Author Archives:

The Slow Kitchen: Spinach, Mushrooms and Eggs

Votes are in (thank you for being so enthusiastic about good food!) and a recipe will now appear on the blog each fortnight. The recipes will be:

  • simple
  • quick
  • healthy
  • family-friendly (depending on the kids, of course!)

While the series is called The Slow Kitchen – on account of the simple, good, real food we’re preparing – the recipes featured are focused on healthy, tasty, real food that can be made in 30 minutes or less.

Many of you have asked for vegetarian/vegan options, as well as gluten-free. While I’m none of those things, I do enjoy a lot of vegetarian meals and avoid too much gluten in our diet, so many of the recipes will apply. Not all though, sorry!

The Slow Kitchen - Sauteed Spinach, Mushroom and Eggs

{via Queenie and the Dew on Flickr }

A note on eggs:

We use eggs from our backyard chickens, and the yolk is out of this world. Not everyone is able to access eggs quite so fresh, but I would suggest using the best quality, freshest eggs you can find.

To poach, there are a few methods. The traditional (and delicious) method of poaching in a pan of water is explained here and will provide you with the best tasting eggs. Considering this series of recipes is all about quick and easy, you could also simply use the microwave to poach your eggs. (This is how we do it during the week. The weekends afford a little more time).

This recipe is easy as pie, and a regular on either our breakfast or dinner table. Ben grinned one morning and said, “Just like a cafe, but in our pyjamas,” and I have to agree.

Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms and Eggs
(Ready in 10 minutes, Serves 2)

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups soft leafy greens, washed (baby spinach is perfect, or you can try silverbeet, chard, English spinach, kale)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • knob of butter
  • 2 cups firm-fleshed mushrooms, sliced
  • eggs (free-range/organic if you can)
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)

Simply:

  1. Melt the butter over a hot stove. Add the garlic and sautee for a minute.
  2. Add the mushrooms and sautee.
  3. Meanwhile, poach your eggs.
  4. Once the mushrooms begin to soften, add your spinach and stir until it begins to wilt.
  5. Plate up the veges, add your eggs to the top and season with a little salt and pepper.
  6. Add a dash of chilli sauce.

Variations/Additions:

More Vegetables: Add cauliflower and broccoli to the mushrooms if you want to add more nutrient-rich veges to the mix.

Need Meat?: Add some bacon or smoked salmon.

Vegan: Substitute egg for tofu scramble.

 

I know it’s not a ground-breaking recipe, but this is such a great way to start or finish the day. You get the benefit of eggs (one of the best whole foods around) and a nutrient boost from the leafy greens. Plus it tastes good and is ready in less time than it takes to order a pizza!

Doing Nothing is Doing Something

The Undeniable Power of Doing Nothing

When two of my favourite things to do are sitting around a campfire and listening to the rain, it’s rare that I get to enjoy them at the same time. They tend to be mutually exclusive.

But on Saturday night, as a light rain fell on my umbrella, I sat in front of our small backyard campfire and did nothing at all.

No camera to document the moment.

No conversation.

No planning.

No phone to tweet or Instagram my evening.

No urgent need to rush off and be productive.

No anything.

I sat in front of that fire and listened to the rain drops hit the hot coals. I watched the smoke rise up and over our wooden fence. I felt the warm, heavy weight of our dog as he slept on my knee. I heard the distant rumble of thunder.

And it was beautiful.

But it was hard. At least to begin with.

It was hard to sit there and do nothing. More than once I thought, “I’ll just run inside and grab my phone. I can take a photo.” Unspoken were the additional tasks I would then do – check Twitter, maybe Facebook, definitely take a moment to Instagram the fire photo, possibly check a news website and see if any urgent emails had come through. (Urgent emails? Really? Who am I – the Prime Minister? Come on.)

But I did none of those things, and I was rewarded. After about 15 minutes, I noticed my brain doing two unexpected things.

First, I got really creative. Words and ideas and stories and pictures formed in my mind. I head-wrote a book chapter, I thought through two or three blog posts and I imagined a series of photographs I want to take.

My brain was unencumbered by constant input and was allowed to create output. The only stimulation was the flickering of the fire and the patter of the rain. My brain had room to be creative and I was amazed at how clear my mind felt.

The second thing that my brain did, was that it let go. I got sleepy. It was only 8:00pm and I felt properly and deliciously drowsy. My body relaxed and I felt comfortable enough to simply sit there and enjoy the feeling.

My eyes and brain are used to staring at a screen of some description in the evening. Be it the TV, while watching our current series of choice on Netflix, or my iPad, while reading a book, my brain is often exposed to the blue, flickering light of a screen at night.

Considering those blue, flickering screens actually promote wakefulness, it’s no surprise that I felt sleepy in their absence. My brain was just doing its job, after all.

So I sat by the fire for an hour or more. I soaked in the peace. I let my thoughts wander where they liked. I looked at the world around me. I noticed little things that so often go unnoticed. I ignored the need to do something, and instead, I did absolutely nothing.

In a world that values action, and results, and success, this felt like a counter-cultural thing to do.

How often, when asked what we did over the weekend, will we respond, “Oh, nothing much.” When the reality is that we cleaned the house, visited friends, took our kids to sport, grocery shopped, watched a movie, had a BBQ, bought a birthday present, cleaned out the garage, paid some bills and felt overwhelmed.

These things have to happen, they are everyday tasks – mundane, even – but they are not nothing.

Saying these tasks are nothing simultaneously makes them seem insignificant (they’re not, it’s called life) and makes you wonder why you’re so tired when you haven’t done anything (because you never actually stop).

We need to carve out a little more space in our lives for truly doing nothing.

  • Lay on the grass and stare at the sky
  • Sit on the lounge and close your eyes
  • Light a campfire and watch the flickering flames
  • Walk out the front door with no idea of where you will wander, then do it aimlessly
  • Turn off every single screen in your home and lie quietly on your bed

Let your thoughts go where they will, and resist the urge to get up and do something.

If we all embraced the need to do nothing at all, a little more every day, I wonder how different we would feel?

Slow Home Essentials – Decluttering

2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge

Decluttering.

Yes, it’s a buzzword. Yes, everyone is getting into it. And, yes, for a while I felt like that was the only thing I was writing about.

As a result, I actually stopped posting about decluttering because there is a lot more to creating a simple life and a slow home than sorting through our stuff.

But every day, more and more people decide their lives are too full of stuff and need to be simplified, and I want to help.

Early in January I started a Facebook group for those who are participating in the 2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge*. Over 600 people have joined the group, which is truly one of the most supportive and encouraging spaces I’ve seen online.

We share ideas, struggles and problems, as well as links to interesting articles about simplifying. Some of our members also post amazing before and after photos of their homes, as they continue to work through their space and simplify. It really is an inspiring place.

Some of the advice being given is incredibly valuable too, so (with permission) I’m sharing some of the best crowd-sourced decluttering tips from our online community.

Some of this advice may seem basic, some may seem too advanced, and some will contradict other suggestions. This is because we are all unique, and what works for one of us will not apply to another. It’s important to find a path that suits you, and yet still challenges you enough to make a difference.

Slow Home Essentials - Decluttering Tips

On Feeling Overwhelmed

  • Pick one pile, or one drawer or one corner. One bit at a time, one bit every other day. And smile and just keep swimming. (Kellie)
  • Take a before photo, so you can see how much better it looks than before. Even if its just a small job. (Sally)
  • Set your timer for 15min. Make it a game, see how much you can sort, organize, clean before the timer goes off! Remember: baby steps, a little at a time. (Heather)
  • Sometimes it helps to get one big thing done, such as a piece of furniture you want to get rid of. Sell it, donate it or whatever. That big change can be a catalyst to keep going since you see progress right away. Also I sometimes force myself to do something hard – get rid of something I know I don’t really need or want but am keeping for guilt or other emotional reason. After that big push, the little stuff seems easier. (Bridget)
  • Just go simple. One step. One thing a day. Don’t think about all of it, or getting rid of 2014 items. Just one thing a day and you’ll be on track (Deborah)
  • Being overwhelmed can be debilitating. Sometimes having a decluttering buddy may help. Someone you trust and is supportive to get you started. (Elisa)
  • Be proud that you have started. Also I think that decluttering is like a lot of other skills – you get better at it as you get more practice. (Tess)

On Decluttering Childhood Items:

  • I only keep a very few of the tiniest clothes – one outfit and maybe a special pair of shoes or cute wee hat, a stuffed toy perhaps and a blankie if it was special. With one child already 18, I can see that he isn’t going to want a huge box of baby things. My mom kept a few little things for me from my babyhood and it was sweet, but I didn’t want a load of clothes or babythings from the 1970′s for my kids. (Bridget)
  • I kept a first or favourite stuffed animal and books for each daughter, 2 infant jacket, hat, booties sets knit by my late mother, and a very few baby toys. (Cathy)
  • For me it helps to know that there are babies who really need clothes, blankies, etc. and donate to them. Much better use than storing multiple outfits that may never, or barely, see the light of day again. (Bridget)
  • I took a ton of pictures, and they take up less space. There are only two articles of clothing – the first one i bought for her, and the first thing she wore. (Anna)
  • Toys get passed along. Clothes, I’m keeping sentimental clothing items, and really good ones that I would want if we had another child. I have one 60L plastic tub that they’re in. It’s maybe 1/4 full. That’s my limit on keeping clothes. (Holly)

On Dealing With Paperwork:

  • Quickly work through the papers [that are currently covering the entire office], put them in a tote so the office is picked up and usable again. From then on, file mail properly and vow to look through the tote once a week and keep weeding it out. This way I’m not so overwhelmed! (Julie)
  • If you get really behind, declare a “backlog” and get it out of your intray (email or post). Then you have a clean slate to go forward and work on your backlog for the first 10 minutes each day. (Anna)
  • It has taken a lot of practice, but I find that it is easier to not bring in paper than to get rid of it afterwards. It seems like everywhere we go, they try to give us hand-outs, info we “need” etc. I often find that I can say no at that point, or read it there and then leave it or drop it in the nearest recycling bin before I go home. The other thing I do is rarely print things on my printer. Instead of printing receipts, etc. I just file them digitally. (Bridget)
  • I usually ask myself, “Can I get this information online?” If the answer is yes, I file the paper in the recycle bin. (Elisa)

On Storage ‘Solutions’ and Organising

  • I knew enough was enough when I was spending $100s on organizing. I was buying stuff for my stuff. Now I have very few bins or baskets because I got rid of all the stuff that was in the bins and baskets. So much better. (Jen)
  • I spent some money recently on bins. Part of it was on new bins to make my recycling easier. Part was on 60L tubs with lids to store craft room stuff in until I have time to go through it all. I don’t get a lot of time to actually declutter/organise, with work and a little one. But for me the cost was totally worth it, as it means than in the meantime my sewing room is usable, as all the clutter is in tubs (loosely sorted, so I know where to look for things). (Holly)
  • I do spend money on containers but only after I have decluttered. (Alicia)
  • Getting rid of storage containers that I had managed to empty was one of the things that felt the best! It is such a mental shift. (Andrea)
  • My next goal is to empty two storage containers and give the containers away! (Kasey)
  • A friend was able to finally get me to see that so much of my clutter was organizing boxes and such. She showed me I was doing it all backwards! That got me getting rid of stuff and then I didn’t need all those organizers! (Linda)

On Yard Sales vs Donations vs eBay

  • I found my last garage sale very disappointing for the money made versus time and effort put in. I am considering having another one but with the primary goal of getting rid of a lot of little things I don’t want anymore, versus making money. Most everything would be a buck or two or less, and there would be a lot of free items like books. I think this would move a lot of stuff, leaving very little to donate to charity shops. (Cathy)
  • My mindset had to change from making money to the actual goal of just getting rid of the stuff. (Mandy)
  • My friends did a Yard Giveaway. They put signs up saying that as of 9am everything on their lawn would be free, first come first serve.s Everything was gone in 2 hours. (Andrea)
  • I find more value in the peace of mind I get from having a clutter-free space, rather then the monetary value. (Tee)
  • My last (ever) garage sale wasn’t about the money, it was about the stuff leaving. The feeling of donating the left overs and coming home to knowing there wasn’t anything left to “rehome” was so great, that the value of what left was bigger than the cash in my hand. (Kellie)
  • For me it’s about having a way of moving things on. I find it easier if I know it’s going to a good home or cause and not just to landfill. I’ve never had a garage sale. I eBay at my own pace. Lovely people come to my house and take away my clutter and give me some money too. Our lifestyle is always changing, outgrowing toys, clothes or items, so I like to move things on. (Elisa)
  • I will try to sell things that are in good condition, especially if they were expensive. I am pretty tight on cash. I use an online method to sell things and it has been very successful. I plan to have a yard sale in the spring too. For me, the little bit of extra money helps pay the bills and reduces my anxiety. If I’m anxious, I don’t do any decluttering so for me, this works. If you are not worried about money, then giving away to a charity would probably be the best. Every situation is different so do what is best for you and your family. (Christina)
  • There is a monetary value in what I have sitting around but the money it cost is GONE. I can’t spend it so I am letting go of it, letting family and friends know that they are free to take whatever they want and the rest goes to the op shop. (Sue)
  • If I delay getting the clutter OUT of my house, stuff tends to sneak back in – so now the box of unwanted stuff sits by the door and once filled, it goes in my trunk and right to a donation place,. Done – out – gone. (Linda)

Generally Excellent Tips:

  • Clutter is always delayed decision making. Good luck. (Elizabeth)
  • Make it a daily routine, always thinking when you walk past something, “Do I really need that?” (Linda)
  • In general [decluttering] is much easier than it was in the beginning, but sometimes I still have to give myself that pep talk. (Bridget)
  • When stuff is made to last, you can live with less. Because less is more. (Sally)
  • As I started decluttering and finding items that didn’t belong in any of the other rooms, I placed them on [a central] shelf. Every night I walk past and make a decision about an item or two. [Loose ends] are all in one spot and not making anywhere else untidy, plus it kept busy fingers away from things best not played with. Now with 2 shelves cleared I can see the process working! (Kellie)

This is by no means exhaustive, but it will hopefully help you tackle some of the most pressing and common roadblocks that we often face when simplifying life and home.

Do you have any additional tips or suggestions to add? Pop over to the Facebook group and introduce yourself, or let us know in the comments below which of these suggestions has been the most helpful to you. 

 

* I know not everyone who reads here is on Facebook (often this is a direct attempt to declutter your online lives – a move I applaud greatly!) but at the moment this is the simplest way to host a large group discussion. I am considering creating a forum space where the entire community can discuss simple living and slowing down, regardless of whether you use Facebook or not. If that is something you’d be interested in, let me know. But for now, Facebook is the imperfect solution, unfortunately.)

Slow Living Goes Mainstream

Here's to slow.

Perusing the Sunday paper, coffee in hand, I came across an excerpt from Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Wisdom and Well Being.

Rarely am I blown away by anything written in newspapers or their subsequent lift-outs anymore, but this piece had me reaching for the highlighter (truly) and reading every second paragraph out to a patiently-listening Ben.

Not so much because any of her thoughts on creating a slower, more mindful life were new to me. Moreso because I was excited to see these ideas being talked about in the mainstream media. Maybe there’s hope yet? Maybe we will work out that there is more to life than pursuing money, success, stuff and power?

As Huffington discovered (and many of us can relate to) it turns out that a life spent burning the candle at both ends; chasing money, power and accolades; and failing to connect with those who are most important will lead to burnout, exhaustion, depression and ever-increasing feelings of dissatisfaction, rather than the happiness so often expected.

I have to admit, having had five years to dissect my own feelings and my own story of burnout, there were parts of the article that had me saying, “Well, no kidding Arianna.” Which was quite unfair.

It really is exciting to see the idea of living a slower, more connected, more mindful life start to appear in the mainstream. I’m by no means a pioneer of the slow living movement (and definitely not a very good example) but I know how much slowing down and reconnecting has brought to my life. I see this blog as a place where I can put those ideas out into the world, and if it helps one person re-think their approach before they burnout, then I consider it worthwhile.

“Every conversation I had seemed to eventually come around to the same dilemmas we are all facing – the stress of overbusyness, overworking, overconnecting on social media, and underconnecting with ourselves and one another. The space, the gaps, the pauses, the silence – those things that allow us to regenerate and recharge – had all but disappeared in my own life and in the lives of so many I knew.”

Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Wisdom and Well Being

 

So here’s to the space, the gaps, the pauses, the silence. Here’s to embracing five minutes of slow everyday. Here’s to savouring that cup of tea. Here’s to watching the wind in the leaves. Here’s to listening to the laughter of our children. Here’s to sharing a meal. Here’s to turning off our damn phones and having a conversation.

 

You can read the full article on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

 

What Jamie Oliver Taught Me About Caring (And Food)

On Sunday, Ben and I were lucky enough to watch Jamie Oliver give a Ministry of Food talk in Sydney. I’m not much of a cooking-show kinda gal and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Not only did I enjoy Jamie’s infectious passion for good, simple food, but also his determination to help change the health of the world – one person, one meal, one choice and one day at a time. This idea of baby steps is something I can really get behind.

And not only did he inspire us to think a little more out of the box when it comes to the meals we cook, but he also reminded me that each of us can affect change in the world. Every single one of us.

When faced with a massive global issue – think famine, spiralling debt, the health crisis crippling many countries – it’s human nature to say, “But what can I do? I’m just one person.” What I realised on Sunday is that being just one person is enough. Helping one other person in one small way is helping to change the world. Step by step.

It really is up to everyone to turn around the poor health epidemic, the debt crisis, famine, child-labour. It’s not enough to look at our own tiny corner of the world, be pleased with ourselves, our health, our home, our food, and say, “Well, I’ve done my part.” We all need to help.

We all need to care just that little bit more.

When I first started blogging on a different website, I posted simple, healthy, family-friendly recipes once every fortnight. Things like vegetable quesadillas and salmon fritters. Things you can cook up with a toddler twisted around your legs and a baby in the rocker beside you. (This testimonial comes from personal experience.)

Is this something that interests you? Are you on the lookout for easy, simple, healthy, inexpensive weekday meals? Or does the rise of Pinterest and a million food blogs mean you’re now spoilt for choice?

Let me know. And if your answer is definitively the latter, I promise to never mention food blogging again!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...