How to Move Across the World and Stay (Relatively) Sane

Pardon my silence, dear readers! It has been a hectic couple of months.

In September, Chico, Bug and I picked up and abruptly left Montreal, headed back to the old country (or at least the old continent). We are still very much in transition, but one thing is for certain: we will not live through another Montreal winter. Huzzah!

We will miss a lot of things about Montreal, especially the good friends we’ve made there.

Since our move was pretty quick, and quite an adventure, I thought I’d tell you a bit about it and give some helpful tips for how to move across the world and stay (relatively) sane.

Selecting a moving company

Friends of ours who left Montreal in the summer had a devilish time with their moving company. It was such a fiasco, we were determined to avoid such a mess.

In an earlier life, I worked for an international company, managing expatriates’ moves all over the world. So I felt like I had a handle on how to approach this.

First, look up moving companies. I did a Google search of moving companies in Montreal and then read online reviews. I ended up choosing AMJ International and Westmount Moving for estimates. They got pretty good reviews, and they also responded quickly to my calls.

They each came in to do a survey and estimate the volume for the move. The key is to make sure both companies estimate the same (or similar) volume. If not, you’ll want to figure out where the discrepancy comes from (did one company forget to look in the basement? etc.).

After that, it’s a matter of comparing the quotes, and picking the one that seems most reasonable. Compare the “origin services” and “destination services” offered to see that they’re comparable (parking permits, crates for special items, etc.), and then pick your company.

We chose AMJ, simply because we knew people who had worked with them and were happy. Either company would have been fine, though.

A word on scheduling

Never, ever, EVER schedule your move for the same day you fly out.

Have I made that clear enough? Good. Here’s why: THINGS GO WRONG.

We were lucky; our movers were great. But we had friends who weren’t so lucky. They had scheduled their move for the same day they traveled, with packing and moving on the same day. It was a nightmare.

If not otherwise specified, ask that the movers come in one day for packing, and a second day for loading. Also, ask that yours be the first move of the day. That way, they’ll arrive early and finish early, leaving you time to do other things.

Some organizing tips

Make notes:

The movers are professionals, and they work FAST. They’ll make notes on the boxes, but you might want to make your own. If you can get in fast enough, make a note of which boxes contain the essential items you’ll want to unpack first when you arrive.

Move out before the movers arrive

I recommend booking a nearby hotel room once the packers have come in. They can leave your bed and some linens unpacked if you like, but you’ll probably be more comfortable in a hotel.

That also allows you to leave whatever suitcases you’ll be taking with you out of the way so they don’t get packed up.

We actually booked a hotel room for the night before, since they were arriving early in the morning and we needed to get the Bug set up with a baby sitter outside of the house. That leads me to another point:

Arrange daycare for children.

You’re going to need to focus on the movers, answering their questions, making notes on the boxes, etc. That’s why I recommend getting your kids out of your hair.

We were lucky enough to find a babysitter to stay with our Bug for two whole days while the movers did their magic. She even came in and babysat on our last evening in Montreal so we could enjoy a fabulous dinner at la Fabrique with friends!

Whether they’re at daycare, school, or with a babysitter, you don’t want to have to worry about keeping your kids out of the way of the movers.

This might sound easy, but…

Reading this, you may think, “Wow, it sounds like Jane really had things under control.”

There you’d be wrong.

For a couple of weeks leading up to the move, I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, always thinking of just one more thing to do.

They say that next to divorce and a death in the family, moving is the most stressful thing in a person’s life. That is entirely true. There’s always last-minute details to iron out, people to say good-bye to, and a suitcase that’s waaaaay over the weight limit.

We managed to pull it off in three weeks, and if we can do it, anyone can. Just organize yourselves as you do best (I am a notorious list maker), and know that sooner or later it will be over.

Once the container is sealed, things are out of your hands, and all you can do is look forward to the new phase in your life that is to come.




Brunch in Montreal: L’Avenue

I’m no food critic. If it’s meaty, flavorful and not under-salted, I’ll usually like it.

However, there’s so much more about a restaurant or café than just its food, and since I’m an opinionated lady, I thought I’d share my thoughts on some food joints around Montreal. You’re welcome.

Brunch is for Hipsters

Brunch in Montreal is an institution. Starting at about 11am on Saturday and Sunday mornings, you’ll see lines start to form outside of popular brunch locations, most of which are located in the Plateau or in Mile End.

Usually, the people in these lines are dressed in the following manner:

  • Skinny jeanl_avenue_du_plateaus (required)
  • Glasses (also required)
  • Fashionably tousled hair that probably took at least half an hour to perfect (yup, required)
  • Slouchy top, sweater and/or jacket (you guessed it…)
  • Old-school Converse sneakers (I’ll stop saying “required” here, so if I say nothing just assume it is)
  • Slouchy handbag, backpack, satchel or messenger bag
  • Facial hair on the men (optional for women)
  • Bored expression (or at least look hungover to show off how cool your previous evening was)
  • Visible tattoos and/or piercings
  • Smartphone

As we waited in line for brunch at L’Avenue (922 Avenue Mont-Royal Est, 514-523-8780), I doubt Chico noticed how out of place we looked as non-hipsters. I couldn’t help but think that if I tried to wear skinny jeans like those I’d more closely resemble the sausage links being served for brunch than any of these fashionable people.

Moving on…

On Restaurant Décor

I realize that restaurants are often trying to achieve a specific look and feel when it comes to their décor. Some are more successful than others, and I think L’Avenue did a good job of making you feel like you were in Grand Central Hipster Station.

Bikes and motorcycles decorate the walls and hang from the ceilings. One bike had a wine bottle in its water holder, which really appealed to Chico. It was pretty cute.

The strangely-attired mannequins and the graffiti on the wall I could have done without, but I liked the bikes.

The tables were well-spaced. It didn’t feel too crowded, but it felt busy and buzzing, which I really like in a brunch place. A tall bar runs the length of the first section of the restaurant, making it a little hard to squeeze past rushing waiters as you enter and exit the place, but once you were seated it was really comfortable.

L’Avenue’s Menu

The menu is your basic brunch fare, split into breakfasts, omelets, burgers, etc. It was pretty extensive and quite varied, with options for all levels of hunger and fat content. They also had a great fresh juice menu.

Chico wanted to order a burger, but unfortunately on the weekends they only serve brunch or breakfast food. I went for a bagel sandwich and he went for an omelet.

It was a nice touch that they first served a fresh fruit skewer as a starter. It made you feel like you were starting off the meal on a healthy note. Ha. Yeah, right.

The Food

First, the omelet: it was about the size of a small Spanish tortilla de patata. In other words, it was HUGE. It probably contained at least four eggs. It was well stuffed with goat cheese, veggies and deliciousness. Chico was impressed and delighted, though not even he could finish it.

My bagel sandwich (tomato, scrambled egg, mayonnaise and cheese) was very tasty. The eggs were lovely, and I actually kind of liked the fact that they used what looked like Kraft cheese slices.

What I didn’t like was the construction. The bagel was really small (and not particularly flavorful–and they didn’t give you a choice of bagel), and it was piled high with the contents of the sandwich. It was cut in half with one brave, lone toothpick holding it all together, but it was impossible to eat with one’s digits. Thoughtfully, the place settings included a good serrated knife, which made it easy to slice it.

God’s Own Homefries

What made the entire meal worth it were the homefries. I’m not exaggerating when I say they were divine. The seasoning balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the potatoes (I’m pretty sure they were russet). They were cooked to perfection: the ideal balance between crispy and squishy.

I’m pretty sure they tasted so good because of the fat they must have been cooked in, but they weren’t overly greasy. They were lovely.

Final Verdict

The food is good (and partially divine) as well as well-priced. The fruit juice was enormous and tasty. I liked the fruit skewers, though the portion sizes are pretty insane.

The service was friendly and efficient and the ambiance was bustling but not too loud for a nice one-on-one conversation.

All-in-all, I’d give this spot a 4.5 out of 5.

Oh, and the bathrooms were seriously trippy.


The Best Yarn Stores in Montreal


Since joining the Stitch n’ Bitch in Montreal, I have become a yarn snob. The lovely ladies of the S&B morphed me into a knitting fiend, and then into a natural fiber snob. Of course, that means I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the delightful locations where such yarns can be found. Here is a rundown of the top yarn stores in Montreal.

1. Effiloché (closing down as of December 2018)

6260, Saint-Hubert

Effiloché was the first yarn store I visited here in Montreal. It’s at Plaza St-Hubert, a large shopping area (near where I bought my wedding dress, as it would happen!). The location is pretty convenient, an easy walking distance from Beaubien metro station.

The nice thing about this store is that it sells supplies for two similar interests: knitting/crocheting and sewing. They’ve got yarns as well as fabrics. They also have plenty of tools and accessories for both activities. However, I would say that their yarn selection is rather limited, and I also found it expensive. They didn’t have a range of prices including more affordably priced yarns. They offer gorgeous, all-natural yarns, and the higher price is the result.

This might be nit-picking but I found the lighting in this store quite poor. It was dark, and it made it hard to see the yarns and really enjoy their colors.

Both times I visited, I found the staff rather unhelpful. Or, I should say they were unwilling to approach me to offer their help but once accosted by me they were helpful (though somewhat grudgingly). That turned me off a bit from this store, to be honest.

Others have had different experiences here, though.  They also offer classes.

2. Espace Tricot

6050 Monkland Avenue, Nôtre-Dame-de-Grâce

My second yarn store visit was to Espace Tricot on Monkland. From downtown it’s rather a hike to get out here. The nearest metro stop is Villa-Maria on the orange line and then it’s a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute bus ride to the store.

But getting there is worth it. The ladies at this yarn shop really know their stuff and are incredibly helpful. If you have a pattern in mind, I suggest printing it out and bringing with you, as the staff at Espace Tricot are famous for taking a careful look at it with you to help you choose your yarn.

The store itself is well laid-out and brightly lit. The yarn selection is pretty good, and there is a range of prices. They offer some more affordable acrylic, machine-washable blends as well as higher-end all-natural fibers. Their selection of accessories is pretty good, too. They have interchangeable needle kits which are a wonderful investment if you plan to keep up knitting.

The other nice thing about Espace Tricot is their website. They’ve got a great blog with some free patterns, and they’re lots of fun to follow. They also offer classes.

3. Mouliné

5317 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Westmount.

This store is right on Sherbrooke Street, easily accessible by the 24 bus or the closest metro stop is Vendôme on the orange line.

Mouliné is like Ali Baba’s cavern for knitters. It is chock-full of yarn. You’ve got all kinds of choice, and a great range of prices. This is probably the yarn store in Montreal with the widest and most varied selection. You can really spend hours in here.

The store is well-lit and vast. They’ve got it pretty well organized by fibers, weights, and colors. They also have a reasonable selection of accessories. The problem with this store is that they’re not overly helpful. The gentleman who runs the store is quite odd, and the lady behind the counter is helpful when you ask her questions, but she doesn’t go out of her way to offer assistance.

Mouliné is a great place to shop for yarn if you know what you’re looking for and don’t need or want particular guidance on a project. Don’t bother visiting their website; it’s horrible. (Update December 2018: Looks like they’ve revamped their website & it’s a lot better.)

4. La Maison Tricotéela-maison-tricotee-logo

751, rue Gilford, le Plateau-Mont Royal.

La Maison Tricotée is wonderfully convenient. It’s right next to the Laurier metro stop on the orange line and is in the heart of the Plateau (my neighborhood).

What I love most about this store is that it’s also a tea room. Céline, its founder and owner, has gone to great lengths to make la Maison Tricotée more than a store: it’s also a community. Céline offers classes, like Effiloché and Espace Tricot, but she also hosts fun events like bingo nights and themed stitch n’ bitch meetings.

So much for the activities. La Maison Tricotée sells high-end, locally made products. Their yarns are often, frankly, gorgeous. The result, however, is that they can be expensive. They do carry some more affordable options, but generally you’re looking at more than $50 for a couple of skeins. Often, though, the price is worth it. (Update: They’ve started their own house line of yarn called “Casa”. I’ve never used it but I hear great things! Check it out on Ravelry.)

The yarns are displayed well, especially on the side wall where they’re all hanging out there just begging you to buy them… Oh the temptation!

The staff are very knowledgeable here, especially Céline and Ariane, both avid knitters. You’ll get good advice on your project here, and you’ll usually learn something new about yarn or knitting every time you come in. Their website and Facebook presence are also a delight.

If you can’t afford to buy something every time you visit, you can at least stay for a cuppa tea (they actually boil the water, it’s not just hot water from the coffee machine).

5. À la Lainerie Lépine

3884 Jean Talon East.

Last on my list is la Lainerie Lépine. I have to confess that this is my least favorite yarn store in Montreal. It’s a hike from d’Iberville metro stop on the blue line, near Avenue Papineau. That’s not really the store’s fault, I guess.

The positive thing is that there is a vast collection, and it’s all pretty much affordable. The ladies who have been running the store are friendly and helpful. The problem, though, is that you have to do a lot of digging to find something good here. You’re guaranteed to come out of this store with a purchase, but if you’re looking for beautiful, luxurious, locally-produced yarns, you won’t find them here.

The Lainerie Lépine was set to close down at the end of April 2014, but the last I heard, a young lady had planned to take it over from the ladies currently running it. If you’re reading this in April 2014, you should head over and see if they still have some great sales on.

And There Are More…

There are other yarn stores in Montreal like À la Tricoteuse on Rachel and la Bobineuse on Mont-Royal, but I haven’t been to either so I cannot comment on them. If you actually come across à la Tricoteuse open, it’s a miracle. Let me know in the comments.

Update January 15th, 2018:

Thanks to commenter Beverley, she’s told us about P’tite Laine in Vaudreuil. Here is the link, for anyone who is interested. Beverley says the shop is new, has a wide selection and a very friendly owner. I no longer live in Montreal, but if anyone checks it out, let me know!

A Day at the Botanical Gardens

We’re experiencing an Indian summer here in Montreal. Since it was such a beautiful day, I decided to spent it out of doors. And since I’m not watching the series ending of “Breaking Bad” tonight, I’m going to write about it!

I feel like I owe Montreal a bit of an apology after my last post. So, by way of saying I’m sorry, here is an ode to this gorgeous city on a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday at the end of September.


Montrealers LOVE their brunch. It’s as if as the churches emptied, the brunch spots filled up. It’s pretty much a religious institution on Sunday mornings. Hangover cure? Perhaps. In any case, delicious.

This morning, my dear friend Marjorie invited me to join her at the pub Le Pourvoyeur, right next to Jean Talon market. Their smoked trout bagel was scrumptious and came with a hearty side-serving of home-cut French fries and a salad that was, thankfully, not over dressed. Perfect.

Brunch was followed by a stroll through the market. It is probably one of my favorite places in Montreal to people watch.

Chillies & Garlic at Marché Jean Talon
Chillies & garlic hanging out at the Marché.

Botanical Gardens

After our brunch, my lovely friend Taija invited us to join her at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Last year, Chico and I went to the butterfly show at the Montreal botanical gardens, but we never saw the actual gardens. So we went along with Taija to the international Mosaïcultures show.

This weekend was the last weekend of the show, so in case you missed it, here are some of my favorite highlights.

Wooden horse
A wooden mare and foal

Don’t be fooled by the lack of people in these photos. It’s only by some miracle that I managed to get any shots with all the crowds jostling by!

Easter Island
These guys looked like a tribute to Easter Island

Some topiaries were of modest size. Others, not so much:

Lady and Bird
This was an entire layout with the birds and the lady hugging one to her.

The displays got more spectacular as we walked on. This was a particular favorite:

Ent Topiary

I loved this guy! He looks like an Ent from The Lord of the Rings! This whole section of the gardens was called the spirit of the woods, and this guy was pretty much the king.

But then, we came upon Gaia.

Mother Earth
The most splendid of them all.

It was so crowded and the sun was behind her, so it was hard to get a good shot. But Gaia, or Mother Earth, was composed of this head and two hand seemingly coming up from the ground. A giant eagle ate out of one hand and deer were running out of the other. A stream ran past her and giant horses were frozen in a gallop along it, while giant bison grazed across the path from her. It really was something.

Tree of Birds
The Tree of Birds.

The Tree of Birds was also something to be seen.

Lemurs in a line looking livid.
Lemurs in a line looking livid.

The giant petrified-looking lemurs were pretty hilarious.

Sadly, like I said this was the last weekend to get to the Mosaïcultures show. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It certainly beats what I had planned to do: stay at home and do laundry.

The day ended off with a relaxing evening at home and some delicious spiced carrot and red lentil soup (I recommend you switch coconut milk for regular milk–it makes it even richer and tastier).


With the Indian summer weather and activities like these going on, it’s no wonder that the city has felt alive all weekend. On Saturday night, well after midnight, Montreal was still wide awake with people coming and going here and there. I could hear laughter and singing under my window.

Drifting off to sleep with the sounds of merry-makers and a breeze ruffling the curtains reminded me of why, despite the bad and ugly parts of life in Montreal, I really do like it here.

Springtime in Montreal

It’s finally here, friends!  Spring has sprung in Montreal!  This week, temperatures are getting up to 14° or 15°C (57° to 60°F) and the sun is out and shining its face off.

Spring in Montreal
McGill College Street


Seriously, I thought we were never going to be rid of this:

Wintery Hell
It may look like there wasn’t much snow, but that’s just because the GALE FORCE WINDS were blowing it away.

Or this for that matter:

Back Terrace Visitor
In Montreal, they call this a “dusting”.

What a wonderful time of year spring is.  It’s a time to take a fresh look at things, to see things from a new perspective.  All winter we get bogged down with the dark and the cold, and it’s amazing just how much clarity a little more sunlight can bring to our lives.

This winter, I got bogged down thinking too much about the future.  Perhaps it was because the present was so unbelievably dark, cold, windy and dreary (see above photos), but it’s also because I have a tendency to forget to live for the moment.

Chico and I are both planners.  We like to organize, schedule, plan and prepare.  Improvising is not a huge forté of ours, though we are not incapable of it (“What should we have for dinner?”  “I dunno, let’s improvise!”).  Right now, our future plans are not yet settled, and that has caused me no small amount of anxiety.  Planning for the future is important, and being prepared is, after all, a great motto to follow.  But sometimes, spending too much time thinking ahead can cause us to forget to enjoy now.

And now is so pretty!  Look!

Biosphere Montreal
This may be more of a fall photo, but you get the idea.

Walking home today past the musical swings at Place des Arts in downtown Montreal, I had an “aha” moment.  Looking around me, everyone was so happy to be outside in the first warmth of spring, and the sunshine that I realized what a shame it is to waste even a moment of the very fleeting present in worrying about the future.

Of course, we will take steps to firm our plans, and we will move together towards our goals.  But as of this moment, I am determined to simply enjoy NOW.

I will live in the present.  Because the present is all that we can be 100 per cent sure of.

Spring Blossoms
Can’t wait to see more of these…

And as Chico will be home presently, I’m off to make our supper.