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ritual de lo habitual.

 Illustration by Zara Picken

I have to say, even with Paris being a pretty small city I don't run into exes as much as I did in New York. Maybe it's because people generally stay in their arrondissements, unlike New York where people venture out a bit more. I know in Paris, I'm usually in the same four or five neighborhoods, whereas in New York one evening I'd be on the Upper East Side for French classes, that night I'd be in the East Village for dinner, at my office in SoHo, visiting my step-mom on the Upper West Side, or going grocery shopping near home in Brooklyn. I was definitely out and about. I also know more people in New York, so there's that. 

My theory came down crashing on me in a blaze of "I don't know jack shit," last Friday.

In an effort to save some money for the wedding, we figured we'd have to cut back on some extravagances. Since we don't shop or go out to eat that often, the only thing we could think of that we spend extra on is well, wine.

Cue in a slow motion nooooooooooooooo, as I hurdle over a table to rescue a bottle of my precious red wine.

It's not like we're drinking a pricey bottle of vintage Châteauneuf-du-Pape every night, but the wine we like costs about 7 euros, so add that with the peanuts or little goat cheese munchie balls that go with the apéro, and then there is always something else to buy. So on an average, we spend about 10 euros a night at the market on items we don't really need. 10 euros a night times 7 days a week. 

In order to fill the void of a habit I picked up almost 10 years ago, a replacement needed to present itself toute de suite, something else to enjoy to celebrate the end of a long day.

We're now drinking cheap straight vodka in plastic bottles.

I'm totally kidding.

So if it's not vodka I'm pounding after work, what has my precious wine been replaced with? I'll tell you. Weekday booze has now been replaced with...tea. Just typing that annoyed me because tea is kind of annoying. 

I figured if I'm going to go tea in Paris, I better go big. And who does luxury French tea is Kusmi.

On my way over to BHV in the Marais, I decided to walk. The weather is getting milder and I could use the exercise (because there is still a dress to be worn.) The walk was longer than I calculated, and my insulin levels were dropping demanding something quick and gross to eat. Quick and gross like potatoes, preferably fried, and most definitely from Chez McDo. This is what happens when I wait too long between meals. Bad, nasty, choices. I'm in Paris for crying out loud and this is where this chick is going. I know.

I found the nearest location on Rue du Renard and after waiting on a twenty-five minute line (because apparently I wasn't the only one who had a craving for the golden arches), I picked up a medium sack of deluxe potatoes to-go. Lying to myself that I would only eat a few and save the rest for later, I popped two wedges in my mouth, placed the paper bag at the bottom of my tote and headed over to the department store. Two wedges turned into three turned into six, and I figured out a way to stealthily creep my hand in my tote every other minute to pull out a potato to stuff in my mouth on while wandering aimlessly through each department.

With three little taters greasing up my hand, and in unbridled fit of carbohydrates bliss, I heard someone call my name.

Shit.

Mid-munch I turned around to find François (yes, that really is his name, no alias for him) looking back at me. Oh God, not François. Anyone but François. MF would have been better! But not hot pants himself, François

Okay, so have you ever dated a guy who you thought was way too attractive for you, and sort of wondered why he was with you? Wondered if he also knew that he was dating way below his standards?That's exactly who François is to me. He's really tall, has the Parisian coolness of Louis Garrel yet is such a sweet guy. I don't have self-esteem issues but seriously you guys, François is a major beaugosse who could be dating Clémence Poésy. Not me. We briefly dated before I met MF, and our courtship shortly ended because he moved to Barcelona for an internship. We were together for a hot second until we weren't. No big story there. We're still friends on Facebook.

So to paint the picture, there I was with no make-up on, in dire need of some color in my hair and a shampoo for that matter, a cystic zit throbbing under my nose, and stupidly holding three greasy potato wedges in my hand in the book section of BHV. We went in for the double bisous, and I had no choice but to chew in his ear because like I said, I was in mid-bite when he found me.

Pulling away from our greeting he said, "Bon appétit," and was clearly very amused that I was eating french fries in a department store. 

Not having much of a choice because there was no way in bloody hell that I was going to put the potatoes back in my bag, the two of us caught up as I stood their clinching them in my palm like an asshole. Even in the States this would be a little weird. 

The way François was looking at me - although he was very nice - I did not at all get the impression that he felt that he really missed out on "the one," nor was he damning his internship in Spain to hell or high water because he had to leave his princess back in Paris. I could tell that he was more than okay with the way things had panned out. 

I, however, was mortified, because let's be real here, we always want guys that we used to date (especially the really good looking ones who more or less broke it off) to still think we've got the goods, even if both parties have happily moved on. And to add to the clumsiness of the scene that I just wanted to over, the smell of McDonalds was beginning to waft between us. If this doesn't teach me a lesson about McDonalds...

After a few seconds of us both shifting our weight since our conversation was clearly over, (we dated for like, a month three years ago, not much to talk about) I dusted him and headed up to Kusmi to buy a best-seller that calls itself Prince Vladimir.

Aside from the François fiasco, I must say that I am delighted with my purchase, and our new program of cutting back on wine has been much easier than expected. While some nights are more difficult others, for example, last night when fresh snowfall and a glass of wine together make the perfect winter's treat, tea is turning out to be a pretty comforting companion as well. I guess. 

56 comments:

  1. I see, I have hard time to give up some shoppings and sweets. I have addiction and my budget doesn't even allow any of this right now. We are trying to save for coming trips and hopefully moving to a house, but we need to postpone it all the time because we keep on speding more money than planned (read I do spend more, not the guy)

    Now I weirdly feel like drinking wine, and it's only 11am. And I'm at work! Bad.

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    1. Hi Sini! It's always when you cut back on the one thing that seems so small that can actually make a difference. Good luck on curbing your shopping habits! Just think of the lovely trip you could go on! Keep your eye on the prize. :)

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  2. ROFL, totally busted (as was I when my boss suddenly walked up behind me when I was in the middle of reading this - it's lunchtime, but I still have the guilts!) I have fabric buying addiction issues, but I'm trying to tell myself right now that I have enough to quilt an entire flat and I don't *need* any more. Not sure I'll be able to go entirely cold turkey though!

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    1. A fabric buying addiction sounds awesome! You must do some awesome crafting and creating! Every time I buy fabric, it just sits in a lump in the corner. I'm so not handy with the sewing machine!

      I'm glad you enjoyed the post...and that you didn't get in trouble with your boss! : )

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  3. We started to go dry 2 weeks ago (except for weekends) more for our dear little livers than the piggy bank. And the reward, two kilos less!

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    1. Yes! It's not only me! Money was the initial motivation but once I realized all of the other goodies like weight loss, better sleep, more productivity, whiter teeth, happier liver, and more energy, it seemed like the only choice! I'm so happy that you're already seeing results. Thank you for reminding me what a great idea this is!

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  4. Bahahahaha that's hilarious! I would always feel so self conscious munching in public in Europe, I can just picture this episode!

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    1. Hhahahaha thanks Liz. Seriously I felt just fugs, absolutely fugs.

      I try not to eat on the go because it's just better to enjoy a meal sitting down and actually being aware of your consumption, but sometimes it doesn't always work out that way and that's when a "sorta ex" pops out of the book section of BHV. :)

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  5. oh dear...running into an old good looking flame..killer

    but wish I was at the soldes on Rivoli..love that BHV..it was my go to bathroom on the 5th floor in the kids clothes dept..bathrooms being a rare commodity in France.

    and cutting out the wine for tea..been there..but now of course I need to have something sweet with the tea..after eights..damn them.

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    1. Hmmmmm after eights...:)))))

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    2. I have noticed that I have been looking for a little somthin' sweet now that wine has been cut out. My body is freaking out, she's like 'AHH, Where are those calories?!?!?!" So not to feel like I'm punishing myself, I'll have an almond biscotti to go with the tea and that usually does the trick. We're on week 3 and it's getting easier and easier...who knew?

      You know there are only about 40 calories per after eight? That's the beauty of mint based candy/chocolates...the mint picks up a lot of the slack in the sugar department. : ) !

      Good to know about BHV if I'm ever in a pickle in the Marais!

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  6. Lancelots are doing the same thing. My new rule is to not drink in the house Sun-Thur. What's hard is that people always want to do things around apero time as well which then leads to drinking on Mon-Thur. But the no in-house rule is proving to be good. I actually went three days in a row which is the first time in a really long time. Good luck to you guys. PS: love the francois story - the fact you two are still facebook friends made me laugh! xx

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    1. And I'm already cheating. Having a glass of white wine because my recipe called for white wine. Damn you Julia Child! x

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    2. Yep that's what were doing. Of course if we're going out like we are tonight, we'll have a glass or two of wine. Like you guys, we're just cutting out the unnecessary mid-week in house drinking that so went out with 2012! Good to know it's not just us!

      Francois and I are totally still friends on Facebook. Hahahah, every so often he posts photos of his tan and toned body (which normally I'm not into) on the beaches of St. Tropez and it always makes me laugh, like what WAS that? How were we dating?!

      Well if you're cooking with wine you can't let it go to waste now can you? : ) Happy Thursday!

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  7. More motivation may be the residual weight loss from not drinking, as CdP points out.

    And like clutter, if you don't bring it through the front door, then it won't be in your home.

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    1. You know I'm already seeing a difference in that department. My lower belly wine pooch is gone. Damn, that was fast!

      Oh JTB, we have over 20 bottles of wine in the house and another case in our basement. We received a bunch of them during the holidays and from friends and family to congratulate us on the wedding. Oddly, it hasn't been difficult keeping my paws out of the cookie jar, as a lot of the bottles are expensive and know better to save them for special occasions not a random Tuesday night booze fest!

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  8. My favorite "haute couture" teas come from that venerable institution in London ... Harrods ... I love their teas so much that I have them shipped to the States (oui, at great expense). Trust me, it's easier to shop online and have them shipped to you than to try to purchase them while in the store as Harrods is so popular on any given day that it is impossible to get to the counter for purchase. (Not to mention I freak out in crowds as well as long queues; I'd need to imbibe much wine to do the crowds at Harrods -- I found BHV to be much more manageable.) I was feeling your embarrassment at getting caught in the act of eating the beloved frites snack; I might have pretended that I did not know Francois and run for the nearest exit. :D

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    1. Ahhh, there's nothing like a cup of fancy tea, right? It's such a simple and lovely pleasure. I think it's hilarious that you get it shipped to you! The only time I've been to Harrod's was during the sales and it mayhem! I thought it was because of their major markdowns, but I guess it's always like that! Oy vey! You're better off buying online.

      You're right, BHV isn't too bad, it depends which department you're in. The Kusmi store is pretty calm because there's not a mad dash to buy tea here in Paris - also, there is an actual boutique somewhere in the nearby Marais.

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  9. Reading this made me do a big *le sigh*. Just when I have been properly introduced to the glories of Italian red wine that comes from the middle-to-upper shelves of the supermarket and actually tastes good, I have to cut back too. No wedding over here, but I have an impending trip to the States that's going to cost me my wine/candy budget. I did fairly well on cutting back last year prior to vacation, but it's so much harder in the cold winter months.

    And thank you for the tale of the awkward potato hand... I'm going to try to keep that in mind the next time I have the McD's craving here. I don't have a Francois but I'm sure I could have some sort of an embarrassing moment, given half the change and a handful of fries. Gah.

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    1. Aww, Heather! I hope I didn't come across annoying or that I was making some big stance and making better choices in 2013. I just need to watch my wallet because wine was starting to make a dent in my monthly savings.

      I hear you. It's been realllllly cold here and a big glass of red wine at the end of the day would be nice to warm my bones, but after 3 weeks I realized a cup of hot tea has the same exact effect. Saying that, we're going out tonight and I plan to get very warmed up!

      Yes, please be careful when you're carbing on the go, you never know who you'll bump into...even if it's like an old boss, it would still be awkward and embarrassing. : )

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    2. No, no... not annoying in the slightest! I just meant that my sigh was in a *le sigh, she is right* kind of way. Since I'm with you on needing to cut back. Not fun.

      I wrapped up a doughnut today and put it in my coat pocket because I didn't have time to eat it in between classes. I managed to eat it on the way to the bus stop without incident, but it's on a country road and there are rarely other people. I was cautious though. :)

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  10. When you talked about a replacement, I thought: herbal tea! I was close;) I bought a few boxes of tisane aux fruits rouges at Monop in December:) Love it:) If you guys are like us, it's not so much the wine as the ritual that you like. In The Hague, we drank wine every day (it was comforting with the blah weather), but as soon as we returned to Canada, we switched to sparkling water and lemon or iced herbal tea:) Does the job:) We hardly ever buy wine these days... Mind you, we're never together to drink it, so I guess that explains a lot:)

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    1. That's exactly it Duchesse, it was the ritual much more than the wine. It's been almost three weeks and when we come, we now make dinner and once everything is tidied up we put the kettle on and watch something together. It's really relaxing and also, I'm actually focusing on what we're watching and am not in a wine haze, just staring at the screen.

      Friday nights are officially "cocktail hour" and we pick up apero puff pastries from Picard, and we enjoy a real cocktail followed by wine with dinner and music. I dress up a little and put my leggings and sweaters away for the evening.

      It's now an end of the week treat that we get really excited about. :)

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  11. Cutting out wine for tea - you are brave girl, very brave!
    You can make up for lost time post-wedding. In any case, you may love the weight loss that comes with it :)

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    1. Thanks Usha! It's getting easier with each passing week! Who would have though? It also defines the weekend, which I'm really excited about...one more day!

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  12. Whew. I hear you. About seeing the old flame while en plein McDoo (at least it was the books section of BHV and not les soldes chez H&M) and cutting back your wine. We tried for the same reason and...didn't do so great I am embarrassed to say! :O Donc, courage ma belle, courage!!!

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    1. Thanks Heather! Let me tell you, it hasn't been easy, especially in the beginning but it's getting better. They say it takes about 21 days to kick a habit...next week will be 21 days that we started this, let's see how we feel then. It's a hard habit to kick, that glass of red at the end of the day is pure bliss..mmmmmm.

      Bon week-end! ; )

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  13. grrrl...that is cray cray! One of the unexpected joys of moving to France was never having to worry about running into an ex-boyfriend. When I am back in California I still avoid Safeway (it's a big grocery store) because I always run into the exact person I don't want to see while looking horrible.

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    1. Totes cray! Wait which part? The wine or the dude? Ah they're both crazy!!!

      Thanks for telling me about the Safeway curse! Too funny! Luckily I never had exes when I was living in the PNW to bump into anyone that I had carnal knowledge of. Saying that, Safeway did seem to be the place to be in Oly,WA. I was always bumping into people I knew....there's also not much to do over there but eat, hence the 20 pounds I gained.

      Hi Emily!!

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  14. I think developing an expensive wine habit is one of the hazards of being with a French guy. Until I met Understanding Frenchman I was happy with the 4 euro bottles, but I've noticed recently that I buy far more bottles in your kind of price bracket these days.

    I'm very impressed that herbal tea is working as a substitute for you. Hot chocolate sometimes does it for me, or hazelnut lattes, but something with no calories in it? I doubt it!

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    1. I totally agree! I was drinking such slop before I met Seb (my other exes didn't drink wine)! He's opened my eyes to some excellent wines that run in the 7 to 15 euros range which totally adds up.

      Oh I hear you. I so need the calories too, I do tea with a splash of vanilla soy and an almond biscotti on the side. I can still indulge, it's winter! Hot cocoa doesn't sound like a bad idea either...hmmmmm...thanks for the suggestion! :)

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  15. I love the illustration you've chosen; so cute!

    "Both H&M's" haha. I was there last week; I rocked the sales for once in France (1st time)! I've never heard of BHV; will try and remember to go there next time I'm in Paris!

    The way you described this story- wow I felt like I was right there! The Kusmi tea sounds nice- I love tea. (My bf just asked me if I'd like a tea while writing this LOL!) I'm tempted now... How is Prince Vlad? ;)

    P.S. As a major foodie, I went & Googled Stracciatella Soup. Since I already have homemade chicken stock that I prepped last night, I may whip one of tomorrow! Yum!

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    1. Thanks Dana! The illustration was all too perfect! The red wine forming a heart in her glass...so perf!

      Seriously, on rude de rivoli, there are two H&M's about 6 minutes apart from each other. I love it because they actually do have different offerings, one has more of their fashion forward pieces and the other had more of the basics. I'm a big fan of this set-up!

      The Prince Vladimir is really good - it's citrus, Russian spices (whatever those are), bergamot, and vanilla. It's warm, spicy AND refreshing. I'm pleased with the purchase.

      I'm going to post the recipe this weekend with photos! It's the ultimate winter soup for us wops. ; )

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    2. I actually found a recipe online and made it last night: DELICIOUS! Looking fwd to your recipe. I'm thinking of putting some homemade dumplings in it next time for fun (kind of like an Italian wonton-eggdrop soup haha). I grew up with tortellini soup; but I had so much of it growing up that I don't crave it much now. I've been making potimarron and butternut squash soups these days; but they are more time-consuming. Stracciatella's my new go-to (and I love saying the name, although I bet I'm pronouncing it wrong, ha)!

      I've been to one of the H&M's on Rivoli; I'm guessing it was a basics one because I picked up a basic. :) I do remember seeing another one nearby, but didn't enter b/c I thought it would be the same. Good to know for next time!

      The tea sounds delightful. There's a nice tea place that sells Kusmi around the corner from me- I may just pick one up (yeah, I buy a lot of tea, but it goes quick.. and lots of food. That's where my money goes daily. I love coffee too; my bff recently sent me some from d'Amico, in Brooklyn, for xmas!).

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  16. Ipad comments do not seem to want to post and <I pullled half the letters off my laptop keyboard, so excuse typos. I'm trying to cut dow supermarket trips at the mo to save money, <I also tend to run in evvery couple of days fo one thing and eleave with 10 things and it adds up! Eek, thankfully <I nevver seem to run into people here, despite it being a small plaace (not that I'm awash with exes anyway)

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    1. Hi Gwan!!!

      Isn't that how it always works? You go to the market for ONE thing and you leave with 10! I was doing that every day and was wondering why I didn't have extra money at the end of the month because I don't really shop or splurge at restaurants. I already notice a difference financially now that I go to the market once a week for food. My bank card is happy too! She can breathe! : )

      What happened to your laptop? Were you cleaning in between keys or did you get pissed off a pluck a few of them off? I've done both. : )

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    2. I spilt something AGAIN and I read online that you can pull the keys off and they just snap back on afterwards... Not so much!! I bought an external keyboard, but sometimes too lazy to stick it on.

      Unfortunately a once a week shop is a bit hard too owing to having to carry everything home! Thought about a basket on wheels but I think it would be just as much of a pain carrying that up to the 3rd (4th) floor, so... For the moment, I have so much in my pantry and freezer that I usually ignore because I can't be bothered cooking meat or whatever that I'm trying to eat my way through all of that.

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  17. Kusmi Tea is my favorite! Their Tchai and Jasmine Green Tea are excellent. I have faith that you'll manage just fine with dry Sun-Thurs. ;-)

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    1. Thanks Diane! I'll definitely check out the Tchai the next time. I was overwhelmed with all of their delicious flavors that I thought it was best to start with their most popular blend. I can't wait to explore their other flavors. Vanilla Bourbon and the Almond green tea were calling me. : )

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  18. I've been drinking tea or hot chocolate at night, and I have to say I've really been loving it. Especially the hot chocolate. :)

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    1. Mmmmm, I bet! Hot cocoa ALWAYS does the trick. Liquid warm chocolate? How could it not?! Meredith, are you much of a wine drinker?

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  19. Oh, I know what you mean about cutting down "unnecessary" stuff.

    I don't spend much $ on wine because I don't drink that often but I do spend too much money on other things that I don't need or should not consume, that when added up would easily pay for an airplane ticket to somewhere.

    Not easy to quit drinking (or anything) everyday I suppose, but it will definitely help your bank account, your liver and your silhouette if you just do it on weekends and special occasions. And having a wedding to look forward to must be a good motivator!

    Good for you!




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    1. Hi Sylvia! It's always when you add it up does it feel like a lot! A few bucks here and there doesn't seem like a big deal but it really does add up. I'm already feeling the financial relief from not spending the equivalent of 13 bucks a day. Why didn't I do this sooner?!

      The wedding is definitely motivating me to stay on track. We just got our invitations last night!!! It's real now! AHHHHH!

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  20. You truly know how to set the scene for us readers. I internally cringe(albeit, a little) at the in ear chew because that sounds like something I would do.

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    1. Thanks Marjorie! I'm glad you were able to feel my embarrassment in all its glory. : ) Hahahahha!! I had no choice because my mouth was so STUFFED that I had to get some of the food down. It was either him watching me chew it or quickly doing it in his ear. I chose the latter. : )

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  21. NOOOOOOOOOO! Not the WIIIINNEE!
    This is too traumatic.
    But in the interest in full disclosure, I'm trying to cut down too (SO freaking difficult in France). I'm hoping to shift some of the French 15 and fit into my Dublin clothes. I've been drinking Perrier with lime slices out of a pretty glass with a pretty straw to try and trick myself into thinking that I'm drinking something fun and not just fizzy water. So far my brain and my taste buds have not been tricked.

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    1. I know! The precious, beautiful, delicious winnnnnnnnne!!!! It really is tough here in France!! Every cafe I pass on my way home (which are MANY) have packed closed in terraces with folks enjoying an after work drink and I'm like "why not me?"...why not me? my mean inner voice asks, because I don't make enough money that's why!

      Your mock-tail actually sounds really refreshing. When I add mint to sparkling water, I trick myself into thinking it's a mojito...well sorta. Maybe give that a try! : )

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  22. Sounds rough, but fancy tea and a lovely wedding will balance it out! :)

    I haven't had wine since going to Asia, just because they don't really have it here. I miss it like crazy, and Thai whiskey is just not the same...

    The François story was hilarious. Worst timing ever, eek!

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    1. Hi Callie!

      (Sorry I'm jumping on these response a wee bit late) The wine break has actually been nice than I anticipated. I don't even look for it during the week. I'm really surprising myself.

      Wine doesn't really exist in Asia...hmm, come to think of it, when traveling through Japan, wine wasn't my drink of choice. It was mostly beer or sake.

      I need to head over to Wilds of Whatever to see what you're up to, your jet-setter, you!

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  23. This is too funny! I'm not sure I'd have the willpower to cut out wine, so I'm really impressed. ;) Good luck with the wedding preparations!

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    1. Thank you! The cut back on wine was NOT AT ALL easy at first but with each passing week (it's been almost 4), it's getting easier. If you told me this a few months ago that I wouldn't be searching for that end of day glass of wine, I would have called you crazy!

      Thank you for your comment!

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  24. I always think it must be difficult to give up wine in Paris because it is SO cheap!....in fact often a glass of wine is cheaper in a cafe than tea or coffee, which really annoys this tee teetotaller.

    Still good luck with the economising, and just think of the benefits for getting into THE dress, which I am (we are all) anxiously awaiting the hunt for.

    I just bought some very nice honeybush Bio Rooibos tea this afternoon in Neutralia, the organic food chain. They seem to have a nice selection. Probably cheaper than Kusmi too.

    Love Denise

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    1. You're so right, Denise. A glass of wine is cheaper than a coke and DEFINITELY cheaper than a pot of tea (something I really don't get!).

      I'm pretty stocked up on teas, but will check out Naturalia when I run out. I bought Kusmi more as a reward for this lifestyle change. The tin is huge, I see it lasting me at least two months! I got my money's worth. : )

      Hint: The dress has been designed and the fabric has been bought. : )

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  25. Ps... I can TOTALLY identify with the bumping into an old boyfriend story. So funny!...even though we have moved on and are happy, and actually I didn't fancy him that much in the first place, a girl has her pride!!!

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    1. Hahaha definitely! We always want to feel like "the one who got away"!

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  26. I'm only, oh, about three years late commenting...but your descriptions are so funny, it sounds like the script of a movie almost.

    My greatest expense is food, so I empathise with you. Cheeses (preferrably raw milk, and goat), anything with truffle (even if it is just a molecule of it), mushrooms of any kind, dark chocolate, etc. etc. So to me tight budget means a bored palate.

    I've read that the easiest way to break any habit is to substitute the "reward". Glad to hear tea somehow helped, must google what is in this price vladimir...

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