Coffee Balls

Well, the response was loud and clear and almost instantaneous. I simply had to whisper about a serious competitive coffee capsule situation, and the problem was solved!  Yesterday Migros announced that it has invented the coffee ball!

They look like those round Lindor chocolates the melt in the mouth. But instead of hard chocolate surrounding soft, they are made of an invisible compostable material that surrounds ground coffee beans.

Of course, you have to buy a special machine to squish the balls and extract the coffee flavour, but then you just scrape the little sacks of coffee grounds out of the machine and put them directly in the compost. No drippy trips to the post office or the recycling bin.

No prices are available yet, but this exciting new product is coming to a store near you SOON! Just in time for Christmas!

Back in the day in our manses in the Canadian countryside, we didn’t know there was any kind of coffee except instant. Tea, stewed in a glass pot, was the drink of choice.

Black and white cowboy movies brought us into the world of cowboy coffee where water and strong and gritty coffee were boiled over a campfire. A Stetson, a guitar and a tin cup were additional props in this exciting and adventurous world.

Childhood forays into other houses, revealed divergent coffee universes. There was percolated coffee where the machine stood on its own little heating pad and stayed warm the whole day. Those kitchens smelled strong and specific.

A Dutch friend’s mother (beside her meat mincer attached with a vice to the kitchen counter) had a coffee pot with a plunger she pressed and the water magically changed colour. She had huge strong arms and her dangerous kitchen was my absolute favourite.

Later on into the adult world of coffee production, there were the paper filters holding the ground coffee that you poured hot water over, and the timeless Italian Moka coffee pots.  Then came the fiddly coffee capsules and their specific machines. The world was full of narrowing possibilities.

Anyway, the new coffee ball method has been brewing for the past five years, and Migros claims to have the competition shaking in their aluminum coffee-capsule boots.

The official Migros crystal ball contains images of future tea balls, cappuccino balls, soup balls, and many many other things. I am already dreaming of the coming cold winter and making hot toddies with a canny mixture of rum and water in the reservoir, and a sugar and cinnamon spice ball.

Unfortunately, most coffee methods require electricity, which might also be in short supply in the months ahead, so I am getting prepared.

The fireplace or the barbeque can be used for cowboy coffee. Note to self: find a couple of tin cups and a guitar. The fondue burner is just perfect for the Moka machine.  And now, with this most recent invention of the coffee ball, if worse comes to worst, like Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, we can just chew on cold yet sustainable coffee balls.


The Ongoing Trauma of Returning Defective Products: Sunscreen and Coffee Capsules

You would think that one of the largest domestic merchandising outlets in Switzerland (Migros) would be smooth and cool about taking back and refunding small faulty items.

Actual exchanges (always for a larger size, for some reason) usually work efficiently; and when presented with stinking, dripping perishable goods there is also swift action.

However, if you have no ticket, no bag, and something that doesn’t offend the senses of the lady at the customer services desk, you are dealing with a bigger issue. They have been trained, possibly with refresher courses, how to avoid parting with cash.

This summer, it began with a small tube of #50 sunscreen. Guaranteed no wrinkles. Guaranteed youthful progress into the past. Guaranteed beauty and protection.

The problem was mechanical. The lid didn’t click closed properly and so the precious liquid would escape inside bags and purses. After a week or two battling soggy innards and my futile attempt to secure the lid with black electrical tape, I girded up my loins and went to see the lady at the desk.

She smirked and called her colleagues over.  The three of them squirted my precious rejuvenating liquid over their hands and asked (did I detect sarcasm?) if I really thought such a product worked? What did I want them to do?

The small tube was soon empty and I was dumbfounded and humiliated.  They told me to go buy another tube and they would check the lid for me on the way out.  Guffaws were heard as I walked away.

So, when the faulty coffee capsule episode arose this week, I knew the highest level of preparation was necessary.

The box stated clearly that these capsules were compatible with the internationally famous coffee capsule brand, “Nespresso”. I put an M-capsule into my N-machine. A bit of water reluctantly spit out, there was a grinding sound and all the lights started blinking. Upon extraction and close forensic examination, the capsule showed it had been pierced at the front, but not at the back.

I closed the newly-opened box and placed the bad capsule and a used Nespresso capsule in an evidence bag. The prosecution was armed.

The lady at the desk the next morning was good. Flying in the face of black and white evidence, she tried to throw the case out on a technicality. She said that on their product, “Nespresso” was spelled with only one “s”. Over-ruled.

She then said that no one had ever complained before and so my complaint was invalid. She went to find a man who was a coffee capsule expert. He denied specific expertise in this case, as he always used another variant. Did I have a receipt? Why not take the box home, and try all the rest of the capsules? Maybe it was just a rogue individual?

I held firm.

A quarter of an hour of recalcitrance, and finally my palm was crossed with silver: A breathtaking hard-won victory of seven francs.

Making Ice Cubes from the Sun

Just in case you’ve had the misfortune to have spent your summer holidays kite-surfing in Costa Rica, parachuting in La Reunion, at the cottage on the shores of Lake Huron or glamping in San Tropez, here in the mountains we have been fully, and even startlingly, entertained.

As it has been a hot and dry summer, there has not been the usual daily (and nightly) occupation of catching mice. All traps have remained disturbingly empty despite the miniature peanut butter sandwiches that have been lovingly prepared and placed in the little bait-holes. It turns out that is because of Sandy, the viper-in-residence who lives in the wood pile over by the compost heap. Our rational mind quite likes Sandy. The rest, and much bigger, part of our mind is horrified.

Sandy, however, has given us a lot of free time to read, to build a Walden-type cabin in the woods and to learn how to play Wordle, which, by the way, works much better if you read (and understand) the rules before you take it up. For example, the difference between the green and the yellow letters is crucial.

The new solar lithium batteries also mean that we now produce ice-cubes from the sun in the little ice cube tray in the fridge, so cocktail hour has become an elaborate, ecologically sustainable ritual.  As the sun slips behind the larch trees to the west, we can be heard tinkling up the path to the top look-out to admire Mont Blanc and the Vallée du Giffre.

I have also discovered that some activities work better if there is an audience. Take painting, for example. I was called out one recent morning to put stain on the cabin’s roof lattes before they became the roof. I dressed in my blue workers overalls and found stain, paint brushes, saw-horses, Swiss army knife and gloves. By the time all this had been gathered together, Dawn’s rose-red fingers had popped up over the pine trees to the east. The luxuriously easy job suddenly took on a whole new dimension in the searing heat.

Tom Sawyer’s punishment of whitewashing Aunt Polly’s picket fence came to mind. I had a sore back, and I wasn’t feeling too hot due to a five-course, 3-hour lunch in a fancy French restaurant the day before (okay, yes, there are a few downsides to mountain holidays). Placing the lattes on the saw horses, slathering one side, turning them over, slathering again, taking the sticky things off, leaning them against the fence, the bushes, the trees, all became a hot hideous chore.

There were 58 of them.

Just before 10 am, the first tourist family arrived, toiling up the steep path to the Chapelle Jacquicourt– sweaty, panting and red-faced. Instantly my back straightened and my attitude sharpened. I stopped moaning. My latte painting became an activity of interest and industry. We chatted a few minutes and off they went—the kids looking back wistfully as I gracefully wielded my brush.

They would have given anything to stay and help.


Clothing Problems … Again

Well, it is summertime, and like many good Genevans, we find ourselves up in the mountains. We sit at altitude, smugly comment on the cool refreshing air, admire the view, and invite friends and relatives to come and share the good times. Some do. They help with small construction projects, eat fondue, fake injury (to get a ride up on the quad) and when they ask about the washing machine I show them the old Wyoming washboard and the zinc tub.

Our last guests came to help cut the grass in the lower meadow, but had to leave to attend a German Black Forest festival where they dress in elaborate traditional costume and parade through the village with a group of identically clad people.  And so here at the Shack where the clothes are decades old, often mended, but still holding up quite well, I ask myself why anyone would ever do such a thing.

If there is a costume here in the Vallée du Giffre, it would be the old agricultural workers’ blue jacket and loose pants than can be worn over top more normal clothing. A black beret formed into a cap to shield the eyes is optional.

Maybe it’s because I come from Canada that I dislike and distrust uniforms—except for hockey uniforms, of course.  The police (always on the prowl for lawless picnickers), the Mounties (just plain silly), Hell’s Angels (that came and tore apart our village on Hallowe’en every year), the church choir (the green-black gowns never washed and smelling of musty mildew): All of it repels.

We Old World immigrants came to North America in the 50s and tried to drop our old differences, our old arguments, our old customs, our old clothes and to get on with being part of a newer, bigger idea. We adopted a more general uniform of sneakers, jeans, baseball caps and t-shirts. We all wanted to be just like everyone else.

Of course, cracking out of my rural cocoon into the big city in the late 60s, clothing anomalies immediately appeared: the hippies trying to be outlandish, the Jewish boys—a row of yarmulkes—all sitting in the front row of the university lecture hall, the Sikhs wearing their turbans on the Toronto streetcars.  I found it fascinating and frightening in its unfamiliarity.

Returning to Europe in the 70s the clothing situation here on the French-Swiss border was overtly political with the question of the burka, the headscarf and the burkini all making trouble—these items being (unpleasant) symbols of perceived religious oppression and civil non-conformity. More than four decades later that particular clothing controversy is still alive and well.

The solution is elusive, but I do recall a sight that made me gasp with pleasure. It was a few years back at Eid al-Adha and Muslims in a nearby French town were celebrating the end of Ramadan. Walking through an ugly concrete urban landscape was a band of people wearing sparkling white robes, glittering pink and purple dresses and shimmering scarves blowing loose in the wind.

They were proud and happy, and I wanted to be just like them.






The Five-Star Excesses of Estepona

The best hotel reviews are the worst reviews. Who needs to know about the deep delightful calm, the friendly helpful staff, the gorgeous breakfast buffet, the unbelievable sleep-filled mattress, or the view to die for?

No one.

We arrived in Estepona on June 4th, an auspicious date, by following the rental’s trusty hen through the spaghetti ring roads of the Costa del Sol. We had stopped at the world’s biggest supermarket on the outskirts of this once Phoenician/Roman/Christian/Moorish fishing village. A pedestrian foot-bridge spanned the motorway from the hotel to a Lidl and a Burger King.

Rooms with a sea view on an upper floor had been requested, and this is sort-of what we got. The room was slightly warmer than the outside (heat wave) air temperature, and the coldest water from the tap was more than tepid. Neither soap nor drinking water was supplied.

Upon enquiry as to whether a room with a more straightforward view of the sea was to be had (Fawlty Towers came to mind), the Manager (who had a disturbing penchant for openly groping his female employees’ tightly pantaloned bottoms) said such affairs were entirely out of his hands.

Yes, he was busy. It was first-come, first-served. Mala suerte for you, loser! His hotel was FULL.

Lunch did not materialise as the snack bar worked on a QR code-reader-only policy and we didn’t have our phones. The staff did not know what sort of food they served. We were told to go downstairs and ask at the kitchen if someone knew.

The only other guests at the snack bar were a small family group. They had come across from the pool area and their various gigantic water floats were too big to fit through the door. Fortunately, they did not require any restauration as they proceeded on with their mattresses and crocodiles and sea monsters.

In one of the two gardens of the hotel, a blow-up plastic castle had been installed as a Saturday afternoon Confirmation was being celebrated. This meant that the adults disappeared for hours into the dark dining area while screaming children bounced themselves silly. Affairs reached a climax when about half the kids split off, regrouped on an upper walkway and threw their shoes at the bouncers.

Hectic live music followed, amplified to the point of distortion. It was loudly Latin in tone and rhythm. Hotel guests (previously hiding in their rooms to avoid the children) started to appear on their balconies looking tired and headachy. A couple of fellows who might have been at the naturalist beach earlier and suffering from heat stroke, wandered out starkers to see what the racket was about. That was the highlight of the afternoon.

Dinner followed as the Confirmation fiesta wound down. Birds were busy at the buffet, and fresh, multi-coloured, liquidy sparrow poop adorned the 5-star table cloths and napkins.

Our Andalusia road trip lasted two glorious weeks and the sloppy 5-star hotel served a real purpose in that, by contrast, its noisy, careless, dirty mess turned much humbler abodes into places of great wonder, beauty and stately tranquillity.


Quiet Desperation

“Live at home like a traveller.” I was not quite sure what Thoreau was on about in Walden until last week a big fat man came to our house in the Geneva countryside. His head was shaved up both sides and his heavily oiled black hair stood up straight. His shoes were pointed patent leather.

The gate was open and he walked right in. He surveyed the premises and declared that the wood trim of the house needed re-doing. Immediately. There were holes and cracks. Horrible things were obviously living there. We were neglectful and shameful owners. The value of the house was going down the toilet.

Fortunately for us, and most exceptionally, he was available for the next couple of weeks. And most coincidentally, he was a master painter with a gung-ho team. The job would be done quickly, neatly, and professionally. Yes. There would be a real paper bill for the tax man. They would use the best quality products. There was no down payment. What could possibly go wrong?

I think we were the victims of circumstance: Boredom, nice weather, the very shocking idea of standing high on a three-tiered ladder applying drippy, sticky product to cobwebby overhead lattes, magnanimously giving work to total strangers, trusting humanity. It all rolled together in a perfect storm of date-roll sweetness.

I mean, the very same thing happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden. At least I had all my clothes on. And the black-eyed man was truly golden-tongued. No amulet will be needed for him to speak to Osiris when he crosses to the afterlife.

He came back with a cousin the next day, and they worked a total of 4 hours. They sanded by hand. They applied a first coat. Unfortunately, the main wooden area—the ceiling over the porch—had not been included in the original estimate. The price would have to be doubled! And then there was the window trim that could not be left like that!

Sigh. Not of contentment. I bargained hard, and he bargained harder. A team of 3 came on the second and last day and finished in about 6 hours. I said hello to the fat man’s two little girls on his telephone. The workers spoke a language among themselves and when I asked what it was, they all stared at me. The fat man gave me a cryptic answer that generations previously, his family had migrated from Northern India. There was silence. No one breathed a word.

As lemonade was served later, he expanded his dialogue by telling me he was extremely religious. I didn’t fall into THAT trap and kept my big mouth shut. He added, “But, Madame, you know that even religious people can be bad.”

They left vowing that they would be back to paint the whole house as soon as possible, and wanted to come to the Shack in the mountains to fix that up as well. Our denial of all future business transactions rolled off their Romani backs like water off a duck.

Oh yes. We did go on a real trip recently – to Gran Canaria. It was windy and cool. The old Santa Catalina Hotel was newly refurbished and very charming. We visited the great volcanic craters and were on the last direct flight back to Geneva.

That week-long trip cost about half what we paid (cash, of course) to the fat man.

To live at home like a traveller is exciting and all, but we can’t afford to do it permanently.

Waiting Rooms

Waiting rooms are not nearly as much fun as they used to be. Back in pre-pandemic times they were places of energy and human interest. Doctors would over-book with abandon, and you’d find yourself cheek by jowl with organized / harassed women phoning in supermarket orders and making arrangements.

The ophthalmologist’s was a very thoughtful place, as most printed matter was banished. Glossy vacation and architectural magazines ruled.  It was there that the old lady from the Valais was heard loudly complaining about the shocking smell of papist fish in the air on a Friday.

At the dentist’s I was treated to the sight of my normally-terrifying high school principal reduced to a trembling wreck as the grandfather clock ticked. I was never scared of him again.

There used to be reading matter—tattered and torn magazines with the crosswords filled in and the recipes ripped out.  If you were lucky, a grubby copy of today’s paper. Sometimes a little heap of free samples—skin creams and tooth whitening brochures. Boxes of paper tissues.

At the emergency room of the nearest clinic, there was a small wall-mounted TV with hyenas chasing, catching and eating a wildebeest. This ran on a 20-minute loop. I think the title was Magnificent Mother Natureobviously some sort of medical in-joke.  We the sickies were always captivated and our problems were reduced.  I’m sure some people, ashamed of their insignificant severed finger(s), even left.

With one thing and another, I have visited quite a few waiting rooms over the past few months, and I shake my head with sadness.

There are the hospital business visits where you fill in forms, sit on every second white plastic chair, get tested or vaccinated, and pay on the spot. (This is very Japanese-style where the waiting-room is arranged with church-pews all facing the same direction. In case of death, this can suddenly turn into a highly emotional public wake.)

There are new, fancy state-of-the-art waiting rooms. At the dermatologist’s there is a huge screen which gives “before” and “after” shots of various skin and wellness procedures. This becomes confusing, as often you cannot tell which is which. The weights around your waist to reduce belly fat, and the dancing sewing-machine-like needles on the face have both resulted in lasting mental damage.

I can confidently report that dentist, gynecologist, and GP waiting rooms are now socially dead. You occupy the room alone due to the well-spaced appointment schedule. Nothing to read. Nothing to watch. No one to listen to. Nothing to be learned. No tubes to squeeze.

So I look back fondly to last month when I found myself in a second-level parking lot in the once-raucous Thai tourist town of Patong. There were crowds of tourists needing their COVID tests.  In the breezy open concrete space there were line-ups, jostling, mistakes, laughter, shouting and confusion. The lady doing the tests was in a hermetically-sealed box and her gloved hands stretched into the voids of our waiting nostrils.

It was magic.















A Really BAD Case of Cabin Fever

Winter in Canada is not for wimps. This year in Ontario the cold and snow have been particularly vicious.  I have received personal reports of unending digging out driveways, cars being completely snowed in, ingloriously having to walk to work, having to start the car half an hour before you want to go shopping, icy sidewalks, and killer squirrels.

Yesterday the adjective “balmy” modified the day’s high of -6C.

Historically, we all know this. Canadian childhoods were spent battling to schools through snowstorms and farm kids showing up whimpering with frozen-white ears. You were dared to put your tongue on the metal of the frozen water pump in the playground and the top layer of skin ripped right off when you pulled away. Everyone laughed. Grit in a barrel with a shovel to help you get your car up the hills on the country roads. Those seasonal sore red rings around your wrists where mittens stopped and before your coat sleeves began. Emptying clumps of hard-packed snow from inside your galoshes.

Of course, it could all be mitigated by a sunny blue-sky day and the rhinestone twinkle of the snowscape. A toboggan or a pair of skates. You built snow forts. There was always Christmas, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and finally the almost-release of Easter.

A lot of time was spent indoors and the days were short. At school you memorized the kings of England and the official flowers of the provinces. With scissors, mucilage, construction paper and doilies you made creations of great beauty. The never-ending patterns of snowflakes.

At home you coloured with wax crayons. You melted your plasticine on the hot air holes from the furnace. Sometimes it melted down the chute and the house smelled like the colour brown. You played blocks and dress-up with the little’uns. You caught measles and chickenpox. You broke your elbow sliding down the banister. You watched TV when allowed…there were Santa Claus Parades and Hockey Nights in Canada.

There used to be people. You went to church and sang in choirs and poured hot toffee onto snow in a bowl and had nosebleeds when you got hit on the face with an ice snowball.  You survived.

Fast forward sixty years to the truckers’ hullaballoo in Ottawa and the exciting wintertime mix of radical politics, sedition, nut-cases, anti-vaxxers, maple-leaf flag-capes, and the True North strong and free. It is wintertime, and Cabin Fever is rife. After two years of social isolation, deaths, and rules in general, skating to work along the Rideau Canal is not cutting it.

We are mesmerized and revolted, but we UNDERSTAND. Instead of walking out naked into a blizzard and dying 2 yards from your own front door (a classic symptom of Cabin Fever), blast your horns! You will be fed and watered. People will supply you with gas to keep your engines running.

We are Canadians, and we are wise to the thrills of winter.






The Magic Palm Tree

Recovering from a bad attack of “upset stomach” (a small Thai restaurant on the Andaman Sea has perhaps forgotten the recipe for bottled-water-ice-cubes over the past couple of tourist-free years), I was lying prone contemplating what I have come to regard as my personal palm tree.

My medical classification was “comfortable misery”. I was frustrated by losing time (to do what, exactly?) and knew it would be unwise to stroll on the endless empty shell-strewn beach away from my friendly little wooden commode. Too exhausted to read, my thoughts somehow drifted to the white snows of Switzerland, to the Schatzalp, to The Magic Mountain.

Thomas Mann’s novel, written almost exactly 100 years ago, features the genial (and healthy) Hans Castorp who goes to visit his cousin in the Berghof Sanatorium above Davos for three weeks. While there, he is found to have symptoms of TB and stays for the next seven years. During that time the patients and their visitors fill Hans in on the current political, cultural, and philosophical state of a muddled Europe.

Along with Hans, we the readers are educated, illuminated, bored and mesmerized by the countess, the Jew-Jesuit-Marxist, the scientists and dozens of other characters that people the 700+ pages. I read the novel about half a century ago and my memory of detail is somewhat fuzzy, but I believe that the gist remains firmly intact. The novel is a statement against bourgeois constipation. Escape can be found through illness (or war). In other words, death is a solution.

Time disappears at the Berghof … much like it should on any good vacation. Hans abandons his pocket watch, and at one point forgets his own age. Time become cyclical rather than linear and the day’s activities are the essential measure of temporal importance. There are the rest cures, the temperature-measuring sessions, and the lectures.  One learns how to swaddle oneself in camel hair blankets to be comfortable on the frigid balcony. The inhabitants carry around miniature copies of their lung x-rays in their wallets to show their colleagues. Hypochondria is rife.

The mountain inhabitants are different from the low-landers. Those living down in the valley are normal healthy people, preoccupied with the uncontrollable events of the quotidian. The Berghof population is “talented” and considered special in their contemplation of and insight into higher concepts. They see things in a bright way and do not follow the rules of the valley. They do not have to wear hats! They are allowed to slam doors! They are discouraged from amorous conquest! (as the expending of calories in sexual energy could be detrimental to their cure.)

And so it is under my palm tree. I arrived healthy and am now recovering with a “cure” of bananas and toast.  I am weary. I have discarded my swatch. I show my QR certificates for all matters of health. I swaddle myself in towels and take rest cures in the shade. I apply lotions. I pay attention to the sunset and the singing of cicadas at dawn and dusk.

Europe is still muddled

The hotel manager has brought an arrangement of flowers to the room with her “brightest wishes.” I think the cure is working.






A Pair of Christmas Socks

The Swiss relationship with socks is much like its relationship with the world. One of enduring, neutral, pragmatism.

Socks are what you put on your foot between your skin and your shoe. They are wool or cotton. They are black (work) or white (sports). A true Swiss sock is of medium quality and medium price. Of course, there are the packs of 6 pairs that suddenly come off a boat from some far-off place which crowd out your domestic sock drawer and make it impossible to close… but these are anomalies and generally regarded as a nuisance.

The great Swiss sock of old was the hiking sock or the ski sock. These had specific function and purpose as they covered your calf or filled your boot.  They were serious and stalwart socks with the chance of a toe-hole being zero. Much like the Swiss military sock, they would last you a lifetime.

Sadly, there is no sock-hanging tradition on Christmas Eve around here. No misshapen once-familiar sock stuffed with treasures to be discovered at first light on Christmas morning. Here, the candies and nuts are delivered on December 6th in a burlap bag by Saint Nicolas. And when it gets dark on Christmas Eve the magical little Christ Child pops around and puts presents under the Christmas trees. These days there is a confusion of characters and nationalities and names. But socks do not figure in any of this.

As a kid in Canada, socks and Christmas went together like wonder bread and jam. At Christmas you would choose your biggest one to be filled up with hard candies, peanuts, an artificial-looking store-bought apple and a navel orange in the toe. The anticipation almost killed you.

At some point in our childhood Christmas careers, we were supplied with felt cut-out Christmas stockings. They were festive as there were applied Christmassy objects such as candy canes, or candles or Christmas trees stuck to them. Sequins added a twinkling celebratory air. Our names were shear-cut at the top. As the greedy eldest, I remember considering the injustice of it all, as Kathleen, the littlest, had the same-sized sock as I.  These stood stiff and did not bend and bulge to reveal the filling. They were more beautiful, but also less exciting than their predecessors.

In my sock basket, today, I review my sock collection. I realize my favourites were Christmas presents. There are two pairs of library socks and one pair of Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” socks. There is a pair of socks with little non-slip buttons on the bottom. And another pair made with fluffy material impregnated with sandalwood for everlasting health. There are one-toed socks from Japan, too uncomfortable to wear, and too beautiful to throw away. I have even come across a forgotten pair of sneaker flamingo socks.

These socks are decades old and do not regularly adorn my feet. My small Swiss collection (cotton, black and white) gets me through most days perfectly well. However, there are some mornings when just a little something extra is required.

As Christmas approaches this year, I find myself wearing my Christmas socks more and more frequently. Nostalgia? Age? A second childhood? A wish to be light of foot and fancy free? A security blanket on each foot? Too much bad news all over the place?

I have already procured (with great expense and difficulty) some un-Swiss socks as Christmas presents – a pair of lime green and black-striped Mickey Mouse socks and two pairs of fake fur socks. I dream of them lighting up the eyes of the recipients and their keeping them safe in their sock drawer for years to come. I know they will remember who sent them, and hope they offer a minute of calm and courage and comfort as a new day begins.