With Thanksgiving around the corner, this year we have much to be thankful for.  The pandemic which has separated us from family and friends makes it difficult sometimes to count our blessings. Rather than taking one day to acknowledge what you are grateful for, why not take a moment every evening to reflect on the best part of your day.

A creative way to do this is with a Gratitude Pumpkin. All you need is a pumpkin and a sharpie, and each night you can take a moment to write one thing on the pumpkin that you are thankful for. Start at the top and wrap the words all the way around the pumpkin until it is full. If you live alone, this is a great time for self-reflection and positivity and if you have children, it is a great way to get their creativity flowing. They will be excited each night to contribute their addition to the pumpkin. It is wonderful to watch the pumpkin grow with so many reminders of how lucky and blessed you and your family are.

If you begin writing on your pumpkin on Thanksgiving Day, it will be filled with words and ideas that have brought you happiness right up to Christmas. It will also be the perfect unexpected addition to your Christmas centerpiece and a great conversation starter to share with your extended family as you sit around the table and reflect. Sometimes we all need those little reminders that happiness can be found in each and every day and your gratitude pumpkin can do just that.

Whether you serve your Thanksgiving meal family style, buffet, or plated, there is room to add some pizzazz to the table and, therefore, the event.  People notice when you take the time to make something special.  It lifts their spirits and enlivens conversation, making your time together more enjoyable.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

Flowers, pumpkins, and gourds, oh my! These are the staples of Thanksgiving decorating and are used several ways. A woven basket of small gourds makes a colorful centerpiece for your table. Just make sure your centerpiece is no higher than 7 inches so guests can still see each other.

Cut the top off a small pumpkin, scoop out the pulp and place flowers inside to create a unique table accessory. It is easier to arrange the flowers in a small jar that sits perfectly in the pumpkin. This also allows you to keep water in it so your arrangement lasts longer.

Tiny vases of baby mums are great to cluster in empty spaces on your table or buffet.  Spread them down the table amongst the pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, or arrangements of larger flowers.

Consider creating a table runner of several small gourds, pumpkins, and flower arrangements.  Place a large cluster as the centerpiece of the table, then scatter the rest down the table in each direction.  Or, if your table is round, scatter them in a circular area around the centerpiece.

Size matters. As mentioned above, keep your table pieces 7 inches or shorter. This ensures that guests are able to make eye contact and keep their conversations going.  Very important if a fun, lively event is your goal.

Use any large pumpkins, gourds, or flower arrangements in other areas of your home.  On your coffee table, in your entryway, or on the front porch.

Get your family involved. Holiday decorating not only creates a pleasant, colorful atmosphere, it also provides a memorable bonding experience with your children.  Find ways to get them involved.  They might help arrange the items on the table.  If you have more than one child you may give each of them an assignment of decorating a specific area – the table, the living room, the entryway, etc.

Reap the rewards. Your guests and family members enjoy your efforts to make their holiday even more special.  Your children have their confidence bolstered from the compliments they receive on their decorations. Your Thanksgiving holiday is a success!

Pumpkins and Gourds
Pumpkins and gourds make colorful table arrangements

Flowers in a Pumpkin
Flowers arranged in a small pumpkin provide unique table decorations

Using baby mums
Tiny vases of baby mums make lovely space fillers

Roses
Large flower arrangements can be enjoyed in other areas of your home

Test your Thanksgiving Manners with our True/False Etiquette Questions Below

1. As soon as you are seated at the table and have your food, you may begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

2. If someone asks for the salt, pass them both, the salt and the pepper.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

3. At the beginning of a sit-down, family-style meal, food is first passed to the right.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

4. Cut up all your food before you begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

5. If a toast is given, but you don’t drink,  just sit and watch everyone else hold up their glass.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

 

6. If you have to get up from the table place your napkin in your chair.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

7. If you have to remove a piece of meat or a bite of food that you can’t chew, discreetly slide it back onto your fork and place it on your plate. Try to cover it up with something else so that it is not visible to others

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

8. Crumble up your napkin and put it in your plate when you are finished with your meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

9. If you have to sneeze or cough at the table, always turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with the napkin. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

10. By placing your silverware in the 3:15 or 6:30 position on your plate, it means that you are finished eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

Thanksgiving can be a joyful time with family and friends, or it can seem like you the host, have taken on too many responsibilities as the cook, server, and dishwasher. Whether having dinner with new in-laws, old friends, or close family members, there are certain tricks and tips that can make you look like a pro at hosting a thanksgiving feast.

Plan ahead. Make the turkey and side dishes in advance. Set a schedule and lay out exactly how much time you will need.

Accept help. If others offer to bring an item or come early to assist you, always welcome their kind gesture.

Set it pretty. Entertaining is the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops when it comes to your table setting. Use the china, crystal, and silver that you have. Place flowers, candles, and seasonal items down the center of the table to create ambiance. It is well worth the extra minutes and effort.

Shake up the seating arrangements. If possible, separate couples so that they are not sitting across from or next to each other. Seat people according to personality and interests.

Set the tone. Most guest will follow the host’s lead. Your mood is critical to set the tone of the dinner.  Always remain positive and keep a smile on your face.  Your attitude can put any guests at ease.

Get dressed and ready early. If you stayed up all night cooking and cleaning, never allow your guests to know you are tired or stressed. It is always best to plan ahead and make sure you are refreshed and ready for any small emergencies that may occur.

Steer the conversation. Stay away from conversations about sex, religion, or politics. These topics have been known to put a damper on the evening. Do your best to direct the conversations so that they don’t lead down a dangerous path.

Have your 10 questions ready to go. If you are acting as host, consider the opposing views of dinner guests. Plan a list of appropriate discussion points ahead of time. Stick to topics suitable and appropriate for all audiences.  Pick 10 questions to get the conversation going – include the weather, pets, movies, books, travel and so on.  Pay attention to local and national news so that you are well informed about things happening around you.

Make it a game. Between courses, if there is a lull in the conversation and guests get that glazed-over look, pull out a game such as Table Topics. Have guests draw a card and answer questions that are posed. Boredom be gone!

Stay neutral. Try not to take sides. Make your guests comfortable by listening to different points of view.  The relationships between guests in your home are far more important than anyone being right or feeling superior.

Being a great host takes planning and patience. Good conversation is as important as good food, wine, and flowers to ensure that everyone will have a great time - including you, the host.

These poor manners and actions of some are shore to ruin a good beach day. Don't let this be you!

The Negligent Neighbors . . . 

Even though space on the beach can sometimes be tight, these annoying neighbors never notice that they spread out right on top of your towel.  There might be a few inches of golden sand peeking out between the towels, but this is not enough to give people the privacy or elbow room they deserve. Personal space is sacred for many people; be mindful of others around you.

The Sandman . . .

This is the guy who wanders off the beach with wet feet, coated in a thick layer of sand, and then walks up to the hotel, leaving a trail of abrasive crumbs behind. Or, even worse, the person will jump into a nearby pool, depositing all that sand at the bottom of the pool – an unwelcome surprise for other swimmers! Beach-side establishments usually have showers readily available to prevent this mess; use them!

The Oblivious Swimmers . . . 

The Oblivious Swimmers jump into the water with a blatant disregard for the posted warning signs. Whether it’s a strong riptide, high populations of jellyfish, or inclement weather, nothing stops these Swimmers from their splashing. Respect the signs and the warnings from lifeguards; they’re there for a reason!

The DJ . . .  

DJs certainly love their music, and they make sure that the rest of the beach enjoys it too. However, not everyone shares their passion for the techno music genre. Sound travels easily on the beach, so keep volumes low or invest in a good set of fashionable headphones.

The Exhibitionists . . .  

We’ve all seen these types of Beachgoer; they make sure that we do. The Exhibitionists wear skimpy swimsuits or get too comfortable with their significant others on the beach. Beaches are public places – so save the string bikinis and loving kisses for private.

The Dust Devil . . .

Nothing is worse than getting an unexpected face-full of sand when these Sandstorms decide to shake out their towels. They’ll also whip up sand by running through dunes or wearing flip-flops through the sand. When cleaning off your sitting space, make sure that the sand returns to the beach.

The Beach Bully . . .

The Beach Bully is the worst kind of beachgoer. They needlessly destroy sandcastles, throw their trash onto the beach or into the water, and even steal beach furniture and chairs. This type of behavior does not need an explanation of why this is improper etiquette. They might be on a well-deserved break, but kindness and consideration for others never go on vacation!

Sand Castle Smash

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Smile. Flashing a smile can go a long way towards making someone else’s day brighter. Keep a mental reserve of your happiest, funniest moments that you can recall to put a smile on your face.

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Leave a place in better condition than you found it. Challenge yourself to improve a public space. If you spot a piece of trash on the ground, be the person who takes the time to pick it up and throw it away. It’s an admirable thing to see someone inconvenience themselves in this way for the betterment of the entire community.

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Arrive on time.If punctuality doesn’t come naturally, give yourself an additional 10-minute “emergency gap” to allow for last-minute activities. Create a playlist for your morning routine that is exactly as long as you have to get ready – it’s a fun way to keep yourself on track. But if you know you’re going to be late ahead of time, communicate this to your friends, coworkers, or host through a quick, apologetic call.

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Make your commute a pleasant time.In Atlanta, we are all too familiar with traffic. It can be uninteresting as a routine part of your day, and downright enraging when unexpected traffic makes you late. Make the time a positive one for yourself. Find a podcast to listen to during the ride about a subject that interests you. Sing along with the radio and relieve your stress. Don’t forget to make the monotonous crawl a little bit better for others – let someone into your lane during your commute, give someone a wave or a smile, and be patient with slower drivers.

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Express your compliments. If your waitress has a great hairstyle, make sure to tell her. If a man standing in line in front of you at the grocery store looks great in that shade of blue let him know. We all have these thoughts, but many of us neglect to share them. An impromptu compliment from a stranger is really memorable.

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Improve your communicative style. Listen to others, and pay attention to your communication habits. If you tend to dominate the conversation, strive to ask your partner questions about themselves. If you find making small talk difficult, challenge yourself to hold quick chats with strangers during your day-to-day life.

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Who are the enemies of etiquette today? Well, they are lurking everywhere and screaming for your attention.

We have compiled a list of our top “Enemies of Etiquette” as we like to call them so that you can be on the lookout.

The Enemy: Technology

Children and parents alike are glued to their devices. Seeing a family of four all staring at their iPhones during a dinner out is a common occurrence. With these distractions at our finger tips, communication and socialization are diminishing.

Advice: Actively be aware of how much time you spend staring at the screen.  Take back your precious time.

The Enemy: Social Media

Not only do we communicate more and with larger audiences, we do so at lightning speed, using emojis, status updates and 140 character announcements. Immediate updates, cute dog videos, personal information about friends and acquaintances along with new or fake news updates is constantly being thrown our way.

Advice: Limit time using social media, be aware of what you are reading and absorbing and always think before you post on any social site.

The Enemy: The Race

You’re in a hurry, I’m in a hurry, were all in a hurry! There is never enough time - - and especially not enough time for manners or courtesy.

Advice: Slow down, you’re not the only one whose time is important.  There is always time to show respect for others.

The Enemy: Trolls

People say things online that they would never dream of uttering out loud. The amount of hate and irresponsibility on social sites and in comment sections is unbelievable. Words have power and what we say online has just as much weight as what we say in person.

Advice: Don’t get involved with trolls – don’t read their remarks – ban and block those individuals. If you think you are being one – stop it immediately!

The Enemy: Time

Over-scheduled, rushed, too busy to sit down and eat together – this is typical. The Harris Poll states that 59% of people claim their family has fewer dinners together than they did growing up. This is cause for concern since the family dinner is the cornerstone of conversation skills and consideration for others.

Advice: Make time to have meals together.  This is an important sharing time – not only for families with children, but for everyone.  Sharing your day and listening to someone else is one of the best things we can do to eradicate the enemies of etiquette.

The “enemies of etiquette” all have one goal - To divide us. We must stay vigilant and continue fighting the battle in the hopes of preserving courtesy and respect. 

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” didn’t have a clue. 

Words can hurt. Words can destroy. Words can be annoying.

A lot of words that we say, text, and tweet just aren’t necessary and can get us into a lot of trouble – Just ask Roseanne Barr.

There are some sayings that have made their way into our daily habits that often spill out of our mouths without much thought. 

These annoying and often times offensive comments have become so customary, that pulling together a list wasn’t even that hard.

Here are 12 phrases that are never appreciated:

1. Just Calm Down

This phrase has never helped anyone calm down.

2. Are You Sick? You Look Tired

What you are basically saying is you look terrible.

3. Please, Don’t Take this Offensively

Something offensive is about to be said.

4. When Are You Going to Get married?

Rudest question ever.

5. When Are You Going to Have Children?

Add to the list of rude and insensitive questions.

6. Those People

Immediately stop referring to any group or person as “those people”

7. I’m Just Saying

What are you just saying?

8. I’m Fine

Its passive aggressive and typically the person asking how you are is doing so genuinely.

9. You Look Skinny

You may have meant it as a compliment, but it doesn’t come out that way.

10. Are You Going to Eat All of That?

Just stop it.

11. It Is What It Is

And what is that exactly?

12. My Bad

Did you mean to say you're sorry?

See how current your Etiquette IQ is with our True/False Questions Below

1. Elbows are sometimes permitted on the table.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

2. Proposing a toast can be done anytime during the meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

3. Political discussions should always be avoided during a meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

4. At a buffet, start eating as soon as half of the people have returned to the table. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

5. If you are eating a messy meal (ex: spare ribs), it is perfectly all right to tuck your napkin under your chin. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

6. When introducing two people of the same age but different sex, it really doesn’t matter whose name is stated first. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

7. In business or social situations, it is always correct for a woman to shake hands.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

8. The nature of e-mailing is informal, but business e-mails should still be communicated formally. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

9. Fold-over note cards are used by men and women. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

10. It is acceptable for a “thank-you” text message to replace a handwritten thank-you note.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

11. There are exceptions, but one usually doesn’t give out his/her business card unless another asks for it.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

12. One who overlooks etiquette rarely has it called to his/ her attention.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

A recent article posted by The Conversation, an academic content website, listed 10 ways schools, parents, and communities can prevent school shootings now.

Number one on their list to combat this major problem is for schools and communities to teach social and emotional skills.

The article states that decrease in free play time and frequent social media use has reduced children’s opportunities to learn these basic social skills. Children should be learning these skills sets in school, but often times they are not.

As an etiquette and life skills educational company, The American School of Protocol, completely agrees that children need to learn life skills. However, we have found that during the school day is not when the majority of this learning takes place.

Many schools have completely eliminated character building classes and activities due to academic pressure and the need to meet certain benchmarks on state administered exams.

Studies have found that schools only try to implement a character building program, once it is too late or as a buffer to help solve an existing problem.  Children spend more time at school and extracurricular activities than ever before.  The lack of  instruction from parents is now becoming more apparent.

Character Education, Etiquette, and Life Skills are all necessary to help formulate a balanced and socially compassionate child who can conduct themselves with confidence and consideration for others. Eliminating home economics, life skills and character building paired with our new digital era and lifestyle, qualified etiquette teachers are more in demand than ever before, but without instruction in the class room and etiquette teachers in the communities, the outlook for the future of our youth is grim.

After every tragic event our requests, internet searches and calls soar. We also hear from individuals around the world who have the same problem. The American School of Protocol’s goal is for every state and city across the United States to have a knowledgeable etiquette teacher who is offering classes to students of all ages.

We continually find underqualified and inexperienced instructors who want to help, but just aren’t accomplishing their goals. Etiquette is an unregulated industry.  This is why it is so easy for other companies to market and sell certificates and programs that don’t teach the information correctly or address the real issues.

We have developed our 5-Day Certification Training and a complete Character Education Series for teachers who want to make sure they are teaching  high quality, accurate educational materials.

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To parents, educators, entrepreneurs, we need you to step up and bring etiquette to your community. If this has been on the back burner, we encourage you to lay out your goals and make it happen. Now is the time!