Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kludging or

Something I’m very good at!

Languages are always evolving with new additions every year depending upon technical improvements, life-style changes and the like.
My main languages are English, French and German and it’s fun to see how they evolve differently. I admire the Germans in particular as if they need a new word to describe something they simply string a few old words together and presto – a new word that means exactly the right thing. In English and in French we tend to evolve words from more basic elements, ie slang, street talk and the like.

The above word showed up in 1962. According to A.Word.A.Day (one of my all-time favorite sites: it has to be labeled origin unknown as although it appeared in an article by Jackson W. Granholm in Datamation magazine: “How to Design a Kludge”, various origins for his use of it have been suggested: German, Scots, military jargon, from the name of a paper feeder,” according to A.Word.A.Day.
noun: An inelegant, improvised solution to a problem.
verb tr.: To improvise a haphazard solution to a problem.

Latest example of my own kludging – hanging the lights on the Christmas tree.

N.B. I could also think of “klutz” for klu words but was amazed to find that it wasn’t in my hard copy of the Miriam Webster dictionary – 1966. Things change fast.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Communicating or ….

White Boards

N°15 has long been known for its’ haphazard communications.
Whilst bringing up the family (two sons) with my husband it was one female to three males so things were quite often either mixed or totally misunderstood in between the lone female and the males. I realized later that one of the reasons we sister’s-in-law got on so well on both sides of the Atlantic was for the fact that at least with a sister-in-law around one had another female voice!

Then there were all the visitors: how to let them know either the rules of the kitchen, house, sleeping quarters, shower schedule, laundry use, etc. Again in the early days fairly easy as usually we were here at the same time.

Then I had my first, long-term housemate and we needed to be able to leave notes as we came and went. Thus started the white boards.

On that was electric-static in the downstairs’ toilet worked very well. We left messages, drawings and fun communications.

Then I found a small white board which was great for just the “hi, bye” type of communication but totally inadequate for what we developed. Enter the larger whiteboard laying on the entry-way table. They have all been fun, they are all hard to clean and they are at this very moment awaiting the next lot of messages. A synopsis of our busy lives, of those who come and go – as anyone entering the toilet feels driven to leave a message – in short a great way of communicating.

lg. entryway board - daily with current housemate

In the toilet - sayings, celebrations, thanks, visitor's additions

Monday, December 3, 2018

It’s the thought that counts or…

Perpetuating traditions.

It was only once my two sons were young adults that I realized that the only things they got from their parents for birthdays and Christmases were socks and underwear: any of the “good” presents that I had purchased were labeled as coming from the Godmother, the various Aunts and Uncles or the Grand Parents.

This became a tradition that I continued – ‘til this day, although as they are now young men I restrain myself to socks. They both have large feet and go through socks at an astonishing rate so it is fitting.

However, I hadn’t realized that the tables would be turned: I am the proud owner of a pair of socks from my last birthday.

Not only socks, but thanks to the colorblindness of the gift giver they are not the blue and green that he thought he had purchased, but rather a very flashy bright pink with a bit of yellow and lavender.

I wear them with PRIDE and GRATEFULNESS – it’s truly the thought that counts


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thanks and Survival

Ah the fun. We – my housemate and I – decided that to thank all those classmates of hers who were so present in her life during her recent health challenges we would throw a Thanksgiving party.

I, of course thought that I should add a few of my close friends as well as my older son and his girlfriend. By the time we were through we had a list of 20+, one non-turkey eater and a couple of vegetarians.

I – for reasons only known to my innermost psyche – had to have a proper sit-down Thanksgiving meal.

I also chose to be smart and ordered my turkeys – with stuffing – from the butcher where I have gotten them before. I mean setting up with only the two of us and making some of the food leaves no time for the continual basting and checking, never mind actually trying to get one in the oven then the second.

So we made pies (pumpkin, apple and pecan), cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, cookies, mac and cheese, gravy, and delegated other dishes to the guests. One of my guests very smartly also requested serving dishes thus eliminating part of the “receive, re-heat and plate” problems.

In the end three couldn’t come, but what a fine time the rest of us had! I did managed to create not only tables for sitting down, but also a table for snacks with cocktails and desserts at the end, but another table for the buffet set-up.

Relaxed, lots of laughter in spite of some of my wines being too old (one way to sort out a wine cellar). We only spent the whole day setting up. After the last guests we also got all the perishables into the refrigerator and I sent the two girls up to bed at half past midnight as they had a work-study all day the next day. I lasted a half-hour longer then toddled off myself. The next day whilst they were out I had the whole time to myself to leisurely finish off the wash up, the clean up, the break down of tables, the washing of table clothes and getting things back into their spots.

The house has never been so clean and orderly – always the plus of throwing a party.

Thanks: for all the support N received in the past three months; for the blessing of having friends and family celebrate the day together; for the privilege of having family and friends; for the pleasure of giving a party and I could go on and on and on.

Survived: enough said.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

60 minutes of bliss…

Or the return to “normal” time.

Ah the preciousness of those 60 minutes once a year: I awoke promptly at 8:00 this morning then recalled – hey it’s only 7:00 actually!

An hour later I finally put my book down, snoozed a bit more then started my finally-a-calm-Sunday routine, ie. A bread pretzel (Bretzel to those in the know), peanut butter and orange marmalade (that is often a berry jelly) and pressed coffee (and no that doesn’t mean that I pressed coffee beans then poured water over them – a “French Press”).

After which if I looked at one clock it was almost 10, but if I chose to look at another only 9.
I love living like a schizophrenic for one day. As in order to get the full benefit of that extra hour I resist changes the few clocks that aren’t radio controlled until just before going to bed on Sunday night. A free hour on Monday is always worth more than on Sunday!

Jon Tyson on Unsplash

And due to recent discussions in Brussels I live in the hope that come Spring I will no longer have to “spring forward”. I’ll keep my hour thank you.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

I want to pick and choose.

I love the fall, but when I awoke at my usual time to dark random thoughts flowed through my head.

Fall is my favorite season: the cooler temperatures, the colors, the clear sunny days (mostly that is and of course today isn’t one of them), the possibility of fires in the fireplace, the chestnuts: in short most everything. I even love the return to “normal” time.
So I’ll pick the fall as my favorite season, but choose longer days.

And even dead, beautiful leaves

I enjoy fruitcakes: I’ll pick the treat and keep nuts and raisins, but choose one without candied fruits.

Food is still a favorite item: I’ll pick the cheese cake, the lemon meringue pie, the champagne, but I’ll choose for them to be healthy and calorie free.

I enjoy having a pet and would love a dog, however my life as it is doesn’t allow for the necessary consistency: I’ll pick the animals, but choose cats.

Babette and Clea - sisters!
 Weather: I returned to Europe as I disliked seeing the sun every day – that still holds true, I love the seasons so I’ll pick them but choose to have my rain overnight, my fog briefly and my sun (in the summer) not to hot.

And a heart in every pool of water

I know that the world contains both good, bad and indifferent: I’ll pick to be here, but choose to only have the good (o.k. a spot of indifferent is acceptable).

Disease, illness, pain, and sorrow – they all hit us at some point in our lives: I’ll pick to be here, but choose for none of these to affect any of my family and friends.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It’s a New Day

The old adage “everything will seem better in the morning” is always true, unless one doesn’t sleep that night.

“A new day, a new dawn” from the Bible, and there are thousands of similar quotes from various well-known or little known or anonymous writers all on the same theme. In fact in trying to track down the original author of the first phrase the closest I came was C.S.Lewis.

Some authors say that it’s the greatest lie ever told, but for me it always works. A good sleep and even if all problems are not resolved they are either mitigated or easier to bear.

The last few weeks have been rather stressful but yesterday saw a young friend getting a diagnosis of Keratocystic Odontogenic Tumor – not cancer! It also saw my younger son off on another adventure, one that will hopefully suit him much better than his hometown.

I have managed to clear up a few tasks – always rewarding and reconnect with friends left to the side as I dealt with more urgent events.

Today is truly a new day as will be tomorrow, the next and the next. Grateful for the blessing of sleep and a cat on my typing arm!

And yes they are blurred pictures: I defy anyone to take a clear picture with a lousy cell phone one-handed...

Monday, October 8, 2018

7 or…

Numbers and me.

I have already written a blog – probably several even – about how I find coincidences in numbers, such as seeing the digital clock quite often when there is a double number, ie. 17:17, 21:21 and of course the best 22:22.

And if 3 is my personal favorite 7s have figured over abundantly in my life these past few weeks, months and days.

As this is also my 700th blog it is only fitting that there have been so many sevens recently!

What fun to look at the car odometer and see the following just recently and, of course, to top it off – it isn’t so long ago that I celebrated that lovely 70th birthday.

we won't mention the 666.6

Yikes, maybe I should pick another favorite number.

But then it’s fun collecting 7’s!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


But not forgotten.

Pat at 6 - the number of years since she died

 I have written other blogs on the theme, but every year on several dates those that I have “loved and lost” come to mind. Some years are harder than others and no matter how often I repeat “they are not entirely gone as long as someone remembers that they once lived and were loved” there are moments when that remains simply what it is: a trite phrase.

Today is one such and if I still feel that I was honored and privileged to be there when my little sister took her last breath, I still wish that she were here.

It was a different day, neither totally sad, nor totally normal.
I wandered around doing errands – and found myself eating (of all things) a burrito in her honor and remembering how good the ones were locally in her old town.

Pat – you are no longer physically here – yet you are always present in our hearts. RIP

Monday, September 3, 2018

Thirty years…

several countries and more stores than I can count.

I have finally found replacements for my favorite pans for raclette: that
Swiss cheese specialty that was a standard all one summer in our German/American

In the beginning we did it the classical route: individual pans fitting a square of cheese,
Potatoes, pickles and onions. Then I had to turn it into an international version, ie potatoes still, cheese as well, but accompanied with raw onions (grilled under cheese – a wonderful feast), hot dogs as well as pickles, onions and ketchup.

The summer that we hosted all of my husband’s nephews together with my brother and his six lots of travellers we got to producing it on an almost industrial scale as this is a meal that can be prepared before and enjoyed whenever the guests show up!

Over the years I discovered that – most of our guests were young males – the little pans just didn’t cut it when it came to quantities and when the now defunct Uniprix turned up with round, flat Teflon-coated small frying pans we dumped the small square ones.

I always had two and just before Uniprix shut I was able to buy one last one. This is some 30 plus years ago and of the two one is almost unusable as the coating is scratched and things stick again.  First a neighbor gave me their surplus of little pans, but I hated to have to go back to that method so imagine my delight when a trip up to a larger French grocery store turned up similar round pans.  OK they are meant for individual eggs – sunny side up – but who cares after 30 years I finally have my raclette pans again.

Almost the season again - although our family has also eaten it out of season.

Finally new pans

Monday, August 27, 2018


People tend to love or hate advertising.
When my husband and I travelled in the USA we would turn on the TV and watch only the advertising – as stupid, fun and rich as it was, it was always entertaining. But then his field was advertising and marketing.
When we watch American series here in Europe we often have two episodes in one as our television companies are not (yet) allowed to have too much advertising. Of course the advent of Netflix and other channel stations means that even the « public » ones are having to re-think advertising. I personally tape programs then zap through the advertising ; others get up and do chores or go to the kitchen during the advertising and sometimes we even watch the clever ones. One of  our two super markets had a wonderful series using a chicken to vaunt the benefits of eggs produced by happy chickens and the straight from the farmer to the market route. We (Switzerland) also have the Happy Cow. Google any animal advertising on YouTube and you will probably come across them.

But I am getting off track as this blog had its’ inception in two recent events : the hotel that I stay at for the Menuhin concerts in Saanen has what I deem to be the wonderful policy of handing out water as one checks out of the hotel. I have never come across this before and if it is accompanied with the labelling of said water bottles with their sticker, so much the cleverer. They also, as they have a wellness program, give every client a plastic sack with a bathrobe (bathrobe for use whilst in the hotel, but the sack can easily become one’s own swimming gear sack).

Water, still or sprakling, is always offered to every departing client

Great advertising

A lovely pastic sack celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Golfhotel in Saanenmöser

The other, although not properly speaking « advertising » had my laughing : one of my sons gifted me with a box of my favorite chocolates. And do note that I had been eating Auer chocolates well before John Kerry discovered them ! Anyway thanks to modern labelling requirements they too now come with a « to be consumed by » date.  Now what are the chances that I will still even have one left by then ?

I received it the 25th - it will be long empty well before the 13th of September!

Friday, August 24, 2018

A trip in the neighborhood

Now everyone who knows me, know that I have travelled all my life. If at first that only meant into town (and we girls had to put on dresses and proper shoes for those few occasions), then there were the camping vacation to National Parks at a medium distance before we branched out into crossing the nation when I was 10. That under our belts it was off to Hawaii to live for a few years when I was 13 going on 14 – and during the course of the three years that we lived there, we had to discover the rest of the islands as well. Upon my return to the mainland, it was boarding school for two years mid-state with flights home for the holidays. After one year in university I began the international trips when I attended school in France. From there it was anywhere-far-is-good never mind that my husband had also travelled the world as a tour guide to put himself through his doctorate. His thesis was on tourism !  We both worked in the tourist industry and living – in the case of his family – 600 miles from one lot of relatives, and in the case of mine thousands of miles meant that trips across the ocean or Europe were frequent.
I never saw a reason to stop until friends here started teasing me about not knowing the village down the road.  For 14 years I rented part of a chalet in the mountains above Martigny, Switzerland and slowly began to discover places closer to home.
Today I took it a step further and actually explored the canton in which I live. Most people don’t realize that from the farthest point on one side – Hermance - to the farthest on the other – Chancy – although it is only just over 30 km (18 miles) it can take over an hour of driving – with no traffic – and that’s the most direct route !
Exploring was fun. I had never realized that in Chancy the border is defined by the Rhone river – which flows very swiftly indeed at that point.
Lunch in a small restaurant called the most plebian name of Café du virage or literally Coffee in the Curve. Imaginative perhaps not, but the daily menu was delicious and the terrace entirely different from those in town. One would never have guessed that one was within a few minutes of a major international city.
So I’ll continue the explorations of my canton as and when I have the time and the weather is accommodating.

Looking back towards Geneva - not that one would guess

Going towards France
swirls under the bridge - the current was very strong

A lonely Heron hoping for a meal

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Wedding anniversaries

If August is a month for birthdays in my family – myself, an aunt and my mother all within 4 days – it is also one for wedding anniversaries.
My parents married in 1945 and their first trip to Europe was shortly after their 30th (they ended up having 53 years as opposed to my 25 !) and the picture that I took of them in the gardens of Evian, France was and will always be one of my favorites.

I often have moments of serendipity and after having looked for this photo off and on for many years, it fell into my hands just a couple of days ago – in time to post it on what would have been their wedding anniversary.

Emma and Bruce Aitken, Evian, France September 1975

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The weird and ...

The wonderful

So this egg is the first time that I have seen such a weird pattern - not at all round and smooth. Does this mean that chickens can have difficult births? Or did they slip in a fertilized egg? In any case I chose not to crack it, not to boil it - too afraid of what I might see.

Continuing my series of weird medical issues... an allergy? An insect bite? Have done the hot salt water route; anbibiotic creams; starting to go down.

I never realized that these lovely green "balls" actually hid blossoms!

Ah the beauty of rain drops on my balcony awning as the sun went down...

Life supplies us with many weird and interesting sites - we have only to open our eyes.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

They don’t make things the way they used to…

Is something that one hears frequently. Planned obsolescence on hoovers, irons, large appliances. There is a bit of a movement to repair rather than simply dump because the handle broke off, the fuel ran out or a nut or bolt fell off, but by and large (printers being a good case in point) it is cheaper to simply dump and buy a replacement.

We have gotten somewhat used to the idea, but it really hit home the other day.

I had driven up to the village for my morning coffee (currently way to hot to move more than two feet at a time physically), enjoyed the chats and having picked up my mail returned to my car. The clicker to open wasn’t a problem, but when I went to put the key in the ignition – bingo – no key!

I retraced my steps – nothing, I looked in and around the car, still nothing. Finally had the brilliant idea of dumping out my handbag into which I throw my key (gently) in order to not loose it. And there it was – the whole key bit had broken off.  Getting home was a trick as of
Course just putting that bit in the ignition meant that there wasn’t anything long enough to turn the key – even if I had been willing to loose a nail or two. No pliers in the car, but by
Dint of careful precision holding was able to somewhat insert into the key block and thus
Turn. Am using the spare key, but really a car key that breaks off after only 5 years!

I am not impressed.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

19 Million people and…

Best birthday cake yet! Thanks S

Oh the luck – I who love words and greatly appreciate P.D.James actually share the same birthday. Who knew?

Kind of cuts one back to one’s size doesn’t it?
19 million people.
I in fact have two very good friends who share my birthday and know of at least a half a dozen others amongst those surrounding family and friends.

It was a fun day – at one point I figured a blog would need to say something along the lines of “I wrapped myself in love – friends, family and even strangers”. It was a low-key, stress-free birthday with cell phone calls not happening at the same time as fixed phone calls, with just the right mix of coffees, lunch, and even running into the family who’s party I had been unable to attend. The day, socially, ended with a cocktail/dinner with some of my best friends.

I would wish for this every day, but the joy probably would swamp me.
Lucky, lucky, lucky me that amongst the world’s 7 billion+ I have so many with whom to share my life.

My slice of that gorgeous creation - love resberries!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Happy birthday “Switzerland”

Why the quote marks one might ask: “Switzerland”, “Suisse”, “Schweiz” and “Swizzera” all describe in an easy manner the small country in the middle of Europe whose official name is Swiss Confederation being as it is 26 cantons bound together in a common community with the federal government in Bern.

I’ll spare you the history lessons, but it is now commonly acknowledged that the oath taken in 1291 by the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz (thus the name – the Swiss are nothing if not pragmatic and this was probably the easiest of the three to remember and pronounce in other languages) and Unterwald to be mutually protective against the Hapsburgs is the founding of what we know call Switzerland. From 3 cantons it grew to the present 26, each canton joining for its own reasons, not so much because of a shared identity (4 national languages), but more to guarantee their own independence.

The celebration of a National Holiday on August 1st  began in 1891 but trust the hard-working Swiss to not make it an official holiday until 1994.

It is still celebrated exclusively by communities throughout the cantons, most involve the burning of a bonfire at some point although this year with the elevated fire warnings there may be exceptions. Usually the local volunteer firm brigade takes care of it.

That’s the basic facts: this morning when I awoke – fever free – yeah I realized that I could actually remember where I was every 1st of August for the last 7 decades!
1948 – not yet here, I guess I wanted to have my own day as I missed being born on my favorite aunt’s, another aunt’s and my own mother’s birthdays.
1958 – Washington D.C. – the first – and most epic of my road trips when the whole family accompanied my father. We drove all along the Southern states of the USA and returned home via the Northern ones. This was the only time I saw my maternal grandfather.
1968 – Had just finished exams for my first Alliance Française in Collonges-sous-Salève, France. Who knew that I would eventually come back a second year then return for good a few years later.
1978 –Son number one was just months old so summer mainly in Europe
1988 – A boat ride to Anières, a picnic with friends
1998 – glad to be home … minus a cancerous tumor
2008 – Relaxing with local friend
2018 – In my own village, that is if the heat and the residue of my virus don’t get to me!

There have been many ways of celebrating August 1st in between – rarely not here to enjoy them. I may not be around when Switzerland celebrates its’  800th, but I was for the 700th.
Happy Birthday Switzerland

1st of August 2018

Monday, July 30, 2018

A thought for the Day indeed.

I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself. -Emily Bronte, novelist (30 Jul 1818-1848) from A.Word.A.Day Anu Garg

Struck deeply with me as I read it on my cell phone from the comfort of my bed this morning.
I had to laugh, which brought on another bout of coughing, as I obviously am being « a sensible man », perhaps not by choice, but nevertheless sensible.

Having coughed through the nights on both Wednesday and Thursday I chose to not attend a birthday party Friday night as as much as I wanted to, I already didn’t feel 100% in form and there was a newborn present. Thank goodness I listened to intuition. Friday night I sneezed and dripped the whole night.

Saturday I hit the pharmacy and that night took a pill to at least stop the coughing. Slept the night through and
yesterday I spent the day in bed, dozing. With a fever at the end of the day I had to send out a « cancellation of the party » notice, sigh.
Today I called a doctor.
Diagnosis – a viral respiratory infection.
Care – basically what I’ve been doing, ie take it easy, drink fluids, take the odd paraceptomol for systems.
I appreciated this doctor’s take on things and, barring any unforessen developments (pneumonia is always a worry with a respiratory virus), I’ll be back on my feet soon.

The fact that I am starting to feel hungry again was a good sign according to the doctor and lunch (I had turned down about 10 offers of help with food and groceries by saying that it was a good chance to empty cupboards, freezers and refrigerators) was the last slice of turkey from Christmas, on a piece of XLVitality bread. If that doesn’t help what will ?

So for the moment I am following Emily Bronte’s advice to the letter, more to not expose any of my friends to this rather unpleasant experience than from any true desire to be on my own, still am starting to catch up on the reading so every negative has its positive.

They may look tough - I'm tougher!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

I’m still here!

Now that could mean many things
  • I’m still in the house that we built in 1980 and moved into on May 2, 2018
  • I haven’t gone anywhere although expected to
  • Or, more importantly that

I’m still alive.

Today, July 28 – twenty years ago I went into the operating room late. I had been scheduled for 9 am but they didn’t take me until nearly noon. Now, those that know me know that I get hungry, that I don’t like to miss meals and that at the best I start getting grouchy so you can only imagine how hungry I was when I awoke in the observing room after my operation. I finally managed to convince the attending nurse that yes, I was hungry, that, no I wasn’t feely queasy or any other aftereffect from the narcosis. She finally gave me a yogurt, which although it tasted lie ambrosia came back up as quickly as it hit my stomach. So much for not feeling the effects of surgery or the anesthesia.

I then proceeded to spend time in the hospital, getting out the 1st of August 1998 a whole 2 days before my 50th birthday.

It’s now 20 years since that first cancer.

Meanwhile both of my parents have passed away – my dad whilst I was undergoing chemo; my little sister lost her battle with cancer. My husband died and there have been other challenges as well.

On the plus side: my sister-in-law in the USA just passed her 10 year mark and my German sister-in-law is headed or 85 in spite of hers. Both of my sons have turned into fine young men, interesting, entertaining, they led lives that as their mother make me proud, but that would have also been highly satisfactory to their father.

I have even managed to hit the 5-year mark since the second bout of breast cancer.
My husband called me his pioneer woman – a survivor.

I’m indeed still here and enjoying every moment of life.

I am tired of the pink ribbon, but a pink flower from a favorite spot will do just fine.