Sunday, July 31, 2016

Night ride

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It seemed like a good idea to drive home in Geneva all night from Southern France.

After all, it was the transfer weekend where half the country on holiday drives north to end their holidays, and the other half is driving south to start theirs. By midnight most of them should have reached their destinations.

And it would be hot, sticky ride during the day for anywhere from 6-8 hours depending on the breaks.

Rick went into body clock change mode, sleeping a good part of the days and staying awake nights prior to leaving.

Midnight struck. Our car did not turn into a pumpkin. Instead it was loaded with computers and a few things we wanted in Geneva.

I can fall asleep on a ride to the grocery down the street, but I managed to stay awake at least part of the trip.

We were right. The temperature was great and traffic minimal.


It started to rain. The car was attacked by a branch. Despite Rick's night-awake training he was failing. "I'd like to pull over and take a nap," he said.

Of course, I agreed. The rest stop was almost deserted and both of us slept an hour. If anyone pulled into next to us they did not notice us. Probably no one did.

We had a mini picnic with pain au chocolate before moving on.

The rain had lessened. Daylight revealed the mountains around Grenoble.The scenery is always spectacular.

We saw our Genève sign telling us we were getting closer.

We rolled into our driveway at 8:35.

Will we do a night drive again? I have no idea.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Dances in the Square...

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Every Tuesday night La Place de La Republique in Argelès becomes alive for a dance as the heat of the day diminishes. 

Live bands play different kinds of music.

Tables in the two nearby cafés are filled. Friends share tables while others bring their own chairs and put them around the edges of La Place.

Children run around dancing with each other, by themselves or with parents and grandparents.

There are regulars.

Several old women regularly dance by themselves, moving with joy to the music. Sometimes they dance with each other.

A Chinese man with braces dances almost every dance from a waltz to rock and roll. He wears braces/suspenders. His Caucasian wife is only slightly taller.

A former Army man, heavy set, comes with his wife, a short woman and a friend who is taller. They alternate dancing with him. I've always been amazed that someone that macho and big can move with such grace.

We have a hippy couple and toothpick thin is not an understatement. She always wears short-shorts. Although she may be pushing 50, I am almost jealous at the perfection of her legs. My legs weren't that good at 20. Both have long hair, but his is tied in a pony tail. She wears a smile of a woman on a stage as he swirls her  around the square. Rick calls them Butt Cheeks and No Cheeks.

Last week we saw a new couple, probably tourists. He looked a bit like Patrick Swayze and was as good a dancer and were they dramatic with bends and twists and turns.

Rick and I do get out on the floor and move a bit. That we don't match the best dancers is no problem.

It is fun and when we are tired, we sit and chat with our friends.

I am still waiting for my special Mamie (one of the old women in the village) to teach me line dancing.

Grandsons A-Z

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by mystery writer D-L Nelson by signing up at the top right of this page. 

I will never be a grandmother.

I remember when my parents lived in a retirement community in Florida when children and grandchildren visited it was almost a status symbol.

The same is true of my friends in Argelès-sur-mer. Grandchildren abound during the summer months. I am not jealous but joyous that I can get to know these wonderful young people.


A, a Brit, has visited his grandmother many times. The first time I saw him he was still in grade school and swimming in her pool, a well-behaved but active little boy. Over the years I've seen his poise at his grandfather's funeral, social events and interfacing with people from many countries.

He has done well in school, although he will be relieved when he receives the results of his A levels next month. His plans are to go to the University of Bath and he is leaning toward the sciences.

His knowledge on many subjects, including politics and history, goes deeper than many adults I've met.

His kindness to his grandmother knows no limits.

Talking with him is a pleasure.


We sat the café this morning with this 17 year old. He lives in the States, is bi-lingual and a senior in high school. He talked about how he has researched universities, his goals and how he hopes to attain them. He ruled out places where students talked about parties and ways to get by without much work.

He wants to be a doctor. As a young boy he lived with a father who hovered near death for far too long until a medical solution could be found. Now he and his father do triathlons and swim races together.

He is well aware that his background is privileged, and his parents want to make sure he experiences the realities of life as well.  At an intellectual level he knows this but he wants the experience.

His eyes light up when he talks about his plans. He is good to his grandmother, an exceptional woman in her own right.

That a teenager and a woman in her seventies have had a chance to know each other on a deeper level than a visit within the confusion of a family is a gift to both of them.

And to share a coffee and conversation, is also a gift to me.

When I look at these two border-line men, I have hope for a future despite the chaos of the world. They may not change the world, but I am sure that for those around them, they will make the world a happier and hopeful place.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Another Stove Story

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My mother, Dorothy Sargent Boudreau, believed that food and family stories went together. For a hot day, this is treat. Betsy was a long time friend.

There I was on a lazy Sunday afternoon, again at Betsy's, alternately watching the water skiers, the pond lapping at the shore, the distance mountains, Brandy (her Schnauzer) sniffing for frogs and reading the Sunday paper food pages.

This recipe caught my eye and I'm glad it did. I've made often since.The first time I was quite alone and ate THE WHOLE THING! (Not all at once, of course!)

  • 1 package (6 oz.) orange-flavored gelatin
  • 1 can (medium) crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 large container non-dairy frozen whipping cream
Drain pineapple and add enough water to make two cups.

Heat to a boil and pour over gelatin. Add crushed pineapple.

When it cools add cream and put into a mold.

Chill until hard.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

mixed feelings

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As a woman, who lived thru the feminist movement, I had such mixed feeling about the very visual moment when Hillary crashed thru the glass ceiling last night at the Democratic Convention. Video here.

I've been discriminated against because I was a woman. Newly separated and needing a car, I was turned down by the bank where my family and I had banked for three generations because "divorcing women weren't stable." My soon-to-be-ex did a get a loan about the same time. I guess they thought divorcing men are stable.

I was turned down for more than one job because I was a woman.

When I was lobbying for the Equal Rights Amendment at the Massachusetts State House more than one legislator patronized me with comments about being a "a cute little girl". I was 30 but still needed an ID to prove I could buy alcohol. Other comments were equal insulting.

Other friends too faced discrimination such as the friend who had excellent credit lost her credit card when she married a man with less good credit. She earned more money than he did.

I won't list all the examples.

On the other hand when the movement progressed and women were need for employment stats, I was hired for a professional job but told it was "too bad I wasn't black, Hispanic and limped because you'd qualify for three slots."

Seeing a woman being selected as a candidate by a major party for the presidency (there have been many who were running on third, fourth of fifth parties) made me want to cry for joy. My husband thought the way it was done at the convention was not so great. I thought it was clever.

What was hard I don't want Hillary as president. She is corrupt, a war monger. She lies. She supports businesses and banks that will only damage the country more. She is running against a mad man who could damage the country in another way. I can't celebrate that.

I realize that we could end up with women heading up major nations.
  • UK Theresa May
  • FR Marine Le Pen
  • D   Angela Merkel
As the Virginia Slim ad said trying to give women lung cancer with their cigarette brand, "You've come a long way Baby."

Maybe putting women who do more harm than good just like men who do more harm than good in power positions is progress of a kind, a very sad kind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Writing about action

 Read about a variety of topics (writing, life in Europe, politics, food, etc.) by mystery writer D-L Nelson by signing up at the top right of this page. This was one of the newsletters I wrote years ago, but the advice is still valid.



When we think of description we usually think of scenery, weather, the way a place looked. However describing actions is another way of moving the plot forward. In movies the camera pans for the viewer or moves into a close up of the action they want the audience to see, but writers must put the words in print so the reader can focus on the action and then glean the meaning.

Action in this sense does not necessarily mean shoot-‘em-up cop stories or violence in any form. Some can be quite subtle, as having a character reach over and take another character’s hand to show acquiescence after a small argument or sympathy after bad news.

Like anything we write it is the choice of details that give our readers an insight into what is happening. The importance of the action is weighted about how the characters (point of view) react to it or don’t react to it.

We can choose distance or close ups just like a movie camera. A car can pass in the street as someone looks out a window and thinks that it the third time the car has gone by. Or we can be in the car with the driver. The type of car, age, speed, all can give a reader a sense of what is important. If the character draws the drape, rushes to the phone or ignores the car tells the reader what is happening.
A door slamming shows anger (or a breeze). If it is so hard that paint flakes off, the mood, is intensified have the handle fall off and still another fact is conveyed either about the condition of the door or the degree of anger of the slammer.

Very different is a subtle change of a facial expression: a lip that quivers, an eyebrow that is raised. Often this type of description shows an underlying emotion without the writer having to tell what is being felt.

Sometimes the character assigns words to the action so the reader gets the message loud and clear. Other times the actions tell the reader something that the character hasn’t caught on to. A man who hangs up the phone suddenly when his wife enters the room, but the wife doesn’t see it, lets the reader know he is up to something sneaky. The tension builds waiting for the wife to find out what that is.

Writers don’t necessarily separate descriptions of scenes actions and dialogue, but weave them in and out to help the reader live the writing.

Both are from MY SISTER’S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult. The speaker is the younger daughter, born to provide body parts for her older sister who is suffering from cancer. Mostly the girls get along, but sometimes they fall out as normal sisters will. 

1. “A minute later she (the mother) left, and returned with potholders, dishtowels and throw pillows. She placed these at odd distances, all along Kate’s side of the room. ‘Come on,’ she urged, but I did not move. So she came and sat down beside me on my bed. ‘It may be Kate’s pond,’ she said, ‘but these are my lily pads.’ Standing, she jumped on a dishtowel, and from there, onto a pillow. She glanced over her shoulder, until I climbed onto the dishtowel. From the dishtowel to a pillow to a pot holder Jesse had made in first grade, all the way across Kate’s side of the room. Following my mother’s footsteps was the surest way out.”

Note: Kate and her sister had divided their room with a line down the middle and neither sister could enter the other’s territory. The narrator had chosen the side with the toys and had played happily while her sister had no access to her playthings. However, lunchtime came, and the narrator could not cross the line to leave the room. The door was on Kate’s side. The mother comes to the rescue. 

Notice the props the mother carries: pot holders, dishtowels and pillows and the extra two details that the pot holder was made by her brother in first grade. The mother renames the props lily pads. Not only does the mother put down an acceptable escape room she demonstrates by walking on the newly named lily pads. We get the emotional story in the last sentence. 

The actions of the mother tells a lot about her attitude toward her daughter. She takes her problem seriously and finds a solution. Because of other things in the book, it is unusual for the mother to do this, so it builds in another aspect to the mother that we haven’t seen before.

2. “In our living room we have a whole shelf devoted to the visual history of our family. Everyone’s baby pictures are there, and some school head shots, and then various photos form vacations and birthdays and holiday. They make me think of notches on a belt or scratches on a prison wall – proof that time has passed that we haven’t all just been swimming in limbo. 

“There are double frames, singles 8x10s, 4x6s. They are made of blond wood and inlaid wood and one very fancy glass mosaic. I pick up one of Jesse – he’s about two, in a cowboy costume. Looking at it, you never know what’s coming down the pike.

“There’s Kate with hair and Kate all bald; one of Kate as a baby sitting on Jesse’s lap; one of my mother holding each of them on the edge of a pool. There are pictures of me, too, but not many. I go from infant to about ten years old in one fell swoop.”

Note: At first this looks like the description of an ordinary family shelf of photos. However the author adds a few details that make the section emotionally charged. Kate is bald after she has hair. We know from earlier in the book Kate has cancer, the baldness drives it home. 

The narrator’s reaction is negative. Notches on a belt or prison scratches are not happy comparisons. Swimming in limbo also adds to the negative feelings of the scene. That there are photos of the older sister and brother through out childhood, by nine years are missing from the narrator’s life also shows volumes about the narrator’s place in the family. The narrator also chooses action words in phrases like coming down the pike and one fell swoop in a stationary scene. In a way the setting up of the shelf of pictures is action that went before and gives an insight into the family’s dynamic. The first two children are important, the second is not. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016


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Perspective on Age
Times: 1968, 2016
Places: Republican National Conventions
            Reading, MA, Argelès-sur-mer, France.

Richard Nixon filled my TV screen. CNN was comparing his speech to Donald Trump's. I feel nauseous more by what they've shown about Trump. I am tired of war and race riots. Nixon looks so young, I think.

Richard Nixon fills my TV screen. Same speech as I will see decades later in France. I am nauseous more from my new pregnancy than what he says. I am in Reading, MA. I am tired of war, race riots. Nixon looks so old, I think.

Perspective on Friendship
Times: 1993-2016
Places: Internet, Geneva, Africa

"You can speak English," were the first words J spoke to me. I had telephoned about an ad for an apartment in Geneva where I'd just moved for work. Little did I know that would begin first a landlord-tenant relationship followed by decades of growing friendship that included silliness, sushi, support thru life-threatening illnesses and loss of beloved family members and much, much, much more.

Her blog triggered the memory of our first meeting at the apartment that would be my home for the next 11 years. She was with her Son. No. 1 a gangling teenager.

I think of a photo of that son taken a year ago. He is in Africa in tribal dress on a jeep surrounded by gun-toting body guards. No, he didn't become a terrorist. He is doing good things while on mission for the UN.

Friendships are built by shared experiences little by little until one day, one realizes the depth of that friendship.

Perspective on weather

Times: 2014, 2016
Places: Westport, Ireland, Argelès-sur-mer, France

Dec. 2014
"Isn't this wonderful?" I asked my husband Rick. We were walking a dog in Westport, Ireland as part of a house/pet sitting experience. Sleet was stinging my cheeks. Every atom of my body felt alive. I had the energy to conquer the world.

Raised in snow-bound much of the year, Binghamton, NY and having lived in hot, hot Dallas happily for  20 years, he looked at me. There were ice crystals in his beard. I could "hear" him thinking "I married a crazy woman."

July 2016
Rick and I are walking around the village at the end of a very hot day that has sucked my strength. It is a bit cooler (meaning I can breath but barely). He is happy, I am sure thinking of golf games yet to be played in "good" weather. Snow is a four-letter obscenity to him while heat enlivens him.

Fortunately we both like spring and autumn.

The mystical "they" say the more things change the more they stay the same.


Maybe not.

Maybe it is our perspective that changes.


If my mother, Dorothy Sargent Boudreau, were alive today, I am sure she would have been a blogger. Her last career was that of a journalist writing for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune and the Boston Herald.

After she "retired" she regularly wrote two columns, Stove Stories, which were recipes with a history and Going Like 60 covering just about anything, in other words, perfect blog material.

She was a good writer.

She died in 1989 and when I cleaned out her apartment I kept many of her clips. They are now two doors down and three flights up in my Nest.

So, how did one of the clips about mothers day did one of those clips end up in my nightstand?

I discovered it a couple of days ago when I was looking for Fenistil to sooth my itchy bites.

I don't believe in contact from the other world even if the toilet on the second floor of my aunt's house flushed when no one was there when the family was gathered on the first floor after her funeral.

And just because there was a tomato plant growing on my grandfather's grave in the middle of the city cemetery after he told everyone to "Plant me in the garden. When the tomatoes come up all ripe and luscious, you can say, 'that's Walter'" doesn't mean there was any communication from the other side.

I don't have an explanation. I don't think I want one.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Making a home

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I have a 400-year-old kitchen with original stone walls (although repointed) a sealed off doorway or maybe it was an oven. There is a debate on that. 

Until this week I also had an IKEA island that just didn't look right.

We went on a hunt to replace it with a French country table, not some modern reproduction but one that had really been used, where people ate, laughed, cried and made plans. I wanted wood with memories embedded.

We found it at a Depot/Vente, our favorite used furniture store and it was delivered. It did require a complete rearrangement of our pots, pans, dishes, which my well-organized husband did as I hid out in another room. This method stops any possible bickering.

Although I am now happy with rustic look and still adore the carved  fish stones, I am not about to give up my modern appliances.

I suspect when I knead bread or roll out a pie crust on the table, I won't be the first. Other women have done it before me. I wish I knew a bit about their lives.

Since my kitchen is the heart of my home complete with heart shaped stones, I look forward to making meals for those I like and love.

The two things were another step in making the flat truly Rick's and mine.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Good/bad bosses

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Sitting at lunch Rick and I were reminiscing about the many bosses we have had and tried to figure out what made them good or bad.

My first was an editor of a daily newspaper who growled and terrified me, but in retrospect was kind and always willing to teach me.

One boss threw a waste paper basket at me, and shortly after I quit, not being fond of flying objects that could hurt me. He ended up in a mental hospital.

Another was a control freak and as part of the hiring process had me talk with ex-employees about how bad a boss he was.


I was making an international move and he thought it fair. Despite the fact that he usually had one of his employees in tears weekly or more often, he was scrupulously honest. I did not miss working for him and stayed as long as I did because he held my working permit.

In my next job I once again could eat an apple at my desk my old boss was not there to be bothered by the crunch.

My last boss I really respected, liked and wasn't afraid of as most of the staff were. However, I hated having to tell him one of my direct reports had messed up big time and what we were doing to correct it. He approved of my plan.

"Just don't let it happen again," he said

"I won't. I dreaded telling you," I said.

He sat back in his chair and smiled. "I know." And that was the end of it.

Our good bosses we decided told the truth, didn't play political or emotional games, left us alone to do our jobs with clear outlines of what was expected and gave us the tools and freedom to really contribute. It should be simple, but it isn't.

The bad?

Flying wastepaper baskets and apple limitations

Thursday, July 21, 2016

To be or not to be

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In our case it will be or won't be and not our choice. We want to go to Abu Dhabi to see the landing of the Solar Impulse, the totally solar powered plane that has spent the last year flying around the world with two pilots alternating behind the controls.

They are in Cairo waiting for the right weather conditions. Had they left earlier, we would have not been able to go because of Rick's news assignments and my final proofing of Murder in Schwyz deadlines.

If they delay too long, we have obligations in Geneva the first week in August. If it is after that, than we can go.

If we hear in the next few days they've taken off, it won't take us long to book a conventional plane and make hotel reservations. Throw stuff in the suitcase and off we'll be.

If they wait too long in the month, it will be on our list of things we didn't do (sigh). However, with all the things we do do, we know that life holds other adventures for us. We can celebrate their accomplishments from afar and be happy we ALMOST made it.


Strawberry Soup

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Pretty as a picture, this is a party soup or for romantic dinners for two. Call it a glamorous soup, call it
exotic, call it elegant.The recipe is from my mother's cookbook.
  • 1 pound fresh ripe strawberries
  • 4 cups Port
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp. arrowroot
Hull and wash strawberries and put in a saucepan with 4 cups Port and one cup of water.

Bring to a boil.

Mix the arrowroot with with 1/4 cup water and stir into the hot soup.

Reheat and stir until it thickens.

Serve the soup chilled and topped with a small dollop of whipped cream and/or a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.

Serves six to 10 depending on the role it plays in your menu.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yea Boo Part II

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 Another Yea:Boo day...

Yea: Calm morning.

Yea: The antique desk for sale at the Depot Vente I saw a week ago plus was still there. We were able to find the kitchen table and a chest to replace the Ikeaish things we had. Just what we wanted. A four hundred year old kitchen, although modernized, deserves authentic old.


Yea: The owner saw me admiring a beautiful handmade paper book. He gave it to me.

Boo: The bank said I would have to go to Perpignan to change the 50 Euro note that is ink stained.

Boo:  Over two hour wait in the doctor's office.

Yea: Clean body no sign of cancer.

Boo: Tried Cresendo for a late lunch. Strange system, pay then walk by the food. Nothing looked good. Poor was his day to cook. We came home and I made him pasta and a salad to make up for being such a pill. Over all I am not a fan of chain restaurants and maybe it was Barbara's ghost because she hated the supermarket attached to Crescendo.  

Yea: Temporarily solved editing problem for my novel Murder in Schwyz due out in October.

Yea:  Ball at La Place de La Republique. Lovely watching all ages dance around the square. Did a bit ourselves. Marco, our resident alcoholic artist showed me a portrait he'd done of me.

Yea: Life goes on. That is truly a gift.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Vanity and a look

This is an eclectic selection of blogs about life in Europe, politics, writing, recipes and life in general by To receive the blog in your mail box please sign up at the top right hand corner. A Strange Writing Lesson is from a newsletter that I sent to writers a few years ago. 

 I'm the first to admit I'm vain. I want to look my best. 

Now that my hair is growing (I call it chemo chic) I've changed my look and I love that people tell me that I look good. And some tell me others have said to them how great I look. 

I don't plan to ever be a red head again. I will keep  it white and short with big earrings. I have purchased some new clothes from the marché. The outfit in the photo cost 30 Euros. I also bought a pair of pants, top and belt at the marché for a total of 15 Euros.

As a writer and at my age I can afford to be eccentric.

The only problem with the big earrings is that when the Tramatane is blowing behind me the earrings tend to slap me in the face. 

Keeps me from taking myself too seriously.


Monday, July 18, 2016

A writing lesson


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A Strange Writing Lesson

I was curled up on my Parisian friend's couch. Rain splattered the windows, making staying in the best possible alternative. I'd spent the last three hours writing, which fulfilled one childhood fantasy of writing in a garret in Paris (although this was nicer than my fantasy garret).
I watched the DVD ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION then I listened to the bonus: the director talked about his creative decisions. It was one of the best writing lessons I've had. The DVD is available on for as little $.32 used, but be careful of the different zones.

Rather than explain that Paul Newman was the surrogate father and loved his surrogate son Tom Hanks, at a wake, Newman sits at a piano and plays a song with one hand. Hanks joins him and plays the harmony, also, with one hand. The looks they exchange and Newman's pat on the back shows the depth of emotion.

In the background we see Newman's biological son's face reflecting hatred and jealousy. The camera angles down so only the son's legs show, effectively cutting him out of the relationship.
In another scene Hanks' son has seen him kill a man. Hanks and he talk about it in their Model T. They make no eye contact until the last moment of the scene. There is another separation that the director did deliberately. He shot the scene in such a way that the bar of the driver's door separates father and son. It is so subtle that no one would say, "Oh look at the bar of the driver's door emphasizing the separation between the father and son." Yet visually and psychologically it is there.

Whenever there is a death, water is involved. Sometimes it is rain, another time it is water in a bath tub. Repeated symbolism can be effective. The more subtle it is, the more effective.
To show Hanks' son as slightly alienated, the boy is bicycling in the opposite direction of people going home from work.

The director uses light and dark and many other techniques to show the action of his movie.
Scene by scene he covers the little details that show what he wants us to see and feel.

As writers we need to think as carefully as that director on how to work the details to convey the message we want to our readers.

When I went back to my writing, I rewrote the chapter I thought I had finished, using the director's message. We learn from the strangest places.

"If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. " Joan Didion

"Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them." John Ruskin

"I've always thought of writing as active thoughtfulness thinking taken to a physical level made manifest on paper, where the thinker is able to account for his thoughts, reflect on them, question them, revise them, and ultimately, communicate those thoughts to others." Mary LaChappel, Jan/Feb 2005 Poets & Writers

EXERCISEWatch your favorite movie. (Mine is LION IN WINTER Then go through scene by scene without the sound to see what you notice in sets, color, props and any other details.

Although the American Library in Geneva is a warm friendly place that keeps me in reading matter, it was a real joy to be in the Boston Public Library with its hundreds of thousands of books. If you live in or around Geneva, they do need memberships.

I met Louisa May Alcott when I was in Boston a few years back. No I do not need to be committed. Jan Hutchinson, who is the curator of Orchard House Museum, the house where Alcott lived and used as a model for LITTLE WOMEN did a one-woman show as Louisa May. She totally transformed the small theatre at the Boston Public Library, with her tales of nursing during the Civil War. She "confessed" that when people stopped to meet her because of her fame as a writer, she put on an apron, covered her hands with flour and pretended to be the maid. Orchard House as many small museums, could use help with funding.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

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Another recipe from my late mother's cook book 
As children we loved this and still do as adults. Trouble is now, I have to make it and get to it about twice a year. It's a bit time consuming and then it disappears so rapidly. Still worth while. And it does make a great gift for those that have everything.

Prepare orange peel by cutting peel lengthwise in section. 

Cover with cold water, bring to boiling point and cook slowly until soft (about 20 minutes). 

Drain thoroughly, cut off any extra white part of rind and cut peel in thinnish strips. 

Good scissors will do the trick. Set the strips aside and prepare the candying ingredients.

BRING to boiling point,1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water and 2 tbsp. corn syrup.

Add one cup prepared peel and cook until it is clear 230° on candy thermometer. 

Remove peel from syrup with a slotted spoon and spread on a plate to cool. 

Roll in granulated sugar and spread on wax paper to dry and store in glass jars.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Yea/Boo was the way my late friend Barbara described the days that had both bad and good. Friday was a mega yea/boo day. With the exception of Nice, all places mentioned are in the same neighborhood.

Boo: Woke up to news of Nice. Another tragedy in a list of too many around the world.

Yea: Went to Chez Elisabeth for fresh melon, peaches, green beans, onions, pepper, eggs and milk for breakfast. Peaches from local grower were especially good.

Boo: 50 Euro note had ink on it. Needed to go to ATM.

Boo: Forgot tomatoes,

Yea: Made oatmeal-blueberry pancakes.

Boo: forgot blueberries for pancakes

Yea: Added raisins to pancakes changing to oatmeal/raisin pancakes

Yea: Wrapped up dog biscuits and tied with bow for Rossi's birthday. Took to P&P and had coffee on their terrace while Rossi ate one of his biscuits. Nice conversation. Plans for Saturday night dinner together.

Boo: Artwork I had left wasn't framed but I told the framer Annie not to worry.

Yea: Nice conversation with my Halal butcher while buying meat in English/French/Arabic, The first on his and the latter on my part being minimal to the amusement of his other customer.

Yea: Stopped to see Lydia in the crypt. She thinks the cat that who greeted us in our flat when we returned from London, snuck in while she was watering our plants.

Yea/Boo: Make meatloaf and scalloped potatoes for lunch as surprise for Rick who said he liked both. He is saved from my more daring food. The oven temperature is not consistent but can juggle between that and the microwave.

Yea: Ordered flowers at the florist. The son of the owner wanted to practice his English but we talked about how we would save the world in Franglais. I don't think he recognized me without my red hair. He said come back for another conversation.Our world solutions are as good as the clowns in charge.

Yea: We know when Solar Impulse will land thanks to a telephone call.

Boo: Probably won't be able to go to Abu Dhabi because Rick is in the middle of a tight deadline.

Yea: Won't have to worry about the heat.

Boo: Will miss a major world event.

Yea: Our Peanut Butter Jelly sandwich (Initials on their email thus the nickname) Swiss neighbors are back. Quick catch up and plans made.

Yea: The parrot has landed. Whenever it is on the first floor shutter it means K&C have arrived and are in residence much like the flag flying over Buckingham Palace then the Queen is there. They weren't home.

Boo: Keep checking on news. It doesn't get better.

Yea: Our Nice friends are safe. We get many messages of relief from our FB posting that we weren't in Nice. I know people, and I do it too, who think one might be in a region of tragedy want to know that one is okay. Geographical or timing distances don't matter. Being cared about is always welcomed.

Yea:  Turkish coup. Turkish leader is bad news.

Yea: Go to Côté Place for Sangria. Joined by Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. K and C show up. Hugs all around. The summer season is official now. Learned Melinda, the cat, is healing well after her accident.

Yea:  C. confirms that the goldfish, bun and bird which I thought were newly painted were indeed painted when he was here and we weren't. Liked confirmation of my observation powers. He also said the fish with the Botox lips was done by one of his students. Again self back pats because I thought the style was a little different from his. C. is a renaissance man and among other artistic endeavors is a set designer. C. considers the outside of his house a canvas. It is the most photographed building I Argelès-sur-mer and has appeared in national magazines.

Boo: Turkish coup failing. I'm not usually a supporter of coups but . . .

Boo: Threats of more bombings on Isis and Syria in retaliation for Nice. Violence begats violence, begats violence....

Boo: Two Americans who lived in the same town Rick did in TX are among the dead. He confirms he didn't know them, but worries his grandson did. (he didn't we found out later but doesn't lessen the sadness of the attack overall).

Yea: Watch Lie to Me on DVD. Hold hands. Grateful we are together.

The world is filled with war, terrorism (or freedom fighters depending on who is reporting what), incompetent or crazy leaders (I prefer to call them representatives even when they don't represent most people), a financial system on the brink of collapse, climate change...yet in my personal life I am surrounded by loving family, family of choice and friends. I live simply in two beautiful places.

As Barbara would have said, "yea/boo." I hold onto the good amid the chaos.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Where: A pub outside London
When:  This week
Who:    Five women, who had 0-3 children
Why:    Because women share

The plates had been cleared away and we waited for the dessert we all said we weren't having but temptation was too great.

After many subjects the topic turned to being a good mother, what makes a good mother.

None of us were bad mothers in the sense that we physically or mentally abused our children, but there was a feeling that we hadn't done all we could to be "good" mothers.

But what is a good mother?

Can anyone be a truly good mother? 

Motherhood is a lifetime job with different skills required. Some women are better with babies, some do well with teens. There are helicopter mothers who hover and free range mothers who let their children roam. Some mothers are good at letting go of their older children while others hold too tight hurting the offspring's entry into adulthood.

Motherhood includes guilt. I still feel badly my daughter had to discontinue gymnastics because I couldn't take time off from work to get her to the sessions. Or the day when I called her a baby, offending her strong sense of dignity. And that I didn't understand how she felt about the division between her father and me at Christmas. I won't include the rest of the long, long list.

Sometimes the quality of mothering depends on the personality of the child. I have musician friends who felt they failed when their child became an accountant. I have friends that would be equally shocked if their child (horror of horrors) wanted to be a musician.

It would have been interesting if our children were at a separate table discussing us. Years ago, a group of us in our 40s were discussing on-going problems with our moms (I won the most unmotherly mother when I said at the end of a wonderful Thanksgiving she'd prepared, she handed my brother, my daughter and me a bill.)

For the first time we came to the realization we could be the subject of mother problems if our children were talking about us. None of us wanted to know what they said but at the same time we did want to know.

One thing was clear. We had all wanted to be good mothers. None of knew exactly what that was. All of us tried but lived with the limitations of every day life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

People watching/talking

I love people watching, but even more I like people talking.

I’ve been busy doing both since leaving Argelès for a few days in the UK. When you talk to people it is a connection if only for a moment.

English woman at airport
At the Carcassonne airport I sat next to a red-headed woman and her red-headed daughter. Because of the next flight being headed to Stansted Airport, English was about the only language being spoken. I asked her the time (a great way to test for conversation willingness. I try not to pursue conversations with those unwilling to talk,)

“4:22 but that’s UK time. I never changed my watch.”

We chatted about her stay in Carcassonne near the château. Yes, my favorite cookie store was still there and they had the same pleasure in going bin to bin to select cookies or biscuits as she called them. There next trip will be to Arizona.

 Man on plane
The man next to us on the plane was thin, bearded and wore a straw hat. He was probably in his late 50s and was reading Annie Prolux Barskins. He said his relatives had left France for Canada and family legend had much in common with the book. We compared family histories. Originally from Detroit, he’d spent 40 years in the UK having followed a woman there. He had been in visiting a friend in Mirepoix and said, yes he thought the hotel that was a converted 13th century jail was still there.

Polish waiter
My host and hostess took me to lunch at Bill’s a wonderful restaurant in Cambridge complete with a library corner. Our waiter, a tall thin, dark-haired man probably in his mid-twenties, was from Poland but he was truly an international also being of Russian and Czech origin. His Czech family have just been rediscovered and they are planning a visit to explore the connections.

Poetry reader
On the underground, the car was almost empty. A man near to us was well-dressed in khaki pants and a light blue shirt. His hair was well cut and with a slight wave. He had a book of Seamus Heaney poems. Years ago I heard Heaney read in Geneva. This time I didn't speak, content to merely watch as people filled the car eventually blocking my view.

Muslim family
A Muslim man with a stroller and three young children got on the train heading back to Broxbourne. He deposited his children in three seats, told the boy to stand and stayed with the carriage or pram since we were in the UK. The children talked quietly until their stop. Looking out the window we saw the little boy who was maybe eight at the most helping his younger sister.

I doubt if I will ever see these people again, although I am still in touch with a Chinese girl I met once on a train to Argelès almost ten years. It doesn't matter if we do ever connect again or not for one special moment our lives touched.