I had been trying to arrange a meet up with a friend for ages and she invited me to a forest bathing event in Montalto estate about 30-40 minutes outside Belfast.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was assured there would be no naked running through woodlands beating each other with birch twigs (I have to say I was a little disappointed by this, but went anyway).
Forest bathing is based on the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku. This a mindfulness practice, were you immerse yourself in nature. Exercises can include lying down the forest and allowing all your senses to take in what is going on around you. Other exercises can help you connect with others, while some are completed in silence to help you be present in the moment and contemplate your surroundings. We were led in this by the brilliant Gillian Calhoun, firstname.lastname@example.org, who made the entire experience accessible for everyone including people in our group who admitted they had previously found it difficult to switch off and rest. I finished the morning feeling a tremendous sense of peace, and one the my favourite things I took away from it is that rest is a verb, sometimes our minds and our bodies need to be allowed to rest and rest is an activity in itself.
I had driven past the Montalto estate many times before and but never visited. The original demesne dates back to the 1600s. Patrick McCartan one of the earliest owners had his lands confiscated due his involvement in the 1641 rebellion by the United Irishmen against the crown forces. The site was eventually passed down to the Earl of Moira in 1765 who built the grand mansion house and who’s grandson developed the impressive gardens.
Today the estate is privately owned by the Wilson family and the mansion house as well as other buildings can be rented out as wedding and events venues. Entrance to the grounds (not the house) is £7.50 for adults, but annual membership is £37.50. The estate also has a café, serving delicious lunches, pastries or even afternoon tea if you feel like really treating yourself.
The estate has beautiful paths and walks with a small lake, mature trees and some really interesting and exotic planting and was the perfect location for our forest bathing as we could take in different elements the estate had to offer. They also run events like kids bush craft, floristry and gardening events and yoga.
Go get out into some nature, and then just chill out and let it all wash over you. We’re all in too much of a hurry these days to appreciate the little miracles we are surrounded by. Your physical health will improve, and your mental health will benefit, so get your lazy arse of the sofa and go commune with nature.
My friend Mags has been raving about this recipe for ages. We both have a serious bread addiction and this recipe is from a slimming club site. So when she shared the recipe I had to make it. If you’ve ever had Irish wheaten bread this is similar in taste.
It takes two minutes to knock together, can be enjoyed by those who have issues with gluten and is pretty cheap to make. If you want something to keep kids busy this also something to do with them on a rainy afternoon and the will be super pleased with themselves.
It’s not the lightest fluffiest bread, but it is packed full of fibre and perfect served with cheese and chutney or buttered along side soup. I topped mine with some pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch, but you can also sprinkle with porridge oats.
180 Grams Porridge oats
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius). Grease a load tin, you can also line it with baking parchment if want to (but I just greased the tin really well and it was fine)
Mix the yoghurt, salt and baking soda together, before stirring in the porridge oats
In a separate bowl, crack the egg and whisk with a fork until light and fluffy. Stir into the porridge mix and stir until we’ll combined
Transfer the mix into the loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes. Test with a tooth pick, when it comes out clean it’s ready.
People still argue about if super foods actually exist. Regardless of this, everything in this salad is good for you, and tastes delicious.
It’s packed full of protein, flavour and different tastes and texture. I enjoy this with hummus, (so ideal for vegans and vegetarians). It’s also great in wraps with holoumi or as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish.
For the salad
50 Grams Endamame beans (I used frozen ones that I thawed)
100 Grams Quinoa (dried weight), cook as instructed on the packet
50 Grams Almonds (toasted and chopped)
2 handfuls Rocket/Arugula (or other peppery salad leaf)
1 large Carrot (grated)
1 Red pepper (cut in into 1cm chuncks)
400 Gram Tin of cannellini beans (use what ever type of beans you like, just drain them first)
2 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds
1 Large avocado (chopped)
Juice of one lime
For the dressing
2 Tbsp Olive oil
Zest and juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp Corriander (chopped, you can use other herbs like mint or parsley if prefer)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the quinoa as instructed on the packet and allow to cool
In a dry frying pan, toast the almonds and allow to cool before chopping (you don’t need to do this but it really does help improve the flavour)
Chop the avocado and cover with the juice of one of the limes to prevent it from discolouring
Add all the salad ingredients (except the rocket) to a bowl and mix well
Add the dressing and check the seasoning, mix in the rocket just before serving