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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cupcake Heaven aka Valparaiso

You would think that after I gained 4 pounds in a week when I was in the Smokies last April that I would have learned my lesson.  Designer Desserts Bakery lured me in though.

The CUPCAKES CUPCAKES sign in the window was irresistible 

Well, I did practice some restraint.  I told the gal behind the counter I wanted 6 cupcakes instead of a dozen.  Sharon couldn't believe it when I said six!  I told her if she was only getting one then I would settle on 5 to round out that half dozen.

It was so hard to choose with names like "There's always room for jello" and "Root beer float".  I settled on Cinnamon churro, Vanilla bean, Birthday cake mashup, Strawberry lemonade and Sea salt caramel.  Sea salt caramel was hands down my favorite!

There's more in downtown Valparaiso than cupcakes, though that's reason enough to stop there in my opinion.

doggie topiary

Sharon was very excited that the doors were open to the Memorial Opera House.  We spoke to the stage crew manager and his assistant who were setting up for that evening's performance.   No one beats theater people for enthusiasm, as Katrina would tell you.  She herself is getting reacquainted with stage crew work on a local production of "An Inspector Calls" in Marinette, Wisconsin.

Next door to the Memorial Opera House is the Porter County Museum, a small but delightful museum housed in the former jail and sheriff's residence.  Better work out before arriving, entrance is free but the jail door is heavy!

Donations are gladly accepted and I was happy to oblige when I saw all the work they've put in to bringing their collections to life and displaying them in an engaging manner.

Goofing off in the gift shop

On the first floor my favorite exhibit was "Life in the Hour Glass".  The Hour Glass is a historic house built in 1934 by Professor O.D. Frank in Ogden Dunes not far from where Sharon and I took our Dune Succession hike and where .  Sharon said Sherry would love this display, and I got to agree it's a pretty close model to how both Sherry and I present our blog posts after our nature wanderings.

Professor Frank was a student of the father of North American ecology, Henry Chandler Cowles.  More on him later when I talk about our Cowles Bog hike.  The Hour Glass was where Professor Frank conducted weekly learning sessions for adults and children about the ecology of the dunes.  Currently a museum, the Hour Glass houses local historical items and showcases local artists.  Next time I'm swinging through the area I might give it a look!

My favorite exhibit on the second floor highlighted the contributions of women to the history of Porter County.  One such notable was cartoonist Dale Messick who lived in the area, as well as in other Illinois and Indiana locations over the years, and broke ground with her female reporter in comic strips in the 1940's.  Brenda went on incredible adventures and while she swooned over her mystery man she always got herself out of her own fixes and solved her own problems.

Another lady of note was one of the past presidents of NOW, but I can't find the picture I took and research isn't helping me uncover her name.  Speaking of the National Organization for Women....did you know that there are 100 cases that have been filed in opposition to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act?  See who the plaintiffs are here and follow the link here to send an emessage to President Obama confirming that you support all women having access to full reproductive healthcare regardless of their employers' religious beliefs.  Want to know all the sides of the debate?  Check out this link to the New York Times on the topic.

Before we hit the museums and the cupcake shop we stopped at Ogden Gardens to eat our picnic lunch.  Can't go to a cupcake shop on an empty stomach.  Imagine the trouble I would have gotten into then!

Valparaiso was also home to Orville Redenbacher.  Somehow we missed this fun fact until after we had left.  Sharon stopped back in town on her way back to Tennessee and got the photo op that I missed.  Can you believe that the two of us walked past this bench and all we saw was the woman sitting there on her cell phone in the red dress and shoes?  Popcorn royalty blasphemy!

Sharon and Orville

One more reminder about Domestic Violence Awareness Month - women suffering from domestic violence are not only affected physically and emotionally, but financially as well.  Three quarters of women in abusive relationships report staying with their abuser longer for financial reasons, not only loss of financial support from the abuser and the cost of a second household, but sometimes loss of their own income as well.  From the NOW website:

Laws on the federal and state levels, and policies by employers, are necessary to prevent cases such as that of Carie Charlesworth. Charlesworth, a teacher in California, lost her job in June of last year when her abuser attempted to confront her at the school where she taught. School officials chose to fire her, rather than protect her, claiming she created too big of a risk for the school.
In another incident last year, a domestic violence survivor lost her employment at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Natasha Velez was told by her manager that her employment was terminated because she had “too many issues outside work” after an attack from her abusive partner left her with injuries that required her to take time off of work.
These may have been the cases that made news, but there are countless more that go unreported due to the stigma and discrimination that often comes with being a survivor of domestic violence. A study from the Family Violence Prevention Fund reveals that less than half of these workplace crimes against women are reported to an authority.
Legislation can help. At the federal level, the Security and Financial Empowerment Act was introduced to Congress in March of 2013, but has yet to move forward.
Some hope has been created for domestic violence survivors at the state level; for example, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law workplace protection for survivors after Charlesworth’s case made headlines.


  1. Pretty obvious we two know how to have a good time and we learned a lot as well! Can't wait for the next meet up.

  2. Great post about an interesting place. I imagine people throughout history were drawn here by the wafting scent of cupcakes...
    I had the honor of meeting Dale Messick in person a long time ago. A spry woman in her eighties at the time, she was witty and funny and I had a great time talking to her during a baby shower held for her granddaughter. Baby showers usually make my eyes glaze over (no offense to Baby Shower Planners out there) but this one was much improved by our conversation.

  3. Sounds like a great time exploring really unique places:)