Latest Entries

The Cake Artist from Karachi

Growing up in Karachi, a city in Pakistan with a population of 16 million people, Bakhtawar Sadique never dreamed that one day she would be living 6,500 kilometres away in Monksland, Athlone, and owning a custom cake-making business that is suitably called Bakeaholic.

“In Pakistani culture, the girls in the family learn to cook from a young age, so I knew how to bake. But to bake professionally was definitely not something that was ever on my radar. I’m a self-taught cake baker and spent countless hours experimenting in my kitchen and learned the craft through trial and error. My driving force was to make the best looking and best-tasting cakes for my friends and family, and never thought people would pay me to make cakes and buns!”

Karachi to Manchester

Bakhtawar was raised in a traditional Muslim household alongside her four sisters and brother. Her dad was in the Pakistan Army while her mother ran a successful clothing boutique. She had planned on using the business degree that she had earned, to get a good quality job in Pakistan.

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Caroline Walsh: Moving From One Ology To Another

For a nation where it’s quite common to receive a friendly wave from a stranger, the past year has been a very difficult one. When in living memory, did we find ourselves wondering whether someone was smiling or not behind a mask? Or choose to socially distance that extra third metre – just to be sure. But despite our social freedoms grinding to a halt, we still selflessly did all that we could to support our family, friends, neighbours and the wider community. Many people were so concerned about others, they forget to care about themselves.

More than half the adult population in Ireland has now received the first dose of the vaccine. Restrictions are being eased, and we are now looking forward to the second half of the year with far less trepidation. There is no doubt that some very scary times will have left a permanent imprint on us. Therefore, there is no better time than the present to focus on yourself. It is time to practise some self-care so that both your body and mind can feel re-energised.

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Linda Moran Harte: The Waxy Wonders-Woman

The Marvel superhero Daredevil lost one of his five basic human senses – sight, in an accident when he was younger. However, his remaining senses: touch, hearing, taste and smell have all enhanced to superhuman levels. Daredevil uses these super senses, to fight the bad guys and is pretty good at it when you throw in his martial arts ability. But when it comes to superhuman sensory powers, there does appear to be some fact behind the comic book fiction.

Scientists tell us that the average human nose has roughly 400 types of scent receptors that are capable of detecting one trillion different odours. This superhero-like power means that we can notice within seconds when someone is wearing our favourite perfume. We can distinguish instantly between the smell of baby powder from the smell of bleach. But there are also times when you want to reawaken childhood memories with the smell of sweet candy from your favourite shop from yesteryear. Maybe turn your living room into an evergreen forest full of cedar pines or your bedroom into a 5-star hotel suite with sumptuous fresh linen.

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From Pompey to Posh Pebbles

Anyone could be an entrepreneur. You don’t need a degree from a posh university or be an eccentric genius. It’s utter gibberish that your old school report must state that you are someone destined for greatness. Sometimes, all you need is a great idea that’s mixed with a generous streak of self-discipline, an appetite for hard work and a belly full of patience. But remember, instant success never really happens. It takes some entrepreneurs a very long time to finally get their venture off the ground. If you’re lucky enough, it might take a few weeks.

Annette Francis from Baylough, Athlone, only launched her business, Posh Pebbles in mid-April of this year. Despite having no formal business experience, and with the country still not fully out of lockdown, she’s amazed and humbled by how popular her handcrafted pebble art frames have become.

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The Pantry: Mother Knows Best

In the true spirit of Irish hospitality, the only job requirement is to provide excellent service in the hope that your paths will cross again. Add to this mix, a large helping of generosity, delicious food and a quaint notion that any favour is never too big or too small to ask. So, when a guest walks away feeling that the staff went above and beyond, they will keep coming back, again and again. Annette Dalton, the proprietor of The Pantry on Main Street in Moate and The Pantry Dún na Sí could write a book or two on this subject.

Born and reared in Moate, Annette was one of six children and freely admits to being someone who has always preferred the sunshine and fresh air of outdoors life. This suited her in spades, when aged 13, her family moved further into the countryside and took over Coolatore House in Rosemount. Coolatore is now forever linked to the late singer Michael Jackson, who stayed there with his family in 2006.

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P.J. McCormack: Photographing Perfection

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is a famous phrase that many of us will have heard at some point in our lives. It means it’s easier to show something in a picture, than to try and describe it in words. So, imagine trying to describe in words, how a particular tree in the middle of a South American rainforest looks like at sunrise? Or describe the view that you see from the top of a mountain that overlooks a river at sunset? Not easy is it.

Yes, you could draw or paint a picture if you are talented enough and until photography was invented, that’s exactly what people did.

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It’s Magico from the first bite to the last crumb.

There is nothing more delicious than the distinctive aroma of freshly baked bread that has come straight out of the oven without preservatives and additives. I’m talking about artisanal bread which is made at the hands of a skilled baker in a traditional way. Bread is one of the fundamental foods of a balanced and healthy diet and can be found right across the world in many shapes, sizes, textures, and tastes.

For baker Matteo Zanardo the smell of Sourdough takes him back every single time to his roots in Pordenone, Italy. As a boy, Matteo watched his grandfather bake naturally leavened Sourdoughs that are the mainstay of every Mediterranean dinner table. With his wife Giulia by his side, Matteo brings the art of good Italian food made by hand from his Moate-based family business, Magico Food.

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Florence Dickson: Sewing to Success

Ireland is currently in its third Covid-19 lockdown, and we all have our fingers crossed there won’t be a fourth. The vast majority of people are ill-equipped to be stuck at home for hours upon hours. Humans are social creatures, and we crave the physical interaction that comes from caressing a cup of coffee conjured up by our favourite barista while talking nonsense with our closest and dearest. We miss the camaraderie of walking through a turnstile to watch a live event and all the banter and craic that comes with being a spectator or a participant. We’ve binge-watched every library across every streaming platform, and every one of us is now a Masterchef in our kitchen.

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Olivia Finn: Over The Rainbow

At some point in our lives, we have all come across a piece of art that has stopped us in our tracks. If it’s a painting, then its artist will want it to hang proudly on our wall. Art [just like beauty] is in the eye of the beholder, and it is all about personal taste. What might be perfect for one person, might not have any effect on 99 others. A mid-century oil painting of a countryside scene and a spray-painted mural on a street wall may well be opposites but would appeal equally to a collector.

There is no shortage of gifted people capable of magically conjuring up a sketch or a painting that carries a provocative statement. An artist needs fans in the same way that an actor or a musician does. When the work of an artist generates buzz then the individual piece might become collectable. Most artists will tell you that they had no choice but to create art and that making money was never a driving factor. Some artists embark upon a certain career only to find themselves lured back.

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Tara Jams: Preserving the Goodness

With the implications from Brexit and Covid-19 likely to be lingering for a good while yet, there has never been a better time to support Westmeath’s artisan food producers. These delicate small-scale operations use tried-and-tested methods to produce foods of the finest quality that are healthy, nutritious and supremely delicious.

According to Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, the artisan industry in Ireland generates over half a billion Euro each year – a figure that can’t be sniffed at. There are approximately 300 artisan producers across Ireland that contribute to this significant figure, in an industry that only took off from the 1980s in Ireland.

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