Meet the Maker: Amy Cluck-McAlister of Amy is the Party

meet the maker amyAmy Cluck-McAlister, whom I met two years ago when she donated some wonderful handmade jewelry to a fundraiser I was organizing, is a creative force to be reckoned with in the Sacramento indie community. She runs Amy is the Party, where she shares party styling ideas, DIY projects and the places and people she loves in Sacramento. She is also the founder of IndieSacramento – an online gathering of local creatives. She also happens to be doing all the behind-the-scenes design work on my new blog platform, which will be launched next week!

Today, I’m so pleased and honored to share a little more about her!

First, tell us a little about yourself!

Hello there, I’m Amy! I am a web designer with a passion for parties, decor, and desserts.

Some might say I was born in the wrong era. I believe in home cooked meals – in thank you cards – in baking from scratch. I strive to be the “hostess with the mostess”. I couldn’t agree more with Julia Child when she said “A party without cake is just a meeting” – although I think it’s perfectly fine to substitute cake with cupcakes or pie (or whatever dessert you find fitting). I also believe in creating memories – special moments of time that your friends and family will carry with them, long after the celebration is over. I believe in celebrating everyday with the little bits of joy that living creatively can bring.

As a blogger, entrepreneur, and web designer, I have been involved with both the online and local crafting community for several years.  A socially awkward socialite, I spend my free time supporting small businesses and events in my hometown of Sacramento, CA. I also enjoy searching for vintage treasures and indulging in the shenanigans of my husband and two cats.

Image Credit: Amy Cluck McCallister. DIY Tassel Necklace and Bohemian Bracelet. Click the photo for the full tutorial.

Image Credit: Amy Cluck McCallister / DIY Tassel Necklace and Bohemian Bracelet / Click the photo for the full tutorial!

How did you get into graphic/web design?

I took a commercial art class in high school. We mostly made posters and learned calligraphy but I knew that I wanted to use my artistic skills for advertising or something along those lines. I took a few graphic design and beginning web classes at American River (Community College) while getting my general ed out of the way. By the time I graduated, I knew I was specifically interested in designing for on-screen (computers). The closest degree program that Sac State offered was Graphic Design so I stuck with that for a year until I saw that a new Multimedia program was being added. I quickly changed majors! The Multimedia program sort of focused on making interactive CDs, which isn’t a really a thing nowadays. It’s hard to predict the direction technology will take us! When you get into something like graphic and web design, you have to be flexible and you have to continually educate yourself on new techniques.

What about entertaining and DIY’ing?

Both my parents and my grandmas on both sides were into DIYing different things. I grew up making handmade Christmas gifts and baking dozens of cookies for the neighbors. I lived for holidays and family get-togethers. I didn’t think about it much, plus I don’t think it was considered cool to be into domestic stuff when I was younger. After graduating college, I started to get back into crafting a bit. Then I started finding all these people online who were into making items that were actually trendy and I felt really inspired. This was about 10 years ago when sites like Craftster and GetCrafty were just starting.  I jumped right in and started making and selling jewelry. I gradually started to gravitate towards party planning since it incorporates all of my loves: baking, dessert styling, decorating, DIY, and graphic design.

What pushed you to start your blog?

Finding other people who were making crafts and selling them really inspired me. It seemed like a lot of those people were starting blogs and I wanted to be a part of it too, not just to show off what I was making but to show off what other people were making as well.

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck-McCallister / DIY Hostess Gift Tags / Click the Photo for the full tutorial

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck-McCallister / DIY Hostess Gift Tags / Click the Photo for the full tutorial!

What is your creative process like?

I come up with ideas, scribble them on post-it notes, lose the post-it notes, forget some of the ideas, and don’t have anywhere near enough time to follow through with all the ideas that I don’t forget about! Occasionally, I actually get to follow through on something. I’m an impatient crafter but I’m also a perfectionist. Sometimes I forget to enjoy the creating process because I’m so excited to get to the end result.

What inspired you to start Indie Sacramento?

A couple national craft shows (Bazaar Bizarre and Renegade) popped up that were different from any craft show I had been to before (“not your gramdma’s craft fair” as they would say). The vendors made trendy items that I would actually wear or display in my home. Both shows were located in San Francisco (as well as other cities) but not Sacramento. I had started networking with local crafters and I knew we had enough local talent to put a show like that on here so I started IndieSacramento.

I felt like IndieSacramento was a pretty successful event, but it was also A LOT of work and a lot of stress. I decided that an online collective of local crafters was the way to go so I quit holding craft shows and choose to expand the website instead. Of course, now I have other ideas of what I’d like to do with the site but there never seems to be enough time!

How do you feel about the creative community in Sacramento?

I’m really proud of how our creative community has grown in recent years. It wasn’t so long ago when we were in need of a venue for “alternative” crafters and artists to sell their goods at. Now we’ve got all kinds of events like the Indie Craft Fair and GOOD, just to name a couple. I’m also really impressed with the amount of networking I’ve noticed among talented individuals in different industries – we’ve got bloggers and crafters, boutique owners, restaurateurs, photographers, event planners, etc. all working together to promote each other to put on awesome events together.

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck - McCallister / Amy's DIY Wedding / Click the photo for the full details

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck – McCallister / Amy’s DIY Wedding / Click the photo for all the details!

Favorite places to get your supplies (craft, party, etc) in town?

Wrapped All Up is a really fun warehouse type place that carries every kind of ribbon or wrapping you could want. The Paper Garden is a great place to get inspiration for paper crafting – plus they also carry some fun washi tapes and baker’s twine that you can’t get anywhere else locally.

If somebody wanted to start working on DIY projects, where would you tell them to go first?

There are so many resources, it’s hard to say! Brit.co is one of my recent favorites because they feature a variety of trendy and easy projects. I would also suggest joining a crafty forum or two. Cut Out + Keep is one of my favorites. You can check out other peoples projects and tutorials, network with people, and upload your own projects.

My husband and I just bought our first home (yay!) so I’m sure amy is the party will start featuring more home decorating projects (just like I started featuring more wedding related content before we got married). I think my blog will always branch out to fit my current interests, as long as it’s still related to entertaining and creative living.

Click the photo for the full DIY

Click the photo for the full DIY!

My plan is for IndieSacramento to include small businesses of all types, not just crafters. It will be kind of a directory for people to shop local and to find unique and fun businesses to support.

You can find out more about Amy and all the awesome things she’s doing at Amy is the Party. Want to be featured in Meet the Maker or know a special someone who should be featured? Leave a comment here and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Friday Finds

Social media can be such a time suck. I won’t say how many times I found myself staring pointlessly at a computer screen while my daughter’s napping – ignoring all the other productive things I could be doing – and that’s mostly because there are too many to count. On the more positive side, social media and networking can also open up a whole new world to you, filled with people, things and food that you were unaware that even existed. As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get to venture out to find new things like I used to, and I rely primarily on my social feeds to deliver them right to me via my phone or computer.

Such is the case with all the finds I have for this week:

Image from Sacramento Flea Market

Image from Sacramento Flea Market

Sacramento is getting a Flea Market! Opening in January 2015, there is over 16,000 square feet of indoor and over 20,000 square feet of outside vending. There will be new and used stuff, produce, food and drinks and even live music on the weekends! Triple score! Oh, and the entrance, parking and even the concerts are all free. Yes. I’m so excited to see how this progresses and I’ve already got my list ready.

Image from Hops and Dots

Image from Hops and Dots

I am really digging how the craft beer scene in Sacramento is expanding, and this also includes craft beer bloggers. Hops and Dots is a beer blog run by Nat, who covers breweries in Sacramento and beyond. I was introduced to her blog by Beers in Sac by way of Facebook, and I’m so happy that I found it.

Image from NellieBellie

Image from NellieBellie

I spent a good while looking up sugar free cakes on Pinterest yesterday. Not because I’m on a sugar-free kick – that would mean I would have to give up the pints of ice cream and cookies I’ve been devouring lately – but because my brother can’t have sugar. And it happens to be his birthday next weekend, so I’ve decided to make him a cake. This might be the first nice thing I’ve done for him. I love this recipe from NellieBellie because I can use pumpkin (it calls for butternut squash or pumpkin – and pumpkin wins all, for me) and it’s all real ingredients – no fake sugar stuff over here! It looks super delicious.

What are your favorite finds of the week? Share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Maiden Jane

yo momma monday

Meet Jane, 51, a quiltin’ mama of four from Cleveland, OH. She sells her quilts, pillows, totes and repurposed items in her Etsy shop and posts tutorials on her blog – Maiden Jane. I found her blog while searching for upcycled apron ideas, and I instantly fell in love with her story.

Before she was gifted one by her husband before the birth of their first one, Jane had never used a sewing machine. She did, however, love to create things and sewed by hand when she was a little girl. Although her mom never sewed “not even a button,” she supported Jane’s hobby buy purchasing her craft kits.

“So I am largely self-taught. My mother-in-law helped me in the early days and I also attended classes at the Sewing Expos that came through town.”

For Jane, most her inspiration comes from her daily life. If she has a need that she feels is not being met by the products on the market, she will try to create a solution.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“That’s how my Oversized Tote came about. My husband and I tried all different ways of carrying all our supplies to the beach – plus the kids! We decided big bags would be the answer.”

She is also inspired by stuff that other people might be considered junk.

“I am a little sad when I go to a garage sale or the thrift shop to see all the stuff that we – first, buy, then, pitch. I hope that I don’t accumulate so much in my own life that will later be sitting on shelves.”

Her customers are also a source of inspiration, as they will ask her to make certain items that may end up spawning an entire line!

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

As a small business owner and mom working from home, Jane does not have a set schedule. She does, however, set goals for how much time she wants to spend on certain tasks. She will take breaks for housework and when her kids come home, and she sets aside specific days for her errands.

“…This year I am trying to be working by 7:30. So that means checking email early and then getting started working on sewing. I rarely work for more than two hours straight without doing something else…

I can fritter away a lot of time on social media, so I am trying to confine that to morning,
lunch, and evening. But it’s an important part of my business. So much of my work is custom and then the product ships out right away, so that means I have to photograph it within a day or two of being done.

When Jane and her husband built an addition to their home, they added a master bedroom. The designer wanted to add a glamorous bathroom or a walk-in closet, but it was Jane’s husband who offered up the idea of a craft room/office. And Jane couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“One of the best things I have is a mobile table. It is on wheels so I can move it around the room or out of the way. The height of the table can also be changed. Side flaps on the table change the table size
to make it narrow. So the entire table can slide under the counters. We also have several mobile file
cabinets – which gives us storage and extra seating for when the kids are working in here.

Jane bought an entire Singer sewing book set at a closeout sale years ago, and she still refers to them often. She also likes Simplicity’s Simply the Best Sewing Book, The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing and the Vogue Sewing Reference Book. For newer books, she likes A Bag for All Reasons by Lisa Lam and In Stitches by Amy Butler.

Jane says she has made and enjoyed a few patterns by Burda, and after she made some totes from Jennifer Paganelli’s fabrics – they all sold out!

“I get a little frustrated with the traditional pattern makers. It seems they have forgotten how to write a pattern for beginners.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Not only does Jane share her love of sewing and quilting on her blog, she also shares tips on practical living. Since she and her husband are both engineers, they thrive on order and solving problems that arise in their growing family. They are constantly changing and organizing things to adapt to their evolving lifestyle – like simply storing plastic grocery bags in an old milk jug with holes cut on the top and sides.

“Do you know, we still use that jug after 20+ years? My husband jokes that it saved our marriage! Since I am practical in nature and some of my products were borne of the idea of being practical, yet pretty, I used it as a basis for developing my brand.”

Jane gets tremendous satisfaction from working with her hands and making as much as she can. She started sewing for herself and her kids and would make gifts for people when she could. She created t-shirt blankets for her nieces and nephews as High School graduation gifts, and after encouragement from a friend, she opened an Etsy shop. Soon after that, she started a website and her business has continued to grow in the last five years.

“I almost feel selfish because I enjoy it so much…I love doing it for the creativity but I am motivated by the financial gain.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Even though her kids and husband help out when it’s needed – doing chores, make pickups and drop-offs, help with laundry and set the table – she remains an one-woman operation. Her oldest daughter, who has modeled on her website before, is now off to College so her other daughter, Annie, has taken over modeling. She also has her own Etsy shop called Pink in Mind.

Jane’s work and has been featured in quite a few websites, such as Craft Gawker, Craft Gossip, Totally Tutorials and All Free Sewing. She says that it has been a mixture of her submitting her work to different sites, and getting sought out by different bloggers.

“I was thrilled to have a few projects featured on Craft Gawker because that forced me to improve my photography. But I’m clearly not “there” yet because I continue to get rejected! I haven’t made it into a magazine or book yet, but that might change soon!”

Jane is inspired and motivated by piano music, and since her oldest son is a jazz pianist, her house if full of music! She loves both classical jazz and New Age – like Jamie Cullum and George Winston. She will also listen to musicals and soundtracks while she sews.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Since Jane sells patterns for some of her quilts, she wanted her customers to be able to share their creations that they made with her pattern. So, she added a board on her Pinterest for all of her customer creations. If a customer puts their work on their own blog, she can also add that to her Pinterest board.

“If my customers send me a photo, I put it on my blog and then pin it. Then I have a reference board for other customers to see finished blankets.”

When I asked her what her advice was for new moms who are also starting their own businesses, she had this to say:

“First, enjoy your time with your babies. When they are young and on schedules, you can use nap time and evenings. That’s when I sewed a lot. Then again, I was only sewing for fun at that point. It was a wonderful outlet for me. I see so many amazing business women and bloggers and wonder how they do it all with young kids.

In my opinion, it gets harder when the kids get older. When my kids hit the teen years, my life turned into chaos. Suddenly, I was running kids to practices. No longer was the evening my own as the kids were staying up later. So my point is, life goes by so quickly.

Here I am, starting a business in my late forties. When I went to college for engineering, I realized that I didn’t really love it by my junior year. But I also decided that I would have many careers in my life. So I was open to whatever path my life would take. If you are starting a business at home, go for it. Dive in. You’ll learn as you go. It’s so easy to start an Etsy shop. But find what works best for your family.”

Customer Creation from Jane's pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Customer Creation from Jane’s pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Jane hopes to continue to grow her business and says that she always has new ideas for products if she has some time to design them, and she has also been percolating with products she could have made with a small manufacturing house or collective.

“I only have two hands and although I love to create with them – and I always will – I can’t see how to grow my business without additional help. I love collaborating with other makers and have some new bag fabrics in the works. Usually my mind is overflowing with ideas.”

If you would like to find out more about Maiden Jane, visit her here. If you or somebody you know would make a perfect feature for this series, share a link in the comments and on social media or e-mail me with the information!

The Liebster Award!

leibster-badgeTuesday was sort of unexpected. I mean, I knew the day was going to come – but the I didn’t know a thing about what we were going to do. Since my boyfriend works such crazy hours, we don’t get a whole lot of time to hang out. So, I was a little shocked and a lot of excited when he hurried me to get ready so we could go house hunting. We got Starbucks (which is quite the treat when you’re saving for a house), drove all around Sacramento, got lunch at Burgers and Brew – one of my favorite places – and just enjoyed hanging out.

While I answered some e-mails in the morning, I didn’t get much work done and my homework was forgotten for a day. And I suddenly remembered how wonderful it is to take a day off and just spend time with my family. It makes the crazy stressful days of going to school and trying to get your business going totally worth it.

I am taking some time off of worrying about the goals and deadlines I have – taking a day off Project 2014 – and just celebrating being celebrated. One of my online buddies, Bev Feldman – who I wrote about before – nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is award passed around by bloggers who have less than 200 followers. While I have more than that on social media, I think it’s referring to followers on my actual blog site, which for sure qualifies.

Here are the rules:

  1. List 11 random facts about yourself
  2. Answer 11 questions, that the blogger who nominated you, has asked
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers with less that 200 followers
  4. Let those bloggers know you nominated them and pass on the love

11 random facts:

  1. I have a seriously heightened sense of smell, and can pinpoint a scent in a nanosecond. And I come up with weird smells all the time, which was super fun when I was pregnant.
  2. Like Bev, I, too, have a horrible short-term memory but can still remember my best friend’s phone number from grade school. And not all of my long-term memory is great, just random stuff like that.
  3. I plan my night accordingly so I can watch Chelsea Lately at 11:00.
  4. I once had a photo album dedicated to Drew Barrymore – total stalker.
  5. I use … when it’s unnecessary – I just love it.
  6. Which is ironic since I’m a total stickler for grammar.
  7. Even though I have had a stutter since I could talk, I was often in trouble at school for talking too much in class.
  8. I had a Filipino imaginary friend when I was little.
  9. I didn’t try seafood until I was 25, and then it was clam chowder.
  10. I taught myself to cook when I was pregnant.
  11. Even though my mom could knit and sew anything she wanted, I refused to learn, and now that I want to learn, I have no time. Poor, poor me.

11 answers:

1. What is your favorite color? Teal/turquoise. They’re so alike and I can’t decide on one.

2. Do you speak any other languages? If so, what are they? Only the language of love.

3. Coffee or tea? Coffee all the way. Unless I’m sick.

4. What is your favorite season? Fall

5. What does your perfect day look like? My perfect day would be adventuring over to Dillons Beach on Hwy 1 and hitting up all the little restaurants and shops on the way up and back. Then heading over to the mountains and camping out. And yesterday was pretty close to perfect – just hanging out with my dude and my baby.

6. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go? Jamaica

7. What is the meaning behind your blog’s name? Before I got pregnant, I enjoyed going out to bars, shows and parties. Then, I instantly turned into a housewife (instant is a little exaggeration – it took some time and still has its challenges) and became all domesticated. Don’t get me wrong though, I still enjoy a good beer. I just don’t drink the whole 12 pack anymore.

8. Do you have any pets? Nope. Not at the moment. My cat passed a couple years ago and I have him tattooed on my arm.

9. What do you enjoy most about blogging? At first, I just loved documenting all of my life changes and all the stuff I was learning to do. Now, I love all the connections I have made. I love all the people I have met, and finding new recipes and crafts. I just love the community.

10. If you could relive any day of your life, which one would it be and why? I don’t know if I would, because I don’t know if I would be where I am if I had done it differently. But, I would love to sit and enjoy the birth of my daughter again. So much was going on that I didn’t get a lot of time to really enjoy what just happened.

11. What is the most daring thing you have ever done? While I have done many stupid things that could probably classify as daring, I haven’t really done anything too daring. No backpacking across Europe, no skydiving. I moved to Stockton with someone I knew for a couple months and started a family, that’s pretty daring, yeah?

I would love to nominate: Pauselius, April Heather Art (a blog I JUST happened upon)

11 questions:

  1. If your life was a movie, what would the title be?
  2. First thing you do when you wake up?
  3. What’s in your picnic basket?
  4. If you were to scream something at the top of your lungs right now, what would it be?
  5. How do you like your coffee?
  6. How long have you gone without doing laundry?
  7. Where was your favorite adventure?
  8. What band do you listen to when nobody’s around?
  9. Would you be friends with your high school self?
  10. Why did you start blogging?
  11. What’s one thing you couldn’t go without – aside from your phone and computer?

This was a lot of fun and thank you again Bev for nominating me!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy lifeSo, today is my birthday! Hooray! It’s also my goal date for my weight loss, and I’m about 14 lbs from it. Obviously, I’m not going to lose 14.5 lbs today, but that does not mean that I’m not proud of what I have done. Although I have cheat days, I focus on eating whole, clean food that makes me feel good when I eat it. I have started a yoga routine, and sometimes I’m even able to fit in a work out.

I’m able to wear some of my old clothes, and I was able to store some clothes that were just too big, and that feels so good. Sometimes when I’m showing Cecilia herself in the mirror, I catch a glimpse of myself and I’m comfortable with what I see. So even though the scale may not be showing the results I was hoping for, I can already see the improvement in my confidence and personality.

And it’s not just the weight loss. I feel a lot healthier than I did before. I can chase my daughter all over the backyard and not feel winded. I have learned how to bake and cook because of this journey, and I have saved my family a lot of money because we don’t go out to eat all the time like we used to. I have done it all just by eating better and working out. I did not take a magic pill, or limit myself to shakes. No crazy diets…just eating better and remaining active.

Wanting to step up my game a little, I decided to take a Core Strength Yoga Class from Sadie Nardini. Let’s just say that it was a 30 minute class, and I lasted 15 minutes. I was happy to hear my daughter cry when she woke up, so I could pretend that’s why I had to stop. If you want a yoga class to make you cry, check her out. I’m pretty sure I threw my back out, but I’m going to try it again this weekend to see how far I can get without injuring myself.

Photo from Sadie Nardini. Talk about a badass yogi

Photo from Sadie Nardini. Talk about a badass yogi

Yesterday, I wanted to find a low-impact workout since I was still feeling messed up from that yoga class and walking over 2 miles to find the Sacramento Antique Fair (one could say I really love antiques), so I found a good pilates class…and I think I’m in love. The class was a 15 minute beginner class so it was perfect for me, and it’s through Pilatesology. You can sign up for $19 a month and can opt for a 10 day free trial if you want to test drive before you buy.

Photo from Pilatesology

Photo from Pilatesology

I also made this pumpkin turkey chilli from The Gracious Pantry, but used potatoes instead of turkey. I added a couple cups of water to help soften the potatoes, but that is really up to you. I absolutely loved the way it turned out. My soups usually lack flavor, but not this one. The coconut milk was perfect for this recipe, and added a lot of spice and flavor. Next, I’m going to make it hotter by adding some chili peppers.

DSC02668

And finally, I wanted to share something I found on Greatist yesterday. It’s a list of 50 bloggers making a difference in fitness, health and happiness…and it’s definitely worth checking out. The bloggers are all listed by category and you can click on their names to be directed to their site. I’m going to go through the list and will share some of the bloggers that I find inspirational and awesome.

Image from Greatist

Image from Greatist

Are you ready to take this pledge with me? To include healthy and real ingredients in our food and to remain active – no matter what the activity is? I would love to get this healthy party going. I will be sharing more and more healthy recipes, workouts and yoga routines that I feel are worth sharing, and introducing more real food bloggers. If you would like to join me on this journey, I would love to have you. Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and share your journey with me by using the hashtag #myhealthylife or tag me in the post.

From the home of: Anne Davis

Anne 2009Not only do I find a lot of inspiration from artists and creatives, I also feel so inspired when I see a beautiful home, especially one that was either built by hand or completely renovated by hand and is full of special, personal touches. Always wanting to know more, I have asked a few of my favorite designers to share their stories with me, and my first guest is Anne Davis, 51, from Kimberley, British Columbia. She blogs about remodeling her 1930s bungalow over at DesignDreams by Anne.

Anne moved into her place in 2010 and has been working on a full renovation. Before her purchase, she did subcontract work on a log home that she assembled with her ex, and some of their friends. She did all of the painting, staining, insulation and vapour barrier. She notched out holes in the logs for all the electrical runs, installed all the doorknobs and deadbolts, helped build the kitchen cabinet and hung all of the window treatments.

“I did all the landscaping by myself without the use of heavy machinery and that was the hardest project of everything I did!  I landscaped an acre and a half by hand.  I don’t recommend it to anyone!”

As soon as she found out that blogging existed, she wanted to start writing about her renovations and sharing them online. Her ex was against it, however, so after they separated, she decided it was time to start blogging!

“I was in a long-distance relationship that left me on my own a lot.  Plus I had this house that I was decorating and fixing up so I thought it was the perfect time to share my adventures.”

She self-taught herself to do most of the renovating and repairing in her house, but she admits that that she will not touch rough plumbing or roofing.

House Tour 2013

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

“I don’t want to mess with something that could become a total disaster… Well worth the money to get someone who knows what he/she is doing.”

Anne loves building things with her power tools, and her favorite tool is her 18v Makita circular saw, because of it’s versatility and all of the stuff she can do with it. Her favorite things to build so far have been her baby greenhouse and her new potting bench, although she is most proud of her bathroom – which took her three years of working on it in her spare time to complete!

“The more practiced I become, the more I get into building really cool and beautiful things.  Such fun!!!”

Anne describes her style as eclectic, and says that she likes so many different styles that she changes things frequently, depending on what she loves at the time. She also decorates her house with items she finds on the side of the road or in a dumpster, her favorite being an almost-new dining room chandelier.

DSCN4387

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

Another hobby of Anne’s that pays off big time when she’s renovating is painting. She claims a paint addiction and has been painting and repainting walls since her first house, many moons ago. Her love for painting really came in handy when she started frequenting yard and estate sales and flea markets more and would repaint the found furniture a color she liked. She then moved on to paintings after she found paint sets at the Dollar Store for watercolor, acrylic and oils three years ago.

“I bought all three and started playing.  It was such fun that I kept it up and now I’m in love with painting pictures.  My fave is acrylics although I’d love to learn how to use watercolours properly.”

Since Anne works a full-time office job during the week, her play and renovating is usually restricted to the weekends. She notices that her projects run smoother when she isn’t forcing herself to do something, because she doesn’t have to think about what she’s doing.

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

“I plan to do something and then when I wake up on Saturday, I  wind up doing whatever it is that I’m inspired to do – and it usually isn’t what I planned to do. I don’t force myself anymore.  Go with the flow!”

Her house was recently on a home tour, where she gained a lot of followers, and made a lot of new friends. She says the first thing people say when they walk in is “nice ceiling!” something she laughingly says she had nothing to do with. Next she wants to tear down the wall between her living room and dining room, and she wants to rip off the “crappy little deck” she has in the backyard and build a new one.

Anne gets her inspiration from other bloggers, Pinterest, and sometimes just out the blue! She hopes her blog can be a source of inspiration for other people who want to do the same things she’s doing – without it costing a fortune!

“What held me back for years on my other homes was the cost of labour for the things I wanted done.  Now I research the things I want to do, I view lots of how-to videos on YouTube and ask a lot of questions before I tackle something I’m not sure how to do.  Then I take the plunge.  This process has worked well for me.  Once I believe I can do something, there’s no stopping me.”

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

She advises that renovations are stressful – even if you live alone – and if you’re not into what you are doing, it can only get worse. If you are renovating with someone else, make sure you are both on the same page with what needs to be done – and what the time frame is.

“Make sure whatever it is you are planning to do is something that you truly want to do or learn to do because otherwise you will be very unhappy with the process…If you aren’t both in agreement, don’t do it!!!”

Anne’a favorite thing about what she does is turning her house into the perfect living space at a fraction of the cost – thanks to salvaged materials, yard sales, dumpster finds, and of course – saving money on labor. She has done more than she ever thought she could, simply by investing in a few major tools that made for easier work. She says that when she first moved in, the amount of things she disliked about the house weighed her down, and back then, she didn’t think she could take it all on by herself.

“Now I walk into my home and feel a great sense of pride and enjoyment from how beautiful it is and that I did it by myself.  It’s comfortable, beautiful, quirky and happy – just like me! ;)”

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

Photo from DesignDreams by Anne

You can find out more about Anne’s renovations and see her full house tour on her blog, DesignDreams by Anne and find updates on her Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest. Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter for more home inspiration!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

Well, I’m exactly one week away from two things I have been looking forward to – my birthday, and my goal date for my weight loss. They happen to fall on the same day, and that is no coincidence. I was hoping to reach 130 by my 31st birthday and kept assuring myself the whole time that I could most definitely do it. And I probably could have…if I locked myself in my room with a mini fridge filled with only the healthiest and best food, and my only activity to do during the day was to exercise.

But, let’s face it. Real life happens…and sometimes your best intentions fall short. I will say that I am proud that I have not only lost all the weight gained during my pregnancy, I am between five – ten pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant. Sure, I still have 15 lbs to go before I reach my goal weight, but I have had the willpower to turn down fast food and soda, when both are so easy…and sometimes so good.

I have put myself on a workout regimen, and sometimes I actually stick to it. But sometimes I don’t, because I’m freaking tired after chasing around my daughter, and sometimes I count mopping my floor (so what if my mop is actually a Swiffer) and doing laundry as my workout for the day.

18ac2a84412a11e3b44322000a1f92df_8My morning walk with my daughter. My favorite workout routine

So, I’m going to make a proclamation for myself, and if you would like to join in, I would love your company:

  • No more following websites that have the word “Skinny” in them. I don’t want to be skinny. I just want to wear my old jeans. Not the jeans I was wearing before I got pregnant. The jeans I wore when I was at my most comfortable weight. Sure, my hips have expanded. Babies will do that to ya. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. But damn did it feel good to put on a pair of jeans I have not been able to wear in over a year.
  • While on that note, no more pinning “Skinny” recipes on Pinterest. If you haven’t heard this before, most of the skinny ingredients are worse than the real thing. Look at the ingredients and decide if you really want all of that in your body. If you do, go for it. If not, put it down. It ain’t worth it in the long run.
  • Follow bloggers and recipe developers who use real ingredients for all of their food. They don’t do a diet version, because they don’t need to. You don’t need a diet version of granola – it’s granola! A good site I just found today is A Sweet Spoonful. Her recipes have real ingredients in them, and most of them aren’t crazy. Check out these pumpkin spice muffins (you know how I feel about pumpkins). She also has a book called Whole Grain Mornings – I think the title says it all – that will be available on Dec 31. You can pre-order it now through Amazon, and it will be perfect for your New Years Resolution, if you’re about that.
  • Remain active. Even if I can’t get a workout or yoga session in, I remain active. I sit at my computer to write blog posts, and do some work. But I take a break after every project I work on to go walking with my daughter, to play with her, or to clean my house. It keeps her entertained and happy, and I stay active. We hardly ever sit down to watch TV until after dinner. Because that’s my family time, and that’s how we like to relax.

I’m still going to work on my goal, but I’m not going to hate myself if I don’t get in that 15 minute yoga session, and then 15 minutes of bodyweight workout, and then 15 minutes of yoga at night. Because sometimes I’m just tired. And I have other stuff going on. But I will (attempt to) drink all of my water, and I will cook real food for my family. Because not only do I want to look good in my jeans, I want to feel good, too.

2b58fe7e3ff311e38f8522000a1fb838_8Homemade apple butter on wheat toast with banana. Breakfast is served.

Here is my promise to you, and this is one I can stick to. I will continue to share sites with you that I feel good about sharing. I will continue to show you new recipes that incorporate real, healthy food. I won’t ever share anything that has the word Skinny in it. Unless I have checked the ingredients and they are all real. That’s my only exception.

So, to start things off. Here are some of my favorite sites that embrace whole foods and healthy living:

The Gracious PantryIf you have read my blog just once in your life, you probably know how deep my love for this site runs. Tiffany not only shares a whole bunch of clean eating (the elimination of processed foods in your diet) recipes, she also advises on healthy food substitution, like the sugar substitution chart, and she loves pumpkin, too. My kind of girl.

Healthy Aperture – Healthy food photo sharing site. A good way to find recipes that you will love and continue to use, and you can also find new healthy bloggers to follow. If you find yourself liking a bunch of recipes from one poster, maybe you should check out their site and see what else they have. There’s also a blog with healthy tips and recipes.

Attune Foods Blog – This is a new one that I found today, through Sweet Spoonful. It’s a healthy recipe sharing site, and you can also join the FitClean community, which focuses on incorporating both fitness and clean eating in your daily life.

Are you ready to take this pledge with me? To include healthy and real ingredients in our food and to remain active – no matter what the activity is? I would love to get this healthy party going. I will be sharing more and more healthy recipes, workouts and yoga routines that I feel are worth sharing, and introducing more real food bloggers. If you would like to join me on this journey, I would love to have you. Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and share your journey with me by using the hashtag #myhealthylife or tag me in the post.