Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Manners are a treat

Halloween night is upon us! That means it's time to review some basic manners before little ghosts and princesses and pirates zoom around on a candy-induced sugar high.

• If trick-or-treating traffic is high, take care on the sidewalks: step to the right and let others walk by, and remind older children to avoid plowing down smaller children!

• Conquering several neighborhoods by car? Take care not to slam car doors, and of course watch out for other moving vehicles.

• Only go to houses with lights on. Any others won't have candy, anyway.

• Ring a doorbell just once.

• Say thank you before you go!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SCARY stories of BAD manners!

Halloween makes us think of spooky stories...and what's more spooky (well, to us) than some scary stories of bad manners?

We're not just talking about a mere faux pas here and there. We're only human, after all! No - we're talking about WORST CASE SCENARIOS!

That means something different for everyone, we know, but here are a few of our top Worst Case Manners Scenarios - and how to handle them with ease!

Forgetting someone's name in a social situation. You could try re-introducing yourself, join a conversation and perk up your ears in case someone says the name, or unobtrusively ask an understanding friend. But what if you're trying to make introductions and suddenly forget the name? Horrors! Smile, look that person in the eye, and say, "Please tell me your name." No need to apologize! Keep it simple and straightforward.

Extreme tardiness. Everyone is late sometimes, but what if you're really late for something really important, like a wedding, party (especially if you're the guest of honor), high-powered meeting, or first date? For parties, always call ahead so the host can plan accordingly. Some things—like meetings or doctor's appointments—may need to be rescheduled, so call ahead for those, too. For weddings and similar events, remember it's not all about you, and arrive as quietly as possible.

Awkward houseguests. First of all, if you're going to visit someone, read our tips first. If you're the host and having a hard time keeping everyone entertained, offer a few choices for activities and ask for their input. Suggest a walk around the block or a drive into town to get sedentary guests off the couch. If diet is a challenge, you can again offer a few menu choices and solicit their opinion. Sometimes all you need to do is offer a choice to get the ball rolling.

Undertipping and realizing later. First, check out our tipping guide. If you undertip at a local establishment you frequent regularly, feel free to make it up next time. If you're traveling on the road and won't be going back, you can always mail a hand-written note (with compliments of their service included) to the hotel or restaurant. And try to keep the good service industry karma going by tipping well at the next place.

Miscommunication. What if you say something to a friend and later realize that your innocent, throwaway comment could have been taken completely the wrong way? What if he or she is mortally offended or wondering what on earth is wrong with you? It's a horrible feeling to have, but remember: miscommunication can be solved with communication. Call your friend and explain yourself, and be prepared to apologize. True friends will understand, and know you'll return the favor next time they misspeak!

No need to make Halloween scarier than it is. Let trick-or-treaters enjoy the chills and thrills and you can leave spooky tales of awkward etiquette far behind!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Parties with kids

Between Halloween (right around the corner!) and the regular amount of birthdays, children's party season is in full swing! We'd like to remind you that even though the guests are young, the same manners should apply. To make life easier, follow our tips!

RSVP! Parents like to know how many cupcakes to bake or party favors to make.

Ask to help. More elaborate children's parties may benefit from adult supervision during certain activities. 
Be on time. Unless the party specifies "drop-in" hours, try to be on time. We all know that "kid time" (especially when infants are involved) is a little different than "regular time," but make an effort whenever possible.

Don't ignore the kids. If the parents are sticking around, pay attention to the children, especially younger ones who need more direction and redirection. 

Prepare for presents. If gifts are involved and the guests are very young, remind your children that the birthday boy or girl is the one (and the only one) to open the presents. This is a good opportunity to talk about being patient and taking turns—skills kids need to learn anyway. If your child is the birthday girl or boy, remind them that if they open a present they dislike, they only need to say two words: "Thank you!"

Leave on time. Even if a magnificent time was had by all, chances are that the hosts are tired and ready to take a nap by the end. Don't linger when the party is over—say your goodbyes and thank-yous and make plans to talk about another playdate soon. (Remember: if young guests tend to fall apart, cry, pitch fits and/or throw tantrums when it's time to go, then you know it was a successful party!)

 Say thanks. Guests, thank the host for inviting you. Hosts, thank the guests for coming. And guests of honor—remember to send thank-you cards if received any presents!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sir and Ma'am

We love the aesthetic of The Old Try's prints, but we especially love the message of this one:
(Print available here. Blogged by another Old Try fan here.)

We teach etiquette in the south, so we teach our students to say "ma'am" and "sir." It's part of our culture here. We know that's not always the case. For example, in other parts of the country, or in certain professions, "ma'am" might be offensive.

This print reminds us the meaning behind manners. Even if you don't say "sir" or "ma'am" where you live or work, remember that you can convey respect in other ways—saying "yes" and "no" instead of "yeah" or "nah," for example, or speaking in complete sentences.

Etiquette is flexible. It changes with the times and places. One thing that shouldn't change is using your manners. No matter where you live, it's all about human kindness!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Eating escargot with ease

Today's blog post comes from Cindy, who has been traveling recently and hitting some escargot hot spots!  If you think eating snails sounds tricky, it is—but Cindy has some tips for us.

When in Rome (or France...)

Escargot, or snails, are absolutely delicious.....in France! Snail shells are grasped with a special holder, or escargot tongs, that your waiter will provide for you at the table.  You can see the tongs, which work like scissors, here in a red tin: 

A pick or oyster fork is provided, too.  With your left hand, pinch the holder and collapse the holder around the snail.  Using your right hand, you remove the meat with the small fork by pulling the meat from the shell.  The garlic butter remaining in the shell may be poured into the snail plate and sopped up with a small piece of French bread...ooh la la!  

 Do it this way! Mais oui!

Now, that sounds very simple doesn't it?  But it took me about three times to get comfortable...and look French...while eating escargot!  Here is what you don't do:

  Bad form: Do NOT do it this way. Non, non, non.

If you grasp the tongs and then collapse them firmly around the snail, you cannot pinch the tongs or your snail will drop out of the tongs.  Are you getting the picture?  Sometimes it lands on your plate, or off your plate, or across the table.  I should have known better...after all I've watched Pretty Woman several times!

Eating escargot properly can be tricky because the snail shell is a little slippery and the snail is most reluctant to come out.  It takes some angled positioning to get the shell and the snail apart from each other.  And, it is so worth it!  

 Pulling the snail from the shell.

There are some contrary opinions about how to convey the sopped up French bread in the garlic butter.  I had read that it was done with the fork in the right hand.  But, in watching other diners around me, most people would place their utensils down and use their hands to pinch off a small piece of bread, sop it in the garlic butter, and bring it to their mouth. And it tastes heavenly!  

You'll see escargot listed in menus as an appetizer, served 6 or 12 at a time. On recent travels, I tried to eat them every single day, and I can say I was successful! And, I got really good at it...eventually! When in France — or a French restaurant anywhere — remember these tips and try escargot!