Tag: 13th Avenue

Everything is awesome!

Every single bit of me aches.

BUT THE COFFEE SHOP IS OPEN!!

We are back to 13s again. I left the Sensible Office Job on Friday 13th Feb, and today, 13th April, we opened the doors officially! So, I have only been working on this full time for two months. I’ve already blogged about the mysterious recurrence of thirteens in Canada – arriving during the year of our thirteenth anniversary, Miranda’s date of birth, and at the time, living on 13th Ave and working at 13th Ave coffee shop. Actually, if I remain pragmatic, none of that is anything other than coincidence or deliberate design; really I am trying to justify the significance of my 13 tattoo!! df5fb54a2120fec79f46bcb044a4e6ff

Including tackling a few social media explosions and replying to the daily onslaught of emails in the evenings, I am putting in 13 hour days as well. This is to be expected, especially in early days, but I had forgotten how tiring being on your feet all day is, compared with that comfy office job where your arse eventually ends up the same shape and size as your swivel chair. Or maybe I’m just older now. I have three wonderful part time staff at the moment, but I am still there myself all day, every day. Despite the exhaustion and achey feet, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it too!

And people are so lovely. Whereas our first official day (and the three “dress rehearsal” days last week where we put the open sign up on the off-chance that people would actually notice) – were not amazingly busy, it was enough to feel successful. The supportive friends gradually gave way to interested Twitter followers, who in turn were joined by hopeful caffeine-hungry local office workers. Word is getting out! We’ve received so many positive comments and well wishes that I can’t help but feel crazy-confident about the whole endeavour. Our new neighbours even arrived with bunches of flowers for us! As with Wheelie Good Coffee, the response contrasts so sharply with my experiences in Darlington that I’m convinced I must be on the right track finally.

That goes for everything else recently as well. I have my cafe business again, my wonderful hubby and brilliant beastling daughter, there is another Timbit daughter booting from inside my belly, my fantastic friends are all rooting for me from both sides of the atlantic, the Parents have just booked another trip back here for the summer, the sun in shining and all is right with the world! And I am very, very lucky.

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{Hashtag} CVAF2014

Last night I cycled faster than the mosquitoes…

I wish that was some sort of metaphor for something more profound, but it isn’t. We have had One Week of sunshine and summer, and I have been eaten alive. I can outrun the evil little buggers on the bike though! And sometimes, in the right atmosphere, even mosquitoes can be poetic.

Last week was the Cathedral Village Arts Festival. This year was made more special (and considerably more exhausting) by the fact that I’ve been on the planning committee for it, for pretty much the entire year since the last one. It was one of the things, like the Ales club exec, that I merrily volunteered for when I was playing Stay-at-Home Mum last year and thought I’d have LOADS of time. More fool me! I enjoy doing this sort of thing far more than the work I do to earn myself a living unfortunately, but that is another issue entirely.

Being on the communications team for CVAF proved an interesting role – basically, because they’d never had a communications team before! I drew the line at live interviews and getting up crack of dawn to go on early morning TV (I left it to the expert – @thereginamom for that!) but I did get to help write some media releases, edit website content and of course, the hours and hours of tweeting. Before the festival, we did the Taste of Cathedral event back in February, and then the “Fence-Weaving” (my name for it!) earlier in May, where we wove fabric (this year’s theme was The Fabric of Life) into the fence outside Connaught school, to make a giant rainbow. It was gorgeous!

ImageI also got to “manage” the CVAF twitter and instagram accounts, although in many ways, it managed me. I live-tweeted every event I went to, and then curated anything using the #cvaf2014 hashtag. During festival week I would regularly log on to discover 90+ new notifications, and went through the whole lot, retweeting the cream of the crop every night. This is on top of my usual online ramblings, plus promoting the brand new Wheelie Good Coffee as much as humanely possible. To my credit, I only got confused once and used the wrong account, but fortunately no one noticed! I got so in the habit of typing #cvaf2014 though that I caught myself signing off like that on text messages, and once (only once!) it nearly ended up on someone’s insurance quote at work…dedication, people! Dedication! I actually admitted that I didn’t want to use Twitter again after that week. That resolve lasted about 36 hours. #addiction.

So, in far more than 140 characters, here’s what the week looked like from my point of view:

Monday:

My last post was all about LAUNCH DAY for Wheelie Good Coffee! I was sponsoring the #CVAF2014 Big Yellow Taxi event, providing enthusiastic singers with hot coffee on a wild and windy morning. They filmed the event, which is lovely because I was so busy with coffee that I didn’t really get to appreciate what they were all doing. This is filmed outside Connaught School – here’s the video and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about the choice of song and location… You’re welcome to play Spot The Coffee Cart too though!

http://vimeo.com/m/96265416

Here’s how I spent most of that day:

ImageTuesday:

Tuesday was the free-for-all poetry slam at the Mercury. Same format as last year, in that in exchange for a toonie, we were given two random words from a book, and then had to write a poem in 20 minutes incorporating the two words. This is easier in the Mercury than it sounds because it has been a full house every time I’ve been, and you can get inspired by the people around you. Plus, there’s cheap beer. Every single photo I’ve ever taken in there comes out Red though. This is Micaela:

Imageand here is my effort from the evening: http://belwritesthings.blogspot.ca/2014/05/the-pedestal-of-virtual-misery.html The theme was apt considering my role in the festival!

Wednesday:

Somehow, (more through persistence than talent, I feel) I ended up in the Finals of the Word Up Wednesday poetry slam! This meant, No Beer, no “I only had 20 minutes” excuse, (we could choose whatever poem we wanted, and could rehearse), and formal judging with Actual Prizes at stake! I found out I’d got through 6 days before the finals, but in those six days, I had the last minute CVAF running about to do, get the coffee cart ready, survive launch day, work, and even do an exam at work. So, I didn’t rehearse, but I did at least choose my poems. I went for Funny over Deep and Meaningful (as always), but (also as always) the other poets are waaay more comfortable with showing emotion in public than I am. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and even rounded up my own cheering squad in the form of Sam, James and Jeff. I did fairly decently, but I didn’t win. Never mind!

ImageOn Thursday night, I took Miranda to the Dance Expo at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, because she’s recently decided she LOVES dancing (possibly because Abi The Big Girl Next Door goes to dance classes). I was not quite prepared for what we found there. One of my most reshared tweets was “Where else can you see Munchie the Dinosaur learning to belly dance?”! Even Miri was a bit taken aback by that, but she had a lot of fun, especially when we got to get up and dance ourselves. Unfortunately it was a sort of therapeutic and meditational dance session, very slow and calm. Miranda of course, was practically bouncing off the ceiling and entirely in her own little world. But dance is all about self-expression, right?

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Friday:

We attempted to go see some of the bands on in the Holy Rosary Tent stage. Although we had another enjoyable night – it was a beautiful evening to be out – my attempts to get Miri to listen to the band were nearly futile. To get to the tent, I made the mistake of walking past the little play park at the back of the school. Miri saw “the spinny thing” and spent the ENTIRE evening playing on the roundabout with a gaggle of other kids. I got the first batch of mosquito bites there, and doused them in vinegar borrowed from the chip van that was catering there! I bet I smelled lovely for the rest of the night. We caught about ten minutes of Black Drink Crier, but that was it!

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Then came the mahoosive Saturday street fair. We set up Wheelie Good Coffee outside our house. I went to buy milk for it before the street fair had officially opened, and 13th ave was already busy then. By mid morning, you could barely move. So I think my approach was sensible – pitching the cart outside our house, just off 13th Ave, gave me room to breathe, and a steady stream of people walking past who could grab coffee without having to queue up for hours in the heat. And what heat! That was my main hindrance to sales really, few people wanted hot coffee when it hit 30 degrees! Even my mosquitos bites got a bit sunburnt. It was a great practice though, and I got lots of positive comments from people too.

ImageIn the afternoon I closed up shop, so I could go marshal the street fair itself. This involved wearing a hi-vis bright orange vest over my huge purple hippy skirt. My look was completed with my official CVAF cap. Sooo stylish! This is Canada. People are lovely and polite all the time, which meant that “marshalling” basically entailed pointing people in the right direction  of the portaloos. Crowd management was out of the question:

DSCF8490There were 7 blocks full of 350+ stalls, and a turnout of over 40,000 people. And apparently, it was also the hottest street fair day that anyone could remember. Fantastic!! It was a bit hot and tiring and overwhelming for Miri, but she coped rather better after getting an ice cream:

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Overall, it was another amazing week, and I have a newfound respect for the whole thing given the sheer amount of work and effort that all the volunteers put in. It was nearly incredible to see how it suddenly all came together at the last minute, thanks to the hard graft by #TeamAwesome. The compliments and reviews keep coming on Twitter too – ALL positive too, which speaks volumes for the local community. I am really proud of #cvaf2014, my fellow volunteers, and this neighbourhood, and I’m so glad to be part of it all!

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Because Coffee is important…

In my last post, I mentioned that my favourite coffee shop in Cathedral is closing down at the end of this month. That coffee shop is of course, Roca Jacks. This makes me very sad indeed.

The coffee is the best in town in my humble opinion, but more than that, the place was my first Regina landmark – we hung around in there constantly in that painful two weeks back in 2011 where Emigration Plan 1 (Kave Haz) fell apart in front of me, and where Plan 2 (13th Ave Coffee House) eventually became an option.  It was where I met Tamara, my first real friend in Canada, and through her, and the coffee shop itself, I’ve met so many others. I slept on her futon for 6 months, that used to live in Roca Jacks’ basement and it now adorns our spare room. When getting to grips with Regina’s layout, I looked the place up on Google street map, only to discover that the group of regulars who sit outside it, actually feature on the map!!  I persuaded Bill at Roca Jacks to roast a special blend of coffee for 13th Ave Coffee that was unique to their business, and they are still using it now, even though I left a year ago. Bill was also one of the first people to employ my coffee consultancy services. I’ve chained both Yoshi the bike and Twyla the trike up outside it, and sat in there for hours with a laptop, a friend or three, or a sleeping Miranda. Miri has danced, shouted into a fan, climbed into the coffee roaster, petted Lorena’s Daschund (another “Mr Pickles”), drunk copious amounts of hot chocolate and even mastered the toilet in there.

The regulars outside Roca Jacks, as they appear on Google Street View
The regulars outside Roca Jacks, as they appear on Google Street View

And that is just me.

When they first announced their closure, I immediately dreamed up wild over-ambitious plans of buying the place via crowdfunding and keeping it going as a straight-forward coffee shop (and Bill would keep the roasting side of it). I was gonna do out the basement and make more seating and even sell books in there since the book shop is also closing. I rallied the troops – my friends, the loyal Twitterers of YQR, and friend’s girlfriend’s random acquaintances on Farcebook.

The response was unbelievable – I was not the only one wanting to save it, in fact there were a group already meeting and looking into setting up a cooperative. So many people wanting to keep an unhelpfully small, fairly scruffy coffee shop open, right on the edge of this neighbourhood with all its chipped mugs, sarcastic humour on the tip jar, its chain-smoking-tattooed-bearded-occasionally-unicycling clientele, the unfinished renovations and its secret hidden toilet that made up its “charms”. The place did have a few real difficulties – namely lack of parking (I never really saw that as an issue personally, because everyone I met in there was on foot or on a bike anyway), lack of seating space, no wifi and to my mind, lack of Big Windows through which to people watch. But it was loved by a great many people. It always made me smile to see people sitting outside it in the minus-ridiculous temperatures, while the posh new $tarbucks inside Safeway remains completely empty. My driving instructor actually summed it up rather nicely: “I’m usually in Roca Jacks. I know it’s the scuzziest place but it’s my local and the coffee is great!”

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Sadly, my plans never materialised; although the business could have been available, the lease on the building was not, and a coffee shop without an actual shop isn’t much use. I am truly and utterly gutted by this, and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling.

But, having set my heart on coffee-ing again, I’m going to set a little something up that is not quite so financially insane. Fittingly for Cathedral, it’s going to be a rather hipster-ish coffee cart towed by my tricycle, called Wheelie Good Coffee – that link will take you to more details over on my coffee blog. I’m hoping to get it ready in time to bring coffee to the street fair at the Cathedral Arts Festival.

I’ll be serving beans from Roca Jacks, of course. Because Coffee is important. In this case though, it is not just about the coffee; it’s about community. But it’s coffee that brings my bizarre little community together, and I will always love that.

The Best Neighbourhood

I may have said this before: I love Regina, and Cathedral Village is definitely the best bit of it!
I have definitely said this before: It is frigging FREEZING. Eyelash-freezingly, thigh-numbingly, frost-bite-inducingly, Thermos-coffee-mug-thwartingly painfully, dangerously cold!! Sunday had a high -31 celcius.(-24 fahrenheit for American imperialists) and that was without the windchill. With the wind, it was -48, which is -54F. Yep, you guessed it, colder than the surface of Mars. Again.

I am not going to do another post about coldness though, I promise.

My parents came out here for Christmas again, and they now expect a white one – well, they certainly aren’t going to get it at home, are they? We had a lovely holiday, (as always) but it definitely wasn’t long enough. We did have some excursions, including a fantastic trip to Moose Jaw to Temple Gardens Spa, where it’s possible to bathe in hot, natural spring waters, (on the third floor, I might add), but then swim outside and steam in the sudden rush of the minus-ridiculous temperatures of the snowy roof patio. Amazing experience!! Dad’s hair froze, so we spiked it up for him….

Water: 43C Air - 25C
Water: 43C
Air – 25C

We also spent a while SKATING. I LOVE skating!!! Miranda loves it too! I was a bit wobbly at first -I didn’t actually get very good at it last year, but at least i can remain upright and propel myself along. Miri is getting very proficient on her little bobskates. We found there’s a rink at the park on McTavish st in Cathedral so we went there until we were joined by a junior hockey crowd and were humiliatingly overtaken by 6 year olds…. never mind, the Victoria Park rink, ten minutes walk in the other direction, is now open and is relatively hockey-free. Best of all, they hire out skates (for free) and even Mum was (almost) brave enough to have a go!

Not sure if we're holding Miri up or whether she's pulling us along...
Not sure if we’re holding Miri up or whether she’s pulling us along…

The rest of the time, we went for Cold Walks around the neighbourhood, being Beer Elves and making deliveries to Amy, or bringing the Christmas Octonauts magazine to Jeff and Bryony all the way from the UK. Miranda got a SLEIGH from Granny and Grandad for Christmas, which is absolutely brilliant – so much easier than negotiating the pushchair through the snow. Of course, we had to test it, so we bundled her up and went out to admire everyone else’s Christmas lights , most of which were considerably more impressive than our own!

Not our house
Not our house
Madam's carriage
Madam’s carriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on our last weekend together, we went to the 13th Ave Records Rendevous at the Artesian. Loads of local bands, several with interchangeable band members, and seemingly trying to play “how many musicians can we fit on stage at once?” It was an excellent night (possibly not as good as the previous year’s – too much of one band, not enough tubas involved?!), and so good to see so much live music all from one small area. There was an after party at the German Club afterwards, which is a long way from Cathedral. The solution? Get the host, a hipster-with-a-megaphone to usher people on to a (free) bus, along with half a brassband and a country singer who stole the aforementioned megaphone, and get the Music Bus all the way across town. Wonderful!!

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13th Ave Records operates out of a shop called Buy the Book, two blocks from here. Very sadly, the owner of both, Chris, announced at new year that Buy the Book is closing down soon. Next came the news that my very favourite coffee shop is also closing. What is happening to 13th avenue?? This is Cathedral! If small businesses and community-minded,sightly hippy folk can thrive anywhere, it is HERE. I have a feeling I will be writing more about Cathedral coffee shops soon though, and I refuse to get sad about this. I am staying positive. Cathedral is a beautiful, fantastic neighbourhood and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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CVAF Day 6: the fastest shot in the west!!

Bedlam. Utter bedlam!

Undoubtedly, “Team 13” rock!!

We were all warned that today would be “a zoo”, but most of the staff at the coffee house were not working there this time last year, and have never experienced the last day of the arts festival before. Given the day was pretty overcast and cold again, we all trooped in and got organised early, but didn’t really expect to be hit with that many customers so quickly and so ceaselessly!!

The entirety of the Cathedral end of 13th Avenue was closed to traffic, to make way for a street fair with loads of stalls all selling things that could be classed as “arts and crafts” – and then burger vans, doughnuts, various Woo Merchants (by which I mean the “copper bracelets for rheumatism and panpipe/whale song CDs” type of stall), the beer tent and someone trying to flog sunglasses ironically. Everyone was frantically setting up around 8am, including us, as we had a tent outside serving up cookies and filter coffee whilst inside was reserved for food and espresso. I was wondering if we were going to cut down the menu or just do take out or something, but noooooooo, the poor kitchen team were trying to do everything they usually do, but at twice the speed for six times the number of customers! The coffee alone was madness, so I have the utmost respect for Mike, Ally, Arun, Rachel and above all, Ashten for coping with all the food orders.

Tanneille had ground up several kilos of coffee for the filter pots and I’d weighed it all out, filling four boxes and three tubs with enough for at least 40 filter pots. We ran out within the two hours!!! Unfortunately the perculator takes 8 minutes to brew one canister of coffee, and we ended up with one person just refilling the damn pots one after the other monotonously, until we really couldn’t keep up any longer and Emma had the bright idea of filling the two litre pots with Americano – because apparently me making up huge buckets of espresso shots and boiling the kettle was quicker than waiting 8 minutes for it to filter. And, as Ashten so assertively put it, “Americano is just espresso watered down so it tastes like coffee.”  I despair.

By lunchtime we’d developed a system whereby someone manned the till taking orders and money, sending food orders to print in the kitchen electronically, but handwriting thousands of post-it notes with coffee orders on, which she lined up on the espresso machine, and yours truly just pulled shot after shot after shot after shot and steamed cow-fuls of milk. The post-its got more and more illegible until I was trying to make a “log calm slim late n mad lord fag” [large caramel latte with skimmed milk and a medium London Fog] In a way, I got the easy job because I didn’t actually have to talk to anyone!! If I’d been on the till, we’d have been there all night whilst people tried to figure out my accent or while I forgot soups or poisoned coeliacs with glutenous tofu or something!! The espresso machine doesn’t answer back. Nowadays, it usually does what it is told, but it certainly got a good workout today!! from 1pm to gone 3, I didn’t actually move from the square metre of space surrounding the espresso machine, and after that, it was only to put the pile of milk cartons in the recycling, and grab more cups from the shed. I even asked someone to pass me a bottle of water from the fridge two feet away at one point! I know this sounds ridiculous but I was in my element – I just completely zoned out to everything else around me and concentrated exclusively on coffee – and the day zoomed passed!! I finally noticed the time about 20 minutes before I was supposed to fetch Miranda, and panicked trying to find someone to take over…. We used over 7lb of coffee in four hours, and that was just the espresso, let alone the filter pots outside!

I got some lovely compliments from the boss afterwards, if “you are not human” should be taken as compliment! I do think we all did brilliantly. Better still, Miri had a fun day with Teenage Babysitter, and apparently was no trouble at all, even when they took her round the festival. We had poutine and huge burgers and beers (well, milk) to celebrate afterwards, and when I had a shower, there was coffee grounds in the bottom of the tub – I was literally sweating the stuff from every pore!!

So, top score for my first ever Cathedral Arts Festival – thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I did miss the Monday. Love this neighbourhood!!

Here’s some funky pictures from the week:

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Cathedral Village Arts Festival, Day 1

Victoria Day

First rule of blogging – never type whilst cross.

I am in a better humour than I was earlier, having had my mood improved by chatting to my dearest insomniac cousin online, and also by a large glass of wine. But nevertheless, today was all round PANTS if you ask me. I’m sorry to report that the Cathedral Village Arts Festival wasn’t so much rubbish, as actually non-existent!! Well, this afternoon at least. Tomorrow may prove more entertaining.

I have a whole list of things that went wrong today – namely me not realising that a.) it is Victoria Day and b.) that Victoria Day is actually a national holiday. No one warned me of this until Friday evening, when Arun – also an immigrant  here, I should add – announced it just as I was about to leave work. We had a discussion on why the English don’t bother with Dead Old Lady Holiday: which particular dead monarch would you pick? we would end up with A LOT of holidays if it we were to commemorate every dead member of the royal family.  But anyway, I did not realise at all that Victoria Day meant people don’t go to work. I had my shift posted for today already, and didn’t even realise I’d been scheduled to work on a national holiday. Normally I wouldn’t mind – it’s not like I have other plans at the moment :-s However, Miranda’s daycare doesn’t operate on national holidays. Luckily, I had the sense of paranoia sufficient to ring Carolina to check before traipsing over to her house with a half-alseep Miri. No daycare today. Doh. So Miri had to spend the day cleaning the cafe with me. This is a lot of work in normal circumstances and involves bleach and swearing and plenty of dishwasher-saunas. Doing all that whilst trying to stop Miri jumping off chairs or invading Mike’s kitchen or painting the tables with yoghurt or dropping marker pens in the detergent bottle, was nigh on impossible. I ended up very tired, cross and smelly, and Miri was bored stupid, poor baby!

We tried to phone Daddy earlier than usual, but on today of all days, my microphone – or possibly Carl’s speakers decided not to work, so he couldn’t hear us. I got so frustrated I gave up in disgust. Poor Warly 😦

So, to try and cheer ourselves up, I tried to take Miri to what remained of the day’s events at the Arts Festival

All Afternoon [it said]: Food sales, The Living Statue & Living Pictures, Participation Stations: Games, DIY Face Paint, Balloon Twist, Hula Hoops.

Great! I thought, Miri will love that! Could i find anything??? Could i hell! We must have walked round in circles for about eight blocks, never found anything like that, not even any sign of stalls that had already closed for the day, absolutely nothing!! I walked all the way down to the river without seeing another person, let alone a festival crowd, and was going to give up and take Miranda to the swings instead, when I realised she’d fallen asleep in the pushchair anyway!

gah. all in all, an incredibly frustrating day.