Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Manners Monday" - BBQ Etiquette

Beginning around Mother's Day and lasting all the way until Labor Day Weekend, barbecuing becomes the American pastime of choice enjoyed by everyone. When the weather is good, it provides a great excuse to get family and friends together. The idea of sitting outside, soaking up the sun and eating great food is always appealing. And there is something about barbecuing that makes everything taste better. In fact, it is no longer used for just grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, the fare has expanded to everything from pizza to fruit!

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have recently become intimate with our own outdoor barbecue while we are awaiting our kitchen construction to begin. Living without a stove has driven me to get creative with the barbecue and cook recipes from pasta to chili. Now I have pretty much grown accustomed to walking in and out of my house to cook a meal, but I have to say I will not miss it when the kitchen is complete in a couple of months.

In the meantime, all this barbecuing has got me thinking about Memorial Day and the thousands of BBQ parties that are going to take place this holiday weekend. So here are our top tips for making your next barbecue a success. Oh, and feel free to check out this short video above on the history of Texas BBQ. May make for a great conversation starter!

Be Prepared. There is nothing worse than being invited to a barbecue and arriving when your host is wiping away the cobwebs from the grill or has to run out to the market to purchase the food. If you are hosting a barbecue, plan your menu and purchase your food items a day or two before your event. Clean your barbecue well in advance of your guests arrival and make sure your barbecue tools are handy and in good working condition. You don't want to be flipping burgers with your fingers!

The Hotter the Better. Preheat the grill and allow plenty of time for it to reach the appropriate temperature so that cooking time is efficient. Generally guests come hungry and they will not be very patient waiting an extra half hour for the grill to heat up.

No One Wants Don't Want to Be Eaten Alive. Everyone knows that outdoor barbecuing means you have to put up with an assortment of bugs invading your space, especially pesky flies and bees. Arm your backyard with insect repellent such as citronella candles and an electric bug zapper. Purchasing food domes will also not only keep food warm, but will dissuade bugs from hanging around the table.

The Grill Master is King. Every household has their designated grill master who is king of their domain and not does want to be told what to do. He or she is confident they can grill anything to perfection. Show them respect by letting them do their job and be supportive by helping in anyway you can. No backseat grilling please!

Finger Lickin' Good.The best tasting foods at a barbecue are the ones that happen to be super messy or difficult to eat. Think ribs smothered in sauce, buttery corn on the cob or watermelon juice running down the chin. Not only do these foods require a ton of napkins, but they also tempt us to want to suck the sauce off of our fingers at any given time. Provide cleansing wipes for sticky foods and toothpicks to remove kernels of corn from teeth.

If there are any grill masters who would like to share their own personal BBQ etiquette tips, we'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Manners Monday" - How to Walk in High Heels

At only 4 ft. 11 inches (and change) on a good day, I practically live in my high heels! As far as I see it, I have no choice. If I don't want to get lost in the crowd or prefer to have a conversation with friends at eye level, I have to wear them. Over the years, my feet have actually become accustomed to wearing heels, especially in the last few years where they have become part of my everyday work uniform. Thank goodness the platform has made a comeback and seems to be here to stay protecting the life of the balls of my feet and allowing me to stand upright for longer periods of time.

When not wearing my high heels, I am often seen donning my Hogan platform tennis shoes which can only be purchased from an Italian website online ( in case you were wondering.) I cannot tell you how many complements I receive on these and have seriously thought about obtaining a license to sell them here in America. My feeling is, if you have to wear tennis shoes (other than for a workout), they better be fashionable.

So what inspired this week's "Manners Monday?" Well, a couple of things actually. I was recently in New York and found myself darting around the city in my 4 1/2 inch platforms in favor of my high priced sneaks. At one point, I realized I had actually walked from Lincoln Center all the way across town to 62nd and Park Avenue without missing a beat! I ran down and up subway stairs, jumped in and out of taxi cabs and managed to maneuver the tricky terrain of cobblestone streets downtown pretty successfully if I do say so myself!

Coincidentally, back in Los Angeles, I had received two separate inquiries from a couple of teenage girls who were new to this whole world of stilettos and platforms and had enlisted my help to teach them how to properly walk in high heels. It was eye-opening to learn how concerned these young ladies were with being able to balance both comfortably and confidently in their heels and I realized that there may be a number of other women out there suffering from high heel anxiety. I think this is especially true nowadays when most women still seem to favor their Havianas and Uggs over a pair of heels any day and they have become used to letting their feet feel comfy and cushy in their shoes. The mere thought of squeezing their toesies into a pair of constricting pumps is too much to bear. Let me tell you, I hear you and I feel your pain (literally), but I also know from experience that it doesn't have to be so bad.

For those who are braving new territory or in need of a refresher course, here are a few pointers to help make the experience a much more pleasant one.

1. Educate Yourself. Know that there is a certain level of discomfort that you are going to have to endure no matter what. Taking the time to figure out your options will help. Shoe sizes can vary according to cut, shape and the height of the heel. The more narrow the heel, the more difficult it is to balance. Learn the varieties: kitten, wedge, pump, platform and stiletto. Lower kitten heels begin at 2 ½ inches and high stilettos go all the way up to 7 inches. Fashionable heels hover in the 4½ to 5 inch range. In my humble opinion, the platforms are the most comfortable. A word to the wise regarding price. Typically, the more expensive the heels, the more comfortable they are to wear and, believe me, that is worth every penny of your investment.

2. Consider the Terrain.
The most hazardous terrain is cobblestone and anything with grates, grids or slats. About 5 years ago, I took a terrible tumble down wooden patio stairs and severed the nerves in two fingers because my high heel was caught in a slat. Grass and carpet are also risky. Know the density as your heel may stick or snag. The more narrow the heel, the more danger you face of twisting your ankle or getting stuck and falling.

3. Go the Distance. Consider the distance you will be expected to travel in your heels. Setting a realistic time limit for yourself will help you to determine the height of your heel as well as your choice of style. For long periods on my feet, I prefer Stuart Weitzman. Louboutin's, although gorgeous and much more expensive, are the least comfortable.

4. One Style Does Not Fit All. You have to be able to select the right shoe for your type. Don't try to squeeze sausage toes into delicate heels. If you have a thicker foot, go for the more sturdy platforms instead. A woman with slender feet is able to easily slide into those Cinderella glass slippers. Know what feels best for your feet. Sling backs or ankle straps, closed toe or opened toe, bunions, corns, hammertoes, oh my! Everyone's feet are different and one style definitely does not fit all!

5. Don't Ignore Your Pedicures. It is virtually impossible to feel good in heels if your toenails are too long or if you have an ingrown toenail that is causing you pain. Beyond the pedicure, a lady should have painted toe nails. Make sure to keep polish fresh and chip free. There is nothing more distasteful than chipped toe nail polish, it simply looks dirty!

6. Find a Good Shoe Cobbler. Here in Los Angeles everyone swears by Arturo’s in Beverly Hills. Whenever I purchase new heels, I run them right over to the shop to have them fitted for rubber dancing soles and rubber heels to prevent slipping. I also recommend purchasing shoe trees or stuffing your heels with tissue paper to maintain their shape in between use.

7. Slip into Your Heels. Feet should be cool and fresh before slipping them into high heels. A hot sweaty foot will have a terrible time adjusting. Begin by sitting down with feet hip distance apart directly under the knees. Back should be straight, shoulders down and head held high. Lift the right foot with pointed toes and slide it into the heel. Allow the toes to wiggle a bit and acclimate to the new cramped feeling. Repeat with the left foot. Now the weight should be forward and balanced on the balls of both feet. Rise to a standing position with calves taut, ankles firm and legs and hips directly underneath. Your bottom, thigh and stomach muscles should all be held tight for posture and stability.

8. Put One Foot in Front of the Other. Ready to walk, begin with the toes and heels together. Lift the right foot and step out landing your weight on the ball of the foot and then spreading to the heel. When you put your foot down, land on the heel and instantly move weight forward. Refrain from lifting the left foot until the weight has been correctly repositioned. Walk with a heel toe, heel toe pattern as if you are a graceful swan walking on the water. Each step should be slow and methodical, swaying your hips naturally and intentionally. Arms relaxed by your side should swing effortlessly opposite each leg.

9. Give Your Feet a Break. After a long day in heels, the first thing I do when I return home is remove my heels and slip my feet into something much more comfortable. If my feet feel swollen or sore, I will give them a quick soak in the tub with some peppermint soap which livens them right up. After a bit of rest, I feel renewed and ready to return to the world of 5 feet and 4 inches.

Have any other high heel tips to share? Any war stories of how you made it through a long evening standing in heels? We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Audience Etiquette

This week's "Manners Monday" comes to you straight from the Big Apple. I've been here accompanying my husband to the major broadcast networks' upfronts, as well as conducting a little business of my own. During my free time, I have taken complete advantage of the city's rich culture and made sure to attend at least one ballet, one musical and even managed to fit in a movie (it was raining a lot!). All of this viewing got me thinking about audience etiquette and how one is supposed to behave when attending any type of performance whether live or on the screen.

We've all seen the short movie trailer that appears in every theatre just before the movie is about to start. You know, the one where the baby is crying and the audience member is chomping on their popcorn or talking loudly to their friend? This is a straightforward reminder to cease whatever we are doing so that we can focus our attention to the screen in front of us. What happens, though, when we are attending the live theatre or a professional ballet? There is a certain code of decorum that a spectator is also expected to follow. Respect is paramount and as such, we have devised a list of 8 essential guidelines we think should be adhered to.

1. Dress The Part. Select your style of dress based upon the nature of the event you are attending or if you have before or after performance plans. When in doubt be sure to ask someone who is attending or has attended a similar event. If you are a guest, you may ask your hosts for guidance.

2. Be Punctual. Allow for enough time to find parking, navigate crowds, use the restroom and find your seat.

3. Arriving Late. Stand in the back of theater and wait for natural break to enter. Scan the theatre for your seat to avoid stumbling over other patrons. Allow the appointed usher to seat you.

4. Taking a Seat. When entering a row full of people say “excuse me” and “thank you”. If you need to leave during a performance, repeat the process but whisper thanks and apologies. If you are being passed in a row, clear space by remaining seated and turning knees in the direction the person is moving, or stand and lean against back of your folded seat.

5. Applause. Ladies clap their hands by cupping their left hand slightly and hitting it with the fingers of their right hand. Gentlemen, hit the two hands together evenly. The standing ovation is the highest compliment possible and involves standing with the rest of the audience and clapping.

6. Cultural Performances. Clap when the conductor takes his place at the podium and when the concert is completed. Applause is expected after a solo and after each work listed on the program is completed.

7. Intermission. Avoid the general rush of returning to your seat by allowing for enough time to have a quick drink or snack and use the restroom.

8. Exiting. It is impolite to try to avoid the rush by leaving before the performance is finished. It is distracting to the performers and audience. Make sure to clean up your area, go with the flow, do not push, shove or demand to get ahead of the crowd.

Next week, Jennifer Brandt of Perfectly Disheveled, and I will be back with another informative video to share! In the meantime, have a terrific week and enjoy the show!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Manners Monday" Celebrates National Etiquette Week

This "Manners Monday" we are proud to support the kickoff of National Etiquette Week (May 9th-13th). We absolutely love celebrating this annual event as it provides us with the perfect excuse to jump on our soap box and shout out to the world that manners do indeed matter! It also allows us an opportunity to enlighten a few folks that may still be living in the dark ages on what manners mean today and how they essential they are to our everyday lives.

Rather than bore you with a lengthy explanation we thought it would be much more fun to devise an inspiring and educational little quiz designed to raise your EQ or Etiquette Quotient. Take a look below and find out if you are an etiquette novice, an etiquette savant or an etiquette genius.

1. Most people associate etiquette with table and dining manners or remembering to hold the door open for someone. What is etiquette anyway?
a. A stodgy old book of rules created by the wealthy
b. Guidelines for getting along with others
c. Knowing how to shake hands
d. Table skills

2. The field of etiquette and manners is much more all-encompassing than people realize. What subjects fall under the umbrella of etiquette?
a. Waiting in line at the pharmacy
b. Interviewing for a job
c. Talking on a cell phone
d. All of the above

3. There are formal and informal ways to greet people. What are the 3 most common greetings offered around the world?
a. Fist pump, kiss on the mouth, curtsy
b. Air kiss, bow, handshake
c. Handshake, nod, bow
d. Curtsy, bow, handshake

4. Proper dining skills are essential to business in today's globalized society. What is the most universally accepted and attractive dining style of eating?
a. American style of eating
b. Asian style of eating
c. Continental style of eating
d. Eating with your fingers, for sure!

5. When engaged in conversation, one should stand how far apart so as not to appear a close talker?
a. 6 inches apart
b. 12 inches apart
c. 18 inches apart
d. 24 inches apart

6. A person with impeccable manners knows how to conduct themselves in any type of situation. We know this because we would witness them...
a. Rise to shake hands
b. Greet others with a smile
c. Offer a seat to an elderly or infirmed person
d. All of the above

7. Thank you notes have become a lost art. A handwritten thank you note is always appreciated and should be sent for...
a. A gift received
b. Any act of kindness
c. An invitation to tea
d. A blind date

8. Poor cell phone etiquette is a major point of contention for many people. If you are expecting an important call while dining with others, you should...
a. Place your cell phone on the table as a centerpiece for everyone to focus on
b. Place your phone on vibration mode and keep it next to you in the even it rings
c. Place your phone on vibration mode, but keep it in your lap so that it is not visible to others
d. Tell your fellow diners ahead of time so they will know you are important

9. Social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have put the spotlight on a number of new etiquette problems. As a result, more and more people are...
a. Losing their ability to communicate in person
b. Obsessing over "FOMO" (the fear of missing out)
c. Having trouble reconciling their online vs. offline behavior
d. All of the above

10. Back in the day it was said that children should be "seen and not heard." Nowadays, parents encourage their children to speak their mind and it has spawned a generation of uncensored, outspoken adults. As a nation, we should...
a. Turn up the volume on Aretha Franklin's anthem RESPECT and demand it from our children
b. Stop glorifying the celebrities, athletes and politicians who are terrible role-models
c. Bring back the family dinner and engage in conversation at least one night of the week
d. All of the above

How did you size up? Here are the answers below. Have any specific questions you'd like to ask? In honor of National Etiquette Week we are opening up the floor and ready to answer your most difficult etiquette questions and conundrums. Looking forward to hearing from you!

1. b, 2. d, 3. b, 4. c, 5. c, 6. d, 7. b, 8. c, 9. d, 10. d

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Mother's Day" - Who Is It Really About?

You see this beautiful photo of my two smiling girls? This is who it's all about for me and that's enough.

On Mother's Day, the world of mothers seems to be divided into two very distinct camps: (1) those that want to be pampered and honored and waited on hand-and-foot and, (2) those who consider it to be just another regular day and are happy to cook and clean and take care of their families as usual. Alright, maybe not cook and clean, but they seem to be pretty content with handling all of the responsibilities that they normally do with a smile on their face.

Now we're not making any judgements, the way in which mom chooses to celebrate her big day is completely her prerogative. Maybe she wants to escape for a bit and run off to a movie with a girlfriend or perhaps she just needs to let off a little steam and opts for a hike solo in the mountains. Who knows, maybe dad is out of town on business alot and they kids barely give her the time of day so mom would appreciate a little extra attention on the one day of the year that is dedicated to her, and that is perfectly understandable.

The only trouble I have with Mother's Day is when a mother jumps on a soap box and demands that everyone drop everything to cater to her every whim as if she's the only mother on earth celebrating this day. Especially when the children are young, I think it is much more becoming for a mother to be gracious and appreciative rather than demanding.

And this extends to grandmother's as well! They have had years of being the only mother acknowledged on Mother's Day, but once the grandchildren are born (and again, especially if they are still young), then grandmothers should take a back seat and let the mothers shine on their big day. In my opinion, grandmothers should be unconditionally grateful, loving and supportive of their daughters in however they wish to celebrate with their families and in return their daughters will undoubtedly shower them with the genuine appreciation and love they deserve.

So for me personally, instead of waking up on Mother's Day waiting to be served breakfast in bed by my husband and girls, I may ask to sleep in a bit more, but then I will make breakfast for everyone as I typically do on the weekends without feeling resentful. I will open up my handmade gifts and cards from my family and feel totally complete as I know that it is these treasures that are the most meaningful. And, I will relish in the family gathering at a BBQ or dinner out at a restaurant or whatever else we have planned as a celebration because this is pretty much all I need on this day, to be together and know that my family loves me and I love them.

A special shout out to all of the women in my family who are mothers and to all of my friends who are mothers and anyone else out there who is a mother. I honor you on this day for being the incredibly multi-tasking, spatula-wielding, craft-making, CEO-of-the-family-whiz you are every day of the year. A toast to mothers everywhere!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Manners Monday" - RSVP For Goodness Sakes!

We're back this week with a new installment of "Manners Monday" and we're discussing the act of RSVPing. Recently, Jennifer Brandt, of Perfectly Disheveled, and I have overheard many friends complaining about other people not responding to their personal invitations. It has not seemed to make one iota of difference whether the invitation was to a small baby shower or a big charitable fundraiser, the consensus seems to be that people in general have forgotten common courtesy and the inclination to respond in a timely manner.

According to a recent statistic more than 80% of personal invitations receive no response at all. That’s a big chunk missing!! One step above the nonresponders, are those that do us a favor by RSVPing at the very last minute as if we should be thrilled they are gracing us with their presence. I think it’s no surprise that people everywhere are starting to get upset.

The fact that we’re living in a technological age only adds fuel to the fire. When we think of all the different types of invitations we are inundated with on a daily basis from social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to electronic invitations sites such as Evite and Ping, not to mention the handwritten invitations for birthday parties or charity events that we receive by mail, how is any sane person able to keep track of it all and respond accordingly?

The answer may simply be that we need to instill better organization and time management skills, but the point we are trying to make is, anyone who has taken the time to invite us or include us in their celebrations, events and other festivities, no matter which form of communication they use to invite us, deserves a response either way.

Accepting social invitations should not be a chore, it should be fun! It is actually a compliment. An invitation received is proof that you are likable and that people want to be in your presence, and that's a good thing, right? To avoid any future accidental offenses, below are a few ground rules for proper RSVPing.

1. Keep Track of Your Invites. Once you receive an invitation, you should RSVP within 24-48 hours of its receipt. This system helps to diminish any problems that may arise if another invitation for the same date and time arrives in the mail days later.

2. Split Your Time Sensibly. Although technically you are only obligated to attend the first invitation you receive, you may feel inclined (or obliged) to RSVP to more than one engagement at a given time. If that is the case, the trick is to be respectful and split your time sensibly to ensure you are not offending the invitees who probably wish they had you committed for the "whole enchilada".

3. Pay Extra Careful Attention to Electronic Invites. This becomes an especially delicate matter on sites such as Evite because you are able to see who opened your invitation, but did not respond. Think twice before publishing your invite list for all to see if you are concerned that some may base their decision on who else is coming.

4. Make Sure You Have a Good Excuse! If you are unable to RSVP positively to an event, that is perfectly fine, as long as you have a decent and thoughtful excuse. How you deliver your excuse and the words you choose to express yourself can make all the difference.

Ever received a really bad excuse? Send us the details of your story and we'll help you determine if it was the truth and how to respond accordingly. We'd love to hear from you!