Happy New Year’s

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Well, here we are… the last day of 2011.  What a year it was for the Alley Cat Cafe.  After being closed for almost nine months we re-opened in our new location on Main Street in Quincy, CA.  Now that our doors have been open for four short months and we are nicely settled in, I can look back on those frustrating, almost impossible months and see that I needed that much time to look within and make the changes necessary, not only in the cafe but in my life.  Funny how it works that way.

A friend recently posted something on her Facebook page that intrigued me.  As I sit here on New Year’s Eve, like so many others, reflecting on the past year and looking at what I’d like to change or do the same in this coming year, this link really hit home for me.  It talks about how they straightened out the Mississippi River and now it “floods” in the areas that they straightened.  Really the “flooding” is just the river “remembering” where it was originally supposed to go.  I love that. 

During the time the Alley Cat was closed, various people, including myself, tried to straighten me out.  It was mostly fear.  People who were afraid I was making a mistake, taking too much of a risk.  I started second guessing myself by the fourth or fifth set-back…. “maybe we should just quit, give up, go the safer, straighter way, find a safe job”. 

Thankfully, I’m made of very stubborn blood and am loyal to a fault, after all I had made a commitment and I would follow through with it.  Now, after we’ve been open for awhile, I am so grateful for those months of trials and tribulation and so grateful for our new location.  I honestly cannot think of another job I’d rather have.  The Alley Cat provides a warm and positive atmosphere, we serve food for the soul in more ways than one and we make a difference by serving only fairly traded coffee, tea and chocolate….. I am proud to be the owner of such a place and am glad my river wouldn’t straighten.  Only time will tell if I made a mistake by re-opening…. but I will know I tried and I will know that I followed my “river’s memory”. 

Happy New Year everyone…. may you have the courage to keep your bends and winds and not straighten yourself into something you aren’t.  Here’s the link to the article on straightening the river:

http://www.taramohr.com/2011/12/they-straightened-out-the-river/

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Why do we use organic milk?

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The Alley Cat Cafe is comitted to using only organic dairy products in our drinks. We use Organic Valley Milk as much as we can because we can get it from Chico State University, so it travels less and uses less fuel to get here.  Their website is a great resource for all kinds of healthy information.  Here is just one exerpt from www.organicvalley.coop :

We used to think all fat was “bad.” Not surprising, really. Fat carries a hefty calorie load and Americans are notorious waist watchers. Food manufacturers sold us low-fat, fat-free and “lite” versions of salad dressings, cookies, potato chips, and everything in between.

Weight-conscious consumers chose margarine over butter, vegetable shortening over lard, and even artificial whipped topping over real whipping cream.

We thought we were doing right by our families. But today we know better.

Despite its calories, fat helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and delivers satisfying taste – an essential ingredient in pleasurable eating. We’ve also since learned that “hydrogenated” vegetable oils in stick margarine and shortening contain “trans” fat, which raises our blood levels of “bad” cholesterol and increases our risk for heart disease.

The Pasture Advantage
Historically, when humans were hunter-gatherers and our diets consisted mostly of wild plants, fish, and meat from grazing animals, we likely consumed an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio close to 1:1. (4) With industrialization, our diets shifted to include more vegetable oils, meat from animals raised on grains, and highly processed foods. As a result, the average American now consumes at least 10 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s (3), which may partly explain our current chronic diseases.

Good Reason to Get Omegas Back in Balance
The American Dietetic Association recommends increasing our intake of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and lower our risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack. (5,6) There’s also exciting research underway investigating the role of omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against colon cancer (7,8), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related macular degeneration – a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. 

However, omega-3 fatty acids may be most important in brain, eye and nerve development, and especially critical for pregnant and lactating women and their infants .

Organic Foods: Your Win/Win
Organic foods not only minimize our exposure to environmental toxins, but because organic ruminant animals are required to spend significant time on pasture, organic meat and dairy products naturally contain a healthier mix of fatty acids.

One of the key issues organic advocates can bring to the diet debate is the importance of knowing the source of our food. Reducing our exposure to environmental toxins is key to our children’s health, and protecting our natural resources is key to the future of our planet.

Customers ask all the time, “what makes your drinks so good?”  I tell them we use the best of the best products in our drinks.  Organic milk from happy, healthy cows, sustainably grown coffee and Fair Trade chocolate grown by happy, well paid farmers.  The health benefits aside, Organic products just taste better.

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Eco Responsible!

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When I got the phone call from Taste Of Life Magazine that the Alley Cat is  one of the winners in their Eco Responsible contest I was a little surprised.  To be totally honest, I have no idea how many winners there were, but hey, it’s pretty cool a little cafe in a town the size of Quincy, CA. can be eco-friendly enough to win any contest!

I’ve been taking a curious look at Starbuck’s website that courageously asks customers to leave comments and ideas for Starbuck’s.  Among the all time top ideas were eco-friendly suggestions like “use spoons instead of plastic stirrers”, “compost your spent coffee grounds”.  89,470 people voted on the suggestion to recycle.  There were 10,180 votes on using ceramic mugs for people who stay there to drink their coffee, and 28,740 votes for locally sourced baked goods.  It’s pretty apparent by these numbers that environmentally responsible company practices are important to coffee drinkers.  I am really happy to say that the Alley Cat Cafe is way ahead of the giant coffee company in going Green.

Here are a few ways we, at the Alley Cat, are Eco Responsible:

- We use as much Organic, locally produced ingredients as possible.

- We compost all our produce scraps and spent coffee grounds.

- We only offer Fairly Traded coffee, tea and chocolate

- We use geo thermal technology to heat and cool the building

- We have always used good old spoons to stir with

- We recycle

- Our pastries are either freshly made in house or sourced from local bakeries, so we aren’t shipping from across the nation to get them here.

- We have always used ceramic coffee mugs for people who can sit down and stay awhile.

We are always looking for ways to be even “Greener”, if you have any suggestions let us know about them…. Facebook us.

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Mindful Eating

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Last weekend I was sitting at our campsite at Bucks Lake eating a bowl of my favorite orzo salad from American Valley Bakery in Quincy. I had just read an article about mindful eating by Jan Chozen Bays who is the author of “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food”.

Mindfull Eating

The author spoke of eating a lemon tart, describing the first mouthfull as “Creamy, sweet-sour, melting”. The second and third bites didn’t have the same taste, the same experience; she had gotten distracted and wasn’t paying attention to what she was eating. “Then I take a fourth bite, fully focused on the smells, tastes, and touch sensations in my mouth. Delicious again!”

Jan goes on to say, “If I talk, walk, write or even think while I’m eating – the flavor deminishes or disappears…..I can’t do all these things at once because the mind has two distinct functions, thinking and awareness. When the thinking is turned up, the awareness is turned down. When the thinking function is going full throttle, we can eat an entire meal, an entire cake, an entire carton of ice cream, and not taste more than a bite or two. When we don’t taste, we can end up stuffed to the gills but feeling completely unsatisfied….. the stomach became full but the mind and mouth were unfulfilled and continued calling for us to eat.” Sound familiar?

I experimented with my orzo salad taking it a step further; being mindful and grateful for the hands that brought me the salad. I dissected it farmer by farmer; two olive farmers, dairy farmer, parsley farmer, cayanne pepper farmer. Then , as I chewed, I thought of how many other hands went into making that mouthful. The olive oil, the vinegar, the orzo, the feta were all made by someone. There were drivers, the people at Quincy Natural Foods who stocked the shipment and then, finally, the hands at American Valley Bakery who put the ingredients together. I silently thanked each pair of hands. Then I paid close attention to the individual tastes and the taste as a whole…. yummm.

By the time I had finished that little bowl, I felt very satisfied and grateful. Try it next time you sit down to eat or when you are drinking that morning cup of coffee, think about all the hands that brought it to you and be mindfull and grateful.   Enjoy!

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Right Livelihood

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While researching what I wanted to be when I grew up, I came upon the Buddhist philosophy on “Right Livelihood”.  Buddhism is based on, among other things, the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes “right livelihood”.  Thich Nhat Hanh explains this philosophy as “finding a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others.”

After the Alley Cat had been opened for a few months I realized that I had found my right livelihood.  Being able to provide a welcoming, compassionate environment for people to be nourished, not only by the food and coffee, but by the surroundings, is a great pleasure to me. But, it goes deeper than that.

By using only Organic milk products bought from a co-op of local farmers and only serving fairly traded coffee and tea and chocolate, we are able to give the farmers a chance at right livelihood. The cows are treated well and are allowed to graze on grass that is not treated with chemicals.   Because no chemicals are used on the land and because the miles are shortened for delivery, we are not causing damage to the environment.  Even the cows are practicing right livelihood!

As an owner, I feel good about being able to express my deepest self, my deepest beliefs, in my work. I believe deeply in win-win situations, sustainability, composting, re-cycleing, laughter, being of service, looking people in the eye and equality. 

Thank you to all my customers at the Alley Cat Cafe for making it possible for me to practice right livelihood.

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The Third Place

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A Place To Gather

When I was  in the “dreaming phase” of opening the Alley Cat Cafe, i just wanted a place to go get some good coffee.   I came from the Bay Area where you could get a good cup of coffee or a mocha at any time of the day of evening.  But as I started to develope a business plan, I was hit with questions about mission statements and goals and tag lines.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized what I truely wanted to create was a “Place To Gather”.  A place to meet up with girl friends while our kids had baseball practice, a place to share ideas, to have an actual conversation while looking each other in the eye.  A place to connect to people in my community without having to worry about whether the living room was picked up or the dishes were done.

I started investigating this topic more and stumbled upon a book by Ray Oldenburg called “The Great Good Place”.  After reading it, actually devouring it, I realized my concept for a gathering place wasn’t original… it even has a name:  “The Third Place”.  More importantly, the desire for these places is shared by most humans, world wide.

Oldenburg identifies third places, or “great good places,” “as the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them. Third places “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” Oldenburg suggests that beer gardens, main streets, pubs, cafés, coffeehouses, post offices, and other third places are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy. They promote social equality by leveling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.”

The Alley Cat Cafe  has become a “Third Place” to many in our community.  I must stress, though, that although Bob and I have provided the place and the coffee, it has been the people who have made it the gathering place that it has become.  The Alley Cat is a warm, welcoming gathering place, a place to connect, and leave, even for a brief moment, the stress of the outside world. Thank you to all our Alley Cat customers and friends.

For more information on the Third Place go to:  http://www.pps.org/articles/roldenburg/

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World Peace

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World Peace T shirt

A few years ago we (the staff) at the Alley Cat were struggling. We were at each other’s throats, we were gossiping, tattling and complaining about each other.  I knew we had to turn things around or the Alley Cat Cafe was doomed.

A friend of mine introduced me to Fish Philosophy.  It’s the philosophy that  Pike’s Place Fish in Seattle developed and used to turn their buisness around when they were close to bankruptcy . What we needed, among other things, was a lofty goal. We were able to come up with something we all believed in;  World Peace.

Lofty? You can say that. I mean, what was a little coffee house in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains going to do about World Peace?  We decided if a bunch of fist fighting fish mongers from Seattle could decide to become the most famous fish market in the world and become better people by doing it – it could work for us too.

We decided something we could do was commit to World Peace – starting with our little corner of the World.

We had a ceremony and we all took the oath, got our t-shirt and talked about what we would each do in our own lives to reach our goal; with family, friends and while we were working at the Cafe. It absolutely worked.

The Alley Cat Cafe, I am proud to say, is a very peaceful, loving, welcoming “Third Place” , Come check us out and take the oath yourself. Pick up a t-shirt to shout to the world that you commit to world peace, starting with your little corner of the world.    

Peace Baby!

For more information on Fish Philosophy go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pike_Place_Fish_Market 

For information on World Peace Day go to : http://internationaldayofpeace.org/about/background.html

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Alley Cat Cafe & Coffee House – Quincy, CA

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We are located in the lobby of the West End Theater:
                     The Alley Cat Cafe
                     541 Main Street
                     Quincy, CA
                      (530) 283-0902   
                             
Fair Trade Coffee, Tea and Espresso drinks. House made pastries and lunches. Great atmosphere.
The Alley Cat Cafe is not the oldest coffee house in town, but we’ve been told we have the best coffee in Plumas county. We are dedicated to serving the highest quality, fairly traded coffee possible. Our sincere hope is that you will always feel better when you leave than when you walked in.  We know a coffee house is more than just a place to get a cup of joe, it’s a place of comfort, a daily ritual. We love being part of that ritual. Our devotion to fairly traded coffee and tea means not only are we starting our day well, but we are helping farmers to start their day well too….. see you at The Cat!
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