The Coffee Diaries: House Roots – Granada Hills, CA

Most of the coffee shops that I love are on the Westside of Los Angeles – Groundwork, Alfred’s, and Philz. 15 to 20 miles away, a taxing drive down the 405. While my neighborhood has plenty of Starbucks and Coffee Beans, I didn’t think there’d be any coffee shops around the corner that would excite, inspire, and calm me in the same way.

And then, I discovered House Roots Coffee, just a few miles away. I did not even need to leave the San Fernando Valley.

I first visited House Roots just hours before the New Year. My boyfriend and I sat in the corner on a wooden bench, cupping warm lattes in our hands, savoring those final moments of 2016. We enjoyed a murmured conversation in between sips, our drinks introducing deep, flavorful notes to our taste buds.

The shop was small and simple with bare walls except for the menu, crafted out of wooden panels. It had all of the essentials, nothing superfluous.

House Roots Coffee Sweet Latte
House Roots Coffee – Iced Sweet Latte
The baristas seemed to know everyone who walked through the door, greeting them like old friends. While many coffee shops have transformed into workspaces—laptops out, earbuds in—this cozy space served as a meeting place, a home base, a community center.

Before I drafted this blog post, I checked out their website, and I was blown away by their mission statement. Here’s the opening line:

“Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, we are a group of community members deeply passionate about people, coffee and the place we call home, our roots.”

They donate a portion of their profits to community programs, relief efforts, and overseas projects. Plus, they host live musical performances and art shows.

“House Roots Coffee is dedicated to these three core values: coffee, cause, and community.”

I’ve since returned, and I know I’ll be back soon. House Roots’ culture is unique and refreshing – not to mention, their coffee tastes incredible. If you ever find yourself in the Valley with a caffeine craving, stop by and join the community.

The Coffee Diaries: Highlight Coffee

I love natural lighting—that happy, pure, bright glow.

The sun radiated through the large windows of Highlight Coffee, located on the corner of Broadway and South Glendale Avenue. Once I stepped inside, I was struck by the brightness, magnified by crisp white paint and pale wood furniture. I felt awake, and I hadn’t even taken a sip of their coffee yet.

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I’ve been to my fair share of (non-Starbucks) coffee shops, and I’ve gotten accustomed to pretentious baristas who high key judge me for not knowing what a Gibraltar is. As I approached the counter, I braced myself. But the baristas, nonchalant in their tone and movements, welcomed me with kind smiles.

A shop can have the cutest, most Instagram-worthy aesthetic, but if the baristas give me unwarranted attitude, that’s what I’ll remember most. These guys (whom I captured in latte-making action below) are integral to Highlight’s relaxed atmosphere.

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Creamy, fluffy, and topped with a darling floral design—that hint of espresso was just what I needed to jumpstart the day.

Coffeeshops always have a way of lifting my spirits. During chaotic and disheartening times like these, I cherish each and every thing that gives me joy. Like sipping a little cup of caffeine on a Saturday afternoon.

I’m grateful for these moments of peace and privilege, of simple happiness.

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The Coffee Diaries document my “coffeeventures” around Los Angeles and beyond. If you have any recommendations, please comment below! 

Frank, Funny, and Fun: Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?”

If my childhood, teens, and twenties were about wanting people to like me, now I want people to know me. So, this is a start.

– Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

So, I lied. I originally said that this blog would be a space for me to talk about reading and writing fiction, but after binge reading the entirety of Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? yesterday, I am expanding the scope of this blog to include nonfiction as well.

Why Not Me? is Mindy Kaling’s second book of personal essays [the first being Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), which I have yet to read]. After trudging through slews of novels by Dead, Serious, and Canonical White Guys throughout my university education, it was refreshing and exhilirating to dip into the pages of Kaling’s contemporary life as a writer and actress–one that does not always align with the standards of beauty and behavior that police the existences of women in Hollywood.

My Favorite Essays (1) (2)

What makes WNM such a thoroughly enjoyable and valuable read is Kaling’s voice and attitude: she is simultaneously frank about her (very human) insecurities and faults and unapologetic about her confidence and overall fabulousness. Her language is colorful and sharp, colloquial but eloquent, sprinkled with perfectly selected pop culture allusions. A professional comedian, she cranks out sidesplitting jokes, while, at the same time, articulating poignant, honest musings about experiences/feelings that readers will undoubtedly relate to. There was one particular reflection in “Some Thoughts on Weddings” that resonated with me:

With my friends, the sad truth is that our best “best friend” days are behind us. […] It’s traumatizing to think that a best friend could become just a friend. That’s because there is virtually no difference between an acquaintance and a friend. But the gulf between a friend and a best friend is enormous and profound.

-Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

I think that it’s easy to forget that celebrities have personal lives that are structured very much like our own, with familial and platonic support systems. Kaling doesn’t upkeep that misconception by lingering too long in the seemingly glamorous aspects of her career. Instead, she breaks it down for us, as in essays like “A Day in the Life of Mindy Kaling,” detailing what kind of work went/goes into building and sustaining that kind of life. Yes, she assures us, having your own TV show actually requires a lot of hard work. Sure, there are some perks, like becoming buddies with the President of the United States and being BFFs with cool people like B.J. Novak, but underneath all of that fluff are long hours of writing and editing scripts and meeting with scarily important network executives who may or may not shut down your projects any minute.

Kaling, who is especially open about her desire to please people, focuses a great deal on her personal relationships, as well as the personal side of her professional relationships. She doesn’t hesitate to tell us about celebrity-friendships-gone-wrong and crushes that fizzled into could-have-beens. She confesses to taking immense pleasure in filming sex scenes. And she paints idiosyncratic portraits of the most influential mentors that have shaped her career. She humanizes the experience of working in a business that relies so heavily on illusion and facade.

Why Not Me? was the most fun and pleasurable reading experience that I’ve had in a long time. It was straightforward and easy to read (refreshing after taking courses on Chaucer and Shakespeare), but, at the same time, it was thought-provoking and intelligent. I didn’t have to exercise too much intellectual brainpower to feel connected to it, either; I just connected. Mindy Kaling proves with WNM the power of a book that inspires effortless emotional connection and balanced mental engagement.

If you’re looking for a book to enjoy this weekend, I’d definitely check this one out!

Till next time…

-JoAnna