Yo Momma Monday: Tiffany McCauley of The Gracious Pantry

yo momma mondayAfter I had Cecilia, I got really interested in clean eating and living a clean lifestyle and one of my biggest inspirations was The Gracious Pantry. Tiffany’s recipes were simple, easy to follow, I didn’t have to search endlessly in a health food store for the ingredients and best of all – they were good! I was even able to trick my boyfriend into eating healthy. I learned about cooking from scratch from her website, and it forced me to slow down a little in the kitchen.

This is why I’m so happy to feature Tiffany in this week’s Yo Momma Monday!

Tiffany, 40, lives in Sonoma County with her son, whom she lovingly calls “Mini Chef” in her Facebook posts and recipes. She became a stay-at-home-mom soon after she found out she was pregnant, as her difficult pregnancy did not allow her to work much. She and her then husband had already planned on raising their son on their own, so that pretty much sealed the deal.

“The balancing act is always something I struggle with. The truth is, if you are giving your full attention to work, you will be lacking something in your mothering. And if you give your full attention to mothering, you will be lacking something in your work. So it really is a juggling act.

I think the most important thing you can do is forgive yourself for coming up short every once in a while. While most moms like to think they can do it all, it just isn’t humanly possible to actually do it all. So you have to focus on doing your best and forgiving the rest.”

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany is a self-taught cook who says the most valuable lesson she could pass down to a beginning cook is that burning your dinner is not the end of the world. She assures that just because you burned it one time doesn’t mean you’ll burn it again. “You can’t give up because of one mistake,” she says.

“I also learned that when you start out with making a casserole and end up with soup, you don’t throw it away, you have soup for dinner! Cooking is a very creative thing. It’s an ongoing experiment. Evolve with the food you make instead of trying to make the food conform. You never know, you might end up with a new family favorite!”

Now that she is comfortable in the kitchen, she heavily involves her son in cooking, and says that she never questioned whether or not he would cook.

“And I think that is the very reason he loves doing it. It’s not a matter of teaching your kids something they already like, it’s a matter of teaching them to like something they absolutely must do to survive. Showing them that cooking can be fun. After all, the memories made in the kitchen just can’t be made anywhere else.

It’s really just a process of getting your kids involved with the everyday functioning of your life. They are definitely their own people, but when you function as a family unit, everyone needs to contribute in some way. Making time in the kitchen a regular thing is important. And I have found that most kids naturally gravitate towards cooking. They love learning about food and how to prepare it. It’s usually a naturally fun thing for them to do. You just have to present it the right way, and set things up so it’s not intimidating for them. 
 
For my little guy, that involved a stepping stool so he could reach the counter, an age-appropriate knife with careful supervision, and apron that was just for him, and even a special pig spatula that he got to pick out at the store himself. When you set kids up to succeed in the kitchen, you’ll find very little, if any, resistance.”
 
Kid-Friendly YoNuggets

Kid-Friendly YoNuggets / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany realizes the importance of teaching kids how to cook, and she says our society has become incredibly removed  from the very thing that sustains us.
 
“I’m finding that many grown adults these days were raised on boxed and packaged food from a freezer or on food that came through a drive-thru window. I know kids today who get three meals a day from a fast food restaurant. It’s a sad state of affairs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fix it.

 
I think that teaching kids about food is the most important gift we can give them. Because it not only empowers them to feed themselves and their own families some day, but it also gives them power over their own health. Anybody who has health problems can tell you how important that is. Particularly when the life expectancy of our children is now getting shorter instead of longer. All you have to do is step back and take a look at the bigger picture where the health of our country is concerned to see why teaching our kids about real food is so critical.
 
Gone are the days when we could “trust” a large food corporation. And I would argue that those days never really existed. Because if you really dive into food politics at all, you’ll see that the stuff they label as “food” is actually very far from it. Our bodies were meant to run on food. Not food-like products. So it’s easy to see why health can go downhill so fast when you are not giving your body the fuel it needs.”
 
Tiffany talks a lot in her blog about how she dealt with body image problems through much of her life, something she learned from her mother. She says that the hardest thing is to not pass those problems down to her own child.
 
Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

“It’s a constant struggle and sometime I fail miserably. When you have been raised to view your body a certain way, it’s a very difficult thing to change. Sometimes it feels impossible. I don’t think I’ll ever really get past it completely, but I am learning to respect my body for the things it does every day and appreciate it for what it can do.
 
I mean, this body of mine made an entire human being. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me!! But I do still struggle with body image. It’s not an easy thing to overcome, no matter how much I try to show it respect. I think becoming a mom has simply made me far more aware of how badly I can put myself down sometimes. Not wanting to pass that on to my child has been a huge motivation for me to overcome this.”
 
For Tiffany, the biggest change she noticed after adapting clean eating to her lifestyle was how clear her skin was.
 
“I also lost some weight and started to feel much better. I noticed I actually felt full after a meal instead of wanting more and more food. I later understood that it was because my body was actually getting the nutrients it needed. I chose this lifestyle because I believe that real food is the answer to many problems we face today. My own personal eating plan is constantly evolving to suit my needs, but it’s always based on real food.”
 
Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole. Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Before The Gracious Pantry, she had several other blogs, so she know she loved the blogging process. With this site, she wanted to track her own progress and share recipes she created.
 
“The best part about the blogging community is how small it really is. There may be a million blogs out there, but the community itself has sort of a “small town” feel to it. Once you start to grow, you get to know everybody and everybody gets to know you.”
 
Since starting The Gracious Pantry, Tiffany has also wrote a cookbook, which she says was a long and difficult process, but one that is filled with creativity and passion, one she equates with giving birth.
 
“You work really hard, sweat some, cry some, spend a lot of money, and in the end, you have this wonderful, amazing thing you can hold in your hands. You forget all about the difficult stuff and can’t wait to do it again! And at the end of the day, you are doing something you love and something you hope that others will love as well.”
 
Clean Eating Vegetable Basil Macaroni Salad. Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Clean Eating Vegetable Basil Macaroni Salad / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

She posts every other day without fail, because she wants to show people the endless variety of dishes they can make with real food. She wants people to learn that real food is delicious and to not be afraid of the kitchen. She also hopes people will learn that their health really will improve when they focus on real food and that cooking food does not have to take a lot of time, or money.
 
“The best compliments I get are the ones where people tell me that their lives/health/bodies have improved since they started cooking with my recipes. I think that sort of compliment is the most validating thing a health blogger could ever ask for.”
 
Her favorite recipe on her blog is the plum torte, and while she never posts a recipe that she does not like, she has had some fails – like a low carb brownie recipe that she is still working on. As for her favorite blogs and magazines, she likes iBlog Magazine and Will Write for Food.
 
“I tend to gravitate towards the blogs with the magazine quality photos. Really great photos are something I aspire to.”
 
Plum Torte / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious  Pantry

Plum Torte / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Now that Tiffany is in culinary school, she would like to host a cooking show in the future and to continue writing more books. “I’d also love to start teaching healthy cooking classes to kids. I’ve taught one or two and they are just so much fun,” she says. Her biggest advice for people who are beginning a clean eating lifestyle is simple: take it slow.
 
“Take it one meal at a time. Realize you WILL make mistakes. But the secret in success is using those mistakes. If you throw in the towel every time you goof up, you’ll never stick to anything. Using those mistakes to learn. A mistake isn’t the end of the world and it shouldn’t be the end of your healthy endeavors. Just keep at it. Success is found in perseverance. Come back to it again and again, no matter how badly you mess up.”
 
You can find out more about Tiffany and her recipes by visiting The Gracious Pantry. And for all you awesome moms out there, I still have two spaces left for a Yo Momma Monday feature so drop me a comment 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.

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy lifeMy efforts in maintaining a healthy life have been very lackluster lately, to say the least. It’s a lot harder than I thought to take care of a home, a cute little baby (although at 15 months, she’s a big ol baby now), keep up decent grades and start a business. Squeezing in a workout AND not over-snacking when I’m stressed? Uh…yeah right.

So, in an effort to get back in a routine and not just completely lose it, I’ve decided to slowly add little things I could do that wouldn’t be hard to maintain and would be totally beneficial to me feeling and looking good. Because it’s not all about looking good for me. I need energy to get through my day and all that pizza – though wonderful and delicious – is slowin’ me down!

Last week, I decided to start way back from the beginning and follow the Clean Eating plan on the Gracious Pantry. I picked one thing to abstain from and so far, so good. This round: no fast food. I know, I know. I’ve done it before, but like I said…I’m starting fresh. From the beginning. I started last Wednesday, so it will be two weeks next Wednesday and then I will pick another thing to abstain from.

Like I have noted before, it’s all about convenience. If I have good healthy food to eat at home, then I’ll eat that. I only succumb to the pleasures of fast food if we have nothing to eat or I don’t feel like cooking. The only issue I ran into is that I made that goal a while ago to make all my food from scratch. Which means that if I want to just whip up something quick, that probably ain’t happening.

I have read before that if you work from home, you should treat it like you are going outside of the home to work. So, that means: showering, making your own lunch and mentally preparing yourself to work. Showering sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t but I do like the idea of making my lunch ahead of time so I don’t have to worry about it when I’m in the middle of my workday.

Image from The Sweaty Betties

Image from The Sweaty Betties

I also found a new site called The Sweaty Betties. It’s run by fitness expert Danny J and the Facebook page describes the group as “irreverent group of women who are looking to get fit & have a whole lot of fun along the way.” There is a free 12-week lifting program that you can download on the website. It’s mainly geared toward the gym so I think I will have to wait on this until I get back into the gym, but it’s worth checking out!

Photo from How Sweet Eats

Photo from How Sweet Eats

And…look at these pancakes! I have really turned into a breakfast person now that I work from home because it fuels me and gives me time to sit and think about what I need to get done, and watch my daughter play and run around the house. Because that’s my favorite. These whole wheat pancakes from How Sweet Eats look delicious and they’re healthy to boot! I think I will need to give these a try really soon. Like tomorrow soon. I’m not a fan of greek yogurt but I’m sure regular yogurt would be just fine.

So, I will continue to share some healthy inspiration each week in case you are feeling like I have been. If you have any amazing recipes or workouts/yoga to share, post a link in the comments and on my social media pages! You can find all the links on the top of my sidebar!

Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes –  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!

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.

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

I have a lot riding on February. I have thought about where I want my creative business to go, and everything I have lined up is for next month. So, February is all about being fearless. I have been waiting for a lot of these changes, and they are finally coming to fruition. I need to put my fears aside and go headfirst into everything I want to do.

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

Here is what I’m most excited for next month:

  • I’m finally getting a blog update! I’m making the switch to self-hosted, and since I learned my lesson from trying to DIY it last year, I’ve taken another route. I’m going through Amy Cluck-McAlister, who I met when she donated some beautiful and fun jewelry to the first fundraiser I helped organize for Vox. Her site, Amy is the Party, is not only about web design – she shares a whole bunch of crafts, party ideas and spreads some of her local love for Sacramento. So yeah, I love her.
  • After a lot of thinking, re-thinking and some more thinking…I have ultimately decided to start selling Pampered Chef. It’s not a complete DIY approach to running my own business, but it will sure help me get to where I need to be in order to grow my business. It also gives me an opportunity to practice cooking and baking as much as I can, and who doesn’t love them some Pampered Chef? I’ll share the link to my site when it’s up in case you are longing for some cookware.
  • Getting Sweet Mariposa on Facebook and promoting the heck out of our stuff! We have a lot of good stuff up there and I’m excited to share it. I’ve learned a lot about product photography and photo editing through this, and I love that all my projects urge me to learn new skills that have been on my mind for a while.
  • Organizing the fundraiser for Vox. We need to get down the specifics so we can start creating flyers, Press Releases and getting more people involved. This is going to be a whole lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

be fearless

I have joined the Project Accountability Club through Oh My Handmade! Goodness, which has totally motivated me to get serious about my goal planning. I have simplified some and have limited my commitments to a few important things that really get me going. Since we’re doing this week by week, I’m sharing what my goals are for next week:

  • Hone in on my design inspiration for my blog and make a dream board specific to my blog. I already have a lot of ideas on my Pinterest, now I just need to pin down exactly what I want (see what I did there?). I need to pick the exact font, colors and theme that I want. This is so exciting! I am beyond thrilled to see what Amy comes up with. I’ve looked at her past work, and I love it. I know this will be good.
  • Get all set up on Pampered Chef. Sign up, get my website set up and then start thinking of some recipes I want to use with all of my fancy cookware!
  • Create a Facebook page for Sweet Mariposa and load all of our photos on there. Connect the page with our Etsy shop for a seamless theme. All of the other social media will be done through my blog account.
  • Meet with Estella of Sol Collective and Eric from Vox. Set a date and time and choose a name. Get started on the sign-up sheet for everyone who wants to get involved.

Ok, that should be it! This is all so exciting…I can feel the productivity flying out of my fingertips right now! I know if I can get all of this done next week, I’ll be on a really good start. What are your creative business goals? What do you hope to achieve this week? Share in the comments and connect with me on social media. Let’s ride this sweet rockin’ rollercoaster we call creative businesses together!

Why I loved this week

Untitled-1Never before has my focus been so clear. I’ve always been working on various projects, giving a little of myself to each one. But since I decided to simplify my life, there seem to be two key aspects that I am really focusing on right now (aside from my family…I’m always focusing on that) and they are: living the homemade life – cooking and baking from scratch and doing more DIY projects and crafts and, my creative business – honing in on what’s important and doing what I need to move forward.

So, it’s no surprise that what I loved this week involved just that, learning new homemakin’ skills and building your creative business. Now that I think more about it, they go hand in hand.

Photo from The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking

Photo from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking

The awesome ladies over at The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking are sharing their review of this book, and a funny experiment making kefir from scratch! They are also offering a giveaway for this book, which ends on Jan 28. I already signed up for the giveaway, and if you think this book sounds interesting – you should, too! I would love to learn how to make my own cider, beer and wine. Does that sound bad? I hope not.

Photo from Betty Red Designs

Photo from Betty Red Designs

I really enjoyed this post by Betty Red Designs. I have been guilty t of feeling a little down when I get super excited to see a new Facebook like or Twitter follow, then I visit a different page and they have thousands of people who follow their site. But, I’ve always just kept doing what I do. I’ve turned down advertising requests because I don’t believe in what they are saying. I change things up a lot in this blog because it’s mine, and I can. Nesha, who wrote the post on Betty Red Designs, does say to step away from the blogs and start creating more.

That is one thing I have a hard time with. I usually dedicate Saturdays to crafting and creating, since I have people who can hang with Cecilia while I work. I take about 5-10 breaks during a post when she wants held, she wants fed or she needs changed. Sometimes it takes me all day to write, because she will always come first. So, I often visit blogs during the week because it’s easier for me to step away from when she needs me. But, I do take a break from the computer on Saturdays and Sundays.

Nevertheless, I loved what she had to say and it made me feel really good about not having all the fans that other pages have. She wrote out some good goals, and I am definitely going to take those into account when I set up my creative business project next week.

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And…the best part of the week! It’s garden season at my house again! I actually did this Rosemary coffee can planter as a project for a local magazine, and I will be sharing the tutorial soon. For now, let’s all just bask in the beauty that is my rosemary plant. I’ve been waiting to get back in the garden for a long time and this is just the start of what is going to be a beautiful and challenging journey!

So, this got me thinking. I would love to start a book club! We can read books like Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, True Brews and creative business books, too! Then, we can post our review and share what we learned from the book and any projects we worked on and experiments we tried after reading the books. Who’s with me?

Why did you love this week? Share in the comments and on your social media channels! You can connect with me by clicking on any of the social media icons on my blog. Let’s be friends!

Happy Friday, everyone!