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!

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!

Yo Momma Monday: Ashley Weeks Cart

yo momma monday

Meet Ashley Weeks Cart, 30, from Southwestern Vermont. She runs Cartwheel Farm with her husband James, and she is mama to two beautiful girls (Addison (Sunny) who will be turning five next month, and Courtland (Kaki) who is two and a half), a super mutt they call Hanna Banana, a puppy named Gladden, a potbelly pig named Penelope (“Penny” for short), a flock of five hens – Bunty, Edwina, Dora, Nemo and Ginger and an angel dog – their beloved three legged dog, Ursa Bear, who lost her life to cancer.

Before Ashley and James were introduced to the world of parenting and farming, they lived in Los Angeles and Ashley attended USC, where she received her MA in Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere. She also ran a reusable bag business with her sister at the time.

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

After Sunny was born, Ashley and James returned to the East Coast to be closer to their families. Both attended College in the Berkshires, so they moved back to Williamstown, MA for the first two years, and that is when they decided that they wanted the rural life. So they bought a farm across the border in the Green Mountain State.

“James’ family had a farm growing up, and we really loved the idea of our daughters learning about where their food comes from and the responsibility and care that comes from owning farm animals and tending a vegetable garden. That was all possible with this little property.”

Photo by Theron Humphrey. Click on the picture for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

Both Ashley and James are photographers and Ashley does freelance work on the side. Her introduction to photography began when she was just a kid, and would spend hours tooling away with her dad’s Nikon SLR. All of that playing and shooting paid off, because now she connects with her readers through her photography on her blog.

” I have albums of black and white photos of our pets and house growing up that I shot with that camera from back in 70s. It was totally a hobby, but it brought a lot of joy. It wasn’t until after college that I got back in to photography. I was working at another small liberal arts college that allowed me to take one course a semester.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I took a film photography class, and loved hiding out in the dark room and relearning how to really use a camera. When we moved to California we invested in our first digital SLR, and after our oldest daughter was born, James and I really began to want to better master our camera as we were amassing a slew of baby photos.

When we moved back east, I developed a great relationship with a local professional photographer and she really helped me take my work to the next level. I try to pick up my camera and shoot every single day. I learn something every time I do. Practice practice practice is the best advice I can give. That, and shoot in manual mode. Just do it. Your photos will be world’s better once you get a hang of it.”

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Ashley started her blog Blog a la Cart when she was still living in LA and was the first of her group to have any children. With James working all day, she felt alone and overwhelmed, and she needed a creative outlet that would get her thinking about more than changing diapers and feedings.

“Honestly, I write about whatever inspires me at the moment – there is no real rhyme or reason to my blog content – that space is ultimately an outlet for me, so I write about and share what is most impacting me at the time. Sometimes is as simple as a room makeover, other times it’s more serious feminist issues that I’m struggling with as a parent/mom.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I try not to be influenced or alter my point of view to please anyone but myself since that space was born very much out of a need to better support myself. I love that people share in that space, but it’s ultimately about being true to my voice and story.”

Since Ashley has a full-time job, her photography and blog are both done on the side. They are  creative outlets for her, and while she admits it can be tough balancing family, work, the farm and her creative business, she loves what she creates and is grateful to have both there to supplement their lives.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have a truly amazing partner. I would not be able to do all I do without him in the mix, providing the balance and support that I need. He is the girls’ primary caregiver, and does the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping etc. This enables me to work a day job full time, and then come home and spend time with my girls and have meaningful family time, before spending my evenings editing photos for clients or writing content for the blog.

There is no way I would be able to keep everything in balance without James helping carry the weight. I think people don’t consider enough how their choice of life partner will be one of the biggest, most impactful decisions of their entire lives. People want the pretty wedding and storybook romance, but don’t often consider the long term weight of that decision. I feel very lucky to have been able to grow into adulthood with James by my side (we met at his 20th birthday party in college) – we’ve been able to make some huge decisions and changes together and we really compliment and balance each others strengths and weaknesses.”

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Of all the things her girls have already learned on the farm, she hopes that they will always have a respect for their food and the cycle of life. Both have already experienced the loss of a family pet they cherished and loved and they know where the food on their table comes from.

“We don’t shelter them from this, and they have a very thoughtful and honest perspective on death and life (for their age). I love that they understand that our Thanksgiving turkey comes from a turkey farm and must be killed before we can eat it for dinner. It’s not just some plastic wrapped lump from the grocery aisle.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the image for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

They know the sweetness and joy of picking blueberries right off the bush. They understand that maple syrup comes from the veins of a maple tree as they themselves have collected the sap and watched it boil down into that sugary delicacy. They’ve hand turned apples to cider. They’ve weeded and sweat and and pulled fresh carrots from the ground. There is something so simple and yet so very important from these lessons that we get to make a part of their everyday.”

Ashley’s best advice for working parents (whether it’s in or outside of the home) is to carve out time for yourself. She likes going to the gym or for a run or a walk once a day. It’s not only good for her physical health, but it’s good for her mental and emotional health as well. She also loves crafting, and shares many tutorials on her blog.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have trouble sitting still, so I build in crafts and projects to any free time I may have on a weekend or evening. I love working with my hands, and it’s fun to be able to involve my children in the projects when possible.

Mostly, I would be happy to spend my days knitting and listening to audiobooks – but it’s good to mix it up. I learned to quilt last year, and that is a dangerously wonderful, time-consuming hobby. I hope to be able to do more of it when my children are older – as it also demands a lot of stuff and space (iron, cutting table, sewing machine, etc.) whereas knitting I can keep in my handbag for a down moment waiting at the doctor’s office or pharmacy, etc.”

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

In the future, Ashley hopes to expand her photography portfolio and hopes to capture more maternity and childbirth moments. She wants to master tomato growing, to include alpacas or other fiber animals in their farm family so she can spin her own wool and she wants to bake a truly authentic loaf of French bread. Her favorite thing about everything she does is the impact it makes on other people.

“My favorite moments happen when a reader emails me to say that something I’ve written or shared has touched them in some way, either by making them feel not so alone, or validating their feelings, or even getting them to think about something in an entirely new way. Those emails send me over the moon.They bring me so much happiness.

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

And with the photography, I love getting feedback that I’ve captured a client or their family in a way that really represents them. Getting positive feedback on my work keeps me motivated and makes me feel like I am making a difference (however small) in my community.”

And as for the impact she has felt from her children, and life on the farm:

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“There are SO many ways that motherhood has changed me, mostly it has given me deep respect for my own mother and the  mothers around me as I am so acutely, personally aware of the challenges, joys, heartbreak, and perspective that motherhood brings. It’s humbling and inspiring and I am so very grateful everyday that I get to call myself a mother to my little girls. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do, yet I am eternally grateful that I get to have this kind of experience and perspective and love in my life.

And the farm has connected me to life beyond my family in really meaningful ways. From the flowers to our vegetable gardens to our chickens, I am tuned in to the life cycles and seasons of life on the farm. I recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (everyone should read it!) and it has really inspired me and further enforced in me why James and I made the choice to buy this home and raise our girls this way, connected to their food and this place.”

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

You can read Ashley’s blog Blog A La Cart to find out more about raising a family on a farm, and you can also view her portfolio there. And check out her video about life on the farm! If you want to hire Ashley to take your photos, you can e-mail her and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you are an awesome mama or you know one and would like to be featured in this series, don’t be shy! Leave me a comment, e-mail me and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + 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!

Thrifty Thursdays: Holiday Edition

thrifty thursdays

As I was writing out my list of gifts I still need to finish (or hell, even start), I came to the realization that Christmas Eve is five days away! FIVE! To add to that, I opted to buy plain brown craft paper this year to wrap all my gifts, you know – to give it that extra homemade feel. This was back in November, when I was sure I would have time to finish my projects for school and get all my Christmas presents done.

So, you can imagine what the next five days are going to be like. Luckily, school is done and now I can focus on the Holidays…finally! If you are like me, and still haven’t found time to do all of your wrapping yet, here are some fun (and easy) homemade gift wrap ideas that will add a sweet personal touch. Right before they rip it all to shreds!

Photo from The DIY Dreamer

Photo from The DIY Dreamer

This custom wrapping paper from The DIY Dreamer is kind of amazing. She just took a couple branches and placed them on the copy bed of her printer and printed the design out on bright white copy paper! While I was reading the tutorial, I was thinking you may need heavier paper. But then again, you want it light enough you can fold it to wrap the gifts. This would be perfect for smaller gifts. You don’t even need the branches – you can really print out any design you want!

Photo from Artifact Uprising

Photo from Artifact Uprising

I usually stick to sharing DIY tutorials from bloggers. If I see something shared by a big-name store or magazine, chances are there’s a blogger doing it, too. But when I happen upon a business whose beliefs I agree with, and they have a beautiful tutorial like this, I feel inclined to share. Artifact Uprising – a photo goods store – teamed up with photographer Fawn DeViney for this DIY Gift Wrapping tutorial. They used the plain brown paper, and added a print on top! Now, they used their Square Prints Set that comes with 25 prints and sells for $21.95. That’s a pretty good deal, but if you are in a time and budget pinch – find some photos/prints that are lying around and trim them down to size!

Photo from Mini Eco

Photo from Mini Eco

I found this beautifully hand-drawn wrapping paper from Mini Eco on through the MAKE zine. Kate Lilley (who runs Mini Eco) worked as a web designer before becoming a full-time mom and now freelances and writes books while her sons are at school. I think I found the perfect someone for a Yo Momma Monday feature! She has loads of tutorials on her site, including a cross stitch gift wrap printable.

Now, for something to top your beautiful handmade gift wrap…

Photo from Lisa Griffith

Photo from Lia Griffith

I’m not a huge fan of the Christmas bows. I think they look beautiful (most of the time), but they usually get smashed when you’re packing all your Christmas gifts into a car, and one time, a family member politely informed me that I had a bow stuck on my butt. How it got there, I have no idea. Sure, it was cause for a good laugh, but I would rather the bows stick on the gifts. That’s why I like these printable paper bows from Lia Griffith – they actually go around the gift, less of a chance of sticking to everything else but the gift! And Lia offers printables for each style and even blank ones in case you want to design your own!

Photo from Oh Happy Day

Photo from Oh Happy Day

When there comes a time when I am able to make/purchase gifts for my friends again (note to friends: sorry), I’m definitely using this printable gift wrap and tags from Oh Happy Day! Heck, I might even use them for the family this year. I was planning on just painting/writing the names on each gift, but if I need to make some tags, this could definitely be the way to go! This blog is so beautiful in general, and she shares so many good tutorials – like a Christmas forest cake topper.

Do you have any handmade gift wrap ideas you would like to share? Post the link in the comments and share on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter with the hashtag #homamdefortheholidays! Find more handmade gift inspiration on my Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Emmaline Lamond

yo momma mondayMeet Emmaline Lamond, 36, from Mornington, Victoria, Australia. She is the beautifully creative mind behind Coco Press and is mama to her beautiful one-year-old daughter, Amelie. I met Emmaline through a Giveaway she was hosting and I was lucky enough to win her amazing hand-printed cards! Today, I’m honored to share her story with you.

9b3eb64e335911e3a62322000ab698eb_8

Emmaline was first introduced to lincout printing in her high-school art class. After school, she had to put her creative ventures aside and as she says, “get on with life,” but decided to take them back up again after she found her old art supplies in a box during a recent move.

“I found my printing gear and fell in love, again. At the time I was working in a stressful corporate job, I found that carving a lino block in preparation for printing was incredibly stress relieving. I was hooked and my obsession has continued to grow over the last few years to a point where I now have a studio over flowing with ink, printing gear and most importantly, three beautiful presses.”

So, what exactly is linocut printing, you ask? I know, I had the same question and Emmaline filled me in a little of the process.

“Lino cutting is a method of relief printing. Its lots of fun, well at least I think so. You basically start with a sheet of lino, I use a softer vinyl product and carve into it with special tools that allow you to cut away the negative space, this leaves only the positive space (the actual parts that print).”

“Think of it as a great big hand carved stamp that you then ink up with a roller (brayer) and then stamp onto paper, with the help of a printing press. I love the tactile nature of printing, I love the problem solving involved, the subtle tweaking you have to do to get it just right.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Emmaline works with a press from the ’70s as newer machines are not really being manufactured right now, but to my surprise, she informed me that there are people who use reconditioned machines that date back to the 1900’s! She says that she would love an older press, but they are harder to find – and more expensive – in Australia than in America.

“I do love that they each have their own history, where have they come from who has worked and created on them in the past? For the time being, I am content to work with my lovely Chandler and Price table top and my smaller bright red Adana table top press.”

While Emmaline had been involved in craft fairs for a few years, she did not decide to make this a full-time business until September 2012, when she was put on maternity leave.

“I have been working very hard for the last 12 months or so to build up my business, create a larger range of cards and prints, find the right craft markets for my work (we moved interstate at the same time I started my business), learn the finer points of letterpress printing all while learning to be a mum for the first time!”

She recently launched the invitation side of her business, and she also launched her wedding stationary at a local Bridal Expo. Since she is still building that part, she says that most of her sales come from her letterpress cards rather than her wedding stationary.

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I LOVE working with couples to create their perfect wedding stationery. I adore hearing all about their big dreams for their big day, the dress, the location the colour scheme, all of it. It really inspires me to create something unique and beautiful just for them, something that will remain a treasured keepsake they can pull out as the years pass and they celebrate many anniversaries together.”

Like many of us new moms (ok, probably all of us), Emmaline hasn’t had a normal work day since having her little girl last year, and she says her work style has definitely changed.

“I try to keep a to-do list at hand and do my best to work my way through it in 10-minute chunks, as this is usually the longest my little girl will play independently. There is always something to do, drawing, refining my designs in Photoshop, cutting paper, printing, packaging, photographing my products, listing my products… the list goes on and on!”

All of the designs on Emmaline’s cards, invitations and linocut prints are created by her. She says she is drawn to Art Nouveau and whimsical images, and also loves creating her own quirky designs for cards and invites. As for the wedding side, she opts out of the traditional wedding designs, as she says there are plenty of people who “do traditional designs way better than me.”

“But no one else can create my designs exactly like I do. All my designs start with an idea, an inkling, a whimsical daydream that I turn into a drawing and the drawings I like the most are converted into digital images with the help of a scanner, Photoshop and my trusty Wacom tablet. These digital images are then made into photopolymer plates that are used for the actual printing.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

While Emmaline admits that being a new mom and starting her creative business can be a little tough, she says that she loves every minute of it.

“I feel so privileged to be in a position to make my small dream of entrepreneurship come true. I am totally motivated by my daughter I want to be able to show her that it is possible to live the life you dream of, for me that means building a sustainable business that will allow me to contribute to our household whilst building a loving and nurturing home for my little family.”

Although Emmaline works alone, her partner helps with the little one on the weekends so she can spend a few hours printing on the weekend. She waited until her daughter was a little older to return to the craft fair scene, and now her daughter gets more compliments than her art does!

I love everything about being a mum. I adore my little girl. I could complain about lack of sleep and those downsides you hear other people talk of but I don’t really mind, she’s only this little for such a short time that I just want to enjoy it all.”

She is focusing on craft shows that are close to her home, and fortunately she lives in a beautiful beachside area which is popular for tourists, and therefore also popular for craft shows. She says that the best and worst part about running her own business is that you live and breathe it.

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I love that I have so much passion and drive to make this a success but I also know that I should step away from it more often to live in the moment with my baby and my partner.

While Emmaline has a hard time picking her favorite thing about the entire creative process, she can easily pinpoint her favorite part of the printing process.

“That first time you get to see a new print, peeling the paper back off the printing plate to see the image revealed for the first time- its just magic!”

Emmaline describes her personal style as quirky, whimsical and fun, and she wants people to be able to recognize her work the moment they see it.

“I think it’s also important to have a bit of a sense of humour about your work and to realise that what you create isn’t going to appeal to everyone.”

She recently started creating her own tote bags, and said that they are now on the sidelines while she perfects them, but that won’t last long. And as for the future of her creative business as a whole, well – you will just have to wait and see!

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

I have huge plans for the future, I’m working on a top secret kick arse idea a the moment, one that will take lots of hard work and maybe more risk than I am used to but one that I am determined to bring to fruition, I am hoping to unveil it all next summer! So stay tuned for more exciting news as I bring the project together.”

Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Lin

yo momma monday

Meet Stefanie Lin, 30, from Sloughton WI, who has started her own Virtual Assistant business, called Crafty Helper. She keeps creative businesses in order with all of the services she offers online. This way, you can get an Assistant when you need one, and don’t need to worry about keeping one on the books during your slower seasons.

Before she started Crafty Helper, Stefanie worked a lot of Customer Service jobs and most recently, was running a small business for an owner who lived across the country. She got the idea to start her own business after working the indie craft fair circuit for several years and noticed that so many of her crafty friends were too busy keeping up with the business aspect that they didn’t have time for the creative side anymore.

“So many weren’t at a place to hire an employee on their payroll but needed some help and bonus would love to work with someone who “got it” (i.e: the handmade movement/community).  I saw a need that I could fill.”

While Stefanie has her personal blog called Artsy Momma, she also started a blog for Crafty Helper when the site went live. That blog is more business-driven, where she throws in her past experiences and shares her opinion on various small business related topics.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“If I help someone or give them motivation, my work is done. The bonus is that they keep me in mind when they are at a point that they need a set of capable hands to help them move their business forward and take that next step!”

A mother to four, her day is spent balancing work and family life. Her mornings are dedicated to getting her two oldest kids off to school and checking e-mails. Then she run errands with her little ones and does most of her work while they are napping. She also runs an antique booth with her best friend so she will stop in with her baby to check on that and then checks in with her clients at her weekly Skype meetings. She fits in some family time, then it’s back to work again once the kids are all in bed.

Her workspace is a desk in the family room, and she shares it with her kids for their homework and educational games. She does have a studio for her sewing and painting in the basement, but it usually ends up in the living room.

“I cant help it I love to be in the middle of the action!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Since Stefanie’s husband works nights and sleeps during the day, she handles most of the parenting until the weekends, when they screw up his work schedule and he spends time with the family. They like going out to their favorite local restaurants, enjoying a good movie and doing projects together at home, although her husband isn’t a huge fan of the resulting mess.

“I always tell people though you pick what you are passionate about and what you make time for.  I love what I do so I work hard and I do all that I can with the time I have.  As for folding laundry, well that can wait 😀  (Maybe that will be my kids memory of their childhood, clean clothes in hampers, eek!)”

While it can be hard to manage everything, Stefanie refers to her husband as her biggest cheerleader as he always helps her with designing an art booth, cutting down frames for her paintings and watching the kids when she has craft fairs.

“This new adventure though gives me more time to be in the crafty world but get to keep my weekends free to spend with my family as a whole, and for that I am thankful!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As a small business owner and creative herself, Stefanie knows how time-consuming yet necessary all of the business aspects are, and that is why she believes that virtual assistants are so important to small/handmade business owners.

“So much now for businesses is done online and there are only so many hours in the day to do all the things to “stay relevant” and still be able to make the product you are selling…  A virtual assistant can do so much of the online work for an artist so that the artist can still have their name/brand out there but keep working on what they are passionate about, what they started out the business to begin with to make amazing/awesome/beautiful products”

Like so many business mamas, Stefanie’s favorite part about running her own business is the flexibility and the fact that she is always there for her kids. Since her business is still in the baby pages, she was a little scared about getting her first clients. Just a month in, she is already getting good feedback and referrals.

Since most of her clients are also mamas, they understand that weekends are dedicated to family time, and then Mondays she’s back on the grind. Even with this flexibility, she admits that she has become attached to her mobile devices (really though, who hasn’t) and that she forces herself to put the phone down and be completely present.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“When my kids look back on their childhood, I don’t want my phone to be the thing they remember, I want my smile and the projects we do together to be the first memories and the phone/computer just a minimal part of it!”

After all, it was a quilt hunt when she was pregnant with her first daughter that got her involved with craft shows in the first place. She wanted to make her baby a quilt, but hadn’t sewn a day in her life before then, so her husband bought her a sewing machine for Valentine’s Day. As it turns out, she was not so hot on quilting and finally decided to hire someone to make the dream quilt. In the meantime, she grew quite fond of sewing.

“I started with totes applied for my first show (didn’t sell a thing!) learned from it, got my first consignment store and hit the ground running! It wasn’t a straight path from sewing I started collecting vintage fabric which lead to vintage patterns. I wanted to paint my own faces which started out first very whimsical but have come full circle and I paint a bit more realistic but still with my own twist of using lots of texture and glazes to create paintings that have an old vintage vibe to them.”

She got involved with the Oh My Handmade! community after she followed the blog for a while and looked to it as an amazing resource for crafty businesses and a trusted voice on the online world. She finally decided to join the community and found “an amazing group of creatives I get to hang out with/ bounce ideas off of/ learn from/cheer on.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Stefanie’s favorite thing about what she does is creating connections and working with happy and positive people. She loves being able to help them and cheer them on, and sharing knowledge about her past experiences while learning to work with new sites and applications.

“I am all about growing and learning, I like to stay busy so getting to learn new things makes me pretty happy!”

Her advice for new creative business owners is simple: just start doing it.

“I am all about information but if all you do is collect information and don’t take the first baby steps to where you want to go you will get overwhelmed and just sit there with tons of information, and what good is that?  Fake it till you make it baby!  And don’t let the gremlins in your head tell you aren’t worthy of your crafty dreams you are, you can do it.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As for the future of her own business, Stefanie hopes to start a YouTube channel, keep a consistent blogging schedule, look for some good advertising spaces and continue to help artists make their own creative business dreams come true. Her plan for the antique booth is to continue the antique hunt and hopefully expand her booth into two.

“I also would love to help artist/handmade businesses break out of the mentality that they have to do it all for a long time before they are successful, hiring someone may hit the pocketbook initially but having that free time to really build your business is worth its weight in gold (and your sanity)”

For now, Stefanie’s heart is happy being able to cheer on other small businesses and make achieving their creative business dreams just that much easier. She hopes others will get the same fulfillment from their work, regardless of which avenue they choose.

“We all have our special gifts and we love and are passionate about other things.  It is finding that passion that you want to do all the time and can make a living doing.  I am not wanting to become a millionaire that is never my intention I want to have a healthy happy life work balance and make sure my family is taken care of but for me that means living in our cozy home driving a not so new vehicle and one day having chickens in the backyard.  Everyone’s dream is different and that is absolutely OK that is what makes being a human being so freaking amazing!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

To find out more about Stefanie Lin and Crafty Helper, you can check out her website here and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have an idea for Yo Momma Monday, let me know by posting in the comments or using the hashtag #yomommamonday in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instgram. Visit my Pinterest to find more awesome mama inspiration!