MURANO GLASS, the fabulous art from Venice’s historic island of craftsmen

My friends at Gallery 36 in Yorkville (Toronto) invited me over yesterday to check out their ever-growing collection of stunning art glass from the island of Murano, home to some of Italy’s greatest crafstpeople. In this cozy boutique gallery you will find breathtaking pieces from glass “masters” such as Rossi, Alfiero, Medici, Russo, Bellisio, Mercato and others, in all shapes, sizes and a rainbow of colours.

20150314_145320I found some functional bowls and vases as well as sculptures of animals, birds, even festive crustaceans!

20150314_145118 20150314_145157 20150314_145921 20150314_145342I had a chuckle when I spied these cheeky kitty-cats (below)

20150314_145814 20150314_145832and all the other wee glassy beasties….

20150314_145751 20150314_145925 20150314_155513Gallery owner Trevor was busy changing the window display so a snapped him hard at work…

20150314_145524 20150314_145520…. and dusting his friend, the zaftig bronze ballerina (below). I just love her!

20150314_145421The gallery is chock-a-block full of wonderful and affordable pieces suitable for your mansion, apartment, loft or basement hide-away.

20150314_155445 20150314_155500Just look at these bowls and the intricate art found inside each…

20150314_145213 20150314_145632 20150314_155428 20150314_155434The glass is created using the “lampwork” technique – made from Silica which becomes liquid once it reaches an extremely high temperature. As it starts to harden, the “glass” is still soft enough to allow the artisan to shape the materials. You can see the amazing results of this all around you at Gallery 36. I recommend popping in and I’m sure you will find something that fits your home and your wallet. And say hi from me.

20150314_145122 20150314_155413


92  Avenue Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2H2  T: (416) 962-7636

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


I recently met Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck, founders of Reel Deal Guys Entertainment Inc. (RDG) (pictured below, L-R) who have created an original TV series, IN THE ROOM, featuring Canadian actors from all ages and stages of career success in a round-table discussion setting.

photo 1 (5)This past Sunday, I attended a taping – their second “Hollywood North” themed episode – at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto, where they welcomed some of our country’s finest and most award-winning stars, pictured below: Tantoo Cardinal (Dances With Wolves, Legends of the Fall), Kris Holden-Ried (Lost Girl, The Listener, The Tudors), Shawn Doyle (Endgame, Covert Affairs, Reign), Zoe deGrand’Maison (Orphan Black, Rookie Blue, Bad Hair Day), Philip Moran (Total Recall) and the multi-talented actor, director and mainstay of 80s and 90s TV and film Art Hindle (Black Christmas, FaceOff, Murder She Wrote, ENG).

TantooKHR2Shawn DoyleNicolePhilipArt HWith Rafael and Jason co-hosting, the stars took the stage during the closed-taping, and shared stories from the acting trenches. Supported by a highly proficient crew, Rafael and Jason captured intimate moments with each actor as they shared stories of screen triumphs, emotional impact of past roles, on-set camaraderie & rivalries, and many hilarious tales from behind as well as in front of the cameras.   So why is this new show not on TV now? Canada, and Toronto in particular, has a huge TV viewing audience many of whom, it appears, love reality and chat shows so how come all we have to watch are the chaotic morning shows with predominantly weather and traffic news, tired homemaker magazine shows, dry-as-a-bone political argument panels, plus a couple of celebrity gossip shows targeting the hipster 20/30-something crowd? We need our own “Tonight Show” or a Graham Norton-style outrageous celebrity couch programme (if you have BBC Canada you’ll know exactly what I mean). In The Room could easily fill that void AND please advertisers – let’s face it, networks don’t really give a rat’s ass about content, it’s all about the potential for billions of advertising dollars!

Based on the amount of traffic my Tweets and Facebook posts garnered during the shoot yesterday, I know we have an audience for shows like In The Room so consider this blog editorial as me throwing down the gauntlet – let’s get In The Room on air. So anyone out there know a hungry distributor or network buyer?

logoHere are some behind the scenes photos, courtesy of my wonderful Samsung Galaxy 3!

(below) make-up room shenanigans with Shawn, Kris, Tantoo and Zoe….

20150308_111355 20150308_111405 20150308_112356Setting up the stage….then bringing in the actors!

20150308_101419 20150308_120446 20150308_120514 20150308_125750Time for a break….with the best craft services in town!

20150308_101524 20150308_103717(above LtoR) Crew members Lana & Dwayne joined Jason and actor Brian Kaulback (Murdoch Mysteries) during break time.  Then back to work…roll cameras!

20150308_131205 20150308_125722 20150308_125716 20150308_125731

20150308_141002I spent some time with the lovely ladies in make-up, Carlene & Stephanie (below), whom I challenged to a face/off – make me pretty in 10 minutes – but they just laughed…I wonder why?

20150308_135059 20150308_135135 20150308_135118Once In The Room finished taping, the actors and hosts gathered for a “class photo”….

20150308_140111 20150308_135944….then it was time for some candid shots on stage…..

20150308_135642 20150308_135720 20150308_131202 20150308_140332 20150308_135800 20150308_135812…then the good-byes, with the actors signing posters backstage. This is where Assoc. Producer Janine grabbed some quick pics with the stars. She especially enjoyed taking one with her fave TV actor, Kris Holden-Ried (pic#4) who I still say looks like Chris Martin from Coldplay (here they look much cuter than Chris and Gwyneth, don’t ya think?)

20150308_140916 20150308_130833 20150308_141129 20150308_141210 20150308_141641 20150308_141559 20150308_141305I grabbed a wacky selfie with my all-time Canadian idol, Art Hindle. What a nice man…and so damned talented.

20150308_114021Congratulations to RDG for producing such a great show which, once it gets on air, will have a large and appreciative audience. For details of IN THE ROOM and other RDG projects, visit:









Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


This coming weekend, Ottawa will experience the launch of a fun, interactive live game that challenges problem-solving skills, patience, and bravery at CLAUSTROPHOBIA, the new “escape room” game venue located in Ottawa’s Hintonburg/Mechanicsville neighbourhood.  I recently spoke with Claustrophobia founder and architect of the current two rooms , Jennifer Schnare (below) who kindly shared the who, what, where, when, why and how about this worldwide phenomenon where teams of friends, family, classmates or co-workers are locked into mysterious rooms and have to solve puzzles and clues in order to unlock the door….and escape.  It’s a thrilling, spine-tingling game that results in trust and team building which usually ends up with tons of laughs all around.

Everest 341Jennifer, what inspired you to open an escape room gaming venue?
I played an escape room for the first time about a year ago and was immediately drawn to the concept. Not only did I have an amazing time in the room and trying to solve the puzzles, but I continued thinking about it after I left.

Why Ottawa?
I first started the planning for Claustrophobia to launch in Toronto but it quickly exploded into a phenomenon and there were a significant number of competitors. I moved to Ottawa and quickly saw that there was a market here, too, and only one other competitor.

get me out Key ImageWhat’s the background or history of the “escape room” phenomenon?
The real life escape room phenomenon was inspired several years ago by “escape room” video games popularized in Japan, and the live game has already taken off in the U.S., England, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Mainland China. Over the past couple of years, escape room game venues have mushroomed all across the US and now Canada, and is ideal for families, friends and companies looking to encourage team building with their staff.

trapped2Who writes all the clues and comes up with the room themes for Claustrophobia?
I do with the help of my close family and friends. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support!

Did you personally have to search for all the furnishings and nic-nacs to create the correct ambiance for each room? And where did you find these things?
Yes, I found all the furniture and décor accessories! This was a big job, sourced over months. Kijiji was my biggest source for the larger furnishing – I was renting a Uhaul and driving around Ottawa and surrounding areas by myself, relying on the kindness of the seller to help me lift things. Many of the smaller pieces came from sites like e-Bay, Etsy and Amazon.

labWhat business background do you have that suggests you will make Claustrophobia a resounding success?
I’ve worked as a fundraiser and marketer for over 12 years. This has allowed me to gain the skills in everything from managing a budget, sourcing and working with vendors, to finding cost-effective ways to advertise, developing creative ideas and problem-solving.

Do your friends and family think you’re nuts…or are they all supportive and helping out?
Oh yes indeed, they do think I’m a bit of a nut…LOL…but they’re all very supportive and love to help out. Most have said that they “can’t believe I am doing this” and “I wouldn’t have had the guts to do this” but I wanted to take the risk because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. And I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Describe the two rooms your currently offer, and their capacity.
There are two rooms – The Laboratory (see description here: which accommodates 2 to 5 people. The second room is The Hostel (see description here: and it accommodates 2-4 people. It’s important to me that the rooms don’t feel crowded and that you don’t have to play with strangers. I also wanted to ensure you have a full hour to complete the puzzles.

RoomAny plans to increase or expand the current rooms?
Yes! My current venue has the room to expand and I’m already in the process of mapping out the new game room called ‘The Gallery’.

trapped lockHow do people book the rooms and do you have any plans for a Claustrophobia tournament in the near future?
People can book via the website. For the grand opening weekend coming up (March 12-March 15) we’re offering a special discount: $25 per room using promo code ESCAPE25. I don’t have plans for a tournament at this early stage but there are opportunities for corporate team building, birthday packages and of course we have a prize for the team who gets out the fastest every month by room.

ClaustrophobiaBlack (2)To learn more about Ottawa’s newest live “escape room” venue and to book a room, please visit


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“IN THE ROOM” tv show taping this Sunday featuring top Canadian talent

My friends at RDG Entertainment Inc. are taping another episode of their IN THE ROOM actors’ round-table series this Sunday at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto and I’m thrilled to learn that some of Canada’s most popular actors will be appearing.

RDG producers and show hosts, RAFAEL KALAMAT and JASON BARBECK (below, L-R) will be welcoming …..

photo 1 (5)…..the star of TV’s Lost Girl, KRIS HOLDEN-RIED (below) who was also one of my faves from The Tudors series and, of course, The Listener.

Kris HR KHR2Also on this week’s panel are Canadian stage & screen icon Art Hindle (Black Christmas, FaceOff, Murder She Wrote, ENG) – below…..

Art H Hindle

…..multi-award winning Shawn Doyle (below) of Endgame and countless Canadian television appearances (Rookie Blue, Covert Affairs & Reign)….

Shawn Doyle Shawn….recipient of this year’s ACTRA Award of Excellence Tantoo Cardinal (below) of Dances with Wolves (my personal fave performance of hers – she brought the heart and soul to the story) , Legends of the Fall, Blackstone

Tantoo dances….Total Recall’s Philip Moran (below)…

Philip….and young Zoe deGrand Maison (below) currently making a name for herself with appearances on Orphan Black, Murdoch Mysteries, Rook Blue and this year’s Bad Hair Day (TV movie).

NicoleI’m looking fwd to watching the taping and meeting these incredible ambassadors for the Canadian TV and film industry.  To learn more about In The Room and other RDG projects, please visit:  and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.




Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Bravo and a big standing O to Toronto’s URBANSOURCE CATERING who, this month, celebrate 30 successful years in one of the most volatile and difficult to crack service industries – event catering.  Starting off with a modest yet stylish storefront on Yonge St at Davisville, founders CALVIN HAMBROOK (below right) and WAYNE ABELL (below left), have built up a loyal following of corporate, private and fundraising clients who sing their praises and re-book year after year, and a professional staff who delivers 5-star service at every event.

1091 The 2 Crazy Owners Opening DayAfter moving to the larger 396 Queen St East with its big commercial kitchen in January of 1990, the business expanded with more staff being brought on board then, when the space next door at #400 became available in late 2012, Calvin and Wayne took that over, opening a stunning art gallery ( with exhibitions curated by Toronto artist, Allen Shugar. The gallery hosts monthly artist events plus can be used as a private party/dining venue.

Calvin Wayne & AllenCalvin, Wayne & Allen (above L to R)

I had a chance to chat briefly with Calvin the other week, who gave me a brief overview of the evolution of UrbanSource Catering – here’s our conversation which is, perhaps, a great lesson on how to build a thriving business while maintaining high standards of service and always delivering a quality product.

Calvin, any personal thoughts on the significance of reaching this milestone with your business? Over the past 30 years, what we’ve learned is the importance of not only giving our clients the best food, and service, but creating a thriving environment for all our staff. We see and appreciate the talents and work ethic our staff bring to our company, both on and off-site. Permitting our staff to grow professionally and bring their own energy and talents to the table helped us become a responsive company that can cater to a broad spectrum of events. It lets us bring enthusiasm and passion to every dish we serve, every party we staff and every event we plan. That’s something our customers can attest to – and this is how you stay successful for 30 years.

1092 Minstrel Foundation Dinner

WWP-7200Weddings are such big business now – how have you seen catering for weddings evolve over the past 30 years…and are you seeing any changes ahead for this season’s wedding banquets?  Weddings have evolved in many ways over the past 30 years, yet in many other ways they are the same. Many couples are much more interested in being ‘hands-on’ these days, and look for a more personalized event. But it is still a big undertaking for them, whether it’s a small reception or a big event. Often it’s the first time they’ve had to plan anything as elaborate as a Wedding Reception – and our team of consultants keep everyone sane and happy – and actually enjoy their Wedding!  Our Wedding consultant, Kaspara Albertsen, has guided many couples through the whole planning stage, and helped them overcome hurdles to get the wedding they’ve dreamed of!

IMG_0163 Leek Wrapped Tilapia

BeefFennelCroustini party table

Knowing that Urban can supply full on-site service staff, how important is having professional cater waiters/service staff at an event? Having professional staff at an event saves you headaches and stress –our Staff Manager Jean-Marc Fontaine hears from our clients often, how they ‘couldn’t have done it without our staff’ or ‘Thank you for sending me xxx, they understood my party and my guests’. That’s the difference between throwing a party and being a GUEST at your own party!



IMG_0320 You have an exciting and innovative Exec. Chef, Lyndon Wiebe – what does he bring to UrbanSource? Lyndon (below) has cooked and traveled the world, and he has a great ‘taste memory’ of things he’s tried. He can make the classic dishes – as well as our 30 Years of Urban Classics  – but he is always introducing new and delicious dishes for us to offer to our clients.

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Each year, Urban supports a number of worthy charitable events – which ones and why?  We recognize the need to give back to our community, and Toronto is one of the most charitable cities anywhere. We support so many worthwhile charities: Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Fife House, Surrey Place, Casey House, Inside Out,  Nellie’s Shelter, Toronto United Church’s Heart & Vision and many area Hospitals and charity fundraisers.


IMG_0975 US-25 Any suggestions/recommendations for people planning weddings, corporate events or personal dining parties to create the best experience for their guests?  We suggest they make a list of all the items they can think of that they will need to provide for the event, assign an estimate of $$$ and a timeline. This will help them plan their budget, and how many guests they want to invite. If they see that this will be more than they can manage, either time-wise or budget-wise, they will save themselves a lot of headache, heartache and energy. This also makes them a much better-educated client, and will help them choose a caterer that meets their particular needs.

IMG_0063And what food trends do you see coming our way over the next year or so?  Street food, homestyle menus and ethnic dishes, especially South Asian and South & Central American. And more vegan, gluten-free and green-sourced foods, pickled vegetables, and house-butchered meats, artisanal foods….people are really embracing locally-sourced foods.

Seared salmon stackwasabi tuna canap+¬

If you’d like to experience what 30 years of successful catering and event planning can do for your next special event, dinner, gala or fundraiser, contact UrbanSource Catering for a quote:

2 30thAnjniversary2015

CONGRATULATIONS TO CALVIN, WAYNE and THE FABULOUS STAFF @ URBANSOURCE CATERING…wishing you another 30 years of delicious success!

2015 Decal Tourism Toronto

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Yesterday, Sunday March 1st, I spent a glorious hour or two experiencing the fabulous decor, event services, entertainment and …..gulp…FOOD offered in the DISTILLERY EVENTS showcase at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. And, boy, did they deliver the goods!

20150301_135121I’ve attended numerous Leslieville Flea events at the Fermenting Cellar but have never seen it dressed up so beautifully, all courtesy of the on-site Events division of the venue management. The event was promoted as a Wedding Open House, showcasing a number of “preferred suppliers” of wedding gowns, custom tuxes, music, floral arrangements, wines, etc. but as an event producer/planner for corporate and private functions, it was a great way for me to check out how stunning this huge open turn-of-the-century warehouse space could look with some fancy lights, furniture, flowers and filled with happy well-fed people.

20150301_140812 20150301_142925 20150301_143131 20150301_143156The food was phenomenal…never have I attended a free industry event where they doled out the King Crab legs so freely, along with juicy tender (and big) lamb chops, Thai shrimp, oysters, gourmet Mexican tacos…even my fave Portuguese custard tarts!!


20150301_142344 20150301_134706 20150301_135246 20150301_141223 20150301_141206The entire space was glittering and shimmering with twinkling lights and stunning floral sculptures…I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it all.

20150301_140734 20150301_140625 20150301_142131 20150301_143119My favourite vignette was this huge stunning vase placed in a wall nook (below)…love love love this.

20150301_140723Met Mallory (below), the charming wedding consultant from GOTSTYLE, the chic menswear store that offers custom tux jackets and, as Mallory says, the best accessory for a bride is a well styled groom. GOTSTYLE showed everyone how to do just that! 

20150301_141916Frank Correnti Cigars had a couple of cigar rollers there, too (below) who were busy crafting the leaves into large fragrant cigars.

20150301_140841Big thank you to my dear friends over at Urban Gallery/UrbanSource Catering who gave me the ticket. And bravo to all at Distillery Events for a well-produced event – the staff was lovely, welcoming and took very care of us all. I highly recommend the Fermenting Cellar for your wedding or other celebration so contact Distillery Events to get the 411. 





Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RDG’s Jason & Rafael celebrate last night’s ACTRA Toronto Awards

Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck (below, left to right) of RDG Entertainment Inc. attended last night’s ACTRA* Toronto Awards held at the Carlu in downtown Toronto. The fabulous soiree was hosted by TV and radio personality Arisa Cox, host of Big Brother Canada. The RDG guys were thrilled to meet up with ACTRA colleagues and friends, and they shared the evening with me via photos.

photo 1 (5)Actor and comedian Gavin Crawford (below right with Rafael) garnered the Outstanding Male Performance award for his role as Adam in the comedy-drama film Two 4 One, about a transgender person who unexpectedly becomes pregnant.

With Gavin CrawfordStar of sci-fi series Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany, won her second Outstanding Female Performance Award, and Cory Doran won in the category of Outstanding Voice Performance for playing Multiple Personality Mike in the “Final Wreck-ening” episode of the animated series Total Drama, a parody of reality shows.

Veteran film and TV actress Tantoo Cardinal, pictured below with Rafael (left) and Jason (right), was honoured with ACTRA Toronto’s annual Award of Excellence.  I will always remember Tantoo for bringing the real heart to Dances With Wolves and Legends of the Fall and many more productions over her 4+ decades of acting.

Tantoo CardinalJamie Jones, winner of the ACTRA Stunt Award, is pictured below (2nd from left) with fellow stunt actor Clyde Phillips Sr. (left), Rafael and Bart Badzioch, stunt actor (right)


Philip & Jamie JonesAnd actor Philip Moran shared a celebratory cocktail and V for Victory with Jamie.

“The performers honoured tonight make us proud to be Canadian. They show off Canada to Canada and to the rest of the world in all its marvellous diversity. And they do it with unique and outstanding talent,” said David Sparrow, President of ACTRA (pictured below 2nd from right with Jason, Philip and Rafael)

ACTRAAwards 1

Congratulations again to all the winners, nominees and ACTRA Toronto organizers.  Next up, Canadian Screen Awards on March 1st.  See you on the red carpet!

* ACTRA is Canada’s national union representing more than 22,000 performers in English-language recorded media. The Toronto chapter represents 15,000 union members.

 Visit Rafael and Jason at

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,