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Which direction?

When I finally came here to France in March I came with a baggage of old business ventures, ideas, some creative like writing – eight stories in draft and a huge A4 file packed with notes and ideas to complete them – and illustrating the stories too – I hadn’t picked up a paint brush for over twenty years and the white sheet of paper is daunting.
Blogging was new and I had neglected it as I wasn’t sure what I had to write would interest anyone. I don’t know if it happens to other bloggers, but when I comment, I seem to write what I want to say, but when I blog, I feel too formal, like I have my old Scottish be-spectacled English teacher is waiting with her red pen to correct me – I feel a little tight and find it hard to relax.
Over the last few months I have tried to blog on a regular basis and am enjoying it and adding in the photos too. But this week the financial crisis has hit and once again I have to put time and effort into resurrecting my old accountancy work, something I really am not happy about – but the bills need paying.
So I need to try and free up, blog in a more shorter, freer way or even just photos some days and juggle this earnings work with my creative work – which is looking as if it could fall by the wayside if I don’t muster some energy and stop telling myself I am failing again to move on with my dream. My husband says the account work should be seen as a supporting mechanism for my other work. I just feel stressed and want to cry and feel sorry for myself.
I am going to London mid-December for a month. I wasn’t homesick, but I miss London and knowing I will not be returning for a couple of years, I wanted one last red bus ride, one last peer at Selfridges Christmas windows and one more delicious takeaway curry from Whole Foods in Kensington High Street. [The shop is a great mix of food to buy and food to eat and has a real buzz of people enjoying the gastronomic]. Whilst there I will have to drum up some client work and hopefully when I return to France it will cover the outgoings.
Maybe it’s the November cold weather hitting me, or the lack of a comfortable home is starting to bite home [it will be another year before we can actually sit in an armchair and cook in a proper kitchen]. I am writing this snuggled next to our wood burner [saviour in this cold], and stopped for a moment, mid tax-return filing, to blog my thoughts as it helps. Apologies for humour failure in this post, its lacking a bit this week.
What I want to say is thank you for reading my blog and giving encouragement. I really want to continue to write and develop this into something worth reading. I know its early days and sometimes nothing much happens in life worth reporting, but I want to stick at it.
One good thing though this week – gluten free tea-bread. It tastes delicious. I was wondering if I should develop this project. Over the last five years, after finding gluten affected my thyroid, I started making my own bread, biscuits and cakes. The shop one were awful, tasteless, like eating cardboard and so full of salt and sugar. I would love to write a book of recipes one day – one that didn’t list tomato soup as gluten free [well obviously it’s gluten free – it’s a tomato] or made a cake that needed enough baking powder to make it rise, well like, a rocket ship.
So I may start posting some recipes. I don’t want to make this a cookery blog, but once that kitchen is ready I will be doing a lot of cooking, food photography and the gluten recipes can be developed and added.
So the direction of this blog hasn’t quite been resolved yet. Maybe the visit to London will give me some breathing space and I will get clarity. One thing for sure, I have to try and get out more. Just down the road from us at Lussat, not far from a huge lake, is a lovely outdoor wine bar. In Summer it is heaven, to spend a few hours with a glass or two of local wine and a note book to jot down thoughts. Its run by a Dutch couple and they have rooms too for guests and tents to go glamping. The renovation work was getting me down a bit and it was good to socialize.

Judi Castille Lussat Resturant CafeJudi Castille Lussat resturant
Well its getting dark here . I better see what Tony is doing and will put the kettle on. My shoulders are very tense and I need to do more tax returns.

 
Here is the recipe for the tea bread

Judi Castille Gluten free tea bread.jpg
250 grams of gluten free flour – I use Doves Farm – potato, rice and tapioca mix – but see what your local store has. The three flours have different qualities and this cake will not work with just rice flour. In France it is hard to find anything mixed like this, so on-line might be the best solution to source gluten free flours.
25 grams of coconut flour for sweetness – optional – I just had this in the pantry
Half a teaspoon of baking soda – for a little lift
2 large eggs – helps with texture
Pinch salt
One tablespoon of fruit jam – I used apricot
Half a mug of cold tea – with milk
One tablespoon brown sugar
A good handful of fruit – sultana, dates, prunes – de-stoned and chopped
You can also add nuts if you wish, or orange peel, whatever you fancy.
Everything into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add milk [full of semi-skimmed] until the mix drops easily off the spoon. Beat well to get air into the mix. It shouldn’t be runny like batter, nor so thick you have to push the mix off the spoon. Spread into large grease-proof papered and buttered tray and into pre-heated oven – gas mark 3 or 220 degrees. I baked mine for just 20 minutes till a cocktail stick prodded into the cake, came out clean.
Cool and eat. I like mine with prune jam on top.
The cake won’t rise much, but that’s not what you’re aiming for. In gluten cooking you want taste and texture. Height just is not a priority. If you want to make it into a cake, simply make two and layer with jam, or cream, and drizzle the top with a fruit icing. Or as here – put into paper cases to make individual buns. These had apple pieces instead of prunes.

Apple spice buns with pine syrup glaze
Time for tea!

16 thoughts on “Which direction?

  1. Yummy photos and recipe. And sympathy re the longings to be creative and the relentless need to earn money. No easy answers but good luck with it all.

  2. I think there must be a touch of Autumn/winter blues in the air. I have been struggling with my health since falling downstairs last october and am so frustrated that im taking so long to fully recover. Having a particularly bad day today. Blogging has helped take me out of myself a little if only for a while. I have loved reading your bloggs and admiring your photos and courage to attempt a different way of life but it must be pretty tough at times. Thankyou for encouraging me at the beginning. Maybe a little break away will help .

    1. I bet that was a real shock! Did you break any bones? Funnily that was why I wrote this today. Felt a little low and look now you have replied and we are chatting – so anytime – just say hello if you want. I think you should continue to write. What I like about your blog and some of the others I follow, is the everyday things and it IS interesting. Ok its lovely to have a core blog purpose, but I think that takes time – so for now we should all ramble on. Yes it is getting a bit tough here – money my biggest stress, but I need to think about the good things too and there are lots of those. Our headspace just sometimes gets the better of us on cold wintry days.

      1. Ah thankyou. It was a shock. Although they didnt say at the time, my doctor said i probably broke a rib which would have healed in about 6 to 8 weeks but i also got whiplash and soft tissue bruising around the rib area which has caused the most awful continuous back pain. I am now able to wash and straighten my hair without crumbling into a heap and daily chores are gradually becoming easier. Building up my energy again is still a process. I have had to keep thinking of the positives in life to keep me going but your right sometimes it all gets a bit much and we have to let it out somewhere. Heres to rambling!!

      2. Wow that was a fall and they cant really plaster you back in place like a broken arm. Day by day and keeping busy. And yes sometimes its ok to feel sorry for yourself.

  3. Read what you just posted. For people like me who have my my living — a reasonably good one — doing what amounts to one thing for over 40 years, it’s easy to see and understand the problem. Same with my musical miss, as I call her. She juggles no more than two projects at one time.

    You are all over the place. Focus on one thing and do it. Until it is done and complete. While you are doing that, all the rest is just noise. You’ll be amazed at how much really gets done. And, what you’ll learn along the way.

    BTW, Whole Foods is an American chain which we call “whole paycheck.” Way overpriced for what amounts to “the scene.” Now, it’s owned by Amazon. The prices went down. Then they went up even higher.

    Good luck.

    1. I agree. I procrastinate then rush about doing too many projects. I would like to concentrate on writing mainly with photo work as part of the illustration process. The account work has to be continued though as I need to pay bills.

      It will be interesting to see what’s happened at Whole Foods. Obviously in Kensington the clientele have a lot of disposable income, but even so if the prices go too high, they will go elsewhere.

      1. Since I also manage my musical miss I have a good idea of what to suggest. It’s not procrastination, it’s that you have a lot of ideas. Some good. Some not so good. You have winnow them down because there are of steps to learn and to do in making an idea happen. The question is what do you want to write about? Once you figure that out, then you have to learn everything about the subject, learn how to photograph it, find an editor for both (nobody really can or should do it alone), figure out marketing and plan a campaign. Even then, most printed books don’t sell without a huge promotional lift… just like music, I’m sorry to say.

        We live in The Garden District of New Orleans, which I guess is like Kensington. The only reason we go to Whole Foods is for emergencies. We have too much of a blue collar sensibility to spend $100 on $60 worth of groceries.

        As far as accounting… you gotta pay the bills. Do it. And turn your mind off to it afterwards.

    1. I mean you go into a book shop to gluten free section and its all hugely rich cakes, or all these foods that just wouldn’t contain wheat/other gluten anyway. Padding and “on the gluten band-wagon” to be honest. Must not get me started.

  4. Ray, your right. My husband and me had a long discussion yesterday and although I am aware its not an easy route, I do love the writing, especially children’s books and illustration/photo work. I also love writing about food and food photography [even though the market is saturated]..but cheese is my thing. I spent a good two years researching the writing market, and have two short stories to send. I understand self-publishing and all its negatives too. I also know that the publishing industry is very rigid and can place a lot of restrictions on creativity – so going it alone, especially as we have social media now, would be an option – but agreed having an editor will make the whole process far easier. The market is saturated with would-be writers, I spent last winter reading over 200 children’s stories – the library thought I was a bit odd perched on the little chairs amongst the five year olds!! But I learned a lot. and one of those was the repetitiveness of ideas and the re-doing of original stories.

    The UK market is very restrictive with layout, page quantity etc. The French have a far more creative approach and their books are individual and often beautiful things, tactile and a joy just to handle and look at. I am even thinking of looking at a French editor and translating my work as the children’s market here has a flair and enthusiasm that is not prevalent in UK.

    The accounting I can do with my eyes closed and have over 25 years experience. My aim is to do writing on that too. Its a waste to just close the lid on all my experience. Ideally I would write and not have to take on client work at all. It can be lucrative with download work and short publications. Our tax in Uk is very flexible and planning heaven. In France and rest of Europe it is rigid as hell. Not for nothing the UK write a lot of the tax law and have fun off shore with all the money made!

    So writing is the preference with photos to support the articles. I love landscape and floral photography, but again that means some travelling and there is a lot of competition – but nothing to stop me setting up an image library and making it available. My husband is already setting up a gallery for his graphic work, so a lot of my images can go onto there.

    I have the space now to turn my hand to whatever I want, so no restrictions on where to work.

    But one thing is for sure and your correct – one main targeting job – and no kidding myself you can perfect that on just an hour a week. Thanks for being straight talking – it helps tonnes.

  5. I agree with the comments that point to you trying to do FAR too much. We all have to keep the wolves from the door though if you believed some of the bloggers that I know you like and comment on, they have perfect lives with never a moment of self-doubt or a cloud in the sky. In terms of blogging, you need to understand WHY you are doing it. Is it just of you? Or are you hoping to monetize your efforts at some level? i would suggest you bin any notion of ever selling a book or a cake or a picture or a bench made of reclaimed wood. The first driver must always be to express yourself and if you make money from it, all the better. I would suggest that you need to focus on the boring old accountancy because that will bring in money to help finish your home. Next winter, if you have gotten to the point where you really are cozy and warm and cooking and relaxing and enjoying your life there then is the time to turn to recipes (beware the gluten free … there are oodles of books and some extremely good ones since gluten-free became Gwynnified and the market, I suspect is close to saturation and certainly the competition extremely unkind). Your day job is one stream and your creativity will flow if you take the stinging worry of finances out of your daily equation and focus on one thing. Is it writing? Illustrating? Photography? Cookery? Making products out of natural dies? Sewing? You need to decide which you are going to focus on and it may be that while you do that, something else will nip in and take centre state un-noticed. It may be dull but we all have dull, believe me – even those that don’t own up to it. To my mind, the most compelling story you have to tell on this blog is your renovation so perhaps spend time in London going back to the very beginning and retelling it. Don’t jump about. I do, by the way, but I am not selling anything – I write commercially under a totally different (and un-traceable) name and don’t sell my actual work via my blog. That is my choice but I made it in the clear understanding that trying to market via a blog is the road to bitter disappointment. In the end, if a book is good enough a publisher WILL pick it up. An agent will be excited by it. The problem now is that everyone thinks they are a writer. And some are. Most of all, be authentic. By that I mean, just be you. And if you want a blog-diary then fine. If you want a cookery blog, fine. But pick what turns you on. I have been in absentia from writing since the end of September in blog terms and I still have people visiting and commenting. The key to that is that I am just me. Not who I think I am and not who I particularly want to be, but me. And when I do write, my voice is mine like it or lump it. The best advice I can give you is to stop trying so hard (this was the last thing my father said about me before he died ‘I wish she would stop trying so hard’ … generally I have failed to come through but when I do stop trying and just allow life to ‘be’ it’s amazing how it flows. And understand that you are a very talented and lovely woman. Autumn is the time that the sap falls, we go into a totally different mode. It has rained incessantly here in Grenoble for over a week and when I went to Cantal for three days last Thursday it rained incessantly there too. That in itself is depressing. The cold is creeping and invasive. Go back to London, enjoy Whole Foods and the city that is like no other, the vibrancy and the buzz and the energy it gives off. Forget France for a month and take a slug of your old life. Imbibe it well and when you get back to France be prepared that Spring can take a while some years …. I have known it as early as February and as late as May in Cantal and you are further North in Creuse. So be prepared, and when you get back armed with a clutch of client business focus on that with gusto and let the rest follow. I send you bon courage and fortitude from Grenoble 😊 xx

    1. I agree with you whole heartedly. I haven’t really talked much about the renovation work and it is to be told, so that was to be my next “lets get back to basics on the blog”. It is actually a huge issue now saturation – with so much on line free to do. But I had the same feeling when I set up in accountancy many years ago. There were over a thousand just in my Maidstone area, but I got a slice and made money. I just couldn’t take notice of all the competition. If I had to choose my first passion it is writing and illustrating. I know I wont make a lot of money – but I actually don’t need a lot after finishing the barn – I want to do what I enjoy and working long hours to make a lot of money isn’t one of them – done that. No I don’t want a cookery, or travel blog. The blog was actually more a diary for me and I don’t think I will ever monetize it. If I go further in the writing, then that will be another blog targeted. My accountancy blog will target its market – but not Judi Castille. That’s just me and what I am doing, but maybe a little more focused.
      We had a taste of the unkindness of the food industry over the last few years and especially not welcome from people who know what its like to bring new products to the market – short memories. I also know publishers don’t practise what they preach and can be very unkind. All I know is the accounting work has to finish the barn, but beyond that, I have had enough of it and it costs money to run an accountancy business unless you just want to be a book-keeper all day.
      I have been painting most evenings now it is dark and enjoying it. So London is set to be a bit of a break, to refocus on the accounting and then take the pressure of the other projects. All I know is though you have to give things a try, not give up and keep practising. Even writing a few articles this year has focused me to be a little more disciplined with my reading, research and photo work. It is cold here now. lots of rain. Bu we are being a bit mad today and cutting huge hole in our Little House floor to let the heat come into the upper floor. Seemed silly I was in a T-shirt downstairs and paying for a gas canister upstairs. So out with the saw today. Plus Tony can pass me a cup of tea through the floor!!
      Your other life sounds sensible to me. Social media still makes me feel a little vulnerable. If you ever fancy chatting off-line, my email is : judi@lateoffice.com

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