Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's in a hand?

 Photo by J. Schmitz-Leuffen

We HAD to stop to photograph the sculpture of a hand along Lake Léman, Geneva, which started me thinking of the word hand, that body part at the end of my arm with fingers and thumbs and handy to do all sorts of things including typing out this blog.

The word hand comes down from Hant in German through Middle English.

But hand is more than at tool for picking up stuff. It is a word that can be twisted and shaped into a whole set of meanings.

Attach it to kerchief and we have something to blow our noses far more hygienic than using the hand directly.

If we're good at something we're handy and we use our hands to make handicrafts.

Give us a hand can mean either to help or to applaud.

Hand it over means give up whatever.

Hands up said by a crook or a policeman does not mean good news, but a whole bunch of raised hands at a concert shows people moving with the music.

Laying on of hands can mean an attempt to heal.

Doing things together that have nothing to do with the appendage itself is hand-in-hand such as politics and corruption go hand-in-hand but that doesn't mean that congressman and the politician go skipping down Washington, D.C. streets holding hands.

On the other hand means a different point of view as if we wrote our opinions on our hands.

Sometimes a certain part of the hand is focused on such as palm of your hand which usually means something not material such as I thought I had that job in the palm of my hand, but they gave it to someone else.

In cards we're dealt hands, but they are pieces of hard paper not actually palms, fingers and thumbs.

A left-handed compliment is indirect such as that suit you're wearing is nicer than yesterday's.

To take something in hand is to take control. A teacher took the rowdy classroom in hand, but she didn't hold the students in her hand. 

I've just scratched the surface of the uses of the word hand. Not bad for four little letters.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The woman who vomited

I've been identified many roles in life: daughter, sister, wife, mother, writer, friend, etc. but there's a new designation, popping up: The woman who vomited.

When I renounced my US nationality in December 2011 I blogged it. It hit me so hard emotionally that when I left the embassy I vomited. That was part of the blog.

I've been outspoken against FATCA because of the damage it is doing to the everyday expats. I've been on Swiss television and spoken to reporters all over the world.

My Swiss doctor when crossing the US border from Canada picked up a newspaper to see my photo and comments. A cousin wrote me that she'd seen an article in her local paper. When talking about FATCA, several people have said, "Oh, you're the lady who vomited." My grandmother would be thrilled with the word "lady" because of my often unladylike behavior.

Yesterday, meeting with another woman (dual Swiss-American) the subject went to FATCA as it often does with those trapped in the banking mess not of our own making.

I was still reeling from being called into my bank to explain why I sent $300 to the States each month. It had triggered warning signals. The good news was that I signed some papers and my account is still open.

She made the connection, "Oh, you're the one that vomited."

A lot of my titles like writer, wife, mother, friend I really like. Being known as the woman who vomited just makes me sad and reminds me once again I had a choice between being American or banking in my new country as a normal person.

Going to France for lunch

I have to be one of the luckiest women in the world. It takes almost nothing to convince my housemate and my husband to go to France for a Chinese buffet.

And it takes even less to convince them to pull over to the side of the road to take photos. At this time of the year the Swiss and French countryside is covered in rapeseed. One almost needs sunglasses even on a cloudy day.

How much is that doggy on the rooftop. The one with the non curly hair? Arf! Arf! We figured out how he got up there, he probably could get down.

 Did his girlfriend toss him out?

NOT-TYPICAL of the Swiss countryside.

Wisteria is everywhere.

 The statue was made by handicap school students.
Every bit of scenery is the beautiful.

In a way as we meandered around, I thought of the Sunday afternoon drives when I was little with my mother and grandmother.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Breaking News

 B R E A K I N G   N E W S !


BOSTON, MA--A French drone, targeting Mohammed al-Sheik, a leader of a terrorist cell determined to attack the Paris subway, hit the Roxbury Crossing area of Boston, early Monday Morning.

The quiet neighborhood, shown before the attack was totally demolished.

The street is made up mainly of renovated houses and apartments.

It is estimated that some 15 people were killed in the strike. Because it was after the working day started the death count was lower than it might have been at night.

James Atkinson, a student at Harvard Medical School, located across the intersection of Huntington Avenue, was dissecting a cadaver when the explosion knocked out  windows and rattled the building. His wife and three-month old baby were at home at number 12.

French President François Holland issued this statement, "The loss of life is always regrettable, but we had strong intelligence of al-Sheik's location and plans. We must fight terrorism abroad not on the streets of Paris, Toulouse or Marseille."

The President will brief the nation at 2 pm. Senator John McCain has called for immediate retaliatory attacks against France.

Naturally this is NOT a true news story for this neighborhood, but since 2008 this story has been true for neighborhoods all over the world, but not from French Drones, but US Drones. For a complete list until 2013 of US Drone Strikes against countries where the US is not at war 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Let's get a Carvel cake

When my daughter Llara was still in grade school and as a single mom we shared a house with two other adults. We worked as a family of choice.

Together we were renovating a house on Wigglesworth Street in Boston, a real handyman's nightmare.

We were all busy between full-time demanding jobs, grad and undergrad school besides the work on the house. Still we found time to have fun and often when something good happened we would go down the road to the Carvel Cake store to celebrate thinks like a good report card, a fireplace where we'd discovered marble under layers of paint, the return from a business trip or whatever we deemed as a reasonable excuse.

We also had a German Shepherd Nikki, a tiger cat Pumpkin and two Japanese chin pups, Albert and Vixen.

Albert's testicles had not yet descended and we were beginning to get worried and murmurings of vet visits were in the air.

It was a Friday night. We'd been to Harvard Square, "family night" to eat, catch up on the week's happenings, roam the bookstores for the next week's reading and listen to whatever street musicians might be playing.

Back home we headed for our rooms. The third floor had three bedrooms arranged around a central hall. S was in hers, I was in mine and Llara was in hers. Although Llara was suppose to be going to sleep we were still chatting between the rooms.

Albert and Vixen were on S's bed when she realised no vet would be necessary. "Albert has balls," she called across the hall.

From the dark of Llara's room came, "Let's get a Carvel Cake."

Since S and I were in pjs, we sent B. While he was gone, we wondered what he'd have written on it.

B brought it back but instead of "Albert has balls" was a simple "Congratulations Albert."

Popping corn and corks

In a house where no excuse is too small for a celebration, a birthday can top the list, even if it is a couple of days late.

"Popcorn and champagne," Rick had texted my roommate in response to the question of what he wanted?

She baked a scrumptious angel cake decorated with wood berries and produced the usual wonderful local cheeses and meats. The cake was much better than the photo.

As the birthday boy wanted we had bechers of popcorn which he and number 2 son used to toast the milestone.

Between the corn and corks, a whole lot of popping went on.

Green fingernail nightmare

Please no analysis here.

I dreamed I was in a world where women were being punished for being women, ala  The Handmaiden's Tale. Women, including myself, were identified and had to find a friend with whom they would do a nail transplant without any anesthetics.If you didn't you would be put to death. The nails were to be used to identified the women who had been neutered politically and as slaves

In my dream it hurt like hell.

After the transplant one was forever marked by the green nails (not decorated so beautifully in the photo). This was a muddy, dark green.

At that point I woke up. I was free. I didn't have green nails. I don't think I ever will either.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tapestry of my life

My daughter made me a wonderful needlework tapestry of the 12 months. Each has a flower, the name of the month and gives an important person in the month where it seemed right. She worked on it in three countries. She started it in '86 and finished it in '94.

It hangs on the wall opposite my Geneva bed. 

I love seeing it when I first open my eyes in the morning: it makes me happy but then that my daughter is my daughter makes me happy.

But there is a slight bittersweet moment attached.

June is my mother: April my beloved step mother. They are both gone.

Andrea is October and there might be an exchange between us every couple of years. She was Llara's best friend through high school. They are still in contact. Albert in November long ago went to the great dog biscuit factory in the sky and a close friend is no longer close.

New names could be replace the old. August would be Julia, April Rick, Oct. Scott, June Marina and Anil, July Chitra for example. At the same time the tapestry is a memory of those that were important in my life on a daily basis. They represent good meals, great conversations, bad times when their love and support made the bad times less bad--the entire spectrum of life. Each stitch could be a memory.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Another library book sale

The American Church hosts the Geneva American Library year round and twice a year they take all the donated books and hold a three day sale. Because books can be so expensive getting used books at prices from $3-$10 dollars is wonderful.

In  past years I've helped set up, taken down the sale. I've put out a newsletter for the library, which is a valuable resource for the anglophone community. Like all small libraries they need support.

But it is the atmosphere which I love which reminds me a bit of the Church of the Good Shepherd's Christmas Fair in Reading, MA especially the egg salad sandwiches. My taster starts getting ready for them about three days before. Some homemade chocolate goody for dessert is always added. I'm doing it, of course, to help the library fund....

But the best part are the tables and tables of books of all genres. I found at least ten within about as many minutes keeping me in reading at least until I get back to Argelès next week

For readers who live in the country of their mother tongue, even if they read in another country's language, being surrounded by so many books in one's own language at prices where your first born child might have to be put for sale to buy, this is truly a luxury.

Of course, there is one more pleasure. Finding friends there to sip tea or coffee as we discuss our treasures is just that extra bit of pleasure.

Writing dialogue

Because I'm not feeling well I'm going through a book about every six to eight hours and not always my first choices. Thank goodness there are so many books in the house.

Today I started one from an author that has had millions of books sold in many languages. 

I am not jealous that my sales don't begin to match hers. Any writer that can make any money from writing is wonderful. I celebrate her success.

But there is a little itch that her writing is so under-wonderful, especially dialogue. It is banal and doesn't move the plot forward.


   What time do you want to have supper tomorrow?

   You call it.
   About 7:30.
   Yes. I'll come and pick you up and you can give me a drink before I take you out on the town.

What happened when they were out on the town never appeared. The dialogue wasn't even necessary. A sentence--They agreed to meet at 7:30 for dinner--would have covered but even that would have added nothing to the story.

Writing convincing dialogue is difficult.

Beginning writers sometimes try to sneak information into dialogue that becomes unrealistic.

   Hello Brother John.
   Mother says to be home early from your job at the FastCash supermarket, which you don't like,    
   because Uncle Bob, who lives next door, is coming to dinner even though Mother thinks he is a  
   pain in the ass and wishes he would move away.

What's wrong with it? All the underlined words Brother John would know and he would think the speaker is an idiot.

Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit but overkill can prove a point. 

Maybe it would be okay to call Brother John that if that's how they usually addressed each other through out. Instead to establish the relationship, the information could be handled better written this way:

   John could hardly wait until his shift at FastCash supermarket ended. Seeing his brother didn't  
   help and learning from him that Uncle Bob would be at dinner tonight didn't help either. He 
   wished his uncle would move from next door and he knew his mother felt the same way although  
   she'd never call Bob, a pain in the ass to his face--just behind his back.

If we were to record speech and put what we record into a story it wouldn't work. People don't speak like they speak in books.

Styling the speech to match the personality, age, education and emotional feeling to the speaker is important.

An 80-year old American woman with a Ph.D. from Harvard probably wouldn't say. "Like get me, you know, my cane, like it's behind the you know the couch." A much younger person could but the extra likes and you knows can be as annoying to read as they are to hear.

Vocabulary choices also can tell a lot about character. If a prim and proper woman suddenly starts using f--k, it could tell a lot about what is going on. A pompous character can use multi-syllable words. Grammatical mistakes work if not overdone.

How to handle foreign languages?

If your characters are French everyone will assume they are speaking French. However, if a writer wants to sprinkle the work with foreign words it is safe to assume not all readers will understand. Translations in parenthesis are awkward, which is what my best-selling author did.

I prefer a sneaky approach. Make the meaning clear with the next sentence.

   "Je te vois plus tard," he said.
   I glanced at my watch. Would I be free later to see him?

Even if I wanted to edit the writing and found the repetitions tiresome, I will read the book to the end. It is a great story under all the verbiage and I hope she enjoys every cent she's earned.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

the attack of the cuff

I know I tend to make lemons out of lemonade and if Monday's nine hours in the hospital would have not been on any list of ways to spend a beautiful spring day, there was the good stuff-like my housemate and I getting caught up on our reading (271 pages for me). If only we'd bought pads and pencils, we could have done writing exercises as we waited for this and that.

There was also the excitement of the attack of the blood pressure cuff.

Naturally, they had me hooked up to a blood pressure reading machine that periodically would beep, the cuff would swell then deflate and the nurses could see at some station my reading.


Although not comfortable, the signal went off and the cuff swelled and didn't let go until I was saying "owww". Just as my fingers were numbing, it relaxed. I'd love to have known that reading.

I mentioned it to faithful Julia. Since I'd been writhing in pain for the entire weekend, she knows I have a high pain tolerance level. I saw a frown cross her face.

The next time the cuff swelled, it didn't swelled and went on swelling.

There was a ripping sound of Velcro tearing apart.

One end popped open but the cuff was still surrounding my arm.

The swelling continued.

It felt like an amputation or at least what I imagined an amputation would feel like.

My fingers were numb.

Death by blood pressure cuff????

No, I could take it off, except I couldn't.

It was under the sleeve of my hospital gown  and stuck. I couldn't move either the cuff or the sleeve.

Still ripping noises.

As Julia stood to help, nurse Virginie came running in and pulled the attachment that was feeding the Killer Cuff off.

It deflated.

It was saved, I thought, as I rubbed my sore fingers.

Paper was the iPad of Medieval Britain

The first day of my online course about medieval manuscripts.

I learned about punctuation marks, abbreviations, how to transcribe following the rules so everyone understands the transcription..

The first book we looked at could be dated 1308 but not before because it mentions the Death of Edward I of England the coronation of his son Edward II.

The second looked into a book of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

I'm sorry I missed the first part of the course which dealt with the technical parts of producing a manuscript, although I'd done research on the topic a while back.

However, the combined use of paper and parchment in the Chaucer book brought about the fantastic quote from the professor: "Paper was the iPad of Medieval Britain."

Which reminded me of the youttube about the medieval monk from the help desk who was showing the monk scribe how to convert from rolled manuscripts to books. Worth a look-see for a giggle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hats and bow ties

The back cover of The White Russian showed a man in a hat and a long coat. It reminded me of my father, who always wore a hat.

He was a salesman for Snap-on Tools, a good one and he never left without his hat.

Ties were something he abhorred but would wear a bow tie, the snap-on kind not in any branding with his company, but because it could come off quickly at the end of the day.

I'd describe him as dapper. He loved clothes. Even his pjs were as attractive as possible for his time.

I always find it fascinating what jars a memory loose. Often the connection is tenuous at best like a book cover photo. Other times it is obvious. A boat always leads me to my father as well. He built a 38-foot cabin cruiser in his back yard.

However, a treasured memory is always welcomed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Seven hours in Urgence

All during the weekend my esophagus had been having temper tantrums.

This is not new. Over the years, I've had periodic attacks, but they last a short time. This one was different. It went on and on and on and on and . . .

The pain can be described as anything from a belt pulled too tight across my chest to someone stomping on my chest in jackboots.

The first ones which I had decades ago,  I thought were heart attacks. I scared the people around me. Now I know they are not, but I still want to be checked.

I knew this wasn't one. I'd had a similar attack Mar. 26 and my heart was shown to be normal. The test results from the hospital said so and their report was verified by my internist the day before.

I knew I needed an endoscopy.

J as always was support and drove me Hôpital Universitaire de Genéve. HUG, which is a wonderful name for a hospital only in French it is pronounced WHOg.

She let me off at Urgence-A&E if you're a Brit-ER if you're American. I watched a TV show here in Switzerland for a couple of years called Urgence before I realised it was the acclaimed American series ER.

We knew it would be slow so we were prepared with tons of reading material.

Met some interesting people.

While waiting for the check in there was a Romanian who had lived in Switzerland for 40 years, had a house in Spain, and thought Mozart was the best composer ever, citing that his original compositions had no corrections. His first draft was his best.

The nurses: Ms. Perky who was Portuguese-Swiss but lived in France (normal for Geneva), Antonio who had a smile for everyone, Virginie who brought me a weird blood pressure cuff that didn't deflate. It was replaced quickly.

The day dragged on as we read. J moved the car, went for lunch and her afternoon coffee.

She also acts as a translator either for me or for those that don't understand my accent. About the only word I didn't understand this time was that for stools, selles. I'd flipped it into the English cell, and wondered about prisons where I would gladly incarcerate my esophagus.

My two doctors were like Mutt and Jeff, cartoon characters from my childhood in build, but were George Clooney cute.

The endoscopy wasn't possible-it will come later. However I got two diagnoses: inflammation and infection.

Just when I was saying I would trade my book for her read magazines, they released me.

Hope the endoscopy leads to a way of getting rid of these attacks.

My housemate did a duelling blog. She thinks it was nine hours we were there. I would trust her numbers more than mine.

Moon slivers

We are sky gazers, Rick, J and myself, constantly aware of the celestial shows that prove the ephemeral reality of life.

Rick has been known to rush into the house to grab me to come see the sunset. We will run around the village to see it from different points of view before it disappears forever.

On a trip across the Mont Blanc bridge, a traffic halt allowed J. to immortalize a rainbow.

Last night as I was crawling into bed J called me to come look.

Out her balcony was a burnt orange moon sliver. The lights of the village on the opposite side of the lake shown below and a single star was above. This could never be captured in its magnificence of the moment, but only in memories.

Sunrise, sunset, moons, clouds and rainbows give us an ongoing reminder of what is beautiful and what an infinitesimal part we play in the universe. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pussy cats, penguins and love bites

My brother when he was little had a talented for adopting strays, usually pregnant ones, to the point that my mother said that had to be a sign in front of house proclaiming it a home for unwed cat-moms-to-be.

I'm more of a dog person, but there are cats that have tromped through my heart like Toughie who was anything but or Munchkin, J's cat.

J now has two more cats (one wouldn't be enough to replace Munch). Above is Babette who is definitely not the alpha cat. However, she is extremely affectionate. Although I've had lots of cats, I've never had one that does this: lick your heart then nibble. The nibble is not hard at all.
Babette is better at bowling penguins using her tail than anyone else also.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The art of celebration

Life is full of happy moments and I'm lucky to have a husband and a housemate who know how to celebrate them.

There are the special little celebrations for a beautiful sunrise with a pastry.

This past week there have been many small victories and solutions to long-time annoyances. In this case nothing short of champagne and goodies were called for.

Wine and champagne connoisseurs will shake their heads to learn that it was the label that made me decide to buy this bottle.

My housemate picked up cheeses and meats to go along with it.
In some ways every day is a celebration when surrounded by wonderful people...

Friday, April 17, 2015

I'll never wear a brand

I will never be seen with a brand name on my body.

If I buy a brand name anything I will remove the brand or hide it.

One friend, whose husband believed in brands as a way to make himself more important, cut one alligator off an old shirt and sewed it over another alligator on a newer shirt. He was not happy when he saw the copulating crocodiles.

Now if any brands would pay me to be a billboard for them, yes I would wear them.

Did the alligators get the last laugh? I hope so.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I really don't like money

That I don't like money doesn't mean I like poverty either. What I don't like is that pursuit of money and the material which makes it impossible to enjoy all the other wonderful things in life.

I do enjoy following banking news. I adore talk about the messed up economy and why it is...I wish he'd been wrong more often, but he's not.

That's why Smith's book, Why I left Goldman Sachs was so interesting. In effect he gave up 11 hours of almost every day to do nothing but make money.

Yes, I had to work. And I often put in long days and I was lucky enough to never have jobs where the product hurt people. Still work was only part of my life and the end goal was not bigger and better but enough.

Most of my life I've had enough. I've been lucky not to have had more.

Frowning their disapproval

I suspect the four ministers on Geneva's Reformation Wall would have been shocked to see those scantily-glad students (including, horror of horrors women) doing weird things (exercises) and having fun.

The four men standing over five-meters are:
  • Theodore Beza (1519–1605)
  • John Calvin (1509–1564)
  • William Farel (1489–1565)
  • John Knox (c.1513–1572)      
They were anything but fun loving. Ask Mary Queen of Scots about her nemesis Knox.

Dour is an understatement. One person described their faces as hate-filled. The first time I saw the wall, I went home and took a shower to wash away the creepy feeling the wall left me with.

A minister friend of mine who was visiting saw the wall and shuddered. Later, walking through the Paquis area of the city, where the hookers hang out, he said he liked that part of the city more.  He thought there was more life in the women than those early Calvinists whose philosophy restricted so much of the beautiful things in life.

The wall is located in the park which includes the University of Geneva, founded by Calvin 350+ years ago.

There is something about walking through the halls of the university and knowing so much learning has gone on. The curriculum has expanded greatly from its original theology and law concentrations. By European standards it might be considered expensive at 500CHF per semester. Today the dollar and CHF are about one to one.

Calvin and his cohorts probably not approve of much of what is going on at the university today. Still much good has come out of their narrow-minded, joyless philosophy in spite of them all.

Stained glass windows of the University of Geneva.

Writing in yellow

Three photos of daffodils.

They are almost a metaphor for writing a story from many points of view. How does it feel to be one of many daffodils none of which stand out?

And what about the daffodil that turns it back to the camera. Why does it want to remain anonymous or is it standing up tall to show off it's yellowness?

Than again there's the daffodil that stares at the camera. She would probably take a selfie if she could.

Unless it is a children's story probably I wouldn't write about a daffodil point of view, but when writing about humans it is sometimes a good exercise to change the point of view, especially when I'm stuck. Putting something in third person into first, does help me understand my character's motivations.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The nightmare continues

The major reason I gave up my nationality is the US FATCA that blackmails banks all over the world to report American bank accounts held in their banks to the IRS. Huge fines are their alternative. Most of these account holders are in compliance with the US tax structure of Citizen-Based Taxation rather than the rest of the world's Resident Based Taxation. Most expats find themselves being double taxed on things like capital gains, unemployment, investments and pensions. Mortgages are being called in.

Anyone born in the US or the child of US citizens will owe tax on every cent they have for their entire lives even if they only spent one day in the US and none of the money ever touched US shores.

The result is that banks are closing American accounts.

My choice was to have a bank account or be an American. Since I never planned to live in the US, the bank won. The blog from the day I renounced in Dec. 2011 is below under the title One of the Saddest Days.

As soon as I got the State Department certificate that I was no longer American I took it to my bank.

Today the bank called.

It is not enough. They need another copy and I need to file more forms to make sure, really sure I'm not American.

I want the nightmare of being American to be over so I can bank like a normal human being.

One of the saddest days

Part of me will always love the man I thought my ex-husband was. After trying everything, I divorced the real man.

Part of me will always love the country I thought I grew up in. Like trying to save my marriage, I tried everything. I’ve made hundreds of overseas calls to Congress and sent thousands of emails. I’ve followed legislation from committee to signing. Most was about Bill of Rights issues such as the loss of habeas corpus. If the president does not veto the new amendment just passed by the Senate, than the military will have the power to arrest anyone, anywhere with no charges, no trial indefinitely. I have made no calls and sent no emails on this one. I am disengaging.

Today I divorced my country. The decision was not easily reached with too many facets to recount here just like I won’t recount the whys of my divorce to my ex-husband.
The U.S. Consulate is in Bern. The rain on my umbrella drowned out normal street sounds.
I was told I could tap on the door. A guard came out and growled I couldn’t bring in my pocketbook.

“What should I do?”

“Leave it in your car?”

“I haven’t a car.”

“The bakery down the street to the right will keep it for you. Three Swiss Francs.”

The woman at the bakery was friendly and told me I also had to leave my phone, my camera and my medicine. I could take my wallet and my passport.

Back at the consulate there was an airport-type examination, and then I went down stairs for a second examination. This man was friendly and we chatted as I waited my turn.

A woman called my name and asked for verification on the information I already provided.
Then the Counsel came out, a thin man with glasses.

He told me that my decision was irrevocable—I could never live or work in the U.S. again. I could never get my citizenship back--not tomorrow not in 30 years. I signed that I understood.

He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I was renouncing. My eyes blurred. “Are you certain you want to go through with it.”

Then I had to take a second oath. “What if I change my mind here?” I asked. I didn’t want to change my mind, I was just curious.

“Then I would take this back and we could probably . . .”

I shook my head. “It hurts, but I’m sure.” I took the second vow.

Within two weeks to two months I will get my cancelled passport and my certificate of renunciation. I will then pay $450. I can take that around to the banks so I can resume normal banking relations because I will not be subject to U.S. FATCA legislation that has caused so many problems for Americans and will continue to cause problems and other financial institutions. If Switzerland and the US do not come to agreement about the US have access to Swiss police records, it is possible I would need a visa to enter the U.S. It is also possible I wouldn't get one. I knew when I started this that I might never be able to enter the U.S. again.

Leaving the consulate to retrieve my bag at the bakers, I vomited.

Like the day I was divorced, this was one of the saddest of my life. I don't regret the choice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

mmmmmmmmm mmmm good

Nothing to do with Campbell soup which used to have chubby faced children commercials. See one here.

I'm back in Geneva and I realise that all the restaurants I want to eat at have an M connection.

Mid Eastern

Mmmmmmmmm mmm good.

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Caesar Salad at last

My mother found a recipe for Caesar salad in the defunct Gourmet Magazine back in the 60s. It was wonderful and became a family favorite.

In the 80s, a French restaurant in Maynard, MA made a great Caesar salad. They also had a desert they described as tagliatelle chocolate which was a chocolate crepe cut like tagliatelle with a homemade black chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream. I did as many businesses lunches as I could there and always ordered both.

Flash forward to my life in Europe. I saw many Caesar salads on menus but when they came they had iceberg lettuce (why bother--no taste, no nutrition) and a sauce that never read the recipe for a real Caesar salad.

At Marro, where we eat beyond frequently, I was chatting with the chef and said how Caesar salads were a real disappointment not even a good imitation of a "real one." He asked what a "real one" was.

First, romaine lettuce only, I told him.

He asked if I had a recipe. I couldn't find my mother's, but I located one close to it. I took it to him with apologies. After all he was a trained chef. I'd gone six months to chef school and only on weekends and over the years he has prepared wonderful meals that my housemate and I've devoured along with his clientele.

He said he would try it.

Today we tried his attempt which he hand delivered to us and waited for me to sample. He also offered to put our shopping in the restaurant frigo. He'd added a few flourishes that only added to the wonderful base.

It was as good or better than my mother's and that French restaurant.

I do wonder at my nerve of telling a chef how to cook, but his openness perhaps was our shared love of good, if not great, food.

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So what happens next

Babette: So Loretta is having lunch with Jonathan's father, who is thrilled she is carrying his grandson?

Me: Yes, but he's even more relieved to think Jonathan isn't gay?

Babette: But he is, isn't he.

Me: I'm not sure. I'm not one of those writers that plans things out in advance. I think I know how Murder in Edinburgh will end, but sometimes surprise myself. In Murder in Caleb's Landing, I changed the murderer at the end and when I went to drop clues in earlier chapters I found they were already there.

Babette: Creative process, Hun?

Me: Something like that. Now, please may I have my keyboard back?

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Monday, April 13, 2015

The 52 week savings challenge

I'm beginning to think this isn't going to work for me. So far their suggestions are part of my daily life or not applicable.

Last week's challenge was to write down everything I spend.

I've done that for years and years.

This week's challenge is to make my own shaving oil.

I will as soon as I grow a beard.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Standing out from the crowd

If it weren't for my Russian friend, I would not have thought of using the Nice Meridian toilets. 

And if I hadn't used the toilet I wouldn't have seen this wonderful series of photos.

Any sheep can be white. Not many can be colorful. Creativity adds color to our lives.

The photos were taken by Gray Malin, an LA-based photographer.