Yo Momma Monday: Tiffany Reese of Lookie Boo

yo momma mondayA while ago, a photographer friend of mine posted some photos she took of two adorable and stylish kids for her friend’s website. Through some serious social media stalking, I met Tiffany Reese, who runs Lookie Boo – a website dedicated to styling for littles, parties included.

Tiffany, 28, resides Roseville, CA and has lived in Northern California her entire life, although she moved around a lot growing up. She is the mama to those two adorable kids – Jude (4), Ruby (3) and is expecting baby #3 in February.

“We LOVE Roseville, its very conveniently located to things, the schools are wonderful and there is always tons of stuff to do with the kids.”

A stay-at-home mom, Tiffany was planning on going back to work full-time when Jude was two. However, just before his second birthday, Jude was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and was officially diagnosed with Autism last year.

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo Credit: Ryan Doyle Photography

“With his special needs, I have needed to stay home longer and couldn’t be happier with the doors this has opened.”

After Ruby was born, Tiffany needed a creative outlet.

“I studied Fashion Design in school and since having children I had become obsessed with tiny clothing. I decided to start a blog combining my two biggest passions, fashion & my kids and Lookie Boo was born”

For Tiffany, the feeling of community is her favorite thing about the blogging world.

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo Credit: Amanda Rose Photography

“I have lots of blogging friends I’ve met over the years now and I speak to some of them on a daily basis now. I’d say the aspect I dislike is the ego of some people you can run into, but that can exist anywhere I suppose.

I have too many favorites but my friend Morgan at the818.com really motivated me to start a “real blog” and has really mentored me along the way without ever asking for anything in return. She is the same person online and offline, she is brutally honest in a thrilling and hilarious way. “

Since her kids are anti-naps, Tiffany gets mos of her work done on her phone while she’s on the go, and when they are in preschool or after they go to bed.

“Summer is the most challenging time because the kids are home all day and we all just want to play and ignore my email.”

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo Credit: Amanda Rose Photography

When Jude’s first birthday was approaching, Tiffany wanted an original theme, so she started styling her own parties. And with a name like Jude, a Beatles Themed First Birthday was the perfect fit. And totally awesome.

“The response was really great and I loved doing it so much, I just kept planning the next party. Now I’m styling for clients too, its so fun! I try really hard to base the parties around what the kids ask for now, for example Ruby’s most recent birthday she wanted a “flower kitten” party, considering how random it was, I liked the outcome.”

Through her blog and other outlets, Tiffany has been very vocal about her experience with Autism.

Honestly, I just want them to know that children with Autism come in all different “packages”. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “He doesn’t seem Autistic”.

I think they usually mean it as a compliment, however I find it as an example of how ignorant we still are about Autism. I am still learning every day. I’ve so appreciated the connections I’ve made with other families online and in person.”

Ruby’s Spring Kitten Party / Photo Credit: Amanda Rose Photography

Tiffany says that her family’s sense of humor is what makes them unique.

“It is simply required in our household. If you scream and throw a tantrum, someone is probably going to mock you. If you poop your pants, we will all laugh together. That is how we handle the not so pleasant parts of life.”

And when they need to unwind…

“Usually I’d say drink straight vodka once a month but you know, I’m pregnant so now I just eat cookies. My husband Michael is a chef and is at his restaurant A LOT.

We honestly don’t get much time together and if we do, we like to spoil the kids or watch football. When I’m home by myself in the evenings and I want to unwind, I usually watch horrible television like Real Housewives and feel better about myself.”

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

While she would like to find some more affordable small businesses to support locally, her favorite stores in Roseville are H&M, BabyGap, Target, Old Navy and thrift stores. As for her parties, she partners with other Etsy shops and loves Shop Sweet Lulu, but still does a lot of DIY – especially for clients.

Tiffany opened her own store last year, but it proved to be too much for her family at the time.

“Once all my kiddos are in at least Preschool, I’m hoping to be able to dedicate more time to the site on a full time basis and hopefully have the income to hire staff as well. My ultimate dream of dreams would be to design a line inspired by and for my kids”

Meanwhile, she loves featuring kids on her blog, and says all the parents need to do is use #lookieboo on Instagram, or e-mail her.

“That’s my favorite part of my job!”

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Her advice for new moms is to be gentle with yourself.

Sometimes you get all the things done and sometimes you sob into your wine glass at 10:37pm because you’ve had a hard day and you think you’re the worst Mom ever.”

And what does she hope her kids will learn from her?

“Love. To love others and themselves.”

Photo from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Visit Tiffany’s website to find out more about her family and Lookie Boo! Know an awesome mom who would be perfect for this? Leave a comment here and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

R 2nd Chance: The new kid on the block

My mom lives in Tahoe Park, an area of Sacramento that doesn’t see much action. Unlike Midtown, it’s streets aren’t lined with hip bars, quaint coffee shops or expensive boutiques that pretend they aren’t expensive. There’s a Starbucks and a Target.

However, things look they are going to change. A popular Midtown breakfast/brunch restaurant Bacon and Butter is opening up on 59th and Broadway – a few streets down from my mom’s house. And right next to that is R 2nd Chance, a new thrift store that opened up a few weeks ago.

r2ndchanceMy mom and I first walked down there after we had our yard sale a couple weeks ago to see if they took any donations. They not only take donations, but they will give you a 30% off coupon when you donate! Anything they don’t need will go to either Goodwill or Salvation Army and 49% of their proceeds goes to the theater and track/field departments at Sacramento Sate.

I’ve donated twice so far, the first time we got this haul plus a PJ set for my nephew for $12! Oh, and two men who worked there came to our car and took everything in for us. It was wonderful.

10547102_312534182248290_19722962_nThe next time, I got this beautiful toy chest for Cecilia for $16, which after searching online for what seems like eternity, I know is a steal. It has the soft close which the vintage chests don’t and it has space so her fingers won’t get smashed. I’m going to sand it, paint it and use chalk paint on the flat top so she can get all creative up in there.

chestWhen I first saw the chest, it wasn’t closing properly so one of the employees took it to his workshop and fixed it for me on the spot. I can’t say the same about the majority of thrift shops I’ve visited. All of the employees are nice and welcoming, and the owner has an infectious bubbly personality.

She says that they are getting in donations, but they still need a lot more. They have a ton of clothes, shoes and some of your basic houseware stuff. Not a whole lot of furniture or kids clothes, which they probably looking for. She’s working out a deal with the Bacon & Butter owner to hopefully offer specials for their customers!

unnamed2So, if you live in Sacramento and have stuff to donate, head over there. You’ll know where the proceeds are going, and you’ll get a great deal on some more loot. What’s your favorite thrift store like? Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

Yo Momma Monday: Cody from Lu & Ed

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Meet Cody, a work-at-home mama in her mid-twenties from Kansas City, MO, who runs an eco-friendly monster toy line called Lu & Ed. Before starting her own business, Cody was the head of marketing in a retail store, and before that, she was in line to become a store manager at a local restaurant. Not looking back, Cody says that making mon-stors “is the best job I have ever had!”

She came up with the idea of Mon-stors when she moved from South Carolina to Missouri with her son and lived in the basement of her fiance’s mom’s house. With little room to move around, Cody thought of a storage solution where her son could literally feed toys to a stuffed monster.

Once I posted photos online, I got dozens of requests and soon after, dropped my day job to pursue it full time!

Cody is not only a mama to her son, she is also a mama to seven rescue pets and has another job recording sales for an author. Being a mom has made her more motivated because she has more flexibility as an independent business owner than she would in the workforce, and she is setting a good example for her son to pursue his dreams.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“My son loves what I do and I love that it enables me to stay home with him, that I can be here for him all the time. I am so thankful for everyone who supports my indie business and allows me this opportunity.”

Although it’s hard for Cody to pinpoint her favorite thing about running her own business, she did say that the scariest thing is straightening out her taxes and licenses.

“You always want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s and it can be scary filing taxes for your first time or applying for a new license when you relocate. There are so many great resources out there now for handmade businesses to help them get their affairs in order, and for that I am thankful!”

Right now, she is a one-mama shop and works in the extra bedroom in the back of her house. Cody says that she is casually looking for an intern to help out with sewing during her busy times – before big events and during the holiday season – but in the meantime, her son has turned out to be quite the helper.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“On take your child to work day last year he worked in the studio with me all day and made two stuffed monsters, and had so much fun doing so! He also loves to make jewelry, sculpt, paint, make soap and draw. ♥”

She describes her workspace as “messy, colorful, fun, full of inspiring quotes, monsters and a huge over flowing closet of fabric.” Speaking of fabric, Cody uses all eco-friendly materials to make Mon-stors and assures that there is absolutely no waste going into landfills. She uses large cuts of fabric to make Mon-stors, then from that, she cuts use the remnants to make small Mon-stors, totes, stuffed monsters, gadget Mon-stors and other productsWhatever is left from that is used for stuffing or to make dog beds that she donates to animal shelters.

“They are all little steps that make a big impact in the environment.”

Cody has always been eco-aware but admits that she didn’t know the impact buying new fabric had on the environment until she took a part-time job at a fabric store to help cover the costs of some dental work she needed. After she witnessed all the waste firsthand, she decided that she could no longer support big-box fabric stores.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“Fabric arrives in a big, plastic wrapped box. The box and plastic wrap are thrown in the trash (not recycled), then each bolt is wrapped in plastic wrap, which is then throw away. All uneven edges are trimmed and just thrown away, as are tiny remnants & the cardboard sleeves the fabric is wrapped around.”

She started buying fabric at thrift stores and after a few months, people were offering her old fabric, sheets, clothing and blankets that they were no longer using. Wanting to do more, she searched for more eco-friendly ways to run her business. She started flipping food boxes inside out and once her family and friends heard she was doing this, they started giving her their old boxes.

“I haven’t had to buy or pick up a box from the post office in over two years! I also found Eco Enclose, a company that makes biodegradable tape from renewable resources, Fabric Recycles, a fabric and crafting notion thrift store where I can buy thread spools second hand at a fraction of the cost (and pollution of production) of new thread, and Moo‘s amazing recycled, biodegradable business cards!”

Cody has witnessed her eco-efforts sparking a revolution among artisans within her community. Business owners are realizing that being eco-friendly in your supplies and packaging actually results in major savings for your business, and more and more people are coming to her for advice on how to make their businesses more sustainable.

Cody's car after a thrifting haul

Cody’s car after a thrifting haul. Photo from Lu & Ed

“Several people I know have stopped purchasing boxes and bubble mailers and started recycling packaging or making their own mailers from reclaimed materials to reduce landfill waste and environmental pollution. I think that it is creating a bit of a ripple effect – as more people close to me make small changes, people close to them will as well, and so on. ♥ If we all make small changes they will have a huge impact on the Earth!”

She says that her eco-conscious efforts are also creating a ripple effect with her son. They pick up litter together all the time, often talk about sustainability and she takes him on all of her thrift store adventures. “My son is a total green-freak,” she says.

“He will grab a robe and say “Wow, this would be a great monster!” We buy all of our clothing, dishes, and home goods like lamps and decor from thrift stores, and my son is aware of the ecological impact factory produced goods creates on the world. My son has a hawk eye for organic products at the grocery store, too. Haha! I hope he will maintain his love for nature and making good choices through adulthood.”

Cody started Team Lu & Ed at the beginning of this year to collaborate with other artists and fulfill customer demands for products she doesn’t offer. It slowly grew into a charitable endeavor, with up to 50% from the sale of each product going to charity. Recently, she partnered with The Mollie Shop to sell super cute bows, and half of the profit will be donated to Drumm Farm Center for Children.

Cody's collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

Cody’s collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

“It has been a huge success and I have loved helping emerging artists become discovered through our collaborations, and I love bring art & toys together to create change in my local community!”

She says that her favorite thing about what she does is “how happy my products make children. It just makes my heart so happy to see photos of children lovingly playing with their monsters.” She is adding a few new lines to her shop and is working on a few new collaborations. Cody hopes that her green business will continue to inspire her community.

“I am hoping that my eco-mission will inspire other handmade business owners make more conscious decisions about where they source their supplies, and inspire consumers to make slower purchases, really thinking about the product, how it makes them feel and the impact it has on the Earth before buying. ♥”

You can find out more about Cody, Lu & Ed and her mission by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you would like to participate in Yo Momma Monday, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #yomommamonday. You can find more awesome mama inspiration on my Pinterest!