Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Swiss Cows Live it Up

I love the way they use Swiss Cows in advertising. Above they are exercising. The posters are around Geneva, but I caught this one on the train to Zurich.

Here's some more examples:

They've swung through bushes

They've sung

They've danced the flamenco

They've beaten chess experts

I don't care how they advertise milk, just the idea of thinking about maybe trying to swallow a mouthful makes me want to gag unless it is doused in black, black chocolate or in a renversée.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boxing Day

Thumbelinna, which was what we named this years turkey, came wrapped with a big red ribbon from our butcher. Strangely she took longer to cook than the turkey at Thanksgiving which was almost double the size. In frustration we shoved her into the microwave at the end or maybe she would still be roasting.

Boxing Day conjures up thoughts of English drawing rooms, sherry and mince pies. Ours was a little more mundane involving a meal with English neighbours just back from Romania where they are advising for a new business school. But then again the lively conversation when people automatically know the significance of the Treaty of Westphalia, history backwards/forwards/sideways, the politics behind the politics of many different countries, was anything but mundane.

It has been a wonderful holiday as will be the rest of the week. None of the after Christmas shopping frenzy when many stores, restaurants and shops shut for the week. Some companies totally close down as well. Not all, but some. I plan to go to Zurich to see an old friend, her St. Bernard, husband and new baby.

This Christmas like all carry the ghosts of Christmases past. I can still feel my father’s arms as he lifted me up to see Dancer’s and Prancer’s, foot prints on the sloping roof outside my window.

It’s Sam singing rum te tum tum to the “Little Drummer Boy.” Or the tree not being decorated until a 1957 Styrofoam Sputnik was added to the decorations.

As an adult each year my Dad and Step Mom, whom I call Jim and Norma, sent oranges, the size of grapefruits from Florida to my office where it was guaranteed someone would be there to receive them. The year after my Dad died, the box arrived with a note. My assistant asked me why I paled when I read the note. I handed it to him to read the message “Love Jim and Norma.” In a way I felt my Dad reached beyond the grave one more time to bring me love at Christmas.
And there were Cousin Christmases in Garmish, and our "forced hikes" that left my Japanese chins leg feathers covered with tiny snow balls while the meal cooked slowly back at their flat that ovefr looked the Olympic Ski Hill. Once we started with Apfelkuchen on a sun filled terrace before walking back down the mountain for the main meal.

There were the formal Swiss Christmases in Payerne, and the less formal in Geneva with my Syrian, Swiss, Czech and Indian friends. There was the year that we had Llara, Yara, Tara and Sara, or the year we belly danced through the holiday as storms raged outside.

This year was quieter, housemate, Sons no. 1 and 2 and Italian friends for dinner. The food from fois gras with figs to homemade cranberry sauce was appreciated. The fire in the fireplace burned warming our bodies on the outside as the champagne and food warmed our insides.

I missed having my daughter near, but Inshallah, I will be with her next week at this time not just for a few days, but for the month of January.

Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Penguin Bowling

Or confessions of an accidental Penguin Collector

Did you know penguins can filter salt water through a gland for drinking? I didn't until I got a miniature penguin bowling set for Christmas that included a booklet about penguin habits, traits, jokes, etc..

I never meant to collect penguins. It started as a joke when my uncle in Florida and I were exchanging penguin items. My friends, thinking I wanted penguin items for myself, had an AHA moment and started buying them for me. Before I knew it I had penguin everything from beautiful glass blown art works to tacky penguin slippers.
In the flat I lived in on the other side of the lake, an eight-year old neighbour, who used to give tours of my apartment to her friends, always included a stop at the penguin display. That and a prism, which once belonged to my grandmother and where we would shoot rainbows at each other were considered the highlights
My daughter each year comes up with a penguin gift and her originality in finding things is a tribute to her imagination, diligence and intelligence. Likewise now my housemate has started. Thus this penguin bowling set now adorns my bookcase, the photo taken next to the CD Player where Garou's* new album is playing. I couldn't resist having only the lead penguin looking toward the approaching ball. I hope he alerts the others.

*Very different less Joe Crocker and more Bobby Short with both French and English songs. I could picture Fred Astaire dancing to his "I Love Paris."

Ellen Goodman

What a shock. After all the Chrismas festivities I slipped upstairs and checked The Boston Globe only to read the last column by the retiring Ellen Goodman.

Fridays will not be the same without her words. Sometimes it was like she was in my head. Her column on her only daughter leaving for college captured my feeling when my daughter, the same age for had left for Germany a couple of weeks before. When she talked about the passing of the ritual holiday meals from the older to generation to us, it was if she were talking to me. Her description of birds and peace on her Maine vacations match my joy in the small natural things.

As for her politics -- I felt she was saying what I wanted to say, but she had a wider audience.

The letters posted on the internet about her column equally shocked me. Of course, there was the you'll-be-missed. However, the viciousness and the hatred of others, accusing her of being a baby killer because of her pro-choice stance, of helping to destroy the country because of her feminism. She was labelled the horror of horrors, a LEFTIE.

When did the level of discourse descend to such a level? I couldn't help compare it to our Christmas conversation with me as a far leftie and a guest as a far right. So many statements began with "you probably won't agree..." Amazingly enough we often did.

Yes, I will miss Ellen's political voice. I could say Goodman's voice, but after so many years of her being part of my regular weekly reading, she seems more like Ellen. I will equally miss her insights to regular life. Unlike many male political columnists, perhaps like a Mary Cassette painting, big ideas can trickle down to the small details of daily life and up again and that is what I will miss the most.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sneaky Solstice

Usually the winter solstice is my most important and holiest of days. It represents the rebirth of the earth when the days start to get longer making way for new growth. I want to bring a real tree into the house as a reminder of life.

This year so bogged down with family problems it came and went with out me even being away. I can't say it is my busy social life, because I have gone to ground so to speak, keeping engagements to a minimum. Fortunately I have friends who understand.

On the other hand, this holiday at home will be simple and warm without the glitz but with the sharing and caring. On Dec. 31 (Inshallah) I will be in D.C. with my daughter, which is the greatest gift of all.

And maybe missing the solstice if I took the time to solve one more problem is as renewing as the earth turning towards the light.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A tale of Two Gardens

Snow from the balcony in Corsier Port overlooking the lake and the Jura
Snow through the screen taken in Long Island.

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.

Okay, maybe Charles Dickens wasn't talking about snow. Geneva had snow most of the weekend, small amounts in comparison to how the US East Coast was zonked in. The two pictures show the respective storms. If it were a contest on who has the most snow, my girl friend in Long Island would win hands and shovels down.
The worst part of a storm is the shovelling, the slippery driving, the cold.
The best part is the beauty and being snug and cozy inside. And although the storms were three thousand miles apart it was fun sharing the information about them with a friend so far away, although there were moments of fantasy about chatting and chocolate in front of a chimney fire in the same place rather than an ocean apart. On the other hand, each of us could enjoy the chocolate and chimney(s) with the chatting being by email.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blog Challenge No. 8

This is almost cheating, because it is about people I know and care about, but the evening was so special, I am hoping it will fulfill my housemate's challenge that within four weeks I do eight blogs observing people and situations.

Snow fell softly outside the small city flat. Inside it was warm in temperature and feeling. One wall was painted terra cotta that set off the exhibition-quality enlarged photos of sunsets.

We were there, my housemate, her No.1 and No.2 sons and me for dinner and to look at the photos No. 1 son took on his recent trip to Madagascar. I felt as if I were back in my childhood avidly absorbing other worlds from the National Geographic as I looked at the red clay, the houses, the sea.

Fondue bubbled in the kitchen. The viande seche was topped with the traditional pickles and onions. The white wine was as crisp as the air outdoors. Our talk was of Christmas, who would sleep where and how the dinner would be. For the last few weeks, Santa lists have been circulated along with check backs between us to make sure that everyone is happy. The desires are modest, the gifts few but selected and wrapped with thought and caring.

At the end we broke the Escalade Marmite, Son No. 2 and me, the youngest and oldest as tradition decrees (there is an advantage to aging)

I marvel that what had been a stop gap measure to live here temporarily while awaiting my Swiss nationality and until I could find another place in this apartment-short area, has become such a joy. Over the last few years it is not only the fun things like fondue and photos, but a sharing of the mundane and sometimes the crisises, the chores and the small things that just make life richer.

As we went back into the cold, my heart was anything but cold but beat just a bit faster with happiness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pleasures and 1 non pleasure

Today was one of those days that almost everything seemed wonderful. Passing a window full of chocolate cakes, even without buying one, is a pleasure. I know where to go when a chocolate attack hits BIG TIME:

I've always loved these tile directions on where dogs should poop. My boys never understood without help from me. It still makes me smile.
Then this was the first snow of the season in the city, not a lot, just enough to make one hum "Sleigh bells ring are you listening?" The lake was a beautiful gray and I was hit once again with the wave of gratitude and joy that this is my country.
On the bus a man probably in his mid-forties talked on his cell phone and was telling whoever was on the other hand how he caught snowflakes on his tongue. Childlikeness is charming.
Had lunch at the Château des Penthes with a writer friend as we caught up on our lives. We are seldom in the same country or city at the same time, which made it extra special. They have put a conservatory on one end of the building where we ate and watched the snow fall on the countryside around the château. The waiters were friendly and joked with us bringing tabasco in the place of artificial sweetener for my friend, saying they misunderstood. Then they brought out the packet of sweetener.
My friend said that the note I wrote to her French husband was perfectly correct--talk about a Christmas gift to hear that after all my hard work this year. Of course I will never write him again, so as not to blow my image. Also was thrilled to discover as I studied my German (my goal in 2010 and probably 2011 is to bring my German back--it is buried somewhere in a harddrive in a far away drawer of mind) that as I was reading the grammer rules for the third time in three days that the book was in French and I hadn't even been aware.
Sitting down and writing three good pages with flying fingers on my work in progress, The Experiment. I've about 109 pages and finishing it in 2010 is another goal.
The only non pleasure? The BA strike. That's what I'm booked onto to see my daughter. Like Scartlett O'Hara, I'll think about it tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


What are soldiers doing in strange clothes and weapons outside Calvin's Church? It is the L'Escalade.
407 years ago, or so the story goes, Mère Royaume was happily adding root vegetables to her soup pot when she heard a noise. Investigating, she saw French soldiers scaling the wall of the Vielle Ville. She dumped the scalding soup, pot and all on them, raised the alarm, and the Genevois beat them back. Each year the event is celebrated in a fête that recreates some of the events. The Vielle Ville is turned back in time. Chocolate shops sell the soup pot filled with marzipan vegetables.

Vin chaud is sold everywhere as is hot vegetable soup.Usually the weather is so cold, like this year's fête and so windy (trees were dancing and white caps covered the lake) that the warm beverages are more than welcomed.

Exhibitions like this showing how the iron mongers worked with giant bellows dot the cobblestoned street. The street where the iron ongers once worked and lived is to the right.

People dress in epic clothes. Children dress in costume (although what Indians and spacemen have to do with the attack confuses me). The kids sing the Escalade song for which the listeners are expected to and do give coins. Drummers and fifers play music as they march through the streets, and Yankee Doodle Dandy even if it is an anachronism, has the right spirit.
For the only time during the year, the secret passageways are opened under the city for tours. Speeches and parades mark the event and communes around Geneva offer free vegetable soup and festivities to their citizens.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blog Challenge No. 7

My housemate challenged me to do eight blogs about observations of people and things while I was out and about. She gave me four weeks, but I will beat her timetable.

The bus filled at Collonge and an old and young man got on. The grandson made sure his grandfather was comfortable next to me as he went to get the old man a ticket.

How did I know the relationship?

I eavesdropped, although it is impossible not to in such close quarters.
The grandfather, still with a full head of hair, was fumbling with a clear plastic folder closed on three sides, the kind that has holes to fasten in a notebook. His grandson held his passport and helped him fill in a small yellow form once he found it.

At Versanez, the bus discharged about half its passengers. I offered to change to another place so the grandson could sit with his grandfather. He smiled and said it wasn’t necessary “Mais merci beaucoup.”

For the first time I looked at the younger man. He was balding but had his head almost shaved alà Pascal Obsipo. He wore jeans, a black leather jacket and if he had been frowning he would have not been out of place with a New York Street gang. I could almost hear the beat of the music of the opposing gangs in West Side Story. His jacket was partially open and I could see the words fight and kill peeking out between the sides.

What the hell, I thought, I want to know what it says. I asked and he opened his jacket so I could read the whole thing.

“Fight Errorism
Ignorance Kills”

“It’s an English play on words,” he said in English.

Then we reverted to French. For the rest of the ride to Rive, we discussed that fear without facts was responsible for many of the ills of the world, my daughter’s bumper sticker, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” and how sad it was that his sweatshirt was smarter than many people.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Père Noël welcomes diners to the Café de Paris, where the only item on the menu is a steak. Even for this non-steak lover, it is a wonderful meal.

The Christmas chalets are up on Rue Mont Blanc filled with arts and crafts. Others sell hot wine, sausages and their scent along with essense perfumes the air. Nothing like the Christmas marchés in Strasbourg, Stuttgart or Montreux, but nice nevertheless.

Even my little village of Corsier has caught the spirit with a tree in the town centre. Yes, this is the town centre with the post, a tea room and across the street one clothing store. It has always amazed me that trees can be decorated and bulbs will not be stolen.
The best decorations are downtown in the English Garden and some of the shopping streets.
Ho Ho Ho!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Blog Challenge No. 6

The decorations at the edge of the stage for the Indian dance recital
Place: Auditorium at an Elementary School
Reason: An evening of Indian dance and music

The little boy's eyes lit up at each word his father, a white-haired European, spoke. His much younger Indian mother did not elicit any such joy, just calm acceptance. The chair was between his parent's and he took great pleasure in climbing up and down., up and down. When you are only two and a half, all chairs are huge obstacles and each mounting a victory that made him smile and look to his father for approval, which came quickly. When the performance still had not started and growing bored, he walked to the stairs leading to the stage three rows away.
He climbed up them, only to be joined by a little girl dressed in a jumper and matching striped tights and jersey. Her hair was more or less in two little pony tails. Together they climbed the stairs and came down on their bottoms, laughing each time.

Only when the lights dimmed and the visual feast that was to be the evening's entertainment started, did the children return to their parents. The little boy watched transfixed for about half the performance, well over an hour. Then, because he grew restless, his mother took him out. The father followed. The little girl had fallen asleep.

Blog Challenge No 5

Place: E Bus Corsier Port to Rive

Burly must be a requirement to be a controller on the Geneva bus system. At least the four that got on at Arrêt Ruth were burly in their black uniforms with the orange tpg logo on their left to their alleged hearts. They wore wide black belts on which were leather pouches for their mobiles, walkie talkies, ticket machines and although they wore no guns, it looked as if they should have guns. This was only the second time in five years, I've seen them on this route.
The bus was crowded as people headed downtown for Saturday Christmas shopping.
"Billet, abbonements," the oldest called out and all the passengers started fumbling in their bags and pockets. A teenage girl, who had been talking on the phone using a headset did not hear until one of the younger controllers stood in front of her.

She looked up and a "Oh Shit, I'm busted for riding black," crossed her face. Not only did she not have a ticket or monthly card, she did not have any identification. She started to write out her address, but two of the controllers got off with her at the next stop to finish the ticket and fine process.
Meanwhile a teenage boy was also busted for riding black, the only other passenger without proper ticketing. He signed his name to the form that will lead to a fine being sent to his house. As the controller got off he said, "Bon weekend," the contoller said as he dismounted the bus.
"Vous aussi," the boy responded more by rote than sincerity I am sure. I don't think he really cared if the controller had a good weekend or not.

Friday, December 04, 2009

As I was taking the photo

My daughter was sending me this link from I am reducing the story a bit. However, Munchkin proves the point of the story.

LOS ANGELES - What do cats do when their owners are away? There was one way to find out — "cat cams."
Fifty house cats were given collar cameras that took a photo every 15 minutes. The results put a digital dent in some human theories about catnapping.
Based on the photos
22 percent of the cats' time was spent looking out of windows
12 percent was used to interact with other family pets
8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos.
Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

The 777 photos studied by Villarreal showed the cats looking at a television, computer, DVDs or other media 6 percent of the time and hiding under tables 6 percent of the time.

Monday, November 30, 2009


The Boston Globe has reported that Harvard lost over $1.8 billion from its endowment funds because of investments. Staff had warned Larry Summers then President of the university of the dangers and he refused to listen.

So why, why, why does Obama have him on his team?

The Minaret Vote

As a Swiss who voted to allow the minarets, I am deeply disappointed in my chosen country. Saying that, I know the vote breakdown that people in cities who have more contact with foreigners voted as I did. They have less fear than those who live in villages with less foreign-contact who voted against. This division has long existed in the country. Swiss French are overall (not totally) more progressive than Swiss Germans (not totally). This has given rise to the phrase roesti curtain, which marks the number time of different votes depending on language.

At least we have a right to vote.

I was also unhappy that my fellow citizens voted to continue to export arms, but I am proud of their approving a new train connection and a tunnel.

I don't always agree with the way my fellow countrymen vote, but I approve that we vote on things that the citizens of other countries have to stand by and let the government decide.

Lastly, the UDC politically loves to play on fears and whip un Xenophobia and the Swiss like all other places sometimes fall for the ploy, making us no smarter than those in other countries.

Switzerland is made up of flawed humans as are all countries.

Still, I want to let all my Muslim friends know, we aren't all that narrow minded.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Thanksgiving to Christmas via the Lake in Reverse Order

Okay, it's early but with the comings and goings, we thought we'd get the tree up early. Originally we wanted a dusty rose tree but the lack of dusty rose ornaments made apricot the next logical choice. And with Christmas carols playing on the CD-Player, a scented candle burning and sipping vin chaud, we crossed over from Thanksgiving to the pre-Christmas spirit with just the right amount of seasonal spirit. And to top it all off, my housemate decided to make brownies, making the house smell even more wonderful.

The sun sets early as we approach the longest night. In Hermance, despite the cold a boat full of fishemen tried their luck against the backdrop of grey clouds, Jura with just a touch of snow on the top.

Another Thanksgiving. Another cow? Actually this is a cow in front of a boulangerie where I had wanted to stop for a long time, so when we were picking up bread for Thanksgiving dinner we stopped. What a wonderful place. There is nothing like the yeasty smell of baking bread on a cold rainy November day.

Blog Challenge No. 4

My housemate has challenged me to write what I observe when I am out and about at least two times a week for four weeks. Here is number 4.

Place: Caveau des Dix Vins

“Tu est belle, belle, ma petite,” the waitress cooed at the dog, who was anything but petite. This is an Irish wolfhound that stands above my hips. However, the dog was well known in the restaurant and was immediately ushered to “Sa Place” near the grey-brick fireplace.

The waitress, dressed in riding pants and boots, had blonde spiked hair and a face that could not stop smiling, didn’t bother with menus as my lunch companion ordered: assiette chacuterie, salade, fondue and wine from the vineyard owned by the restaurant.

The bearded chef came out to greet the dog then us.

Orange gourds decorated the window sills. The tables were wooden, not numerous.

Over the course of the meal, several other people came over to greet the dog: a man wore a red torque with the Swiss white cross on each side, a patriotic attempt against the cold.

Another couple, called and asked in English “What brand is the dog?”

Whenever we take Cordelia (the dog) into a restaurant there is one of two reactions: horror at the size or intrigue.

This time it was intrigue and a welcome back for an old four-footed friend, that just happened to bring with her two clients.

Blog Challenge No. 3

My housemate has challenged me to write what I observe when I am out and about at least two times a week for four weeks. Here is number 3.

Place: Starbucks at Rive
Reason for being there: killing time until the movie Capitalism, a Love Story

I had grabbed the only two free seats in the place as my housemate went to search for my chai latte and her coffee (one does not come between her and her coffee).

Outside the window the buses E, G, 1, 33 and 53 were coming and going at the stop. A few people huddled in the cold. One young couple cuddled.

Inside, two teenage girls no more than 15 were hunched over half a sheet of A4 paper taking turns writing on it. Both had long, what we used to call dirty blond hair, but it was shiny. One wore a Scandavian-style sweater, the other the new fashionable short-sleeve coat sweaters.

Whatever they were writing did not have to be done in straight lines because each in turn twisted the paper. One wrote along the edge. She rested her head on her upper arm as she wrote. Her hair trailed over on the table as the other girl strained to see what she was writing. Triumphant the writer turned the sheet over to the non writer who added whatever she had to say, but made no attempt to hide it.

What were they writing? I don’t know. I wanted to ask, but without saying a thing they stood up simultaneously, threw on their jackets, pocketing the paper and left just as my housemate brought the chai and coffee.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving, Geneva Style

Thanksgiving is the only time I have ever felt deep-down painfully homesick, unless I can celebrate it here. For too many years it was just another work day. This year, unlike last when we filled the Corsier house with people, my housemate and I are not putting an extravaganza but keeping it more family oriented. And we will do it on Friday because of kids working on Thursday. It makes the homesickness disappear.

(I can still catch some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the Internet and later will find out the results of the Boston Latin/Boston English and the Reading/Stoneham football games).

Today the butcher called to make sure we didn’t want the turkey today. And today, I made my apple pie and my green bean dish for tomorrow as I listened to Garou and Il Divo (the rest of the cooking will be done tomorrow) and thought again of all the ways I have been blessed.

This has not been the best year: too many friends have lost parents, too many cancers and other illnesses, too many life-wrenching decisions to be made by those I care about. I was grateful I could listen and help and saddened by their pain.

Support was given back with my own family crisis. I can never thank my friends enough for all the phone calls when I was in Florida, probably the reason I was able to cope at all.

Despite all the rough spots, I am reminded again of how lucky I am with my support systems in Switzerland and France and the friends and family in the States.

I am thankful to have two books in production for publication next year, one almost ready to be submitted and one half written. It was a slow start to writing.

My client list has grown, as well as the warmth of the contacts, which reminds me again that meaningful work is one of the ingredients of happiness.

I am thankful for the fun of my travels, be it my sheep herding lessons in the UK, renewing friendships in Damascus, or getaway weekends with cousins or housemates to misc. European cities.

I am thankful for my daughter, our Skypes and especially her support on many levels with my Mom. I am thankful, that a side benefit of the problems with my Mom is becoming closer to my nephew.

I am thankful that I can live alone in my nest in Argelès and with my housemate in Corsier. Someone once called me a cake-eater (wanting to have it and eat it too). I think I succeeded with my two homes.

Every time I vote I am thankful for my Swiss nationality. I nver look at the lake, the mountains, the vineyards, without thinking with great joy, this is my country.

And as a gift here’s my green bean recipe. Quantities are proportional for the number of servings.

Fresh green beans
1 garlic clove per four servings
Tomatoes (fresh if flavourful otherwise canned crushed) chopped finely
Olive oil

Boil the green beans al dente.
Saute the mushrooms in olive oil and when almost done add the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft
Mix with drained green beans.

Can be made a day in advance and nuked. Crumbled bacon can also be added.

Ashamed once again

The glow of not being ashamed of being American last November and January has vanished. With our refusal to sign the Anti Land Mine Treaty, because we need it to protect ourselves and allies. 150 countries have signed it. China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia are hold outs and Russia has indicated it would sign it.
Once again we are in the minority when peace iniatives are approved by the rest of the world. Further research shows that when it came to a full vote usually there were only one to three countries voting with us.
Talking with a young man here who is German and American he confessed he was ashamed of both his heritages.
When will we stop being killers?

Blog Challenge No 2

Place : Japanese Restaurant at Stand

The cafeteria style Japanese restaurant bears little resemblance to its predecessor, La Truffe. The elegant linen table cloths are gone, replaced by black lattice-work trays picked up at the counter.

I had been planning to eat at Mikado, but since I walked by this restaurant, I popped in and sat at a table for four. All the two-persons tables were occupied.

A woman in her early thirties asked if the other places were free.

She was quickly accompanied by a man probably no more than 30 but vastly overweight, something I expect in the US, but not here. He wore a crisp maroon shirt, and if he stood next to my bedroom drapes he would have been perfect match. His tray had double orders of everything.

He wore a wedding ring, she did not. At first I wondered if they were lovers, but they quickly launched into a discussion of office problems. Jean was causing all kinds of problems because he was out so much and they weren’t sure who could pick up the slack.

If they were as adept at solving problems as they were at using chopsticks, I am sure they would solve the problem without much trouble.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blog Challenge No. 1

My housemate has issued a challenge. Two times a week for the next four weeks, I am to describe something I see while I am out and about. Here goes...

Place: Eaux Vives bus stop

The teenage girl was fascinated by the article about Finn, the bear in 20 Minutes, the local freebe paper. Finn was hovering between life and death, after being shot in the chest by police trying to rescue the mentally handicapped man who had ventured into his Bern enclosure. She turned back to the article two times.

She was dressed like most teens, jeans, jacket, a jersey. Her hands were half covered with the sleeves of her jersey pulled to where the fingers joined the main part of her hand. Her right hand held her natel, making turning the pages a bit more difficult. The only thing that made her stand out from other teens was that her sneakers were white, and unbranded. Having looked for unbranded sneakers for a while. I wanted to ask her where she got them, but my bus arrived.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Xenophobic Nightmares

The UDC, the right wing party is pushing for the banning of minarets in Switzerland. Afterall there are four in the whole country. None have the call to prayers. We will know if they are successful after the votation Sunday. I have already mailed in my vote and of course, I do not want them banned. Afterall we would be the only country in the world to ban them. As usual you need to read the wording careful. If you vote non you are voting to allow them... Click on the photo to see it better.
What I love is this poster. The Xenophobe is having nightmares, but the more tolerant person is dreaming of multi-coloured sheep.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sanity weekend

With much too much work, family problems, made worse by covering a conference for a week my housemate and I took advantage of a gift coupon at a Lausanne Hotel. Fog that hid the lake from view did nothing to destroy the sense of escape from the ratrace we've both been living with. Travelling with her is soooooo easy. When Capitalism a Love Story wasn't showing at the movie theatre we switched to Tresor, a French comedy about what a bulldog puppy does to a marriage. If one bus didn't show up, we hopped on another. A bit of sight seeing, a bit of Christmas shopping and some good meals and an antique fair where we added to my imaginary farm house and played the Sugar Daddy Game. We would look at a group of whatevers and pretend a sugar daddy had agreed to buy one thing. Then we had to explain why. Even if we liked nothing, we still had to select an item, although that was seldom the case. And as proud nouvelle Suisses, we had to admire William Tell.
Book stalls and fall flowers brightened the government building.

Nothing is so bad that tea time overlooking Lausanne's roofs can't make it better.

This is the first time I saw a baby cow and the form was different than the many plastic cows that dot Switzerland.

Walking the old route

While covering the ICA Conference I stayed with my former neighbours, a homecoming in many ways. Time with them is always a pleasure.
The conference was two buildings away from where I used to work and I what a pleasure to walk the old route to work AND WALK BY MY OLD office to the conference centre. My favourite tree was in full autumn colours one day, yet another was much more typical. Fog.
How I love Geneva.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mouse safari

Both my housemate and I talk to ourselves, mostly of the "Now, where did I leave (fill in the blank)" variety. Thus Sunday night when her voice took on not actually hysteria, but an unsual tense tone, I went downstairs to investigate.

Munchkin was chasing a mouse around the living room. In an effort to be humane (mousemane) we grabbed the cat and put her outside the living room and tried to rescue said mouse. Having lived for many years with my daughter's cat who regularly presented living mice to me, including once dropping one into my cereal, I considered myself a fairly good mouse rescurer. It is nice to know I can still be humbled by things beyond my control.

My housemate and I were the Tom(asinas) in a Tom and Jerry cartoon with the mouse out-smarting us at every turn. First behind the shrank, behind the television, behind the CD holder, behind the sectional couch and back again. We would swear he went left and find him right. We turned over all the pieces of sofa onto the rug (not a recommended decorating scheme). Once we had a chance, but he nestled himself in electric cords making the towel we threw over him ineffective. We would bend down (not our most picturesque moments) to stare where we thought he might have gone...Nothing, Nada, Niet...

Well past bedtime, we gave up, let the cat back in and went to bed behind closed doors.

The story does not have a happy ending for the mouse. My housemate cleaned up a small amount of mouse intestines the next morning.

Sigh... We tried.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


1. The opportunity to share my Geneva with two exceptionally intelligent women, one of whom I met in Barcelona, one of whom I interviewed. Their pleasure expanded mine.

2. A fondue with seven people all involved in the co-operative movement at the Cafe du Soleil all with many interests and lively conversational skills.

3. Staying with my Indian friends in my old apartment complex during the ICA conference. It is like coming home, extended family.

4. Sharing photos of an Indian wedding with many people in the photos that I know.

5. Walking my old route to the conference centre and NOT having to go into my old company but to the conference doing what I love--reporting.

6. Drop dead beautiful weather.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Lake

A cloud slept on the lake this morning. the snow capped Jura were above it and the yellow autumn trees between the lake and the house were bright and free of any mist. Almost each leaf was visible.

I ran to get my camera. By the time I got back, the cloud had begun to stretch slowly growing above the mountains. Inch by inch the Jura disappeared.

Too late for the shot, not too late to appreciate the beautiful way to start the day.

I claim this sweatshirt

In the name of Princess Munchkin of Chemin du Port

Friday, November 13, 2009

Video night in Corsier Port

The cold November drizzle outside made a perfect video night. My housemate built a fire in the fireplace and we selected our goodies, this time salmon on toast and grapes with the last of the wine from Sunday’s dinner.

Goodies are a big part of video nights going everywhere from shrimp and champagne to hummus with carrot and fennel sticks. Needless to say Munchkin, the cat, has a preference for the fishier side of the snacks. She does get one shrimp or a bite of salmon, which considering respective sizes is fair. When food is not to her liking she curls up in a lap or next to us breaking into purrs regularly as if to comment on the program.

We’ve just started on Everwood, a series we’d never heard of. I found season one at the Library Book Sale. The video nights ritual started first with Grey’s Anatomy, moved on to Brothers and Sisters (the latest season is on order), Monk and Boston Legal.

Everwood reminds me of Northern Exposure:
City doctor moves to western small town: check
Town full of characters: check
Town full of natural beauty: check
Eccentric nurse: check check Edna or Marilyn
Excellent writing: check

Maybe Everwood goes a little deeper into relationships already
Life is good.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I speak Djembe

When my housemate asked if I wanted to do something crazy, I first said yes then asked what. It turned out not to be all that crazy, but a concert that combined classical, jazz, pop with African drums...and each member of the audience had his or her own drum. The master of ceremonies taught us how to play with the perfectionism of a French mime. The video is from an earlier show.

My hands are still tingling.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

If you only have love

As I was making the apple pie today, I had Jaques Brel playing on the CD-player. He sang If you only have love, or the French version and I started to laugh.

I had to tell my housemate the story behind the song.

I was about to marry a second time, and I asked my housemate to learn the song to sing at the wedding. "It's the last song on the album," I said. She had a great voice.

A couple of days later she asked, "Are you sure you want me to sing that song?" When I said yes,
she shrugged. She asked again a few days later adding, "But your mother will be there?" I knew my mother was prudish, but there was nothing sexual in the English translation of the song.

The third time she asked I understood. There were two disks in the album and she had mistakenly taken the second one. The song had lyrics like: "The hotel where we played games,"
You bayed the moon just like a hound," and "You see, I've forgotten your name."

The lyrics turned out to be prophetic for the short lived marriage. I gave up getting married, she did not give up singing.

Relish making

My first day at a grown up job after graduation from university, one of my co-workers brought in home-made relish. I loved it. Years passed, she became my baby-sitter, I eventually shared a house with her daughter (and others) and our relish supply was always unlimited.

Then one day, the woman had a heart attack and as we waited in the room for relatives with loved ones in intensive care we realised that the recipe existed only in her head. Of course, we couldn't go in and ask.

Fortunately she recovered and relish-making became a fall femine tradition. First the daughter, the mother and myself. When my daughter was older she joined us, a right of passage. The routine was the same, always followed by a special home made tomato soup.

I have an English friend. Twice now we've carried on the tradition of making THE RELISH, albeit nine years apart. Cheerfully we peeled the cucumbers, cut the onions on the balcony where the smell was less, blended the flour, vinegar and tumeric, placed it all in sterilized glasses and violà we have relish for ourselves and a few beloved friends.

No tomato soup. I can't get one of the essential ingredients, but I can live with that.

You can take the lazy, hazy days of summer

It is autumn that I love with its red leaves. This year the leaves are ALMOST as beautiful as New England's.

And it is making applie pie with apples from a friend's tree.

And after years of living in an apartment building, even raking the leaves are a pleasure, especially if there is wood burning stove scenting the air in the neighbourhood.

And it is seeing the cat on my housemate's legs. Munchkin always finds the coziest spot in the house. But then, I understand. I love after getting up in the middle of the night to find the spot under the duvet still warm (unless of course Munchkin got there first)

Rainbow scramble

Normally August is rainbow season, but driving home after seeing This is It, the sky burst forth with a rainbow. Between traffic and trying to dig out the camera, we almost missed capturing this beauty. As it was we didn't get the best angle, but nevertheless this an accident-free rainbow and the accident-free part is almost as miraculous as the rainbow itself.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visual lullaby

I didn't lower the rolladen last night and through the sheer curtain I could see the tree with the street light swaying in the wind. There are still many leaves to dance. The colours were muted Soothing.

Today is SUSHI. YAHOO. I've been sushi deprived since going to Argelès in mid September. Followed by the Michael Jackson movie and going to an exhibition from my housemate's Norway photo trip (not just her photos, and although I haven't seen them, I think her photos would be worthy of an exhibition. The lady is good...

Rain is pelting down as more leaves fall from the trees leaving pretty colours on the ground. I'll be less enthusastic as I'm raking them on a better weather day..

Something about a rainy November Monday with a morning to work on the newsletter, cozy in my room/office that causes rolls of contentment to sweep through me.

The internet is working well. We've discovered the secret. If I log on in my room the connection is weak. If I carry the laptop downstairs to the basement office, I log on, there's a strong wifi signal that does not fade when I walk two flights upstairs to my desk with the laptop on. As I run around with my laptop I remember when I had to take my first Mac to the repairman. I carried it gingerly, much more so than I ever did my daughter (sorry Llara), After taking baby steps into the store, hugging the precious computer to my bosom, he took it in one hand and took it up stairs two steps at a time. Arghhhhhhhhh.

The only thing that is missing at this moment is a cup of tea, and that I will remedy immediately.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Middle of the Night Musings

My housemate was in the mountains for the night. Her number 1 son was in his own flat in Geneva and number 2 son and I had shared some cheese and conversation before he left with good byes and remarks there was a good chance that he wouldn’t be back before he went to Venice for a week and he was leaving on Tuesday.

In the middle of the night after going to the bathroom, I heard noises in the house. It is a big house with its share of creaks, but these were moving around noises. Sometimes I can hear people nextdoor but that is when they are hammering or drilling, something they never do in the middle of the night.

Maybe the robbers, seeing there was no car in the garage, had come back. They weren’t very good robbers, taking my five franc pieces but not the bills next to it. They rejected my ring watch which had been in the middle of the dish with the five franc pieces.

My writers’ imagination pictured headlines like “Writer slain in foiled robbery”. I saw chalk marks around where I had been slain and yellow police tape. I realized I could lock myself in the bathroom and scream and scream out the window. Meanwhile Munchkin, the cat purred away on the foot of my bed. She is definitely not a watch cat.

Then I smelled toast.


I called out number 2 son’s name.

“Sorry to wake you,” he called upstairs.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I am chuffed

That's my kid crossing the finish line of the Dublin Marathon. From the day she was born, my daughter was always stubborn. When she set a goal she did everthing she could to meet it without being ruthless. Thus she has faced hardships and come out the other side. The marathon is a metaphor for her character and I am so mega proud of her not just for finishing the marathon but for being the woman she is.

On retourning to Geneve

1. How wonderful to have my housemate greet me then serve champagne, shrimp and other goodies as we caught up on the news.

2. The leaves are almost as beautiful as in New England this year, many more reds. Even though it was foggy.

3. Got through the pile of paperwork in the morning, although there are two more projects that need to be done that will take a little more time. sighhhhhhhhhhh... Since housemate has headed for the hills until tomorrow afternoon, there are no real distractions.

4. I can't find my 501 French Verbs and exercise book. I can't imagine the robbers would take them. They weren't very good robbers. They got my 5 CHF pieces but left some bigger bills that were next to the change. And they rejected my ring watch.

5. I know people think I am a bit nuts on colour co-ordination, BUT and I swear it was an accident, the vitamins and calcium pills I bought in the US I just opened and one matches the roses in my duvet cover, the other the leaves. Still makes me want to leave a bunch out as a decorating touch.

Kittens in a tree

My neighbour in Argeles cracked for two orphan kittens and brought them home until she could find a home for them. She named them Chip and Chap (which is the Danish version of Disney's Chip and Dale).
The kittens are two black and white puff balls that tumble over each other, will sit in the kitchen and make comments that dinner is not forthcoming, at a speed they approve and fall asleep on her red velvet chair with nary a complaint from her. Watching them play is better than any television show that I can think of.
It would be worth starting a pool to see if she decides to keep them herself or goes along with the original plan to find a home for them, EXCEPT all the odds are on her keeping them and no one will bet on her giving them away.

Monday, October 26, 2009

my Heart is in Ireland today

What is it doing there?

Running in the Dublin marathon.

There are so9 many times I'm proud of my kid.

This is one of them.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Argeles Gospel Singers

Who'd have thunk it, as my mother used to say. A great gospel choir in the middle of a Catalan village, but this group has performed internationally under the direction of Alain Martin, who has a voice that can portray the pain of a slave on a Georgia plantation. When he sings, I want to cry. My friend, Barbara had a solo and was called out as the doyenne of the group. The reminder we are in France comes from some very strange prounnciations of English, but considering my bad French accent, I really shouldn't criticize.
The concert was free, the end of a week long celebration of the elderly. As one of the politicians who spoke said, nretirement homes are all public. Money should not be made on them. It is part of being a civilized society that cares for one another. (loose translation).

When I was a young, naïve bride

living in Stuttgart, I had this fantasy, that my husband and I would stay in Europe and he would continue to be a musician and I would be a writer, and we would support each other in our work.

It was just that--a fantasy. We left Europe and support became a one-way street.

Yet last night I saw my fantasy in action, not in my couple, long since broken, but in a Swiss writer and her husband cellist, who have a house down the street from me. She read from her novel as he played the cello.

I had always enjoyed her writing (we exchange our latest publications), but I never heard the music of her words until spoken. With his music the world disappeared and it was only the two of them together, a magical moment. Only afterwards, did they confess he had forgotten the sheet music he had prepared and was totally improvising.

And if I could not live the fantasy, there is something reassuring knowing that such fantasties can become real life and can be shared.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainy Days and Wednesdays

Do not get me down. I woke to rain slithering over the skylight. The orange tile roofs are shimmering wet. The tea is hot. The writing is going well. I revel in my last days in Argelès.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Days are Here Again

Kaki fruit is in the market again for its short season. So are green figs. Although Switzerland has good fruit and vegetables, I'll miss the local fruits and veggies, when I go back to Switzerland on the 29th.

Walking in the Tramantane

The Tramantane is blowing, but it didn't stop me walking on the Ancien Chemin de Collioure. Touching was this elderly couple, he with cane walking hand in hand and chatting as old friends.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Maybe this is too simple

Okay... we're giving $7.5 billion to Pakistan. They seemed unhappy we want to tell them how to use it. There was nary a whimper in Congress about how are we going to pay for it. There were no angry town halls and I didn't see a tea bag anywhere.

Meanwhile back at home, people are being thrown out of their homes, some 1800 uninsured people showed up for a free health clinic in Texas, while teachers and fire fighters are being fired because of lack of funds. We won't even discuss the lack of public transportation, crumbling roads and bridges, etc.

We are already trillions in debt.

Somehow, it seems to me, if we are going to borrow money we should use it on our own people.

Sorta like a family who is behind on its mortgage, hasn't got a car, can't afford health insurance, is eating a lot of pasta takes a loan out to buy a car for a family in the next town.

Anyone who knows me as a socialist might be surprised I am writing this. I am not against helping others and I have Pakistani friends and neighbours whom I really like, but as on an airplane they say if oxygen masks descends cover your own face first then the children's.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cover part II

Cover elements tweaked a bit and I like it better. I've signed off on it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The cover for my new book

My publisher sent me the draft of the cover for my new novel due out in February and asked if it had the spirit of the story. It sure does...
The ghosted house looks like the one I had imagined for a Cambridge Street and the discovery of the old diary in the basement is the turning point of the story.
I had been baffled when asked by the art department for ideas and had thrown out a list of words and the designer did more than I could ever have dreamed.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Grape + paparazzi=grapaparazzi

K. walked up and down the rows of grape vines, camera in hand looking for the lush vine, but like a celebrity, the sun was playing hide and seek and only the B-list grapes were out in number. He is a first class professional photographer with world-wide credits. He also immortalized my blond-haired, blue eyed daughter in a German language textbook.

I stood with his wife, who is also my cousin, S. waiting. Our job was to stay out of the way. We’d been searching for the right shorts, turning him into a Grape Paparazzi, I quipped.

I’ve shared Christmases and jazz in Garmish, fondues in Switzerland, vendages in Beaujolais country, and meals and good conversation in the North End of Boston for several decades with them. Thus when I heard they were going to be in France I hotfooted myself to the train station to join them in Bordeaux. Even a train strike couldn’t keep me away, I just added a day to the trip.

And I wasn’t disappointed as we drove through wine country, poked a bit around Bordeaux, ate great food and stopped whenever there was a good shot. Stopping for any possible good photo, is part of the pleasure of spending time with them as is the great conversation.

They say you chose your family, not your friends, but I am happy to put a check under both categories. Now if I could just convince them that they need to live on this continent again…

Snaps from Bordeaux

The French idea of Rickshaws???
A window that shares my politics.

I took it because it was just pretty. K. Suggested a much better perspective then my first shot. (see above)

Monday, October 05, 2009

This year's adventure

Each year when R&R (former Geneva neighbours and owner of a place at the Port), we go along with my gal pal B on an adventure exploring some yet undiscovered spot in the area. Even after 22 years we still have not begun to tap all there is to see in the region. Our goal this time, the southern most village in France. Once an iron mining centre, the houses all are marked with red from the iron in the clay of the locally made bricks.
And walking near the village we were bonked by chestnuts. Those on the ground were gathered up for later roasing.

A stream bubbled and gurgled at the base of the village

There was the ritual lunch, this time at a restaurant rather than one of our many picnics. The calamar, duck, fish soup were all excellent.

Then onto the factory that makes the Catalan cloth. The machines were old and clattered and clanked. At the factory store I found a runner for my table for all of 3 Euros.

And the same town made the espradilles, half by hand as has been done for centuries. No self respecting Sardane dancer would be caught dead without his or her espadrilles. I suspect the metal one would be uncomfortable.

In the same village, there was an antique gas pump. The customer dialled the number of litres he wanted.

We dipped into Spain for a picturesque mountain drive home. And next year we'll go to..........