Meet the Maker: Amy Cluck-McAlister of Amy is the Party

meet the maker amyAmy Cluck-McAlister, whom I met two years ago when she donated some wonderful handmade jewelry to a fundraiser I was organizing, is a creative force to be reckoned with in the Sacramento indie community. She runs Amy is the Party, where she shares party styling ideas, DIY projects and the places and people she loves in Sacramento. She is also the founder of IndieSacramento – an online gathering of local creatives. She also happens to be doing all the behind-the-scenes design work on my new blog platform, which will be launched next week!

Today, I’m so pleased and honored to share a little more about her!

First, tell us a little about yourself!

Hello there, I’m Amy! I am a web designer with a passion for parties, decor, and desserts.

Some might say I was born in the wrong era. I believe in home cooked meals – in thank you cards – in baking from scratch. I strive to be the “hostess with the mostess”. I couldn’t agree more with Julia Child when she said “A party without cake is just a meeting” – although I think it’s perfectly fine to substitute cake with cupcakes or pie (or whatever dessert you find fitting). I also believe in creating memories – special moments of time that your friends and family will carry with them, long after the celebration is over. I believe in celebrating everyday with the little bits of joy that living creatively can bring.

As a blogger, entrepreneur, and web designer, I have been involved with both the online and local crafting community for several years.  A socially awkward socialite, I spend my free time supporting small businesses and events in my hometown of Sacramento, CA. I also enjoy searching for vintage treasures and indulging in the shenanigans of my husband and two cats.

Image Credit: Amy Cluck McCallister. DIY Tassel Necklace and Bohemian Bracelet. Click the photo for the full tutorial.

Image Credit: Amy Cluck McCallister / DIY Tassel Necklace and Bohemian Bracelet / Click the photo for the full tutorial!

How did you get into graphic/web design?

I took a commercial art class in high school. We mostly made posters and learned calligraphy but I knew that I wanted to use my artistic skills for advertising or something along those lines. I took a few graphic design and beginning web classes at American River (Community College) while getting my general ed out of the way. By the time I graduated, I knew I was specifically interested in designing for on-screen (computers). The closest degree program that Sac State offered was Graphic Design so I stuck with that for a year until I saw that a new Multimedia program was being added. I quickly changed majors! The Multimedia program sort of focused on making interactive CDs, which isn’t a really a thing nowadays. It’s hard to predict the direction technology will take us! When you get into something like graphic and web design, you have to be flexible and you have to continually educate yourself on new techniques.

What about entertaining and DIY’ing?

Both my parents and my grandmas on both sides were into DIYing different things. I grew up making handmade Christmas gifts and baking dozens of cookies for the neighbors. I lived for holidays and family get-togethers. I didn’t think about it much, plus I don’t think it was considered cool to be into domestic stuff when I was younger. After graduating college, I started to get back into crafting a bit. Then I started finding all these people online who were into making items that were actually trendy and I felt really inspired. This was about 10 years ago when sites like Craftster and GetCrafty were just starting.  I jumped right in and started making and selling jewelry. I gradually started to gravitate towards party planning since it incorporates all of my loves: baking, dessert styling, decorating, DIY, and graphic design.

What pushed you to start your blog?

Finding other people who were making crafts and selling them really inspired me. It seemed like a lot of those people were starting blogs and I wanted to be a part of it too, not just to show off what I was making but to show off what other people were making as well.

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck-McCallister / DIY Hostess Gift Tags / Click the Photo for the full tutorial

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck-McCallister / DIY Hostess Gift Tags / Click the Photo for the full tutorial!

What is your creative process like?

I come up with ideas, scribble them on post-it notes, lose the post-it notes, forget some of the ideas, and don’t have anywhere near enough time to follow through with all the ideas that I don’t forget about! Occasionally, I actually get to follow through on something. I’m an impatient crafter but I’m also a perfectionist. Sometimes I forget to enjoy the creating process because I’m so excited to get to the end result.

What inspired you to start Indie Sacramento?

A couple national craft shows (Bazaar Bizarre and Renegade) popped up that were different from any craft show I had been to before (“not your gramdma’s craft fair” as they would say). The vendors made trendy items that I would actually wear or display in my home. Both shows were located in San Francisco (as well as other cities) but not Sacramento. I had started networking with local crafters and I knew we had enough local talent to put a show like that on here so I started IndieSacramento.

I felt like IndieSacramento was a pretty successful event, but it was also A LOT of work and a lot of stress. I decided that an online collective of local crafters was the way to go so I quit holding craft shows and choose to expand the website instead. Of course, now I have other ideas of what I’d like to do with the site but there never seems to be enough time!

How do you feel about the creative community in Sacramento?

I’m really proud of how our creative community has grown in recent years. It wasn’t so long ago when we were in need of a venue for “alternative” crafters and artists to sell their goods at. Now we’ve got all kinds of events like the Indie Craft Fair and GOOD, just to name a couple. I’m also really impressed with the amount of networking I’ve noticed among talented individuals in different industries – we’ve got bloggers and crafters, boutique owners, restaurateurs, photographers, event planners, etc. all working together to promote each other to put on awesome events together.

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck - McCallister / Amy's DIY Wedding / Click the photo for the full details

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck – McCallister / Amy’s DIY Wedding / Click the photo for all the details!

Favorite places to get your supplies (craft, party, etc) in town?

Wrapped All Up is a really fun warehouse type place that carries every kind of ribbon or wrapping you could want. The Paper Garden is a great place to get inspiration for paper crafting – plus they also carry some fun washi tapes and baker’s twine that you can’t get anywhere else locally.

If somebody wanted to start working on DIY projects, where would you tell them to go first?

There are so many resources, it’s hard to say! Brit.co is one of my recent favorites because they feature a variety of trendy and easy projects. I would also suggest joining a crafty forum or two. Cut Out + Keep is one of my favorites. You can check out other peoples projects and tutorials, network with people, and upload your own projects.

My husband and I just bought our first home (yay!) so I’m sure amy is the party will start featuring more home decorating projects (just like I started featuring more wedding related content before we got married). I think my blog will always branch out to fit my current interests, as long as it’s still related to entertaining and creative living.

Click the photo for the full DIY

Click the photo for the full DIY!

My plan is for IndieSacramento to include small businesses of all types, not just crafters. It will be kind of a directory for people to shop local and to find unique and fun businesses to support.

You can find out more about Amy and all the awesome things she’s doing at Amy is the Party. Want to be featured in Meet the Maker or know a special someone who should be featured? Leave a comment here and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

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 Creative Business Journey: Resources

My Creative Business Journey

I am cowboy boots – deep in the middle of the transitional part of my journey right now. My blog is still in the redesign process and my friend and I are working on new items for our shop and I’m working on designing a really neat logo and beefing up our marketing. So, while I work on giving my businesses the attention they need, I wanted to share a few resources that are inspiring me right now.

Image from Confident Creatives

Image from Confident Creatives

When I worked at my College newspaper, my favorite type of article to write was a profile on someone. A lot of the other writers didn’t share the same feeling, so I was always assigned profiles – which made me ecstatic, and helped shape the profiles I write on my blog now. I love to hear people’s stories, and share them from my point of view. That being said, I will never write someone’s story for them, if that makes sense. This article on How to Write Your About Story from Confident Creatives is the perfect explanation of why I will not write an “About Me” section for anyone. Nobody can write your story better than you.

Image from Oh My! Handmade!Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade!Goodness

You already know my love for Oh My! Handmade Goodness. Sadly, I had to let my membership go until I am ready to dive in head first again, and it’s just not going to happen right now. But, that does not mean that I’m going to stop engaging in the conversation and reading what the wonderful Jessika Hepburn has to say. This month, she’s starting a new series called Shoots & Roots and she’s asking creative business owners to share their story about cultivating their business, much like gardeners cultivate their business. If you are interested in sharing your experience, there are several topics to choose from. I already have a topic in mind that I’m going to write about!

Image from How to Thrive

Image from How to Thrive

How to Thrive was founded last year and the Organizers Amie and Louisa are friends and business partners who share tips and resources for moms who are starting their own businesses. It looks like their Facebook page was just launched last month and they are still working on their website. You can find a lot of helpful information and motivation by visiting their Facebook and I’m really excited to see all that they will share in the future.

I hope these resources will help you and I would love to see any resources/tips you have. Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Twitter and Pinterest.

Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Schiada

yo momma monday

Stefanie Schiada, 36, is a home design blogger who started the very popular Brooklyn Limestone in the midst of her recent home renovation. She is a world traveler who calls Brooklyn, NY her home and she is mama to a beautiful one-year-old named Agatha Grace.

Stefanie started Brooklyn Limestone to document the renovation of her 100-year-old limestone in – you guessed it – Brooklyn. Now, her blog includes entertaining, design, travel and decor. Since Stefanie does not receive her primary income from her blog or graphic design site (she works in finance), she keeps the blogging to the weekends.

Stefanie admits that she never wanted to add a personal side to her blog. She was simply going to document her renovation, post some photos and hopefully make a photo book out of it when she was done. Two years later, she finally showed her “mug” and more personal details about her and her family.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha's first birthday! Photo taken by Stefanie's brother.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha’s first birthday! Photo by Stefanie’s brother.

Before she moved into this house, she and her husband lived in a much smaller house and did room-by-room renovations. Now, she “just takes a lot more photos.” Stefanie says she has been interested in the DIY process for as long as she can remember.

“I think I’ve always been a little on the cheap side which definitely makes me ask the question “can I do this myself?” and “can I do it better?”.”

Stefanie says she gets her inspiration from all the places she visits, and trips to the home improvement store can also get her creative juices flowing. “Sometimes a pile of wood can really spark the imagination.” She also searches for items that she knows she won’t tire of quickly.

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn't mess around! Photo taken by Stefanie Schiada

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn’t mess around! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“While I always seem to have one project or another going, I don’t really want to have to change things out unless I’m in the mood.”

The experience Stefanie has with being a tourist – mixed with her knowledge and love of her city – has led her to create a downloadable one-day tourist guide for people who are visiting Brooklyn. Now, this was back in 2009 so I’m sure some stuff has changed, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you are going to be visiting.

In fact, she loves her city so much that she had a hard time picking just one thing that she loves the most about it.

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical!

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“If I had to pick a favorite its having the variety of choice here in eating and shopping.”

And in all of her travels, Stefanie says that her safari in Africa stands out from the rest, and says it’s hard to compare it to any other destination. Stefanie has even taken on the daunting task of traveling with her daughter – something I have yet to do.

“I’m a pessimist so the reality is much easier than I imagined.  Obviously so much depends on the temperament of the baby and the parents but we have found that its not that different than spending time with her in a restaurant or any other public place.  The key is just to GO!”

Asam Church in Munich, Germany

Asam Church in Munich, Germany. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

As a new mom, Stefanie wrote a post titled “Things I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home Baby,” and man, could I relate. That post hit so close to home that I felt like I wrote it, and it is actually what pushed me to contact Stefanie about the interview. If you are a new mom, or you have been one before, you should read this. Trust me, you will have yourself a good laugh.

“My advice would be to not be so hard on yourself.  I think our generation of parents put this incredible burden on ourselves about creating the absolute perfect environment for our children (breastfeeding exclusively, organic only diet, educational toys, etc.) that cutting yourself any slack at all (no matter how much you are trying!) feels like a big failure.  

I know I cried many tears on countless subjects (especially about nursing!) that seemed absolutely crucial at the time but even  with just the little time I’ve had to think about it, its just not that important in the scheme of thing.  Its hard to remind yourself you are doing your absolute best and you are allowed to enjoy it too.”

Photo from Agatha's Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Photo from Agatha’s Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Stefanie recently planned her daughter’s first birthday and shared her experience and photos from the party on her blog. Since it was smack-dab in the middle of winter, and they live in New York, Stefanie came up with the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme, and beautiful decorations that fit perfectly with the theme.

“Don’t be ashamed to go over the top!  I love parties where you can see the host put a lot of time and effort into all of the elements and didn’t take the easy way out.  As a guest, it feels like you are part of something special.”

Thank you so much Stefanie for participating in this series! You can find photos from her travels and get tips here, and you can find party ideas here.  If you are looking for home renovation and design tips, just peruse all over her blog! And don’t skip this About page – it’s where she shares a lot of her tips and answers FAQs. Want an overload of inspiration – and adorableness? Check out her Flickr!

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Karen LePage of One Girl Circus!

My Homemade Manifesto

homemade manifesto

When that big ol sparkly ball dropped, we rung in 2014 with our small family cuddled up on the couch. My boyfriend and I laughed at how different our New Years celebrations are than years past. Before, we spent it at a huge party or out at the bar. We waited an hour or more for a cab, and we were desperately searching for that New Years kiss. This year, we hugged our daughter tight and I had a glass of champagne and some champagne cupcakes, then pooped out at 12:01 am.

This got me thinking about how much my life has changed. When I used to eat take-out every single night, when I burned a pot of noodles attempting to make pasta and all those times I would hit up the all-hours Mexican food stand or when I went on that liquid diet. My friends are still amazed when I talk about cooking and baking, and I think everyone was in complete shock when I handed them homemade canned apple butter.

But to be honest, I’ve never been happier. Sure, there are days when I think about how easy it was to just focus and care about myself, but that’s just simply not my life anymore. It feels right that I put our little family before anyone and anything, and it feels nice to have a dinner at the dinner table every night. It’s boring, and that feels so good.

Last year, I focused a lot on living a homemade kind of life. Either making the stuff myself, or shopping locally or through indie businesses online. And this year is no different. I’m still working on living a self-sustainable life, and supporting small businesses when I can. I just want to take it a couple steps further. I want to really embrace it, and become more proactive. I want to make more connections with people who are doing the same thing, and find more creative outlets.

For me, I love making all of my food from scratch. First, I know how blessed I am to be a stay-at-home mom and I want to show my appreciation by making really good, whole food. It’s something I want to keep going when my daughter is old enough to eat with us. And I love it. I love the creative process, I love knowing that I know every single ingredient that went into our food and I love the joy I feel when my family truly enjoys their food. Not every dish is a hit, but they give me pointers and tell me what to add next time to make it perfect. Because this is all a learning process.

But, I want to take it one step further. I want to find food exchanges in my town, or heck – even create one. I want to continue finding new recipes to try, until I get to the point where I’m developing mine. I want to find friends who make their own beer and wine to have with our food (because mama still likes to unwind a little) and I want to find canning buddies.

I want to get my garden going again, and I want to go to the Farmers Markets and fruit stands when I need some produce. I’m not saying I won’t ever step into a grocery store again, but I want to minimize what I get. I want to share all of my DIY projects on here, and I want to decorate my house with other peoples labors of love, too. I want to buy all of my clothes from small businesses and secondhand stores. I want to take thrift store clothes and give them a little makeover. I want to learn how to sew.

In the end, I want to expand my homemade community. I want to share all of the things I make, and I want to know where to get everything else. I want to have a list of shops to visit for gifts, and I want people to visit my shop when they need a gift, whether it’s for them or someone else.

I want this blog to be centered around my explorations of local food and shops. Centered around the stuff I make at home and the people I meet who also make awesome stuff. Centered around my at-home yoga practice and health journey. Centered around how I am slowly learning to become domesticated and a good mama without losing myself in the process.

So, will you join me? Will you post photos and recipes of all your homemade food? Will you share your DIY projects and the sites (if any) that you got your inspiration from? Will you find a food swap and share your photos and experience? If you haven’t already started doing this, and you’re interested, then start slow. Start by making one homemade meal on a day that you are less busy, and start working on one craft per week. Follow blogs who are doing the same thing to get inspiration. I know I have a lot of posts on my blog about this very topic and I will be sharing more, so feel free to poke around.

Help build the homemade community more by using the hashtag #makestuff on all of your social media channels. Hate hashtags? Simply tag me, or link to this blog so I can see it. You can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.