The Suitcase Lady

Past Blogs


May 21, 2019, 9:19 pm


Amazing as it may sound, cardboard is coming into its own as a building material. Architects and designers around the globe are creating furniture, interiors and entire buildings from this humble material usually thought of in connection with the word “box”.

Architect Frank Gehry was one of the first designers to create cardboard furniture with his Wiggle side chair in 1972. He got the idea from a pile of corrugated cardboard stacked outside his office. From building cardboard architectural models, he knew the material became strong when glued together. His furniture consists of corrugated card board glued in alternating layers. He did this unique test to prove the furniture’s strength.

Cardboard is now being used worldwide to create unique interiors as well as entire buildings. Here are two interiors constructed entirely of cardboard, a cafe in Mumbai, India, and a retail store in Los Angeles.

Architect Shigeru Ban thinks bigger. He won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014 for “his innovative use of cardboard and his dedication to humanitarian efforts around the globe.” Using large cardboard tubes, he has designed housing for refugees from earthquakes and wars around the world. His units are sturdy, sustainable and recyclable. Some are long lasting as well. His “temporary” cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, built after the disastrous 2011 earthquake, has an estimated lifespan of 50 years.

And, finally, a Dutch design group named Fiction Factory has designed a cardboard house that has a life expectancy of up to 100 years. Called the Wikkelhouse, it can be assembled in days.

I must note that another species surpasses us in its use of cardboard for housing. I have yet to meet a cat that does not instantly convert an empty cardboard box into a kitty condo.

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May 14, 2019, 8:21 pm


I had an interesting conversation with a second grader the other day. He had just gotten back from spring break and was wearing a T-shirt that said “Morocco”.

“Did you go to Morocco over break?” I asked.

“Yes”, he replied, “and we visited Portugal, too.”

I then asked my favorite travel question, “What was the best and the worst thing about your trip?”

His answer came immediately. “We camped in the Sahara and that was great, but the beetle we saw there was really, really big and scary. I also liked Lisbon very much.”

“How lucky you are to have such wonderful adventures,” I said, and his reply was gratifying.

“I know I am. My parents want me to know there are many different kinds of people and places in the world.”

I know that foreign travel probably isn’t high on the wish list of most of the second graders I teach. Many kids cannot even stand long car rides in their native country without the bribe of multiple electronic devices. I found it delightful to chat with a young person who wants to see all the continents. He hopes to get to South America next.

Over decades of teaching, I have learned that kids are curious to learn about places different from their own. And I know from being a parent that it is possible to raise children that love to travel. Our son has been to Katmandu and Vietnam this year and our daughter is planning a trip to Newfoundland. We continue to explore as well, having driven to both coasts in the last two months.

We showed our kids a large part of America before turning them out in the world. Of all the money we have spent in our lifetime, those trips were some of the best investments we have ever made…..both for them and us.

Here are my favorite quotes from famous travelers:

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” Susan Sontag

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep rolling under the stars.” Jack Kerouac

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.” Mark Twain

On the road


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May 7, 2019, 9:58 pm


What do you visualize if I say “zebra crossing”? My first impression at hearing this term was of a herd of zebras crossing a road. That, however, was incorrect. A zebra crossing is the name given a pedestrian crossing of painted white stripes on the roadway. We’ve all walked on them thousands of times.

Recently there has been an ingenious, eye-popping twist given to the traditional zebra crossing: it’s gone 3D. Credit goes to two women artists in India, and I’m guessing more than a few road engineers wish they had come up with this clever idea.

Saumya Pandya Thakkar and her daughter Shakuntala Pandyaand painted a 3D illusion of a roadblock on a highway in Ahmedabadas  in response to the alarming number of road accidents and fatalities in India. From a distance, their tromp l’oeil artwork appears to rise out of the street like roadblocks. However, the illusion begins to fade when the driver comes closer, an important factor so drivers won’t suddenly slam on their brakes.

Optical illusion zebra crossings are now being tried in London, Iceland,  New Zealand and China. Initial findings are that the tricky artwork is helping to make crossings safer for pedestrians. Drivers may get a benefit as well. Large “roadblocks” looming out of the approaching pavement tend to wake up tired or inattentive motorists.

Check out these variations of hybrid zebras.

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April 30, 2019, 8:35 am


My husband and I are news junkies and frequently exchange tidbits of information that we think will be of interest to one another. The other day my guy remarked that poor Mrs. Bezos really got a bad divorce settlement only ending up with $36 billion dollars. I replied that I thought this should cover her bills and what exactly did he find lacking in their agreement?

His reply was that Mr. Bezos, the world’s richest person, got 75% of all their jointly owned Amazon stock plus sole voting power. In addition, Mrs. Bezos handed over all her interest in The Washington Post and Blue Origin, Jeff’s space flight company. Shabby, I admit, but the settlement made MacKenzie Bezos the 3rd richest woman in the world. Her shoe money is intact.

After this exchange, we both wondered out loud who were the two women that outrank  Mrs. Amazon in wealth. The oracle was consulted and the ladies are:

1.Frances Bettencourt Meyers – L’Oreal cosmetics heiress

She is a stellar example of where makeup will get a girl.

2. Alice Walton – Walmart heiress

Art lover that I am, I cannot bring myself to visit her art museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art,  where the masterpieces were bought with the money saved by paying minimum wages and giving no benefits to the employees.

The 4th richest woman, whose wealth is almost equal to Mrs. Bezos’, is Jacqueline Mars. Have you guessed what made her fortune? Candy bars. Her grandfather started what is now the world’s largest candy company.

The fact that a small handful of people on the planet have more individual wealth than many entire countries is surreal. But there is a lot of surreal stuff going on these days. Since money increasingly rules as Democracy fails, you might be interested in knowing who is running things at the moment. Check out the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. It is published daily to reflect the day’s stock market changes.

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April 23, 2019, 9:37 pm


I am ecstatic. Hopeless romantic that I am, I have recently discovered another Valentine’s Day to celebrate. And this holiday combines romance with books and roses…..what could possibly be better? Even the setting is wondrous, as it takes place in Barcelona.

St. Jordi’s Day is the name of the event which is celebrated on April 23, the day of  St. Jordi’s death in 303 A.D. The Catalan name for St. George is Sant Jordi, and he is the patron saint of Catalonia. Legend has it that the good Saint slew a dragon to save a princess and then plucked a red rose for the princess from a rose bush that magically sprouted from where the dragon’s blood had spilled. The holiday is also known as El Dia de la Rosa (Rose Day) and El Dia los Amantes (Lover’s Day).

World Book Day is also celebrated in Barcelona simultaneously with the St. Jordi’s Day festivities.  This juxtaposition came about as both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes also died on April 23.

Las Ramblas, the famous Main Street in Barcelona, turns into a sea of stalls selling books and roses on the holiday. Many of the stalls sell flowers and books to support charities, and the city council has a program that distributes roses to the elderly, as love isn’t only for the young.

The order of the day is for men to give a red rose to their lady and the women to reciprocate with a book. The red roses are decorated with a sprig of wheat and a tiny Catalonia flag which is four red stripes on a gold background. An amazing 7 million roses are sold on this most romantic of days.

And, of course, no holiday is celebrated without food. So along with the romance, roses and books, the Catalonians eat cake, special St. Jordi Day cakes.


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