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!

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!

Annual Day of Giving: Nonprofit Love

Image from Big Day of Giving

Image from Big Day of Giving

Since I got introduced to several local nonprofits while interning at a local paper in 2011, they have always held a special place in my heart. It was my time at Vox Sacramento that motivated me to organize a fundraiser for them and blog for them when I could. I loved that I could embrace my love of writing and get involved with my community at the same time.

Of course, my life got kind of crazy in 2012 when I had Cecilia and everything else was placed on hold for a while. Now that she’s nearing two, I’m getting back into the community because it’s something I’m going to encourage when she’s old enough. It makes me equally happy and proud that Sacramento is home to so many different art, education, health and community improvement organizations.

I know how the dedication these volunteers have for their organization/charity and I know that it’s incredibly rare that they are financially compensated for all the work they do. But that’s not why they do it, they do it because there is something pushing them each and every day to give back to their community and help where they can.

The annual BIG Day of Giving is a 24 hour event that takes place from 12 am – 11:59 pm on May 6, where nonprofits can raise an unrestricted amount of money for their organization. Halfway into it, and Sacramento has already raised over a million dollars for various local organizations. Amazing!

I like to do my part by sharing nonprofits that are both local and afar that are shaping an amazing community. You can visit BIG Day of Giving to make your donation for a specific charity, or you can pick from categories like “Arts & Culture,” “Community Improvement” and “Education.”

Here are some nonprofits that make me smile:

Image from 916 INK

Image from 916 INK

Founded in 2011, 916 INK is run by volunteers that get the youth in Sacramento more involved in the literary arts. They hold readings featuring work by children, encourage grade school students to make comics (which appeared at the Sacramento Free Comic Book Day) and also work with Plaid Zebra Films to make short films of the young authors. Pretty awesome work, eh? You can find out more about them by visiting Giving Edge and you can donate to them directly on Big Day of Giving. Check out all the stuff they do and get updates on Facebook.

Image from California Food Literacy Center

Image from California Food Literacy Center

Also founded in 2011, the volunteers at California Food Literacy Center educate the community about food and making smarter food choices that will lead to a sustainable life. They teach classes, partner with other awesome organizations like Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and Soil Born Farms, and organize events such as the Sacramento Food Film Festival.  Donate to them directly on BIG Day of Giving and connect with them on Facebook.

Image from The GreenHouse

Image from The GreenHouse

Founded in 2002, The GreenHouse volunteers focus on the emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical development of under-resourced youth and their families in North Sacramento. They encourage active involvement in the community and participate in neighborhood beautification projects. They just renovated their Clubhouse (for which they are holding a Grand Opening on June 13th) and they are hosting Kids at Heart – Community Awards Auction & Dinner – on Saturday, May 31. Donate to them directly on BIG Day of Giving and see more of what they do on Facebook.

Have a favorite Nonprofit you would like to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +  and Pinterest!