Adventures in Sourdough

If I could choose one food to eat forever it would be bread. I'm all for eating healthy foods, but diets that completely eliminate bread (unless of course you have celiac disease) leave me dubious bordering on side-eye. Is there anything more comforting that a warm piece of bread? When I'm hungry, it's probably the first food group that pops into my mind. There's truly not a better food in my opinion. Baking my own has become a hobby, as you probably know by now. My focaccia recipe is on rotation, and one my my most watched reels on Instagram. Have you tried it yet? I hope you have! My simple sourdough-ish bread recipe is quick and quality, and I made it weekly for years, though now I'm dabbling in sourdough.

Perhaps it's better I say re-dabbling, since I first started the sourdough journey a few years ago, like most of the quarantine bread mavens, in 2020. When I started my Sourdough journey, I had a lot of time on my hands to fail, since, like everyone else, I was staying home. And it's a good thing, because fail I did! There's a poster at my school which says, "FAIL: first attempt in learning" which is really sweet and also relevant to sourdough! I tried for weeks to make my own starter and then my own sourdough from said starter. It never rose, at least not fully, and was really frustrating. Maybe not so bad if flour wasn't so hard to come by during those first months of COVID. Eventually a friend who was on the same journey offered to bring me some of his starter in exchange for some flour. Only one of us has a Costco membership after all. Deal struck! And with his initial starter (Thanks Ru!), I was eventually successful. That was years ago and I'm only recently circling back to sourdough, inspired by Justine Doiron. I don't actually use her recipe (it requires 2 full days!), but her addictive videos get me in the cooking/baking/preparing mood that always help culinary adventures.

My favourite way to eat sourdough is topped with anchovy green sauce or a honey and salt combo. I should add that I don't make sandwiches with sourdough because with five people, the loaf would be gone before we even made sandwiches for everyone. We save sourdough for a treat added onto a plate of roasted chicken at suppertime or eggs at breakfast. A slice also makes an amazing snack on it's own. If I ever have leftovers, or a loaf that didn't rise perfectly when baking, I cut it up, then blend in the blender for breadcrumbs! They really do become the best breadcrumbs...

Now, sourdough! I have read a lot on the subject and tried several different online recipes, finally settling on this one for it's ease and prep time. The measurements are slightly different from the one I was trying without success years ago, so I can say for my oven and my climate, it's flawless. But I can't speak for the uniqueness of your kitchen, so you may need to try a few times too! I make the dough in the evening, let is sit on the counter all night, then do a quick shaping as the oven is pre-heating, and bake that morning. All the work happens overnight, and the proportions have never failed me yet. Want the recipe?

  • 100 g sourdough starter
  • 435g cups warm water
  • 520g all-purpose flour (can be up to 25% whole wheat flour, rye, or buckwheat if you like)
  • 2 tb salt
Night Before:
  • Mix starter and warm water together in a large bowl using your fingers or a whisk.
  • Add the flour and salt
  • Combine everything into a shaggy ball
  • Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel
  • Sleep, knowing your bread is doing it's thing aka 7-10 hours of rising time
Next Morning:
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees with your Dutch oven inside, so it too is piping hot.
  • Wet hands with cold water, then handle your dough, folding and forming into a tight oval ball. There are many "techniques" but I just kind of fold and tuck until I like the shape. The folding introduced air into the load and then traps it which leads to beautiful bubbles in your bread.
  • When dough is in the oval shape you like, coat in flour and cut a few ventilation slices in the top of the loaf. You can do straight lines on the sides or right down the middle, or get fancy and do designs. Up to you!
  • Put parchment paper in the Dutch Oven (carefully, it's very hot by now) and place your dough/loaf on it, then put the lid back on and place in the oven
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes covered, followed by another 10-15 uncovered. 
  • Remove the loaf is you're satisfied with the browning on top (this is a preference thing - some people love it quite charred on the top and they'll want to leave it in longer, others a lightly golden loaf is perfect. Every oven is different too, so keep your eyes on the oven and the light on to guide you)
  • Let cool for at least 30 minutes before enjoying.
Sometimes, if I'm working I can't make my dough in the morning, so I quickly shape when I wake up and place in a covered container in my fridge to bake that night after work. You could also change up the times of day, so long as you're allowing for 7-10 hours of rising time. You really can't compare to the flavour and texture of sourdough in my opinion, so it's absolutely worth learning. 

Sourdough Starter Recipe*

The key to creating a starter is to add flour and water together regularly, discarding about half every time you add more. In a few days you'll have a developing starter that has a hint of sourness in smell as well as lots of bubbles as proof of it's fermentation. If after several days your starter is still not rising at all, it may be too cold at your house. Make sure you add very warm water during the next "feed". You can also kickstart it by adding 1/2 teaspoon of quick rise dry yeast if you're desperate.

Day one: mix together 1/4 flour and 1/4 cup warm water.
Day two: discard half, then add 2 tb flour and 2 tb warm water
Day three: repeat day two
Day four: your starter should be active by now! If not continue, and so on... 

Maintaining your starter - Once it's active and sour, you can leave in the fridge for days, simply reinvigorating with a few tbs of water and flour 8 hours before using again. 

* Local friends, I'd be happy to give you some of my starter to get you, well, started :) 


We Have a Teenager!

It's so hard to believe we've entered this stage of parenting, but the day has finally come that we have a bonafide teenager under our roof and in our hearts. Last week Lily turned 13! 

It's surreal having children who are the ages that you remember being. That they're now old enough to stay up as late as us, watch the same movies as us (for the most part), join us in deep discussions and with whom we share interests and hobbies. Indeed, they and we are getting old. And you know what? It's better than I ever could have imagined. 

So much of the dread that society and even other parents have placed on this stage of parenting is ill founded. Much like the terrible twos, the newborn stage, or any other demanding season, of course there will be (and already have been) unique challenges. And unique blessings. Watching Lily's relationship with God develop into her own has been a sweet thrill. Seeing her taste and interests sharpen is really cool to see. Talking with her for hours (and I mean hours) is stimulating and I feel our friendship growing deeper as we both age. I'm convinced that these years are dear, if we'll let them be. 

I love watching our oldest girl grow in independence, and how city-living allows so many opportunities to spread her wings. I love how she's still an avid reader and though a social butterfly, she doesn't hassle us to let her on social media (linked to this, I admire her maturity). She's a babysitter extraordinaire, generous with her siblings and friends, quick to laugh, still so playful and yet already so wise. 

Given her recent birthday I've heard dozens of  the classic remark upon discovering one has a teenager. "Good luck with that!" or "my condolences!" with the knowing eye roll. I'm new to the teenage parenting bit, but I've been saying the same thing to everyone, "she really is a great kid!" and "we're loving it so far!" trying not to be too smug. The truth is, it's much harder than previous stages because we have less and less control and we allow more and more independence. Teens aren't in bed by 7pm and don't take quiet times or naps so their parents can regroup. Their clothes and bodies take up so much more space and yes, the grocery bill is a good $50 more than it was a couple years ago. What small prices to pay to raise your friend and sister, and see that they're exceeding your every wish. 


Travel Hacking 3.0

As some of you know, over the years our family has been able to take some pretty amazing trips with our kids through maximizing Aeroplan points. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an e-mail or DM about how our family manages to travel internationally on a budget so I’ve asked Brad (the master travel planner in our family!) to explain things in more detail. He did write up a post a couple of years ago that I know was helpful for so many of you (I love e-mails from strangers telling me they’ve made it to Madrid/Hong-Kong/Reykjavik/etc thanks to our points tricks!) but since the points program with Aeroplan has changed somewhat, here’s the updated version. Take it away, Brad :)

Hi everyone! Alright here we go. As Em mentioned, the Aeroplan points program has undergone some significant changes over the past few years, but on the whole it's still pretty awesome. If you know how to use it right, it still offers the opportunity for heavily discounted travel, which makes all the difference when you’re buying five plane tickets for every family trip!

In a nutshell, the trick is to sign up for certain credit cards which offer disproportionally huge amounts of Aeroplan points as a sign-up bonus, which we then redeem for flights. All we end up paying is the credit card annual fee and the flight taxes. When done properly, it’s saved us tons of money on our flights.

For example, let’s say you wanted two return tickets to Europe, say from Toronto to Rome this September. Google Flights says it would cost $2,376.  

Yet with the Aeroplan points that you would get from just three credit cards (Amex Gold, Amex Business Gold, and the CIBC Aeroplan Visa), it would bring that cost down to only $639.92 ($350 in fees for the two cards + $289.92 in flight taxes).

Not a bad way to save $1,700!

Incredibly, you would actually have enough points leftover for a roundtrip flight to Bermuda (if you live in Eastern Canada) or San Francisco (if you live out West).

Ok so what's the catch? (Because there’s always a catch!)

The catch is, you need to be able to spend a good chunk of change on these credit cards in the first 3-4 months. These cards require you to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 in purchases on the cards in order to qualify for the bonus points.

For most of us, these are very large amounts of money. But with some strategic planning, we’ve been able to do it many times over the years without increasing our household budget (I'll share some suggestions for this below).

The only other catch is that it helps to be organized. I use a simple Google Sheet to help me track how many points I need and when each card is due. Because the last thing you want is to waste the money you're saving on credit card missed payment fees :(

So if travel hacking sounds like something you’re up for, I’ve put together a handy step-by-step guide that simplifies the process.


The first thing to do is to check your credit score. Every credit card application you make lowers your score by about 5-7 points. Now, that’s out of a total of 900 possible points, so it’s not a huge number, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

Some other quick thoughts on credit for those interested:
  • A score represents a moment in time and can change based on your behaviour.
  • Missed or late payments or lots of maxed out credit accounts will lower your score.
  • The best way to increase your score is to pay back debts on time and consistently.
  • Scores typically range from 400 to 900, and 'good' scores are usually 660 and higher; anything over 750 is considered 'excellent'. So whether it’s 750 or 850 doesn’t really make a difference. For an institution like a bank or credit union looking at your credit, anything over 725 is a no-brainer.

If it might help allay your fears, Em and I have had DOZENS of cards over the years (I've seriously lost count, I have five on my desk in front of me right now lol) and her credit score is 861. Mine is 811. 

So in my experience, the fears that opening many cards will trash your credit score are pretty overblown.

Here's two great ways to get your credit score for free:


Also, if you don't already have an Aeroplan membership, you can sign up here (it's free).

Ok, let's get started!


In order to rack up the necessary points for your dream trip, you have to follow these steps:

  1. Apply for a given card(s)
  2. Meet the minimum spending requirements for the card
  3. Wait for the points to appear in your account (they say it can take up to 8 weeks but I usually see them within a few days)
  4. Cancel the card when the second year begins so you don’t pay the annual fee twice
These steps will lead you through applying for various credit cards, some which provide Aeroplan points directly, or American Express cards which earn 'Membership Rewards' points, which are transferable 1:1 to Aeroplan. (So when I use the term 'points', I'm referring to both Aeroplan points and Amex points, since they have the same value.)

Links to Credit Cards to Apply For:

Ok, start dreaming: where do you want to go? Figure out how many points you'll need, and then apply for the cards to make it happen.

Aeroplan uses a distance-based flight reward chart, meaning the more miles you want to travel, the more points required. Here's some examples, all for round-trip flights:

Toronto/Montreal to New Orleans/Miami/Bermuda/Havana: 20,000 pts
Toronto/Montreal to Costa Rica/Mexico/Panama City/Barbados/Punta Cana: 25,000 pts
Toronto/Montreal to Western Europe: 70,000 pts
Toronto/Montreal to Eastern Europe: 80,000 pts

Vancouver/Calgary to San Francisco/Los Angeles/Las Vegas: 20,000 pts
Vancouver to Hawaii: 25,000 pts
Vancouver/Calgary to Tokyo: 70,000 pts
Vancouver/Calgary to most of Europe: 80,000 pts

If you want to see exactly how many points would be required for your desired destination, you can do that here (note that points shown there are for one-way flights).

Now let's take the first step: applying for cards!

[A quick preamble as of June 14, 2024: banks in Canada seem to be preparing themselves for an economic downtown and rising mortgage defaults. As such, banks at the moment are more cautious than usual about giving out credit, and so there's not a ton of amazing credit card offers right now. The CIBC one below is ok, and the Amex Business one below is actually still amazing, but the other two I crossed out because they are no longer available and the current offers that replaced them are pretty terrible.

I'll keep checking regularly and I'll update this section when better offers become available!]

  • Annual fee waived for the first year
  • 10,000 pts awarded after your first purchase
  • 20,000 pts awarded after spending $6,000 in the first four months
  • 1.5x points on grocery and gas

AMERICAN EXPRESS BUSINESS GOLD REWARDS CARD – 70,000 points (75,000 if you use this link!)
  • Annual fee is $199
  • 75,000 pts awarded after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • This is a 'business' card, meaning you need to provide a business name - but it doesn't need to be an officially registered business. It can be anything that might allow someone to make money - even if it's not currently doing so.
  • For example, I sell stuff all the time on Kijiji and Marketplace. So I used "Brad's Deals" for my business name and they're perfectly ok with that. Or if I had Instagram, I could use that for my business. It's really flexible (and still ethical, which is important to us!)
  • When it asks for 'Number of employees', or ‘Annual business revenue’, I just tell the truth: 1 employee, and for revenue, $200, $100, or even $0! They don’t seem to mind that my business isn’t very profitable :)


  • Annual fee waived for the first year
  • 10,000 pts awarded after your first purchase
  • 25,000 pts awarded after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months
  • 1.5x points on grocery and gas

AMERICAN EXPRESS GOLD REWARDS – 40,000 points (45,000 if you use this link!)
  • Annual fee is $250, but the card provides a $100 annual travel credit that you can use for any travel purchase, essentially bringing the fee down to $150
  • 45,000 pts awarded after spending $3,000 
  • 2x points on travel, gas, grocery and drugstore
  • 4 passes for Plaza Premium airport lounges

Don't forget that in addition to the big lump sum points given, these cards also award one point per dollar spent (and sometimes with bonuses for gas/grocery/etc). So for the Amex Business Gold card, after meeting the spending requirement, you'd actually end up with 80,000 points: 75,000 from the bonus, and 5,000 from having spent $5,000.


As I mentioned, these cards require some significant spending before they'll dish out the points: anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000, all within the first 3-4 months of having the card.

These are huge amounts for us, but you'd be surprised how far you can get just by putting all your regular spending on the card. Here's some other tricks we’ve used to help accelerate the process without actually increasing our household spending:
  • The easiest solution, if possible, is to time your credit card application with an upcoming major expense: a home renovation, tuition costs, or new appliances.
  • Some small businesses won't take Amex, but almost every online retailer will. Between Old Navy, Gap, Paypal, Airbnb, and Amazon, we can put a lot of money on our Amex cards just through regular spending.
  • Any big recurring annual payments are perfect for this, like life/car/house insurance. And best of all, you often get a small discount for paying the year upfront 😅
  • This one will sound weird, but you can overpay your internet and cell phone bills and essentially pay for a year of service in advance. So a $720 cell phone payment will result in an account credit that will be used to pay your $60/month bill for a year.
  • Donations: if you give monthly to an organization, an option is to cancel the donations for a year and simply make a one-time donation. So you cancel your $100/month donation for six months and make a $600 donation. (But don’t forget to restart the monthly donations after!)
  • You can offer to put big purchases for a group on your card. A friend of ours put some big costs for his brother's wedding on his card, his brother paid him back, and he was able to hit his minimum spend in one shot.
  • Some other great sources for our Amex spending: all gas stations, Home Depot, Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix. 


First, you convert your points:

Since you’re working towards an Aeroplan flight reward, you need to convert your American Express 'Membership Rewards' points to Aeroplan points (they transfer 1:1). Thankfully, this is super easy. Go to the Rewards section after you log in to Amex, and find the link for "Rewards", and then “Transfer my points.”

The conversion from Amex points to Aeroplan is instantaneous – however, you must first register your Aeroplan account, and that can take a few days. So plan accordingly!

Then, the fun part: booking your flight!

One thing to keep in mind, is you want to BOOK EARLY. Like all flight reward programs these days, Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing for their flights, meaning the more people book a particular flight, the more Aeroplan points become required for subsequent bookings. So if you book last minute, a flight that should cost 25,000 points could easily cost double. So for our summer trips, I usually try to get the flights booked by November.

Other than that, the process of booking your flights is pretty intuitive. You do it online through your Aeroplan account. You can also call in and have an Aeroplan agent help make the booking for you - in the past, they charged $35 for this. I'm not sure if they still do, I just do it online...

As mentioned, you will still be on the hook for the flight and airport taxes, but if you choose the right flights they're not too bad: around $150-$200 per person for a round-trip flight to Europe. But considering the actual price of these flights, especially these days, I usually pay these taxes with a smile on my face :)


Two final tips for extracting even more value from what is already a pretty lucrative technique:


Aeroplan has a generous stopover policy, which for only 5000 points allows you to add a destination to your itinerary: a completely different city in a completely different country! So to continue the example I gave at the beginning for Toronto to Rome, maybe you want to spend a week in Paris on the way to Rome. That would bump the Google Flights price up to $2,760, but with Aeroplan it would only set you back 5000 points and an extra $80 in flight taxes. Definitely something to consider! You can play around with different routings by selecting the 'multi-city' option when choosing flights.


If you have a significant other, this unlocks a fantastic means of earning points faster. Amex offers a stack of bonus points for ‘referrals’: that is, having your partner (or anyone!) sign up for one of their credit cards through you. For example, if you have the Business Gold card, you would get 15,000 bonus points for referring your partner to a Business Gold card. And if they then referred YOU to a Gold Rewards card, they would get 15,000 bonus points. 

Again, this is all predicated upon being able to meet the spending requirements for these cards. But assuming that’s possible for you, this is the way to rack up points fast (yes I am indeed counting the days until my kids are old enough to have a credit card lol)


So that's pretty much it!

It might sound complex, but you get the hang of it real quick. If you have any questions I’d be happy to help, so just ask them below in the comments and I’ll reply there.


Easy, Bouncy, and Delicious Focaccia

This recipe will make you famous at potlucks! Focaccia is so affordable to make, not to mention simple, but it feeds a crowd and is easily in the top ten most delicious foods on the planet. I promise. You need to try it!

I first posted the recipe on Instagram reels, but I've been meaning to put it on my blog for months. Reels are fun and give a glimpse at the incredible texture of this oily dough, but they're not as searchable and the recipe is in such tiny font. It was time to put this bread on the blog!

  • 2 1/4 tsp. quick rise yeast (or one packet)
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 2½ cups lukewarm water
  • 5 cups flour (I use AP)
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 10 tbsp. olive oil, seperated
  • any additional herbs for seasoning

  • Simply combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, except the olive oil! 
  • Stir to make a shaggy, sticky dough. 
  • Once combined, stir in 5 tbsp olive oil to your dough.
  • Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered with a plate or towel on your counter.
  • Once doubled in size, pour 5 more tbs. olive on top and place into a buttered 9x13 lasagna dish.
  • Spread to fill and then using your fingers, poke deep into the bread until the dough resembles a Montreal street 🚧
  • Season with herbs, salt, and pepper and brush with more olive oil (I used a garlic olive oil and thyme)
  • Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, or until top is nicely golden 🍞✨

  • To avoid the dough sticking to your hands, first rinse in cold water and leave them wet
  • If you use regular yeast and not quick rise, it will need 3-4 hours to rise
  • Sprinkle flaky sea salt and fresh herbs on baked bread for the best presentation
Let me know here or on Instagram if you've tried it!


Heritage as Art

Over the Holidays I had a lovely visit with my Grandma, "Ga", and she asked me to look through some of her old photos to see if there was anything I might like to keep. I loved looking through the decades and was so amazed at the memories that came flooding back as I looked at pictures from my childhood, not to mention the special photos from before I was born. Some in particular struck me and I was delighted when Ga offered them to me. Her wedding photos from 1953! 

I framed them as soon as I got back to the Parsonage and I love seeing them every day. They were so young and joyful and full of promise! What's beautiful is I got to see their marriage through the decades following and how it grew into something incredibly calm and steady and grounding for our whole family. My grandpa has been gone for over 20 years, making these photos even more special. 

I have never displayed many family photos in our homes. We do an annual Family Year Book, holding our favourite photos from the year, so we have lots of opportunities to look back visually, but not so much on the walls. I think it's just a design choice and depends on your personal taste. But these black and white photos were so striking and had such a heritage feel, I broke my own rule and couldn't be happier!


Books for Christmas, Always

Is there a better Christmas gift than a book? I can't think of a Christmas where I haven't gifted a book to my children, and this year will be no exception. I often buy secondhand but when I can't find books we want at the charity shop or thrift store, I always check Book Outlet. They're based in Ontario and have the most incredible prices on books, usually because there is a micro flaw in the cover or spine. The vast majority of the time I can't for the life of me find the flaw, but I'll happily take the enormous savings!

Use this link for $5 your first order! 

Cook Books - My favourite place to start any Christmas List (and this one I just bought to put under the tree for myself at that great price!)

Lateral Cooking by Niki Segnit, $11.46 at Book Outlet and $54 at Indigo and Amazon.

I also grabbed the Love Sugar Magic series for Chloe in hard cover for $6.81 per book at Book Outlet (I'd have paid $15 per book on Amazon and $21 at Indigo). My kids all loved the Just Add Magic tv series on Prime and this book series seems similar.

Lastly, I got a few books for Oli from The Unwanteds series, for $4.34 per book on Book Outlet (would have cost $11.99 on Amazon). It's supposed to be "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter" so I think he'll love it!

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you're reading and buying for your loved ones to read this Christmas! I always love sharing a good deal and what I'm reading, so consider us caught up on both scores. Hope you have a chance to check out Book Outlet before going Big Box - they have so many titles I want and the prices are bananas. Happy reading!


The Parsonage Living Room!

We've been in our new home, affectionately called The Parsonage (not because it's owned by our church - it's not, but simply because it's where the pastor's family dwells) for a couple of months and it's slowly taking shape. It's come a long way from it's 1905 origins and dilapidated state when we first started work in January 2022. Here are the Before shots to give you an idea!

We replaced the walls, insulating them, added built-in bookshelves, replaced the floors, also leveling the under flooring, re-did the electrical, took down a wall, effectively doubling the living room space, added a fireplace, replaced the lighting, restored the mouldings and baseboards, painted, and moved in. 

Above three photos by Kimberly Archambault 

The built-in bookshelves are such a dream come true! Montreal Shelves (headed up by our contractor) built them to our exact design. The frame TV was a splurge, but as it was our first time every buying a TV we went for it! I love how the cords are all hidden behind the wall and how it can look like a painting whenever we're not using it. 

The fireplace was also a custom job by our contractor. I really wanted a small shelf rather than a mantle and a bench (or hearth) in front of the fireplace. This was my inspiration picture. I love how it turned out! 

The open concept stairs down to the basement also make up a significant part of the living room. White iron and minimal was my goal but I was coming against obstacles everywhere - timing our move for right after the Quebec construction holiday didn't help, but also the materials were very expensive so I had to find a solution. It was Brad and I who designed the stairs, then we had an architect draw up the plans and an engineer confirm that everything was above board. I called a dozen stair makers and installers and after hearing the quotes I knew we had to change something. Instead of wrought iron with a powder coated finish, the railing is metal, painted white with a custom curved railing painted to match. It has the same look I was hoping for but cost a fraction of the presumed cost! I also found a semi-retired stair maker on Google who quoted me drastically less and turned out to be the most reliable craftsmen we worked with on the whole project. Never late, always there when he said, replied to texts in minutes. I'm so thankful we found him!

There are still a few kinks to work out in this room. We haven't painted all the baseboards, nor installed the blinds in one window, and the drapes for the bay window will be re-installed as they weren't the correct measurement or style. We also need to get a small side table for near our couch as right now we have to put our drinks on the floor when we sit there! After everything this room has been through and how far it's come, we can wait a while longer.  


Vancouver Island

The last two years have been scary and limiting and most of us have stayed put for the most part. From working from home, homeschooling, and mass-closures (especially in my province, which had some of the strictest rules in North America regarding the Pandemic), understandably travels were put on hold or cancelled altogether. 

In the summer of 2020, Canada had closed it's borders to international travels, so our planned trip was of course cancelled. We knew we wanted to do something for Brad's three week holidays, but of course had to stay in Canada. Bonus points if we could find something socially distant and in nature, as we'd just passed six months of curfews and lockdowns in our tiny urban condo with five people and were going slightly crazy. Lockdowns were challenging for everyone, so I don't want to claim it was harder on us than anyone else, but I will say if you lived through the pandemic without a back yard and have kids, it was particularly grueling. 

Thankfully Canada is a huge country, so we were able to travel within the country and enjoy a little adventure whilst keeping Pandemic rules, testing, and masking. We went to Vancouver Island and spend all day every day outside on the secluded beaches and trails. It was wild to be in such an absolutely mind-blowing landscape and climate, yet still use Canadian dollars! I couldn't believe we were still in Canada as it's worlds away culturally and mentally from Montreal. 

We stayed in Victoria, renting our friends beautiful home while they were camping. Then we went on to Salt Spring Island, renting a rustic cabin that came with hens and a super gentle dog! What an idyllic, restful few days. Then last stop was Ucluelet, a surfing town just south of Tofino. We still visited Tofino, but Ucluelet was much more affordable. We met up with friends from Montreal who were camping out West the same time we were there and had a beach day, complete with wet suits (which was absolutely necessary as the water was *freezing*). 

We usually travel to urban locations, but for safety reasons and also to give our bodies and minds a rest from isolation in the city, this destination was the perfect choice for Summer 2020! 

We cooked all of our meals, both to save money and because restaurants, though open, didn't feel safe. Vancouver Island wasn't masking very much in 2020, but since we were coming from a much stricter environment with higher infection numbers it felt really strange and wrong not to. I should add that we all tested negative before travelling out West and wore our masks any time we were around people, but that wasn't too often as we were usually out on the forests or on the beach. 

It was all absolutely charming and the absolute best place to catch our breath. I am so grateful that this option was open to us in 2020. Of course, many would have chosen not to travel at all and I absolutely respect that. 

If you're looking for a Canadian getaway, I can't speak highly enough about Vancouver Island. The only drawback to this location is the price and sometimes the weather. It's quite chilly on the coast, and there were times I wore a thrifted winter coat that I found while there. It was August! We definitely didn't pack enough warm clothes. The cost of food was astronomical compared to Montreal. Everywhere, but especially as we travelled further West to Ucluelet and Tofino. Grocery shopping was on a strict budget, and we ate Raman and eggs for most suppers! In that sense it reminded me of Iceland - absolutely gorgeous but very expensive. Vancouver Island was such a dream! 

Victoria is a city I could see myself living in, and that's not something I have ever said about a Canadian city apart from our beloved Montreal!