DIY: Wine glass charms

December is here! The first snow has fallen, many houses are already twinkling with lights and, oh boy, the holiday parties have begun. Don’t worry – there’s no need to stress hosting – this holiday season we are sharing our tricks. Take a look at our tips from earlier this week on stocking a home bar and giving gifts that don’t break the bank. We’ve got one more trick for you right here, and it’s as easy as 1-2-3. Unique wine glass charms are functional and pretty so why not try this DIY out next time you’re having people over for wine?

Time Needed: Two minutes.

Tools: Hinge clasp hoops and charms and/or beads.

All the supplies you need.

 Thin earrings will work if you can’t make it to the craft store to get hoops. Just make sure they have a hinge closure like this.

Step 1: Gather your preferred adornments and hoops.

Step 2: Add the charms to the hoops.

Step 3: Use.

There you go, another fast and easy trick. It might even save you, and your manicure, from washing a few glasses.

Yum Yum: Home Bar Essentials

Here on the fourth floor, we love to entertain. With the holiday season fast approaching, what better time to prepare our home bar to host any friends and family who stop by for a visit? Cocktail culture can be a bit overwhelming, so here’s a run down of the basics: 

Things will get wild with the right bar.

The Alcohol
Let’s get started with the most important part of a home bar: the alcohol. As you may have noticed when out on the town, the basic bar consists of a standard set of liquors (vodka, gin, rum, rye and scotch), beer and wine. This combination ensures all guests will find something that suits their tastes. These staples can be stocked on a budget or to reflect finer tastes. While not for everyone’s tastes, we also like to stock our bars with bourbon and some sort of bubbly (Prosecco is a lower cost alternative to champagne). 

A standard selection of spirits (plus tequila!) 

The Fixings
Stocking up on a variety of mixes is just as important as alcohol itself. We recommend having the following on hand: soda water, tonic, ginger beer and cranberry or orange juice. If you’re feeling like experimenting with cocktails, then bitters are your new best friend. Bitters are an essential for most cocktail recipes, and act as a binding agent for different flavours. If you’re going to have two bitters in your bar, the classics are Angostura (required for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds) and Peychauds (used in Sazeracs). However, there are so. many. bitters out there. Experiment away! Stop into BYOB for an insanely comprehensive offering. Some fresh cut lemons and limes, olives and maraschino cherries provide a finishing touch. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up some ice!

So many bitters, so many cocktail possibilities. 
The original maraschino cherries, made in Italy.

The Tools
Glassware is the obvious place to start. Your bar should have rocks glasses (great for most mixed drinks), coupes (a fancier way to serve cocktails, also perfect for bubbly), Collins glasses and wine glasses. A cocktail shaker is a given, as is a wine/beer opener. Less obvious, but great to have on-hand are a citrus zester, jigger, bar spoon and vermouth mister (for your martini-loving friend). Finally, one of the latest trends in cocktails is XL ice cubes. The Tovolo King Cube tray makes 2-inch cubes, which melt slower than traditional cubes and cause less dilution. Finally, the piece de resistance for any home bar is where you store it. We have been dying to pick up a bar cart, to house all of our goodies (you listening, Santa?). 

Sleek, beautiful bar cart. 

Gold-rimmed glassware. You fancy. 

With all of the above, your best bet is to buy a few things at a time knowing what cocktails they will make and slowly grow your home bar as you experiment with new drinks! Finally, please remember to drink responsibly this holiday season. In particular, never ever driving or letting a friend drive when drunk. Stuck for a ride home? Download Uber for quick, hassle-free lift. 

Rave: Argentina’s Malbecs

Last week, we had the exciting pleasure of heading to a special wine tasting of Argentinian wines, to celebrate Malbec World Day. Naturally, we jumped on the opportunity to taste a plethora of delicious wines, all in the name of research for the fourth floor.

We were surprised to hear about all of the varieties of wine that come out of Argentina. They’re best known for their Malbec grapes, but have some amazing Torrontes, Chardonnay and even a tasty sparkling wine.

We’ll definitely be looking for this bottle of sparkling wine ($11.95) for our next soiree. 

A little history lesson: the Malbec grape was introduced to Argentina from the south of France about 160 years ago, and it immediately began to thrive in the dry, mountainous landscape. 

Grapes love dry, hot temperatures and the Andes mountains.

The grapes grew like crazy and are now found all over the country, making Argentina one of the world’s biggest producers of the varietal. Canadians are the second biggest consumers of Argentinian wines, just behind the U.S. Because of the varying altitudes of Argentina grapes are grown from below sea level to about 1,000 metres above Malbec grapes show quite different characteristics and flavours, depending on the region they’re from.

Malbec grapes in Mendoza, Argentina’s biggest growing region.

Back to the wine. We tried a whopping 18 varieties (there was a lot of spitting involved, so that we could make it back to the office in one piece), and most of them were delicious. Malbec wines from Argentina are rich, complex and have a pretty, deep red jewel hue. Some winemakers add a bit of another grape, like Cabernet Sauvignon, to create something uniquely Argentinian. Of the six whites we tried, the aforementioned sparkling, the Dominio del Plata ‘Crios’ Torrontes ($14.95) and the Trivento ‘Amado Sur’ (a blend of Torrontes, Viognier and Chardonnay; $15) were our favourites. Each wine was fruity, slightly floral and crisp, perfect for any upcoming summer event. 

Find these at your local LCBO.

There were many more reds to taste, and as the tasting went on it (ahem) became harder not to just love them all. But, of the 12 (!) we tasted, here were the ones we loved best. And yep, the list includes four Malbecs (they really are delicious). 

A lovely vista.

The Rutini Malbec ($21.95) is available only by private order, but we loved the slightly spicy flavour and smooth aftertaste of one of Argentina’s most-visited wineries. Another favourite was Bodega Benegas Malbec ($17.95), which is from a very small winery that grows grapes about 800 metres above sea level. The result is a lovely, smooth wine that’s slightly fruity with just the right amount of tannins (the stuff that makes your mouth pucker). 

We tried this wine from 2009, and recommend you hunt down a bottle, too.

We also loved the Kaiken Ultra Malbec ($19.95), which was made richer and deeper with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, as well as the Dominio Del Plata Ben Marco Malbec ($20.95; seems like we’ll need to visit this winery the next time we’re in Argentina). 

Two delicious Malbecs.

Non-Malbec favourites were the Pinot Noir from Manos Negras ($14.95) and the limited edition Bonarda from Nieto Senetiner (about $25). The best part about this wine tasting? The fact that every wine we tried was $25 or less, making Argentina’s wines delicious AND affordable (this might be a dangerous combination).

Rave: Spain vs. Portugal Wine Tasting at the University Club of Toronto

We work with a private members’ club called the University Club of Toronto. Recently, they held a private wine tasting, featuring wines from Spain and Portugal. We were able to invite a few of our food-loving friends to the evening, and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner and wines at the Club.

Tucked away in an innocuous-looking building on University Avenue, the UCT is a bit of a surprise when you first enter through its simple doors. The gorgeous black and white checkered floor leads to several little rooms tucked off the main hallway, each decorated with original Canadian art (from the likes of Tom Thompson and A.J. Casson). At the end of the hallway is a cozy, wood-panelled lounge, complete with overstuffed club chairs and a crackling fireplace.

Upstairs, the Club has several formal dining rooms, each with soaring ceilings, pillars and pretty chandeliers (they rent out these spaces for private events – it’s one of the best-kept venue secrets in the city, and you don’t need to be a UCT member). Here, amongst the crisp white linens, candles, and even more original artwork, is where we experienced the featured wines.

The company was great, and the talk quickly turned to a serious discussion about wine with William Delgado, member of the Portuguese Wine Trade and Arlindo Beca, also representing Portuguese wines.

Each dinner course was paired with either a Pieropan or Resalte wine, matched to chef Patrick Desmoulins’ precisely prepared dishes. As others have mentioned, the discreet service was impeccable, allowing us to enjoy every moment of the night.

Resalte’s winery in Spain.

Among our faves were the grilled prawns with garlic sauce and red pequillos. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the garlic sauce was delicious. We had to stop ourselves from licking the plate.

The homemade Parisienne-style gnocchi was light and melt-in-your-mouth, with a savoury pomodoro sauce. For dessert, the whole plate was amazing, which included brandied plum ice cream, but the handmade Spanish churros were the stand-out for us.

Of the fantastic wines sampled, the clean Pieropan Soave Classico White (2009) and the Resalte Vendimia Seleccionada Red (2009) pleased our palates the most.

The UCT offered a unique experience to taste wine and sample delicious cooking. Of course, a night with good conversation and good food will make any wine enjoyable, but this experience taught us to look for Spanish and Portuguese wines the next time we’re at the LCBO. Oh, and if you’re interested in becoming a UCT member, make sure to check out their membership offerings. Salud!

A visit from Consolidated Credit: Diamonds and debt don’t have to go hand in hand!

Just when we think we have no more holidays to buy for, up pops Valentine’s Day. The idea of using our credit cards or putting out cash for gifts and dates gives us chills. It amost makes us want to do away with Cupid altogether. Luckily, we chatted with Ann Dennis, Communications & Public Relations Manager for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, who gave us awesome tips for keeping our budgets in check. Read on for Ann’s advice.

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Cupid’s arrow is soaring, signaling it’s time to search for the brightest and best Valentine’s Day gift – otherwise known as something very sparkly for someone you love. However, if you haven’t saved enough to pay for that little gem, it could become the cause of unwanted financial stress on your heart and your bank account. 

“Money worries add enough stress on a daily basis. Don’t add to it by buying a Valentine’s gift that leaves you debt-laden,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. “One of the keys to financial heart happiness is changing habits and attitudes towards money.”

Like Dustin, an alumnus of Consolidated Credit Counseling Service of Canada’s Debt Management Program, who has a new outlook on spending. “My wife and I are saving for a house this year. To help stay within our budget this Valentines Day, we’re staying home and enjoying a romantic movie night with pizza and wine. The time spent together will far outweigh the value of diamonds!”

Here are a few more ideas that will help take the pressure off your wallet:
Surf the internet, not the stores. There are so many free e-card websites out there with creative cards – you’re bound to find more than one to fit the occasion. In fact, send multiple messages to keep your special someone smiling all day long.
Home is where the heart is. Follow Dustin’s lead: pick up a bottle of wine, order pizza and rent a romantic movie. Or sub in boozy hot chocolate and a roaring fire – whatever it is that takes you and your partner to your happy place! 

Take a walk down memory lane. Celebrate on Sunday, February 13 instead, and spend the day visiting the places in the city where you met, had your first kiss, the coffee shop where you spent hours getting to know each other or took your first walk in the park.

Exchange homemade presents. Receiving a gift that’s homemade and comes from the heart is more meaningful than receiving something store-bought that doesn’t fit right or you don’t really like. 

For more money-saving inspriation, visit Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada’s Facebook page or follow them on Twitter: @debt_free_2day.

We’re Not Just Pretty: Carmite Cohen

Carmite Cohen knew from a young age that she’d somehow do something in the entertainment industry, because she was always filled with useless pop culture trivia and seemed to know everything about movies and TV shows.
She grew up in Israel, and spent her childhood in various countries, including Iran, Haiti, Rwanda, Niger and finally, Canada. Movies and TV shows were always a fascination, no matter what language they were delivered in.
After graduating from The University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Film Studies, Cohen moved to Toronto and completed the Seneca/York joint program for Radio and Television Production. 
Working (for free!) on commercials, TV and film productions in order to gain experience, she was hired at Alliance Films in 1997 as a production assistant. By 1998, she moved to Licensing and Merchandising, and secured and developed book, toy, apparel and video game deals.  
In 2001, Cohen transitioned to the Home Entertainment department as director of Marketing & Promotions (DVDs were just entering the market – exciting!). She was promoted to vice-president of Marketing, Publicity and Promotions of Home Entertainment in 2005, then joined the Theatrical Publicity and Promotions department as vice-president.
Some of her favourite things: hanging with family and her two awesome kids, travelling, good friends, magazines, The Biggest Loser, a good burger, shoes, New York, and going to the movies, of course!

Alliance Films
How long have you been in your current position?  
Just shy of four years.

How does your company leverage PR?
Alliance has a very diverse slate of films, from commercial fare to smaller art films, so we approach each one as if it’s a product launch and assess its needs. The question we always ask is, “how do we start the chatter and generate as much awareness pre-release as possible?”

Depending on the film, we try to generate opportunities for awareness with tastemaker and word-of-mouth screenings, stunting events, grassroots efforts and promotions, on-campus programs, strategic third party partnerships, and now, more than ever, engaging with our audience through various social media opportunities.

Access to talent and content is the easy way for us to generate press for our films; building a PR campaign that will get everyone’s attention (including media) is always the challenge. But, that’s what makes it fun and if we’ve done our job well, the proof will be in the ticket sales on opening weekend.


What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?  
Industry experience is a given, but as important: confidence, passion for what you do, the ability to think on your feet, a great personality and a sense of humour. Because, lets face it, when you’re wrangling talent at 3 a.m. on day five of the Toronto International Film Festival, if you can’t laugh about it on some level, you’re in the wrong business.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, having worked in various parts of the film business, to have met some incredibly talented and creative people – marketers, publicists, filmmakers and studio execs. I’ve learned something from all of them. I’ve learned to really listen, be a sponge, and absorb as much of their expertise and advice as I can, and hopefully use it to benefit my own personal and professional growth.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows? 
It’s fun to watch, but I think it’s a little misleading because most times, the job is glamorized and perceived to be one big party after the next. You never really see the grunt work it takes to put together that event. PR has many perks, but the reality of it is that most of the time it’s highly stressful and not glamorous, it’s hard work and long hours, but if you’re committed, you’ll succeed.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior? 
No matter what the situation, always be professional and remember that it’s not personal, it’s business and “crazy and unreasonable” come with the territory.

What do you love most about your job? 
I love that I get to go to work everyday and my job is to promote movies! I still get giddy with excitement when I see a new trailer for a film that I’ll be working on. After all this time, it’s still fun, I’m still learning something every day, and I get to do it with a great group of people.

A little more from the fourth floor (a list of your favourite things):
Website: Deadline Hollywood Daily, Huffington Post, InStyle, and for my trashy gossip fix, Perez.
Designer: Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney.
Store: Want, Kitsch Boutique, Zara and anywhere that sells shoes.
Book: They Can Kill You But They Can’t Eat You by Dawn Steel (first woman to run a major U.S. movie studio), Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Snack: Apples with loads of almond butter.
Season: Summer.
Sexy: The look and style of the women of Mad Men.
Inspiration: New York City.
Drink: A really nice Malbec.
Motto in two words: It’s all about convenience (that’s four, I know!).
Idea of perfect happiness: Glass of wine, stack of magazines and a quiet house (even if it’s just for a little while).
Indulgence: Boots.
Celebrity crush: Bradley Cooper.

Favourite tweeter to follow: Denis Leary, Eat This Not That, Dr. Oz, Skinny Jeans, Funny or Die, OMG Facts.

Meet Our Team: Michelle

Michelle Easton, a stellar publicist, loves fashion, music and Queen West-West. She adds spunk and sass to the fourth floor. She may or may not have a tattoo in an interesting place….

Michelle’s current client roster includes Shopgirls Gallery Boutique, Emily Hampshire, Passport to Prana, You Name It Baby! and Tastemakers Lounge, among others.

How long have you been part of the team?
One glorious year!

Ideal vacation spot?

A deserted beach in Costa Rica.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Wine. Oh, and of course, the amazing show True Blood (I’m addicted.)

Favourite movie of all time?

Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luherman)

How do you like to relax?

I like to sit in a park reading a fashion magazine while listening to music on a sunny day. It’s so calming and lovely.

Best part about being a publicist?

I love that I get to meet and chat with so many interesting and wonderful people.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website Beautiful Things to Share
Designer – Stella McCartney.
Store – Chatelet
Book If You Have To Cry Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone.
Snack – Heavenly hash ice cream.
Season – Summer: I love sunshine and wearing sun dresses.
Sexy – Confidence.
Inspiration – My mother.
Drink – Vitamin Water.
Motto in two words – Love always.