Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Crusty Bread recipe of fabulous deliciousness

Mostly because I told a friend I would get this recipe to her but also because I want to share this easy-peasy bread recipe with everyone. All you need is a dutch oven (a metal pot with a lid that goes in the oven) and a taste for fresh baked bread.

Crusty Bread
Requires a dutch oven
Basic recipe
3 ½ cups Bread Flour
1 ½ tsp    Salt
½    tsp     yeast
1 ¾ cups water (cold or room temperature)
¼     cup whole wheat flour (to be used after rising)

1.       In a large bowl combine bread flour, salt and yeast. Add water. With a spatula stir until flour is completely moistened but not necessarily smooth. No kneading required. Cover bowl loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours or overnight. The dough should double at minimum.
2.       Place dutch oven (with lid) in the oven and preheat the oven to 425F. Set the oven timer for 30 minutes.
3.       When 30 minutes is up, scatter the whole wheat flour over the dough, scraping down the sides in order to allow the whole wheat flour to cover the entire dough. Remove pot lid. Drop dough into the hot pot. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
4.       Remove lid and bake for another 30 minutes.
5.       Let cool in pot. When cool, remove any excess flour.  
Whole wheat bread: substitute 1 ½ cups of bread flour with 1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
Walnut bread: add ½ cup chopped walnuts
Rye bread: substitute 1 cup bread flour for 1 cup rye flour. Add 1 tbsp ground flax seed
Raisin bread: Add ½ cup raisins and 1 tsp cinnamon
A handful of sunflower seeds
A handful of pumpkin seeds
¼ cup ground oatmeal
1 tbsp ground flax seed

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Five lies about being a writer

Every famous writer is asked to give advice about how to write. They are asked to reveal their quirky personal writing habits. Their story telling methods are compared as a way to teach people how to write. Some people make a lot of money giving talks telling people the best way to set up their story arc and the top three biggest mistakes new writers make.
Well I'm not famous and no one is paying me to give my opinion but I’m weighing in. I’m going to tell you what I think you need to know to be a good writer. I will start by telling you that what most people think about writing are lies.

1.  Writing is arduous and painful.
Every art form, every creative endeavor comes from a place of desire to make something. There is energy and enthusiasm which motivates a person to create. A person in the depths of depression does not feel compelled to get up and paint a masterpiece. Only a person seized by passion for an idea wants to do that. Though there may be a touch of madness in the passion sometimes, there is still a huge amount of vitality. That’s what makes art – vitality. So if you think about what it is you want to write and you feel depressed, fearful or agonized there is something wrong. Writing should make you feel like something has been accomplished. If it doesn’t, have a look at what is standing in the way of you feeling good about creating.  

2. Only certain people qualify as ‘real writers.’
I’ve fallen prey to this lie myself. This myth is perpetuated by the publishing industry and those who enjoy aggrandizing themselves by comparing their accomplishments to those of others. The industry says that if you are not already published you are not a writer. If you have not been acknowledged by well-known writers you are not a good writer. If you don't write in a certain genre. If you don’t have a degree. If you don’t have a set number of published works. If those works have not grossed a certain amount. Etc, etc, etc. But the truth is if you write, you are a writer. It is as simple as that. Grammar and spelling are pretty handy but honestly, if you can read and write and enjoy writing, you are a writer. Whether or not other people understand or relate to what you write is in no way a qualifier. If you love to write, then write. And don’t stop until you don’t want to write any more. Hopefully that never happens because I personally think everyone should write but I’m probably biased. 

      3. You must write every day.
For some people this works really well. But, like all rules, there are exceptions and for all people some things work for them and others don’t. There is no absolute right way of doing anything in art. In fact breaking the rules is how new art forms are created. A true fool-proof rule to adhere to in this vein would be more along the lines of “Figure out what kind of writing schedule works for you and your life in order to create the most consistently satisfying results.”
Another part of the writing process is not writing. Some people call it brainstorming. It can look like staring out the window. It can involve doodling or going for a walk. But a writer should never forget that this is a very important part of the writing process. Figure out what form of “not writing” helps your process best and make it part of your routine.

4. There is no such thing as writer’s block.
I find this one of the most dehumanizing absolutes of all. There comes a time when every creative person gets into a mental tizz for any number of reasons and they can become paralyzed in their creative process. In writing, people call it writer’s block. Writer’s block simply means you have something going on mentally or emotionally that is halting you from writing with the enjoyment and fluidity that you did before. People who say there is no such thing are trying to say “this halt should not be used as an excuse.” Unfortunately what is heard by people suffering under the strain of not producing the way they want to is “what you’re going through isn’t real.”
While it is true that you shouldn’t let stumbling blocks keep you from achieving your goals, you should also be permitted to acknowledge that you are having a hard time with something. If you do not acknowledge this difficulty you will likely start to beat yourself up about how you are not accomplishing your goals and you begin to feed the dangerous monsters of self-doubt and defeatism. Don’t do it. If you want to call it writer’s block, call it writer’s block. If you want to call it something else, call it something else. But whatever you do, don’t let it beat you. Take the time you need to look at those feelings or thoughts and work them out so that you can get back to the enjoyment of writing again.   

5. You can fail.
This isn’t specifically about writing. It is about putting yourself out there in any way and hoping for a particular result. As a writer, you are probably hoping the manuscript you have slaved over for months and months will be accepted by a publisher and you will see fame and fortune or at the very least get to have a book signing one day. Or your screen play will become a blockbuster movie. Or what have you. In any case you send your precious creative expression out into the world looking for approval.
Many, many times the answer will come back (politely, rudely and with silence) that the people you have approached are not interested. In these moments, especially for writers new to putting themselves out there, it will feel like you have failed to accomplish anything. But this simply isn’t true. Your original goal, if you recall, was to write something. And you did that. You can’t control what others do, say or feel. Whether or not others like what you created is really much less important than you, yourself, feeling that you achieved your goal. So remember, the goal is to write. So write and don’t believe the liars who tell you you can’t.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The first time I got paid for my writing

I have submitted my writing for publication in very random flurries of stamps and envelopes since my early 20’s and this is likely the reason I only got published twice in that decade.

As with many creative types I had a complex and convoluted relationship with getting my writing published which involved thinking it was not good enough, being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of writing to select my submissions from, choosing the right handful of publications (sometimes on a whim, sorry publishers) to submit to, and then sleeping in too late to mail anything off today or not having money for stamps. After my daughter, Morgan, was born the convoluted relationship had diapers, nap times and tantrums added to the roadblocks for why I couldn’t submit for publication today.
But one of my fitful flurries involved submitting a poem to the Descant-Winston Collins prize for Canada’s Best Poem in 2007 and hearing back in the frozen, white heart of the following January.

I was 35 years old and Morgan was two. I was doing translation from home for APTN news as a very unpredictably part-time gig. Morgan’s dad was working long hours getting a fledgling woodworking business off the ground. And we were living a relatively decent life in Montreal.

I got giddy pleasure from being told I had been short listed and left it at that. Even though I was invited to Toronto to watch the winners win I graciously declined and went back to cleaning up toys and reading picture books aloud.  

But the email exchange went on for several days;

“Are you sure you can’t come?”

“No. Have you done a six hour drive with a toddler?”

“We would really like it if you came. You’re actually on the short, short list”

“I suppose if I could afford to ride the train, I would go but I can’t afford the train.”

“Please come. We really, really want you to come. We will pay for the train fare.”

“Oh well, in that case…ok.”

By this time I got the hint that I might actually get to be on the podium, one of the lower steps, where the bronze winner stands or something. Or maybe beside the bronze winner, where I could smile graciously and get my picture taken with the winners.

So I took the train, arriving in Toronto with Morgan in tow, making the whole process of getting to the event at all an epic task that involved snowsuits and diaper bags and strollers, the wheels of which love to gather snow and ice, and snacks and mittens and and and. 

The event was quietly posh. Everyone in eveningwear and lightly holding the stems of their wine glasses as they nibbled the cheese on crackers. I tumble in, rosey-cheeked and breathless with a baby on my hip, the lady from Montreal they had to beg (in fact pay) to show up.

I won honourable mention and was asked to read my poem. I was there solo so I plopped Morgan on the floor in front of the little stage with its solitary mic and kept my eye fixed on her as I read, just to be sure she wouldn’t wonder off. In hind sight, if she had wandered or better yet start to cry, what would I have done? Finish the poem in a rush and dive off stage to retrieve her? Let her crawl under the snack table as I gracefully wrap up the poem? Blurt out “sorry” mid word, dive for the baby and then finish the poem with her again on my hip? I’m not sure. Each option seems very me.

They presented me with a cheque for $250, some flowers and a bottle of champagne. There was also a certificate, which I had forgotten about entirely. I forgot because the only part of the prize that mattered to me was the cheque. Not because I was broke (although it did come in handy that month) and not because I’m greedy. It mattered because it was the first time I got paid for my writing. This prize money symbolized to me that, because I had exchanged my writing for money, I could now legitimately call myself a professional writer.

Two other times since were similar milestones; my first paid published article and when I published my book of poetry. But those are stories for another time.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015


In the summer of 1985 I travelled with my father through parts of Ontario with the, then very new, Cirque du Soleil show. As he was a performer, I was mostly left to my own devices during the shows and I would visit the concession stand people, the cantine, the performers between acts and play with the other children of performers.
I had seen the show a hundred times and knew the music backwards and forwards. When the music would cue that my father was about to perform his back flip on three foot stilts I would drop everything and race into the tent. I would watch him perform his flip every single show. Usually he made it on the first try and sometimes he would stumble and attempt it a second time.
My heart was in my throat once a day and twice on weekends that whole summer as I stood in the dark behind the audience willing him not to get hurt. His stilts would hit the stage with a loud thud, he would expand his arms with a rakish grin and the crowd would erupt with applause. Muffled by the clapping I would breath my sigh of relief, duck out through the tent flap door and go back to my playing.
For me, that is cirque and it always will be.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Official book launch - It's away!

Kreddible Trout and Celia Ste Croix are at last ready to officially launch their book! Saudade is an exploration, through poetry and photography, of the layered and nuanced feelings of love and longing.

A collaboration across provinces, time zones and conflicting schedules can be quite a challenge and this launch is happening later than they had wished. Despite the challenges they plugged on, undeterred, as art and creativity have always been more important to these two than calendars and alarm clocks.

It’s not the first time they have worked together, creatively. In the almost 20 years the two have been friends they have collaborated in the sphere of theatre, poetry and even came close to opening an arts centre together. They are some of each other’s biggest fans, although they would probably argue over who was more talented, always deferring to the other as the more skilled artist.

Please join them in celebrating three firsts: Celia’s first book of poetry, KT’s first book of photography and their first printed collaboration.

There are three formats of the book for people to choose from, each with its own unique appeal. Please visit the book’s page on Blurb to virtually leaf through a selection of pages and purchase the format that pleases you most.

At this time, Celia has copies available through her blog site here which can be signed by the poet. For now, if you want a signed copy by Kreddible Trout you will have to catch him in person in Toronto, between bike commutes, walking his wee dog and auditions.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saudade: a Portuguese word describing deep longing for a person or thing gone or unattainable

There is a place in me,
a pocket big enough for a mouse,
a soft and safe place
that time and law do not touch.
I will meet you there.
We will have to leave a lot behind
to shrink down enough to fit.
We will leave behind
      everything sharp
      everything broken
      everything stolen
We will only carry with us
      the softness of seed fluff
      the roundness of ripe fruit
      the smoothness of river stones.
And in that pocket we will be so naked
not even our skin will separate us.
We will sleep and dream peacefully
Until the world and we ourselves are calm.

Another excerpt from the book Saudade, by Celia Ste Croix and Kreddible Trout
All rights to the above poem and image reserved.