The Suitcase Lady

Pack

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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Hyperbole

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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Hill

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…..it’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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Books

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…..like 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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Chocolate

December 12, 2017, 11:37 pm

Some Christmas presents keep on giving happiness long after they are opened. I received a gift like that a few years ago.

I love the high mountain city of Santa Fe, I love art and I also love desserts. So a cookbook called, Dulce – Desserts from Santa Fe, was the perfect present for me.

I would be thrilled with this book, even if I had never made the recipes. I can read cookbooks like novels. But this particular book is also filled with art; photographs from the collections of four great Santa Fe museums, including my favorite, The International Folk Art Museum.

As I browsed through pages of luscious sounding desserts, one stood out. I freely admit I was attracted by the number of ingredients….six. A combination of teaching, shepherding a herd of cats and keeping up a house doesn’t leave much time to try hugely complicated recipes.

The recipe was for Fudge Pie. It took ten minutes to make and 40 minutes to bake. After the first 10 minutes of bake time, the house filled up with delicious smells.

The fudge pie tasted as delectable as it smelled. But it is not a pie. Serving it for the first time, I cut it in pie shaped pieces and loaded ice cream on top. As I was eating this amazing good concoction, I realized that the calorie count was probably a zillion.

I have made the “fudge pie” countless times since. But I bake it in a 8 or 9 inch square pan, dust the finished product in powdered sugar and cut it into very small squares. We call it “the chocolate thing”.

So if you are in need of a terrific Christmas cookie that can be made in a hurry, here’s the recipe.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix sugar and butter, beat until creamy
Add eggs, flour, cocoa and vanilla. Beat well.
Bake in a greased 8 inch pan at 300 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar.

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