Switzerland

Smoothies and the Pursuit of Health

Mom in Manolos_Green Smoothie_Geneva Switzerland

It’s fitting my first post of the new year is about health, right?!

Health is something I think we all take for granted until we or a loved one are faced with an issue. For me, it took facing such an issue to begin understanding how much of an impact the foods we eat and the products we buy impact our wellness. 

This is not a post about how I lost 10 pounds in two weeks (I haven’t). This post is simply about how I’m starting the journey to becoming more health conscious. I hope the small ways I’m aiming for better health in this post and future posts turns a light on for you, too!

Eyes of the Beholder

Last spring, my son caught the dreaded pink eye from daycare. My husband and I were then the lucky ones he passed it on to. Unlike my husband, who healed quickly with a round of antibiotics, I continued to have issues and could barely sleep at night because my eyes were so dry.

The eye infection eventually cleared but it turned into a torturous dry eye saga.

Fast forward to today, I wear glasses almost everyday and am still trying to find ways to cope. Wearing contacts for nearly 20 years, stress and lack of exercise all contributed to the downturn in my eye health. While dry eye is nothing compared to other chronic issues some have to endure, I still struggle and am now taking a harder look at my lifestyle.

Which leads me to…

The first way I’m shaking things up (pun intended).

Starting with a Smoothie

I’ve probably bookmarked every green smoothie recipe out there. This smoothie is a little bit of this, little bit of that, and it’s the best darn thing I’ve ever concocted. I can say that with conviction because cooking and I are not friends so when I make anything new, it’s a big deal.

Four weeks strong on this every morning and it gives me more energy than my beloved Nespresso. 

Now you might think a green smoothie is no big deal but turning something into a habit IS a big deal. Especially if it’s a healthy one. 

Gwyneth Paltrow (no, I’m not recommending you buy a $3k blender) once said something years ago that has really stuck with me. She was big on the macrobiotic diet and said she only eats the kind of food that has life in it — fruits, vegetables, unprocessed. BAM. Makes complete sense! Goop was onto something and although I’m still happily eating carbs — I live in Switzerland; croissants are happening — I am taking a slightly longer pause in our meal choices.

The Good Stuff

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Be sure to include the matcha. Matcha is finely milled green tea that is packed with antioxidants and fiber. I highly recommend the Jade Leaf brand. It’s a small bag but contains 50 teaspoons which really translates into 50 smoothies. Your health is worth it!

MiM Green Smoothie

MiM Green Smoothie_Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland

MiM Green Smoothie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 serving
 
Ingredients
  • 1 green apple sliced
  • 1 handful (~1 cup) of spinach
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Matcha
  • 1 tsp Agave syrup
  • 2 ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth.
  2. Pat self on back.

A green cheers to you!

Life Outside the Cubicle | What I Loved Then and What I Love Now

Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland_Work Life_SAHM Life

We have been living in Geneva for almost three months now. So hard to believe! It is amazing, I won’t lie, and despite mourning how convenient everything was back in the States (drive-thru Starbucks, fluent English speakers, abundant and free parking), living in Europe is proving to be a huge blessing. There isn’t one day we take it for granted. 

I won’t, however, over-glorify our lives. I was cautious of doing that before we even arrived as friends stared at us wide-eyed and giddy after hearing we were moving to Europe. We were very excited, too, but knew the transition to expat life would be a challenge. The danger with over-romanticizing things is that they can sometimes fall well below your expectations, causing you to become unhappy with a reality that doesn’t quite match what you think it should.

We’re living in Europe, not just vacationing here. (Although, wow, do we have some great vacay destinations to choose from.) Life is both beautiful and hard — no matter where you are!

The Switch From Career to Stay-at-Home 

Switzerland was a new beginning in many ways for all of us. I chose to leave my 12-year consulting career behind. When we move back to the States, or maybe even before, I will rejoin the 9 to 5 crowd. Are there things I miss about having a job outside of home? You bet! Are there things I love about staying home? Yes! It’s okay to love aspects about two different lifestyles.

This stay-at-home mom life has its challenges but as with any situation — it’s what you make of it. I’ve always been of the seemingly unpopular opinion that you have to carve out time for yourself to be happy so you can then be a happy parent. There are many messages out there that say in order to be a good mother, you must be a martyr to your children and sacrifice 100% of yourself. That is just not true and will cause more harm than good in the future. 

Instead of focusing on the good and bad of working vs. stay-at-home, here are a few things I loved about the cubicle life and reasons I’m loving the home life. 

Reasons I Loved Having a Career

1 // The paycheck

Oh, validation in the form of cash. I do miss you! Getting that monthly direct deposit in the bank account sure makes tolerating Bob from upper management much easier. Paying your own bills, being an equal contributor to your household income and having a little left over for a relaxing Target $1 bin aisle spree. No, money doesn’t make you happier but the feeling of independence that comes along with that paycheck is underrated! 

2 // Conversing with other adults about non-kid stuff

Life outside of milestone comparisons, what age you should start timeout, and Peppa Pig? This is one of the biggest things I miss about working. I never knew it before but it’s actually more exhausting to hold a conversation about how Susie isn’t pronouncing her words correctly and where you can find the best organic produce than sitting through a mind-numbing HR presentation. Thank God for the few mom friends I do have that can adult talk with me. Sanity savers, for sure! 

3 // Dressing up

I don’t care what you say about fashion, when you dress up a little, it boosts your confidence and gets you into a different headspace. Going from dressing professionally everyday to, well, mom-ing it up, has been an adjustment. My blazers just hang in my closet, taunting me. But the good thing about living in Europe is you don’t encounter many unkempt people. I might wear jeans a lot more but I certainly would never step out in yoga pants. It’s a good kind of motivation to not let yourself completely go. 

Reasons I Love Staying at Home

1 // Getting to know my son better

Of course every mother knows their child — more intimately than anyone else can. But there are certain nuances I missed while I was working. Like the fact that Mason has the best eyesight in the world and can spot a bird in a tree from a mile a way. That he loves working with his hands and can never have enough Play Dough. That his belly laughs are endless when I use my terrible French accent to tease him (sidenote: I cannot match the laughs he shares with my husband; those are the ones that really make my heart swell).

When you’re in a rush to get home from work after an hour commute, eat dinner and get everyone to bed so you can all do it again the next day, it doesn’t leave much time for the details. Weekends used to be overshadowed by errands, even though we always made time for playgrounds. And although Mason tests our limits with tantrums that rival well, I can’t even think of a comparison, it’s nice to have one-on-one time to really get to know his little quirks and what makes him tick.

2 // Free to choose what we do, where we go and who we hang out with 

Not being barraged by 20 different personalities, sharing cubicles and having to work on something important with them is a huge perk of staying home. If Mason is in a mood or it’s storming outside, guess what! We don’t have to go anywhere or see anyone. On the flip side, we can also make plans/play dates with friends we do want to see. And we get to enjoy living here more. Want to trot down to a park by Lake Geneva? Why not. The luxury of choosing who makes up your day and where you go is a freedom I haven’t experienced in a long time.

3 // Making peace with simple

In a world that’s always telling you that you should be doing more for your future, when did we miss that the present is all we have? Life has become much more simple now that I’m staying home. It doesn’t come naturally to me — I get bored easily — but it’s forced me to be more present with Mason and with life in general. It’s so nice to start tuning into the fact that busy isn’t better. A new concept for me.

***

I have more to say on the whole “stay at home vs. work outside the home” topic but thought this was a good place to start. Do you agree with the highlights I listed? What are the things you love about what you do? I’m always happy to see comments so leave something below!

Mom in Manolos, Washington D.C.

That Swiss Life | Volume I: Grocery Shopping

Mom in Manolos_That Swiss Life_Expat_Living Abroad_Geneva_Switzerland

Happy beginning of fall, everyone! The temperatures are dipping into the 60s here in Geneva and we’ve already spotted some pumpkin patches in the countryside. I thought this would be the perfect time to kick off my new series That Swiss Life | An Expat’s Guide to Everyday Living Abroad. Follow along as I give you a detailed look into the different facets of everyday living here in Switzerland. My hope is to give you insider knowledge so the next time you book a trip overseas, you can navigate the country like a local. 

If you’re all about that travel life, I have you covered as well. As my family and I head to various destinations around Europe, I’ll be sharing mini travel guides, complete with pictures, food options, Instagram-worthy spots to snap photos and kid-friendly activities (someone has to look out for the parents). Stay tuned!

Daily Bread

What better topic to kick this series off with than the most essential of essentials — groceries. There isn’t anything more fundamental than food in my family. The root of all bad moods comes down to two things: 1) lack of sleep or 2) lack of food. With a 2 year-old, we can’t do much about sleep but we can take care of a food problem. Let’s get to filling that shopping cart (which you must pay for here in Switzerland).

Groceries_Geneva_Switzerland

The most important thing to know about grocery shopping in Switzerland is…you don’t grocery shop in Switzerland. Everyone — and I mean, everyone — goes to France for groceries. In my last post I mentioned the infamous $7 Starbucks tall latte. That type of hefty price tag can be found on everything, not just your cup of joe.

But grocery shopping in France isn’t as la-di-da as it sounds. Only a 20 minute drive from Geneva’s city center, you can get to France in less time than the average commute. It’s convenient and economical. 

French Stores vs. American Stores

There are many options here for grocery shopping: Carrefour (~Harris Teeter/Safeway/etc.), Migros (~Whole Foods), and open air markets. In the month we’ve been in Geneva, I frequent a Carrefour the most often. The more pleasant (and picturesque) option is the French marché on a Sunday morning but it’s sometimes difficult to find those one-off items you need (more below). 

The first time I went to a grocery store, I was lucky enough to be shown around by a more experienced expat. That might sound ridiculous. It’s a grocery store! But when everything is in another language, it’s kind of nice to know that the meat in Aisle 3 is cow’s tongue and not the beef tenderloin you assumed it was. Here are some more differences to be aware of:

  1. Leave a Euro, take a Euro. To get a shopping cart, make sure you have a Euro or two on you. All carts are hooked together and can only be taken if you slide a Euro in the slot on the front. Don’t worry, you get that Euro back when your return the cart. A good way to guard against an annoying rogue cart blocking a parking space.
  2. BYOB – your own bags, that is. The U.S. is catching onto this quickly but Europe has long since adopted this. There are a few plastic bags hidden behind the register but you’ll be met with a look if you ask for them. Thankfully, most stores sell reusable bags there, too, so you can avoid looking like a wasteful foreigner. 
  3. Pre-label produce. You know how the hold up at the register is usually a clerk scanning the tiny tag on a piece of fruit multiple times before finally giving up and entering the code? France puts all that frustration back on you. You have to bag and print out a label on every bag of produce before getting to check out. Notice a trend here? Produce
  4. Organic food options galore. If you look for the “organic” label in a store, you won’t find it. They call it “bio.” And there are so many bio options available — and at a reasonable cost! The French are also big on gluten-free, too. Ironic since the baguette aisle is…an aisle. 
  5. Boxed wine for days. Sacré bleu, France! French wine in…boxes? Yes. And they’re not embarrassed about it. One store had almost more boxed wine than bottled wine. If France says it’s okay…! 
  6. Keep calm, the eggs aren’t refrigerated. I was wide-eyed when I saw this. Nope, the eggs are sitting out in the open, not cold at all, as if they’d just been delivered from the farm. Salmonella? That was my first thought, too, but most chickens are vaccinated against the disease in Europe whereas the U.S. prevents it from steam washing the eggs before they’re sold. This article from NPR explains further. Apparently the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world to refrigerate. I can say we’ve had eggs since we’ve been here (that have been promptly refrigerated and washed) and so far, so good. French Eggs
  7. Continue the calm, milk isn’t refrigerated either. This bothered me more than the eggs. Thankfully, I found the organic milk was refrigerated so I only recently looked into why most milk isn’t. Milk in France undergoes UHT pasteurization and is put in aseptic packaging, which is why the shelf life is so much longer than milk in the U.S. Nothing wrong with it but I’ll take cold milk any day. 
  8. Recycle your corks here. I laughed when I saw this. Next to a huge container of recycled bags was an even larger container beckoning customers to please recycle their corks here. More corks than bags. You don’t disappoint, les Français. 
  9. Why stand when you can sit. Just a random observation — the clerks sit at the register and don’t stand. Makes sense. Why don’t we allow that back in the U.S.? 
  10. You’ll be at the grocery store every two days. No joke. Europe does not pump nearly as many preservatives into its food as the U.S. does. It’s a blessing because it’s motivation to eat that salad. It’s annoying because who really wants to go grocery shopping?Carrefour Grocery Store

French Marchés

When it’s Sunday and you forgot to go grocery shopping on Saturday…you head to the market!

Nothing is open on Sunday’s (in Switzerland or France or Italy or…) and so far, we think it’s amazing. Ask us in 6 months if we’re as enthralled when our toddler demands a red apple and not a green one. For now, we’re enjoying the absence of a mad errand dash before the week begins.

Markets in France are exactly what you imagine — a tsunami of bread, cheese and macarons. The only tip I have so far is to bring plenty of cash because the allure of purchasing local is irresistible. You can also find all kinds of textiles in addition to food. More to come on these charming markets but if you have a free Sunday, get thee to one.

French Marche_produce

French Marche_Tomatoes

Fromage

French Marche_Flowers

French Marche

That’s all for now, friends! I’m working on the next installment and will post sometime in the next month. Stay tuned for my travel series as well!Mom in Manolos, Washington D.C.

 

The Big Leap | Embracing the Expat Life in Switzerland

Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland_Old Town

Bonjour! It feels so good to be back on the blog! I’m writing this from lovely Geneva, Switzerland — our new home as of almost three weeks ago.

I’ve been ruminating on what exactly to write in this post. I have so much to say but will break down topics into different posts. Stay tuned for a future series I’m working on about everyday life here. You can be the most well traveled person in the world but living day-to-day somewhere always makes for some interesting stories! I’ll show you the behind the scenes of my trials and errors (there have been a few so far) as we navigate daily activities as well as some travel destinations that will have you booking your next flight out.

***

On August 18, my toddler, my husband and I hopped on a plane to start our life in Geneva.

We all go through changes in life — some are welcomed, some are grudgingly necessary, some come out of the blue and whose purpose isn’t understood until after the somersault we’re thrown into subsides.

And some changes arrive at our doorstep like an answer to fervent prayers.

***

I glanced down at my phone during a particularly mind-numbing meeting at work and saw my husband was calling. He never calls. Of course my first thought was something was wrong with Mason and panic overcame me. I quietly exited for my office and mentally prepared as I hit “call back.”

My husband is great at prefacing controversial conversations with “you may not like this but…”. I will never understand men. Well, I take that back. I do understand them and their simplicity can sometimes be maddening, ha! After making sure the issue at hand was not toddler-related, I then heard “you might want to sit down for this.”

I love my husband.

There was a hint of laughter in my husband’s voice so I relaxed a bit before sitting down. He then told me one of the top 5 greatest things I’ll probably ever hear. We had an opportunity to move to Geneva, Switzerland.

Giddy laughter, maybe some jumping up and down, “…but you said yes, right??!”. Thus started our journey to the Swiss life.

***

Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland_Mason_AirplaneWe had around 5 months to prep for an overseas move. Stressful? You betcha. Logistically (selling a house (oddly, the easiest part!); shipping an entire house; determining what should go in storage; job-related stuff; closing accounts/forwarding accounts; cell phone plans; setting up Internet access; what to do with pets; figuring out childcare; visas; and oh yeah, learning how to set up a life in a city we had never been to as, gulp, Americans); emotionally (were we making the right decision for Mason? would he adapt to a new life after leaving everything he’s ever known? am I prepared to leave behind my consulting career?) and mentally (adulting is hard).

After Mason was born, my husband and I plotted moving away from D.C. I’ve lived in D.C. 16 years and my husband 10. It was time to step off the gilded hamster wheel for awhile. There’s nothing like having a child to bring life into ultra-clear focus about what’s no longer working.

One sleep-deprived New Year’s Eve, we wrote down a list of places that would be feasible from a career point of view to move to. After narrowing that list down, we made the ultimate “there’s no turning back now” move — we got on Zillow. Done and done. (If you know anything about the D.C. housing market, you’ll wish you didn’t; that with daycare costs is enough to send most people running but strangely, the city is growing! And for good reason — it’s an amazing place that we hope to return to someday. Without kids in daycare.)

We were set on a town in the south and started fantasizing about the slower pace of life. One week before we planned on flying down to check out houses, my husband got the call about Geneva. How’s that for a curveball??

***

Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland_Ferris WheelFast forward to today. Geneva is a-mazing! I’ve decided to become an unofficial one-woman marketing team for this city. It’s quintessential Europe — there’s not one street without beautiful architecture, the elegant French language wafts through the air (Geneva is surrounded by France on three sides, hence, very little German spoken here), and Mount Blanc is always in view. And a tall Starbucks latte will run you $7. I mentioned quintessential Europe, right?

It’s our third week and we’re adjusting pretty well thanks to some fellow American families that are showing us the ropes. The stress that always hung around us in D.C. is almost nonexistent here. We pass sheep and tolling church bells on evening walks. People are reserved but polite and don’t rush. There are playgrounds everywhere which makes someone I know one very happy camper. So much to be said for a change of scenery!

Mason is getting used to his bilingual daycare, which he only attends in the morning, my husband is enjoying the 15 minute commute to work (we’re still in delighted shock about that), and I’m stumbling my way through adjusting from working full time to a more domesticated existence and a big TBD.

I’ve always had high expectations for myself and those expectations were often achieved during my 12-year career in consulting. But now I’m left teetering on defining a whole new life for myself that may or may not include a traditional job. I decided before we moved to reduce the pressure I put on myself to find something right away and for once, take a moment to breathe without eyeing the next rung on the corporate ladder.

Honestly, it feels great and terrifying at the same time. I’m not the type of person who does well freely drifting. I feel somewhat lost right now but I know myself well enough to know that I won’t let that feeling last forever (#typeaproblems). Picking Mason up everyday at noon, meeting up with other moms during the week days (never had a chance to do that), attempting to cook more (I know, who am I??) and putting together a home has really soothed my soul. I’ve had time to delve into my love of photography and am planning courses to take with the Geneva Photo Club later this fall. French lessons are definitely on the radar, too (“oui oui” and “merci beaucoup” will only get you so far).

It comes down to giving yourself grace during big transitions. I’m working on that. Take the pressure off yourself to create a life based on others’ expectations. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

And we all know it’s never about “them” anyways, right?

***

More from this lovely part of the world soon! Thank you so much to those following along! À bientôt!

 

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