If you're feeling good about the market, you're not alone. Take my hand as we go over some of this week's more uplifting headlines.

1. Olive you
There are signs of life in the casual dining industry. Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) -- the company behind Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and the butt of a zillion foodie jokes -- posted positive comps for its first quarter in nearly two years.

Darden also managed to post better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter results. Earnings popped 22% higher, and the company jacked up its guidance for all of fiscal 2010.

One can always argue that same-store sales are easier to accomplish when a restaurateur is working off negative comps from a year earlier, but it's still a welcome turnaround for one of the better industry bellwethers.

2. That's a latte pocket change
Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) has become the latest former growth stock to initiate a dividend policy. Shareholders will now receive $0.10 a share every three months.

Don't be surprised to see the company growing up. When Starbucks began scaling back its expansion plans and shuttering stores, investors accepted that its days of heady growth were a thing of the past.

The java giant is also making the most of its abundant free cash flow by increasing its share buyback efforts. With its financial turnaround seemingly firmly in place, the reasonable 1.6% yield should help provide some stability -- and some Frappuccino spending money.

3. Blockbuster's end-around
Well played, Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI). The DVD rental giant may be on the brink of bankruptcy, but it's not going down without a fight. The chain announced a deal with Warner Home Video to make its movies available -- including The Blind Side this week and Sherlock Holmes next week -- at the same time that the DVDs hit stores. Rivals Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Redbox agreed earlier this year to delay availability for four weeks.

In a case of perfect timing, Blockbuster announced the deal on the same day that Hollywood blockbuster The Blind Side was released on Blu-ray and DVD. In doing so, Blockbuster was able to hammer home the point that it would be available in-store, by mail, or as a digital rental a full 28 days before Netflix begins shipping or Redbox kiosks begin stocking Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning flick.

4. The wait for Freiberg was longer than Freebird
It took awhile, but E*TRADE Financial (Nasdaq: ETFC) finally found a permanent CEO. The discount broker's executive search began several months ago, when Don Layton announced that he would retire by year's end. A pedigreed board member stepped in as interim CEO so Layton could step down as requested. This week, former Citigroup (NYSE: C) exec Stephen Freiberg was finally tapped to lead the company.

E*TRADE will also ask its shareholders to approve a 1-for-10 reverse split. That may be a zero-sum move, but the maneuver will ensure that the online broker's share price is larger than the age of the E*TRADE Baby. Post-reverse, E*TRADE's stock would theoretically trade in the teens, like its two larger rivals.

5. Legally bond
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has plenty of savvy nerds and dot-com visionaries on board, and now it's on the lookout for a few good bean counters. The world's leading search engine is hiring a foreign-government bond trader. It's also hoping to hire a pair of bond analysts specializing in mortgage-backed and U.S. government securities.

The move makes a lot more sense when you consider that Google started the year with $24.5 billion in cash and short-term investments. Given the market's microscopic interest rates -- and regulatory agencies that will make sure that Big G doesn't go on a huge shopping spree anytime soon -- it makes sense to milk more earnings power out of its idle cash.

God forbid that Google should follow Starbucks' lead and actually return some of that cash to shareholders through dividends and beefed up buybacks, right? Well, we can't be picky. Google is doing the right thing by taking yield-stretching chances with its substantial cash hoard.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Netflix and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is an optimist at every turn. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Netflix. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy even dresses smartly.