CountDown Events's blog

This Week's #FF Vancouver Events Gal Catherine Barr!

Name: Catherine Barr

Occupation(s): Reporter/columnist by trade in traditional media since 1996, also owner/editor/programmer of / since 1998.
Who is your role model: I have lots of people who might fit in here, but when I really think about it, the truthful answer is my parents. They came to this country as immigrants with very little and worked hard to get where they are now. They fought all kinds of adversity yet always saw the good in everything. Better yet, they taught me that the world is a big and exciting place and that even the rainiest of days was something to be treasured as long as you were healthy and happy. To this day, they refuse to be boring, because life is just too short. I agree completely.
What do you like most about your job: There’s something different every day in the news world which helps keep things exciting. That, plus a love of people is probably why I went into the business in the first place. Things have changed dramatically in the new media era, but I still love the thrill of the chase of a new story and the ability to be in control of my own online publications. The digital world these days seems to like to turn news into entertainment and is too quick to shrug off the responsibilities that used to come with traditional publishing. I love dealing with events and people, that’s my target audience, but I cringe when I read a badly written article by an anonymous writer that’s full of factual errors and spelling mistakes. It makes our industry look very bad. We also need to give less weight to the Kim Kardashians of the world and start caring more about boring topics like budgets, governments and the laws that shape our lives. If the public doesn’t learn to demand a higher degree of responsible journalism, then I fear we may lose one of the most important watchdog elements in our society. Publishers need to stop listening to tech/money guys screaming “more hits” and start listening to their editors again. Quality over quantity has to prevail.
Daily ritual: Computer, email, article writing/reading, evening events, then programming until the wee hours of the morning. Repeat every day.

The most rewarding part of my job is: I call it responsible freedom. When you work for yourself you have the freedom to do a lot of things your own way, including set your own hours. The tradeoff however is that you usually end up working long hours and there is never technically any paid vacations. Also, if you don’t upkeep certain standards and act responsibly it can bite you when you least expect it. So in other words, it’s freedom - but at a price.
What has been your biggest strength that’s helped you succeed in your industry? Absolute dedication and determination. Keep your eye on the ball. I can’t say it enough. Get distracted and you lose your game. Also don’t let it get personal. It sometimes does, but if you can play it cool and fly straight it almost always works out. Also respect, for others and for yourself.
Memorable celebrity encounter/interview: I’ve met a lot of celebrities and most of them are really nice. Hard core rockers, like Aerosmith, Tommy Lee and AC/DC, are always a surprise as they’re all older now and have a lot of wild stories. Actor Samuel L. Jackson was very cool as was Michael Keaton and Martin Sheen. I wish I had had more time with Richard Dreyfuss because I’ve always been a big fan but a quick interview was all I got. But I have had dinner twice now with Sir Richard Branson and he is every bit as dynamic as you’ve heard. Bradley Cooper was definitely the most handsome.
Favourite quote: Somebody said that it couldn’t be done, and he with a chuckle replied, that maybe it couldn’t but he would be one that wouldn’t say so till he tried; so he buckled right in with a trace of a grin on his face, if he worried, he hid it; and he started to sing, as he started the thing, that couldn’t be done - and he did it. - Edgar Guest

Describe your personal style: Thanks to all the evening galas and events that I go to, my closet looks a little like a drag queen threw up in it. I’ve always been a bit of a closet drag queen myself. I love the big hair and the fabulous larger than life personality that says “Here I am, take it or leave it”. I have sequins and sparkles everywhere and way too many pairs of shoes. I loved barbie dolls as a little girl so that’s probably where it started. If you have a name for all of that, then that would probably be my style.
Dream vacation spot? Monte Carlo on a really big luxury yacht.
What is your favourite thing to take pictures of? People of course. But as I’ve said for years, I’m a writer, not a photographer. Taking good photos is hard so I usually have to make people laugh first to get a good shot. Lately it’s all been about the video for me. I love the way I can get all of the elements - sound, photos, music, storyline - all in the one medium.
What has been your favourite event to attend? That is a tough question. Last year’s Louis Vuitton launch party was very memorable and included Moet champagne, private black limos and a fantasy train ride to a movie studio lot where everyone partied until the wee hours. Also Saeedeh Salem’s famous charity events, held at her Okanagan vineyards, are among the most glamorous around. She’s flown in everyone from the Kelowna Symphony to singer Jarvis Church and Jully Black to perform at the gala dinners. Very chic.
Favourite Restaurant: My house - especially when my guy and I get some time to cook together.
What is your biggest indulgence? Crab legs, lemon butter with a cold bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

If there was more time in the day you would: I would spend more time at the piano. Music is a very big part of my life and I love playing old jazz standards. Also maybe more golf with friends.
Favourite social network: I’m kind of into Pinterest right now but I find it the most personally revealing. Twitter is a fave too but it totally drives me crazy. Facebook is just getting too confusing and too demanding, but it is the best way to keep up with friends.
Favourite Blog: The BBC online - but I don’t consider it a blog as much as I consider it a news website.
Where do you go for good ideas? I cannot live without the Internet. I know that’s a lame answer, but there are so so many people out there with so many fascinating ideas. I literally suffer withdrawal if I find that I’m unconnected for any more than a few hours. You could spend a lifetime scouring the net and still never get to everything which really bugs me. I’m a sponge. I want to soak it all up.
Last song you downloaded: Things Will Get Better - by local Vancouver band Bend Sinister
What is the most challenging thing you have ever done? Coding both / is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. They are both huge sites and when I started back in 1998 there were very few resources around. Trying to network all of our live web cams was a nightmare and I actually had to solder plugs and wires together to get it all to work. We had the only live web cam pointing at the Lions Gate Bridge when it went under construction in April 1999 and before we knew it, we had 250,000 hits on the server which basically melted it. People told me it was one of those “good” problems because we were so popular now that people would never forget us. Luckily, years later, they never have. Publishing and coding these sites continues to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it is now also one of the most rewarding.

What are you obsessed with right now? Right now I am obsessed with movie making and video news productions. I’m shooting hours and hours of event video for my new online feature in The Province, as well as and, and I can’t help but want to turn them all into full featured productions. I’m even scoring my own soundtracks and music to go with them. The perfect lighting. The right kind of sound. It’s kind of like choreographing a dance. I love it all. Next I want to focus on personal interviews with people. I’d love to become a kind of Barbara Walters one day. There are so many stories that need to be told.
Any other comments/thoughts you’d like to add: (ie. new business features you are offering now) Please visit me at or at / and visit me at The Province online at - I’m always looking for new ideas and leads.

CountDown Events loved having Catherine Barr as our #FF of the week, thank you Catherine. If you would like to see more of her please visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @CatherineBarr and be sure to follow us on twitter @CountDownEvents as we bring you another fabulous Friday Follow.

Destination Weddings in the Okanagan | The Beautiful Sparkling Hill Resort!

Nothing is more stunning then a destination wedding with an incredible view, and to find a destination for your wedding one may look no further than our very own back yard in the Okanagan. The Okanagan valley is known for its stunning lakeside views and mountain range.

One of the most amazing hotels in the Okanagan is the incredible Sparkling Hill Resort. Located just a 25 minute scenic drive north of the Kelowna International Airport the Sparkling Hill Resort sits along the Kalamalka Lake corridor with a view of the Monashee Mountains. Opening in the spring of 2010, this breathtaking resort was perched on the apex of a granite ridge and is a perfect essence of luxury nestled in the natural splendour of the Okanagan. With over 3.5 million Swarovski crystals infused within the European-inspired design of this beautiful resort, the Sparkling Hill Resort is a true example of awe and elegance.

With approximately 150 rooms, this mountainside marvel offers guests not only spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Okanagan but a quiet respite to rejuvenate & reenergize. The KurSpa offers experiences that go beyond the traditional spa treatments and conventional pampering. The first Cryotherapy Sauna in North America (-110degress Celsius) is drawing guests from all over the world to experience this unique treatment. The KurSpa incorporates seven steam and sauna rooms, aqua mediation, 4 experience showers, Kneipp therapy, Serenity lounge, fitness and movement studios are all included as part of the Sparkling Hill guest experience.
Golf, ski, hiking, boating and wine enthusiasts are also attracted to the four season play ground of the Okanagan Valley.

Photographs provided by the Sparkling Hill Resort.

If you would like to visit this incredible resort be sure to book your stay on their website at Sparkling Hill Resort. To view upcoming specials and packages follow them on twitter @SparklingHill and follow us on Twitter @CountDownEvents to see other incredible wedding destinations.

The Expert Panel | Catering for a Wedding Part II

Louis Gervais: Cobtini - organic micro greens, cherry tomatoes, crisp pancetta straws & crumbled blue cheese

This Expert Panel article was so delicious to read, we just had to continue it. As mentioned before your wedding's menu selection can be the best part of the planning and knowing the right questions to ask is sure way to be certain that your catering company takes good care of your guests on your wedding night. With our experts from Louis Gervais we bring you Part II of the Expert Panel | Catering for a Wedding.

Louis Gervais
What information should a bride have before they meet with you for the first time? To ensure we are able to prepare the most accurate and appealing proposal possible we request that a bride have a general understanding of:
• her budget for catering
• her venue
• her vision for the day
• hours for the event
• a style for the menu (casual, classical, modern, etc)
• the couple’s food likes and dislikes and any dietary restrictions or allergies
• rental requirements (what does the venue supply, what will the designer provide, etc.)

What are some general recommendations/ideas that you would give to a new bride hiring a catering company such as yours? We always encourage our brides to come to the table with all their hopes and dreams for the day. With our experience we can advise them as to what is feasible within their budget and what can be adapted to ensure we come as close to their vision as possible. When trying to come up with ideas for your menu reference some of your favorite restaurants and find commonalities including style of service, menu themes, presentation, location, etc.
We also remind brides that as much as we understand they want to make everyone happy; this is their day and choices should be theirs. From menu to design everything should reflect their taste and values and not be totally influenced by trying to make everyone else happy.
Most importantly we always hearten our brides to come with lots of questions. Most brides have never planned an event before and are nervous at the prospect of making tons of decisions without all the information they need to be fully informed. The members of my team are seasoned professionals that have seen it all and they pride themselves on providing some of the best customer service in the industry. If you have questions we will find the answers and ensure that you are fully confident in our ability to execute on the big day so that you can relax and Savour the Moment.

Louis Gervais: Beet Dice – golden beet cubes “stained” with red beet juice, spiked with chevre & drizzled with a honey thyme reduction.

What are your best insider tips:
- We’re really encouraging our clients to consider familia style service for receptions these days. They offer more variety than plated dinners but don’t require that your guests line up for a traditional buffet. It’s a more informal style of service and really encourages conversation but still allows for the food to be beautifully presented.

-I’m also playing with unsung heroes lately. I think we’re all tired of the salmon, beef or chicken options that are so ubiquitous at weddings. I encourage our guests to think creatively with sea bass, catfish, artic char, cobia and cod which can all be beautiful substitutes for salmon. Or consider flank steak, hanger steak, rib eye or short ribs in place of the more common tenderloin. Finally, duck seems to have gotten a bad reputation of late but in my 30+ years as a chef I’ve learned so many wonderful dishes that can be created with the beautiful organic duck coming out of the Fraser Valley and I’m dying to work with someone game for stepping outside the box.

- If food is a priority but the budget doesn’t allow for the 8 course tasting menu you’ve always dreamed of take heart; more and more we are encouraging clients to consider cocktail style receptions. By removing the need for plates, cutlery and formal seating you can save quite a bit and still have the variety that allows you to feature all your favorite dishes and flavours. In the end you’ll save money and see your investment go towards what really matters, not what it’s served on.

Louise Gervais: Sea Bass Filet on an Elephant Garlic Risotto with Prawn Tournedo

Thank you to our experts at Louis Gervais for their expert tips and suggestions on catering for a wedding. Follow us on Twitter @CountDownEvents and our Facebook fan page to read more on other great wedding and event purveyors in the city as they share their professional opinions with us.

This Week's #FF Christie Lohr of Style Nine to Five!

Name: Christie Lohr
Occupation(s): Business Owner, Style Nine to Five
Who is your role model: young savvy business owners inspire me
What do you like most about your job: The amazing people I meet, helping people find jobs and freedom of having my own schedule
Daily ritual: Vega (a health shake) and gym class
The most rewarding part of my job is: offering fashion jobs to job seekers, the emails I get daily asking for advice, hearing success stories from employers who’ve found employees through Style Nine to Five
What has been your biggest strength that’s helped you succeed in your industry? Work ethic, determination, drive, not being afraid to ask for things, being genuine
Memorable celebrity encounter/interview: Jeanne Beker, Jay Manuel, Dan Levy

Favourite quote: You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. Oprah
Describe your personal style: Bohemian mixed with sexy and edgy
Dream vacation spot? Back to Italy or Greece or the beaches of Turks and Caicos
What is your favourite thing to take pictures of? Fun experiences!
What has been your favourite event to attend? BCBG Max Azria’s runway show in New York last year for NYFW. They flew select media to attend their show! Flight and hotel paid for!
Favourite Restaurant: Vij’s
What is your biggest indulgence? Dessert (chocolate cake, cookies and creme brulee) and muffins in the morning with my coffee.
If there was more time in the day you would: read a good book with a glass of wine or spend more time with a loved one

Favourite social network: Twitter
Favourite Blog: Bullet With Butterfly Wings by Kate Horsman
Where do you go for good ideas? coffee dates with friends
Last song you downloaded: Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know
What is the most challenging thing you have ever done? Quit my job and start a business
What are you obsessed with right now? colour (from denim to blazers), skinny belts, tucking in my tops, flat shoes (for comfort), nail polish and nail art

We’d like to thank Christie for being our #FF of the week, if you want to connect with Christie you can follow her on twitter @StyleNineToFive and make sure you follow us as well on Twitter @CountDownEvents to see other great Friday Follows (#FFs).

The Expert Panel | Catering for a Wedding Part I

Culinary Capers: Apple Cup with Roasted Pears and Cambozola Crisp - green apple cup filled with pears roasted with shallots and pear essence

Selecting your menu for your wedding can be one the most pleasurable tasks while planning a wedding. Who doesn't love trying delicious samples from a reputable chef. But when you are in a foodie bliss it is always a good idea to ask some very important questions from the catering company so that your guests also enjoy the bliss on your wedding night. After all choosing the menu for your wedding is the one aspect of your wedding that is entirely for your guests' pleasure.
CountDown Events has asked our expert caterers from Culinary Capers for their expert tips and suggestions so you can go ahead and enjoy the menu sampling and not have to worry the details.

Culinary Capers
What information should a bride have before they meet with you for the first time? When a bride calls we like to spend a little time talking over the phone to find out how far along she is in the planning of her wedding. If she has not decided on the type of reception, the venue, the number of guests and/or her budget we can help her by giving her some ideas and price ranges.

In the initial phone conversation, if the venue has not been decided we would take the bride to our venue page on our website where we have an extensive list of possible choices. If the bride has an idea of her budget and her guest count we can then suggest the venues that would be the right size and suggest the style of reception that would work with her budget and guest count.

If the bride likes our suggestions, we would recommend that we meet for an hour to discuss things in more detail so we can design a menu and put together a quote for her. During this initial meeting we ask her to bring ideas and pictures that she would like to be incorporated into the reception. Our goal is to take these ideas and create a beautiful and unique event that reflects the personal style of the wedding couple.

What are some general recommendations/ideas that you would give to a new bride hiring a catering company such as yours? It is very important that you feel comfortable with your caterer and are fully confident in their ability. This is going to be one of the most important days in your life and you will need to rely on your caterer. At Culinary Capers we have a network of exceptional vendors that we have worked with for many years. Suppliers that we know will do an incredible job and go the extra mile if necessary.

Within our company we have a specialty cake division, Culinary Cakes ( that makes beautiful and delicious wedding cakes; we have a floral and décor division called PartyArt Design ( that can do everything from décor and lighting to floral arrangements and bouquets. We encourage our brides to let us organize as much of the reception details as possible so she can relax and enjoy her day.

Culinary Capers: Shot of Strawberry Rhubarb Fool - Rhubarb strawberry compote and vanilla chantilly cream

What are your best insider tips:
- At Culinary Capers we are renowned for our gorgeous and delicious hors d’oeuvre selection. I highly recommend that you have a few of our hors d’oeuvre passed during the cocktail hour. A few of my new favourites from the Spring/Summer menu Culinary Capers Menus
Crisp Apple Cup filled with Roasted Pear and Cambozola; Tomato and Celery Dusted Scallop wrapped with a Vodka Infused Cucumber Ribbon.
Instead of bread and butter have baskets of warm Parmesan Cheese Puffs….soooo addictive!
For your entrée do something a little different….no chicken! How about Pheasant with a Champagne Apple Sauce or a Stuffed Cornish Game Hen with Currants and Hazelnuts.
For dessert we make lovely wedding cakes which you can find on our website but another big trend is doing a dessert buffet loaded with a selection of petite berry pies, dessert shots, cheesecake pops, dessert spoons.

Culinary Capers: Cucumber Wrapped Scallop Tomato and celery dusted - vodka infused cucumber ribbon

- The food service at your wedding should match your style and work well with the venue space. If you and your fiancé love going out and finding small ethnic restaurants that have great food, I would suggest that you would enjoy a more casual style of wedding with food stations like a gnocchi station, soft taco station, a grilled steak station, a wok station and a sushi station.
If your idea of a great vacation is staying at a high end resort and getting pampered I would recommend doing hors d’oeuvre followed by a sumptuous four-course meal. The venue will also play a role in your food service choices. The venue you select may not be big enough to allow for seating for everyone which would rule out a sit-down served dinner or it may have a fabulous garden which would better suit an hors d’eouvre reception or food stations. If you are working with a tight budget I would steer you away from a plated dinner as you will require more rentals and staff for a sit-down affair.

- When working with a caterer at a rented venue that does not have an in-house liquor license you can save substantially on the bar. You can bring in your own liquor and mix purchased from the liquor store.
Culinary Capers does not add a corkage fee, we would just charge you for the bar staff, ice and glass rentals. Providing you choose a wine for under $20 a bottle and don’t buy premium brand hard liquor you could budget $25-$30 per person for your liquor and mix. If you are in a venue or hotel ballroom that has a liquor license you will need to more than double the per person price of our above budget for your drinks.
If you are comparing catering quotes be sure to check that all the line items are quoted and clear - have they listed every line item – food, beverage service, staff, rentals, service charge and applicable taxes.

Thank you to Culinary Capers for giving us such great tips and suggestions on making the right choices for wedding catering. To read more expert advice on wedding and event topics follow us on Twitter @CountDownEvents and our Facebook fan page.

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