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! ūüėČ

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

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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

American versus Continental Dining Style

In conjunction with my post from last week, I am expanding on the topic of “Dining American or European/Continental Style?” As I pointed out previously, there are some basic differences between the two styles. Today, I am expanding on these differences and breaking down the key components to each style!

  1. Holding Your Silverware
    • American Style: You switch your fork and knife between hands so the utensil being used is in the dominant hand. For example, if you are right handed, you¬†switch the fork to your left hand so you can cut with your right hand. Once you cut a piece of food,¬†you switch the fork back to your right hand and take the food to your mouth with¬†the fork in¬†your¬†right hand.
    • European/Continental Style: You keep the fork in your left hand with the tines¬†facing down¬†and¬†your index finger on the back¬†of the fork.¬†Your knife is held in your right hand¬†with the blade facing down and your index finger extended along the back of it.¬†Once you cut a¬†piece of food,¬†you keep the fork face down and your¬†wrist flat as you bring the food to your mouth.
  2. Hand Placement
    • American Style: Your wrists/hands do not touch the table.
    • European/Continental Style: Wrists always remain on the edge of and above¬†the table, both when you are eating and when you are resting.
  3. Silverware Placement
    • American Style: The resting position¬†is the fork, tines facing up,¬†in the 4 o’clock position and the knife resting along the top¬†corner of your plate.¬†Once finished, place your knife, with the blade facing towards¬†you, next to your fork, tines facing up, both¬†in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
    • European/Continental Style: The resting position is in the middle of the plate as if you simply placed the silverware down exactly as you were holding them.¬†The knife blade faces towards you in the 4 o’clock position¬†and¬†the fork tines face down over top of the knife in the¬†8 o’clock position. Once finished, place your knife, with the blade facing towards¬†you, and fork, with the¬†tines facing down,¬†in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
  4. Eating Dessert (my favorite!)
    • American Style: Typically dessert is served with either a fork or a spoon. If you are given both, you may choose which utensil you prefer.
    • European/Continental Style: A fork and spoon (rarely a knife) are used. Hold the fork in your left hand and the spoon in your right hand and proceed to¬†eat in the same manner as your main course (detailed above).
  5. Commonalities
    • In both styles, you¬†cut one bite of food at a time. Put that piece in your mouth then cut the next.
    • The side of your fork should not be used to cut something.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!)¬†to get¬†a piece¬†of food onto your fork.
    • Do not place your elbows or forearms on the table.
    • Same rules for your napkin! Place your napkin neatly on your chair if you will be returning to the table. Place the napkin neatly on the table if you are finished and exiting the table.

To help explain these details further and give you a visual, here is an informative video by Kimberly Law.

Now you know the basics to be successful in both an American and a European/Continental dining style! If you have any questions about what I discuss here or on another topic, please comment here or contact me!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra