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Is THIS going anywhere?

Is THIS going anywhere?

Grandma Sue was everyone’s grandmother. As my last remaining grandparent, it has been pretty difficult to attempt to say goodbye to her over the last few days. She had entered hospice in June, and of course, actually got BETTER for a few months. She was like that. A fighter. Fierce. Strong. But at some point, she was ready to go see my grandpa again, and now she’s there. When I told my kids that Grandma Sue was in heaven, the first thing Reid said was “well at least she gets to be with the man she married!” Sydney, of course, wanted to know when we get to visit heaven because she’d like to see where Grandma lives now. I’m sure the two of them are cutting coupons and newspaper articles together up there.

Grandma was a kindergarten teacher for many years. Her heart knew no bounds – she was a foster parent as well. To me, that is a big deal – to open up your home like that – but it was almost a footnote to her. Like, of course she loved these children, because that’s just what you DO. She was the ultimate Depression-era lady – she and Grandpa saved their money, never spending a dime on something that wasn’t absolutely necessary. And, sometimes, we had to remind her that you CAN spend money on necessities like new shoes and duct tape isn’t always the best solution.

She was a redcoat at Playhouse Square for years. I always thought it was so she could see all the shows – Grandma loved them – but then I found out that all the redcoats got free soft pretzels after the show and I knew the real reason for her job. Grandma loved a freebie like nobody’s business.

She grew up in Lakewood, where we live now. I will always feel close to her because she raised her family in the same city that I’m raising mine. Over the last few years, after we moved here, she and I would discuss the things going on in Lakewood – how the city is moving the Board of Education to the end of our street, how Reid goes to the same school that Grandpa did, how wonderfully diverse the city is. She was so proud of where she lived.

I remember sleeping over their house occasionally, and Grandma would always scratch my back as I fell asleep. It was SO wonderful – her hands were old and a little scratchy, and it always felt so good.

One of my favorite memories is when Kirk and I were dating. I had just graduated law school and started looking for an apartment in Cleveland, so Kirk and I were dating for about a year at this point. While at a family party, I asked Grandma if she had any household items for me (which I knew she did – she frequented the estate sales of her friends and neighbors). She asked where Kirk was living, if me living there was a possibility, and then she points her thumb to where he was sitting and yelled, “Well, is THIS going anywhere?!” I was so embarassed, but Grandma was just looking out for me. She loved Kirk, and he loved her right back. We always watched her hands while she was sitting – she would twiddle her thumbs almost all of the time.

My last real conversations with her were on Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I said to her that someone we both knew got engaged and I felt like they were young. She laughed and told me all about her relationship with Grandpa, how young they were when they got married, and how she dealt with him being overseas during WWII. She felt SO alive to me then that it’s hard to believe a few months later, she isn’t here anymore. At Christmas, she made fun of my sister for being trendy and doing a charcuterie board on butcher paper instead of a platter. Grandma had a lot of opinions and wasn’t quiet about them.

My mom said to someone yesterday, “I keep asking my dad to come and get her.” Well, he finally heard the question and he followed through. After 70+ years of marriage (that is not a typo), I can only imagine the things they have to catch up on.

Grandma, you were the definition of a matriarch. The world feels a little less bright today, but I hope to carry on so much of what you gave me. Love, laughter, warmth, honesty, and back scratches. I love you.

The Tremont House

The Tremont House

Kirk and I looked for a house for a REALLY long time before we finally found our home in Tremont. The year was 2009, and Obama was giving people money to buy a house (an $8,000 tax credit). Kirk and I had been living together for a few months, but his lease was up and we really wanted a place of our own. We looked for a long time – lots of places were within our price range but needed some rehabbing (NOT our strong suit), or were ready to go but too expensive. Also, I had a bad habit of walking into a house, ignoring all the flaws and yelling “WE’LL TAKE IT!!” which is NOT helpful in the negotiation process.

Our lovely, patient realtor found this sweet little house on W. 5th Street in Tremont – walkable to all the bars and restaurants, but tons of street parking plus a yard and garage. Every room was a different, vibrant color. The house was built in 2002, which meant there was still several years of tax abatement left. It had a deck (which we ended up rebuilding), a finished basement, and plenty of space for us. We moved into the house in December 2009. I remember the day we moved – we got Chinese food, sat amongst the boxes and did not discuss how overwhelming owning a house was going to be. Fun fact: when you christen a ship, you break a bottle of champagne on the bow (which is the front, for all you non-boaters). Being a sailor, Kirk wanted to “christen” the house in a similar fashion and he did so, on our front steps. Unfortunately, because this was our own property now, we had to clean up all the spilled champagne and broken glass.

That house was so fantastic. We had so many memories there. Most are happy and joyful, some are sad and heartbreaking. This is the place where Kirk asked me to marry him. This is the place where we learned that Kirk’s dad passed away. This is the place where we brought our first baby home. This is the place where I experienced depression so crippling that I didn’t think I’d ever be normal again. Overall, this was our home where we began to figure out who we were as a couple, as a family, and as ourselves.

Some of the highlights (some good, some not) include:

  • Kirk asking me to marry him, while I was wearing sweatpants and watching tv in our basement, and I thought he was 100% joking. He was not.
  • The first of many “Friday before the 4th of July” parties
  • Becoming good friends with our neighbors, and realizing that I can visit their house and the baby monitor could reach that far
  • Learning that Kirk’s dad had died suddenly, and that our lives would never ever be the same.
  • Me telling Kirk that I’m pregnant, while he was watching College Gameday, and his response was “Oh, ok.” and went back to watching TV.
  • Bringing home our baby for the first time, wondering what the hell do we do now?
  • Planning my sister’s surprise 30th birthday party, where we told her it was a housewarming party for us (we had just moved) so she helped clean my house and make flower arrangements. She’s still mad at me.
  • Building a snowman with my son and nephew for the first time
  • Having many impromptu parties, one of which was on NYE 2011, where we went to the bar after midnight and Kirk declared himself the “King of New Year’s” and took off his shirt at the bar
  • Walking up to the Flying Monkey so many times with Kirk before we had kids, just to grab a beer and hang out
  • Walking up to the Flying Monkey with Reid, when he could ride a tricycle and I was a cool mom, not a regular mom

And so many more, countless, loving memories. I will always love that house. I loved the neighborhood and everything it offered us. We decided in 2015 that we eventually wanted to expand our family (Sydney was born a year later) so we needed something bigger and in a better school system. We put the house on Air BnB and it did incredibly well. But, it was a lot of work. Eventually the cons outweighed the pros, and we decided to sell it.

I don’t know the backstory of who is buying our house. I think it’s a first time homebuyer, like we were. To you – I hope you love our house like we did. I hope you have parties, and fun, and make memories. I hope you experience heartbreak like we did because that’s part of life too. You have a great house, with great neighbors. You are buying more than a house. You are inheriting a home.

(216) 619-6192

(216) 619-6192

The title of this post is the Crisis and Support Hotline for the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. If you are struggling, or know someone who is – please call. Someone is on the other end of the phone 24/7. You can also talk via text at (440) 423-2020.

When I was 19, I was a server in a chain restaurant near my house. I was pretty good at that job and was highly motivated by the fact that I got a decent amount of cash at the end of the night. Like most places, there were some regulars who came in a lot. One guy, Doug (this is his actual name – why would I change it to “protect his privacy”?) tended to sit in my section. He was around 45-50, a professional photographer, tipped a LOT, and was pretty easy to take care of. One day, he told me that he thought I’d make a “beautiful model” and I should come by his house and he’d do some photos for me. Nobody had ever said something like this before, and I was pretty flattered. I mean, 19 years old is not exactly the pinnacle of self-esteem for most girls, and here was this PROFESSIONAL telling me that I was beautiful! Thankfully, some of the other women who worked there pulled me aside and said that this is NOT normal. He has a studio, and trying to get a 19 year old girl to come over to his house is abnormal behavior. I didn’t completely understand what they were saying, but I ended up not taking him up on the offer. Looking back, I am still uncertain of what his intentions were, but I’m eternally grateful that I avoided what could have been a horrible situation.

Same restaurant, different story. (Sidenote: restaurants are hotbeds for creepy and inappropriate behavior. A lot of the harassment cases I read in law school took place in restaurants, car dealerships, and – ironically – law firms.) I worked with this guy who was also a server, so we were out on the floor together a lot. He was very…handsy. I’d be entering someone’s order into the computer and he’d come up behind me and rub my shoulders, touch my neck, basically put his hands wherever he felt like it. Once he told me that he couldn’t help touching my butt because my pants were tight. I tried being nice about it and lightly asking him to stop, but that didn’t work. At one point he tried to kiss me, in the middle of the damn restaurant. I tried being more firm and telling him to please stop this. He didn’t. In the end, I asked our manager to just not put us on the same shift because I didn’t get along with him. I wish I could go back in time, and not be so accommodating to this guy who was harassing me. But I was 19, and didn’t know that what I should have done was file a formal complaint and get his ass out of there.

Fast forward to May 2005. I’m about to graduate college and start law school, and my friends and I are in a pretty celebratory mood. We went out to the bar (and I do mean THE bar, because I went to school in Delaware, Ohio where the town population doubled when school was in session) and had a great time. A REALLY great time. I left and started walking home by myself, which wasn’t terribly uncommon because it was a really small town. I was not exactly the beacon of sobriety at this point in the evening. I was about halfway home when I ran into a “friend.” His name was Jason, and he didn’t drink so he was completely sober. He walked me home, which is what friends do. Only he didn’t leave, which is what friends don’t do. Instead, he took advantage of a situation where I really couldn’t say no because I was passing out. I later found out that other girls on campus have reported similar behavior from him in the past. My roommate took me to the hospital the next day just to get things checked out. Now I want to be clear – this is not the stereotypical violent attack that many people envision. He didn’t cover my mouth or hold me down because he never had to. I wasn’t fighting back – I was falling asleep. Anyway, apparently hospital protocol is to alert the police so I talked to someone there. They asked if I wanted to pursue this, and I wasn’t sure. They said they could just talk to him at the station, and I said go ahead. I did not want to deal with this for a number of reasons – I was really confused about exactly what happened to me, I was graduating soon, my parents were coming down for graduation stuff in a week. I couldn’t spend time processing this. So go ahead Deleware PD, do what you need to do.

The next day, I got a call from the police asking me to come down to the station. I did, and they said they talked to Jason. He said anything that happened between us was consensual. The officers told me I could be charged with filing a false report (!!!) and they were going to talk to the prosecutor to see if that’s the avenue they were going to take. I was incredibly scared and angry at this point. Why am I the one in trouble here? What if they did charge me with something? I am supposed to go to law school in 3 months. I never asked for this nightmare to happen. In the end, they said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge either of us with anything, which in the case of sexual assault is pretty common. There usually aren’t witnesses. I was so relieved that I could go on with what was left of my senior year of college that I just left it at that.

I thought about glossing over this topic, because so much has been said already over the past few weeks. What more could I possibly add? I am pretty sure the popular opinion by now is that sexual assault is bad. What I don’t think many people realize is just how prevalent it is. Before I wrote this, I had the incredibly uncomfortable task of telling my family some things that happened to me in the past, because that is stuff you just don’t want your parents to find out on Facebook. Vulnerability is not my strong suit, and this exposes a hidden side of me in a huge way.

In 2009, Kirk and I bought a house in a pretty urban neighborhood of Cleveland. It wasn’t categorically unsafe, but we didn’t leave our doors unlocked or anything. We had some friends come over a couple weeks after we moved, and they parked their car on the street with the GPS on the dash. A few hours later, their window was smashed and the GPS was gone. Now, should they have left something so valuable in plain sight in a neighborhood like that? Maybe not. But I can almost guarantee that nobody’s reaction is “well, they must have wanted to give it away, putting it out on display like that. Can you really say it was stolen? They were asking for it.” This type of example is a pretty common one when comparing different types of crime and victim-blaming. I am prepared that some people will read my words and not believe me at all. Some people will read this and think “of course this happened, she was walking home alone after drinking.” But I know that someone will read this and think, “me too. This happened to me. I am not alone.” And for those people – I am here to listen. I support you.


Lucky 7

Lucky 7

Yesterday, Kirk and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. Seven years isn’t a huge milestone, but we have experienced a lot together in that time. If you include the 4 years we were dating before that, I personally find it miraculous that Kirk isn’t sick of me yet. Relationships are hard work, but marriage is a whole new level. And, to be honest, there’s nobody I’d rather work hard at this with than Kirk.

We met on Good Friday in 2007. This was the weekend that the Indians home opener got snowed out – we got a blizzard for Easter. I was home from law school for the holiday weekend, and – not expecting a snowstorm – I only brought warm-weather shoes. I distinctly remember Kirk poking fun at me for wearing footwear that was inappropriate for the weather. I also distinctly remember thinking he was unlike anyone I had met, including the guy I was dating at the time (relax, we were dating for like 2 months and he was a total dud compared to Kirk). Kirk was funny, charming, loud (some things never change), and just drew me in. I knew that if a guy like this was out there, I couldn’t keep dating the guy I was seeing and broke it off soon after.

About a month after we met, I got an email from Kirk. His birthday was at the beginning of May, and he invited me to come up for a minor league baseball game. This totally caught me off guard, because I didn’t fully understand the kind of person Kirk is. He will invite ANYONE to a party – the epitome of “the more the merrier.” To be honest, I was a little creeped out. I met this guy once, and he’s expecting me to drive 2 hours to Cleveland for his birthday? Do I stay with him? Does he expect things from me? Is he a serial killer? So, I said I couldn’t make it. It was also during law school finals, so I had an easy out.

I had a summer job with a (very terrible) law firm in Cleveland that year. So I went home and my 24-year-old self moved back in with Mom and Dad for a few months. A couple weeks after I got home, I got a postcard in the mail.

“Enjoy the summer.” This cracks me up. We made plans to meet up downtown on his way home from his trip to Hawaii. He was jet lagged and unshowered, but still up for happy hour and fun. His friend Ben met us as well (Ben seemed to “chaperone” the first few times Kirk and I met up). Although Ben was supposed to give Kirk a ride back to Mentor (where he lived at the time), I said I was happy to do it. Parma – where I was living – and Mentor are NOT close. At all. As in, a solid 30 minute drive, maybe more. But I was just happy to spend time with him.

That’s how I felt most of the summer – I just wanted to get to know him. He was so interesting to me- I had never met someone who actually listened to what I said and remembered things about me. Who genuinely cared about what happened to me, or how I was feeling. He had stories that I could not believe were true (some are still a bit suspect), but man- he was (and is) a great storyteller. He was creative, fun, and definitely worth hanging onto.

Fast forward 9 months when I took the bar exam. While studying, I had what Kirk lovingly refers to as “breakdown Wednesday” where I’d have a complete mental breakdown about halfway through the week. As the exam got closer, it became “break down Monday and Wednesday” and pretty soon Kirk was talking me off the ledge nearly every day. Finally I took the bar at the end of July 2008, and Kirk got me a card to open every single day after that day’s testing. The thoughtfulness that he still displays is not something that he was taught – it is a quality that he has, that I hope our children have. Over the past 11 years, Kirk:

  • Made me a buckeye necklace himself. Collected buckeyes, drilled holes, and strung them on a necklace
  • Wore an offensively LOUD shirt at my first half marathon so I could find him in the crowd (he also rode his bike around the city so he could cheer for me at various points in the race)
  • Tortured me with Rebecca Black’s “Friday” for like 2 months straight, every Friday. Including one week when he wrote out all the lyrics on post-it notes and put them around the house
  • Threw a last-minute New Year’s party with me, which ended at a bar near our house, Kirk shirtless and declaring himself the “King of New Year’s”
  • Had the colors on the Terminal Tower changed to blue the night Reid was born (yes this is true, and deserves its own blog post)
  • Sent me flowers during my first week at a new job to “set the tone” and “make other ladies jealous”

This list is not exhaustive. I could go on and on about all the beautiful qualities he has, the wonderful things he has done for me and our family, and the way he has changed my life. We had a beautiful wedding (about 6 months after Kirk proposed to me in our basement while I was wearing SWEATPANTS) at which I was so excited that I didn’t eat dinner and drank 2 bottles of champagne instead. We left for Tahiti a couple days later for pretty much the best honeymoon EVER.

Since then, we have been through a lot. A lot of people have left us; some have joined us. I know that we have a lot more adventure in our future – and there is nobody that I’d rather have by my side.

Comfort Food (that won’t kill you)

Comfort Food (that won’t kill you)

Anybody that has more than one child- how in the hell do you manage it? Reid and Sydney have been oil and water this week. She wants to be all over him and he wants space. It’s impossible to explain that to either of them that Reid needs patience and Sydney needs to learn boundaries. So instead, he yells and she cries. So I yell and I cry. At one point this week, both were crying hysterically AT THE SAME TIME and I had no idea how to handle that – who gets the attention first? It’s Friday, I’ve been working a ton this week (in the quiet attic, which is awesome), and quite frankly- I’m flat out. I feel like all of my energy has been sucked out and I have nothing left to give. My patience, my sanity, my sense of calm- gone.

I am, admittedly, an emotional eater. When I feel like this, I crave comfort food, something that warms you from the inside. But, I try to avoid gluten and dairy, which happens to be in a lot of comfort-type recipes. I thought, screw that- I’ll just make my own! So here you go. I really don’t like the term “pasta bake” for no particular reason- it’s just one of those things that rub me the wrong way (like “upcycled” or “life hack” or adding “-gate” to a scandal). But essentially that’s what it is. Enjoy!

Baked Lentil Pasta


  • 8 ounces gluten-free pasta (I use Tolerant brand lentil penne)
  • 1 T. coconut oil
  • 3/4 c. diced mushrooms
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 3/4 c. frozen peas
  • 8 ounces cooked chicken breast or thigh, chopped (I use rotisserie)
  • salt and pepper
  • cashew cream sauce
  • vegan parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is melted and the pan is hot, add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the mushrooms and onions for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Add the pasta, chicken, and peas to the skillet with mushrooms and onions and mix.
  5. Make the cashew cream sauce – you will end up with about 1 1/3 cups. Add as much as you want to the skillet and mix together. (I used all of it)
  6. Put the pasta mixture in the 8×8 baking dish and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until top gets crispy and bubbly and delicious.
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle up to 1/4 cup of vegan parmesan cheese on top. Broil for 5 minutes to toast the top.
  8. EAT!

I love this recipe because there are SO many variations you can do. Omit the chicken for a vegan option, or try some other things in there: artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, chorizo, peppers…the list is endless. I made a simple salad as a side, and it was perfect.

Originally, instead of the cashew cream sauce, I used this artichoke pesto sauce (gluten free, dairy free). It was really great- but I wanted an option where I didn’t have to order something special and could make my own sauce at home. The cashew cream sauce is like a garlicky Alfredo- it really is amazing!

Let me know your thoughts!

Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Well. A lot of things have happened since November- such as an entire holiday season, a trip to California for Thanksgiving, hosting Christmas dinner (which involved making standing rib roast for the first time), Sydney walking, and me starting a new job. I guess the last one is the biggest, considering it had been about 4.5 years since I’ve worked. I decided over the summer that I was ready to start working again, and luckily Kirk was super supportive. I think he was particularly excited about the paycheck part of it, but I know he understands my desire to actually use my brain for things other than nap schedules and figuring out how to trick Reid into going to bed. Coincidentally, this was also my first summer with two children. I can tell you- my need for a break from them and do something for myself is DIRECTLY related to spending 3 months caring for those little angels full-time.

So, I started looking for a job. At first, I was adamant that I only wanted part-time work, from home. That evolved quickly into a full-time, outside the home job search. I wasn’t finding a lot of options that fit what I wanted, and it was completely discouraging. I felt like I made a mistake by leaving my job in the first place, back in 2013. My reentry into the workforce was not as smooth – or quick – as I’d hoped. After a couple months of looking for a job, I started getting really discouraged. I started to feel as though I was making a mistake, that I should just stick to raising my kids and forget ever having an identity other than “mom.”

Let me be clear- being a mother is the MOST important job I’ll ever have. I love my kids, and being their mom is a privilege. It’s also the hardest job I’ll ever have- hardest job anyone could have. So please, please do not take this as an indication that I think being a mother is worthless, or basically anything other than amazing. It’s incredible. But – it is perfectly fine to need MORE. To want to have an identity of my own, to want to use my brain in some other meaningful way. I think it’s unfair for me to expect my children to provide all the satisfaction I need from life. That’s a lot to put on two small kids.

Anyway, so I had basically been looking for work for about 4 months and coming up empty. Then one evening, my friend Gretchen casually mentioned that another friend of ours – Molly – was looking for someone to work for her on a freelance basis. Molly is a brilliant grant writer who happens to live about half a mile from me. We met through Crossfit, and we were in a mom group together last year. Her kids are 2 and 3, so she completely knows the struggle of having small children. Molly left her in-house grant writing position after the birth of her second child to start her own grant writing consulting firm. What started as a small venture working from home turned into more business than one (exceptionally smart and hard-working) woman could handle. So Molly told Gretchen that she was looking for someone to work for her- someone who could write, work from home, wanted part-time hours. Gretchen immediately suggested my name, and Molly and I had a meeting the following week. After hearing her background and the types of clients she worked with – non-profits that support the homeless, refugees, and other disenfranchised groups – I wanted in.

Molly and I have been working together since November. I cannot say enough how much I love this work. I am so thankful every day that I have been given this opportunity. I absolutely love writing, and the fact that I get to write for some great causes is a blessing. I can work from literally anywhere, as long as I have my laptop and a wifi connection.

My schedule has really started to get busy. I have several work deadlines approaching, not to mention all the other things I usually get done around the house. Laundry, cooking, actually hanging out with my kids, spending time with my friends. I am starting to wonder how anybody successfully works AND raises kids. Do they have a staff of people or extra hours in their day? Do these people even exist? I know I’m new at this and still figuring a lot out, but it really feels like one of the several spinning plates I have is going to drop any minute.

Image result for spinning plates

How do you find balance? I suspect that it will never be truly equal- at times, my family gets more of me. At times, work will get more of me. But I hope that overall, the most important plates stay in the air.

Grandpa Jim

Grandpa Jim

I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen for about 20 minutes now. I’m not sure what to say. How do you honor someone you’ve known literally your entire life? I am so lucky to have had two living grandparents at the age of 34. Grandpa Jim passed away on Wednesday, November 8th. I wouldn’t say it was unexpected- he was 92 and had recently entered hospice- but it is still heartbreaking. I can’t even think about being in my grandmother’s shoes without tearing up. Grandma Sue had been married to Grandpa for longer than anyone I know. He was her partner, her other half. I imagine losing him feels a lot like losing a part of your body. But I suppose that is the downside to that- being so lucky to have your husband by your side for over 70 years. The hole he leaves behind is pretty big.

Grandpa Jim served in WWII. It blows my mind that he fought in a war like that. When he came home, he married my grandma, went to Ohio University, and became a science teacher. In all my memories of him he had already retired, but the teacher part of him never quit. He would always ask me to pass the salt at the dinner table by calling it “NaCl,” and I still remember the scientific name for starfish because of him. He was so smart. He could solve the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune way before any of the contestants did. He had a bank of trivia knowledge that rivaled Kirk’s (and that is saying something). I know he was pretty proud of me for everything I did in school and in my career.

Grandpa was so many things. He played the clarinet and loved big band music. He had an amazing woodworking shop in the basement, which he’d let the grandkids play in. I can still smell the sawdust and hear the loud noises of the machines while he was working. He taught me how to hammer a nail straight, and without getting my fingers in the way. We would go down in the basement and nail random pieces of scrap wood together, and thought it was SO FUN. I always wanted to head down to the basement first thing when we got to my grandparents’ house. For most of my life, anytime I needed something framed, I sent it to Grandpa. I never knew how expensive it was to have something framed until a few years ago, because Grandpa always did it for me. Once Christmas all I wanted was a wooden cutout of an oak leaf (I know, I was a weird kid) and he made it for me. Another year he made me a jewelry box, which I still use. He built beds for us when we were little and helped my dad finish my little brother’s room while my mom was in the hospital when Andy decided to arrive a bit earlier than expected.

Grandma and Grandpa used to own a vacation house in Pennsylvania in a little community called “Treasure Lake.” We would go there several times each summer and go fishing, horseback riding, look for deer (at the time still a novelty to my Parma-raised self), and catch salamanders in the creek behind the house. I didn’t love catching fish- I preferred to bring bread to feed them instead – but once in a while Grandpa would bait my hook for me (I refused to touch the worms) and help me catch a fish. Then I also refused to take it off the hook so he did that too, and tossed it back in the lake. He would get so annoyed that my brother, sister and I continually got our hooks stuck on rocks and tangled our fishing lines, but I think he still had a good time with us.

Grandpa also loved ice cream and peanut m&m’s. I mean, LOVED them. There’s a story that Grandpa approved of my dad once he found out that Dad’s favorite ice cream flavor is butter pecan (which is such a dad flavor, right?). I can picture the two of them sitting on Grandpa’s porch swing when my mom was dating my dad, talking about ice cream. Obviously, I wasn’t around yet, but this is how it played out in my head.

It would be a disservice to say I can sum up someone’s 92 years within a blog post. I simply cannot. I have such great memories of him because he was so involved with my life. He and my grandmother attended birthdays, plays, music concerts, graduations, nearly every school event. He knew many of my friends growing up. I loved him so, so much. I’m so thankful that he got to meet and know my children. I know Sydney is too little to remember him, but I think Reid will. Reid pointed out that now Grandpa Jim is in heaven with Duncan (whom Grandpa liked a lot). And that’s exactly what our family believes. That Grandpa is with God, and he’s free from the pain he suffered toward the end of his life.

Grandpa- I love you and miss you.

Here I Go Again

Here I Go Again

So, we had a few days last week where it actually felt like FALL. I’m about as basic as they come, with the exception of the PSL. I actually don’t love pumpkin spice lattes- they are too sweet for me and don’t contain nearly enough espresso. Give me 5 more shots in there and then we’ll talk. But- I love sweaters and scarves, skinny jeans and boots. LOVE IT. But lately the weather has been warm again, even a little humid and sticky. It’s incredibly obnoxious. So I’ll just put my head down, light a bunch of pumpkin-scented candles, and pretend it’s 60 degrees or less outside. At least the trees are cooperating!

Common kitchen staples this time of year include apples and root vegetables (sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnips, white potatoes, etc). Normally I fully embrace these and make all things apple-flavored, butternut squash soup, and roasted sweet potatoes. This year- not so much. Let me explain.

I had a conversation with my dietician today. She is part of the team at the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, and is totally amazing. First of all, I actually met her in 2012 at a Halloween party. She grew up sailing with Kirk (weird, small world) and this party was at a fellow sailor’s house. I went as Mike Tyson because I was newly pregnant and bloated and got to wear workout clothes this way. Kirk drew the tattoo on my face and it was amazing. Anyway- I remember talking with her at the party. Now, five years later, she is providing great advice for me on what to eat to feel my best! Today we discussed some labs I had done about a month ago. A lot of things looked good, but some things could use improvement. Without getting into tons of detail, sometimes there can be an overgrowth of yeast in the gut that can lead to some less-than-ideal symptoms. These include food cravings (mine is sugar), bloating, low energy, moodiness/irritability, poor cognitive function, etc. I feel so much better than I did when I started this process back in February, but I definitely still struggle with some of those symptoms, especially after getting a little off track over the summer.

In order to get things moving in the right direction, we are taking a dual approach. On the one side, I am taking about a million supplements to support processes in my body. Two of these are specifically to treat this yeast thing- biocidin drops to support gastrointestinal health, and BIOHM probiotic supplement. I take these for 3 months. To further support these supplements, we are tweaking my diet a bit. This isn’t terribly different from how I eat now with a few exceptions. It’s called the Renew diet, and I’d describe it as “paleo” minus root vegetables and high glycemic fruits. Here are the basic rules:

  • Eat as many (non-starchy) vegetables as possible. The more the merrier.
  • Up to 2 cups of fruit per day: berries, cherries, kiwi, pomegranate
  • Moderate protein from good sources (pastured, grass-fed if possible)
  • 1-2 T. of fat per meal
  • Eat nuts and seeds
  • 1 cup of coffee per day
  • No booze
  • No grains at all, including non-gluten grains
  • No legumes
  • No sugar

Between my dietician and I, we came up with a few modifications so that this is something I can actually do for several weeks and not die or become a hermit in my house. I’m allowed a couple drinks per week of clear liquor (stuff like vodka, tequila, or gin – no wine or beer), and I can occasionally do a serving of butternut squash or acorn squash. REALLY LIVE IT UP!

I know that some people read this and think it’s SO restrictive, that I will hardly be eating anything at all, that it’s boring and I won’t have fun. And yes- it’s definitely  more restrictive than my current diet. But of course it is! I wouldn’t NEED this if I was more dialed in with my nutrition. As for fun- yeah, the weekends may look a little different for awhile. But that’s ok! Just like with the elimination diet- this is NOT forever. This is just to “right the ship” so to speak, and then moderate from there.

As for it being boring- just wait, I’ll be blowing up your instagram feeds with the amazing things I cook in no time (@sarahlintern)! And you won’t even KNOW these are part of a “diet.” I’m sneaky that way.

Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale

Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale

Holy smokes. This dish is something I had made for a few years- it’s semi-healthy comfort food at its finest. But, I’m not exactly on the gluten or dairy train anymore, so I haven’t touched it for awhile. Yesterday, I decided to give it a whirl with a handful of changes- and man, was it amazing! That is one of the things I’ve learned over the past 8 months or so- with a few changes, I can still make food that I love. Kirk loved it, Sydney tried it and seemed semi-impressed, Reid wouldn’t touch it (he’s 4, so don’t go by his judgment). I love using chickpea pasta for this because aside from bacon, there’s no meat. Chickpeas add so much protein (and fiber!) to make this truly filling. To make this truly dairy-free involves some planning and effort since dairy-free creme fraiche takes some time. It’s not complicated, just takes time in the fridge overnight. BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT. Trust me. I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale (adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 5 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (small size works best)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 12 ounces short-shaped chickpea or lentil pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle, or ziti
  • 4 cups shopped kale
  • 4 bacon slices (look for nitrate-free)
  • 2 cups vertically-sliced yellow onion
  • 1 t. salt, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (or more if you love it. I won’t judge)
  • 2 cups organic, good quality chicken broth, divided (I apologize for sounding like Ina Garten)
  • 2 T. arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup dairy-free creme fraiche (such as this)
  • 1/3 cup vegan parmesan cheese (such as this), optional


  1. The night before, make the creme fraiche if necessary. If you don’t give AF about dairy, just use regular creme fraiche. That’s cool too.
  2. While you’re at it, chop up the squash and onion the night before too. Trust me, this is a huge time-saver. DO IT.
  3. When you’re ready to make the dish, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Toss squash (that you’ve already chopped up, look at you!) and olive oil together to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Don’t be scared if it gets a little browned. That’s the good stuff.
  5. Cook pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. Throw the kale in for the last 2 minutes or so. Drain the pasta mixture.
  6. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Seriously, get it CRISP. Nobody likes chewy bacon in a casserole- give the people what they want. Remove bacon from pan and let cool on paper towels. Enjoy the bacon-y smell of your kitchen.
  7. Add onion to bacon drippings in pan (oh yeahhh) and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon sale and the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Crumble bacon, try not to eat it right now.
  9. Bring 1 3/4 cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth and arrowroot starch in a small bowl, stirring until starch is dissolved. Add starch mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in creme fraiche. Taste it because it’s magical.
  10. Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and amazing sauce in a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Throw it in a 9×13 glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes (if using parmesan cheese) or 25 minutes (if not using cheese).
  11. If you are adding cheese, remove dish from oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Then throw it back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  12. Voila! Eat it all. Serve it to friends and impress them. Bring it to your friend that just had a baby and can’t eat dairy because her newborn gets cranky when she does. Just make this thing immediately!

I also think a good variation would be to reduce kale to 3 cups and add in 1 cup of zucchini, broccoli, or cauliflower rice. More veggies and you probably won’t even notice their presence. My favorite!

Sidenote: you can totally make this ahead and freeze it. Do everything up to putting it in the oven and freeze. When you want to use it, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake when you’re ready. So easy!


Sydney Jane

Sydney Jane

Dear Sydney,

These are your last days as a baby. Saturday, your first birthday, marks the beginning of your toddler years. Cliche as it may be, this year has flown by. Around this time last year I was at the doctor getting my 39 week checkup. I had been having tons of Braxton-Hicks contractions but didn’t really pay attention to them. We spent our last night as a family of 3, September 22, putting Reid to bed and having our good friend, John, over for dinner since I had made a pretty kickass lasagna the day before. I started having contractions, but I could mostly talk through them and they weren’t incredibly painful. I don’t think John even noticed. But I didn’t eat much at dinner, which should have been a sign that your presence was imminent.

On the morning of your birthday, I woke up and got Reid ready for school like usual. Again, some contractions, but nothing crazy. Once we got in the car, though, I started paying more attention. Reid asked me questions (he is very chatty, your brother) and I couldn’t answer right away because I was breathing through the discomfort. In all honesty- I probably shouldn’t have been driving. But I was in denial because your brother was 5 days late (and was only born due to an induction) and your due date was 6 days away. I was still walking, talking, cooking, crossfitting. Surely you weren’t on your way! When I got home, I called your grandfather and asked him to pick up Reid from school. I told him “I’m not in labor or anything, but it hurts to drive.” Silly me. I let our doula, Rachel, know what was happening. She laughed and said it sounds like early labor and to pay attention. Your dad asked if he should come home at lunch and I said no, I’m not in labor. This is probably a false alarm. You know, as I continued to have regular contractions every 5-7 minutes.

Your dad did come home around 11, and I told him that he should go grab Reid from school since he was home. I also started to consider a visit to the hospital- just to make sure. My dad was on his way over to take Reid back to your grandparents’ house once he got home from school. And in the 40 minutes that it took to pick up Reid, things escalated. QUICKLY. I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore.Your poor grandfather walked into the house to me rolling around on the couch, moaning like a cow. I think I scared him but at that point, I didn’t really care. I called your dad on his way home and scream-asked when was he coming home? Luckily he was 3 minutes away. That seemed like too long. We got in the car against my will – I said it hurt too much to move, let’s just have the baby here – and drove to the hospital. Longest 20 minute ride of my LIFE.

I got a mini-epidural at the hospital after waiting about 90 minutes. I could still feel contractions but they weren’t as painful and I was happy again. Then, it started to wear off. I asked for another dose and the doctor told me that I was too close and would be pushing soon. That was NOT what I wanted to hear. Rachel had met us at the hospital several hours earlier and suggested I roll onto my side to see it that would help things move along. And boy- did it ever. I rolled onto my right side, and 4 contractions later you were here. Both your dad and Rachel started putting gloves on as they yelled out the door “I think we are ready!” The doctor nearly didn’t even make it in to catch you! We were so happy to finally meet you. I was exhausted and elated at the same time.

You are one of the happiest babies I’ve ever met. You also have one of the worst cases of FOMO I’ve ever seen. You love people-watching and playing with Reid. No matter what he does, you laugh. You adore him. You still hate naps but have slept through the night since about 3 months, so I’ll take it. You’ve developed a habit of crawling around with toys in your mouth like a dog. You have zero stranger-danger, and give almost everyone a smile. In your early days, you HATED the hours of 8pm-10pm and would cry for 2 hours like clockwork. Until a couple months ago, you didn’t like baths. You love climbing and stairs. You are easily entertained as long as there is something to look at. You have beautiful blue eyes that grab nearly everyone’s attention.

This year has been a wonderful challenge. Thank you for bringing unprecedented joy into our lives. I love you with my whole heart.