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!

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!

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!

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.

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

I don’t know about you, but my interwebs are a buzzin’ with inspirational quotes, healthy recipes mixed with Valentines Day recipes, fitness challenges and organizational tips. So it’s no surprise that this post is going to be a little of all of that, minus the Valentines Day recipes and tips on organizing.

Photo from Erin Motz Yoga

Photo from Erin Motz Yoga

The 10-day ab challenge from Erin Motz Yoga is already in full swing, but the awesome thing about her challenges is that you can join in at any time. The videos remain on YouTube and while you won’t get the daily e-mails sent to your inbox, you will still get to check in daily, or as much as you wish. I always love doing her practices because they are lighthearted and fun, and chances are she will virtually toast you with champagne when the challenge is over.

Photo from Greatist

Photo from Greatist

You know all those detox cleanses that everyone posts the day after New Years? Well, this ain’t it. Over at Greatist, Sophia Breene has compiled a list of 49 satisfying yet detoxifying meals, and even better – categorizes them by meal type. Of course, you can eat these at any meal (for instance, I’m a huge fan of breakfast for dinner when nobody else is home), but the categories make it easy. There’s 8 breakfast options, 10 lunch options, 9 dinner options, 8 snack options and plenty of sides and drink options. You could easily use one recipe per day for 2 weeks (minus the weekends) and eat something new every day. My tip? Pick the recipes you want and make a grocery list of everything. Then do all your shopping in one trip and make a meal plan.

Photo from Greatist

Photo from Greatist

And I know I have talked about this before, but if you haven’t checked out Greatist’s Renew Year challenge, you definitely should. Each day, they post a new task and then you snap a photo and post it with the hashtag #healthyishappy. And don’t worry, not all of them are centered around exercise. One task was to write five things you’re grateful for, and another was to meditate for 10 minutes. It’s all about focusing on your health – mental and physical.

Are there any interesting challenges you’re participating in this year? Share them in the comments and on all the social media channels with the hashtag #newyearchallenge. You can connect with me by clicking on any of the social media buttons at the top of my blog.

Weekly Wishes

orange

Last week, I shared my goals for the year, and pretty much the future. This time around, I’m scaling back down a little and just focusing on my weekly goals. While it’s good to have a broad idea of what you want to achieve, you still need to work on the small steps in order to get there. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my Weekly Wishes, so I’m starting fresh. That’s what new years are for anyway, right?

This week’s goals:

Blog: Write at least one post a day, e-mail people for possible profiles, post on social media daily // I’m starting to get my routine down. It’s easiest for me to write the post the night before and then edit and add the photos in the morning. It gives me a chance to think over the post and come back to it fresh in the morning. And I might poke into social media a little here and there during the day but it’s easiest for me to do it after the baby is asleep.

Business: List Kandyce’s items and create our Facebook page // We have a lot of items listed in our Sweet Mariposa shop, but I haven’t done a whole lot of marketing for it, and Facebook/Twitter will help out a ton with that.

Health: Start the yoga challenge with the lovely Erin Motz (I’ll be 5 days late, but what the heck) and keep all of our meals whole and clean // I think I can squeeze in a yoga practice in the morning before Cecilia wakes or save it for when she naps or goes down for the night. Depending on everyone’s schedule. I need to find at least 30 minutes in the day for some yoga love, though.

Freelance: Write my Handmadeology article, and start my article for Childhood Magazine // Super excited to be writing for both and I can’t wait to see what comes from both opportunities!

I absolutely love sharing my goals for the week, almost as much as I enjoy actually knocking them off my list! These are all achievable – which I think is key. If you want to join the Weekly Wishes link-up, visit The Nectar Collective and add your post there. You can also post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google + with the hashtag #weeklywishes. Find more inspiration on my Pinterest!

Weekly Wishes: New Years Edition

IMG_1040 copy

I have given a lot of thought of what I want to accomplish next year. Goals I have made for myself, for my blog and for my two businesses. While I would love to blog and make stuff just for the pure fun of it, mama needs some money! And after applying to 20+ work-from-home jobs in the last couple weeks, I have determined that the only way I will make money is if I do it myself.

I figured this post would be the perfect way for me to share my goals and manifesto for 2014. I will be writing a health and business manifesto later this week, but this is my jump-start. This will cover all aspects of my life.

Goals for 2014:

  • Make at least $1,000/month
  • Make all of my food from scratch, eat clean. Get an awesome garden going
  • Learn to sew like a badass
  • Learn to knit on my own
  • Learn to screen print like a badass
  • Make a ton of candles
  • Start making my own graphics

How I will do it:

  • Start working on my projects and selling what I can. Work on getting sponsors on my blog and kick Baby Burrito Collective into high gear
  • Grocery shopping once a week and visiting farmers markets as often as I can. Make all the big stuff on Sundays and use it throughout the week. If I do eat out, choose food that is as clean as it gets. I have noticed how slumpy I get after eating poorly, and I don’t like it! I also need to work out and practice yoga at least one hour per day. Plant my garden before school starts so I can get all the hard work done before my life is dedicated to my homework.
  • Right now, I have so many sewing projects…that will the perfect way to start sewing! Then, I can do knitting, screen printing and candle making as the projects arise.
  • Work on one graphic/illustration per week. Tweak it until I love it. Then add it to my portfolio and start building on that.

So, my manifesto for this year is summed up in one word: DO. Stop thinking about everything I want and need to do, and just DO. Let go of anything that is holding me back from achieving my goals and just DO them. I will either succeed or fail, and that is all dependent on me.

What are your goals for 2014? Do you write them in a journal and keep them to yourself or do you share them? If you choose to post your goals online, please share the link in the comments and if you’re social, share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google +. You can connect with the Weekly Wishes link-up on The Nectar Collective.