On Wednesday afternoon, my father passed away. He was 67.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read that line or the number of tears that have rolled down my cheeks this week. Part of it still feels surreal, the other part almost too real. Between his fierce battle against cancer and worsening lung disease, we knew he was very sick — but I suppose nothing prepares you for the gaping hole left in your heart when you lose a parent.
How lucky I am to have been by his side during his final days, though. Just the week before, Noah and I had visited my parents at their home in Rhode Island. Noah hung out on his grandpas bed and drooled all over every one of his remote controls. We laughed a lot — and even celebrated my parents 39th wedding anniversary that week.
I’ll never forget the silence on the other end of the phone when my mom called to give me the news just three days after we had left them. I could hear the tears in her eyes. She told me my dad’s cancer was back. Hospice was now the only option. After we hung up I clung to the only ounce of comfort that came from that conversation, knowing my dad had told my mom he was at peace with it.
Four days later I was back on a plane heading home once again, this time to say a final goodbye to my dad. I arrived at the hospital early on Tuesday morning, just in time to share some final words and smiles with him as well as some great news with the entire family. But things declined quickly that afternoon and, by the time my mom and I left him Tuesday night, I was certain that was the last time I’d hear his voice. My heart filled with joy when he said, “I love you, too,” as we left the room.
My father passed peacefully on Wednesday afternoon — just minutes after my brother and I had said goodbye for the final time. Not long before we left the hospital that day I told my dad I had to “go home to my boys” and that he should do the same. Although he wasn’t physically able to acknowledge those final words, I know he was listening. He was just waiting for us to let him go. We simply couldn’t have asked for or written a better ending to his story.
While his time on this earth was cut short, I can say with certainty that my father lived a very full life. I am blessed to be able to say he saw both my brother and I graduate college, blossom in our careers, marry our best friends and witness the birth of three beautiful grandchildren, two of whom were born within the past 8 months — including little Noah, his first grandson. I know not every father is so lucky.
My dad’s greatest pleasure was watching us, his children, do what we love. Growing up it was sailing, figure skating, soccer and school. In my 20s, it was exploring my own independence. I moved from cold New England to the sunny south, bought my first home and a flame red Wrangler, met my husband and started my graduate studies in nutrition. Now, it’s spending QT with my boys, making delicious messes in my kitchen, writing or reading blogs while the little man naps, curling up on the couch with a good cookbook once he’s gone to bed and snapping photographs of yummy subjects, whether of food or this handsome fella.
One thing my dad also loved was reading this little blog — a space that’s been silent for some time now. I know my excuse is a good one: family, work and this adorable little boy got in the way and, without realizing it, I pushed many of my passions aside.
My dad’s passing this week has reminded me that life is too short not to do what we love. So, in honor of him, I’m getting back to doing more of just that: more writing, more cooking, more photography. This was probably one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written but I know he’s reading every word. Just 728 words in and it already feels like a new beginning.
To the strongest, smartest, handiest man I’ll ever know — Patrick and I are so blessed to have had you as a father. You gave us all of the skills we’ll ever need, whether to navigate our way through life or fix a leaky toilet. I already miss our father-daughter talks and home improvement projects but my heart is full knowing you are resting in peace and comfort now. I already feel you watching over us from above and know you’ll guide me the next time I stumble — or get lost in Home Depot. Love you, Big Guy.
It may not be very dietitian-like of me to say this but some days (okay, most days) I just want to stick my head in a big bowl of pasta. My husband, on the other hand, he’d be absolutely thrilled with a big bowl of salad any night of the week.
I should probably be ashamed to admit that my husband is the real salad lover in the family but, over the years, I’ve learned the way to get my husband on board with having pasta for dinner is by balancing those bowls-o-carby-goodness with veggie-heavy sauces, as well as protein and healthy fats like those found in walnuts.
Exhibit A: Creamy Cauliflower Fettuccine with Walnuts and Caramelized Onions
If you’ve never had cauliflower cream sauce before, add it to your culinary bucket list. Lindsay from Pinch of Yum (one of my fave food blogs of all time) introduced me to it some time ago so thank you, Lindsay! For my take on her recipe, all you do is cook a head of cauliflower in a bit of broth, toss it into a food processor with a little sauteed garlic, stir in some milk (non-dairy for a vegan version) and BAM.
Now, drizzle this sauce over some piping hot fettuccini, caramelized onions, and a bunch of toasted walnuts and you got yourself one heck of a meal.
Toasted walnuts add so much flavor, texture and nutritional goodness to this creamy pasta, you won’t even notice it’s meatless. Walnuts are one of only a handful of foods high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA for short), an important omega-3 fatty acid that research has linked with a decreased risk of heart disease. We know that ALA can be converted into heart-healthy EPA and DHA, the two essential fatty acids that occur naturally in fatty fish, but a rece
nt study also suggests ALA may provide additional health benefits independent of those resulting from the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA. All the more reason to eat more walnuts!
In addition to providing essential omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are a convenient source of protein and fiber, both of which keep you feeling fuller, longer–a great reason to add them to foods like pasta and salads.
The marriage of sweet, caramelized onions with creamy cauliflower sauce and meaty, toasted walnuts turns an average bowl of pasta into a deceivingly healthy and satisfying meatless main. This one is going to the top of my rotating list of favorites, for sure!
Makes: 12 cups | Serving size: 2 cups (415 grams)
Time: 70 minutes
1 ½ pounds yellow onions (about 2 large), halved and sliced ¼” thick
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 large cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 ½ pounds cauliflower florets (about 6 cups from a ~2 ½ pound head)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ teaspoon sea salt (plus additional for finishing)
1 cup milk (for a vegan dish, use any non-dairy milk like hemp or soy milk)
1 pound fettuccini or linguine
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (read this before picking if you don’t want to lose your mind)
In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper. Stir well, reduce heat to medium-low and cook the onions slowly for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. You will know they are done when onions are medium to dark brown in color and super soft. Deglaze the pan with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and cook onions for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Onions can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.
While onions caramelize, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse, drain, cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower sauce. In a large pot over medium-low heat, saute garlic in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to blender or food processor.
Using the same pot, bring broth to a boil, add the cauliflower and cook, covered, until cauliflower is fork tender, about 7-10 minutes.
Transfer cauliflower and broth to the blender or food processor. Add salt and remaining ½ teaspoon black pepper. Puree until sauce is very smooth, 1-2 minutes.
Return cauliflower sauce to pot, stir in milk and heat through.
When the sauce is hot, add caramelized onions, pasta, walnuts and fresh thyme and mix well. Serve immediately and finish with a generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
A special thanks to The California Walnut Commission for sponsoring this delicious recipe and to you readers for supporting our awesome sponsors.
As a new mom, you quickly learn just how much you can do with one hand. For example, just this morning I single handedly started a load of laundry, scarfed down a bowl of granola and yogurt for breakfast, unsubscribed from a handful of catalogs and opened all of yesterday’s mail. Reading books and newspapers though, that’s a tough one, especially while nursing or cradling a sleeping baby in your arms on a crowded airplane. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat down with a book in one hand, Noah in the other, and ended up reading the the same two pages over and over again. Traditional reading simply requires one too many hands, at least for us baby wrangling parents, one reason why the hubs and I recently decided it was finally time to get an iPad.
But the last thing I wanted to do the other week was schlep the little man downtown and fight the crowds at the Apple Store to get it…
So, instead, we ordered our new iPad Pro from Enjoy. Have you heard of them?
Enjoy is an incredible new technology concierge service that offers customers in-person delivery, setup and training with a personal tech Expert for free. Basically, you pick the product, time, place and, in as fast as four hours, you’ll have an expert at your door with your new toy.
I know what you’re thinking… Product delivery, setup and training with a personal tech Expert, all at the time and place of your choosing with no lines and no delivery windows? That can’t actually be free. There has to be some catch or hidden cost.
I promise you though, it’s 100% free, and awesome. Lauren, our super friendly tech Expert, hand delivered our new iPad to our apartment the other day.
After unwrapping my new toy, Lauren helped me get it up and running and showed me some fun, new features she thought I’d enjoy, like multitasking and using it as a remote to control our Apple TV. Lauren was super knowledgeable about the product and even left me with a cute tote and her business card should I have any follow-up questions after the fact.
Since our appointment I’ve been having so much fun playing with our new iPad. I immediately downloaded a couple of new books to the Kindle app and am now actually able to read while snuggling (or nursing!) the little man.
I’ve also been using it to pull up my favorite online recipes in the kitchen and to snap some adorable photos of Noah with the amazing camera.
Noah and I are headed to Florida next week and, now that I have the smart keyboard, I’m planning to leave my laptop at home. Any way I can lighten the load while traveling solo with the baby is great, and the iPad will let me do just about everything I need to, including blogging on the road!
Enjoy has a great range of products including Apple TV and iPads, Sonos speakers, even activity trackers and drones. They’re currently in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, as well as parts of Brooklyn, Queens, Hoboken and New Jersey, with more cities coming in 2016.
I was truly impressed with this incredible service––and the fact that it’s completely free still amazes me. If you or someone you know is in the market for some new tech gear, their website offers a ton of information on each and every product listed so definitely go check it out. Thanks so much, Enjoy.
Bonus for all readers: Use code RAF-ATE to get yourself a $50 Enjoy credit through April 15, 2016. It just can’t be used on Boosted Boards, Tile or any products under $100.
This post is sponsored by Enjoy, a service our family was thrilled to discover. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.