Since my last post on living a quiet life I’ve had more time to consider the many and varied ways we can bring a sense of calm rhythm to our days, and I think that’s the key word – rhythm. Routine conjures up images of following a timetable, but rhythm has a swaying gentleness to it – in my mind at least.
I’ve often used that word to describe how I embroider. The rhythm of hand embroidery for me has always been an unrushed and quiet rhythm of needling one stitch after another without the pursuit of a quick finish, but rather an enjoyment of process and a delighted satisfaction at the end.
And that’s what I’ve been pondering with regards to the living of a quiet life, a life of purpose and productivity which is unhurried and lived day by day, a life that enhances our spirit and the hearts of those around us.
So I’m going to write a series of blog posts over coming weeks focusing on the many and varied aspects of living a quieter, simpler life, remembering that there is no one size fits all and what is simple to me may not be to you and vice versa – but the sharing of ideas and thoughts about this topic (please write about your own experience, ideas or thoughts in the comments below) will give us a wider view and hopefully encourage each of us.
Today I thought we’d begin with meals because of all the responsibilities around the home its menu planning and meal times which are an endless dance we must partner with.
You know, I’ve been well and truly sucked in to many different styles of diet, health and fancy cooking over the past twenty or so years, and whilst a ‘new’ way starts off well it rarely takes hold for more than a few months before I’m researching and experimenting with the next one. Now, I’ve spent a little while thinking and praying this through recently and one question really resonated in my mind – “What do you keep going back to?” Such a simple question and surprisingly to me there was an equally simple answer - fresh fruits and vegetables (mostly raw), eggs from our own chickens, no meat, homemade bread, whole grains, minimal sugar and very little dairy. When I shared this with my husband he agreed.
We don’t need the chia seeds, the protein powders, acai, sprouted buckwheat, numerous nut oils, ground flaxseed, psyllium husks, pasture raised beef, kimchi, sprouted grains etc etc…when we eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, bread, eggs, wholegrains and the odd sweet our tummies are satisfied, our taste buds happy and our health improves. All the things we enjoy are easily sourced locally, whereas with some of previous trips down ‘alternative lane’ I was buying ingredients online and even from overseas. I quite honestly shudder to think of how much money I’ve wasted over the years on products, powders and books that were purchased in the pursuit of health yet didn’t really make any difference.We have achieved our greatest health benefits with those basics I mentioned as an answer to the question – “What do you keep going back to?”
This past week I’ve responded to that Q & A and prepared food we always go back to, and wow, how much simpler life in the kitchen became! I ditched the new recipes marked in a notebook and looked at what we had on hand, purchasing only fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement what was already in our fridge, freezer and pantry - because regardless of fads I still stock most things we enjoy and return to.
Breakfast did not change; it always includes a variety of fresh fruit for both of us, and while hubby enjoys a bowl of cereal with coconut yoghurt after our fruit, I relish a bowl of porridge. From start to finish breakfast takes ten minutes or less to prepare and though I’ve made different things occasionally we both agree there’s no need to do that anymore…we love the simplicity of fruit and porridge/cereal and shall leave that meal as it is.
Last Friday the girls were here and I cut open the first of our recently harvested pumpkins. Cully May thought this was wonderful and after giving some to Blossom and our neighbour I still had half a pumpkin to play with on Monday when I prepared meals ahead for the week.
Simplifying life in the kitchen for me is being ahead of things with a number of prepared meals in the fridge or freezer, roasted vegetables ready to use in salads, eggs hard boiled, produce from the garden quickly made into a pickle (cucumbers) or crushed with garlic and onions for an easy bruschetta topping (tomatoes), and stewed fruits which I can scatter with toasted oats for a sweet dessert.
One large bowl of brown rice salad with fresh and roasted vegetables, dried cranberries and a very simple dressing becomes a work lunch for hubby twice in a week and lunch for me three days. Add a couple of slices of bread and half an avocado on the side (we seriously go through so many avocados each week) and both of us are happy as can be.
Another week it might be a pasta, bulgur or cous cous salad and I'll scatter cashews, macadamias or pine nuts through and swap cranberries for dried cherries or apricots.
That pumpkin was roasted with garlic cloves and became a curried coconut pumpkin and coriander (cilantro) soup, as well as ten pumpkin & chick pea patties which I baked in the oven, keeping a few for small burgers and the rest popped into the freezer for another time. I washed the seeds and tossed them in cajun seasoning and salt before roasting for a delicious crunchy snack.
If I spend three hours in the kitchen two mornings a week the base of seven days meals are complete and I have extras in the freezer for nights when migraine has me relegated to the sidelines.
For more of his work lunches my husband likes rice paper rolls filled with cucumber, avocado, capsicum, carrot, spring onions, cherry tomatoes and fresh coriander (cilantro). It takes me around 12 minutes to make three because I have a rhythm in place now that I've made them so many times, and this is what I find when you begin to make a basic set of simple meals over and over...it becomes second nature and time spent in the kitchen is wonderfully relaxed. Following Nana's example, I am now choosing to follow a rotation of meals, the kind we go back to again and again, the meals we enjoy and which bless our bodies.
I'll write a list of them over the weekend and create a shopping list from the ingredients that I can print up and mark off what is needed before I shop.
My own lunches this week have been either a bowl of the salad I made or rice cakes with almond butter and banana with a boiled egg if I'm extra hungry.
Sweets are easy and delicious too, especially using the food processor which I use more now than ever before. These little sugar-free date-based biscuits were mixed together in two minutes, rolled into balls, flattened and scattered with crumbled frozen raspberries. Baked for just 12 minutes we've enjoyed them for dessert this week alternating the nights we had blueberry and apple crumble with custard.
This may look nothing at all like your own simpler living menu plan, but I think you get the idea?
By choosing to make the meals you naturally enjoy, the foods you return to again and again, you've already simplified your life in the kitchen. Did it drive you bonkers when the kids would ask numerous times a day "Mum, what's for dinner?" - it sure did to me! It wasn't until I wrote a three week rotating menu and stuck it to the front of the fridge that I discovered the bliss of not having to answer that question anymore (or to wonder what WAS I going to make for dinner that night).
But the underlying problem once we became empty nesters and I no longer thought I needed to make a long term menu plan was that I very quickly slipped back to questioning myself each day on what to make for dinner. I would ask my husband and he'd give me a blank look and answer "whatever you like is fine with me"...aah, frustrating because I didn't want to choose, I wanted someone else to tell me what to make. Like the menu plan on the fridge used to 'tell' me.
So looking back I can understand why Nana was never flustered or perplexed over what to make, and why I found meal prep easier when kids were still living at home.
Has this given you food for thought today? Pardon the pun.
If you asked yourself the same question I did - “What (food/meals) do you keep going back to?” - what would your answer be?
Do you have ideas for simplifying kitchen time?
I shall leave you today with a photo of Blossom's baby belly and the girls wearing the cardies I knitted them...
...plus a rare photo of me (taken yesterday) because I am often asked to share one.
Apparently it's nice to see who you're talking to or reading from? Ha ha! I understand.
I never wear makeup and my hair is natural but I do love dangling silver earrings - they match my hair.
Bless you dear one, how very much I appreciate each of you!