Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nature’s water bowls

After a rainy night I was walking up to the village for my morning coffee, admiring the rain drops still on the Irises.

Upon my return trip I noticed the small pools of water along every leaf of another bush and could easily imagine the small rodents drinking from these as well as the insects, birds and some would have been even enough water for a cat or dog, fox, hare or any other wild animals. Yet another purpose of some leaves.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Party indiscriminately…

The one you’ve had is not the one you’ll miss!

Number 15 has a habit (some would say bad, I say GOOD) of partying for no reason: say it’s Monday and raining – good excuse to cheer ourselves up; say it’s Tuesday and sunny – let’s celebrate the fact; say it’s Wednesday and we just got the latest DVD in one of our favorite series – let’s do it; say it’s Thursday and nothing bad happened – time to celebrate; say it’s Friday and we just solved a problem or managed to finish a project – good enough reason; say it’s Saturday and we are having a quiet weekend in – what better reason to party; or say it’s Sunday and there’s nothing else to do – party anyone?

You get the idea.

Sometimes though we even celebrate for a reason – in this particular case it was an unforeseen birthday celebration for R. First of all his birthday had fallen during his absence; secondly he had originally planned on returning via Perpignan later in the month (D-L’s episode in ER brought him back earlier and via number 15), thirdly a birthday – be it belated – is always worth celebrating.

Pretty party table

I did think to text him to find out if he wanted anything particular (on top of what we were planning), but he could only come up with the “usual”, i.e. champagne and popcorn.
We managed more, but after the disappointment of not finding the cute cupcakes when I was in town earlier that day, I was very pleased to find an Angel food cake mix instead: didn’t have the appropriate bundt pan so made do with a flat pie tin – interesting, but actually worked and just as delicious.

We did include the popcorn, but lacking pretty bowls or any other adequate individual serving dish, I came up with the idea of “popcorn Bechers” (German for cup). These will probably become a staple in our serving ideas. To S however belongs the honor of the “popcorn toast”: that kid has some of the coolest ideas!

Toasting with Popcorn "Bechers"

Angel food cake done differently

Party over, but not forgotten and there is surely another in the future for some reason or absolutely no reason: something we do well at Number 15.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rapeseed, Chinese and Sunday meandering

Connection? Not much.

In the spring the rapeseed is a glorious, bright yellow and every year we wait patiently for it to be at its’ brightest before taking the same pictures that we took last year and will probably take again next year.

many fields of the same glorious yellow

close-up of rapeseed

Chinese? D-L and I have our favorite Chinese buffet across the border and had intended going last week – however that turned out to be the weekend of pain and no appetite for her before we spent all of Monday in emergency: obviously Chinese buffet was totally the last thing on her mind. So pleasure postponed: R was back and we had no problem convincing him that Chinese was the “flavor of the day” (o.k. I don’t recall that either of us politely asked – it was more “we’re going, want to come?” How could he refuse?). Do note that we are making progress in finding the restaurant without getting lost or taking a 50 kilometer detour: next time we might actually stay on the fast road and get off at the second St.Cergue exit (a friend did tell me that it was easy, just take the St.Cergue exit – she hadn’t realized that there are two – never mind the village is picturesque and on a Sunday not too bad as far as traffic is concerned). As usual I returned a second time just for the crispy fried onions (tempura if anyone knows their Asian food).

Chinese buffet - plate 1

Meandering: somehow we were all mellow upon the return so my car just naturally decided to meander along the byways of the local villages. We came across llamas in the field, took plenty of rapeseed photos (some with the Mont Blanc in the background when it generously decided to uncover bits of itself), I showed them my favorite walking spots amongst the natural reserves dotting this side of the lake, then we also swung by the mayor’s office where they will be getting married next month and finished by taking in the lake before crashing in our various rooms for a nap: too much food, too much beauty and a need to digest both.

Who are you looking at?

If I don't see you, you don't see me

crazy dog

What a lovely life in such a lovely spot of the world: I can truly agree with the reports that Switzerland heads the list of countries where people are the happiest this year!

farm house on our wanderings

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sometimes what we are so eager to do…

Turns out to not be such a good idea.

This is the time of year where I start gearing up mentally for my six-month rental in the mountains and of particular worry is who is going to take care of the cats?
I had thought of taking them with me, but on top of needing rabies shots to go across the border through France, I couldn’t really figure out where I was going to put the kitty litter: not in my bedroom; not in the living room where we’d be putting a foot in it no matter where it was located (never mind the possible odors); definitely not in the kitchen; the bathroom is too small, which left either the balcony off the kitchen or the small storage room off the bathroom. Both of those are not ideal either as it would involve leaving a door open and one would have to be netted, the other has a hole through which they could escape.  Upshot of that: no cats in the mountains so we’ll have to organize here. A few obvious stumbling blocks: both housemate and younger son will be gone most of the summer so no easy solution. Hmmm… perhaps adjust their lives so that they live outside during the day, only returning to the house at night as we did with their feline predecessors. That way someone would only have to come once a day – and probably kitty litter duty wouldn’t be as onerous as well.

OK so let’s get them used to the great outside: let them out, which they had been begging to do for several months now and at first all went well. They’d stay in the immediate vicinity and returned with no problem. Then one day Cléa inadvertently got out and had so spend several hours there before I returned home – she was no longer willing to do more than step out onto the front mat and the door needed to be wide open so that she could retreat.

Babette was still adventuresome – heading straight for the neighbors. However, Friday just before I left for several hours I realized that I hadn’t seen her (library book sale). Didn’t have time to do more than open up the usual spots where she gets caught, i.e. the bomb shelter, my cupboard, the entry-way toilet, the winter garden: no Babette. Upon our return vaguely checked all the other possibilities – no Babette. The cleaning lady also missed her so took the search wider afield before she left – no Babette.  Around 20:00 I decided to do a round again outside (meanwhile three of us had checked every possible nook and cranny at home where she could have been stuck0) along with the bell that I have used for every cat we ever had. Down to the lake, back around, up to the next street and back all the while ringing my bell: let’s hope that not too many neighbors are currently avoiding my path and wondering when I need to be carted off! Nothing.

Stood in the driveway and rang the bell yet again, then stopped to listen – miao. There she stood right by the usual tree. We’ll probably never know where she had been nor how frightened: one thing is sure, when the neighbor’s grandson came over to finally meet them today, neither would go anywhere near the front door. Hmmm… house sitter? Cat sitter? I may actually have to pay someone to come in twice a day whilst I am gone, as I don’t think they’re going to be ready to go out anytime soon.

And they so wanted to explore, were always begging to be let out to chase those birds, see that imaginary freedom – it’s not always what we think and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Lesson learned for the cats, but we as humans often make the same mistakes.

So will I too be able to learn from their experience?



Friday, April 24, 2015

Effective advertising - again

Sorry - the first posting without photos was published by Cléa when she stepped on a key... here is the "real" posting.

I received the following advertising in my post office box recently:
One of the Salvation Army’s fund-gathering campaigns.

Folded one reads: “when Pierre came to us, all of his personal affairs were contained in this sack”.

When one opens the grocery bag and tries to imagine how little can be contained in it, the mind boggles, then thinks: how lucky I am, how stupid I am. Lucky to have, not only a bed, a home, a kitchen and all the accouterments of life, but also the money to fill this same sack with food. I didn’t try to see what would fit in this one sack, but I’m betting not more than a couple pair of socks, underpants, perhaps a t-shirt, maybe a bar of soap, a razor, perhaps even a sweater presuming he didn’t already have it on his back. There is certainly not room for much.

And I have a very hard time realizing that even with just this one sack of belongings that he was – and is – better off than many.

Will I donate? Yes – how could one not when the advertising is so effective?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It was actually 9 hours…

This is a “dueling” blog, something that my housemate and I occasionally do – as she does with her husband: sometimes it even becomes a triple blog if we experience the same event together and all write about it.

But I digress: first of all her version: and here mine (without first reading hers as there would be a cross-transference probably of thoughts and that’s not the point of a “dueling” blog.

Here’s mine:
Friday my housemate saw her local generalist as she has been having re-occurring pains again in her esophagus (now there’s a word that’s not only un-spellable in either French or English, nor do either of us pronounce it correctly more than half the time) for the past couple of months. Some of you will recall my blog on arriving in Argelès for a visit only to find that she was in the hospital in late March. Her heart, of course (and long may that be the case) was in fine shape, no apparent reason for the esophagus problems so he was thinking that it was time to schedule another esophascopy (words involving the core word “esophagus” only get worse in pronunciation and spelling) – great, let’s get to the bottom of this, hmmm the part of the esophagus that is causing the problem is the bottom towards the stomach.

Saturday she awoke with pain – duh, it’s the weekend of course – which went up and down in between a 2 and a 9 (on a scale of 10) the rest of the weekend. The usual meds weren’t helping much nor for long so come Monday I was “right, either your doctor finds someone to send you to today, or we go to emergency”. Had I known: what’s that phrase about hindsight?

Anyway, she duly called the doctor, but perhaps neglected to stress the urgency of the situation as no one got back to her and at 10 we decided emergency it is so she called the doctor’s office and told them that’s where we were going.

Now, one would think that we would have learned our lesson with other trips to emergency: they always think it’s the heart no matter how much we explain the past. Anyway, they are always pleasant, always finally do take care of things in an orderly manner (quick check to make sure that you aren’t dying, then you queue like the other 20 people who have come in on a Monday morning).  We spent an hour in the outside waiting room, then she was transferred to the first sector of curtained “booths” at which time I went and changed the car (in and out to keep the costs down – this is a trick I learned back when I was working in the old town of Geneva. After two hours the rate goes up like every 20 minutes, then eventually 15, become quickly very expensive). Our one regret: Neither of us had thought to bring pen and paper or we could have had fun writing flash fiction about the other people waiting.

It’s amazing how divisive a hospital emergency room can be: personnel on the one side, bustling, healthy and the “sick”, ailing or otherwise in need of medical attention on the other. The latter are snippets of lives – all probably from totally different walks of life, thrown together by one dominant need – medical attention. In this particular emergency room on this particular Monday morning, it was about equal in between men and women. Ranged from young teenagers to the elderly; some came in under their own steam, others on a stretcher. The one unusual (as compared to other visits to emergency throughout the years) element: all were automatically put into a wheel chair (hmmm…. Maybe that had some correlation to the amount of persons? Again hindsight is 100%). Was it to keep them in line, to distinguish patients from accompanying persons? During my absence to change the car (I went up a floor) my housemate was transferred to the curtain-booth part of emergency and allowed to lie down. More interesting fellow humans to observe.

Some two hours after our first entry, she was transferred back to booth “S” – more curtains, but getting closer to a doctor. Then I remembered the last two visits to emergency: once with my older son when he was medically evacuated back with a herniated back disk; one with my housemate when she fell on her face, breaking her check-bone.

Another hour and I went off to the cafeteria for lunch – an interesting “salad” of couscous and smoked salmon. In the space of the afternoon we saw several nurses, a couple of doctors (towards the end with conflicting information) and she stayed hooked up to the recording machines. One blood pressure cuff had to be changed: the other just about killed her. At the end of some 7 hours it was deemed not to be a heart attack: here’s where the “had we known” comes in. this is always the case.  Then we found out that they couldn’t do a gastroscopy on an emergency basis (which was what had motivated us to come in in the first place…).

However, progress was made when they did the blood test (for heart attacks) and they discovered that there was an infection/inflammation somewhere. Off for an x-ray – normal results.  Nine hours later she was released; yesterday I picked up her prescription for TNT, which seems to help sometimes; today we are off back to the regular doctor.

There were positives to the day: I had to cancel nothing (she had to cancel three other routine medical appointments); I was able to get through my entire backlog of newspapers (remember the fun trip to Italy? Had lots to catch up on after that absence); read two magazines; played all the Sudoku games contained in any of the newspapers/magazines; had a decent lunch; even had coffee at my usual time; the weather was beautiful so I didn’t have to go change the car under the rain; every time I changed the car I went a floor closer to the exit; and the best of all – she didn’t have to spend the night in observation!

Hopefully this also will be the only trip to emergency for the year: I look upon these dashes as inoculation for the immediate future. Been there; done that so we’ll all be o.k. for another year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Of sliver moons and flowers

Walked into my bedroom last night just in time to see the sliver of a moon descending behind the Jura mountain chain. (And bet that most of you read silver instead of sliver, which it was).

This morning’s walk up to the village for coffee saw an explosion of beautiful spring showers.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Democracy: we are all responsible.

My family was not highly political, but we did grow up knowing that we had duties as citizens, amongst those not only the “right” to vote, but the obligation to do so.  Many who complain long and loudly don’t bother to go to the urns so I rather feel that they deserve what they get.

Voter apathy is rampant in the western world: what wouldn’t many of the refugees and exiled persons give to be able to exercise that simple right.

Yesterday in Geneva was the vote for the upcoming 5-year term for City Counselors, Mayors and their deputies. It was also the first time that it was widely known that even non-Swiss citizens could vote as long as they had lived in their community for at least 8 years. My younger son thus voted for the first time in his life and I actually saw how it is done for the first time in my life (up until now I have always sent in my ballots both in the USA and in Switzerland as never 100% sure that I would actually be physically present on voting day).

voting in this direction

The local candidates for city counselors and mayor and deputies

Lists on the door
Who knew how patriotic one could feel with just the addition of a ballot box and a voting booth? We are privileged.

ballot box - Genevan colours

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Italian saga comes to an end…

So after all the fun we did arrive at the “last day”.

Je me réveille,
un lac à mes pieds,
l’air frais,
l’esprit léger,
l’âme en paix.
Quelle belle journée.

From my room
from the balcony

at my feet

 Breakfast was enjoyed in the dining room overlooking the Lago d’Orta – with a view to the Madonna del Sasso chapel as well.

flowers in front of the Hotel Panoramico

more flowers at the hotel

Hotel Panoramica in Madonna del Sasso

The 17th century Madonna del Sasso (Our Lady of the Rock) sits on a promontory overlooking the Lake of Orta and in the peaceful morning sun seemed a world away from the world.  The inside was so full of interesting bits that it was hard to know where to concentrate. At one point there was a group of some 10 motorcyclists taking pictures (is she known for protecting motorcycles?). What is the meaning of the arrow through the heart up on one wall? And how did the painter manage to make the main vault look domed although it wasn’t? Even outside the beauty and simplicity of the site worked its’ magic.

Our Lady of the Rock sanctuary


Although it looks like a domed ceiling, it is only the paint that achieves that effect

detail on a column

Porch directly in front of the main door

Flowers in front of the porch and view of the lake

Then it was down the mountain and on to the small village of Pella to find a boat to cross the Lago d’Orta to the village of San Giulio Orta. Asked directions three different times (with three different answers) and even then ended up walking quite some distance from where we had parked the car towards the main dock.  No boat in sight so allowed our selves to be talked into a private taxi-type boat. It did make for a much better crossing.

Middle of the lake - on the taxi boat

Pella in the wake of the boat
Our captain

Ah the views from the boat

loved the protective copper on the dock pillars

In the gardens of San Giulio Orta

Gardens of the City Hall

Small allies leading to the gardens

Lots of lovely wrought-iron decorations

Many pictures to be captured

A restaurant right on the lake

Main Square
Another glorious day so lunch on one of the many terraces looking back towards the small island of San Giulio and the Sanctuary in the distance.
Looking back towards one of the squares of San Giulio

Madonna del Sasso Sanctuary as seen from the village across the lake
 Finally with no more interest in lakes, churches or sight seeing we headed back to Geneva. A great trip, one that I can highly recommend (now if I can figure out how to make a map of all the things covered…)

Falls towards the Simplon Pass - return trip

Back into Switzerland

Napoleon's Eagle at the Simplon Pass

 Davvero triste partire Italia - si erano bellissime