Random Thoughts – New Year’s Edition

Hello, Friends. Happy New Year!! How are you? I’m feeling a big dose of hope, and woke up today with a really positive outlook for the year. I love the fresh start, blank slate feel that comes with January 1st.

I thought I’d start the year with a Random Thoughts post. There has been so much on my mind over the holiday break and I’m dying to discuss everything with you. So here goes.

– We’re on our way to Palm Springs for a few days. In fact, I’m typing this from the car. I’m the only member of the family who has ever been to Palm Springs, but Ben Blair and the kids hear me talk about it often because I host a conference there. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m the head of Altitude Design Summit and our flagship event currently takes place in Palm Springs.)

So I thought it would be fun to take the whole family and stay at The Saguaro, the same place where Alt Summit takes place, so that the kids can picture the whole event, and feel a connection to it, even if they don’t attend.

The weather in Palm Springs is supposed to be amazing — low 80s. We’re planning lots of pool time (and I’m using my favorite self-tanning foam). While we’re there, we also want to visit the Joshua Tree National Park. Have you ever been?

– On our drive, we’re passing through gorgeous orange groves, and we’re listening to an audiobook, Sapiens. We’re only a few chapters in but I’m really enjoying it. It’s making me think differently about the value of myths and gossip.

– I’m still working on my 2018 goals for Design Mom. I have GRAND plans. All the planning has me super excited. But I really need your feedback before I solidify anything. So I’m working on a short survey to gather your thoughts. Watch for it later today or tomorrow. UPDATE: the survey is live. You can take it here.

– For personal resolutions, I’m focused on stepping up my fashion game (even while working at home, when it’s so tempting to keep it pajama-casual), making more consistent grooming appointments (like hair and nails), and limiting (or eliminating) sugar.

– For Christmas, Ben Blair amped up our feminist library with 3 new titles. Women & Power by Mary Beard, My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, and Shrill by Lindy West. I read the Lindy West one last week. She’s so good. Really smart and really funny. Her essays always feel vulnerable and honest and clear-headed.

– We skyped with our oldest, Ralph, on Christmas Eve. He’s still on a mission in Colombia. He’s been living in Bucaramanga for the last few months, and was recently transferred to Bogota. We can email with him every week, but we only get to Skype him on Christmas and Mother’s Day. And oh my. The Skype calls are so good and so emotional. They’re a huge treat, but they also take a few days to recover from. It’s hard to be away from him for so long.

Happily, he’s really thriving. His Spanish sounds amazing, and he’s learning a ton about life and relationships and responsibility and adulthood. We’re looking ahead happily to the end of the summer when he’ll return home.

– One big thing on our mind for 2018 is that I think it’s time to move back to France. We’re tentatively making plans for a move this fall after Ralph returns. Though I confess, I’m not loving the tentative aspect of the plans. I want to solidify something as soon as possible so that we can work through the specific tasks, and I can measure our progress.

Instead of moving for 2 or 3 years, I’m thinking maybe we should start a pattern of having our family spend 6 months in the U.S. and 6 months in France each year, and implement that pattern for several years. Maybe make it fairly permanent.

As we look into it, there are definitely lots of questions and issues. For example, if we’re only leaving The Treehouse for 6 months, we wouldn’t be able to rent it out long-term, but we could Airbnb it. And prepping the house for Airbnb, and learning how to manage Airbnb guests, would require its own learning curve.

A 6 month split also changes our schooling options, and visas are another concern. We’re wondering about tax code changes too. When we lived in France, we received a big tax benefit for living out of the country. Does that benefit still apply?

In some ways, it would probably be easier to just sell our house and move to another country. And then move back to the U.S. again whenever we’re ready, and start again with another house. Nice clean breaks in both directions. But the 6 months here and 6 months there plan looks like it may be more sustainable overall, and a wiser thing to do financially. We’re not sure yet. We’re looking at budgets and figuring things out. I’m sure I’ll be updating more on this topic as we firm up our plans.

– The way the school calendar fell this year, with school getting out right before Christmas, and having this extra week of vacation time, has been heavenly! I’ve just soaked up the family time like a sponge. My kids don’t go back to school till next week. How about yours?

– During the holiday break, I’ve mostly been ignoring Social Media. I’ve barely touched my phone or laptop. I feel like my personal instinct is to move away from social media this year. But it’s sort of tricky for me, because professionally, social media is part of the job. Social media trends is a topic I’d like to write more about this month. I’m reading some good stuff.

– One more thing on my mind. As I’ve tackled my sugar addiction over the last month, I’ve been reading a bunch about Keto. Replacing my sugar intake with fat is definitely helping, and I’ve seen my best success with avoiding sugar or resisting sugar by embracing fat. Do any of you have Keto experience? I’d love your thoughts.

That’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to my random thoughts, or you leave your own random thoughts in the comments. I always love to hear what’s on your mind.

P.S. – More random thoughts.

77 thoughts on “Random Thoughts – New Year’s Edition”

  1. We live ten months of the year in the Twin Cities and the other two months in rural New Hampshire. In St. Paul we own a historic old building which we are making into an art and music center, and in New Hampshire, we own a little house on a lake that until last January was our full-time home. There’s a magic in having two very different lives at once, but the short-term landlord thing is SUPER stressful. Having two houses in two different places is stressful. I’m hoping it gets easier as we get better at it, and will follow your adventure (if you do it) with interest!

    I’m also curious about what makes you want to give up sugar!

    1. Your art and music center sounds incredible. I’ve thought that but MN and NH would be neat places to live but I haven’t grown up with snow and at my age, I’m not sure I’d adjust well.

      Just to touch on the sugar thing, back in 1967 studies were by Harvard that pointed to sugar as one leading cause of heart disease. But the powerful sugar lobby paid off studies to point the main cause as fat, which we have all tried to avoid. Now new studies and WHO (world health org) are finding that sugar is highly inflammatory and actually leads to a long list of health risks including obesity, cancer, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, liver damage etc. To make matters more complicated, sugar has been found to be highly addictive. When given a choice between cocaine infused water and sugar infused water, rats will choose the sugar!! I’m sure Gabby will have a post on it but thought I’d chime into your question.

    2. On sugar: I think it’s mainly that I’ve become more aware of how addicted I personally can be to sugar, and reading about the damage too much sugar does to our bodies. Additionally, both my father and Ben Blair’s father died from complications of Type 2 diabetes — and sugar is a major factor (if not THE major factor) in Type 2 Diabetes, so I feel like I should really be more aware of my family’s sugar intake than I have been in the past.

      1. In his book Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes points out that diabetes and obesity were virtually unheard of until the advent of mechanized grain & sugar production.

      2. I eliminated sugar for a year, and followed more of a high fat low carb diet. The pros were I lost weight and curbed my cravings. The cons were pretty high. I had no energy, my Rheumatoid Arthritis flared all the time, my depression kicked in pretty hard, and I had frequent migraines. Now I’m essentially doing the opposite. I’m vegan and low fat. I have energy, my mind is better, no migraines. Haven’t lost a lot of weight, but maintain it well. This is my personal experience, I know it can be different for everyone. But I did want to mention about diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes runs on both sides of my family, its something I am hyper aware of all the time. My dad, who has type 2 diabetes, switched to a vegan diet and has consequently been able to get off most of his meds. This is the healthiest he has been since his diagnoses. We watched the vegan documentaries on Netflix and that’s what started the research into a Vegan diet, if you are interested. Anyway just wanted to give you another option to look into! Good luck!

  2. Your 6-months here/ 6 months there plan is lovely! I can’t imagine selling & re-buying being easier, but you’ve done it and I haven’t so I’ll take your word for it.

    And a huge tax break for living out of the country? Would love to hear more about that.

    We’re back to work and school today. Although one week goes by quickly, a two-week break is always more challenging – my husband can never take this week off from work and I wouldn’t be able to take 2 weeks in a row off. It seems like a win that our kids didn’t have to spend school vacation at childcare for this school break.

    1. On taxes: When we lived in France, our income was from the United States and was taxed at the regular rate. But there was another bit of tax code that allowed for a credit or a break if you lived outside the U.S.. I believe it’s based on the idea that while living out of the country, you’re not taking advantage of the roads, schools, parks, etc., that taxes pay for. I need to talk to my accountant and find out if that same credit or break is available and what the stipulations are. As a small business person with a high tax bill, I remember it made a big difference to us.

  3. As a family living in a suburban neighborhood only two miles from Disneyland, I am very anti-Airbnb. There are three homes in our neighborhood that are doing this and any issues the neighborhood has are with these houses. It is illegal in our city to have an Airbnb house, but as with most cities with regulations about them, they are not enforced. (Believe me, we have gone to the city numerous times.) If you had a home in a mountain, desert or beach community with a high rental factor, I get it. To subject your neighbors to such a situation is deplorable.

    1. I understand that a lot of people have issues with AirBNB, but I think it’s a bit much to call Gabby’s plan “deplorable.” Jeez.

      I have mixed thoughts on AirBNB, based on my personal experience, but in the end I feel like you should be able to do whatever you want with your house if you own it. I have a feeling that he Blairs are thoughtful enough that if it were causing big problems for their neighbors, they would come up with something else!

    2. I”m sure Gabby will chime in but I’m pretty sure they do not have any neighbors close by. I remember her mentioning this related to their master bedroom remodel and decision to not have any curtains. Our HOA recently proposed changes to our CC&Rs that would forbid short-term rentals (must be 30 days or longer) and I think it is in response to an increase in homes being used as VRBOS and Airbnbs. We live in a very tourism-dependent town so I’m sure the demand is high for these types of places. I can see both sides to this argument. We have used and enjoyed Airbnbs ourselves and they are definitely much more cost-effective and comfortable for a family with children. But I can also see how it might get tiresome for neighbors, especially if some of the renters are not respectful.

      Gabby, I am excited to see how this plays out for your family – how exciting to be thinking about living in France again! I wish you all the best as you navigate this new and exciting chapter!

      P.S. Joshua Tree NP is amazing! We went twice last year (driving from Arizona). So many wonderful places to explore. We had fun just taking off into the rocks and seeing where we could go/hike/scramble. The area behind the “Skull” rock was ripe with places for exploration and good for kids of all ages and sizes. And, even if it’s busy near the road, just hike a little ways east and you’ll be all on your own.

      1. It’s true — we don’t have a single window covering in our whole window-filled house. Hah! We’re bizarrely isolated for a big city like Oakland. It’s a truly unusual property. And thanks for the tips on Joshua Tree. Scrambling on rocks is the BEST.

        1. We moved to Thailand this past summer for work and decided to vacation rental our house. We started with plans to sell our house, then to rent, but I kept coming back to the idea of a vacation rental. Fortunately, our house is in a tourist spot in West Virginia and it is doing well. Our neighbors have been in contact with us but most of them don’t seem to mind. It is better than having a renter that doesn’t care for the place and is there all the time! We work with an individual as our property manager. We are like business partners and it is working fantastic. You might need to look into paying additional taxes though as your house becomes a rental and an income. We have to pay extra for both, even in our small town. So that will be something you might want to consider.

          And think about potential advertising for people like traveling nurses that might only need a place for a few months. That might be an interesting fit for you.

          We have friends that live half the year in the US and half in Switzerland and their kids just started school. They have found a way to work with two schools. That will be an interesting component to the move. I am so excited for you all and your return to France!

    3. The house next door to mine and the one across the street are also full-time Airbnbs that were snapped up during the recession. While I would rather have actual neighbors, I don’t mind that much. The main thing that bothers me is how often the renters are smoking pot outside the house. We are not in a jurisdiction where it’s even partially legalized, and yet people seem to feel absolutely no need to abstain. Also the renters can be really loud on the patio at night, but I’m in the dense middle of the city, so I can’t blame a big portion of the noise on them overall.

  4. I am so excited for your plans to move back to France… I have been a reader since you first moved there — I googled you after I saw your House Hunters episode! You and your family seem to thrive in French culture!

      1. My family just visited France for the first time during the Christmas holidays. It feels almost silly to say this, but I am homesick for the culture already. I loved so many aspects of it. I’m happy for your family that you can do something like this.

  5. How exciting that you’re thinking of moving back to France semi-permanently. Will you live in your cottage or will it not be ready that soon?

    I’m always impressed with Ben Blair’s and your ability to really tackle big things and just make them happen. Very inspiring!

  6. Wow! Your ability to think creatively about family life is something I really admire. I wouldn’t be able to figure out the logistics (or handle my anxiety) of moving back and forth with kids; especially when it comes to appropriate schooling.

    Regarding AirBNB; I find it’s often the best, and most affordable, way for us to travel with our kids. The apartments/homes we rent have much more space than a hotel room and having a full or partial kitchen is a real benefit. We get a really good value from AirBNB.

    Funny how you always seems to get negative comments whenever you mention new technologies/services like Uber or AirBnB. I use both and find them both super useful and even game changing at times.

  7. If your income is FROM the United States and you’re a US citizen living abroad, you pay US taxes at regular rate. That was true then and now.

  8. Was assuming you would get to talk with Ralph, so great that he is thriving.

    Saw the champagne bottle on the last “a few things” of the year. I assume you might not drink being Mormon… don’t think you’ve ever written about that… do you ever end up being in situations where a lot of people are drinking and it’s annoying/awkward? If this is too personal, feel free to ignore the question! You are great about addressing a range of interesting topics… thought this could be one, especially after many people overdo it at the holidays!

    Another random question, did you go to Vaux le Vicomte when you lived in France? We went this summer and loved it. Good luck making a decision about balancing your time between living in France/ the US.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Not too personal. And you guessed right — as a Mormon, I don’t drink alcohol. I think your question about the potential awkwardness of not drinking could make a great post discussion. I’ll add it to my list!

      1. We are also a non-drinking family and are planning a move to Italy. I’ve been wondering how to navigate social situations there where wine is such a part of the culture. I don’t want to offend people, but I’m not going to drink either. I’d love to hear how you handled social drinking situations in France.

        1. I would also be curious about this. My live-in boyfriend is a recovering alcoholic and I’ve (mostly) happily given up alcohol, but it makes social situations tough, especially around holidays or other celebrations. It doesn’t help that we don’t yet have kids and many social engagements still having a drinking element.

          I’d be curious about how others handle this for other reasons. Especially because we will likely be planning a wedding soon–I’m feeling very anxious about an occasion where many will be drinking but we won’t be.

  9. I’ve done Keto twice. It’s a definitely change but I will say that after the adjustment period, I felt much healthier and easily lost a lot of weight too. After a month or so, I could tell exactly how my body was responding to carbs, dairy (for me) and sugar (all of which I love). I’d actually like to make lower fat Keto a permanent way of eating and not a “diet”. I could tell the health upsides were pretty clear and obvious for me.

    Keto cooking can be a lot of work to do long term, which is why I’ve fallen out of it. I’m not a huge veggie fan and very addicted to carbs/sugar. So a lapse forces me to physically “start over” the craving cycle. I’m actually about to start Keto again this year so I’m excited to follow you along if you do.

    What I’d love to see is long term studies on high fat Keto and its relation to heart disease. I’ve had one doctor tell me that my cholesterol will actually drop on Keto but he can’t guarantee it and my mind hasn’t quite gotten around to that way of thinking yet! :)

    1. Yes. The amount of time spent in the kitchen in order to maintain ketosis is intimidating to me. I’ve only experimented a little and could get through a couple of weeks just fine — but then life gets busy and I need convenience.

      1. It’s interesting to me to see all the talk about the keto diet on social media lately. One of my daughters has drug-resistant epilepsy, so the keto diet has been on our radar for a while as a treatment option. In fact, while we were waiting for an appointment with a dietician, we decided to try the Modified Atkins Diet, which has very similar results (in treating epilepsy at least). The full-blown ketogenic diet is hard to do right, but the MAD was surprisingly easy. We had urine dip sticks, and we could see that she maintained ketosis on that diet. This book was super helpful: https://www.amazon.com/Ketogenic-Modified-Atkins-Diets-Treatments/dp/1936303949/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515501885&sr=1-1&keywords=the+ketogenic+and+modified+atkins+diets

  10. So much to comment on here but I’m going to focus my comments on sugar and fat and Keto. Last January I read a book called “The Migraine Miracle” which prompted me to start a Keto diet in an effort to reduce/eliminate my troublesome migraines. From February – June last year I worked hard to stick with it, lost 30 pounds, nearly eliminated my migraines (with exception of occasional hormone-related ones) and felt better than I have in a long, long time.

    Initially, cutting sugar was tough. It’s amazing how addicted we become to it and the intensity with which I craved it was insane. I would replace my sugar craving with a fatty snack but it was not easy the first couple weeks.

    Around June I stumbled upon a book “The Keto Diet” by Leanne Vogel which was really helpful in identifying a modified Keto approach that seemed a little more sustainable (allowing more healthy carbs later in the day with my dinner) and less obsessive. I highly recommend that book for any woman considering a Keto diet (she also has a great website, YouTube channel and podcast). Initially, I fell into a unhealthy pattern of tracking every single carb I ingested in My Fitness Pal. It was great tool in helping me identify foods and their carb content but it became a little to obsessive compulsive for me.

    I fell off the Keto wagon around Thanksgiving and through the holidays–though throughout I have been mindful of what treats I have ingested and always in moderation–and starting today I’m eating to getting back into ketosis.

    For me the benefits have made it “easy” for me to follow the restrictive eating style and I have enough knowledge and experience now to know my carb sweet spot where I am still in ketosis but without insanely low carb intake. In the midst of my Keto journey I had a blip when I discovered I am allergic to eggs. I was consuming eggs on a regular basis as a quick protein and started having really severe gastro issues until I discovered with the help of my doc that I am allergic. I do eat high fat dairy in my keto (which I know can be controversial in the Keto world) but I don’t have any issues with consuming it and needed an additional, non-egg protein source. If you start having any abnormal physiological symptoms definitely get checked out. I had a food allergy panel through my GP and also a food sensitivity profile through a naturopathic doctor.

    1. Your comment is inspiring to me! I would love to get to a point where I can tell how many carbs my body can handle while still remaining in ketosis. I have a feeling that it’s going to take a lot of research and experimentation on my part. I really appreciate the Leanne Vogel recommendation.

    2. I’m very interested in the Migraine Miracle. I’ve had migraines since I was 9 years old. Was it mostly about eliminating sugar? Thanks for sharing!

  11. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your moving thoughts. I spent 2 years in Italy many years ago when my kids were young and started reading your blog when you were still living in France. I enjoyed comparing my experiences with yours.
    My kids are adults now but I still think about moving back to (probably) Italy.
    I’m wondering if anyone has any experience with Sabbatical Homes?

    1. Actually yes! We found our rental in France through Sabbatical Homes. And it was amazing! I had totally forgotten about Sabbatical Homes, but that could be perfect for us. If we’re doing 6 months on and 6 months off, we definitely wouldn’t want to move our furniture into storage, so a furnished rental situation (like Sabbatical Homes) could be ideal. Thanks for the reminder!

  12. I’m doing Whole 30 again and similarly, it’s the amount of time one has to spend on food prep that has me fall back into my old habits, even more than missing the sugar/carbs. Not only does it mean avoiding nearly all take-out options but eliminating many of the staple “convenience” items that make cooking at home a bit easier/faster. I do feel better/sleep better/look better when I eat Paleo/Whole 30 so that’s why I keep trying.

  13. Random question for Random Thoughts – This is literally the first time I realized that the “Alt Summit” that you run stands for Altitude Design Summit. I guess I always associated the “alt” abbreviation with “alternative.” So how is the A pronounced – as in alternative (like all), or as in altitude (like the name Al)?

    1. Good question. In theory, it should be pronounced like “altitude,” but it’s more often pronounced like “alternative.” I confess, with the Alt Right getting so much attention right now, I’m much more deliberate about using the full name of the conference — Altitude Design Summit, or even Altitude Summit — to try and avoid any association.

  14. You might want to try sabbatical homes instead of Airbnb – we used to rent our house while we were in Spain & found it very useable. There is definitely a demand for 6 month stays and it would mean that you wouldn’t have to turn things around for guests every few weeks.

  15. I love the adventure of living overseas for 6 months, and then stateside. I wish our lifestyle would allow this. I do wonder how you feel your children would adapt to the change throughout the school year. This would be a major concern to me, but then again, when reading your blog it seems like your children are incredibly flexible and adaptable!

    1. It’s definitely one of the big factors on our mind. We have enough education/parenting experience at this point to understand we have some really good options, but we know it would still take some hefty management. As we figure things out, I’m sure the topic will turn into a blog post. : )

  16. Martina Slajerova’s Keto books (and Keto App) are fabulous! I’ve not yet jumped on the Keto bandwagon but after watching a colleague thrive….i think i might!

  17. the keto diet is very unhealthy for your body!! if you’re interested in curbing sugar addiction, i’d highly recommend the whole30. in fact, i call it a “food therapy” program because of all of the ways it addresses our relationship with food. there’s also tons of support/email newsletters and instagram accounts that are super helpful and encouraging. mel joulwan, and michelle tam are my favorite to follow!

    1. When we lived there before, our income was not taxed by France, because we didn’t earn French income. In fact, we weren’t legally allowed to get jobs there.

  18. Joshua Tree is Magical! As a child my father was stationed at 29 Palms Marine Corp Base, about 20 min from Joshua Tree. We spent many weekends at the park camping and climbing the rocks. Fond memories! Enjoy!

  19. How do you manage extra-curricular activities for your kids if you are 6 mo. here, 6 months there? All my kids played or are involved in club sports/pro-track ballet companies/orchestras and they would never be allowed to participate off/on. The benefits of living in a foreign country would be great, just wondering about the challenges. Our kids have traveled internationally several times and have loved it, but I’m not sure they’d have been happy to give up their extra-curricular passions to live long term somewhere else. Those passions have given them friend groups, an identity, self-confidence, life lessons, skills, healthy bodies, etc. Also, how do teens keep a job? Both of mine that are in college at this point are self-funding because they started working while they were young teens and we hope the other two can do the same. Just curious.

    1. I’ve wondered that too. With kids in high school and very into their activities we’d have a major rebellion if we moved over seas which we have thought about at times. While they love to travel they would not want to make it permanent. My daughter is concidering following in my foot steps and doing an exchange year but only if she’s able to continue dance somehow. And same with the jobs. I have 1 in college who has relied on his summer earnings to pay for things that scholarships haven’t covered. So far we haven’t felt right pulling our kids from these and still take it a year at a time.

      1. I think a lot depends on the personalities of your kids. You couldn’t have paid our oldest to leave his school and activities. But when he went off to college and a job opportunity came up unexpectedly for our family that would involve moving to the PNW and living on an island, our next oldest was up for it. We said we’d give it a year…and since everyone is doing well, we’ll give it another year…and maybe another…. As far as activities go, the three kids who are still at home have found plenty of things to be involved in (including rowing, which we didn’t have back home, for our younger son). I realize our situation is a little different because it was really about the job, but even so, we wouldn’t have made a big move like this if it had made anyone truly miserable.

  20. Bonjour Gabrielle! My brothers and I grew up between a small medieval village in the Auvergne region of France, and Vancouver, Canada. We spent 1/2 the year in each, experiencing both a one-room school in rural France, and a large North American suburban elementary school. So a typical school year for us included our “dictée” being interrupted to go see a calf being born in the barn across the street, and hiking through the PNW rainforest! My parents ran art and language workshops in France, and taught at university in Vancouver. They continue to spend half the year in each: they rent out their homes when away, often to other couples/families who have a similar lifestyle. I say go for it and bonne chance!!

  21. I’m so curious to see how your plans to split the year between the US and France turn out!

    Our family is just moving home to Vancouver after living abroad five five years (Sweden for one, LA for one, Bay Area Peninsula for one), and my husband and I are both wondering how we’ll do with this settling. We talk about living in Europe again and would love to split our time like you’re suggesting. We only have one child though and I worry it would be hard on her without the support and championship of siblings.

    Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to see how you guys manage and dream of what might be possible for us!

  22. Hi Gabby. I haven’t read all your comments and answers, but why would you want to move back to France? I love your Treehouse, and what you have done with it. We have so many opportunities in the Bay Area, and we love having you in our ward, and what you contribute. My father was in the Coast Guard and we had to move very often and it was so disruptive. Of course, when you move, your family is a whole supportive community, and I was an only child.
    I hope you will plan on staying here and just visit France during school breaks!

  23. I have a question about the way you write offline. Since you publish online, you either need internet or publish with a data-enable device. When you’re traveling, like today in the car without internet, how do you draft posts? Do you use an offline program like Word for all of your posts, some of them or rarely? Thanks for sharing any information about your process!

    1. Yes, I use TextEdit on my laptop to draft a blog post. Then, I tether from my phone using Personal Hotspot to get my laptop online. Then I copy the draft into the wordpress dashboard, add links + images, and press publish. Obviously, I try to keep the tethering to a minimum because it uses data.

      Another option I use when I don’t have access to data because we’re in a spot without good coverage: I draft the post in TextEdit, and then when we stop for fuel or snacks, I’ll use the wifi from whatever fastfood joint we’re parked near and quickly publish from there.

  24. I fantasise about idea of a two country split, but wonder if for us it would be easier to have a three month solid summer somewhere then a nine month “work/school” stint in the other….makes for some nice daydreams!

  25. When I lived in France (for a ski season) the manager of the UCPA Centre I worked with, and his family, spent every winter in that ski resort and the summer at their home in the south.

    He worked as a manager of the summer centre and a deputy manager for the centre in the mountains – it helped that it was the same company/charity. When I asked about the kids and school, his daughters were 5 and 7 I think, he explained that the French follow the same curriculum across the country so they literally picked up where they’d left off! Sounds like an incredible lifestyle – will enjoy living vicariously through you!

  26. I’ve been keto for 6 months. It’s really not that hard, you figure out cooking short cuts as you go. I’ve lost 55 pounds and had two sets of spectacularly good blood work results. My doctor fully endorses it. For the best/easiest intro, tips etc check out the keto subreddit. The upper right pull down menu has a great FAQ and a helpful macro calculator to get you started. The community there is very kind and helpful. Go for it!

  27. Ah – the joys of living vicariously. I can’t wait to read your posts
    from France. I really enjoyed your blog when you lived there and
    I’m look forward to your new adventures!

  28. Astrid @world_wanderer_family

    Dear Design Mom, I‘m a mostly silent reader who just happened to spent a few days in Palm Springs & Josh Tree NP last October with my family being on a trip around the globe. We instantly fell in love with Palm Springs and its mid-century architecture and enjoyed climbing those huge rocks and hugging the trees in the NP – it‘s magic! We even saw some wildlife like ground squirrels and a big horn sheep. And we happen to love La France, where we try to spend as much time as possible – quite easy, since we live in southern Germany. Would you be living in Normandy again? Love and happy new year from Japan.

  29. I’ve researched and tried many ‘diets’, including keto, and found it to be highly unsustainable. Even after the first, few BRUTAL weeks while my body adjusted, I found that I still craved carbs like crazy and was unable to maintain my weight-lifting/exercise schedule. My mental focus was zapped, I was always low energy, and I was always hungry despite eating enough calories. I have found nutrition nirvana with flexible dieting and highly recommend it.

    As for going back to France, my brother (single, just aged out of the University Ward, very clean, works in the city) currently lives with my parents (Lafayette Ward boundaries) and would make a great house sitter if you wanted to go that route!

  30. I would love to hear more about how to manage social media when it’s part of your job. I personally have started to hate it, but it has also taken on so much importance in so many fields. I think from a business perspective people love it because it’s a metric, although sometimes a meaningless one (I work for a local brick-and-mortar store and have trouble convincing my bosses that 20K followers will not necessarily translate into more sales, even if it does impress some people). Basically I’m just frustrated with it and wondering how to get un-frustrated. I would like to do more real living and working and less posting!

  31. T1D mom… the whole keto thing makes me nervous! I realize it’s different for a diabetic, but I live in total fear of ketones.

  32. I’m excited for you! Reading about your experience moving abroad with six children is what helped me feel brave enough to move to the UK with our six little ones. So if you ever decide to wander up to England, you are very welcome to come bunk at our place. :)

  33. Having just returned a few days ago from 2 weeks in South Africa…
    1. We were not ready to return to “real life”! We don’t feel like we had the traditional holiday break.
    2. I am envious of your plans to spend 6 months in France and 6 in the US! We were all discussing how wonderful it would be to be able to spend more time truly immersed in areas we want to visit. Unfortunately, our careers just don’t offer the opportunity at this point…

    This trip was our first time using AirBNB. I’ve done lots of research with it before, but this is the first time it’s worked out where we could use it. My husband was highly skeptical, but we had a wonderful experience! Being able to have a whole house to ourselves, washer/drier, kitchen, backyard, etc was beyond ideal for our family. I’ve noticed in the last year many listings have begun including more restrictions and rules to attract the clientele that fits their area (noise restrictions, max people, etc). I imagine as it becomes more popular, the quirks will continue to work out of the system.

    My SIL is currently in Bogota as well! She took a 2 year teaching position there this past summer. We are hoping a visit to see her is the next big trip.

    I haven’t been to Joshua Tree, but it’s high on my bucket list!

  34. I don’t know a whole lot about different diets (I’m a vegetarian and mostly try to focus on eating foods that make me feel good and not overeating) but I just read an NPR article where health experts ranked different popular diets, and the keto was ranked at the bottom of the list. I think it could be good for some people but bad for others depending on health issues and concerns, but it’s something to think about and limiting sugar intake is definitely a good idea. The Mediterranean diet took first place! (olive oil forever! ha)


    1. I was just going to link to the same article! I am definitely interested in the keto diet as a way to curb sugar addiction, but I agree it doesn’t seem healthy overall (especially for the long term). I look forward to hearing from Gabby about how it goes.

  35. I’m intrigued as to why you want to go back and forth every 6 months?

    No judgement, just curiosity.

    What is it about France that makes you want to live there, and what is it about the US that makes you want to live here? And what is it that makes you want to go between the two?

    Also, and you may have covered this long ago, do you a have a church community in France where you lived before?

    Wishing you a 2018 full of adventure!

    1. I just thought of one more question – why keto instead of paleo?? Paleo is attractive but it would be REALLY hard for me to give up dairy! LOL

  36. How exciting! I really hope it all works out! And that we get to read all about it.

    How do you handle health insurance while abroad for so long? I believe France has a more central health system that is based on taxes paid by the people, so how does it work for foreigners who don’t pay taxes?

    Also how is your house/cottage in France coming along? I hope I didn’t miss an update about it.

  37. WOW! Fantastic! I love hearing that you might move back to France. As you know we spent a year in the south of France and loved it. We now homeschool while we RV Europe for two years. We use a combination of online classes through (CTY and Laurel Springs) as well as Skype tutors for languages and other online teachers. I am sure you know exactly what you are doing, but if you want to chat about how we make it all happen feel free to reach out. We have been homeschooling and dipping into local schools for over three years now on three continents. Good Luck! It is so possible and an amazing family experience. Au revoir!

  38. I like your posts and I wish you the very best in the New Year.

    Here is a long comment on KETO: I have done something like it twice November-Dec 2016 and June-July 2017. My goal was to drop 4 sizes. My blood work before and after was well within normal ranges. I went from size 8 to size 6. My only exercise was and is walking my dog every other day. Because of no moderation during the holidays, I am a stuffy size 6 at present time.

    The technical language made for very slow reading, but I found some NIH papers on ketogenic dieting, of great help. Here is a link.

    I fashioned my diet similar to the one in this study.

    (Basically: less than 30g carbs per day for 20 days; following with up to 60g carbs per day for another 20 days followed by a normal Mediterranean diet for 4 months. Then I repeated the ketogenic/ lowcarb thing. In the months that follow the regime recomends 180g of carbs or less a day. It was hard to adhere to that during stone-fruit season).

    There were drawbacks: missed eating fruit so much; Had fatigue/lack of focus in first week

  39. First of all, SO happy to hear about your French plans. I SO want to do something like this, but my mom is 97 years old, lives in Phoenix, and not sure how much longer she’ll be around, so, it’s hard to think about moving far away. But I could happily experience some vicarious stuff through what you write. I don’t know why I love France so much. It’s a long story. But… someday hopefully I’ll get to spend more time. In the meantime, love hearing about it from you.
    Re: Type 2 DM, I am 70 years old and was diagnosed with it last year. I reversed it with a whole food plant based diet. My understanding is that while we all eat too much sugar, it is NOT the sugar that causes the Type 2 DM, but rather FAT in our diets that when there is too much of it, moves out of our adipose cells and into our organs and muscles. It is this mis-placed fat, this overload of fat, if you will, that causes Insulin Resistance, which is the particular pathology involved with Type 2 DM. Sugar shows up in our blood as a RESULT, not THE CAUSE, because the Insulin can’t get into cells to transport the glucose, because of the FAT. There has been SO much research done on this over Many Many years by Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, Esselstyn and others. The same thing that drives Heart Disease is also what drives Type 2 Diabetes. Also recently they are looking at links between diet and Alzheimer’s. A low fat diet, not a high fat diet is what is needed. One of the big problems is how much processed foods we eat in America (and now, around the world), because they are loaded with fats, sugars, salt, and other bad things. If you primarily cook with whole foods, PLANTS, that is where the NUtrition IS, and where the healing is for our bodies. Eating a wide variety of colors and textures. Eating all kinds of greens, all kinds of beans, and startches… healthy starches, not processed ones. Whole grains, potatoes, Yams (esp. Yams! SO good for you), and vegetables and fruits of ALL the colors of the rainbow. You WILL get all the protein and other nutrients you need. Eating as little animal products as possible, including meat and dairy and eggs, is important because animal products have a bad impact on the gut micro-biome. There is a lot of info out there. I recently completed an online course in nutrition from Cornell University because I wanted NOT to take medicines for my Type 2 DM, but wanted to be as healthy as possible and reverse it as promised. Which I did.
    Best of luck to you Gabrielle on your wonderful journey! You are such a gift to so many of us! <3 Gayle

  40. 6 months back and forth sounds like an adventure! You can also probably post your house on hospital boards or forums for residents looking for short lease, possibly furnished family housing. My friend found a rental that way while they moved towns after med school rotations with their family and wanted some time to look for a more permanent place.

    We are trying to move our family to Europe for a year this May. We have tickets and a car lease scheduled but choosing long term housing vs traveling to a new place every month or two has me stymied. I need to start making decisions and get our house ready to rent but it seems so overwhelming. Also, do we pack all our winter clothes or go somewhere warmer for winter? I should probably make a list and get moving…🤦‍♀️

  41. Re carbs: a far less extreme version will also work. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last January 20 (talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day), & started working with a dietitian in February. I have lost 57 lbs, & got my a1c down to 6 with a max of 175 carbs per day, & portion control, plus about 40 minutes of exercise per day–no diabetes meds.
    I’m a vegetarian who was already cooking almost all my food at home, but I have a history of bulimia & a diagnosed binge-eating disorder that’s been tricky to navigate, but the incentive is powerful–I work in healthcare, & you don’t want to go where diabetes will take you. Plus, I hate needles.
    For me, eliminating carbs completely really isn’t an option, but limiting them (and trying to make most of those I do eat complex) is working well. I limit sweets to what I bake or someone bakes for me, & it’s one & done–no second helpings.
    35 years ago I lost even more weight by eating low-fat, but that was clearly not sustainable over the long haul; the weight came back quickly & brought bulimia with it. This I think I can maintain for the rest of my hopefully long & healthy life.

  42. Hi Gabrielle,

    I look forward to learning about how your bi-country living aspirations unfold. My husband and I have considered a lifestyle of living or traveling to different parts of the world for several months at a time, with the U.S. being home base. There’s so much to contemplate, isn’t there? Logistics, length of time away from family and friends, the possibility of making new friends and learning about new places and peoples… We are pursuing this possible back and forth lifestyle for the first time, ourselves. We have put our CA home on the market and are currently enjoying our fourth day living in Scotland! We’re here for 6 months. The freedom and personal growth afforded to us by moving back and forth from the States feels exhilarating, challenging, but not terribly unorthodox or fringe (for us). However, it’s also not a “norm” for a young couple contemplating starting a family. I am so very interested to learn from your example as you embark on this new lifestyle (ad)venture! All my best to you and yours.

  43. Cal Rentals may be a good place to list your house. It’s meant for people affiliated with LBL/UC Berkeley to find local housing. I’m at another national lab where an employee at the lab helps new hires find housing. My own landlord exclusively rents to people who this employee matches with her.

    6 month rentals could be super attractive if they align with local semester/quarter schedules. Academia always has people cycling in for sabbaticals, internships, short-term postdoc positions, etc.

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