Seneca Falls, New York, The Hub of Women’s History in the U.S.

The “mecca” of feminism in the U.S.

The history of women gaining the right to vote is receiving new attention with the release of the movie Suffragette.

That movie takes place in England, but earlier this year, I visited the mecca of women’s suffrage in the U.S., Seneca Falls, New York, located  in the state’s Finger Lakes region, at the tip of Seneca Lake. There, Women’s Rights National Historical Park depicts the women’s journey to equal citizenship in this country, particularly the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, on July 19-20,1848.

Women’s history on display in Seneca Falls

Get up to speed on women’s rights struggle at the Visitors Center with a great film on the first conventions and its leaders, exhibits on that event and our progress since then, and a book store selling a variety of books on the topic.

The park also includes the Wesleyan Chapel next door the convention took place and the houses of other prominent leaders of the movement including Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She helped launch the reform movement for women’s rights to which she dedicated the rest of her life. She was born on November 12, 1815, (Happy 200 birthday!) and lived in Seneca Falls.

Mingling with Heroes–At the National Women’s Rights Historic Park you’ll find a collection of life-size statues that represent the first wave of womens rights activists in the U. S. The group includes statues of twenty people including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Fredrick Douglass. Many people involved in the women’s rights movement were also ardent abolitionists.

Down the street from the Visitors Center, you can also tour the National Women’s Hall of Fame, where plaques and photos pay homage to America’s famous women.

It’s all very inspiring, especially if you’ve ever felt like Elizabeth Cady Stanton who, isolated at home with three small children, described herself as a “caged lioness.”

For an excellent list of books about women’s suffrage and other travel reading, go to Longitude Books and search under “women’s suffrage.” And be sure to read my article about Jack London State Park in their “Favorite Spot” section.


Trio of Spoons at Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis

A trio of souvenir spoons, each a gift from a guest at Spoon and Stable restaurant in Minneapolis.

Chef Gavin Kaysen has a reputation, not only for his cuisine and his award-winning new restaurant Spoon and Stable in his hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s also known for his collection of spoons—and how he obtains them. His collection was the inspiration for the the name of the new restaurant (along with the fact that it’s located in a former horse stable built in 1904), which was a 2015 James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant.

He scours second-hand shops for spoons, others he has received as gifts from friends and from other restaurants because of his spoon-loving reputation. Others he has, well, pocketed. Sterling to to wrought iron, for Kaysen, it’s not just a collection of spoons, it’s “a collection of memories.”

The lure of spoons began for Kaysen when he was a 21-year-old pastry chef in Lausanne, Switzerland, learning to make the perfect quenelle of ice cream. On his days off, he used beef fat to practice making the elegant oval scoops. When he finally mastered the technique he kept the spoon he was using as a memento.

Kaysen continued that habit of spoon pilfering. For him, they offer a tangible memory of an experience whether is was a great meal, outstanding service or a beautiful dining space.

Knowing his penchant for spoons, guests in his restaurant now bring in spoons from their own collections to give Kaysen and they tell him the tales behind them. “I love their family stories,” he says.


National Book Award Winners, Classics—Other Required Reading for 2016?


My fellow readers and travelers—what do you suggest for a 2016 must-read list?

I’ve been chugging my way through Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, which won the Man Booker Prize earlier this year.I look to such awards as one way to compose my reading list for each
new year. I’ll add to that the books nominated for the 2015 National Book Award.

The winners were announced last night: for fiction Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles; for nonfiction,Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me; for poetry, Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus; and for Young Peoples Literature, Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep. The list of other National Book Award nominees is listed below.

As I assemble my 2016 reading list, book awards are a great way to find books and authors I may not have heard of, with sort of a “best of the year” stamp of approval. I like to blend in few classics, too, especially those Victorian-era novels by authors such as Hardy, Dickens, the Brontes of which I’m a fanatical fan. New on that list for me, the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. (I’m embarrassed to admit I never heard of her until I saw North and South on Netflix.) And, I toss in a little non-fiction for good measure.

Send me your ideas and look for my final list.

Other Contenders for the National Book Award 2015
Fiction Karen E. Bender, Refund
, Angela Flournoy, The Turner House;
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies; 
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Non Fiction Sally Mann, Hold Still; 
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus
; Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship; and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran;
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light

Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
; Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn; 

Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things
; Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine

Young People’s Literature
Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish; 
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap
; Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
; Noelle Stevenson, Nimona

Fabulous Holiday Windows in New York City

Architecture was the theme of this window at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
Architecture was the theme of this window at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.

It’s the time of year when retailers ramp up for the holidays with ornate holiday displays.  Nowhere in the U.S. is the holiday decor more fantastic than in New York City.  And, in New York you’ll find the most fabulous of all in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman.

I’ve been lucky enough for the last several years to be in New York during the holiday season.  The corner of 5th and 58th is always my first destination to see what wonders they’ve come up with for the year. (I also enjoy touring the wonders inside the store, but window gazing is much more economical.)

Fabulously ornate windows at Bergdorf Goodman. The subject of this window: Literature. How many authors can you find.
Fabulously ornate windows at Bergdorf Goodman. The subject of this window: Literature. How many authors can you find?

The theme for last year’s windows was the arts, including architecture, theater, painting, music, and my favorite, literature–all absolutely and delightfully over the top. The Creators Project blog has an article about last year’s windows.

If you go this year, send me a picture of Bergdorf’s windows.  And, be sure to read about my literary walking tour of mid-town Manhattan.

IMG_0517 (1)

Why is Polar Explorer Ann Bancroft Paddling the Ganges?

Polar explorers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft. Now, they’re adventuring in India.

Need a little travel inspiration?  This explorer, teacher and environmentalist’s example will get you out on your next adventure.

Ann Bancroft became the first woman to arrive at the North Pole on Unknown
foot and by sled in a 1986 expedition with Will Steger, six other men and 49 male dogs. After that, she tallied other firsts, including being the first woman to cross both polar ice caps to reach the North and South Poles and was part of the first group of American women to ski across Greenland.

I had the fun of interviewing Bancroft for an article as she was about to set out on a new expedition, a surprising trip for someone who is typically associated with cold and ice.  She and her frequent expedition partner Norway’s Liv Arnesen, are leading an international posse of women who are paddling the length of the Ganges River, from the source of the river in the Himalaya Mountains to the Bay of Bengal. They’re doing it to to call attention to the crisis of fresh water around the world.

Bancroft is an inspiration for anyone who yearns to get outdoors for some adventure travel.  You don’t have to go to the polar regions or the Ganges, but she encourages everyone to push themselves for new adventures and experiences. “We’re all on a journey,” she says.  “What’s your expedition?”

Read more about the Access Water expedition in this article for the Minnesota Women’s Press. And, follow the group online as they paddle the Ganges.

Careful! A Stroll Through MacKenzie-Childs

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whenever I travel I carry a big black purse because it holds everything I need all the time–notebook, camera, water bottle, goodies I buy…. However, when I stroll through places with glassware and other breakables, my bag and I are the equivalent of a a  bull in a china shop.  One clumsy turn and I can clear a table of really expensive merchandise.

I was extra careful when I toured the MacKenzie-Childs headquarters and shop in Aurora, New York, this spring.  They’re located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, perched high above Cayuga Lake, a lovely scene before you even get to the merchandise.  If you haven’t seen their wares in shops all over the country, the company makes all manner of wildly colorful and whimsical hand-painted furniture, ceramics and more–a feast for the eyes and well worth a little extra caution.

Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 491 other followers