Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Nest

I am writing this from my "Nest" the place where I wrote part or all of many of my novels.

I call it a nest, because that it what it was. Bought for my 45th birthday, I paid $18,000 for what I planned to be my retirement home. I knew I could (and still can) live here on $600 a month.

The Nest realized my dreams of having a studio loft in France. It was another goal to live as simply as possible, never having anything extra, but everything I needed and found beautiful. I had more than I needed.

As much as I love the Nest it is too small for Rick and I together so we divide our time between another flat and Geneva.

With our internet out, I reinstalled myself in the Nest until SFR can solve the problem, but I am reminded how this tiny place renews my soul and all the wonderful memories of writing, entertaining, reading, knitting and just being happy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Love at first lick

Four months ago, it was love at first lick. The squiggly ball of fur named Sherlock has learned a lot as he develops into an adult dog, including which TV programs catch his interest (those with barking have priority) but there’s still room for improvement.

I had no worry about his comportment when I decided to have a cup of tea at La Noisette with Lydia even if it were marché day crowded. Not like a month ago in a Japanese restaurant in Geneva. He settled quietly at our feet, surrounded by…what was that green stuff all over the floor?

Sherlock was enjoying the spinach he had pulled from her shopping basket. We cleaned it up, not wanting the owner Amadine to have to deal with it. For the rest of the time I kept watching him as he watched my neighbors shopping basket with the sausage sticking out.

I still am not sure where he found the fork that he put in his horde, the place next to our bed where he stashes his toys and treasures. It might have been the dishwasher, but I thought I’d watched him every minute while he was in the kitchen.

Another mystery: Rick is in Florida. I went to sleep on my side of the bed and Sherlock was on the couch in the living room. In the morning, I was almost falling off Rick’s side of the bed.

Curled up next to my back was Sherlock. How does a six-kilo pup push a 60-kilo woman across a good side bed in the middle of the night?

Doesn't matter. He will continue to mature, and I will continue to adore him.

Off grid, BIG TIME!

Unexpected Sunday. The original goal was to watch some of the Sunday shows, read write and research on the internet. It didn't work out.

Here's what happened.

7:00 Walk Sherlock

7:30 back to bed and read The New Yorker

9:15 Up and make toast, shower and put on the TV. It isn’t working. I do everything they tell me to but nothing works. Almost like Scarlett, I’ll think of it later.

11:00 Walk to C’s and along with Sherlock we walk through the lotissements and check out their development. The path is full of puddles from the days of rain. Sherlock decides to jump in the creek next to the path and splashes happily.

12:00 We stop at Mille et Une for a cup of tea. We start sitting in the sun, but it is too hot, for the first time this year. I have the almond that they just introduced me to. Falco, the owners’ dog, is disappointed that I have none of the usual biscuits for her.

R. walks by. He is the young teenager, I would love to adopt and have missed him since his mother moved. He hugs me and then picks up Sherlock. He will be here during his school vacation. It is good to see that he is okay. I worry about him.

12:15 C takes the champagne glasses I want to go to a good home. After realizing that the TV, internet and phone all have problems, I walk to L’s. She is French, and hopefully will understand what I have missed.

For the next four hours we try just about everything imaginable including calling for help. Thank goodness L did it. I can get confused by technology, more so by French explanations never mind speed speaking. The person on the phone has a heavy accent plus mumbles. I am gratified that L has to keep asking for repetitions. It isn't just me.

We are told they have increased our power. The situation is complicated that my Swiss phone is almost out of money and our new landline needs to be reset so calls do not go directly to message. With Rick away, I have no idea where the instruction book is, Of course, the phone isn’t working anyway.

Finally, we are told, the problem has been sent to their experts and hopefully by Monday it might be fixed. If not, a technician will have to come to his house. Complicated communications are arranged. 

I know I can go to my studio for internet access Monday.

I give L the last piece of cinnamon gum as a thank you. We will find more for her when we are Geneva.

17:00 Realize, I haven’t had lunch and cook fresh peas, swiss chard and potatoes.

17:30 Feed Sherlock and take him for a walk and come home to settle in for the night with a good book…always a good book.

Although we go off grid one day a week, this is totally off grid. No way to go back on. I suppose I could go up to the studio, but I’m lazy.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

No way

"No way," I said to my husband. "And that's why." Our wifi just had gone out for about five minutes. I was explaining I would never ride in a pilotless plane nor a driverless car.

Yes, I know the technology is there. I also know all the things that go wrong regularly with technology never mind hackers. Just think, all the traffic lights are automatic and tuned to driverless cars. One hacker can throw an entire city off.

It isn't age. It's common sense.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Cold Cherry Soup

Yesterday we visited Ceret, one of the best cherry-growing areas in France. It reminded me of my mother's recipe for cold cherry soup.

  • 2 one-pound cans pitted tart cherries
  • Juice from a third can of cherries
  • 1 cherry can of water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 whole gloves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 1 lemon slived
  • 1 two-inch cinnamon stick
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1/2 bottle white wine such as Medoc
In a kettle combine the two 1-pound cans of cherries, the juice from the third can, 1 cherry can water, the sugar, cloves, allspice, sliced lemon, cinnamon and salt.

Bring to a boil.

Blend 1 tbsp. smoothly into the 3 cups light cream and stir the mixture into the cherry combination.

Add the 1/2 bottle white wine and bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and chill thorough.

Serve with 1 tbsp. whipped cream on each serving.

Will keep for 2 weeks refrigerated.

Makes 12 small servings.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Sprechen-vous Espanol?

I have many multi-lingual friends who speak up to seven languages fluently. I wish they weren't so nice or I would hate them. Call it jealousy.

In eighth grade I took Latin and happily switched to Spanish for my two-year high school graduation requirement.

As a bride we were stationed in Stuttgart Germany. I immediately enrolled in a three-week intensive course that left me functional on the economy, as soldiers referred to anything off base.

At university I took French. Our professor was a story teller. In two years we covered ten pages, and I definitely knew how to tell people that Paris was located on the Seine in French, should anyone ask.

No one has.

After three semesters I went into an advanced modern French drama course. Thanks to a girl friend I was able to do word for word translations on her notes and on the readings.

It went fine until the test.

"What are you doing in this class?" the teacher asked. I didn't want to say I couldn't face another hour with the my former idiot French professor who was her friend. I said, I was fascinated with modern French drama. She let me write in English and I got an A for knowledge. She told me not to take French again.

I also took a directed studio on Goethe although I'd forgotten much of my German.

There was no need for languages for a decade or two when I moved to Switzerland working for an anglophone company with anglophone clients. I wanted to be able to function outside the closed English environment.

My boss said I was too told to learn French.

I proved him wrong becoming competent enough to gain my Swiss nationality and have non-English speaking friends. I can read books and articles. Depending on the accent (anything but something from Marseilles) I can understand spoken French.

For 14 years I dated a Swiss man who spoke no English. When my daughter was with us, they spoke German, he and I spoke French, and she spoke and I spoke French. When his daughter-in-law with us, Spanish might be added to the mix.

I still dread speaking French on the telephone. Some say I speak French with a Boston accent, and a standard expression is "Ce n'st pas votre faute, c'est mon accent" when people don't understand my accent. It isn't their fault.

As for my German when I went to Bern for radiation, I dreaded that I'd have to speak Swiss German with the doctor. Turns out, he was one of those people fluent in seven languages and I suspect told a good joke in all, although he entertained me only in French and English.

Lately I've been trying to bring back my German working with tapes. Much is coming back. It is more of a problem to find the time to do it.

If I have another life after this one, I want to be born into a multi-lingual family.

Thursday, April 05, 2018


After years of running out of the house to get to work early in the morning, not doing it is a treat,
What is even more of a treat is that when I wake on my night stand is a cup of tea and a biscuit, a gift from my husband.

At first it was just black tea, but lately he's added specialty teas, including Constant Comment, which he had shipped to his mother in New York and brought back to Europe. He saw how much I liked it when we were visiting a friend on Long Island.

The aroma of Constant Comment, a fruity, caramel or vanilla tea is such a lovely way to be gentled awake.

There is a slight catch now: we have to make sure that Sherlock does not help himself to that biscuit, especially if it has chocolate.

Who needs diamonds when one has a loving, considerate husband--and a morning cup of tea.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Castration Ride

"I don't want to castrate him," I said to my husband.

Sherlock, the object of the talk was sitting on my lap as we were on our way to the SPA (Animal Adoption Center) oblivious to the reason for the discussion.
He (my husband, not the dog) mumbled something about not having a choice and we launched into a discussion of why.

"Isn't that discrimination?" he asked when I said, I wouldn't mind neutering a female dog.

"Female are the ones who raise the pups." It made sense to me.

There was no way we would ever breed Sherlock. He is a Yorkie, Griffon, ?, ?, ? mixture. Even if we wanted to create a new breed, I doubt if we could find another same combination female. He was doomed, anyway, to a sexless life (If you don't include his love affair with the gray pillow).

I understand that Sherlock's mission is to be loved by humans, us! He is not destined to be a father and there are too many unwanted puppies in the world.

My husband didn't say much as I explained how badly I felt that I'd had Albert, my Japanese chin castrated. We had just passed the Dali statue, about half way to the SPA.

Sherlock was still a provisionary adoption. 

Not only was he due to be castrated today, there was paperwork to finish up after we arrived. His official name had to be changed from Spider, the name he received when left at the adoption center by the breeder. They had two addresses: office and home. The chip info was updated.

By the time we drove past the Perpignan airport with Gaddafi's bullet-ridden plane still waiting for repairs, I knew even more strongly I didn't want to subject Sherlock to the surgery. We had almost reached our destination.

What I wanted really didn't matter. The lovely vet, who had given Sherlock certain shots earlier, explained, I signed a contract. It was part of the adoption process.

She was right.

We surrendered him.

Six hours later we picked him up. His tail wagged but he was groggy. The next day he is still groggy and has begun peeing in the house again, far more often and like it hurts. He has been happy to eat.

I imagine when he looks at me, he thinks, "WHY? WHY? WHY?" and is forsaking all future car rides unless he knows the destination.

And the most important thing--he is officially adopted. He has a loving home. But I still wish there'd been another way.

Rick did a dueling blog at

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

FATCA-we lost

When people heard I was one of seven suing to declare FATCA unconstitutional, they said we'd never get anywhere. I was crazy to try.

FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) is the tool, the US uses to bully non-US banks, investment services and insurance companies into reporting every American ex-pat to the IRS. These organizations have spent billions identifying Americans and kicking them out far more than was ever collected. Americans became toxic customers.

How did the US do it? How did the turn banks all over the world into their private tax reporting agencies?

With a 35% of assets fine if they miss an American and the threat of being shut out of the international monetary system.

These organizations looked at Americans and said, "You're not worth the risk." Opening or keeping a bank account, a mortgage or an investment method became almost impossible.

In some cases it was also impossible to keep a job, especially if the expat had financial responsibilities with the company. The business did not want all their private financial information sent to the US.

Obligatory pension companies with firms, could no longer provide retirement services and the employee had to be let go (or not hired, if it were a potential new hire). Even an American expat treasurer on a local sporting organization or other charity, could no longer serve because that group's finances would be reported to the IRS.

Weird things resulted. The head of an American Chamber of Commerce in one country couldn't have a bank account, for example. Hard to promote a country that is making one's job next to impossible.

Expats found their mortgages called: no banking relationships normal or otherwise were possible.

Marriages broke up when the non-US spouse refused to have his/her private financial information be sent to the US when there was a joint account.

The American spouse would put everything into the non-American's spouse's name so the family could retain a bank account, which was fine as long as the non-American spouse lived and/or didn't walk out on the American leaving him/her stranded financially, which happened with frightening frequency..

Under the auspices of the Overseas Republicans, Attorney James Bopp, Senator Rand Paul and six others including myself sued.The issues included the 14th Amendment, which addresses citizenship rights and privacy issues. Expats were being treated differently from homelanders. Having indepth details of bank accounts reported to the US was not being done to people living stateside. Paul claimed he was denied his right at a senator to vote on the FATCA treaties.

The question of "standing" came up. The court felt that the expats weren't hurt by the IRS but by ourselves. We'd chosen to live overseas. If banks didn't want to do business with us, Tough Sh-T!!! Okay, that is simplified.

Many dual citizens decided being American wasn't worth not having a normal financial life.

Accidental Americans were especially hurt. These are people born in the US, but did not live there. The US is the only industrialized country with Citizens Based Taxation. All other countries practice Resident Based Taxation. Expats are subject to both. In a way the US is stealing money earned in foreign countries that should be used in the country where it is earned so American expats can meet their US tax obligations. As for Accidental Americans, those born in the US, even if they stay only five minutes, are subject to US tax for every cent they earn even if they live to be 100.

The same people who were suing also appeared before Congress. FATCA and other legislation is supposedly to stop:
1. Money Laundering
2. Tax avoidance
3. Drug trafficking
4. Sex trafficking
The implication was the most of the 9 million expats were involved in these things. In reality most of the illegal money laundering and overseas accounts are held by people living in the US, and they have access to banks and investments that their overseas countrymen are being denied. The idea all expats are rich, is false. Most are average middle class people trying to have normal lives.

We worked our way up the court system to the Supreme Court. On Monday, the court refused to hear the case.

We lost, even if we got further than most people thought. There will be another step. We just don't know what it is.