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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Your Wedding Colors Matter And My Ties Are There To Match

How far will your DJ go to fit into your color scheme? Does your DJ even know which primary colors you have chosen? Does it even matter? Color matching may seem like a little thing but all of those little things add up to a look that rocks and a DJ who looks like he belongs at your wedding.

Most couples agree that day–of wedding professionals should dress appropriately and not wear anything off color or obtrusive to their event. At a wedding visual presentation is everything. So it makes sense that my attire should match your favorite colors and flowers.

As a standard practice I have been matching my ties to my clients' wedding colors for years.  But it was at a recent dinner with wedding photographer, Elley Ho, and my web designer, Stacie Tamaki that this fun and original idea took form. Elley loved the fact that I care enough to match my tie color to the wedding colors and suggested creating a Wedding DJ Neck Tie Color Picker to add to my website. After all one of the most popular questions on my FAQ Page is "What Will You Wear?" That's when Stacie stepped in and brought Elley's idea to life.

Just a few of my favorite Jerry Garcia ties

For years I've always asked my brides and grooms to bring a color swatch to our final planning session in order to find the the closest match. One time I even brought a dozen ties to a meeting and spread them out on a table for the bride to pick. She was having as much fun with this decision as I was!

How can you be certain your DJ will dress to complement your wedding color board? Introducing the
first ever Wedding DJ Tie Color Picker brought to you exclusively by I MC Events. Why bother with what some people would consider a trivial detail? Because I know your wedding colors matter to you so your wedding colors matter to me. Here is just one sample from my brand new Color Tie Picker.

Blue, Purple and Green Sample Patterns

So when you begin your search for a talented wedding DJ/MC find one who cares enough about your colors to let you participate in decisions about their attire. I always encourage you to bring your color board in hand when we meet in person because it makes matching all the easier. If your color is missing from my collection, no problem. I will gladly search for a good match and purchase a complementing tie at no additional cost to you.

As a professional MC for events I focus on the big picture. But the big picture is always made up of little details and matching your colors is just one smaller example of how much I care about making your wedding day a huge success.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Food Tour - Fourth Street in Berkeley CA

I have been long time fan of the retail area in Berkeley near Highway 80 and University Avenue known as the Fourth Street Shops. In fact we had such great food on our first visit to the Berkeley area on our May Food Excursion that I knew this East Bay sequel was a given so I called the first tour Best of the East Bay - Volume 1. Our biggest challenge was how to pick from so many great places to eat.

There was no doubt that this trip had to begin early with breakfast at the legendary Bette's Oceanview Diner. With so many great options on the menu we decided to try one egg and one pancake item to get a sampling of their most famous dishes. Bette's Diner is most noted for their pancakes so we ordered the Soufflé Pancake. Like any good soufflé it takes extra time to prepare so our server wisely suggested she first bring our order of Spicy Scrambled Eggs.

Spicy Scrambled Eggs with Home Fries and Pumpkin Spice Muffin - $11.95

The eggs were tasty but not as spicy as I expected. Our server was quick to mention they were cooked "soft" and asked if that was okay with us. I don't recall ever being asked how I liked my scrambled eggs cooked. The salsa was also mixed into the scramble which added the color and kept the flavors melded. The choices were toast, muffins or tortillas with our dish and we opted for a fantastic pumpkin spice muffin. I am potatoes-at-breakfast guy and the highlight for me were the Home Fries with a big dollop of sour cream and chives. I just had to zoom in on the sweet onions and perfectly seasoned potato heaven.

Home Fries that I call "I could easily make a meal out of this side dish"

Even though neither my foodie friend, Stacie Tamaki, nor I are really big pancake eaters we could not come to Bette's without trying their signature dish. Our server suggested the Soufflé Pancake and I chose the banana rum version. It took a bit longer to prepare but when delivered it dazzled us by completely covering the plate.

Bette's Famous Soufflé Pancake - $12.95

This dish has so many complex flavors and textures that it is like eating three different things at once. It is like a pancake, soufflé and crepe all in one. It surprises you with bite size chunks of banana buried inside the oozy goodness and dusted with powdered sugar. I had to zoom in to show the golden billowy top. Also available in apple brandy, seasonal fruit or chocolate swirl.

Look carefully into the holes and you'll see some of the sweet banana chunks

My final shot of this bigger-than-life pancake is one of several slices I ate. I will return to Bette's and try all of their other flavors. This dish is also perfect to share so you can pair it with so many other great breakfast items they offer. It is served with warm maple syrup and simply melts in your mouth.

Bette's Oceanview Diner also has a great sense of humor. The first thing you notice overhead inside the front door is a giant flying piece of pie. This place is just as much fun as it is delicious and I only wish they were closer to where I live.

Stacie decided to go really far out there (for her) at this month's Daring Beverage Challenge by trying a Champagne Cocktail. This version was made with pomegranate and lime juices.

An extremely rare champagne moment for Stacie

"Flying Pie" at Bette's Oceanview Diner

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! The only downside to Bette's is their wild popularity. We put our name in and waited 45 minutes for our table. So if you are in a big rush, right next door is Bette's To Go. They have an incredible selection of gourmet grab and go items like soups, salads, sandwiches and very tasty items from their bakery.

Our next stop is another long time favorite on Fourth Street called The Pasta Shop. For nearly 25 years they have been a purveyor of specialty foods for the East Bay. I didn't even have pasta on my mind when we ventured into the store because I was quickly overwhelmed with the other sights and smells of this beautifully merchandised market.

The Pasta Market is a foodie's paradise. Period.

As I was browsing through the cookbooks I starting chatting with one of the employees named Beaver. Before I knew it he was telling me the most amazing stories about living in Spain and handcrafting furniture. His knowledge of the regions of Spain and what food meant to those areas was huge. His love for the country, people and food was so apparent as he could not help himself but to roll his r's and launch into a Spanish accent. In a few short minutes I had felt like I had just been to Spain. People with Beaver's knowledge and passion make a trip to The Pasta Shop a true experience.

Beaver posing with his favorite cookbook at The Pasta Shop

Many of the staff were super friendly and very food savvy as you would expect. I came there to taste their prepared foods but was not about to leave without grabbing some of the many unique specialty groceries. Pictured here from left to right are three of my favorite finds at The Pasta Shop.

Green Olive Paté with lemon oil • Roasted Pepper Antipasto • Caramelized Onion Jam

Two deli items we wanted to try were the Cheese Rolls ($2.50) and a pint of Brussels Sprouts Salad ($2.95). We picnicked in front of The Pasta Shop which has plenty of outdoor seating where many shoppers kick back to enjoy their foods.

Loaded with Parmesan and Mozzarella these Cheese Rolls are almost like eating pizza.

Brussels Sprouts salad with a sweet honey mustard vinaigrette

Our next stop was at O Chamé where you immediately sense the calming Zen vibe on their patio even before you walk through the front door. With a great reputation for fusion cuisine this place was the perfect late afternoon stop for us to catch our breath.

The inviting front patio greets you first at O Chamé

Stacie let me do the ordering and my eyes went instantly to their appetizer menu. Without hesitation I chose the Arugula Salad with Golden Beets and Salted Egg to start. This small dish packed big flavor with the most perfectly hard boiled egg I've ever eaten. The arugula leaves and beets were perfectly dressed in a delicate vinaigrette.

Arugula Salad with Golden Beets and Salted Egg - $9.50

While we were enjoying the salad our server brought my other selection, White Corn and Green Onion Pancake. We while joked about having our second pancake of the day we were also exclaiming how completely delicious this savory one was served with a white sesame sauce. We learned this pancake is a signature dish at O Chamé and is seasonal based on whatever ingredients are available. It was my absolute favorite bite of the day and it had some serious competition from the many great foods we tasted.

White Corn and Green Onion Pancake - $8.00

Stacie and I were completely impressed with O Chamé. We agreed that these two appetizers alone would make a perfect lunch. I took this photo to remind me of exactly what I will be ordering as when I return here and it will be sooner than later.

A Perfect Lunch or Snack at O Chamé

On one more sweet note we decided to try their Wagashi for $6.50. Stacie reminded me how much my family loves it and the points I made when I brought some home from our April Food Excursion in San Jose's Japantown. As expected this soft rice pastry with sweet bean filling was the real deal at O Chamé. I was again a hero when I brought some Wagashi home from our frolics on Fourth Street.

We decided to go south of the border for our final stop at Tacubaya (La Taqueria de Dona Tomas). They were packed with customers inside and the description of their Chile Rellenos on the outdoor menu really caught our attention. It was well worth the wait with for a perfectly breaded and fried poblano chile stuffed with cheeses.

Chile Rellenos at Tacubaya -$7.75

I decided to take the Daring Beverage Challenge for a change and ordered an agua fresca. The cucumber lemon flavor sounded interesting and it was a lot sweeter than I expected. Somehow I was thinking the cucumber would be the predominant flavor but it turned out to be more like lemonade with the essence of cucumber.

Cucumber Lemon Agua Fresca - $3.50

As I mentioned this was not my first rodeo at Berkeley's famous Fourth Street Shops. However, every visit is fresh and exciting for me because there is always something new to see. Concerts and special events are frequent on their calendar. The stores are super unique so you won't feel like you're at a big box mall. We noticed that there is even an Apple Store now at 1823 Fourth Street. If you haven't experienced Berkeley's Fourth Street yet, I HIGHLY recommend it but do allow a few hours because there is plenty of great food and shopping to be had. Stacie also loved just about every bite we had and wrote a fantastic story about our time on Fourth Street. To read her recap just click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mark Ferrell's Love Story Workshop - Storytelling That Changes Lives

I am no stranger to the Mark Ferrell series of workshops based on the Marbecca Method. I have blogged about his MC Skills workshops both in March 2010 when I took the Bronze level and then again when I took the Silver Level in October 2011. This time it was my second spin at his Love Story Workshop and it was another out of body experience.

Mark Ferrell in action using both hands and great side bars to explain and exemplify

So what exactly is a Love Story? Mark and Rebecca Ferrell originated it during their years as wedding entertainers (1989-2002) in Southern California. Today the term itself has become a bit of a cliché and used by all kinds of wedding professionals. The Marbecca Love Story is a ten to twenty minute story that normally leads up to the first dance and, if done properly, completely engages everyone in the room. I emphasize "done properly" because a straight read without the proper voice inflections and character acting will make the story flop. We learned quickly that great storytelling really draws on acting skills which is a talent we seldom use in our daily routine.

The impact of a great Love Story can be immense. It is safe to say that most of the wedding guests know either the bride OR the groom really well so very few of them may know the inside story of how they came together. There is always a great story that begins with their first meeting, first date, proposal and concludes with their own version of why they chose each other out of all the other people in the world. The couple is the reason why all of their family and friends are gathering for the celebration so why not share their story with everyone? I always tell my clients that they are the one common denominator among all those attending their wedding. The Love Story when delivered with sincerity, realism and passion touches on just about every human emotion and can evoke tears of both sadness and joy.

We had a spectacular group for this Bronze Level Love Story Workshop. Pictured here in our graduation photo from left to right is our guru Mark Ferrell, Rebecca Ferrell, Norman Anub, Robert Kusters, Stacie Tamaki, Josh Barron and myself.

The Loving Class of Bronze Level Love Story 2011

What made this group dynamic especially fun was having a non-DJ, Stacie Tamaki, who was there to continue stretching herself and improving her speaking skills. We also really enjoyed Josh Barron who, at only 19 years old, is embarking on an incredible career as an entertainer. Josh traveled all the way from Michigan to take both the Love Story and MC Skills Workshop in one week. Josh works under the direction of Mitch Taylor of Taylored Weddings. Mitch feels strong enough about the Marbecca Method to send Josh across the country get training with Mark Ferrell. We send major kudos to Mitch Taylor for taking this kind of care in getting Josh off on the right foot.

What really makes a Mark Ferrell workshop special? It is mostly their intentions. Mark and Rebecca created their wedding entertainment business because they loved being around couples in love. They now travel around North America and soon to the U.K. to help DJ's become better performers but that also means the DJ's have to become better people who truly love their clients as Mark and Rebecca did. Marbecca's motto is "It's all about Love" so love is the foundation of everything they teach and do.

Mark blogged recently about Halloween and how it can be your own "Reality Show." He went on to say that "we have the power to design our lives and hopes your glass is half full." This kind of powerful optimism is central to his workshops and overall philosophy which made the cups at the Hampton Inn and Suites where we gathered seem all the more appropriate.  :-)

But seriously folks we also have a really great time at Mark Ferrell's workshops in addition to working very hard to perfect our performances. I could not resist including this photo of DJ Robert Kusters kicking back. Robert never ceases to improve on his performance skills because he continues to take Mark Ferrell workshops. He simply shined in this latest Love Story workshop.

My parting shot is of me and my good friend, Stacie Tamaki. Stacie really gets it. She instantly realized the value of Mark Ferrell's message at her first workshop in May 2010 and was quick to share her experience on her blog post. Stacie's enthusiasm for these workshops centers on the fact that they are not just for DJ's but for anyone who wants to be a better speaker and improve all of their communication skills. Stacie was also thrilled with this Love Story workshop as she describes the experience in her blog post. It is unique training that you just can't find in too many places and we are grateful to the Ferrells for sharing their special talents with us.

Stacie Tamaki and I ham it up at the Bronze Love Story Workshop conclusion

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Best Holiday Party Has a DJ with Great MC Skills

I dedicate an entire page on my website to answer the question Why Hire a Professional MC and DJ?.
The MC or Master of Ceremonies is one of the biggest contributors to the success of an event and can also be the least understood. So much of what is done to keep timing, flow and energy on track is behind the scenes so the impact is felt but the host and guests are really unaware of the effort. The best steering of a party is done subtly so it appears to be happening on its own. Most party givers hope that chemistry among their guests will carry the party and its success will feel organic without forcing it.

I have taken many workshops from nationally acclaimed performance trainer, Mark Ferrell. Mark's acronym for the three primary functions of an emcee is DIG which stands for Direct, Guide and Inform. Event guests arrive at a party with expectations to be entertained. A great MC can move guests emotionally with great announcements, introductions and storytelling as well as moving them literally within the facility when necessary for the function.

So let's take a look at some of the parts of a holiday party that can be greatly enhanced when the person on the microphone is experienced and polished.

1. Welcome – Every event needs an introduction to engage the audience and make them feel comfortable. I feel this welcoming should be done by the emcee even if it is leading into the opening speech by the CEO or head of the department throwing the party. This person is always a V.I.P. and should get a deserving introduction. A great welcome really sets the tone for the rest of the event.

2. Door Prizes and Raffles – Anytime I can get involved in giveaways I make sure to do so. I have witnessed too many mic shy administrative assistants with no speaking skills struggle with this task when it should actually be fun and upbeat. Nothing kills the energy faster than reading seven digit raffle ticket numbers in a monotone when the first four digits are all the same on everyone's ticket anyway. When you choose to do the drawings during the event can also make a huge difference because it affects timing, flow and how long the guests will stay.

3. Skits and Performances – Another popular item on holiday party agendas is a skit, sing-a-long or other performance usually by employees with inside office humor. These types of amateur presentations always come off better when the MC commands the audience's attention is prepared with the audio track, microphones and delivers a professional into/outro. Even if the employees' performance is intended to be cheesy, the MC can make the whole experience better fit into the entire evening with the right guidance.

4. Announcements – Whether it is a simple notification that someone left their car lights on, a lost and found item or the arrival of a special guest like Santa Clause an experienced MC will be better understood, not obtrusive and best command the attention of the audience. It is grossly obvious when an unprofessional speaker tries to address an audience and normally the result is that he or she gets ignored.

5. Games and Ice Breakers
– Over many holiday seasons I have orchestrated games and audience participation at corporate events. Socializing with fellow workers and their spouses can create a new dynamic which is not always natural. Many of my clients have looked to me for suggestions on ways to break the ice at their holiday parties. For details on some of these ideas please call me at 408-298-7710 or e-mail me at carl@imcevents.com.

6. Casino Games – Another popular addition to holiday parties has been to bring in casino gaming with many companies now specializing in this service. An experienced MC knows how to combine gaming with dancing and any other forms of entertainment. The object is to keep as many guests as possible simultaneously engaged with both gaming and dancing. One popular casino format is to have the gamers be rewarded with raffle tickets which calls for a late night drawing of prizes. Coordination of all these events takes a good sense of timing and an MC with lots of experience.

7. Dancing – Finally it only makes sense if the DJ/MC brings in a great sound system and thousands of tunes that your guests take advantage of the dance floor. Although the demographic can vary greatly among employees it is still not as diverse as a wedding reception which makes for a little easier programming of music styles. I encourage my clients to solicit requests around the company in advance of the party so I will be well prepared to satisfy everyone.

So never underestimate the impact an MC can have on your holiday party or any other event. A great DJ can keep the party going with the right songs at the right time but music is only one part of the formula. If dancing is not the primary focus of the event which is often the case, then the responsibility for the success of the event lies even greater in the hands of the Master of Ceremonies.

Feel free to contact me and I will be glad to visit your office for a presentation. I can bring along all kinds of ideas to help jump start your holiday event and make it unique. Warming up rooms of people is what I do for a living. You can reach me on the phone at 408-298-7710, on the web at www.imcevents.com or e-mail at carl@imcevents.com.

Happy Holidays to you and best of luck with all of your plans for entertaining this season!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Wine Country Wedding Celebration in Newcastle, CA

Hunter and Paige McGillivray celebrate on November 6, 2010

When Hunter, the son of Dono dal Cielo owners Bill and Karen McGillivray, proposed to his girlfriend Paige the location for their celebration was a given. Their family winery is part of the growing Placer County wine region.

What's better than owning a winery? That would be having your in-laws own a winery. My family named their boutique estate winery, Dono dal Cielo which means "Gift From Heaven" in Italian. My gift has been to enjoy the fruits of their hard labor for several vintages of Zinfandel as well as a few whites and even a great rosé.

Just take a peak at a few photos I've taken over the years of this majestic property located in the tiny Sierra Foothills town called Newcastle, California.

The moon rising over the new vines

Looking east towards Auburn early one morning

Sprawling lawn areas were ideal for the outdoor portions of the wedding

Rows of Zinfandel vines comprise most of the thirty acres of Dono dal Cielo

For this first ever wedding at Dono dal Cielo they constructed a rustic arbor at the peak of the ceremony hill. It was a perfect fall day to be wed and a great evening to party into the night.

From behind the alter during a solemn moment of prayer

Hunter and Paige included many family traditions in their celebration as he wore the traditional Scottish kilts. They also used his grandfather's vintage 1956 Lincoln Mark II to shuttle Paige up to the ceremony site as the bagpipes announced her entrance.

Local Sacramento area based wedding photographer, Carmen Salazar captured their wedding memories. What I love about Carmen is how she caught the many moods of the McGillivrays from serious to playful and back again.

When the sun set the reception kicked into high gear we dined on great food stations by The Chef's Table restaurant. The crush pad area and tasting room were warmly lit creating a dramatic setting for Hunter and Paige's first dance.

From the tender moment of their first dance...

....to sheer chaos on the dance floor as Paige and Hunter embraced every moment

Even this bottle of Dono dal Cielo 2007 Zinfandel became more festive with special wedding decorations. No doubt a record was set on 11/6/10 for corks popped in one day at the winery.

For me the highlight of the reception was when Hunter and Paige toasted all of the guests with their favorite treat of milk and cookies. This personal touch was both whimsical and a greatly appreciated late night snack for everyone.

The first Milk and Cookies Toast to guests I've ever seen by a bride and groom

This parting shot is my favorite of all the images that Carmen captured. This wedding was spectacular on so many fronts. It is featured with more of Carmen's photos on my website gallery. Thanks to the McGillivrays for their hospitality and sharing this special place called Dono dal Cielo. Thanks to Carmen Salazar for taking all of these great images and for sharing them with me for my blog. And a huge thanks to Paige and Hunter for having such a great vision of their wedding that came to life for everyone there. Happy Anniversary and looking forward to the many more you will be celebrating ahead!

Dono del Cialo is busy putting on many events of their own. Any chance I can get I enjoy blogging about activities they've hosted like the Sierra Century cycling event and the Winemaker's Dinner to celebrate four new releases at The Chef's Table restaurant in Rockin. Every weekend something is happening at what I affectionately call "Donoland." You will find singer songwriters performing in the tasting room, art classes, jewelry and even yoga events. For more information including a calendar of events visit their website at www.donodalcielo.com.