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!

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdaysOf all the media I have worked with before, burlap is not one of them. However, I find myself constantly pinning DIY burlap ideas on Pinterest, so something must be cooking in my head! I’ve found some pretty cool projects, and I wanted to share them with you.

Image belongs to Happy Together

Image belongs to Happy Together

Burlap Canvas DIY from Happy Together – Jessica Fediw is a mom of two who shares her crafting tutorials on her blog, Happy Together. One tutorial she shares is this burlap canvas that she painted on. You can also find plenty of sewing tutorials, and also a tutorial on a coffee table makeover. I can’t wait until we get our house so I can try out all of those fun tutorials that you do on furniture. I don’t think Sam’s dad would be too happy if I tried them out on his furniture, unfortunately.

Image belongs to Blue Robin Cottage

Image belongs to Blue Robin Cottage

Choose Your Love, Love Your Choice from Blue Robin Cottage – The reason I love this project so much is that it involves so many different crafts. There’s embroidery, stamping and of course…the art of attaching the muslin to the burlap and so on. Sierra is another mama who shares a lot of crafting projects on her blog, including a cloud pillow and a fox tote.

Image belongs to Maiden Jane

Image belongs to Maiden Jane

Make a Unique Coffee Bag Apron from Maiden Jane – I am so in love with this coffee bag apron! I’m really interested in making aprons…once I get that sewing thing down. She also shares a coffee bag rug tutorial and a tutorial on turning your dress into a sassy apron! Now, where do I find coffee bags? Oh, here.

Have a favorite burlap project you want to share? Or, did you make something from one of these tutorials and you want to show it off? Post in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #burlapcrafts. You can also find more of my burlap inspiration on Pinterest. If you have an idea you want to see on Thrifty Thursdays, just let me know! Stay thrifty, friends!

Yo Momma Monday: Annalise Sandberg

yo momma monday

Every time I bake something new, I think “dang…I could probably be a baker.” Then I see what other people are working with, and I realize every single time that I still have a long ways to go. I spend a lot of time looking at dessert recipes for inspiration, and what I don’t see a lot of are baking tools and tips.

Then I found Completely Delicious a while back when I wrote a Weekly Treat post featuring grapefruit recipes. I found Annalise’s pink grapefruit cupcakes and my heart sang a little tune. But she offers a little something more than recipes, she also shares baking tools and baking tips – like, how flour is used in baking. I mean, I know I need to use it every time I bake, but I couldn’t really tell you why.

I loved everything she had to share, so I hunted her down to find out more.

Family Photo small

Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

 

What was the first cookbook you bought?
My mom gave me my first cookbook, a Betty Crocker cookbook, when I left for college. I used it exclusively for years. I think the first one I purchased was baking cookbook on clearance at Barnes and Noble.
Where are you favorite places to purchase cookbooks?
I usually do most of my book shopping online through Amazon.

Do you remember your first baking experience? If so, what did you make and how did it turn out?
I was 8 and I baked chocolate chip cookies all by myself. I was so excited when they were done that I forgot to put oven mitts on before pulling them out of the oven. Ouch!
IMG_2966
What is your favorite thing to make?
I love to bake and assemble layer cakes.

What do you get the most requests for?
My brown butter chocolate chip cookies, they’re a family favorite!
What made you decide to start a blog?
I was very inspired by other baking blogs like Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker, and so I decided to start my own.
Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

Does your son help you bake?
He’s a little young to really do much helping with anything other than eating (which he loves to do). I look forward to baking with him in the future.
You have a lot of baking tips on your page (which I love), why did you decide to share all of this?
It’s not just about following a recipe, it’s knowing how and why recipes work that leads to the most success in baking. My goal is to share what I know with others with the hope that my readers will bake a better cake or tastier cookie.
What are your other passions?
When I’m not in the kitchen, I love to spend time outdoors hiking, camping, and swimming.
Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

How often do you bake?
I bake several times a week. I’d like to bake daily but our small family can’t keep up with all the goodies!

What do you like to do on your down time?
I love to curl up with a good book, movie, or TV series on Netflix.

What projects are you working on, any cookbooks coming out?
No big project on the horizon right now. My focus is on continuing to share great recipes and providing more baking tips.
Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

Image belongs to Annalise Sandberg

Connect with Annalise on Facebook and Twitter for more recipes and baking inspiration! If you know of any cool moms (yourself included) who would be awesome for this, please feel free to leave a brief description and contact info in the comments, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #yomommamonday You can also email me at mamabecrafty@gmail.com. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest. It has been so amazing getting to know all of these inspirational and rad mommas!

Yo Momma Monday: Amy Christie

yo momma monday

Amy Christie, 31, is the wonderful mind behind the this heart of mine blog. She has two adorable kids, and when she’s not busy taking care of them, she makes all sorts of good stuff, from yummy food like the strawberry shortcake from scratch that I featured in the weekly treat, to beautiful polymer works of art.

Image belongs to Amy Christie

Image belongs to Amy Christie

Anytime I see a mom who is able to do her artwork from home while raising her children, I have to find out how they do it. So I contacted her to find out more about her and her life, and this is what she had to say.

Describe a typical day.

The house wakes up. It’s breakfast time and I try to sneak in some emailing too. The morning is filled with lots of different things – playing, outdoor activities, beach play, creating, prepping posts, project creation, etc. We have lunch (and on beach days, we eat at the beach!). Our afternoons are usually spent at home, stilling playing and creating with a nap thrown in here and there. My husband gets home and we have dinner. Then it is the bath time/bedtime rush. When the children are in bed, I finish up posts, edit photos and brainstorm. I usually go to bed late which makes the morning come too quickly. 🙂

Family-Photos-9

Image belongs to Amy Christie

When did you start crafting?

I grew up in a creative household, my mom encouraged lots of creative activity.

What was the first craft project that you did, and how did it turn out?

Probably something for my cardboard Barbie house.

What about baking/cooking?

I love baking and cooking. Again, I grew up on homemade food and continue that in my own home.

What is the one treat that you always get asked to make?

Nothing specific. Home-cooked food is very appreciated though, desserts especially.

Image belongs to Amy Christie

Image belongs to Amy Christie

How often do you spend each week on crafting and baking?

Not sure, I don’t keep track, but probably a good chunk of my time since we have to eat every day and my job is to create content. 🙂

What is the most challenging thing about balancing work and play with your kids?

The most challenging part is the balancing – how to get everything done, get everyone’s needs met all while trying to take care of myself. It’s a daily battle.

What projects are you currently working on?

Lots of things!! Recipes to share, projects and DIYs to post and we have a few house projects going on as well. Lots to do.

How did you get into photography?

I’ve always appreciated it. My mom had a 35mm when I was growing up and we talked about the points of good photos. I bought my own 35mm when I graduated high school and after my daughter was born, got my first DSLR. I am self taught but I learned how to take photos the way I want them to look and I like that.

What is the favorite craft that you’ve done?

There are so many!! Recently I finished pallet shelves for my work space and I’m fairly enamored with them right now.

Image belongs to Amy Christie

Image belongs to Amy Christie

What is the best and most challenging part of being a mom of two?

The busyness and noise. There is always something happening and it’s usually at top volume.

What inspires/motivates you?

Making is what I do, it’s how I’m wired. I don’t feel complete if I don’t get to create. I stay inspired by taking time to brainstorm, getting outside, away from my desk and doing projects that are just for me. It’s hard. Sometimes I feel tapped out but if I step away, I come back inspired.

What is your favorite piece of decor in your home and why? Any pictures of it that you want to share?

Like I mentioned above, the pallet shelves I just finished are my current favorite. They were fun to make and an experiment that what I envisioned was possible. Here’s the link to their reveal. http://www.thisheartofmineblog.com/2013/07/22/work-space-update-new-pallet-shelves/

Image belongs to Amy Christie

Image belongs to Amy Christie

Favorite room in the house and why

I like our kitchen/living/dining area. Lots of things happen in that space. It’s where our little family hangs out at the end of the day, it’s where our friends gather and good food is shared plus our couch is really comfy.

What book are you reading right now? Ever thought of doing an online book club?

No online book club but I’m reading a handful right now. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, The Host by Stephanie Meyer and The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely.

Where do you hope to see your art and blog go next? What are your plans for the future?

Like most businesses, I want to grow and expand. I have steps in mind, hopes and dreams and I’m excited for the adventure. I feel so blessed to be able to create for a living.

You can find out more about Amy Christie, her recipes, and her art at this heart of mine. If you know of any cool moms (yourself included) who would be awesome for this, please feel free to leave a brief description and contact info in the comments. You can also email me at mamabecrafty@gmail.com. It has been so amazing getting to know all of these inspirational and rad mommas!