Day One Clearwater, FL! Traveling & Marina Cantina.

Good morning, everyone! We went on a vacation to Clearwater, FL last week, and I can’t wait to share all about it. In this post I’ll be recapping our general travels and everything that all encompassed with our 11 month old, Quinn. I’ll also chat about our first evening in the Sunshine State and share some yummy food!

The night before we left we soaked up our time with Moose. He was going to be safe and happy at his Aunt Marie’s, but this would be the longest we had ever been away from him. It ended up being really tough for all of us! Even Quinn woke up the first morning and giggled when she thought she saw Moose at the end of our bed- but it was just a suitcase :(. Needless to say, being reunited with Moose was a huge highlight returning from this wonderful trip ☺️.

Gigi and Gordie graciously offered to take us to the airport at the wee hours of the morning. We left the house around 530 AM. Packing for this trip took extra organization and planning given we were away for six nights, and we were flying.

I tried not to overpack and planned out most days’ outfits for both me and Quinn. I usually just throw everything in a suitcase under the weight limit and call it a day, but not this time. It was nice traveling somewhere warm since we didn’t have a lot of bulky items to pack, minus a go-to sweatshirt for cooler evenings.

The big question mark going into this trip was how to travel with breast milk. Each airline has a policy, so I looked up the one we’d be flying and followed accordingly. I found this cooler, packed it with two big ice packs and put the breast milk in. I packed about 20 oz that I pumped specifically extra for this trip (about 1-2 oz a day for the last few weeks). The cooler worked just well enough for our 11ish hour travel day, but the milk was just starting to defrost by the time I took it out. If you get this cooler, make sure you use some good ice packs and multiple of them!

We ended up packing two suitcases, the cooler and had a carry-on mini suitcase. The carry-on contained extra outfits, shoes, toys, bathing suits and essentials in case luggage got lost/delayed.

Also! Some airlines don’t consider a diaper bag a carry on, so that was nice!

First things first. You can guess what that is! While at Starbucks, I grabbed a fruit pouch for Quinn along with an oatmeal. She wanted nothing to do with the oatmeal but slurped down the fruit pouch.

She conked back out before our first leg of the trip, so we just did circles on foot around the Cleveland airport until it was time to board. We boarded last to give her as much time to sleep as possible.

And here we go!!!

After her nap, she had a LOT of energy for the first two hour stretch of the flight. We were already exhausted by the time of our layover 😅. We brought along some toys for the airplane. This little window spinner worked for about 2 minutes 🤪. Nothing occupied this girl more than the back safety inserts in the plane and a plastic water bottle.

We were nervous the loud, rumbling take off would scare her, but she was all smiles as the plane started moving and gliding into the air.

She slept the second leg of the trip which was much more chill and allowed me time to watch the Love Is Blind finale!

We landed, got our luggage and headed out to our rental without a hitch….until we encountered our biggest foe of the entire trip. Dun-dun-dunnnnnn. I thought assembling the stroller was one of the greatest challenges our marriage had faced yet- but we hadn’t come face to face with a rental car seat! We saw all these other parents carrying their car seats through the airport, and we are 1000% doing that next time. It took us a good 40 mins to figure the foreign contraption installation out. I was also getting hangry which didn’t help the situation 🥴. Quinn was a trooper though – she barely fussed which helped tremendously in that somewhat stressful moment. DJ figured it out and turns out all my ideas were probably just delaying success with the darn thing 🤪.

Once we were on our way into Clearwater, we felt a huge sense of relief. There was bumper to bumper traffic for a festival, so the usual 30 minute drive took us a good hour.

But we made it!!!

We stayed at Sandpearl Resort. The service was wonderful, even before we got there. I called a couple weeks prior to the trip because I hoped to have meals delivered for Quinn from Little Spoon since I was worried there wouldn’t be enough for her to eat at restaurants that wasn’t loaded with dairy/sodium/etc. The hotel made it seem like it was absolutely no big deal, and they made sure we were all set and comfortable the minute we arrived. They also acted like it was no big deal storing my breast milk in their chef freezer. They promised it would be stored among the “best seafood and steaks around” 😄. I don’t know why but that statement made me giggle- just envisioning my milk next to a bunch of lobster, I suppose!

One of my favorite parts of the room is it had a Nespresso machine!! I was so WRONG about Nespresso! I think I just never tried the right pods for me- because the ones they had in the room I became quickly obsessed with. I am kicking myself for ever returning the one I had 🥲.

The views out our room were so peaceful. I don’t usually care much for a view on vacations- I figure you’ll be out and about in what you’d be seeing, so why pay extra to view it from afar? But waking up to this (which wasn’t even considered one of their rooms with a great view), may have opened my eyes quite literally to the bliss of a beautiful view. Basically the moral of the story is my mind was changed a lot on this trip, hah!

Back to Little Spoon- I’ve never tried this service out before but figured it’d be a good time to give it a go! They make organic, nutritious meals that are appropriate for baby led weaning and chock full of creativity and flavor (I actually usually finished Quinn’s meals when she didn’t- they were good!).

Here are the meals loaded into our fridge! I opted for 14 meals for the 6 night stay, and it was just the right amount. She finished her last meal the night before we left. We just took them heated up to restaurants with us or gave them to her in the room (the resort brought us up a high chair).

We also did an Instacart Order from a nearby grocery store to stock up on diapers/wipes, random snacks, Serenity Kids and other fruit/veggie pouches, teether crackers, almond yogurt, peanut butter, nut pod coffee creamer and sunscreen. We tried to avoid packing things we could just stock up on once we arrived, and that worked well!

We took turns getting ready for our dinner out and then hit the main drag in Clearwater on foot. I dressed Quinn in a dress from Cozumel from her Grammy and Grampy who were flying in that evening to join us for some of our vacation!

Practicing our waving 🥰.

Being on this main strip energized me immediately!! I love being out and about in any city we’re visiting. I had a moment of thinking “Wow, we’re actually doing it!! We’re on vacation with our girl!”. It felt like a fusion of our life of travel prior to Quinnie to our life with her. And it was the BEST of all worlds!! 🥰

Someone else didn’t quite feel as energized as their mom; Quinn decided it was an excellent time for a nap. I was relieved she fell asleep though- it was a long travel day & she was taking in a lot of newness!

We caught a glimpse of the festival happening – an easy target to spot given the Ferris wheel.

At the end of the main strip is a building that houses multiple restaurants and shops. On the rooftop was our destination: Marina Cantina.

This place was a whole vibe. From the live music under delicate string lights, to the tables with crystal clear views of the pier to the fantastic presentation of the dishes to the warm, amicable infectious mood of the patrons- it was the best kick-off to our vacation!

My mom and Pete arrived a little after us but just on time to get orders in. We started with their chips, salsa, queso and guac trio (naturally). I wanted to dive into that queso so badly- soon enough hopefully! A couple more weeks till we trial dairy again!

The salsa and guac I had was extra good. Fresh as all get out!

I brought Quinn a Little Spoon meal with beans, corn and chicken. I also gave her some of the yummy guac.

I ordered a virgin spicy margarita that was sooo tasty!

Quinn spending time with Grammy before the food arrived 🥰.

Time for more food!!! Get a load of this cornbread 😍

My mom and I split the ever so tasty Spanish octopus dish and the kale salad. I was craving something light and refreshing after a travel day, and this meal hit the spot! (Still, no Spanish octopus compares to what I had at Marco Prime).

Three generations 🥰.

Taking full advantage of having family around to take family pics!

After dinner, we were all ready to turn in after the long, yet beautiful, day.

Once Quinn was asleep I quietly unpacked/organized everything: I felt wired and didn’t love the idea of going to sleep with our suitcases exploded everywhere. I don’t usually unpack for short trips, but I definitely do for the ones that are closer to a week. I finally slipped into bed around 10 pm, giddy thinking about the week ahead!

Questions for you:

– Do you usually unpack your suitcase on trips?

– If you had to choose between guac, salsa and queso, which would you choose? Sorry to even put that hypothetical in your mind!



Swimming Classes, Easter & Oh yeah, we’re moving again!

Heyyyyy hey! How is it going? This recap is about to be long and jam-packed! Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Speaking of jumping in…. Quinn started swim classes on March 21st. How about that segue? They don’t call me segue Sally over here for nothin’. Ok, they don’t call me that.

Anyway! This was right before her first class. 🥰

We are doing drop in classes through a local swim school. How cah-ute is the inside?

We have had a blast!!! Quinn really enjoys it, and she has the best naps after. The teachers focus on safety and general introduction to the water. They do fun activities too like guiding the babies around in a canoe or putting them down a makeshift water slide! We try to do one session a week right now.

For a fun little snack to recharge, I made Quinn baked plantains with cinnamon. I actually never realized how darn delicious plantains were until I made these!

I decided to step up DJ’s lunch sandwich and made a caprese one with fresh basil, pesto, mozzarella, tomato and balsamic drizzle.

We’ll be back to PB & J tomorrow 🤪.

For dinner, I made Quinn a pasta with homemade pesto sauce. I can’t remember specifically what I used for it, but something like avocado, vegan yogurt, an Italian seasoning blend, greens and maybe nutritional yeast.

March 23rd, I started the day with some of this Chia Squeeze in my oatmeal. I am not usually big on cherry flavored things, but I very much enjoyed this! I used it over several days just to add a boost of nutrition and flavor to my oats.

March 24th, I spent a good chunk of the morning planning Quinn’s bday. I dropped her off at daycare then I went to the venue where we are having the party in person and ironed out some final details. (It’d be tough to have at our townhouse since we don’t have anywhere for guests to park).

As soon as that was figured out, I picked up Quinn. She had a nap at daycare and was ready for some fun! I took her to Cafe O’Play – a place recommended to us recently by Gigi.

This is a giant play area for kids (think McDonald’s play areas from when we grew up with on steroids). Do they still have those, btw? Cafe O’ Play also has a cafe with tons of food options and surprisingly good coffee.

I grabbed an O’Play au lait then took my girl to the toddler area. Her hat is too small now if I fold it, so this is how we wear it now 😄.

She ventured around playing with the different toys, but watching the other kids entertained her more than anything.

For dinner I made her tempeh (one of her favorites) with brussels and yellow squash.

For DJ and myself, I made stuffed peppers with beef. Vegan cheese for me!

I was eager to show DJ the land of Cafe O’Play, so we went back the next day on March 25th. It’s really easy to make reservations online.

I went down some of the large slides with Quinn on my lap- she loved it, and definitely may be a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

I saw this easy activity recently where you put ball pit balls in a muffin tin and cover them with tape. I tried it out the morning of March 26th. It kept Quinn occupied for a little bit! She was more interested in the tape than anything.

That afternoon, we went to Layla’s fourth birthday party (my good friend Clair’s daughter). I just can’t believe she’s four. I feel like I was just meeting her and remember holding her when she was a little nugget. (Yes, I’m 100000% that person that says “I remember when you were *this* big!”). I also get more emotional even over other kids’ birthdays now that I have my own.

Aunt Clair showing Quinnie the new baby ducks they bought!

How adorable are these party favors for the kids?! These little stuffed puppies come with a cozy blanket and adoption certificate. Fun idea!!

For dinner that evening, I made Quinn kiwi, mushrooms and black eyed peas with some of the serenity kids beef pack over the peas for flavor (thank you, Kori, for the idea to use the pouches as a sauce on foods!).

I made DJ and me shrimp salads. I used vegan Violife feta for mine (the best vegan feta!).

Quinn adores Moose. They are two peas in a pod. They love chasing each other around the kitchen and our center island. DJ had a Rhodesian Ridgeback growing up and knew they were incredible family dogs. He aways hoped we would get one, which is why I surprised him with Moose for our anniversary 1.5 years ago. Moose could not be more loving, gentle, patient and protective of Quinn. It’s the sweetest thing!

I made Quinn a chia seed oatmeal with berries and peanut butter the morning of March 29th. She didn’t like the chia .. anything with a fine grainy texture she doesn’t seem to much enjoy. Quinoa, chia and couscous have not been a hit.

I got sent home from work early on March 30th due to low census, so I got to pick up Moose man early!

For dinner that evening, I had Banza spaghetti with vegan butter, vegan parmesan cheese, red pepper and a glass of non-alcoholic Giesen wine.

March 31st was a surprisingly chilly day. I got Quinnie all bundled then we ran a couple errands together.

April 1st we started the day with a gorgeous family walk!

There were crazy high winds later that day that scared Moosey. He sought refuge in our closet, where a sleeping Quinn (in the carrier) and I kept him company till things calmed a bit.

Then it was time to get ready for the evening!

Off to The Farm we go!!! We had to take three or four detours to find one that worked since there were trees down everywhere after the storm- crazy! Worth it though to see our fam, especially those visiting from out of town! This evening Gordie made insanely good pork chops. We had all the fixings with a delicious salad, green beans and a baked potato.

Funny story that evening- so we had our diaper delivery coming the next day (we use a Honest diaper subscription), and we were short just a few diapers for the evening. We had a ton of swim diapers though, so I decided instead of buying more we could just use the swim ones till delivery. Welllll, while at the farm, we discovered swim diapers do not hold pee apparently! Thankfully there were extra non-swim diapers at the farm we could use, and we just dried Quinn’s pants, but yeah we learned that lesson the hard way! 😅.

April 2nd DJ, Quinn and I went to Nervous Dog cafe. We brought her toys (the quieter ones, ha), and got some delicious caffeinated beverages. It was a peaceful, wonderful little family date out.

I wanted to grab a family photo and maybe should have found a place not directly looking into the sun 😄. Oh well!!

April 3rd, I used a daycare morning to prep food for the week. I used to feel very conflicted about taking advantage of the the unused daycare days when I was off work. What I discovered is if I use just a couple hours in the morning, I’m often able to get in a workout and get chores done 100x faster than I would otherwise. This makes me much more present with Quinn the whole rest of the day, and the cherry on top is she seems to genuinely enjoy daycare while she’s there. They do so many fun activities with her & she’s a social butterfly.

Anyway, this day I made this half baked harvest dish called Coq Au Vin. It’s essentially meatballs with mushrooms cooked in a white wine reduction. I didn’t have ground chicken the recipe called for, so I used ground turkey instead. I also used regular instead of crimini mushrooms. I love mushroom but cannot get on board with the crimini flavor. The recipe had little bits of bacon in it, which were a nice addition. I served it with French fries for dinner that evening (Ore Ida are the bestttt). It was overall unique in flavor. We enjoyed it well enough, but not sure I’ll make again?

Present day moment: I’m writing this in bed while Quinn is sleeping on me while eating yogurt. (I’m eating the yogurt, to be clear 🤪). I tried to put my yogurt on top of my headboard but missed the ledge, and it fell on my head, so pretty sure I have yogurt in my hair as I type this. Good times 😅.

Here’s a pic from the week from Marie. I love how happy Moose seems to be when he’s over there. We have to board him with her while we’re in Florida, and we’re going to miss him soooooooo much, but it helps to know he’ll be at his second home with Aunt Marie.

April 4th I tried to film a day in the life of a work day, and you guys, I don’t think the vlogging life is for me 😅. I was so embarrassed watching the videos back. I don’t even know why, but I don’t think I can bring myself to publish them 😂. I’ll stick to my Stone Age form of blogging for now.

April 5th Gigi came with us to Quinn’s swim class! So fun to have here there. We ordered Piada for lunch and had the best convos, per usual.

April 7th was an unexpected date day! DJ had off work, but daycare was still open- which never happens. They’re usually aligned with the holiday schedule. Sooooo we decided to drop off Quinn, have an impromptu date in the morning and then pick up Quinn.

We got our girl ready for daycare together. It was PJ day, so we had to put her in her little elephant robe, of course!

Once we dropped her off, we cleaned the house and knocked out the big chores. I also made Quinn’s Easter basket. I included the Easter Sunday Berenstain Bears book (not Berenstein, a commonly thought misspelling according to the Mandela Effect- you can go down a real rabbit hole with all that!), plushy eggs, a bunny Burt’s bees onesie, creamies, teethers and some pouches.

Then time for our little at home date! I still can’t have donuts with the dairy allergy, but I felt like the morning called for them, so I ordered some for Deej.

Jubilee is a nearby spot that has some good cake donuts.

I also made us some mimosas!

For my breakfast, I had avocado toast with an egg topped with crushed red pepper and HOT HONEY. You guysssss I can never eat avocado toast again without hot honey! Ok that’s a lie, I’m a millennial, I’d eat avocado toast in any form, buttttt still- this is a game changer!!!!

We tried to watch an episode of Succession, but we’re both pretty lost, having a hard time remembering where it left off. We decided we’d watch a recap of the previous season on YouTube or something before diving into the next season.

It was a fairly nice day, although a bit chilly. But I took Moose out on a run! I so enjoy my runs with him now that’s he’s old enough to jog along beside me.

After the run, I speedily pumped then we went to a house showing, shown by the the best realtor around- Gigi! I told DJ about three weeks ago that I’m finally in the space and frame of mind that if the perfect home came up for us that I could stomach another move. Anyway, we love our townhouse, but there’s just not enough yard for our 93 lb. Moose and for kids eventually. Well, y’all, that day the most perfect-for-us home plopped in our laps. It’s close to where we live now, so we don’t have to uproot our lives either. We put in an offer that weekend, and guess what- it’s ours 🥹. We found out on Easter! The way this all came together makes me feel this was entirely in God’s plans. I can’t wait to share more. We move in July, and I feel so at peace with this decision.

After the showing we picked up our girl and had lunch together. I made us cod over couscous with acorn squash and broccoli.

I accidentally got Quinn to 100 foods with couscous (I was planning on it being steak). I thought she had two foods left to get to 100, but turns out it was only one. We decided we would say the steak was a celebration for making it to 100 foods! (Also the app I used is called Solid Starts- can’t recommend it enough. It shows how to serve food for the different age ranges, provides precautions and even shared recipes for incorporating new foods.)

Saturday April 8th, we put Quinn in some fun spring colors for her 11 month photo. These pics are near impossible to get at this point. You should see the “blooper reel” on my phone. It’s simultaneously chaotic, funny and cute, so I can’t really get myself to delete many of the pics hah.

Quinn was much more interested in playing with this paper manual and Moose than getting her monthly pic. DJ kept reassuring her “only one more month of this, sweet pea!” Lol.

After Quinn’s first nap, Aunt Terry and Uncle Pat from Sutton’s Bay popped in to visit. Quinn didn’t miss a beat warming back up to them after not seeing them since September.

They so sweetly brought her this adorable Easter basket! Good job, Quinn, on reaching for the card first 😄.

“Just making sure this doesn’t have dairy mom!”

That sweet bunny above says the traditional nighttime prayer that my sister and I used to say before bed each night as kids. So special! I am going to start saying it with Quinn too.

For lunch we ordered Aladdin’s. LOVE this place. The mujadara salad with a side of spicy cauliflower & extra hot sauce is the way to go! Trust meeee. Although you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu in my opinion.

We got Quinnie changed into some more weather appropriate clothes and headed out for a big walk with all the dogs (AT and UP have a new puppy named Archie who is so adorable and gave me flashbacks of puppy Moose with the boundless energy!).

Quinn took a nice nap in my carrier while we showed them our usual trail.

We then took them to see our land and let the dogs run around. They had a ball, but got very muddy 🥴.

That evening we went to The Farm for steaks, corn on the cob and sweet potato fries! Watching this girl chow down on corn on the cob was stinking adorable.

And she was obsessed, and I mean obsessed, with the steak her Grandpa made. She ate an entire filet herself. (Of course Moose helped with anything that made it on the floor, but all in all, the majority actually did make it into her stomach). I looked at Gigi and said, “no wonder I craved meat so badly in pregnancy!”.

Then Sunday was Easter and our first day back to church! I woke up so excited to go back. He is risen!!!!

I got us dressed in our respective Easter outfits (thank you to my SIL, Renee, for my dress!).

Here’s Quinn giving me some bunny ears to match with the occasion 😄 🐰.

I tried to time up her nap so we could go to the 930 service, but she slept until 933. We decide to still try to make it. We were a smidge late, but it wasn’t a big deal. We checked her into the nursery, and they said she did really well! Her separation anxiety seems to be improving.

When we got home, we did Easter baskets!!

She found the teethers and it was game over! We also opened her adorable basket from Gigi too.

Showing Moose her favorite teether crackers.

For lunch, we went to Beau’s on the River for their Easter buffet and met up with my Aunt Terry and Uncle Pat.

This girl was due for a nap, so I was a bit nervous- but she did wonderfully!

My Aunt and I got these Michelada mocktails. Oh these were so good and nice and spicy! My new favorite brunch drink for sure!

Buffets can be simultaneously exciting and overwhelming for my kind who want to try everything lol. This was a great Easter spread- there was prime rib, lamb, waffles, a salad station with tons of different salad options like a farro or quinoa mix, smoked salmon, shrimp, other hot fish options, roasted potatoes, an omelette station, a mouth watering dessert station … and the list goes on!

I had just about everything I could that was dairy free! The lamb and roasted veggies tasted particularly delicious.

Quinnie enjoyed her own little omelette, fruit and green beans!

We had a great view of the water below. Here’s Aunt Terry showing it to Quinn while I finished my meal 😋.

Quinn was tuckered after the big brunch, but we still managed to get a few family pics before she totally conked out.

It was tough to say goodbye to Aunt Terry and Uncle Pat, but we‘ll certainly treasure those weekend memories with them 🥰.

Rare sighting of a Quinnie Q fast asleep in the car.

We then went on an afternoon walk together.

In the late afternoon, we went to Sissy and Poppy’s house to say hi to the fam for Easter! Since Quinn’s leggings from the morning were basically tie-dye, we changed her into her Easter onesie and added a little bow. She had fun taking every single toy out of their play bin and then scurrying off to find a sharp corner in the room (thankfully she never successfully reached said sharp corners, but she sure has an eye for them 😅). (I use that emoji a heck of a lot more now that I’m a parent 😂).

Quinn was spoiled with Easter goodies from her Poppy and Sissy too 🐣.

And that wraps a very special first Easter for our Quinn. We can’t wait to keep going back to church too. Now that we’ve done it once, it feels so much more manageable. Plus it will force me to wear real human clothes at least once a week 😄.

Questions for you:

– Any funny examples of when you learned something the “hard way”?

– What’s a food you just don’t like?



Reflections after (almost) one year of being a mom:

Hey hey!! I have been chipping away at this post for the past year, and even then, I realize if I try to sum up all my first year mom thoughts, we’d be here all day- so I’ll just share a few! Warning: this is total stream of consciousness and is about to be all over the place!

Overall: I have never felt more sure and secure in a purpose in my life. I LOVE being Quinn’s mom. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster- it’s a real trip how many conflicting emotions can exist so strongly at once- joy, unimaginable love, guilt, fear, bliss, concern, self-doubt, gratitude, exhaustion- the list goes on!!

Body image: So this topic is an interesting one. I think “bounce back” culture is absolutely ridiculous (how is it even a thing?!), and I put zero pressure on myself to look a certain way or to be a certain weight after having Quinn. Weight is actually quite arbitrary for me personally too- I don’t think I’ve talked about this, but to even have a chance at pregnancy, I had to gain about 15/20 lbs. So while getting back to “pre-pregnancy” weight happened pretty quickly and naturally for me, my pre-pregnancy weight was higher than my usual weight for a long time prior to that. I wasn’t my healthiest at that prior weight, so I have no desire to go back to it. I’m just really grateful to my body for carrying and growing my girl, birthing her and then sustaining her post birth. I just want to focus on being my healthiest for Quinn (which for me does not equate to my thinnest), so I can be energized, strong and a good role model for her.

Body recovery: I learned recovery extends far beyond that 6 week checkup mark!

Identity: I have heard people say they lose their identity often as a mom. I definitely can see how people can say that with the total redirection of energy and focus on another human in a way you’ve never experienced. However, I personally want to shift that common narrative to seeing it as my identity has been expanded, enriched. Being Quinn’s mom, as you are likely well aware, is a massive part of my identity. And while the attention I once gave elsewhere may be shortened, I still have tried to foster those other parts of myself. Going into year #2, I think those slivers of time devoted to hobbies, friendships, exercise, time with DJ etc. will change too as Quinn’s needs change. The part of my identity that I want to nourish and foster most is my faith. I haven’t prioritized spending time in prayer, reading the Bible or attending Church like I used to. That is definitely going to be a big priority for our family entering into this next year!

Sleep: I didn’t realize how babies are all different in terms of sleep! I felt initially like a failure given Quinn wasn’t a traditionally “good sleeper”, but I’ve learned the idea of this aspirational perfect sleeping baby is more of a societal (and somewhat unnatural) expectation, and is many times pure luck (especially early on). Plus she had reflux pretty bad which I think was the root of her sleep issues for a bit. Anyway, I now know the fact that she doesn’t sleep through the night is totally ok, and she will get there when it’s right for her. I’m here for those cuddles and night feeds as long as she needs. While writing this, I’m oddly getting some great sleep even with the wake-ups because I often go to sleep not long after she does (I’m usually asleep by 9 pm and up at 6 am). In the beginning though, I realized how important sleep was when I was screening borderline for postpartum depression going on pretty much 1-2 hours until we made some changes to our sleep situation that I believe saved me/us.

Breastfeeding: I joke that in the miracle that is pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, my one gripe about it all is I have never been hungrier and never have had less time to eat 😅. Forget pregnancy, this breastfeeding hunger is UNREAL. Overall, I’m grateful to have had a great experience breastfeeding, as I know everyone’s journey with that can be luck of the draw too with so many factors at play. And even though I have had a smooth ride overall, I have still shed tears while fighting with a pump that wouldn’t work and when we’ve had to dump/accidentally spilled milk (countless times) for one reason or another. Whoever said “don’t cry over spilled milk” surely never breastfed! Giving up dairy and soy has been pretty tough due to Quinn’s intolerances (although we live in a time of excellent substitutions). I’d do it all over again for her, but I cannot wait to order a greasy, cheesy pizza again. DJ and I joke if she gives me attitude, I can pull the “I gave up cheese for you!” card. I say we joke, but I 100% know I will use that at some point 😄.

Mom guilt is really really intense. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s been a challenging but important journey in learning how to be gracious with myself as a mom and as a person. I’ve also experienced tons of consistent guilt over not being able to give Moose the same attention I did prior to Quinn being born. I’m still working on finding that balance.

I thought I was going to be a type A mom- with a strict schedule and such? I am definitely not as much as I expected, only about certain things. There’s not really any set schedule here right now; I just follow her cues as the day goes.

As much of a homebody I am, it’s so important for both me and Quinn to get out of the house to elevate our moods! Mainly getting outside at least once a day for a walk has made a huge difference.

I’m convinced we have a black hole in our home that eats up all the Pacis. Where do they all go?!

I realize how easy it could be to compare milestones/ways of parenting, etc. I have learned to just be entirely focused on doing what is best for our family and tuning out the white noise. I listen to my maternal instinct more than I expected; it’s a powerful thing and sometimes “goes against the grain”, which I’ve made peace with, despite knowing others may judge my decisions.

Thank goodness for Google.

But also….Google is the WORST 🙃.

Trial and error is the name of the game!

Pretty much every cliche I have heard about parenting is true.

The whole mom brain thing is very real 🥴.

I’m terrified of anything ever happening to Quinn, but I know I can’t keep her in bubble wrap. I gotta give that one to God any time that general sense of worry sets in.

DJ and I started dating when we were 15/16 years old. Now venturing into this season of parenthood together, I’ve seen a whole new “why” behind God bringing us together as a couple. I am so grateful for the way he balances me out, calms me down and is my true support every single day. The way we have prioritized our relationship has shifted- it isn’t many date nights or spontaneous trips out of town right now. Yet I’ve grown so deeply in my respect and awe of him as a Dad and partner. He’s been the definition of supportive in every way. We’ve also faced new challenges in this season of parenthood. DJ is not a fighter, but I can be- so in my moments of low patience and exhaustion, I’m really working on not getting worked up, especially in front of Quinn. I want to maintain respectful conversation about frustrations without it coming out in my tone of voice or getting visibly angry- so this is something I’m working on.

This has been the richest, most beautiful, joyful year, despite the difficult moments. I’m doing my best to hold onto every second, but it’s true they do go by fast. I asked another mom recently-“Everyone says to enjoy every minute because it goes by fast, and I am trying to, but how do I actively make sure I’m treasuring it all?”. And she gave the best advice – she just said “just make a lot of memories”. I loved that, so simple, true and actionable. Being present & making memories is going to be central to how I approach Year #2 (and the rest of #1!).

As I’ve heard said before, my heart is now outside my chest, in the form of a soon-to-be walking, adventurous, curious, giggling, chunky legged, happy, teething machine- and I am so honored God chose me and DJ to be her parents ❤️.

Pictures from Rachael D Photography

St. Patrick’s Day, Meeting the Easter Bunny and a Sweet Birthday Party! 🍦

Goood morning!!! How are you all doing? I am currently sitting in the parking lot at work with a couple extra mins to spare before clocking in. I realized quite a bit has happened over the last couple weeks. I’m looking forward to reliving it all through this little blog capsule ☺️.

March 8th I traded out my usual bowl of oatmeal for a bowl of Special K Vanilla Almond cereal with blueberries and blackberries. Sometimes ya just want a good ol’ bowl of cereal!

Quinn has started crawling around with toys in her mouth like Moose. When I picked her up from daycare one day the teacher said, “She’s over there being a puppy” as I see Quinn scurrying about with a toy dangling from her mouth. 😂

She also briefly went through a phase that week where she refused to use a spoon. I considered it could double as a sensory activity as I allowed her to eat a bowl of oatmeal directly off the tray?! 😄 Thankfully she’s using spoons again, but that sure was a messy little phase!

That day I remember being a little rough. Quinn was still in her fussy phase (going through a leap, so it was to be expected), but I needed to get us out of the house STAT, usually the sure-fire way to lift both our spirits. We had a couple groceries on the list, so I used that as the excuse to go to Giant Eagle Market District. This is a fun grocery store that has all the groceries you can want along with delicious freshly made meals for purchase and a great sushi station!

“No photos pls”.

This tomato jerky caught my attention! It’s basically sun-dried tomatoes re-marketed as tomato “jerky”, but I love sun-dried tomatoes, so I very much enjoyed them!

I was feeling good having us out and about, but then things took a quick turn after I loaded the groceries in the car. As I was pulling out of my parking spot I heard a “clunk” and realized part of my bumper had fallen off (this is a couple days after the spare tire fell off the car in front of me, bounced and hit my bumper). When my car was initially hit, I thought the damage was minimal since I was able to pop the bumper back in, but as I saw majority of my bumper hanging off the car in the grocery store parking lot I realized that was not the case. I very slowly and cautiously had to drive the car home. All of a sudden anxiety took over manifesting in an actual anxiety attack which has not happened in a very long time. It seemed somewhat out of the blue since I haven’t dealt with much anxiety at all lately, but I do think my body is going through big hormonal shifts with Quinn eating so many solids/drinking a bit less milk. Curious if any other moms noticed a hormonal swing around 10 months?

As soon as we made it home, I felt relieved. And both Quinn and I were in good moods after our time out of the house. We just played at her different play stations around the home. Even with Leap 7 being the booger that it was, this is still my favorite age yet! I have so much fun with my girl. Each day is a joy, seeing her grow and her personality flourish. We had a giggle fit together the other day, and it is one of the best memories of mine of all time!

That evening, I wasn’t in the mood to mess with dinner, so I thanked my past self for picking up a chicken at the Eagle. I served it with mashed potatoes and green beans to keep things easy. I really think rotisserie chicken doesn’t get the hype it deserves!

The next day we FaceTimed my Grandma and Grandpa in Traverse City right before Quinn’s nap while my mom was there visiting them! ❤️

I prepped for work that day. I give major major props to moms that work full time because it’s a LOT of prep. I make sure all pump parts are washed, packed and the pumps are charged. I then pack my lunch, DJ’s lunch and Quinn’s lunch. I also make sure scrubs are washed, and all bottles are labeled and ready for daycare. I don’t mind the prep, but I sometimes think about how much time work occupies when I’m not actually at work! It’ll be much simpler when I don’t have to pump or make bottles here soon. It’s been such a privilege to pump though, and I may miss it – I actually love my long lunch pump break. (I use the Willow for the other pump sessions, so I can continue working).

I try to double meals when making lunches. So I’ll make whatever I’m packing for lunch for dinner too. For Quinn, I made tempeh (she loves), green beans, kiwi and pinto beans. One tray for daycare and one for dinner!

For my lunch, I made a salad with tons of veggies, tempeh, hummus, baba ganoush and a balsamic/fattoush dressing on the side. For extra protein I packed a Good! brand protein bar and a parfait of oat based yogurt with two scoops of collagen powder and two scoops of chocolate PB2 (it makes it chocolatey & delishhh). For a salty snack, I packed sea salt Popcorners with a slice of smoked Gouda vegan cheese. And a couple squares of Hu dark chocolate to satisfy the afternoon sweet tooth!

Quinn is definitely finding interest with random objects around the house. She is particularly loving pots, pans and measuring cups. She won’t sit in her exersaucer anymore while I make breakfast, so I just plop her on the ground in the kitchen and hope she will find the pans sufficient entertainment, ha. Otherwise, I’ll give her a teether cracker or half a banana while I eat and prepare her breakfast.

March 11th I finally got around to Quinnie Q’s 10 month photo. We’ve long nixed trying to get her to lay flat in the crib for a cohesive pic with the earlier monthly photos; this girl is just too “busy” as her daycare teachers describe her, ha!

I have two big boxes of clothes she’s grown out of in her room, and sometimes Quinn passes the time by taking them out and throwing them on the floor, because why not?! 😄

That weekend was particularly chilly. Our March has been colder than February I’m pretty sure! We didn’t get in our family walk that weekend due to this, but we did spend some quality time with our family that evening at “The Farm”, Gigi and Gordie’s home 😊.

Me and my girl. 🥰

For dinner, Gordie grilled us up the last two steaks from the best-steak-I’ve-ever-had Snake River Farms gift for DJs bday! We also had JA’s salad, roasted asparagus and a baked potato. Hard to beat this combo!

For dessert, Gigi made a vegan pumpkin pie!!! You guys!!! I could have cried I was so excited to be able to eat some pumpkin pie again, and it was soo good!!! Of course, nothing tops Gigi’s own pumpkin pie, but this gave me my fix for sure!

On Sunday, we went to visit Mimi, our grandmother on DJ’s side and Quinn’s great-grandma 🥰. She had this ducky and balls of yarn for Quinn to play with- she was preoccupied for a long time with these!

Mimi has a lot of beautiful birds that come by to snack on her feeders. Quinn enjoyed watching them out the window. We saw a cardinal and woodpecker while there and identified some other unique birds too.

For dinner, I made Quinn mushrooms, zucchini and some beans.

The rest of the day was work prep!

At work on March 13th, a coworker suggested I take a warmed blanket to the pump room since I’m always chilly pumping. I took their advice, and it was the best decision! Perks of working in the hospital I suppose!

For dinner that evening, I kept it easy with leftovers of the steak, JA salad and Alexia sweet potato fries (I have been obsessed with these fries lately).

March 14th, I went to get my teeth cleaned. The dentist’s dog was there to greet guests, and she is the sweetest thing ❤️.

My dentist recommended upgrading my toothbrush to the Oral B power sensor electric toothbrush, and oh my goodness- it’s amazing!!!! Definitely worth the investment. I’m a little harsh on my gums when I brush, and this has a power sensor to let me know when I’m brushing too aggressively. It also has a bunch of other features, and it feels like I have a professional teeth cleaning every time I use it. I love this thing. The things us people nearing 30 get excited about 😂.

For lunch, I made Quinn a little meal of edamame, Japanese sweet potato and Brussels sprouts.

We then went to the store to ride around in the cart and try to knock things off the shelves 🤪.

Quinn loves to play in her nursery, so we spent a good portion of the afternoon up there. It’s also where I like to fold clothes since the dryer is right across the hall from her room. She gets a real kick out of me dramatically throwing all the clothes in her room out of the dryer prior to folding.

I also ordered an edible finger painting kit for Quinn that we whipped out that afternoon! I just sprawled out the blank side of wrapping paper on our kitchen floor and let her go to town with it. It didn’t hold her attention for long but was still fun, and we have a lot more to still use in the future!

For dinner that evening, I made some salmon to go over greens with the JA salad and some fattoush dressing.

March 15th I took us to Nervous Dog to start the morning!

I decided to change things up and get a matcha latte that morning! I don’t know why I forget this is on the menu. It’s so delicious.

Quinn really enjoys flipping through this sign language book. I think it’s because there are other babies in it, she loves any photos or books with other babies.

That afternoon Gigi came by to hang out with us! She captured this sweet pic of Quinnie 🥰.

Quinn is also starting to stand unassisted for a few seconds! It’s so exciting, and it’s just adorable how proud of herself she is whenever she does it.

For dinner that night we had Jovial pasta and roasted eggplant. For Quinn’s pasta, I just used unsalted tomato sauce mixed with Italian seasoning. I like to sneak in greens sometimes in the pasta sauce too.

March 16th I had my usual breakfast of oats, berries and PB.

For lunch, I introduced Quinn to peppers and added some shredded chicken, leftover eggplant and grapes. We are so close to 100 foods for her, I’m debating what her 100th should be! She hasn’t had corn on the cob yet, so maybe that would be fun?! We’re saving actual sweets for her smash cake on her bday.

A little walk with my love bug!

March 17th brings us to St. Paddy’s day! We still have outfits ready to go for every holiday from the shower last year!

These smiles! She now has 8 teeth. She always tries to grab my toothbrush out of my hand, so I got her her own little electric toothbrush. She loves this thing!

March 18th I started the day by making Quinn eggs, avocado, grapes, mandarin orange and toast. She did not eat one bite 🙃. But she did eat half a banana. Her fave.

After her first nap, we went to the mall to meet with the rest of our family for Easter Bunny photos!

She was fascinated by the Easter bunny, but a bit more unsure when I handed her over. They still captured this sweet photo before the whimpering began!

After the cousins met Mr. Bunny, we went to the nearby play area in the mall. I wish this mall was closer because Quinn had a ball! It’s fun seeing her with other kids like this too- we get glimpses at daycare, but this was a treat! This girl is a social butterfly.

Continuing to work on standing unassisted! Small but mighty.

Chillin’ with Gigi!

Amy was in town, and Quinn could not have been more thrilled. Now we just need to convince Aunt Amy to move back!!!

After the mall, we went to CoreLife to grab some lunch to go. I tried one of their menu items instead of the usual build your own bowl: the tofu sriracha ginger salad. I feel like I could eat this every day! It was soo good. I never think to put fresh ginger in my salads, but it’s a great addition! Oh and I forgot how good sriracha is. I need to restock at home.

That evening we went to The Farm for a cookout with the fam! Love this pic of Quinn with her Grandpa 🥰.

I’m kicking myself for not getting any foods pics because it was all so tasty. We always have the best burgers when we’re there- I think they’re Walburgers?

It was so much fun having Amy and her boyfriend, Chris, in town! I hope they come back soon.

For Quinn’s dinner that evening, I made her ground turkey with lentils and green beans that we took with us to The Farm.

She waved around her green beans proudly to everyone, it was adorable. So proud of her green beans 😄.

Sunday, March 19th, we had another fun family filled day! My heart was full after this weekend. We celebrated our nephew, Ender’s, third birthday.

And how amazing is this cake?! My sister in law MADE this!!! We all say she could open a bakery if she wanted. She made the cookies below too. I mean, just incredible!!

It was a vegan cake and sooooo tasty. I was blown away! I actually dreamt about the cake last night, yes it was that good! 😋

A sweet pic of Ender opening gifts supervised by cousin Quinn and friend James 🥰. Quinn was all over the wrapping paper!

We all enjoyed Dewey’s pizza (they have excellent vegan options!), and Quinn had a little of the leftover Turkey, sweet potatoes and asparagus (cut up before she ate it) for her lunch. It was a bit messier than anticipated, whoops!

And you know how much this girl hates the car- well guess who fell asleep in the car on the way home?! This has only happened a couple times ever.

This post is plenty long, so I’ll wrap here. We have some exciting travel coming up- a Florida vacation and possibly a trip to Chicago in the summer! If you have any baby travel tips please send my way 🙂 (especially for the plane!).

Questions for you:

– Do you prefer cake or cupcakes? I’m team cake, but still enjoy cupcakes.

– Anyone watching the fourth season of Love is Blind? I think it’s one of the best seasons yet!



Pop Culture Drama, Recent Eats & BLW meals!

Good morning, everyone!! I hope y’all are well out there. I am UNWELL given all the Vanderpump Rules drama. I meannnn (!!!!!). IYKYK. I’ve put more productive things, like reading my book club book, on hold while I drink from the fire hose that is this drama.

Anyway! For those that don’t melt their brain with trash TV, I am going to treat ya to a maybe somewhat boring, but somewhat more wholesome, recap of our last few weeks, ha!

The last few weeks have been a bit tough for us. Poor Quinnie had a double ear infection, eye infection & stomach bug. All her dairy intolerance symptoms came back too, so we are once again halting the dairy trial. DJ and I also got the stomach bug, so that’s twice in a few months- no bueno!!! We did have a somewhat healthy stretch though until all this thankfully. Also Quinn’s in Leap 7, and it’s kicking our butt. And to top it all off, while driving home from work, a tire flew off a truck in front of me, hit my bumper and now it’s only hanging on by some tape. Back to the collision center we go :/. Feeling very thankful I was totally fine and Quinn wasn’t with me when it happened.

Enough of the woes though!!! We did have some fun and wonderful moments despite functioning sub-optimally and the stretch of poor luck.

February 18th we started the day with a trip to Walmart to grab a few miscellaneous items and to get Quinn out of the house. She has been loving the grocery trips!

We returned home, and I started immediately into some food prep! Miss Independent has pretty much free rein of our kitchen and living room area. It’s nice we have a pretty open layout to keep an eye on her and already had baby gates installed for the Moose.

Back to food prep- I have been really enjoying leaning into baby led weaning! I do have days where it feels overwhelming, especially when time and groceries are running low; however, I’m learning all the time how to make nutritious and convenient meals for Quinn. I have some of these combinations to share today, and it helps me to look back at what I’ve done recently for quick ideas too.

One of my favorite go-tos for her is eggs mixed with various ingredients (eggs have been a great way to introduce new foods and incorporate greens), avocado and toast. She always eats the toast, where the eggs and avocado is a toss up.

I also made these cauliflower nuggets with sweet potato. I used these to introduce onion and parsley. I didn’t quite dry out the cauliflower enough because they were tough to crisp up, but Quinn still gobbled them up.

The next day, February 19th, we wanted to go to the land to let Moose run around. Quinn cried from the moment we got in the car, so we decided halfway there to scrap the drive and just walk the towpath instead.

It actually ended up being an unexpectedly special walk. We walked past where DJ asked me to be his girlfriend on this bridge in January of 2010 ❤️. It felt extra nostalgic and sentimental returning there with Quinn & Moose.

It was a great temperate walk for February and reminded us how much we enjoy that trail.

After our walk, we stopped by Corelife. Usually I’m all about getting a salad there, but I was craving a wrap instead. I loaded up lots of veggies and tofu. Now that I’m able to have soy again, I’ve been craving tofu more often!!

That afternoon I made Quinn a “basil Alfredo” spaghetti squash with a coconut yogurt/avocado/spinach/basil/Italian seasoning/nutritional yeast blended into a sauce. She ate every bite.

We decided to venture over to Krieger’s to pick up some items for a meal I wanted to make from my Half Baked Harvest cookbook. I’ve discovered I am way more diligent about making recipes if I choose one from a cookbook vs saving them electronically. I’m still a decade behind with my hard cover cookbooks and paper planner, hah!

February 20th, we started the day playing with Moose!

The recipe I made that weekend was a real winner (so far all the recipes have been from HBH!). This was chicken saltimbocca with prosciutto, arugula and capers. Here’s a similar recipe from her site!

February 22nd, I made Quinn egg/oat/banana pancakes with a boiled blueberry compote. I think pancakes are her favorite food right now! I use them to introduce finely crushed nuts too.

She is still obsessed with her walker. She also is recently obsessed with the hanging hand towel in the kitchen. She rips it off the oven handle and runs around with it like she’s a flagger at the Grand Prix.

That afternoon, I made Quinn a lunch of toast with mashed edamame spread, tomato wedges and artichoke hearts. I try to balance her meals over the day with fruits/veggies/proteins/grains, but it’s always a mystery what she will actually eat.

For dinner, I made DJ and myself lamb salads with vegan feta and a fattoush dressing. We agreed this simple meal was one of our favorites of late!

One very exciting new skill Quinn has been working on the last few weeks is waving!! She really does it the best when I wave to her in the car mirror. I was able to capture it while we were at a stoplight that week (one of the rare times she’s not wailing in the car!).

February 25th, I was craving Thai food, so I made these green curry bowls from HBH with shrimp added.

They were yummy! Not our favorite recipe so far, but it gave me my Thai fix! I served with the Bfree Naan bread- I don’t recommend, they’re pretty flaky and have an odd flavor. I do like the Bfree pita though!

February 26th was prep for the week. I made the Jennifer Aniston salad again for book club the next day!

That afternoon DJ and I took Quinn and Moose to Bath Nature Preserve for some fresh scenery on our family weekend walk.

A fun little detail on this trail- there is a Solar System Walk that has a marking of all the planets in our solar system spaced on the trail scaled to how far apart they are in reality.

February 27th, I made Quinn a Banza penne with beef bolognese and zucchini. She loves this! A new favorite meal for sure. I try to make a nice sized batch of these meals, so I can easily send her food to daycare too.

That evening I had book club. Gigi stopped by to watch Quinn before DJ got home so I could make it on time. So so sweet of her! It was a great book club- we read The Love of My Life. It’s a good read! I’d give it maybe 3.5/5 stars – it’s a fast one with some decent twists.

February 28th, I dropped Quinn off at daycare for a couple hours so I could take Moose on a run. It worked out beautifully as it was during her wake window.

It felt soo good to get that run in! And it was nice to have one-on-one time with Moose ❤️.

Here is a pic from Marie while I was at work that week with Moose’s new friend, Wilson. 😊

Quinn was definitely under the weather that week. I tried to take her to the park and do bucket swings, but she was not having it. She did enjoy sitting in my lap though and swinging.

I took her after to the pet store to see fish, birds and her personal favorite, gerbils.

She was refusing food mostly that week and wanted to nurse nonstop. I think if I had to guess it was a combo of not feeling well/teething & Leap 7.

The tides started slowly turning on March 5th. We all seemed to be feeling a bit better. Quinn ate up some of her favorite pancakes & gave us some big characteristically Quinnie smiles. I was so relieved she was eating again!

That afternoon, we took Quinn to the park! We did the swings again and the slide. She was way more happy about it this time!

I still wasn’t feeling 100%, so I ordered sushi, my go-to comfort food when not feeling well. I realize this is a very odd choice of a comfort food, but I crave it when I’m feeling off. I think it’s the sodium I crave. (This is from Ichiban sushi, my favorite around here!).

Once Quinn started feeling better, I jumped back into making her meals. She really enjoyed this combo of pinto beans, broccoli, tofu and kiwi.

Not much else is going on around here! In my spare time I’ve been planning Quinn’s first birthday party, reading The Measure for the next book club, watching Married at First Sight and trying to keep us all healthy!

Questions for you:

– Are you following the VPR drama? Must discuss!

– What is your go-to comfort food?



Eliminating dairy/soy after my baby’s cow’s milk/soy protein intolerance diagnosis

Hey friends! I have a little bit of a different post today. I’m going to share all the tips/tricks/products I can think of that helped me survive the elimination of soy/dairy from my diet due to breastfeeding with Quinn’s cow’s milk protein/milk soy protein intolerance (CMPI/MSPI). I didn’t see much in the way of resources out there, so I hope this little post can be an extra knowledge nugget for those looking for it. When Quinn was diagnosed with cow’s milk protein intolerance 9 months ago, I had quite the journey ahead with navigating how to eliminate both allergens from my diet. I have been vegan in the past, which may have helped a little with the dairy elimination, but soy was another bear! When I say soy is in everything ….(!). Of note, I entirely eliminated soy from my diet (some opt to keep soy lecithin/refined soybean oil in the diet, but it depends on the baby- talk to your provider about that!).

I hope this helps any other moms that are out there feeling overwhelmed because the learning curve can be tremendous. But it is possible to continue breastfeeding! (However, if you ultimately decided to go the formula route- there is absolutely no shame in it!). I also want to have this post written in case we have to navigate this again in the future with another baby, because, wheeew, I’d hate to forget all this!

I don’t want to get too graphic/medical- that’s not the intention of this post. But I will say it took a solid three weeks for Quinn’s symptoms to show marked improvement. Around week two I thought why am I doing this if it’s not working?, but the pediatric gastroenterologist encouraged me to give it time, and she was right! When I started seeing the improvement in Quinn’s symptoms, it was the motivation I needed to keep going. If you do want more details about what lead to the diagnosis, we can definitely chat in the comments or feel free to send a message.

A couple quick disclaimers: I’m not writing this as a medical professional/to give any medical advice, I’m simply writing friend to friend! Please check with your provider regarding these products and soy/dairy elimination if you have any questions. Additionally, this post is not comprehensive. There are a lot of really great products/resources out there, and I’m discovering new ones all the time! If I missed something you love, please let me know so I can include it ☺️. Further, this post is not sponsored in any way. I just genuinely want to share products that have worked for me (and some that haven’t). Lastly, products can change, so while I hope this entirely accurate, please double check labels :).

Any who!! Let’s get into it, shall we?!

First things first- I learned it’s important to read every label. Many restaurants have allergen sheets online where you can quickly tell if there is dairy or soy in an item. Below is the chart I used to familiarize myself with what to look for specifically on labels. Here is the link for the graph below reproduced from McMaster Children’s Hospital.

It can seem overwhelming looking for all these ingredients, but it is helpful that most labels write “contains: *insert allergen*” under the ingredient list. I still read the whole label though because I have seen soy in the ingredient list when it’s not listed as an allergen.

Some sneaky culprits of these allergens that surprised me were lunch meats/certain processed meats (casein), dressings/marinades, breads and candies/chocolate. When going out to eat, most places can check if something contains soy/dairy. Just specify you cannot have butter too, because I discovered many people don’t automatically think of butter as dairy. Also you can request your meal is cooked with olive oil- that way you can be more confident butter or vegetable oil (which usually contains soy) won’t be used. Also, just because something is vegan does not mean it’s soy free!

Now let’s talk the good stuff- what’s not off limits!! I tried to stock our fridge with whole foods to serve as the base of my diet. Think- vegetables, fruit, meats, seafood, eggs and grains (oats/rice/quinoa/farro). The trick here is to be cautious buying “quick” variations of these items. For example, many of the instant rice packages have soy added. When cooking with just these basics listed, you add so much flavor to your meal with lemon, lime, herbs and other spices. (Also double check spice/seasoning labels because dairy/soy can hide in there too!).

In addition to my “base”, below are the products I’ve explored/used. The biggest bummer- some of these specialty items can be pricy, but it’s good to know these are available if you want a suitable alternative. I substitute with these products in recipes too, and usually the meal turns out well!

Milk: There are so many options out there for this! I usually opt for Silk’s unsweetened cashew or almond for less creamy milk or Planet Oat Oatmilk if I want creamier. You have many options depending what you prefer- coconut, oat, flax, pea protein for example. There are extra creamy/sweetened/flavored/chocolate options too! I totally avoided anything hemp based though. If ordering a latte or milk based drink at a coffee shop, I suggest ordering oat milk as it will usually be creamier and frothier than almond or cashew. Here’s a fun roundup of some of the best.

Coffee Creamers: My favorite are the nut pods. They aren’t necessarily as creamy as real creamer, but I’ve enjoyed trying the different creative flavors. Califia has a line of coffee creamers that sound delicious, I just haven’t got around to trying them yet!

Yogurt: My favorites are either the unsweetened So Delicious coconut, True Goodness plain coconut (creamier than the So Delicious) or oat based yogurt. Another option for almond based is Kite Hill unsweetened Almond, although the flavor is a little ~different~. If you venture into the sweetened route, there is a lot out there! I just have found the sweetened yogurts tend to have a lot of added sugar, so I’d rather sweeten mine more subtly/naturally with honey/fruit. I personally don’t enjoy the Nancy or Forager yogurt as much, but they have oat and cashew based ones, respectively. I have never tried Culina, but that’s another soy/dairy free coconut based alternative. Also! Plain unsweetened yogurts can double as sour cream. I always top tacos with it and a little a lot of hot sauce 😋.

Butter: I LOVE the Earth Balance soy free butter! I haven’t tried anything else, but I’m sure there is more out there.

Breads: My favorites- Dave’s Killer Breads, Atoria’s Lavash Wraps . Other brands to look for: Udi’s, Bfree. For tortillas- Siete Chickpea or Cassava tortillas are my faves! I heat them up in a frying pan with a little soy/dairy free butter until golden and make tacos with them.

Lunch Meats: Here is a helpful link that shares common lunch meats that are dairy/soy free. My go-to used to be Applegate’s Turkey Breast, but recently it’s become kind of dry and flaky! Now I use Hormel’s Natural Turkey breast. I also tried to avoid nitrites/nitrates/preservatives in general.

Cheese: My two favorite dairy and soy free cheese brands are Violife and Follow Your Heart. I love the Violife Colby Jack shreds (they melt great) and Follow Your Heart smoked gouda slices particularly! Violife has a great parmesan cheese block too. Daiya is another solid option, I just prefer the other two more. Although I do love Daiya’s jalapeño havarti cheese block!

Pizza: This category is trickier to find good alternatives I’d say. Daiya has some options- I don’t love all of them, but their meatless meat lovers is probably my favorite. I think the best is the Vegan Harvest Flatbread. Amy’s vegan margherita is also tasty! (Amy’s also has some good soy/dairy free burrito options (and general other prepackaged options too!).

Mac n’ Cheese: I usually make my own with a pasta like Jovial or Banza & the cheeses listed here, but some prepackaged options are Annie’s and Amy’s!

Protein bars: Some dairy/soy free protein bars have sugar alcohols, so be cautious if you’re avoiding those. My go-to soy/dairy/sugar alcohol free were Good! Snacks Bars, Go Macro, and Rx Bars. If you’re ok with sugar alcohols, No Cow, Orgain and Lenny and Larry have options. Other general options: Aloha & Larabar. Some of these have good protein powder options too. In order to add a boost of protein to my day, I make a “Greek yogurt” with a dairy/soy free yogurt, 2 scoops of collagen powder, peanut butter or chocolate pb2 (makes it more of a chocolate mousse), berries & honey! That collagen powder is a great protein boost you can mix into coffee, soups, yogurt, etc.

Peanut Butter: There are many options here, just watch for the soybean oil! My favorite is MaraNatha Creamy or Crunchy peanut spread. Smucker’s Natural, Justin’s, or Once Again Nut Butter are other solid options.

Ice Cream: There are some good options out there you will see listed as “frozen dessert”. Most use a coconut, almond or cashew base. So Delicious has delicious options (double check for soy though). My favorites are the cookie dough, salted caramel cluster, oatmilk S’Mores, vanilla bean sandwiches, mocha almond fudge bars & dipped double chocolate delight bars. Clearly I’ve made the rounds in the ice cream department! I have a harder time finding Oatly products, but I think the coffee flavor frozen dessert is so delicious and creamy!!! They have some great other flavors too. Some other brands that have specific dairy/soy free products: NadaMoo!, Halo Top (contains sugar alcohols), Cado Avocado, Favorite Day, Jeni’s (Texas Sheet Cake is a winner!), & Talenti sorbettos.

Chocolate/Sweets: Hu chocolate is my favorite (the salty dark chocolate is my weakness), but it can be pricy. Another great option is any of the Enjoy Life products (I really enjoy the brownie bites and chocolate chip cookies. They have good baking product alternatives too!). Also, you can keep out an eye for plant based alter ego chocolate bars. Another way I satisfy my chocolate sweet tooth is with these Veggies Made Great Chocolate Muffins. I put a little ice cream on top of a warm one of these for a dessert, and oh my goodness- heaven! It reminds me of a molten lava cake. For a quick overall healthier brownie alternative, I enjoy Nature’s Bakery Double Chocolate Brownie Bars. Oh and I cannot forget the PNW Cookies!!! Of what I’ve tried, I most love their Chocolate Chip cookie & Molasses cookie. Yum!

Cereal: I usually get the Vanilla & Almond Special K, but there are many cereal options available! Here’s a list of soy free options, many of which are dairy free too (but, as always, please verify).

Snacks: I have to have my salty snacks. My favorites include Hippeas Snacks (white cheddar particularly) Harvest Snaps Green Pea Snacks (original lightly salted), Popcorners, Hu Grain Free Crackers, Angie’s BOOM CHICKA POP popcorn (kettle corn is my go-to) & Simple Mills Sea Salt Crackers. Oh and Siete also has a slew of great chip options! There’s actually a whole lot out there in the way of snacks, just have to read the labels!

Dressings/Oils/Marinades: I keep it overall pretty simple. I tend to use balsamic, olive oil, mustard and Fattoush Salad dressing for my day-to-day. Noble Made has some fun options- some I still haven’t tried but want to! Most of their products are vegan (except the garlic parmesan wing sauce), but I can’t confirm all products are soy free, so please double check! Saucy lips has excellent choices too- and I believe they are entirely soy and dairy free! Primal Kitchen is another brand for dairy/soy free options. I tried the garlic Alfredo sauce, and it was fine; it did grow on me. However, they have other great options to explore!

Entirely dairy and soy free brands: These brands you can trust are good to go! Many of them have a wide array of products, so have fun exploring them!! Enjoy Life, Violife Foods, Daiya, & Hu Kitchen.

Further resources: I came across this master list as well! This list is nice because it highlights dairy free only foods as well if you are ok with soy. I don’t use an app, but it may be a convenient way to look up food choices! Here is a list of some to consider.

I actually have felt so good eating dairy/soy free. I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed is I feel overall less inflamed and oddly energized. It’ll be interesting to see if there is a difference when I add these back into my diet.

I sincerely hope this was helpful for someone out there! Please let me know if I’m mistaken on any of this information or you have products I can add :). You’ve got this!!



Valentine’s Recap!

Hey hey! It’s a chilly, yet beautiful, Saturday morning here on this long weekend. It’s not even noon, but I’ve managed to have breakfast, complete a continuing education credit, go grocery shopping (so fun with Quinn in the cart!) & do the dishes! This is unusually productive as Saturdays are usually a more lazy day. I feel very well rested after yesterday (I’ll recap yesterday later in this post!). Hope your long weekend is off to a great start! (Although, may be later in the week when I finally publish this!).

Rewinding back to last Saturday, February 11th, I met up with Rachel for her birthday brunch! We met around 1 pm, which was perfect timing as Quinn was well rested after a long nap and feed. DJ kept things under control at home while I whipped up Route 8 to celebrate my dear friend!!

Rach always keeps her eyes out for fun new spots for us to try! She’s my go-to person for foodie ideas all over the Cleveland/Akron area and beyond! For this meal, we met at Pub Frato in Chagrin Falls.

This place had an industrial vibe with warm, cozy lighting. reminding me a lot of Burntwood actually.

After enjoying the Bloody Mary at Burntwood a couple weekends ago, I decided to try Pub Frato’s “garden bloody”. I’m pretty sure they brought the wrong one out because it had a big ol’ piece of bacon in it with minimal veggies. I wasn’t upset though, it was delicious bacon!! A happy mistake for sure.

Rach tried the mimosa flight! Pic of the gorg birthday girl!!

I had the salmon over arugula/beets/blue cheese & pomegranate! I’m starting the dairy introduction very slowly. So far, so good! This meal was scrumptious as could be.

When I returned home, the deliciousness didn’t end! Gigi and Gordie spoiled me for Valentine’s Day by sending these dairy/soy free cookies from Pacific Northwest. How stinking thoughtful are they?! These are very tasty, especially for being dairy/gluten/soy free. You would never guess!!! I keep them in the freezer and have been taking a couple bites a day. My favorite flavors of what I’ve tried so far are the chocolate chip and molasses 😋.

It didn’t stop there either- they generously gifted us Baked by Melissa vegan cupcakes. Again, you’d never know they’re vegan. Amazing!

I took Quinn’s ninth month photos that day (again a bit delayed, at least I’m consistent 😄).

While playing in the nursery, Quinn decided to try standing with minimal support- I could hardly believe it!

That afternoon we went to Kendall Hills with Quinn and Moose to let Moose frolic around. These hills were a little easier when I didn’t have a 18 lb. + babe strapped to me, but I got a good workout hah!

After Kendall, I was craving Raising Cane’s something fierce!!! I think we’ve had it before after Kendall Hills because I couldn’t get it out of my mind the whole time we were there. Isn’t the brain funny that way.

I looked up allergens on their site and at this point I was having a little soy daily and very little dairy. Since I already had a little cheese that morning, I wanted to make sure not to overdo it with any more dairy. I saw they had something called naked chicken tenders that were dairy free & the sauce actually was dairy free too according to the allergen list! I was doubtful these naked tenders actually existed considering we’ve never seen them on the menu…… but we zoomed into Cane’s parking lot, DJ went inside to order and returned with the naked tenders! I was stoked! And they were goooood!!

Not pictured: me downing these fries and tenders in the car while Quinn fusses in her car seat, because, yes, she still hates the car! We even have tried switching to a convertible car seat, and that hasn’t even seemed to help 😵‍💫.

Quinn was ready to go on Monday morning, February 13th. I had a later shift start that day, so I was able to drop her off at daycare. When I dropped her off she cried and put up a little fight which absolutely broke my heart. Ugh.

Thankfully I was off February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and could spend every second with my little Valentine!

For breakfast I made her these banana egg pancakes with a raspberry compote (simply boiled raspberries, smashed).

She LOVED them. She actually giggled as she ate them, and I refilled her little plate three times.

Had to show off her outfit without covering it with a silly bib, of course 🤪.

After breakfast, we crawled around the living room, and this girl found particular fascination with my shades. Why does she look like she’s about to say “yeah, ok mom, bring me my bottle please” as she pushes the shades up? 😆.

We then went on our FIRST jog together! 3 miles!! This is so very exciting for me. Usually I can only workout when DJ is home to watch her since we’re still doing mostly contact naps, so this was AWESOME!

Back to playing. This time she thought it would be fun to venture into Moose’s crate 😅.

After her afternoon nap, we went to CVS to get a few things. I also picked up the Lily’s Sour Gummy Worms at checkout, which I really enjoyed!!

Quinn put together a little Valentine Surprise for DJ, complete with one of his favorite sweets- Daisy Pops Cake Pops (the owner was actually a high school teacher of mine), a heart shaped pizza from Marco’s and some toys for Moose. (I added some books in for Quinn too). 🥰.

🥰🥰🥰. DJ was pretty smitten by his Valentine!

And he surprised me with this spectacular sunset inspired bouquet 🥰.

Quinn was also very spoiled by all her grandparents this First Valentine’s Day!

DJ and I don’t always make a big to-do of Valentine’s Day, but this year was so much fun celebrating with our mini Valentine.

February 15th, Gigi came by to spend the afternoon with us! We were both craving Subway, so it was an easy decision for lunch. I don’t know if y’all remember, but I lived on Subway veggie delights when I was pregnant. I even considered making Quinn a subway sub for Halloween 😆. Since Subway has soy in the bread, it was a no-go when I had to give that up. But now that I could finally have soy again, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this sub!!! I added my own vegan cheese…. Still just being cautious with the dairy.

This tasted so good!

Thursday, February 16th, was a tough day. It was my Dad’s birthday, which is always just difficult in its own right, missing him. But then everything seemed to go wrong. To start, I spilled my breast milk when making bottles & spilled my coffee on the carpet. Thennnn, get this- I left the car seat in my car on accident so DJ had no way to get Quinn to daycare since he leaves after me. He called me right as my shift was starting, and I had no clue what to do. Thankfully, he called Gigi who graciously drove right over with a spare car seat she had for our nephew. She saved the day! What would be do without her? I really do not know. I thought the chaos was over, but then I had one of the hardest days at work since I’ve started. By the end of the day my nerves were just shot. But when I picked up this girl and had her napping soundly in my carrier, I felt like I could take a deep breath. ❤️

She’s wearing her sweet Corgi shirt from her Aunt Amy!

Thankfully this rollercoaster of a week ended on a wonderful note 🥰. We were planning on going away for President’s Day weekend as a fam, but that fell through. DJ had already opted to use a vacation day for that Friday, so we decided to use it as a full “date day”.

We dropped Quinn off at daycare around 9 after her first nap of the day. We also dropped Moose off at Camp Bow Wow since it was a little chilly for a walk; this way he could get his energy out, and we would just pick him up after lunch.

Returning home, we had breakfast, blasted country music, caught up on some easy house chores, talked & laughed just the two of us. We watched Yellowstone then got ready to go to lunch!

I wanted to eat somewhere kinda romantic, but that’s hard to find on a random afternoon, hah! We ended up going to Beau’s on the River in Cuyahoga Falls. Funnily enough, this was located in the Sheraton where my baby shower was held. I missed Quinn immensely all day, but it was really important and wonderful for DJ and I to have that time together.

The main dining room wasn’t opened, so we were seated in the lounge. The lounge had a calm, relaxing vibe as it overlooked the water.

We were seated with the best view in the house!

As I gazed out at the snow flurries over the water, I said to DJ, “this is just magical”. He couldn’t help but laugh at how I said this while overlooking a muddy river situated on a hotel embankment overcast by the grayest of clouds. Then we were both laughing because, well, he made a fair point. But look, if you take a mom anywhere that serves a good meal she can eat without rushing, she’s probably going to call it magical! 😄 ✨

Given the frigid day outside, I ordered a cozy glass of red wine. DJ ordered their seasonal beer, and I loved how they served it in a Cavs mug. I had a sip & it was delicious!!!

For an appetizer, we tried the white cheddar shrimp & grits. DJ had never had grits before and was a big fan!! I have always loved them, and these were really tasty. I only had a couple bites, since I’m sure there was quite a bit of dairy.

I also had their beet salad with feta, prosciutto chips (yum!!) over a massive bed of arugula. My kind of salad!

DJ had their veggie stir fry with steak added over sticky rice.

I savored their salmon ALT (aioli, lettuce and tomato) with the aioli on the side. It hit the spot as did the fries!

Post lunch car selfie 🙃. I think I’ve used every emoji in the book at this point of the post. My millennial is showing 🤪.

We then picked up our Moose!

He was one sleepy boy after Bow Wow. We gave him a lot of one-on-one attention which he hasn’t had simultaneously from both of us since Quinn was born. He ate it up! We fell asleep watching Yellowstone then picked up Quinn from daycare, looking forward to a full long weekend all together. ❤️

It was a really special day!

Thanks for reading & sharing in these fun memories in our little cut of the world.

Question for you:

– How was your long weekend if ya had one?

– How was your regular weekend if you didn’t?



Family Brunchin’ & A Mini “Vacation”!

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all are having a nice week. I have a little time before my shift starts to chip away at this post.

January 28th we started the weekend with some cuddles with Moose ❤️.

That morning I switched out my usual bowl of oatmeal for a little egg burrito. Something about the weekends make me crave egg for breakfast.

That afternoon we went to my nephew, Jack’s, final basketball game of the season. They won and all received trophies at the end. It was so sweet! Here’s a a pic after a change and feed.

That evening I was able to soak up cuddles with Moose while Quinn climbed all over the baby-proofed living room. She is so much more steady now pulling herself up and cruising than she was even a couple weeks ago. I don’t feel like I have to hover right next to her every time she pulls herself up on something in fear of a fall forward or back.