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

United Babes & Co.

In honor of Labor Day (aka figuring out how to not work for our whole lives), I am taking a slight departure from my usual Positively Proper posts to share a new passion project, a venture with seven of my friends… United Babes & Co.!

We are eight lucky ladies who were brought together by fate (or something like that) thanks to the common thread of the military being a part of our lives. Now, this is not your usual military connection – we are not military spouses (well, one of us is, but we will get there later!), rather we all worked or volunteered for military based organizations and were lucky enough to be in the same place (shout out to D.C.) while we did. Since that time (2013-16), we have scattered across the country, now world (we will get there a little later too!), but no matter where our lives have taken us, we have stayed together as friends. So, who are we?

Jenn Currently based in Philly. She’s basically the OG of the group and a key player for bringing us all together. Jenn grew up in a military family and married her now husband after meeting him through her job with a military based organization.

Beth Currently based in Colorado. Beth (also from a military family) worked at a military based organization and then Jenn joined the org & her team. The two became friends, then roommates – the rest is history!

Brittney (aka Bert) Currently based in Northern Virginia. Bert (another military child!) volunteered for the organization where Jenn and Beth worked, and lucky for us, she volunteered at the Center which Jenn oversaw… the two became fast friends!

#ThemJohnsonSeesters – Marissa (currently based in Italy) and Taylor (currently based in Northern Virginia) Marissa transferred to the D.C. area for work (a military entity) and ended up working in conjunction with Jenn. They briefly met at a work meeting, and then one day, Jenn, Beth, and Marissa were getting their mail and realized they lived in the same building! At the time, Taylor had just moved to DC and was also Marissa’s roommate. It was basically fate… the group became five and with two apartments in one complex, Babe HQ was born.

Alexandra (aka AB) Currently based in Virginia Beach. Shortly after the first round of introductions happened, AB started working for the same organization as Beth and Jenn (she also grew up in a military family). Beth was her tag team partner on all the programs they oversaw and first introduced AB to the group at country concerts, a Babes’ favorite pastime.

Kaylen (aka Kitty) Currently based in Savannah. Kaylen moved to the D.C. area when her relationship with her now husband (who was in the military) began. Lucky for us, she got a job where Taylor worked and the two instantly hit it off over their mutual love of Disney and Harry Potter. Fast forward a few months, Kaylen and #ThemJohnsonSeesters became roommates (expanding Babe HQ).

Kelly (aka Chirp) Currently based in Pennsylvania. Chirp is Bert’s younger sister and basically got roped into being friends with all of us. And you guessed it, she was part of the military family and ended up working at the same place as Marissa!

That’s us!

From a long string of texts to Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat groups, we talk constantly, laugh with (sometimes at) each other, and manage to stay a part of each other’s everyday lives. The biggest thing is, despite the distance, we continuously show up for each other. From every day laughs to dating fails (and some successes!), as well as personal hardships and the realities of “growing up,” we feel pretty blessed to have each other and that is what we are here to share. So, welcome to our girl squad!

Navigating Dietary Restrictions

Like many others, over the last few years I learned I have gluten and dairy dietary restrictions. As someone who made it to her twenties with no dietary restrictions this has greatly changed the way I approach parties, work functions, and going out for meals. In an effort to not draw attention to the changes or make others unsure of how to accommodate my dietary needs, I have found the best way to navigate the situation is to plan ahead!

Here are my tips for navigating social interactions around food as someone with dietary restrictions, as well as, my tips for hosts who may encounter a guest with a dietary restriction:

  1. Research the menu/restaurant before you go!
    • With almost all restaurants having their menus online and so many restaurants aware of the common dietary restrictions, it is easy to take a look and find out what your options are before you arrive for the meal. Personally, this helps me to not feel like I am being put on the spot for taking too long to decide my order while also allowing me to know ahead of time the exact accommodations I need for my order rather thank asking a lot of questions.
    • If you have trouble finding something on the menu before you arrive, call the restaurant and let them know you have dietary restrictions. Giving the host notice allows them to let the chef know and often they will do what they can to assist with your dietary needs.
  2. Alert the host of your dietary restrictions well before the gathering. Letting your host know far in advance, allows him/her to implement your dietary needs into the menu.
    • Some individuals are unaware of how to cook for your dietary needs and as the person who knows your restrictions best, it may be better to keep the cooking in your own hands. When this is the best option, offer to bring your own dish! You may even be able to cook it along with the main meal and often times, other guests will not even realize your plate is something different.
    • When sending in an R.s.v.p. which requires a meal selection, choose the menu item that best fits your dietary needs then add a note of any accommodations needed so the chef is aware. (i.e. check “Salmon with vegetables” then add to the side “Dietary Restriction: No gluten, no dairy”)
      • When not prompted to select a meal, ensure you include your dietary restriction in the registration information for work events/conferences, travel bookings, and on all R.s.v.p. cards.
  3. Have a snack before you go!
    • I have learned it is best to be on the safe side when going to a cocktail party, sporting event, concert, or similar large scale, non-seated dining event. Try as I might to scout out the menu beforehand, sometimes I simply do not know what options will be available to me. When this happens, I find it is best to have a snack before I go. That way, if I show up and I am unable to eat any of the dishes being served, I will not be left starving; however, if there is something I can have, I am not so full that I cannot enjoy it.
    • This is also important when traveling especially to other countries. If you are traveling and experience a language barrier, you may not know how to communicate your dietary restrictions. In these cases, it is always best to have a handy dandy snack bag in your suitcase in case you get in a pinch!
  4. As the Host
    • Consider your menu and research the ways to make it fit your guest’s dietary restrictions. If you have no experience cooking in the way your guest needs, look into local restaurants, specialty stores, and bakeries who offer that type of food and special order something.
    • Offer your guest the opportunity to bring a dish, but ensure he/she knows it is not necessary. Some guests appreciate the opportunity to bring their own food and welcome sharing their cooking with others.
    • If you are having a larger party where the food is served buffet style, include a display next to the dish with the name of the dish and a note underneath as to if it fits in a certain dietary category (i.e. gluten free, nut free, vegan, etc.)
  5. Food for Thought: As someone with dietary restrictions, it is often awkward to answer the question, “Why do you have dietary restrictions?” Whether an individual is not eating something due to an allergy, medical condition, or food intolerance, he/she may be uncomfortable going into the explanation. Maybe the person learned he/she is not allergic to a particular food, but get sick every time eating it. This person does not want to have to explain his/her bodily functions to you or worse, a whole group of people.

Although having dietary restrictions can be challenging at times, I try to think of it in a positive way: Now that my foods have to be different, I have been learning to cook/bake with a lot of alternatives and trying out new dishes! I hope these tips help everyone navigate personally having dietary restrictions or hosting someone who does!

Cheers y’all!

AB

Travel Tips: Sharing Hotel Rooms

To close out my “travel etiquette mini series” I am shifting my focus from air travel to the hotel. Whether you are on a trip with friends, traveling for work, or visiting family, it is likely you will be sharing a hotel room with others. So, how do you get through a few days with a new found roommate?

  1. Be courteous of your roommate’s sleeping habits
    • If you tend to stay up late, but your roommate goes to sleep early:
      • Keep the lights low and the noise level even lower.
      • If you like to read before bed, I suggest bringing a small clip-on reading lamp. Kudos to those hotels who now have the mini light next to the bed!
      • If you are someone who watches TV to fall asleep, be sure to watch it on your laptop/tablet/iPad using headphones.
      • Put your phone on vibrate/silent.
    • If you tend to wake up early, but your roommate sleeps in later:
      • Put aside your outfit and toiletries the night before so you are not making noise as you rummage through your bag in the morning.
      • Set your alarm with a “peaceful” ringtone at a reasonable volume, and when it goes off, be sure to wake up rather than hit snooze repeatedly.
      • Once you are awake, avoid turning on the lights in the main room. If you need assistance finding your way around, simply use the light on your phone.
      • When using the bathroom, ensure you close the door all the way before turning on the light.
      • If you exit the room, close the door gently.
  2. Share the bathroom
    • It is perfectly fine to leave your toiletries in the bathroom; however, do not take over the entire counter or leave your things messy. Keep your things to one side/corner.
    • Ensure you both have enough time to get ready. Most hotels have a mirror outside the bathroom so for those of us who need to put on makeup or fix our hair, use that area instead of hogging of the bathroom.
    • Ask before claiming the hotel toiletries for yourself. If you both need them, simply call the front desk or housekeeping and ask for additional items.
    • In regards to cleanliness, ensure you rinse out the sink, flush the toilet, and clean up any hairs that may have strayed from brushing or shaving.
  3. Be aware of your own habits
    • Do you snore at night? If so, bring some earplugs for your roommate. If your snoring is truly bad, you will want to let your roommate know ahead of time.
    • Do you sleep in the freezing cold or prefer to be warm and toasty? Compromise on a temperature for the room and bring pajamas that can be versatile for any temperature.
    • Do you use products with a heavy smell? You may be used to them after every day use, but remember you are in a small space. Try not to go overboard on products and fragrances.

We are all creatures of habit and when we travel, our habits become more apparent to us. Ensure you are being a courteous roommate and do not takeover as if the space is your own.

Safe travels y’all!

AB

The Do’s and Don’ts of Airplane Travel

Welcome to part two of my Travel Etiquette Mini Series. In my job I travel quite a bit and all my trips start and end the same way… at the airport. In part one I discussed my tips and tricks for airport etiquette, but what about actually being on the plane? Here are my thoughts on how we can all be courteous while we travel:

  1. Open seating. It is totally up to you!
    • If you are traveling with other people who have a boarding number after your own, true travel etiquette is to give up your earlier boarding position and join your travel partner at his/her boarding position. However, if you do board ahead and want to try to save a seat, simply place a coat, purse, or small bag in the seat you hope to save:
      • If someone asks for the seat, kindly say, “I was hoping to save this for my friend/spouse/parent, do you mind looking for another seat?” Normally, people will be understanding especially if there are still plenty of seats left, but do keep in mind it is not your right to save that seat.
      • If the airplane is filling up and the flight attendant has started making announcements to “take any open seat you see,” it is time to give up your seat saving mission. You do not want to be the person who delayed your flight because you forced others to play musical chairs until your travel partner got on the plane.
    • If you see someone traveling with an individual who needs assistance (i.e. a parent and younger child or someone with a disability), but they cannot find a seat together and you have an open seat next to you… Do the right thing and offer your seat to them.
  2. Stowing Your Carry-On Items
    • Place your bag above your own seat. Do not take up the storage space above another row unless your space is full and the flight attendant directs this.
    • If you need to move someone’s bag a little in order to fit your’s in the overhead bin, ask the person, “Do you mind if I scoot your bag over a bit?” Most people will not have a problem, it is simply polite to ask in case they have something fragile in their bag or are traveling with hanging garments (gowns, suits, etc.).
    • If the flight attendant says your bag will not fit, chances are it really will not. Allow the flight attendant to place your bag in another overhead bin. It is not worth holding up the line of people behind you and potentially delaying your flight because you tried to play Tetris with the bags in the overhead bin.
    • Always offer assistance to someone you see struggling to get their bag in the overhead bin.
  3. Be a Good “Seat Mate”
    • You cannot go wrong by starting off your trip with a simple smile and saying “hello” to the person you will be seated next to for several hours.
    • If you have a middle or window seat and need to get up to stretch your legs or use the restroom, be sure to politely ask the individuals closer to the aisle if they will please move for you.
    • When standing up, do not grab the seat in front of you. This often pulls that individual’s seat backwards and can be quite disruptive.
    • Who gets the arm rest? True travel etiquette indicates the person in the middle seat gets both arm rests while the people in the outside seats get those arm rests. In a row with only two seats? Share the middle armrest.
    • We all like to travel in comfort, but do not get too comfortable!
      • Keep your shoes on. You may think you do not have feet that smell, but it is very possible that you do. Also, some people just do not like feet.
      • If you want to take a nap, be cognizant of your surroundings. Try your very best not to lean on the person next to you. Travel Tip: Use a neck pillow, it helps to prevent the lean!
      • Do not bring foods on the plane that have heavy odors. For example, a tuna packet probably is not the best thing to crack open mid flight.
      • Keep the volume on your headphones low. Your seat mate very likely does not want to hear what you are listening to especially if he/she is trying to nap, read, or do work.
      • Avoid getting drunk and making your seat mate feel uncomfortable.
      • Check before you recline! Ensure the person behind you is not getting something from under your seat or using the tray table. If they are, simply say, “Excuse me, I’m going to recline my chair, I just want to let you know.” This will avoid you bumping him/her, accidentally spilling a drink, or even potentially breaking an open laptop.
  4. Be Courteous to the Flight Attendants
    • Pay attention to the flight attendants when they give the safety instructions. Yes, they are often the same on every flight, but they really are important to know.
    • Listen when they tell you it is time to turn off electronics or stop using certain ones. Side note: Always be sure your devices are in airplane mode!
    • When the flight attendant brings you a snack or asks for your drink order, always say “please” and “thank you.”
  5. De-Planing
    • We all know the mad rush to get out of your seats as soon as the “Fasten Seat-belt” light turns off, but remember you are in a small area, there really is not a lot of space for you to move. Let the people ahead of you have the room they need to get out of their seats and retrieve their bags from the overhead bin.
    • If you have a short connection time to your next flight, ask the flight attendant during the flight if it would be possible for you to get off the plane before others. Due to a delay on one of flights, there was a passenger who had a very short amount of time to get to his connection. When we landed and were taxiing to the gate, the flight attendant said, “We have a passenger on board who needs to exit quickly to make a short connection. Please allow this person through the aisle before we begin regular de-planing.” If asked this on one of your flights, be kind and follow the request to help the other person.
    • If there is someone who needs special assistance exiting the plane, allow them to go first.
    • Thank the flight crew on your way off the plane.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you find yourself on a plane!

Safe travels y’all!

AB

Travel Tips: Airport Etiquette

Over the last year, I have found myself spending a lot of time in airports and on planes. These opportunities for travel have not only been fun, but also taught me an awful lot about travel etiquette. With all I have learned, I decided to write a “travel mini-series” to share my experience!

  1. Be prepared for the security line. We know it is coming… The moment you have to go through the metal detector/body scanner, so why not be ready for it? Often times, the security lines can be long leaving us to stand there with nothing to do. Rather than using our phones to distract us and strolling along until we reach the scanner, let’s use this time to start preparing for the security check.
    • Throw away your beverage/empty your water bottle.
    • Remove your coat, sweater, scarf, etc. and hold it while you walk.
    • Take off your heavy jewelry, watch, and belt.
      • Personally, I leave a small jewelry bag in my purse or carry-on when I travel so when I get to security I can put all my things in that little bag and secure it in my own carry-on instead of using the small tray security provides. Also, this allows me to go straight from security to my gate without having to stop to put everything back on, I can do it at my gate instead. Travel Tip: A small Ziploc bag works just as well!
    • Have your ID and boarding pass out to hand it to the TSA Agent right away.
    • If you are traveling with a laptop/tablet, put it in an easily accessible place so you can take it out quickly for the security scan.
    • When you get to the scanner, do not rush the people in front of you. Be patient and wait to place your things on the scanner belt.
    • Once you have cleared the scanner, pick up your things and step aside. In most airports, they have benches very close to security so you can put all your belongings away and accessories back on you.
  2. The Walk (sometimes run) to your gate… When walking in the terminal, follow the same rules as the road. Stay to the far right if you are casually walking to your gate so you can leave the inside “lanes” open for those in a rush to get to their gate or moving at a faster pace.
  3. Do Not Hog the Plug! You know which one I mean… The incredibly coveted electrical plug to charge your phone, iPad/tablet, laptop, etc.
    • First and foremost, be sure to charge your electronics before leaving home. This will prevent you from having to search the terminal for an electrical outlet or charging station.
    • If you need to charge your phone/electronics before your flight, use any free plug you can find or wait patiently for one to become available. If you have to wait, stand near the charging station and wait your turn. Do not stare down all the people currently using the charging station hoping someone will give up.
    • When using the plug/charging station, make your best effort to not use the electronic device you are charging unless it is an emergency or absolutely necessary. If other people are waiting, using your device while it charges only makes the process take longer. Be considerate of the others in line.
    • Use one plug and one plug only! If there are people waiting, do not plug-in your personal phone, work phone, iPad/tablet, and laptop all at the same time. NOTE: If you have a plug that turns into an extension and has 4 plug-ins then this is OK.
    • Travel Tip: If you have a plug that works as an extender and you are not using all of the extra outlets, offer it to other people! Kudos to these people for being friendly travelers and genuinely kind!
    • If people are waiting, you do not need to charge your phone to 100%. Get your battery to a decent level then let the next person use the plug.
  4. Waiting In Line to Board Your Flight
    • Whether you are on a flight with an already designated seat or getting in line based on boarding groups to pick your own seat, we all have to wait in line to get on the plane. When you get in line, be sure not to crowd the people ahead of you, try to squeeze your way to the front, or complain if you end up towards the end of the line.
    • When traveling in a group you would like to sit with but you do not have boarding numbers close to one another, true travel etiquette dictates you get in line with the individual who has the later boarding number.

What travel etiquette do’s and don’ts have you witnessed? Are there travel situations you do not know how to navigate? Let me know!

With these new tips, I hope you will be an even more polite and considerate traveler!

Safe travels y’all!

AB

Happy Birthday, America! 🇺🇸

It is no secret I am a big fan of birthdays and celebrating them! To say the 4th of July is one of my favorite days of the year is an understatement! As someone who grew up in a military family and spent several years working with the military, I show off my American spirit whenever I get the chance. 🇺🇸 So let’s just say, I am more than ready for this birthday party!

As we celebrate our freedom and our country, be sure to sparkle in all the right ways! One standout way to do this is to honor and respect the flag 🇺🇸 Here are my tips on how to do so:

  • Fly the flag all day! Be sure to keep a light on Old Glory when the sun goes down.
    • NOTE: If you are hanging the flag rather than flying it, ensure you display it correctly. Here’s how:

  • Attending a parade, event, or sporting event? When Old Glory passes you, place your hand over your heart and remove any headgear (unless being worn for medical or religious reasons).
  • While it may add to the festiveness of your party, I suggest not using place-mats, table cloths, plates, or napkins that have the American flag on them as a decorative piece. Even though it is not technically a real flag, eating off the flag and the act of wiping your mouth or using the flag to clean your hands is disrespectful.
    • NOTE: A design of stars and stripes is great, I am referring to the actual American flag printed on a serving piece and napkins.
  • A little known fact is that Old Glory “should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.” Rather than wearing the flag, a design of stars and stripes is more appropriate.
    • NOTE: I realize patriotic apparel is trendy in pop culture and will likely continue to be so I encourage you to be thoughtful in your outfit choices. If you do choose to wear apparel displaying the flag, ensure it is displayed in full not draped across you, tattered, or distressed in any way.
  • For even more in-depth (and fast-paced) information on flag protocol, watch this video and refer to this valuable flag protocol information.

Last, but certainly not least, remember and thank the service members who have fought for and are currently serving to protect our freedoms.

Happy Independence Day, y’all! 🇺🇸

AB

Editorial Note: This is a revised version of a previous post. For more tips on celebrating Independence Day, see another original post!