Posted in The Quarantine Diaries

The Quarantine Diaries: Wins

As much as I want to cry myself into oblivion for all the things I’m not getting to do, I figured a better use of my time would be to look for the positives, no matter how small. I have a home with a study and lots of books, I have no children, I have wine, I have food and I have internet.

Bringing Italy Home

I resurrected my old espresso machine. I’ve had it for maybe a decade and never really used it; it was long before I was a barista so I wasn’t too sure how to use it properly. It was a happy prop. I dug it out of the shed at mother’s house and brought it home and I finally got round to ordering a milk jug from Amazon. I already have a few different coffee syrups so it was time to set up my home coffee shop!

Espresso machine
My wee espresso machine

I can start my morning in true Italian style with a milky soya cappuccino before switching to espresso or black americano for the rest of the day.

Foamy Cappuccino
A very foamy cappuccino

Or when it’s late and I’m feeling chilly I can have my winter speciality of a Cinnamon steamer: steamed soya milk over cinnamon syrup and topped with a generous dash of cinnamon powder.

Ha! Just saved myself £3 a drink. I’m having fun getting to play barista again, and once it’s all over I can serve my guests proper hot drinks. I used to get compliments on my hot chocolates and mochas, not that I could drink them… But that’s something to investigate post-Corona, vegan hot chocolate powder!

What’s the cost to you?

Now that I’m master of my own coffee again, and that I haven’t overpaid for coffee in about 9 weeks, I’m honestly doubting whether I could ever go back to that. In the olden days when we actually left the house in the morning and took public transport to work, I used to make a large coffee in my reusable coffee cup and chug dark perfection awkwardly while I read about the destruction of Carthage. If said black magic hadn’t woken me sufficiently by the time I got off the bus, I would be tempted as I passed Caffè Nero en route to work. Really it depended on just how exhausted I felt and at what point in the pay cycle I was at. On the times when I did purchase said coffee, it was rarely worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Caffè Nero for the most part, however considering they charge £2.70 for an Americano it only seems right to pay the extra 50p or so to make it a latte instead. But then I ask for soya milk and they groan, and find the old yellow stickered jug and steam whatever is left in it and after a good long while of waiting, they pass me a scalding, burnt-tasting, toffee-coloured drink and I feel instant regret.

Filter for life

Say what you will about Starbucks but every store has a filter coffee machine, plus it’s only around £1.55 for a small, sorry, Tall filter coffee. They’re always very sweet about it, especially if they say it might be a wee wait because they’ll brew me a fresh pot, or if they’re out for the day they’ll make me an Americano for the same price. (The filter truly tastes better though). And if you get the drink to sit in, refills are free for filter coffee, which is perfect for a day of studying.

Some of the larger Costa stores have a filter machine, but I’ve never actually been in when it’s worked or when they can be bothered using it. My own local Costa is a moderate size and I can see they really don’t have space to put in a filter machine, but I’m probably going to be suggesting this when everything goes back to ‘normal’.

If I can make fancy coffees at home, can I ever go back to paying nearly £4 for one? Filter coffee is cheap to make and if even Starbucks can give free refills then I think every chain can recognise the benefits of offering a cheaper, equally tasty, alternative to people who’ve learned they can survive without the unnecessary expense, though who may miss the atmosphere and social aspects of being around people.

I’m curious to see how we will go back, we’re all creatures of habit. I miss hanging in Waterstones and going to the pub for a drink and a chat, but it’s not clear yet how we can return to jam-packed bars, suffocating concerts and busy rush-hour public transport. But I’ll be drinking cappuccino until then. (And I wholeheartedly advise anyone who can and is interested into purchasing a wee espresso machine.)

And on that happy note, coffee hours are now over; it’s wine o’clock.

Moscato Bianco

e x

Posted in Education, elearning, Musings, University, work, Writing

Balance

If there’s one thing I’ve never been great at it’s balance. Not just in the literal sense of standing on one foot but in terms of what I’m doing in my life, e.g. work or uni, and what I’m juggling with secondary interests and socialising/relaxing.

Especially within the last few weeks this has become my aim to work on achieving a better balance despite working full-time and travelling around ten hours a week to-and-fro. One of my most important challenges has been to prepare enough new and original content for this blog, and as an exercise in discipline to flex my writing muscles even when I’ve little time or inspiration.

Very soon I’ll be starting my new Masters degree, which I’m really excited about but also slightly anxious about being prepared and inspired even if I’m drained from work. I know what I’m getting back into having just finished full-time uni; deadlines, stressing over grades, never feeling I’ve done enough, etc, but I’m planning to plan better and work on my biggest hurdle: TIME MANAGEMENT! This has never been my friend, ever, but I know now more than ever that I need to work on it so I have time to review, revise, and edit drafts efficiently, prior to submitting, so that I can be certain I’ve handed in my best work.

I’m pretty certain I’ll naturally be more inspired to submit creative writing pieces rather than essays. No matter how much I love to write, I’ve never quite gotten the essay writing process down! All lecturers wanted a different style, format, or I really struggled to grasp what they actually wanted me to submit. I did always try to find a hook or an angle to trick myself into being interested in essay topics (apart from classics courses, no tricks were ever needed), but my resounding feeling during honours years was that nothing I wrote was ever good enough.

This course will be different. I’ve been writing since I was 2. Yes, two! Since I could hold a pen I would scribble on paper or forms, (the wall occasionally) and feel exactly the same as Scout Finch, that writing is as natural as breathing. It’s no more spectacular than the respiratory system but is as absolutely critical to life as air.

In the evenings I don’t really have much chill time but I’m starting to get used to my routine and have been able to better utilise what time I do have. I’ve signed up to a few MOOC’s on Coursera, Edx, and OpenLearn which are all free to study and follow but with the option to pay a small fee for an official certificate/qualification. I’ll post soon about the courses I’m doing with some early thoughts and feedback.

There’s also my massive TBR pile, which I’ll get to at some point and review my recent reads.

As a final thought for tonight, I know it is important to take one day at a time, but it is also just as important to make plans and time for the things you really want to do during your free time, so you don’t end up sitting dejected on a Sunday night remembering all the things you wanted to do! (Too many times!)

My schedule changes by an hour next week for a few weeks but I’m going to create a full rotating schedule of activities to slot in around work…

… just keep swimming!

e x

P.S. I’ve added a new Photography page, which I’m planning on adding much more to soon, have a looksie!