Friday, October 31, 2014

When going home is also

Leaving home.

Today ends my six-months “summer” rental in the mountains.  And if I say that I am going home for the winter, I am also very much leaving home as for over 10 years I have rented the same flat in the same village in the Swiss Alps.  Not only, but it is a village to which I first came as a couple before the children, then every summer with first the oldest son then both of them then just the younger. It is the village to which I returned looking for a more permanent rental after the death of my husband and is truly also a “home” to me.

Then there are the other “homes”: my parent’s house whilst they were still alive – a home is not only determined by a physical spot (the house in which I spent the most years of my youth was not the house that they built after I left for boarding school, but was the house they retired to and still lived in until their deaths – it was thus also my home), but by the people in the house.  I have been lucky throughout my lifetime that not only did my sisters and brother spend a great deal of time in their present homes, but also my in-laws never changed houses from the ones in which I first met them. Other “homes” that I have visited and lived in for almost longer than I remember: homes that saw the cousins be little together (both my sons were 8 months when they met their American cousins – and in one case about the same for the German cousins and the other even younger).

Not to mention the homes – houses where I feel entirely at home – of friends that I have been privileged to meet over the years (some of you may know who you are, some perhaps not, but they range from Alaska, through Seattle, down to Arroyo Grande with a jog inland to Sonora and Shafter on the West Coast; from the New Forest in England, to Argelès-sur-Mer in Southern France). Places that I have spent quality time with very good friends.

There are also probably a few that I have not visited in recent years and thus have temporarily forgotten to put on the list, but they did exist and there will probably also be others.

And the theme of going home whilst leaving home can be easily extended to children: those who’s parents stay in the family home, the one to which they return be it only for a holiday, but also the one to which they sometimes return after a change in their own lives.  They too have their own “home”, yet they can be said also to be “coming home.”

So as I leave my mountain home I also return to my city home: both are truly homes in my heart.

Les Marécottes, bottom floor of right chalet
home - a snowy year

Thursday, October 30, 2014


  I am, therefore I think, or at least I think I am.

Now everyone is wondering if I have finally totally lost it: nope just loved the sound of this word in today’s word-a-day. If one didn’t know better, one would guess that it had to do with epilepsy, with “a panel” or rather “a pun, ah” (by its pronunciation) anything but what it really is: a figure of speech wherein a word or phrase at the beginning of the sentence is repeated again after more words, so often at the end.

No photos to illustrate so here are the fall colors, in photos (I just can’t seem to stop, can I?).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How much wood,

Would a woodchuck chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Is one of those ditties that runs around in one’s head for hours at a time.

There aren’t really any good answers, but several attempted bits of wit on the theme, such as

  • He would chuck, he would, as much as he could, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
  • If he could chuck wood, the woodchuck would chuck as much as he could!
  • A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
  • A woodchuck would chuck all the wood that the woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
  • If a woodchuck could chuck wood, he would and should chuck wood. But if woodchucks can't chuck wood, they shouldn't and wouldn't chuck wood. Though were I a woodchuck, and I chucked wood, I would chuck wood with the best woodchucks that chucked wood.
  • If a woodchuck could chuck wood, then s/he'd chuck all the wood, s/he'd chuck and chuck and chuck and chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
  • It would chuck the amount of wood that she sells seashells on the seashore divided by how many pickles Peter Piper picks.
  • One quarter of a sycamore if you give him a quarter for every quarter of the sycamore he cut.
  • It might depend on how many female woodchucks were present. Or, it could depend on whether the woodchuck's mother-in-law was around or not. If she was, he'd be chucking all day. If not, he'd be watching the football game.
  • Some maintain that woodchucks could not and would not chuck wood at all.
  • It depends on how good his dentures are!
  • A woodchuck, would chuck, as much wood, as a woodchuck, could chuck, If a woodchuck could chuck wood. But unfortunately, woodchucks do not chuck wood.
  • About as many boards as the Mongol hoards would hoard if the Mongol hordes did hoard boards. »
A partial list taken from « askville by Amazon ».
So although we can’t know whether or not a woodchuck even chucks wood, I have found that in the mountains everyone has been as « busy as a bee ». Wood stacks have sprouted over the past week in places that were entirely bare. Formed in many different shapes and stacked in many different ways – all are interesting as shown from the photos below (and yes, I went a bit overboard, but they were all so different - and fascinating).

So although I don't know one, whether woodchucks chuck wood, or two how and how much if they do, I know a lot about woodpiles in the Swiss alps!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Schizophrenic for a day

During the night of Saturday to Sunday, most of Europe as well as Iraq, Syria and the like (know this because of a bad joke in the Sunday paper) went off of daylight savings time (personally can’t see that it ever saved any daylight, but that’s only my begrudging opinion – wish that they would do away with it!).  In Switzerland this takes place at 3 a.m. when we drop back to 2 a.m. (who decided on this hour? Why not going from 2 to 1 or from 4 to 3 ? If one looks at shift workers it used to be 7 to 15:00 then 15:00 to 23:00 and 23:00 to 7:00 so that doesn’t even make sense – and did the night shift have to work an extra hour? Were they compensated?). See what happens when I get off track?

Anyway, as I
  • hate the idea in the first place
  • don’t care when during the night that it takes place and
  • would rather have the extra hour in the fall as we go into Monday and not Sunday

I rebel, leaving all my clocks that are not yet radio-controlled (wrist watch, microwave, oven, battery run clocks) on the old time, only changing them just before I go to bed on Sunday evening.

This of course leads to some interesting calculations throughout Sunday: can’t go get the Sunday paper until the coffee shop opens at the now-new-time of old-time 9:00, have to remember that as we are going out for lunch that I do have an extra hour at noon to finish off anything that I was doing (i.e. reading the paper, taking a walk, taking a shower and getting ready). It also means that I will feel very virtuous going to bed at my old time, setting the alarm back and thinking – yeah – another hour to read tonight!

Of course by that time, all the calculations and re-calculations to keep on track throughout the day will have worn me out enough to have me falling asleep on the new time, then awaking on the old time. All the energy needed to maintain my rebellion has my feeling a wee bit Schizophrenic – and you my readers – how are you doing?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Girns to grins and sundry events

 Sometimes the unintended are the most fun and turning this weekend into an “adventure” certainly pleads in favor of that thought.

Today we decided to undertake two things: go to the Renoir exhibit at the Giannada Museum and have lunch in Martigny. The order was indifferent, however due to late awakenings on both of our parts (in turn due to getting to bed late as we not only watched a DVD but also got caught up in watching an English crime series thereafter) we had to change the order a bit.

In the end we were too late to go to the exhibit before lunch without rushing and too early to eat lunch so I threw a third thing into the mix: replace my cell phone!  I finally remember where there was a shop for my service provider, took a number (well actually had a “greeter” sign me up on his iPad or whatever tablet the company is favoring at the moment) and waited about 10 minutes. Explained that I liked my old cell phone (about 5 years old), didn’t want any more or any less service than I had and would even prefer the same brand due to chargers (we have an abundance of one name and none of the others). Turns out that chargers are now interchangeable so less than 10 minutes later I was the proud possessor of another “dumb” phone, i.e. I can make and accept phone calls, send and receive text messages, and little else… all without changing my current rate plan.  Grin number one (also all my stored numbers were on the chip so no additional dithering or adjustments – big, big grin).

Just in time to go find sustenance (like we really need more). For some reason we both were leaning towards Italian so picked La Nonna  ( Liked the décor, the waitress was very friendly and the policy of offering a small glass as an introductory cocktail was great. Upon seeing the menu though and the special hunt offerings we both chose the caquelon braconnier (very loosely translated as the poachers pot) – the full menu! Pictures tell it better than I can.

Hungry anytime in the near future – I think not! We did go on to the museum, but that’s a story for another day as still digesting lunch.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Escapades and girns

My housemate and I have over the years enjoyed not only many a DVDs and laughs, but also instituted the idea of a quarterly adventure: they have varied from the one-day to the five-day, from near to far, from educational to totally frivolous, but ALL are enjoyed.

When I invited her up to the cabin for the weekend we hadn’t intended it to be our last adventure of the year, but somehow the fresh snow on the mountains, the brilliant fall sunlight and the catching-up conversations on the drive had us deciding to eat in a restaurant in Martigny as opposed to stopping at one or the other of the cafeterias along the way.

The first one had no seats – the rösti with chanterelles (hash browns with chanterelle mushrooms) were the attraction there – so we went to the next one in line and both had the seasonal deer with chestnuts, spätzli (a Swiss noodle), pear with cinnamon-flavored jelly and a sauce that was to die for (no worries, we are both still alive and very well!). Given the delicacy and delightfulness of the meal we both decided that this weekend would be our fourth and last for the year “adventure” (just as well as when her husband R returns they will go south and we probably won’t see each other again until end January, early February).

So the whole weekend has taken on the flavor of fun and adventure – and making sure that we continued the theme last night it was a DVD, cheddar popcorn and sparkling wine.

Do I enjoy my life? You bet and almost every minute of it.

That being said my first hellos this morning were of the girn* nature. I had awoken at 4:44 with an ache in my hip: at 5:56 it was a general achiness and at 7:00 it was from a bad dream in which I had returned to Geneva on a train and as I was getting money from an ATM machine my suitcase was stolen! (With my computer in it and all my recent photos: that was the most painful part! A reminder to back-up, back-up, back-up?).
I went back to bed to read for awhile before trying again – this time with a slightly less girn and more of a grin.

Writing about yesterday’s adventures has managed to straighten my mood so out into the fall sun and on with more fun.

verb intr.: To snarl, grimace, or complain.
noun: A grimace or snarl. 

One of my favorite mountains  - my view from the kitchen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Of “lasts”, “last” and “first”

During my recent visit to the in-laws I was able to see the whole close family: all nephews, both sisters-in-law, my brother-in-law and the grand children as well – remarkable.

During the same period, we also took the youngest grandson to the Lindt Chocolate Factory in Cologne one afternoon.  And had another son/nephew over one night.  As both my sister-in-law and her husband were nursing colds and she didn’t sleep well, we realized that it was all a bit too much and that at 80+ it was time for her to slow down on some of the things. Together we decided that this year she wouldn’t bake her traditional stollens.

She had one left in the freezer, which we duly unthawed, cut in half and I brought mine back to savor.

Then there was the last of the fresh rasberries: my landlord in the mountains has rasberries and knowing my love of them has often shared. I was ever so please on Monday when she brought me the last of this season. The weather was to totally change – snow instead of the low 20s (C) that we had been enjoying – so she had picked all that she could find.  Were they as succulent as earlier in the summer ? No, but they were every bit as appreciated as now there will be no fresh until next year.

Then there are the “firsts” (note the lasts being first and the first being last?):
The same landlord made quince jelly last week and when I ran out of jellies and jams I was so bold as to ask if she would give me a jar. Nothing like fresh quince jelly, absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beauty on the cheap

Like many, I find daily in my inbox offers from Groupon (not to mention names): a site that specializes in making the consumer an offer at a lower price by selling a greater quantity.

Now I have had some coupons for reflexology and massages and I am the first to be interested in some of their offerings, but the one that landed in my inbox a couple of days ago, gave me pause for thought.

I could have bought 32 (yes – 32!) makeup brushes for a modest price.
After having laughed myself silly, I thought – I don’t even think that I could use more than one or two – who in the world could actually use 32 brushes to put on their makeup?

One for eyebrows – maybe
One for blusher – again perhaps

And that’s about where my knowledge of make-up brushes hits the wall.  I mean, really, THIRTY-TWO!
If I used each one only once and very quickly, say a half of a minute, it would still take me 16 minutes to put on my make-up.

Who in the world has time like that – or an interest in fixing whatever nature gave one that would involve the use of 32 brushes?

Needless to say, that is one offer that I did not take them up on!

screenshot of the ad's illustration

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Triggered memories

Most of us have heard of the Pavlovian experiment whereby a dog was conditioned to salivate at the ringing of a bell. Any of us who studied French literature have heard of Proust’s madeleines (a type of cake cookie with an oblong shape), the smell of which evokes sweet memories of teatime, etc.  I am sure that there are many other combinations and the advertising world has also taken to flavoring or adding certain odors to areas of a shop to incite the consumer to buy: I fall almost every time for one of these – a grocery store that makes sure that their underground parking has the odors of fresh baking bread as you roll down your window to take the ticket!

There is also déjà vu whereby we think (or perhaps we actually are) that we are experiencing exactly the same thing from years ago yet again. These moments are very fleeting and I’d love to be able to hold onto some of them.

The other day I kind of experienced both at once.  My younger son “juices” and whilst making his first one of the day he offered to make me one as well.  I requested a slightly smaller portion than his and he came in with it in a normal water glass.

I was instantly transported to another country, another home and another lovely experience. Green juice last had at my friend’s home above Sonora, overlooking the forest: this one in my own home served by my son. Both drinks were delicious (and healthy); both experiences wonderful.

Monday, October 20, 2014


It is a well-known fact that I love taking pictures; some of those who have to bear with me on any given outing also know that I love reflections.

But our hotel in Stuttgart last week offered something just as good: a wrought-iron table and chairs outside each door (we were in the “residence” a separate entity back of the hotel). I used mine to prop the door open for some air (I know, it’s not supposed to be 25° mid-October in Europe, but someone forgot to tell the powers that be that and as there was under-floor heating the first night I couldn’t even sleep it was so hot).

The resultant shadow was irresistible.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


A man-made pile of rocks, ranging from two or three to whole mounds of rocks, cairns are to be found in every part of the world and go back to prehistory.

In my lifetime I have seen them in the dessert, on mountaintops, along the coastal areas of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well as along fjords, rivers and other seas. Currently my profile picture is of the one marking the path down over the mountain to Scex les Granges in the Valais, Switzerland.

It is fascinating to wonder who built one and for what reason – hands made those piles that lived centuries before yet their trace persists in the simplest of elements: stones picked up from the surrounding ground.

I have yet to take a stone from one, although one definition of a cairn is a pile that was made by each man going into battle placing one stone in a pile – those returning took a stone and the remainder were left grouped to indicate how many had died and honor them.

I used stones to build mini-cairns or arrows myself whilst hiking in the hills above my mother’s house (dozens of dry dirt trails with no signage: the first few forays into them had me putting stones at every crossing so that if worst came to worst and I couldn’t circle down back to a known point, I would at least be able to retrace my steps).  I have also used them in the forests where I now hike back in the days where I was looking for circular routes of a determined time length (1 hour, two hours, etc.) Mind you some of those were a pile of wood or pinecones laid decoratively.


Adding that last stone was difficult!

I have come across “normal” cairns – i.e. piles of stones – as well as those that must have been built by an engineer, but I had not yet seen one like that, which I discovered on my walk yesterday.

Cairn in between two trees