Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Crafts and Holiday Cheer

 You can feel the holiday season upon us. The air is crisp, restaurants are filling up with patrons celebrating and stores are buzzing with happy shoppers.  I have recently given in to the spirit and started to join in the fun.

 Saturday morning was off to a whirlwind start. The girls were up early and we had a busy day planned. I had been anticipating the 1000 Islands Mall Annual Craft Sale for weeks and it was finally here. I love the idea of hand-made and unique gifts plus, as you all know , I’m a huge advocate for supporting local. The parking lot was full and upon entering the mall, you could see people were in the shopping mood. From door to door, vendors lined the corridor showing their products and services. There were beautiful hand-made soaps, knitting, Christmas ornaments, wood carvings and various other offerings. Everywhere I looked, people were carrying bags full of their new purchases and it instantly threw me into the holiday spirit! I can’t tell you what I bought, because that would ruin the surprise for some reading this – but I’m very happy that I was able to attend the Uniquely Creative Craft Sale and will be back next year!

Now that we were all shopped out, it was time to relax with the family and get ready for the Annual Athens' Christmas Parade. It has been a busy month and unfortunately we had missed all the local parades to this point, so I was very excited to take the kids to see Santa. The Athens' Parade of Lights is held later in the evening (starting at 7 pm) so with small children, it was a bit of a gamble for us. We packed up the hot chocolate in our thermos, brought blankets and dressed the kids in their flannels and warm snowsuits.


We made sure to arrive early enough to find parking and get the kids situated. As we have a mini-van (with stow-and-go seating) we parked the van so we could pop the back hatch and watch from the comfort of our vehicle. This proved to be a smart move, as the entire main street quickly filled up. My aunt and uncle, cousin and family friends met us and we all waited for the parade to start. This year was especially fun as both my kids are at the age where an event like this is sheer magic!

The floats were lit and started to make their way towards us. With the OPP starting things off, followed by local fire departments and then the parade of business and entertainers, this was a big hit with all of us. There were great school bands, a fun group of bikers showing their "light" side, and of course – Old Saint Nick, himself. The girls were very happy that Santa was able to see them behaving (for once!) and he may possibly bring them more then coal now. 

Hope you've found some time in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to stop and enjoy some fun local events like these. All the best of the season to you and yours.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Every time a bell rings...

George Bailey, a well-known fictional character, is a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He had always wanted to leave Bedford Falls to see the world, but circumstances and his own good heart have led him to stay. He sacrificed his education for his brother, kept the family-run building and loan afloat, protected the town from the avarice of the greedy banker Mr. Potter, and married his childhood sweetheart. As he prepares to jump from a bridge, his guardian angel intercedes; showing him what life would have become for the residents of Bedford Falls if he had never lived.
This is the classic 1946 film - "It's A Wonderful Life" and was the latest play to be staged by the Brockville Theatre Guild at the local Brockville Arts Centre. This timeless Christmas classic was the perfect choice to mark the Guild's 80th anniversary and kick off the upcoming holiday season
I had been anticipating this production since the very beginning. You see, my fiance, Nick, had been cast to play "Ernie, the cab driver". Nick has a love for the arts, and experience in theatre from his native home in Quesnel, BC but this was a first for him since moving to Ontario nearly eight years ago. Nick's good friend Will Wright, was also auditioning (and would later be cast as the lovable angle "Clarence") . With our family life now affording him the support, time and flexibility to get back into a hobby he once loved so much, Nick jumped at the chance to audition for this adaptation of the classic film.
As a first-time "theatre widow", I had no idea the time and effort that went into the productions. Thankfully Will's wife, Laura was there to guide me through the months of late-night rehearsals and proved to be a great date when we attended the production's closing night, last Saturday.
When we arrived, the lobby of The Arts Centre was beautifully decorated for Christmas and was buzzing with excited patrons. Everyone was dressed up, cocktails in hand and catching up with friends they hadn't seen in awhile. It was the perfect setting and reminded me of what life would have been like before the era of motion pictures - one in which live theatre was what everyone looked forward to as a night on the town.
We entered into the theatre and took our seats, where the lights dimmed and the play began. I was nervous for Nick and Will. I knew Will was a seasoned actor with years of experience in the Guild, but I had never seen either of them act before and had no idea what to expect. As the story unfolded, I found myself drawn into the characters and anticipating the upcoming scenes. Having watched the original movie every year for as long as I can remember, I may have been able to say the lines myself. What the actors brought to the stage, that set it apart from the movie, was a modern twist with their humour. I found myself cracking up by their mannerisms and on-point comedic timing. Although "It's A Wonderful Life" can be very dramatic and even reflective at times, there is also a lighter side that brings you back to the joys of the holiday spirit and the Theatre Guild nailed it with this adaptation.
The long hours of rehearsal and cast chemistry was very evident. The "Young George Bailey" and "Young Mary" proved to have talent to spare as they flawlessly navigated the scenes and really made you believe their love story. I also have to give a huge hats-off to Paul Duchesne, who reprised the leading role of George Baily himself. Paul was incredibly moving throughout the play, taking you with him on his journey of lost hope, despair and then eventually renewed faith in life.
 It was a remarkable and emotional ride that once over, truly had you walk away feeling that "It's A Wonderful Life" after all.....

Friday, 22 November 2013

Tea time equals Tree time

For the past six monthes, I have been working on a charity event called Trees for Children. This event brings together local businesses with one goal - raising money for children's mental health programs in and around our community.

This event placed sixteen Christmas trees on display at Fulford Mansion for the months of November and December for the community to enjoy, leading up to the holiday season. During this timeline, Fulford Place holds their annual Edwardian Tea, where staff and volunteers dress in period costumes and hold a proper tea event at the mansion to emcompass the era of the Fulfords. This year, I was fortunate enough to attend this event and see first hand, the impression the Trees for Children Christmas trees had on tea goers.

I was recently joined by my Aunt, Grandmother and friend, Suzanne Dodge from Dodge Communications for an afternon of Edwardian tea and Christmas ambiance from days past at local historic site, Fulford House. Upon arrival, we were asked to gather in the traditional tea room, where fresh baked goods and raffle items were on sale. In this room, there was a tree on display sponsored by Dodge Communications as part of my brainchild, Trees for Children. Suzanne was my guest at the tea and was quite pleased with the way the Edwardian Tea brought the Christmas trees to light. We were then seated in the billiards room, which was beautifully decorated with garland, old-fasioned Christmas ornaments and of course a Christmas Tree sponsored and decorated by two local businesses- Set the Barr and First Avenue Interiors. While guests sat to listen to Brian Porter, who was dressed as historical character, a ship's captain and Fulford Helmsman, Julian 'Pont' Mallette, they enjoyed prepared sandwiches, tea and coffee and followed up with an array of desserts. After the tea, guests were allowed to tour the mansion and view the trees on display.


I took this opportunity to watch guests reactions to each tree and hear their thoughts on how it added to the usual Edwardian Christmas theme. I heard wonderful feedback from those in attendance, all  were pleased to see our local business owners come on board to support such a worthy cause and raise awareness for a cause close to many.

It is with great humbleness that I thank all those involved with Trees for Children. It is still surreal to me that something that was just a mere thought many monthes ago, has now come to life with the help of our community. I hope everyone has the opportunity to view the trees while they are on display and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

For tour dates and times, please visit:

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Haunted Halloween Road Trip - GUEST BLOGGER

Every now and then it is fun to have Guest-bloggers chime in with their adventures! Please enjoy this great post from Kendra, who works for Brockville and 1000 Islands Tourism:

One of the best things about working at Brockville and 1000 Islands Tourism is that I get to hear a lot about all of the great events and attractions that are going on throughout our region, and occasionally I get to go and check them out for myself!


Last Friday I decided to head out on a Halloween road trip with my partner and go to both the Haunted Hay Rides at Drummond’s Sugar Bush and Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village. I dug out my hiking boots, bundled up with a cozy hoodie and scarf, made a thermos full of hot chocolate and hit the road.

First stop was Drummond’s Sugar Bush in Spencerville for a Haunted Hay Ride. Driving out on County Road 21 in the dark we knew we were close when we saw a trail of head lights turning down a dirt road - a good sign that this was a popular event. We parked in the field beside the road and headed straight for the snack truck, the buttery smell of freshly popped popcorn too enticing to pass up. We bought out tickets, loaded up on popcorn and snacks, and headed towards the line up. We ate our popcorn and waited in anticipation as we heard the screams of those in the woods who had gone before us.

As we boarded our wagon with around 25 other brave souls, I was glad to see that there were a lot of children on board (I spook easily and generally avoid horror movies so this was a bit out of my comfort zone). As a few of the first ones on, we tried to figure out where the best place to sit would be: at the front? No, we didn’t want anything targeting us first; at the back? No, the tour guide was there, who knew what role he had to play. We settled on the middle, but in the end it wouldn’t have made any difference where we sat, it was equally terrifying everywhere.

Our ride started up and headed off into the dark woods. No cameras, recording devices, or cell phones were allowed, so I don’t have any evidence of my trip through the woods, and don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that we all screamed. A lot.

Throughout the woods were tableaus of various horrors taking place and lots of things hanging from the trees. Our hay ride was equipped with strobe lights which hid movement, making it very difficult to see what was approaching our ride. I was constantly on alert for something jumping out at me, but I was never fully prepared for what would come next. At one point I was off of my seat and crawling across to the other side of the wagon. I wasn’t the only one climbing my way to safety; most of my side of the wagon was there with me.

After the 35 minute ride was over I was left wondering who would pay to be psychologically tortured like that. Well I had and I’d had a great time. As we left there was a line full of people waiting for their turn to be scared, so I guess I wasn’t the only one. It was great to see so many people out enjoying this local event.

We hopped back in our car, poured some hot chocolate, and set off for Pumpkinferno. I’d heard great things about this event and had seen a lot of photos (check out Lindsay’s latest post!), but I hadn’t yet been out to see it for myself. Walking through Upper Canada Village and seeing it completely transformed to showcase installations of thousands of carved pumpkins, I was amazed at the vision and artistry that went into this project. The craftsmanship involved is truly spectacular and it’s difficult to imagine all of the work that has gone into this endeavor. You can look at all the photos you want, but it is something completely different when you visit in person. Everyone around us was blown away by the exhibits; it’s difficult to find a truly all-ages event but this is one.


After taking pictures all night at Pumpkinferno, I was very glad that we had thought to pack our hot chocolate; it was just the thing to warm up our hands for the drive home.

We had left the house at around 6:30 pm and we were home by 10:00 pm, having experienced two very different Halloween events (if you have little ones in tow you would probably want to go to these two events separately). It was a great start to the weekend and we couldn’t wait to tell our friends about it.


The Haunted Hay Rides are running every Friday and Saturday night in October from 7:00-10:00 pm

Pumpkinferno will be open October 24th – November 2nd from 6:30-10:00pm

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Spooktacular Event

The annual Pumpkinferno is on now at Upper Canada Village, located in Morrisburg, Ontario. This is a must-see for everyone!
Last year I was blown away by the creativity and concept of this event and this year was no different. With even more on display and immaculate detail in the art work - pictures do not do it justice. Make sure you catch this event before it ends!  
Entrance Sign
A Fun Hawaiian piece

My Favourite- The Dragon sponsored by The City of Brockville!

Paying homage to our First Nations People

Cousins enjoying the night :)

Brilliant detail

Under The Sea

My Zodiac Sign

You can find the event details online at http://www.uppercanadavillage/pumpkinferno

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Up to mischief

Lately, my days are filled with a juggling act. Time spent with adorable wee ones at my daycare and then off to meetings with potential clients and firming up deals for things to come in the world of media. This past Thursday, I was happy to slow down a bit, get dressed up and hit the town to take in a play at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, On.

I had recently met Andrew Geekie, Outreach Officer at the Playhouse, while attending the annual Gananoque and Brockville Chamber networking event. Andrew discussed the current production of "No Great Mischief" and said it is a must-see.

Our family had recently toured the 1000 Islands Playhouse during Open Doors Gananoque, and I was impressed by the history of the theatre and the stunning ambiance provided by the balconies, wooden beams and the majestic St.Lawrence River view. When Nick and I returned for the production that evening and the theatre was lit up with the starry sky in the backdrop, romance filled the air and it was the perfect date-night.

The play began with a spotlight on the main actor, who began to tell the story of his life - one filled with great family love and loss. The play unfolds around the main character, Alexander MacDonald and his regular travels to visit his older dependent brother, living in Toronto. Together, they re-live stories of the past tragedies and fond memories of their childhood and upbringing. The play is filled with great highs and lows, accompanied by traditional Scottish music sang by the very talented cast.

Throughout the production, I found myself invested in the characters and really relating their story. The music was an important part, as it accompanied the storyline perfectly and brought out the emotions being portrayed by the characters. I was impressed by the talent, creative team and actors alike, that it took to put together this production. Adapted from the novel by Alister MacLeod - No Great Mischief was emotional and raw, a real local masterpiece

I can tell you that I will be returning to the playhouse in the not so distant future to take in another show. There is something so romantic and exciting about live theatre and I urge everyone to visit the 1000 Islands Playhouse and experience this local treasure for yourself .

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Shutter and Snap

One day, I was looking through my Facebook feed and noticed that, a gal I grew up with had a new photography business and Facebook page. I clicked, expecting to glance through and see the same  shots typical of most new and up- and - coming photographers. Instead, I was captured by the simplicity, yet amazing eye and talent that she had.

I had been thinking of having pictures done for my daycare families as a special thank you for inviting me into their lives and allowing me to care for their children. I wanted to find someone who could capture all the childhood fun we have on a daily basis but hadn't come across that right person yet. That's why when I stumbled upon Julia Patrick's Photography page and was blown away, I decided to make it happen.

 I immediately contacted Julia and had a great chat. She was so warm and excited about the idea. Julia works with children in her full-time job and started her photography business as it has been a life-long passion. Once she started to take photos and show me the unedited images, it was clear she was able to hone in and capture that light that only children have. The pictures were beautiful and very moving.




Our family will be meeting up with Julia again in the late fall for more photos and I encourage anyone who is looking for a local photographer to check out Julia's portfolio and contact her. Not only is she immensely talented but an absolute lovely and hard-working gal! Please enjoy some of her work below and check out her page.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A niblet from Cornfest 2013

For the last two years, my family and I have eagerly anticipated the annual Athens' Cornfest. I have been lucky enough to call some of the organizers my friends and they do a good job about getting the word out regarding the excitement to come each year.

We made sure to arrive at this year's Cornfest in the morning so we could take in all the vendors, music and of course, the food. After parking, the first place we came across was a giant board game made out of chalk on the closed-off road. It was a snakes and ladders type game where you roll the dice and try to make it to the end. My oldest, wasted no time introducing herself to the volunteer and starting the game. At the end, she was surprised with a musical prize (parents rejoice!) and walked away all smiles. This was a promising start to Cornfest 2013.

Next, we stopped to watch a professional sidewalk chalk artist hard at work and attempted to make our own masterpiece. This gave Nick and I a chance to chat with and get to know some of the volunteers. The kind lady who was working this project was telling us about her grandchildren and how she enjoys spending time with them. It was nice to take a moment and connect with other local residents. One of the greatest parts about attending small-town fairs is the kindness that can be found.

We continued to walk down the main stretch, stopping to listen to Tom Wilson on the main stage, visiting with friends we saw along the way and eventually making our way to the bouncy castle. This is a must for every fair and is always a favourite with our children.Nick and my oldest waited in line, as Baby R and I met with some more residents and chatted away. I was happy to meet the owner of the Dragonfly Kitchen, a lady who provides an in-home cooking service for busy working families. I grabbed her pamphlet and we had a great chat. I hope to connect again with her soon and learn more about her services.

Before I knew it, the morning had passed and it was noon - we had plans to go watch and meet Senator Hugh Segal, who was participating in the cook-off. My wonderful friend and Cornfest organizer, Douglas Quantz had invited us to come by and meet the Senator. Doug was in excellent spirits and had everything running smoothly with his amazing Cornfest team. We were introduced to the Senator, who was very gracious and took the time to speak with Nick and answer all his questions about political life. It was a great meeting and we are looking forward to connecting again soon.

After all the excitement, we were very hungry. When in Athens, we have a favourite spot to eat - The Peacock! Nanny Franny never disappoints and she was outside selling raffle tickets for a charitable cause and other goodies. We hurried in for a delish lunch and as always, had a fabulous time. My love for The Peacock is no secret, but if you still haven't been- rush- go now!

As the day drew near to an end, the lovely Brea Lawrenson was taking the stage. I had never heard of Brea before the hype of Cornfest, but after hearing her cover Tom Cochrane and Miranda Lambert, I realized what an incredible talent this gal is. We stayed and listened to her set and as my daughter is a huge country music fan, we went up to the stage to meet Brea after. I was blown away by how down- to-earth and friendly she was. So much so that she let my daughter keep her guitar pick, which you can imagine, only sent her over the moon! She has now been using it non-stop on her play guitar at home and continues to talk about her favorite musician- Miss Brea Lawrenson - a true class act!

To the village of Athens, its' residents and and everyone who takes time to organize and volunteer in the annual Cornfest - THANK YOU. This is truly a great festival and we look forward to it for years to come.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Automotion 2013

Congratulations to those involved in "Automotion Brockville 2013". This was a great event, attended by many and an overall success!

Our family headed downtown bright and early to take in the anticipated car show. With the threat of rain, we drove, not wanting to get caught in a downpour with the kids. As it turned out, the rain held off - and it seemed everyone (and their dog!) was flocking down to check out the cars and trucks. Please enjoy a few of my personal pictures from Automotion 2013:

 A look towards the crowd at Blockhouse Island
 One of Nick's Favourites - The Barracuda
Nice Gun-Metal Grey Camaro

 For you Rod lovers
 Loved this Mustang!
Last, but not least - my absolute Favourite - Camaro! I fell in love with this car.
Make sure you check out, and for more festivals and other upcoming attractions!

Monday, 29 July 2013

This 'aint no pussy cat!

With the summer in full tilt in the beautiful 1000 Islands, Nick and I decided to take the day off and head out on the highly anticipated Wild Cat Cruise.

This is the 54 passenger, high-speed Catamaran that sets out to the mighty St.Lawrence for a one of a kind tour.


The tour starts out as a very relaxing guided tour, with happy tunes to listen too along the way. Once out on the open water, Captain Andy lets you know to hold on tight and get ready for the ride!

Just two of the spectacular views from this trip. Singer Castle (above) with it's rich history and beautiful setting and the new skyline featuring The Tall Ships Condo (below).
The Wild Cat is one fun ride worth taking! It lets you experience the world famous 1000 Islands like never seen before.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Cruising the beautiful 1000 Islands

Over the weekend when the sun made a brief appearance, we jumped at the chance to do one of our favourite activities in the 1000 Islands - take a cruise!

Last year (and many before) we have boarded at Blockhouse Island in Brockville, On. to take one of the many cruises offered. This year we wanted to try something different, so we headed to Gananoque and took the 1 Hour cruise.

This is a shot of one of the world famous 1000 Islands.

The girls and I posing for some pictures, as I'm usually the one behind the camera.
The hour cruise proved to be just the right amount of time with our small children. The ship is large enough to comfortably move around and enjoy a relaxing time on the St.Lawrence River.
Such a peaceful cruise!

One of the many sights - beautiful sail boats.
If you put one thing on your list this summer, check out the many cruises offered for the St. Lawrence River. There are cruises leaving daily from Brockville, Rockport, Gananoque and Kingston.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Tall Ships Festival didn't disappoint!

This year's Father's Day weekend in Brockville was one to remember!

We kicked it off by attending the much anticipated Tall Ships Festival. This was an incredable event and something none of us have ever experienced. The ships were immaculate, providing my father-in-law with some great shots (as photography is a favorite hobby of his), the crowds were large but filled with happy sightseers and the food  (oh, the food!) was delicious!

Nick and I had the opportunity to dine on the Tall Ship Sandy for the Saturday evening dinner and fireworks cruise. Everything from boarding to the weather was perfect. We met some great friends and neighbours on the ship, enjoyed the roast beef dinner with "to die for" dessert (hello cheesecake!) and ended the evening with a romantic fireworks display at the back of the ship.

As we sat there taking in the breathtaking colours of the fireworks, I realized just how lucky I am to live in this beautiful area. The view of our city from the water was like something out of a movie. The shore was filled with proud residents enjoying the festival, the water filled with local boats and the historic Tall Ships alike, and the overall atmosphere was that of joy and non-stop fun. What a perfect evening!

Sunday was a day of family and celebration! It was my grandmother's birthday, Father's Day and the local wine show all wrapped into one day (in no particular order of course - cheeky!)Nick made some wonderful giant gormet hamburgers, we had salads and homemade carrot cake, and that was just lunch! While some of the men raced off to make their tee-off time, us ladies decided to meet at the 1000 Islands Food and Wine Festival. We had to have a drink to honour the fathers' in our life afterall.

I was yet again, very pleased to see a good turnout at the wine and food festival. I met some great vendors and tried some fabulous Ontario wine. I am not much of a drinker but my mother, who is part-owner in a local wine import business (Amano Inc.) was on-hand to tell me all about what we were sampling, which made it delicious AND interesting.

The weekend flew by way too fast, as there was just so much to do and the city was buzzing. Make sure you check out for next years' dates and some other wonderful festivals happening throughout the remainder of the summer. Brockville and the 1000 Islands always has something for everyone!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Kick-off to Summer

What type of things remind you that summer has finally arrived? Is it the birds chirping in the early morning light, seeing the harbours fill up with boaters or perhaps a local event, that brings to mind that finally (yes, finally!) summer is here? For me, it is the annual sidewalk sale in downtown Brockville that is the kick-off to summer.

Saturday morning was a very early start. My one year old hasn't been the biggest fan of sleep lately and our days typically start at 5:00 am. One could view this as exhausting - and it is - but as this is everyday life, I choose to utilise all that early morning time and get my chores out of the way. By 9:00, the house was clean and we were ready to start our busy weekend routine.

The day had come. A day I look forward too all year long - The annual Brockville Downtown Sidewalk Sale. All my favourite shops and vendors, combined with our Farmers' Market makes for one busy and incredible sale! King Street, from East to West is blocked off to traffic (with the exception of some detour routes for locals and convenience) and the streets are filled with excited people alike. The weather this year was a bit cooler then usual, but it didn't seem to stop people from coming out to enjoy the bouncy castles, remote control car kid's area, cuisine, sales and entertainment. We stayed for about an hour and a half, meeting friends and family, then called it a morning and continued with our weekend plans of country drives and errands.

On a bit of a last-minute whim, my Fiance decided we should check out the drive-in theatre in Port-Elmsley, which is about an hour drive from Brockville. The first show started at 9:00 pm, so we figured it was a great "Date-night" as the kids would surely be asleep when we got there. Boy, were we wrong. Our four year old was bouncing with excitement to see her first drive-in movie (who could blame her) and our one year old was loud, proud and ready to party with all those other movie-goers. As a PSA, I feel I should quickly apologize to the other patrons for our "screamy" baby, but caution you that drive-ins sometimes lead to those situations some nine months later. HA! This experience does have a happy ending though, as Nick and Remy had some wonderful bonding time walking the grounds of the drive-in, while my oldest and I got quality mommy-daughter cuddle and movie time. It ended up as a date after-all, just not with my fiance!

Sunday came, and thankfully the late night movie exhausted the kids, who slept in. We got up, got ready and headed over to brunch at the Brockville Convention Centre. Sadly, it was the last of the season (although I have thrown a fit about that and maybe there will be special occasion brunches) as it truly is the best brunch in town! We met some great friends, their adorable children and crossed our fingers that four kids under eight was not going to end up as crazy as we thought it may. Turns out, we were blown away by the customer service (and food!) as the wait staff and even Sous Chef decided to play with the kids and even colour with them. We stayed for close to two hours as the kids were having an absolute blast with the Convention Centre team. A huge thank you to you all for making it such a fun and great experience.

After brunch, we headed to the Brockville Memorial Centre for an event called "This one is for the girls". This was put on by a local resident, Kaili Tennant - who wanted to showcase other women in business in our area and donate proceeds to our local Interval House. With many unique vendors and a great cause, I hope to see this back next year. Congrats Kaili and team- you did a wonderful job!

Last, but certainly not least, we headed out to Eagle Point Winery, where they were participating in Doors Open, hosting a wine tasting of their newest release and having a BBQ with proceeds going to the Front of Young Township Volunteer Fire Department. As my Father-In law to be is a volunteer firefighter, any event where we can support that cause, is big on our list. Mix wine and a good cause and you have a popular event! The parking lot was full and the winery was a buzz. I have visited a few times now, picked up a bottle and can tell you that you should put Eagle Point Winery on your list of summer hot spots. I hear they are also hosting Yoga in the vineyard, which is sure to be a hit!

As I sit to write this post, I realize just how busy of a weekend we have had. I love that we live in an area where there is so much to do and usually for a very good cause. There are  many people and businesses in the area that share my community pride. Make sure you get out this season and take in everything there is to offer.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Bringing back brunch

Does your Sunday morning sound like this: " Momma, I'm awake. I'm awake! I'm awake!!! Followed by a one year old baby screaming due to the aforementioned yelling.  Oh, I should point out that it is 6:30 a.m. and this is a typical Sunday morning for us.

So what does this have to do with how much I love Brockville? I love it so much that I tirelessly write about my passion for the city and surrounding area. I can proudly say we have shopped at nearly every store, eaten at nearly every restaurant and frequented every park. A few times over. This, is why- when I heard the new Brockville Convention Centre would be hosting WEEKLY brunch - I kicked up my feet in excitement for Sunday mornings - despite the early wake up calls!

I remember brunch being an occasion. Mother's Day Brunch, Father's Day Brunch and the morning after almost every holiday, you guessed it, was usually brunch. This is not reserved for exhausted parents who just need an extra hour or so before breaking out the skillet to feed those hungry babes. Young couples recouping from the party the night before, single people wanting to get out and about, elderly citizens who enjoy good food and traditions. Brunch has been around forever and there to serve everyone.

Nick and I had attended the fabulous opening night gala at the Convention Centre on Friday and were blown away by the venue. It is open, spacious, bright and is clearly going to be a huge hit in our city. The venue can be split into three rooms; two mid-sized rooms or one giant room allowing for any size event.  My favourite part was the entrance hall. It felt warm and welcoming, along with stylish and sophisticated. I enjoyed how you could grab a cocktail and mingle with friends.

We decided that Sunday we would brave it, and take the kids. I was a little weary - because the children are toddlers, who are loud, always hungry, never patient and, well....they are kids. I envisioned us walking back into the ballroom and my children somehow taking every table cloth off of every table, running amuck, spilling tea and coffee and receiving looks from lovely people out to enjoy their Sunday. What we actually experienced was walking into the ballroom - which was very elegant - but feeling welcomed with smiles from other families and brunch- goers. We were seated, received a high-chair immediately for our youngest and welcomed to check out the buffet.

There are no words to describe this brunch. I always go on and on about how wonderful our experiences are and how delicious our food is. It has always been very true. We have been lucky to have such experiences. The brunch at the Brockville Convention Centre? Chef William Alexander and his extraordinary team have knocked it out of the park!

From the generous amount of food, selection, plating and taste (oh the taste!) everything was perfect. There was fresh fruit, a yogurt parfait bar, canapes, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, pulled pork Eggs Benedict, ,mini sliders and array of juice, tea and coffee. Those are just the things that come to mind. I know I am missing many items. It wasn't the quantity that surprised me, although for the price, I knew I was getting a deal. It was the quality of the food that blew me away. Nick raved and raved about the sliders and the kids devoured everything we gave them.

It would be safe to say that brunch is back. Back with a vengeance. If you are looking to reclaim your Sunday as a day of relaxtion or for a local celebration - or if you just want a damn good meal, then please head over to the Brockville Convention Centre and enjoy. What an amazing meal!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

April showers bring birthdays, concerts and wineries

April has been a busy month this far. We had two birthdays' ; a big milestone for Remy, as she celebrated her first birthday and I continue to celebrate my twenty-eighth birthday, again and likely again next year too. My mom headed off to Italy for a week in support of her new wine importing business (Amano Inc.) and our calendar continued to be full of diverse community events.

If you are a fan of maple syrup (and who isn't?), pancake breakfasts and family activities, you have likely heard of Gibbon's Family Farm, just north of Brockville. We ventured out one Saturday morning for their family day and took in music, pony rides and a petting zoo. There were many local families in attendance and no shortage of happy children. Our girls spotted the petting zoo, and headed over to see the baby lamb, goat and of course,  to hold the bunnies. We then ventured into the barn to listen to some folk music and hear some stories. After that quick break, it was back to the animals for a pony ride. Both girls enjoyed the ride - so much so, that I believe they are in cohoots to try and get daddy to buy them a horse!

That same Saturday evening was the annual North Augusta Volunteer Firefighters Pancake Dinner. If you are familiar with my blog, you know this is something we also supported last year and will hopefully continue to do so in years to come. It was nice to see the familiar faces of long-time friends who now volunteer and bring their own families to the dinner. The proceeds raised from this event go to assist in supporting our volunteer firefighters with their ongoing training, equipment and education to the general public. I can't think of a better way to show respect and support to the men and women who courageously give their time and lives to helping others. Thank you!

Last, but certainly not least, Nick, the girls and I spent last weekend away in Kingston. I had bought Nick concert tickets to see Great Big Sea for his birthday awhile back and we had been anticipating this concert for nearly 4 months! With Mother Nature throwing one last hooray of an ice storm, I was worried we wouldn't make it. Thankfully the weather let up and it was safe to travel. Although Kingston is a stone's throw away, it isn't a place we would have gone to if the ice had stayed. We checked into our hotel after dinner, my long-time friend and her hubby came to stay with the girls so we could head out to the concert. I like Great Big Sea, but could have taken or left them before this concert. I have to tell you - after seeing them perform live, that this is an amazing band who has gained a new fan. Their cadence was incredible and the range was like nothing I had ever heard. It was a great date night and a fun memory Nick and I will have for years to come.

As always- this area never disappoints. En route back from our Kingston adventure, the kids fell asleep in the car. Nick and I both enjoy country drives and so we went where the roads took us. We discovered Eagle Point Winery, just north of Rockport and I fell in love. As I don't often drink, I couldn't tell you the first thing about wine (shhh...don't tell my mom- she is a sommelier) but I will tell you that this winery is breathtaking. When I ventured in, looking lost I am sure, the associate could not have been kinder and more welcoming. She answered my questions and showed a genuine excitement that I was visiting for the first time. I sampled their 2007 Merlot and was blown away. I was also excited when I was introduced to Debra Marshall, the Operations Manager for the winery. Debra was very warm and welcoming too. She didn't seem to mind my lack of knowledge and was more then happy to take my card and entertain the idea of a return visit and tour. I brought home a bottle of that Merlot and can't wait to return soon.

I would love to know what everyone does with their weekends in the area? Does your family have a favourite local hang-out or activity? If you have experiences to share or ideas of places to visit - please email me at

Get out and enjoy local!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Mmmm...."The Mow"

My not-so-secret love for Brockville and our local businesses is on full display in this post. I enjoy writing about my family's experiences when we are out and about and the local talent that blows us away. No- I don't get paid by those businesses to promote them, I just really believe that when we have a great time in our own backyard, it's worth noting and promoting that local talent. Here is a recent experience we've had and I really think you should check it out!

The Barley Mow

Little City Charm was recently nominated for a CanWeblog Award, which seemed like a great reason to celebrate. There are many tasty places to eat in Brockville, but we wanted to try the new and highly talked about Barley Mow, a family-friendly pub . Nick and I had been there previously for a quick breakfast before but it is the delicious traditional food and excellent service - during the dinner hour - that set this restaurant apart.

We sauntered in at dinner, with two of our children in tow. In some cases, I am pretty sure I have seen servers "rock, paper and scissors" to see who gets the luxury of waiting on our family of toddlers. This time- we were greeted with a genuine smile and excitement to see our family. We were seated and almost every server came to coo over our children and take our drink order right away. We were given menus and what seemed like the perfect amount of time to decide on our dinner. I ordered the bacon wrapped meatloaf, Nick had the prime rib sandwich and my oldest had the mac and cheese with a side of fresh veggies. Our baby, is well, just that- so no steak for her just yet!

It didn't take long for our meal to arrive. It was fresh, hot and plated to perfection. I will admit that my father-in-law still makes the best meatloaf (c'mon, it's stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese!) but this one was a very close second. Nick raved about his sandwich and my daughter ate her entire meal. She is four, that NEVER happens.

I also have to mention the very best part of our experience was our server, Jenny. She was pleasant, fun with the kids and never missed a beat with our orders. We had a great conversation with Jenny and learned she wants to someday work with children. As a mom and daycare owner, this was great to hear as she really seemed to have a way with people.

Great atmosphere, food, prices and service -  The Barley Mow knocked it out of the park! We will be back soon. Maybe with my in-laws to have the meatloaf!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

February: Fundraisers and Family Day

As one of the shortest months of the year, February always seems to fly by. Here's a round-up of all the local fun and activities that made it pass by even faster this year.

If you have been following our local news, the new Cardinal arena project is a familiar story. Many people are very excited about what the new arena will bring and then there are skeptics and those unhappy about the tax hike to local residents in the Cardinal-Edwardsburg area. Whatever your take, in my opinion, getting people out and active in our community can always be a positive thing!

Leading up to Valentine's Day, the new arena fund-raising committee, which one of my dearest friends, Marcy MacDonald is on,  decided to host a Valentine's Gala to offset some of the costs associated with the project.  As Cardinal was my first home, is now home to my middle daughter on a part-time basis and also home to other close family friends, it seemed only natural that Nick and I show our love and support to the community and buy tickets. A lovely and basic home-cooked meal followed by a performance from the local Studio C Dance Troupe and music from a live band (Rock Junction) made the evening fly-by as fast as February itself! There was even a silent and live auction, with many great prizes donated by local businesses. Our MPP Steve Clark, was even on hand to donate a bottle of wine and support this great cause. It may be worth a mention that this is a man of his word- as he followed through on a Superbowl bet he made with Nick and I, where a drink of choice was the prize. Thanks Steve- a nice treat!

Not long after, Family Day popped up on us. With three small children, a home-based business, a busy career man and other countless things on the go- staying at home this year was big on our list. I did however, catch word that The Brockville Museum was hosting a Family Day celebration with free period costume photos and some activities set up for families to enjoy. Never being one to stay away from a community event -  especially one with costumes! - we headed out.

We met some new friends, had a lovely tour and our picture taken, all the while spending time together as a family.

With March approaching, along with more spring-like weather, there are tons of fabulous local events and gatherings ahead.  Get out and enjoy your community and all that it has to offer- you never know what you will find in your own backyard!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Date night in the kitchen

Please enjoy a guest post from my close friend Katie Schaafsma. Katie and her husband Dan recently had a private cooking class from a local entrepreneur Lisa Quenneville, owner of "No more excuses". A great idea for any couple looking for something new to do together!

Date night in the kitchen!
Guest post by Katie Schaafsma

The other night, hubby and I went to our first ever cooking class, held by Lisa, the owner of "No More Excuses". Though Lisa is based in Brockville, the class was held at Your Independent Grocer location in Prescott.

We recently made some big changes in an effort to become overall more health-conscious and aware of what exactly we are putting into our children's bodies, and our own bodies, and the effects this can have, both in the short- and long-term. We're having a blast exploring this whole new world outside of the old "meat-potatoes-something green" repertoire. Through Facebook, we learned about an upcoming "Valentine's Day Cooking Class" being put on by No More Excuses. Since we just developed this new, shared interest (a very cool feeling after almost 10 years together!), we decided it would be an appropriate activity for us to try.

Lisa is a friendly, inviting person, who made us feel comfortable right away. It is obvious that not only is she good at what she does, but she enjoys it. From the basics, like which knife is best for which job, to more complex things like mixing several spices for that perfect flavour, Lisa showed us the way!

 She explained the health benefits of probably every single food available, some I've never even heard of, and also explained why some foods aren't as healthy as one might think. She decoded nutritional labels, suggest brands, and even told us which aisle it's in. If it has to do with food or cooking, asking Lisa is just like typing it into Google! But better, because I suppose anyone can post anything on the internet... I digress, but my point is, she knows what she's doing.

I've come a long way since my days of charring Kraft Dinner and annihilating cookware (wish I was kidding!), but to say I'm skilled, or even confident in the kitchen would be a flat-out lie. I'm otherwise pretty smart though, and am somehow a decent baker. I can locate the "on" button, but I don't understand fancy cooking terminology. My husband is more or less the same, and we found Lisa's class to be geared perfectly for people with average cooking experience.

She explained what she was doing as she did it, or had us do it, but used everyday language. Because Lisa created an atmosphere that was so relaxed and easy-going, we also had no problems throwing out questions as we went along. We all had a good laugh when my husband, trying to be helpful, threw out the tops of the peppers that were supposed to be saved. Lisa not only showed us how to make food that tastes great and is healthy, she even threw in a couple of neat tips for presentation, if we ever wanted to impress guests. Knowing we had children, Lisa also pointed out as we made our dessert, that it did not require an oven, or knives, thus making it safe for kids to help out.

The class ended slightly before the allotted time, and as we're all parents, we naturally chatted about our children. Lisa shared her ideas for hosting parent-child cooking classes this summer, in an effort to promote healthy eating to kids, while showing them how much fun cooking can be. (Maybe if kids learn that it's not a chore, they won't grow up and burn Kraft Dinner like their mom?)
We left feeling satiated, with a print-out of all five recipes and the remainder of our sparking grape juice to take home, excited and inspired to continue on our journey in the kitchen!
Through "No More Excuses", Lisa also offers many other services that focus on healthy living, such as: weight loss/maintenance, private or group nutritional counselling, grocery shopping, fridge/cupboard revamping, and Vegetarian, Vegan, and Raw Vegan education.
To learn more, or to contact Lisa, go to