SPOTLIGHT: Jenna Mason


Age: 14

Business: gourmet cupcakes

Instagram: @jennas.cupcakes



How did you get into baking cupcakes?

When I was little, I would always make-pretend cupcakes or pies out of mud or sand. Then as I got older, I loved helping my mom in the kitchen. She let me mix and cut things when I was really small and I would have to stand on a chair to reach the counter. I have always wanted to have a career in baking because I thought it would be so cool to have a job that was really fun. One day my dad showed me a YouTube channel called My Cupcake Addiction and I started making cupcakes. One day during the summer I made cupcakes while my dad was at work and when he came home he suggested I go sell them at the park next to our house. I made a sign that said ‘Cupcakes $1’, got a wagon, and carried a tray of cupcakes down to the park. I ended up selling all 24 cupcakes. Then I set up an Instagram account so people could order cupcakes. The next Saturday I made 6 dozen cupcake orders for new customers.


What do you love most about it?

My favorite part about making cupcakes is decorating them and making them look pretty. I also like taking pictures of them for Instagram.

Do you have any aspirations for your culinary skills?

I would love for this to be a full-time job when I am older and to own my bakery when I am an adult. 

Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

I have always loved drawing, painting, and photography. My mom taught me a lot about art and she is really good at painting, drawing, and pottery (see Spotlight post on Ali Mason July 14, 2018)

HOME CHEF: Mallory Drazin

IMG_6BA01FFBB161-1Mallory basically grew up in the kitchen, and feels more comfortable in front of the stove than anywhere else. She learned basic cooking skills from her mom at a very young age, and never had a fear of any flavor. She has an innate ability to combine flavors, and a courage to try new things. Food is her happy place, and she brings joy to everyone she feeds. While she loves to follow food bloggers and Instagrammers and learn new things from them, she also loves to create her own recipes. Here she shares one of her recipes she has come to be famous for by her friends and family.

Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Egg


Large Sweet potatoes (typically 1 per person)

Bacon (about 3 strips per person)

1 can Black beans (rinsed)


eggs (1 per person)

goat cheese


cook sweet potatoes until softened and skin falls off easily (either in the oven, or for a quicker way, in the micro. Look up directions on how to do that on Pinterest, etc)

Fry bacon in skillet

Add cooked sweet potatoes to bacon and fry lightly. Add black beans. Set aside

Poach eggs (look up directions on how to poach eggs. A sunny-side up egg can also work)

In shallow dish, serve potato hash first, layer arugula on top, add crumbled goat cheese, and top with poached egg.


Mallory is a photographer and homeschooling mom. Follow her @m.c.drazin


Make A Plan


Meal planning–do you perk up or cringe? It depends on my mood. For most of our married life, I have been diligent about planning meals weekly. While it can feel like “another chore” and I go through seasons of feeling totally un-inspired about meals, it has saved us lots of money and time in the long run. Through the years I’ve figured out some tips that have helped me that I’ll share here.

  • Pick a day to meal plan and make your grocery list–the two go hand-in-hand. For me, it’s Monday, the day before I shop. Stick to this weekly routine!
  • Find the best way of making a grocery list. I use the AnyList app for my grocery list. So handy! It’s on my phone, and I have several permanent lists: grocery list, Target list, packing list, to name a few. You enter items and they stay on your list until you delete them. Every week I take a look at my existing list, mark items to buy, add items, and hide items I don’t need to buy that week. This saves a ton of time instead of going through cupboards or the fridge and trying to compile a weekly grocery list.
  • Find the best way of making your weekly meal plan. I use a little dry-erase board marked with the days of the week. I picked it up in the $1 spot at Target. I keep it posted on the fridge. (Michael likes to check each morning what to expect for dinner later that day). In each day spot I write what’s for dinner, any sides, and any special notes (ie, crockpot, dinner guests, or evening plans).
  • Keep a stash of recipes handy. My biggest stash is my Pinterest board called What’s Cookin’. I can easily check ingredients, double-tap over to AnyList and add them, double-tap back to my Board, and keep building the weekly menu.
  • Taylor your weekly meal plans to your weekly routines. Michael teaches an evening class at the college Tuesday nights, so I always get something quick, easy, and kid-friendly (mac n’ cheese, pizza, etc). Weekends can be wild cards, with friends inviting us over last minute or taking day trips that involve eating out later. So I plan meals that require no meat defrosting/prep, and can be saved for another night if we’re not home (Hawaiian-roll grill cheese, packaged tortillini, etc). On nights when Westly has a sport practice or I have a late afternoon appointment, I use my crockpot so dinner is ready when we get home just before dinner time.
  • Have fun with the weather and the season. I like to include seasonal ingredients if I can, like corn on the cob in the summer and root veggies in the winter. When making my meal plan, I’ll also check the weather for the week on my app. If I see that we’re in for some cold or rainy weather, I’ll do a soup or stew one night. If I see that we’re in for a hot spell, I’ll plan meals that don’t require using the oven, which heats up our house!

With my AnyList app, dry-erase board, calendar, and Pinterest Board at the ready, meal planning literally takes me 20 min or less. And it has saved me so much time–I grocery shop once a week, and rarely have to go back to a store mid-week. I don’t have to put much thought or planning into our dinner each day because it’s already planned out ahead of time. I don’t have to frantically search the kitchen and try to ‘whip something up’ because my kitchen is stocked with the ingredients I bought for the planned meals. And it’s saved us money–we’re able to stick to our monthly ‘eating-out-budget’ instead of eating out unnecessarily because dinner wasn’t planned. I buy what we need for the week and no more. A little planning can go a long way!


SPOTLIGHT: Naughty Oak Brewing Co.

steve and em

Instagram: @naughtyoakbrew

Phone: 805-287-9663

Interview: as told by Emily Kitts, part-owner


How did you come to open the Naughty Oak Brewing Co?

The brewery was Steve’s [my husband] dream and brainchild. He has worked at Vandenberg in satellite operations since about 2003, and took up home brewing as a hobby with our next door neighbor about 6 years ago. He immediately loved everything about the brewing process and decided that he wanted to do it full time. He really yearned to have a career where he was working with his hands, and creating something tangible after so many years of working in front of a computer screen. So in 2016, we both left our full-time jobs and dove in!

What do you love most about running your business?

The thing that brings us the most joy is to see that the brewery is a place that people want to gather. We’re so incredibly happy to see that the community sees it as a welcoming place where they can relax, catch up or make new friends. Watching our team come together as a community is another huge part of that. We are so lucky to have such great people working with us; and it makes us so happy to see the Naughty Oak crew get together after hours, or meet up at the brewery on their off time.

How does creativity play into your company?

Steve is always trying new flavor combinations, recipes, and ingredients. We have 12 beers on tap all the time, and only about 5 of them are permanent, so he’s constantly brainstorming for the next seasonal beer, new recipe, or beer name. Naming the beers usually is one of the hardest parts. We are really lucky to have a team of creative minds helping us with all of the other taproom details. My sister-in-law, Andrea Rockwell, is our graphic artist and is responsible for all our logos, branding, and labels. She can turn our vague, half-thought-out ideas into something amazing. 

My parents are also a huge part of the taproom’s creativity. They are responsible for most of the art in the brewery. My mom, Janis Rockwell, does all our signage for our beers on tap, and she also did the squirrel mural. She and my dad are constantly building something for the brewery, whether it’s a welding project, woodworking, carving, or painting. They are an incredible mix of creative and engineering brain power and talent.

Are there other areas where you exercise creativity?

My career (Emily’s) prior to opening the brewery was jewelry-making, so I still get to do small jewelry projects on the side. I also really enjoy the batik process, so I like to play with that. I’ve dabbled with batiks on cotton, but my favorite is Pysanky (Ukrainian batik eggs). Lately thought I’ve been really intrigued by embroidery. Maybe that will be next for me!

If you’re local on the Central Coast, stop in to the Naughty Oak Brewing Co, or check them out on social media!


My Fave Go-Tos

It’s always handy to have a few go-to meals ready and waiting. Here are three of my favorite because they require no meat defrosting/prep, use simple ingredients that I usually have on hand, and can be made in under 30 minutes. Perfect for weekend dinners or busy weekday nights.

Chicken Pockets

I grew up on these. Not sure where my mom got the recipe–maybe she invented it. But it’s one of my kids’ favorites.


Canned chicken

4 oz cream cheese

Can of crescent rolls


Preheat oven to 375 (or whichever temp your crescent rolls say)

Drain can of chicken and shred into a bowl

Add softened cream cheese and mix (my kids are plain, but you could add fresh rosemary or chopped green onions for extra flair)

Open crescent rolls. Fuse two triangles together to make a square (you should get 4 squares). Spoon chicken mixture onto each square, fold over, and pinch sides so seal.

Bake for about 15 min (or however long crescent rolls say) until golden.


Cream Pasta

This is a basic dish that can be freshened up in different way. Here are the staples:

Pick a Carb: gnocchi, penne pasta, or farfalle

Pick a Protein: bacon, diced ham, Italian sausage, or panchetta

Pick a Green: peas, broccoli, or asparagus

Add heavy cream and parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)


Cook your carb according to package.

Cook your protein in skillet (if using bacon or sausage, crumble)

Cook your Green (steam peas, steam broccoli, or roast asparagus with olive oil and sea salt for about 7 min)

Mix Carb, Protein, Green together in pot. Mix in parmesan. Add heavy cream. Stir and serve.

Hawaiian Roll Grill Cheese

I found this idea on Pinterest, and it is a family fave.


Hawaiian rolls

American cheese

Deli ham


Preheat oven to 350

Do not separate rolls. Slice horizontally through them to make a top and bottom.

Layer cheese and ham in the middle like a giant sandwich.

Place on cookie sheet and cover with foil.

Bake in oven about 15 min. Check that cheese is melted. Cut rolls apart into individual grill cheese sandwiches.


The Art of Gathering

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The importance of meals goes beyond the basic function of nourishing our bodies. Meals can build community, foster relationships, and develop routine rest. For some of us, sitting down to a meal is the only time of day when we actually sit down. We’re forced to take an intentional break from moving. It may be the only time of the day when individuals gather together at the same place at the same time to enjoy something they have in common: the food they’re all eating together. Gathering for a meal opens opportunity to talk and have relationship.

Most socializing happens around the table. Couples go out to eat when they’re dating. Families invite others over for a meal to get to know them better. Churches host bar-b-qs and potlucks to unify the congregation. Celebrations always include cake. Even Jesus used meal time to display his power (the miracle of the fives loaves and two fishes) or to have sacred conversations with his friends (the last supper) or to celebrate His victory over death (breakfast on the beach).

It’s so easy to slip into the drudgery of daily meal-making. In rough seasons of being pregnant or having a newborn or having a husband work late, it can seem like a miracle just to keep my children fed! I get burned out, I get frustrated by my picky-eaters, I dread the dinner hour, and I get too tired to clean up after.

But when I shift my perspective of meal time from it just being a chore I have to do to keep my family alive to the perspective that meal time is an opportunity to sit down, talk with my family, and build our little community, the drudgery starts to evaporate. I remind myself not to gauge the success of a meal on whether their plates were licked clean, but rather on the laughter and conversations that happened as we all sat down at the same time together.

It’s not the recipe that makes the meal time great–it’s the gathering that meal time creates.

The chore I dreaded for so long, I have come to find out is actually a gift…It will never be the dinner itself that makes it matter. It’s that beautiful thing that happens when everyone lingers at the table even though the meal is over.–Joanna Gaines


SPOTLIGHT: Carolyn Nelson

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Profession: music teacher and composer






What’s your musical background?

I started piano lessons at age 5. My father was quite a wonderful pianist as well as the choir director at Grace Baptist. Because of his encouragement to “get involved” I began helping out in the kids clubs at church, learned the guitar so we could have worship in our youth group, and played the piano for my choir and drama departments in high school. I was the accompanist in our high school productions of Bye Bye Birdie and South Pacific and fell in love with “live theatre”. Over the years I have been involved in many aspects of piano playing whether it be in schools, theatre, family gatherings, local churches, or private venues. I have also been a high school and community college music teacher.

What do you love most about it?

I love being able to play to enrich and bless someone’s life with music that I can fill with passion and joy. I love that I have the opportunity to coach students in learning piano. I also love to make people laugh with my music (and silly antics, at times!)

How do you encourage musical creativity with your students and others?

One area I love to help my students (and others) see and experience is what I call the “character” of a song. In music terms–we call expression in music dynamics–but I call it much more than that. I love to help people see the intricate and extraordinary beauty in what our Creator has given us in song. Music should never be boring, but rather fun and interesting for the pianist to play as well as their audience to listen to. One of my favorite things to do is find a short story and have my students create music that goes with the story! 

Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

Cooking and decorating our home. I have always dreamed of either owning/running a restaurant called the Muffin Ma’am (soups, salads, breads) or having an Air BnB!

SPOTLIGHT: Katie Sullivan


Age: 40 (what?! I feel like I’m still 12 inside!)





What’s your background in music?

I began picking out tunes on a mini keyboard my sister got for Christmas when I was 6 years old and my parents noticed that I had an ear for music and encouraged me to take piano lessons. A year later they bought a piano for me which they couldn’t really afford so that I could have a real piano to practice on. I took piano lessons until I was 15. I also sang in a children’s choir and did musical theatre in junior high. I never thought I would be a professional musician or teacher. I just played the piano and sang because I enjoyed it. I did not like performing but while in high school I also was encouraged by my youth pastor to join the high school worship band. 

I took general ed classes when I started at Hancock and asked God what He wanted me to do. The easiest classes were music and since I enjoyed them I majored in music and transferred to UC Santa Barbara into their music program as a vocal and piano major. After college I accepted a music position and taught 5th grade music and 16 choirs in my first two years of teaching. I started private piano and voice lessons, and have been consistently doing that since. 

What do you love most about it?

I love creating joyful beautiful sounds and putting emotion and feeling into the pieces that I play and sing. I love how corporately a group of people can participate in expressing themselves together with singing or playing and how much joy it brings to everyone. I know that people listening to music can experience joy, and I hope people can get joy from creating music too. Music is a language that God has given humans to express themselves and create beauty to glorify Him. 

How do you encourage your students to be creative in music?

First and foremost I want them to participate. I don’t care so much about the product of what they can create. I want to make a safe place where students can feel comfortable trying new things and expressing themselves. I try new things in front of them, I make mistakes in front of them, and move forward and show them that making mistakes is part of the process of creating beautiful music. 

Are there other areas where you exercise creativity?

I was raised with a sketchpad in hand and although it didn’t come naturally, I loved drawing and painting and it brought joy to me. I love teaching art lessons in my kids’ classrooms. I also have helped as a vocal director and assistant director for our district’s musical theatre for the past few years. Since my kids were little, we have had dance parties. Mostly they are impromptu, but some have been choreographed!