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It is summer in Houston, and last night our bedroom A/C went kaput! My first reaction was to grumble, but then I reminded myself to “choose happiness!” I was thankful we had a guestroom to sleep in that had cool air and a fan. As we crawled into an unfamiliar bed, I was quickly reminded of the times I preached to others: “Every good hostess should sleep in her own guestroom for one full night. You will immediately see what is missing!”

Today, where we see every form of fashion on our streets, the question of men and shorts still produces uncertainty among many. There is a reason for this that is embedded in our DNA, and to fully understand we need to explore a little history.

“What are the main table manners children should know?” A common question I am frequently asked. Yet I have a tough time narrowing my answer. I pick my top three, then a fourth pops into my mind. Then a fifth. We may not all attend black-tie events, but we do all eat. Your children will one day be placed in a situation where they need to skillfully know their way around a dining table.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I would like to take a special look at the precious women in our lives that hold the title of Mother-in-law. Do you remember the movie Monster-in-Law? It starred Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda in a romantic comedy centered around the tumultuous relationship between a bride and her future mother-in-law. If you have not seen it, you should. It will keep you laughing but, sadly, may hit closer to home than you would like to admit.

I recently asked a group of college students these questions showing them the same photos. I had them shout out adjectives for the pictures they were viewing. For the home I heard: beautiful; wealthy; cared for; loving family; a place I want to live. For the broken-down home they said: old; no curb appeal; I wouldn’t go near it; scary; unstable.

“Rules without reason equals rebellion.” -Cynthia Grosso, Charleston School of Protocol. This could be my motto! I have a stubborn streak that can serve me well, but when it gets me into trouble, I just blame it on my DNA. No matter the reason, I am not the best rule follower unless I know why a rule was created. 

Remove your hat! Don’t set it on the table! Never let someone see the lining! Women, keep your hat on! Women, take your hat off! Ahhh…..I’m so confused!!! The old rules of hat etiquette were so straight forward, and everyone knew what to do. A gentleman removing his hat inside a building was as second nature as brushing his teeth. In today’s changing society, there is much confusion about hat etiquette, for both men and women, so let’s solve this mystery by starting with the “why” of hat protocol.

Do you find your spouse often saying, “Are you listening to me?” Or maybe you feel your child is not being an active part of the dinner conversation. If this resonates with you, it might be time to brush up on the finer points of being a good listener, while teaching your family to do the same. Below are 11 tips to help you get back on track so you can start enjoying deeper and more meaningful communication with those you love.

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11 ESV).

 

When I am tired and my mind does not seem to focus on a deep study of the Bible, I will flip to Proverbs to keep focused on God’s Word in a more simplistic way. Yet, every time I read this book, I walk away amazed at the power it brings and thankful for the renewal I feel. The verse I read today really resonated with me.

As a stay-at-home mom to 2 toddlers, a large part of my day is spent in the kitchen preparing food. Meal planning at the beginning of the week is essential to ensuring my family is well fed with home cooked nutrition (I give myself a break on the weekends)! If you get overwhelmed with meal planning like I used to, try these tips to sooth your soul:

As a wife and mother of two rambunctious toddlers, it is a challenge to get a home-cooked dinner on the table at a reasonable time. Pulling the children away from their toys, getting them seated at the table, cutting up their meal, blowing on food that is too hot, and calling my husband away from his work can be exhausting.

Sometimes you just need to re-post tips that were great to read. I find myself saying this quite often when it comes to The Gottman Institute. They are some of the leading relationship experts in our country, and the research they did on trustworthiness is very informative.

Meeting friends for dinner after work, grabbing coffee with your girlfriend or just ordering pizza on a Friday night with neighbors. We all have a deep desire to be connected in a world that often forgets the importance of relationships. Many of us have the desire to entertain, but we let our circumstances keep us from extending hospitality. Often it revolves around our lack of confidence in our ability to host events. I get this!

A perfect entertaining year for me would be hosting a different themed party each month! Will I do that? No. Will I dream about it? Yes! If I cannot have a party every 4 weeks, I can at least help my Lisa Lou family with ideas so hopefully a few of you can carry the torch of hospitality for the rest of us.

You are not allowed to complain about not getting something that you never asked for. Read that again.

You are not allowed to complain about not getting something that you never asked for.

You are not allowed to complain about not getting something that you never asked for. Read that again.

You are not allowed to complain about not getting something that you never asked for.

  • Lisa Lou

13 Dinner Party Skills Every Guest Should Know


We could spend hours diving into every aspect of table do’s and don’ts, but I want to give you my top 13 tips that will help you navigate any social or business gathering with confidence.


1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered in another room before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses take great pains to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.


2. Bathroom, Purse and Phones

Yes, No and No! Before you head to the table, stop by the bathroom. It is best not to leave the table during a dinner party and making a quick trip to the loo can alleviate this necessity. If the dinner is in someone’s home, the hostess will tell you where you may store your personal items for the evening. If you prefer to keep your purse with you leave it in another room during dinner. This holds true for cell phones. At a private dinner party, the cell phone should be in another room. If you are attending a dinner party in a restaurant, place your phone in your purse and your purse under your chair.


3. Where Do I Sit?

Most hostesses will have place cards at each setting to tell guests where to sit. Find your spot and stand behind your chair until the hostess takes her seat. If there are no place cards, wait for the hostess to direct you.


Side note: If there are place cards present, NEVER switch them even if you rather sit by someone else. Where you have been placed is no accident. When I am hosting a dinner party, I will spend as much time arranging the seating assignments as I do on the guest list. A hostess works hard to match people based on personalities, similar interests, and/or business associations. If you switch the cards, you could potentially disrupt the dynamics of the table.



4. Napkins

Once your hostess places the napkin in her lap you place your napkin in your lap. (Fyi: Your napkin is the one to the left of your fork or found in the center of your plate.) The napkin stays in your lap the entire meal. Should you need to excuse yourself during the meal, place your napkin in your chair. Why the chair? No guest wants someone else’s dirty linen on the table next to their food. Once dinner is completed, fold your napkin, and place it on the table where your forks used to be (which is to the left of the plate).


5. Utensils

There are exceptions to this rule, but for simplicity sake, remember you use your utensils in the order they are placed, working from the outside in.


Example: The fork sitting farthest to the left of your plate and on the outside will be for salad.


Why? Because salad will be the first course served. The fork directly to the left of your plate, but to the right of your salad fork, will be for the main entrée. Why? Because this is the next course served. Dessert utensils are placed at the top of your plate or brought to you when this course is served.


6. Plates

The salad plate is directly to the left of your forks and the bread plate is placed above your forks. Here is a little trick to help you remember. Bring both of your index fingers and thumbs together in an “OK” symbol. Your left hand makes a “b” for bread and your right makes a “d” for drink. Bread plates (partnered with salad plates) are always on the left and your drinks are always on the right.


7. Glasses

Drinking glasses are placed to your right and above the knife and spoon. If wine is served the order of glasses from left to right will be water; red wine; white wine. I remember this by mentally alternating the color of the beverage: white-red-white (water (white); red wine (red); white wine (white)).


8. Bread & Butter

If butter is being passed use the knife on your bread plate or the butter knife accompanying the butter. Do not take butter from a community bowl and place it directly onto your bread. Instead, place a small serving of butter onto your bread plate. When you are ready to eat your bread, tear off a bite-sized portion and butter it. Never butter the entire roll, and do not bite into a roll. Nothing good comes from this. Why? First, if you bite into a fully buttered roll, you end up with food stuck to the front of your teeth. This is unsightly to the person you are speaking with. Secondly, bread can be chewy. Biting into a roll will necessitate tearing the bread away from your teeth. I made the mistake once of biting into a roll only to end up having to use both hands to rip the bread away. It was not pretty!


9. Set It Down

In between each bite set your utensils down. Do not hold them in your hands. This accomplishes two things. First, if your utensils are in your hands, you will unintentionally swing them around while carrying on a conversation. This can cause food to fly and make people uncomfortable when fork tines come close to their face. Secondly, when you set your utensils down between bites, it forces you to eat slowly. This helps avoid shoveling food. It is a more pleasant experience for the guests, and better for your health. Utensils are used for two purposes: to cut food or place food in your mouth. Any other time they should be out of your hands.


10. Resting Position

In between bites, place utensils in the resting position. The knife is placed at an angle at the top right corner of your plate with the blade facing toward you, and the fork is placed in the middle of your plate, tines up, with the handle pointing at 4 o’clock. If you are in a restaurant, this will signal to the waiter you are just taking a break, and they will not remove your plate. *


11. Eating

Try to pace your courses with that of your hostess. If you are a slow eater, pick up the pace, or tell yourself you will not worry about finishing that portion of the meal. A hostess will watch her guests to see if they are finished before bringing out the next round of food. You do not want to be the reason everyone at the table must wait.


12. Passing

If you are asked to pass a dish, do so by handing the food to the person on your right. Everything at a table moves counterclockwise. Why? Because most people are right-handed. Whatever dish is being passed, it will be easier for the guest to serve themselves using their right hand. If you pass a bowl of mashed potatoes to the right, and you offer to hold the bowl while the guest serves herself, she will now be able to use her right hand. If, instead, you pass the bowl to the left, your tablemate must use her left hand to serve herself. This works if she is left-handed, but most people are right-handed. Thus, the reason we pass to the right.


13. Finished

When you complete your meal utensils should be placed in the finished position. This is with the knife and fork laying parallel in the middle of your plate, handles pointing at 4 o’clock. The tines of the fork will face up. *


With most dinner guidelines there are historical reasons that form our modern protocol. I do not like to follow a rule without knowing the why. When we can answer the why, it gives us greater understanding. It also commits that rule to memory. If you want to explore some interesting “why’s” read our History of Etiquette.


If you can master these 13 tips you will be able to successfully, and confidently, coast through any dinner party. And if you make a mistake, do not panic! I attended a black-tie dinner one time, and my husband and I were seated at the head table. While I was gently trying to cut through the very tough, rubbery meat my fork slipped, and my chicken went airborne landing on the OTHER side of my husband’s plate! He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Aren’t you the etiquette lady?!?” I shrugged my shoulders, laughed, and said, “…life happens.” We are going to make mistakes. Shrug it off. If someone else judges you, then THEY are the one with poor manners, not you. Do not take life too seriously and learn to laugh at yourself. A cheerful heart makes our world much easier to navigate!


Together with you,

Lisa Lou

(*European dining etiquette, otherwise known as Continental Dining, handles certain aspects of the utensils differently. Everything in this post addresses American protocol.)