Friday, November 24, 2017

Turkey Sandwiches

"What is your favorite food at Thanksgiving," Financial Iconoclast Max Keizer asked Stacey Herbert, his wife, producer and co-presenter Stacy Herbert on his program The Keizer Report.

I understood.

Although Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Europe, we often do anyway, most often finding a restaurant that offers an American Thanksgiving. European restaurants don't do doggy bags for leftovers so no turkey sandwiches the next day are possible.

About 20 + years ago my friends came from Boston for Thanksgiving. My daughter brought the turkey from Germany where she was studying, thanks to a friend with PX Army privileges. She brought the friend too.

We were at the home of my then partner, a lovely Swiss businessman. The next day we got up all having dreamed of hot turkey sandwiches. My partner couldn't believe that we would eat sandwiches for lunch and insisted on making a "real" meal which he did and which he alone ate as we munched down the sandwiches. He would not try the sandwiches. No anger just a shrug on cultural differences.

About three years ago I produced a typical Thanksgiving for a Moroccan couple who had treated me to couscous, a culinary cultural exchange. I was dreaming of hot turkey sandwiches and left over apple pie the next day. My husband lovingly cleaned up everything including packaging all the leftovers for our guests to take home.

No turkey sandwiches.

This Thanksgiving was probably the easiest. I ordered the turkey from the local butcher. A good friend came from Geneva to produce the stuffing. I had been to the American store in Collogny to buy cranberry sauce.

I made apple tarts and cooked the turkey. Our guests brought sweet potato and the best green beans I've ever eaten. We sat down at the table and ate and laughed and laughed and ate happy that good friends could be together.
This morning I woke up knowing that everything needed for turkey sandwiches was in the frigo. And at lunch, I had my long-awaited turkey sandwich.

Life is good!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Black Friday and Other Christmas Thoughts

Sadly, the idea of Black Friday is spreading to Europe even without Thanksgiving.

For me it doesn't matter. Christmas shopping is done. Rick's presents arrived today. Thank you UPS. Other people's have long been bought, found over the course of the year. I won't have to go into a store until after the holidays.

Even if I hadn't finished, nothing, nothing, nothing would drag me into a store on Black Friday. If I have no choice but to shop, I try and do it when as few people as possible are there. If a store is crowded, I can see no point in entering at all.

My method when I do go in, especially to a chain...go directly to the item wanted. Do not look right or left, buy it and get out as fast as possible and go do something I enjoy.

Malls are the worse with the chain stores. If I find a small shop, preferably with a single owner that won't leave me depressed it can be a little different. These are almost never in the malls. Often it is possible to chat with the owner making the transaction personable and memorable.

Years ago a good friend convinced me to go into a shop in a village in France with beautiful handmade sweaters. I still have the one I bought there and treasure it and the memory.
Another reason I want to avoid Black Friday is that I want to give thoughtful and original gifts. My husband knows not to buy me something that corporations have manipulated him into buying to clutter my home. Although he says, I am hard to buy for, he has been beyond clever in finding things I love like a special book or a Japanese chin sweatshirt neither of which he could never have found in Black Friday chaos.

It still amazes me that people go further into debt for Christmas. Even with a great Black Friday price, if it is put on a charge card, interest charges soon eat up any price savings. Years ago, people had Christmas clubs where they put a few dollars so when Christmas came around, they knew their budget and didn't have to dread bills in January and beyond.

Christmas stockings can still be special, though. My daughter has embroidered ours, including a new one for my husband to say welcome to the family. In the past we've stuffed them with anything from the silly to the delicious. Although I don't need it this year, hard to get Crest toothpaste has always been a special stocking stuffer.

I am looking forward to Christmas. We are planning a tree-decorating-celebrate-the-solstice open house where we can share just being with friends. This year we most likely go to Amadeus for Christmas dinner. Amadeus, the restaurant, not my late dog's grave.

I already have everything I could possible want in life and more--I don't need Black Friday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

White hair

My grandfather had white hair that I loved. I thought of white cotton candy.

Then in Germany I had a friend who also had white hair despite being in her twenties. She bleached it, but her own hair was so light that her roots never showed. She was also drop-dead beautiful. I was jealous.

I was sort of a dirty blond but for years I dyed my hair red at the suggestion of my white-haired friend.

It worked, but I really wanted white hair.

I tried to grow it out, but I hate roots and always rushed back to the dye.

Nature and lots of chemo solved the roots problem. When it grew back, glory, glory it was white and instead of looking older as people said I would, I looked younger.

Seems I am in style. I've been reading articles about how many women are going naturally white and then France2 did a program on women going gray.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Less is more

As writers we are told "Less is More" and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a perfect example. He gave the speech on this day in history 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Friday, November 17, 2017


My late friend Barbara, used to say couples shouldn't live in each other's pockets. I agreed with her.

Having been single for 41 years, I was amazed that by marrying my soul mate, we were in each other's pockets almost all the time. Even more amazing -- it was fine!

We are both writers with desks about 12 feet apart although in separate rooms. Much of our days can be spent at our computers.

We do other things, from exploring the area, photo safaris, movies, restaurants, etc. almost everything together, although recently he has returned to what he loves as much (or more) than me (see photo). I am thrilled for him.
I may wander to the baker or butcher, he might amble to the neighborhood grocer by ourselves. And I still take time to visit with women friends. But mostly we are together 24/7.

According to Barbara we should be at each other's throats, but we are not. Maybe because we've developed the ability to be alone together.

Now he is on a two-week trip to Dallas, Johnson City, Orlando. I was curious how it would be to be alone.

Alone in Argelès is a limited term. One just has to go to either of the two cafés at the end of the street and someone shows up for a chat. All our food shopping is with owner-operated stores, so a chat about kids with Elisabeth while buying veggies, or philosophy with another shop owner, is the norm.

Although nothing stops me from doing what I want while in the pocket, I often don't.  I've discovered that:
  • I am watching more French television in place of English.
  • Missing our DVD/cuddle time
  • Not eating meat
  • Reveling in beets, artichokes and other foods that I am too lazy to prepare in addition to whatever day I am cooking. Rick and I alternate days.
  • Having less laundry
  • Having less trash not by 50% but by 80%
  • Missing being handed a brownie or hearing the machine popcorn
  • Sleeping diagonally in the bed
  • Missing reading in bed in the morning and sharing what I am reading. I can do the first half with pleasure
I am happy to report that I can still love being alone, although it would be my second choice. I do not want to lose the ability.

So, I am looking forward to the rest of Rick's away time, but not as much as I am looking forward to his being back. I've decided that being in a pocket with someone is more than okay depending on the person and the pocket. One of the few times my friend Barbara was wrong.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hope Chest

I doubt if any American girl today has a hope chest. In my era they were just going out of fashion.

The idea went back thru time when women would gather linens, household goods and clothes for their trousseaus. Some linens were lovingly embroidered and were expected to last. Most were cedar to protect the contents.

The biggest manufacturer was the Lane Company, begun by John and Ed Lane in 1912. After a hostile take over in 1987 they went bankrupt in 1992 but continued making hope chests until summer in 2001. It is now known as the Lane Furniture Company.

The chests came in many designs. Samples can be seen on Ebay with bids starting at $39 and going up into the high three figures.

Some 12 million chests were made.

Some of my friends had hope chests. I never did, although I've ever been without hope. Today my hopes aren't about linens but are more about
  • World Peace (I sound like a beauty queen contestant)
  • Health for me and those I love and like
  • Good friendships
  • As much time as possible in the places I love
  • A dog
  • My husband's happiness
  • Laughter

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


As a kid I hated bedtime. No sooner did the door close and I was up and I resumed playing. What bothered me was that my mother took my shoes, and I had to explain to whatever imaginary people I was playing with that I had the latest style shoes that looks like feet. Periodically my mother would come in and tell me to get back in bed.

As an adult going to bed is wonderful, especially now with the cold, dark evenings. I may be watching TV or a DVD and my eyes droop. Or I may crawl into the pre-heated bed under the red and white mink and read. Or as my daughter says, pretend to read, because I often fall asleep with the book on my chest.

Likewise mornings are different. I don't have to jump out of bed to take the dogs (although I do miss them) for a walk and then rush to work. I can listen to the church bells, read, and gentle myself into the day.

In between morning and night, life goes on as usual. The only difference now, bed is no longer dreaded but a beacon, another joy in a day filled with pleasures.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

black and white

"Shit" I thought, when I saw someone in our Facebook group, Flying Colours, nominated me to do seven days of black and white photos. At first I thought of just not doing it. Time to go out and look for black and white possibilities.

Then I wondered about turning my colored photos to black and white.


Suddenly, I saw things in the photos that I hadn't seen before. What I thought would be a chore became fun.

In high school, I had a wonderful teacher who kept saying, "There is no black and white, only shades of gray."

Thanks K. for helping to keep my mind open.

Friday, November 10, 2017


“And the cardboard toy theatre and the case of curiosities had been removed as has the ivory table.”  The Great complication  by Allen Kurkweil was the trigger for this piece of flash fiction done in a ten-minute free write along with another writer.

It wasn’t until she dropped her car keys in the hold-all drawer that she realised something was different. The cardboard toy theatre and the case of curiosities had been removed as has the ivory table.

Megan bombed thru the library to the kitchen.

“Son of bitch!” Had Thomas still been living there he would have told her to lower her voice.
That he was the guilty party for the missing items was without alternative. He loved those items as much as she had when they first acquired them. Funny how the same thing could trigger such diverse memories.

They’d bought the theatre at a flea market on a grey November day arguing the seller down to $5 from ten. When they came home they drank hot tea in bed before making love. Only on the next Monday had she learned he was sleeping with Clare.

The curiosity case had been put out on the sidewalk in front of a brownstone apartment building and was under a lilac tree in full bloom. It was down the street from her best frenemy Angela who was another in the Thomas string of lovers.

The ivory table was bought in New Delhi, a second honeymoon or a last attempt to save the marriage. They had held hands as they wandered the bizarre and never  tired of the curries and other food. It might have worked had Thomas not kept going out to call Rene.

She should have changed the locks. 


As she moved a red leather chair into the hole left by the case she vowed that whatever she found to replace the missing items would carry only good memories.

Monday, November 06, 2017


Too long ago today, I was in the shower. Rick, my husband knocked at the door.

"Babette is here." Why, I wondered, would the green grocer on the corner come to see me in the early evening.

I threw clothes on, wrapped my hair in a towel.

"Barbara est morte." Babette said.

She couldn't be. Rick had taken her lunch. We often shared our leftovers.

She had walked down the street just a short time before chatting with people she passed.

She had had a doctor's appointment. She had told him a joke, lowered her head and died.

Babette, who had keys to Barb's house, handed me her agenda that she had retrieved. Not speaking English she thought I would be better contacting her family, whom I knew well.

I knew what I had to do. Call Wendy her daughter. Rick cautioned me to make she wasn't driving.

The village was in shock. She was part of the gospel choir, a store owner selling English books, African art and clothes. Everyone knew her, loved her. There was a long write up in the local paper about the village's loss.

She and I had been neighbors in three places. First in Boston. We watched she and her then husband move in carrying boxes and boxes of books. I knew anyone with that many books, I wanted to know. Later we owned condos in the same building in another part of Boston.

She and her husband had been anthropology professors. We all became friends.

Barbara went to Africa to continue her research in Lobi music and culture. Her marriage didn't survive it but the friendships did.

Eventually we ended up in France with a short walk of each other.

It takes more than a blog, but an encyclopedia to describe our friendship. Her wisdom gave me the courage to be better than I thought I was capable of being. Often the wisdom was condensed into a few short sentences or less, causing clicks of realization.

Nothing about her was ordinary. She was a big woman, who with three children, decided to go to junior college which led her finally to her doctorate. More than anything she wanted to help the poor women of Africa and accomplished more than any human could expect, but fell short of her own goals.

Alain Martin, leader of the gospel choir, sang What a Wonderful World at the crowded memorial captured her spirit with his beautiful voice. People came from the US and other places in France. She did make my world wonderful.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

I will survive

Our next door neighbors are part-time residents. They had one planter with a green leafy  plant. I don't know names. We would water it for them, although they didn't ask us too. We just liked how pretty it looked.

During the summer the planter was under a swallow's nest. As you can guess, the leaves were soon white with baby bird poop.

Combined with the neighborhood cat population saying "Wow, a toilet," the leaves gave up.

An empty planter isn't pretty so we bought a pretty pink flowering plant and put pine cones around it to discourage the use of the planter as a kitty toilet.

The flowers were happy.

Suddenly the green-leaf plant decided to resurrect itself.  

Start playing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

Saturday, November 04, 2017


It should have been easy answer to Rick's question, "What do you want for Christmas?"

The problem is, I have everything I want. I go through each day, awash in contentment. 

This year we celebrated a mini Christmas with my daughter in Edinburgh. We played Christmas carols and exchanged presents.

It was October. Part of it was practical. Our presents tend to be simple, often inexpensive, things we can't get where one of us lives but exists where the other does. Therefore, a special Kleenix can cost 10x more to ship across the Atlantic than the original price. It isn't begrudged at all but so much nicer to slip something into a suitcase to be given when we can see the faces of the receiver and use the money not spent on delivery for a meal together in a restaurant.

Time together can not be boxed, wrapped and tied with a ribbon.

I still love Christmas. The music, the decorations, the markets with its chalets. Seeing friends. Hanging our stockings. My daughter embroidered mine when she was still in high school. She worked her needle magic on Rick's a welcome to the family after our commitment ceremony.

My daughter brought one of Rick's stocking presents with her to Scotland (shipping benefit) that I want  to give him. I've ordered his main present. He too can be hard to buy for. I listen to what he says and hope for clues.

There is one thing I want, the same thing he has given me for the last two years.

I read it almost cover to cover--sometimes the restaurant reviews make me too hungry. He reads it then we give it to a friend who gives it to a friend.

So what do I want? I have enough clothes. I have enough jewelry. I even have enough Crest toothpaste, which has made a great gift in the past. I revel in my home.

Poor man, I wish I could help him. He's stuck with a contented wife.

Friday, November 03, 2017


I am a lucky woman.

The main area of disagreement in my marriage is the Oxford comma and a pizza cutter.

My husband loves the comma.

I will use it only when it is confusing not to, which is often.

I was taught that comma is like the word and...thus if you use , and you are really saying and and. We always point out anything that backs up our opinion.

And my husband loves his pizza cutter. I see it as taking up room in the drawer, and find scissors much easier.

Considering all the fights some couples have we live a harmonious life even as we edit each other's work as we eat pizza.

Thursday, November 02, 2017


When people think I have a glamorous life, I remind them, I still have to put out the garbage (unless Rick does it first).

In some ways it is glamorous, once the garbage is put out. In Geneva, we can walk to the lake as we admire the Alps.

We've hopped over to the UK for this or that, Paris for the Air Show.

We had a month in Edinburgh, explored an abbey in the Loire Valley, slept in a bubble in Austria and looked out our hotel window in Liechtenstein to see the royal family castle.

But coming HOME to our flat in Southern France has been the best part of it all. Our apartment is on the ground floor between two streets. All the houses nearby are at least 400 years old, many older.

I love our stone walls, my kitchen, our art work. I love walking out the door to get fresh baked bread

and running into any number of people I know for a chat.

I love having everything I need at my fingertips (well almost).

I can watch the neighborhood cats jockey for position.

I love going to Elisabeth's for the fresh local veggies and fruit and the seeing young the Muslim couple as we chat about what to do with whatever meat I buy.

As much as I loved the discovery of new places and the changes day to day, I love the routine of waking and having tea in bed and reading before I start my day.

Poor Rick has two trips coming up. Technically I could have gone with them, but friends are coming for Thanksgiving (no it is not a French holiday, but we can celebrate just the same.) He can take his shoes off at security, unload his electronics and hope he makes his connections.

As a kid we never went anywhere. I dreamed of packing a suitcase, indeed having a suitcase. Now I dream of putting my suitcase in the closet. Next year I'll be ready to go exploring, but right now, I am so content just being HOME.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

It's fixed

About 15 years ago on the way to the American Library I Geneva I saw the black leather coat that had been 1500 CHF was marked down to 750 CHF. Yes, I know it looks brown in the photo, but trust me, it is black.

I bought it, joking that as a writer in a francophone country, I need the obligatory black leather coat required of all intellectuals. It has seen me through spring and fall since then.

Yesterday I notice a tear near one of the buttons. This is a coat on want to keep and wear forever.

We are lucky in this village. There is man who used to sew for the top haute couture houses in Paris. 

He claims to have designed for Elton John. Even now he gets commissions from old customers that he ships north. He now has a commission to save this 16th century piece of embroidery sent to him from a church in Orleans.

This spring, he saved my grandmother’s quilt by inserting tiny squares where the fabric had worn away beyond tedious work.

With my coat, he opened the seam next to the buttons, put in a reinforcement then made little triangles to sew under all the buttons against future rips. I bet the coat is good for another 15 years, although I am less sure I am.