Handling Holiday Stress with Grace

As we shop for gifts, welcome house guests, and prepare for parties and holiday meals, the joy of the holiday season has a tendency to also bring quite a lot of stress. While stress levels increase, our positive attitudes and mannerly ways often times decrease. This year, let’s not have that happen! Here are some of my tips to ensure you have a merry and bright holiday season!

  1. The Shopping Experience
    • Be prepared to handle the crowds. Do not push your way through people, simply say “excuse me” as you move.
    • Always thank the sales associate who help you find the gift you want, the right size/color of an item, and sometimes even do your gift wrapping. They appreciate polite customers ūüôā
    • Avoid fights with other shoppers over the last item in stock. You will find something else and let’s be honest.. Getting dragged out of the store by mall security is not worth it.
    • Give people their space while looking through clothing racks, items on the shelf, and standing in line.
    • Speaking of standing in line, do not huff and puff because the line is long. Instead, use that time wisely. Get your coupons and method of payment ready so you can be quick at the register.
    • When you check out, do not be on your cell phone. Give the sales associate your full attention and be sure to wish him/her “Happy Holidays.”
  2. Welcoming House Guests
    • Create a welcoming guest room.
      • Make a cute sign/photo frame that has the WiFi password posted.

        Graphic Available for Download on Life of Verde's

        Download Sign at Life of Verde’s

      • Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet.
      • If you use your guest room for extra closet/storage space, clear some space for your guests to hang their clothes or put them in the dresser.
      • Have a luggage rack in the room.
      • Put together a travel toiletry basket (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, cotton balls, band-aids, etc.) and leave it on the bathroom counter in case your guest forgot anything.
      • Ensure the room smells clean, but avoid using too much fragrance – some people get headaches from overly scented rooms.
    • If you have a visit packed with events, make a festive itinerary and send it to your guests in advance! Perhaps these guests have never joined you before and do not know your traditions, the area, or even what to wear for your events; so, this is a great way to make them feel welcome before they arrive.
    • Plan your menu and/or make reservations far in advance.
    • If there are things you know your guests like (a snack food, certain type of soda, etc.), try to stock up on a few things. For example, I do not drink coffee, but I know most people do so, I make sure I have it prior to guests arriving.
    • It is certainly easier said than done, but try to check as many things off your to-do list as you can before your guests arrive. That way, you can enjoy the time with them. For example, make sure gifts are wrapped and any food preparation you can do early is done.
  3. Hosting the Party/Holiday Meal
    • Set your table and decorate our home ahead of time.
    • Plan out where you will place the food and make sure the serving dishes fit so when food is ready to come out of the kitchen, it goes directly to the table.
    • Do not wait until the last minute to shop for ingredients. It is better to stock-up early and have enough for the season so you do not have to run to the store at the last minute.
    • Prepare as much as you can before the day of the event. If you can make certain dishes and freeze them (without losing any taste quality), go for it. If you can cut up ingredients and store them before making a mix or tossing them into a recipe, get all the prep work out of the way.

I hope these tips help you to have a low-stress holiday and one you can find some time to relax! Remember, as busy as your schedule gets, always be polite and think positively.. You will get through it! Enjoy the time with your family, friends, and loved ones!

Happy Holidays, y’all!

AB

The Essential Table Manners

As the holidays approach, we will soon be gathering around the table with family, friends, and loved ones. In the spirit of enjoying such divine meals, having good tables is an incredibly important asset yet so commonly overlooked. From social to professional settings, food defines our culture and is present everywhere. Whether you are with family, friends, coworkers, a new client, or distinguished guests and dignitaries, it is always important to mind your manners, especially at the table.

This week, I am sharing my list of the essential table manners everyone should follow.

  1. Sit Properly (aka Have Good Posture at the Table)
    • Sit straight in your chair with your shoulders back.
    • Keep both legs on the ground in front of you. If you want to cross your¬†legs, cross at your ankles.
    • Pull your chair up to the table so¬†you can comfortably reach everything at your place setting¬†and your legs are under the table.
  2. Use a Napkin
    • Place it in your lap when you take your seat and keep it there the remainder of the meal.
    • Wipe your mouth with your napkin, not your hands.
    • If something gets on you fingers, wipe it on your¬†napkin.¬†Licking your fingers is not a good look!
    • If you get up from the table, place your napkin on your chair. Only place your napkin on the table at the completion of the meal when you exit the table.
  3. Avoid Gulping, Slurping, and Playing with Things
    • Drink your beverage slowly and smoothly. Do not gulp it down.
    • Avoid playing with your straw, chewing on it, and¬†making sucking noises with it.
    • Leave your utensils where they are until you are ready to use them.
    • Put the spoon in your mouth when eating soup or cereal to avoid slurping it off the end.
  4. Basic Manners Run Down
    • Wait to begin eating until everyone has been served and the host gestures to begin eating.
    • Use the butter knife on the butter dish to slice butter from the¬†full stick and place it on your bread plate.¬†Use¬†your own knife to spread the butter on your roll/bread.
    • When eating bread, gently pull off one bite from the roll and butter that piece only. Do this for ever piece.
    • Always pass the salt and pepper together. Even if someone¬†asks for¬†only¬†salt, pass them both. Think, salt and pepper are “attached at the hip.”
    • If eating “family style,” the Guest of Honor (seated¬†to the right of the host)¬†is served first then pass the serving dishes to your right around the table.
    • Bring¬†food up to your mouth. Do not bend down to the plate to get food in your mouth.
    • Cut one bite of food at a time, eat that piece, then cut another piece. Repeat for the whole meal!
    • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • When eating spaghetti, use the side of your plate to twirl the pasta on your fork. It is not typically proper etiquette to use a spoon, but it is often found to be helpful for smaller children.
    • Put your phone away to ensure you enjoy the meal and your company with your full attention!

Keep these essential table manners in mind, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. These tips will truly help you in both the social and professional setting by giving you that little extra touch of polish!

Cheers, y’all!

AB

The 3 Table Settings You Need to Know

With event and holiday season upon us, many of us are attending family gatherings, formal galas, and even hosting such events (maybe for the first time!). Whether it is knowing how to set the table properly or being knowledgeable of your place setting at an event, learning these three traditional types of table settings will help you in any dining situation!

Basic Table Setting

Photo Credit: Emily Post

Basic Table Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This table setting is to be used on an everyday basis. Whether hosting a casual luncheon or setting the table for your family dinner in the evening, this is perfect!
  • An easy way to remember the placement is to make connect your pointer finger and thumb on each hand. When you look down:
    • Your left hand makes the shape of a “b,” this tells you your bread plate is above your place setting on the left.
    • Your right hand makes the shape of a “d,” this tells you your drink glasses are above your place setting on the right.
  • Use a simple 3-piece flatware setting – Fork to the left of the plate. Knife and Spoon to the right of the plate with the knife closest to the plate (blade facing it).
    • A butter knife should be added to the bread plate if rolls are being served.

Informal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Informal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for an informal three-course meal (soup/salad, main course, dessert).
    • (a): This is where the main plate will be placed.
    • (b): Two Forks – The smaller fork to the outside is for salad. The larger fork to the inside is for the main course.
    • (c): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • (d): Knife – The knife is placed with the blade facing towards the plate. You may use this knife throughout all courses, but not for your bread and butter (review (h)).
    • (e): Two Spoons – The rounder, larger spoon to the outside is for soup. The spoon to the inside is for dessert.
    • (f): Glassware: The water glass is to the left. The wine (or alternate beverage) is to the right.
    • (g): Salad Plate – If salad is served as the first course, this plate will take position (a). If salad is to be served during the main course, you do not have to set a separate plate, you can put it on the dinner plate. NOTE: Some people prefer to have their salad on it’s own plate so the dressing does not get on the other food; therefore, a salad plate is a good idea!
    • (h): Bread Plate and Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not your dinner knife (d).
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be provided prior to dessert being served. If you prefer to set the table with the dessert flatware out, place both pieces of flatware above the dinner plate with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • (j): Coffee Cup and Saucer – This does not have to be placed on the table for the entire meal. If you prefer it is, place it to the upper left of the dinner plate on the outside of the glassware and flatware. If you prefer to bring out the coffee after the meal, set the cup and saucer in that place then pour the coffee.

Formal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Formal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for the most formal of occasions which typically have several courses.
  • NOTE: This is just one example of a formal place setting. Depending on what food is being served, and how many courses this place setting and the utensils may vary. The guiding rule for flatware is: set the flatware so you “work from the outside, in.”
    • (a): Service Plate or “Charger”: This plate is stationary throughout the early courses and serves as an underplate for all courses prior to the main course. When the main course is served, the charger will be removed for the main dish to take it’s place.
    • (b): Bread Plate – Sometimes, individual butter slices/balls will already be placed on this plate.
    • (c): Dinner Fork – Use this for the main course.
    • (d): Appetizer/First Course Fork: Depending on what is being served, the smaller fork to the outside is used for the first course(s).
    • (e): Salad Fork: If the salad is served following the main course, it is set to the inside of the dinner fork (as shown above); however, if it served prior to the main course, it should go on the outside.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Meal – Set the forks in the order listed (Left to Right) with the salad fork the furthest to the left of the plate and dinner fork closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Meal, Salad – Set the forks as the diagram shows.
    • (f): Dinner Knife – Use this for the main course. The knife is placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (g): Fish Knife – Only include this in the table setting if fish is being served.
    • Salad Knife: Not shown here. Just like the placement of the salad fork with the others, this depends on order of the courses.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Course – Set the knives with the salad knife the furthest to the right of the plate and dinner knife (blade facing in) closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Course, Salad – Set the knives with the salad knife the closest to the right of the plate and first course knife furthest from the plate.
      • All knives should be placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (i): Soup or Fruit Spoon – Only include this in the table setting if soup or fruit is being served as one of the initial courses.
    • (j): Oyster Fork – Only include this in the table setting if oysters are being served. This is the only fork placed to the right of the charger, all others forks are always placed to the left.
    • (k): Butter Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not one of the other knives.
    • (l): Glassware
      • (la): Water Glass
      • (lc): Red Wine Glass
      • (ld): White Wine Glass
      • (le): Champagne Flute or Sherry Glass: Only include this if there will be a champagne toast or if a desert wine is being served.
    • (m): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be placed prior to dessert being served. When placed, both pieces of flatware go above where the plate will be placed with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • Coffee Cup and Saucer – Not shown here. This will be served after the meal and set to the upper right of the dessert plate.

I know that seems like a lot, but just remember to review these on a case-by-case basis! For occasions involving both informal settings and formal settings, review my 8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips!

Cheers, y’all!

Alexandra

Celebrating Halloween at Work

Often times, offices like to celebrate holidays and if your office is anything like mine, be ready to celebrate BIG! Join in on the festivities with your co-workers, just be sure to do so appropriately. In the spirit of Halloween, I am sharing my tips for how to celebrate Halloween at work!

  1. Be Tasteful and Dress Appropriately
    • If you are allowed to dress up for work, be sure your outfit fits the regular dress code/policies for your organization.
      • Avoid¬†outfits that are¬†extremely short. For ladies, wear something that covers your legs¬†the way a pencil skirt or work dress does.
      • Do not show your cleavage by wearing¬†a low-cut costume top or bustier.
      • Try to stay away from outfits that have rips, holes, etc. in them. You still want to look clean-cut at work.
      • Avoid on shirts/costumes with inappropriate phrases or images.
    • Ensure you can still do your job in¬†your costumes. (i.e. wearing¬†so many accessories you can’t reach your keyboard = a non-productive work day and a frustrated boss)
    • Be culturally sensitive. For example, dressing up as a priest or nun may offend people of the Catholic faith.
    • Be sensitive to current events. For example, I used to work in a hospital and when Ebola was a very newsworthy topic of great¬†concern to many people, dressing up in a Hazmat suit and walking into the hospital would have been guaranteed to unsettle people.
  2. Be Cautious with Decorative Make-Up
    • Avoid using bloody/gory make-up and designs that may scare clients, guests, patients, children, etc.
    • Add a little sparkle or some false eye lashes to your eye make-up, but be sure to keep it professional.
  3. Don’t Want to Wear a Costume?
    • Unless it is a costume party and you are “highly encouraged” (a.k.a. practically told)¬†to participate by your boss, it is OK to not wear a costume. Instead, dress¬†festive!
      • Wear¬†black and orange.
      • Add a headband, hairpiece, or a fun clip for a little bit of flare.
      • Wear decorative accessories such as a Halloween tie, Fall themed socks, pumpkin earrings, or a skull and crossbones bracelet.
      • Decorate your desk!
  4. Contribute to the Party!
    • If your office is having a party,¬†offer to bring something to contribute.
    • If you are not a good cook or baker, it is perfectly fine to buy something at the store. Tip: Put it on a nice plate/serving dish prior to getting to work so you do not show up with a bunch of store containers ūüėČ
    • If the office does not need food, bring in festive party napkins, plates, or cups!
    • Help decorate the office!

I hope these tips contribute to your Halloween festivities and help make it a positive experience for the whole office!

Happy Halloween, y’all!

AB

Take a Tour, A Wine Tour!

Happy Fall y’all! With the leaves changing and the crisp autumn air upon us, I know many of you will be off to the vineyards for wine tastings! For those of us (including me!) who are not wine connoisseurs, ordering wine can be intimidating if you are not knowledgeable of the different types or what you like. A perfect way to learn is to go on a wine tour and to help you get ready, I have a collaborator for this post. Beth Messerli is a Cause Entrepreneur for ONEHOPE and here to help craft you into a wine expert. Let’s jump right in!

  1. Plan ahead.
    • Schedule your wine tasting¬†ahead of time especially if you are in a large group. This helps wineries plan for guests and assign you the correct number of wine hosts.
    • Plan your transportation. You will be drinking alcohol, so be sure to have a designated driver or get a limo/party bus/ride share/etc. to take your group to and from the wineries.
  2. Dress the part ūüôā While wearing something more casual is certainly appropriate, I would at least wear nice jeans and a pretty top (for ladies) and a polo or casual button down (for gentlemen). Depending on the weather, sun dresses are an excellent option! Many wineries have indoor/outdoor tasting areas and/or places to eat so be cognizant of your options. Additionally, some wineries are more casual than other. Do your research on the winery prior to your tour.
    • Avoid perfumes, creams, and hair products with overpowering smells. A big part of wine tasting is being able to smell the aromas, as they are a large part of the taste! If you have too much perfume, etc. on it will interfere with the experience.
  3. Give the wine host (the person who describes and pours the wine) your full attention. This is the perfect time to learn more about wine, how it is made, and about the winery/vineyard itself. The wine host will give a thorough description of what to expect from the wine and why it has certain tasting notes. Often times, you will also be told which foods pair well with each type of wine you taste – this is important to learn so you can up your game as a host and pair your wine with what you serve!
  4. Remember your manners.
    • When in the tasting room/area, keep your voice to a conversational volume. There are typically several parties in the area; therefore, you do not want to be the loud group everyone stares at because they cannot hear among their own group or worse, hear their wine host.
    • Be aware of how much you are drinking. During a wine tasting, you are given a small amount of each wine. You may not think you are drinking very much, but it starts to add up over multiple wines/tastings. Stay classy and avoid the embarrassment of drunken behavior in a refined setting.
    • Sip your wine. Do not gulp the whole tasting pour at once. (More on this in just bit!)
  5. Hold your wine glass by the stem. It is not only proper to do so, it is also practical. White wines are typically chilled; therefore, putting your hand around the globe of the glass will warm the wine. Red wines are enhanced by exposure to the air so having a wider globe helps this process. For red wines, you can hold the glass by the stem or cup the globe of the glass in your palm.
  6. What if I do not like a certain wine?
    • If you know beforehand that you do not care for a particular type of wine, simply place your hand over your glass when the wine host gets to you and say “no thank you.” The wine host will understand. This way is much more appropriate and discreet than exclaiming, “I do not like that wine” to your host and the rest of your group.
    • If you are unsure about a wine, take a small sip first. If you do not like it, do not spit it out. Swallow the small amount you have and then discard the remaining amount in the “dump bucket.”
  7. Will there be food?
    • Eat before you arrive or plan a meal in conjunction with your tasting trip. At most tastings, small bowls of crackers will be available. These are simply to cleanse your palette between wines, not to act as hors d’oeuvres or a meal. Wineries are a great place for a picnic so plan something fun!
    • If you have selected to do a wine and food pairing, then you will be given food, but it will be small, bite-size samples of each course unless you planned for a full dinner service.
      • Remember: Sip. Taste. Sip. This allows you to taste the wine on it’s own first then taste it again after eating to see how the food influences the flavor.
  8. Do I have to buy a wine after a tasting? While it is encouraged to do so, you are not obligated to buy any wine after a tasting. If you do find something you like then by all means go for it! Your tasting experience may even come with a discount on full bottles.

While going to the vineyards is a great option and also a fun weekend activity, you can also host wine tastings in your own home with a host like Beth!

Cheers, y’all!

AB and Beth

Tailgating with Class and Style!

Football season is officially underway and that means it is prime time for one of my favorite past times! As a BIG fan of college football (Go Terps! ūüźĘ), it is one of the many reasons why Fall is my favorite season! As if the game itself is not enough to get you excited, throwing a well-planned tailgate is the best way to start the day! Here are my tips to kick-off your game day:

  1. Get in the Team Spirit!
    • Tie in your team colors and symbols to the table, tent, and lawn decor.
    • Dress the part! It is time to break out those team tees, dresses in your team colors, and accessories that add to the team spirit (hello turtle earrings and team koozies!)
    • Football shaped food and mascot inspired¬†trays or desserts are always a hit!
    • Make a signature cocktail that ties into your theme or your team, use festive drink stirs, and serve a beer that ties into your team name or is from your team’s state!
  2. Be Inclusive, Not Confrontational
    • While we all have our favorite teams and love our alma mater, be inclusive of those who may be cheering for the other team. Add a little of their team color or invite them to bring a dish tied to their team.
    • While a little bit of friendly competition is always fun, avoid getting into arguments or confrontations with fans of the other team. Remember, you are there to have fun – not to “bad mouth” others!
  3. Plan Ahead
    • Tailgates can range in size from small and simple to large and extravagant (I have seen it all!). No matter what size your tailgate, the following always apply:
      • Be sure to have an accurate count of how many people will be attending and buy/make your dishes accordingly (aka always make extra). Running out of food and beverages is never a good thing!
      • Bring plenty of ice for drinks and food.¬†Keep any food that¬†needs refrigerated in coolers and ensure it will stay cold for the duration of the day or else you will have to throw it out (you do not want anyone to get sick).
      • Label your coolers to avoid confusion.
      • Remember to bring plenty of¬†¬†trash bags and clean-up as you go.
      • If you are hosting, make a timeline for your set-up and when you need to start cooking. No one wants to miss kick-off!
      • Bring chairs for people to take a rest. You do not need enough for every person, but a decent number is always appreciated!
      • Here is a great checklist for all your tailgating needs!
      • Plan for the weather! If it’s a chilly day, bring along your favorite team sweaters and stadium blankets. Rain in the forecast? Get ready to set-up those tents!
      • Noon kick-off, how do you tailgate for breakfast?! Rally with donuts, bagels, egg bakes, grilled bacon/ham/etc, bloody Marys, and mimosas!
  4. There Is More to Tailgating than Eating
    • While the food (and drinks) usually take center stage at any tailgate, there are plenty of other fun things to do as well!
      • Just as you would in your home, be an excellent host and introduce guests to those who do not know each other.
      • Bring lawn games! Corn hole, ladder ball, bocce ball, and playing football in the parking lot are all fun ways to get people up and moving.
  5. Not Hosting, Just Invited to Tailgate?
    • Ask what dish, dessert, or drinks you can contribute to the tailgate.
    • Always help with clean up!
    • Be a classy attendee – Dress for the theme/your team and as mentioned earlier, avoid confrontation with others (especially from the opposing team).
    • Be social with the others at the tailgate and make an effort to meet new people!
    • If you have your own chairs, it is always a friendly gesture to bring them along.

Happy Fall and Football y’all!

Alexandra

Having Your Birthday Manners

With my birthday right around the corner, my excitement (as well as glitter, frosting, and sprinkles) is in abundance! I have been thinking about what goes into making a celebration special and even though the day is mine, other people are involved too. Here are my ideas on how best to ensure you celebrate a very HAPPY birthday!

  1. Be appreciative and thankful for everything!
    • Remember the lyrics, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”? Do not be that person (a.k.a. the demanding birthday diva). No one wants to be around a self-absorbed individual who demands attention and perfection from sunrise to sundown, with expectations that cannot be met.¬†Be happy, have fun, and wear a smile all day!
    • Acknowledge everyone who leaves you a birthday wish on social media. A thoughtful response or even a simple “like” is appropriate.
    • For anyone who brings or sends you a birthday gift (no matter how big or small!), write them a handwritten thank you note and¬†mail it¬†within a week of your birthday.
    • Show your mom some extra love! After all, your birthday is a shared day with her.
  2. It IS Your Day. Celebrate how you wish!
    • Plan something that will make you happy! Do not let yourself be pressured into celebrating in a way you do not want or handing the reins over to someone who will plan something that is not to your liking (this goes for bachelor/bachelorettes and wedding or baby showers as well!).
    • Depending on how you choose to celebrate, keep in mind that certain events may be cost prohibitive to guests, and it is important to be understanding of those situations (also true for any event involving travel).
  3. Make your guests feel special! Although the celebration is about you, you are also the host (unless someone else has fully planned and given your party) and have guests to entertain.
    • If you have guests from different social settings (family, friends from different stages of life, colleagues, etc.) introduce them to each other.
      • Feuding friends? Speak to them individually prior to your celebration and express you hope to see them both. If they are unable to put aside their differences, suggest celebrating with them individually at another time. This will help to avoid any unnecessary drama from unfolding at your celebration.
    • Plan things others will enjoy as well!
      • If you plan to play games, keep them tasteful to avoid embarrassing your guests or making them feel uncomfortable.
      • If couples are invited, plan things both ladies and gentlemen¬†will enjoy.
    • Whether you are having friends over for a small dinner party or throwing a huge birthday bash, have party favors! These do not need to be extravagant, simple is wonderful.
      • A few ideas are: a pretty bag of your favorite candies, a koozie, a mini bottle of wine¬†with a piece of chocolate, or a beverage napkin set.
  4. I got something I do not like, now what?
    • If you receive a gift that is “not quite you” and the person is there when you open it, smile, give¬†him/her a hug,¬†and simply, yet sincerely say “thank you.” Do not exaggerate how much you like something if you do not actually feel that way, it can cause awkwardness in the future.
    • If the individual is not there, write a note stating “thank you for thinking of me” or “it was so generous of you to send me¬†a gift.” Again, do not write¬†how much you like something and go into detail about it¬†if you do not actually feel that way.
    • If¬†the item¬†is returnable, you may exchange it for something else,¬†BUT I caution you on doing this.¬†If it was not sent with a gift receipt and the¬†gift¬†is¬†from a close friend or relative, they may¬†expect to see you display it in your home, wear it when you see him/her, etc. If this does not happen, the gift giver may¬†wonder where it is and ask you. It is better to keep something you do not like than to offend the gift giver in the future.

Overall, these suggestions lead to one point: Stay humble on your birthday.
Be appreciative of all the love that surrounds you (not just on your day, but everyday). With this in mind, enjoy your day, live it up, and wear your best smile!

To all my other September birthdays, I wish you a very happy day filled with love, laughter, and lots of cake!

Cheers, y’all!

AB