Dear friends and readers just wanted to let you know I have been grounded and won’t be flying around cyber space anytime soon. I broke a wing. I should have stayed in the save confines of the gym instead of sailing down the slopes. I wiped out cross-country skiing in the Jura Mountains trying to keep up with my Frenchman who defies gravity and age. One minute I felt on top on the world celebrating life soaring under a blue sky on a snow-covered mountaintop. The next moment, I was lying in a heap on the icy side of a treacherous incline with my head shoulders pointing east and my legs twisted west.
To make a long story short, after a bumpy rescue squad ride in a snow mobile, a curvy trip back down the mountaintop and a 5 hour wait in emergency room, a doc diagnosed what I already knew, “Broken collar bone.”
“It exploded,” he said pointing to the jagged edges on the computer screen, “looks like you will need surgery.”
But just before I fainted, he called his buddy the orthopedic surgeon who balked when he found out I didn’t have insurance. (Well, I have insurance but not the kind that covers this swanky private hospital where peasants move to the back of the long waiting line.) The doc strapped me in a sling to immobilize the shoulder and sent me home with instructions to stay off slopes and out of gyms. Next week I will return for another X-ray to assure that the bone is aligning properly on its own.
At least I am in good company. My buddy Aaron Rodgers busted his collarbone twice and still throws 70-yard touchdown passes. Ditto for Charles Woodson who broke his in the Packers 2011 Super Bowl victory and he still had a heck of a career. And according to my doctor daughter, who has seen her fair share of broken bones, the clavicle is the most common fracture in the human body.
My advice to all you skier wannabes, stick to the flatlands of the Midwest, and leave the European mountains to the foreigners.
Also never ski alone. To be extra safe, bring along your own favorite doctor.
In the meantime, if I you want to hear any of my tall tales in the near future, give me a ringy ding. Thank goodness for the old fashioned, one arm operated telephone.
When guests arrive at our house for the first time, we always throw a raclette party to give them an authentic taste of Switzerland. Raclette is not only a food; it is an event.
This popular mountain dish, made from the alpine raclette cheese, has been around for centuries. Raclette, recorded in texts from German Swiss convents in 1291, dates back to medieval times. Cow herders used to melt this cheese over campfires when moving cows to and from pastures in the mountains.
Originally for this hearty, peasant meal a large raclette cheese round was heated over the fireplace then poured over potatoes. Hotels and restaurants in the mountains still use this method. Most people living in our area own an electric, tabletop raclette grills, which makes preparing the meal easier.
I love raclette because guests cook their own meal by heating sliced cheese in individual metal trays. The cheese is scraped onto small potatoes. Or it may also be served on bread like we do. Dried meats cured in the mountainous regions, such as beef, Parma hams, and viande des Grisons, can be heated on the grill top and served also. Tiny vinegary pickles and onions always accompany the dish.
The French serve raclette with a Savoy white wine, a Riesling or a pinot gris. According to the locals, one should drink only wine with raclette because water will harden the cheese in the belly creating indigestion. However, I have yet to see someone get sick even from imbibing, bubbly Coca Cola with the raclette meal.
At our house, we never had a guest who disliked raclette; in fact most people love it.
“Oh raclette, love it! Best meal of my life!” said Charlotte, Larissa’s sister who clapped her hands in delight and marveled. “Takes potato skins to a whole new level.”
My family enjoyed this so much on visits to Switzerland that I once hauled a bulky raclette machine across the Atlantic, so they could savor the meal stateside. Fortunately this is no longer necessary. You can order the raclette cheese and the grill from where else but a shop in New Glarus, the mini Switzerland of Wisconsin..
Imported raclette cheese is expensive. So at our cabin in Wisconsin, we use the excellent local products, the Colby, cheddar, or Swiss from Mueller’s Cheese Factory outlet. Although my French husband would disagree, I find the American cheese also suitable for this dish.
Raclette makes the perfect convivial meal to share on a cold winter night. The piping hot potatoes, heat from the grill and wine will toast your toes and warm your hearts.
January it a grueling month filled with the let down from the holidays, fatigue from the cooking, cleaning, shopping, traveling frenzy and from the disillusionment of New Year’s resolutions gone awry. In January, the days are shorter, nights longer. A deep chill penetrates your bones making you long to dive back under your duvet and hibernate until spring. During winter’s tough trials, hang on.
In the winter, our bodies feel older, weaker and wearier. When your joints lock, your muscles ache; your head pounds from the relentless pace, take time to wallow in your misery, and then hang on.
When bad bacteria devours the good, when mitochondria misfire and when every cell of your body feels inflamed, hang on.
When you lose a loved one and feel so bereft you can’t go forward, hang on.
After losing a beloved family member or friend, to think of better days ahead is unimaginable when each hour is so unbearable. With time, the loss will be processed and assimilated into the most poignant memories, but for now reminiscing and crying is the best therapy.
Take time to grieve.
In our smiley-button society, we forget that it’s okay to frown and feel down.
We bury our emotions in too much food, drink, alcohol, exercise and other addictions, anything to numb the pain. But pain permeates. Instead of masking it, embrace it and recognize its value. Our ability to feel emotions ties us to humanity.
Our electronic world spins so fast, we no longer take time to process those events that most deeply shape us into human beings.
Life is not only holiday gifts, birthday cakes and wedding parties; it is also incurable disease, chronic illness, tragic loss, difficult compromise, and the pain in letting go. Whether waving goodbye to a toddler off to day care, a teen leaving for college, or a sister, daughter, or mother moving away to another state, hang on.
Change is inevitable. You can run, but you can’t hide. Hang on.
This year set aside those well intended resolutions and ignore endless to-do lists. Instead vow to be in the moment. Cherish life in all of its uncertainty. During aches and pains and disappointments and losses, hang on.
Best wishes for 2018. May your new year filled with resiliency, hope and the fighting spirit to hang on.
After the Black Friday blitz, which surprisingly arrived in Europe, even though Thanksgiving doesn’t exist here, I wonder if anyone else longs for that era when gifts were simpler and often times homemade? Back in the good old days when even adults took time out during the holiday season to play.
Can you remember your favorite childhood Christmas present?
I still cherish Christmas as a six-year-old: my big brother got a stamp collection book, my middle sister a fashion doll, my little sister a Barbie doll case, and I received a pop rifle.
Though I may be an anti gun advocate now, back then a toy rifle meant that my family accepted gender equity long before society got around to it. My parents let me be free to play cowboys and kick ball. If I ever wanted I could also play dolls with my younger sisters.
Unlike the electronic games of today, our toys of yesteryear were designed to encourage social interaction, develop creativity and inspire make believe. They taught children how to share, to take turns, to cooperate and to help each other.
How different from the expensive Santa’s wish lists of today with things like Costzon Infrared Remote Controlled Robots, Electric Dog BeatBowWow Interactive Learning Toys, Self Balancing Electric Scooters, Xtremepower Hover boards and LovaBella Baby Dolls that can recite a hundred words and mimic their owners actions.
What does that leave to old-fashioned imagination?
In the 60’s my siblings and I invented games around the Christmas theme. We set up present wrapping stations and cookie baking shops. We enacted mystery stories by pretending to steal “magic” light bulbs from the Christmas tree.
We spent entire days setting up our Lincoln logs, dollhouses or train sets.
We loved it when three generations sat around the kitchen table coloring, drawing or playing cards, especially when Grandpa Mac tried to get our bluff.
Have we lost our ability to play?
Wouldn’t it be more rewarding to engage in a game with a human being instead of an activator?
As the holiday season arrives with the usual media fueled, materialistic commercialization, find a way to curtail the frenzy, to roll on the floor and wrestle around with your kids.
Take time out to play. Have a pillow fight, a tickle fest, a story swap.
Play an antique game of Twister, Clue, Monopoly, Life or Mouse Trap.
Turn off computers, cell phones, electronic games, tune out social media and focus on family and friends.
Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas.
Slow down, step back, savor the season. Have fun! I’ll be back in 2 weeks.
On a recent visit to England I discovered that British life begins and ends at the pub. The centuries old custom of pub going means more than frequenting the local watering hole where you can wet your whistle. The pub, a center of community life, is a place where social barriers break down, class distinctions disappear and everyone is treated equally. Even dogs.
Visiting a traditional pub with a native helps you interpret the pub going protocol. We would still be waiting to be served if it weren’t for Larissa our son’s British girlfriend. When she took us to her hometown favorite The Embankment, a trendy place in Bedford, she explained that you must go to the bar to order and pick up drinks.
This renovated, wood-timbered Victorian era pub built in 1891 across from the River Great Ouse down from the Rowing Club reflected its roots. Though it retains its old world charm, there is nothing stuffy about this place. Divided rooms cater for dinner parties and crowds, but the heart and soul of the establishment remains the front room’s long wooden bar.
A local patron, a jovial mate stood there reading a newspaper knocking back his first beer at 10 am. He greets the steady stream of clients by bending to pet every pooch that entered the premises while his own dog dozes in a stuffed chair by the door.
The family friendly pub welcomes kids and pets. Everyone can lounge around over breakfast, lunch or dinner on cozy banquettes and sofa chairs in front of a log fire. The din of adult’s chatter, children’s laughter, and dogs’ barking, creates a convivial carnival like atmosphere.
“It is the opposite of America,” my Frenchman quipped, “In England dogs are welcome, but no guns allowed.”
With people watching at a premium I reveled in the view. At the round table next to ours, a posh couple coddling a poodle ordered a morning whiskey and Baileys on ice with a side of coffee. I nudged my husband and whispered “They brought dog biscuits in a mini Tupperware.”
“That’s nothing,” Gérald said. “The local chap at the bar has a box of kibble that he hands out to visiting pets.”
For the price of a drink you can linger and savor the show all day.
After our morning coffee, as soon as a table freed up in front of the fire, Larissa ushered us to comfier seats where we ordered lunch. The menu? What else – fish and chips. In keeping with British tradition, we doused our thick-cut fries and fried cod with a dash of cider vinegar.
But by far the biggest celebrity to parade into the pub was Guinness, Larissa’s sister and brother-in-law’s dog. The fluffy, black labradoodle stole the show when he loped in on gangly legs while everyone cooed in delight.
Dining on fish and chips in a real pub made us feel ever so British. In addition to greeting new arrivals, the man at the front of the bar put a fresh log on the fire as soon as the flame grew low. As if we were royalty sitting in his front parlor, he shared a kind word with each of us on our way out.
We felt like honorary guests in a British private home… until it was time to pay the bill.
Nothing easy about so called “Easy” Jet the low cost British carrier, which offers services on over 820 routes in more than 30 countries. For years my UK colleagues raved about the simplicity and affordability of Easy Jet. We wanted a quick, cheap ride across the English Channel from Geneva to London Luton Airport to visit our son who moved to the Bedfordshire area. After 4 decades of globetrotting, I have never had a worse flight. If all goes well the flight takes about an hour and 20 minutes. Alas if all goes wrong it can takes days.
Before leaving our house we saw on-line that the 20:15 flight was delayed an hour and 15 minutes, which for Easy Jet seems fairly standard. Nevertheless, the message from Easy Jet stated that we must come at the normal time to the airport to check-in.
Our family’s previous experience with Easy Jet made me shudder. One time our son’s flight was delayed twice, then finally cancelled at midnight. The Easy Jet personal told him, “So sorry mate. Can’t help. Give the airlines a call and they’ll sort you out in the morning.”
Eventually they stuck him on a flight from Zurich, which is two hours away by train. Then on his return flight he was stranded in Luton, which is ranked as the UKs worst airport in the city considered the “armpit of England.” When Easy Jet changed his booking, they canceled his return by mistake, so his ticket was no longer valid. He had to fight to get another ticket issued for free for the same day, but 10 hours later!
Back to our own saga. By the time we arrived at the Geneva airport, our flight had been delayed another 25 minutes. Finally around 9:30 they announced our boarding gate, a bit earlier than the expected delayed time. From the gate they herded us into a bus like cattle off to slaughter. The bus lurched forward and backed into a terminal parking space a hundred yards from where we left. We stood in the bus waiting for another 15 minutes, then re-entered the terminal again to finally proceed to the boarding ramp. The plane finally took off 15 minutes later than the delayed time. Are you still following?
Departure from our home in Geneva – 6:45 pm; arrival hotel outside of Luton using the unreliable train system – 2 am. Travel time 7 hours. With a good tailwind, it would have been faster to fly to Chicago.
For our 6:15 am return flight on Monday morning, we left our hotel at 4:15 to arrive on time. A sign said that the boarding gate would be posted at 5:40. It was and they simultaneously announced “Last call boarding call Easy Jet Flight 2049 to Geneva; we will be closing the gate”
One minute we were sitting in Starbucks stalling and starring at the departure screen and the next instance we were racing through the terminal knocking over other frantic passengers rushing to catch the Geneva flight before it took off, which by the way left 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
Ah Easy Jet, the single class, high-density layout airbus, guarantees discomfort.
Imagine squeezing into an egg carton. You must fold your body into an egg shape for the duration of the journey. Seats, which feel like benches, won’t lean back even a centimeter; if you are tall tray tables rest on your knees.
To further curtail costs, Easy Jet discourages checked baggage by charging as much for a bag as you pay for your ticket. Nor does it offer complimentary food or beverages not even water. Purchases from Easy Jet Bistro buy on board will be expensive.
In spite of the inconveniences, Easy Jet fills 92% of its flights, so your plane will be packed even at 6:15 am. Oh those poor souls commuting to work via Easy Jet.
The cabin crew, the only saving grace, will be kind as if they spent a lifetime calming irate passengers who have missed connecting flights, important business meeting and special family occasions.
Saving money may not be worth the trade off due to the toll an Easy Jet flight takes on your body.
My recommendation: if you see bright orange Easy Jet label – run.
Unfortunately I cannot heed my own advice. If we want to visit our son and Larissa we have to fly Easy Jet. London Luton, 35 miles north-west of Central London, is Easy Jet headquarters and the airline is the only one offering a direct flight from Geneva.
Before I go back for another visit, I will consult my British friends and find out the insider secrets on the most painless way to survive a flight on the so called Easy Jet.