Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fire Whips, Casino Nights and Sunday Brunch: The Elms Rolls On

I have certainly been writing at a glacial pace of late..I'm three months into my new gig at the Elms and it has been many things: thrilling, exasperating, exhausting, overwhelming and truly, never boring, even when the stack of paperwork is taller than me. I've long been fascinated with the hotel business and its daily madness and as our renovation gets ever nearer to completion, our events grow more frequent and more interesting.

First up of late was a trade show and meeting set up in the Grand Ballroom that gave us a smashing opportunity to feature some eye-popping talent and showcase just what a diverse event the Elms can create. My friend and coworker April has a true vision when it comes to the creativity the hotel can bring to its events and this event of hers was indeed a showstopper. The Grand Ballroom was set up with several booths featuring various venues and meeting places and intertwined amongst the booths were assorted cocktail tables and plush sofas. While cocktails were served and assorted savories were passed, the evening's initial entertainment captured everyone's attention. Two lithe female aerialists climbed and daringly swung from fabric hung from the ballroom ceiling. After establishing a bit of a Cirque vibe with this performance, another performer rode about on a unicycle juggling gleaming knives. Following this performance, the guests ventured poolside to take in an awe-inspiring show from our resident fire performers, the Pyrosapiens. The last time I had seen them perform was at our party, and clearly that was a mere teaser compared to what they brought to this event. Kevin the ringleader (who's also our Spa Director) brought everyone to a standstill with his first stunt: a fire-whip that when cracked, unleashed a fireball over the pool to an audience of oohs and ahs (photo at top left of Kevin and the whip courtesy of His cohorts soon joined in utilizing giant, fiery metal fans and cubes. As the hotel's resident HR rep, I could feel the sweat on my brow when I would start thinking about the multiple scenarios for disaster...people hanging upside down from the ceiling, flying knives and multiple things on fire, oh my. It was far easier to just take in this jaw-dropping show.

Other events have come and gone....a casino night for one group, and of course, weddings every weekend. Now, we have also started up our weekly Sunday Brunch again. Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, Chef Steven and his crew are putting on quite the spectacular brunch and Keith and I got to partake this past weekend. It was a mouth-watering display, to be certain. Flavorful salads, comforting biscuits and bacon, a sumptuous baked macaroni and cheese, omelettes made to order, was a feast to savor.

The Elms still has a spa to finish as well as a couple of floors of guestrooms yet, but we are getting there. Its a thrill to see all the fun kicking up again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grad Party With a Pinterest Flair

One of the graduation parties K and I attended this season seemed particularly inspired in its unique flair. That flair was fitting as this party was in honor of one unique young man by the name of Jackson.

Jackson is the son of our friends Will and Denise and he graduated high school this past May. They threw him a grad soiree at The Montgomery, the same wonderful venue where K and I had our celebratory bash. The event was organized and catered by Denise's friend Stacy, who is clearly up for party planner extraordinaire, with her whimsical designs in both decor and food. The most fascinating element of how she put together this party was the way it all truly reflected Jackson.

Jackson, our young graduate, is also autistic. His graduation party was a big day, shared with his proud parents and some clearly wonderful teachers who worked very closely with Jackson. Stacy decorated everything in a blaze of red, in honor of Jackson's beloved Lawson Cardinals. The food was spectacular, from an awesome BLT pasta salad to some tasty tomato-mozzarella skewers. There was a chip and dip station with some killer salsa (as Jackson loves his chips), and in lieu of a cake (Jackson does NOT like cake), there was an awesome cookie bar that included some sweet iced lemon cookies, luscious red velvet cookies and Jackson's favorite, chocolate-chip cookies. There was also a way-cool card table with a giant red "J" that everyone could sign and a heart-warming letter from one of his teachers.

Stacy, I might add, got a lot of her ideas from Pinterest, that online center of excellent party tips and food; among other things. She may have gotten some tips from Pinterest, but the execution of this extraordinary party was all Stacy. Then again, young Jackson and his awesome parents do make for some divine inspiration.

Congratulations, Jackson!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grandpa Joe

It seems that I, along with many of my friends and loved ones, have been in a perpetual state of mourning these past few years. Many of us have had to painfully witness our parents and grandparents weather the withering ravages of age. It seems as if an unyielding rash of funerals have happened of late. I've come to learn, as most of us do, that when it comes to family funerals, your own mourning ends up on hold while you are supposed to stand firm for all of the mourners that stream through. I would find strength of a sort from the many well-wishes that would come about during the visitations and funerals, but all of the controlled resolve would, in my case, often result in some outburst of emotion that would manifest at some wickedly inappropriate time and place. It is the nature of grief, I suppose, to be unpredictable. God help me if mourning instead becomes a natural state for me. This post wasn't meant as a treatise on grief, but as more of a dedication to Keith's Grandpa Joe. As I am so far behind on the blog, I have attended two more funerals since Joe's passing, so this ritual of grief is foremost in my mind.

Grandpa Joe was Keith's father's father and was one genuinely nice man. I didn't see him much over the years; it was primarily at the holidays when he and his wife would join us for the annual Christmas Eve dinner at Ken and Helen's. He was always very kind and soft-spoken and every year, he seemed to get more frail. This past Christmas, his frailties were unnervingly familiar...watching him struggle evoked memories of the last year of my Dad's life. Sadly, the word came that Grandpa Joe left this good Earth and we headed for Jeff City to be with Keith's Dad during that ever-difficult time.

During the course of the viewing and service, there were, as there were with my family's and so many others, emotional outbursts and tough moments, to be sure. Losing a loved one twists us up and sometimes lead us to twisted actions as we wade through the torment of grief, but those tough times can also lead to healing moments. We watched with rapt interest the digital photo display at the viewing that revealed all of the many moments of Joe's colorful life. He was a cowboy who always had horses and the photo that really got our attention was him standing on the back of one of his horses. Gathered at the funeral the next day, we solemnly watched Ken and his siblings surround Grandma Esther as she said her tearful farewell to her husband of 68 years. At the following burial service, a quiet prayer was spoken on a beautiful sunny day before it all concluded with a song for Joe: Walter Brennan's melancholy ode Old Rivers.

As the song told its sad tale, not a word was spoken and all of those previous outbursts simply faded away as family clung to each other in tearful grief. It seemed to be a crystalline moment of healing blended with deep sorrow. After the burial, the family attended a reception at the church and then later met at Joe's farm to end the day together. Here, tears were replaced by weary laughter and good food, such as the amazing Cajun chips from Lutz's Famous BBQ. Some of the heartiest laughter came from visiting Joe's last two remaining horses who seemed to really, REALLY enjoy Keith's iced tea. Still seemed sad to see them, knowing Joe was gone. Finally, we all went on home.. The next day, we took Keith's Mom to lunch for Mother's Day to local fave Arris's Cafe. I had written about the downtown pizzeria before, but this was the spanking new cafe and the food was delicious and the decor quite impressive. It was good to have one last meal with family that celebrated life after so many sad days before we headed back to KC.

Rest in peace, Grandpa Joe. Hope it was a beautiful sunset you rode off into. The following video is of the Walter Brennan song played at Joe's burial.