Norwegian Blue Takes the Gold

The 2023 World Cheese Awards has announced their winner: Norwegian blue cheese! Nidelven Blå, crafted by cheesemaker Gangstad Gårdsysteri, emerged victorious in Trondheim, Norway, at the esteemed global cheese event hosted by the Guild of Fine Food.

With a record-breaking 4,502 entries this year, experts from around the world convened to evaluate and crown the champion in front of a live audience. The final verdict was delivered by a specially assembled “super jury,” including the Ambassador of Food Culture at Whole Foods Market in the US.

Maren Gangstadt, the general manager of Gangstad Gårdsysteri, expressed pride in their win, “We’re a small dairy farm based just two hours from here, so this happening on our home turf means a lot, and having all of the crew from the dairy here adds an extra spark to it.”

The winning cheese was hailed by judges for its semi-solid, blue mold composition, crafted from pasteurized cows’ milk. Described as possessing a rich creaminess and unique fruity undertones with hints of wine-like characteristics, it earned high praise as “the perfect blue cheese.”

John Farrand, the managing director of the World Cheese Awards, highlighted the intense global competition, representing over 40 countries. The rigorous judging process involved evaluating visual, aromatic, and taste aspects, with top choices receiving gold, silver, or bronze distinctions. Farrand emphasized the awards’ inclusivity, welcoming cheeses from diverse origins, including recent entrants from India and Japan. The recognition at these awards holds significant weight for small cheesemakers, impacting the success and growth of their businesses.

Happiness is Key

Everyone wants to be happy. This feeling, emotion, state of being – is a hard one to define. While we may not be able to pinpoint what exactly happiness is per say, we can safely assert that it is something we all strive for and is objectively viewed as positive.

So, what are the benefits of happiness?

There are many theories on the subject. A series of studies conducted in 2012 found a connection between psychological and physical well-being. Those who displayed optimistic psychological qualities, like happiness and positive thinking, were also found to be at lower risk for cardiovascular issues. Laura Kubzansky, one of the Harvard School of Public Health researchers who published these findings, clarified that people who exhibit a positive sense of well-being seem to have an easier time living physically healthy lifestyles. She suggests that healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep may be recognized as beneficial activities in achieving long-term goals by those whose mindset is more optimistic.

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A more recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal concluded that people ages 60+ who reportedly “enjoyed life” were less likely to develop a disability over an eight-year time frame, and were physically more mobile. While the studies do not prove a causal relationship, we can learn that there is a correlation.

The next question is, then, how can we maintain a more positive mindset?

Many psychologists recommend mindfulness techniques. The mindfulness approach places an emphasis on the here-and-now; living in the moment and being present. Some enjoy keeping a gratitude journal. Others notice an increase in satisfaction when they’ve helped another person.

Whatever method you choose, you can rest assured that maintaining a good sense of well-being is correlated with physical health and beneficial to one’s overall happiness.

Mother Catalogues Children and Animal Friendships in Russian Countryside

Many mothers will testify to the fact that throughout their busy days they have little time to sit back and enjoy their children or to appreciate the beauty that surrounds them in the form of simple, everyday moments. That is one of the reasons that Elena Shumilova, a mother in Russia, has taken over the internet with her amazing photography. Shumilova, a mother of two in the outskirts of Andreapol, purchased her first camera in 2012 and has been snapping breathtaking photos of her children ever since.


“Children and animals – it’s my life. I’m a mom with two sons and we spend a lot of time on the farm,” Shumilova said in an interview. When shooting I prefer to use natural light – both inside and outside. I love all sorts of light conditions – street lights, candle light, fog, smoke, rain and snow – everything that gives visual and emotional depth to the image.”


Shumilova explained that her education in architecture, as well as experience in painting and sketching, have defined her “feeling of photography and composition.”


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“I’ve been shooting every day and processing the images at nights. By autumn I felt I found my own way of approaching photography,” she said.



View more of Elena’s photographs here.

Harry Potter Visits NY’s Penn Station

Yesterday, Improv Everywhere struck again with another Movies in Real Life clip, this time featuring a young Harry Potter searching far and wide for Platform 9 3/4 at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Fully equipped with luggage, wizard gear, and a stuffed white owl, the young Harry Potter lookalike turned to friendly strangers and transit employees for help.

What do you think of Improv Everywhere’s latest stunt?

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See the group’s official webpage for more information and a peek behind the scenes of Harry Potter in Real Life.

Link Between Physical and Mental Health: Depression and Aging

elderlyIt has long been claimed that there is a definite link between mental and physical well-being, that our mental state has a heavy impact on our physical welfare.  Now, a new study has possibly actually proven it, vis-à-vis the effect of depression on the aging process.  In a study of over 2,000 individuals documented in Molecular Psychiatry, it seemed that cells looked biologically order in those who were severely depressed, or even those who had dealt with deep depression in their past.  Such visible distinctions could not be attributed to other facts (like smoking, obesity, etc.)

Even though it has long been determined that severe depression can lead to an increase in various diseases (often due to the unhealthy lifestyle that often goes hand-in-hand with depression such as poor diet, alcohol/drug abuse etc.).  But until now it has not been proven that the cells actually look biologically older.

The way the study was conducted was through the measurement of telomeres (cell structures) which are the “caps” at the end of chromosomes that protect DNA during cell division.  What usually happens is that telomeres get a little shorter each time cells divide.  It is thought that their length is an index of a cell’s aging.  It was found that telomeres were shorter in those who had encountered more depression, indicating cellular aging in those with depression is accelerated by several years.

Still, if one is already on the road to aging due to depression, there are things that can be done.  Since people over 50 are more prone to cases of clinical depression. Time and again, studies have shown that depression can actually be prevented with regular physical activity.  The problem is, as people age, it is harder to get moving, thus they don’t, and this leads to potential depression.  It is indeed a potentially vicious cycle.  Still, start moving and keep pushing it.

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In addition, other studies have shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet can prevent – or slow down – the aging brain.  Indeed, according to a study undertaken by Annals of Neurology, such a diet could highly benefit the central nervous system-related axes – and is inversely associated with depression.

So for those suffering from depression, realize the seriousness of the matter but then take actions to change it – it is probably affecting a lot more than you realize.


Mix-and-Match Summer Frozen Yogurt Pops

frozen-yogurt-popsStay cool AND healthy this summer with these four easy frozen yogurt pop ideas!

  • Layered– For a layered yogurt pop, pour a third of a cup of coffee flavored yogurt into a paper cup. Freeze for 30 minutes, then add a layer of vanilla. Repeat and add flavors until the cup is full. Don’t forget the Popsicle stick!
  • Swirled- In a large bowl, gently fold a chocolate-hazelnut spread like Nutella into vanilla yogurt. Scoop into paper cups, and freeze with a stick.
  • Topped- Experiment with different toppings like mini chocolate chips, pretzel pieces, crushed heath bars and peanuts
  • Combo- Try switching off between solid layers of vanilla yogurt and layers of swirls. Mix up the flavors as well, combining layers of hazelnut-coffee swirls, vanilla and strawberry swirls, and chocolate toppings, for example.

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