Thursday, December 22, 2016

My kind of tree

Tuesday I took my neighbors down to their “barn” near Belley, France. We stopped in the town to go to the bank then as we came out went across the street to see if we could get a table in that restaurant.

Unfortunately not, but just next door was the tree that I want (and perhaps will make!) next year.
This is by far the best idea that I have seen yet and may be just the excuse I need to take all my books off their shelves – then I can sort and put them back in alphabetical order in the New Year. If only wishes were that easy to realize.

A book store in Belley, France

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bless the friends

Now generally speaking that phrase can stand on its own: many of us living overseas without family close by have friends that not only are worthy of, but have become “our” family. I have the good fortune to not only have a lovely family, but also many such friends.

Friends have helped me celebrate; friends have helped me grieve; friends have done huge favors; friends have been there when I needed transportation, food, a shoulder to cry on or reason to laugh.

Friends are what make one’s life worthwhile and I hope that I am as good a friend to mine as they are to me.

But although the large things are appreciated, in the end the stepping stones of friendship are yet again, as I have been want to often say, are the little, everyday acts of kindness: the regular tea or coffee meetings, the e-mailed joke, the lunch together.

Then there are the even smaller bits of information: one of my friends called me this afternoon to simply let me know that the store in the next village over again had crumpets!
I am now set for the coming weeks and have a very warm feeling for that particular person.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The cookie jag or…

Baking one’s heart out – hmmm – maybe that should be how to make a total mess out of a kitchen?

For those of you who are used to seeing my kitchen pristine clean, or for some whom I have been noted to scold when they didn’t leave it just as I like, you will love the following pictures.

Two days this week I went on a baking cookies and cakes jag: 7 small Christmas cakes; a batch of chocolate chip cookies; another batch of double chocolate and ginger cookies; another of Russian tea cakes; and yet another double batch of brownies!

I won’t go into the details of sugar, butter and flour used, but there was definitely more of the former than the latter and in all enough to feed a small village enough calories for several months.

Who are the recipients of all this you might ask – as surely she doesn’t intend to eat all that herself. First there was the delivery to the mayor’s office (have done so several years in a row) and to the chap that so kindly uses my driveway to turn the snowplow around in the winter when I leave the gate open. He is also responsible for keeping the village plants and flowers in shape, always has a smile and hello for everyone and thus very deserving of any small attentions that I can think up.  Then I took the rest of the brownies up to the coffee shop one morning and let my coffee buddies indulge – leaving the rest for the chap that runs the coffee and mini store.

I love to bake – no one has yet refused anything that I was willing to give them and even make noises about actually liking my efforts.

I will make more before the holidays an probably finish the last out of the freezer sometime in February.

Ah the sweetness – if only I could find a way of making the whole world as sweet.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Getting off the Merry-go-round

Before one is spinning so fast that one flies off and shatters.

I have had tough periods in my life, I have had stress, illness and death, but in general I enjoy a wonderful one.

These past few weeks have been no exception other than too much of a good thing stops being a good thing.  I would not have not met any of the people I did, I would not have not gone on any of my trips, nor not attended any of my concerts, lunches, dinners or coffees.

However thanks to (or rather due to) a couple of sleepless nights and others that were more agitated than normal, I finally hit the wall – and was very fortunate in that stopping happened naturally.

This morning at my usual coffee, one of the others at the table handed me an article on a lunch concert in the MAH – Museum of Art and History – scheduled for 12:30. I had been supposed to be going out for lunch, but the other friend was amenable to a change in the schedule so I had the very rare privilege of discovering this “Concert Pliant” (now why they call a concert a folding one I haven’t a clue nor was I able to gather any other information).
Today’s was played on a Jacob Stirnemann fecit 1777 by Jovanka Marville in the historical Conseil d’Etat (the executive power of the state) room. This Salon got its name from the fact that the woodwork on the walls, cornices, etc. were taken from the original Conseil d’Etat room: all of the furniture dates back to the 18th century thus permitting the audience to be in the same atmosphere and listening conditions that were typical of this period. The piano itself is composed of two key board of 61 keys, but its’ builder used a Southern German technic to link the two keyboards. The concert was Baroque and fabulous.  Leaving the concert at 13:45 one was very hungry so chose to go to the closest restaurant available. They still had the lunch menu – the crowds were fairly non-existent and the meal delightful.

Front of the piano

Cover when lifted

I then topped all that off with a trip to the Bains Bleues – our local spa, leaving my cell phone in the car!

Relaxed, mellow, ready to return to the carousel tomorrow, I will no go up, turn on my cell phone and pick up on “real” life – although somehow the day I just had seems much to be emulated more often.

Monday, December 12, 2016

On being Ernest…

I mean sociable

Coffee with my buddies at the usual spot;
Cleaned the car as I was planning on being “taxi”;
Coffee with my neighbor;
Lunch home alone (it does happen!);
Coffee, pear pie, chocolate mousse, champagne
with my friends from over 30 years ago;
Then the icing on the cake – and ever so unsociable –
A rising moon; not quite full yet, but ever so beautiful.

No need to be earnest or Ernest.

December 12, 2016 - rising moon.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

My inspiration for the day

Or should I say inspirations as there were many.

Sometimes we simply need to sit back and enjoy life; enjoy what we come across. Today was one of those days.

I set off to the new tearoom for breakfast, as is my want on the weekends, not knowing if M would join me (we often do have coffee together of a Saturday morning, but her husband was having the company’s yearly dinner last night and she might need to sleep in) or not.

I ordered a drink of coffee and milk that here in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, is called a “turned over” or “tipped upside down” and lacking my usual sandwich settled for a roll of grains with one pat of butter. Lovely way to start the day even if I was on my own.

Then it was pick up the mail and make a trip to the grocery store in anticipation of baking Christmas cakes and cookies. Looked at tins, but prevented myself from accruing any more as I certainly have enough for this year’s giveaways (they were very tempting though so there is no guarantee that I might not crack later in the week).

Lunch was leftovers after I un-thawed the upstairs freezer (see, feeling productive always improves the mood), then I had time – and the need – for a “pause” (my husband always refused to call them naps or siestas and he was right).

Then it was off into town for a lady’s coffee at I’s house: an occasion never to be missed – I would even return early should I be elsewhere as she is from Vienna and makes and bakes everything herself. I didn’t care to interrupt the feeling of friendship and joy as we first enjoyed a glass of champagne followed by canapés of all sorts, then coffee or tea and home-made strudel and a nut cake specific to Vienna covered in chocolate.

not my friends - her's was even better!

In amongst all that there were beautiful views of the Jet d’Eau – I got plenty of inspiration for continued enjoyment of life.

Dec.10 around 15:30

Dec. 10 around 19:30 Blue for the UN's day of Human Rights

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A blast from the past or

Baby shoes

On a recent “adventure” my former housemate and I came back via Bern specifically to see the fall Flea Market, which had been set up in the Paul Klee Museum. We arrived there to absolutely beautiful views of the Alps through the fall haze so first took a walk around the parameter of the grounds and enjoyed the first rays of sun that we had seen in a week.

When we did finally enter to a fairly high-class flea and antique market (some parts were even paying – those we did not enter) it was to discover on the table of one of the very first stands one bronzed baby shoe!

Ah the memories. The stand owner had no clue as to where it had come from so for once in my life I was actually able to give information instead of receiving it. Would surely like to know how come he came to own that one lone shoe!

I have mine (and as the first child they were turned into bronze) as well as my little sister’s (white leather, but then she was the third child) on the bookshelf in my bedroom. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The importance of spelling

In order to not end up in the wrong place or insult someone unintentionally.
Today’s “A.Word.A.Day” offering of “afflatus” reminded me of a recent article in the local paper. Two persons decided to go on a holiday whilst attending a conference so transmitted to their airline (no names mentioned – I am sure that every airline has done this at least once) various airport codes, a route and used almost 400’000 miles to also have first class.  As they boarded the second flight and started seeing what had come up on the screen they realized that they were headed for Granada in Spain instead of Grenada in the Carribean! They have been fighting ever since to recuperate their miles.  That is a one-letter error.

There are often problems when people book airline tickets online instead of at an agency when they don’t pay attention and end up at San Jose in California, USA instead of San José in Costa Rica – that’s only an accent on the last e.

But back to afflatus: I, mistakenly, although the roots are the same, thought that they were going to be describing “flatulence”.

A noun labeling “A creative impulse or inspiration” should not be taken for the results of flatulence!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Subject lines

If my husband was renowned for his capacity to think up slogans or other witty and fitting jokes/advertisements etc., I often note that any particular phrase or set of words coming out of the mouths or pens or e-mails of those around me make very interesting subject lines. Some are good enough to write a whole book around: unfortunately most are forgotten as soon as they are remarked.

A friend with whom I shared an evening at other friends used the following in the subject line of her e-mail:

“Leonard and S and Brussel sprouts”

One could make up some very good stories about that line: die Leonard and S have an evening of Brussel sprouts only? Did Lenard deal with the Brussel sprouts and S with more Brussel sprouts? Did the Brussel sprouts become the main feature of a song, story or meal???

I, of course, knew exactly whom she was speaking of and actually even probably why by simply reading the subject line: anyone else would be clueless, but someone with imagination could develop the subject. Anyone up for the challenge?

All photos below are from Google Images
Leonard Cohen

Brussel Sprouts

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It’s still the little things

That make me happiest.

Waking up slowly on a Sunday morning after having had dinner with good friends the night before; picking up the bedroom after a hectic week that had me simply dropping into bed at night without a thought for the piles of papers, clothes and sundry items that one gets out over a few days; having breakfast in my pajamas (can’t remember the last time that happened); sweeping the accumulated leaves off my balcony before the snow or rain can get to them; changing the colors and photo in my kitchen; thinking of close friends and family as I finally read through recent e-mails.

December has started – I will put up lights – get out the wreaths and perhaps even get the tree up and decorated: anything to improve the dark, gray days and lighten the spirit.

I hope that all of you too will stop to enjoy those little pleasures; the ones that we tend to ignore or discount. The best of my day? Finding a crumpet in my freezer and one last piece of Stollen for breakfast when I had neglected thinking of bread or anything yesterday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I flocculated the brownies or…

According to today's « word-a-day » from, turned them into an aggegrated lumpy mass.

Intentions were good when I started cleaning out cupboard space yesterday, when I took all my scarves out of my drawer with the goal of sorting and tidying up that particular mess, which was in itself a flocculated.

Then got distracted and never finished (the scarf drawer that is, the three linen cupboards are done) so the thrust of my energy this morning was to finish that, until I remembered that one of my best friends is going to spend two weeks with her daughter and family and that maybe making brownies would be more fun.

First batch of the season and truly, it can only get better as what with leaving out one square of chocolate, 25 grams of butter and adding too much baking soda (couldn’t find the baking powder and don’t have self-rising flour), they boiled over making not only a mess of the oven, but reducing drastically the amount of brownies that actually look o.k.

So the far away people will get the best, but reluctant to throw out the burnt edges and crumbling bits have dumped them all into a tupperware and will take them to another friend as icecream toppings. If they throw them out I won’t have to know !

Then this word – flocculate – showed up in my daily word distribution and I couldn’t resist. Such fun to just repeat : I am flocculating, I have flocculated, they are being flocculated…

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ode to a sister

Where you are

Do the leaves flutter?
Does the brook babble?
Does the wind flirt with your hair?

Where you are

Do the mountains rise high?
The lakes shine in the sun?
The ocean roll onto its shore?

Where you are

Do the seasons change?
Do storms arise or
Dessert winds blow?

Where you are

Do children play in laughter?
Do adults go about their tasks?
Do teenagers still have moods?

Where you are

Do cats and dogs still fight?
Do polar bears still fish?
Do birds still migrate?

Where you are

Are people gentler?
Are anger, jealousy and hate
A thing of the past?
Does love prevail?

Where you are

Is there a past?
Is there a future?

Where you are

Do you remember me?

I held her in my arms, I still hold her in my heart
 Patricia Jeanne Aitken
Sept.27, 1952 - Sept.19, 2012

Monday, September 26, 2016

A « désalpe » or…

When the cows leave the summer pastures in the alps.

And when I say « real » I mean a local one with a sum total of eight cows, not one with thousands of attendees. It was held up the valley from me in a place called the lower valley « Van d’en bas » and including putting the cows into a pasture and seeing if any of them were going to have a battle.

In Switzerland one of the main races of cows are those from the Hérens valley and every year in the fall they hold « fights » in between the « queens ». It is a natural instinct and there are very rarely injuries : this lot didn’t seem to be much motivated.

It was possible to buy cow bells and the usual food items of wines, raclette (melted cheese with potatoes, pickles and pickled onions), coffee etc. to be eaten on the spot. My big purchase was a slice of cheese made in the alps. 

Next to the chalet where the eating was held there was also an enclosure of goats.

Nice, laid back day – I also visited the falls where they do some Canyon adventures.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Prince Charming

As my village had had its « senior » outing all day Friday, I signed up for the nature walk Saturday morning. We walked out in a protected reserve along the Seymaz part of the way, but didn’t really spot too many birds and or other wildlife until someone looked closely in the water – a frog.

At first we thought that the frog had a blade of grass down its back, but no it was a proper camouflage stripe.

As I looked farther, we discovered more and more and progressed from a stripe down the back to great swathes of green. I wonder what this specimen below would look like if he received the famous « kiss of the princess ». Would he turn into my Prince Charming ?

And if so, I would love to see the color of his clothes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Remembering and dreaming

We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams. -Jeremy Irons, actor (b. 19 Sep 1948)
This was the posting yesterday, September 19th.
First thing that struck upon reading it was that, yet again, I am playing the number coincidence’s game.
This chap was born my year (oh yes, totally giving away my age, it had to happen) and my little sister died on the 19th of September 2012 – just days before what should have been her 60th birthday.

So not only was it very appropriate in light of coincidences, but also in light of circumstances.

Now, I had remembered the upcoming date all last week and all weekend : yesterday I managed to forget it ! Or did I ? It would explain my inadvertently setting off my personal alarm and worrying my sons no end.
It happened after a day of social encounters : one of my friends had some questions so dropped me home and we ended up talking in the car on the parking lot. All of a sudden my cell phone rang and it was my older son – obviously distressed – asking « where are you ? what’s wrong ? ». I answered, « sitting in the car talking to X and I’m fine, why » ? He replied that I had sent two very worrying e-mails saying that I was in trouble, that he was in the middle of an important meeting so he was glad to hear it and that he would call me later.  Weird – I figured that either one of my e-mails had been hacked, he thought maybe it was my phone. My friend and I finished our conversation and I stepped out of the call only to receive another phone call from my younger son – also on the verge of panic – again wondering how I was and where I was. We had more time to talk and after I replied fine and we tried to figure out what was going on, we hung up.

I had visions of my e-mails all having been hacked so once back in the house I checked my cell phone to see if I could find anything. Lo and behold I had sent an two emergency messages, « SOS » with GPS coordinates and a black picture and a second with another picture (very vague – I later determined that it must have been from the floor of the car) and more GPS coordinates. Hmmmm…. Went online and was able to find out that my new Samsung telephone actually does have an emergency button ! Now I don’t remember turning it on, but the two contacts (one can have up to four) were my sons. I ended up leaving it on, but will certainly be much more careful now of my cell phone as all it takes is to press three times quickly in succession the on/off button for the messages to be sent. A good safety feature and in retrospect I was glad that the boys took it seriously : one never knows.

However also in retrospect I wonder if my karma wasn’t sending me an « alarm » as to the date ?
Dreaming – we’ll get to that in another blog.

These were the accompany pictures to my SOS and Help texts.
probably the inside of my purse

probably the floor of the car

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The fun of it all…

Or those endless FB "tests".

I hate to admit this, but part of this morning has been spent playing “games” on Facebook.
This happens every couple of months or so and is usually a result of one of my friends posting a link to something innocent like “Can you pass the OCD text”? Or what color are you? Goodness only knows how many I flipped through in a half an hour, to find out that yes I am 100% OCD (not really, but since I can see the differences…) that my name should have been Ashley, that my personality is “Emotional Introvert”, that I should have been born under the sign of Cancer (well I’m fairly close), that I have Eidetic memory (FB results: “Impressive! You clicked everything right and got the perfect score. You most likely have what's called an "eidetic" memory. This means that you have a remarkable ability to recall images and colors. You pay attention to detail, you notice the small things, and you have a gut intuition that kicks in when you've seen something more than once. You have a great analytic abilities and you're a natural born problem solver.”) etc., etc., etc., but the last (or maybe not?) is the best as far as results go: taking the “What is your 6th sense” I discovered something that family and friends already know, i.e. “having the ability to find misplaced items”.

Wish that extended to time!
Especially since I have just wasted a bunch of it!

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to survive or…

A cream for everything!

Now I am not known for the time it takes me to put on make up in the morning (the one staple = mascara without which I can’t even go downstairs) as there are only two things – face cream and usually not expensive or fancy at that and mascara.

And I am generally not overly indulgent when it comes to cosmetics of any kind, so imagine my feelings (perhaps even distress!) as I proceeded to apply six different ones this morning!

  • Face cream – as usual
  • Fenistil – an insect bite has been itching for the past days and I had finally had enough – this is a brand name antihistamine that is so good that I take it to my relatives in the USA.
  • An antibiotic cream – to the end of a small sore
  • Normal cream for elbows, the arm where I broke it (this has become more or less a staple morning and night as it allows me to massage the upper arm and has definitely aided me in re-gaining mobility)
  • Arnica cream – for that spot where I hit the bed in the middle of the night in a strange hotel
  • And, last, but not least: a soothing the muscles cream for a sore back. Don’t think that it was the many hours behind the wheel yesterday either, but rather picking up the suitcase wrong or bending weirdly at one of my stops

On the other hand – that prevented the taking of any medicines so I guess it was worth it. And note that I didn’t have to use an essential oil although I could have used tea tree oil instead of the antibiotic and lavender for the bruising and sore muscles. The creams didn’t clash as badly with my perfume.

So the next time I say that I use nothing and am always “au naturel” don’t believe a word of it. By the way: the itching stopped, the bruising is going down and the back doesn’t hurt as much and my elbows aren’t rough.

Friday, September 9, 2016

I passed the police at 160 km/hour...

And didn't get stopped!

Or, welcome to the world of the German Autobahn!

Oh the fun - be it ever so infrequent and short - of flying along the freeway.

In Germany when it isn't posted otherwise there are no speed limits - a fact that suited me today
on a day where I had a lot of road (literally) to cover. Also weather conditions were ideal - no moisture and the sun at my back.

Love my little car's performance as I whizzed past the trucks, the trailers, the others who dared not. No wind in my hair, but my brain was buzzing.

Now all this didn't happen frequently (maybe was able to sustain 160 km/hour for 20 minutes of the over 4 hours) as contrary to what many think, there are more posted speed limits in Germany than not, ranging from 60 km/hour (yes! there are a ton of work spots where lanes are shut) to 130 km/hour (that is in the posted zones).  But it was lots of fun while it lasted.

I discovered that speed is fun but that it also takes an enormous amount of concentration (making sure that no one from the right lane is about to pull into one's path; making sure that no one else behind one wants to go even faster; at high speeds one needs to be even more aware of brake lights in the distance).

Maybe I was a test pilot or race driver in some other life: can't wait to be headed home on Sunday when the trucks will be off the road and life much simpler as long as the weather holds. Our regular maximum in Switzerland of 120 km/hour and seems mighty slow at this point.

Proud of my little car, but with my sense of ecology must also admit that I checked and higher speeds burn more gas - a little pleasure that I am allowing myself for the thrill of the ride.

You will notice that I post no photos - at those speeds one doesn't do anything stupid!

A free download of a German Police Car - not the one sitting off to the side of the freeway today!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Over-the-top-beauty or...

Banff National Park

First project after a slow start was to see Lake Louise – a must on anyone’s trip through the Canadian Rockies and one of the main reasons for our prolonging the Alaskan Cruise to take in Banff and Jasper in Canada before flying to our respective homes.

Weather was closed in and rainy as we arrived – totally unprepared of course. I happened to mention ponchos, which reminded my brother that he had a couple of throw-away ones in his pocket so well-armed against the weather with two one-use plastic ponchos and one umbrella for the three of us – off we went.

The weather steadily improved so I just had to hike to the end of the lake (1.1 km) where I took a few pictures including one of a very pesky squirrel and picked up a few more rocks.

Upon our return we needed lunch: In the Fairmont Château there was a lovely restaurant with views and an adequate menu so we reserved a table (half hour wait). Meanwhile we also checked the deli and it wasn’t anything so in the end, being hungrier than the waiting time, we went down to the Saloon. Good choice as we got Portobello mushroom burgers with sweet potato fries – and all loved our meal. No need for the view as we had hiked it.

Declined desert but waited for the Occitane store to re-open. Once in, I discovered that they contribute to the well-being of women in Burkina Faso (who provide the shea nuts for shea butter, only picking those that have fallen on the ground). Took photos of the explanations in the hope that I can find out more especially about the French man who started it as my older son’s Master’s project was in Burkina Faso and I currently am godmother to two girls studying there through a lovely Swiss association: Kaicedra.
From the top of Lake Louise looking back towards the Fairmont Chateau Hotel

End of Lake Louise

Lake Louise as seen from the Fairmont Chateau
The Fairmont Chateau
Returning in the direction of our hotel we first went to Johnston Canyon (and hiked to the Lower Falls) then pulled out overlooking the Vermillion Lakes, a riparian wetlands, and an area that has been returned to its natural state and one of my favorite mountains - Rundle a very sharp slate one that I loved– and yet another cheeky squirrel.
Johnston Canyon

Vermillion Lakes - Banff, Canada's first national park - 1885

Vermillion Lakes

Mount Rundle - a classic thrust fault mountains

Believe it or not we even needed dinner and upon our return to Banff we ate at the Balkan (Greek) and had a fabulous meal.

A long, but over-the-top beautiful day jam-packed with scenery, mountains, rivers, lakes and pesky squirrels.