Regulus Coffee House Co. [Chicago]

Weather: 40°, Rainy
Coffee Shop: Regulus Coffee House Co • 6032 W Irving Park Rd • Chicago • First Time
Drink: Chicolátl ($3.50)
Book: No Book

Special vacation post! That's right, not to be deterred from my Sunday coffee I talked my friend Abbie into grabbing a drink with me while we were in Chicago this past weekend. If there's anything I love more than trying new coffee shops in Minneapolis, it's trying new coffee shops while on vacation.

We were staying in Norwood Park so I tried to find something not too far away 1) so that we wouldn't have to drive too far, and 2) so that I could curl up with a coffee ASAP. I used my trusty Yelp app to direct me based on highly reviewed places and the chosen spot was Regulus. The only bad thing: the wi-fi was out, which Abbie wanted to use. They had a sign posted on the front door, so it was fair warning, but we didn't feel like finding another place, so we just dealt with it.

Everything else about Regulus made me super happy. I kept saying to my Abbie, "This is such a perfect coffee shop," and I meant it. I ordered the Chicolátl which is a mocha with cinnamon & cayenne (I love coffee with cayenne, especially when I'm kicking a cold). I wished the drink would've lasted all day, it was all I could do not to chug it. Needing a snack, (and since it was a vacation), I ordered a chocolate chip scone which was deliciously fresh and was a perfect dunking partner with the coffee. I did not leave Abbie out; I treated her to a hot cocoa with plenty of whip in appreciation of letting me drag her to a coffee shop.

The atmosphere here was great, albeit a little chilly. The service was super friendly, and everything about the visit was cozy and comfortable. I found the Sunday crossword in a pile of newspapers and worked studiously on it while Abbie did real work. It was the perfect hideaway on a rainy Sunday in February.

This is the kind of place I'd want in my neighborhood.

People Watching
The only person I bothered to note was this very adorable hipster boy working on his Mac. He had a sticker around the Apple logo that was a juice box and said "Juice" under the apple. It was chuckleworthy. There was a painting on the wall of a colorful tree and I took a picture of it because it inspired me. They had no bus tub and it confused me - Chicago, so foreign.

Cahoots Coffee Bar

Weather: 7°, Sun
Coffee Shop: Cahoots Coffee Bar • 1562 Selby Ave • St Paul • First Time
Drink: Latte ($3.40)
Book: Happy to Be Here by Garrison Keillor

Cahoots Coffee Bar was never high on my list, but not for any particular reason. Perhaps I was just judgmental because I had never heard of it, or because the pictures I saw didn't impress me. However, I was going through St. Paul today on a tight schedule and this was my nearest choice. Cahoots is in the Merriam Park neighborhood on Selby, a great little area filled with shops and restaurants.

The shop was pretty quiet with only two individual men quietly going about their newspapers and drinks. The menu was pretty normal, and the prices were decent. However, I unfortunately didn't have any cash (I hate using my card at coffee shops!) and I felt really bad, so I ordered a medium latte to up the price (they had a $3 minimum for cards, or a $0.25 fee). The barista, whom I just assumed was the owner, was so nice that I wanted to tell him to charge me the $0.25 fee to clear my conscience. Of course, that would've been weird, so instead I just gave him a big fat tip.

So as I was saying, the barista was a very kind fellow. He made sure to ask what kind of milk I wanted (whole!) and after I impulsively sucked off some froth while he charged the card, he grabbed the pitcher and topped it off with some more. Sweet man, I liked him. The latte was good, it was a latte.

That was basically my entire experience. The shop is really odd visually. Most of the chairs are wheeled office chairs, which looks really weird until you sit down—comfy! There is stuff to look at in every direction: tapestries and oriental rugs hanging on the walls, knick knacks for sale as well as teapots, jewelry, dishes, greeting cards. It's strikingly odd, but also endearing. It has a very moroccan restaurant feel. I hear the patio is awesome so I might just try to return this summer.

I've had this book sitting around for years. I only decided to read it because I was so non-fictioned out with my other two current reads that I couldn't read another word unless I got some easy fiction into my system. Short stories seemed just the cure. I have had a tumultuous relationship with Keillor's writing. In short, I greatly enjoyed the novel Wobgeon Boy and I also enjoy his radio show, but I disliked The Book of Guys and, to a lesser extent, Happy To Be Here. I think there's just something about his short stories that leaves me unsettled and doesn't offer enough substance/plot for my tastes.

The first section of the book kept me in mind of the way I felt reading the short stories in Salinger's Nine Stories. This is another author whose novels I love but whose short stories leave me wanting. Fortunately, the subsequent sections of Happy To Be Here were far more satisfying for me. There were quite a few stories I actually enjoyed, which was more than I could say for The Book of Guys. He has an interesting way of creating real-life pictures that end up being absolutely ridiculous. His subtle wit shows through in a lot of the pieces in this book, that same wit which causes so many people I know to say "I don't like A Prairie Home Companion...I don't get it, it's not funny." My favorite piece from the book was probably "How It Was in America a Week Ago Tuesday" - I found it endearing and amazing, and had to constantly remind myself "this isn't REAL, he's just making up numbers!" but found that whole circle of realizations amusing.

This book contains a ton of different writing styles, and I think anyone could pull out at least one piece from it that they find worthwhile and entertaining. But that means the rest of it may be found much less satisfying.

People Watching
So there were two old guys at first. One kept getting up and paying for more refills. Then a teenage (early college?) couple came in, and they were awkwardly funny to me. They were talking about biochem. The kid was so...he had this confidence that made him seem just kind of silly. A guy came in and ordered a depth charge and sat at the table next to me while I did my crossword. A lady came in and pre-paid for like a bazillion refills, which made me chuckle. It was early, and I heard the barista say to someone that it is usually quiet, until the church crowd gets released, around 11am.

Boiler Room Coffee

Weather: -Something°, impossibly cold but sunny
Coffee Shop: Boiler Room Coffee • 1830 3rd Avenue South • Minneapolis • First Time
Drink: Drip Coffee ($2.75 16oz)
Book: The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations by Craig & Patricia Neal

Boiler Room Coffee has been an ideal in my head for around a year now. I heard of it from one friend and then kept hearing about it from other people, and all of them had only good things to say about this magical coffee shop. Long story short, I met the owner at one of his other coffee shops a few days ago and that was what made me decide to finally get out to Boiler Room. That and I was hungry and they have all kinds of delicious-sounding food.

Boiler Room is somewhat hidden on 3rd Ave in Steven's Square. It's on the garden level (a la "Cheers") of one of the large brick apartment buildings that permeate the Steven's Square neighborhood. It's small and large at the same time. The space is small, but the natural light, the bright colors, the ample seating, and the open space make it feel much larger than it is. On a day like today, where the temperatures have plumetted below zero, it felt cozy to retreat into a sunny basement filled with bright colors and the smells of coffee.

The menu is extensive and full of goodies. I ordered the Fancy Oatmeal ($5) which had wild rice, dried cranberries, pecans, and sides of brown sugar and cream. It was perfect: it warmed me up and stuck to my ribs. For coffee I ordered a very large but simple 16 oz drip. They have three blends that they give their own names to, but I'm not sure what roastery they come from: a French roast, a Vienna roast, and a Full City roast. I had the Vienna roast and enjoyed it. They have plenty of other food (waffles, sandwiches, pastries) and drink options (chai, espresso, bottled drinks); it's a great one-stop shop. You can also buy local art here for really decent prices, which is always fun.

I spent two hours relaxing in a booth at Boiler Room. The traffic coming in and out was heavy at times and quiet at others, but most of the tables were always filled and the shop was full of life (and dogs). It was a great atmosphere and I enjoyed every minute that I spent there. I would certainly recommend Boiler Room to anyone: it's not the trendiest coffee, it's not the most organic-local food, but it's pretty darn good and it makes you happy. If you happen to meet the owner, Michael, shake his hand and tell him what you think, he's a really nice guy!

This book was not on my reading list and probably wouldn't have ever made it on there under normal circumstances. The Art of Convening appears at first glance to be a book about meetings and business leadership, which aren't particularly my areas of interest in every day life. But as it turns out the book is actually more than that. But why am I reading it? A new friend of mine, Alec, suggested that I like it on Facebook. It was written by his parents and is part of his family's business. However, I can't honestly like something that I know nothing about, in this case a book that I haven't read; that's almost as strange to me as people who say they don't like brussel sprouts but have never tasted them. So I figured I might as well read it. I've heard Alec repeat the motto of his family's company ("creating safe and generative spaces for authentic engagement") to person upon person, but it doesn't really give insight into what it actually means, so this could also be seen as an effort to better understand the people around me. Either way, it was on the docket this Sunday.

I was just starting the book today, so there's not a lot that I can say about it. It's all about changing the way we meet (or "convene") with others and how we can be leaders for creating a more intentional, meaningful, open, and purposeful space for the gathering of ideas and people. Why should meetings be seen as boring and tiresome and useless? Shouldn't every moment that we spend with others be filled with creativity, openness, ideas, and real results? Yes, of course. But how do we do that? That's what the book tries to teach. Most of what is being said makes sense to me, and I like it. It reminds me of a lot of the things Brene Brown talked about in Daring Greatly, but with a more specific focus. Each chapter leads you through an aspect you should consider when gathering people together, why that consideration is important, and specific exercises to reinforce the idea. I particularly like the real-life examples injected into the writing. Because it's a fairly deep and intangible topic that can be hard to understand, the example stories give some concrete images of what these ideas look like in practice.

Regardless of the fact that I wouldn't be reading this book of my own choosing, I'm happy to be reading it. It helps to reinforce the values already in my head and heart, and is also helping me keep my eye on my 2013 goal of practicing more Authenticity. But most importantly, it's a piece of one of the people in my life. The people I choose to surround myself with are chosen with intention, and I see it as a duty and a joy to learn about things that are important to them and part of their lives. This is why book suggestions will almost always make it onto my reading list, and why I was content to enjoy The Art of Convening along with my Fancy Oatmeal.

People Watching
Diversity! That's what Boiler Room screamed out to me. Crazy dreds, buzz cut, bald. Black skin, white skin, tattooed skin. Old, young, gay, straight. And that one really hot Euro hipster that I accidentally kept staring at. And my friend Lauren who joined me for the last half of my visit and brought me banana cardamom cranberry bread, bless her heart.

Groundswell Coffee

Weather: 5°, Frigid
Coffee Shop: Groundswell Coffee • 1342 W Thomas Ave • St Paul • First Time
Drink: Drip Coffee ($2.75 16oz)
Book: A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil by Sharon Astyk & Aaron Newton

Today's theme: Cold. Not cold press, but cold air. After a couple of days of January thaw (40!) the temperature decided to plummet into the single digits. I can't complain too much after spending 10 years in Duluth where putting a negative sign in front of the temperature was more normal than exceptional, but it was still a bit of a shock to the system. So the plan was to add as much warmth to the day as possible. Thus I found myself in St Paul to attend an event celebrating Argentina and learn some hot and spicy tango moves. For my coffee shop hop this meant another chance to check out a distant St Paul shop. The choice: Groundswell Coffee, which wasn't actually on my list for some reason, but I did remember reading about it before. I was particularly looking forward to it because they brew Dogwood, and since I've been exploring so many different shops I haven't sipped some Dogwood in too long.

When I arrived at the shop step one was to embrace the cold by falling on my ass. A soft coating of snow had covered the sidewalks, thus hiding any ice patches and leading to my meeting with the cement. Grateful to finally make it into the shop without further injury, I struck up some small talk with the barista. He was a nice guy, and the place was practically empty, so I'm sure he was happy for some stimulation. Unfortunately, I didn't challenge him with my order: the largest Dogwood drip coffee they had, which was 16 ounces. All I wanted was to be warm, and as soon as possible. Sadly, it was not to be.

The coffee shop is split in two rooms. I went into the attached room first and sat by the windows because I enjoy seeing the outdoors (it was also the only room with other patrons, and I like having other people around). It turned out the windows are insanely drafty and this felt little better than sitting in my car. So I picked up and moved back into the front room. I took a seat near the front of the shop to get some of that window sunlight, but after someone opened the door to come in this too became an obviously poor choice. Finally, I moved almost as far away as I could get from the door, directly across from the counter, and settled in. Unlike Goldilocks, it was not just right, but it was the best I could do short of asking for a stool in the kitchen next to the oven. The place was freezing no matter where you sat, or maybe only I was, but on a day like today you can't really do much about it without exponentially increasing your heating bill. Luckily the coffee warmed me up. Momentarily. Until it, too, was about 40 degrees. Lesson learned: if a shop isn't busy (or in this case, is dead) ask for your 16oz coffee in an 8oz cup with a refill after you finish the first one. And keep your coat on. And your mittens. I don't have much to say about the coffee...I love Dogwood, it was drip so it wasn't special, it served its purpose.

The shop is perfectly okay. There are only two comfy chairs, seated together, and they were already taken. The place is very empty and sparse; there is some local art on the walls, but overall it seemed almost half-decorated (half-empty or half-full? I couldn't tell). Apparently they do a lot of music, poetry, and open mic nights, which is really cool. They seem to support the local arts community quite a bit. However, I don't really think that I would ever return here just for coffee. It bored me and I didn't have a comfy chair to curl into or fun chatter from other patrons to fill the air.

How City Farmers, Backyard Chicken Enthusiasts, Victory Gardeners, Small Family Farms, Kids in Edible School Yards, Cooks in Their Kitchens and Passionate Eaters Everywhere Can Overthrow our Destructive Industrial Agriculture, and Give us Hope for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in a Changing World

The book I'm attempting to read right now is very dense. I don't remember how A Nation of Farmers made it onto my book list, it could have been from one of many sources, but I picked it up on a whim just because it happened to be checked in while I was at the library printing some paperwork. I question if I'm really going to make it through the entire book, but I would hate to fail. At the very least there are no holds on it, so I can continue to read other things and slowly work on this book while I renew it for nine weeks.

A Nation of Farmers was published in 2009, so it's a few years old (which often matters in such volatile topics as climate change, food security, etc). I say it's dense because, aside from the fact that it is physically a thick book, it is written in a very reportive style: facts, figures, numbers, stats. There's nothing (so far) that's flowery or fun. That doesn't make it bad or uninteresting though; it's very interesting. The premise overall is talking about how we need more farmers in the US if we're going to survive. To get to that point there's a lot of background needed. So what I've been reading so far is a lot about climate change, peak oil, and industrial agriculture. Things I am very interested in, but also things that are pretty heavy to read about. The information about climate change is extremely sobering, especially when you remember that it was published in 2009—things have changed rapidly since then. I guess a good word to describe everything I've read so far would be "astounding." Even when you know the information in general, the specific numbers and examples are always a little mind-blowing. The authors do a lot of interviews in the book and right now I'm reading the first interview with Richard Heinberg (an expert on peak energy and author of multiple books, also the person who claimed we need "50 million more farmers"). It's really interesting to hear him talking about how many Americans were and are involved in food production, and where we need to go from where we are. In a nutshell, we need to get ourselves out of the industrial agriculture lifestyle that our grandparents worked so hard to create if we want any hope of sustaining life. The worst part is, even though to people who are actively involved in learning about these things the path just seems obvious and dire, that is not the majority view/knowledge. As a whole, we are ignorant, and there is no hope of saving our lifestyle as it is—something is going to change lots of things are going to change, for better and worse.

The fun part of the book is that each interviewee includes a recipe of theirs that they use to cook and eat sustainably, so even after you finish reading the book, there's a fun little collection of recipes to take away. A nice light-hearted touch in a very heavy book.

People Watching
There was a cute nuclear family taking Spanish lessons in the first room I attempted to sit in. I was curious why they were learning Spanish, but I never ended up asking. Another woman with two children came in for some coffee and treats. Kids seem to be a very welcome thing there. That's about was really dead.

The Beat Coffeehouse

Weather: 31°, Sunshine
Coffee Shop: The Beat Coffeehouse • 1414 W 28th St • Minneapolis • First Time
Drink: Americano ($2.50 double)
Book: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Welcome to my Monday Coffee Shop Hop. Wait, Monday? That's right, I'm breaking the mold. It turns out my Sunday left me no time to hit a coffee shop (don't worry, it was filled with only wonderful things). Not to be deterred, I took this as an opportunity to check out the only coffee shop on my list that is closed on Sundays: The Beat Coffeehouse. Unless you're paying attention you may never notice The Beat's existence, I know I didn't. It resides on 28th St just around the corner from Hennepin Ave. The storefront is very unassuming, and I must have passed by it fifty times before I knew it existed. Due to its mediocre reviews, it remained at the bottom of my coffee shops in the area, and therefore I hadn't made the effort to check it out prior to this project. I very well may have been missing out on a great work space, so I'm grateful that my busy Sunday led me to check it out today.

The shop was quiet when I arrived around Noon. I ordered a double Americano and some apple coffee cake (they were out of cookies) from the friendly barista, who I believe I heard say was a/the manager. They were advertising their brand new addition of soup, but I don't think soup and coffee mix well. The space of the shop is really wonderful. There are basically three rooms: the first room has the counter with a few bar stools, the second room is a tiny intimate space with a small couch, however it's right next to the bathroom so it might not be the quietest or best-smelling choice of seats. The third room is the biggest and main area. It's really great that the area is separated from the counter, because it offers a much quieter space (visually and aurally) to enjoy your coffee. The space is very open and has a ton of "white space" or empty space. It feels like drinking coffee in a ballroom, and instead of causing a cold-detached feeling it's actually quite cozy. The lights are low, the music not too loud, and there is a small gas fireplace. There are tables for two, tables for four, and even tables for eight. There are a few cozy couches and two pianos. This place is minimalism at its best, and I love that. Almost every table and couch next to a wall has an outlet, which makes working very easy as you don't have to vie for the seats with power.

They brew True Stone coffee, which I had never heard of. It's a local roaster in St. Paul. I actually enjoyed the coffee and was wishing I could have more (I purposefully held myself back). It's no Dogwood, but no one will ever be Dogwood. The coffee menu was concise and easy to navigate, but their website promises that they'll work with you to create your own drink of choice if you want.

One thing that made my visit very satisfying was the music. The barista had radio tuned to music "in the style of" her favorite artist, but it was stellar and relaxing: Catherine Feeny, Indigo Girls, Damien Rice, The astoundingly good array of folk singer/songwriters. Of course, a different staff member may mean a less agreeable mix next time.

If there is one thing you need to know about Daring Greatly by Brené Brown it's: read it! Read it, then recommend it to everyone you know. This is one of the most important books you'll read this year. And I say this year because you shouldn't waste any time; the time to learn the lessons that Brown provides is now.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll give you a quick extended version. Daring Greatly is a transformative book about how important vulnerability is in our lives, and how the courage to be vulnerable opens up opportunities, pathways, and hearts. It informs us how shame, and all of its variants, are the biggest enemies of creating an open and vulnerability-safe culture (and thus the enemies of creativity, innovation, and ultimately happiness). Brown gives suggestions that light a path toward developing what she calls shame-resilience, and toward fostering vulnerability in ourselves, in others, and in our workplaces, schools, organizations, and families. If you're thinking, "ha, vulnerability, that's just weakness!" then this book definitely for you. If you're thinking, "vulnerability, that's scary," or "this is wishy-washy self-help bullshit," or "I want to be happier," then this book is for you. In short, this book is for everyone. For years I've used "Show up" as a mantra to push myself into situations, to stop watching life and start living life. I don't remember where I first heard the phrase, but it truly made a difference and continues to keep me in the right direction on a regular basis. Brown repeats this phrase in Daring Greatly and the book, in essence, is about showing up. If we don't find the courage to show up we're willingly depriving the world of our unique and wonderful gifts, the gifts that we all offer just by being who we are.

After doing this work or the past twelve years and watching scarcity ride roughshod over our families, organizations, and communities, I'd say the one thing we have in common is that we're sick of feeling afraid. we want to dare greatly. We're tired of the national conversation centering on "What should we fear" and "Who should we blame?" We all want to be brave.
I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.

People Watching
There were three other solitary folks who were also working like myself. I heard a few other people come in, including an older couple who stayed at the bar for a bit. The man spent a long time talking about Jesus and religion with the barista. It seemed like it was a good conversation, not a lecture. I didn't hear much of it because it was in the other room, but I heard the barista, in the end, thank the man for teaching her so much. A couple of people who came in seemed to be regulars, some day maybe I'll be a regular somewhere.

The Coffee Shop NE

Weather: 9°, Sunshine
Coffee Shop: The Coffee Shop NE • 2852A Johnson St • Minneapolis • First Time
Drink: Cinnamon Peppermint Latte ($4.25 M)
Book: Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life by John Tarrant

I discovered Coffee Shop NE because they offered 20% off in my digital Chinook Book, an app full of "coupons" dedicated solely to local merchants committed to protecting the environment and giving back to the community. Coffee Shop NE is in the Audubon Park neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis, an area I had not yet been to until today. They're situated on a block or two of great local businesses like Hazel's NE, Crafty Planet, Sarah Jane's Bakery, Rewind, and A Bag Lady—all of which I wanted to check out, but didn't have time.

This is another very neighborhood-centric feeling coffee shop and is very bright and full of life. The shop is split into two seating areas: the front area, being right next to the counter, is buzzing with life, and the back area is a little more mellow with comfy couches and armchairs and a couple large tables that you could sit up to 8+ people at. Even though it's a bit quieter in the back, noise seems to reverberate a lot, so it's never very quiet.

The woman working the register was 110% friendly and helped me decide what to order. They offer seemingly every coffee drink known to man and a large array of signature and specialty drinks, so I decided it would be worth having something special from their Winter Specialties menu. The woman originally recommended the Egg Nog Latte, which she promised was not over-sweet at all, but upon ordering it she found out they were out of egg nog. So instead I ordered the Mrs. Claus' Elixir, which was a latte with cinnamon and peppermint (syrup). All of their coffee is fair-trade organic, which makes me even more happy. The drink was exactly what I wanted it to be: warm and delicious. I can't even attempt to comment on the flavor of the espresso, since it was chock full of milk, cinnamon, and peppermint, but I was in creamy cinnamony heaven (it could have used a little more mint).

In terms of things I didn't try, they have an entire menu of sandwiches, pastries, salad, soup, and other random items, and they also sell packaged items like chocolate-covered berries, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and chocolate bars (chocolate!) And of course, their specialty drink menu is so unique and extensive that I want to come back and attempt to try every single one of them, caffeinated and not. They have a fun little merch section with Coffee Shop NE wares (including really cool $5 clear glass mugs), coffee-making supplies, and a Nikki McClure (love!) calendar.

I really enjoyed Coffee Shop NE, and I think it will make a great stop during a future Saturday thrift and yarn store outing—Saturday because donuts go so well with coffee and Sarah Jane's bakery isn't open on Sundays! Also, gasoline was $0.20 cheaper here than Uptown, but of course I forgot to fill up on my way out.

Today's trip was destined to be short so I merely read one koan from Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life, a book suggested by a good friend. Koans (at least in this book) are stories or questions, semi-parable, semi-riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to provoke and test a person and aid in meditation. By understanding the riddles posed in the koans, a student comes one step closer to full enlightenment. I enjoy koans despite the fact that they can be completely confounding—that is their job—because they are simple, thought-provoking, and oftentimes good lessons. Many koans are also very old and are an interesting look into the past.

The koan that I read (the first in the book) was Bodhidharma's Vast Emptiness. The best part about this book is that with each koan the author writes an introduction to help you have a little foothold before you read the koan, and a follow-up titled "Working with the Koan" that the author uses to help explain his understanding of the koan and bring it into modern life. Without these sections the average reader might not bother to think much about the koan if it's too confusing. For each section the author has written a title that explains the purpose of the koan, and this one was Forgetting Who You Are and Making Use of Nothing. It taught about the acceptance of letting go, emptiness, and nothingness. Admitting that you don't know. Letting go of the need to know and of expectations. Not doing things for want of praise or recognition. Some other sections include "The Secret of Changing Your Heart," "The Heaven That's Already Here," "Friendship," "On Avoiding Bad Art," and "Finding Your Song."

To study the Buddha's way is to study the self,
to study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be awakened
by ten thousand things.

People Watching
There were a lot of people here, and conversations tended to run into one another. This man sitting in the chair next to mine said at one point, "You look bored." I assured him that I was merely engrossed in my book. When he got up to leave he commented, "I have to leave now, but I hope you enjoy your book." He was a nice fella. There was also a pair of middle-aged men who were talking quite loudly and at one point discussing The Big Bang Theory (TV show) and all of the actors on it who had previously been on Roseanne. Oh, television, how I do not miss thee.

Cafe SouthSide

Weather: 10°, "Feels Like" -1°
Coffee Shop: Cafe SouthSide • 3405 Chicago Ave S • Minneapolis • First Time
Drink: Americano ($2.25 M 16oz)
Book: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Sometimes the cafes you've never heard of before end up being joyful little gems that you promise yourself to return to soon. So it was with today's choice of coffee shops: Cafe SouthSide. This coffee shop made it to the list not through word-of-mouth, but through an internet search. Of course, because I'd never heard mention of it, I was a little skeptical. As often happens though, my skepticism was quickly demolished.

Cafe SouthSide is nestled in the Powderhorn neighborhood on Chicago Avenue, just two blocks from Powderhorn Park. The cafe shares the building with a second-hand store and is covered in beautiful murals on the south facing side, which is next to a community garden that the cafe facilitates. The cafe seems to be very neighborhood focused and you can feel that just by spending more than five minutes inside. The inside is so cheerful that it's hard not to smile regardless of how you walk in feeling. All of the signage (of which there is a lot!) is artistically hand drawn. There are murals on some walls, and framed art on others. There's a computer with internet and a shelf full of board games. There are a few normal tables, two squishy armchairs, and a window seat (the huge west-facing window lets in great afternoon sun).

I ordered my standard americano today and my mom, who joined me, had a small hot cocoa ($2.25). From what I can tell they brew Equal Exchange coffee, but I didn't ask if it's the only thing they brew. The coffee was not super amazing, but it was definitely good; I enjoyed it, and would definitely order coffee here again. They offer a menu of breakfast, salad, sandiwches, soup, and plenty of non-caffeinated beverages. I think this would be a great spot to have lunch with a friend.

The most notable part of Cafe SouthSide was the staff. The woman and guy behind the counter were thoroughly entertaining and beyond friendly. The woman answered my questions about the community garden while she finished off my espresso, and encouraged my desire to dance throughout our visit. This desire was spurred by the music on the PA. The radio was initially tuned to KDWB (Top 40 music) and had me and the male worker, Jonathan, belting out "Call Me Maybe" and "Somebody That I Used To Know." However, when he needed motivation to sweep the floor he turned on some dance music...and by the time Gangam Style came on he was in the back dancing with a broom and I was ropin' it up in the front of the store. May I also clarify that my mother and I were the only ones in the coffee shop (other people had come and gone before and after the dance party episode). As my mom and I left, Jonathan yelled out "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!" It was by far the most fun I've ever had with cafe workers, and I can imagine they enjoyed it on such a slow day.

In only a few words, Cafe SouthSide won my heart.

It seems like every Sunday I've just been starting books, and never fully into one; today was no different. I was just beginning Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail today.

The author, Cheryl Strayed, grew up in Minnesota, lived in Minneapolis, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. It is her memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest trail from Mojave to the Oregon/Washington border in the mid-1990s. As an avid hiker I've been looking forward to reading this book. Although I would prefer to have a companion (Strayed did the trip solo), a long-term hiking trip is an exciting option of mine (I wouldn't say it's a goal or dream, but I would definitely love to do it if I decided it was the right time).

So far the book has been pretty emotional. I've mostly read about Strayed's mother dying when Strayed was 22 years old and the subsequent crumbling of her family and her young marriage. It was interesting to read briefly about her childhood, spending her teen years growing up in a "house" that they built in a field in the middle of nowhere-Minnesota. I'm only now getting to the beginning of her hike, as she is in Mojave getting ready to set out. I think one of the most interesting things is that she had never backpacked prior to this three-month hike. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. She gives a little taste when she starts with an Introduction that is set some time into the trip when she accidentally drops one of her hiking boots off a cliff and, finding it useless, flings its lone match over the cliff as well.

I don't know if this book will inspire me to head out on a solo-trek, but it is certainly making me yearn for summer and think sadly about my Hawaii hiking trip for February that I've had to postpone indefinitely. I can't wait until hiking season returns (or I go find it somewhere southerly).

People Watching
Nothing. It's Christmas weekend, not a whole lot of people hanging out at coffee shops.