Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul


Dave Nase, Terri Contaxis and her son Michael, Paul Rallo, Alex Maziola, Mike Walter, Jen Cunningham, Marcello Pedalino and Jake Jacobsen

It’s not often that you get a 60 degree sunny day at the end of November.  Today, mother nature was on our side for the Navesink River Challenge, a scenic 9.3 mile run in Ocean County, NJ.

The course was uncharacteristically hilly for the Jersey Shore.  I’m glad that I’ve been doing resistance training, core circuits, and swimming at the gym…otherwise, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

A shout out to Mike, who used today’s race as a springboard to get back on track to doing ’50 in 50 by 50.’ (50 marathons in 50 states by 50 years old)  He’s currently at 14 and recovering from an Achilles’ heel surgery.   Run, Forrest, Run! Special mention also goes out to my friend, Jake, who has transformed his body over the past year by using the P90X system. He looks like a Navy SealHoorah Master Chief!

This Is Sparta!!

This Is Sparta!!

Speaking of great movies, I probably got the coolest race tag number that was available, 300. The Spirit of the Spartan warriors was with me the whole time.

In addition to sunshine, fresh air and great company, the highlight of the day for me came at the end of the race.  Just past the typical bagels, bananas and other ho-hum post-race culinary swag: rows of steaming cups adorned the table.  It was chicken noodle soup! Even if it wasn’t as good as mom’s, it was the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had after running  almost ten miles on a brisk Sunday morning.   Yummy.

Life is good.  🙂

A Royal Sweet 16 for Madison at Dolce


Big smiles and Butterfly Kisses for Madison and her dad

She can sing, she can dance, she’s smart, she’s athletic and she’s beautiful.  Move over Snow White and Cinderella, Madison is the new princess in town.

If you could have heard the speeches that Mr. & Mrs. Taylor gave during her Royal Ball-themed Sweet 16, you’d know that Madison is  a very special young lady whose future is bright.

Catering director, Christine Boyce, and the staff from Dolce transformed the ballroom by teaming up with Madison’s mom, Susan, who is a talented designer by trade.  The decor was modern elegance and the vibe was festive, perfect for a guest of honor who is full of life and beyond her years when it comes to maturity and grace.  Special thanks to Christine who helped me orchestrate a seamless evening of hospitality and entertainment from the initial design session and site survey to the night-of logistics.

We supplied the lightscaping for the room by color washing the perimeter walls with 25 carnation pink,  LED uplights. This effect along with a custom visual (that Susan designed) on the room’s 20 ft. projection screen let the guests know they were in for a regal experience.


Madison and Eleanor perform

One of the event highlight’s was when Madison and her good friend, Eleanor, performed the song, Unlimited, from Wicked. They were fabulous.  We usually encourage the the guest of honor to personalize their event by sharing their talents with family and friends.

Madison and her father, Michael, chose the classic, Butterfly Kisses, for the father-daughter dance.  It was a wonderful moment.  As a professional DJ and Master of Ceremonies that entertains at a lot of wedding receptions, it’s always a sentimental feeling when I get a glimpse of a future bride dancing with her dad. I love my job.

Michael, Mackinley and Susan

Michael, Mackinley and Susan

Madison’s little sister, Mackinley, danced all night long like the rest of the guests,  even though she was on crutches.  She even won the voice activated LED T-Shirt during the dance contest.  Songs like Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Sweet Caroline, Fire Burning, Party In the USA, Down and this year’s biggest hit, I Gotta Feeling, were dance floor favorites.

From the grand entrance, to the affectionate candlelighting to the last dance with her family and friends, it was our pleasure to help Madison celebrate her inner princess.

There’s no doubt she’ll grow up to be a stunning queen of the ball.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: Jake Celebrates at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club

group-shot-largeIf  you were to ask Jake and his family to reminisce about his Bar Mitzvah last Saturday night, it is safe to say that they wouldn’t be at a loss for words.  Not only did the Grubers hire professional photographers to capture the evening’s festivities, they upgraded to our  Coney Island Photo Booth and Paparazzi multi-media package. As you can see from the images  and customized visuals that we featured on this entry, Jake and his family and friends had a blast and enjoyed every minute of this once in a  lifetime experience.

ci-gruberFrom the initial design session at their home back in February, I knew this had the potential to be an awesome night.  Jake was a popular, well-mannered guest of honor who liked to dance.  His parents, Brenda and Craig, knew exactly what they liked, what they didn’t like, and liked to dance as well.  His brothers, Matty and Sammy, were very cool and supportive.  We all played the home version of our cocktail hour favorites- the Interactive Game Show and Picture This Game right there in their living room!

jakes-vip-crew1The week before Jake’s Bar Mitzvah was the second indication that his Bar Mitzvah was going to be fabulous.  I came back to the house for the VIP meet-and-greet dance party. Jake had some of best friends over so they could share their special requests, tell me about the other Bar Mitzvahs they’ve gone to and could review all the most popular dances that we’d be doing on Saturday.   I even taught them a brand new dance that just came out on the Bar Mitzvah circuit, we named it the Jake G. Slide. Special thanks to my good friend DJ Jeffrey B. from the Blend Brothers who produced the audio mashup remix of Jay Sean’s number 1 hit Down which I used as the soundtrack for the choreography.  The kids had a great time and were totally pumped up for the main event.

jake-hora-largeThe final ingredient in the perfect recipe was the location that the Gruber’s chose.  It was the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in South Orange, New Jersey.  The OLTC boasts an elegant ambiance and attentive hospitality thanks to the Catering Director, Lisa Haberman; delectable cuisine courtesy of their new executive “top chef,” Ariane Duarte; and a gorgeous new ballroom thanks to some major renovations by the club recently.

jake-ci-candid1After all the phone calls, e-mails, site surveys, design sessions and dance lessons, the only thing left to do was PARTY!   I was told Jake did an excellent job at Temple in the morning…  by the time he got to the club, he was ready to party all night long, and that’s just what he did.

One of the event highlights was Craig’s toast.   He prepared  a heart-warming collection of personalized anecdotes and reflections which he delivered with sincere grace. Jake was beaming from ear-to-ear with his trademark grin that lit up the room.

I asked Craig for permission to share this paragraph from his toast.  He graciously obliged.

craigs-toast-largecraigs-toast-2-large1“Jake – I’m sure you already know this but you are a very special person. …

You have a certain charisma that is electrifying.  Your smile is contagious and you can change the tone of an entire room – I see you do it all the time. You’ve seen hard work pay off (for you) and you have that thirst to achieve.  Above all you are a dedicated brother and loyal friend to your buddies. Those relationships are the kind that makes the world go ’round.  Just continue to smile, be nice, and fair and most importantly – be yourself – because the self we’re seeing is looking real good.”

As a new father, I can only hope to feel the same way about my child someday.

So if a picture is worth a thousand words: fun, exceptional, unique and memorable is where I’d start my list.  Take a look at some of the other shots we took and what our Coney Island photo booth captured and make your own list. 🙂

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Cheering Works.

Every now and then whether you are working out at the gym, dealing with a tough problem at home or just trying get the most out of life, it helps to have friends who will be there to support your cause…  🙂

I Got A Feeling: Isabella & Jay Get Married at The Manor

isabella-and-jay-2If you are looking for “the perfect place to get married,” the New York Times will point you in the direction of West Orange, NJ.  One of their top recommendations is The Manor, a picturesque estate that boasts formal gardens, timeless decor and classic elegance.

Without dating myself too harshly, my senior prom was held there when the Father of the Bride movie premiered on VHS.   If you haven’t seen it yet and need a sanity break from planning your wedding reception and a few laughs, rent it asap  (on DVD or On-demand of course).

Isabella and Jay had a gorgeous fall day for their wedding.  The grounds of the Manor looked exquisite as the guests arrived for the ceremony.  We worked with Reverend Mitchell, whose humor and polish created personalized and entertaining nuptials for everyone in attendance.  As always, we provided professional audio support including lapel microphones so the guests who were  seated more than two rows back could enjoy all of the special vows, musical selections and heart-warming moments.

the-manor2After an impressive cocktail hour in the Manor’s atrium, family and friends entered the ballroom to await Isabella and Jay’s grand entrance.  They were tapping their toes and snapping their fingers to the sounds of Michael Buble, Spiral Staircase, Michael McDonald, The Beatles, Michael Franti and Stevie Wonder.   After the bridal party was introduced with customized audio clips and pre-programmed lighting effects, Isabella and Jay came into a personalized edit of Paradise City, by Guns and Roses, which brought the energy of the room up to the next level.

Isabella and Jay chose Stuck on You by Lionel Ritchie for their wedding song, Daughter by Loudon Wainwright for the father-daughter dance and Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd for the mother-son dance.    One of the dance floor highlights was watching Isabella’s family doing a seven minute Hora before the main course was served.  I felt like I was doing a Bat Mitzvah; the guests were loving it.

After the cake cutting, which Isabella chose the 2nd verse of Your In My Heart by Rod Stewart to be played in the background, family and friends returned to the atrium to enjoy the Manor’s Viennese stations.

isabella-jay-13For the last dance, we played a crowd favorite to get all of the remaining guests back onto the dance floor.  It was I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. Isabella and Jay sang and danced along with their family and friends to end the night with everyone cheering for the brand-new Mr. and Mrs. McMahon.

It’s always a pleasure collaborating with the Manor.   Marwan Jurri, the maitre d’ and Jim Levinsky, the banquet manager, extended their hospitality throughout the evening and were instrumental in orchestrating a smooth reception.

Special thanks to Rich Janniello, from Ciro Photography, who shared his fantastic photos for this blog entry.  This was the first time we had the opportunity to team up.  Based on his professionalism, I hope we get to collaborate again soon.  Rich was always in the right place at the right time in an un-obtrusive manner.  We also had nice chat before the ceremony about why he always had three different cameras ready to go.  Rich explained why the right lens for the right moment is crucial and why having back-up equipment is paramount.   That’s the kind of event professional a bride and groom want to work with if they value peace of mind.

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