These questions were originally asked of me by Tracy-Lee Stark, journalist for The Citizen newspaper. With so much of my marketing having focused on the book itself, I thought sharing more about me and the thoughts and processes behind the book may be of value.
Why did you decide to self publish?
The short answer: Because I am a control freak 🙂
The long answer: After 10 years in the design and branding industry (working for other companies as well as a freelancer) I feel I helped many other people create their vision / product. The time came where I really wanted to create my own. Also, in that time as a designer I was constantly “answering” to other people (clients). While I presented what I felt to be the best solution for their brand / product, I had to take into account their input – and make changes accordingly.
While I have no doubt a publisher would have added immense value to the book (in terms of resources, expertise, marketing reach etc.) I didn’t want to change anything in the book to suit certain “needs” – be it marketability, price point etc. I had, and still have, complete faith in my message / book – in terms of its content and look & feel. I didn’t want to, or have to, compromise anything. The book is now exactly the way I wanted it to be.
I also didn’t want to work to someone else’s deadlines (deadline’s cause me immense stress!). I wanted this ‘project’ to always be done with joy – not with a feeling of “I have to”. I also wanted to be able to be fully ‘present’ as a mom and to live life first. After years of working ridiculous hours (in Johannesburg and London), and neglecting Life because my work was my priority – I was determined to not allow that to happen again. (I made a promise to myself after surviving an armed home invasion in Johannesburg that I would life a life of meaning – and that meant putting Life and the people in my Life, before work.)
I am very grateful I chose to self publish for this one reason alone. During the three and a half years I was writing the book I was able to stop writing whenever Life presented itself and needed my full attention – I stopped for a couple of months during and after my miscarriage, a couple of months later during my divorce, and then for six months when my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and after her passing. Strangely each “pause” brought with it so much new experience and learning that was then added to the book. If I hadn’t been able to “allow” the book to happen at its natural pace, it wouldn’t be the book it is, and I would have had to bring out a second edition much sooner because what I know and believe changed so much during that time.
I also wanted to “own” my work. By having a publisher, you normally sign over copyright to them. This is such a personal message, and journey, I wanted it to stay mine.
The Final Manuscript! Oh there were many happy tears shed on this day!
(I still had to do the design and layout though… now that was a week with not much sleep!)
What is your favorite recipe in the book?
My favourite recipe is Mila’s favourite recipe – because whatever she will happily eat makes me happy! At the moment its the chocolate mousse! She gets it in her school lunchbox everyday – and I am satisfied that she is getting all the good stuff in – good fats, protein, iron and her “greens” in the form of chlorella powder. And it is SO quick and easy to make!
The recipes I am the proudest of are the Sweet Potato Bread and the Cupcakes.
I literally tossed 35 loaves of bread before I got it right (and they landed in the dustbin with a loud THUD!). They were truly inedible! The final (successful) recipe has the added benefit of having a vegetable in it… and it doesn’t fall apart in the toaster!
The cupcakes bring such joy – to those that eat them and can’t believe they aren’t “normal” cupcakes – and to me as I watch them eat and enjoy them! I also love the fact that as the kids demolish them at a party, I know they are eating high quality protein and vegetables – I have a BIG smile inside! And there is no sugar rush and manic behaviour a few minutes later!
I added sweet potato to both the above recipes to add moisture and sweetness – and I am very impressed with how well it works! My first attempts at using coconut flour and almond flour were dry crumbly disasters! Until I added the sweet potato – it’s my secret ingredient!
Sweet Potato Bread
Mila loving the cupcake!
What is Mila’s favorite recipe in the book?
As above. But also the ‘fruit’ leather. She would eat a whole tray of it at a time if I let her – I don’t let her because I would have to make it every 2 days to keep up with her demand! While she thinks it just fruit – it is probably 50% fruit and 50% veggies – but she doesn’t know this (and I never let her see me putting the vegetables into the blender – otherwise she would never eat it again!). I usually make her’s with fresh blueberries, steamed apple, roasted butternut and roasted sweet potato. Then I also add superfood powders: baobab powder, Green Power (mix of chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass) and Moringa Powder. So she’s getting her protein, veggies and her greens in – usually first thing in the morning and in her lunchbox. When she’s unwell I also use this as a ‘vehicle’ for medicinal / healing foods. For example, when she is constipated I add steamed beetroot and liquorice tea – both known to stimulate bowel movements. It works like a charm!
What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?
I have been asked this before, and the answer surprised me and the person that asked it.
The biggest challenge didn’t have anything to do with the book writing directly – it was about not being able to be fully present and available to Mila. It was hard on her and the Mommy Guilt nearly finished me!
Over the three and a half years I was a working on the book, I would only work on it while she was sleeping (I started it when she was 6 months old).
Last year she started at playschool, so I could write when she was at school in the mornings. But as my self-imposed deadline approached at the end of last year, I had to work when she was at home in the afternoons. I also worked after she went to bed at night (from 8pm – 12pm), and then I woke up at 4am to get a couple of hours of work in before I had to get her ready for and to school. As a result – I was tired and less patient with her for a while. She was saying things like “Mamma, a computer is not a real toy – you must play with real toys.” and “Mama, when will you play with me again?”. (Enough to break any mother’s heart.)
When the book was finished I threw a launch party (as you do) – but it was really a celebration for Mila and I. I wanted her to know (and feel) that it was done; that I was grateful to her for her understanding and, that I was back 🙂
I had also promised her that once the book was done, I would take her to see the snow (she was born with a fascination of snow!). I had no idea how I would make this happen – but nothing short of Divine Intervention saw us being invited to join friends in Germany for Christmas! I was so blessed to be able to fulfill my promise to her – and to show her that dreams do come true!
Knysna Book Launch, December 2015
Mila and Mama at the Book Celebration Party!
More special memories.
Music, dancing, bubbles, friends… what more could you ask for?
A holiday in the snow!
Being my child, when Mila saw the snow she flung herself down and started eating it!
(Those are my big gloves on her hands – the mittens I had for her wouldn’t stay on!).
This reminds me of that quote “Collect memories, not things.”
So much Joy!
Your book is not just a cookbook, but also offers a very comprehensive explanation of food intolerances as well as a very extensive ingredient list, why did you decide to take this approach?
I am very much an information person – a “What is it?” and “Why is it?” person.
When people asked me how I can be so committed to this way of eating, I realised that its because I know Why I am doing it. I know Why certain foods are bad for you – what they do to you. I know Why the body has intolerances and what it means long term if you ignore them.
I believe that once parents know What and Why, it becomes very difficult NOT to do. Once you know what that sugar is going to do to your little one’s immune system, giving it to them becomes difficult – your conscience (hopefully) puts up some resistance! Once you know where it (the sugar) is hiding, you are empowered to make other choices.
With regards to the ingredient list – that was to balance a ‘free-from’ diet.
Firstly, I feel we have become very ‘narrow minded’ or limited in our food choices (largely thanks to the commercial food industry). As a result, children are being fed certain foods in large amounts on a daily basis – in excess – in a very un-obvious and way. For example – wheat for breakfast (cereal), lunch (sandwiches) and dinner (pasta).
Secondly, when you take some food out (dairy for example) I feel it is very important to add foods to replace the nutrients the removed foods do offer. So… the glossary. It was so show how many other foods there are to offer.
Often, when parents take out gluten and dairy, they wonder what on earth they CAN feed their children. There is SO much!
And then the nutrient content. I was very concerned about finding alternate sources for calcium and protein when I chose to avoid dairy in Mila’s diet – I would never have thought I could find it in Kale! I find it fascinating – and empowering.
Often times as a parent you feel so clueless, so dis-empowered – like a rowboat without an ore! And that is when we look to doctors for all the answers, or believe the marketing ‘health’ claims on the “fortified” cereal box. Well, I believe knowledge is power. I felt empowered once I knew all of this. The information enabled me to provide for and nourish my child. I hope it will do the same for other parents. And I hope it prompts them to ask more questions (of the doctors, of the food they buy) and to dig deep to find their own answers.
The book’s Ingredient Glossary has selection-, storage-, cooking-, introduction- and nutritional information for each of the 156 ingredients used in the book!
What comes next? After the book?
I didn’t realise that selling a book (being a publisher) is a full time job 🙂 So for now, I am focusing on promoting the book.
Then I would like to start doing Lunchbox Workshops at schools. Brainstorming what to put in them as a vehicle for educating parents and teachers on the effects of food, what is in the food etc. (I am horrified by what seems to be a large number of teachers prompting parents to put their kids on ritalin / medications to treat ADHD).
Then a Food Detective Program at schools for older kids – to educate them on the ingredient lists of foods and what they mean, as well as where food comes from (organic vs industrial). Kids are early adopters (which is why McDonalds markets directly to them and gives them toys with their meals!). I would like to empower children to make informed decisions about what they put in their body. So it becomes their choice to eat healthier, medicinal food.
I would also like to start veggie gardens at each school I go to.
From the recent book launches in Johannesburg, I realised that parents have so many questions – really valuable ones – so I would like to host Q&A sessions, either at schools or at someone’s home – where people can just come and ask me questions – about nutrition for children, about food intolerances, about the recipes, about the book, about my experience raising a free-from child. For me, it’s just all about getting the information to people. (If you would be interested in attending/hosting such an event, please contact me at email@example.com)
Then, to build up my website and blog so it becomes a trusted resource for information on nutrition, food, health and conscious parenting with tools to enable it – recipes etc.
And then… the second book! With a focus on Gluten-free, Sugar-free and Dairy-free Lunchboxes and Celebration Food (birthdays, Christmas, Easter etc.).
There’s much to be done!
Behind The Scenes
on the Mila’s Meals Food Shoots.
I came across these photo’s the other day… they bring back such great memories of what can only be described as
Beautiful Creative Chaos!
Till next time,
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