Tag: coffee

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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Learning when to quit

I am tired. VERY tired. Life is, as usual, hectic and only going to get busier! So much so that I haven’t posted on here for ages. Since the last post, I totally failed to get a promotion that I had high hopes for at work, we saw Rocky Horror (fantastic!) Halloween happened which was great (I was the Starbucks Siren, the most evil creature in the universe. At work. Wearing a cardboard corset. All day.), I started writing a Zombie novel for Nanowrimo, the Farmers’ Market moved to its indoor winter location, I went to the CBC Tweetup, met the host of the Morning Edition, Shelia Coles properly and won a CBC coffee mug, I got a new ferret tattoo, Amy, Jen and I had a wee bit too much to drink in the new pub and sang murdered a few songs at Karaoke, and I helped paint Miri’s daycare green and orange. Also, I found out the Irish Poutine is a Thing. AND, we’ve booked our flights back to the UK for Christmas! So, life has been generally good.

However, I am finding that I have to slow things down a bit to fit the important things in (and I don’t like it one little bit). Something BIG this way comes, which will remain cryptic for now, but this Happening is taking up virtually all my spare time and energy – and it needs to. Recently, I resigned from the exec of the beer club, and from the CVAF (arts festival) planning committee – fortunately both groups were very understanding and very excited for me! I haven’t gone to Word Up Wednesday for months (the poetry slam) and I haven’t even written anything for it either. I was swearing and stressing about my Nanowrimo novel until both Carl and my parents gently reminded me that I was supposed to be doing it for FUN, so I gave up on it – and I really found that difficult. Nanowrimo is my THING. I love it, and I really wanted to develop my plot this year. I got to 15,000 words and actually feel guilty about it.

With the advent of Winter – by which I mean about 20cm of snow and minus-ridiculous temperatures already – we decided to gracefully retire Wheelie Good Coffee from the Farmers’ Market until the Spring. We did manage a few weeks in the new indoor location, but we were still having to pedal the cart across town, and that made the cart grumble (and us too, to be honest). Snow and extreme cold take their toll on rubber and we had two blown tyres in 3 weeks, then as the first snow fell, the pipes in the cart frozen absolutely solid, and we had to take a fan heater to it to defrost it. No serious damage was done fortunately, but we didn’t want to risk anything irreparable happening. Plus, we both really enjoyed having the whole weekend off work. It’s been ages since we could do that.

Unfortunately, all this means I am seriously beginning to resent my day job. The people there are still awesome and nothing specific has got worse, I just don’t like it taking up all my time when I have other, far more exciting and fun things to be getting on with. I cherish my independence, and as such, I think I’d feel the same about any job right now: in simple terms, I just don’t want to work for other people. Ever. I spend more time with work colleagues than I do with my husband and daughter. I drag myself out of bed for it at some ungodly hour and walk to work in -28 celcius while it is still dark, and leave just as it is getting dark again. It brings in enough for us to be financially quite comfortable, but what’s the point of having money if you have no time to spend it?

The BIG, cryptic Happening on the horizon may dash any hopes of financial security for quite some time. But it will be sooooo worth it, and I am madly excited!!

Becoming a Regina Farmer

Miranda came home the other day saying she wants to be a farmer when she grows up. Fair enough – we’re in the right place!

Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket apparently – a lot of agriculture happens here in the Big Flat Spaces between towns. Abundant grain elevators. Last year at the Mustard festival, we learned that Saskatchewan is the largest exporter of mustard seed in the world. And then of course, Regina has it’s own Farmers’ Market. ( awaits jokes along the lines of “how do I farm Reginas?” from Mr Chapman) It is awesome. It gets bigger every week. Something like 13,000 people visit it on a week day morning. It wins awards.

Not every market vendor is actually a farmer. I don’t think the bread guy grows his own wheat, and I don’t think the pastry people grind their own flour..and as for me, um… well anyway, everything is made locally at least. All the vegetable vendors grow their produce locally, and it is all the better for it. There’s even a cheese stall with  my favourite goats cheese from their goat farm, and a man selling meat from his ranch, who originated from Cumbria, England. Although I am not a farmer, the market has welcomed my coffee business with open arms and empty travel mugs. It would be seriously difficult to cultivate and farm coffee in Saskatchewan anyway. But, I brew it here, straight in front of local Saskatchewinians, and more importantly, Bill roasts it here too. I feel like we fit in.

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Lacking the appropriate >800m above sea level altitude, the climate that never drops below 18C and the required humidity means I can’t farm coffee here, but to my surprise, I have actually managed to grow vegetables here – and not just any vegetables, MUTANT MARROWS. Apparently courgettes and marrows are both called Zucchini in Canada, but I mean excessively large tubular green things anyway. One little project I’ve been working on when I’m not at beer club/poetry slams or either of my two jobs, is gardening. Marianne and I have been tending a small plot in the local community gardens (allotments, to UK folk), and under her tutelage, I’ve managed not to kill anything (an amazing achievement!). Our veg even survived numerous storms and the wettest summer anyone can remember. I have been eaten alive by mosquitoes down there, so I feel my blood sacrifices may have been beneficial to the mutant generation process.
Who would have thought this:

humble beginnings
humble beginnings

– could produce this?

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A Mega Marrow!

I should point out, that is one Mega Marrow of Many. One was so large I couldn’t get it home on my bike. I’ve made zucchini pasta sauce, zucchini gratin, stuffed zucchini, deep fried zucchini, zucchini Thai green curry, zucchini stir fry and zucchini relish. Marianne made zucchini chocolate cake too, and I even gave away seven of the buggers to people at work. And both Marianne and I still have several of them in our freezers.

I NEVER WANT TO SEE A ZUCCHINI/MARROW/COURGETTE EVER AGAIN!!!!

My neighbouring stall on the market last week was Scandinavian Sweethearts, who make amazing pickles with homegrown veg. The Scandinavian sweetheart told me she had over 300lb of cucumbers this year. I can sympathise, but then, she is intentionally growing them in bulk. Ours were… not intentionally so oversized… Mind you, it seems to be a Saskatchewan trend this year. Market Manager Ada has been spotted modelling a huge cabbage on her head. Perhaps this is what happens to you if you spend too long in the company of Regina Farmers….?

{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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Launch day! Again!

Yesterday, 19th May 2014, saw the launch of my 3rd coffee business, Wheelie Good Coffee. You’d think with all this experience, starting up would be a breeze by now. Fat chance!! For nostalgia purposes, I read back over my post from September 2009 on here, when we launched Doctor Coffee’s Cafe Ape Van. Five long years ago, I was equally exhausted and apparently nearly fainted at my friends’ wedding and developed a mysteriously swollen ankle. In hindsight, it is easy to see these were signs of early pregnancy! This time, I am aching all over and knackered, but no other Big News to report I’m afraid.

Wheelie Good Coffee has already taken on a life of its own online. I’m at http://www.wheeliegoodcoffee.biz, and most significantly, @wheeliegdcoffee on Twitter. Twitter has been invaluable, both for inspiration and for the support to actually get this idea off the ground. I’ve received so many positive comments already that I feel more confident about this venture than ever before. Part of me attributes this to living in Regina, and particularly in Cathedral village, which is the first neighbourhood where I’ve encountered genuine community spirit. So to all my local Tweeps, THANK YOU, and I love you all!

The business is relatively simple and small scale. My wonderful, talented and handy husband built me a coffee cart – essentially a huge wooden box on wheels, housing an enormous kettle. This cart is pulled by my tricycle, Twyla, and I can pedal my way to events and trade outside downtown during the summer, at festivals, on markets, and so on. What’s that you say? How do I trade when it’s -40C outside? Well, that’s easy. I have a website where I sell my home-roasted coffee beans online, (teaching myself to roast requires a blog post in it’s own right!), along with mugs, tee shirts, my books and various accessories. The weird looking, very conspicuous coffee cart attracts people, and those who say “I like your coffee, how do I make it at home?” get directed to the online shop. At least, that is the plan.

Here’s the cart:

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All the coffees are Pour Over:

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and here it is all set up for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival:

ImageSadly, I didn’t get a photo of me in action. I didn’t have enough hands! I got utterly swamped, unable to make coffee fast enough! I was sponsoring an Arts Festival event, a mass singalong of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi outside Connaught school (read between the lines here!). If you turned up and sang, you got free coffee. In return, I got priceless exposure and publicity from it, a lot of tips (!) and a great opportunity to test out the coffee process with an appreciative and sympathetic audience. It worked – I got home to find online orders for coffee beans and despite exhaustion, I sat up til gone 11pm roasting coffee fresh for my new customers!

The weather could have been better, but it was not as bad as I’d feared. Horrendous rain was forecast, and 70kmph winds! It was windy, but we managed to miss the rain, fortunately. However, circumstances were far from ideal, because my coffee cups kept blowing away! I couldn’t serve the coffees fast enough because I didn’t have enough hands to simultaneously grind coffee, pour boiling hot water, dose up my coffee fllters, AND hold the cups down and out of the wind at the same time! Doh. But, the coffee filters do work, and people loved it – I quote “you can’t get fresher than that!”

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This all happened on Monday, Victoria day and the first day of the Arts Festival. The weekend prior to that was just mentally busy for both of us. Eternal gratitude to Carl for building the thing, but getting it out of our basement proved nearly impossible. As Carl maintained, the cart did fit neatly through the door to the basement. However, what he’d neglected to account for, was getting it off the stairs, and round the side of the kitchen cupboards. ALMIGHTY amounts of swearing ensued, and all his neat edging got pinged off to spare half a centimetre. BUT, we got there. And it didn’t fall apart, nor explode, nor collapse under its own weight. We had to hire a generator because there was nowhere to plug in outside on the street, and that required a lot of inquiry. The Roca Jacks coffee beans were eventually hand delivered late Sunday morning, after I had got myself into a state of low-level panic over their absense. Cycling it was a whole new experience. In a terrible bit of bad luck, one pedal just sheared off my trike last week, leaving me with an annoyingly long walk home one night, and now, no engine for the cart. So I had to make do with Yoshi, the two wheeler. Suddenly, balance became an issue again. I didn’t have any time to practice, but fortunately the whole thing relied on momentum. Starting was agonising, and stopping required about ten feet and excellent brakes (not something Yoshi is renowned for!). But once I was going, it wasn’t too heavy at all, even with 50litres of water on board. However, I now have sore muscles in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. Toning your glutes really is a pain in the arse.

BUT. I can pedal it. It does work. I make a GREAT fresh coffee. Bill’s Roca Jacks beans are just as good as they always were. Cathedral people are awesome, friendly and supportive, and the Cathedral Arts Festival got off to a great start despite the weather. I am achey, exhausted, happy and excited about Wheelie Good things to come!!

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.