Sunday, December 28, 2014

Burberry Holiday Event for Beverly Hills Manners

Really, all a girl needs is a good blow-dry, a pair of fabulous heels, and a trench coat to protect her from the elements, and she’s good to go.

When I was approached by Burberry this past summer with the idea of a festive holiday event to celebrate the release of my newly titled paperback book, Beverly Hills Manners: Golden Rules from the World's Most Glamorous Zip Code, I was elated. The book was due to release in mid-November and the holiday season is absolutely my most favorite time of the year. 

The alignment felt like a match made in heaven. After all, the British company not only represents the epitome of style and taste (made most famous for their trench coat) with stores and franchises spanning the globe, but the British in general are widely known for their impeccable manners. They have basically cornered the market on the subject and kept manners in fashion over the years. Nothing beats a British accent, it makes even the most common vernacular sound spectacularly eloquent. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have completely revitalized the Royal family with spectators and fans calculating their every move and clamoring to catch a glimpse of their Royal Highnesses. And, everyone is enamored with "Downton Abbey," the British period drama television series entering its fifth season this January, as the arbiter of all things civilized and sophisticated.  

The fascination with the British reaches far and wide symbolizing a timeless elegance, eternal class and infinite order, elements sorely lacking here in the U.S. where casual Fridays rule, boorish behavior reigns, and reality show stars receive the royal treatment. 

America is in desperate need of a reboot! I am on a mission with my company, my book and my brand to single-handedly bring back the importance of good manners and raise the awareness level here in the U.S., beginning with our tony town of Beverly Hills. A city I am proud to call home.

After months of planning, the Burberry event took place at their new flagship store on Rodeo Drive in mid-December. I happily donned a Burgundy dress from the Burberry Brit collection in honor of the occasion.  Quotes from my book were printed on placards and placed throughout the floors and autographed copies were distributed to guests upon departure. Fun was had by all with proceeds benefiting P.S. Arts, an outstanding organization providing quality arts education programs to underserved public schools. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Manners Monday – #DareToBePolite – Dining & Entertaining: Navigating the Table

At holiday time or any time, many of life’s most joyous occasions occur around the table. Family and friends gather, food is prepared or purchased, conversation is flowing and lively, and everlasting memories are made. With the tone properly set and the elements painstakingly in place, all that is remaining is how to properly navigate your way around the table and correctly bring the food into your mouth. 

Improving dining skills is the single most popular request among the bevy of manners-related topics. While some may find this a vacuous pursuit, on the contrary, the art of fine dining is meant to be upheld and mastered. After all, the way we hold our fork and knife reveals a lot about who we are, where we came from and where we aspire to go. 

Whether dining on fine china or handcrafted ceramic dishes, all items are placed on the table in neat order guiding us through the courses with ease and dictating what we will be eating and when. The goal always to seamlessly enter the contents of food into our mouths thus eliminating any possible distraction and keeping the focus on the more meaningful endeavor of building relationships and forming bonds.

Step 2/Week 3: Dining & Entertaining: Navigating the Table. This week’s challenge heightens our awareness at the table from the dining room to the board room as dining skills are essential to success both personally, as well as professionally.  Use these next seven days to pay closer attention to how you eat. Notice your napkin usage, how you enter and exit your chair, how you speak to the wait staff at the restaurant and how you set the table for a meal at home.  Observe your dining style. Do you know which side your drinks and bread plate are located?  Do you use both the fork and the knife or do you break out Mr. Finger? Did you learn the American style switching hands and bringing the food into your mouth with your right hand fork tines up? Or, were you taught to dine Continental style with the fork in the left hand tines facing down and the knife in the right?  Are you familiar with the resting and finished positions?  Do you know how to pass foods around the table? Which side to serve and which side to clear?  Do you prefer formal sit down dinners or more casual experiences? Are you open to trying new foods?  All of these questions factor equally into the dining equation. What we eat and how we eat provides valuable insight to others.  

Discover the details that go into the daily occurrence of dining. Use this week to refine your skills just in time for the Chanukah and Christmas festivities around the table. Find out where you feel most confident or where you may need a bit more polish?  Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Manners Monday – #DareToBePolite – Dining & Entertaining: Assembling the Elements

It takes a village to assemble just the right elements to masterfully pull off any special occasion.  Any expert entertainer knows that whether creating a casual or an elaborate affair, a perfect balance of ingredients must be carefully orchestrated in order to present an appearance of calm and create an atmosphere of enjoyment.

The small details dictated by the host ranging from the meticulously selected guest list to the decidedly imaginative invitation, the inventive menu, and the desired setting, all play an equal part in the party’s ultimate success.  While some hosts get a thrill in taking on the task themselves, there is no shame in enlisting help.  A good host knows their limitations and has a list of professionals ready to dive in and tackle any task.  Food may be homemade, catered or brought in from a favorite restaurant as long as it is transferred onto serving platters and made to look presentable on the table.  Most important on the list is a happy host who puts their guest’s needs first and is willing to make any concession to ensure they have a positive experience.

The gracious guest is an integral player in the party’s triumphant outcome. After all, they have been carefully selected and vouched for by the host and they should perform accordingly.  Grateful to be a part of the festivities, an exemplary guest puts effort into appearance, arrives on time with a thoughtful gift in hand, is geared up to make witty repartee with both hosts and guests alike, and follows up with a grateful note of thanks.

Step 2/Week 2: Dining & Entertaining: Assembling the Elements. This week’s challenge is highly applicable as we head closer to the Chanukah and Christmas holidays where endless opportunities for entertaining and dining abound. In these next seven days, if you are hosting a party, take a few extra minutes to pay attention to the particulars. Add fresh flowers to your table, light candles, pipe in a little mood music.  Go the extra mile to check in with your guests to make sure there are no severe allergies or other dietary restrictions. Set the table with the fancy dishes and glassware you keep locked in a cabinet for most of the year. Add a few new guests to your list and arrange place cards to encourage interesting conversation.  If you are attending a party, be sure to RSVP right away as the holiday social calendars tend to become quite full. Find the perfect host gift and write a little note to present upon your arrival. Offer to bring a holiday dish or bottle of wine to accompany the meal. Perhaps the host needs a bit of help with the dishes or taking out the trash? Step up and you’ll guarantee future invitations.

Notice your strengths as well as your pitfalls.  Do you prefer to host or attend a party?  Are you a happy or harried host?  Are you a gracious or impolite guest?  Which elements do you enjoy and which feel like torture?  Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others over the course of the week. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Manners Monday – #DareToBePolite – Dining & Entertaining

December marks month two of our #DareToBePolite campaign.  Fresh off the Thanksgiving bandwagon, it’s time to now prepare for the throngs of holiday party soirees and the endless amounts of invitations, obligations and appreciations that will ensue from now until New Year’s. Whether an intimate gathering with a select few or a massive affair with hundreds, the basic tenets still apply and are expected to be upheld. Always make your guests feel welcome, create a cozy atmosphere, keep the conversation flowing, avoid stirring the pot, don’t disgust your dining partners, and have an endless supply of libations on hand.

For the next several weeks we will be exploring everyday table manners as well as formal dining skills in a variety of settings from the living room to the board room and over power breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We will dissect food idiosyncrasies, dietary restrictions and culinary options to expand both the palate along with the mind.  We will delve into the vast world of entertaining from the invitation and décor to the preferred cuisine and select entertainment. We will investigate the roles of the happy host along with the grateful guest and uncover the many quandaries that arise from the RSVP’s and attire to the requisite thank yous and goodbyes. Many of life’s most meaningful moments involve a degree of dining and entertaining and we need to bring our A-game to ensure we enjoy it to the fullest.

Step 2/Week 1: Dining & Entertaining: Setting the Tone.  The world of dining and entertaining offers an excellent opportunity to display ones best manners and perfect the art of feeling confident while putting others at ease. In these next seven days, we begin specifically with setting the tone. This is the first step in planning any occasion from a business dinner to a birthday party. The choice of venue, the degree of formality, the budget, the personality of the guests and the number of attendees must all be taken into consideration. Are you courting an international client over lunch?  A review of the continental dining skills may be in order to avoid sawing your steak.  Organizing a big birthday bash for your 80 year old mother? Selecting a venue with easy access for elderly guests as opposed to a venue for purely aesthetic reasons will hopefully be top on the list.  Setting the tone on a more symbolic level has more to do with frame of mind. Attending the annual office holiday party?  You may want to eat a little nibble beforehand to take the focus off of the free shrimp and more on the benefits of stress-free socializing with co-workers. In-laws invited you and your spouse to join them for a holiday weekend in the mountains?  You may wish to push aside personal differences and approach them with a willingness to get along rather than being just being right. Handling these subtle, yet vital issues beforehand sets the tone both mentally and physically and ensures the best outcome for all.    

A successful dining experience builds bonds and solidifies relationships.  A pleasurable party leaves warm lasting memories for years to come. How will you choose to set the tone or improve the tone in the next week?  Share with us what you discover in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!