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!

My Creative Business Journey + Giveaway Winner!

My Creative Business JourneyI just looked, and the end of March was the last time I wrote about my own creative business journey. That’s almost six months! With the move, the discovery of a new baby and a toddler, it has been difficult to continually stay focused on making an income from home, as many of you know. So, I took some time out and shifted my priorities a little. It wasn’t until the beginning of August that I felt a kick in the pants and decided it was time to give it another go!

The most exciting adventure so far has been turning my blog into a self-hosted site. I tried it before but it didn’t work, so I turned to Amy Cluck-McCallister from Amy is the Party and IndieSacramento, and one of my favorite people in Sacramento, to help with my site and logo. She worked her magic, and we’re in the home stretch! When I started the blog in 2012, I never saw it as a way to make an income. It was just a place for me to write. But, as I have seen some really positive blogger/business relationships and I have seen how mutually beneficial it can be to both, I decided to give it a try.

I’ve seen a preview of what it’s going to look like, and let me just say that I’m super excited to share it with you!

In addition to blogging, I have decided to give my vintage/handmade/print shop another chance. I changed the name to collected + made and have reopened my Etsy shop under that name! I also opened up a shop on Society 6 and I’m selling on eBay too! I have even thought about vending at a local craft fair in November.

I’m excited to get back in the swing of things and to see if I can truly make a creative business out of my passions!

And as promised, the giveaway winner for the beautiful gratitude earrings from Compliment is: Jessica Eapen! Congratulations!!! The winner was picked randomly from my blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! Jessica, please contact me at mamabecrafty@gmail.com so I can get your beautiful earrings to you!

unnamed 2How is your creative business journey going? Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

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!

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: Maiden Jane

yo momma monday

Meet Jane, 51, a quiltin’ mama of four from Cleveland, OH. She sells her quilts, pillows, totes and repurposed items in her Etsy shop and posts tutorials on her blog – Maiden Jane. I found her blog while searching for upcycled apron ideas, and I instantly fell in love with her story.

Before she was gifted one by her husband before the birth of their first one, Jane had never used a sewing machine. She did, however, love to create things and sewed by hand when she was a little girl. Although her mom never sewed “not even a button,” she supported Jane’s hobby buy purchasing her craft kits.

“So I am largely self-taught. My mother-in-law helped me in the early days and I also attended classes at the Sewing Expos that came through town.”

For Jane, most her inspiration comes from her daily life. If she has a need that she feels is not being met by the products on the market, she will try to create a solution.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“That’s how my Oversized Tote came about. My husband and I tried all different ways of carrying all our supplies to the beach – plus the kids! We decided big bags would be the answer.”

She is also inspired by stuff that other people might be considered junk.

“I am a little sad when I go to a garage sale or the thrift shop to see all the stuff that we – first, buy, then, pitch. I hope that I don’t accumulate so much in my own life that will later be sitting on shelves.”

Her customers are also a source of inspiration, as they will ask her to make certain items that may end up spawning an entire line!

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

As a small business owner and mom working from home, Jane does not have a set schedule. She does, however, set goals for how much time she wants to spend on certain tasks. She will take breaks for housework and when her kids come home, and she sets aside specific days for her errands.

“…This year I am trying to be working by 7:30. So that means checking email early and then getting started working on sewing. I rarely work for more than two hours straight without doing something else…

I can fritter away a lot of time on social media, so I am trying to confine that to morning,
lunch, and evening. But it’s an important part of my business. So much of my work is custom and then the product ships out right away, so that means I have to photograph it within a day or two of being done.

When Jane and her husband built an addition to their home, they added a master bedroom. The designer wanted to add a glamorous bathroom or a walk-in closet, but it was Jane’s husband who offered up the idea of a craft room/office. And Jane couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“One of the best things I have is a mobile table. It is on wheels so I can move it around the room or out of the way. The height of the table can also be changed. Side flaps on the table change the table size
to make it narrow. So the entire table can slide under the counters. We also have several mobile file
cabinets – which gives us storage and extra seating for when the kids are working in here.

Jane bought an entire Singer sewing book set at a closeout sale years ago, and she still refers to them often. She also likes Simplicity’s Simply the Best Sewing Book, The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing and the Vogue Sewing Reference Book. For newer books, she likes A Bag for All Reasons by Lisa Lam and In Stitches by Amy Butler.

Jane says she has made and enjoyed a few patterns by Burda, and after she made some totes from Jennifer Paganelli’s fabrics – they all sold out!

“I get a little frustrated with the traditional pattern makers. It seems they have forgotten how to write a pattern for beginners.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Not only does Jane share her love of sewing and quilting on her blog, she also shares tips on practical living. Since she and her husband are both engineers, they thrive on order and solving problems that arise in their growing family. They are constantly changing and organizing things to adapt to their evolving lifestyle – like simply storing plastic grocery bags in an old milk jug with holes cut on the top and sides.

“Do you know, we still use that jug after 20+ years? My husband jokes that it saved our marriage! Since I am practical in nature and some of my products were borne of the idea of being practical, yet pretty, I used it as a basis for developing my brand.”

Jane gets tremendous satisfaction from working with her hands and making as much as she can. She started sewing for herself and her kids and would make gifts for people when she could. She created t-shirt blankets for her nieces and nephews as High School graduation gifts, and after encouragement from a friend, she opened an Etsy shop. Soon after that, she started a website and her business has continued to grow in the last five years.

“I almost feel selfish because I enjoy it so much…I love doing it for the creativity but I am motivated by the financial gain.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Even though her kids and husband help out when it’s needed – doing chores, make pickups and drop-offs, help with laundry and set the table – she remains an one-woman operation. Her oldest daughter, who has modeled on her website before, is now off to College so her other daughter, Annie, has taken over modeling. She also has her own Etsy shop called Pink in Mind.

Jane’s work and has been featured in quite a few websites, such as Craft Gawker, Craft Gossip, Totally Tutorials and All Free Sewing. She says that it has been a mixture of her submitting her work to different sites, and getting sought out by different bloggers.

“I was thrilled to have a few projects featured on Craft Gawker because that forced me to improve my photography. But I’m clearly not “there” yet because I continue to get rejected! I haven’t made it into a magazine or book yet, but that might change soon!”

Jane is inspired and motivated by piano music, and since her oldest son is a jazz pianist, her house if full of music! She loves both classical jazz and New Age – like Jamie Cullum and George Winston. She will also listen to musicals and soundtracks while she sews.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Since Jane sells patterns for some of her quilts, she wanted her customers to be able to share their creations that they made with her pattern. So, she added a board on her Pinterest for all of her customer creations. If a customer puts their work on their own blog, she can also add that to her Pinterest board.

“If my customers send me a photo, I put it on my blog and then pin it. Then I have a reference board for other customers to see finished blankets.”

When I asked her what her advice was for new moms who are also starting their own businesses, she had this to say:

“First, enjoy your time with your babies. When they are young and on schedules, you can use nap time and evenings. That’s when I sewed a lot. Then again, I was only sewing for fun at that point. It was a wonderful outlet for me. I see so many amazing business women and bloggers and wonder how they do it all with young kids.

In my opinion, it gets harder when the kids get older. When my kids hit the teen years, my life turned into chaos. Suddenly, I was running kids to practices. No longer was the evening my own as the kids were staying up later. So my point is, life goes by so quickly.

Here I am, starting a business in my late forties. When I went to college for engineering, I realized that I didn’t really love it by my junior year. But I also decided that I would have many careers in my life. So I was open to whatever path my life would take. If you are starting a business at home, go for it. Dive in. You’ll learn as you go. It’s so easy to start an Etsy shop. But find what works best for your family.”

Customer Creation from Jane's pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Customer Creation from Jane’s pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Jane hopes to continue to grow her business and says that she always has new ideas for products if she has some time to design them, and she has also been percolating with products she could have made with a small manufacturing house or collective.

“I only have two hands and although I love to create with them – and I always will – I can’t see how to grow my business without additional help. I love collaborating with other makers and have some new bag fabrics in the works. Usually my mind is overflowing with ideas.”

If you would like to find out more about Maiden Jane, visit her here. If you or somebody you know would make a perfect feature for this series, share a link in the comments and on social media or e-mail me with the information!

Meet the Maker: Kate Payne

meet the makerSometime last year, I was virtually introduced to Kate Payne, the author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. I don’t remember how the introduction occurred, but from the moment I visited her website, I’ve been hooked. I was so hooked that I purchased her book last November, and I love reading it in the little snippets of free time that I get.

I’m hoping to put a lot of her homemaking tips to use when we get our house, so I will do a full review of the book then. But for now – I just want to share her amazing story.

Photo from Kate Payne

Photo from Kate Payne

Before this book, Kate was what she calls “a flashy cook” – cooking food that would excite, but was not necessary by any means. She has also donned titles such as grant writer, half-assed homemaker, nanny, after-hours poet, doodler and gardener. She studied anthropology and sociology in the Sonoran Desert and once worked on an organic tomato farm.

Kate started the blog in 2009, when she was living in a ground floor apartment in Brooklyn, NY. She wasn’t making the money she was used to, but she still wanted the comforts of home. She dug inside for a little creativity and improvisation, and there the blog – and subsequently the book – were born.

“I started the blog specifically with the intent to write a book. The blog was a sort of sounding board for me to see if what I was thinking about writing was of interest to anyone besides me. I was not a blog reader at the time and my background in grant writing didn’t factor much into my blogging endeavors. I think the rigors of writing well–proofreading, syntax, punctuation, grammar, etc.–should go into any style of writing one does, whether it’s books, blog posts, magazine articles, or grants. “

She decided to write a book because she felt like there wasn’t enough resources out there for women who weren’t so hip on homemaking and keeping a clean house. Aside from that, she found herself questioning if it was normal for a modern, empowered woman like herself to actually enjoy the domestic life.

Image from Kate Payne

Image from Kate Payne

“The stigma and history surrounding women and domesticity fueled my intrigue in exploring my own relationship with the kitchen and household chores. With my book and approach I hope to shed a new light on DIY and eco-oriented homemaking. We all need somewhere to call home and shifting our attitude toward our homes is a good first step.

I’m of the opinion that you should pick and choose what you do yourself based on what you actually like doing, and then dedicate money you save there on quality items or services you don’t particularly enjoy. What makes the most sense for certain people to do themselves, doesn’t make sense for others. “

On top of maintaining her blog and writing her books, Kate also writes grants part-time for a nonprofit and maintains a quarterly column for Edible Austin. She works with her Marketing Coordinator Christina Valentine on the blog, tour event planning and managing workshop preparations. And because that is clearly not enough, she also works with a local farmers market group and helps maintain their website and social media.

“Freelancing means I’m working nearly all the time, but working on things I feel passionately about makes it worth it. I always carve out time to eat dinner with my wife, who does most of the sustenance cooking around our house. (I manage the fermenting, canning, desserts, ice cream and bread making, the projects we love, but can ultimately live without.)”

Meyer Lemon bath salts. Photo from Kate Payne

Meyer Lemon bath salts. Photo from Kate Payne

Kate started canning in 2009 and peach jam was among her first projects, which she was afraid to eat because she was terrified the jars were full of botulism. She also made a triple citrus marmalade, from Eugenia Bone’s book Well Preserved.

“As I endeavored to learn more about canning, I soon discovered that all the hype surrounding your imminent death by canning was not really likely if you followed USDA-approved canning methods and practices. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for beginners.”

A self-taught cook, she gets a lot of her recipe inspiration from Joy of Cooking and many of her gluten-free recipes will start from there and from pastry chef David Lebovitz. She will then make the recipes gluten free-friendly by substituting the flour for a flour blend based on what she is making. As for her preserving projects and recipes, she’s inspired by Linda Ziedrich, Eugenia Bone and Sandor Katz.

She and her friend started the Food Swap Network, which provides hosts and attendees with a bevy of resources and information. Existing swaps that are registered on their site are searchable for anyone nearby who wants to join the fun.

Gluten-free Cinnamon Cake. Photo from Kate Payne

Gluten-free Cinnamon Cake. Photo from Kate Payne

Kate’s new book The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen comes out next month and is available for pre-order now. She says it will be in the same style and format as her freshman book – it will just focus completely on the kitchen, which really is a world of its own.

“I took over the cooking for the year I wrote the book as evidence that even someone like me who doesn’t enjoy daily sustenance cooking can reasonably and affordably incorporate cooking into their busy lifestyle.”

She hopes people will just simply focus on doing their best, and will relax when they hit the learning curve that comes with working on new projects. And as for the best compliment she’s received:

“A single mom told me how she’s never had time for any household things, but my book and small-batch preserving recipes on the blog inspired her to try doing some kitchen projects with her daughter. They now spend more time together cooking and canning, which means the world to her.”

Photo from Kate Payne

Photo from Kate Payne

Kate will be kicking off her HGGK Book Tour (hooray!) on May 24 in Ann Arbor, MI and the tour will close in Albuquerque, NM on July 1. I have listed the dates and locations of her book tour, and you can also see her full classes, demos and signings schedule by visiting her at katepayne.net.

      • May 24 – Ann Arbor, MI: Literati Bookstore, time TBD
      • May 27 – Austin, TX: BookPeople 7:00pm
      • May 28 – Houston, TX: Blue Willow Bookshop, 7:00pm
      • May 29 – Brooklyn, NY: Greenlight Bookstore, 7:30pm
      • June 13 – Tucson, AZ: Antigone Books, 7:00pm
      • June 17 – La Jolla, CA: Warwick’s, 7:30pm
      • June 23 – Seattle, WA: Book Larder, 6:30pm
      • June 28 – San Francisco, CA: Omnivore Books, 3:00pm
      • June 30 – Phoenix, AZ: Changing Hands Bookstore, 7:00pm
      • July 1 – Albuquerque, NM: Bookworks, 7:00pm

You can find Kate Payne by visiting her on The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking website, you can find neat stuff in her store and you can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. If you know an awesome maker who would be perfect for this series, please leave a link in the comments, share on my social media or e-mail it to me!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy lifeMy efforts in maintaining a healthy life have been very lackluster lately, to say the least. It’s a lot harder than I thought to take care of a home, a cute little baby (although at 15 months, she’s a big ol baby now), keep up decent grades and start a business. Squeezing in a workout AND not over-snacking when I’m stressed? Uh…yeah right.

So, in an effort to get back in a routine and not just completely lose it, I’ve decided to slowly add little things I could do that wouldn’t be hard to maintain and would be totally beneficial to me feeling and looking good. Because it’s not all about looking good for me. I need energy to get through my day and all that pizza – though wonderful and delicious – is slowin’ me down!

Last week, I decided to start way back from the beginning and follow the Clean Eating plan on the Gracious Pantry. I picked one thing to abstain from and so far, so good. This round: no fast food. I know, I know. I’ve done it before, but like I said…I’m starting fresh. From the beginning. I started last Wednesday, so it will be two weeks next Wednesday and then I will pick another thing to abstain from.

Like I have noted before, it’s all about convenience. If I have good healthy food to eat at home, then I’ll eat that. I only succumb to the pleasures of fast food if we have nothing to eat or I don’t feel like cooking. The only issue I ran into is that I made that goal a while ago to make all my food from scratch. Which means that if I want to just whip up something quick, that probably ain’t happening.

I have read before that if you work from home, you should treat it like you are going outside of the home to work. So, that means: showering, making your own lunch and mentally preparing yourself to work. Showering sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t but I do like the idea of making my lunch ahead of time so I don’t have to worry about it when I’m in the middle of my workday.

Image from The Sweaty Betties

Image from The Sweaty Betties

I also found a new site called The Sweaty Betties. It’s run by fitness expert Danny J and the Facebook page describes the group as “irreverent group of women who are looking to get fit & have a whole lot of fun along the way.” There is a free 12-week lifting program that you can download on the website. It’s mainly geared toward the gym so I think I will have to wait on this until I get back into the gym, but it’s worth checking out!

Photo from How Sweet Eats

Photo from How Sweet Eats

And…look at these pancakes! I have really turned into a breakfast person now that I work from home because it fuels me and gives me time to sit and think about what I need to get done, and watch my daughter play and run around the house. Because that’s my favorite. These whole wheat pancakes from How Sweet Eats look delicious and they’re healthy to boot! I think I will need to give these a try really soon. Like tomorrow soon. I’m not a fan of greek yogurt but I’m sure regular yogurt would be just fine.

So, I will continue to share some healthy inspiration each week in case you are feeling like I have been. If you have any amazing recipes or workouts/yoga to share, post a link in the comments and on my social media pages! You can find all the links on the top of my sidebar!

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!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

I love when I get a new book and it opens an entirely new world for me. Last year, I got the Handmade Marketplace book from my stepsister, and it introduced me to Kari Chapin and her handmade community, which also led me to Oh My Handmade! This year, I got Wonder Walls by Sarah Bagner from my boyfriend’s sister…and I fell in love with the book. This is my new favorite find!

Photo from Sarah Bagner

Photo from Sarah Bagner

I saw that she has a website called Super Market Sarah and immediately deemed it necessary to check out. The book features different collectors who have their items displayed on their walls, and the website is the same way. You can click on items that you like in the photos, and that will lead you to the store to purchase the item.

You can click Browse to view the 91 eclectic collections, and then you simply click on the item for its price and link to buy it. Some of my favorite collections are: Kirstie Mary Allsopp (who wrote the book Kirstie’s Homemade Home), Tuckshop (awesome jewelry designed by Lynn Allingham) and Bits of Bike (cyclist and designer Clare Pollen makes jewelry out of old bike parts)

Photo from Sarah Bagner

Photo from Sarah Bagner

While I have not had time to go through all of the collections, I can almost guarantee there will be more collections I will fall head over heels for. The best part is when you click on the name of the collection, it takes you to an info page which gives you a little more background on the artist and links to the artist’s website and/or shop. That’s awesome! What an amazing way to promote the artists.

You can join the Supermarket Sarah group on Facebook – like I just did – and you can follow her on Twitter! Her blog hasn’t been updated since August but she does update her Facebook and Twitter with shows she is doing and projects she’s working on. Pretty neat to see the behind-the-scenes action!

What is your favorite new find of the week? Post the link in the comments and share on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Instagram with the hashtag #fridayfavorite. You can find more of my favorite inspiration on my Pinterest!

Weekly Wishes #6

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Last week, I decided to skip the Weekly Wishes post because it felt too rushed and I was out running errands with my friend to prepare for Thanksgiving and get some Christmas shopping done. I’ve decided to make most of the presents that I can, and to shop early for what I need to get from the store. That way, I can spend time personalizing the wrapping if I wasn’t able to make the gifts by hand.

I’ve returned to Weekly Wishes this week as it really helps me organize my thoughts before I start the week, and it motivates me to get started on what I want done. It’s also a really amazing feeling to look back at the past week(s) and see what I got accomplished…or what I really need to focus on this week. I actually changed the way I was working on my business idea, taking them week by week and day by day, focusing on the tasks and giving them more attention. In turn, I am a lot more satisfied with the result.

Here’s what I wanted to accomplish two weeks ago: Work on flyer for Baby Burrito website, start chalk/cork board, get yoga routine down, work on my garden, organize craft closet and designate a workspace.

How I did: I finished the flyer for the website and it’s posted! I also updated the membership and services pages and added a testimonials page. I am so happy with the way my website works, that now I will only need to do a few tweaks here and there. I did start on the chalk/cork board and I am hoping to finish it this week. I didn’t get a yoga routine down and I sort of abandoned my garden this week, but I did get to the craft closet and workspace!

This Week’s Wishes:

Business: Baby Burrito Collective – Create a space for graphic designers and other business services to advertise their services and work. We will do a button on the sidebar but I need another space with more of their information. I’m going to look at the theme to see what I can do. Sweet Mariposa – List Kandyce’s paintings and mason jar candle holders

baby burrito flyer

Creative: Finish my cork/chalkboard. I painted the chalkboard side and cut out the corkboard and foam board to go behind it. Now, I need to attach that to the wood and then staple some fabric over the cork. After that, I’ll attach the wood to the barn window (which will act as my frame) and put the backing on it. I’m going to keep that right now to put in my workspace, but if it looks good, I might think of making more to sell!

unnamed

Fitness: Get my yoga routine down, focus on clean/healthy eating. I know the holidays will be tough to stay on track, but I need to focus on eating right and working out when I can. I just need to keep reminding myself how important this is, and force myself to do it if I have to.

Home: Turn my newly designated workspace into a Christmas wrapping station. I want to wrap one gift at a time and really focus on designing the packaging, so I need to start now so I won’t feel so rushed. I have really focused on slowing down and doing everything one step at a time, and it has been the best thing for me.

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!