Friday, February 20, 2015

{this moment}

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Beyond the humble grain

I listened to a fantastic podcast yesterday. It's an episode of BBC Radio 4's Food Programme, and they generally do really interesting programmes, I highly recommend it. They don't shy away from controversial topics but they also do some interesting delves into culinary history and look at current trends.
This episode was from a few weeks ago, and can be listened to online or downloaded anywhere in the world (yay for Auntie! - link). It's partly prompted by a new documentary called "The Grain Divide" which is due out 'soon' (not clear when).
The radio programme travelled around the world (including under the Arctic permafrost) and interviewed farmers, bakers, scientists, historians and others about a growing movement to reintroduce older strains of wheat to our diet, and create new ones. Basically, over time as we've selected for a grain that gives good yields and a fine white flour, we've lost flavour and nutrition along the way.
Everyone who's baked bread will know that commercially-baked loaves ain't got a think on home-made - using stoneground whole-grain flour and a slow rise makes enormous different to flavour. We know a lot of the nutrient is in the bran and other parts of the grain that don't make it into commercial white flours. 
The slow fermentation of traditional baking helps break down gluten and other parts of the flour to make nutrients more available for us to absorb in digestion, and there's a theory that the accelerated Chorleywood Bread Process has contributed to a rise in gluten intolerance.
Several people are trying to grow and use some older strains to bring us closer to the bread that would have been eaten two hundred or more years ago. There are other advantages to older strains - they are better adapted to the landscapes they evolved on, less susceptible to adverse weather, disease and local pests.
My next challenge will naturally be to find a source of heritage wheat locally. (For readers in the UK, there's a guide to local artisanal mills at The Sourdough School).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Eat well for less

When starting to think about eating more frugally and simplify food shopping, I think most of us discover just how freeing it can be to plan meals and create a shopping list, and how much we can save by cooking from scratch. Such a simple change but it massively helps bring down food spending and food waste, and cuts out last-minute trips to the shops to get "something for dinner". 

Now these pearls of wisdom are being brought to a new audience with a fantastic new programme from the BBC called "Eat well for less". A tv chef and grocer help a different family every week to cut their food bills and eat better. They invade the family's kitchen and replace their normal food shopping with unbranded food. Some is swapped for cheaper food, such as dried pasta instead of fresh, or supermarket own-brand products. Some is their normal food without the packaging. Some is even more expensive but better quality.

We watch them nervously try the various foods and try to guess what is swapped and what is the same, and then there is the big reveal, we learn the identities of the products and the savings on each item. It amounts to thousands of pounds saved over the year. And most entertainingly, the families often like least those items which weren't swapped - once the packaging is removed, turns out they don't really it!

They also have a dietician looking at the amount of sugar in different brands of pasta sauce, and comparing the nutritional value of different tins of baked beans. They do blind tastings of yoghurt, tea and orange juice (among others) in the general public and see whether the most expensive is also the most popular.

It's made us look again at our own spending, and we've started trying some cheaper brands to compare price/quality. We've also switched from buying bags of pre-prepared salad to preparing our own from a head of lettuce and a punnet of rocket. 

It's a really interesting programme, and for those outside the UK, the episodes are available on youtube

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday reading

What are you up to today? Our plan is brewing another batch of beer, and I'm keeping a close eye on my first ever ginger beer plant which smells spicy and looks bubbly.

Cool things I found this week for you to enjoy over a cuppa:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Seeking hygge

I don't know about you but I've just about had it up to here with winter.

I'm so ready for daylight and warmth. I've recently started a new job and now I have a longer walk in the early mornings and back in the evenings. I love the fresh air and the winter sunlight but it would be nice if I could feel my fingers at the same time.

But I think I have found a solution.

I came across this link earlier this week looking at cool cultural concepts from around the world, and one of them is "hygge", a Danish concept which as far as I can tell is about braving the weather then holing up somewhere warm and brightly lit with comfort food, warm snuggly woollen clothes and blankets, and good company.

I love the concept. I also love the word and how close it is to 'hug', like the candlelight, hot cocoa and blankets are giving you a hug.

So tonight I'm seeking hygge. I'm curled up on the sofa with a blanket and my knitting with food in the oven. Also in the plans are candles, hot water bottles, chocolate and of course actual hugs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting back into simple

So it took me longer than planned to write my next blogpost!

It sounds odd, but I rather fell out of simple living for a while. I felt the urge to put expensive goo on my face instead of homemade, and to buy trashy magazines.

I think on reflection I was trying to do too much too fast. I was determined to make my own clothes intead of buying them, but it's quite a leap from the occasional pair of pajama bottoms to a full-on professional wardrobe. After making do and mending most admirably for some time, the combination of January sales and impending new job had me running to the shops.

Not all bad, of course. I'm making it sound as if I blew a year's buget in a week. I bought clothes - but still relatively sensibly. Building on my experience with Project 333, I bought items that can be worn at work, home or socially, in a limited range of colours, in simple styles that will age well and that work well with my existing clothes.

But somehow it all fell off together. The clothes, the face cream, the make-up. The house uncleaned, the yoghurt unfermented, quilt unquilted, the blog unloved.

The last week or so I have found myself turning back to simple. It should not surprise me, but it does: I felt an almost immediate relaxing of a knot of tension I had not noticed as soon as I started revisiting my old inspirations, picking up my knitting, and caring better for the home around me.

So how do you get (back) into simple living? Here are my favourites.
1. Seek simple living inspiration
Browse blogs, books, tv programmes etc that encourage you to slow down and illustrate all the cool things you can do. Try here or here or here.
2. Make the bed
So simple. Makes the room look and feel tidier, starts you towards a morning routine, and makes you feel productive before you even change out of your pjs.

3. Have a clear-out
Decluttering always makes you feel lighter and better able to breath, somehow.

What about you, what are your favourite ways to find the simple rhythm again after a break?


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