Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lost and Found

This year I got lost. I flew over the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean and through several books, including Olive Kitteridge and Elders. I found my name carved in a tree.

I discovered Rebecca Solnit and Hanukkah donuts (which were much like these, but lemony) and drank too much wine and slept in whenever I could, sometimes because I was tired and sometimes because I just didn't want to have to deal with my day. I made new friends, and spent time with old ones.

I oscillated between writing and thinking and planning and cooking and wishing I didn't have to feed all these fricken carnivorous marsupials every day, but I fed them anyway, raw mince and calcium powder and vitamin drops. They, in turn, bit me and urinated and defecated and ejaculated on me and I wiped my hands on my jeans. All in the name of science.

In Malaysia, I tried fresh durian and roti chani. In Scotland, I learned to salt my porridge. At home, I topped pita bread pizzas with crisp green salad and tangy vinaigrette, and poured milk over cereal, and ground freshly-roasted beans for coffee. And in the evenings, Robbie made fires in the Weber on the deck and we sat outside - sometimes with Nelle and sometimes with friends - to watch the Brisbane sky darken and the fruit bats fly over, and when we were alone we talked about trips and renovations and ideas and our daughter. Stories I'd written and edited and submitted. Rejections. Existential crises. We laid next to each other in bed and watched people deal with kingdoms and zombies and surely that's more difficult than our everyday middle-class lives, right? 

I boxed the shit out of some heavy bags and did as much yoga as I remembered to and walked in the desert. One month, I had a massage a week. I got stressed and angry and got shingles in my mouth and my daughter watched too much TV. Good mother, bad mother. A funny bright spot on an MRI, the pinch of a long needle, the sting of mortality, relief. I had a short story printed in Christmas crackers

I chopped potatoes for roasting and danced in the kitchen to London Grammar and sometimes my daughter would dance with me but even if she didn't, I would. That's something. And you know that fuzzy feeling you have when you just wake up in the morning? Pushing your way through a muck, a haze, a softness, into the light and with some sadness leaving behind the imagined that you will never see again for the real, the very real ...

Well, that was 2014. Sometimes you need a year like that, a year of dreams, to prepare you for what's next.

And what's next?

The dreams will solidify, like clay left out in the dry air, formed and unformed and chalky in my hand. I'm going to write out my heart into science and short stories and essays and here, yes here. I'm going to stop worrying about whether I can be one thing or another thing and just do all these things, even the things that scare me. I'm going to push out, break out, crack open and live. Start seeing my real self in the mirror. Work towards strong. Experience individual moments. Carve my name somewhere. Taste my food, my world, my life.

That's my plan for 2015. What's yours?
Amanda xx

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Coffee Lover Holiday Wish List

Coffee Lovers' Holiday Wish List

I love coffee, and I use all of these things all the time. So just in case you have a coffee lover on your Christmas list (or are one yourself!), I wanted to share some great gift ideas with you. 

From the top left:
(1) a high-quality stainless steel stovetop espresso maker - These make an amazing espresso-style brew and encourage a tea ceremony-like patience. Believe it or not, waiting is good for you. You might even do yoga. The size of stovetop espresso maker you choose will depend on how many people you often serve for, and you might even feel the need to have more than one. Currently, I have a 2-cup size I keep in the US and a 4-cup size I keep in Australia. Yep. Seriously. 

The one pictured here is drool-worthy, but also pretty expensive. Don't feel like you need to spend $200 (!!) but you should definitely get one that's a little more expensive than you feel comfortable with, and that feels heavy when you lift it. Light = thin steel = likely to warp or fail. A nice hefty stovetop espresso maker will last you AGES and you'll find yourself taking it on camping or cabin holidays with you. 

Why do I like this? It makes an amazing coffee and doesn't have moving parts. 

(2) Eva Solo coffee maker - It's so pretty, it's won design awards! I have both sizes, 0.6L and 1.0L, for when I'm coffee-ing on my own or with others. The Eva Solo employs a pour-and-stir-and-filter method that's very easy and feels faster than a stovetop espresso, though I'm not sure if it really is. You still have to let the coffee steep in the glass carafe for 4 minutes before you pour it through the filter insert and serve it. The stylish little jacket keeps the carafe at just the right temperature, but a warning - it can make for some awkward moments if you try to put it on with someone you haven't had sex with. Just saying. 

Why do I like this? It's simple and elegant and makes a great coffee.

(3) Bodum stainless steel double-walled travel mug - I love these, and never leave home without them. Baristas all over Brisbane and Phoenix are probably looking at this and thinking oh, yep, she's that girl because I pretty much use it every day wherever I'm going for coffee. (I have 3 in regular rotation). I wanted a mug that was quality steel with the option that I would never have to drink through plastic. Many steel mugs have a plastic rim at the top - this one doesn't. It does have a spill-proof plastic top that you can use if you want, though.

Why do I like this? My coffee stays warmer for longer and tastes like coffee instead of plastic. 

(4) Hario ceramic burr coffee grinder - I only just learned about the benefits of ceramic grinders over the metal, whizzy kind. They produce (apparently) a nicer, more even grind, though I'll be honest - I really bought this for the hand crank and small size, meaning I can TRAVEL anywhere (electricity or not) with the ability to make amazing coffee. Mine is actually an all-steel version. The hand-grinding is another nice way to slow down the process of coffee-making, force yourself into a time out before you caffeinate yourself to the eyeballs again.  

Why do I like this? I can take it anywhere.

(5) Hario v60 ceramic coffee dripper and (6) unbleached filters - This is the rest of my coffee-addict TRAVEL set. Along with some fresh beans, I can grind (#4, above) and brew delicious coffee just about anywhere that has boiling water. Screw you, stale gas station coffee! Life is too short for that shit. If you follow these instructions, this should give you a brew to rival the best of them. But use unbleached filters. Dioxins are icky. 

Why do I like these? I can have great coffee anywhere, and without plastic. 

So there you go. Buy any of these for your favourite coffee lover - along with some freshly roasted beans (yes, fresh does make a difference) - and you're going to be very popular these holidays!

Happy coffee-ing!
Amanda xx

PS. The links here are to my Amazon affiliate account, where you pay the same and I get a small commission for each purchase. Thanks! I use it to buy books and coffee paraphernalia, mostly :)