With the worst of the pandemic *hopefully* behind us, it is time to take stock and consider what we have learnt. For me, what stands out is the importance of personal connections and the incredible enjoyment that comes from gardening, baking bread and creating.
I wonder what changes you have made to your life?
In my case, my garden is back to being productive enough to provide a lot of our fresh food. Any surplus gets frozen or canned - I love the look of my pantry these days with its jars of jam, tomatoes and other canned food, drying herbs and braided garlic, and it gives me a feeling of satisfaction and security.
I have gone back to making bread and have not given this up as we have returned to a more normal life - I have a very simple no-knead bread recipe that can be mixed up in the evening and baked off in the morning. Easy to do, not much effort, tastes wonderful and costs a fraction of bread from the shop.
Here is my bread recipe (in case you would like to try it): 500g flour, 350ml water, 2 teaspoons of yeast, 1 teaspoon (or to taste) of salt. You also need an oven-safe heavy duty pot with lid(an enamel cast iron pot with lid is ideal- it does not have to be from a fancy French brand!).
Mix together with a spoon. You want a dough that is still quite soft. No heavy kneading required. Cover and let sit over night. The next day, the dough should have risen a lot. Place the pot without lid into the oven, pre-heat up to 180-200 degrees Celsius (temperature depends on your oven - you may want to experiment until you get the best outcome). Once the pot is piping hot, remove the dough from your mixing bowl and carefully glide it into the pot - you don't want to get rid of all those air bubbles, so don't knead to much at this point). Put the lid on, return pot to oven and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes. You may want to remove the lid for the last 5-10 minutes for a nice light brown crust.
Hint: Always keep a small amount of your dough for your next lot. This is the cheat's method of creating sourdoughl Over time, it will give your bread a wonderful depth of taste.
And of course one aspect of the pandemic was the widespread rediscovery of creative crafts. Knitting and crochet have been shown to be highly beneficial to mental wellbeing. More complex patterns challenge us and keep us mentally active. Once we are involved in the task, the repetitive movement of knitting and crochet provides a calming influence akin to meditation. And let's not forget the joy of creating something new!
To me, knitting and crochet are like magic, you start with two sticks or a hook and a piece of string and you end up with something beautiful that can be worn or otherwise used.
So let's make this year the year of making! Here is my challenge to you: Dedicate some time every day to being creative, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. The health benefits are great, you get the satisfaction of time to yourself and of making something beautiful with your own hands.