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This Season of Life: 16/52 “happy mail”

This Season of Life is a 52-week photography project through which my friend Mary and I will share photos that depict various moments from the current season in which we find ourselves. Having remained friends for the past 12 years, we have experienced a lot of seasons together (and some apart), as we now live in very different places. Having stayed in touch, we continue to share our life experiences and challenges with one another. This has been an incredible gift that continues to shape our friendship. We hope you will follow our Project 52 and enjoy the images that we share.

Happy mail comes every so often, but not always on the same day. This week I received mail from friends in Germany and Japan. It made me realize how lucky I am to have friends who live in and travel to so many places. It’s nice to have friends with similar values and a love for travel and new places. Receiving snail mail from these places only makes me want to visit them more. After all, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

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Now, take a moment and check out my friend Mary’s photo this week: City Night Lights. While you’re at it, look around her site, Moe-Digger Photography, a bit more and view our last Project 52. I am sure you will fall in love with her photos and see what a special person she is, just as I have.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Getting noticed as a business

This post is another in my entrepreneurship series (read more here and here). Now that you’ve decided how to structure your business and file the necessary paperwork to make it official, you’ve got a lot to do to make sure you get your name out there and attract your first customers/clients. Here are 4 tips on ways to get the word out about your new venture.

1. Build a website. This may seem like a no-brainer, but actually, your site will really depend on the type of business and customers you have. Do you have a product, a retail space, a service to sell? No matter what your business, internet presence is essential. Sites like Etsy and similar sites are great for those who don’t want to build a website to house their storefront. The traffic is already there. Consumers know about the site. Once you get your goods photographed and posted, the rest falls into place. However, I’d suggest having a social media forum to promote your products. This way, people will know to visit your Etsy shop.

There are also so many easy-to-build website options out there. If you’re even thinking about creating your own website, take a look at sites like Squarespace, WordPress and many others and get a feel for what each one offers. There are many other options out there. Just do a bit of searching to find out what will work best for you. More complex sites may require you to hire a web designer. That’s ok! This might give you more freedom in what your site will allow you to do and can take your landing page to the next level. Check out options like Fatcow.com or GoDaddy.com. Again, there are so many possibilities. So, take your time and research your options before you commit to one specific site or space.

Be sure to purchase your domain name. This is important! This way no one else can use your domain name. You own it.

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2. Be social where your customers/clients are social. What do I mean by that? If your target market can usually be found on Twitter, start practicing how you can provide useful content in 140 characters or less. If your ideal clients tend to hang out on Instagram, focus your efforts on creating appealing images and captions that will attract these people to your IG feed and to your site. If you have a service-based business, make sure that your LinkedIn profile is updated and chock full of information that demonstrates your expertise. Be available to respond to comments and questions, too.

3. Respect the power of the hashtag. No, really. Use them. As annoying and overused as hashtags may seem in general, they are quite powerful. I prefer to put my hashtags in the form of a comment underneath my original posts on Instagram (so as not to clutter the caption), but within the tweet on Twitter (I think that’s the only option). It’s a matter of attracting only those who already follow you versus many more people who are searching for the item or topic you’re posting about. You’d be surprised how many more “likes” or “hits” you will get if you properly use hashtags. Look up hashtags that might fit what you’re posting about and research what people with similar interests use as hashtags, too. This will give you a good idea of where to begin.

4. Be social. What do I mean by this? It’s not enough to simply post your own content. You should also be commenting on others’ content and sharing ideas in a meaningful way. Leaving comments like, “Check out my page.” or “Visit my website.” won’t attract too many people. In fact, many people will probably block you from future postings on their pages. So, be sure to interact on others’ feeds and posts by sharing relevant and meaningful content that adds to the conversation.

Bonus tip! Make sure your site, feed, post, etc. has a “call to action” on it. Let people know how to find you and get more information on your services. What do I mean by a “call to action”? You could post something as simple as a short news blurb that affects your industry or product and that others might find interesting. If they are really interested, they’ll go to your profile, website or shop and want to find out more. If you don’t have a clear indication of how they can contact you or learn more about what you do, then you might as well have already lost them. Make what you do for a living and provide to your clientele very clear. Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you sell coasters. Yeah, I said coasters. Bear with me. You might post a photo on your Instagram feed of an appetizing cup of coffee or tea with one of your beautifully crafted coasters underneath. In addition to using hashtags that fit the scenario and your business, you should have your contact information or website listed in your profile. This way, when people come to check out your profile, they know that they can go to your page to read more, buy some of your beautiful coasters or just see what else you have to offer. A more straightforward call to action could be in the post itself. “Enjoying one of my favorite afternoon pleasures while testing my latest coaster design. Check back soon to find them in my shop!” See that? Call. to. action. 😉

 

 

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You decided to start your own business. Now what?

This post is another in my entrepreneurship series (read more here). Starting a small business comes with a lot of research. You will want to know many things before you make your first sale, talk to your first client or advertise your services. So, what are some things you need to consider? Although there are many more items than what I’m listing here, I’ll talk about what I believe to be the top 5 things you need to deal with first:

  1. Decide what kind of business entity you wish to have. Do you want to structure your business as an Inc., an LLC, a sole proprietorship, an S-Corp? There are a lot of ways you can incorporate your business, so decide this before you file the papers. You can change it later if you feel the need to do so, but choose the one that’s right for you for the first several years. Each one has different financial and legal implications, so take your time with this decision. Check out how the IRS defines these business structures.
  2. Contact your local Small Business Administration. This is a great (and usually free!) way to find out more information about how to start and run your small business. There are many volunteers who take the time to meet with people just like you to talk about different options you have. You may find some of the information to be less than helpful, while other information is more helpful than you would have expected. Take advantage of the different services the SBA offers and decide how best (or not) to use the information you receive. Figure out what works best for you and your business, and go with that.
  3. File the proper paperwork with the federal, city and local tax and small business authorities. What does this mean? Yep, you have to file your business with the federal government, with the state and with your city. States are all different in the way that you have to file and pay your taxes, so look this information up and get informed. Believe me… taxes are not something you want to have take you by surprise. I have registered my business and filed taxes in three different states. Each one was completely different. One was incredibly simple, and one (the most recent) is the most complicated I have seen yet. When you file with the state, you will also need to find out if your business name is available. It may already be taken by another business. So, do your homework!
  4. Obtain the proper business licenses. If you will be working from home, make sure that you find out if you need to have a license for your business in order to work from home. I do. It’s not expensive, but I have to have it. And I have to renew it annually. You should be able to find this information fairly easily by looking at your city’s website or calling to find out. Another thing to find out for certain types of businesses is if you have to follow any specific zoning laws. Before you choose where to place your small business, find out about any zoning laws and how they might affect you.
  5. Ask lots of questions. Then, ask some more. Questions are the best thing you can have when you start your business, in my opinion. If you are unsure about something, ask. If you are not able to find the information you need online, ask. If you’re not sure how to figure these things out for your own business, look for someone to help you. With the business registrations I’ve handled in different states, I’ve inevitably had questions to ask about how certain forms are filed, how often, the fees involved and what else may be expected of me. And I have yet to have someone be rude to me or think I’m silly for asking a specific question. In fact, people are usually glad you ask instead of letting something slip. This means that you’re trying to avoid problems later. And believe me, there’s plenty else to do and to worry about in running your small business. The last thing you need is to worry about whether you’re going to be fined because you didn’t file the proper paperwork or apply for a certain license.
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This bookmark is one I keep in my planner, since I like to reflect one what it says every once in a while. “make new mistakes. make glorious, amazing mistakes. make mistakes nobody has ever made before.”

In doing all of these things to get your business moving, just remember: you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have questions. And you’re going to learn from both your mistakes and your questions. You’ll have more questions after you have answers to the first ones. That’s just the name of the game. You’ve got to start somewhere. If you can find it in yourself to stick with it, I know you’ll be happy with the outcome.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Taking the plunge: why and how I started my small business

I am often asked what brought me to make the decision to start a business. I don’t have a business degree, but I’d argue that to start a business you don’t really need one. For those who know me, you probably know my story already. But chances are, there are parts of it that you don’t know. Here’s what drove me to this journey I’m on and why I’m so glad I made the decision to be an entrepreneur.

DSC_5124I always knew what I wanted to do for a living. At least, I thought I did. For various reasons, I changed my mind once I got out of graduate school. I worked for a year for a small translation agency as a project manager and interpreter while my husband (then boyfriend) finished his degree. I loved the work, but not so much the company I worked for. It was a stepping stone, though, and I learned a lot while I was there.

Deciding not to go on in academia was the best decision I could have made. I do not regret it at all, but I remember that I came to this decision after agonizing a lot over what to do. I had always wanted to be a professor. But why? I didn’t have a good reason, really. I had been teaching as a lecturer for years already, and while I enjoyed it in the beginning, I realized after a while that it was not a good fit for me in the long term. I didn’t want to teach forever.

While my husband continued on through school for the next four years, I was a lecturer for two of those years at the university level. I had two to three jobs at at time and was constantly on the run from one class to another. During this time, I took on some freelance translation and interpreting work. I already knew about the industry, having worked in it before. It was nice, but also very hectic to try to fit it all into my schedule.

In 2010, I decided to open my own business in hopes that my freelance work would become more and that I could contract others in my business. I did not want to take much money from our personal savings, as we were pretty newly married and my husband was still in school. So, I invested $700 from our savings and crossed my fingers.

I knew I had the knowledge from my previous position and the language background I needed to get it moving. I also knew there was a market and I already had a few clients. More importantly, I felt motivated. I wanted something that was mine. So, for the next two years, I continued to teach as a lecturer and work on my business every. single. night. I was constantly running from one class to another, and then staying up many, many nights working to meet client deadlines. I think back now and wonder how I had that much energy. All I can come up with is personal drive and motivation to make a change and have something of my own. There was a lot of stress, but I knew it had to be worth it.

Besides being tired of working for others in jobs where I didn’t see a future for myself, I also felt motivated by learning about business and navigating my own path. I researched how to write a business plan, and I attended workshops, seminars, local business owner meetings and tried to soak up every ounce of information I could about running a successful business.

There were many lessons learned, but I’ll save those for other posts. And, of course, there were some naysayers along the way. I was actually told once by a small business advisor that my business was not really a business, but more of a hobby. I remember leaving the meeting feeling so offended and like he didn’t understand my business at all. That just fueled my motivation more. I am no longer offended. I know that there are people who believe that if you don’t jump into your business 100% from the beginning, then it’s not a real business. I beg to differ.

I don’t regret having another job (or in my case, jobs) that paid the bills while I got my business moving. In fact, I know many entrepreneurs who worked at jobs they didn’t care for until they felt financially secure enough to cut the cord like I did. For a lot of people, it’s the more reasonable choice. If that’s you, I totally get it.

By 2012, I was able to give up my multiple jobs and take the plunge to working solely for myself. It was (very!) scary, but so exciting. With a business there is always some uncertainty from one month to the next. But one thing was definitely certain. I was ready to hustle.

In the 5 years I have owned my business, I have gotten to know some of the best people, both clients and colleagues. Knowing that what I have worked on is mine drives me even more. Today, I work with over 100 vendors, have two project managers and earn over three times the amount I did when I had multiple jobs teaching. I don’t say any of this to brag. That is not my intention with this post at all. Instead, I hope that if you’re looking to start a business, you feel that there is hope for you to start small and think big, as I knew there was for me. If you have to work at a job you dislike just to make it possible to walk away one day for a business that is yours and one that you believe in, know that that day will soon come and it will be one of the best feelings you will ever have. Know that others will always have an opinion about how they think you should handle your business, but when it comes down to it, doing what is best for you and your situation is the only thing that matters.

{This post is part of my Business & Entrepreneurship series. You can read more about the series here.}

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Perfect Timing: Week 36

Perfect Timing is a weekly photography project by two friends who met in college, became roommates and have been close ever since. We share a love for languages and travel, and although we’re from the same southern state, we now live on different continents, balancing a demanding work life with a private life. We both agree that everything happens for a reason, whether we see these moments as positive or negative at the time, propelling us ahead or slowing us down. We hope you will join us each week, as we share little moments of Perfect Timing with you.

Fresh berries of any kind never get old to me. Here’s a quick shot of part of my breakfast this morning… ok, it’s part of my breakfast every morning.

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{berries}

Mary of Moe-Digger Photography and I became friends in college after we realized how much we had in common. We each grew up with three brothers, played sports and studied history, languages and cultures. I still remember our SLR cameras and our love for shooting with film. We have shared many wonderful experiences together over the years and have supported each other through some of the most significant moments in our adult lives. I am excited to take on this project with her. Check out Mary’s Perfect Timing photo for this week, too: Fun.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Baum-kuchen Open Studio: A lovely afternoon with friends

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of co-hosting a really fun afternoon with some of the sweetest and funniest ladies. After the Inspiration Lab with Eunice, I had the idea to get together again and share what we’ve done with our Traveler’s Notebooks since the workshops. We had a really great group RSVP to join, and Wakako and I got to work planning the afternoon. She was kind enough to let us host the event at the Baum-kuchen Studio. {Thank you, Wakako!}

We chose to do an Analogue Swap during the Open Studio, and I don’t think it could have been any more fun! Everyone brought along two (or more!) items they love to use in their Traveler’s Notebooks and shared them with everyone else. We talked about what we have been doing with our notebooks lately, any struggles that we have with actually getting organized or putting pen to paper and about our other favorite tools that we enjoy using.

Wakako shared her take on the afternoon this week. So, be sure to check it out, too.*

Here are some shots that I snapped to share with you…DSC_6152{Wakako brought in some beautiful flowers that her daughter Satchi helped her gather for centerpieces} 🙂

DSC_6149{Wakako made some light sangria to go with the yummy treats I picked up from Lemon Poppy Kitchen. Beth shared the little green bags with some really fun items inside for the Analogue Swap, and Jennifer gifted everyone pens from her latest trip abroad.}

DSC_6151{A few of the analogue items shared during the Open Studio: the mini Sojourner keychain is by Rowena, the beautifully wrapped package with a wax seal is from Eunice, and Jennie shared some items in lovely bags she painted with watercolor. If you look closely in the lower left-hand side of the image, you can see the end of my name in the hand-lettering that Wakako did for each of us at our place at her beautiful table.}

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DSC_6159{Amy shared her seriously impressive pen collection with us. Needless to say, there were many questions and pen-envy!}

DSC_6171{A few of us stayed way past the end time and chatted for a while, shopped a bit… or a lot!, and shared more ideas. This is a shot of some of our TNs.}

It couldn’t have been a more enjoyable afternoon with all these wonderful ladies. Can’t wait until next time! xo

*To see more fun images from the Open Studio, check out the photos on Instagram (search: #bkopenstudio).

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Inspiration Lab with Eunice at Baum-kuchen

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a really awesome event, The Inspiration Lab with Eunice (@thedailyroe on Insta) at the Baum-kuchen studio. We were around 17 attendees and we all had the best time, getting to meet and talk to each other after many of us had already been following one another on Instagram. It’s always so fun to hang out with other people who have similar interests, and the afternoon spent together was really special.

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FullSizeRenderEunice started the session by having everyone introduce themselves and share how they use their notebooks. Many people use their notebooks as journals, while others of us use it to document and plan out daily activities. I was so impressed with what several of the other attendees shared, and I even got some great ideas for my own Traveler’s Notebook. This beautiful display of pages is from Gert’s Traveler’s Notebook. Go check her out on pepper and twine. Her journaling is beautiful!

IMG_3978Then, we had the chance to listen to Eunice describe her inspiration and background in journaling and how her style has evolved over the years. It was so neat to see her older journals and hear her tell about her special moments with her family.

Eunice described how she chooses the layout of the weekly pages she shares on Instagram (if you don’t follow her and you are a fan of the Traveler’s Notebook, get over there and find her!). She talked about her favorite writing tools, notebooks and how she uses them daily. She even showed us how she creates the watercolor lettering in her notebook. It was really nice to watch her to do it in person.

IMG_3985After getting tons of tips and ideas from Eunice, we all got the chance to play with several of her stamps, tapes and ink at two analogue tables. It was fun to use tools that I typically don’t use, and it was so nice to have the inspiration from Eunice right there in the room.

Wakako, the super sweet owner of Baum-kuchen was the best hostess, too. She even had a Traveler’s Notebook photo booth, which her husband had made. Here’s my notebook in the photo booth.

IMG_3991As if all this weren’t enough, Eunice also prepared a very special box for everyone. The boxes are from Japan and she handwrote our names on the boxes and filled them with so many wonderful treats. The more items I pulled out of this tiny box, the more surprised I was at how many things it held. The Traveler’s Notebook leather charm that reads “today is the miracle” is a special edition charm created just for the event.

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DSC_5859In the end, I couldn’t have enjoyed the Inspiration Lab more. It was even better than I thought it would be, and I walked away from it having met a great group of individuals who all share a love for capturing moments with analogue tools. Several of the attendees are also small business owners, so it was fun for me to talk to them about their businesses and how they use analogue tools in their daily work, too.

IMG_3980I truly hope that Wakako continues to have Inspiration Lab sessions at Baum-kuchen. I had the best time!

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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Running as of late: Meg’s Miles and the Timex Activity Tracker

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything related to running. I’ve been running as usual, but haven’t shared much on here. Besides a few trips where I was also able to keep up with my running, most of my routes and such have been the same. I did join a new running club, but that’s another post in itself.

Last weekend you may have seen several runner friends post a photo or status with the hashtags #megsmiles or #milesformeg. In case you don’t know the story behind this, Meg Menzies was a mother of three and wife. She and her husband, Scott had a regular Monday morning “date” to run together. She was training for the Boston Marathon and had hopes of making it to the Olympic Trials. Their children’s school bus was late that morning, which meant they had to venture out a little later than normal. Because of this, traffic was busier and a physician, who was later found to be legally drunk behind the wheel, hit and killed Meg. Scott is raising their three children and still runs in honor of his wife. He took her place at the Boston Marathon so that he could experience it for her. “She was training, and I want to finish it for her. And it’s kind of a selfish thing for me, but that’s where she would be. I want to see what she would see.”

Since the tragedy, Meg’s friends have set up social media pages, asking people to dedicate their miles to Meg around the anniversary of her death. From my own feeds, I saw many people sharing their miles in honor of Meg, someone who really represents us all as runners. Even if you are following the rules of the road, running against traffic and being careful, you always have to be incredibly alert. You just never know if drivers are paying attention or impaired. I love the support I’ve seen for Meg and her family by fellow runners. It truly is a great community to be a part of. Let’s all throw down a few more miles in her honor, and in the honor of others who have suffered accidents or death while doing something they love. If you did run for Meg, don’t forget to submit your miles to the Run 4 Meg page. #runforthosewhocant

Miles for Meg 2015—————–

On a completely different note, I had the chance to test out the Timex IRONMAN Move X20 Activity Tracker last night. Meh… I’m not impressed. The only thing I can say that is positive about it is the aesthetic of the band. It’s narrow and looks more like a bracelet than a fitness band.

I’d been curious about the Fitbit Activity Band that everyone talks about, just because I don’t know what all it can do. I think it tracks your steps, sleep and activity, but I’m not sure how in depth or accurate any of the recorded information actually is. The Timex version looks comparable, and the rep seemed knowledgable overall. She showed me how to use the Timex device, which seemed easy enough. What can go wrong with two buttons? I actually just wanted to test its accuracy against my Garmin to see if it came up with a similar distance for my run.

I started the Tracker as soon as I set out with the other club runners, but immediately I could tell it might only be another pretty face. At a stoplight, I tried to check the information on it to see how far it told me I had run (this band is acceleration-based), but I didn’t see any information on it. So, I kept going, finished my run and asked the rep to show me how to save the information to view it. She looked at the band and told me that it never recorded anything.

Perhaps it was a user issue (not saying that’s not likely!), but as it turns out, several of the other club runners had similar issues. One person who runs around my pace was not able to see anything on his band either (during or after the run). And another said that it recorded about 3.5 miles, when we all ran about 5.5. 😦

Now, I’m no expert on testing electronic devices, but when most people in your group find issues with the devices they used, this doesn’t fare well for the product line. I didn’t see anyone jumping to get one after the run. I hope I get the chance to test another Timex fitness tracker or GPS one day, but for now, I’ll stick to my Garmin.

Did you run any miles for Meg last weekend? How did you share her story with others? 

Anyone have and love their Timex Activity Tracker? Please, tell me what I did wrong! 

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

All About Light: Week 10

All About Light is a weekly photography project by two friends who met virtually while working on their respective Project 365s in 2013-2014. We quickly realized that we enjoyed each other’s photos and always looked forward to seeing what the other one shared. Since we both have a love for the genre of street photography, we found ourselves capturing intriguing signage in unexpected places and laughed about who might get the next best shot of a crazy sign. After finishing our Project 365, we decided to take on a weekly project to study the use of light and learn about ways to improve our photography by focusing on different light sources. Each month we will focus on a different source of light in our photos. We hope you enjoy what we capture as we learn all about light.

It’s a new month, and that means a new theme. We’re really excited about this one! Beth and I will be working in black and white this month. We each really love B&W photography, so it should be an extra fun one. I snapped this image in my hometown of Hattiesburg, MS while at home for the holidays. Hattiesburg is also known as the Hub City, because it is situated in the middle of several major (and some not as major, but still important) cities in the southeast: Gulfport, Jackson, Meridian, Mobile, Natchez and New Orleans. The city of Hattiesburg was also an important central location for the lumber and railroad industries and was the intersecting point for many rail lines. It’s where I call home and whenever I visit, I always notice small things that have changed, as well as those things that have stayed the same after so many years.

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{Hub City}

Beth of Beth Moses Photography and I became friends in 2013, while sharing our photos in a large group of Project 365ers online. As the year went on, we realized how much we had in common and even had a friendly competition of shooting odd signage and tagging the other one with “Your turn!”. Besides our shared interest in photographing everyday moments, we also share a passion for coffee and the south. I’m so glad I get to continue to share my thoughts on photography with Beth, and now, this project, too. Now, head over to Beth’s page and see her first B&W shot for the month: Whisk.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

An afternoon spent at Espresso Cielo

Last month I was running some errands and happened to see a coffee shop I had been wanting to check out in Santa Monica. Espresso Cielo is known for its laid back atmosphere. There are large windows that run the perimeter of the café, and the bar and pendant lights give it a European feel. The teapots that sit on top of the floating shelf in the front are a simple decorative touch.

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DSC_5143-2We stopped in for a cup and found it to be a very welcoming atmosphere. Most people were working or reading at the marble top tables, but I was most impressed with the small collection of art books the shop boasted on the wall by the bar.

DSC_5146I flipped through The Grand Literary Cafés of Europe for a while, and found several photos of places that looked familiar from past trips I’ve taken.

DSC_5147The café serves Forty Ninth Parallel coffee, and I ended up purchasing a bag of the whole bean 123 W Longitude Blend. I had no idea that the Forty Ninth Parallel Roasters are in Vancouver. I hope to check out the roaster next week when we are there. 🙂

The entrance of the shop on the corner of Main and Marine Streets also reminds me of a European café, with its long hand-painted sign, double glass doors, tiles and small round tables for customers to enjoy their favorite espresso drink.

DSC_5137Hopefully I can check out the other Espresso Cielo location sometime in Palm Springs. I will definitely hit up the one in Santa Monica again soon so I can get my free coffee for having purchased one of the bags of beans!

Have you ever been in a café that transported you to a place you’ve visited? Has anyone tried Forty Ninth Parallel coffee? What’s your favorite blend?

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in Uncategorized