introvert holiday

bananas, with spots and cupboard doors

yarn from Stokurinn in Reykjavik

breakfast--with unseen, just-planted sprouted garlic 

a sweater torso

breakfast again

sprouted ginger root
this will be a lopapeysa

pears, avocado pears (as S. P. would say)

sourdough rye bread

spring spit bubble

to make 100% sourdough rye bread
(adapted after trials and tribulation from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley)

- in a large bowl, mix together:

125 grams rye sourdough starter (at a 2:1 ratio of water to flour)
150 grams dark rye flour
300 grams warm water

- let sit, covered, in a warm spot for 12-16 hours

- remove 125 grams of mixture and return to fridge (your starter for the next batch)

- add to the remaining sponge:

350 grams dark rye flour
10 grams salt 
200 grams warm water
caraway seeds (optional)

- mix with a wooden spoon or spatula--dough will be extremely wet and sloppy (not knead-able)

- scrape into buttered 9x5 loaf pan, sprinkle with 

more caraway seeds

- let rise, covered loosely, until risen to top of pan (2-8 hours)--to avoid cloth or plastic wrap sticking to the top of your loaf, you can slide the whole pan into a large ziploc bag

- preheat oven to 450 or 500 degrees F

- put risen dough in the oven, reduce temperature to 400 degrees F

- bake until inserted fork or thermometer comes out clean (between 30 and 60 minutes)--if crust isn't burnt, err on the side of a longer baking time

- remove loaf from pan and leave in open air (to cool and lose excess moisture) for at least 12 hours 

The bread adventure continues. This is the recipe I came up with after wasting around 10 pounds of rye flour on bread that wouldn't rise. The most major changes I made to Whitley's recipe were to increase the amounts of both starter and salt. If you have a trustworthy, vigorous starter, you may be able to use significantly less (Whitley suggests only 50 grams). In my opinion, this bread needs at least 10 grams of salt. 

And if you're slightly daft (as I am) when it comes to sourdough, make sure you are using (and refreshing) all of the starter in your jar every time you make bread. One of my main problems in the beginning was that my starter's acidity balance had been thrown out of whack by the extra starter that never made it out of my jar. 

like a cinnamon bun and a doughnut and a raisin croissant rolled into one

I came home the other day to find a gigantic plumbing bill and the almost equally gigantic cinnamon roll that Tim had made to console me. I forgot all of my landlording woes as soon as we started eating it, and supper that night consisted of gooey delicious cinnamon roll--and beer. Tim generously took notes and pictures; I am here this morning to share them with you.

The finished product shown below is actually the imitation I attempted yesterday, since I Needed More.

Mine is Very Good, but just barely Not Quite as Good, since I forgot the Egg (all-important).

Cinnamon Raisin Roll

Put two handfuls of raisins in a bowl with boiling water to soften. Set aside.

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
120 g (1/2 cup) warm water
60 g (1/4 cup) milk
4 g (1 tsp) salt 
4 g (1 tsp) dry yeast
20 g (5 tsp) sugar
1 egg

40 g (3 tblsp) salted butter

Add to mixing bowl:
melted butter
320 g (2 and 1/3 cups) white flour

Mix well and knead for ~10 minutes by hand or with a mixer and dough hook.

Let rise, covered, until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Roll out with rolling pin into large rectangle. Brush with more melted butter. Sprinkle generously with brown or white sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.

Roll up lengthwise into cylindrical loaf. Slashing optional.

Bake on cookie sheet covered with silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Loaf is done when lightly browned on top and internal temperature ~180 F. (Or use your usual bread-testing method.)

the bakeries of 118th ave

It's two years this month since we moved into this house, and so far I've done a terrible job of exploring the neighborhood. I've complained that my precious self has felt isolated, out here with the mall rats in the blue-collar boonies, but I've never done very much to make myself at home. I've never, for instance, taken myself out to discover 118th ave, exactly the kind of gritty, colourful, mixed commercial and residential zone I go on about. It's only 8 blocks away. Wednesday morning I left the house with the idea that I would go and find the cafes and Portuguese bakeries that supposedly line the street.

I went alone. I have spent whole years too inhibited to embark on this kind of solo expedition. Not Wednesday.  I put on a lot of wool: black wool dress, sweater, peacock cardigan, blue toque, Ethiopian scarf. It was only -5 C, and the city was filthy. I had a childish feeling of being small and curious and interested and hopeful--a red boots feeling, and my black beetle boots do actually have red buttons . . . This L-theanine is magic.

I found two Portuguese bakeries and bought cookies and fig jam at Popular Bakery, and egg tarts and bread at Handy Bakery. I went into the Mexican grocery store, made note of a pho place and a barber shop (in case I ever get another buzz cut, Sinead-style), and ended up at The Carrot, which is a volunteer-run cafe and arts centre, opened as part of the 118th revitalization effort. It's lovely there. Paintings covering the walls, a piano in the corner. They were playing CBC radio. An older couple was running the counter (the woman asked me if I minded that their biscotti weren't hard biscotti, and the man told me I should probably stir my hot chocolate). I've been wondering if I should see about volunteering there myself. It would be good to have something close to home. At very least, I now have a cafe to write in and no-need-to-cross-the-river.

The Jam Jars of 2013

A few images of domestic bliss which convey nothing about this horrible week. The things we get up to when in the throes of a small crisis, hey? I suspect that these jam jars mark the sputtering end of an era. Change is afoot. Would you like to share something bittersweet? I'd love to giveaway a jar of rhubarb jam. Comment on this post, and I'll draw a winner randomly on Monday night. 
                                                                                                                                    xx Lizzie

I just wanted to say hello

Hello! If you can believe it, we had more snow this weekend. Friday, my bus driver made converstaion by asking me if I was ready for another 20 cm. Yesterday morning, I was bundled up in my imitation Uggs, parka, cowl, wool socks, and mittens. Snow was still falling today when I woke up at 5:30, but now, 12 hours later, I've just come in from my first tiny bike ride of the year. Things are melting fast, especially on the roads.

Tim made lentil curry and coriander rice, and I made a salad with cucumber, yogurt, garlic, and dill. After supper I slipped outside, pulled my heavy green cruiser out of the garage, put air in the tires, pulled her over the remnants of a drift in the driveway, and hopped on. It's still too slushy, sandy, and salty to ride Annalena. My green bike's pedals are smaller and less grippy; I can't fully extend my legs when I push down on them. The handlebars are so wide that I steer like I am playing Mario Kart.

I'm always surprised by how much I change every winter. Every spring, I find myself timid on the roads once again, running out of breath more quickly than I remembered, forgetting what I do in the face of an oncoming car in a residential street, self-conscious about how my bum looks when I stand up to pedal. Within weeks I'll be cycling in traffic again. I'll be on a racing bike, in far less clothing. My winter self can hardly believe it.

Tonight I have two British medieval morality plays to read for Tuesday--my second-last final exam. Tim and I are making strawberry ice cream. The grocery stores here are already trotting out fresh strawberries, though they hardly taste on their own and need sugar. It's a false, forced seasonality I don't love--it's somehow un-Canadian, at least for this province where we all know winter still hasn't finished with us--but we got four pounds free last week.

Quagmire Rules

That horrible season is already upon us, again. There are three weeks left in the semester proper, and nothing looks pretty--not me, not our apartment, not Edmonton, not our treacherous sidewalks. The late March blizzard  breaks me every year. After two weeks of sun (you forget that a ray of sun can feel warm) and rivulets, we have wind and over a foot of new snow.

It occurred to me last week that while my ordinary-time eating habits are actually quite good, the quality and quantity of food I consume during days or weeks of extraordinary stress is probably enough to account for at least half of the weight I would like to permanently lose. Also, no matter what I tell myself to the contrary in the woe and frenzy of the moment, drinking powdered hot chocolate and eating toast and cereal every two hours does nothing for my research essays. These end-of-the-semester bouts of emotional eating must stop. 

Here, then, are some Quagmire Rules. 

1. 1 L cold water first thing in the morning (before coffee, before breakfast) 
2. Black tea with milk and sugar = reviving treat, not default liquid
3. If not hungry for proper meal (vegetables, protein, nicely prepared), not hungry
4. Three meals + afternoon tea, not eaten in bed or at desk
5. Powdered hot chocolate will never taste like it did fifteen years ago (save the calories to make real cocoa)
6. General feeling-gross and depression better solved by shower or nap than sugar 
7. Eat off of a plate, drink out of a nice cup
8. Time does actually exist to cook supper and exercise
9. Save sweet things (ahem, banana muffins) for afternoon tea (not breakfast, not out of the pan)
10. Eating right before bed or to stay awake = not fun
11. Vitamins

ETA: I turned 22 last week. On my birthday morning, I was in the middle of a plank when I looked up and saw myself in the mirror. I looked strong. I looked attractive. I looked fine. I am reminded that I've come a long way since I spent my sixteenth birthday making myself vomit in the shower. I'm also reminded that some of the things I'm still dealing with are the residual effects of having had an eating disorder, and that I need to keep addressing these issues (at first I wrote 'working through this shit')--gently, but conscientiously. 

starting and finishing

After I had to rip back the entire yoke on Tim's sweater (those blasted shoulders!), I wanted to knit something less heartbreaking. And so: the cotton candy running cowl.

Reading Week, so far. I am trying to do everything I ever put on hold in order to finish a paper or go to bed on time. The bread experiment progresses splendidly, and I am working on the brown paisley dress. Tim and I have been on a walk. I'm trying to root four little aloe vera cuttings; upstairs, my father-in-law is starting to paint the walls dove grey and lay porcelain tile. On Monday, mending a tear, we managed to superglue my fingertips to my yellow Tretorns. I walked to work in full light this morning.

Fourth recipe in Bread Matters--baps. 

resolute: baking bread

- learn more about baking bread (to begin: read the lovely book Laura got me for Christmas)

120 pages into this book, the recipe section commences. Having read every one of the warnings against industrial bread (some of which I found reasonable, some slightly hysterical), nodded along with the author's defense of the pleasures and advantages of baking bread at home, and closely attended to the sections on bowl material, types of flour, water temperature, and kneading techniques, I felt the only thing to do was to start with the first recipe. 

So I did. "Basic Bread" came out of the oven yesterday, and I have a page of notes on it, and a small knob of dough sitting in the fridge, waiting to be incorporated into the next recipe, for "Old Dough Bread".  I aim to pull a Julie Powell, and, by the end of the year, bake every recipe in the book. (Thereby, I will translate a vague, qualitative resolution into an accomplishable, concrete sort of resolution.) Tim likes this plan a lot.  

At the same time, experiments on my own with the already-established sourdough:

Also: do you see that sun?

There is nothing like pausing every couple of hours to dissolve yeast in warm water, measure flour, punch down a cushion of dough, preheat the oven, pat and shape the loaves, check on their proofing, peek into the oven. (I don't want instant food--I want to coax glue to turn into bread.)

Happy Monday you all! 

Banana Bread-Not-Cake (nevermind, it's still cake)

I'm baking today, in between essay-writing sessions (4 pages on the Psalms for English 240--The Bible as Literature). Since school started we haven't been eating nearly as well, and today I'm trying to make meals  for the upcoming week: banana bread, baked beans, borscht . . . there's probably an alliterative poem right there. 

A couple of months ago, since I couldn't find a banana bread recipe that was
a) suitable for semi-regular breakfasting
b) a good keeper
c) comestible, in Tim's opinion
d) composed of cheap ingredients
e) reasonably nutritious
f) easy to make and clean up from
--I took some liberties. The following recipe is an amalgamation of Emily's hardcore banana bread, Alton Brown's banana bread, a couple of random internet recipes, and my desire to turn banana bread into clafoutis.

So. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Get out your big mixing bowl and mash together:

- 4 overripe bananas
- 2 eggs
- scant 1/2 cup olive oil or softened butter
- scant 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Stir in until just mixed:

- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 1 and 1/3 cups rolled oats, blended into coarse powder or 1 cup oat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Stir in:

1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or
1 cup whole blueberries

Pour into greased cake/loaf pan or muffin tins.  Bake until middle is no longer gooey. (It may be a long bake.)

Eat plain, or with butter. Store on the counter up to four days.

ETA: 1 banana, 1/4 cup wheat germ. I've changed this recipe slightly since first posting it, to make it a little bit healthier and a little bit more moist.

Last Rose of Summer Tea

Ros and Grace, two of my little sisters, put on a tea party. Scones, cucumber sandwiches, Victoria sponge, lemon squares, lemonade, clotted cream. Coconut cream for my sister's sinuses and my mum's Orthodoxy. Black tea. Red plums in miniature. Roses and shortbread. Something about a fully laid table suggests fairies  before anyone sits down.

Reading our etiquette colouring books at ages 7 and 8, this is what Ros and I wanted to concoct. 

For your hours of work, blatant care and planning, genuine elegance and courtesy--well done, sissies. I was in awe.

harvest (some bragging)

In an old-fashioned way, I can't help fawning over the not-unimpressive quantity of food I have harvested and preserved during the last month. We have:

yellow and green beans--cut in half, blanched, and frozen on a baking sheet rather than in a lump

crab apples from my Opa's trees--sauced and canned

rhubarb, raspberries, saskatoons, gooseberries--jammed and canned

tomatoes--sliced and dehydrated

chocolate mint--dried for tea

potatoes--washed, left to air for a day, boxed in a shallow layer

carrots and beets--scrubbed and filling both vegetable drawers in the fridge

Only the hot peppers, onions, and the unripened tomatoes are yet to bring in. Tim and I are debating the merits of dehydrating vs. pickling the peppers. (We don't have a peck, but we probably have a couple of litres.) Strong opinions on this?

ETA: I also jammed and canned some red plums over the weekend. Time to quit with this sort of thing and concentrate on scholarly pursuits.

more on the fasting thing

I've done four or five fast-days now. In many ways, the first one was the easiest, but I am slowly figuring out what works and what doesn't.

What works:

- being distracted by work
- drinking as much water as possible
- Pepto-Bismol in the morning
- moderate exercise
- scheduling well in advance

What doesn't work:

- Gravol
- cooking for other people
- fasting on extremely stressful or tiring days
- no exercise
- too much exercise
- too much sleep

The most difficult part is not the experience of fasting itself, but scheduling the best days to fast, and then keeping to that schedule. It's irksome to spend several days at work, eating poorly because I'm tired and stressed out, and then spend my first day off fasting, when I really just want to be cooking delicious, slow, healthy food. So fasting at work is preferable. Fasting on Saturdays, however, while working in a cafe that maintains a line-out-the-door all weekend, is hellish. Luckily, my fall semester schedule is to spend Tuesdays and Thursdays in class all day, Wednesdays and Fridays at work all day, and Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays doing homework/housework, writing, making things, etc. Making a habit of fasting on my work days should be fairly straightforward.

As for the actual not-eating, the resulting lethargy is much harder to deal with than the resulting hunger. Everything I've read or that Tim has passed on to me says that my body should be getting better and better at regulating my blood sugar, and that I shouldn't be experiencing chill or sleepiness for much longer. Already, having fasted two (separate) days without taking any stupor-inducing Gravol, I think the lethargy is abating a bit. Getting enough water is also a challenge. I hadn't realized how much the body depends on liquid present in food.

I am planning to continue with the experiment. Overall, I'm feeling healthier, and (conveniently) less panicked if I can't fit a meal in every three hours. I'm also paying more attention to nutrition on feast-days, wanting to provide my body with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibre, protein, water--not just the right number of calories. I've realized that I simply can't afford empty calories. For too long, I've been paying the price in excess weight, stomach aches, vitamin deficencies . . . (Though it's far, far better than it was. Did I ever tell you about the time I was 16 and developed scurvy from living off free Starbucks? Oh yes. Scurvy. In a big city in North America in 2008. I've come miles from that point, but there is still room for improvement.)

Finally, you're probably curious, but I can't tell you whether or not I have lost any weight. I've not been weighing myself these past few months; I've been struggling on towards maintaining a healthy weight through good habits, and I think I'm on the right track. 

fast day

7:09 am - Got up about an hour ago with Tim, but decided not to bike to Transcend with him before my shift at Duchess starts. I'm not sure how I'll be feeling as the day progresses, and adding 10 hilly km to my commute probably wouldn't be particularly wise. I've decided to skip breakfast; it seems possible that eating a small meal might be more difficult to manage psychologically than eating nothing, but I haven't ruled out a bowl of soup after my shift ends at 2:00 pm. I've taken my vitamins with water and a cup of tea. For the moment, I'm dealing with a slight bit of nausea and headache, but otherwise I feel fine. Curious about how the day will pan out.

8:25 am - Off to work on a gravol tablet and two pepto-bismol--the nausea was getting more insistent. I'm surprised and wonder how much is psychosomatic, how much is nerves. I usually eat as soon as I get up, but not always, and it's only been 2.5 hours.

1:48 pm - Home from work. (It was slow, and they let me leave half an hour early.) Since I had my last meal around 7 pm last night, I've now been fasting for 19 hours. After taking the nausea medication this morning, I felt fine, if a little slow, on my bike to work. Similarly, my shift was not particularly difficult, though I was at times cold, zoned out, and more irritable than usual. I'm not feeling hungry at the moment. Time for some water, tea, and maybe a short nap.

6:37 pm - Stomach rumbling, craving cherries, coffee cake, and black bean burritos. But I'm doing well. 23.5 hours down. This hasn't been so bad.

8:12 pm - Since I've been sleepy all day, I'm going to sleep.

duly reported, if a bit late (and an experiment)

Last week: I got strength training in four days out of seven, water in six days out of seven, garden harvest in two days out of seven (though we did eat our own produce almost every day--straight from the fridge), vitamins six days, 3 proper meals (well, I did my best) seven days, fun exercise 5 days, bedtime routine 6 days. Overall, not so bad. We spent the long weekend at Tim's parents' place, keeping Tim's little sister company, and I always find it difficult to maintain healthy habits while away from home. I made a concerted effort to reduce sugar while increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein, and I think I definitely improved on the status quo. There was homemade hummus, pears, bowls and bowls of berries, peanuts, cucumbers, borscht, roast chicken, raw pumpkin seeds, cherries, tanniny black tea, pesto, wholegrain bread, butter lettuce, Liberte yogurt . . .

However, it is time for a new list, an update on perspective, another BBC video. (After blogging for four years and posting one or two videos the entire time, I realize that three out of the last twelve posts end with some youtube gem. Odd.)

But allow me to digress. Tim enjoys keeping up with the cutting edge of research on ageing, and has been talking for a couple of months about the large body of evidence supporting the benefits of intermittent fasting. As someone recovered from an eating disorder, who has fought long and hard to be able to eat regularly, I was suspicious. I said to Tim, Isn't this what they used to call a starve-and-binge cycle? Apparently not.

Intermittent fasting can be practiced on a wide variety of schedules, ranging from daily 18-hour fasts (you fit all of your meals into a 6-hour period), to bi-monthly (that's once every two months) four-day fasts. The benefits for general health seem pretty considerable, but the point of it all is to allow your body  "time off" from metabolizing food, halting the compulsion to constantly produce new cells, giving it time to repair itself, and thus slowing down bodily decay. The anti-ageing effects of keeping mice's metabolisms out of overdrive by keeping the mice on a very low-calorie diet have been well-documented for decades, but intermittent fasting takes a different approach. Far from being the newest manifestation of glorified anorexia (like some diets I could mention), intermittent fasting is not necessarily associated with caloric restriction, as this article explains. Nor does this kind of fasting involve avoiding food for as long as possible, only to overeat later. Recommended calorie intake remains recommended calorie intake.

After watching Michael Mosely's take on it last night (while finishing the first sock! but more on that later), I was very intrigued. Thus, and by now probably not surprisingly, my goals for the upcoming week include an experiment. Like Mosely, I am most attracted to the five-two schedule, and have decided that this week on Saturday and Wednesday (two of the days I'll be spending at work), I will eat a small meal at breakfast and abstain from food the rest of the day. Sunday, Monday, etc., I will eat normally, whenever I feel hungry. I'll blog my observations both "fast" days, and if things go well, I may try another several weeks.

As for other goals, I would like to continue with strength training, water, vitamins, a bedtime routine--and add a daily walk.

a few specific and achievable goals

I haven't forgotten about this post, or all that underlies it. (Not for a minute.) I have been eating more vegetables, more protein, drinking more water. I've cooked a whole salmon and made a gorgeous meal out of yellow wax beans with a bit of butter. It's a start. But it feels tenuous, and I need to feel strong again.

To that end, a few specific and achievable daily goals for the next 7 days, to be duly reported on next Tuesday:

- strength training/isometrics (core, arms, or legs)
- 3 litres water
- some small garden harvest
- vitamins
- 3 proper, sit-down meals; no more than one snack
- a form of fun exercise: jumping rope, hooping, walking, etc.
- bedtime routine: teeth and face cleaning (no going to sleep with mascara on), lotion, benzyl peroxide, herbal tea, etc.

Jam is lovely. Toast with jam! Scones with jam! Yogurt with jam! I will be drawing a winner for an adorable jar tomorrow, so go here immediately and put your name in the pot.


So. When was the last time I talked about my health? Ah yes, you're right. I've complained about it frequently over the past several months. I feel fat, I feel tired, and round and round we go.

More to the point, when was the last time I put in some sustained effort? Two summers ago I was discovering the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for the first time, and I felt great. Although I'm a lot stronger than I was then, and make a small handful of "good choices" regularly and automatically, I have definitely stopped being as deliberate about eating, sleep, exercise, breathing . . .  My mood has suffered. I've become more difficult to live with. My self-esteem is at quite an ebb. And this post is as relevant as ever.

Throughout this recent era of slackery, I have managed to do some serious thinking. I've read some books, I've watched myself, and I've drawn some conclusions. Number one: I do know how to care for my body; it's just that ninety-percent of the time, I am unwilling to do what needs to be done. Not unable, but, for various reasons, unwilling.

So. What needs to be done? I will get rid of the passive. What do I need to do? Starting now?

~ Drink more water--between three and four litres in total every day.

~ Consume far less sugar. If I've learned anything about what my body wants, it's that it almost never wants sugar. I feel nauseous and lethargic every time.

~ Consume far less everything. I'm becoming convinced that my constant stomach aches are the result of too much food, and that even my most conservative portions over-estimate my hunger levels.

~ Stretch, do isometrics, breath deeply, walk quietly, use lavender lotion, smell the rain--in short, concentrate on all sorts of sensory pleasures.

~ Stop eating breakfast for lunch and supper. Stop eating bread at every meal. Substitute protein and vegetables.

~ Start blogging (again) about struggles, thoughts, progress. This journey is worth my considerable attention, and I suspect I need public accountability.

confiture de rhubarbe (giveaway)

Now that I've canned nineteen jars of jam, it is high time I shared some of it. I'm giving away two jars--would you like one?

I think you would. If you'd like your name to be entered, comment on this post. As usual, posting a link on your own blog or a social media website counts as an additional entry. And I would be thrilled to post internationally! I'll put your names in a hat and draw two winners on Tuesday, July 25.

xx Lizzie

Tell me,

would you be interested in a rhubarb jam giveaway? I promise that the jam is sweet and tart and the colour of a faded carnelian.