Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Many Habitual Electronic Friends Do You Have and How Much Stress Is In Your Home?

How many TVs, computers, I-Pods, I-Pads, X-Boxes, Guitar Heros, Guitar Bands, DVD players, CD players, Stereos, Radios and Weather Radios do you have in your home? How many of each are on simultaneously and all the time?

How many times per week, on average, does your family eat at the table? Any table. Dining room table, Kitchen table, Coffee table or TV trays in the Family room?

Here's how to take the stress out of your home and simplify your family life quickly. Turn all the previously mentioned gadgets OFF. Sit at the table and all eat dinner. Each person take an uninterrupted turn at talking about the favorite moment of your day. It does not really matter what y'all talk about, as long as it is relatively positive and y'all are all together.

After dinner, everyone go on a walk outside. If it is raining or freezing outside, go into a different room and all eat dessert together. If y'all do not eat sweets, have some decaffeinated coffee, fruit and cheese.

After dessert, meet in the den or living room and play cards, a game, or do a puzzle together and pick one person to read aloud from a book to everyone. Any book, but preferably one of the classics that is fitting and age appropriate. Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Keats, Shakespeare, Art, Art History, any History, any Biography.

Reading is freeing. Reading tells us that others have similar or the same daily struggles no matter how hard or particular our own struggles may seem.

Getting fed up with life sometimes and our own common struggles is easy. Turning OFF our electronic companions may be hard especially when they are always on and there are so many of these habitual "friends" around.

So, TURN ALL ELECTRONICS OFF and be with yourself or your family quietly and be rid of the electronic distractions and stress!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eye Contact Etiquette Tips - Pause, Look and Listen

The eyes ...little mirrors to the soul...les yeux. Do you have problems with eye contact? Are you shy? Sometimes timid? What about traveling to foreign countries? What are their social and business customs regarding eye contact?

The following are a few tips to help you look others straight in the eyes when needed for introductions and business meetings:
  • The next time you have an introduction, try looking at the spot right in between the other person's eyebrows.
  • Americans believe clear, strong eye contact is important during conversation. Direct eye contact is a silent signal signifying attention and honesty. Averting eye contact or looking away during conversation implies dishonesty or lack of interest and it is considered to be distracting or rude to the person whom is speaking.
  • The British do make eye contact but at an angle rather than directly.
  • In many Latin countries direct eye contact is considered to be an aggressive gesture.
  • In many Asian countries, children when bad, are punished by either parent staring at them for extended periods of time.
  • In South Korea, making eye contact is important in business. It shows sincerity and forms a subtle, but significant bond between individuals.
  • In Thailand, eye contact is used to facilitate a need. For example, to summon a waiter, all you must do is to catch their eye, and raise your eyebrows to get immediate service.
  • Middle Easterners look long and deeply into each person's eyes to search their souls and determine from the dilation of the pupils the other person's interest.

So, for your next introduction, pause, look and listen!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Greetings and Pucker Up!

Greetings all!!

Where I live out in the country, kisses and the fields are not fancy, kisses are quick like chickens and the fields are filled with horses. The social set out here kisses once and mostly on the side of the cheek. Sometimes there is a quick hug as we are a small community. Guys or gals, married or not, kisses are all fairly fast and a generic chicken peck.

In some chic US cities, such as Palm Beach, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles, social sets do the double air kiss on each cheek like in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and most other Mediterranean countries. Again, gals or guys, married or not, it is all two quick and harmless set of pecks.

In Latino countries, kisses are seen as well as the abrazo ; friends hug and pat each other on the back.

In the Middle East, men may air kiss on both cheeks and even hug, and women may air kiss also on both cheeks, but never with the opposite sex. Opposite sexes never touch each other, ever. Not even a hand shake. Orthodox Jews also avoid all body contact with opposite sexes.

In Asia, body contact is avoided always, and eye contact should be brief. Americans, best to keep your hands down at your sides, nod your head and say "Hello." Some Asian business people have adapted to the Western handshake, but best to wait for their cues.

Persons from India and some in Buddhist Asia use the namaste gesture, (palms together under the chin then a slight nod of the head), for greetings and goodbyes as a sign of respect.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

International Handshaking Hints

Traveling on vacation a bit more this summer for the Labor Day holiday? Junior year in College abroad? Business meetings overseas? Take a minute to read a few tips on international handshaking:

  • USA: Firm, solid grip with 2-3 strokes
  • France: Light grip and 1 brisk stroke
  • Germany: Firm grip and 1 stroke
  • Latin Cultures: Light grip and linger 2x as long as USA handshake
  • Middle East: Limp and lingering grip only. Never a stroke.
  • Russia: Firm grip and 1 stroke
  • Japan: Light grip, 3-4 gentle strokes
  • Australia: Firm grip and 2 strokes

Travel safely and smart. Enjoy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Key To The Place Setting Universe

The key to the place setting universe is:

Work Your Way From The Outside, In

Simple, really!

Life does not have to be complicated and you do not have to be intimidated!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finger Bowl Follies, Foibles and Faux-Pas...Who Cares?

Old and high fashioned, out of date, too formal and fancy, stuffy Victorian accoutrement! When in the world would one ever see, much less use a finger bowl? Who cares? I'll tell you who cares: Those In The Know.

Yes. I have at my finger tips an entire plethora of finger biting, finger bowl faux-pas stories involving very well educated, very well paid professionals, and high society players .

One story involves one lawyer at his own Junior Partner dinner celebration. Beautifully educated at a private school, a prestigious university and a paramount law school, he drank his finger bowl in front of his peers and Senior Partners. Not wanting to embarrass him then, Those In The Know quietly drank their finger bowls as well. The perennial problem began Monday morning around the water cooler when this Junior Partner's reputation became company folklore, forever pegging him as "the dude who drank his finger bowl." Those in the Know thought to themselves: "If he missed the finger bowl etiquette, what else did he miss?" The story of this finger bowl faux-pas also permeated company walls and got around town. Needless to say, this lawyer has never made Senior Partner. Who cares? You should!

Maybe you will only see one finger bowl in your entire lifetime, at an important company dinner, or paramount social gathering, or on your Honeymoon. I guarantee, you will want to know how to recognize the finger bowl, its variations, and how to manipulate your finger bowl. You do not want to embarrass yourself at what will likely be a most important night in your professional or personal life.

Alright, so maybe you know enough not to drink it because it may have one half slice of lemon, lime or a sprig of a green garnish in it, and you know how to use it, but do you know enough about what to do with a doily or where to place your finger bowl when done, or what to do when the finger bowl is served on top of a dessert plate instead of its own stand? What if it is also served with a dessert fork and dessert spoon? What to do?

The following are a few tips to help avoid fumbling with your finger bowl:

When using your finger bowl, daintily dab the tips of your fingers, one hand at a time, into the warm water, then slowly place each hand in your napkin to dry.

Sometimes, finger bowls are served with their own "stands" (plate), which makes for easy manipulation.

  • Lift the entire bowl and stand with BOTH hands and place it to the upper left of your plate when done.

Sometimes, finger bowls are served with a paper or lace & linen doily on top of the dessert plate.

Sometimes, the dessert fork and dessert spoon also are placed on top of the doily on top of the dessert plate.

  • First, "place" your dessert fork and spoon onto your place setting in front of you at the table. The dessert fork is placed to the left and your dessert spoon to the right of your dessert plate.
  • Second, use the finger bowl.
  • Third, when done with the finger bowl, be sure to remove the doily AND bowl with BOTH hands and place it to the upper left of your dessert plate. This way, the waiter can place your dessert onto your dessert plate directly, and does not have to place your silverware for you, or move your doily out of the way.

Always use both hands when moving the finger bowl, no matter how small. Yes, I have many stories about spilled finger bowls all over the table after one has had one's hands in the water...yuck!

Yes, I also have a story about a wealthy male suitor during the 1950's at THE fancy lunch of the intended fiance's Victorian parents. The wealthy suitor certainly knew what a finger bowl was, but did not know to remove the lovely linen doily on top of his dessert plate. The butler stood at his side with dessert in hand in silence for a minute until the suitor finally figured out he needed to also remove his doily....then the thought of what to do with the lovely linen doily flashed through his head as the finger bowl has already been placed. Doily dilemma! The wealthy suitor finally placed the doily quickly in his lap, thanked the butler, tasted the chocolate dessert, then quickly complimented the host and hostess, his future In-Laws. They must have liked him very much. Doily disaster dashed! Phew!

Yes, who cares about the Victorians or the 1950's? Who cares about removing your doily or placing your dessert spoon yourself ? Who cares about the etiquette of finger bowls? Those In The Know care!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Calling Card Usage In The Military, In Diplomatic Circles, With Butlers & On Sterling Salvers

Y'all have all seen the old movies as the butler in formal dress stiffly walks into the library and presents the gentleman or lady of the house with a calling card on a tiny silver tray.

Possibly you have received a wedding gift or flowers with a calling card inside and the formal name of the gift giver has one fine pen line through it and the informal name written below. The sender traditionally writes in pencil if the gift is delivered in person, and fine pen if the gift is mailed or delivered by messenger.

Maybe you have also seen these calling cards attached to the flowers on top of the coffin of an international figure in death, such as Princess Diana.

Calling cards serve other purposes in addition to merely a call. Most often today, we see them enclosed inside wedding presents, flowers, birthday and anniversary gifts, graduation gifts and condolences. Did you also know Calling cards may be sent with letters of introduction and may be sent with acceptances or regrets for informal (but never formal) social events.

Brief messages may be written on calling cards. For example, most often, one sees a message such as: "For a lifetime of happiness" or "Best Wishes" written on a calling card for a wedding. Messages written on calling cards are also still traditionally used in military and diplomatic circles to convey the appropriate message in French.

Most High School Seniors order their first box of calling cards and send them out with their graduation announcements.

A "salver" is a small tray on which calling cards, letters, cards or refreshments are placed for handing to people. Most often today, salvers are seen at auction houses or antique stores, and are usually sterling silver, nickle silver or another metal. The salver may have the family crest or monogram engraved on the face of the tray.

The following list are abbreviations used to convey traditional messages in French:

  • p.p. (pour presenter) - To present, to introduce. Used only on the card of a senior officer accompanying the card of the subordinate.
  • p.f. (pour feliciter) - To congratulate. Used for national holidays and other special occasions.
  • p.c. (pour condoler) - To condole. To express sympathy. Used at the death of a national figure.
  • p.r. (pour remercier) - To thank. Thanks for a gift, courtesy received, a congratulations. Can also be sent in response to "p.f." and "p.c." messages.
  • p.p.c. (pour prendre conge) - To say good-bye or take leave. Indicates one is leaving town.
  • p.f.n.a. (pour faire nouvel an) - Happy New Year. To extend greetings at the new year.
  • p.m. (pour memoire) - To remind.

If the corner of the calling card is turned in, this indicates the following:

  • Upper Left-hand corner - A Visit.
  • Upper Right-hand corner - A Congratulations.
  • Lower Left-hand corner - Taking leave.
  • Lower Right-hand corner - A Condolence.

Voila! Now you are one of those in the know.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Service a la Francaise, a la Russe & a l'Anglaise, and Service American Style

With daily life as casual as it is today, it still helps to know the Forms Of Service you may encounter at a wedding, company function, family celebration, Christmas party, vacation, or maybe you will one day get an invitation to the White House!

The following are 4 Forms Of Service to be aware of and familiar with for formal occasions:

  1. Service a la Francaise: the server presents the arranged platter to the female guests first, from the left. After all the ladies have served themselves from the platter, the server moves to serve all the gentlemen also from the left, and they serve themselves from the platter. Service a la Francaise is considered to be the most formal of all services, and is customary at formal dinners in Europe and in America.
  2. Service a la Anglaise: the server presents the platter from the left to the guest and serves the guest. Ladies first, of course. Service a l'anglaise is used for banquets because the server controls the portions and can limit the portions served to the guest.
  3. Service a la Russe: The famous chef, Urban DuBois, popularized this service back in the 1860's. Originally, the chef decorated each dish on a fancy platter and a line of servers each with a platter in their arms up above their heads parade around the Dining Room table, showing the guests their creations, then return into the kitchen to carve the meat, fish, poultry, game or other dishes. Then, they return to the table to serve the dish to the guests, ladies first, of course. Today, this service is commonly used in upscale restaurants worldwide. Service a la Russe includes a small serving table, called a gueridon (pedestal table), equipped with a side burner, or rechaud (portable stove). The server rolls the gueridon to the table, cooks and carves the dish and serves the guests. Ladies first again, of course.
  4. Service American Style: The server places the food directly onto the plate of the guest either at the table, or in a buffet line. This service has the advantage of being fast and uncomplicated. It does not require professional service.

So, now you know! Pay attention the next time you are out and about and try to guess which Form Of Service you receive!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dine Like A Diplomat: Sending Silent Signals With Silverware and Napkins

Did you know when dining, you may send the wait staff silent signals regarding the progress of your meal.

Silent signals include placing your silverware in the "I am resting" and "I am finished" positions.

When dining Continental style, and resting, place your silverware in an upside down "V" position with the tips of your knife and fork in the center of the plate and the handles in the 40/20 position, (like a clock). When dining American Style and resting, place your knife on the right top edge of your plate and the fork in the center of your plate in the 10/20 position, (like a clock). When dining Asian Style, place your chopsticks on the chopstick rest.

When finished with the meal and dining Continental Style, or American Style, place your knife above your fork, blade always toward you, in the center of the plate in the 10/20 position, (like a clock). Dining in the Continental Style, your fork tines will be facing down toward the plate. Dining in the American Style, your tines will be facing up. When dining in Asian style and finished, place your chopsticks also in the center of your plate in the 10/20 position.

Be sure to always have the blade of the knife facing you. Never have the blade of the knife facing anyone else and never point your chopsticks at anyone. Dangerous and considered in the Asian culture to be bad luck.

When leaving the table briefly, a silent signal may also be sent to the wait staff with your napkin by placing your napkin on your chair signaling to the waiter "I will return, do not remove my plate."

Now, all you may have to worry about is the wait staff knowing the correct silent signals!