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Archive for the ‘Coffee Shop Road Trip’ Category

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A Pretty Latte and a Coconut Cortado

Denton’s West Oak Coffee has added a new member to the family – Kimzey’s Coffee in Argyle. My sister and I visited it for breakfast last Friday, and I recommend it.

First, it’s super cute. It’s in a hobbity-looking cottage, and the charm continues when you walk through the door. Great care was obviously taken from choosing everything from the tables and chairs to the sign asking you to bus your own tables.

Second, they have multiple milks. This might not be a big deal to most people, but for someone who has to take a pill if she eats anything with dairy, this is a big selling point. They made me a cortado (see above) with coconut milk, and now I am convinced that should be the default for serving them.

There is also a small assortment of pastries to choose from. I had the savory galette; Tammy had the bacon quiche. All the pastries looked delicious.

We went in the middle of the morning on a Friday, but it was Spring Break in the area, so the crowd was probably not a typical Friday crowd. I’ll be testing it out on a weekend soon to see what level of busy to expect then. It’s hard for a coffee shop to fit my very specific need of being busy enough to stay in business but sparse enough that I can actually enjoy it. Our visit was a little busier than I prefer, but that means good things for them, so maybe I’ll just order to go on most of my visits. Win-win.

If you are in Argyle (or even just passing through on the way to see me), enjoy a cup of coffee from Kimzey’s!

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My brother-in-law recently returned from a trip to New Mexico, and the prize he brought me was a mug and coffee from Iconik Coffee Roasters in Santa Fe. So of course I immediately French-pressed myself some, and it’s safe to say that I will be adding Iconik as a stop on my Coffee Shop Road Trip.

Iconik Coffee is a direct trade (i.e., they work directly with farmers and coops) coffee company that roasts its own beans and offers both in-house and wholesale pricing. Their website is easy to navigate. My favorite part (other than the coffee, of course)? They give you brewing tips.

I brewed the Royal Badger Sumatra. I have decided that Royal Badger is my spirit animal. I’m not sure how a coffee can be so light and yet so rich at the same time. It was delicious, and I am hoarding it. I might share with my sister and brother-in-law.  MIGHT.

(I’m totally sharing. I’m taking some over tonight.)

If you’re in Santa Fe, you should check them out and report back to me on their in-house brew. Their in-MY-house brew, however, already has my full approval.

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Every year during holiday break, I get the urge to organize. Normally, when I’m at home, it’s the house that gets the pampering. But since I’m dog sitting this week, I took the opportunity to clean up some of my email and do some paperwork and budget – things that get missed when I am at home and there are dishes to be done.

I found a great email thread of messages to myself that I forgot I had started in early summer (back when I was still teetering between Renaissance and forty as my theme for the year) of ideas about what I might want to spend my 2015 doing. Here are a few of them:

  • Finally learn Spanish
  • Run a race (5K? Half marathon?)
  • Go on ___ dates
  • Write letters
  • Send photo Christmas cards of Uncle Wallace (amazing, creepy Santa mouse) and the “kids” (ceramic mice)

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  • Embrace traditions of the women who came before me – Mom’s pies, MeMaw Sharp’s garden (herbs, since I’m currently apartment-living), MeMaw Catherall’s crochet/knitting blankets
  • Embrace my own traditions (4th of July party? Friendsgiving? Cookie party?)
  • Buy a keyboard
  • Take an art class
  • Take a cooking class
  • Buy a piece of art that moves me
  • Learn Italian or French
  • Get something pierced
  • Dance in a flash mob (or as part of some type of performance)
  • Keep flowers on the table and wine in the wine rack
  • Lose a pound for every year I’ve been alive

This series of emails also includes a pretty extensive travel list (well, extensive for me, considering that the farthest I have traveled in the last couple of years was Houston):

  • Trip by train
  • Atlanta
  • Drive up the west coast
  • Road trip – bookshop tour? Coffee shop tour? Connect-the-friends tour?
  • Writing retreats
  • Solitary retreat – perhaps somewhere beach-y?

I think all of that sounds pretty fun. It still seems to fit the year’s theme nicely.

It also sounds expensive.

I go back to work on Monday, so I’m getting my mind wrapped back around that this weekend. I don’t think I want to switch jobs just yet, so I’ve worked out a pretty intense budget that allows me to live within my current means – even during months when I don’t have my teaching paycheck – and save up some money to do some of the things on my wish list above.

Now, I don’t want to boss my word around and tell it what to do (you can’t always force these things). But you know what would be really fun, as a professional with a master’s degree and 15+ years experience in my field? To earn an income befitting a grown woman with those credentials.

I feel caught in haphazard youth. I am basically still living with the same financial restrictions I had in college. I love a good challenge, so it has been its own kind of fun, but I am beyond ready to move on.

I want an income that allows for the extravagant lifestyle to which I intend to become accustomed. And by “extravagant,” I do mean a lifestyle characterized by the ability to:

  • Pay off debts and live debt-free
  • Buy wholesome, mostly local food
  • Drink good coffee and wine
  • Donate consistently to causes close to my heart
  • Have a nice, modest home that is small enough that I don’t need outside help to keep it clean but big enough to entertain comfortably
  • Make ethical purchases (i.e., fair trade, waste-free, sweatshop-free, cruelty-free, etc.) without having to buy almost everything secondhand
  • Pamper myself with regular hair appointments and toiletries that I don’t have to make myself and that won’t give me an allergic reaction/cancer
  • Go out to eat/drink with friends once or twice a week
  • Travel.  Just ever.  Anywhere.

I – competent, educated, professional, adult woman – want to earn an income conducive to doing all these things as a matter of habit, not having to decide each payday which 2-3 get their turn that month.

That would be a lot of fun for me.

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It’s the day after I created my writer page on Facebook, so this is a good time for a blog tour!  I was tagged*cough*forever ago*cough* by Andi Cumbo-Floyd, the mastermind behind Andilit.  She leads our Online Writing Community and lives and works, along with her husband Philip, on God’s Whisper Farm (look at the goats!!!).  She also wrote a fantastic book called The Slaves Have Names that everyone should buy and read.

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One day, and already 51 likes.  I feel like Sally Field:

Anyway…on to the tour…

Upon what are you working?

I have two major projects going right now, and I hope to have the manuscripts for both completed by the end of the year.

The first is a work of fiction called Fishbowl.  Fishbowl was a NaNoWriMo project from a few years ago that was meant to just be a novella or a series of short stories.  Then I fell in love with the main characters and couldn’t stop writing about them.  I still can’t stop.  I have most of the chapters mapped out (which is unusual for me – I’m a big ol’ pantser), and I should have at least a full first draft finished by late September.

The second is What Not to Say.  It started as a series of rants when I was blogging on livejournal, and it has taken on a life of its own.  Now it has its own blog, and I am hoping to eventually make it a community project, because my single life experience, vast as it might be, is still only one person’s experience, and there’s a lot more to say out there than what I can say.  It might be a really big book.  Maybe with several volumes.

I also have a couple of exciting things going on in this blog space, as well as another one on the horizon.

This summer, I have taken on a project called Getting It Together.  I want to take advantage of the extra time I have with my lighter work schedule and get into some good habits, like cooking regularly (instead of driving through Whataburger five times a week) and keeping the apartment clean and organized (so that I can have company over without having to devote the entire day prior to the event feverishly making it presentable).  I am on Week Three.  It’s been both easier and harder than I imagined it would be.

I love good coffee – this surprises no one.  I also love road trips.  I don’t always get good coffee when I go on road trips, though.  So I’m in cahoots with my good friend Stefanie from Coffee2Conversation to remedy this situation.  We are both hosting a Coffee Shop Road Trip Series, so if you have a great local shop that you would love to highlight, send me a submission (your own blog space not required)!  In September, I will be launching a similar series on restaurant/bars, because I love supporting local places, even when I’m traveling.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I’m not sure yet where Fishbowl fits into the general fiction genre. The main character is telling the story after his death, so I guess that’s unusual.  I am fighting the urge to insert my own musings about what happens after one dies into it and trying to let Bob just figure it out as he goes. I think that makes the story stronger than it would be if I were trying to Get A Point Across.  Marketing for the book will probably include a disclaimer and reminder that this is a work of fiction, so do not email me if Bob’s experience doesn’t fit your personal beliefs or philosophy. I’m very protective of Bob, and I am likely to respond accordingly.  Also…fiction.

What Not To Say is different from what I’ve read in the rant/advice genre in that there is hope infused into the angst. It’s not a you’re-a-terrible-person/friend-and-this-is-why manifesto.  Its purpose is to mend bridges rather than burn them. There’s a fine line between confrontation and condemnation, so I am being quite needy with my editors to make sure I stay on the confrontation side.

Why do you write what you write?

This blog is a place for me to use my own voice.  I think it’s important to have a space to do that whenever one is writing fiction.  It makes it easier to compare the two to see if it’s really my characters talking (good)  or if I’m just using them to channel my own voice (not good). I will tell personal stories occasionally or respond to something going on in the news or on the Internet (although my mulling process usually takes so long it’s not really news anymore by the time I write about it).  But mostly, I’m talking about my everyday life.  I also participate in link-ups and synchroblogs, because one of my favorite things about blogging is the potential to interact with others in the blogosphere.

I write fiction because I love reading fiction.  My most precious dream is that someday I will meet someone who tells me that Fishbowl is their favorite book.  Okay, I’ll settle for being ONE of their favorites (but if we’re being real here – I really want to be THE favorite).

I write What Not to Say because of the time-honored advice to write what you know. I know being single.  I know it way more than I would like to know it.  I have things to say about it, and I want to hear what others from all levels of single experience have to say about it.

How does your writing process work?

I have to write every day, or I fall out of the habit.  And then it’s a month later, and my works in progress are no longer than they were the previous month.  I try to write for at least an hour a day.  For a while, I tried to get up an hour early and write, but those hours started to look like a sad girl clutching a coffee cup and staring hopelessly into a blank screen with the cursor blinking mockery at her. Morning person, I am not.

So now I write in the evening.  Most days, writing starts around 8:00 p.m., after I have had time to get home, eat supper, and take care of all the things that I “need” to do and that I would use as an excuse not to write.  On teaching nights or nights when I have plans with friends, however, writing starts closer to 10:30 p.m. It makes for a late bedtime, but I’m willing to miss sleep for my craft. And really, I’m a night owl, so I don’t usually fall asleep before midnight anyway, whether I’m writing or not.  Might as well be writing.

I write quickly, but I edit slowly.  So I can churn out a first draft as fast as lightning.  Then it will be a week before I’m satisfied enough with it to let anyone else see it.  Editors are usually seeing – at minimum – a third draft.

 

Now the way this is supposed to work is that I am to tag other bloggers.  But it took me so long to do it, I’m pretty sure most of them have already answered these questions.  And some of them might not want to.  So no pressure – just free press – but feel free to answer these questions if you want and comment with the link to your post.  And go read Michelle Woodman, JoAnne Silvia, Jennifer Seay, Sharry Miller, and Stefanie Goodman.

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On this week’s installment of the Coffee Shop Road Trip, Jennifer Seay is back with another reason I need to visit Las Vegas – Inspire News Café.  And basically the whole downtown area.  I am ecstatic to include a post that touches on my favorite things – coffee, tea, books, and shoes (or at least a company that sells shoes).  Enjoy!

Something about the day said “Get up! Get out!” So, I did. And, while that may or may not have been a mistake, here I am. Back when Suzanne first posted about the Coffee Shop Road Trip there were two spaces that came to mind. The first was within ten minutes of my house. The second was Inspire – which is where I am now.

Downtown Las Vegas was just about the last place I ever would’ve thought of to put a coffee house, but that was a little over a year ago before Tony Hsieh (all of those letters phonetically form “Shay”) decided to make downtown his project – aptly named the Downtown Project. See, Mr. Hsieh is one of the creators and the CEO of Zappos and if you don’t know what that is – you haven’t been shopping for shoes on the intertubez. So, long story short – he has more money than … someone with a lot of money … and he’s actually giving back to his community. How … revolutionary!

Inspire News Cafe

Inspire was made possible by the Downtown Project – as many things have been since Mr. Hsieh came to town – and the coffee itself may be forgettable (It’s Illy coffee) but the space is great and there is plenty of character to go around. My 16 oz cup of Earl Grey tea cost $3.00 and there are no foodstuffs for purchase, but here at Inspire it really does seem to be about the environment. There are magazines – local magazines – lining the walls. There are national magazines, too, but I was impressed by how many local publications there are. A free wi-fi passcode came with my tea which allowed me to be interrupted by a rather disturbing request from a friend – disturbing in that it was non-specific which usually means I’m about to let myself get railroaded, but that’s a personal problem…

Off to one side is something that looks like a Xerox and, in fact, it is, but it is so much more than a photocopier. This machine is the Espresso Book Machine. It will print and bind your book (or any book in their catalog, which includes anything in Project Gutenberg, among other things) in minutes… as an aspiring writer this machine has a huge hold on me. I want to give them my file and watch it become a reality, but I know I have lots of editing to do – I’m mired in editing right now. And avoidance of said editing, but again – personal problem!

There are lots of choices for seating including a wooden, theatre style, tiered area with pillows to use. I sat at a table in the corner that had a bench seat on the wall and a chair across the table. There were also couches in the center that were occupied on and off by people having discussions – probably of business related to downtown…

Along with anything in downtown Las Vegas comes the local wildlife – in this case a gentleman on the street yelling about how much he hated Chicago, he was quite creative with the way he interspersed colorful metaphors into his tirade. Few people in the shop took much notice, so this must be a semi-regular occurrence.  Also – parking – it is on street and you have to pay, but it’s not bad at all. $1.00 per hour with a two-hour time limit.

While you’re here I highly recommend the Container Park, which is a mall built out of shipping containers – the metal shipping containers used by companies to move freight whether by road, rail, or water. All of the businesses in the Container Park are local, small business start-ups. Most of them are heavily subsidized by the Downtown Project – at least to get started and then as they grow they become more independent. It is just a couple of blocks away on Fremont Street.

This wasn’t meant to become a love letter to Tony Hsieh, but the man certainly deserves a really big cookie for everything he’s done for downtown Las Vegas. If he aspired to be mayor, I’d vote for him.

As for Inspire – the hook here is the environment, not the coffee. I enjoyed it. I’d come back again if I were in downtown. Is it worth a special trip to downtown? For me, yes – at least this once, but I’m a ‘satisfy my curiosity’ kind of person. Is it worth it to get a taxi from the Strip? Hmmm… probably not, unless you want to check out that cool book-bindery Xerox machine thingy. Is it worth it to stop in if you’re already checking out the Fremont Street scene? Yes. Absolutely.

 

Where: Inspire News Café, 501 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101

Phone:  (702) 910-2388

Location: The Southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street

Parking: Street. Pay the meter. The meters take coins or credit cards.

Hours: Monday – Saturday 9am to 7pm for the Café and 10 am to 7pm for the Book Machine

 

Jennifer grew up in the southeastern United States eating dirt and drinking goat’s milk. She wrote her first story when she was six years old titled “The Cats in the Carillon.” It was approximately 200 words and had three sequels. Her current piece is approximately 100,000 words and the main character is not a cat. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and two furry editors. She burbles about her book, cats, and life at mercurialforte.wordpress.com.

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Big Mike’s Coffee Shop is great.  It’s located right across the street from UNT campus in the same location and under the same ownership as Voyager’s Dream (before The Man ruined Fry Street…but that’s another story for another time). Their website lists my three favorite things about Big Mike’s – independent, local, and fair trade. They are also ecologically minded.  They save their coffee grounds and give them to local gardeners for their compost piles. I also like how they take care of the students.  They used to be a 24-hour shop, but now they are closed from midnight to 6:00 a.m. most days.  However, during dead week and finals week, they reinstated their around-the-clock hours to support the students cramming during the wee hours of the morning. And on graduation day, they offered anything on their menu at half off for graduates who came in their caps and gowns.

Also – there are signs like this:

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(I swear I waited to take the picture until after I had ordered.)

Sounds like this would be my favorite shop in the world, doesn’t it?  So why haven’t you heard about it before now?

Confession:  I only go to Big Mike’s in the summer.

  1. Yes, they take care of students.  But so do I.  I take care of students 40+ hours a week.  So I don’t really feel the need to go hang out with students after work.
  2. Summer, early morning, and Sundays are the only times I can find parking anywhere near the shop.  Could I walk there?  Sure.  Am I likely to do so?  Lol…no.
  3. The atmosphere in summer is really laid back.  In fact, all of Denton is more laid back in the summer, because many of the students go home.  And because many of the students go home, it’s even more important in the summer to support the local shops that I want to see stay in business, particularly the shops whose clientele is predominantly students.

Summer at Big Mike’s is great.  I can walk in, order, sit at a table and stare into space, and no one thinks anything of it (or if they do, they keep it to themselves).  The baristas don’t try to rope you into small talk while making your drink.  If they talk at all, it’s to say something that’s actually interesting.  I have never been forced to talk about the weather in Big Mike’s.

I realize that this might be a point against them for extroverts or normal people or people who are uncomfortable with silence or people who have narrow views of what constitutes good customer service.  But for introverts, Big Mike’s in the summer is like Mecca.

My typical order at Big Mike’s when I’m not going to stay for long is a macchiato.

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Little shot of espresso marked with foam.  And their espresso is gooooood. Sometimes, I even order them when I am going to stay for a while, but then I end up getting four of them, and that’s a terrible idea.

For a while, they had hazelnut milk, but I’m not sure they offer it anymore.  I could get a hazelnut latte made with hazelnut milk. Glorious. That was my go-to drink when I would make a coffee run for Maggie and me before HOST meetings.  Good times.

So if you’re in Denton in the summer (maybe you’re at a conference at UNT), don’t drive all the way to Starbucks just because it’s what you know.  Go to Big Mike’s.

 

If you would like to contribute to the Coffee Shop Road Trip, you can follow that link to the original post for guidelines.  The original deadline has been extended. The new deadline is forever.  I am having so much fun, I will forever take posts on this subject.

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Wednesday, I went to visit The Book Carriage in Roanoke, Texas.  This is one of my favorite small bookstores.  It is located on Oak Street, which is a great place to spend the day.  There are restaurants and thrift stores and kitsch stores.  Also, there is a shop that has delicious pie.

But I digress.

The Book Carriage has a local authors section, and they will order me anything I want if they don’t have it in stock.

Also, they’re just really cute:

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I love The Book Carriage.

One of the things I look forward to is having a cup of coffee while I shop.  Their in-house coffee bar serves basic espresso drinks. They have a La Marzocco espresso machine (or La Mar, as I like to call it).  There’s a picture of it on their website (go ahead and look.  I’ll wait). It’s a work of art.  It also makes a damn fine cup of espresso.  I make flirty eyes with it every time I go in.  I’ve even invited it to come home with me, but so far, it has ignored my advances.

Wednesday, I made the short drive to Roanoke to visit The Book Carriage and Coffee Shop. I really needed a cup of coffee.  I had been at work all day, and then I drove to Roanoke in early rush hour traffic.  People are dumb, especially on two-lane roads. But it was all going to be worth it when I arrived and ordered my Americano with a dash of caramel syrup.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I walked in, and I heard someone greet me from the second floor.

“Hello!  How can I help you?”

“I’m fine – I’m just looking.”

“Okay, then.  Let us know if you need anything!”

I started toward the coffee bar, and then I stopped, paralyzed with disbelief.

It wasn’t open.

There were no pastries in the pastry box.  The lights were out behind the bar.  La Mar was there, but it was quiet and still.

I felt a little lightheaded as I stumbled toward the books to look around.  As the shock subsided, I came to terms with the fact that I was not going to get my Americano that afternoon. I picked up several books off the shelf and read their covers, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I had lost the will to browse.  I found Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life because I had just finished it, and I loved it, and I needed to hold something I loved.  So I clutched it to my heart and made my way to the checkout table.

You might be thinking, “Why didn’t you ask about the coffee bar?” And I thought about asking.  I did.  But then I decided against it, because I wasn’t sure I could be trusted to respond in a calm and rational manner if they told me the unthinkable – that the coffee bar was closed permanently.  I might have actually cried in the store.  That might seem like an overreaction to you, but you just don’t understand how much I love (and desperately needed) this coffee.

I have had a couple of days to calm down, so today I made the call.

“Hi, this is The Book Carriage.  How may I help you?”

“I was wondering if your coffee shop was open the same hours as the rest of the store.”

(See how I did that?  Calm.  Simple.  Not “I WENT THERE AND YOU FAILED TO GIVE ME COFFEE! WHY DO YOU HATE ME AND ALL GOOD THINGS?!??!?!”  So it’s good that I waited.)

“We no longer have a coffee shop in house.”

“Oh.  Okay.  Well, thank you.”

Even two days later, this made me tear up.

It’s not that I can’t get good coffee elsewhere.  I have a perfectly delicious cup of coffee sitting in front of me right now.

It’s just that…I feel like I failed them.  I didn’t go there often enough or send enough people their way, and now they’re closed.  I don’ t even know if lack of patronage was why they closed, so my guilt might be misguided.  Perhaps the people who ran it came into a lot of money and decided to travel the world rather than run a coffee shop.  I hope something like that happened.

But I suppose that’s not very likely.  The good coffee on Oak Street is gone.

Support your local shops.  They don’t have the backing of a corporation.  They’re all on their own.  If we love them, we have to make sure they stay in business.  We can help by frequenting the shop and hooking them up with a little free advertising.

I know that I alone cannot save a shop.  But I have a Facebook.  I have a Twitter.  If I have a good experience with a coffee shop (or bookstore…or restaurant…etc.), I can show how adorable it is on Instagram.  I can blog about it. And then maybe more people will go and have a good experience, and they will tell their friends.

At some point this summer, I will take a morning or afternoon off work and go scouting for new coffee in the Roanoke/Argyle vicinity.  I know there are some great places in Keller and Southlake, but if I can find one closer to my bookstore, that would be ideal. I am also keeping an eye out for an email from The Book Carriage just in case they decide to auction La Mar off for charity or something. La Mar would look gorgeous in my kitchen.  That would take a little of the sting out of it.

But right now, I am sad.

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