The Suitcase Lady


January 16, 2018, 9:43 pm

My husband never drank beer until he got a job at the Schlitz Brewery. The company had an employee cafeteria where free lunches were served. The lunches were accompanied by free beer.

But the ultimate perk of the job was to become a beer tester. If an employee had a palate that could identify different beer qualities (hoppy, malty, etc.), that lucky person could spend every Friday afternoon sampling different brews in the tasting lab…..and be paid for doing so.

Although my spouse made it through the early rounds of the qualifying process, he did not get to the finals.

However, as a result of his brewery job, he did become a life long beer drinker of one glass of beer with dinner. And being an honest man, he admits that the beer he drinks need not be the most expensive. After all, he flunked beer 101.

For many years now, he has been on the quest for a beer which costs 50 cents a can. That is the price he has established that blends beer satisfaction and economy. In an age when craft or boutique breweries are littering the streets of all our major cities, I find his approach extremely refreshing.

Which brings us to last week. I was in the kitchen making dinner when he walked in with a smile on his face and said, ” I found a beer that costs 30 cents a can.”

“Could that possibly be drinkable,” was my response.

“I don’t know because I didn’t buy it. I had to get 24 cans to get that price, and if it proved to be undrinkable, I didn’t want to be stuck with 23 cans. I’ll see if I can get one can or bottle somewhere to try it out.”

The brand of beer was Hamm’s. That brought back a flood of memories for both of us and not of the beer itself. The original Hamm’s brewery in St. Paul had one of best and most beloved advertising campaigns ever devised. For people of a certain age, it is etched in their brains. See for yourself here.


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January 9, 2018, 10:40 pm

I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I have to pack. Not a gun. Food.

When going on a road trip in America, almost no semblance of good tasting, well-prepared and nutritious food exists anywhere near a freeway or in small, rural towns. I have noted for a long time that the roadside food scene was getting increasingly dire and that Fred Harvey needs to be brought back from the dead. Since my husband and I have just driven from Wisconsin to San Diego, my suspicions have been confirmed.

The first night’s stop on our road trip was Normal, Illinois. The food options in the vicinity of our hotel exemplified the American norm and could be broken into four categories; pizzas, Tex Mex, subs and fast food. The largest eatery was a giant emporium devoted entirely to hot dogs. Grease, salt and astronomical calorie counts reign in our roadside food establishments. Fortunately, we had brought a picnic dinner from home.

High quality restaurant food does exist in America, but it requires work to find and, in many cases, a bucket of money. Before starting out on a trip, a bit of computer research is helpful in locating unique, affordable and satisfying dining experiences. And there’s a side benefit to doing this homework…. unique, slow food restaurants are often found in interesting big city neighborhoods which are fun to explore.

And don’t forget to pack some bagels. They are the perfect road trip snack; filling, tasty and completely crumbless. Even a two year old would have a hard time producing crumbs from a bagel.

Have butter, will travel


On Route 66

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January 2, 2018, 4:33 pm

Here is the news we’ve all been waiting for….or perhaps not. Pantone has announced the color for 2018. And the color of the moment is (drum roll) ULTRA VIOLET!

I do look forward to this annual announcement. It is not the color that attracts me, it’s the copywriting.  Pantone’s hyping of the color is hyperbole at its finest, pure nonsense. How could anyone write the following and keep a straight face:

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.”

Wow! Who knew that purple will make us geniuses, conquer outer space and take the place of religion?

The purple prose continues:

“The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today.”

I wish life could be this simple. Apparently, all we have to do is paint the whole world Ultra Violet and we, the planet and the cosmos will all be saved. More likely, I think the folks over at Pantone have been drinking too much purple Kool-Aid.

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December 26, 2017, 11:57 am

If asked to pick my favorite romantic song, I wouldn’t hesitate a second. “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” gets me every time. And I must add, I loved this song long before I lived on a hill, or more precisely, a cliff.

Fortunately for me, I am not the only one who is grabbed by this piece. My favorite radio station, Radio Swiss Jazz, plays it almost every week. Since their format is listener-driven, the song must have many fans.

Jazz vocalists love it as well. Recordings have been made by Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, Mel Torme, Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone, Bette Midler, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall.

But now for a funny note. The song came on as we were eating dinner last week, and I wondered aloud if it originated in a movie or musical. The Oracle was consulted.

With music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Roger Hammerstein II, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” was written for the 1937 movie, “High, Wide and Handsome”. The movie is no longer available in its entirety, and when we read the synopsis and saw a YouTube clip, we know why…’s a really, really bad movie. When Irene Dunne sings this gorgeous song, she appears to be sitting in a Teletubbies set. If the song wasn’t a work of genius, it never could have survived the film.

Now that you have been forewarned, click below for the original version. And click here for the fabulous Mel Torme interpretation.

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December 19, 2017, 12:36 pm

Iceland sits in the North Atlantic with its northernmost island in the Arctic circle and its nearest neighbor Greenland 752 miles away. Currently, the daylight hours are down to five. Nevertheless, Iceland would be a wonderful place to be for Christmas.

The Northern Lights put on spectacular shows and the famous and affordable geothermal energy keeps everyone warm and brightly lighted. Plus, the 334,252 Icelanders, most of whom have Viking heritage, have delightful Christmas traditions… 13 Santas.

Known as the Yule Lads, these mythical characters are said to be the descendants of Grýla the Ogre and each is up to mischief. They are said to come down from their mountain home one each day starting on December 12 until Christmas. Their names reflect their tricks- Sausage Swiper, Spoon Licker, Candle Beggar, Door Sniffer and so on. Today, December 19, will see the arrival of Skyrgamur or Yogurt Gobbler. Better hide your yogurt.

Since I am a book lover, my favorite Icelandic holiday tradition is Jolabokaflod or the Christmas book flood. Iceland is a nation of readers and publishes more books per capita than any other nation in the world. Five titles are published for every 1,000 Icelanders. Most new books are released from late September until early November.

The Christmas season begins when the Icelandic Publishers Association mails a free catalogue of EVERY new book published to EVERY household in the nation. Then this literary population heads out to the numerous bookstores to buy books as presents. And they are not cheap; a hardcover novel costs about $50.00.

On Christmas Eve the books are exchanged as presents and everyone snuggles up and starts reading them. I may need to apply for citizenship.

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