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! ūüźĘ Go Navy! ‚öďÔłŹ), 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 for how 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, anchor adorned purse, 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. 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 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,

Alexandra

Hosting Tips: Welcoming House Guests

Photo Credit: graphicalinteriors

Photo Credit: graphicalinteriors

With summer just around the corner, lots of people’s travel schedules are getting busy which also means lots of us will be welcoming house guests. What can you do to help your guests feel right at home? Here are my tips for being an excellent host/hostess!

  1. Confirm Travel Plans with Your House Guests
    • Prior to the arrival of your house guests, double check the dates with them and ensure you have the right ones on your calendar.
    • The day of travel, check-in with your house guests so you know when they plan to arrive.
      • If they are traveling by plane, it is always good to know their airline and flight number so you can check to see if their flight is on time or delayed when going to meet them at the airport.
      • If you know traffic in your area is bad at a certain time or certain roads are worse than others, offer this helpful information to ease their travel stress.
    • If your guests are driving to your home, reserve them a parking space or offer them the “prime” parking spot at your home.
  2. Create a Welcoming Guest Room.
    • Make a cute sign/photo frame that has the WiFi password posted.
    • Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet.
    • If you use your guest room for extra closet/storage space, be sure to clear some room for your guests to hang their clothes or put them in the dresser.
    • Have a luggage rack in the room.
    • Put together a toiletry basket (travel size soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, cotton balls, band-aids, etc.) and leave it on the bathroom counter in case your guest forgot anything.
    • Ensure the room smells clean, but avoid using too much fragrance – some people get headaches from overly scented rooms.
    • If there are any “funny things” about the room or your home, let your guests know ahead of time. For example, if the shower starts in an intricate way, explain how to use it.
  3. Plan Your Menu and/or Make Reservations in Advance.
    • If there are things you know your guests like (a snack food, certain type of soda, etc.), try to stock up on a few things you know they will enjoy and be sure to tell them to “help themselves.”
    • Be aware of any dietary restrictions and/or food allergies.
    • Make sure you have breakfast foods. Often times, breakfast is not the meal we eat out so it helps to have choices for the morning meal!
    • Having refreshments and hors o’Doeurves at your home¬†is a nice touch before going out for dinner.
  4. Have Fun Things Planned/Be Knowledgeable of Your Area
    • If your house guests are in town just for a fun visit, look into local activities (food tastings, art shows, concerts, etc.), tourist sites, and new places to take them. Be sure to add in some of your local favorites too!
      • If you have things planned ahead of time, let your guests know! This helps them plan around what they will already be doing and also lets them know what they need to pack.
      • Be cautious of how much you have planned. Traveling and touring is tiring, your guests will need some down time.
    • If your house guests are in town for a special occasion, be understanding of their commitment, but offer to show them around or do something together in their free time.

What have you appreciated your host/hostess doing when you have been a house guest? Are there special things you do to welcome your house guests? I would love to hear from you all! Happy Hosting!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Going to the Theater!

2014 Christmas Concert for the Troops

2014 Christmas Concert for the Troops at the Kennedy Center

I recently had the pleasure of attending the USO-Metro and Gary Sinise Foundation 2014 Holiday Concert for the Troops. The night was wonderful and the performances were truly amazing! With the Holiday Season upon us, I realized many people will be attending holiday concerts, plays, and musicals. The theater is traditionally known as a place for elegance, grace, and the best of manners. In that spirit, I am sharing my thoughts on how to be a positively proper “theater-goer!”

  1. Dress the Part
    • Most theaters will be business or casual cocktail attire. Think professional yet fancy and also a little fun.
      • Ladies: A pencil skirt or dress pants with a pretty blouse is perfect! Also, a casual cocktail dress fits the occasion well.
      • Gentlemen: A suit is absolutely the way to go!
    • For the regal setting, think elegant formal wear.
      • Ladies: A formal cocktail dress or tasteful, floor length gown is appropriate.
      • Gentlemen: Wear a formal suit and tie or tuxedo (for the fanciest of occasions).
  2. Arrive Early
    • Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, check your coat, and pick-up your tickets.
    • Often times, you can buy concessions or have a drink and socialize prior to entering the performance.
    • Use the restroom prior to entering the performance.
    • When the lights dim or the the bell chimes, start making your way to your seat.
  3. Mind Your Manners
    • Silence your cell phone and put it away for the duration of the show.
      • The ringing of a phone can ruin a song or interrupt an important moment in a performance.
      • The back-light from your cell phone ruins the ambiance of the theater and can even mess with the lighting depending on the size of the theater.
    • Taking photos during the performance is highly discouraged. (I took mine before the show began and the lights went down ūüėČ )
    • Chatting with your neighbors throughout the show is absolute no. It is disrespectful to the performers and the people around you will not appreciate it as you will certainly cause a distraction.
    • Refrain from singing along with the performers (unless encouraged to do so). I am sure you can belt out the tunes, but the audience came to see/hear the performers, not you. ūüėČ
    • Stay in your seat throughout the show.
      • It is very rude and can be quite distracting if you are walking around during the show.
      • Wait until intermission or the end of the performance.
    • If you need assistance during the performance, signal an usher. They will gladly help you.

Now that you are well prepared to attend a holiday performance, go hit the theater! Remember to support your local schools, community theaters, and benefit concerts during this time.

Happy Theater Going!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Do’s and Don’ts of the Office Holiday Party

In most offices, it is tradition to have an Office Holiday Party. From the potluck luncheon at the office to the after-hours party at the boss’ home, there are a variety of celebrations that take place! No matter the setting, many of the same etiquette rules applies. This week, I am sharing my Do’s and Don’ts of the Holiday Office Party.

  • ūüôā Do:
      • Keep it professional!
      • Dress appropriately and professionally. If you want to add a touch of festive decoration (holiday colors, a little bit of shimmer, holiday jewelry) that is perfectly acceptable.
    Graphic Credit: The Classy Cubicle

    Graphic Credit: The Classy Cubicle

    Graphic Credit: The Classy Cubicle

    Graphic Credit: The Classy Cubicle

    Graphic Credit: The Classy Cubicle

    Graphic Credit: The Classy Cubicle

    • Take a host/hostess gift if the party is being held at the boss’ home.
    • If it is a pot luck, be sure to sign up to bring something and bring what you say you will.
      • If you are not a good cook, sign up to bring utensils, decorations, or something other than food. You can also bring something store-bought; however, you should put it on a pretty platter and not bring it in the store containers.
    • Have a little snack before you go. It is not proper to pile up your plate because you starved yourself all day and want to pig-out.
    • Arrive on time and stay for a good portion of the party.
      • Do not be the person who shows up for 5 minutes and then leaves.
      • Do not linger at the end of the party and be the last person to leave.
    • Socialize with everyone, not just your closest friends. The Holiday Office Party is about boosting morale and enhancing the office community so, reach out to those you do not see/talk to on a regular basis and start building new relationships.
    • Participate in the gift exchange, games, etc. that go on during the party.
    • Find your boss and the host/hostess before you leave and thank them for having the party and including you.
  • :/ Do Not:
    • Miss the party. Unless you have an urgent matter or a conflicting obligation, you are expected to be there.
      • If you have a conflict, express the situation to your boss and apologize for your absence.
      • If it is a potluck, still send something to contribute to the party. If it is hosted by your boss, still send a host/hostess gift.
    • Dress like a houchy-mama! An after-work party does not mean you are going to the club.
    • Take a guest if you were not invited to bring one. Check your invitation to be sure.
    • Talk with food in your mouth.
    • Get drunk at the party. No matter how many times you are told to “have a good time,” it will reflect on your professional reputation if you say something inappropriate, become sloppy, and in general, embarrass yourself.
      • Stay professional! You can always go out with your friends afterwards!

Remember these tips as you head to your Office Holiday Party! Most importantly, be professional, but still enjoy yourself and the time with your colleagues!

Happy Holidays!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: Designer Blogs

Photo credit: Designer Blogs

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this week’s post is about being thankful. I want to take the time to thank all my readers and followers for going on this blogging journey with me! To everyone who has commented, asked questions, and sent suggestions, thank you for participating in the fun and helping me to make this better! It has truly been a wonderful few months of writing and I look forward to continuing the journey!

As a “thank you” to all of you, here are my top tips for Thanksgiving ūüėČ

  1. If you are traveling to someone else’s home for the day/weekend, take a host/hostess gift.
  2. If you are hosting, decorate your entrance and the table in the Fall or Thanksgiving theme to make it festive and even more welcoming.
  3. If you are not the host/hostess or main person preparing the meal, ask what you can bring to contribute to the meal, lend a hand in the kitchen, offer to set the table, and help with clean-up.
  4. Remember your Essential Table Manners!
  5. If you were a guest for Thanksgiving, send a handwritten thank-you note within 3 days of returning.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Essential Table Manners

As the holidays approach, we will all soon be gathering around the table with family, friends, and loved ones. In the spirit of enjoying such divine meals, having good tables is an incredibly important asset yet so commonly overlooked. From social to professional settings, food defines our culture and is present everywhere. Whether you are with family, friends, coworkers, a new client, or distinguished guests and dignitaries, it is always important to mind your manners, especially at the table.

This week, I am sharing my list of the essential table manners everyone should follow.

  1. “Sit Pretty” aka Have Good Posture at the Table
    • Sit straight in your chair with your shoulders back.
    • Keep both legs on the ground in front of you. If you want to cross your¬†legs, cross at your ankles.
    • Pull your chair up to the table so¬†you can comfortably reach everything at your place setting¬†and your legs are under the table.
  2. Use a Napkin
    • Place it in your lap when you take your seat and keep it there the remainder of the meal.
    • Wipe your mouth with your napkin, not your hands.
    • If something gets on you fingers, wipe it on your¬†napkin.¬†Licking your fingers is not a good look!
  3. Avoid Gulping, Slurping, and Playing with Things
    • Drink your beverage slowly and smoothly. Do not gulp it down.
    • Avoid playing with your straw, chewing on it, and¬†making sucking noises with it.
    • Leave your utensils where they are until you are ready to use them.
    • Put the spoon in your mouth when eating soup or cereal to avoid slurping it off the end.
  4. Basic Manners Run Down
    • Wait to begin eating until everyone has been served and the hostess begins eating.
    • Use the butter knife to cut a piece of butter from the¬†full stick and place it on your bread plate.¬†Use¬†your own knife to spread the butter on your roll/bread.
    • When eating bread, gently pull off one bite from the roll and butter that piece only. Do this for ever piece.
    • Always pass the salt and pepper together. Even if someone¬†asks for¬†only¬†salt, pass them both.¬†Salt and pepper are “attached at the hip.”
    • If eating “family style,” the Guest of Honor (seated¬†to the right of the host)¬†is served first then pass the serving dishes to your right around the table.
    • Bring¬†food up to your mouth. Do not bend down to the plate to get food in your mouth.
    • Cut one bite of food at a time, eat that piece, then cut another piece. Repeat for the whole meal!
    • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • When eating spaghetti, use the side of your plate to twirl the pasta on your fork. A spoon should not be used.

Please keep these essential table manners in mind, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. These tips will truly help you in both the social and professional setting by giving you that little extra touch of polish! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send them my way!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Attending a Military Ball or Formal!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote “You Got Invited to¬†a Military¬†Ball!” Well, the time is here! In honor of the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day next week, I am sharing my tips for attending a military formal. Now that you have done all the prep work to get ready, it is time to attend this fabulous and fun¬†event!

  1. Arriving at the Ball
    • There’s no such thing as being fashionably late in the military.¬†The military is a punctual culture and to them, arriving on time is arriving late.
      • Note: With that said, cocktail hour does give you a little wiggle room. If it starts at 6:00pm, you should¬†arrive no later than 6:10pm. The cocktail hour is meant for mingling and you are expected to do so.¬†The dinner and ceremony will run on a schedule and you typically do not get up to socialize during them.
    • Your date will escort you “arm-and-arm”¬†on his/her right (the place of honor). Since it is a formal setting with a social aspect, it is unlikely he/she will be required to render salutes.
      • Service members are not allowed to hold hands in uniform and PDA in uniform¬†is¬†a “no go.”
    • If there is a receiving line, be prepared to shake hands (potentially a lot of them)
      • The first person in the line is the announcer. You simply¬†tell¬†the announcer¬†your name and do not shake¬†his/her hand. The host is next followed by the guest(s) of honor.
      • You should not have anything in your hands. If the receiving line is not at the front door, make sure you skip the bar and appetizers until after you go through the line. (A purse in your left hand is OK)
      • This is not the place for long conversation. Give a simple greeting and thanks such as, “Sir/Ma’am, it is so nice to meet you. Thank you for hosting me this evening.”
  2. Cocktail Hour
    • Follow your date’s lead on who you need to meet. He/she often has many officers or senior officials who are important to greet.
    • Again, be prepared to shake hands! Always leave your right hand free to shake hands by holding your drink/appetizers (and purse if you have one) in your left hand.
    • Once you are introduced by your date, extend your right hand, say “hello,” and introduce yourself using your first and last name.
    • Under no circumstance should you get drunk. Even though this is a social occasion, it is formal and in no way appropriate to drink too much. It is still the military and your date will get in trouble if something goes wrong or you do something inappropriate. Do NOT be the sloppy guest who needs taken care of and embarrasses his/her date and the host/hostess.
      • If you do not drink, that is perfectly acceptable! Do not let anyone pressure you.
      • If you do drink, I recommend 1 drink during cocktail hour, 1 drink during the course of the meal, and 1 drink post-dinner (dancing and mingling time).
    • During the cocktail hour, check the seating chart/place cards so you know where you to go once you enter the main room.
  3. The Dinner
    • Once you find your table,¬†stand to the right of your seat. If seating is assigned, do not move your place card and rearrange the table. If it is not assigned, you will sit to your date’s right. Also,¬†in social settings, you typically sit alternating men and women.
    • Once everyone for your table arrives,¬†take your seat by entering your chair on the right side.
    • To review dining tips, please refer to my post “8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips.”
    • Be social with your table!
      • If you are seated with people you do not know, be sure to introduce yourself.
      • Do not gossip at the table. No one likes sitting next to the “mean girl” who comments on what everyone is wearing or makes snarky remarks about other people in attendance.
    • If you need to get up from the table, simply say “Excuse me for a moment.” No one needs to know if you have to use the restroom or need to step outside for something.
    • Do not play with your hair or apply make-up at the table.
  4. The Ceremony
    • Read the program! An overview¬†of the service’s and event’s history is typically included as well as the background of your¬†host and guest of honor (their bios will be in the program).
    • Parading the Colors: Stand while the American and service flag(s) are brought into the room and remain standing while they are present. The National Anthem will most likely be played as well. If so,¬†face the flag with¬†your hand over your heart. If the service’s song is played, you continue to stand, but you do not have to keep your hand over your heart. Do not sit until the colors are retired (paraded out of the room)¬†and you are told to take your seat.
      • This is NOT the time to take photos. You should stand in respect of the flag and the playing of the National Anthem, not be snapping photos of the event while this is happening.
    • Invocation: The Chaplain will say a prayer to begin the evening.
    • Toasts: Giving toasts is usually a part of the ceremony. At the beginning of the toasts, your glass will be “charged” (filled with champagne). Typically, several people give toasts and your champagne is expected to last for all of the toasts. Take small sips for each toast to avoid running out!
      • If you do run out, each service has different traditions for this, but typically, you get “charged” a fine and no one wants to be that person!
    • The Ceremonial Cake Cutting (my favorite!):¬†¬†The youngest person and the oldest person serving at the command or who are members of that service cut the cake together using a traditional military sword.
  5. Time to Dance!
    • Yes, there is a dance floor and yes, you can have fun!
      • With that said, remember there are a lot of “higher-ups” in the room. Reserve¬†your getting low and sultry moves for the dance club.
    • I highly recommend keeping your shoes on. It is¬†much more¬†proper than going barefoot¬†and even if you have not,¬†taking your shoes off¬†may give the impression you¬†drank too much and are not able to keep your balance very well.
      • If you truly cannot dance in heels, you may bring a pair of flats and discreetly put them on in the restroom before hitting the dance floor.

If nothing else, the one thing I want you to take away from this post is: you are an extension and a reflection of your date for the evening. You will be meeting your date’s Chain of Command (his/her bosses) as well as the service members he/she leads and it is incredibly important to leave a positive impression on them. Smile at everyone you meet, enjoy the time with your date, and take this chance to learn¬†about the history and tradition of the Service Branch and the Corps or specialty. Be polished, positive, and poised while also having a wonderful and fun evening!

Lastly, in honor of Veterans Day, please take the time to say thank you to those who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces. To the many service members with whom I have the privilege of working, the Wounded Warriors who I am honored to serve, all the men and women who wear and have worn the uniform, especially my Dad and Paps, thank you! Your service and sacrifice are appreciated more than words can express. God Bless America and all of you!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra