Saturday, October 25, 2014

New friends

Honey Bunny and Herr Hare were thrilled to be invited to the chalet in les Marecottes. They are with their new friends C. Bear and Y bear. Here they check out the flowers and the house across the street.

A little before they were ohing and ahing over the village.

They were welcomed by a local resident, Sam Squirrel. 

Later they will get a chance to go on a hike.

Sushi Haiku

*Mikado--dog's name
Mikado-a restaurant
Love eating sushi

*I love sushi, no matter that it has the same name as my late Japanese chin.

The escadpade continues...yum...

J's and my fourth adventure/escapade continues. We drove down the mountain to Martigny and decided to treat ourselves to La Chasse, a much better choice than the cafeteria at Migros. We had two kinds of meat from the hunt cooked in a bullion at the table than dipped into four different sauces: garlic, mustard, tartar and a type of thousand islands. Peaches with cranberries were served too.

The entree was mushrooms in pastry. We decided it would be tacky to lick the plate.

We liked the combination of tile and wood on the restaurant floor. 

Thoroughly stuffed it was onto the Renoir exhibition. I love being able to pop in and spend about a half hour surrounded by beauty.

An interview

The Guardian published an interview with Anne Rice

Although I’ve had nine books published,, my sales figures are way below hers. Still, I am pretending I’m the interviewee. After all writers, are suppose to have imagination...

D-L Nelson

Born in Massachusetts Nelson, 72, writes the Third Culture Kid Mystery series, with her heroine multi-lingual Annie Young, stumbling and solving murders in places like Paris, Geneva, etc.

When were you happiest?
I’ve been happy most of my life after 30. However, right now I’ve reached a new level of happy that I didn’t think possible.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing my mind and body functions

What is your earliest memory?
My fourth birthday party which I shared with Bunky Bronk who lived across the street. He was one year younger and we were dressed in yellow brother and sister outfits.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

I can’t think of one since Eleanor Roosevelt and my grandmother are dead. I admire people who are honest and think of others no matter what their situation in life.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Lack of concentration. I get distracted too easily.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
A 34-pound sheep wool lined leather coat against the cold New England winter.

What is your most treasured possession?
A tapestry my daughter made for me.

What is your screensaver?
A rotating collection of my own photos. They are a constant reminder of happy moments and I know there are more to come.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The duckbill platypus. 

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My weight.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Susan Sarandon. She had the hair for it and the same politics.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Not being available as I should be.

What is your favourite smell?
The smell of cold, crisp winter air in a pine forest.

What is your favourite word?
I’d say albeit as a family joke, but peckish is the real one.

Which book changed your life?
Grapes of Wrath It was the first time I realized all the hidden meanings a writer could get into a novel.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was four. My grandmother read to me all the time and I thought it was great to be able to make up stories. I toyed with other careers such as nursing, but I don’t have the stomach for it. As an adult I thought being an anthropologist would be fascinating, but then again writers observe peoples’ habits, too.

What is top of your bucket list?
I’ve done almost everything I want to, I just want to do more of the same.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
I am lucky that when my father died, there was nothing left unsaid. That I couldn’t find a resolution with my mother was a resolution in itself, but I’d like to be able to talk to her now. Maybe she has mellowed. I know I have.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband. It took us a long time to get together.

What was the best kiss of your life?
There isn’t a single best. I am glad you didn't ask about the worse.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Spending too much time in the corporate world, but it gave me the income I needed to raise my child and live comfortably. I suppose having to write around working hours made me make the time count.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’d like to pop into different centuries, sort of a If it is Tuesday, it must be Belgium type of time travel. Of course with time travel, I don’t want to be a slave or hungry.

How do you relax?
Read or walk.

What is the closest you’ve come to death?
When I was pregnant with my daughter and became dehydrated from the flu. My cancer doesn't count because it was caught early on thanks to the great Swiss medical system.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Professionally, my novels. Personally, my daughter.

Where would you most like to be right now?
I’m greedy. I’d like to be here in the Alps about to visit a Renoir exhibition and maybe walk in the woods later in the day, with my husband in Argelès (although he's in Texas at the moment) and having a cup of tea with my daughter in Boston.

I am lucky that I have so much good in my life with people, places and activities that each day flows with joy.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The devil made her do it

Rick sends an SMS to J. that he's landed in Dallas. He knows my phone isn't on.

She smses back. "Message transmitted to persons most concerned: Honey Bunny and Herr Hare. Should I tell DL too?"

I love the sense of humour of those that surround me.

Bunny Hop (the saga continues)

This was the view that the bunnies woke up to. 

They wanted to go for a walk alone. I insisted I go reminding them that a favourite dish here is polenta and RABBIT.

"Which way should we go," Honey Bunny wanted to know.

They stopped for a drink of fresh mountain water.

They passed the bench that says take time to rest here--so they did, but they didn't stay long. There were other things to discover like . . .big . . .black . . .

They heard bells and ran in the direction of the sound UNTIL they saw that the bells on the bulls were twice as big as they were together.

They hopped up on this mailbox to greet two tiny hedgehogs.

Back home, they decided to stay in my jacket pocket pocket and take a nap. They ducked down and I haven't heard a word from then in the last few hours. They really must have been tired.

Our Fourth Escapade or Adventure

J and I try and have four adventures a year. It could be as simple as a night in a château not far from home or something that involves an airplane or train.

This year we did Malta, Toulouse and Stuttgart. Our fourth and final is just going to the chalet.

We stopped in Martigny for lunch before climbing the mountain.

When there was no room for us at the restaurant serving rosti (sorta like hash browns) we went to the Steak Restaurant. Were we glad the first restaurant was turned us away.

The decor had distinct American overtones as it celebrated Route 66. The walls had license plate decorations including from Quebec, Kansas, Utah and Oklahoma. Yes, I know, some of those places are NOT on Route 66.


 The meal was definitely Swiss with cerf from the hunt, spazeli, roasted chestnuts and simmered pears. The sauce was wanting-to-lick-your-plate good.

It was even fun to see the art work of old gas pumps outside the ladies room.

 How good it was too look out the kitchen window again when we arrived.

The snow arrived yesterday. On Tuesday, these mountains were bare.

I don't see how life can get much better. 

Time to start planning next year's Big Four.

J's version is here. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I can smell winter

The smell of winter is in the air, leading to a cold, tingle in one's nose.

The temperature had been 24/75° just a couple of days ago. No more. We are into single digits and the bise is shaking the leaves from the trees (never mind the acorns). Despite the bright sun, the best word to use is "brrrr."

A search for last years gloves/mittens/hat resulted in:
  • One black glove
  • One black mitten
  • One rust mitten
  • One black hat
Hmmm...we're heading for the mountains where winter is more than a smell. Today it is snowing.

On our sushi run, I stopped at H&M, walked to the hat/mitten/counter and grabbed the light beige combo and was out of there in less than two minutes. Now that's a successful shopping trip.

They are softly lined mittens that I couldn't find last year. Hands stay toasty.

I'm tempted to sew a long string on them and run it through my coat sleeves so I won't lose them until spring.

Hello, my name is Donna-Lane

I'm a recovering news junkie. Thank you for welcoming me to News Junkie Anonymous.

Up until a few months ago I was a news junkie. I read papers on-line from all over the world. I listened to Arabic, Russian, Chinese, British, French and Swiss news programs.

Although I leaned to liberal publications and broadcasts, I also tried to follow the conservative side as well.

I compared versions trying to find what reality was. Whenever possible I tried to fact check.

Before I renounced I was an active American citizen, calling or emailing congressional members several times a week of various legislation. I also wrote letters to newspapers or left messages on websites in other countries.

Lately it has been too much to take in.
  • Climate change
  • Drone attacks
  • Economic idiocy
  • Endless wars
  • Stupidity
  • Ebola
  • Drought
  • Floods
  • Fracking
  • Voter suppression
  • Inequality
  • Lies, lies, lies
I will join the ranks of humanity which doesn't see what is going on around them.

Will I relapse?

I don't know.

May I have a cup of coffee now please?

Nous avons vu Marc encore

Je suis contente.

Marc was a waiter at Marro, where we eat so often and have for many years. We get to know the waiters fairly well, but then they take new jobs and disappear. 

Marc was one of those waiters. There was the time I left Llara in the car mid morning to run into Marro to make a reservation and ended up chatting with Marc for a good 15 minutes. Llara wasn't surprised.

We missed Marc when he became one of the disappeared.

Last month Julia ran into Marc at Migros. He told her the restaurant which
he was managing, a step up. It was on the French-Swiss border about 10 minutes from the house if one stops for the post on the way.

Today we ate there.

Big smiles when we walked in, but Marc was/is a smile specialist.

We exchanged cheek kisses

He offered us a glass of Porto for our apèro and we had big hugs when we left.

I love that we have relationships that go beyond just the polite customer/service person thingie.

He's at it again

He's nothing but trouble.

First he hid himself in Rick's suitcase so the could go to Canada and the States, leaving his mother, Petite Cougar frantically looking for him. When she found he was in Geneva, she sent the bunnies, Herr Hare and Honey Bunny to look after him.

It was her job to stay home in Argelès to take care of the warren. She was lonely, although Rick's and D-L's Danish and Swedish friends were on plant watering duty and dropped in regularly.

Then Scooby II once again snuck into their luggage to go to Stuttgart, Köln and Amsterdam. He even snuck into the il Divo concert.

He was suppose to stay back in Geneva until next month when everyone is due back in Argelès, but could he?


Just as Rick was checking the departure board at Heathrow for his flight, the bad pup jumped out of what seemed like no where hollering, "Voilà!"

As Rick scolded him, he said, "Je ne comprends pas, je ne que parle français." He went on and on in French.

Although Rick wanted to put him on a Geneva plane and have D-L meet him at Cointrin Aeroport, there wasn't time before Rick's flight left for Dallas. Rick did make him call his mother so she wouldn't worry.

Thus the dog is on the road again, or should I say on the train or planes again.

Where he's going he'll have a chance to meet Rick's grandkids and their two cats.

We won't tell Petite Cougar about his visit to the Prostitutes Museum in Amsterdam where he tried to experience the life of a prostitute by sitting in a window and checked out a bed.

That pup needs to be reined in. BIG TIME. I feel sorry for him when he gets home in a week or so.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Family of choice

There's blood family.

I'm an orphan, although no one feels sorry for a 72-year old orphan.

I have myriad cousins that I have limited contact with. No problems, just geography. Facebook allows for messages and when anyone comes to Europe we try and meet up.

My brother and I have birthday-greeting contact, although his daughter, my niece, and I share on Facebook regularly. She's a nurse and just starting grad school. 

My daughter is my closest blood relative and despite an ocean between us we have regularly exchanges that could be anything from hourly to weekly, depending on the busyness of either or both of us.

I also have my family of choice.

These are people with whom I've shared things so deeply over the years, that they go beyond what the term friend implies.

These are people I would do whatever I could to help if they needed it.

These are people with whom I've laughed with, cried with, worried with.

These are people I've been silly with.

These are people I've can be alone with in the same room and it creates a feeling of peace.

These are people who accept me with all my quirks (head shaking is allowed) and I accept theirs.

This hit me rather strongly when I was talking with my former neighbour and Syrian friend that is definitely a family of choice member when she referred to Rick as her brother-in-law.

Having family of choice members is like a stone skipped  into the water creating circles that reach out beyond me creating ever-widening concentric circles.

In a world that can often be cruel, loving is priceless.

Monday, October 20, 2014

To mend or not to mend

These PJ bottoms are at least 15 years old. The waist band is separated for about an inch from the material below the elastic (fixable). The cuffs are frayed and a repaired tear in the crotch seam is barely holding. The yellow top long ago disintegrated as did the matching slippers.

To mend or not to mend, that is a question Hamlet might not ask, but I am.

I have newer and prettier PJs.

Why would I want to save them for just a little longer?

They hold a memory. They were a gift from Air France.

I was flying business class from Geneva to Toronto for my company. Because I had meetings early in  the morning immediately after landing, I was allowed the luxury of business class so I would be fresh (at least in theory) to deal with the problems I was about to encounter.

I wanted to make sure that I had an aisle seat--between my slight claustrophobia and my need to use the WC an aisle is better for everyone.

"You will be happy with your seat," the airline staffer told me.

I debated pushing for an answer that I was guaranteed the aisle, but didn't.

As soon as I entered the plane, I was happy that I hadn't pushed. They had upgraded me to first class.

Thus I dined on foie gras while sipping champagne for the apèro, enjoyed my rare lamb chops served with a crisp salad and haricot verts and a seasoned rice.

My gift bag included the normal toiletries, eye shade, ear phones, but it also included the PJs and slippers.

Every time I've worn them over the last decade and a half, I remember that sometimes it is better NOT to protest.

A letter to the Wells Fargo CE0

An employee of Wells Fargo wrote this to his CEO and sent copies to all employees. How much better the world would be if Mr, Stumpf listened.

How popular Wells Fargo would be as well in comparison to the other banks?

Think that Wal-mart might get some good publicity instead of looking greedy when they cut their employees health care while making a fortune for a few.

And to all CEOs, if you had no employees you would have no one to do the work to sell to your customers to earn money for you and the shareholders.

A business needs three parts, like a three-legged stool: capital, employees, clients. Without any of the three, the stool collapses.

Mr. Stumpf,
With the increasing focus on income inequality in the United States. Wells Fargo has an opportunity to be at the forefront of helping to reduce this by setting the bar, leading by example, and showing the other large corporations that it is very possible to maintain a profitable company that not only looks out for its consumers and shareholders, but its employees as well.
This year Wells Fargo in its second quarter alone had a net income of $5.7 billion, and total revenue of $21.1 billion. These are very impressive numbers, and is obvious evidence that Wells Fargo is one of, if not the most profitable company in the nation right now. So, why not take some of this and distribute it to the rest of the employees.
Sure, the company provides while not great, some pretty good benefits, as well as discretionary profit sharing for those who partake in our 401k program. While the benefits are nice, the profit sharing through the 401k only goes to make the company itself and its shareholders more profitable, and not really boost the income of the thousands of us here every day making this company the prestigious power house that it is.
Last year, you had pulled in over $19 million, more than most of the employees will see in our lifetimes. It is understood that your position carries a lot of weight and responsibility; however, with a base salary of $2.8 million and bonuses equating to $4 million, is alone one of the main arguments of income inequality. Where the vast majority, the undeniable profit drivers, with the exception of upper management positions barely make enough to live comfortably on their own, the distribution of income in this company is no better than that of the other big players in the corporate world.
My estimate is that Wells Fargo has roughly around 300,000 employees. My proposal is take $3 billion dollars, just a small fraction of what Wells Fargo pulls in annually, and raise every employees annual salary by $10,000 dollars. This equates to an hourly raise about $4.71 per hour. Think, as well, of the positive publicity in a time of extreme consumer skepticism towards banks. By doing this, Wells Fargo will not only help to make its people, its family, more happy, productive, and financially stable, it will also show the rest of the United States, if not the world that, yes big corporations can have a heart other than philanthropic endeavors.
P.S. – To all of my fellow team members who receive a copy of this email. Though Wells Fargo does not allow the formation of unions, this does not mean we cannot stand united. Each and every one of us plays an integral part in the success of this company. It is time that we ask, no, it is time that we demand to be rightfully compensated for the hard work that we accomplish, and for the great part we all have played in the success of this company. There are many of us out there who come to work every day and give it our all, yet, we struggle to make ends meet while our peers in upper management and company executives reap the majority of the rewards. One of our lowest scored TMCS questions is that our opinions matter. Well they do! This email has been sent to hundreds of thousands Wells Fargo employees, (as many as I could cc from the outlook global address book). And while the voice of one person in a world as large as ours may seem only like a whisper, the combined voices of each and all of us can move mountains!
With the warmest of regards,

Brand names and selling my body

It is no news to my friends that I don't do brand names. 

I would if they paid me to be an advertising billboard, but why should I sell my body to someone like Nike? After all Nike pays Federer a fortune. I wouldn't charge as much as he does, of course, because I'm not on international television regularly. 

Those who would see me with the brand would be limited to a few people in a few places. Perhaps we could work out a deal, one Euro per person I pass.

I've always thought that wearing brands says, "Hey, I'm dumb, I want to impress people that I have the latest, expensive thing. I think that makes me better than you."

Sometimes the thing that I like does have a brand name and then I either remove the brand name or hide it in some ways.

Yes, yes, I know--I'm a cranky old woman, or COW for short.

We amused ourselves in an Amsterdam restaurant with a beer coaster marked "Brand"...I did put my glass on it not sure if I was using it or hiding it.

However, it didn't matter

The chicken satay was so good we forgot about branding.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn leaves

My Dad had a philosophy about fallen leaves. "God put them there. Let God take them away."

My Grandmother, whose house we shared, had a different philosophy: "God put them there so YOU can take them away."

As a result each autumn my father raked huge piles of leaves from our side and back yards, adding to them fallen pine branches from our grove in front of the house.

He must have loved my brother and I very much to let us jump in them and throw them in the air, meaning a second raking was required before burning, because burning was still legal then. Or maybe he had some vengeance in mind because we came away from our rollick with pine pitch on our hands that my mother dabbed with nail polish remover.

I don't do big piles. I do little piles and anyone who jumped in them might not be a good investment for a life insurance policy, and a very good investment for the recipient of that policy.

Bending and my back are not friends so I use the dustpan with the long handle to transfer the leaves to the trash bin.

I know as soon as my back (bent or not) is turned the oak tree which is so lovely in the summer will malicious laugh and shed a few more leaves just as when I finished today a wind decided to play throw and catch with the ones I'd missed.

I don't claim have done much but the driveway is now acorn free.

The tree in the photo produces enough acorns to feed the entire squirrel population not just of Corsier, but also the communes of Collonge, Anniers and Hermance. Those squirrels in turn could invite friends and family from Veigy, France just over the border, and there would still be leftovers.

I just looked out the window. More acorns-- no squirrels. On Facebook I found a photo of this
dog running and jumping in leaves. Sorry, I couldn't find URL, but any creature this happy makes my day.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chance encounters

Three people met for short periods between the houseboat and Geneva

The Taxi Driver

He appeared in a well pressed suit at 6 a.m. as requested. Originally from Morocco, he has three children. Although he's lived in Amsterdam for 25-years he would like to go back to Morocco after the children have finished university. His wife doesn't want to be that far away from them.

The Bulgarian Woman

The daughter, with her white blond hair in half corn rows, will be six next week. They were speaking in English, Swiss German and German. I couldn't understand the fourth language.

Bulgarian the mother told me. She speaks seven languages. Her daughter also understands Russian and will start learning French next year in school. 

I noticed the pink ribbon on the little girl's grey suede vest.

The woman also has had cysts and needs to be checked regularly to make sure they don't evolve into breast cancer.

We discussed medical care in different countries.

The Japanese Professor

The woman, who turned out to be my age, had her arm in a sling, and as she sat next to me on our flight from Amsterdam to Geneva, I tired not to bump her. She'd fallen and also broken her teeth. I told her about breaking my face in 2013.

She is a retired professor with study in linguistics.

My only regret that we didn't have more time to talk.

Chance encounters make my day more interesting.

The long and the short of it

The Geneva Writers Group has been my literary ballast for the past 21 years. Originally it was small with meetings held upstairs at the Café du Soleil. (photo above). From those days when we were about 20 writers, we have grown to almost two hundred, put out a bi-annual magazine and run a writing conference that draws lecturers and attendees from all over the world.

A good percentage of our members have had major successes in publishing their work.

The group has been led by Susan Tiberghien, who at 80 is still giving workshops that inspire.

We no longer fit at the Café du Soleil. Most of our meetings are at the Press Club in a beautiful old mansion (photo  below), that is, except when we are too many and then they are moved to Webster University.

Much of my craft I learned at these workshops. I suppose I'd have developed as a writer even without them, but they short-circuited the process.

I may have published nine novels with the 11th due out next April. See my website.

Someone might think I would be wasting my time, still going to workshops.

I'm not.

I never leave one without learning something that improves my writing.

Part of today's workshop on Flash Fiction (stories under 800 words) included a section on pacing which included the way to build or slow tension and emotion by the use of long and short sentences.

I'd played with this in my writing before, but never had I heard it explained so clearly.

I did get a piece out of the workshop, posted at 

That the long and short of it.