My book is free this week!

It’s done! It’s published! And it’s free for the next 5 days!

85 kindle pages of YA psychic/paranormal/dystopian goodness for you to read, enjoy, and comment on! It’ll take an hour to read, and five minutes to review! (But please be nice, this is probably the scariest thing I have ever done!)

http://myBook.to/I-Dream-Of-Fire 

The link should take you to your appropriate country’s Amazon site. Let me know if it doesn’t work, and/or if you don’t see it as being free between April 18 to 22.

If you’d like to read the first few posts of my author’s blog, here it is: www.daphnejameshuff.com 

Happy reading!

My secret project

I was going to post this yesterday, but didn’t want people to think it was an April Fool’s, because it most definitely is not! I mentioned a “secret goal” in my new year’s post … I set myself the goal to publish a book on Kindle this year, and it’s almost done!

Part of the reason I’m talking about it now, before it’s out, is for accountability. I have had a few close friends helping me A TON during the writing and editing phase, and that has helped make sure I actually finish it. But I could still chicken out and not hit that final “publish” button, so here is my more public accountability push (without going super public and talking about it on Facebook. Which I still will, but only once it’s actually out!).

I’ll be using a pen name, and will have a separate author website and blog, which I will share soon. This blog wasn’t supposed to be all about bébé and kind of automatically morphed into that because, hello, it’s a huge part of my life. It was hard to not write about the journey of writing, since it has occupied hours and hours of my time the past few months. So I’ll see how things go and if I end up merging the two blogs/sites or not.

It’s a shorter book, less than 100 pages, so a quick read for your morning commute. Or, if you’re like me and only have time to read for about 10 minutes every night, it’s a few days of reading. It’s a young adult dystopian because that is pretty much all I read right now. Though recently I have been reading more Neil Gaiman and have lots of fairy/fantasy ideas swirling around in my brain…

So there it is, my secret project of 2017! Stay tuned for more news, hopefully by the end of the month (if I can stop distracting myself with the fun non-writing tasks like “pick serious author profile picture” and “decide on color scheme for website”).

Happy New Year

It’a a few weeks late, but happy New Year! (Or, in keeping with the French tradition, it’s still January so it’s still ok to say it).

This time last year we were living with my mother-in-law, sending out dozens of CVs every week, closing accounts, and packing up whatever we couldn’t sell. I wish I could say this year has been much calmer, but it’s been busy in a different way. Work has been very busy for both of us, then we both caught a stomach bug, Monkey changed daycares last week, and we’re once again gearing up for a move (only within a ten-mile radius however). Both the daycare and apartment change are for practical and economic reasons. The hope is that there will be absolutely no moving anywhere in 2018 so that in 2019 we can make the big move of buying a house before Monkey starts school. Of course, knowing me, ask me again this time next year and who knows!

With things being so crazy, while I have been reading everyone’s blogs, I just have no time to comment. So to all the new moms posting about the insane first months/year of motherhood, I have wanted to comment on every single post to offer my advice or experience or just to say “yes it’s hard, but it doesn’t last forever,” or “don’t listen to what anyone else says, you’re doing fine.” One goal this year (that I am already sort of failing at) is to comment more, and respond quicker to comments on this blog.

Other goals are mainly financial, because of the 2019 plan mentioned above. We’re in a semi-spending freeze for January, but the move to a cheaper apartment in a few months will make things a little easier. There’s a trip to France in the spring, maybe Seattle in the fall, and hopefully a few local trips around Massachusetts and New England.

After last year of moving and settling in, I do feel like the next few years should be a bit calmer, and we can just continue with the regular daily life of a family of 3. We’re still slowly meeting people and figuring out how to make friends as adults, in a new city, with a toddler, but Monkey is also getting to a fun age so going out just us 3 is very entertaining as well.

It seems odd to not have some huge major goal this year (well, I have a secret one that I hope to share in a few months), but life is already pretty full and good, so I’m learning if it ain’t broke, just enjoy it!

My first Whole30

Two days before Thanksgiving, I finished my first Whole30. If you’re not sure what it is, a simple Google search will yield plenty of information. Briefly, it’s 30 days of eating very clean: no added sugar, no grains, no legumes, no alcohol, and no dairy. The reasons to do it and results vary by individual, so I wanted to share my experience, in case anyone was considering it.

To start, I have been paleo at different periods over the past 10 years, so this was not a huge new thing for me. I didn’t have a lot of the typical withdrawal symptoms in the early days because we didn’t go from bread 3 times a day to none. We actually don’t really eat much pasta and bread in general (except Monkey, who lives on Mac and Cheese right now), but we aren’t as good about eating vegetables. Rice and chicken is a pretty standard weeknight menu.

My eating habits were good but not the best, and I knew I could do better. I knew I ate way too much sugar (lots of colleagues with birthdays this summer didn’t help!). I had the typical after lunch slump and constant snacking that is familiar to so many. Working out regularly wasn’t getting me the results I was looking for. So after seeing a friend on Facebook post her meals every day, I looked into the Whole30 and it seemed like a good thing to try.

I didn’t post my journey on social media the way that so many find helpful, though I did talk about it at work. A lot. Initially because I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t count on me eating half of the weekly baked goods as usual, so they could adjust the portions appropriately! I run with a few colleagues at lunch, and it was natural to talk about it as part of our usual fitness conversations.

With Thanksgiving just two days after I ended, I had planned on reintroducing gluten grains like wheat, since the rest of Thanksgiving would be pretty compliant – turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans. But that first night, being able to just order a pizza when we were exhausted from packing up the car for the ride down to my sister’s was just too tempting. And while I didn’t feel awesome, I didn’t have any serious reactions. So I decided to just eat normally.

Unsurprisingly, after almost three weeks of eating “normally” however, I do feel pretty gross. And sugar headaches/hangovers are a very real and painful thing! So I’m slowly going back to a cleaner version of my normal food. Mostly making sure breakfast is as clean as possible (eggs & spinach, chicken sausage & avocado, almond butter & apples), hoping that a good start to my day will keep me on the right track. But with all the holiday treats floating around, I think I’ll be at a 50/50 good/bad ratio until the New Year when I’ll try for 80/20.

My Whole 30 experience

Benefits:

  • Not needing tea in the morning (more energy). This was a big one for me. I don’t drink coffee, so my cup of black tea in the morning is pretty important. Since it’s not supposed to be the first think you consume in the morning on the plan, I would put it off until work. But after a week, I found I didn’t need it.
  • Weight loss. Like many, this was not my main goal. But take away added sugar and bread, and you’re going to lose weight. I also had the 5k and my regular workout routine, so about 7 pounds disappeared by the end of the month. I’m pretty much at my pre baby weight, which is nice, since I was getting very close to needing new, bigger clothes. For me, spending more on good food > spending more on clothes. (I’ve gained 2 back in the past 2 weeks of “regular” eating)
  • A better relationship with food. We all know we eat when we’re bored/stressed/sad, so pinpointing the situations where it comes up is very helpful. There were definitely moments that I wanted chocolate and had tea instead, but those got fewer as the month went on. Making food about nourishment and fuel, instead of a comfort or reassurance, is key to separating emotions and food.
  • Not feeling stuffed after eating. This took some getting used to, but it was nice to not feel super bloated/full after a meal. When I got hungry, I was HUNGRY, but after the first two weeks, I knew how much I needed to keep me going until the next meal. Feeling satisfied, not stuffed, was nice.

Difficulties:

  • Work functions. I forgot about a few, so I had to sit there watching people eat lovely catered food while I had my reheated chicken and sweet potatoes. But by the end of the month, when the ice cream social came around, I could watch people stuff their faces without feeling jealous. (Though I might have saved some in the freezer for later…)
  • Budget. I didn’t go organic on the meat, and it was still pretty pricey. I usually compromised by getting sausages/hot dogs without added sugar, which are almost always the organic brand. My splurge tends to be cage-free/free-range eggs, even before this experiment.
  • Not eating all the little bits and pieces of Monkey’s food. I didn’t realize how automatic it was to take bites off his plate until I couldn’t anymore! And while I’m sure it was good for him to see me eating healthy things, he wasn’t interested in tasting anything.
  • Thinking about food all the time. It got a little tiresome to be constantly thinking “is this enough protein? Enough fat? Am I hungry or just tired? Should I eat a sweet potato before my workout or a banana?”. And it made me worry that I wouldn’t be able to just enjoy food once it was over.

Things I expected to happen that didn’t:

  • Better sleep. However, with a toddler, this will be bad no matter what you eat. I did feel like I had more energy than normal the nights I got even less sleep than usual, so that was a nice bonus.
  • Better skin. After 30+ years, I may just need to accept I will never have a beautiful complexion, no matter what I eat or how many Korean beauty products I try.
  • Better gums. I have some mild to serious gum health issues, and while they didn’t get worse, they didn’t really get better.

I’m thinking the gum and skin might actually get better if I do a whole60 (or just watch my sugar intake!)

 

For anyone who’s thinking of trying it after the holidays, it’s not the easiest of months, but it’s also not the worst either. Figuring out why you’re doing it is key to maintaining motivation. But getting to the end, knowing you were able to say “no” to so many things, really helps with other choices, both food and non-food related.

Weekly DIY

wafersWe are driving up to Boston tomorrow, and in preparation for the 9 hour drive (possibly more, if bébé is extra cranky), I am making vanilla wafers. This is the fifth recipe in my weekly DIY project since being back in the States.

I started this project almost accidentally, after looking for something to take to a Super Bowl party. At the supermarket picking up other groceries, I saw a Better Homes and Gardens DIY recipes magazine with homemade toaster pastries on the cover and the headline “Return to real ingredients”. Since being back, I’ve noticed a big difference in how we eat, though this is partially because of living with my parents, who have different habits than we do. But also, baby food is very different (I’ll probably do a whole post on this, as well as bébé’s adaptation to life here) and I was stressing a little about how much “non-food” he is eating. And there is seriously sugar in everything. I figured having a few more homemade recipes in my collection could help me feel a little less guilty about giving him so many snacks, since at least they’d be homemade snacks.

For the party, I made pretzels, and they were a big hit! The week before I had made a cake for my sister’s birthday using spelt flour since our nephew doesn’t eat gluten. I made cookies for church the next week, and crackers for our NYC trip with a recipe from the magazine the week after. I figured a once a week goal of making something other than regular food would be a good one to have, especially since I didn’t get a chance to do much special baking the last month in France. And hopefully once a week will turn into a few times a week, to help me fight against my American habit of eating things out of boxes and cans, that has returned alarmingly fast (again, probably because I’m at my parents’ house).

The magazine has recipes for things like making your own vanilla extract, ketchup, syrups, crackers, donuts, mozzarella sticks, marshmallows, nut butters, even cheese. There are also a few tips on canning and growing your own produce. All of these recipes and tips can be found elsewhere, but having them all in one place will make it a fun game to check off as many pages as I can throughout the year. And while some things will go quickly, like today’s vanilla wafers, other things like ketchup or nut butter will last a little longer and help balance out the (hopefully) occasional fast food and packaged meals we’re sure to be eating in the coming weeks as we get settled into a new routine.

The year ahead

Here it is, my recap/resolutions post! Moving across the ocean pretty much guarantees a crazy year ahead with lots of changes and new experiences, so I won’t go into too many details, but it’ll be nice to have a snapshot of how I’m feeling before it all happens…

When I paused to consider if there were things I’d like to commit to doing or stop doing this year, I actually couldn’t think of any. I made little changes throughout the past year that added up to a place where I’m happy most days.

Sure I don’t eat perfectly every day (and living chez la belle-mère has not been helping…) but I pay attention and tend to choose the healthy things. I work out almost every day, and lately have been doing tons of yoga to keep stress levels low. I’m glad I did one last race in Europe this year, but I don’t know if I want to do another in 2016. However, I might just being saying that because I dislike Winter running, so I’ll probably change my mind in the Spring!

I would like to get more focused and intense in my workouts, to gain more muscle, but I don’t want to add any extra pressure during the move to keep up a certain schedule. This goal can wait awhile before starting. My husband bought me a Jawbone UP3 for my birthday, so I’ve been working towards that 10,000 steps per day goal. It’s a little shocking how little I move most days, even with chasing after bébé, since there’s no big centre-ville here to go wandering around whenever we get bored. Good for money health, bad for body health.

Compared to this time last year, we’ve gotten used to life with bébé, which means we’ve gotten used to life constantly changing! We’ve been pretty consistent in having “couple time” as often as possible, though admittedly not as much as we probably needed during the move chez belle-mère in December. Her Christmas present to us was a gift certificate to the local thermal baths, and a restaurant gift card, so we’ll definitely be using those before we leave!

Work goals for the year are obviously pretty simple (“Find a job I like that doesn’t pay peanuts”) but beyond sending resumés and making contacts, I can’t do much else so there’s no point in worrying too much. Ask me again in three months however, and I definitely won’t say the same thing!

Since life will be completely different in a few months, I think I’ll end up doing a list of “New Country Resolutions” once we’re settled in and have an idea about what direction we’re going. I have a few ideas that will apply to wherever we are (exploring the city as a family once a week, not going crazy with eating out at all the places I missed) but so much depends on if we end up in big city (more cultural activities) or small town (more outdoors). Starting a new year without a definite plan is very unlike me, but part of the reason I wanted to move was to get to know a new me. So far, so good!