not only was the employee on the phone while helping customers, but her boss was on the other end and was ok with it?! My spidey sense began to tingle.

I noticed the customer who had been making a mess of the sales bin was quite unkept and clearly having multiple conversations with people who were not in the store. Upon closer inspection, I realized I had noticed this same woman in my town earlier that morning while out for a walk and had given her a wide berth.

I looked back at the employee and noticed the hand holding the phone was shaking. I leaned in and whispered “do you feel safe” and she shook her head and her eyes started brimming with tears.

I whispered that I would stay with her and her shoulders relaxed and she whispered “thank you”. I browsed the small store “shopping” while trying to give the customer a wide berth.

After 10 minutes I approached the counter again trying to help the employee figure out our next steps. This was no longer her fight, we were in this together. No woman left behind!

She discreetly showed me her cell phone and I read a text conversation between her and her boss, with her boss saying she had called the police to report it.

The police station is very close to this store, so I continued to “shop” thinking they would be there shortly. I had been texting friends, Troy, and messaging Cassie during this whole thing so that someone other than the employee and I knew where I was and what was going on.

The customer continued to be disruptive but wasn’t doing anything illegal or dangerous. She was getting into the personal space of the employee but not in a way that intended harm. Simply put, this was a person who wasn’t functional or entirely aware of her surroundings.

At this point, it was becoming the time of the evening when I either needed to leave very soon or Troy was going to have to go and pick up Jack from practice. And I certainly wasn’t leaving this woman alone until she was safe.

I loudly asked the employee if the store “two blocks away” (AKA the cops) might have the item I was looking for. She replied that she had called them earlier and maybe we just needed to wait a little longer for them to restock. I asked if she wanted to me “run down to the store” to check on inventory and she said maybe in 5 minutes.

I was just about to discreetly call Troy to tell him to go and pick up Jack when I noticed a city police officer walking into the store. I went up to him to make sure he knew I wasn’t the one being reported. Once I knew the employee was safe, I waved to her and ran out of there.

I sprinted to my car and took off to the restaurant to pick up our order that had been sitting there for 25 minutes waiting on me. I asked the server what dessert could be ready to go in 2 minutes, and ordered a slice of their blueberry cake.

I texted Jack saying I might be 2-5 minutes late to get him, and then sprinted BACK to the shop. At this point, the police officer and the customer had moved outside and away from the store entrance and I could hear the woman speaking incoherently to the cop.

I walked into the shop, made a beeline to the employee, and handed her the cake saying “tonight might be a good night for a piece of cake and a good cry”. The poor thing looked exhausted. She teared up and said “thank you so much” and then I hauled balls to my car, and rolled into the parking lot with 15 seconds to spare to get Jack. Phew.

I filled Jack in on my adventure and it was the start of a really good discussion on the drive home. Jack said he needed to start being more observant, and I told him that listening to your intuition and paying attention was like working out a muscle – you build it up slowly and over time.

I told him that there was probably a 99% chance that the woman in the store was perfectly harmless. And that mental illness doesn’t by default mean someone is dangerous. I told him that more often people with mental illnesses are the victims of crimes, rather than the perpetrators.

We also talked about the way that people with mental illness fall through the cracks of our society and he asked about universal healthcare. Well, he asked about it in the way a 13-year-old would – “why can’t she get the medicine that she needs to feel ok”?

My distaste for the American healthcare system is longstanding and I’m not shy about repeating it. For the people that think comprehensive healthcare is too expensive, I would like to point out that so is using emergency services for people who need consistent care.

My husband is a firefighter. Go ask ANY firefighter, police officer, or first responder, and they will tell you that a huge portion of their job is to go on calls to the SAME people every single shift. The cop that walked into that store that evening knew that woman by name.

People without insurance and secure housing use 911 as their healthcare. And oftentimes people call 911 on behalf of people they see in distress out in public. A huge portion of our public services dollars is already being spent in excess on a small percentage of the population.

We can and should do better than that. Preventative care is sooooo much cheaper and more efficient than an emergency. To put it another way – maintaining your car with scheduled oil changes is cheaper in the long run than needing to be towed weekly.

Our friend’s fire department has a program called “FD Cares“. In many cases instead of enacting emergency services for situations such as what I experienced, trained social workers are the ones who respond.

When social workers show up to non-emergency situations, they’re able to help address the hierarchy of needs we all have as humans (shelter, food, water, etc.) without it becoming criminal. Not only does that allow first responders to focus on their actual jobs (which is emergencies!), but it can cut down on situations that might escalate if the responders are not trained in such situations.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk on treating people with dignity and fiscal responsibility. Please take a cookie on your way out.

a chunky stuffed seal on a teal foot stool
Meet “Chub Chub”

Speaking of preventative care, Bennett finally got his tonsil surgery on Friday morning! Fingers crossed this is the thing that stops his frequent illnesses and colds.

And speaking of stupid healthcare systems, for non-US readers, we have excellent insurance and were still told only three days before the surgery that we’d need to pay $1,200 the morning of. ‘Merica.

One of my friends is a nurse at the local children’s hospital and was so happy to hear who Bennett’s surgeon was. We were already big fans of this doctor because she was so helpful in finally diagnosing Bennett with PFAPA earlier in the year.

And then knowing that a medical professional that we trust also adores this surgeon made us feel even better about trusting little Bennett to her. Of course, it’s never easy to see your kiddo wheeled off to surgery, but we felt comfortable about his medical team.

a kid in pajamas with a stuffed cat on his head.

Before the surgery, one of the doctors came into his room to talk with us. She saw Baby GG (stuffed cat) and said “well isn’t that a very well loved um…something”. Ha, it’s true. Poor Baby GG has seen better days. Fun fact, she was a gift for Jack from his godmother when he got his tonsils out over 10 years ago.

Bennett did great and was such a trooper in recovery. He ate almost an entire box of ice cream sandwiches when we got home. It wasn’t my idea of good food to eat but he insisted.

The first night was a bit rough as I think he was still a bit confused from the meds and everything. But as long as we kept his pain under control he did really well.

I took Jack to his all-day soccer tournament on Saturday (we won both games, Jack had an amazing goal, a beautiful assist, and another stunning goal that was invalidated after the ref inaccurately called offsides. Offsides is the hardest rule to understand in soccer.) and Bennett and Troy stayed home.

Again, as long his pain was under control, he was happy. They did “army guy battles” and a lot of electronics and mainly took it easy. Bennett ate a lot of cold things and almost an entire dinner-sized order of fried rice from his favorite sushi restaurant.

We’re not out of the woods yet though. The hardest days of recovery for tonsil patients is days 3-5 which we are entering now. Send us good thoughts, please!

a kid laying on a couch with a stuffed cat.

In the Garden This Week

Right after I hung the laundry on the clothesline on Wednesday, the skies opened up and POURED. There was also thunder and lighting. Ohhh, I love a summer storm!

And the garden enjoyed it too. The lawn however is too far gone. It will come back in October so I enjoy the break from mowing.

We’ve been harvesting blueberries, a bit of lettuce (it’s really getting sad and pathetic), and cucumbers. It’s been fun to discover which volunteer cucumbers planted themselves this year. For non-gardeners – volunteer plants are plants that grew from last year’s seeds that overwintered in the soil.

Bennett is obsessed with Persian cucumbers, and one of the varieties we’ve found sprouting in the garden is very similar. We’re all quite happy about that.

These cucumbers are really small but so good. Too small to use in this Cucumber and Onion Salad (well, it would be fine but it’s A LOT of cutting) but so good with guacamole. It’s my new favorite snack.

The wild blackberries that are pretty much everywhere around the PNW are currently sweet and prolific. We’ve been stuck home ahead of Bennett’s surgery, so picking free blackberries has been a safe and time-consuming way to spend our days.

a gallon water bottle full of blackberries.

We eat some of the berries and then freeze the rest (related: How to Freeze Blackberries). We use them for smoothies, blackberry freezer jam, blackberry pancake syrup, blackberry crisp, and blackberry simple syrup. We have a thing for blackberries.

Our raspberries are about to put on their second crop of the summer. The first crop is usually in June, but our late start to summer meant we weren’t picking any until July. That first crop produces small but tasty berries.

The second crop produces giant raspberries that are large enough for small blonde children to wear on their fingers while they refuse to help pick.

2 blonde boys with raspberries on their fingers.

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO THIS WEEK

If you liked Crimetown, you’ll also enjoy Crooked City. How do I know? They’re made by the exact same team and cover the same topic – mob activity in small towns.

This time they’re tackling the mob in Youngstown, Ohio and the fallout after the steel mills closed in the 70s and 80s.

What I’m reading this week

I finally was able to finish Mean Baby by Selma Blair and I really loved it. It’s witty, funny, smart, tragic, and hopeful. If you or someone you love deals with addiction and/or an autoimmune disease, this is a memoir that you should read.

READER SPOTLIGHT OF THE WEEK

Katy left this five-star review on our tutorial on Canning Peaches {Pin this recipe}:

I tried canning peaches for the first time using this recipe. I must say they are simply amazing! I am canning more today.

jars of canned sliced peaches.

ON SUSTAINABLE COOKS THIS WEEK

Sour Cream PancakesAn easy from-scratch recipe for the fluffiest and softest Sour Cream Pancakes ever. If you’re looking for a classic diner pancake recipe, this is it! {Pin this recipe}

4 sour cream pancakes stacked on a grey plate with a small pat of butter.

Can You Freeze RisottoLearn all the tips and tricks for freezing and reheating risotto to become an expert at meal prep. Learning how to freeze risotto for side dishes and fast meals is a great way to maximize leftovers. {Pin this tutorial}

Teal Souper Cubes filled with frozen risotto on a wooden board.

Canning PotatoesFollow 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

  1. Canning Peaches – like sunshine in a jar that you can enjoy all year long. {Pin this tutorial}
  2. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – vegan and vegetarian as written but super customizable! Oh, and did you know you can FREEZE these? {Pin this recipe}
  3. Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce – use up all those delicious garden tomatoes in this simple recipe. {Pin this recipe}
  4. Garlic Butter Rice – so easy and so comforting! {Pin this recipe}
  5. Refrigerator Dilly Beans – I’m obsessed with these pickled beans! They’re stored in the fridge and you don’t need to know how to can to make these amazing dilly beans. {Pin this recipe}

MEAL PLAN

Monday:: TBD

Tuesday:: Takeout to support a local small business and my sanity. Assuming, of course, Bennett is interested in eating food.

Wednesday:: TBD

Thursday:: Troy is making something and we will eat it.

Friday:: Movie night – we’ll see if Bennett is interested in popcorn or not. Jack definitely will eat it!

Saturday:: TBD

Sunday:: If Bennett is up to it, we might have family dinner with my sister and her fam. I’m planning on air fryer fish tacos, Instant Pot Mexican rice, and veggies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. I love how your liking true crime podcast, stories, and books prepared you somehow, and helped you deal with the situation in real life. As you said, intuition is a muscle and your own knowledge of weird stories sharpened your senses. This store clerk will clearly remember you for a very long time, and your interaction will most likely change her for the better! Also great that this prompted such a cool and formative talk with Jack. 

    About the Persian cucumbers, I don’t think we have those over here, but your description made me think of cornichons: have you ever tried those? They are the tiniest cucumbers ever, but pickled. Excellent with charcuterie/cold cuts, in a sandwich, with raclette… 

    A couple of friends grow vegetables in their garden and use their own compost as fertilizer, which means they also have a lot of volunteer plants. Their vegetable patch is such a mess because they now have compost-volunteer-tomatoes or compost-volunteer-pumpkins in the middle of the salad or green beans areas 😀 

    Fingers crossed for Bennett, sending thoughts from over the Atlantic! 

  2. Fingers crossed for all of you that Bennett’s recovery is smooth sailing. He may have a sore throat for years to come that can only be soothed by ice cream!

    As for the incident in the shop, I am sure that the employee will never forget you staying with her and then returning with cake. I imagine that this story will be told over and over for years to come . . . and you will be the star.

  3. Smart and kind of you to put the clues together and stay at that store until help arrived. I had an experience last year with someone with mental illness who likewise really needed medical attention, not police, which makes me hope that option will come to fruition in more places , soon.

    I hope Bennett is doing well when you see this – and that you are, too!

  4. Hope little Mr. Bennett continues to heal up well!  Good thing he has all his stuffed animal posse to nurse him back to full strength.

  5. Really, Sarah, you are just an amazing, one-of-a-kind person. And the fact that your writing so clearly and eloquently tells your stories is just icing on the (blueberry) cake for us readers. Well done at the boutique! Thanks for the example and the inspiration.

  6. After returning an unopened air fryer for the third time we went to a friends house (that night) and had salmon made in an air fryer. It was so good!
    So, I ordered an air fryer …again. I don’t know what it is about them but they intimidate me. Maybe this time I’ll actually try to use it.