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: Melissa Camilleri of Compliment (Giveaway included!)

Meet the Maker MelissaI met Melissa Camilleri – a fellow Sacramento native – through Instagram (I’m telling you, I love that app) when I was organizing a fundraiser. I asked her to vend at the event but she couldn’t attend, so she donated a beautiful pair of earrings. Though the fundraiser didn’t work out, we kept in contact and since she her business and philanthropic spirit are so inspiring, I wanted to share her story with you.

Melissa started Compliment – her stationery and jewelry line that is just as precious as the words that are written on each and every package – when she was a high school English and AVID teacher. She had been making jewelry since she was in elementary school and when one of her students asked her to make ring to match her Homecoming dress, Melissa realized that people were digging her stuff.

Compliment was officially founded over the Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, and since then she was taken the leap into full small business ownership.

Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

I love your story and how you got started with Compliment. Do you feel like your writing plays a big part in your business?

Writing plays a huge part in what I do.  I never set out to be a jewelry designer.  I just kind of went with where I was called.  My road has been a winding one, but each stage has definitely informed the next.  So although I went to grad school for writing to publish for magazines, and write a book, I’m finding that it’s still a HUGE part of my marketing for my business to be blogging right now.  I’m going to write a book someday, though. 🙂

How would you describe Sacramento in terms of a small business owner? Do you feel it’s a good city for your business to thrive in?

Sacramento is on the verge of so many cool things.  I think there are a lot of young people here who want to see their hometown thrive and support local growth.  Old neighborhoods are being revitalized and there is a definite sense of community here among artisans and people who believe in shopping local to support their community.  

I feel like Compliment is definitely able to thrive here.  I have a lot of local customers who stop by my studio and that I’ve met while having a booth at an event.  There’s a nice momentum.

Can you tell me more about the Scholarship Fund? When, how and why did you start it? How do you hope it will better the community?
YES!  This is where my heart is.  I started Compliment when I was still teaching full time as a high school English and AVID teacher.  I thought it would be a fun, artistic way to help some of my most needy students out who had so much potential but not the means to go to college.  I believe education is the only way to break the generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.  So whatever I can do to help facilitate that for young people with a dream, but with little other support?
 
My scholarship has, for the last two years, been donations out of my own pocket.  We’ve been able to give over $1000, which is an amazing blessing for me to even say.  As my company grows, the scholarship grows.  This October, we are having our first ever benefit dinner and dance at Silverado Design Center and I get giddy just thinking about how much more we will be able to give because of it!
 
Melissa with this year's scholarship winners. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Melissa with this year’s scholarship winners. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

What is the Soul Care Series about?
Because my natural inclination is to teach, I wanted my blog to be of service to my readers.  I noticed that there were some pretty amazing women around me doing some pretty amazing things in the world, living whole-hearted lives, and learning how to take care of themselves.  I started the Soul Care Series because I wanted to talk to women I admire and by whom I’m inspired.  And I like to share!  Thus, the Soul Care Series was born!
 
How do you feel about the philanthropy in Sacramento? Do you feel it could use some more? What are some of your favorite Organizations?
I think there is some amazing philanthropy happening in Sacramento, but YES there could definitely be more.  Having worked in the schools so long, I know that so many kids go without.  So many teachers are spending out of their own pockets to help get kids through their formative years.  So I’m always excited about those organizations–ones that help kids rise up and make good choices with their lives and learn to be civically engaged.  
 
Why do you think it’s good to donate and be a part of the giving?
A close friend just reminded me of this Roberto Clemente quote today:  “If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth.
 
I agree with that sentiment.  I feel like I am blessed in many ways.  What good is it if I keep those blessings to myself?  Joy multiplies when it is shared.  I was raised that way– if you can be of service, do that.  It’s the whole basis of my company.
 
Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed (PS – the blue ones are offered in a giveaway today!)

How do you hope to empower young women with an entrepreneurial spirit?
I employ young women to learn the behind-the-scenes of running a small business.  Like I said before, it’s in my nature to teach, so I see my business as an extension of that even though it’s out of the classroom now.  
 
What do you enjoy doing on your downtime?
People are often surprised that even though I’m social and I’m comfortable talking in front of people,  I’m very introverted, so I like to be quiet during my downtime!  I like to read, go for walks, meditate, try out new restaurants with my friends.  Hang out with my family.  Float in the pool when the weather allows it.  
 
What do you have planned for the future?
Oh gosh… During these past two years, if I’ve learned anything it is that even if I make plans, often God has other ideas of where I’m headed.  Compliment was never “planned,” and come to think of it, anything that I’ve actually planned out, has just been a stepping stone, not the be-all, end-all.  So I guess my plans are to stay open to this wonderful, exciting, abundant journey, wherever it may lead.
 
Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

Favorite places you frequent in Sacramento?
I live pretty close to McKinley Park, which I LOVE.  So I like to head there to walk.  I also love seeing live music at Harlow’s and Marilyn’s on K.  And I’m a big fat sucker for the burgers at The Hideaway in Curtis Park.  Oh and I go to Cafe Bernardo probably like once a week.  That mushroom salad is off the hook (and I never even liked mushrooms!)
 
Melissa is so awesome that she agreed to do a Giveaway for the pair of gratitude earrings (valued at $32) that she originally donated to the fundraiser! In order to enter, leave a compliment for Melissa on the post in the comment section or through any of my social media sites!
 
unnamed 2You can find out more about Melissa and Compliment by visiting the website and you can click here to donate to her scholarship foundation. Know someone who would be a perfect fit for this series? Leave a comment and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + 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!

Meet the Maker: Stacie Grissom

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Meet Stacie Grissom, 25, from New York City. She runs Stars for Streetlights, which also happens to be one of the very first blogs that I fell in love with when I got more involved with crafting and blogging last year. I have been following her for over a year now, and she never ceases to amaze me with all the cool stuff she is working on!

An Indiana girl at heart, Stacie moved to the big city over a year ago, after dreaming about the move throughout high school and college. She got a job at a start-up company called The BarkPost, and decided there was nothing holding her back from following her dreams.

“The fast pace, the hard work, the energy— there’s such a magical pull to this city.”

A testimony to the power of social media, Stacie found her job through Twitter. A friend of hers sent her a tweet that said “Looking for a job in New York? Must love dogs.” Her love of dogs and journalism got her the position of running The BarkPost for a dog-centric company BarkBox. She was the third employee at the company.

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

“It’s pretty cool to be with folks from the beginning and help work + build everything from scratch.”

Not only does Stacie love to write, she has also been a major fan of photography since she was a kid – using her mom’s film camera to capture photos of her dolls and pets (perhaps a little foreshadowing there). She then saved up her money and purchased her first DLSR in 2009 and got really into analogue photography after throwing herself into photography books.

It was around the same time that she started her blog, out of boredom from working her summer job as a lifeguard. With her blog, Stacie is able to combine her love for writing, photography and design. Her love for design stemmed from playing around with programs on her computer, and she agrees that design and writing are very much related.

From her first post. Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

From her first post. Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

“You have to get many things across with a few words or images. The principles can be the same across both platforms.

Her blog also allows her to express her love for DIY fashion and crafting, something she has been doing since she was a kid. Her mom gave her a sewing machine when she was at the ripe age of six and living in Indiana, she was in the 4-H club for 10 years.

“Those things definitely make you into a lifelong crafter.”

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Stacie fits crafting in every day and is always working on something. She finds inspiration from books like Mark Montano’s  Big Ass Books of Crafts and the “Altered Couture” magazines from Stampington Co. and craft blogs like A Beautiful Mess, Craftgawker, Photojojo.

She also finds inspiration from walking around museums and being outside. Recently, she collected a bunch of rocks from every place she visited on a trip to the UK with her boyfriend, and she plans on making a statement necklace from her collection.

“If I’m not doing something with photos or blogging, then I am sewing or painting or Mod Podging.”

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

A glimpse at her apartment will show that she also has a serious passion for vintage items and last year, she wrote a post about all of her favorite antique shops and thrift stores from back home. Now in New York, she loves shopping at Beacon’s Closet in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

An ode to both her past and present, she describes her personal style as “crafty, eclectic, earthy with a bit of glitter”  and says that while she loves both New York and Indiana, she needs the fast pace of New York to push her.

Stacie not only shares craft tutorials, interior decor tips and thrifting tips on her blog, she also shares tips for beginner photographers.

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

Image belongs to Stacie Grissom

“If I can help someone with a project in any way, I think that’s pretty cool.

Stacie would like to work on a craft book down the road, but right now she’s happy with writing at The BarkPost during the day and creating at night. Next, she hopes to learn more about sodering jewelry.

“I’m happy to work on my blog at night and create stuff all the time”

You can connect with Stacie through her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you would like to participate in the Meet the Maker series, please post in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #meethemaker or tag me in the post! You can find more Maker inspiration on my Pinterest!

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

Feeling all fancy with my first order at my Mariposa Blossoms Etsy store (yes, I’m still bragging about it), I was thinking about what kind of gift wrap I should wrap it with. I want to maintain this DIY/homemade theme, so I looked around the craft room/baby room to see what I can find.

And what I found was my big ol stack of newspapers and magazines that I have acquired over the last year or so. I’ve asked my mom to save her magazines for a long time and while she’s been diligent about doing so, I have not been so diligent about using them.

In fact, when we did our last move, my boyfriend informed me that he would not help move the two boxes of magazines I had packed. He would not put them in Storage and he definitely would not move them into our new digs. He allowed me one box, and I even had to fight for that. I can’t blame him though. I’m known for hoarding all sorts of “crafting material” and never using it, then complaining about how cluttered everything is.

Alas, I ended up donating the majority of the magazines and then promising myself I would never do it again. Then we moved in with his dad, who gets the daily paper. Not being able to throw the paper away when it was no longer needed, I started storing it. Cringing every time I look at it, I need to start doing something with it. Which is where the gift wrap idea comes into play!

Here are some neat ways to reuse magazines and newspapers as gift wrap:

Image belongs to Redfly Creations

Image belongs to Redfly Creations

Magazine Gift Bag Tutorial from Redfly Creations – Melissa, who runs the blog, is a mom of three and she offers a lot of tutorials, recipes and printables on her site. I actually found her site from a Mason Jar repin on Pinterest, and landed on the gift bag tutorial, which inspired today’s post. She also has a tutorial on DIY photo shoots, which I love! Not sure Sam will love that idea, but that is just par for the course.

Image belongs to The Gunny Sack

Image belongs to The Gunny Sack

Magazine Gift Bags Tutorial from The Gunny Sack – And if you are handy with the sewing machine (which I am not…yet), here is a tutorial from The Gunny Sack. I have featured her DIY Mason Jar tutorial on a previous Thrifty Thursdays, so obviously I really like her site. She is full of tutorials, recipes and help with photography, so check her out!

Image belongs to Junk Mail Gems

Image belongs to Junk Mail Gems

Gift bags out of Junk Mail from Junk Mail Gems – This is the first time I’ve visited this site, and I think it’s kind of amazing. It’s true to it’s name and offers a whole lot of projects that use, well…junk mail. If you have an address, you know you get junk mail, so why not put it to good use! I normally just give all my junk mail to Cecilia to destroy, but this might be a little more handy.

Image belongs to Easy Homestead

Image belongs to Easy Homestead

DIY Newspaper Gift Wrap from Easy Homestead – Ok, so I followed the link to find the original tutorial, but apparently the website is no longer. But, I did find Easy Homestead on Facebook where they share a lot of tutorials and fun ideas for reusing and upcycling stuff.

Image belongs to Two Shades of Pink

Image belongs to Two Shades of Pink

Gift Wrap Ideas from Two Shades of Pink – And finally, to top off your DIY newspaper-wrapped gift, a newspaper flower! This was part of a gift wrap series that Jessica, the author of the blog, featured on her site. Her website is all about celebrating…celebrations, and is definitely worth checking out. I think I’ll be returning to this site when I’m planning the little one’s first birthday.

I can’t believe I’m already thinking about her first birthday.

Do you know of an innovative way to wrap your gifts in newspaper and magazine clippings? Share here in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #diygiftwrap. Find more of my DIY newspaper and magazine gift wrap inspiration on Pinterest!