Monday, 30 November 2015

Stilton puffs

If you're expecting guests this Christmas Eve, the smell of these little pastries bubbling in the oven will tempt and tease the taste buds.

Less than 30 minspreparation time

10 to 30 minscooking time

Makes 24 puffs


Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to 30cm/12in x 23cm/9in.
  3. Cut the pastry into four strips lengthways and then six across, leaving you with 24 rectangles of pastry.
  4. Crumble the Stilton into a bowl and crush with a fork.
  5. Put a heaped teaspoon of the cheese into the centre left of each rectangle, brush the edges with the egg wash.
  6. Fold the pastry over the cheese and crimp the edges to seal and place onto the lined baking tray.
  7. Brush the outside with the beaten egg and grate the parmesan over each parcel. Make a little hole in the top of each parcel with the tip of a sharp knife.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden-brown all over.



Oscar Wilde died in Paris, France on this day in 1900 (aged 46).
"My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go."
-- Reputedly his last words
OSCAR WILDE (1854–1900) was an Irish writer, poet, and playwright. His novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, brought him lasting recognition, and he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era with a series of witty social satires, including his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. MORE here:

Can the Love of a Dog Be As Powerful As an Anti-Depressant?

Julie Klam talks about dogs, depression, and writing with Julie Barton, whose moving new memoir ‘Dog Medicine’ is a tribute to the golden retriever who rescued her from her darkest hours.

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The first time I wrote about dogs, I’d been fostering this very old Boston terrier mix I thought was dying, but instead of dying, she gave birth. I had the mother, her two babies, and my own dog, husband and child in a New York City apartment. The puppies, of course, were not housebroken, and their mother who never left their side, was also not housebroken, and then my own dog who was housebroken, decided that if no one else was going to be housebroken, she wasn’t either. So my apartment became a giant litter box, except instead of boxes of litter, the dogs chose hand needle-pointed antique rugs. It struck me as funny and I wrote about it for the New York Times "Lives" column. The response was enormous. It turned out there were lot of people like me, what I came to refer to as "Fellow Dog Crazies." This in turn brought about my two dog books, You Had Me At Woof and Love At First Bark. There were more Fellow Dog Crazies than I could count. And that is a world I am happy to live in. Especially one that is full of dog books.
It’s not a secret that our dogs bring us joy. But it’s more than that— numerous studies cite physiological benefits. People with pets get sick less and recover faster. Pet interaction tends to lower anxiety levels in subjects, and thus decrease the onset, severity, or progression of stress-related conditions. Furthermore, it is thought that the reduction in blood pressure achieved through dog ownership can be equal to the reduction achieved by changing to a low-sodium diet or cutting down on alcohol. (So get a dog and drink up, woo!)
In a new memoir, Dog Medicine, author Julie Barton takes this a step further. She writes about how a debilitating depression that was eluding doctors, therapists, and prescription medication, was helped by only one thing: the adoption of a golden retriever puppy whom she named Bunker. I spoke with Julie about writing and dogs and writing about dogs, and being named Julie (just kidding, we didn’t talk about that).
You write about your dog being born at the time your depression hit which really struck me. I firmly believe in a great spiritual connection to dogs: I dreamt of my first dog before I got him, and believe every dog that's come to me to foster has done so with a reason. If I had to name my religion I would say it’s “Jewish Dog.”
Absolutely, no question, my dog and I were and remain very spiritually connected. I started writing the book three years after Bunker died, and all throughout the process, magical things happened. When I say magical, I mean that I paid close attention and noticed incredible connections. The moon plays a big role in the book because of a moon-shaped scar on my head, and when I looked at the phase of the moon on the date of particular events, the moon’s phase or the eclipse of the moon perfectly mirrored the event happening at that time. It was astounding. And then just yesterday I realized that the Kukur Tihar festival, the festival of dogs in Nepal where dogs are honored, celebrated, and even worshipped, begins the day my book launches. I had no idea about this synchronicity—didn’t plan it at all—but when I found out about it, I thought, “Of course!" I don’t know if I should admit this, but I have an altar to Bunker in my office. It sits right behind me as I write. I believe that deeply that he was my spiritual gift in animal form, and I truly try to honor all the love and healing he brought to me. 
JK: A lot of people talk about how the catharsis of writing about difficult things. When I wrote about the dogs in my life that died, it was the opposite of cathartic, I felt like I was going through it all over again. It wiped me out, and except for the revision, I’ve never looked at those parts again. I wonder how it was for you to write about your depression once it was in the rearview mirror.
JB: People ask me a lot whether I cried writing this book. They ask if I wept writing the awful scenes of breakdown and harrowing sorrow. The answer is no. I didn’t cry then, and I didn’t feel like I was going through it all over again. I felt like I was reporting an event. Maybe the memory was so very difficult that when I revisited it, I was like an outside observer. I don’t know. But, I do know that I did cry while writing about how my parents showed up and literally picked me up off of the ground. I cried writing about how my best friend cared for me in ways I’d never known before. I cried writing about the day I finally decided to forgive, and when I’d been granted merciful forgiveness. I cried writing the scenes about this beautiful, sacred animal, whose dedication to me was complete. That’s what made me weep. Which left me understanding: Love is what moves us. Love is what brings us to tears, so that’s the place from which I wrote.  
JK: Sometimes my therapist’s dog comes into our sessions and I refer to him as a therapy dog (his form of therapy is to put a stuffed alligator on my lap which I believe means he’s saying “FACE YOUR FEARS!”), but your dog really did give you therapy—can you talk about that?
JB: I got Bunker in 1996, when the only therapy dogs in the public lexicon were seeing-eye dogs. At the time, people laughed when I hinted at how much Bunker helped me emotionally. There was no such thing, then, as an emotional-therapy dog. So I kept my rather desperate dependence on him very private. I thought I was just weird and way, way too dependent on an animal. My least favorite sentence was, “He’s just a dog.” Because he wasn’t just a dog to me. He was my lifeline. I don’t even remember deciding that he was—it was like we just met and there he was in all his healing glory. I don’t know if it was him, because he was a particularly special dog, or whether it was just the right timing and he was the right match for me. I like to believe the former, that he was meant to find me and help me. Something tells me that’s the truth.
JK: Did you see things writing the book that you didn’t realize where happening at the time?
JB: Yes. I didn’t truly understand, even during and after writing the scenes with my brother, that the sibling abuse had affected me. It took me almost a decade to even begin understand that this is not what a child should go through at the hands of her sibling. After I had my own children, I tried to imagine them experiencing some of the fear and condemnation that I endured. That was when I finally realized—wow—that kid (me) had it pretty bad. When you internalize something, undoing it is very sticky business. Writing those scenes then reading and re-reading them helped me pull myself out of that place a little bit and realize that the self-punishing and self-hating way my brain worked made sense, given the early influences. Once I understood it this way, I could get curious about the negative thoughts that plague me instead of beating myself up for them. Just noticing them, being mindful of them, has changed my life. Writing had a big part in helping that mindfulness take root.
JK: I think dogs aiding depression is such a major issue. I’ve seen work done with soldiers coming home from the war who struggled desperately until they got a dog and the dog absolutely saved their life. I also saw a piece where they gave dogs to guys getting out of jail — these men had been having enormous difficulty with reentry and having the dogs made it possible, and even good, to integrate. What do you think it is about dogs?
JB: For me, the fact that I didn’t have to pretend or explain myself around my dog was the most incredible gift. A dog never asks “Why?” I could be as sad as I wanted to be around Bunker and he didn’t care. He just accepted me. I think this unconditional acceptance coupled with dogs' unending devotion and tail-wagging optimism is part of why they touch us so deeply. I could be a complete sobbing mess and my dog would calmly sit with me, maybe roll over and ask for a belly rub, maybe bump his big butt on mine. All of those actions always felt like a, “Hey, I’m here. Just so you know." Also, we humans really do love to make other people happy, and we often fail. Not so with dogs. We can pick up a ball or a leash and he acts like this is the BEST MOMENT EVER. That happiness is infectious, and we feel good for making our dog happy. That bliss combined with sensitivity and quiet around a sorrowful mood equals a perfect best friend. And then there are the things we can’t explain, like when we’re in a room alone, feeling bad, and the dog is all the way across the house, but he still comes trotting down the hallway and peeks his head around the door, his eyebrows, so concerned, say, “Person? You ok? Did you forget that I love you?” They just seem to know. How can we explain that some dogs know when their owners are coming home or can sense an oncoming earthquake or can find their way back to an owner from hundreds of miles away? Connectedness, that thing we’re all seeking in our phones, in our computers, in all the wrong places. But it is very easily accessible in a dog’s eyes. Dog love grounds me. Always has, always will.

Tree Lore in Irish Mythology | Holly, King of Winter

Holly | The King of Winter in Irish Mythology
Holly | The King of Winter in Irish Mythology
You may not have been aware of it, but a few months ago, a mighty battle took place. It has been happening every year since time began. And though you didn’t know it, you will have felt the consequences; how slowly, slyly, the shadow of night encroached upon the day and stole its light; how the sun hurried across the sky as if it couldn’t bear to look; how Summer’s warmth faded from the air, sucking with it all life from the earth, and all that was green and vibrant with health shrivelled and died. Trees shook off their leaves, praying with bone-like arms to the heavens for redemption. Birds flew far away, taking with them their joyous songs which made the heart glad just to hear them. Animals dug holes deep in the ground where the elements and hungry predators couldn’t reach them, and hibernated. It was as if everything that was good in the world withdrew, leaving behind only grey skies and hardship, and an uncertain future.
The Oak King had fought his battle, and lost. Holly, the victorious conqueror, stalked the land while the days stumbled toward their darkest hour. And yet, in the gloom and frost of the bitterest winter, he thrived where no other could. He was a sign, not that all was lost, but that where there was life there was hope, that with determination, one could prevail.
To our ancient ancestors, Holly was seen as a powerful symbol of hope and protection, perhaps even of their very survival; it was a plant sacred to the druids, with many magical and medicinal properties. On the Celtic Tree Calender, Holly represents the 8th month, and also is symbolised by the 8th letter in the Ogham Alphabet known as Tinne, meaning ‘fire’.
Traditionally, it was believed that the King of the Oaks (Summer) fought against the Holly King (Winter) at the Summer solstice, and lost. The Holly King then reigned until the Winter Solstice, when the pair would do battle again, with the Oak King regaining his rule.
The Holly King was portrayed as a powerful giant, much like the picture, composed of holly branches and leaves, wielding a holly bush as a club.
In Ireland, the Ilex Aquifolium, or Common Holly, is a native shrub, slow growing, typically reaching only 1 or 2 metres in height, but which, when left to itself, can grow up to 15m tall. In Irish it is known as Cuileann. Its wood is very hard and white, and used to make white chess pieces. It also makes excellent firewood, as it burns so fiercely, and was loved by metalworkers of old to feed their forges. It has lovely dark green glossy leaves edged with a number of spines, and the female produces bright red berries.
Ilex-aquifolium (Europaeische Stechpalme-1) by J├╝rgen Howaldt - Own work (selbst erstelltes Foto). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Commons - httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileIlex-aquifolium_(Europaeische_Stechpalme-1).jpDespite being so attractive, both leaves and berries are toxic to most animals and humans. Eating as few as twenty berries would be enough to kill a child. However, holly was used medicinally to treat conditions such as gout, urinary problems, bronchitis, rheumatism and arthritis. Newborn babies were bathed in an infusion made from holly leaves to protect them and bring them good luck.
Around Europe, Holly trees were thought to protect against lightning strikes, and so were often planted around dwellings , thus they came to be associated with thunder Gods such as Thor and Taranis. In Ireland, it was associated with Lugh, God of Lightning. It is now thought that the spines on holly leaves act as ‘mini conductors’ which would explain this belief, although I could not find any evidence or a source to back this up. Other magical powers include protection, bringing good luck, and the enhancement of dreams.
Cutting down a whole tree was forbidden, but using branches to decorate one’s home was thought to bring good luck and protection down upon the inhabitants. I’m sure the presence of bright glossy greenery and bright red berries must have been cheering to have about in itself.
As this pagan practice occurred in mid-winter, it coincided perfectly with the new religion of Christianity and their Christmas celebrations, which is why we now associate Christmas with holly wreaths. Whilst newly elected pagan chieftains wore a wreath of holly to bring them good fortune in their new role, the Christians associated it with the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, and the red berries with his blood shed at the crucifixion.
Holly features in several tales of Irish mythology. In The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne, the couple’s servant, Muadhan, uses holly berries as bait on a hook to catch salmon for their evening meal. In another Fenian tale, The Cave of Keiscoran, the three daughters of Conaran spin enchanted yarn on sticks of holly to weave their magic and trap the warriors of the Fianna.
In Lady Gregory’s version of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, the warrior Natchrantal is sent up against Cuchulain bearing ‘no arms with him but three times nine holly rods, and they having hardened points’. Not that they did him much good; Cuchulain cut his head off with his sword, and that was the end of him!

10 Great Lines from 10 Great Books.

Via on Dec 15, 2014
Kurt Vonnegut be kind only rule

(Who’s counting)
May this inspire lots of cozy reading in sunshine or lamplight, in hot tubs or bath tubs, in couches or beds, beneath blankets or the arms of a loved one.

“He often felt his life was a dream and he wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” ~ Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
business quote petit prince ship "Antoine de Saint-Exupery"
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. ~ Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
“I looked at the stars, and considered how awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.” ~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger. I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” ~ The Savage, Brave New World

The foreward to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe reads:
“Dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result, you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~ C.S. Lewis
“Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.” ~  J.D. Salinger, Nine Stories

“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake
“‘Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies –: God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”  ~ The Little Prince

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
“I think and think and think, I‘ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.” ~Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“The only thing for us to decide is what to do with the time we are given” ~ Gandalf, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

hobbit book