Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Brockville makes stress-free shopping not just for Santa!

I am so pleased with the local stores that we popped into over the weekend. They made my last-minute Christmas shopping as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. I have previously worked in retail for seven years and am no stranger to the bustle that is the holiday season and the challenges that face both the consumer and the employees.

My first trip was to one of my new favorite stores in Brockville, TL Annie's Little Seedlings, located on King Street. I was immediately greeted with a smile and a hello. Even though the sales lady was assisting another client she took the time to welcome me. It was my first time in the store, which is colourful, bright and just begging for the shopper to give into their inner-child and have fun while they shop! The first display I came across was of art supplies. Colourful paints, canvasses and neat craft ideas. This appealed to me as my two and a half year old has recently gotten the artistic bug. Next was the most original and adorable line of children's clothing I have seen in a while. I was drawn to a bright knit sweater dress for my oldest. Just as I was looking, I was approached and asked if I needed help. Yes please! The helpful sales lady found the right size and gave some useful knowledge on the line and how it will be expanding in the new season, allowing them to carry more designs.This was music to my ears.

 I continued to look around and found a fun plush play set for my youngest daughter. It was from the tale of the "Three Little Pigs" and was geared towards the play and learn mantra. Who could resist the fun animals and thier plush houses that included the big bad wolf? With my purchases in tow I took one last look around the store. I was so happy to see all the wonderful educational toys, I could have easily spent more time and money. You could tell this is a store where a lot of thought and love go into picking the items and I'm certain if you check it out you will not be disappointed. With excellent customer service and products that are practical and fun, this is one place we will visit time and time again!

Next up was Walmart. I needed some items that I can always rely on the bigger stores to have in stock. Im not a huge fan of long lines, big crowds and the rush, rush feeling but the time crunch was on and I had to get my shopping done. We pulled into the parking lot and I knew the store was packed. I cringed a bit and helped my spouse get the kids into the cart. We decided he would take them for a walk around while I finished some last minute shopping. As we walked into the store there was a greeter who smiled and assisted others with their carts and answered questions. Wait, was I in a box store? There weren't people pushing and shoving, there was lots of room and happy employees everywhere to help. I have been to the Walmart in Brockville several times and I will say, I've never had a bad experience but at this time of year I expected the level of customer service to drop and instead I was happily surprised. All the items I was looking for were in stock, there were plenty of employees accessible throughout the store to help and it was very spacious and clean. I found some excellent children's books at great prices, a cute outfit for my youngest daughter and finished up with the toy items on our list.

 It hit me then, surely my worst nightmare would happen at the cash. I could see it now, long lines, impatient consumers and tired cashiers must be waiting. I got it together and forced myself to the front of the store to face it all, only to realize this store had surprised me once again. I waited in line for maybe 3 minutes and was greeted by a very energetic and friendly cashier. She asked me how my shopping was and if I had found everything. It wasn't in that "I have to ask you these questions" kind of tone, she genuinely wanted to know. She commented on how adorable the outfit I had picked out was and when I sympathized with her over the holiday madness she happily let me know that it's been a wonderful shopping season and everyone has been kind. Refreshing. I thanked her and headed to the door to meet my spouse and wee ones. I was met by another happy employee who offered to take my cart and thanked me for shopping. When I saw my family, they too had smiles and no meltdowns! A huge thank you to Walmart Brockville and all of its employees for making my Christmas shopping stress-free. I left that day with a big smile, not only because I was an extremly satisfied customer but because it reinforced my Brockville pride. Box stores are a place that are often criticized for long lines and cranky employees, taking the personal feel out of shopping. Walmart Brockville seems to have found some excellent people within our community to hire and they are doing a wonderful job!

I don't know if I say it enough, but "Shop Local". This is something my family and I are really starting to practice. I have found out, especially this weekend, that if you get out there and support your community, it may be the best shopping experience you have. Bravo Brockville!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tis the season to be busy!

The past few weekends have been very busy for our family. With the Holiday season upon us, many communities in the area are hosting magnificent family-friendly activities. With two children under the age of three and a tight budget to reflect the economy, we often look for activities that get us out and about and help show our support to our local area and businesses.

Last Saturday started out quiet, but when the sun hits the sky, the children hit the ground running. We had a nice family breakfast, did some minor housework and then headed to the Brockville Public Library to finally sign up for our cards. Im ashamed to say it, but it has been years since I stepped foot into that particular library and when we entered into the main floor, I was happily surprised. There were many quiet reading areas, a group of teens working on what looked like a school project (kudos to you guys!), a row of computers with super fun looking headphones (to attract parents and toddlers alike) and a fantastic reading and play area for young children. Both my girls were drawn to the puppet show area, colourful bean bag chairs and bins of toys. They made some friends with an adorable little girl and played for about an hour. Then showing interest in the computer, my oldest decided to give it a try. The one she chose was a touch screen computer, which made it easy for her to interact and enjoy her learning game. My youngest picked out a few books with daddy and then we were on our way. By the time we arrived home it was mid-afternoon, which is music to my ears- naptime! Tired out from their play, both girls hit the pillows and were out. I have a new found appreciation for our public library and both my spouse and I agree, it will be a place we visit very often!

Sunday we were up and out the door early. Friends of ours had told us about "A Country Christmas" in Spencerville and we were just dying to pack up the kids and head out to have a look. We arrived to the village to see two giant Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon filled with happy passangers. This looked promising.
We parked at the Drummond Building, strapped the wee ones into their "keep your hands to yourself" stroller and headed in to see what exciting things awaited us. We were greeted immediatly by the smell of coffee and fresh baked goods, met by a lady at a desk with a warm smile and behind her a sea of craft vendors. The lady quickly walked us through the village's different attractions, gave us a cute Christmas book that was used as a "passport" to all the different events and quietly gave us the scoop about the animals in the barn behind us. Smart lady, didnt want to set the kids off too quickly!
After a walk around the craft area, and a few Christmas presents bought for family we decided the kids would really enjoy the animals. Afterall, we were told there was a unicorn! En route to the barn we were stopped by three very nice people selling hot apple cider with proceeds going to the Food Bank. My spouse quickly took them up on the offer. It is one of his favorite winter treats and didn't disappoint.
Once in the door, with our passports stamped we couldnt get to all the animals quick enough. There were ponies, complete with rides, alpacas, donkeys, geese, baby bunnies and of course, the promised "unicorn" wink wink. We made our way around all of the animals, each girl picking their favorite and headed to the pony rides. This made me a bit nervous, as only a young mother can be. Neither of my girls had ever been on a pony. We paid our $3.00 each (completely reasonable price) and my oldest just had to go first! With my pregnant emotions in check, I fought back the urge to tear-up as my firstborn born saddled up, with Daddy beside her and I did what every good mother does- cheered her on and took almost one thousand pictures. She was a natural, smiling and loving every minute! It was then our youngest' turn, who was very eager to get up there and show her big sister she could also do a great job. With Daddy beside her as well she was a bit more cautious, as one is when they are that small. It started out great and lasted about a minute. She decided that perhaps her sister could have this one, there were baby bunnies to look at, afterall!

When we left Spencerville we headed to my parents house for a nice Sunday dinner. The girls had a quick nap in the car on the way, which was much needed after the exciting afternoon with the animals and other activities.

We arrived to "Amma" and Grandpa's house and were greeted by the smell of yummy spagehtti sauce simmering in the crockpot and a bunch of gingerbread people to decorate. Hats off Amma, you know how this family rolls! We quickly rolled up our sleeves and began to decorate. This was also a great distraction that provided Grandpa with some quiet time to watch the football game. We all enjoyed decorating but perhaps it was my spouse, Nick who had the most fun. He took his time to make his gingerbread man quite intricate and detailed. Thankfully we captured this on camera or some may not believe his artistic skills.

 What a fantastic (and busy) weekend! Nothing brings out family and such great community spirit like the holiday season.