Friday, 31 March 2017


Homemade Chocolate Hobnobs

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 20 Hobnobs
  • 8 ½ tablespoons (125g / 4oz) unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup (80g / 3 oz) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • ⅔ cup (100g / 3½ oz) porridge oats
  • ⅔ cup (100g / 3½ oz) wholemeal flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
  • ⅔ cup (100g ) chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons ( 30g / 1 oz) unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F /180 C and line a few trays with parchment paper.
  2. With a hand or stand mixer cream the butter and the brown sugar until pale, fluffy and smooth.
  3. Add the golden syrup and beat until it's incorporated.
  4. On a low speed, mix in the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  5. Once the dry and wet ingredients are evenly combined bring the dough together into a ball, wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Roll the dough into small balls about the size of a tablespoon and flatten on the tray until they are about 2 inches in diameter. Be sure to leave a bit of room between the cookies for spreading.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown, then allow to cool on the trays.
  8. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave.
  9. Spoon a teaspoon of chocolate onto the top of each cookie and spread out evenly using the back of a spoon.
  10. Once the chocolate has slightly set swirl your spoon across the chocolate working your way down the cookie in the shape of a figure eight. This will create that beautiful classic hobnob look!
  11. Allow to set before enjoying/dunking into tea.

Best Cocoa Brownies

Speaking of “awesome”.

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet, this is one of the most popular brownie recipes on the internet and also this site. (The other is My Favorite Brownies. No, you don’t have to choose a side.) I refreshed this recipe in 2016 with new photos and in the process of taking them, couldn’t resist streamlining the recipe a little. Alice Medrich will never, ever steer you wrong in the kitchen but she could not get me to melt butter in a puddle of simmering water on a skillet (any way you prefer to gently melt butter works here too) or beat the batter “vigorously for 40 strokes with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.” The good news is that even if you’re stubborn, you will still have excellent brownies to eat an hour from now. Some people liken these to a boxed mix brownie, but way better. Depending on your feelings about box mixed brownies, this is a good or bad thing. We find them fudgy and dark; they never go to waste. Use the best cocoa you have; because it provides all of the chocolate flavor here, it counts.

  • 10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams, may vary by brands) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (75 grams) walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and (Medrich’s method) set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Or (Deb’s method) you can melt the butter with the cocoa in a microwave too.
Both methods: Set the bowl aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (I go further and throw mine in the fridge or freezer for a while; it’s the only way I can get them to cut with clean lines.)
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Beings that Possess Only Etheric Bodies

The Smart Witch
1 hr

In the teachings of Theosophy, Devas are regarded as living either:
☆ In the atmospheres of the planets of the solar system - these are known as Planetary Angels; or
☆ Inside the Sun - these are known as Solar Angels.
Presumably other planetary systems and stars have their own angels.
Devas help to guide the operation of the processes of Nature, such as evolution and the growth of plants. The appearance of Devas is likened to colored flames about the size of a human being.
Theosophists believe that Devas can be observed when the third eye is activated. Some Devas are believed to originally have been incarnated as human beings.
Theosophists believe that Nature Spirits, Elementals (Gnomes, Ondines, Sylphs and Salamanders) and Fairies also can be observed when the third eye is activated. Theosophists maintain that these less evolutionarily developed beings never have been incarnated as human beings.
As such, Nature Spirits, Elementals and Fairies are regarded as being on a separate line of spiritual evolution called the “Deva Evolution.” Eventually, as their souls advance as they reincarnate, it is believed that they will incarnate as Devas.
It is asserted by Theosophists that all of the above mentioned beings possess etheric bodies, but no physical bodies. Their bodies are composed of etheric matter, a type of matter finer and more pure, and which is composed of smaller particles than ordinary physical plane matter.
(1) Theosophy - Systems of esoteric philosophy concerning, or investigation seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity.
(2) Deva - In the New Age movement, any of the spiritual forces or beings behind Nature. The origin of the word comes from Sanskrit language.
(1) Occult Chemistry by C.W. Leadbeater.
(2) Kingdom of the Gods by Geoffrey Hodson
(3) The Solar System by A.E. Powell
[Image: The Dryad (La Dryade) by Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919), depicting a Greek dryad or tree nymph. In the public domain.]

St. Govan's Chapel

A hermit's tiny cell built into the cliffside that saved him in South Pembrokeshire.  

St. Govan lived his life as a hermit in a cliffside cave in Wales, and those willing to make the steep hike can still visit his mystical hermitage by the sea.

The history of St. Govan is murky at best. It’s believed he was an Irish abbott living in the 6th century, though other more fanciful stories describe him as a thief. Some even believe that “Govan” is a mutation of “Gawain,” a legendary knight from the court of King Arthur who was said to have receded into hermitic life in his final years.
Whoever he was, Govan was en route to Wales when he was attacked by Irish pirates off the coast. Govan ran to the cliffside, where the rock allegedly morphed into a secret cave for him to hide in. After his pursuers left, Govan decided to remain in the cave as thanks to God and to the cliffside that saved him. He set up a monastic hermitage in the cove, living off the nature surrounding, and remained there for the rest of his life.
In the century following, the cove became an important site of worship known as St. Govan’s Head. The spring which the saint took his water from was said to cure ailments of the limbs and eyes. Sometime in the 13th or 14th century a small stone chapel was erected on the site. It still stands there today, measuring roughly 20 feet by 12 feet, containing nothing but a bench and a small altar, which Govan (or perhaps Gawain?) is said to be buried beneath. Nearby is a well which took from the miraculous spring, now dry, which people still cast wishes upon. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Chocolate Digestive Biscuits - Paul Hollywood

  • 165g wholemeal flour
  • 135g fine porridge oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 130g cold butter, diced
  • 40g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 150g dark chocolate
1. Place the flour, oatmeal, salt and bicarb into a large mixing bowl, stir and rub in the butter until it looks a bit like bread crumbs.
2. Stir in the sugar then add the milk and bring the mixture together, squeezing and kneading in the bowl to form a dough.
3. Flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll the dough to 3mm thick.
5. Using a 6.5cm straight sided cutter stamp out circles. Place on the prepared trays leaving spaces between. Prick the surface of the biscuits with a skewer or fork and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Preheat your oven to 190°C/170°C fan/Gas Mark 5. Take the chilled biscuits from the fridge and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted remove from the heat. Dip a teaspoon in the melted chocolate and place it on top of one biscuit.
8. Working from the middle to the edge spread the chocolate so the surface is thinly coated. Using a skewer, draw lines across the chocolate horizontally and then vertically to create a pattern on the surface of the chocolate.
9. Repeat on the other biscuits until the melted chocolate is used up. Leave the biscuits until the chocolate has set.

Black Mirrored Floor Makes Bookstore Entrance Look Like a Circular Tunnel of Books

optical illusion flooring
Literature lovers, here’s another shop to add to your bookstore bucket list. Located in Zhen Yuan, China, Yangzhou Zhongshuge has an interior design that feels like something out of the movie Inception. The dizzying space contains a grand optical illusion that you only see once you’ve set foot inside. Its lobby is a cavernous tunnel that most notably features striking black mirrored flooring. Together, the reflective ground and curved shelving creates the feeling that you’ve stepped into a perfectly circular room, making you question which way is up. Luckily, there’s help in finding the path forward. The shelves are split by a lightning bolt-shaped gap in the ceiling that leads you into the rest of the store.
Shanghai-based studio XL-Muse were the ones to come up with this clever configuration. Inspired by Yangzhou’s proximity to water, they designed the ground to mimic liquid. “In the past, guided by water, many literati and poets visited and gathered here,” they told Dezeen. “[The bridges] used to be the guiding factor of culture and commerce, and they represent that the bookstore is the bond between humans and books at the same time.” The mirrored flooring acts as a water current that draws you further into Yangzhou.
From the entrance, things get slightly less dramatic but nonetheless stunning. The reading room has a similar curvature and boasts giant white pillars that double as massive sculptures. They frame the books in intersecting ovals and create a space that’s both tranquil and awe-inspiring as you delve into the pages of a fascinating tale.
The children’s pavilion riffs on the rest of the dark interior but integrates pops of color into its furniture. With a ceiling that mimics a starry night sky, playful shelving creates a vibrant world below. They’re shaped like houses, hot air balloons, and puffy clouds that are sure to capture the imagination of adults and children alike.
This isn’t the first time XL-Muse has wowed us with their bookstore design. In Hangzhou, they produced a space that also uses an optical illusion to create a seemingly endless hall of books.

With its black mirrored flooring, the entrance of the Yangzhou Zhongshuge bookstore in Zhen Yuan, China is a giant optical illusion.

black mirrored flooring

black mirrored flooringoptical illusion flooringoptical illusion flooring

Things are less dramatic when you go into the reading room, but stunning nonetheless.

creative bookstore interiorsblack mirrored flooringcreative bookstore interiors

The children’s room offers playful shelving under a starry night sky.

most creative bookstores around the worldmost creative bookstores around the world
XL-Muse: Website
h/t: [Reddit]

All images via XL-Muse.

Portland’s Love Affair With Its Special Water Fountains

Benson Bubblers are unique to the Oregon city, and it won’t let anyone else have them.

Friday, 24 March 2017