Category Archives: Indianapolis

Mobile technology innovation rock stars, East Africa

I’m in Nakuru, Kenya and I just committed to extend my stay in the country for another two weeks. Destination, Lamu Island on the Kenyan coast. Flight change to The States, check. Flight from Nairobi to Lamu, check. Booking my overnight accommodations for a mere $35/night (including breakfast…and a bonus lobster dinner, but that’s another story…). But wait, they can’t take a credit card. What to do? I worked it out to have the establishment I was staying at in Nakuru, run my card, and then they M-Pesa’d the money to the owner of the little beachside bed and breakfast I was staying at. No credit card, no checks. All through mobile technology. (“M” is for mobile, “Pesa” means money in Swahili). I didn’t really think much on it at the time. Convenient for me, now a nice leisurely re-visit to Lamu.

On returning to The States, I wanted to learn more about the place I had spent the last month in. I set up my google alerts generally to “Kenya.” I get a weekly email digest of the news and happenings… online. What is catching my attention is all of the tech focus and I learn more about the M-Pesa technology. It’s quite amazing to say the least.

M-Pesa was launched in 2007 by Safaricom, a mobile service there similar to our Verizon Wireless. As of 2012, more than 17 million Kenyan’s (roughly 70 percent of the adult population) were using M-Pesa to pay for things from groceries to the little B&B on the coast. About 25% of the countries gross national product is running through mobile phones. Kenya leads the world in mobile money. And with that a bigger technology and innovation hub has emerged out of Nairobi.

Kenyan developers are designing straight to the hand-held mobile device. I can only imagine how their innovators and designers are processing information with mobile in mind, not getting distracted by designing for the computer.  Hopefully, Indianapolis-based ExactTarget has Nairobi on their radar. I think we have a lot we could learn from one another.

PBS Newshour


“Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

The Unusual Dance to The Noodle

I was leaving the bar walking back to my car to head home for the night. I’m walking down Washington Street. There’s a gentleman who had turned directions earlier and was walking a few paces ahead of me. He then turned around to ask, “Could you tell me where to find The Slippery Noodle?” I give him those directions. I ask if he had been to Indy before and if he was meeting someone there. It is Wednesday night after all. I learn that he is in Indy for one night. This is his first and only night in Indy. I warn him that The Slippery Noodle may not be that busy on a weeknight and at this hour. Not sure of the night he had anticipated. I also learn that he is driving through Indy to the East Coast to fly out for his second tour in Iraq.

It takes  me 5 seconds to suggest something that may be of interest to him. I ask, “Had you read anywhere that Indy is #2 behind Washington DC as to having the most monuments?” “No,” he replies. I ask if he had noticed monument circle yet on his walk. Nope. “Oh, well, it is just one block away. I’ll walk there with you.” We walk to Monument Circle and take that in. I had been here once on an architectural tour which taught me to look up. I pointed out what I could remember that was unique or had a story. He seemed to enjoy it so I offered to walk him to The Indiana World War Memorial, one of my favorite places here in the city. We are standing on the top of the War Memorial taking in the view and he says, “I’m really glad you brought me here.” We continue to walk back towards where we initially met on Washington Street. I re-confirm the walking direction to The Slippery Noodle. We exchange a hug. He says, “Thank you so much.” We go our separate ways. We didn’t even exchange names, just took to the evenings dancing cues.

I wrote this story for the first time as a part of the CityWrite activities here in Indianapolis as a part of the National Day on Writing. CityWrite believes that everyone has a story to tell and has lived through an experience that everyone can learn from. Write yours.

How-to: host a clothing swap

Why a clothing swap? What is this all about? How does it work? When I was in my mid 20s I used to host Friday Night Ladies Nights at my home. I love to entertain. I would make hors d’oeuvres maybe a specialty cocktail or shot to feature. It was so great to catch up with the girls and stay connected as we all went through our daily lives. Maybe we’d go out afterwards to hit up a bar or club. Then I noticed something was changing. Some of my girlfriends weren’t able to make it on Friday nights, or had to cancel last-minute due to other obligations. As my friends were marrying and starting families of their own, their interests changed and this wasn’t the best fit anymore.

I read about the idea of a Clothing Swap several years ago in Real Simple Magazine during this same time that interests were shifting a bit among the ladies. I didn’t over think it. I just said to myself, “I’ll do it.” I’ve been hosting them now for what could be 4-5 years every Spring and Fall to prepare for the next season. It’s a great opportunity to visit with your girlfriends you’ve had over your lifetime, introduce new friends and walk away with the memories of the event as you wear the items you bring home.

Vintage floral top find at clothing swap
Vintage floral top find at clothing swap

How do you get started:

One thing that I should note, which may better determine if you should be hosting or if you have a friend in mind that should be hosting. I have never belonged to a clique. I have a variety of friends on different friendship levels whether close friends to acquaintances. I meet new people all of the time. I think what makes my events unique is that it won’t be the same clique that gathers every season. There’s some new people to meet and new wardrobes to exchange with. Of course I have girlfriends that have been to a couple of the events and I love that. Just something to keep in mind to keep the “goods” fresh. And before making a commitment to host, make sure you have enough space inside our home to host it, like a retail type environment.

Clothing Swap How-To’s:

Leading up to the Clothing Swap:

1. Set a Date. I live in Indianapolis where we truly have the opportunity to embrace all 4 seasons. When speaking of clothing, it means for most of us that we box up our winter line to welcome the summer line and vice versa. When the weather starts to change and I have to dig for a sweater or jacket to welcome Fall, I look at my calendar to pick a date to host the next swap. I like giving 3 weekends notice. That’s 3 weekends for friends to find the opportunity to clean out their closets. I look at my date compared to the events going on around in the city. Probably not going to have it over Labor Day weekend. And probably not going to have it during an Indianapolis Colt’s football game, etc. The exchange portion could wrap up in 1-2 hours, I usually select a 3 hour window of time for the event, or you could leave an end time open-ended.

2. Provide a little detail for how the event is going to go to your guests. I have hosted events as pitch in’s where I ask guests to bring a snack and I provide a specialty cocktail I’ve been playing around with. I’ve also kept it incredibly simple where I just make some spiced cocktail nuts and fill a couple growlers of Cider from the neighborhood local, New Day Meadery. One of my favorites is to host the event on a Sunday and make a frittata brunch and offer sparking wine. I would let guests know that was the plan so they aren’t arriving already fed. You know; Brunch at Noon, Exchange at 1 p.m. if guest wanted to skip out on brunch, they were free to arrive at 1 p.m. or later. You are free to ask your friends to bring something or I simply let mine know that this is what I am providing, if you’d like something else, you are welcome to provide it for the party. If you are providing a meal, I would also include an open request in your invite for those with dietary restrictions to please let you know and plan an option for them accordingly. I have made a vegetarian option of my meal for guests before, it’s not too much trouble at all.

3. Provide details for how the Clothing Swap will go. There are no “rules” for these. I’m simply sharing my experiences over the few times I have hosted. I have in my invite that I encourage guests to bring 5-10 items or more that are still in good, wearable shape. As we ladies can sometimes changes sizes dramatically over our lifetimes and need to unload or gain a whole new wardrobe. I also include in the invite that participating in the clothing exchange is not required. I encourage friends to come out for some much-needed girl time or to simply observe to see what a clothing swap is all about. I think that cleaning out your closet is one of the fun parts because I feel like you could play to karma a bit. Maybe there is something in your closet that you love and haven’t worn in years. It’s interesting to bring that item and find karma’s fate for you as to filling your closet with something you could wear. And it’s a little easier to part with when you know who gets it versus taking to consignment or Goodwill. This is probably the extent of information I provide in the invite and of course ask people to contact me with any questions. Things that have come up:

What if I’m worried about people being there with my similar size?

I completely understand this. If you’d like to share your size with me, I would ask that our guests invite someone who they know that shares a similar size.

Can I bring slightly used bra’s, workout clothes, beauty products, etc.?

I said, absolutely. You’re the host, you can call the shots as to the event you want to host.

What if I bring all high-end name brand stuff, will I find that type of stuff at your exchange?

I bring up this question as this is an interesting point and completely up to you and the type of exchange you want to have. The more people you have at the exchange, the more options you’ll have. I would suggest a response similar to: maybe they only bring 1-2 items that are higher end for their first exchange to help manage their expectations. If they had great luck the first time, they may bring more items next time.

I’ve had friends who couldn’t make that date but had contributed to the clothing lineup anyway. I’ve had friends who come in late or have to leave early. With those that I know have to leave early, I do want to make sure they get the most out of their time and send them home with 5 items or so and check in to make sure they are happy with what they get to leave with having to leave early. Those that arrive late, we just add them to our rotation when they arrive.

4. Send out your invite. I have used Facebook Events and evite to invite guests. Sometimes I may have up to 100 people who receive the invite. I’ve had anywhere from 5 to 12 guests. So far in my experience, and with the space I have available, a group size of 8-12 people is perfect. If you have used these new online invite tools, you may have noticed that 9 times out of 10 you will receive more Yes RSVP’s than will actually make it to the event. Things happen, life is crazy busy. I’m simply happy to provide the opportunity for meeting and visiting with the women that make up our city and enhancing our wardrobes. I may send a final note through both channels 1-2 days prior to the event asking guests to confirm their RSVP as I prepare to provide food and drinks for the group. I also will include any other final details; directions, cell phone number, etc. Day of Clothing Swap:

5. Clothing Swap Initial Set-Up. One of the things that I bought prior to hosting my first swap was to buy a garment rack from Target. It was around $10. I now have two that I can easily unfold and store in their original boxes in a closet. I also have extra hangers that I already had on hand. If you don’t I’d recommend buying 20-40. What do you have around that house that you could use that could provide helpful? I have used book shelves to put up some folded clothing. I have a shelving unit in our bathroom that we keep our bath towels. I’ll bring that into the living room to organize some folded clothes. I’ve used the coffee table and the dining room table to display items. Be resourceful on this front. I also welcome jewelry, so I have an area on a smaller table that I use for that. I also welcome shoes. It works out well to have them lined up on the base of the garment racks. I set up the space and start to put out my contributions for the swap.

Trendy and unique shoe find
Trendy and unique shoe find

I have had friends who sell unique items like Stella and Dot or doTERRA essential oils that I welcome them to set up a display or mingle among guests to play with the jewelry or oils. Mary with Stella and Dot once sponsored the Bloody Mary bar. They probably didn’t get a lot of sales, but at least they were able to introduce their products to a new audience. My sister sells doTERRA essential oils and we incorporate it into the experience. You can have a relaxing or detoxifying oil through a diffuser or I add the orange or lemon essential oils to the water pitcher for us to all enjoy. She even provided some yummy peppermint essential oil to a batch of gluten-free brownies. They were a hit!

6. Guests Arrive and Contribute to Swap. Guests arrive and are offered a beverage, introductions and asked to lay out their items where they see fit. You could have designated areas for said items if you choose. Some guests simply bring their contribution in laundry hampers which I thought was brilliant. And then they have something they can carry to new finds in home. Some guests start to eyeball through items, some mingle over snacks in the kitchen until most of our guests have arrived and had a chance to get their items out. I probably allow 30 minutes for arrival, mingle, set-up.

Everybody needs a red dress in their wardrobe.
Everybody needs a red dress in their wardrobe. Photo Credit: Catherine Esselman

7. The Swap Begins. I started hosting the clothing swaps with a one at a time policy. I like it because no one will be fighting over items and everyone will be walking away with one of the most sought after items. To do this, I count all of the participants and write 1 through that number on little pieces of cut up paper. Then I have guests draw a number and that will be the shopping order. So #1 will shop first. Then #2 and so on. We’ll probably do this for at least 5 rounds, so everyone has 5 hot new items. Then we open it up for a free for all. This part is fun as friends will encourage guests they may be meeting for the first time to try something that may be out of their norm. This can go on until everyone is happy. Then we may turn to more mingling.

8. Swap Clean-up. 

Knitted sweater top (right) paired with a little Stella and Dot
Knitted sweater top (right) paired with a little Stella and Dot. Photo Credit: Diane Drake

Guests are free to take home whatever they want at the end for the clothing swap. If they wanted to take their initial contributions that didn’t get picked up, they are free to do so. Guests also know that I will take whatever is left behind to Goodwill. That trip is guaranteed, so it is not a big deal to leave anything behind. I have made a commitment to host these events 2 times a year and I am lucky to have some extra storage space. I have a bag that I keep with some miscellaneous items that had been left behind. More specifically, I’ll save some items that I think that are cool and have potential in unique sizes, petites, larger items, long-legged, etc. So if I do have someone attend a future event that may have a unique size. I have some options for them. I have now collected 15-30 items that I may take to the next exchange. If it doesn’t make it through the next exchange it goes to Goodwill.

dELiA's top
dELiA’s top. Photo Credit: Breana Elliott

I enjoy hearing the after event stories. Whether I personally get a compliment on one of my swap finds and I tell them, “Oh, I got it at a clothing swap.” Of course they ask to learn more so I hope that they would either attend a future event I host or be inspired to host their own. It’s fun for me or for my guests to see one another out and about and be like, “That was mine, it looks so amazing on you!” It’s fun to see when I had introduced new friends they connect on Facebook or follow-up to get another group visit together. I really enjoy it. I hope you feel inspired to host one as well. I welcome thoughts from anyone who has hosted or plans to host and has new experiences to share.

Banana Republic top (left) representing People for Urban Progress on IndyStyle
Banana Republic top (left) representing People for Urban Progress on IndyStyle. Photo Credit: IndyStyle

Why I Gave to Devington Community Hub and Bus Shelter via Power2Give

The story, as it has been shared with me, starts here:

Devington Shopping Center

This is Devington Shopping Center, located at Arlington Avenue and Staughton Drive (near 46th Street). The colorful mural here was painted by Arlington Students several years ago. Stop by and take a closer look sometime. But for this case, notice the color. It’s liveliness as seen here from the street. Arlington High School is the building  just north of here. A year ago, from this viewpoint, if you turned around, you’d see an abandoned housing community. Once vibrant in the 50’s and 60’s. The neighborhood can tell you more about that time when you stop by in person.

FD_Community_3Through community outreach, Devington discovered they were in need of a Senior Housing Community as a plan of action for this site. So the story continues…First Devington, plans to open this Summer 2013.

First Devington

The Community and the Seniors moving into this building were engaged in the design process. They even voted on the color of the building. They wanted bright colors that celebrated their neighborhood, their lives, something that pulls them outside to join their community.

The viewpoint in the images above, looking at First Devington and the Devington Shopping Plaza comes from the IndyGo Bus Stop at that intersection.

devington before photograph

From all of this community engagement, a question came about, “How do we transform the way residents feel about taking the bus?” What if we celebrated it. Continued to engage the community and add some color. Get more people involved not only within the community, but invite organizations outside of the community in to be a part of this. A dialogue started about what could happen here. Personal interviews with those at the stop and throughout the community. Devington learned even more about itself and residents continued to get to know one another.

DevingtonBusStopThey applied for the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Greenspace grant, and won. IndyGo is helping out, they are getting a new shelter. They now have funding to support the visions of the site including adding salvaged and repurposed Bush Stadium Seats and RCA Dome fabric from People for Urban Progress. Plants and trees will be incorporated into the site. The KIB Greenspace Grant is just one funding partner of many more traditional, the City of Indianapolis, the Senior Housing Site Developer, Indianapolis Power and Light to name a few.

When the First Devington development began, w/purpose noticed old pavers on site and saw an opportunity to salvage and think about repurposing them at the bus stop. They are heavy. They took them to Arlington High School. Invited the new Art Teacher to be a part of this project. The students wanted to keep these vibrant colors that just seem fitting to be in eyeshot of the mural and the new First Devington project. The students painted these blocks and it didn’t stop there. They were engaged further and asked “What can you imagine at this bus stop?” The students had really creative ideas. We want to engage our youth, before they grow old and lose that creativity, imagining turning the seemingly impossible… possible. They had ideas like, what if you were sitting in the shelter and it was like you were in a fish bowl. Or what if the sides of the shelter had messages for the bus riders and the community etched into the glass. That is the direction that Devington wants to take. They are on Power2Give to fundraise, turning a seemingly impossible idea… possible.

installed (640x478)

Progress Report: They are well on their way to install these pavers. New concrete has been poured. They should have the PUPstop seats in soon. The shade structure is being developed. They can still use your help, to turn the students vision into reality. Please consider donating what you can, to Devington Community Hub and Bus Stop on Power2Give.

There are so many positive community building stories coming out of this Devington Bus Stop project that I didn’t even include in this post. I am grateful to be playing a small part. Come join us and be a part of this.


Conversations at Bars. Third in a Series.

Go To The Libertine cocktail bar. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

Grab a seat at the bar and meet my new friend Adam. Your Bartender for the night. Adam hails from one of those fancy schmancy NYC bars where they specialize in Mezcal cocktails. My first drink was the Mezcal version of The Manhattan. Boozy. Stirred. Hint of Smoke and everything nice. I’m sitting with my new vegetarian friend and picking out something to nibble on. “Trotter Cakes” caught our eye with parsnips being listed as a part of the dish. Didn’t put two and two together that “Trotter” was for pig feet. I’m SOLD. But, my vegetarian friend couldn’t partake. (Don’t worry, she had a lovely dressed salad with radishes and dates.) So, Trotter Cakes. Amazing. The meat is shredded into two cakes with an ever so slightly crusted finish served over a bed of greens and a smear of a horseradish based cream sauce. This dish is succulent, these ingredients were made for one another. Adam had mentioned how good these were, so I asked for a drink recommendation that would pair well with the dish. He chose a bourbon whiskey based drink. I’m failing to remember all of the ingredients, but included an orange and chocolate bitters. He did well. The legs of bourbon on the glass was similar to the sweet juiciness from the meat, think gamey like duck meat. The textures and flavor of both truly complementary.

My friend and I are engaging in conversation with The Libertine staff and another guest, Zach, who travels to Indianapolis about 8 times a year. We all ooo and ahh and come together for a shared love of 21C and Proof in Louisville. I learn he is in sales and covers the midwest and make sure to tell him about staying at the Honor and Folly in Detroit. Zach comes over to talk to us and of course we are talking about what we are drinking. Zach doesn’t know what he’s drinking, he trusts Adam. He just met him. “Me Too!” I reply. We have a shared conversation about the term, “mixologist.” Taking to Adam’s point, where did mixologist come from? He doesn’t like it, he is a good “bartender”. And a good bartender is just right. I haven’t been to NYC, yet. Zach tells me how much I would love NYC, he says when I go, he even has a husband out there for me. A co-worker, Scott. Ha! Zach sells television shows to our local networks. Like the show reruns/second airs, past runs of the show “Community,” for an example. He sells content to local stations like WXIN. I was intrigued to learn more after reading a couple of articles on Netflix’s self-produced new content, House of Cards. Wanted to get his thoughts and dive deeper into his industry. I also wanted to know who sells Mad Men? The person. The Individual. AMC’s Mad Men has 2 million viewers. There are 80 million cable subscribers. Mad Men’s content is so valuable that AMC gets 40 cents per cable subscriber. Yes, per subscriber. That’s right, with only 2 million viewers. “They” are saying this is genius.

Moved on to Tastings, a wine bar, for some more, well. Tastings. You can get 2 ounce or full pour wines. I like to go here to taste some of the more expensive bottles that I wouldn’t commit to purchasing a whole bottle of. I love the leathery tobacco goodness that is hard to find in a cheaper bottle. You will usually find me bar hopping with my PUP messenger bag. It’s made from the old Colt’s stadium rooftop, a material that was salvaged before it’s demolition. I work for People for Urban Progress (PUP) two days a week. When people ask what I do I have something to show them. I met two lawyers in town from Minneapolis at the bar. I shared with them my work with PUP. They seemed to have some keywords for me. Minneapolis deflated their old stadium and it is made of fiberglass. My ears perk up, this is the material we use, teflon-coated fiberglass. It’s indestructible. They are able to tell me who to contact about it. They didn’t think that anyone had plans for it and that we may be working on a couple of weeks to salvage it. Cool. A MiniPUP. Thanks for the tip!

I get a message from my co-workers and friends from MacNiven’s, a scottish bar. They are all at Mass Ave Pub. And, well. We know what happens here. Real People. Being Real. Imbibing together, the way life was meant to be lived. It only takes one person. One Person. To make you feel wanted.

An Idea for Indianapolis Public Schools

1) What if a child didn’t have to worry about what they were wearing to school. Does my uniform fit? Is it clean? I am reminded back at the beginning of this 2011-12 school year when IPS was in the news looking for 7,000 students who still hadn’t shown up. Some parents were interviewed talking about their kids not having uniforms yet to go. During that same week, it was announced that Ray Skillman made a 5-year commitment to cover Center Grove High School’s sports programs so no one had to pay extra to play sports. That is $200K a year for the next 5 years. The first thing that came to mind was, who wants to sponsor our kids? Perhaps in offering them a school uniform at the beginning of each school year so they wouldn’t have to worry, does my uniform fit? Is it clean? Some of the schools are offering a uniform exchange opportunity for growing kids to get a uniform their new size. But, isn’t there something about the way you feel in a brand new outfit, just for you?

Would you buy/wear a T-shirt that read, “Chick-fil-A gives a damn about our inner city kids”? A joint partnership between and fast food company and the citizens of the community. Would you be proud to wear it? I figure many of us have T-shirts. So maybe not only seek a direct financial contribution, but what if we as a city offered our own, local element to TOMS, one for one movement? Or I am reminded of FIGS in which you buy a men’s tie and your purchase includes buying a school uniform for a child in Eastern Africa. What if we had some of the IPS kids in Career Technology Magnet Fashion Merchandising class design a product unique to, well us? Would you buy it and wear it with pride knowing your money went to purchasing a child a uniform?

2) There are kids in our community whose parents don’t know how to use a computer, who can’t read English or even maybe cannot read at all. This is a realistic learning obstacle in our kids life. There are children that are showing up for tutoring help, seeking help with reading that are getting turned away because there aren’t enough volunteers. What if the great Young Professionals groups of Indianapolis made a commitment in early education, volunteering to serve our inner city kids?  There are 33K students.  Am I being to ambitious or unrealistic in putting out there the idea of 33K volunteers who can commit 30 min to an hour a week with a student?

Wow, could you imagine the impact?

3) Finally, what if there was a targeted incentive to bring young people in the same stage of life and encourage them to live downtown. Raise a family downtown. Most of the employees in downtown Indianapolis commute from the suburbs to work. What if there was an incentive in place to encourage employees to live downtown. Or maybe target specific companies, like ExactTarget. When this young staff gets married, decides to have children. Do you think they would come together as a team and enroll their children in IPS? Knowing they are not alone?

What’s Next on the Social Horizon?

I was visiting with some girlfriends last weekend and was introduced to a new gal who is down from Chicago. We are discussing what we all do for fun and where we like to go out both us here in Indy and she in Chicago. Of course she points out how affordable Indy is compared to Chicago. She lives on the West side of Chicago and had mentioned she never visits with her girlfriends who live in Northern Chicago, even as close as they are, because of how expensive a taxi is there and back.What if the future of bar design included being able to Skype with your friends in another location? Have a pint together. Share in conversation? You know a booth setting, couch setting, telephone booth? Think of how we are secluding ourselves from the people we are sharing a table with as we are engaged in conversation with friends that could not make it. Would being able to Skype with your friends in a setting from your bar to your friends bar she chose to patron help eliminate this? Would you be more engaged with the present?

This may only make since for highly populated areas, Chicago, NYC, LA, San Francisco, etc. Got me to thinking about how this could work in Indianapolis…Scotty’s Brewhouse. I can picture it now, Mom and Dad at Scotty’s Lakehouse on Geist Skyping and sharing a pint with little Grady down at Scotty’s Bloomington. Crazy to think?

And finally, from a girl who travels alone. On those down days, boy wouldn’t it be nice to have a pint with my girlfriends at home when I am at some café in Paris.

What do you think? How could this idea evolve into a realistic idea, or do you veto it?