Category Archives for Writing

Harvesting Dandelions

It’s dandelion harvesting time again! Whoo hoo.

Normally, by the time I begin harvesting dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) the flower buds are already on the plants. Not this year. The leaves don’t taste quite so bitter when I pick the plants before the flowers bud, so I’m making a special effort to get them early this year. I’m going on the prowl for these little babies beginning today.

Thinking about the task as a harvest—and actually eating the leaves I pick—makes the task slighter more rewarding than it would be if the idea were simply to make my lawn look nicer. Most years, I begin the task on a rainy day. Again, not this year! Yippee!

The key to enjoying this activity during this time of the year is to have a great recipe.

For some ideas about ways to eat them, consult Euell Gibbons’  1962 book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” The classic would make an ideal mothers’ day gift for a gardening mom. See my link below if you want to order it!

Stalking the Wild AsparagusGibbons recommends six different ways to eat the plant.

  • This year, I’m hoping to finally try Gibbons’ dandelion crown salad and
  • boiled unopened flower heads recipes. I’ve never been able to try them before because they both require a much earlier harvest than I usually manage.
  • Roasted ground roots made into a coffee-like beverage has never appealed to me, because I don’t like coffee much, but I might try it anyway just for the heck of it.
  • I’ve also never bothered either to harvest the roots and peel them to serve boiled or
  • fried as a vegetable and that’s not likely to change, since the plants I harvest are usually too small.
  • I’ve never bothered to gather the bright flowers and make wine either, although that’s also something that appeals to me. We’ll see.

My definite favourite recipe is wilted greens fried with garlic and bacon with a mustard sauce. This was recommended by my PWAC colleague and buddy, Steve Pitt, who posted the recipe on a list serve a few years ago. I’ve revised it slightly, and it still tastes great. It’s also very good if you replace the bacon grease with vegabutter and a whole jar of capers for my vegan friends.

Hope you like it as much as I do.

Wilted Dandelion Salad with Bacon

  • 6 strips bacon—cut into pieces (or a tablespoon of vegebutter and a whole jar of capers if you don’t eat meat)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups dandelion greens, rinsed and dried
  • 3 oz feta cheese
  • ½ cup green olives

Fry the bacon until crisp. Put it into a steel salad bowl.

Pour off extra bacon fat, leaving just enough to cook the greens in.

Pour in the vinegar and heat to scrape the pan.

(Or if you prefer, just heat the pan and add a full tablespoon of vegabutter.)

Add Dijon, honey and olive oil to make a sauce.

Add the greens and cook until they wilt. Toss everything together and serve.

Stalking the Wild Asparagus Book Cover Stalking the Wild Asparagus
Euell Gibbons, John McPhee,
Cooking
Alan C Hood & Company
January 1, 1962
303

An imaginative approach to cooking, offering numerous recipes for main dishes and accompaniments made from wild berries, roots, nuts, and leaves

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Somewhere in the Middle with Michele Burard

Interview

Had a wonderful conversation with Somewhere in the Middle host Michele Burard that was posted Friday night.

Michele’s podcast features conversations with wellness experts, coaches, entrepreneurs, politicians and writers. Her goal is to create a:

 safe place where we can learn and grow together. We discuss a variety of topics, ranging from love to politics to money and business and beyond, because the human experience is wide and varied.”

We spent an hour talking about creative entrepreneurship, spirituality, family history and working hard to profile real people in a way that helps us understand the present.

Michele was born in the deep south so we talked a lot about colonization, democracy and the differences between living in a hot climate and surviving in what Michèle calls the “frozen north.”

Hope you enjoy our conversation.

 

 

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Create Your Best Life with Imagination

Watch this in video

Have you ever created something that you didn’t even think was possible?

You imagined it and then it happened.

For me, my whole life is a little bit like that.

When I first moved to Montreal to become a writer, I had no idea how exactly you create a creative career.

And now it’s 25 years later. I’m married I have two children, but more than anything else I’m a writer.

It’s astonishing to me that my dream came true.

If you had told me when I was a little girl that I’d actually be writing books and writing and being a journalist and doing all the things that I do to make a living, I wouldn’t have believed you.

It was like a dream that lots of us had.

There are entire worlds that get created out of imagination.

It’s not just my life but the entire world around us.

We have Elon Musk actually sending off rockets into space.

We have the device that I’m filming this on is a tiny little thing like which is even smaller than the shoe.

It gets even more amazing.

\When he was a kid, Barack Obama couldn’t imagine being president, nor could Jimmy Carter.

If anyone would have told him when he was a kid that that would have been possible, he wouldn’t have believed it.

Justin Trudeau was a teacher in British Columbia. At that time, I’m sure he didn’t think he would ever be Prime Minister of Canada. It’s so amazing what you can do.

Everybody knows you can create entire worlds out of imagination

Just look at what J.K. Rowling has done with the Harry Potter series. All of us, all of a sudden, can imagine flying broomsticks and playing quidditch.

We can actually imagine two different worlds where some people are magical and the rest of us are just muggles.

And she created that all of her imagination.

It works in nonfiction too

That’s what I really want to talk about today.

I want to encourage you to create out of your imagination the life that you want.

Obviously you can imagine it. And what you imagine isn’t necessarily what’s going to take place, but at least you can create something is different than it would be if you didn’t try imagining something great.

There’s all sorts of books that that make this really clear.

Have you read the Blue Ocean Strategy? This is just an idea and somebody created an entire new way of thinking about business with this just one single idea. Do what’s unexpected.

There’s another book by Norman Doidge called The Brain That Heals Itself. This is something that people never imagined was true. And he discovered it is true.

Look at black holes.

Look at Steven Pinker’s world. His ideas is that we live in a kinder more gentler world.

These were all initially moments of imagination

Then the person who imagined something went out in the world and went to see if they could find evidence for their idea.

And they did.

And then the idea got stronger and then we all imagined it.

The United Nations has just announced that they want the Zero Hunger by 2030 they’ve created a campaign.

They are there.

They want saner agriculture practices. This is something that I think all of us can imagine would be nice. What if everyone woke up with enough food to eat and that it was so nutritious that they didn’t get sick. This is an extraordinary moment of imagination that I hope we can all get behind.

What else can you imagine?

What moments can you think up would be something that we can all get behind.

Every community is based first on a vision that people imagine and then they share

Each person imagines something they share their ideas with others and then you create a joint vision which is just a joint imagination.

There is Dan Sullivan and Peter Diamandis from Exponential Wisdom who talk a lot about extending human lifespan. Peter Diamandis wants to live for seven hundred years. Dan’s a little bit less optimistic; he’s only aiming to live for 156 years.

These are imaginary moments but they’re working on actually making this happen.

Peter Diamandis has created an organization where you can go down and get your genetic background to see if you are going to get sick. Basically it’s like a health organization to work on where you are at now so you can treat anything that might be found before it actually gets worse.

Obviously if you find and treat an illness really you have a better chance of survival.

So I mean this is just the way you look at basic medical treatment. The past looks barbaric now because people imagined better.

Antibiotics didn’t exist. A simple piece of mould had no value until somebody imagined more. Then they did the work.

All good ideas start with imagination and then they take work to accomplish. And that’s the hard part. But you have to begin by actually imagining something that’s amazing.

I think that the world of nonfiction is built on proving that what we imagine is true.

I’d love to hear how your using your imagination to create a better life for yourself and just let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

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How do you write a press release?

Press releases are not news.

The best press releases read like invitations for a news story rather than the news story itself. They include enough information that can be used “as is” for a short news brief and yet also hint at bigger features.

Remember that bloggers, journalists and other influencers are creators. Keep it simple so that the people using your press release have room to make the story their own.”

Some companies use press releases and blog posts interchangeably, but I recommend keeping the two types of communication separate.

Every press release contains 10 elements

To make it easy on a journalist, make sure that every press release contains 10 elements:

the traditional

  • who,
  • what,
  • when,
  • where, and
  • why, that any news story contains

plus:

  • at least one good quote,
  • a contact person for the journalist to talk to if they need more information,
  • a date for publication,
  • good audiovisuals and
  • a clear delineation between public information and private information for the journalist to use.

Public and Private Portions

Press releases include two parts: a public portion and a private portion. The public portion can and should be used as a news brief. The private portion includes information that helps build a relationship with the author of the press release and the news media, bloggers or other influencers. Press releases that provide enough information for creators to do a bigger story build trust.

Unlike all other written material, writers of press releases want the public portion of their press releases to be copied as is. These items are the single exception to the plagiarism rule. They enter the public domain immediately.

Publishing the private portions of press releases, however, breaks trust. Journalists who release stories before an embargo time, or publish the names of media contacts to the general public won’t get access to press releases in future.

Who

Who are you and why should a journalist believe you? Who does the news your press release features affect?

These are the two who elements that go into the private and public portions of press releases.

Who are you and why should a journalist believe you?

Press releases must clearly come from a credible source.

Business letterhead from a registered company helps make this clear, especially if it includes a public address, public websites, director names and public registration numbers so a journalist can check who runs the company, who owns the property it uses and other such tests of credibility.

Creators, solopreneurs and students without business letterhead can establish credibility by linking to published work or providing a CV or resume for further information.

Who does your news affect?

The public title or first line of a news release should make it clear whether the news affects a single person, a collective or a group of people in the wider public.

Later in the press release, you’ll outline who else is involved in your story. If you quote others, provide clear source information so that a journalist can follow up easily. Consider a joint press release to save journalists time.

Make sure that your press release format doesn’t raise more questions than it answers.

What

Why should the public care about your news?

Make sure your press release makes the public interest clear.

Journalists serve the public interest first. They’re looking to inform, entertain and inspire readers. They don’t aim to improve shareholder value; they don’t want to help private companies sell products; and they don’t want to start trends, even if that sometimes happens. Think of news as accurate gossip. Describe your story the same way you’d tell it to your next door neighbour.

When

Make sure the date and time of your news is extremely clear. Include the year please. Press releases have a sneaky habit of reappearing after they’re stale.

If your news covers multiple times and dates, it’s worth including a full list. We all make mistakes with dates and times. Check the calendar twice.

Where

List the full address with rooms and directions as necessary.

Yes, these days many of us have smart phones, but our applications don’t always steer us properly. The CBC building in Montreal, for example, has an official address of 1400 Boulevard René-Lévesque East. If you’re driving there, however, using the address 1058 Rue Wolfe instead will prevent you from getting lost.

Why

Why is your news important now? Where is the urgent need to inform the public? Why should people think about this issue now? The media cover the present. You can write a press release about something in the past or future as long as you clearly identify why people need to learn about it now.

Quotes

Include one or many good quotes from experts to show the human side of your news. Ideally, you’ll quote the person who cares most so that the public will also care.

Journalist Contact

Provide an email, text and mobile phone number for a person that a journalist can interview about the story. They’re on deadline. Make sure that someone can be reached.

Date for publication

Journalists love to know about stories before they can be made public. Tell them the date that they can publish by saying something like: “for immediate release” or “embargoed until 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 4, 2019.”

Good Audiovisuals

Provide high definition photos, audio or videos via link to an online folder or using a USB key.

Public/Private Delineation

Make sure your press release separates the public portion from the private portion clearly. I use the old-fashioned  -30- from the telegraph days, but others use hash tags or a private note.

Sample Press Releases

I love Blue Met’s press releases. They’re never more than a page and they include everything you need without too much. Most of them aren’t public, but here’s one that’s on their website about the appointment of their board chair.

Santropol Roulant, a local non-profit, has wonderfully-clear press releases. See the one about their new elevator here.

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Health also produces very clear press releases, something that’s got to be a challenge considering how many partners they have. Check out their latest local champion award winners here.

Public companies have to be very careful to make sure that their press releases fulfill public market regulations as well as informing people. CP Rail makes the most complicated news easy to read. Check out their latest debt offering.

Templates

I think press releases are better when you just answer the questions above clearly, but many templates for news releases exist, including those by CanadaOne, Coschedule, Forbes, Hubspot, and  Wikihow.

 

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La Cadie before Evangeline

Ten generations before I was born, and for at least three generations before that, my French-speaking ancestors settled in Port Royal on the Annapolis River.

They probably arrived as colonizers in 1603. That’s when France’s King Henri IV set up “La Cadie” between the 40th and 46th parallels south of the Saint Lawrence River. For a good idea of how they lived, visit the Port-Royal National Historic Site.

Just before, or just after, the birth of François Allard III, his parents left the region for Quebec.

I imagine they refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch.

For at least three generations, French settlers like them fought with local Mi’kmaq people against British settlers in New England. Throughout the years, many cross-border conflicts and trade ship privateering occurred. The worse early incident led to Port Royal’s destruction by fire in 1613. It was rebuilt and skirmishes continued for a century, with the French and Mi’kmaq remaining strong.

Siege of Port Royal

The siege of Port Royal in 1710 marked the beginning of the end of French dominance in the region.

On October 5, 1,880 British and New England soldiers arrived at Goat Island just south of Port Royal in five warships with accompanying transport and bomb galleys. First, they blockaded supplies, food and water from getting into the town. Then they began moving men and equipment into the Annapolis River to get ready to attack the fort. One transport capsized killing 23 men. After that, they moved more carefully, landing safely.

Canons attacked the fort for a week. By the end of the day on October 12, the French gave up. The terms of surrender were signed the following day.

According to the University of Moncton researcher N.E.C. Griffiths, surrender terms said:

that the Inhabitants within Cannon shot of the Fort of Port Royal, shall remain upon their estates, with their Corn, Cattle and Furniture, During two years in case they are not Desirous to go before, they taking the Oaths of Allegiance & Fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain.” [1]

Over the next three years, Port Royal became Annapolis Royal and La Cadie became Nova Scotia. Sometime during this period, my family shed their maritime roots for landlubber status.

1714 Acadian Census

The 1714 Acadian Census shows a family headed by François Allard living in Port Royal with his wife, one son and two daughters. If these are my ancestors, François was either a second son who came later or his birthdate is wrong.

More likely this was a different family.

According to my grandmother’s records, my nine times great grandfather Jean-Baptiste Allard and his wife Anne Elisabeth Pageau had François III on February 3, 1719.

It’s hard to figure out why her records show him as the third person to hold the name “François” with his father clearly identified as Jean Baptiste. She does show his grandfather as Jean François but his great grandfather’s name was Jacques. He doesn’t get it from the other side for sure. The men in Anne Elisabeth’s family were Thomases going back at least two generations.

When did they move to Quebec?

My grandmother’s notes show François III’s birthplace as Port Royal, although I found a family tree online that shows a man with the same name born to parents with the same names in Charlesbourg, Quebec.[2]

Either way, by the time François III got married in November 1741, he and his wife Barbe Louise Bergevin definitely lived in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Their daughter, Marie Louise Allard, would be born on November 3, 1742, at Notre Dame de Quebec. Any links to the shores of the Annapolis River were lost forever.

Meanwhile, Acadians in Nova Scotia refused to swear allegiance to the Queen of Britain. Wars continued in the region until 1758. The expulsion of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until the British Conquest, led to Longfellow’s famous poem about Evangeline and Gabriel.

By then, my ancestors were well-established in Quebec.

We have none of the deported Acadians in the family; only people who originally settled La Cadie.

[1] Griffiths, N.E.S. (2005). From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755, ISBN 978-0-7735-2699-0. University of Moncton, McGill-Queen’s University Press. p235.

[2] https://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/GenealogieQuebec.aspx?genealogie=Allard_Francois&pid=70804

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