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

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

Take a Tour, A Wine Tour!

As Spring gets into full swing and the weather allows for more outdoor activities, I know many of you will be off to the vineyards for wine tastings! For those of us (including me!) who are not wine connoisseurs, wine tastings can be intimidating if you are not knowledgeable of the different types or what you like. Wine tasting is the perfect time to learn! Here are a few tips to get you ready and help craft you into a wine expert!

Wine and Food Pairing

Wine and Food Pairing

  1. Plan ahead.
    • Schedule your wine tasting ahead of time especially if you are in a large group. This helps wineries plan for guests and assign you the correct number of wine hosts.
    • Plan your transportation. You will be drinking so be sure to have a designated driver or get a limo/party bus/etc to take your group to and from the wineries.
  2. Dress the part 🙂 While wearing something more casual is certainly appropriate, I would at least wear nice jeans and a pretty top (for ladies) and a polo or casual button down (for gentlemen). Depending on the weather, sun dresses are an excellent option! Many wineries have indoor/outdoor tasting areas and/or places to eat so be cognizant of your options. Additionally, some wineries are more casual than other. Do your research and look up the winery prior to your tour.
    • Avoid perfumes, creams, and hair products with overpowering smells. A part of wine tasting is being able to smell the aromas. If you have too much perfume, etc. on it will interfere with the experience.
  3. Give the wine host (the person who describes and pours the wine) your full attention. This is the perfect time to learn more about wine, how it is made, and about the winery/vineyard itself. The wine host will give a thorough description of what to expect from the wine and why it has certain flavors. Often times, you will also be told what foods go well with each type of wine you taste – This is important to learn so you can be an excellent host/hostess and pair your wine with what you serve!
  4. Have your manners.
    • When in the tasting room/area, keep your voice to a conversational tone. There are typically several parties in the area; therefore, you do not want to be the loud group everyone stares at because they cannot hear amongst their own group or worse, hear their wine host.
    • Be aware of how much you are drinking. During a wine tasting, you are given a small amount of each wine. You may not think you are drinking very much, but it starts to add up over multiple wines/tastings. Be classy and avoid the embarrassment of drunken behavior in a refined setting.
    • Sip your wine. Do not gulp the whole tasting at once. (More on this in just bit!)
  5. Hold your wine glass by the stem. It is not only proper to do so, it is also practical. When drinking white wines they are typically chilled; therefore, putting your had around the globe of the glass will warm the wine. Red wines are enhanced by exposure to the air so having a wider globe helps this process. Hold the glass by the stem for red wines as well.
  6. What if I do not like a certain wine?
    • If you know beforehand that you do not care for a particular wine, simply place your hand over your glass when the wine host gets to you and say “no thank you.” The wine host will understand. This way is much more appropriate and discreet than exclaiming “I do not like that wine” to your host and the rest of your group.
    • If you are unsure about a wine, take a small sip first. If you do not like it, do not spit it out. Swallow the small amount you have and then discard the remaining amount in the “dump bucket.”
  7. Will there be food?
    • Eat before you arrive or plan a meal in conjunction with your tasting trip. At most tasting, small snacks of crackers and/or cheese will be set out. These are simply to cleanse your palette between wines, not to act as hors d’oeuvres or a meal. Wineries are a great place for a picnic!
    • If you have selected to do a wine and food pairing, then you will be given food, but it will be small, bite-size samples of each course.
      • Remember: Sip. Taste. Sip. This allows you to taste the wine on it’s own first then taste it again after eating to see how the food influences the flavor.
  8. Do I have to buy a wine after a tasting? While it is encouraged to do so, you are not obligated to buy any wine after a tasting. If you do find you like then by all means go for it!

Have you ever had a wine etiquette dilemma? I hope these tips help you feel more confident as you explore the world of wine!

Happy Tasting!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Do’s and Don’ts of Airplane Travel

Lately, I have had the pleasure of doing quite a bit of traveling! With each new trip, it always starts and ends the same way… On an airplane. Having been on quite a few the last month, it got me thinking about how we can be courteous while we travel.

  1. Waiting In Line to Board Your Flight
    • Whether you are on a flight with an already designated seat or getting in line based on boarding groups to pick your own seat, we all have to wait in line to get on the plane. When you get in line, be sure not to crowd the people ahead of you, try to squeeze your way to the front, or complain if you end up towards the end of the line.
    • When traveling in a group you would like to sit with but you do not have boarding numbers close to one another, get in line with the individual who has the later boarding number. While you can of course (nicely) ask the person behind you if someone may join you, it is much more courteous to simply let others go ahead of you while you join the line further back. It really is not polite to ask if your 3 friends can all skip the line just because you got the best early boarding number.
  2. Stowing Your Carry-On Items
    • First and foremost, always offer assistance to someone you see struggling to get their bag in the overhead bin.
    • If you need to move someone’s bag a little in order to fit your’s in the overhead bin, ask the person, “Do you mind if I scoot your bag over a bit?” Most people will not have a problem, it’s just polite to ask in case they have something fragile in their bag or are traveling with hanging garments (gowns, suits, etc.).
    • If the flight attendant says your bag will not fit, chances are it really will not. Allow the flight attendant to place your bag in another overhead bin. It is not worth holding up the line of people behind you and potentially delaying your flight from taking off because you tried to play Tetris with the bags in the overhead bin 😉
  3. Being a Good “Seat Mate”
    • You cannot go wrong by starting off your trip with a simple smile and saying “hello” to the person you’ll be seated next to for several hours.
    • If you have a middle or window seat and need to get up to stretch your legs or use the restroom, be sure to ask the individuals closer to the aisle if they could please move for you. “Excuse me, may I please pass you to get out?” is simple and polite!
    • We all like to travel in comfort, but do not get too comfortable!
      • Keep your shoes on. You may think you do have feet that smell, but it’s very possible that you do. Also, some people really do not like feet.
      • If you want to take a nap, be cognizant of your surroundings. Try your very best not to lean on the person next to you. (Travel Tip: Use a neck pillow, it helps to prevent the lean!)
      • Do not bring foods on the plane that have heavy odors. For example, a tuna packet probably is not the best thing to crack open mid flight.
      • Keep the volume on your headphones low. Your seat mate probably does not want to hear what you are listening to especially if he/she is trying to nap, read, or do work.
      • Avoid getting drunk and making your seat mate feel uncomfortable.
  4. Be Courteous to the Flight Attendant
    • Pay attention to the flight attendants when they give the safety instructions. Yes, they are often the same on every flight, but they really are important to know.
    • Listen when they tell you it is time to turn off electronics/stop using certain ones and always be sure your devices are in airplane mode.
    • When the flight attendant brings you a snack or asks for your drink order, always say “please” and “thank you.”
  5. De-Planing
    • We all know the mad rush to get out of your seats as soon as the “Fasten Seat-belt” light turns off, but remember you are in a small area, there really is not a lot of space for you to move. Let the people ahead of you have the room they need to get out of their seats and retrieve their bags from the overhead bin.
    • If you have a short connection time to your next flight, ask the flight attendant during the flight if it would be possible for you to get off the plane before others. Due to a delay on one of my flights, there was a passenger who had a very short amount of time to get to his connection. When we landed and were taxiing to the gate, the flight attendant said, “We have a passenger on board who needs to exit quickly to make a short connection. Please be courteous and allow this person through the aisle before we begin regular de-planing.” If asked this on one of your flights, be kind and follow the request to help the other person.
    • If there is someone who needs special assistance exiting the plane, allow them to go first.
    • Thank the flight crew on your way off the plane.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you head to the airport! Happy travels!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra