What are you looking for?

Lady and Larder Sarah Simms and Boo Simms
Mother Stories

The Sisters Behind Lady & Larder

Lady and Larder Sarah Simms and Boo Simms

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Nicki Sebastian

Sarah & Boo Simms invite us into their shared Carmel, CA, home & talk motherhood, career, surviving cancer, and becoming cheese board pioneers.

Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?

Sarah: “100% Yes.”

Boo: “Totally. I remember thinking that I would have at least six kids. Our best friend growing up had nine siblings. I loved how there was always something going on and someone to play with. The older ones looked out for the younger ones. Everybody pitched in to make it work. It was not your average family household, and I was really drawn to that. There was a special energy in that house—it was like beautiful organized chaos.”

What has surprised you about the experience of motherhood so far?

Sarah: “It's an instant, all-encompassing evolution. It surprised me how much sleep you can actually survive on and how it isn't even really deep, sound sleep. It's like you are always listening, even when you are sleeping.”

Boo: “Motherhood was a complete and utter metamorphosis. Despite thinking I was fully prepared, nothing could have truly readied me for the shift. It's astonishing how you evolve, leaving behind a version of yourself to embrace a radical new identity. Being a mother is the greatest joy of my life, yet I also found myself grieving for the person I once was. The transition to motherhood brought with it an intense mix of emotions—exhilarating happiness intertwined with moments of deep sadness and nostalgia for my previous self.”

“Motherhood is exhilarating happiness intertwined with moments of deep sadness and nostalgia for my previous self.”

How were your pregnancy and birth experiences?

Sarah: “Maverick was 12 days late. First there was 24+ hours of labor, which turned into an emergency c-section after I reached 8 cm dilated, because the cord was wrapped around his neck twice. Wild.”

Boo: “Mavis made me a mother. It was a magical pregnancy mostly because it was my first and I was just amazed at what my body could do. I had never felt such appreciation and awe for my body before. Mavis was a week past her due date. I labored a full day before also having an emergency c-section. She got stuck in the birth canal, her heart rate was too rapid and I had a really high fever. They got her out in minutes. It was a full strawberry moon, right after midnight, and when they handed her to me. I kissed her and remember thinking that she had the softest cheek I had ever felt. I remember feeling like I already knew her.”

“My second daughter, Bertie Lou, was our greatest surprise. I got pregnant 3 months postpartum and remember feeling like my body wasn’t ready. It was a tough pregnancy. I was just learning how to be a mother to Mavis and we were still in the pandemic era. I had a partially compressed sciatica by my second trimester. It gave me shooting pains down both legs, like sharp stabbing sensations and towards the end I could barely walk for longer than 10 or 15 minutes.”

“Days after getting home with Bertie and having a second c-section, I got PUPPP (medically known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) postpartum, which I guess is rare. I had giant hives all over my stomach, vaginal area, thighs, and back that were so itchy and painful. It lasted for weeks. There was no medication for it. I remember being up at night reading blogs and threads where other women were looking for PUPPP relief and had found nothing. I felt so abandoned by my OBGYN. It felt like once I had the baby, she really couldn’t/wouldn’t help me. I was in so much pain, and my partner and I weren’t sleeping.”

“Then, ten days after giving birth, the nerve in my back became fully compressed and I went into a full back/leg spasm. I was stuck on the floor, unable to sit up or walk, still bleeding and wearing giant disposable underwear. I had this rash all over my body that no cream or medication could fix, I lost feeling in my left leg and total numbness on the skin from my knee down (from the compressed sciatica). It was a bizarre time. I remember crying alot and trying to pump/breastfeed from my mat on the floor. I didn’t know who to call or what to do. I couldn’t pick up either of my babies. I couldn't go to the bathroom or sit up without assistance. I felt like I was failing both of my daughters and my partner and that my body had given up on me.”

Tell us about your kids' names.

Sarah: “We watched Top Gun the week before he was born and my dad called me and said, ‘What about Maverick?’ As soon as he was born, I knew that was his name. We picked Scott for his middle name, named after my dad, the best dad. Maverick Scott Hendrix. We call him Mav for short.”

Boo: “Mavis Loretta and Bertie Lou are my daughters' names. Mavis is an old name of French origin that means ‘songbird.’ It was the only name that both Sean and I could agree on. Her middle name, Loretta, was my grammy’s name (my father’s mother), she was the best grandmother on the planet. She would have just adored the girls.”

“Bertie Lou was named after her great-grandfather, Roberto ‘Beto’ Montes (Sean’s grandfather). Bertie is a nickname for Robert and we loved that. Beto, who is 93 now, is a national lawn bowling champion, and one of our favorite humans. Bertie’s middle name, Louise, is of French origin too, it means ‘renowned warrior.’ I have always loved the name Louise since watching Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise. It’s funny how certain names just stick with you.”

What has it meant to you to raise a son (Sarah), and daughters (Boo)? Did you find out the sex while pregnant or wait?

Sarah: “I found out. I was just so excited to have a baby. When I started shopping for baby supplies, I was acutely aware of all the weird gender branding and marketing, especially with bottles, clothes, and diapers—pink and purple for girls, blue and green for boys—and it made me so uncomfortable. We bought all the colors for Maverick and his favorite color has been ‘rainbow’ for years.”

Boo: “I found out as early as I possibly could. I paid for an online blood test kit that you take at home and mail in. They sent me an email revealing the results. I didn’t care either way, I was just excited to find out as much as possible about this little human I was growing.”

Are there things from your upbringing that you're consciously trying to incorporate into your kids' upbringing? What about your partners' upbringings?

Sarah: “My husband didn’t have a strong father figure, so it's really important for him to do it differently now that he is a dad. He does all the school drop-offs and pick-ups, helps coach Mav’s sports teams, and chaperones the school field trips. He shows up in all the ways his dad couldn’t for him.”

“My work load tends to weigh heavier, so my husband really steps up with the childcare. He’s a really supportive partner to me and father to Mav. At first it was hard because I grew up with a stay-at-home mom and I felt guilty for working, but I don’t feel that way anymore. We created a balance that felt right for our family and we keep re-assessing all of it as time goes on.”

Boo: “Sean takes the girls down to the beach and spends as much time outside with them as possible. He wants to start surfing with both girls this year once Bertie turns two. He really lets them run wild, get dirty, eat sand, and play in the seaweed—all things he remembers doing in his childhood.”

“I try to incorporate all of the magic and fundamentals that my parents lovingly ingrained. My mom and dad were also epic hosts and the most generous humans. If friends of my parents stopped by the house unexpectedly, we learned to greet them with a warm welcome, take their coats, and offer them something to drink. My parents had a special knack for entertaining on the fly. They’d find things in the pantry—like a tin of smoked oysters, some olives and crackers—and turn it into something so elegant. Their innate generosity and hospitality have had such an impact on me, something I definitely want to pass down to my daughters.”

What excites you most about motherhood right now?

Sarah: “The questions. Seven-year-olds have the best questions.”

Boo: “Witnessing the daily evolution of my girls—their discoveries, their growing personalities, and their unique way of seeing the world. Each day brings so many priceless 'a-ha' moments for both of them. It's such a privilege to guide them, not just through milestones, but mostly through the subtleties of all the everyday wonders—like the feeling of sand between our toes, the sound of crickets, walking on bubble wrap, rainbows after rain, shadows on the sidewalk, whipped cream from a can, rollie pollies rolling—everything's magic at this age. I could cry just thinking about it. It’s honestly my greatest honor in life to get to share this with them.”

What makes you most nervous?

Sarah: “Finding balance and comfortability with technology, iPads, digital devices—all things that just weren’t really a thing when we were kids and there are lots of strong opinions floating around on the topic.”

Boo: “I will echo Sarah on that one! I can’t even imagine growing up with access to all of it. It’s such a different time and we have no idea what the long-term effects will be. I’m nervous about what social media will be like when my girls are in grade school, high school, and beyond. I can't imagine what parents today have to deal with and worry about in the digital realm. It’s overwhelming.”

“Boo’s first daughter was born the week I finished my first round of chemo. She was like a giant rainbow for me, showing up during the hardest time, bringing us all the joy.”

Sarah—you were diagnosed with cancer in 2021. What has your battle looked like?

Sarah: “I was so lucky. I had enlarged lymph nodes in my left armpit that were pressing nerves causing tingling down my left arm. I spent months trying to fix it—going to a chiropractor and really exploring all these things until I found a nurse at a well-woman exam who would write me an order for a mammogram. Then I talked the next doctor into taking a biopsy of my lymph nodes, grudgingly, but I just knew something was wrong. All in all, I had 5 different doctors tell me that nothing was wrong until the biopsy came back showing a very aggressive form of non-hodgkin's b-cell lymphoma. I was treated for 6 months at UCLA in Los Angeles. We did 96 hour-long infusions for each round of chemo (about 600 hours of chemo total). My regimen was dose-adjusted R-EPOCH and it was grueling because they increased the dose each round based on what you can tolerate. I ended up needing blood transfusions to complete the treatment and there were definitely some hospital visits and bumps along the way, but we did it. It was especially hard during the pandemic because all medical in-person appointments were basically ‘emergency only’—it was hard to get in to actually see doctors. Cancer is such a team sport. I was so lucky to have the most supportive family, friends, and co-workers. The moral of my story is that you must always advocate for yourself. You know yourself better than anyone.”

How were you able to grapple with your diagnosis with parenting a young child?

Sarah: “Mav was 4-years-old when I was diagnosed. We were really honest about everything. I had a special chemo pump I had to wear for a week at a time and he named the pump, like a pet. He helped cut my hair off when it started falling out. He had such big questions. We answered all of them as directly as we could. I think it has made him a more compassionate kiddo, for sure. Emotionally, he kept me strong. I had to be…for him. There were tough days for sure but I had a constant reason to fight because I desperately wanted to be here to see him grow up. Boo’s first daughter was also born the week I finished my first round of chemo. She was like a giant rainbow for me, showing up during the hardest time, bringing us all the joy.”

I'm so happy to hear you are in remission. How has your outlook on life—and on motherhood—changed for you?

Sarah: “I just had my 2-year scan last week and if all goes well, we get to space out my blood draws for the next years ahead. Everything changed. I used to work insane hours (I was also a full-time private chef when we first started Lady & Larder). Now I put my health first—sleep and my vitamin protocol, workouts, and time with my family. Every single day we get is precious. It’s sort of an obvious truth that we all forget. None of us know how many days we get.”

Boo—can you tell us the ups and downs you experienced, being by your sister's side while she battled cancer?

Boo: “It was the scariest time in my life. It all felt like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I was 36 or 37 weeks pregnant with Mavis and it was the happiest time of my life. When I found out that Sarah had cancer, it felt like the whole world stopped. All that mattered was that we fight this cancer and that Sarah would be ok. When I went into labor, it was the week that Sarah had finished her first round of chemo. It was like my mind wouldn’t let me go into labor until she was done. Then on Father’s Day, June 20, 2021, I went into labor and Sarah insisted on coming to the hospital with us even though I knew she was hurting. She has shown such resilience and strength. I am just in awe of her. I have a photo of Sarah holding Mavis just a few days after Mavis was born. Sarah was on the edge of the bathtub holding my newborn as I shaved the back of her head. It was just so surreal—both of us going through such different physical changes, such significant points in our lives. It was a rollercoaster everyday. I spent parts of my maternity leave with Mavis hopping around to different appointments with Sarah, or on the couch with her resting. We laughed a lot. We cried a lot. Every small victory in her cancer journey felt monumental. The low points were filled with so much fear and uncertainty. I thank god everyday that she is here with me. I refuse to imagine any other version of how this could have played out.”

“Everything feels more precious now. Saying ‘no’ to things got easier for me, because it protects time—time with my children, time with my family, time doing the things that I truly care about. I know every day that we get to be here is a gift. Tomorrow is not promised.”

You recently moved "home" to Carmel and you're renting a house together. Can you tell us a little about what prompted the move and how you're enjoying it?

Sarah: “We always knew we would come home. When our dad’s cancer battle took a turn that we knew he might not recover from, we picked up and moved our families quickly. We have been living in a shared rental home for about 8 months now. It’s actually the most fun ever. Communal living is everything. Shared meals. Shared chores. Shared parenting. It’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t do it differently. It’s been a really special time, especially for our kiddos. We plan to raise our kids here in Carmel full-time. We still have our shop down in Santa Monica and commute back and forth.”

Boo: “I echo Sarah here. I know it won’t last forever, but sharing a home with both our families and being so close during this difficult period has been really healing. Being able to grieve together and support each other like this is something I will forever be grateful for.”

Soon after our shoot, you lost your dear father to cancer. How has your grieving process been, including grieving while parenting?

Sarah: “Grief is such a privilege. The truth of it is only with great love can there be great loss. We still cry every day. We miss him terribly. There aren't even words for the feelings I have around losing a parent, especially a really solid and sturdy one like him. He was really just the best dad and we can’t believe we didn’t get to keep him here longer. My keyboard is tear-soaked, just writing this.”

Boo: “Grief must coexist with motherhood and work. Separating them is not a choice. I think grief is like your shadow. It’s with you all the time, even when you can’t see it. So, I talk to my daughters about it. I tell them why mommy is crying if they see it. We talk about the fact that Papa died and how much we miss him. We also talk to Papa all of the time. We see him in the stars at night, in rainbows, in sunsets, in visiting blue birds, and when the lightbulbs flicker in the girls room. When we see signs from Papa, we say hi to him. We feel him around us all the time.”

“The tears are usually triggered by something so small. It’s usually when something happens that I would normally call him about and realize I can’t. Or when I have a question that I know he’d know the answer to. But I can't ask him. If it doesn’t bring on the urge to cry, it’s the urge to scream at the top of my lungs. I want to yell out loud how it’s not fair that he’s gone! That he should be here! That he deserves to be here! That he has children and grandchildren that need him! That our mother needs him! That our world was a brighter place when he was in it. That he was the heartbeat of our family and I hate that we are being forced to figure out how to live without him…”

“…I miss him so much. I mourn the things we never got to experience together. The relationship and time my daughters will never get with him. And at the same time this experience has given me so much empathy for everyone around me. The fact that there are so many people in the world feeling the loss of a parent at any given moment, so much collective heartache. It’s made me softer when I interact with the world around me. We just never know what someone else is going through.”

You've been credited with kicking off a "grazing board movement" in 2016 when you launched Lady & Larder. What did boards look like at that time—and what elements did you add to them to create your signature style?

Boo: “We definitely were pioneers. It’s wild to see how many people are making them now. Our boards looked very similar to the way they look now. They have obviously evolved and change weekly—no two boards will ever look the same because our boards are hyper seasonal and based on what looks and tastes best at the Farmer’s Market each week. From day one, our Lady & Larder grazing boards have really been these love letters to California. We are obsessed with a sense of place and creating something that is a tangible expression of seasonality and home. We are so proud to support all of the American farmers, domestic cheesemakers, and charcuterie makers we get to work with. To champion the artisans who put so much love and work into these incredible products they create is the best job on the planet. This is the core of everything we stand for. We believe in supporting a 100% domestic and sustainable food culture; one that will continue to thrive for future generations to come.”

What would you consider your "big break" when it comes to Lady & Larder?

Sarah: “There have for sure been a handful of ‘pinch me’ moments. We started the business in early 2016 and by 2018 we had a nationwide partnership with Williams Sonoma and then in 2019 we were selected as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Both of those relationships really validated our business.”

Boo: “I remember when the first person who bought a board on our website wasn’t our mom, or a family friend. To see that someone understood what we were trying to do and then paid for it, it was huge. It’s still how we feel today. The fact that people trust us enough to let us be a part of their birthday party, their wedding meal, their anniversary, their graduation, their housewarming party—these are all sacred moments in time and moments that we get to play a tiny role in. We are honored to be trusted with that. All of it feels like big breaks.”

How has becoming a mother impacted your creativity and career?

Boo: “I definitely don’t spend late nights painting in my studio anymore. But as far as creativity goes, my daughters are my muses. The way they experience the world around them has really inspired me to slow down and look closer at everything. To wonder and wander more. Babies and toddlers can feel all consuming, but I know it won’t always be this way. So for now, our daily time together is the art I choose to focus on outside of work. I am doing my best to really lean into this fleeting chapter.”

“I am a full-time working mother and I think motherhood has had a positive impact on my career. Becoming a mother has really honed my ability to think and act faster. It's as if motherhood has equipped me with a sharper, more efficient decision-making compass. The luxury of lingering over decisions has been replaced by a newfound agility.”

Do you have any creative habits to get inspired?

Sarah: “Farmers markets are my happy place. I am always inspired there. The constant change in the seasons and the relationships with the farmers. I also love dining out. Eating at restaurants is always energizing. Books and podcasts, too. Sunset beach walks for sure. We love to go together and walk a route down at Carmel Beach that my dad walked almost every day.”

Boo: “Cooking and trying new restaurants is always a source of inspo. Sarah and I will try to plan a day to just conspire and write ideas on napkins when we are in a new city and exploring. We love a long drawn out lunch date. We’ve found that writing our brainstorms down is really helpful. It’s like once we can draw a picture of what we are dreaming about, and say it out loud, the rest of the pieces start to fall into place. You have to put your ideas and dreams out into the universe. I also love to thrift and browse antique stores, flea markets, and estate sales. I find so much inspiration in other people’s collections and treasures. I love looking at old books, furniture design, and art. I could flip through stacks of vintage magazines, record album covers, and shoe boxes of photographs for hours. Just talking about it gets me amped.”

Are there any fellow female business owners that you are particularly inspired by?

Sarah: “So many. I have been long inspired by culinary pioneers—women like Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), Sally Schmitt (The French Laundry), Sue Conley (Cowgirl Creamery), Martha Stewart, and Ruth Rogers (River Cafe). There are also so many women that we get to work with in our industry that we have gotten to know and love, like Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), Helen Johannesson (Helen’s Wines), Alissa Bell (Stationery), Samantha Sheehan (Mommenpop), Becca Millstein (Fishwife), Bricia Lopez (Mexican-American restaurateur and author), Lien Ta (All Day Baby), and Kelly Mariani (Scribe Winery).”

Boo: “Also, not from the culinary world, but women in business who inspire us, the Streicher Sisters (Kristie, Jenn, and Ashley), Erica Chidi of Loom, Clare Vivier of Clare V., Joy Cho of Oh Joy!, Hannah Skvarla of The Little Market, Kerry Diamond of Cherry Bombe, Jessica Alba of Honest—there are too many to list them all! I could go on and on about the women who kick ass and inspire us!”

Any advice you'd give to fellow creatives about juggling a business and children?

Sarah: “It takes a village. Childcare is a must and just creating multiple safe adults in your circle that your child trusts and that you trust so you—as the mom—aren’t the sole provider and emotional consoler. We purposely designed Lady & Larder to be a business that closed by 6 p.m. so we would be home for dinner and there to put our babies to sleep. That was a priority for us. You have to build the life you want. It’s not that there are never events or late nights, but it is that for the most part, we are able to be there during these really important early years. That was a conscious business and motherhood decision we made.”

Boo: “Yes to childcare. Yes to mom friends! Yes to building a life that makes sense for you and your partner. We are big fans of shared calendars and sharing all of our important doctor appointments, personal time, kids birthday parties, workouts, date nights, you name it. These things are just as important to make time for and block out on the calendar, just like the rest of your work meetings. And by letting my business partner (Sarah) and husband (Sean) know what's coming up, we can all align in advance, plan work related projects accordingly, and can support each other. At home, Sean and I utilize a mix of people and places that help us maintain our schedule. It’s a combination of part-time preschool, childcare support at home, and a wonderful Nana (my mother) who comes by for the occasional pinch-hit.”

“I have found that structuring my time so that I can maximize output during key hours works really well for me. I am able to be most productive when I start with a plan the night before. In the morning, I spend time with girls, get them dressed, do hair, dance a little, and then head off to work. I start my day with the hardest things first and work down my list from there. I’ve found that getting the longer calls or harder problems to solve, out of the way first ensures I don’t get stuck at 5 p.m. with not enough time to finish. This helps me prioritize dinner time with the girls and spending time with them before bedtime. I’ve also started playing tennis at least once a week and that time has become so precious to me. It helps me reset in the middle of a crazy work week.”

What have been some of the proudest moments of your career?

“The day we were able to offer 100% paid PPO healthcare for our employees. Something we dreamed of from the start. Something that we don’t ever see in the hospitality industry.”

Any big goals or happenings—professionally or personally—that you're excited about for the year ahead?

Sarah: “We have a darling patio at our new Carmel Valley Village location and we will be opening a summer wine bar pop-up on the patio and launching rotating grab-and-go sandwiches from May to September. We are super excited about it.”

Boo: “Opening up Lady & Larder in our hometown has been such a dream. We feel so honored to be able to serve the community we hold dear. I know our dad is looking down on us with the biggest smile. He told us that one day this would be possible. We’d be able to move home, raise our families here, and do what we love. And here we are. Just getting started.”

“My secret goal for this year is that I want to finish the children’s book I started after Mavis was born. The words just poured out of me in the weeks following her birth. I wrote most of it while breastfeeding in those early days when it was just me and Mavis alone together. It was the purest inspiration and I wasn’t even sure what I was writing until I finished. I have never encountered the urge to write like that before. I have the story completed but need to illustrate it and pitch it to a publisher. Anyone have any advice for me on where to start?”

Write a Comment

Share this story