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!

The Living Situation: Kitchen Storage

Living Situation Kitchen StorageWhile we’re working on building our little farmhouse kitchen, I try to add pieces here and there that work in our kitchen now and still give that vintage farmhouse vibe. For me, the easiest way to do that is through storage. I got a set of three metal containers for flour, sugar and tea at a flea market, and have since added sealed glass containers for all of my baking stuff. These small pieces make the kitchen feel like my own and give it a clean yet cozy feel.

storage 1 storage 2Here are some other storage items that I hope to include soon:

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski / Sweet Paul

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski / Sweet Paul

Right now, I have a big jar holding all of my utensils. The only issue is that the mouth is not big enough to hold everything, so I keep the utensils I use daily in it, and then throw everything else in jar, where it all gets lost and if I’m not careful, smashed. I love the idea of organizing my utensils in different sized tin cans – something everyone has. You can find out more about this project by visiting Sweet Paul.

Photo Credit: Unsophisticook

Photo Credit: Unsophisticook

The “food prep” counter is getting cluttered with storing our fruit, veggies, bread, sweets and spices, and since we have basically zero space on our walls, all of the cute hanging spice racks I see just won’t work in our kitchen. I do, however, have a spare drawer that could easily fit our spices in. I love this idea from Unsophisticook of using baby food jars, chalk paint and a chalk pen to label each jar.

Photo Credit: Diana/ Our Vintage Home Love

Photo Credit: Diana/ Our Vintage Home Love

See that ladder pot rack? Yeah, that’s my dream right there. My aunt has a gorgeous metal pot rack that just happened to come with her house. Whatever. And every time I tell my boyfriend I need one, he just laughs it off. Because he seriously has zero time for any home projects. I get it. But this. This I could do on my own. You can see a tour of this beautiful kitchen from Our Vintage Home Love on Eclectically Vintage, you can find out how to build your own ladder on Our Vintage Home Love and if you already have a ladder, you can get the tutorial on Womans Day. Got it?

Photo Credit: Yvonne / The Yvestown Blog

Photo Credit: Yvonne / The Yvestown Blog

The one place I do have wall space is by our dining room table, and I have a cabinet that would be PERFECT there! Just need to make sure it’s something I can hang. I love how this cabinet from The Yvestown Blog is styled. I was just introduced to this blog from a roundup on Arcadian Home, and I just love it. She has so many beautiful DIY and knitting tutorials and it’s just a really gorgeous site to look at.

I can’t wait to start adding these items to our kitchen! What are your favorite kitchen storage staples? Share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

I want a farmhouse kitchen. Now.

Living SituationBefore we even made a bid on the house we are living in, we were already scouring the world wide web for ideas on how we wanted our dream house to look. To be honest, I was already pinning home ideas long before I knew we would be buying a house. Luckily, we agreed on pretty much everything we looked at and the biggest thing we had in common is that we wanted a vintage farmhouse kitchen. Like everyone else in the world, it seems.

From the white subway tile to the butcher block counters and large farmhouse sink. From the open shelving to the mint cabinets. It all just feels so comfortable and lived in. That’s what I want. I don’t want a kitchen where I would be afraid to make a mess. I don’t need shiny counters, I want counters I can work on. Now that we are finally here and the dream is feeling more real, it’s time to really think about how we want our kitchen to look.

I want to share some of the inspiration I’ve found, and since I’m lucky enough to have so, so, so much to share, I figured I would break it up into categories. Today, I’m sharing general kitchen inspiration – how I want the kitchen to look as a whole. Then I will get more and more specific as the weeks go on. Man, this really makes me want to start demolition today.

2c8b7c6b22ab08b313697d0ced3ed985Ah, the kitchen that started it all. Now, I’m not sure this is technically classified as farmhouse style, but this is what gave me the idea that I wanted a vintage style kitchen. I love the colors and the open shelving. And of course, I’m totally loving on that oven. I would go with a different floor and different bottom cabinets, but it’s still pretty damn dreamy. I’m not sure where this photo came from as it was directly uploaded to Pinterest. So if anybody knows, please fill me in!

Image from Better Homes & Garden

Image from Better Homes & Garden

Just about everything in this cottage kitchen from Better Homes & Garden is just what we want. The subway tile, the cabinet colors, the mix of open and closed cabinets and of course, that gorgeous sink. We’re doing concrete counters with one butcher block counter, but everything else is exactly what we have in mind.

Image from houzz

Image from Shawn St. Peter

Here’s another beautiful kitchen with our color scheme. This 1901 kitchen remodel in Portland was designed by Garrison Hullinger Interior Design and it’s featured on houzz. The coolest thing about this is that if you click on the houzz link, you can get the info on different items in the photo. Like, the paint color used here is Van Alen Green HC-120 by Benjamin Moore. BOOM! It was beautifully done and looks like it could be lived in.

Image from This Old House

Image from This Old House

Something a little different. This warm and bright bungalow kitchen was featured on This Old House and while I can’t stop thinking about how hard it would be to keep all that open shelving clean, I’m just so in love. It’s homey without being too cluttered and I love the simple mixture of colors and vintage accents. And I’ve decided that I’m just destined to have a 1950s O’Keefe and Merritt stove. Just need to find a stove and get it restored – should be easy and pretty inexpensive, right?

I hope you will continue to join me as we work on our little nest. Next week, I’ll be sharing some different cabinet and shelving inspiration. If you have anything to share, please post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest.

Oh, hello again!

I know I have been pretty quiet around here for the last few weeks, but I have some really good news to share! And that will also explain why I haven’t written much lately. We found out last month that we’re expecting again! Cecilia’s little brother or sister will be due in January, and I must admit that the first trimester has been rather rough.

925495_252536484947289_1641411222_nThere are also some other things growing around here! While many of my plants have fallen victim to the triple digit heat around here, my zucchini and tomatoes are still hanging in there! I will need to get some more soil for one of my garden plants, and replace the basil and some of my pepper plants.

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Zucchini buds sprouting!

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Little baby tomatoes!

IMG_2401 IMG_2403Since I’m lucky enough to have a few months off school, I have been lounging around my house and eating when I can, while everything else has sort of been pushed to the side. But dang it – I needed some rest! Now that I’m feeling better, it’s time to get back into my groove while the gettin’s good.

There are some projects that I want to finish before school starts again in August, and I wanted to share them with you so there was some sort of accountability:

  • Finish painting house
  • Fix faucet
  • Fix light fixtures
  • Put faceplates back on all outlets
  • Restore Cecilia’s bookshelf
  • Change window coverings
  • Work on backyard garden – get soil, change out dead plants, fill old planters
  • Work on front yard – pull weeds, change out plants
  • Clean out craft room – move to back house, transform room into nursery
  • Clean and organize Cecilia’s room
  • Paint kitchen table

I realize there’s a lot there, but I’m giving myself (and any nice family and friends I have) two months to get it done. I realize there will be small projects here and there, but I want the major stuff done so I won’t be going crazy during school and the last few months of my pregnancy.

I mean…summer cleaning is a thing, right?

What projects are you working on over this summer? Share your projects and progress in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest! I will be sharing updates on all my projects as I work on them!

Thrifty Thursdays

Today I woke up and realized that I did not write all week. I knew something felt a little funny. It’s a continuous process to get in a routine, and I’m trying again to write at least once a day. So, I’m starting fresh and sharing some cool things I found just surfing my Facebook news feed. All the times I’ve threatened canceling my account, I continue to keep it open because with every negative post I see, there is an explosion of inspiration. I’ve learned to just stay on my page and visit the pages I like than to get caught up in the drama of Facebook. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, today’s Thrifty Thursday post is a little mix of craft, food and skincare. There’s something for everyone!

Photo from The Paper Mama

Photo from The Paper Mama

First, can we all agree that this Macrame Plant Hanger from The Paper Mama is equally as cute as the planter? It only cost Chelsey $5 to make the plant hanger, and she shared her whole tutorial on Better Homes & Gardens. You can also find a tutorial for her planter in her e-book, which I purchased last year, and am totally in love with.

Image from Greatist

Image from Greatist

I love when Greatist posts stuff like 400+ Cheap and Healthy Recipes, because it challenges the preconception that eating healthy has to be expensive. As long as you have some fruit, veggies, protein and grain…you can make some pretty healthy stuff. They have it broken down it the basic categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner, soup and more. I’ve been getting pretty bored of my normal everyday eats, so I love finding new recipes to test.

Photo from Offbeat and Inspired

Photo from Offbeat and Inspired

I always save tutorials and recipes for sugar/salt scrubs, but I have yet to actually make one. What’s up with that? So I’m saving this DIY Citrus Salt Scrub recipe from Offbeat + Inspired in hopes that I’ll actually use it. I got some essential oils for the candle kit that I was obsessed with getting but still haven’t made anything. With it already feeling like the middle of summer outside and spending my days watching my daughter float around in our inflatable pool, my skin has been angry with me. So this might just give it the love it needs.

Photo from Love & Olive Oil

Photo from Love & Olive Oil

And what is more perfect in the summer heat than ice cream?! Especially this Dark Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream recipe from Love & Olive Oil. You will need an ice cream maker to make this, so if you have one already…then check out this recipe. I pretty much love anything with dark chocolate and strawberries in it, so I need to buy an ice cream maker to make this. Not very thrifty, but hey…

IMG_2252And finally, check out this children’s china cabinet I got from the Sacramento Antique Faire on Sunday! It was marked down from $50 to $30 and it just needs a little love before it’s perfect! Cecilia already has a bunch of kitchen trinkets to fill it up with so she can work on her masterpiece while I’m in the kitchen.

Do you have a thrifty tutorial, recipe or purchase you want to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Stay thrifty, my friends.

 

My Healthy Journey

SONY DSCLast Wednesday, something kind of miraculous happened. I set my alarm for 8 am and I actually woke up to it! Didn’t hit the snooze button, no lying in bed listening to my alarm’s rampage – I simply just got up and put my workout clothes on. I jumped on the Wii Fit and was immediately reminded that it had been 183 days since the little Wii dude last saw me. Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m here again…punk.

After it weighed me – and confirmed my suspicions that I gained weight – it was back to the grind. Since then, I’ve gotten up every morning (sometimes a little later than 8 am, not going to lie) and did some sort of exercise before Cecilia rises. She’s a party animal and goes to sleep at midnight and wakes up around 9 or 10 am. And it is kind of nice to have a couple hours of alone time before the beautiful insanity begins.

I worked out a little schedule where I could fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day:

  • Monday: Wii Fit
  • Tues: Bodyweight Exercise
  • Wed: Wii Fit
  • Thurs: Bodyweight
  • Fri: Yoga
  • Sat: Walk around the park with Cecilia
  • Sun: Yard duty (that is truly a workout)

It has felt really good to finally get in a groove and get back in the kitchen. Those couple weeks of fast food and pizza while moving really effected us in a weird way. I’ve been using this workout for my bodyweight days and it totally kicks my butt. I know it’s not completely all bodyweight, but that’s what I’m calling it.

I also downloaded a basic shopping list from The Gracious Pantry and I’m challenging myself to use up all the produce we have here before buying new stuff so nothing goes to waste. I’m also challenging myself to add an extra exercise every week. Since I accomplished 30 minutes a day last week, this week I’m adding 15 minutes of morning yoga.

I have ten pounds until my goal weight. That’s when I’m going to go through all my old clothes one last time to see what I can keep and what I totally need to just let go. Because I have zero plans to get under 130 lbs.

Thank you for hanging out with me while I’m on this journey to good health. I’ll be sharing awesome workouts and recipes I find as I go, and post one last update when I hit my goal. If you are also on a healthy journey and want to compare notes and trade tips, share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest!

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

There is just something about vintage kitchen accessories that just make my heart happy. I’m not even completely certain what it is about them, all I know is that I am a complete nutcase for them. So, when I decided that I wanted to start collecting and restoring old pieces of history, I knew that I would start in the kitchen. After all, it’s where I spend a huge chunk of my time and I actually use most of what I collect.

That is why I am delighted with all of these wonderful finds I got from an Estate Sale this weekend! I was also able to score something for Cecilia’s room, and for my garden. And with everything 75% off, I got it all for $22! So to say I totally scored would be an understatement.

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I’m going to restore the table and keep it in Cecilia’s room to hold her toys. When she’s older and doesn’t destroy everything in site, I’ll use it to display her collectibles. For the kitchen, I got a beautiful vintage Glasbake green daisy casserole dish, a vintage pastry cutter, biscuit cutter and an old rolling pin. I got another cheese grater to add to my ever-growing collection, and my favorite purchase – the vintage salad tongs. Then I got that awesome braided plant holder for the garden!

Cecilia wanted to see what all the fuss was about

Cecilia wanted to see what all the fuss was about

And I finally found a use for that bunch of cilantro that I always buy and use only half!

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I found this Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette recipe on Closet Cooking, and it’s delightful. It had just the right kick to it, and it was not heavy at all. The garlic and lime worked perfectly together, and the jalapeno gave it a little kick! We dressed our salad with it, then decided it needed to go on our tacos, too! It was light and crisp – perfect for this warm weather.

What thrifty treasures did you uncover this week? Share in the comments and on your social media channels! Stay thrifty, my friends.