Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new!

Too trite to be true... but hey, having spent all my philosophical thoughts on the past year...

Trying to determine the origin of this statement led to some very interesting trivia, including one person who maintains that it originated with Lee Douglas IV – of the 5th clan of the Doogals, who eventually became the Douglas clan- its meaning being ‘out with the old‘ (his mother who was a lady of the night) and in with the new (his mistress). Hmmm...

So then I went on to “wiping the slate clean” as that is what I have done in preparation for THE NEW YEAR.

Finally able to see the design on the bulletin board!
Command central.... ready for 2014
 Now last December 31st after the death of my sister, I reckoned that 2013 was going to be a good year. Maybe I shouldn’t be making predictions as it was a very mixed year at best.

However, “hope springs eternal” (to use another cliché… maybe my goal should be not to use clichés in 2014? At least I know the origin of this one – Alexander Pope in An Essay on Man) and I am going to think that the possibilities for a lovely year in 2014 are endless.

So greetings and best wishes from my own village!

Monday, December 30, 2013

I’ve got a bleb, or…

Fun words

Sometimes the sound of a word is enough to make me happy, sometimes it is the silliness of saying the word or the thought that it engenders.

I subscribe to “A.Word.a.Day” http://www.wordsmith.org/awad/ and enjoy almost every single one, but todays was simply too much fun: “bleb”
Now try saying that out loud, several times in a row, shout it out, whisper it.
It tickles my funny bone.

Thought to have perhaps come from “blob” (tickles me also), when one looks in the dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bleb it is only a small blister or particle, it’s sound however is ever so much more.

Imagine throwing into some dinner party conversation: oh, did you see the bleb on my foot… or
I have a bleb somewhere that really bothers me, or do you ever get blebs?
Come on, I dare you, bleb, bleb, bleb.

Or you could, in the medical world, have blebbing (the noun) or perhaps in the philosophical world your thoughts (like mine at this point) are all blebby (adj.).

Have fun – look for more of those: blab, bleb, blib, blob, blub. Roll them off your tongue, look up blib (yep its an actual word)in the Urban dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=blib (especially #5 – who knew?). Have a great day in the world of words.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Twas the day after Christmas
And all through the canton

Nothing was stirring,

Not even the fountain.

Its reflection in the lake

Tall and straight: no wake.

Whispers of air existed not,

Its beauty forever caught.

Jet d'eau, Geneva, Switzerland

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Warmth, both physical and of the spirit

One of my favorite young adults gifted me with a “gimmick” – one that I tried out two days later sitting in front of the television.

Although I can’t explain the physical process (or rather probably chemical), this is a wonderful hot water bottle! One presses on the small metallic circle inside the bottle and crystals form slowly over the next 30 minutes (that’s what they say – the heat actually lasted a lot longer). Totally re-usable, one has only to plop it into hot water for 20 minutes or so to re-dissolve the crystals – and Voilà ready for the next use.

But it isn’t just the physical warmth, it is the warmth I feel every time I see it and think of the person who gave it to me! Long may both continue to function.

La chaleur: à la fois physique et de l'esprit.
Une de mes jeunes personnes préférées m'a donné un "truc" pour Noël. Un truc que j'ai testé devant la télévision quelques jours après. 
Malgré le fait que je n'arrive pas à expliquer le processus physique (ou plutôt chimique), cela marche à merveille. Pendant 30 minutes (ce qu'ils disent sur les instructions, mais en réalité c'était plus long) une bonne chaleur vous chauffe : les cristaux se forment lentement.
Et c'est réutilisable! On a simplement besoin de la laisser chauffer pendant une vingtaine de minutes dans un bain-marie pour que les cristaux se soient dissouts et le tout peut recommencer.
Toutefois, ce n'est pas seulement la chaleur physique que cette bouillotte me procure, mais bien le soleil dans mon coeur lorsque je pense à la personne qui me l'a donné - que tous les deux puissent continuer longtemps à me chauffer!

Friday, December 27, 2013

One thing leads to another – 2

Now looking at the picture above of prettily and cleverly manicured nails, one wouldn’t suspect chain of events, which that set off.

Running an errand for my housemate this morning, I spoke with the lady-of-the-painted-nails – and regretted not having my camera with me to take a picture of the very decorative effect.
Promised though that I would return.

At home, decided that as I also wanted to take the hall porter in the building that my younger son lives in something besides just the usual wine, and thinking about a remark from one of the son-in-laws of another good friend that he was missing chocolate chip cookies, I took it into my head to quickly bake a batch (I love baking, but obviously for one person alone I need an outlet for some of it or I would quickly look like my house – and perhaps no longer be able to get into said house either!).

So an hour or so later I had boxed up a few for the possessor of the nails; another tin for the hall porter with the remainder for my friend and I am totally side tracked from the errands of the day.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

One thing leads to another…

More times than I can count, I will start something, which in turn, leads to something else finding me often totally off the rhythm or plans for that particular moment

This morning is a case in point: having slept poorly the night before, last night I got my full 8 hours – waking up once only to roll over and doze off again, making it 8 am when I finally arose. Knowing that I was invited up to the neighbors for lunch meant that I didn’t need to rush breakfast – first mistake.  Whilst waiting for my roll to bake I decided to finish washing out the pan that I had left soaking yesterday (red cabbage is my contribution to lunch today). It had several months of use on it and was no longer pristine clean: second mistake – deciding that it needed my special cleaning (i.e. a bit of salt and vinegar, boil, let sit, polish: throw in a couple cloves and the kitchen also smells wonderful). That, in turn, led to my deciding that the other pots needed the same special cleaning whilst I was at it. Mistake three: that uncovered their spot in the cupboard, which looked in need of a clean itself.  All of a sudden I found myself cleaning the lower shelf of the pots and pans cupboard, including the bottom of the cupboard itself.

An hour later I was finally ready to re-heat the coffee and warm up the roll when the phone rang: my neighbors asking if they could push back lunch. Great, now having breakfast late makes sense.

Does it make a difference in the grand scheme of things? No, not even a dent. But what a feeling of accomplishment – my pans are now almost in the same shape as when I acquired them and I can, with feelings of virtuousness, proceed to do what I want the rest of the day. That is, unless I again get distracted and on another round.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day, Christmas gray

Leads one to looking inward, to concentrate on the lights that can be lit, the various decorations and ornaments involving lights; the sharing of other’s lights

Those of you living in sunnier climes don’t perhaps enjoy the lights to the same degree that those of us who look outside and see gray and rain, yet more rain. However, I am sure that everyone in his or her own way has the odd gray day.  Think back to those and focus on what made the gray go away: usually there is some sort of light involved.

They remind us of the sun, of better weather so we indulge ourselves with new ones every year and on those days, such as mine today, when the outside is blanketed in many shades of gray, we even light them all to celebrate the lights that lead the way, the lights that guide us in the darkness, the lights that lift our spirits.

But there are other kinds of gray,  the gray of the spirit : we must never forget, that to others we can be the light; we can lift the darkness of loneliness, we have the capacity to shed the light of human warmth and love.

On this Christmas Day look around, shed some light – you’d be amazed at how strong the rays can be that return to you.

Old tea light container

New "Swedish chimes" from D-L & R

Champagne at friends

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas and I should be waxing poetic…

Somehow this year it just isn’t happening.
I have wonderful memories of childhood Christmases: we celebrated on Christmas Eve so that a maiden aunt could be with us (a surgical nurse, unmarried and without children, she always volunteered for the holidays so that others could be home with their families). It was a small meal of frozen fruit salad and toasted cheese buns (now that does neither justice as they were both about the most scrumptious dishes possible!) followed by us piling into the car to go look at the decorated houses – our pockets stuffed full of cookies (the one night that our mother didn’t limit us – so, yes, most of us got sick on cookies at some point during our childhood, but we never learned the lesson and usually simply repeated it the following year).
My first year in Europe a bunch of us spent Christmas in Salzburg, Austria and my memories of the kindness of the hotel keeper (wee present of cookies and chocolates on our beds) as well as the Gregorian chanting in the cathedral are still ever-present in my mind.
I returned to Europe, married and had a family: Christmas Eve was still the important event as my husband had also celebrated then. Although we were often with either my in-laws or my own family for the holidays, we did have the odd one here and always followed our own family traditions (I did try my childhood food on them, it didn’t go over that big, but then neither did the German traditions) so we created our own. To this day, Christmas celebrations aren’t unless there is shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon: followed by (some things remain the same) as many cookies as one can – or is willing – to eat.
The past two years we have celebrated a week in advance. This has lots of merit in that it is less stressful and one is thereafter free to participate – or not – in any other activities or invitations: I even invited my neighbors down for a meal as simply felt like it and had the leisure to organize.

Still, without young children, it just doesn’t seem the same. I have been more attracted to a new Christmas song written by Air Bear Music/Linda’s Boys Music/(Warner-Tamerlane Pub Corp.) and sung by several musicians: “Grown-up Christmas List”.  From Wikipedia: "Grown-Up Christmas List" (sometimes titled "My Grown-Up Christmas List") is a Christmas song composed by David Foster (music) and Linda Thompson-Jenner (lyrics),[1] and originally recorded by Foster (with singer Natalie Cole on vocals) for his 1990 non-holiday album River of Love. Though it was also released as a single, the song was not a hit upon its first appearance. In 1992, however, Amy Grant recorded a version for her second holiday album, Home for Christmas. Grant's version featured altered lyrics and an additional verse that Grant penned herself. Her record label at the time, A&M Records, promoted the song as the second single from the album, and it received substantially more radio airplay than the original version by Foster.

I love the chorus: “No more lives torn apart; that wars would never start and time would heal all hearts. Everyone would have a friend and right would always win and love would never end.”

I dedicate this to all my family and friends – those who stand by when times are rough, who celebrate with me when things go well: may the love never end!

My latest Christmas tree ornament: an oak leaf from Yosemite National Park given to me by my brother this fall.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Solstice – Hope

For the Northern Hemisphere, the moment of winter solstice is when the sun's elevation with respect to the North Pole is at its most negative value since the previous December. (The elevation with respect to the South Pole is at its greatest since the previous December). The hemisphere has its longest night and shortest day around the moment of solstice with the night within the Arctic being 24 hours long.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

Already toward the end of November I personally start looking forward to the winter solstice – when the days will finally no longer get shorter. As luck would have it this year, not only did it fall on a sunny day, but this morning (the day after so to speak) thanks to our warm wind – the Foehn – one would think that winter will never arrive.

Now, we in the Northern Hemisphere know that there will still be dark, gray days; we know that if we are at the appropriate latitude that it will snow; here in Geneva we know that there will be days of our cold wind “La Bise”, but for now, we have hope.

Hope that as surely as the world turns on its axis, the days will lengthen, the nights shorten until we reach the apex six months later of Midsummer’s night. We hope that the coming light will also warm up relationships, will help combat the cold, will lead us to be friendlier.

If there are many celebrations around the theme of light, never mind Christmas, it is probably because since time immemorial mankind needed something to get them through the long dark nights, something to give them hope of better, longer days.

Continuing in the theme of being closer to family and friends, we have already celebrated Christmas, I have accepted many small (and larger) invitations to gather together with others, and as the days grow longer will also get up and get back out on my walking paths. If it isn’t “the mountains are calling and I must go” (John Muir) it is the lake beckoning where I can listen to the wavelets, look at the mountains across the way, observe nature in all its variety.

In the end the Winter Solstice brightens up my life.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Loss and change or change and loss

Whichever way one writes it, it doesn’t really make much difference when one is speaking of a negative event.  However, point of perception, should one speak of weight loss and change being buying new clothes to go with the new body, it would be totally positive and better written in the first manner.

My thoughts this morning are not quite so positive and the change and loss of which I write currently are not pleasant. Much has been written throughout millenniums about loss and I certainly couldn’t add anything new, however, viewed from one’s own perspective, loss is always new, always personal, always pertinent to oneself. It doesn’t matter that others have been there, that the platitudes of “if one door shuts, another opens”, the beauty of “better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all”.

Interestingly enough the word loss itself seems to have only come into use in the 13th/14th century: Wiktionary states: “Etymology
Old English has los "loss, destruction," from a Proto-Germanic root *lausam- (see lose), but the modern word probably evolved in the 14th century from lost, the original past participle of lose, itself from Old English losian "be lost, perish," from los "destruction, loss", from a Proto-Germanic root *lausa (compare O.N. los "the breaking up of an army"), from Proto-Indo-Eeuopean base *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart, untie, separate"
Were ancient philosophers unacquainted with the notion? That would be hard to believe – they perhaps just didn’t use the word, but rather spoke of change instead. “If you don't get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don't want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can't hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.”

My conclusion: sometimes change and loss are unpleasant enough to merit floundering a bit in their negativity; to not put a happy spin on it, nor to justify the better things that may come as a result. Sometimes, loss is just that: an absence of something or someone that devastates. Time enough to pick oneself up and adjust to the change: first weep, wail and wallow!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bubble, bubble, no toil or trouble or…

Bouncing in the bubbles and other Christmas Frolics.

Last year due to family spreading in all directions, we celebrated early – and loved it so much that we decided to do the same this year.

Our shadows in front of the main part of the Vitam'Parc pool
An afternoon spent out at Vitam’ Parc swimming and enjoying the various hammans, saunas and bubbly water spouts, jets, streams followed by our favorite “fast” food at older son’s apartment: home-made foie gras – nummy, nummy, a big thanks to A; smoked salmon (only Alaskan will do), and shrimp cocktail (always have to have extra as the boys love this stuff). We totally forgot any vegetables except the Iceberg lettuce under the shrimp cocktail. Christmas cookies and champagne rounded out the meal before opening a plethora of presents. Much thought went into them and we were all touched.

May everyone’s Christmas be as warm and successful!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fog, funeral and food

Woke up this morning to – astonishingly (and yes that was meant to be a very sarcastic remark!) -foggy weather still. 

Took the bus into town for a funeral and was amazed to find that they had sun.

Short service, nice to get a bit of closure.
Returning to the countryside and back into the fog, I made what we are want to call “an executive decision” and stopped at our favorite watering hole Le Café des Marronniers (http://cafedesmarronniers.ch/ ) for lunch. Weather and events made me long for comfort food so chose the hamburger.
Although it’s labeled the “M” burger, we’re not talking about your usual burger. In fast-food life I have a personal preference for the Whopper Jr., then we have a hamburger specialist near the international school that has always had above-average burgers, but this one is truly a gourmet experience. The bun is strong enough to not fall apart, although I usually eat it with a knife and fork; the burger cooked to ones specific taste just like a steak; lettuce, fresh tomato, pickles, cheese and a sauce that rivals their tartar sauce for fish. And one gets a small portion of extra sauce. Accompanied by their thin French fries, there is a reason I wax lyric when describing it!  It may be pricey, but it’s oh so totally worth the price. My hats off to the chef Fabien and the wait staff as well as they are always welcoming and friendly.

Comforted I wended my way home through the fog – on to cookie baking as we are celebrating Christmas as a family tomorrow and although they might not mention it, I am sure that my sons wouldn’t be too happy if I showed up without their favorites.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Graffiti can be uplifting

Or there’s an exception to every rule.

Normally I am the first to complain about the graffiti that seems to cover any available space or blank wall here in Geneva.
However, one, up in my village, has had me thinking over the months that it has been on an electrical box where I tend to park every morning near the post office and bakery where I have my coffee.
It doesn’t proclaim (as is usually the case) “Be Happy”, nor exhort me to happiness: no frills, nothing but a crudely handwritten phrase requesting, nay perhaps supplicating me:
“Please be happy”.
Was it written by an elementary school child; a troubled teen; a frustrated young adult? I will probably never know – and can only hope that whoever wrote it has been able to find happiness for his or her self, that whatever burden led them to supplicate passersby to “please” be happy has since resolved itself.
If only I could let them know that his/her plea found an echo in my mind and that each day when faced with this request, I do stop and think and try to be happy.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dark days, Light events

In the dark days of late November, beginning of December until the wonderful day of Dec.22 when the days start getting longer again, some of us notice more than others the blackness of the elements.  This is the time of year when every little light, every little glow takes on an extra warmth, a meaning of life and light to chase away the shadows.

We meet friends more, go out and about to see the pre-Christmas lights – and it certainly doesn’t matter what one's religion, or lack thereof, is – we revel in a fireplace, a string of fairy lights, anything and everything that helps lighten the gloom.

There are the Christmases to plan (yes, I said Christmases – when one has friends and family far and near, one tends to multiply, in accordance with the others plans, those celebrations.

This morning, the household had its Christmas, breakfast on a Sunday morning being about the only time where the three of us could actually coordinate our separate lives and calendars.

Being the savvy women that we are, both housemate D-L and I, delegated the making of Christmas breakfast to her love, Rick.  He did us proud, bacon and eggs (seasoned mind you), table prettily set – and to both of our surprise the bonus of champagne, colored with cranberry juice for the color, no less!

The eggs cooled as pictures were taken, which in no way diminished our pleasure in eating them. In fact it was all so extraordinary that it wasn’t until a couple hours later when I was questioning the fact that the champagne had really gone to my head, that I realized that I hadn’t had my coffee!

Here’s to the warmth of friendship: a light on a gray day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Conversation and lunch...

at Café des Marronniers, one of my favorites!

L oving
U tterly
N ice
C ulinary
H ighlights

C onvening
O ver
N ice
V ictuals,
E ntertaining
R ecollections; 
S tories
A nd
T uning
I nto
O ur
N ever-ending
S trengths

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The fog embraced lake and land alike.

Hoarfrost turned even weeds into works of art.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It’s still the little things

That brighten a day.

Waking up feeling sad for not being there for a family member; but being relieved and glad not to make a long trip.
Looking out to find fog, but knowing that the sun will break through later.
Following the normal routine, yet brightened by a conversation in the coffee shop.
Going about one’s day, nothing extraordinary planned, yet every bit of it precious by dint of being here to enjoy it.

The cheap ceramic Christmas Tree – yet it is a reminder of the season and being run on battery not in danger of harming anyone if I inadvertently forget to turn it off.