The Suitcase Lady

Past Blogs

Debunked

October 17, 2017, 9:55 pm

I recently read an explanation of the term “stinking rich”. The phrase was derived, the travel guide stated, from the fact that nobility and rich people were interred under the floors of medieval churches. Since the Europeans did not posses the embalming skills of the Egyptian mummy makers, the stench from opening a family tomb was gagging, making church attendance a true penance in the Middle Ages.

This explanation sounds plausible, plus it gives ordinary folks license to mock the rich, a favorite pastime down through the ages. Being a born fact-checker, I decided to do some research on the origin of the phrase. I quickly discovered from multiple sources that “stinking rich” is most likely a fabrication, the dead rich didn’t literally clear out the pews thanks to quicklime or other odor reducing measures. However, this is not to say that the medieval world was as odor free as our modern one.

My research on the “stinking rich” serendipitously led to another gross myth being debunked. The popular nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosy” was not about dropping dead from the Black Plague, an oft cited explanation of the lyrics. The rhyme did not surface in print until 1881, and probably refers to some Protestant sects ban on dancing. Children’s circle games popped up to substitute for dancing……..kids need to move!

However, one medieval holdover in our speech appears to be true. “Lousy” does really hark back to being covered with lice. Now that’s lousy.

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Escarpment

October 10, 2017, 8:16 pm

Geology rocks……literally. Look up America’s top natural attractions and you will be looking at the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Zion and Bryce National parks, Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Our rocks here in Wisconsin aren’t on the list, but they should be. Wisconsin is home to part of a world famous geological formation that runs through the eastern third of the state and then through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into Canada and down to Niagara Falls. This massive, 1,000 mile stone ledge is called the Niagara Escarpment.

The Escarpment plays a game of hide and seek. In some places such as Door Country, High Cliff State Park and Horicon Marsh it is unmissable. But in other places it is underground, only to pop up a few miles later.

The geology of the Escarpment is fascinating. Essentially, it is the rim of a vast, ancient sea that formed 430 million years ago in the Silurian Period. In comparison, that makes the 70 million year old Rocky Mountains mere kids.

The rock was originally lime mud on the sea floor. What we see now is the result of “uplift, weathering and erosion”. When the sea dried up, the layer that was soft shale eroded quickly, the harder dolomite limestone remained. A close inspection of these dolomite cliffs reveals wonderful sea fossils such as corals, cephalopods and chrinoids.

More than 10,000 years ago (modern history in geological time) glaciers covered the eastern part of Wisconsin. Those mile thick frozen rivers of ice acted like bulldozers knocking down the Escarpment in some places and creating fissures and caves in others.  So we can blame the glaciers for the “now you see it, now you don’t” aspect of the formation.

Geologists classify the Escarpment as a cuesta, which is a ridge with a gentle slope on one side and a steep slope on the other. In Wisconsin’s Door County, the cliff is on the Green Bay side and the gentle slope on the Lake Michigan one.

People have been drawn to the Escarpment from the earliest times. An 11,200 year old projectile point has been found on the Oakfield Ledge in Wisconsin. Pioneers settled near the ridge as well building lime kilns to burn the rocks to produce white lime powder that was used for mortar, plaster and paint. The limestone itself was used to build homes and churches. 500 designated historic sites and structures can be found within two miles of the Escarpment’s path in Wisconsin.

So lift a glass of wine to this amazing piece of geology. And be sure the wine is from an Escarpment vineyard. The slopes and micro climate of the ledges make it ideal for growing grapes. The Wisconsin Ledge Viticulture Area is a federally designated grape growing region of 3,800 square miles from Cedarburg to Door County, Wisconsin. Watch out, Napa. We are more than Cheeseheads.

 

 

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Commitment

October 3, 2017, 9:36 pm

My husband uses words sparingly, but when he does he is insightful.

The other morning we were in bed, cozy and content, luxuriating in those last moments before we had to get up, when he said, “Getting up is a commitment”.

I laughed out loud. Those five words tell the whole story.

The commitment begins when our feet hit the floor each morning and continues until late at night when we fall into bed. I was still laughing as I went downstairs to feed and water our herd of rescue cats, clean multiple litter boxes, sweep floors and mop up fur balls. Then I opened the garage door to feed the outside stray cats who have found safe harbor in our yard.

Once upstairs, I made breakfast (minus coffee) and then did morning exercises, my commitment to staying in shape.

In the meantime, my husband was doling out various medicines to our aging animals and brewing lattes, his commitment to providing great coffee every morning.

The day proceeded with commitments to our jobs, communicating with family and friends, cooking up “slow food” and being part of a neighborhood.

Country living is not as impersonal as city life. Caring and sharing with neighbors is a way of life where we live. We have been the recipients of a wealth of home grown produce from our neighbors this summer, and we do our best to reciprocate. My husband excels in this department by sharing his talents in all things technical.

Another huge area of commitment is to “stuff”. “Don’t have it if you can’t take care of it” is a motto we both subscribe to. Since it’s no secret that stuff of all kinds needs constant maintenance and repair, much time is spent keeping the house and yard from reverting to disarray.

Painful as it is in these surreal times in America, being an informed citizen also takes a portion of each day. We may not want to know the day’s news, but being willfully ignorant is not a path either one of us wants to take.

So getting up is a commitment. It is also a privilege and an excellent investment in happiness.

 

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Crayola

September 26, 2017, 8:48 pm

Americans will fight over anything these days, so it should come as no surprise that a crayon is under attack.

The crayon that has unleashed a torrent of protest is a delightful shade of blue and has replaced the now retired color “Dandelion” in the 24 pack of Crayolas. Dandelion did get to go on a retirement tour before leaving the box forever.

The newest addition to the Crayola family is named “Bluetiful”. The name resulted from an online naming contest and got 40% of the vote beating out four contenders.

As soon as Bluetiful made its debut, Twitter lighted up with criticism. One of my favorites was, “The dumbing down of the U.S. continues as Crayola replaces ‘Dandelion’ with ‘Bluetiful’. 90,000 submissions and they picked one that’s not a color, object or word.”

I concur but will stay calm. This a minor dumbing down of our young people in comparison to what the advertising media and textbooks published in Texas are doing to our kids every day.

So in the spirit of not dumbing you, the reader, down, here are some interesting facts about Crayola crayons.

The new brilliant blue Crayola color was an accidental discovery by Oregon State University chemists. The scientists were heating up chemicals in an attempt to find new materials for use in electronics. Serendipitously, one of the chemical mixes came out of the furnace a striking blue. The pigment was named Yin Mn from the elements it is made of: yytrium, indium, manganese and oxygen.

The Crayola Company was best positioned to bring Yin Mn to market. They have been making crayons since 1903.

The Company was originally founded in 1885 by two cousins, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. They originally produced pigments for industrial use, their most popular items being iron oxide pigments for red barn paint and carbon black chemicals to make tires black.

In 1900 they began manufacturing slate school pencils and then went on to invent the first dustless white chalk. The development of their famous product line of wax crayons followed, and it was a collaboration of Edwin Binney and his wife Alice Binney, a former schoolteacher.

The Crayola name was also invented by Alice Binney. It comes from ‘craie’, French for chalk and ‘ola’ for oleaginous or oily. It should be noted that the suffix ‘ola’ was popular at that time giving America in quick succession granola, pianola, Victrola, Shinola and Mazola.

Over 100 years later, Crayolas are still thriving, and that is beautiful.

Photo: ABC News

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Autumnal

September 19, 2017, 7:32 pm

According to the calendar, summer is still here. Fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22 at 3:02 (CDT). Mother Nature, however, is setting the stage for autumn with each passing day, adding hints of the colorful drama ahead. I only have to go as far as my own yard for a preview.

Warm-hued colors are popping up in patches here and there.

 

The late blooming flowers are mostly yellow such as these of the cup plant.

 

We’re hoping a monarch emerges from its elegant chrysalis on the side of our house.
Time is running out for the long journey to Mexico.

 

Our woods are full of jewel weeds and the bees who fly all the way into the flowers for a late summer drink.

 

The milkweed pods look like fat little boats, but soon they will split open and sail their fluffy seeds into the wind.

 

Our blue-green bluestem grass has turned to gold.

 

But the surest sign of fall’s approach in our yard is the abundance of spiders. Like Charlotte, they know their days are numbered and are busily laying eggs and carefully packaging them in their special silk. Everywhere I look one can be found, which is fine with me. They are busy with their business, and I with mine.

 

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