Pumpkin spice, sweaters & colorful leaves… is it finally Fall!?

Well, maybe not yet, but we can see subtle signs popping up in the greater Phoenix area.  There has been a hint of cooler mornings, fall decorations has made its way into the stores and in our homes, as well as the return of that special pumpkin beverage we have grown to love.

 Well, whether or not it’s fall in Phoenix, it’s Fall at Special Moments Catering!  There have been some tantalizing aromas coming from our kitchen as our Chefs test their new dishes for the upcoming Fall season.  Right now, I am going to leave these to your imagination as the recipes are still being perfected, but the next time you walk in our building you won’t be disappointed.  Follow along…I plan to reveal these items in my next post.  I guarantee it’ll be quite a treat!

As our Chefs do what they do best, I am in my perfect element because Fall is my FAVORITE time to decorate. With the help of our décor design team we have been creating Fall centerpieces, elegant table arrangements and are having a blast creating display units that will make any table look simply beautiful.  Remember, eating is a feast for the eyes as well as the palette.  We believe your table décor should set the mood for the recipes and ingredients that are Fall’s bounty!

Watch our website for your chance to try out seasonal items that are available only this time of year and while our small supply lasts!

I look forward to giving you an insiders look on what fall means to us in the Catering business.  It’s such a beautiful time to gather, bundle up, and enjoy those comfort ingredients we all have come to love.   Best wishes, Michelle Taylor 

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Being an Admin for a day…or Two!

When you’re a part of a family business sometimes you have to do some odd jobs. Most of the time I’ll end up helping my mom in the kitchen, but the past two days I got a new job: Admin.

My uncle is in Hawaii celebrating his 10-year wedding anniversary, so his assistant, Mimi,phone is taking over parts of his job. And that’s when the granddaughter got called in to answer phones and help take orders.

I don’t work at Special Moments all that often, so when I was asked to admin by my Grandma you would know that you have to say yes. My Grandma is the person that no one can say no to.

So, Tuesday was my first day. It was interesting, but was pretty low key. I forgot my reading glasses so it was definitely hard to get things done. The phones didn’t ring all that much. And the first phone call I got was from my Grandpa.

I answered emails and phone calls, kind of. Most of my phone calls consisted of, “I’m not sure let me give you a call back.” It took a lot longer than a normal phone call to get back to someone, but, I at least answered the questions.

Today was better, I at least figured out how to use the phone system.

I didn’t realize all that went into being an assistant or an admin. Besides answering the phones, the admin is the know all of everything that is going on in the company and can relay that to both customers and fellow employees.

I did learn a lot from two days of being an assistant to the assistant, but my main takeaway is appreciate your admin!

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The Day I was Mother of the Bride

The other day, I realized, somewhat with horror, that I had been in the food and beverage business for over 20 years.  The horror did not come from being in the business itself but from the fact that I was old enough to have had a career that could span 20 years! But jaz and dawnafter accepting this piece of reality, I can say that I have had a lot of experience in all kinds of events, weddings included.  This experience has made me the go-to gal on many occasions of weddings I have attended.  I have been summoned from guest tables to help cut a wedding cake because sadly the caterer did not include that service. I have been grabbed at the entrance of the reception hall to help with some catastrophe (linens stained, bride’s dress ripping, food not ready, groomsmen drinking).  Weddings don’t scare me.  In fact I love weddings.  I tear up at every one of them, even if I’ve never met the bride and groom. I have been a bridesmaid in three weddings, a maid of honor in one wedding and I’ve even been the bride.  All of these experiences should have prepared me for my newest wedding responsibility, mother of the bride.  But it didn’t, not quite at least…

My oldest daughter, Jasmine, got married last month to her best friend Jesse.  We planned her wedding for months.  Here’s where I have to give credit to some extraordinary vendors who I had the privilege of working with as a personal client for the first time.  I’ll list their websites at the end because I highly recommend them.  Jasmine wanted an outdoor wedding and we instantly thought of Inside the Bungalow.  This is a quirky, hidden little gem of a venue.  It is reasonably priced and can accommodate both the ceremony and the reception.  It was an absolute perfect match for Jasmine and Jesse and Betty made the experience for all of us fun and easy. We got our venue booked, we got our caterer booked (I’m guessing that one was obvious) and we visited my friends, Ginia and Sandy at Yknot Party.  They helped create the centerpieces and flowers Jasmine visualized and tolerated all of our changes and indecisiveness.  Dan from NDK Professional DJ service was next in line to be secured and he too was kind and understanding and reminded me of exactly why we choose to recommend him to our clients.  Amy at Piece of Cakes Desserts must have answered ten emails I sent her about cupcakes.  Every detail was accounted for and I couldn’t have been more excited on the day of the wedding.  But up until this point, I was more like a wedding planner helping to create something special for a bride.  When I woke up that Saturday morning, I was instead, mother of the bride.  And nothing quite prepared me for the emotions of that!

The day began with such beautiful weather I couldn’t help but sneak out for an early morning walk in it.  I even recall praising the heavens for giving us pretty clouds and cool breezes at the end of April!  I was almost giddy with excitement as the guys trudged decorations over to the venue and the girls began to arrive to get ready.  Everything was going exactly as planned.  I made Jasmine promise to decide before the wedding even began that it was a perfect day.  I gave her the speech every bride should hear.  That everything that can go wrong will go wrong and that nothing should matter exact for that golden moment when you become united in marriage.  I meant every word I said too.

But as I sipped mimosas with the giggling bridesmaids, the clouds began to roll in, the wind began to shake the trees and a few raindrops began to fall.  I’ll admit it…there was a tiny bit of panic.  (My husband might describe it as verging on hysteria).  But rain???  For an all outdoor, uncovered venue? 150 guests soon to be approaching?  I was, to be honest, rather unnerved.  I also realized in my relaxing morning of mother of the bride, I had not let the reality of the timeline sink in.  We had two hours to set the venue with catering, décor and every other little detail we’d dreamed up.  And I had to get ready once this was all done.   As I rushed through the Bungalow’s gates cursing the rain that was soaking the table linens and frantically trying to orchestrate my volunteers into action, I realized I was no longer the 20 year old veteran but a brand new mother of the bride.  My catering captain arrived and I sought reassurance from him on the weather.  He looked at me wryly and said that the last time he had worked an outdoor wedding, he’d gotten soaked.  I stopped and stared at him.  “I’m the mother of the bride!” I told him.  “It’s going to be fine – it will blow over”, he lied and hurried away.

There were so many things to finish up.  The pictures to put on all the tables. The bubbles and party favors to put at every place setting.  The Polaroid guest book to setup.  The tree planting ceremony.  The cake.  The corsages to be passed out to the grandparents who were arriving and asking me why I was still in jeans and flip flops.

But ask me how it all went?  I’ll tell you that it was the best and most beautiful wedding ever.  And in my heart, I really and truly think it was.  It was absolutely perfect.  My daughter glowed and she and Jesse couldn’t have looked more in love.  Everyone we cared about was there and the dance floor was packed all night.  What I’m not telling you is that the wind was blowing so hard we couldn’t pass out programs during the ceremony.  I’m not mentioning how my grandson, the ring bearer, chose the moment of walking down the aisle to have a meltdown that required me to grab him and carry him out. I’m not telling you that my grandparents were so cold I had to get extra tablecloths from my catering crew to wrap them in.  I’m not mentioning the rain that finally came down on us right as we had dinner.

The reason I’m not mentioning those things is not because I want to hide the reality from my telling of this story, but because they are the irrelevant details that took place.  The wedding was perfect, my daughter told me so.  She had the best time she could have ever imagined.  After that wind and mild rain came through, the sky cleared and the stars shown and we enjoyed cool enough weather to dance in long dresses and suit coats at the end of April. In Arizona.

Despite verging on the brink of hysteria, deep in the back of my mind I knew that it would all be okay – that it would all work out in the end.  But like I said, I wasn’t prepared to be mother of the brjesse and jazide.  Not because of the stress, the weather, the uncertainly of the whole planned out day… but because I had no idea my heart could feel that large.  I had no idea how completely and utterly struck I would be by the beauty of my girl as she beamed up at Jesse or how handsome my husband would look as he gave away her hand.  I couldn’t even have begun to know what it would feel like to hug the family members of my new son in law and know that we were now bonded in such a special way.  I wasn’t prepared for the emotional experience of looking across the beautiful courtyard and knowing that every person in the place was so very special and significant to our families.  And when my sweet loving daughter, who was now someone’s wife, hugged me and thanked me for her perfect day, I didn’t know a piece of my heart would forever be walking out with her.

What a wonderful experience that entire day was.  And having lived it first hand, I feel utterly honored by all of the mothers who have put their trust in me and my company to create their daughter’s perfect day.  I thought I knew why you cried and teared up over all the details, but I didn’t.  Not really.  Not until the day I was just like you.  The day I was Mother of the Bride.

 

 

As promised… here are the links to the amazing vendors who made Jasmine’s day a great success!

Inside the Bungalow      www.insidethebungalow.com

YKnot Party Rentals        www.yknotparty.com

NDK Pro DJ                         www.ndkprodj.com

Piece of Cake Desserts  www.pieceofcake.com

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Bartending

For the past two years I have been bartending at a restaurant. But, occasionally I will pick up some bartending shifts over at my family’s catering company.wine

I have worked events where there was a full bar and some where there is a limited bar with just beer and wine.

Both work out great, but it really depends on what kind of event you would like to have. Another important aspect to think of is how much alcohol you will actually need.

When your event is during the day, it is unlikely that you will need as much as you would at night. Also, the drinks tend to be a lot mimosa-selectionlighter with mimosas, champagne or a mixed punch are some of the popular ones.

However, nighttime events are a whole different ball game. People tend to drink more along with heavier alcohol content drinks such as beer, wine and liquor.

Ordering alcohol for a large group of people is difficult, but there are so many sites and Pinterest accounts that offer different cheat sheets so to say with about how much liquor that you will need for your event based on the number of people attending and what you will be serving.

I worked an event where we served a signature cocktail: a blood orange mojito (YUM!). But, it wasn’t for everyone. My biggest piece of advice is to have your drinks diverse enough that everyone can find something that they will enjoy.

If you plan on serving wine, include both a red and a white. And, if you’re serving spirits, make sure that you have a variety of mixers (soda, tonic, cranberry, etc.).

And, if you’re not sure what your party needs, ask. We’re more than happy to answer questions or give any recommendations.

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Mixing Family with Work

I often get asked: How in the world do you work with your family and still get along?  The answer comes down to one word:  RESPECT

My wife, Michelle, and I started this journey in 1984.  Both of our kids were in school and Michelle wanted to get back into the work force.  I was a sergeant in the Tempe Police Department at the time.  Neither Michelle nor I wanted to tie her to a fixed schedule so we went down the “let’s start our own business” path.  Michelle was a trained cake designer so we began with that.  One day I headed off to the credit union and borrowed IMG_2178three hundred dollars.  I will never forget coming home with three one hundred dollar bills and announcing to Michelle “start your business!” “Go get some business cards and cake pans and let’s start.”  Thus the journey began.

We have come a long way since then and it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.  As the business grew it also became a great place to employ our kids as they went through high school and college.  (Go Sun Devils)

When I retired from the police department, I settled in to working full time at Special Moments.  It had definitely grown and needed someone less in operations and more in management to oversee daily growth and activities.  Now keep in mind I was trained in management in a para military environment.  How is this training going to transfer to the family business?   I think you can see the perfect storm brewing!

Fortunately for us, that didn’t happen.  The storm passed us by for several reasons.  The first was my interest in modern management styles and my passion for being my own boss.  For years I read books on management and I became very proficient in marketing and sales.  I knew that if I was going to fit into our business I would need to have a different skill set than Michelle.

As time goes by, Dawn graduates from ASU with a marketing degree and Brad graduates from there a few years later with a finance degree.  They both decide to stay on and help grow the family business.  Why not, some day they will be the owners! (Not in the near future I hope.)  In my mind we now have a perfect storm in a different way.  A marketing person, a finance guy, a Martha Steward type (with a better attitude) and me the guy that spent most of his other career in supervision and management.

What a super combination you are probably thinking.  Not so fast… add the family dimension to the formula.  Young adults set out to make their mark on their chosen careers.  Bosses help them along the way.  What if the boss is also dad or husband?  In my old career at times we just had to let people go when we couldn’t see eye to eye on performance.  You can’t fire your wife and business partner or your kids for that matter.  (Well you could…but that probably won’t go over well when you get home.) It takes a great deal of thinking to succeed at this.

The first rule is to do what you are good at and stay out of the way.  Sure there are times you have to be the boss but that is only sometimes.  You have to let people on your staff (family members) fail and not take it personally.  Learn the one minute manager approach.  Try to handle problems quickly without being a pain in the butt.  I can’t say I’ve always done that but I try.  AND DON’T BRING IT HOME!!!!  If you do, get it out of the way fast and move on.  The difficult part of the process is working as a family is a great blessing and curse at the same time.  When you have problems at a nonattached workplace you speak your mind, take action, move on and then go home.  Not as easy when the problem is involving your spouse or kid.  They don’t always take direction in a positive way and you don’t always give it in a positive manner.  But as time goes by the blessing part begins to show.  All parties get better at what they do and then the benefits of having dedicated and trustworthy people on your team shows.  The other blessing is you always have each other’s back.  Helping with babysitting issues or sick days, vacation time, you get the picture.

There is a tradeoff here as the business develops.  Your kids are going to take over at some point so they have a great deal to say about how the company gets built.  More so than a regular employee does.  However the tradeoff is buy in.   Here is where the word “Respect” is so important.  As a family, we respect each other strengths and allow for opinions that shapes our futures together.  We enjoy watching our successes and equally feel the pain of our failures.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

In summary:  Let your family members have their own identity, try not to always be right, get out of the way, don’t bring it home and don’t make it personal.  Enjoy the ride, watch your kids, yourself and spouse get better at working together.  Bask in the benefits and brush off the difficult times.  Respect what you all bring to the table and enjoy the ride.  By the way, I was just talking to my daughter Dawn.  I believe you may get her take on this topic real soon.  Stay Tuned.

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Maid of Honor Duties

I have always been on the food production and planning side of a wedding, so when my sister asked me to be her maid of honor, I was in for a surprise.

There is so much to planning a wedding and being in a wedding that is shocking, especially for my younger generation.

The biggest thing that I was struggling with was the time management aspect of everything. When my sister decided that she wanted a spring wedding, I wasn’t expecting it to be in less than a year.IMG_2029

But, between my highly-organized mom and my weirdly-organized self, we managed to help my sister who is the complete opposite of organized get it together.

During the month of February, I threw my sister a bachelorette party as well as a bridal shower. It was crazy planning two parties for her in the same month. Note to self: Never do that again.

The bridal shower was the party that took a lot more preparation. We have a big family, so it was hard to find a place and time that worked for everyone in the wedding and the mother of the bride and the groom.

After picking a date, I sIMG_2009 tarted planning the games and activities that we would do as well as the food.

My family and I made all of the food for the party. (I couldn’t have done it without their help!) But, one of the things that made planning this party so much easier was setting up a menu in advance.

Some of the things I learned from planning an event of this magnitude can carry over to other events as well.

My biggest piece of advice IMG_2007when planning a wedding or any other related event is to ask for help, plan ahead of time and to have fun.

You can assign different bridesmaids a job to help out for different aspects. For example, I had one bridesmaid in charge of party favors and another was in charge of games, which included the prizes as well.

Another thing that helped out was to plan far enough ahead of time that I could just do a little bit each week in order to get the job done.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun during the event.

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What’s Up with Special Diets?

When I was making dinner the other evening for a family gathering, I got to thinking how many different diets I had to take into consideration.  There were vegetarians, gluten free, dairy free, fat free, peanut and onion allergies.  Wow!  When did all this happen?  I couldn’t remember my Mom having to accommodate so many different diets at our large family gatherings.

This brings to mind thoughts of how important it is to relay your dietary needs to your host if you are attending any event where there is food involved.  When an event is catered, such as a wedding, don’t be afraid to let your dietary restrictions be known.  The host can then contact the caterer to let them know what type or types of special diets may be required.

In our kitchen at Special Moments we take all dietary requests seriously. IMG_2088 If we are not sure what an exact diet entails our Chefs and Kitchen Manager will research just what is needed to assure that proper safe handling techniques and ingredients are used. We will also discuss in depth with the client or better yet, directly to the guest themselves, the menu that we are planning to prepare.   If you have a life threatening food allergy you need to let your host know of this so they can inquire as to the ingredients of the menu items.  We have had some guests bring their own food, so as not to cause concern for their hosts.

When you are at an event and have not expressed your dietary needs to your host, don’t be bashful.  It is totally appropriate for you to ask the service staff if they know if a certain ingredient is in a menu item.  Our Staff is trained to contact the Chef if a question arises that they can’t answer.

Finally, as a host and you are working with a caterer or restaurant you may have to pay more for dietary requests, but it is certainly worth it for yours and your guest’s piece of mind.

Oh and just in case you were wondering, my dinner was a success.  Special diets and all!

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