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!

Yo Momma Monday: Ashley Weeks Cart

yo momma monday

Meet Ashley Weeks Cart, 30, from Southwestern Vermont. She runs Cartwheel Farm with her husband James, and she is mama to two beautiful girls (Addison (Sunny) who will be turning five next month, and Courtland (Kaki) who is two and a half), a super mutt they call Hanna Banana, a puppy named Gladden, a potbelly pig named Penelope (“Penny” for short), a flock of five hens – Bunty, Edwina, Dora, Nemo and Ginger and an angel dog – their beloved three legged dog, Ursa Bear, who lost her life to cancer.

Before Ashley and James were introduced to the world of parenting and farming, they lived in Los Angeles and Ashley attended USC, where she received her MA in Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere. She also ran a reusable bag business with her sister at the time.

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

After Sunny was born, Ashley and James returned to the East Coast to be closer to their families. Both attended College in the Berkshires, so they moved back to Williamstown, MA for the first two years, and that is when they decided that they wanted the rural life. So they bought a farm across the border in the Green Mountain State.

“James’ family had a farm growing up, and we really loved the idea of our daughters learning about where their food comes from and the responsibility and care that comes from owning farm animals and tending a vegetable garden. That was all possible with this little property.”

Photo by Theron Humphrey. Click on the picture for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

Both Ashley and James are photographers and Ashley does freelance work on the side. Her introduction to photography began when she was just a kid, and would spend hours tooling away with her dad’s Nikon SLR. All of that playing and shooting paid off, because now she connects with her readers through her photography on her blog.

” I have albums of black and white photos of our pets and house growing up that I shot with that camera from back in 70s. It was totally a hobby, but it brought a lot of joy. It wasn’t until after college that I got back in to photography. I was working at another small liberal arts college that allowed me to take one course a semester.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I took a film photography class, and loved hiding out in the dark room and relearning how to really use a camera. When we moved to California we invested in our first digital SLR, and after our oldest daughter was born, James and I really began to want to better master our camera as we were amassing a slew of baby photos.

When we moved back east, I developed a great relationship with a local professional photographer and she really helped me take my work to the next level. I try to pick up my camera and shoot every single day. I learn something every time I do. Practice practice practice is the best advice I can give. That, and shoot in manual mode. Just do it. Your photos will be world’s better once you get a hang of it.”

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Ashley started her blog Blog a la Cart when she was still living in LA and was the first of her group to have any children. With James working all day, she felt alone and overwhelmed, and she needed a creative outlet that would get her thinking about more than changing diapers and feedings.

“Honestly, I write about whatever inspires me at the moment – there is no real rhyme or reason to my blog content – that space is ultimately an outlet for me, so I write about and share what is most impacting me at the time. Sometimes is as simple as a room makeover, other times it’s more serious feminist issues that I’m struggling with as a parent/mom.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I try not to be influenced or alter my point of view to please anyone but myself since that space was born very much out of a need to better support myself. I love that people share in that space, but it’s ultimately about being true to my voice and story.”

Since Ashley has a full-time job, her photography and blog are both done on the side. They are  creative outlets for her, and while she admits it can be tough balancing family, work, the farm and her creative business, she loves what she creates and is grateful to have both there to supplement their lives.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have a truly amazing partner. I would not be able to do all I do without him in the mix, providing the balance and support that I need. He is the girls’ primary caregiver, and does the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping etc. This enables me to work a day job full time, and then come home and spend time with my girls and have meaningful family time, before spending my evenings editing photos for clients or writing content for the blog.

There is no way I would be able to keep everything in balance without James helping carry the weight. I think people don’t consider enough how their choice of life partner will be one of the biggest, most impactful decisions of their entire lives. People want the pretty wedding and storybook romance, but don’t often consider the long term weight of that decision. I feel very lucky to have been able to grow into adulthood with James by my side (we met at his 20th birthday party in college) – we’ve been able to make some huge decisions and changes together and we really compliment and balance each others strengths and weaknesses.”

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Of all the things her girls have already learned on the farm, she hopes that they will always have a respect for their food and the cycle of life. Both have already experienced the loss of a family pet they cherished and loved and they know where the food on their table comes from.

“We don’t shelter them from this, and they have a very thoughtful and honest perspective on death and life (for their age). I love that they understand that our Thanksgiving turkey comes from a turkey farm and must be killed before we can eat it for dinner. It’s not just some plastic wrapped lump from the grocery aisle.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the image for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

They know the sweetness and joy of picking blueberries right off the bush. They understand that maple syrup comes from the veins of a maple tree as they themselves have collected the sap and watched it boil down into that sugary delicacy. They’ve hand turned apples to cider. They’ve weeded and sweat and and pulled fresh carrots from the ground. There is something so simple and yet so very important from these lessons that we get to make a part of their everyday.”

Ashley’s best advice for working parents (whether it’s in or outside of the home) is to carve out time for yourself. She likes going to the gym or for a run or a walk once a day. It’s not only good for her physical health, but it’s good for her mental and emotional health as well. She also loves crafting, and shares many tutorials on her blog.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have trouble sitting still, so I build in crafts and projects to any free time I may have on a weekend or evening. I love working with my hands, and it’s fun to be able to involve my children in the projects when possible.

Mostly, I would be happy to spend my days knitting and listening to audiobooks – but it’s good to mix it up. I learned to quilt last year, and that is a dangerously wonderful, time-consuming hobby. I hope to be able to do more of it when my children are older – as it also demands a lot of stuff and space (iron, cutting table, sewing machine, etc.) whereas knitting I can keep in my handbag for a down moment waiting at the doctor’s office or pharmacy, etc.”

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

In the future, Ashley hopes to expand her photography portfolio and hopes to capture more maternity and childbirth moments. She wants to master tomato growing, to include alpacas or other fiber animals in their farm family so she can spin her own wool and she wants to bake a truly authentic loaf of French bread. Her favorite thing about everything she does is the impact it makes on other people.

“My favorite moments happen when a reader emails me to say that something I’ve written or shared has touched them in some way, either by making them feel not so alone, or validating their feelings, or even getting them to think about something in an entirely new way. Those emails send me over the moon.They bring me so much happiness.

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

And with the photography, I love getting feedback that I’ve captured a client or their family in a way that really represents them. Getting positive feedback on my work keeps me motivated and makes me feel like I am making a difference (however small) in my community.”

And as for the impact she has felt from her children, and life on the farm:

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“There are SO many ways that motherhood has changed me, mostly it has given me deep respect for my own mother and the  mothers around me as I am so acutely, personally aware of the challenges, joys, heartbreak, and perspective that motherhood brings. It’s humbling and inspiring and I am so very grateful everyday that I get to call myself a mother to my little girls. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do, yet I am eternally grateful that I get to have this kind of experience and perspective and love in my life.

And the farm has connected me to life beyond my family in really meaningful ways. From the flowers to our vegetable gardens to our chickens, I am tuned in to the life cycles and seasons of life on the farm. I recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (everyone should read it!) and it has really inspired me and further enforced in me why James and I made the choice to buy this home and raise our girls this way, connected to their food and this place.”

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

You can read Ashley’s blog Blog A La Cart to find out more about raising a family on a farm, and you can also view her portfolio there. And check out her video about life on the farm! If you want to hire Ashley to take your photos, you can e-mail her and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you are an awesome mama or you know one and would like to be featured in this series, don’t be shy! Leave me a comment, e-mail me and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + 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!

Finding my Style

Last week, it dawned on me. It was past 9 pm on any given night, and I was still in my PJ’s. No, I’m not depressed. I’m a happy stay-at-home mom who doesn’t get out and about as much I used to and sometimes I forget to change out of my PJ’s. And sometimes I shower and then put clean PJ’s back on.

And this is when it dawned on me. “Wow–I have really let go of myself,” I thought. But have I?

Me, my baby, and my PJ's

Me, my baby, and my PJ’s

I’ve never been a big fan of fashion. Style, yes. Fashion, no. Only recently did I discover there was a difference. I always just wore what I thought was cool – and sometimes other people dug it, and other times, random people would say “uhhh…what’s that on your head” “It’s a head wrap, people! I just don’t know how to wear it. Dang!”

During high school, we Catholic school girls had it pretty easy in the outfit department. We wore uniforms and sometimes I would paint my shoes with nail polish and wear argyle socks to be different. I’m a real rebel. I had a small group of friends and we cared more about music than anything else in the world.

After high school, I got a job at Picture People. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a photo studio chain that specializes in babies and dogs. I worked there for four years, and by the time I left, I could categorize the customers by what time of day it was. Weekday mornings – afternoon: stay-at-home moms and dog lovers, weekday afternoons – business moms who schlepped their kids from school to the mall for their annual photos, weekends – dads.

Again, the outfit choice was easy. We had a uniform (I’m seeing a theme here) and a spinny hat. Nothing else I could wear would ever distract anyone from the spinny hat. I would snicker at all of the stay-at-home moms, swearing that would never be me. As if I was doing any better.

Then, there was College. In Humboldt. I could honestly say I don’t even remember what I wore – it was Humboldt.

Then, there was my 20s. Oh, the 20s. Where I wore patterned tights with a patterned skirt and a tiger shirt. All different patterns. Because I wanted to, dammit. I would wear fedoras with jean shorts that I cut myself and were all jagged and rough. And I didn’t care.

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

And now, here I am. In my jammies, looking at my chipped nails and too overwhelmed by my closet to confidentially pick out an outfit. But look where I’ve come. I shower daily, I learned to cook and clean all in a little over a year, I’m going to the College of my dreams and I have an amazing kid and boyfriend. Not too shabby. But still, I miss that fearless abandonment I had every time I went through my closet. I miss wearing something truly unique instead of the same ol thing.

Kate Payne wrote in Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking that work-at-home-ians should shower and get ready like they’re going to work every morning. Make yourself look all business-casual and you will be more productive throughout your day, she says. Well, it can’t hurt.

I’m going to make it a point to go through my closet and stick with the clothes I truly feel speak to me. The rest, I can donate to our clothing recycling program we’re doing as part of our fundraiser for Vox. Then, I’m going to make it a point to get fancy during the week. To actually put on some adult clothes and maybe even brush my hair.

Because, as I tell Sam all the time – if it’s important to you, you will make time for it.

What is your style? If you’re a mom, do you feel like you lost any of it when you had your babe? How did you find it again? Let’s talk about it.

My February Wishes

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Design by me

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Words by me

Wow, that first week of school was brutal. It made me question if I really wanted to be in design school a couple times. But, I stuck it out, completed all of the crazy assignments I had and now I’m ready to conquer another week. Also, if I dropped out, I would have to pay back all of my college loan now – so that’s a surefire way to keep me in school. I see why they do that now.

The more that I think about it, the more I realize how similar that is to running your own business. Or anything, really. When you put all of your time and effort into something, when you truly believe in and want to accomplish something, you stick with it. When you invest money, or you are borrowing money (bank, school, parents, friends) and you have to pay it all back immediately if you just back out, you stick with it.

I have stuck with the things that are most important to me, and I have let go of things that would not be the best for me now. Maybe sometime in the future, but definitely not now. So, I am finally focusing on the things that matter, and I am fearless in pursuing what I love.

I have categorized each aspect of my life I need to focus on, and here’s what I want to accomplish this month:

Blog: The transfer to a self-hosted site is happening on the 15th and I could not be more thrilled. I need to organize my blog better and get rid of what has little or no importance at this point. This transfer is the perfect time to let go and start fresh. I will have a couple sponsors when I move over and I’m hoping to be at ten by June. So my goal for this month is just to get my new site up and running and add the sponsors I do have.

Vox: The fundraiser is happening in May. We have the time and place set, now I just need to come up with a name, and start working on all of our promotional stuff. We need to visit local businesses and get the community involved. So, this month I will focus on spreading the word.

Sweet Mariposa: We are going to get a booth at the Vox fundraiser and we have a couple other shops who want us to vend at their Second Saturday street walks, and maybe even sell a few items in their stores. So, this month we’re focusing on adding to our inventory. I hope to get at least one new item in the shop each week this month. I also have a few people who want me to sell things for them on eBay, so this will be the perfect way for me to get more comfortable on the site.

Pampered Chef: I would love to get four parties under my belt this month, one each week. I already have three people who want to host, I just need one more. This is going to be the perfect way to get me cooking and baking more, and to get me used to talking to a bunch of people at one time. I’m used to writing – not talking – to a large number of people at once.

Health : My mom and I started a new health challenge (I will talk more about this tomorrow), and our challenge for this week is no drive-thru. This should not be too hard for me, except for when it comes to my coffee. I must admit, when I’m driving, I have a problem with going through Starbucks to get my coffee fix. This will motivate me to go find more little coffee shops in town and not depend on the drive-thru Starbucks that’s just down the street. When I lived downtown, it was easy for me to just walk to a little coffee shop to get my fix, but here…it’s a little harder. I make my coffee at home, too, but I like a little pick-me-up when I’m out and about.

So, this should be good for the month. I’ll be writing more about each of these in detail during the week, I just need to remember to stick with what I love, and let go of the rest. It will save me time and unnecessary stress. What are you working on this month – what are your goals? Share them in the comments and on your social media sites. If you wrote about it, share the link with me so I can see! It’s a wonderful way to check yourself, and get support from others.

Meet the Maker: Elizabeth from Delightfully Tacky

meet the maker

Meet Elizabeth, 26, from Tacoma, WA, who runs the wonderful blog Delightfully Tacky – which I started when I first got into blogging, and continues to be one of my favorite weekly reads. Not only is Elizabeth a blogger, but she is also a graphic designer and a photographer. To sum it up, she pretty much does it all.

Elizabeth created Delightfully Tacky in 2008, after she discovered style blogs and it seemed like “a really cool community of inspiring girls.” Over the past five years, it has turned into a style, food, diy, home and design blog and serves as inspiration to bloggers, makers and designers alike. She started blogging during College and working as a barista, so it was pretty casual in the beginning. After she graduated School, she got more serious about her blog.

 “The progression happened organically, I suppose…After college, blogging was an amazing community that helped me make that transition that can be kind of rough in that post-college-graduate-living-at-home-trying-to-find-a-job-or-maybe-apply-to-grad-school phase.  My blog started getting more views after I was featured by a more popular blogger and I decided to try and give it more attention and blog more consistently with quality content.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Creativity has always been running through Elizabeth’s blood and she spent her childhood drawing, creating and “always running around the woods, creating scenarios in my head.”  An art major in College, Elizabeth says art is an integral part of who she is and she never once thought of changing majors.

“I remember once in 4th grade we had our art projects hanging in the hall at school and one day I walked past them and mine had a sticky note on it from someone who wanted to buy it to hang in their house!”

In 2010, Elizabeth finally purchased a 73 Winnebago Brave, after being obsessed with 70s Braves since she and her family went on a family trip in one across the country in 2007. She did a huge, photorealistic painting of the 73 Brave for her Junior art exhibition in College and ended up getting one that was nearly identical! After her purchase, she saved up enough money and went on a trip through the West Coast.

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

“It was one of those things where it was something I wanted to do and I just decided to do it instead of thinking about doing it…I had always wanted to do something like that with a husband, but I’d decided to stop waiting for a guy and instead just go for my dreams.  Ironically right after I got done with my trip my now-husband asked me to be his girlfriend and less than a year later we were married.  Maybe someday we’ll go out for a big trip in the Winne together!”

She and her husband, Dan, recently purchased a house and Elizabeth has been blogging about their renovations. Since both of her parents love home renovations, Elizabeth was always involved with their process. Her dad and uncle came down from Alaska to help work on the siding, and after that she and Dan finished up with painting, and they have a few more projects in the works.

“My dad was a carpenter when he was younger, so he knows a ton about home building and repair.  I learned a lot from him, but mostly I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to if I wanted to do the work and figure it out…It was really fun to be able to work alongside family on our home.  I had always wanted to get a fixer-upper, having seen my parents fix up a few homes throughout my childhood, so it was fun to finally be able to do that with a home of my own.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

At the moment, Elizabeth’s office is in a converted attic space, which is near freezing in the Winter as the insulation is minimal. She just got a new desktop computer that’s in her office, so she uses that space for editing photos and then blogs on her “ancient” laptop downstairs, where all the action is happening.

With everything that she does, Elizabeth says she gets the most fulfillment from blogging. While she loves working on graphic design projects, she admits that it does not give her the same creative freedom. Since the client has the most control over the design, she says that sometimes you may create something you absolutely love, but the client doesn’t feel the same.

“In that way graphic design can actually be pretty taxing as a creative person.  Blogging is something that I get to do for myself. I get to share what I want, create what I want, and no one has a say about it”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Her background in art and design has definitely helped Elizabeth’s blog, she says. She has always designed her own blog and her knowledge of Photoshop has enabled her to edit photos and include other graphic elements. Since blogs are a complete visual package – layout, colors, textures, patterns and photography – Elizabeth says it’s helpful to have a brain that is very visual, itself.

Elizabeth gets most of her inspiration from local restaurants, TED talks, documentaries and magazines. She also finds inspiration from some of her favorite bloggers – Orchid Grey, The Clothes Horse, Maidae and Bluebird and her favorite handmade shops – The Velvet Bird, Vanilla & Lace and Moorea Seal.

Although there was a period when Elizabeth was focusing on being a DIY project blogger, she says that while she loves working on DIY projects, they just don’t have a huge a presence in her life. And while Pinterest is an inpsiration for her crafts, she says a lot of her motivation to create something simply comes from seeing something she wants but can’t afford, and looks relatively easy to make.

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

“If I want to make something I’ll make it, but it’s not a daily thing.  This is probably why my blog is such an amalgamation of different things.  Recipes, DIY projects, outfits, photos.  I don’t really focus on one thing, so it allows me more diversity in what I choose to create that day.  I might be in an outfit mood, or a cooking mood, or a project mood.”

After attending NYFW for the Chictopia and IFB blogger conferences, Elizabeth and Tieka from Selective Potential decided to offer e-courses as a virtual alternative for people who couldn’t make the trip. People can buy passes to the e-courses at anytime and they will be privy to the same information that is shared at the conferences.

“Since then I’ve created a couple more e-courses, one about self growth and one about developing personal style, and I’m in the planning stages of creating an e-course on photography!  I get a ton of emails every day asking for tips on blogging, photography, and personal style so it just made sense to compile everything in one place in the form of an e-course.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Elizabeth has put her influence to good use, and started featuring organizations that she believed in on her blog. Most recently, she wrote about Umoja Women in Kenya. She will be donating all of the small ad sales to this nonprofit, and she has also featured Musana Jewelry, a nonprofit organization that gives all of their beaded jewelry sales, grants and donations back to the artisans.

Like many of us, bills serve as a constant motivation for Elizabeth, though she considers herself lucky that she gets to do what she loves in exchange for a normal paycheck.

“Sometimes blogging can feel trivial and silly as a full-time or part-time job but the emails I get from readers telling me their stories and opening up make me feel like I might actually be doing something that positively impacts other humans, which is encouraging.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Elizabeth wants to continue creating more women empowerment, and feels that her blog is headed more in that direction. She hopes to inspire people to get off their asses  and out of their comfort zones, starting with herself.

“I personally love blogs because the people in the photographs are real to me, I hear their voices in their writing, their bodies are un-retouched, their style is procured on their own budget, not pulled from designer collections.”

She wants women to feel empowered to create their own futures – to simply be who they want to be.

“In yoga they say it’s not about doing the pose perfectly, it’s about moving in the direction of that ideal pose doing the best you can at that moment.  “

You can find out more about Elizabeth by visiting Delightfully Tacky, and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Help Umoja Women by purchasing small ad space on her blog here. Hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and find more Meet the Maker inspiration on my Pinterest.

Fitness Fest: MyYogaPro

Me and the little one doing our yoga

Me and the little one doing our yoga

Today, I’m taking a little note from Elizabeth on Delightfully Tacky. She shared her experience with yoga on her blog the other day, and it totally rang true with me. I also started taking yoga when I was in College and needed some kind of fitness class. I’ve always been relatively active but unlike Elizabeth, I was never big on doing anything too strenuous. So when I saw that a yoga class was available, I snatched it up immediately.

I went back and forth on taking yoga classes around town but it never really felt right. Since the yoga community in Sacramento is so small, everyone in my classes always knew each other and even if I took beginner classes, they all seemed to be more advanced than I was – which was probably true. I know I shouldn’t be comparing myself to others – especially in a yoga class – but it’s hard not to do that. So I just stopped going. I wasn’t feeling it anymore.

I started doing yoga on my Wii Fit when I moved to Stockton, but that also just didn’t feel right. Yoga is a lot more than just doing the moves – it’s an experience. A spiritual journey, if you will. So I looked online for yoga classes. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Erin Motz and DoYouYoga.com that I finally felt a connection. That’s why I have always promoted what they are working on, and love what they are doing.

Image belongs to DoYouYoga.com

Image belongs to DoYouYoga.com

Erin is so down-to-earth and does not have that “I’m more in touch with my body” attitude that I get from a lot of yoga teachers. Not to mention, DoYouYoga.com is a really fun site that is user-friendly and also houses articles on yoga and the lifestyle behind it. The articles are all written by normal people, and anyone who has a connection yoga and healthy living in general can sign up as a contributor.

So when I saw that they were launching a Kickstarter for their new site – MyYogaPro – I got on board immediately. I signed up as an Ambassador and started spreading the word. I have been following the journey of Andreas Zolton (DoYouYoga founder) and Erin Motz – and I am excited to announce that the Kickstarter has officially launched!

As I’m typing this, the campaign has only been live for 2 days and they already have 664 backers and have raised an astounding $33.341 of their $20,000 goal. That’s insane! The campaign will be live for 38 more days so there is still time to pledge, and if you pledge $15 or more, you get a sweet soundtrack!

Image belongs to DoYouYoga.com

Image belongs to DoYouYoga.com

My Yoga Pro will the first-ever social online yoga platform that combines online yoga classes with a social network and a video game-like rewarding system. Andreas and Erin are hoping that this new concept will change the way people view at-home yoga sessions – making it fun an rewarding. For some of us, at-home sessions are the only way we can practice.

This idea was born after Andreas and Erin launched the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, which was also backed by Yoga Trail and  had over 20,000 participants in just a few months, myself included. With MyYogaPro, there will be 16 yoga courses and over 200 exclusive HD videos of yoga classes. Yogis can sign up for Challenges with friends and earn badges together, or can update their status to let everyone know that they’ve been practicing for a week straight.

Needless to say, I’m really excited to see what’s to come with MyYogaPro. I’m a huge fan of both DoYouYoga and Erin Motz and I think that the yoga world needs a website like this. If you are looking for a new yoga site and you have not gotten yourself acquainted with DoYouYoga, then I think that you should check it out. You can start the 30 Day Yoga Challenge at any time, and can learn more about MyYogaPro.

Follow DoYouYoga on Facebook and Twitter to get all the scoop and updates as they happen. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy inspiration!