Tuesday, June 30, 2015


plural noun: Baggage, supplies, or equipment related to an activity or expedition, especially when regarded as slowing one's progress.

But in most of our cases this can also be used for all those things that prevent us from either doing what we really want to be doing, or from accomplishing something that might take a bit of thought and effort.

Totally appropriate this morning to my activities.  Having gotten up, having had breakfast, having talked to my landlord, having finally decided to go get my summer pass for the ski lift, I used the excuse that I needed to « work » a bit so that I could enjoy my afternoon. And yes, the listing of all my acitivites was necessary to prove, if only to myself, that I had actually done something this morning.

Ha – in the process of « work » I checked Facebook, my emails and not much else. Then decided that I could at least work on reducing my inbox to a more reasonable amount than the current 257. Whereupon I came across this saved Wordsmith entry…

Amazing how often we are able to distract ourselves with the minutea of a life instead of actually getting out there and living! OK promised – I will use my newly purchased lift ticket and go take a walk up a few more meters where it should be cooler: lucky me it is already several degrees celsius cooler here than in the valley : 28° as opposed to 31°!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


But not of the life-saving type.
Early in the morning, before my usual coffee and roll I take a walk – sometimes it’s up past the vineyards to the small bakery or store in my village.

Sometimes like this morning it’s through the woods near the summer flat in the mountains.

How to choose? Thank goodness I needn’t but can enjoy both!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mother Nature doesn’t do “bad hair” days

She might produce fog – throwing it around her mountain shoulders like a warm shawl.

She can be drippy with rain – giving and maintaining life in many different forms.

She can be frightening and booming with lightning and thunder – better fireworks haven’t been invented.

She can be howling with winds – and when Mother Nature howls many of us cower.

She can be smothered in snow – underneath the blanket life takes a rest and gathers energy for a new beginning.

She can bask in the sun – and seems loved by most everyone then.

But one thing stands out: she is always beautiful: if her lakes aren't glistening in the sun, her raindrops bejewel branches, leaves and even blades of grass.

She displays her colors and pearls in thousands of ways, shapes and types.

However, when she’s humid she gives me a “bad hair” day!

January 2015

May 2015

May 2015

Late Spring snow - May 2015

June fog in the mountains
June rain like no one's ever seen



Today, alpine Lupines

A bright touch of color in a gray day

nourished by Mother Nature

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Globalization or…

Chinese in the Swiss Alps!
So although my landlord’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago we hadn’t had time to celebrate properly, i.e. my inviting her to lunch, until I returned.
The choice was difficult and finally settled by flipping a coin: twice as the first time we couldn’t remember what the side that turned up represented (now, now, we are both sound of mind, just laughing and not thinking to concentrate!) so had to do it again. It turned out to be the new Chinese restaurant in Salvan.

A mix in styles and cultures

With Chinese I always have Jasmine tea

Now here is a great discovery: an excellent Chinese restaurant in the Swiss Alps! China House, Place Centrale 28 – 1922 Salvan 027 761 30 10 or 079 30 90 434. 11:30 to 14:30 and from 18:00. All day Saturday and Sunday. Take out or eat in.

The daily menu had a choice of two mains: either Pekin duck or spicy chicken. Both came with a salad first followed by a spring roll and all of it was delicious: the salad was one of the freshest that I have tasted in a restaurant, the spring roll was piping hot and freshly fried so I suspect that it was hand made and rolled as well and the mains again very hot (unusual for restaurant fare so perhaps I should enquire as to how they do it). 

To round off the meal I had an expresso and she a litchi fruit salad. From start to finish a most enjoyable meal: even the décor was an interesting mix of old pictures from the area and the odd more oriental scroll – it all worked together. Our waitress was of Chinese descent and called us “girls” and the men “boys” – she too added to the experience especially as her French was perfect (would love to hear her story someday as it is rather unusual to find someone of oriental descent so fluent in a foreign language and above all in an out-of-the-way spot like Salvan, VS).

I will return.

I was so engrossed in the food that I forgot to take the pictures!

main of spicy chicken

Friday, June 19, 2015

I let go…

And floated free.
I finally found a whole week in my busy life where I could disappear to the mountains! Younger son is home for a couple of weeks and I am taking advantage of his presence to not have to organize the cats, but to take a true vacation: one made all the sweeter by the fact that I have filed my taxes, sent in on-line the FBARs and in general am caught up – perhaps not with all that needs doing, that’s an ongoing challenge, but at least with the urgent.

This time as I wasn’t in a rush I also decided to stop by my favorite water complex Lavey-les-Bains on the way http://www.lavey-les-bains.ch/en.  Left home slightly later than planned so grabbed a sandwich at one stop in order to not have a heavy stomach in the water then spent almost three hours just relaxing. Totally unusual for me, I didn’t even push myself to do laps, but simply wandered around through the various hot pools, the against-the-current-circle (although I did go against the current, I did so slowly and on the inner wall – not much of a challenge).

One of my favorite things there is to do the quarter of an hour floating on a mattress and listening to either classical music or whales underwater. As there were not many people on this Thursday afternoon during the school year I finally unhooked my feet from the metal railing around the pool and floated free! What a feeling as eyes closed I listened to classical music as transmitted through the water – talk about surround sound!

I even took in the sensorial experience, which I have never done before: green light, an aroma meant to be soothing and the twitter of birds did give me the advertised serenity: off to the hamman and some warmth followed by the “silent” room to interiorize all the relaxing experiences.

Talk about “letting go” – if I got any further released I’d probably float away into the clouds some of which are looking pretty dark up here as the light fades on a wonderful day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The dreaded FBARs

Now there are only a few people in the world that will understand what I am talking about (the rest of the USA citizens who have to file a list of their foreign bank accounts), but perhaps the rest of the world should be aware as if the USA can do it, what's to stop the other countries from decided to do the same?
For your edification: FBAR = Foreign Bank Account Report

Disclaimer: I like my IRS enrolled agent who is not only efficient, but also actually nice so the following is no reflection upon S!

First one gathers the materials, makes the excel tables, pdfs (new vocabulary) the various pieces of tax “proofs” for mortgages, bank statements, charitable deductions, salary statement, W-9s, and all the other assorted junk that one apparently needs to survive in this world; secondly one forwards all this (the past couple of years by e-mail, which means color coding bits and pieces to make sure that all of it was actually transferred to one’s tax agent); then one awaits his or her input, requests for additional information or further “proofs”;
Thirdly one proceeds to go through every single bank account, life insurance policy or other investment to make sure that one has declared the highest amount in the 365 days of the year, cause if you make a mistake you will not only be fined $10’000.00 but will pay a penalty that can easily take the whole account (now in theory you don’t have to do this for anything under $10’000 but if it was that one year and not the next year, you’d better declare it anyway unless you can prove that you closed that account – cause who knows but what that might not be a “criminal” offense) and transfer those results to your IRS enrolled agent so that he or she can establish your FBARs.

Then the nightmare starts:
…” Please review the form to ensure that all your foreign accounts (including pension and life insurance) in which you have either financial interest or signature authority (or both) have been reported.  Please contact us if there are any accounts that should be indicated on this form which are not listed. 
- Please save the attached file on your computer.
- Please open the pdf form from your computer, then click first on the ‘Sign the Form’ button.
- Please then click on the ‘Save’ button to save the form to your computer. 
- After the form has been saved you should click on the ‘Ready to File’ button which will redirect you to the BSA efiling website. 
- Once at the BSA efiling website you will need to enter your name and email address before browsing to the location where you saved the form on your computer.  Once you have clicked on the button to submit the form you will automatically receive a confirmation of the submission;  this confirmation will also be sent to you via email.  For further assistance with this process please visit the following website - http://bsaefiling.fincen.treas.gov.  …”

Now you know that you have provided your tax agent with all the information, in my case nothing (but the amounts – lower, much lower due to expenses renovating etc.) has changed, still you have a ball in the bottom of your stomach, you live in fear of missing something – be it even one penny – because if you do, the IRS isn’t going to believe you, or if by some totally unforeseeable miracle they do, you are still going to be paying a fine and a penalty and risk finding yourself on the black list the next time you visit your brother or sister in the USA, yet you still panic; you still feel like a criminal.

Nor will I go into the other potential negative: as this FBAR report must be filed on-line with all of not only your personal details, i.e. name, address, etc. but also with your social security number and all the numbers of said reported accounts of personal identity theft is a very real possibility.

Well, the hard part is done in that I have read and digested what I need to do – on with the FBAR filing – then I’ll only need to file my actual tax declaration – two different spots – sending it registered with a request for notification of receipt or I will find myself accused of not having turned it in at all: ask my older son who one year was told that he hadn’t filed although I had paid the tax and the IRS had cashed the check. Turned out they had simply created another him by spelling his last name wrong: they swore that it couldn’t happen as there would be a duplicate for his Social Security number, but it took six months to find the one person capable of actually finding the second and totally invented name!
And then Americans think that we expats should be grateful for the privilege of being American – or course we are all cheats as there is something inherently wrong about someone falling in love and leaving the country of their birth, or about someone working overseas for an American company. The land of the free and the brave is no longer free and those of us living abroad are no longer brave: we cower under the burden of trying to comply with rules and laws that don’t exist anywhere else in the world, i.e. citizen-based taxation. OK not entirely true, Eritrea also imposes their citizens – some comparison.

from https://www.pinterest.com/source/malenadugroup.blogspot.in/

Friday, June 12, 2015

Housework is good exercise…

If it doesn’t kill you!

Having finally finished a photo album yesterday and having a few hours at my disposition before enjoying a weekend in the mountains, I thought that I’d catch up on a few tasks:

  • Wash the car finally – I do this when my fingers start getting too dirty opening up the trunk to store things, or if I am going to have friends in the car – whichever comes first and usually only three or four times a year.  Nothing happened other than pinching a finger with the vacuum hose, getting my hair even fluffier (and totally not the look I like) with the spray of the water, and almost tripping over the vacuum cleaner at home finishing the car, never mind banging my head whilst coming back out of the car. I survived that

  • Empty out the dish washer, which I had finally run after about a week: fairly innocuous as only banged another finger

  • Clean up the stair well leading down to the cellar: my biggest danger zone as can manage to tangle feet, hands, arms and any other loose body parts in any part of the vacuum cleaner (fortunately my hair can be tied back or that would probably end up being sucked into the tube as well!) and cause myself to trip: surviving that was the highlight of the cleaning frenzy! 

  • Dusting desk and other areas where the cats have settled as they are shedding big time at the moment: thank goodness that I was so allergic in my childhood that I needed medical treatment – otherwise that might have done me in.

Now, I know that I promised the boys that I would no longer get up on a ladder, nor a counter, etc. if no one was in the house – a promise that still holds as I know someone who broke both wrists recently getting up on her counter, slipping and falling.  However I didn’t think of those simple household chores as laying in wait for my clumsiness (nothing to do with age – I have always tripped, stumbled and otherwise been an accident waiting to happen – luckily I also have a better than average sense of balance and 99 times out of 100 I am able to catch myself. It’s that 100th time.

So, although I am sure that the bending, squatting and otherwise turning were good for my body, dying in a stupid household accident wouldn’t improve my health: new vow – give up housekeeping in the interest of my longevity!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

One a Day…

And no, I don’t mean apples although that would be a very good habit: I have tried at various times in my life to eat an apple a day and usually make it to about day 3 – does that count for anything?

No, I mean social appointments.

When I checked my agenda yesterday after having had my usual tea with a friend I realized at 19:00 that I had NOTHING on my agenda AT ALL for about 60 hours, i.e. all today, all tomorrow and at least half of Friday (we have not yet determined when the “girls” are going to head for the mountains and a weekend of female fun – a euphemism for hiking, exploring, talking, laughing, eating and drinking probably more than we should – in short enjoying ourselves).

My normal reaction was to pick up the phone, write a couple of e-mails and plan to see all those people that I have somehow neglected throughout the month of May. I was just barely able to stop myself. The first challenge as I told my sister-in-law would be to not plan anything at all – at least until the next morning. I was pretty sure that I could hold out that long, after all I would be asleep for ¾ of the time. I managed – just barely.

Still in the interests of enjoying some me time I did try to be reasonable and finally hit upon a rule: one social event per day, i.e. a coffee, lunch or dinner.

Today I had lunch with my older son – somehow Mexican was on my mind – perhaps from reading Facebook and “haystacks” postings – so we ended up having burritos at Manana.
OK as far as Mexican in Geneva goes, but oh how I long for the true California-style hole-in-the-wall “real” Mexican place. Still I have always missed more European dishes whilst in the USA than vice versa.

Tomorrow I will have lunch with another friend and be very proud of myself for not trying to fit in everyone. However, 48 hours is probably about all I can manage and as of Friday it will be back to social-as-usual (can’t call it business as my friends are more important than that) and slowly over the next few weeks I hope to catch up with those – sorry, sorry, sorry – whom I have not seen for weeks.

A flower in an Italian courtyard

Monday, June 8, 2015

Self worth or the pitfalls of

Measuring ones self by others.

One of my Facebook friends posted a good article on thoughts about being worried about what others think of you: http://hellogiggles.com/worried-other-people-think/

Oh so true, but I'll add to it - none of us are as important as we think we are. A great way to realize that you are your own best friend/conversationalist/person is to, whilst in the middle of a conversation at an event where many people are talking, simply stop, cutting your sentence in the middle. I can guarantee that most of the time not a soul notices (very humbling - not depressing if one realizes that others are so insecure that they are readying in their minds their reply thus totally not listening to whomever is speaking). Or you're telling a story and some one interrupts: I can again guarantee that 95% of the time no one comes back and say "please finish the story". Which is why the best conversations happen when one person has the grace and courtesy to actually be interested in the other person's conversation and to listen, really hearing what is being said - there is great merit and lots to be learned by being that listener.

As some wise person said (sorry I forgot to whom I should attribute the saying) “You are the only person that you will live with for your entire life”.  Most of us are so wrapped up in worrying about what others do, or might, think of us that we forget to ask the most important question: what do I think of myself?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Endless possibilities…

Or a day without meetings, schedules, duties.

A very special day in my somewhat (or often) turbulent life as the only appointments I have today are at both ends of the day:

  • early morning (7 a.m. departure) to transfer my oldest son across town to his apartment – an apartment that he sublet for the two six-month periods of his African adventure. He thought it took forever, I thought it was a fast ride at just a half an hour.  We arrived in time to go for coffee.  On my return I stopped to do some shopping only to discover that Geneva has also started opening their department stores later – 9 a.m. Wasn’t interested so swung by the post office and was home by 9 a.m.
  • Later afternoon/early evening: I have booked a relaxing massage at the new place in our village – yes, I know, I really have a tough life!

So in between the day opens to endless possibilities and it will be interesting to see how I spend those precious unstructured hours.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Along the Highway

Today’s return from the mountains started out well enough – a great cup of coffee
and a roll in one of the chic tea-room-bakeries of Martigny: Michelod not to mention names.

Then I was on the road where things quickly disintegrated. Just past the road stop where I could have turned around and taken the state roads, all the traffic on the freeway came to a screeching halt.  There had been no warning and other than a very short blurb on “traffic info” a half hour later nothing: we were well stuck.

It turned out that they were working on the bridge in between two tunnels at St.Maurice: this was very easy to predict and signs could have been placed, but no, we should just waste our time.  In the end it took me an hour and a half to cover 17 kilometers!

But all was not lost as I was able to take the following pictures from the comfort of my driver’s seat with no danger to anyone in spite of the 100s of cars and trucks (dead standstill).

Not only, but I also always have reading material with me so finished an entire magazine and will be able to pass it along to a friend.

Life’s little frustrations do have their own silver linings with a ladybug for luck as well!