“It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing”!

big band is a type of musical ensemble of ten or more musicians, usually featuring at least three trumpets, two or more trombones, four or more saxophones, and a “rhythm section” of accompanists playing some combination of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. A big band is associated with playing jazz music and which became popular during the Swing Era from the early 1930s until the late 1940s.

Jazz began in New Orleans in the early 1900′s. Steamboats using the Mississippi helped spread the sound of jazz as many of the New Orleans jazz bands performed as entertainment on the boats. In the 1920′s, the music of jazz began developing into a big band format combining elements of ragtime, black spirituals, blues, and European music. Some of the more popular early big bands included band members that would become future jazz stars and future big bandleaders such as Coleman Hawkins, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Red Allen, Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, and John Kirby.

When the depression hit the U.S. in 1929 the entire music business suddenly failed. The decline in record sales, coupled with the closure of speakeasies and jazz clubs after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, forced many jazz musicians to move to New York or other highly populated cities and seek work at dancing venues in large ballrooms. Swing bands played a large part in people’s lives in the late 30′s as people tried to shake off the depression by dancing and while records and radio made swing music widely available, this mediated music soon inspired fans’ the desire to experience their favorite swing live.  

Big Bands still hold a special place in the hearts of many as it is a positive and optimistic music and an inspiration during one of the more difficult periods of American History. No person living at the time was not touched in some deep way by it as it helped guide them through the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war recession.  Swing music fulfilled the yearning for a sentimental, romantic escape from the mundane and at the same time was appreciated for its excitement and even as fine art. 

Today more than sixty years later the sounds of Big Band music can be heard at the Old Mill Toronto, reviving the spirit, style and sound of 1930s and ’40s. The Toronto-All-Star Big Band is performing Saturday May 14th with a tribute to the Dorsey Brothers and on Saturday June 11 The Swing Shift Big Band pays tribute  to the Jazz Divas with special guest vocalists June Garber and Larisa  Renee.

Remember, It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing”!

French Gratin of Potatoes Recipe

There are many ways to make a potato gratin, but this one is our favourite…cream, butter & garlic, how can you not be tasty!  This indulgent gratin will be sure to please everyone.

Butter for gratin dish
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter melted
1 tbsp (15 ml) chopped garlic
1 tsp (5ml) chopped fresh thyme (can be substituted with tarragon)
2 lbs (1kg) red-skinned potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin or by hand
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream

1 tbsp (15ml) butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 c)

2.Butter the base and sides of a rectangular 8-cup (2-L) gratin dish large enough to hold the potatoes in layers. Rub with whole garlic clove. In a seperate bowl combine melted butter, chopped garlic and thyme (or tarragon).

3. Layer potatoes into the dish, mounding slighly in the centre. After each layer, spoon a small amount of the butter garlic mixture overtop and season with salt and pepper. Finish with a layer of potatoes.

4. Heat milk and cream together until simmering. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over gratin. Liquid should come just to the top layer but not cover the potatoes. Drizzle with extra butter.

5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender and browned on top.

Serves 8


* Sprinkle goat cheese between the layers

* Layer onions and tomatoes between layers

* Use stock instead of cream

* Make it cheesy with 2 cups (500 ml) cheddar sprinkled between layers. 

The Importance of a Romantic Getaway


The Only thing better than a family vacation is a romantic getaway for two! Taking time out for a romantic getaway with the person that you love gives you a chance to relax, unwind and helps you regain the balance and focus in your relationship. This is very important because too many times in our day to day lives, we get obsessed with work, running errands, school, household chores and other things that are going on, so we need to take the time for each other to rekindle what is so often lost in our everyday lives. 

A change of scenery and time alone allows you to reconnect with one another while enjoying each other’s company. It’s just you and your partner with plenty of time to talk about the important things in your lives. It heightens the intimacy and keeps the romance alive.

Sharing a romantic getaway together creates lasting memories.  The gifts of love and sharing quality time is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give to your significant other. Relationships are about spending quality time together and bonding, and there is no better place to do that then at the historically romantic Old Mill Toronto, nestled in the beautiful Humber Valley and adjacent to the Parkland and Toronto Bike & Walking Trail System.

The Old Mill Toronto’s ideal location invites you to Escape The Ordinary, where your Romance Package begins the moment you enter the lovingly appointed tranquility of your luxury accommodations. No detail has been overlooked to help take you ‘away from it all’. The luxury king-size bed strewn with heart-shaped rose petals, wine, signature truffles, lush bathrobes, and deep-soaking jacuzzi tub for two invites you and your loved one to begin your revitalizing escape by sinking into a candlelit bubble bath.

Let’s not forget the importance of the Spa, where you can escape your world and luxuriate in ours. Experience relaxation and solitude together as you enjoy side by side Swedish Massages.  

A Romantic Getaway allows you to focus your attention on the present moment while you reconnect with each other, and with a little effort, you can bring that same level of mindful awareness to your time together on a daily basis, outside of your getaway.

Bringing Yoga To Meetings


There is a trend in the corporate world moving towards supporting the well-being of employees by placing greater value on their emotional and psychological health. Introducing yoga and other meditational practises into the work day, will provide an environment focused on mental health, emotional support, and stress management.

Working long hours and sitting for long periods of time can leave your mind feeling less productive and your body stiff and tense. Yoga can improve brain function, raise emotional intelligence, and even heighten our ability to absorb and retain information. 

Yoga helps people use their mind in different ways and also helps you relax within the work structure. Gentle yoga and breathing techniques can be practiced at the beginning or end of the work day or during the lunch period, to break up the long hours spent sitting and to inspire and rejuvenate you for the remainder of the day. Yoga breaks do not need to be long to be effective, as little as 15 to 30 minutes will help improve the work team’s ability to focus and problem solve.

Yoga in the office or meetings can even help prevent or alleviate shoulder and back aches commonly experienced by office workers. There is no need for a special space as yoga stretches, breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation can all be successfully performed in a chair. A study in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga stimulates brain function more than walking or jogging on the treadmill for the same amount of time.

Chair Yoga Postures


         Overhead Stretch

  • Raise your right arm slowly over your head, gently stretching at the shoulder.
  • As you fully extend your arm, feel the stretch along your side.
  • As you lower your right arm, raise your left arm over your head, stretching at the shoulder.
  • Alternate one arm and then the other breathing easily with each extension.
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times per side.

    Forward Fold
  • With your hands over your head and arms extended, slowly bend forward from the waist.
  • Gradually bring your hands to the floor next to your feet.
  • Let your head relax between your knees.
  • Rest your abdomen on your thighs and breathe slowly and deeply, allowing your breath to massage your organs.
  • After a few breaths, slowly come up one vertebra at a time.

    Side Twists
  • Cross your right leg over your left thigh.
  • Place your left hand on your right thigh.
  • Reach behind you with your right hand and grasp the chair, using it to assist a rotation in your spine to the right.
  • Keep your head aligned with your spine and remember to breathe.
  • Hold for a couple of breaths.
  • Release and repeat on the other side.

    The Arch

  • Sit up straight with your bottom on the edge of the chair. Stretch your arms out straight behind you and place both hands on the either side of the chair, grasping the back of the chair.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply, lifting your chest both forward and upward, arching the lower back.
  • Extend your neck and stretch from the lower back.
  • Hold for two breaths and then relax.
  • Repeat three times.

    Knee Stretch
  • Grasp below your right knee with both hands.
  • On your exhalation, pull your knee up to your chest, feeling the stretch in the hip and thigh.
  • Drop the shoulders back and down, lift the chin and pull the knee closer into the chest.
  • Hold for several breath cycles and then repeat on the opposite side.

The benefits of bringing the practice and philosophies of yoga into your next meeting are endless. Yoga is mindful awareness of the breath, postural alignment and patterns of thought giving us more energy, and a deeper intuition.


Linguine With Roasted Butternut Squash & Crispy Pancetta

Pancetta is Italian streaky bacon rolled into a cylinder. Pancetta is cured, but not smoked, and comes sweet or hot, much like Italian sausage. Autumn squash has a deep orange interior and butternut squash is especially delicious when roasted.

1/2 medium butternut squash or 12 oz. (375 g) peeled squash
6 cloves garlic
6 to 8 oz (175 to 250 g) thinly slice pancetta, preferably not paper thin
1 lemon
1/2 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
1/2 tsp (2 ml) hot red chilli flakes
several grindings of black pepper
 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1 lb (500 g) dry linguine or fettuccine
4 cups (1 L) lightly packed baby spinach leaves
1 cup (250 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

1. Cut off narrow neck of squash just where it joins bulbous lower half; set lower half aside for another use. Cut off stem; standing up-right, thinly cut away peel. 

2.  Cut squash crosswise into 3/4 inch-thick (2-cm) rounds. Cut each round into irregular pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2.5 – 4 cm ) long. Peel garlic cloves; leave whole but thinly cut off rough end. Set Squash and garlic aside. 

3. Arrange oven rack just above oven centre. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 c).

4. Line a large, rimmed baking tray with aluminium foil. Lay pancetta, overlapping as needed, in a single layer. Bake above oven centre for 10 minutes; remove from oven. Pancetta has shrunk, arrange so slices are not overlapping. Continue baking, checking every 3 to 5 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove pancetta to drain on paper towels; leave fat on tray.

5. Place squash pieces on tray; so they are coated in fat. Arrange in a doughnut fashion. Place garlic cloves in centre; stir garlic so coated with fat. Roast 10 minutes; turn squash and stir garlic. Continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is golden and tender. Leave squash on tray to keep warm. Remove garlic to a plate; mash with a fork.

6. Meanwhile, zest lemon; set half aside for garnish. Squeeze 2 tbsp (30 ml) juice. Stir mashed garlic cloves into oil along with lemon juice, sugar, chill flakes, pepper and half of lemon zest.

7. Bring a pasta pot half-filled with salted water to a boil over high heat. Add linguine; boil according to package directions, usually about 8 minutes, or just until al dente. Scoop out about 1/2 cup (125 ml) of pasta water; then drain pasta.

8. Turn linguine into a large warm bowl; toss with olive oil mixture until coated. Leaving 12 pieces of pancetta whole, crumble the rest over the pasta. Add spinach. Toss, adding some reserved pasta water, if needed, for extra moisture.

9. Serve right away in warmed bowls garnished with roasted squash, pinches of lemon zest, a sprinkling of Parmesan and reserved pancetta pieces as garnish. Pass remaining Parmesan and a shaker of hot chilli flakes at tables.

Serves 6

Not Your Typical Wedding

Helen Pispidikis from Weddings by Design has been planning Weddings and Events for over 15 years. Many trends have come and gone but says Helen “the key to creating a unique and memorable wedding celebration is to make the trend your own”.

As an Event Designer, her goal is to fuse the personalities of today’s couples, with inspiration from the latest trends in colours and fashion / design to create a unique and memorable experience for all to remember. “A wedding is a chance for each couple to create a celebration they’ve always dreamed of — the story of who they are as a couple representing their personal taste and style. Elements of design are than added to the mix to bring the event to life in its own unique way.”

The wedding featured in this article illustrates how current trends in fashion, colour and floral design can be adapted to create a very organic and eclectic approach to wedding design. “In 2016 floral trends are more organic rather than structured. The trending colours for 2016 are Rose Quartz and Serenity Blue. In fashion we are seeing a lot of large floral prints. When we merge all the above with the couples personality and the look and feel of their venue — magic happens! Love is in the details and no details should be overlooked”.

“The floral inspiration in this wedding design was the Tulip which was used in the floral arrangements throughout the space.  However, taking our inspiration from the large floral prints in the 2016 Dolce Gabbana Spring Collection, we decided to create drama in the space by translating the tulip motif on the Dance Floor, with a custom vinyl floor — this was the WOW factor in the space.”

In this above photo the dresses on the left are from the Dolce Gabbana Spring 2016 Fashion collection, you can see where the design was translated onto the dance floor.

There are many ways to incorporate colour and interest into the design of a space. “Design elements can include cutlery, glassware, charger plates or even dessert plates — small items can make a big statement.”

The floor plan and the use of different size and shape of tables along with the use of coordinating linens and florals all play a role in creating a unique and interesting event space.

“Don’t be afraid of mixing things up. In this space the floor plan incorporated square and round tables. The round tables featured coordinating linens and napkins in Serenity Blue and black, with two styles of centrepieces — a mixed organic floral arrangement on some tables, alternating with tall candles with garlands and a deconstructed floral design on others. The rectangular tables featured a garland of greens accented by tall candles at different heights and clusters of florals in different vessels. The black tulip overlays were used to match the black wrought iron chandeliers and wall sconces in the event space.”

Let’s not forget the cake!!! “Wedding cakes have come a long way and today they are not only one of the design elements in a wedding but a work of art. Hand painted florals and designs on weddings are a big trend in 2016.”

From start to finish your wedding theme should be reflected in every element of the design. “Your invitations are the first impression of what is to come. Stationary at the event including menus, table numbers and seating charts all play a role in the design and theme of a wedding.”

For inspirational ideas and creativity a Wedding Designer can help plan a memorable wedding that reflects your style.  #weddingsbydesign