Tuesday, 30 May 2017


I’m coming along with a bounding pace,
To finish the work that Spring begun;
I’ve left them all with a brighter face,
The flowers in the vales through which I’ve run.
I have hung festoons from laburnum trees,
And clothed the lilac, the birch, and broom.
I’ve waken’d the sound of humming bees,
And deck’d all nature in brighter bloom.
For this is my life, my glorious reign,
And I’ll queen it well in my leafy bower;
All shall be bright in my rich domain;
I’m queen of the leaf, the bud, and the flower.
 Art Mahmoud Farshchian

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Fifty Shades of Anaïs Nin

Via Kate Bartolotta
on May 23, 2012
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Photo: Richard Merkin

You can keep Anastasia and Christian.

I’m going back to my Anaïs Nin.

I noticed it came up over and over in our discussions on elephant about Fifty Shades of Grey: “skip that stuff and go for Anaïs Nin.”
So true. Such a powerful writer. And Waylon mentioned earlier when we were debating about Fifty Shades that media always seems to say, every decade or so, “here’s a book or television show that finally empowers women to talk about sexuality!”
Well, Anaïs Nin was so empowered, and empowering, a full century ago.

In her own words on love, sexuality and many things in between:

1. “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”

2. “I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”

3. “I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”

4. “I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness. In reality those who satisfy me are those who simply allow me to live with my ‘idea of them.’”

5. “Do not seek the because—in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

6. “Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.”

7. “You don’t find love, it finds you. It’s got a little bit to do with destiny, fate, and what’s written in the stars.”

8. “I hate men who are afraid of women’s strength.”

9. “There are two ways to reach me: by way of kisses or by way of the imagination. But there is a hierarchy: the kisses alone don’t work.”

10. “Our love of each other was like two long shadows kissing without hope of reality.

11. “You cannot save people. You can only love them.”

12. “Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.”

13. “When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.”

14. “Passion gives me moments of wholeness.”

15. “I have decided that it is better not to love anyone, because when you love people, then you have to be separated from them, and that hurts too much.”

16. “The body is an instrument which only gives off music when it is used as a body. Always an orchestra, and just as music traverses walls, so sensuality traverses the body and reaches up to ecstasy.”

18. “Don’t wait for it,” I said. “Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. And then love will come to you, then it comes to you.”

19. “The enemy of a love is never outside, it’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.”

20. “Stories do not end.”

So, that’s only twenty. But stories do not end.

Keep writing.

Write it with your bones, with your sweat, with your kisses.
Write it with shoulders colliding and tangled knees.
Write it from thousands of miles apart.
Write it from the opposite sides of the room.
Write with a whisper, with sighs, with the words that are stuck in your throat.
Write from where you ache, where there used to be fingerprints, where it’s hollow.
Write with your fever, with loneliness, with ecstasy.
Write by yourself in the thin hours that stretch between too late and too early.
Write to a lover.
Write to a stranger.
Write to the one you just thought of when I said, “write to ‘the one.'”
All the “tie me up, tie me down, spank me” madness in the world can’t hold a candle to the raw beauty of two people, fearlessly baring themselves (and not just their bodies). Write your own story.

Like all fifty shades of elephant journal gets sexy on Facebook.

6 Traits to Celebrate in Menopausal Women

Via Vera Snow
on May 28, 2017
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So I’m 50. 

Big deal. Well, actually it is because I’m now part of a secret society of women, and therefore, now and forever, part of a collective we.
That said, I believe I speak for a majority of women when I say I wasn’t looking forward to menopause, and trust me, some of the symptoms are seriously messed up. But, the gifts I’m finding are well worth the frustration.
The fact that no one ever told me about crone energy isn’t surprising. No one told me about the joys of the empty nest either, so I guess I will attribute it to women’s guilt. You know, the way women feel 99 percent of the time? It’s really not our fault. We have been programmed to feel this way since we were little girls, especially when we do anything that remotely benefits ourselves rather than others. And by others, I mean—anyone else—including the vilest of human beings—even pets! It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s someone other than ourselves because putting ourselves first, for any reason whatsoever, would be wrong.
Am I right, ladies?
Where we got this message is one of the many rabbit holes we are invited to dive into during the menopausal years. Whether we choose to descend down into this darkness is a mystery and based on many factors. For me, the descent began in my 30s and mostly out of desperation.
My body is now catching up. For others it might be later—perhaps more subtle and part of a natural flow. The flow that moves along gracefully as a woman moves through the phases of maiden-mother-croneLike I said, my movement between the three has been anything but graceful. Often jerky, and sometimes resembling a train wreck, but I’ve been more than happy with the results.
So, here are six traits to celebrate in menopausal women.
We No Longer Give a Sh*t!
It’s true. The desire to please others or be something we are not has literally left our bodies via a very irregular menstrual flow. Inconsistent and no longer relevant, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water and, quite frankly, don’t care.
Our ability to care about things that don’t matter is simply gone. Besides, it takes too much energy and we are nothing if not about conserving our energy at this stage. You see, our threshold to care less has reached its pinnacle and the view from up here is absolutely intoxicating. By the way, the next five traits are mostly subsets of this one so, when in doubt, refer to reason number one.
We Are Letting Go of Control
Not only has our obsession for perfection and control waned, but our ability to throw it all to the wind has increased considerably. Again, it’s just too much work. Life suddenly becomes too short because there just isn’t that much left of it.
It’s an ideal time to resign to that higher power everyone keeps talking about and embrace it with all we have left. What a lot of work and worry for nothing. What’s the point? Let someone or something bigger, brighter, and better worry about it from now on—we are done.
Besides, a nap does wonders and fixes just about anything.
We No Longer Hold Back
Seriously, we just love letting things rip. Having no filter is so incredibly freeing, not to mention entertaining, as we watch others react to our uninhibited free-flowing speech. Though exact words often elude us due to the brain fogthe passion behind our words is very real.
I suppose it has something to do with losing all patience for anything that resembles etiquette, manners, or social protocol. Just “cut to the chase!” we say. What comes out comes out—and what doesn’t will most definitely come out later. No time for regret or playing it safe. We are just happy to still be here and that kind of appreciation goes a long way.
We No Longer Put Ourselves Last
A tough one to accept at first but the more we act on it, the easier it gets. It just can’t be wrong when it feels so good, right? Right! We’re so programmed to put everyone above and beyond ourselves, it takes a lot of crone energy to shake the God Complex  and stop doing for others. And hells bells, we are taking back Mother’s Day too. Make our families cook a meal, bake a cake, and perhaps play our favorite game with us. It’s one day a year, for God’s sake! Embrace it already!
We Ask for What We Want
It’s been a long journey to get here so don’t mess with us. We know what we want and are no longer ashamed to ask for it. That mommy porn that infiltrates the Internet is spot on!
We’re no longer waiting for someone to offer to clean the house or take out the garbage, it’s happening—not because we willed it to happen—but because we asked for it. No longer a puzzle, expecting others to figure out what we want, we are saying it loud and clear, and making it happen. Or else!
We are No longer Afraid of Our Anger
Probably the best part of becoming a crone is owning our anger. Yes, that feeling in our belly that used to elude us. The jig is up. We have morphed into direct, unapologetic, and straightforward human beings. Unimpressed with the social convention of keeping things warm and fuzzy, we happily trade it in for danger and living on the edge.
Unpredictable and unwavering in our desire for keeping things real, we no longer watch from the sidelines and anticipate our next move. We are all in!
If menopause and the secrets of crone energy teaches anything, it’s that the time is now—right now. Time to celebrate that which got lost in translation and spread it far and wide. No longer a stranger, the crone emerges strong, tenacious, courageous, and full of mischief. She is witty, fun, and doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks. It’s her way or the highway, and that’s just fine.
Unfettered and uninhibited, menopausal women unite!
Just imagine what we could do together and just imagine what the world would be like if we made menopause a cause for celebration.
I don’t know about you but the crone in me believes it would change everything!
Author: Vera Snow
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Lieselle Davidson

Monday, 29 May 2017

10 things you should eat in Russia

Russian food is so much more than just vodka, borsch and caviar
Russian food is so much more than just vodka, borsch and caviar Source: Shutterstock/Legion-Media
Russian food is not all about vodka, borsch and caviar. RBTH has mapped different regions of Russia to show you the diversity of its gastronomic geography.
February 4, 2015 Kira EgorovaYulia ShandurenkoRBTH

1. How an apple turned into a cloud: Kolomna’s pastila

Photo credit: Lori/Legion-Media

Kolomna’s “pastila” is an old Russian delicacy made of sour apples, honey and molasses. It has been part of Russian culinary traditions ever since the days of Ivan the Terrible. It was a peculiar sort of medieval preserve and an excellent way to conserve the harvest. The apples would be stewed in an oven, softened and then laid on planks to dry under the sun. They would then be rolled into thin fruit strips and enjoyed as a delicacy while waiting for the next harvest. Some people compare it to a marshmallow. Everything you ever wanted to know about pastila, including the secrets of its production, can be found at the Kolomna Pastila Museum. Of course, pastila can be tasted and purchased here as well. Kolomna is 96 kilometers from Moscow. 

2. Tolstoy ate it for sure: Tula gingerbread

Photo credit: Lori/Legion-Media

Tula gingerbread (pryanik) is probably the most famous Russian sweet there is. In most regions of the country “pryaniki” are small, round and have a rather dry taste. But in Tula (183 kilometers from Moscow) they began preparing rectangular gingerbread stuffed with moist filling and decorated with sugary drawings as early as the 18th century. Learn all about it at Tula’s Pryaniki Museum. By the way, the museum makes a great double date with Tolstoy’s museum, which is located nearby.

3. Sea ginseng: The Far Eastern trepang

Photo credit: TASS/Yuri Smityuk

Previously known as the Gulf of Trepang, Vladivostok (9,314 kilometers from Moscow) is the only place in Russia where sea cucumber can be found. Trepang is a seawater invertebrate that resembles a large hairy worm. Due to its taste and health properties it has been considered a delicacy in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines ever since the 16th century. Trepang is served either boiled, as an ingredient in salads, dried, оr even as a liqueur with alcohol and honey.

4. Siberia’s tasty legends: Omul and muksun

Photo credit: Lori/Legion-Media

Muksun and omul are the most famous kinds of fish in Siberia. As both are types of whitefish, fishermen and local inhabitants distinguish them according to the fishing season. The omul is smaller than the muksun, but its meat is equally soft, sweet and fatty due to its inhabiting cold waters. Mild-cured muksun is the most delicious of its kind, and can be tried only in Siberia, while the omul can be found exclusively near Lake Baikal. In order to prepare the Siberian tartare (known as “Suguday”) you must use these fishes.

5. Tricky to pronounce, easy to eat: Öçpoçmaq

Photo credit: TASS/Vadim Zhadko

Uchpochmak (meaning triangle in the closely-related Tatar and Bashkir languages) is one of the most popular pastries in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. It is a small closed pastry filled with potatoes, mutton and onion and is often taken with soup and tea. If you go to Ufa (1,265 kilometers from Moscow) or Kazan (719 kilometers from Moscow) and are looking for insights into what make the locals tick, try an uchpochmak. It can be found in almost any local supermarket or cafeteria.

6. A seasonal delicacy from the cultural capital: Smelt

Photo credit: TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

Every May the air of St. Petersburg fills with the smell of fried smelt and fresh cucumbers, declaring to one and all that springtime has finally arrived. Smelt are a fish that swim the Neva and the Gulf of Finland and has become the unofficial gastronomic symbol of the city. Its season is spring and smelt is at its best when fresh. That’s why every year St. Petersburg hosts a spring smelt festival, which unites its inhabitants around a long-standing tradition.

7. Russian kebab: Dagestani mutton

Photo credit: Photoimedia

The best mutton in Russia can be found in the Caucasus region in Dagestan (1,795 kilometers from Moscow). Meat in Dagestan is traditionally prepared by men, which takes some of the burden off of women, who are busy making pastries. The meat of Dagestani lambs lacks the strong odors usually associated with mutton, and its fat is what gives it its flavor. This is what sustained the region’s nomadic ancestors centuries ago and you certainly should try a Dagestani mutton “shurpa” soup or “shashlyk” kebab if you see it on a menu. Authentic flavor shouldn’t be hard to find as almost all fresh mutton in Moscow comes from Dagestan.

8. A source of optimism in the land of permafrost: Stroganina

Photo credit: Lori/Legion-Media

If you find yourself weighed down by permafrost in the Russian North, try the Arctic delicacy “stroganina.” This is a thin fillet of frozen fish dipped in a mixture of salt and black pepper that can be prepared using most varieties of local fish: broad whitefish, omul, sheefish, sturgeon, muksun, golets, taimen, peled and white fish. If an authentic stroganina is what you’re after, buy a ticket to Yakutsk (4,898 kilometers from Moscow). 

9. Yet another reason to love buckwheat: Altai honey

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Legion-Media

Right next to the Altai Mountains are Russia’s largest buckwheat fields, which makes bees very happy. The offspring of this love affair is an unusual kind of honey: It has a liquid consistency and a dark amber color, and leaves a distinct aftertaste in one’s mouth. It can be found in just about any supermarket in Moscow. It is a perfect compliment to a cup of tea made from Altai herbs.   

10. Bestseller of the East: Chak-chak

Photo credit: Lori/Legion-Media

Tatars, Bashkirs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Kazakhs all love to eat “chak-chak.” It is the most popular “eastern” desert in all of Russia. Made from just three ingredients - flour, eggs and honey - chak-chak becomes small sticks shaped from dough and is subsequently fried and covered in honey syrup. The end result is a big and sweet cone-shaped lump eaten by hand. This food has been eaten the same way since it was invented by nomadic steppe peoples 1,000 years ago.

Mr Fox

Mr Fox
Grainy granite, slippery slate
Hold up, pause, wait
The stream trickles by
With Mr Fox all sly
Finding that perfect place to lie
Laying in wait
On the look out for a mate
Bushy tail in tow
But squatting down low
just beyond the tree
A truly beautiful sight to see
A single vixen, trundling along
Bouncing to the rhythm of the birds song
They catch eachothers eye
and with an almighty sigh
Sneak off together
To hold close forever
Jamie Leslie Foster
Art Sam Cannon

When Stairs and Slides Are Hiding in Plain Sight

Play real-life Chutes and Ladders at these obscure thruways.

An ordinary stroll can quickly become extraordinary when you stumble on one of the many hidden stairways and slides that dot the world’s cities. Some are seemingly mundane structures hiding fascinating histories, while others blend into the landscape like a secret, surprising even long-term residents. These slopes and climbs make ordinary places more fun.

Secret Tiled Staircase
A hidden mosaic staircase leads to breathtaking views of San Francisco.


Winfield Street Slides
This pair of slides and a tree-lined stair corridor have been an urban oasis for nearly 40 years.

Howe Street Stairs
Spanning an elevation of 160 feet and containing 388 steps, Seattle's longest staircase was originally built to link two streetcar lines.

Seward Street Slides
These slippery downhill slides built in the 1960s are actually a triumph of neighborhood activism.

Hidden within an office building in Munich, a double-helix staircase seemingly leads you up… to nowhere.


Bisbee Stairs
With thousands of steps scattered through the town, Bisbee is a maze of staircases and desert mountain vistas.

Traboules Secret Passages
Between courtyards and through buildings, secret alleyways and staircases once provided safe passage for silk workers.

The Exorcist Stairs
Wedged between a stone wall and a brick warehouse, this stairwell is the iconic site of the classic horror film's climactic final showdown.

The Music Box Steps
This simple set of municipal steps is the site of a memorable scene from Laurel and Hardy's "The Music Box."


Tahini Dressing

Tahini Dressing

Tahini Dressing

The nice thing about this tahini dressing is its short ingredient list and versatility. Make it thick if you’d like to use it as more of a dip or thin it out with a little water for a creamy sesame dressing to spoon over roasted or grilled vegetables, fish or chicken. I cut back on the cumin just a little (Samin called for 1/2 teaspoon), and ended up adding an extra squeeze of lemon at the very end; I know Samin would approve.
Recipe slightly adapted from: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat


1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds OR 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water


Place the cumin seeds in a small, dry skillet and set over medium heat. Swirl the pan constantly to ensure even toasting. Toast until the first few seeds begin to pop and emit a savory aroma, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Immediately dump the seeds into the bowl of a mortar or a spice grinder. Grind finely with a pinch of salt.
Place the cumin, tahini, lemon juice, oil, garlic, cayenne, 2 tablespoons water, and a generous pinch of salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Alternatively, blend everything together in a food processor. The mixture may look broken at first, but trust that it’ll come together into a smooth, creamy emulsion with stirring. Add water as needed to thin it out to a desired consistency – leave it thick to use as a dip and thin it out to dress salads, vegetables, or meat. Taste then adjust salt and acid (lemon juice) as needed. Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

257 Words from the Past to Inspire a Joyful Life

Via Crystal Jackson
on May 21, 2017
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I could spend all day quoting Anais Nin.

Her work spans a period of over 60 years, and her most well-known contributions took place during the 1930s. But, her work is far from dated.
I have been familiar with it for some time, but it didn’t really resonate with me until I found myself in a situation where I was resisting a change that I needed to make.
Suddenly, her words came to me frequently and with stark clarity. They left me alternately shrinking away from and moving toward change, depending on my temperament.
I was in a marriage that I needed to leave, but I had two small children and no reliable income. My dreams had long before withered from neglect, and I wasn’t sure who I was anymore, or what I wanted. I only knew that I didn’t want a slow death of a life. I did what I could to create a liveable life within the context of the one I had. When that failed, I could feel Nin’s words calling to me from nearly a century ago. I saw her quotes everywhere, and they echoed in my heart.
Some changes are difficult to make. From the outside looking in, it seems simple: if we’re unhappy, we should make a change. But the actual mechanics of doing so can be difficult.
Summoning the courage, fortitude, and resilience to change our lives can seem overwhelming. It may be a relationship, a career, or a lifestyle that requires the change. Regardless, turning our lives upside down can carry enormous weight and responsibility.
Reading her words inspired me. I kept hearing, “And one day the risk to remain tight in the bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I heard those words on repeat in my head because I understood them: at a certain point, it became more painful to stay than to leave.
So I offer these words from Anais Nin that, I hope, will inspire you to choose happiness—no matter where you find yourself.
“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too. No, I think there was too rigid a pattern. You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you’re not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened. I mean Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn’t a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course. But society is the one that keeps demanding that we fit in and not disturb things. They would like you to fit in right away so that things work now.”
I think the saddest words are “some never awaken.” But it’s true.
Our lives are precious. We often waste so much of them staying when we should go or leaving when we should stay, depending on our circumstances.
We follow society’s unspoken rules of how we should live our lives, and we forget that these lives are ours to live. We can choose to live them in joy, thankful every day for each breath, or we can live them in pain because we opt to live an inauthentic life.
If we’re lucky, something will awaken us, and we will choose to make whatever change is needed to truly live our lives. We can decide to throw off the shackles of a society that dictates who we should be, and choose to be who and what we love.
Believe me when I say—choosing our joy won’t be easy. It wasn’t easy for me to re-imagine my life. It wasn’t easy to start again. But, it was worth it.
I hope, dear reader, that these words give you courage if you need it.
I hope that the road ahead won’t always be so hard. I hope these words reach out and brush a soothing hand across your soul, the way they once did for me.
I hope that you are one who awakens—as I did.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: KKendall/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson