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Festive Table Decor

As we approach the craziness of the festive season, get inspired to make your holiday table sparkle with ideas for table settings and dazzling centrepieces when hosting get-togethers for family and friends this holiday season.

During our recent Girls’ Great Escape, one of our workshops was to share creative ideas on how to decorate your table with beautiful festive decor. The Old Mill Flower Shop created the dramatic flower centrepieces and can help you entertain in style this Christmas, with a custom made centrepiece for your home. 

These beautiful holiday tablescapes were a collaboration between Weddings by Design, weddingsbydesign.ca a full service event planning and design firm, and Dinner Party Diva, info@dinnerpartydiva.ca a dinner party tabletop rental company.  Together they create magic and bring you the ultimate experience in party planning and design.  
 
 

Traditional Table

“This traditional red and gold holiday dinner table takes its cue from the floral motifs that are huge in fashion this season.  A Romantic floral centrepiece surrounded by tall charcoal grey taper candles and an array of gold and red accents and formal dinnerware, complete this elegant table scape.”

Rustic Chic  

Inspired by current trends in reclaimed wood and copper, this Rustic Chic holiday table decor is perfect for your cottage holiday dinner party. 

Winter Wonderland

The silvery white “snowfall” table linen is the perfect backdrop for this winter wonderland themed table scape. The monochromatic light blue candle scape combined with crystal accents and snow globes make this table a show stopper!! 

Modern Geometric

This contemporary holiday table takes inspiration from modern geometric design and infuses it with a pop of colour. The gold pineapples are all the rage this season, and are the perfect accent to this holiday table symbolizing friendship and hospitality.

From intimate dinner parties for 6 in your own home to larger parties and events for any occasion, we hope these festive tables have inspired you! 
 



Office Christmas Party Planning

There is a lot of ideas to choose from when it comes to the type of Christmas party that you can plan. The location, budget, numbers attending and how much you want to be directly involved in planning and managing the event also comes in to play. However the most effective way to plan a successful office Christmas party is to first understand the goal behind the event.

1. Are you using this as a motivational event 
2. Do you want to hand out awards to employees in recognition of performance 
3. Do you want to say thank you to everyone and Celebrate.

When you know what your goal is it will help you get started on organizing things into place, as good preparation can help it run as smoothly as possible. Don’t go at it alone, you need to assign a team to help plan the Christmas party. This will allow the event to be the result of multiple perspectives and will make the party planning workload more manageable and allows you to enjoy the event as well.

The top key initiatives to begin with are;

1. Set a preliminary reasonable budget
2. Select the location for the Festive Party
3. Select the menu for the Festive Party 
4. Select the entertainment, decor, gifts and if necessary the awards.

Remember to consider the time and location, it should be a place that is suitable to everyone. Is it close to public transportation, is parking included, do they have over night accommodations? Wether your hosting a cocktail party, a buffet, or a sit down meal it is easier to have a theme which sets the tone of the event and gives you a starting point when selecting your menu, entertainment and decor.

Knowing your budget will determine how much you can spend on food, entertainment, room rental, decorations and other items you may wish to purchase. For smaller workplaces there are shared party nights, where you buy tables at a large ‘off the shelf’ Christmas party, sharing the event with a variety of other companies. This is ideal for those that want the atmosphere of a larger event, but don’t have the budget, time or enough guests to put something bespoke together.

When you find a location suitable make sure you discuss room rental costs and what is included in those fees.  Do they provide security for your event? Do they provide bar tenders? Do they provide linens, plates, napkins and silverware? Do they have in-house Dj’s? Do they have any festive decorations? Take advantage of everything they offer for free to help with your budget.

As you get closer to your date it’s a good idea to make a critical path list, tracking all the details big and small. Make sure you have covered all the time-sensitive details and double check your list to make sure you have not forgotten anything.

Also think about planning some activities during the party, nothing is worse than walking into a decorated room with tables full of food and employees hiding in every possible corner. As awful as icebreaker games can be, you need to find a way to inspire your employees to interact with one another.

A slide show of memorable moments from the year can give shy employees something to focus on. Everyone enjoys a photo booth, which will give you images to post on your company blog or at next year’s holiday party.

When you make the organizational experts at the Old Mill Toronto an integral part of your planning team, you can be confident that together, we will accomplish your every objective for a successful Christmas Party.

After the Christmas party don’t miss the opportunity to send a short survey asking your guests for their feedback. The information you receive will be a useful resource in helping you plan a successful Christmas Party the following year.  



Wild Mushroom Risotto with Peas

This versatile Italian dish isn’t as difficult as you may think, there are endless variations of this creamy comfort food, but this Wild Mushroom Risotto with Peas is a favourite that your friends and family will enjoy.

5 3/4 cups canned low sodium chicken broth
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped onion
10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

BRING THE BROTH to a simmer in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Cover and set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and finely chop. Cover the broth and keep warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms, porcini mushrooms and garlic; saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice, add the wine; cook, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes. Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan cheese, Season with salt and pepper to taste.

** In order to use dried porcini mushrooms – or any dried mushrooms for that matter, you have to reconstitute them by allowing them to sit in hot water for a few minutes, absorbing that water and plumping up. Then the mushrooms are ready to cook with, and you have all this flavourful liquid as a by-product.**
 

 



Romantic Winter Weddings

While winter is not the most popular season for weddings, it can be one of the most romantic and magical times of the year. We are seeing more couples capture the richness of this season with it’s warming colours, roaring fires and twinkling lights, that add a cozy warmth, which can not be captured the same way at a summer wedding. Winter weddings can be truly spectacular.

Keep in mind, when choosing a winter wedding location, the indoor space should be warm and inviting, making your guests feel at home. Wood-burning fireplaces and rooms with windows, so you can see the soft fall of snowflakes outside, and, the sun flooding your room with natural light adds a cozy warmth to your winter wedding. It is also a good idea to select a wedding venue that can accommodate everything you need in one location; ceremony, reception and overnight accommodations for your guests.

The ambience around a winter wedding is similar to the first snowfall of the season, it’s magical and very romantic. Make sure to highlight and maximize the winter elements in your decor; faux snow and Christmas twinkle lights add to a perfect winter wedding wonderland, incorporate this with natural components, such as frosted pinecones, pine leaves and snowflakes. 

A romantic winter wedding provides the perfect opportunity to serve wintry comfort foods. Try hearty dishes, like pasta, lasagna, a roast, casseroles, classic filet mignon, hearty greens and warm soups. Also, be fun and creative with the dessert course, consider setting up a fancy hot chocolate bar, and serve creamy eggnog cocktails and spicy mulled wines, it’s a sweet and stylish way to celebrate the season.

There’s a new take on self-service candy bars that’s perfect for trendy winter weddings: an all-white candy spread. Think white M&Ms, yogurt-covered pretzels, white chocolate-covered cranberries, white-coated chocolate mints, nonpareils covered in white sprinkles, and various white Jelly Belly flavours. Self service candy bars can serve as both dessert and party favours.

Have a look at some winter wedding inspirations on pinterest.

Don forget to have fun creating a winter-themed wedding invitation. You can play up the uniqueness of your chosen wedding date by including snowy scenes, holiday themes, snowflakes or cozy fireside tableaux.

And, when it’s time to shop for your wedding dress begin your search by browsing dress photos online. The season will also affect your choice of material, brocade, faux fur and velvet will keep you warm in the winter, but, satin, shantung, silk and tulle are perfect year-round.

The entire wedding, from ceremony to reception, is guaranteed to make an impression in the memories of all your guests simply because it’s different from all of the spring and summer weddings they typically attend. Plus, your wedding will provide something to look forward to in the colder months.

Few Toronto wedding venues compare with the casual elegance and timeless style of our unique Old Mill Toronto, creating an unrivalled location for your special Wedding day.



Girlfriend Getaways Are Necessary

It is often hard to make plans with your friends for a weekend or even during the week without real life stepping in the way. It’s truly a gift to have wonderful friends and it’s important to take the time to nurture your relationships and enjoy each others company away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A Girls Planned getaway is the perfect time to catch up with each other, and rediscover the bond that created your friendship in the first place.

There are many experiences that you can choose from when searching for a perfect Girlfriend Getaway, but first you should ask yourselves what type of an adventure are you looking for:

Relaxing by a pool
Spa going
Wine-tasting
Shopping
Outdoor Adventure and exploring
Yoga Retreats
Cocktail Celebrations

The bond between women plays an important role in your physical and mental health. When you can spend a lot of time with your girlfriends, your happiness levels will soar. Take time to laugh together, try something new, and enjoy your friendship, there are endless choices for that long awaited getaway with your girlfriends. So grab the girls and pick a date! Friends are nurturing and feed our soul, leaving us energized and inspired to take on the world.

Did you know that July 30 is International Friendship Day, a time to recognize your friends and their contribution to your life. Friends come in many different shapes, sizes and guises: school friends, work colleagues, siblings, partners, parents, pets and neighbours. Pull out all the stops and let your friends know they are truly appreciated on International Friendship Day!

The Old Mill Toronto celebrates friendship with The Girls Great Escape.  This unique weekend exposes you and your girlfriends to unique workshops, wonderful food, wine tastings, Luxury room accommodations and spa services. Every Escape is different from the next and many of the girls come back to try out new experiences.

If a getaway is not in the cards for you at this time, why not spend time with the girls at home. Catch up over some take out, enjoy the beverage of choice and watch a good friendship movie like; Fried Green Tomatoes, First Wives Club, An officer and a Gentleman and of course Beaches with Bette Midler…make sure to have a kleenex on hand though when she sings Wind Beneath My Wings!

The best of friends can change a frown into a smile when you feel down. The best of friends will understand your little trials and lend a hand.  The best of friends will always share your secret dreams because they care.  The best of friends are worth more then gold, they give all the love a heart can hold.

When is the last time you had a getaway with just your girlfriends?



Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

 

For some of us Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate a long weekend, usually eating delicious food consisting of Turkey, with family & Friends.  But let’s explore the real meaning behind Thanksgiving.

Let’s take a trip back to 1621 Plymouth Massachusetts. After the harvest crops were gathered Govenor William Bradford announced a meeting on the hill for all pilgrims to listen to the pastor render Thanksgiving to God for all “his blessings” and to give thanks to Squanto and the Native Americans for teaching them how to do things and live life in different ways.

You might think that after 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving every year and that it just became a national holiday. Well, that’s not the way  it happened. It wasn’t until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an annual National Holiday.

Canadian Thanksgiving is more closely connected to the traditions of Europe than of the United States.  The very first celebration in Canada was in 1578 when Martin Frobisher an explorer from England arrived in Newfoundland. He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World, peace and good harvest. That means the 1st Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth Massachusetts.

For a few hundred years, thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November but it was declared a National Holiday in 1879, originally on November 6th, but after the World Wars it was moved to the second Monday in October because it kept conflicting with Remembrance day.

Another reason for Canadian Thanksgiving arriving earlier than its American counterpart is that Canada is geographically further north than the United States, causing the Canadian harvest season to arrive earlier than the American harvest season. And since Thanksgiving for Canadians is more about giving thanks for the harvest season than the arrival of pilgrims, it makes sense to celebrate the holiday in October. Other than the date there is not much difference in our celebrations, we both celebrate Thanksgiving with parades, family gatherings, pumpkin pie and a whole lot of turkey.

What will you be doing to celebrate Thanksgiving this year?



Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

Penne Alla Vodka

One of the most mouth watering Penne a la Vodka’s you will try and it’s made right in your kitchen. Each bite oozes deliciousness.

 

1 lb (500 g)             Penne Pasta         (about 6 cups) 

4 tbsp                     Butter

1/4 lb (126 g)          Pancetta   (you can also use lean smoked bacon)

4                            Garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp.                  Nutmeg

1/2 tsp.                  Cayenne pepper or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

3/4 lb (375 g)         Ripe tomatoes peeled & diced (approx. 2 – 3 large)

** You can use peeled 28 oz canned tomatoes when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season**  

1/4 cup                  Vodka                  

1/2 cup                  Whipping cream

Salt & Pepper to taste - 

1/2 cup                  Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese  

Directions - 

1.      Boil water for pasta

2.      Melt butter in skillet.  Add pancetta or bacon, garlic, nutmeg, cayenne pepper                     tomatoes & vodka.  Cook until vodka absorbed.           

3.      Cook pasta in boiling water until just tender. approx. 8 – 10 min.  Drain.

4.      Stir in cream.  Season with salt & pepper.  Cook until sauce thick and creamy, stirring          from time to time.  Toss with penne.

5.      Sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano cheese.  Garnish with fresh basil or parsley.  

 Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.  

 



How To Choose The Right Wedding Photographer

Choosing the right wedding photographer can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you ask the right questions to get the best fit for you.

We spoke with Toronto based wedding photographer Ian Liwanag from Photo & Co. to get his perspective on what couples should be asking, in order to choose the right photographer that will give them a lifetime of memories to cherish.

How long have you been a wedding photographer?
Experience speaks volumes, but what should be of real value is the photographers ability to manage potentially stressful situations. You need a connection with your photographer that allows you to feel comfortable and trusting, so make sure you enjoy being around each other and you trust them to capture your special day. It’s very important to have a mutual understanding of expectations.

How many hours do we have you for or do you provide special packages?
It’s always best to let the photographer know exactly what your needs and expectations are. Some of my clients ask me to capture their whole story from start to finish, from getting ready, to the ceremony, to the venue itself, with all the flowers and decor and of course dancing. While other clients simply want basic coverage of their ceremony with family and friends. 

Can we see your portfolio of past work?
Every professional photographer has a different eye, their work is very subjective and you need to look at their work to determine if their creative approach matches your artistic integrity. It doesn’t matter how recommended they are to you, if your not loving their style you wont love your photos.

Are the photos edited for touch ups?
Basic colour correction like taking care of brightness, contrast, levelling photos should all be included in the post edit. 

How long will it take to get our images back?
An acceptable turn around time is typically 2 months.

A professional photographer will be able to cover all the technical aspects of your wedding day photography, i.e. lighting issues, composition of your photos, attention to detail, there is no “do over” on your wedding day, it’s always best to hire a professional photographer and not “Uncle Bob”.



The Benefits to Off-Site Meetings

It’s time to hold a meeting, and one of your first decisions is wether you should hold the meeting off-site? There are many advantages to off-site meetings, and of course the more effort you put into your meeting the more you will get in return. Off-site meetings have the potential to take ideas to the next level, especially if paired with a team building component, that can reenergize your team, creating new ideas and commitment to company goals. 

You need to find the most effective venue to deliver the message and the physical surroundings of your off-site meetings can make an enormous difference. We can all get bored of the same four walls, stare out of the same windows, and by moving your meeting to an off-site location, you lift some of these barriers that stifle creativity encouraging them to focus more on the matters at hand, because they’re not distracted and they’re more fully engaged.

Replacing the familiar office environment, with a venue that inspires creativity is important to get the best out of everyone’s efforts. Stunning views, historical features all provide an atmosphere to get the creative juices flowing.

Some other benefits to going off-site means you can source a venue with all the latest AV equipment, and some venues provide an in-house AV technician.  This allows you to be more creative with your presentation and when presentations are more engaging, people tend to get more out of them, making your off-site meeting time more effective.

Off-site catering is also a great way to show your appreciation, and when your team is well-fed they will have a more positive attitude towards your meeting and participation levels will be higher, just avoid a lot of high carbs…we don’t want to put them to sleep!

Location matters, don’t forget to factor in travel time to and from the meeting location, and make sure that all attendees have appropriate transportation to get to the meeting on time. Be clear about goals for your off-site, and be sure to create an agenda that reflects and reinforces those goals. Decide if you want the day to be a high-energy working event, a laid-back and relaxing retreat, or a balanced program combining a little of each.

Inspiring creativity and increasing productivity are just some of the benefits to holding your meeting off-site. There is also a common misconception that having your meetings onsite is more cost-effective, but when you look at the benefits of hosting off-site, it’s totally worth it.



Wedding Etiquette In The Age Of Social Media

Social media remains an integral part of daily life for younger generations. For couples who grew up in the age of popular social sharing sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, bringing the online world into their wedding planning is a natural reaction to their constant social media connectivity. When small events in the day are worthy of an update, a milestone as large as a wedding serves as the magnum opus of social media relevancy.

Social sharing and wedding planning, however, don’t always mix well. Wedding planning and the details of the big day often remain subject to certain rules of etiquette. The rules become blurred when sharing online, but there still remains a proper protocol especially as it replies to taking the wedding into the social media realm.

There are lines online that should not and cannot be crossed via social media. While many rules apply to the wedding party, guests are subject to their own set of social guidelines. There are rules of conduct that must not be breached online or in person, and then there are guidelines that apply only to the social media realm.

Follow these simple rules of etiquette when incorporating social media into wedding planning:

For the Bride & Groom:

Request permission from professional photographers before posting any professional pictures online. Most photographers own the copyrights to their photos. Respect the copyright.

Do not share details about wedding registries via social media. Etiquette dictates that word of mouth is the best way to share registry details. Guests should inquire about registries, they should not be told.

Like gift registries, money requests in lieu of gifts should not be promoted via social media. Word of mouth, again, is the proper method to ensure guests know that gifts of cash would be preferred. Also, do not promote sites that solicit funds for a Honeymoon through any social media platform. Links to such sites may be listed on a wedding web site instead.

 

Thank you notes should be hand written, not emailed.

If guests are encouraged to snap shots of the ceremony, set up an online photo sharing site where all snapshots may be uploaded. Candid shots by guests capture the best memories…be sure to save them.

 For the Wedding Party:

Bridesmaids and groomsmen should not post wedding day selfies or pictures online without consent of the bride and/or groom. Imagine the bride’s dress being photographed and posted online before walking down the aisle…and having the groom see it on social media first. All members of the wedding party should discuss any picture posting rules before the wedding date.

 

Posting pictures of debauchery at bachelor and/or bachelorette parties are unnecessary and embarrassing. They might even cost someone a job. Think twice before posting any questionable photographs…no matter how humorous.

Sending updates on the wedding day about any wedding mishap. Small details that go awry can lead into huge meltdowns. Don’t post anything about problems…no matter how miniscule.

Refrain from posting updates about the wedding details. Again, all details should be shared only by the bride and/or groom.

For Guests:

Check with the wedding hosts to inquire about snapping photos during the ceremony or the reception. Some couples prefer that guests not take photos.

Do not request the bride and/or groom to pose for photos. The day is long and overwhelming for them. Respect the boundaries.

Like the wedding party, guests should not upload photos or post any updates regarding wedding details, preparations, etc. Some details should remain private.

Unsure where the couple is registered? Ask! Word of mouth is the best way to find out about registries. Also inquire about a wedding web site, which usually has a host of other information for guests.

Turn off or silence phones during the ceremony and the reception.

Social media has provided a new avenue to share wedding photos, special details and other memories from the ceremony and the reception. However, there are rules and proper etiquette to follow when incorporating social media into wedding planning. Remember: just because something can be posted online, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be posted online…otherwise, the something blue might just be the entire mood of the wedding day.