July 21, 2014

I finished my first screenplay--well, finished it enough to send it off to someone who knows enough to tell me what to edit first. 

I bought two dress patterns in celebration. (MonetaCoco.)

Laura and I are currently having a little sew-along; both of us are making Emery dresses. As of two weeks ago I have thrown myself on to the dressmaking bandwagon with no hesitation or decorum. 

 I got a new shirt.

I got a new shirt.

I filled out my tuition grant application. 

I trimmed Simpkin's claws. 

I thought about fitness goals and ate with a mind to "making my macros". This fervent intuitive eater is test-running a switch to calculated nutrition. What can I say? Intuitive eating saved my sanity and helped me gain a healthy attitude toward food. Now I want to know that I'm eating in a way that supports the development of a stronger, abler--and yes, more attractive--body. I just want my abs to show up. Today this quest involved a smoothie made with 60 grams of whey powder . . . 

 oregano flowers

oregano flowers

Thinking about fitness made me think about Allison. I suddenly wondered if I'd ever heard her sing. I looked her up on youtube, and promptly had a cry to this song.

I wrote a thank-you note.

I squished all visible worms on my cabbages. I transplanted about 20 chamomile plants from the driveway to the backyard.

I was envious of Glynis's morning project. So quotidian, specific, pertinent, consistent. It's extremely refreshing.

Tim and I are about to watch the last episode of the new Cosmos series. I'm going to try to knit the last couple inches of the second sleeve for this sweater.

 coffee mirror

coffee mirror

 

Good night kids!

Emily


You might remember this sweater that I knit for Justina Smith a couple of years ago in exchange for a painting. Well, a year later we decided it was time to initiate another swap, and this time I had a very specific idea I was hoping she could manifest on a big canvas. I wanted a lively, vibrant portrait of Miss Dickinson, based on the iconic, pinched portrait everyone is familiar with. As Justina and I were emailing cardigan (her) and painting (me) ideas back and forth, we decided on pumpkin-coloured wool and Tim showed me a Dickinson poem I had never seen before. I was so taken with the poem, and the fact that Tim had discovered it, that I immediately asked Justina if she could incorporate it ("and two different blues, please") into the painting. 




And she did, along with some brilliant wallpaper. I like the way the background encroaches, the flowers trailing right over her shoulders, while Emily sits serene and poetic.



Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

Part One: Life

CXXVI
THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
  For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
  With ease, and you beside.
  
The brain is deeper than the sea,        5
  For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
  As sponges, buckets do.
  
The brain is just the weight of God,
  For, lift them, pound for pound,        10
And they will differ, if they do,
  As syllable from sound.




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
bedside
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

Melt:
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.)








On returning to a house you expected not to return to

In January, we moved back into our house instead of moving to Germany. The plan fizzed out in November or December and it was my fault. Everyone here knows almost exactly what went on between the end of summer and Christmas: the drama, the sex, the ugliness between Tim and I that started to affect everyone around us. Forgive me, but I am not prepared to write all of that. Looking back, less than two months later, I already feel that I became unhinged in a completely characteristic, devastating, and embarrassing way; there is a sense of tragic inevitability about everything that went wrong, even as I complained (to everyone), bewildered and raging. I don't know what to say.

I do know that it would be a cop-out for me to write it off as a passing bout of craziness. Since I have been back here, basking in privacy and normalcy, there have been uncomfortable daily doses of self-realization. (Maybe moving to Germany was a way to try and run away. If I've managed to come back to myself, it's been to find a charming house that is falling down.) I have been thinking about my own anxiety, fear, anger, mental health. I've been examining memories of myself and my parents. I have seen patterns emerging in the events of the past 6 or 7 years--ways I have continually sabotaged myself and others, mistakes I keep making, ways I have of thinking about the world as an enemy, ways I have of thinking of my own life as something terrible that happens to me, my life as something I must make up or apologize for. 

I like to call myself a writer, and the stories I like to tell myself are profoundly unhelpful, even damning. 

That sense of tragedy, for instance, is a double-edged sword. Do my own personality, habits, habits of thought cause a set of predictable problems? Yes. Is it productive to view myself as a plane flying futile and unstoppable into a tower? No. Tim and I were talking this morning about family- and self-narratives. It is so important to take on the role of a wise and and wry and hopeful storyteller in relation to your own life. It is so hard to do that. I tend to sing the songs of disappointment, helplessness and thwarted expectations. When I became an atheist, I threw away the convenient (often hopeful, comforting, and stabilizing) narrative of liberal Christianity and cobbling together a replacement has been a discouraging business. (Interestingly: I have realized that the process of reading and writing itself constitutes what comes closest to a religious rite for me, and that literature grounds me the same way that Christianity used to.)

I would like to stop living in a post-modern crisis mode which I recite into existence. I started by trying to deal with the panic attacks--I've mostly stopped having them, and now I am taking L-theanine for anxiety. Every morning, Tim weighs me out a dose on a cute little drug scale and mixes into a shot glass of water. For the first time in five years, I don't feel at all times like a hunted antelope. Other changes are coming. I am writing again, and with any luck, I'll soon be able to share some poetry and at least one short story. I hope to start adding content to my Tumblr project this week. It's good to return. 

vagabonds

We've been gone for five weeks now. We've spent three weeks at Tim's parents', one week with four of Tim's coworkers at the Transcend house, and one week at a seventh floor concrete sanctuary of a condo downtown. We're back there for a few nights. We are living on the back of a community, eating very large crumbs. Remember: We cannot become hermits. I cannot burn bridges. We need other people. They've fed us, taken vegetables off our hands, given us beds, lent us phones, driven us around. They've invited us over for supper and to stay for weeks.We're seeing a lot of our friends. We're seeing much more of the city. It's all practice for Germany, I suppose.

I need surprisingly little. Some of the things I've been hauling around with me: Annalena (my yellow road bike), a cloth tape measure, headphones, brown sugar, steel cut oats, laptop, paper clip stitch markers, four books of poetry (Bertolt Brecht, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Stanley Kunitz), two scarves, two dresses, two hats, two hoodies, two mittens, a foil packet of black tea, a huge ball of wool yarn, a flat of mason jars, a pumice stone.

I've been borrowing books from friends and the library. I've read more than I did over the entire summer. Last night at the condo I canned green tomato salsa after Tim and I biked home and pillaged the tomato plants one last time. It has been suspiciously warm all autumn, but the contractor ferreted my parka away in a storage pod, and I am knitting a cardigan just in case. Simpkin mostly stays with us. He is a courteous, comforting, admirable cat.

In brutal contrast to Simpkin: contractors and insurance adjusters. Can I properly express how much I have grown to despise bureaucracy over this past month? The Circumlocution Office (Little Dorrit) could hardly seem more intent on doing absolutely nothing useful or reasonable.

I should sign off--it's 6:47 am and I need to leave for work. I've been working so much. It's hard. But I think the move is really going to happen. We jumped the gun and bought suitcases, and we apply for visas next week. I'm using some gorgeous free software to study German. Work on the house is supposed to start this week. We have three invitations for Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe we'll be home (for a while) by the end of the month.

one more thing

Our house--the one we haven't been living in for a month, the one the contractors still haven't started working on--got broken into last night. Who knows when we'll go back. Life keeps telling us to leave. This time we actually plan to. For the moment, I keep having to ask for help, and the people around us are wonderful, and help. 

better stars


This picture is making me a bit sad. What a summer.

Last Thursday night, late, it rained harder than I have ever seen it rain. We got a month's worth of rain in half an hour. It sounded like hail; it was only water. Tim and I were having a terrible fight. I sat in our doorway watching it for twenty minutes, then I came inside and went to bed. An unhomely aggressive gurgling got us up in time to see the city sewer begin backing up out of the floor drain in our bathroom. For the first time, I heard Tim swear. "Fuck." Our kitchen floor was swimming almost immediately. We called 311, we called Tim's parents, and I tried to make a dam of bath towels. Tim said, "Do you want to move far away?"

Once the thing that Tim is now calling 'the poo geyser' subsided, and the water started flowing back down the drain, the only thing to do was leave. We left. We spent last week with Tim's parents, who swooped in and rescued us. We've only been back to collect clothes and food, move all of our possessions into the bedroom, slop bleach water around, and rip things up. It feels brutal.

It also feels relieving. We are going to start new. Our plans are only half-formed, but we are planning to go to Germany shortly after Christmas. We will find renters for our hobbit hole. We will pack our things into a huge steel box. We will study the language. We will get Simpkin a cat-passport. We will have an adventure. For now, I've withdrawn from university classes and am working full-time.

Wish us luck.

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

tea and pickles

Drying herbs feels wonderfully crone-like. Some are for tea, some are for salve, some are for gin and olive oil infusions. I'm so glad we're able to do this in the city. 

Jam is not far behind. There's going to be a giveaway--maybe tomorrow.

what's in the garden

blueberry
greenberry
taragon
cherries
concord grape
chives
. . . and cucumbers
tomatoes
zucchini
hot peppers
parsley
dill
lemon thyme
basil
oregano
apple mint
chocolate mint
beets
carrots
potatoes (purple, red, yellow)
sage
rhubarb
pansies
sorrel
chamomile
spinach

I am busy.


it is summer



These shoots came up two months ago in place of the slender, weak-kneed peony stems I bought and planted last year. Now they are big-boned shrubs; they have tens of heads. The green is the oregano that was supposed to be an annual and nevertheless returned.

The garden beds look nothing like this any more. I do not need to crouch down to look for plants--by now they wave around my knees. It is already high, unstoppable summer, somehow only exacerbated by two weeks of rain, and I wonder how we got here.

It's been a difficult start. Life demands that I take myself in hand: if I am to survive and if we are to be happy, I must be stronger and saner than ever before. So Tim and I continue to talk. I've been lifting weights, like I said I wanted to. I've been tallying up the number of  panic attacks I've been having in horror and shame. I am healthier now than I've been in a long time, but now there is much more responsibility and much less allowance for fear, panic, anger, paralysis. I am an adult. I want to be an adult. The great, progressive change this summer is that I am not inventing difficulties out of perverse boredom or self-destructive instinct. These challenges are blessedly real: money, the house, the tenants, Simpkin, the health of my body, mind, marriage. And the solution is simply to work, so I will.

splint


I brought our jalapeno plant home from Superstore already over a foot tall, ensconced in a plastic planter with a built-on cage. It was ten o'clock at night; we'd been running errands all day; I had to work in the morning. In the dark and in my rush to get the pepper and the four new tomatoes into the ground immediately, I snapped the crisp fifteen-dollar main stem on the jalapeno while I was trying to wrestle it out of the plastic pot. I swore. I ran inside for scissors and tape. I scrounged a stake from the pile of scrap wood on the other side of the fence. I made a splint and set the bone.

That was two weeks ago, and the plan is still alive, flowering like all get out. It is amazing how similar all things are. How a plant stem can heal like a femur, while the heart surgeon is essentially a plumber of tiny pipes. How, on their respective ends of the pH scale, baking soda and vinegar apply themselves to issues from the tweaking of lentil curry, to the removal of a stain to the treatment of a mosquito bite, to the fertilization of a plant, to the banishing of pimples, to the removal of mineral residue. How the cooking--the making-edible--of food foreshadows the metabolic process. (How I find plant metaphors almost all-sufficient.)

Hello again


I waited and waited to get some decent pictures before posting; but friends, I felt lonely. Here is the news. It is summer now. I haven't settled into the productive routine I had planned out for myself. I am not used to so many cafe shifts. Days of exertion and too much sun have left my body complaining. My sit bones are bruised from my bicycle, my hands are swollen from digging, my arms are sunburned, my back aches. So far, the potatoes are planted and the beds are dug. Seeds have been purchased. I'm reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. We ordered a lawnmower and bought blueberry bushes to plant under the giant evergreen. I finished my dress and pair of plain socks. Tim and I spent the past two days in Calgary. The verdict on the micro-culture three hours away? Calgary's hipsters are slicker, cleaner, more expensive, and less collegiate. Less like young lumberjacks and fishwives. Calgary's restaurants are disarmingly good. Calgary contains more cyclists, more hills, more flowering trees. Calgary's streets are nonsensically numbered. Astonishingly enough, it's the first time we've been away together. Sitting in unfamiliar parks, bicycling a Google maps route, and walking into cafes where for once we were the ones who weren't sure of the lining-up and table busing procedures, I realized how much I want us to strike out on our own. I want us to make a city our own. I want to make an adventuresome and ambitious start. Did I tell you we are thinking about Germany? 


For now, there is so much work to do.

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.

some ludicrous green shoots

When I brought my birthday roses into the kitchen to salvage what was left, I saw this:

This week has happened in spite of. I had to write a term paper which I didn't want to write, was sure I couldn't write--which seemed so pointless that it seemed a case in point of all the reasons why, beyond this degree, I cannot continue with academic English. There were, though, these roses. And yesterday I bought Tim a peace offering pie and walked to the downtown library to pick up a stack of books I had on hold. I hadn't even reached the automatic check out before I realized that I was juggling no less than five books on emotional eating--and a bakery box. Justina came over in the evening, with beer. I taught her how to knit, carried on about different types of cast ons and the wonder of Ravelry. (I must stop waiting for my life to start, or get good.)