This January, the usual ‘new start’ and ‘new me’ phrases are, in the main, not seeming to sit well with people. Unsurprising following a year which turned lives upside down. Awareness and conversations focusing on the importance of mental health and what we need to do for ourselves to keep going have significantly multiplied and, at last, a topic that is becoming less taboo. For 2021 and beyond, new versions of ourselves are not required. Instead, perhaps it is more fitting to take note of what has always made each of us special - the traits and quirks that make us wonderfully unique as individuals, what we truly love and uplifts us, embracing ourselves on a new level.
Since quietly welcoming January 1st, I’ve been dedicating more time to my own wellbeing and looking into activities that will help improve my mind-set. I have been finding that writing gratitude lists of what I learned from 2020 have really helpful in starting the New Year with a clearer headspace.
If you haven’t written a gratitude list before, simply start by opening with ‘I am grateful for...’ and go on to write exactly what you feel. It can be as simple as ‘I am grateful for the warm, soothing cup of coffee I made for myself this morning’ or as profound as ‘I am grateful that my family and I are healthy’. Keep writing as many times as you need. Deciding to take up gratitude writing is ideal if you have a lot going on in your daily life. It can take as little as five minutes to complete, which will make it easier to maintain as life starts to pick up again. I wholeheartedly recommend spending time recognising things to be appreciative of, as not only does it help you see the small happy things in everyday life, it also opens your eyes to realise what you have in the moment. Personally, it has also helped ease my anxiety and brings me back to a positive mind-set. Since taking up the practise I have found more and more reasons to be grateful. A wonderful outcome of starting something which can be easily embedded into a routine.
Much of the mind-set work I have done has been around the choice and need to set time aside from work and housework for self-care. Both self-care and self-love are phrases that get thrown into conversations a lot, however going into 2021 it’s clearer that we are getting more accustomed to at having time-off from the usual pace of life and being at home.
In my life, I have social groups where each week we ‘meet’ on Zoom to discuss our mental health, other calls are light-hearted and creative where I make cocktails and chat to my friends. I have even been taking part in cook-along sessions to learn new skills. There are also book clubs, sewing circles and pamper parties all happening online. We are investing in ourselves in a new way and being able to take time to say ‘I am doing this for me’ is a huge achievement. We relax, which leads us to be more productive and feel happier too. Of course we aren’t interacting with people in a way that we have been used to, but thanks to technology thankfully we can still see them (one for the gratitude list!).
As a part of being together online we are investing new things to use and help us connect. I have invested in homeware, kitchenware and goodies to boost productivity and creativity at home. I am now shopping with a lot more consideration and have clarity as to why and what I’m going to be using items for; I feel like I am investing in myself when I decide to purchase. No longer am I content in buying in excess. Asking yourself questions such as ‘do I like or love this?’ and ‘will this last or serve a real purpose?’ are simple ways to determine whether they will truly make you happier as well as help you connect with a sense of community and love with those who are important in your life.
As the sentiment of staying home remains a constant in all our lives for the foreseeable, I wanted to share my favourite home and kitchen pieces that I have found to be wonderful investment items in my life. Plus, if the talk of reinstating the banana bread trend is filling you with dread, keep scrolling down to find a lovely recipe which shows how the most in-demand fruit of 2020 is versatile enough to make a stack of vegan mini pancakes; a perfect breakfast treat you can rustle up whilst at home.
Top picks for a New Year and spending more time at home
Frying up a feast in the kitchen
I am a big believer in investing in brilliant cookware and the beauty is that just a few key pieces are required, negating the need for lots of storage whilst making for an easy, fun cooking experience and (most importantly!) reduces the amount of washing up.
What I really like about this Le Creuset stainless steel frying pan is the superb non-stick technology as it requires a lesser amount of oil or fat versus other pans. Robust enough to use time and time again, I use mine to create pancakes to hearty fry up breakfasts and everything in between – which gives it a huge tick on the cost per use front. I’ve been using it as I follow various recipe tutorials and what I love so much about it is that it is able to go from hob to oven. The lifetime guarantee from Le Creuset is an extra reason (should you need another!) why this piece makes for an excellent investment when it comes to cooking and food prep.
Let dinner cook itself
This was a Sale purchase that I recently made and so far, it’s got my thumbs up. I’ve been borrowing my family's slow cooker for a while and I cannot believe how much I use it throughout the year. I enjoy the ease of being able to pop some ingredients in, switch it on and walk away, knowing that it will be safe cooking for me to return to later to find a delicious meal.
The James Martin Slow Cooker is super straightforward and can be left alone after a few taps on the digital display to set your cooking requirements. It also has a removable ceramic pot which makes serving and washing it up effortless. On days where I feel a bit overwhelmed from the news or the amount of work I have to do, allowing the slow cooker to take care of dinner gives me the space to have time off from the kitchen.
Cocktail kit essentials
There are a million and one cocktails to make, and what sometimes feels like just as many serve, prop and décor options to bring them to life! If you’re looking to host your own Zoom cocktail evening, from my own experience, there are a few essentials I believe you need to invest in.
For my friends who joined me for our virtual meet, I picked out a sleek, minimal cocktail stirring spoon and jigger by Georg Jensen.
The jigger is a great measurer and the sets amongst my friends have already been used countless times. The best thing when making the drinks on Zoom is having a laugh – we made mistakes which created new drinks, a very happy accident indeed! Having the proper cocktail pieces gave us a great starting point and set a special atmosphere for the night. What I like, and my friends agreed, is that this set is super stylish and contemporary. It wouldn’t be out of place on display with your favourite bottles and glasses. Perhaps setting up a mini at-home bar is something to consider?
A cosy night in
We have come to resign ourselves to the fact that staying home is the new going out. But what makes the evenings in our abodes more comfortable and relaxing, particularly during winter, is turning them into dedicated sanctuaries. I have really appreciated carving out cosy nights in, where we grab the best blankets, pop on a classic movie, and cuddle up with lots of drinks and snacks. The ability to relish the down time and rest my body and mind from work has been such a wonderful way to keep my mind-set positive. Plus, it is my firm belief you can never have too many blankets.
My eye is currently on this beautiful pom-pom throw from Oasis. The mix of textures is great for mindfulness as you can feel the fluffy pom-poms and stroke the soft knit as you wrap the blanket around you.
Vegan banana drop scone recipe
These drop scones (a Scottish version of mini pancakes) are amazing - if I say so myself! They are soft, moreish and so delicious. I make them all the time and usually no one notices they are vegan. The brilliant thing about vegan drop scones is that they are made of ingredients you will probably already have at home, which means you can stay safe baking up a storm in your happy place.
What you will need
125g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
150ml almond milk (soya milk works too)
A splash of vanilla extract
1 banana mushed up with a fork
A drizzle of sunflower oil (for frying)
Banana and maple syrup for topping (optional)
- Sieve the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl
- Add the vanilla and gently whisk in the almond milk until you have a smooth, slightly thick, but moving batter
- Mix in the mashed up banana
- Heat your non-stick frying pan on a medium heat and add a splash of sunflower oil. Swirl it around the pan
- Spoon in the drop scones batter. Depending on your frying pan, you should be able to get 3 or 4 pancakes cooked at a time. Spread the mixture out slightly with the back of a spoon if needed
- Cook for a few minutes until hit bubbles appear. Take a peek underneath if you need to see using a spatula. Flip over and cook the other side. Cook until both sides are brown
- Serve as a stack and add more slices of banana. If you fancy, drizzle some maple syrup on top