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: Thoughtful Celebrations

thrifty thursdays

I know, I know. You don’t want to even think about Christmas right now. But, let’s face the facts. It’s upon us, and if you are planning on a DIY Holiday season, well – you better get a’crackin! I’m going to elaborate on the slow gifting and thoughtful celebrations movement I was talking about earlier and help you come up with some fun and affordable DIY ways to spend the holidays!

The Holidays are all about spending time with your friends and family, but in the hustle and bustle, it can be hard to get together. These awesome ideas incorporate slow gifting and thoughtful celebrations. Start a new tradition. It will take some planning now, but will keep it simple in the years to come – allowing you to spend more time on that awesome homemade gift you’re making:

Idea and photo from Alison Butler

Idea and photo from Alison Butler

Host a Mitten Exchange from The Petit Cadeau – Do you normally get together with your friends for the Holidays? How about creating a mitten exchange! Alison – who got me excited about the idea of slow gifting – collaborated with Kim from Joyful Roots to share this thoughtful and wonderful tradition! If you subscribe to Alison’s newsletter, you can download a free printable invitation. It’s free to subscribe and you check it out here.

Photo from Food Swap Network

Photo from Food Swap Network

Host a food swap! from Food Swap Network – Love food? Do you and your friends usually go out for a Holiday lunch or dinner and then all gasp and uneasily take out your wallets and try to dissect the bill? Or is that just me and my friends? A food swap is an awesome way to keep the expenses down and exchange homemade food. I just got into canning and baking, so this is perfect for me! If you’re not so hot at making stuff but your friend is the best cook/baker you know – pick a house and take an at-home cooking lesson! Do you belong to a crafting circle? Share this idea for a fun holiday party!

Photo from Darby Smart

Photo from Darby Smart

Throw a Darby Smart party! from Darby Smart – Decide on a project box you all agree on, and throw a little crafting shindig! The boxes come with all the supplies and instructions, and there are many for under $40 – probably what you would spend on the supplies anyways. The December TO DIY FOR mystery box is only $19 and would be perfect for your Holiday party next month!

I hope these ideas have given you inspiration for your new thoughtful celebration tradition. What are your favorite traditions? Do they involve homemade gifts? Share them with us and get more inspiration on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

Weekly Wishes #2

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Last week I started a new weekly series called Weekly Wishes that I found on a pretty amazing site, The Nectar Collective. It’s a weekly link-up where participants write a post (such as this) and link it up to the post Melyssa writes on Nectar Collective, then you leave a motivating comment on the person’s post who linked up directly before you.

In doing so, I actually found Andrea Lui, who runs a handmade jewelry shop on Etsy called Oh! Jewelicious. Her work is beautiful and while I’m not much of a jewelry person, I can see myself wearing her stuff! I especially love the sparrow earrings. It’s hard for me to wear necklaces or anything that dangles because Cecilia has quite the grip and I wouldn’t want it to break. Look how cute these sparrows are…there is also a necklace to match!

Image belongs to Andrea Lui

Image belongs to Andrea Lui

I shared my weekly wishes for my business, creative, fitness and home wishes last week, and

Last week’s wishes:

Business wish – Create buttons for both my Sweet Mariposa shop and my blog. Read through Ch. 9 in The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin.

Creative wish – Finally finish these cheese graters! I’m going to share the tutorial on my Linkouture when I’m done!

Fitness wish 15 minutes of exercise + 15 minutes of yoga each day

Home wish – Start canning all my vegetables from the garden

How I did:

I did end up creating my buttons for Sweet Mariposa, but have decided against making buttons for my blog at this time. I don’t think they are really necessary right now, and I have some projects in the works for this blog and may create a few buttons then. After looking through loads of different tutorials – only to be unsuccessful at all of them – I took the easy route and just copied the code from a button I got from another site and entered my information. Simple, eh? You can see the button on my sidebar – hooray!

I’m also through Ch. 10 in The Handmade Marketplace so I’m pretty sure I will finish the book this week (there’s 12 chapters). I’m going to jot down some of the information I got from the book and see how much of it I can incorporate in my own work. I will be writing a review in the near future.

I also finished the cheese graters, and I sent my tutorial over to the wonderful Bev at Linkouture, so it should be up soon! It was a big challenge of mine to get these done, so I’m relieved I finally did it! You can also find them at my Etsy shop. I can do different colors and styles if you fancy one.

SONY DSC

I was able to squeeze in a couple bodyweight workouts through Fitness Blender, and I treated myself to a couple restorative yoga sessions at night, but I find it really hard to stay on my fitness goals. So I’m really focusing on what food I’m putting into my body and getting exercise when I can – which isn’t hard with how mobile my little one is now! We’re always walking and exploring so that certainly helps. I lost a few pounds in the last week so it’s working!

And finally, I put all those crazy peppers to good use and made some homemade hot sauce! I used a recipe I found on Pinterest and I’m still having trouble finding the original website. I’ll share the recipe this week but here’s a photo for now! I also made homemade apple butter with that recipe I shared last week that I got from My Baking Addiction and it was amazing! I put it on my toast this morning and topped it with banana. I could have eaten the whole jar but figured I better save some for tomorrow. I will share my experience with making both later this week.

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Now moving on to this week!

Business: Get together with Heather to go over her Press Release (very exciting stuff!) and get her into some awesome author communities! After becoming an Oh My Handmade member, I am true believer in how important it is to be a part of a community. They help you go over ideas, and will support your work and everything you are doing any chance they get. We need to get all of her bases covered so we can continue networking and promoting all of her wonderful work.

Creative: See that three tiered basket in the picture? (hint: it’s #7) I want to restore that this week. I’m going to hang it in our pantry an use it to hold all of our bread and snacks. I just can’t decide if I want to paint it all one color or use multiple colors. Let me know your thoughts! Last week, I also started to work on a serving tray that I was upcycling into a chalkboard cheese tray. I’ve since changed my mind and decided to use it as a prop for photos. I just need to make a few little fixes and I’ll be done…so I wanted to finally finish it this week!

thrifty finds

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Fitness: I’m going to continue working on my goal of getting a 15 minute workout along with a 15 minute yoga session in every day. It’s challenging but I feel so good after I’m done that I want to continue working on it. It’s also such a lovely feeling to not have to cringe every time you try on an old pair of pants. I’m also making it a goal to get rid of the white sugar and flour in the house, and find good, healthy replacements for sugar.

Home: Well, it’s time to switch out the garden. I’m going to work on moving all of the old stuff out, cleaning up the garden area, and starting planting new veggies. I’m going to look up what will be good to plant right now and look into planting some succulents and flowers. Of course, I will be sharing my journey with you along the way! Although my garden had its ups and downs this season, I learned a lot – and I was able to make so much from it! Hoping to get a pressure canner soon *fingers crossed* so I can more and more good stuff!

What are your weekly wishes? Write about them and link up to the Nectar Collective. You can also share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Here’s to having another lovely and productive week!

New Year Challenge: getting healthy, seriously…

workout

Current weight: 163/ goal weight: 130

So it has been 3 weeks since I started Weight Watchers, and I have yet to lose a lb since the first week. I’ve had some time to think about it and here are my reasons (excuses):

– Cecilia doesn’t like when I work out, because I’m not paying attention to her. So I need exercises I can do with her.

– I’m all fine and dandy until I leave the house. Or until people come visit. Or until I want pizza. Then all bets are off.

– I have no will power when it comes to sweet treats.

So, here’s what I’ve decided. I’m going to start planning our dinners for the week. I’ve used my slow cooker twice now and it’s wonderful! I’m going to walk my daughter to get the goods so I can exercise and keep her occupied and happy.

I’ve looked into some exercises I can do with her, and here’s what I’ve found:

12 exercises with baby, from daily green

10 fun exercises to do with baby, from parenting.com

10 workouts for new moms, from babble.com

7 exercises with baby, from babyzone.com

The stroller workout, from fitpregnancy.com

And finally, for those of you who need to see it to believe it, there’s a you tube tutorial from momsintofitness

Now, back to the food.

SONY DSCSince I haven’t made a smoothie in a while, I thought I would get back into the groove with a smoothie I pinned a while ago but had yet to try it out. It’s called the autumn sunrise smoothie, from rawfoodrecipes.com. I added bananas and blueberries to it, and a little bit of ice. I think the smoothie was intended to be warm, but I wanted it cold. It was quite delightful but the amount of ice I added wasn’t enough so I would add more later. I also forgot to add the cinnamon, so that will also be on my to-do list. I digress. At 2 Weight Watchers points, this is definitely a must-have in my kitchen.

enchiladasToday, I made these amazing slow cooker chicken enchiladas from skinnyms.com. Usually, I’m a little nervous about cooking with reduced fat or fat free food, but this was surprisingly full of taste and super good. Sam brought home pizza today and for the first time in my entire life, I wasn’t interested. And it was from Tony’s in Lodi, which reigns in the superior level of pizzas. It was 6 points per enchilada, which is what a normal plain cheese quesadilla is. So, I’ll be making this more often.

Then, it happened. It finally happened. I found a treat that was low in points! When one stupid little carrot cupcake was 11 points, I was discouraged. But then, I found this…oatmeal banana chocolate cookies from the health advocate…and they are only 3 points each! SONY DSC

So, now that I’m armed with all this defense, the Wii Fit shouldn’t ask me what the reason was for my recent weight gain (jerk).