Saturday, May 16, 2009

As Good As it Gets

Lately, we've been very good about cooking at home and Rob takes his lunch most days. Even when I'm out with the kids, I usually make sure they are fed before we go or take food with us. But, this week it was fun to splurge a little and enjoy the local businesses our town has to offer.

Wednesday night we had a rare date night (thank you, Karen!!!) with our friends. The guys wanted to watch the hockey game so we started out at Guido's downtown for a drink and some disappointment as the Capitals lost pretty badly to Pittsburgh. Dinner was at Bombay Indian Grill where we ate our fill (and still had leftovers) of samosas, bindi subji, channa masala, and aloo gobi. We went to the Blind Pig for a drink for the guys and then to Bolitini for a martini for us girls. When I was growing up, our downtown went through a period where it was pretty much deserted. Businesses closed and there was not much to do downtown. I rarely remember going there. In my late teens I moved away and then came back and ended up working downtown for a local telephony business which has since been bought out by big corporations a few times. Rob and I met working downtown and at that time things were just turning around. It is so nice to be back here years later and live about a mile away from what is now (even in these economic times) a pretty thriving downtown.

Thursday night I biked downtown with the kids (Dema and Josie on my Xtracycle and Parker on his own bike) for a WEFT meeting at the Blind Pig. WEFT is our oldest community radio station which I've mentioned before. We just finished our Spring pledge drive, but that doesn't mean you can't still give (can't help the little plug). No donation is too small or too big. Anyway, Rob met me downtown on his way home from work so he could take the kids during my meeting. They went to Jupiter's for cheeseless pizza with black olives, green olives, pineapple, and artichoke hearts. After they came by to say "hi" (read - check to see if my meeting was over), Rob took the kids to Equire for a black bean burger (I tell you those kids can pack away the food) until we needed to all bike home so he could tutor our friend, Kurt, for the last time (he is moving on to college in California).

I had a meeting at WEFT Friday around lunchtime so I walked downtown with the kids, hoping the sprinkles wouldn't turn into thunderstorms before we returned home. I asked if they wanted to ride bikes, but Dema said he preferred to get "xtracise" so walking it was. I love walking with my children. Josie was on my back in the mei tai, but she still managed to hold hands with her brothers and hug and kiss them from time to time. We looked for the snakes as we passed the house with the raised flower bed next to the sidewalk. One warm sunny day when we were riding our bikes, we almost ran over the snakes who had uncharacteristically slithered out of the raised bed onto the sidewalk to sun bathe. The kids love to look at the snakes, check out the gardens, and point out favorite houses as we walk downtown in our neighborhood full of old houses where they all have their own character and soul. We play math game or recite history sentences or try to answer the tough questions in life. Such as, what is the indentation under your nose and over your lips called? Philtrum (this is why I have an iPhone). We find sticks and other interesting things on the ground and enjoy getting a little wet and predicting the weather. We talk about lava and the sun and other hot things. Sometimes a knee gets scraped and we talk about blood and how helpful it is to clean out a wound and a certain five year old who may become a doctor some day (no pressure) gets into how much blood is too much blood while his older brother (and maybe his mom) gets a little woozy. The conversation evolves into hearts and being "warm-hearted" and having a "big heart". Eventually, we get to Aroma for a snack to keep them occupied while I'm in a meeting. We go with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (this kills me since I could easily make a much better and somewhat nutritious organic almond butter and fruit spread sandwich on whole wheat flax nut bread which they would enjoy much more, but I thought a hummus plate would be too messy to eat at the station) and fruit (again, I shudder a bit at the non-organic fresh fruit cup), but it is Friday. I appreciate that we have several options in our little downtown and all of them locally-owned non-chain establishments so I'm happy to support them.

After my meeting, I was hungry since not a crumb was left from their snack so I decided to check out Cafe Kopi. Rob and I used to go in for a hummus and eggplant experience when Kopi was one of the few places we could get something vegan, but we don't go as often as we used to. I noticed they had some new sandwiches on their menu and after ensuring it was vegan, I walked out with a Thai tempeh panini. It hit the spot and we walked and shared the sandwich and some more fruit on the way home. When we reached our park, we saw our neighbors, Vicky and Greg leaving for a bike ride. They stopped to chat and push the kids in the swings. We walked a couple block from our house to register the kids for some art classes through the park district and hung out at another park. On the way home we stopped at our neighborhood pub, Huber's, for a sucker. Huber's is a throw back to another time. They have a little window for kids to buy candy and many of the neighborhood kids will ride there bikes to Huber's for a candy fix quite regularly in the summer. We aren't big candy people so this is a rare, but fun treat for my clan. We saw neighbors all along the way and stopped to chat and pet their dogs.

People come and go in our town. Such is the life with a Big Ten college. We loose many friends to the ebb and tide of college town life. Soon the friends we went out with Wednesday will be moving on. Sometimes I miss the moving on part of our lives, but I'm settling into my role as a townie. Well, as settled as I ever feel. Yes, there are times when I wish we lived in a bigger town. There are lots of days when I miss the DC area, riding the Metro and walking in NW DC to work at Fannie Mae, talking with people about politics because everyone is into politics in DC, eating at great veg restaurants, activism, Great Falls, Carderock, the ocean, camping trips in the mountains, museums, culture, diversity, friends (many who will never make it to our little part of the country and I can't blame them). I especially miss my beloved Maryland and the way it made me feel like home and so alive. A long drive from my family of origin and a very expensive place to live that metro DC area. Crazy, crazy, crazy traffic. Lots of pressure and two incomes is a necessity not a luxury. Not seeing friends for weeks, even when they live five miles away. I get to spend leisurely time walking and biking around town with my kids on beautiful Spring days. I see neighbors daily and friends multiple times a week. I have time to cook meals, hang my laundry outside to dry, and learn with my kids while I run a little business. My husband gets to have dinner with us every night, even when he works late. He has time to play soccer, chess, and go out with the guys and still be a great husband and father. I have very mixed feelings living in my hometown, but sometimes it is as good as it gets.


Meat-free Mike said...

It is "As Good As it Gets," Linda - but it sounds pretty darn excellent to me! Our definition of good, better, best is shaped by our environment, values, and who we are, I believe. I, too, lived in a larger city for 1/2 my life, but firmly believe Chambana is the best of the city and town combined. There is almost too much to do here, when compared to the city in Ohio I came from, which, despite it's size, has very little to offer me now as I enter late middle life. Not to mention, my ability to relax and stay at home, pluck my banjo, garden, catch a show at the local pub, enjoy my family, might have been greatly downzied due to the demands of city life. Come to think of it, if you had told me I would be into bluegrass and playing a banjo when I lived in Ohio, I wouldda thought you were off your rocker! So ENJOY! I wouldn't trade life out here for ANYTHING! :)

VeganLinda said...

So true, Mike, so true. I meant "as good as it gets" in the best way possible. I have a very sweet life here in Chambana.

Lisa -- Cravin' Veggies said...

I have never lived in a city, but I do think that laid-back, small-town life rules! ;o)

Jumbleberry Jam said...

Ahhh, the Bling Pig and Cafe Kopi...such sweet memories. I recently learned that one of the two reasons I said I'd never move back was eliminated. Now there's only one. And it's not even that big of a deal. I must admit. I do love your Champaign neighborhood and the Strawberry Fields part of Urbana. Yep. I think I could do it now. But first, Seattle calls... :-)

VeganLinda said...


You have to tell me what the two reasons are!!! I'm so curious now. :-) Seattle is great and I know it will all come together for you three soon. I wish we had moved around more before we settled here (ah! as much as I love it, it is hard to think we are settled). If you ever come back, we'd be thrilled, of course.