Monday, May 26, 2014


If all goes well tomorrow at this time Rick and I will be on our way to Amsterdam and then to St. Petersburg.

Will be back to blogging around June 4 or 5.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Confession: I was unfaithful

No, no, not not unfaithful to Rick.

I was unfaithful to Marro, the restaurant in the next village, where over the years we've become extra friendly with the staff over the years and years of good eating.

There's been Marie Jo, Marc, Fred, Adrien, Mohammed (aka Abdul), Roberto, etc. We rejoiced when the old grump of an owner was replaced by Antonio, the handsome Italian. 

How many places, especially in the land of the three-cheek kisses do you get hugged when you enter the restaurant? 

Or how many places does the chef come out to ask how the dog you're with wants her burger cooked?

There have been times when we ate there several times in a week. At one point we had lunch and dinner there every day for three days -- or at least some combination of our household did.

And they do a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner...

Their pumpkin soup in the autumn and winter with truffle oil is to experience what paradise would be like. 

We love them . . . but today I needed something more. All relationships sometimes need a bit of spice, not that Marro doesn't spice its offerings perfectly...a different spice was called for.

The solution: Rick took me to the restaurant around the corner Le Petit Lac with the view of the lake which is anything but Petit.

We sat on the terrace overlooking the lake, watching a woman throw a stick for her four-month old puppy who swam into the water to fetch it. He radiated happiness.

I radiated happiness too with my gazpacho. I think they make some of the best in Geneva and I was relieved to see the recipe was the same when I had another dalliance there. Yes, Marro does do a good gazpacho but...

The salmon, turnip, green beans, courgette and rice did little to assuage my guilt: However, guilt did not stop me from cleaning my plate to a point where dishwashing might have been optional.

I know I will "cheat" on Marro again, but not often. 

And please, don't tell Antonio. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The laundry saga part III

It's great to share chores.

With all three occupants of the house helping out on laundry, things can get confusing. My housemates J and R have already blogged on what I now call the Great Laundry Caper of May 22nd. You need to read their blogs to see how things got washed more than once.

Part I
Part II

My part had to do with the brown slack mystery that left J scouring the house for her hopefully clean pair that she wanted to take to the mountains..

As I was slaving away on the newsletter, J asked about her brown slacks?
I was innocent. To humour her I checked my closet.


There they were. Seems when I scooped the nicely folded dry laundry from the guest bedroom where Rick had left it, they were in my pile.

She was happy that the mystery of the missing slacks had been solved so she could pack them before leaving for the mountains.

The good part of all this is we have clean, clean clothes and none of us did all the work.

If too many cooks spoil the broth, how many launderers and laundresses does it take to lose the brown slacks?

Cows, cows, cows

This is for you Karyn...

In Switzerland we are awash with cows both of the real milk-giving type and the statues that are decorated to match misc. themes.

This cow was outside the optometrist in the next village and was decorated at Christmas time.

Later the cow was painted or replaced with a pewter coloured cow with eye problems that needed glasses.

Imagine my shock when I saw the pewter cow had become a magenta cow. I'm not sure if it is the same cow or whether the she has been painted again. I suppose even cows can change their colour. The colour change has not changed the cows need for glasses.

I couldn't help but think of the poem.

I've never seen a purple cow
and hope to never see one;
but I can tell you anyhow
I'd rather see than be one. 

However,  it doesn't scan properly if I substitute the word magenta for purple.

Than there's the town cow, also decked up for Christmas. At this time of year the pine wreath is just a memory.

I don't have a photo of the boulangerie cow, which is covered with paintings of bread. Or the butcher's cow, marked with the cuts of meat in their proper place of course. Or the German family's cow that has the three colours of the German flag on it.

And every now and then there are real cows.

Or maybe that's a bull...

At one point we had the GPS set to moo to notify us when we were speeding. That became annoying very, very fast.

As for this blog . . . no moooooore

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Metaphor for me

I'd rather be the one red flower in the meadow than be part of the herd of yellow no matter how beautfiul, but still be part of the kingdom of flowers.

So much for absolutes

When I was little I used to think when I grew up I had to cut my hair short, own a white washer and dryer and have a station wagon so children (in this case my brother and I) wouldn't get crumbs or drip ice cream in the "good car" that my father drove. That was what had happened to my mother's friends.

Families had been in town for generations. We even lived in my grandparents house.

Not only that after a certain age it was necessary to wear "sensible shoes" like my grandmother's generation as shown in the photo above. Also my mother's friend, Ruth, wore sensible shoes because she had bad feet. I vowed I never would have shoes like in the photo-- no matter what my feet felt like.

Days were spent ensconced at home doing housework, caring for kids, and to a certain extent Kaffe Klatches with the neighbours. Of course, this was pre Betty Friedan.

To me these absolutes for adulthood sounded like hell. Boring. Suffocating.

Still, my mother wasn't a typical housewife. Because she was divorced at a time when divorces didn't happen, she worked. 

Rather than leave my brother and myself she started her own business selling clothes on a house party plan, running fashion shows, etc. She was able to only work six months a year leaving plenty of time for us kids, golf, etc. and later time to be a journalist. 

Housework was not in her program, left to my grandmother and the cleaning woman.

As an adult I escaped my hometown (which really was a pretty good place to grow up in a a postcard-New-England-cliché-complete-with-white-church-across-from-the-common way).

When I grew up some of my absolute nevers as a child have not happened, some have.
  • I own a white washing machine in thenest. I use a white washing machine in the warren and in Geneva. 
  • My hair has been many different lengths
  • I don't have a station wagon nor for decades even a car
  • I live on a different continent than my childhood home
  • I gave up tottering heals for comfortable flats, but only pretty ones, how sensible I'm not sure
  • I do housework because I like a clean house
  • I often meet friends and neighbours for coffee, usually in a Swiss or French tearoom
The last thing I've given up is absolute nevers maybe with the exception of never buying shoes like the one in the photo above.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Another step taken

Or I could call this blog, how I write.

The novel I'm working on is called Murder in Schwyz.

As always in the series there's a historical and a modern part. I write the two parts in two separate documents.

I've now finished the drafts of both parts. It's hard to say the number of drafts because I'm constantly going over and revising what I did before so one chapter could be the 2, 3, 11th draft depending on the section of the chapter.

Now comes the file cards

  • I colour-code the corner of the cards: red for historical, blue for modern
  • Each chapter has its own card with the date of the events, and a summary
  • Each chapter is numbered with a letter code 1A, 2A, 3A for modern 1E, 2E, 3E for historical
  • At the same time I'm reading and changing for continuity

Here's the drudge part

I put the cards out in order to decide what goes where.

If I say for the modern part of the novel, "She felt the gun against her neck" and end the chapter than the next three chapters are the historical part of the story, how pissed will my readers be?

Sometimes I need to go back to the ms. several times.

Cutting and pasting I will blend the historical (18 chapters) into the modern (41 chapters).

When I'm sure, I will renumber the chapters in order.

Next comes polishing once, twice, maybe three times.

It goes to my trusted first editor, Julia of the 20 pages. Maybe Rick will read it as well.

I'll add corrections and changes at things they didn't think will work.

Maybe one, two or three more polishes and maybe back to Julia of the 20 pages for a quick look-see

For my publisher I have to make sure the spacing is exact and I mean exact for every word, line, paragraph, there are no tabs, the typeface is their standard, page breaks are lined up just right. In otherwords perfect.

There's also submission papers to fill out

Then and only then do I release it to Gordon The Grump, my editor. (I really love him but I can't let him know) When he barks it is usually for a good reason.

KISS(Keep it simple stupid)

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Calling a spade a spade

What triggered this blog was the relatively new use of the title barista  in coffee shops. It's the Italian word for someone who makes coffee or serves in a bar, thank you Starbucks for starting the trend. I never hear without the word pretentious coming to mind. Then I think barrister. Maybe a male barista gets a girl who thinks really he is a high-highfaluting English lawyer type.

I also write a news letter and people often have sentences for titles, vice president of operational safety in the community. Good Lord, how much time is wasted just typing the title. It might not even fit on a business card if the font is too large.

I suppose the trend began years ago when the title janitor was replaced with terms like building engineer. Secretaries became personal assistants.

I've decided to follow the trend...I'm not a writer/journalist but a Compiler of Words in Fiction Format and revealing of facts to others.

Nah...I'll KISS it...I'm a writer/journalist.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Women as men, men as women

This is not about sex change surgery.

I just finished Douglas Kennedy's Leaving this World.

The photo is the Amazon cover shot. The book I have has a different woman on the cover. But covers are not what this blog is about but I'd love to know the marketing decisions behind the change.

Many years ago at a writers conference, the workshop leader said men should never write as women, women should never write as men. She also cautioned not to write what you haven't experienced.

That would certainly limit a writer to autobiography disguised as fiction.

I had recently written about a vasectomy from the POV of a man. Now research did not involve a sex change operation followed by a vasectomy, but I did ask good friends whom I knew had the surgery what it was like. Going up to strange males and saying "If you had a vasectomy,  can you tell me about it?" was not an option.

The same friends read what I had written and declared it valid.

About that time I was also reading, Memoirs of Geisha. The author had never been either a woman or a geisha, but had created a 100% believable world.

Kennedy's protagonist, Jane Howard, is definitely a woman. Kennedy is a man.  And Jane is believable. One of the male characters is less so.

In writing from male POV's thanks to that workshop, I'm much more careful. So like much advice on all topics given, it should be weighed against reality, some accepted, some declined.

Gourmet swans

"We have to go to the lake and feed the ducks," Rick said. He was just back from Palexpo where he'll be working the next couple of days.

It was too beautiful a day to even think about saying no.

He'd stopped at McDos and had a bag of french fries with him.

Compared to many days there were very few ducks, but there was a pair of swans circling near one of the docks.

We threw a couple of french fries in the water. One of the swans scooped it up. The other touched his beak to it and left it. A nearby duck scooped it up. Although we threw a few more fries, that swan remained adamant. He wasn't about eat any McDo french fry. If swans can look disgusted, he succeeded.

Maybe we should try something from Marro by their excellent chef to tempt this gourmet swan.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

You can't get there from here

"I  could be talked into . . . " J. said as we sorted laundry.

"I woke up, thinking about it." I said.

We've spent enough time together that full sentences are often optional. The "it" was the Chinese buffet across the border in France. Rick, who was up against deadlines, decided to stay home and write.

The restaurant was a favourite destination, but in the past couple of years getting there was a challenge because of road works after a barrier had been put up. Instead of taking a left into their driveway it was 5K down to the next turn off and 5K back to the restaurant.

Then the turn-around was became even a longer drive.

We tried the back roads a couple of time only to be sidetracked hither and yon,  and we'd finally be able to see the restaurant. Of course, seeing it, didn't mean a direct entrance, but hunger would drive us to locate our final destination.

But today, we found the right short cut.


Smugness was premature.

We were blocked by a vide grenier --not that we weren't happy to see all the smiley faces as people carried their purchases to the cars parked along the side of the road -- making passage on the narrow road a challenge.

We decided to go up the mountain and try and run parallel to the road to the restaurant. The vide grenier was longer than we thought again blocking our route.

So back up the mountain and over.

We did see a goat house with goat and solar panel on the roof. Maybe he had lights and a TV.

The scenery was spectacular.

Finally we were able to come off the mountain, took a roundabout and directly into the restaurant's parking.

Ladies and was delicious.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mud Pies

The Geneva Writers Group workshops led by Susan Tiberghien centre me as a writer and have for over two decades. They hurl me from my daily life and remind me that first and foremost I'm a writer...even when I'm washing the floor.

Today's session on memoir was no different.

This exercise from the class is an example.


My grandmother made the best mud pies. We would use our dishes, not the best ones, but the every day ones.

The tablespoons to mix our concoctions came from the chest of drawers under the painting of grapes that she'd done. She had no training but was a good artist, nevertheless. My daughter has the painting now.

My grandmother and I would talk as we dug dirt came from the garden near the back door and after the two maple trees where my swing hung suspended from a bar. She took anything I said seriously.

We'd pour in water and pretend we were Louise, the woman whose last name I've forgotten, but who demonstrated cooking techniques on Channel 7 at one o'clock weekdays.

Sometimes we'd add stones or pine needles for texture. We'd pour the mixture into molds to dry in the sun, often adding an acorn for decoration. When they were "cooked" we turned our mud pies onto a plate.

We never ate the mud pies.

 And I never saw her wash the dishes and spoons we used, but I know she did.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm red faced

My mother used to complain when she was ignored while at a counter in a store, "I must have taken my invisible pill, today." Her voice, normally quite pleasant would echo through the area.

Lately I feel people aren't listening to me.

One example was when I ordered a Coke without ice three times and it came with ice.

Earlier the same day it was my beloved. I told him to enter the roundabout at six o'clock and leave at 3 o'clock. His aviation journalism background means I was speaking his language, BUT he entered at six and left at midnight. Giving him his due he thought he could take a left for our destination, but we couldn't.

There were other instances and I'd tease that the honeymoon was over (it isn't).

Yesterday he told me something on house scheduling and it went in one ear and out the other (when my father said that to my mother once, she replied, "because there's nothing there to stop it") but I know Rick is never nasty to say something like that.

Let's just say I'm embarrassed. And on the anniversary of our meeting up two years ago too.

I suspect Rick will have his own version of this on his blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Client service

When I first moved to Switzerland I decided that the term client service meant that the client was there to service the business. Waitresses considered cleaning a table more important than engaging with diners waiting to order, store clerks didn't like to be interrupted from their chats to give information about a product or even ring up an order.

It has improved.

Saying this, I was gobsmacked with the excellent service I got from Visilab this spring.

Although eye surgery was supposed to make glasses unnecessary, I still needed them. There had been a major improvement. For example I saw a stain on my bedroom ceiling. My housemate told me it had been there eight years but I couldn't see it.

I used the new glasses mainly for reading and the computer. In between I'd put them down somewhere, the somewhere being the challenge many times a day.

Looking for my glasses became an Olympic sport. Both J and R deserve gold medals for finding them for me so often. They deserve a silver for not screwing the glasses to my head to prevent future glasses safaris.

I decided I wanted bifocals that I could put on when I got out of bed in the morning and take off after I got into bed and put my book away. I figured I save hours of hunting time. I thought they would save hours of hunting time.

Visilab was having a great deal. Your age as a percentage off. Too bad I wasn't a 100, but still 71 was a lovely discount.

The perky young examiner was charming and careful with her measurements checking and double checking. I picked up my glasses, but they weren't quite right.

I wore them for at least two weeks thinking my adjustment would come.

It didn't.

Then Visilab sent me a customer satisfaction survey.

I praised the examiner, the staff, the speed of service, etc. I wrote a note that the only problem was that the glasses themselves were not comfortable in terms of seeing either close or far.

I didn't think a thing more about it.

Then I got an email from the examiner saying to come in for adjustment.

I did. She remeasured, made slight adjustments and I picked up my new glasses.

Distance excellent

Reading excellent

Computer? Not quite right but that could be the angle of the computer. I bet when I'm at my desk in Argeles they will work.

Good client service. Anyone in Switzerland... you can trust Visilab.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Not a sexy blog

Rick and I were in bed this morning.

No, this isn't going to be a sexy blog. I may be a writer, but I've never been able to write good sex scenes. In fact, I've read very few good sex scenes. However, I've lived . . . well I won't go into that now.

We were looking at the pine wood ceiling.

"I wonder if all the knotholes are NSA cameras," he said.

We laughed, but at the same time it isn't funny.

I have Glenn Greenwald's new book. I will listen to his two days of interviews on

I have an HP laptop, one of the companies that go the NSA before they go to the customer so the person can be monitored. If so...

"Good morning NSA. You will find me boring today. I'm planning to work on the newsletter, although you may think the idea of co-operative banking subversive. I'll make sandwiches for lunch just in case we all go Marro for dinner. I'm planning to pick up my housemate at the airport. You probably already know which flight she's on anyway. While I'm there I'll use the bankmat to pay my TCS annual fee and mail a letter. I might even work on the novel later, but you already know how far along I am with that. I hope you have a good day."

Monday, May 12, 2014

I thought I'd get bored

Granted I was in state of awe when I first moved to Switzerland at its beauty, but thought I would get tired of it.



About three years into living here and working in Geneva, my phone rang.

"Come quickly. NOW!" My boss hung up.

I raced through the hall to his office wondering what mistake I'd made.

"Look," he said. He pointed to the view of Mt. Blanc out his office window. It had not been visible for several weeks. We sat there for several minutes just admiring it.

Living in Corsier, I adore the view from my housemate's window. It's a view of the Jura and the lake. Every time I think I've seen it all, every cloud combination, every sunset, every storm, every rainbow, there's a new vista to prove me wrong.

Last night a layer of clouds hung on the top of the mountains much like I lay slips of cotton on my Christmas tree to mimic snow. The light was different then I've ever seen it.



I love being wrong.

My desktop -- what does it reveal?

I read a blog about what a person had on her desk. I had to, just had to, photograph mine and make a list.

1. Salt lamp.
2. Blue holder that has
  •    1 ink cartridge pen (I have a second for Argelès)
  •    1 letter opener
  •    1 highlighter
  •    1 penguin paper clip
  •    1 nail file
  •    1 paid of scissors
  •    1 mini brush
  •    1 computer duster (pink)
3. My seldom used tablet
4. Books
    5 journal types (I should file them away)
    2 DVDs
    1 CDRom
    A few pieces of advertising (I should get rid of them)
6. Pink quartz stone in pink dish
7. Painting of Damascus, my third most favourite city in the world. It is very painful to think about it.
8. Telephone so I don't have to run across the hall to answer
9. Tea cup which is usually filled most of the day
10.File cards, one for each chapter of the novel I'm working on
11.My Corsier felt tip pen. I have a second for Argelès...
12.My laptop, mouse and mousepad with Japanese chin design
13.My extra eyeglasses

I wonder if people can be analyzed by their desks, like years ago when they were analyzed by their handwriting. I think it was Jay Leno who looked into women's purses (brave man).

Probably some people would recoil in horror if people looked at their desks, and I have to admit I would rather no one looked in my two desk drawers one crammed with paper and the other with stuff like business cards, coloured pencils, a pin cushion, stamps, glue...etc. I don't even want to think about those contents...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Old stomping grounds

"What's that?" Scooby II wanted to know.

We told him it was our new TomTom. Rick doesn't trust my directions (in most cases a smart move) but we were on the way to the Vals de Travers where I'd spent my first three years in Switzerland so there was a higher chance of me being right. These were old stomping grounds so I felt fairly secure in finding my way despite road improvements.

Before moving to Switzerland a fortune teller, who didn't know I was changing jobs, predicted a gold and green building would represent a change in my life. In 1990 this building was gold. What a sense of relief of never having to work there again. Our boss was controlling and edicts such as not eating apples because they made too much noise were not considered abnormal.

Like many immigrants he held my work permit so choices were limited until I could find someone else to take it over. As a result of those three very long years, I will always have sympathy for immigrants who are fighting their way to a better life.

And for as unhappy as work was for the first three years, I was given a chance to live here. Outside of my job life was wonderful.


I lived on the left hand side of this house, the company flat in the village of Môtiers with its 600 people, 6,000 cows, 6 million flowers and a few other delights that I showed Rick.

A few of the local cows. They were paraded by the house twice a day on the way to pasture and home again.

The Jean-Jacques Rousseau museum was where the philosopher lived while hiding out from the French. There were two more museums in town, one of cars, one for art that hadn't been there when I was there.

When I lived there Absinthe, also called  the blue fairy, the green fairy, boversee tea, was illegal but still made. That has since changed. The drink is now a major industry for the village. Below is a store window where absinthe is sold with the green fairy prominently displayed.

In 1990 eating at my landlords he offered me a choice of red, white or blue. Not speaking much French I guessed it was red wine, white wine or blue?  I love an adventure. He prepared the absinthe the proper way. Absinthe, slotted spoon, sugar cube, water poured over the sugar turning the liquid white.


Licorice tasting.

Still the mystic of absinthe, artists, writers, the art work it inspired is fascinating.

See here My favourite poster will always be this one showing the end of legalization with the wild eyed preacher is this one.

We had to stop at the old abbey which has made champagne since the 1800s. Because of international law that says champagne from Champagne can only be called champagne the beverage is bottled under another name, but a rose by any other name will smell as sweet...a champagne by any other name will taste as good.

It was fun when having people for dinner back then to wander down the street and taste the champagne that would go with the meal I was preparing.

I love the carving inside the building.

Scooby II tried to stay out of Rick's way as he loaded our case of champagne into the car.

Voltaire allegedly stayed here when he was visiting with Rousseau. It is still a functioning hotel/café.

Philosophers aside, this was one of my favourite spots in the village. My dogs, Albert and Amadeus and I would picnic on a Sunday. I'd take a book. Ama would go into the water and Albert would look at him like he was nuts to get his feet wet voluntarily. It was a total contrast from the tensions of the week. Later I learned this was also a favourite contemplation spot for Rousseau.

The last thing I wanted to show Rick was the Chateau de Joux, just across the border in Pontarlier. Built in the Middle Ages, it has been a prison and was used by the Germans in WWII. My favourite story was in the Middle Ages the owner, returning from the crusades, found his wife had been unfaithful. He locked her in a room with a window. Just outside he hung her lover and she could watch his body decompose until she was sent off to convent. I hope it was worth it.

Rick has done his own version of the day

lost kitty poster

We've all seen lost kitty photos...but a lost kitty mural on a house is really wonderful. No word when the mural went up or if the feisty feline ever returned. There was a phone number at the bottom, but we didn't call it.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Errands as holiday

Today Rick and I set out on errands such as pick up my eyeglasses with our
final destination being the English library book sale at the American church.

Long ago we learned to take our cameras and to stop and take whatever we saw that interested us along the way. We don't always take the same thing, but we do enjoy sharing whatever we spotted.

I'm learning not to be so time aware as well.

The opening of the ice cream stands where the hot roasted chestnut stands stood all winter is a sure sign of spring, although the temperatures might not be all that warm.

Love locks like in Amsterdam and Paris are new on this bridge. We debated adding out own someday.

Rick hadn't noticed this statue but I paid more attention to it than before. Hmmm...riding side saddle holding a bird naked. Perhaps not the most comfortable thing to do.

This fountain was under repair but it is now functional again. Even though the sky was gray at the moment and the buildings were gray, the pink was cheery.

Reading the signs about the current election issues only  reinforced my decisions. Good thing, because the ballot was mailed on Monday.

I don't know if this table is new or we just didn't notice it.  That's what's fun about considering errands as a holiday. You are in observation mode.

The statue dedicated to refugees.

I guess this statue was thirsty.

And finally my goal besides stocking up on paperbacks. I sooo look forward to the traditional egg salad and coriander sandwiches sold at the library sale. That and a chocolate treat gives strength to search through the books to provide myself and Rick with reading matter for the next two or three weeks.

Unlike other book sales, it was wonderful to have someone carrying the books. He always tells me he will do it, but there are times I feel guilty. He is NOT my pack mule, but the man I love for things like making chores almost a holiday experience.