Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How I Became A Non-Drinker

I wasn’t sure whether I would talk about this on my blog because I didn’t want to come across as preachy. We all make our own decisions in life and I don’t want to presume to influence yours, however I have been asked to elaborate on being a non-drinker and am happy to do so.

I think there are a lot of very normal people out there who are not happy with the way they think about drink. I know I wasn’t.

Never in a million years would I have considered myself to have a drinking problem or need to go to AA (I still don't), however I would jokingly say I was concerned at how much I looked forward to a glass of Chardonnay, brandy and dry or g&t when I got home.

I also did not like the fact that these drinks helped me keep me just that little bit fatter than I would have liked. This is due to the fact that alcohol is highly calorific being worse than pure sugar, plus you might add mixers (choose your poison – sugar or artificial sweeteners). AND a drink seems to include snacks for me.

So I had a love/hate relationship with my cocktail hour. Love the chance to sit down with a magazine or book, hate the fact that my evening drink(s) were making me unproductive with a dumpy figure.

It all started a couple of years ago in a conversation with one of our sales reps who was pregnant. She told me she was so glad she had given up smoking a few years earlier, as it would have been harder to do once she found out she was pregnant. I asked her how she did it and she said she read the Allen Carr book which completely cured her instantly and she’d never thought about it since.

At the time I remember thinking, I’m sure he has also written a book about dieting, maybe I’ll look it up at the library. When I was doing this, I saw he had another interesting title called ‘No More Hangovers’. I requested them both, and picked them up next time I was in at the library.

Even though I initially wanted the diet book, I ended up reading No More Hangovers first. Because it is a tiny book and very simply written, it didn’t take long. A few hours later I remember putting the book down and thinking to myself ‘well, I won’t be drinking alcohol again’.

I never dreamed that that would be the case, but at this stage it is. I read the book in May 2012 and haven’t so much as desired a single sip of alcohol since. I don’t really know how this happened and if I ever want to drink again I certainly will, but I just don’t want to. It doesn’t bother me being around other people drinking and I always, always have a few deep sniffs of a good wine and can really appreciate the bouquet.

I felt like I had to apologise to my husband for ditching him as a ‘drinking partner’ as we used to enjoy a nice wine together. He says he is fine with it and we have an honest enough relationship that I believe him. He reckons it doesn’t bother him in the slightest that I do not drink and even said it has helped him cut back too which he feels better for. On nights when one of us might have poured a drink out of habit, he doesn’t. Now he only has wine on the weekends (we would have had drinks 3-5 nights per week before) and the occasional cold beer in summer.

Last Christmas we holidayed in my native Hawke’s Bay which is very much wine country. I was the happiest person around being the chauffeur showing off our beautiful vineyards while my husband sipped. It really was as much fun for me even though I never tasted a drop.

I do miss the taste of my favourite wine varietals don't get me wrong, however I don’t want the feeling that comes with drinking now. I have tried de-alcoholised wine but it doesn’t bear much resemblance at all.

So what are my new tipples?

If I am in a bar or restaurant after work and want a pick-me-up, for a one-off treat I might order a Red Bull, which I agree isn’t very chic sounding, and I always ask for it to be served in a flute. It is a golden colour and looks just like champagne!

In a more casual bar I might order a ginger beer. In Hawaii most bars and restaurants had an alcohol-free beer option – St Pauli and Becks, both German. To me they taste just like normal beer and it’s nice not to feel like a kid with a glass of Coke.

I also never feel ‘apart’ from the drinkers if it’s a group of us. Strangely enough I often feel a bit happy along with everyone else later on, as though I’ve had a few drinks. But I’m just getting into the spirit of things!

We still have cocktail hour at home too. I usually keep in the fridge:

- Diet Coke in a can (I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners but I don’t want to drink sugar. I buy it in cans so I can have a single portion and it’s always fizzy).

- Mini bottles of Perrier with Lime or Lemon flavouring (expensive but a yummy and stylish treat).

I serve both the Diet Coke or Perrier in a flute. It feels more special and I sip it slowly, rather than gulp if it was in a big glass. I heard once that apparently French girls called Diet Coke 'Champagne Noir' which probably gave me the idea, impressionable consumer that I am!

- Clausthaler German beer which is 0.5% (classed as alcohol-free) (usually from the bottle on a hot day).

I have any of these and now limit my snacks (cheese and crackers or a little bowl of potato chips) to the weekend. We have our dinner earlier on weeknights and the combination of all these things has helped me to become more svelte. Plus I enjoy my dinner much more not having had snacks beforehand.

If I am going somewhere I might take a few Clausthaler beers, or for a more formal occasion a large bottle of Perrier to have by itself or mix with sparkling grape juice. Always out of a champagne flute of course.

I have had many ask if I am pregnant (no) and look at me strangely (I have learned to live with that). Sometimes I say I am the designated driver, and sometimes that ‘I am on a health kick’ and it seems to satisfy people. Once you turn down a drink most people want you to have one more than ever.

Really, I can’t even tell you have good I feel. My body (and mind) is so happy. I dropped 2-4 kg without even trying. I never wake up seedy anymore. At my age even one glass of wine could affect my sleep and have me feeling below par in the morning. And if you have a ‘fun’ night where you ‘let go’, the next day is a guarantee of poor quality eating (at least it was for me) because you feel so rotten.

And it’s all down to Allen Carr’s book plus, I suppose, my underlying wish to not be beholden to alcohol. I feel so grateful that alcohol no longer has a pull over me. I never hear it calling my name and can walk past any display at the supermarket. I just know ‘it’s not for me’ anymore and that is my wish, not something I am ‘trying to stick to’.

My sister who has two young children, read the No More Hangovers book a month after I did and the same thing happened to her. She is an ecstatic non-drinker now. Like me, she used to worry about how much she looked forward to her evening drink, even if she didn’t drink that much.

I’ve probably said enough by now, but if you have any questions I’d be glad to answer them!

Update 31 August 2015:  Still a super-happy non-drinker and I'm not even tempted.  I heard recently that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  And that's how I feel about alcoholic drinks, I'm indifferent to them.  But I still don't know how this one little book worked its magic on me, I'm just glad it did :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Life of Luxury

Lunch at Italian restaurant Il Lupino in Waikiki.  It was the lovely courtyard area that made me want to eat there!

The word ‘luxury’ is such an enchanting word, and there are many different meanings you can attach to it. I love to daydream about living a luxurious life. Yes, having material luxury goods is part of that daydream, but whether I am willing to pay for them and take care of them is another matter altogether.

On the rare occasion that I purchase a lottery ticket (maybe once or twice a year), it is a fun game for my husband and myself to plan what we are going to do with our winnings. That alone is almost worth the price of the ticket. We decide what we are going to do with the shop, where we will travel to and where we will live. We talk about what our new daily routine might be.

It is at these times that I reinforce to myself that we live a life of luxury already. Yes, we have to go to work, but how I conduct myself when I’m there, and what we do at home I encourage myself to do in a way that I think I would should I win that luxurious lottery lifestyle.

Fresh fruit and vegetables every day. In the morning for breakfast a bowl overflowing with any of these, fresh and sliced – pineapple, strawberries, pear, apple, apricots, orange – topped with a handful of mixed raw nuts.

For lunch a luscious salad of lettuce, both home-grown and store-bought, home-grown fresh herbs torn on top, and any or all of sliced carrots, capsicum, celery, cucumber, tomato, then finished with good protein such as a couple of hard-boiled eggs, shredded roast chicken or tuna at a pinch and always avocado.  Creamy dressings are my treat - I love Paul Newman's caesar dressing  and ranch as well.

In the evening a home-cooked meal, perhaps a roast? With roast vegetables and steamed broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus dressed in extra-virgin olive oil.

And of course glass after glass of fresh, clear, life-giving water throughout the day.

Am I in a fancy health spa or a top-notch country hotel? No! This is what I eat every day at home. I have gradually increased my consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables over time so that now the majority of my diet consists of them.

I am slowly and permanently ironing out poor dietary habits and changing them to new, healthy ones. As an added bonus, being slender and feeling vibrant is on my luxury lifestyle list too.

Spa-like pampering. Soft smooth exfoliated legs and arms, polished brightly coloured toenails, blow-dried silky hair and lightly applied make-up. I don’t have to visit a spa for all these things, I just need to allow plenty of time in the morning to get ready (because I like to move slowly). I also remind myself that all these pampering things don’t take very long, they are virtually free, and the results are worth it (I need that reminder on lazy days sometimes).

Having a leisurely start to the day. To have plenty of time to get ready in the morning, I made the decision years ago that I would rise at 6am every day, whether it was a work day or a day at home. It’s better for your body to get up at the same time every day. It doesn’t have to be 6am, but that’s what time I have to get up to get ready for work, so I do it on my weekends too.

If you get up at different times throughout the week you give yourself a form of jetlag. And I read recently that having greatly varying times of getting up and bedtime is worse for retaining weight, just another reason to set my alarm.

Always having an engrossing book to read, be it fiction or non-fiction. Having a rich inner life is the best way to live a luxurious life on little money, and a book is a great vehicle. I read from my current book or books every day, always with my breakfast, sometimes with my lunch, sometimes before dinner, and definitely in bed when I retire for the evening.

I don’t often buy a book straight away, instead I borrow from the library first and then buy new if I like it enough for my personal library at home. I also browse charity stores and can pick up great books from there. They aren’t usually more than a dollar or two.  Sometimes they are keepers and sometimes I read and re-donate.

Beautiful music as my personal soundtrack. I have many playlists on my iPod that I play at home depending on my mood. There are Buddha Bar/Hotel Costes/Café del Mar ones for when I want to feel cool and connected to the world, Richard Clayderman and Carl Doy for when I want to feel hotel-ish when I am doing my housework, relaxing classical adagios to feel elegant and peaceful, jazz for dinner guests or lazy Sundays and many more. Music is a must in my luxury lifestyle.

Surrounding myself with beauty and order. At home I prefer calming colours. Even something as pedestrian as a washing basket I chose white, so it would blend in in the laundry or when I am putting clothing away. I couldn’t cope with a bright blue one for example.  Picking up and putting away as I move around the house keeps things looking tidy and helps my serenity.

Always having space to put something away at home is luxurious to me, that is why I love decluttering so much. The satisfaction I gain from editing and organizing a space for maximum ease and future pleasure is immense!

How does your life of luxury look?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Holiday

Bonjour, and happy new year to you. Even though I have been back at work for over a week now, many people are still on their summer holidays and I feel like I am too! I am reading lots of books and, apart from making our house nice, not doing much else. It feels quite relaxing actually, and I don't even begrudge being back at work.

I have lots of ideas and enthusiasm for 2014. My decluttering enthusiasm is at an all-time-high and I was thrilled to receive a flyer in the mail yesterday announcing that an SPCA op shop will be opening just down the road. I am all too happy to part with something if I know it's going to a good home or will benefit a good cause. It's when I feel an item might be wasted that I hang onto it.

I have a tidy array of bags filled with all sorts of household items and clothing ready to be donated, which I am adding to daily. I can't wait to visit the new SPCA op shop in the next couple of weeks to drop them off. I am even re-thinking things that I used to enjoy, such as my sewing and knitting. I would never declutter my sewing machine and overlocker as I use them regularly, but my big stash of fabrics waiting for me to make into a patchwork quilt or sew my own clothing? I am still keen on the clothing part, but I think I can probably halve my fabric store without even noticing (except to feel relief).

I decluttered my cloth napkins, tea towels, placemats, aprons, tablecloths etc yesterday. I have two drawers with those things in, and I took them both out and put all my items on the dining table. Lucky I had just brought the washing in so everything was there. I put back my favourite ones, left out unfavourites and raggedy and then spent a few minutes admiring the beauty of my drawers that were not bulging as I shut them. I put the raggedies in a rag bag to donate and the unfavourites in my op shop pile.

Next up I feel my pantry coming on. I am going to remove all the plates, cups and glasses, basically anything that is not food, from the shelves and put them on the kitchen bench, wipe out the pantry and then only put back my favourite things to see how it looks. Then consider what's left on the bench and likely pack the rest into shoeboxes for donation.

The photos of me are in Hawaii where we spent eight nights over New Year's. I know, it was fabulous. We stayed right on Waikiki Beach and the weather as well as the busy buzz of lots of people around was wonderful. Many stores had post-Christmas sales on so I did a bit of chic shopping. My navy and white stripe dress is from Banana Republic and I even bought a Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress. Oh my gosh, I didn't think I would ever see the day as they are so expensive in New Zealand. And it's every bit as lovely as I hoped it might be - 100% silk jersey, just a dream to wear.

Me in my DVF wrap dress with Virgin Chi Chi cocktail before dinner.

I hope your Christmas and New Year was peaceful and that you are feeling positive about 2014!
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