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Fifty Shades of White

It was the Ragtime era, when the phonograph became available to consumers. The first time guests were dancing at weddings; and in spite of high waists and high collars, long trains and long gloves it was the bopping head and flailing arms and legs of the Turkey Trot that was coveted by the youth and considered scandalous by polite society.

In 1914; the start of World War I the Toronto cityscape was dotted with horse and buggies as the population pushed 200,000. It was the year of the opening of the Old Mill Tea Room, the future venue for a legacy of weddings that would define the iconic Toronto landmark.

In 1929 the Old Mill Tea Room added a dance hall; and a nine piece orchestra that played six nights a week. It was the Depression so although couples continued to exchange vows brides were exchanging silk for rayon gowns or their Sunday dresses that could be worn again.

In the thirties with women supplying ¼ of Toronto’s workforce the world was introduced to mac ‘n cheese, instant oatmeal and canned soup varieties. The invention of kettles that whistled when they boiled and blenders for home use made it easier for women to go to work.

Amid World War II even more women were employed and weddings were planned with haste to young men in the forces. Vogue magazine wrote (1942) “Weddings nowadays hang not on the brides’ whim, but on the decision of the grooms’ commanding officer.”

Grooms were increasingly wearing wedding bands as visual reminders of their nuptials.

This era of rationing and practicality forced shorter hemlines (above the ankle for bike-riding ease) and lacy sweaters to get the most mileage out of a ball of wool. Brides were not exempt from frugality often using furnishing fabrics and lace curtains to fashion their wedding attire.

Life was better in the fifties. Toronto got a television broadcast system, TV dinners were on grocery shelves and portable dishwashers were being wheeled into kitchens.

Brides were wearing ballerina-length dresses with luxurious poufy layers and short fingerless gloves made of lace. Bolero jackets were in demand for ceremonies, covering strapless or laced dresses with sweetheart collars for the reception.

In the sixties women were making up 1/3 of the Canadian workforce and ¼ of the Canadian engineering profession. They were learning that ovens could (and should) clean themselves.

When they were grooving down the aisle brides were choosing short skirts or dresses and hair worn long, dotted with flowers or veils popping from pill box hats.

Toronto enjoyed architectural successes in the seventies, with Ontario Place, The Eaton Centre and The CN Tower being erected. Microwave ovens hit the Canadian market but the decade is generally associated with flower power and the peace movement.

Blame it on the hippies, but seventies brides had their own fashion senses. From pantsuits to smocked gauze gowns to Bohemian frocks this was an era of recreational duds.

O Canada became the official national anthem in 1980 kicking off an era of formality and tradition in wedding styles.

If one person can define the decade it was Diana, Princess of Wales who set the tone for puffy hair, puffy sleeves, long-distance trains and veils and the return to bodacious bouquets. Brides among the non-nobles dressed as princesses nonetheless.

The nineties were digital; as in cameras, answering machines and video discs. People were still using coin booth telephones but mobile phones were introduced to the marketplace.

In fashion, the ‘designer look’ was desirable. Brides were wearing strapless, sleeveless and sexy gowns. Cleavage was in (or out?) and dresses were form fitting.

At the turn of the century the vowels were ahead; with the arrival of iPhones, e-tickets, e-books, USBs and ATMs.

Drinks are frothy and wedding gowns more so. Pick-up skirts and asymmetrical hems fall from form fitting bodices.

Mermaids may be mystical in the sea but on the aisle the Mermaid dress is genuine and sought after, as is the Pandora, Princess, Sabrina or Tulip dress.

A century of changing styles, fashions and trends; yet the Old Mill Toronto is unwavering in their dedication to their brides and their special days.

You might say that the Old Mill Toronto will go to great lengths to seek perfection.

And as a toast to the brides, every 2014 wedding dinner package booking will be entered into a draw to Win 1 of 2 Romantic Cruises and, a first Anniversary stay in a luxury King Room at the Old Mill Toronto, as well as an engagement digital photo session Free!

 

 



Strawberry Creme Brulee with Rhubarb Compote

12 ounces fresh strawberries hulled and quartered
6 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
2 cups 35% cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl whisk the egg yolk and granulated sugar together to ribbon stage. In a medium saucepan combine the heavy cream, vanilla bean pulp, and the pod and bring to a boil. Remove vanilla pod. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes before slowly incorporating into the egg yolk sugar mixture.

Fill four 6 to 8 ounce ramekins with equal amounts for strawberry quarters. Carefully fill with the custard just covering the strawberries. Place ramekins in a deep baking dish and place on oven rack then fill dish with hot water half way up. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 325 degrees for approximately one to one and a quarter hour until the custard is set.

Remove the ramekins from the water and refrigerate. Pull the Brules from the fridge a good half hour prior to serving. Cover each Brule with a layer of Turbinado sugar and with a torch melt the sugar to a caramel state forming a crisp layer. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Top with a fanned strawberry, spoonful of rhubarb compote and a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Garnish with a nice sprig of fresh mint and icing sugar if so desired.

Rhubarb Compote Recipe

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

Combine sugar and water and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb and bring to a soft boil. Cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Enjoy! 

 



“An Artist in Your Midst”

The Old Mill Toronto has a special place in the hearts of Torontonians, and as it celebrates its 100th anniversary a visit to the website was timely. As I scrolled through the site looking at the old photographs and reading the history of the Old Mill I felt compelled to share pertinent information about an artist who lived “in your midst”.

Clara Isabella Harris was an accomplished, prolific artist who lived in close proximity to the Old Mill Toronto. For forty years (1930’s -70’s) Clara and her husband Frederick, a commercial artist, lived at twenty-three Valleyview Gardens.

 

Title: “Clara Perry” (Self portrait before Clara married)

The exterior of the house looked like any other on the street except for one difference: the inside was a “full blown” artists’ den and thriving business.

As described in Fred’s diary:

March 27, 1938 – Clara had W. Scott to sit in afternoon
October 2, 1938 – designing cards, cutting canvases, making stretchers
November 22, 1938 – Evie had 20 school teachers in to see work & get cards
October 14, 1939 – Don, Gloria and Jack for class
April 15, 1941 – Cleaned studio

Clara was well trained. She studied under J.W. Beatty, a colleague and major influence on the Group of Seven Painters; portrait painter Archibald Barnes, George Agnew Reid, Manly MacDonald and William Cruikshank.

She studied at reputable institutions: the Ontario College of Art, the Port Hope Summer Art School (Affiliated with the Ontario College of Art) and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Clara exhibited in Canada and the U.S. with such notables as A. J. Casson, Franklin Carmichael, Emily Carr, Clarence Gagnon, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Paraskeva Clark, Frank Panabaker and Edward Potthast.

True to the “plein-air” method of painting Clara travelled long distances, in all seasons, in Canada and the U.S. Considering the cars and roads of the 1930’s these were serious undertakings. And to “top it off” she often went without Fred!

But Clara’s favourite spot to set up her easel was in her own backyard: the Humber River by the Old Mill. Clara captured the Humber in all its glory as well as surrounding areas. Through careful documentation she has left a significant historical and environmental record before colour photography was commonly used.

From Fred’s diary:

May 14, 1938 – “out to Humber River in morning” 

Title: “Berry Road at the Bottom of the Humber River”, Toronto

 

Title: “Church St., The Kingsway, Toronto, Morning, May 16, 1934”.

 

Title: “Summer on the Humber River, Toronto Ontario”.

 

Title: “Autumn on the Humber River, Toronto, Afternoon, October 15, 1935”.

I now live in the NYC area but return to Toronto regularly facing the reality that change is inevitable. But all is not lost. Clara Isabella Harris and the Old Mill Toronto share a common advantage. Their respective values are appreciated in what exists today and preserved in what is recorded on their websites. A “win-win situation”.

Verna McLean
Curator, Clara Harris Collection
http://www.claraharrisart.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Isabella_Harris

 



Let Them Have Cake

Dorothy and Jim were married at the Old Mill Toronto in 1957.  When asked to describe their wedding cake, Dorothy remembered a two tier structure with a first layer of roses and the second with cherubs.  They both described the decorative piece on top.  “It was a bride and groom under an arbour” reflected Dorothy.

“I was going to say cage” giggled Jim.

The couple is but one of a number of couples reflecting on their wedding day at the Old Mill Toronto.  The iconic landmark near the banks of the Humber River in Etobicoke, is celebrating its own anniversary; 100 years and it still has the VOW factor.

Barry and Patsy exchanged their vows in the sixteenth century chapel at the Old Mill under the dappled light of the stained glass windows and candlelit chandeliers.

Most men might not remember the finite details of their wedding day 34 years later, but Barry was a banquet captain at the Old Mill and Patsy worked in catering. Barry remembers vividly.

“When the ceremony was finished, the wedding party was about to take their pictures, the Old Mill surprised us with a complimentary pre-reception for our guests.  I will always remember my cousin coming around the corner and yelling out ‘hey everyone, they’re serving sandwiches in the Mill Room.’”

The ‘sandwiches’ were in fact labour intensive canapés and hors d’oeuvres hand prepared by the chef for their 120 guests.

Barry reflects on a perfect reception in the Brule Ballroom (think hardwood floors and wood-burning fireplace). “There was a strolling musician; a violin player who went to each table playing requests accompanied by an accordionist.”  Barry’s request was Flight of the Bumblebee and he is still in awe with the memory of that performance.

Baked Alaska was always an event for weddings at the Old Mill. “Before serving, the lights would be dimmed, then the band would start up and the servers marched in with sparklers on the dessert plates and placed them in front of their guests at the same time.”

Henny and Leo’s wedding in the Old Mill Chapel was in 1988. Henny had been introduced to the Old Mill Tea Room by her sister when she immigrated to Canada in 1975 and it held a place in her heart ever since.

“We had the same minister as my sister did nine years earlier.  He was a really nice man.  He took his time and made us feel special.”

“We liked the idea of having everything in one place.  It was easier for our guests. After the ceremony we went to take pictures in the garden and our guests could get some fresh air and go for a walk as well.”

Henny described a European style reception; hors ‘oeuvres in the Mill Room for 60 people.

“They couldn’t do enough for us.  Everything was perfect.  On our first anniversary they sent us a card and offered us a complimentary cake to celebrate at the Old Mill.”

When Lori and Mauro got married at the Old Mill their cake was something of a showstopper.

Lori surprised her groom with a custom cake replicating his 40’ Silverton powerboat. She said “all the bartenders and servers wore captains’ hats.  My husband loved it.”

Lori and Mauro had 250 guests at their wedding in 2005. “After the ceremony in the chapel we went straight to a tent set up in the garden for cocktails.  It was April so there were heaters.  We had a martini bar and oyster bar.”

Dinner was in Guildhall with musical accompaniment by the Downchild Blues Band.

Lori said they stayed in the honeymoon suite, “it was gorgeous.  It had two rooms, giving us a separate bedroom.  And we had a fireplace!”

If there is one thing that the Old Mill has been doing the same for a hundred years it is making every guest experience unique.

Natalie Bauer, director of marketing and events for the Old Mill Toronto said “we are fortunate to have a selection of different banquet rooms to accommodate large groups or intimate settings. We have the beautiful gardens for picture taking and a patio for outdoor cocktails.

“There is a florist on site who can take care of all the flower details”.

“Our spa has been so popular we had to give it larger space.  Our brides like to come the night before the wedding with their attendants, get their aesthetic treatments and then go back to their rooms to enjoy a glass of wine.  It’s a lovely way to be pampered the night before the big day.”

Any couple booking their 2015 wedding at the Old Mill will be automatically entered to win $10,000 toward their wedding. This includes a wedding night stay in a King Suite. Contest details are at oldmilltoronto.com.

Isn’t that the icing on the cake?

Pam Stellini



Robert Home Smith

February 4, 1935:

Robert Home Smith dies at age 58. Smith established a real estate company in 1913 and opened the Old Mill Tea Rooms on the day World War I was declared, which remains a prestigious Toronto restaurant and event venue.

In 1878 the building housed a flour mill that accepted the first revenue freight delivery in Toronto from the Credit Valley Railway. Smith owned 3,000 acres of land in the Humber Valley and his prestigious Kingsway Park subdivision was built along the lower portion of the Toronto Belt Line Railway’s Humber Loop.

Robert Home Smith was also President of the Algoma Central Railway and chairman of the Toronto Harbour Commission during the time the waterfront was being redeveloped for the Union Station railway viaduct.

In this capacity, Smith was largely responsible for the establishment of Sunnyside Amusement Park.

 



New Year’s Resolutions

           

Promises, Promises, Promises… why do we do this to ourselves? Are we truly setting a realistic goal or are we setting ourselves up for failure? Do we tell anyone about our resolution because that would be making it official, which maybe isn’t such a bad thing as we might feel more accountable to following it through.

Do you know what the top ten commonly broken New Year’s Resolutions are?

Maybe the resolutions we set for ourselves are to general, maybe we should start by taking a good look at ourselves and changing little things that could make a huge potential difference. Like stop beating yourself up if you can’t make it to the gym because your ran out of time, but when you have time make sure you do go! Who care’s how many people like your photo on instagram or you had 302 people following you on twitter but now you have 300! Social Media anxiety is a waste of time and something you can change.

Cross something off your bucket list that you have always wanted to try. It could be something from riding a roller coaster to jumping out of a plane…stop making excuses and just do it.  

Perhaps the key to a perfect New Year’s Resolution is…ready…wait for it……. Enjoy Life more! It’s an important step to a healthier and happier you! Why not try a new hobby like water colour painting and tap your inner artist or pick up a sport like skiing or bike riding. Of course heading to the spa for some “You” time is a great way to enjoy life more… “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

I would be remiss if I did not mention, you should try a yoga class, who knows maybe it will be the beginning of a new you! It’s different for everyone, but ultimately yoga makes you feel great in body, mind and soul. Yoga removes limitations and provides clarity to enhance your experience of life.

And with that we wish you all a wonderful beginning to a New Year and an outstanding ending! And good luck with your resolutions! may you appreciate all the little things in life because that’s what truly matters in the end. It’s not about what what you look like or what you own but about the person you have become.