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


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.