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,

Alexandra

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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,

Alexandra

4 Tips on Being a Gracious Houseguest

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,

Alexandra

Hey there stranger!

and

Hey y’all!

After moving into a new position with USO-Metro, I thought I would take a little time off to focus on the new role. Well… That hiatus ended up taking on a year (plus) life of its own. I have FINALLY had some time to work on new and creative pieces which I am excited to share with y’all.

As I continue to work on new material and pull from the experiences I have had, I am also looking to collect more ideas from my readers. What questions do y’all have and what do y’all want to know more about in the world of protocol and etiquette? Send me your questions and suggestions! You can submit them to my “Contact Me” page or comment directly on this post. I love being able to write posts directly focused on my readers and I look forward to seeing what y’all are interested in knowing more about!

Keep your eyes out for a new post next week!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Contents of a Great Email

Email Etiquette

Photo Credit: Inspired by This

In today’s day and age, email keeps us far more connected than ever before. Rather than picking up the phone or walking across the office building, we continuously send emails to our colleagues, friends, and family regarding matters from business to social plans and everything in between. So, how do you know if your email gets read or better yet, how do you know if your email actually served its purpose?

To ensure your emails are getting the attention they deserve, and by that I mean the right kind of attention, here are my tips for the contents of a great email:

  1. Subject Line
    • Use the Important Information Only. I once was working with a hospital director’s executive assistant on multiple visits for distinguished visitors and the aide asked, “For visit requests, please put Date of Visit, Name/Title of Visitor, and Meet Time in the subject line so I can see the main points quickly. Once I see that, I will know exactly what I am looking for in regards to planning and level of importance.”
    • Do Not Write the Message in the Subject Line. The subject line serves as a preview to the contents of the email, it should not read like a sentence or go on past the viewing pane.
    • Stick to the SubjectIf you need to discuss multiple topics that are unrelated with the recipient, I highly suggest doing so in different emails. This (1) ensures all your topics will be seen equally and (2) reduces confusion when answering questions by eliminating bunching responses together. If you do decide to include everything in 1 email, use an overarching subject line.
  2. Reply vs. Reply All
    • If you are placed on a group email thread and need to ask just the sender a question, reply only to the sender. There is no need to clutter everyone else’s inbox.
    • If you are sent a group invitation for an event, party, etc., submit your R.s.v.p. to the sender only. If you would like to know if other people are going, simply ask them yourself.
    • Only “Reply All” when all those on the message traffic will benefit from you sharing the information and it is pertinent to them. If you are the only person on the “To” line and the other people copied all need the information or are waiting for your direction then a “reply all” is appropriate.
  3. “To,” “CC,” and “BCC.” Always pay attention to which line your name is placed on in the email.
    • “To:” This means the email is directly to you and it is your responsibility to reply to the sender.
    • “Cc:” You are copied on the email for your awareness, but it is not your responsibility to take action. Allow the person on the “to” line to take action and send the first reply. If you need to comment or add information, do so after he/she sends the first reply.
    • “Bcc:” You are blind copied on this email, meaning it is only for your awareness. You should not reply, especially reply all, because the other recipients do not know you were included. If you need to discuss something from the email with the sender, seek out that individual only, most likely in person.
  4. Marking Something with “High Importance”
    • Only use this flag if your email is truly of high importance and needs someone’s attention quickly. Overuse of this flag will result in people skipping your emails because they will believe nothing is actually “highly important.”
    • If something is truly important and you do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, call the person rather than sending him/her another email.
  5. Greeting
    • Always include a greeting to the recipient at the beginning of your email. The type of greeting you use will vary based on the email being sent (formal, professional, personal/informal), but no matter what a greeting is always important! Here are a few examples:
      • Formal: “Dear,” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Professional: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Personal/Informal: “Hey, Hi, Hey there, etc.” followed by however you address the person in your personal life.
  6. Closing / Signature Block. Yes, you need one! Do not ever send an email without signing it!
    • Use a proper closing that reflects the relationship/type of email you are writing:
      • Formal: “Sincerely,” “Very Respectfully,” “Respectfully,”
      • Professional: You can close with something that reflects your personality yet is still appropriate. For example, “Best Wishes,” “Cheers!,” “Many Thanks,” etc.
      • Personal/Informal: This type of closing is completely up to you and the relationship you have with the recipient!
    • Clearly identify yourself. Use your full name, title/position, and company affiliation in your signature block.
    • Include your contact information. Your signature block should include your office phone number, email address, and company/organization web address. Be sure the signature block template is company/office-wide!
  7. Review your email before hitting send!
    • Check your email for grammar and missing words (when you type fast, it is bound to happen).
    • Remove any uncommon abbreviations or text message lingo/short words.
    • Be cautious when using emoticons. Emoji’s are appropriate in informal emails or internal correspondence (between coworkers), but should not be used for professional or formal correspondence.
    • Ensure the email is addressed to the appropriate people on the appropriate recipient lines.
    • If you stated in the email you included an attachment, be sure it is attached before sending.

By incorporating these extra touches into your emails, it will ensure you have proper email etiquette leading to your email receiving the type of attention and replies you desire.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Time to Hit the Gym!

Gym EtiquetteIt’s that time of year… When we all the hit the gym extra hard to get ready for the summer and beach weather! With this in mind, here are my tips for being a courteous gym member and workout buddy!

  1. Greet the front desk staff when you sign-in for the day!
  2. When using the locker room:
    • Be sure to leave room for others. Do not spread out all your personal belongings across the bench.
    • When changing or heading to the showers, avoid being totally naked. Use a towel or at least stay in your underwear.
    • Place all your personal belongings in a locker, do not leave anything laying out.
    • Use a lock for your locker.
  3. Personal Appearance
    • Wear appropriate gym clothes.
      • For the ladies, avoid booty shorts (NOTE: there is a difference between yoga shorts and booty shorts) and letting the girls hang out. A supportive sports bra is not only appropriate, but you will thank yourself later for investing in good undergarments.
    • Use deodorant! Let’s be honest, we all sweat, but let’s try to keep the smells to a minimum.
    • The mirror in the class studio and weight-room is to check your form on exercises. Avoid checking yourself out and/or fixing your outfit, hair, or makeup.
  4. Be conscious of a busy gym and/or if there is a wait for machines.
    • Do not be a “machine hog.” If someone is waiting to use the same machine as you, take turns alternating sets.
    • The gym can get pretty crowded, do not try to wedge yourself into a tiny space between people. Be sure you have enough room for your exercises, but also be aware of taking more room than you need. NOTE: This is especially true during fitness classes!
    • Leave your cell phone behind! The gym is not the place to be snapping selfies, checking emails or Facebook, or responding to text messages especially when it is busy and people are waiting.
    • If you know an exercise class fills up fast, arrive early to ensure your spot in the class.
  5. Respect other people’s privacy.
    • Some people do not like to socialize while at the gym. If someone has headphones in or you can tell they are super serious about the workout, let him/her be and speak to him/her after the workout.
    • Try to avoid staring at people or watching others workout. If you are interested in the workout someone is doing, ask him/her about it after he/she completes the workout.
    • With that being said, still be a friendly individual. Smile and/or say hello as you walk past people.
    • Keep your comments to yourself.
      • Unless you are a personal trainer or member of the gym staff, do not critique other people’s workout.
      • If someone is not in shape, DO NOT make fun of him/her. They are there working hard to get in shape, encourage them!
  6. Control the Noise.
    • Avoid dropping weights on the ground when you are done with your set. Not only is it distracting, it’s not good for the weights or the gym floor.
    • Keep your headphones to a level at which you can hear them and get pumped up, but not motivate the entire gym (not everyone enjoys the same music).
    • Limit the grunting, groaning, and other expressive noises. Your goal should not be to have everyone looking at you, take Kevin Hart’s advice and do not be one these guys. 😉 (click bolded material for video links)
  7. Clean up after yourself!
    • Wipe down the machines and mats you use when you are done. All gyms now have sanitary wipes ready for use!
    • Put back all the equipment you use (free weights, medicine balls, kettlebells, etc.) to where it belongs.
    • If you used a towel from the gym, be sure to place it in the hamper.

What gym etiquette questions/suggestions do you have? I hope these tips help improve your exercising experience!

Happy Fitness!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

How to Have a Friendly Debate

I recently had a difference of opinion on a “manners moment” with someone close to me. We both believed different actions should have been taken and that got us to talking about seeing other people’s points of view. As a result, we had a casual, light-hearted banter to present our own viewpoint. After our discussion, I got to thinking… How do you have a “friendly debate” without it turning into an all-out brawl where every stakeholder has dug in and refuses to agree or see another opinion?

***NOTE: This post is indeed about “friendly debates” and not about matters of great importance such as financial issues, health matters, family decisions, political debates, romantic relationships, or business deals. However, some of these tips may help!***

  1. Keep the Topic “Light”
    • A common saying is, “Never discuss money, politics, or personal life (aka sex).” If a topic you are uncomfortable with gets brought up, politely decline to engage in the conversation.
    • Ensure the conversation/debate stays on topic and does not turn into a discussion about other issues or previous grievances.
    • Laugh about things, laugh at yourself! Sometimes when you get into a debate and outlandish ideas are being discussed, you have to take a step back and just laugh at the crazy debate you have somehow ended up having.
      • NOTE: If someone is strongly expressing an opinion, be cautious about laughing. Some people get extremely offended if they feel like they are being laughed at or mocked for their viewpoint.
  2. Present Your View Strongly, Yet Democratically
    • If you are expressing something you truly care about, ensure you express that sentiment while still making it OK for the other person to potentially disagree with you.
    • Do not force your opinion/viewpoint on the other person.
    • Be knowledgeable of what you are discussing. If you are not knowledgeable on the subject, politely decline the conversation and never make up information you are unsure is true.
    • Never act like you are better than the other person’s opinion and be sure you are truly ready to hear their side.
  3. What Do You Do If Someone Offends You?
    • First, ask him/her to clarify what they meant by the comment. Sometimes, people say something without thinking about how it will come across or they simply use the wrong words. Before getting upset with someone, be sure you have the same understanding of what was said.
    • After clarifying, if what was said truly offends you, stand up for yourself. Be confident in yourself yet gracious when you say, “Excuse me, the comment you just made is extremely offensive/hurtful/unkind of you to say.”
    • Explain why. It does not have to be a lengthy or personal description, but explaining why something is offensive/hurtful in a polite way allows the other person to learn how to correct the behavior in the future.
    • If the person refuses to back-down from the comment, it is time to end the conversation.
  4. When It Is Over, It Is OVER.
    • After both parties have described their thoughts/viewpoints allow each other to ask and answer questions.
    • Once the conversation is done, move onto something else. Do not continue to rehash the same argument.
    • Do not be the person who has to “have the last word.” No one likes someone who always has to prove a point or have the last say on a matter.

Often times, you most likely will not come to a solid answer/compromise. What is important to recognize is that you have the ability to not only standup for your own opinions/viewpoints democratically, but you also have the ability respect for others who may be different than you. Many of these “friendly debates” will teach you something new and push you to think in ways or consider things you have not. Just remember to keep an open-mind and always be cordial during a difference of opinion.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra