The Montague Bookmill, Montague, MA

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If I had an official list of my favorite bookstores in the world (hm, maybe I should have one), The Montague Bookmill would be on it. During last winter’s snowstorms there was a lot made of the Swedish word “hygge,” and while I still can’t point to a precise definition of this word, I know that the Bookmill has it.

I saw myself spending the whole day there, curled up in the stacks with a cup of hot coffee from the attached cafe, The Lady Killigrew, or perched on the sofa near one of the many bay windows, watching the Saw Mill River roar below. So that’s exactly what I did. All day.

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The Book Bower, Middletown, CT

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We’re moving again, which means I needed a nearby place to offload some books. I’ve moved about once a year since leaving home, and it seems like every time I pack up all my things I’ve gained an extra box or two of books. I’ve been wanting to check out the Book Bower in Middletown for a while, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

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New Feature: Used Bookstores of New England

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You can't find this on a Kindle – seriously.

You can’t find this on a Kindle – seriously.

Summer is here, and that means travel season. I obviously take a lot of trips, and one of my favorite things to do when I’m out of town is perch myself at a nice coffee shop or used bookstore – or, ideally, something that’s a hybrid between the two – and read.

I read voraciously growing up. I didn’t realize then that adolescence would be the last time in my life when I had unlimited time to curl up with a good book. As an adult, I’m lucky if I get through a book a month – and that’s more than many people . (According to the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of American adults haven’t read a book in the last year.)

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Great places to get snowed in: Simsbury, CT & Newport, RI

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Simsbury Inn -- Staircase

The grand staircase at the Simsbury Inn.

Yesterday was the first day of spring and we still can’t get away from the snow. Last week the temperature topped out in the low 50’s and we had a string of sunny days. The crusty snowbanks had almost disappeared from the streets, even in Boston.

Then, all of a sudden, winter was back with 5 inches of snow. I’m hoping this is the last snow we see this year, but I’m not optimistic. Fall is my favorite season and winter used to be a close runner up, but this winter has really tested my patience. Growing up in the Midwest, I know bad winters: sub-zero temperatures, blizzard conditions and piles of snow are nothing new to me. But I think living in Southern Indiana, where winters tend to be more mild, for 6 years prior to moving to Connecticut spoiled me.

This winter has been especially bad, even by New England standards. February 2015 was the coldest month ever in Connecticut. Massachusetts broke snowfall records for the season and for the month of February.

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Torrington and the Litchfield Hills

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Fall is the best time go for a drive and a hike in almost any part of the country, but this is especially true for Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills region. The Litchfield Hills are technically the southern tip of the Berkshires, which are in turn technically the southern half of the Green Mountains that start in Vermont. Western New England and Eastern New York are where most of the mountain ranges of the Northeast Appalachians converge, and the effect is beautiful.

New England is also 80 percent forest — the most heavily-forested region of the country — a fact that can be counted as one of the great environmental victories of the 20th century. Early settlers’ logging and farming had cut that percentage down to 30-40 percent in the mid-1800s.

So what’s there to do in the Litchfield Hills besides “leaf-peep”?

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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.

Short Essay: “888”

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Right now, a car is sitting on the next block down. A few minutes ago it was honking its horn – “beep, beep, beeeeeeeep” – every 15 seconds or so. Maybe someone is trying to get the attention of his date without having to actually walk up to the door. Now someone is whistling loudly. Maybe it’s the horn honker, frustrated that his previous attempts to be heard (at least, by his date) have not been successful.

Later at night, someone upstairs will hum, or sing (or yell) as they pad around, getting ready for bed. The space between my ceiling and their floor is so thinly insulated I can hear most of what goes on in the apartment above me, especially if I’m sitting in my bedroom.

As the clock ticks toward midnight a siren or two will squeal outside, or an inconsiderate person with very loud music will squeal his tires up and down the street.

Every morning starts the same, with footsteps on the floor above me and a muffled man’s voice that sounds like it’s saying, “888,” over and over a couple times very slowly and deliberately. This will continue sporadically throughout the day, sometimes four or five times. It’s a little eerie – every day, without fail, over and over again: “888 … 888.”

The day time is pretty quiet (except for the mystery man in B5). Most people are at work or school. Occasionally the maintenance men come to one of the neighboring apartments. I can usually tell them from the sharp “pop pop pop” of their knock on someone else’s door, and their accented English “Hello? Anyone home?”

The outside chorus picks up again when the kids get out of school. The air is alive not with voices of children who’ve just happily finished another day in class, but with the honks and yells of angry drivers who are upset that the bus is blocking their way through the narrow street. Both sides get backed up with traffic, so much sometimes that the bus can’t even move. The honking gets worse.

Then, the voice again, unexpected but now familiar: “888.”

Yep, I’m renaming my blog

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The inevitable has finally happened: I’ve decided to rename my blog.

My current blog name came about in college after I read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. According to Putnam, the individualization of leisure time was eroding Americans’ social capital. This was largely due to cable television’s (and other specialized forms of electronic media) overwhelming presence as the preferred leisure activity.

After finishing the book I became mildly concerned about television’s effect on my own social life, so I made a conscious choice to reduce the amount of time I spent glued to the tube. I even got rid of my TV and turned down my cable company’s pleas for a subscription renewal (though, to be honest, as a broke recent-grad and even broker grad student, I couldn’t have afforded cable even if I’d wanted it).

But lately, doing a whole weekend without TV has been a lofty goal. There are only so many active-yet-inexpensive pastimes an unemployed person can engage in … and now I have the time to do them whenever I want. Plus, I still don’t own a TV or have cable (see: being poor), so I feel like I’ve done a decent job of kicking my 24/7 TV habit, even if I do occasionally binge for 10 straight hours (House of Cards, I’m looking at you).

Plus, now that my life is firmly planted on the East Coast I want to shift my focus a bit. Not in terms of content – I still plan to spend a lot of time traveling, cooking and reading, and then writing about all of those things – but in terms of my focus. I want to explore my new home in a way that blends my perspective as a Midwesterner with my reality as a New Englander.

So, dear readers, I’m going to put the ball in your court for a minute and let you take a stab at renaming my blog. Don’t worry; I have backups in mind in case you fail. But I’d like to hear what you think, and also hear some suggestions on what you’d like to read in the future.

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.