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

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! 🐢 Go Navy! ⚓️), 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

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

New Year, Confident You

Welcome to 2015! The typical January/New Year post is about resolutions and a new you, so I am taking a bit of a different twist on this idea. In 2015, let’s focus on improving the amazing qualities you already have and putting your best foot forward in all situations!

The following are a few of my thoughts on the basic things you can do to improve yourself everyday:

  1. Be Positive
    • Think happy, be happy. The power of positive thought truly is amazing!

      Photo Credit: Ascension Kitchen

      Photo Credit: Ascension Kitchen

  2. Dress the Part – Always!
    • Whether I am getting all dolled up for a fabulous event or just running a quick errand, this has always been a favorite guiding principle of mine…

      Photo Credit: Beauty Woo Me

      Photo Credit: Beauty Woo Me

  3. Present Yourself
  4. Perfect Your Table Manners
  5. Be Knowledgeable of Current Events
    • If you do not already watch the news or read the paper daily, I highly suggest signing up for the Skimm! It is a daily newsletter delivered to your inbox that summarizes the biggest stories and adds a little fun to your morning news report.

As we embark on this new year, let’s all do so by promoting the best versions of ourselves. As I have said from the beginning of this blogging journey, protocol and etiquette are really about putting your best foot forward and being confident as you do. Being positively proper gives you that touch of polish to make you stand out from the rest. Stayed tuned for my protocol and etiquette posts so we all conquer 2015 with grace, elegance, and style! 😉

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Handling Holiday Stress with Grace

As we shop for gifts, welcome house guests, and prepare for parties and holiday meals, the joy of the holiday season has a tendency to also bring quite a lot of stress. While stress levels increase, our positive attitudes and mannerly ways often times decrease. This year, let’s not have that happen! Here are some of my tips to ensure you have a merry and bright holiday season!

  1. The Shopping Experience
    • Be prepared to handle the crowds. Do not push your way through people, simply say “Excuse me” or “Pardon me” as you move.
    • Always thank the sales associate who helped you find the gift you wanted, the right size, a pretty color, etc. They appreciate polite customers 🙂
    • Avoid fights with other shoppers over the last item in stock. You will find something else and let’s be honest.. Getting dragged out of the store by mall security is not worth it. 😉
    • Give people their space while looking through clothing racks, items on the shelf, and standing in line.
    • Speaking of standing in line, do not huff and puff because the line is long. Instead, use that time wisely. Get your coupons and method of payment ready so you can be quick at the register.
    • When you check out, do not be on your cell phone. Give the sales associate your full attention and be sure to wish him/her “Happy Holidays.”
  2. Welcoming House Guests
    • Create a welcoming guest room.
      • Make a cute sign/photo frame that has the WiFi password posted.

        Graphic Available for Download on Life of Verde's

        Download Sign at Life of Verde’s

      • 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 travel toiletry basket (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.
    • Plan your menu and/or make reservations far 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. For example, I do not drink coffee, but I know most people do so I make sure I have it prior to guests arriving.
    • It is certainly easier said than done, but try to check as many things off your to-do list as you can before your guests arrive. That way, you can enjoy the time with them. For example, make sure gifts are wrapped and any food preparation you can do early is done.
  3. Hosting the Party/Holiday Meal
    • Set and decorate your table ahead of time.
    • Plan out where you will place the food and make sure the serving dishes fit so when food is ready to come out of the kitchen, it goes directly to the table.
    • Do not wait until the last minute to shop for ingredients. It is better to stock-up early and have enough for the season so you do not have to run to the store at the last minute.
    • Prepare as much as you can before the day of the event. If you can make certain dishes and freeze them, go for it. If you can cut up ingredients and store them before making a mix or tossing them into a recipe, get all the prep work out of the way.

I hope these tips help you to have a low-stress holiday and one you can find some time to relax during! Remember, as busy as your schedule gets, always be polite and think positively.. You will get through it! Enjoy the time with your family, friends, and loved ones!

Happy Holidays!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra