Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 15

This week I am taking you to my downtown's famous coffee shop, J.P.'s

If you don't believe that they are famous, read this article.

I avoid coming here only because it is always so busy. When most downtowns around the country are in decline or slowly fighting their way back from the brink of abandonment. Our downtown is thriving and has been thriving since the early 1990's. Our thriving can be contributed to a local business man with an amazing vision and a fair amount of money to implement that vision. Unfortunately, this man was lost too early in his life to a fatal heart attack. Fortunately for our downtown, by the time that happened he had all the right people in place and his wife carried on his vision.

I arrived at the coffee shop at half past nine.

I knew the trickiest part of the whole adventure was going to be finding a table. I spied a small two seater mushed up against the wall amidst the main mass of people. I quickly made a bee line for the table and plunked my bag down on the table, not bothering to unpack anything. I grabbed my wallet from my bag and scooted into line since there was only one person ahead of me.

The barista that took my order had the best raspy voice I have heard outside of the singing competition show The Voice.  I ordered a cinnamon twist. A step out from my usual muffin or scone. Though I did not deviate from my usual Chai Latte. Each coffee shop has a slightly different taste to their Chai's. This one was very creamy, not as sweet, but sweet enough.

As I waited at the end of the counter for my Chai, the booth right across from the counter was being vacated by a lone lady. I scurried back to my original table, scooped up my bag, thanking my good foresight for not having unpacked. In the blink of an eye I had claimed a prime location booth. This time unpacking my books, journal and pencils and spreading out as I waited for my Chai.

I am always amazed that so many people have nothing else to do on weekday morning that meet and hang out at a coffee shop. Although to be fair, a lot of the crowd in this coffee shop is made up of college students, the campus is only a block away. They are probably killing time before or between classes, or maybe meeting for a study group.

My attention was drawn to a lady picking up her drink at the end of the counter. It must have been her first time here. She said to the barista "Is it always busy like this?" The barista, a young college girl, said "Yes, especially in the morning. This is the busiest coffee shop I have ever been to."

There were definitely regulars here just like at my usual coffee shop. Miss Raspy greeted many customers by name and she knew many by sight and just said to them "remind me of your name again". I love that she asked each person if they wanted their drink in a glass cup or in a to-go cup. I prefer the to-go cup, it may not be as pretty but it keeps my drink hot longer. Then I don't feel as rushed to drink it. Miss Raspy called everybody "Hon" as she finished taking their order. A trait that I usually find annoying but from her it seemed endearing.

They run this coffee shop like a well oiled machine. Even though it was constantly busy, the wait to pick up drinks was never very long. I know that J.P.'s runs an amazing Barista School, and from what I saw in action while I was there, I would say if you make it through the school you will be an amazing barista.

I would highly recommend a visit to J.P.'s if you are ever in Holland. It is an experience not to be missed.

Next week's edition will be a travel edition since I will be leaving mid-week for Marquette to help college daughter pack up the end of another school year.

Until next week...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

After much searching we have FINALLY found THE computer desk. I found this desk last week at our downtown Antique store. It is the perfect size, open and airy feeling, yet drawers for storage and the best part $89 as opposed to $900 for the first one I liked. 

Find No. 2

A few hours spent at the beach on Earth Day were heavenly.

Find No. 3

I found I love processing buildings and doors with the Waterlogue app.

Find No. 4

I am finding that Kim's new class Start to Finish - Round 2 is exactly what I am needing to ignite my photography. 

Find No. 5

I found an old Radio Shack TRS-80 computer at the Antique store last week Friday. Anybody remember working on one of these in high school?

What do you find this week?

Joining Kim for Friday Finds.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 14

I don't know about you but when I go someplace on purpose, I need a plan. Take for instance the grocery store. I am going for the purpose of getting groceries and if I don't have a plan, my grocery list, it turns into a muddled mess. The lack of a plan for my coffee shop chronicles this past week, or at least no plan until the eleventh hour, turned the whole adventure into a muddled mess.

I arrived at the coffee shop at half past nine.

I returned to the coffee shop that Mallory and I had visited when she was home on Spring Break.

As I turned down the street the coffee shop is on I spied a parking spot right across the street from the coffee shop. A parallel parking spot non the less, not my best skill in life, but I maneuvered into it perfectly. Things were going my way, or so I thought.

As I gathered my purse and writing gear from the backseat, I took note of a few people headed down the sidewalk towards the coffee shop. I didn't give it much thought. I crossed the street and climbed the short set of cement steps to the front door. As I casually pushed open the glass door it narrowly missed hitting the fellow that had gone in just ahead of me.

This coffee shop is not spacious inside but there is a fair amount of distance from the ordering counter to the front door. Currently that distance was being spanned by a line of people waiting to place their morning coffee orders. I forgot to take a couple of things into account when I decided to come here. First of all it was Friday, I have never been here on a Friday. Second, it was Good Friday, a lot of people had off from work.

I gently let the door fall back into place, turned, and walked back down those cement steps. Back to my car in its prime parking spot, tossed my stuff back into the back seat, climbed into the driver's seat and just sat there.

What was I going to do now? Coming up with a back up plan is also not a strong life skill of mine. Generally if things don't go as planned I tend to mentally shut down and develop a bad attitude about the whole adventure. Should I just bag it now and go home?

Then a thought came to me. I wondered if Ida Red's was open. I had been there once before with my friend Jane early last year. Ida Red's operates on interesting hours, generally only open on the weekends and then only for breakfast and lunch. They have amazing home cooked food and the place is always busy.

When I pulled up right outside into an angled parking spot, I took it as a good sign that there wasn't anybody waiting outside.

I arrived at the restaurant at quarter to ten.

When I pushed open the weathered, red wooden door with the glass window it didn't bang into anyone. There wasn't anybody in the tiny waiting area, but there wasn't any empty tables either, so I signed in at the counter. Sarah (1), it's funny one only seems like a lonely number when you have to write it on a waiting list at a restaurant.

Fortunately I didn't have to wait long. When the waitress/hostess asked if I wanted the round two seater table in the corner I enthusiastically said yes. I figured it was a less desirable table so I would be able to sit there for a little while and write without feeling the pressure to vacate the table.

Even though this place is not large, six booths, one four seater table and four two seaters, all of which were full, it was very hard to eavesdrop on conversations. Mainly because there was so much talking going on it was hard to separate out individual conversations. There were two conversations that I was able to catch snippets of. The first one was at the two seater table to my right. Two guys in their 60's. They discussed at a fast moving rate a wide range of topics. Two of particular interest were; the one guy had a model train set up in his basement so he was telling his friend all around his recent acquisitions and how he loves taking pictures of his set ups and posting them on Facebook. Interesting. Then they were talking about a girl that they knew who had put her baby into foster care while she got some counciling. Like I said, a wide range of topics.

The other conversation that stood out was at the booth that was to the right of the two guys. Two ladies probably in their 40's. The one lady was a very loud talker, hence why I could hear her from two tables away. Actually, I think the whole restaurant could hear her. She and husband must be house flippers. She was telling the other lady all about their latest project and how they didn't make any money on the last project.

I seriously considered not writing this week's Coffee Shop Chronicle, because in my mind it was an epic failure. In reality though I need to have failures in order to have successes. I learn from the failures, just as much, if not more than I learn from the successes. In the end it is all about showing up each week and doing the work. I won't get handed the gifts of characters like Mr. Americano and Miss Willow every week, but I must keep trying and keep writing, that is my strategy.

Until next time...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found this quote on Pinterest. It fits me and my Random Friday perfectly.

Find No. 2

This week's new recipe find, Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette. For my friend Viv, you can find the recipe here. Be sure to check out this helpful article on asparagus.

Find No. 3

Proud momma moment, my beautiful girl found out this week that she got one of the internships she applied for at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is part of the National Parks System. So very proud of her and also jealous that she gets to spend all summer there. I immediately found a great cottage to rent for two weeks up there. It is my Heaven on earth.

Find No. 4

These are the books you will find on my nightstand this week. I am almost done with The Slight Edge. I would highly recommend it.

Find No. 5

I am not a beer drinker, but I attended a work social function with my husband for his work. It was at a brewery. The sweet waitress gave me a couple of samples making them into Shandies. I found one that was drinkable, but I still prefer my Riesling any day.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 13

After I wrote my blog post "A Time for Roaming" and my husband read it , he looked at me and said "I don't agree, you can't stop writing your Coffee Shop Chronicles. They are too good and people look forward to reading them." I do not remember writing in that blog post that I was going to stop doing them. I said they would be "a little less frequent". Which means, I might not get to a coffee shop every week like I was able to do during the winter months. Mostly what it means though is that I want to roam to some new coffee shops and that might not be possible every week. I will do the best I can, I promise.

I returned at the end of last week to the area that my girlfriend Jill and I had visited earlier in the week. This area seems to be under my skin at the moment. So much to see and explore and all within an hour drive from my house. After I got home from my day with Jill I did some research on the area including what coffee shops were nearby. There were eight coffee shops in a three mile radius. Many looked intriguing but one rose like cream to the top of the must visit list.

I arrived at the coffee shop at quarter to ten.

The Sparrows, a lovely old storefront of a place filled with charm and character. I pushed open the heavy wooden door to see a true coffee house spread out before me. Original wooden floors and beautiful detailed metal floor grates.

The sweet young girl behind the counter reminded of a willow branch, a tall, thin wisp of a girl. She was probably near my daughter's age, which did make me feel a little old for a moment, but only a moment. Since many of the customers were young, hipsterish men, it was interesting to watch her interaction with them.

One particular young man caught my attention since he was trying so hard to hit on the sweet young girl. He was busy chatting her up, talking about random nonsense, when all of sudden he utters this weird phrase. I had no idea what he said and neither did Miss Willow Branch. He says "Oh sorry, that was my French slipping out". When this gets no response from Miss Willow he chuckles and says "I'm not really French. I'm really as American as you can get, really". He chuckles again, still with no response from Miss Willow. He decided to take his "Americano" coffee to go and move on.

The customers that frequent this coffee shop are much younger than the ones at my usual coffee shop. They also dress much differently.

One of the reviews I read on this place when I was doing my research said it was frequented by the young hipster crowd but the reviewer said he saw just as many families on the day he was there. I would say the hipster crowd was in the majority on the day I was there, at least as far as to go orders went. Busy young lives with places to go.

The tables as the back of the coffee shop were occupied by slightly older than me gentlemen, either reading their newspaper or working on their computers.

The two gals at the table to my left were probably around my age. They spent quite a bit of time talking about writing. They kept saying to each other what good writers they were but that they really needed to figure out a strategy. I probably heard that word "strategy" ten times in the hour that I was there. Wouldn't they be surprised to know that the girl at the table next to them had her strategy figured out and was actually writing. Even funnier I was writing about them.

I asked Miss Willow if I could take some photos inside the coffee shop with my digital camera. I explained that I write a blog and I do a series on coffee shops that I visit. I said the photos always add a nice visual touch for my readers, and her coffee shop was beautiful and unique. She said "of course". The gals at the next table overheard this conversation and were looking at me in a whole new light as I started taking some photographs. See gals it isn't about strategy it is about courage.

I can definitely see a return trip to The Sparrows in my future.

Until next time...

Friday, April 11, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

These are the things I found with my friend Jill on our Adventure Day...

Find No. 1

Hi my name is Sarah and I am a journal addict. I pick up new ones that I love whenever I find them. This is going to be the new Coffee Shop Chronicles one, the other one is almost full.

Find No. 2

Vintage Coats. I love the cream colored one, it is from Bloomingdale's, so adorable. The velvet blue one was a little small but worth putting on. Both are smashing with my red rain boots. I love having Jill along as my personal iPhone photographer :)

Find No. 3

Blushing bride. There was a vintage wedding dress and veil. I just had to try the veil on. I got married in 1986, the era of hats. I like the veil better.

Find No. 4

Vintage Gum Ball Machine with gum balls still in it. Bet those don't taste very good anymore.

Find No. 5

A new restaurant and hipster food. No Random Friday would be complete from me without a food find. Excellent restaurant choice and a Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burger. We both sent text messages with pictures to our daughters to torture them. Jill to her daughter because they love to go there together and me to Mallory because she loves hipster food. I will be back in May with Mallory. 

Well Jill did an outstanding job on planning our Adventure Day. I have a tough act to follow. I better start planning now.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds
Joining Nancy for Random 5 Friday

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Time For Roaming

My girlfriend Jill and I went away yesterday for one of our Adventure Days. Stay tuned for photos on Friday. We do one of these days every few months. We each take a turn planning the whole day, where we will go, what we will do, where we will eat lunch, with a stop at Starbucks for a  Chai Latte to start the morning out right.

We had a fabulous time. I always hate for these days to end, much too short for the fun we are having.

As I was walking the dogs this morning the B-52's song "Roam" popped into my head, especially the chorus.

Roam if you want to, roam around the world
Roam if you want to, without wings without wheels
Roam if you want to, roam around the world
Roam if you want to, without anything but the love we feel

That is exactly what I need to be doing, some roaming, like I did yesterday with Jill. Roaming to new and familiar: towns, coffee shops, and experiences. Experiences I need to refill my creative well, the creative well that is almost bone dry after the long winter of hibernation. My writing and my photography need this roaming. 

I will be roaming up to Marquette soon to help college daughter move home for the summer. She may be here all summer or she may be here only for the month of May. Either way I want to do some roaming with her. I want to do some hiking with my husband and hold your breath…possibly some bike rides. I haven't been able to ride my bike for 6 years due to some herniated disk problems but I have been doing the exercise bike at the gym under the guidance of my personal trainer and have not had any problems yet, slow and steady. Hopefully by the summer we can do some short rides together.

This roaming is going to require a loosening in my schedule. The Coffee Shop Chronicles may become a little less frequent. I will still go to coffee shops to write, but I also want to write at ice cream shoppes, on park benches, at the beach, or even on a bench outside the independent care facility that is located in our downtown.

I will be sharing my roamings more on Instagram than on my blog. If you want to roam with me you can follow me on IG @paisleyrainboots. 

Two things will remain consistent: 5 Random Friday Finds, because randomness suits me, also the monthly Kat Sloma Photo-Heart Connection. 

This is not to say that I won't be blogging because I will and I am sure as my creative well is replenished it will become more regular. In the mean time I will for sure see you on Fridays and on the first of each month.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 12

I can tell that Spring is finally arriving. I feel a restlessness in my bones that comes after the long complacency of winter. A winter spent mostly indoors, now the outside world is calling me. The only thing is, now after doing the coffee shop chronicles for these past months, the lonely backroads don't have the same appeal anymore. Now I seek out people to be in my adventures.

I arrived at the coffee shop at five minutes past eight.

There must be something about my name that is hard for the Order Taker to remember. When I came in she knew I wanted a muffin. She looked concerned as I perused the case looking for a muffin I hadn't tried yet. She voiced her concern "Don't we have the muffin you want?" I told her that I am trying all the different varieties of muffins that they make, so I was looking for something I hadn't tried before. She suggested the Double Chocolate, I don't think I have had that one before, even if I had who can resist chocolate. When it came time for the Order Taker to write down my name for the order she says "remind me of your name again". Maybe if I stuck to the same day every week and the same muffin she would remember more easily, but me sticking to anything that consistently is unlikely to happen.

Thursday morning has its regulars just like Tuesday morning does. The group of older ladies were here again, minus one, only four today. I positioned myself at the table next to them again.  The group of cyclists were here again as well. I figured out that they are a bicyclist group, since one of the guys had his gear with him. Also the older ladies made a comment about the bicyclist group being smaller this week.

A small contingent of police officers were here as well. Some of the same ones from Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 3. A couple in their 60's came in, placed their order, and while the husband stopped to fill up his white ceramic coffee mug from the large pump style coffee carafe, she went ahead to get a table. I could tell she wanted the booth in the corner, the booth that the police officers were sitting directly in front of. She skirted around one way to get there, and then decided that was too close in passing the officers, so she skirted back the other way. Eventually she just committed and squeaked in behind them and claimed the booth. By this time, the husband has his coffee and makes a bee line right for the booth, not paying the police officers any attention at all.

As I settled in I happened to glance out the window and noticed a guy carrying a bouquet of grocery store flowers. I wanted to follow him and see where he was taking them, who the recipient was going to be. Would she be surprised, pleased, or matter of fact about them. Watching this guy with the flowers reminded me of a comment that my friend Naomi wrote on last week's Coffee Shop Chronicles. She wrote "When you described the guy out in the snow, I realized that there's a story hidden in everyone and everything. Thank you for pointing that out. I think that's one reason why I like this series…makes me wonder about other people's stories." So Naomi, the guy with the flowers is for you. What's his story?

The most adorable couple in their later 20's came in for breakfast with their two young sons. The one little guy was maybe around 8 months, just to the point of mastering sitting in a high chair well. The other little one was probably around three. They enjoyed a delightful breakfast together, the boys being very well behaved. Once done the three year old was allowed to get down and wander close to the table. He found the fish tank. He was partially using it to hide from his parents, but he was also intently watching the fish swim in the tank. As most little kids try to do, he put his pouty little lips on the glass trying to kiss the fish. I wonder how many times a day they have to clean the glass on that tank.

As the cute couple was getting ready to leave, the husband and two boys were sitting on the couch next to the fish tank. The mom grabbed her iPhone and snapped a quick photo of them sitting there. What will she remember about this photo six months from now? If it doesn't get deleted before that. Will the mom see her precious guys and marvel at how the little ones have grown? Will she think about how much she loves her husband? Will the photo evoke memories of a fun day spent together, starting with breakfast at the local coffee shop? Part of me wanted to go over and offer to take a snapshot of all four of them, but I hated to insert myself into their story...maybe I should have.

Until next week...

Friday, April 4, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

We found a great new place for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Their egg scrambles are the best.

Find No. 2

I found this lovely sticky note message from my husband.

Find No. 3

I found this great artistic graffiti wall while out exploring this week.

Find No. 4

This is what you will find on my nightstand this week. I just finished The Fault In Our Stars. It was wonderful. 

Find No. 5

This week's new recipe: Healthy Baked Fish Sticks with Lemon Caper Sauce. Find the recipe here.
The only comment I have is that I am not a big fan of the Old Bay Seasoning, so I will leave that out next time. Otherwise really good, along with roasted fingerling potatoes. Kind of like healthy fish and chips.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Photo - Heart Connection ~ March

The thing I love best about the Photo - Heart Connection process is that you really have no idea what is doing to be "the" photo until you get to the end of the month and reflect back. I thought for sure mine this month would be from our cruise, one of the beautiful photos I shot inside one of the churches on Jamaica. Instead it is this photo, that created an epiphany moment and a story.

Ugly Clothes

Ugly clothes. We all have ugly clothes, only we call them comfy clothes.  You know what they are, the baggy sweatpants and the two sizes too large, concert t-shirt in death pallor gray from 1995, the saggy butt jeans that you reserve for that one week a month, but are soon wearing every week of the month, because they are so comfortable. We wear these ugly clothes at home because nobody is going to see us and we want to be comfortable while cleaning the house or doing laundry. But somewhere along the way the line gets crossed. You need to run to the grocery store quick a minute for eggs for the chocolate chip cookie batter that you have already started. You are in your comfy clothes but you figure "I'll be quick, no one will see me" and nobody that you know does, this time. You make it back home unscathed, it wasn't so bad. The next thing you know you are getting all your groceries in your comfy clothes and the downward spiral begins.

I have a question for you though. If you were to stand in front of a three way mirror in the dressing room of your favorite clothing store in your comfy clothes how would you feel? My guess is that you wouldn't feel very pretty, or happy, or creative. What are those ugly/comfy clothes doing for you then?

These are the hard questions I started asking myself. This has been a month long light bulb moment starting with some dress shopping at our local Anthropologie store and calumniating with the train car photo above. 

I stood in front of the 3-way mirror in the dressing room of the Anthropologie store in a teal floral, endlessly flattering, perfectly lady like, always ready for a party, dress. I felt beautiful. I twirled and paraded back and forth in front of that mirror like I had never worn a pretty party dress before. Maybe I hadn't, at least not one that made me feel like this. 

My husband and I were getting ready to leave for a week long cruise and I really wanted a new dress to wear for one of the formal nights on the ship. I had found the one. As luck would have it, I found another as well, one that also made me feel pretty, and happened to be in the clearance room, that helped to justify the first one. Isn't it funny how we always have to justify everything to ourselves. 

I had found a couple of cute skirts the weekend before for some of the other nights. As I started to pack I was excited to be wearing these new things. I put a lot of thought into my wardrobe for the trip. There were no ugly/comfy clothes in the suitcase. 

The trip was great, each day going to my suitcase or the closet to decide what adorable ensemble I was going to wear. 

Then we came home, all the cute clothes went in the laundry and out came the ugly clothes again. As that first week home went on I began to have a yearning for those cute new clothes. I liked how I felt in them, I liked how I looked in them. I didn't like how I felt in the ugly clothes. 

Sunday morning, getting ready for church, I took the time to put on a cute outfit. Purple sweater dress, black leggings and tall black boots. Final touch, my long red and black plaid dress coat, very cute with the boots. 

Driving to church by myself, my husband had to be there early for praise band practice, I saw this boxcar and knew I had to stop and use my iPhone to get a photo of it. I could picture the finished result in my head.

Standing in a muddy field in my red and black plaid coat and my long black boots was when the epiphany happened. I felt like a photographer, I felt creative, I didn't care that people were looking at me as they drove by on their way to church. I felt pretty. I wish somebody could have taken a photograph of me in that moment to document the transformation.