Yo Momma Monday: Ashley Weeks Cart

yo momma monday

Meet Ashley Weeks Cart, 30, from Southwestern Vermont. She runs Cartwheel Farm with her husband James, and she is mama to two beautiful girls (Addison (Sunny) who will be turning five next month, and Courtland (Kaki) who is two and a half), a super mutt they call Hanna Banana, a puppy named Gladden, a potbelly pig named Penelope (“Penny” for short), a flock of five hens – Bunty, Edwina, Dora, Nemo and Ginger and an angel dog – their beloved three legged dog, Ursa Bear, who lost her life to cancer.

Before Ashley and James were introduced to the world of parenting and farming, they lived in Los Angeles and Ashley attended USC, where she received her MA in Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere. She also ran a reusable bag business with her sister at the time.

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

After Sunny was born, Ashley and James returned to the East Coast to be closer to their families. Both attended College in the Berkshires, so they moved back to Williamstown, MA for the first two years, and that is when they decided that they wanted the rural life. So they bought a farm across the border in the Green Mountain State.

“James’ family had a farm growing up, and we really loved the idea of our daughters learning about where their food comes from and the responsibility and care that comes from owning farm animals and tending a vegetable garden. That was all possible with this little property.”

Photo by Theron Humphrey. Click on the picture for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

Both Ashley and James are photographers and Ashley does freelance work on the side. Her introduction to photography began when she was just a kid, and would spend hours tooling away with her dad’s Nikon SLR. All of that playing and shooting paid off, because now she connects with her readers through her photography on her blog.

” I have albums of black and white photos of our pets and house growing up that I shot with that camera from back in 70s. It was totally a hobby, but it brought a lot of joy. It wasn’t until after college that I got back in to photography. I was working at another small liberal arts college that allowed me to take one course a semester.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I took a film photography class, and loved hiding out in the dark room and relearning how to really use a camera. When we moved to California we invested in our first digital SLR, and after our oldest daughter was born, James and I really began to want to better master our camera as we were amassing a slew of baby photos.

When we moved back east, I developed a great relationship with a local professional photographer and she really helped me take my work to the next level. I try to pick up my camera and shoot every single day. I learn something every time I do. Practice practice practice is the best advice I can give. That, and shoot in manual mode. Just do it. Your photos will be world’s better once you get a hang of it.”

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Ashley started her blog Blog a la Cart when she was still living in LA and was the first of her group to have any children. With James working all day, she felt alone and overwhelmed, and she needed a creative outlet that would get her thinking about more than changing diapers and feedings.

“Honestly, I write about whatever inspires me at the moment – there is no real rhyme or reason to my blog content – that space is ultimately an outlet for me, so I write about and share what is most impacting me at the time. Sometimes is as simple as a room makeover, other times it’s more serious feminist issues that I’m struggling with as a parent/mom.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I try not to be influenced or alter my point of view to please anyone but myself since that space was born very much out of a need to better support myself. I love that people share in that space, but it’s ultimately about being true to my voice and story.”

Since Ashley has a full-time job, her photography and blog are both done on the side. They are  creative outlets for her, and while she admits it can be tough balancing family, work, the farm and her creative business, she loves what she creates and is grateful to have both there to supplement their lives.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have a truly amazing partner. I would not be able to do all I do without him in the mix, providing the balance and support that I need. He is the girls’ primary caregiver, and does the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping etc. This enables me to work a day job full time, and then come home and spend time with my girls and have meaningful family time, before spending my evenings editing photos for clients or writing content for the blog.

There is no way I would be able to keep everything in balance without James helping carry the weight. I think people don’t consider enough how their choice of life partner will be one of the biggest, most impactful decisions of their entire lives. People want the pretty wedding and storybook romance, but don’t often consider the long term weight of that decision. I feel very lucky to have been able to grow into adulthood with James by my side (we met at his 20th birthday party in college) – we’ve been able to make some huge decisions and changes together and we really compliment and balance each others strengths and weaknesses.”

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Of all the things her girls have already learned on the farm, she hopes that they will always have a respect for their food and the cycle of life. Both have already experienced the loss of a family pet they cherished and loved and they know where the food on their table comes from.

“We don’t shelter them from this, and they have a very thoughtful and honest perspective on death and life (for their age). I love that they understand that our Thanksgiving turkey comes from a turkey farm and must be killed before we can eat it for dinner. It’s not just some plastic wrapped lump from the grocery aisle.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the image for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

They know the sweetness and joy of picking blueberries right off the bush. They understand that maple syrup comes from the veins of a maple tree as they themselves have collected the sap and watched it boil down into that sugary delicacy. They’ve hand turned apples to cider. They’ve weeded and sweat and and pulled fresh carrots from the ground. There is something so simple and yet so very important from these lessons that we get to make a part of their everyday.”

Ashley’s best advice for working parents (whether it’s in or outside of the home) is to carve out time for yourself. She likes going to the gym or for a run or a walk once a day. It’s not only good for her physical health, but it’s good for her mental and emotional health as well. She also loves crafting, and shares many tutorials on her blog.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have trouble sitting still, so I build in crafts and projects to any free time I may have on a weekend or evening. I love working with my hands, and it’s fun to be able to involve my children in the projects when possible.

Mostly, I would be happy to spend my days knitting and listening to audiobooks – but it’s good to mix it up. I learned to quilt last year, and that is a dangerously wonderful, time-consuming hobby. I hope to be able to do more of it when my children are older – as it also demands a lot of stuff and space (iron, cutting table, sewing machine, etc.) whereas knitting I can keep in my handbag for a down moment waiting at the doctor’s office or pharmacy, etc.”

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

In the future, Ashley hopes to expand her photography portfolio and hopes to capture more maternity and childbirth moments. She wants to master tomato growing, to include alpacas or other fiber animals in their farm family so she can spin her own wool and she wants to bake a truly authentic loaf of French bread. Her favorite thing about everything she does is the impact it makes on other people.

“My favorite moments happen when a reader emails me to say that something I’ve written or shared has touched them in some way, either by making them feel not so alone, or validating their feelings, or even getting them to think about something in an entirely new way. Those emails send me over the moon.They bring me so much happiness.

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

And with the photography, I love getting feedback that I’ve captured a client or their family in a way that really represents them. Getting positive feedback on my work keeps me motivated and makes me feel like I am making a difference (however small) in my community.”

And as for the impact she has felt from her children, and life on the farm:

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“There are SO many ways that motherhood has changed me, mostly it has given me deep respect for my own mother and the  mothers around me as I am so acutely, personally aware of the challenges, joys, heartbreak, and perspective that motherhood brings. It’s humbling and inspiring and I am so very grateful everyday that I get to call myself a mother to my little girls. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do, yet I am eternally grateful that I get to have this kind of experience and perspective and love in my life.

And the farm has connected me to life beyond my family in really meaningful ways. From the flowers to our vegetable gardens to our chickens, I am tuned in to the life cycles and seasons of life on the farm. I recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (everyone should read it!) and it has really inspired me and further enforced in me why James and I made the choice to buy this home and raise our girls this way, connected to their food and this place.”

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

You can read Ashley’s blog Blog A La Cart to find out more about raising a family on a farm, and you can also view her portfolio there. And check out her video about life on the farm! If you want to hire Ashley to take your photos, you can e-mail her and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you are an awesome mama or you know one and would like to be featured in this series, don’t be shy! Leave me a comment, e-mail me and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest.

Yo Momma Monday: Cody from Lu & Ed

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Meet Cody, a work-at-home mama in her mid-twenties from Kansas City, MO, who runs an eco-friendly monster toy line called Lu & Ed. Before starting her own business, Cody was the head of marketing in a retail store, and before that, she was in line to become a store manager at a local restaurant. Not looking back, Cody says that making mon-stors “is the best job I have ever had!”

She came up with the idea of Mon-stors when she moved from South Carolina to Missouri with her son and lived in the basement of her fiance’s mom’s house. With little room to move around, Cody thought of a storage solution where her son could literally feed toys to a stuffed monster.

Once I posted photos online, I got dozens of requests and soon after, dropped my day job to pursue it full time!

Cody is not only a mama to her son, she is also a mama to seven rescue pets and has another job recording sales for an author. Being a mom has made her more motivated because she has more flexibility as an independent business owner than she would in the workforce, and she is setting a good example for her son to pursue his dreams.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“My son loves what I do and I love that it enables me to stay home with him, that I can be here for him all the time. I am so thankful for everyone who supports my indie business and allows me this opportunity.”

Although it’s hard for Cody to pinpoint her favorite thing about running her own business, she did say that the scariest thing is straightening out her taxes and licenses.

“You always want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s and it can be scary filing taxes for your first time or applying for a new license when you relocate. There are so many great resources out there now for handmade businesses to help them get their affairs in order, and for that I am thankful!”

Right now, she is a one-mama shop and works in the extra bedroom in the back of her house. Cody says that she is casually looking for an intern to help out with sewing during her busy times – before big events and during the holiday season – but in the meantime, her son has turned out to be quite the helper.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“On take your child to work day last year he worked in the studio with me all day and made two stuffed monsters, and had so much fun doing so! He also loves to make jewelry, sculpt, paint, make soap and draw. ♥”

She describes her workspace as “messy, colorful, fun, full of inspiring quotes, monsters and a huge over flowing closet of fabric.” Speaking of fabric, Cody uses all eco-friendly materials to make Mon-stors and assures that there is absolutely no waste going into landfills. She uses large cuts of fabric to make Mon-stors, then from that, she cuts use the remnants to make small Mon-stors, totes, stuffed monsters, gadget Mon-stors and other productsWhatever is left from that is used for stuffing or to make dog beds that she donates to animal shelters.

“They are all little steps that make a big impact in the environment.”

Cody has always been eco-aware but admits that she didn’t know the impact buying new fabric had on the environment until she took a part-time job at a fabric store to help cover the costs of some dental work she needed. After she witnessed all the waste firsthand, she decided that she could no longer support big-box fabric stores.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“Fabric arrives in a big, plastic wrapped box. The box and plastic wrap are thrown in the trash (not recycled), then each bolt is wrapped in plastic wrap, which is then throw away. All uneven edges are trimmed and just thrown away, as are tiny remnants & the cardboard sleeves the fabric is wrapped around.”

She started buying fabric at thrift stores and after a few months, people were offering her old fabric, sheets, clothing and blankets that they were no longer using. Wanting to do more, she searched for more eco-friendly ways to run her business. She started flipping food boxes inside out and once her family and friends heard she was doing this, they started giving her their old boxes.

“I haven’t had to buy or pick up a box from the post office in over two years! I also found Eco Enclose, a company that makes biodegradable tape from renewable resources, Fabric Recycles, a fabric and crafting notion thrift store where I can buy thread spools second hand at a fraction of the cost (and pollution of production) of new thread, and Moo‘s amazing recycled, biodegradable business cards!”

Cody has witnessed her eco-efforts sparking a revolution among artisans within her community. Business owners are realizing that being eco-friendly in your supplies and packaging actually results in major savings for your business, and more and more people are coming to her for advice on how to make their businesses more sustainable.

Cody's car after a thrifting haul

Cody’s car after a thrifting haul. Photo from Lu & Ed

“Several people I know have stopped purchasing boxes and bubble mailers and started recycling packaging or making their own mailers from reclaimed materials to reduce landfill waste and environmental pollution. I think that it is creating a bit of a ripple effect – as more people close to me make small changes, people close to them will as well, and so on. ♥ If we all make small changes they will have a huge impact on the Earth!”

She says that her eco-conscious efforts are also creating a ripple effect with her son. They pick up litter together all the time, often talk about sustainability and she takes him on all of her thrift store adventures. “My son is a total green-freak,” she says.

“He will grab a robe and say “Wow, this would be a great monster!” We buy all of our clothing, dishes, and home goods like lamps and decor from thrift stores, and my son is aware of the ecological impact factory produced goods creates on the world. My son has a hawk eye for organic products at the grocery store, too. Haha! I hope he will maintain his love for nature and making good choices through adulthood.”

Cody started Team Lu & Ed at the beginning of this year to collaborate with other artists and fulfill customer demands for products she doesn’t offer. It slowly grew into a charitable endeavor, with up to 50% from the sale of each product going to charity. Recently, she partnered with The Mollie Shop to sell super cute bows, and half of the profit will be donated to Drumm Farm Center for Children.

Cody's collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

Cody’s collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

“It has been a huge success and I have loved helping emerging artists become discovered through our collaborations, and I love bring art & toys together to create change in my local community!”

She says that her favorite thing about what she does is “how happy my products make children. It just makes my heart so happy to see photos of children lovingly playing with their monsters.” She is adding a few new lines to her shop and is working on a few new collaborations. Cody hopes that her green business will continue to inspire her community.

“I am hoping that my eco-mission will inspire other handmade business owners make more conscious decisions about where they source their supplies, and inspire consumers to make slower purchases, really thinking about the product, how it makes them feel and the impact it has on the Earth before buying. ♥”

You can find out more about Cody, Lu & Ed and her mission by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you would like to participate in Yo Momma Monday, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #yomommamonday. You can find more awesome mama inspiration on my Pinterest!