Hey, over here!

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Finally got around to posting a little bit about “Herland” on my other blog, De-Mystifying the Mystique.

Something Connecticuters might be interested to know: Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, and lived for 12 years in Norwich with her second husband. Her great-aunt on her father’s side was Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The more you know.

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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Now Reading: Herland

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herlandAnyone who’s met me for even five minutes knows I am a die-hard feminist. I also love science fiction, so as you might imagine feminist science fiction is one of my favorite things in the world.

When I say “feminist science fiction,” I’m not really talking about science fiction written by a woman or that puts a woman in the starring role. I’m talking about science fiction that explores deeper truths about what it means to be a woman in society, and combines that exploration with cybernetics, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, alternate universes or Utopian societies, as is the case with Herland.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel tells the story of three male explorers who wander into a society composed solely of women who reproduce by parthenogenesis. This unisex society is untainted by the gender stereotyping of the outside world, allowing the women to develop mentally, physically and emotionally as individuals.

I’ll have more thoughts when I finish it. Until then you can read my other reviews at De-Mystifying the Mystique.

Day Trips: Eight hours in New York City

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When I moved to Connecticut I didn’t expect that my first weekend excursion would take me outside the state, especially to New York City. It seemed too cliché; after all, I was really excited to uncover whatever colloquial idiosyncrasies my adopted state had to offer.

Julie looking fly, as usual.

Julie looking fly, as usual.

However, a long hard week at work drove me to seek the company of old friends, and to do that I had to go to go all the way to the New York, where my friend Julie and her partner Andrew moved this summer after we had all graduated with our master’s degrees.

It had been 20 years since I’d last seen the city, so in the interest of checking off some basic bucket list items the day was planned to max out the main tourist sites as painlessly and cheaply as possible. Julie, who is originally from the NYC area, was the perfect tour guide for this. The biggest, most tourist-y site we didn’t do was the Statue of Liberty, since the former 6-year-old me remembers very well the 177 steps she walked halfway to the top, and then being carried (crying) the rest of the way.


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Now Reading: The Dialectic of Sex

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Completing a Master’s in Public Affairs doesn’t leave much time for pleasure reading, especially if your favorite fare is feminist philosophy and political theory. Fortunately that’s over (the degree, not feminism), so in between working full-time and continuing to search for my dream job I should be able to scratch the surface of some hefty tomes.

Over winter break I was able to finish Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse.” Shulamith Firestone’s death last August sparked my interest in her “Dialectic of Sex,” so I’ve set it aside as my first reading assignment of the summer. Stay tuned.

Read more book reviews on my other blog, De-Mystifying the Mystique.

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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Food Adventures: Jalapeno jelly

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Jalapeno jelly on soda bread. I could never make something so ambitious in my own small kitchen.

As anyone who lives in a small apartment knows, their compartmentalized nature can constrain your ambition in the kitchen. My own kitchen is so tiny that it basically looks like an afterthought the builders sledge-hammered into the side of the hallway. It’s hard to get excited about trying a recipe that takes a lot of preparation when I know I’m going to have to stack ingredients and cookware on top of my microwave to get everything when and where I need it, not to mention the fact that everything will need to be cleaned in a sink the size of a shoebox.

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