Thursday, December 26, 2013

Handwritten Thank You Note APP Now Available!

Yes, there is an APP for Handwritten "Thank-You" notes (available for your iPad, or iTunes only). The APP by the name "Felt" after you pick out the style and type of note, will scan your hand written words, print it, seal it, stamp it and send it for a fee ($4), but you will still have to write the note. So, here are 4 quick steps to help you write the often dreaded "Thank-You" note:

  1. Dear __________,     (You are 1/4 of the way done already!)
  2. Your lovely Christmas cookies were so pretty, we did not want to touch them, but after longingly gazing at these delectable delights, we dug in and consumed most of your delicious cookies for dessert, then ate the remainder of these treats for breakfast on Boxing Day. (Mention the gift and how you will use it. Never begin with "Thank You for the..." - unless you are 8 yrs old)
  3. Thank you so much for your thoughts this Christmas. We will remember your delicious cookies for years to come. Have a nice New Year and we hope to see you soon. (Now, say your 'Thank-You' and add a personal sentiment)
  4. Love, your grateful Niece, Susie Q.                                                                                                                                       So, write your Thank-you notes before you sleep and all will be well :))                

Celia's Book Club: Happy Holidays to all, what a fun book swap we had...

Celia's Book Club: Happy Holidays to all, what a fun book swap we had...: As usual, our get-together was filled with fun and laughs, with a great group of well-read people who brought a favorite to put under the ...

Reading books will take you to places you have never been, teach you things about life you did not know, and most importantly, let you know others may have the same or similar problems or circumstances as you have, and let you know you are not alone in your daily struggles and triumphs. Books will set your soul free! Happy New 2014! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Big Christmas Dinner Dining Tips for the Big Table with the Big People

So, you are eating Christmas Dinner at the big table with the big people. You can do it! Here are a hunk of happy helpful tips for all ages to help you navigate through the big meal: 

  • At the very least, treat your chair like a Church pew and sit up straight. Don't forget to smile big:))
  • After you sit down, don't touch, eat or drink anything. Don't even put your napkin in your lap until the Host places his or her napkin in their lap, signaling the beginning of the meal.
  • Have an age appropriate blessing in your head, just in case you are called upon to say Grace.
  •  Just like in the movie "Titanic," do as the famous character the unsinkable Molly Brown says: "Just work your way from the outside in," the key to the place setting universe.
  • If you are still, or ever confused about the flat silver or table accouterments, simply pause, look and observe others around the table. 
  • Hold your fork like a pencil, not like a shovel.
  • As your Mother has told you 1000 times, chew with your mouth closed and keep your elbows off the table.
  • If you are passed a dish you dislike, smile broadly, say a polite and enthusiastic "Thank you," and keep the dish moving, passing it immediately to your left.
  • If you need to leave the table for any reason, simply say: "Please excuse me," and place your napkin in your chair, the International silent signal for "I will return, please do not take my plate." 
  • Pace yourself with others at the table and when you are finished with your meal and are excused from the table, place your napkin to the left of your plate and remember to push your chair back in, under the big table.    
So, impress others with your positive attitude and table appropriate conversation. Laugh, enjoy, and have big fun being with your family and friends at Christmas and during the Holiday Season.

Please remember for the Holidays: "What we keep we lose, only what we give remains our own."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Giving

My school motto repeated every day was:

   "What we keep we lose; only what we give remains our own."

Good words to live by. Happy Christmas to all.:))

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: "The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion" by Fannie Flagg is a Life Fulfilling Adventure

A Life Fulfilling Filling Station Reunion Review:

Just when you think you know who you are, with the opening of an envelope, your family, heritage, and life changes forever. Fannie Flagg's new novel: "The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion," craftily cross stitches two different families, cultures, and times in American history together.

One story smacks of the old South in present day Clear Point, Alabama, as the Simmons family struggles to become more modern, tolerant, and multi-cultural. Sookie adores birds but acts like a tiny titmouse of a woman as compared with her blue jay of a mother, Lenore, who constantly criticizes Sookie. She doesn't understand why, until at age 60, opens an envelope and begins a journey to find her life's purpose.

The other story, unfolds inside the envelope, and tells the tale of the Polish Jurdabralinkski family in 1938 Pulaski, Wisconsin. Their four daughters work as attendants in their father's filling station. Fritzi, the oldest, becomes a wing walker, learns how to fly the plane, then joins the military as a pilot just as World War II begins. Two of her sisters follow her lead. Women's rolls change overnight.

Success of a family is no longer determined by who has the most complete set of sterling silver, or the finest pearl necklace. Family players come and go from the Thanksgiving tale, but family remains family. Success is no longer defined by what we have, or have achieved in life, but by what we ourselves become.

As a member of the Real Simple Magazine's Readers Panel, this review has been published on p. 34 of their November issue.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sally Belle's Kitchen, a Richmond Tradition, and Why Your Mother Told You To Dress Up When Running Errands

Remember your Mother telling you to always dress up when leaving the house, even if only going to the grocery store? Well, I ran into Sally Belle's Kitchen to grab a boxed lunch, and poof, I'm on the video and voice over. So, one never knows!

SFA Blog: Boxed Lunch: A Portrait of Sally Bell's Kitchen in...: We're just back from Richmond, Virginia, where we celebrated Women at Work in RVA for our annual Summer Symposium . It was an incredib...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Writing Prefabricated Thank-You Notes and Re-Gifting Gifts Have in Common

Just like re-gifting gifts, prefabricated Thank-You notes are never quite right. At best, the note may be written with a fine pen on fine monogrammed stationery, look and sound perfectly well and appropriate, but the note comes across after reading it as missing a certain something. When handled well with attention paid to all details, the sentiment still may fall short somehow. When not handled well, remembering all details, a prefabricated Thank-You Note is a dead give away. Here is an example:

   Dear Mary and John,
     We are so appreciative that you were able to join us as we celebrated the first day as man and wife. Having family and friends there with us, allowed us to begin our lives together surrounded by generous and caring people. Your thoughtful gift will allow us to display our first moments and remind us of memories as we grow old together.
                                      All the Best,
                                                              Jack and Jill

Sounds nice. Thoughtful. Sweet. Heart felt. Lovely. My aftertaste after absorbing the note: A bit gooey, I mean, who expresses sentiment like this to someone they have met once? I had an English Professor in college who said: "Why use a .95 cent word when a .5 cent word will do?" The high flying deep sentiment of this note was the first clue which gave it away as a fake. Here are a few of the other dead give away problems with this note:
  1. We did NOT attend the wedding.
  2. My husband knew of the bride, from a distance, and long ago from her childhood as the niece of his business partner, but had met the groom only once. I had met both the bride and groom only once.
  3. We are at least 1-2 generations older than this couple (myself 23 years older, my husband 36 years older).
  4. The wedding gift was not specifically mentioned.
  5. A use for the wedding gift was not specifically mentioned
So, after reading this note twice, and still agape, I immediately and sadly concluded this note was a prefabricated Thank-You note. We had put thought into giving quite a nice, large sterling silver picture frame to a business partner's niece and not that the money matters, and not that we needed to be thanked, but we had taken time to pick out a classic gift for a young bride to display her wedding photo in, something the couple whom we did not know their taste at all, would have for the balance of their lives, and she had not taken 5 minutes to honestly acknowledge our effort or thank us from her heart.
   She also apparently did not remember that we had not attend her wedding.
   As well, we sent the gift immediately after receiving the invitation, a full 6 weeks before the wedding. Yes, brides do have 6 months after their weddings to complete their Thank-You Notes, but not remembering if someone was at your wedding is a big consequential pit-fall as a result of waiting 3 months to acknowledge the gift. This example is why one should write notes immediately upon receiving gifts to avoid confusion and embarrassment.

Just a little wedding stat for y'all to ponder:
  •  67% of guests invited to a wedding send their gifts immediately. The other 33% wait until the last minute, and most end up taking the gift to the wedding reception.  
So, the moral of the story is: Do not ever re-gift, and do not ever write prefabricated Thank-You Notes, because even if done well with no discernible mistakes, it is never quite right, and you will end up found out, but never told so.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review of "Someone" by Alice McDermott is Like A Black & White Movie For Old Souls

Here is my Book Review of the lovely, quiet novel "Someone" by Alice McDermott, her seventh novel, heavenly and quaint:

Do we want to be someone from somewhere, rather than nobody from nowhere, or, do we simply want to be someone significant to someone else special to us? What if our first love is, in private, cruel? How do we know about someone else's private life behind the bedroom door, the kitchen door, or beyond the iron gate in the alley, and knowing, can we accept their secret and move on?

Someone Alice McDermott's seventh novel, is like a black and white movie for old souls. Her charmingly quiet story begins back when children were paid a penny to promise to say their prayers and women cleaned their windows with vinegar and newspaper. The author gives us intimate glimpses into her characters' souls through their unspoken eye contact with each other, and the smell of their breath next to each other.

Marie knows her mind and is aware of her flawed looks. Her awkwardness explains why she chooses her first love, her first job and remains inside her beloved Brooklyn neighborhood. Marie's strict Irish Catholic mother, controls every daily facet of family existence inside their tiny apartment. Marie's kind, patient father shares an unspoken secret with Marie. Gabe, Marie's brother studies for the priesthood, but is his faith his someone?

So, treat yourself and a special someone to Someone, and enjoy an evening's leisurely read through the author's melodic prose, and contemplate your Someone.  

As a member of their reader's panel, this review was submitted to Real Simple Magazine in July, and is published on p. 38 of their September issue.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Courtroom Tips: Clerks, Dockets, Facts, Defendants & Plaintiffs

   Most of us will never go to Court to serve a Warrant In Debt, Summons For Unlawful Detainer, or file a Writ of Possession. Most of us will go to Traffic Court for a traffic ticket. In Court, and in adult life, Ignorance is no excuse. Especially in Court.
   So, here are a few tips to impress the "Charlie Checkpoint" police, the office Clerks, the Court Officers and the Judge:
  • No cell phones allowed in Court, because they take photos. Signs are posted everywhere in English and Spanish all over the outside and inside of the Courthouse, so leave your cell phone in your car, or "Charlie Checkpoint" will make you walk your phone back to your car. Bummer.
  • When going through "Charlie Checkpoint" (similar to any airport) remove your bulky coat, watch, large jewelry, and all contents in your pockets. To make it simple, dress simply, leave your coat in the car if you can and empty out all the crap in your pockets before getting out of your car.  
  • If you beep while stepping through the "Charlie Checkpoint" arch, stand with your arms out and "Charlie" will have to wave you over with "the wand." Stand still, be patient and know you are almost done with this process and will be fine.
  • Head on over to the Dockets. These are typed up, alphabetical lists posted on the walls, usually directly next to the Courtrooms. Look for your name, and when you find it, go to the corresponding Courtroom, usually labeled A,B, C, or 1,2, 3. Some wall posts will even list what type of Court: Circuit, Traffic, General or Criminal. If you cannot find your name listed, or are in a terrible hurry, the Clerk in the office will look your case up for you. 
  • Once inside your correct Courtroom, walk up the isle and sit as close as you can to "The Bar." Only Lawyers can sit in front of "The Bar" because they have passed "The Bar" exam. Many times, the Officer of the Court will ask everyone to move up and sit as close in as they can, so you may as well do so right from the start.
  • Cases with Lawyers will be called first. Then, all other cases will be called in NO specific order whatsoever. Again, an opportunity to listen and learn. 
  • If you are in court defending yourself against a case brought against you, you are the DEFENDANT. If you are prosecuting, or bringing a case against someone else, you are the PLAINTIFF. 
  • Some Courtrooms have signs posted on one side or another below "The Bench" the ledge below where the Judge sits. Some Courtrooms have the Judge's name posted. Some Courtrooms do not post the Judge's name. Some Courtrooms even have instructions posted such as: "Do not lean on The Bench" "Please leave bags and keys on the table before approaching The Bench," "Please stand up straight."  Read and pay attention, please.
  • Take off your hat, take off your sunglasses, spit out your gum. NO reading, NO talking, NO whispering, NO needlepoint, NO sleeping. Court is an opportunity to listen and pay attention. You may be surprised at what you hear, and you may learn something.
  • Make an effort to show up in Court looking presentable, professional, and serious, please. As Barbara Walters once said: "Clean hair beats a new dress any day." It does not cost any money to wash and dry your hair. It does not cost any money to clean and iron your clothes. Tuck your shirt in and wear a belt. Pull your pants up. Wear a shirt with a collar. Wear a shirt that does not show your Bra straps. Try looking like you are going to church, not cleaning out your garage. The Judge will be impressed you made an effort to look nice in her/his Courtroom, and you will feel better about yourself.
  • Some Courtrooms are kept cold, so you may want to wear or bring a light cardigan sweater or jacket.
  • Leave your crying babies, talking toddlers, screaming children, and ailing elderly family members at home. Bringing the family "Peanut Gallery" to Court with you will not help your case. Unless you are a "character witness" in a trial, there is no need to come to Court. We all have family. We all have children. We all have our own family circumstances. Make arrangements for any babysitting/care giving needs ahead of time. If you cannot afford a baby sitter or a care giver, make arrangements with a neighbor, church or community organization to swap out sitting/care giving jobs. Have a "Plan B" just in case. Organize this sitting ahead of time. Hearings and Trials are always scheduled at least 30 days out. You have plenty of time to organize.    
  • Every Judge runs her or his courtroom his or her way. Some judges are formal and stick to the rules but have trouble making decisions. Some judges roll through their cases quickly and are persnickety about the paperwork being filled out perfectly. Some judges run their Courtrooms slower and are better listeners. Pause, look, listen and be aware.
  • Do not speak unless spoken to. When the judge speaks to you, speak up, and speak clearly. Answer the Judge: "Yes, your Honor" or "Yes Sir" and "No Ma'am." The Judge will make sure everyone gets their turn to speak. The Judge may help you along with your paperwork filings, but cannot give you legal advice. 
  • We have all heard the expression: "Just the facts, man." The Judge wants just the facts. Bring all your documents, contracts, cancelled checks, invoices, photos, maps, and receipts. Facts, facts, facts.    
  •  Know if you are in a Hearing or a Trial. Read any papers mailed to you. If you do not understand the paperwork mailed to you, bring the papers to the Clerk in the office and ask them any questions you may have. The Clerk will help you through the paperwork process, but cannot give you legal advice. Do your "homework." Remember: Ignorance is no excuse.
  • Be nice to the Clerks in the office. The Clerk can be your best friend. Fill out all your paperwork to the best of your ability. If you do not know how to fill out your paperwork, the Clerks in the office may be able to help you with filling out forms, but are not allowed to give you legal advice. You may need legal advice for other fillings and procedures. The Clerks in the office will let you know.

Make an effort to prepare yourself for Court. Dress respectfully, act respectfully, bring all your completed paperwork with you, stick to the facts, and know your Courtroom etiquette. You will feel better about yourself and have a better experience in Court. Good luck to you!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

LTTE T&C Manners & Misdemeanors "Table Trouble" Article in the June/July Issue

Dear Editor,
   The classic, black and white movies exhibited a society with lovely table manners, a civil, self sacrificing society, full stop. A golden, gone by society when one never wanted to embarrass another person or make anyone else feel bad, ever.
   Fifteen years ago when I began my business, students came to me to fine tune their table manners. Now, students come to me to learn how to hold a fork. At least they know they don't know.
   We always say, one does not have to have money to have manners, especially now with a plethora of etiquette and manners blogs on the Internet, and books in any library available to those who want to be in the know.
   Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: "We teach others how to treat us." The golden key is, one must desire to be pleasant and make others feel special. The golden question is: How does a once golden society regain its civility once civility is going, going, gone?


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

If pleasures path you wish to see,

Five things observe with care,

To whom you speak, of whom you speak,

And when, and how, and where.

Florence Gaynor
June 21, 1906


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Soldiers & Sailors Monument
New York City, 1907
We Will Always Remember.
Happy Memorial Day and Enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Different is not Wrong, It's Merely Different

Yung-Cheng, Emperor of China in 1727 said:

"The people of the world are bigoted and unenlightened. Invariably, they regard what is like them as right and what is different from them as wrong, resulting in mutual recrimination. They do not realize that the types of humanity are not uniform and that their customs are also not one, that it is not only impossible to force people to become different but also impossible to force them to become alike."

In teaching etiquette classes we always say: It is neither right nor wrong, just different.
Remember these words when travelling on vacation this Summer and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hello It's "Helouise's Housekeeping Hints" Time Again

   Cleaning our my dear Mother's house last week after her passing, I found a book I apparently liked as a child as I had lovingly scribbled on the inside of this red and yellow treasure. I had not seen this book since I was very little, and it drew up an immediate smile to my face as I remembered our kitchen with the radio on and my Mother happily holding this book reading it to me.
   Heloise's Housekeeping Hints was published in 1962. Born in 1961, I most likely wrote my version of script handwriting in it around 1964. Very different America back then. Women were mostly at home as homemakers. Women were in charge of the household budgets. Cash budgets. No credit cards. Women were in charge of the weekly grocery bill, as in the cash they were given by their husbands, to spend on groceries for the week. T he cash they had at hand was it, the end of the spending. Stick to your list, my Mother always said. She did not throw away anything and she wasted nothing. We've all heard the expression: "Waste not, want not." Well it is true, and Heloise is here to help!
So, here are some of Heloise's helpful household hints to save a few calories and maybe a few bucks:
  • When frying hamburgers, do not grease the skillet. Just sprinkle a bit of salt on the bottom of the pan and place the unsalted hamburger patties on top. The burgers will fry in their own juice.
  • Salt in a frying pan will also keep meat from spattering. Nothing worse than bacon when it pops and you get burnt!
  • Any recipe (cake waffles, pancakes) which calls for eggs is made better by separating the yoke from the white and adding them into the mix separately. This process makes the batter lighter and with more air bubbles.
  • If your waffle recipe calls for 1 egg, try 2 eggs and separate their whites from their yokes and add separately. Your waffles will be as light as a cloud.
  • Leftover potatoes of any type can be mashed and made into delicious "potato patties" for breakfast the next morning. One may also add a chopped onion and an egg. Mix, mash, mold your patties, salt and pepper if you wish, and fry up with a pat of butter. Yum!   
  • To make most vegetables and lettuce last longer in the fridge, wrap produce in paper towels and place in a zip lock bag, but make sure to let all the air out and place zip lock bags in the produce bin in the fridge if you have one. Replace paper towels after 2-3 days, and most vegetables will last up to one week, or maybe more. Also, chop them as you go. Keeping produce intact helps them last longer.
  • If you have leftover carrots and potatoes, and don't know what to do with them, boil, then mash them all together to make orange colored mashed potatoes. Your kids will love the color and the new flavor!
  • Parsley, chives, spring onions, and carrots, which you can grow in your garden for little cost, can be washed, trimmed, dried in a towel, wrapped in foil and frozen to be later added to tomato soup and served with croutons you can make with day old (or older) bread.
  • To rid your nails and your wooden cutting board of bacteria and a seafood or fish smell, rub them with the remainder of a lemon or lime. The acid from the lemon or lime is the trick!
  • To make gravy without lumps, mix 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 cup of cold water, then add to the pan juices and stir gravy.
Try growing a garden this summer. Help your household budget, give the kids a chore to weed and water the garden, and get back to nature to enjoy the freshest lettuce and vegetables you have ever tasted, for months and months! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Remember to Forget-Me-Not My Journey, Even in Death

    Sitting quietly next to Mom in the Nursing Home Dining Room, as she picked the pieces of carrot out of her vegetable soup, she said: "I've never understood warm strawberries, have you?" Gently smiling, I quietly answered: "No, I never have."
   Remembering the words of a kind friend twenty-five years ago regarding the death of his Father, he said: "As children of our parents, we all have our turn." Not forgetting my Mother's journey ahead of her, my Sister and I are both quite fortunate now to be able to have our turn with our Mother.
  During her elongated dazed gazes, Mom's eyes would widen, as large as saucers, then would calm. Although the cause was most likely more T.I.A.'s (Transient Ischemic Attacks), her soul seemed to be traveling in and out of her body. Her mind seemed to be in and out of conscious, however, somehow subconsciously, on some level, she was aware of what was going on with her health when in the present. She drifted back and forth from present life to childhood, young adulthood, and present again. Confused and disoriented, Mom sometimes seemed more lucid than not, but the Doctor said not really. She seemed to be clearer in her thoughts than not, but could not speak the exact words, yet we knew what she meant by her manner, expressive eyes, and tone of voice.
   At only 78, there sat my Mother, beautiful, brilliant, always ahead of her time and fiercely independent, slumping in her wheelchair next to me. She was frail, gaunt and pale, with a ghost like yet luminous complexion. As a Hospice nurse my Sister says many of her patients have this angelic glow to their skin. Mom still possessed her Lauren Bacall looks, high cheek bones, and "Jackie O" aura even after her weight loss and heart attack and the entire nursing staff often commented on Mom's beauty. Yet, she was sadly now a physical and mental hollow shell of the woman I had grown up with and so altered after the heart attack with recognizable full blown dementia. As her eldest daughter, of course I grew up in awe of her, admiring and aspiring to act, talk, walk and dress just like my mother.
   My Sister returned from the nurses station and sat down with us. Mom had, again, only eaten a few bites and did not want the chocolate pudding, her favorite.  Suddenly, Mom perked up, her eyes growing wide, again, as she said: "Kathy, you may have my pudding because I am in a hurry. I have an appointment soon with a woman about my departure." I reticently looked up at my Sister and her facial expression had changed to one of surprise, then a knowing look came over her face. As we wheeled Mom out of the Dining Room, I quietly whispered to my Sister if the nursing home has a "Departure Counselor" and of course, she nodded a "No."
   Tired now, Mom wanted to lay down. She began fussing the wheelchair was not lined up properly so she could swivel herself onto the bed. She started giving orders in her weak Katharine Hepburn voice about her wheelchair should be lined up against the bed, the gently used wheelchair she had frugally purchased for Christmas, thinking she had gotten a deal. She knew the breaks were not sufficient as did my sister and I, so I gently answered: "Don't worry, Mom, we've got you."
   After about five minutes of seemingly painful, mostly fearful "Ahhhh's", and frustrating "Ohhhh's", struggling to stand and balance herself, with the aid of my Sister lifting Mom from the front and myself balancing her from behind, she was able to sit on her bed and rest. She did not rest, however, but immediately wanted her security blanket, her control mechanism; her purse. Within this purse, for as long as I can remember, Mom carried her wallet, checkbook, toothbrush and lipstick.  Always reapplying the same shade of lipstick she had worn since my childhood. "Where is my wallet? I want my checkbook. I need to pay some bills." Out Mom pulled her checkbook from the small, leather trimmed, navy canvas purse, and with slow, shaky manicured hands, began to try to pay a few bills my sister and I had brought her.
   My Sister left to go speak with the nurses, and I sat quietly, marking with a permanent marker Mom's last name in all of her clothing including her socks and unmentionables, as required by the nursing home for their laundry service. I thought of the many years Mom had written our names in our clothing for the summer camp laundry.
   Patiently, I watched and waited as my mentor, completely perplexed, confusingly sorted and tore through her bills for forty full minutes. Mom was Valedictorian of her 1952 High School class. Mensa in math, she was one of 2 women in a class of 10,000 to graduate University with a B.S. in Business Administration in 1956. She was always a woman ahead of her time. It was hard for my sister and I to see Mom so declined, yet she was determined to pay these bills as though all were normal. To my surprise while watching her, Mom wrote our childhood address and phone number on the back 'address change' portion of one of the bills. She then filled in whatever dollar amount on whichever payment portion of any bill and stuffed them randomly into an envelope sealing each with a dry lick...without the check enclosed. Heart wrenching to watch, but a crucially important exercise for Mom. Paramount for her to maintain dignity, relevance, purpose, and normalcy in her mind.
    Two years ago, Mom's weekly Bridge partner became very sick with Cancer, then died. Another Bridge partner developed Alzheimer's. Her college boyfriend she had recently caught up with  suddenly died from an aneurysm. She stopped looking for more Bridge partners, then stopped playing Bridge all together. She stopped going to church. She stopped volunteering in local Politics. She stopped watching television, sewing and laughing. I thought to myself after listening to her tone on the phone she had lost her natural 'Joie de Vivre' for life. Then, her health started to slowly fail.
   Soon thereafter, Mom told my Sister she thought she had made bad choices in her life. Yes, we all do make a thousand different little and large decisions every day about how we choose to live our lives. And, all of our choices are not always stellar, but it is important in life to get the big choices right, not to live one's life moving from one bad choice to the next bad choice.
   As a young girl, I remember Mom driving me to tap dancing, ballet, piano and horse riding lessons. She took us to movies and Museums during the week when my Father was away working. She took us to plays on Broadway and out to dinner with the adults while visiting my Grandparents on the weekends. She taught us our table manners by serving us a fried egg on a plate and toast on a bread & Butter plate every Sunday after Church. She drove us always on our vacations and weekend breaks to every cultural attraction and historic marker along the highway. She let us have breakfast for dinner. She fed us Swiss Cheese Fondue with French bread, our favorite mod dinner in the 1960's.
   A few years later, Mom chose to have that cigarette. She chose to drink three fingers of bourbon, instead of two fingers of bourbon each night. She chose to have that English Muffin with triple fruit marmalade. She chose to loose faith. She chose to let the bitterness into her heart. 
   The surprisingly delightful treat of our journey this week with our Mom, was seeing brief glimpses of her happy, young soul, and her kind, hopeful, free spirit we had not witnessed since we were very little. During a visit, my Sister said to Mom: "We'll be back this afternoon to visit you, OK?" Mom looked up with longing eyes and sweetly said: "Promise?" This melted us both to soft butter.
   Yesterday, my husband and I called Mom. We asked what she was doing. She answered: "Counting my address book." We answered: "Oh, OK. We are counting the Red breasted Robins in the yard. They are waiting on Spring." Mom loves birds, gardening and bird watching from the porch. She laughed a bit and weakly at that. She then said: "I'm getting stronger every day. Do you have my car keys? I need to do my laundry."
   Mom was admitted to the Hospice Unit this week. It's nice. She has a private room. I decorated it with her Mother's linen table toppers, her dresser mirror and perfume bottles, fresh potted hydrangeas, a beautiful large multi-colored basket of dried field flowers, old photographs, and a few random pictures of Golden Retriever dogs which she adores. There is a full moon this week. My Sister says she is swamped every full moon in her Hospice work. It's kind of cosmic and may have something to do with the lunar pull or the high tides, who knows, but many of her Hospice patients pass away during full moons. So, we just pray and are thankful our Mother is safe, warm, well taken care of, and happy.
   Mom died today, this Easter Sunday. My Sister and I consider ourselves fortunate to have had our "turn" with our Mother and we hope in her eyes, we will have done our well best to remember to have given her a dignified journey filled with a sense of worth, purpose and peace in a life well done, for worse and for better, and peace everlasting.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Carson the Butler's Bouillon Spoon, Cup & Saucer

   Last week on Downton Abbey, the audience is brought in on a scene where Carson the Butler is displaying and explaining various flat silver serving pieces to the Second Footmen. The newly hired Footman correctly guesses all the pieces save, at last, the poor old Bouillon Spoon.
   Bouillon is served at a formal or informal Luncheon as a light course, where there may be only one wine served for the whole of the Luncheon. Because Bouillon is a thin broth, it is not thought to be substantial enough to be served with its own wine at a multiple course dinner with multiple wines. Poor Bouillon.
   The Bouillon Spoon looks like a shorter stumpier version of the more popular and recognizable Cream Soup Spoon. It is used with the Bouillon Cup and Saucer which is a smaller version of the Cream Soup Bowl and Saucer, or Stand. It is smaller because Bouillon broth cools quickly as it is a thin broth.
   The Bouillon Cup and Cream Soup Bowl are hand honed and have two handles, one on either side of the cup or bowl. Unlike the Cream Soup Bowl, the Bouillon Cup, may be drunk out of by the handles, or sipped from the bouillon spoon. The spoon is then placed on the saucer, never on the tablecloth, place mat or table.
   In conclusion, as a light soup, bouillon is light and lovely at a Luncheon. Enjoy!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Be Careful of Negitave, Shocking Posts on Facebook

   As the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey says: "Don't be defeatist dear, it's very middle class." It's true.
   Please be careful about posting very personal, mostly negative, possibly upsetting information on Facebook. Like your Mother taught you, stick close to your good health and the weather.
   After a certain age (about 25), adults have their own problems and do not need or want to constantly read about every detail of your ongoing problems, disasters and bad happenings in your life.
   Pleasantly and mindlessly reading along on my Facebook feed one day, my eyes tripped up upon a post from a "friend" that stated: "Mr. 'So-in-so' has died in a car accident"...what? I was shocked. Reading on, I learned the deceased was NOT a family member or relative of the "friend" who posted this information, and the post was abrupt, tactless and the tone seemed to scream out for attention. I wondered to myself if the family of the deceased knew of this Facebook posting and what they would think.
   Moral of the story, do not use Facebook as a negative attention getting vehicle. If you need attention because you are sick, depressed, having a bad day or life in general, legal problems, or a family member is in the hospital, Hospice, or has tragically died, call someone. Do not post sudden deaths, shocking or "downer" information on Facebook. It does not come across well.
  Facebook can be an appropriate and convenient vehicle in which to post the passing of loved ones assuming this potentially devastating information is posted gently, carefully, tastefully and in the most positive light possible, including informational and directional links for those readers interested, such as an on-line obituary link or funeral information. In this light, a posting of this type can be fast, convenient and helpful to everyone involved.
   Again, as your Mother says, "Do not wash your laundry in public."
 Mother always knows best!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Breakfast at Downton

   Yes, 8 Million Americans and 120 Million Worldwide watchers are obsessed with Britain's Downton Abbey.
   Why? Because in a PG kind-of way, Downton is the new Sex And The City, hitting a pitch perfect chord with its viewers. Simply put: it is nice TV.
   In this British land of the Landed Gentry, these wealthy characters live by the traditional Noblesse Oblige mantra. They are all well dressed, well mannered, polite people. They respect each other, save the occasional slightly naughty character, and they live their lives as we all live our lives. Same struggles. Same goals. All just trying to do better for themselves, their family, friends, and community.

So, here are a few Breakfast at Downton tips:
  • Married ladies, by tradition, are allowed to have breakfast in bed, thus one does not have to dress to go downstairs for breakfast. (I remember my Mother always mentioning 'Breakfast in Bed' as a luxury to her). A nice perk for a married lady indeed!
  • Breakfast consisted of eggs, ham, bacon, devilled kidneys, tongue, oatmeal and "Post Toasties" (Cornflakes) cereal from America!
  • Morning papers were ironed to dry the ink, so the Lord and Lady would not get ink stains on their fingers.
  • Footmen wore gloves and served all meals A La Russe.
  • The most important person or honored guest always sits to the right of the host, or The Lord, and is served first.
  • Serving "Ladies first" is Continental style used on the continent (as in France, not in England).
  • Wealthy girls were taught how to keep a conversation going even with someone who was completely socially incapable, and even at breakfast with the non-morning person!
Downton Abbey like Breakfast at Tiffany's is a place where nothing bad can happen to you. It is simply lovely and beautiful, soapy and sometimes silly, funny and witty, only a bit naughty, Haute Couture and haughty, and most importantly, happy escapism with grand Manor homes and grand manners. No wonder we all adore Downton. Enjoy!