Sunday, August 30, 2009

Better Butter Tips

  • Have y'all ever heard the saying: "Barbara Streisand's nails are like butter?" Well, if you rub butter on your nail beds, they will be softer. Butter may be used as ointment for: sore lips, chapped hands, cuts and bruises. After the first application of the butter, the bruise should fade.
  • To Sweeten Rancid Butter: Melt and skim the butter. Put a piece of toast into the melted butter. In a few minutes, the butter will loose its offensive taste and smell and can be left to get firm again.
  • To Renew The Life of Ferns: Carefully remove from cache-pot. Place a few drops of Caster Oil at the roots, then set the fern in a pail of water all night. Replant. After a week or so, the fern should sprout new shoots.
  • Frying Hint: When frying fat has got slightly burnt, place a raw, peeled potato into the pan for a few minutes and then remove it. This act should remove all trace of burning.
  • When a saucepan boils dry and burns: it can be saved by putting a piece of butter the size of a walnut in the pan, allow it to melt, then pour in the hot water.
  • Cooking Hint: If if puddings, meats, tarts and cakes are covered with butter paper, they will not be burnt in the oven.
  • To Beat Butter and Sugar: Where a recipe requires the beating of butter and sugar to a cream, briefly place these ingredients in a double boiler until partly blended. Do not break the butter. Then, mix together as required.

Enjoy your salted and unsalted butter!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The White Dinner Jacket, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, and The Golden Rule

We are attending a 6:00 p.m. wedding on September 5th, before Labor Day. The informal, modern invitation does not address dress at all. The wedding ceremony and reception are both in a botanical garden. Richmond, Virginia typically has an 86% humidity rate and is 98 degrees during the day, and 76 degrees at night with no breeze. More humid and hotter than most tropical climates, yet Richmond is extremely traditional, conservative, and corporately conformist.
That being said, I had a question from a friend about wearing a White Dinner Jacket to the wedding. The question was at what time is it acceptable to wear a formal tuxedo (white or black dinner jacket). The answer is 6:00 pm, but the issue of the white or ivory dinner jacket vs. the black dinner jacket is a horse of a different color! Never even mind the shawl collar.
The Golden Rule is: He who has the most gold rules. Rules change because the families with the gold change. Customs change. Society changes. I referred to the Internet and 5 different books in my etiquette library, one as far back as 1938 and here are a few results:
  • From: "Etiquette" by, Emily Post (1938) "White Dinner Coat - Intended only for hot weather, it should be double-breasted so as to avoid waistcoat; trousers, shirt, tie, socks, and shoes: same as dinner coat (all white articles of clothing must be immaculate and perfectly ironed). White Mess Jacket - Trousers: Black, Waistcoat: White (kummerbund not in as good taste, but black one permissible if necessary). Other details same as for white dinner coat."
  • From: The Black Tie Guide on the Internet. "The white jacket variation of black tie began in the early 1930's as a way for well-heeled vacationers to dress formally in the tropical heat...However, without a proper understanding of its form and function, the white dinner jacket easily becomes a flashy gimmick....The white dinner jacket's origin on cruises and at tropical resorts speaks to its specific role as a casual alternative to traditional black tie. This less formal status limits its appropriateness to celebrity events and hot weather climates."
  • From: The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (1978). Under "Informal Evening for the Groom, White or Black (preferably) dinner jacket, single- or double-breasted black vest or cummerbund. For male guests: a dark business suit."
  • From: EtiquetteNow: Wedding Etiquette Expert, Rebecca Black, on the Internet. "Question: Is it appropriate to wear a white dinner jacket as a groom in a 4 pm wedding in a tropical environment where the reception will run into the evening? Answer: Dear When to Wear a White/Ivory Dinner Jacket, Yes, the tux is evening formal attire. However, 4pm is close enough in my book. I don't think anyone will fault you on this."

Clearly from researching and reading from different sources written in different decades, my experience tells me:

In conservative Richmond, Virginia, if one has to ask around if one should wear a particular style or not, it is probably best to defer to the more known, traditional, conformist style.

Perfectly appropriate is for this male guest to call his very good friend, the Father of the Bride, and ask him what he is wearing and what other male guests may be wearing, then make his decision.

Always safer to be better dressed than less dressed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Fallible Fall Season Finger Bowl Faux Pas

With Fall, approaches the season of company award dinners, school functions, rehearsal dinners and weddings. Who knew October is now the most popular month of the year to get married. You may have occasion to see finger bowls every week. You may only see one finger bowl in your life.
So, don't get flustered over the idea of the finger bowl and let yourself get carried away with the blowing Fall foliage. Settle in and feast your eyes on these few simple tips on how to manipulate the Finger Bowl:

  • Do Not drink from your finger bowl. We all know this, n'est-ce pas?
  • Do use one hand at a time. Demurely, place the fingers only in the bowl, slowly remove, then dab onto one's napkin in one's lap.
  • Do remove the bowl with BOTH HANDS when finished and move the bowl to the top left of your place, signalling to the server you are done. Sometimes, finger bowls come with their own plate, but mostly, these days, they come on top of a dessert plate.
  • Do make sure to remove the paper doily or linen doily accompanying the bowl if on top of a dessert plate so the server may then place the dessert onto your dessert plate.
  • Do silently through example and eye contact help a dinner partner to the left or right of you in the manipulation of their finger bowl if need be.
Many years ago at my first job at Adolfo, during my first formal dinner function at a Christmas Party at the exclusive Doubles Club in New York City, I was faced with the dreaded finger bowl. I knew what it was. I knew enough not to drink from my finger bowl, but I did not know quite what to do with my finger bowl when finished. A very nice lady to my left silently helped me throgh the manipulation of my finger bowl. How nice was she! I have often thought of her and have always been greatful for her kindness shown to me as a young adult.

Enjoy the Fall, all its functions and fear not the finger bowl.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Have Americans Misplaced Our Manners on the Red Carpet?

Today, I was in a bookstore placing an order. I handed the clerk my business card with my information. Delighted, she said: "Oh, you teach etiquette and manners. I collect old etiquette books. I have an Emily Post book from 1933." Then she posed the question: "What are your thoughts about modern manners and their place in our American society today?" My answer to her was previously thought out and may seem surprising to some, but not totally out of sorts.
Let's face it, once deficits are realized, inflation sets in, interest rates go up and taxes go back up to their 1978 levels, Americans may again remember what is important in life. With all our success, American manners have gotten off track during the last few decades and generations.
Yes, having money will afford you opportunities and may take you places, but good manners will open all doors for you and take you everywhere. Treating other people as you would wish to be treated opens your soul and heart to those little miracles in life that occur every day. "Making the other person feel special always", should still be the golden rule of behavior. Just watch a few old black and white movies from "The Greatest Generation."
America has not lost its' soul. They have just misplaced it somewhere on the "Red Carpet." Maybe we will go back to having 3 generations living in the same house as did my grand-parents and great-grandparents. Much can be learned from the older, wiser generations. We do not really want to all live like the editor of a fashion magazine, and we should not need frightfully expensive designer bags and sunglasses to feel important, needed and loved.
Practice good manners and surprisingly, the results will have nothing to do with a fancy purse or a fashion runway.

Success in Business

Just heard an old expression from a 1941 movie:

Success in business is 50% hard work and 50% what type of cigar you smoke.

This saying still holds true today, n'est-ce pas? The unspoken and unwritten are still important.

Remember, this is why when interviewing, in addition to the company you are interviewing with liking you, more importantly, you must like them.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Just a Quick Poem From My Book

Good thoughts for today... and to all... have a fun rest of the summer at the beach... dig those cool bathing suits from 1907!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

True One Line Joke: "What other people think of me is none of my business."

It is said that 50% of any joke we may tell others about ourselves is the truth. Sometimes, I think it's more like 80%.
The truth is, the only thing we can control is ourselves. One cannot control other people or live others' lives for them. One should not worry, either, about problems one cannot control.
I have thankfully reached the age where I do not want to control other people. It is quite enough to just to live my own life. What other people may think of me is their business and/or their problem.
Try it! This way of thinking is quite liberating! Be free and be happy with yourself, your own opinions and your own life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Money and Time Saving Household Tips

Here are a few tips to save a few pennies and a few minutes:

  • To Clean a Copper Kettle: cut a lemon in half dipped in salt and rub it over the surface of the metal, washing afterwards with warm water to prevent the acid of the lemon from eating too much into the metal.
  • To Make Mint Sauce from your Garden Mint: sprinkle the mint leaves with granulated sugar before chopping. You will be delighted with the result.
  • To Clean Brass Candlesticks: wash the candlestick in hot, soapy water, making sure to remove all candle grease spots. Use your fingernails lightly or a soft cloth so as not to scratch the candlestick. Thoroughly dry with a soft cloth, clean with a metal polish, and polish well with a soft cloth. Next, smear the candlestick with a very thin coating of Vaseline. This keeps the candlestick bright for several weeks and future grease spots can be removed easier.
  • To Keep Cheese Fresh: after opening, keep a cube of sugar next to the cheese inside it's container. The sugar will inhibit the mildew from growing and keep your cheese fresher, longer.
  • To freshen up more than day old donuts: place them in the toaster oven and heat for a minute or two at about 150 degrees.
  • To Remove Onion Smell from your hands: after peeling or cutting onions, rub your hands with celery to get rid of the odour.
  • To Avoid Lumps in Salt: keep a bean or two in the salt shaker. The beans absorb all moisture.

Conserve your time and conserve energy and enjoy!