Baby Shower Planning

Traditionally baby showers are given for the families first child and only women were invited to “shower” the mother to be with gifts, celebrate new life and share their wisdom and knowledge of becoming a mother.  It was also considered that someone who is not a family member should throw the shower to avoid having it look like the family was asking for gifts.

Today anything goes and traditional rules are not followed as any relative, close friend, close co worker can plan an amazing baby shower both before or after the baby arrives, typically the last two months of pregnancy. And, although baby showers are predominantly still “for women only” holding a shower for both men and women is becoming more popular especially when it’s for the 2nd child.

When setting a date for the shower you should check with grand parents or other guests of honour to make sure they are available. It wouldn’t be good to send out invitations only to find that the most important guests can’t attend. Invitations should be sent at least 3 weeks in advance to an intimate number of friends and family.

Baby shower themes can also be great fun and sometimes helps to organize the party preparations, but are not necessary.  What about a tea party? Fancy table cloths, tea pots, plates and cups. Serve assorted teas, scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches etc. You can even theme your tea party; everything to do with pink or blue, of course that can only be done when you know what the mom to be is expecting.

Throw a long leisurely baby brunch shower! or how about breaking tradition and having a “Mommy Shower”. Instead of guests bringing baby gifts, everyone brings something to pamper the mommy, like chocolate, bubble bath, gift certificates for take out food, spa services, comfy clothes etc. If you opt not to have a theme, a simple, elegant bright decor with flowers are most appropriate, remember all eyes will be on the belly of the mom to be, so keep the decor simple and to a minimum.

Serving food at the shower is always easiest as a buffet. Serving finger foods allows your guests to try something different and by spreading small bowls around the party, allows guests to also mingle by moving around the room.  Keep food light and simple by serving such items as a veggie tray, fruit tray, keish, sandwiches, cheese & crackers, salads, deviled eggs, buns & cold cuts and lets not forget cute cupcakes. There is also no shame in pot-luck either!

Gift opening is the main event but baby shower games and prizes are always a fun way to create atmosphere and there are many games to choose from.  One unique idea referred to as “Diaper Extraordinaire” is simply putting together a gift basket filled with items like a bottle of wine and glasses, cheese and crackers, wine opener etc. and on your invitations write that there will be a draw for a gift basket that anyone would love. The price of a ticket is one small pack of diapers & wipes. Guests can enter as many times as they want. The lucky winner goes home with a beautiful basket while the mom to be will have a lot of  diapers that can be quite expensive.

When deciding on a gift sometimes practical versus cute for example can be the most invaluable.  Perhaps a group gift for those big-ticket items is the way to go – a stroller, car seat, portable crib, items that will endear you to the parents on a daily basis. Of course everyone wants to ooh and ahh at all the cute little outfits, blankets and booties. 

Send your guests home with a simple party favour. Perhaps something edible, like wrapped home made cookies or a boxed cup cake, a sweet ending to a beautiful shower and it’s a nice way for you to say “Thank you for coming”.

 



Old Mill Marks Centennial With New TTC Subway Sign

Old Mill marks centennial, honours area history with new TTC subway sign
TTC, MPP-elect Peter Milczyn partner on pictoral tribute

 

The Old Mill has made a name for itself over the past century as a place to celebrate milestone events, share family dinners and partake in afternoon tea.

It has become a fixture on the bank of the Humber River and cemented itself in Toronto residents’ family histories. While many people know of the Old Mill, fewer are familiar with its heritage, said its president Michael Kalmar.

“The story of the Old Mill is a wonderful story; it’s a good news story,” said Kalmar at a special reception to commemorate the centennial of the Old Mill, established Aug. 4, 1914.

In partnership with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and with support from former Etobicoke-Lakeshore councillor and Liberal MPP-elect Peter Milczyn, The Old Mill unveiled a pictoral tribute to the early history of the Humber Valley and Kingsway area at the Old Mill subway station.

“What’s the tie in between the Old Mill and the TTC? Both are important conduits to the area,” said Kalmar during the afternoon reception Wednesday, June 18 that brought together decades-long staff members for the centennial event.

The new signage, permanently installed on walls of the east and westbound platforms of the Old Mill subway station, incorporates rare historic photographs and drawings that date back to the 1600s when Huron Indians made their homes on the banks of the Humber River to the early 1900s through the First World War and the Depression era.

“A picture tells a 1,000 words,” said Kalmar, who pointed out the Old Mill got its start as a community centre. Its founder, Robert Home Smith, who built the surrounding neighbourhoods, wanted a place where everyone in the community could come and socialize. Long before the invention of social media or the television, the Old Mill was where residents came to share news of the day, to be entertained and have afternoon tea, Kalmar said.

“Really, we’re just custodians of a wonderful tradition that we have to make sure carries on,” he said.

Natalie Bauer, director of marketing and events at the Old Mill, chose the photos that make up the words ‘Old Mill’ at its namesake subway station. She said with each letter, she wanted to tell a story. She began with photographs of the Huron Indians living along the river. She called the project “a great experience.”

The TTC’s Chief Customer Officer Chris Upfold said a project such as this one helps the transit commission create links to the communities it serves.

“This is a great thing for our customers, a great thing for the TTC. We’re excited to be a part of it,” he said.

Milczyn said the project creates a “link between a local institution, our community and the transit system, the very lifeblood of our city.”

Speaking to the staff, Milczyn thanked them for their “contribution to so many special events in people’s lives,” including his own wedding.

“The Old Mill has a special place in my heart and many people’s hearts,” he said.

 

Staff photo/MARY GAUDET

Employees of the Old Mill, each with decades of service to the company, gather around the new sign for Old Mill Station. The TTC and the Old Mill collaborated on the project that uses photographs from the 100 year history of the Old Mill and area to spell out the subway stop.

For further information about the Old Mill’s centennial, visit Centennial Celebrations

Story  By Lisa Rainford / Bloor West Villager



Backyard Entertaining

With the flowers starting to protrude above the ground, and the sun shining just enough to go outside with out bundling up, summertime is just around the corner and it’s a great time to plan getting together with friends and family to enjoy the outdoors. 

There are many ways to plan a successful backyard party, but the first thing to arrange is the perfect seating experience to allow everyone to be comfortable and engage in conversation.  If your entertaining a large crowd then smaller seating areas, scattered around the backyard will ensure that people will mingle and create different conversations that can be enjoyed by various people.

Setting the perfect decor for your backyard entertaining can be done with a simple string of patio lights or hanging lanterns. Light tiki torches around the garden and use votive candles to set the mood by placing them in small glass jars. Get creative with your table decor by using lightweight colourful tablecloths and brightly coloured paper napkins, which are easily disposable afterwards, and less time in cleaning up.

Providing music for your party is a great way to encourage fun. You can use your patio as a dance floor and keep the music near by so those that won’t to dance up a storm can. You can hire a DJ but if you do not want the added cost then plan ahead with top dance hits from your era downloaded on to your iPod or use your MP3 player or cd’s for everyone to enjoy dancing to.

Food at your party always seems to be the number one concern. Easy backyard entertaining is preferably done with a smart backyard buffet. Keep your menu light and simple, food should be yummy and easy to handle and the less you have to fuss the more time you get to spend with your guests.  Why not take advantage of your grill and have a few people to watch over grilling hotdogs and hamburgers. Don’t forget dessert, something perfect for a summers evening like fresh fruit kebobs and maybe some freshly whipped cream to dip into. Be sure to have plenty of finger foods on various tables around your garden and set up a self serve bar table complete with a cooler for ice, so everyone can help themselves to a drink.

Hospitality is the key to throwing a great party, welcoming your guests and making them feel good that they came. Chances are with great friends, just being together is all that’s important.

Specialty Burger Recipes to give your grill a thrill!

Great cocktails to serve at your next backyard party.

DJ services to help bring your Backyard entertainment to the next level.



“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

 



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.



The History of The Old Mill Toronto

As we round the mark leading to our Centennial Celebrations we thought it may be appropriate to share a little history on the Old Mill Toronto, a Toronto tradition since 1914.

The Old Mill and the Valley in which it sits, have long been a part of Canadian Heritage. Centuries before the coming of the white man, the Huron Indians roamed the Humber Valley.

In 1615 Samuel Champlain sent a young guide to scout the route southward from the Lake Simcoe region . So it was that Etienne Brule became the first recorded explorer to see the Humber and view Lake Ontario. Brule lived among the Huron Indians, learning their language and customs, becoming an important mediator between the Huron Indians and the French settlers. Brule travelled the Humber, part of a long established trading route known as “Toronto Carrying Place”. Ornaments, weapons and furs were popular trading commodities.   

During the 1600′s the Humber River was known as St. Johns Creek, but was renamed by John Graves Simcoe, the first Governor of Upper Canada, after two rivers in his homeland. In 1793 Simcoe ordered the Queens Rangers to build a saw mill, which he named the Kings Mill.  This was the first industrial site of what is known today as the City of Toronto. 

The days of trading along the Humber Valley had transformed the Humber River into a vibrant industry of Mills throughout the Valley. By 1834 many mills were in operation along the banks of the Humber River which became the hub of both business and social activities of the day.

The Kings Mill was leased and later bought by Thomas Fisher. The Mill was poorly constructed so Thomas Fisher replaced the original Lumber Mill with a Grist Mill in 1834 just a few yards to the north of the original Mill. Years later William Gamble, Etobicokes first Reeve, bought the Grist Mill and shortly thereafter built a new larger Mill in the same location. This new Mill was destroyed by fire in 1849.

Not to be deterred, Gamble had a 4th Mill constructed, the stone, lumber and the heavy beams for this Mill came from the Humber Valley. The upper loft of the Mill served as a storage area for apples. During the frigid winters the loft was kept heated by a wood burning stove in order to prevent the apples from freezing. During the cold winter of 1881 the stove overheated and fire destroyed this latest Mill.  

The introduction of steam power once again transformed the Humber Valley from an industry of bustling Mills to a backdrop of leisure and recreation.

By the early 1900′s one man’s vision began the transformation of the Humber Valley forever. Robert Home Smith, financier, railway builder, real estate developer and avid sportsman purchased 3,000 acres in the Humber Valley, from Lake Ontario to what was to become Eglinton Avenue. His concept was to develop a unique modern community.

The early prosperous years of the 1900′s were shattered with the out break of World War 1 on August 4, 1914, the day the Old Mill tea garden opened. The Tea Garden acted as the community centre for the residents of this new residential development, a place where news and events of the day were exchanged. Home Smith’s motto “A LITTLE BIT OF ENGLAND FAR FROM ENGLAND” epitomized his objective to create a Toronto suburb of grace and tranquility through English tudor architecture.  

During the war years the original bridge adjacent to the Old Mill was washed out. It was a tribute to Home Smith’s political connections and financial clout that a new bridge was quickly constructed in 1916, during the lean years of World War 1. 

As the popularity of the Old Mill grew, Home Smith began the first of many additions to the Old Mill building. The print room was built in 1919 and was one of the few places of the time that offered the enjoyment of dinner and dancing in an elegant atmosphere. Thus began the live music tradition at the Old Mill.  

By the year 1928 Home Smith centralized the hub of his activities around the Old Mill with his next addition the administrative office of “Home Smith and Company” later to be known as “Home Smith Properties.” The cottage was built soon afterwards and became a popular private entertainment spot for Home Smith.

In response to the ever growing popularity of the Old Mill, design and construction of the Dance Hall and the Garret Room began soon after. Home Smith paid great attention to carry over the design features of the familiar English Tudor architecture into the Dance Hall design.

Who could have predicted that shortly thereafter on October 25th 1929 the financial world was to suddenly collapse with the crash of the stock market.

Through the depression years the Old Mill continued to attract a regular clientele. By now the reputation of the Old Mill stretched well beyond the boundaries of the Humber Valley to include all of Canada. 

Groups became a familiar site enjoying the established afternoon English Tea tradition, which began in 1914. Home Smith continued to promote the Old Mill as a focal point of his development. The Old Mill management sent personalized letters to the residents of the area outlining many of the Old Mill’s attractions including dining and dancing, facilities for private parties  and special occasions with the emphasis on the quality of food prepared by their famous European Chef.

In February 1935, Robert Home Smith died suddenly in Toronto at age 58. He never lived to see the completion of his dream.  Home Smith willed his estate to his close and long time friend Godfrey Petit who assumed the chair of President of “Home Smith and Company.”

Monday September 10, 1939 then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie signed the proclamation of war entering Canada into the war against the German Reich. Canada’s entry into war changed daily life throughout the Country. The war effort drained the Country of it’s labour talents and other resources. 

An announcement by Home Smith and Company on October 20, 1939 stated: “Due to the uncertainty caused by the war it has been necessary for us to make certain revisions in our organization…” 

The attention to old world charm, exquisite gourmet dining and the dancing to the Big Band orchestras of the day made the old Mill a popular rendezvous for the armed forces during the war years. 

The Globe and Mail of Saturday October 16, 1954 reports, “Great storm hits after 4 inches of Rain”. Toronto residents were jolted by the fury of Hurricane Hazel.” Cars were overturned, homes and businesses destroyed and carried away by the torrential rains. Thousands of people were left homeless in the wake of her storm. Many properties along the Humber Valley sustained extensive damage or were lost all together.  The Old Mill bridge, the original Mill ruins and the Old Mill itself were spared from Hurrican Hazel. Only the road adjoining the Old Mill bridge sustained damage.

Barely two years later with the continued popularity of the Old Mill, it was expanded once again. The addition of the Humber banquet room became a new feature for private parties which was elegantly decorated with wood panelling and lead pane windows over looking the picturesque Humber Valley. Over the next two decades the Old Mill continued to function in the tradition of its past and became a well known landmark to the ever sprawling city for Toronto. 

In 1973, William Hodgson, an Etobicoke resident, reportedly saved the Old Mill from demolition to make way for a new residential development. William Hodgson closed the building for massive renovations. New sections were added, a Wedding Chapel built, rooms were restored and newly decorated.

In 1986 the Old Mill was once again under construction in response to the popularity attributed to the boom years of the 1980′s. An entire new wing of Banquet rooms was added. The Old Mill had grown to a 16 room function facility nestled on the banks of the Humber river.

 In June 1991, then new owners, George and Michael Kalmar became the latest proprietors of the Old Mill. In October 2001, the Mill “ruins” were transformed once again into a boutique Hotel that now stands proudly within the walls.

So begins the new chapter in shaping the history of the Old Mill.

 



Thanksgiving Food Drive

Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit, charitable organization that is fighting to end hunger in our communities. Every year thousands of people across Toronto rely on food banks. Daily Bread serves these people through neighbourhood food banks and meal programs in over 170 member agencies.  In support of our local Fire Department station #422, the staff at the Old Mill Toronto held a food drive for the daily Bread Food Bank.

Boxes were placed in various staff areas throughout the Old Mill Toronto building with signs to support our mission.

           

Every staff member was encouraged to donate at least one can or jar as listed on the poster. All non-perishable food items were being collected on Friday October 11, 2013 and being delivered to our local Fire Department.

         

Every year, with the assistance of volunteers, Daily Bread Food Bank conducts a survey across the GTA of people who access food banks. For a fifth year in a row, food banks in the GTA saw over a million client visits. Did you know that 32% of Food Bank Clients are children and that 45% of adults go hungry once a week as they struggle with fixed incomes and rising food costs.

Daily Bread Food Bank is committed to providing food and resources for people experiencing hunger and poverty. Thank you to everyone who supported our food drive, we collected 11 boxes with over 350 non-perishable food items. 

          

It’s amazing what the power of a group can do to help a greater cause!



Christmas Decor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you the everything has to be perfectly in sync with colour and shape, synonymous with the rest of your year round décor or are you the type that can never part with the sparkly popsicle picture frames and the ornament from 1969?

Every year I drag out the many boxes filled with décor dating back to my child’s first Christmas. My decorations are a real mixed bag of sentimental things I had growing up, new items I seem to pick up every year, and handmade ornaments from my little one who’s not so little now.

Out comes the painted Santa’s, the candle holders encrusted with sparkle dust that’s seems to get in every nook and cranny~ the stuffed reindeer and the all time favorite snowman dressed in a cross country ski outfit  complete with a set of skis…he stands beside the fireplace every year.

While I admire and sometimes desire the perfect tree with every cylindrical ornament sparkling away and matching the colour scheme of the year, I find myself reaching for the same ornaments and décor year after year, unable to part with them yet once again.

Christmas Décor is what ever brings you happiness, what ever fills your heart with Joy and makes your home feel festive for the holidays.

It’s a once a year thing where you get to show your sentimental side. So put that garland up the rail of the stairs and of course every decoration your children ever made must go on the tree or mantle or somewhere in the house. I think it’s not about following principals of design but more about giving in to the sentimental side of the season.

The Flower shop at The Old MIll has great festive seasonal decor and classic ornaments and with every gift ware purchase over $30 you will receive a mini Holiday arrangement or an ornament.

Happy decorating everyone!



Who Started the Tradition of Afternoon Tea

Sometimes all it takes is one contrarian action to change the course of the world. Such was the case with Anna Maria Stanhope, better known as the Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies-In-Waiting. Anna Maria is recognized in history for starting the delightful tradition of taking “afternoon tea” with all its accompaniments.

Back in the 17th century, dinner (the main meal of the day) was served between 11 am and 12 noon. It was a rich, heavy, alcoholic meal that could last up to 4 hours. During the 18th century, dinner was served gradually at a later and later time. In the early to mid 1800′s, the Industrial Revolution with its long working hours, pushed the dinner hour back to a very late time. Dinner was usually served between 7 to 9 p.m. and sometimes as late as 10 p.m. To fill the midday gap, an extra meal called luncheon was created. This new meal, however, was very light, and the long afternoon with no food or drink left people very hungry as they waited for their late dinner.

One afternoon, in 1840, the Duchess of Bedford experienced a sinking feeling in the middle of the afternoon so she asked her maid to bring her tea, bread and butter, cakes and biscuits with jam. This was considered a very strange request at the time so it was done in secret for fear of ridicule. The Duchess felt so revived after drinking tea and having an afternoon snack that she bucked tradition and bravely started inviting her friends to join her for afternoon tea. Her friends enjoyed this new “snack time” and the Duchess started making it into a social event. Her idea was a hit. Soon high society and the growing middle classes started imitating royalty and holding their own afternoon teas, or “Little Teas” as they were called (because of the small amount of food served).

Today, afternoon tea is not only a tradition, but is making a comeback in popularity. The Old Mill holds daily afternoon teas and special evening “Twilight Tea” events.