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Feb '10

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Clean up on toys as warehouses clean out

December, 2009

For years there was a dearth of places to get deals on toys – and believe me, I looked.

But suddenly this year we have not one, but three places offering warehouse sales to the public for incredible bargains on toys.

While you may not find this year’s hottest “must-haves,” you will find such basics as cars, dolls, books, bath toys, crafts, and puzzles at prices that should fit into your budget. Some of these same toys are being sold elsewhere in town at full price. Think of these sales as garage sales by businesses who need to clean out this year’s merchandise to make room for next season.

A homegrown company, Mega Brands just had their seasonal sale in the warehouse at their headquarters, but don’t despair because they now have a permanent toy outlet.

Besides their well-known snap together Mega Bloks, they also sell arts and crafts under the RoseArt brand and MagNext building sets, King Arthur construction sets, Mickey Mouse clubhouse construction sets, wagons, trucks, Triazzle puzzles, High School Musical and Hannah Montana crafts and Board Dudes.

Location: 4505 Hickmore, Ville St. Laurent. Hours: Tuesdays 12-6 pm, Thursdays 12-8 pm, Saturdays 10 am-4 pm. Info: 514-333-3339 or www.megabrands.com

Danawares offers a one-week sale of seasonal ornaments, puzzles, games, plush, toys, crafts, shovels, place mats, baby items, room accessories with such brand names as Princesses; Cars; Toy Story; Fairies; Winnie the Pooh; Dora the Explorer; Ni Hao, Kai Lan; Thomas; Max & Ruby; Backyardigans and more. This is a small space, but the prices are excellent. Location: 7010 Côte de Liesse. Hours: December 5 to 12, 10 am-4 pm. Info: www.danawares.com

Every fall, JRC toy warehouse opens to the public with deals of up to 70 per cent off. The company holds another sale in May. The warehouse has items by such brands as Barbie, Crayola, Fisher-Price, Hasbro, Hot Wheels, Little Tikes, Mattel, Mega Bloks and VTech as well as books for as low as $1.

Corporations, day cares or anyone holding Christmas events can buy in bulk and have the gifts wrapped.

Location: 5589 Royalmount at Devonshire. Open daily until Christmas. Info: 514-342-6979 or www.jrctoys.com

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New York’s capital city a capital choice

If you don’t have a lot of cash to spend and want to get away for the weekend, a good choice would be New York State’s heritage region, Albany. The state capitol building has free tours, the state museum has free entrance and offers eclectic options for each member of the family to enjoy, Grandma’s is the perfect pit stop for home-made food (even if you’re just passing through this exit) and the uniquely designed Desmond Hotel is a fun place to rest your head.

The New York State Capitol building, finished at the end of the 19th century, is a combination of renaissance, gothic, and medieval styles, and was built and carved by hand. When you take the tour you can see the difference between the assembly and senate chambers (notice the 23-carat gold leaf “wallpaper” and think of it as tax dollars stuck to that wall) and note the $1 million dollar staircase. Find out about the whispering fireplace, the resident ghosts, and ask to see the carved face of 4-year-old Lucretia (lovingly carved by her proud grandfather - one of the sculptors who were allowed some artistic freedom after their required list was finished).

Nearby, The New York State Museum covers the gamut, from a passing art exhibit on American attitudes toward race to permanent ones on the Adirondack wilderness, archaeology, the Cohoes mastodon, and Harlem in the ’20s. Other attractions include real-time displays of earthquakes in New York and around the world, a fire engine hall, birds and an enormous mineral collection. Do not miss the exhibit on the rescue after the World Trade Center September 11, 2001, attacks, including the recovery operation at the Fresh Kills landfill and the public response to the attacks.

You can ogle the governor’s collection of contemporary Native American crafts, while the kiddies will love visiting the original set of Sesame Street (secret: my dad helped build it), as well as the full-size carousel built between 1912 and 1916.

The restaurant called Grandma’s is a misnomer, as it’s run by a grandpa. Joseph Danaher opened it in 1976 as an alternative to fast food. He stuck to such basics as pot roast or meatloaf with mashed potatoes, hot open turkey sandwiches, spaghetti and meatballs, quiche, roast chicken, lasagna and delicious homemade soups.

As at all grandmas’ homes, you must leave room for dessert. Heirloom-recipe pies are the specialty here: wild blueberry, tart cherry, coconut custard, swiss chocolate almond, four kinds of apple, lemon meringue, pumpkin and even five sugar-free choices.

Even sleeping can be fun in Albany, as the Desmond Hotel was planned by a local family to mimic a Philadelphia street. When you are inside the complex it feels like you are outside. Rooms have balconies overlooking landscaped indoor courtyards, back doors with tables and chairs, and some of the rooms have two floors, with circular staircases leading up to your canopied bedroom (you can see a photo at www.drivei95.com/ plogger/plogger.php?level=picture&id=634)

Before you go New York State Capitol, Washington Ave. and State St. Take NY Thruway Exit 23. Walk-in tours Monday-Saturday. Info: 518-474-2418; www.ogs. state.ny.us/visiting/cultural/tourscapitol.html.

New York State Museum, Madison Ave. across the Plaza from the State Capitol building. Open daily from 9:30am-5pm. Info: 518-474-5877; www.nysm.nysed.gov

Grandma’s Restaurant, 1273 Central Ave. Take I-87 Exit 2. Info: 518-459-4585

Desmond Hotel, 660 Albany Shaker Road (Exit 4). Info: 800-448-3500; 518-869-8100; www.desmondhotelsalbany.com

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It’s time for annual beauty and fashion sales

This week I’m going to tell you about NOT shopping in stores. Just as we have garage sales, there are many manufacturers or distributors in the city that have annual or semi-annual clearance sales. Sometimes it pays to wait for a certain time of year to buy.

These businesses must clear out their warehouse space to make room for next season’s merchandise. They sell off samples or liquidated items they are no longer producing, leftovers from last season, seconds or lines that never sold well. Whatever it is, the price is always right.

The products vary as much as retail varies: toys, bowling balls, golf equipment, pianos, flatware, china, crystal, duvets and linens, home electronics, makeup and skin care products, perfume, Halloween costumes, winter jackets, lingerie, Quebec designer fashions, casual clothes for men and women, and chocolates. When you attend a sale, ask if you can be put on a mailing list for future sales. If you can’t make a sale, you can try to leave your name with the receptionist at the company for notification. Some have online mailing lists.

November is a good month for makeup and skin care sales and I’ve thrown in one fashion sale, too:

Marcelle makeup and skin care products were developed for women with sensitive skin. The company, whose products are manufactured and designed in Quebec, also produces the Annabelle line. If you would like to buy their discontinued and liquidated goodies, now is the time, since the next warehouse sale won’t be held until spring.

All Marcelle colours are $2.50, Annabelle colours are $1.50, and creams or lotions cost $8 to $24. It’s a good time to stock up on gifts, as there are usually gift boxes for sale. You can be put on a mailing or phone list for future sales. Location: 9200 Côte de Liesse at 43rd Ave. Phone: 800-387-7710. Dates: Thursday and Friday, Nov. 5 and 6 from 4-8pm; Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7 and 8 from 9am-4pm. www.marcelle.com

The Clarins Groupe has skin care, fragrance and cosmetic brands under its umbrella, so when its warehouse opens to the public, look for your favourites among such names as Burberry, Thierry Mugler, Escada, Azzaro, Puma, Le Couvent des Minimes, Anna Sui, Annick Goutal, Nuxe, Christina Aguilera, Brumisateur Evian, Occitane, Quicksilver, and, of course, Clarins. Location: 815 Desserte (Autoroute 13 service road) at Notre Dame in Laval. Phone: 450-688-0144. Dates: November 13 from 10am-9pm and November 14 from 9am-5pm. us.clarins.com

Lise Watier, Quebec’s own cosmetics queen, has semi-annual clearance sales of last year’s discontinued lines or slightly damaged packages of makeup, perfumes, and skin care products. The sale lasts two days for two or three weekends in a row. The next one will probably be in March. You can sign up on the website to be notified of future events by e-mail.

Location: 5600 Côte de Liesse. Phone: 514-735-4959, ext. 840. Dates: November 21 from 9am-5pm; November 22 from 9am-4pm; November 28 from 9am-5pm; November 29 from 10am-4pm; December 5 from 9am-5pm; December 6 from 9am-4pm. www.lisewatier.com

For years, those in the know have slid in to the entrance at the rear of the Tyfoon building in the Blue Bonnets area to rummage through the sample racks of upper-end brand name clothing.

The hunt is worth it, for men’s and women’s shoes and accessories from such names as: Kitson LA, Inkslingers, A.B.S., Cezer New York, Parish, aka Stash House, Triko, Coogi, David Brooks, Pastry, Akademiks, Crown Holder, Marithé François Girbaud, Levi’s, Black Sheep, Pellepelle, and European lines Nienhaus woman, Frank Walder and Brandtex.

Location: 5540 Ferrier at Devonshire. Phone: 514-731-7070 Dates: Friday, Nov. 27 from 9am-9pm; Saturday, Nov. 28 from 10am-5pm; Sunday, Nov. 29 from 12-5pm.

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Rockland County, NY, a destination for food, films and fun

As a travel reporter, when you hit an “oh-my-god” moment, you talk about it forever. My husband Stan and I were shmoozing with Greg Parseghian, owner of the Best Western Nyack in Rockland County, NY, and he let on that we could go “backstage” at Rockland Bakery (where he buys his yummy baked goods) and pick whatever we wanted. As it turns out, not only could we do this, but so can you.

First, you put on a pair of clear plastic gloves and grab a brown paper bag, then you follow your nose to the cooling racks. You can watch the breads and rolls coming off the conveyor belts. Then you just help yourself to whatever you want – raisin, pumpernickel and whole grain breads, Vienna rolls, bagels, challahs, Stan’s favourite cranberry raisin corn bread or onion boards, or my favourite seven-grain bread with sunflower seeds smothering the outside. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. You pay for your goods out front in the retail sweets bakery, where you can add: rugalach, cherry, pineapple, blueberry or cheese danish, babkas, bowties, crumb buns, doughnuts, black and white cookies, brownies, cakes, pies – and expect it all to be oversized, US-style. Beside the retail area there is a little deli where you can grab a sandwich, or you can give them one of your hot fresh rolls and they’ll pile it with cold cuts.

This 40-plus-year-old bakery has become a regular pit stop for us whenever we drive the I-87 to New York City.

Once you’re in the area, you can eat well, go dancing and watch big-screen classics in an old-time movie theatre.

For dining options you can mail ahead or pick up a “restaurant row” 10- to 15-per-cent-off discount card good at 16 restaurants along a four-block stretch of Nyack’s Main Street.

Hailing from Abruzzi, Italy, chef Marcello Russodivito of Marcello’s Ristorante has been conquering fine dining for 21 years, combining excellent service and warm hospitality. Expect him to come out to chat with you during your meal. Generous with his recipes, he shares them online and in his cookbook. The menu has heart-smart choices: There are creative ones like the ravioli stuffed with lamb, ricotta and spinach or the seafood on black pasta, and there are classics like eggplant or veal parmigiana and a to-die-for garlicky white clam sauce. For dessert, I enjoyed the panna cotta (vanilla custard) with raspberry sauce, and you can’t go wrong with the flourless chocolate cake. The restaurant offers cooking classes, or you can dine at the chef’s table in the kitchen.

Make sure you organize your eating in time to pop across the street to the Lafayette Theatre. Saved from the wrecker’s ball, this classic movie theatre, built in 1924, seats 1,000 (with original seats upstairs) and has a resident ghost named John. There are first-run movies, fine art films, live performances and Saturday matinee Big Screen Classics. The best treat is the 1931 Ben Hall Memorial Mighty organ, which played in Carnegie Hall and now booms out for half an hour before the Friday and Saturday night movies and the Saturday matinees. If you need to use the restrooms, vintage radios keep you abreast of the dialogue in the movie.

And the fun’s not finished yet. To bed down for the night, head over to the friendly, family-run Best Western Nyack on Hudson, whose motto is “where your family meets ours.” Recently renovated and 100-per-cent non-smoking, the hotel has fridges and coffee makers in every room. On Friday nights the West Gate Lounge offers free-style dancing and on Saturday nights it turns into a Latin night club where you can take salsa lessons and later on in the evening enjoy live music by bands from around the world. The best part: You don’t have to drive home – just toddle off to sleep in your bed upstairs.

Before you go

I-87 Exit 13S (NY State Thruway): Rockland Bakery, 94 Demarest Mill Rd.W., Nanuet, NY. Phone: 845-623-5800. Hours: Sun- Fri 6am-10:30pm, Sat 6am-midnight. www.rocklandbakery.com

Exit 14B: Marcello’s Ristorante 21 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. Phone 845-357-9108. Hours: lunch Mon-Sat 12 to 2:30pm. dinner: Mon-Thurs 5-9:30pm, dinner Fri & Sat 5-10pm, dinner Sun 3-8:30pm www.marcellosristorante.co

Exit 14B: Lafayette Theatre, 97 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. Phone: 845-369-8234, www.bigscreenclassics.com/lafayette.html

Exit 11: Best Western Inn, 26 Route 59, Nyack, NY. Phone: 877-358-8181 or 845-358-8100. www.bestwestern.com/nyackonhudson

For all the info you need on Rockland County: www.rockland.org

www.restaurantrowrockland.com

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Eyeglasses are expensive, so shop carefully

September, 2009

Shopping for eyeglasses is a trying experience – they can be so pricey – so there are certain things to keep in mind when your shop for them.

There are tons of brands, so it is pretty hard to comparison shop, since in most instances you are comparing apples and oranges. The style you choose is important, because glasses change your face, define your personality and become part of your wardrobe. Take a camera shopping with you and snap pictures of yourself wearing each pair you like, then go home and look at them.

If you need progressive lenses, while the cost may seem outrageous, there are reasons why they are so expensive. With progressives, you can’t just pluck a pre-ground prescription lens off a shelf and slip it into a frame. Almost every lens is made to order, because there are so many possible combinations of near vision, far vision and reading glasses. Also, it can be difficult to get your combination right the first time. If you are dealing with a good shop, you will be able to return within a certain number of days (30, 60 or 90) and they will fix the combination for you – at no extra charge. This service is built into that expensive price.

Here are some words of wisdom for when you shop for glasses:

• If the glasses don’t seem right (blurry, dizzying, the ground seems off ), don’t let your eyes adjust to the problem – get the glasses corrected.

• Carry a spare pair of glasses when you are travelling. (Keep your last pair to use those in an emergency.)

• Most optical stores in North America offer free minor adjustments if you have a problem on the road (a lens pops out, you lose a screw).

• Glasses that have no screws between the glass and the frame will never loosen and fall apart. You’ll never need that little screwdriver again.

• Titanium frames are much less breakable. If you are klutzy, you might want to consider them, but they are pricey.

To find decent prices, you have to go to stores that buy in large volume.

While the following chains offer lower prices, they may not always have the trendiest frames:

1) Costco stores have optical departments. 2) Some Walmart stores (Lasalle, Kirkland, Carrefour Laval) include Greiche and Scaff outlets. Frames run $24.99 to $100.

3) Laurier Optical is a home-grown chain that sells progressives for $99 to $299.

4) Lenscrafters is a huge North American chain that offers more middle-of-the-road, less trendy options.

Sandra Phillips is the author of Smart Shopping Montreal. You can find money-saving ideas on her shlog at www.smartshoppingmontreal.com

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Swimwear to suit every body’s needs

July 2009

Even for women who adore shopping, looking for bathing suits is the worst kind of shopping. Trying to figure out what a suit will look like on your body from its appearance drooping on a hanger is a job for a mind reader. The average number of suits a woman takes into a dressing room is 20, and she will take an hour or two trying to figure out which one shows the fewest of her flaws. At Paradis du Maillot one shopper tried on 121 suits!

Milad Hodhod, owner of Paradis du Maillot, surprised me when he mentioned that “60 per cent of bathing suits never even get wet.” In fact, there are entire lines of suits made just for show, with piles of impractical fabrics for water and all kinds of fancy trimmings.

Bathing suit manufacturers have gone to great lengths to help us suit our bodies. There are suits for every type of figure imaginable. The best trend in the industry, though, is the great concept of mix-and-match size. Not pieces. No longer are you stuck buying a two-piece in one size. Not only can you buy a top in one size and a bottom in another, you can also choose different styles of tops and bottoms in coordinating colours to suit your body shape.

There are many kinds of bathing suit bottoms to choose from, including shorts, skirts and often with matching sarongs. On top, you can buy both a teensy bikini top for your trip to the Riviera and a more modest tank top for sitting on the pool deck with your in-laws. For women who want to enhance their breasts, there are suits with padded bras or gel inserts (which feel more like breasts).At the other end of the spectrum are tops that are cut provocatively for women who want to show off their larger breasts.

Bikini Village Entrepôt, 2727 Taschereau at Marie, St.Hubert. Info: 450-923-1754. Hours: Monday to Wednesday 10am to 6pm, Thursday and Friday 10am to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Call first for instructions on how to get to this hard-to-find place (enter through Marie and turn left on Grand). You will be rewarded for your efforts with discounts of up to 75 per cent on bathing suits for women and men (women XS-16,men S-XXL) by such brand names as Seafolly, Billabong, Livia,Vitamin A, Split, Gottex, Christina, Tommy, Roxy and O’Neil. Look for special promotions on casual clothing. On a recent visit, there was a mix-and-match bathing suit sale with tops and bottoms at $1.99 each. Other liquidation location (temporary): 3822 Côte Vertu, 514-335-1449. www.bikinivillage.com

Paradis du Maillot, 9800 St. Laurent at Sauvé. Info: 514-389-2032. Hours: Monday to Wednesday 9:30am to 6pm. Thursday and Friday 9:30am to 9pm. Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 5pm. This is bathing suit heaven – a one-stop shop for the whole family, with amazing prices. It is huge –12,000 square feet – and filled to the rafters with thousands of suits, including walls full of mix-and-match pieces. You can select 20 or so, go into the spacious, air-vented, large-mirrored fitting rooms to find the one that fits your body. The store carries suits for all body types from all over the world – Brazil, South Africa, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Spain,Germany, France and the Mideast. Men will find board suits as well as the trendy volley suits with a shorter leg (think boxer brief length).

Sandra Phillips is the author of Smart Shopping Montreal. You can find money-saving ideas on her shlog at www.smartshoppingmontreal.com

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Guys, you only have to do it once

June 2009

Getting dressed up is simpler for men than women. When it comes to tuxedos, guys have to make a big decision once: How many buttons? Then for each special event they need to make sure it still fits and is clean. While tuxedo styles change in terms of the number of buttons, one to three buttons are classic options that always work.

Shirts have changed for the first time in a long time. The standard wing-tip collar, typically worn with a bow tie, has given way to a flat-collared shirt, but still with pleats and sometimes with a white- on-white design. With this style, a regular tie is worn. To make it dressy, choose a black satin tie or one with a dash of silver in it.

Cummerbunds are giving way to the vest, which is king these days – worn with a matching tie. Suspenders aren’t very popular, but they are comfortable and work best at keeping your waistband up if you have bit of a paunch. The effect is smoother – especially when you take off your jacket for all that wild dancing.

Pat Formal Wear Rental, 5425 Verdun. Phone 514-768-9332. The service at this family-owned haberdashery, in business for 62 years, will thrill you. For as low as $79.99, you can rent your tux, shirt, studs, suspenders or cummerbund, tie, hankie and pants. They also sell tuxedos as well as 31 colours of vests and matching ties. Ask about the used tuxedos for $125-$175.

Classy Warehouse Store, 8211 17th (at Jarry). Phone 514-728-6200 or visit www.classy.ca. This liquidation centre sells discontinued lines and some used rentals. Black jackets cost $50-$75 (white or ivory are $50), pants $25-$40. Complete your outfit with vests ($25), shirts ($9), shoes ($5), ties or suspenders ($2). If you get a last-minute invite to a formal event, they can get you a tux in an hour. Other location: 6768 St. Hubert (upstairs), 514-277-7641.

Boutique Jacques, 5970 Côte des Neiges. Phone 514-737-1402 or visit www.execstyle.com. For the well-dressed man who wouldn’t dream of going “discount shopping,” this boutique concentrates on top-of-the-line men’s domestic and European suits. Tuxedos ($250-$650) are higher-end, too, so the wool will be softer, feel more comfortable and drape better on your body. There is a complete tailor shop on the premises.

Sandra Phillips is the author of Smart Shopping Montreal. You can find money-saving ideas on her shlog at www.smartshoppingmontreal.com

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Montreal flea markets a meeting place for treasures and junk

April, 2009

Since the advent of ebay, we have come to believe that our junk is valuable to someone out there. Going to flea markets, you can see this for real. We are now afraid to throw anything out, since today’s garbage is tomorrow’s collectible.

The term ‘flea market’ has two different meanings. There are the real flea markets – where you may just find a flea – and then there are the wannabes that popped up in the 1980s selling new stuff but calling themselves flea markets as a way to skirt the no-Sunday-shopping law.

The true flea markets mentioned below sport tables and cabinets full of collectibles, antiques and junk all mixed up side by side. Browsing through them is fun, not only because you really score deals, but because they recall memories of your childhood in the cups your mother used, the black jaguar figurine from the breakfront, the radio in grandma’s house and loads of toys you played with.

If you’re about to clean out your home or that of your parents, here are some of the items I have noticed that are now selling as collectibles: ashtrays, cigarette lighters, fountain pens, penknives, kitchen appliances (toasters, mixers, blenders and such utensils as ice buckets and tongs), hard luggage, Frisbees, Schwinn bikes, change purses, tools, vacuum cleaners, and toys in their original boxes (sometimes the boxes are worth more than the toys inside!). However, when selling some I discovered I hardly got enough money to justify having stored them all these years.

Montreal North: Marché aux Puces, 7707 Shelley at St. Michel, side entrance at 3250 Crémazie, 514-721-7701. Hours: Open all year, Friday to Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm. This newly enlarged building contains 100 stalls showcasing second-hand items and such collectibles as housewares, lamps, toys, guitars and amplifiers, kitchen items, vintage radios and sound equipment, records, jewelry (they do repairs, too) and furniture. There’s a snack bar on the premises.

Ste. Geneviève: Ste-Geneviève Flea Market, 15674 Gouin W., west of St. Jean, 514-626-4436. Hours: Open all year, Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. For antiques and collectibles, visit this little house and find 16 rooms filled with tools, glassware, jewelry, lamps, silverware, china and collectibles. There are also tables outside.

Le Faubourg des Antiquités, 15739 de la Caserne, west of St. Jean, 514-620-0505. Hours: Open all year, Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm. When the Ste- Geneviève Flea Market downsized, many of the antique dealers moved across the parking lot to this newer location. You can have fun wandering through the kiosks visiting 30 friendly dealers who trade in porcelain, silver, antique furniture, jewelry, fixtures, dinnerware, pottery, trunks and collectibles.

Sandra Phillips is the author of Smart Shopping Montreal and Le Consommateur Averti Montréal, and you can find money-saving ideas on her shlog at www.smartshoppingmontreal.com

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