A Chicago Dream


“If you quit drinking so much water, do you think you wouldn’t ‘go’ as much?” she yelled in the quiet restaurant.

“What?”, he snapped back.

“If you didn’t drink so much water, do you think you would ‘go’ so much?”

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Chicago speaks loudly but in a warm, humorous way.  The people are not as rude and direct as New Yorkers, but they have the same sense of confidence and ease in saying what they mean. This lady went on to announce that if he ever needed to cancel anything they had planned together, he should just feel free to email her. She’d be okay with that. He agreed that he’d feel absolutely confident in doing so.

I walked to work this morning in the city. Pedestrians stormed intersections with earbuds in their ears. In a sprawling city crawling with humans, they were ensconced in their own little world. A mass of black winter hats and coats marched ant-like across the bridge. I stopped to take pictures but no one bothered to stare. Walk lights flashed green…  buses whizzed by … taxi horns honked. A river taxi plowed slowly through the still-green Chicago River. The energy of the city woke me, and I felt myself blush with excitement.



Progress is Found in the Rear View Mirror


I’m cutting out coffee again. I get to a point where I’m just not feeling good. My energy is zapped. My brain seems fuzzy. And I get tired of the constant pull to get more caffeine. I don’t like to be told what to do, so when a substance starts driving my spending and consumption against my better judgment I get motivated to let it go.

I’ve done this 10 times. In fact, when I started the coffeehouse tour, one of my fellow bloggers commented, “I thought you couldn’t drink coffee.” Yeah, yeah…. I know. I get frustrated with myself because I can’t stay clean. Sugar and coffee seem to be the ones that keep me on an ever-winding path of improvement. I get so mad at myself when I realize I’m doing it again.

Perfection is an elusive dream. In my saner moments, I ask myself to look back at my life 3 or 5 years ago to gauge progress. I may not be improved over January, but when I look back at my life as a whole, I’m making great strides.

Five years ago I often consumed a whole bag of chocolate candy (not the single serving size) for dinner. And the thought of quitting coffee would have never crossed my mind. My email for a long time was coffeefreak@hotmail.com for heaven’s sake! I was a supervisor at a Starbucks. My life revolved around the hits of caffeine from that sultry, dark bean.

So, I’m not going to beat myself up on my journey to get healthier. Now I know how much better I feel when my coffee consumption is in check or, even better, eliminated. I know that green tea is a much healthier choice. I definitely have experienced how great it feels to be off the pull of evil sugar. Five years ago I was ignorant of the impacts of either. And my habits have even improved over the last year. The goal is not to be perfect. The goal is to keep on trying… in that I’m a winner.

P.S. Don’t worry! I’m going to continue my coffeehouse tour. They always have decaf!

What habit has improved for you over the last five years with constant attention? Do you beat yourself up for not being perfect?



Coffeehouse #12: Root Cafe in Fennville


Last weekend while I was driving around Michigan, I noticed a coffeehouse in Fennville that had slipped my mind. When my brother Terry and his family were here we stopped at Root Cafe, but I promptly forgot about it. It is a truly lovely cafe and art shop.

It was late in the afternoon on Sunday, so I opted for their green tea latte, and I splurged on a lemon ginger cupcake. Both were light and hit the mark on providing a little energy for the afternoon. The gentleman that served me was a new employee, and he and his manager were really nice. They said they make everything in the shop except for a few items like the bread which is made at the bakery next door. They try to source as many of their ingredients locally as they can. And that’s a good thing because they are in the middle of a LOT of farmland.


Fennville is a small town off the beaten path and in the middle of lots and lots of farmland. In fact the only reason I’ve driven through is to go to the Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery and to eat at Crane’s Restaurant on the grounds of their orchard. I asked them if they have much tourism there, and they said they have some but certainly not like the beach towns nearby. But she assured me that the events they have there are a vital part of the community year round.


The cafe was beautifully decorated, and there’s a gorgeous antique sofa that I’d love to spend a few hours with. Tables were decoupage newsprint from the local newspaper, and the rest of the furniture looked like antiques. It felt like a comfy, eclectic living room.


They host a dinner theater right there in the cafe. I looked around and asked “where?” “Well we just move all the chairs and do it right here in the cafe,” she said. How cool is that? I’m going to have to keep my eyes on their event calendar to attend one of those. And the food on the menu looks so good I definitely want to return for a meal. Stay tuned for more info on this place. I am quite sure it will be in my regular rotation – now that I remember it!


The Art of Waking Up

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The New York Times is working on a project to right their obituary gender and racial bias called Overlooked No More. In looking back over the generations of obituaries, they noticed that the obituary page rarely featured a successful or interesting female or ethnicity other than caucasian. In a time when our culture seems to be “waking up” to the forces that have limited the success of women and minorities, they are trying to set the record straight.


I found out about this project on The Daily, my favorite podcast for understanding the daily news. On Friday, they told the story of Ida B. Wells, one of the first investigative journalists of our time – an African-American woman who was born a slave. When she was freed, she lived through a time when African-Americans saw hope to make a living and be a part of society. But, then Jim Crow came along, and white anger turned into violent secret rage. She covered the lynchings.

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I’m not going to tell her story here because it is told much better in other places, but I will tell you that I was horrified to hear her descriptions of lynchings. I always thought there was a subset of evil Klansmen who turned out for this sort of thing. Whole towns turned out and cheered them on. I knew the places where many of these lynchings happened. I’d been there. I had lived in some of them. My romanticized view of the south – which has been in decay for a long time – took another hit. And my first thought was about the rage. No wonder there is so much repressed anger in this country.

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I know about rage. Repressed anger eats you alive. Growing up in a culture where children are supposed to be seen and not heard and where women are supposed to be nice and sweet and subservient, I’ve eaten my anger for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it doesn’t go away. It festers inside and eats me alive. It seeps out in depression. It explodes back-handedly in sarcasm. And, occasionally a violent, blinding rage erupts to the surface.

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I lived in a state of repressed anger for about 40 years until yet another abusive relationship caused me to crack wide open and wake up. Fortunately, we have help available today. When the mountain of rage within me finally crucified my spirit, I sought a variety of ways to deal with it, and, most of all, I leaked it out in a safe and supportive environment. Anger, I know now, is a healthy emotion. Rage is a different animal altogether.


Our culture is blowing up with rage. And this won’t be pretty. Women and minorities have repressed their anger and fed their rage for centuries. We as a culture are having a reckoning. This is who we are. This is who we have always been. The sick structures that have been in place to enrichen the upper class, silence the minority and keep power in the hands of the majority are being exposed. I’m not sure what will happen with all of this, but I can assure you it will continue to be quite a show. America is in the process of waking up. Buckle up. This won’t be comfortable.

Here are some links on articles I’m reading on this subject:

What the World Would Look Like if We Taught Girls to Rage

Ida Wells Biography

Is Repressed Anger the Real Reason Your Life Feels Stuck?

The Daily: The Women We Overlooked

Ida Wells Obituary in the NYT

Morning Share: Be Creative


For months now, I’ve been receiving messages from HP (my higher power) to be more creative. Rumor has it that being creative opens us up to so many possibilities spiritually. Creating and giving to the world is one way to get into the flow. But I’ve been struggling a bit with writer’s block. A fellow blogger told me to write about it.

I get blocked when I’m worried about what other people might think. One of my dysfunctional messages tells me that I shouldn’t get “too big for my britches”. “Who do you think you are?” is a powerful statement that keeps me from standing in my power and asking for what I need. “You always want to be treated special,” makes me feel like I have been asking too much from others. The real stomach punch is the underlying meaning of it all – there’s nothing special about me at all.

The Bible tells me that God knitted me together in my mother’s womb. That in itself makes me feel somewhat special. If I am made in God’s image, I have a right to shine. In fact, I’d say I have an obligation to shine. If God went to all that trouble to create me, then there must be some job for me to do here. And I know from experience if I feel defeated and silenced, I can’t create.

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I used to think I wasn’t creative. I thought of artists and authors as being creative. I just had to be open to what I wanted to create. My main objective for writing was to share what I had learned in my life journey for others who might be on the same path. I’m not super-knowledgable. I want to share my experience because I was taught those helpful things from others. If I received from the Universe, why shouldn’t I keep the flow going and share with others?

Blogging has broadened my world. At times it’s made me feel really insecure. It’s made me feel helpful and productive. It’s certainly helped me find closure and meaning from my life. I’ve made connections across the country and even in other countries who learn from my struggles and encourage me. I’ve met some face-to-face, and some I’ll never meet. Being creative has allowed me to give, but it’s given back so much more. I don’t think it’s made me feel “special”. I am special just because I breathe. Writing has made me feel like I’m an essential part of the human race.

Being creative matters. Plant a garden. Sew a blouse. Create a beautiful space in your home. Write a thoughtful letter. Build strong relationships. Journal. Learn something new. Make money from your own efforts. Splash color on a wall or restore a piece of furniture. Fix a tractor. Whatever it is that you give to the world, give it. The act of creating is powerful fuel for a life worth living. The only way to step into the flow is take a risk and create something from your heart, talent and wisdom. If that makes you special, then so be it. There ain’t nothing wrong with that.


Sunday Night Check-In: Pseudo-Spring


A week or so ago we had an almost 60-degree day. The rains came, the snow melted, the rivers rose. Ever since then, it shocks me that its cold outside when I go out. I expect it to be warmer even though my weather app says its still in the 30s. In fact, last week, we had four days of sub-freezing temperatures. It is NOT spring by any stretch of the imagination, but my imagination is running wild.


I ran Friday night after work. It was much colder than I thought. The sun was out, so I ran down to the lighthouse, through downtown and through the lakefront park. It felt so good to kick off the weekend that way. I got home, curled up in bed and continued reading The Great Alone.

I spent a lot of time reading this weekend. After living a couple of winters up here, I could relate to the snow-covered Alaskan scenery. If I really stretched my imagination, I could even imagine the long period of darkness with the cold, brutal winters. I couldn’t relate to the characters. Or maybe I related too well. The alcoholism, codependency and out-of-control rage really got under my skin. And the mother who thought she was some kind of savior for standing by her man while he was beating the crap out of her and scarring her kid made me sick to my stomach. I wanted them all to get eaten by a grizzly bear. But I did finish the book. It was relaxing to be taken away into a fantasy land that is not of my own making.

The Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery….

I hiked the dunes and the Lake Michigan beach yesterday with a friend, and I made a conscious effort to leave my camera behind. I’ve gotten tired of social media. In fact, I’ve even been struggling a bit with blogging. It was time to re-up my membership to my blog site this week, and I seriously debated justing deleting it. But I decided to push through and continue. Maybe I’m just in a slump. If I feel the same way next year, then it may be history.

The time change took a lot out of me, and I didn’t feel like running today. I loaded up Ashok, and we drove to the Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery to pick up some artisan cheese. It was such a nice day, so we did a little exploring at the nationally significant New Richmond Bridge. A little boardwalk and a walking bridge crossed the beautiful Kalamazoo River. We walked around for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine. Ashok even spotted a muskrat which caused a great deal of canine excitement.

I stopped at a couple of coffeehouses today. On the way out, I stopped at the Phoenix Coffeeshop (#11 for my tour) in Benton Harbor. It had closed for a bit last fall but has now reopened under new management. Japhy, the new owner, told me this is actually the third rising of the Phoenix. He didn’t really intend to open a business, but when the old shop closed, he felt it was a big loss for the community. They serve Dagger Mountain coffee and a limited but delicious lunch menu. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, so he suggested the homemade chai, and I ordered the Power Bowl for lunch.

The chai was phenomenal, and the Power Bowl was a great combo of quinoa, black beans, spice and bell peppers. While I ate, I enjoyed the bookstore atmosphere. Japhy said they are working on their own menu of bakery items, so I look forward to that in the future. I’m glad they reopened. We have a few coffee shops here, but I do like the location of this one, and the light streaming through the windows was really cozy.

The owner Japhy and my Power Bowl!

I will enjoy the longer daylight hours after work. I’ll be starting some trail running soon as part of my training plan, and I look forward to having enough daylight to do it after work. Winter may not be over, but I think the worst of it is behind us. The next few months will gradually bring warmer temperatures, spring flowers and loads of sunshine. I’ve already booked a spring camping trip, and I plan to outline a few backpacking trips real soon. It’s not spring yet, but I’m going to spring forward into the thought anyway.

P.S. I’ll review the other coffeehouse later this week!


Running Season, More Coffeehouses and Sunshine


On Friday someone mentioned it was supposed to be sunny all weekend. I checked my weather app, and they were right. It’s hardly spring with temps in the 20s-40s and snow in the forecast, but the sun shining in the sky is a reason to celebrate.

I got up Saturday morning early to get a cup of coffee before my hair appointment. None of the local coffeehouses were open, so I decided to stop by Plank’s at the local inn. I was really pleased at their brunch offering and got an amazing breakfast of avocado, eggs and sweet potato hash. My table was right in front of the fireplace with a lovely view of the river. It was a great, cozy, tasty way to start the weekend.


My internet has been out so I had to go home to wait for AT&T while I cleaned house, worked out on my TRX and cooked dinner. The guy was really nice, and I was very pleasantly surprised that he fixed it with no issues, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I went to bed early with my book club book, The Great Alone. A family in the 70s moved to rural Alaska on a whim, and I can’t wait to see if they will get eaten by a bear. There’s a lot of foreboding about danger and trouble going on. If the bears don’t get them, I expect the Daddy might go off his rocker and anger the locals. I’ll keep you posted.

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I had to do a long run this morning, so I packed up Ashok, and we headed to Kalamazoo to a nature preserve on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. It was a beautiful day although it was a tad colder than I expected. I’m lucky my technical shirt had some cuffs I could roll up over my hands. I planned on running 5 miles, but I felt so good at 2.5, I decided to go to 3 and double back for a total of 6. It felt amazing to be out and about and running on a day like today. And I noticed the Kalamazoo Nature Center is hosting a Maple Sugar Festival next weekend. That might be worth a trip!

I’ve started thinking about a running “season” this year now that the snow is melted and we seem to be on the back side of winter. I texted Jessica and hired her to coach me to run two specific races this fall. I want to run my favorite trail/road race of all time, the Mount Baldhead Challenge in September. And I signed up to run the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon in October. I even had to use my passport to sign up since the race course goes into Canada. Woohoo!!! Now, I just need to train and get in shape. I haven’t run a half marathon since February 2013 in Austin. We’ll see if I can get this body in shape again!

I visited two coffeehouses this weekend. My friend Donna had told me about The Full Circle coffee house (#9) in Stevensville so I stopped there on Saturday. It was a cute little cafe that serves a full breakfast as well as bakery goods and coffee. I opted for a chocolate scone which melted in my mouth. It had the texture of a flaky southern biscuit with a light drizzle of chocolate on top and a spattering of chocolate chips. They serve Infusco coffee, and I grabbed a latte to go. The manager told me it was called Full Circle because it is owned by three friends who grew up together, went on with their lives and then came “full circle” and opened a restaurant  together. The story is almost as cute as the furnishings and the setting in the cafe.


On Sunday, I stopped at Water Street Coffee (#10) in Kalamazoo. It is one of my favorite coffeehouses in that area. I had just run, so I got a Denver omelette strata and a latte made from their own roasted beans. The small place was packed, so I didn’t hang around too long. I noticed they have their own line of teas as well as coffee, local artisan-designed t-shirts and some really amazing coffee mugs. When I have time to browse, I’ll go back for another cup.

I’ve cooked up some beans for meals this week and am going to head to bed to read some more tonight. Now I’ve got races to motivate my running, a blog project that encourages me to explore my area, and a book club to motivate me to read. What’s motivating you to do what you know you want to do? Maybe it’s time you put something in place!

Have a great week, y’all!


In the Effort to Move Forward, We Die


I have been in a pensive mood this week. A lot has been going on in the world and in my life in the last month. And life moves forward. You have to roll with the punches and embrace change. There is no “pause” button. But I can sometimes find a pause by increasing meditation, getting off social media and listening to my heart. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been thinking about life… my life specifically and collective life generally.

At one point in my life I used to wonder if this was all there is to life. Those times were hopeless and were empty of connection and purpose. Today, I find myself overwhelmed by all there is. There is so much. There is so much hope and fear and anger and love. It’s hard to process it all. Our culture is changing. And I have to accept that cultures change when they need to change.  In my opinion, we’ve screwed it up. The party’s over.

I listened to a podcast this week from Invisibilia, one of my favorite podcasts. The Personality Myth episode is about a man who had been in prison for most of his life after raping a woman. A woman worked with him on a project many years after he was incarcerated and was very impressed with him as a person. When she found out why he was in prison, she struggled with how to rectify the two seemingly different people.

It made me think about how people change. I remember the young woman I was in my 20s fueled by alcohol and ambition. In my 30s, I tumbled into a depressive state that seemed insurmountable. The woman in my 40s had no confidence and swirled in desperation in an abusive relationship. I started to get my mojo back in my late 40s and in my 50s I’ve come into my own. If I woke up in one of those other bodies today, I don’t know if I’d recognize myself. And, yet I know that those women are all part of me.

This morning I read a story about a promising young woman who developed schizophrenia in her 30s. She ended up dying on a street corner in New York after living on the streets for a number of years. The people who knew her and loved her in her highly functioning days struggled with the reality that her life had ended up so destitute. And, yet, there was hope in her life and a connection with others that never ended. She always wrote. She read voraciously. She remembered with astounding accuracy the people who loved her. I imagine if someone had outlined her life’s trajectory to her in her early 30s she would have thought they were insane.


Life does not have a normalcy. There is no real status quo. We are either changing or we’re dying. This idea that things were better in the past is lunacy. Believe me when I say the good old days may have been good for a privileged few, but for most of us the good old days were filled with abuse at the hands of power, discrimination and a hopelessness that things could ever get better. We will look back at this being the good old days.

When I can be objective about what’s going on right now, I am hopeful. I think it’s time for a new generation to take over. The Baby Boomers have made a mess of our world, and my generation was so powerless in its wake that we did nothing to mitigate the damage. My young friends in their 30s have a completely different vision of how the world should operate, and I feel hopeful that they can undo some of the damage we have done. This generation will have their own set of problems to be sure, but maybe at least they’ll do better than we did. I hope one day we look back and say that all of this mess was just one more step in moving forward.


Hiking in Newaygo and Coffeehouse #8: The Bitter End


Ahhhhhh…. finally. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. Today it was warm enough and dry enough to get out for a long hike on the North Country Trail. Yes, I can hike around for a an hour or two with my dog in the snow, but I was looking forward to a day warm enough to get out and hit the trail for a long, long walk. I could hardly wait to get out of bed this morning – even though I was up until midnight last night.


I picked out a spot on the trail map within a 2 hour driving distance, finished up my coffee, packed my backpack and hit the road. On the way, I listened to an issue of the She Explores podcast on women over fifty. It was very inspiring. I saw myself in several of them, and I was inspired to hear that they continue to be active while they are accepting a different level of intensity as they age.

I didn’t really start hiking until I turned 50, and I only started backpacking in the last few years. I’m not sure how long I will backpack, but I do hope to get a few trips in this year. There’s just something about waking up in the woods that feels wildly spiritual. And my dog loves it. I know that it won’t be too many years until that might be too hard on her, so it makes me want to get out and do it now. I refuse to stop until it’s obvious I must. And I can definitely enjoy day hiking.

I wanted to get my #8 coffeehouse on the way in, so I stopped at The Bitter End Coffeehouse in Grand Rapids. It was tucked away in the cutest little area called the university district. Students probably love its 24/7 hours. It had the look of an English pub. The ambience was dark and masculine, and when I saw the ceiling in all of its original grandeur, I said “Wow” under my breath.


They had a really nice menu with lots of specialty drinks, so it took me a bit to decide. I’ve been daydreaming about the Kona coffee I had when I was in Hawaii, so I asked for the Kona mocha and walked around while I waited. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the Kona mocha was a frozen drink, so I was a little taken aback when the barista handed it to me. But I promised myself I was going to roll with the agenda on this coffeehouse exploration, so I didn’t make a fuss. I’d already paid for it, and it was my mistake any way. It was very yummy and quite a fancy treat for 9:30 AM.

This coffeehouse roasts their own beans, so I purchased some of their Kona beans to make at home. Recently, I got a KitchenAid Precision Press, and I love the coffee that is coming out of that thing. I love French Press coffee, but I never get the measurements right. This one helps keep it consistent. The sieve is better, too, so I don’t get grounds in my coffee.

I will definitely stop back by The Bitter End when I have time to stay. And, since they are open all the time, it won’t be hard to schedule a visit.

Ashok and I drove up to Newaygo which is a little less than an hour north of Grand Rapids. I’ve been up there hiking before on the North Country Trail but not on this section. I planned on doing around 9-10 miles, so I turned on my Runkeeper app to see if it would track my distance. Some snow and ice remained on the trail, but for the most part, it was dry. It was a nice forested hike, and we walked up and down small inclines, across gravel roads and rested when we wanted.  There were no fancy views or water features, but it was a great way to get a jump start on spring. I look forward to seeing wildflowers soon!

Around the 4-mile mark, we came upon a grassy meadow. It was quite lovely and very different than the habitat we’d been seeing. A sign told us this was a Coastal Plain Marsh, and, apparently it’s quite rare. It has the same plants and trees that inhabit the marshes up on the East coast. They also contain some very rare animals including the Massasauga rattlesnake. These little spots could be the remnants of the preglacial era. What’s more, the sign said there were 40 of these rare eco-systems in Michigan. When I looked it up on the internet, there’s one just down the highway from my home! Put that on the list.

So now I’m curled up on my sofa with one tuckered out dog and two very affectionate kitties. My house is still a mess as I played all weekend. That’s just the way it goes. I enjoyed a great party with friends both Friday and Saturday nights, got my monthly facial yesterday, ran a long run yesterday and enjoyed an adventure today. I’m thinking I’ll crawl up under the covers and go to bed early tonight. I’m sure I’ll hear no complaints from Ashok.





Bumbling into Coffeehouse #7: Beans, Bombers and Bagels


I haven’t had a moment to sit down and share my thoughts about a pleasant surprise last weekend on my Muskegon trip. Muskegon is almost two hours away, so after I ended my State Park adventure, I started the two-hour journey home. Muskegon State Park is situated near the lake, and I have to drive through a little town called North Muskegon to get back on the highway home. As always, I like to have a little liquid enjoyment to go along with my podcasts on a long drive.

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I couldn’t find one on a “coffee near me” Google search, but I caught one out of the corner of my eye near a busy intersection. It wasn’t technically a coffee shop, but with ‘beans’ in the name, I thought it would qualify. Besides, I was almost to the highway. It was time to fish or cut bait.

I have stopped at Brooklyn Bagels in the past for a sandwich after a snowy hike in Muskegon State Park, and I knew it was a good experience. This looked like a different concept, and, according to the website it is. But they still feature bagels and massive bagel sandwiches called Bombers. This particular store called Brooklyn’s Beans Bombers and Bagels is a concept store designed to showcase the franchise opportunity for potential investors. I liked it.

The decor was pretty cool. Big wooden tables and booths provided comfy seating for both dining and surfing the internet while sipping a coffee. It had a masculine feel, and I had the sensation of walking into a combination bar/coffeehouse – with the absence of alcoholic beverages. Instead, the mood-changer of choice is a nitro-infused cold brew. Matt, my friendly server, gave me a sample of two brews, and they were very smooth. While he was pouring my samples from a tap, he explained how it was made. I don’t know much about cold-brewing, but I know that 5 hours later I was awake in my bed wondering if those two sips of cold brew was the villain keeping me awake. This stuff packs a punch!

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I also needed dinner, so I opted for an Asiago bagel with chipped beef cream cheese. It was massive and very good. I only ate half of it because it was so huge. Next time, I think I’d like to try one of their bombers and, if I go early enough, one of their cold brew coffee concoctions.

I grabbed a hot chocolate to go, and it hit the spot. I promised Matt I’d be back, and I meant it. Ashok was pretty happy because they had bagel dog bones for her! It was a win-win for everybody.

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