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.....