Toasting the New Year with a Drink of Water

Casey of Dressed to Code wears a black Women's North Face Stretch Thermoball down alternative jacket with black Madewell 10" high-rise denim and kodiak caramel leather insulated boots.
I’m looking forward to the new year, but I’m also looking back at what I’ll continue from years past.

It’s easy to see why people love the start of the new year so much. January 1 is the day we collectively start over and vow to do things differently, to make this year better than the last. It’s the time of resolutions and renewal. That said, I can’t remember the last time that a significant change I made started with a New Year’s resolution. Change doesn’t have to start with the beginning of the year, the month, or the week. Change starts whenever you’re ready and willing to do the work. Therefore, this post, primarily covering my drink habits, is the first in a mini-series covering some of the changes I plan to continue into the new year.

Health and Fitness

A new year’s post wouldn’t be complete without some mention of being active and eating right/better/healthier/etc. About a year ago, I was forced into making some dietary changes. It hasn’t been fun, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. Nonetheless, it has been worth it to lessen or eliminate some of the uncomfortable (or even painful) symptoms I was experiencing. As part of this change, I avoid certain foods, eat others in moderation, and maintain a minimum level of activity. To continue feeling better, I plan to continue doing all of these things into the new year.

Please note that I made these changes in consultation with my doctor, a licensed and experienced medical professional.

Gazing out on the lake from Mercer Island, Seattle, Washington.
Our 2nd annual Christmas Day bike ride was much colder than the first, but it was great to get back on the bike.

What I Drink and What I Don’t

Now, in my completely amateur opinion, I’ll quickly share what I believe to be an easy place to start if you’re looking to cut back on sugar or empty calories: what you drink. The habits I’m outlining here have developed over the years for a variety of reasons, but they work for me. Even better, I save a lot of money.

I drink water.

The vast majority of the time, I drink water. I know, we’ve all heard “drink more water,” but it really is incredibly beneficial in a variety of ways. Personally, I’ll drink a lot more water if it’s already in front of me (like at a restaurant) or easily accessible.We have become better at refilling our water glasses at least once during dinner, which has made a difference.

Unless you’re in a poisoned water situation like Flint, Michigan, skip the pre-bottled stuff (it’s expensive and terrible for the planet) and fill up on good old tap water. If you don’t like the taste, install a filter or use a filtered pitcher. Bring a bottle to take with you or keep in the car when you’re out and about; I love my hydroflask water bottle for keeping water cold on hot days. What changes could you inact to make drinking more water easier?

Plus, restaurants and other food establishments in the United States are often required to provide drinking water for free or a minimal “cup fee.” This savings adds up over time, leaving you more for more meals out or your savings account.

I don’t drink coffee.

I know this one isn’t going to be feasible for everyone, but I don’t drink coffee. Yes, I now live in Seattle. Before you try to tell me what I’m missing, I’ve never been interested; too much caffeine gives me a headache; and I save that money for other things. If you feel terrible when you cut back on the coffee (or soda), it’s likely because caffeine is a legitimate physical addiction and you’re undergoing withdrawal. If you do decide to cast off caffeine in the new year, know that the secret to waking up well isn’t coffee — it’s getting enough sleep.

I do drink tea.

Instead, I usually drink tea when I want something warm. Black tea (no cream, no sugar) is generally my first choice. Right now, I’m primarily drinking decaffeinated English Breakfast from Twinings which I bought in a 100 pack from Amazon (an excellent decision).

I sometimes drink fruit juice.

Sometimes I get a craving for fruit juice, especially a nice glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. If I do drink fruit juice, I try to make sure that what I’m drinking comes from an actual fruit and isn’t fruit flavored sugar water. You should also know that a naturally occurring chemical in grapefruits can interfere with certain medications. Check everything you’re taking for interactions before you choose that particular citrus. (Side note: unless you are severely dehydrated from the flu or serious exercise in the hot sun, your electrolytes are probably fine. Skip the sports drinks.)

I very rarely drink soda.

If I do drink soda, it’s on rare occasion and probably at a fancy event. I’ll order a non-alcoholic mixed drink when the occasion calls for it. (Side note: Trader Joe’s pomegranate limeade + tonic water is an easy mocktail.) Maybe once every two years I’ll get the hankering for a Coke and drink half a can. Soda has never been a big fixture in my diet, and that’s something I’m not going to change.

I sometimes drink hot chocolate.

Of course, if you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you know that I also love a good hot chocolate. For those dietary reasons I mentioned, I avoid hot chocolates made with dairy or soy milks and order almond or coconut milk if available. If not, I order tea. I don’t stock it at home, so hot chocolate is a treat usually reserved for cozy coffeehouse meetings with friends.

A croissant, latte, and hot chocolate from Storyville Coffee add a little something special to a meeting between friends.
The hot chocolate is mine. The latte isn’t.

I don’t drink alcohol.

Disclaimer: If this part of the post sounds defensive or overly aggressive, know that complete strangers have voiced very strong opinions on this personal decision of mine over the years, ranging from inappropriate to uncomfortable and even threatening. 

This is for several reasons, including those dietary restrictions I mentioned above. Several of my many reasons for not imbibing are deeply personal and not up for debate. No, avoiding alcohol doesn’t make me a prude or a buzzkill or anything like that. It also doesn’t tell you anything about my religious or political views. Yes, I have tried it, and no, there isn’t any drink out there that will change my mind.

For one thing, it seems that I smell alcohol much more strongly than other people. I’ve had plenty of “but you can’t even taste the alcohol” drinks shoved in my face, and they all reeked of booze to me. (In the spirit of full disclosure, there was a mixed-drink exception, but I’m 99.9% sure that person had actually been discretely cut off by their friends.)

I want to emphasize that I believe alcoholic beverages, in moderation, can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Many of my friends drink alcohol, and I spend time with them when they do. (Built in DD!) I become concerned, however, when people promote alcohol (and a lot of it) as an essential part of having fun. That’s an incredibly dangerous and disturbingly prevalent notion. If you can’t remember the last time you had a good time without consuming alcohol, please consider seeking help.

Some Myths About People Who Don’t Drink Alcohol

Weirdly enough, not drinking alcohol seems to make some people very uncomfortable. Let’s talk about some of the reasons I hear:

  1. Judgement. If you do something unwise or dangerous under the influence of a substance, I’m going to judge you for it. If you do something unwise or dangerous not under the influence, I’m going to judge you for it as well. Your actions factor into others’ assessment of your character. Having a drink or two isn’t going to change my assessment of you. Getting violent, belligerent, or behind the wheel while impaired will.
  2. Fun. Yes, you can have fun without being tipsy or drunk. In fact, you should have non-alcoholic fun on a regular basis. It’s fun, and you won’t have that bar tab at the end of the night.
  3. Social lubricant. This is the one that probably makes the least amount of sense to me. Some people use alcohol to help them relax in social situations. Fine. Somehow, this has been twisted around to imply that people who don’t drink alcohol are somehow less socially adept. While there’s bound to be some overlap between the two groups, this one’s just not true. Maybe it’s really because your sober friend can clue you in as to whether you’re actually funnier while drinking or just think you are.

Being A Better Host/Friend/Member of Society

What can you do to be more conscious of people who do not partake (whether that means ever or just on a given night)?

  1. If they decline alcoholic beverages, don’t question it. Offer the non-alcoholic options. Better yet, offer all the beverages up front.
  2. Have non-alcoholic options. This is just good practice for everyone. (If you’re serving cocktails, include interesting multi-ingredient non-alcoholic drinks.)
  3. Don’t ask them why. There are a million completely legitimate reasons, all of which are none of your business unless they choose to share. Some examples include:
    • They don’t feel like it.
    • They need to drive home. Alcohol tolerance varies wildly and is not a competition. Some people are uncomfortable or not safe driving after even a single drink.
    • They’re taking medication. Many medications are incompatible or unwise to take with alcohol, including antibiotics. Do you really want to be the person who puts someone on the spot over a UTI?
    • They have a personal or family history of alcoholism. Addiction is serious business and very personal.
    • They’re trying to save money.
  4. Reconsider alcohol-themed events. If you make the entire point of the party “champagne” or “beer pong,” you’re making someone feel unwelcome or uninterested. At a minimum, try to provide alternatives and include them prominently in the invitation, like hosting a wine and chocolate tasting event (sign me up!).

Words to Avoid: “Detox” and “Chemical-free”

It seems appropriate here to caution against “quick fix” diets or “detox” products. As any legitimate medical professional will tell you, your body has its own methods of removing “toxins” from your body; their names are liver and kidney. If you want to help them out, drink more water and less alcohol. A juice “cleanse” probably won’t kill you, but that healthy feeling people report afterward is more the result of cutting back on foods heavy in fats and processed sugars. If you want to change what you eat, skip the (potentially dangerous) magic pills and simply focus on foods that are better for you. If you’re still not feeling better, consult your doctor. You may, like me, have food-related or other health issues that require treatment.

Furthermore, anyone who touts a “chemical-free” product has no idea what they’re talking about. Period. This is a fallacy (especially rampant in health and beauty products) easily countered with basic science literacy. Water is a chemical. That isn’t to say that there aren’t chemicals which you should legitimately avoid putting in or on your body; there definitely are harmful chemicals out there. However, if someone tries to sell you a “chemical-free” product, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.

 

What drinks do you consider worth the money? What’s your favorite mocktail recipe? What would you like to see in this series? Let me know!

We cannot change that which we do not recognize.

-Casey

 

Sipping Across Seattle: Storyville Coffee

Almond slivers cover the croissant on a small white place on a distressed, painted wood table with blue, purple, and pink paints.
This wasn’t my almond croissant, but the owner was kind enough to wait while I snapped a few photos of the beautiful pastry.

One of the best things about travelling (or in this case, moving cities) is finding little spots like Storyville Coffee. This coffeehouse came highly recommended by the Instagram community, and the food and drink actually tasted as good as it looked.

Blogger Aimee Song recommended using Instagram (as opposed to something like Yelp) to initially find new and interesting places to try in her book Capturing Your Style, which I read cover-to-cover one night last week. Given the success of this meal, I’m inclined to take her advice.

Drink

With my dietary restrictions, I try to minimize my dairy and soy consumption. Therefore, I was very pleased by the quality and variety of the milks Storyville was offering, including:

  • Nonfat milk
  • House-made Coconut Cashew Milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Soy milk

I ordered my staple drink, an almond milk hot chocolate, and was thrilled to receive a beautiful decorative heart in my drink. Beautiful latte art is an Instagram staple for a reason. However, I just don’t drink lattes. (I’ll snap a photo of a friend’s, but you won’t find me ordering them just for a photo!) Needless to say, I admired this cup for longer than usual before taking a sip.

Cup and saucer of almond milk hot chocolate with heart latte art from Storyville Coffee in Seattle's Pike Place Public Market on distressed, colored wooden table
As someone who doesn’t order lattes and relies on almond and coconut milks, I have never received a drink with latte art before!

As hot chocolate goes, it could have had a little more chocolate flavor. Nonetheless, it didn’t have the dreaded artificial sweetener aftertaste of a syrupy chain hot chocolate. Best of all, it was incredibly creamy, which is more difficult to achieve with almond milk.

White cup and saucer of almond milk hot chocolate with heart latte art from Storyville Coffee in Seattle's Pike Place Public Market on round distressed, colored wooden table with cheddar slider and oatmeal oats with dark brown sugar, golden raisins, and creamy almond milk.
The heart started to stretch because I couldn’t help but sneak a sip or two before taking this picture.

Food

One of the people with me ordered the beautiful almond croissant at the top of the post. According to delivery service Caviar, this golden pastry is, “filled with rich almond cream baked between croissant dough layers.” It looked gorgeous and was served with a fork.

Another companion ordered the Tillamook Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich on the right. Caviar lists the sandwich as consisting of, “organic eggs and hickory smoked bacon made with Tillamook Cheddar on a fresh baked pilsner pretzel roll.” Despite its bite-sized appearance in this overhead shot, the treat was taller than it was wide. Ultimately, the eater of this breakfast sandwich declared it tasty and filling.

I ordered the oatmeal with brown sugar and plump raisins. There was an option to add fruit, but I passed. The oatmeal was that perfect balance of cooked without entering mushy territory. The dark brown sugar was decadent and, like the plump raisins, served in a mini cupcake wrapper on the side. I appreciated being able to top my oatmeal at my own discretion. It was a nicely-sized portion, leaving me just able to finish it and my drink without feeling uncomfortably full.

The small vessel on alongside my oatmeal was almond milk. While I added a splash to my oats, I actually drank the rest. Storyville’s almond milk was creamy and fresh, with a light, authentic almond taste. It got me excited to go back and try their house-made coconut cashew milk.

White cup and saucer of almond milk hot chocolate with heart latte art from Storyville Coffee in Seattle's Pike Place Public Market on distressed, colored wooden table with almond croissant.
Once more food arrived, we moved beyond our little side table here, but the ambience of Storyville alone is worth a visit.

Summary

In short, I would recommend Storyville for a light breakfast, especially if you are waiting for the rest of Pike Place Public Market to open. As we were eating, a large number of people came in to order drinks, and the line grew from nothing to out the door. Therefore, if you’re on an earlier time schedule, you’d be at an advantage to avoid the morning coffee break rush.

The ambiance was cozy and rich, with warm metals and comfortable couches. The windows along the outside wall peek over Pike Place Market and out to the water.

I’ll be heading back to Storyville to try the house-made coconut cashew milk as well as returning for the beautiful almond milk hot chocolates and quality oatmeal. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Take time to savor.

– Casey