Thursday, September 19, 2013



   The World Stone Skimming Championships 2012 will take place on Sunday 23 September 2012 on Easdale Island, near Oban in Argyll, Scotland.

    Easdale Islan is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides. It was once the centre of a thriving Scottish slate mining industry, and one of the disused quarries forms a perfect arena for the World Stone Skimming Championships.
    The championships are held every year on the last Sunday in September. Anyone of any age and any level of skill can enter. Each competitor is allowed 3 skims using specially selected Easdale slate skimming stones. For a skim to qualify the stone must bounce at least three times - it is then judged on the distance achieved before it sinks.

About The World Stone Skimming Championships

    The World Stone Skimming Championships were started in 1983 by Albert Baker, and then lay fallow until they were resurrected in 1997 by the Eilean Eisdeal (The Easdale Island Community Development Group) as a fundraising event.
    Contestants hail from around the world and the championships now attract over 300 participants and many spectators. Anyone of any age and any level of skill can enter the championships.
    The competition is split into Ladies, Men, Junior Boys and Girls and Under 10s Boys and Girls categories. There is also the Old Tosser category for those entrants who have reached the experienced and veteran heights of no longer being in their 50s! Entrants to this section will throw at the same time as the other adults in the order in which they register. Be sure and mark your registration form if you wish to enter this category!
Team category. Team members register as individuals as normal but, in addition, name the team that they are taking part in. Teams must consist of four individuals, of either sex, but of the same age category. Their three throws count towards their individual entry AND the Team entry.

    Team members will have the total length of their three throws added together, then each team member's individual total will be added together to form the team total. The winning team will be the team that throws the largest cumulative total metres thrown by all four entrants.
    An individual can win in both the individual event and as part of a team from their one lot of three throws. Team members pay the same entry fee as an individual entrant, with no extra team charge.

Official Rules of the World Stone Skimming Championships are:

  • Skimming stones must be no more than 3 inches in diameter and formed naturally of Easdale slate
  • To qualify, the stone must bounce no less than 3 times and stay within the designated lane as marked by the buoys
  • Skims are judged on the distance thrown rather than the number of bounces
  • The judges' decision is final

Tools of the trade

Categories and entrance fees:

Adult Women and Men (16 and over) - entrance fee: £4
Old Tossers (60 and over) - entrance fee: £3
Junior Girls and Boys (age 10-15 years) - entrance fee: £2
Under 10s Girls and Boys - entrance fee: £1
There is no extra charge for an individual also taking part as a member of a team.

    The World Stone Skimming Cup is presented to the over-all winner, and the Sea-fari Salver for the best women's skim and The Puffer Trophy for the winning team. There are also slate medals going to the best junior skim and 2nd and 3rd runner-up in each category. 'The Bertie', named after the event's founder, is presented to the Easdale Islander who skims the furthest. 2009 saw the launch of a new award, 'The Old Tosser Walking Stick', for contestants over 60 with the longest skim.

Awards Ceremony

    The 356 competitors in this year's competition represented 12 different countries: Denmark; England; France; Germany; Holland; Ireland; Italy; New Zealand; Scotland; Singapore; Sweden and Wales.


Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

chocolate dipped strawberries
A dessert that is actually good for you? That would be dark chocolate dipped strawberries. You can indulge and not feel guilty. Chocolate dipped strawberries are the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion. Don’t spend a fortune for fancy berries off the internet; make your own, save a bundle and have fun.
I don’t know anyone who can resist the classic flavor of strawberries dipped in chocolate. They’ve disappeared quickly at every event I’ve ever catered. I once made 500 for a large event. It was so much fun! A site to behold, platter after platter of gorgeous, dark chocolate dipped strawberries. A small plate for just you and your special date or dinner guests is just as impressive. The accolades you’ll receive are almost guaranteed.

Wash Strawberries

When choosing strawberries, go for larger berries that have a nice green leaves or stem. That stem becomes your handle when you dip the berries. Choose organic strawberries if you can for the best flavor and reduced exposure to pesticides.
Wash the strawberries in cool water and allow them to dry thoroughly. They must be totally dry, because water and chocolate are enemies. If they are at all wet, the water will cause the chocolate to “seize” or become an unworkable, clumpy mess. Place the berries on a tray or plate lined with paper towels while you melt the chocolate and gather your decorations.
Melt Chocolate
For health benefits, choose dark, bittersweet chocolate. Choose one with a 70% rating. That percentage is the amount of chocolate solids. The higher the percentage, the more bitter and the less sweet the chocolate is. Our favorite is Scharffen BergerValrhona, and Guittard are also good options. It you want to decorate with white chocolate, I prefer Valrhona. It has the best creamy taste in white chocolate. You can order these brands off the internet from Amazon or buy it at many higher end grocers, some cooking stores, and sometimes Cost Plus World Market.

Get Ready To Dip

There are two ways to melt chocolate: double boiler or microwave. I prefer the double boiler  method because it’s easier to control the viscosity of the chocolate. Either way, you want to melt chocolate slowly to minimize any graininess.

To set up a double boiler, place a large (4-5 quart or liter) saucepan over medium heat with a few inches of water. Bring to a strong simmer. Place a small to medium sized stainless steel bowl on top of the pan. It should fit just inside the pan, and the bottom of the pan should not touch the water. Turn the heat down to low.
Place chocolate in the bowl and melt slowly. Once the chocolate is almost smooth, turn off the heat and stir. It will become smooth. I find that the chocolate dips and clings the best when it is not too fluid. You will feel the right temperature.

Carefully holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the berry into the melted chocolate, rolling it around to coat evenly. Leave a little berry showing at the top. Allow excess chocolate to drip off, then turn the berry upside down for a few moments. Place the chocolate dipped berry on a parchment or wax paper covered plate or tray. I use quarter size rimmed baking sheets, an indispensible tool.

Decorating Your Strawberries

If you are going to decorate the berries, allow the chocolate to set for a minute, then sprinkle with decorations. Sprinkling works better than rolling as it’s easier to control the coverage. Sometimes you get too much when you roll them in the decorations. Do what works best for you. One good option is the Natures Colors naturally colored sugars from India Tree.
To decorate with white chocolate patterns, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. When fluid, drizzle the white chocolate with a fork and drag a toothpick through the white chocolate in the opposite direction. You can also use a small piping bag to create an kind of pattern you want.
Allow the berries to dry and set up completely. You can place them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. They will be the best if enjoyed the day they are made, or at the latest the next day.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

A dessert that is actually good for you: dark chocolate dipped strawberries. They are easy and fun to make for any special occasion treat. Choose large, organic strawberries for the best flavor and a good quality, dark or bittersweet 70% chocolate. These are best enjoyed the same day, but you can make them the night ahead and refrigerate.
Yield: Approximately 18-20 berries or 6-10 servings
  • 18-20 large fresh, strawberries (preferably organic)
  • 8-10 ounces (225 – 285 grams) of good quality, dark or bittersweet chocolate, rated 70%, chopped coarse
  • Assorted decorative sprinkles, optional
  • 3 ounces (85 grams) good quality white chocolate, optional for decorating
  1. Wash strawberries and allow them to dry totally and completely on a paper towel lined plate or tray. Ready another plate or tray with wax paper or parchment to hold the dipped berries.
  2. Set up a double boiler. Fill a 4-5 quart (liter) saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring to a strong simmer. Place the dark chocolate in a small to medium stainless steel bowl that will fit just inside of the pan. Place bowl inside of the pan and turn heat down to low. Melt chocolate slowly, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  3. Carefully holding a berry my the stem, dip and roll the berry in the melted chocolate. Allow excess to drip off, then turn the berry upside down for a few seconds to set. Place the berry on the clean line tray. When berry has set for a minute, sprinkle with decorative sugar if desired. To decorate with white chocolate, melt the white chocolate and use a fork to drizzle lines on the berries, then drag a toothpick across the lines to create a pattern.
Note – for clean white lines, allow the chocolate to set up completely, then drizzle with the white chocolate. 


    Under the watchful gaze of crumbling saints and baby-faced cherubs, you hurry down a path lined with mausoleums. Eventually, you pass crops of headstones casting long, narrow shadows in the moonlight. Each engraved with the epitaph of the dead person's life. You run past sunken graves and dying flowers, hoping that the sound you hear is just the wind and you're trying to shake the feeling that something is following close behind you.
    Maybe you've never taken a midnight stroll through your local cemetery. But if you have ever set foot in one, you've likely felt a hint of fear and uneasiness that is their legacy. Maybe you were attending a funeral of someone dear and close to you, touring graveyards or simply fleeing things that go bump in the night.
    Whatever your reason for strolling among the tombstones, you probably felt something noteworthy about the experience-something different from all the other spaces and places that fill our lives. After all, graveyards are the final resting place for many of our dead. People say their last goodbyes there, sometimes returning year after year to leave flowers or say a few words.
    No matter where we travel in the world, cemeteries are silent and solemn settings. Whether the grounds are finely manicured or left to the weeds, graveyard exist as the place where the living contemplate many mysteries, traumas and heartbreaks associated with death.
    Why are many people afraid of graveyards? Is it the thought of all those decaying bodies (zombies) under the dirt or the idea of an old crusty are coming out of the grass to grab your foot and pull you into their final resting spot with them? Or is it something deeper?

    Cats often receive a bum rap for hanging out in cemeteries, but can anyone blame them? Graveyards offer a cat everything they could ask for: all the best spots to nap, trees to use as scratching posts and a selection of small animals to prey on. What more could your averages sized cat want with your dead relatives soul when there are many squirrels and birds around to occupy their time?
    To cats, graveyards may be another place to sleep away the afternoon, but to we humans, they represent the mystery and the outrage of mortality. Whether we like it or not we're all going to die. You may think you've accepted that fact, but it's an issue humanity has struggled with for ages. Unable to avoid it, we've tried to figure out what lies beyond its doors. Will we live forever in a golden paradise, be reincarnated as a cow (or a cat that spends all afternoon in a cemetery) or simply cease to exist? We've pined for understanding since the times of the great pyramids and stared into the eyes of guillotined heads, hoping to catch a glimpse of something other than the emptiness of nonexistence.
    Fear exists as a response to stimuli that threatens our survival as a species. We're programmed to fight or run from anything that might cause death, and we approach death with this same attitude. We flee from it every day by distancing it from our thoughts and lives. In most parts of the world, we've handed the duties of interring the dead over to morticians, which limits our intimacy with death.
    Fighting death is trickier. To avoid staring down mortality, we've redefined what death is. We choose to see dying not as something our bodies eventually do, but something that eventually happens to our bodies. We cast ourselves as the victim of death, which is the reason grim reapers and other death-stalking beings permeate our beliefs. If death is a natural counterpart to life, there's nothing we can do about it in the end. But if it's something inflicted on us by an outside force, then perhaps we have a fighting chance.
    Society often sets aside the angel of death and instead chooses to practice what some people call "the deconstruction of mortality." That is, we break down the insurmountable mystery of death into smaller pieces we can digest easily: biological functions, diseases and mental dysfunctions. If prayer or bribing the reaper doesn't work, maybe multiple organ transplants will.
Pray and think about death all you want, but it's still going to happen at some time.

    Disposing of a body isn't difficult. Bury it in the forest, cremate it or just leave it out for the vultures--a rite Zoroastrains in India still practice. Not only are these methods cheaper than buying a fancy casket and a cemetery plot, but they also allow "Mother Earth" to reclaim the decaying material faster. The use of stone mausoleums, coffins and embalming only slows down the decomposition process.
    But then again, burials aren't really about the dead--they're about the living. We do our best to stave off some of the bad properties of death. And while immortality isn't an option, tombstones and stone monuments serve as long-lasting markers of the life that was. Aunt Betty may be out of your life for good, but a slab of engraved granite will serve as a reminder that she existed. Cemetery stonework also serves to encourage a sacred atmosphere, enforcing notions of afterlife and further establishing the site as a kind of sacred place between life and death.
    We humans fear death, yet we work hard to maintain hallowed spaces where the dead are memorialized and at least partially preserved. On top of that, we heap religions full of resurrection prophecies and thousands of years' worth of superstitions, folktales and ghost stories. We're constantly repressing our feelings about death or magnifying them to tremendous proportions. Maybe you avoid cemeteries and nursing homes, or actively try to speak to the dead through TV psychic mediums-either way, you're striving to avoid the real relationship that exists between life and death.
    We've poured a lot of sacrament, superstition and fear into our graveyards, which makes for quite a powerful atmosphere. Not only do graveyards play on past memories of loss, they also invoke potentially potent themes of supernatural terror. It's not just horror movies that contribute to this frightening reputation. Cemetery preservation groups and historical societies sometime get in on the action with haunted tours.
In more extreme cases, people actually suffer from colmetrophobia, the fear of graveyards. The condition involves a heightened, unrealistic fear of graveyards that actively interferes with a person's life. But unless walking past a cemetery makes your heart race, your fear probably doesn't qualify as a phobia.
    For the most part, the only things you really have to fear in graveyards are collapsing tombstones and monuments. Besides that, living, breathing humans are responsible for more graveyard assaults than all the vampires, zombies and ghouls combined.