This week I was sick. Big deal, right? It happens to all of us. And I wasn’t really sick, hell, I’ve worked in hospitals before, I know what sick is. Having the flu is inconvenient. I had to reschedule clients and next week I’ll be busy catching up, it’s uncomfortable and I went through a lot of tissues and tea, but really it’s no big deal. And honestly, I’m thankful for it. It was a week of slow.
I’m pretty good at living a slow life. I happily buck this trend we seem to have of glorifying being busy. I’ve figured out what I need to be happy and it’s not too much, really. Family, health, time, love. That’s all I need.
But there’s more to this recipe, isn’t there? We often have these things – family, health, time, love – especially when we’re young and fit and fortunate and full of hope and dreams. The thing is, we don’t always stop to appreciate what we have. We look ahead, we want more, sometimes striving for things that aren’t even related to that which we need to be happy. Recently I’ve caught myself a little distracted, worrying about things that don’t really deserve my energy, my time. This week drew me back to slow.
It’s a strange age we live in. Who says we need to achieve X by the age of Z because you need Y in order be happy? These external standards, dictations, don’t really sit right with me. I’m currently reading a great book on writing by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird. Anne states little financial success (and often even personal satisfaction) comes from being a published writer, rather its true value, its true beauty, lies in the act of writing every day. This is where you find happiness and satisfaction in writing, this very personal journey of daily journaling and creating. And that’s really stuck with me. These little slow moments that make up our days, they are what make for a happy and lived life. And to be present for them, through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, that is the real achievement.
Talking with my dear friend, Lucy, and receiving a few comments from close friends (and even people I’ve just met) have made me realise that this slow practice I cherish and strive for is not something we all do. But when speaking on what makes us happy, we all seem to wish to be…slower. There should always be time for a stroll in the woods, for a phone call to your grandmother, for reading a chapter of a book with a cup of tea…or whatever it is that makes your heart full. There’s so much beauty in the every day, if we don’t stop to appreciate it, before we know it our days will have passed without really living them.
Some are busier than others, we’re all in different life stages and not everyone can live in a perpetual state of slow. We don’t all have the luxury of spending an entire day making a pie. But we can stop and take stock of a few areas in our lives that are not contributing to our happiness, listen a little more intently to our heart and reassess. And then edge ourselves that little bit closer to having joy in our every day with a few slow, mindful moments. The amount of pleasure that can come from mindfully drinking a cup of coffee in the morning should not be underestimated and should not be dismissed.
Yes, I really think there’s something to this slow life business. Losing my brother 6 years ago has taught me that this time of ours is precious and it goes too fast. We need to slow down and live.
Time for a recipe? How about some baked apple pie oats? It feels like good living.
I’ve made this recipe a few times now and this is my most favourite version, a completely comforting breakfast meal for those cooler months. The melted butter really is a stupendous addition, and indeed I do notice a difference in texture and flavour when it is absent. Soaking the oats for 30 minutes while your oven pre-heats and you do a little yoga or take a shower really does see a better, creamier dish, too. Soaking is now mandatory oat behaviour in my house. Other than that, have fun with the ingredients – mix up the nuts, perhaps, add a touch more spice if you like, through in some sunflower seeds, as you wish…
Baked Apple Pie Oats
250g Apples (I used a mix of little Jonathons, Golden Delicious and Johnny Golds, as that is what was leftover from my parents’ cider adventures)
20g Unsalted Butter, plus extra to grease the dish
1 cup Rolled Oats
1 cup and 2 tablespoons Full Cream Milk
1 Egg, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons Pure Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons chopped, toasted Almonds
1 tablespoon Organic Sultanas
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
A pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg
A pinch of ground Ginger
A small pinch of Sea Salt
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and soak your oats in the milk for 30 minutes in a mixing bowl. Lightly grease a 17cm pie dish with butter.
2. Meanwhile, slice your apples into thin rounds as per the pictures. Heat a large pan over low-medium heat and add half of the butter. You’re going to want to cook the apples in as much of a single layer as possibly so they evenly brown and don’t stew. You might need to do this in 2 batches. Cook the apples on both sides until soft and golden and sweet (a couple of minutes each side). Place them in the bottom of the pie dish in a flat layer, reserving a few for the top of the dish.
3. Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan.
4. Add the egg, melted butter, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, the almonds, sultanas, spices and salt to the oat and milk mixture, and stir to combine. Pour this mixture over the apples, smoothing it out so it is flat.
4. Top with the reserved apple slices and drizzle with the remaining teaspoon of maple syrup, then bake in the oven for ~30-40 minutes until golden and plump. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving alongside some Greek yoghurt.