Friday, May 30, 2014

Stopping to smell the roses, or

Stopping period. 
Anytime I want to take a look around or investigate a patch of clover (still looking for the natural four-leaf one), or anything else for that matter, due to my history of shuffling, stumbling, tripping, I would be well advised to come to a complete halt before proceeding to lift my eyes from the ground!

This morning’s hike, first through the woods, then up the mountain road to the meadow at the top of one rise and back down, passing mountain rivers along the way had me however thinking that “stopping to smell the roses” might be also:

Just an excuse to take pictures!

Didn’t actually smell any roses, but the presence of several colors of lilacs had me trying to see if they had a different smell according to color and the recent rains have enabled woods chips and downed logs to possess that most foresty (I know, I know – sometimes one just has to make up a word: “naturey” was a recent one by my housemate) of smells.

But mainly it was about the photos… below


rain drops

River in slow motion
new growth


Rhode in full bloom

small alpine village across the mountain

Really: a stone as a pillow. But looks soft enough.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Franco-American Flophouse: Four Ways to Get FATCAed

The Franco-American Flophouse: Four Ways to Get FATCAed

This blog is always not only informative, but very entertaining: life as seen through the eyes of someone living in France, married to a Frenchman and yet an "USA person".

I can so identify with ALL that has been written here: our family and friends in the USA either look at us with a blank look, or with that "hmmm... she's getting just like mother with her diatribes", or "so what, you're an USA citizen with all the benefits of that citizenship". Some actually see the wisdom in expatriation, but don't realize that that can cost you up to 50% of all your current assets: assets might I add that were accrued in a foreign country and are still in said country. As a dual citizen I have signed away my rights to banking secrecy (sure the the NSA could access it anyway so didn't see the harm there) and spent many a night sleepless wondering how things would end. All that my German husband did to secure our lives risks ending up supplying the USA with more funds for more wars.

In the interests of getting the word out I would encourage anyone who reads my blogs to forward this to others.

Oh, did I mention: I am - and have been - tax compliant in the USA at a cost of $3'000 per year just to have the forms filed!

A bowl full of treasures

I am not a person who collects knick-knacks, yet I do collect the little things along my life’s path.

Taking a (closer – one tends to no longer see that, which one sees every day) look at my book shelf this morning I noticed my little glass bowl full of “treasures”:

·      Several sand dollars – most collected from the beach that I used walk at my little sisters: legend has it that if you take a sand dollar with you, you will return.

·      The leaf ornament that my brother gave his sisters last fall after a visit to Yosemite.

·      A piece of driftwood collected in Northern California.

·      Shells collected on the beach of Isle of Palms in South Carolina (note that the above were from the Pacific Coast, the latter from the Atlantic Coast).

·      A piece of money with the Maltese cross from a recent trip there.

·      Bits of rock and stone from many other trips (due to luggage concerns these days, one can no longer bring back larger items, but a small bit of rock is often in my suitcase).


Looking further on the same bookshelf were other artifacts (o.k. none archeologically important, but in the sense of “art” and “facts”), which although of no or little monetary worth, are pieces of my past, treasured for the memories they induce:

·      A small Mexican man in stone, which graced my mother’s cactus garden

·      A piece of painted driftwood, from a beloved aunt: made all the more precious when I discovered that it was a cousin who had done the painting on the driftwood – talk about serendipity

·      My baby shoes in bronze

·      A letter opener in wood from our three-year stay in Hawaii

·      A candle from my nephew’s wedding

·      A wooden box from the Redwoods, CA

·      Numerous pictures of my family and my husband’s family, of our young family and favorite occasions throughout the years including one in a paper maché frame made by the younger son.

And there are even a ton of books!

All are treasured, all remind me of happy times, places and people.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A walk in the woods: take two

Fingers of fog and blankets of mist shrouded my
solitary walk in the woods.

The rhythm of my steps measured by the
twit and tweeter of the smaller birds;
punctuated only by the odd cow bell marking
the minutes.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reflections whilst out walking

A walk in the mountains

1.    That this blog should probably be split into several: could; should; won’t
2.    That this blog merits checking and re-writing: could’ve; should’ve; didn’t

First thoughts were on blogging itself: 
·      There are so many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of blogs out there that one needs simply to pick a subject and do a search (avoiding actually writing “g_____ it”) + blog and you’ll come up with a plethora of authors.
·      There are as many styles as writers: fun, simple, serious, logical, rants
·      Writers have hundreds of reasons for blogging: a short list, which is by no means exhaustive
o   Many, like myself, simply because we have always written and still enjoy writing: I have written diaries, journaled, written letters home or to corporations or to … take your pick. No thought of ever being published, yet no thought of ever not writing.
o   Others, published authors, I might add such as my housemate, use it as an exercise in writing every morning
o   Others, for professional reasons – or turn blogging itself into a profession
o   Yet others, as a means of publishing their trip (be it one single trip, a family event or an ongoing events) or travels as to not have to send a dozen e-mails every time they come across free wi-fi, or a decent connection whilst in Timbuktu.
o   Some as a way of breaking into writing
o   Some, me again, as a way of allowing oneself to do another favorite hobby: in my case taking photos. If it’s not a blog directly about the photo I can take photos to illustrate the blog!
o   Whatever other reason you need that allows you to get an opinion, an experience, a wish out there.

·      There are many ways of following a blog: faithfully and in its entirety; sporadically; once.  I currently follow only three although I could easily spend all of every day reading blogs on a variety of subjects.  So for those of you who noticed that I forgot to put the links to the “doubly washed clothes” saga in my blog of yesterday:
o   My housemate’s husband, who moved to Europe after re-meeting her : a very highly entertaining look on how someone experiences Europe when they aren’t a twenty-year-old student .
o   My housemate: a published writer who’s latest book “Murder in Poel” came out this spring. Check out her website for further details:                                                                                   
o   My younger son: although English isn’t his mother tongue, he has just written a couple of pretty fabulous blogs on his trek in Peru, which will have you feeling that you were actually with him.
·      I follow these three by being lazy: most bloggers have figured out how to add an app to their blog that allows one to sign up to receive them via e-mail. This means that you get the blog once they have written it and don’t have to remember to go looking for it (my sister K is smarter than I and she has a whole section of blogs that she follows feeding in by SSR feeds…). The beauty of this system is that one can read them either when they come in, glance at them and decide that you don’t need to read it so hit the “delete” button with no one the wiser.  Personally I don’t mind the fact that I may be deleted, the statistics run by the site I use don’t seem that correct to me anyway: sometimes there are countries during a week that don’t show up on the monthly statistics; sometimes it reverts back to counting my having re-opened the blog for whatever reason; I don’t do ads (yet, now if there ever comes a day when I need more income, watch out readers).

So, go ahead, look for a subject that interests you, write or read as you choose: enjoy.

My thoughts throughout the walk wandered to the pleasures of being able to walk; not only the physical process (I tend to prefer going uphill as at my age, my heart and lungs seem to be preforming more efficiently than my knees or toes), but also the more metaphysical one.

Did I get my love of mountains and trees from my grandfather, a lumberjack once he emigrated to the USA at age 19? Or from the fact that my mother grew up in a log cabin in the middle of the woods in Wisconsin? Or from the many summer holidays that we spent camping in some of the world’s most beautiful National Parks?  I enjoy the beach, but it had better be a remote one at the bottom of a rocky gorge – the only “flat” beach that I ever liked was the one near my little sister, Pismo, CA. For whatever reason I thrive in the mountains: sleep better (which many explain as being an altitude thing), eat better (o.k. so I eat just fine anywhere, but that looked good) and in general a walk in the woods soothes and restores me.

Yes, I can see the Matterhorn from one point on my walk.

Today’s was no exception: overcast, I re-visited many spots that I have seen throughout the years. Not comparing myself to my younger son’s trek as the altitude difference was only 170 meters, but a decent walk nevertheless. The only negative – only half the 10’000 steps that one is supposed to get per day to be in good health. Oh no, do I have to take another walk this afternoon?

Bah, bah, black sheep; have you any wool? Nope I've been shorn.

So now I could go back and change the intro as it turns out that I only had two separate subjects. However, one of the privileges of blogging is being able to write however one wishes: the reader can decide whether or not to pursue so it’s all good “in my opinion” (a “The Good Wife” fan, I have learned not to proclaim anything as the truth, but rather as an opinion: Life is too short for lawsuits!

If only someone could create the possibility of adding smell as well as the photo: they were heavenly!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

1 hour, 3 stores and 8.90 francs or…

It’s the little things

Now usually if I start something with “it’s the little things” it is due to some small action, gift or other positive happening. Alas, sometimes it is also the “little things” that cause the most chaos, harm or damage (thankfully not the case with this story, just a short period of finding the solution, a little time and money.)

Yesterday I arrived up in “my” mountain flat leaving my “let’s all work together” housemates in charge of the house - see the following blogs for the continuation of my “Doubly washed clothes” of yesterday: 

So far, so good: didn’t have to drag up much as had already done the main move-in earlier this year before my vacation in the USA.

First things first: say hi to the landlord. Secondly a quick walk to breath in that fresh air. Third catch up on e-mails and the like.  And there’s where one of those little things put a wrench in the works.  I had just told my sister that, yes, I would be available to skype with her Saturday (usually it’s Sunday, but depending upon weekend plans we are flexible), when I realized that my (aging) computer needed to be re-charged. Pulled out the charger, which, by the way, I had taken the trouble of making sure that the smaller one had the right end on it for the larger computer (didn’t want to crawl under the desk to take the usual one), only to discover that I had neglected to check the plug type. Help: it was the one that I had used in the USA so wrong prongs.

First trial at a solution – the landlord has a computer and an IPad and has traveled – she distinctly remembered having had one of those multiple-prong type plugs that one takes on holidays, but thought that she had perhaps dumped it whilst cleaning up after her husband’s death: that proved unfortunately to be true.

Second solution: drive down off the mountain and make the rounds of the electronics’ stores. Off I went: first stop the one where I had had to purchase a second mouse last year when I forgot it… they had the multiple everything MAC package for CHF 38.90 so I figured that I could perhaps do better, on to the next store: nothing… desperate at this point checked the third (household goods) where at least they had the travel convertors for CHF 19.90 (had to wait as there was someone already at the cash register). When I explained the problem to the lovely salesman (sorry I do need to note that it was a man) at the FUST in Martigny, he said, “oh I may have another solution” and went to the rear of the store where they actually had just the small plug, which allows one to put the original plug in at one end and the other correct for our Swiss plugs… CHF 8.90 and to make it even better: they actually had the lovely under-the-sheet heating mattresses that I use. As mine is probably on its way out – and because we do sometimes have more than 3 people in the house (the current status of heating pads) he was able to make that purchase as well!

As they say: all is well, that ends well.
And now I’m off to lunch, invited by a friend – is my life good, or what?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Doubly washed clothes or…

Some of the fun when one has housemates.

Yesterday was a very hectic day, involving as it did a luncheon, two afternoon meetings, several errands and an evening Annual Meeting.  My housemate had said that she needed to do some washes, and, as per our usual arrangements, all of us gathered up our bits and pieces.

For practical reasons it is often me that keeps an eye on progress and transferal of wash to dryer as my office is just next door.  However, if I am out and about, or not here, or just because, it will be one of the other occupants of the house.  At times we have had the combination of one young male and two over-30 (now, really I am not going to label myself as an “aging” female and my housemate although a couple of years older than myself is far from aging as well) females: then there was the three females; then the three females and one male and currently it’s housemate, her husband and myself.  For many tasks it makes it a source of constant good surprises (the dish machine which one had started magically empties itself, the same with the green bin, the trash, whatever), for others there is either everyone forgets or overkill.

So yesterday evening when I returned around 21:00 it was to find a small pile of wash on the laundry room floor. I was rather surprised, but just assumed that I had forgotten to put it in in the rush in between luncheon and leaving.  However, as I drifted into sleep I realized what had actually happened: I had transferred the first load of wash into the dryer entirely and it had a normal process.  The second load I had split into two when I took it out of the washing machine: shirts on top for a second dryer load so that they wouldn’t be totally wrinkled and towels, etc. into the dryer. Of course when the third load came out of the washing machine, the second was still not entirely dried so that third load ended up in the basket on the floor waiting its turn.  Somewhere along the line the 3rd occupant of the house returned home to an absence of the other two and presumed that the clothes in the basket still needed washing (or that the basket was needed to transport dry clothes).

Needless to say, that small lot of clothing is now very clean as I dumped them back in the machine.

Also, R., I need my brown trousers… don’t think that you will be able to fit into them!
The upside: my laundry neatly folded on the bed in the spare bedroom. Doubly washed clothing is a very small price to pay for all the benefits of communal living.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Birthday and Christmas wish lists

I know that I have a reputation as being “hard to buy for, hard to do something for”, mostly because I really don’t need anything, or can obtain it myself when I want.

I also remember having “stationery” on my wish lists for about 20 years without either of my boys or husband actually ever offering me any!

As I, my friends, relatives and acquaintances age (yep, that nasty word), we find that we seem to prefer gifts that can be eaten, drunk or tossed in a week (i.e. flowers). Re-gifting is popular, but a lot of work, as one does try to re-match successfully and that copper president’s plate from Aunt X doesn’t really find many potential takers in my mind.

There have been memorable birthdays when every present was something I loved; there were the years when the boys could get trip or special events arrangements, which were greatly enjoyed; there were the small, but perfect gifts (napkins – I am a collector and must currently forbid myself any more purchases until some of the 30 packages are used; candles – also in most sizes and colors with the same limits; soaps and lotions – I find that most of us don’t like paying a lot of money, but do appreciate the name brand occasionally – hint, my current favorite is Occitane).
But, on the whole, I will admit to being difficult.

This year however I do have wishes: I have already let those concerned know that I would love to receive a Kindle for my birthday (and to my credit I have held off buying myself one until my birthday has come and gone – beyond that I know that I won’t make it until Christmas).  This has led some to question my sanity – I who have to have my newspapers delivered in paper: I who love hitting any and all used book stores regardless of the continent, country or city; I who buy magazines several times a month; I who have a pile of paper in most corners of any given room.  I however have noticed that my housemate who is every bit as much a faithful user of libraries and who still publishes her books in print, is enjoying the one she received from R. for Christmas.  It won’t subtract from my paper, but rather add to it – much lighter in the hand luggage, which if they ever weigh it I will have to dump half the contents, and a back up on those long trips. I could then perhaps (note the use of the word “perhaps” – not giving any guarantees here), limit myself to only one paperback, one newspaper, etc.

I also have requested a “real” book (oops already forgotten the author and title, but know that I do want it – so hope that someone of my pool of gift givers has noted it) and this morning discovered another “must have”.

Please, please, if any of you who read me are in my circle of potential gift givers: the latest Dave Barry “You can date Boys when you’re Forty” must become mine!
And yes, the hard cover would be appreciated.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I am wiser, if not wise.

Loved the quote from today’s word a day:
A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. -Alexander Pope, poet (1688-1744)”.

Now I don’t remember the last time that I was wrong… but I know as well as I know that the sun comes up in the East and goes down in the West, that I have been wrong many a time in my life. Glad to learn that at least I am wiser today than yesterday, although it is probably not at all relative to my total wisdom.

Never mind “wise”.  I am still working on that and what is “wise”?
If one looks in a dictionary it runs from possessing discernment, to being erudite, to being “in the know”. Wisdom as a substantive takes on a more biblical meaning: however, in lay terms it can also be defined as the judicious use of knowledge.
If one possesses wisdom, is one wise? Can one be wise without possessing wisdom?

Wonder what Alexander Pope would have had to say to that? Guess that – when I have time (not any day soon) – I should explore these thoughts, if nothing more than for my own knowledge.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Remember “the road less traveled?”

We took it!

I woke up this morning with a yen for Chinese (it had been a couple of months) and knowing my house mates propensity to fall in with any and all restaurant plans that I might have, mid-morning I said “how do you feel about Chinese?”. The answer – no hesitation, no pause – a resounding “yes… when I woke up this morning…”.
We asked R., but he had too much writing to do so shortly before noon we got on the road.

Now this particular restaurant lies across the border in neighboring France and for several years has always created a challenge in accessing it, which is probably why we have taken to trying it on Sunday instead of during the work week.

They are building – or rather enlarging, rebuilding and in short totally messing up the whole thing – the main road that goes past this particular Chinese buffet restaurant. Normally a 15-minute drive, it had changed into 20 minutes (shoot past it a couple of miles and turn left then left to get back on the opposite side for an off ramp); then finally 25 (no left hand turn so all the way to the next town then a u turn on the roundabout). However, at some point on one of the return trips, we had discovered another small village, which made the road shorter, so we tried to memorize (with a notable lack of success) the return path in hopes of finding it going the other way.

After a couple of trials several months apart, I thought that just perhaps I could re-trace it.

First weird thing – we had to check several times our memories and my calendar to make sure that we were Sunday as I have never – and I mean never – seen as much traffic on a Sunday as there was today and it wasn’t just one road, but everyone that we took!
Secondly – managed to actually exit properly at the round about (first time I recall there being any signs whatsoever as to the village that we needed to cross).

Ah, but then it all fell apart: roadblock in the middle of the village due to the yearly “vide grenier” (literally an emptying out of one’s attic), At that point it had been far enough from the round about that I wasn’t willing to re-trace my steps, so off we went, first ending up in the school parking lot, then traveling farther up the mountain turning right a couple of times hoping to be beyond the fair: no such luck.
Another left hand turn, yet further up the mountain and finally a long, very narrow and winding road (actually I would describe more as a paved path), which actually went through and we found ourselves back in a neighborhood that I recognized, albeit there also the road had changed.

It was a beautiful day, the scenery and views overlooking the lake gorgeous, even the back of the Salève was interesting: of course this was the one out of a hundred times that I had no camera in the car!

Arriving at the restaurant we were almost afraid that we would find it closed, but Lady Luck after having led us a merry chase smiled upon us and we enjoyed our made-even-more-delicious-for-the-trial-endured Chinese buffet.

As Jerry Seinfeld put it “Sometimes, the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason”!

Road to Nowhere

Saturday, May 17, 2014

“Ô Temps, suspends ton vol!” or..

Oh time, suspend thy flight.
The French poet, Lamartine, in his poem “The Lake” addresses this notion – the wish to suspend time, or, in his case, return to a happier one.

I have often thought that flight suspends ones time: the hours necessary to travel from one continent to another by airplane are for me a pleasurable suspension of normal activities: I will greatly regret the day when one can shut off one’s cell phone, computer, wi-fi for a day without the need for an excuse other than that of one is not allowed.

Now, I know that I can voluntarily do this at any time, but that requires an amount of self-discipline that I, more often than not, totally lack!

In a larger sense, suspending one’s daily life for the time of travel goes beyond this notion: I actively enjoy being unreachable.  For the period of a train ride, a car trip, a plane transfer, I am in my own little cocoon, sheltered from decisions, from accomplishing tasks other than those of my own choosing, ie reading, writing (with pen and paper no less), playing Sudoku – again the paper version.

I love being able to do so – it somewhat compensates for the pain of said travel.

« Mais je demande en vain quelques moments encore,
            Le temps m'échappe et fuit ;”

Translated: In vain I ask for hours to linger on
And Time slips into flight.

For those who wish to read this lovely poem in its original version (French) as well as in the translated version:

Atlanta May 13, 2014