Saturday, August 31, 2013

Recycling and two sons

Here in Switzerland we do try and recycle: I can put my normal garbage bags out twice a week, then the compost green bin goes out on Tuesdays. Once a month we drag the cartons of paper and, if I have signed up, another the glass. Also, once a month, we can put on the sidewalk in front of our house any cumbersome objects (anything from a sofa, to a refrigerator, to leftover iron bars). During the late afternoon and evening on those days, one can see vans cruising the neighborhood looking for anything interesting and one is proud if what one divests oneself of, is no longer there in the morning for the city collectors – reverse snobbism: my junk is valuable to someone else; your junk is still on the sidewalk!

All of these items can also be taken to a recycling spot in the village, together with clothing. The rest (electronics, paints, oils, and any of the afore-mentioned items as well) we can take to specific recycling sites in the state.

My oldest son needed to get rid of a computer tower, a vacuum cleaner and other such and as he doesn’t have a car, Mother was called upon.  I decided that it was a great occasion to divest myself of those electronic items having collected several months worth of dust down in my cellar and we made an appointment to do this on the only day that the center is open both morning and afternoon.

Lovely sun, light traffic and I was across town before I knew it – arriving early at his apartment. No problem I had several of the newspapers and magazines that had accumulated during my various spots of entertaining visitors and housemates.

At the center we got rid of it all – with son one going back to recuperate several items for a chap who was looking for still-working materials for Africa (this son did his master’s project in Burkina Faso).

Another reason for doing it just before noon was to be able to have a quick lunch together as, although we both live in the same town, our schedules don’t mesh often and we will probably not sea each other until the end of September in San Francisco when my nephew - their cousin- gets married.

As son number two’s apartment isn’t far away, I also took advantage of the situation to call him and bring the mail, which had arrived this week. (Most of his mail now goes to his flat, but some of it still comes here – he has only been gone 18 months – no rush to change addresses officially, but then as son number one just did so – at age 35 – I really can’t complain and it is an excuse to see him occasionally).

Actually was free to talk so we went over our current arrangements for the trip to California.

All in all a wonderful part of the day’s activities: now on to the actual tasks that need doing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Scooby indulges

Or partying in the mountains.

My housemate and I drove up for a couple of days, bringing along her daughter so that she could also enjoy the pleasures of the mountains before returning to the USA.
Last night had been determined to be Fondue Night – and yes, it deserves the capital letters.

Off we went – accompanied by the ever-valiant Scooby – who at this point has enjoyed so many adventures in Europe that he may never recover.

This night was not an exception: his lady friends (real ones as Petite Cougar and Lady Leopard) were not allowed out, having ganged up on him behind his back, he decided to do well-enough without for at least one evening.


They, the women, not Scooby, got a fit of the giggles when the 20 something waiter joined in the fun, even allowing us to let Scooby entertain the whole restaurant with his excellent piano playing.


Scooby had the time of his life from looking a wee bit sad with his flowers to checking out the candle sticks, to being served wine (note that his bandage became his bib) – all this before the fondue itself. 

It was a night to be remembered. We hear that tonight is champagne and nibbles: wonder if he will be up to it?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three little words…

Not the ones that automatically come to mind either.

A couple of days ago a friend posted this to her Facebook page:
There are 3 little words that can just melt my heart when saying goodbye to my kids. Today was no exception. Just as we entered the school grounds and headed to the gate I heard a voice say, ‘This is good.’ “

I had, of course, been expecting – especially when it comes to family – the more classic “I love you”, but as I got to thinking about it – these three are even better in many ways.

You wake up in the morning to sunshine: this is good.

Your coffee or tea is just how you like it and your breakfast goes without a hitch: this is good.

You start off to work (or any other task) by whatever method of transportation and the car engine turns over on the first try, the bus arrives on time, the train or plane as well: this is good.

Your day goes smoothly, be it at work, or at errands: this is good.

You meet friends, your boss, a possible employer, one of your children, your spouse, or any other person you like, for lunch: this is good.

You finish your tasks for the day on time, or even a little ahead of schedule, the return home goes smoothly with no major traffic jams, long stop lights or rain (if on foot): this is good.

You have a great meal in mind for home, or you’re invited to friends, or you’re on your own but have a favorite treat: this is good.

You watch your favorite program, start a new DVD, finish a good book and get to bed on time: this is good.

Then there are the special events in one’s life: a wedding, the birth of a child or grandchild, a visit to family or far-away friends: this is good.

Even the negative: recovering from surgery, healing a disease, finding the right medication to ease pain: this is good.

Almost even better than “I love you” although I’ll happily say that to many of those in my life, “this is good” is truly wonderful!

May my friend’s children continue to say it many times – and may I remember these three words for even the mundane acts: the dishwasher is done and the dishes clean – this is good!

Thanks Susie.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The beauty of enthusiasm…

Or how to stay young.

I have just spent three days showing my childhood friend and her husband various tourist sights/sites close to my home (about a two-hour radius).

Ah, the fun:  although both are experienced travelers, having even been many places that I have yet to see, this area was new to them. The boundless enthusiasm for what they were seeing, the joy with which each new feature was greeted, made it an ever so pleasant change for jaded me. Or perhaps I should say that, that which we regularly enjoy – over time – becomes ordinary.

Fribourg land
I love Gruyères and will happily take any and all visitors there, but it is fascinating to see how each new introduction leads to an entirely different appreciation of beloved spots. Seen through the eyes of someone seeing if for the first times adds a dimension as their view is always slightly different depending upon experience and interests.

Gruyères' heraldry - the crane

Swiss flag, Chateau de Gruyères

Then it was up to my mountain flat and although the weather changed and the “rains came down”, it was still beautiful in their eyes, being new.

I will try and remember the lesson: if one is open to new sights, new tastes, new cultures and new experiences, one remains young in spirit (o.k. so both of them are also in better physical shape than I currently as I haven’t been up to my usual hiking due to a sprained ankle earlier in the summer), always entertained, and more importantly always interesting to others. Curiosity and enthusiasm coupled with a willingness to experience that, which is different, will always endure one to others.

You go guys – I’ll welcome you back any time! 

Fondue at the Café Central, Les Marécottes, VS

Water mill at Salvan, VS
THe Pisse-Vache waterfall, Vernayaz, VS

Friday, August 23, 2013

Playing tourist

In one’s own town is something to be highly recommended.

Lucky me, I am enjoying the visit of a childhood neighbor and her husband. Up until now they have always gone to exotic – and far from me here in the middle of Europe – destinations. This year following an archeological tour through Scandinavia they came down to stay with me before continuing on to England.

It was one of those glorious summer days that we rarely see: sunny, clear skies with our cold wind. Now this cold wind in the winter can be mighty unbearable: in the summer it just keeps the air clear and the temperatures reasonable.

After a visit to the medieval village of Yvoire, we went into Geneva itself.  


Wall of greenery

The original goal had been the archeological museum below the Cathedral St. Pierre (St. Peter’s cathedral), but as by the time we got there we only had less than an hour until closing and given the beauty of the day, we decided to walk up the South and North towers of the cathedral instead.  One has overview of Geneva, which only would be possibly by helicopter otherwise.

the Jet d'eau as seen from the cathedral

Not having time to take in the entire city, I opted to show them a little known spot: the Pointe à la Jonction (literally the point of the junction) where the Rhone, flowing out of lake Léman, meets the Arve, coming in from the alps: one is glacial waters, cold and murky; the other clear and of a much higher temperature. During the summer my oldest son has been one of the persons responsible for running an associative bar so we even got our drinks free!

On the way home, stopped to buy the fixings for salad and ice cream to celebrate my friend’s birthday: all in all – the perfect day.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Or, how to make something delicious out of odds and ends

There are certainly lessons to be learned by yesterday’s lunch: having decided that I wouldn’t buy anything specifically for lunch as I was going home today, the challenge was to make something out of what was left in the refrigerator.

One red pepper, one yellow pepper, leftover green beans and some feta cheese:
Fortunately, I also had a red onion, some garlic, olive oil and spices.  Slow cook the two peppers, onions, garlic then add some spice, dump in a drop of balsamic cream, chop up the remaining cilantro as well as the remaining tomato (both discovered in the vegetable bin towards the rear where they weren’t visible) and let simmer … dump over crumbled feta cheese and although there were no carbs and I got hungry mid-afternoon, sure was tasty.

So tasty that I forgot the green beans that I had cooked in the microwave – so had those for supper.

Somehow, one should be able to carry over that type of philosophy into one’s daily life and tasks: take one friend, an extra hour, add coffee, mix and voilà instant happiness.
Or take an appointment, which falls through thus gaining an hour or two, add some sun, throw in a lake and voilà a lovely walk giving oneself time to relax.

The combinations are endless if only we look and get creative, throwing things together that we normally wouldn’t consider as belonging with each other.

O.K. back to the “real” tasks.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A sister’s wisdom

Yesterday my sister posted to Facebook the following remark: “I refuse to answer the profile question - "Where did you grow up?" because it would be admitting I have grown up and that is something I am reluctant to do! And btw how can you "grow up" in just one place?"

On my morning walk I got to thinking (sometimes a dangerous thing!).

I recall that the day I turned 50, I said to myself: “I’m finally an adult”. That didn’t necessarily mean that I was grown up, just that after working for 36 years, having had a driver’s license for 35, having been married for 24 and having two children, one of whom was a teenager and the other a young adult, I finally “felt” adult.
Further reflection brought me the following: the friends I have in every decade all bring me something. Those who are 80 or over I find fascinating – always there for a laugh, always understanding of the few wee problems along the way. Those in their 70s feel the time racing, but are still engaged in life, undertaking interesting travels, meeting and making new friends. Those in their 60s are starting to revel in approaching retirement or are already enjoying the extra free time: they have mostly the means and the time to “go exploring”, which in turn makes them interesting.  Those in their 50s are perhaps the ones for whom I feel sorry (if one can call it that): still in jobs, some still raising families, they are caught, but oh what fun they can be when they “let their hair down” – they also have the energy I sometimes lack and are willing to do a good turn! The 40s – I spent several years in a scrapbooking group and although many of the women could have been my daughters, they were every bit as lovely as any of my other friends: raising small children (those who live internationally tend to have their families later) – lovely souvenirs of what I too had had. Believe it or not, I have several very good friends in their 30s – they bring joy, their problems, which have changed greatly from when I was that age, but their own special uniqueness. They seem to me to be more open than I was, more engaged in righting the world’s wrongs, full of laughter and stories.  I have a few in their 20s (ah having had my children late is a blessing as I meet their friends, some of whom I have watched grow from babyhood and who are now starting their own families) – the intelligence, the quick wit: they bring their own preciousness to my life. One of the most fun weekends I spent in recent years was hosting two girls who were in Europe to study Italian – beat most of the pajama parties I had!
Then there are the teens: such fun when they aren’t your own! People with whom one can get silly (right K?), they may think we’re weird, but since we aren’t their parents, we are tolerated. They bring a new view, energy and hope for the future.

I even find myself falling in love with a few very special children, i.e. a 4-year-old last summer, my German nephew’s children. Then there are the babies, whom I could cuddle till the cows come home – or their parents wish to depart.
As to the last part of her question: truly, how can one grow up in just one place? Every place that I have ever lived has brought something to my life; a new “growing up” and that shouldn’t end until I am no longer here.

So, “grow up”? I don’t think so: I’ll grow wrinkles, age spots, gray hairs and hopefully also grow in experience and wisdom as well.
Stick with me my friends and family regardless of your state of growing, let’s “grow” together, always celebrating the process and not the age.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It’s all about choices…

Or the contrariness of humans.

Why is it that we will happily choose something, when, if it were imposed or required, we would refuse to have or do?

Earlier this year one of my hard contact lenses broke: upon obtaining a new prescription, I first went to buy a new pair of glasses (experience over the past 15 years has shown that there will be moments when I cannot wear contacts). They needed to be tri-focal.
Then, as I have worn contact lenses for almost 50 years, I wanted to replace those as well. This led to much experimentation, whereby I finally settled on soft only to correct my nearsightedness.  The idea was to mainly wear the contacts, but the reality is that I usually wear the glasses as having to find reading glasses for both books and computer screens is not fun. I originally thought that I would always drive with them as the field of vision is larger and one can more easily put on, or take off, sunglasses than the clip on my glasses. It turns out, that I live with the clip more: would that have been the case if I had bought trifocal hard contact lenses? Choices made, choices may be changed.

Hearing aids are the same: bought them as had hearing loss, but was never able to get used to wearing them: the comfort of knowing that I can use them outweighs the necessity – a choice.

Friendships are similar: when I started renting my mountain bolthole the intention was just that: a place to go when I needed to be alone and not with a lot of other people. But as there are some lovely and interesting people here, I have chosen to interact with them anyway – another choice.
And so it goes for temperatures as well: it has always intrigued me that in the winter 19°C (68°F) is cold, but that when it is hot out in the summer, those same 19°C are welcome and we’ll happily keep the thermostat there.

Those who know me, know how much I detest the heat: at 30°C I melt, become testy and without the will for much other than to seek cooler temperatures. So why, last night, after having gotten too cold sitting at 20°C did I find a fire and 30°C lovely?

Ah the perversity of mankind. Not likely to change any time soon.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The good, the bad and the indifferent…

Nothing lasts forever and mostly that’s a positive thing.

Should the wonderful events in our life have no end, they would become ordinary.
Should the awful be never ending, we would fall into depression.
And without the indifferent, we would have no measure for the other two.

So, my wish for all, is everything in its own time, all in good measure and nothing everlasting.

Mountain philosophy: it’s a good day when one can 
walk without knee or ankle braces, can hear, can see the beauty of a sunny, not-too-hot, not-too-cold day, can appreciate the moment.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer hay

Or “making it while the sun shines”.

After a weekend full of love – and food – I am again back in the mountains.
Although I am enjoying the change from the all-too-hot weather days, I am almost nostalgic for summer: when the hay has been cut and the underlying air becomes cooler one knows that fall is just around the corner

The clouds again sit around mountain peaks, the days grow shorter and many families are heading homewards as school starts again soon.

Will enjoy a few more days of leisure before it all becomes just a memory.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Out with the old

Only five items put out today for the “voluminous objects” trash pickup tomorrow, but oh the memories.

The office chair has seen our first office; our moving the office home and then was given to my housemate as it was small enough to fit into her bedroom along with the desk. However, the mechanism was worn out and the chair would no longer hold its position – gone.

The sofa corner: gotten 25 years ago “for just a few years” whilst the boys were growing – we had every intention of replacing it well before now, but somehow that never happened. It was used as a scratching board by all three cats and now that we are a cat-free household, it is time to find something new. O.K. so there are five more elements to go, but at least it is a start!

The garden chair: suffered a broken arm during one of the many parties that this house has seen, was it during one of mine? Highly doubtful, more likely one of the son’s wilder do’s… in any case time to eliminate it so that it doesn’t hurt another guest. We think more of them than that.

The large wooden box: a separate story, which would take more room than I have on this blog: let it simply be said that son #2 procured it for me – made to order – to encase our favorite painting… and then was never used as it wouldn’t fit into the car that transported said painting to the Island of Poel in Northern Germany. The box may not have been used, but D-L and I got two trips out of the fetching of the painting then returning for research on her 9th novel “Murder in Poel” which is slated to be published next year. Check out her website:

It wasn’t much to put out compared to all the other items needing sorting after 32 years in the same house, but it felt good to at least get that much done.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Enough already!

I truly thought that perhaps this household’s woes were behind us – think again.

I had had tooth problems last fall, which led to nerve problems, which a fall on my head (black ice) solved. Then we had other things, but the tooth was quiet.

That is until about a week or ten days ago when it started aching again.

Managed to ignore it as was in the midst of other much more entertaining events (as well as the more serious ones: house mate’s fall and operation). Friday night though I noticed that the filling had a hole in it, then Saturday that there was a slight crack in between filling and tooth, then last night that I could actually take the filling out (I didn’t as figured things were already bad enough).

This morning as I had to go into town I dropped by my dentist’s office who, of course, was on vacation. I debated returning home and calling her number to get her replacement, then thought: no, I’m here; I’ll go to the dental emergency office.

Explained the problem and was lucky enough to be able to wait (only 5 minutes) before someone was free: one of those doctors who – again – seemed to just be out of kinder garden. So yes the filling could come out, but the reason it could, was that the tooth was broken in half. Didn’t take them long to convince me that it needed to come out, I was there, they were ready.

So, other than those baby teeth (ever so cute) I have lost my first “real” tooth at the ripe old age of 65.  That isn’t much of a problem as it doesn’t need replacing (I’ll get a second opinion though when my dentist returns), but there was an infection so I am on antibiotics for 7 days too…

The true downside: no hot drinks for 2 days (my coffee, my coffee) nor rinsing of mouth etc. Also will now worry about the other three molars, which also have fillings (it turns out that the mercury in the fillings expands over time and we are talking about fillings that are at least 40 years old!). Am a chicken so took pain killers after I had my two yogurts and apple sauce for lunch to create a lining for the antibiotics and currently have minimal pain (but I was the one who had no pain after my wisdom teeth were removed), but discomfort and the shock are not a good way to start the week – a true Monday.

Ah, but tomorrow's another day and if the good things never last, neither do the bad!
So bye-bye molar, hello no pain. Should have kept the mercury to make a thermometer.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Life's little milestones

Ah, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day.

Woke up thinking “it’s my birthday and I’ll party if I want to, party if I want to” to the tune of “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…”  Hmmm, wonder which is more appropriate?
65 – what a milestone, yet I remember turning 6 as clearly as if it were yesterday. Ah the memories, so after a brief (very) pause to think: gee, I guess I am getting older, I then thought – still lots of living to do and began my day.

Coffee with M in the village under sunny skies with a breath of air; a spot of retail therapy (found a new everyday purse – and I’ve been looking for some 5 years – I can tell it’s going to be my lucky day!) – very successful retail therapy I must add.

Then I was off to pick up a twin (shares my birthday if not the year) to have lunch with a third friend at the foot of the Jura mountain chain – more sun and a lovely breeze. Back into town (ever so grateful for a car with air conditioning as another record-breaking temperature day), dropping E then heading home for cocktails in the garden with my boys followed by dinner at the restaurant on the lake just down the road.

Cards, e-mails, texts and even presents including a fun treasure hunt for a series of cartoon books from one of my favorite authors (figuratively and in reality); Auer chocolates – simply the best of any in the world, and believe me, I have tried chocolates; lotions, potions galore from both sons who seemed to have had the same great thought; and my bed linens washed and bed re-made by L– that truly made it a special day).

In fact it was such a great day that I didn’t get around to seeing e-mails, cards and texts until this morning so taking a clue from the Christmas Cake that my sister posted on FB to wish me a Happy Birthday, I’m going to party until then!

The sun may have set, but the light hasn't gone out.

Sunset as seen from our table.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Or simply fun…

After the airport run (R & D-L are driving to Argelès and R needed to pick up the car – as no traffic ever happy to volunteer to benefit from the AC in my car), I had an appointment in town.

Imagine my double-blink when I saw the first of these.

What a wonderful idea – this has possibilities (so many I won't even start listing them, but personally I'd pay to have Maxine cartoons as one series) and sure would help stimulate throwing your trash away!

Clever, useful, attractive, fun – it meets all my criteria!
And some people say that the Swiss are behind the times or not innovative - I could see this idea going viral all over the world.

Swiss trash bag

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Waves of Happiness

My roommate and I share something wonderful: every once in awhile we’ll feel just immersed in a happiness wave. They come unbidden and not often, nor are they explainable as to why then or there, they just appear.

I had one yesterday as I left the mountains for the trek home to celebrate the Swiss National Holiday August 1st.

After the cold and rain of Monday, followed by a general clearing out of clouds and bad weather on Tuesday, Wednesday was a brilliant day: the greens were greener, the blues as blue as they’ll ever be – everything was shiny and seemingly new.

Then today – the Swiss National Holiday: it was in 1891 that the date of Swiss National day was first decided upon – August 1 (the chosen date of August 1st harks back to summer of 1291 when three cantons bonded together, not as a country, but in a pact of mutual support should they be attacked by the reigning Habsburgs).

Then, the Swiss not being particularly rapid when it comes to many things, took over a hundred years before running a vote to actually give themselves the day off. Following the vote in September 1993, the day became an official national holiday in 1994.
Celebrations are similarly low-key with a gathering of the community, the reading of the pact and a bonfire. Often children carry lanterns (and yes, some still have real candles in them) and parade around the village.  It is a very special sight to be on a boat in the middle of some small lake in Switzerland’s interior and see the bonfires on all the surrounding hillsides.
So happy vacation to all of you wherever you are – enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

La Batiaz Bridge, Martigny
Chalet, Les Marécottes, VS
Lac Léman just out of St.Gingolph

August 1 decorations