A Time and a Plate, my favourite podcast

A year ago, I changed my phone to a smartphone, and it made me discover the wonderful world of podcasts. I must have lived under a rock because I really wasn’t familiar with these. Basically, a podcast is a self-produced radio show. Individuals can create them and share them online. Official radio stations also share some of their shows this way, which means that you can carry your favourite shows on demand in your pocket for free. That’s great! I’ve been listening to a variety of podcasts because it makes commuting and waiting in line a lot more interesting: I learn and think about different topics, and so I don’t feel like I’m losing my time. The following podcast is my current favourite, and is perfect for anyone who loves food.

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Go check out the Kitchy Kitchen!

A few months ago, Claire Thomas from the amazing blog The Kitchy Kitchen, launched a podcast: A Time and a Plate. This podcast focusses on the history of food. Now that’s interesting! Each episode zooms in on a particular food and goes over its history and journey to where it is now.

What I love most about this podcast is that it is full with very interesting and sourced content. Claire must do a ton of research for each episode! She mentions all her sources and books that she has read in preparation for the podcast. I love this because it gives me great book recommendations. It’s so great to listen to her show because it is so informative. I learn something each time which makes me feel like I’m not losing my time, and I love that. It’s quite incredible to learn about how our relationship with certain foods have changed over time and to know where they come from. I particularly loved her podcasts on spices and noodles because it follows the Silk Road and Marco Pollo; it made these foods even more exciting.

The podcast is also incredibly well made with music that goes with the stories that Claire shares. The sound quality is great and her voice is perfect for story telling. This makes for a very comfortable listen where you can create pictures of stories that she shares.

Finally, each episode features an interview with a current chef, baker or food creator. I love how this part of the show ties the past with the present food trends. It’s also very interesting to see how people are reinventing classic foods.  And it adds places to go visit to my bucket list!

I really hope you’ll give this podcast a try because it really is great! Take a few minutes (or hours) to check out Claire Thomas’ amazing blog too! Let me know what your favourite podcasts are!

 

Watercolours and Calligraphy, an ode to discovering new passions

In the last few months, I really tried to simplify my life in ways that would help me tend to people and things that matter to me, while still finding a balance between my work life and my home life. The last few years were really intense, and I found myself being unhappy and without time to spend with my family and friends or to take care of myself, let alone cultivate a passion. So, after organizing my priorities, cutting on unnecessary spendings and thinking about what ultimately mattered, I realized that I had a lot more time than I thought I had which, consequently, gave me time to spend on things that interest and motivate me. Two of those things are watercolour painting and calligraphy.

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What I like most about these two pastimes is that they are quite cheap to do and have endless possibilities. Right now I’m working on flower wreaths and quotes. I have to say there is something particularly soothing about putting pen to paper and just creating. I love the level of concentration that is needed with calligraphy: think about something else, and you are sure to forget a letter or write the wrong word! On the other hand, watercolour painting is so soft and relaxing: mixing colours and playing with water techniques is quite magical. Plus, it’s probably the most forgiving painting style, which is great when you are beginning.

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I also really enjoy creating cards and special posters for the people around me and my own living space. I love how customizable this makes home decor and how versatile it is as well. I’m currently exploring the option of writing on beautiful rocks that I found while on walks. I’ll show you the results!

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Because you never know where a passion can lead you, I decided to create my very own Etsy shop, My Lighthearted Papers,  where I list different calligraphy and watercolor samples. I would love to create wedding paper accessories or personalized posters for people to add a touch of colour and poetry to their living spaces. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have a special something in mind!

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I really hope you will take time to cultivate a passion of your own, and keep practising and sharing it. Having something that is entirely yours is so gratifying and nourishing!

Preserving Garlic

A few days ago, we raided out our vegetable patch that we had in Montreal and came home with a ton of garlic. Now, because we have been so busy during the summer, we actually let our garlic in the soil for too long, meaning that it did not have those protective paper-like layers around that makes preserving garlic so simple. Our garlic was extra fresh and beautiful, and we really didn’t want it to go to waste.

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So, I made some garlic paste! This has come in so handy already because it means that whenever I need some garlic, I have some already minced perfectly and ready to be used. Great! It was also so easy to prepare and to store, that I’m thinking of doing this with my future garlic purchase… if I ever need to buy some garlic again. Seriously, growing garlic is super simple and so rewarding! For every clove that you plant, you will pull ou 5 or 6 new cloves! How generous and exciting! We planted around 15 cloves and ended up with a 100 garlic cloves. That’s garlic for you!

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Anyways, here is the basic process of making garlic paste.

For around 10 heads of garlic, you will need 1 cup of olive oil:

  1. Peel and wash each garlic clove. Place them in your food processor with 1 cup of olive oil.
  2. Process until you have a smooth paste. If you prefer to have minced garlic, just process the garlic for a shorter time.
  3. Place in clean masson jars, ice cube trays or freezer-friendly container of your choice. Fill up your container leaving some space for some extra olive oil to cover the top. Close the lids tightly and place in your freezer!

Now, because there is olive oil, this should stay soft enough for you to scoop out a few teaspoon at a time. When cooking, consider that one teaspoon makes for about 1 garlic clove. You don’t need to add any olive oil to your pan as it’s already there. I’m really enjoying having this on hand, and so I really recommend you to try it out! Let me know what you are preserving for the winter!

Big Magic, a book review

A long time ago, I bought Eat, Pray, Love for my mom as a birthday present. That was a complete fail because she hated it. She thought the narrator was patronizing and silly. Oh well, that book ended up on my bookshelf, and I enjoyed it. We recently watched the movie, and it was good too. So when I went to the library and spotted Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I brought it home.

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This book focusses on creativity, inspiration and on how to include creativity in our lives. Great topic! I feel like often people are drawn to do things but will find themselves excuses not to go for it and will end up regretting it or not doing anything. Well, this book is the perfect cure for this “I want to, but I won’t” state of mind. Through short, funny and personal chapters, Gilbert explores the different ways in which creativity can be part of our lives and how we can let it be part of our lives.

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I have to say, I really preferred this book to Eat, Pray, Love because it feels more honest and more relatable to me. I really love that Gilbert uses personal examples from her path as a writer because it demystifies the whole thing while also bringing creativity to an everyday level. This is the perfect push in the back for anyone who has a project in mind but feels insecure or not qualified enough to embark on the “let’s do it” boat. Very inspiring and fun to read, this is a book to keep on your bedside table and to look at when you’re feeling uninspired. As the chapters are so short and independent, I feel like you could pick the book up, read a few pages, get creative and come back to it some time after for another shot of courage and inspiration. I will definitively put this one on my “To Find” list as I need to bring this copy back to the library soon.

Anyone else read this? What did you think of it?

Urban Agriculture Summer School

Last week, I had the chance to participate to ‘L’école d’été d’agriculture urbaine‘ that is organized every year by the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), the most rebellious of Montreal’s universities. If you are interested in gardening, changing the world, growing your own mushrooms, or taking care of bees, this week is perfect for you. For an entire week, you are visiting urban farms, listening to passionate guest speakers, and participate in some really fun and interesting workshops. Just to give you an idea of what my week was, here is a glimpse at my favourite activities from last week’s urban agriculture school.

  1. Favourite visit: The Hospitalières’ Garden Tour: I really enjoyed visiting the nun’s gardens that are situated behind the Hôtel-Dieum hospital in Montreal because it has had such an important role in the city’s history. I was really surprised to see how involved and dynamic this community of cloistered nun was. It was also great to stumble upon such a big garden right in the middle of really busy neighbourhoods. It was particularly interesting to learn that the nuns used to have a big medicinal plant patch and used the gardens as part of their patients’ therapy. How very modern! urban-agricultureurban-agriculture2urban-agriculture3
  2. Favourite workshop: Mycelium propagation by Champignons Maison: I loved how Geoffroy Renaud was so enthusiastic and passionate about mycelium and mushrooms! It was really inspiring to listen to him explaining how to take care of mycelium because he does not have a formal training in biology or agriculture. Now, this may seem weird, but it really was encouraging to meet someone who has built an entire successful business and created his job by being passionate and persistent. He also had a more relaxed approach to growing mushrooms which made everyone in the workshop just want to start right away. urban-agriculture4
  3. Favourite guest speaker: Serge Mongeau: Writer and simple living advocate, Serge Mongeau’s closing speech was very inspirational and reassuring. He talked about the necessity of changing our perspective on our consumption of goods. He supports the idea that by really thinking about what makes us happy and fulfilled, we can identify our real needs and adjust our relationship to money and work in consequence. This particular speech touched a delicate string in my heart because I have lived through two really intense years work-wise, and I feel like I’m a little off-balanced and disconnected. Hearing the particular guest speaker gave my ideas and inspiration.
  4. Unexpected fascinating workshop: Beekeeping 101: I really didn’t think I would find bees so fascinating! It was incredible to learn about how they live and work. I still don’t know if I’m completely comfortable with the way we use bees in modern farming, but it was really interesting to learn more about these hard workers.

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Of course this is just a glimpse of all the acitivities and learning that took place along the week. If you are in the Montreal area, and speak French, I would really recommend checking it out for next year because it is such a dense, inspiring and enjoyable week.  Cheers!

 

 

3 inspiring cookbooks

It’s the end of the year, and I have been swamped with corrections, grades and cleaning up. So, I haven’t been in the kitchen seriously for a little while. Instead, I have been looking at my cookbooks, and well, found a few new exciting books. I love looking at these three amazing books because they are so well edited: the pictures are to die for, the instructions so clear, and the food incredibly dreamy! They are bound to give you some ideas and make you want to get in the kitchen right away!

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Deliciously Ella- Every Day, by Elle Woodward: If you are vegan and gluten-free you must have stumbled upon Ella’s amazing blog Deliciously Ella. I loved her first book, Deliciously Ella, but this new one is quite fun! Plenty of recipes and tips to get you eating healthy and, well, deliciously every meal of every day. I have to say I might try out her raw buckwheat bowl for breafast tomorrow morning, and give her zucchini banana bread and smoky eggplant dip a try this week-end. The esthetics of this book are also quite charming: soft colours and wonderful pictures make the food stand out and look so yummy!

Minimalist Baker’s- Everyday Cooking, by Dana Shultz: Another book by a blogger! Any burger lover will have stumbled upon Dana’s delicious sweet potato black beans burgers, or her Mexican green chili burgers. In this book you’ll find recipes for cashew soba noodles, chocolate-dunked peanut butter cookies, and cherry chocolate chip ice cream: sounds great to me! The pictures are colourful, the food is fun and exciting, and the recipes are so simple. This is such a great book for days when you feel uninspired: everything in this book is so appealing. The biggest challenge for me will be to decide on what to start with first!

Kansha- Celebrating Japan’s vegan and vegetarian traditions, by Elizabeth Andoh: This book is so beautiful and filled with interesting content. If you have any curiosity about Japanese cuisine, this is the perfect book to browse: detailed, filled with stories and vivid descriptions, this book is a gold mine of information. I’m particularly curious to explore the Tsukémono section: be ready for some pickles!

I hope these books will inspire you as much as they did me. Some of you might be wondering why I bought books that come from blogs. Well, there are two main reasons for this. The first one, I love books! There is something quite magical in looking at a cookbook and turning page after page to discover more delicious recipes. The second reason is that it is so important to support creators whose work we enjoy. Anyways, I really can wait to experiment and try out recipes from these wonderful guides. Let me know if you have any of these or other recommendations.

2 books to make you feel good!

I’m not big on self-help books, but this week-end I found a new one that is really funny, and rediscovered an old time favourite. These books are the perfect books if you are looking for quick reads as they books that you can pick up, read a few pages, leave and come back to a few days later. They’ll give you a push in the back to get out there and do you!

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The new one: Cours Toutoune, by Geneviève Gagnon: Unfortunately only available in French, this is a simple, colorful and super down to earth guide to running. Geneviève is super funny and lives by a simple philosophy: just get out there! Her tone is really encouraging while shattering all the excuses you might have for not exercising and taking care of yourself. Each page is a different tip so you can easily read a page once in a while when your motivation lowers and say goodbye to all those silly excuses!

The favourite: The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin: This books hardly needs any introduction. For the little story, Gretchen decided to give herself a year to increase her happiness. This book is her tips, tricks and experiences with happiness. Each chapter tackles a different aspect of life and is filled with anecdotes, steps and ideas to make your life easier and ultimately make you a happier person. Her 10 rules are filled with common sense, yet are so relevant. I really recommend this book because there is something for everyone!

Let me know what are your favourite motivational books or if you’ve read any of these!

Summer is coming!

With the warm weather coming back, I have but one thing on my mind: TRAVEL! Every time I hop in the car or on the bus, I feel like shouting, “To infinity and beyond!”

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However, as we don’t have any trips planned for this summer, I’m starting to think that exploring our province would be a good alternative. To help me in my quest for the perfect outing, I have selected four books. I hope they might inspire you to check out your piece of map a little this summer too!

  1. Prenez le champ! by Julie Aubé: This is a new one coming out this week. I was so intrigued by this book that I decided to go check out the book release and bought it there on Monday night. I really didn’t feel too cool with my bright orange raincoat while everyone else was cruising along with drinks in their hands, but the book is amazing! It is filled with itineraries regrouping different farms and local producers. I’m really excited to go explore Québec’s countryside, coasting from food stop farm to farm. The book in itself is also really well made with hand-drawn maps, amazing pictures and descriptions that really make you want to leave right away to go taste Mr Poncelet’s asparagus or go wine tasting on Orleans Island.
  2. Le Montréal Gourmand de Philippe Mollé, Ulysse: Philippe Mollé used to have a cooking show that I would religiously watch with my mom. Our excitement when meeting him last winter at the Salon des Métiers d’Art, where he was selling a really nice maple syrup, was just ridiculous. He was charming, and so we bought maple syrup, and I took out this book again. Filled with restaurant and café recommendations all in Montreal, this is a great companion for those week-ends when you don’t feel like going out too far. Some suggestions are even vegan!
  3. Escapades au Québec, La Presse: This is a really beautiful book filled with amazing pictures of the nicest places to visit in the province. There’s something for everyone: lovers, kids, hermits (traveling separately), beach enthusiasts, foodies and more. I wish I had enough time to visit each one of these wonderful spots!
  4. Randonnée pédestre au Québec, Ulysse: Because I will probably double in size this summer (I blame the incredible food all the other books are promoting), I want to select some hikes too. Québec has a great variety of landscapes ranging from fields to beaches, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of the great outdoors during the summer! This book is really well put together with tips, maps and difficulty levels for each hike.

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I feel like it will be impossible to choose from the amazing selection these books bring forward! I’m really excited to skim through them and to discover new favourites. Let me know if you have any recommendations, or if you have fun travel plans for the summer!

I’m a mindfulness instructor!

I feel like I have reached a new level in “hippie-land”!

Joke aside, I have completed my 12 weeks training with Mindful Schools to be a mindfulness instructor this week. How exciting! As an end of training celebration, I’m sharing some thoughts on how this happened.

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Flashback to the beginning of the year: This year, I have been assigned with six groups of 30 to 38 students. I know most of them as I taught them last year too, and I know that many of them have a great potential that is hindered by their anxiety, stress, or strong feelings/emotions.  This is my problem because it makes it difficult for students to learn when their minds are busy processing all kinds of thoughts. It is also a personal problem because teaching is hard! You are dealing with so much more than the curriculum: student meltdowns, administrators, parents, and taking all this personal stress at home because you care for the kids in front of you. Add this to regular-human-being stress, and you are pushed off balance on a daily basis. So, this beginning of the year is hard, and I feel resource-less.

Meeting with Charity Bryant: At a teacher conference, I get to meet Charity Bryant who is a mindfulness instructor who started out as an English teacher. Her presentation is inspiring, and I feel like she is describing my students when she tells us about her own students and experience bringing mindfulness in the classroom. I need to know more so I write to her ,and she tells me about the online training given by Mindful Schools.

Training with Mindful Schools: I start with the six weeks mindfulness fundamentals and follow through with the mindful educator course. I feel very lucky to have received a scholarship because this training is very complete and thorough, but would have been inaccessible to me as I’m paying it on my own.   Not only does this training help my students, it also helps me face difficulties and deal with my emotions better. Things are still hard sometimes, but I feel like I have a better tool set to face them.

Introducting mindfulness at school: To give me courage, I start offering a mindfulness workshop once every two weeks for interested students. As the meetings go by, I gather experience and confidence with this ideal group. I then introduce mindfulness as a daily routine to my different groups. I am amazed by the curiosity and willingness to try that my students are showing. Most importantly, I feel that my most difficult, disturbing students are responding to this very positively. I also welcome their suspicious as to this “voodoo stuff” and discuss research and brain functioning with them. I really like how it creates an open, ready-to-learn environment where the students are taking time to slow down and connect before starting to work. Is it time lost? Not really. Since they are relaxed and available, I don’t need to bring them back to the activities as much, instructions and modelling take less time because their attention is there, and I can tap in to their new capacity to pay attention with a shared and understood vocabulary.

The results of implementing mindfulness in my classroom might sound magical and untrue. And yet, they are real. My students are still teenagers, but somehow, they are more focused, calmer and more available to learning, to their peers and to my interventions. I really love our 15 minutes of practice each class because it gives me a chance to teach them something out of the curriculum that is precious and truly helpful. I am really glad to have done this! Let me know what you think!

 

 

Blanc de Gris, or how to have a mushroom farm in the city

Last summer I had the chance to visit the urban farm Blanc de Gris which specializes in growing mushrooms. After being a little bit confused by the very urban setting (the farm is in fact situated in an old warehouse), Dominique, one of the co-founder took us around a tour of the “farm”. One word: wow! I was really impressed by the installations, the ingenuity of their project (they up-cycle coffee grinds and beer grains) , their technique, and their fresh enthusiasm for a really original and awesome project.

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Lysiane, the other co-founder in one of their growing chambers. Look at those mushrooms!

Today however, I was even more excited because their farm was open to the public (hey, that’s me!) since their oyster mushroom production just exploded! We got to buy some fresh mushrooms. Will you just look at them? They are so perfect!

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We were really happy to meet with Lysiane, who is the other co-founder of Blanc de Gris. She was very friendly and gave us amazing mushrooms to bring back home. Her passion for her job was palpable and so refreshing. She told us that they were really happy with their production and that things were really starting to grow. While they are still working with high-end restaurants of the city, they are now looking into creating their own line of transformed mushrooms products.

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This is a really fun new venture for this young farm as it would make their production shine outside of its current clientele, while also making the entire production of mushrooms valuable. I am very curious to see what products they will be working on, but I’m quite sure that it will be done with the same care, integrity and excellence that you can witness when visiting Blanc de Gris. Their business is truly an asset for the city of Montreal, as well as for the foodies and urban farmers alike.

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I really can’t wait to cook these amazing mushrooms; there’s also a little bit of pressure on my shoulders! I really encourage you to like their Facebook page as they announce when they organize flash sales or visits. You wouldn’t want to miss that, right? Also stay tuned for a mushroom-filled recipe!