Beth Kirby is a photographer, cookbook writer, entrepreneur, and the creator of Local Milk, her food, travel, and lifestyle blog. We are endlessly amazed by Beth’s ability to present her work with both authenticity and style, and we were completely blown away by each one of her thoughtful and inspiring answers in this interview. It’s a true gem.
In this dialogue, Beth tells us about self-care as the foundation for happiness, having a schedule as a way to avoid stress, why she doesn’t believe in the idea of work-life balance, and how her routine has changed since becoming a mother, as well as her newfound love for weight training, the adaptogens and herbs she incorporates into her everyday potions, beauty, motivation, sustenance, and much more. There’s some amazing business advice here, too!
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
Routine is so very important to me. Routines ensure that time is carved out for the important things in my days & life. I’m super flexible with my routines so there’s no such thing as “failing”, but the closer I adhere to the routine, the more impact I tend to make in my day.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
I actually just wrote a little guide to a slow morning routine that details mine! I usually wake up when my baby wakes up, between 6:30-7:30 AM. The first thing I do every morning is make the bed because I feel this sets the tone for the rest of my day. My husband takes the baby to give me 10 minutes to meditate (I love the Headspace app) and do a few sun salutations to wake my body + mind connection up. After that I brew my morning elixir, a simple lemon, ginger, and turmeric tea, and then I do some journaling while I drink it. After that comes breakfast & a matcha potion, a shower & getting dressed for the day, a quick tidy of my space if I need it, and then I’m down to work! I don’t always do every single thing, but the more of them I hit, the better my morning!
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I’m so exhausted at the end of the day, I don’t usually need much help sleeping! I love making moon mylks with sleep promoting herbs as a little night time luxury. We keep the bedroom a “sleep only” zone with no television or computers, so it’s quite easy to pass out once I’m in my own bed (or whatever bed I happen to be in!)
— How has your routine changed since you had your daughter?
It’s gotten a lot more flexible! If she’s having a bad morning, things like preparing breakfast can take a lot longer or maybe I skip the shower (truth time!), but in a lot of ways, it’s made me more routine because if I don’t have a plan and stick to it, the day can slip away a lot more easily when you have kids. I kinda floated through my days doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted before she was born because I had all the time in the world. Now it’s make hay while the sun shines or forget having any hay! Haha.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – Miso Soup, 7 minute veggie & egg steam, and rice. After spending a fair amount of time in Japan, this has become my breakfast of choice. I keep dashi in the fridge for a quick miso soup so it takes literally minutes, and I steam a few veggies, whatever is on hand, in my steamer with an egg in its shell for 7 minutes. It all, including the egg, comes out perfectly! We cook rice in a rice cooker or donabe depending on where we are. I usually have a little miso dressing in the fridge to dip my veggies and eggs in and enjoy them alongside the rice & soup. It’s so comforting and healthy, but it’s also really quick and easy as long as you throw the rice in a rice cooker and have dashi on hand.
Lunch – Smoothie! I usually hit my work stride during midday, and I don’t like to take a massive amount of time (or make a big mess!) for lunch, so my favorite thing to do is whip up a super food adaptogen rich smoothie. I love pineapple and avocado as a base, and if it’s after a workout I make sure to throw some hemp & moringa in there for a plant based protein punch.
Snack – Ume plum onigiri. I almost always have leftover rice on hand, so I make rice balls with pickled plums in the center and wrap them with toasted nori for a quick snack.
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
Coffee makes me crazy, so I only have it on special occasions (like if I’m near a really, really amazing café I might have a cappuccino), but when I’m at home I’ve started making a morning matcha potion.
— Do you have a sweet tooth?
I used to! But it’s lessened over the past couple of years as I cut back on candy & sweets. I love sugar, but I like to save it for “feast days” like holidays and celebrations instead of consume it as part of everyday life.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I incorporate adaptogens & tonic herbs—particularly rhodiola, ashwaghanda, he shou wu, astragalus, maca, and reishi—into a lot of my food like smoothies, mylks, and matchas. I also love Wooden Spoon Herbs tinctures, especially Anxiety Ally (anxious lady over here!) as well as her Green Protein Powder after workouts. I’ve also recently discovered tocos and MCT oil, which I work into either my smoothie or matcha each day.
— You’ve spent significant amounts of time in both Japan and France. How have those cultures influenced your cooking?
For sundry reasons, Japan has definitely had a bigger impact on my cooking than France even though we live in Paris about half the year. I love to eat French food, but I find a lot of it is richer than I care to eat on a daily basis, and because I cook vegetarian at home 99.9% of the time, Japanese cuisine is, in my experience, much easier to adapt to that. And I just love Japanese flavors. I would say I cook Japanese inspired meals more than anything else (even when in Paris!)
— What is your approach to feeding your daughter?
We’ve done “baby led weaning” which simply means offering solids around 6 months and letting her decide what and how much she’d like to eat of what we offer. We try to make sure she’s offered a wide variety of whole food options, and don’t worry about it after that. She eats what we eat, and at 16 months she’s still breastfed, and that’s fine by me. We are super, super laid back about it. She eats what and when we eat, and she can still have mom milk whenever she wants. That said, those organic baby food pouches are a lifesaver on the go because she can hold them!
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I see a personal trainer for an hour a day, five days a week. On my days off I do one day of cardio and one day of rest. I do mainly resistance training with weights and bodyweight and a little cardio. I think a lot of women do a toooonnn of cardio and are afraid of weights because they think they’ll bulk up when in reality getting “big” is incredibly difficult. Instead weights make you stronger, toned, healthy, and able to eat more…which I love! Before Eula I ate very few calories and did lots of cardio, and while I was thin, I never felt healthy. Now I eat as much healthy food as I want when I’m hungry and lift weights. While I’m not where I want to be post-baby yet, I’m on the road!
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I freaking hate cardio. Especially running. I don’t run. Unless something is on fire. I actually like weight lifting and resistance training. It’s hard, but the time flies, and I can feel my body getting stronger. Having a trainer, while an investment, has been the trick for me. I need that accountability, and I needed to feel like someone who knew my goals for my body was guiding me towards them as opposed to me just randomly doing things. What motivates me is freedom from issues around food, being fit for the first time in my life, being a good example to my daughter, keeping up with my fit husband, and getting a toned butt! Haha!
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
This is probably cliché but confidence. When someone is confident in their own skin and in who they are as a person, confident about where they are in the journey whether they’re only beginning or years down the road, that is beautiful. When you love yourself inside and out, you glow. Easier said than done, I know, but when we work towards banishing self loathing we aren’t only more beautiful to ourselves, we are more beautiful to others as well.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
As for my face, I keep it super simple: I wash and exfoliate with Aesop, and then I tone with Thayer’s Rose Tonic and hydrate with Evan Healy moisturizer. I love her formula because it’s natural and it isn’t greasy like so many. It goes on so light. I also get a HydraFacial every couple of months.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
I drink tocos daily in my smoothie or matcha, as it’s amazing for skin. He Shou Wu is another herb I take for beauty, again usually stirred into tea or a smoothie since I have one of those two things almost every day. I also take an ultra collagen supplement by Reserveage.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
Don’t wash your hair everyday! This strips hair of its oils and can dry it out and make it brittle. I wash mine once every 3-4 days, and I use a dry shampoo by Oribe on the days in between as needed. And if nothing else, if I can throw on a bit of Benefit Porefessional, mascara, and do my brows, I feel “done”. But the truth is, I hardly ever do my make up unless I have an event or am going to be on camera.
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
Not taking on more than I can handle, delegating, saying “no” as often as needed, having a schedule, and planning help me avoid stress. As a very DIY spirited entrepreneur, I constantly have to fight the temptation to “just do it myself”, and as a person who really likes to do what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it, I have to fight the urge to float through my days working on whatever catches my eye. Instead, batching days and time blocking (i.e. Mondays are for marketing & meetings, Tuesdays are for client work, Wednesdays are for editing & writing, Thursdays for content creation, Fridays are for finance, Saturday is for family, and Sunday is for weekly food prep, etc…) helps keep me on track.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
Meditation is my not-so-secret weapon. And exercise. And sleep. If I’m meditating, sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and getting my work-outs in, I can field whatever stress comes my way with reasonable grace. And it does come. I also find the simple belief that everything happens for a good reason calms down the stresses of life, big and small. Whether I’m stuck at a red light when I’m running late, or I didn’t get something I thought I wanted, this belief frames it as a blessing. I choose to believe the universe knows better than I do what should happen and when.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
Garlic! I immediately start sucking on cloves of garlic. More than 50% of the time this knocks it out. It smells strong, but hey, it works! It has antibiotic properties (they called it “Russian Penicillin” during the war!), and it can kill bugs. I also start drinking a lot of herbal tea.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
This may sound strange to say, but I don’t believe in “work life balance”. Balance implies everything has equal weight all the time. I believe in boundaries, but not balance. I don’t believe anything great was ever created meting out time to it in a stingy way. Passion is going all in. It’s long days and late nights. It’s a pendulum swing. What’s important to me is not living these perfectly balanced days where everything gets equal weight, but rather in knowing when to swing back. You have to define your non-negotiables, and then the rest of your time is fair game. My non-negotiables are my weekly workouts, morning routine (though I shorten it as needed depending on the day), and an hour or so at the end of the day to cuddle and connect with my family. When I’m in a season of intense work, say launching something new or writing a book, people know they will see less of me. I will spend less time on other things. And when I need a break or when it’s complete, I will just the same pour myself all into to rest and enjoying the people I love. It’s about knowing your own limits, setting boundaries so that the priority gets to be the priority, pushing it to the boundary, and then stepping back when it’s time. That’s my approach.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself.
When you truly, fully grasp that if you don’t take care of yourself all the other things you want will forever remain out of your grasp, then it becomes really easy to stay motivated and prioritize yourself. We all have different goals and dreams, but what most people have in common is that they quite simply want to be happy. You can make seven figures and be perfectly miserable if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s the foundation the rest is built on.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Working out, specifically weight training. I have spent my entire life avoiding exercise. I always really hated it, and it felt like a waste of time when I could be working. Which was so silly! It gives me more energy, better focus, elevates my mood, and helps me make better food choices because when you make one good choice it becomes easier to make others. Also, full disclosure, it really helps with libido! As a woman who is crazy about her husband but definitely suffered from sloth like tendencies post baby, this has been awesome! Intimacy is such a priority for me, and working out has totally reenergized our relationship.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
Ha! Story of my life. Honestly, I lean into it. What those periods mean, usually, is that I’m burnt out or there’s some big issue in my life or business that isn’t working, and I’m not dealing with it. In those periods, I let myself rest. And I take a look at what’s not working, and I try to develop a solution. If I’m simply burnt out, a good rest will leave me totally inspired. And if there’s something that isn’t working in my life or business, taking time to figure it out becomes the priority. Once the problem is solved, motivation and inspiration return.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
Tools of Titans, The One Thing, and Essentialism are all books that deeply influenced my routines and my general philosophy on life. While largely geared towards entrepreneurs, I think their principles can apply to anyone.
— Your home birth story was incredibly inspiring and touching. How did you come to the decision to have a natural home birth? Do you have any resources to recommend to future parents thinking of doing the same?
Well, I’d actually planned to give birth at the hospital for the majority of my pregnancy. I decided to have a home birth weeks before she was due! It was kind of crazy. In the process of writing my birth plan, I realized how “against the grain” I was going for a hospital birth by simply wanting no medication or unnecessary medical interventions. I didn’t want to be swimming upstream while doing the hardest thing I would ever do. If someone is thinking about doing the same, I would say do a lot of research on the quality of midwifery care in your area. Not every area of the world is created equally when it comes to available care. The Farm Midwifery Center has lots of great resources for people considering the option!
— Do you have any tips for surviving or minimizing jetlag, and for dealing with a jetlagged baby?
I actually have a whole blog post on traveling with baby! If you are traveling across many, many time zones and it’s at all possible, build a few extra days into your schedule to take it easy and recover from jetlag. When she was under one year old, we took turns getting up with her those first few nights, and tried to keep her awake as long as possible near bed time. And while I know a lot of people might not be comfortable with this, once she was over one year old we gave her a small, weight appropriate dose of benadryl the first two to three nights to help reset her clock. It was an amazing life saving discovery that our pediatrician approved, and we felt comfortable with after lots and lots of research. If you don’t want to do that, you can try melatonin or herbal remedies like No Jet Lag. In the end whether you use anything or not, the baby adjusts much quicker than the adults in my experience!
— You’ve masterfully created your own brand, and your photography style is instantly recognizable, yet we’ve read that you are completely self-taught. What was your path to building such a successful lifestyle brand? What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Oh man! I have WAY too much to say about this. I’m writing e-courses for 2018 that deal with this very topic. So! My path was to embrace the public learning curve. I didn’t wait until I had it all figured out to start. I just started, and I got better as I went along. The better I got, the more readers and opportunities I had. There was no overnight success. There was passion, hard work, and showing up everyday for years. I have ALWAYS focused on two things above all else: content and relationships. I don’t deal in mediocre and always strive to produce the best content I possibly can, and I aim to treat everyone I come in contact with love and respect. Those are the foundations, in my estimation, of any successful enterprise. The advice I would give to someone starting out, the short version, is this: First, you need to figure out what you’re passionate about and be super specific, start with one thing. For me, that was cooking. You can branch out into other niches later, but start with one. Then you need to figure out the core values of your brand. For instance beauty, mindfulness, and authenticity are some of the core values of Local Milk. This is going to set the tone for all that you do. The next thing, the most important thing, you need to figure out is who you’re talking to. Who is you dream customer, client, audience? What do they love? What are their hopes, dreams, fears, struggles? How can you make their lives better? This is where you’ll get ideas for content, revenue streams, copywriting, and everything. It’s so important. You can’t skip it. You can’t hit a target you aren’t aiming for, and you need to know what your target audience looks like (eg: is it magazine editors or stay at home moms? or both? why?) and responds to before you go on to create your brand. I could keep going! But I’ll leave the nitty gritty details for the e-course! The biggest advice I can give is: Just start! There is ALWAYS room at the top, and NO ONE starts there.
— You are a true believer in the fact that a dream life and dream job is achievable for anyone, even those at their lowest point. Can you tell us a bit more about how you were able to come to this realization?
Well, I’m living proof, so it’s an easy thing for me to believe. I spent the first decade of my adult life in the throes of bipolar and drug addiction. I’m a high school AND college drop out. I started this business when I was 29 on VERY little money. The only thing I’d ever done before this was wait tables. I had to heal myself before I could start this journey, but once I did that, I didn’t quit, and I didn’t look down. Every small win felt like a huge win to me. I was grateful for the first $20 I was ever paid for a photo. And to be honest, it was probably only worth $20. I have the unshakeable belief that if you work hard at something you’re truly passionate about, you cannot fail. But you have to work hard. And you have to be passionate, you have to love it. Before you can do any of it, however, you must take care of yourself spiritually and physically. That was the key to all of my success. Ten years of failure because I could not and would not take care of myself. Once I started, it all just flowed.
Fun and Inspiration
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
In no particular order: sailing anywhere with clear blue water, Netflix and chill with my husband, and playing Warcraft. Haha! I try to make it to the sea at least once a year, and I love to hang out with my husband doing anything or nothing. When work is done for the day, I like to relax with a good series. And Warcraft is my “secret” pleasure. Especially when I’m really burnt out, and I just need to “get away”. I absolutely love video games, specifically WoW, and while I can’t play full time anymore, whenever I’m taking one of those breaks from work to rejuvenate, I’ll get on there for a few days. I’m hoping to find time soon to play! It’s great because it has NOTHING to do with work. And when you have a lifestyle brand, EVERYTHING can be turned into work! But I think it’s safe to say the World of Warcraft remains and always will remain firmly off brand!
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – Nabokov’s Lolita (topic notwithstanding it’s some of the best writing in the world)
Song/Album – Songs of Leonard Cohen
Movie – The Empire Strikes Back (it’s my favorite movie, so you know…it sure feeds my soul!)
Piece of Art – anything by Cy Twombly
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are a few essential objects that would be in yours?
This is actually labeled “my minimalist packing list” in my evernotes!
external hard drive
aesop face wash + exfoliant
thayers rose tonic
toothbrush + paste
1 oversized necklace
1 pair earrings
2 elizabeth suzann linen tunics
1 over sized sweater
1 silk shift dress
1 pair black tights
lauren manoogian capote coat
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Photos by Beth Kirby.