Giggle Ball. Jessica Ann Tyson’s Chocolate Extravaganza benefiting Laughfest & Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

Giggle Ball. Jessica Ann Tyson’s Chocolate Extravaganza
benefiting Laughfest and Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids
Amway Grand Plaza :: Ambassador Ballroom
Friday, March 9, 2012

Our friend, supporter, community leader and event mogul Jessica Ann Tyson shared her 40th birthday party by throwing herself an event themed fundraiser called: “Giggle Ball – Jessica Ann’s Chocolate Themed Birthday Extravaganza,” benefiting Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids.

If you don’t know Jessica Ann, as one of GR’s hottest event planners, she always goes above board with her parties. Last night featured strolling chocolate — wayyy too much chocolate, Jessica; a cake walk, live band, our favorite Soundscaper DJ Todd Ernst, dancing, bar and a bake off of ‘whoopi pies’ in honor of comedian Whoopi Goldberg who we had shot earlier that evening. (Pics of Whoopi)

The Giggle Ball was also the first event we’ve photographed in the newly restored Ambassador Ballroom inside of the Amway Grand Plaza. Tickets cost guests $20 with 100% of the money going directly back to Gilda’s Club.

There are many events taking place during Laughfest that are fundraisers for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. Be sure to visit their website, designate ‘other seriously funny events’ in the event type search menu:

Event Photography: Tim Motley

It’s Always a Party at Ramona’s Table

In the early to mid 20th century, Ramona Park graced the shores of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. An entertainment hot spot, the amusement park featured roller coasters and a theater that attracted famous Vaudeville acts and huge audiences.

Jackie Ziehm and Charlie Palm pay homage to this bygone era by operating Ramona’s Table – a farm-to-table restaurant located at 2232 Wealthy Street in East Grand Rapids. A husband-and-wife team of restaurateurs with over 15 years of experience, they researched the history of their potential restaurant location at the Grand Rapids Public Library.

“I love the name Ramona,” Jackie said. “It was historical. It was perfect.”

But how did Jackie and Charlie — two self-described “corporate rats from the automotive industry” — come to open their Gaslight Village restaurant three years ago?

Jackie said that she and her husband “traveled a lot and worked really hard” in the 1990’s. As automotive specialty chemicals salespeople, they had no background in the restaurant business — but they both loved food.

“At one point, we made a decision,” said Jackie. “If we’re working this hard, we should do something for ourselves rather than for everybody else.”

Armed with strong business acumen, a creative flair, and a love of food; the dynamic couple ventured into the restaurant business.

“We owned a chain before this, but found out pretty quickly we weren’t chain people.” said Jackie. “We didn’t agree with how they did things. We didn’t think the quality was what it needed to be. So we decided we were going to do it the way we thought it should be done.”

The location of Ramona’s Table was the couple’s dream location. They loved the East Grand Rapids community and the pedestrian traffic of Gaslight Village.

“We actually looked at this spot and it was out of our reach,” said Jackie. “When it went into foreclosure, we were able to afford it. For us, it was a dream location.”

It’s little wonder that the East Grand Rapids community has embraced Ramona’s Table since it opened. Researching a historically relevant name was only a first step for the Ziehms. Their continuing respect for the local area appears to be a common theme in the way the Ziehm’s operate their growing business.

A farm-to-table restaurant that offers catering and serves private parties, Ramona’s Table uses as much fresh, local produce as possible to create a variety of bold sandwiches, wraps, salads, appetizers, entrees, and more. The recently expanded restaurant and deli seats 52, and offers alfresco dining on the patio in the warmer months. The majority of patrons hail from East Grand Rapids, but Ramona’s Table is also becoming a destination restaurant for out-of-towners who appreciate the their local yet adventurous approach to food.

“We have a gentleman who lives in Detroit, actually, who comes to our business,” said Jackie Ziehm. “And every time he comes to this side of the state he comes in to buy carrot cake. He’s probably the person who travels the furthest.”

When it comes to engaging the palette of the local community, education is key. The couple feels passionate about broadening culinary horizons and introducing the community to different tastes and flavor profiles.

You might see unfamiliar ingredients on the restaurant menu. Wheatberry. Quinoa. Jicama. Farro. Daikon radishes. Ox tail. Endive…

“We use ingredients that many of our customers have never seen before,” said Ziehm. “And we tell them ‘taste this!’ Tell us what you think!”

They shared their enthusiasm for the future of the business.

“We really want to have a garden and do it as a community outreach with the school. We can’t say we have all the details worked out, but it’s certainly something we’d like to do.”

Further, Ramona’s Table plans to offer a more upscale meal delivery program. Customers can call ahead to get a baked from scratch meal. Home cooked meals-to-go include favorites like braised short ribs, pot roasts, and lasagnas.

They recently hired creative local food phenom Aaron Burrows as their head chef. Locally, Burrows has developed a following among those devoted to creativity, sustainability, and locavorism. They found Burrows through a FarmLink inquiry — they wanted to find a chef who felt passionate about sourcing local food — including protein and produce.

Burrows was the man. Formerly with Salt of the Earth in Fennville and Graydon’s Crossing in Grand Rapids, Burrows brings his passion for sustainable living to Ramona’s Table. He readily admits that he is “stoked” about local gardening, composting, and keeping revenue in the local community. He hopes to share his knowledge with elementary school children.

“Just talking about this stuff gives me goosebumps,” he said.

Burrows acknowledges that his bosses are great about creative collaboration in the kitchen. “The meals to go thing? Yeah, that’s going to be all my stuff on there.”

And catering?

“We just did a party for 200 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. We did endive salad spears as one of cold appetizers,” Burrows said. Lamb pops, butternut squash ravioli, chipotle BBQ meat balls, and red grapes wrapped in goat cheese and crushed pistachios were just some of the other delectable menu items at the event.

Ramona’s Table also recently catered the Grand Opening for M-Live‘s new offices.

While the restaurant is come-as-you-are casual, the catering and food choices are uniquely sumptuous. If you eat with your eyes before you bring the food to your lips, the cozy ambiance and remarkable creativity displayed at Ramona’s Table will win you over with its simple elegance and passion for boldly adventurous local food choices.

Ramona’s Table is open Monday – Saturday from 8 AM – 8 PM.

Be sure to visit Ramona’s Table’s website:

For daily specials and to up-t0-date news, LIKE Ramona’s Table’s Facebook page:

Contributing writer: Laura Bergells
Contributing photographers: Tim Motley/Katy Batdorff
Video: Michael Cook


Kindergarten Here I Come!

Grand Rapids Public Museum
March 7, 2012
Contributing Writer: Danielle Josephine DeWitt

Members of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Class of 2025 had a “night at the museum” on Wednesday to learn about what next year would bring when they walk into their first day of school. It was the annual “Kindergarten Here I Come!” event hosted by GRPS at the Grand Rapids Public Museum to familiarize parents of incoming kindergartners with the options and amenities available to their children as they begin their first year of school. There were 27 schools and more than a dozen services represented throughout the three floors of the Van Andel Museum Center, with principals, teachers, and program directors ready to meet parents and their kids.

As I talked to the many teachers and administrators who were there, it didn’t take me long to see that kindergarten has changed since 1981, the year I started my school years. Gone are the days of cookies, milk, and naptime. As standards have been raised, so has the level of academic rigor experienced by kindergarteners today. One of the first people I met was Judy Brown, Kindergarten teacher at East Leonard Elementary. She talked about the balance that teachers must find so that they are teaching all of the required material and make sure that the kids do not become discouraged or feel overwhelmed.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Academy which places an emphasis on the character traits of leaders in its curriculum. They have partnerships with First United Methodist Church and several other family foundations and local companies, who help the school to provide extensive tutoring in reading and math and help opportunities for their students such as community outings to local museums and cultural attractions. They also have in-house health services provided by the Kent School Services Network which helps ensure that their students remain physically, emotionally, and socially ready to learn.

Another school represented was the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, where teachers use principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach in their curriculum. The basic idea of this approach is that to observe what children know, are curious about, and what challenges them. There are ten principles, a few of which are The Image of the Child; Teachers as Partners; Collaboration and Interaction; and The Role of Parents. Teacher Sana Amash told me about the non-traditional classrooms—teachers partner with students to develop projects, shared workspaces replace individual desks, and teachers work in pairs.

The final program I visited with was Baby Scholars, which is a program of Believe to Become. Baby Scholars provides free help and educational support for children 5 months to 5 years old who meet certain geographic criteria and who plan to send their child to GRPS. It begins with home coaching for babies 5 to 19 months, provides workshops for parents and their children from 20-3 months, and then offers a 12-week curriculum for preschoolers between the ages of 3-5 years old. The primary goal of Baby Scholars is to prepare each child for kindergarten. This program is collaboration between Believe to Become, Arbor Circle, Early Neighborhood Learning Collaborative, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc., Strong Beginnings and Spectrum Health.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is doing a lot of great work for all of their students, and I look forward to seeing what this class of 2025 brings to the world. Even if you do not live in GR, check out their programs and see if there is anything you can do to support these schools.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Public Schools:

Be sure to LIKE the GRPS on Facebook:

Miss America visits Grand Rapids Montessori Academy

West Michigan Woman Magazine, lifestyle magazine, brought Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler, to Grand Rapids. Miss America spoke yesterday, March 6, during an assembly at the Grand Rapids Montessori. She later joined the YMCA ‘LOOP Afterschool’ program afterward at the school.

Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler, is spending her year of service touring the country encouraging young people to pursue a college education, and share her passion for the arts and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The YMCA ‘LOOP Afterschool’ program at Grand Rapids Montessori Academy is a K-8 program funded by 21st CCLC. It is a partnership between the Grand Rapids Public School District and the YMCA. The program has been using Kidzmath and Kidzscience curriculum and running a Lego® engineering club.

The Miss America Organization (MAO) efforts mirror the national momentum to teach STEM curricula outside tradition school settings, targeting female students who are currently under-represented in STEM professions.

“Our hope is to help shift girls’ attitudes about STEM and boost the percentage of women employed in STEM-related industries. It’s not just the right thing to do, but is also the smart thing to do for America’s future and our economy,” Kaeppeler said.

To learn more about Miss America Organization (MAO), visit their website:

To learn more about Grand Rapids Montessori Academy, visit their website:


Butterflies are Blooming at Frederik Meijer Gardens

Each year Meijer Gardens holds their most popular annual exhibition and the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the nation. From March 1–April 30, visitors can escape the Michigan winter and visit the temporary home of more than 6,000 tropical butterflies which fly free in the 15,000-square-foot Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory.

Their are more than 40 different species from the Far East, Africa and Central America. Each week hundreds of chrysalises arrive at Meijer Gardens and are sorted, inspected, labeled and pinned inside a sealed Butterfly Bungalow. The chrysalises are then placed in a special emergence area of the Bungalow where visitors can witness through a window their magical transformation into butterflies.

Once they are ready to be released into the conservatory, the butterflies are placed on plants where they acclimate to the environment and gain strength before taking to the air. It’s a wonderful place for photos and just one of the opportunities for visitors to observe the butterflies up-close and personal. Throughout the tropical environment, butterflies can be viewed drinking nectar from the flowering plants and feeding stations, lighting on the odd nose or shoulder, and congregating along the stream beds, as well as in flight all around.

During the exhibition, the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden offers special activities. Additionally, interactive displays are featured throughout.

Be sure to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on the web:

Like the on Facebook:

Photography: Terry Johnston


Eat Drink Be Merry Wine Tasting and Silent Auction at St. Cecilia Music Center

Hundreds of wine lovers escaped the cold and rain on Friday night by attending the 3rd annual Eat Drink Be Merry Wine Tasting and Silent Auction at St. Cecilia Music Center. The elegant setting of St. Cecilia’s was perfectly combined with wonderful hors d’oeuvres from Catering by Martha’s Vineyard and  Nantucket Baking Company.

There were over 100 varieties of wine from all over the globe—something for everyone—from  Martha’s Vineyard. Each guest was given a list of the available wines at each table and then had the option to order their favorites at the end of the night. Appetizers ranged from wild mushroom and goat cheese crostini to pesto chicken skewers. Everything was delicious!

As guests enjoyed their delectable food and drink, they also had the opportunity to bid on some fantastic auction items donated by Grand Rapids Civic Theater, San Chez Bistro & Café, the Amway Grand Plaza and many more. Friday’s event was a fundraiser for St. Cecilia’s, which was founded in 1883 by nine women from Grand Rapids who wanted to share and encourage the study and appreciation of music.

When it first began, the members met in each other’s homes and performed for the group and then evolved into bringing internationally known musicians to perform, raising money for a physical space to host these performances. Today they continue to bring some of the world’s finest musical artists to Grand Rapids as well as offering music education for all ages. If you’ve never been to St. Cecilia’s for a performance, be sure and put it on your to-do list.

Contributing writer: Danielle Josephine DeWitt :: Photography: Tim Motley

For more information on St. Cecilia Music Center, visit their website:

LIKE them on Facebook:

Alive in the Dead of Winter

Last evening Grand Rapids Community Foundation hosted its first Alive in the Dead of Winter event and we were there. A bit tongue in cheek, the event connected guests to local estate planning attorneys who discussed the importance of getting one’s affairs in order.

The dead serious topic was kept light with morbid (yet delicious) morsels from chef Kate Leeder, Corpse Revivers—the signature cocktail, and ghoulish décor.

Community Foundation President Diana Sieger welcomed guests and turned it over to a panel featuring Grand Rapids planning pros. Mandy Chardoul from Plante Moran Wealth Management explained the issues that need to be considered when crafting a plan. Chris Matthysse from Law Weathers described the basic components of a good plan. Tom Kyros from Varnum LLP discussed tax considerations. Wendy Holtvluwer from Miller Johnson described charitable considerations. During the panel discussion the grim reaper also made an appearance.

If you missed the event, here’s what you need to know:

An estate plan is an overarching tool that includes several elements—a will, advanced directives and, in some cases, a trust.

A will states exactly where you want your assets to be distributed when you die. It also names guardians for your children, if you have any. Everyone needs a will.

A trust can be included in the will, or it can be a separate entity. It provides a way for you to put conditions on how and when your assets are distributed. In some cases it can reduce your tax burden. Not everyone needs a trust.

Estate planning is not an exclusive activity for older adults or the super-rich. It is simply a tool to protect your family in the event that something bad happens.

For domestic partners or unmarried couples, an estate plan is an absolute necessity. Under the law, without a plan the State says who gets your assets. If a person is not married, the assets will go directly to children. If there are no children, they go up the line to the person’s parents. The partner would be cut out. A good estate plan is the only way around this.

Advanced directives, including financial powers of attorney and durable power of attorney for healthcare, allow you to choose someone you trust to make financial and healthcare decisions for you—if you cannot.

In addition to your family, you can choose to support your favorite charitable causes through an estate plan. In particular, there are tax advantages to naming a nonprofit as a beneficiary of your retirement assets.

Plante Moran Wealth Management sponsored this event.

For a list of estate planners that the Community Foundation has worked with, please visit

You can like the Community Foundation on Facebook at

Photography: Tim Motley :: Contributing Story: Amanda St. Pierre

Mind’s Eye plays Ottawa Tavern Jazz Kitchen

It’s rumored that the members of Mind’s Eye are some of the most in-demand Jazz musicians in the Midwest and seeing as we will be involved in a whole lot of jazz events this summer, we decided we needed to check them out.

We’ve been inside Ottawa Tavern since they started their change over to Jazz earlier this year and Tim’s first experience was working with a small stage and difficult lighting. He was pleased to find that the transition is starting. There are now 3-dimensional, led lights wrapping around the entire stage — a photographer’s dream… or at least his.

Mind’s Eye didn’t disappoint either. Their edgy contemporary jazz sound filled the room as a cozy audience sipped on cocktails and enjoyed the classic Gilmore Collection fare that Ottawa Tavern is known for. The band members are all composers and university instructors and that oozes through each song they played.

Mind’s eye has performed at the Montreux International, Detroit/Montreux/Ford, and Flint/King Cobra Jazz Festivals, to name a few. Mind’s Eye has 4 recordings: Angst For The Spoiler, Seasons, Lucky 9, and Children Of The Glacier.

Ottawa Tavern is currently Grand Rapid‘s only authentic jazz club with a promise to showcase only GR’s best local jazz talent and nationally touring favorites. There are two stages: a main stage and a more intimate “second stage” creating a unique atmosphere and much need addition to Grand Rapids’ music scene.

To LIKE Ottawa Tavern Jazz Kitchen on Facebook:

136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club


FEBRUARY 13 & 14, 2012


“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” — Nora Roberts

On January 1st, 2012 I asked. I had done my research and couldn’t believe that I was going to be emailing David Frei a personal email. I admit I was a bit nervous, more star struck than anything else. David is the Director of Communciations and the television commentary for Westminster Kennel Club. He was my ticket in.

Hi David,

Happy New Year!

I am writing today from Grand Rapids, Michigan to see what the possibility might be of getting a photo pass.

We are an online magazine based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have been in dogs for a long time. In fact, I had a Bernese Mountain Dog win Best of Breed in 2005. I hung up showing to pursue my interests in social media and marketing, started the magazine. Now we are branching out of Grand Rapids to other cities. New York is on our list for February.

We are mostly interested in shooting during the day, possibly at night. I have one professional photographer that will be traveling with me. We will also be trying to shoot some fashion while we are in the city.

This has been a life long dream of mine (to cover this properly.) I’m good friends with Clint LivingstonJay Richardson and many other long time dog people. It would be fun to get some great pictures.

I really enjoy following you on facebook as well. We’re friends! 

Let me know what you think. I’d also love to get some portraits of you (and a brief interview) if that might be possible.




David’s response: 

Hi Laura: Please complete and return the credential application form in the Media Center on our home page and we will get you a photo pass. We are very limited in our media capacity for a number of reasons – great media interest is a pleasant problem to have – but I am happy to find room for you. Thanks for your interest in Westminster, we look forward to having you with us.

— David

Upon our acceptance, Terry and I traveled to NYC and experienced Westminster in a way I had never before. I’ve been to this dog show as an exhibitor, an assistant to a handler and a spectator. To experience it as media was by far my favorite. We interviewed David Frei. We hung out in the media center when they broke the news of big changes that would happen in 2013. We hung out with the USA Network cameramen and the major news stations. We were on the floor fighting for the perfect shot. We uploaded live pictures from the floor during the group competitions and our followers loved it.

Our interview with David Frei, Director of Communications, Westminster Kennel Club: 


Our interview with 2011 Pro Plan President’s Award: Silvana Vogel Tedeschi”


Our chat with Photographer and handler Jeffery Hanlin on Day 1 of Westminster Kennel Club:


Chat with Wendy Pinto, dog handler from Medina, Ohio


Our interview with Kim Groves, Avatar Bernese:

For two straight days we lived in the trenches of the dog show, watching the judging process of breed after breed during the day. The applause, the screams of joy, the faces of defeat. We captured it all. We found interesting people to talk to — shooting short videos of random people of interest. The most amazing night was Best in Show. We had found our way down to the floor and were able to shoot professionally and upload behind the scenes photos live to our facebook page right from the floor. Everyone loved it but none more than us.

For four days we lived on bagels and coffee. We worked all day long well into the night. It was an exhilarating experience that we are looking forward to doing again in 2013!

Check out the facebook albums: 

Westminster Kennel Club – Day One
February 13, 2012

Daytime Judging:


Westminster Kennel Club – Day Two
February 14, 2012

Daytime Judging:

Groups and Best In Show Competition

This year’s Westminster Kennel Club 137th Annual Dog Show will be held on Monday and Tuesday, February 11-12, 2013 at Madison Square Garden. Be sure to check them out on FACEBOOK.