The Suitcase Lady


June 13, 2017, 9:39 pm

None of us who fly economy class on American airlines expect to be treated like royalty. Only those in business and first class are fawned over, fed expensive mediocre meals, and have a place to stick their feet…..all rewards for paying huge ticket prices.

So this blog is not about how egregiously we are treated by our air carriers. We all know that we are considered to be lowlier than cargo. Instead, I want to take note of a happy airline story.

King Wilhelm Alexander, the reigning monarch of the Netherlands, recently gave a newspaper interview. He discussed his regularly scheduled flights as a guest co-pilot for KLM. For the last 22 years, he has kept up his commercial license with twice monthly flights. In addition, he is currently retraining to be able to fly Boeing 747s because the Fokkers he has been piloting are being phased out of KLM’s fleet.

The king was never secretive about his flights. Cockpit doors were left open before 9/11, and occasionally passengers would look in and be surprised to see the then prince at the controls. Some recognize his voice now when he speaks to passengers en flight.

He stated in the recent interview, “The advantage is that I can always say I am speaking on behalf of the captain and crew to welcome them on board, so I don’t have to say my name. But, then, most people don’t listen anyway.” He added that, “For me the most important thing is that I have a hobby for which I need to concentrate completely.”

How refreshing, a world leader who is unassuming, dedicated, focused and witty. I would love to be on one of his flights which are all within Europe. In addition to having a king in the cockpit, KLM’s Cityhopper flights give economy passengers a free beverage and a chicken thyme sandwich on organic wheat bread with lemon mayo. Now that is truly royal treatment.

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June 6, 2017, 9:45 pm

It’s June, the month named after Jupiter’s wife, Juno, and I would like to talk about Juno….and Juno.

In mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. Juno, however, was able to peer through the clouds and see what her husband was up to.

NASA has a Juno mission which is also looking beneath the clouds. The clouds surround the planet Jupiter, and the mission’s goal “is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the process and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation.”

Last July, the remarkable Juno spacecraft started circling Jupiter after a five year, 1.8 billion mile journey. If all goes well, the spacecraft will be working hard for twenty months. Then NASA will plunge it into Jupiter’s atmosphere to be vaporized and crushed. Juno’s death will spare Jupiter’s moons “from any nasty hitchhiking microbes brought from Earth”.

Juno’s pictures and data are currently being released. Scott Bolton, the mission manager, sums up the findings: “The general theme of our discoveries is really how different Jupiter looks from what we expected.”

A few of the surprises are that the planet’s magnetic field is twice as strong as predicted. It’s core was believed to be dense and small but now appears to be “fluffy” and dispersed. And the poles are chaotic, riddled with cyclones and turbulent features.

Traveling aboard Juno are three Lego figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo. According to a NASA scientist, “We put these Lego minifigures on Juno in order to inspire and motivate and engage children, to help them share the excitement of space exploration.” Hopefully, a few adults will be inspired as well.

Click here for more Jupiter facts.

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May 30, 2017, 9:21 pm

If I had to choose my favorite month, May would be the winner. I admit that here in the upper Midwest, the fifth month sometimes gets off to a rough start. A cold, rainy, windy 42 degree day is not exactly uplifting. But vast improvements quickly appear. My camera and I tried to capture some of May’s offerings.

The new leaves are delicate mists of green in the early weeks but turn the entire landscape bright emerald by Memorial Day.




Migratory birds are returning every day, filling our yard with their songs. May 11 was a particularly joyful day for us as the purple martins  flew in to take up summer residence in their martin apartments.



Also returning are the gnats, a.k.a. mayflies or midges, who create massive, tornado-like swarms all along the lakeshore. They are utterly harmless, but an amazing nuisance. Thinking of them as a colossal banquet for the birds helps when scrubbing them off the front of the car and our windows.


May and flowers are synonymous. Marsh marigolds and then trilliums cover acres of  forest lands. More modest wildflowers are sprouting in the woods as well; tiny wood violets, mayflowers, jack-in-the-pulpit and wild columbine to name but a few.


By mid-month, the orchards are all in bloom and the flowering crabs are covered with seas of pink and purple blossoms.  After a week, the spring winds turn the petals into flower confetti, our spring snow.



And then there are the lilacs. My favorites are the ancient, massive bushes that dot the country roadsides. Planted by farm women decades and decades ago, the lilacs continue to grow and thrive, long after many of their homesteads have vanished.



May is a feast for all the senses plus it brings an added bonus. The hours of daylight are nearing their zenith. Since I’m a born traveler, my response to the light is instinctual…..hit the road to soak in all the beauty. Everything’s ephemeral. (Click any picture to enlarge.)

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May 23, 2017, 9:27 pm

We went through 28 oranges last week. My husband and I have not turned orange and we are not loaded with vitamin C. All the oranges were for our guests, more orioles than we have ever seen in our 21 years of country living.

Our brilliant visitors, scientific name Icterus galbula, are falling out of the sky. Emily Dickinson correctly called the male oriole “the meteor of birds”.

Orioles consume orange halves in record time. They also love grape jelly and some even hop into the plastic container we put it in. The hummingbird feeder is also visited. We’ve counted as many as twelve orioles at a time enjoying our offerings. And, like cardinals, they arrive early and stay late.

First documented by Linnaeus in 1758, Baltimore Orioles are found in the eastern and central parts of America in summer. Winters are spent in Florida and points south to northern South America.

The birds’ vibrant orange and black colors caused them to be named for Lord Baltimore whose family crest was orange and black. Appropriately, they are the state bird of Maryland.

Orioles are omnivores and enjoy a good meal of caterpillars as well as soft fruits and nectar. When feasting on fruit, they stab the fruit with  beaks closed. Then they open their mouths, creating a cup for the fruit juices which they drink with their tongues.

Orioles’ nests are intricately woven and hung from branches making the nest less vulnerable to predators. They prefer deciduous to coniferous trees for nesting. (Sadly for us, as we live beside a pine grove.) The female can take up to fifteen days to construct her sock-shaped nest. She lays between four to six eggs and incubates them twelve to fourteen days. Dad helps feed the nestlings. Baltimore orioles lay only one brood per season.

A poignant thought occurred to me as I was watching these beautiful, charismatic birds…..what if orioles lacked their flaming orange color but were identical in every other physical trait and behavior? Would so many of us be providing daily banquets of costly oranges?

We may tell our children that looks don’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts, but I fear we’re lying. Our species does reward beauty.

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May 16, 2017, 9:47 pm

I would like to speak about the word “bespoke”. Its meaning was unknown to me until last week when I encountered it three times in a few hours of reading. Obviously, it’s a hot word, and I don’t like to be out in the linguistic cold. (To my embarrassment, I speak only one language so try to keep up on its words.)

I consulted my e-dictionary to discover that bespoke is an adjective that means “goods, (especially clothing) made to order.” The word originated in Britain in the mid 18th century. Examples were given of how the word is currently used:

  • A bespoke suit
  • Bespoke kitchens
  • Group tours and bespoke itineraries

I now understand why this word is so popular. In our “it’s all about me and money” society, having all your possessions custom made is the ultimate value.

After reading the definition, I briefly scrolled down the Google references for “bespoke” and found this ad which is a true jaw dropper……and perhaps enough to make one wish to resign from the human race.

“Express yourself with our Bespoke service. Designed to help you create your own unique Rolls-Royce, it’s time to set your own standard of style.

Personalise subtle features such as door handles, driver’s dials and treadplates. Make a bold statement by having a paint colour developed especially for you – or the veneers crafted from a tree on your estate. Dedicated to bringing your vision to life, this is the Bespoke service.”

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