Eid Mubarak! … and an Alfajores recipe

This post was a while in coming. We were all very busy for the end of Ramadan, Eid and now with life getting back to “normal” for a week, just in time to welcome some guests over to our place for nearly 2 weeks.

I at least wanted to share the recipe for the alfajores I served up when our friends came over a few weeks ago. I’m not too sure how much time I will be able to dedicate to posting when our guests will be over as we are working at our regular jobs and then coming home to entertain our guests in the evening. So, I make no promises but I will try to post a bit more often.

I’m also currently working on a “healthier” version of date squares. My mother-in-law wants to take something to my father (which it seems is customary after a surgery). He loves dates, we want to give him something healthy, and I would like to teach her a recipe for once. I was thinking of making them “raw” but decided not to push it too much. We’ll see if the recipe makes it onto the blog in the next little while. I also have to work on a post for all the food we prepped for when we had my parents over last weekend.

I’m also trying to make up a recipe for lemon-mint bars that are also healthier. My God! The amount of butter and sugar used in most recipes!!!! Holy cannoli! That’s one’s going to be tough.

Without further ado, I present to you a recipe for Alfajores!

Alfajores


Alfajores
Yield = about 15-20 cookie sandwiches
Ingredients
-1 cup corn starch
-1 1/4 cup flour
-1 tspn baking powder
-1/2 tspn baking soda
-1/4 tspn salt
-1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (if semi-salted or salted, omit the salt)
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 egg yolks
-1 Tsbpn water (adjust once you mix)
-1 tspn lemon zest
-1 tspn lemon juice
-1/2 tspn vanilla extract or ground (ground will not be as strong in flavour and will add specs in your cookies)
-dulce de leche (recipe posted below this one)
-coconut shavings

Putting it together:
1- In a medium bowl, sift together corn starch, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Add in water, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well.
3- On slow speed, add in dry ingredients until a dough forms. Do not overmix.
4- Take dough out of bowl, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5- Preheat stove at 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
6- Roll out dough to about 1/4″ thickness. Cut out cookies with a round cookie cutter (about 2 inches in diameter). Place on cookie sheets. Some advise not to roll out the dough more than twice.
7- Bake for 10-15 minutes until bottoms start to brown but the tops are still pale. Transfer gently to cooling rack – the cookies tend to crumble if you’re too rough.
8- Once completely cooled, spread dulce de leche on the bottom of one cookie, top with another. Do not overfill, the dulce de leche will ooze out the sides and make a big mess. Take a bit of extra dulce de leche and spread along the sides of the cookie. Dips this into the coconut shavings to coat.
9- Store in the fridge to prevent the dulce de leche from running. Enjoy!

Dulce de leche
Yield = enough for 2 batches of alfajores, or one batch and leftovers for ice cream or other piggy foods
Ingredients
-1 can of sweetened condensed milk (such as Eagle Brand)

Putting it together:
1- Stand unopened can in a large pot (that will go on the stove). Make sure there are a few inches of space between the top of the can and the top of the pot. Fill the pot with water until there are a few inches of water completely covering the can.
2- Bring water to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to gently simmer. For a thick caramel (good for Alfajores), let simmer for 4 hours. For a thinner caramel (for other things), simmer for 1-3 hours. The longer you simmer the can of milk, the darker and thicker the caramel will be. Make sure that there is always plenty of water covering the can. If water levels drop below the top of the can, the can could explode!!!!
3- Once done, let can cool (unopened) in the pot of water. This may take a few hours.
4- Open and try not to eat the whole can the second you open it.

Other ways to cook up the dulce de leche: open the can, pour it into a shallow oven-proof container, cover in foil and place into a larger oven-proof container. Fill 1/2 way up with water. Bake for a few hours at 425F. You can also pour the can into a microwave-safe container (such as a Pyrex measuring cup) and microwave at 30% for 3 minute increments.

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Our Latin American fiesta recipes

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Assalamu alaikum everyone! It’s Friday, we’ve gotten through another week, I hope you are all smiling because it’s the weekend!

Salem and I had some friends over for iftar on the weekend and I decided to make them eat outside of their comfort zone. While the wife is an amazing cook at all things Lebanese (and boy does she ever serve up a storm every time), I jumped at the suggestion that we make them try something different. last year, we had them come over and try out butter chicken. This year, I went with the Latin American theme.

Tout le monde à table!

Supper consisted of: a spiced bean soup for starters; slow-cooker chicken fajitas; potato salad with a South American twist, an avocado and cilantro salad; alfajores and a chocolate mousse for dessert. I am fully aware that chocolate mousse doesn’t totally conform to the theme, but I had to at least give them something safe.

I’ve written up the recipes for last Saturday’s dinner. Without further ado, here’s a little food porn and the recipes that go with it.


On the menu: slow-cooker salsa-lime chicken fajitas. Latin American inspired potato salad and an avocado-lime salad.

I must admit, I was inspired by some of the recipes on this site. I added some of my own little things and adjustments and may revise a few things again at a later date.

If you’re wondering what we served for the fajitas, here’s a quick list: sautéed peppers and onions, sliced avocado, regular salsa, salsa verde (which I LOVE), sour cream and aged cheddar. You can also opt for some lettuce and tomatoes – I skipped out on that this time because we had a side-salad and the chicken is cooked in salsa so that was enough tomato-related stuff going on.

Slow-cooker salsa-lime chicken
Yield = 4-6 servings
Ingredients
-1 jar of salsa
-juice of 1 lime
-1-2 cloves of crushed garlic
-1 Tbspn cumin
-1 tspn paprika
-1 tspn oregano
-1/2 tspn garlic powder
-1/2 tspn onion powder
-Fresh cilantro, chopped
-1-1.5 lbs chicken (we used chicken breast)

Putting it together:
1- Wash and dry chicken, trim off any nasty bits (yes, I am picky like that). Simply set aside – no cutting needed.
2- In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except for the cilantro. Place chicken on top and spoon some of the mixture over the chicken. DO NOT ADD WATER!
3- Set your slow cooker to low for 7-8 hours.
4- Once it’s done, you can either pull the chicken apart with 2 forks (for pulled chicken), or you can take it out in small chunks. The chicken does tend to fall apart because it was slow cooked. Spoon some sauce over it and top with fresh cilantro.

Latin American inspired potato salad
Yield = 6-8 servings
Ingredients
-1 can of corn, drained
-3 large potatoes, diced and cooked (about 3 cups)
-1 head of broccoli, cut into florets (use the stem, cut it into small pieces)
-1 cup red onion, chopped
-1 pepper, chopped (this I will be adding in next time)
-3 Tbspn mayo (I used low-fat)
-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
-3 Tbspn lime juice
-2 Tbspn olive oil
-1 tspn wasabi
-1 tspn paprika
-1/4 tspn cayenne
-3 Tbspn Fresh cilantro, chopped
-Fresh cilantro, chopped
-Salt and Pepper to taste

Putting it together:
1- Mix together the corn, potatoes, broccoli, red onion and pepper.
2- In a jar, mix all other ingredients, put on the lid and shake!
3- Mix the salad and the dressing. You can let it sit together for a bit, that works just fine.

Avocado-lime salad
Yield = 4-6 servings
Ingredients
-1 head of lettuce, torn
-Baby spinach
-2-3 Tomatoes, chopped
-1/2 cup red onion, chopped
-1 avocado, cubed
-2 Tbspn fresh cilantro, chopped
-2 limes, juiced
-2 Tbspn olive oil
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Fresh cilantro, chopped

Putting it together:
1- Mix together the lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onion and avocado (try to add the avocado last so it doesn’t turn brown).
2- In a jar, mix all other ingredients, put on the lid and shake!
3- Mix the salad and the dressing. Serve immediately.

Pekarna Pâtisserie et Café – I’ll pass, thanks!

Rare is it that I will review a restaurant. Even rarer will I find a restaurant that I do not like. Unfortunately, such is the case today!
Recently, one of our favorite (even if slightly overpriced) dessert places within walking distance closed down. We just happened, by chance, to go to Calories on their closing night. I was really sad to hear the news as I like the cakes, beverages and I LOVED the atmosphere of the place. Not to mention that they had a small terrasse, perfect for nice outings with friends on a beautiful night. One lady there told me the owners may open up another place sometime in the future, but no timeline, area or more info was made available. Basically, I’m not holding my breath.
Since then, our only later-evening dessert option has become Pekarna – in the old Forum (corner Ste-Catherine and Atwater). When we first started going, about 2 years ago, it was alright. Even though it was a bit dark, the cakes were good, beverages too and the staff was nice. They renovated a few months back and that seems to have been the point where quality started going down the drain. Salem and I have been back a few times in the past couple of months, each time trying a new cake in hopes of finding something that we enjoy… No such luck.
From the “we’re out of iced coffee…. and x, and y, and z… we have regular coffee though”, to staff not knowing their menu, to not being helpful with suggestions for the customers… Not to mention putting the chairs up on the tables when a good third of the restaurant is still full of customers and more are coming in! Lets not forget their unstable hours! We’ve shown up at 9 pm only to see all tables and chairs on the terrasse have been put away. Some of the chairs and tables inside have also been made off limits. I’ve seen this place close at 9:30, 10:00, 10:30 and 11:00. You cannot rely on the hours posted on their website.
Now, apart from these things, lets get to the really important stuff – the food! I haven’t ordered a sandwich from there so I can’t say anything about that. Ditto for the ice cream. Here are my comments about the many, many, many cakes they have. You know the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none”? In this case, it would be “Jack of all cakes, master of none”. Sounds harsh, I know. The cheesecakes: I’ve tried a few and there is just something off about them… is it the texture? Somewhat gelatin-like, maybe a bit crusty or dry along the edges (how long has this been sitting here for?). Regular cakes: the fondant on the cakes is much too thick! I will always remember what my good friend, Michèle, told me years ago after finishing up her studies in pastry school “you can tell a good baker by how thinly they roll out their fondant”. She made our wedding cake, used fondant, and no one even noticed it because it was so thin. Pekarna… keep practicing your fondant-rolling technique or just get rid of the fondant altogether and go for a light buttercream icing. Tiramisu was a soppy mess, the mousse is alright though.
And now we come to last night’s experience – the “other” types of cakes. Salem and I decided to share a piece of cake. Salem requested something with chocolate. Knowing we wanted to stay away from anything with fondant and cheesecake-based, we decided on the brownie cake. The piece is fairly decent in size – maybe 2-3″ wide at the widest point and about 4″ long. While the batter was very much like a very dense brownie, the icing and ganache were over the top! We couldn’t even finish our shared piece and were very happy that we had coffee to wash it down (no sugar added). It was about 30 minutes later, on our way home and through our prayers that I started feeling nauseated. Yes, I felt sick because this cake was so freaking sweet! Thankfully, it passed but I learned my lesson. NO MORE DESSERTS AT PEKARNA!!!!
I’m sorry, but if you call yourself a “Pâtisserie”, you should at least be good at making cakes. I’ve read so many reviews that are similar to mine. Rather than having 20 (or whatever) different cakes that aren’t all that great, then why not reduce the menu to 5-8 great cakes?
So, I am still looking for a good dessert place, within walking distance, which just happens to be open pst 9 pm… In the meantime, unfortunately, I will keep going to Pekarna from time to time but sticking to a plain coffee and maybe a cookie – at least those are good… Or maybe I’ll just go to the Timmy‘s next door and pay half the price for the same thing.
Here is a link to some Urbanspoon reviews:
Pekarna on Urbanspoon

Ramadan Kareeeeeeeemmmmmmm!!! – It’s Fatteh time!

*cue music* It’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the yeeeeeeeeaaaaarrrrrr! *end music before my singing kills someone*
Assalamu alaikum everyone, I’ve been busy with Ramadan so I am a few days late in posting again.

So yes, it is Ramadan… actually, the first week is almost over! Fasting started last Friday (although some started on Saturday) and should go on through to nearly the end of August (somewhere around the 19th). This year, we’re working hard to get up before sunrise to eat a bit and do our prayers. I will admit, in years past, we just sat up in bed, ate a few dates and drank a glass of water in the dark and laid back down. None of that this year! Perhaps I aught to add in a “Suhoor” section now that breakfast is not just limited to either a banana or dates. Although I do feel my energy levels dip a bit in the afternoon because my sleep is interrupted. Oh well, it’ll force me to nap when I get home.

People who don’t fast often ask me about food during Ramadan. So I will share with you what is the ONE typical Ramadan food for me – Fatteh! It’s easy to make, easy to eat and very tasty. The great thing about this dish is how nutritious it can be: we have complex and simple carbs, fats, protein and dairy – perfect for when you’ve been fasting all day. That along with a few dates and a glass of water really help give you energy again.

Fatteh
Serves 4
Ingredients
-1 medium loaf of pita bread
-1.5 cups plain yogurt
-4 Tbspn Tahini
-1 cup chickpeas (roughly)
-3 Tbspn almonds, roughly chopped (skin on or off, it’s your choice) **You can use pine nuts…. if you can afford them!**
-butter
-olive oil
-paprika to taste

Putting it together:
1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto both sides of your pita bread and spread with wither a brush or using your hands. Tear the loaf into pieces, approx 1″ each. Toast either in a pan on the stove top or on a cookie sheet in the oven (about 350F for 5 minutes or so). The goal is to crisp up your bread, not burn it.
2. Heat up your chickpeas in a saucepan (with the water that came with the beans or just ad a bit of water so the beans don’t get scorched). One heated, drain but leave just a little bit of water at the bottom.
3. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt and tahini. Add more or less tahini to your taste – I really like tahini, Salem eats it in massive quantities so we often surpass the 4 Tbspn suggested quantity if we’re the only ones eating it. Set aside.
4. Warm up a bit of butter and/or olive oil in a pan. One heated, add in the almonds to toast them to your liking.
5. Prep 4 deep bowls for the layering.
The first layer: the toasted pita bread.
The second layer: add chickpeas on top of the pita.
The 3rd layer: cover the chickpeas with the yogurt and tahini mix.
To top it all off, sprinkle on your toasted almonds and the leftover oil in the pan. Sprinkle with paprika.
6. Say “Bismillah” and eat!

**Please note: the picture above is a smaller sized fatteh – I have to leave space for dinner. I use ramekins rather than regular bowls and, of course, scale down the ingredients.**

Sundried tuna recipe and a super-mixed salad

Here’s a funny story: I was being so delinquent in my postings of my lunch series that I had decided to post a double-lunch feature only to realize, once the post was nearly done, that I had actually already posted the first recipe! I guess I haven’t been all that delinquent after all…


Tuna with sundried tomatoes
**special note:This is actually inspired by a Brad Gouthro recipe.**
Ingredients
-1 can tuna – in water
-1-2 sundried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
-1-2 Tbspn green onions, chopped
-1-2 Tbspn green pepper, chopped
-1 clove of garlic, crushed
-lemon juice, to taste
-salt and pepper, to taste
-paprika, to taste
-olive oil

Putting it together:
Just throw it all together! I had this on its own, Salem had it in sandwich form.

Mixed salad version…ermm….
Ingredients
-curly lettuce, chopped
-kale, ripped into smaller pieces
-red and Asian cabbage, chopped thinly
-tomato, chopped
-green onions, chopped
-green pepper, chopped
-olive oil
-1 Tbspn apple-cider vinegar
-salt and pepper, to taste
-parsley

Putting it together:
Just throw this one all together as well!

A quick look at my fire escape garden

This year, I decided to finally make a mini-garden on the fire escape, right outside our bedroom window. Unfortunately, we don’t have a balcony so I am limited as to what I can plant out there.

The garden is pretty low maintenance and includes the following plants: 1x cherry tomato, 2x green peppers, 1x lettuce, 1x lavender, 1x mint, 1x tarragon, 1x basil.

I have quite a few cherry tomatoes coming out but they have yet to start changing colour. I had one pepper coming out but some bastard squirrel decided to rip it off, tape a few bites of it an abandon it a foot away. It taunts me every time I look out my fire escape, just outside of my reach so I can throw it out. Bastard squirrel! Maybe I should send Pumpkin after him… I bet you it’s that furry rodent that keeps walking by on the fire escape railing while I’m in the shower. Scared the crap out of me once! I think my shout of surprised scared him too.

I’ve had some mint and basil a few times. The mint might be transplanted at some point since it’s quite invasive and I would really like to have the lavender grow a bit more.

So, while I wait for my lilliputian crops to grow, I get lots of veggies from my dad’s garden. We just came back with 4 bags full of veggies last night – pictures to come soon.

A look at my garden from our bedroom.


Top box: cherry tomatoes, green pepper, lettuce, green pepper.
Bottom box: Lavender, mint, tarragon, basil.

Our trip to Alberta – part 2!

Alright, so I know that our trip to Alberta was 2 months ago and I RUSHED to get pictures of our nephew up once we came back but then, as always, laziness overtook me. I finally got around to going through the pictures, colour-correcting them and then resizing them so I could post them on here without anyone being able to complain about spinach in their teeth the size of Jupiter!

I’m also thinking about starting up on what I am doing for fitness but I’m not sure anyone is interested… If anyone wants to know what I do for food and physical activity please let me know. It may actually work as a bit of a motivator since I would be accountable to all those who come and read this (tiny) blog. I think it might also be interesting for people to see what I have planned for Ramadan – trying to reach a healthy balance between my religious duties, food, fitness and everything else! Which reminds me, I need to start working on a schedule. So, en bref, let me know if this is of (any) interest whatsoever.

Alright, enough yapping like a chihuahua, lets get to the pictures!

The return of my lunch series

Ok, so I got a bit lazy there for a while – I was busy spending a lot of time working on my weekly eating plan because my naturopath (or homeopath) put me on a “hypoallergenic” or “elimination” diet to help reset my liver and see if my body was reacting badly to some foods without me knowing. She suggested I try it out for 4 weeks… I did it fully for 2, reintegrating some foods back in after 10 days (tomatoes, peppers and eggs). Of course, I brought Salem along for the ride (poor guy). For me, it wasn’t too bad simply because I am not too dependent on bread to begin with, but this part was hard for the man. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time looking up gluten-free, wheat-free, XYZ-free recipes.
I will be posting some of the recipes I found (and modified) over the next little while.
On to today’s lunch!

Lunch, served on my lap! It tasted great though.


Chili-lime marinated, baked chicken
Avocado and tomato
Zucchini “pasta”

Yes, I took the picture with all my 3 pieces of tupperware on my lap! I went to the warehouse and had lunch with my friends.

Zucchini “pasta”
I actually came across this recipe while watching a raw-vegan recipe video on YouTube. It’s simple and I LOVE it (along with Salem and his mother).
Ingredients
-1 zucchini per person if serving as a side-dish – try to get a “fatter” one as you will not be using the “core”
-Cherry tomatoes (or regular tomatoes), cut into bite-sized pieces
-Sea salt
-Garlic powder
-Chopped onion
-Basil, chiffon-ed
-Olive oil

Putting it together:
1. Get out your vegetable peeler, and peel your zucchinis until you get to the core – don’t add in the seeds as the noodles won’t have the right texture. You can chop the core into smaller pieces and add it back into the dish or use in another recipe.
2. Add in all other ingredients to your taste, mix and serve. You can leave this in the fridge overnight without any problem. Also, feel free to add other ingredients – olives, peppers, oregano, etc.

Chili-lime chicken
Yield = 4 servings
Ingredients
-2 full chicken breasts
-2 limes, juiced and zested
-1 Tbspn lemon-juice
-1.5 tspn chili powder
-1/2 tspn cumin
-salt and pepper
-olive oil

Putting it together:
1.Mix all ingredients but the chicken breast.
2.Once mixed, add in the chicken breast and marinade for a few hours, up to 24 hours. Turn over after a few hours.
3. Discard marinade and bake chicken breasts on oiled cookie sheet at 350 until chicken is no longer pink inside and juices run clear (each oven is different so I won’t be including cooking time). You can also grill the chicken.

2 years ago, Allah blessed us with our marriage

Today marks a very important day for Salem and I – it’s our second wedding anniversary! I must admit that I find it flew right by and I have a hard time believing it really has been 2 years already! I guess that’s what happens when you’re sharing life with the person whom you fall deeper in love with, with every passing day.

My number one reason for getting up in the morning: my husband. He is the last thing I see when falling asleep and the first thing I see when waking. For that alone, I thank Allah.

And now, please excuse me while I ramble on for (quite) a bit about marriage. Some of the examples I’ll be using are pulled from comments I’ve come across over the years; some from complete strangers, others from co-workers and random people in my life.

I have seen so many marriages sour (they end in divorce or in very unhappy marriages) and it makes me so very sad. Do people realize that working out problems is not just a question of identifying issues but rather treating the issue through communication, understanding, tenderness, love and patience? There is no 5-minute cure to all marital problems, but we currently do have many resources available to help. I also find people sometimes get married for the wrong reasons, or to the wrong people, or without really knowing what marriage is. This isn’t the kind of thing you enter willy-nilly. You are, after all, selecting the person with whom you will be sharing everything for the rest of your days. If you want kids, this person will be the parent to your children. This person is the one you turn to first in good and bad times, your friend, confidant, lover and rock. While I am very pro-marriage, I also understand that sometimes divorce is the best solution – but one I think people should turn to if all other means don’t work.

To me, marriage is one of the best things Allah has sent down to us. While I understand that some marriages are happier than others, I am still baffled at how many people I have come across who consider it a burden or who have no respect for their spouses. Yes, of course, in some rare cases they are perhaps right in harbouring these feelings, but a good amount of people I have heard complaining (almost on a daily basis) should perhaps take a few moments to re-evaluate what marriage is, what life is and also take a look at themselves and their actions.

Marriage is not just about the good times, it’s also about challenging, hard and plain horrible times as well! It’s what you do, as a team, that makes these events ones that will either make you grow ever closer together or push you apart. Choose your actions and words wisely, you could be part one of the best things you could ever experience in this life or sowing the seeds of discourse, disrespect and loathing. People often forget that marriage takes 2 individual people and turns them into one entity, a team, and that always thinking about “me, me, me” and “he/she” is not going to work. We’re still individuals within a marriage, but we also become part of something so much bigger. When doing something I don’t only think about “how will this affect me?”, I think “how will this affect us?”, “what can I do to make us better, reach our goals, etc?”. The goals, aspirations and hopes of one become those of the other. When one becomes demotivated, the other is there to help through kind words, support or a good old kick in the pants.

Then again, I’ve encountered some people who think that my idea of marriage is a bit outdated. I do things for my husband, I make sacrifices, I don’t disrespect him or call him names, I am happiest when by his side, I love sharing everything with him, and he’s the same with me. GO ahead, call me old fashioned or silly for tending to his breakfast, lunch and dinner! It brings me joy when I know my few minutes of extra work in the morning provided for him during the workday. Especially since he’s so overloaded at work that he sometimes doesn’t even think to take 5 minutes to himself just to feed his body. I also know he would do the same for me were the roles reversed.

I cannot comprehend it when people tell me “I can’t wait for my spouse to be out of town/be away for a night/leave home, etc!”. While I do understand that some form of time alone is nice, why would someone be so enthusiastically looking forward to having this one person away from them? I feel my day is incomplete if I haven’t spent at least some time with my husband, something I have felt since we started dating, almost 6 years ago. We would see each other 5-7 days a week from day 1! We made time for each other even though we were busy with work and school: we would go on study dates together, grab a bite here and there, I sat in on some of Salem’s classes (doing homework while listening in on business admin lectures at JMSB). We’d ride the metro home together (partway) and Salem spent a whole year driving back and forth between Ville St-Laurent and Verdun almost every day, getting stuck in traffic on the 15 at 11:30-12:00 at night, just so we could spend some time together. I looked forward then to seeing him and that still stands to this day. I can’t fathom ever feeling differently.

All this being said, Alhamdullilah (thanks be to Allah) for putting such a wonderful person in my path, making us fall in love and blessing us with 2 amazing years. Insha’Allah (god-willing), our love will grow ever stronger with every passing year, we will be loving to each other and make the right decisions in this life so we can, in the end, spend eternity together.

As always, habibi, my undying love and devotion. Je t’aime à l’infini.

And now, some pictures from 2 years ago!!!!!

Our trip to Calgary – family pictures!

Alright, so as I may have mentioned before, Salem and I went on a trip to Calgary (at the end of April). We went out there for a week to meet our newborn nephew, see the family and also get a feel for Calgary in general.

For our feel of Calgary in general… Well, the feelings expressed in this post are mine alone… I found it a bit depressing. I’m sorry, but I end up comparing it to Montréal. And I don’t mean the cosmopolitan area, I mean in general. I’ve been looking on MLS for houses for months and then seeing them in person… I’m sorry, but I don’t see much pride of ownership. It’s one thing for your lawn to be yellow (and that is out of people’s hands, I can totally understand), but dilapidated fences (or worse, chain-link fences all the way to the sidewalk in front of your house!), parking pads in lieu of a back-yard that’s larger than a postage-stamp, horribly-textured stucco houses or siding that hasn’t been cleaned since the house was built in ’72… I’m sure there are nicer neighbourhoods, but I cannot fathom buying a house at $400k +! Especially when I can get something even nicer off-island for $275k! Otherwise though, the people seem a lot friendlier (or at least offer better customer service). But the most depressing thing: I would be too far from my parents. And that’s what it really comes down to in the end. If Salem and I will be starting a family of our own in the next few years, I want my parents to be an active part of the picture, and it’s not by moving 5 hours away by plane (or 2-3 days by train or bus) that they will be able to enjoy their grand-kids. Also, being an only child, I would feel as though I am abandoning them. Not to mention that a move out West would mean that Salem and I’s timeline would be greatly impacted and we would lack stability for quite a while. Finding 2 jobs, moving there, hoping we like the jobs, getting our careers back on track, saving up an even larger down-payment for a house (due to higher house prices), moving into a house, renovating and then kids…

That being said, I am not completely discounting a relocation out West! If Salem finds some freaking awesome job, then I will consider it. Unfortunately for me, a move out there would basically mean a lateral career move for me, plus I would be losing all the benefits I have accumulated at my job, which I actually love very much… I could easily work for this company for the rest of my career. I’m quite content.

Ok, all seriousness aside though, I have some pictures to share with you!