The Road Less Travelled

Forks_WA_Hoh_National_Forest_Trail

This is not in fact the road less travelled: since it’s in Forks, Washington, one can probably not move for all the vampettes and werewanters.

For too long, I have allowed myself to become enslaved to my routine. I only buy certain groceries. I only browse certain authors at the library and bookshop. Even last night, when I sat down to write this post and had that first line running through my head, I very nearly gave up simply because my laptop decided to go all Skynet on me and refused to respond to my commands. I completely forgot that I actually happen to keep pen and notebooks beside my bed at all times, and for a moment thought that I would have to wait until morning after my computer had decided to get over its snit.

This habit-formed rut is especially noticeable in my choice of reading material. As I mentioned in my previous post, I love to read; I love the tangible feel of actual books in my hands and the smell of the paper as I turn each treasure-laden page. I love the flow of the written word, and the emotions it can evoke and images it can conjure with a well-phrased metaphor. I also love the depth of choice offered by ebooks, not to mention having an entire library that can fit in my handbag. However, for the longest time I have limited this purest of joys (for me, at least) by only reading my tried and trusted favourite authors. Terry Pratchett, obviously, features largely on this rather exclusive and somewhat limited list. Also Mary Stewart, JK Rowling, Dick Francis, Lee Child, Nora Roberts and JRR Tolkien (naturally). Unfortunately, that was more or less the sum total of the authors that I would even consider. My thought processes have become stagnant; calcified in the path of least resistance.

When I was in high school, I couldn’t get home until hours after school let out, as both my parents worked and no one else in my school lived close enough to me to enable a lift club. As a result of this, my sister and I spent our afternoons, when not involved in extramurals such as drama rehearsals and fruitless music lessons, at the public library one block from the campus. Ostensibly, we used the afternoons to do our homework, although my sister was always far more conscientious in that regard; whereas I did just enough to ensure a B average, she put in hours of extra research that resulted in at least four distinctions at the end of matric. What I really did with my “free” afternoons, however, was explore the offerings of the relatively well-stocked (for the East Rand in Gauteng) English fiction section of the library. In those years I read more adventurous and advanced and just plain MORE books than I have read in all the years since. At that time I would happily take a book off the shelf at random and read it merrily. I probably read material that was way innappropriate for a fourteen or fifteen year old, but I still remember those books with clarity and pure joy. Among other titles, it was at this time that I read “Foucault’s Pendulum” by Umberto Eco, a somewhat disturbing and deeply moving book that still affects me to this day. I’ve always identified with the character of Belbo, who wanted desperately to be a writer but lacked the talent, and so ended up being an editor instead. Somehow I always pictured that to be my path.

It was also there that I was in fact introduced to Terry Pratchett, and one of my other favourite authors, David Eddings. I read Ursula le Guin, who, I must admit, I never really got into, Anne McCaffrey, and some book about a holocaust survivor’s experiences in Auschwitz. I read Athol Fugard plays and Barbara Cartland smut (ack ack, gasp, choke, spew). As much as the cliché tells us how not to judge books, I did read just about anything with an eye-catching cover.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I have slowly, as I have aged, stopped taking chances. When I was younger, in my tweens, I think  I was less afraid to take risks. Some of my experiences at that time were probably on the scary side of risky, but I was always open to something new. Now, after some personal and professional setbacks, I find myself stagnant, and my motto has become “rather safe than sorry”. I will no longer order scallops or lobster or quail at a restaurant just to see how they taste, I don’t ALWAYS take a different route when I walk somewhere, and I will no longer pick up a book at random to see if its any good. I’m not actually sure when this change, this settling, took place, but I know that it ended yesterday, when I followed a bread-crumb trail of links from my Twitter feed and ended up reading a young adult novel ebook by Sarah J. Maas entitled “Throne of Glass”. And it was GOOD, as evidenced by the fact that I started it yesterday afternoon and finished it four hours later. So now I will bravely face the pile of unknown authors and titles in my ebook collection, and give some of them a go, too. There are whole worlds that I have not seen because I allowed myself to fear new experiences. And so, like a Scalextric car bravely steering off the groove on the track, I will boldly mix metaphors no man has mixed before, and leap into the unknown. There will be gems, there will in all likelihood be quite a lot of boring dirt, but at least it will all be new. Or most of it, because let’s face it: some things you have to stick to because the classics are classics for a reason.

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Lost in a Good Book

Thus far, in my grand total of 4 previous posts, I have expounded upon coffee (mostly). While I love and adore coffee (glugging back fourth cup of the day), my first love is and always will be books. However, I sometimes need to be reminded of this fact, especially after protracted series marathons (most recently “Battlestar Galactica”). Usually, all it takes is one well-written book to bring me back into the fold.

One such book was “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. I’d heard that they were making it into a movie and decided to read the original before it was blighted by Hollywood. (Yes, I take issue with film adaptations. Yes, all of them. Yes, that includes Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. OK, How to Train Your Dragon was fantastic in film and in fact much better than the book, but that was the exception. Tangent over.) Anyway, it’s a truly fantastic book. One of those that, when you finish reading it, leaves you feeling like this:

Emotional traumaMost recently, I started reading “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, and it’s also one of those that can just completely change your perception of life.

One of the things that defines a good book, to my mind, is good use of language and imagery. For instance, Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite  authors of all time (37 out of 40 Discworld novels line my bookshelf – go me!). His use of metaphor is unparalleled; for instance:

“Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it’s the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it’s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let’s just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colourful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.”

What more can I say? Having just reread “Monstrous Regiment” and “I Shall Wear Midnight”, I am once again awed at theLongWar amazing scope of his vision and depth of his thought. And, of course, great big belly laughs are the best ab workout! I have also read “The Long Earth” and am looking forward to getting stuck into “The Long War”, too. And, as usual, the pile of interchangeable books beside my bed (and on my eBook reader) just gets higher and higher and higher.

And tempting sites like this just make my predicament worse!

Pilgrim’s Progress

As I journey towards finding out all about coffee, coffee shops, bookshops and so forth, I’m going to need inspiration and direction. One of my inspirations thus far (and yes, I am aware that it’s only been a week or two) has been the relatively new Coffee Mag. Their latest issue includes a number of interesting tidbits, including reviews of 8 cafés and an interview with doctor/comedian Riaad Moosa.

The back cover ad features a coffee app which I would LOVE to have, but unfortunately my woefully technically-challenged personal communication device doesn’t support it. iSad 😦

Anyway, with material such as this to spur me on, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to learn what I need to know to create the awesomest coffee/book venue!

CoffeeMag

The Cold Cold Ground

So, my last post was about cold-brewed coffee and how amazing it looks. Thanks to Joy on a Shoestring, I have now found a recipe for making it myself at Food 52. Let the experimentation begin!!

I’ll be giving it a go this evening, using Thornton Coffee‘s Oribi Blend. So excited! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thornton

UPDATE:

I done it!!!! I created cold brewed coffee, and it was good!

More caffeine, extra yummmms!! I had mine sweetened with raw honey, which I had to dissolve in some warm water first, but it was also awesome unsweetened. I kept waiting for the bitter aftertaste that you normally get from coffee that’s been cooled over night, and I’m still waiting.

I can imagine that it would be even better if one were to add flavourings such as cinnamon, cocoa or vanilla. Probably be AMAAAHZ served with Paleo Brownies.

Friends and family: prepare to be gifted with cold-brewed coffee from now on!

The Colour of Magic

As mentioned in my previous post, I am plagued (or blessed, from a glass-half-full point of view) by a wide variety of dietary issues. One of the choices that I have made is to follow paleo eating habits. Since I lost 20kg in 6 months on this eating plan, as opposed to many years of fad diets with either no change or actual weight gain, I’m thinking that I made the right choice.

As far as I’m concerned, paleo eating has a huge number of benefits, one of the biggest being the license to eat bacon ALL. THE. TIME. And, being the Saffer that I am, biltong is a health food. Another plus is that there are a wide range of awesome paleo blogs with delicious recipes out there, like this one, for instance.

And that recipe led me to this: Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee. This is definitely something that I will be investigating stocking in the coffee shop! It sounds AMAZING. It’s like Jannie-Verjaar-Koeldrank for grown ups! Without the yucky preservatives, colourants and sugar! Anyone have any ideas how I can get a sample here in good old RSA?

Brave New World

“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”

Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

 

For the longest time, I have wanted to own a bookshop with a coffee bar. Like so many of my plans, however, I have Books2done very little towards actually achieving this ambition. Now, after many years of conforming to the status quo and attempting to achieve success through steady employment and adherence to society’s norms, I have decided that it’s not working for me so I’m going to embark on this terrifying journey towards living my dream, whether it brings me great wealth or not.

My vision for this shop is quite clear. I myself am an avid and eclectic reader  with geeky leanings. I love a good bookshop, but they are depressingly hard to find, especially in this day of electronic everythings, including books. There should be nooks and crannies and a HUGE selection of titles, and quite a strong chance of getting so lost that you require a trail of breadcrumbs to escape again.

There should also be a pervading smell of really good coffee and freshly baked goodies. This is where the second half of my plan comes in. Due to a rather boring list of food intolerances and dietary preferences, I can never actually eat anything that is offered on a standard coffee shop menu. I have been a keen baker since my early teens (in fact, my first baking experience occurred when I was about 7 years old and I tried to bake a peach cake in the sun because I knew my mother would never allow me to use the oven. Let me just say: not even the African sun is sufficient to bake anything. And after two weeks a combination of eggs, sugar and peaches becomes really icky). My subsequent experiments have been far more successful, and I can now produce quite a wide range of paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free cakes, biscuits and snacks.

This blog will be my record of this journey. I’ll post recipes, book reviews, coffee shop write-ups, probably some movie reviews as well since I am a movie-holic as well as a bibliophile. I’ll chart my progress on finding suppliers, deciding on a location, sourcing the best blends, and whatever else strikes my fancy at any given time.

Here’s hoping we all enjoy the ride!