Eating Out while Navigating Dietary Restrictions

Recently, I learned I have gluten and dairy dietary restrictions. As someone who has made it to her twenties with no dietary restrictions this has really changed the way I approach dinner parties and going out for meals. In an effort to not draw attention to the changes or make others unsure of how to accommodate my dietary needs, I have found the best way to navigate the situation is to plan ahead!

Here are my tips for navigating social interactions around food as someone with dietary restrictions as well as my tips for hosts who may encounter a guest with a dietary restriction:

  1. Research the menu/restaurant before you go!
    • With almost all restaurants having their menus online and so many restaurants aware of the common dietary restrictions, it is easy to take a look and find out what your options are before you arrive for the meal. This helps me to not feel like I am being put on the spot for taking too long to decide my order while also allowing me to know ahead of time the exact accommodations I need for my order.
    • If you have trouble finding something on the menu before you arrive, call the restaurant and let them know you have dietary restrictions. Giving the host a heads up allows them to let the chef know and often they will do what they can to assist with your dietary needs.
  2. Alert the host of your dietary restrictions well before the gathering.
    • Letting your host know far in advance, allows him/her to implement your dietary needs into the menu.
    • Some individuals are unaware of how to cook for your dietary needs and as the person who knows your restrictions best, it may be better to keep the cooking in your own hands. When this is the best option, offer to bring your own dish! You can cook it along with the main meal and often times, other guests will not even realize your plate is something different.
    • When sending in R.s.v.p. which requires a meal selection, choose the menu item that best fits your dietary needs then add a note of any accommodations needed so the chef is aware. (i.e. check off Salmon with vegetables then add to the side “Dietary Restriction: No gluten, no dairy”)
  3. Have a snack before you go!
    • I have learned it is always best to be on the safe side when going out for a cocktail party, sporting event/concert, or similar large scale, non-seated dining events. Try as I might to scout out the menu beforehand, sometimes I simply do not know what options will be available to me. When this happens, I find it is best to have a protein filled snack before I go! That way, if I show up and I am unable to eat any of the dishes being served, I will not be left starving; however, if there is something I can have, I am not so full that I cannot enjoy it.

Although having dietary restrictions can be challenging at times, I try to think of it in a positive way: Now that my foods have to be different, I have been learning to cook/bake with a lot of alternatives and trying out new dishes! I hope these tips help everyone navigate personally having dietary restrictions or hosting someone who does!

Sparkle On,



Happy Galentine’s Day!

Single this Valentine’s Day? No need to worry! Valentine’s Day can hold a different meaning for everyone so I challenge you to view it from a lens other than that of being in a relationship (even if you are in one!). For example, I love Valentine’s Day because putting love on public display with all the flowers, colorful decor, and heart/love signs everywhere makes me happy!

So, with that in mind, here are my tips on how you can celebrate a fabulous Valentine’s / Galentine’s Day!

  1. Gather your girlfriends together for a night of good food, rom-coms, and laughter!
    • Send out an invitation (e-vites are great for this!), decorate your space, and find some festive serving pieces! With so many ways to celebrate and have a fun evening pick something that fits your group!
      • This year, my friends and I did an early Galentine’s Day over the weekend! We got together to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and a Netflix favorite. Everyone brought wine and dessert to share! The hostesses did a great job decorating their place, having fun serving wear/napkins to go with the theme, and even got a fun Galentine’s Day game.
      • Tomorrow, we are getting together for a potluck Galentine’s dinner!
  2. Dress festive! *My personal favorite!*
    • Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year (other than my birthday) when wearing an over-the-top amount of pink is publicly acceptable and let’s be honest, who does not want to channel their inner Elle Woods?!
  3. Send valentines!
    • Family and friends will appreciate a piece of happy mail!
      • Tip: Stop by your local TJMaxx, Marshall’s, or Home Goods for a great deal on festive cards!
    • If you give valentine’s to coworkers, ensure the messages are tasteful and friendly to remain professional while spreading cheer. Also, if you add in a valentine treat, be sure you know if anyone has a dietary restriction.

I hope these tips get you in the Valentine spirit, but I know there are some who struggle with being single, especially at Valentine’s Day, and we can all admit we have been there at some point. For those of us who need a little extra encouragement this Valentine’s, I leave you with the wise words a friend sent to me in her valentine last year, “Single is not a status. It is a word that describes a person who is strong enough to live and enjoy life without depending on others.”

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and celebrate the love in your life!

Celebrating Halloween at Work

Halloween Banner

Often times, offices like to celebrate holidays and if your office is anything like mine, be ready to celebrate big! Join in on the festivities with your co-workers; just be sure to do so appropriately. In the spirit of Halloween, I am sharing my tips for how to celebrate Halloween at work!

  1. Be Tasteful and Dress Appropriately
    • If you are allowed to dress up for work, be sure your outfit fits the regular dress code/policies for your organization.
      • Avoid outfits that are extremely short. Wear something that covers your legs the way a pencil skirt or work dress does.
      • Do not show your cleavage by wearing a low-cut costume top or bustier.
      • Try to stay away from outfits that have rips, holes, etc. in them. You still want to look clean-cut at work.
      • Pass on shirts/costumes with inappropriate phrases or images.
    • Ensure you can still do your job in your costumes. (i.e. wearing so many accessories you can’t reach your keyboard = a non-productive work day and a frustrated boss)
    • Be culturally sensitive. For example, dressing up as a nun may offend some people.
    • Be sensitive to current events. For example, I used to work in a hospital and when Ebola was a very newsworthy topic of great concern to many people, dressing up in Hazmat suit and walking into the hospital would have been guaranteed to unsettle people.
  2. Be Cautious with Decorative Make-Up
    • Avoid using bloody/gory make-up and designs that may scare clients/guests/patients/children, etc.
    • Add a little sparkle or some false eye lashes to your eye make-up, but be sure to keep it professional.
  3. Don’t Want to Wear a Costume?
    • Unless it is a costume party and you are “highly encouraged” (a.k.a. practically told) to participate by your boss, it is OK to not wear a costume. Instead, dress festive!
      • Wear black and orange.
      • Add a headband, hairpiece, or a fun clip for a little bit of flare.
      • Wear decorative jewelry such as pumpkin earrings or a skull and crossbones bracelet.
      • Decorate your desk!
  4. Contribute to the Party!
    • If your office is having a party, offer to bring something to contribute.
    • If you are not a good cook or baker, it is perfectly fine to buy something at the store. My advice: Put it on a nice plate/serving dish prior to getting to work so you do not show up with a bunch of store containers 😉
    • If the office does not need food, bring in festive party napkins, plates, or cups!
    • Help decorate the office!

I hope these tips contribute to your Halloween festivities and help make it a positive experience for the whole office!

Happy Halloween!

Sparkle On,


Having Your Birthday Manners

With my birthday right around the corner, my excitement (as well as glitter, frosting, and sprinkles) is in abundance! I have been thinking about what goes into making a celebration special and even though the day is mine, other people are involved too. So, I brainstormed a few ideas on how best to ensure you celebrate a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  1. Be appreciative and thankful for everything!
    • Remember the lyrics, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”? DO NOT be that person (a.k.a. the Demanding Birthday Diva)! No one wants to be around a self-absorbed individual who demands attention and perfection from sunrise to sundown with expectations that cannot be met. Be happy, be calm, and smile 🙂
    • Acknowledge everyone who leaves you a birthday wish on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
    • For anyone who brings or sends you a birthday gift (no matter how big or small!), write them a handwritten thank-you note and mail it no later than 3 days after your birthday.
    • Thank your mom! Your birthday is a shared day with her too.
  2. It IS Your Day. Celebrate how you wish!
    • Plan something that will make you happy! Do not let yourself be pressured into celebrating in a way you do not want or handing the reins over to someone else who will not plan something to your liking.
    • Feuding friends? Speak to them individually prior to your celebration and express you hope to see them both. If they are unable to put aside their differences, suggest celebrating individually at another time. This will help to avoid any unnecessary drama from unfolding at your celebration.
  3. Make your guests feel special!
    • Although the celebration is about you, you are also the host/hostess and have guests to entertain!
    • If you have guests from different social settings (family, friends from different cities, school friends, work friends, etc.) introduce them to each other.
    • Plan things others will enjoy as well!
      • If you plan to play games, keep them tasteful to avoid embarrassing your guests or making them feel uncomfortable.
      • If couples are invited, plan things both ladies and gentlemen will enjoy. Be sure to have “guy drinks” (i.e. beer, a variety of liquor, regular soda, etc.) in addition to “fun, flirty, girly drinks.”
    • Whether you are having friends over for a small dinner party or throwing a huge birthday bash, have party favors! They do not need to be extravagant, simple is wonderful.
      • A few ideas are: a pretty bag of your favorite candies, a koozie, a mini bottle of wine with a piece of chocolate, pretty or funny beverage napkins, or an accessory with your guest’s initial on it.
  4. I got something I do not like, now what?
    • If you receive a gift that is “not quite you” and the person is there when you open it, smile, give him/her a hug, and simply say “thank you.” Do not exaggerate how much you like something if you do not actually feel that way.
    • If the individual is not there, write a note stating “thank you for thinking of me” or “it was so generous of you to send me a gift.” Do not write how much you like something and go into detail about it if you do not actually feel that way.
    • If the item is returnable, you may exchange it for something else, BUT I caution you on doing this. If it was not sent with a gift receipt and the gift is from a close friend or relative they may expect to see you display it in your home, wear it some time when you see him/her, etc. If this does not happen, the gift giver may wonder where it is and ask you. It is better to keep something you do not like than to offend the gift giver in the future.
    • Stay away from “re-gifting.” Too many things can go wrong.

Overall, these suggestions lead to one point: Stay humble on your birthday. Be appreciative of all the love that surrounds you (not just on your day, but everyday)! With this in mind, enjoy your day, live it up, and have a sparkling smile 🙂

To all my other September birthdays, I wish you a very happy day filled with love, laughter, and lots of cake!

Sparkle On,


Tailgating with Class and Style!

Photo Credit: Southern Living

Photo Credit: Southern Living

Football season is officially underway! As a BIG fan of college football (Go Terps! 🐢), it is one of the many reasons why Fall is my favorite season! As if the game itself is not enough to get you excited, having a well-planned tailgate is the best way to start the day! Here are my tips to kick-off your game day experience in the best way:

  1. Get in the Team Spirit!
    • Tie in your team colors and symbols to the table, tent, and lawn decor.
    • Dress the part! It’s time to break out those team tees, dresses in your team colors, and accessories that add to the team spirit (hello turtle earrings and team koozies!)
    • Football shaped food and mascot inspired trays or desserts are always a hit!
    • Make a signature cocktail that ties into your theme or your team, use festive drink stirs, or serve a beer that ties into your team name!
  2. Be Inclusive, Not Confrontational
    • While we all have our favorite teams and love our alma maters, be inclusive of those who may be cheering for the other team. Add a little of their team color or invite them to bring a dish tied to their team.
    • While a little bit of friendly competition is always fun, avoid getting into arguments or confrontations with fans of the other team. Remember, you are there to have fun – not to “bad mouth” others!
  3. Plan Ahead
    • Tailgates can range in size from small and simple to large and extravagant (I’ve seen it all!). No matter what size your tailgate, the following always apply:
      • Be sure to have an accurate count of how many people will be attending and buy/make your dishes accordingly (aka make a little extra). Running out of food and beverages is never a good thing!
      • Bring plenty of ice for drinks and food. Keep any food that needs refrigerated in coolers and ensure it will stay cold the duration of the day or else you will end having to throw it out (you do not want anyone to get sick).
      • Label your coolers to avoid confusion.
      • Remember trash bags and clean-up as you go.
      • If you are hosting, make a timeline for your set-up and when you need to start cooking. No one wants to miss kick-off!
      • Bring chairs for people to take a rest. You do not need enough for every person, but a decent number is always appreciated!
      • Here is a great checklist for all your tailgating needs!
      • Plan for the weather! If it’s a chilly day, bring along your favorite team sweaters and stadium blankets. Rain in the forecast? Get ready to set-up those tents!
      • Noon kick-off, how do you tailgate for breakfast?! Get those donuts, bagels, egg bakes, grilled bacon/ham/etc, and mimosas ready!
  4. There Is More to Tailgating than Eating
    • While the food (and drinks) usually take center stage at any tailgate, there are plenty of other fun things to do as well!
      • Just as you would in your home, be an excellent host/hostess and introduce guests to those who do not know each other.
      • Bring lawn games! Corn hole, ladder ball, bocce ball, and playing football in the parking lot are all fun ways to get people up and moving.
  5. Not Hosting, Just Invited to Tailgate?
    • Ask what dish, dessert, or drinks you can contribute to the tailgate.
    • Always help with clean-up!
    • Be a classy attendee – Dress for the theme/your team and as mentioned earlier, avoid confrontation with others (especially from the opposing team).
    • Be social with the others at the tailgate and make an effort to meet new people!
    • If you have your own chairs, it is always a friendly gesture to bring them along.

For more tailgating inspiration (decor, food/drink, and games), visit my Pinterest board! Happy Fall and Football y’all!

Sparkle On,


4 Tips on Being a Gracious Houseguest


With so many people traveling for the “final” weekend of summer, I have been thinking about how to be a gracious houseguest. Whether visiting family and friends or new people you have never met before, it is always important to have your manners.

You do not want the meme above to ring true for experience so here are a few tips on how you can make a great impression on your host(s)!

  1. When staying with someone for the weekend, take a host/hostess gift.
    • It does not have to be an extravagant gift, it can be something simple. A few examples are: a bouquet of flowers, a potted plant, a set of decorated cocktail napkins in a cute napkin holder, a pretty hand-towel, or a favorite baked good/snack for everyone to enjoy.
  2. Lend a hand! Although your host will most likely tell you to relax and enjoy yourself, it is still important to offer your help.
    • When your host is prepping meals, ask how you can help (set the table, fill drink glasses, food prep, etc.)
    • After ever meal, assist in clearing the table (unless it is a formal meal… I will cover that in another post!)
    • Tidy up the bathroom you have been using
    • Make the bed at the end of your stay (or even strip the sheets and place them in the laundry room if the host will be doing the wash when you leave)
  3. If you are visiting adults (your parents, elderly relatives, in-laws, significant other’s parents/grandparents) be sure to:
    • Say “Please” and “Thank You.” These are still magic words!
    • Say “Pardon Me?” Refrain from using, “What?” or “Huh?”
    • Say “Yes, Sir/Ma’am” and “No, Sir/Ma’am”
    • If you need to get up during a conversation or meal say, “Excuse me for a moment.” You do not need to explain where you are going (i.e. the restroom)
    • If you are expecting a phone call or message at a certain time during a planned activity or meal, let your host/hostess know ahead of time when you will be excusing yourself so they are not surprised by your extended absence.
  4. Write a handwritten thank you note when you get home.
    • Use a pretty card or personal stationary
    • Send it within three days of returning home

I hope these tips come in handy on your next traveling adventure!

Happy Labor Day! Be safe and enjoy the long weekend!

Sparkle On,


Mood and Manners

Mood and Manners

I was recently inspired by the quote above. It got me thinking about how our manners should be a thoughtful reflection of our overall character. While we all of course experience our “off days,” we should not let these affect our overall attitude toward others and our manners.

Whether it is a coworker, loved one, or a stranger, do not take out your frustrations on them.

  • If a waiter gets your order wrong or store clerk gets you the wrong item, do not get angry at and embarrass them. Instead, be polite and kindly ask them to re-do your order.
  • Traveling and way-finding in new settings induces stress on many people. When asking for assistance or checking-in with security or travel personnel, ask for things politely and always thank them after. Avoid a demanding tone and short response.
  • Loved Ones can be an easy target for taking out frustrations – If you know you are in a bad mood or have had a rough day, let them know you may not be in the best of moods and ask for their understanding to help you. If you know you need some alone time, simply let them know that.
  • Taking things out on coworkers can be detrimental to your career, professional appearance, and overall office/team moral. If you are having a bad day, keep your composure and breathe before responding to situations. It is better to wait and think than to react inappropriately and have to apologize later.

And always remember – Even when you are having a tough day, smile at others as they pass you and offer a kind greeting. You may not always get a smile or greeting in return, but at least you will know you presented a friendly face to another individual!

Sparkle On!