Looking for something different to serve at your Super Bowl Party this Sunday? Here's an idea: Order a party platter with a sauce of your choice, from one of our local country stores. Um-um, good!  And, you can save the leftovers for ice fishing! A twofer!

One of unexpected benefits of grandparenthood is the chance one gets to play with toys. Big toys, little toys, girls toys, boys toys, it doesn't matter.
I guess we didn't have many toys when we were growing up, or at least, not enough. Today, my husband and I never miss a chance to poke around toy shops or try out toys we stumble upon at garage sales, under the pretense of stocking our home toy box (for the grandkids,of course!). In fact, the two of us can spend whole evenings comparing notes on toys that meant something to us, how we got them and what we did with them when we were too old to get away with playing with them. Hint: Some are in our attic.   
So, it was a given that while in Colmar France, we would visit La Musée du Jouet, the city’s delightful toy museum.
And, what a treasure we found: Our two childhoods cleaned up and captured behind glass for all to enjoy!
If you are thinking of going there, be forewarned, this is not a toy museum for children. It’s obviously designed for adults -- grandparents, actually – since most of the toys are 40-50 years old and counting.

As you enter this three-story dreamworld, you will be greeted by mechanical horses and a carriage right out of a fairy tale!   
You'll find baby dolls galore. ( I've mentioned before that, as a child, my favorite baby doll wore a bridal outfit. I kept her in a cradle and had no problem with any of that.) And, you'll find tea sets, little sewing machines and doll clothes. 
Plus bikes, trikes and toy horses, both rocking and stationary. 
They have a separate room of little cars, boats, planes and board games, plus tea sets, miniature sewing machines, kitchen sets, a Punch and Judy show and roomful of collectible dolls from the 1940s to 1960s. 
When I was a kid, my favorite was a Ginny doll that looked and dressed like a kid my age. I never owned a Barbie doll and, frankly, would never give one to a granddaughter today. BUT, the Colmar collection shows that the Barbies of yesterday were much more interesting than the tarted-up ones kids play with now. In fact, Barbie reflected the fashions and visions of women of her day. Look at this incredible display of historical Barbies and you may find representations of Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and even Josephine Baker! 
Big,mechanical, metal sculptures were not part of my childhood, but I loved this one. 
As you might expect, there are puppet show and a fabulous train exhibit, plus a floor full of all kinds of trains moving through Alsatian landscapes, including one that travels through a miniature Colmar. You'll see them in the video, below.  

For more information on this cheery trip back to childhood, go here.

An op-ed by Indian author Sohaila Abdulali in yesterday's New York Times is the perfect follow up to my last post. She and I are definitely on the same page about how rape and rapists should be viewed. 

Here are a few choice comments:
Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.”
At age 17, Abdulali was gang-raped by four men over a period of hours, and she credits her family for handling the event in a way that helped her move on with her life. 
At 17, I was just a child. Life rewarded me richly for surviving. I stumbled home, wounded and traumatized, to a fabulous family. With them on my side, so much came my way. I found true love. I wrote books. I saw a kangaroo in the wild. I caught buses and missed trains. I had a shining child. The century changed. My first gray hair appeared.

Too many others will never experience that. They will not see that it gets better, that the day comes when one incident is no longer the central focus of your life. One day you find you are no longer looking behind you, expecting every group of men to attack. One day you wind a scarf around your throat without having a flashback to being choked. One day you are not frightened anymore.

Like me, she has no use for those who turn the blame on the victim instead of the rapist. There is no rational excuse for rape. And, it has NOTHING (I repeat, nothing) to do with sex but everything to do with control. Rape is just another form of attempted murder. 
We need to shelve all the gibberish about honor and virtue and did-she-lead-him-on and could-he-help-himself. We need to put responsibility where it lies: on men who violate women, and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims.
To read the entire piece, go to http://nyti.ms/VRbelT. 

If there were no violence against women, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 -- which the House of Representatives allowed to expire early this week -- would be unnecessary. Apparently, that’s not the case. 

 several high-profile rape cases have underscored our antiquated views and laws regarding one person taking advantage of another person's body. You would think violence against women would be obvious and easy to prosecute, but it's not. 

I'm talking about rape.

In India, where women overwhelmingly are the victims in the majority of violent crimes, two young rape victims recently died after their ordeal. Actually, they were raped several times: once by aggressors, then by certain elements of their culture, and finally by their own law enforcement and legal systems. Their deaths, it turns out, may galvanize an entire population into re-evaluating its attitude toward women and rewriting laws pertaining to rape. 

In the US, two current cases illustrate the need for a simple, single, legal definition of rape. 
In California, a rape conviction was overturned because the victim was not married.  What, you say? An archaic state law ties certain rapes to the business-side of marriage by protecting a husband's valuable possessions, including his access to his wife. Got it? In this case, the sleeping victim was not married, but says she was tricked into believing she was having sex with her boyfriend when the man was, in fact, a stranger. The absence of a reasonable law forced the judge’s hand in this one, and he had to let the guy go. Words fail. 

In a small town in Ohio, two high school football players allegedly repeatedly raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl shortly before the start of school. The boys claim the sex was consensual. “Friends” caught the act on video, then posted it with related gossip to other friends through social network sites. Townspeople quickly took sides and outside “advocates” got involved.  Chaos and anger ensued. Add to this ugly mix, evidence was lost on such ephemeral media, and some of what remains is inconclusive as proof of rape, or not. 

As long as there is violence against women in the US and elsewhere, we need laws that make it easy to determine a crime has been committed and easy to prosecute someone who has abused a woman’s body and soul, whether the attacker succeeded in causing that woman's death or not. 

If you steal from the pockets of an unconscious person, isn't that a crime, no matter what the person was dreaming? If you threaten to strangle or hold a knife to someone's throat, isn't that attempted murder? Is there ever a question that a crime has been committed when someone stabs, beats or shoots another person? Do we blame stabbing victims for their deaths? Do we doubt that someone's life has been threatened if they are kidnapped? 

A rape is just another form of murder or attempted murder, pure and simple. The crime and its victims should be treated with the same care and seriousness. There is no such thing as he-said/she-said in a murder case, and it should never be considered in the investigation or prosecution of a rape. 

For more on these cases, see: 

Women of the 113th US Congress, January 3, 2013
Thanks to you and everyone who took a woman to vote on November 6, we now have more women and more diversity in Congress, than ever before. It's not enough, of course, but it's a good start. Next time, please take two women to vote! I won't be satisfied until the percentage of women in Congress mirrors the makeup of the US population, which, right now, is a little heavy on XX chromosomes. 
See: http://nyti.ms/WbWcGl
Meet all 20 women members of the Senate: http://wapo.st/Wc0760