Friday, March 28, 2014

Maple event and a very good cornbread recipe

It's that time of the year! Maple syrup season! Sugar shacks! Maple toffee on snow! Hearty breakfasts with beans, bacon, "oreilles de christ", eggs, potatoes, bread, butter and pitchers of maple syrup! :) I'm gaining weight just typing this.

The town I live in now is Aylmer. It's actually amalgamated with Gatineau but people still go by the old name. They're having an event on rue Principale (conveniently close to our house), which will allow many food shops, bakers, delis, pubs and restaurants in the old Aylmer, to participate to a sort of sugar shack festival. It is the first one they organized (we could say it's experimental) but I bet it will become more and more popular in the future!

In my case, I plan on trying maple sausages from the saucissier William J. Walter and some maple beer from Bistro L'Autre Oeil. Those guys will also offer the fun activity of sampling maple toffee on snow. We've been talking about having a sugar shack theme breakfast and I believe that Chorizo et Chèvre Noire (a gourmet food shop), will play on that. They will also serve pea soup, maple toffee on snow, maple sausages on the bbq, maple smoothies and maple tartlets. Le Bostaurus will do the same with a brunch in the sugar shack style. They might have more info on their facebook page.  L'Aubergiste, a new exciting restaurant that I didn't get a chance to try yet, will have a table d'hôte on the same theme. Then we have more restaurants, bistro, bakers, chocolaterie, tea shop, coffee shop and more! So much to choose from! So little time!

We have 2 young girls who barely recovered from a cold and gastro so I'll be lucky if we can have fun with 1 or 2 places. At the most it will be a walk and fresh air in the neighbourhood. There is more info here from our town's paper Bulletin d'Aylmer. Hope you read French! :) The event is very bilingual (most people are, around here). It's happening on the 29th and 30th of this month. If you're close enough, you should come!

Now for the Cornbread!


As I was typing earlier and thinking of my next post, hunger took over. I could have had a toast, grilled cheese or cookies but I was craving cornbread of all things. I'm not sure why, I just did. So with a full house gone to bed (my partner in crime was fried from sick kids and crashed early), I cranked the oven to 425˚F and whipped up my batter. It is a fast, simple and easy recipe from The Fannie Farmer cookbook. I swear by this book a lot in this house! I recommend it and the same goes for the cornbread recipe. I often cheat and change recipes in my own stubborn way but this one, I leave alone and follow by the book.

This is exotic to me. I never grew up with cornbread and had my first sample about 10 yrs ago when I went through a Southern food obsession after reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.  Never read that on an empty stomach by the way. It's torture! Especially late at night with no store open or place to order from! I was more than pleased and excited when I realized that my Fannie Farmer Cookbook had many of the recipes mentioned and more! I sampled what I could and the cornbread was a nice surprise. It's not too sweet, a little salty, crispy on the outside with a mellow flavoured coarse crumb. It goes really well with butter and honey (and coffee), or scrambled eggs with ham and some strongly seasoned tomatoes that got quickly fried in butter as a great side (in my house), and with chili obviously! Now I will add to the list: Butter and maple syrup!! OMG try it!!!

Best midnight snack ever!

When the corn bread was done, I cut a slice while still hot. I then smeared half salted butter on it and watched it melt. I was going to pour honey next but suddenly changed my mind. On a whim, I opened the fridge and grabbed the jar of maple syrup. I poured a bit on the bite I was going to take. It was dripping generously on the counter. I didn't care, I was curious about the new combo and rushed it in my mouth to taste. Then!!! *ANGEL VOICES* Oh where was this all my life!? The hint of bacon goodness from the fresh, really hot cornbread seasoned with a tinge of salt from the melted butter, mingling happily with the sweet, sticky, really cold maple syrup elixir! It was so good I did it again but this time I closed my eyes and enjoyed the round, sweet and salty flavours. The hot with the cold. The crispy, crumbly with the wet, runny and smooth... It was just heavenly. I had 3 slices! And a plate because you know, it was getting messy.

Added more butter and maple syrup goodness for the photo. And a plate!
Please forgive the photos. They were taken late at night with bad artificial lighting. I tinkered with the brightness and things got a little saturated but you get the picture! ;)

Here is the recipe with a description (not my words) and the amount it should give in squares. I guess I didn't follow by the book. I always use my 9 inch cast iron pan plus I cut wedges and get 12 generous slices. I suppose I could cut smaller and get 16 but what is the fun in that?

You decide and try it.

Corn bread 

Recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (I used fine cornmeal #400)
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons melted shortening or bacon fat (I used the bacon fat plus more for greasing the pan)

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan (or in my case, a cast iron pan). Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the milk, egg, and shortening or bacon fat and blend well. Spoon into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool and cut in squares.

Personal note here: Butter or shortening is fine but BACON FAT is the BOMB! It is worth the flavourful experience. You don't eat that everyday do you? Try it! ;)

Leave a comment! Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ramblings on new challenge & new couch!

I feel like this is 2 posts in one but I'm tired and all over the map. So I'm just going to put it out there to clear my head and move on. 

I've been consumed with trying to figure out blogging. Is it supposed to be this draining to set it all up and worry about Google+ and circles, apps, overviews, stats, audience, traffic sources... Following and who to add or where to share and when? Gaah! Takes th fun out of it. I often feel like an old luddite when it comes to new technology. Whether it's computers, cellphones, social media, using our own television system and remotes, I struggle! Ok, so I'm no cave woman either. I can surf the web efficiently and google more than the average joe on any topic under the sun and most of the time, I can find what I'm looking for. As an illustrator I don't have a choice and I can manage with the tools but I stick to the basics or pester my husband to help. He is at ease with all this and will learn a new program on the spot if it means a new contract. I'm not. I'm a big chicken and here I am admitting this to all 3 of you that read me! :)

I was pretty comfortable in my facebook bubble for years. I was posting a lot about this and that knowing that it was probably not interesting to all (I wonder how many blocked me) ;) It was obviously time to expand my wings and face the challenges of trying something new. After years of procrastination, I finally went for it. I think my husband applauded when I told him! Man, it's just a blog!! So why is it a big deal? Why is it a lot to take in? Am I the only one struggling? Is this a beginner's symptom? Am I just jumping the gun? Don't mind my rambling and rhetorical questions. Apparently I've been doing this around the house too and driving my husband nuts. He's the in-house techie and so far he always held my hand when complications came around but he knows little about blogs or the process of blogging and decided that I could figure this out on my own. I am. Slowly. Painfully. I have my big girl pants on to see this through. I read so much, learned a lot too but I lost myself a bit in the process and this is only my 3rd post! :P Just bear with me if you're still here. I'm processing a lot and feel like the human equivalent of the spinning beach ball on my desktop. Ok. Feeling better. Tips welcome!

On the bright (random) side, we have a new couch and it's pink! Crazy I know but we both love it! It's where I'm typing from right now. It's a week old today! In fact I've been wanting to share this much earlier but the issues above were just blocking me.

Big Pink! Music gets played here too.

I'm just happy to look at this with no regrets. The pic looks a little saturated and I had to brighten the image (it's a cold snowy March), but the colour is a good match. Lots of details (shelves, rug, lamp), are going to be moved elsewhere.

It brings colour and brightness to the room but almost works as a neutral. It goes with everything! The best part is that not a day went by without Marc saying something like: "Looks good!" "I like our new couch!" "I'm happy with this!" "This is cool" "Pink, who knew?" :D The funny thing is, I'm not a pink girl! I know that my header above says otherwise but that was just me going for different. Pink is a very strong colour with good vibes. It was never supposed to be girly in the first place. You can click herehere and here on the subject but that would be a WHOLE other topic. 

When we went shopping for a "grey" couch, we had a few styles in mind but the moment I saw the pink beast, I felt drawn to it. It was calling me with it's cheerful brightness during this very dull month of March. It felt like love at first sight but I resisted because of the stigma. Even Marc reacted in a predictable way. In fact his words were: "No Freaking way!" We were set on the grey version and it looked pretty cool with the colourful pillows but each time we looked at the pink one, it was saying: "Yeeaah! You know I'm more fun!" We kept looking at couches but as we kept crossing paths with the big pink, resistance became futile. Time went by and even Marc started to change his tune. He admitted that the pink version seemed less boring. In the end he said: "Honey, I trust your judgement." Whaat? Instant pressure!!! I was petrified of making the wrong decision. I must have changed my mind a million times between that moment and the second we officially made the purchase. Once the decision was made, awkward smiles crept on our faces. It was exciting and a bit scary. We arranged to get it delivered the next day and that night (I'll admit it), it was torture. I was still considering calling them to switch it to grey. Marc seemed to enjoy this and kept reminding me that a big pink couch was coming in. He was more at peace with it than I was. I'm not sure why I had doubts. Maybe because pink triggers a knee-jerk reaction. Many like to gag over it and it's suffering from so many clichés and lets face it, it's quite the colourful commitment for a couch! 

I'm 43 years old though and I have a pretty good idea of what I like in the house and what works or not from room to room. I'm so glad we went for it. I'm even happier that my guy encouraged my instinct. Because it looks awesome!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A cool, bright video created by Shishi Yamazaki

I stumbled on this gem last week and I'm excited to share! I was so fascinated I must have watched it half a dozen times plus anything else that I could find on Shishi Yamazaki. The tune has been stuck in my head all weekend. I've been humming it so much that my little one knows it. I have no idea why but it's taking me to the 70s. In France of all places! After humming it a few times, I pictured a mod pattern of flowers from my grandmother's wallpaper in Marseille. It was the wrong colour (brown), but I remember pink too and the music reminds me of movies from that era. I know it's late and I'm sick but I'm sure I'm not delirious.

Isn't this rotoscope animation beautiful? Fascinating and charmingly quirky? The hand painted animation just gives it a tactile quality that makes me want to touch it!


Friday, March 21, 2014

First entry!

This is new territory. It's exciting and a little nerve wracking.

Welcome! :D 

I'm surprised at how much pressure I'm imposing on myself for writing here but I know I'll loosen up as the ball gets rolling. I've been wanting to do this for 7 years... 7 years!!! Talk about build up! I always pictured my blog as a colourful corner where ideas and chaos (which constantly clutter my mind and life), would get to come out in blissful harmony with rainbows and unicorns and share the love!!!   *Ahem!*  Okay maybe not as sugar coated and crazy but it sounded fun, easy and dare I say it, happy! Choosing the title was harder than I thought. Among the many options from a list as long as my arm, I sarcastically wrote down, The lame 7. That wouldn't be very positive but my husband found it funny. He knows. During those 2256.7 days of my life, I was busy and blessed with 3 gorgeous girls and the big leap of buying our first house (a fixer upper) which I constantly try to cozy up. So that couldn't be lame years. Just busy with ups and downs and very, very slow.

I often thought about how I would start and what I would want to share. Simple! In my head. I certainly didn't want to take this too seriously but sadly I think I already did. And that's ok, I'm just starting right? Soon enough, I'll have fun with it and feel the opposite of pulling hair over a title (ugh) or losing sleep (and days), over this first entry. Never mind the crazy header! It was a little insane. Thanks to the support (and patience) of my husband, here I am. At least trying before blogging is officially dead. So thank you Marc! xo

The Cat and the Hedgehog is the name I'm going for. It represents a happy place and simpler times. A strong memory of my childhood and my French roots. It's the most personal of my options. Ok, I'll quickly admit it too, I'm obsessed with hedgehogs but this is not a place where I'm going to post about my prickly friends. It's just that they are pretty common in Europe (where I grew up as a young girl), far away from where I live now in Canada. They make me feel nostalgic in a good way. There is a "not so exciting" story behind the cat and the hedgehog, 2 creatures I befriended on a summer day at my great grandmother's house but I'll save that for an other day.

With this blog I would like to cover my foodie tendencies and recipes, my love for decor, art and design and my life with kids as an illustrator working from home with my talented husband, Marc. Too much content? ;) I'm sure I'll narrow it all down as I find my voice. At the very least, this will be a great outlet to share my passions, ideas and creations whether they're edible ones or the useless kinds we like to look at. I'm a little lost and out of focus at this stage in my life. I'm hoping this blog can help me straighten my bearings and motivate me to look forward, not backward. One step at a time.

Thank you, who ever you are, for stopping by and taking the time to read this far.