These words make me think of Mary creator of Sunshine and Sea Salt a blog for food lovers everywhere. Mary is an amazing woman with a knowledge of wellness and health that stemmed from wanting to create the best life possible for her family. Her Instagram instantly caught my eye. She has an incredible gift at creating effortlessly beautiful photography. I am always endlessly inspired by mothers who dedicate so much of themselves to providing the healthiest life possible for their children. Mary creates the most glorious gluten free, refined sugar free, and often raw vegan goodies for her magical darling children. She creates still life images that capture a moment so vividly it steals you away into her world for a while. Her blog, Sunshine and Sea Salt is a resource for health, wellness and motivation to continue even when times get tough. Mary inspires me to get back to the earth, cook slowly and with intention. She is also my muse for motherhood. Her love for her family shines through in every image she captures. It’s a warm light radiating over everything she does. I am so thrilled to share this amazing woman with you.
How many children do you have, where is home and what really inspired you to start sunshine and sea salt?
Hi, Michelle! I have five little lovelies, plus the hubby, and we live in the woody suburbs of coastal Texas. Sunshine and Sea Salt was inspired by my passion for food and health, my love for sunshine and sea salt; I mean, I'm quite the little beach girl, and time spent near the ocean always has a positive affect on my mental and spiritual health, which I believe has super healing benefits...and so the name was born. I was also encouraged by a few positive and uplifting friends to start food blogging and since I used to food blog, before all the health issues became almost too much to bear, I thought maybe it was time to share some of our lifestyle changes with more people than just our inner circle. You see, all of our children (including myself) have some sort of autoimmune disorder; eczema, psoriasis, food allergies, celiac (digestion problems) and type 1 diabetes. But the good news is; there is not one of these issues that has not seen improvement with REAL FOOD, and that is what keeps me going. We were created to live and thrive on the Earth and doing just this has proven a most beneficial reality for our family.
What is your take on nutrition? The food you capture is breathtaking, what are your favorite meals?
I have always been drawn to 'health foods' but never realized their importance until I started digging for the facts and applying them to our daily routine. Our bodies operate on nutrition and a lack of any one thing can cause our entire systems to spiral out of control. I'm no expert, I'm just a mom on a mission, but if I've learned anything at all it's that there is no 'one size fits all' explanation for human health. We are all made up a bit differently, our blood types vary, genetics play a role; some of us are sensitive to certain foods while others are not, some can digest grains with ease while others suffer extreme pain from the process. It can all be quite frustrating, especially if you're trying to figure it out alone, but there is a helpful starting point and it's high quality, nutrient dense and chemical free food. Basically, if it doesn't come directly from a plant with minimal processing or from a humanely raised, grass fed and well loved animal- it's no good and not worth the body's time to try and recognize it.
And, oh...thank you for being so sweet, darling. :) Choosing a favorite meal is a tough one...we really love smoothies and if paired with the right things it can most definitely be considered a meal, right? My favorite green smoothie would have to be the kale, banana, almond butter combo, but the kids would probably choose the strawberry, banana, peach cheesecake made with cashew butter, lemon juice and coconut water. Salads are also a favorite go to, we love the high quality and local olive oil we pick up from the farmers market, paired with some minced garlic and balsamic vinegar for dressing. Raw desserts...oh and kombucha...don't even get me started on that stuff. Simple and delicious are time and sanity savers in a busy household, but my favorite, favorite meals would have to be the warm and comforting ones. The ones that take hours of prep time and minutes of long lasting satisfaction. Soups, roasts, stews and pies. Mostly things that require wine reductions. I am guilty. Yes.
Your take on our modern food system? How do you think we could change for the better?
The modern food system. Oh, man. I'm not really sure what it is exactly. According to the SAD food pyramid; we're supposed to eat a diet mostly made up of grains, and according to most of our shopping carts at the grocery store (yes, I pay attention) we eat sugar, wheat, more sugar, aspartame and meat fed a grain or mostly grain diet. I'd say most of us are hugely deficient in necessary vitamins and essential minerals. Many of us are, in fact, deficient in Vitamin D, specifically (our power source) and my guess is, sun exposure is not the problem. The problem is the food and our body's ability to synthesize according to the digestive tract. How we think of our diets and the adjustments needed will determine the ease and enjoyment produced, but change IS needed. Plant a few seeds and have fun with it. Make sure they're organic and from a reputable source, do a little research. Hang out at your local farmers market and make friends with your farmer. Spend more time shopping and eating from the produce section; it's amazing what a little color will do. Eliminate overly processed foods, deli meats and cheeses included. It seems crazy, I know, but it can be done. Promise.
What are your darling babies favorite treats; do they ask you to make certain dishes over and over?
Okay well, I sort of, kind of answered this one in a previous question, but kombucha is a favorite indeed. Kombucha snow cones in the summer are the best! There's a beach market we love to shop and their kombucha stand rocks like no other. Raw desserts are also a favorite, my sweet 8 year old with type 1 has a favorite raw cookie she makes on her own, over and over again. It has nuts, dates, vanilla extract, coconut flakes and maca powder which is good for the endocrine system and it makes me so happy that she loves it. Like most kids, they also love pizza and when we came up with a grain free version, they were over the moon. Seeing my kids and their growing love for good food is the best treat, ever. Really.
Do you have a favorite gluten free flour blend that you make?
YES! When I first endeavoured in the gluten free baking world, I came across a book called, Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone. Let me just say, that lady knows how to bake! She once owned a bakery and fed people like, Rachael Ray from the Food Network. Like me, she was out to heal her son, who happened to have a skin disorder undiagnosed by conventional doctors. After seeing a naturopath or homeopath, I forget which one, he was found to have an allergy to gluten and dairy. So, she pulled the culprits from the diet and the skin cleared. Miraculously. Almost. I was drawn to her by her story, but our conditions required a slightly different approach, so I took her book which has an amazing all purpose gluten free blend and began adapting it to fit our needs. For example; when cane sugar was used I would replace it with coconut sugar or xylitol. When white rice flour was used, I would use a mixture of coconut and almond flour, etc. Anyway, I've gotten a bit off track here, so in short; I do have a favorite blend and it was inspired/adapted from her. I'll share all the details on the blog, sooooon.
What is your favorite season? As a busy mama, what daily rituals keep you balanced and centered?
Born and raised in the South, where it never snows; I like things to be above 75 degrees and full of sunshine. I feel the most connected when I'm outdoors near water or in the garden harvesting pretty things and chasing butterflies. In Texas, I can have all of this in Spring-Fall and I am so grateful.
As a homeschooling mother of five creative beings I'm not really sure what keeps me balanced and centered. I do know that I absolutely adore my kids and the life that has been given to us. The love of family, cooking, gardening and learning seems to run thick in my veins and the rest just kind of works itself out. Well, okay...a little time alone with books, prayer, a warm cup of herbal tea and therapeutic essential oils help too, I think. Oh and sleep. I really need sleep. ;-)
If you could go back to a moment in time in history and wield your camera of today to capture a moment in time, when and where would you go back to and why ?
This is a hard one, but I think I would want to photograph my maternal grandparents, together in their kitchen, the most. I miss them the most. Italian by blood and American by birth, they loved life and food. They were both amazing cooks and when I look back at my childhood, I think, my love and joy in the kitchen must have been inherited from them. I can still hear their laughter and smell the sweet aroma of their authentic Italian cooking. They were second generation Americans and all their cooking was learned from their parents, of course. Mawmaw and Pawpaw, as I called them, had a backyard veggie garden, a pecan tree- that produced lots and lots of sweet pecans, they frequented their local farmers market and always had a pot of fresh homemade 'gravy' or tomato sauce, simmering on the stove. They had nine children and were used to feeding a crowd, even though they didn't have a lot of funds, there was always enough. Unfortunately, they both passed in my adolescent years and I've since wondered if their high carb and white pasta diet could have contributed to their health problems. Anyhow, I miss them immensely and would love nothing more than to steal a moment or two in the kitchen amidst the pasta pots or in the garden with them.
Touch, smell, sight, hearing, touch, out of the five senses which would you say you adore the most?
Without a doubt, sight. "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." I never really understood the idiom until I became an adult. The defining moment was probably when I became a mom. Things that used to be ugly and untouchable became beautiful, even beyond my own understanding. My perception changed. My heart was being transformed. Through experience and challenges, my view of the world has become more clear, more beautiful and I have come to realize, there is much power in the way we choose to see things. The way we see things actually drives all other senses; touch, smell, hearing....taste. We are beauty seekers and things that look beautiful are most likely to follow suit in all other senses. That's the power of the mind body connection. Don't you think?
I have seen your photos in the garden! What is going to be coming up this spring? Any favorites to plant?
Plants are my favorite, especially edible ones, but I haven't always grown them; in fact, I'm just getting to know them. Last Spring 2014 was our first growing season for edible things, well, besides a lemon tree we bought the year before. We were beyond excited to harvest our first strawberries, then blackberries, summer peppers and then fall and winter greens. It's true when they say, children will be more willing to eat what they grow themselves. We spent countless hours in the garden watching, waiting, pruning and harvesting; every minute was prized and will always be remembered.
This Spring, we'll be expanding the garden a bit and trying new things like cucumbers, carrots and a few varieties of lettuce. The summer, we hope, will be even more colorful and full of bounty. Each time we experience the fruit of the earth by hand, you can bet, we're out there singing the Earth's praises and the Creator of it all. Life is such a beautiful thing!
Any advice you have for mothers who are striving to feed their children the best in nutrition?
The best advice I can give is don't. give. up. I know what it's like to struggle with food and children. It's not an easy process, especially when they have been raised in a society of convenient and fast food. Their sensitive taste buds have not been adapted to the flavors and textures of real food. That was my case, anyway. Our kitchen was always stocked with boxed pastas, goldfish, fruit snacks, chicken nuggets, ketchup and French fries. The switch was no cake walk. Most of the time it felt like a power struggle and I was losing the battle. Many nights ended in tears and refusals to eat. I was the one crying. If you are this mom, do not despair. There is hope and there is a way. You can do this! Just don't give up. All the best things in life are never easy, but they are entirely worth the struggle.