Since moving to Orkney, I have been making a conscious effort to find joy in everyday tasks. In fact much of our reason for relocating, was to find a simpler lifestyle that gave us the opportunity to take a breath and appreciate the little things. It’s so easy to rush through life, feeling weighed down by a never ending list of jobs that need to be done, all the while trying to reach some end goal, where you might be really happy at last.
How often do you find yourself saying “I’ll just get through this and then I’ll spend more time with my family” or “I’ll just push through this year and then I’ll make time to read those books that I bought ages ago, or that craft project I’ve been meaning to do”, etc, etc.
This was the trap that I had fallen into before our big move. With home educating our five kids, running our own business and also running and renovating a home, I felt constantly overloaded. Worries about our future, the kids future and our money struggles, seemed to overshadow everything else.
Things that I would usually take pleasure in had become tasks to tick off a list. I felt completely drained, like I was losing myself and worst of all, that I wasn’t taking time to enjoy my beautiful family.
That had to stop. Matt and our five wonderful children are the most important things in the world to me and I want to make the most of the time that we have together. Life needed to slow down.
I remember seeing an episode of Grand Designs, where they revisited a couple and their children, who were building a home on their small-holding. It took them 10 years and was famous for being the longest ever build on Grand designs. They didn’t look drained, or like it had been an awful experience because they had enjoyed the journey. Life hadn’t been on hold while they built their home, it had been a part of their life, mixed in with everything else and appreciated.
It made sense to me and I decided that our big move to Orkney would mark a change in our habits and ways of thinking about day to day life.
It’s a work in progress, after all old habits are easy to fall back to, but on the whole it’s going very well. I know that is, because I feel happier than I have done in a long time. I’m much more relaxed and less like Chicken Licken – always waiting for the sky to fall.
Much like any busy mum, a lot of my life is taken up with cooking and washing. At times in the past this has felt like a huge weight and something that takes me away from spending time with my children. I used to love baking, but it had become a chore that I rushed through as quickly as possible.
I wanted to spend more time cooking with the children because I think that it’s so important to be able to cook for yourself and your loved ones. They also really enjoy it. So we started to give over a big part of each week to cooking together.
It very quickly had an enormous effect on me. I have baked our bread for years, but gradually I had perfected a no knead method to save time, again rushing, rushing, rushing. It made really nice bread, but I didn’t get anything else from making it. When I spent an afternoon making bread with my kids, we did it the old way, carefully kneading and proving. I wanted them to feel more involved with the process and I realised, as I watched them enjoying themselves, that I missed being involved in that process. So from that day, I started kneading my dough again and found pleasure in making it. Now that the children often help, I get to do something nice with them at the same time.
This reconnection with bread making, has a gone a step further in recent weeks because of the whole covid-19 situation. Suddenly we were unable to buy yeast. Not something I would ever have expected to happen, but I quickly got to work on a sourdough starter.
The first batch seemed so full of promise, but then six days in turned a funny colour and became completely inactive. I’m not quite sure what happened there, possibly under-feeding in an attempt to conserve flour, but I did some more reading and started again from scratch.
This time, my starter worked fine and a couple of weeks in, we have been enjoying some lovely loaves. Sourdough is much more time consuming to make than bread made with quick-action yeast, but I am reminding myself to enjoy the process and am even going to try some fancy slashing. After all, it’s nice when food looks as good as it tastes!
I have been taking more time over my pastry work as well. The covid-19 lockdown has meant that we have been having a lot more store-cupboard dinners. In an effort to make another meal of tinned beans more interesting, I made it into a mexican inspired pie filling and created a smiling sunshine face for the pie crust.
It was a big hit, so I followed it up the next week with a bumblebee pie crust. This was Wren’s idea, because we had all been so pleased to see bees in our garden for the first time (we moved here in late autumn). I enjoyed making them and I think that pie pictures are going to become a bit of a tradition in our house. Lark is already planning a Harry Potter themed pie for her Brownies baker badge.
Taking time to enjoy things, has not just been about baking. I am taking time to enjoy all kinds of everyday tasks. Whether it’s combining a walk around the garden with cleaning out our rabbits or enjoying the huge variety of birdsong and admiring the sky, at the same time as hanging out the washing – there is joy to be found everywhere.
There are days when I forget and slip back to rushing, but I am getting quicker at realising when I’m starting to get stressed and slowing everything down. This might be by taking some things off of the list, getting everyone involved or even dropping everything and going on a family picnic
Finding more time for making either by myself or with my children, has also been a huge help. We all enjoy creative time and it’s so lovely to be making a home and a life together.
It’s our life, it’s a good one and we intend to take the time to enjoy it!