A Month with the Whole30

The holidays are never the best for eating, but this year was particularly awful. December was a month-long inhalation of carbs and processed food. It was bad. So when I heard my brother and sister-in-law were going to kick off January by starting the Whole30, I jumped on board and dragged Dustin along for the adventure.

The Whole30 is basically an extreme version of paleo: no sweeteners, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, and no alcohol, even for cooking. And any food that contains a banned ingredient, even in small quantities (I’m looking at you, bacon), is out.

So what do you eat? Veggies, meat, and fruit, preferably in that order.

If you go to the Whole30 site, they make the ridiculous promises that all diets make–basically, follow this plan and we’ll cure all your ills. I wasn’t in it for the woo woo. I needed to make a clean break from my previous out-of-control eating, and this seemed like a good way to do it. In the world of moderators vs. abstainers, I’m definitely an abstainer.

Armed with an iron will to succeed and the knowledge that even a tiny slip meant you had to start over, I embarked on thirty days of “clean” eating.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • Sugar or soy are in pretty much everything that comes off of a grocery store shelf, even in the deli section.
  • Grocery shopping is both easier and harder. You get to avoid most of the middle of the store, which speeds things up, but you have to look at every single label. And fresh fruit and veggies don’t keep that long, so plan to go fairly often.
  • There will be dishes. So many dirty dishes. When you are cooking three meals a day, it adds up quickly.
  • Breakfast is a test. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, one of the only “traditional” breakfast foods allowed. So you get used to eating whatever in the morning.
  • Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica is good on just about everything. We used it on salads, eggs, and lettuce-wrapped tacos.
  • After eating no sugar at all, a couple pieces of dried apricot after dinner taste like heaven.
  • Avocados are delicious and we should all be eating more of them. We ate one almost every day.
  • Eating out is fraught with danger and temptation. We ate out maybe five times all month, and some of those only because we were out of town. It’s just easier to cook.
  • I didn’t have many cravings. I think it’s because December was so bad, but my body happily let go of bread and sugar. If it was in front of me (like the amazing chocolate brownie for a friend’s birthday dinner), I wanted some, but mostly I was fine.

As for all of the woo woo claims, those are harder to quantify.

I did feel better this month, but December’s eating was so bad it’s hardly a fair comparison. I dropped eleven pounds and my blood pressure (which wasn’t high to begin with) dropped some as well. I’m assuming both of those are at least partly due to the decreased amount of sodium intake.

The Whole30 did not, however, magically fix my relationship with food or do any of the other more outrageous claims they make.

But overall, it was easier than I’d expected. In fact, I will probably continue with some form of modified paleo as my normal diet. And that’s a win in itself.

Now on to daily yoga February!

WP-Cron, BackWPUp, and Apache Virtual Hosts

We were forced to switch hosts recently, and while setting up the new server, I ran into a really frustrating issue with wp-cron that had a stupidly simple fix.

Some background: I setup several virtual hosts with Apache that redirected based on the domain name. This is a fairly common setup for running multiple domains from a single server. To test, I modified my local hosts file to redirect the domains to the new server. The actual DNS record was still pointing to the old server until I had everything ready. This becomes important.

Everything seemed to be working correctly but when I’d run a BackWPUp job, nothing would happen. It would say the job was started, but it wouldn’t show me the job running page. It wouldn’t do anything.

Some searching seemed to indicate that this was related to wp-cron. And indeed, wp-cron was not running. Scheduled posts wouldn’t get posted. But none of my searches turned up anything. Wp-cron just wouldn’t run and there was no reason why.

Some digging showed that wp-cron wasn’t even in the access log. In the default setup, wp-cron gets called when someone visits your site. But it gets called via a callback to domain name/wp-cron. This means the server sends the request to the old server if you haven’t updated your DNS.

The stupidly simple fix? Add the virtual host domains to the /etc/hosts (or wherever, depending on your server) with the IP set to the local IP.* Boom. Everything works. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out.

*Alternatively, you can just update the DNS to point to the new server when you’ve hit this point.

Hollowed Out Book Kindle Case

I love books, I love technology, and I love crafts. So I decided to bring my loves together by destroying a perfectly good book to make a case for my Kindle. Sorry, book.

Props to Ilona Andrews for inspiring this idea. She linked to someone on Etsy who was selling Kindle cases made out of old books. I decided that I could make one myself, and so the search for the perfect book began. I scoured Half Price Books for something on clearance. While I was confident I could make it, I decided that just in case I couldn’t, I probably shouldn’t experiment on an expensive book. It took a few tries, but I finally found The Perfect Book:

The Perfect Book
The right size, shape, and prettiness. Just look at that embossed hummingbird!

There are a few different sites offering step-by-step instructions on how to hollow out a book. I prefer How to Hollow Out a Book in 80 Easy Steps. It’s not as bad as it sounds, and there are lots of pictures. Armed with a list of supplies, Dustin and I headed out to Hobby Lobby. Where we promptly got into a sword fight:

Prepared for Battle
Doesn’t he look dangerous?

Take a moment to say goodbye to your book, then let out the little kid that lives inside of you. You get to cut up a book. For reals, yo. I had guilt for a couple seconds until I realized that destroying things is fun.

If you are planning to hollow out a book for a Kindle case, take careful measurements of your Kindle. I added a sixteenth of an inch to both the height and width measurement to ease getting the Kindle into the case. That, along with some “freestyle” cutting left plenty of extra room. Cut a few pages and then make sure your Kindle is going to fit in the hole. Don’t cut fifty pages and then realize it’s a quarter of an inch too narrow. I actually stuck to the “measure twice, cut once” rule this time, as opposed to the “eyeball it and cut several times” method I normally employ.

I deviated slightly from the 80 Easy Steps. I didn’t cut through all of the pages, because the book was thicker than the Kindle. I just cut through enough that the Kindle rested below the page level. And instead of cutting out the first page, I sliced it diagonally both directions and glued it down to smooth out the edges a bit, because my cutting may not have been the neatest. I also added a ribbon to help lift the Kindle out of its nest:

Hollowed Out Book Insides
Now my book looks like it is part of the X-Men. And that’s not a bad thing, right?

If you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll end up with something like the following when you add your Kindle:

The Kindle in the Book Case
Awww, isn’t it adorable?

We have two Kindles. The other one is our older Kindle Keyboard. It’s slightly bigger, so I thought we’d have trouble finding a book for it. Until Dustin came across this gem in the Half Price Books clearance bin:

Nuclear Medicine
Does this book make my brain look fat?

I guess they didn’t have much to say on the topic of Nuclear Medicine in the 1970s, because it is a perfect half inch thick. And it was only a dollar. A dollar! For a unique Kindle Case. Hollowing it out is my next project.

What Do Patricia Briggs, Patrick Rothfuss, and Kim Harrison Have in Common?

So what do Patricia Briggs, Patrick Rothfuss, and Kim Harrison have in common? Give up?

Well, they all had the high honor of meeting me this past weekend. I know they must have been pretty excited, but they managed to play it cool and professional. I even let each of them scribble in some of my books. I’m awesome like that. :)

Dustin and I spent last weekend in Houston, or more specifically, at book signings at Murder By the Book, an independent Houston bookstore. We originally saw that Patrick Rothfuss was going to be there on Sunday, so we figured we’d pop over for the weekend and get our books signed. In a stroke of luck, both Patricia and Kim (am I the only one who feels weird calling famous people I’ve met once by their first names, like we’re pals now?) were signing on Saturday night, so we went over a little earlier and spent Saturday at Murder By the Book, too.

The turnout was crazy. The bookstore is fairly small, so if you go to any of their signings (and they have a ton!) make sure to get there early. We barely got a seat for Patricia and Kim and we arrived two hours early. For Patrick we arrived before the store opened on Sunday and there was already a line. They were expecting over six hundred people for his signing.

Overall, the bookstore was very nice. The staff was super awesome, even though I know they must have put in some crazy hours. If you’re in Houston, you should definitely check it out.

Here are a couple pics we took.

Patricia Briggs and Jessie
Patricia Briggs and Jessie
Patrick Rothfuss and Jessie
Patrick Rothfuss and Jessie
Jessie and Kim Harrison
Jessie and Kim Harrison
Patrick Rothfuss and Dustin
Patrick Rothfuss and Dustin

ArmadilloCon Wrap-up

As I mentioned in my previous post, this past weekend was ArmadilloCon here in Austin.  After three days of hanging out with published authors, not-yet-published authors, and fans, I can definitely say this:  These are my people and my people are weird.  Falling into both the software engineering and writing worlds myself, I am somewhat of an authority on weird, so take my word for it.  :)

Friday was the Writers’ Workshop.  Before the workshop started, I sat and talked to Rachel Caine for probably ten minutes before I introduced myself.  When she said her name was Rachel, it finally clicked on why she looked familiar–she was the guest of honor.  I then had that “I’m sitting next to someone famous” moment, but she was very cool when I turned all fangirl on her for a couple minutes.  I’ve read the first two books in her YA Morganville Vampire series and they were fun, fast reads.

The writers’ workshop was awesome.  There were four other aspiring authors in my group, and the group was led by Gordon and Ilona Andrews.  Gordon and Ilona are very nice, very cool people.  They gave me great feedback on the story I submitted.  Some of it was critical, but it’s what I needed to hear to be able to see the story through their eyes.  They also said some very, very nice things about my ability, so that was awesome.  I even got a mini shout-out on their blog.  The Jessie in the second paragraph… totally me.  ::dies::

Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday were mostly panels.  I took a bunch of notes but haven’t even started to process everything yet.  All I know is that my To Be Read list just got a whole lot longer.  The con was smallish, but it was a nice size because it felt intimate, like a group of friends getting together to talk books.  I guess I was basing my perspective on A-Kon, which is freaking huge, but I was expecting more people.

Sunday afternoon, thanks to the urging of the greatest husband on the planet, we got to hang out and have a drink with Gordon, Ilona, their friend Reece, and Stina Leicht (who also organized the workshop).  I totally wouldn’t have went over to talk to Gordon without Dustin’s urging, because I never want to be “that girl” that bothers people.  That fear coupled with my seriously introverted nature almost guarantees I avoid talking to strangers, almost-strangers, and especially almost-strangers-that-I-really-admire.   However, Dustin talked me into it, and I compromised by saying I’d just go say thank you and then leave.  A couple hours of chatting later, I realized it was getting late and we really should leave this time.  It was amazing!