Monday, September 01, 2014

I'm typing as fast as I can

I want to get the my mother's recipe book manuscript transcribed into blog format before I go back to Geneva on Wednesday rather than lug it back.

Once it's entered I can do final editing, add graphics, etc. and hit send. 

Rick has talked about Kindling it. My mother would be thrilled.

Her last career (after many including having her own fashion business) was journalist and she was a good, good writer. Besides hard-core coverage of local politics she had weekly columns, one of which was Stove Stories which combined recipes with how they came about, what they meant to people, etc.

Food was always important in my childhood household. A meal was more than a meal, but a chance to talk, laugh, share and create memories. If my mother was more of a gourmet cook, my grandmother was a plain, old-fashioned cook, steeped in New England traditions. I ate very, very well as a child and at the time did not know I lucky I was in the quality of the food and the quality of the time shared.

Recipes were treasured. 

Food was often a major discussion subject be it when would the asparagus be ready for picking, how we would gather blueberries to make ice cream after lunch, what should be taken to the clubhouse Saturday night potlucks not to mention the oohing and ahhing over the meal in front of us. There would be the "remember the time you. . . " might conjure up a story about a dropped pot of soup or when my grandmother forgot to turn on the stove and Saturday night beanpot sat in a cold oven all day.

The manuscript recounts from where some of the recipes came. Thus when she talks about making tea breads with Marge after walking their babies (one was me, the other was Bunky who shared my birth date one year later) I can picture their house visible through the pine grove in front of my house.

Mention of her friend Lillian's fish, conjures up memories of this wonderful woman with the infectious laugh.

My mother talks about Llara and I've learned about some things they did when my daughter was little and having a sleepover at her grandmother's that I never knew nor does she remember.

Thus the exercise has become than fulfilling a my mother's wish to see it publish. It is recapturing meals and events of my childhood as it brings forth memories of people long gone. 

However, one paragraph made me realize how lucky I am to be here. It goes along with the story that the first time my mother carried me through a doorway she forgot to allow for my head. When I told Rick this, his comment was "That explains a lot."

Here's what my mother wrote about Corbie, the live-in nurse who cared for my great grandmother during her last bedridden seven years.

"I've mentioned Corbie before. She was with us during my late teen years and we had some hilarious times despite the difference in ages. She shared the family's shock when I eloped but as these things so often go, all was forgiven. Two years later mother volunteered to take over the care of my grandmother so Corbie would be free to spend a week with me when I went home with my first born. Corbie left reluctantly after her seven-day stay, declaring I was the most nervous mother (and not too bright) she'd ever seen in her years and with fervent hopes of the baby's survival."

What followed one of Corbie's recipes.

My housemate has offered to help with typing and Rick has tried scanning which has created some glitches.

Enough . . .  time to get back to recipe entering.By all methods we'll get it done and I do appreciate the helping fingers.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

To blog or not to blog

 blog, therefore I am...

Sorry Descartes and Shakespeare for misquoting you.

My husband (H1) blogs.

My housemate (H2) blogs.

I read lots of blogs of friends and some strangers who might be friends if we should meet. There are blogs I read from people I've never met like those on the Facebook page Blogging for Blogging's sake. feeds my love of history each day for example and keeps me updated on FATCA as well as another person who lives cross culturally.

Other blogs I read are of friends like this friend and talented writer whom I will do a workshop with next weekend.

H1, H2 and I were talking about the limitations of blogs. There are things too personal to blog.

There are experiences we might want to share, but can't because we don't want to hurt people's feelings. I will often ask permission before I blog a subject that might make a friend uncomfortable.

There is no Emily Post of blogging politeness. Maybe there should be.

Polite does not mean saccharine.

We might not want to mention we are away in case a thief happens on our blogs and thinks "aha an empty house."

If most of my blogs are cheerful it is because my life about 98% of the time is wonderful and 2% has the normal problems everyone has. Years ago when my life wasn't good and I was seeing a shrink, he talked about acting not reacting. I can't control the bad things in life. I can control what I do about them. His advice has done me good for a half a century.
Sometimes I might blog something painful to me. It's cheaper than a shrink. My giving up my nationality was one of those times. Losing my stepmom was another.

I'm also aware most of my problems are things like a computer working too slowly. Even illness like the cancer is a time to make new friends and have interesting experiences, although I never would have chosen it and still consider myself lucky at the outcome. No one is bombing me, beating me up, etc. Often I can turn these mini-annoyances into a blog that hopefully is amusing.

I have enough or too much to eat. I can take a shower, which is more than many people in Detroit were able to do. 

I might blog about a meal. I wouldn't blog about my shower no matter how much I love it.

I have enough...I am blessed. I blog blessings.

The same with photos. We don't want to embarrass anyone I know or don't know so either I ask permission to use a photo on a blog, or sigh, put the photo in my personal file.

As for strangers, I try not to use any photos of people that are identifiable without permission.

On the other hand when I'm with either H1 or H2 (numbers were assigned arbitrarily) we are all quick to say, "You're going to blog that?" We've been known to blog on the same subject coming up with different perspectives. 

Blogging often stimulates my other writing, a bit like priming a pump.

I blog, therefore I am.


A walk

We decided to take walk for no reason other than we could. Our first stop was the end of our street to once again admire the work of our artist friend as well as his beautiful flowers.

Ptah II was asleep in another friend's window. He's not for sale.

Around the corner there's another café (not La Noisette, my home away from home) where no matter how hot it is, there's a breeze. We found another friend and we had coffee together. She told us a wonderful story about giving roller skates to a lovely little boy who didn't have any but she saw him watching other little boys who did, but she asked him to water her flowers in return. Skates and a value lesson all in one. Kids love her as well they should.

At this point we met up with my housemate who is here for a few days. She walked with us. A treat.

Then onto check on the allotments to see how the veggies are doing in late summer. Lush and well.

A peek at the "river" through my favourite bridge. Discussion on bull rushes and cat n' nine tails, what do you call them. Moses's basket was no where around. Think whatever you want to call them, they would look lovely in a tall, tall vase. We didn't pick any.


The gatepost lion reminded me of the pair I bought from Cape Cod and flanked our dining room fireplace on Wigglesworth Street. Still love the sound of that address. (Named for a doctor of dermatology at Harvard Medical, which was across the street from the house.)

Met a Swedish friend and chatted.

Quartet of birds soon to be replaced by at least 50 swooping back and forth. Alfred Hitchcock was no where around, thank goodness.

Stop at A 10 Bal, to pick up window washing stuff plus security toilet paper for our security toilet paper (always good to have lots on hand) and paper towels for Rick's window-washing method. 

BRII (before Rick II) it would take me years to go through a roll of paper towels. I used one or two sheets for the few times I cooked bacon never for where a sponge or a cloth would work.

However, if Rick is washing windows he can decide on the method. I suspect he bought the squeegee to humour me, but that's okay. The windows will be clean and I won't have done it.

Then back to the computers and to prepare for tonight's dinner party with friends of said housemate who are visiting from the UK, the friends, not the housemate.

Life is good.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


That is now what it costs to renounce your American citizenship up from $450. If you have over $2 million it's a major percentage of your assets.

Meanwhile expats who live permanently overseas (or temporarily on assignments) are being trapped by their bank accounts being closed in their resident country and then not being allowed to have bank accounts in the US.

Huge fines are being levied for failure to fill out this or that form, sometimes into six figures.

The cost of getting someone to do American taxes for an expat can exceed the amount of tax owed.

Personally on about $50,000 in income I paid four figures to accountants for my US taxes while only paying $700 to the government. Certainly better than the fines that could occur if I don't know about a new form being required. We won't discuss being double taxed on two social securities and pensions.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says a human has the right to change nationality...nothing is mentioned about buying one's freedom.

The problem hits accidental Americans, people born in the US because their parents were there at the time and never spent any time there afterward. Every cent, centime, pence, etc. that they earn all their lives will be taxable in the US and in their real home country.

Single nationality Americans have rough choices, such as give up lives they've built overseas or try and exist under these conditions.

Duals at least have the choice of giving up their American nationality or going back to the States and giving up their current life.

I believe in taxes. It is my dues to living in a civilized taxes. I don't believe in paying taxes in countries where I don't live.

Whatever happened to...

I have many white nights where I don't sleep and my mind jumps all over the place... Okay, part of that is not true. I can sleep really well the first three hours, but then I wake up and it is then that my mind starts jumping.

Sometimes they are productive thoughts, like an idea for the next chapter of my book.

Other times I think of things that need to be done such as, don't forget to pack the leather braided belt for Geneva.

And last night it was WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO...

So many stories are followed by the media then dropped. Two pounded around in my head last night.

Susan Brown

In 1994 she drove her two little sons into a lake and let them drown. She was sentenced to life in prison. I wonder what her life is like now.


Somewhere in the 1990s Dateline showed the story of a little girl who lived with a foster family. They wanted to adopt her. Her mother wanted her back. After a custody battle, the last short was the child screaming and kicking being driven away in a car with her mother and the foster parents looking totally devastated.

I always wonder why people can't share the child in these circumstances. There should be enough love to go around.

Did this child become a troubled teen? Is she a mother herself? Did she ever as an adult contact her loved foster family?

Miracle toothpaste

As an expat or in my case a repat, there are always things missed from the home country. When I first arrived in Switzerland in 1990, I wanted Oreos so badly that I dreamed about them.

It didn't matter that I almost never, ever ate them in Boston.

Now they are available everywhere and I seldom buy them.

Stouffer's Welsh Rarebit is unavailable here. The times I'm in the States I will eat it several days running on English muffins (something else hard to find). If it's asparagus season so much the better.

Although you can get corn on the cob here now (it used to be only cow food) nothing was as good as the New England corn, picked as the water was boiling. Now I've heard it's all GMO corn so I'm less sad.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog--my miracle toothpaste.

Crest original formula has always been my favorite toothpaste. (There was a couple of years I used a special French one no longer on the market).

However, for all the products that are being sold internationally, Crest isn't one of them. Sometimes the American store has one in Geneva.

It struck home when in one Christmas everyone gave everyone else a tube of original formula Crest.

Now I'm almost to the end of the tube pictured above and have been for past three weeks. I've pressed from the bottom up and pressed and pressed. Each time I thought it was impossible to get any more out with a little pressure the baby blue paste pops out.

Maybe Rick is adding paste every night when I'm not looking. Or it's a miracle. I like the miracle idea better.

Friday, August 29, 2014

What is it about taxes

What is it about taxes?

I now only pay taxes in two countries. I once paid them in three.

I didn’t renounce my American citizenship to avoid taxes, although admittedly I did resent being taxed double on things like SS and my pensions. And I resented paying several times more than I owed to an accountant to make sure I wasn’t hit with fines that could have wiped me out financially.

My choice was basically between being an American and moving back to the States or living abroad and being allowed to have a bank account.

I don’t mind paying taxes. They are my dues to living in a civilized society. I am well educated because my parents paid taxes. Now as a taxpayer because of taxes:
  • ·         I drive on good roads
  • ·         I cross safe bridges.
  •       Another generation who will be my co-citizens are being educated
  • ·         There are flowers all over my Corsier village
  • ·         My drinking water is safe
  • ·         My food is safe
  • ·         The commons are well looked after
But you have companies that pay no taxes in the US and even get rebates. (I won’t even go into the fact they are called persons, but aren’t subject to FATCA which is the reason two-legged persons can’t get bank accounts. That’s another blog.)

There is the burden of taxes on the middle class that is disproportionate with those the wealthy are paying.  

Companies like Burger King, who grew thanks to the commons in the US providing them with the necessary environment so they could grow, now want to get out of American taxes by buying Tim Horton’s in Canada.

From their Facebook page, many customers aren’t pleased. I like the letter from the man wrote asking Senator Nelson (no relation) that all Burger Kings be removed from US bases. Why should they only take and not give back? Especially since their workers earn so little they need to be subsidized with food stamps and other benefits.

If you have a comment about Burger King, add it to their Facebook page.

Almost magic

Four women all of the same generation

Two nationalities

One cup of green tea

Café american



One dog (then three then none as son and daughter-in-law arrived and took all for a walk in the woods)

The scene--La Noisette

Other people stopped to say hello

The conversation? All over the place

A few rain drops

All in all an almost magic moment just because it felt so good.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I blame

98% of the time time I accept blame for my faults.

I don't accept blame for not being able to swim.

I blame my mother, who when we were at the beach, acted at any moment if I got near the water, a tidal wave would sweep me off to Europe. I wanted to go to Europe but not by wave--plane or boat would have been and are still preferred.

I blame my ex-husband, Rick I. He said, "If someone throws you in the water, you'll swim."

He did.

I didn't.

In the 1970s I made a deal with a friend--she learn to drive, I would learn to swim. She got her license. After 12 weeks of private lessons, I still couldn't put my head under water, and one foot was always on the bottom of the pool. The instructor told me, I was wasting his time and my money, albeit (take that Rick and Julia) he said it laughingly. Except for failure and terror, we'd had an amusing time.

Thus I decided in my lifetime that it would be alright if I
  • Never read Ulysses
  • Never learned to swim
This year I found myself in a pool twice once in:
  • Malta with Julia
  • Andorra with Rick II (who didn't throw me in the pool)
After confessing I couldn't swim over coffee with my former French teacher come friend, she offered to teach me.

Today was the day. 

Dum da de dum da de dum de dum de dum (imagine funeral dirge)... Off to St. Cyprien plage.

Marina first had me wade, then get wet and sit down. She gentled me into taking my feet off the seabed. My face got wet (until this week, I wouldn't even get my face wet in the shower.) She was far less successful getting me to lay back in the water.

It was more than I've ever been able to do. There will be no Olympic swimming gold medals in my future but maybe I'll be able to be in the water without being really scared.

Two more things...

  1. I still don't plan to read Ulysses
  2. She never corrected my French pronunciation.


From the sneer on Annie's face, I could tell she didn't like the blue matting. We'd taken three paintings in to have them framed.

1. Chris Floyd's water colour was the design he would use as the mural on my studio's hall's entry. The water colour in itself was a piece of art.

2 and 3 were Bruce Davidson's birch trees and a wedding present. The Massachusetts artist is a very creative and talented person.

When we married we were blessed that so many of our gifts were hand made by our talented friends or items that weren't mass manufactured. Their imagination adds texture to our friendship.

The first time we were in the shop with the paintings several customers chose that minute to look at Annie's great selection of cards, art work and prints. We told her we'd back.

As always she helped us find exactly the right combination of matting and frames. 

The sneer disappeared.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's raining flowers

Rick and I were returning a DVD to a friend by pushing it through a mail slot. We were discussing the flowers.

Looking up I saw a hand deadheading the red geraniums.

We commented. Then a geranium came floating down and then another and another.

I like having friends who make it rain flowers.

We forget if we ever knew

Rick and I were having an idealic lunch on our patio. We were also discussing "Love and War in the Pyrenees," by Rosemary Bailey 

The book described the Retirada, when 0ver 100,000 refuges from Franco Spain fled into Argelès and ended up in concentration camps.

Rick was obviously moved by the realization of what happened here not that long ago and wrote about it in his blog

I won't repeat here what he wrote. It is a moving comment on a past incident that unfortunately is being replayed in too many places in the world today.

Once again I'm reminded my problems are simple...will I make a writing deadline, what should I take on a Paris trip, did I leave the leftover chicken in the frigo too long?

I have never had to worry about walking hundreds of miles in the hope of finding safety, ducking bullets, listening to bombs go off in front of my house nor having my wall disappear with a bomb.

Fate has been kind to us...would that it be as kind to all the refugees in the world. Even better would that there be no more refugees because man became smarter and kinder.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The unexpected bric of a meal

Okay lunch wasn't totally unexpected. We eat every day.

Where was.

I'd expected to pick up Polish guumpies made by a friend. Food is often exchanged from house to house when we don't have time to entertain one another. We are also quick to share leftovers. She's a great cook.

However, we had two errands close to lunch so when Rick suggested we find a restaurant rather than rush home and make veggies to go with the gummpies, I agreed. That will be tomorrow's lunch.

We decided to try some place new.

"What about that Pepper and Salt place you like?" He meant Poivre et Sel at the beach. I've eaten there and he hadn't. Who was I to argue?

It was good to be back in the Tunisian decor with the beautiful plates and friendly family staff.

"They have bric," I said.

"What?" Rick said. He thought I'd said Rick..
The first time I had bric it was made by the father for a friend who spent years in Tunisia. In Boston I'd found a way to make it, but since I've been in Europe I've had to rely on Tunisian restaurants.

Fillings can vary. The first I had was parsley, eggs, onion. Today's was potato, capers and egg.

The next time we need to take the guumpie maker who loves the restaurant as much as I do.

Here's Jamie Oliver's version.

"Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Wash the sweet potatoes and bake them, in their skins, in the preheated oven until cooked and soft. Allow to cool (leaving the oven on), then peel and mash them.

Bash up 1 teaspoon of the coriander seeds and the chillies in a pestle and mortar. Stir with the cinnamon into the mashed sweet potato and season well. Fold the spring onions and beaten egg into the mashed potato.

Gently melt the butter in a pan. Bash up the remaining coriander seeds. Brush a sheet of filo with some melted butter and sprinkle with a pinch of ground cinnamon and a little of the ground coriander. Cover with the second sheet, and brush and sprinkle as before. Repeat for the third sheet. With a sharp knife, cut the stacked filo sheets into two 15cm squares.

Working quickly to prevent the pastry from drying, do the same with the remaining filo sheets. You should now have four squares of filo. Place a generous tablespoon of the sweet potato mixture in the centre of each square and spread out slightly. Brush the edges of each square with water and fold in half, corner to corner, to make a triangle. Press down at the edges to seal. Brush both sides of each triangle with the rest of the melted butter, place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven until light brown - this will take about 10 minutes.

Mix the red onion with the watercress, mint and parsley. Mix the yoghurt with the lemon juice, a lug of olive oil and the cumin. Dress the salad with the yoghurt dressing and serve with the hot filo briks and the lemon halves."

Another step done

I should be soooo, sooooo grateful that I can produce a manuscript on a computer and not by hand like the monks of medieval times. Imagine discovering a mistake in the middle and having to start over including preparing the parchment, ink and pens.

I am soooo grateful I've finished the round of corrections done by my lovely husband and lovely housemate. No heavy manuscript to lug back to Geneva.

Now to make it ready for the publisher:
  • Another polish
  • Add title page
  • Add family treet
  • Add acknowledgements
  • Add bio
  • Add info sheets that must accompany manuscript.
Touch every piece of wood that they accept it.