Monday, December 23, 2013


Well ... I don't have a liquor store gift bag to show you that folding trick. I was literally going to video it and be all like, yeah, Martha Stewart. But as I've proven many, many times already ... I ain't no Martha. I'm Ms. Functional. Basically the opposite of Martha.

So here's the low-tech version. ;) Get a plain flat paper bottle bag. Put the bottle in the bag first. This step is very important. Obviously. Then fold the bag down 4-5 times, alternating directions. First fold back, second forward, third back, etc., like an accordion bellows. The folds should be about a quarter to half an inch wide, depending on how tall your bottle is. When it's all folded, staple the middle of the folded section to seal it. See? This is why it's important to put the bottle in the bag first. Then take the outside free edges of the pleats and pull them upward toward each other like closing a tissue paper wedding bell. Then stable those two free edges together so that you get a sort of circular pleated fan effect. Almost like a flower at the top of the bag. Tah dah!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A video would be worth a million. But wtf! I thought I'd give it a shot - for those of you into craft projects passed on circa 1800s style. In plain old words. ;)

Hope you're on track for whatever the season holds for you!! And if you're in Toronto, that you're safe and sound. The city is basically shut down because of an ice storm yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power. Trees and hydro lines are coming down everywhere because of the weight of the ice. And some neighborhoods are expected to be blacked out until Christmas Day. Yikes. I know there are bad storms in other parts of the world too, so good luck to anyone who has to dig out!

Now, for some Grinch-y reason, my computer is acting up and only letting me type about five words before it stops, gives me a dire warning about shutting down, spits out a disc I have running - almost like sticking out its tongue- then it growls at me for a few seconds, before doing it all over again. Obviously, a heathen Scrooge of a machine just wanting to make things hard.

But I had to stop in and say HAPPY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! Stay well, have fun, enjoy everything! And ... BREATHE!! Oh. My. God. Every now and then, stop and take a deep breath.

This is all supposed to be fun, remember?!!

Much love!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Ok!! It's not really the 4th of July, obviously.

It's December 19, 2013 - a Thursday. And usually Thursdays are one of my cleanse days. But not today - and not for about the next two weeks. Because this stretch marks the longest Independence Day party of the year!!

I incorporated "Independence Days" into the plan because there are times during the year where sticking to the "two-days-off-a-week" rule seemed unreasonable. Like when you're on vacation, if it's your birthday - or, especially, around the holidays.

For one thing, most people have more social functions or family visits to do this time of year. But everyone's really busy, so saying: "Hey, I'd really love to see you Tuesday, but I can't drink Tuesday. Can we make it Wednesday instead?" seemed like asking for confusion and frustration.

Another drag would be having to sip Perrier at the office party while everyone else gets to wear tinsel on their head and be inappropriate with each other. So 'independence days' became a really important part of making the cleansing process livable, workable - and fun.

But because everyone's schedule is different this time of year, the timing is personal. I work at home so I don't have a string of office parties to go to (unfortunately, actually, because some of those Christmas parties were a lot of fun! Some of them, anyway. ;) ) However, some professionals might've started their must-attend business party season weeks ago.

Here's the thing, though. When you're working out your holiday independence days, be reasonable. Just because the guy who comes to fix your photocopier invited you to his office pot luck on December 1st, that really shouldn't mean your stretch of drinking days starts then. And American Thanksgiving and Black Friday don't count either. At least not for people who've had a 'problem.' I've never pushed the limit like this and I'm afraid if I (or you) did, after four or five weeks of non-stop drinking, we'd both be in rehab or looking for A.A. sponsors.

So I'd say you should be somewhere in the two week range, more or less. I could've started my independence days last week. The hubs even thought it was last week. But I decided to be reasonable. Judging from experience, two weeks of non-cleanse days is more than enough.

btw - you don't have to overindulge every one of those days! Sometimes it might mean a single glass of wine after a long day of shopping or cooking. Or maybe you even want to take a cleanse day in there somewhere. That's totally cool! I think one of the reasons this plan works so well is because it empowers people. It not only lets you make your own decisions about your life - it allows you to see how those decisions play out. So you learn what works for you - and what doesn't.

And - what you may learn - is that you're one of those millions of people who absolutely can't control your response to alcohol. And that toying with 'cleanse days' and 'drinking days' is not only driving you crazy, but it could be dangerous in the long run. So really listen to your heart. No matter how you have to manage your issue, there's no shame in it. If there's one thing I'd really like to contribute to the addiction discussion, it's this: we all have different physiological and psychological responses to alcohol. It's a natural, normal process and it's nothing to be ashamed of. And, in the end, I hope learning about how I handle my problem or becoming more conscious of your drinking in general will help you find your way, too. And if you feel that might mean permanent abstinence, check out the YouTube video below for inspiration.

I was watching Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show last week (funny show!) and singer, Demi Lovato was a guest. Demi's starred on The X Factor and Glee among other things, including writing a new book called Staying Strong full of 365 days of inspirational thoughts.

Demi's only 21 years old and has already accomplished so much. But during the course of the interview it came out that she went into rehab when she was only 18. Craig Ferguson suffered from addiction as a younger man and he's been sober for more than 20 years. It was interesting to see them relating to each other about their issues. It was also interesting to see two happy, successful, thriving people - from different generations - being so candid about their addiction problems. Laughing, joking and so open about everything. It's really inspiring for people who decide to 'kick' completely - or actually anyone who's had to deal with addiction problems.

You can watch the whole interview (about 12 mins) or if you want, you can just check out the part where they talk about 'quitting.' It starts at about the 6:00 min mark.

btw, right off the top, Demi mentions another YouTube video that's had about 65 million hits so far! Meaning, there's a good chance you've seen it. But just in case, I've posted that below, too. It's a baby who laughs hysterically at his dad ... ripping up paper. Man - so cute!! All I want for Christmas is one of those things!! Those cute, cuddly things that just sit on the sofa and giggle non-stop at whatever you do without ever causing any problems. This from a childless woman of course. ;)

Until next time, good luck and enjoy yourself! I'll check in again because I have this cool way to fold plain liquor store gift bags that would impress even Martha Stewart. Okay, maybe not her because she probably sews her own gift bags. From silk worms she raises herself. But it's still pretty cool for everybody else on your list. Hopefully I'll get a chance before the gift-giving season ends!

Here's DEMI!!

And here's DA BABY!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Cheers

It must be so hard this time of year for people who are on the wagon. I remember Christmas ten years ago - during my first long cleanse. I was just a couple weeks away from being able to drink again. I don't remember feeling that hard-done by without wine (I'd gotten pretty used to life without booze after almost six months). But what I did think was funny was when my sister-in-law got drunk on Baileys and kept muttering random Trivial Pursuit answers while she was half passed out on the couch. She'd lift her head, "hic ... Martina Navratilova!" she'd call out. Then she'd try to focus on the rest of us. When she realized we weren't playing Trivial Pursuit anymore, she'd just slump back into oblivion. To do it all over again a few minutes later.

It was extra funny because she's normally a very rational, sensible, brilliant woman. I don't know why I get a kick out of straight people getting sloshed, but I do. (btw, I've mentioned she's a therapist. This is the only time I've ever seen her drunk and/or anything less than perfect - and it was a whole decade ago - so clients, fear not! Still cracks me up though.)

The reason I bring up drinking around the holidays is because I had two back-to-back cleanse days last week - Tuesday and Wednesday. That's just the way the social calendar worked out. And I've gotta say, that second day, I was downtown Christmas shopping, and every roadhouse and chain resto packed with seasonal parties was calling my name with their big bubble glasses of wine. I really could've used a drink, at least to battle the throng of blood-thirsty parents clawing their way through the toy bins for the last box of Minecraft Lego. But I didn't. (Have a drink, that is. I did battle the parents for that last Minecraft, though. And emerged victorious btw!)

Anyway, I certainly could have changed my cleanse days and had a drink - and I've certainly done that in the past. But this time I felt I'd committed to the two back-to-back days and if I broke them up, it would be ... well ... sort of alky of me. ;) You can feel in your heart when you're being sensible or alky about your cleanse days and Wildcard rules.

Speaking of which, I was going to mention more about Wildcard rules. The random, personal and private rules you set up for yourself to help you deal with your own particular triggers or weaknesses. For instance, one of mine is that I don't drunk-shop anymore. I used to get wasted when I went shopping. Wandering around from store to store with a bottle of wine in my bag. Sneaking into change rooms with things I was pretending to try on. Then I'd just sit there on the bench or the stool and crinkle my packages and snap the elastic on my bra (or whatever) so that it seemed like I was doing something else besides getting wasted by myself in change rooms all day. Fun times. (jk ovbi!) That was definitely an 'alky' thing to do and doing it made me feel like one. So that's why it's one of my Wildcard rules.

I know it may seem like 'poof' magic! Suddenly, you're just not going to drunk-shop anymore - or whatever it is that you might be ashamed of. Drinking at work, for instance. I knew a young woman who used to keep vodka in her purse and sneak off to the washroom during breaks. She'd be slurry and droopy-eyed by the end of the day. Just FYI - vodka smells, no matter what anyone says.

Anyway - yes, these little tricks problem drinkers use to get 'more' into them might seem like a really hard thing to drop. But you aren't just using your willpower. I honestly believe cleansing - breaking up your regular exposure to alcohol - is what gives you the ability to stay in control. Your system quite simply learns how to live a sober life at least part of the time. Everything else becomes a lot easier after that. :)

We're coming up on the holidays! And - as it says in the rules up there in 'How' - that's one of the times of year where cleanse days aren't necessary. Will talk more about it another time! For now - happy shopping! Happy wrapping! Happy office parties where you don't get plastered and tell the boss something you won't remember in the morning!! :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Weight Is Over

More great news from Tony Edwards's book The Good News About Booze. Regular moderate drinking could help you stay slimmer.

Crazy I know! But Edwards has collected the results of numerous studies - conducted over decades - that prove time and again, moderate alcohol consumption leads to slimmer waistlines. 

One of the most surprising studies was conducted by Harvard. It began in the 1990s, tracking 20,000 middle-aged women over thirteen years. When the process began, all the women weighed about the same (US sizes 6-10, UK, 8-12). Thirteen years later, almost half the subjects - or 9,000 of them - had "significant" weight gain. Others were even clinically obese. 

The results were pretty surprising. Women who consumed two medium glasses of wine a day were 70% less likely to be obese. 

And those who didn't drink at all were the ones most likely to have gained weight, particularly when it came to the subjects who'd become obese.  

Edwards claims regular alcohol consumption is such an effective way to prevent weight gain that if the study had been conducted by a pharmaceutical company and marketed as a diet plan, they'd be 'laughing their way to the bank.' 

But the Harvard investigation doesn't stand alone. Here are just a few others: 

  • A six-year study of 43,500 people by the University of Denmark. Key findings: teetotallers and infrequent drinkers ended up with the biggest waistlines, daily drinkers had the smallest.

  • An eight-year study of 49,300 women by University College Medical School, London. Key findings: women who drank below 30 grams a day (around two medium glasses of wine) were up to 24 per cent less likely to put on weight than teetotallers.

  • A ten-year study of 7,230 people by the U.S. National Center for Disease Control. Key findings: drinkers gained less weight than non-drinkers. Alcohol intake did not increase the risk of obesity.

It's interesting to note these results usually involved wine or spirits. There's a difference when it comes to beer. A pioneering French scientist, Michel Montignac, found that different foods were more fattening than others because they produced more glucose when digested - and excess glucose gets stored as fat. His findings? 

Beer actually produced more glucose than pure glucose itself! Which is why it can lead to less-than-flat tummies. Whereas wine and spirits scored lowest on the glucose production chart - an actual "0." Meaning these beverages are far less likely to make you fat. 

It seems counter-intuitive, because alcohol is relatively high in calories, but it all comes down to how the body metabolizes energy from different sources. For more information about how drinking does (and doesn't) affect your weight - here's the full article from The Daily Mail

Next time I want to talk about Wildcard rules. And how to tell if yours are working to keep you in control - or not! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hiding Places

We were at the Units' place on the weekend - the "Units" being what we call the hubs' parental units. When we go, we always stop for supplies beforehand at the liquor store. I get a bottle of white for me, one for the Units (they like the 1.5 L size between them) and often a red for dinner. We start popping corks more or less as soon as we get there. In other words, there's never been a time when I've had to feel self-conscious about drinking there.

However ... in the old days, no matter how much I was "able" to drink in front of everyone, I always wanted more, more, more. What I could drink was not the issue. The issue was that I needed more. Always more. There was never, ever enough wine. So not only was my own house full of hiding places for bottles - but I even scouted them out at the Units' place, too.

For instance, yesterday, I was in the upstairs bathroom and I saw my old hiding place. Since we usually spend the whole day there, that means the odd touch-up on the lips or the hair. So I often take a makeup bag of things that I'll need and toss it in the cupboard underneath the bathroom sinks.

Yesterday as I was doing that, I hesitated. I saw the empty space at the very back of the cupboard where I used to hide my wine bottle. Only, it was never actually a 'wine' bottle. Instead, I used hairspray or conditioning bottles to tote my wine around. That way, nobody could ever suspect me. In fact, there's a whole nightmare story about one Christmas of hiding wine that actually made me sick. I write about it in the book. (btw, I just finished the first full draft of the novel, so the non-fiction one is that much closer to getting done too.)

Anyway, I looked at that empty place in the cupboard yesterday. I remembered all the wine I'd hid there over the years. I know Christmas is coming up - a favorite time for "sneaking" in the old days because it was often an extended visit. Meaning more bottles, more hiding places, more guilt.

Yesterday, I just smiled to myself, happy to toss the makeup bag in that empty space at the back of the cupboard, instead of extra wine. ;)