Look up: Did you know this is Dark Skies Week? Ireland is home to two internationally recognised dark sky places; Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve and Mayo International Dark Sky Park (www.darksky.ie). Both have been awarded a gold tier for the quality of their night skies, free from light pollution and are important assets of natural night sky heritage. To tap into the soothing, meditative qualities of the night sky, listen to an evening meditation on unwind.ie. It’s just one of several “Relax Hacks” which include bedtime stories for grown ups and gentle stretching exercises, created in tandem with a new Irish snack called Unwind. This handmade, sugar-free snack has been designed for evening with soothing ingredients such as chamomile, cherry and i-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. The company founder Deirdre Hynds, a self-confessed night owl, explains, “Unwind has been three years in the development, only slightly hindered by a pandemic and a newborn baby.” The range of snack bars is available in health shops and independent retailers; www.unwind.ie.
Watch or Read: Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard neuro-anatomist who suffered a massive left-hemisphere stroke which took away her ability to speak, walk, read, write or remember her life, but gave her a profound experience of the right hemisphere and a sense of peace. After delivering one of the top TED talks of all time, Bolte Taylor explains how to tap into this peaceful mindset in her new book Whole Brain Living, Dr Jill Bolte Taylor, published by Hay House. www.ted.com
Diffuse: The Happy Pod, by Max Benjamin is a new deluxe porcelain electronic diffuser which creates a fine mist from water mixed with a few drops of essential oil. The effect is instantly pleasurable – and health promoting. The Happy Pod comes with two vegan essential oil blends, calming Lavender & Chamomile and uplifting Bergamot & Lime. “You receive the mind benefits of essential oils as well as helping to purify the air in your home,” says Mark Van den Bergh, Brand and Creative Director, Max Benjamin. The sleek elegant porcelain design makes it easy to find a place for it in any interior. The Happy Pod, €100, oils, €17; www.maxbenjamin.ie.
Follow: As part of its #AvocaInspire campaign, Avoca is highlighting the importance of wellbeing. Its Wellness Wednesday series began in March, hosting free 30-minute yoga, meditation, and dance class on their Instagram Live. During April the series continues with the theme of getting outdoors in a new “Grow” series. Two of Avoca’s in-house experts, Dermot Carey and Des Carton, will be sharing tips and advice for caring for your indoor and outdoor spaces (and succulent plants) across Avoca’s social media channels throughout the month. This also coincides with the launch of new gardening books in-store and online; www.avoca.com.
Enrol: In an online “Crystal Class” with Merle O’Grady, €88. The aim is to illustrate how crystals can improve wellbeing and energy levels. In three hours of video, factual information and meditation exercises participants can work at their own pace and will receive a gift box containing eight crystals. The jeweller, who counts Beyonce and Rihanna as clients, discusses her own path to becoming a qualified Crystal Therapy Practitioner and the benefits it has manifested in her own life; www.merleogrady.com.
Use: When drawing a bath add some soothing Apothecary Restore Bath Salts, €8.75 and apply Pixi FortifEYE Firming Hydrogel Under-Eye Patches, €26, to revitalise tired eyes. Botanical collagen helps to fortify and strengthen while peptides and caffeine firm and rejuvenate: what we all need after too many Zooms! Both at M&S; www.marksandspencer.com.
Download: The Head Plan App created by Irish wellness coach Denise Kenny Byrne and The Head Plan team. It features daily affirmations, guided meditations, journaling prompts, forums for discussion and workshops hosted by an array of qualified professionals. Best of all, the app is free to use and its aim is to leave users feeling inspired, uplifted, focused and driven to be the best version of themselves. Denise Kenny Byrne comments, “This is not just another app but a movement; a movement in mindset elevation. Once you learn the tools to help you get the most out of life and have a support network to guide you along your journey, everything will change.” @denisekennybyrne
Listen to: Fears – the stage name of Irish artist, musician and producer Constance Kean, who will perform her debut album Oíche (meaning night) in a special online event on Saturday April 17 at 9pm. Filmed in London, the 45-minute show is part of MusicTown 2021. Oíche chronicles growth through challenges, instability and relationship changes, both with one’s self and others. Blurring the boundaries between music and visual art, Fears will take listeners on a journey with the help of reflective electronics, acoustic samples, and haunting vocals. The album will be released on May 7; www.musictown.ie.
Book: “Living Ayurveda for Health & Harmony” – a four week workshop series with Sunita Passi, founder of ayurvedic skincare brand Tri Dosha. Running each Wednesday from May 5 until May 26, from 7pm – 8.15pm, Passi, who is one of the leading trainers and practitioners of ayurveda, will provide information on this life philosophy. Health experts believe we should all be bringing traditional ayurvedic herbs and spices like ashwagandha and turmeric into our daily lives to enhance immunity and optimise our wellbeing. “Whatever we do in life, we owe it to ourselves to be the best we can be,” is Passi’s mantra. Tickets cost: €70 for four weeks or €20 per session; www.saolbeo.ie/treatments.
Make: A decadent weekend treat. Try this chocolate berry meringue cake sandwiched with seasonal berries.
For the cake:
30ml strong coffee
90g dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 eggs, separated
100g Siúcra Caster Sugar
100g ground almonds
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
150g Siúcra Caster Sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
80g dark chocolate, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 180?C/160?C fan/gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line with parchment paper.
2. Heat the coffee, butter, chocolate and cocoa powder in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
3. Beat the egg yolks and Siúcra Caster Sugar in a separate bowl for five minutes until thick and creamy.
4. Beat the egg whites in a third bowl until the mixture has thickened and soft peaks form.
5. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almonds.
6. Using a large spoon or spatula, gently stir in half of the thickened egg whites. Stir in the remainder until no white streaks remain.
7. Spread into the tin and bake for 25 minutes until just barely set; you don’t want it to be fully cooked as it will finish baking with the meringue. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
8. When the cake is out of the oven, beat the egg whites for the meringue in a clean, dry mixing bowl for a few minutes until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in the Siúcra Caster Sugar until the mixture is smooth, glossy and forms stiff peaks. Stir in the vinegar.
9. Sift in the cornflour and cocoa powder and fold to combine. Gently stir in the melted chocolate until it is well incorporated.
10. Spoon the meringue onto the top of the cake. Place back into the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the meringue is dry and crusty. The inside will still be chewy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
11. To serve combine strawberries (halved and hulled), blackberries, raspberries and 80g of Siúcra Caster Sugar in a saucepan. Heat gently until just slightly saucy. Stir in redcurrants and gooseberries.
12. Pour the berry mixture over the meringue and dust with Siúcra Icing Sugar to serve.
Main featured image: River Island
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