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Motherly @ Work features the stories and insights of modern women growing their careers—and their families.


Like Erica Riegelman President and Co-Founder of Aftcra—an innovative online marketplace where you can buy and sell handmade goods made by artisans in the USA. Aftcra sells everything from beautiful clothing and baby toys, to home furnishings and one of a kind pieces of jewelry. Aftcra is a place where you know you can find truly unique handcrafted products created by local artisans around your community and across the country.

We caught up with Erica to find out what keeps her inspired and how she gets it all done.

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Why did you believe you needed to create Aftcra?

Erica Riegelman: The skill behind making handmade goods has always been a passion of mine. Growing up, handmade products were treated with respect. My mom was a maker with a talent that I wished that I had—she could make something beautiful from nothing. She was always creating, from ceramics to painting, woodworking to baking.

My mom started making life-sized witch silhouettes for Halloween and decided to sell them locally in her Northern Wisconsin community, but when she found out how much of a fee she would owe the local boutiques she became frustrated. Before she threw in the towel, I tried to find a way to help her (and artisans like her) sell their handmade goods easily. And so Aftcra was born—an online marketplace that is easy and affordable for makers to create their own online shop and list products for free.

What was the need in the market?

Erica Riegelman: When Aftcra was first conceived, it was intended to be an online craft fair where you could find handmade products made locally. Soon after we launched in October of 2013, Etsy (the leader of the handmade industry) shifted their mission away from only supporting handmade products to allowing the sale of manufactured goods on Etsy.com, therefore allowing hoards of resellers and non-makers to join their community. This change left many handmade shoppers and artisans in search of a marketplace that could offer authentic handmade products. So, Aftcra was quick to take over as the only handmade marketplace for artisans in the USA, and we’re proud to hold that title!

How and why did you decide that local, American-made products would become the basis of your business? What led you here?

Erica Riegelman: I wanted Aftcra to emphasize another passion of mine—shopping locally. Aftcra may be an online marketplace where people around the world can shop, but all of the products on Aftcra are handmade by makers that live in the USA. So many shoppers and bloggers want easy access to locally made products. With Aftcra they have the ability to do just that! We’ve had an overwhelming amount of users reach out to us to share their appreciation for a marketplace dedicated to only handmade goods and to makers in the USA.

What inspires you to do this work?

Erica Riegelman: Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to meet so many talented makers, handmade buyers, and individuals who are passionate about the artisanal community. Hearing all of their stories—the zeal the artisans have for their work, and how family traditions are being carried down generation after generation—has truly inspired me to continue to promote maker’s talents. Whether it’s a family business being passed down, or a stay-at-home mom who discovered her passion, I’m always sure to stumble upon an incredible story with a journey that most people only dream about.

What are your secrets for integrating work and family?

Erica Riegelman: Aftcra is a family-owned, privately held organization, which means a lot of family time. I

founded Aftcra alongside two other family members, one being my husband. I hold a full-time position with Aftcra while my husband plays more of a specialty role, with a focus on finances and partnerships.

Running a company alongside your husband is a lot about teamwork. It’s a balance that sometimes we get right and sometimes we don’t. Every family-owned business runs differently, but my husband and I have learned that there are times when we talk about Aftcra and times when we disconnect and enjoy our time together with our family. We’ve realized it’s a lot about being present in the moment—being present while working, and being present while spending time with loved ones.

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How do you recharge?

Erica Riegelman: Ah, this is a great question for all working moms. Do we ever get a chance to recharge?

The only way I can truly recharge is by completely disconnecting. Being the owner of a small business makes this difficult—I truly don’t remember the last time I didn’t work for an entire vacation. But there are times when I know that I need to let go for a weekend, and during that time I completely disconnect from the business. I force myself to take “me” time, which is typically getting outside and enjoying time with my friends and family. During this time I force myself to stop worrying about meeting a deadline or finishing a project. Once the forced break is done, I come back to my work with a clearer head, improved moral, and a spike in motivation.

When I need a quick break I tend to turn on one of my favorite shows—either 30 Rock, Arrested Development, or Veep—and get completely immersed in it for an episode or two. The comedic relief from the show helps me get back to work with a different perspective.

Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to that’s helped to shape you as a woman and a mother? Tell us how they inspire you.

Erica Riegelman: I don’t have a formal mentor, but other mothers who are dominating their industry while still making their children a priority have inspired me. Over the years I have looked toward Eleanor Roosevelt, Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as three women who have done incredible things while still placing a focus on their children.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that there is no perfect mentor for me, so I have started to focus less on what other people are doing and more about the characteristics that make them strong leaders. I’ve taken small traits from several influential women and helped form that into who I want to be. This route has helped me concentrate on my strengths and solidify my goals instead of following someone else’s path. I’m on a mission to forge my own way.

Tell us about your children. How have they transformed your career?

Erica Riegelman: I have a two-year-old daughter and a brand new baby boy.

I’ve held a variety of jobs over the past 13 years, but nothing has transformed me like being a parent.

The old saying is true—you never realize how amazing being a mother is until you become one. Having children taught me to be more empathetic, courageous, self-aware and confident.

But the most important aspect that I’ve learned from being a mom is that I have a purpose larger than myself. I want my children to know that both men and women can accomplish extraordinary things in life, and I know that I need to act as their role model in order for them to sincerely understand.

What gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you inspired and excited about life?

Erica Riegelman: As an entrepreneur, I think it’s natural to wake up in the morning with this outlook that you’re going to make a difference in someone’s life today. Some days the impact you have is small, but other days you move mountains. Being an entrepreneur is full of highs and lows, and it’s important to embrace the good with the bad and to know that you’re helping more people than you can comprehend.

What’s one thing you do every day (or try to do every day!) to ensure that your work and home lives run more smoothly?

Erica Riegelman: When I wake up in the morning I write down a to-do list before I get out of bed. I make sure to keep the list on my phone so I can reference it wherever I may be but also add on to it throughout the day. Over the years I have found that this method helps me to stay on the ball—and it’s SO easy to incorporate into your routine! It also helps to make sure that I do not waste time worrying about forgetting to do something, which ends up stealing more energy than you’d imagine.

We’d love to hear—what would you tell other mamas who have a great idea and want to start their own business?

Erica Riegelman: There are always a million reasons to say “no” to take the plunge into owning your own business. Sometimes you have to push those excuses out of the way so you don’t regret taking a risk in your life. Starting a business is challenging—it’s going to push you outside of your comfort zone, you’re going to have to do things you never thought possible—but it will be the most rewarding experience for your career-driven self.

What do you hope your children will learn from your career?

Erica Riegelman: Right now my littles are too, well, little to truly understand the importance of my career with Aftcra. But when they get older I hope they see that hard work, personal sacrifice, taking risks, being kind, and appreciating your support system is what gets you through life.

My father was always a big advocate of women being able to accomplish the same things as a man, and I’m fortunate in that I married someone with the same outlook. I want our children to know that their dreams can become a reality if they work hard and have the passion to motivate them through the rollercoaster that inevitably comes with any career path.

What does ‘Motherly’ mean to you?

Erica Riegelman: To me, “Motherly” means embracing the new and improved you as you take the journey through motherhood. You will change and evolve into a different person than you were before you became a mother, but that person will be a better version you than you could have ever imagined. Trust me, I’m living proof of it!

Where can people find Aftcra online?

Erica Riegelman: You can set up your handmade shop, or start shopping, on Aftcra or you can connect with us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.

You can also email us directly here (info@Aftcra.com) and one of our handmade enthusiasts will get back to you within 48 hours.


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When I think about the Super Bowl, two things come to mind: funny commercials and tasty snacks. If you're hosting the Super Bowl and have kiddos around, the name of the game (pun intended) is to offer a spread of snacks loaded with proteins and vitamins that will keep everyone's energy levels up the entire game, and won't make your friends rely on greasy items.

Try these healthy go-to treats for your viewing party that even your toddler will love:

Skinny baked mozzarella sticks

Skinny baked mozzarella sticks

Serves: 16 pieces

Time to cook: 1 hour and 18 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tbsp Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp parmesan cheese optional
  • olive oil cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Cut the string cheese in half and place it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. Beat egg in a small and set aside. In a separate bowl mix the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and set aside.
  2. Dip one string cheese in breadcrumb mixture than in egg mixture and then back in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat this for all the pieces. Place sticks on a greased foil or pan. Return the cheese stick back to the freezer for at least 30-45 minutes. Note: do not skip this step because the cheese will melt if they are not frozen.
  3. After the cheese is finished freezing, heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray the cheese lightly with cooking spray and place in the oven. After four minutes flip the cheese sticks and continue baking for another three minutes or until they are golden. Do not overbake because the cheese will melt. Serve hot with your favorite marinara sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Broccoli cheese balls

Broccoli cheese balls

Serves: 20 balls

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or panko or Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup shredded cheese mozzarella, cheddar, or favorite melting cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced onion or shallots optional
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon cajun or taco seasoning or favorite seasoning blend!
  • Pinch of salt and pepper black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Steam broccoli in boiling water or microwave until tender. Chop broccoli using a knife or food processor until finely minced.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped broccoli, eggs, almond flour, cheese, parsley and spices. Mix until well incorporated.
  4. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of mixture and form into a ball. Place on a lined baking sheet and spray or drizzle lightly with oil. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.
  5. Serve on a salad, in a sandwich, with rice, or as an appetizer or snack with your favorite dipping sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Chicken taco lettuce wraps

Chicken taco lettuce wraps

Serves: 4

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Grilled taco chicken

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

To assemble

  • 8 leaves romaine lettuce rinsed
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1/4 cup onion diced

Cilantro sauce

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour-cream or mayo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

To cook chicken

  1. Add the chicken, garlic, olive oil, and spices in a large bowl or zip-seal bag. Place in fridge and let marinate for at least 15-30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  2. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken on a grill or pan heated to medium-high heat. Let chicken cook until it is no longer pink on the inside, about 9-10 minutes per side (or until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees).

To make cilantro sauce

1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend for one minute or until creamy.

To assemble

  1. Layer lettuce wraps with chicken, tomatoes, onion and avocado. Drizzle with cilantro sauce or your favorite taco sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Eggplant pizza bites

Eggplant pizza bites

Serves: 4

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella shredded

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant with the coarse salt, let sit on paper towels for 10-15 minutes and wipe dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bow, combine the crushed garlic, olive oil and Italian seasoning. Brush the mixture onto both sides of the eggplant slices and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove eggplant from oven and flip eggplant slices, top each slice with a tablespoon of marinara sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.

Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Rice krispie chicken tenders

Rice krispie chicken tenders

Servings: 4

Time to cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw chicken, cut into long thin slices
  • 2 cups brown rice krispies (or regular if you desire)
  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Sea salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place egg whites in a shallow bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, add rice krispies and smash with the bottom of a cup until it is a crumb like texture (some will be almost a flour consistency, but don't smash long enough for all of the krispies to be completely crushed). Add seasonings in bowl.
  4. Dip each slice of chicken into egg whites, then coat completely on both sides, and place on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
  5. When all are on a baking tray, lightly sprinkle a little more sea salt onto tenders and place them in the oven.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and flip and bake for 10 more minutes.
  7. Combine yogurt, mustard, bbq sauce, honey and seasonings in a small bowl.
  8. Serve with chicken tenders for dipping.
Recipe from TheLeanGreenbean.
Life

I have a love-hate relationship with maternity clothes. On one hand, I love them because they make me feel comfortable as my bump grows, without anything getting in the way of my breathing or baby's movement. On the other hand, I've really struggled finding items that are my style—which I admit is very particular—or don't cost a ton of money.

During my first pregnancy I bought a bunch of basic pregnancy outfits and tried to include some of my non-maternity favorites in the mix. Sometimes it worked, sometimes in the middle of a work day I had to run to the bathroom to unzip my high waisted skirt because it was too much to handle. By the time baby came, I realized I had spent a ton of money on clothing that I barely wore, and passed them on to other pregnant friends (some items still with tags on.)

With my second pregnancy, I decided I needed to be comfortable above all, but also not spend a ton of money on fast pregnancy fashion because these months go super fast and I'm trying to be more environmentally conscious. I had tried clothing subscription services before (hello wedding season!) and loved being able to wear different outfits I otherwise wouldn't have been able to. After doing some research, I found three subscriptions that offer maternity clothes. I tried them out in an attempt to dress better while sporting a huge bump and to save money and keep my closet decluttered. The best part was that if I really loved something, I had the chance to purchase it at a super discounted price.

Here are the three maternity clothing subscription services I tried:

Amoire

Amoire Style

About the service: This is a fairly new service and it's currently priced at $149 a month. Once you sign up, you take a style quiz by picking from a group of eight photos of the looks you like the most. Once you are done defining your style, you give your current sizing and then tell your stylist what you are looking for. You get four pieces at a time that you can wear as many times as you want, then return and get new items to wear.

More to know: Unlike other clothing services, you cannot pick from an endless list of clothes what you'd like to receive in your shipment. Instead, you have to go through a stylist who sends picks for you. To be honest, I found this a little annoying since I kept asking for rompers and pants, but kept getting blouses and dresses in my orders. So it did take some back and forth until my stylist sent me things I actually wanted to wear.

My thoughts: I received a mix of maternity and non-maternity clothes that were all bump friendly. The quality of all of them was great and some came with tags, which meant I was the first one ever wearing that piece of clothing.

$149

NUULY

Nuuly

About the service: This subscription is priced at $88 per month for six pieces at a time. The difference between Nuuly and other services is that you cannot return items to get new ones during the month—you return all of them at the same time and get six new ones the next month. This was a bit of a learning curve for me as I was used to sending back things that didn't fit or I didn't like to maximize my month of rental.

More to know: This service provides clothes from more edgy brands, like Urban Outfitters, Reebok and DL1961, which actually made it my favorite service because it was super aligned with my style. They offer both maternity and non-maternity clothes, so I was able to get super cool dresses (like the one pictured above) in a bigger size than my regular size to wear with my growing bump.

My thoughts: Their maternity catalog is pretty limited, however they have super unique items. One of the pieces I requested was already rented by the time my order was placed and they sent me something totally different to what I wanted. I understand the effort to make sure I was getting the full six items in my order but it was a non-maternity summer dress that didn't work with my bump.

$88

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway

About the service: I went with their Unlimited Plan which is priced at $159 for four pieces at a time (you can exchange over and over again during the month). Their return service is super fast so if you are organized and return pieces you don't love quickly, you can get so many new things to wear in a month.

More to know: They have the biggest catalogue of maternity clothes and brands, including Hatch. Like Nuuly, you get to pick what you want from their options. It can be a little overwhelming since you scroll through pages and pages of really good quality stuff so I recommend going into it with something in mind (do you need jeans or a party dress?).

My thoughts: Because the service is so popular, I got some clothes that were super worn already and even damaged. I returned those immediately and got new items, but you really never know in what condition they are going to be in, despite the service trying to keep super worn clothes out of their rental catalogue.

$159

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When infectious diseases make headlines parents naturally get a little worried, and this week coronavirus is in the news constantly. The coronavirus has infected more than 600 people worldwide, though mostly in China. As of Jan. 23, Chinese authorities have reported 17 deaths from the virus so far. Only two cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and officials are monitoring 63 suspected cases.

Here's what you need to know, mama.

1. Don't panic.

According to the World Health Organization the coronavirus outbreak is not an international public health emergency.

"CDC believes the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time, but the situation is evolving rapidly," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call with media on Friday. "We have our best people working on this problem," Messonnier explained, adding that we will likely see more cases in the coming days.

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2. There have been no fatalities in children.

The youngest victim of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus is 36 years old. Most of the fatal cases in China have been in people over 60 and more men than women have been impacted.

3. The family of coronaviruses is a spectrum of severity.

According to the CDC, most people will be infected with a coronavirus at some point in their lives. The common strains of coronavirus cause "moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold" while more severe strains, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS) can be fatal.

The strain that is making headlines is a severe and novel coronavirus. It's new and the similarities to influenza make it difficult for experts to distinguish it from all the other respiratory illnesses floating around this time of year.

4. There is a test for it.

When public health officials suspect someone may have coronavirus they can send respiratory and serum samples to the CDC and find out if it's coronavirus or just the flu within about 24 hours.

5. There are steps to take for prevention.

To prevent the spread of the virus the U.S. State Department has issued its most severe travel advisory for the area of China (the province of Hubei, where the city of Wuhan is) most impacted by the coronavirus.

The CDC offers the following tips for protecting your family from the coronavirus (as well as other respiratory illnesses):

  • "Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds."
  • "Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands."
  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick."
Bottom line: Don't panic, mama. The illness is likely to be in the headlines for months, but that doesn't mean we need to live in fear. We just need to be proactive and keep washing those little hands.
News

Every generation has its parenting trends. “The Greatest Generation" had the idealized “perfect family"—a “picture perfect" two-parent, gender-divided home in the suburbs, that was probably more trope than reality.

The Baby Boomers brought us parent-as-life coach/ friend/chauffeur and manager. At best, it's a nurturing style done out of love and wanting the best for your kids. At worst, it's called “helicopter parenting," the idea that parents try to protect their kids from all harm and difficulty, only to make their kids incapable of caring for themselves.

And our Millennial generation has a “free-range" parenting trend, a backlash against the overly-controlled childhood aimed at teaching kids to rise to life's challenges.

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All of this talk about gender roles, helicopter parenting, grit and independence has me wondering—what kind of parent do I want to be?

Do I want to give my kids a picture-perfect childhood? Do I want to control them and make sure every good thing is done to them and for them? Do I want to set them free to figure it all out on their own? Defining the parent I want to be—and deciding what values drive my day-to-day parenting decisions—can be complicated.

The truth is, “helicoptering" comes easy to me, even when I know it's good for my children to work hard, face obstacles, and experience the pride of genuine achievement.

I don't want to helicopter—but I want to make sure my kids have the best opportunities in life, especially in things that I may have missed out on in my own childhood. (Though I'm sure I'm pushing my own values on them and they will find their own way to rebel....)

I don't want to helicopter—but I want to make sure they always look both ways before they cross the street, have their carseat properly installed, and are aware of dangers in our world. (Though I teach them these things and do my best to keep them in safe situations...)

I don't want to helicopter—but having faith that they'll be safe when they're out of my sight is really hard for me. (Though I say a prayer and trust in the universe...)

I don't want to helicopter—but sometimes doing things for them can be so much easier/ faster/ better than letting them do it for themselves. (Though I try to be patient...)

I don't want to helicopter—but I set up play dates, schedule after-school activities, and encourage them socially so that my children can make new friends. (Though I'm sure they will find true friends in their own time...)

I don't want to helicopter—but watching my little ones struggle can be hard for my mama heart. (So I hope they know I'm doing this because I love them...)

I don't want to helicopter—but protecting my kids comes easy. Giving them space to struggle and grow is essential, but hard, for both of us.

Life
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