The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

tips for the tipsy

*This is a post I wrote after a porch party last spring. Today’s weather seemed to call for it. Enjoy!

I love all things tipsy.  Not that kind of tipsy. Well, maybe, sometimes, that kind of tipsy.  This is the tipsy I love:  the way a person tips his head toward a friend when they first meet; beautiful edibles offered from a tray as it is tipped in my direction so I can taste something new; the way a new bottle of wine tips sideways in an icy container as it chills; the way the clock tips the day from business to pleasure.  And, I love to tip my glass with friends.  I’ll bet if you stopped to think, you would realize you like getting tipsy, too, but in different ways.

Conducting oneself with grace and ease during these times of tipsy, however, seems to be a lost art.  We’ve all seen it.  Someone holding a glass of wine in one hand and texting with the other.  Someone taking a few nuts from a bowl using their fingers fresh from running them through their hair.  The wallflower who looks and acts miserable.  Then, of course, there is the old fashioned definition of tipsy that always brings obnoxious and embarrassing scenes one hopes never find their way to places like Facebook and Twitter.

So, here are some etiquette tips for the new ways of getting tipsy.

Hosts:

Whether you are planning a full-out event or simply a backyard get-together, relax.  Old etiquette rules would have you wound tight over a few weeds in the beds or not enough linen cocktail napkins.  New etiquette is less about the rules and more about enjoying life in a way that allows you to put your best foot forward. 

  • Where food is concerned, less is more.  Resist the urge to fill up empty space on a table with bowls and saucers of hard to eat and unhealthy fares.  Choose 2 or 3 interesting and tasty treats and be done.  This approach lets you spend less time in the kitchen and more time ensuring your guests are comfortable and enjoying themselves.  Remember, it’s not about the stuff, it’s about enjoying the company. 
  • When you are deciding on what kind of drink to offer, go simple and have fun with it.  You don’t have to wait for a life-changing event to occur before you break out the bubbly.  Have fun with what you serve and how you serve it.  As a break from the expected, use stemless wine glasses to serve sparkling white wine rather than champagne flutes and ice down the bottles in a small planter.  This casual approach makes it easier for new guests to unwind while they meet new friends. Worried this would be viewed as a breach of entertaining etiquette?  Remember, the basis of displaying nice manners is to act in a way that makes yourself look good and others feel comfortable.  Think about it…wouldn’t it be easier to handle a stemless glass rather than a flute while you also juggle a nibble?
  • Reach deep into your address book when coming up with a list of guests.  Bring in new and interesting acquaintances you know would like to meet new people. And,
  • Make sure you are up on your introduction skills.  Use first and last names and offer a tidbit of information on each person so easy conversation will follow.

 

Guests:

It’s easy to forget that guests have responsibilities, too.  The burden of a great gathering does not rest solely on the shoulders of the hosts.  Guests should arrive with no expectations of pretension, glamour and glitz.  People are different today versus 3 years ago.  Recent events have taught us to value what is real in life and to appreciate the unexpected.  While you may be tempted to pass judgment on a host’s decision to use paper products or to serve only beer and assorted nuts rather than an elaborate spread, – gasp! – realize that you may be the one who is outdated.  You didn’t hear about this new ale brewed in your hometown? Maybe you weren’t listening when someone said the pecans were gathered in the host’s backyard and toasted just for tonight’s guests.   Be appreciative when you are offered an evening of dialed back formality and enjoy something new.  

  • Offer a toast to your hosts to show appreciation for bringing friends together.  Nothing formal; keep it light.  Just remember to clink with the bottom of the glass so you won’t swap germs.
  • Casual doesn’t mean your manners don’t have to make an appearance.  Appetizers and finger-foods should be taken with a napkin in hand – no eating directly from the tray. Certainly don’t over-indulge since you likely were not invited to be the evening’s entertainment.  If you contributed a food item or bottle of wine, don’t take home the leftovers.  Those are for the hosts.
  • Offer the hosts a hand and replenish food or drink when you notice something is running low. They will appreciate the hand!
  • Mingle.  Your shyness could be misinterpreted to mean you are not enjoying yourself and that is offensive to those who invited you.

Now, gather up some friends and find new ways to get tipsy – nicely.

Try this recipe when you want something tasty to eat, quick to prepare and easy to eat.

Prosciutto Pear Cups

Thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in 4” square pieces to line the cups of a mini-muffin pan

Fresh pear, diced

Goat cheese

Honey

Line mini-muffin pan cups with prosciutto, bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until crispy.  Prosciutto will pop out of the pan shaped as little cups.  Stack diced pear and a dollop of goat cheese inside the cup.  Drizzle with honey.  Serve with Pearly Bay Celebration.

 

 

thank goodness for The Book of Situations

I’ll admit it. I’ve been a little on edge lately. Sadly, that is not at all the same as being edgey. I hear that people who are sad to leave their cotton turtlenecks behind when spring rolls around don’t get to use that word.

I’ll also admit that as often as I talk about ‘grace under pressure’ and ‘charm in the line of fire’, I find myself faced with situations listed in The Book of Situations. So while that does excuse any attempt at said grace and charm, I am left exhausted, disheveled and, most of all, offended.  Note: The Book of Situations is a list of situations or circumstances in which one is excused from all rules of governance concerning lady-like or rational behavior. It exists only in my head and continues to grow.  

I’ll give you an example. This is one of the latest additions…added just yesterday…to The Book of Situations. I actually have a second one from yesterday. It has to do with someone 5’11” soaking in a bathtub built for someone 5’2” in a bathroom the size of a voting booth and joined by one of those tremendous flying beetles.  There is no grace and charm in that, I can tell you right now.

I digress.

Ben and I were in his new kayak enjoying a truly beautiful day at the lake. Emma was lounging on the dock, Darrell was doing something, I don’t know what.  The sun was shining, the sky was perfectly blue and there was just the slightest breeze. Caught up in the day and enjoying the one-on-one time with my soon to be 10-year old, we were slowly paddling along the docks. I said, “Hey! This is the dock where we could always see those little turtles last summer, remember?” Digging up memories. Good times. A little giggle. “Yeah. That was fun. We should try to catch one. We could take it home, feed it, let it get bigger and bring it back to the lake and let it go. I wonder if he would eat what I eat.” Another giggle. “I bet his friends wouldn’t recognize him.” Ben talks incessantly when he’s really happy and his talker was in high gear.

But something in the water under the dock caught our eye at the same moment. He stopped talking. He looked. I looked. It was a head. It was a snake! Not more than 10 feet away and he was lookin’ right at me.  

You’ve heard that in drastic situations, people exhibit the tendency for either fight or flight, right? Apparently, I opt for the literal flight. My arms went straight out and began to flap. Wildly, to hear Ben tell it. I have a vague recollection of trying to scoot the kayak away using the motion of my torso moving quickly to and fro, but if you don’t mind, I’ll leave that memory in the dark recesses. Very calmly, Ben said,”I think we’ll just take the long way back to our dock.” Huh? That doesn’t even make any sense. Just get me on dry land, was all I could think. As we…ok, so it was only Ben paddling…made our way back to our dock, something inside him broke. Normally, he can parallel park any sort of water vessel with no problem. It’s uncanny, really. But this time, he headed straight for the dock until the point of the kayak touched the wood. The edge of the dock was just out of arm’s reach. Since the dock is about 2 feet above water level and the kayak is pretty well at water level, I was eye to eye with dark, murky water and that is no man’s land.  “Ben! I can’t get out like this!” and the flapping started again. Perhaps I could just fly onto the dock?

Now, I need you to know something. I am not proud of what I said next. I just really hate snakes. I got a glimpse of the ever cool and collected Emma walking our way and something inside me broke. “HEEELP MEEEE!” I screamed. I could hear my own voice bounce across the water. And, what about my own son who was in the same boat??

I just hate ‘em. I swear, it seems like every snake I see in that dumb lake wins this battle. Even when he gets his head blown off, he wins. And, now, he’s probably on the bottom of that lake grinning because he’s famous. He’s in The Book of Situations and I couldn’t have acted worse if that kayak had been the Titanic.

the face

There’s the face. And then, there’s the face. The face that can convey a thousand words and a range of emotion. As parents, wives and husbands, we learn early on how to make a face for nearly any occasion. One that says exactly what we are thinking. To my husband, I can say That’s bathroom humor and it’s not funny with my face. To my children, I can say You have got to speak up. This is an older person and they can’t hear you if you speak to the ground. Oh, and look at him when you’re talking…There you go. Much better. without speaking a word.

It took some time to perfect, don’t get me wrong. Once we were eating at a Mexican restaurant with friends. Parents in one booth, kids in another booth. I had watched Emma double dip for just about as long as I could, so I zapped her with a look. She thought I meant for her to wipe her mouth. I gave a short shake of the head. Zapped her again. She thought I meant for her to wipe Ben’s mouth. I gave another short shake of the head. Zapped her again. She thought I was asking her if she needed to go to the ladies room. So, I picked up a chip from our basket and held it up for her to see. Darrell grabbed it and said, “Thanks, Babe” and went on with the adult conversation taking place using words and not this crazy facial language I was trying to invent and use – all in one sitting.

But, there’s another kind of face. The face that sneaks up and jumps out.

          

I happened to catch Darrell’s face as Emma showed him her new eye make-up. His voice said, “You aren’t wearing that around any boys, are you?” but his face said My little girl. Wearing make-up. What happened to the time??  

Darrell’s face reminded me of me as I sat through a meeting this week. During the meeting, I found myself astounded as I listened to a person describe all the reasons he didn’t like his job. Suffice it to say he isn’t a big fan of work in general, so the whole 40-hours-a-week thing seems to be just messing him up.  About halfway through, I caught myself wearing a you have got to be kidding me expression.  Where I should have remained neutral, my face was likely giving me away. Not very business etiquette-y of me.

See, our faces give away our emotions and emotion should be rationed out in careful measures at work. Guard your reactions, keep them close and give yourself time to think through the situation before allowing your face to scream My baaaaaby’s wearing make-up!

what's new, cupcake?

There has been a book fair at my children’s school over the last few days. And, let me just say… It would help me out a lot if the book fair would sell only books. No erasers shaped like ice cream cones. No 36″ pencils in a flourescent yellow. No little spiral bound notepads with patterned paper. Books. The kind you read.

Naturally, Emma found a book on cupcakes that she couldn’t live without. It’s called What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

The cupcake creations are unreal. The creativity and planning that must have gone into these cupcakes….it’s admirable, actually. The book breaks down every step and shows every tool used to create everything from a golf course to these cute little ducks (you can thank a doughnut hole for that cute little head). It made me think about the tools we use and the steps we take in the hope that we are creating the person we truly want to be.

Do your clothes flatter you and give you confidence? Do your friends bring out your best? Does your attitude inspire others or turn them away? What are you reading right now? Is it food for the brain or junk?

It’s ok if you’ve veered off course a tad. Just make some small adjustments.

Go on, Cupcake. Change things up a little bit.

what’s new, cupcake?

There has been a book fair at my children’s school over the last few days. And, let me just say… It would help me out a lot if the book fair would sell only books. No erasers shaped like ice cream cones. No 36″ pencils in a flourescent yellow. No little spiral bound notepads with patterned paper. Books. The kind you read.

Naturally, Emma found a book on cupcakes that she couldn’t live without. It’s called What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

The cupcake creations are unreal. The creativity and planning that must have gone into these cupcakes….it’s admirable, actually. The book breaks down every step and shows every tool used to create everything from a golf course to these cute little ducks (you can thank a doughnut hole for that cute little head). It made me think about the tools we use and the steps we take in the hope that we are creating the person we truly want to be.

Do your clothes flatter you and give you confidence? Do your friends bring out your best? Does your attitude inspire others or turn them away? What are you reading right now? Is it food for the brain or junk?

It’s ok if you’ve veered off course a tad. Just make some small adjustments.

Go on, Cupcake. Change things up a little bit.

3 ingredients

All it takes is 3 ingredients. Dump these 3 into a slow cooker, wait 8-10 hours and you’ve got the ground floor for tonight’s dinner. Are you getting this?  You put 3 ingredients in the pot, go about your business and come back to find the prize.

You know I’m going to twist this into a civility thing, so here it is: There are also 3 ingredients in order to make your attempts at civility worthwhile.

Discretion

Compassion

Patience

You dump these 3 into your pot of business deals and relationships, let it stew there for a while because people have to know you’re genuine. Come back later and you’ll discover you’ve built the ground floor for success and happiness.  

Discretion

Compassion

Patience

Or, a 3-4 lb. Boston Butt, a jar of BBQ sauce and a can of Coke cooked on Low for 8-10 hours.

It’s really just whatever you’re into.

Honesty? Not always.

This may come as a shock to some, but honesty is not always what people want or need to hear.

From you.

You heard me.

It’s your not plight in life to make sure people know your innermost thoughts. It’s not your place to “offer advice” to your co-worker on her hairstyle or clothes choices or, heaven forbid, husband choices.

Honesty has been a hot topic over the last couple of weeks. I’ve seen some online conversations about it and someone posted a question about honesty on my Facebook wall. Here is the question and my response:

Question: Dear Kate T. Lewis…[Let me just interrupt for a second. Feel free to call me Kate. You don’t have to say the T.  I know it can be confusing. An interviewer once referred to me as KT throughout an entire TV segment. I’ve often wondered if she thought I was rapper.] I have a question for you to ponder… listening to a popular radio program yesterday they were asking the question, should you give your friends/family unsolicated criticism especially about the way they look or are dressed? (ie… your dress is just a little too tight, or that hair style you’re going for isn’t working for you) I give it to my husband often, but he never gives it to me — so I ask… should we keep our thoughts to ourselves and let those dear to us look bad, or should we intervene?

AnswerI would ask you this: Does the person dear to you “look bad” because it’s your opinion that what she is wearing isn’t becoming? Or, do they “look bad” because they are struggling with something and it’s affecting their appearance? If your sister shows up at a family dinner looking rumpled and unclean, it’s your duty as someone who cares for her to find out if she’s ok. That’s a very different conversation than if you were to approach her with “your hair looks terrible and you need to iron your shirt.” Rather than unsolicited criticism, that’s inquiring about her well-being. If you are bothered by someone’s appearance because you would simply choose something different…well…there are some things that are none of your business. Great question!!

Got it? Good.

what this baby thinks of job rejection

This is the perfect Friday video. You gotta watch it at least until the 5th rip to see how this little guy looks up at his dad and laughs even harder. So funny!

I got this from YouTube (of course). The comments say that the dad was ripping up a job rejection letter. Just makes it even better. And I think he’s on to something. Hit a bump in the road? Laugh it off, re-focus and keep moving. Onward and upward!

Have a great weekend and stay civil!

 

clean up in produce

There are some things I do that are so engrained in my being that if I stopped to think about what I was doing, I’d probably mess it up. Like fixing my first cup of coffee in the mornings. Contrary to a sarcastic remark in a previous post about splashing a bit of whiskey in my morning joe, I actually take only creamer and honey. I can fix it just like I like it in about 6 seconds while I turn on the oven, kiss on 2 children and make funny morning greeting noises at the dog. I put on my watch in one fluid motion. I can brush my teeth and put on earrings at the same time. And, I can pull on a pair of hose in no time flat.

However.

There once was a 15 year old girl who was having dinner with her parents and 2 sisters. Out of town, thank the good Lord. It seems that this unassuming girl had an affinity for her very own hairdo and newly acquired blue eye shadow, so while she primped in the lady’s room at the restaurant, she failed to notice the hem of her very long and fashionable A-line skirt was caught in the waistband of her pantyhose. You might think she would have felt a breeze on her way back to the table. She did not. You also might think that her very own mother or at least one of her siblings might have mentioned something about this. They did not. Of course, it’s hard to talk about much of anything when you are laughing so hard that tears are rolling down your cheeks, making your mascara and nose run. Understandable.

Ironically, and as life often reminds us, history tends to repeat itself. Especially when we aren’t paying attention. That’s really all I’m going to say about the most recent event except to say that whomever reviews the security videos from the Publix produce section on last Thursday got more than a little glimpse.You’re welcome.   

So, unless you plan to pick up where I left off and head down Aisle 2 with your underwear showing, don’t assume you always know what you are doing. Be willing to learn, look for ways to practice what you think you already know and accept constructive criticism with the intention to improve. This shows you are open-minded and are able to consider the big picture. 

Or, you can just breeze down by paper goods and hope for the best.

excuse me, ma'am. you have a shotgun shell on your wall.

Around the turn of the new year, I sat in on a Twitter chat hosted by the editor of The Daily Basics. She is so very bright and comes up with the greatest topics to mull over. On that day, she posed this question: What are your decorating goals for the year?

Admittedly, I wasn’t so turned on…at first. Decorating goals for the year? That’s my sister Nan’s department. She’s the decorating guru.  But, the more I thought about what I really want my house to be like has more to do with the feel than the look.

My response to the question at hand was this: This year, I want to decorate with things that are meaningful to my family…reminders of happy days, achievements, people we care about. Hopefully, people who come visit us will feel the love jumping off the walls (although I could see where one might confuse the love with the deer), relax and enjoy being in our home. But there is also this: when you surround yourself with objects that promote and inspire your very own goodness, you’ll have more goodness to share. This makes it good all the way around.

So, I just finished my first little decorating project – and I mean little. A few Saturdays ago, we visited my parents in South Georgia. It was a crisp and beautiful Saturday, so we decided to shoot skeet. Emma, Ben, Darrell, my Dad and I shot and laughed and teased each other and then we did it all again on Sunday. It was the most perfect day I’ve had in a long time (bruised shoulder and cheek aside). When we finished, I gathered up all the spent shotgun shells and brought them home. I dumped the shells in a shadow box, framed a few of my favorite pics from the day and voila!

 

 

Just for the record, those elk antlers do not hold a special place in my heart.

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