Grandma’s Recipe Box

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When I was in the Hoosier state for the holidays I found a new item on my mother’s shelf of kitchen knick-knacks: My grandmother’s old recipe box. She’s in a nursing home now and stopped cooking many years ago, but back in the day no one could match her. And I know — we all think that about our grandmothers. Nostalgia sets our memories even better than eggs set a cake.

So what was in the recipe box? Mostly baked goods: Desserts like cookies, pies and cakes, and some heartier main courses like the hash brown casserole I’ve set out below.

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No beach envy on America’s Third Coast

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Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana.

Staring out at another beach this weekend, I finally decided to put down a few words about my trip to the Indiana Dunes in early August.

Being in close proximity to dozens of beautiful, unique beaches — the tumbled-down cliffs on the Sound, the pearlescent yellow sand of the Jersey Shore, and the scrub-topped dunes of the Cape — is probably my favorite thing about living on the East Coast.

My boyfriend and I both work in politics and while what we do is ultimately rewarding, without our hideaway on Cape Cod I’m not sure we’d be able to make it through the frequent stress and petty problems that come with the territory, especially now that we’re in the final stretch. That’s why we went this weekend: Between Labor Day and Election Day, there really is no other opportunity to take a break.

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A Hoosier in the Nutmeg State

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A new logo, to better reflect my bi-state tendencies.

I finally did it. I renamed the blog. Sure, I said I was going to do this back in February, but then I got sidetracked by finding a new job. Also, I was lying when I said I had a lot of ideas for this switch. It took me an embarrassingly long time – and bouncing a lot of ideas off friends – to come up with something as simple as “A Hoosier in the Nutmeg State.”

Although Connecticut is officially the “Constitution State,” colloquially it’s known as the “Nutmeg State” and its inhabitants are, reluctantly, sometimes known as Nutmeggers. Reluctantly because although the term seemingly has very obvious, benign origins – colonial settlers in the area used to trade nutmeg seeds – the legend is that these settlers were actually selling wood carved to look like nutmeg in order to swindle the rubes who were just passing through.

The word Hoosier is said to have similarly defamatory roots. While there are many theories about the term’s origin, by most evidence it is a slang word that originated in the south and that denoted a person who was “rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow,” according to the research department at Indiana University’s Herman B Wells Library.

To further tie our demonyms together, I’ll leave you with this little gem from the Indiana Historical Bureau:

“For well over a century and a half the people of Indiana have been called Hoosiers. It is one of the oldest of state nicknames and has had a wider acceptance than most. True, there are the Buckeyes of Ohio, the Suckers of Illinois and the Tarheels of North Carolina — but none of these has had the popular usage accorded Hoosier.

The only comparable term in the American experience is Yankee. And that started out as a synonym for New Englander. In the Civil War era Southerners applied it indiscriminately to all Northerners. In the world wars, many a boy from Dixie doubtless felt a sense of shock when he discovered that in the eyes of our British (Limey) allies, all Americans were Yanks!”

Well how about that, O adopted home? We have more in common than I thought.

Back Home Again: Brunch at the Ayres Tea Room

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Warm light greets you in the entryway.

From its founding in 1872 until it was subsumed by mergers and stock swaps in the middle part of the last decade, L.S. Ayres and Co. was one of the most successful department stores in Indiana. The eight-story flagship building – and its iconic 10,000-pound bronze clock – at the corner of Washington and Meridian streets is still a notable part of Indianapolis’ real estate landscape.

As an emblem of a now-faded era when those eponymous department stores served as the literal cornerstones of most major American cities, it’s appropriate – and a little ironic – that L.S. Ayres’ famous Tea Room is on display at the Indiana State Museum.

The original Tea Room was an essential part of the full shopping experience provided by a classic department store. Actually, the flagship store initially housed a trifecta of eating establishments – the soda fountain, the Grille and the Tea Room – designed to keep shoppers coming back for more than bargains on clothes and goods.

The Tea Room and its parent company have been absent from the Washington Street building since 1992. But since 2002, the Indiana State Museum has operated a near-replica of the original, right down to the Chicken Velvet Soup. In what is much more than an interactive exhibit, museum patrons like myself who were too young to really experience the Tea Room’s original incarnation can enjoy the same elegance and carefully crafted menu. While according to my mother I did eat at the original Tea Room as a toddler, as she put it: “Your dad and I ate there … you mostly played with your food. Oh, I’m sure you ate mac and cheese or something.”

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Back Home Again: A tour of the LST-325

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The LST-325 in Evansville, Ind.

I seem to be doing a lot of WWII-themed things lately. First the Ernie Pyle museum and now this.

During my first week in Evansville, I was looking for something to do (other than work) and discovered this hulking ship on the bank of the Ohio River. I thought it would be cool to take a tour, so I wandered down there.

The ship is the LST-325, a WWII-era landing craft designed to move tanks and other supplies straight on to the shore. LST actually stands for “Landing ship, tank.”

Fun fact: The LST-325 was used as the model for all of the LSTs that appear in the move “Flags of our Fathers,” directed by Clint Eastwood.

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Back Home Again: Dana, Ind.

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This is the house Ernie was born in. It used to sit a mile outside of town but was moved to create the museum in the mid '70s.

I’ve been busy vacationing, so I haven’t had much time to post in the last couple weeks. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday a couple of friends and I went to Cedar Point. Sadly — because I’m SO GOOD at planning ahead — my camera’s batteries died before I had a chance to take even one photo there. Today, my parents and I spent some family time at the Ernie Pyle museum in Dana, Indiana, and I did manage to get pictures of that.

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