Saturday, December 31, 2016

Quelle année 3

The last part of the year was best -- a complete contrast to the first part. It was wonderful to feel good again. Of course, this was in contrast to the most depressing US election in my lifetime, drone attacks and other world horrors. Sometimes, I think I should feel guilty to have such personal happiness against what is happening outside my cocoon.

September 2016
As the last of the summer people were leaving, there was a farewell dinner in the vineyards overlooking the sea. No matter how chilly it was it was fun.

Lydia and I made Eva's relish, a treasured recipe from the past. A couple of jars were for gifts, but we will horde the rest.

October 2016

We became nomads. Our first stop was Boston to scoop my daughter. A memory I will treasure always was my friend Bruce and me reading the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere at the site of the Battle of Lexington. Time with friends is always too short, but no less precious.

We spent time seeing the historic sights including Salem with all its kitschy witch stuff.

Rick and I spent a sunny fall afternoon wandering around Walden Pond, spying chipmunks and admiring the autumn colors.

We headed for Montreal with Llara where Rick saw his client, and we met up with a friend from Geneva.
She told us about a lantern display. There were hundreds of life size lanterns, each more spectacular than the one before. Serendipity.

On to see my mother-in-law and Rick's brothers and sister-in-law. His mom helped me find material for the reparations of the quilt my grandmother made me a half century ago. But best of all was just having time together.

Our last stop was Long Island with a friend that proves you don't have to agree to still be good friends. There we saw Teddy Roosevelt's house and I fell in love with rainbow bagels.

One of the reasons I adore my husband he makes sure I have time with my women friends. What fun to explore Long Island and its neat little tea rooms with Ro.

S'mores at your table was just one of the delights we discovered.

She and I took a long walk at a special reserve where we could  renew all the closeness we've shared in the past and hope to do in the future.

November 2016

First Berlin for a business conference. I really enjoyed my toe-dipping into the professional world again. No desire to do it up to the ankle. He and I do have a few professional projects together.

Then off to Prague just because we could. What a beautiful city. My only regret, I'd lost contact info for my Czech friends, but they contacted me later in the year.

Back in Geneva, Tummy, our landlady's cat quickly reestablished his right to our bed.

We didn't have the car with us, and the extra exercise of walking up the hill was not only good exercise it was a victory because a few months before even getting to the bottom of the hill was impossible.

Thanksgiving at Marro with guests visiting Julia and Scott eliminated any trace of homesickness, the only day of the year I feel it. Boston Latin won its football game, Reading High lost theirs. Checking the results is part of the tradition.

Rick finished my Journaling thru Cris video and I began to get the word out. It is designed to give people a coping tool no matter what kind of bad times they are going thru.

Julia and FINALLY did one of our adventures. This was to Christmas market in Freiburg and an antiques fair in Bern. She is a joy to travel with.

December 2016

Both of us were busy with writing but there was time for fun such as the Carpe Diem dinner theatre Quebec troop using the death of Marilyn Monroe as the subject. The Escalade celebrated throwing the French out of Geneva in 1602.

I read from Murder in Schwyz mid month before returning to Argelès, which this year transformed itself into a magic Christmas land. And Père Noël did his annual descent down the church tower.

Christmas itself was quiet with a dinner at home with one friend.

Tonight is New Year's Eve. I am about to prepare foie gras toasts to take to the house party where we will meet up with friends.

We make a big thing about a new year. In reality, it is just tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I am grateful for each one.

I wish for everyone a healthy, peaceful, safe year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Quelle année 2

In a year marked by drones, strikes, crazy elections, terrorism and more catastrophes, we were still able to build a fort around ourselves for our good feelings. We care about world events, but the good allows us to fight the bad when we can.

May 2016

Rick and I celebrated our first "official" wedding anniversary at the Café du Soleil, where we re-met after 24 years. Each year they put out a calendar. I always send a copy to my daughter.

For us, it is the commitment ceremony that counted in August 2013. I periodically reread the vows we made that day to remind me of how lucky I am.

I started on the ms. for the the video of Journaling thru Crisis with goal of giving caretakers, people with serious illnesses and people going thru major changes a coping mechanism. It would not be completed until November but the delay would allow refinements.

I continued to fight FATCA whether thru the lawsuit, writing to journalists, congress etc. My energy was renewed by the fact my insurance company needed proof I was no longer American to continue my policy.

June 2016

We headed back to Argelès for the summer via Normandy where we lined up with two college friends giving a tour as they do regularly. We'd lost contact for many years and reestablishing the exchange of ideas and experiences was refreshing.

What a thrill to stand in front of the tomb of William the Conqueror or what is allegedly the rest of his bones. It is as if I had a personal introduction to the people throughout history that I've read so much about.

Seeing the Bayeux tapestry depicting the 1066 invasion of England was moving with its bodies of men fallen in battle so long ago. I'd seen a copy in reading, UK years before. We'd been to the different Normandy museums with the photos of all the young men about to die and the cemetery with too many white crosses of two many young men who never had a chance to live their normal life.

Rick commented in a 1,000 years humans hadn't learned much. People were still dying for causes that in x number of centuries weren't important.

This was probably the best message of the trip drawn on a wall where the English had miraculously constructed landing docks to supply the troops.

A trip to Paris to see friends was delayed due to strikes and fuel uncertainty, but my wonderful husband suggested we stop in La Rochelle.

We discovered the parish where my ancestor Michel Boudrot (Boudreau in later spellings) had been baptized and married. He later became a general in Nova Scotia and fathered more than a baker's dozen of children after sailing in a ship probably much like the one in the harbor.

I was happy I once again had hair and strength to do normal things.

While Rick attended an airshow in the UK, we stayed with good friends where ever nook of their home was a cozy corner. It was a wonderful days where we saw Cambridge, quaint pubs including some with parts of the building going back to the time of Elizabeth 1 and the West End production of Carole King's Beautiful. The best part was having so much time with our hosts and their friends.

Back in ASM, there were weekly street dances, dinners and lunches with friends.

Aug. 2016

We spent part of the month in Geneva. There was the visit of our Syrian friends and Julia's annual national day open house. This year it was neither too hot or too cold.

The lake as always was beautiful as were the mountains. Although it was hot, it was still a bit cooler than ASM. Thank goodness.

Back in ASM, Rick fixed the handles of my much-loved basket. I've carried so much food, laundry, gifts just about anything imaginable that I hated to throw it away. He found colored tape and voilà, it has a new life.

L'Hostalet was a gathering spot for friends either for coffee in the morning or an apèro in the afternoon. The owners made a great tapenade. A good place to start or end a writing day.

Our picnic basket had a final workout at the lake with our Swiss friends and neighbors here. We'd collected everything from vide greniers at a price of almost nothing. Our friend Karrie, however came up with the best basket ever (not shown here). We use this basket for the blanket.

In the brocante shop, after our basket was complete, we found one that had everything but it would lack the memory of the hunt at the vide greniers and the delight of finding Karrie at our front door with that perfect basket.

In my mind September is the start of the new year. Summer is over, school is starting (even when I was neither a student of preparing my daughter for school.

The days are shorter, there is the anticipation of cooler nights and the start of new projects. Tomorrow, I'll finish Quelle année.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Quelle année 1

2016 was a year filled with catastrophes, natural and man-made, political upsets, vitriol, deaths of icons and hatred.

In contrast to that I've lived in a cocoon of happiness, bolstered by a loving husband and friends. It is not just that I give to my friends and they give to me, but they give to each other.

It doesn't mean the year was problem free for me or some of my friends, but it does make it possible to get thru negative.

I will be doing a month by month summary today, tomorrow and Saturday.

January 2016
My last chemo. People think I am crazy when I said much of it was fun. The staff at HUG made each session almost like a tea party with discussions of kids, pets, recipes and more. I was never sick, just terribly, terribly weak.

And my Helicopter Husband was there when the after chemo-weakness struck. Before we married, he had been warned against limiting my independence, but I learned that there are times when it is okay to be dependent, I am so grateful to Rick for all that he did. I am lucky he is in my life.

February 2016

Julia and I went for sushi. I could eat it again now that I wasn't worried about bacteria and low blood accounts. Between her broken arm and my continued weakness we needed to tea up to have the strength to open a bottle of Coke. The normalcy of lunch with a good friend was a real, real treat.

I was able to get back to Argelès for a few days before starting radiation. Learning it wouldn't be five weeks of five treatments daily, but one treatment a week in Bern for five weeks was great. A piece of cake.

March 2016

I had the strength to attend the Geneva Writers Conference, intellectually stimulating. A chance to get reacquainted with two special writers and friends, Mohamed and Sylvia, who no longer live in the area, and several others whose work I respect.

The weekly trips to Bern allowed us to explore that city a bit. The train was the better alternative. The one day we drove, it took us longer to get thru Geneva traffic than it did to go from Bern to Geneva.

I'd worried about speaking German--mine is of the shopping variety, not medical, and as for my Swiss German? Forget it.

My doctor spoke seven languages fluently. While he heated my skin (part of the treatment) we chatted about history, medicine, books and so many topics that the 45 minutes seem like seconds. What a delight he was.

April 2016 

Back in ASM, I was strong enough for Rick to go a business trip, although many friends were on standby if I needed help, which I didn't.

Doing normal things like baking bread and cookies became gifts.

We started going to Sunday vide greniers to search for a picnic basket and all its contents such as dishes, glasses, knives, etc. Our first find, however, was a magazine rack for the bathroom. Sometimes that room can be called the New Yorker or Reading Room.

The one downside, or maybe not because it was a bit of an adventure, was being helicoptered to the hospital in Perpignan after an esophagus attack. They match the pain of a heart attack but after having them for decades, the results of follow up tests are always I'm fine. The tests are precautions. I was sorry Rick couldn't go with me because I had a lovely view of Canigou, the mountain he loves. He did meet me at the hospital.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Johnny Halliday

At the marché, I'd picked up salt crystals and peppercorns for the new salt and pepper mills and decided to camp at La Noisette for a tartine and hot chocolate in case any friends wandered in.

I'd brought my Kindle and began Jody Picoult's new book. I glanced up and a man that looked so much like Johnny Halladay I gasped: hair, face shape, swagger, leather jacket, pants.

No guitar though. And Johnny who is older than I am but still the ultimate French rocker does not hang around Argelès. Also this man looked to be a few years younger.

Then he turned. On the back of his oldish leather jacket in faded letters was the name Johnny Halliday.

Before I could ask him why he was mimicking JH, he left.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

daily haikus


Garbage men slam bins
Chatter away each week day
 I go back to sleep


Church chimes ring and ring
Tolling early morning mass
I go back to sleep

7:30ish to 9:00ish

Paperback, Kindle or
Magazine, no matter I
Read, sip tea and smile

Warm robe, warm towel
 Preheated, then my shower
Warm water and suds

Maybe toast or something
else, porridge, eggs, fruit, bacon
pancakes, a surprise?
the rest of the day
Words go from my head
thru my fingers. Keyboard
Screen, then corrections

Monday, December 26, 2016

Reading orgy

Right before Christmas there was a moment of panic. Except for catching up on nine New Yorkers I had nothing to read. 

 And I did need to get to them to pass them on to Lydia who would pass them on to Rosalie. Rick's annual gift of a subscription to me, is a gift to the three of us.

Although I read in French, I still prefer English. Getting good English (anything that interests me is the definition of good, not necessarily a statement of quality) is not always easy.

My reading is eclectic. Anything from news on-line, history, biographies, mysteries, chic lit, etc.

When I felt thru the Christmas wrapping I thought one gift might be a box set of some DVD. I would have liked that but my joy at discovering three books by an author I just discovered and loved was even greater. It was even a nicer gift that he remembered that I enjoyed the author.

And there were two other books on my Kindle: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Jody Picoult's latest.

I now have a reading orgy ahead of me. 


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The rock

 Not THE rock, but the same feeling of strength.

About 50 steps from my childhood home down a path flanked with small pines and a couple of oaks was my big rock.

A glacier, probably tired of carrying it, dropped it along with another one nearby.

When I say big rock, on one side it was at least double my height, but at the end of the path it was almost level with the dirt.

There were two stairs, a natural part of the rock. The top of the rock was about the size of a king-sized bed and on a 10° slope.

As a little girl I played around the two rocks. They were the western badlands, Greek temples, castles and anything else my imagination could dream up.

When I was 20 it was my sanity. My mother had insisted I break my engagement and the tension in the house was thicker than pillow stuffing.

I would take a book, my lunch and spend hours on the rock. I also planned my elopement. I couldn't write my future husband, because all my papers were scrutinized. Nor could I leave the house to get a letter to him.

This was the summer my 13-year old brother had his first girl friend, Sherry. Their song was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a strange choice but then he was 13. He played it incessantly. His bedroom window was such that the song filtered down to my rock sanctuary.  That I didn't break the record after the 1,000+ time hearing it was a testimony to my control.

There was a tree that shaded the rock, but still in July the surface was warm not just in temperature. It warmed my hopes.

Yes, I did elope.

Years later, when I discovered my childhood home had been torn down and replaced. The new owners showed me how they had filled in land around the two rocks, but leaving part of them exposed as a landscape feature.

As I walked around the surface, memories flushed themselves from where I had buried them. The marriage hadn't worked, but I survived. The rock gave me strength that summer that many decades later I still have.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


"It's like Republicans vs. Democrats," my husband said.

As I was preparing coffee for my French neighbor, I had commented that as a person raised as an American, I often found myself drinking tea as my Brit friends drank coffee defying the stereotypes. 

Or is it like Pepsi vs. Coke drinkers and nary the twain shall meet?

I thought of my beverage drinking history.

I came from a New England tea drinking family, although my grandmother did have one cup of instant Nescafe each morning. This was long before the time of gourmet teas and coffee.

Sometimes there would be a pot of Lipton tea made to the instructions given by Arthur Godfrey on his TV show.

As a child I was forced to drink milk, gagging it down with as much chocolate Bosco as they would allow me to put in it.

My first husband was a coffee drinker. I loved the smell. The was okay.

When my daughter was little and I had a roommate we bought International Coffees, thinking ourselves so sophisticated. Once we began to travel to Europe we realized the difference between the corporate product and reality.

My preferred beverage was Coke in place of all other beverages often swallowing one or two liters a day. When I quit I lost 25 pounds within a month...probably a connection, don't you think?

I then have substituted tea: green, black and tisanes (herbal).

My daughter, who never drank either tea or coffee, spent her 17th year of high school in Germany and came back a coffee guzzler. On a recent visit, she introduced me to mocchinos at La Noisette down the street. Yum. Rick and I indulge as we people-watch on marché day.

There is something though...if a coffee drinker wants a cup of coffee nothing else will do. The same can be said for a tea drinker wanting tea. (We won't discuss Coke). 
The difference between beverage and political preference is there is no pejorative applied to those that choose another beverage than the one you like. This is a good thing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The Guardian published an op-ed by a woman whose mother-in-law gave away her books that was storing for her. Read here 

For someone who reads constantly the idea of being bookless is stomach.grabbing anxiety, yet I am no longer a collector.

As a child, buying a book was a reward for good behavior. I haunted the children's room of the Reading Public Library shown above. Now it is the town hall and the town library has been reopened in the converted Highland Street School.

When I lived in Stuttgart, the 7th Corp. Army base had a really good library.

Living with another couple for years in Boston, all of us were avid readers. We had the habit of going to Harvard Square Friday nights for dinner, chatting about the week's activities past and to come, listening to street musicians and then buying books for the week. It was almost an unbreakable requirement.

As we renovated a Boston town house, one room was floor to ceiling books and our bedrooms were full of books. When I moved,  I had less space so my choice of what books to keep was limited but not my reading amount.

I stopped regularly at the local Parker Hill branch of the Boston Public Library. The staff became friends.

My daughter's first job was at the Brookline Library and when I picked her up after work, I would go early to browse and take out what I wanted to read.

The American library in Geneva feeds my reading habit. The annual membership is quickly amortized in comparison to having books sent from the US or UK. I'm never without a book or many at my fingertips.

In Argelès, however, now that my good friend with an English bookstore has died, the choice of what to read locally is more of a challenge. A Kindle does provide book security even if it lacks the sensual touch and smell of paper.

Not since I left the house with the library have I had the desire to keep most books. Once read, there are too many people who are always looking for something to read in their mother tongue. 

Saying that, there are books I've given away and bought more than once such as Alice Walker's Horses Make the Landscape More Beautiful. I've bought it at least four times. I need to buy it again.

There are books I will never, ever give away such as the Book of Kells bought in Ireland.

However, the thought of someone else giving away my books is horrifying. 

If I still had copies of Beverly Gray mysteries, the Landmark series, Thorton W. Burgess stories or Summer at Buckhorn, I would become homicidal if someone gave them away without my permission.  As for the later, I see there are six copies on Amazon for $295, an amount I cannot justify paying. 
There's a New England cookbook used by my grandmother and me today when I want to capture the tastes of the past. I would try and save it in a fire. 

My childhood books were given away by mother without my permission when she moved from a house to an apartment. At the time if she had asked, I would have not been able to take them.

Still I understand the frustration of the writer of the op-ed piece. She was dealing with other mother-in-law and marriage issues. 

As a parent of an adult child and having friends of parents of adult children, I understand the desire not to be a storage shed forever for an offspring's possessions.

On this longest night of the year, I am almost ready to climb under the covers with a mystery that I'm half way thru and hope I can stay awake.It is not a book I will keep once my husband has read it too. But, it will be my decision and that makes the difference.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I'll never be a grandmother.

Although I would have liked to be, to have my daughter produce grandchildren on another continent that I might see every two years, well that's a lot to ask of her.

However, that doesn't stop me from enjoying other peoples' kids and their stories.

Example 1
One little girl, who at five was speaking three languages, has always been adorable. When visiting at three, she grabbed something off the table and her mother, who is a stickler for manners did the "why it is good to share" lecture.

The girl headed toward the stairs. "I'm going to my room and think about sharing."

She was back a half of cup of tea later. "I've thought about sharing," she said. "I don't want to."

Example 2
The same little girl had her mother worried because the child was sticking pins in her dolls. Images of voodoo abounded UNTIL the mother learned the child was practicing acupuncture on her doll.

Example 3
A four-year old, also bilingual, although that has nothing to do with it, is convinced that taking a bath gives him supernatural powers.

Example 4
The same four-year old believes that putting body lotion on keeps the bad dinosaurs away. I suspect the mother of handing out propaganda on this believing dinosaur protection is more interesting than preventing dry sky.

She also has had little trouble to get her kids to eat anything because she fed them grownup food from the start and has them cooking with her. If the kid cooks it, he is more apt to eat it.

Example 5
Two little boys are no longer afraid of monsters under the bed once their mother put up a "No Monsters Allowed" sign on their flat door.

Example 6
Mother: I don't want to hear another word out of you tonight.
Small girl: I love you

Monday, December 19, 2016


Because there are so many good boulangeries in walking distance,  I seldom bake. They do it as well or better than I do.

For many Christmases, my then housemate baked up a storm, filling the house with good smells and our tummies with yummy cookies and brownies.

At the moment I'm about 600 Kilometers from said housemate, although I know she's been hard at work in the kitchen.

Thus, today and yesterday I was making chocolate chip, peanut butter, and a pie dough bird cookies (cookie cutter that has been in my family since the early 1900s. 

Today it was raisin/cinnamon bagels. Bagels are hard to come by and if found they are plain.

We have invited friends for breakfast tomorrow. We are tired of the typical dinner entertaining, and Rick makes a mean eggs and bacon.

I also made our own juice (apple, strawberry, kiwi).

That's it. 

Our bûche de noël will come from our local baker. He will do it better than I ever could. And his croissants, various breads, desserts are better to.

But it was fun.

Bring on the rest of the season.