Saturday, January 31, 2015

Outwardly manifestations…

I hope that the love also travels inward.

Coming down the main road from the airport into town today I happened to pass by the Salvation Army’s nursing home – for want of a better word. It is in French an EMS or “medical and social establishment” (see this is why I like using all of my languages: the finesse that is sometimes lacking in one, is present in another, or the concept varies just enough to ring truer in one than the other).

I love what they have done to the facade, presumably in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, but maybe, just maybe it is simply an outwardly manifestation of the love to be found within those walls. By-the-way, the public is welcome to enter and enjoy coffee, tea or lunch.

In any case, the outwardly manifestation certainly made my heart fuller and me personally more willing to spread the love.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Turkeys or turkey parts…

Fun outside of one’s own culture.

Now I have never yet wholesale quoted someone elses blog, but this one was too good to pass up and the impact is more if I repeat rather than simply put in a link.  I am sure that my housemate will forgive me if for once instead of both of us blogging on the same subject, I simply take her blog and follow up with a blog of my solutions.


Posted By Blogger to The ExPat Writer at 1/30/2015 03:15:00 AM

I have two great Muslim friends who made an incredible meal for me in November complete with couscous and other Mid Eastern delicacies. I promised them a typical American meal. Sunday will be the day.

Texmex wouldn't do it, so my next thought was to do a Thanksgiving meal. 

They are devout so I made sure I ordered a turkey from the Halal butcher and today I went to pick it up.

It was a complete turkey, nicely sliced into escallops. I had not said a whole turkey still together, something that isn't common here.

Too late to order another bird.

This will take some creative cooking. Anyone with any ideas on how to cook slices and slices of turkey and make them seem like roast turkey, let me know, please, please, please.

In any case, I'll let you know how it turns out.

In any case it will make great mealtime conversation.


Dear Housemate,

Who would have thought to tell the butcher that you wanted a "whole" bird!
So here are my thoughts on how to turn it into a proper Thanksgiving turkey:
  • Slip it into something that won't burn onto it during the process (pantyhose came to mind, but I reckon they couldn't take the heat, which leads me to other – thoughts as to heat and panty hose…),
  • Get a good pair of iron clamps...
  • Take a needle and some good thick black thread and sew the bits together....
  • Take a picture of a properly roasted turkey and paste to skin once done...
  • Lots of string and tie it back together?

Or, as you are a writer and have plenty of imagination, make up a story/poem/sonnet as to how a whole bird became parts, parts that will magically become whole again as they eat. Here are some models.


K Tao_Flickr_CC BY-ND 2.0

My 2015 Christmas turkey

A weekend in the Swiss Alps

It is a well-known fact that I love to travel and that I do so rather frequently. Many of the trips involve actually leaving the country (probably about 80% of the time) and most are also long distance visiting family in the USA and in Germany.

The only “short” trips are those to the flat that I rent during the summer months as that is roughly two hours depending upon how many times I stop or take side-trips on the way. The shortest trips otherwise are the 3-hour train rides to Paris, or the 7 hour ones to Southern France/Northern Germany.

When my younger son decided that he would like to hold a party at home (he is currently living here – another story entirely) I said, no problem, I’ll go stay in a hotel for the night. Well that became, oh yeah, maybe I should go somewhere that I haven’t seen and, for the comfort, also take the train.

Up to Leysin it was.
One of many such chalets
Detail on a cow bell

Many lovely displays in this chalet

And what a fun weekend it turned out to be. Last minute reservation at the Mercure hotel (not going to rave about it – it was adequate) then joined a friend who was dining with other friends Friday night and Saturday night.  First though the tour to a local restaurant and mini alpine museum where they make the cheese in the old-fashioned way – in a large caldron – three times a week for the evening fondues. Then it was off to an Italian restaurant: five adults and one child. Three were of Italian origin, one of those was married to a girl from Cameroon and of course me. All were polyglots.

Cheese Restaurant in Leysin, Switzerland
Old-fashioned way of making cheese

Saturday my coffee buddy and I went off to Bulle (nearest larger city to the castle of Gruyère always a hit with the tourists) to attend the indoor flea market. I was at the tail end of a weird flu episode so after a couple of hours needed to sit and went and found the cloakroom and a bench: these indoor events rarely have seating and I didn’t think it polite to simply sit down on someone’s stall – or antique chairs. Entertained myself reading a brochure that some kids were peddling then the lady who’s stall was just outside the cloakroom asked if I would watch her stand for her whilst she went to the bathroom. Not every visitor finds them self a temporary saleswoman: fun.

Traveling there we took the back roads and mountain passes – something that as a family we had never done. Started snowing on the way back so ever so “typically Swiss” and we stopped for coffee in an authentic mountain “bistro”. 

That night we continued the oh-so-international theme when we joined the cousin, his companion and another woman in the latter’s chalet for sushi!  D’s chalet was a most wonderful blend of traditional Swiss and zen Japanese: she trained as an artist, in particular ceramics, and taught at Scripp’s in L.A. as well as at the University of Bern before turning to teaching in order “to make a living”. All the dishes used were her own works and I’d love to talk her into coming out of retirement as an artist. The other woman’s history was just as fascinating. Main language of the evening: Italian with a smattering of French as well as German between three of us when S. discovered that I spoke it.  The cousin was more than entertaining and the word “mass” will forever make me laugh as at one point whilst discussing how the artist had put one leg on solid ground and the other on not-so-solid thus falling forward he described it as her “mass” made her topple meaning of course mass and velocity (he was an engineer) as opposed to weight (she was top heavy), but he had a hard time back peddling out of that one.

Best sushi ever!

The of algaes salad was devoured by all

Again late to bed, but no matter as Sunday there were no plans. Late breakfast followed by simply relaxing, partially in the sun, after touring the village and admiring how the snow, which had ever so conveniently fallen during the night, covered the slush, mud and rocks that had been apparent upon my arrival.

Fresh snow powdering on the trees

Must have been a strong wind at some point

Christmas lights and snow make the branches festive

Huge rocky mountains

La Tour d'Ai

It was a true break (tried checking e-mails the first night as the hotel supposedly had wi-fi, but although I could go online for the news, etc. couldn’t seem to get passed the barriers for e-mails etc. so decided that a computer-free weekend was perhaps a good thing) and returning home somewhat of a let-down, but never mind I have another adventure with my housemate coming up mid-February.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I’m able to go to the bathroom again or ...

New toilet is functional.

For those who only read my blog and don’t know me in real life, it has been a bit of upset in the house as I completely renovate the shower and bathroom on my bedroom floor these past couple of weeks.

I, foolishly might I add, thought that it was well programmed (way back in November/beginning December) and that come Jan.5 everything would proceed apace and fall into place in two weeks.  Think again.

It was well programmed – all the players were in place and showed up first thing that Monday morning. At one point there were five men in between the two small rooms and I was taking a couple at a time down for coffee so that they wouldn’t get on each other’s nerves.

Well, the tiler finished his job yesterday – and a lovely one it was, well done down to the very littlest and last detail – the silicone joints. Today it was again the plumbers turn and although I have used this plumber before and will do so again, we had a spate of glitches: in starting the fixations on one element, bingo, a huge piece broke; then in drilling to put in place the glass fixture on the tub, they cracked a tile. Good news is that the tiler can return tomorrow to replace that.

We discussed where to put the shower poles in both bathrooms – no problems there. However then I found out that the sink, cupboard underneath said sink as well as the medicine cabinet in that bathroom had not yet been delivered (and last week supposedly everything was ready for pick-up… not the plumbers fault, but one would think that the appliance company would have kept us up-to-date in a more timely manner). The glass shower stall of course had to be first measured once the toilet and its encasings were finished. It is now on order but won’t be here for probably 10 days.

Such is life – sooner or later (betting on the latter) it will all happen and at least the toilet is functional on my floor and I will no longer have to take my flashlight to traipse up or down the stairs in the middle of the night.

Grateful for small favors!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

One of those happy coincidences

A few days again a local friend sent me an e-mail enquiring as to my current bath and shower renovations and saying “What is your blood sugar level like these days?   All that stress can't be doing it any good, so I wonder whether an unopened 250g box of FEMINA chocs would be of any use to you (can't remember whether you eat chocs or not) and\or a cute little tin of salted butter caramels.”

I replied: on the chocolates – thanks, but no thanks, I’m fussy and currently only eating dark chocolate, but that the salty butter caramels would be more than welcome.

She duly deposited them in my “milk” box (European letter boxes have two parts: one for the letters and another for packages, they call them the milk box as they resemble the ones used back in the day for the milkman to deposit fresh milk). I recuperated them and of course had to try – delicious, I mean really good.

It was a good 24 hours later however that I took a closer look at the “cute” tin, only to realize that it came from one of the best Parisian tea rooms: Angelina.

That brought back a flood of good memories of the meal taken there whilst visiting Paris with friends this past summer. Remember Miss Betty? We had lunch at Angelina’s after our visit to the Louvre.

One of those very happy coincidences: going to celebrate by having another salty butter caramel!

Angelina'a rue Rivoli, Paris, France

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It’s a frustraneous day

Thought that it was about time for one of those big words: aren’t you grateful that I don’t wax eloquent everyday with my Word-a-Day?

Now I know that most of you are thinking, yep, me too, it’s a frustrating day. But no, that
Is not the meaning of frustraneous, although it could indeed be frustrating to have a frustraneous day.

Have I tweaked your interest? Made you head for the dictionary (yes, on-line of course)? Or just have you thinking, o.k. I’m going to give up on her blogs?

Frustraneous, which I almost wrote Trustaneous - hmmmm, wonder if that’s a word – simply means useless or unprofitable. Who knew?

By-the-way thanks to that typing error (trustaneous) I then had to check out all the other possibilities: although crustaneous exhists all (brustaneous, etc.) the rest came up with “you have your ‘family’ filter on, which may prevent you from getting results”, like I would be looking up dirty words!

But back to the useless or unprofitable: by now you have more than gotten the point, my day up until this moment (and most likely thereafter as well) has not been a model of accomplishing tasks or making money.  That is unless having coffee with acquaintances, answering e-mails, organizing dates and getting my in-box down to 99 messages counts.

Tonight is the village’s annual New Year’s party so perhaps before day’s end I will have done something useful or profitable, for now the charts read day 100, me 0.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I am “hypocrite”

The events in Paris last week upset, horrified, shocked and appalled me  - I have yet to find an adjective adequate to my feelings.

The coming together of masses of human beings, Sunday, in honor of those who died in public places without much organization and before security could have begun to be equal to the task, yet doing so without violence, proves that there are many decent persons still left in a world seemingly being destroyed from within. I was moved. And yes, I am knowingly avoiding mentioning the world leaders at the front, many of whom are terrorists themselves.

This week my reflections take me in an entirely other direction: we are mainly not “I am Charlie”s as we would wish to be perceived, but hypocrites.

At the same time that 17 lost their lives in Paris, gunned down by fanatics in the name of their supposed religion,

  • approx. 35 persons were murdered in the USA (2013 statistics for murder and non-negligent manslaughter stood at 14’196 for the year, divided by 365 = 39 per day).
  • In the War on Gaza, at least 17 journalists were killed (chilling the resemblance in the numbers isn’t it), not to mention the more than 2’000 civilians killed, a full quarter of whom were children.
  • In the war on the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other fundamentalists the number of the victims from drones lies also in the thousands.
  • In Syria where it’s Syrians against other Syrians and the USA in supposedly bombing ISIS also kills civilians.
  • In Central and South America, drug lords are responsible for the deaths of 100s of civilians, but even more shocking than my litany for just a few of the wars responsible for civilian deaths in large numbers in 201 and now in 2015, is this last:
  • At the same time that these 17 lost their lives in Paris, 2’000  (yes two THOUSAND) were killed in Northern Nigeria by the Boko Haram.

It is easier to make ones self feel better by loudly proclaiming “I am Charlie”, but what about the rest of the time, when the emotion has fallen and yet another atrocious crime becomes simply a statistic? What about those around us killed by speeding drivers, killed by violent spouses, killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time: where is the outrage, where the large crowds demanding live and let live? Never was the adage “do as I say, not as I do” more prevalent.

I am not “Charlie”
I am “Hypocrite”

“You have no events scheduled”

Google tells me twice every day: somewhere along the way I obviously signed up for Google calendar and then having never entered any of the minutiae of my days (small paper two-year calendar in my purse at all times is full!) I am told that I have no events scheduled regularly every morning.  Occasionally I think that someday I shall go back and undo these messages to myself, others it de-stresses me to receive them: no matter how full my day may be Google ignores it and just the thought of that perhaps being actually true at some point gets me through those busy, hectic days.  Upon reflection, could I not do that “half” solution and just eliminate one of my e-mail addresses?

Today I actually have so many little things that I ended up making a list of them in the hopes that I won’t inadvertently forgot where and when I am supposed to be out of the house, at the house, running an errand, seeing a friend, going to a meeting: I really don’t have time to go back into my Google account to eliminate these fake schedules so, for today at least…
I have no events scheduled, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have many “events” to fulfill or remember!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Supporting local entities

My excuse for eating out.

Had to use a big word – entities – as couldn’t just say restaurants although in this case that is what triggered the blog. I also use one or two village bakeries, several other restaurants, a service station, the recycling center (well it is local and keeps my trash from traveling), and a wee bit further afield an agricultural center, McDonald’s (o.k. mainly for coffee), never mind that I have two of the chain grocery stores within 5 kilometers and a department store just a couple hundred meters beyond them.

Why go into town when I don’t have to?

But back to today’s “buying locally”. First I had a talk with myself about the grammar, most people say buying local, but as buying is a verb it really should have the adverb, or does “buying local” imply “buying from someone who distributes on a local level” – you can see the problems and quandaries that arise in my need to do it right. Secondly there was the problem of title. I first chose “the devil made me do it” but quickly realized that

  • Why do we blame the devil? Where did the phrase originate? Why do I need to blame anyone?
  • If one can blame the devil, one can also either blame a god or let said god take credit for our actions.  In light of recent events I quickly steered away from that whole “kettle of fish”.
Parenthesis: I think perhaps that I should just get on with it instead of taking all these side trips into philosophical questions.

Thirdly: so I was going to use “buying local” as my title, but that provoked the grammar debate so….

Now you know how I chose my title.

Are you any further ahead on the subject? No, but I had fun.

To make a rather convoluted and way-too-long, the devil-made-me-do-it blog, just before noon I checked to see what the daily menu was going to be at one of my favorite local
restaurants: (ah, ha “local buying” would have worked) Café des Marronniers. Upon seeing that the entry was a rucola and parmesan (rocket and parmesan as spell-check doesn’t like the rucola) salad followed by an entrecote with a three-pepper sauce, a braised tomato and their matchstick French fries, I knew where I was eating lunch.

Antonio’s warm welcome, the waiter and waitresses always smiling greetings of “it’s nice to see you” set the tone. Everything lived up to my high standards. Wasn’t my first meal there, won’t be my last.

I can even feel virtuous having supported a local entity. Now if I had walked (only a 15-minute walk, but the current excuse is that I only had an hour as the tiler had gone home for his lunch, but would be back) I could have also fulfilled some of the 10’000 steps that one is supposed to manage per day!

I encourage everyone to do most of their purchasing, eating, etc. in their own neighborhood. I can't be too dogmatic as of course my passion for travel destroys a lot of my gains in other areas: we do what we can.