The Suitcase Lady


October 30, 2018, 9:47 pm

The moon is bright, the nights are chill: It’s the perfect time to speak of ravens. These impressive birds, along with crows, magpies and jays, are members of the corvid family. All of them are “the top of the line” of bird evolution.

People seldom have ambivalent feelings about ravens. Down through the ages, they either have been  loved and revered or vilified and feared. A central figure in northern North American folk mythology, Raven is featured in many creation myths. The Haida tribe believes Raven chanced on a big clamshell with tiny people inside and freed them to enjoy his world. In many tales he is a trickster, in others he helps his people to survive.

In Norse myths, Celtic goddesses often took the form of a raven in battle. And Odin, the main god, had two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who flew around the world all day and returned at night to report on what was happening.

Meanwhile, in France, people believed ravens were the souls of wicked priests and crows were the souls of wicked nuns. The Swedish, on the other hand, thought that ravens who croaked at night were the lost souls of murdered people who did not have Christian burials.

Being a lover of ravens and truth, I feel compelled to offer some scientific facts about these magnificent birds.

  • Ravens have a 4 foot wingspan and are 2 feet from head to tail. They are about the same size as a red tailed hawk.
  • Ravens are highly adaptable, living in diverse habitats, tundras, deserts, mountains and forests.
  • Ravens are not fussy eaters. Almost everything is on their menu including carrion and garbage.
  • Ravens rate alongside chimpanzees and dolphins in intelligence. They have been seen stealing fish by pulling fishermen’s lines out of ice holes or dropping clams on highways to have cars crack them open.
  • Ravens are mimics and can copy our speech and other animal vocalizations.  They can also imitate other sounds such as cars running or toilets flushing.
  • Ravens mate for life and hang out as pairs. Teenage ravens live in gangs until they are ready to pair off with a mate.
  • Ravens, unlike crows, love to soar. They can also somersault in flight and fly upside down.
  • And lastly, a piece of good news. Raven populations in North America are stable or raising with a global breeding population of 20 million. These smart and adaptable birds have learned to live beside the world’s most overpopulated species.


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October 23, 2018, 9:07 pm

Nobody does “cute” like the Japanese. Gushing over cute people, animals and consumer items is not a passing fad, it’s an ongoing cultural phenomena. Various theories have been proposed for the evolution of Kawaii, the name for all things childish and saccharine in Japan, a country the size of Montana with 127,000,000 people.

Science writer Natalie Angier states that “Cute cues are those that indicate extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness and need.” These qualities are all included in the Japanese dictionary definitions for the word Kawaii: 1) itawashii (pitiable), 2) aisubeki (lovable) and 3) chiiskute utsukushii (small and beautiful). So in addition to being sweet, the Japanese concept of cute also embraces a sense of pathos: sadness and beauty, the ying and the yang.

An explosion of Kawaii as a mainstay of consumer culture began in Japan in the 1970’s and the tsunami is still rolling. It began with teenage girls inventing a faddish calligraphy style of rounded characters. The young ladies practiced their writing on stationery and diaries decorated with sweet, little animal pictures.  The Sanrio Company was the producer of many of these stationery items. Then, in 1975, Sanrio launched their “Hello Kitty” products. Kitty’s net worth in 2018 is now $42 billion.

My idea for this blog came from the most recent “Hello Kitty” development. It is truly Kawaii on steroids, it’s the Hello Kitty train. I will not even attempt to find words to describe the train which is currently running on Japan Rail tracks. Here are the pictures….and note that one of the stations it stops at is Puroland, Hello Kitty’s very own theme park.

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October 16, 2018, 9:44 pm

The other morning I sat down to eat breakfast, looked out the window at the Tooley Cafe  and was shocked. Our bear had lost his head.

Our cheerful wood sculpture bear has stood atop a tall pole in the Tooley Cafe for twenty years. He watches over the hundreds of animals, feathered and furred, who dine in our Cafe every day. Birds often perch on his head. And there he was, decapitated.

I alerted my husband, and we went out together to search for the missing head. It was quickly located having rolled beneath some underbrush not too far from the pole. At first we speculated that raccoons might have played a part in the decapitation, but we quickly dismissed that idea as unlikely. Unfortunately, raccoons get scapegoated for all sorts of mischief that happens in our yards around here.

Bear’s head was soggy from the rain we’ve been having lately, so we brought it into the house to dry. We didn’t want him to get brain rot.

Checking his head more closely, we discovered that he was also missing an ear. His eyes were looking fine, however, as we had given him eye transplants a few years ago. That time we blamed the squirrels as bear’s eyes did resemble acorns.

It’s ironic that we ended up with a headless bear at the same time of year that Sleepy Hollow and headless horsemen come to mind. We decided to do immediate surgery to replace his ear and reconnect his head. Keeping the restoration in the mammal family, we used Gorilla Glue for the adhesive. There will be no need to replace his head with a pumpkin. Bear is back on his perch, fully intact and once again faithfully guarding our yard.

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October 9, 2018, 8:25 pm

We had a little explosion the other night before dinner. Nothing major, in fact, a good excuse for laughter.

I was opening a tube of refrigerator biscuits and was (somewhat) following the opening directions. As I was searching for the silver pull tab, the biscuits decided to pop open without my help. There was a big bang and I was holding an intact tube with a missing top. Ripping the tube open, I counted out seven biscuits. The label clearly stated that the package held ten.

When my husband walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, I was crawling around my kitchen floor looking for the missing pieces of dough. Neither of us could spot them and, since we were both hungry and in no imminent danger of stepping on a raw biscuit, we sat down to eat our bowls of soup with the seven biscuits we had in hand. We tend to be grateful for what we have.

Later that evening I found the lid to the tube 20 feet away in the dining room. It wasn’t until the next morning when I was washing the breakfast dishes that I noticed a white blob stuck to the side of the window frame. Further investigation unearthed two more biscuits wedged between some blue bottles on my window sill and the kitchen window. Mystery solved: Scotty had not beamed up the biscuits.

The flying biscuits brought to mind another funny explosion in our kitchen. Young guests at our house always get to pick their morning cereal from those cute little boxes in a variety pack. (We figure this is a treat, because moms rarely buy these pricey packages.) As our little person was standing in the middle of the kitchen attempting to open a small serving pouch, it exploded. An amazing amount of cereal came raining down on the kitchen floor. Within seconds all our cats had converged on the scene and were gobbling up the bounty.

I will not go into detail about my least favorite explosion. It involves a brand new rental car, the tidiest country in the world, the Netherlands, a juice box containing bright red juice and my attempt to put a straw in said box. Enough said.



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October 2, 2018, 8:45 pm

When it comes to veggies, I like mine small. Petite peas, slender asparagus, baby green beans and tiny pickling cucumbers (eaten unpickled). In my opinion, bigger is not better in the vegetable world.

So it was with a grin on his face, that my husband showed me some pictures taken at Britain’s Harrogate Autumn Flower Show. (That name is somewhat of a misnomer as acres of vegetables are displayed alongside the spectacular blooms.) Noted for being fervent gardeners, the British are also lovers of weird traditions. The giant vegetable competition at the Harrogate show certainly falls into that category.

Vegetables of monstrous proportions are judged on their length and weight. Categories include pumpkin, marrow (zucchini), parsnip, leek, cabbage, potato, beetroot, carrot, rhubarb, runner bean and cucumber. In addition, there is a separate and wildly popular National Heavy Onion Championship. Since it’s inception in 1983, the event has resulted in twelve new world records.

This year’s big winner in the giant vegetable competition was Ian Neale, a 75 year old pensioner from South Wales. He grew the heaviest carrot, beetroot and cabbage, a trifecta of giants.

Asked about his secret of success, he stated, “There really is no secret. It’s just about having the right seed and the right growing conditions and you have to put in plenty of time. You do need a bit of money-for compost and fertilizer- but that’s it.”

In researching this giant vegetable story, I noticed that one thing stood out….no women were among the contestants.I guess it’s just guys who are fixated on “the biggest”.

Here are the results of their labor.


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