The Suitcase Lady

Kale

June 27, 2017, 9:06 pm

Americans love fads. Foods are no exception. At the current moment, the top celebrity foods are kale, bacon, technicolor sugar bombs known as “unicorn food” and anything without gluten. All are guaranteed to make one immortal, blissful or both.

These ingestibles have one thing in common: corporations can charge obscene prices for them. Just check out the price of a teensy bag of kale chips at Starbucks.

Not everyone, however, is buying in. I did laugh out load when this FB post popped up……”If you stir coconut oil into your kale, it makes it easier to stir into the trash.”

I think I’ll launch my own food fad. I’ll call it the Swiss Chard Fan Club. Like everything else I do, it will be a non-profit.

With the exception of not being Swiss, Swiss chard has a lot going for it. It’s wildly nutritious, low calorie, beautiful and IT TASTES GOOD. Plus, it is easy to prepare. Simply tear the deep green, red-veined leaves off the big red stem and cook them a few minutes.

Botanically, Swiss chard (scientific name Beta vulgaris cicla) is from the beet genus. Beetroots and sugar beets are relatives. The plant is native to Europe’s Mediterranean where it is widely used in the cuisine.

So if you are not completely smitten by kale, “the Lady Gaga of greens”, you might want to give chard a try. Bacon crumbles on top are optional.

Flickr: by godutchbaby

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Rescue

June 20, 2017, 9:50 pm

The beach in front of our house looks like a giant has been playing pick up sticks with the trees. All down the shoreline, major trees are uprooted, their trunks crisscrossing the beach, their leaves and needles torn off by the waves. This spring has been a wild one.

Twenty feet of our cliff was ripped out in two days by nine foot waves exposing yards of tangled roots. It’s a scene of mass destruction. It’s also totally natural.

Living beside the world’s fifth largest lake is an amazing experience and a privilege. When we mention the recent events to friends, they start to give us sympathy. We appreciate the kindness directed our way. But we also try to explain that we are not upset or sad. Our house is not in jeopardy as it is far back from the cliff. Nature is just doing what nature does….cliffs erode, sands shift daily, trees turn into driftwood as lake levels rise and fall.

We both admit it was hard to watch the waves rip out 40 foot tall birch trees that were just leafing out. Ditto for a dozen little pine trees including the one we did not harvest for last year’s Christmas tree.

But action is better than fretting. At the height of the waves’ fury, we donned rain gear and rubber boots, went down the cliff and did a rescue operation. This was not reckless, but it was a muddy, wind-whipped, wet and hard job.

My husband literally grabbed and untangled little pines trees as they were being lashed about by the waves. Then we hauled them up the stairs with their bare roots trailing behind like streamers. We planted all the refugees immediately, fully realizing that all would not make it but wanting to give them a chance.

It is now about six weeks later. We have a number of brave little survivors pushing out new green needles. With luck, they will see many sunrises and sunsets, and, when they grow up, provide a home for future generations of birds, squirrels and myriad other wildlife.

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Royalty

June 13, 2017, 9:39 pm

None of us who fly economy class on American airlines expect to be treated like royalty. Only those in business and first class are fawned over, fed expensive mediocre meals, and have a place to stick their feet…..all rewards for paying huge ticket prices.

So this blog is not about how egregiously we are treated by our air carriers. We all know that we are considered to be lowlier than cargo. Instead, I want to take note of a happy airline story.

King Wilhelm Alexander, the reigning monarch of the Netherlands, recently gave a newspaper interview. He discussed his regularly scheduled flights as a guest co-pilot for KLM. For the last 22 years, he has kept up his commercial license with twice monthly flights. In addition, he is currently retraining to be able to fly Boeing 747s because the Fokkers he has been piloting are being phased out of KLM’s fleet.

The king was never secretive about his flights. Cockpit doors were left open before 9/11, and occasionally passengers would look in and be surprised to see the then prince at the controls. Some recognize his voice now when he speaks to passengers en flight.

He stated in the recent interview, “The advantage is that I can always say I am speaking on behalf of the captain and crew to welcome them on board, so I don’t have to say my name. But, then, most people don’t listen anyway.” He added that, “For me the most important thing is that I have a hobby for which I need to concentrate completely.”

How refreshing, a world leader who is unassuming, dedicated, focused and witty. I would love to be on one of his flights which are all within Europe. In addition to having a king in the cockpit, KLM’s Cityhopper flights give economy passengers a free beverage and a chicken thyme sandwich on organic wheat bread with lemon mayo. Now that is truly royal treatment.

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Jupiter

June 6, 2017, 9:45 pm

It’s June, the month named after Jupiter’s wife, Juno, and I would like to talk about Juno….and Juno.

In mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. Juno, however, was able to peer through the clouds and see what her husband was up to.

NASA has a Juno mission which is also looking beneath the clouds. The clouds surround the planet Jupiter, and the mission’s goal “is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the process and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation.”

Last July, the remarkable Juno spacecraft started circling Jupiter after a five year, 1.8 billion mile journey. If all goes well, the spacecraft will be working hard for twenty months. Then NASA will plunge it into Jupiter’s atmosphere to be vaporized and crushed. Juno’s death will spare Jupiter’s moons “from any nasty hitchhiking microbes brought from Earth”.

Juno’s pictures and data are currently being released. Scott Bolton, the mission manager, sums up the findings: “The general theme of our discoveries is really how different Jupiter looks from what we expected.”

A few of the surprises are that the planet’s magnetic field is twice as strong as predicted. It’s core was believed to be dense and small but now appears to be “fluffy” and dispersed. And the poles are chaotic, riddled with cyclones and turbulent features.

Traveling aboard Juno are three Lego figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo. According to a NASA scientist, “We put these Lego minifigures on Juno in order to inspire and motivate and engage children, to help them share the excitement of space exploration.” Hopefully, a few adults will be inspired as well.

Click here for more Jupiter facts.

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May

May 30, 2017, 9:21 pm

If I had to choose my favorite month, May would be the winner. I admit that here in the upper Midwest, the fifth month sometimes gets off to a rough start. A cold, rainy, windy 42 degree day is not exactly uplifting. But vast improvements quickly appear. My camera and I tried to capture some of May’s offerings.

The new leaves are delicate mists of green in the early weeks but turn the entire landscape bright emerald by Memorial Day.

 

 

 

Migratory birds are returning every day, filling our yard with their songs. May 11 was a particularly joyful day for us as the purple martins  flew in to take up summer residence in their martin apartments.

 

 

Also returning are the gnats, a.k.a. mayflies or midges, who create massive, tornado-like swarms all along the lakeshore. They are utterly harmless, but an amazing nuisance. Thinking of them as a colossal banquet for the birds helps when scrubbing them off the front of the car and our windows.

 

May and flowers are synonymous. Marsh marigolds and then trilliums cover acres of  forest lands. More modest wildflowers are sprouting in the woods as well; tiny wood violets, mayflowers, jack-in-the-pulpit and wild columbine to name but a few.

 

By mid-month, the orchards are all in bloom and the flowering crabs are covered with seas of pink and purple blossoms.  After a week, the spring winds turn the petals into flower confetti, our spring snow.

 

 

And then there are the lilacs. My favorites are the ancient, massive bushes that dot the country roadsides. Planted by farm women decades and decades ago, the lilacs continue to grow and thrive, long after many of their homesteads have vanished.

 

 

May is a feast for all the senses plus it brings an added bonus. The hours of daylight are nearing their zenith. Since I’m a born traveler, my response to the light is instinctual…..hit the road to soak in all the beauty. Everything’s ephemeral. (Click any picture to enlarge.)

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