Friday, 27 November 2009

Culture Clash

For us North American expats, lunchtime is an interesting anthropological study. For example, lunch during the school week is pretty laid back, a tuna sandwich, some fruit, a yogurt are standard fare. On the weekends, we might upgrade the sliced bread to a baguette, and add some cheese and olives. The emphasis on all of the aforementioned is 'cold lunch'. As in most Canadian households, dinner is the hot meal.

Not so in Geneva! Lunch is the big meal of the day and it's usually multiple courses. Salad and bread, followed by soup, a hot meal, and dessert. And never never never is milk offered as a drink, no it's always l'eau de robinet (tap water) and if you're really lucky sirop, which is a sickly sweet substance added to sweeten the l'eau de robinet.

Consequently, J has learned never to spontaneously invite anyone home for lunch from school. I need at least a day to ensure adequate groceries and time to prepare a large meal. I will never forget when J's copine (girl friend) Olivia looked at the sandwich plunked down in front of her 2 years ago, looked at me and moaned 'mais je ne mange pas des sandwiches pour diner!' (but I don't eat sandwiches for lunch). I was mortified.

So yesterday morning while getting dressed for school, this conversation occured with J:

J: Can I invite a friend for lunch?

Me: Oh sorry bud, I'm going grocery shopping this afternoon, I don't have any food in the house to make a hot meal.

J: Oh, okay. Can Adam come then?

We Canadians gotta stick together eh Cindy?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Detoxing Diary

I am now in the middle of a 5-day detox. My life is absent of some of its' small joys: morning toast, nespresso coffee, cookies, evening glass of wine. I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to initiate this and to corral 11 of my friends from around the world to join me. In general, I eat healthy and largely organic, and am pretty fit thanks to regular running and weight training. I try not to indulge too plentifully in the inexpensive and fantastic wines available when living adjacent to vineyards.

Maybe it's living in the time of swine flu where kids are dropping like flies in J's class. I am working hard to strengthen all of our immune systems. We are taking vitamins C, D, multivitamins, omega 3, sirop du pere michel (a particularly vile concoction of essential oils and trace minerals) in addition to lots of fresh organic fruit and vegetables. Maybe it's my suspicion of the negative impact of cow milk and gluten on my family; we've moved to goat and soy milk. And lastly, maybe it's the knowledge of the coming assault of food and drink in the lead-up to the Christmas holidays.

So I thought I'd see how I felt after 5 days of eliminating specifically wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, and fats while consuming lots of healthy lean proteins, legumes, nuts, oats, rice, fruit, vegetables, water, and green tea; and continuing to exercise. And since misery loves company, I managed to convince a group of friends that it would be good for them too.

It's halfway through Day 3 and most of us previously caffeine-addicted souls seem to share the same common complaint thus far. We all have headaches which we are chalking up to acute caffeine-withdrawal. Everything else has gone pretty well, cravings are largely in check, aside from a cookie craving that naughtily beckoned me most of yesterday evening. I find that I have good energy during the day especially in the mid afternoon when it normally wanes. Or it may be that I'm keeping busy so that I don't gravitate toward my usual tea and biscuit. I'm also sleeping great which is a bonus.

In any case, it's an interesting experience and can't be anything but positive health-wise. Maybe now I won't feel so guilty indulging in my mum's Christmas shortbread or my sista-in-law's peppermint chocolate chip cookies in a few weeks.

Friday, 13 November 2009

My Brother, the Superhero

Today's posting is in honour of my big brother who celebrated his 40-ahem-something birthday this week. He is one of my heros, having served honourably for 25 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in addition to leading Calgary's ERT force for many years. He's also just an all-round wonderful person who has managed to stay happily married for 27 years, raise 3 terrific children into near adulthood and is always there whenever I need him.

It's nice to see that J feels the same way. Today while walking to school:

J: You know Uncle Phil is like a superhero!

Me: Yes, he's a pretty great guy, why do you think so?

J: He made his hair invisible.

Love you bro!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Where Is Tim Horton's When You Need One?

I spent 2 cold, soggy hours sipping tiny, tepid cups of espresso standing in icy rain watching J play in his first tournoi de foot (soccer) yesterday. It could have been the same as watching my eldest nephew Justin, currently competing for the national university football (soccer) title in Toronto but it wasn't. It could have been the same as watching my niece Renee, a former elite national level Ringuette player, but it wasn't. Or it could have been the same as watching my 15-year nephew Jordan play football (soccer) with fire in his belly, but again it wasn't.

You see J is something of a sports mystery to me. From infancy, he was climbing like a orangutan up anything scalable. "Oh what an athlete he's going to be" everyone proclaimed. He could cross monkeybars with ease by age 2, and was riding a 2-wheeler by 3. He loves mountain-biking, mountain-climbing, and skiing, and is really good at all of them. He dislikes baseball, detests hockey school, and spends the last hour of football training yelling at me from across the field "Is it over yet?" When I told him at the beginning of the year to pick a team sport for the winter, he suggested tennis. See the pattern??? A team player clearly he is not.

I wasn't much of a team player myself, even now I prefer running with my iPod than a friend. Neither was C2, he ignores friends at the gym, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. But still, when I look at the brotherhood of friends Justin has built from his early days playing with his Foothills soccer club in Calgary, I lament that J may not have that. Even much of the strong and loyal social network that my brother and sister-in-law enjoy was birthed from the shared experience of watching their children compete in team sports. Not that I lack friends or social networking, far from it but you get my point.

I will encourage J to find his passions in life and will enthusiastically support them no matter what they are. Still, is it wrong to secretly want J to have a tattoo over his heart pledging brotherhood forever like Jus's?

So, yesterday's tournoi was comprised of 6 teams playing 4 mini matches. J was fully engaged for the first two. By the fourth, he was picking up leaves and playing pretend sword fights. Sigh.
My life as a Tim Horton's commercial isn't looking promising.