Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Use it or lose it"

I didn’t so I did.

As foreseen, awoke to a gloriously sunny day here in the mountains, light breeze, temperatures hovering around 20°C (68°F).
Although it took awhile for me to get out, weather and the ankle combined to make a hike possible (o.k. it can hardly qualify for a “hike” – after five weeks of very sporadic and mostly flat surfaces due to the ankle – that just sounds better than walk, or, as my brother would probably qualify it – a leisurely stroll).

I was pleased that I could go straight up the mountain path without stopping for a whole 15 minutes, but boy it sure doesn’t compare to just a few years ago when I would hike straight up for two hours – and an altitude climb of approx. 2’000 feet – then take the cable car back down.

Still it’s a start: I find that one thing has greatly improved with the years – I no longer stress if I don’t do so many minutes/miles per day. If I stop due to a cold, a sprained ankle, too much to do, that I can get back to it and build slowly up to the same level (if not speed and distance).

It’s a pleasure – and enough - just to be able to be on my own two feet, walking where fluffy white clouds drape themselves over the mountains and where the woods are green, the streams lively and the wooden chalets starting to fly their Swiss flags in honor of the upcoming National Holiday August 1st.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Editor Scooby-Doo 3

Ah – lunch was Mexican and good even if not exactly the Tex-Mex of my youth, so why did my hostess think that one measly yogurt for supper was a meal? I mean, really, I need sustenance.

Especially in light of the short night: that storm they had foreseen for late afternoon managed to announce its booming presence – at 4:30 a.m. totally interrupting my beauty sleep.

That, of course, led my hostess to think that I could perhaps benefit from a coffee tasting – in spite of what my mistress had told her (that I couldn’t hold my coffee and would need to be within a 3-foot radius of the facilities all day long!). Some people just refuse to understand certain realities. Good thing she had a husband and a mother who took anti-diuretics and knows where every toilet is in Geneva or any other spot where she spends any amount of time.

Decisions, decisions, cup? coffee?
As the weather man was correct, for once, in his predictions that there would be 100% chance of rain, we didn’t move much. What he didn’t say was that it would be for 100% of the day!  My hostess, wishing to spare me I suppose (as I had neither winter jacket nor rain equipment) left me to my own devices, i.e. a nap, and went down to Martigny for coffee and a look around. She returned pronto as all the tourists were shopping and she doesn’t do crowds.

Ah the comforts of home.
Weather wise and just to impress upon you the variations that we deal with here in the Swiss Alps: when we arrived Saturday afternoon it was 32° C on the car thermometer; today when she went to the valley it was 12°C (90°F and 54°F approx.). And then we wonder why we are tired?

Well tomorrow is another day – we enjoyed the break in the weather – and the sun will probably be out again. I could really get used to this “vacationing” thing.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Editor: Scooby-Doo 2

It is different sleeping in the mountains: tired, but excited so didn’t sleep all the way through.

This morning, I learned that a Sunday in the chalet is entirely different from what I have observed up until now: the hostess got the Sunday paper and proceeded to have coffee and breakfast (peanut butter and jelly) for almost an hour – who could have imagined?

Sunday paper in Switzerland

My window

Then as it was already warm outside I was packed into a backpack and we set off to discover the wonders close to home: waterfalls, wooden bridges for the walkers, etc.

Fountain - many along the way.
Pedestrian bridge

I even got to hug a tree (don’t I look relaxed about that? The second time I was feeling a bit more confident).

Wild strawberries- nummy...

After resting on a bench in the full sun I could understand her muttering about the heat so, after sniffing out a wild strawberry, I graciously allowed that we could return home (after all I didn’t want her to end up fainting like my mistress’s mother a couple of weeks ago, nor have her throw me over a cliff… amongst the mutterings was “he is just too hot to be carrying”).

The chalet was a cooler 24° (75° F) and as I write, she is taking a shower, so I hope that she will come out with her usual good humor: wonder what’s for lunch?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Guest Editor: Scooby-Doo

Dear Mommy,

After you abandoned me here in Switzerland, I moped for a bit as neither grandma, her fiance nor her friend let me sleep with them. 

It was so hot too and when I overheard them discussing the mountains, I decided to stow away.

Such excitement – I climbed into the trunk, but got found quickly. The driver took my presence well and seeing how hot I was began looking for refreshing views and entertaining stops. You wouldn’t believe the water I’ve seen on the way to the alps: Lac Léman (often simply called Lake Geneva much to the disgust of the people in the next canton up as well as the French who share part of its shores);
Lac Leman

the Rhone river (looks awful, as it is gray, but the driver told me that that is because it is glacial run-off so carries a lot of stone sediment); 

Rhone River

an artificial lake at one of the most gorgeous highway stops I’ve ever seen;
Relais du Grand Saint Bernard

the Trient river, which flows through a gorge of the same name and the Dranse, which runs under a too-cute-to-be-believed wooden bridge.

La Batiaz

Pretty is, as pretty does.

But there was also playtime – 


 I got to sit on the swing,
 ride the frog,


climb the ropes: sure am glad she didn’t make me go down the BMX run – my tummy felt funny just thinking of those bumps. 

BMX park in the Chablais

Since I am a bit afraid of swimming I didn’t go in the lake to play with the ducks nor jump off the bridge (Western City), 

 but I loved sitting at the picnic table, 


posing with my cousin and aunt
hugging a cow (thank goodness it was only a plastic one – they are too big for me!). 

Then I got to lay on a very old car, which parked by mine 


A real day to be remembered, but I am glad now to lay on the sofa and recuperate: who knows what she’ll want to do tomorrow? 

Friday, July 26, 2013

WCP or a variation on household tasks

When we moved into our new home May 2, 1981 I remember telling my husband: I take care of the children (at that point only one), I take care of the house, I work for our business full time, but I don’t do the garden. Well, he didn’t either

Over the years we have been ecologically proper without even trying, i.e. the lawn that I spent so many hours weeding on hands and knees the first couple of summers, turned into a prairie – one where dandelions provide the greater share of color, although in recent years a touch of blue has been added by some other weed that likes the soil and climatic conditions. The hedges flourish – their roots preventing any serious planting of more delicate flowers.

The oaks have this thing for promptitude and regularity: every year thousands of acorns receive their blankets of leaves – all needing to be raked and disposed of in green compost bins. Now, I know some would say, why don’t you just leave them be? That would show lack of knowledge about oak acorns: 5 days and you have a root about 10 “ long – our lot would now be an oak forest and the house non existent, strangled by offshoots and buried in leaves.

When we built the winter garden, we transplanted the terrace several feet further: it likes to collect any stray seedlings and moss if the springs are wet.

As I travel a lot – and so far have yet to find guests or housemates that enjoy gardening – it is a good year if the front and terraces are in reasonable shape for the annual August 1 cocktail party (Swiss Independence Day). Once it was perfect even with a new stone patio laid when a neighbor needed work for an immigrant that she was sponsoring, but it was only once.

The cleaning lady plants a flowerbed and occasionally mows (an electric mower, which the parents could handle, was an anethma to both sons: even bribery didn’t work as they would reply, that, thank you very much, they had enough pocket money!). The housemate and myself rake the acorns and leaves and occasionally remember to water houseplants.

Until that glorious day when said housemate fell in love: the “fiancé” enjoys gardening as a physical outlet for all his intellectual occupations – hallelujah. In one day a couple of weeks ago he managed to totally take care of leaves, rubbish and weeds under the roses, then continued to dig up stones and lift the tarp covering from what used to be the front lawn until the cleaning lady and I dug it up, then didn’t put water in the roller to properly level it. Replacing them, he realized that one was shorter than the other so laid them horizontally, which led to redesigning the front walkway and entry.  OK, we haven’t had time to implement much, but it’s a start and gave me the necessary push to weed the terrace and water the one flowerbed – thus the watering part of today’s acronym.

Clipping: I was on a roll and the sun not yet at its zenith, so took the clippers and went along the outside hedge cutting all the very spikey, sticky weeds protruding on to the sidewalk at all levels: passersby now no longer risk their skin and clothes being torn, nor I a suit for damage.

Planting: more minimal, but I had found a clematis bearing my name in the local garden center – so it joined the flower bed before it got hot this morning, as did my grown-from-seed cornflower seedlings.

Now to watch it all and maintain the rhythm. Thanks for the help R!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

“All is well that end’s well.”

This is, of course, best known from the Shakespeare play of the same name, but it was a proverb before it was a play title. John Heywood included it in A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546: (his spelling errors, not mine). A proverb that means: problems do not matter so long as the outcome is good.
Why the title? For those of you who are regular followers, you will recall that on July 13th I wrote of my housemates mishap – falling face forward into the entryway.  Surgery was indicated – more for esthetic reasons they said – and although she wavered a few times, she did go in yesterday. As it turns out, a very good thing since they found bone splinters whilst placing the titanium plates to stabilize her eye socket.  These would have had the potential to do some real mischief down the line so it is a well that the doctors proposed surgery.

Her fiancé and I brought her home today and we are hoping that this year’s allotment of disasters is also now well ended – I know the road to the University Hospital way too well!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Language and other discoveries

Driving into town these past few days, one is hit by the ad from one of the local cell phone suppliers, which is plastered on the side of the summer open-air cinema: “ENJOY”

This morning as we yet again remarked upon the stupidity of having an English-language ad in a French-speaking city, we got to playing how-would-the-locals-pronounce-this?
I spontaneously said “en joie” and (light-bulb moment) realized that our English word thus probably came from the French “to be in joy”.

Searching confirmation, the online etymology dictionary http://www.etymonline.com/ states:
“late 14c., "rejoice, be glad" (intransitive), from Old French enjoir "to give joy, rejoice, take delight in," from en- "make" (see en- (1)) + joir "enjoy," from Latin gaudere "rejoice" (see joy). Not often that I figure such things out spontaneously, so it made my day.

I love languages, their origins and all those wonderful plays on words in the three languages that I kind of operate in.

Other discoveries: today is a day that is also blessed by the birthdays of two separate friends: my housemate and the oldest daughter of one of my best friends.

So to the both of them I raise my glass in gratitude for friends both far and near: Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


It seems to me that some days ago – I am currently living my life instead of just blogging it – I mentioned PCS would follow WPS the next day: well if the activities did, the recounting of them didn’t!

PCS = Plumbing Cleaning and Sorting

The first involved looking for a wrench (a specific one, which seems to have disappeared into that wide world known as sons), then not finding said item, buying a new one.
Then it was turn off the water mains, which led to showing my housemate where they were and how to turn them off, just in case it were ever necessary (she’s only shared my house part-time for 8 years now, but it’s never too late to learn the essentials).
Finally I could get down to business, i.e. taking apart the water faucet up in the attic to see why the hot water was not coming in properly: couldn’t find anything, but did learn that if one turned it on full force – and only towards the hot – that it actually was plenty warm for a bath – now to communicate that to all visitors.

Cleaning, kind of didn’t get very far: does one shelf and one drawer in the kitchen count?

Sorting, more or less the same as cleaning although I have a great system. When I feel like I am drowning in paper and “things”, I get out a piece of white paper and write on it several columns: 20 pieces of paper to be thrown out; 10 pieces of paper to be filed; 5 objects to sort, toss or put away; a twenty-minute walk; 5 documents, newspaper articles, etc. to be scanned.  If I do that every day for a week it actually does make a difference and sometimes I even do more than the required.

Do I still need to have a real plumber look at the bathtub? Do I still have a ton of things to clean and sort? Yes, but just writing about them may motivate me to do them…
Then again, tomorrow is another day so think I'll go take that walk instead!

Swans on Lac Leman

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A WPS morning

I seem to have developed a love of acronyms – bear with me.

Began the day
Pruning and

One of the blessings of staying home for 10 days or so is the possibility of getting around to some of those myriad tasks that keep getting put off as not being “important enough”, i.e. can-be-postponed. They are not necessary to survival; most are only esthetic tasks (oh, I can hear the gardeners getting riled at that phrase, but in my household plants are on their own when it comes to their existence) and cleaning of appliances doesn’t happen unless so much grime has accumulated that they might be hazardous to our health.

I try to have flowers in a small space on the corner of the back patio, but usually it is my cleaning lady who plants them. If I am extremely lucky whoever is currently staying in the house will water them in my absence, but most of my visitors seem to be more like me – “plants, you’re on your own”. However, I am home and currently babying them – going so far as to buying a few more to fill in the holes! Thus, the watering. 

Pruning – I do, when I have extreme amounts of free time, i.e. 5 minutes - try and prune or deadhead said flowers. It has actually happened a couple of times this summer.

Scrubbing: I have a microwave convection oven, which means that one can’t just occasionally wipe off the grime. No, it has to actually be scrubbed with oven cleaner once in a blue moon, so, although the moon is only a half-moon tonight, I was motivated.

Tomorrow we’ll take on the PCS… stay tuned.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A 3-P day: puttering, potting and positive

Ah, the pleasure of a whole day without appointments or worries (a fact which I can now confirm having gotten to the early evening without any mishaps in the house, or, to my knowledge, to those I love outside of the house). This doesn’t happen often in my life and is greatly appreciated when it does.

Awoke to a cool morning, a quiet Sunday and sun.

That put me in a positive mood so enjoyed starting a new book instead of rushing off anywhere. When I did deign to arise and breakfast, it was leisurely.

Then puttered and potted my way through the day: an Aloe Vera plant in my bedroom desperately needed re-potting (managed 8 separate pots from that); my few flowers got a benevolent soak, my roses got dead-headed and I annihilated a few weeds on the terrace.

Downloaded pictures from all my cameras; sent out the invitation to my August 1st come-as-you-are for-however-long cocktail party; contemplated being more energetic and shot down the thought in the same nanosecond that it took to form.

Puttering, potting – everything was positive in this one day, including my reward below.

Mango shergert

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It’s been a right old week, not one to be repeated!


One of those that comes unexpectedly (preparing for disaster isn’t something I keep at the front of my mind) and that, once ended, one sighs with relief – everyone alive and accounted for!

They always start out innocuously…

I was thinking of fixing my noon meal up in my mountain retreat 5 days ago when I starting getting text messages from housemate D-L's fiancé... “en route to hospital with D-L – she fell and hit her head”... “ in the ambulance on way to the hospital”...etc. By the time I had eaten lunch and fielded a few more text messages, I decided that I had best get back to Geneva. Only stopped at the house long enough to dump my stuff before continuing on to emergency. Scans showed no reason for the fall (fortunately) but she did have several fractures around her eye: no blowing her nose for several months and sneezing only with her mouth open. They kept her for observation that night and we came home around 10 p.m. stopping for a beer on the way to decompress. Up early the next morning, but we weren't able to get any news or visit until 10 a.m.  Once there we learned that she would be released, but they set up another meeting with the facial surgeons for that afternoon so D-L and R decided to stay until then.

I ran several errands, then on the way home got a text message from another friend saying that she would be flying overseas the next day as her daughter had been programmed for a C-section early Saturday morning. Had a quick coffee with her until D-L and R called around 5 p.m. that they were ready to come home. We celebrated as best as possible the publication of her 8th novel, which was officially released that very day.

Thursday was re-trench, take stock and recuperate: R spent the whole day raking leaves, pulling weeds and re-designing my front yard – D-L rested. I finally got back to some of my office tasks.

Friday I helped my older son get a few replacement items for his flat: due to his “bad back” (a herniated disc back in December), it was mother picking up boxes and loading the car whilst apparently healthy son looked on (good thing there weren’t too many people around and it certainly gives me more perspective on what problems others might have who look healthy because their “handicap” isn’t readily visible).

But fortunately time never stands still and positive usually follows negative.

Last night R threw a surprise party for D-L to celebrate the publication of Murder in Paris with several of her friends and out she went, swollen face and all – a very summery night, a table on the outdoor patio, great company – all worth it.

This morning I received news that baby E had been born and that “mother and child” are doing fine.

It has been a zoo. Anyway, certainly not bored, but no time to blog either!
Next week will be calmer (my prayer to the gods that be).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Baby steps

Or, adjusting one’s realities

Today for the first time in three weeks I actually decided to take a path up through the forest instead of staying on the flat. (I sprained the same ankle that had already been subjected to a broken heel and a bad sprain a few years back, which greatly curtailed my hiking capacity up in the mountains in June). I figured that since I had managed the standing concert Friday, it would probably be o.k. as long as I was climbing and not going down: as a precaution I put on the flexible brace. What with picture taking and stopping to admire the scenery it was a whole hour! Feeling pleased with myself.

But that brings us back to the subject: will I ever again take a weeklong backpacking trip in the Sierra’s? Probably not, but I can perhaps work back up to a half-day hike.

And so it is in life, many things become more difficult with age, but other paths open. We may no longer be able to take on as much, but perhaps we do a better job with those tasks we continue. Maybe we can’t dance all night – or even talk a whole night through, but we can take a nap the next day to compensate for those hours after midnight. Perhaps our eyesight grows dim and our hearing iffy, thankfully taste buds usually hold up to their task.

Stopping to smell the roses was never more appropriate: adjusting one's realities to fit the circumstances never more necessary.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Leonard Cohen – one of the greats

Although I have lived in Geneva for 40 years now, I had never attended any of the Montreux Jazz Festival concerts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreux_Jazz_Festival At least I picked a wonderful way to begin by attending Leonard Cohen’s concert last night. 
Stravinski Hall
It all started when I was on my USA trip this spring – whilst checking emails and various newspapers online I noticed that he would be singing to open and to open (his first concert was Thurs. night, but the MJF didn’t officially start until Fri. night… there has been a bit of fun by various journalists about that fact) so wrote my housemate to find out if she was interested, knowing that we were both fans. She said, of course, and could she bring her fiancé, to which I replied, of course, and she said o.k. go ahead and get the tickets: I had to then say, I can’t from here as don’t have all the access and am afraid I’ll forget when they open the sales, could you please… (we do have such a great “working” relationship!). She was able to get three tickets, then it was planning how to get there. Train seemed the logical answer so that is what we did.

After all the fun of the windowpane replacement in the morning, the day sped by and none of us were really ready on time. Had also forgotten the traffic element so by the time we got to Montreux, the doors were already open. I needed to get my ticket changed as we had used different machines in Geneva and my housemate and fiancé got 10% and their ticket was valid until the next morning: my machine didn’t offer that – neither the 10% nor the next morning and worrying that we might not make it back to Geneva before the midnight deadline I stood in line to see if I could change it, whilst they went to grab standing spots.
Thank goodness I did – as it turned out we didn’t pull into the driveway until 2:45 a.m.!

As luck would have it (imagine if you can: we had gone our different ways right out of the train station, walked a good half a mile, each of us had popped into a different store to get water, had had to exchange our tickets for a bracelet, then had accessed the Stravinski Hall by different doors, only for me to realize that when I went through to enter the concert premises itself, that I was right behind them!) we were able to get spots with our backs to one of the camera cages with a good view of the screen so were able to sit on the floor for a great deal of the time.

The local papers all reported what we experienced: a fabulous concert by a very talented, old guard singer. No, they have not all passed away, nor has his voice diminished: at 78 to sing for an hour and a quarter before the first break, then to have the second half be every bit as long, followed by encore after encore until we weren’t sure whether he would stop or we could. Such a gentlemen man too as all of his back-up musicians were given their chance to shine (and some several times), so many different nationalities, such grace in his intros of them, and such humor (“I can also sing three hours like Bruce Springsteen”).
Stars in our eyes and love in our hearts we left Montreux determined to return again and experience more of the atmosphere and talent another year.

They didn't always stay still.

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 5: Fun in the Neighborhood or


how to change a glass pane the easy way.

Noise, clanking and lots of activity right in front of my balcony at 7 a.m.: what in the world is going on was my first thought. Second one: thank goodness I am already up!

Rolled up the aluminum awning (finally back to warm days and as my bedroom has the afternoon sun, this is an up and down game everyday) and found myself about 10 meters from a huge yellow crane. It took up the whole road and I didn’t have to wait long to find out what was going on when my neighbors said hello from their balcony (we share a wall).

Now most of us when a window or glass pane breaks, call someone who comes and replaces it: this involves some measuring, lots of packing, a medium size truck and perhaps an hour or two. This was a whole other ball game: the whole procedure took about 3 hours – to change a broken glass pane measuring approx. 3 x 3 meters and we had front row seats. 

OK so the road was blocked off and I wasn’t able to get out to neither coffee nor mail, however, this was entertainment at its best as shown in the pictures below.  D-L’s fiance took videos, which I am hoping that he will post so here is his link, just in case: http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.com/

What will we do tomorrow for entertainment?

Oh, yes, one last detail – the broken pane? They deliberately dropped it, making it easier to transport, once the insurance agent had been to see it. We may not have had fireworks for 4th of July, but we got the crackling sound with a slight time delay in any case.

Crane set-up

Glass pane clamps

Broken window coming over

Street level for inspection

On the ground for removal

New window going up

New window going over the three-story house in front of its destination

Clearing the roof