Saturday, November 29, 2008


Homemade cheese sticks
Artichoke spread on crackers
Carrot and celery sticks with ranch dip
Fluted cumin bread sticks
Cheese quiche slices
Normandy cider (okay New England Cider is
impossible to find), sparkling water, juices

Mashed potatoes and gravy
Brussels sprouts in a vinegar/bacon sauce
Red cabbage
Homemade cranberry sauce
Roasted turkey

Appropriate wine

Homemade apple pie with smiley face (a) balloon decorations (2)
Chocolate chip cookies
Pumpkin cake

Ice cream

(Number of languages spoken minimum 10 with English/French the common)


Preparation time two days, two women working in perfect harmony…

Small slices of the Macy’s day Parade were available on Breithbart TV.

I learned Boston Latin beat Boston English 36 to 0 and Reading beat Stoneham 28 to O without standing in the cold.

The turkey was named George after George Clooney who deep fries his.

A lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Living in a chequeless/checkless world

Canada and America pass billions of dollars in cheques/checks but in Switzerland they are almost non existent. Although I still have an American checking account, with a credit union of course for American bills, and my Canadian clients pay me in cheques much to the amusement of my banker, I've been living almost checkless/chequeless for 18 years.
How do I pay my bills, you may ask?
First all bills arrive with a standard format pink slip--nothing to do with being fired. A corner of the pink slip is in the lower right hand corner of the photo as it gets ready to be read by the Multimat. On the pink slip is all my account information with all the account information of the biller. From there I have three alternatives.
1. The most old fashioned way. Take all the pink slips and the amount owed to the post office. The postal clerk takes over (a slight alternative is to transfer money from my postal bank account, but I use that account just for savings of coins collected) registers payments, stamps one tearoff part as your proof of payment and sees the money is transferred to the proper person or company. And the postal account does offer a variety of interest rates, mostly dismal, and a debit card if you want to use a postal account in place of a regular bank account.
2. Use the Multimat machines like the one pictured above. They are in all bank offices and now in various grocery stores. I can use the machines to pay my bills by inserting the pink slip and transferring from my account directly to the account of the person/company I owe the money to...I can also get account history, set up standing orders, send money to other countries, etc. It doesn't iron, make lunch however.
3. The most modern way: do it on line from my computer.
Switzerland became the world's banker centuries ago mainly in Geneva because it was at the crossroads. Even the French King Louis XVI had a a Swiss bank account. There are some 300 banks in Switzerland. Before I ever thought about even dreaming of living in Switzerland, I, like many others, assumed meant having a Swiss bank account meant you are rich.
Still, rich or poor, the system's effieciency is as good as the country's chocolate.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm a winter kinda gal

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

I admit it, I'm a winter person, which makes no sense because I am always cold. When others are running around in t-straps, sandles and shorts I wear slacks, socks and shirts. In winter if they sleep in cute little sexy nighties, I have on socks, flannel pjs, a turtleneck, etc. as I burrow under layers of covers.

Today I walked to Marronier for filet des perches for lunch. The snow-covered Jura glistened, the bise took chunks of my cheeks, but I was snug in my leather coat and layers of sweaters, lined mittons, scarf and hat. It felt wonderful.

Then again winter is:
*Thick sweaters

*Fuzzy socks
*Reading in bed
*Pots of tea (preferably with a chocolate something)
*A fire in the fireplace
*Cinanmon toast
*Kicking snow (notice the S word doesn't come in and for those thinking nasty, shovel)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Neuchatel visit--during the first snow

I discovered the first snow of the season when I opened the shutters at the house where I was spending the weekend near Neuchâtel, my old stomping grounds. The lake of Neuchâtel looked cold and grey, a whole different colour from Lake Geneve.

When I worked in Neuchâtel the train station was often my second home as I went out to visit clients around the country, headed for the airport or met contractors. I always liked the murals on the wall.

We headed up to La Chaux Fonds and the higher we went the deeper the snow. We wanted to go sledding and stopped at a farm/restaurtant/ski area. The farm part was authentic to the smell of cattle. Inside the restaurant was almost a Swiss cliché with the checkered curtains and panneled walls. The food was great, but the waitress had earned a certificate in surliness.

Back in Geneva there was only spitting snow, with no accumulation... sigh... I really love winter weather in Nov, Dec, Jan.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I wanta come in

Munchkin checks out windows and cries until someone lets her in. I am often interrupted when I'm at my desk. The thing is this is the SECOND floor American and FIRST floor European. She has to shiny up a tree and walk onto the roof over the front door, then stretch just in case I missed her
M E O O O O W ! ! ! ! !
What is especially pleasing, is that a year ago she was hovering between life and death after either being hit by a car, kicked by a horse, or attacked by some weapon. What a difference a year makes.
Too bad there's no sound on the blogs because her PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRR next to my elbow as I write this shows a contentment with my decision to go let her in. We won't discuss she's on my scarf or shedding.

Better than Nyquil

After hanging around the house for almost a week with a scratchy, sneezy, coughy cold a lunch at Marro with my housemate and a trip to the garden centre to find fall plants for the walkway into the house on a beautiful fall day is better than Contact and Nyquil and even Neocitrin.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I ordered our turkey

Thanksgiving isn't a big thing here in Switzerland. But it is the one holiday when homesickness sweeps over me.

Some years it just passed. One year I had fondue, a combining of past and present. Another year a colleague knowing how I felt made her idea of pumpkin pie.

For two years I took advantage of The Bookworm, a used bookstore and tearoom and put on a feed that was as good as my grandmother's and that's saying a lot. The tables were crowded in among the bookshelves, and each time I found myself seated next to a stuffed Peter Rabbit. People, whether they were strangers or not, talked until no one was a stranger.

A memorable year was over a decade ago when friends came from the US, my daughter came from Germany with friends, another friend from Holland and my partner at the time invited all our Swiss neighbours for a huge feast in his entertainment house. That year included all the typical decorations. At the request of my girlfriend's husband I tried in French to explain to the Swiss the traditions behind the tradition. I was able to link all nationalities somehow to the feast: Calvinists for the Swiss, Puritans living in Holland until I came to my daughter's then partner, a Finn. At a loss, I decided he was the one who drove the turkey down from Mannheim.

In France my girl friend has done chicken.

Last year we were going to do a meal, the turkey was bought but technical difficulties led to a replacement meal in a Chinese restaurant. The turkey later made a great Christmas dinner.

However, this year we have 18 people invited, my housemate has brought the decorations back from California, and discussions of menu are in full swing.

I just ordered the turkey(s) from the butcher in Collonge. He has a lovely little shop with the meat laid artistically in trays in shining glass cases. We will eat on the 28th not the 27th, but I don't care. I am giving thanks for a Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Memories of poinsettias and rings

My housemate brought home a mini poinsettia for my desk, a sign of the winter season to come. With the bise blowing at full tile it seems like winter has arrived. I love the little drops of water nestled on its intense red.
My mind went back to the poinsettia my mother called Jerry after her lawyer boyfriend who gave it to her. It looked nothing like my cute little plant. For 17 years it grew and grew until it would have been successful in a staring role in a horror film about swamps and trees with long tendrils. As for blooming, usually one or two leaves stuck out at the end of the long branches. She couldn’t quite bring herself to throw it out. When it disappeared I don’t know—sometime between when I moved to Toulouse and moved back when she was dying of cancer.
This led to another Jerry/mother memory.
Jerry had given her a beautiful ring, with a gold leaf turned up at the edges and the veins finely etched on the surface. On the rib were tiny diamond chips.
When she died I got the ring.
Everytime I wore it, something went wrong: a fight with my then boyfriend, a flat tire, a lost sale. I told a friend who said to put it into salt to purify it. I did.
The next time I wore the ring, I was in a rush to get to work. The car keys were missing. I searched and searched.
I took off the ring, and the keys appeared.
Was my mother cursing me from the grave?
Figuring my mother and I had a tortured relationship and my mother and my daughter had a good one, I gave it to Llara.
The first time she wore it she had a battle royale with her partner. She never wore it again. Somewhere in her moves it disappeared.
Maybe it ended up with poinsettia.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Only in Carouge

Only in Carouge, might one find a bottle of champagne thrown in the trash in place of Coke cans. I was with my “Ladies who lunch” writer friend. We meet two or three times a year, find a restaurant or a place of interest or both, talk about writing and other stuff. This time the conversation was about her trip to Syria, and the fact that she and her family loved it as much as I did.
Even though Carouge is a suburb of Geneva, it doesn’t FEEL like Switzerland. Maybe because it was designed by Turinese architects somewhere in the late 1700s when it belonged to Sardinia.
I love the pastel buildings, the boutiques with handmade jewelry, designer clothes made by the artist who owns the shop, antiques, etc.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Two signs of fall in Geneva...

are fallen leaves on the sidewalk and the American library book sale (below) held in the American Church with its bottle glass windows, wooden arches and stained glass. The church could belong as easily in New England as it does looking out on the lake. Thousands of books are available most for under 10 CHF, people mill around the tables, the café sells sandwiches (egg salad with mesclun lettuce, and I pretend the apple juice is cider) and all kinds of home baked goodies.
It is almost impossible not to run into friends. Despite 99% of the books being in English there is still a murmur of many different languages. As I mumphed down my chocolate cupcake and tea, the couple sharing my table were probably just slightly younger than I am. She spoke in Italian, he in English.
This year I again volunteered to help pack up the unsold books and cleared the classic table, books that I have set up for previous sales.
By the vast number of books being carried out in bags and boxes it was a success, which is great, but I would hate to lose this resource.

Bumper stickers aren't common in Switzerland, but I had to take this one. I don't know the nationality of the owner of the car from Canton Vaud, but I like his/her sentiment. Click on the photo if you can't read it.

The three-legged chair has stood in front of the UN. It was supposed to stand a short time until all the nations signed the anti-land mine treaty. The US has not signed. It is now representing the anti cluster-bomb treaty. The US has not signed, but for both treaties over 100 countries have pledged to end this horror. I do hope the new president will think about being a good global citizen and work on peace iniatives as hard as we've been working on making war against innocent people.

Phone 3,117 DL 30
When I replaced my stolen natel with a new phone, the manual was almost useless, although I could have guessed not to use it on an airplane. The demo on the Nokia site was somewhat more helpful, but mostly I learned by trial and error, as my Indian friend learned from the Xth+ SMS's I sent by accident as I was trying to learn how to do it. I have the basics down now.
And two parting thoughts from the book The Good Citizen
"Nurturing spirituality is so difficult today because we are bombardedby a market culture that evolves around buying and selling, promoting and advertising. The market tries to convince us that we are really alive only when we are addicted to stimulation and titillation."
"These days we cannot even talk about love the way James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. did. Nobody wants to hear that syrupy, mushy stuff. James Baldwin, however said love is the most dangerous discourse in the world. It is daring and difficult because it makes you vulnerable, but if you experience it, it is the peak of human existence."
From the essay by Cornel West
Let's hope that we can put our lives and planet in balance with love.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election hangover

I decided to lie down on my bed to read as the day was growing to the close before I would go back to back to editing my fourth novel.
I fell asleep only to wake as I thought it was getting dark.
I was wrong.
It was a new day; I had slept over 12 hours.
I had not realised how heart paining, bone-crushing nor soul-destroying tired I had been for the last decade, nor the release the election would bring.
My mail box was deluged with e-mails from other Americans and friends around Europe. They said everything from “yes we can,” “yes we did,” to “maybe we can go home again some day.” At each of them I wept.
I wept as I passed the headlines on different newspapers. Two can be loosely translated as “Election: We can all breath again” “America has returned.” They all carried the same message: the nightmare is almost over.
On the bus coming back from lunch with a friend, I bumped literally into another woman, who was American. She mentioned the election, tears streaming down her face. “I can’ stop crying, I am so happy,” she said. Two strangers we hugged as if our lives depended on not letting go.
I am not alone. If I am crazy there are others like me.
This morning I read this from Haaretz.
“This is the time to let go for a moment of all the anti-American feelings that have spread among many of us throughout the world for the past 10 years. A moment before the United States itself became the axis of evil - it was already very close - a moment before it became a hated and ostracized power, the American people proved to the whole world on Tuesday that there is another America.” Haaretz
We still have to get to January 20th. There are still huge problems ahead, but we are facing in the right direction—at last.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Letter

Dear President Elect Obama...

At 5:00 CET, I cried with joy when CNN announced you had won. It was the first time since March 2003 that I have not been ashamed or frightened when I saw an American flag. In fact those behind you on the stage as you stood there with your family reminded me that I once was proud to be an American.

When I was a child, I used to write to Santa with my wish list. Here's my wish list for my country.

For our personal safety
1. Restore Habeas Corpus
2. Dismantle the batallion assigned to NorthCom and make sure that posse comitas means that U.S. troops will never be used against American citizens.
3. Stop people's homes from being stormed by police without warrants and then imprisoning the occupants without charge for several days as happened in St. Paul this summer.
4. Stop spying on our citizens without the legal procedures that worked prior to the Patriot Act.
5. The past few years have proven that self-regulation is an oxymoron. Regulate the financial industry, along with the food industry. No longer leave the foxes in charge. They only direct the chickens to their mouths.
6. Rework the FDA so it isn't the drug companies paying for the tests of our medicines.
7. Pass strict environmental laws.
8. Bring jobs back to the US.
9. Develop a new health care system. My preference is single payer. People if they want something more can always buy their own insurance. Most people have to supplement whatever their employees offer anyway.

For the world
1. Close Gitmo
2. Get us out of Iraq
3. Remember, never in the history of the world has any army defeated the Afghanis. Negotiate and develop.
4. Work with the UN. For over 30 years the US has vetoed over 130 resolutions that could have led to a more peaceful world. Usually we voted alone or with one or two countries. It can't be us against the world.
5. Make sure our own greed does not harm the world economy as we have witnessed in the last few weeks. We did to ourselves and the industrialized world, what Bin Laden couldn't accomplish with his bombs.

I am sure like Santa could not bring me everything on my list you cannot accomplish everything on my list. Likewise, unless our food, water, medicines and bodies are safe from ourselves, we will be in as much danger if not more than from any terrorist. Americans are not used to sacrificing, but I trust you can make them realise that our planet cannot support our consumption, the answer to all problems is NOT violence, and we should seek common ground instead of conflict.

And when you get that puppy for your daughters, I do recommend Japanese chins.

Wishing you all the luck possible.

Donna-Lane NELSON

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I know you can't read the sign on the bus unless you have wonderful eyesight or double click to blow it up.

The part on the left tells the next stop(s) The one on the right is an advert for a bookstore. It says it has the largest collection of English books in Swiss Romand.

I giggled to see it in French. I will admit on some buses I've seen it both English and French, but this time it was French only.

It was like coming home

A sleep over at former neighbours.
I arrived in time for a cup of tea before we went to our different destinations. (Theirs was a celebration, mine was a dinner where instead of just people from different countries, we were from three different continents making for even more interesting conversations than normal). And by the time I got back to their flat, they were asleep, but my bed awaited.
Hanging around the next morning in pjs, as each of us did our things together and separately: reading, a movie, chat, some music, the computer, a lunch and I was off.
Walking by the grassy patch above, a place I walked by sometimes many times a day over eleven years, I almost saw Melanie at two learn the word for moon, remembered playing ping pong with Yara, and somewhere on the grass Albert, Amadeus and Mika frolicked, my daughter waying goodbye on her way back to Manheim -- nice memories.
Yet I know there are more to be made starting Tuesday night. I've booked my friends' couch because they get news stations I don't for election results.

Every Child is Special

The Indian movie on DVD was about a little boy, creative but dyslexic, who is misunderstood and miserable in his failures to learn until an art teacher recognizes his problem. Well acted, beautifully shot and with a message for those that have children not performing. Mighty Mom, I thought of you and wished you were there to show the parents how to do it.