Symphony Ball sparkles with diamonds and dancing

There were a lot of beautiful dresses at the Symphony Ball, but if I had to pick my favorite, it would be this stunning red number worn by Kay Clayton.

There were a lot of beautiful dresses at the Symphony Ball, but if I had to pick my favorite, it would be this stunning red number worn by Kay Clayton. Understated elegance.

Even though the annual Symphony Ball falls right in the middle of the holiday season and always on the same night as the Southeastern Conference football championship, it still draws an impressive crowd to Cherokee Country Club.

Sponsored by the Knoxville Symphony League to raise funds for the Knoxville Symphony, this year’s theme was “Diamonds are Forever,” and that theme was reflected in a number of beautiful jeweled pieces offered in the silent and live auctions. And this year, the event also spotlighted dazzling dance numbers by members of Go! Contemporary Dance Works and professional ballroom dancers Mireille Tuendemann and Nathan Simler. The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra Quartet performed during the cocktail hour and the Al Curtis Orchestra provided dance music following the live auction. (read more)


Sweetest addition arrived late to cookie exchange

Mary Ellen Brewington loading up her tin at this year's cookie exchange.

Mary Ellen Brewington loading up her tin at this year’s cookie exchange.

This was the 11th year for our annual cookie exchange and, by now, it just wouldn’t seem like Christmas without it. Our spouses and families have come to look forward to it, and we know all the “rules” for getting the cookies home in the best condition. Most important: Don’t mix them all together!

Rather, separate them based on type: All peanut butter cookies together in one baggie; all peppermint cookies together; all ginger cookies together. And, for goodness’ sake, don’t mix the soft cookies with the crisp cookies — or they all will turn out soft! Trust us on this. It comes from years of experience.

We highly recommend that everyone either organize or participate in a cookie exchange. It’s easy. If you are the host, just enlist a friend to help you with bartending and then serve a light lunch buffet — either a brunch casserole or a number of quiches and salads. If you are a guest, bake six dozen of your favorite cookies and bring them to the exchange. After an hour of socializing and a few bites to help keep up your stamina, it’s a free-for-all as everyone races to the table to collect a wonderful assortment of cookies. (read more)


Houston, we don’t have a problem

My hilarious husband, Alan Carmichael, at the entrance to the Hall of Ancient Egypt in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

My hilarious husband, Alan Carmichael, at the entrance to the Hall of Ancient Egypt in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

If Stephen Wicks, the curator at the Knoxville Museum of Art, ever decides to change careers, he needs to be a travel agent. I can’t imagine anyone putting together a more interesting, educational and fun three-night trip than the one Wicks just organized for about 40 members of the museum’s Collectors Circle, who visited Houston.

We saw art that ranged from a lovely display of Claude Monet works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston highlighting the famous Impressionist’s lifelong relationship to the Seine River to bizarre and baffling (at least to me) surrealistic pieces at the Menil Collection. We stopped by residences of art collectors in suburban Houston, and we visited Chateau Carnarvon, the most expensive private residence in Houston to see antiquities from the Greek, Roman and Egyptian eras. And, as a bonus, we saw dinosaurs and mummies. And we ate and drank.

And even though all this was packed into the trip, we still had some free time to spend doing our own things. It was fantastic. (read more)


‘Steered’ to perfection at Caracol

Alan checks out our hotel shuttle, which would take us to Caracol.

Alan checks out our hotel shuttle, which would take us to Caracol.

Several weeks ago, more than 40 East Tennesseans headed to Houston on an art trip arranged by Knoxville Museum of Art Curator Stephen Wicks and Krishna Adams, also of the museum.

As Alan and I got ready that Thursday to hop in the car and head to the airport, I noticed our latest edition of Wine Spectator magazine had arrived. I tossed it in the car to read on the plane. And lo and behold, what did it feature? A listing of the best restaurants in Houston! Woohoo!

Our schedule showed we had Friday night to plan on our own so as soon as we landed, I called a recommended restaurant, Caracol, for a reservation. The aforementioned Stephen Wicks, our leader, said he wanted to go with us, as did our buddies Mark and Cathy Hill. (read more)


United Way givers treated to Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski playing for an intimate group at The Standard in downtown Knoxville.

Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski playing for an intimate group at The Standard in downtown Knoxville.

If, as is said in 2 Corinthians, “God loveth a cheerful giver,” Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd has made God love us a little more — because he made us a little more cheerful about our giving!

How? Boyd, this year’s chair of the local United Way campaign, arranged recently for songstress Alison Krauss and several members of her band to perform a private concert at The Standard in downtown Knoxville for donors who have pledged $10,000 or more to the United Way of Greater Knoxville. About 80 people were there.

Every year, donors at this level are invited to a special dinner as members of the Tocqueville Society. But in every past year that I can recall, the speaker has been a sports figure or a politician. This was so much better for us music lovers.

(read more)


The glamorous world of PR — not!

This giant slice of pecan pie -- with a fork made of sardine cans -- was made by a team consisting of Cope Architecture, Management Solutions and the National Association of Women in Construction. The plate is made of 660 containers of Chefboyardee mini ABCs and 123s!

This giant slice of pecan pie — with a fork made of sardine cans — was made by a team consisting of Cope Architecture, Management Solutions and the National Association of Women in Construction. The plate is made of 660 containers of Chef Boyardee mini ABC’s and 123’s!

“It must be so much fun being in public relations,” I hear all the time. “All those parties and elegant events!”

The truth is that it is a lot of fun being in public relations. But parties and events are just a small fraction of the work we really do. And even those assignments are not the glamorous walk in the park that many people think.

Case in point: Canstruction, happening right now at the Knoxville Convention Center. There is indeed a party involved, but — let’s peek behind the scenes for a moment.

Canstruction is a unique charity that hosts competitions, exhibitions and events across the globe showcasing colossal structures made entirely of unopened cans of food. After the structures are built, the “cansculptures go on display to the public as a giant art exhibition. At the end of the event, all food is donated to local hunger relief organizations. In Knoxville’s case, the cans go to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

You can visit the Knoxville Convention Center for free to see the seven structures Knoxville companies have built. They all involve a holiday theme and will be up until Dec. 2, when a reception will recognize winners in various categories. Children will love them, so do stop by and vote for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Kids’ Choice Award. And vote for your favorite in the “People’s Choice” category on Facebook: Click here. (Moxley Carmichael worked on the Snoopy sculpture, and we’d love to have your vote!)

The exhibit turned out beautifully, but here’s what happened behind the scenes. (read more)


Harrowing tale by a homegrown Hanna

Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, speaking at Cherokee Country Club.

Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, speaking at Cherokee Country Club.

Jack Hanna was in town earlier this month to be named East Tennessean of the Year by the East Tennessee Historical Society. At $500 per seat, the event, featuring Hanna and several animals from the Columbus Zoo, was a sellout at Cherokee Country Club.

This is only the second time the organization has bestowed this award. The only other time was in 2011 when former Knoxville mayor and current Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam received it.

“I can’t believe you all paid $500 to see me,” a seemingly humbled Hanna said after accepting the award. Although he said his wife, Suzi, had advised him to keep his remarks under 20 minutes, he spoke for over an hour, telling story after story about various animals and exotic locations he’s visited.

The most harrowing was his description of the worst animal bite he’s ever gotten. It was on the David Letterman Show in 1985 when he was handling a 35-pound beaver. “It was a monster beaver,” he recalled. “The biggest beaver I’ve ever seen.” (read more)


‘Artsclamation!’ earns its exclamation point

Shannon Haas was the featured artist at this year's Artsclamation sale.

Shannon Haas was the featured artist at this year’s Artsclamation! sale.

Artsclamation!, an art sale benefiting Peninsula Hospital, has THE BEST ART every year. Held in the gym of Sacred Heart Cathedral School right before the holidays kick off, the juried show offers a chance to meet the artists and discuss with them their latest offerings. And the prices generally are terrific. If you missed the event this year, you absolutely must put it on your calendar for 2015. You’ll see what I mean when you look at the pictures I’m including here.

Peninsula Hospital, a division of Covenant Health‘s Parkwest Medical Center, is located in Louisville, south of Knoxville. It operates a 155-bed treatment center and provides inpatient mental health services for adults, adolescents and children. Medical professionals work in teams to stabilize and assist people, many of whom are in intense crises. Peninsula Hospital is one of the few facilities in the area that can accept involuntary commitments. (read more)


It was a Time for dancing — and recognition

Morris Day and The Time performing for the Urban League at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Morris Day and The Time performing for the Urban League at the Knoxville Convention Center.

One of the best parties of the year is the Knoxville Area Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Awards Gala. Held the fourth Thursday of every October, it combines a serious mission — giving out the prestigious awards — with a heaping helping of pure fun.

Dancing always is a big part of this event and this year was no exception. Morris Day, an artist known both for his work with Prince as a bandmate in the early 1980s and as lead singer in his own band, The  Time, rocked the Knoxville Convention Center crowd.

His best known songs, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” turned the whole room into a dance floor.

But this came after the serious part of the evening when iconic civil rights figure Rita Geier received the Whitney M. Young Jr., Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1968, Geier was teaching part-time at Tennessee State University in Nashville, and the University of Tennessee announced that it was opening a new campus in downtown Nashville. Geier recognized that, while the schools were legally integrated, this development would cause a social segregation with white students attending the University of Tennessee-Nashville and black students attending Tennessee State University. She also was concerned about the state’s financial investment in UT compared to that of TSU. (read more)


A ‘Teenie’ view of the future

Our hostess, Christine "Teenie" Hayworth, left, with Jenny Hines, treasurer of Foothills Land Conservancy.

Our hostess, Christine “Teenie” Hayworth, left, with Jenny Hines, treasurer of Foothills Land Conservancy.

 

It was a rainy day, and I wondered what effect that would have on the party planned outdoors at Teenie Hayworth’s beautiful West Knoxville horse farm called Penrose.

But we grabbed our umbrellas and set out anyway. It seems that Teenie’s farm is so beautiful, it doesn’t matter what the weather is.

The purpose of the party was to raise money for the Foothills Land Conservancy and to celebrate the success of the organization. So far it has succeeded in placing 47,000 acres in 26 Tennessee counties under conservation easements, which will prevent the properties from being subdivided for development.

This is the fifth year Teenie has opened her beautiful estate — 130 acres of stunning land with a view of the Great Smoky Mountains — to Foothills Land Conservancy for this event. And Teenie is leading by example. In 2007, she placed Penrose Farm under a conservation easement. She truly believes in the mission of the organization to “preserve, protect and enhance” the landscapes of East Tennessee. (read more)