The Suitcase Lady

Psychedelic

September 20, 2016, 10:38 pm

In very small towns, the Post Office is the heart. Our Post Office is a particularly joyful place at the moment as our postmaster has become a father for the first time. I have not had the pleasure of meeting his young lady in person yet, but I have seen many pictures of her and can report that she is a beautiful baby. When it comes to aesthetics, I rank baby kittens above baby people, so you can conclude that this tiny girl is a knockout.

In addition to being a new father, our postmaster is a gifted artist who does incredibly detailed cut paper pictures reminiscent of the black and white silhouette art from the Victorian era. As I was mailing books last week and getting updated on the baby, he asked me if I had heard of the English artist Louis Wain. I had not, so he brought up one of Louis Wain’s many illustrations for Victorian era childrens’ books.

Mr. Wain is known for drawing cats doing human activities in all his early art. But sadly, insanity ran in his family, and he ended up in an insane asylum diagnosed with schizophrenia. Blessedly, he was allowed to have some cats and to continue to draw. The change in his art is astounding. One art critic described the later art as kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing.

Here are three examples of his art and a link to a fascinating short article about the man.

The government better not mess with my post office……it’s one of the best places in town.

 

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Omelettes

September 13, 2016, 9:47 pm

No matter how it is spelled, omelette or omelet, this egg concoction is one of our favorite meals. At our house, omelettes are a dinner entree along with a green salad, good bread and wine.

The other day, I was served a wonderful omelette at a friend’s house. Their cooking technique varied from mine which triggered my curiosity on omelette making techniques. Omelette research followed via You Tube and cookbooks.

The results of my research can be summarized succinctly…..there are multiple correct ways to create this dish.

I never had an omelette as a child even though both of my parents cooked well and loved eggs. They preferred their eggs soft boiled and served in egg cups or fried.

My love and appreciation for omelettes can be traced to Madame Romaine de Lyon. For many years, she ran an omelette only restaurant in a Manhattan townhouse. 500 omelette variations were on her menu, and, for many years, she was the sole omelette maker. I had a memorable meal in her tiny bistro and began making omelettes when I returned home. I also bought her cookbook which is part biography despite its title, The Art of Cooking Omelettes. Published in 1963, it is still available.

My favorite tutorial on omelette making is from Julia Child. In her unique way she inspires confidence as she dispenses knowledge. Her key points are: the proper pan, no more than three eggs, butter, high heat, short cooking time and correct shaking technique.

Julia uses dried beans in the pan to demonstrate the shaking technique. Only the incomparable Mrs. Child could dream this up. Watch her in action here.

Bon Appetite!

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Neon

September 6, 2016, 7:44 am

I’ve had a life long fascination with neon signs. With their eye-popping colors and dazzling light, neon signs are a stellar art form.

A recent museum show I attended featured restored neon signs from America’s Mother Road, Route 66, which was also a motherlode of neon signage. When Interstates doomed Route 66, the neon signs succumbed as well. Happily, a number of them have been rejuvenated and are once more advertising their businesses or delighting museum goers.

Neon was not discovered by accident as were many other elements. In 1898, two London scientists, William Ramsey and Morris Travers, had a hunch that another gas was between helium and argon on the periodic table. After many failed experiments, they hypothesized the mystery gas might be hidden in another substance. They froze argon, slowly evaporated it, collected the gas that came off it and zapped it with high voltage. Viola! Neon was discovered.

Only trace elements of neon exist in Earth’s crust and atmosphere. But the universe is full of it: neon is in the stars and is the fifth most abundant chemical element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, oxygen and carbon.

Neon is colorless, but neon signs were invented in 1902 when Georges Claude, a French engineer, applied electricity to neon gas in a sealed glass tube and watched it glow red. He introduced his first sign in 1910 at the Paris Motor Show. Neon advertising signs made their American debut at a Los Angeles Packard dealership in 1923.

Not all neon signs are neon. Neon only produces a red color when zapped. Argon gas gives off an intense blue color. These two base colors can be mixed into 80 different colors by coating glass tubes with fluorescent powders. For example, blue glowing argon gas in a yellow tube gives off a green light.

Ironically, neon, a true stellar gas, masks the stars in the night sky with its “light pollution”.

Eat

I designed this sign which has graced the top of our refrigerators for over 35 years.

 

A. Brocato

One of our favorite places in New Orleans

 

Rt 66

A restored New Mexico Route 66 sign

 

Scottie

My favorite Route 66 sign…..the dog’s legs light up alternately producing the illusion that he is running rapidly. It advertises Scot’s Dog Grooming.

 

The following photos were taken in Chicago by Peter Little, my talented photographer cousin.

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Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Exercising

August 30, 2016, 9:08 pm

I spent a fair amount of time this summer standing on one leg like a flamingo. Ditto for flapping my pretend wings in hummingbird style.

The summer library reading theme for children this year was On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! I always create a program to coincide with the theme. My idea was to highlight seven animals, tell amazing feats these animals perform and then ask the children attending the programs to duplicate the animal actions. In other words, get the kids moving.

Every teacher worthy of the name knows that getting from 6 to 160 children moving simultaneously is challenging. Chaos could erupt like spontaneous combustion.

Now, at summer’s end, I am happy to report that the hundreds of children I met were all wonderful kids. They followed my one firm rule,”start moving when I say ‘go’ and stop IMMEDIATELY when I say ‘stop’. We burned up millions of calories together and had fun doing it.

If you want to insert some zaniness into your work out routine, or if you want to get a child exercising, here are a few things to try.

Hummingbirds flap their wings 70 times a second. Every child realized they couldn’t beat that. So we tucked our hands under our armpits and counted how many times we could flap our ‘wings’ in a minute. We recorded a range of from 70 to 160 times. Hummingbirds are humbling!

Flamingoes are famous for their balance, even being able to sleep while standing on one leg. What appears to be their knee is actually their ankle (the knee is high up on their leg hidden by body feathers) and the ankle bends the opposite way our knee bends, feet face forward. We checked out our balance by standing for a minute on one leg. Some of us teetered a bit, but almost everybody could do it.

No one could beat the animal who is the highest jumper in comparison to its height. That would be the spittlebug that can jump 100 times its height. Most kids grasped the fact that they wouldn’t be able to do that. But when I asked if anyone thought they could jump one time their height, I always got a few eager volunteers. They now realize that they are not yet Olympic quality jumpers!

I could think of no way I could get an entire room of kids running as fast as cheetahs, so we exercised our creativity and made origami cheetahs. Then the kids ran home.

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Malts

August 23, 2016, 9:00 pm

When I was a child, I lived within easy walking distance of two drug stores. Both had soda fountains with swivel stools, malted milk mixers, phosphate dispensers and pyramids of sundae glasses.

Getting  to sit down at the fountain for a malt or sundae was a huge event. I grew up in an age when treats did not happen every day. My parents could not have imagined an age when many children get daily doses of candy, cones or sodas.

As a teenager, I had some spending money, and my friends and I would frequently stop at the drug store on our walk home from high school. My order never varied: a Green River and a small bag of chips.

I am a staunch advocate of historic preservation, so it was a true delight to encounter three historic drugstores with soda fountains that have survived into this century. The first, Little Drug Company, 1922, is in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We serendipitously discovered it when I missed a turn onto Highway One. Instead I was on a road to the historic downtown. It was lunchtime, so we decided to park and find a restaurant. The Little Drug Company came through with grilled cheese, malts and a ton of nostalgia.

A month later, again at lunchtime, we spotted a sign on a Tennessee interstate noting a local attraction, “Historic 1928 Drugstore and Soda Fountain, 5 miles”. We exited, drove to Cross Plains  and repeated the classic lunch at Thomas Drugs.  I, however, substituted unsweetened iced tea for a malt, thus marking myself as a Yankee for eschewing the sweet tea.

Our favorite old fashioned drug store is in Albuquerque, and we visit it every time we are in town. Model Pharmacy dates to 1947. It is housed in a tiny building but is filled with treasures. In addition to the pharmacy, lunch counter and several tables, Model specializes in European perfumes, soaps and hair accessories, unique greeting cards and boxed notecards. And I know of no other source of a Lime Rickey.

All three of these establishments are working pharmacies serving local clientele as well as history buffs. How delightful that they still sell spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down.

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