Category Archives: etiquitte

Tea Party Deux!

It’s baaaaaack!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I am hosting the Second annual spring tea party this weekend!

Some of you may recall my series of tea party posts from last year (if you don’t, go check them out!). It was such a hit that all year I kept being asked if I would hold another and if I would invite so-and-so…

As a result, this year’s party has doubled in size and I am very excited!

I’ve learned a little bit from last year, too. This time around I am asking for (and more importantly, accepting) help from my friends. Everyone is contributing something which takes a lot of stress off of me. I still have to decorate & bake and clean and cook, but it will be so much less. Maybe this year I’ll actually be dressed when the guests start arriving!

So, taking into consideration what I learned from last year, I am starting early with the preparations. Today I began work on the strawberry panna cotta I will be serving, and am pulling together all the odds & ends needed to set the table:

Freshly cleaned, time to make puree!
I love my immersion blender

 

 

 

Panna cotta base chilling, the puree will be gelled on top later!
Pulling together the odds & ends for the table

Once the panna cotta has set, I’ll use the strawberry puree and make a jelly to go on top. It’s incredible.

Once again this year I have challenged everyone to come dressed in their interpretation of “tea party”. I have a male guest this year too, so I’m really looking forward to seeing all the outfits!

Stay tuned for more details & photos, I promise I’ll actually post! I have a fancy new Canon Powershot S95 camera to play with!

 

Long Weekend Wrap-up

 

Just so you don’t think I’m all about the negative stuff (see my last post), this weekend I also had two instances of excellent service.

1. The Outer Layer

This is one of my favourite shops and is one of my inspirations for my own business I’m launching (more details soon!). The place is jam-packed with just plain old awesome stuff. I can get bacon band-aids there, spiffy water bottles, hard-to-find boutique skin care lines, funny greeting cards and all kinds of awesome. I used to work in the area and would go there almost every day at lunch to shop & look around (Hi, Jett!).

I stopped in this weekend while out with a gal pal and met some of their new sales staff. Maggie was really great and helped me pick out a new business card case. She didn’t pressure me to buy anything and actually spoke to me like a person rather than just a “customer”. I felt like I had a great shopping experience and I’m glad it lived up to my past experiences with the store. It’s all about consistency!

You can follow The Outer Layer on Twitter @theouterlayer or visit their site here.

2. Starbucks @ Yonge & Shuter St.

On my way home from seeing Bridesmaids with some friends I popped in for a latte. The gal there was totally pleasant and explained the differences between a couple of drinks to me. I ended up ordering one and she gave it to me for free! She said that “it was an experiment” for me, so no charge. Totally awesome. I thought I was just getting a free flavour shot, not the whole drink!

A very nice end to the weekend. There is still hope that good service exists out there!

 

Have you had any great or horrible service lately?

Just say NO to MoRoCo

Just came back from a lovely night with fellow bloggers Krystal and The Asian Pear. We started in Yorkville with dinner at Ginza which had good service, followed by MoRoCo Chocolat which had terrible service.

Let me share my experience with you so you can decide where to spend your money next time you’re in Yorkville. Hopefully it won’t be at Moroco.

I’ve been to Moroco numerous times. It’s a little expensive, but I love the atmosphere and the chocolate is pretty good too. It’s a real fun experience for a date or girl’s night out. It’s also great for an office Christmas party. Oh yes. I got my office to have their party there this year and it was awesome! We had everything on the chocolate menu and unlimited champagne and lattes. Go big or go home, I say.

Every time the staff was attentive, the food delicious and presented nicely.

But not this time.

Tonight we stopped by for a few tasty treats including macarons, frozen hot chocolate and French sipping chocolate. Our bill was near $50 for the 3 of us.

We seated ourselves on the half-full patio and ordered our items. We had no problems getting our food, but afterwards, oh my! It was atrocious!

As we were finishing up, gabbing away and enjoying ourselves (it was a lounge, after all) the downward spiral began. Let me illustrate it via a list of strikes against Moroco.

 

Strike #1

Normally when I order the sipping chocolat, I swap out the truffle for a macaron. In the past this has never been an issue, but this time the waitress said it was not possible at all (not even if I paid more) and I was stuck with a truffle. I don’t really like them and was surprised that she was so brusque about it.

Strike #2

The waitress cleared our dishes away before asking if we were done or if we wanted anything else. Had she asked, I would have actually ordered some more macarons.

Strike #3

The bill was dumped on our table far too soon, and we felt like we were being pushed out. We ignored it for a while while we were enjoying our remaining drinks, but the waitress kept coming back and huffing every time she saw there was no money sitting with the bill. Finally she came back and told us that there was a 30 minute limit for sitting on the patio if you’re only ordering drinks. She said this was written on the menu and that there were other reservations coming in.

There are several problems with this.

  1. It’s a LOUNGE. People go there to LOUNGE while they eat and drink. Why is there such a short time limit for this? Why wasn’t this actually printed on the menu? Here’s a screenshot from their site:
    Notice how they refer to themselves as a lounge & tout the MoRoCo experience


    If we just wanted a cheap & quick coffee drink we would have gone to Tim Horton’s! Why would we pay $50 to be rushed out??

  2. The patio was nearly empty, and there were other patrons having nothing but drinks who were there far longer than we were. Why was our small party singled out? We weren’t being loud or unruly, and we were dressed well.
  3. I didn’t order a drink at all, but one of their specialties from the menu. Even if there was some kind of rule, I would have been exempt on that technicality. It also wasn’t nearly as good as last time.
  4. If they really did have a reservation, they could have politely asked us to move to another table. We would have obliged, but this was never brought up. We were rudely told to leave, instead.

Strike #4

The final strike was like salt in the wound. We looked at the bill to find that we were charged the group gratuity rate of 18.5% on our order. Outrageous! We weren’t even a group or large party, there were only 3 of us!

According to their own menu, there is a gratuity charge, but only for groups of 6 or more. When did 3 become 6??

From their own menu, only groups of 6 or more will be charged the gratuity

At that point we were livid. We went out for a good time and some luxurious treats and instead were treated like we were scum. I was SO embarrassed since I had recommended this place! What a great impression of Toronto/Yorkville to give Krystal on her first visit to the area.

We decided not to pay the stupid automatic gratuity (and why the hell was it so high!?!?) and just paid the bill plus a small tip since we’re not misers. I also left a note on the bill explaining that it was unacceptable to charge us the tip in advance AND kick us out after only 30 minutes. After that we high-tailed it out of there, afraid that the waitress would come chasing after us when she saw the small tip. (Did I mention that the money hadn’t been on the table for more than a minute before she swooped in like a vulture and scooped it up???)

 

I am really disappointed by this whole experience. I really want to like Moroco, I really do! But if this is the way they are treating their loyal customers these days, then I guess my romance with fancy chocolate is over.

I just can’t get over our treatment. Here we are being snubbed by a waitress at a fancy establishment. HELLO. OBVIOUSLY WE CAN AFFORD TO BE HERE since, ya know, we ARE here.

Think about it, dear readers. Is this a place that YOU would like to visit??

Event Planning: Holiday Dinner Party

Let the planning begin!

I’m working on another event for me and my friends. This weekend I am hosting a formal holiday dinner party! How exciting!

Since my last attempt at a large-scale party didn’t work out too well (Halloween, no one could make it!) I’ve decided to scale back and focus on planning smaller, more intimate parties for my closer friends rather than everyone and their brother.

I seem to get better results when I throw the smaller but more deluxe events such as my tea party last spring.

What are “better results” you ask?

  • Close friends attending whom I can count on to actually show up
  • Everyone has a great time
  • I get to plan special things like food and décor to my heart’s content
  • (Sometimes) less mess and destruction compared to a house party!
  • A chance to really connect with each of my guests
  • Less pressure to be perfect
  • Even though I usually spend more money, I feel that there is more value in it since my close friends will appreciate it
  • Having an exclusive event. Everyone feels special!

Readers: Do you prefer smaller gatherings or larger ones when you get together? Why is that? Share in the comments!

You know, between hosting these shindigs and doing the bed & breakfast thing, I think I really like hosting! It can be a lot of work sometimes but for some reason I really enjoy getting all the details just so. Maybe I missed my calling?

I think I’ll keep doing the small, intimate parties and cycle through the groups of people. I think I’d like to do one with some folks I don’t know quite as well but would like to know better. There are a few girls at work that fall into that category. I’d also like to get some local bloggers together at some point… I just need to think of a theme! (omg I love themed parties)

The only downside to hosting parties is that 1. They are a lot of work. Cooking, cleaning, decorating & take-down, plus making sure you look presentable! 2. The costs can really add up. I like to do things on a budget, but the costs DO add up.

I have started asking people to bring a little something with them now, whether it be wine or a dish of food to share. This certainly helps but I wonder if there is any other way I can continue to throw nice get-togethers without blowing the bank? Hmmm. Perhaps it is just one of those things: “If you want to have a party, be prepared to pay for it!” This is what my sense of etiquette tells me.

What do you think?

Tea Party: Pulling it off

Well! I’d say the tea party was a resounding success, despite a few minor setbacks!

Friday night I went all over the place to pick up the final ingredients and such for the main event. I visited a number of bakeries, cheese mongers, florists and grocers to get everything I needed. By that point I was so exhausted I got myself a pad thai and a taxi home :S

I spent Friday night setting up the table, the flowers & decor and prepping some of the foods for the next day. I got the chicken salad successfully curried and… well… now that I look back I think that may have been the only food-related thing I got done, aside from washing the fruit. Next time around I will definitely prepare more ahead of time!

I totally could have done the minted cream cheese for the cucumber sandwiches, and pre-rolled all the asparagus spears in smoked prosciutto. Thank goodness for helpful friends!

My new pal “Hattie” came over early to help me set up, and boy am I glad she came! Despite waking up early to get things done, I was still scrambling at the last minute. I put her to work slicing bread and applying delicious, delicious cream cheese while I got the asparagus and cucumber ready.

We went along at a clipped pace until I realized that we had already passed my “3pm SHARP!” arrival time for guests. Ruh-roh! This is one of the few times I was glad my friends were tardy! Hattie offered to finish the sandwiches for me while I went to get dressed.

It was then that I realized that I had completely forgotten about the focal point of my tea party: THE SCONES!!!! Chaos ensued while I got up to my elbows in butter and flour to whip a batch out before everyone came. Good thing I did the practice run last weekend!

After a hasty mixing session I was shooed out of the kitchen in order to dress myself. When I popped out Hattie and another gal pal were finishing everything up in the kitchen. I love my friends! Pulling me out of the fire at my own party and all that…

Finally, everything was pretty much done, and we got down to the business of socializing like the wonderful, civilized ladies we are! The scones turned out beautifully, by the way :)

Now, everything in a tea party is about the details and little touches, so I offer you:

The Details

My menu consisted of the following:

  • Fresh-from-the-oven sugared scones
  • An assortment of homemade jams (plum, apple butter & raspberry…except the raspberry wasn’t homemade. Oh well) plus double Devon cream which was a total bitch to find, but absolutely necessary in my cream or low tea
  • An assortment of petit fours I picked up from the local boulangerie
  • Cucumber mint sandwiches
  • Smoked prosciutto and asparagus with honey mustard sandwiches
  • Curried chicken salad sandwiches with apple & cranberry for a kick+colour!
  • About 20 different types of teas, from traditional to rooibos to the exotic!
  • Fresh fruit
  • Candy!
  • A special liqueur plus champagne drink recipe I brought back with me from Europe

Tea party buffet

The set-up:

  • The main table set with delicate china, flowers, ornaments, bowls of jams & creams and my very special handmade Italian tablecloth I picked up at a traditional lace-making school in Venice
  • A buffet for the food
  • Flowers and decorations throughout the room
  • My cat. Decorated. With a pink bow. She’s awesome.

Tea table set-up
Flowers that match the decals in my kitchen
More flowers!

The only details left to mention are the fashion and the meaning behind the tea party. Stay tuned!

Tea Party Prep

This coming weekend I am hosting my very first tea party for my closest friends.

I’ve been mulling over the idea for quite some time now, and with the popularity of Alice in Wonderland bringing the focus back on this tradition, I thought the time was ripe for my own!

While I myself am not the biggest tea drinker (although my collection would beg to differ!) I have always loved the classic idea, rituals and etiquette of a traditional tea party.

The usual elements of a tea party include:

  • formal table settings
  • petit fours (little sweet cakes and pastries)
  • tea sandwiches
  • scones with jam and cream
  • TEA!

When most people think of tea parties, they think of stuffy old ladies with hats and gloves sitting around with pinkies up and “hemm-hemming” over the latest faux pas someone in the community has committed. But this isn’t always the case!

I think tea parties offer a great way to get your friends together to appreciate the civilized side of life that we so often neglect in society these days.

Tea parties can be in any theme that you like, from classic traditional to wacky, zaney or even morbid! The key to setting the mood is the decor, menu and etiquette that you choose to observe during the event.

For my party, I’m going with a “funky & elegant” theme, and have asked my guests to dress up with their interpretation of the term “tea party”. I have some diverse friends each with their own unique style so I am really looking forward to seeing their outfits! With their permission I will be posting them on the blog afterwards :) Of course I’ll be dressing up, too!

I don’t have a ton of money to spend on this event, so the decor will be a bit on the eclectic side as I pull together all the cool serving dishes, decorations and linens that I have to make one cohesive theme. Good thing I’m an old hand at the eclectic look!

So far hot pink seems to be the dominant accent colour, but we’ll see what shows up in the end!

This week I will be pulling everything together, including the decor, table set-up, menu and trial runs of some of the tricker treats that I am preparing and posting about it on the blog.

I would love to hear of your own tea party experiences, and if you have any tips or tricks to share with me as I prepare for my own.

Thanks, and cheerio, darling!

Clothing Swap FAQ

Are you wondering what the deal is with these new-fangled clothing swap things?

Are you thinking of hosting or participating in one? Look no further! I have complied the answers to a few frequently asked questions about clothing swaps.

Behold,

Ginger’s Clothing Swap FAQ:

What IS a clothing swap?

Organized by a fashion community or group of friends. Everyone brings their gently used clothing, shoes and accessories they no longer want to the swap. Then the madness begins! You are free to choose and try on as many of the donated clothes as you like, and bring them home for free! The best swaps are when there are loads of clothes and ladies to try things on.

Is it really free?

Yes! A swap is an excellent way to get rid of your old things, and get some new-to-you duds at no cost. Perfect for anyone on a budget!

How much do I have to bring to a swap?

You should try and bring as much as possible to a swap, keeping in mind that your donations should be nice enough that someone else would actually want them.

It’s OK if you only have a few items though, someone may really like what you have brought! Ideally other women will bring large quantities to swap, so things usually even out in the end.

Check with the organizers first to determine whether you can attend a swap without bringing any items to donate.

What is the swapping process like?

Every swap and group will be different, but in general everyone pulls out their items to donate and quickly displays them to the group, then places them on a table or pile for someone to scoop up. If you see something you like you can grab it off the table or call dibs on it.

Part competitive free-for-all, part fashion show a swap is a really fun experience with the right group of ladies. If everyone remembers to be fair and gracious it will go swimmingly with a feeling of sisterhood and friendship all around.

What happens if two people want the same thing?

This part is a little tricky and can bring out the mean in people. Try and be on your best behaviour! Generally the person who indicates interest first (by touching the garment or calling dibs) will get to try it on. If they like it, they keep it. If not, the next person (second dibs) gets their chance with it. And so on.

If someone grabs something you like first, be sure to call second dibs, just in case they change their mind!

Is it really competitive?

Sometimes. Everyone is looking out for themselves, so there is a bit of competition and testing of wills in any clothing swap, particularly if you have two or more women with the same sense of style and size!

I would recommend calling dibs as fast as you can on pieces that are most likely to be a “win” for you. That is, garments that you have been searching for specifically (such as a Little Black Dress) or something that you know instantly will look gorgeous on you. You should know your shape, colours you look best in, and also clothing cuts you look best in before going into a swap. This will help you focus on winning the pieces best suited for you.

You may also consider tag-teaming with a friend. You can keep an eye out for things that your friend would look good in, and she will do the same for you. This can also help you bargain with other ladies when there is a hot item up for grabs.

What if there is still a bunch of clothes left over?

This is an easy fix. If you held your swap in a consignment or thrift store (both popular locations) the store will look through the remainders and take whatever they think will sell at their location. Anything that is left over after that step should be donated to a charity or women’s shelter.

It’s a win-win-win all around!

Is there any other swap etiquette that I should be aware of?

Most likely, yes. If you are ever unsure of a process or have any questions, you should contact the organizers of the swap and ask away! It is much better to ask and receive clarity than risk raising someone’s ire at the swap itself. Some ladies can be very aggressive!

Depending on the swap and group involved, there may be ground rules that you should be aware of and observe. If nothing specific is said, remember to employ common decency and fairness, but also remember that the whole point of a swap is for YOU to benefit, and to spiff up YOUR wardrobe! Don’t be afraid to dive in!