In 2019, I read 40 books, I fell in love with yoga, I learned to knit, I spent more time outside with my kids, I visited the dentist TWICE, I made my own cleaning products, and I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby.
All-in-all, it was a great year.
This, my friends, is what New Years resolutions are all about. They are NOT just to set and forget. They are supposed to change you. And when they are effective, they are AWESOME.
This year, I have goals that are BIG. They are so big, they are a little scary. I’m almost afraid to state them – but these are things I truly want to accomplish, so I’m going to go for it anyway.
New skill: learn Spanish
Health: run a marathon, swim regularly, improve flexibility
Personal: go back to school for nursing, pursue kidney donation, volunteer regularly
Blog: improve blog design and function, organize and categorize posts
Family: establish family mealtime routine and guidelines, take international trip with Brett
Minimalism: minimalist game in January, remove 30 unused items per month, log all [non-consumable] purchases
Environmentalism: buy milk in glass, switch to safety razor, wooden dish brushes, and straw broom.
Humanitarianism: donate more money this year, sponsor another child, commission quilts for donation
As I’ve said before, I LOVE making resolutions [or goals] because it is so helpful for me to focus on specific things I want to change or improve or learn or accomplish in the new year. Maybe you hate them, maybe you’re indifferent, or maybe you have your own way of goal-setting. Whatever the case, I hope that 2020 is a year of tremendous personal growth and accomplishments for you.
Before I get started talking about my highly customizable, completely zero waste, delicious and hearty vegetable soup, I need to admit a few things…
First, I am not a chef. I would barely qualify as a cook if it weren’t for the fact that I now find myself in the unfortunate position of needing to cook…A LOT. I don’t know if the sheer quantity of meals I prepare is enough to call me a cook, but I still don’t feel like one. In fact, I’ve always hated cooking.
“Baking have I loved and cooking have I hated.” [Good ol’ scripture reference from the religion of my youth.]
Anyway, to be fair, I’ve become a decent cook. I can prepare a whole meal without needing to consult allrecipes.com and I very frequently “wing it” with good results. I’ve even found myself creating my own recipes!!! This is totally out of character for me – but, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. [At least, I think that’s a saying…]
Secondly, this is not a recipe.
Sorry about that.
This is more about encouraging everyone to look through the fridge or the pantry and find what’s just hanging around unused and forgotten and throwing it all in a big pot with some water and seeing what happens.
It’s an adventure really. And I love adventure!
So, let’s get on with it.
Why Vegetable Soup is AWESOME
Vegetable soup is a staple in my home for many reasons:
1. It is versatile. I have never met a vegetable that didn’t like to be in a vegetable soup. I also love to add quinoa, lentils or rice in for fun sometimes.
2. It is zero waste. I never have to add the ingredients for this soup to my shopping list because the whole point is to use up what I have lying around. And, believe me, I’ve thrown some random things in my vegetable soups [all edible, I assure you].
3. It is easy to make ahead and reheat. In fact, I usually make this while my kids have their quiet time so that I don’t have to worry about four staving children nagging me for dinner. I also always make this when my husband works late because I can make it earlier in the day so dinner time is a breeze. Soup is also great for freezing.
4. My kids love it. I love it too. [My husband is iffy on it, but that’s only because he doesn’t believe that anything without meat or cheese is real food, so don’t listen to him.] In fact, my vegetable soup is the only thing that I can count on my picky two-year-old consistently eating.
5. It is SO GOOD FOR YOU! I frequently encourage my personal training clients to up their vegetable intake by trying to have two different types of vegetables at every meal. This soup could haveDOZENS! Most people are not getting enough vegetables, so this soup can really help [and a salad at lunch goes a long way too].
How to Make the Vegetable Soup
Ok, so I already admitted that this is not a recipe, but I will walk you through the basics.
Step 1: Find and chop all the vegetables you want to use. Literally any and all vegetables will do.
Step 2: Cook them in a stock pot with a little oil starting with the hardest vegetables and then moving to the softest. [Or just throw them all in at once and move to step three. Feel free to be lazy with it. It’s all going to simmer in the end anyway.]
Step 3: Add water to cover and bring to a boil.
Step 4: Add anything else like beans, potatoes, quinoa, rice, sweet potatoes, other vegetables you might have forgotten, anything else you found lying around in the fridge like a leftover jar of pasta sauce, etc.
Step 5: Let boil as long as is needed for everything to soften then let it simmer for…as long as you want. Or take it off the heat and let the flavors meld. Or serve it up right away. Up to you.
Note: always taste and season as you go. May need some salt. Maybe some pepper. Maybe some chili powder. Maybe some garlic. Maybe some onion powder.
[Again, this is not a recipe.]
This is literally how I’ve made soup once a week for the past year and it has always been delicious.
…but it clearly doesn’t always look appetizing…
Pictured above is a corn, onion, celery, potato, quinoa soup – which turned into more of a stew cuz that quinoa really soaks up the liquid. Very hearty and delicious.
Here is a carrot, onion, corn, green bean, and chickpea soup.
Now this soup had A LOT in it: carrot, onion, tomato, sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, kale, and a few other things I can’t remember…
Ok, in this one I added shredded chicken, BUT IT WAS GOING BAD, I swear! If you’re a meat eater then it’s totally fine to add some meat! And top it with cheese! [But really, I’d prefer you not because a plant-based diet is better for you and the planet.]
Just had to throw that in there.
Anyway, vegetables. Eat them. Throw them in a pot with some water and salt. Delicious.
On a road trip from Chicago to Detroit last month, we passed a billboard on the I-90 interstate that said something to the effect of: without truckers there would be no food.
The purpose of the billboard was to thank truckers during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week back in September and – don’t get me wrong – I’m appreciative, but I would not starve without truckers.
I am surrounded by local farms where I can buy my food so I don’t need to have it shipped from half way across the country [with the exception of some foods we can’t grow in the Midwest like bananas and avocados – but those are hardly necessities]. In fact, we should all be concerned by the fact that most of the food in grocery stores and supermarkets are transported by long-haul trucks from their place of origin. According to a Business Insiders article, without truckers, the grocery stores would run out of food in three days [read about it HERE.] To me, it is actually kind of sad that they are shipping in food from all over the map when food [often the same kind of food] is being grown by farmers right in my home town.
Having food shipped all over the world is not the best, healthiest, most economical, or most sustainable approach to feeding humanity, which is why we purchase a CSA share from a local farm each year.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.
The way a CSA works is local community members pay a price up front for a certain share in the crops produced on the farm. This provides security for the farmer in the event of a bad season and provides delicious, local, and in-season food for the shareholders. We’ve only had our share for two seasons, but we’ve already seen first hand how unpredictable the farming business is. And still, the benefits to spending my grocery budget in this way are totally worth any “risk.”
Here are some of my favorite things about our CSA:
1. My farmers are awesome. I literally know my farmers. That alone, to me, is super cool. And, what is more, these men are a part of my community. They employ community members. They are helping our local economy. I am proud to support them.
2. My food is picked when it’s ripe. My food isn’t picked when it’s green and then sprayed later to make it appear ripe. My food is also picked within a week of me picking it up.
3. My food is grown ethically. I know that my farm takes care of its employees. I don’t have to fear that I am buying food that is grown by a system that takes advantage of people [as many food sources do].
4. My food is grown organically. My particular farm [Rustic Road Farm in Elburn, IL] is applying for its organic certification, and they are very open and honest about their methods of farming.
5. My food is the real-deal misfit produce. You’ve probably heard about all the businesses selling the “misfit” produce that is rejected by grocers. Well, my food is the legit stuff. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It teaches me and my kids that a head of lettuce doesn’t have to look like those fancy plastic wrapped ones in the grocery store. It is food. We all need to be less picky and less wasteful.
If you’re considering getting a CSA share, my only advice is DO IT. If you have any questions about CSAs, let me know! I’d love to share more of our experience.
Also, you can read about our experience last year:
A reader asked me this recently, which made me realize that I owe everyone an explanation. I hope that the title of my blog has not been misunderstood to mean that I have something against makeup or against wearing makeup, because I don’t.
A few years ago I started a blog about motherhood. At that time, I had already stopped wearing makeup, so the title was literal, but at the same time, I meant it figuratively because I was trying to say that I’m sharing the real me – not some edited-for-the-internet version of myself, or the “gram-able” get-my-good-side photos of myself. I chose the name for the same reason that I don’t wear makeup – because I don’t need to hide behind perfection. I like showing people the real me – the same me that my kids see when they drag me out of bed in the morning, the same me that just ran five miles on the treadmill at the gym, the same me that’s too busy to care whether I look good or not. Everyone sees the same face – my real face.
Why I don’t wear makeup
It’s not that I NEVER wear makeup. I do wear makeup occasionally – for professional family photos that we get taken once a year and my anniversary dinner date with my partner and, of course, Halloween [my absolute favorite reason to wear makeup is for a costume!], and a few other special occasions.
In high school, I started wearing makeup partly as way to hide my tragically oily and acne-ridden face from the mean kids in my class and partly as a way to just be normal, like every other girl. But the downside that no one told me about was that eventually I wouldn’t feel comfortable in public without makeup, that it would be a time consuming [not to mention expensive] process every morning for the rest of my life, and that it would make my skin problems even worse.
Then fast-forward ten years and I had become a fitness fanatic on a super clean eating diet and I had just given birth to my second baby, a handsome little boy, and my skin was glowing from all the pregnancy hormones and the clearest it had ever been, so I stopped wearing makeup.
And I never went back.
That’s pretty much it. I was tired of feeling like I looked bad without makeup. I was tired of the breakouts. I was tired of buying products to try to make myself look beautiful. And it took a while, but now I’m very happy with my plain face. I no longer feel the need to put on makeup. When I do wear makeup, it is just for fun. I don’t need it to feel confident or beautiful anymore.
Side note: I do work outside the home, though only part-time, and I have a customer-facing, sales position as a personal trainer but I still don’t feel the need to put on makeup. That being said, I work at a gym where people aren’t dressing up or trying to look their best [well, most people anyway], so I don’t feel pressured to put on a face the way I might if I were back in the corporate world. Still, I’d like to think that I love my natural self enough to not bother with the makeup.
My [nearly] zero waste beauty routine
Turns out, the best way to have zero waste in the beauty department is to embrace natural beauty and not waste time or money on beauty products at all.
[Jonathan Van Ness would KILL me if he heard me say that – sorry, Jonathan! I love you!!!]
However, that being said, I do try to be hygienic [I say “try” because I have four little kids, so sometimes just showering is a struggle – let alone shaving or exfoliating or any of that extra stuff]. So here is my “beauty” routine [can I even call it that?]:
I brush my teeth. I use this beautiful bamboo toothbrush that I love. I am still working through my toothpaste stash [and have been for the past two years…] but I already have some toothpaste tablets to try and will make the switch as soon as all the Colgate is gone.
I wash my hair. I use bar shampoo and bar conditioner. This current coconut shampoo bar is from Lush and smells amazing!
I wash my body. I use all natural, package free bars of soap from wherever I can find them. This current beauty is from an apothecary vendor at my local farmers market.
I shave occasionally [aka rarely]. I’m still working through my obscenely huge stash of disposable plastic razors. I want a safety razor SO BADLY. I think I may just donate my unopened packages of razors to a local shelter so I can make the switch right away.
I clean my ears. I know people say not to do this. When I first went zero waste, I stopped buying q-tips. “Shia Su said I don’t need them, so then I don’t need them!” ….but I do need them. I’ve had drainage problems in my ears since I was a kid and after about a month of not cleaning my ears I could barely hear. So I buy the paper kind and compost them.
I don’t wear deodorant. If my hands get dry, I use the aquaphor lotion we have for the kids. If my lips get chapped, I use the family lip balm we all share.
[Jonathan Van Ness would be SO ashamed of me right now…]
I do own some makeup. I’ve been using the same tube of bb cream for the past five years, I kid you not. I am also still using the same mascara and eye-liner. I have literally not bought any makeup since before I had kids five years ago.
My skincare treatments
I don’t have any scientific evidence to support this statement, but in my experience, clean eating and exercise are the absolute best skin care. I used to spend tons of money on special creams and exfoliants and acne products, but nothing ever cleared my skin until I cleaned up my diet.
Since puberty, I’ve had super oily skin. I used to wear a crapload of that powder foundation to try to tone down the shine on my nose. It was gross. But since I’ve been eating plant-based, whole foods, my skin is not oily at all. If anything, it is too dry. I sometimes actually put coconut oil on my face because my cheeks get dry. [I would have NEVER put oil on my face ten years ago!]
I do get the occasional pimple like every human being, but I don’t hide them with makeup. It’s not fooling anyone anyway. I choose to own my blemishes instead. I just let them be and they go away. In my experience, makeup only makes it worse.
My plan for wrinkles
Well, I have noticed that I am getting wrinkles. I took a picture with my daughter the other day and when I looked at it, I was surprised at all the wrinkles. [Darn you improved cellphone cameras!]
This is the picture:
I’m not implying that they are bad or that I’m not happy because I have wrinkles – it was just the first time I noticed them. I’m starting to look older, which for me is a positive thing since people usually think I am in college.
Things may change as I continue to age, but at this point, I don’t understand why the world tells us that wrinkles are bad and to be prevented at ANY COST. Wrinkles aren’t ugly. They are a sign of age, yes, but age isn’t a bad thing either. Age is a privilege. Age is wisdom. Age is something to be proud of. I intend to embrace my wrinkles rather than fight them.
In the end, how you present yourself to the world is a personal choice. Beauty is a complex thing and everyone wants to look and feel their best, so I’m not trying to discourage anyone from doing any beautifying that makes them feel good. But no matter what face you choose to show the world, I hope YOU know that your real face is beautiful and you don’t have to hide it.
As promised, I have tracked my food for one week and am going to show you what my meals look like on my plant-based, no processed, mostly vegetable diet.
Let me tell you a story.
Yesterday, I was in the Panera drive-thru ordering three chocolate chip cookies for my kids [it was flu shot day], and the employee tells me that it is cheaper to buy four cookies than it is to buy three. So, of course, I order four cookies.
The problem is, I only have three kids who are old enough to eat cookies. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen to the fourth cookie…
But I definitely ate it, despite telling myself that it could just sit there uneaten all day.
That cookie was 440 calories!!!! That is more than a THIRD of my total caloric goal FOR THE DAY! ONE COOKIE!
No wonder so many of us have trouble managing our weight.
So that brings me to the veggie diet.
The [Nearly] Vegetable-Only Diet
Some things I need to mention:
1. I am not pretending to be a dietician or nutritionist.
2. I aim for between 1,100-1,200 calories per day, which is less than I need because I am trying to lose weight. But I always eat when I am hungry and never eat less than 1,000 calories. This is also a CARB HEAVY diet.
3. There are some foods I eat that I don’t track such as some raw vegetables that have very little caloric value and I don’t measure and track the olive oil I use for cooking. So my total calorie amount is higher than what my tracker shows. [I didn’t take pictures of my snacks which varied and usually made up about 300 calories each day.]
4. I exercise every day – usually twice, sometimes three times…so this helps me with weight loss. [Hence, the large amount of carbs I eat.]
5. This is baby weight.
Ok, so here we go:
Brown rice, black beans, peppers and onions for dinner. 100% vegan and made from scratch. 👍🏻
Eggs with sweet potato and black bean hash for dinner. Otherwise, vegan and made from scratch.
Egg for lunch. Spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce for dinner. 👍🏻
A random assortment of vegetables for dinner. 100% vegan and made from scratch. 👍🏻
Grilled chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and squash.
Vegetable frittata for lunch [made by Brett!!], and homemade vegetable stew for dinner. 👍🏻
Leftover sweet potato and black bean hash, with vegan Parmesan. 100% vegan whole foods made from scratch. 👍🏻
Before and After
I lost five pounds and I never went hungry.
As you can see, I like oatmeal for breakfast and salad for lunch. What can I say? I like routine.
Here is our family photo a week after Nora was born:
And here is me with the kids tonight before going out trick-or-treating:
[By the way, how adorable are these kids?!?]
And the week is over just in time to enjoy Halloween!
Now, it’s time to go eat some candy!
Confession: I definitely fall into the 44% category!
Last July, I posted about the diet I used to drop 20lbs of baby weight in a month.** This way of eating is simple and basically consists of no processed foods and mostly vegetables. [Read about it here.]
**As a personal trainer, I have to tell you that the recommended maximum for healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. My results were accelerated because it was weight gained in just a few months during pregnancy.
Well, I’ve had another baby since then, so it’s time to revisit the diet – because, folks, I gain 50-60lbs with each pregnancy!
And I am anxious to lose all that extra weight. [Of course – to all my postpartum ladies out there – no need to rush the weight loss after having a baby. Enjoy the cuddles, take lots of naps, and worry about your pant size later. But for me, after doing this four times in five years, I’m ready to lose this extra weight for good!]
So I’m back on the [nearly] vegetable-only diet to get back into my pre-pregnancy pants.
But this time, there are some modifications to make the weight loss more gradual and sustainable.
I am still not eating processed foods and I still eat mostly vegetables, but I occasionally eat eggs and lean meats in small portions. Still no dairy, which I still do not miss…except ice cream. [Time to buy that dairy-free Häagen Dazs ice cream again!]
Just like last time, I’m logging my meals and on Thursday I’ll will post what a week of eating this way looks like – just in time for me to binge on my kids Halloween candy.
[What can I say? We all have our vices…]
I may even share a before and after photo….[well, I’ve already shared the “before” photos.]
Do you know how badly I wish there were such a thing as truly zero waste shoes????
Like, really badly.
And I’m not even a shoe person. But when I committed to sourcing my clothes through ethical, sustainable means I just kinda assumed that it would be possible to find shoes the same way.
Turns out, I was mistaken.
Of course, this post is not ALL bad news. There ARE some sustainable shoe brands out there – Made Trade, Everlane, Rothy’s, Allbirds [among others]. But none are totally zero waste [that I have found]. And more importantly, none of them make performance running shoes – which is, of course, what I need.
Eco-Friendly Running Shoes
The issue with finding sustainable running shoes is that they have to be able to perform well. They need to have cushion and support or my running [and feet and knees and legs and hips] will suffer. They also need to be replaced every 300-500 miles because the soles wear down and then, once again, my running will suffer. This also means that I can’t buy them used.
My dream is to find a running shoe that is comfortable and lightweight and can handle 500 miles of pavement pounding AND is 100% biodegradable.
I’m telling you right now, that is a total pipe dream.
At best, I’m hoping for a brand to someday take back worn out running shoes to recycle into new shoes. That would be the second best option. If we could close the loop on the running shoes, I would consider that zero waste. But, unfortunately, no such shoe exists [at least not that I know of, but I have my eye on the new Adidas project called Futurecraft.Loop].
So, while I’m waiting for the perfect zero waste shoe, I had to find the best alternative.
And this is where my new Adidas UltraBOOST Parley running shoes come in.
Meet My Adidas UltraBOOSTs
These are a collaboration between Adidas [the athletic shoe giant] and Parley for the Oceans [a nonprofit that is trying to save our oceans]. The top of the shoe is made [of some undefined percentage] of recycled plastic from the ocean.
Well that’s pretty cool.
And, honestly, the shoes are pretty cool with or without the ocean plastic. They aren’t kidding when they call them UltraBOOSTs…
Eco-Friendly Non-Running Running Shoes
While I was researching sustainable running shoes – and by the way, I did A TON of research – I came across these beautiful runners by Allbirds.
Meet my Allbirds Tree Runners
Unfortunately, despite being called runners, they are not actually for running. But they are so beautiful and from such a great eco-friendly company that I bought a pair for casual wear.
You can wear these without socks!!! THEY ARE SO COMFORTABLE!!! And they are machine washable [which is important because I went with white].
These are sparking some serious joy, folks…
Even the packaging they came in was totally waste free. 👍🏻
So, basically shoes are still tough to find zero waste – especially athletic shoes – but it’s important to me to do my homework and make the most ethical and most sustainable choice I can.
All I can do is give my consumer dollars to the companies that are doing their best for people and planet and hope that others follow.
If you have sustainable shoe brands to share, let me know!