A few weeks ago, Tim held a tiny dovetails class for me and my friend Teng.

After two hours, the three of us had cooperatively produced this corner.

By now I have justified adding woodworking to my list of skills-to-practice. I want to make a box.

Observe the Japanese saw I bought six years ago--the green one--and have used for the first time this summer. 

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.

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

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

concord grape
. . . and cucumbers
hot peppers
lemon thyme
apple mint
chocolate mint
potatoes (purple, red, yellow)

I am busy.

resolutions half a year in

Since half the year has elapsed, I thought I would give myself leave to tamper with these resolutions a little bit. I thought I would take the opportunity to try and look at both my six-months-past and -future selves with kindness and clarity. Resolutions needn't be static. Here we go: 

- learn to make my own happiness (because it is not Tim's job, and because circumstances will not always be peachy)in particular,  1) develop strategies for managing anxiety attacks, 2) take myself on dates

- complete one wearable sewn garment (hello brown paisley dress) 

- master fair isle knitting (in order to make things such as this

- remove makeup every night (this has never, ever been a habit--now that flossing is down, it's time)

- reach goal weight once and for all (140 pounds)--or don't; keep lifting, keep cycling, keep learning to eat

- pay back money owed Tim (so very close); stop spending money that doesn't yet exist

- pay off student loan (not so close)--or don't; make dent in current loan, pay 2013/2014 tuition straight up

- repair book cubes (damaged in the move last spring)

- further improve backyard (especially firepit, but also hope for fruit trees, removal of gravel, chopping of hoary huge evergreen); also enjoy said backyard

- write something (anything) every day (this should be at the top of the list); or just fill two notebooks

- learn more about math and computing (calculus, number theory, Python)--finish A Transition to Advanced Mathematics and the online MIT computing course

- publish in at least one magazine (which means submitting)--acceptance counts too

- give excellent presents (better than last year); in particular, surprise Tim

- apply for at least one "real" job (something outside the service industry, something challenging, something that utilizes my skills)

- properly repair bathroom ceiling and baseboards (and begin to learn about renovating a house)

- play the violin again (Vivaldi's "Winter")

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

- get a tattoo (at last at last)--or don't if the money still doesn't exist

- put more of myself into relationships (especially that relationship with one Tim Put); in particular, 1) be kind, 2) write letters--every week

- use my nice things (and remember that I have many--especially tins of expensive tea)

- make and repair more, and buy better and less (I need a darning egg); in particular, 1)stop buying cheap clothes that need to be replaced every six months, 2) refashion unwearable clothes in closet

journal excerpt: solstice

Ancient people must have understood rate (speed/time) before understanding bald time; time must have been accessed only indirectly as it lurked on the underside of a ratio. Perhaps they determined the summer solstice by counting how many torches it took to get through a night, assuming, however vaguely, that the duration of one torch burning from end to end represented something regular, a measurement. Clearly, they wanted to measure and mark things; aren't the two solstices the occasions for the earliest festivals--perhaps along with planting and harvest?

The summer solstice is so much more conflicted and melancholy than the winter solstice, which demands only desire and hope. Christmas marked the beginning of a long slow increase of light and time. Now the shortening of days begins. We feel we should devour the summer at the same rate at which time devours it. 

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.


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'm afraid the season has already turned. After our one allotted Canadian week of +30 degree temperatures, the days are already a wee bit shorter. The plants are in an obscene rush to put themselves out before time is up.

Tomato plants flop over the sides of their raised bed. Potato plants bloom floridly. Pea plants sprawl, fattening pods before they've done any climbing to speak of. The weeds stop spreading (quite so fast), and just quietly grow taller and taller. We're having a dour, stormy day. It's so dark inside the hobbit hole that I had to go outside this morning to try and photograph the experimental legwarmers. It was raining by 9 am, but luckily the structure that I've been cleverly calling "the laundry roof" protected the laundry.

The miserable-looking avocado plant to the right, the plant we've had for over two years, and started from seed before we were married, was broken (and possibly killed) by our tenants' friends.

Knitting the legwarmers, I've gained some valuable practice working on five needles in the round. When my sock yarn ("peaks ferry") arrives (tomorrow?), I will be ready to attempt a somewhat neat job. I've had several failed attempts at Making Things over the past couple of days--including one this morning. This afternoon I am ignoring everything but The Poetics of Translation. 

(I did have a piece of news that made various sad paper-sewing and -folding catastrophes seem less important: around 11 this morning I received an email from The White Wall Review*. They want to publish "Thirteenth House", a poem I wrote this past winter, in their Fall 2012 issue. So I will have two publications coming out within the next few months. I have to say I'm ridiculously pleased.)

*WWR published "Cat Wants" under the name Patrick Walker-Nelson in 2009. It was my first and only acceptance under a pseudonym. Nice that I've made it in again, under my own name.

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


And now in the garden . . . 

one tiny hot pepper


one tiny tomato






Please excuse a bit of a silence. I find myself easily tired and easily saddened lately. Dissatisfied but not driven. 

rhubarb, dandelions

The dandelion situation is becoming nightmarish. When I consider adulthood and all of its horrors and responsibilities, I do not generally consider weed warfare. Alas, we have had to literally dig ourselves in. Tim spent hours today with a propane torch, combusting seed heads. Tomorrow I have to attempt to break up a patch of lawn for the potatoes. Imagine a writhing nest of vegetal snakes, glued into the soil with grassroots. I'm terrified that the act of hacking them up with a sharp spade will only serve to multiply them. 

(Tim, reading over my shoulder, starts being a broom from the Fantasia Sorcerer's Apprentice.)

Today I avoided the backyard like the plague, only going outside to plant four more tomatoes in a half-barrel Opa brought over. Instead of yanking at fat, morbid tap roots, I made rhubarb jam. 

It was my first attempt at real canning. To my surprise, all nine jars sealed, and remain unexploded on the window sill. Each successive small batch is darker and less sweet than the one before, so that there is a progression from bright clear red jelly to dark amber rhubarb butter. I'm out of jam jars, but there is still at least ten cups of chopped rhubarb in a mixing bowl on the counter, so I think that rhubarb syrup, and a rhubarb pie (with poppy seeds in the crust) are still on the agenda.