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

Some people find Valentine's Day annoying.  And, no, it's not just single people who may feel this way.

Like other holidays, Valentine's Day has become known as a consumer trap.  Some people feel duped into buying a gift to prove their love for someone, or to fit in at the office or with friends they find far too sentimental.

Fear of not measuring up, or of not meeting someone's high expectations, can lead to incredible dread.

There's also the annoyance of politically-charged groups and other organizations urging us to show our love for certain causes on Valentine's Day.  It's this type of spin on a day for celebrating romantic love that can make the whole thing seem pointless.

It's Only One Day

Valentine's Day is just that - one day out of the year.  And if there's no way to escape the company of other people on this day, it may be necessary to equip yourself with some coping skills.

Fortunately, etiquette, emotional clarity, and a little organization, can help you get through it:

Show Some Love

It's okay if Valentine's Day isn't your thing.  It's even okay if you let the people closest to you know this.  After all, you need to be you.

But understand that if your someone special loves Valentine's Day, a little compromise will make him or her feel even more appreciated by you.

And if you're single, there's nothing better than taking this day to show a little love to yourself by indulging in something that will make you feel special.

Written By Candace Smith
Candace Smith is a Dual Certified Graduate of The American School of Protocol's Etiquette Certification Training and the owner of Etiquette for the Business of Life 

A recent article featured in the Guardian by Alex Hern entitled ‘Never get high on your own supply’ delved into why social media bosses don’t use social media. Reading that the very people who invented these social sites and strongly promote them don’t use them might be a surprise to many.

Social media has such a strong presence in our culture today, so it's quite astonishing that the ‘founding fathers’ of social media object to using it. What do they know that we don’t?

#1 social media influences how we feel about ourselves and the world we live in

#2 it is compulsive and addictive

#3 we have no idea what the repercussions of using social will be

The article shares that the people who created these social platforms know all of this and they use it to their advantage.

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, exclaimed that he is “a conscientious objector” to social media at a conference this past October. Parker  is sounding the alarm to the dangers of social media and the deliberate ways that social networks do everything in their power to keep us coming back, even at the risk of hurting our brains.

The common understanding of what is considered appropriate has been drastically morphed over the years. Just log on to any social media site and you can immediately see the bullying and spewing of disrespectful rhetoric about race, politics, religion and everything in between. Could this transformation have to do with social media?

A recent national survey reported that an astonishing 75 percent of Americans believe that incivility has risen to crisis levels. Many people believe that technology plays a central role in the decline of good manners.

Stories of individuals being fired and even arrested for things they have said on social media sites have amounted to the thousands.  In late 2007, The American School of Protocol was asked to write the 'Dos and Don'ts of Using Technology and Social Media' into our Etiquette Certification curriculum because social media classes were in high demand. 

Technology and social media have reshaped the understanding and awareness of etiquette. Personal interaction is now being replaced with screen time, texts, online classes, dms, snapchats, and so on. And we are only just beginning to see the effects this has on our society. 

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, said “Technology by itself doesn’t want to be good and it doesn’t want to be bad either. It takes humans to make sure that the things that you do with it are good.”

Since including our initial 'Dos and Don'ts of Using Technology and Social Media'' into our syllabus, we have written extensively on this topic to help educate others.  New content has been added every year and we ultimately had to give 'Technology and Communication' its own section in our training manual. 

"We are doing our best to combat the problem, but it would be easier if we had more support", says The American School of Protocol Founder, Peggy Newfield. Her words to those who want to listen,"Be aware of what you post, how you respond, and what you read. Social media already takes up much of our time and energy, don't let it take your dignity." 

Writing a thank you note shows the person who took the time to think of you and give you a gift that you value their time. When someone goes out of their way to handwrite a note in our technology driven world, it is memorable.

If you are reading this, then you are most likely writing a thank you note.  Thank you for keeping this tradition alive. 

Sending a thank you note is NOT a thing of the past! Writing thank you notes is still something that people do AND thank you notes are very much appreciated.

Below are 5 sample thank you notes to help you get started.

Dear Meg and Liam,
Thank you for the aroma diffuser. It not only makes my apartment smell great, but it’s so pretty - - a true art piece on its own. Paris is beautiful this time of year so I know you will have the best time. You both have to come over and tell me all about your trip and to see how calming and Zen like my place feels with the diffuser. Best wishes, Penny Parker

Dear Aunt Julie,
Thank you for the warm scarf you sent to me. The fact that you made it yourself makes it even more special. It’s currently 2° here in New York and will be even colder by New Year’s Eve. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness, as well as your talent for knitting!
XOXO Katie

Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for being so thoughtful and thinking of me as I buy my first home. Your kind gift will be used wisely during this process. I am looking forward to 2018 and I hope it is a wonderful year for us all. Owning my own home has always been a dream and I can’t wait to share it with you. Thanks again, Miles

Dear Gram and Pops,
Thank you for sending me the complete DVD collection of Game of Thrones. This is my favorite show, so it was a wonderful Christmas gift. I hope you enjoy spending the New Year in Jackson Hole. I am already on Season 4 and plan on finishing the entire series over New Years!
Love, Benjamin

Dear Sean,
Thank you for the stunning terrarium. It is such a great conversation piece for my office. Your green thumb has always inspired me to love plants. Please stop by in the New Year to see how beautiful the succulents are.
Kind regards, Amelia Williams

See how easy that is?

We follow this simple four sentence format which is just the perfect amount to fit on a correspondence card or folder over.

• First Sentence – Says thank you for the gift
• Second Sentence – Says something about the gift
• Third Sentence – Says something unrelated to the gift
• Fourth Sentence – Says something about the gift

Don't forget to . . .

⇒ Sign on and Sign Off

⇒ Write clearly

⇒ Date it (bottom left-hand corner)

⇒ Proofread

#1 Bring a gift for the host. 

#2 Offer to help to the host.

#3 Participate in the holiday traditions.

#4 Ask the host where you should sit at the dining table.

#5 Wait for the host to begin the meal. A blessing or a few words will often be shared to thank everyone for being there.

#6 Eat slowly and engage in conversation with others during the meal.

#7 Say something nice about the food and thank those who helped make all the preparations.

#8 After the meal is over, see how you can help clean up.

#9 Don't overstay your welcome.

#10 Send a thank-you note to the host expressing your gratitude and appreciation for the meal.