Published on December 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

Meet Badass Mom Ashley Knies

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Editor’s Note:
We have been so inspired by the response to #badassmoms. We love hearing your thoughts and reading your personal stories (keep them coming!), and we’re so happy that you share our enthusiasm for a project we are deeply passionate about.
Each month, we will feature badassmoms who are defining a new norm. Women who are taking control and creating a life for themselves and their families that inspires us. Women who are making modern choices, building a supportive community, and making it happen. Their stories are worth celebrating, and we want to share them with the world. We can’t wait to introduce you to our second badassmom!

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E D I T I O N  /  0 2

Food entrepreneur, holistic health counselor, and twin mama

Having twins is badass on its own, but add to that running a successful vegan catering company with her chef husband Kyle, and growing an edible garden in the backyard (for real!) and yes, we’re impressed. We found her simple approach to life as inspiring as their company’s motto, “All you need is love and vegetables.” Here, the natural beauty with an eye for vintage style invites us into her Berkeley bungalow to meet her twin girls (Sunny and Juna), and chats about family, work, and staying creative in the kitchen.

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Enjoying her daily Yerba Mate tea in a casual dress and cozy sweater.

Enjoying her daily Yerba Mate tea in a casual dress and cozy sweater.

Tell us a bit about your company:
My husband and I own a vegan catering company called From the Garden. Our motto is “All you need is love and vegetables.” We really believe the best way we can be vegan and health activists is by feeding people delicious food that just happens to be vegan. My husband is the chef and I am the health counselor, sous chef, and office manager.

What surprised you the most about starting your own business?
When Kyle and I started we thought we would only be cooking for other vegans and vegetarians. But we soon realized that a majority of our clients were omnivores, people who were just curious about vegan cuisine or wanted to try it out for health reasons. There’s nothing more gratifying than cooking for a “meat and potatoes” eater. We had one guest who didn’t even realize that the whole five-course meal he just ate was vegan (true story!).

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Ashley’s backyard greenhouse serves as a beautiful backdrop to their delicious food.


How has the business evolved, and what work/life choices have you made since having the twins?

At first, we just started having a lot of dinner parties. Twice a month we would host brunches or dinners in our greenhouse in the backyard, pop-up type things. At the time, I was also working as a production manager for a children’s food company. It was very intense, working a day job and then being on my feet catering on the weekends.

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I think I was probably four months pregnant with the twins and I was just like, “I can’t do this anymore.” That’s when we swapped. Now, Kyle works full-time for a local vegan cheese company, and we do our catering business on the side, mainly on weekends. I think down the road it’ll become something we’re doing more and more, but right now, it’s nice to have the stability of him working while I take care of the babies. I’m still breastfeeding twins, which I don’t think I would be able to do if I were working full-time.

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What’s your best advice for someone starting their own business?
Be patient. There will be times when you feel like freaking out because there’s no money coming in and you’re working really hard. We were patient and honestly just believed in what we were doing; it also helped that we love cooking and feeding people. Also, reach out to your community. When we first started, we asked our family and friends to let us throw dinner parties for them. They covered the cost of our ingredients and promised to spread the word about our business.

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Juggling babies and prep work in style.

Juggling babies and prep work in style.

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Any tips on the work/life juggle:
Be 100% present wherever you are. When you’re home with the babies, be home. When you’re working, be at work and try to enjoy the little things that you don’t get to when you’re with the babes.

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What do you love most about your job?
I really love taking care of people. When

you’re feeding people food that’s healthy, nourishing, and delicious, it’s incredibly rewarding. Most of our gigs are dinner parties and often the host will sit with us while we cook, which gives us a chance to do a mini-cooking class introducing our clients to new herbs and vegetables they didn’t even know existed.

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When and why did you become vegan?
I made the jump nine years ago when I was living in New York. Growing up, my favorite food was steak and hamburgers. But in college I decided to give up meat, and when I moved to New York in 2006 it seemed like an easy place to go vegan.

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How do you stay creative with meals?
I eat seasonally so that my vegetable, fruit, and herb choices are always changing. Right now, we’re cooking with sweet potatoes, apples, and hard squashes that lend themselves to delicious soups and stews.

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What’s your go-to meal at the end of a hectic day?
Over the past few months, I have become a pro at the 20-minute meal. My favorite and easiest to whip up is a simple but delicious grain and veggie bowl. Brown rice, seasonal veggies, marinated tofu, greens, topped off with tahini sauce, homemade kimchi and sesame seeds. I use most of the leftovers the next day for the girls’ finger-food lunch or I puree the brown rice, veggies, and some added beans for their “baby food.”

If you don’t live in California, where’s your best option for fresh produce?

There are so many great produce box subscription services. I just recently discovered Imperfect Produce. They sell all the ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables that don’t make it onto the grocery shelves at pretty cheap prices!

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What is your philosophy on fashion and style?

I love finding little gems at thrift stores. College is where I discovered this style because we had an amazing local consignment store. I found a few incredible vintage pieces, and that’s really how my wardrobe has evolved. Each piece has such a special story because I’ve had them forever, so I just add in a few new styles here and there.

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Ashley’s home is full of vintage treasures.

What are your thoughts on conscious living?
I try to know where things come from, whether it’s our produce or my beauty products. We have some incredible markets down in Berkeley that we go to that are local and organic. We’re really trying to live minimally, not buy too much stuff. We have everything we need. The girls grow so fast, we honestly haven’t bought them anything new. Literally, all their clothes are secondhand. And until they stop growing, that’s how it’s going to be.

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Becky-Mae, a rescue Brussels Griffon from Georgia, captured in a rare moment of solitude.

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What’s the one thing you’re most excited about this New Year’s Eve?

We’ve been having New Year’s Eve parties and all sorts of parties for years now, but we’ve always lived in a really small house without even a real door to our bedroom. Now that we have a bit more space, I’m excited to have a huge dance party with all my friends.

Dolled up for New Year's in her favorite thredUP party dress.

Dolled up for New Year’s in her favorite thredUP party dress.

What do you love most about hosting parties?
Kyle and I are major home bodies, so we really love that we get to be home and be completely comfortable. Our favorite things to do are eat, play board games, and listen to music. We pretty much have people over and force them to do our favorite things.

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Thrifted tablewares create a cool, eclectic mix.

What’s the one dish that even your non-vegan friends rave about?

Kyle’s vegan macaroni and cheeze is a major crowd pleaser. It’s flavorful, filling, and the epitome of comfort food. It’s the go-to dish when we have a party because it’s the only mac and cheese you’ll ever have where you feel good enough to dance wildly after eating.

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Famous mac and cheese recipe.

What’s your go-to cocktail?
I’m a huge fan of using fresh juice and herbs to make my cocktails flavorful (and dare I say it) healthy. Because it’s winter, our garden is exploding with Meyer lemons and rosemary. Right now, my favorite fancy treat is a Meyer lemon and gin fizz with rosemary.

Meyer lemon and rosemary gin fizz.

Meyer lemon and rosemary gin fizz.

What’s your best New Year’s Day remedy?

It may sound crazy but if I’m feeling under the weather or I overdid it the night before, I start my morning with miso soup. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and it’s alkalizing. This means that if your body is acidic (which is a common side effect when you’re hungover or if you’re fighting off a cold) miso soup will help re-balance your pH.

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All menus get a handwritten touch.

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How has your life changed since becoming a mom?
My life has changed in ways I couldn’t even have imagined but the most apparent change is that it’s not just about me anymore. I take care of their needs first and I come second. It’s quite a change but the more they grow and the cuter and more curious they become it feels so right.

What is the best piece of advice you received about being a mother?
The days are long but the years are short. In the early months, being a twin mom is like a never-ending marathon. You barely have time to eat let alone sleep, and sometimes it’s hard not to wish the time away. But I try to remind myself to be present and soak in as much as I can.

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Sunny and Juna cribside in their adorable twin onesies.

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What advice would you give to a woman about to have twins?
Take the time before the babies come to set up a nursing/couch potato station. The first three months, especially if you want to breastfeed, you will spend about 20 hours a day sitting and feeding babies. I highly recommend having a caddy right next to your favorite lounging spot with clean diapers, wipes, a changing pad, something to read, snacks, a remote control, and water.

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How are your girls similar and different?

Sunny and Juna are fraternal twins and look very different. The more their personalities come out, the more different they seem. Juna is the more dramatic of the two, she loves to sing (which sounds a lot like a pterodactyl screech) and prefers to be in your lap showered with cuddles. Sunny on the other hand lives up to her name and is constantly content, always on the move, and gives the sweetest wet baby kisses.

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Do you have any role model moms?

My mom. She was the perfect mix of caring, hilarious, fun, and understanding. She loved fiercely and unconditionally and that’s the kind of mother I’m trying to be.

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What gives you mom-guilt?

Sleep training. Hearing the twins cry for me and not going to comfort them is THE WORST but when they successfully fall back to sleep on their own and actually get a good night’s sleep, well, that’s worth the guilt.

How do you spend your moments of ‘me’ time?
I’m all about the bubble bath. There’s nothing that relaxes me more and makes me feel like the “non-mommy version of me” than a hot bath and a good book.

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Who or what inspires you?

I’m really inspired by my husband. I’ve known him since he was 14-years-old and I’ve seen him grow from a wild, hilarious, carefree teenager into a generous, loving (and still totally hilarious) father and provider. He works so hard every day so that I can spend a majority of my time caring for our twins. Even after a long and exhausting work week, he somehow manages to find the energy to wake up early so that I can have an extra hour to sleep in. Having Kyle by my side makes me feel like I can accomplish anything.

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Who are the people in your life or in the community that support you?
I would say my sister and my husband are the two that I can completely rely on. I remember when the babies were two months old, and I just felt horrible, and I called my sister and she was over in 45 minutes and took the babies on a walk so I could take a nap. Just having someone who I’m not afraid to call at any time when I need them. That’s her.

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Describe your style:
I love brightly colored dresses with a vintage feel and a cinched waist.

How has your style evolved since becoming a mom?
I’m still breastfeeding so my style revolves around having access to my milk makers. Button-down shirts, tank tops, and stretchy dresses.

Practical and chic in a stretch-jersey mini-dress.

Practical and chic in a stretch-jersey mini-dress.

Describe your style:
I love brightly colored dresses with a vintage feel and a cinched waist.

How has your style evolved since becoming a mom?
I’m still breastfeeding so my style revolves around having access to my milk makers. Button-down shirts, tank tops, and stretchy dresses.

What are you most looking forward to wearing this winter?
Comfy sweaters that I can dress up with my high heeled vegan boots, a messy bun, and red lipstick.

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Favorite thredUP find:
A strapless floral print party dress for New Year’s and the girls’ adorable twin onesies.

What’s the one item you purchase over and over?
I’ve always been obsessed with leggings. They’re great under my vintage dresses, awesome for my long stroller walks with the twins, and they pair perfectly with my husband’s vintage sweaters when the chillier weather sets in.

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What are some of your favorite items in your house?
The Traci Sabin print above the fireplace. It’s the only thing that we put up when we moved in. I have a love for all things 80s. A friend saw it at the flea market and got it for me. I also love living with plants because on sad, dreary days, they make you feel good.

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What are your plans for 2016?

Because I was pregnant for most of 2014 and we were up to our ears in babies in 2015 I would LOVE to travel in 2016. Kyle and I have been dreaming about traveling to Mexico with the twins. We’d love to rent a house and spend our days in the kitchen learning more about Mexican cuisine.

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Any New Year’s Resolutions?
Through my time with Sunny and Juna, I have realized that my capacity for patience, kindness, and gratitude is HUGE and never ending. No matter what they’re doing or how they’re acting, I shower them with love and give them the benefit of the doubt. It occurred to me that if I applied this state of mind to my husband, family, friends and even my daily tasks, I would be a much more peaceful, loving, and happy person. This is the mindset I’m trying to practice more of in 2016. AND, just like last year and the year before that, my other New Year’s Resolution is to do yoga more…hopefully this will FINALLY be the year I stick to it.

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