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!

Friday Finds: Sacramento Beer Edition

Oak Park is a community in Sacramento that has had its share of downfalls. In the early 1900s, the economy was booming there due to the strong community there and the proximity to the historic California State Fair site. By the 1960s, though, the community started to decline and poverty started to rise as a result of the freeway expansion. Families moved out to the suburbs and by the 80s and 90s, gang violence and street crime were daily occurrences.

So, when my good friend told me she was moving there, I was a little anxious. But as it turns out, the sense of community is coming back. There’s good coffee, good food, good clothes and of course, good beer. Last night, we went to Gather – a street festival in Oak Park – for the first time, and it was evident that Oak Park is definitely back on the rise. The street was lined with food vendors like Thai Basil and clothing vendors like Ana Apple, a local business I have followed for some time, and a craft beer selection that was curated by Beers in Sacramento.

Image from Beers in Sac

Image from Beers in Sac

I’m a little sad that I learned about Beers in Sacramento when I was well into my second pregnancy, but now that I think about it – that’s probably a good thing. It’s a relatively new app that serves as a guide to where craft beers are served around Sacramento. Their motto is “We find the beer so you don’t have to.” The app offers an interactive map and up-to-date beer event calendar.

Through their website, I learned of Farm to Glass CA: A short film from Beers in Sacramento that documents the push to bring hops back to CA, since the majority of hops are sourced elsewhere. The film features United Hop Farm – a farm in CA that supplies brewers with local hops

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Image from Oak Park Brewing Company

While at Gather, we saw a few people walking around with Oak Park Brewing Company shirts on. Since Oak Park is such a small community and my friends and I had never seen such a place, we did some research (AKA: went on Facebook) and learned that it’s a new brewery, restaurant and beer garden that is opening in either late September or early October! They are renovating an old building that has been vacant for some time, and it will be a huge boost to both the Oak Park economy and community.

At this point in my life, I don’t drink to party and/or get drunk. I’m a huge craft beer advocate because I simply enjoy drinking good beer. And even though I’m taking a break for a while, I’m really excited to these new additions to the Sacramento craft beer scene.

What’s your favorite brewery in Sacramento? Have anything to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

 

16 weeks already?

I have officially been pregnant for 16 weeks now, and I have a big ol bump to prove it! I’ve heard that you start showing a lot sooner with your second, especially if they are close in age. And boy is that true! I remember being 16 weeks with Cecilia and I barely had a bump, but now it’s out and ready to party. I’m also feeling kicks earlier. Cecilia likes to laugh at me every time I react to them, too.

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I happened to have this dress from when I was pregnant with Cecilia and because I was a little bigger then, it’s wonderfully loose fitting (for the moment), which is perfect for this crazy heat.

Luckily this time around, I don’t have to be fearful of any food (I couldn’t get anywhere close to spinach with Cecilia), and I don’t have any new cravings either. I also don’t worry about every little thing, read every baby book or research every thing I fear online, because for one…I know what’s going on this time and two…I don’t have the time. The only books I’m reading right now are either written by Dr. Seuss, feature a Disney character or are part of a Baby Einstein book set.

Here are some things I’m loving on right now:

  • Frozen yogurt, but that’s not any different than with Cecilia. It’s the only thing I seriously crave. My favorite spots are Big Spoon, Vanilla Bean and there’s a frozen yogurt/cupcake spot in Roseville that I haven’t tried yet, but I’m sure it’s my favorite.
  • Burgers. I’ve never craved a burger before in my life. And for a long time now, I haven’t been a fan of red meat, so if I do get one, it’s either turkey, chicken or veggie. But right now…I want the real deal. Veggie and turkey burgers never sound good anymore. It truly has opened my world to the variety of burgers I can get now. I don’t eat them often, but when I’m craving one, they hit the spot. I love Burgers and Brew and Habit the best for said cravings.
  • Fresh fruit. Again, not something new. I’ve always loved fruit. But now I crave it more than anything and it always has to be on standby, namely strawberries, blueberries, bananas and nectarines. And with all the unhealthy cravings I have right now, it’s probably not a bad thing. And luckily I live in Sacramento, so I am surrounded by fresh fruit stands and Farmers Markets, like the huge one downtown on 8th and W on Sundays, the Tuesday Farmers Markets at the Fountains in Roseville, and of course – Denios on Sundays!
  • Loose fitting dresses and skirts. It’s too damn hot to wear jeans, and shorts can get uncomfortable so I have been sticking with dresses and skirts that I had in my closet, or have picked up at the thrift stores. They are perfect for your belly to grow in, and still work after pregnancy. I’m also lucky to have a mom who sews, and she’s been working on a skirt and dress for me!
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Can’t stop, won’t stop

So excited that the next time I post a pregnancy update, I will know the baby’s gender – and name!

Thank you for joining me on my pregnancy adventure and be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest for updates, inspiration and more!

On to the second trimester!

When I woke up in the morning on Friday, it felt like it does on my birthday. You know that you are a year older, but yet everything still feels the same. Although I knew that Friday marked the first day of my second trimester, that all the fear and anxiety that came with the first trimester was now over, I still felt the same. I still felt nauseous when I woke up, I still couldn’t stand the smell of certain food and I still just craved a bagel and fresh fruit over anything else.

We all expect the second trimester to be this magical time in our pregnancy when all the all-day sickness and exhaustion comes to an end, and we will wake up every morning feeling like rock stars, ready to take on the day. So many of us say “oh, I can’t wait for the first trimester to be over, to be back to normal.” But we’re still making a baby, our body is still going through all whacky changes, whether or not we have been down this path before.

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Not the greatest proof of my bump because of how that skirt fits, but I promise it’s there!

With all that said, there is a sense of freedom that comes with the completion of the first trimester. Since so much can happen during those first twelve weeks, it just feels more real when you’ve made it through that, for me at least. Some people don’t even announce their pregnancies until after the first trimester. Which would have been hard for me, since my bump came earlier than that anyway.

I guess it’s time to drag out all those bags of maternity clothes I was so happy to put away last year.

There has also been a sort of “coming of age” moment for my daughter, as well. Since her crib will be going to the new little one, we were lucky enough to get a toddler bed from my stepsister. I’ll post a picture when it’s out of the garage, but it’s white wood, and is just like the one I was looking at online. I can already see the faucets that will be pouring out of each of my eyes, when I take down her crib and put up her bed. I can also see all the bets that will be made on how many times she will get out of her bed and will mosey in to our room. I’m just thanking my lucky stars that we don’t have stairs.

Still isn’t eating solid food though, so I guess she isn’t growing up too fast.

Are you going through any changes in your life? If you happen to be pregnant, how is your pregnancy going for you so far? Share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Thrifty Thursdays: Repurposed cabinet doors

IMG_2440I haven’t worked on any restoration projects in a while, and I was starting to get in a slump. So I was excited to learn that my generous stepsister (who gifted me the barn windows I worked with earlier) had some cabinet doors and old frames that she wasn’t going to use. After I find out what I can and can’t paint with during my pregnancy, I’m excited to get to work on them!

I searched for some projects on Pinterest to get some inspiration, and I found a couple of really cool tutorials!

Photo belongs to Autie from iCandy

Photo from Autie at iCandy

First, there is this repurposed cabinet door art table for the kiddos, which I love. I don’t think it will work for the cabinets I have, but it’s definitely something I want to try in the future! The tutorial is written by Autie from iCandy on U Create, and it’s complete with instructions and photos!

Photo from The Elli Blog

Photo from The Elli Blog

Sometimes I think I’m over all the chalkboard stuff, but then I find beautiful designs like this, and I decide that I love it all over again. I’ve seen cabinet doors turned into chalkboards before, but I really just like how nice it looks when it’s done. I wanted to put up a little chalkboard in the corner by our dinner table and this would be perfect! The entire tutorial with photos is written by Lia on The Elli Blog, a beautiful blog that focuses on weddings but also has tutorials for everyday living!

Photo from DIY Inspired

Photo from DIY Inspired

And finally, a beautiful jewelry organizer from Dinah on DIY Inspired. Now, I don’t wear jewelry a lot. I don’t go out very often, and the my daughter broke the necklace that my boyfriend got me literally days after I got it. But I do have a lot of jewelry (and not all of it is costume) and when I do go out, I like to get all gussied up since it probably won’t happen again for another year. So this repurposed cabinet door would be nice to put up in our room or bathroom!

Have you restored a cabinet door and want to share your project? Did you follow one of these tutorials and want to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest! I’m always up for new ideas and inspiration so share em if you got em!

Stay thrifty, my friends.