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(no subject) [Jan. 26th, 2010|12:40 pm]
How One Woman Beat Cancer With Food - seaweed
To boost the nutritional value,Green Sun Organics.Com - http://ping.fm/UKXyk I added greens such as kale, edible hibiscus, seaweed or cabbage. Occasionally, I had pancakes or waffles covered with applesauce or fruit purée (instead of butter or margarine). ...
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(no subject) [Jan. 25th, 2010|08:28 am]
January 25, 2010
More Google Caffeine Sightings Over Weekend
An ongoing WebmasterWorld thread has sparked up some heat over the weekend when more people are claiming to see the Google Caffeine results out in the wild.

WebmasterWorld administrator, Tedster, said on Friday night, that he seems them on six IP addresses. He said:

I'm seeing the Caffeine data-set being served via this set of IP addresses:,,,,,
It seems to take 5 IP addresses to build the complete SERP, where in the past it often took only 3.
Here are links to them:
Senior member, Whitenight said:

Well, just tripled checked with offices/employees in Texas, Colorado, and Indiana. All 5 "control" keywords/sites showed live Caffeine.
Does this mean it is live? Not necessarily. Does it mean that Caffeine is coming soon? Not necessarily.

I guess we wait on Google to say something.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.
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(no subject) [Jan. 25th, 2010|03:43 am]
seaweed detox bath @ www.thalassatherapy.co.uk
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(no subject) [Jan. 24th, 2010|04:55 am]
They do a good line in ‘grand’ on Bute.http://www.justseaweed.com/photos/ Start with the essential elegance of the Victorian watering hole of Rothesay, sweeping spaciously and long around the bay, climbing gently up the hill behind.

Drive south along the coast to Mount Stuart House (pictured below), seat of the Marquess of Bute and an imaginative version of the neo-Gothicism which the Victorian’s so loved.

Drift on down to Kingarth, to the timeless tranquillity of the ruins of St Blane’s Chapel, the island foundation of the saint educated in Ireland, later celebrated in the cathedral town of Dunblane, north of Stirling and who died in 590AD.

Everywhere there are well trimmed beech hedges keeping the road from the rolling land, never far from water and with the majestic peak of Arran’s Goat Fell towering to the south-west.

Rothesay is crowned by the unusual round Rothesay Castle (pictured above and bottom), dating from the early 13th century and built by the Stewarts for the conflict with the Norsemen to whom - under Uspak (Gillespec MacDougall), it first fell soon after its completion in the 1230s. This three-day battering features in the Saga of Haakon Haakonsson as the earliest recorded instance of an attack on a Scottish castle.

The bayside sweep of the town is graced by the Art Deco beauty of Rothesay Pavilion - well into an upgrading project under Argyll & Bute Council’s CHORD initiative. The southern border of the town has a seemingly endless parade of glorious Victorian villas with planting to match, many offering bed and breakfast to visitors.

This is the good.

The bad and the ugly
Like the medieval diptych showing on one side three young maidens in the peak of their physical beauty and on the other an impression of their inner decay already in progress, Rothesay’s front belies an urgent need for the civic equivalent of injections of monkey glands.

Most visitors arrive from the sea, on the main ferry running from Wemyss Bay on the mainland. As they disembark on the quayside they are immediately faced with a set of contradictions.

They see, conveniently close to hand, the built to last, functioning and well kept Victorian public lavatories. They see the grand frontage of the town smiling at them, with the black tooth of Guildford Square well in evidence and the shabby clothing of flaking signage, washed-off paintwork and inconsistent shop fronts, many croaking of businesses they once flagged.

Visitors then confront a younger invader right on the harbour, an ugly and monolithic C0operative Store, squalling for attention and blocking the sightlines to the planned perspective of the town’s bayfront behind it.

The Townscape Heritage Initiative has plans for Rothesay’s town centre regeneration well in hand and is running a community ‘Placemaking’ day at the Pavilion on 3rd February. The conflicts in the town’s present condition will be addressed and everyone who finds ease in this delightful town will look forward to a successful and judicious outcome.

Bute 2020
The magnificent Marble Hall of Mount Stuart saw around 100 people come together on 22nd January, with a battalion of young people from Rothesay Academy. This group represented all facets of life on the Isle of Bute from those who live, work and run businesses there, to the major service agencies that help keep the island going.

There were tourism sector operators - including Mount Stuart Estate; local archaeological and historical experts; Toward Carbon Neutral Bute; Bute Marketing Group; Bute Food & Crafts Group; Bute Jazz Festival; Step Up; Rothesay Pavilion Project; Prince’s Regeneration Trust; Bute Community Land Company, leading a proposed community buy-out of Rhubodach Forest; CalMac, the ferry operator; David MacBrayne, the holding company pulling together west and north coast ferry services and the ships, piers and harbours they use; Historic Scotland; VisitScotland; Highlands & Islands Enterprise; Argyll & Bute Council; and others - too many to record en passant.

And there was a woman who set the event alight with her self-introduction: ‘Jean Moffatt. Retired. Still talking.’

The Buteman and For Argyll were there to report.

The event was hosted by Johnny Bute, former racing driver, astute businessman and the 7th Marquess of Bute. It was chaired by Argyll’s MSP, Jim Mather, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism and in very jokey form, creating an affectionate relationship with his audience.

He chaired the morning session, a scene setter with presentations from key Bute initiatives; and then facilitated the afternoon session, mind mapping a communal identification of key issues and problem solving, focused on putting together a picture of what Bute could be by 2020.

The core objective of the day was to highlight what it will take to achieve that picture and to start setting specific targets to get there.

The location
While the Marble Hall at Mount Stuart is a fabulous space with detail that endlessly compels the eye, it is not an ideal space for the talking part of a conference.

The opening addresses presented a problem that the Events team at Mount Stuart might usefully address. Light and energy are a continuum central to lively events. Here the speakers faces were unlit. Their location, with their backs to a source of natural light from the magnificent stairway, also cast them into shadow - making their presentations oddly mysterious and rather surreal.

The overall light level, while peaceful, was too dim to charge the sort of energetic engagement between contributors that can set a conference ablaze.

The sheer volume of overhead space, the universally hard surfaces and the domed ceiling above make it a difficult acoustic for speech - although it must be glorious for the singing voice. (Straying a little - as one did when it was hard to hear, one has to wonder how amazing a Kodo Drummers performance there might be; and it cries out for the commissioning of a knowledgeable modern performance piece - image, colour, movement, sound - created to take advantage of its secrecies, commands, surprises and spatial flow.

For these numbers, an exchange of spaces between conference element and buffet lunch would be worth trying.

As it was, in the Marble Hall, the series of independent-minded clocks, serially announcing the hour, were a wonderfully humorous counterpoint to serious discussionThe scene setter
After the welcome to Mount Stuart (above) by the event’s host - the Marquess of Bute, Jim Mather set the context by noting that the session was the next in the sequence of 142 National Conversation events held in Argyll & Bute. These have involved over 7,000 people, with no other constituency in Scotland coming close to Argyll’s lead in this initiative.

The Scottish Government’s overarching plan is for Scotland to set about an interconnected trinity of objectives:

to build its brand
to grow its economy
to develop the life chances available to its people.
The challenges are to remove everything that inhibits progress; focus on improving at every level; adapt to new circumstances rather than resist them; innovate; and deliver.

‘Between the idea and the reality’ in Scotland lie many failures to grasp an opportunity quickly, courageously and effectively.

Following Mr Mather’s introduction, was a sequence of presentations designed to inform and underpin the afternoon’s shift of emphasis to the floor. Here are some of he key points and highlights.

from Sheena Stone of Toward Carbon Neutral Bute:

(with the note that sticking to the alloted time is a courtesy to fellow speakers)

Bute will become the first Scottish island with a measured carbon footprint. The measuring process is going on at the moment.
Research shows that 42% of households in Bute own a bicycle but 20% admit to never using them.
There are no insulation installers on Bute
76% of the population of Bute broadly support wind farms and even more support community-owned wind farms.
Toward Carbon Neutral Bute can help with community wind farm proposals.
from Tim Saul of Bute Marketing Group

(with the note that starting with an apparent plug for the Isle of Wight, his previous home, was misaligned with the event)

The Stay & Play initiative, currently focused on a marriage of ferry, accommodation and golf, is to be extended and the group would welcome ideas to add to the possible list of cycling, walking, fishing and photography.
The group’s new website, visitbute.com, attracted 36,000 hits in July
Research shows that where a visitor gets good service in any establishment they tell an average of 4 people about it; but when they get bad or sour-faced service they warn off an average of 25.
The Eat Bute event attracted large numbers to the island.
The marketing group has 25 members - and there could be very many more.
from Lorna Pearce of the Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative

(with the note that effective presentations are about talking to an audience and not reading from the content of clearly unfamiliar Powerpoint screens)

Priority targets for Rothesay THI are the regeneration of the Royal Hotel, Duncan’s Hotel and the gap site in Guildford Square.
There is an important community event - Placemaking with Greenspace Scotland, at Rothesay Pavilion on 3rd February to which people who live and do business in Bute and people who visit it - are welcome in as large a number as possible.
from Brian Hill of Bute Food & Crafts

(with the note that he produced one of the funniest and most insightful bon mots of the event: ‘People wanting to buy a quarter inch drill don’t want a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole’. So he sells beef and lamb in a box.)

The group had 12 members in 2009.
Members are using the Taste of Bute label.
Following its successful promotion at Glasgow River Festival, the group served shepherd’s pie to ravers at T in the Park and, for 2010, is considering accompanying the Food from Argyll group back to T in the Park and to Latitude Suffolk, V Festival in Shropshire and possibly Glastonbury
The groups intent is to make Bute a food destination.
from the Mount Stuart slideshow
(with the note that it would benefit from editing)

The range of services the estate provides and markets is sweeping.
The Estate Archive is one of the most important in the world. Consider the origin, history and national roles - including Prime Minister (the 3rd Earl) - played by the Crichton-Stuart family and start imagining the material this archive must contain.
The Beasts of Bute are litter, awful signage and dilapidated buildings.
Mind Mapping the Bute Brainstorm
Jim Mather kicked off this afternoon session by introducing the Chef and the team of Rothesay Academy pupils who had created the buffet lunch for the event. Needless to say satisfied delegates applauded loudly.

The Minister then remarked that Scotland needs to move from being a dependency culture to a premiumising culture - as with whisky, food and specific outdoor activities; and paid tribute to the energies in Bute, saying: ‘The reason I’m in politics is the people I can see in my wing mirrors’.

The first contribution came quickly from Bute Councillor, Robert Macintyre, Deputy Leader of Argyll & Bute Council. To put it bluntly, he called for more children, citing the island’s 1955 population of 12,000 and The Buteman’s revelation that only 43 children were born on Bute in 2009.

Hearing Mr Macintyre quickly declare that he was too old to do anything about the situation himself, Jim Mather, his SNP colleague, fast on the draw, quipped: ‘He was always good at delegating’.

The meat of the matter

On to the heart of the afternoon’s business - here are some of the key features of the ideal social and economic shape of Bute in 2020:

Inscription (listing) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site - this brings support for the natural and built heritage, very significantly more tourism and economic development.
A unified web presence with a single portal to Bute - the current plethora of independent websites simply confuses potential visitors and obstructs a coherent overall introduction to the island, its facilities and opportunities.
An increased working-age population in work.
Buying Bute where at all possible - keeping the Bute pound in Bute.
Clear and structured tourism development strategy, from Argyll to its constituent parts, including Bute.
A vigorously raised game from eating and drinking establishments - with first class quality of products, service and ambience; attractive street table service in the main seasons; a focus on good cooking of local produce; and showing Bute’s young people how to cook local food.
Tourism spend equal to that of Skye and Mull.
A 5-star hotel to support accommodation for high-end wedding guests etc.
Bute products in key prestige locations - like Arran Aromatics products in bedrooms in One Devonshire Gardens.
Regular and developed outdoor Farmers’ Markets, showcasing local foods, crafts, art and other products.
Energy self-sufficiency.
Better transport links to Wemyss Bay - otherwise potential day visitors stay on the mainland.
A good and attractive cafe at Wemyss Bay to support ferry passengers to and from Rothesay.
Car parking at Wemyss Bay - to facilitate day-visit foot passengers.
Synchronisation between CalMac ferry times and First Scotrail’s train schedules to Wemyss Bay.
A ferry route with Glasgow.
A ferry route with Arran.
More cohesion - with public sector agencies, funding bodies, island initiatives and planners all working effectively together.
Change to Scottish law to remove the fear of litigation which currently inhibits the development of, for example, horse riding facilities, firework displays etc.
Vested interest replaced by community interest - eg: Fyne Homes refused to let the 1938 part of the old school go - yet this could have been beneficially developed.
Derelict buildings problem resolved - with particular attention to the 1960s Old Rothesay Academy, unhelpfully listed by Historic Scotland and an old Kirk - both in serious dilapidation and with broken windows.
What the young people want

A young boy from Rothesay Academy made a heartfelt, articulate and plausible plea for: ’something for kids and for parents - big kids - adventure centred - like kayaking, climbing and power boats’.

He was backed up by a passionately argued wish-list from his peers which included:

a rock climbing wall
an ice rink
a bigger swimming pool
an xscape-like indoor ski slope
a 5 star hotel
This perspective is not daft. For a start, children need constant and varied activity and part of the Scottish Government’s triple mantra for development is ‘healthier’. (Wealthier. Fairer. Healthier.)

This is also not unhinged in terms of an overall economic development strategy.

Establish an Adventure Centre also associated with tuition and guided outdoor activities on water and land.
Attract investors to run a ferry from the Glasgow Science Centre to put a massive conurbation and its visitors in easy and attractive reach of Bute.
Seriously jack up eating and drinking establishments.
Bute could be a very attractive and very accessible family destination, operational in all weathers and able to respond positively to a visitor pattern than is already much less seasonal. And that could be the USP Bute is still looking for.

Out of the mouths…
On the spot offers
New business opportunity - Phil Preston, MD of CalMac ferry services, said that there is room for a local business to courier packages from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay. CalMac currently provide a service carrying loose packages which they will continue to provide if necessary but which is not compatible with their overall operation.
Sharing existing business - Rothesay Pavilion currently has 40 user groups and would welcome the use of other premises in the town.
Transport synchronisation - Lawrie Sinclair, CEO of David MacBrayne Holdings and Non-Executive Director of CalMac, pledged to work to synchronise ferries and First Scotrail train services at Wemyss Bay.
Promotional support - Phil Preston offered to run Bute videos - such as the Bute Landscape Partnership Video and the Mount Stuart Slideshow - on the Wemyss Bay-Rothesay boats.
Support for commercial development - Phil Preston also offered to explore the carrying of appropriate Bute products in the shops on CalMac’s Wemyss Bay-Rothesay boats.
Sharing of expertise - Historic Scotland offered to share the expertise employed in its conservation project at Rothesay Castle (above).
The summing up
Jim Mather emphasised his delight at the range of contributions made. He also took personal responsibility for passing on to Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, the suggestion that Scottish law be changed to remove the fear of litigation that inhibits investment in physical activity provision.

A contribution from the floor was widely applauded. It called for an expression of gratitude for CalMac’s current attitude to the island’s needs.

Mr Mather then presented delegates with a metaphor for the sort of decision each person and body involved in Bute’s drive for social and economic sustainability will have to take.

He described this as ‘The Prisoners’ Dilemma’.

Two salesmen are imprisoned for various misdemeanours. The quality of life in prison is affected by the number of points each can earn.

If one shops the other for some misdeed, he will get 5 points.
If each shops the other, neither will get any points.
If they hang together, they’ll each get 3 points.
The selfish temptation is to shop the other for a potential personal 5-point gain and at the risk of a failure which would attract none.

The point the Minister was making was that this was - and to some extent still is - the preferred outcome; but that 21st century values are moving towards prioritising the shared and certain mutual benefit from hanging together.

What can be done now?
Part of the afternoon’s agenda was working together to identify targets to be achieved by April 2010. Contributions to the island’s long game were so extensive that there was no time for this parallel focus.

However, from issues raised during the session, below are some key matters mentioned that could - and should, start now.

Bin the blame culture and take ownership of Bute, accepting responsibility for making it succeed. One basic example here is that people who go to Greenock to shop have no basis for complaint about the quality of shops in Bute. And as one woman honestly said: ‘It was our kids who broke the windows in the old school and the old kirk. It wasn’t anyone else’s kids.’
Establish an executive community team licensed to drive joined-up development.
Get Bute representation at the World Island Games - it only needs two island sports to be involved in an application to join.
Start to compile an Asset Register for Bute.
Get local historians, archaeologists, photographers and writers together to develop the embryonic pages on Bute and Bute features that exist on Wikipedia - and create appropriate new pages. Provide a range of new and strategic photographs on each of these pages - and agree with the photographers that they should either be put straight into the public domain or available under either the Creative Commons or GNU Free Documentation licences. The reason for this is that many online services like For Argyll’s need photographs to accompany articles and have neither time nor money to negotiate copyright fees. The use by a range of independent media services of freely available photographs will spread the promotion of Bute in the most impactful way to audiences beyond the island’s own reach. Every area in Argyll should be acting to take advantage of this powerful and free information carrier.
Get on with working collectively. It’s not necessary to wait to be told or to be given ‘permission’ to do so.
Develop a visitor campaign aimed at grandparents and parents who visited Rothesay themselves but have not yet brought their children and families back there. (If Bute Marketing Group provide information as such a campaign developed, For Argyll will carry features on this, taking it to new audiences.)
Ask all residents and communities to develop their awareness of all of Bute’s assets, with everyone becoming an enthusiastic and informed ambassador for their island.
Cross-market, with businesses marketing each other. This relates to the same development of widespread awareness of the islands’ assets as described above - go and find out what’s out there, who’s doing what and what it’s like - and include it to show your own business sitting in an attractive context.
Repaint the exteriors of dilapidated buildings - if you own one of these, it’s a small contribution to your island to give it a coat of paint. The public purse cannot and should not pay for everything.
Prepare for contributions to the programme of a planned, year-long Scottish Islands Festival - date to be announced but will be 2011, possibly into 2012.
Bute as it stands today
Never mind the place Bute would like to be in 2020, let’s remind ourselves of Bute’s great strengths today and in the immediate future:

unarguably Argyll’s best island ferry service, with CalMac running two high frequency routes - Wemyss Bay to Rothesay (17 crossings a day Monday-Friday; 15 on Saturdays; and 12 on Sundays); and Colintraive to Rhubodach (34 crossings a day Monday-Friday; 29 on Saturdays; and 23 on Sundays). *All Winter timetable.
Loch Lomond Seaplanes are to start a service to Port Bannatyne in June. (Loch Lomond Seaplanes delivered 6,000 visitors to Oban in 2009.)
the perfectable Victorian town of Rothesay
Rothesay castle with its unique heritage and under a Historic Scotland conservation project
the Victorian magnificence of Mount Stuart and the events it hosts
Rothesay Town Heritage Initiative
Rothesay Pavilion and its CHORD upgrading project
St Blane’s chapel and a host of archaelogical remains yet to be worked
upcoming food destination with Bute Food & Crafts, Taste of Bute and Eat Bute
a lively cultural life and the recently formed Artists’ Collective
Scotland’s first island (soon) with a measured carbon footprint
an unspoiled island with great sailing, cycling and walking - including the wittily named West Island Way
Bute Community Land Company and the potential to buy Rhubodach Forest as a community business and amenity
The Buteman - Bute’s first class local newspaper and with the best newspaper website in Argyll
Bute FM - the recently established community radio station, already with 40 local presenters - and with Buteman editor, Craig Borland, coming into the station each week to talk about what’s in the paper’s latest issue - a present example of the benefits of cross-marketing.
Better broadband coming - and for other Argyll islands - via a new Avanti satellite due on station on 24th June, providing 8 Megabits at the current subscription price. (Jim Mather will confirm this last point.)
So what’s holding it back?
A range of evidences would suggest that a key inhibitor to achievable progress is attitudinal and is best articulated in Jim Mather’s Prisoner’s Dilemma metaphor.

Cohesion, working collectively and cross-marketing, understanding that success is not about running down ‘the competition’ but about contributing strongly to raising everyone’s game simultaneously, is the key to sustainable growth.

Remember when Madonna started to do gigs wearing T-shirts celebrating other female singers like Kylie? She got it. If you help to grow the market for your industry or your place or your genre, your own share of that market will amount to a lot more.

Proof that this is a real issue in Bute came, sadly, when the event was over.

After the consensus during the event that the wise route to progress was to develop existing resources and avoid fragmentation, Bute Jazz Festival asked Bute Food and Crafts group to run a Farmers’ Market as one of the festival’s side events - on a day when Rothesay’s Mill Cottage Garden Centre, the established provider of Farmers’ Markets, is known to have already scheduled such a market. D’oh.

Bute is also still markedly and almost wilfully trapped in a historical event seen as a cruel blow to its identity - and understandably so. Local government reorganisation saw the abolition of ‘Buteshire’ (a much loved if phonetically unhamonious moniker) - which embraced the Isles of Bute, Arran and the Cumbraes.

The last two became part of Ayrshire. Bute became part of Argyll. However, in the bitter horsetrading around that forced marriage, Bute won the inclusion of its name in the new local authority - Argyll & Bute.

This has been to the serious detriment of the substantial islands of Islay and Mull and of the other Argyll islands, all of which became constitutionally invisible.

It has also impeded the development of a single coherent identity for the area, capable of supporting a powerful promotional brand.

With the best will in the world, no one can claim that the mouthful that is ‘Argyll and Bute’ sounds anything other than a bureaucratic convenience.

‘Argyll’ as an embracing identity and brand has vocal fluency and promotional mileage. And the territories belonging to ‘Argyll and Bute’ together form a knockout brand as ‘Argyll’, with all-but-infinite resources and attractions on the common table.

Bute keeps picking at its scab (and in the British Isles it’s not alone in cultivating this habit) - musing that Food From Argyll should be Food From Argyll and Bute, raising the possibility that this may be why the island’s food producers maintain an arm’s length distance from the Food From Argyll umbrella.

The lesson that Bute is working to embed internally - that hanging together and working to raise the game of the entire context brings the strongest benefit to everyone - applies externally too.

Argyll has an identity problem for a huge variety of reasons. It is also - and partly consequentially, appallingly badly marketed.

If all of Argyll’s constituent elements pulled together to create and rocket skywards an Argyll identity and brand, that successful mothership would carry them into orbit higher and faster than any of them can achieve on their own.

If Bute were to shrug off historical wrongs and make what it would undoubtedly see as the ultimate sacrifice, asking for its name to be removed from the local authority name and accepting that that should be ‘Argyll’, it would be a stellar and inspirational action that would have unimaginably positive consequences.

One day?
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(no subject) [Jan. 23rd, 2010|05:52 pm]
Take a seaweed bath and stay looking young, baby seals swear by it :) http://ping.fm/CbhbD
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(no subject) [Jan. 23rd, 2010|01:58 pm]
Seaweed Food, Natural Organic and Healthy
Natural organic seaweed ,www.seaweedfood.co.uk seaweed kelp ,dulse, sea lettuce seaweed recipes seaweed info ,mail order direct to your door.
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(no subject) [Jan. 23rd, 2010|04:13 am]
www.justseaweed.com Seaweed baths used to be known as the sailor’s cure, and people would come from all over to ‘take the waters’,” says Mark. “In a way, it’s no different now – we have customers who used the original baths, 50, 60 years ago.”

It was a timely resurgence for the family to grow a business based on sustainability, ethics and organics. But it wasn’t always so, and while a changing landscape has offered scope for business development, it was, as Neil found with the bank manager, a tough sell.

“Our father set up the Organic Trust in the 1970s, so we grew up with the concept,” says Mark. “It doesn’t seem unusual to us – but of course, 20 years ago, people thought we were howling at the moon, running through the woods naked. Then all of a sudden Gwyneth Paltrow says it’s cool. . .” He smiles. “It’s been great for business.”

Today, Mark, his brother Neil, his sister Aoife Langan and Mark’s wife Kira, are all involved with the company. There is no multi-million dollar Voya emporium; there are no shareholders; there are no plans for world domination.

“We were never in this to be the next L’Oréal . . . We were in this because we believed in what we were doing. If people want to buy the product, that’s great – we can make a living from it.”

The idea of reopening the seaweed baths was Neil’s, Mark tells me. “He was a professional triathlete at the time, and found that the seaweed bath was great for his body, it was a great remedy, so he decided to reopen the baths.”

For Neil’s part, it seemed to be a move based on logic, and not a flight of fancy. “This is unique to Ireland, it’s Ireland’s spa treatment – so why not exploit and develop it? I’m amazed there aren’t seaweed baths all around Ireland.”

The idea of expansion, opening venues countrywide, had occurred to the Waltons, but they faced opposition and competition from the most predictable of sources. “We tried to set up in various locations along the coast, but we need to be on the shore, right next to the sea, and in a populated area, and we were always competing against these big developers who wanted to put up 50 apartments on the spot,” says Mark. “We were saying, ‘but this is an amenity, it will be good for the community’. Even though people call them spas, for us this is more about the therapy – people of all ages and backgrounds come to experience them.”

For Voya, the seaweed bath is a remedy, a treatment, a preventative measure. “It’s like a poultice,” says Mark. “It draws out toxins and replaces them with essential vitamins and minerals that the seaweed has taken from the sea.” The spa atmosphere – low lighting, ambient music and, above all, heat and steam – came secondary.

“ Stuart Townsend came to the baths a few years ago, and he was standing at the counter next to one of our regular customers, a retired farmer, and the two of them were there looking at one another,” he says, laughing. “The farmer, who comes to the baths to ease his arthritis, is there looking at Stuart Townsend thinking, ‘what’s this young guy doing at the seaweed baths?’ and Stuart Townsend’s looking at this farmer thinking, ‘what’s this old guy doing at the spa?’ “The thing is, we always wanted it to be something that everybody could experience – we never wanted to alienate people who had been coming to the seaweed baths in Strandhill for their whole lives.”

As such, prices are low (€25 for a seaweed bath), and staff are welcoming. There are few of the ubiquitous spa-style posters (“lose inches with our body-heating wrap”) and the ever expanding range of Voya body care products are grouped together, unassumingly, on a side wall.

“While the seaweed baths have been very popular” – and increasingly so, from 5,000 customers a year at the beginning to 40,000 now, Mark says – “customers started to ask, ‘can I take this home with me?’ and we started looking at developing Voya products.”

Organic seaweed products are few and far between, especially of the homegrown, home-owned variety, and ensuring both the efficacy of their products and that they were fully organic was important to the Waltons.

“We looked at the market. In the late 1990s there were a few organic products, and a few seaweed products but they weren’t organic, so we had what we refer to as our State of the Nation meeting, where the whole family came in, and we said, ‘okay, let’s do up our own’.”

Voya’s products are created, packaged and distributed in Ireland; it was a decision, says Mark, made at the beginning of the process, that ensures Voya maintains a low carbon footprint – “every year we try to get to a zero carbon footprint, but every year something catches us out.”

“We wanted to grow this as an Irish company,” says Mark. “We’re not waving a flag, but we wanted to create the technology and expertise within the country. We could have gone abroad, but we wanted to have it here.”
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(no subject) [Jan. 22nd, 2010|08:43 am]

By Mary Lefevre
The holiday season brought an unexpected culinary gift. I have avoided sushi for the last 15 or so years, since I had a very unpleasant experience after eating raw tuna at a nationally touted seafood restaurant. Believe me, the taste was not worth the after-effects. Since taking a cooking class with local chef Mike Andrezejewski and his pastry chef wife, Sherri, my curiosity began overtaking the fear of a repeat performance
besides being one of the nicest people you will ever meet, Mike is a self-trained culinary star. He began his career as a bus-boy, and over the next 30 years honed his skills in some of Buffalo's best eateries, including Rue Franklin, Warren's and Oliver's. Some bio.http://ping.fm/m5VCP

Mike and Sherri's unyielding commitment to culinary excellence led them to open their own gig: the much-lauded Tsunami on Kenmore Avenue. The couple's love of Asian-inspired cuisine was met with both local and international accolades, including two invitations to cook at the esteemed James Beard House in New York City.

In 2006, a life-threatening motorcycle accident in which Mike lost a leg, coupled with subsequent economic difficulties, led to the closing of Tsunami. However, his many followers were delighted when, just 10 months later, Mike and Sherri opened Sea Bar in Williamsville, with the subsequent addition of a downtown location.

My hubby is raw-fish adverse, and I knew that he would never accompany me to Sea Bar without a very good reason. That reason showed up for the holidays in the arrival of his daughter, son-in-law, 11-year-old granddaughter and 7-year-old grandson from Myrtle Beach, S.C. -- all sushi aficionados. The five of us prevailed, and we were off to the original Sea Bar for an early dinner.

Upon arrival, there were two irritating experiences. First, the parking was scary. Because we ate early, the spaces in front of the restaurant were all vacant. Little did we know that when we left later that evening, the cars that sandwiched us on either side would block our view, and because the spaces are so small, we had to back out into the incredibly busy Williamsville Main Street. One of our party had to stand in the street and guide the car out to avoid catastrophe. Next time, I'll park on a side street.

Second, the music was blaring when we arrived, and continued for some time until we asked that it be turned down. After the decibels were lowered and the sound changed to very soothing and appropriate background tones, I realized that because we arrived so early in the evening, we had been entertained by the music genre favored by the young wait and kitchen staffs, which they listened to while prepping for the evening. They simply forgot to change it before customers arrived.

Reading the menu was like reading Greek for me. Thankfully, our waitress, Sena, could not have been more patient or kind. I was embarrassed having her repeat explanations of the various menu items a ridiculous number of times. But she appeared completely unfazed. I learned a valuable lesson: not to avoid restaurants serving food I am not accustomed to. Good restaurants have staff who don't make you feel stupid. Quite the contrary -- they enjoy your interest and are happy and proud to educate you about their cuisine.

I always thought sushi was rice and raw fish wrapped in seaweed. Wrong! Sushi is vinegared rice. Sushi is used in two common ways. First is maki, which are cylindrical in shape and contain sushi rice, raw or cooked fish and any number of garnishes, rolled in an edible seaweed or soybean wrapper. Nigiri is sushi rice topped by eggs or tofu, and sashimi -- sliced raw fish. Nigiri also can be ordered with shrimp, crab or eel, which are cooked.

The menu at Sea Bar is extensive and contains several specialties. The fish is amazingly fresh -- delivered at a minimum of every other day from Hawaii and New York City. We ate family style. After extensive consultation with Sena, each of the six of us ordered what we wanted and then shared with the table.

Our dinner consisted of the following: homemade pork and shrimp dumplings; seafood shu mai with garlic soy dip (dumplings); two orders of beef on weck (also known as cowboy sushi), which is a piece of beef tenderloin wrapped in sushi rice and beef tartare, then seasoned lightly with salt and caraway seeds; rainbow roll (tempura shrimp, avocado and cucumber, topped with raw fish); small chef sashimi selection (an array of various sliced raw fish); chef nigiri tasting with five different fish: fleck, yellowtail, bass, salmon and ahi tuna; two orders of shellfish risotto (crab, lobster and shrimp in soy cream risotto, truffle air finish); spicy tuna roll; fresh lobster maki with avocado; cucumber in mame nori (soybean wrapper); avocado shrimp (butterflied shrimp with piped avocado filling); sesame noodles; crab mango with citrus herb sauce in mame nori; and in the name of good sportsmanship, one piece of avocado eel ordered by my adventurous hubby.

The winners were the beef on weck, shellfish risotto, sesame noodles and crab mango. A Sea Bar best-seller, the beef on weck was just fantabulous. I could munch on them all day long. The shellfish risotto was also universally touted. The rice was cooked perfectly, rich and plump, and contained tons of seafood, and the ultra-modern truffle foam was just over the top. I love the taste of sesame oil, so the sesame noodles with a hint of cilantro hit the spot. A couple of us loved the crab mango -- it was clean and crisp and refreshing -- while interestingly it was the least favorite of one. My stepdaughter loved her sashimi and sushi. The ingredients were incredibly fresh, full of flavor and beautifully plated.

There were no clear losers at Sea Bar. In fact, the selection and variety were extraordinary. There were, however, a couple of dishes that were not in the same class as the winners. The rainbow roll just didn't make the cut. It was boring and tasteless. I found the spicy tuna roll so spicy that the taste of the tuna was completely lost. Ditto the side of kimchi, a very hot cabbage.

One of the surest signs of a successful restaurant is that I find myself smiling throughout the experience, enjoying the atmosphere, the company, the wait staff -- inviting and excitingly informative, but not intrusive -- and of course, most importantly, the food.

This was one of those experiences. I enjoyed every minute at the Sea Bar and look forward to returning. Unfortunately, I may have to wait for another year, when my family returns for Christmas 2010. My good-natured partner wasn't convinced by the experience. He'll take osso bucco at the Como any day of the week.
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(no subject) [Jan. 21st, 2010|05:56 pm]
Jesus doesn't love me. But I'm ok with that. He has his reasons." ( i owe him money.)
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(no subject) [Jan. 21st, 2010|12:46 pm]
Patients with lung problems on the Isle of Bute are using medical "homepods" to avoid being admitted to hospital. The devices have been fitted in the homes ..
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