The Culinary Center of Kansas City… Bon Appétit!

Culinary Center of Kansas CityIf you’re looking for a unique dining experience, consider the Culinary Center of Kansas City, located in old downtown Overland Park. It’s a great place to take your date and learn something new from some of the finest chefs in the area. They have two large demonstration kitchens where they offer over 600 cooking classes every year with a wide variety of cooking experiences.

It’s becoming a fall tradition where Ernie and Parker host an evening out for employees and their spouses. This year, we had approximately fifty folks enjoying an Italian themed evening. Chef Sandy DiGiovanni taught us how to prepare roasted vegetable salad, chicken picatta with caper cream sauce, angel hair pasta pomodoro, sautéed spinach & radicchio and my favorite, spumoni tartufo with rumchata sauce! Each table got to wear aprons and try their hand at preparing these dishes. Pace yourselves… the food is delicious and portions are generous!

Culinary Center of Kansas CityHere are a few comments about the evening:

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to get together as a Straub family. Straub Construction is always coming up with great ideas of how to get everybody’s families together and involved. It was a great team building event learning how to make an Italian dish from scratch.”

“Going to the culinary center is one of my favorite events Straub offers its employees. Socializing with co-workers and their spouses while learning to cook great food makes for such an enjoyable evening.”

“I absolutely loved it! I’ve been there previously and have always had a great experience. I hope to do it again soon!”

So next time you have a group to entertain or just want a unique fine dining experience, check out the Culinary Center of Kansas City. Their website is

Culinary Center of Kansas City Culinary Center of Kansas City Culinary Center of Kansas City

Cross Country Mayhem!

Cross Country Mahem!As many of you with high school athletes know, team dinners are a bonding opportunity for team sports during the various seasons.

When I was told we were going to host the cross country team dinner, I didn’t think too much about it. We’d hosted one last year, but I forgot that it was just the runners participating in the regional meet, so only about twenty kids. This year, we were going to be hosting the entire team. For Blue Valley, that meant over a hundred kids were going to attend!

Thankfully, we weren’t on our own. Many parents helped, and all the kids left full and loaded with carbs.

Cross Country Mahem!I was hoping for good weather, and fortunately, while a bit chilly, the rain in the forecast moved out in the afternoon. As the kids started to arrive, I was impressed by how courteous and polite they were. All the kids I talked with were engaged and respectful. A handful even carried on a real conversation about school, cross country and other sport topics.

The only “negative” from the evening also ended up being a highlight.

Picture 25-30 kids playing football in your back yard. Check out the 19 second clip below to see them in action. Our yard ended up looking a bit worse for the wear. But it was nothing a little sweat equity couldn’t fix, and well worth the investment!

Mind you, these were freshman through seniors playing together. It’s a bit unusual for freshmen and seniors to hang out… and that’s one of the great things about cross country. It’s definitely an inclusive sport. They had a blast and played for a solid hour even after many of the kids left. Everyone looked out for each other, and anyone who wanted to participate was welcome.

Cross Country Mahem!It was really refreshing to be around these kids. They were just that, kids, having fun, being silly, bonding, and doing it in an inclusive, respectful and fun way. I’m sure you have similar stories if you have kids in sports. It’s nice to think that one day kids with these types of characteristics might be the ones who lead our communities, businesses and country.

The Gift of Life: Sandra’s Story of Overcoming Breast Cancer

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was organized to raise awareness of the disease and also to raise funds to help research the cure. If you’ve ever had breast cancer or had a loved one battle it, you know what a difficult, life-changing experience it can be.

If you’ve visited our Shawnee office, you’ve met Sandra, our Director of First Impressions, and one of the most grateful, cheerful, enthusiastic (think singing in the halls) people you will ever meet. Sandra, or “Sands”, is also a breast cancer survivor. We would like you to hear a bit of her story.

True Gratitude

Sandra“I’m not a Midwest girl by birth. I was born in Newfoundland, Canada, on an American Air Base. My father is from Philadelphia, and my mother was born and raised in Newfoundland. By the time I was eighteen, I had lived all over, spending years in Tokyo and then in Anchorage, Alaska.

“In 2004, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I knew immediately upon finding the lump that I had cancer. I don’t know how I knew exactly, but I did.

“My cancer journey began rapidly, and every day included numerous tests and consults. Then it was on to surgery, chemo, and radiation. My surgery was on a Friday the 13th, which has always been my lucky number! Chemotherapy began a few weeks after healing from the surgery and went on for several months.

“I chose to only take days off from work when I had chemo treatments. Continuing to work kept me focused. Being surrounded by people who had my back—my family, friends, and co-workers—made a huge difference as well. They made me feel safe. They didn’t laugh when all of my hair fell out or when I puffed up like a basketball from the effects of the chemo. You find the true value of a friend when you are diagnosed with an illness.

“I wasn’t ever sad or angry that this happened to me. I felt that would be a waste of energy. Everyone reacts differently to a diagnosis like this, but that is simply not my personality. Gratitude is something I have been blessed with, so staying positive was a given for me, as that is pretty much how I have always lived my life. Certainly not every day was a good one, but every day was one day closer to the end of my treatment and to healing. I stayed focused and positive, which proved to be for my benefit.

“August of this year marked my twelfth year of being in remission. Do I get nervous when I go to my doctors for yearly tests? Of course. But every year I am so very grateful that I remain in remission. The day that my oncologist released me from my visits was a milestone for me. We both cried. I know how lucky I am, and I don’t ever take any day for granted.

“It’s like one of my favorite quotes says: ‘Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.’

“The best advice I would give to someone battling breast cancer is to stay focused. You are a warrior, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. And don’t forget to laugh every chance you get!

Get Involved

Sands makes it a point to watch the annual Stand Up to Cancer broadcast and make a donation for cancer research, and we’d encourage you to do the same! Watch this year’s show here. You can also learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and how you can get involved here.