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!

picking things up and putting them down

A print that Liam made for me from a set of photos he shot at the end of last summer. I'm deadlifting 215 pounds. 
It's taken me way too long to get around to the subject of lifting, at least on this blog. If we're friends on facebook, you've probably already noticed me bragging and rhapsodizing--I believe my last related status was "I swear lifting is going to save my life".

Our barbell is set up in the garage. When we finally moved back home after New Year, I was a mess and all I wanted to do was start baking bread and lifting again. I made it out a few times during a false spring in January, but it was April before it warmed up enough for me to get back to any kind of schedule. I don't think I can bear another winter off; luckily, I'm going back to university in September to finish my undergraduate degree and utilize the hell out of my gym privileges.

55 pounds. Overhead press is a bitch. 

The prophetic piece of drywall leaning against the wall in front of the cage.

fancy lifting shoes
I try to go out every other day. I wear shorts or leggings and a t-shirt, canvas shoes or Vibrams. (There was one day in January that I found myself working out in a jersey dress. I went with it.)  I bring a water bottle and sometimes coffee. I unlock the garage, hit the industrial-sized power switch, hard, and squeeze past Tim's bicycle into the half of the garage which does not comprise Tim's workshop, where the barbell keeps the lawnmower and the miscellany company. I put down my drink and my keys and start loading up the bar for deadlifting. I can do all of this even when I can't concentrate on anything else. I can almost always drag myself to the garage and pick up the first plate. Then I'm fine.

garage view

Deadlifting. Always 135 pounds to start. That's the bar with one big plate on each end--it's the lowest weight that puts the bar at a good height to squat behind, grasp, and stand up with. When I started last summer, this was my working weight. Today, if everything goes well, I'll move up through sets of 165, 195, 205, and 215 pounds. And I'll enjoy it--though deadlifting is unquestionably the hardest part, and once I'm done, the other lifts seem less daunting in comparison. Rows: 85 x 5 x 3. Low squats: 85 x 8 x 3. Overhead press: 55 x 5 x 3. Bench press: 65 x 8 x 3.

I have a long way to go (and if I have my way, if I get my hopes up, a very long way to go), but it was with a bit of shock that I realized, late last summer, that I'm pretty good at this. It fits me. I like it. It was with considerably more shock that I realized, yesterday, that at some point I must have rescinded my life-long official superpower wish--invisibility (a classic female)--for strength. I want to be strong. I want to be seen. (That picture that Liam took is my favorite photograph of me, ever.)

plates and tea cup
On the side, I'm working on being able to do pull-ups and chin-ups and handstands. I'm trying to eat properly. I'm biking everywhere and, forgive me, but I have a killer tan. I'm living in a pair of rather short shorts. Oh this summer is delicious.

ETA: Naturally, I have a lifting crush. This is her.


Like Emily, I've spent the past day and a half struggling against my own incapacitated state. Wednesday afternoon, heading home, needing supper right now, I crashed my bike. It's so odd to find oneself crying in a parking lot, a grown adult and it doesn't make a difference. I scraped and bruised my hand badly enough that I've missed two days of work in the cafe--largely two days of work in general, since my hand is swollen, raw, weeping, and swathed in strips of tea towel. I've been able to do very little except read. I'm nearly through Independent People.

Since I was going to be in bed anyway, yesterday seemed like an excellent fast day. I've resumed the intermittent fasting experiment I began two summers ago, combining it with lifting, cycling, mindfulness, L-theanine, and research on stress to try and make further progress on some of the mind/body health issues I've been aware of for some time. The goal is always the same: to be healthy, sane, happy. And wasn't it a severe blood sugar crash that made me unable to keep my balance? Among other things, regular small fasts can help the body learn to self-regulate blood sugar levels. So fasting and resting and nursing my wounds seemed like a good itinerary. But I was miserable all day: exhausted, cold, irritable, unable to concentrate. There was a mountain of work I had to do and I was either unable or unwilling to do any of it. Time was a bitch, sluggishly running away from me. Nothing makes me more angry or more anxious than a "wasted" day.

Today does not seem wildly better. My hand is still swathed. The house is still a mess. I'm eating blueberries and whole milk. I'm reminded of how horrible I felt when I was coming off anti-depressants. I got the flu. I've come such a long way since then. I am so much stronger. I am so much more capable, less embarrassed. Tim wants me to come outside. He says it's beautiful. He's wearing short shorts and a blue t-shirt. He's beautiful. I feel ugly, pale, and reclusive; soft and slimey, a bandaged snail.

I'll go outside though.

ETA: How could I forget how great boredom and restlessness can be for creative output? I spent my entire childhood waiting for something to happen. I never really made anything happen--I didn't know how. I failed a lot. But I also got into this little habit of writing about the fine-grained and torturous in life and boredom and relationships, and it really has served me well.

All to say: two new poems this afternoon and a sketch for a bit of graphic design I'll be needing soon . . . 

on actually writing stuff

Great news, folks.

Simpkin and the drafts

For all of my dubious talk, I have something to show you. After sifting through two years of accumulated drafts and notes, after memorizing one Yeats poem, after starting to fill the first new binder of finished work since 2009, after realizing that, contrary to my whining mantra, I actually never stopped writing, I have one new poem and one new story. 

The story I just finished yesterday. It's my first story since The Crow Suits (does anyone remember that one? I scribbled the first draft when I was 16). It's fact-based. It seems that now I can write about my childhood (what?). It takes place in the very small Saskatchewan town that I lived in from the ages of 4-8, and I'm hoping to add to it with more "episodes" from the same weird era. Do you want to read it? I can't publish it online because it's destined for a contest, but I can (and would love to) email it to you. 

The poem, along with a few older, unpublished pieces, will be up on my Tumblr page tomorrow. 

I'm back again, kiddies. It feels really good. 

Liam's coffee

Every morning that I open the cafe, my friend Liam, who washes dishes in the back and keeps me updated on politics, orders a coffee. It usually looks something like this. Usually, a person will write down some shorthand for their order on the post-it note, but Liam always orders a quad cappuccino and there's no need to remind me of this, morning after morning. Instead, he draws me a comic. 

I've been kicking myself for failing to document more of these; collected, they form an efficient almanac. The very best in music, world events, Edmonton, and pathetic politicians, mixed in with Liam's adventures in cross-country skiing and stand-up comedy. I have never been more aware of my limited knowledge of general goings-on--Liam's post-its are almost always news to me. Liam personally broke the first of the Pussy Riot saga, and has kept me updated on the ongoing embarrassment that is Rob Ford.

 As you can see, at least of few of them have made it into my espresso parameters notebook. 

For his troubles, Liam usually gets a coffee that looks more or less like this:

Ingenuity for muscle memory, which is not exactly a fair trade.

If you'd like to see more extensive examples of Liam's work, he can be found at http://postcardpressinternational.com/

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. 

The Icelandic Phallological Museum

On my second-last day in Reykjavik, I visited the penis museum. It was a strange place, stocked with the phalluses of 93 species preserved in jam jars and glass tanks. There were tanned scrotums on the walls alongside paintings, drawings. And the first thing I saw, right before the whale cock almost as tall as me, was the museum founder's hand-carved, penis-themed dinner set. Indeed.

the director's dinner set

whale penis

a sad (badly preserved?) human penis
a bad carving job

a shockingly beautiful reindeer penis



another whale 

horse penis

the Icelandic handball team

on the wall

uh, yes--scrotum lamps

The God Odin and Gunnlod

seal penis

I have to admit that the silver casts of the silver-medal winning Icelandic handball team were extremely entertaining, though I failed to get pictures of the "troll", "ghost" and "Huldufolk" specimens. Throughout the museum, geeky obsession and enthusiasm mixed so thoroughly with self-mockery that I wasn't sure if it backfired on itself. I wondered how I would feel as a man--if I would feel exploited, ever-so-slightly ridiculed, a bit of a joke. Not that there isn't something inherently funny about genitalia, in general. I just wondered.

Question: Would a vagina or a clitoris museum in this style be considered refreshing or sacrilegious?

The "erotic" material in the museum (a sort of pathetic collection of dildos) was kept under a black cloth, which the viewer was requested to replace after viewing. Another question: why make any attempt to separate the penis as an organ and a cultural reference from . . . sex? (Do you really think I have Art in mind when, in the gift shop, I consider purchasing a beautiful cowhorn "sculpture"?) To take a source of universal fascination, obscene humour, folk reference, and ubiquitous symbolism out of the sexual context in which there is, for many people at least, a genuine appreciation and attraction, is to create an incomplete and condescending representation.

However. It's undeniable that the museum's collection is scientifically valuable and informative; also undeniable that the visitors' guidebook suggests that a sense of humour is essential to enjoying one's visit. And I did enjoy it. Thoughts?

landscape vs. hostel

site of the first Icelandic parliaments

When my bus tour arrived at the geyser site (where I saw Strokkur erupt three times), the tour guide announced that we were there on the first day that the farmers from the surrounding area were, with dubious legal sanction, charging admission. We got out of the bus, and along with everyone else (the contents of several buses) I approached the chilled men and women in waterproof coveralls standing at the roped-off entrance. Their level of organization fascinated me. Tickets, brochures, and wireless debit machines were produced from their fanny packs. Were they that eager, or that resentful? I smiled awkwardly, paid my 700 ISK, made my way along paths beside bubbling pots in the earth, took my pictures.                                 

view from the front door of Kex hostel

hostel kitchen

dorm - I'm the top bunk on the right, by the window


I swam in this water during a blizzard.

The tour guide also told us about the Nobel laureate Halldor Laxness as we passed by his house. I ordered Independent People from amazon that night, because the guide said that, although people had strong opinions on either side of his other novels, few people in Iceland were unfamiliar with, or could dislike, Independent People. I just started it today.

the bevy

This pond in Reykjavik was one of my happiest discoveries. I turned the corner and saw tens of swans, and a little boy petting them. I saw my first proverbially ugly duckling, so scrubby--its neck so wobbly it looked broken.

Those ducks with glowing pink feet!

Those bottlegreen mallards!

Those seagulls and pigeons!

Those curious little black and white birds overseeing it all.

And swans.

Such a community.

Wings everywhere. Flight beginning at my feet as I inched down the ramp, splashed by landings. Curious creatures waddling right up to me. Honking and calling. What kind of mad, innocent, cheerful interactions do I have to compare to this? None.

on being a tourist

I was not an exotic specimen in Iceland. The Middle-Aged Tourists From Florida (forgive me) thought I was a local; the locals thought nothing of me at all. Though tourist season hadn't started yet, with our DSLRs and backpacks, we were everywhere. Almost every morning I saw someone walking along the street with a rolling suitcase, just in from the early flight. 



There was a great deal of construction going on in downtown Reykjavik. Whole new streets of shopping and new hotels. At some point, a bus driver told us that old houses were being knocked down to accommodate more tourists. I was uncomfortable. I was even more uncomfortable when I saw this graffiti next to a new building site:

Eerie, how it seemed all of Iceland had so successfully and completely branded itself. I saw lopapeysur on everyone. Much like cowichans here, a piece of more-or-less traditional clothing morphed into a hipster uniform. But these were the realest hipsters I had ever seen. In the one third-wave coffee shop I visited, they were playing records, changing them regularly. If that shop had been in Edmonton, the record player would have been there, but they would have been playing an iPod, or streaming Songza. All of Iceland seemed tinged with this kind of postmodern mash-up of old with new, new made to seem old and old made to seem new. (I suppose the biggest difference is that, in Canada, there isn't much visible that is traditional or old. Our slow, steady progress has been erasing the past as it goes. It was as if Iceland's sudden leaps forward had cleared large swaths of the old, and left them intact.)

On the one hand, a culture much more visible and entrenched than Canadian culture. Young Icelanders who seemed to have a kind of national pride and identity I've never witnessed in Canada (and certainly not in Edmonton, which people who live here tend to refer to as 'Stabmonton', 'Deadmonton').  On the other hand, a country which built its first paved roads less than 60 years ago and which has since become one of the most modern and progressive countries in the world. 

Hannalisa, a wonderful Icelandic woman I met on my last day, explained the difference between the "old ice cream" and the "new ice cream". The old ice cream was made with milk, was colder, and was more traditional and thus preferred by everyone. The new ice cream was made with cream. I admit that this dichotomy confused me a bit, as both old and new ice cream were forms of soft serve. 

On a whim, I tagged along with a lovely guy from the hostel and attended the university LGBT group's meeting. I asked about surrogacy in Iceland (BC just passed legislation to allow for three or more parents to be listed on a birth certificate, and I was curious about how this issue was being managed in left, progressive Iceland). They told me that, due to worry that women would be exploited for their reproductive capacity, surrogacy wasn't being encouraged. This is the same country that outlawed strip clubs on feminist grounds, that had the world's first openly lebsian prime minister. 

Was it cultural ignorance or observational cherry picking that made me wonder whether there wasn't a certain level of wariness or antagonism between the men and women I saw? I rarely saw couples or mixed groups of Icelanders. I saw intimidating groups of boisterous, fashionable men and intimidating groups of cool, glamorous women. Was it my own position that made me sense the same reserve between men and women as between locals and tourists?

Everything seemed local, a product or a consequence of the place. Iceland the island. There was nearly ubiquitous geothermal heating; there was hardly any produce in the grocery stores. (I saw cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, and two kinds of apples, nothing else.) Everyone was white. My friend from the hostel gave me the locals' version of social life in Reykjavik for a twenty-something: Because the population is so small and interconnected, everyone knows everyone and the dating scene is less of a dating scene and more of a hook-up scene--perhaps to avoid the drama of making and breaking stronger connections. Apparently the weekends were wild, the streets downtown covered with broken glass by the time everyone went home at five or six in the morning. When I went out at 8 in the morning, someone had cleaned it all up. There was lots of graffiti, but no obvious attempts to cover it up or discourage it. I didn't quite understand. 

Hanna gave me a list of Icelandic bands to check out. She also gave me the CD in her car, and this is one of the songs on it: 

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.)

Reykjavik windows

Sunday morning wall planter--with egg

basement suite?
the first of Sunday's domestic windows

Iceland. On Sunday morning, I went for a walk and discovered the windows of downtown Reykjavik. I should have photographed more of them, but I was uncomfortable walking around with my tourist's camera on a strap, staring into people's homes. Good lord, couldn't I afford them any privacy? I fed my conscience some crumbs: They intended these windows to be peered at. In many, many houses and apartments, on the public side of the curtain, appeared little displays. Shop windows with nothing for sale, relics of Amsterdam, a lettuce.

(Why? Why here and not in Edmonton?)


Christmas roofs


above the egg

at the top of a hill, a grass roof

view from the hostel dorm room

my own window

favorite lettuce

I was charmed. In true character, on Sunday morning I was feeling anxious about being in Iceland. I wrote:

I've had a hard time being here. I've felt almost constantly that I am creating an inadequate experience for myself. I've been ashamed of needing to spend so much time alone on my bunk . . .  All useless, and really quite mean. I've seen and done a lot since arriving here, and I've had a Good Time (when not feeling paralyzed by shame, so much so that I couldn't even take photographs). 

When will I learn to be gentler?


view from other dorm window


that way

three old houses downtown

Sunday morning roofs and windows

concrete cathedral

some apartments 
pub window

In retrospect, the Sunday walk was a triumph. I was fretful. I felt lost and lonely. I felt like an imposter. Who was I? Those houses and windows and roofs illustrated so much of what I find beautiful and important to notice and cultivate in everyday life. Colours, lines, signs of people traveling, growing things, retreating home, displaying a chosen face, arranging their worlds. 

More pictures followed, so--more Iceland posts to come. 

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.


Tim and I have become obsessed with the first two seasons of the BBC's Sherlock. When I found a fair isle chart on Ravelry for the motif from Benedict Cumberbatch's wallpaper, I remembered that Tim wanted a sock for his tablet, and cast on immediately.

(Raveled here.)

Remember that this was also a good day

Tim and I finally took off to explore the North Saskatchewan river. We didn't make it past the city limits (I wanted to), but we are planning to go again before it snows. We feel mostly aimless these days, which can be awful and lethal, but also allows for spontaneous adventures, late nights, supper with friends, coffee with friends, frivolous reading.

Our Germany plans are coming together. I feel finished with this place. I'm satisfied to soak up what's left and then leave the rest. 

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