Archive for August, 2009

August 30th, 2009

Spicy Summer Sundays Grand Finale!


The Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour concludes with an incredible grand finale today at the blog of Danielle de Santiago! Danielle offers a smorgasbord of mouth-watering recipes that include many of the spices we’ve celebrated this summer. He’s cut it up into bite-size pieces, with an introduction here segueing into amazing-looking recipes for chutney, oil, and vinegar.

Thanks, Danielle, for sending us out in such style!

Love,
Emerald

“So before we end and then begin, we’ll drink a toast to how it’s been…I’ve loved these days…”
-Billy Joel “I’ve Loved These Days”

August 28th, 2009

Expansion (and 100 Posts!)

This is my 100th post!

This is also just an announcement of a bit of expansion of my site here. The blog is still the same (except for the menu bar) and is still the home page — there are now just a few other pages as well, all accessible via the menu bar above.

Thanks for visiting!

Love,
Emerald

“We would listen and support and welcome…respond and expand and include…”
-Alanis Morissette “Utopia”

August 23rd, 2009

Spicy Summer Sundays Week 13!

P. S. Haven shows off his salt today! Haven is covering this fabulous spice/mineral as this week’s host of the Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour. I’m sure he’d love it if you came…came by, I mean, and joined the discussion about pickles, writing, and persistent fantasies!

And check back next week for the Spicy Summer Sundays Grand Finale!

Love,
Emerald

“She’s a rebel, she’s a saint, she’s the salt of the earth and she’s dangerous…”
-Green Day “She’s a Rebel”

August 19th, 2009

Yellow Lights and Long Summer Shadows

Earlier this week in my Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour post, I talked abut transition. As well I invited readers to talk about it, which they did so beautifully and thoughtfully that it has inspired me to continue to ponder the topic. (It appears I wasn’t the only one — check out the beautiful flash story Craig J. Sorensen created.) Yesterday as I was driving home, I noticed the “long shadows” that Rick had mentioned earlier as uniquely characteristic of evening in late summer. I wasn’t looking for them, but as I looked out the windshield at a large flowering bush, I suddenly did notice a particular kind of light. I realized the lighting appearance was that of the long shadows he had just been talking about — a sign of late summer.

As I mentioned in my poppy seed post, according to Traditional Five-Element Acupuncture we are in the season of Late Summer* — the season of transition. After writing the post and reading the extraordinary discussion that followed, I have been noticing transition more, and sometimes I have been deliberately pondering it as well.

As I noticed these long summer shadows, I simultaneously seemed to feel a quite vague, mysterious, and fleeting yearning. It occurred to me that transition may seem so fascinating to me because historically there has been an orientation in me distinctly disposed to focusing on extremes — a “one or the other,” “all or nothing,” black and white mentality. I remember when I was a kid, long before I learned to drive, I didn’t understand the purpose of the yellow traffic light. Seriously. It seemed to me you either go or stop — what is the in between of the yellow for? After I learned to drive, of course, the purpose of the yellow light made sense, but it seems funny to me that even now I can remember feeling genuinely confused by its existence.

Transition. The yellow light signals transition (interestingly, the color that corresponds to the Late Summer season in Five-Element Acupuncture is yellow). And in a way, transition flies in the face of that focus on extremes that has historically operated in me. Scarlett Greyson mentioned in a comment after the poppy seed post on Sunday the transition of fresh water to/from ocean water — an example I found exquisite, as well as one I don’t ever remember occurring to me. To the historical “extremes” perspective in me, there is fresh water and there is salt water. There are places of each. Somewhere in a cold mountain spring, the water is as fresh as can be. In the ocean, that freshness is nowhere to be seen in the utter saltiness of seawater.

Yet somewhere, there is a transition between. Somewhere, there is a meeting in which the extremes are not yet defined.

I felt actually startled when this relation between transition and non-extremes occurred to me, as I don’t know if it had ever quite occurred to me that way. Unsolicited, different areas of transition began to occur to me, along with how the historical orientation in me toward extremes may have influenced my perspective or experience.

First came writing. For almost as long as I can remember, I have loved the act of writing. Sometimes I have experienced it as evoking a near-euphoric feeling in me. In Jeremy Edwards’s Spicy Summer Sunday post, he asked what readers’ favorite phase of the writing process was. An answer I gave, very sincerely, is that one of my favorite parts of writing a story is when I finish it. I mentioned a possible reason for that as well, and a number of reasons for such have occurred to me before, but this drive yesterday was the first time viewing it in relation to transition had occurred to me.

I have noticed — numerous times — a part of my psyche that has seemed to operate with “the story has not been written yet” and “the story is done” being basically the two aspects it feels aware of or interested in. The middle literally seems like a blank. The act of writing, when I’m doing it, may feel magnificent, but if I am not writing and examining what to work on or do, I have often felt this orientation in me front and center.

As though it looks at the actual writing of the story as a transition. And it does not feel interested in that as per its zeroing in on the extremes — the story is either done or it is not started yet (or barely started during a time of aforementioned euphoria-producing writing but obviously not finished yet).

I wondered as this occurred to me what this part of the psyche in me does not like about transitions. Possible answers came forth again unsolicited. Transition may be a time of uncertainty, of disorganization, of fragility, and perhaps most of all (maybe in part due to those things) of vulnerability. It was not new to me to recognize that a part of me has historically not felt comfortable with those things. It was new to me to consider them specifically in the context of transition.

At which time sex occurred to me. When I was younger, the perspective in me about sex seemed often not interested in transition. In fact, it seemed distinctly opposed to it and wanted to pass over it as quickly as possible/practical. The orientation in me at that time was to literally go from determining the interest in and practicality of fucking someone to the act of doing so in as little time as possible. The area of transition was where things like emotion and, perhaps relatedly, vulnerability could develop. Of course in these encounters I was interested in mutual respect (in fact insisted upon it), connection, and to some degree affection, but serious emotional experience or certainly intimacy (which I’m not sure this part of me even had a conception of) seemed disorienting, frightening, or utterly foreign to this part of me and, according to it, were to be avoided.

When I first became a patient of Five-Element Acupuncture in January 2006, the layout of the five seasons was explained to me (the familiar four plus Late Summer), and it came to light also that each season presented unique offerings and gifts. At the time, I liked summer and that was about it and had found plenty of reasons to disdain the others. During the course of treatment, my acupuncturist presented the different offerings of each season, and a significantly new appreciation for all of the seasons and their incredible respective offerings developed in me (so much so that I was actually just moved to tears as I typed that).

As I write this I feel like the examination of Late Summer has perhaps been the least focused on for me. I’m not sure why — maybe because we haven’t seemed to work as much on that element in me (each season corresponds with an element in Five-Element Acupuncture, which relate to meridians in the physical body), or maybe because its being the transitional season has made it not seem so much like a “season” to me as the four with which I was previously familiar. In any case, the opportunity really seems prominent to me right now for me to appreciate and explore this season of transition. I feel deeply grateful as such.

Love,
Emerald

*I would guess that now we are actually quite close to or even into Autumn according to the Five-Element calendar, which does not follow or coincide with the official Western calendar (e.g., the Western calendar places the beginning of such seasons as summer and winter around their actual solstices, which according to the calendar of Traditional Chinese Medicine is actually their peak).

“And look for the stars as the sun goes down…just sit back…prepare for the best and the fastest ride…everything’s magic…”
-Angels & Airwaves “Everything’s Magic”

August 16th, 2009

Spice, Spice Baby — My Turn!

Greetings fellow spice/herb enthusiasts (and any others reading this)! Welcome to week 12 of the Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour, which I am hosting in honor of poppy seeds. Enviably nestled here between BadAssKona and P. S. Haven, I feel especially honored to host the first organized get-together following the beautiful in-person gathering at which a number of fellow erotic writers and partners/family members convened in Gettysburg last weekend.

So to start off, for anyone wondering, yes, poppy seeds do contain what I have read to be “negligible” amounts of opium. Both snopes and MythBusters have addressed the question of whether poppy seed consumption can cause a positive result in a drug test, and both have said yes. It is also stated that the amount of opium in poppy seeds is negligible to a degree that eating them will generally not result in feeling any effects as such — but consuming them has been documented to cause non-drug-users to test positive in a drug screening. (That being said, I myself consumed so many of the muffins while I was testing the recipe below that I wonder if I got close to feeling such effects. It seems unquestionable that I would have failed a drug test!)

So, no opiate party here today. ;)

Moving on, the Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour, as well this summer, are nearing their close. Of course, they have not concluded yet — they’re just getting close. According to Traditional Five-Element Acupuncture, we are currently in a season of transition. Commonly known as Late Summer, it is one of the five seasons (along with the familiar four of spring, summer, autumn, and winter) corresponding with the five elements that give Five-Element Acupuncture its name. The Late Summer season symbolizes transition, which is reflected right now in the transition between Summer and Autumn.

In that spirit, I am offering two poppy-seed-including recipes today. One reminds me of Summer, and one Autumn. They are an honoring of both seasons and of the invitation of Late Summer. Fittingly, poppy seeds themselves seem to transition smoothly between the two.

“All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, first released at the end of last summer, particularly speaks to me of the seasonal transition theme. Here’s a performance of it live:

The affinity in me for poppy seeds stems as much from their aesthetic qualities and texture as from their flavor. I do like their flavor. As a spice, poppy seeds seem relatively subtle. Perhaps, having rarely been characterized as “subtle” in my life, I appreciate this in a vicarious way. Or maybe I just like the way they taste. : ) But their subtlety aside, I actually find their flavor quite appealing and have been known to use them liberally in the kitchen, sprinkling them on various (sometimes random) things from salad to pasta.

One of the reasons I like poppy seeds in baked goods is texture-related. I like texture, particularly crunchy/chewy, and poppy seeds add a textural dimension to baked goods that is not as abrupt or pronounced as, for example, raisins or nuts. Poppy seeds contribute to an even texture throughout — the texture is transformed (again, subtly) rather than conglomerated.

This evenness carries into poppy seeds’ aesthetic as well. Their appearance is a large part of why I like them so much. (While I have viewed them as black and round, Wikipedia has informed me that poppy seeds are actually “slate-blue” and kidney-shaped. I prefer black and round, so I appreciate their size precluding me from really discerning the difference.) I love the aesthetics of food, and I like to pay attention to how food looks as I’m preparing and presenting it. Poppy seeds, to me, add a dash of aesthetic depth, evenness, and (no pun intended) spice to almost any dish. As with texture, they seem to spread evenly, both in baked goods and sprinkled on things like noodles, so that they seem to lend an appearance of evenness and symmetry that I find appealing.

So, on to the seasonal duo of poppy seed recipes — first, an offering of appreciation for the Summer coming to a close. This is a recipe for Emerald’s Summer Salad (the counterpart to the “winter salad” I presented in February for the Progressive Blog Dinner):

INGREDIENTS
Salad
-Approximately 6 cups romaine lettuce
– 1 cup sliced/diced strawberries
-1 to 2 diced avocado(es)
-1/2 of a ruby red grapefruit*
-1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or Gorgonzola
-1 T. fresh chopped parsley
-1 T. fresh chopped chives

Dressing
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
-2 teaspoons poppy seeds
-Grapefruit juice squeezed after fruit has been removed*

PREPARATION
1) Cut grapefruit in half and section with a grapefruit sectioner or small knife.

2) Remove grapefruit segments. Add with strawberries and avocado to lettuce.

3) To make dressing, mix olive oil, vinegar, poppy seeds, and juice squeezed from the grapefruit rind.

4) Add all remaining ingredients to lettuce mixture, add dressing, and toss.

*Note: I highly recommend tasting the grapefruit first to make sure it is a good one. If the grapefruit is bitter at all, the juice in the dressing will introduce a bitter flavor to the salad.

In cooking (as in eating) I aim to use the least processed, most healthful ingredients practical — sometimes, admittedly, to a fault, subverting focus on the taste in favor of preparing something most optimally nourishing for the body. Ideally, of course, the two come together complementarily. : ) The ingredients in this recipe reflect this focus to some degree, most notably in the use of 100% whole wheat flour.

Invitation into Autumn recipe: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins

INGREDIENTS
Dry
-1 3/4 cup 100% whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 cup poppy seeds
-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon allspice
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet (you guys have such dirty minds)
-1 egg (beaten)
-3/4 cup milk
-1/4 cup safflower oil (any cooking oil is fine)
-1/2 cup pumpkin
-2 teaspoons vanilla

PREPARATION
1) Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2) In a separate smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients.

3) Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add egg mixture all at once. Stir just until combined (batter should be lumpy).

4) Fill lightly greased muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 400 degrees about 20-22 minutes.

I have found these muffins to work well both by themselves or with condiments like cream cheese or strawberry preserves.

So while you’re here I’d like to invite you to muse about transition in whatever way strikes you. Particularly sex and transition — any particular progressions or transitions you find sexy? An example that comes to me is a woman dressed very elegantly, hair and makeup done meticulously, changing out of her dress clothes into jeans and a button-down shirt — but her hair and makeup are still perfectly done. There’s something I find very sexy about that image.

Thank you so much for coming by today! I want to thank Rick Write for being my food photographer and providing the salad and muffin photographs above (and also for throwing out the title of this post, which I promptly stole to use lol). And of course a big thank you to the magnificent Marina St. Clare and Donna George Storey for organizing this delightful blog tour and inviting me to participate.

Next week be sure to visit P. S. Haven for something salty! By which I mean, of course, visit his blog for his presentation of salt as next week’s host. ;)

Love,
Emerald

“Now nothing seemed as strange as when the leaves began to change, or how we thought those days would never end…”
-Kid Rock “All Summer Long”