salmon tartar + never going to a restaurant again.

Ok, ok, I'm not serious about the restaurant thing. After trying Le Bremner this summer, I could never make that declaration. But it is true that the more courageous you get in the kitchen, the less you'll be tempted to ever pay the jacked up prices in restaurants.

Early on in our marriage I mastered making my own pizza dough, and now we'll never pay for pizza in a restaurant again. What a great way to save money on food, right? Master something you'd normally pay for, and you'll never want to over-pay for it again. Of course this isn't always as easy as pizza dough. Doughnuts for example. They don't cost a ton but they're something I've never been able to succeed at baking at home, especially the deep fried variety (and is any other variety even worth it!?), and so I continue to pay for them.

Salmon tartar is another such meal, that I would happily pay for, knowing I couldn't make at home. Until I made it at home. AND GUYS. It was amazing. And so affordable!

For a massive 200g serving of salmon tartar, it cost $6. At a restaurant it would probably have been $30.

My friend Audrey inspired me to give it a try, promising it would be easy and delicious, and she was right on both accounts. I tweaked the recipe from French foodie epicenter, Trois Fois Par Jour (her cook book is coming out in English in October!). The recipe is more of a guideline, since tartar can be altered a million ways.

Here's the basics.
  1.  You must start with super fresh salmon! A fish monger is a necessity. The pre-packaged salmon from the grocery store won't be fresh enough. Look for sushi-grade if possible. Locals, there are several fish mongers on ave du Parc, where we go, but also check Jean-Talon or Atwater market. 
  2. You need mayonnaise. We get this jalapeno and lime mayonnaise from Costco that is to die for. Japanese or sushi mayonnaise is often available at any grocery store, and that would work too.
  3. Flavours that accentuate salmon need to be subtle, because the taste of fresh, raw salmon is truly enough on it's own! Chives and minced onion are perfect.
  4. You need a crunch. Panko bread crumbs are awesome on their own, but if you have time put them in a frying pan with some olive oil, garlic, and salt and let them get even crunchier!
  5. The salmon must be cut really small. If you don't have a reliable knife, Audrey recommended putting the fish in the freezer for a few minutes so it's slightly more firm, which would make cutting easier. 
In a large bowl, gently combine the diced salmon, minced chives and green onion, a few quirts of Sriracha or Tabasco (I prefer the former), a bit of mayonnaise (start with a table spoon and work your way up, depending on how much salmon you have and how creamy you want the tartar), and a handful of panko crumbs. Once it's combined you can alter the tartar however you'd like in flavour. To serve, I just divided the bowl in half on two plates and formed the tartar with clean hands. Top with a chive, because you're fancy with your $6 salmon tartar!


a longer Advent

Every year, around mid-December I can be found frantically organizing fun holiday activities, searching aimlessly for Christmas gifts, and baking up a storm. It's all very spiritual.

My heart is usually not ready in the way I'd like it to be, come December 24th as we flip through the pages of Isaiah to read the prophesies of old. With three young kids and all of our family out of town, Christmas often becomes a hectic combination of long drives, arranging visits, and managing chaos. And I'm done with it.

Every year I say I should do a proper Advent Bible study in December, and every year it gets pushed back, or I skip enough days to make it unfruitful. And the looming temptation is also to make Christmas not about Christ at all, but about winter activities, gift giving, and materialism. None of which are evil in themselves, but they join together to give Jesus a run for his money, and focus shifts.

You may laugh, but here's my plan this year. Advent starts September 1st.

I've done the math, and if I read approximately 8 chapters of the Bible a day (which will take around 25 minutes), I will read the entire Old Testament by December 24th. This year, instead of a couple weeks of one-off verses and activities, I'm planning to read the whole Old Testament, in hopes of building gradual and focused anticipation for the coming Rescuer who was born to save us.

Jesus said in Luke 24:44, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
The whole Old Testament is about him. About people waiting for him. About people longing to be rescued. About their failed attempts to save themselves. About a God who loved them enough to make a way, though it would cost him everything.

So I'm going to read it as a sweeping narrative. I won't be taking time to study any of the books in depth. That is generally how I read the Bible, but for Advent I want to have a big picture of the Old Testament, and I believe the best way to do that is to read it consistently and quickly in a (relatively) short period of time. I'll be aiming to read 10 chapters a day, knowing that there will be days I can't reach my quota (like the day Psalm 119 is on the docket!), and other days when I'll be able to read more.

We are also buying The Biggest Story to read with our kids regularly throughout Fall and leading up to Christmas. I have a feeling it will become a family favourite.

If you're like me every year leading up to Christmas, and looking for something different this year, why not join me? I know it's only September and Christmas is the last thing on your minds, but maybe that's the best part.


off to school!

Well, our first baby is officially in Kindergarten. After the smiling tears have dried, I'm really excited about it. For her - she's so ready and eager to learn. She's so brave. Her school is 100% French and there are only two other children for whom French isn't their first language in her class, but there she was with a smile on her face.

The first day is only one hour and with a parent, which is so wonderful! They're really sensitive to transitions, even though the vast majority of these kids have been in full-time daycare since their mom's maternity leave ended on their first birthday. The following few days are also one hour, but without parents. Then in September she'll officially start a full day of school, and come home for lunch every day. All told, she's really only there for 2.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours in the afternoon, with a 1.5 hour lunch break at home in the middle. I plan to write more about why we're passionate about public schools and going to the local school, especially from a Christian perspective, but for now the most important thing: first day of school pictures!


littles, summer 2015

Our kids were all born within three months of each other, so we have a lot of birthdays around the same time. Right now we've got birthdays approaching this month, next month, and the month after, so I never know how old to tell people my kids are. Should I say 1, 3, 4 or almost 2, almost 4, almost 5? They are all so close to their birthdays that I usually go with older, but then my mama heart brimming with nostalgia of course wants to stick with younger.

Either way, I want to remember them how they were at 1, 3, 4 before the big birthday sweep adds another year to their precious lives. This is the anthem of every parent I know, but I have to say it. Where has the time gone? 


saving ALL THE MONEY - clothes

Back to the saving ALL THE MONEY series (insert money bag emoji here). You can read past posts here, here, and here. Today's topic is clothes. There are a lot of opinions out there when it comes to clothes. Some say, buy super high quality clothing and wear it for years and years. My problem with that is styles change pretty quickly, so apart from a few pairs of jeans, I can't get on board with this philosophy. Others are big fans of buying cheap, but then there's the quality issue. Here's what we've settled on.

Firstly, capsule wardrobes for the win! I've written about them already (here), so I'll just do a brief run through. Basically, limit your wardrobe SIGNIFICANTLY. For many people, cutting it in half is feasible. I had already done some serious purging a few months earlier, and I still took out around 30% of my wardrobe when I aimed to start a "capsule wardrobe". The idea is to only keep what fits you well, and what you love. I had five black t-shirts, all slight variations of each other. No good. Now I have one. The benefit financially is that you don't buy clothes on a whim, don't emotionally shop, don't hoard clothes that might fit one day, and limit your shopping to approximately 4x a year or less. You buy less, have less, and end up being content with less.

But about buying clothes. A necessary evil, even for us on a budget. How do we save on clothes? I have a few general rules.

1. Buy used when possible

Buying used is getting harder as my family gets older. When my kids were babies it was easy to find gently used high quality clothes, but three and four-year-olds really wear out their clothes, so the things you see used are usually in bad shape. Exceptions are shoes and coats - I still often buy these used and at great prices. Sometimes I even re-sell them when we're finished with them for the same price I paid... or more!

I often do a quick kijiji or craigslist search when I'm looking for outerwear or shoes for Brad and I because they tend to be the only things available on the secondhand market in good shape these days. I found my NEW IN THE BOX Hunter Boots last Fall on kijiji for just over half of what I would have paid new.

2. Wait for the sales, never pay full price!

If you limit your shopping to a few times a year, like the capsule wardrobe suggests, you can benefit from sales. If I know I need to buy some clothes for us or the kids, I'll start comparing prices ahead of time. A quick google search can help you find coupons or coupon codes for most retail websites, so factor in any further discounts you'll get when finding the lowest price. Gap and Old Navy and HM are three stores we buy a lot of clothes from. The latter two are always well-priced, and the former has sales every other week. My general rule of thumb for Gap and Old Navy is to never buy anything unless it's at least 35% off, because their sales are so frequent. Generally I wait until they have 50% off all already on-sale items, or 40% off your entire purchase (which includes already on-sale items) to do my shopping. I rarely spend more than $20 on a clothing item, and my general rule for the kids is to never spend more than $5 per item (excluding heavier clothes like jeans and sweaters, or double duty items like dresses and rompers). Last winter Frank & Oak had a warehouse sale and everything was 50-75% off, so we stocked up for Brad. We probably won't buy him clothes for another year or two if not more.

3. Don't impulse shop!

This temptation comes along with sale shopping. If it's such a good deal, why not just get it? DON'T. Even buying clothes on ultra-clearance or second hand adds up. We might think we're getting a great deal, but if it's more than we need, it's a waste of money all the same. I keep a list on my phone of all clothing items everyone in my family will need in the coming months. This winter Oli needs a coat and snow pants, but the girls don't. I need a pair of dark denim jeans. Lily needs a couple nice shirt sleeved T shirts. If I find a great deal for something in their current size that's not on the list, I don't let myself buy it. If it's a killer price and we don't need it right now, I might buy it in the next size up. Set limits for yourself like not spending more than X dollars per item of clothing, and stick to it.