Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reading




I’ve been reading more than I’ve been writing lately.  Sometimes thoughts and writing flow easily, and other times they don’t.  Right now, my greatest pleasure is continuing with a book I’m enjoying, fiction or not.  When I’m somewhere, at work, out supermarketing or whatever, I think to myself how excited I will be to climb into bed later on that night with my book!  It’s the simple pleasures don't you think?

The title I ordered from Abe Books after my no-spend February was 1985 published Estee:  A Success Story by Estee Lauder.  I’ve borrowed it a number of times from various libraries over the years, and the most recent time I borrowed it realised I would love it for my home library.

I could read about cosmetics, fragrance and living beautifully all day, and this book has all of that, but it also has a business angle showing Mrs Lauder’s tenacious ways to get ahead socially and financially.

I might not be as hungry as her but I find her relentless self-propulsion very motivating to be organised at work and shape my lifestyle to be the best and loveliest it can be.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from her book.

--

Rose Kennedy once told me that good luck is something you make and bad luck is something you endure, a very wise observation indeed.

--

There wasn’t a minute of any day when I didn’t look as pretty as I knew how to make myself.  It was a matter of pride to me; it was a matter of self-respect.  There is no reason every to look sloppy because it takes so little time to look wonderful.

--

I dressed as the wealthy women did, as elegantly as I knew how.  In my day there were no courses on dressing for success, but I knew I had to look my best to sell my best.

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Packaging requires special thought.  You can make a thing wonderful by its outward appearance.

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Being a perfectionist and providing quality is the only way to do business.

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I needed a special kind of salesperson.  She had to look wonderful herself.  She had to use my products and sell their effectiveness by example.  I was not out to fool the customer.  No-one could tell her, and make her believe, that a certain cream could make her sexy, brilliant or rich.  What a cream could do was to make her clean, pretty and confident.  That was the truth.  Confidence breeds beauty.

The spokespeople for my products would always have to be smiling, pretty and confident; very elegant, very soft and very fine.  I needed my counter attended by alert, interested, eager young women.  She has to be a walking advertisement.  She can’t oversell – no women ever appreciates being sold more than she needs.

Actually, the saleswoman’s job was not to sell, but to let women buy.  She had to respect the customer.  She had to know the product and believe in it.  She had to know how to use it and what one could realistically expect from it.  Most of all, she had to convince the customer to try it on, as she would a dress or hat.  Then, and only then, would she make her sale.

( I adore this description of her ideal saleswoman.  I want to be 'very elegant, very soft and very fine'.  That sounds like a wonderful way to be to me!)

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I always spent my money on one or two elegant outfits, which I wore everywhere, rather than on a whole wardrobe of mediocre clothes.  One had to look finished to sell a fine product.

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When speaking with customers, use your imagination, use your nicest manner.  Tell the truth always.  Never sell what a customer doesn’t want or need.

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It wasn’t youth that make me so energetic, it was enthusiasm.  That’s why I know a woman of any age has it within her to begin a business or a life’s worth of any sort.  It’s a fresh outlook that makes youth so attractive anyway, that quality of ‘anything’s possible’.  That spirit is not only owned by those under thirty.  Selling, especially, is an art form that depends on spirit – and honesty.  The customer can always tell when you’re being less than candid.

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If you don’t do important things when you think of them, you probably never will and may lose out.

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If Elizabeth Arden’s claim to fame was pink and Revlon’s was sexiness, mine was, I hoped, elegance.

--

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Small Space Organizing

I received an exciting postal item from the United States recently. Author Kathryn Bechen, after reading my blog, wrote and offered to send me a copy of her book ‘Small Space Organizing’ for review. Aside from the fact that I was thrilled that someone would consider me worthy of reviewing their book, the title sounded fabulous and totally something I would love to read.

A week after the email my copy arrived and I couldn’t wait to get into it. Kathryn’s style is that of an approachable and supportive friend, and the personal and pretty way in which her book is written reminds me a little of Alexandra Stoddard.

There are two ways to read this book. The first is to start at the beginning – Kathryn’s introduction immediately is warm and friendly and fun to read, it makes you want to carry on. The other way is to look up an area you need help with, for example the laundry or the master wardrobe.

I know I need to do something about my wardrobe but it seems overwhelming right now. Starting on the wardrobe chapter it is like Kathryn is there with me and helping me see where to start. I love that!

In fact, straight away I thought of an answer to a problem my husband was having with the belts he wore on a regular basis. We have a shared belt hanger that was rather full. And with us both using it, he would get frustrated at having to unearth a belt he wanted to use. Over the past months I noticed he was leaving his belts out on a chair to have easy access to. They looked messy but the other way wasn’t working.

It seems like such common sense now, but after reading some of the wardrobe chapter I thought about using hooks in the wardrobe for his belts. He has five belts so I bought two large-size 3M hooks from the supermarket and stuck them up inside his side of the wardrobe. They were an instant hit and the belts are always hanging there. It’s little things like this that make your life easier. My goal is to find all those spots in our house!


And of course I decluttered quite a few belts from both of us at the same time, so my belt hanger is looking rather swish too.

As you might have guessed, Small Space Organizing is very motivating. I can’t finish reading a chapter without getting up to go and put an idea into practice.

I decluttered more books and magazines, so that a tall and skinny cube shelving unit could be repurposed from my sewing room into our ensuite bathroom. It looks fabulous there and now I have towels, hand-towels, flannels and body products handy, rather than running downstairs. It looks so at home in its new spot that I can’t believe I didn’t do it before, but it was something in one of the chapters that made me start thinking about moving things around.

There are so many good, useable tips are in this book. It’s clear that either Kathryn has done A LOT of research or perhaps is passionate about this topic, or maybe both!

Thanks to this book I have finally gone through my sewing room and decided what crafts I really love. I’ve never thought of decluttering actual craft categories before, but whenever I went into my sewing room I felt overwhelmed at all the possibilities, and also guilt at not want to get stuck into any of them (when they used to be my greatest joy and comfort).

I chose to keep knitting and sewing, and decluttered all my embroidery goodies which my two young nieces are looking through. The eldest is seven, and is only a little younger than I am when I first started playing around with hand-sewing and embroidery.

My sewing room is now more streamlined and I actually want to go in there to potter which I am very happy about.

One thing I love about Small Space Organizing is that it has no pictures. Words always let me think about my house, my situation and my life. I can more easily visualize my solutions when there aren’t other (perfect) houses making me feel dissatisfied. And of course pictures date over time, whereas a book like this is timeless, because the ideas and principles are.

With any possible book purchase, I like to test-drive them first. If you think you would enjoy this book, you can either ‘have a look inside’ on Amazon, or order it from your library. If your library doesn’t have this title, request that they order it in.

Our library offers this service online, but if yours doesn’t, speak to a librarian next time you’re in. It’s a great way to preview a book and see if it would be helpful to you, and it introduces the book to other readers as well. One of our librarians told me they have a certain budget they have to spend on books each year and that they love it when people request titles be purchased.

So thank you to Kathryn Bechen for sending me your book, I know it will be well-used. In fact it is already looking a little 'ruffled' from frequent reference. I’m sure my chic readers will get plenty of inspiration and loads of ideas from it too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chic Habits



I know that when I drink plenty of water I feel really good, and if I don’t I usually end up with a headache.  Most days I drink lots of glasses of water, away from mealtimes.  Drinking water too close to eating food hinders digestion, as the liquid dilutes your digestive juices.  I read ages ago that you are best to avoid drinking a lot of fluid within half an hour of a meal, and at least one hour after.

So once breakfast is over I have quite a few glasses in the morning, and the same again in the afternoon.  I don’t tend to drink a lot of anything after dinner as I want to have a good night’s rest without getting up for the loo!

A chic habit I have been implementing lately is to have a ‘dedicated water day’.  I will either have a one-litre jug on the kitchen bench, filled with water and maybe a few slices of lemon, or I will treat myself to a large bottle or a couple of smaller bottles of still mineral water.

My goal is to drink two litres of water by dinner time.  Just think of the toxins being flushed out of your body, your skin being plumped up and rehydrated, and all your hard-working internal organs having plenty of clean, fresh water to let them do their job well.

I always feel so refreshed when I have a day where I focus on two litres of water, and an added bonus is that when I’ve just had a glass of water, I don’t look around for something to nibble on.  Win/win.

American measurements – two litres of water equals roughly half a gallon, just over two quarts or 68 ounces.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The No Spend Month




I have been inspired lately by Tracy’sblog.  Tracy is going through tough times financially but bravely putting it out there to get herself going and I must say it’s very inspiring for me too.

I know my husband and I have it much better than a lot of people, but we are still chipping away at our home loan.  We have plans to pay it off early and that is going well, but I feel like I’ve been a little complacent in other areas.  I’m not a huge spender but still buy things here and there that aren’t really necessary and do contribute to our clutter.

I have no trouble keeping out of shops, and when I’m there for a specific reason (I rarely go to ‘just browse’ anymore because it’s too boring for words) I buy that item (having first waited until a time that it will be on special) and then leave.

Online shopping however is another story.  I enjoy buying books, dvds and cosmetics from the comfort of my home and, well, it’s just too easy and I do it too often.  Because all the purchases are on my credit card I can easily add them up with the click of an Excel formula.  I was shocked at how much all those small amounts totalled over the past twelve months.

At the beginning of February Tracy started a No Spend Month, and I also read about a similar idea at Simple Savings.  I was encouraged to start my own no spend month and there are already at least three occasions that I went to purchase something online and then remembered my promise to myself.

I left those items in the shopping cart and instead wrote them down in the first week of March of my diary.  I wrote the item name, where it was from and the price.

I have occasionally been back to visit those items and one even had 10% off just for that weekend.  The month of February crawled for me, realizing there was still more than two weeks to go before I could buy this item!  As the month progressed though, I’ve found my wanting for these things has waned.

In New Zealand, if I cannot obtain something from a New Zealand etailer, I order from a US or UK store.  A New Zealand order comes within a day or two, but when I wait 1-4 weeks for an order from afar, sometimes I have forgotten the appeal and when it turns up I don’t even want it that badly.  Isn’t that terrible?

So even though it’s been a bit annoying at the time that I cannot just ‘click and buy’ but rather ‘click and then realise and then write it in my diary and then not buy’, I’m really pleased I did it.

My no-spend month has been so successful that I am considering making it an ongoing feature of my financial life, where I have to wait until one month’s time to buy something.  So if I see a book I want on the 17th of February, I will write it in the week of 17th of March to see if I still want it.  Some books I have purchased online I haven’t even opened yet, and we are talking several months!  Gee, I really had to have that book didn’t I?  It’s changed my life hasn’t it?

Fiction I have no problem getting out of the library and happily returning when read.  Non-fiction on the other hand I seem to have given myself a ‘get out of jail free’ card.  Because it’s non-fiction it’s serious and important stuff and I NEED it for my home library.

But what about that other, free, non-cluttering library, the one I pay for with my property rates?  I can borrow a particular non-fiction book more than once, whenever I want to read it.    And it’s only the newest books that have big queues, the ones I’m considering for my home library I can easily borrow pretty much straight away.

Now we are in the first week of March, I happily left two items unpurchased that I had written down.  I did order one second-hand book from Abe Books (US10 including postage), so I think I did pretty well.  None of the three items were big, but as I said before, all those rats and mice add up.  Having participated in ‘No Spend February’ I reduced my expenditure – and clutter – by 2/3 and I'm happy with that.

I am definitely using the ‘one month out’ diary method for any future online purchases now.  Do you use any tricks on yourself?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Real Life versus Fantasy Life

Simplicity in palette, and luxuriously sparse elegance.  Style inspiration from the new Chanel boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris.

Image

I’ve come across the idea of real life versus fantasy life from two different sources recently.  I’ve been reading Peter Walsh, master declutterer that he is, and I also came across the same idea in a ‘money savvy’ newspaper article in a recent newspaper.  Both authors ask you to think about what your life is really like, rather than what you imagine your fantasy life could be.

And because I still have uppermost in my mind a vision of how I want my home life to be – that airy and spacious abode reminiscent of a Parisian apartment, I will continue on with my minimising quest.

The lady who was quoted in the money article said she finally admitted to herself that she never held formal dinners in which she needed to keep a huge amount of crockery and glassware for.

That resounded with me because I do that.  Not so much with plates, because all the plates and bowls we have are used, but with the glasses and also the tiny dishes I think I will fill with flaky salt and cracked pepper to use with a little spoon at fancy dinners.  Apart from perhaps Christmas day (when we did not use the little salt dish and spoon even then), I almost never have big sit-down dinners.

When we entertain, I like to have one friend/couple/family over at a time.  It is less formal and intimidating, and you get to catch up with them properly.

So this thought of real life versus fantasy life helped me clear out many items in my kitchen cupboard such as excess wine glasses.  I kept my nicest and newest and donated the rest.  Giving all the glasses that are to be donated a quick rinse through the dishwasher means they look nice and new and sparkly, the charity store won’t have to clean them, and they will look more appealing to their customers.

Real life versus fantasy life spills over into many different areas.  Here are a few others I’ve been thinking about.

The wardrobe – actually thinking about what we do in any given week and what clothes we require for that.  Not giving too much space to clothing that is worn very infrequently or not at all.  Getting rid of fantasy items that we never have occasion to wear.

The food we keep in our pantry and fridge.  You might be like me and have ingredients that were bought when you were feeling creative but then never wanted to use.  I am challenging myself to use these products in meals at the moment.  When I cleaned out my pantry last week it was almost a relief that couple of items had expired and I could dispose of them, as much as I don’t like to waste food.  The pressure is off!

Books and magazines.  How many of these am I going to re-read and wouldn’t they be better off in someone else’s home where they will be enjoyed rather than stagnating in mine?

Bulky items that are taking up space and we don’t use them – electric blankets that we haven’t used for years and that were heading for twenty years old, I threw them out (for safety reasons).  Two electric heaters and a dehumidifier that are stored in a cupboard under the stairs in case we need them one day – these are being donated closer to winter.  This will give us much more space to store our vacuum cleaner and suitcases in a roomy and stress-free manner.  Actually these aren’t fantasy life items, they are ‘just in case items’, and they can go too.

Crafting supplies.  This is a big category for me and I’m sure many others.  I have many projects that I am set up for but I only have so many days in the week, and if I haven’t made time for some of them by now, doesn’t that tell me something?

I will be going through my sewing room/office and only keeping the few projects that really excite me.  Everything else will go into my (now clear after a big drop-off at the new SPCA op shop) guest bedroom.  The guest bedroom is my cool-off area where I can put items to be donated.  I don’t have to make the decision whilst I’m tidying and decluttering an area which frees me to be more ruthless.  When I go back later to survey what I have put there, very little appeals that much to me that I have to take it back.  I think Apartment Therapy man calls this idea an ‘Outbox’.

One other tip that has been helping me streamline the items I keep in our house, is to look at the space available.  After all, every room and cupboard in our house, and also our house itself is a finite amount of space.  The narrow shelf where I keep our coffee/tea mugs was always a small point of annoyance every time I emptied the dishwasher.  There was a couple too many cups so I never had room for them if they were all clean.  I decluttered three and put them in my donation box and now I have a lovely roomy shelf.

The same can apply to the number of coat-hangers (one garment per hanger!) you have in your wardrobe and also the size of your drawers.  On a day that all your washing is up-to-date you can fully complete the decluttering task.  It’s not a good feeling when you think you’ve got a manageable wardrobe after a prune-out but then realise you’ve still got washing in the laundry that is going to ‘push you over the edge’ again.

I’m reading Peter Walsh’s Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat and he makes the link between having a clutter-filled, chaotic home and being overweight.  Just as we push more and more into our homes and then feel overwhelmed, we do the same with our body.  He says that weight loss from decluttering was an unexpected outcome but one that many people wrote to him about.  I would believe it too.

Here is a letter from one of Peter’s clients, that was in the book:

Dear Peter,

About a year ago I completely decluttered my kitchen and I was so consumed by the task that I didn’t focus on food.  I actually began to do a sort of ‘fast’ in a natural sort of way.  I was performing a cleanse on my kitchen and a simultaneous cleanse of my body.  Normally, I am obsessed with food so this seemed unusual to me.  At this point, I carry about ten to fifteen pounds more than feels comfortable to me, and in the same way my house is cluttered with extra ‘fat’.  I thought that I had some sort of organisational disability, but now I think that my clutter protects me in some way (the same way that a little tyre of fat around the middle can protect you).  Clutter is a way of sabotaging my life in the same way that gaining weight makes me feel helpless and hopeless about my body.

--

When my house is messy, untidy and cluttered, I feel that way too.  Better food choices come from a clean and tidy kitchen where you use everything you own and don’t have a pantry full of expired foods and junky foods.

You don’t necessarily need to join Weight Watchers to start losing weight, you just need to start cleaning out those cluttered corners of your home.  I know, I’ve done both, and decluttering works better and the healthier eating is sustainable for the long term!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An evening with Mireille


Mireille Guiliano visited my town last night promoting her newest book French Women Don’t Get Facelifts. I was so excited when my Mum emailed a while back to let me know she was coming and immediately booked my ticket!

It was a beautiful summer evening and the event ‘Conversation with Mireille’ was held at the Villa Maria vineyard which looked absolutely stunning as I drove in.

Of course I put a lot of thought into what I was going to wear. The Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress looked to be a shoo-in but it was a very hot and humid day so I wondered if I would be too warm in its long-ish fitting sleeves. I decided on one of my other Hawaii purchases, an army green Banana Republic coatdress.


There were a lot of women already there when I arrived and many of them were milling outside. I saw inside the door that some women were already seated so I went in and bravely sat in the very first row, right in front of the lectern. I didn’t want to miss a single breath.

She was fabulous. Very gentle and fun and she seemed a genuinely lovely person. She read a few excerpts from her book and talked about the different categories in her newest book, such as dressing, skincare, grooming, ‘invisible’ exercise and enjoying life.

I took good notice of her personal style too of course. Mireille wore a blouse in white and black with a toile de jouy type print and it seemed to be one of those uniquely French ones that are finely pleated/scrunched, the ruffled collar and placket edging certainly was. Her pants were classic and not tight at all, and she had mid-heel shoe-boots in embossed black suede.


You couldn’t help but notice Mireille's black epi-leather Louis Vuitton bag, centre-stage as it was. I’m not sure what the style is known as but I found some pictures of one called Bowling Montaigne which it may be.

And hanging slightly out of her bag was a scarf in a beautiful ochre colour. It was a pleated silky/acetate looking fabric and the shade was a good match for her hair (she must already know the trick that three personalised colours that are great for you are to match your hair, eye and skin colour).



Her makeup was subtle to the point of unnoticeable. Mireille talked about this during the evening. She said as she gets older she wears less, and said bright red lipstick is too much for her now, and that too much eye makeup emphasizes her wrinkles, so she wears very little. Of course there are women of a certain age who wear quite striking makeup and that is part of their ‘look’. It all goes back to knowing yourself and being uniquely you. Apparently French women would be horrified to look like other women and want their own look that no-one else has.

I noticed Mireille’s hands – she had short, neat nails, with either no polish or just clear. I always feel bad that I don’t wear at least a pale pink polish, but the reality with my job is that it chips within one day, and even if you can’t notice with a light colour, I know it’s chipped and tacky. Opening shoebox after shoebox just shears that colour right off.

Mireille said there were usually two kinds of people who came to her book launches. 1. Women who want to lose weight (particularly for her first book I suppose) and 2. Francophiles. I tried to appear invisible at that comment because it is quite an embarrassing thing to be exposed as someone who is shallow enough to like something or someone just because they are French and stylish!

She was surprised when her first book became a bestseller in France, because as she rightly said, why would a French woman listen to another French women living in America talking about being French. But the main reason French women liked her book was the nostalgia factor. They told her they remembered their mothers saying the same things to them that Mireille recounted.

About exercise Mireille said she and her French friends hated that word and did not use the gym. Of course some French women go to the gym but it is not as common as in other countries. One of her close American friends moved to Paris and ran gym classes there. When they caught up two years later, Mireille was stunned to find that her American friend did not speak one word of French. The reason was that all her clients were ex-pats and not French women! Mireille talked about walking being the best exercise, and said others also swam, cycled and did yoga.

I even got to speak directly to Mireille. At the end of her talk, audience members were asked if they had any questions. Not many people asked, and I had a sudden thought what an amazing opportunity this was but I couldn’t think of anything to ask! I said to myself ‘what is the best question to ask Mireille’. I then put my hand up and the presenter sitting with her handed me her microphone. I said to Mireille that she obviously travelled a lot (she was in London the previous week, she had mentioned earlier) and how did she pack, did she have the perfect capsule wardrobe and what were her travel secrets.

She told us that she never checked her bag but always had the small wheelie one that you could carry on. She said sometimes airports are so spread out you are walking for miles, and who wants to drag a big heavy bag around. She also said she had three items of clothing that she made four outfits from. I’m going to try and work that one out! She also said she always put tissue paper in between her clothing items.

That’s another ‘life of luxury’ tip I thought afterwards. Tissue paper is not expensive (and often free – I save it up and never use it for anything) and you could reuse it over and over if you are careful. I am going to put some in my suitcase so I remember next time I travel.


After her talk we were told we could purchase her new book and have it signed if we wished. I was thrilled to have this chance and had put off buying the book hoping this would be the case. I have been reading it though as I already had it out of the library (so now I can return it!) and I love it.

I bought the book and joined the lengthy queue. When it came to my turn she was sweet and quite unassuming, very normal really! She wrote my name and signed hers. As I was about to leave and she was moving onto the next person I squeaked out at the last minute ‘did she allow photos’. ‘Of course’, she replied. And she so thoughtfully moved a gift she was given off the seat next to her and pulled it up close for a better photo. She really is lovely and charming, and I’d be very surprised if it was an act. People can’t fake that. As I was leaving I said to her ‘I’ll see you with your next book’ to which she replied ‘it will be about oysters… and carrots’.



I didn’t take notes like I thought I might because I really wanted to be present and enjoy the talk, but I did jot down some when I got home of the things I remembered.

At one point she told the audience that if they don’t change anything else in your life at all, add good yoghurt into your diet 'for one year', plain yoghurt that is made just from milk and culture. She reckons that one yoghurt a day will help you lose weight because ‘without going into all of the science about it’ yoghurt has fat-burning properties.

I’m not so much interested in weight loss these days but more focused on maximum nutrition, because I know if you focus on eating good, real nutritious food, your body and weight will be stable and happy. I had forgotten about yoghurt for a while though, so I bought some today to add to my fresh fruit and raw nuts for breakfast.



Mireille said of relationships that ‘love’ and ‘laughter’ are the two things to have. She said you can have one or the other and be quite happy, but to have both means you’ve really struck the jackpot.

To summarise, the message I took from Mireille in both her words and the way she comported herself, was to be relaxed and content, enjoy the fun side of life, and be gentle with and look after yourself in all ways.

As I drove home just after 8pm with the sun setting on a beautiful dark blue sky, I felt so grateful and fortunate to have been able to listen to and meet one of my favourite and most inspirational authors.

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!