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Well This Should Be Fun: My Month Without Bread, Booze, or Boys (Part Three)

This post will make a lot more sense if you read Part One here and Part Two here!

January 15th, 2018

I wake up this morning not feeling guilty about indulging last night, not at all. It was delicious food and I had fantastic company, so I’m not beating myself up for enjoying life a little bit. And that’s the thing: this “experiment” (pretty sure others just call it “being sensible”) has always been about trying to create a healthier lifestyle for myself, not about deprivation. In my mind, healthy = happy, and a huge part of my happiness happens to include Italian food and red wine. It’s all about moderation, isn’t that what they say?

After making my favourite breakfast these days – two soft boiled eggs, an avocado, cherry tomatoes, and steamed spinach and mushrooms with chilli flakes – I realise that I really, really love eating like this. Fresh, real food, with nothing added. Again, for 99% of you reading this, you’ll be like, um yep, what took you so long? And how many boxes of Kraft dinner mac and cheese have you realistically eaten in your life?! But it has taken me actually cooking like this for a few weeks, actually prioritising eating healthy food, to make me understand that it’s totally possible; it just takes slightly more effort and slightly more (OK, a lot more) money.

It’s also possible for me to do all of this because I haven’t travelled in nearly six weeks. It’s a hell of a lot easier to eat like this, exercise regularly, and prioritise my health when I’m in my own kitchen and not on the road. And, with a big three week trip looming, I try to convince myself I’ll be all right and still be able to maintain my healthy lifestyle. Right? Right?!

Sarah and I head to the gym and spend time on the rowing machine, the elliptical machine, and lift a bunch of weights. Afterwards I head to the grocery store, where I stock up on a few essentials including a giant case of San Pellegrino water in glass bottles which is quite possibly the most cumbersome thing you can carry through a grocery store, through a parking lot, through your snowy yard, and into your house. I swear this was tougher than any of the weight machines I did tonight, and I’m feeling mighty smug that I manoeuvred it on my own.

Is that not the most perfect looking breakfast of all time? Taken at The Hive in E2, London

January 16th, 2018

Today I do some behind-the-scenes work on this blog after I complete all of my freelance work. If you’ve been reading for a while you know that I HATE the design with a passion, so I’m currently working on making the site slightly more user-friendly (there are 800+ posts on here, and while approximately 750 of them should probably never see the light of day, I’d like to be able to highlight older work and also make it so that you fall down the rabbit hole and keep reading article after article *cue maniacal laughter*).

Last year, I wrote a post called I Feel Bad About My Blog that, much like every other post that does well on this blog, was totally spontaneous and written off-the-cuff. In re-reading that article, I realise that I’ve actually started fixing a lot of what has been bugging me, and all in the past two weeks. I’ve hired someone to help me with a new newsletter (and when I say “new”, I mean… “first”). I finally hired someone to help me with switching themes (because do I really have to drop $7000 on a custom theme? Really?? Can’t I just travel for four months with that money instead? *wonders why I’m not one of the top bloggers in the world*). This same person is designing a kickass new header, one that matches who I am and the vibe I want this blog to portray (no, it’s not just an empty whisky bottle).

I’m doing a lot of things to ensure that I’ll feel super motivated to write a lot, but also doing a lot of things to transition my career so that it focuses less on working for other people (i.e. freelance writing and editing) and more on working for myself and this blog. It feels so good to care this much about something, and I truly believe that eating clean and working out is going to help my business grow stronger than ever. The healthier I feel, the more I write and the more I work.

Stop mocking me, delicious anchovy bruschetta

As I’m working, I hear a strange popping sound. I can’t quite place it; it sounds like it’s coming from inside the house, but it’s also weirdly distant. I hear a few more pops, chalk it up to icicles or something to do with the freezing weather – it’s due to get down to -26 tonight before windchill – and ignore it. It’s only when I go downstairs and check my mailbox that I realise what’s happened: last night I freaking forgot the giant case of San Pellegrino sparking water in my front hall – which isn’t insulated – and EVERY SINGLE GLASS BOTTLE HAS FROZEN AND EXPLODED IN THE CASE! What. The. HELL. I am such an idiot. There goes a solid twenty minutes of struggling with this case last night and about $25 worth of sparkling water. I feel like there’s a lesson in smug karma in there somewhere, but I just grab a glass of tap water and hope for the best instead.

I head to the gym around 5pm, which is the dumbest possible time to go to the gym; I usually go in the afternoon or the evening, but at this point I hit both rush hour traffic and the after-work gym rush. I still manage over an hour and then cook salmon and roasted vegetables, which I eat while watching The Mummy 3, which is a terrible, terrible movie.

Have I ever written about how many movies I watch? I don’t think so, if I can recall all million or so words I’ve put on this blog in the past eight years. I watch a lot of fantastic movies – incredible films that have changed minds and changed filmography, movies that have made me laugh and cry and think and get angry and fall in love, movies that made me study film for two years – but dear Lord, I also watch a lot of shit. Like, I kid you not, here are some of the terrible, horrible, how-did-this-get-made movies I have watched MORE THAN ONCE:

Sharknado

Sharknado 2: The Second One

-every single romantic comedy ever made from 1986 to 2008 (we’re talking serious knowledge here. I mean, sure, we’ve all seen The Cutting Edge, but how many of us can claim we’ve seen The Cutting Edge 2… twice?!)

The Crush

Poison Ivy

Happy Birthday to Me

Piranha 3D

Piranha 3DD

Troll 2 (please note, NOT related to the movie Trolls, which I cannot bring myself to watch because JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. I would seriously watch Piranha 3DD every single day of my life to avoid watching or listening to anything involving Justin Timberlake. You know that game “Which five famous people would you like to have dinner with?” Well I can tell you what I would answer if the question were, “Which five famous people would you NEVER want to have dinner with?” Justin Timberlake would be on there, for so many reasons. Obviously I’m not including actual evil people on this list – I can’t see wanting to dine with a great majority of past world leaders, for example – but JT is definitely up there, followed closely by Lena Dunham. OK, rant over)

Showgirls (c’mon now, this movie is secretly kind of awesome)

The Room (again, this movie is actually amazing. I have seen it more times than I can count and have even met Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero)

Slightly Excited to Have Met Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero Last Night

A post shared by Brenna Holeman (@thisbatteredsuitcase) on

I would say, on average, that I watch about a movie a day, sometimes more. I KILL at any type of movie trivia, and, along with the geography, entertainment, and language categories, spend an exorbitant amount of time playing movie trivia quizzes online. I am willing to go on the record right now that I watch a lot of movies because I would like everyone reading this to refer back to this paragraph the next time I talk about not having enough time to do anything.

And if anyone ever needs a quote-along partner for Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura, Wayne’s World, any Indiana Jones movie, Dazed and Confused, Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire, Fried Green Tomatoes, Stand By Me, Airplane!, Groundhog Day, The Breakfast Club, Heathers, A League of Their Own, Jurassic Park, Pretty in Pink, Clueless, The Shawshank Redemption, Goodfellas, Beetlejuice, Robin Hoods: Men in Tights, Home Alone, Legally Blonde, The First Wives Club, The Mummy 1 or The Mummy 2, and way too many others (AKA this is getting embarrassing if you add up how many hours I’ve spent staring at a screen)… I’m your gal. Just don’t ask me to quote The Mummy 3, because that movie is truly bad.

It’s no surprise, then, that if somebody asks me what I’m looking for in a guy to date, I very often say, “pop culture knowledge” (along with “big thighs”. I love a man with big thighs and big hands. We all have our things, right?). I mean, duh, I’d like him to be nice and funny and polite, but what I’m truly holding out for is someone to sit around and watch movies with. And when we’re not watching them, we’re quoting them.

And for the record, gentlemen, my favourite movie of all time is Some Like It Hot.

Some weird cocktail I drank in Zanzibar

January 17th, 2018

My third day in a row at the gym today and I am TIRED. I love having Sarah as a gym buddy because we are so similar; we were both anxious to try the stair-climbing machine on our own and so we try it together. Do you know what this thing is? Not a stairmaster (I feel like that’s the kind of machine that was in every mum’s mini basement gym in the mid-80s) but an actual rotating flight of stairs that I’m sure, when used, is providing energy to stoke the flames of hell. Sometimes I see really fit women using these things for over half an hour at a time and once in a while, someone who looks like they should be on the cover of Health magazine will actually use the machine AND do squats and leg lifts WHILE ON IT.

Sarah and I climb stairs for exactly five minutes, which is the equivalent of eleven flights of stairs, and sweet pancakes, that is a workout. I am drenched in sweat instantly. And much to my horror, I’m into it. All of sudden I see myself wearing a matching sports bra and leggings and being that girl who does leg lifts on a rotating staircase.

It’s amazing what five minutes of doing something you were always so scared of doing will do for the soul (and for the ass, because my glutes are on fire).

Quite possibly the best pasta I’ve ever eaten (in the tiny Umbrian town of Citerna)

January 18th, 2018

Today is my last day in Winnipeg for a while, and wouldn’t you know it, I feel kind of… sad. Years ago, I would do just about anything to be able to leave Winnipeg and go explore a new place, but it’s funny what two decades will do to a person. *cough*

I’ve been here for about six weeks now, and it has pretty quickly felt like home again… but a new kind of home. While I’ll only be living here for five to six months of the year going forward, already I’m falling in love with life here: with seeing my friends and family nearly every day; with being able to afford just about anything I need or want to do (compared to constant budgeting in London); with having a beautiful office full of books and sunshine; with feeling really healthy and happy. I’m taking off for the next three weeks, first flying to Vancouver to see my brother, then heading on a sponsored Topdeck tour of Western Canada, followed by nine days in the USA (Arizona and Nevada) with my dad. I’m nervous, because me + travelling = straight-up hedonism. We’re talking hollandaise sauce at every breakfast and wine and bourbon at every lunch and dinner, with little to no exercise in between. I really don’t want to undo everything I’ve worked hard to achieve this month so far.

After working in the morning and some light resistance band exercises at lunch (my muscles are SORE from three days in a row at the gym), my dear friend Rikki comes over for coffee. We then decide we simply must drive out to Value Village, a chain thrift store, to look for vintage coats and pottery, two of the best things in this world. And I don’t know what vintage gods are smiling down on me today, but I score six new ’70s inspired vases plus a fuzzy black winter jacket PLUS a sick ’80s leather belted bomber that makes me want to quote Top Gun all day. All this for under $50. Take that, London.

I then go home to pack the most ridiculous suitcase known to woman, because I am going to places that range in temperature from -25 to +25, with every kind of scenario possible. I decide on: three winter jackets (I can’t very well leave Top Gun bomber at home now, can I, despite it legitimately weighing six pounds), two laptops, snow boots, flip flops, six kimonos/dusters (it’s an addiction), two pairs of wide-leg, high-waisted culottes (“and she wonders why she’s single”), long johns, bathing suits, and every single thing I own that has sequins, because VEGAS BABY. The suitcase weight 49.5 pounds and it is quite possibly the worst packing job I’ve ever done, but I’m sure I’ll be able to scrounge something together when I’m on a snowy mountain or in the desert or winning millions at the blackjack table.

Wine-tasting in London, which I definitely don’t dream about every single night

Tonight is a very special night because my family is celebrating my sister Zalie’s birthday. Even though her birthday isn’t until the 26th, because I’m going away tomorrow we decide to take tonight to party. For the second time this month already I break my vow of no bread and no booze, because I eat and drink like a medieval king one turkey leg away from gout. We’re talking filet mignon, lobster tails, calamari, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, escargot, and garlic bread, all washed down with Manhattans, red wine, and champagne. Again, I can’t really fault myself for this; it’s my goddamn sister’s birthday, after all, and if ever I get to stuff my face with snails dripping with oil on a buttery piece of French bread, it’s tonight.

We end the night back at my dad’s house with more wine, more laughter, and a sinking feeling in my heart that – for perhaps the first time in my life – I’m not that excited to travel. That maybe, for the first time in my 33 years, I’m feeling like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Then again, it could just be the half-litre of butter I just ingested.

Well now I’m just being cruel with these photos… amazing cheesecake in Berlin

January 19th, 2018

Surprise, surprise, I wake up with a terrible stomachache. I fly to Vancouver, give my brother Kitt a huge hug, and instantly buy a shit-ton of wine, bread, and cheese. Uh oh.

January 20th, 2018

A few wheels of cheese, two bottles of wine, and one viewing of Robin Hood: Men in Tights last night, but I’m trying to remain positive that, despite now cheating THREE times in one week, I can still stay healthy over the next month.

To celebrate that positivity, Kitt and I go to a restaurant called Yolks where I consume Eggs Benedict made with pork belly. All righty then. I guess eating healthy starts again this evening.

After an afternoon at the movies (we see The Disaster Artist, which will only truly make sense if you’ve seen The Room… my brother is a huge fan as well), we go to a fantastic restaurant called Tacofino where we get – spoiler – tacos. Tacos and nachos, to be exact. OK fine, tacos and nachos and margaritas, lots of them. FUCK.

We then head to this awesome little bar called The Den where we drink a bunch of shots, play Mario Kart against each other, and are somehow miraculously allowed to handle darts. I remember at one point chugging a beer, but I have no recollection of buying a beer. DOUBLE FUCK.

The first of many margaritas

January 21st, 2018

OK, wow. I am so ridiculously hungover today. This is not good. This is not good at all.

I roll out of bed (off of the couch, more like it) with a splitting headache. Two aspirin, a litre of water, and a hot shower later, I’m feeling mildly better, but still not like myself: groggy, cloudy, zombie-esque. See?! This is exactly why I wanted to give up drinking! As much fun as I had last night, I’m not convinced that this feeling is worth it anymore. After so many years of drinking – shocking to some, I first got drunk at 13 with some friends at a party held in some chick’s basement where I downed a bunch of rye and then passed out in a snowbank… not my finest moment – I’m just over feeling this wrecked the next day. I can actually feel the damage my body and my brain have had to endure just because I was unable to say no to a few more shots or a few more beers. And for what? I feel like crap. I’m also really, really disappointed in myself.

Despite this, I walk down Granville Street to meet an incredible friend of mine, Ornella. As soon as I see her, the hangover melts away; we met in 2008 while we were both living and working in Japan, and have even travelled together. We’ve kept in close contact all these years, and it’s so amazing to see her in Vancouver. After a few coffees and many hours of catching up, I don’t feel as bad about the debauchery the night before. We’re only human, right? Please tell me I’m right.

After hugging Ornella goodbye, I head to The Morrissey Pub, where I meet a group of really fantastic, funny, smart women who show up for my Vancouver meet-up. I like to do these meet-ups once in a while because it’s so cool to meet people in person, especially if we’ve known each other online for years. Some of the women who show up have been commenting on this blog and its social media for years, and that just blows my mind. Over a pint of slightly stale ginger ale, sitting in a pub in rainy Vancouver, I’m reminded once again how much I love blogging: it connects me to so many incredible people. I ever forget that I’m supposed to be angry at myself and spend the next few hours feeling on top of the world.

Sadly, by the time the sun has set and the aspirin has completely worn off, my brother and I decide that the easiest thing to do is to order pizza, so I’m once again in the penalty box (or perhaps kicked out for the season). We watch The Princess Bride before I fall asleep at 8pm, glasses on head, pizza crusts by my side.

I swear – I swear! – next week I’ll do better. Only four days of reverting back to eating junk and drinking booze and I can feel a difference in both my waistline and my spirit. And I mean, can you imagine if I had thrown some men in there just for shits and giggles?! Game over.

As I’m drifting off, I start to make a plan for staying healthy, even while living out of a suitcase. And you know – it just might work.

Beer in Japan… kanpai/cheers!

Should I be so hard on myself for wanting a little bit of pizza, steak, tacos, red wine, tequila, chocolate bars (I just remembered I ate chocolate bars on Saturday night), beer, hollandaise sauce, pork belly… OK, let’s not continue this train of thought, that was a bad question, even if rhetorical. Do you think less or more of me knowing that I have willingly chosen to watch Piranha 3D more than once? Do you think I’ll be able to stay healthy again, even when on a group tour that involves a legendary pub crawl? Stay tuned for the next instalment…

And if you’d like to read last year’s attempt at a month without alcohol and men… start here!

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18 Responses to Well This Should Be Fun: My Month Without Bread, Booze, or Boys (Part Three)

  1. Ange January 29, 2018 at 12:17 pm #

    Even if you wish to see The Mummy 3 another time (let’s even say with white wine, garlic and escargots – what can I say – yay for France!) and even Piranha 3D (I draw my personal line at Sharknado 2, I stopped after the first, haha!), I can safely say we love you even more knowing that, and still think the best of you!

    Good luck with working on your website, we know we will like it in the end!
    Much Love from France (an come taste our wines from the South!)
    Ange

    • Brenna Holeman February 7, 2018 at 9:23 am #

      Thank you so much, Ange! I really appreciate that… even with all the bad movie choices 😉

  2. Kelsey January 29, 2018 at 12:28 pm #

    Can I just say, I adore your taste in movies (Robin Hood: Men in Tights AND Princess Bride AND The Mummy AND all the others? You rock)!

    • Brenna Holeman February 7, 2018 at 9:23 am #

      Ha ha, thank you, Kelsey!!

  3. cate January 29, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

    I needed this to start Monday right! Don’t worry about splurging girl, we all need a bit of fun sometimes. Besides, that sounds way too fun to pass up!!

    • Brenna Holeman February 7, 2018 at 9:23 am #

      Thank you so much, Cate! 😀

  4. India January 29, 2018 at 3:02 pm #

    I swear you and I are the same person sometimes. I feel like we have the exact same taste in food & alcohol (damn good taste, that is). I’m also trying to go to the gym more often as of January, eat less carbs and junk food (and eat less overall) and drink less alcohol, and it’s going okay so far! I’m going on a solo trip to Romania & Bulgaria in about a month though and I totally agree that it’s harder to be healthy when you’re travelling….I mean have you seen Bulgarian food? It looks freaking amazing and it’s like 90% meat, cheese and carbs! Pray for me

    Oh and you like Sporcle too?! I spend like all my free time on there. That, and Geoguessr.

  5. Victoria January 29, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

    It’s funny how much you hate your site’s design, because I REALLY love it. It feels homey (that’s not an insult I swear) and is so much different from the all-white, minimalist trend that a lot of people have. Although if you like your next web design, I’m sure we all will too!

  6. Edna January 29, 2018 at 11:48 pm #

    I just wanted to say I love that you love Some Like it Hot. One of my faves since childhood!

    • Brenna Holeman February 7, 2018 at 9:50 am #

      Yes!! Such a great film…

  7. Laura January 30, 2018 at 12:08 am #

    You crack me up! I also attempted a dry month as this would be my fifth year, but had a company party, two birthdays and three friends visiting from out of town and….I failed hardcore. I will be attempting a dry Feb next month but hedonistic expat life in Saigon mixed with a vacation to Thailand has me wondering if that’s possible. I really gotta try though as I’ve gained quite a bit of weight this month due to several benders and lots of curries/burritos/fries/Oreos/personal pizzas. Whatevs – it’s all worth it despite the minor regrets. YOLO, and all that jazz, right?! Right… 😛

  8. Leandra January 30, 2018 at 2:08 am #

    I was so freaking EXCITED to see your third installment! Not that I’ve been checking every day or anything — ahem. Thanks for the Monday treat. 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing your new site design. Your blog and Adventurous Kate’s are, to me, two of the most authentic, long-running travel blogs. And so it’s ironic that you both also still have pretty old-school design. It says something for you that your blog doesn’t look like all the other templates. Thus, I’m particularly eager to see what new website wizardry you have up your sleeve.

  9. Paige January 30, 2018 at 3:11 am #

    This post was such a delight; I laughed so hard at the stair climber and the contents of the suitcase that I’m pretty sure my upstairs and downstairs neighbors could hear. Also, on my flight back from Amsterdam this fall, I watched Clueless, then Working Girl, and then Notting Hill, and these three were so perfect together for the plane (and all ones I’ve seen a zillion times) that I’m not sure how I’m going to top that ever again. Shout out to Delta inflight entertainment?! Anyway. Best series ever and I can’t wait to go to a meet up someday! 🙂

  10. Katie January 30, 2018 at 8:48 am #

    “Call the locksmith!” haha
    I think for next year your resolution should just be to not be so hard on yourself. Period. Eat moderately, drink moderately, travel moderately… and just love yourself. It’s easier said than done (I know), but if we could all work on this one thing a bit more, the rest would fall into place. 🙂

    P.S. I met D.B. Sweeney. He’s a huge supporter of the military and screened a newer movie of his awhile back on the base where my husband worked. The film was sponsored by Hooters and he thought my sister and I were Hooters girls when we showed up which was kind of insulting/flattering. Anyway he was nice enough to say “toe pick,” but the encounter lacked luster and I would probably wouldn’t invite him to my celebrity dinner.

  11. Laura January 30, 2018 at 3:40 pm #

    I adore movies too. And though I do love good movies, something about bad movies also appeals to me. It must be that I grew up watching the bad SciFi movies on TV. But I’ve seen so many bad movies and, kind of, like them. So I definitely hear you on the movies. I’m kind of obsessed. (Plus I love Robin Hood Men In Tights & The Princess Bride!)

    I also started recently using the stair climbing machine at the gym. I can only do it for 10 minutes without collapsing into a puddle. It is the hardest cardio (but maybe not cardio) workout I can do. And since I hate running with a passion, it’s now my go to. Maybe I can one day work up to doing 20 minutes without staring at the timer and just hoping/praying it counts faster.

  12. Katie January 31, 2018 at 5:20 am #

    This could be my a day in my life – when I’m home in NZ and temping, with a routine, I manage to do so well (in the week – I let myself eat and drink anything I want in the weekends) but as soon as I start traveling, which is about 9 months of the year, it goes largely out the window. I can’t seem to get it out of my head that travel = holidays = indulgence, despite travel being a constant for 2.5 years now. So I feel ya!

  13. Indy January 31, 2018 at 11:15 am #

    I’m trying to get fit and eat better this year as well (which will be difficult when moving in with my Italian-Australian boyfriend whose diet consists only of meat, cheese and pasta, and doesn’t exercise because he is blessed with a decent metabolism). My main motivation for doing it is so I can do the Camino de Santiago in 2019, which neatly fits in with my obsession to fit travel goals into any other part of my life. I want to be able to walk all day and climb hills and mountains!

  14. Al February 15, 2018 at 10:34 pm #

    Oh my gosh I relate so hard to his post. When you first start building a strict exercise/healthy eating routine, it can feel like a spiritual reawakening. But after a while, the routine, like routines, becomes oppressive, and then you’re like fuck this I want a burrito. Yep. Been there. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Happy travels!

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