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Family friendly art studios in Montreal – Future Jackson Pollock?

Top Art Studios Montreal

It looks like it’s going to be another rainy weekend in Montreal. Yet another.

To make the most of the lousy weather, I’ve compiled a list of fun indoor art activities. Why not cultivate your child’s inner artist by visiting one of the following child-friendly art studios in Montreal:

4 Cats Art Studios

This is a chain (franchise) of studios around Montreal (and North America) and I’ve heard great things about their kid programs. They have tax deductible classes for children aged 2-10+. Adult participation is welcomed (sometimes mandatory depending on the age) and they have cool after-school programs, too. My son is still too young for our family to test this out but I welcome comments from other families!

Locations: 5026 Parc Plateau/Outremont, Montreal, QC H2V 4E8, (514) 508-3889

And 2748 Blvd. St-Charles, Kirkland, QC H9H 3B6, (514) 505-3727

Website: http://www.4cats.com/

 Café Ceramic

Another cool little franchise in Montreal is the Café Ceramic. I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept: paint a pre-formed pottery piece while you enjoy some coffee/food. I always liked the concept and I plan on introducing my son as soon as the paint is more inviting on the ceramic than on his face! I’ve been to some of these ceramic cafes in different parts of North America and I’ve really enjoyed the time spent relaxing while painting and chatting with friends. If your kids are old enough to understand the concept, I highly recommend these chains!

Locations: 4338, St-Denis, Montréal (Qc) H2J 2K8, 514 848-1119

565, Boulevard Saint-Martin Ouest (Qc) H7M 1Y8, 450 669-9399

3240, boul. Taschereau (Qc) J4V 2H3, 450 443-8582

Website: http://www.leccs.com/

Any other recommendations for great child/family-friendly art studios in Montreal area? Let me know!

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Montreal’s Best Ice Cream

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Not only has Spring sprung but Summer has strummed her lovely tune! May Day was gorgeous in Montreal! We celebrated the warm evening by treating ourselves to some tasty ice cream. It doesn’t quite feel like summer until we’ve enjoyed our first Montreal cone.

Here are some of the best spots for enjoying ice cream in Montreal (in no particular order):

 

  • Yeh!: Yes, the name says it all. They put a neat spin on fro-yo (frozen yogurt); the flavors and toppings are self-serve and you pay by weight once you’ve created your masterpiece. Locations: http://www.yehyogourt.com/emplacement.php
  • Bilboquet: Wowzers! They really put the “art” in artisan ice cream (sorry, cheesy). But honestly, their fresh, homemade ice cream is simply divine! My personal favorite is the coconut sorbet. Locations: http://www.bilboquet.ca/adresses.html
  • Ben & Jerry’s: An obvious one! I wish they had more locations in Montreal because the line-ups on warm nights are absurd. For example, in my crazy youth, I once waited almost two hours for a cone (Crescent St. store). Locations: http://www.benandjerrys.ca/scoop-shops;jsessionid=B83C2A183C6AEBFAF328CAD3E87D40D9.bnj1_worker
  • La Cremiere: Their soft-serve ice cream is second to none. Known for their spiral cone (swirls of caramel, chocolate, or strawberry intertwined with the ice cream), they have many, many locations and most malls have at least one booth to serve you their delicious dessert. Locations: http://www.lacremiere.com/en/boutiques.php
  • Dairy Queen: Anther common choice but for good reason: they serve the blizzard! Named the blizzard because it’s a tornado of ice cream and your choice of topping, it’s their signature ice cream and one of my favs. Mmmm. Locations: http://www.dairyqueen.com/ca-en/Locator/?
  • La Dolce Vita: If you are in the West Island, I highly recommend this gelato shop. They make some of the finest gelato I’ve had since…Italy! They also have great combo suggestions–trust their choices. Location: 3776 St Charles, Kirkland, H9H 3C6.
  • Orange Julep: Ok, fine. Off-topic. But they do serve ice cream! Go ahead and order the ice cream if you have room after their delicious, greasy food and awesome orange drink. It’s a landmark. You have to try it at least once! Location: 7700 Boulevard Decarie, Montreal, H4P 2H4.
  • Twist et Creme: A childhood favorite had to be included. My father and I used to bike to this run-down shack of an ice cream stand and I loved every minute of it. I relived that with my son tonight–it was great! Yes, the decor is shabby and the “stand” is in the middle of a parking lot but it’s a West Island landmark as much as the Orange Julep is in TMR (Town of Mont Royal). They make greaaaat brownie sundaes. Location: 11898 Gouin O, Montreal, H1C 1B8.
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Maiko Sushi – Des Sources Blvd & Bernard Street (Montreal, Qc)

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Sushi is not for everyone. I think it’s a preference that falls into the love it (my family) or hate it category. Maiko Sushi (Des Sources Blvd) in the West Island has been (arguably) named the Best in the West. Nothing quite qualifies until it’s been tested by a toddler-run family.

We gave them a good chance: we went early (we were the first to arrive) and we brought the Ipad for emergency back-up. As soon as we sat down, we ordered my son’s meal; he’s a lightweight and a miso soup (and yogurt)  is enough for his bird-belly. They quickly brought it out and he entertained himself attempting to eat the soup with those plastic double-ended spoons they have at Japanese and Chinese restaurants.

The menu is varied and offers a nice selection of different sushi and cooked meals. Of course, they also offer a la carte sushi and they have a really neat “chef’s creation” menu of unusual sushi/sashimi combos ($18 each).

We each ordered the $33 sushi/sashimi combo (strange move on our part because we normally order different meals to share). It comes with a miso soup, a salad, shrimp & veggie tempura, a mixed plate of sushi/sashimi (I’m going to guesstimate 12 pieces), dessert and green tea. Honestly, it’s a really good price and whereas I normally feel like I could go for McDonalds after having spent $50+ on sushi, I left Maiko Sushi very, very full. In fact, I couldn’t eat my dessert (my bird-belly son who never has room for actual food but always manages to polish off the dessert ate mine).

The miso soup was very tasty; I always hate miso soup that is cheap on the shiitake mushrooms and seaweed but super heavy on the tofu and overly watery broth. Their soup had plenty of tasty mushrooms, seaweed and tofu–excellent broth, too. I loved their salad! It’s a very simple mix of greens tossed with a ginger/sesame dressing and topped with tiny pieces of fried noodles but it was very, very tasty. Their tempura was delicately fried and the batter didn’t overwhelm the taste of the shrimp/veggies (often a problem with tempura, I find). So far, so good.

The first three “appetizers” really set me up for a taste-explosion of sushi and sashimi but I was somewhat disappointed. It’s not that it wasn’t good (it was fresh and it tasted fine) but I was underwhelmed by the selection and the large amount of boring maki rolls. Really, how much avocado in a rice-roll do you want in a chef’s selection? I know it’s cheap but come on. Also, the slices of sashimi were really lacking. Worst of all was the high amount of the “filler” sushi: tamago nigiri (fried egg on a rice roll), smelly mackerel and tons of the tasteless white fish. Like I said, it’s not that the sushi wasn’t fresh or that it didn’t taste good, I just felt that such a creative restaurant could have impressed me with a much better selection of rolls, nigiri and different raw fish.

To be fair, this was my third time trying this $33 combo at Maiko Sushi and it was the first time that I felt the selection was cheaper than normal. I really, really hope this is not a trend they are starting but rather the result of a less-than-creative chef’s decision.

Overall, the staff was super-attentive and one of the waitresses even offered to walk around the restaurant with my son when he was fussing and we were trying to finish our meals (super bonus points). The restaurant was still mostly empty so she had the time to entertain my son but she didn’t have to so the effort is certainly noted. In general, no one seemed to mind my son’s new-found love of screaming on top of his lungs (he recently discovered that screaming like this annoys the heck out of mommy and daddy so he’s happily testing our limits). But you know what? We never turned on the last-resort Ipad so kudos to the waitstaff!

The dessert was a small but sufficient portion of banana bread with ice cream. I can’t comment on that dessert but in the past, I have had their brownie/ice cream dessert and it was very tasty. Their green tea is also very good.

Unfortunately, parents of children who despise sushi will often avoid those restaurants. I think sushi restaurants realize this and they offer a variety of cooked meals specifically for that reason. Parents who love sushi: don’t deprive yourself of sushi-goodness just because your kids hate raw fish!

I will return to Maiko Sushi because I’ve had a number of very positive experiences and I feel like I might have had an “off” night. The idea of a restaurant’s “off” night always makes me sad because what if that night had been my first night? I wouldn’t have returned because I wouldn’t have known that that was an exception rather than the norm. First impressions really do count, don’t they?

Family-friendly? Yes (They don’t offer a kid menu so they lose points there but they fully gain it back with their general kid-friendly staff and layout)

Food? Ehhh, mostly yes

Service? Yes

Website: http://maikosushi.ca/

Address(es): 3339 des Sources Boulevard, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, H9B 1Z8

387 Bernard Street West, Montreal, H2V 1T6

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Currently on tour through North America, Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience will be at the Corona Theatre this weekend only: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. Managing to squeeze the Harry Potter series (7 books) into an unbelievable 70 minutes, the duo (Gay and Delme) has been receiving great reviews and most of their showings are sold out. If you have any Harry Potter fans in the house, this presentation is great for kids 6+.

Official site: http://www.pottedpotter.com/

Location: Corona Theatre, 2490 Notre-Dame ouest, Montreal, Le Sud-Ouest, H3J 1N5

Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm

For tickets: http://www.theatrecoronavirginmobile.com/

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Butterflies Go Free – Last Weekend (April 27-28, 2013)

This is the last weekend to see the beautiful butterflies of Montreal’s Botanical Gardens. See here for my previous post about this great exhibit–highly recommended!

The Botanical Gardens is located at 4101 Sherbrooke Street East, Montréal (H1X 2B2) and the complex is part of the Insectarium and the Biodome.

Rates are as follows: Adults $15; Seniors (65+) $14; Students (18+ with ID) $11.25; Kids (5 to 17) $7.50 and Family (2adults/2-3 kids) $42. Kids under 5 are free.

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Link to the Montreal Botanical Gardens official site:

http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden

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Scotia Bank Marathon – Volunteer/Donate for Charity!

Scotia Bank Marathon - Volunteer/Donate for Charity!

Any avid runners? Here’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors while cheering on runners for a great cause! Volunteers are always needed and it’s a great way to get your kids involved. Hopefully the weather cooperates (it’s supposed to be mild). Sponsored by Scotia Bank, the marathon will be held on April 28th, 2013 starting at 8:30am at Jean-Drapeau Park. Last year, they raised $565,048.11! Let’s hope they can beat that amount this year.
Official website: http://www.canadarunningseries.com/monthalf_en/index.htm

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Top Ten Chore Tips – Spring Cleaning

Fooled by the weather gods again! Friday’s warmth was clearly the calm before the storm. Today, it has rained, snowed, hailed and…what other meteorological phenomenons have I forgotten? Obviously not the best day for outdoor activities. I hope it clears up by tomorrow as I have some Earth Day celebrations planned.

Still, sometimes lousy weather can be productive for indoor activities. Today’s goal: spring cleaning (at least interior cleaning). Spring is an amazing season of growth and renewal after winter’s hibernation. My son is still too young to understand a merit/demerit system of chores/household duties but trust me, as soon as my slave… er…son (!) is old enough to take on some tasks, he’ll be a scrubbin’.

The Baby Mop: Even infants can clean now! (Why didn't I have one of these for my son?)

The Baby Mop: Even infants can clean now! (Why didn’t I have one of these for my son?)

Chores are a win-win situation. Think about it: as an adult, apart from the occasional volunteering, most of the work you do demands payment. Kids quickly learn how capitalism works. Instead of giving a weekly allowance “just because”, reward them for their hard work from the start. And don’t go easy on them if they don’t perform their required tasks; if they don’t sweep they don’t get their merit points/money. I know I sound harsh here but would your boss pay you even if you didn’t perform your duties?

So for you lucky parents who have kids aged 5+, here are a few cleaning tips for kids:

  1. Organize: Kids love to separate and sort according to likeness. Truthfully, all humans like to categorize and maintain some kind of semblance of order. This can apply to many different household duties but here are a few that come to mind: sort the mess of mismatched socks, sort through the chipped and cracked dishes/glasses, arrange their toys/games according to type, re-fold the mess that is your linen closet, etc.
  2. Inventory: Kids who can write love taking inventory counts. Make it fun for them: ask them to go through the pantry and list everything that is empty, half-full or unused; you can use the same type of list while going through the closet of shampoos, soaps, and hair products.
  3. Lists: I have found that lists are essential for men. Well, my husband at least. If I ask him to “clean the bathroom” he looks at me blankly. You see, I have this “virtual” list in my head that I mentally check off as I’m cleaning but my husband doesn’t see it the same way. I’m willing to bet that many kids would feel flustered if asked to clean “something” without being given directives. I would recommend detailed lists of everything you ask. It serves the purpose of visualizing exactly how much they have to accomplish and they feel a sense of pride as they check off the items on their list.
  4. Manageability: Make sure the chores you assign are age-appropriate. Nothing is worse than a child feeling dejected because he/she can’t perform the tasks his/her parent asks because of age. Also, make sure the items on the list can be finished in a set amount of time. A child will be get bored and/or discouraged if he/she can’t finish in about the assigned time. Obvious example: don’t have your 5 year old clean the fine china; instead, have your 5 year old clean the exterior of the curio that contains the fine china.
  5. Accountability: Go over the tasks your kids have accomplished once they are finished. Humans love positive feedback and constructive criticism is integral to your child understanding how to improve his/her work. If your kid’s job was to clean the windows and they are covered in fingerprints and spaghetti sauce, I would suggest you don’t praise that as excellent work; instead, show him/her how you expect the windows to look once they are clean and have them demonstrate his/her ability to accomplish same.
  6. Creative cleaning: This is the most obvious of chores but often the hardest to get your kid to complete. Making cleaning a “fun chore” is an oxymoron (in my view) so as parents, we need to find creative ways to get our kids involved. Have them complete cleaning chores that are in 10-15 minute segments. Also, try to get your children to value the cleaning they have accomplished; sometimes if they understand how much time it took, they won’t be as inclined to dirty it as quickly.
  7. Real rewards: Demonstrating that their work will earn them tangible gifts is a big factor. Though some kids may appreciate the delayed satisfaction of a savings account, I’m willing to bet that most will enjoy the piggy bank of saved-up money to spend on their choice of a toy. Give them a goal chart and show your kids how each chore helps them approach their ultimate goal.
  8. Recycle-Reuse: Spring cleaning is a great time to go through your unused items and donate to charity. I’m sure your kids have amassed a large number of toys that have not been played with in months or more. Ask them to go through their toys with the aim of donating the ones they no longer need/want. Once the pile is complete, bring them to the charity and have them hand it over. If you aren’t opposed to buying used clothing and/or toys, let your child choose a few “new” toys to bring home.
  9. Teamwork: If you are cleaning, chances are your kids will want to help out in some way. In other words, don’t sit on the couch watching TV and expect your kid to do all the work. Remember that teamwork is always faster, more productive and much more fun.
  10. Have fun: Yes, chores suck. But they are–as my mother would say–a necessary evil. Instead of dreading spring cleaning (or cleaning of any type), visualize the clean results: a fresh smelling, organized and livable home! Just as your kids like goals and lists, give yourself the same rewards. And at least try to have fun!