Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Brockville's Hidden Gems

It has been a fabulous few months blogging about our family's adventures in and around Brockville. I recently read an article in The Recorder and Times discussing social media and its relevance in today's society. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed me to reach a broader audience and share the experiences I've had in this beautiful community. I'm grateful for the people I have met through this experience and am looking forward to meeting many more who share a passion for Brockville and all its hidden gems!

One of my Twitter followers, St.Lawrence College, reached out and let me know about their on-site art gallery. Like many in the area, I had no idea they even had one! As an art lover, I had to take my family and check this out. I am a fan of many art forms, from painting to sculpting, mixed media and any other form where one expresses artistic creativity. We set out Saturday afternoon to the College to have a look at the exhibit. Upon entering the College I was in awe. They had opened up a beautiful space in the entryway and on display was some of the most breathtaking paintings, sculptures, wood carvings and jewlerry I have seen. The current exhibit is called "Walk with Me" and showcases Jean Kallmeyer's poetry and Sheila Davis' art. There are also many other pieces incorporated in the exhibit from other artists in and around the area. The exhibit is on until February 18th and the admission is FREE! Yes, you read that correctly- FREE! It truly is worth going to see. I was uncertain how it would go over with my three year old, but she walked throughout the gallery with my spouse and I, admiring the colours and even picked a favorite painting. I felt it was great to expose her to beautiful art, as far too often we think children can only appreciate toys and parks. To my many friends who homeschool or anyone who is looking for a family activity, I highly recommend checking out the gallery at St.Lawrence College, as it is a tremendous experience! If you are interested in learning more about the current exhibit or upcoming exhibits, check out the website http://www.stlawrencecollege.ca under the campus life tab.

Later in the afternoon, it was "me time". My loving companion is a wonderful man, who works hard and is a great hands-on dad. He also hates feet. This poses a problem for me, as I am seven months pregnant, can no longer see my toes and am dying for a foot rub. I decided this would be an excellent opportunity to check out one of Brockville's most talked-about spa- The Aquala Day Spa located on King Street in the stunning Wedgewood Retirement Residence.

As I entered through the spa doors, everything screamed luxury to me. From the stunning waterfall behind the reception area to the product displays and luscious waiting area chairs, I was already in heaven. It was then that I was a tad intimidated. Aren't spas notorious for stunning women who can not smile and judge you the minute you walk in? In my LuLu's, runners and ponytail, I all of a sudden wanted to dart out of there! Then, from behind the desk came a lovely smile and a genuinely warm greeting. There were other clients in the waiting area, who looked up and gave smiles as well, all but saying "relax, enjoy, you are among friends". I stated my name, appointment time and took a seat, as I was a tad early. I felt myself already starting to unwind as it became clear, there would be no judgement here. I had a great conversation with an elderly lady who sat across from me. She told me she came here often and enjoyed everything the spa had to offer. When it was my turn for my pedicure, my esthetician came to greet me in the waiting area. Another wonderful smile. I followed her back to the pedicure area, where there were other clients laughing, talking and enjoying themselves. As it turned out, my estitician was the spa manager, her name is Denise and she is fabulous! She immediately made me comfortable, taking the extra time to assist me in getting into the chair, showing me how the massage buttons work and offering me an array of beverages. We chatted as though we have known each other for years and she gave some great advice when it came to picking a polish colour. The entire time I was treated like a queen, as were all the other clients. Not once was my comfort compromised or did I feel in need of anything. It was very clear that this was a place that valued their clients and ensured a wonderful experience.

 Just when I thought it could not get any better, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of the Wedgewood and spa. She was very friendly and approachable, coming right up to my chair to say hello. She was well dressed and manicured but the most pleasant surprise she had, was two of her happy children with her. They had been in the spa the entire time. Happy, respectful children. Not once was my "zen experience" disturbed or derailed. They were kids being kids and I realized this really is a welcoming, family environment. In our conversation, she had explained to me that it was important for her to have the clients feel welcome and not have the negative experience some can get when at a spa. The message that stuck with me is when she said " I want people to come in and not feel that we are telling them what beauty is. It's important to me, for my children as well, to show that true beauty comes from within". I was blown away at her sincerity and thoughtful words. Having two daughters and one more on the way, I immediately connected to this.

I quickly snagged another appointment with Denise, in the recommended six weeks time and left The Aquala Day Spa feeling relaxed, happy and privileged to have met some fantastic women. I have been staring at my pretty toes for days now, when I have them up and can see them, and am excited to go back. I am also trying, without much luck,  to encourage my love to dislike back massages too, just one more reason to head back to the spa!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Ice rain turns to family fun on a budget!

The cold weather and ice that came through Brockville last week was the first "real winter" we have seen this year. There were power outages from Cornwall to Kingston and some news-making accidents along Highway 401. Thankfully, most people stayed safe and made it through the weather conditions.

On Saturday, we headed to my parents for a quick lunch and visit. The drive from Brockville to North Gower was anything but boring. Every tree and fence along the way was covered with ice and snow. In the beautiful sunlight, everything glistened. As always, the girls had a great visit with Amma and Grandpa. They played with mini race cars, one of their new favorite toys and provided lots of laughs and entertainment with their toddler antics!

Sunday was a bit warmer (still a chilly -16) so we headed out to lunch at Kelsey's. At first we thought we might be crazy to take our "lively" toddlers to a more grown-up restaraunt but thought lunch-time would be more appropriate. For those of you who have children, you know the challenges that await dining out at anyplace other then McDonald's. The timing is key. You can't take small children out to eat when they are really hungry, as the wait proves to be more than they can handle. You have to ensure you have some small toys, as colouring only lasts so long and a back-up plan if all else fails. We felt brave on Sunday and were going for it.

 My spouse and I made a bet that the servers were going to "rock, paper, scissor" to see who loses and gets to wait on our loving brood. As a past server, I know too well the challenges and clean-up that await with tending to a table of little ones. We were greeted with a smile from the hostess who smartly seated us near another family with younger children. Hmm, this didn't seem like the hostile environment I pictured in my head with glaring diners wishing we had chosen fast food. So far, so good. The waitress came right after and took our drink orders. She was pleasant and treated our children like, well, people. The crayons came and orders were taken. We asked for an extra plate to split our girl's order, as my oldest is picky and some days survives off of air. When the food arrived, our server had already requested the meal be split, saving us the task. This was something we really appreciated. The food was good and the service was exceptional. I'm so relieved that we no longer have to choose only places that  serve unhealthy fast food.

After a successful lunch we took the girls sedding on Laurier Hill. I thought it would be empty, as it was still very cold outside. The "we are Canadian" mantra runs strong in Brockville, as it was packed! It was fantastic to see so many families out enjoying our city. The girls loved going down the hill with daddy. I thought maybe they would be a bit afraid but it seemed the faster they went the bigger their smiles were.We didn't stay too long as our children are still very young and we didn't want to risk frostbite. We headed to Tim Horton's for hot chocolate and treats to warm up after a fun family day.

I'm happy were were able to have such a great weekend together. We used gift cards from Christmas for Kelsey's and Timmie's is never expensive, the total cost for our weekend was less then $10.00. Spending time with family doesn't always mean spending lots of money. Sometimes you just have to get out there and enojoy activities - trust me, it's worth it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Looking for some fun winter activities for the family?

This time of year, it's often hard to find family activities. As the weather gets colder we tend to retreat indoors and get out in our community less.

I am constantly looking for new things to do together as a family, which keep us active. Being six months pregnant, having a 2.5 and a 1.5 year old and a spouse that travels half of the month usually poses some challanges to that endeavour. Lately, I have been resourcing friends, other moms, blog sites and The Brockville Tourism website for inspiration and ideas. There really is an abundance of activities and programs out there, it's just knowing where to find them. This prompted me to think: If I'm looking, other families will be too. I hope the information and links below will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. There are so many wonderful things in the area to enjoy. Just because the hot weather retreats doesn't mean we have too aswell. Enjoy!

Globe Trotters: Tuesdays at 10:00am at the Cardinal Public Library. Open to all ages, this program offers information from around the world. New craft ideas, book readings, songs and so much more. There is also a Facebook group if you want to learn more.

Winter Fun Day: January 28th at the Mac Johnston Wildlife conservation area from 11am-3pm. There are dog sled races, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, various activities for children and food and refreshments. The cost is $5.00 per person.

Brockville Public Library: Toddler Tales. January 24th- February 28th from 10:30am-11:00am. Stories, songs and games for children. Call (613)342-3936 to pre-register.

Bowl for Kids Sake: February 25th. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters Bowl for Kids Sake takes place in Kemptville at the Kemptville Bowling Center and February 26th at The Brockville Bowling Ally. Put a team together and support a great cause! For more info call (613)345-0281.

Brockville Tourism:  Always a great source of information for community activities. check it out at http://www.Brockvilletourism.com

Enjoy all that winter has to offer Brockville - stay active and support your local community!

Monday, 9 January 2012

"It's Amma Time"

The word "Amma" is very special in our family. It's the name my oldest daughter gave to my mother in place of the traditional "Grandma". It also means "date night" to her father and I.

Friday afternoon came and I recieved a glorious message from my mom: " Weather looks ok, I'll come pick up Lo for the night and then take her to the movies Saturday afternoon. You and Nick have a date night and meet at our place tomorrow  for dinner". I can't lie, my parents are very supportive and always jump at the chance to spend time with the girls so Nick and I can have "us" time. We love our children but it essential to take time out for each other now and then as well.

We decided that Brockville was the perfect place for a night on the town, with many options for dining and entertainment. We opted for Boston Pizza for dinner, as my fabulous in-laws gave us a generous gift card for Christmas. Nick travels a lot for work and frequents Boston Pizza so he knows the menu well and really enjoys the perogie pizza they have. I, on the other hand, am six months pregnant and have been craving steak, which, thankfully, is also on the menu. Our starter was a delicious bread that was covered in garlic and cheese, perfect for a cool winter night. Nick really enjoyed his pizza and he recommends it to everyone. I will however caution you when ordering this.  He lovingly offered me a bite and neglected to mention it had some serious heat. Thankfully I had my water nearby. My steak dinner was a bit disappointing. I ordered it "medium" and while the chef did an excellent job meeting this request, it was however, seasoned a bit too much with pepper, which took away from the taste. I chose the fresh veggies as my side. In addition, when my plate arrived they too were cold. The restaurant was busy at this time and the servers were doing a great job attending the tables. Our server checked on us many times and kept the drink refills coming. Upon having some of my water I noticed a large crack in my glass. We stopped the hostess on her way by, which is when we were met with an odd response. She looked at my glass and confirmed she saw the crack and then continued on her way. I thought maybe she was going to bring another water, but as time lapsed we realized she wasn't coming back. Thankfully our wonderful waitress checked on us again and when we showed her, she immediately removed the glass and brought a new one. All in all, dinner was a positive experience. The atmosphere was fun, the staff were friendly and attentive and the food was okay. We will be back again, but I am looking forward to trying some different menu items.

Now for the exciting part: the movie! We have been looking forward to the new Sherlock Holmes movie and the Galaxy Theatre in Brockville didn't disappoint. We thought perhaps with the holidays just being over and it being a small city, the theater would not be busy. This was not the case, as the theatre was buzzing with people excited to see all the new releases. We did not wait long to get tickets or treats and we scored some great seats even though it filled up quickly. The movie we chose was fantastic, although I am a tad biased with my unrequited love for Robert Downey Jr. The local theatre did not disappoint either, with its comfy seats, ample parking and selection of great movies. I urge you all to flock to the theatre and take in a movie.

Saturday we headed to my parents' house to celebrate Nick's Birthday. My mom always makes special dinners for the occasion. We arrived to their house and were met at the door by our daughter with lots of hugs! She was really excited that she and Amma had just come home from their own movie date. About an hour into our visit, dinner was ready. Fajitas, one of Nick's favourite meals.Dinner was amazing but no birthday is complete without DQ ice cream cake. C'mon the kid in all of us likes it! It was a great evening and just one more reason we love our family time so much.

Brockville, once again you have provided us with a great local experience and I am pleased that we get to enjoy the amenities you have to offer. Our biggest thanks goes to our parents, who cared for our oldest daughter and spoiled us with the gift cards to enjoy the night out. It's nice to be surrounded by our children and lots of love, but every now and then we love that couple time just as much.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hello 2012....what will you bring?

Hello 2012! I'm trusting that everyone had a wonderful holiday season? Our Christmas now seems like a blur, where did it go?

We left Brockville and headed to North Gower for the holidays, spending it at my parents' house where much of our family gathered to celebrate. We were happy that my sister and her husband were able to come down from Toronto as well as my aunt, uncle and cousin from Norwood (near Peterborough). A special treat was spending Christmas Day with my grandparents there as well. It was a full house and my mother's famous turkey dinner didn't disappoint. I know everyone raves about their mother's cooking but trust me- if you haven't had "Dot's" turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, you haven't lived! My spouse's family is from the wonderful West Coast and we had a skype date with them on Boxing Day so they were able to see the kids open some of thier presents as well. It's always a lot of smiles and laughs when trying to coordinate two children to behave and cooperate for skype, thankfully my in-laws are fantastic and enjoy just seeing our faces! As always, everyone was spoiled but I think we would all agree, the real gift was just being together.

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays some of my favorite ladies were home to celebrate and we were able to get together for dinner. In keeping with my self-promise to stay as local as possible we chose the Georgian Dragon on King Street in downtown Brockville. I had eaten breakfast there once before and was excited to try their dinner menu. The ambiance was pub style and relaxed. When we arrived at 6:00 pm it was busy but not crowded and we didn't wait for a table. We were greeted almost immediately and drink orders were taken. The menu was versatile and also hosted the classic British pub fare. On our plates were fish and chips, philly cheese steak and mashed potatoes, yorkshire pudding and a traditional clubhouse and fries. With only a minor hiccup ( a spot on my friend's teacup, that was immediately replaced) we were pleased with our dining experience.  The food came fast and the service was friendly. As we ate and talked, the restaurant filled up. It became quite clear that this was one of Brockville's favorite get together spots. There were many items on the menu that I still want to try, a good excuse to go back.

New Year's was quiet, as we were all sick but once the kids settled into bed, my spouse and I made some hors doeuvres and snuggled in to ring in the new year. It has been a while since I've been able to stay up until midnight, but this time I made it, however just by an inch! It was the best New Years kiss I've ever had, if only a peck on my lips as I had a sinus cold. It was our first New Years as a family and although we were all sick, asleep or almost there- it was the best one I've ever had.

From my family to yours, Happy New Year. We hope 2012 brings you much happines - and what better way to start then to get out in our fabulous community and spend time with friends and family.