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 🙂 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

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!

Welcome to Positively Proper!

Hey y’all!

Welcome to Positively Proper! I am Alexandra and I am beyond excited to be sharing this adventure in the world of Protocol and Etiquette with you. I first had this idea in 2014 and over the last five years, I have worked on it “here and there” while I focused on other parts of my life. After making another major change this past Fall, I felt the inspiration to start writing and blogging again. So, here I am relaunching Positively Proper on Valentine’s Day because what day is more appropriate to launch a passion project from the heart?!

This journey started while I was working as a Protocol Specialist in the Washington, DC area, a role which taught me A LOT about protocol and etiquette in modern society. Now, I know what some people are thinking… Protocol and Etiquette are stuffy subjects. I am here to show you they are not! Protocol and etiquette can be fun and extremely relatable. What protocol and etiquette are truly about is putting your best foot forward and being confident as you do. Protocol and Etiquette apply in every day life and can truly make a difference at work, at home, with friends, and even during interactions with strangers. They also apply to social events, being a host, personal and professional fashion, and so much more!

Fast forward five years and what am I doing now? I work for an international nonprofit on the Special Events and Partnership team. With, what I like to think is, a decent amount of experience “in the industry,” I continue experiencing and learning more through my job and everyday run-ins with protocol and etiquette matters. So, why not share it all?! I will share my experiences with you and I encourage you to share your thoughts and questions with me! I am sure we all encounter similar situations and have some of the same questions as we meet new people, venture to new places, and attend fabulous events! This blogging adventure is all about learning and helping each other shine even brighter!

Cheers y’all!

AB

Mood and Manners

Mood and Manners

I was recently inspired by the quote above. It got me thinking about how our manners should be a thoughtful reflection of our overall character. While we all of course experience our “off days,” we should not let these affect our overall attitude toward others and our manners.

Whether it is a coworker, loved one, or a stranger, do not take out your frustrations on them.

  • If a waiter gets your order wrong or store clerk gets you the wrong item, do not get angry at and embarrass them. Instead, be polite and kindly ask them to re-do your order.
  • Traveling and way-finding in new settings induces stress on many people. When asking for assistance or checking-in with security or travel personnel, ask for things politely and always thank them after. Avoid a demanding tone and short response.
  • Loved Ones can be an easy target for taking out frustrations – If you know you are in a bad mood or have had a rough day, let them know you may not be in the best of moods and ask for their understanding to help you. If you know you need some alone time, simply let them know that.
  • Taking things out on coworkers can be detrimental to your career, professional appearance, and overall office/team moral. If you are having a bad day, keep your composure and breathe before responding to situations. It is better to wait and think than to react inappropriately and have to apologize later.

And always remember – Even when you are having a tough day, smile at others as they pass you and offer a kind greeting. You may not always get a smile or greeting in return, but at least you will know you presented a friendly face to another individual!

Sparkle On!

Alexandra

My Experience as a USO Elf

USO_LOGO_Project Elf_Script-01

This article is not related to protocol or etiquette; however, I found this experience so special, I knew I had to share it.

This Holiday Season, I had the privilege of being the Program Manager, or “Head Elf” as some affectionately referred to me, for USO-Metro’s Project Elf. Project USO Elf supports military children of junior enlisted service members, E-1 to E-5, by pairing them with Corporate and Community Wish List Donors who sponsor the children. These Wish List Donors buy the children gifts from their Wish List for the Holiday Season. This year, I am very proud to say USO-Metro supported over 1,200 military children in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan region!

While this program was quite an undertaking, coordinating 1,200+ Wish Lists between 2 distribution locations from hundreds of Wish List Donors proved to be no small feat, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Planning for the program started as “Christmas in July” and gained momentum throughout the Fall. The build-up to the program was amazing!

On October 1st, the “North Pole” began receiving Wish Lists from children. The notes I read honestly made my day several times. One of my personal favorites was for a 6 year old girl, “She is girly and happy go lucky, very artistic, loves play dates and gymnastics! She has asked for: stuffed Hello Kitty doll, silver pageant crown & wand, ribbon baton twirler, Frozen Anna dress, sparkly silver Mary Janes, Melissa and Doug craft projects. She also likes Chick-Fil-A, My Little Ponies, and fun sparkly colors of Zoya (nontoxic) nail polish.” How adorable is that?! That is just one of the over 1,200 Wish Lists I received that reminded me of the pure joy and excitement the Holidays bring to children. Come November, Wish Lists were distributed to Donors and they were set loose to hit the stores while I stayed at the North Pole organizing the program logistics!

As soon as December 1st hit, I spent the first week of the month on “Sleigh Stops” visiting our Corporate Wish List Donors and receiving hundreds of Wish Lists from several companies. The level of excitement I saw in these donors and the giving atmosphere the companies built around my program was incredible. One company even had so many employees want to give to the program, that the employees started buying popular gifts for us to add to other children’s gift bags saying, “the more the merrier!” Once all the Wish Lists were collected, my amazing volunteers set-up and decorated the distribution sites.

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Project USO Elf Distribution Site #1 with over 800 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!


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Project USO Elf Distribution Site #2 with more than 400 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!

When distribution night arrived, I was instilled with an overwhelming sense of calm. That day, I knew all the hard work and long hours I put in were about to pay off – big time! Seeing the smiles and hearing the words of appreciation from service members who received gifts for their children was the only “Thank You” I needed. Realizing we (I would be remiss if I did not thank my amazing USO-Metro teammate and our HUGE volunteer corps. Without the volunteer hours put in by these dedicated, patriotic individuals, my job would not have been possible) had really made a difference in the lives of others was incredible.

This year, the Christmas spirit has not quite “taken hold” of me in my personal life. However, today I realized when over 1,200 military children wake-up tomorrow morning their Christmas wishes will come true thanks to so many generous citizens who wanted to give back and say “thank you” to our service members. Personally, the opportunity to play Santa for these military children has been a privilege and truly an honor. This year, Christmas took on a new meaning for me. I hope to continue to pay it forward to those so deserving of this special program.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, a Good Night!”

Project USO Elf “Lead Elf”

To learn more about Project USO Elf, please watch Elizabeth Prann’s Fox News coverage of Project USO ElfFor additional photos from Project USO Elf, please visit the USO-Metro Facebook album.

 

The Characteristics of a Great Volunteer

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

As a Program Specialist for a nonprofit organization, I rely heavily on my volunteers to ensure my programs run smoothly and to help me engage with our public. From preparation activities to program day, volunteers make my programs possible! So, what makes a great volunteer? Here are my thoughts on the characteristics of a volunteer you want on your team!

  1. Passion
    • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about! Volunteers who truly relate to the cause they are supporting, will enjoy engaging with the individuals benefiting from your program and be enthusiastic about what they can contribute to the cause/program.
  2. Up for Anything
    • A “no job is too small” attitude is a must! From taking out the trash to helping with set-up and break-down of an event, a volunteer who is willing to help out wherever support is needed is essential. Not all jobs are “glamorous,” but they do support the greater cause and that is what is important to keep in mind as a volunteer.
  3. Initiative
    • This goes hand-in-hand with “up for anything.” Be a volunteer who is proactive and willing to jump-in when you see something that needs to be done – just be sure to follow the procedures laid out by the Program Manager.
  4. Knowledgeable
    • Educate yourself about the mission of the organization and the goals of the program so you can speak to about them intelligently when asked by a participant, sponsor, or even a friend considering volunteering!
  5. Sensitivity
    • Depending on the organization’s and/or the program’s mission, sensitivity to an individual’s personal information and reason(s) for participating in a program can be very important. Ensure you safeguard people’s privacy when volunteering with sensitive causes.
  6. Enthusiasm
    • Having an upbeat and positive attitude while volunteering is a necessity! No matter what task you are asked to handle, complete it with a smile 🙂

Now get out there and volunteer in your community for a cause you are passionate about!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

How to Be a Good Roommate

As part of Week 2 of The DC Ladies Blogtober, today’s writing prompt is your “Favorite Back to School Memory.” My mind immediately went to picking out my first day of school outfit, prepping my Lilly Pulitzer agenda, organizing all my school supplies, and anxiously reading through my syllabi. Those are certainly a few of my favorite back to school activities, but my ultimate favorite back to school memory was moving back in with my roommates after the summer break! Today, I am sharing my tips on how to be a good roommate.

  1. Be Courteous
    • If you are going to invite people over or have guests stay overnight/for the weekend, be sure to ask your roommate and let him/her know of your plans.
    • Keep the noise level down – If your roommate is studying, working from home/after hours, or sleeping, do not make a ruckus.
      • If you are watching a TV show or movie, close your door or keep the volume low if you are in the common area.
      • If you are listening to music, use headphones.
      • If you are in the kitchen, avoid rearranging the pots and pans while cooking.
    • Unless asked by your roommate to go get something, do not go into your roommate’s room or personal things.
    • On a safety note: If you do not plan to come home one evening, are going out town, or will be coming in very late, let your roommate know. It is always good to have someone know where you are, but you also do not want to scare your roommate by not showing up or coming in extremely late.
  2. Keep Your Place Neat and Tidy
    • This is especially true for the common areas and if you share a bathroom!
    • Common Area/Living Room:
      • If you use blankets, pillows, etc. or rearrange the furniture for an evening, be sure to put things back as they were once you are done.
      • Use coasters! It helps to prevent drink stains on coffee and end tables.
      • Share your magazines/books! If you are not going to keep them, put them on the coffee table for your roommates and guests to look at.
      • If you have people over, clean up. If you spill or break something, clean up. No one likes to clean up someone else’s mess.
    • If you share a bathroom:
      • Do not leave things laying all over the countertop.
      • Do not hog all the space on the shower caddy/shelving.
      • Clip your nails over the trashcan.
      • Swifter/Vacuum the floor (especially if you are a girl with long hair… shedding happens).
      • Wash out the sink after you brush your teeth. No one likes dried toothpaste globs!
      • Clean the mirror.
      • Empty the trash (especially if it’s “that” time ladies).
  3. The Kitchen
    • Do not eat food that is not your’s unless your roommate has said you can have some.
      • With that said, if you are making dinner or snacks, ask your roommate to join you for meals! Share your recipes!
    • Clean up your dirty dishes and cookware. Do not leave things sitting on the counter or in the sink for prolonged periods of time.
    • If you use a dishrack instead of a dishwasher, be sure to put your things away when they are dry. A cluttered dishrack does not help your cleaning process.
    • Clean the countertops and appliances after you use them.
    • If you need to borrow a utensil or appliance that is not your’s, be sure to ask first.
  4. Share the Chores
    • Make a list of regular chores (taking out the trash, vacuuming, unloading the dishwahser, cleaning the bathroom, etc.) and alternate responsibilities.
    • For common items (toilet paper, trash bags, etc.) and cleaning supplies, alternate who buys it each month (or however often).
  5. Decorating
    • Before moving in, be sure to discuss who is bringing what. Unless you plan on living together for a very long time, I would avoid splitting the cost for new things. When you move out, it can get complicated as to “who owns what,” especially if it is large pieces of furniture.
    • Do not hang anything in the common area without talking to your roommate first.
    • Before you rearrange the furniture, ask your roommate if he/she has any ideas for a new arrangement.
    • Be culturally sensitive, especially when it comes to the holidays. If you celebrate different holidays, decorate for all of them!

Overall, be courteous and remember you are sharing your living space. Do not do anything you would not want done to you or your things. Whether you are in college or post-grad, I hope these tips help you to live succesfully and comfortably with a roommate.

Enjoy your roommate and have fun together!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra