Cafe Gratitude

Even if you’re not from California, you may have heard about Cafe Gratitude, an organic vegan food spot based around healing energy and the power of affirmations. If you live nearby one in California, you might not necessarily go all the time for two reasons:

  1. The idea behind it is sort of gimmicky, and might feel like an option that only appeals to tourists.
  2. There are plenty of organic and vegan food options in California that don’t require you to be so positive about the world.

However, after going to Cafe Gratitude twice, I have to say that I really appreciated the place – was grateful for it, even (yes, I did that).

The first of this small chain of cafes opened in Venice Beach, and that’s the one I visited both times. The interior of the restaurant has a very “bungalow” vibe to it, as do many places around Venice Beach. Low circular tables are surrounded by whicker chairs surrounding and a warm, yummy Mexican-style throw draped over the back of each chair to keep you warm if needed, creating the effect of sitting around a bonfire on the beach.

Water sits in a bottle with positive words like “Love” or “Peace” written on the bottle, a tribute to Emoto’s Water Experiment. As the waiter comes and explains the menu to you/asks if you’ve been there before, he tells you the affirmation question of the day, which you can sit and reflect on or discuss with the table, whatever you feel. The one I remember most was, “What keeps you grounded?” I don’t remember what the question was on my second visit, but I do recall feeling like the people sitting with me at the table were the answer both times. My fiancee keeps me grounded. And so do my crystals.

The menu is the really special and fun part of the cafe. Each menu item is titled with an adjective that will be your affirmation when you order, such as “magical,” “glorious,” “accepting,” etc. Then when you order, you have to say “I am…” and your food choice, which for me was “bountiful.”

The food is all vegan and delicious, and obviously quite healthy. While you’ll have fun with it either way, I recommend that you don’t leave without ordering one of their juices or smoothies. So delicious.

And there you have it, very simple, positive concepts put to work at Cafe Gratitude. And while it might make you seem a bit eccentric to make this spot your go-to for eating, the food is top notch for vegan eaters and it certainly makes a fun outing for visitors to the LA area.

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2016: A New Year of Travel

Happy New Year! It has officially been a week since we were all preparing to countdown to 2016, with that fiery motivation to have a better year burning in our hearts. As an effort to hold onto the momentum (and inspire you to do the same), I’ve decided to put together a new list of resolutions, just for Cleaving Leaveland and traveling.

Goals to Carry Into 2016

1. Be Where I Am. This was a hard one for me last year for a few reasons. The first is that when I packed up to leave New York City and embark on two years of traveling the US, I left behind a very strong and empowering community of friends. Even when I ended up in places like Seattle where I made a lot of strong friendships, I found it difficult to appreciate them because my eyes were always looking at my friends in New York. The second reason it was so difficult to be present was that I kept getting let down thinking I was going to end up in one place and job opportunities, or lack thereof, put me in another place entirely. But when missing out on living in Austin meant opening up my eyes to the amazingness of Seattle, I realized that my disappointment had been a waste of time and energy. This is an adventure after all. Which leads me to my next goal…

2. Keep An Open Mind. Traveling is not really an exploration if I have a locked mindset of where I want to be and what I want to see. Last year I was hoping to get to Austin and instead went to Seattle, which quickly became my favorite city in the US. Just this January I had hoped to end up in New Orleans, and instead I’m off to Long Beach, CA. I have only been to Long Beach once in my life and I mostly spent my time there partying in a college house. This is going to be a whole new adventure for me. I was really hoping to do some ghost tours, take piano lessons, and see some alligators in the south, but maybe I’ll take a surfing lesson or two instead. Last year I was not a happy camper to end up in Phoenix, but it ended up being one of the most transformative 3 months for me in my travels. So this year I plan to keep an open mind, and go wherever the wind (and jobs) take me.

3. Stop Watching TV. Okay, so I don’t really plan to stop watching all TV all the time. But I have been sitting on this one for a while. Then recently I saw a video of Obama talking to school-aged children about what it means to have a family. One of the more profound statements he made was that if you come home, and you sit in front of the TV watching a show or playing video games, then you’re not really there – you’re checked out. If watching TV is not helping me to “be where I am,” then it’s time to cut it out of my daily routine.

4. Run Outside Often. Or take walks. I like to run for exercise, and I’ve found that taking care of my health outdoors has led me to come across places I would have never explored otherwise (like the crystal shop in Seattle or my favorite independent bookstore in Phoenix). So I’m going to get outside often, whether with running, biking, or just taking a walk.

5. Record More. This is different than writing more, for me. I want to start really recording what I love about places, especially on the blog. Taking notes on the best Pho I found in Seattle or the cutest Bed and Breakfast I happened upon in Pennsylvania will add richer illustration to the map of my travels, and may come in handy as I revisit places later.

So my list only has 5 goals for blogging and traveling, but I’m hoping that keeping it short and simple will help me accomplish them more thoroughly. I have other personal goals of course (take another class, volunteer, pass less judgment on others), but this list should be enough to take my travels and Cleaving Leaveland to the next level. As some of you will know, I’m engaged to get married in late summer of 2017, so this will be my last full year of traveling. I plan to take it to the fullest. Come with me and enjoy the ride!