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.

Talking About Death in New Ways

Two recent books have been published that allow readers to rethink their association with death and dying. A new book by J. Servon and L. Delany-Ullman called Saved: Objects of the Dead explores the idea of what we keep after someone has died. The book has been created by North Carolina-based artist Jody Servon and California-based poet Lorene Delany-Ullman. It features forty photographs and prose poems based on interviews they did with people and the objects they cherished after a loved-one died. Bringing the idea to social media, they also have a very interesting Instragram page where people can see saved objects and hear about why these particular objects were saved.

Another unusual book worth exploring was recently written by Hadley Vlahos. Hadley is a young hospice nurse with a large social media following on Instagram, Tik Tok and other channels. She shares interesting stories from her experience as a hospice nurse, offering play acting the various parts of an encounter. She offers inspiration and hope for the experience of grieving for family members and helping a dying family member.

While death is typically addressed as a depressing topic, these books explore unchartered aspects of the process and ways that family members might address and think about death in new and unusual ways.

Retire in Style…On The Water

We all have different ideas about what our retirement should look like. Here is one you might not have considered. Life at Sea Cruises is offering an opportunity for a three year cruise, and will even offer you the opportunity to jump aboard at a stop that suits your needs.

The cruise is supposed to depart from Istanbul on November 1 and continue for three years of onboard bliss. The company goal is to sell only 85% of capacity to make it comfortable for everyone on board. As they travel, people will be able to get scuba certifications (and scuba dive of course), to take part in ocean clean-up efforts and take part in coral propagation projects.

Pricing is actually not as shocking as one might expect with starting pricing at $38,513 per person for a full year. Everything is included in this price including healthcare.

Sail your worries away and enjoy a very different type of retirement option!

A Pen and PTSD

A recent JAMA Psychiatry-published study is revisiting the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Written exposure therapy, a new treatment for PTSD, has been discovered to be remarkably effective. The treatment consists of five supervised half-hour sessions, in which the patient writes down his/her thoughts and feelings that took place during a trauma. The patient then speaks about the writing process with a therapist and, in later sessions, writes about how the trauma affected their lives.

The effectiveness of this treatment is based in the writing process, according to Dr. Denise Sloan, a psychologist who worked on developing the treatment and is one of the authors of the JAMA Psychiatry study. Sloan explains that writing removes the client from the shame or embarrassment that may accompany talking about an event aloud. Writing also slows down the process, enabling patients to have greater engagement with memory and thinking through the episode.

This form of therapy was inspired by a 1980s study conducted by a psychologist in Texas, James Pennebaker. He found that people who used “expressive writing,” or routine journaling of difficult life experiences had stronger immune systems and visited their doctor less frequently.  

Pennebaker’s findings reveal that writing can help cope with a myriad of emotions, and is not just for someone suffering from PTSD. In all circumstances, both severe and mild, penning a thousand words may have both mental and physical health benefits!   

First Treatment for Alopecia to Hit the Market Soon

Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes mild to extreme hair loss. Individuals suffering from alopecia finally have reason to celebrate, as the United Stated Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the very first alopecia treatment drug.

Ritlecitinib, also known as Litfulo, is approved for people aged 12 and above. In a clinical trial run by Yale University, approximately 30% of participants taking Litfulo saw significant hair regrowth. Associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Brett King, called the development of Litfulo a “huge advancement” and “nothing short of transformative.”

As the treatment becomes available to the public, patients will certainly notice the high cost of this new drug. Manufactured by Pfizer, the list price of a one-year supply of Litfulo is close to $50,000, but the actual cost will depend of the insurance held by individual patients. A spokesperson from the pharmaceutical company said, “We are committed to helping patients access the treatments they need… There will be copay savings for commercially insured patients and a patient assistance program for eligible patients to help achieve this”.

This Summer, Consider a “Walk and Talk”

As we head into summer, consider scheduling a “walk and talk” to connect with a partner or close friend. Research shows that talking to someone while walking side-by-side lends itself to less eye contact. This reduces the stress in a conversation. According to couple’s therapist, Esther Perel, “When walking next to someone, a conversation becomes parallel play.” The dynamic is that both people are, “looking ahead yet connected by the exchange.”

Furthermore, walking makes it nearly impossible to persistently check our phones. Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters,” says that walks lend themselves to more natural silence. Some of the greatest conversations follow a period of silence. She adds that silence can be its own form of intimacy for a couple.

While these walks should feel pressure-free, they can be maximized by considering a topic ahead of time. Some ideas include raising a struggle or discussing a memory. Another option that Perel offers to make walks more fun is to think of a prompt, for example:

  • If my younger self could see me today, they would say…
  • A trip that changed my life was…
  • What’s a promise you wish you hadn’t broken?

A creative alternative posited by Parker is choosing a previously-unexplored area for a “wander walk.” The unfamiliarity of the surroundings encourages conversation topics that would not arise during a regular routine.

Embrace these positives and the beautiful weather, and schedule your walk and talk!