The Suitcase Lady

Past Blogs


January 21, 2020, 8:32 pm


We are decidedly in the thrall of the gray time of year…gray skies and snow covered with gray road sludge. Even our beautiful Lake Michigan often sheds its blue for shades of steely gray.

Perhaps it is a good time to think about the color gray and discover some of its more positive aspects.

Needless to say, gray is not for extroverts. But one of my favorite art professors, an unassuming, gentle man who painted almost exclusively in shades of brown, put gray in perspective for us art students one day. “Nothing is lovelier”, he said, “than when my wife wears a gray dress with a bright red scarf.”

Another example of gray’s contribution to subtle beauty can be found in what is called black and white photography. It’s the myriad shades of gray in these photographs that make them so elegant. Gray does not scream at us but is surely capable of creating drama. Every photograph by Ansel Adams and other masters of the media attests to this.

A similar effect is achieved in the ancient art of Sumi painting. A simple cake of black ink, water, a mixing stone and brush are all that is needed to make images of plants, animals and landscapes. The results are magical: we view the paintings as highly realistic reproductions of nature, but rainbow hues have been entirely eliminated.

Gray can be a trickster. Our first home was owned by an architect who had painted his studio gray. When we moved in, we wanted to paint that room white and bright yellow for our young daughter. Four coats of white paint were necessary to get the walls white, proving that gray also can be extremely assertive.

We are surrounded in our current home by many lovely grays, but here are our favorite ones.

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January 14, 2020, 8:25 pm


I have just discovered the ultimate way to recycle a Christmas tree. My husband and I have had real pine trees for 56 consecutive years. We are guilt free about this, knowing the trees are grown on tree farms specifically for holiday use. No old growth forests are being chopped down to bring us holiday tree joy.

Various ways of recycling the trees exist. In our case, sheltering fish is the most viable one. Mother Nature does this all the time. Shore erosion and big storms send trees catapulting into the waves. In the past two years, high and stormy waters have yanked over 40 trees from our cliff, including many huge ones. The lake bottom is a mass of dead trees where fish find safe spots to hide and spawn. Our annual Christmas tree toss is nothing compared to what nature is doing on an ongoing basis.

Tree farms in our area also use lake disposal for their unsold merchandise. A huge glacial lake, Lake Winnebago, receives many of these trees. It’s 30 miles long by 10 miles wide and a fisherman’s paradise. In addition to sinking trees to create fish habitats, fishing clubs collect trees to use as navigational markers. For ice fishing, 75 miles of roads are plowed on the lake. Hundreds of trees mark the roads.

For those not living in lake abundant states, other recycling options include:

  • Chipping for mulch
  • Composting
  • Turning the tree into a bird feeder for wildlife
  • Cutting off boughs to protect perennial flowerbeds
  • Cutting the trunk into discs for flowerbed borders

But here is the ultimate reuse of a Christmas tree. Give your tree to a TIGER! Sheer bliss will follow. These pictures were taken at the Valley of the Kings big cat sanctuary in Wisconsin. My husband and I have been supporting members of this amazing place for over 35 years. They know how to make tigers (and all their other animals) extremely happy.




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January 7, 2020, 8:17 pm


Whether a solar or lunar calendar is used, the turning of the year causes people around the world to think about good luck and how to send some their way. Traditions, rituals and invocations abound, some practiced with sincere belief and others with tongue in cheek.

Luck is an enormous factor in all our lives. Our country of birth, parents’ genes and bank account are all luck. And a chance meeting with one person can set the entire direction of our lives, a.k.a., falling in love. Only a fool thinks that he or she has arrived in the present moment solely by personal effort.

I am definitely part of the masses wanting good luck for this New Year. But I can’t bring myself to eating herring at midnight like my grandmother did to induce it. The only thing that would induce would be a gag reflex. My best invitation to luck is raising and drinking a glass of champagne at the stroke of twelve.

This year, however, Lady Luck presented me with a delightfully good omen on the morning of January first. We began the day waking up to sun, blue skies and great surf in San Diego. Then came breakfast at our family’s favorite oceanside surfers’ cafe for their aptly named “Big Breakfast”. We figured we needed to fuel up on carbs to return home to six inches of snow and three more months of winter.

I ordered breakfast at the counter and the cashier laughed when he ran up my total. “Would you believe”, he said,” that you owe me exactly $20.20?”

I’m looking forward to a splendid year.



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December 31, 2019, 10:45 am


This blog is about spirits, not the alcoholic ones, but they might need to be deployed as well.

The upcoming year is bound to be a wild rollercoaster ride as the dystopia of the Presidential campaign frenzy hurtles to November. Staying sane and keeping spirits up in the midst of this unfortunate spectacle will be a true challenge.

Here are my coping strategies. I look forward to hearing about any that you can supply as well. We all have to help each other.

1. Move to any place on the world’s happiest countries list. That would be Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands.

2. If number one is not feasible, get a pet or pets. They will keep you so busy cleaning up messes you will have no time to brood.

3. Drink wine. It does not have to be expensive. The cheap stuff works, too.

4. Don’t put off seeing friends. Your country as you knew it might be going away, but your true friends remain with their values unchanged.

5. Eat mac and ched with ice cream for dessert. Gourmet food is out, comfort food is in.

6. Get a passport, even if you can’t go anywhere at the moment. You never know when it might be needed.

7. Read books. Good books. Lots and lots of really good books.

8. Don’t forget how to laugh. This is how you will know you are not a Republican. They never laugh anymore.

9. Pray every day that Ruth Bader Ginsburg be made immortal.

10. Throw away your television. It’s hard enough to read the news, let alone see it, too.

11. Make something. Write something. Build something. Play some instrument.

12. Stay positive. We may not be able to save our country, but, hopefully, we can save ourselves and those we love.


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December 24, 2019, 8:23 am


There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays and I’ll Be Home for Christmas are two of America’s most enduring holiday songs. The concept of home looms large in our collective minds at this time of year. But what exactly does home mean?

I would make a very poor vagabond. Having a home  is extremely important to me, and I recognize the difference between a house and a home. A house is a structure; a home is where a person has a sense of belonging. Home is a word loaded with emotion.

I would feel completely rootless without my home. But through the years, I’ve come to realize that I have many home places, places where I can also be comfortable and content, other places of my heart. People and memories make a home. And geography, the grandeur of the land, animals and plants can also call to us.

My second home will always be northern New Mexico, even though I’ve never owned a house or bought a piece of land in that state. Family history brought me there: my Uncle and Aunt were stationed with the military in Albuquerque twice and then chose it for their retirement home. I first set foot in the Land of Enchantment when I was seven and have been going back ever since. If I add up all the days I’ve visited, it would be over 600 days of my life. I have a powerful feeling of coming home every time I drive across the state line into New Mexico or I see the lights snaking down the Rio Grande when my plane lands in Albuquerque.

I have other places I feel at home as well; Tucson, San Diego, Annapolis, New York City, Chicago, the Netherlands.

My best wish for all my family, friends and readers is that you all get home for the holidays…wherever those homes may be.


Albuquerque at Christmas

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