Slow Living

Be Slower: Wear a Watch

January 14, 2016

Watch from Pixabay

I remember years ago reading that in order to slow down and not be so rushed, we should stop wearing watches. It kind of made sense… a watch on your wrist can make you more aware of the passing minutes. Taking it off was guaranteed to restore a more balanced pace to the day, lessening the pressure to beat the clock.

Fast forward to 2016 and I think it’s fair to say that one way to help yourself live a little slower is to start wearing a watch again. How did this watch wearing advice do such a 180? Blame it on the smart phone.

Everyone stares at their phones, anywhere and everywhere. One of the big reasons I would so often pull mine out in public was to check the time. But I wanted to stop that. Plus it’s awkward to be having lunch or dinner with someone and discreetly try to check the time on your phone.

Enter the old fashioned wrist watch. I received one from JORD early last year, and I’m still loving it. I wear it when I go out and it feels kind of special, like a piece of jewelry, but it also means that one quick glance at my wrist and I know what time it is. My phone can stay in my purse. Even though I can see the time whenever I want, I don’t tend to check my watch a lot — it doesn’t beckon the way a screen does.

Last week I found an ad in my Facebook feed for “slow” watches. I didn’t know such a thing existed. The company — Slow Swiss Made — was advertising a “quartz movement” that originally had 4 hands, plus the date, but this one has just one hand showing the 24 hour clock. The makers claim this creates a truly “slow” watch, allowing you to view the entire day in one view, providing a better sense of the day. The company doesn’t put a logo on their watches because, well, that doesn’t promote the whole slow thing. (It does appear on the back, though.)

I’m not clamoring for one of those, but they’re nice and the concept is interesting. I’m totally committed to wearing a watch when I go out now, though. It’s helped me be more present to people and to spend less time on my phone overall. A small thing, but the small things add up.

Do you wear a watch? Do you think it would help you use your phone less?

Image: Pixabay


Unplugged Crew

Just before Christmas I found out that Unplugged Nation, the television show we filmed about off-grid living — has been slated for a second season. Blast Films, the London-based film company we worked with, will be producing the show again and they’re looking for interested participants. Since we had such a good experience, I wanted to give a plug for the show, just in case you’re interested!

For the record, you don’t need to be a family per se. The episodes in season one featured numerous families from different places and backgrounds, but also couples, and even a small group of young adults looking to start an informal off-grid community of sorts.

If you do have a baby or young toddler, the shoot schedule may a little too taxing, but if your kids are over 4 and do well with new experiences, it could work very well. At 6 1/2, our girls were troopers and I was impressed with how respectful and considerate the film crew were of them and our needs as a family.

So if off-grid living interests you, and you’re up for adventure, and you’d like to work with a fun film crew who will take good care of you, be in touch with Blast Films. Email the lovely Stuart Hastie at: (and be sure to tell him I sent you). There’s a vetting process, of course, and paperwork, etc., but that’s par for the course. One thing’s for sure — I’d love to see you on an upcoming episode of Unplugged Nation!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul





Woman on Screen

My husband is a techie. Me? Not so much. New tech gadgets intimidate and irritate me: Just when I’ve learned how to use my smart phone or computer proficiently, it’s more or less obsolete. I lament the cultural trend of being glued to screens and how much time is spent on social media. And I’m super careful about how much time I let my girls spend on computers and iPads.

So it came as a surprise to me when I realized I had some unhealthy habits when it comes to the internet. Ironically, it was my husband who pointed it out to me. At first I totally denied it (a classic sign of addiction, of course), and then I had to admit that I sort of did have a problem. (Maybe the reason I get so down on the digital world is my own subconscious cry for help?)

As a blogger, writer, and editor who mostly works on the web, it’s silly to expect the internet to go away or to not be a big part of my life. I might as well completely change my line of work if I don’t want to accept this. But then how does someone whose livelihood depends on the internet (or anyone, really) make sure the internet doesn’t swallow her up?

Here‘s one woman’s story of how she realized (and is trying to manage) her internet addiction. I completely stand by her recommendation of taking at least one — preferably more — tech-free breaks every year. I do this when I go to Nova Scotia in the summers. Even one week of not looking at my computer, checking email, and posting on social media, really refreshes me and helps me find balance when I come back to my everyday life.

I used to take a break between Christmas and New Year’s, too (although that won’t be possible this year) and I try to take Sundays (until evening time) away from digital devices (but some Sundays are harder to do this than others). I try to make sure I read paper books and magazines, especially before bedtime, and I try to be conscious about how I use my smart phone in public, like not staring at my phone while in conversation, at a restaurant, or even sitting in a waiting room.

My worst habit might be getting sucked-down the rabbit hole of email. Ann Waterman, a past contributor to SlowMama, swears by the habit of not checking email first thing in the morning. She inspired me to no longer check email on my phone from bed when I wake up, and now I manage to get a few things done in my household before I open up my laptop.

I still have more progress to make, though, when it comes to managing my email and online time. I feel overwhelmed a lot, mainly because personal organization — especially of data and paperwork — is not my strength.

As the author of NYT article above states, the internet is designed to overload us with info and distract us — there’s no getting away from that. Since we live in a digital tech world now we can make sure we’re doing certain things to counterbalance its negative effects.

Do you take tech breaks? What online traps do you get sucked into? (Surely, it’s not reading too much SlowMama!) What parameters do you set around your internet time? And if you work online, how do prevent your gadgets from taking over your life?







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Screen Shot Unplugged Nation

Friends, our television episode aired last week! I wanted to give everybody a heads up, but the production company forgot to let us know in advance and since we don’t have a TV, we watch the episodes (well, those that aren’t locked behind a cable key) via our computer after they’ve aired.

Last week I was standing outside our house when a neighbor went by and said, “Hey, I saw your show!” And I actually said, “What show??” … so far was it from my mind. Then B and I stayed up way too late that night and watched it. It was fun to see how the episode turned out, but a few things to keep in mind if you watch it…

This is reality TV… which means that what you see is not always how it was. Plus, it was an entire week of footage reduced to 48 minutes (or whatever it is without the commercials). There were things we were pretty sure would be in there and weren’t; and things we hoped wouldn’t show up and did (like the shutter on our house that broke a few days before they came to film).

I do want the interwebs to know that my husband has been fishing before and actually has very good balance. (And he wants everyone to know that he really didn’t swear in front of the kids.) Also, I wasn’t obsessed with room sizes despite what it seems, and our children didn’t need a break from playing computer games and watching TV since they don’t do much of either at home. But the Billy goat escaping was true, and his name really was “Rambutt.”

Did I mention it was hard to watch myself on TV?

But I remain really glad we did this. We wanted it to be a fun memory-making experience for our family and to learn something about off-grid living and about ourselves, and we did all that. And now we have the show to look back at and remember… and laugh at a few things, of course.

Alrighty, here it is. Let me know what you think!


Unplugged Nation!

August 17, 2015

North Carolina

You may recall that back in May we traveled to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to film a show about off-grid living. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but ended up having a fantastic time. The experience opened up some great conversations and has helped shape some of the future plans we have for our family.

The show is called “Unplugged Nation” and recently debuted on the FYI channel (part of the A&E Network). You can view a couple episodes that have already aired on the FYI web site and/or tune in on Saturday evenings at 10PM EST right after “Tiny House Nation”).

I’ll be sure to put a link up here and on my social media when our episode airs. I’m excited to see it, but also slightly apprehensive… wondering what the editors chose to keep and to cut, how they spliced it all together, and just how badly I’ll hate my wardrobe choices and bad haircut.

I’m hopeful, though, since we’ve watched three episodes so far and really enjoyed them all. Can’t wait to see the rest. Let me know what you think if you catch the show! (Here‘s an article in Mother Nature Network about it.)

Image: North Carolina, Zoe Saint-Paul



Have you ever heard of the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or the Danish idea of Hygge?  I hadn’t until I saw this article in Mother Nature Network about seven different cultural concepts from other countries that aren’t common in the U.S.

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term and refers to something called “forest bathing” which involves spending time in the woods and natural areas as a way to prevent illness. There’s apparently science behind this idea: As MNN’s Catie Leary writes:

“The “magic” behind forest bathing boils down to the naturally produced allelochemic substances known as phytoncides, which are kind of like pheromones for plants. Their job is to help ward off pesky insects and slow the growth of fungi and bacteria. When humans are exposed to phytoncides, these chemicals are scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and boost the growth of cancer-fighting white blood cells. Some common examples of plants that give off phytoncides include garlic, onion, pine, tea tree and oak, which makes sense considering their potent aromas.”

As for hygge, it’s a Danish concept, loosely translated as “togetherness,” and related to the concept of coziness, but goes beyond that, as it’s more of a mental state than a physical one. According to VisitDenmark (the country’s official tourism site):

“The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family — that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking — preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life.” Hygge’s high season is winter, and Christmas lights, candles galore, and other manifestations of warmth and light, including warm alcoholic beverages, are key to the concept.

Hygge might be why Danes have long been considered some of the happiest people on earth, at least for as long as people have been studying them, even though they have long, cold winters.

I can really relate to both concepts, though I never had descriptors for them. I grew up in nature and still find it very therapeutic. And despite the fact that I hate the cold, there is something I really miss about the winters I spent growing up in Nova Scotia and I think “hygge” sums it up well.

There are five other concepts in that article that are equally interesting, and among people I know, I’ve seen them practiced in some way here, but not as concepts or practices that pervade American culture. That doesn’t mean we can’t adopt some of them as individuals and families, though.

The writer’s other point about traditions and holidays is interesting and worth a conversation, but I’ll save that for another post.

Do any of those cultural concepts appeal to you? Are there others you might put on this list?

Image: Jordan McQueen at picjumbo 



Life of Pix Ocean & iPhone by Jordan McQueen
I avoided Facebook, like, forever. I didn’t think I wanted everyone from my past “friending” me, plus I know a lot of people and am part of some very diverse circles — how would that work? I was also afraid it would suck up a lot of time; I was online enough already.

When I started SlowMama, I did create a Facebook fan page since many people don’t visit blogs directly; they read through social media. But increasingly I was missing out on information, events, invitations, and conversations that I couldn’t access with just my fan page and were only available on Facebook — particularly relating to parenting and adoption. So I finally raised a white flag and opened a personal account.

Although I rarely post anything to my personal page, I don’t regret signing up — those resources I was after really are super helpful. I find helpful things for my work — and admittedly, I love seeing photos and reading updates from friends and acquaintances.

But Facebook also drives me crazy. As predicted, I end up spending too much time on it… because… well, there’s always an article, a quiz, a cute baby, a heated conversation,  a whatever, to distract me. I’ve also been surprised, even dismayed, by posts and comments from people I know that reflect opinions I wish I never knew they had. Ugh.

I’m not only taken aback by what people post sometimes, I’m amazed at the kind of time they spend there. Don’t people have jobs? Kids? How do they find the time to post so much? I still haven’t figured it out.

So, yes, it’s a love-hate thing with Facebook and I don’t think that will change.

What about you? Are you a big Facebook fan? Or are you one of the rare creatures who has managed to not drink the Kool-aid? Do tell!

Image: Jordan McQueen at Life of Pix


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Austria by Marco Berndt
I enjoyed this interview in Kinfolk with Carl Honore, a journalist who’s essentially made himself the go-to expert on all things “slow” since his best-selling book, In Praise of Slowness, came out eleven years ago. Have the concepts of “living slower” penetrated the culture at all since his book came out? That’s what Honore discusses in Kinfolk — which, by the way, is a gorgeous magazine. Pick up a copy up if you ever get the chance!

Here are a few excerpts from the interview, but I encourage you to read the whole thing, which isn’t super long:

Is there any way that technology can help us slow down instead of speeding us up?
Absolutely. People often assume that, as a proponent of the Slow movement, I must be against new technology. They assume slowing down means throwing away the gadgets, yet nothing could be further from the truth. I am no Luddite: I love technology and own all the latest high-tech goodies. To me, being able to speak and write to anyone, anytime, anywhere is exhilarating. By freeing us from the constraints of time and space, mobile communication can help us seize the moment, which is the ultimate aim of Slow.

But there are limits. The truth is that communicating more does not always mean communicating better. You see parents staring at smartphones while spending “quality time” with their children. Surveys suggest that a fifth of us now interrupt sex to read an email or answer a call. Is that seizing the moment, or wasting it? ….


What other countries are approaching work-life balance in an interesting way?
Germany is a shining example at the moment—its economy is a powerhouse of productivity, and yet Germans work far fewer hours than citizens of most other countries. When they’re at work, they focus—checking Facebook is verboten—and get a lot done. And when they’re away from work, they leave the office behind and focus on friends, family and leisure pursuits. They also put up a firewall between work and private life: Leading German firms such as Volkswagen, Puma and BMW have stopped staff from sending or receiving email outside working hours. The German Ministry of Labor has done the same, and has banned managers from contacting staff at home except in emergencies.


A lot of people feel like they don’t have the time to be slow. What steps can we take toward a slower life?
My response would be that if you don’t have the time to be slow, then you aren’t really living properly. You’re racing through life instead of living it. People worry about missing out on life if they slow down, but life is what’s happening right here, right now. As for steps to lead a slower life: Do less. Buy less. Consume less. Drive less. Unplug more. Walk more. Sleep more. Stop multitasking and do one thing at a time. Embed slow moments and rituals into your schedule.

How are you doing when it comes to slow living? Does life feel like it’s going at the right pace for you at the moment?

Image: picography


Off Grid Adventure

May 1, 2015

Bokeh bark Tomorrow, our family is off to North Carolina for a week to film an episode for an upcoming series about off-grid living. I can’t say much about the show, being sworn to secrecy and all, but I expect we’ll learn a few things and hopefully make some fun family memories in the process. If the back-story filming done at our home last month is any indication, we should prove to be amusing subjects for the show.

I’m excited but also a little nervous, not knowing quite what to expect, and hoping the girls do well and we all stay healthy, etc. Plus, I have to do one of my least favorite things before we even start: fly. But I’m trying to have a spirit of adventure about it all.

Because I’ll largely be offline next week, posting will be a lighter than normal around here. I’ll have one of my monthly links post earlier in the week and Mags will be here on Thursday. I look forward to telling you more about our experience, though I won’t be able to give many details until the show airs. I’ll also try and post some shots on Instagram, if I can, so you can catch a few glimpses there. Wish us well!

Hope you have a peaceful weekend and terrific week ahead.

P.S. I’m happy to report that things are a little calmer here in Baltimore. It sure was a wild sight to see the streets and businesses I frequent lined with National Guardsmen and state police all week. Here’s hoping the protests happening today and this weekend are peaceful and it all leads to reforms, change, and healing that is long overdue.

Image: Dave Meier at picography


Over the summer, I reflected a lot on the past school year with my girls, and one thing became very clear: I was doing too much. There were no catastrophes, mind you, and I managed to keep everything going more or less as it should be, but it was just a lot; at times I didn’t feel like anything was getting the full attention it deserved. Homeschooling is almost a full-time job, and when you add in caring for children, doing paid work, managing a household, keeping a blog going, and all the other stuff of life, it’s a lot for one person — or, at least, it is for me.

One of the major themes of this blog is living “slower,” and given my desire to practice what I preach, I’m making a few changes this fall to help reduce the rush factor in my life.

To begin with, our homeschooling schedule will be a little more structured, allowing me more time for paid work, which we’ve determined is important for our family right now. I haven’t worked much since the girls came home, and it’s tough to live on one income where we are (unless one person is making mega bucks). My work will be flexible, so I can put in hours around homeschooling and caring for the girls, but it will require a good chunk of time each week.

For that reason. I’m taking a small step back from blogging this fall. Not a big one — I like it here too much! — but instead of posting every weekday, I plan to post around three times a week (sometimes it might be little less or more, depending). I’ll start scaling back in the next week or two.

You can still expect the same kinds of posts from me: I’d like to write more about homeschooling, feature more books, maybe wade into some tougher issues that are on my mind, as well as share more inspiration about living meaningfully and mindfully. I also plan to continue with my “Parenting Against the Grain” series. (If you know anyone who you think would be a good fit for it, drop me a line!)

I plan to have occasional guest posts, and my contributors will still be here, too: Ann took a break for part of the summer, but will soon be back once a month, and Margaret will be here every other week starting in September. And I’ll still be posting to Instagram (my favorite social media platform) and Facebook, as well.

I’ll evaluate all this as I go along; I’m hopeful that, by organizing my time differently and slowing my blogging schedule a bit, I can be more present to each thing on my plate.

As I consider my posting schedule over the next few months, I’d love to know if there any topics you’d like to read about on SlowMama this fall. Please let me know in the comments! Are you planning any changes in the upcoming year yourself?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul