Be Thankful For Your Friends But Avoid The Friendship Cup

The object above isn’t the holy grail, an objet d’art, vase, fancy pipe or some kind of crazy teapot, it’s a friendship cup.  As Thanksgiving approaches, one of the things we are most grateful for this year is all of the friends we’ve made in Switzerland.

A friendship cup (also known as Coppa dell’amicizia, grolla or grolle ) is a round container with a lid and multiple spouts made of turned wood.  It is used for drinking special hot adult beverages with friends.  There’s a saying, “he who drinks it alone, will choke.”  Here’s how it works.

Gather your friends, or nearby people you want to become friends (because after you finish one of these you will be.  Traditionally you have at least one more person than the number of spouts on the cup.  Why?   You end up sharing and drinking from a different spout as the cup gets passed around the table.  People don’t worry about the germs for two reasons.  First, it’s your friends.  Secondly, what they put in the cup is strong enough that it could probably be classified as some sort of disinfectant.   You pass the cup around your group, not setting it down until it’s empty.  Trust me when I tell you that this is easier said than done.

We first encountered it when we visited the Aosta Valley in Italy.  Thank goodness no one whipped out a camera that night…  The friendship cup is an after dinner (or later) tradition in Lombardy and the rest of the Italian Alps.  It comes from the “Soldats de la Neige” (which translates into Soldiers of the Snow) who acted as guides to travelers in this rough terrain.   They needed extra “energy” to survive in the cold.   Having had some, it does seem to warm you up.  The drink’s popularity spread to include everyone who needed a little pick me up to brave the cold.

What’s in a Friendship Cup?  Valdostana coffee, a liquor ( usually Génépy, but it can be plain or fruit grappa, cognac, Cointreau, red wine or cum), sugar and spices.  Sometimes people add butter and orange peels.  Just make sure you have friends around to drink it with you.  It sounds delightful.  It’s not.  It’s Trouble.  That’s right, trouble with a capital “t.”

So as Thanksgiving approaches, thanks guys, we’re raising our glasses (or beers from the snow) to you and giving thanks, just don’t expect us to bust out the friendship cup.   Here’s to you, Cheers!  Kippis!  Chin Chin!  Santé!  Prost!  Slàinte!  Skål!  L’Chaim!  Na zdrowie!

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Baby, Baby, Baby, Oh

Our friends are having a baby so a bunch of us got together for a baby shower.

Baby showers in Europe are not like in the US in that, well, they don’t have them. People may send or give a gift after the baby is born, but don’t get together to celebrate of give presents before the baby.  Since you can’t go to the stores here and purchase baby shower invitations, I made the invitations.

It was a couples shower so we focused less on games, decorations and incredible cuteness.  Instead, we had food and drinks.  I made and individually wrapped Rice Krispie Treats for favors.  Some of our European guests had never tasted them before.  We were proud to introduce them to a new guilty pleasure.

Since we are American and can only adapt so much, we had one anyway.  In deference to the multicultural nature of this shower, we did not play any of the following games:

  • Guessing the circumference of the expectant mother’s tummy
  • Smearing melted candy bars in diapers and have people sniff to guess the brand
  • Tasting jars of baby food to guess the flavors
  • Collecting baby pictures of guests, putting them in a slide show and have guests guess whose picture it is
  • Making guess drink from baby bottles. Yes, I realize this is technically not a game.  They may have drunk from other types of bottles.
  • Have guests guess how much an assortment of baby supplies costs.  In Switzerland, I think this would only scare the parents to be…and everyone else.

In fact, we didn’t play any games (unless you count the impromptu Chartreuse tasting as a game).

The parents-to-be opened presents, many of which had an adorable Swiss theme.

Congratulations and best wishes guys.  We can’t wait to meet her.

Skiing

We’d planned to go skiing over new year’s, but stayed home since we were sick.  The following weekend, we went skiing.  Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, but it was a heck of a lot of fun.
Four couples piled into two cars and headed off to France.  Since we were surrounded by mountains, we had many choices.  We chose La Clusaz.  La Clusaz is a pretty town with a traditional village feel, skiing for a variety of levels and a lot of runs.  As you can see from the maps, it is not far from Geneva.*
It only took about an hour to get there.  Unfortunately, it took a bit longer when we got into town because everyone had the same idea.
Ski rental is quite reasonable.  Since we went in France, we got to pay in Euros too.   We rendezvoused with the other couples on the mountain and got a quick pic before someone broke something.  Thanks to the Hughes‘ for the picture.  Please note how it was easier for me to twist my body to face the camera than turn around and go the right way.

We have skied before, it’s just been awhile.  A long while.  The last time we were on skis was about 15 years ago.  Full disclosure: he’s skied once in the intervening years…in North Carolina (so it doesn’t really count as skiing).
The mountains are a little larger than they are in Michigan and I had to screw up my courage.  I told myself that I’m not going to spend the winters inside and alone because I live in Switzerland and don’t ski.  If I’m going to ski, there has to be a first time and there is no time like the present.
This is how I looked on my first run down the mountain. Thank goodness Wildcat was there encouraging me. She was very kind not to point like Nelson from The Simpsons and do the “ha ha”.
I was so excited to go skiing that I didn’t really notice the length of my skis at the rental place.  I’m not sure if you can tell from the above photo, but my skis were just about as tall as I was.  Oops.  I was going a little too fast for my skill set.  Once I got to the bottom, I exchanged my skis for some smaller (kid sized ones). After that, things went a bit more smoothly and I didn’t fall quite as much (although Wildcat did put up some good wipeout video on the Hughes’).
The great thing about going skiing with a bunch of foodies is that stopping for a wonderful lunch is mandatory. Just in case our 5 million burgers while we were home during the holidays weren’t enough, both of us ordered “le burger.”  Quels américaines!
My legs got a bit tired part of the way through the afternoon.  I’d “wisely” switched my long training run for the week from Saturday to Friday.  Us ladies were embarrassed because our ski apparel wasn’t as fly as the ladies from Hot Tub Time Machine.
The guys did a few more runs and our brave friend did the blacks on snowboard!  We slinked off the slopes to where we could really shine, the ice rink.
If you want to see video, check out the Swiss Watch Blog.  Cinematic genius.  We look better than the Ice Capades!
* Tour de France fans might recognize the names of some of the towns around there.  The tour has hit more than a few of them.

 

Grateful

When I was in Soweto, I learned that there are 300-400 funerals there every weekend for people dying from AIDS.  Today, as we go home to visit our friends and families.  It puts things in perspective and we are profoundly grateful not just for the opportunity to be with them, but for their health and well-being.


 

Here It Is, Your Moment of Zen…A Cat Drinking Out Of A Toilet!

Our friends over at Bull Trekkings had the coolest cat ever.  His name is Poof.  Doesn’t he look nice in his party hat?  Poof has a drinking problem.

He drinks from toilets!

He can also wear the heck out of a sweater and is a good napping buddy.

 

 

Happy Halloween!!!

 

Charlie Brown: Hey! I got an invitation to a Halloween party!
[dances happily]
Lucy Van Pelt: Is it the invitation to Violet‘s party, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown: Yes. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to a party.
Lucy Van Pelt: Charlie Brown.  If you got an invitation, it  was a mistake.  There were two lists, Charlie Brown.  One to invite and one not to invite.  You must have been put on the wrong list.

We were invited to a fantastic Halloween party this weekend (the explanation for the invitation is above).   The hostess with the mostest made “scary food” that was very tasty.

Lady J’s Coconut Macarons
Lady J’s Black Truffle Macarons
They also requested people send in old photos of themselves in costume.  This made for a very entertaining slide show that ran all evening.  In addition to embarrassing shots of ourselves (which I won’t be posting) I sent a cute one of the pups in their reindeer costumes.
Costumes were encouraged and people did not disappoint.

Singapore in Switzerland

Once upon a time, an immigrant Chinese family living in Singapore complained about the smell of their Indian neighbor’s curry.  One Singaporean’s response was essentially “we live in close quarters let’s try to understand each other’s cultures.”  A curry night was organized on Facebook and went viral.  It got over 50,000 attendees.

In Switzerland, we have had the good fortune to make friends with Lady J and her husband.  They’re from Singapore and invited us to curry with them.   

It would have been a great time regardless because they are so nice, but was fantastic because she can cook.  We had Gado-Gado, Chicken Satay with Ketypat, Curry Chicken (red, my favorite), Prata and Kaya Puffs.  Yet another cuisine to salivate over…

She cooks, she bakes, is there anything she can’t do?  Check out the Kaya Puffs below!  Soooo tasty.

 

My Uncle Mame

I am trying not to embarrass anyone by writing about them.  That being said, some people are so important to my life that I can’t imagine ignoring them.  One of these people is my Uncle Mame (not his real name).* When I left North Carolina, I did not head directly to Switzerland.  I did something even better.   I saw Uncle Mame.  I am so glad that I am able to see him before I leave.

Here are a few reasons why Uncle Mame is Marvellous:

  • He loves my husband.
  • While he shall always remain 30ish in my eyes, he is not. Nevertheless, you can take him to a Gogol Bordello concert and he will fit right in.  He showed up decked out in American Apparel and ready to have a great time.  It was epic.
  • He is a very talented artist. He has an amazing eye and has taught me tons.  He even bought me my first art set when I was little. When he showed me Broadway Boogie Woogie and explained it to me, I fell in love with art.
  • He likes to do new and different things (horseback riding in NC).
  • He is good with languages and will chat up anyone from anywhere.
  • He loves kids and gets a kick out of them.  Growing up, he always made my sister and I feel special.
  • Wise like Yoda he is.
  • He likes to laugh.  If you hang out with him you are guaranteed to do so.

* I am trying to give everyone an alias to protect the both the innocent and the not so innocent.

 


 

Change of Address Cards

I figured that we’d better send out our new contact information.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am cheap. I went to Costco to get change of address cards made.  We’d taken a cute picture in Geneva with the idea of sending it out on the card.  Costco has done a decent job with our numerous, infamous Christmas cards over the years. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit all of our new information on the card.  Oops.

I had to find a new way to send it out. I struk out at numerous venues.  You could just call me Goldilocks.  Things were either too big, too expensive, too ugly, too small or took to long to create.  Nothing was just right. Finally, out of desparation I headed to FedEx Office.  I wrote out our information, copied it to fit 4 times onto an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, hand them cut and presto, postcards.  I’m not going to lie, they look a bit ghetto. However, they cost under $10 for over 200 and took less than 1/2 hour.  What’s not to love?

If you haven’t sent me your contact information, please do so.