Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Salad daze

Just an update on the salad greens. They're ready! In about one month they went from this to what you see above Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Some mornings are a little easier than others, even for "non-morning" people like myself. After several weeks of erratic work hours, I finally had a normal working day today (meaning: my first meeting was at 9AM and my last before 4:30PM, and all meetings were at my usual work location). I'm not sure why, but I felt kind of happy about this today. Instead of making coffee and breakfast at home, I decided to pop by the drive-thru at the St*rbucks in Beech Grove (near St. Francis Hospital) which is the only one "on the way" to work - although technically, it's out of the way.

So I'm driving merrily along, thinking about the day ahead, enjoying the feel of my three week-old car, and basking in the sunshine . . . I pull into the parking lot at St*rbucks. Something is amiss. It appears that someone left their car in the drive-thru and then walked away! OK. I started to pull into a parking lot, thinking the whole time: "Hmm, this place isn't as crowded as it usually is this time of morning." Suddenly, a very serious-looking man starts walking over toward my car. He's wearing a St*rbucks polo shirt. I push the button to let the car window down, and he says: "Ma'am, we're closed."

OK, I thought. And then it occurred to me. He doesn't just mean closed. He means Closed. Big C.  "Permanently?" I asked him. "Yes, ma'am," was his reply. 

Needless to say, I was very disappointed. OK, so St*rbucks coffee may not be "all that." It's definitely not Vienna coffee and it's not in the same league as Bjava or many other independent shops. Truthfully, if I had my own espresso machine, I could make better lattes. (I had one, but killed it.)

As I drove down Churchman Street toward Raymond and beyond to downtown, I felt a little angry. Why did they have to close THIS store? This is the fourth store (that I know of - there are probably others) in Indianapolis that has been closed in the past year or so. This sucks.

Just a few years ago, new St*rbucks stores were popping up faster than McDonald's.  True, this was before the current economic "situation", and there were always critics and people who didn't want to pay $4 for a latte. But people went anyway. Some people I know go twice a day! Certainly St*rbucks created a whole generation of coffee (and tea) drinkers. They also created a sense of community in some places. How many times have I been to a St*rbucks and seen people working, conducting business? Seen small groups of people gathered? Meetups, church groups, even Scouts and student groups? St*rbucks has always been the kind of place that was open to everyone. Where you could go and chill out for a while and just let the world wait for a few minutes. We need more places like this - not fewer!

So it freakin' kills me when I see a St*rbucks store close, or hear that one is in danger of being closed. Especially when I know that with each closing, people lose jobs, the community loses a meeting place, and once again, we drift back toward places with cheaper but inferior products.

But what gets me the most, is when it's done in the name of greed. Which was surely the case for the Beech Grove store. May it rest in peace.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

There goes the neighborhood

Yesterday they put up a "sold" sign on the empty lot next to us. Maybe I should be happy about that . . . after all, new construction is good for the economy, right? But there has been so much change in just one year. When I left for Vienna last March, our house was "the house at the end of the street." There was a pleasant distance between us and our nearest neighbors. When I got back home in September, I found our once secluded house and yard overshadowed by a huge GI-GAN-TOR house next door, and a new house under construction at the end of the cul-de-sac. 

We used to have hundreds of beautiful old trees on our street. That was one of the things that made it different - and special. Late last year, one of the lots across the street sold. I nearly cried when I saw them mark the trees to be cut. At least thirty really nice trees . . .  sycamores, maples, birch . . .  gone by the time I got home from work that afternoon. It just made me feel like crying.  Just a few weeks later, the other lot across the street sold, and another twenty or so good trees were felled. What was once a beautiful wooded area is now a "ghetto" of scrub and brush. (For the record, they only had to cut four trees to build our house, and I felt guilty enough about that.)

With the new houses come new neighbors. Most are pretty nice people, but some . . . well, honestly, some don't seem to know very much about being good neighbors or about living in a community. It's so interesting what can be observed from a back porch that gives you an up close and personal view of at least five houses. There's the teenager who sneaks cigarettes in the backyard (how can a parent NOT know that their kid is smoking???) and the father who boldly takes his kids fishing in the retention pond even though there are multiple NO FISHING signs (and who would want to fish from a retention pond anyway? Ew!) There's the family who let their two Labrador retrievers run around off leash and poop in their neighbors' backyards, and the little gang of badass "tweens" who ride down the middle of the streets on their souped-up bikes. 

It's getting a little too crowded here if you ask me. And . . . egads . . . it's just April. I can only imagine what it will be like when summer gets here. Oh, how I long to live in the country, where I can be free of homeowner's association rules, selfish neighbors, and all the other pitfalls of suburban living! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mysterious flowering trees of Indiana

One of my favorite things about Springtime in Indiana is . . . the beautiful flowering trees. This is one of my favorites. Some people call it a tulip tree. Others call it a saucer magnolia. I don't think it's a "true" tulip tree (at least, not the same as the state tree of Indiana) but . . . I'm not sure. Can any of my Hoosier readers solve this mystery?

Unlike the crepe myrtles, crabapples, and dogwoods that proliferate the yards back home in North Carolina, these mysterious flowering trees - whatever their name - don't seem to emit pollen that makes me allergic. (I'm so grateful for that!) Instead, they are content just to look pretty, even if only for a few weeks.

Like Spring in Indiana, they don't last long. The recent rains have knocked off most of the petals. But they sure were nice while they lasted.

And weather here . . . typical Indiana weather. Today it's rainy and cold: only around 48F/7C. In just a few days, sunny and 81F/27C. Before we know it, most of us will be complaining about the hot, humid summer weather. So let's just enjoy things the way they are. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Miles of aisles

I just realized I haven't posted any blog entries in over a week. This is really unusual for me but it goes to show how busy I've been. Things have been very busy at work, and there have been all sorts of distractions at home due to the nice Spring weather. But that leads me to think about spring planting and I promised in my last entry not to write about plants this time, so instead I will write about one of my favorite things . . . bookstores. 

I love a good bookstore. I have been known to walk into a Barnes & Noble, Borders, or any other well-stocked bookstore in various locations around the world . . . and totally lose myself. For hours. Bandi and Luni in Seoul. Carmichael's in Louisville. Strand in NYC. Shakespeare and Company in Vienna. Big, little, chain or indie, I love them all. I even love browsing through university bookstores, checking out all the textbooks. (Maybe I should not go so far as to admit that. I'm already geeky enough. But it's true. LOL!)

Everything in a bookstore appeals to me. I will walk down every aisle. I will browse every genre. I will examine every object. Even non-book items, such as journals and music CDs and stuffed animals and those little boxes with kits in them (foot massage kit, stress relief kit, make your own goddess kit, etc.)

Sometimes, I'll admit . . . I've even helped customers. OK, I've never pretended to be a store employee, but I've shown people where the Cookbooks are, led them to certain books they were looking for, and recommended authors and titles. I'm so good at it, that sometimes I'm even better than the people who work in the bookstores. 

I've loved bookstores since I was a child. To be truthful, I love libraries, too. I should love them even better than bookstores, since they are free. When I was a kid, we lived way out in the country some miles away from the nearest public library. But that was OK - because our public library had a bookmobile. This "library on wheels" was a cross between a bus and recreational vehicle. Every two weeks, two lady librarians would drive it to the country store just one mile from our house. I'd fill up my backpack, each time feeling a happy joy that I've only ever been able to associate with . . . unread books. I can't explain it, but hopefully someone out there reading this will at least have a semblance of understanding.

But I digress. I will have to write a separate entry someday on libraries. And more about the two lady librarians, who for some reason reminded me of two middle-aged nuns (the driver of the bookmobile looked a lot like Mother Superior in The Sound of Music.)

Back to bookstores. When they started putting coffee shops in them? Well, that sealed the deal for me. My first experience with the coffee bookshop was in Louisville (and soon after in Bloomington) . . . Barnes & Noble plus Starbucks equals Heaven on Earth. But I am happy also with Borders and Seattle's Best, or Books-a-Million and Joe Muggs, or Independent and Independent.

Just give me a takeway latté and let me roam around the miles of aisles. And I will be content. For a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seedlings, nothing more than seedlings

Maybe this isn't a big deal to anyone but me, but I planted some seeds (from seed packs) about 3 weeks ago and look at them! Someday these will be red and yellow bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers. That's wheatgrass on the far right - and yes, I've learned my lesson not to mix wheatgrass with slower growing plants anymore! The wheatgrass is a foot long already while the peppers are only about two inches tall.

They need to stay in this container for a while longer, since we still have the potential for three or four more weeks of frost (including tonight.) In the meantime, I just planted some more seeds in another seed starting kit (back photo, covered with the dome). This one contains Roma tomatoes, broccoli raab, and two kinds of lettuce.

Still to come: more tomatoes, Swiss chard, fennel, and a few other things. It's hard not to get carried away. But I promise my next entry will not be about plants.


The herbs have doubled in size over the last week. As you can see, the basil still leads the pack. I need to prune it soon. (I never knew you had to prune basil, but according to the AeroGarden instructors, it needs to be done to ensure continued growth.) At this rate, we'll be making pesto soon!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Introducing Greta!

Hi everyone, my name is Greta! I was born in Wolfsburg, Germany a few months ago, but I live in Indiana now. In fact, I just moved into my new home yesterday (April 4). I'm a peppy little girl who enjoys road trips and listening to music - especially Euro techno/dance and classical. I really love my new family and they love me, too. Maybe sometime we could go for a spin? :-)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Coffee shop dreams

Twenty years ago, I had a dream. I was living in Louisville, Kentucky at the time, not far from the University of Louisville, in an area of town that was on the verge of urban renewal. In my dream, I opened up a coffee and tea shop called Jumpin' Beanz in a very cheap building near the university campus. It became a happenin' kind of place where students and profs and community people would hang out, drink coffee, and eat my wonderful baked goods. We'd have poetry readings and live indie music and everybody wanted to be seen there.

The ironic thing is, I probably could have had this place at that time, and it probably would have done well. At the time, there was nothing else like it in Louisville. Bloomington (Indiana University) had The Daily Grind and the Runcible Spoon; Lexington (University of Kentucky) had Common Grounds. My Jumpin' Beanz could have gone over well, I'm sure. At least until the major Seattle chain came to town. But . . . at the time, I didn't know about things like business plans and small business loans. So the dream remained a dream for me.

Instead, I became a customer of other people's coffee shops. Living in Vienna last year made me really picky about coffee, and I'm happy to say that I've FINALLY found a place here in Indy where I can get some good coffee. Bjava Coffee and Tea is run by the famous "Bj" who used to run the coffee shop at the corporate center where I work. Her shop is located at 56th and Lafayette, so if you're every nearby, please give it a try. Bjava's got excellent food, too - even vegetarian options - for breakfast and lunch everyday, Monday through Saturday (closed on Sunday). Bj roasts her own coffee a couple of times a week and is happy to share her vast knowledge of The Bean. I always learn something whenever I visit!

I just wrote this entry while sitting at Bjava and enjoying the free wireless internet connection, while sipping a very nice "honey bee soy latte" and eating a ham, cheese and egg breakfast sandwich. It doesn't get any better than this in Indianapolis.

Check it out, and tell Bj I sent you. :-)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Little baby salad greens

In response to QT's comment, I thought I'd post this photo of the AeroGarden salad greens after just one week of sprouting.  Little baby salad greens. Cute, aren't they? Everybody say: "Awwwww!!!!"