How to brew the perfect chai

One of my favourite ways to slow the morning is to have as few plans as possible. To spend the time brewing chai and enjoying it with no place to be but home. I’m an introvert at heart and I really like quiet times in solitude, baking, snuggling under blankets on the couch and generally doing things that feel cosy. There’s nothing cosier than sipping a freshly made chai in bed.

If you’ve been to one of my workshops recently you’ll have been treated to a delicious cup of chai. Not just any chai, my absolute favorite – Prana Chai, made by hand in Melbourne by founders Vincent, Koray & Mario. I brew mine slowly with soy milk (Bonsoy is my go to). It doesn’t take long for the aroma of cinnamon, cardamon and star anise to gently fill the air and the experience of the perfect chai begins, even before you’ve had the first taste.

I spoke to Mario, one of the founders of Prana Chai about how he got to be creating their winning version of authentic masala tea.

Tell us some background on who you are, and how you got to be doing what you’re doing

I first got into hospitality when I started my apprenticeship as a chef after I left school at 16. I eventually moved to front of house and later running my own cafes with my best friend and partner Vincent. At one of these cafés we made chai ourselves for our customers and eventually we started supplying other cafes in the area. After Koray joined our team and many years of hard work, that side business has grown into what is now Prana Chai

What does mindful eating mean to you?

For me personally I practice intermittent fasting and try to eat whole foods and avoid eating too many processed carbohydrates.

Can you share a daily ritual you have that brings you joy?

I can’t go without a bowl of berries with coconut yoghurt, coconut milk, a bottle of yakult, cinnamon and a sprinkling of “the wild” gluten free muesli. Its so delicious and I can’t see myself ever getting sick of it.

What are your tips for brewing the perfect chai?

My best tip is to brew it slowly and to use a spoon to taste the chai every so often until it tastes right. The trick is to catch it before it is over brewed.

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Prana Chai and Winterwares

Perfectly brewed chai

10 ways to break your phone addiction

Using our phones make us miss the things that really matter, that are right in front of us.

Our phones are amazing tools. We have access to a world of information in our pockets. Used well, they make our lives easier, more fun, more inspired and connected. Which is great if we are using them for those things, but how often do we pick up our phone just because we have an urge to check it? When we use our phones without thinking about why, it drains our time and energy and can make us stressed, anxious and depleted.

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the phone.”
~ Steven Spielberg

Since I had a breakdown a few years ago, I’ve been rebuilding my life and it’s taken me on a journey to live more mindfully. I’m trying to be fully present in the life that I’m living, to experience it wholeheartedly. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced to living a more mindful life is my phone. I created an addiction to it, and it was a constant and very persistent distraction. When I first started using a smartphone I loved taking photos of every moment that I wanted to remember and checking social media to see what my friends were up to. I downloaded dozens of apps to inspire me, connect with my friends and family, to have the convenience of working anywhere, at anytime. Though more and more I found that my phone wasn’t making me feel more inspired, connected and content, it was making me feel empty. Having dozens of reasons to pick up and use my phone was draining me of precious time with my children. I found that I was missing out on the things that made me truly happy because I was idly wasting time in an endless rabbit-hole of links and hashtags.

“We’re living an era where capturing moments using our phones is more important than actually living these moments with whoever is beside us.”

We can’t give them up completely, but we need to find balance.

Our phones are designed to be addictive. It’s really, really hard to break the habit of checking our phones incessantly. When we check the phone we get a little hit of dopamine. It’s a nice feeling, so when the phone pings again, we reach for it to get another hit. Each time we get a notification and pick up the phone we’re creating neural pathways in the brain that are wiring us to listen out for the pings and check them. When we’re away from our phones we can develop anxiety about what we might be missing out on.

Using willpower alone, I tried frequently to give up my phone. I can’t count how many times I deleted Facebook just to reinstall it a few days later. In these moments I imagined my only solution would be moving to a log cabin in the forest. Somewhere with no wi-fi, no phones, no distractions, no temptation to post a photo of the organic tomatoes I’d harvested from my garden that morning. Moving to the forest isn’t an option just now, so I need to learn to live with my phone. To restore the balance so that it makes my life better, not worse.

I don’t want to give it up completely. I think about the ways that technology does add value to my life. Through social media I’ve found a tribe of people that I met online who’ve become real life friends, beautiful, generous, inspirational humans that I cherish. In Podcasts I find thoughtful conversations about what it means to be a human doing good things in the world. Things that bring me feelings of hope in an online landscape saturated with negativity. There are so many upsides to the technology I have at my fingertips and I’m grateful for those resources. I’m well aware that it’s so easy for the balance to tip too far the other way, where the phone becomes a time vacuum. Sucking away hours and hours on things that don’t make my life better, and can actually make me feel more anxious and depressed. Over time, I’ve worked out how to break my addiction and gain back control over my phone. Now when I use my phone it’s mindful and purposeful, not just because it’s there.

Here are my ten tips on how to break your phone addiction:

1. Know why you want to make a change

For any real change to occur you have to think about why you want to make the change. Otherwise when you’re in a moment of weakness, you’ll go back to old habits. Remember, you’re rewiring neural pathways, it’s going to take some time for that to happen. The catalyst for me to ditch my phone addiction was the realisation that I was missing out on meaningful things right in front of me because I was distracted by something totally forgettable on my screen. I imagined being older, in my twilight years and looking back on my life. Thinking how sad I’d feel reflecting on my years and knowing I’d wasted them looking at a little screen instead of looking at my children.

2. Turn off your notifications

I’ve turned off almost all notifications on my phone (and my computer). I don’t want instagram to tell me to ‘look here! Right now!’ I want to block out time and look at instagram intentionally, not just because it’s there. The only time my phone pings now is when I have a text message.

3. Use airplane mode to block out time to be uninterrupted

When I’m in my studio I have a short window where I feel most creative. For the first couple of hours when I arrive I don’t want to be interrupted with messages or calls. If my phone’s on and I hear the ping of a message, I can’t help but look at it. So I put my phone into airplane mode and it sets the intention that for the next two hours I’m going to focus on my work. Research has shown that just the sound of a receiving a message is enough to distract you, even if you don’t read the message. Psychologists at the Temple University in Philadelphia conducted experiments to see how phone use affects our ability to function well at work. “When the notifications broke their concentration, the subjects had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make rapid guesses. Subjects who received notification of a call — even if they didn’t pick it up — were three times likelier to make mistakes.” When notifications break our concentration and interrupt our thoughts all day we lose the ability to think clearly, and deeply.

When I first started blocking out time, I used the Forest app to help me stay focused and stop me from unlocking my phone. With Forest, when you leave your phone alone for an allocated period you grow virtual trees, which earns currency to grow real trees. The Forest team partners with a real-tree-planting organisation, Trees for the Future, to plant them.

4. Declutter your phone screen

Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” I’ve all my apps inside one folder on my phone, and that folder sits on the second screen so I need to swipe across to see it. To access any of my apps I use the search bar to find them. On my iPhone its a quick swipe down on the screen to type in what I’m looking for. Having all my apps hidden away helps to remove temptation to click on one just because it’s there. It makes me pause long enough to think, why am I looking at this, do I really want to check facebook again? Having an empty home screen helps keep my mental state clear because I’m not looking at all the digital clutter on my phone each time I unlock it.

5. Use your home screen to remind you of what’s most important

Having a home screen clear of apps means I have a blank canvas to use for something more meaningful. I have some quotes, prompts and reminders that I’ve saved to my photos folder and I use them for my phone wallpaper. Prompts like Is this the most meaningful thing I can do right now? or Look up and look around, what do you see that’s worth taking in? or simply a reminder to Pause, breathe in, breathe out. I’ve given you a couple of my favourites here if you’d like to download them and use them on your own phone. In this way my phone becomes a reminder to be mindful and think about if I’m on the right track with my goals to live an intentional life. Jordan Travers writes “We need to constantly assess whether our actions are bringing us closer to or further away from our goals, because it is not possible to remain stationary”.

6. Don’t have your phone on the table when you’re with a friend

I know it’s an obvious one, but it’s a big one. If you want to be really present, you need to put away your phone. French Philosopher Simone Weil said that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”. How often do we miss the opportunity to connect with someone because we’re distracted by the ping of our notifications. When you sit down to have a conversation with a friend give them your complete attention. Get in the habit of putting your phone out of sight when you’re talking to someone face to face. Just having your phone on the table while you’re with a friend at a café disrupts the flow of your conversation. Even if you’re not checking it, having the phone in sight is distracting for both of you. Subconsciously the other person can feel like you’re waiting for someone to interrupt, or give you a better offer for your company.

7.  Don’t sleep with your phone next to you

Remove the temptation to look at your phone last thing at night or first thing in the morning by moving it to another room. Have a phone free period where you put your phone in a drawer or plug it in to charge overnight. Switch it to airplane mode or turn it off from 8pm to when you wake. If you need an alarm to wake you up, buy an alarm clock.

8. Delete the apps that don’t add value to you life

It’s a double edge sword to have the convenience of your email, your calendar and your facebook business manager on your phone. At first I thought it would make life easier, it turned out it just made it more painful. I did an audit of which tasks I really wanted to be able to do from anywhere. Do I need to check my work email at anytime of the day, anywhere? No. Do I need to see my PayPal balance on the go? No. Do I want to shop on eBay while sitting in my car? No. Do I want to spend my time waiting in a queue playing candy crush? Not really. I still haven’t closed my facebook account entirely but I decided I didn’t need to have 24/7 access to it through my phone. I’ve deleted the app and now I only check it occasionally from my computer.

9. Don’t take your phone with you every time you leave the room

Are you in the habit of picking up your phone and taking it with you everywhere, from the kitchen to the dining room, from your bedroom to the bathroom? Create device free areas in your home, where everyone agrees that phones are not invited. At my house phones aren’t allowed at the dinner table or in the bedroom. It means when we’re eating together we’re able to be present and when we’re going to bed we aren’t tempted to stay awake for hours looking at funny cat videos on youtube.

10.  Decide what you’d rather be doing with your time

It’s much easier to avoid sitting on your phone when you’ve got something else you’d rather be doing. Make a list of things that bring you joy. It could be anything you love to do; reading, walking the dog, playing a board game, gardening, cooking, swimming. yoga, painting, running. Start with something easy that you know will make you happy. Instead of checking social media the moment you wake up, spend half an hour doing the thing that makes you really happy.

By removing all of the temptation, I’ve broken the habit of feeling the urge to check my phone. I don’t have the anxious feeling of needing to look at it every few minutes. My phone is actually pretty boring now, and because I’m aware of so many other things I’d rather do with my time I’m not idly wasting hours looking at the screen. When I use my phone now it’s with intention and it’s become the tool it was designed to be, something that adds value to my life, not takes away.

Click on the wallpaper below, it will open in a new window for you to download it. 

Lessons on living well, inspired by the Danish concept of hygge.

Chances are you’ve heard of hygge (pronounced hue-gah) – the Danish art of living well. Woven into the fabric of daily life in Denmark, hygge is a way of being that gives you a feeling of comfort and connection. Even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve certainly experienced it. Sitting on the sofa, snuggled in layers of blankets reading your favorite book. Picking up a conversation with a dear friend you haven’t seen for months and chatting like no time has passed. The flickering glow of a candle in your dining room. A bowl of deliciously sweet strawberries. Sitting in the kitchen, the benches covered in flour, eating leftover cookie dough with your children. Savoring the delicious aroma of a spicy, hot cup of chai in the evening. These are all examples of hygge. Hygge moments are unique to all of us, if something makes you pause long enough to think, “I can’t think of anywhere else I want to be right now”, that is hygge.

Essential elements of hygge

To create a feeling of hygge in your home think about what feels warm and cosy, an environment where you feel safe, comfortable and content. A well loved armchair and layered, natural textures like knitted blankets and jumpers where you’d happily spend hours curled up with a hot chocolate. A hygge home should feel comfortable, without clutter or fussiness. When choosing items for your home, choose objects that are beautifully made, from natural materials. Textures like wood, handmade ceramic, linen and wool will make your ordinary objects feel extraordinary when you use them. We have a connection to things handmade that can’t be replicated by similar items mass produced. You can’t have hygge without the right lighting, overhead fluro bulbs are a no-no, candlelight is perfect to create a cosy atmosphere as does a string of lightbulbs in the garden.

To create your own feelings of hygge at home, start by slowing down enough to be present.

To have a feeling of hygge we need to be able to be still. Having the thought that there’s so much to do will ruin the joy to be found in the present. If you’re too distracted to be in the moment, no amount of woollen throws and tea light candles will bring you a lasting feeling of contentedness. Carve space into the day to do things well, one at a time. Too many demands will cause you to feel scattered and distracted. Slow down and guard your time well. Turn off your phone at dinner and make it a rule to not check your work emails outside of work.

“It must be emphasised that hygge entails commitment to the present moment and a readiness to set distractions aside” ~ Judith Freidman Hanson

If you’re time poor and your to-do list is the first thing on your mind when you wake up, you’re probably thinking, ‘I don’t have time to slow down!’ Start small by creating one new habit to be in the moment each day. Think of one daily ritual that you can create for yourself that will slow you down. It only has to be ten minutes. Try turning your phone to airplane mode, and put it out of reach. Make a cup of tea (or coffee, or chai) and don’t do anything else while it’s brewing. Bring your awareness to the enticing smell and close your eyes when you take your first sip. Something else you could try is before reaching for your phone in the morning, read a few pages of a book you’re enjoying before you get out of bed. It prolongs that feeling of being cosy and warm under the blankets.

Invite your friends over.

While it’s perfectly lovely to hygge alone, when it’s raining and cold outside it’s tempting to retreat indoors and sit on the couch bingeing on netflix with a bowl of popcorn, a key element of the concept of hygge is to be in the company of others. To delight in gathering around the table to share hot soup and break fresh bread together. It can be as simple as a plate of fruit and cheese and an afternoon of playing cards. It doesn’t have to be complicated and take hours to prepare and set up for. Hygge is about appreciating simple, honest moments and not letting the beauty of our ordinary days pass us by. 

Our winter workshops are inspired by the Hygge philosophy. We’ll be enjoying a cosy day of playing with clay at the Winterwares studio in Fremantle. You’ll create a few hand-crafted ceramics that will bring a feeling of warmth and comfort to your home, including a handmade mug. To find out more and book your place visit our workshops page.

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The making of your Winterwares candle

Each candle in the Winterwares range has it’s own beautiful fragrance that we’ve created to remind you of cherished moments. Woodland Trail reminds us of a walk through the forest taking in the scent of cedar with each step taken. Morning Embrace evokes that moment when you’re waking, the gentle dawn light fills your room and you’re aware of cosy sheets and pillows. Our latest candle is inspired by languid summer nights, with the scent of white flowers filling the warm air.

We hope you enjoy watching the making of Summer Evening.

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Semolina Pudding with Rhubarb and Blood Orange Compote

Semolina Pudding with Rhubarb & Blood Orange Compote with Katrine from My Capsule Kitchen

Katrine from My Capsule Kitchen

Katrine started her online journal My Capsule Kitchen as a reaction to the onslaught of confusing messages about how to be healthy. She craved a simpler, more joyful approach to food – an alternative to guilt inducing approaches to eating that have strict rules and restrictions. Her philosophy is to be healthy and happy and to enjoy eating. Sometimes that means muesli and green juice, sometimes it involves cake and wine.


Could you tell us some background on who you are, and how you got to be doing what you’re doing?

Food has always played a huge part in my life. I love the memories it creates and how it connects you to who you are, where you come from and what you value. But what was once simple has become complicated.

We live in a world with information overload and are often made to feel guilty about the food we eat. The list of what you should add to or cut out of your diet is long. There is no shortage of recipes or advice but often it contradicts itself and not all of it applies to you. It left me confused and frustrated. I grew increasingly tired of trying to stick to other people’s rules of what my healthy diet should look like.

My approach to home cooking leans on the concept of a capsule wardrobe, which is all about owning less, making you feel good about yourself and finding your own style. I believe that finding balance and moderation is personal and needs more than a cookie cutter ‘one size fits all’ solution.

That’s why My Capsule Kitchen is about letting go of things that don’t serve you, creating a space you love cooking in, and recipe collections that are seasonal, balanced, achievable and most importantly uniquely yours. Green smoothies can happily co-exist with chocolate cake! It’s about shopping, cooking and feeding yourself and your family more intentionally, with less stress and more joy.

What does mindful eating mean to you?

Mindful eating means to me a guilt-free and joyful approach to food. Sometimes your circumstances don’t allow you to approach food or home cooking in a way that you know is ‘better’, but nourishment comes in many different forms. Home cooked meals with local and seasonal ingredients are nourishing and so is take away pizza at the end of a long and tiring day when it brings the family together.

Mindful eating for me is to allow yourself to tune into what is good for you, and achievable, right at this minute. And then enjoy that thoroughly without judgement.

Would you share with us one of your favorite simple recipes?

I love rhubarb because it reminds me of the simple and slow days of summer at my aunty’s house who has a hobby farm and garden. Very idyllic. She always came out of the garden with large stalks of rhubarb, ready to make compote.

Semolina

Per person I use 1 cup milk (hereI used oat milk) and 2 tbs semolina.
Simply combine in a non-stick saucepan and stir as it heats up and thickens. Take it off the heat when it’s still easy to stir, it will thicken further as it cools.

Rhubarb and Blood Orange Compote

5 stalks rhubarb, washed, peeled and chopped into 1 cm pieces
2 small blood oranges, juice only
3 tbs caster sugar

Combine in a saucepan and let simmer for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally.

I made this in advance and have it in a jar in the fridge. It’s nice to potter in the kitchen but it’s also nice not having to stress about all the different elements. Cooking only the semolina in the morning makes for a slower and more mindful breakfast preparation. Then you only have to top it off with the compote and nuts and seeds of your choice.

Nuts and Seeds

Black sesame seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Macadamias, chopped

Best eaten warm!

Katrine uses our Everyday Deep Bowl for her recipe.

Everyday bowl in white