beans at the beach

one of the perks of writing about coffee is that i get to try all different kinds of coffee from all different kinds of places. one of my favorite local roasters (and there are many favorite roasters in asheville) is biltmore coffee traders. the couple who co-owns the coffeehouse, laura and rick, are just about the most considerate people i know. everything that they do in their business revolves around being real, authentic, and environmentally friendly. their purpose is to provide good coffee that you can feel good about – so they make known that they deal with direct trade and fair trade coffee farmers to get their beans. you can buy beans and coffee from them and know that you are not only helping them to sustain their little family, but you are also making a difference in the lives of real coffee farmers around the world.

since biltmore coffee traders is all about family, awareness, and making a positive impact on the planet and in the lives of their customers, i decided that i wanted to bring their coffee beans down to the beach with me to share with my family during our annual family beach week.

i dropped by biltmore coffee traders  a day before leaving for the beach week to pick out some beans. rick was working, and he and i looked over the beans and finally decided that i’d do a brazilian peaberry/nicaraguan blend – something that rick recommended. so, i got two pounds of freshly roasted coffee beans and headed home to pack them with all of my beach gear.

biltmore coffee traders

biltmore coffee traders beans

on the first morning, the family gathered outside on the deck, with our freshly ground and brewed blend; and kicked off a week of fun in the sun. thank you, biltmore coffee traders, for sharing your love and passion and delicious beans! our mornings are all the better knowing that we are making a difference while we sip our cup o’ joe.

beans at the beach

coffee at the beach

namaste.

 

celebrating midsummer like a swede

today is sweden’s midsummer celebration day! and, since this blog began because of a love for swedish fika, i thought it was only appropriate that i celebrate this super favorite holiday in sweden as they do in fika’s motherland – the celebration is second only to christmas, actually. and, of course, as part of a swedish-american marriage, we are celebrating in our home here in the states – just in a different way, of course.

midsummer, a.k.a. the summer solstice and the first day of summer, is so big in sweden because it is a celebration of the high season of light. the day is meant to be spent outside – eating, drinking, dancing, singing and playing games. and, if you’re lucky, you get to leave the city and head to the countryside to celebrate in the middle of the gorgeous nature that makes up sweden. swedes celebrate the sunshine, the light of the longest day, and nature so fiercely on this day because they all know that after today, the days become shorter – until it is almost complete darkness all day long in december. for me, midsummer is the celebration of living in the moment, of living life to the fullest.

of course, all fikas during the day will be outside as well, even if it’s raining – swedes are hard core and love their nature. for fika, along with our coffee, we would most likely eat something with strawberries, a delicious favorite of the summer season. yum!

strawberry fika

so, even though i am not in sweden today, we still had a little celebration of our own. at our little asheville home, we enjoyed a simple fika this morning of fresh strawberries and hot coffee. not exactly the same as dancing around the midsummer pole with a hundred other people, but cozy and perfect, just the same. how are you planning to celebrate the beginning of summer?

happy midsummer to all of you out there. may the light of the sun energize, warm, and inspire you! namaste.

to read more about some of my previous midsummer celebrations in sweden, click on the years below.

2013 | 2012

it’s all in the design

as a lover of coffee and a wife to a graphic design student, i have found the perfect combination of our passions: coffee packaging. and just the other day i ran across a blog that has posted some photos of some of the coolest looking coffee packaging designs out there right now, and i thought i’d share them with you. just as inspiration and for fun.

alabaster_coffee_roaster_coffee_group_02-600x450 bigisland_12@2x-600x375

Native_19-600x472

brewklynLine1-600x400 CDA_2702-Edit-600x397

StaticCoffee_4-600x450

however cool these designs are, though, i have a personal preference: simple and clean (i suppose that is my scandinavian influence coming in). so, the ultimate packaging to me is no packaging. of course, that’s not really practical when roasters want to sell their coffee and distribute it. but, my new love is to immediately put my beans in a big, air-tight mason jar as soon as i receive them. all that other packaging, while very cool and interesting, just gets thrown away/recycled. i’m digging the natural look of seeing the beans.

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what do you think? which design is your favorite? does design even matter to you?

namaste. xx

 

breakfast

cafe pick me up: an east village gem

sometimes the best places are found by accident. during my latest trip to new york city, i had the pleasure of staying in an apartment in funky alphabet city (part of east village). the beauty of this, was that i was able to live like a local, instead of like a tourist. though i’m sure that i looked like a tourist everywhere i went, camera dangling around my neck, eyes and neck craned upwards gawking and drooling over architecture and fire escapes. still, my entire experience was a tiny bit of what it might be like to live in this ethnic, diverse, funky, rough around the edges neighborhood.

so, on my first morning in alphabet city, i decided to walk until i found a place for fika/breakfast – and that first cup of coffee of the day. no plans. no googling. no maps. just walking. i knew that i would know when i arrived. so, i strolled. and meandered. i observed and soaked in. i watched as east village began to stitch her arms and say good morning. and it all felt magical.

i passed buildings that i was certain i could live in, given the chance. i passed little gardens, with a lone person flipping through the new york times or new york post. and then i passed tompkins square park – the park that was, just a few years back, infamous for being a top place to find whatever drug you craved. today, the park, the whole east village area, is much cleaner – yet the vibes remain.

east village neighborhood

east village walk-up tompkins square park1

just across the street from the park, on the corner of avenue a and 9th street was a cafe with outdoor seating. almost all of the tables were occupied, but there was one in the corner that looked perfect. this was it. this was where i’d have my first sip of nyc coffee on this trip. cafe pick me up in east village.

after walking through the open-air cafe and seeing the bohemian, vintage, second-hand style, the decision to stop here was even more certain in my mind. it was the perfect place for my bohemian soul.

ave a corner corner ave a and 9th cafe pick me up

snagging that corner table on the sidewalk, the server brought a menu that included everything from breakfast sandwiches to pastries to eggs, and that was just breakfast. of course, there were vegan and vegetarian options as well – so many, that i thought i had teleported back to asheville. i decided on a chocolate croissant, a large orange juice (fresh!), and a big cup of black coffee with cream.

as i ate the delicious, fluffy (and chocolate-y) pastry, downed my orange juice, and sipped my coffee, i imagined doing this every day – but, with my journal in tow. you know, living the writer’s life in new york city (or what i dream that the writer’s life would be like – knowing that it’s not that dreamy and amazing every day). but, instead of dreaming away my moments, i refocused on the present moment – the homeless man sweeping the street and curb so diligently. the shop owner next to the cafe cleaning his part of the sidewalk, mopping his store floors, and then pouring the water down the sidewalk drain. the people coming out from a door next to where i was sitting, most assuredly tenants in the apartments above the cafe. people exercising, walking and talking on their phone. people pushing their baby or running with their dog. all kinds of people. all colors and shades. each doing their own thing, but all a part of this one little community moment.

IMG_2736 cafe pick me up sign
cafe corner

cafe pick me up most definitely lives up to its name. perched on a corner in east village, across from the park, it is the perfect spot to give you a little pick-up if you’re hungry, tired, or feeling uninspired. it may not be the typical coffee shop place for fika, as it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. it’s not just a coffee shop, but a full-fledged cafe. still, it was the place where i started my day – and my visit to the big apple – with a piping hot cup of coffee. and after an hour long, leisurely breakfast in the sunshine, i can honestly say that i was full, energized, inspired, and ready to tackle of all the amazingness that new york city had to offer me on that day.

namaste.

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start your fika here.

hi, welcome to the fika girl! a blog dedicated to lovers of coffee, travel, and living life to the fullest. 
here you will find out all the basics of what this blog is all about, including: a brief intro to fika, how/why i started a fika blog, what kinds of things you can find on the blog today, and what dreams and goals i have for the future of the fika girl.

first sip: what is fika?

fika: [fee-ka] 

*FIKA: {Swedish} n,v. an experience of drinking coffee, usually with something sweet to eat. a time to enjoy an intentional cup of coffee with friends, family, or colleagues. An important social part of everyday Swedish culture.

second sip: why “the fika girl”?

in the fall of 2013, after moving back to the united states, i knew that i wanted to reacquaint myself with the funky, eclectic city of asheville, north carolina. i had been in sweden for the past three years, and while i was living there, i fell in love with the daily swedish custom of “fika“. so, i began to wonder if i could use fika to help me explore my new home…

to have fika is to take time to slow down in the middle of the day and savor a cup of coffee. whether in your home or in a cafe or at work, fika is all about relationships. whether you are sharing a cup of coffee with a friend, a colleague, or simply enjoying some time to yourself, it is the intentional act of reconnecting and renewing your soul – something that is all too often missing in our fast-paced, hectic lives here in america.

since fika had become such a big part of my life in sweden, i knew that i would bring the tradition with me back to the united states. and since asheville is filled with a plethora of funky, hip, cozy, independent cafes, incorporating fika into my daily life would give me the opportunity to  keep the custom alive, while discovering new places and meeting new people at the same time.

so, in the fall of 2013, i challenged myself to fika for 40 days in 40 different cafes. little did i know that my 40 days of fika would become about so much more than just having coffee… it would be a lesson in living life to the fullest.

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third sip: what’s for fika today?

today, this blog is all about coffee: tips, trends, connections, cafes & coffeehouses, and community – connecting with ourselves and each other… all made possible by simple sitting at a table and enjoying a cup of coffee together.

it’s a place where you can come to explore what fika is all about and how having fika enriches life. here, you can also follow my journeys as i explore coffee houses and cafes around the world. and, you can find the latest coffee tips and trends here as well. hopefully you will learn something new or be inspired.

* you can find all of the following categories to the left of this page in the menu.

|coffee travels| 

traveling is one of my passions, so of course, there will be lots of posts on cafes & coffeehouses from all over the world. currently, i live in asheville, so there is a special category dedicated to all of the fika spots (cafes) i visited during my 40 day challenge in 2013. plus, i am adding new cafes as they open up. there will most definitely be cafes/coffeehouses dedicated to sweden, seeing as this entire blog is based on the swedish practice of fika. and finally, as i travel to other states and countries, i will add them to my growing list of coffee travels.

|coffee trends|

what’s the latest way to brew coffee? what kinds of coffee drinks are popular now? what is cupping? and what about cold brews? i want to dig into these and many other questions/ideas as i discover more about the wonderful world of coffee.

|coffee tips|

the more i learn about coffee, the more i want to learn about coffee. i want to know more about roasting coffee. and coffee beans & the farms which supply them. fair-trade? organic? direct trade? – what’s best? i also want to learn how to make the perfect espresso, or try making pour-over coffees. and what about the health benefits of coffee? as i discover and experiment with coffee, i plan to share it all with you. i’m sure it’ll be fun, but hopefully it’ll be engaging and educational at the same time.

|coffee inspiration|

other than the pure yumminess of coffee, there is also my main reason for drinking coffee: community. for me, sipping on a cup 0’joe means connections, with myself and with others. it means slowing down to savor the taste of the coffee, and present moment as well. so, i want to share with you inspiring & funny stories, photos, moments with you – that just might inspire you to have a fika break one day.


the fika girl is my blog – for you – about everything coffee: tips, trends, connections, cafes & coffeehouses, and community – connecting with ourselves and each other… all made possible by simple sitting at a table and enjoying a cup of coffee together.

the next cup: future fikas

two things happened because my 40 days of fika challenge:

- i fell even more in love with coffee and wanted to know more about it.
– i realized just how transformative it can be to simply sip some coffee – as i met new friends, strengthened old ones, and made a dream a reality.

two things are happening now because of my 40 days of fika challenge:

- i am re-launching this blog, the fika girl, as a blog dedicated to all of us who love coffee, travel, and living life to the fullest.
– i am a freelance writer for a local, independent newspaper.

two new dreams i have for the future of the fika girl:

 – i want to publish a book about fika – and i am working on that now.
– i want to travel the world, experiencing and writing about my fika journeys all along the way.


 

this blog began as my 40 day journey. the earliest posts tell the story of me visiting 40 different cafes in asheville, north carolina, and of all of my experiences and reflections inspired by each of those cafes; but more importantly, those early posts tell of the experiences that changed me and launched my love for fika (and coffee)  to a whole new level.

so, put on a pot of coffee or make yourself a cup of tea (it’s totally permissible to drink tea as well) and sit back and journey with me. explore the world of coffee. be inspired. learn. create relationships. and get a feel for what it means to slow down just enough that you begin to feel your soul.

take a long, slow sip and drink in all that is around you. and discover, like i have discovered, that spirituality and community can be found in a cup of coffee.

namaste.

me and mountain xpress

the top 10 lessons i learned from fika.

Experiencing 40 days of fika was incredible.  I have been having fika regularly for over 3 years now, so that habit won’t be going away anytime soon, even though the 40 day project was completed in the fall of 2013. And even though the project is over, I am still spending time just letting the experience become a part of me. It was a life-changing journey, to say the least. I learned a lot – about myself, about coffee, about relationships, nd about creating community. In order to process and summarize all of these amazingly overwhelming & inspiring thoughts/lessons that I learned during my 40 day fika journey, I created a top ten list of the top ten things I learned during the project.

So, I present to you now… my list! (with a few photos sprinkled throughout from various places i visited). It doesn’t mean that these places are my favorites, just so you know. Instead, each photo is matched up with each top ten lesson for a reason, most often being that I learned that lesson in that spot, or I was extra inspired in that spot (related to the lesson). Did you follow all of that?

Ok. Enough introduction. On with the Top Ten Things I Learned During 40 Days of Fika!

1. It’s all about community.

Of course, fika is not actually possible when you are completely alone. I cannot make some coffee at home, sit down in an empty room or outside on my balcony and call it fika. That’s a wonderful thing to do (I try to do it every day – all by myself, at home), but that’s simply called “having coffee”. Fika involves so much more. It is possible, however, to sit alone in a cafe and read or do some work and call that fika. Why? Because it’s community that surrounds you. It’s the fact that you, as an individual, are part of a community, whether you are interacting or not (see number 9). No matter what, even if you are just sitting there with you cup o’joe all alone, you are still part of a larger community. Of course, the highest form of fika (in my first-hand Swedish experience) is sharing it with one, or two, or 10 people. But, not too many. Then it becomes a fika party. And you miss out on number 2…

community2
Allgood Coffee

2. Come a little closer… intimacy makes fika even better.

Again, whether alone or with someone it’s all about being real. None of that surface, shallow, superficial stuff. When you have someone with you for fika, talk. I mean, really talk. Talk about dreams and hopes and fears and frustrations. And then, shut up and listen. Really listen. Let your souls connect and touch. Make that person feel that they are truly being heard… because that’s a rare thing. You don’t have to agree about everything that you discuss and share, but be open and accepting. A deep, intense, real conversation will do more for the world than simply talking about the weather and the errands you have to do on your to-do lists.

And if you are by yourself, you can still find intimacy. It’s called meeting your soul. Take a few breaths. Slow down. Hold that coffee cup in your hand. Sip slowly and let your ming wander. Just be present in the moment. And then listen… Your heart, your soul, will speak.

 

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar

3. Atmosphere matters.

To me at least. I love a cool, hip looking place. But, you know what I love more? I love simple, second-hand, up-cycled, mix-matched stuff. I like eclectic, bohemian, and funky stuff. Golds, reds, oranges, turquoise, greens, browns. Wood, black metal. When I fika, I want warmth and coziness around me – hence, the fact that I look for cafes and coffeehouses with squishy, soft sofas and big chairs you can sink into. I want things to feel organic and blend in with the natural world. I also want inspirational, spiritual things around me. Candles, buddhas, dreamcatchers, plants. Fika is meant to be a time that you slow down, and being comfortable and inspired creates an open space for me to feel a moment of peace and connectedness.

atmosphere
Panacea

4. A cup of coffee can make a difference.

There are some places that not only receive your patronage and money, but they give back. They serve you coffee because you paid for it, but they serve the community because they have big hearts. Some acres & coffeehouses are catalysts for change and transformation, opening their doors to authors, poets, and social action. Some intentionally meet up with the outcasts of society, providing them a place to feel safe and accepted. But, all of these places that make a difference create a community within their coffeehouse walls. They know the names of their customers and almost everyone is a “regular”. They establish relationships with the people who sit on their sofas and work at their tables. These places that I have discovered on my fika journey have captured my heart. Go and visit them. And become a part of a community that truly makes a difference. Of course all cafes & coffeehouses share something with the world and serve you & me in some way. But, there are just a few that go the extra mile. And that amazes me. And teaches me to do the same.

difference2
Firestorm

5. It’s my religion.

Ok. Not really. But, maybe. Fika, gathering together, to break bread and create community, offering love and acceptance, promoting self-awareness by living in the present moment, giving back and making a difference does sound like the makings of a belief system to me. It is not a religion contained in walls, but made up of like-minded people seeking to make the world a better place. Yes, a cup of coffee can do that. Inspiration is most definitely found in a latte cup – whether you sip and reflect on your own life, or sit and chat with someone else about the things that truly matter, or actively plan a way to concretely put love into action over a cup of coffee. I’m telling you, from silence and meditation comes action. That is spirituality in my book. So, I suppose I worship at the altar of Fika.

religion
Dobra Tea House

6. Believe in your dreams.

Sounds cheesy, I know. When I started this crazy journey, even I thought I was a bit nutso for thinking that anything would come of spending 40 days drinking coffee. But, I had hope. And some kind of weird vision. What if, what if, someone stumbled onto my blog and read it and was amazed and decided that they wanted me to write for them? What if a local newspaper saw this blog or heard about my fika-ing around the city and thought it would be cool if I wrote articles for their paper? What if I could turn this blog into a book after I am done with it? I had all of these dreams when I started this journey back in the end of August. They felt real, and they felt totally silly all at the same time. But check this out:

1. Someone did want me to write for their blog:  I’ve posted every single post onhttp://www.AshevilleBlog.com. And guess what else? I have a Facebook page called Asheville Coffee.

2. I decided to start a FIKA meet up group that gathers at a different cafe every week for coffee and conversation. Tomorrow is our first group meeting and as far as I can tell, there will be about 15 people joining us. People I don’t know, but who want to meet the Fika Girl and learn all about fika.

3. A local paper, the Mountain Xpress, has hired me as a freelance writer for their food section and I am doing a series call “The fika files” Repeat after me: “Dream. Come. True.”

4. And, now that I am done visiting cafes and coffeehouses from my list, I have free reign to visit wherever I want, whenever I want as I begin to piece together this blog and convert it into a book. Right now I’m also collecting publishing company names. But all that’s still a work in progress.

So, people. Cheesy or not. Dreams do come true.

dreams
City Bakery Cafe

7. But… only if you are proactive.

You can do anything that you put your mind to… but you gotta do something to make it happen. Sure, it’s fabulous that the universe has opportunities just waiting for you. But, you won’t get to them unless you choose to step out and make a few things happen. I did not just sit in a cafe and sip coffee for 40 days. I networked, baby. I got to talking with people. I tweeted every single fika blog post, hoping someone would read it. I applied for a crazy food job at the newspaper. I got myself an office in downtown Asheville (which I no longer have, because it served its purpose). I met more people. I ordered business cards even though I have no business. I began telling people I was a writer and a photographer. I meditated. I cried. I freaked out. And then, I did it all again the next day.

The point is, I can meditate till the cows come home or until I see the light or something, but sitting on the floor with my legs crossed won’t get the job done. It won’t make my dreams come true.

Now, listen carefully: DON’T GET THIS WRONG. It is completely NECESSARY to meditate and pray and just be. That is the FIRST step in making your dreams come true. You gotta know who you are and what your desires are in order to know what your dreams and your destiny are. Meditation, yoga, prayer… these are tools to help you uncover, discover, and encounter yourself. Your soul.

But, you can’t ONLY sit and meditate and pray and chant and just be. If you are actually doing those things, then you will not have to try to do anything, you will simply be catapulted into action.

So, please. Meditate away. Don’t just try to start doing a bunch of things with no rhyme or reason or purpose because then you will only feel stressed and confused and freaked out. You’ve got to center yourself. First & foremost, you breathe and dream. Then you begin doing. You take risks and take action. You make things happen. You act. You chase. You try. You succeed. You fail. You talk. You listen. You just get up and make things happen.

proactive
World Coffee Cafe

8. Keep a journal.

Record your daily life. Write down all of those dreams and all of those things that you are doing. Just get a journal and write. Or start a blog. Keep it private or publish it for the world to see. Who cares? Just do it. You’ll want to look back over your life and your experiences, trust me. Even now, as I go back and read about my 40 days, I am humbled, excited, and reminded of how I felt or what I thought in that very moment. And that is a gift.

Journals are something to use to help us move forward. To know from where we have come, how much we have changed, what we thought or felt… it all helps us to know where we are today and where we hope to go tomorrow. Keeping a journal seals certain memories and allows us to see the threads running through our lives. We are able to understand the cycle of life and the magical mystery of transformation, of becoming a better person (or not) as time marches on.

So buy a cool pen. And get a journal of your choosing, something that inspires you. Ask for it for Christmas, and start 2014 with a list of dreams – make that be your first journal entry. And then, make those dreams come true!

journal
Malaprops

9. You know how your mamma always said that you should never talk to strangers? Well, she was wrong.

DO IT. Talk to any- & everybody. Strike up a conversation. Or, if you just can’t bring yourself to do that, just smile. It’s amazing how much a smile says, how it invites someone to say something back. On those days that I want to be friendly, yet just can’t bring myself to start talking, a smile will open a door.

Striking up a conversation with a stranger is amazing. Try it. But, by all means, approach it with an open mind – it’s not guaranteed that you and the stranger will see eye to eye on everything. Still, it is fascinating to see, hear, and share with someone. And who knows what you will learn? You may leave more inspired that you have felt in a long time. Or, you may inspire a stranger in ways that you will never know.

The point is, open your eyes, your ears, and your mouth, and meet your brothers and sisters all around you. They’ve got some amazing stories; some incredible and exciting, others heartbreaking and painful. I guarantee, though, that whatever the story, you will be changed – even by a little 2 minutes chit chat with another person.

Be willing to meet people with acceptance and openness. Understand that we are all humans, all seeking love, peace, and happiness – we just go about it differently. Take a leap of faith, say hello to someone, and make this world one step closer to being the peaceful world it was always meant to be.

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Eagle Street Coffee Emporium (formerly Wall St.)

10. Try something new.

Even if your’e scared. Even if it seems crazy. Even if no one understands. Even if it feels weird. Even if people look at you funny. Even if you don’t think you are strong enough.

Wander down that alley (just not alone, at night). Drive down that curvy road. Try that new restaurant and food. Leave your neighborhood. Leave your comfort zone. Push yourself. Believe in yourself. And, by all means, if you need to, order a cup of coffee, sit down, and muster up the courage to walk on.

We only have this one life. And we don’t even know how long we have it. So, do not live with regret, and do not live paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. Just LIVE! Live your life to the fullest. Set that goal and move mountains to make your dreams come true. Laugh. Dance. Talk. Explore. Travel. Dream.

And, all along the way, stop for fika. Soak up all the moments of life and find yourself in a cup of coffee.

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Namaste.

40 days of fika: the video.

Thanks to the fun, little app Flipagram, I have created a fun, little video of all of my fika visits. I tried to take a photo with every visit and post it on Instagram, but a few days I forget, so I had to make a little collage. Still, I got every fika posted! Yep. All 40. From beginning to end. So, here’s the video! Pay attention… it goes by quickly. Hehe. Oh, and turn on your speakers… there’s music. Just click on the photo and enjoy!

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Namaste.

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The top ten things I learned in 40 days.

Well, folks. I’ve done it. It has taken me a week to let it all sink in… that the fika tour is over. But, the fika-ing has just begun! I have been having fika regularly for over 3 years now, so that habit won’t be going away anytime soon. Still, this project is over and I spent the last week just letting the experience become a part of me. And wow…has it been ever the life-changing journey, to say the least. Aaaaand I have finally made my Top Ten list of the the things that I learned during my 40 day fika journey!

So, I present to you… my list! With a few photos sprinkled throughout from various places I visited. It doesn’t mean that these places are my faves, just so you know. But, each photo is matched up with each top ten lesson for a reason, most often being that I learned that lesson in that spot, or I was extra inspired in that spot (related to the lesson). Did you follow all of that?

Ok. enough. On with the Top Ten things I learned during 40 days of fika!

1. It’s all about community.

Of course, fika is not actually possible when you are completely alone. I cannot make some coffee at home, sit down in an empty room or outside on my balcony and call it fika. That’s a wonderful thing to do (I try to do it every day – all by myself, at home), but it’s called “having coffee”. However, you can sit alone in a cafe and read or do some work. Why? Because it’s community that surrounds you. It’s the fact that you, as an individual, are part of a community, whether you are interacting or not (see number 9). No matter what, even if you are just sitting there with you cup o’joe all alone, you are still part of a larger community. Of course, the highest form of fika (in my high Swedish experience) is sharing it with one, or two, or 10 people. But, not too many. Because then it becomes a fika party. And you miss out on number 2…

community2

2. Come a little closer… intimacy makes fika even better.

Again, whether alone or with someone it’s all about being real. None of that surface, shallow, superficial stuff. When you have someone with you, talk. I mean, really talk. About dreams and hopes and fears and frustrations. And then, shut up and listen. Really listen. Let your souls connect and touch. Make that person feel that they are truly being heard… because that’s a rare thing. You don’t have to agree about everything that you discuss and share, but be open and accepting. A deep, intense, real conversation will do more for the world than simply talking about the weather and the errands you have to do on your to-do lists.

And if you are by yourself, you can still find intimacy. It’s called meeting your soul. Take a few breaths. Slow down. Hold that coffee cup in your hand. Sip slowly and let your ming wander. Just be present in the moment. And then listen… Your heart, your soul, will speak.

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3. Atmosphere matters.

To me at least. I love a cool, hip looking place. But, you know what I love more? I love simple, second-hand, up-cycled, mix-matched stuff. I like eclectic, bohemian, and funky stuff. Golds, reds, oranges, turquoise, greens, browns. Wood, black metal. When I fika, I want warmth and coziness around me – hence, the fact that I look for cafes and coffeehouses with squishy, soft sofas and big chairs you can sink into. I want things to feel organic and blend in with the natural world. I also want inspirational, spiritual things around me. Candles, buddhas, dreamcatchers, plants. Fika is meant to be a time that you slow down, and being comfortable and inspired creates an open space for me to feel a moment of peace and connectedness.

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4. A cup of coffee can make a difference.

There are some places that not only receive your patronage and money, but they give back. They serve you coffee because you paid for it, but they serve the community because they have big hearts. Some acres & coffeehouses are catalysts for change and transformation, opening their doors to authors, poets, and social action. Some intentionally meet up with the outcasts of society, providing them a place to feel safe and accepted. But, all of these places that make a difference create a community within their coffeehouse walls. They know the names of their customers and almost everyone is a “regular”. They establish relationships with the people who sit on their sofas and work at their tables. These places that I have discovered on my fika journey have captured my heart. Go and visit them. And become a part of a community that truly makes a difference. Of course all cafes & coffeehouses share something with the world and serve you & me in some way. But, there are just a few that go the extra mile. And that amazes me. And teaches me to do the same.

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5. It’s my religion.

Ok. Not really. But, maybe. Fika, gathering together, to break bread and create community, offering love and acceptance, promoting self-awareness by living in the present moment, giving back and making a difference does sound like the makings of a belief system to me. It is not a religion contained in walls, but made up of like-minded people seeking to make the world a better place. Yes, a cup of coffee can do that. Inspiration is most definitely found in a latte cup – whether you sip and reflect on your own life, or sit and chat with someone else about the things that truly matter, or actively plan a way to concretely put love into action over a cup of coffee. I’m telling you, from silence and meditation comes action. That is spirituality in my book. So, I suppose I worship at the altar of Fika.

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6. Believe in your dreams.

Sounds cheesy, I know. When I started this crazy journey, even I thought I was a bit nutso for thinking that anything would come of spending 40 days drinking coffee. Buuuut, I had hope. And some kind of weird vision. What if, what if someone stumbled onto my blog and read it and was amazed and decided that they wanted me to write for them? What if, what if a local newspaper saw this blog or heard about my fika-ing around the city and thought it would be cool if I wrote articles for their paper? What if, what if I could turn this blog into a book after I am done with it? I had all of these dreams when I started this journey back in the end of August. They felt real, and they felt totally silly all at the same time. But check this out:

1. Someone did want me to write for their blog:  I’ve posted every single post on http://www.AshevilleBlog.com. And guess what else? I have a Facebook page called Asheville Coffee. AND… the AshevilelBlog creator and I have decided to have a FIKA group that meets at a different cafe every week. Tomorrow is our first group meeting and as far as I can tell, there will be about 15 people joining us. People I don’t know, but who want to meet the Fika Girl and learn all about fika. Hot damn!

 2.The local paper, the Mountain Xpress, has hired me as a freelance writer for their food section and I am doing a series call “The fika files” Repeat after me: “Dream. Come. True.”

3. And, now that I am done visiting cafes and coffeehouses from my list, I have free reign to visit wherever I want, whenever I want as I begin to piece together this blog and convert it into a book. Right now I’m also collecting publishing company names. But all that’s still a work in progress.

So, people. Cheesy or not. Dreams do come true.

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7. But… only if you are proactive.

You can do anything that you put your mind to… but you gotta do something to make it happen. Sure, it’s fabulous that the universe has opportunities just waiting for you. But, you won’t get to them unless you choose to step out and make a few things happen. I did not just sit in a cafe and sip coffee for 40 days. I networked, baby. I got to talking with people. I tweeted every damn fika blog post, hoping someone would read it. I applied for a crazy food job at the newspaper. I got myself an office in downtown Asheville (which I no longer have, because it served its purpose). I met more people. I ordered business cards even though I have no business. I began telling people I was a writer and a photographer. I meditated. I cried. I freaked out. And then, I did it all again the next day.

The point is, I can meditate till the cows come home or until I see the light or something, but sitting on the floor with my legs crossed won’t get the job done. It won’t make my dreams come true.

Now, listen carefully: DON’T GET THIS WRONG. It is completely NECESSARY to meditate and pray and just be. That is the FIRST step in making your dreams come true. You gotta know who you are and what your desires are in order to know what your dreams and your destiny are. Meditation, yoga, prayer… these are tools to help you uncover, discover, and encounter yourself. Your soul.

But, you can’t ONLY sit and meditate and pray and chant and just be. If you are actually doing those things, then you will not have to try to do anything, you will simply be catapulted into action.

So, please. Meditate away. Pleeeease meditate. Don’t just try to start doing a bunch of things with no rhyme or reason or purpose because then you will only feel stressed and confused and freaked out. You’ve got to center yourself. First & foremost, you breathe and dream.

Then. you begin doing. You take risks and take action. You make things happen. You act. You chase. You try. You succeed. You fail. You talk. You listen. You just get up off your ass and make things happen.

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8. Keep a journal.

Record your daily life. Write down all of those things that you are dreaming, and all of those things that you are doing. Just get a journal and write. Or start a blog. Keep it private or publish it for the world to see. Who care? Just do it. You’ll want to look back over your life and your experiences, trust me. Even now, as I go back and read about my 40 days, I am humbled, excited, and reminded of how I felt or what I thought in that very moment. And that is a gift.

Journals are something to use to help us move forward. To know where we have come from, how much we have changed, what we thought or felt… it all helps us to know where we are today and where we hope to go tomorrow. Keeping a journal seals certain memories and allows us to see the threads running through our lives. We are able to understand the cycle of life and the magical mystery of transformation, of becoming a better person (or not) as time marches on.

So buy a cool pen. And get a journal of your choosing, something that inspires you. Ask for it for Christmas, and start 2014 with a list of dreams – make that be your first journal entry. And then, make those dreams come true!

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9. You know how your mamma always said that you should never talk to strangers? Well, she was wrong.

DO IT. Talk to any- & everybody. Strike up a conversation. Or, if you just can’t bring yourself to do that, just smile. It’s amazing how much a smile says, how it invites someone to say something to me. On those days that I want to be friendly, yet just can’t bring myself to start talking, a smile will open a door.

Striking up a conversation with a stranger is amazing. Try it. But, by all means, approach it with an open mind – it’s not guaranteed that you and the stranger will see eye to eye on everything. Still, it is fascinating to see, hear, and share with someone. And who knows what you will learn? You may leave more inspired that you have felt in a long time. Or, you may inspire a stranger in ways that you will never know.

The point is, open your eyes, your ears, and your mouth and meet your brothers and sisters all around you. They’ve got some amazing stories; some incredible and exciting, others heartbreaking and painful. I guarantee, though, that whatever the story, you will be changed – even by a little 2 minutes chit chat with another person.

Be willing to meet people with acceptance and openness. Understand that we are all humans, all seeking love, peace, and happiness – we just go about it differently. Still, find the person inside the living thing standing or sitting near you. Take a leap of faith, say hello to someone, and make this world one step closer to being the peaceful world it was always meant to be.

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10. Try something new.

Even if your’e scared. Even if it seems crazy. Even if no one understands. Even if it feels weird. Even if people look at you funny. Even if you don’t think you are strong enough.

Wander down that alley (just not alone, at night). Drive down that windy road. Try that new restaurant and food. Leave your neighborhood. Leave your comfort zone. Push yourself. Believe in yourself. And, by all means, if you need to, order a cup of coffee, sit down, and muster up the courage to walk on.

We only have this one life. And we don’t even know how long we have it. So, do not live with regret, and do not live paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. Just LIVE! Live your life to the fullest. Set that goal and move mountains to make your dreams come true. Laugh. Dance. Talk. Explore. Travel. Dream.

and, all along the way, stop for fika. Soak up all the moments of life and find yourself in a cup of coffee.

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Namaste.

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What do we do now?

Now, we fika!

Yes, you can too! No matter where you are. I promise. You’ve seen and read about me visiting different places, so now it’s your turn. Fika at home. Try a new cafe. Leave Starbucks (or Espresso House, if you’re Swedish) behind and get out there to a local, independent place. Meet the owner, talk to other customers, take a friend, fika alone, read a book and sip some coffee or tea. You may never know what might happen if you leave your comfort zone and soak up life.

And, if you happen to be in the Asheville area, then boy, have I got an invitation for you!

Some followers of the 40 days of Fika series here on my blog and on www.ashevilleblog.com have been requesting to gather for Fika –  together. So, AshevilleBlog and I are delivering!

Meet us every week at a different location around Asheville and join us for Fika – coffee and friendship. It’s gonna be great!

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Join us for our first fika next week:

Wednesday, November 13 at 11:30am at FILO on Tunnel Road!

Can’t wait to meet y’all! Namaste. ~ Liz

Day 40: Pure indulgence.

40 cups. 40 cafes. 40 days.  i’ve done it. and what i can say except… it has been a completely, utterly amazing experience.

but, i’ll have another post in a few days about what i’ve learned and experienced. a kind of debriefing and list-making. perhaps in “top ten” form. for now, i’d like to share with you my last fika for this project. and what a celebration it was! i decided to end my 40 days of fika in downtown asheville, at a place that i have reserved until the end… a place that’s different. a place i’ve always wanted to visit, but never did. a place that is filled with chocolate and decadence.

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now, i like chocolate. i like it a lot. but, i’m no chocoholic. however, i do appreciate fine chocolate like one appreciates fine wine or a beautiful sunset or an early morning walk on the beach. so, i thought that i’d slow down, really slow down, for this last fika and savor every little drop of every little moment.

i thought about having fika with someone, but i decided that being alone was exactly what i needed to close out and enjoy the ending of a wonderful, life-changing project.

so, i drove downtown, found a parking spot, and walked a bit to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. it was a gorgeous and very warm autumn day. once again, i found myself in awe at the beauty that surrounded me. even in the middle of the city nature glowed and gave off vibrant hues of yellow, red, and orange. people were everywhere, tourists visiting for leaf season. business people in a hurry to get to wherever they were going. and others, just exploring and doing their thing.

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i arrived at the door of the lounge and felt excited about going in. i can’t believe i’d never been here before, and i just knew i was going to love it.

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and i did. from the windows, to the brick walls, to the blues and reds, to the unbelievable smell of thick, rich chocolate, this place captured my heart. and i knew that i’d waited for a reason.

i took a few photos, as usual, when i entered. then, i noticed a stairwell calling my name. i climbed the stairs to find a second level seating area. very cozy. very private, and yet open. a great place to sit for a long while. undisturbed. i made a mental note: return here to write and work. but, i decided that it was too secluded and cozy for my purposes on this day. on this day, i wanted to soak in people. i wanted to be in the middle of everything.

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i headed back downstairs and grabbed a menu, overwhelmed by the sheer number of chocolate choices that were before my eyes. chocolate drinks, warm or cold. chocolate desserts of all kinds. wine. beer. and some food. well, of course, i was having chocolate. and i was gonna go wild and try something completely off the hook crazy amazing. or at least i hoped so.

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i stepped up to the chocolate barista and told her that this was my first visit here, so i had no idea what i wanted. well, i knew i wanted dark chocolate. i love the tiny bit of bitterness. i was stuck between deciding on something with a little mexican flair or something a little more inspirational. i finally decided on this:

the buddha –  a liquid truffle (yes, i did say liquid truffle) made with dark chocolate and coconut milk. i paid and got my little number thingy to put on my table, walked over to a table and waited for the deliciousness to arrive. in the meantime, i looked around and noticed tons of interesting things about the place. for one, there was an envelope on the table asking for donations for the haywood street congregation’s welcome table… a place for homeless to receive meals. i also noticed a manifesto on the wall, proclaiming the cafe’s belief in being an earth-friendly, community-driven, high standard place of excellence. i was impressed.

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and then, it arrived. my buddha.

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i confess that i had an extended photo session with my little espresso-sized cup of chocolate love. but, soon, i was over that and ready to taste it. i swirled my spoon in it for a while, feeling the creamy dreaminess of it. when i lifted my spoon and touched my lips, i think i closed my eyes, sighed a deep breath, and then experienced a little taste of heaven. seriously folks. it was warm and yummy goodness on its way to my belly. i loved it. so much.

i pulled out my journal and begin writing, reflecting on this journey of mine, and i realized something…. the reason that this was the perfect place to end my 40 days of fika was because it made me slow down. it was literally not possible to drink the chocolate quickly. no, it required, deliberate, intentional attention. it forced me to slow down, to savor it. and in doing that, i was able to savor all the memories and thoughts i was having about my 40 days of fika. i was, in fact, able to connect with myself and experience that spirituality in a cup that i have talked about.

it was perfect. every little thing about this moment.

and then, when my little cup was empty,  i knew that i had celebrated. it was a quiet celebration. but, it was exactly the best way to experience the last fika of this project. now, it was time to move on.

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namaste. /liz

10 S. Lexington Avenue . Asheville, NC . www.frenchbroadchocolates.com

remember, i will be writing more on the blog here. i have at least two more follow-up posts about the 40 days of fika: one top ten list of the things i have done, and another post with a playlist i have created of great tunes to listen to while sipping coffee. so, check back and stay in touch. more importantly, don’t forget to fika! contact me at justbelovealllivelife at gmail dot com, if you are in the asheville area and would like to fika together some time. i’d love to!

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Day 39: i love marshall.

north of asheville, about 20 minutes or so, lies a small, riverside town. it’s a place that seems to be stuck in the past, and yet, not at the same time. the only thing around for miles is this little, two stop light main street and a crossing street, which is actually only a bridge across the river. a big, white courthouse looms over main street. the sheriff’s department is just across the street from that. there are a few churches, a few general stores, a dentist’s office, a real estate office, a couple of different restaurants, and smack in the middle of it all… a coffeehouse called zuma.

i drove on the highway north out of asheville music blasting in my car and my windows rolled down, even in the middle of autumn. it was a glorious day for a little road trip. after a while, i turned off of the main highway and onto a small two lane road that followed the river, the french broad river to be precise. a great river for rafting, if you’re into that sort of thing – and i totally am. but, only in the summer. on this warm, autumn day, i soaked in the fresh air and found myself smiling to myself as i felt free and wild, being “so far” from the city.

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i followed the curvy, mountain road and thought about the fact that i had never been to the the little downtown that is marshall. strange that i’d never made it here. i rounded a curve, river to my left and mountain to my right, to suddenly see a few brick buildings dotting the street and a little sign welcoming me to the town. i’m telling you, friends, it felt as if i had stepped back in time. it was not a sleepy little town., but it was somehow a throw back to the good ole days. people were walking about, doing there business. men in suits. older women walking with their friends all decked out in their sneakers & sweats. hippie twenty-somethings with their fabric bags and thrifted clothes. country folk in their overalls. and, wouldn’t you know it, a real live police officer standing with his hands on his hips on the steps of the big, beautiful courthouse, looking out over the town. it was idyllic. and there are no tourists that i could really see. who but locals would really find this place, all hidden back in the mountains, anyway?

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i drove straight through the town (it took about 2 minutes tops) to the other end, just so i could scope everything out. i passed the coffeehouse where i was going, zuma, which also stood right in the middle of town, between the courthouse and the sheriff’s department. at the other end of main street, i got a different view of marshall. i saw the buildings, the street, the people, the river, and the train tracks. it was so beautiful. so real. so simple.

i stepped parked my car on the side of the road and got out. the town smelled like apples, fire, and coffee. i decided right then and there that i loved marshall.

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after walking along the railroad tracks for a little while, taking photos, and just soaking up the beauty around me, i sauntered down the sidewalk to the coffeehouse. but, once i got there, i just couldn’t go in. i mean, marshall is so tiny, i just had to explore all of it. i found myself wandering across the railroad tracks to the bridge that crossed the french broad. i walked to the middle so i could look back at this two block town. i could just imagine the good old days. but, then, i thought, “the good old days seem to still be going on.”

the thing that made this place so different, was that it didn’t seem to be stuck in the past. the people chose to live more simply and yet, more earth-friendly and aware at the same time. yes, the simplicity and slowness of the past was something they chose for themselves as they also chose to be open and aware. do you get what i am saying? it was no backwards town. it was progressive and traditional all at the same time. it was moving forward and yet keeping the same values of true, real, simple life.

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i soon found myself craving something, so after waving to the halloween-masked conductor of the train that went by just after i crossed the tracks back toward main street, i went on into zuma. it was the the place to be. a gathering place. people were coming to get their lunch. to sit and chat and have a break. others came from their homes a little further out – you could tell by how they were dressed. flannel shirts, boots, jeans, overalls. farmers and such. then, there were couples and friends enjoying a coffee together. most people were there with someone, and everyone knew someone. what an amazing sense of community.

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i ordered a regular coffee and a pumpkin roll, spied a sofa near a window and plopped down. i stayed there for an hour. just observing and reading. and enjoying my amazing pumpkin roll. after a while, my dear swiss friend from ireland messaged me on my phone and we decided to have fika together – she had just made a cup of tea after work. and it was lunch for me, so we chatted over our smartphones and caught up with each other. what a fun, international fika moment.

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before i knew it, i checked my watch and realized that i needed to get back to asheville. but, i did not want to leave marshall. not at all. however, i had to. i took a little peek at the courthouse up close, and then strolled down the sidewalk, across the street from where i had walked earlier. as i drove away from this little hidden gem by the river, i bid the town farewell, vowing to come back soon.

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yes. it’s official. i love marshall.

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namaste.

zuma coffeehouse . 7 north main street . marshall, nc . zumacoffee.blogspot.com

Day 38: gettin my mountain mojo on.

that’s the name of the place i went to visit today: mountain mojo. cute, huh?

well, the cafe, just about 10-15 minutes south of asheville, is a cute little log cabin place tucked away on the side of a highway. right in that space, it’s only the highway, the cafe, some trees, and a parking lot. it feels like you’re on a country road. and, you are. it’s not as far down south as the local joint, but about hallway between yesterday’s fika place and the city. i’d heard a few people mention mountain mojo to me, so i was excited to discover this little hideaway place.

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the cafe is fairly new, opening sometime within the past year. i fell in love with the outside as soon as i drove up and over the mountain, the cafe coming into sight just as i rounded a corner and headed down the backside. the cafe was logs and wood. and let me tell you, i’m a sucker for logs and wood. i mean, it’s so appropriate for our surroundings. the weather was a little crazy, windy, cloudy, with intermittent peaks of sunshine. needless to say, i spent quite a bit of time outside, photographing the area, the cafe, the trees, the road, everything in sight. it all just felt so autumn-y and wonderful.

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the cafe is fairly new, opening sometime within the past year. i fell in love with the outside as soon as i drove up and over the mountain, the cafe coming into sight just as i rounded a corner and headed down the backside. the cafe was logs and wood. and let me tell you, i’m a sucker for logs and wood. i mean, it’s so appropriate for our surroundings. the weather was a little crazy, windy, cloudy, with intermittent peaks of sunshine. needless to say, i spent quite a bit of time outside, photographing the area, the cafe, the trees, the road, everything in sight. it all just felt so autumn-y and wonderful.

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i climbed the stairs to the front porch, under the lights which were strung to add a coziness factor (i believe) and i opened the door to find a huge wide open room. very animalistic. simple. clean. and new. the walls were a warm white/creme color. to the left was a corner with a sofa and 2 chairs – yes! however, they were both taken. boo. there was also a long table to the back left filled with about 6-7 retired adults, clearly having a meeting of some sorts. there was note-taking and serious discussion going on as they sipped their coffee and snacked on delicious goodies. more tables and chair were in the center, and the chairs were all school chairs. fun! in the back and on the right was the counter and the kitchen. everything was very open and airy.

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but, let me tell you what was the best thing about opening the front door and stepping inside…. it smelled like baked goods heaven.  i don’t know if it was cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, pies, or what, but it was a delicious aroma. and it made me feel all warm inside. i complimented the baker as i stepped up to order some coffee, and i noticed a sign for the perfect drink for the day: hot caramel cider chai. seriously, folks, doesn’t that just sound like autumn in the mountains? i ordered one of those and sat down at an empty table, pulling out my journal to write a bit.

and that’s what i did. i wrote. thought. and just enjoyed this little moment. it was a perfect solo fika.

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after a while, i decided that it was time to go. i had passed a pumpkin patch on my way in, so i gathered up my things, grabbed my cup (it was already in a to go cup – i don’t know why), and headed to the car to hunt the perfect pumpkin for carving. i felt sure that this would be a cafe that i would visit again. i could tell that it was a gathering place for people in the fairview community, a place that was part of the community, offering local and organic foods & coffee. a place that perhaps is bursting with people in the spring and summer, hanging out in the field or under the trees. and a space where people can rent, meet, and enjoy the yummy things in life.

a perfect place for a country fika.

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namaste.

mountain mojo. 381 old charlotte highway . asheville, nc 

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Day 37: Don’t judge me.

My mom always told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. So, in the interest of following her advice, I am going to keep this first story short and sweet.

I headed downtown to head to a cafe that I’ve passed many times, but never gone in. I had never really heard much about it, but I was still curious. I entered, had some coffee, some other things transpired, and it did not turn out so great. So, I left. I was quite bummed, because my plan basically fell apart. Disappointed, dejected, and uninspired, I wondered… what would I do now?

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Suddenly, something popped into my head. I would take a little drive to a place I’d heard about from my brother – not exactly a fika place, but more like a diner. Still, they served coffee, which is a staple in diners, so I figured I could make a trip and have a little fika/lunch there to lift my spirits. So, I got in my car, drove south and found a parking spot at The Local Joint, a simple (so I thought) diner which was one of those attached to a gas station and convenience store. You know, a little greasy, local joint. Hehe. Hence, the name – minus the greasy part).

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I immediately noticed that it looked a little different on the outside. There were tables for eating outside. It was decorated nicely & somewhat landscaped. And, get this, there was a list of the beers that they had on tap. For real? First of all, diners don’t serve beer. Much less have beers on tap! Boy was I confused and strangely excited…

Inside it looked like a cross between a regular, ole, American diner and a cool, funky, downtown cafe. It had the counter and bar stools and booths and all that stuff that roadside diners have. But, it also had funky decorations, chalkboards with specials, beer taps (it was true!), plants, and wine bottles in crates. This was crazy. Crazy cool.

Now, understand this: The Local Joint is located south of Asheville in a, let’s just say, more rural area called Fairview. I used to teach at AC Reynolds Middle School just down the road from the joint, and I know that it is filled with students from rural, farming, country-living families. So, this funky vibe kinda place was a little (a lot) unexpected. But, I was so very pleasantly surprised. So. Very.

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The fry cooks were not fry cooks. Well, they were, but they were so much more. One look at the menu and that was obvious. With things like seared salmon benedict with spinach and goat cheese on the menu, I knew that these were not just fry cooks. They were chefs. I perused the menu for a while, and went with an grilled avocado tempeh sandwich. Sounds delish, huh? Well, it was. Totally delish.

And not only was it gourmet food cooked and served in a diner, it was local, organic food as well. What a concept this was! And if I had wanted to, I could have ordered a bloody mary or a mimosa as well. And I so wanted to, but I held back. It was the middle of the day during the week, ya know.

The servers were so very sweet, calling me honey and sweetie. they were so friendly, chatting with everyone who came through the door. I think two of them checked on me constantly throughout my meal, but not in an annoying way, in a very caring, fun way. Hard to explain. Just take my word on it. It was not overbearing, but just the right amount of caring.

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So, lesson learned? Do not, at all costs, judge a book or a person or a place or anything by its appearance. Just don’t do it. Here I was visiting a nice, professional-looking cafe in the middle of touristy downtown Asheville and it did not go well at all. Not what I expected. And then, I drove into the countryside and stopped at a gas station to eat at a local diner, only to find out that they served smiles, fun, and amazing food. Not at all what I expected.

I ordered a coffee to go (my fika had turned into a fabulous lunch and I had places to go) and it was served in a recycled, earth-friendly cup, of course. I paid, said my goodbyes, and promised to return.

Oh, yeah, and the coffee tasted perfect.

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namaste.

the local joint. 1185 B Charlotte Highway . Asheville, NC .

Day 36: F I L O

there is a little rock and stone building on a busy street in east asheville. i’ve passed it numerous times knowing that i would go in at some point for fika. but to be honest, i wasn’t too excited about it every time i passed it, hence it’s on day 36 that i finally darkened the doors. though i was totally intrigued by the rock/stone outside. i mean, seriously, how cool is the outside? still, it’s east asheville. and though i live in central-east asheville myself, there are not that many funky, cool places over here. or not that i know of yet. the coolness is left for central and west asheville.

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but, i turned off of super busy tunnel road on to the side street anyway, assuming that i would find parking back there, and was ready for almost anything. praying for a little fika miracle –  a place that i love so much that i want to go back (the past few days haven’t felt like that). after parking and spending about 20 minutes walking around outside, taking tons of photos, i was finally ready to go in. so far, i had some great vibes. i mean, what can go wrong where there is a sunflower nearby?

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i opened the big, brown, castle-like door and entered into a huge open space, filled with a warm, glowing light making it bright, an diet, still very cozy. i probably had my jaw on the floor at that moment and i am certain that someone heard me breathe a deep sigh of “perrrrrfect.” i don’t think i said that out loud, but i can’t be sure.

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i actually pirouetted as i walked toward the counter, taking in the sights and my feelings. when i made it to the counter, i was inspired by all of the autumn decorations, so i ordered a cinnamon streusel latte. that sounded perfectly divine to me. as the barista made the latte i spied where i wanted to sit… you know it. the corner with the sofa and comfy chairs. however, it was taken at the moment. meh. the barista handed me my latte, i pulled out my money and my card and told her that i was doing a blog project as i handed her my card. she immediately interrupted me and said, “fika! i just read about you in the paper yesterday! your’e the woman doing fikas.”

jaw drop. again. she recognized me as the fika woman. that was craaaazy. and freaking cool. so, i told her i’d be taking photos and that she could tell the namer/owner that filo, the coffeehouse, would be on the blog on monday. then ,i took my latte and noticed that the cozy spaces were available. jackpot!

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i sat down, settled in, pulled out my computer, and stayed there for the next 2 hours. f i n a l l y. a coffeehouse where i could sit and stay and just be. a place that felt like home. like i belonged. a place that was totally right up my alley.

there were lots of funky, cool details. the feeling was a bit bohemian. art hung on the walls. candles were set out in windowsills and on tables. there was a corner with wine. plus the coffeehouse playlist was relaxing and inspiring – extra bonus. i have since begun a “fika files” playlist on spotify with the best songs to sip coffee by. i’ll share it in a few days, if you want.

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filo is a cafe inspired by european cafes, and is meant to be a place to come and enjoy coffee and a slice of something yummy. the owner spent summers in greece and learned the art of long, slow, intentional times of coffee throughout the day. oh, those europeans, they sure do know how to make sure to enjoy life. there is always time for a cup of coffee, you know? think how beneficial it would be to take the time to slow down and enjoy something in life for just an hour every day. think what it would be like if we prioritized that time. i’m pretty sure that we all would be much more at peace, focused, calm, and happy.

looks like today i found one perfect place to do just that. y e s.

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namaste. /liz

filo . 1155 tunnel road .  asheville, nc. www,filopastries.com

Day 35: bringing out the artist in me.

i was heading east again, to the cute little town of black mountain. all ready to walk the downtown streets and find this new cafe called the artisan. as i approached the town, i typed the address into my navigation system and was slightly confused when it showed me a route that led through downtown and then south a little bit. i had no idea that i’d be outside of black mountain. and i didn’t understand how (or why) a new little cafe existed off of one of the windy country roads. but, i listen to my navigator’s voice and headed south…. but, i got lost. or i did’t get lost, actually. what happened was that i ended up circling back around on some back road which spit me out in the middle of downtown black mountain again.

i should’ve taken a left at the fork in the road. not a right. so, back on the same route, i made the correct turn off to the left, drove a few more miles, and suddenly saw a little community built on the side of a cleared and well-manicured mountain. ah haaaaa…. now i understood. this is where this little cafe was.

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the village of cheshire is a small mountain community of homes and commercial businesses which are designed to blend in with nature, offering a way of living that connects people to each other and to the natural world around them. there are homes, stores, cafes, trails, streams, and grassy areas. to me, it looks like a little bit of heaven for retired people. a chance to live in the mountains… comfortably and conveniently. it’s quite upscale. beautiful, i’ll admit it, but pricey and exclusive. check out some of the homes…

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just below the homes, right off the highway that leads you to cheshire village, are the businesses and restaurants. it looked as if some of the places we’re still available. i did love the whole arts & crafts style of everything. very woodsy. very natural. i walked around the area for a while, even exploring one of the trails that led off into a field before heading up a mountain. it was all very nice, but a little more planned than i prefer when i’m in the woods.

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DSC_0668then, i decided it was time to go in and check out the coffee & wine bar. i walked in and noticed the cozy, sort of lodge-y feel of the place. i’m pretty sure the fireplace on one wall made that lodge-y feel even more heightened. but, before i got my coffee, i walked over to the little artisan market connected to the cafe space. in there i found tons of bottles of wine, beer, and artisan breads. mmm…. it looked amazing. i so wanted to leave with an armful of bottles of seasonal wines that were on sale. but, i controlled myself and contained my cravings. i was not here for wine, but for coffee, i kept telling myself. wine and beer will be another blog project. hehe.

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i walked back into the cafe and approached the bar, looking at the coffee menu on the wall, but so very tempted to partake of the wine bar instead. nope. i had too far to drive. and, again, this is a coffee project. so, a small macchiato it was for me instead. and when i say small, i mean, it was small. like espresso cup small. and over two dollars. more than i almost always pay for a regular-sized (16oz) latte. gulp. i swallowed hard and paid. yeah. this place was exclusive. and yeah. it was only retirees in the cafe with me. no matter. time to enjoy my (tiny) coffee in the sunshine.

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as i sat and sipped, i suddenly felt the extreme warmth of the sun beating on my left arm through the window. and looked down at the table and saw the white cup, bathed in sunlight, agains the blackness of the table and knew that this would be a crazy awesome shot. so, i snapped it. satisfied with my shot, done with my macchiato, and inspired by the gorgeous weather, i decided to leave this upscale area and find my way into the woods – so i could be alone. i hopped in my car, said goodbye to the artisan, and drove away from black mountain.

i got up on the blue ridge parkway and just drove. the other day my brother showed me a little dirt road that led back into asheville through the woods, so i decided to take that road, thinking that the leaves on the trees would be amazing. i climbed higher and higher on the parkway, passed glorious sights overlooking the mountains, and then made my way into the trees onto this dirt road. it must have taken me forever to get down the mountain because i stopped the car every 20 feet to take pictures. i was in my element. i had a to go cup of coffee by my side and just snapped away. and i was all alone. it was total bliss.

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while i may not have had my most amazing fika visit ever, i am so glad that i found the little artisan wine & coffee bar. if anything, it inspired me to spend some of my day doing some other things i love… making art in my own way by photographing the world around me. that little cup of macchiato really did bring out the artist in me.

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namaste. /liz

the artisan .  2 east market street . black mountain, nc. www.artisangourmetmarket.com

Day 34: On mosaics, community, & expectations.

it was mostly cloudy and chilly, and all i wanted was to find a little, dark, cozy cafe corner all to myself. i wanted to order something warm and pumpkin-y and yummy. i wanted to open my computer and sit there for a couple of hours. working, nesting, snuggling. sounds perfect, huh? do you think that’s how it went for me? nope. it did not go like that. not at all.

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i drove south on interstate 26 toward the newly built city within a city, biltmore park, certain that i would find my dream autumn day cozy spot. i was headed to a cafe named mosaic. that sounded all dark and cozy to me. and when i hear the word “mosaic”, i immediately think: diversity, uniqueness, artsy, colorfulness. a perfect little place.

why i expected that in the middle of biltmore park, i’ll never know.

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biltmore park is cool, but not really my style. i totally appreciate it and i visit the movie theatre there almost every time i go see a movie, but it’s a little upscale community that is one of those suburban-urban places. newly built, it has sidewalks winding around the buildings with store and restaurants on the ground floor and urban, lofty apartments above. the stores are not really chain stores, which is very cool. i love independent places. i have never been into any of them, but the wine & cheese store looks promising. wink wink. other than that, and barnes & noble (most definitely a chain store, but i love it anyway), the rest of the stores are not really my style either.

the apartments look cool with their loft, industrial-look from the outside. all of them with cool balconies, but it’s too much of a community. where i live is most definitely a community of newly built apartments, but our style is a little more arts & crafts, 1920s asheville merges with 21st century asheville. and we’re not in the suburbs, we are just outside downtown and a community all on our own – a community of just apartment homes, no stores or restaurants.

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in biltmore park, the whole community is right there. like a little downtown, but a man-made downtown, if you get what i mean. not a “natural”, old downtown. here it is fabricated. a “planned community” as their website describes it. still, it looks cool. but, i’m pretty sure it’s outrageously expensive and way too upsacale for me. i’m a bit more bohemian and organic than this place – which my apartment isn’t exactly like that either, but it’s waaaay closer and it’s green. and you know, when you are married, you work to find something that works for you both. so, we both love where we live right now.

so, why i thought that there would be a bohemian cafe there is beyond me.

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needless to say, since i had all these ideas and plans about how my fika was going to go today, i also had a dose of reality hit me right in the face. expectations… dashed. mosaic was, in no way, the place i dreamed up in my little head. when did i start dreaming up what the cafes would be like? didn’t i begin this project with no expectations and find excitement and craziness in every place? i think i’m having a coming to the end of the 40 days crisis: i have come to know what i like in a cafe, and i am dying to just cuddle up with myself or a friend or two in some of my favorite places. i keep thinking about a few different cafe and how i can’t wait to go back. i am not focused on the present moment. i am not focused on the joy of the project, but am ready for it to wrap up. i’m getting into that transitional stage of knowing that it’s coming to an end, so i’m focusing  on what comes next instead of right now. i gotta fix that.

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yes, i walked into mosaic and it was not at all what i had built up in my head. not. at. all. there were cute mosaic tables and dark wooden chairs, but the similarities to my fantasy mosaic ended there. there was a counter and a coffee bar, and two super friendly women working behind the counter. they were smile-y, sweet, and extremely kind. how nice that felt.

i noticed pretty quickly that there was one piece of pumpkin bread left and immediately decided that it was mine, though three people stood in front of me. i silently prayed that the food gods would intervene and keep my piece of pumpkin bread safe. it worked. i paid for my coffee and pumpkin bread, and then took my seat at a little table facing the cafe.

people poured in and out, and once again, i had discovered a place with regular regulars. they greeted the ladies behind the counter and engaged in conversations with them, the ladies behind the counter asking if they would have this or that today. gosh, i am so impressed by these places that create a little community of regulars who return again and again. it gives me hope for this individualistic world. when we can establish, not just routines, but relationships with one another – even over brief encounters in a cafe, i feel hope for humanity.

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so, i ate my yummy bread, sipped my amazing black widow coffee, and watch the world pass by in this little cafe. not what i planned or expected, but a good moment and a good time to reflect anyway.

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it’s just so amazing, and so important, to slow down and fika. that i have proven to myself.

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namaste. /liz

mosaic cafe . 1  town square blvd.  suite 150 . asheville, nc . www.ilovemosaiccafe.com

Day 33: buddha says, “champagne and books feed the soul.”

well, get ready for a ton of photos. seriously. i’m sharing so many with you because this place is absolutely beautiful. it’s like walking into an old, english library. or a museum. or an early 20th century men’s billiard room (without the billiards). well, it’s actually all three rolled into one. and it is perfect.

a few weeks ago, i planned to meet someone here for fika, not knowing anything about it. but, it was closed because of some renovations going on to the building’s exterior. based on it’s name, i somehow knew that it would be amazing, so i was quite disappointed i didn’t get a chance to go.

but, today i was doing errands downtown and realized that it would be perfect to walk across the street and explore this fantastic place where my expectations were already set as high as the roof. however, this time, in no way, was i disappointed. in fact, my expectations were majorly surpassed. i mean majorly.

i walked into the battery park book exchange & champagne bar and it took my breath away. that’s right. i said, book and champagne in the same sentence. now, if you’re like me, those two things together indicate a little piece of heave on earth. but, there is not only champagne, there is coffee. so, i could totally visit and call it a fika.

i walked through the doors and was absolutely awe-struck. there were books everywhere. from floor to industrial, exposed-pipe ceiling. it was dark and cozy. there were books and crannies every freaking where. have i said that before?  books. and books. and more books. immediately, i knew that this place was made for fika. the idea is to come in, find a book, buy or exchange a book, read a magazine, chat with someone, do some work alone – and all the while, sip on coffee or champagne or wine. i had absolutely died and gone to heaven.

i wandered and wandered, around the corners, up the stairs, between bookcase after amazing bookcase. i must have looked like a tourist in new york city for the first time, craning my head upwards with my jaw hanging wide open. in complete awe.

i got stuck in this one place. there were books, and sofas, and a table. and there was a buddha statue. in that moment, i knew that these things all symbolized things that ground me, that center me in life – books, words, and spirituality. it was a sacred little moment there. surrounded by the warm, burnt orange walls, and the dark wood bookcases filled with any book title you could imagine, and the little buddha, staring back at me with such peace. i vowed right then and there that i would return here – to spend an entire afternoon, or an entire day. multiple times.

as i sipped the best pumpkin spice latte that i’ve had this season, i felt a peace rise up from within my soul. the kind of peace that reminds you that you are where you are supposed to be – maybe not just physically in that moment, but in general, in life. i knew that this place tapped into a deep longing and love of mine – the love of words and spirit.

yes, this book exchange and champagne bar delivered this beautiful, unique experience. oh my gosh, i can’t wait to go back. but, for now, i’d like to share with y’all all the photos i took of this place. they don’t do it justice. you truly have to make your way down there, and give yourself some time and soak up every bit of the atmosphere. i’ll meet you there, ok?

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namaste. /liz

battery park book exchange and champagne bar . 1 page avenue, suite 101 . asheville, nc . 28801 .

www.batteryparkbookexchange.con