Friday, November 29, 2013


In (a)

OK, so it doesn’t rhyme, and lacking any explanatory sentences probably doesn’t make much sense to most of my readers, so I will (as usual) elaborate.

Way back when the children were growing up, Thursday was the day that they were free from school (since changed to Wednesday), so celebrating Thanksgiving was facilitated, if not easy, as I could usually take the afternoon to cook up a storm. Nothing elaborate and – as often as not – more a grilled chicken than a turkey, still we did celebrate my roots.

The children left and trying to have a family meal in the middle of the week became almost impossible, so we would do it the weekend after and I would go through the day itself thinking of other Thanksgivings and family.

Time passed, my husband died, and a housemate moved in part-time.  We could usually managed to both be here and free for Thanksgiving so for several years it was a communal effort to put Thanksgiving on the table for mainly non-Americans, but all of whom had some tie or other to the tradition: English who had spent time in the USA, persons born there, but never having lived there, etc. Hard work and two in my small kitchen took some doing, but we were both very good at doing it together and have fond memories of those years too.

Then, a couple of restaurants on our side of the lake (several large hotel restaurants in town have always done one) started doing Thanksgiving dinners. One year it was myself, my housemate, her daughter, and another couple where the wife was American and the husband French at a restaurant in the last village before the French border where the couple had spent many years in New York: delicious, but table service.

The true break-through came when our local restaurant – Café des Marrronniers  ( ) changed owners. For the past three years we have attended their Thanksgiving dinner, which just keeps getting better and better. One is served either soup or salad at table to start, but the main meal is set up buffet style and includes all the “goodies” of a traditional Thanksgiving.

Each year we pick a couple of good friends to come celebrate with us – making a “family of choice” in lieu of the missing of our own.  Mixed nationalities (9 of us this year: 4 held USA passports of whom 2 are dual nationals; 1 English only, 1 Greek, 3 Swiss only) and mixed generations running the gamut from 18 through over 70; didn’t count the languages but amongst us we probably covered at least 7, if not more.

An evening of wonderful friendship, good conversation and excellent food, including pumpkin pie, apple pies, cookies and New York cheesecake – a blessing in the winter gray, the memories of which will warm our hearts for many years.

Thank you my friends for making the evening so pleasant!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Malta or lunch ?

Couldn’t quite decide which to blog so never mind, it will have to be both.

Today was the day that my housemate and I had picked to finally do something about our promise to ourselves.  Backing up: a couple of years ago when I had been through 9 years of visiting my mother twice a year, then having her in a private home for two and a half, then facing her death, followed a month later by my younger sister’s cancer diagnosis; when my housemate had also had many a crisis with her mom, finally losing her as well, the thing that kept us both going was our promise to ourselves that “when this is all over” we would go somewhere for a few days, not to travel, sight see or do anything in particular, but simply to rest. It needed to be a place where we wouldn’t experience jet lag, where it wouldn’t take us more than a half a day to access, and – most importantly – somewhere that neither of us had ever been! A tall order indeed and it took awhile before we chose the island of Malta. Thereafter, whenever things were particularly grim, we would whisper or sign off an e-mail with “Malta, Malta, Malta”. It became the mantra for “things will improve”. 

My sister passed away, my housemate met a man, there were more of our own crises, but a lot of good times as well: still Malta had never materialized and we were in danger of letting it go the way of many a good promise, until we set a date to do something about it – as well as an approximate time when we would both be free.

Today we finally took the step and entered my favorite travel agency: although none of the agents that I have used before were there, the one who greeted us was ever so helpful. She also was very good at determining the reason for our visit as well as “warning” us that the end of February and the beginning of March were very windy months on the island, that, although warmer than Switzerland at the same time, it was definitely not going to be a beach holiday. We looked at each other and answered: "just been through several days of the Tramontane", "see the bise still blowing outside" - then in unison: "it doesn't matter". Whereupon she proceeded to line up flights and a hotel – five star no less – at such reasonable prices that we booked on the spot.

It is actually going to happen!

That was pleasant happening number one.

Pleasant affair number two was lunch.  Now I love editing my housemates' books and have just finished yet another (is it #8, 9 or 10?) and would do so for absolutely nothing, but she insists that I get at least a good meal out of the deal. She and her husband had discovered a lovely restaurant across the border and my, oh my, what a find: from the “amuse bouche” (a starter meant to introduce the meal – always at the whim of the chef – and just as often more than excellent) to the first course where we both chose a crab millefeuille (napoleon) to the main, in my case a “quasi” or boneless leg of lamb and in her case a roasted duck, it was all perfect. Perfectly presented, perfectly spiced, a feast not only for the eyes but the palate: when I can I edit another novel?

And – a very rare thing – in both cases I forgot any of my cameras so there are only the mental pictures to remember these two amazing events.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Weight whatever or…

Weight loss, weight control, weight maintenance.

Interesting that I don’t mention weight gain – and yes, I would have some (o.k. to be honest very little) empathy for those who have that problem, most of us don’t.

A month or so ago  I had the brilliant idea of asking a friend if she was free for lunch (often have that one), whereupon she hesitatingly told me that, as her husband was gone, she was trying a three-day whatever (not really a diet, nor totally a de-tox so at loss as to what to call it) and that if I didn’t mind, I was happily invited.  “Lunch” that day was 5 crackers and cottage cheese. 

Having spent a great deal of this year either not being able to walk, or eating all the goodies that came my way, I pondered it over a few weeks then decided that it would probably be a good idea if I would also do it – I mean what’s three days?

I discovered that yes: I can drink my coffee black, that tea starts tasting very good as an alternative (never had too much trouble drinking that without milk or sugar); that dry toast is not too bad, as long as it is my “vitality” one with plenty of grains for flavor; that I have always liked broccoli, cauliflower and that beets were acceptable (if not perhaps for the number of times that they were on the menu); that hard boiled eggs are palatable, but that tuna without mayonnaise just isn’t acceptable!

My friend e-mailed me yesterday to find out if I had "gotten thin" - that was good for a whopping belly laugh: normal was 15 years and 15 kilos ago, thin was as a baby, a child, a young adult (o.k. scrawny was more like it; I had a few monikers such as "Long John Sliver") and then with my first child...
who was born 35 years ago.

Did I loose weight? Probably not (having not stepped on a scale for years I really wouldn’t know), but that wasn’t the point.  I wanted to feel again what it was to be hungry; I wanted to avoid having to go out and buy a new lot of trousers (getting tight, they were!); I didn’t want to head into the over-abundance-of-good-food season already straining at the gills; I wanted to see what “real” portions were to remind myself that, yes, portion control does count, and most of all; I simply wanted to feel that I had done something for my health.

So I head into the holiday season – if not lighter – at least with the knowledge that I can control what I eat and that more is not necessarily better: bring on the champagne, popcorn and brownies!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A trip to the dentist or…

A wonderful half hour.

I know, I know, half of you had to re-read that title two or three times, the other half are wondering when they should contact my sons to see if I am o.k.

But, as usual, there is a reason for my euphoria concerning a dental visit.

Last fall in early September I went for a check-up and dental hygiene (I have a lovely dentist who does all her own work from cleaning teeth to the x-rays to the more serious items such as cavity filling: she doesn’t do implants, but that’s another story). X-rays were duly taken, my teeth cleaned and admired (most European dentists stand in awe of American teeth) and that was that, or so I thought.

In October my rear right molar started having twinges off and on, but I bore up until the end of November when I really thought I had best check it out: the dentist could find nothing. Still feeling pain along the jaw so went first to my family doctor who manipulated my jaw (thinking that perhaps there was a slight dislocation): nothing. Back to the dentist just before Christmas – still nothing visible and she suggested that it might perhaps be my trigeminal nerve. Whatever it was so painful that I ended up one Saturday morning in emergency to get some relief.  A period of heavy painkillers followed, along with an MRI to make sure that there was nothing wrong in my head (o.k., I know, I know…. Ssshhhhhh). Shortly thereafter I slipped on black ice, hit my head and that did the trick, no more pain along the jaw. After a spring  full of other medical events my molar started hurting again…my own dentists was on vacation so went to the emergency dental clinic whereupon they discovered that the fillings (from 50 years ago…) had cracked it in half so it had to be extracted.
Then the other side started to feel sensitive too: back to the dentist who, again, couldn’t see anything wrong. We decided though that I should be wearing a tooth guard nights so duly made one (and it is helping).

This visit was to finally clean my teeth after a year – and miracle of miracles – no sensitive spots, no pain, not even my usual bleeding, which means that my new electric toothbrush is even better than the old.

It was a wonderful visit and now even the sun has  made a brief appearance to celebrate. Life is good!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Adventures in other languages

Ah the usefulness of languages: being able to more or less navigate in three, I have long realized the benefits of other languages. Sometimes it is the English that best explains a situation, sometimes the French is more elaborate, a verbal bouquet of “fleurs” (flowers), then again it might be a pithy German expression such as Schadenfreude that makes it into our own vocabulary

Now Facebook is not necessarily known for its wealth of properly written sentences (sorry, even I am not always ready with a grammatically correct phrase whilst replying to one or the other posting), however it does introduce one to some lovely sites where one can enjoy the written word, be it quotations, be it slang, be it funny, be it profound.

This morning I came across one such site – thanks Shawnee - delightfully labeled “Word Porn”  ( mailto: ) where the word of the day  “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say” Mitch Albom, led me to the site where I discovered Dormiveglia., which was described as “the space that stretches  between  waking and sleeping”. Well it is actually an Italian word that means half-awake, or half-asleep, whichever you choose, but the description is a great one of how many people look at their day!

So, off to explore more fun words, such as alexithymia – go on, I dare you, look it up! Words are such fun!
Just make them all golden.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The advantages of gray…

Or, I’m really trying hard here to not get depressed by the weather.

We awoke to yet another gray day, which, unfortunately, happens frequently in Geneva in between November and April (yet, some years it is truly that long!). I call it “the eternal gray” as some years it doesn’t seem to lift for those six months unless we have our very cold “bise” wind, or snow followed by some sun.  It is caused by a high layer of fog and if one goes up 1’000 feet, one can come out of it, however that rarely happens to me as getting up the energy and facing the traffic on the way up the closest mountain usually kills all my good resolve to see the sun.

So I decided to look for the good in a gray day – not that it was an easy task!

  • Most cars put on their lights, making driving somewhat safer
  • You don’t have to worry about sun stroke or putting on too much sunscreen (actually some of the UV does come through so one needs to always use sunscreen
  • You don’t need to have dark glasses in the car (or anywhere around for that matter).
  • You can eat heavier soups and food – the mood lift is worth the calories
  • You can use the excuse to sit by a fireplace, read a good book.
  • You can also use the gray outside to put more color on the inside
  • Working in an office with good lighting can actually become a positive
  • You don’t have to worry about how you look in a bikini
  • Going to bed and being toasty under the covers is a real plus
  • Meeting friends and family for meals or coffee becomes highly desirable as when the weather outside is gray, the soul needs nourishing

And, last, but not least, for the photographer in me, one can use the “magic” button or photoshop some magic into the pictures of the gray. Also this blog was a very good exercise in finding the positive – although you will note that half the pluses were simply an absence of a minus.

"Black Magic"
Watercolor "magic"

Monday, November 18, 2013

It’s the little things

That make our day.

Last week, my older son called and wanted to know who was currently living in the house (for those of you who know me, there is very rarely only me at home). When I replied that actually there was no one, he hastened to get to the point of the call: an Indian colleague was going to be here and his girlfriend was joining him from Germany – could they spend a few nights?  "Of course" was the answer.

They got in very late Thursday night (I had met him in town to give him a key to the gate and the front door) and I left early the next morning so didn’t see them.

Wanting to be friendly I chalked a message on our blackboard downstairs: “Have a Good Day”.

Not sure that they ever saw it, but I didn’t get around to erasing is and as that is the WC I use often throughout the day  - and in particular first thing in the morning – I am now
greeted with my own message… and have decided that it is so nice that I will leave it:
Message to self: “have a good day”!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

“Why Reading Makes You Happy”

As in many households, there are a few magazines laying about in the WC (sounds better than “toilet” “water closet” “bathroom” – especially as the WC I am talking about is the one on the ground floor and has neither shower nor bath).  Usually these are sadly out of date and quite often a Reader’s Digest or two as they are small enough to be placed in between the wall and the radiator within easy reach of whoever needs something to take one’s mind off the task at hand.
“Why Reading Makes You Happy” was the title of an article in the December 2012 issue – a title that intrigued me to the point that I decided to write a blog on it before reading it: we’ll see later what they say as opposed to, or in addition to, what I say.

I know that reading makes me happy and that a day without a couple of local newspapers, several magazine articles, a chapter in a book in addition to on-line reading is, for me and since I learned to read in 1st grade, a waste.

But I had never thought about why it would make me happy.

1)   It distracts me from whatever else is going on in my life
2)   I can dream of places I haven’t seen, things I haven’t done, periods of time that I was not alive, love (o.k. I admit it – a great consumer of chick lit – most of my book reading)
3)   One can justify the time it takes as partially being informative (news), educational (biographies, reports, etc.), keeping-up-with-the-trivia, etc.
4)   It takes time – hmmm, didn’t get the house sorted, but read a great article on Alexander the Great or the 100 year’s war.
5)   One can put oneself into a scenario that is not ever likely to happen in real life (no examples, remember I like chick lit.
6)   If reading a letter or e-mail from a friend – the warm feeling of connecting with the important people in one’s life
7)   Same with family: the written word is tangible proof  that at some period in time, that person thought enough of you to actually sit down and sign a card, write a note – or better yet – write a whole letter.
8)   I am sure that there are more, but those popped spontaneously into my head.

So what did the Reader’s Digest article give as its main themes?
1)   Empathy (good one, hadn’t thought of that)
2)   Connection
3)   Memories
4)   Inspiration

So agreeing with all those, I think I’ll go finish that book and get happy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

”I can see clearly now…”

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone 
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me down
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
It's gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day”

Are the words to the first stanza of one of Johny Nash’s more popular songs: a song that was first produced in 1972, then went on to be sung by Jimmy Cliff for the movie “Cool Runnings” in 1993.

The first line went jingling through my brain as I walked out from my optician at noon: in fact what I really said to myself – Oh my, I can see again.

After having broken one of my gas-permeable hard contacts way back at the beginning of the year, I went to my ophthalmologist for an eye check and a new prescription. Then I decided to change and get soft contacts and a pair of trifocals.  Well, two sprained ankles and many frustrating months later, I finally thought – this is stupid: change for change’s sake is only good as long as one is willing to admit that one made a mistake so I made an appointment with my former optician. After two weeks I can now see as well as before I broke that original contact. OK so I am back to reading glasses, it is a (very) small price to pay for being truly able to see – and the second line comes totally into its own.

So although it’s gray, and may rain or snow: I can see clearly!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It was meant to be…

Or signposts in my life.

So many times throughout my life, I have had a “feeling”, or was prevented from doing something, which led to something better, or got a “sign” that I followed up on – and it was meant to be.

Today was just another (small) example of how this works for me: I started off on a short round of errands – delivering leftover kitchen equipment to a friend for another friend who needed his kitchen outfitted. From there to the tire seller to have my summer tires exchanged for winter ones (not that I ever intend needing them, but even on my small street if it freezes and I slip, it is much better to have changed them so that the insurance company can’t blame me for not having done so – not that it is a legal requirement).
As that was finished shortly after noon and one of my favorite restaurants was on the way home, I thought that I would not bother cooking at home… that is until I had made two full circles in all distances not further than 500 yards from said restaurant without finding a parking place. Disappointed, I said to myself: oh well, it was meant to be and headed home to explore the leftovers.

In recompense I cut the last rose of the season then proceeded to make lunch.  It is a good thing that I was home as, although we had arranged for me to be here from 2 to 5 p.m. (I had missed their coming by on Monday), DHL showed up at 1 p.m.

Like I often tell others; there are many signs as to what one should do along the way, all it takes is reading them correctly.

Now I have the afternoon free and can go for coffee or a walk under the beautiful blue skies: it was obviously meant to be!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The medicine cabinet And waiting for the washer.

About twice a year when my housemate returns to her “nest”, cleaning off her shelf in the medicine cabinet, and I happen to be in town for a longer period, I can no longer ignore the dirt and dust gathered on all the shelves, which in turns niggles me until I finally do something about it… or the cleaning lady does (we have the bad habit of not closing the medicine cabinet as it allows one to do one’s hair every so much easily!)

This, like cleaning kitchen cabinets, happens to be something that I do on a lazy Sunday morning. This past one was no exception and after an hour of emptying, sorting, tossing, cleaning, I am now the proud possessor of a clean medicine cabinet – for at least the week or 10 days before the dust again starts to accumulate.

Being in the bathroom, one notices the towels and washcloths, which reminded me of the total lack of the possibility of washing said items – since 10 days!
Due to my machine’s breaking down late on a Friday night I couldn’t call until Monday then that was the week that my supplier was getting together their stand for the our autumn fair and could it wait until Monday the 11th. As I have sufficient (o.k. too many) clothes, I said yes – so promised to be home to receive the new machine all day.  They came mid-afternoon and I am in the process of catching up on that pile of laundry.

Monday, November 11, 2013

“The” list

There are a lot of people and a lot of lists: the grocery list, the to-do list, the buy-it-if-on-sale list, the dinner party list, the Christmas card list, the birthday card list  and I use all of these at various times. However, when I start feeling submerged by things and paper, I have, in recent years, developed a method: “The” LIST

Entitled “Goals for the week / per day” it varies slightly depending up the mood and the season, but tries to encompass those things that I regularly don’t accomplish, or those that will make me feel more in control of my office, my health, my life.

One such was:
  • 20 pages album
  • 20 min. walk
  • 20 pieces of paper, either sorted (filed) or tossed
  • 5 things put away or tossed
  • 5 scans (was trying to put legal documents into files on the computer as well as paper files)
  • Italian – 20 minutes.

This weeks is slightly different:
  • 10 pages of any photo album – had to reduce to 5 after the first day…
  • 20 pieces paper sorted or tossed
  • 10 things put away
  • 10 things re-distributed or tossed
  • clean one drawer, shelf, something

And when I say 10 “things” put away or tossed, yes, you can count the book put back in the bookshelf, the magazine given to a friend, a pair of shoes put back in the closet: no matter how little or how big, it all counts – the point is to do something, anything, or one does not have the motivation to continue.
By doing this at the end of 7 days I have actually accomplished something, if – we all know the feeling – not enough!  Using the example of the book in the bookshelf – at the end of a week, one has put away 35 books: now that’s an accomplishment.

Funny, though, how I never have to add “reading” or “play a computer game” to the list.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It’s raining, it’s pouring…

The Old Man was not snoring, nor was the lady of the house.

Thor – or whoever controls the skies was sending out his bolts and thunder to make sure that we all knew that he had arrived.

Thought I heard a bit of hitting on metal (hail?) so went to check and see what was happening: waterfall in the winter garden… yet again.

And, of course, the cleaning lady had just cleaned the carpets that very afternoon!

Not as bad as in former years, but this time I had no one to run for towels or to laugh with me. Did finally realize that it was just over the main entry door so rolled out the awning to protect the gutter, sopped up what I could: rung the towels out – again as I could  - currently having no washing machine; put them in the dryer to be able to continue soaking up the access water.
Yesterday convinced younger son to come home with me (o.k. so he also wanted to transfer some surplus boxes of books, etc. back to the common storage room at my house) and help 1) clean out the gutters 2) hose them out well to make sure that all was flowing well and 3) re-install the three panels that I still had from my cousin’s ingenuous protection job of three years ago, with duct tape.

We are kind of ready for the next downpour.

Friday, November 8, 2013

And then there are the (very) good days

When the sun is shining as you wake up – the few clouds hovering overmountain peaks back-lit with silver linings or pink-tinted with the rising sun.

When the mail brings only the invitation cards for which you were waiting and all other letters are for your housemate or sons.

A friend pays your coffee.

Your gas tank is full.

You get not only your new contacts, but your more supple night-guard (teeth).

You have lunch with a friend.

… and the weekend is almost here: with NO appointments on the calendar – a true miracle.

Thanks Ginny