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Family Dining at Paramount Fine Foods

We are an extremely busy family with two kids in competitive soccer, both working full time and owning my small business. It can be very hard to find the time to sit down and spend quality time with each other. But this is very important to us and also what makes those moments so special.

We recently visited Paramount Fine Foods in Mississauga – a treasure of a find tucked away on Crestlawn Drive. If you are not familiar with the restaurant, Paramount Fine Foods is the fastest growing Middle Eastern food chain in Canada with over 60 restaurants across the country. You can find all of their locations here.

This elegant restaurant (with exquisite attention to detail) offers something for everyone. You can enjoy incredible, mouth watering recipes in a warm and inviting environment. And the kids – they can enjoy the Kids playground once they are done eating or while you are waiting on your food order.

For our visit, we ordered Manakeesh and the mixed combo platter. This was my kids and my first time trying Middle Eastern cuisine, while my husband has had it several times. We were not disappointed at all. We loved the Manakeesh, we ordered it with just cheese and it hit the spot.

We could not get over how much food was on the mixed combo platter., everything looked and tasted divine. We loved how the platter offered enough of each of our favourites – chicken, beef, rice and fries! They also have a fantastic kids menu, which had chicken fingers for the picky eater in our family. He managed to eat a little bit of everything.

I loved that we could all dive right in and share the same dishes, it made the experience feel like we were at home. Our youngest even said Mom – this tastes like home cooking but better! Which at first, I gave him the stink eye thinking he was making fun of my cooking but he was trying to say the food tasted real and healthy. Which, as any parent of a picky eater knows, is a win- win.

Our kids get full fast (I wish I had this problem!) so it was incredibly helpful that Paramount Fine Foods had a closed in Kids Playground that he could use while he waited for Mom and Dad to finish up. He felt comfortable coming and going from the table to the playground, and never felt that he was disrupting others.

For all my parents looking for an amazing evening out at a restaurant that not only has great food but is also welcoming to children, Paramount Fine Foods is a great option for you on your next family night out!

Make sure to check out their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with events and new menu items.

Disclosure: We were hosted at Paramount Fine Foods to experience their location. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Find Courage, Creativity, Compassion and the Artistic Spark with Beautiful Picture Books from Raincoast Books

With back to school right around the corner (the countdown is on), it is important to nurture your child’s creativity, compassion and confidence in themselves. Books have a magical way of taking us on an adventure where we can be anything we want to be and will take risks we may not always be brave enough to do. Books can also spark a passion and love for a subject area – I find there is nothing a good book cannot do.

These beautiful, picture books from Raincoast books bring together fantastic stories that will encourage and support your child in their dreams and passion.

I Have an Idea!

Join the magical hunt for one little idea: From one of the true creative geniuses of this generation comes a unique meditation on and celebration of the magic of the birth of a simple idea. Sparkling with visual wit and bubbling with imagination, I Have an Idea! is a richly emotional exploration of the creative process: from an initial tentative inkling, to the frustration of chasing the wrong notion, to finally the exhilaration of capturing-and nurturing-just the right idea. I Have an Idea! is a scrumptious cloth-spined package of color and inspiration equally at home on a child’s bookshelf, in a new graduate’s backpack, or atop a creative’s desk.

About the Author: Herve Tullet is known for his prodigious versatility, from directing ad campaigns to designing fabric for Hermes. But his real love is working with children, for whom he has published dozens of books, including the New York Times bestsellers Mix It Up!Let’s Play!Say Zoop!, and Press Here . He lives in New York City.

Our Thoughts: Children have this wonderful way of looking at the world, of seeing change and being excited to be an agent of change. This beautiful and simple book encourages creativity and sparking new ideas. It explores how ideas can come from out of nowhere or from anywhere, we sometimes make mistakes (but this is okay) and sometimes we soar! Sometimes ideas can be hard to come up with, whether it is writing an essay, coming up with an art project or coming up with a solution at work and it is so important to think outside of the box. We need to learn to look with eyes and mind open and then we will be open to finding. I loved the simplicity of this book, it was easy to read and follow – the illustrations were simple and stayed with the same colour patterns of blue, yellow and red. The illustrations were childlike which I loved – I think we all need to find that child in us and this will help us tackle anything in life.

You can learn more about I Have an Idea here.

Rabbit and the Motorbike

Rabbit isn’t sure he’ll ever be brave enough to go on an adventure. He’s a homebody who lives in a quiet field of wheat he dreams of leaving every night. His world is enlarged by his friend Dog and Dog’s tales of motorbike adventures. But one day, Dog is gone, and with him, go the stories Rabbit loves so much. Dare Rabbit pick up the motorbike and live his own story? This timeless fable of the journey from grief to acceptance will touch every reader. For those confronting loss and those eager to explore and experience, Rabbit’s bravery in the face of sadness will console, nurture, and inspire.

About the Illustrator: Sarah Jacoby grew up wandering the woods outside of Philadelphia. She now draws for many people and places, including the New York Times, and she is the author and illustrator of Forever or a Day . She lives in Philadelphia.

About the Author: Kate Hoefler received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she studied as a Colby Fellow. She is the author of Real Cowboys and Great Big Things . She lives in a quiet village in Ohio where she can hear the distant sounds of the highway.

Our Thoughts: This is a beautiful story of the power of friendship and being brave. Rabbit is scared of change and the world around him – he is not comfortable with the unknown. His friend, Dog, understands this and supports him and always makes time for Rabbit, ensuring he feels loved and shares in his adventures through his stories. When Dog is gone, Rabbit feels alone and empty. He has his friend’s motorbike – the bike that he took around the world visiting new places. At times, the bike calls out to Rabbit but he is still too scared. He is too scared of the unknown and change. Then one day, he gathers the courage to go just up the street on his dear friend’s motorbike but what he doesn’t realize is how long that road is and how much he would enjoy. This was the experience he didn’t even know he needed! This is a beautiful story of loss, accepting our fears and being able to step outside of our comfort zones – important messaging for our youth especially now. We loved every moment of this beautifully illustrated and written story.

You can learn more about Rabbit and the Motorbike here.

Claris: Fashion Show Fiasco

It’s Fashion Week in Paris and there is no way Claris is missing the show of her favourite designer! But when a fashion emergency occurs, will Claris and Monsieur be able to make it to the show in time to save the day?

The Claris series follows an adorable mouse who moves to Paris to follow her fashion dreams. Can Claris use all her wit, warmth and – of course – style to make her dreams come true?

About the Author: Megan Hess is an acclaimed fashion illustrator who works with some of the most prestigious fashion designers and luxury brands around the world, such as Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Montblanc and Tiffany & Co. She is the official illustrator for Bloomingdales New York, and completed the cover artwork for all of Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell’s books, as well as a private commission for Michelle Obama, and has collaborated with Gwyneth Paltrow for the ‘Blo’ Blow Dry Bar campaign. TheClaris Collection is her first children’s book series.

Our Thoughts: I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it – from its glittery and fun cover to the adorable Claris, how can you resist not falling in love? Claris is quite the chic mouse and I love how the story is told with flair and in beautiful pinks, gold, black, white and pastels.

Claris lives in Paris, in a flat with two parents and a brat (the way I laughed – and yes she is a brat!). Claris loves fashion and designing dresses and she cannot wait to attend Fashion Week. She creates the most beautiful dress but almost misses out! This takes on her quite the journey (with help from friends) in order to get her to the show on time.

This is a wonderful story with a mix of French words that any young fashion designer will love. I loved the story and warmth of Claris – while she is one chic and fashionable mouse, friendship and kindness come first. This will make a beautiful gift for any young creative, fashion forward child.

You can learn more about Claris: Fashion Show Fiasco here.

A Life Made by Hand

Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) was an influential and award-winning sculptor, a beloved figure in the Bay Area art world, and a devoted activist who advocated tirelessly for arts education. This lushly illustrated book by collage artist Andrea D’Aquino brings Asawa’s creative journey to life, detailing the influence of her childhood in a farming family, and her education at Black Mountain College where she pursued an experimental course of education with leading avant-garde artists and thinkerssuch as Anni and Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. Delightful and substantial, this engaging title for young art lovers includes a page of teaching tools for parents and educators.

About the Author: Andrea D’Aquino is an artist and author. Her previous books include an illustrated edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Once Upon a Piece of Paper . Her work appears in magazines and newspapers around the world. She lives in New York City.

Our Thoughts: This is a beautifully told and illustrated story of artist, Ruth Asawa. She is an artist that I did not know about but we loved learning about. She came from humble beginnings, and like many artists saw the beauty in everything around her. In college, she explored the world of art – learning, engaging and immersing herself in every aspect. It was in Mexico, where she learned the art of wire basket weaving. I have never seen wire baskets but on a trip to Zimbabwe – I was amazed at the skill and beauty that local artists could create with wire and bottle caps! Ruth took this teaching and became famous for her work in wire sculptures – which are admired and loved in museums. The book highlights her work and her love and connection to the natural world. The author highlights some of her life moments at the back of the book, including when her family was forcibly relocated to an internment camp in the US during World War II. The book is a beautiful tribute to a special artist, that many young artists can connect with. It also includes instructions on how to create your own paper dragonfly! It is beautifully written and illustrated, honouring this very talented artist.

You can learn more about A Life Made by Hand here.

Make sure to follow Raincoast Books on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with the newest releases and more.

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned books in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Make BTS a Smooth Transition with the Hamilton Beach Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker

I am not going to lie and I am not proud to admit this, but I remember going off to my first year at University and being unprepared to tackle basic life skills like cooking for myself. The only things I knew how to cook were 5 minute rice, breakfast sausages and cereal. I remember a friend asking if I could make a fried egg and I just looked at her, like fried egg – where do I start? I wasn’t a spoiled teen, I just wasn’t given the opportunities to learn or the tools to learn.

This is why it is so important to me for my boys to have the skills and confidence that they need to take care of themselves and make nutritious meals for themselves, even when I am not around. I want them to feel comfortable in the kitchen and be able to use tools in the kitchen to help them prepare their meals.

I can also appreciate that they are busy, they are tired (I feel like this is the number one thing I hear all the time) and they don’t have enough time. While I can understand, relate and appreciate these concerns – it is also super important that they ensure they are eating healthy meals especially breakfast, trust me a year of five minute rice, breakfast sausages and my very famous Ketchup based tomato sauce (although to be fair this is actually really yummy – probably because it is so sweet) is not good for anyone.

Hamilton Beach has a great line of products that make life easier for young adults and fits in with their busy schedules. My favourite is the Dual Breakfast Sandwich maker.

The Dual Breakfast Sandwich maker is as simple as plug in and go (no lie!). We pulled it out and expected it to be a bit more complicated and were pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t. We plugged it in and during its warm up period, we got our other ingredients ready to go (cheese, eggs, chicken slices). We laid out the ingredients – English muffin on the bottom, cheese, chicken and then slide the grill part for the egg over and placed the scrambled eggs on top (we didn’t pay enough attention the first time and didn’t ensure it was sealed properly and the egg leaked!) and then topped it off with the other half of the English muffin. All that was left was to set the timer for 5.5 minutes and let it cook.

Removing the finished sandwich was quite simple, lift the lid and slide over the plate that the egg was cooking on. We used a spoon to press down a bit on the bread to ensure we could lift each plate easily. The handles do become a bit hot, so make sure you use oven mitts or a towel to lift each plate. They used a spatula to remove each sandwich from the appliance. Voila! Hot, delicious and nutritious breakfast sandwiches ready in under seven minutes.

Our favourite features of the Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker were:

  • simple set up and easy to use (only buttons are for the timer and the plates were easy to figure out
  • you can set the sandwich maker and continue on in your morning routine, getting ready for school
  • easy to clean – the plates wipe clean easily even with a piece of paper towel
  • small and discreet design that can fit anywhere
  • excellent price point and value for money

You can create a variety of sandwiches with this appliance so don’t feel limited to the traditional ideas of an English muffin breakfast sandwich. This Pepperoni and Veggie Mini pizza looks delicious and very easy to follow!

The Hamilton Beach Dual Breakfast Sandwich maker can be purchased from Amazon, Best Buy (both online and in-store), Wayfair, The Bay (both online and in-store), London Drugs and Walmart (both online and in-store) and has a suggested retail price of $64.99.

This product will make an excellent gift for students that are heading off to college or university but also a fantastic item to have in your home for high school students to learn independence and confidence in their own abilities in the kitchen. It is a definite must have item for back to school.

Make sure to stay connected with Hamilton Beach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest products, recipes and more!

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Summer Battles with Zing HyperStrike and Zax

My kids love to run around, make noise and compete with each other. Summer months can be spent chasing each other and battling for the top spot of champion in a variety of games. The hardest part? Trying to think of new ways to keep both an eight and a fifteen year old entertained!

Zax is a soft, foam suction cupped axe that you can use to compete in axe throwing competitions (or if you are like me, to catch your husband off guard when he is walking around the corner!!).

The suction cups work great on any flat surface either inside or outside. For convenience, we tested the Zax out in our living room first. There is definitely a trick to how you flick the axe, so don’t get discouraged on your first few throws! Our first throws were unsuccessful and would bounce off the walls, but once you got used to the way that you had to flick your wrist when throwing it, it easily stuck to the wall. Important to note, it did not damage the paint at all – which I was a tad bit worried about at first.

Our youngest was by far the champion in the competition. He picked up the skills the quickest and loved throwing the axe (although there were a few throws that ended up at his brother that I am not quite were as accidental as he made them out to be!). He perfected the flick and underhand throw but none of us were good at the two handed throws.

Zax come in a variety of colours and can be purchased at Walmart and Target in the US and Mastermind Toys, Canadian Tire, Indigo and Toys R Us in Canada.

The HyperStrike is a high performance bow and arrow that can shoot over 250 feet due to its the bungee cord design. The arrows are made out of soft form and are easy to use. It is designed for ages fourteen and up, and while it was definitely easier for our eldest (and my husband to use), after a few tries our eight year old had no problem loading the arrows.

There are many ways to play with the HyperStrike and the Zing website has some great ideas to get you started, such as: attack and defend, capture the flag, elimination and battle royal. My husband came up with the idea to use his feet to hold the bow in place and would shoot the arrows across the floor in our house at targets (this was a huge hit in our home), along with our youngest shooting arrows off the porch at various targets in the front yard. The arrows come out very fast and make a very loud noise, which my boys and hubby loved but I have to admit the noise sounds terrifying. You expect the arrow to be coming at you a lot faster than it does with the noise it makes.

Both the HyperStrike and Zax will make for hours of fun for your children outside as they battle to be the champions of the summer!

Make sure to follow Zing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest news, toys and more.

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned products in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Blast off into Space with Ontario Science Centre Summer of Space and DK Canada

DK Canada

There is something magical and exhiliarting when we talk about space. It is beautiful, untouched with so much left to learn. We can’t see it, the way we see the Earth around us. We can’t feel it, the way we can touch the grass, trees and our surroundings. But it pulls us in with its beauty and the unknown. It has this power to leave us wanting and needing to learn more.

This summer is all about space at the Ontario Science Centre with their Summer of Space theme. You can find exhibitions, hands on activities, films and so much more when you visit the Ontario Science Centre this summer.

The exhibitions in the Special Exhibition Hall include: Astronaut (learn all about the challenges and life for astronaut on a real space mission) and Women in Space (learn all about some of the leading women in the field of aerospace).

We loved walking through this area! There were many hands on activities, fantastic displays and interactive shows running. We sat through a rocket launch – yes all four of us squeezed into the spaceship and it roared to life (I was not expecting the jolts – it was amazing!), we tested our strength in hand grips (sadly I was the weakest although I think they were cheating on me), we tested out thermal imaging and tested our knowledge out on several interactive games throughout the exhibit (I won these ones!).

We learned all about life aboard a spaceship in space and gained a new appreciation for all the things that we take for granted here on Earth. I don’t think we could have ever fully appreciated how hard it was to wash your hair in space until we watched one of the female astronauts try to put water through her hair and watched the droplets escape on her. We walked through exhibits showing toilets and showers in space, food in space (always so important for the boys) and even plants.

We also took a tour through the Space exhibit on level four and learned about black holes, meteorites and rays. We tried our hand at a gravity game and even a rocket chair (which is a lot harder than it looks).

While the exhibits, displays and activities were so much fun – it was the spark of interest in space, planets and our own home, Earth, that developed in our kids that we loved the most. They left wanting to learn more which makes this trip so important. We want our children to be inspired to learn new things, to explore the world around them and to dream big.

DK Canada has a fantastic line of books in their Reach for the Stars collection that will encourage and satisfy your child’s curiousity about space, especially after an inspiring day at the Ontario Science Centre. The books include many great titles for young children such as:

  • The Space Race: How did we land on the Moon? What will the space jobs of the future look like? And why did we send a car to space? The Space Race answers all of the big questions that kids have about space travel. Sarah Cruddas brings to life the hidden stories behind the most famous space missions, before taking the reader on a journey through our space future. The Space Race is an essential children’s handbook to understanding every aspect of the history, and future, of human space travel.
  • Super Space Encyclopedia: Stunning photographs and digestible blocks of text combine with DK’s classic tradition of depicting information in a systematic way, immersing the readers in an unparalleled journey through the universe. Unravel the mysteries of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, investigate the explosion that created the Crab Nebula, and dig deeper into radio signals from spinning stars! Find out many more interesting super facts about space with Super Space Encyclopedia.
  • Moon Landings: Follow Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Apollo 11’s third crew member, Michael Collins, as they set off on one of history’s most important missions. Learn about the people and spacecraft that came before and have followed since, and discover what it takes to become an astronaut.
  • Did You Know? Space: Did You Know? Space answers all the questions about space that kids ask. What are shooting stars? Why is Jupiter striped? Is anyone else out there? Covering the solar system, stars, galaxies, planets, and beyond, each spread is structured around a question that inquiring young minds ask, with text broken up in manageable chunks designed for providing young readers with a reassuring and fantastic route into space.
  • DKfindout! Space Travel: Learn about the sun, our solar system, the International Space Station, how to be an astronaut, the Space Race, and whole new worlds discovered by space-exploring probes. Read my review of this book here.
  • First Space Encyclopedia: Explore the planets and discover amazing facts about nearby galaxies. A delightful first reference book about space for young astronomers, First Space Encyclopedia takes readers on a journey through the universe, from the beginning of space itself to current space technology.

The Summer of Space is running the entire month of August, with special features throughout the month (so make sure to check out their website before you visit so that you can plan your visit in advance). If you want to prepare for your visit by learning (or be prepared for lots of questions afterwards!), check out DK Canada’s Reach for the Stars line of books that will inspire, encourage and engage young minds to dream big.

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to visit the Summer of Space exhibit. All opinions expressed are my own.

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