life isn't average. neither are we.
A (Not So) Grand Opening
Kristina Chau - Friday, March 02, 2012

Hey party peeps!

I hope all of you are keeping well in the new year.  I love that we have been having sunshine and mild days more often than not, and now spring is just around the corner so there's plenty to be happy about :)

Today's blog post is a review on a grand opening event I recently attended.  As an event professional, I'm invited to various events that promote venues and vendors in the industry.  This past Wednesday, I attended the grand opening of FOUNTAINBLU which is located in the Exhibition grounds.  Here's my review on the good, the bad and well...I hate to say it but the ugly:

  • Upon arriving at the Ex grounds we were pleasantly surprised to see directional signage.  Bonus points for this.
  • There was valet services available upon arrival; however we were not told it was complimentary until we couldn't find the self-parking lot and asked how much it cost.  *Remember, a nice-to-have service such as valet parking can go along way but you need to ensure that the service provider you use has front-line staff who can execute this with excellent service.
  • In the lobby there was a standard step and repeat banner for photo ops and there was complimentary coat check.  They also had Salon Daniel set up to give free hairstyling to women - it was raining that day so I really saw no point in getting my hair done.
  • The main space is on the second floor.  In the entrance way they handed out promotional bags with the venue's information package.  The venue is 5,500 square feet of indoor meeting space and can host events up to 600 people.  It would have been helpful if the capacity of the venue was broken down to showcase various event scenarios.  i.e. stand up cocktail reception vs. sit down dinner.
  • My first impression walking in to the main room was that it felt like a cheezy banquet hall.  I know that sounds harsh but it's the truth.  The beaded crystals hanging from the ceiling and the lighting created this effect for me.
  • I think it also had to do with the music selection as well.  First there was a sax player doing elevator-music like renditions, which was followed up by DJ'd music with live bongos playing over top.  It was really loud and obnoxious and it proved to be difficult to chat to anyone.  *Remember creating the right ambiance is definitely key to the success of your event.

  • Like most of these events, they had an open bar and caterers were set up on the peripheral of the room for them to showcase their tasty treats.  Here are some pics of my highlights:

Sashimi Tuna on a Crispy Pear & Avocado Salad with Toasted

Black Sesame in a Spicy Ponzu Dressing - Daniel et Daniel


Short Rib Barley Risotto Piattolini

Burgundy wine, winter greens, pearl barley, coffee-cocoa braised

short rib and gremolata - Seventh Heaven Event Catering

 


Curried Infusion Cone Stuffed with Roasted Chicken

and Corn Spicy Salsa - Artscape Event Services


Lila's Cocos


French Macaroon display by Cater Trendz

  • There was an ancillary room to the main space that housed a few other vendors and had an adjacent but very small patio. 
  • The one vendor that caught my eye was Richard Emanuel for his photo & video booth.  These days, photo booths are quite popular and often used at various events and weddings so the reason this one caught my eye is it has a small footprint and it was easy to use with a touch-screen. The self-sufficient booth prompts you take take 4 photos or a video.  Once this is complete you can either email them to yourself or post them directly to Facebook or Twitter.  Brilliant!  Also, if you're a company, you can get the booth branded with your logo.  Here's a photo of it:

  • I was also surprised to notice the lack of social media presence by the venue itself and a lot of the vendors.  In this day in age, social media plays a huge key into successfully promoting and interacting with your guests.  There's a great article on this by Mashablehttp://mashable.com/2009/04/29/events-social-media/
  • My last impression of the event was dealing with the valet service Northern Valet again.  I have to say this time around the front line staff we dealt with were speedy and efficient.  They also had large golf umbrellas to escort guests to their car in the rain, which definitely redeemed them in my eyes.
I will be honest and say that I don't know that I will use FOUNTAINBLU as a venue for my clients.  It feels like a banquet hall in downtown Toronto and as you know, I'm all about using "not your average" spaces and hosting unique ideas.  However, if you're interested in checking out this space for yourself, please contact Jorge Dias the Events Coordinator there at jorge@fountainblu.ca or 416.263.3290.

For the life of the party,




Hollywood Glam
Kristina Chau - Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Hello party peeps,

I must admit it's been way too long so I apologize!  The new year rang in and I've been a busy party guru but I haven't forgotten about you all.


It's now the end of February and I'm sure everyone has experienced a bit of the winter blahs.  But don't worry, I've got the perfect remedy - it's time to roll out the red carpet, go Hollywood glam, and throw a fabulous Oscar party!

Oscar Movie Menus  


The following are some budget-friendly tips and ideas to throw an award-winning Oscar viewing party that is sure to be the most talked about event of the year:


Guest list - As this is a viewing party, it will involve a lot of couch surfing so keep the guest list intimate and really create that VIP feel.

Invitations - Go eco-friendly and use a free online event invitation tools such as Evite.  The link I've provided offers specific award themed templates that are perfect for this type of event. 

Remember to include the important details such as the who, what, when, and where, but also add in the dress code for this event.  This is one of the most extravagant events of the year so encourage your guests to outfit themselves in their best party gear.


Decor
- You can never go wrong with creating a simple yet elegant ambiance with candles and a splash of colour with fresh cut flowers.  Check out your local dollar store for affordable candles, holders and vases and visit your local flower market.

Also check out Party Packagers for all of your Oscar party decor needs.  They have everything from red carpet runners, themed plates, napkins and cups, streamers and even tiaras and top hats.

Another fun idea is to put up movie posters.  It will likely be challenging to find posters of this year's nominees so go with the classics.  Check out the website movieposter.com to find movie posters in Toronto.


The Red Carpet - Part of the Oscar experience is to enjoy the red carpet and watch all of Hollywood's elite walk down in their gowns and tuxes, so be sure to invite your guests early enough to watch the various pre-award shows.

Create excitement as your guest arrive by having your own red carpet.  If you don't want to purchase a runner you can buy inexpensive red fabric to create your own.  Have a camera on hand to take photos of your guests as they enter your house and get them to strike a pose.



Fun & Games - Pre-print Oscar ballots for your guests to fill out during the red carpet coverage and have a prize for the winner with the most correct votes.  The Oscar site has a great ballot template to download for you to print.

Another fun game that can be printed off and played during the awards is Oscar Bingo.  Download these templates here.



Menu
- You can play off the best picture nominees and create a menu surrounding those titles.  Check out these ideas on Epicurious.

For myself personally, I love a cocktail party that's elegant but fun, so here are some menu ideas that already have my mouth watering:


Beverages - Champagne is the beverage of choice when celebrating at the Academy Awards.  However, there are many delicious sparkling wines such as Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain, that are affordable substitutes. 

Check out Natalie Mclean's Top Bubblies which offers a great range of product available at the LCBO and includes a review and price.

Always remember to be a responsible host and ensure there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and offer a fun mocktail by using a sparkling cider as a substitute for champagne.

P.S. How adorable are those little bow ties added on to these champagne flutes!


The best thing about party planning is getting creative and having fun with it!  If you like my ideas on how to re-create the glitz and glamour of the Oscars, then please share this on Twitter or Like it on Facebook with the links below.   If have any other ideas you would like to share,  please feel free to add a comment as I would love to hear from you!

For the life of the party,




 
10 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining
Kristina Chau - Thursday, December 02, 2010


A lot of people get stressed out during the holiday season as there are so many things to do: sending out holiday cards, buying and wrapping gifts, decorating, attending and hosting holiday events...the list goes on and on!  To help minimize your stress and to ensure you are the life of your party, here are 10 tips on stress-free holiday entertaining:

1. Have a plan.  Decide on your date, the number of guests and what style of party you are hosting i.e. cocktail party vs. a sit down dinner.  Keep your theme simple, festive and fun and be sure to send out your invitations well in advance as the holiday season books up quickly.  Key details your invite should include are the date, time, location, contact info, special requests and lastly, an RSVP date so that you have plenty of time to plan out your other details accordingly.

2. Menu selection.  Decide on your menu as soon as you have collected all of your RSVP's.  Do yourself a favour and plan it according to your time allowance, budget and abilities.  If you're not a whiz in the kitchen, don't go trying new recipes and save yourself time by purchasing pre-prepared appetizers or entrees.  Or, if you have a larger budget but no time to cook, consider having your party catered.  Everyone will appreciate your efforts, no matter what it is.

3.  Shop in advance.  Check out your weekly grocery flyers as they feature a lot of items for holiday entertaining.  Draft your grocery list and if you have the ability, avoid the crowds and head out to the grocery store when it's less busy i.e. weekday mornings.  Bring your grocery list and pen so you can cross items off as you get them.  If you are unable to shop at a less busy time, bring your partner or a friend so you can do what I call "the divide and conquer", which saves you a lot of time. 

4.  Cook ahead of time. During the week ahead, make food that refrigerates or freezes well.  This way all you need to do is re-heat on the day of and serve.   Another great kitchen gadget is a slow cooker.  Set it up early on the day of your party and just let it do it's thing. Good examples of items you can make in advance are appetizers, soups or stews, lasagna or other casserole-type dishes, and desserts. Check out the Divine Dinner Party blog for make-ahead appetizers or  Martha Stewart for casserole dishes.

4.  Keep drinks simple.  Fruit garnishes will add a lovely touch to any beverage you serve.  For water, fill a glass pitcher and add some fresh raspberries and mint for a festive look.  Or if you want to serve a non-alcoholic punch, add some fresh cranberries or pomegranates to achieve the same effect.  As for serving alcohol, keep it simple and offer a nice white wine and a nice red wine.  For a great list of wine's under $15 available at the LCBO, check out Natalie McLean's Wine Blog.

5.  Festive decor.  Stores such as Dollarama or Party Packagers have a great selection of budget-friendly festive items.  You can find anything from serving platters, to plate chargers, to candles and holiday crackers.  If you don't have the time or money to go all out, here are a few simple ideas:  if you have white plates, select a table cloth or runner that adds a touch of colour; dim the lights and have cranberry-scented candles to add warmth and a yummy scent to your room; fill a bowl with fruit like limes or granny smith apples for a pop of green; you can do the same with candies or chocolate as most brands have holiday editions like M&M's or jelly beans.

6. Presentation is everything.  If you are unable to make everything from scratch, don't beat yourself up!  You're only human.  Simply transfer the store-bought item on to a beautiful platter or in a nice bowl and you will have created a lovely presentation that makes it seem like you have been slaving in the kitchen for hours.  One of my favourite places to get kitchen items is Kitchen Stuff Plus.  Another simple and great idea to add to your presentation is to use fresh herbs like rosemary, parsley or chives.  They make for a lovely garnish and can freshen up any store-bought item.

7. Hoilday tunes. Decide on your music playlist way in advance so you all you have to do is hit shuffle and let it go.  You can create different playlists for different portions of the evening.  For the cocktail hour have fun holiday songs playing to welcome your guests.  For dinner, switch it up to a more jazzy or loungy feel.  Post dinner, switch the music up to your favourite dance tunes to get the party in full swing.  If you don't have time to put together playlists, get satellite radio. Sirius XM has 5 channels of commercial-free holiday music and you can download a 30 day free trial version.

8.  If you need help, just ask! Let's face it, entertaining takes a lot of time and work so I'm sure family members or friends are happy to help out by bringing a dish or some wine.  You could also put a spin on your party by hosting it as a pot luck or a wine tasting event.  This way you alleviate the burden being all on you, and everyone is contributing to the party.  Evite has a great application that allows you to request and track what guests are bringing.

9. Clean as you go.  Ensure that your dishwasher/sink is empty and ready to be filled as the night progresses.  This goes the same for your garbage and recycling bins.  If you have the opportunity, tidy up as you go along as this will save you a lot of time when you are tired at the end of the evening.

10. Be the hostess with the mostest.   As you've had a stress-free planning experience, it's now time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.  To keep you going all night long, make sure you stay hydrated and have something to eat.  You'll be on hostessing duties and you don't want to fade!  Lastly remember to take it all in and enjoy yourself with a glass of wine as you mingle with your guests because this is what it's all about!

Thanks for reading and feel to share this post.  Here's wishing you all a wonderful, stress-free holiday season!

For the life of the party,




not your average party