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 🙂
    • 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 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

How to Have a Friendly Debate

I recently had a difference of opinion on a “manners moment” with someone close to me. We both believed different actions should have been taken and that got us to talking about seeing other people’s points of view. As a result, we had a casual, light-hearted banter to present our own viewpoint. After our discussion, I got to thinking… How do you have a “friendly debate” without it turning into an all-out brawl where every stakeholder has dug in and refuses to agree or see another opinion?

***NOTE: This post is indeed about “friendly debates” and not about matters of great importance such as financial issues, health matters, family decisions, political debates, romantic relationships, or business deals. However, some of these tips may help!***

  1. Keep the Topic “Light”
    • A common saying is, “Never discuss money, politics, or personal life (aka sex).” If a topic you are uncomfortable with gets brought up, politely decline to engage in the conversation.
    • Ensure the conversation/debate stays on topic and does not turn into a discussion about other issues or previous grievances.
    • Laugh about things, laugh at yourself! Sometimes when you get into a debate and outlandish ideas are being discussed, you have to take a step back and just laugh at the crazy debate you have somehow ended up having.
      • NOTE: If someone is strongly expressing an opinion, be cautious about laughing. Some people get extremely offended if they feel like they are being laughed at or mocked for their viewpoint.
  2. Present Your View Strongly, Yet Democratically
    • If you are expressing something you truly care about, ensure you express that sentiment while still making it OK for the other person to potentially disagree with you.
    • Do not force your opinion/viewpoint on the other person.
    • Be knowledgeable of what you are discussing. If you are not knowledgeable on the subject, politely decline the conversation and never make up information you are unsure is true.
    • Never act like you are better than the other person’s opinion and be sure you are truly ready to hear their side.
  3. What Do You Do If Someone Offends You?
    • First, ask him/her to clarify what they meant by the comment. Sometimes, people say something without thinking about how it will come across or they simply use the wrong words. Before getting upset with someone, be sure you have the same understanding of what was said.
    • After clarifying, if what was said truly offends you, stand up for yourself. Be confident in yourself yet gracious when you say, “Excuse me, the comment you just made is extremely offensive/hurtful/unkind of you to say.”
    • Explain why. It does not have to be a lengthy or personal description, but explaining why something is offensive/hurtful in a polite way allows the other person to learn how to correct the behavior in the future.
    • If the person refuses to back-down from the comment, it is time to end the conversation.
  4. When It Is Over, It Is OVER.
    • After both parties have described their thoughts/viewpoints allow each other to ask and answer questions.
    • Once the conversation is done, move onto something else. Do not continue to rehash the same argument.
    • Do not be the person who has to “have the last word.” No one likes someone who always has to prove a point or have the last say on a matter.

Often times, you most likely will not come to a solid answer/compromise. What is important to recognize is that you have the ability to not only standup for your own opinions/viewpoints democratically, but you also have the ability respect for others who may be different than you. Many of these “friendly debates” will teach you something new and push you to think in ways or consider things you have not. Just remember to keep an open-mind and always be cordial during a difference of opinion.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Going to the Theater!

2014 Christmas Concert for the Troops

2014 Christmas Concert for the Troops at the Kennedy Center

I recently had the pleasure of attending the USO-Metro and Gary Sinise Foundation 2014 Holiday Concert for the Troops. The night was wonderful and the performances were truly amazing! With the Holiday Season upon us, I realized many people will be attending holiday concerts, plays, and musicals. The theater is traditionally known as a place for elegance, grace, and the best of manners. In that spirit, I am sharing my thoughts on how to be a positively proper “theater-goer!”

  1. Dress the Part
    • Most theaters will be business or casual cocktail attire. Think professional yet fancy and also a little fun.
      • Ladies: A pencil skirt or dress pants with a pretty blouse is perfect! Also, a casual cocktail dress fits the occasion well.
      • Gentlemen: A suit is absolutely the way to go!
    • For the regal setting, think elegant formal wear.
      • Ladies: A formal cocktail dress or tasteful, floor length gown is appropriate.
      • Gentlemen: Wear a formal suit and tie or tuxedo (for the fanciest of occasions).
  2. Arrive Early
    • Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, check your coat, and pick-up your tickets.
    • Often times, you can buy concessions or have a drink and socialize prior to entering the performance.
    • Use the restroom prior to entering the performance.
    • When the lights dim or the the bell chimes, start making your way to your seat.
  3. Mind Your Manners
    • Silence your cell phone and put it away for the duration of the show.
      • The ringing of a phone can ruin a song or interrupt an important moment in a performance.
      • The back-light from your cell phone ruins the ambiance of the theater and can even mess with the lighting depending on the size of the theater.
    • Taking photos during the performance is highly discouraged. (I took mine before the show began and the lights went down 😉 )
    • Chatting with your neighbors throughout the show is absolute no. It is disrespectful to the performers and the people around you will not appreciate it as you will certainly cause a distraction.
    • Refrain from singing along with the performers (unless encouraged to do so). I am sure you can belt out the tunes, but the audience came to see/hear the performers, not you. 😉
    • Stay in your seat throughout the show.
      • It is very rude and can be quite distracting if you are walking around during the show.
      • Wait until intermission or the end of the performance.
    • If you need assistance during the performance, signal an usher. They will gladly help you.

Now that you are well prepared to attend a holiday performance, go hit the theater! Remember to support your local schools, community theaters, and benefit concerts during this time.

Happy Theater Going!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: Designer Blogs

Photo credit: Designer Blogs

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this week’s post is about being thankful. I want to take the time to thank all my readers and followers for going on this blogging journey with me! To everyone who has commented, asked questions, and sent suggestions, thank you for participating in the fun and helping me to make this better! It has truly been a wonderful few months of writing and I look forward to continuing the journey!

As a “thank you” to all of you, here are my top tips for Thanksgiving 😉

  1. If you are traveling to someone else’s home for the day/weekend, take a host/hostess gift.
  2. If you are hosting, decorate your entrance and the table in the Fall or Thanksgiving theme to make it festive and even more welcoming.
  3. If you are not the host/hostess or main person preparing the meal, ask what you can bring to contribute to the meal, lend a hand in the kitchen, offer to set the table, and help with clean-up.
  4. Remember your Essential Table Manners!
  5. If you were a guest for Thanksgiving, send a handwritten thank-you note within 3 days of returning.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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