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!

Meet the Maker: Rosaura Unangst

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Photo by Carmen Salazar Photography

While many may view Instagram as simply a photo-sharing app (that is, after all, what it is), I love that I have actually made a handful of connections on there – whether it’s finding a new person through comments or through something of theirs that someone else has shared – and I love it even more when that person happens to live in my town.

Rosaura Unangst, 26, lives in Midtown in Sacramento and runs Pigment and Parchment, her hand lettering and watercolor business. She designs for weddings, graduations, babies and more. She also sells prints and holds watercolor and lettering workshops in her studio in Midtown and around California. I am so happy to be sharing just a little bit of her story today.

What inspired you to start hand lettering, when did you first get into it? I’ve hand lettered since pre-school! I dabbled a bit in graffiti style in high school (mainly due to a big crush I had on a very talented artist named Vlad) but I think when I was 19 and a sign artist at Trader Joe’s that’s the first time I really started upping my game.

What were some of your first lettering projects? The first I vividly remember was making a sign for a Sadie Hawkins dance in graffiti lettering. (Again- that art nerd crush I had)
What pushed you to start your workshops, and what have you learned from them so far? I have done informal ones with family and friends for years and I was looking for a way to incorporate engaging with the community with my art business. It was a natural fit and is so much healthier for me (creating tends to be very isolating & as much as I like solitude I don’t want to become a total recluse). I’ve learned how therapeutic and universal creating is. I’ve always known this to be true for myself but after hearing countless people say how relaxing it is as they leave my workshop I’m on a one woman mission to get this message out there to everyone.
How much time do you spend on creating vs workshops vs businessy stuff? It really depends. There has to be balance between both which can be hard because I only want to create and host workshops but half the time I do have to promote, set up listings and websites, deal with printing and other businessy stuff. A goal of mine is to get an art agent so they can deal with that & I can focus more on making!
P&P Workshop

Photo by Lacey M. Carroll

How do you best manage everything with your caretaking job and personal life? There’s no perfect balance. That’s a myth. It’s all a work in progress and correcting when any one thing is taking over too much time. In the past year or so I’ve been a lot kinder to myself and allowed myself to accept I can’t do it all and that’s ok. Instead I focus on what I have accomplished and that leaves me feeling more empowered to haul ass again the next day!

Favorite place you’ve hosted a workshop so far? My in-laws’ patio overlooking Hermosa Beach. Life doesn’t get any better than when you can smell salt in the air.
What does your studio look like right now? A bit messy always but there is order in the chaos- not that anyone else would know it but I’ve got a visual memory and know exactly where everything is. It’s a lot better in our current home than ever before because I’ve got a swivel door that used to be a Murphy hideaway bed in the 40s and now houses all my crafting stuff and props. There’s a vintage bar cart with more of my fine art supplies, a rolling desk that doubles as a mini photo studio, a long desk for the computer, giant scanner & giant printer, a bookcase with all my reference art books & my cat Elphaba’s corner of shame (her litter box complete with styled cat supplies).
What do you think was one of the best business moves you made to get you to where you are today? I wouldn’t call it a business move but it’s definitely gotten me where I am today… going to a clinic and getting help with an eating disorder last year. Therapy taught me about living in the present, confidence, self worth, creating a life I choose and so much more. There is a reason my past art businesses and ventures weren’t as successful in the past and I think my personal life and issues were absolutely holding me back. Learning to take care of myself has not only done wonders for my personal life but it has everything to do with how I put myself out there as an artist today.
How do you motivate yourself every morning? Hm… Jasmine tea or fresh ground drip coffee. In truth- every morning I wake up to likes, comments and new followers on Instagram and though I don’t need validation from that I also can’t say it isn’t motivation to get moving on creating more awesome stuff. It’s really the comments every once in a while from a person really touched or inspired by my artwork that gives me enough motivation for a week. 
P&P art

Photo by Lacey M. Carroll

What do you do if you need to unwind? I mindfully do dishes (warm water & I splurge on the good smelling soap from Method), errands (surprising but they get me out of the house and walking around while not completely taking a break from life- two birds one stone!), play board games & go watch art house films with my husband Nathan.

Who are your biggest inspirations? My contemporaries- Katie Daisy, Lisa Congdon, Emily McDowell, Anna Rifle Bond & Molly Jaques. Talk about a power house of kick ass women. Earlier Inspiration- Frida Kahlo, Judy Garland, Vincent Van Gogh, Mid Century Design, Old Musicals

Favorite books on creative lettering? The bible is Creative Lettering by Jenny Doh (which I’m contributing to the sequel!! EEK!) Modern Calligraphy is a good resource too. I’ve got a few others but honestly just absorbing lettering from back when all advertising was done without the use of computers is where a lot of inspiration of creative lettering comes from.

Best/scariest thing about running your own creative business? The best part is I know I’m doing the thing that I’m best at. I am contributing to culture. Art is connecting to humanity on a level that strips away all the bullshit. The scariest part used to be not being seen as having a real job by lots of people- but now that I’ve made my peace with that I’d say the scary part is probably dealing with all the businessy stuff. I am learning, I am figuring it out slowly but surely but it doesn’t come naturally to me

Favorite thing about what you do? There is a certain pride and joy when you make something from nothing. To sum up & show off my musicals nerdiness- “The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” (Johnathan Larson- Rent) Art connects you to other humans on a level nothing else can reach.

What has been one of your favorite projects/commissions that you have worked on? Oh that’s a tough one. A full room Peter Pan mural always had a special place in my heart. I’ve always encouraged people to never grow up.

suitcase

Photo from Rosaura Unangst

Best business advice you’ve received? Be yourself. Be authentic. Cuss if you want to. (Thanks Carmen & Dena!)

What kind of projects do you hope to work on next? Custom wedding suites that really tell the story of the couple. I’d love to do some more murals- it’s been a while but it’s like riding a bike. I’m bringing back the funky portraits I used to do- some of those would be fun!

Dream place to host a workshop? India. I’d want to cohost and start with someone teaching us the process of learning about pigment and making dyes and paint, then end with using the paint and/or dyes we just made to create art! Essentially the ‘farm to fork’ version of a workshop.

What advice do you have for people who are just starting their creative businesses? Be careful with spending a lot of time looking at what other people are creating. Of course you have to a bit to get a feel for what people are buying, charging and what’s already out there so you’re not offering the exact same thing. BUT! If you feel yourself being too influenced by other people’s styles or tastes and that starts to overpower your own aesthetic it’s time to unplug the computer and get back to your roots and your own eye. You’ll never please everyone. Own it. The people who like your style will like you that much more for not being the same as the mainstream offering.

thankyou

Photo from Rosaura Unangst

You can find out more about Rosaura Unangst and Pigment and Parchment by visiting her website, where she has a schedule of her workshops, links to her social media accounts (like her super cool Instagram) and details on her design services and pricing. She has printables for sale in her Etsy shop and her next workshops are in Santa Cruz on the 26th. There will also be a hand lettering workshop in Sacramento on the 31st.

I have a few spots open for Meet the Maker profiles this year so if you know someone who should be featured, let me know in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest! Keep on creating!

Crafting and the art of taking it slow

My attention span has always been incredibly short. If something wasn’t completed in the first few hours of me working on it, it was done. Tossed aside and never to be looked at again, unless by happenstance. So many cute sewing projects, paintings and DIY projects are still unfinished and in storage bins that I don’t have the courage (aka patience) to dig through.

Motherhood has taught me to handle things a little differently. My attention span is still small, as I will find half-finished piles of laundry and a sink full of half-washed dishes from time to time, but now I have an excuse. My daughter is constantly pulling at me and if you saw her face, you would pick her up, too.

IMG_2497I made a plan to work on my art projects while she was sleeping, which is about two hours a day, give or take. Sometimes I trade in art time for a nap, for cleaning time or to just veg out on the couch. A couple weeks ago, I finally decided to go into my bin of projects I have yet to start – mainly because it will be less to move when I have to relocate my little workspace – and found a frame I wanted to paint.

IMG_2499The first day, I worked on the first coat. I was reminded that I left my paint in the car for too long the other day, because it was super liquidy and made a huge mess. So I spent the majority of my two hours cleaning paint off every inch of my table and trying to thicken it up a little. After I finally surrendered to another color, I was able to finish the first coat before she woke up.

That night, the shelf above my table came crashing down, spilled my paint cup all over the place and ruined two projects I previously worked on. That taught me to not leave finished projects lying around, but to actually do what I intended to do with them. Now I have zero proof that I finished a project.

IMG_2555Throughout the week, I was able to put a couple more coats on, and finally got it ready for the detailing. I tried to do it all with my paint pen so that I wouldn’t have to waste time getting all my paint stuff together and could do it while Cecilia was watching cartoons, but it turns out that my pen is too thick for the thin line I want to paint.

I’m slowly learning that it’s OK to give myself time to work on something. I enjoy having a project to work on every day, and it gives me time to think about different ideas for my piece. I still need to paint the backboard with my chalk paint, and then I’ll hang it up in either my workspace or Cecilia’s room. And then it will be on to the next unfinished project!

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I’m leaving one side undone until I figure out what I want to do with it. My attention span is not that bad 🙂

IMG_2562What projects are you working on? Do you give yourself a couple hours a day to work on it or do you get it all done in the first shot? Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Beauty in the Blooming

Image from Melissa at Print Therapy

Image from Melissa at Print Therapy

In the summer of 2011, I lost the office job I had for over five years. Knowing that I did not want to get back into the world of workers’ compensation claims, I headed back to school to concentrate on my first and true love: writing. But as a writer, it’s hard to find decent pay, especially while you are still in school. So I started crafting more, hoping to make something that would sell. I was so focused on selling stuff in order to make a living, that I wasn’t fully involved in what I was making. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. The passion just wasn’t there.

So I got a little job at a local boutique and put crafting/selling on the back burner. After I found out I was pregnant in the spring of 2012, I left my boutique job and moved to Stockton, where I was introduced to the life of a stay-at-home-mom. I continued to going to school online, but I was also determined to make my own money. So I started selling anything I could, took on several freelance writing jobs and it was around this time that I started this blog.

I was falling behind in school because I was so busy trying to do a million things at once, and I ended up having to drop a lot of my gigs because I didn’t want to have to drop out of school. It’s funny, in every job I’ve had and in every resume I’ve filled out, your ability to multitask is not only a bonus, it’s almost necessary. But I found that in my real life, outside of the office, trying to multitask a bunch of things at once was not working for me.

A little while after my daughter was born, I enrolled in the Graphic Design program at Academy of Arts. I had watched the print industry decline further and further, and I saw the quality in writing decrease. I went to school for Journalism because of my love for writing, but I was finding myself falling out of love. So, before I quit it altogether, I changed my path to Graphic Design.

Still trying to make my own money, I picked up some more freelance writing jobs, somewhat started an art collective and started business with my friend. Apparently I did not learn my lesson about multitasking. With school and raising a baby taking up all of my time, I decided to let things go and focus on what I needed to in the moment. I decided to stop worrying so much on the future and just worry about the present. It’s hard, but it had to happen. My baby was growing before my eyes, and I wanted to be there. Not just around, but there.

So, I stuck with my school and my blog to still keep my hand in the writing game. And I could feel the difference in my attitude, and even saw an improvement in my relationship with my daughter. I was a lot more patient. I wasn’t constantly rushing around the house, and I was enjoying life a lot more. Except for when I was doing homework. Nobody enjoys that.

SONY DSCI found out I was pregnant again during the last week of school, so I while I was exhausted, my morning (aka all day) sickness did not come on till later, so I was able to finish school an even brought my grades up! I thought I would have all this time to beef up my blog, work on our house projects and get started on my business again, but my all day sickness hit me hard, and my baby was getting sick more often. This is when I ultimately decided to just focus on my health and the health of my family. To get as much rest as I could, and to use the couple of months I have on break to spend with my daughter.

Because a month after my next semester is done, our second baby will be born, and I will be back in school a couple weeks after that. So while I’m not writing as much, or doing everything I wanted to during vacation, I’m completely fine with just being a mom right now. With visiting family and watching my daughter learn how to say words and explore our backyard. With hanging out with my boyfriend on his days off, and not just asking him to watch her.

When I was pregnant with Cecilia, everything was so rushed and I was so worried about getting everything done on time. And now, I just want everything to go in slow motion. I’m taking my time on working on little projects for Cecilia’s room and waiting for the last minute to move my office/craft room to the space in the back. I’m decorating and working on our house when I can, and I’m crafting and making stuff when I get a chance. And I feel so much better than when I was trying to get everything done at once, and to be honest, I’m probably getting more stuff done. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

SONY DSCThis post was part of the Beauty in the Blooming blog tour that was created by the beautiful Melissa at Print Therapy. You can check out her post here and you can find the blog tour on the Print Therapy site tomorrow. Are you taking some time out to focus on the present? Finding beauty in the blooming? Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Etsy Craft Party 2014

Last year, I attended my first Etsy Craft Party at Hello XOXO. Although I didn’t really get a chance to do any crafting (getting there late means the tables are full), but I did have a lot of fun eating the food, goofing off in the photo booth and meeting a whole lot of people from Sacramento.

So, when I got the chance to organize one this year, I jumped at it! So, this year I’m organizing my first Etsy Craft Party at Sew Katie Jean in Lincoln, CA. If you live in the area and want to attend, it’s on June 6 from 6-9 pm and you can click on the Eventbrite link to RSVP to the party. If we get 25 RSVPs by May 9, we get Etsy credit to get supplies for the party!

logoThis year’s theme is Recapture: Bringing new meaning to your photographs and I’m already thinking of all the ways we can add artistic touches to our photos – embroidery, paint, decoupage, photo transfers and more. I’m also going to load up on old frames that we can paint to our liking.

I’m already piling up the inspiration on Pinterest, like this oldie but goodie tutorial from A Beautiful Mess: How to transfer a photo to fabric and other creative ways to use photographs.

Photo from A Beautiful Mess

Photo from A Beautiful Mess

So as if it’s not apparent enough…I simply cannot wait for this party!

Are you hosting an Etsy Craft Party? Do you want to, or do you want to know where to find one? Check out Etsy for more info. Share the link to your party/blog in the comments so we can inspire each other and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest to get more details and updates on the party!

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.

Craft Inspiration: Paper Mache

IMG_1833As a student of both Journalism and Graphic Design, magazines are my cup of tea. I devour all of the articles, and I am always intrigued by print design. Unfortunately, some smaller magazines have fallen victim to the advent of digital production, and even some of my favorite magazine stands have closed. But there are a few that have stuck around, and of course…as a mom….my life is full of baby magazines right now.

But, then there lies that problem after you’re done reading them…what to do? You can’t just toss them. Totally not good for the environment, and what if you need to refer back to them in the future? So you keep them around. And they stack up and stack up. And soon enough, your entire room is surrounded by stacks of magazines. Oh, is that just me?

My love for crafting has made this a simple fix. It’s time for some paper mache, y’all! I’m working on a project for a future article, and I thought I would share some inspiration for the project. I have a lot of ideas running around my head, and since this is something that will stick around my house – I want to make sure I love it and it will make sense.

Photo from Stars for Streetlights

Photo from Stars for Streetlights

I am not a fan of taxidermy. I think it’s sort of neat in photos, but when I come face to face with a buck staring at me through it’s dead eyes, I can’t hang (no pun intended). But paper mache taxidermy – that’s something I can get down with! The full tutorial along with photos can be found at Stars for Streetlights.

Photo from Lil Blue Boo

Photo from Lil Blue Boo

For this project, Ashley from Lil Blue Boo did not use any template, she just crumbled up newspaper into balls and shaped it to make the unicorn. Obviously, there was more involved, but that’s how she got the basic form. It took her about four hours to complete it, and the unicorn had to dry overnight. Ashley hung it up in her daughter’s playroom, and I’m thinking Cecilia’s room would be quite fancy with one.

Photo from A Little Artsy

Photo from A Little Artsy

Let’s say you want to paint your animal head, which I think I would do. Isabel, who runs Bel & Beau contributed this tutorial to A Little Artsy. She used an animal mask from a craft store as a guide for her animal head, and then hung it up in her son’s room.

Since there are a lot of babies who will be gracing our lives with their presence in the next couple months, I think this would be the perfect gift for a nursery. I’m definitely making one for Cecilia’s room, just need to figure out what animal to make after we get her room all figured out.

Do you have any fun paper mache tutorials to share, or did you make an animal head with one of these tutorials? Share the link in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram, Google + and Twitter! Find more animal mache inspiration on Pinterest!