Frivolity at the Fire and Ice Ball

Those crazy kids! Actually, this is Knoxville Opera’s new director of marketing and public relations, Beth Evans, with her husband, Jim. Yep, it was that kind of evening!

The Knoxville Opera called its annual fundraising ball “Fire & Ice.” Held last month at the Knoxville Museum of Art, it was a blast. But attendance was down, causing the Opera to do what the Knoxville Symphony did last year — move the big money-maker out of December. This year, the Opera Ball will be in October. The Symphony Ball will be in March.

Trust me. This is better for all concerned. After Thanksgiving, there are just too many holiday events going on. And if you aren’t attending a holiday event on any given evening in December, you are probably watching — or trying to keep track of — a football game.

The Fire & Ice Ball featured a performance by the Knoxville Opera Chorus. In particular, Don Townsend, chorus master and production manager for the Opera, received a shout-out. Continue reading

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Rain can’t dampen this happening New Year’s Eve!

Dr. Deborah Franklin at midnight at Rebel Kitchen.

New Year’s Eve 2018 in downtown Knoxville was unseasonably warm, in addition to being windy and rainy. It was the last night, in fact, of the rainiest year Knoxville has seen in decades. But no one’s spirits were dampened in the least.

There were traffic jams on Gay Street in the early evening as folks poured into downtown from who knows where. We dared not move our car for fear of losing our parking spot, so we summoned an Uber to take us and our friends, Bruce and Monique Anderson, the few blocks from our condo at the J.C. Penney Building to Rebel Kitchen in the Old City.

We could have run into friends at almost any of the fabulous downtown eateries, though. We got a text from Judith and Michael Foltz inviting us to join them at J.C. Holdway on Union Avenue. We heard Peter Acly and Ellen and Nora Robinson were at Emilia on Market Square. My buddy Diana Condon was holding down a table at Kefi, also in the Old City. And Lisa and Steve Skinner were at Lonesome Dove for the five-course New Year’s Eve special. Continue reading

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Greenery gussies up gathering at Blount Mansion

Pretty mantel decorations beneath a portrait of George Washington in Blount Mansion. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

As we celebrate the end of 2018, here’s one last post about a sweet Christmas tradition: The Knoxville Garden Club‘s annual decoration of Blount Mansion with seasonal greenery. Martha Kern, the owner of Strong Stock Farm in East Knox County, was in charge of gathering all the greenery for the decorators to use for their task.

“Martha, where do you get all the materials? Does it all come from your farm?” I asked her at the dinner during which the decorations were unveiled. “You don’t even want to know the answer to that!” she laughed. “Trust me. You don’t want to know!” Continue reading

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Holiday Homes Tour hypnotizes!

I loved the dining room of this fabulous home in west Knoxville.

I don’t know why we enjoy looking in other people’s homes so much. But, we sure do! The Knoxville Museum of Art took advantage of that and, in just two days, sold out its annual Holiday Homes Tour. For the 24th year in a row.

I hired a driver, grabbed a friend, threw some refreshments in a cooler and hit the trail! We toured five fantastic homes, enjoyed lunch at Cherokee Country Club and had a blast. So did 440 other folks.

Congrats to the event’s chair, Mimi Turner, and to the home selection committee: Barbara Apking, Carol Coode and Susan Hawthorne. Great job, everybody.

Here’s a recap of the fun day.

First, there were a few rules. The organizers didn’t want folks posting photos on social media while the tour was taking place to keep others from crashing the tour. They allowed me to take photos for this blog post with two caveats: I could not name the owners of the homes, and I could not publish the addresses. Seemed reasonable to me. Continue reading

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Knoxville Symphony Board: many reasons to celebrate

Knoxville Symphony Board Chair Russ Watkins and his wife, Holly, at the party last night.

In addition to the holiday season, the Knoxville Symphony Society’s board of directors had much to celebrate last night when members gathered at the Historic Middlebrook mansion for a little conviviality.

Hosts Rick Fox, a KSO board member, and Ralph Cianelli put out a sumptuous cocktail spread and wine for every taste as board members listened to Mike Benjamin perform Christmas carols on the piano while they admired Fox and Cianelli’s 10 over-the-top decorated Christmas trees. And that’s just counting the trees that were inside the historic estate!

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian and his wife, Caraline, rushed into the party straight from the final of four performances of the popular Clayton Holiday Concert at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. This was the 32nd year for the seasonal favorite. Continue reading

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Another year, another million calorie cookie event!

Margaret Rodgers brought thumbprint cookies, which were a big hit. (Especially with my husband, Alan!)

It was year 16 for the cookie exchange, and this year we moved it to a bigger venue — our new condo in the J.C. Penney Building on Gay Street downtown. Yep, the one we haven’t moved into yet. We call it our “event center” because we mostly entertain there. But, I swear, we ARE moving in. Maybe in January.

Anyway, it was a lot less crowded. Nobody had to sit on the floor and, because we have a bigger table there, we didn’t have to use window sills to display the cookies. But, despite the larger venue, the volume was just as high as always.

This is a fun event and one that many of us consider to be the unofficial launch of our Christmas seasons.

I will put the invitation at the bottom of this post. It contains all the “rules” that you can use if you’d like to host a cookie exchange yourself. Cheers! Continue reading

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A light goes out in Knoxville, but look for the signs

Mickey with Caesar Stair III, this past New Year’s Eve at an over-the-top party she helped plan at Historic Westwood.

I was at a Knox County Commission meeting last week when I began receiving worried text messages and, ultimately, a phone call with the news about the incomparable Mickey Mallonee’s passing. Mickey has been a wonderful part of my and Alan’s lives — both professionally and personally — for many years and I was having a hard time grasping that she would no longer be here.

Despite 12 years of Catholic schools, I am not an overly religious person. But, I have to tell you, over the past week or so, I have felt Mickey’s presence. I think she is trying to comfort me. I am told that other friends of hers have been experiencing the same kinds of things.

For me, it started with the flowers. That Monday night of the Commission meeting, I noticed them everywhere. A bouquet of sunflowers — in November! — on the hostess stand at the Bistro where I went right after the meeting ended. And a single stunning, perfect white rose in the ladies’ room. At home, an arrangement left over from a dinner party days before seemed strangely fresh and unwilted. It caught my attention. Continue reading

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Kefi: ‘profound passion’ in the Old City

Here’s the sign you are at the right place for fantastic Greek fun! My friend Dawn Ford with her husband, Richard, left, and my husband, Alan Carmichael.

We lived in Farragut a couple of decades ago, fortunately at the same time that one of my all-time favorite restaurants was open there: Kalamata Kitchen. It was a fabulous Greek restaurant operated by Lori and Jim Klonaris. You may recognize those names because they are the couple behind the very popular Cafe Four on Market Square.

Well, after more than 10 years away from Mediterranean cuisine, the Klonarises are back in a big way. They recently opened Kefi, a Greek restaurant at 120 Jackson Ave., in the Old City. I’m here to tell you, it is terrific!

The menu says that the word “kefi” means “profound passion.” And by that, Jim Klonaris says, it means a passion for, not only great food and drinks, but also for the camaraderie that dining together brings.

One unique feature of Kefi is its emphasis on extraordinary craft cocktails — meticulously prepared every day in big batches and served on tap, ensuring not only speed, but consistency. We tried three of them and can honestly say we’ve never had anything exactly like them. Continue reading

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Trust Fall: We were wowed in a warehouse!

Chef Jenna Baker and Trust Fall attendee Art Carmichael. Chef Baker, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and a veteran of The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, now cooks in Knoxville’s Happy Holler. (Notice the background in this photo!)

The Trust Fall dinners are back! We were so lucky to have secured tickets to the latest one, thanks to friends who couldn’t attend. The Trust Fall dinners work this way: you buy tickets and then you trust the planners.

You don’t know the menu; you don’t know the venue. You can’t make special dietary requests. All you know is the chef. In this case it was Jenna Baker, who specializes in healthy cooking and owns Cook to be Well on Irwin Street in Happy Holler.

At about 3 p.m. on the Saturday of the dinner, we received an email with clues about where to go. The event was to start at 6:15. Here is the clue that came our way:

“How does a woman, cook nurse, born of a slave, dropped in the middle of a hostile spot in the Confederacy, ignored and dismissed, become a famed soldier and activist?

“The twenty-dollar secret sister, famous figure, led a railroad of resisters to assist her by being a clever trickster — by being itchy with the trigger. By forty, she’d freed hundreds while hunters missed her.”

Yep, we were headed to Harriet Tubman Street! Continue reading

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Natalie Haslam: East Tennessean of the Year

Natalie Haslam accepting the honor of East Tennessean of the Year last week.

The East Tennessee Historical Society honored Natalie Haslam last week with its highest honor. She was named East Tennessean of the Year and feted during a sold-out banquet at Cherokee Country Club. She was surrounded by friends and family members packed snugly into the club’s ballroom. The crowd included her stepson, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

A native Knoxvillian, Natalie Haslam graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts in 1952. She has been an active volunteer and philanthropist in Knoxville.

She was the first woman to be president of the Knoxville Symphony Society and has been president of the East Tennessee Foundation and the East Tennessee Historical Society.

She was a founding board member of the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has served on the boards of the Tennessee Arts Commission, Child and Family Services, Zoo Knoxville, Maryville College, Webb School of Knoxville, Wellness Community and Junior League. A graduate of the Leadership Knoxville Class of ’86, she also has been president of The Knoxville Garden Club and the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville.

Continue reading

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