cute! christmas cat

I took Gertie to my parents' place with me for Christmas, so she got to play with the wrapping paper after the morning 'carnage'.


singalong! renaissance girls by oh land

Okay, folks. I need to introduce you to Oh Land. She is simply the coolest. Cool tunes, cool moves, cool voice, cool message. Of course, she's so cool that everyone else probably already knew about her, but just in case someone else out there is as behind as me on life, here you go!

This song is especially awesome. Listen carefully to the lyrics (or read them below), watch her kickin' dance moves, and feel the power of possibility flow through your veins!

Oh Land

I can be an engine buzzing like a bee, I’m a real independent
Doing the laundry and planning for the future
It’s the nature of a renaissance girl
I can be your darling cooking you dinner and soothing your heartache
Having three kids and still remain a virgin
It’s my version of a renaissance girl

Lift me, lift me up where the air is thin and my mind will take off
Pull me, pull me down where my love is pure and my feet are on ground

Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls
Come along, come, come along, move forward, move forward
Come along, come, come along, tough like rocks and sweet like pearls
Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls

I can be an artist sculpting your face like you always wanted
Making you believe it’s just how I saw it
It’s logic for a renaissance girl
I can be impressed by all the things you know, I’m fan, I’m obsessed now
Knitting you a sweater while I drive in your fast car
It’s mastered by a renaissance girl

I’ll release my money you can be my back bone
I call you honey you can cry on my shoulder
Let it all breath, I got a degree in psychology

Lift me, lift me up where the air is thin and my mind will take off
Pull me, pull me down where my love is pure and my feet are on ground

Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls
Come along, come, come along, move forward, move forward
Come along, come, come along, tough like rocks and sweet like pearls
Come along, come, come along we can be your renaissance girls

Lift me, lift me up where the air is thin
Pull me, pull me down where my love is pure and my feet are on ground

Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls
Come along, come, come along, move forward, move forward
Come along, come, come along, tough like rocks and sweet like pearls
Come along, come, come along we can be your renaissance girls

learning! happy holidays persecution

It's still the holiday season, and this little gem gave me a chuckle.  In case you thought you were being persecuted by the "happy holidays" agents of political correctness, here is a handy flowchart to learn from.

Found via Rachel Held Evans' blog.

inspiration! you & her lingerie

This is so lovely! A lingerie company called You & Her. They make beautiful, simple undergarments, made right here in Vancouver, BC, and help fund a sewing centre in Zambia (I've been there! Not to the sewing centre, but to Zambia). They are trying to change this statistic:

"Worldwide, statistics show that on average 155 girls in every village in Africa have dropped out of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels and underwear at the age of menstruation."

You get beautiful, locally made lingerie, and she (aka "her") gets underwear and supplies that empower her to stay in school.

Plus, look how beautiful:

Women getting together to support each other?  BAM!  Inspired!

PS: I just realized (as I schedule this a week in advance) that this will come out on Christmas Day.  Perhaps I should make it more Christmassy?  Well what is more in the TRUE spirit of Christmas than this?  I say NOTHING.  Deal with it.

singalong! do you know (what it takes)

Mmmmm, high school dances. So many good memories (with conveniently forgotten patches of awkwardness whenever a slow song came on), and this is one of them.  Sing it, Robyn!

Do You Know (What It Takes)

Don't you know I can see what you're doing
Runnin' around with your cheap talk, cheap talk
What I need is a man who can do me right

If you got what I need I can gurarantee
To return all the love that you've given to me
But I've got to be sure that you'll always be around
Do you know what it takes to love me?
Do you know what it takes to do me right?
Do you know what it takes to love me baby?

Heaven knows in my time I've been lonely
Feelin' my love echo in my mind, in my mind yeah
A never satisfied girl's what they call me
But I just can't keep goin' on livin' lies

Guarantee unto me, you won't let me down
There's so much I can give but it's buried so deep
I just got to be sure that you always will be around

do you know what it takes?
do you know what it takes?

Don't waste my time with your lies (yeah baby, i gotta know)
You got to prove that you will always be around
I'll give you everything
Boy will you do the same for me?
Will you do anything?
I gotta know what will it be

learning! 20 wonderful effects exercise has on the mind

It's pretty common knowledge these days that exercise releases endorphins and helps people feel happier and less stressed, but that doesn't mean we can't all use some reminders of the positive non-physical effects of exercise.  Get the full meal deal here on PsyBlog including the science-y explanations. Here, however, are the Cole's Notes:

  1. Increases stress resilience.
  2. Reduces anxiety.
  3. Lower dementia risk.
  4. Escape a bad mood.
  5. Cut down on cocaine.
  6. Fight depression.
  7. Speed up your mind.
  8. Consolidate long-term memory.
  9. Boost self-control.
  10. Help with serious mental disorders.
  11. Reduce silent strokes.
  12. Alzeihmer's protection.
  13. Improve children's school performance.
  14. Stimulate brain cell growth.
  15. Increase executive functioning.
  16. Better sleep.
  17. Prevent migraines.
  18. Stop smoking.
  19. Reduce motivation to eat.
  20. It's more fun than we predict.

inspiration! you & the universe

Today's inspiration comes in the form of a sentence:
"The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you."
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Who doesn't need a reminder now and again that the universe is way bigger than we are, that we didn't write it, and that we are not gods?

(via itsokaytobesmart)

singalong! boys of summer

This is one of my favourite karaoke tunes. It's just got so many feelings and so much 80's awesomeness. I don't know anything else Don Henley has done, and I honestly don't really care because this is all I need to know of him.

Don Henley

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer's out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I'm driving by your house
Though I know you're not home

But I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

I never will forget those nights
I wonder if it was a dream
Remember how you made me crazy?
Remember how I made you scream
Now I don't understand what happened to our love
But babe, I'm gonna get you back
I'm gonna show you what I'm made of

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
I see you walking real slow and you're smilin' at everyone
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Out on the road today, I saw a DEADHEAD sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said, "Don't look back. You can never look back"
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let them go but-

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got that top pulled down and that radio on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

learn! 11 untranslatable words from other languages

How splendid other languages are. Here are 11 words that cannot be translated into English, found on

My favourites? Goya and Jayus. I want to start using them in conversation every time I talk to people.

24 Rules for Being a Lady in 2014

Very recently the clever minds at Thought Catalog wrote a piece called 24 Rules for Being a Gentleman in 2014.  I know the art of being a gentleman is sort of a buzzy thing to talk about right now, and being a "lady" doesn't sound quite so cool, but that doesn't mean that it isn't.  In fact, all those 24 rules for being a gentlemen match rules for women to be ladies, and they would make the world a better place.

A note on formatting: The "For Gentlemen" rules are direct quotes from the Thought Catalogue post, that you can read in its original context here.

1) The Drink:

For Gentlemen: Have a signature drink that you both can make at home after a long day’s work, and order with effortless swag at any bar you happen to be in.

For Ladies: The same!  Personally I think it's endlessly attractive for a woman's signature drink to be a) simple and b) not wine or super sweet, but really, whatever makes you happy.

2) Social media:

For Gentlemen: Keep all negative social media activities to a minimum, because no gentleman engages in things like Twitter fights or passive-aggressive Facebook statuses. It’s just not classy.

For Ladies: Again, the same! Being a negative nelly on social media doesn't show the other person who wrong they are, it just makes you look petty. The only time to engage in someone's angry social media banter is to defend the helpless.

And let's just add "VagueBooking" to this one. VagueBooking is the act of writing vaguely negative Facebook statuses ("Sometimes everything is the worst) so that people pour affection on you. Not classy either.

3) Chivalry

For Gentlemen: Hold doors open for everyone, because that’s just a nice thing that you do.

For Ladies: More of the same. If you get to a door first, or are on the side of the handle, open it for whoever you're walking with, man or woman. It is just friendly. And if someone opens a door for you, thank them with a word and/or smile, and walk through it. You don't need to prove to them that you can open doors yourself, nor do you need to make a huge deal about the gesture.

4) Texting.

For Gentlemen: Always text back promptly, even if it’s to let someone down gently. The worst thing you can possibly to do someone is leave them hanging so they can torture themselves with worst case scenarios.

For Ladies: Keep it coming. Not responding because your answer is no or because you don't want to deal with conflict is unkind. Let the person know your answer so you can both move forward.

5) The clothes.

For Gentlemen: Own and be able to sufficiently rock at least one suit. Suits are the greatest untapped resource that most men have access to, and can take even the most slovenly 4Chan dweller into slick presentability. You owe it to yourself to know your way around a suit.

For Ladies: Own and be able to sufficiently rock at least one Little Black Dress. I use the term "little black dress" lightly, because it need not be black, nor be too little. It should be, as the saying goes, tight enough to show you're a woman but loose enough to show you're a lady. Otherwise, what sets an LBD apart from other dresses is the fact that it elevates your look in an instant.

6) The handshake.

For Gentlemen: Master a good handshake, so that you are neither depositing your limp sea slug of a hand on someone else’s palm, nor crushing them with your Rock-Biter-from-the-Neverending-Story force.

For Ladies: Oh please, the same. The days of extending a limp hand to be grasped awkwardly around the fingers are thankfully gone. Show your confidence and capability in life with a firm handshake.

7) The Cat Call.

For Gentlemen: Never attempt to explain, under any circumstances, why a cat call should be considered a compliment.

For Ladies: Never engage with a cat caller. Yelling a crude response back might feel good but you're not actually teaching them a lesson and you're just looking kind of foolish in the process. On the flip side, encouraging them just encourages them.  On the other flip side, cat calling men isn't lady-like either.  If you appreciate a man's look, tell him with words, not sounds.

8) Accessories.

For Gentlemen: Do not be afraid of accessorizing, because a pair of nice shoes or a classy watch can Upgrade U almost immediately, as explained in the Beyoncé song.

For Ladies: Don't get too crazy with the accessories. If you're rocking a statement necklace, you don't need a statement bracelet and a statement pair of shoes. Or, if you're like me, feel free to throw on at least one accessory once and a while. It really does do wonders for your look.

9) Pejoratives.

For Gentlemen: Do not refer to things as “gay” that aren’t homosexual human beings. People who call things “gay” as a pejorative are truly the raisins in the trail mix of life.

For Ladies: I am so deeply saddened that this even needs to be mentioned. Of course you should follow suit on this one.

10) Putting down.

For Gentlemen: Do your best not to put others down in order to elevate yourself, it reeks of the people who categorize men by their Greek letter status.

For Ladies: Oh please, the same. There is nothing to be desired in being catty - by tearing down another woman, especially for her appearance or sexual choices, hurts us all. If you have a problem with something someone is doing, address the problem, not the person.

11) Call your mother.

For Gentlemen: Call your mother, even if you have to set up a Google calendar reminder to get yourself to do this.

For Ladies: Ditto. And hey, say hi to your Dad while you're at it. You might be surprised how much insight your Dad has to offer.

12) Cooking.

For Gentlemen: Know how to cook at least a few good meals, because a) there is nothing worse than guys who assume it’s up to the woman to do all the cooking, b) there is nothing sexier than a dude who can cook, and c) everyone deserves to feed themselves well.

For Ladies: Know how to cook at least a few good meals so that you can sufficiently feed yourself and others. Just because SJP used her oven for sweater storage in Sex and the City doesn't mean you have to. Being able to provide nutritious and tasty meals for yourself and your loved ones doesn't make you a barefoot and pregnant housewife, it makes you competent at life.

13) Eye contact.

For Gentlemen: Make good eye contact, but not so much that it gets into “I’ve been watching you from behind your dumpster” levels.

For Ladies: Make good eye contact. Period. The coy look-away is fine once and a while, but confidence can and should be a part of your arsenal.

14) Politics.

For Gentlemen: Don’t corner people at house parties with your political views (and this goes double — nay, triple — for libertarians, as you guys are the most egregious culprits).

For Ladies: Ditto, but that doesn't mean you can't engage in an intelligent and open-minded political discussion, should one arise, so know what your views are and be open to hearing someone else's.

15) Name calling.

For Gentlemen: Erase the word “slut” from your vocabulary.

For Ladies: Double ditto. Triple ditto.  Calling other women sluts, even as a fun pet name, is not classy nor does it help elevate respect for women in general. Calling men sluts might not have the same loaded effect as using the term on women, but it is still low on the "class" scale.

16) The opposite sex.

For Gentlemen: Treat every woman with the same amount of respect and humanity that you would your mother, sister, or daughter — and think about why there might have been conditions on how you treated them in the first place.

For Ladies: The same applies. Just because a man is not attractive to you doesn't mean he's a creep or a jerk. Treat him as you would want someone to treat your younger brother.

17) The RSVP.

For Gentlemen: RSVP.

For Ladies: RSVP.

Fun fact for all: RSVP stands for "respond s'il-vous-plait", not "let me know if you're coming and say nothing if you aren't or don't know". Let the host know your intentions, whatever they are.

18) Finances.

For Gentlemen: Always put a little money away at the end of each month, and not because you’re saving for anything in particular.

For Ladies: Do that.

19) Who pays?

For Gentlemen: Be up-front about your finances, because it’s unfair for anyone to believe in the outdated gender roles of “the man should pay for everything.” As long as you’re working hard and trying your best, you deserve to be honest.

For Ladies: Don't expect the man to pay for everything, and don't fight back tooth and nail if he does try to pay. If he's paying, he's trying to make a gesture. It doesn't show him that you're independent if you force him to let you pay - it throws that gesture back in his face and makes him feel like a jerk. Of course, you should always offer to pay, and if he insists, thank him and offer to get the next one. Then actually follow through and get the next one.

20) The Sex.

For Gentlemen: Do not sleep with anyone who wants a relationship from you that you are not prepared to give. Using their affection to get something from them physically is easy, but it makes you a bad person.

For Ladies: We can be guilty of this too. Don't use your feminine wiles to get what you want from a man. Tempting him with sex (or using actual sex) to get a guy to do something for you is simply cruel. As is sleeping with him if he wants a relationship and you don't. As is using sex (withholding it or giving it) to get your way in an argument. This one is especially bad because it perpetuates the myth that women don't really want sex and that men want it all the time - both are hurtful.

21) Dancing.

For Gentlemen: Learn how to dance, at least a bit.

For Ladies: Learn how to dance for fun, not just for sex appeal. And learn how to follow on the off-chance you meet a man who knows how to lead for some proper partnered dancing.

22) Flowers.

For Gentlemen: Never underestimate the great value of unexpected flowers on a day that is otherwise nothing special, especially in long-term relationships.

For Ladies: You can give random little gifts in your relationship too. Flowers might not feel right, but maybe surprising your fellah with his gentlemanly drink, cigar, or cookie would be nice.

23) The Selfie.

For Gentlemen: Don’t be disdainful of selfies, guys have just as much a right to look and feel good about themselves as anyone else. If you want a selfie, take a selfie! Just don’t be a dick about other people who like to do it, too.

For Ladies: Don't be disdainful of selfies, even if you think the girl is "too young" or "just trying to show her cleavage" or "whatever else you are assuming about her motives for the selfie." If she is doing the things you assume, then she needs some extra love, not judgement. If you want to do a selfie with duck lips, go for it, with full awareness of what you're doing.

24) Compassion.

For Gentlemen: Be compassionate, and know that you are allowed to experience the full range of human emotion. Where the gentleman of our grandparents’ generation might have prided himself on keeping all of his feelings in check for fear of seeming ‘feminine,’ a real gentleman knows that the best thing about him is his ability to be kind and empathetic. Everything else — yes, even the suit — is just icing on the cake.

For Ladies: Be compassionate towards everyone, period. I feel like a lot of women these days think being kind of judgey, brash, and covering up their emotions makes them more hip, modern, and maybe even feminist. Remember, the assumptions you make about someone else's motives say something about you and your motives. Empathy is not old-fashioned, it's human.


25) Learn how to do at least one "taking care of the home" thing, from fixing your running toilet to properly drilling and hanging shelves on your wall. Self-sufficiency is empowering and sexy.

26) Don't accept drinks from people you aren't interested in. No, it's not a bonus free drink. The offer of a drink is the offer to get to know someone better, so if someone offers you a drink and you don't want to get to know them better, smile and say no thank you.

inspiration! replacing guns with thumbs-up

First of all, seeing this gave me a chuckle on what was otherwise a very difficult and sad day a few weeks back. Secondly, you may think I'm reaching here, but how inspiring is it to replace violence with a thumbs up? Very, if you're me. Or if you're similar to me in any way.

This one is my favourite, because he's just seems so into it.

See the rest here, on

cute! cats with antlers by marc johns

The artwork of Marc Johns is just way too cute. Specifically, this one, because think about it - cats with antlers??? Think of all the cute things cats do (cleaning their heads, scampering around the house, head-butting you, purring, hopping up onto high things, standing on their hind legs and meowing at you adorably), and then imagine them doing those things, but with antlers. TOO CUTE, right?

Marc Johns
(Check out his other art. It's great too.)

singalong! baby baby

I have a friend who's birthday is near Halloween.  One year she decided to take advantage and have a dress up party, which I thoroughly approved of.  I find that the older I get, the less people are willing to dress up for parties and the more often theme parties are flops, which makes me sad.  The combo of a birthday, Halloween, and cool friends made this party a hit.  Specifically, we were instructed to dress up like our childhood heroes, and guess who I dressed up as?  (This is where you find out why on earth I'm talking about a friend's birthday in a singalong post…)  Amy Grant!  Amy Grant, people.  I dressed as Amy Grant, on the cover of this album.  Because she is the best.

Also, I love this video!  The part at the beginning where a guy tries to give Amy a gift he was giving to his (presumably) girlfriend, because Amy is so amazing!  Then all the other parts where her and her man are the cutest, funnest, goofiest couple of all time.  Dreams do come true.

by Amy Grant

Baby, baby
I'm taken with the notion
To love you with the sweetest of devotion

Baby, baby
My tender love will flow from
The bluest sky to the deepest ocean

Stop for a minute
Baby I'm so glad you're mine, yeah
You're mine

Baby, baby
The stars are shining for you
And just like me I'm sure that they adore you

Baby, baby
Go walking through the forest
The birds above a' singing you a chorus

Stop for a minute
Baby they're so glad you're mine, oh yeah
And ever since the day you put my heart in motion
Baby I realize that there's just no getting over you

Baby, baby
In any kind of weather
I'm here for you always and forever

Baby, baby
No muscle man could sever
My love for you is true and it will never

Stop for a minute
Baby I'm so glad you're mine
And ever since the day you put my heart in motion
Baby I realize that there's just no getting over you

And ever since the day you put my heart in motion
Baby I realize that there's just no getting over you
Over you

Baby, baby
Always and forever
Baby I'm so glad that
Here for you baby
So glad you're mine
Baby I'm so glad that
When I think about you it makes me smile
Baby, baby be mine
Baby, I'm so glad that
Don't stop giving love
Don't stop, no
Baby I'm so glad that you're mine
Baby I'm so glad
Baby I'm so glad that
When I think about you it makes me smile

Post-Script: A really short and effective drinking game idea: shot every time she says "baby". You'll get so terribly, horribly drunk, but you'll feel so much more uplifted than all other songs that have equal or greater instances of "baby".

learn! tights or pants?

The "tights are not pants" war has been raging for quite some time, mostly from the people who yell "tights are not pants!" on the internet.  I'm pretty sure those girls who wear tights as pants aren't even aware that anyone notices anything except for … I don't know, their bright and cleverly constructed yoga tops with extra straps that make no sense and headbands with bangs sticking up underneath?

Regardless, the people (myself included) who don't think tights are pants continue to agree with each other about how you shouldn't wear tights as pants.  In a world of stretchy pants, it can be hard to tell if the cloth stretched over your legs are pants or leggings.  Luckily, blogger Bridgette Rays has solved the problem with a quick questionnaire:

My Favourites:
  • If your pants have feet attached to them, they’re tights, not pants.
  • If your pants have a control top, they’re tights, not pants.
  • If your pants are sold in the tights and socks section, they’re tights, not pants.
Also, she linked to this handy flowchart to help you out if you're still unclear.

BAM!  Learned.

inspiration! pentatonix covers royals by lorde

First, if you don't know Lorde, check that girl out. She's the latest Good Thing to Happen in Music, and her song Royals is The Awesome. Then listen to this cover by Pentatonix, a totally acapella group that create a full and beautiful rendition of this song with only their voices.

Inspired, much?

break up survival: using television for good

Recently I wrote about some basic break up survival tips with the goal of both feeling and dealing with your emotions and avoiding the downward spiral of awfulness.  Well, here is a bit more on the distraction train - but before I get into it I want to re-emphasize the importance of dealing with the emotions in a real way.

After I wrote that last post, I had an honest conversation with someone where I realized how good I am at pretending my negative emotions don't exist, which is okay except that if you never feel them you'll never work through them.  That said, sometimes distractions are a true blessing, and necessary to really gain enough distance to be able to experience the emotions in a healthy way instead of a terrible, wallowing, self-pitying, death-spiral-type way.

So!  On to the point!  Television can be a glorious tool to pass the time with less pain.  It also fills the background silence with familiar voices and thus makes a great backdrop to household puttering, crafting, cooking, or some light exercising.

The key here is to pick shows that are light-hearted but don't include real, deep love or heartbreak.  Most comedies revolve around romance and end with people kissing, so this isn't easy, but there are some great options:

Arrested Development

First of all, hilarious.  Second of all, you've probably already watched it all through, but it's still fun to re-watch, so it's perfect as background fodder or something to take your full attention.  Third, it's about a bunch of selfish, emotionally crippled people, so you don't have to worry about seeing someone actually fall in or out of love.  It's all very surface.  Fantastic.

(Oh, and I'm obviously just talking about the original three seasons.)

Better Off Ted

Another one with Portia De Rossi (that gal did some solid work as an entitled, selfish woman with few deep emotions).  This one was hardly watched and didn't get the same cult acclaim as Arrested Development, so you may not have seen it before.  It's funny, and there's sort of some romance that almost feels real, so it will start to re-humanize you without going too far.

Doctor Who

You want to watch a show that is funny, adventurous, entertaining, and shines a light on all the best parts of humanity (doing the right thing when it's hard, seeing the good in others, helping the downtrodden, etc.)?  Watch Doctor Who.  It will make you cry, and it does go to some pretty dark places, but the beautiful heroism of the Doctor and his companions, and their quest to make the universe a better place is inspiring.  Plus, there is VERY LITTLE romance, just a lot of good, down-home, love-your-neighbour-type love.


An animated comedy about a dysfunctional spy agency, with voice acting from the mom in Arrested Development (seeing a trend?)  Lots of funny, lots of satire, and again, no real emotions.

Sex and the City

The only traditional "chick" show on the list: this got me through my first break up big time.  Yes, it totally violates my "no real emotions/romance" rule, but here's why it's on the list: Sex and the City is all about the ongoing life-cycle of relationships: one ends, another begins, then someone else pops up, and so on.  This show will help you remember that there are, indeed, plenty of fish in the sea, and that you'll be able to move on and be okay with a little help from your friends.  Plus, at least you didn't get broken up with via post-it note.  (I hope!)

(Feel free to avoid the last few seasons when the marriage and babies thing starts happening.)

Any other awesome post-break up TV shows to watch that I've missed?

cute! cat in a box

What's this, a cat's in a box?  That never happens!  Nobody has ever seen this on the internet, ever!

Fun fact: when my cat was in this box, a friend thought he would mess with her a little by shaking it around and, without thinking I cried out "No! That needs to be her happy place!"  Apparently, that was funny.

8 things i learned from banning sugar for a month (and alcohol for half a month)

I've never been a person for any kind of diet-related discipline.  I operate on two principles: eat when I'm hungry/stop when I'm full, and eat whatever I feel like, with an emphasis on vegetables.

This month, however, I decided to give myself a challenge I'd wanted to try for quite some time - No Fun November.  This originally took the form of shunning all alcohol and refined sugar for the month.  Then I went through a break up halfway through the month and something had to give.  Since my main comfort foods are popcorn, chips, and cheese, keeping sugar off the table seemed far more manageable than turning down the sympathy beers from my friends.  Then it became just a No (Refined) Sugar November.

I say No (Refined) Sugar November because I did keep eating things where sugars naturally appear, I just avoided added, refined sugars.  Technically sugar is sugar, and while refined sugar is worse because of all the processes it goes through mutating it into super-crazy-sugar, it turns out our bodies actually process all sugars, natural or otherwise, in the same way, and that way is not great.  Still, baby steps.  Let's start with the refined stuff and see how that goes.

Why November, you ask?  Well, October has Halloween and Thanksgiving (for Canadians like me), and December has Christmas and all its festivities.  November is a little island in the middle just crying out for a detox.

1) I still had tons of fun.

The first weekend of the month included two birthday parties, a ladies' brunch, and a pub dinner. This was the true test: could I survive these sugar and alcohol-full activities and avoid misery?  Turns out the answer is a huge yes.  I joyfully drank soda water and diet coke at the parties.  I had tea at brunch.  I had water at dinner.  I simply didn't eat the sugary things.  And I felt great!

It is kind of sad, but I had forgotten how great it feels to go out with friends to a party, have a wild and wonderful time, and then go home with a completely clear head.  I'm not saying I'm used to getting smashed all the time, but even a few drinks can make things a little cloudy that night or the next morning (hey, I'm not 20 anymore.)

2) Avoiding sugar and alcohol saves money!

Let's think about what that first weekend would have cost me if I was having sugar and alcohol.  I could have easily dropped $100, and would have spent at least an extra $40-50.  Parties aside, adding a pint or two of beer to a meal fattens up that bill quite a lot.  Same with adding dessert.

Even those spontaneously purchased chocolate bars or the bottle of wine in the fridge - those little bits add up over a weekend, week, and month.  For someone on a tight budget like me, cutting that option out definitely gave me a lot more wiggle room to play with.

3) If you want to avoid sugar, avoid anything pre-made.

Almost all pre-made, pre-packaged foods have sugar in them.  Even the stuff that's not even a little bit sweet like soup or pasta sauce.  It makes zero sense except that we've become addicted to sugar and/or use it as an easy filler ingredient.

4) Apples are hella sweet.

A lot of fruits are, actually, but I especially noticed how sweet the apples were.  It was almost overwhelming at times!

Also, remember when people used to say "hella" and how annoying it was?  Yep, went there.

5) I don't really miss it.

I can think of a couple of times I was sad to not have something sugary, but most of the time it was more situational: a beautiful cake was being cut and served in front of me or I was bored and wanted to bake something.  Towards the end of the month I did have some visions of biting into a cupcake, but what I was really imagining wasn't the sweet taste but the moist, fluffy texture of the cupcake.

In fact, I really don't miss having sugary things much at all.  So much so that it is December 1st and I have not yet gone out and eaten a bucket full of sugary goodness, despite the fact that I just remembered there is ice cream in my freezer.

6) How often I eat (and drink) without thinking.

Cutting something out of my diet had the benefit of forcing me to be aware of what I was putting in my mouth.  I realized how often I eat sweets just because they're there, or I drink because I'm with people who are drinking.

Our environment and social situations have a huge influence on our behaviour, and when we aren't paying attention we can very easily conform.  As someone who has been avidly non-conformist from the age 14-on, it grates me to think that I do this, but the proof is in the (sugar-free) pudding.  It's not a conscious desire to fit in, but the fact is that someone else ordering a drink makes me more likely to order a drink too, and someone else eating chocolate means I'll probably grab a bite as well.

In this case, the results of conformity aren't totally dire, but they do have a cost.  I already mentioned the fact that sweets and booze don't come free, but they also tend to come with a high calorie count, which is not ideal health-wise.

7) It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Could be because I'm an all-or-nothing type, but cutting out sweets (and drinks, for a while) wasn't nearly as hard for me as I thought it would be.  It even became kind of fun to scan ingredients labels and then shake my head at our crazy society the puts sugar in vegetable soup.

8) Moving forward from here is a mystery.

Speaking of that all-or-nothing personality, I'm a little lost on how to really carry this forward.  I'm sure my newfound mindfulness-in-eating will carry me for a while, but without the ban, we all know those sweets will wiggle their way back in.  At first it will be intentional treats here or there, but that's a snowball that keeps on growing.  Throw in Christmas and it won't be long before I'm absent-mindedly chucking office chocolates into my mouth and grabbing handfuls of baking.

Maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit, but I want to be realistic.

So how does a person keep the awareness of what they're eating and a sizeable portion of the discipline, without completely cutting the tempting foods out?  Should I just try the mindfulness thing and see where it goes?  Should I say that I can have sugar once a week?  Should I say no daytime sugar (cutting out the office snacks problem)?  Should I just forget about it and live a little?  So many options!