Sunday, June 27, 2010

The water and the damage done

It's been a rough week, folks.

Five days after the Great Flood of 2010 . . . The big industrial fans and dehumidifiers supplied by the water removal company are STILL GOING, so we haven't really been able to get down there and do much. We did try to empty some water-damaged boxes yesterday, and to our chagrin found that quite a few books and winter clothes were damaged beyond repair. Some of the baseboards need to be replaced. The carpet could not be saved, so we'll have to replace it, or come up with another flooring solution in the finished section of the basement. Thankfully, the water didn't reach the level of the drywall, so the walls are all OK.

To echo what I said previously: it could have been a lot worse.

I learned from this experience that I'm really good in a crisis. I mean, when it happened, I jumped on it, found a water removal company, kept my head, etc. I didn't freak out and I haven't cried (yet!) over losing stuff or whined about the suckiness of the timing of this incident.

But, Dear Readers, I feel the need to warn you about something. If you own a home, go check your homeowners' insurance policy NOW. Be sure that you have the appropriate endorsements or riders in your policy to cover things like water damage or sump pump failures . . . or that you have a separate flood insurance policy . . . or whatever the requirements may be in your state. Seriously, go now and check. Don't just assume it's in there. Read the fine print.

The only thing we can do is just move on. So we will. To quote Albert Einstein: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When it rains, it pours

I sure wish that someone would have warned me yesterday that I should BUILD AN ARK!!!

We have three inches of water in our basement. Everything touching the floor is ruined, which is a lot of stuff. I'm trying hard to not get depressed - and trying not to feel sorry for myself - by telling myself it could be a lot worse.

The water removal guys have been here all day. So far, they haven't determined the exact reason for the flooding . . . but our sump pump is not broken (as we originally thought.) They said that one of our neighbors across Thompson Road had eight feet of water in their basement. Therefore, it's hard for me to complain much about three inches.

More on this later, when I have time to write about it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The annoying swarm of African bees

Now that I think about it, I couldn't have picked a better time to be unemployed. Thanks to my status, I've been able to watch most of the World Cup games. This first round (officially called The Group Stage) has been really interesting. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) FINALLY got a World Cup goal today. The look of elation on his face was priceless. And unlike so many other athletes, he didn't make a big deal out of it. He just grinned. In the end, Portugal walloped North Korea 7-0.
  • The USA team may not have a snowball's chance in July of winning (or even making it to) the final, but they were clearly robbed of a victory in their recent game against Slovenia. The score should have been 3-2, USA. The ref who made the call to disqualify the winning goal was vilified for hours on Twitter and elsewhere. I'm not sure I agree with that, but hey. 
  • Spain, Germany, and France have all lost games. All of these losses were considered shocking.
  • USA-England, Italy-New Zealand, and England-Algeria were all draws (ties) when there was a clear expected winner (England, Italy, and England).
  • Italy is so far winning the award for Best Drama Queens. They were such Fakers in the New Zealand game. Everytime one of the All-Whites bumped into an Italian player, the Italian player pretended to be so hurt.
  • The runner-up for Best Drama Queens would have to go to Cote d'Ivoire. In their game with Brazil yesterday, one of their players was grazed in the side by Brazilian star Kaka. He very quickly put his hands up to his face, as if Kaka had elbowed him in the eyes. (Link to clip here.) The ref fell for it and ousted Kaka from the game.
  • The French team went on strike from practice for a day because the coach decided to expel one of the players for being rude to him during the halftime of the France-Mexico game. Hmmm.
  • And then there's the vuvuzela, the nightmarish bumblebee-sounding stadium horn of South Africa. Or as Sandy calls it: "THE most annoying sound in the WORLD." Apparently, the vuvuzela is the only man-made sound you can hear in space. Maybe it will scare off any potential extraterrestrial invaders?
No shortage of drama so far, and the Group Stage isn't quite over yet! So far, the USA is still in it, but if they lose to Algeria, they're out. Ugh, it looks like my favorite international team, Portugal, will have to play Brazil next . . . oh, well, may the best team win!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tomatoes and peppers, oh my!

This is our first "Early Girl" tomato . . . OK, maybe not so early if you're further South or somewhere with more direct sunshine, but I think she's beautiful! We also have Roma tomatoes (below) and teeny-tiny Cherokee Purples and Grape tomatoes. No sign of any Cherry tomatoes at this point.

Roma tomatoes are probably my favorite for making sauces and salsa, so I really hope this plant produces! We tried growing Romas from seeds last year, but without success. So this year, we bought all our tomato plants as seedlings.

The peppers are also looking good. I picked our first Hungarian Wax this afternoon and we had it in our dinner salad tonight. We've also got Jalapenos (below) and one golf-ball sized Green Bell pepper. AND . . . our single broccoli plant has broccoli in it now! It's only the size of a silver dollar, but looks perfect. Unfortunately, no action yet on the cauliflower plant.

Gardening is fun! Especially when it's time to reap what you sow. :-)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

After the rain

I've always loved this red-roofed barn off of Hickory Road in Franklin Township. We've had quite a bit of rain here lately, so I wasn't surprised when I passed by yesterday and saw the water standing in the field. The sky was so big and pretty, I had to pull over, get out of the truck, and take a photo. Maybe some other time (when I have my regular camera instead of just my iPhone camera) I'll take some close-ups of the barn!

All that was missing was Miss Gulch on her bicycle

This photo is from Monday afternoon's storm, just before the rain. I noticed the little "curlicues" in clouds just today, after I uploaded the photos to my laptop. We've had a lot of storms lately . . . typical spring/summer in the Midwest!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The fine art of wanting less

It occurred to me this morning that today is Payday. Or at least it would be Payday if I was still working my old job. How nice it was to have a steady income on the 15th and final day of the month. But seriously, folks, I've only had one moment of doubt since I took this plunge, and it was probably more like a nanosecond than a full moment. The key to my blissful state? There's nothing (as in No Thing) I want that I haven't already got!

I've never been a materialistic kind of gal. The only "things" I've ever really wanted were food, music, and books. I list food as a want instead of a need because I don't want just any food: it needs to be the good stuff. But I find that I can still have the quality I want if I just reduce the quantity.

Several years ago, I read a book called Affluenza, which really made an impact on my thinking. (I haven't seen the documentary of the same name.) The premise of the book/documentary is that we buy stuff because we're trying to fill a hole in our lives. Actually, we don't just buy stuff - we go into debt to buy stuff. Stuff we don't really need. If a new thing comes out, we want it, so we buy it. And when we get tired of it, we throw it away, even if nothing's wrong with it.

It just doesn't make sense. Maybe we (as a society) need to start asking ourselves why we have that "hole" to start with? And work on that? Hmm. Yes, I think that's a good place to start.

Ever since I read Affluenza, I've been trying to make improvements in my life. Maybe it's easy for me because I don't have that so-called hole as much as some people do. If this is true, I know I'm lucky. Of course, I'm not perfect . . . I'm a work in progress when it comes to this, just like with everything else. But just getting it through my head that I don't need anything I don't have is really helping me to not want what I don't have.

It's like my Mom's friend Jonnie says: "Less is More." :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The beautiful game

I love watching soccer -- or football, as it's called pretty much everywhere in the world except the USA. To me, it's one of the most exciting sports to watch. It's fast-paced, with constant movement and action. You KNOW the players have to be in tip-top shape, given all that running around on the big field. What's not to like?

The FIFA World Cup comes around every four years, like the Olympics. While I don't quite understand the team elimination process or the groupings, and I don't get why the games go longer than 90 minutes at times, or why a "draw" is considered a win (sort of?), or what the deal is with the little yellow and red cards (kidding here) -- it doesn't matter. Details, details. :-)

I'll always root for the USA since this is where I was born and where I live, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate other teams or root for them if the USA is not playing.

And there are LOTS of talented teams. Germany, for example, is always good. They may be the "second least experienced" team in the World Cup this year, but they beat the "second most experienced" team (Australia) 4-0 yesterday. Italy won the 2006 World Cup, so everyone's going to be watching them this year. Spain won the 2008 EURO, which makes them interesting to me, since I was in Vienna (where the final was played) when they won. (See my blog entry on that here.) And Brazil . . . well, Brazil is always amazing. Argentina and South Korea (among others) are playing well so far. At this point, it seems like it's almost anyone's game . . . which is another cool thing about the World Cup.

But my favorite team to watch this year will be the same as in 2006 - Portugal. Why, you ask? Two words: Cristiano Ronaldo. In addition to being an amazing player, he looks like a modern-day Adonis. Need I say more?!!

Cristiano Ronaldo is the perfect example of why I like soccer/football, and I'm not just talking about watching the very fit young men running around on the field. Soccer/football is probably the most egalitarian sport in the world. You don't have to buy a lot of equipment, or take expensive lessons, to learn or play. A child growing up in a favela in the city, or a tiny village far from big stadiums, has as much of chance of growing up to be a "football star" as a child growing up in a wealthy suburb. Cristiano Ronaldo (son of a cook and gardener) is one of the world's highest paid footballers . . . with a salary of something like US $15 million per year!!! This is just one of many such stories.

Of course, it's not only about money. "Football" gives people hope . . . it brings people together . . . it generates feelings of pride in one's team or city or country. I like watching the fans as much as I like watching the game. The fans are interesting! Some of them get all decked out in their team colors. Some fans take it really seriously! Remember Super GERman? (I certainly do, from the 2008 UEFA EURO.)

Yep, I'll be watching as much of the World Cup as possible this year. OK, gotta run. Japan is playing Cameroon, and later today Italy plays Paraguay. Ciao for now!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stress-free me

I've been unemployed for a month now, and I'm feeling the need to confess something. I don't miss the stress of working at all! Something is happening to me. Something good! I think it might even be adding years to my life.

About a week ago, I was standing on the deck, just hanging out and cooking some dinner on the gas grill. As I looked out toward the pond and the woods behind the house, it occurred to me: I'm feeling no stress right now. None. Whatsoever. My breathing was . . . normal! Not shallow or forced. That tightness in my chest and neck and shoulders that I've felt for what, ten years or so? Gone! Curiously, I reached up and grabbed some of my hair to give it a little tug, and realized that even my scalp (which has been perpetually tight for years now) was relaxed.

I seriously haven't felt this way since I was about eight or nine years old.

OK, the logical part of my brain tells me I should be worried. No, I should be FREAKING OUT. I should get out there and look for a job NOW!!! I should be paranoid that I don't know where I'm going to be living in a month, or six months, or a year. Blah, blah, blah.

But my gut tells me I'm doing the right thing. It says: "You NEED this break. Take your time. Things will happen just the way they're supposed to, and when you're ready." I realize this may sound like a bunch of New Age hooey to many of my friends out there. But I'm smiling now as I write this. And I'm all relaxed.

It feels wonderful.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

10 "unusual" places I'd like to visit

It's been almost a year since I've needed a passport to travel. Seeing my friend Yulia (from Vienna) last week got me to thinking about the world out there. Although I probably won't be going anywhere anytime soon, it's fun to dream, especially of places I'd like to visit that are considered exotic, unusual, or off the beaten path. Here's my current Top Ten list of places in that category that I'd like to visit someday. Note that these are in random order, not in the order I'd like to visit.

1. Cappadocia, Turkey. I read about Cappadocia in Michael Palin's book New Europe -- then saw it in the New Europe DVD. It looks like a wonderful place to see . . . from a hot air balloon. Apparently, people still live in the cave dwellings. If I ever go, I hope someone will invite me inside their cave house. 
2. Granada, Spain. I want to see the Alhambra in person, but until then, I can take a virtual tour.
3. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Ever since I saw this photo (or one similar to it) a few years ago, this place has called to me.
4. Orkney Islands, Scotland. I saw a documentary about Skara Brae a couple of years ago and have wanted to go there ever since. I don't know why, but I've got a strong "gut feeling" that I have an ancestral connection to this place.
5. Cape Town, South Africa. My cousin Gordon, who sailed the seven seas during his 20+ years in the U.S. Navy, declared this to be the most beautiful port city in the world. And have you seen the view of Table Mountain and the city in the opening video scenes of the 2010 World Cup? WOW!!!
6. Bora Bora, French Polynesia. I never thought much about going here until I read James Michener's Hawaii earlier this year. Now I want to go, and I want to stay in one of those hotels on stilts over the water, like this one.
7. Machu Picchu, Peru. This shouldn't need explanation! Actually, we were supposed to go this year . . . but the stars didn't align the right way.
8. Angkor, Cambodia. More than just Wat, this multi-temple complex was built during the 12th century but nearly encroached upon by the jungle over the centuries. A 19th century French explorer described it as being more grand than anything left by the Greeks or Romans. Given the opportunity, who wouldn't want to see this place?
9. South Island, New Zealand. Everyone I know who's been here says it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. I'd like to see for myself.
10. Iceland. This one is hard to explain, but I think it has to do with something I remember from elementary school. My teacher said the Danes called Iceland "Iceland" to try to discourage people from immigrating there because really, it was a nice place and not icy at all. But they wanted people to go to Greenland, so they called it Greenland as encouragement, even though it's really more like Iceland. Hmm, how's that for reverse psychology? Oh, and I like geysers. Or at least I think I would like them. I've never seen one . . . yet! (No, not even Old Faithful. Someday!)

Is anyone else out there interested in seeing any of these places? What would your Top Ten list look like?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The voice within

I love farmers' markets, and it's long been one of my dreams to work in one. So I'm really happy that having this time off is allowing me to become involved with Indy's newest, Stadium Village Farmers' Market. When I was working my first market a few days ago, I met a man who has a successful business in the area and is one of the market's corporate sponsors. We got to talking, and he told me a story that gave me lots of inspiration.

He always dreamed of owning his own business . . . but he couldn't quite figure out how to make it work. There's always that fear, you know: Can I do it? Will things work out? What if I fail? And so on. In the beginning, he wasn't even sure what kind of business to have, so he explored several options. Meanwhile, he worked the third shift at "Company X", and longed for the day when his dreams would come true and he could be his own boss. One day while dining at a popular deli on the corner of Meridian and McCarty Streets, he happened to glance out the window, and his eyes gazed upon the building across the street (the current home of a flower shop and massage/yoga studio). Suddenly, it occurred to him that he wanted his business to be in that building. It was like he just knew.

It wasn't long after that he set up shop there, and things started falling into place. Soon he was able to quit the job at "Company X" and the rest, as they say, is history. Although his store has since moved from the corner to just down the street, the point is: this gentleman found his true calling . . . by listening to what I like to call The Voice Within.

As we were chatting, he told me he had heard (from someone else at the market) that I was currently unemployed, and he asked me if I had any idea what was next. I replied that I was exploring -- and that I wanted to do something I really love and enjoy. He shook his head in agreement and said: "You absolutely have to feel passionate about what you do. It makes all the difference in the world."

Great words of wisdom from someone who knows what he's talking about! It's certainly made me think even more about what I want and what I feel passionately about. This Voice Within thing can be very powerful, but how many of us truly listen? Most of us have been socialized over the years to tune it out. Maybe we need to turn up the volume instead.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bloomin' lilies

We have a saying around here that S is responsible for sights and sounds, and I'm responsible for tastes and smells. While I'm strictly a vegetable gardener (one of my contributions to taste and smell), S is the one who makes our yard look pretty. The Asiatic lilies just started blooming last week, and they're beautiful!

The Asiatic lilies are the red-orange ones. The yellow lilies are Stella d'Oro. I mean, in case you didn't know. (I wouldn't have known, if S hadn't told me!) The Stellas have been blooming for a few weeks now.

Of course, when it comes to things like this, my photography skills and my little camera can't do justice. You just need to stop by and check it out for yourself. :-)

Lettuce spray

Here's an updated photo of the square foot raised bed garden. As you can see, we have an abundance of leaf lettuce. In fact, it seems the more I cut, the more we have. The head lettuce is a little more slow, but the 2-3 heads are looking very healthy. All of these were sowed from seeds back in April. The smaller plants in upper right quadrant are transplanted lettuce seedlings, so we should have more lettuce in the coming weeks.

Something got into the kale and Swiss chard, so I replaced it with some pepper plants (Hungarian hot wax, jalapeno, and a variety of green pepper whose name now eludes me). Some of these plants already have itty bitty peppers on them. I also added a cauliflower plant and a broccoli plant. Never tried to grow either of those before, so it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm hoping the critters will decide they don't like these plants!

Most of the plants in the new raised bed are doing well. The one exception seems to be the snow peas. They are refusing to climb up the lattice, and instead, seem to be sending their feelers toward the ground. I have no idea why, but am chalking it up to experience.

The herbs and tomatoes are thriving. I can't believe how the tomato plants have grown in one month. See here for the photos of 9 May for comparison. We've got some flowers on the tomato plants. Can tomatoes be far behind? I hope not, because I need something to put on my lettuce!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My dog loves Fleetwood Mac

It's interesting what kinds of things you learn when you stay at home a lot. One of the coolest things about being around for me is that I'm getting to spend more time with my two dogs, Cody (age 7) and Chelsea (age 3.75) and cat, Misha (exact age unknown, but approximately 10 years). For example, I'm learning that whenever Misha spends an evening out hunting, she's a complete zombie for not just one but two days after. All she does is sleep on the futon in the library. She barely comes into the kitchen to eat. I guess that's what happens when you're chasing moles, voles, and field mice and trying to avoid raccoons and who knows what else all night long.

Cody was our first dog, and he is very much spoiled. This is partly for two reasons. One, since we'd never had a dog before, we simply didn't know how to train him, so we always treated him like a baby instead of a dog. Two, he has some psychological issues such as separation anxiety and fear of thunderstorms, storm drains, and men (seriously! He's so used to living in a house full of females, he really thinks he's the king. It takes him a LOT longer to get used to men than women.)

By the time we got Chelsea, we were very much aware of everything we'd done wrong with Cody, so as soon as we brought her home, the training began. Take crate training, for example. Chelsea spent her first night home in a crate, and she's spent every night since in a crate. She LOVES the crate, and truly does consider it to be her space . . . that she occasionally shares with her brother, who until Chelsea came along hated the crate.

I've noticed that during the day, Chelsea sleeps in her crate, but Cody follows me around wherever I go. I've taken to calling him "Velcro Boy" because he's always within a few inches of wherever I am. This worries me because I don't feel like he's sleeping enough, so sometimes I put him in the crate with Chelsea and just go work in another room so he can rest.

I've also been playing music during the day. I've got one of those iPod external speaker things, so I can just pop my iPod in and select whatever playlist I want. Sometimes I just put it on Shuffle mode and let the songs play randomly. This is where the fun begins, because I can observe how the animals react to the music. Here's what I've found so far:

  • Chelsea LOVES Fleetwood Mac -- particularly the older stuff like the Rumours and Fleetwood Mac albums. Doesn't matter if it's Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, or Christine McVie singing lead. She just likes it. She also likes Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" and pretty much the entire Eric Clapton "Slowhand" CD.  Oh, and she likes Bonnie Raitt.
  • Cody prefers classical. Doesn't matter if it's old or new. For example, he has a thing for Lucia Micarelli's "Nocturne/Bohemian Rhapsody" - but he also likes Mahler and Rachmaninoff. Because he likes Rachmanioff, he likes Eric Carmen's "All By Myself." And he seems to enjoy Suzanne Vega's soft voice - especially on "Ironbound/Fancy Poultry" and "Solitude Standing."
  • When she's not in her crate, Chelsea's cool with upbeat music. She especially seems to like European dance music, and some of the old disco music from the 70s. However, this type of music makes Cody a little bonkers. And Cody cannot stand hard rock or heavy metal.
  • Neither one of them like rap or hip-hop too much. Or country either, for that matter.
  • As for Misha, she seems to prefer smooth jazz combined with a little R&B on most days. And she loves Bob Marley's "Stir It Up." Whenever that song comes on, Misha wakes up and starts doing the cat dance around my legs.
Do your animals react to music? What do they like . . . or dislike? I wonder if anyone has ever done any serious scholarly study on this topic? Hmmm . . .

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A house is not a home

Four summers ago while S & I were vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina, we made a rather radical decision. Instead of waiting another 15 to 20 years to build our dream house (which we envisioned as a really nice cabin in the woods somewhere, preferably near or in mountains), to go ahead and live our dream now . . . in Indiana. OK, there aren't any mountains here, but there still are (believe it or not!) a few trees.

Predicting our lives over the next x number of years, we decided to build a house large enough to: 1) store all of our stuff under one roof (something that had never been done before!), and 2) accommodate parents or other family members who may need a temporary or permanent place to stay. Then, we set about finding our perfect location. We didn't want to be too far from downtown Indianapolis, but we wanted trees and a reasonable semblance of privacy. I wanted a basement (a necessity in my mind, living in Tornado Alley) and a brick wrap-around (I DETEST vinyl siding). S wanted a yard with a little bit of wildness in it, and a garage big enough to store and use cool tools. After what seemed like an exhaustive search, we finally found a place in Franklin Township, a brand new street in a new subdivision. The story of our house was chronicled in the original Gypsy Roots blog, which is still active if you want to take a look.

Just a few months after we moved, circumstances required S's Mom to move in with us. Over the next couple of years, life went on as normal. We continued working on the house in an effort to keep building on the dream, finishing part of the basement and adding a very nice deck in the back. We planted more trees, and hundreds of bulbs and flowers, and a vegetable garden. We put a lot of love into this place. We hosted a few parties, a couple of dinners, and a holiday party for the people who lived on our street. Those were good times, and although I'm experienced in life enough to know that nothing lasts forever, I really thought we'd be living at this address for a while.

Then a couple of things happened.

First of all, when I returned from Vienna in September 2008, ours was no longer the last house at the end of the street. I was quite shocked with the number of trees that had been cut down to make room for the new houses, and it began to hit me just how destructive new subdivisions are to the environment. I began to feel an awful guilt about being a part of it! Then, last November, S's Mom decided she wanted to take another stab at living independently, so she moved out. Suddenly, this awesome house was way too big for two people. That's when I knew for sure that our living here in this house was just temporary.

And - oh, yeah - the job thing.

A lot of people have asked me how I've been spending my time since I've become unemployed. Well, mostly, I've been trying to get the house ready for sale. Folks, this is a HUGE job! You never know how much crap you have until it's time to move! We even have boxes in the basement we never unpacked from three years ago! It's embarrassing to admit that someone who lives here is a pack rat! (I'm not naming names but I think her first name starts with M!)

Anyway, I know that some of my readers are also facing the possibility of unemployment, so I wanted to share with you how I'm "dealing with" this in case you also have to deal with this type of change. I still plan to live the dream. What I plan to do is, I'm going to dream a New dream. One that involves a smaller house, maybe even a condo or apartment. Living in a smaller home will reduce our environmental footprint. It will reduce our expenses. And we won't have to spend such a large percentage of our time cleaning, organizing, and maintaining! That's more free time for Us!

After all, a house is not a home. Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where the heart is. Home is where your loved ones are. Let's not get too confused about the things that really matter. Or as one of my Indiana University professors used to say: We've gotta keep the main thing the main thing. That, folks, is what it's all about.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

10 things I like about living in Indianapolis

1. My very cool Hoosier friends! (NOTE: this includes non-Hoosier natives who live here with whom I am friends.)
2. GREAT local food options and rapidly growing Locavore scene.
3. Awesome farmers' markets, e.g., Broad Ripple, Indy Winter Farmers' Market, Stadium Village, Trader's Point, etc.
5. Interesting, charming neighborhoods such as the Near North Side, Broad Ripple, and Fall Creek Place.
6. The Monon and other rail trails. Not that I use them often, but I would if I lived closer.
7. The amazing variety of organized walks and runs, from 5Ks to marathons.
8. A great local park system, e.g., Eagle Creek Park.
9. The Indy Food Coop, which is coming soon. Are YOU a member yet?
10. The fact that most people around here are really nice people who truly epitomize the concept of Hoosier Hospitality. Seriously, there have been so many times when total strangers here have been helpful to me. How many places can say that? Not many!