Tianna Gawlak poses for a portrait with her second authored book “When You Dream of Apple Pie” at her home in Homer Glen, Ill. on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Mike Mantucca / Pioneer Press)
As a busy stay-at-home mom of two little ones and another on the way, Homer Glen resident Tianna Gawlak has one arm wrapped around her family and the other clutching her two major side quests: the popular dessert ATMs, The Bakery Box, and a series of self-published children’s books inspired by her love of baking.
Her latest, “When You Dream of Apple Pie,” available in both English and Polish, is an ode to Gawlak’s three-year-old son, Adam, who loves apple pie and giddily watches the process unfold several times during the fall months.
“When I was writing it, I wanted something that was true to him,” Gawlak said over the phone.
The book’s characters — based on her husband and her son — attempt to make “mommy’s famous apple pie” after a day of apple picking, making a mess and memories along the way.
Gawlak, a Downers Grove South alumni, met her husband Krystian, a Hinsdale native, when they both coincidentally attended Arizona State University in Scottsdale.
“My husband is definitely not a baker and experiences in the past when he’s helped us make an apple pie have been so funny to watch,” Gawlak said. “But it’s the effort that counts.”
Gawlak often gives her kids the responsibility of peeling the apples when they make pie together, and also enlists them to help out in the kitchen with daily tasks to teach them about shared responsibilities.
“They don’t really have a choice in the matter, but I think they enjoy it,” she said with a laugh.
One way Gawlak tries to make “it all connect” is by tying her family’s interests into her developing projects, like partnering up with select Chicago area apple orchards to roll out copies of “When You Dream of Apple Pie.”
This fall, copies of Gawlak’s book can be purchased at Kuipers in Maple Park, All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock, County Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana and Keller’s Farmstand in Oswego.
Gawlak will be at Keller’s for a book reading and crafts on Saturdays at 2 p.m., starting September 10 and going through October 8.
“We would probably have her everyday if we could,” a representative at Keller’s said. “It’s a pretty cool partnership.”
There is no fee to attend Gawlak’s book reading, but guests will need to purchase an apple bag to go inside the orchard.
Keller’s apple bag sizes and prices for 2022 are: 1/4-peck bag (about 3 pounds) for $9, 1/2-peck bag (5-6 pounds) for $18 and a 1-peck bag (10-12 pounds) for $36.
“It’ll be a win-win. We’ll certainly push the book and hopefully people come out to pick some apples,” Keller’s representative said.
The book, which was released Aug. 1, is being sold exclusively on Amazon for $14.99 and in-store at the orchards.
Tianna Gawlak poses for a portrait with her second authored book “When You Dream of Apple Pie” at her home in Homer Glen, Ill. on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Mike Mantucca / Pioneer Press)
Gawlak worked with Indonesia-based illustrator, Jee Astoeti, to bring a quirkiness to “When You Dream of Apple Pie.”
Astoeti, who has been illustrating children’s books for three years, got to know Gawlak through Facebook before submitting a portfolio for consideration.
“I always try to connect with writers when working for them. That is very important in telling their story,” Astoeti said over email.
“Even the illustrations reflect [my son] so well,” Gawlak added. “I mean people who don’t know him might not understand the connection, but it’s really amazing to see how it all came together.”
Gawlak’s first book, “When You Dream of Chocolate Cake” was released two years ago, and is about her own memory of baking a cake for the first time with her son and daughter. It’s what pushed her to start a business where sharing desserts is at the core.
“I always say that desserts are my love language, whether it’s through writing about them or providing them to the community, it’s kind of how I share my talents,” Gawlak said.
Instead of operating as both the baker and the bakery, The Bakery Box sources desserts from local pastry wholesalers like Le Petit Sucre, a French macaron supplier based in Chicago, with flavors like birthday cake, matcha green tea, fruity pebbles, honey lavender and raspberry jam.
“People love that you don’t have to interact with staff, that you can just go and have this self-service model at all hours of the day,” Gawlak said.
The Bakery Box launched in 2021 to a pandemic-weary crowd, which worked in Gawlak’s favor who was offering up mini chocolate squares and heart-shaped strawberry cakes without the need for an actual indoor space.
Since opening up her first location at the Burr Ridge Village Center, Gawlak now has another spot in Chicago’s River North on 47 E. Ohio Street.
She’s also planning on expanding The Bakery Box to three more locations in the city by 2023.
Aside from being “just their mom,” Gawlak’s kids are aware of her added roles of business owner and children’s book author, especially because she regularly takes them along to drop-ins at The Bakery Box, community events and book pitch meetings.
“I love that they can tag along and learn things that are pretty hard to teach unless you’re experiencing it first hand,” she said.
Gawlak is choosing to home-school her kids for kindergarten and preschool this fall for their “first educational experience.”
“I’m nervous about it, but kind of like writing a book or starting The Bakery Box, I had never done those things either but I found my groove,” Gawlak said.
With stacks of “When You Dream of Apple Pie” piled up in her home, Gawlak’s children are the book’s biggest fans.
“They don’t know how to read just yet but they can recite it based on memory. And my three-year-old may not realize it right now, but he can point to the book and say “my mommy wrote that!” Gawlak said. “It’s really cool for me.”
Copyright © 2022, Chicago Tribune
Copyright © 2022, Chicago Tribune