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.

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

I have been wanting to get back into working out daily for a long time. And I have come up with every excuse I can squeeze out of my lips and finger tips for why I’m not doing it. I’m tired. I have no energy. I chase a toddler around every hour I’m awake – isn’t that enough? Yesterday, I decided it was time to stop excusing why I had abandoned something that I secretly loved and that pushed me to take care of myself.

I wanted to involve Cecilia in my workouts and I knew that the baby workouts I did so long ago will probably not cut it for a baby on the move – so I searched for some new exercises I could do with my girl.

Photo from Bulu Box

Photo from Bulu Box

I found this little diddy from Rena Roark on Bulu Box that has fun exercises to do with your little one all the way up to your adolescent. Crazy to think that Cecilia will eventually be an adolescent. Blasphemy! I also found a neat 28 day workout plan to do with your kid from Inspired by Familia that I’m going to give a whirl.

Now, moving on to the taste buds…I have….THIS!

Photo from Kim's Healthy Eats

Photo from Kim’s Healthy Eats

Oven Fried Pickles from Kim’s Healthy Eats paired with Clean Eating Ranch Dressing from The Gracious Pantry makes me a happy girl. I’m a sucker for fried pickles, and I was over the moon to learn there is a healthier recipe and I cannot wait to make them as an appetizer, or as dinner on a solo night.

Want to share a workout or recipe? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google +. I love meeting new friends who are on the same journey, and I love making new discoveries – especially when they involve yoga and food!

Respect Your Mother – An Update

Respect Your MotherThrift shopping and furniture restoration go hand in hand. It’s not very often that you will pick up a piece of furniture at the thrift store and it’s the perfect color and style that you wanted. If you have ever landed on such a thing, then you need to praise the thrifting gods and consider yourself lucky.

Luckily for me, restoring furniture has become one of my favorite hobbies, and while I’m still new at it, I love to see how I can transform something unappealing to me into something beautiful. It’s pretty powerful to have that control over your furniture and it makes me appreciate what I have a whole lot more.

Knowing that I was not the only one who feels this way, I decided I wanted to start a furniture restoration program with a local nonprofit. We would have local artists and handymen work with kids to restore furniture and sell it, with the profits being donated to different local charities.

Then, we landed on Respect Your Mother – a fundraiser I’m putting together with Vox Sacramento and Sol Collective that will benefit our furniture restoration program we are hoping to open soon. Now that the event is a little over seven weeks away, I thought it would be the perfect time for an update and to spread the word some more!

Here are all the things we are hoping to have:

  • Live auction with 10 pieces of furniture painted by local artists
  • Raffle filled with prizes from local and small businesses
  • 10 booths, all being run by different local businesses, makers and food providers
  • Clothing drive
  • Acoustic live music
  • Bake sale

In order for this to happen, we need some help. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Artists who want to donate their time and talent to painting a piece of furniture
  • Donated furniture (we have three pieces already – need seven more!)
  • Raffle items from local and small businesses
  • Vendors who want to pay $25 for a booth space, which will be donated to Sol Collective
  • Clothing driver partners who want to either donate a large bag of clothing/linens or hold a clothing drive
  • A local acoustic musician
  • Bakers who want to donate a dozen or two of baked goods for the fundraiser

So, if you live in the Sacramento area and want to volunteer and/or sponsor the event, please e-mail me! You can also sponsor from afar so if you want to donate to the raffle, e-mail me so we can set it up! And please help spread the word by sharing this post as much as you can. And you can find the event on Facebook! Thank you for your help!

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: Kinsey Mhire

2116ca068dfd11e3aa500e149370af7a_8I first came across Kinsey Mhire’s work on Facebook, when someone else I was “following” shared one of her photos. I still remember letting out a loud gasp and immediately liking her page. But it wasn’t until she shared a recipe for her lemon blueberry scones that I knew I needed to learn more about her.

So, luckily for me, this wonderful photographer from Springfield, Missouri accepted my invitation to share a little bit more about her on my blog.

Self-taught, Kinsey started taking photos at 17, and shot her first wedding at 18. Now, she works with a Canon 5D Mark II and has a few photo editing programs in her arsenal: Photo Mechanic 5,  Lightroom 4, VSCO presents Film Pack 01, Film Pack 02 and Film Pack 04.

“I think we can get really technical about what makes a “good” photo. But at the end of the day, all that matters is if it makes you feel something. Happy, excited, nostalgic, hopeful, etc. Those are the images worth keeping, despite how “imperfect” they are.”

A recent wedding she shot. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Kinsey never planned on turning her love for photography into a living, but decided she could do it after getting e-mails requesting engagement, family and wedding photos.

“One day it just hit me, this could really happen. I could actually be a wedding photographer.”

She started her blog to not only document her photo sessions, but to also share her love of crafting and food with the world. It also holds her accountable to keep creating something new that is better than the day before. She shares sewing projects, recipes and crafts often on her blog, and her favorite things to make are unique clothing and home decor.

“I need to create. It’s in my bones, and I feel like a part of me is missing when I’m not.”

A recent craft she shared. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

A recent craft she shared. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Kinsey does something that I have never seen from a photographer – she posts tour dates on her blog. Since she and her husband love to travel, they mix a little business with pleasure and get to meet a lot of different people from different places.

“One of my dearest passions is the love between my clients, so to be able to witness love stories all across the globe, well, it just made sense to offer sessions during our travels!”

While her daily activities may vary due to her work schedule, Kinsey begins every morning with cuddling her dog and husband, goes for a run or practices yoga and reads for at least 30 minutes. Then, she starts the work day where she will blog for the first half and then run her errands. She will end up at a coffee shop to do all of her editing and catch up on e-mails. When the work day is over, she meets up with friends for rock climbing or to grab a beer and shoot pool.

Kinsey says that for every hour she spends shooting, she spends another five hours post processing – dealing with emails, contract, culling, editing, uploading images, ordering prints, designing albums and more.

Just look at that pup! Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Just look at that pup! Photo from Kinsey Mhire

“I’m terrified of losing photos/hard drive failing, so I have countless copies of every wedding and session backed up on my computer, hard drive, and online.”

Kinsey’s favorite photo shoots are engagement sessions and she describes her shooting style as real and candid. She often mixes in a little spontaneity with her go-to poses. Depending on the clients, she gives them time to get comfortable and works from there.

The best “poses” seem to happen when you give your clients a bit of direction, and then make them feel comfortable to be themselves!

If she wasn’t a photographer, Kinsey would be a seamstress and would most likely own a small, handmade shop or become a counselor for troubled teens/advocate for the prevention and protection against human trafficking.

In a headband she made. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

In a headband she made. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

“Sewing my own clothes is something I started back in high school, and it’s always been a hobby I really enjoy.”

When asked what advice she had for someone who is just starting their creative business, she had this to say:

“Be yourself. Work hard. Keep your passions and priorities in check. If it becomes all about “being known” or making the big bucks, you will become exhausted very quickly.”

Although she is not one to share her future goals online, Kinsey is looking forward to seeing how much she grows and changes in the next couple of years.

With her husband. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

With her husband. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

“I’ve a few projects I’m working towards that I can’t wait to share in the future, but for now they are just dreams. :)”

Kinsey firmly believes that every person has the power to change someone’s life for the better or worse, and she prays that she continues to bring hope, encouragement and inspiration to every person she meets – whether it’s a wedding client or a barista at a coffee shop.

“I’m so inspired by other peoples stories. The pain and heartache, the love and triumphs. The fact that my job allows me to document stories is one of the sweetest, most rewarding parts of my life.”

You can find more about this amazing person by visiting her blog and connecting with her on Facebook and Instagram. All of these photos are from her Instagram account. If you would like to be featured in this series, I would love to have you. If you know an amazing maker, I would love to have them, too. Just post a link in the comments, share it on social media or e-mail it to me.

Things Worth Celebrating

ThingsWorthCelebrating_700pxWhen I signed up for the Things Worth Celebrating Community Blog Tour with Petit Cadeau, I was racking my brain for things that would be worth celebrating on my blog. I ultimately decided that the little things we celebrate every day (like when Cecilia naps for longer than 30 minutes, or she eats all of her baby food) just wouldn’t make the cut, so therefore – I didn’t really have a lot to write about.

Then, we rented Dallas Buyers Club last night – it’s about a cowboy who found out he had HIV and eventually exploited the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and Doctors. It’s crazy to imagine that this was a true story, and I knew how much I was into it, because for once – I didn’t fall asleep in the middle of it, even if it was way past my bedtime. It got me thinking, there is something worth celebrating and it happens every day – life!

IMG_1667

I’m in the middle of so many things that haven’t come to fruition yet, but I hadn’t yet realized how wonderful it is to be involved in so much. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to stress about school, to worry about if my businesses will thrive or not, and how unbelievably happy I was that the only thing I have to worry about with my daughter is if she will sleep good for me and eat her food.

I don’t have to worry about living with something that is slowly killing me or anyone in my family. I don’t have to worry about medications, or where my next meal will come from. All the things I have to worry about are good things. They mean progress, and they mean that we’re doing alright.

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The other night, I was banging my head on the table and eating as many Samoas (I will never refer to them as Carmel Delites) as I could possibly shove in my mouth because of my project for school. I was making a DIY photo box for school and I suddenly realized how useful this will be to me, and instead of fighting it so much – I should embrace the lesson and take all from it that I can. I should celebrate the fact that I’m in school, learning about a field I hope to work in for a long time.

Another school assignment I did that I loved

Another school assignment I did that I loved

And as stressful as house hunting can be, I’m happy and grateful to have a home to hunt. We should be embracing the hunt, not fighting it. This will be the home that we will raise our family in, where we will make memories that will last forever and a place that we can make – and call – our own.

And finally, even though my businesses are not thriving right now, I should be grateful to have the opportunity to start a business from home. I should be celebrating the fact that I have a supportive boyfriend and family who make it possible for me to do this. I should be more fearless with my business choices, and I should make the most of it. Take this time to focus on making a prosperous life for me and family. I should definitely celebrate that I am working with one of my best friends. Not a whole lot of people can say that.

IMG_0768So, today I’m celebrating the good worries and the good stresses. Because they mean forward movement. I’m not saying that I will never get stressed out again. We all do. It’s a part of life. But instead of being stuck in that negative place, it’s always good to think about what worries and stresses you, and see the good in it. Because, for the most part, there’s always good in it.

Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes -  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

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

Weekly Wishes

One of the hardest things for me to comes to terms with is that I need to understand and set my own limits. I always push myself to do the most that I possibly can in one week, and without fail, I always come up short. Something always comes up and I never have time to do the things I set out to do. Then it dawned on me…what if I set out to do less things and gave 100% to the things I do?

I’ve never picked a word for the year. That always felt a little silly to me, and I never had felt a strong connection to any one wordI saw a lot of bloggers post their word for the year, and thought about what my word would be. Then it hit me: simplify. Simplify my schedule, simplify my house, simplify my routine, simplify my life.

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This is a simple list of what I hope to achieve this week. I stuck to what was most important to me at the moment, and will build from there.

  • Set up Heather as a partner on my blog – I made the difficult decision to put a hold on Baby Burrito Collective right now. As part of my attempt to simplify my life, I took a step back and realized that I was putting a lot of time and money into something and I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it. I had one member and she stuck with me through all the changes. I still want to help her promote her work, so Heather is now going to be my very first partner on my blog! There will be more about her later, but I need to get her added first!
  • Finish my cork board - It’s so close to being done! I just need to staple on the fabric, and attach the back! Can’t wait to hang that beauty up, and finally use it!
  • Write on my blog daily – I have decided to not blog on the weekends, but I would like to post something once a day during the week.
  • Start my coffee can planter project – I have been given the wonderful opportunity to contribute to Childhood Magazine in Sacramento, and this is the project I am writing about! I just need to get a few supplies and I hope to have it done by this weekend.
  • Make one recipe from scratch – I don’t really make boxed anything, but I do use store-bought pasta, bread and tortillas (for now), and I don’t see any chance of me making cheese in the near future. So when I say from scratch, I mean all the way. We need a healthy treat in the house so I’m thinking of making some cookies this week.
  • Practice yoga once - Since I haven’t been able to get a yoga routine down, I’m challenging myself to at least get in one practice. If I do more, great. But I need to do it at least once. I can already feel my body tightening up a lot more, and my stress level getting higher.
  • Update products on Sweet MariposaI just need to take more photos of what Kandyce made and list them individually.

Do you set goals for the week? If so, what are they? Join the Weekly Wishes link-up at Nectar Collective and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram and Pinterest to share and motivate each other!

My Homemade Manifesto

homemade manifesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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