It’s been over a month since the dry year has ended and it’s time to say so long to this writing project and move on to the next. It is only right that I put into words what the last month has been like as it relates to alcohol. There have been some good times and one not-so-good time.

First the good…

I have enjoyed socializing at the holidays indulging in a vodka martini or some wine. I finally started to consume and experience the wine that I have purchased from Club W (my wine club) including a couple of nice wines from André Mack. My brother and his wife also brought me a bottle of my favorite potato vodka from Maine, Cold River. Honestly, martinis have never tasted so good.

I have also observed that the special novelty that I felt the first week of drinking faded quickly, and the act of having a drink at the end of the day is once again “normal.” By this, I mean the excitement wore off soon after commencing the drink ritual again. This is not really a bad thing. I am able to feel less attached to having drinks, especially when it looks like a long night at a party. In fact, my brother and I had a pact this year at the family Christmas party that we wouldn’t drink just in case anyone needed a designated driver. It did not feel like a sacrifice to make this decision. It felt good to realize that it isn’t a big deal to abstain at a party—I’ve had lots of experience with that sort of thing now.

Now the bad….

On December 1st, when I announced that I was going to have my first drink, many people warned me to “be careful” as my tolerance would be shot and I could “get really drunk.” I had experienced a small change in the amount that I could consume but I thought it was nothing too extreme. So, I began to have a false sense of confidence in my ability to throw a few back. Then we invited friends over for dinner and a round of the board game, Masterpiece. Oh Lord.

photo(1)I had a glass of wine while cooking alone in my kitchen (one glass over the course of an hour or two). I had the stereo turned up, and I was having a good time roasting chicken and vegetables and laying out snacks. Then our friends arrived and thinking I should drink some of that good vodka, I had a martini with dinner. Game time began and bottles of wine were opened. OK, maybe I opened them. I really don’t know how much wine I drank. We were having a lot of fun, refilling our glasses and I was at home, no need to drive. Then I got up to see our guests to the door and it was NOT pretty. Whooosh! The room was tippy and I was slurry. That did not feel good. I felt like I was back in college not having any idea when to stop.

Once everyone left, my head got spinning and my stomach was churning. Needing to get off my feet immediately, I fell asleep on my son’s empty bed not wanting to move my body far from the lavatory, and Philip went upstairs to sleep. Around 3:00AM, my stomach had calmed down and I joined my husband with the worst headache I have ever experienced. Staying in bed until noon the next day, I forfeited a precious day of my vacation feeling downright rotten. There was no recouping that loss.

Did I really need this lesson? I should have known better. I should have listen to my friends. I was embarrassed at how intoxicated I had gotten. Why did I do this? I guess, I can only chalk it up to this… sometimes we get over confident and have to learn the hard way, no matter how old we are. In the end, I am grateful for this drunken experience for one reason only. It made me appreciate being sober after all of those months of wanting to have a drink. The table was turned (in fact, the whole room was spinning) and the last few days I have embraced my ol’ friend abstinence and looked back at being sober in a new light.



Here we are 2 days from the end of this year-long project. Reviewing the events of yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast and thinking about the year gone by, I am overcome with a sense of contentment. On Thanksgiving, surrounded by family, we shared a delicious meal followed by a long walk and our favorite parlor game, Guggenheim. I never felt deprived during cocktail hour. I think I have gotten pretty adept at creating suitable substitutions. My 14 year-old niece, Meg and I cracked open a bottle of cranberry kombucha and shared that in place of the wine. I was pleased to find that she really liked this beverage.


Portrait of Meg

Our beautiful college-aged niece, Charlotte, was happy to drink some wine “for me.”


Portrait of Charlotte

Looking back, one year ago, I would have drunk the wine that was served (which is too sweet for my taste) and battled a headache for the rest of the afternoon. It was just too difficult to resist, and I didn’t have any distance or perspective from my choices. Now, with the realization of how simple it is to abstain on occasions when the Yellow Tail Chardonnay is flowing, the future may look different. Perhaps through this blog, I can warn my future-self not to drink the stuff and hold out for occasions where I can enjoy the experience of drinking alcohol.

The days leading up to the end of this blog have been a little emotional. Experiencing a full range of reactions to the ending of this project fits into my awareness of who I know I am and who I have always been. The fact is that I have a terrible time saying goodbye to people or ending anything, be it a college degree, a project, a relationship or a trip to see a loved one. I often break down and cry when saying goodbye to my kids, and when I am at a funeral, I become a blubbering fool. The tears are often uncontrollable, and I struggle to get my emotions under wraps. I’ve paid enough for therapy over the years to be able to state with clarity that this  trait stems from my parents’ divorce and the fact that my heart broke every week for years when saying goodbye to my father. This has shaped me, and I am not sorry for that.

As thoughts of ending this blog enter my mind, I feel a sense of loss and sadness. It starts in the heart and moves up to my throat. I have to breathe and just let it be. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what I have gained through this experience. What behaviors will emerge as a result of this dry year? Although I can’t yet speak to how this will affect me in the future, I can make a few conclusions about what I have learned.

1. I do not have a drinking problem. This is probably the most valuable piece of information that I have attained. I was questioning my habit, and it was really bothering me. Was my nightly drink ritual after work a problem that I needed to deal with? Was I heading in a direction where this would lead to alcohol addiction? Was I already addicted? Although it was probably not the best coping mechanism for me to use when dealing with stressful situations, I know now that I am not an alcoholic. I have come to peace with having a nightly drink, if I so chose. When giving myself the distance to really look at my behavior and assess whether it was bad or good, I concluded that it was not detrimental to my well-being.

2. I enjoy wine. It is an essential and necessary part of creating great meals for myself, my family and my friends. Simply put, wine goes with food and I have missed it. I love to make good food and share it with people that I love. Not drinking wine takes away joy from eating, preparing and serving meals. I plan to drink better wine, try new wine, and learn more about pairing wine with meals. Guilt will not be invited to dinner.

3. I love to write and take pictures. This blog has brought me immense satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Formulating thoughts, playing with various concepts in my mind, and molding ideas into a shape and form has been one of the best experiences of my life. I knew in the beginning of this dry year that I would not be able to stick with this idea unless I had something to look forward to and a creative purpose. The pleasure of writing in this blog has far exceeded my expectations.

Tonight, I will have a martini with Philip and my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Bob. One year ago today, we all had a wonderful dinner together at Sperry’s Restaurant—It was restaurant week. I had a vodka martini straight up with olives and an iceberg wedge salad, two of my favorite things. The next day, I started the Dr. Oz three-day cleanse and my dry year concept was born. Creating this outlet for abstinence has been a great journey. So often, we forget our reasons for doing things or how we got to a particular place in our lives. I will forever be thankful for this dry year, for the chance to look back on this documentation and for the privilege of sharing this experience with you.



Visiting Old Friends


Lately, I am acutely aware of the passing of time. As the end of this project gets closer and closer, I find myself feeling very mixed. I want December 1st to arrive and yet, who would want to wish away a few weeks of a precious life.  A minor occurrence a couple of weeks ago brought these thoughts to the forefront of my mind.

Philip and I were spending the day in Boston. He was in market research for his job, and I was doing some research of my own on the makeup counter at Neiman Marcus. We were about to reunite in the evening when a little sandwich shop caught my attention. This place reminded me of the Putnam Market in Saratoga. It had a little bit of everything, great service, fantastic pre-made food items and creative sandwich combinations. I ordered a couple of pressed panini to take on the road and upon checking out, noticed an old friend….the pomegranate.  “Hey,” I said, “you’re back!”

You may recall one of my early blog entries where I discovered the ecstasy of consuming this now beloved fruit? Seeing the pomegranate, I was immediately thrown back to the early stages of this blog and the feeling of excitement for this project. The pomegranate will forever be the symbol in my mind of beginning this effort. In my heart, fondness arose. Seeing the pomegranate display at the market allowed me to experience this project coming full circle back to the beginning of a cycle and end of the year. I bought a few and took them home.

On the farm, the experience of coming to the end of a year is part of the daily routine; pulling up all of the irrigation, cutting down trellising, uprooting plants and disposing them in a compost pile. It is a bitter-sweet time. I feel an excitement for the upcoming Holidays, decorating the house, preparing meals with family and moving on to a quieter time. Yet, the decomposition on the farm is somewhat sad, saying good bye to all the plants, food and critters until next spring.


Lately, as I work, I daydream of an other old friend, a yoga practice. Returning to the yoga studio started out as an intellectual and rational idea. I pondered, “Maybe I should do yoga over the winter to stay strong for my work at the farm.” Then the idea became more visceral. I started craving a handstand or vinyasa. My back started asking for space to stretch. My legs started asking for elevation and rest. So, I listened and have returned to yoga and the many wonderful people who study at the studio, Yoga Mandali. It is joyful to revisit this area of my life that has been abandoned for the last few years. It is an opportunity to acknowledge all that has changed in my body, mind and spirit since the last time I got on the mat. And I love it.

This morning presented one more opportunity to embrace old friends. I came home from voting at the local election and realized that it is time to put up our bird feeder. If I had my way, it would be up all year but, Philip hates fussing with it all summer and mowing around it. He also hates the fact that the squirrels, who like the leftover seed below the feeder, kill the grass. So we compromise and put it out when the birds need it most during the late fall, winter and early spring.


I found the feeder tucked next to the house under the lilac trees and retrieved it. Grabbing a hammer from the basement and setting up a ladder, I pounded the pole that holds the feeder in the ground and set the whole thing upright in the middle of the yard. Then, I climbed the ladder and filled it to the brim. Within an hour, our little bird friends had returned. We are back in business. Hello, birds!

With 25 days left of my dry year, I know that I will always remember the time spent writing this blog, and this body of work will also become an old friend that I can revisit from time to time. For now, however, I think I will savor the last few of weeks and wait in patient anticipation of whatever else is yet to come.



My son, Sam, is home from California with his girlfriend, Kim, for 10 days. Our visit has been spent sightseeing, relaxing and making autumnal culinary delights at home. The temptation to indulge in alcohol has been pretty minimal as neither of them is much of a drinker. Retreating to Burlington, Vermont to visit Sam’s old UVM haunts, take in the fall foliage and eat good food, the road took a more challenging turn.

We arrived at The Vermont Hotel and got checked in. Quickly pounding the pavement, we explored Church Street, the University of Vermont and dined at our old favorite lunch spot, Magnolia. One of the main reasons that we made this trip was to see Sam’s old roommate, Anna. As students, Sam and Anna lived together for 2 years. Having new significant others in their lives since the days at UVM, it was nice that they could all meet each other at this point in time and catch up.

As the night began, I joined Sam and his friends for a round of drinks and then sent them off to dine without me. I returned to my room and watched a few innings of baseball payoffs. Being a Red Sox fan is great right now because they are doing so well. I discovered however that it’s kind of lame to be sitting in my hotel room alone. Convincing myself that it is okay to go to the bar to eat without buying a drink to watch the game, I made my way downstairs.


The scene was very friendly and being in Vermont, there were a lot of Red Sox fans in the bar. A couple of gentlemen sitting next to me even chatted me up about the team and one shared his best Red Sox memory. In high school he and his dad actually attended the turning point game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees in 2004. You know, the Dave Roberts pinch runner game where Papi hits the walk-off home run and the Red Sox dominate the series from that point forward and go on to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years? Continue reading

Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation


Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation

By Stanley Kunitz

Since that first morning when I crawled
into the world, a naked grubby thing,
and found the world unkind,
my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent
my brooding winter underground,
unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
into the air, free as a puff of cloud
to sail over the steaming fields,
alighting anywhere I pleased,
thrusting into deep tubular flowers.

It is not so: there may be nectar
in those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back
embedded in my flesh, two rows
of little white cocoons,
so neatly stacked
they look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.

If I can gather strength enough
I’ll try to burrow under a stone
and spin myself a purse
in which to sleep away the cold;
though when the sun kisses the earth
again, I know I won’t be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis
will break, like robbers from a tomb,
a swarm of parasitic flies,
leaving my wasted husk behind.

Sir, you with the red snippers
in your hand, hovering over me,
casting your shadow, I greet you,
whether you come as an angel of death
or of mercy. But tell me,
before you choose to slice me in two:
Who can understand the ways
of the Great Worm in the Sky?



I spent Wednesday morning in the farm’s high tunnel, where the majority of the tomatoes left on the vines reside. The regional public radio station, WAMC, has been holding its fund drive. Lately listening to the familiar voices recite the mantra of persuasion over and over again has consumed hours of my working days.  Call now! We have to end this fund drive! We can do it if everyone calls now. Dispersed between the cajoling, the repeated shout-out of the number 1 800 323 9262. 

I used to despise the fund drive on this station. However, commuting over the last 3 years, I have come to rely heavily on the WAMC news and programming and submitted to becoming a dedicated contributor. Feeling grateful for this station, the rhythms of the incessant, repeated call to action drove my work and created a canvas for my thoughts.

Picking tomatoes alone in a field or a green house can be boring work. It can take hours to reap the rewards and feeling of satisfaction at the end. On this day, I just let my mind wander to the sounds on the radio. What kept returning to this interaction between thought, tomato and radio was a nagging feeling that I was not going to enjoy the event that was scheduled at the end of the day—a leadership social hour. This feeling of dread was compounded in my solitude. What was this all about? Feelings of not wanting to see people, talk about my job, how my summer was, the kids emerged. Philip was traveling for work and I daydreamed of going home after work to write, hang with the dog, and eat chicken wings (my dirty little secret obsession).

This was the first time that I ever considered skipping one of these events. I love this organization and these people, right? Yet, I looked down at my hands stained with perma-dirt from harvesting and I couldn’t imagine blending with the regulars at the upcoming mixer. And my hair…it looked as if I was auditioning for a Phyllis Diller lookalike contest! Reminding myself that when upon arriving home I still clean up pretty well, I concluded that it must be something else that is different. I had to acknowledge that for the moment, I have lost the desire to attend social events. Happily, my days are spent observing the cycles of the farm and the beauty in and around these fields. Continue reading

Before and After

blog photo 1

Summer 2012

I hit the 9 month mark on September 1 and with that, I felt that a new blog entry was needed. I have been asking myself what I have learned of late. Over the course of this year, I have talked at length about the psychological and emotional aspects of taking time off from drinking and at this point, the physical component is worth exploring. I have refrained from making correlations between the lack of chardonnay pumping in my veins and any changes that have occurred with my physical body. The reason for this is that the body has momentum, and it takes awhile for changes to manifest after long periods of doing something a certain way. I wanted to give myself a long period of adjustment before jumping to conclusions on this topic.

I made some assumptions coming into this experiment:

  1. Physical ailments that created any level of suffering in my body would disappear.
  2. Eliminating the daily habit of a drink or two would generally create a positive change in my overall physical well-being.
  3. I would lose a signifiant amount of weight.

Before I stopped drinking, I blamed all physical issues on alcohol. This mental game added a layer of guilt and unhappiness to every glass of wine or vodka martini. I would tell myself, “If I just stopped this nightly drink, _______ would go away.” I don’t suffer from serious physical illnesses but I hoped that the seasonal allergies and digestive issues that I have dealt with for years would just disappear. Well, it just isn’t so. I can report with confidence that giving up a drink or two per day does not have a significant affect on these maladies. Surprisingly, I have seen little if any changes in the cyclical nature or the intensity of these physical issues.

As for the prediction that my overall well-being would benefit from a change in alcohol habits, that also has proven to be false. My doctor has examined, poked, prodded, weighed and measured me. Adding to this thorough investigation, I surrendered multiple test tubes of blood (this year and last) to find out that not a single statistic has changed in the last 12 months. I really don’t mean to complain because my overall physical health is pretty darn good. I just thought it would have gotten even BETTER with all of the sacrifices that I have made in the last 12 months.

The topper of course for any woman my age is the weigh issue. I predicted that I could immediately shed some pounds by giving up my daily indulgence of wine or martini. When I first stopped I noticed a change in my face, a little thinner. But after an initial 1-2 pounds, nothing happened. I continued to work at my desk job and stay diligent about running 3-4 nights a week. Philip even bought me a Nike Fuel Band so I could track my activity level. Nothing. For 7 months, not another pound was shed. Continue reading

The Great Parfait Debate


Saturday night was a lot of fun. We joined up with my Auntie and Uncle Bob for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Chez Pierre. This place is really one of a kind. It has been in business for many decades and has always been owned by the same family. You can count on seeing the same hostess (the owner), waitstaff, piano music and menu every time you step foot in the place. Normally, I like variation in a menu but I love the predicability of this special place.


In anticipation of dining out that night, I ran through the food choices in my mind and thought of all of the items that I love and would most likely order. This place is classically French in a very non-pretentious way. I would have to skip the martini and this felt disappointing. I LOVE ordering a martini straight up with olives to complement the paté that is brought to the table upon receiving your cocktail. Moving on, I thought about the clams casino that I would share with my Uncle and how he always orders the frog’s legs. I imagined that I might get the filet mignon with béarnaise sauce with the scalloped house potatoes. Oh joy! I just love the whole predictability of what will be offered and the homey feeling that comes along with the dining experience. And dessert…oh yes, dessert. I always, always, always order the creme de menthe parfait. That vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream drizzled in minty goodness with a cherry on top. Oh wait…screeeeeech. That ain’t gonna fly. There is alcohol in cream de menthe. Scratch that idea. Well, I guess that I will be skipping the martini AND my favorite dessert as well.

Our party of four arrived and met up with my Aunt and Uncle’s friends, Bob and Joan. It is always a lot of fun to go out with this crew. I have never had parents who enjoy socializing and my Aunt and her friends have adopted Philip and me in a warm and welcoming way. I feel greatly blessed being embraced by this cohort. For this evening, I was placed between the two Bobs, Uncle Bob and Bob the Friend.

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Hitting a Wall


This summer has definitely not turned out to be what I had envisioned. Let me say up front, that I am not complaining, simply observing. Back in January, I started a quest for change, focusing on less work and more time to think, write and be more left-brained. This goal was going to be achieved by working part-time at a job that appealed to my passions allowing me to get away from the stifling routine of daily cubical life.

Finding myself deep in the heart of summer and farm season and working full-time at 9 Miles East, I realized that there was little opportunity for taking much time off. Summer days are filled with harvesting, delivering vegetables and cultivating new rows of seedlings as old plants get retired to the soil. It is a highly creative and satisfying endeavor and the variety of important tasks is on many levels up-lifting. The work appeals to me; meeting goals with a beginning, middle and an end, using my body and mind to get the work done, watching the progress of the natural world (which is full of incredible surprises) and imagining future plans at the farm. It has been an exhilarating boost, yet lately my decision of taking a year off from drinking is weighing heavily on me.

It all started with our micro-vacation….

The question of a summer vacation had been put aside lately but an irresistible invitation showed up in my email and we just had to consider it. Not wanting the leave the farm for long at this time of year, Philip and I decided it was feasible to sneak away for what our friend Taylor dubbed a “micro-vacation.” This consisted of exactly 28 hours at the ocean—specifically, Essex, Massachusetts. Spontaneously, deciding to take this trip we loaded up the car and hit the road. We normally take a summer vacation ( 5-7 days) and this year, we were going to have to be satisfied with an abbreviated version of our usual trip to see our friends.

Ocean 2

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Camp, Kombucha and Controversy


Happy Fourth of July! It’s “camp time.” Every year for Independence Day, our family has an extended holiday at my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Bob’s camp about 40 minutes north of our home. My brother, sister-in law, nephew and a group of friends show up and our family descends upon the camp. It’s not a large place but we manage to have a great time without getting on each other’s nerves. The vast majority of our day is spent outside swimming, boating, skiing and tubing around the lake.

One of the best things about camp is the food and drinks. We cook out every night and eat amazing traditional American and Syrian cuisine (due to my uncle’s heritage). The refrigerator is filled with beer and alcoholic beverage options and one is hard pressed to find room for boring ol’ sparkling water or iced tea. Evenings are spent pouring cocktails, playing games and obsessing over puzzles (until our necks are so stiff we have to go to bed.)


This year, I brought a special treat to camp–my new-found love, Kombucha. Recently, Philip and I attended a music festival, Solid Sound at Mass MOCA and we discovered cold, freshly-brewed Kombucha on tap. The Vermont company, who produces the drink in small batches, served it over ice with fresh mint and lime. My God, it was good. Kombucha is the perfect drink after being in the sun all day at camp (or at the farm or a music festival.) The absence of sugar and the fizziness just hits the spot.


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