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!

Yo Momma Monday: Alison Butler

yo momma monday

IMG_0509Meet Alison Butler, 31, from Newfoundland, Canada. She is a beautiful mama who recently launched her shop The Petit Cadeau, which is centered around celebrating and creating traditions. She creates handmade heirloom celebration countdown calendars for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries and other special occasions. She loves to create and support handmade, and is usually happiest with a cup of tea and a book.

Alison cultivated her love for creating thoughtful gifts since she was a child and made homemade gifts or cards for her family, something that she says was fostered and encouraged by her mom. She took creative extra-curricular classes, such as art, pottery and cartooning but never took art in high school, something she still regrets.

“As an adult, it’s my “escape” – I love to make things, it calms my mind and body.”

As a mother to a  2 1/2 year old who works a full-time job aside from creating, she admits that she is constantly trying to find a balance, and that nothing ever really feels normal. (I second that notion). She usually spends a few hours each night creating and blogging, after her daughter falls asleep and tries  not to schedule anything on the weekend so her family can enjoy each other.

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Alison credits motherhood for her inspiration to create things for children and to give more thought about the way she does things – like keeping celebrations simple and thoughtful. Most importantly, being a mom has taught her to slow down.

“Everywhere I look, I see parents trying to do everything bigger and better. It seems to stress most people out.,” she says. “Why is it really necessary?  It’s not. My message is always – they won’t remember the gift (most of the time) It’s the memories and experiences that are important.  I want my daughter to remember feeling special.”

It was this idea that prompted her thoughtful gifting manifesto, a beautifully and thoughtfully written post about why she buys handmade, and/or from local businesses. Never a last-minute shopper, she keeps a birthday book and starts planning and preparing well in advance, thinking about what that person would really love.

She also started Thoughtful Celebrations, a monthly e-mail newsletter that focuses on just that – planning thoughtful celebrations. Recipients are privy to recipes and tips for throwing parties and different handmade shops to support. They also get special coupons and previews to new projects she’s working on.

celebration-bags-2

“I think I have a lot of internal drive to keep working at something I love, even when some days don’t involve anything creative and lot’s of the time I feel completely exhausted.  I’m building something that makes me happy and joyful.”

After a Twitter chat with Oh My Handmade – the amazing handmade community that she belongs to – she wanted to do something fun to promote handmade busineeses. Since she also happened to be training for the NYC 2012 Marathon, and decided to name her series The Handmade Marathon. She selected 26 handmade business participants, one for each mile of a marathon. The marathon was subsequently cancelled, but since the series became so popular, she decided to keep it going.

“I feature one handmade business per month, and changed my interview questions to reflect the direction my blog is heading.”

Alison gets a lot of her inspiration from beautiful magazines and all of her favorite blogs. She reads Oh My Handmade daily and also loves Susannah Conway and Alisa Burke. One of her favorite shops is Herriott Grace – a father and daughter team who started selling gorgeous hand-carved wooden objects online five years ago – and Alison is a proud owner for the cloud cookie cutter!

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

The personal touch is Alison’s favorite thing about the handmade community and she loves being able to connect with others through Oh My Handmade and share her interests and passions with like-minded people.

“There is a real THRIVING supportive community around handmade.  It’s wonderful to be a part of that.”

As an only child, Alison says that she embraces quiet and enjoys sitting in coffee shops to sip and read. She unwinds at local yoga classes and is excited about a new studio she just found and she and her husband recently took a chocolate making class. FUN! She also loves to craft in her downtime and loves learning new trades. One craft she hasn’t learned but would love to try is letterpress.

“I haven’t found anywhere locally where I could learn, but it just looks so beautiful and interesting. Knitting is also high up on my “must-learn” list,” she says.  “I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years – most recently bookbinding/making, wool felting and art journaling.  I’ll try almost anything once!”

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Alison says that her favorite thing about running her own business is interacting with new people and collaborating on projects and posts – and she has some great ones in the works in late 2013 and early 2014! She hopes that her blog will inspire people to make small, thoughtful changes. She wants people to feel inspired to make a gift when they might feel like they don’t have the talent and she wants people to start simple family traditions that will last a lifetime.

“Inspired to think about where the money goes and instead of buying five plastic toys, invest in one beautiful  toy – something that’s quality, made by hand.  Most importantly, I want you to feel like my blog is for you, because it is!”

As a mom, Alison works slower on her projects than she did in the past. She’s constantly planning new ideas for the shop and has  several in the works right now and she says she is learning to embrace the newer, slower pace of finishing projects or getting things completed.

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

“My hope for the future is to be able to incorporate creativity more into my everyday life.  I want to continue to slow down, listen, be present and enjoy my family to the fullest.”

You can find more about Alison, her thoughtful gifting manifesto through The Petit Cadeau blog and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you know of an awesome mama who would be a perfect fit for this series, please leave a comment or share the link on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Meet some more amazing mamas on my Pinterest!