Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Look and See!

There is a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, called Look And See (Why I Wake Early), in which she shows us through her beautiful language and vivid images how much richer the everyday things in our life can be, if we learn not just to "look" at them but to "see" them: Look And See by Mary Oliver.

Walking around my present neighborhood in Switzerland, I was reminded of her poem. Here are a few pictures of ordinary things that shine in an extraordinary light.

Enjoy! Wishing you a Happy New Year. May you "see" much beauty in 2016!









Sunday, December 6, 2015

Samichlaus - Sankt Nikolaus (Santa Claus) visits Switzerland on December 6!

Unlike in the United States where I live now, Santa Claus (or Samichlaus in Zurich dialect) is celebrated on December 6, in my original home country. He doesn't breeze in on a reindeer either, but walks at a leisurely pace next to a donkey, loaded with presents.


In the United States, Santa Claus is the bringer of Christmas gifts. In Switzerland, this role is fulfilled by the Christkind (the Christ child), an angel who flies from Heaven with the gifts and puts them under the tree on Christmas Eve while the children have to wait in their bedrooms. They stand by the window, staring into the night, hoping to spot the Angel flying down from Heaven. Of course, they never see him/her, but they hear the bell ring. This is the signal that tells them that everything is ready. They dash from the bedroom to the Christmas tree in the living room, where the presents are stacked under the tree. At least, this is the way it was when I was a child. Of course, a lot has changed since then.




Accompanying Samichlaus on December 6, is his helper, the Schmutzli. His name, Schmutzli, comes from "Schmutz" (dirt) and refers to his "dirty" face (smeared with ashes). Whereas Santa Claus is the light and good force, his helper, originally Knecht Ruprecht in the old days, represents the darker side. While Santa Claus is the bringer of gifts for the childen, Schmutzli punishes them if they were disobedient during the year. There is a rich tradition (both secular and religious) around these two figures. Interested? Read this!






Nowadays, however, both Samichlaus and Schmutzli are kind men (although Schmutzli still looks a little scary in his black robe and his face smeared with ashes). Schmutzli's basic role now is helping Santa Claus distribute gifts--mandarines, peanuts, and the famous Lebkuchen (ginger bread).





Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Coffee, cake, chatting, and mulled wine with author Linda Huber in Zurich

 

For those who missed Linda's blog post last week!

One of the challenges of being an independent author is creating connections, but this is also one of its perks. Since I started my micro publishing business back in 2010, I have had the good fortune of meeting many wonderful friends on social media. The true pleasure, however, is when you have the chance to get together with them in person. I've met several of my author and reader friends for lunch or an outing and these occasions are always an inspiration.


One such opportunity I had when meeting Linda Huber, the talented author of books such as The Attic Room and The Cold Cold Sea. During my yearly stay in my original home country, Switzerland, this November, we met in the city of Zurich. We took a stroll through the old part of Zurich, visited one of my favorite coffee shops, the richly decorated Cafe Felix at Bellevue, which serves excellent coffee and cake. While enjoying a cappuccino and a delicious Aprikosen-Streuselkuchen (apricot crumb cake), we talked about books, about Scotland (where Linda is from), California (where I live), and tons of other topics.




To walk off some of the calories, we took another stroll, admiring the many small shops, the beautiful old buildings, and Christmas decorations.































Since the weather was rather on the cold and wet side, we needed to warm up at one of the many Glühwein stands (mulled wine) which, together with roasted chestnuts, are very popular at this time of the year.



 




It was a truly memorable time and I look forward to more such occasions!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Look and See

I love to travel, whether to reconnect with my first home (Switzerland) or to explore new areas. When I do research for my novels, which take place in different countries, I often go back to a place to really look at it and see things I didn't notice when I traveled there as a tourist. It's a different kind of traveling, you have to slow down and really look at details in order to describe them accurately. Not just looking with your eyes, but using all your senses: observe the colors, light and shadow, smell the scents, listen to the sounds, taste the food. It's one of the most satisfying experiences of creative writing.

This morning, I went on my usual walk past my favorite pond of my childhood. As a child, I spent hours exploring, watching the ducks and other water birds.


This morning, I was struck by the play of light filtered through the trees.   


 


This pond also plays a role in my novel An Uncommon Family (Family Portrait, Book 1)

More pictures that served as inspiration for the novel, you can find here: Picture Tour.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A cold, tea, coffee, delicacies, and a beautiful landscape

I get a full-blown cold only about every ten years or so. Well, it must be that year. Anyway, I try not to complain because at least I cough and sneeze while admiring a beautiful fall landscape here in my first/second home in Switzerland.

I allowed myself a writing hiatus, now that my WIP, the second book in The Wine Lover's Daughter series, is with my loyal beta readers. Here is a preliminary cover of Finding Angelo:














I went for walks in the neighborhood and here are a few photos.























A visit to my niece's and her husband's Vegan Restaurant and tea and coffee house Limalimón, in Bremgarten/AG. Excellent tea and coffee and yummy food, and, of course, great service by Claudia and Alberto and their team!



A wonderful selection of teas and cute gifts.
All the food and drinks prepared and served by enthusiastic and friendly people.

Alberto and Claudia, the owners, work together with the team.


Cook Brigitte prepares yummy delicacies.










Have you ever seen a ceiling lamp made of wine glasses? Here it is!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

THE JOURNEY HOME by Olaf Olafsson

I have a few of my favorite books that I keep reading and rereading. These are usually the kind of books in which plot and action are less important than the beauty of language and the emotions they evoke. The Journey Home by the marvelous Icelandic author, Olaf Olafsson, is one of these works. It doesn’t matter that I know the story by heart. Each time I read it, it moves and delights me anew.


THE JOURNEY HOME deals with several journeys: the physical journey that Disa, a sensitive and tenacious woman, is compelled to take to her home country, Iceland. She lives in England where she runs a country inn together with Anthony, her friend and companion. It’s also about an emotional journey, a painful and joyous journey into the past, a journey of memories of the conflict with her mother, of the destiny of her German-Jewish lover, of the fateful happenings in the family of her former employer.

This is a beautifully written, lyrical, meditative novel full of wondrous moments. A quiet novel, yet there is tension, a tension that leads, in the end, to an emotional climax. Every time I read it, I enjoy it more. Every time I read it, I discover more nuances. And every time I read it, I end up crying through the last few chapters.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Take a journey to the vineyards of Tuscany while staying at home!

A picture paints a thousand words? Perhaps somewhat exaggerated, but I love pictures and they inspire me. This is why I created a picture journey for each of my novels. Here is the newest one for The Italian Sister (The Wine Lover's Daughter, Book 1):




Grab some popcorn or chocolate, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Picture Tour from California to Tuscany