Surviving a Digital Detox

The photo, if you’re wondering, is me feeling very sorry myself, turning my phone off at Manchester airport as I’m about to board a plane.

The challenge for week five of my six week reboot was to have a phone curfew every day for a week from 8pm to 7am.

Typically I lie on the couch every night from 8pm to 10pm and monitor my social medias incessessantly.  In honesty, it’s fairly souless, boring and disappointing.  But I can’t seem to help myself.

Admittedly between 10pm and 7am it’s less of a problem as I’m usually, hopefully, asleep. However if I’ve posted a great photo on Instagram at 9pm in the evening a bit of me will want to know how that’s doing when I switch the light off and go to bed at 10.30pm.  So I might have a quick sneaky peak at my phone at 10.30pm just as I’m about to turn the lights off.  I realise this is appallingly bad for then trying to get to sleep.  Not only have I flashed a bright digital screen in my face, but it’s got me thinking about the post again.  I read that Instagram and a lot of social medias have a similarly addictive effect to slot machines.  It explains my hungry urge to pursue as many of those heart icons as possible on Instagram to feel satisfied.  But it never truly satisfies, it just makes you want more!

So I knew the phone curfew would be a really useful experiment, to discover what 11 hours without my phone would do for me.

In honesty it was easy and enjoyable. As long as I didn’t have my phone too near me while I was doing it.  Most nights I’d leave it turned off in the kitchen or in a bag and I wouldn’t miss it a bit.

However the one night I had it turned off, but had it on the table in front of me as I watched telly, was highly distracting! I had a constant compulsion to pick it up and look at.  It’s so hardwired in me to check my phone every few minutes that I don’t even notice I’m doing it.

A potentially tricky obstacle for me last friday was getting a 90 minute evening flight to Copenhagen without my phone.  Normally I’ll stick my headphones in and watch something on Netflix or iPlayer, making the flight so much more bearable.

However, I armed myself with two really good magazines and an interesting book, I was excited to get stuck in.  I raced through  the magazines reading nearly every article (unheard of for me!) and then moved onto the book.  By the time I arrived in Copenhagen I was feeling super smug at my reading consumption. Perhaps removing my phone made me make an effort.

There were pretty much no downsides to doing this experiment.  It just confirmed to me that, yes I love my phone, but the extent I use it is completely unhealthy, uncreative and unnessary and I have way better things I could be doing with my time.  Any emails or social media comments, whatsapp or text messages I need to respond to can easily wait for the next day. Going forward I will make a point of turning my phone off for periods of time to give myself a break.

Digital Detox reading material for the plane

Juicy reading material for the plane 

And for those who haven’t been following, my friend Debbie is also doing a six week reboot alongside me.  This week she set herself the task of doing an hour of chores a day in the hope of using her time more effectively. It didn’t work out quite as positively as she had aniticipated. Have a read: ProperFoodie

digital detox Debbie's arsenal of cleaning materials
Debbie’s arsenal of cleaning materials 

And Week Six of the reboot challenge is another digital detox but I’m taking it a step further. Not only am I going to stick with my phone curfew from 8pm – 7am, but that’s now going to include no other digital screens. So no telly or computer either. I’ll let you know how at get on.



Giving up Decaf Coffee Took me to a Dark Place

This week as part of my six week reboot plan, I gave up decaffeinated coffee.  To be precise I replaced all my drinks with either water or herbal tea.  The odd wine and beer were permitted though!

I thought it would be easy.  Yes I’d miss my milky comforting mugs of decaf during the day, but herbal tea would be fine.

decaf sour cherry tea
My go to drink all week – rather delicious sour cherry tea

But no, it was AWFUL!

Unfortunately, bad luck meant that this week also happened to be my most stressful week of the year, so giving up decaf coffee and sugar free squash on top of that just finished me off.

From monday to wednesday I was tired and bad tempered.  Poor Jamie could not do a thing right.

Thursday I lightened up  a bit.  By mid friday I was perky, by saturday I was totally fine.

I’m not a scientist, but I have been speaking to one.  He advised against drinking decaf coffee because of the dangerous chemicals used to strip out the caffeine from the coffee beans.  I’m also aware that the aspartame in sugar free squash maybe be pretty unhealthy too.

So, was I addicted to the chemicals in these two products? Or was I addicted to the habit?

I don’t know, but I’m going to reconsider whether I want to return to these products.  If I do, I’d like to think it won’t be my usual five plus cups of decaf and two big glasses of squash a day. Because with all that herbal tea and water I’ve been drinking this week, I feel nice and properly hydrated and good.  Ok it took a few days to get to the feeling good stage, but now I’m here I don’t want to undo my good work.  I may try and keep it up for another month – I’ll let you know how I get on.

My blogging pal, Debbie, is doing this six week ‘well being’ reboot with me.  This week she’s been embracing slow cooker meals, to try claw back some quality time for her evenings.  Read how she got along here: Proper Foodie

decaf slow cooked ragu
Debbie’s incredible looking slow cooked ragu

Next week’s reboot challenge was supposed to be me doing 15 mins of Marie Kondo decluttering a day.  But, I’m now working in Belfast for a week, so I don’t think decluttering a hotel room is going to bring me a lot of joy! I’m going to replace it with a yoga challenge.  I haven’t done yoga properly for years, but when I do do it I really love the relaxing effect it has on me.  I think a week of yoga will do me the world of good.

I’ll be back next weekend to tell you all about it!  If you have any tips or thoughts about the reboot, do comment below.

69 in 69 – I’m raising the bar

We’re only on day 14, and we’re up to 15 recipes, so it feels appropriate to change the challenge to completing 69 recipes in 69 days.  I’m sure we can do it and I’ve moved the deadline day to 28th July instead of end of September. Go us!

And rather than drown you in detail, here is a quick whistle stop tour of all the nine recipes we cooked this week:

Beetroot Brownies: Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache (all the cakes in this book are made from vegetables).  These brownies were a revelation.  Easy to make even if the beetroot peeling and chopping was a little messy on the hands.  And MY GOD, they packed a punch – moist, rich, earthy.  I couldn’t get enough of them.

Moroccan chicken kebabs and panzella salad: Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cook Book. I’ve wanted to make panzella salad ever since I had one that blew my mind in Tuscany a few years ago.  Who would have thought that some stale bread, tomatoes and cucumber could taste so good?  But it’s quite something.  And the whole meal was a magical combination for a stunningly sunny bank holiday sunday.

Griddled nectarines with feta salad: Good Food 101 Veggie Dishes. This was a saturday lunchtime quickie – just a few simple ingredients compiled in ten minutes.  A gorgeous, light combination of salty feta, sweet melty hot nectarines and fresh mint.

Jamie chose a slow roasted Persian Lamb recipe with pomegranate salad: Good Food 101 Slow-Cooking Recipes. I was not keen – it involved pomegranate molasses and a pomegranate – I wasn’t convinced we’d find either of those in the Stockport suburbs of Hazel Grove.  However Jamie’s enthusiasm won out.  He even MADE the pomegranate molasses!  The thing that impressed us most was the pomegranate salad.  Yes the lamb was succulent and delicious (four hours of cooking in molasses), but the salad was tart, juicy and beautiful – a wonderful compliment to the lamb.

Smoked haddock with white beans and parsley : Gordon Ramsey Cooking for Friends was last friday night’s supper treat.  Jamie found it a bit fiddly – there was pureeing and faffy stages to the dish, but as the consumer of the dish, I was delighted.  It was stylish and showy to look at and just felt like something that you would be served in a posh restaurant.  Bacon and smoked haddock is a great combination and the bean/thyme mash was lovely.

Jamaican chops: Caribbean Food Made Easy with Levi Roots.  A week day simple dinner for us – pork chops slow cooked in a fiery, sweet tomato sauce with celery, peppers and lime. Easy to assemble, tasty and comforting.

Salmon fillet wrapped in proscuitto with herby lentils, spinach and yoghurt: Jamie Oliver The Return of the Naked Chef was a desperation choice.  It was late in the evening and I needed to pick something easy for the next day.  Everything else in this cookbook looked long-winded, but when I spied this I was a happy girl.  Speedy, simple and healthy.  And it really delivered.  It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing dish but prosciutto and salmon REALLY works – the salty meat enhances the salmon and those herby lentils were a nice earthy, flavourful background to the dish.

Keralan Coconut Curry: Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast.  Another beautiful book that had never been cooked from. The curry was creamy, spicy and had lovely depth – for me it was delicious but nothing earth shattering as I’ve had many similar curries, but it really wowed Jamie.

Spurred on by last week’s pitta success I baked oatmeal and potato bread: Home Baking Cookbook.  It was a cheap and easy number (apart from having to make the mash which was a pain!).  Admittedly we did burn the entire top of the loaf, but it really had no affect on the flavour.  It was a dense bread wholesome bread – perfect for making picnic sandwiches with the leftover feta from the salad. I’m definitely getting into this bread making thing – it’s satisfyingly easy and I love the therapeutic process of kneading the dough.

It’s been an intense week of cooking and eating and I’ve loved it.  This challenge is proving to be a real adventure – it’s a heartening and nostalgic experience re-connecting with my neglected books.   Fancy joining me in a similar challenge? Comment below and fill me in!