Quick guide to slow living January 09 2017

As 2017 gathers pace and the restful festive break quickly becomes a warm but fading memory, it's easy to slip straight back into the old routine of chasing around trying to cram ever more into those 24 little hours. It's exhausting stuff, right! 

OK, we all know that the modern world is a demanding old place, with a pause button that's decidedly on the wonk, but stealing a few moments to kick back, cut yourself some slack and slip the gear into idle for a while is pretty damned vital, don't you think? 

So take a little time, sit back and read our quick (but not too quick) guide to getting slow.

Pick up tools

No, not more work, but rather play. Research shows that the simple act of making something yourself is psychologically rewarding on many levels. According to an article in Psychology Today, "Too much time on technological devices and the fact that we buy almost all of what we need rather than having to make it has deprived us of processes that provide pleasure, meaning and pride." It's simple, try baking some bread, getting crafty or taking inspiration from London's Barn the Spoon and have a go at whittling some beautiful wooden spoons.

Life's a Beach

Shingle Street in SuffolkSpend a day at the coast, blowing away the cobwebs with some beach combing. Our personal favourite is Single Street on the Suffolk coast for collecting shells, but other UK hotspots include Herne Bay in Kent and Dorset's Jurassic Coast. For London urbanites, the Thames' beach is open once a year in July for a festival organised by the City of London Archaeological Society (COLAS) when beachcoming beneath the Tower is permitted.

Ditch the Multi-tasking 

We spend too much time trying to keep all the plates spinning so during downtime focusing on one thing at a time is much more rewarding. The rules are simple: no mobile phones at the dining table; no book-reading/TV watching; no woodland walks combined with phone conversations. Moreover, while many appear to wear their apparent ability to multi-task as a badge of honour, researchers at Stanford University have found that it could actually be hampering performance. "People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time." 

Buy Less, buy better

Escape the clamour of the high street and discover UK artisans offering a refreshing antidote to consumerist culture. It's about taking a break from products belched out by factories and packed into containers to be shipped half-way around the world. Instead, engage with smaller, slower and more sustainable styles of production where makers, designers and small businesses beaver away making pieces by hand with real passion. We should know, we're one of them! Yes, you may have to wait a little longer to get your order (hand-making things takes time), but it'll be worth the wait to buy less, buy better.

Eat Al Fresco

Eating al fresco around the roadiiEven in the depths of winter, wrapping up warm and heading outside for a woodland picnic or coastal cookout is a tasty choice. Check out the roadii as a cool wild cooking kit that’s perfect for making a rib-sticking meal and then keeping you warm by the fire.

Take a Break

Feather Down farm cabinEnsure that some ‘you-time’ is enshrined in your routine. Recharging the batteries with an off-grid getaway is the chance to rediscover and enjoy some simple pleasures. Try Feather Down who offer year-round glamping on UK farms, while Sawday’s Canopy & Stars has a range of quirky and unusual places to stay from treehouses to boats.
They’ve even got a fab Natural Being Manifesto which is well worth a read.

Book It

Second hand booksTake a wander down to your local secondhand book shop or charity shop and spend an hour perusing the shelves for a dog-eared and much-loved classic. OK, we know that Amazon has a greater selection and a tablet might be more convenient, but there’s a certain communal satisfaction in knowing your reading something that someone else has already enjoyed.
There’s also loads of online sites where you can easily swap books from the comfort of your own home like Read It Swap It or Bookmooch.

Simple Tastes 

There's a mouthwatering array of bloggers serving up a lip-smacking smorgasbord of nutritious and delicious meals made from scratch, so here's a few tasty suggestions.

Fuss Free Flavours

Created by Helen Best-Shaw as a place to share simple, interesting and healthy recipes, many of which included a good portion of raw vegetables. There's also book, restaurant and product reviews. 

Deliciously Ella

With her propularity currently reaching boiling point in the food blogosphere, Ella Mills' wholesome recipes are a must-read, must-try for dishes made from simple, natural ingredients.

Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

Tucked away up in the Shetland Islands and possibly the UK’s most northerly food blogger Elizabeth is an ex-pat Canadian. When not out on a bikepacking adventure she likes nothing better than creating such delights as oatmeal cookies, beer-glazed roast iron age porlk sausages and three bean vegetable soup. 

Nigel Slater

Then, of course, there’s the long-established big guns such as Nigel Slater. We defy your mouth not to water after checking out his website that, even before you hit the recipes section, looks good enough to eat. 

Leon 

Highly successful purveyors of naturally fast food, Leon, also have some fab recipes from their books and restaurants on their site if you're really in a hurry for something fresh, healthy and exciting. 

Go Slow

Slow Food movement soupThe Slow Food movement's site has lots of relaxed recipes to take your time making, like one of our personal favourites this simple soup using a traditionally made farmhouse cheese Stichelton and cauliflower.

Serves 6

700g cauliflower, roughly chopped
50g unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
125ml dry white wine
600ml white chicken or vegetable stock
200ml double cream
200g Stichelton cheese, crumbled + 100g garnish

Method:

  • In a large saucepan over low heat sweat the cauliflower in the butter and seasoning for about 8 – 10 minutes, cover the pan with a lid and stir to prevent it from colouring.
  • Once softened and just beginning to colour add the wine. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for further 8 minutes. Add the stock, cover the pan with a lid and simmer over medium heat for further 15 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and add the cream and Stichelton cheese. Bring the soup back to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Blend the soup until smooth, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Pour the hot soup into warm bowls or cups and garnish with the crumbled Stichelton and serve immediately with crusty bread and butter.

Slow n' Groovy

In the words of Simon & Garfunkel, a mantra to live by this year - "Slow down, you move to fast.. "

We’d love to hear your favourite ways of slowing down and unwinding – share them below