Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fair may be for Faerie Tales but for "Zuzu," It has been an unfair yet sometimes "Wonderful Life."

We all deserve a wonderful life, n'est-ce pas? However, in the real world, life is not fair. Childhood is no fair. Bullies are not fair. Adulthood is not fair. The working world is not fair. Criticism is not fair. Failing and falling down in life is not fair. Sickness and death are not fair. Human nature is not fair. Fair may be for Faerie Tales, but how can you have a wonderful life if you have a life of many failings and days and years of nightmares? The actress who played "Zuzu" in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" has had just this type of life.
   Karolyn Grimes played the character "Zuzu" in the 1946 production of: "It's a Wonderful Life"at the age of about 6 years old. She says it was one of the best experiences of her life and shaped the way she thought about life and faith as she grew older. As it turns out, she needed that positive memory in her life as it was about to turn very hard.
   Her Mother died when she was 12. Her Father tragically died in a car crash when she was 15. She was sent to live with an Aunt and Uncle who were extremely religious and did not believe in movies, dancing, singing or laughing. Married off young, Karolyn Grimes divorced her first husband who later himself died in a hunting accident. Her second husband died from Cancer. Her Son committed suicide when he was 18 years of age. She does have 2 daughters, but they are both single Mothers.
   Karolyn Grimes could have easily fallen into a life of self pity and misery. She could have abused alcohol and drugs and blamed her condition on her life's circumstances or blamed everyone else. How does she keep her attitude positive? How does she get up every morning and why does she help others? Why indeed!
   Ms. Grimes, age 71, speaks to groups about her experience as a child in making the movie and its message. She says the movie is not about anything religious, but has an intrinsically Christian message of asking God for help in showing us the way through this life of constant change when life gets really hard. The movie also sends the most basic Christian message which tells us to treat others as we wish to be treated.
   In life, it is not that we fall down and fail because we all fail, over and over again. It is what we learn from the failing and how we rise each time that counts. If you have never failed or fallen, you are not trying hard enough.
   Our faith in our God and in ourselves every day is also what does get us through this life. Every day is not fair. Life is not supposed to be a Faerie Tale, but we would not appreciate every good day if we did not ever have a bad day. Through true hard work and giving of ourselves even on bad days we will eventually succeed.  
   By rising every morning to speak and by doing good works for people, Karolyn Grimes has exhibited true charity and grace in the face of so much sadness. She has had a hard  life but has 2 wonderful daughters and grandchildren. Friends and family are what matter in this sometimes unfair but sometimes wonderful life.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Truths For Mature Humans List and the Rebuttal

   Don't we just love these FWD:, FWD:, e-mail lists that show up in our "in boxes?" Who compiles these lists filling them with tidy tid-bits of alleged wisdom? "They" are set on helping us (I reckon), but are "they" really helping us, or are "they" just spewing hatred, frustration and negative thoughts our way, meant to be cleaver and rebellious? I recon your own answer depends whether or not you are a 'glass half full' or a 'glass half empty thinker.
   First, I'll list the original "Truths For Mature Humans" in parentheses with a number, then below, offer my own rebuttal in italics and marked with a button. If you would be so kind, dear reader, please let me know which list you prefer.

Truths for Mature Humans:

"1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die."
  • I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately contact family and friends, help to clean the decedent's house, then, if o.k. with the family, take your friend's computer to a computer store service counter, have them erase all cookies and files on the computer, update it and "de-fragment" the computer, then donate the gently "used" computer to the family's charity of choice.
"2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong."
  • Firstly, the word "suck" is not a nice word at all. Secondly, never ever begin, take part in, or end an argument unless you know you are 100% correct. 
"3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger."
  • Never mind "woulda, coulda, shoulda." Live in the present, and presently, take a nap if you can.
"4. There is great need for a sarcasm font."
  • Sass will bite you in the a** every time. Just don't comment.
"5. How the h*!! are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?"
  • Ask any married lady. She will show you. The folding process involves placing all 4 fitted corners together around your out stretched arm and fist. Brilliant!!
"6. Was learning cursive really necessary?"
  • Apparently not, as schools are no longer teaching printing to students. Personally, cursive helped me to take notes and write drafts for papers very fast in college.  
"7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my 
  • Get a GPS. Map Quest is better than it used to be and it is great for a backup plan in case your British GPS lady gets you lost. By the way, my husband and I both get lost getting out of a paper bag, never mind our own neighborhood.
"8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died."
  • Why would the manner of death be more interesting than how the person lived? My Sister is a Hospice RN and I am a Hospice volunteer and CNA. I do not really care to know how the person passed, unless the family wants everyone to know. 
"9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired."
  • No one else is going to take care of you for you, so you'd better learn how to take care of yourself and take time for yourself or you will burn yourself out and be good to no one including yourself.
"10. Bad decisions make good stories."
  • Bad decisions, one after another, make for fun cocktail fodder for everyone else, but make for a most miserable life for you. Most decisions are made out of fear or emotion. Get a new set of friends, seek out advise from a different relative, get a new therapist, a new boyfriend, a new priest, pastor, minister, rabbi or guru. Buy a self help book or take a self help class. Ask a new anyone to help you recognise when you are making bad decisions for yourself. Listen. Be open and ready to accept some hard criticism. Again, bad decisions make for a bad life. 
"11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you  
        just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day."
  • So you have hit a wall. So what. Delegate the responsibility to someone else while you take a 15-20 minute break and go get a coffee or get a quick bite to eat. Clear your mind. Come back to work ready to finish the task at hand. After work, go home and go to bed early. When you wake up the next morning, eat a healthy, protein filled breakfast.
"12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my
        collection ...again."
  • Why is anyone wasting money on any collection of anything that will not rise in value over time? Realistically, with Cable TV, movie channels, PPV, Netflix, and the Internet, how many of those dusty movies in that old cabinet have you watched lately?  
"13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes
        to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to."
  • Print out any report or short story BEFORE you even attempt to exit it just in case the "stoopid compooter" spaces out and erases the document. Hit "Save" twice and hit "Backup." Also, don't end a sentence with a preposition. 
"14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call."
  • Most things are OK in moderation. Discreet screening is OK also in moderation. 
"15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well."
  • My 15 year old "on sale" side by side refrigerator from Lowe's has a light also on the freezer side old is your freezer? From 1973?
"16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet, on any given Friday or Saturday night, more kisses
        begin with Miller Lite than Kay Jewelers."
  • Alcohol or jewelry bringing more kisses??... Hmmmm. This is like arguing which sport is more dangerous: Horse Back Riding or Motorcycling?  
"17I have a hard time trying to decipher the fine line between boredom and hunger."

  • If you are so burned out you cannot decide whether or not you are tired or hungry, it is time to take a nice bath and go to bed!
"18. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still
        did not hear or did not understand a word the other person said?"
  • My husband is deaf in one ear as are many of his male friends his age.He also has limited hearing in the other ear. He often says to me he can only hear about 1/3 of any numerous conversations at restaurants and social functions. He also cannot hear well at the movies or theatre. He simply says nothing and smiles, then asks me later what was said. Works every time! (p.s. As a man, at this time, a hearing aid is simply not going to happen). 
19. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent the jerk from
           cutting in at the front of the line."
  • Speaking earlier about bad decisions... if you relax, drive a bit slower and stay to yourself, you will not involve yourself in a possible "Road Rage" incident. Who needs it? So what if you arrive at your destination 2 minutes later. Not worth potentially risking your life. 
"20. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants and skirts? Pants and skirts never get dirty and can be
        worn forever."
  • What? Eeewww! Wear pants and skirts until they either get wrinkled, stretched out or until they have a spot.
"21. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is."
  • Again, time for a coffee, a nap, or to go to bed a bit earlier. Take time to take better care of yourself because no one else is going to take care of you.
"22. Even under ideal conditions, people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their
      cell phone, and playing 'Pinning the Tail on the Donkey,' but I'd bet everyone can find and push the
      'Snooze' button from 3 feet away in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time."
  • Yet again, from experience, if you must constantly hit the 'snooze' button, you desperately need to simplify your life. If you cannot manage your time better, ask someone else to help you prioritize your time so you can get to bed earlier!
As a former fierce workaholic and extremely competitive Retail Manager having worked 14-20 hours a day, 5-7 days a week for 15 years, taking 4 consecutive days of vacation (with the one exception of 10 days vacation when my Father passed away), I can say with the knowledge of hindsight and a bit of wisdom: everyone from time to time needs to learn how to ask for help. Everyone needs to learn how to delegate responsibility and how to recognise when one must step back a bit and re-evaluate one's priorities and take charge to take care of oneself. No one else is going to take care of you for yourself.

Take care! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What separates the 95% from the 5%? Being "Poisd For Success"

Many years ago I listened to an interviewer ask: "What separates the men from the boys?" The answer is a simple "5%." Simple, you say?
     Jacqueline Whitmore's book "Poised For Success" is a candid, insightful and practical peak inside the four pillars of etiquette: presence, polish, professionalism and passion. Inside this Tiffany colored jewel of an etiquette book, she simply shows us how we may attain that extra 5%, separating us from our competition at work and in life. In an increasingly competitive and often uncivil world climate, we could all use a bit of polish combined with a tad of compassion and common sense. 
   Many of the tastier tidbits from Mrs. Whitmore's book help the reader maintain an authoritative position amongst work peers and friends. Jacqueline Whitmore starts out with the basics. She has us amortizing our wardrobe so our classic clothes last for many years, always looking chic, and remaining a 5% cut above everyone else in the room. She warns us to be wary of "Casual Friday" at work. This day off from formal business dress does not mean we show up at work looking like we are cleaning out our garage. Mrs. Whitmore encourages us to practice talking to a few folks we do not know at office functions and social events. She asks us to try to maintain an inquiring mind. She tells us how to graciously ask for what we want at work. As a host or hostess, she gives us tips and insight into how to share with our guests and have them feel at ease without spending stupid amounts of money on extemporaneous diversions that do not matter. Mrs. Whitmore also covers social media Do's and Dont's. Lastly, she covers the importance of our follow through skills and how to follow our passion. 
   In the end, other people may not remember what we gave them or did for them, but they will remember how we made them feel, going back to the number one etiquette rule: "Leaders always make other people feel special."
   Jacqueline Whitmore's "Poised For Success" is indeed a special, common sense read simplifying what may not appear to be simple for some of us. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How To Get Rid of Wine, Gum, Grass, Chocolate Stains and More On Your Wash and Wear Clothes

Here are a few helpful household tips on how to get rid of the following stains on the wash and wear clothes you launder. Please, do not try these tips on "Dry Clean Only" clothes. Take the "Dry Clean Only" clothes to your Dry Cleaner.

  • Chocolate: Make a paste out of borax and water. Dab it on the chocolate stain. Wait for the paste to dry. Throw it in the laundry as usual.
  • Red Wine: As soon as possible, soak the fabric in cold water. Mix 50% hydrogen peroxide and liquid glycerin soap in a bowl. Dab the stain with this mixture and let it sit for a minute. Then, continue blotting until the stain disappears. Launder as usual.
  • Blood: Place garment in cold water as soon as possible. Dab with glycerin soap and continue to soak for a few hours. Rinse, then gently dab stain with hydrogen peroxide. Repeat this process if necessary. Launder and dry garment as usual. 
  •  Grass: Make a paste with baking soda and water. Soak the stained part of the garment in vinegar. Before the vinegar dries, touch up the stain with the paste mixture. Wash in hot water.
  • Mustard: Rub the stain with glycerin soap until the stain is well coated. Let the garment then sit for 30 minutes or more. Wash as usual. 
  • Butter: Make a paste out of baking soda and water. Dab the paste onto the butter stain. Let the paste dry. Wash garment as usual.
  • Gum: Freeze garment in the freezer overnight. Gum should come off easily when puled off. Then, wash garment as usual.  
  Again, DO NOT use or try these tips on "Dry clean Only" garments. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Funeral Etiquette - Leave the Dumb Smart Phone in The Car

   Even when we think we are ready, we are not ready. Sometimes expected, sometimes unexpected, funerals are hard and sad. The day of death is the hardest day. The funeral is the second hardest day. Forever remembered will be what goes on at the service and interment.
   So, please, dear reader, leave the dumb smart phone in your car just as you do when in a courthouse. The world will wait for you. Just for a few precious hours, focus your complete attention on the bereaved. Keep your voice low and your comments short and sweet. No jokes. No quips. No sass. Your quiet presence by itself will be forever precious to the bereaved.
   Send a small perennial flowering plant to arrive a few days after the funeral. The Funeral flowers will die after one week. A plant can be re-planted, and flowering perennials last year after year.
   Write a nice letter to arrive a few days after the funeral when things calm down. Focus the letter solely on the bereaved. Tell the recipient what a good person they are, for example: a good Daughter/Wife/Son/Brother, etc. Highlight their positive attributes.
   The most appreciated act of kindness you can perform at a funeral is to be present, be kind, make eye contact and acknowledge everyone. Pause, look and listen.      

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Never Forget and Always Remember 9-11.

Those who are gone are never forgotten as long as we remember!

May Heaven preserve and keep thee,
From every sorrow free,
And grant thee every blessing,
My earnest wish for thee.

Your Friend,
Mary Gleich
June 21, 1906
Photo of Central Park, 1912

Monday, September 5, 2011

Say You're the Boss and Happy Labor Day!

To Carrie,
When you are married,
And your husband is cross,
Take hold of the broom,
And say you're the boss.

Emma Campbell
December 29, 1905 

Happy Labor Day!

Photo is of the cannon on 89th Street and Riverside Drive near The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, NYC 1907

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Girls Just Want To Have Fun In The Summer Sun!

Since the year 1905
There's been on Cayuga shores
A jolly bunch of happy girls,
Who are able to use the oars,

Their object is to have some fun,
In the very best kind of way;
From early morn 'till setting sun,
They dance the livelong day.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

From my book: "Forget-Me-Not, Forget Me Never, Remember The Fun We Had Together, Reminiscences and Memories of New York"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Letter To The Editor - Go East - The September Issue, Vogue Magazine

Dear Ms. Wintour,
   Imagine my glee when upon opening your September Issue, the largest issue of each year, for many years, the issue industry insiders, designers, advertisers, and the rest of America waits for with Manolo's on, to find y'all shot your main fashion story in China. As lovely as the Great Wall was, I'm sure, here's what; how about shooting your main fashion story every month in America. American cities. American landmarks. In case y'all up there in your own Tra la la land have not stuck your heads out of your offices lately, there  are approximately 25 million Americans out of work. Give local photographers, lighting crews, models, and local designers a chance, a look-see, a job.

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine Barrett Baker
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: "The Glass Castle", Unbelievable and Unforgettable

   Last week, a friend recommended "The Glass Castle" as one of the best books she has ever read. Quickly purchasing the trade paperback, "The Glass Castle" came with me on vacation. I could not put it down. I still cannot stop talking about it and thinking about this amazing story of survival during the 1960's in America from the childhood eyes of the author. I have already purchased many more copies for Christmas presents.
   The autobiography begins in present day New York City. Jeannette Walls, the author, is meeting her husband for dinner. She is sitting in a taxi, looking out the window and catches a glimpse of a woman digging through a Dumpster. This woman is her dear Mother. Yes, her Mother is a homeless woman living on the streets of New York and her Mother prefers it that way.
   The authors' parents, Rose Mary and Rex Walls were married in 1956 in a traditional church ceremony. Her Mother was dressed in a lovely white wedding gown and her father dressed in a formal shawl collared white dinner jacket and black tuxedo pants reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca. Rex Walls was an Air force flyer and Rose Mary Walls was a beautifully educated teacher and from a well off, well mannered, landed Texas family.
    One wonders while reading this tale of constant chaos, what went so wrong that both parents ended up happily homeless, living in New York City. The simple answer is that they were both non-conformists.
   Rose Mary Walls' God given talent was that she was a true artist in every sense of the word. She was a dreamer, an eternal optimist, a lady with fine manners and knowledge of fine art and antiques, and considered her "Tra la la life" a wonderful adventure when she was not forced to work and when her husband was not drunk. No matter how dire the family's situation remained, over and over again, and no matter where the family lived, including in shacks and cars, Rose Mary carted her art supplies with her and chose to paint her pictures for her source of escapism, rather than, unfortunately, keeping an eye on her children.
  Rose Mary did, however, give her children a life of literature. Whatever town the family was near, Rose Mary Walls consistently got herself to the Public Library and checked out book after book for all her children to read. Reading was their saviour. Reading gave these children hope, a sense of belongingness in this life, and a happy escapism.
   Rex Walls' God given talent was that he could fix anything. He could fix cars and anything electric, including wiring a house. His life's dream was to design and build a glass castle heated by solar panels.  The sun, after all, is forever and free. More importantly to Rex the dreamer, one does not have to pay any corporation or entity for the privilege of receiving electricity or anything else. Rex did not believe in dependence on anyone or anything, especially any government, church, hospital, corporation, or any charitable organization. He believed in self-sufficiency to the point that this belief became a primitive, viking-like, pioneering and post nuclear survival philosophy. This manic philosophy of life may sound genius on paper, but in practice, proved to be a bit bi-polar, or maybe a bit "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" resulting from his own stark, starving, cruel childhood in the poorest part of the Appalachian mountains, Welch,West Virginia. For better and for mostly much worse, this strict survival mode mantra was how the Walls family lived and Rex was head of the household.
   Why do some people get going and work themselves into a frenzy to prosper against terrific odds while other people simply rely on others for help when life gets rough? Why do some horses want to be first in a horse race and other horses don't really care? Wanting to succeed has little to do with money, breeding or upbringing. All material things and certain qualities are nice and may help, but success comes down to personal drive. An inner hunger of sorts. It seems as if it is a personality. Utilizing one's God given talent helps as well. Everyone has at least one talent.
   The largest lesson in this book is: no matter the hardships life will throw at you, you will always be able to use your good, resourceful mind to learn, strive and work your way out of any situation if you choose to do so. It is also helpful psychologically if you have the support of your family, any family, and/or friends. One thing Rose Mary and Rex did for their children was to give them a sense of togetherness, and a lasting sense of the importance of family and sticking together always.
   In this age of avarice and envy in America, this book is a reminder of the resourcefulness and drive we have lost as an affluent, free society. It also reminds us of what good can be accomplished again with a lot of hard work and perseverance in gaining back our sense of togetherness and purpose in our personal lives, communities and country.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LTTE - Harpers Bazaar, September Issue 2011

Dear Editor,
   In reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's September Issue article: "What has Michelle Bachmann done Right," I gasped at her shocking comment: "I believe government has a crucial role in developing a free and equal society."
   Pardon me? With 70% of the world's population existing on a staple diet of rice and beans, and Billions of people living under Dictatorships, or complete chaotic lawlessness, America is the best example of a free and equal developed society.
   All Americans are free to vote in any free election. We are free to study hard within our free educational system, and additionally, freely check out any of the millions of books written in any free Public Library. We are also free to apply for any job we wish to work for and may qualify to earn.
   The modern Mother of these four children as a free citizen was free to seek out free birth control, and free to have, or not to have, any amount of children she could afford, or not afford, either financially or through familial or community support systems. She was also free to commit to the Father, (or any of the Fathers), of these children and free to raise these children in any environment she wished to strive to attain.
   This modern Mother was apparently as well, free to seek out illegal drugs, free to spend her money on illegally purchasing these illegal drugs over and over again, free to use these illegal drugs, and free to allow herself to become addicted to these illegal drugs. She was free to, at any time during her addiction, seek out many and various free treatment programs, without prosecution, through her free local churches and/or free community centers or family. What this modern Mother did to her children was unfair.
   I commend Mr. & Mrs. Diffenbaugh and Michelle Bachmann for raising foster children. They are freely taking up the responsibility for kids who's Mother (and Father) equally and freely failed at, over and over and over again.
   These parents freely failed to freely commit to each other, freely failed to commit to their children they freely brought into this world, and freely failed to resourcefully and responsibly raise these four children. They also freely failed to obey the "Rule of Law" in this free country.
   Like childhood, no free or occupied society is always equal or fair, but America is the most fair and most equal society on the planet.
   My Father wisely always said: "One cannot legislate morality." As a smoker, he also wisely said: "Smoking is a personality." I assume drug use is, as well, a personality. Willfully having four children in our modern society without a partner to help raise these children responsibly, without any resourcefulness, without utilizing religious, community or reasonable familial support systems and without any care or regard for personal responsibility or our rule of law in this free country is a selfish, self-centered, self serving lifestyle.
   Lifestyle is a personality. Lifestyle gets passed on generation after generation. Lifestyle can neither be legislated, nor governed. Lifestyle is neither fair nor equal, but in America, lifestyle is free and we are free to live our lives as responsibly or as irresponsibly as we wish.

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine Barrett Baker
The Sabot School of Etiquette
1451 Amber Lake Road
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia 23103

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Modern Manners Meltdown in America - Better, Worse, or Just Different?

   We must ask ourselves, in this age of constantly evolving newest, latest and greatest information: Are old fashioned manners out of fashion? Has 24 hour Cable News TV taken us into a reality of fighting, fortunetelling and fear mongering? Has unreal Reality TV taken us away from forming our own realities in our own lives? America has traditionally been the "firstest and bestest" in everything we do. Yet, America is not going through a Renaissance right now. However, one fact never changes: Manners take you everywhere.
   Americans can become the most beautifully educated people on the planet. We can all go to College and University, but can we go out to dinner without embarrassing ourselves? Are our parents and schools teaching the number one manners rule, which is: Leaders always make others feel special. Leaders never embarrass others. Leaders always anticipate the other person's next need.
   Has America become a Godless, reckless, lawless, and feckless, uncivil society? Will the unique entrepreneurial spirit of our nation, our "Rule of Law" and our rules of etiquette continue to set us apart from every other country in the world? In any society, the manners pendulum swings along with the social, political and moral pendulums, and as any piano lesson, the pendulum swings back and forth, left to right.
     As time moves farther away from the opulent Golden Age and strict, formal Victorian manners, our daily behaviors become more relaxed as our casual lives grow busier and more complicated. I was once told by a Victorian raised, very socially prominent 'Grand Dame': "A 'toe-mat-toe" is worth 1/2 a penny more than a tomato." However, does this saying still ring true? Is this saying even applicable in today's society.
   No more do we have to keep up with Pickle Forks, Oyster Forks, Fish Forks, Olive Forks, Lemon Forks, Pastry Forks, Sweetmeat Forks, and Ice Cream Forks. As John Loring, the man who compiles all those Tiffany and Company coffee table books, says: "Thank goodness Tiffany and Co. does not have to keep up with manufacturing and stocking these 100 +  different opulent serving pieces and accoutrements any longer."
       These days, there exists an entire new generation of teenagers that do not know how to hold their forks. They have been raised eating french fries and chicken fingers with their fingers in the car on the way to supervised after school and weekend activities such as band practice, soccer practice or dance class. However, this generation of kids are technology savvy. They can Skype and place photos on Face book from their phones in seconds. My 4 year old grandson who could not yet read, showed me how to use the "skip" button on the clicker to skip through the "Previews" before watching a DVD movie.
   This teenage generation also has friends at school, as shown on their Face book pages, of all different ethnicity, race and religion from all over the world. They think nothing of these 21st Century international immigrants from far lands. They judge their friends by how good they are as people. This fresh, new generation of young people are neither better off, nor worse off, they are just different.
   My 15 year old Nephew calls my husband and myself by the traditional titles: Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jim. However, he calls his best friends' parents by their first names as requested by these parents. Otherwise, he answers: "Yes, Mrs. Jones." As shocking as this may sound to most Southerners, the phrases "Mam" and "Sir"  smack back to a certain time of servitude in the old South, and this time of servants and domestic help is over. The younger generation can just as easily say: "Yes, Mrs. Jones" and "No, Mr. Smith" rather than "Yes, Mam" or "No, Sir." Respect of proper titles to the adult is still shown. The language is just different.
   Weddings are now different. No longer does the little hometown girl marry the little hometown boy the week after graduating High School or College. Technology, and the ease of travel have made commuter relationships possible. Couples now post their wedding stories, photos, gift giving information, and directions on line, on their own websites! Very convenient for ordering gifts, and the out of town guests attending the wedding. Yes, the gift registry is listed, but no longer do guests have to telephone the Mother of the Bride to ask where the Bride is registered.
   Party invitations and RSVP's are also different. Party invitations are still sent out by snail mail, but also may be sent out by E-mail. The R.s.v.p. can be phoned in or conveniently answered on e-mail. As Richmond is so traditional, I still receive a few wedding invitations every Summer that require a hand written response, so I write my response, but I must say the pre-stamped envelope and matching card to check and place in the mail is quick and convenient. Yes, knowing how to write a response to a wedding is nice, but is it still important in society? Is this skill worth 1/2 a penny more than sending a pre-made card in the mail?    
   Entertaining is also different. Often, the Host and Hostess do all the preparation, cooking, serving, and clean up for parties. Technology and relatively inexpensive prepared foods have made entertaining easier for the hosts. Savvy guests help hang up coats, help in the set up or clean up and may even help park cars!
   Stemware and Fine China usage is also different. The large Victorian Iced Tea glass used for only Iced Tea during the opulent Victorian age is now sold on gift registries as a Water Goblet. The large Water Goblet is now used as a Wine Goblet. The smaller Wine Claret is not used much any longer, and the Champagne Flute has now replaced the Champagne Saucer. Many Dinner plates are now 10" -12" large. They also double as Buffet, Charger or Service Plates.
   Salad Plates now also double as Dessert Plates. Bread and Butter Plates, if even ordered by the Bride, double as Dessert Plates.

 Mugs have replaced the Cup and Saucer. Rimmed Soup Bowls have replaced the double handled, hand honed Cream Soup Bowls and Plate. Neither are better nor worse, just different.
   By living less formally, does this mean the younger generations have to be less kind, less thoughtful, less patient? No it does not.
Families must maintain the responsibilities of parenting and teaching their children general respect.
The best thing we can do as a society is to remember, teach, listen and have faith in God. Remember the fallen as they have kept us free. Remember our friends and families. Remember our relatives who have passed. Listening to the life stories of wise women and men, their life celebrations and struggles, is the greatest gift that can be given to the young. One fact remains: Change is neither better nor worse, it's just different.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Operation "White Cake" As She Wished Is True Love

During this age of avarice, some young people confusing accomplishment with bling, this romantic man spent 1 year planning his girlfriend's surprise dream wedding. He proposed, then they were immediately married! Such a fresh, lovely, true change of pace! Etiquette constantly changes with changing times but this change back to true love is a lovely and welcome change!

Best wishes and congratulations to the happy couple for a lifetime of bliss!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summertime Is Everyday A Casual Friday Manners Day

    Maybe, chalk it up to the heat of Summer and people are so hot, they have lost minding their manners. Maybe our entire society is much more casual as we are more international, muilticultural and move farther in time away from the strick manners of Victorian societies. Would you floss your teeth during a business meeting? Do you reapply your lipstick, (or watch another woman do so), before, during or after a meal at the table? Really?
   Last week, during a casual business meeting with lunch ordered in, one man pulled out his dental floss and began flossing his teeth. Yes, you read right, flossing his teeth. Did he think no one would notice? In seeing this act, my husband and another man imediately put down their forks and that was the end of their meal. They were completely grossed out!
   A few weeks ago while out at a restaurant, I watched one man's face as his date reapplied her lip stick after a meal. His facial expression was one of distaste. Why didn't this woman just excuse herself for 2 minutes, get off her "wallet" and go to the Ladies' Room? Did she think no one was watching?
   The next time you eat out in public at a restaurant, public park or charity event, look around. By watching others' behavior at the table, one can tell who has been somewhere and who has not.  
   Every summer this reapplication of lipstick issue pops up. Possibly every day during the summer is a casual Friday manners day? Today, this issue was discussed on the Hoda and Kathie Lee Show. Lipstick reapplication examples were given while at public events in the Hamptons.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who Has Not Had a Horrible Boss?

   Having such a large plethora of bad boss stories stored up, I'll share here one quick Horrible Boss short story:  

100 years ago when I was 22 and out into the real wide working world for the first time (aside from babysitting, cutting grass, being a camp counselor and waiting tables) WOW, was I in for a large surprise! I was apparently so sheltered and naive during my childhood, I thought the bullying, the caddy comments, the raised eyebrows, sideways glances, and outright rudeness all were officially a thing of the past. We were all adults now and we were supposed to act as such. Man, was I wrong. I have no idea why I thought adults in a corporate business environment were supposed to be professional.
   My first job was in a "Devil Wears Prada" world. Once a week or so for lunch, seemingly always in frigid temperatures, I had to walk 4 long blocks in New York (long blocks are the cross street blocks between Lexington and Park), to fetch hot french fries for my supervisor (not the big boss I adored working for). Not just hot under the heat lamp fries, mind you. We are talking freshly cooked searing hot fries straight out of the grease, and a big hamburger and soda.
   Trying hard to please my boss, I would wrap my scarf not around my head, but around the fries and hold them inside the matching Sherlock Holmes coat my Mother had given me for Christmas. Her idea of style, but it was a heavy coat and not so warm.
   Fries and hamburger inside my coat with one arm, cold soda and purse outside my coat with the other arm, I would run from 57th and Second Avenue back to 57th and Madison hoping both hot and cold fine cuisine would meet with approval. Delivering the lunch to my bosses desk first, I would then hang up my coat, sit at my desk and begin to quickly and quietly eat my yogurt I brought from home and go back to work.
   If I heard a disapproving scowl: "These are cold", and saw a french fry flying down onto the bosses desk, it was going to be a long afternoon. However, if I heard a full, muffled mouthful of fries saying: "These are good", at least I knew the long afternoon may be better.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meditation from Mother Theresa

I have sent this quote out with Christmas cards in years past and have posted this quote on this blog in the past. So, during these uncertain times, often negative times, and because America is just not going through a Renaissance right now, here is my favorite quote again:  

People are often unreliable, illogical and self-centered;
forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives;
be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies;
succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend your years building, someone may destroy overnight;
build it anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, it may never be enough;
give the world the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway.

--Mother Theresa

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sweet Briar College Community Always Remembers Daisy

Forget-Me-Not, Forget-Me-Never, Remember The Fun We Had Together

   Some say people who have passed, live on in our memories as long as we remember them. Although generations of Sweet Briar students did not know Daisy Williams, she surrounds us all, day and night. Her spirit is all around our campus. A lovely young soul that is not forgotten, but remembered.
   Early on Freshman year, we are told the tales, stories, myths and mysteries of Daisy's ghost. On Founders' Day every Fall, there is an annual pilgrimage, all the way up to Boxwood Hill where at the pinnacle sits Daisy's Grave. Not just any simple headstone, oh no. At first sight, this 20 foot tall granite monument complete with Corinthian columns all around and decorative plaques adorning it, topped with a statue of "Faith" pointing to Heaven, is a bit awesome to behold. But wait, "Faith" has a finger missing. What's up with that? Was it Daisy?  Then and there, on Boxwood Hill, as a Freshman, you start hearing the stories.
   Allegedly in the 1970's, a group of girls visited Daisy's monument to search for an unmarked grave which has since been removed. The legend is, if you place a quarter on top of the headstone, when you return, there on the ground will be scrawled, the name of the person next to die. Apparently, one girl was so upset by this legend, she immediately ran back to her room in Grammer Dorm, as fast as she could, and locked herself inside. Her friends tried to get her to open up, knocking and banging on her door, but there was no answer. Finally, they crawled through the old transom. They found her alive, but with scratches all over her face!
   Typically on the weekends, there is always one group of girls who take a trip up to Daisy's grave to scare each other. One such trip consisting of a few friends and I, produced a very eerie strip of film. In the bottom right corner of one of the photographs taken was a faint, fuzzy gray image of a person. Was this human-like photographic presence Daisy? Maybe.
   Following each Freshman's Founders' Day, begin the tours of Daisy's bedroom in the Sweet Briar House. Stepping up the windy, narrow stairs, we peek around the corner to see where, as we are told, Daisy died. Scared to look too closely, scared to be in her room for too long, and afraid we may see something unknown, or that she may see and remember us as intruders, our glances are distant and quick. Therein lies Daisy's little twin bed, her dress and dolls, her child's chair and her Hope Chest. Here comes the glitch. If the stairs creak when you step on them, on the way up or down from her room, Daisy herself will pay you a visit. So, rationally speaking, if you dream of Daisy that night, are you dreaming of her, or is she visiting you in your dreams?
   From then on, it never fails. Every time a book falls off of a shelf, each time you hear a noise in the night, every time something weird happens, it is Daisy. She's not forgotten. She is remembered. She's around.
   One of my classmates still freaks out at the mere mention of Daisy's name. She will simultaneously burst into a spell of shrill shrieks, small screams, shivers and immediately shakes her head, quickens her pace and walks on!
   Daisy follows us into the dining hall, along the green grass of the Dell and down to the "Dungeon", (a study hall in Reid Dorm basement). She also follows us as we walk down the stairs of the 100 year old library into the dark halls of the hallowed "Stacks."
   Whether it be frightening Freshman or scaring each other silly, Sweet Briar students will continue to remember their founder with fondness, and a bit of fear.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Does a casual picnic outdoors cause your inside manners to go flying out the window?

   Over the July 4th Holiday, Prince William and Princess Catherine enjoyed a romantic picnic on a remote Canadian island dining on paper plates. Did picnicking outdoors cause William and Kate's indoor manners to go flying out the window? Did William and Kate use their Royal manners casually? Of course they did!
    How was your picnic over the July 4th holiday? Was your picnic a mass of balled up greasy gross paper napkins on top of crushed cups and bent paper plates? Did you find dirty plastic plates on your buffet table and Styrofoam cups strewn all over your yard?? Well, if the Royals can regally dine off of casual paper plates, so can you!

Here are a few tips to help you enjoy yourself and help your host and hostess enjoy themselves:
  • Treat your paper napkin just like you would treat a cloth napkin. Fold your paper napkin neatly in your lap. 
  • If you need more than one paper napkin, neatly stack a few together on your lap. FOLD them together when done.
  • No one wants to eat their meal while looking at your gross out, grubby used ball of greasy mess of a paper napkin on top of your paper plate. Get up from the picnic table, find a trash can, dispose of your trash, then re-join your party.
  •  Do not fold up your paper plate. Just dispose of it and your neatly folded paper napkin in the trash.
  •  Do not crumple up your paper cup or tear off chunks of your Styrofoam cup like you are a seven year old. Simply place your cup in the trash.
  •  Do not pluck off the tines of your plastic fork and play with it like a sharp tool. Rude and dangerous to point it at anyone.
  •  Never place a used plate or used cup on the buffet table. Yuck. Find a trash can.
  •  If you go back up to the buffet table for seconds, get a fresh plate. No Norovirus here, please!! 
Have fun this summer on your next picnic and use your Royal casual outdoor manners!

Kate and William enjoy romantic picnic on remote Canadian island

Monday, July 4, 2011

America's Table Manners Meltdown and Please, Pass the Salt

   Today, a wise friend made the comment: "Unfortunately, I am afraid to say, manners in America are becoming passe." Yes, in the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in manners in America. There has been a change in the lifestyle and priorities of the younger generation, thus a change in the manners and objectives of my students. Yes, some manners never change and are neglected. Other manners are passe. Certain other manners have evolved into a new generation as different. Not right, not wrong, just different.
   For example, ten years ago, parents sent their children to me to fine tune their 10 year olds' table manners. Today, I teach 17 year old Seniors in High School how to hold a fork. Why? Change in lifestyle. Now, there are kids' menus at many casual restaurants kids can eat with their fingers. Easier for the tired, working parents. Children also eat fast food in the car with their fingers on the way to 6:00 p.m. soccer practice, or Sunday afternoon lacrosse practice.
   Last year, I taught an extraordinarily talented teenager who had straight A grades, perfect scores on her SAT's, played in the US Open Tennis Championships with her Father, and had 600 hours of community service, but she did not know how to hold a fork. At least she knew that she did not know.
  Today, sophisticated teens know everything there is to know about technology and how to gather any information needed on each of their multiple social media gadgets, but due to their busy school schedules and both parents working, families rarely sit down at the table for dinner. Not right, not wrong, just different.    
   Competition is so stiff for these few full scholarships, colleges and universities now invite these students to lunch. They want well rounded students and figure if a young adult has missed simple table manners, what else have they missed. If a student is asked to pass the salt, and only passes the salt, this student does not get the scholarship. Why? The simple answer is simple to those in the know.
   This student did not correctly anticipate the next need of the other person, which would be also passing the pepper. The etiquette dictates that a self-directed, empathetic student, or business professional, always anticipates the next need of the other person , or customer, whether they know their own next need at that time or not.
   Never mind one slip of the tongue. One slip of the fork, or passing of only the salt and one does not get the scholarship. By the way, can you pass the butter?

Happy American Independence Day!

Happy July 4th to all Americans and remember those who made and make our freedom possible.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Prom and Reality News TV

   Priorities in this country lately seem to be upside down. Emphasis is being put on all the wrong material things in life. Yes, life celebrations are important and should be enjoyed, but the High School Prom, a dance, one night, should not be the do all, be all, end all.   
   Last week I was in line at the Food Lion and heard a young woman in front of me discussing her High School Prom She said: "What other reason is there to go to High School other than Prom?" I'm sorry, what about studying hard to get into college or trade school so one may learn a marketable skill?
   Last night, I watched a national evening news program focusing on a public High School graduating class attending the Prom. These were normal kids from New Jersey. These young adults were not preppy private school rich kids. The show focused not on their academic achievements, or where they were going to attend college, but a dance. One dance. One night.
   The show highlighted the girls' $6,000.00 designer sequined dresses picked out 9 months before the Prom. They reported that one girl drove to this dress shop 8 hours from Ohio to buy her Prom dress. Wow, it almost sounds like a wedding! The manicures and Manolo's. The pedicures, diets, workouts, makeup and $1,800.00 hair extensions. Pardon me? Did the news man just report on hair extensions for High School girls?
   The boys' tuxedos were then talked about, how they asked their date to the Prom, the wrist corsages they picked out for their dates, and the stretch limousines. The end result was a camera shot of all the girls and boys lined up in their finest sparkling frocks to board the luxury bus to all go to the Prom together after a "Before Party" at one girl's house.
   Oh no! Now the luxury bus is late. The Hostess (Mother of one of the girls) is on her cell phone crying and screaming obscenities at the poor person on the other end of the line about the late luxury bus. Screaming one obscenity after another. Really? Reality News TV, I guess.
   The reporter asked how much this Mother had spent on her daughters' Prom and before party and the total was something close to $10,000.00. The Mother said spending this extravagant amount of money for her daughter for one night, one dance, was worth every penny. These High School Seniors all looked like they were going to the Oscars. Red Carpet ready, I guess.
   The reporter asked one girl why this Prom night was such a big deal to her. She replied: "Prom is everything I have grown up watching and wanting on TV and in the movies. I just want to feel like one of those movie stars for one night." Movie stars? What happened with simply being happy to have a date and have a nice time?
   Once, I was on a Red Carpet with a Haute Couture designer dress. None of the paparazzi took my picture and the experience did not improve my life professionally, financially or socially. Being on the Red Carpet did not make me more popular or feel more loved. Life is so much more simple. Are Americans so comfortable financially and comfortable in our extra large, nice homes with all our stuff, we have become bored with simple? Americans are having a Mildred Pierce moment.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day !

Soldiers & Sailors Monument, New York City 1907

Remember, all of our fallen US hero's helped secure our freedoms we enjoy today and forever.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 3 "B's" of Toasting and International Signals

Here we go again. Another American politician makes another International faux-pas while visiting a foreign country. President George Bush, then First Lady Michelle Obama touch the Queen. Tim Kaine makes the "thumbs up" gesture during the Queen's 2007 visit to Virginia, (in Europe  Latin America and The Middle East, hand gestures are obscene)! Yesterday, President Obama makes many mistakes during his toast to the Queen. The poor Queen. She does not say anything, but she did shoot him a look when he toasted her during the national anthem.

   The casual, relaxed and affable President Obama just never took the quick etiquette class on the logistics of giving a toast. He said at the end of his speech, as he was also laying down his note cards: "Ladies and Gentleman, please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a Her Majesty The Queen."
   These words are THE International signal for: "I am finishing up my toast," just like marrying the knife and fork together in the 10:20 position on one's plate is the International signal for: "I am finished with my meal, remove my plate." The conductor thought President Obama was finishing up his toast, so the orchestra started up the British national anthem. Then surprisingly, a few seconds later, President Obama started talking again and continued giving his toast. Everyone else in the room was standing at attention in silence for their National Anthem. Finally, President Obama raised his glass to The Queen and for the second time looked as though he was winding up his toast. The Queen, in the middle of this confusion, shot him a glance reminiscent of a look my Mother used to give me at the dinner table or at a party when my manners were lacking and she did not want to, or could not say anything.
  The President should have paused, stood silently until the anthem was done, then raised his glass and finished his toast.
   Then, after all that, President Obama did not drink from his glass as everyone else did (save the Queen). The whole scene was painful to watch. 
   Yet again, the stereo-typical "Ugly American" and our poor manners. Why? One does not have to have money to have manners. Why do we not teach a manners course in school to 3rd graders, then again, to rising Juniors? Why do Harvard and Yale apparently not have an etiquette afternoon seminar? Do they think little rules of etiquette only apply to little people? 

Tricky etiquette, especially Internationally...really? Toasting is easy, really. All you need to read are a few basic rules as follows:
1. The 3 "B's" of toasting are always: Begin, Be Brief and Be Seated.
2. A welcome toast (before eating) and a toast to the guest of honor (dessert course) is always given by the host. The host leads the
    way, always toasts first, and sets the tone.
3. One always stands up to give a toast.
4. Never drink to yourself if the toast is in your honor.
5. The International signal for finishing a toast are these words: "Let us raise our glasses with a toast to... "So-in-So."

So, you see, little rules of etiquette DO apply to little people and Big people at Harvard, Yale and The Queen. She knows all the little rules of etiquette !

Monday, May 23, 2011

Celebrating Cousins, The Preakness, And A Fille

   We Americans celebrate most everything all the time. Visiting cousins, feasting on steamed crab and champagne at the kitchen table on a Thursday night. A black-eyed Susan pre-Preakness party to benefit Breast Cancer, and a rockin' country breakfast complete with mimosas to celebrate the birth of a fille.
   Yesterday, with two cousins and their 19 year old daughter, Svetlana, who we call Sveta, I helped bring a baby horse, a fille, into this world. Neatest thing I've done since being 5th row at The Rolling Stones!
   The early morning began with the muffled voice of my cousin Mary: "Sveta, get up. Ken called and said it's time." Mary's voice was nearing our room, and I could hear in her voice her nerves and an urgency, yet she has such a warm, calm tone in her words. "We need to go now. Right now." Kathy, it's time."
    Anticipating this birth, I had taken my wedding rings off the night before and had laid my girl jeans and L.L. Bean "Rain Skimmer" shoes out, just in case. I rumbled down the stairs, ran out the door and down to the running shed. Apparently, I went the long way as I did not hear Mary and Sveta behind me. I jumped the fence as I did not have time to figure out where the gate was located. One slip on skimmer shoe got stuck in the mud and I had to circle around briefly to get it back on my size 11 foot.
   There she was, a beautiful black mare laying on her side fully "in foal" on the soft hay. Mary ran to her head to keep her calm, and got on her cell phone to call two friends who also happened to be obstetrics nurses anxious to see the birth.
  Looking down, I saw that the sac was sticking out. This birth had begun.
   Above the bubble at the base of the opaque sac, were what looked like her hooves. At this point I could hear Ken saying: "O.K., Sveta and Kathy, I need you guys to take hold of the legs and pull. Pull down." Petite and pretty, silent Sveta was standing in the middle between Ken and myself. I gently found room and placed my hands around baby's legs and began to pull. Ken quickly and kindly said: " Not there with your left hand, Kathy, that's the nose." I quietly gasped and immediately placed my hand at the top of the cannon bone where there was room. I could now see the faint outline of the foal, her hooves and nose positioned to pounce out into the world, then heard a pop. The sac was broken. Ken asked: "Was that a pop?" "Yes, I answered, still pulling. I hoped baby had oxygen, but I did not know for sure. One thing I did know for sure was that this foal needed to come out, as any baby cannot be in the birth canal for too long and survive.
  The three of us were now pulling with every pound of energy we possessed. Ken kept instructing us in his firm but focused voice to: "Pull Down" (due to the curved shape of baby and how it exits the birth canal). I could hear the strain of Ken's voice and sighs. Suddenly, the mare lifted her head up and made motions with her body and feet. She was fixing to stand up. Mary gasped: "She's standing up!" And so she was.
   We scurried to stand up and re-positioned ourselves then started pulling down, again. More straining and stressing with all our collective strength. It seemed to happen in slow motion but went on forever. All sounds seemed muted to my ears as I was so concentrated on the task at hand. Pulling down using every muscle and all of our body weight, gasping for breath, grunting with frustration. The vibe of urgency was rising in the air. I could hear it in Ken's rapidly repeated instruction: "Keep pulling down."
   Thinking something had to change, perhaps another direction, I raised my right hand and slowly, very gently pressed my palm flat against the mare's labia majora and pushed it up. My intention was to try to widen and loosen the muscle so baby had more room to slip through. Maybe baby moved a bit, I could not tell, so I tried it again. Maybe the mare felt the pressure and pushed back with her vulva muscle. Maybe the mare had a contraction. Maybe all the pulling finally worked. All I know is, in that mere moment, the foal came out with a plunk onto the soft hay. Miraculously, the running shed reminded me of a manger.
   One moment to relax our arms, relief and a sigh, then suddenly, the Mare started stomping her right hind leg. I grabbed it under the carpus to keep her from stomping on the baby. Ken put his arms around the baby and scooted her out of the way. Mary calmed the mare.
   We all stood silent, agape and in awe of the newness of this new life and series of firsts for this fille. We witnessed the opening of her dark black eyes seeing also her long eyelashes for the first time. How her sleek wet ears popped up and she lifted her head looking at all of us. Mary crept slowly over to examine the baby. She's a girl! Mary showed me her dermal papillae or "fingers" at the base of her hooves that all baby horses are born with, but that go away soon after birth once they stand up and start running around. We were, all of us, smitten with this little fille. She was beautiful and perfect, like a rare, black diamond. What a jewel! On Preakness race day, none-the-less!
    Life is filled with celebrations and blessings. We should appreciate good days, new experiences, our energy, and having our health. Of course, all horses cannot be Preakness winners, but this new fille has instantly, unconditionally, and forever championed our hearts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Different China Place Settings From Different Grandmothers is Great!

   Recently, an article in the Neiman Marcus Blog, the NM Daily, entitled: Table of the Elements about mixing up your china appeared on my Facebook page. Apparently, using 72 pieces of the same matching china set is "out." I always thought the matching, preppy Papagallo Syndrome went out with the Reagan '80's. Retail reinventing itself once again to sell more stuff. Nothing new.
   Single in the city for 20 years, I have been mixing up my 5 sets of incomplete china from 2 grandmothers and a great-grandmother for years because I had it, it was free, it was pretty and each time I used it, I thought of my relatives!
   A friend of my Sister's has a grandmother famous for her eclectic Thanksgiving table as each of her 12 place settings are completely different china settings. Not even complimentary. Different kaolin from different continents, different designs and colors, different china companies. Each guest gets his or her own individual, special place setting of china, crystal stemware and sterling flatware. Brilliant!
   John Loring of Tiffany & Company (the lucky man who writes all those coffee table books), says that Joanne Woodward once told him having eclectic china from grandmothers means you have a background. It gives you a history of family, which is interesting!
   Yes, you may put your china in the dishwasher but you MUST use only 1 teaspoon of PLAIN detergent, gentle cycle and NO HEAT DRY. Lemon in detergents are excellent for pots and pans. However, the acidic lemon eats off the glaze on china, crystal and will eat off the gold rim as well. Heat also weakens and can crack your porous china. The water is hot enough, even on the gentle cycle. Always "Air Dry," and you'll save energy. Load and unload your china nicely. Do not crowd.
   You may place your table settings on the exposed wooden table, but you will have little scratches called patina on the wood with normal use over time. For antique tables, this may be desirable, but for modern wood or Formica tables, this may not be good.  Also, food particles and any moisture or water marks will leave stains on your table finish and may ruin the table. Instead, use a simple white or ecru tablecloth to protect the table and show off your pretty china.
  Your  Grannies' eclectic china, crystal and flat silver is always "in" and will be chic for years to come.

Take care of your family's history and enjoy!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie Extra Work Requires Sprezzatura

   As a retired Retail Manager having worked 14 hour days (on average), 6-7 days a week since I was 25, I thought being a movie "extra" would be work, but easier than Retail work, and fun. Wow, was I ever almost not ready for a exhilarating workout!
   "Extra" work is much more physically demanding than I physically imagined. Even "extras" must remain poised, bright, smiling and "on" while appearing relaxed and enjoying themselves. Talk about Sprezzatura*! 
    Commuting downtown, parking, shuttling to the location, followed by 2 hours of costume and makeup, hair, then more waiting for the "techies" to make final tweaks for the scene to be set up, only then to stand in 3" heels for more than 10 hours with 1 (one) 1/2 hour break after 6 hours, (according to Union rules), is exhilarating and exhausting. An unforgettable happy day!
   The scaffolding for the "techies", the cords, the tape, and the amazing cameras are many, huge and complex. A bit awesome to behold. The blocking of the shots that made it to the final cut of the Harvest Ball scenes are so very "tight" (close up) showing the movie stars off nicely, but not the real local stars of the movie.
   It was a shame the Director did not pull the camera just a bit back to capture more of the beautiful clothing, and the most unusual, exotic interior of the Victorian, High Gothic, Old City Hall building and its famous bottled glass tiled floor.
   It was also a shame the Director did not light up the 15 second exterior shot of the Harvest Ball to better show off the Historic Bolling-Haxall House and its gorgeous Brownstone exterior and the original ironwork fence and foliage.
   As a 50 year old extra, running up the large old cement exterior stairs, then back down for an immediate "reset", at least 40 times in 3" heels and party dress for 2 1/2 hours was tiring. I was out of breath toward the end of the shoot. Thank goodness for years of being a runner. One never knows in "Hollywood" what natural gifts, talents, bar tricks and hobbies which may come in handy during any particular shoot.
   Richmond, the local star of the movie, is indeed fortunate to have had, in large part thanks to Elizabeth Scott Bocock, a star preservationist and philanthropist, many historic buildings and properties preserved for all to enjoy, in the here and now and on the big screen.
   Extras do have an unspoken, unwritten etiquette to observe, and with a little luck, all their hard work will not all end up on the cutting room floor. Richmond is ready for its close up, Mr. DeMille!!

Enjoy the movie Unanswered Prayers on the Lifetime Network!

*Sprezzatura is an Italian word from the Book of the Courtier (year 1528) meaning one who is " to practise in everything a certain nonchalance that shall conceal design and show that what is done and said is done without effort and almost without thought."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Royal Wedding Etiquette and Traditions - Oh Jolly Good!!

The Queen thinks Royal Wedding Etiquette is so important, Buckingham Palace has issued to each of the 1900 guests invited to the Royal wedding and catering staff, a 22 page "Etiquette Book." This book gently instructs gentleman and ladies on behaviours from appropriate dress to eye contact to cell phone and Twitter non-usage. I have also added a few general, cultural differences. Some of the rules of etiquette are as follows:
  • Gentleman must remove their top hats while in church.
  • Gentleman must wear a "Morning Suit," "Lounge Suit," or Formal Military Dress.
  • Ladies must dress appropriately for church. This rule includes covering one's shoulders, wearing a hat to cover one's head and not wearing anything garish or to garner attention.  It is the Bride's day. This rule also includes not wearing white or cream coloured clothing. Pants Suits are frowned upon.
  • Americans are not required to bow or curtsy as the Queen walks by, but may do so out of respect. Ladies, place your right ankle behind your left ankle and dip at the knee, arms at your sides and bow your head slightly.  Gentleman, bend your elbow and place your hand, palm in, at your waist. Bend slightly at the waist and bow your head slightly.  
  • Do Not touch the Queen.
  • Do Not shake the Queen's hand unless she holds her hand out first to shake your hand.
  • Do Not speak to the Queen unless she speaks to you first.
  • If the Queen addresses you first, answer her ending your first response with "Your Majesty." End your second response with "Ma'am" to rhyme with "jam." 
  •  Needless to say, turn OFF your cell phone.
  • Do Not take photos of the queen as she passes by with your cell phone either. Enjoy the moment instead of holding the camera in the Queen's face as she walks in front of you. 
  • Do Not update your Facebook status.
  • Do Not Tweet.
  • Keep your hands at your sides when standing. Gentleman, keep your hands out of your pockets. Europeans consider this act rude. 
  • Do Not make any gestures with your hands. In Europe, the "O.K." and "Thumbs Up" hand gestures have very different meanings, and these hand gestures are extremely insulting and rude. 
  • Do Not gobble up food and gulp up drink at the Reception, and for goodness sakes, Do Not get drunk.
  • Catering Staff: when serving Royalty and guests, Do Not look at them. Do not talk to them. Appear and disappear discretely and silently. 
  • Hold the champagne glass properly, by the stem.
Read up on your European Etiquette in general and Enjoy the Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Resume Do's and Don'ts

   Your resume should serve as a snapshot of your professional life dotted with a glimpse of your personal life, just like your Facebook Profile. It should also be only 1 page.
   I once temped for Philip Morris's Human Resources Department. They had 5-6 round 48" tables filled with 1 foot high stacks of resumes covering each tabletop, and that was just what had come in that week. All I did all week long was open resumes and sort. So please, If the CEO of IBM can have a 1 page resume, so can you.
   Leave out a few minor details so you have something to talk about during the interview. Like Poker, you do not want to show all your cards at once.
   Keep references and the corresponding phone numbers current. Be concise and to the point. Hit spell check, but remember, spell check is not the 'do all, be all, end all.' Also, have a friend check for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
   Most importantly, be yourself. Arrive near your location an hour before your appointment. Walk around the building. Walk around the lobby. Listen to those around you and try to figure out if the company you want to work for is right for you!! Yes, they must think you are a good fit and like you, but you must like them too!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Miracle of the Week in the Country

   Last Saturday night, my husband and I took our cocktails, got in the car and drove out into the middle of our field to look at the full moon, blasting Bruce Springstein "The Boss," of course! According to the weather man, the moon was 30% brighter and 16% larger than usual. Still about the size of my thumb nail though.
   Fun and simple way to spend a Saturday night. Somtimes "simpler is better" and more fun! How do you spend your leisure time?   Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Smarmy" Entitlement Genration Behavior Of The Day

   Today at Whole Foods, using my 3 recyclable bags, my seemingly happy, chatty, preppy cashier asked me if I wanted to donate my .15 cents credit towards their "So-in-so" charity. I replied: "Sure." She then proceeded to hand me 3 porous, wooden chips to place into a designated charity bin. I guess the management came up with this procedure for the customers so they feel better about spending their whole paycheck at Whole Foods. Anyway, I nicely explained to the cashier I had just gotten over a cold and did not want to transmit germs to anyone, and invited her to take the chips over to the charity bin. Her expression changed to a disgusted
look and she slammed the chips down into a bowl on top of her register and made a "tisk" sound with her mouth. I thanked her and walked away.
   30 years ago when I was starting out in retail, if I glanced at a customer the wrong way or breathed on a customer the wrong way, I would have been fired on the spot for insubordination. I realize every generation thinks the younger generations are ruder than they were,but it seems like we have now entered into a society of incivility. Being civil costs nothing. Incivility used to cost your business millions. Now, I guess we all just put up with incivility, but it sure takes the fun out of the day sometimes!

Country Miracle Of The Day

Today on the way home from three grocery stores, I saw one of Dr. Caravati's cows poking his head through the barbed wire fence eating the green grass on the other side. Why? Because the cow could and haven't y'all heard...the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! Miracles happen every day, but they happen fast. Take a second to notice your miracle and smile!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Life at the Top of the Crystal Tabletop

The 'Golden Rule' of Etiquette is: "He who has the most gold rules." Rules change as society changes, but those in the know, always know!
As a Registered Bridal Consultant for a dozen years, I saw many permanent changes in the way people use their tableware. In today's column, we are addressing stemware and its usages.
Before 1911, there were no Federal taxes. Definitely an industrial age of opulence. Tiffany & Company capitalized on the 1000 new, New York millionaire capitalists by coming out with at least 99 different utensils for 99 different foods and drinks. Water glasses, wine clarets, iced tea glasses, port glasses, cocktail glasses, fruit cocktail glasses, high ball glasses, double old fashioned glasses, champagne saucers, finger bowls and plate, etc. Basically, Tiffany & Co. fueled for their own benefit, this age of opulence by creating new rules of etiquette for daily, albeit, fancy living, for those who could afford that life at the top of the crystal tabletop.
Thank goodness those days are over, as now, one does not have to have money to have manners. Who has the desire (never mind money) to acquire all those 99 items and who can clean it all and keep it all up anyway. The old opulent, yet strict Victorian rules for stemware no longer apply.
Brides and 'Singletons' now use what used to be the water goblet for the wine goblet. Iced tea glasses are now used for the water glass, so guests do not run out of water so quickly at the table. Or, the iced tea glass can be used for dessert parfait or pudding!
Very few families can afford domestic help any longer, so the hostess has been forced to be creative in trying to make her duties easier. She too, wants to partially enjoy her party when entertaining. Neither wine clarets nor port wine glasses are used much any longer.
One can also wash crystal in the dishwasher! No hand washing needed! Don't fret, it will not break. Load your crystal into the dishwasher gently and laterally. Do not crowd your crystal. Run a few loads if needed. Use your gentle cycle only and NO heat dry. Only use the air dry cycle. Use only 1 teaspoon of PLAIN detergent. Never use lemon detergent on anything other than pots and pans. Crystal and china have a glaze on them and the acid from the lemon will eat off this glaze over time and dull and fade your crystal and china. Yes, plain detergent is hard to find, but dig for it in the supermarket or special order it at the customer service desk of your local market.
So, be creative, enjoy your crystal, then wash it in the dishwasher!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bread & Butter Plate vs. Drink Glasses - On Which Side of The Plate Do They Belong?

How often at a fine restaurant or crowded dinner party has the person next to you eaten your bread? What should you do? Where does your Bread & Butter Plate go anyway? Confused? Not unusual at all! Don't fret. Here's the solution to the Bread & Butter Plate vs. the Drink Glass dilemma forever.

Remember at camp when you used to play "World War I Flying Ace?" Take your fingers and place the tip of your "pointer finger" (first finger) to the tip of your thumb. Line up all your other fingers behind your first finger making a lower case "b" with your left hand and a lower case "d" with your right hand. Touch your fingers together to make a "bd" shape: "b"read on the left, "d"rink on the right. You can do this in your lap at the table. You can do this on a plane. In a restaurant while in Spain.

A piece of the key to the place setting universe is solved!

p.s. WWI Flying Ace is "bd" upside down with your fingers under your chin and the "bd" around your eyes like goggles!!

p.p.s. If the person seated next to you eats your bread, say nothing and have some bread when you get home!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Formal and Informal China - Who Wants It Anymore?

Freshman year at college, a new friend on my hall asked me what china pattern I had chosen. At first, I didn't know exactly what she was talking about, then I figured out she must be referring to the formal china my Mother used in the Dining Room for Sunday Brunch, Thanksgiving, Christmas and guests.

My friend had already decided china in general was a priority in her life and that she wanted to make an investment in fine and every day china. So, when the time arises, a few burning questions are: As a young singleton or bride, do you want formal and/or informal china?

How many of each of the different matching pieces do you need? Do you like your serving pieces to also match your pattern or should they be a different pattern altogether that compliments your pattern? Do you entertain often or not at all? Are you rough on china or do you have butter fingers? These are practical and pertinent questions each bride or singleton should ask herself or himself.

Traditionally, wedding guests once gave place settings (dinner plate, salad plate, bread & butter plate, cup and saucer) as a gift. Then, place settings became prohibitive in price. So, giving a dinner plate, or salad plate became de rigueur. Now, the unfortunate trend is to give a "unique" gift. A bride once said to me she can remember that her Aunt gave her a dinner plate as well as some other gift she may not want as well. As a Registered Bridal Representative, I can say with 12 years of experience; brides just want their china!

Back to my friend Freshman year in college; she had already and smartly picked out her formal and informal china. One can give a piece of china for any type of gift including Christmas and Birthdays. Easy gift giving 101!!

My college friend had also considered condition, shape, and how the china would "wear" in her mind and in the dishwasher. She had considered the colors and style of each of the formal and informal china patterns as she was going to match her dining room decorating with her formal fine china and her kitchen decorating with her every day kitchen dishes. Even if you never marry, you may still want a set of china once you are out of school and have your own place!

My Freshman year friend, wisely weighed her decisions, and smartly picked out her formal and informal china patterns. One can give a piece of china for any type of gift including Christmas, Hanukkah and Birthdays. Easy "Gift Giving 101"!

So, figure out your china priorities and enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pause and Listen

From my book: Forget-Me-Not, Forget-Me-Never, Remember The Fun We Had Together

To Carrie-

If pleasures path you wish to see,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak of, of whom you speak,
And when, and how, and where.

Florence Gaynor
June 21, 1906

The other day, I snail mailed an old friend photographs from a Christmas luncheon. We had not seen each other in 14 years. Yesterday, she called me on the phone to thank me for the photographs.

My long time friend could have written and mailed a thank-you note, whipped off an E-mail of thanks, zoomed off a text message or an IM, sent a Facebook message, rattled off a Tweet, but no. She called. Sound old fashioned? Sound out of date? Sometimes simpler is better.

Hearing the voice of a friend may seem out of date to some. Hearing tone. Listening to the silences. Picking up the spoken and unspoken, unwritten vibes. Hearing, listening. What's the difference?

In listening we learn so much more than in writing, or in talking. True listening means not having anything to say saved up in your mind in response until the other person finishes speaking.

So, the next time a friend takes time to call, just pause and listen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Valentine's Day Bullies

Our daughter, now in Second Grade, does not want to go to school on Valentine's Day because last year she was picked on then devastated. Girls fight with words and yes, boy do they ever.

The entire class, first thing in the morning, taped paper bags alphabetically underneath the chalkboard in the front of the class. Throughout the day everyone as instructed, placed Valentines into their friend's bags. At the end of the day, everyone checked their bags to see what nice goodies they received. Our daughter received 4 Valentines: "You're nice,", "You're stupid", "You're ugly" and "You're dumb." She was devastated and cried on her walk home.

Call an immediate meeting with her/his teacher and Principal. The teacher should know her/his classroom well enough to recognize and privately call out the bullies. They should be punished appropriately, disciplined and should attend some type of therapy. They should also be told their behaviour will no longer be tolerated. The teacher should also speak with their parents.
Tell your daughter to hold her head up. Tell her she will be a better person in the future and as she grows up from having suffered this experience because she can be empathetic towards those who are bullies. Maybe the bullies are mean because their parents are mean to them and mean behaviour is all that they know.

The Lesson Learned:
Leaders include rather than exclude. Leaders never make others feel sad or embarrass others. Leaders always make others feel special.