Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Sunday in the mountains and Fast Food

For anyone wondering (if I am even read at all) why there were several days without a posting: I had left my quiet life in the mountains to catch up with family and friends. 

This meant dashing down the mountain Thursday morning and getting home in record time to pick up the mail before the post office shut for lunch; having lunch with the current house-person (yes, yes, I’ll admit we “sinned”: code name for going to McDonald’s); having tea in the afternoon with my regular weekly-tea friend; then enjoying dinner at the Café du Centre with youngest son S and his girlfriend A. A true celebration as she had just passed her Masters of Art with honorable mention!
Friday it was physical therapy, receiving the bed and mattress I had loaned to my friends who live “in the upper part of the village”, then dashing into town for lunch with my oldest son. That evening I first picked up youngest son for yet another mad dash to his flat to recuperate all their plants (at least there is always someone at my house), then back into town for dinner (totally immaterial to the plan) and catching up (the whole point of the evening) with someone I met the first summer I returned to Geneva, i.e. 40 years ago. I have yet to find a good way to label her as saying “with my oldest friend” could perhaps be misinterpreted. And the sentence: “the person that I have known the longest here in Geneva” seems a bit unwieldy. We didn't solve all the problems of the world, never mind our own, but we both always walk away from our short time together feeling better about ourselves and everything - a true friend.

Saturday morning it was coffee with M, followed by her and I moving son number one (in age, let there be no value/judgmental labeling here) back to his flat after a year of subletting. We were moving from a 5th floor apartment with a tiny elevator so made many trips. Things on the other side were much better as the couple who had sublet his flat were there to help and the final 10 steps large and deep as opposed to the small, rounded and rounding staircase at the bottom of the elevator in the first building.

Then it was dash (obviously my current favorite word) home and pick up my suitcase (which travels to and fro, up with the clean wash and new things to read or for work, then back with dirty and the finished) and return to the mountains. Only time for living it, none for recording – and that’s the way it should be, mostly.

Once here, I  had a lovely large flat-screen TV (thanks to the move), so of course last night there was no time for blogging, but rather had to set up the new and much improved TV.

All of which brings us, not only to Sunday, but to the last day of the month, which is also the last day of the first six months of 2013: a whole other blog could be written on …”where did the time go?”

Still, Sunday, June 30: usual let’s-wake-up-early then roll over and go-back-to-sleep. Yikes the local restaurant/coffee/bread deposit business had been open a half an hour already and I needed to get dressed and get my Sunday paper. Now, we are not talking about the Sunday Times or anything here, but there are 5 or 6 sections and it is easily 5 times as large as the daily paper – just perfect for reading with breakfast. By then it was mid-morning and my landlady came down for something, we chatted and by the time I finally booted up the computer it was almost time for lunch.

Thus, without stopping to catch one’s breath, we segue into the Fast Food part of the title. 

I learned many years ago, whilst dealing with work and family, that meals were not necessarily things that took hours to prepare and that, effectively, one could make healthy, tasty meals with sometimes little effort and time. Today’s was a good example: spring greens, some Chinese cabbage, a few cherry tomatoes, some grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms and onions, a few very thinly sliced rounds of both green and yellow zucchini, feta cheese for flavor, a sprinkle of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, salad sauce and parmegian cheese – 10 minutes. If would have been even faster without the chicken: healthy, tasty, quick.

Now for a walk in the sun and coffee on a terrace.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The long and short of it.

And, by that I don't mean physical size, although at times I have wondered why some of my best friends tend to be about half my size... 

I mean rather the length and breadth of friendship.  What determines who becomes our friend? How long they stay our friends? How close we become?

I have no pat answers: 

I have friends whom I have known for all the life I remember (we met in church as toddlers, went through grade school together before I changed states at the age of 14, then we wrote, then we lost track of each other for many of our adult years, re-found one whilst visiting my mother during the last years of her life - and now am in touch with the other two as well).

Another whom,  although I know that we only met when she was five and I six, yet still we make the effort to see each other as travels allow - this takes some doing as we don't even live on the same continent! In those two particular cases it was parents, which still lived in similar neighborhoods that allowed the connection not to get lost over the years.

I have lost friends from high school - and not only to death - some simply to lack of maintenance of said friendships, although recently (one of the positive aspects of today's social media) have "found" some again.  It is interesting to see how we have changed - or not.

Then there are the friends I met through my-husband-to-be, the summer of 1973 - two of whom are still amongst my very best friends. Although we met through someone else (but then again, don't we always meet someone new through someone else?) these are friendships that clicked then and never grew old. Whether we see each other once a year, once a month, or even (if we are extremely lucky) once a week - there is always something to say, something new to discuss, old topics to revive, information about our current lives to be shared. There were the early years of children, work and family involvement that meant sometimes not meeting at all for a couple of years, yet any time we re-connect, it is as it was yesterday.

There are the friends made when first my oldest went to school (we still have a group who car-pooled that meet 6 or 7 times a year over tea, coffee or a meal - for the past 25 years!)

There are the ones made when my younger son started school 23 years ago, one of whom I still meet most Tuesdays for tea and the latest updates in our lives.

There are the "new" friends - it shocks me that today some of my best friends never met my husband: these too share something too precious to measure.

Some came from business relationships that grew into friendship; others were friends of friends. And yet others friends of family who stayed with me at some point during their European trips. There are no age criteria as many are older and just as many younger; no religious criteria either as amongst my friends I count protestants, catholics, atheists and agnostics (not to split it down any further); nor are there racial barriers although, due to my upbringing and cultural background, most are distinguished by nationality and not skin color.

Having written all this, I realize that there is a common thread: all my friends are people with whom I feel at home, at ease, never needing to "put on a face" (sometimes literally, as my use of makeup is usually restricted to mascara). People whom I find interesting, who are forgiving of my need sometimes to go on and on as I am of theirs (I was once asked why I hadn't consulted a psychiatrist upon the death of my husband. I replied in all honesty: "I don't need one as I have friends who patiently listen to me explain once, twice, three times, four times, ad nauseum what happened"...); individuals who are patient with my foibles as I am with theirs - both knowing that neither is perfect, but accepting the fact.  These friends are there to celebrate the good events (weddings, births, job promotions) but are also on stand-by during the bad times (loss of a spouse, retirement, illness). They only ask that I afford them the same respect and care as they offer me.

I had lunch today with one such person: she drove down from her mountains, I took the train from mine – another trait of true friends: when meetings have to be cancelled, sometimes several times in a row, there is still the energy to try again until it happens.

So how it happens, how many times, how long: it all becomes immaterial as long as it exists.
As C.S. Lewis put it: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

Under those terms, I am surviving quite well indeed - thank you, my friends !

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Art and culture

10 Julia (pronounce One oh Julia) as opposed to “Art and Culture 101”
Or the need to feed one’s “soul”, “inner being” or whatever-other-term-is-currently-popular.

Throughout the ages, man has – when not scrambling to survive, and sometimes even then as various drawings in caves (Lascaux) around the world show – shown the urge to both embellish his surroundings and to transmit his knowledge.

Slight diversion as I was trying to find out how the term “101” started: Wikipedia’s article is edifying – so for those of you who need more knowledge: mailto:

Anyway, there are many ways of embellishing our surroundings or transmitting our knowledge – way too many to enumerate here. So I’ll settle for “art” in terms of the visual arts and “culture” as it refers to my own preference: music.

Visual arts such as painting, sculpture and photography
I got my first camera, a Brownie, when I was 10 and have never stopped taking pictures. Not all are good so the new digital cameras are perfect for me – I can take a 100 pictures and erase 99 and still think that the 1 left isn’t really what I wanted as opposed to wasting rolls of film and finding nothing at the end.  Although I have never made a living with my camera, it has supplied many hours of true enjoyment: there is the odd prize won, the even odder photo sold –regardless, it is still a passion.

A passion my older son shares – here is the link to his latest postings:

My younger son shows talent in the areas of pen and ink drawings, sculpture and music. He obtained a B.A. in Art and we still fight over who should keep his polar bear. Only time will tell what becomes of all of his talents, he is currently working on musical clips and writing.

Growing up in a middle-class family in the mid-50s meant piano lessons: the teacher must have despaired as I hated having to give recitals and during one famous lesson simply left my piano bench and ran home (my mother didn’t take that well; I had to turn around, go back and apologize). Later in elementary school I started clarinet and was part of the school’s band. This was much more to my taste as it allowed me to join others and not have to be in the spotlight: I continued throughout high school – and my last school’s band eventually won the third prize for marching bands in San Francisco. This same band cut a record, which still languishes in my cupboard – lacking a turntable to play for many, many years.  In high school I found the love of my musical life: the organ. I took lessons even whilst in France as an exchange student, but “real” life and the necessity to earn a living saw that stop at the end of my studies.

Marriage, a family, work – I always intended attending concerts, but going back into town after a long day was not particularly attractive.  However, in recent years I have returned to classical concerts much to my enjoyment. I have become more eclectic in my tastes and can happily attend a classical concert one evening and a pop one the next.

I have been able to hear some of the greats and have attended concerts in many venues, including in a Museum.  One museum kind of brings together my love of music and the visual arts: the Giannada Museum in Martigny, Switzerland 

There I heard Joshua Bell; there I have seen the photos of Imsand (He and Ansel Adams are my all-time favorites). In addition to the changing exhibitions, there is an Auto Museum (used to always send my dad a note on the postcard of the Ford Model-T) and large grounds throughout which are to be found many sculptures (Moore and Rodin included!).  This is a do-able museum: one can spend 15 minutes or an hour or two. Together with the de Young in San Francisco, the Quai d’Orsay in Paris it is a personal favorite. 

Art and music - enough to cater to my mood-of-the-moment. That, my family, my friends, my travels = a richness of life that many never know: I enjoy every minute.

Friday, June 21, 2013


One has to wonder how the day is going to go when one gets up, turns on the coffee machine, makes coffee, sits down to breakfast, cogitates on why the coffee isn't any good - yet still drinks half the cup before realizing that one never put a coffee capsule in...

As it was, I paid particular attention to every step I took, how I used knives, the way I drove and, perhaps miraculously, avoided all major catastrophes.

Even did something for the first time: attended the opening of an exhibition at the Giannada Museum in Martigny: Modigliani and the “Parisian School”.

So, barring any other major unforeseeable event in between now and my bed in 3 hours, I should have survived the day making this morning's omen happily a non-event.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sight and Sound

Both are precious as I possess both glasses/contacts and hearing aids


Mountains, clouds like caps on the peaks, summer haze, old wooden chalets, irises, mini pansies, white daisies, roses, lilacs, wilted rhododendrons,

orange poppies against wood
stacked for the winter, 
peonies not yet blossomed, 
spring-green trees, stone walls, 
tumbling streams, 
fresh-mown grass… 


                                    the odd chickens back in their enclosure.

Crickets, crows, hammers pounding (a roof being repaired), lawn mowers, hedge cutters, the wind in the trees, the odd car or truck, a plane high in the distance, voices, a tinny transistor, rushing streams… 

my pedometer as it counts the steps of my first walk in a week.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


WW is an acronym that has most people thinking that there should be a roman numeral behind it, as in WWI or WWII, but I have a new meaning for WW: Wonderful Weekend!
It didn’t start out all that well: the kids were late meeting me, however, as it was due to the little kids (4-8) graduation ceremony – a huge parade along the main tram line through the center of town – they were more than forgiven, especially as I met them at my older son’s address so was able to call and see him briefly as well.

My younger son brought with him his girlfriend and goat’s cheeses that he had just purchased on the local famer’s market: two-days old, five-days old and eight-days old. Needless to say our evening’s meal of salad, fresh cheeses and bread, was sumptuous!

First though we had to get to the chalet: this involved a leisurely drive through France; a lunch stop once back in Switzerland; a couple of hours at Roche - they were visiting a church, I parked the car in the shade and proceeded to catch up on 7 different newspapers; then “needing” an ice cream led to stopping at one of my favorite places: The Grand St-Bernard relay.

Then it was on up the mountains arriving at 19:00 to a major downpour, which lasted the whole ten minutes of unloading (of course).

We never did catch up on our timing and it was 23:00 before we dragged ourselves away from the table and conversation – I going off to the guest bedroom next door (I have a landlady with a golden heart: when she saw us arriving – three – she rushed down to propose that I stay with them leaving the “young couple” on their own – I didn’t hestitate a nano-second before accepting).

Sunday stayed leisurely: the weather was perfect and we had reservations at the Auberge du Vallon de Van‎ for a late lunch.   
Our table was the first one on the grass

Flowers given to me by two cute kids - not my own!
The kids hiked there: I took the car as had unfortunately sprained my ankle just two days earlier. Lunch out on the lawn, under an umbrella – light breeze, not a cloud in the sky – was yet again unbelievably good: mixed salad with a gathered-in-the-wild herb pesto, a plate of the Valaisan dried meats, followed by goat cheese fondue for one and our Swiss rösti (hash browns) with a beef/mushroom concoction more than filling.  We did however reserve the local dessert for later that afternoon: blueberry pie with a thin layer of chocolate in between the crust and the fruit.  Naps all around, followed by dessert and coffee. 
Then they hiked back and I again drove.   
We were not hungry that evening.

Much more water than usual due to the very wet and long winter.

So, although A took the train back to Geneva yesterday morning and S travelled on to Sierre to meet a friend and manufacture some more weapons for his job as camp counselor in July, the memory of our wonderful weekend lives on – a treasure to take out when the weather is bad or the conversation lacking.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The best of all worlds

Or “having it all”.

I have often heard that one “can’t have it all”.  I’ve also been known to say it; flippantly.
Yesterday though I seem to be the example that this rule isn’t as 100% true as one would think – or that I am the exception that proves it.
I have recuperated from jet lag; have enjoyed time in the mountains; came down to have lunch with one friend, dinner with my kids, lunch with another friend and dinner last night with yet others. I have eaten the daily menu, Peruvian, Italian and Afghan; have drunk water, Pisco Sours, a good glass of white wine and a good glass of red.
I have had coffee with an Italian friend from the village, lunch with a British friend (married to an American), dinner with a Swiss (of Iranian origin) and yet another Swiss (who is actually “only” a Swiss).
I have talked to my sister-in-law in Germany (German) and to my kids in French, and some of the friends in English.
I haven’t gotten much work done – sometimes one simply has to go with the flow – so maybe I haven’t had it all, but, dang, I sure have had a lot!
Not to plagiarize, but “I’m lovin’ it!”

lunch on a terrace

Afghan soup

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ode to the forest

Not a sound in the woods
Shrouded with fog,
But that of my feet
As along they plod.
Cobwebs brushing my face,
Bear witness to the fact
That not yet today
Has anyone passed this way.

The peace and quiet part
The mists of my heart,
Leaving solitude and joy;
My life’s ongoing buoy.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Out and About

I woke up this morning rested and relaxed: so relaxed that it took me 30 minutes to get up after I awoke! (Note to self: colons and semi colons work just as well as … dots, - hyphens – and parentheses. Question – should I really fight my natural inclination to use the afore-mentioned?).

But I digress: upon awaking, I felt the “need” to take a hike. I was going to label this “First hike of the season”, but – if to some it would have been a hike, to others it would have been a walk in the woods and to yet others – my brother, my sons and all my nephews, it would have been a stroll in the mountains.  So I got out the jacket (our three days of summer have disappeared), the umbrella and my camera and set off on one of my favorite rounds: through the village, along the road into the forest, up to the “hole of the wolf”, up to the next road and back down into the woods again for a circular loop that takes care of about 2/3 of those daily 10’000 steps. Now, for the other 1/3, will pedaling in the air in front of the Roland Garros (Paris Open) men’s final tennis match this afternoon qualify?
Streams that normally disappear two days after the last snow are still in full spate, moss is growing everywhere (not just on the north side, so don'tcount on it for directions)

and the pines and firs still show their spring-green fingernail polish on the tips.

Return to the chalet – the sun had come out.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I don’t recall how we started our “adventures”, but my housemate and myself try to work in one at least every quarter. No rules: sometimes we put several cities into a bowl and pick one, sometimes one or the other of us wants to visit someplace, sometimes it is because there is a great deal on train/hotel combos and sometimes the voyage is for research on my housemate’s next novel – other times simply something we want to do, which was the case this time.  We had been meaning to get up to where she started her life in Switzerland and where there is a champagne vintner (neither of us has ever been known to turn down a glass of the bubbly). Also, it was a great excuse to see how the new car ran on a more long-distance trip instead of the daily up to the post office or off to the grocery store.

Rule one: we usually have breakfast in a lovely bakery a couple of communes away from us (not only the usual breakfast fare, but also handmade chocolates, pastries, pies, cakes and one of my favorites – a frozen caramel/whip cream concoction that I will use most any excuse to purchase).

Then we set Mack (thus we have named our GPS and poor Mack, we seldom obey, change his plans all the time, but nevertheless he is useful so we still employ him) to La Neuveville , which was our evening’s destination.

Of course we veered off that plan: first stopping to do some more research on sofas and office chairs, then once we were almost there taking a side trip to Grandson.

Château de Grandson
Although we didn’t go in the castle, we did visit the small medieval church – anyone wanting to renovate an ancient site should go there and take note of the wonderful job that they did! 
Mini pansies on the window sill
Grandson's medeival church
Old town Grandson
Window Grandson

Lunchtime so after passing up a few very small cafés we settled on the one directly across from the castle… and were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the daily menu.

                                                                                     After lunch we headed for Môtiers – the main goal    of this trip – for it’s champagne: Mauler & Cie. Visited the church, walked around to see what had changed in the some 20 years since my housemate lived there, then tasted our champagne and unanimously chose the Cuvée Blue Label brut.                                         
Môtiers' church Inside, wooden ceiling
Church in Môtiers
 Môtiers is next door to Couvet, the birthplace of Absinthe and has its own distillers and a store where the old grocery was.
We then happily let Mack lead us to our evening’s B&B in the small town of La Neuveville. We had chosen it for its very interesting past: at one time a bank, then several times a girl’s boarding school, it has been (almost done) completely renovated – the owner is very friendly and informative.

Bieler See
La Neuveville

 Leaving the car there we walked into town (all two blocks of it), then to the lake where we enjoyed a light meal sitting outdoors facing the Lake of Biel.  Around us were several groups having fondue and the people watching was entertaining.

Slightly higher altitude. Flowers are now finally blooming- some with beetles as pretty as they.
Neuchatel's port

The next day after a good breakfast we headed towards Neuchatel, stopping to walk on the beach there, then, both parties being amenable, headed for home and all the work that awaited.

Still, these little adventures are a great way of getting away completely, of changing air (never more so than this time, it was 13°C when we left home, halfway through the first afternoon I had to turn on the air conditioning – it was 27°C!) and in general of seeing something new or the old through new eyes.

Swiss Toblerones - anti-tank line of defense.
On the road again.

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 7 – return to the mountains

Up early, major stress as I tried to get some more credit cards processed for the client, pick up the mail (did take time for my “normal” coffee), dash to the doctor’s (how is it that for a 9 a.m. appointment, I didn’t get in until 9:23! Imagine the poor souls whose appointments are later in the day), another rush to pick up the prescription for my high blood pressure meds (hmmm, wonder if all the rushing is what causes the high blood pressure?). Back home to throw the rest of my mountain essentials (clean towels and sheets) into the car then on-the road-again (some 18 hours after I returned).

A stop for lunch followed by the search for a “perfect” (do I hear laughter) printer: lightweight, but capable of printing photos as well as letters, also require separate ink cartridges and quality for a low price…hope I have at least managed some of those items. Also wi-fi so that I won’t risk my life tripping over the cord (I still have the internet one to contend with, but as I have a super long one I can make it low enough so that it is only a minor risk whereas the printer cord stretched across the kitchen and had to be stepped over at waist height). Another quick stop at my favorite highway station for English magazines… no luck. Then on to the grocery store for supplies for the next few days and my afternoon coffee, before facing the drive up the mountain and detour to my summer rental.

Great weather though and am now happily ensconced leaving my housemate’s daughter to keep the house safe and water the flowers: we went from winter and 13° to summer and 28° without any transition – I’m still in dark trousers and long-sleeved shirts, won’t believe that it is going to last until perhaps another week has gone by with no brutal return to winter!

Looking out at one of my favorite views – clouds burgeoning over the Dents de Morcles (Teeth of the Morcles).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The dichotomy of my life

Two separate days:

One a classical concert featuring the Ukrainian-born, Australian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, if any of you ever have a chance of seeing him in concert – don’t deprive yourselves!) led by Neeme Järvi ( as conductor (again another “must see”) in Rachmaninoff’s Concerto for Piano n°2 – a true “happening”. The staid Genevan audience in Victoria Hall applauded long enough and loudly enough that he did two encores, one Lohengrin’s, which we occidentals normally use as the “wedding” march. Brought a ripple of chuckles.

The second, a “Rhythm and Blues” concert by French-Canadian singer Garou ( for those of you who don’t know him) in the Arena of Geneva: a stand-up-and-dance-in-the-aisles, clap along and even sing along in many places, event that left us all oh-ing and ah-ing and reluctant to return home at the end of the evening.

One right after the other – and I loved both!