Thursday, December 30, 2010

Well, that was a lovely Christmas. What now?

    Hello again and thank you for popping by and looking over my newest post. I hope you had a lovely and nearly stress-free Christmas. I'm sorry it's been three whole weeks since my last post, but I take my own advice and focussed on simplifying my busy December. That being said, it was a good one!
 My father's side of the family had their celebration together on the 19th. We skyped for a couple hours with my cousin serving in Afghanistan and played Bingo. It wasn't our traditional Christmas, but those of us at Uncle Arn and Auntie Susan's house had a really nice time. On Christmas Eve my mother's side of the family held it's annual White Dinner. Just as mentioned in a previous post, this is our formal celebration of the year. We tried to simplify it a little, but the food and personalities kept it a success. We even held a Yankee Swap and it was a blast!
 Christmas Day was held at our family home in New Hampshire. My mother had to work most of the day and my brother and his wife drove up in the early afternoon. Mom and I entertained ourselves by going to our neighbors' house for breakfast (an annual thing we do (We didn't crash their Christmas)) and returned home to realize we had to throw a Christmas Dinner together. Christmas Day is traditionally celebrated with Dad's side, so Mom and I were thrown off-guard. Luckily, we improvised and created a nice three course meal with stuffs from the freezer and pantry. It's fun to be creative!
 And so that was my Christmas. But what do I do now? New Year's Eve will come and go. Will I keep any resolution I proclaim to myself? I made the decision that I'll damn well try this year. You see 2010 was only an okay year for me. In January I was a college graduate working at the mall. The day before my birthday party I lost said mall job and that set the tone for my 2010. Granted, there have been some great times this year. Day trips and visiting friends, sleeping in a lot, having plenty of time to read, having time to help others, and finding some really great bargains while antiquing were all wonderful things. But 2010 found me depressed and looking for a career, but only finding temporary and menial work. In conclusion, this year has not been my finest. "These are hard times for everyone," is what I keep hearing and seeing everywhere I turn. I'm sure many of you reading this have noticed how things are.
 So where do we go from here? That's where a few realisitic resolutions will come into play. What are some things you want to change in your life? Feel free to make a list. They always help to clarify things. After much thought, I concluded that aside from finding some sort of career there are other things I'd like to change and accomplish in 2011 that will enrich my life.
 My advice to you is to set up three realistic goals to accomplish. If you try slightly you'll reach one of them this year. If you conciously try you'll reach and exceed all three. For example, I've decided that in addition to finding work, I'm going to add two fruits and a veggie to my diet everyday. Yes, in my time secluded from the working world I have turned to chips and sugary snacks too often. Not in 2011. I'll work on replacing some of these fattening and skin-diseasing treats (still delicious though) with foods that are good for me. Another goal I have is to actually exercise three to five times a week. I don't mean hit the gym and go nuts. I mean jogging in the warmer weather and lifting weights a few times a week. I'll feel so much better about myself come the beach weather! Finally, I'd like to improve my skills on the piano. In the Spring I gave into a longtime fascination and picked up a couple how-to guides on clearance and found a tinny keyboard at a yardsale. I've taught myself a little treble clef. My good friend Gabe gifted me his keyboard some time ago saying he'd rather see me use it than pack it and move it to New York. And with a more professional piece to play on I've been more goal oriented. But there's always room for improvement. And 2011 will be my year to imrpove on the keyboard.
 As you read, I have multiple goals. None of them are completely outlandish. I can add better things to my diet and I can get up off the couch. I know that somewhere there's gainful employment waiting for me. And bettering myself with the piano will be music to my ears! These goals with determination and conciousness, a little bit luck, some pressure from friends and family, and God's blessing, I can accomplish and I'll be the better man for it. 2011 is my year! I don't care who owns 2012. By then I'll be making money, be fitter, and tickling the keys so relentlessly that I won't care if my year is over.
 So to conclude, what are your goals for this coming year? 2010 was great for some of my friends and they wouldn't change a thing in their lives. But for most of us 2010 was a year of some trial and tribulation. What can we do to better ourselves next year? Like I said, little goals (baby steps) will yield some noticable results.
 Let me be one of the first to congratulate you and wish you a happy, healthy, and enrichening 2011!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Impromptu and Easy Holiday Gathering is a Great Thing

      "We all enjoy visiting with our loved ones. Many of us enjoy hosting them too. But everyone gets stressed when when putting together a big holiday To-Do!"
     Indeed, that is quite the poor rhyme, but you know it speaks the truth. And it's a rather sad truth really. People love to celebrate together, but those households that host celebrations often feel some serious strain the day of. We don't need to be stressed. We don't need to have everything just so. We do however crave companionship and our cravings are often the strongest around a holiday. So what is my point?
 Over the years my family had several Christmas time celebrations that we hosted or attended and these, while memorable and wonderful, could prove stressful indeed. A few of our formal occasions have lived through to today and we cherish them for it.
 Every year Mom's side of the family holds it's "White Dinner." This meal was originally known as the "Dinner of the Seven Fishes" and came over from Naples with my ancestors. This is our formal gathering of the year. We are, of course, our usual boisterous selves and smoke cigars on the front porch. But this yearly ritual is when ties are worn and the women dress up better than at Easter. We have lobster and baccala and delicacies we only treat ourselves to this one time a year. The "White Dinner" is sacred and I pray that when it's my generation's turn to lead the family my cousins, brother, and I don't screw up and allow this to fall by the wayside. Yet, the prep work and all the details of this can be overwhelming and when people are dressed we often loose part of the value of these things.
  That nearly brings me to my point. (The point being) It's wonderful to have formal traditions, but not every party or gathering you host needs to be your own "White Dinner." As a matter of fact some of the best parties or dinners I can think of are the impromptu kind. In her 1959 book on entertaining, Betty Crocker recommended Pot Lucks, Dessert Parties, and the like as informal and impromptu gatherings that people enjoy and don't have to stress the hostess (or the host (My how things have changed!)).
 We celebrate a little thing called "Conti Christmas" with my godmother and her family. This used to consist of a sitdown meal and piles of presents per person. My mother and godmother recently decided to simplify this annual pastime. This year (we hold this celebration in the late part of November or early December) we filled ourselves with appetizers and a few select desserts. Instead of going through piles of gifts, we held a "Yankee Swap." We had a blast! Little stress in setting up or shopping for our celebration, but maximum enjoyment being at ease and with stomachs full together.
  I myself am holding a pretty informal "Christmas Time Tea" this Sunday. Granted I'll use the silver "Twelve Days of Christmas" spoons and my fancy tea set from 1936. We won't however dress really formal. I told the girls to wear pearls as they are lovely and can be dressed up or down. We won't sit in the more formal living room where the tree is. Instead, my friends and I will sit in the family room where my Christmas vilage is set up. There will be carols on the radio and we'll eat things I've prepared and things from the market. There will also be a story telling contest. We may even decorate a tabletop tree to send to a friend in town! Yes, just a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon for friends to enjoy each others' company and relax in the middle of December. Such a thing is possible and I invite you to try it out yourselves.
 As always, thank you for reading my ramblings. I hope you find them somewhat entertaining, if not nearly helpful. Feel free to comment anytime. Enjoy your day and thanks again!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There's Nothing Wrong with a Little You Time during Yuletide

   The holiday season is a blessing as well as a stress inducing period for most of us. With our lives full of work or school, household duties and errands, we're still expected to go to parties, host parties, go carolling, buy and wrap gifts, make dinner, decorate the house, attend plays and recitals, and shovel snow too; all during the single month long period known as Christmas time. Granted, most stores start their Christmas ads the day after Halloween now and you can buy most types of meals from a caterer or the La Carte department of your local supermarket, with all the joy of seeing friends and family and showing them a nice time we still get pretty stressed at points during this merry season. I guarantee at some point you'll be blessed with your own stress this holiday, but luckily there is a secret weapon that helps lessen and even alleviate some of the stress and allows you to "Keep Calm and Carry On" with your holiday plans.
  "You Time" is that wonderful period inwhich an individual has only for his/herself. This period is for you so you will be able to go on with the holiday season and all it's prep-work.  During this time you might read a magazine or part of a book. You might write out a list of To-Do's and To-Buy's as to make your days and excursions to the mall somewhat clearer and that less stressful. Maybe your "You Time" is sitting infront of the TV and wrapping a couple presents during commercial breaks, giving you one less To-Do and a little entertainment. You may take a 20 minute power nap or just sit in a big chair sipping tea, hot chocolate, coffee, or something stronger for a few quiet moments.
  I find that reading a short story or listening to an old radio comedy in the car puts me into a good mood during the holidays in between errands and work and cleaning and TRAFFIC. It's all a very Zen-ish thing really.
 This Christmas season take a litte time for yourself when you feel you need it. Whether it's a couple minutes a day or a couple times a week, you'll feel a little more energized with a clearer head and a better attitude. People like relaxed personalities more than wound-up hysterical sorts. And none of us wants to be the buzz kill at a gathering. It's not selfish at all to take five or ten minutes and escape to your bedroom to relax when entertaining, so long as the preparations are all made and your guests haven't arrived yet. Center yourselves. Refresh yourselves. And most importantly, enjoy yourselves this season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Porch and It's Swing, the Family's Social Facilitators

 When I think of Thanksgiving the traditional cuisine immediately comes to mind. Very soon after visualizing the turkey though comes the family and spending time after our meal on the front porch. In my previous posts I have alluded to my family, particularly the maternal half of the family, and the memories I have with my grandparents and the high quality of life I've enjoyed through the time spent with them. Now Dad's side is wonderful and my brother and I have just as many cousins, aunts, and uncles on Dad's side as on Mom's side. Dad's side gave me Grammy and Grampy, whom you may remember from the first post. On Mom's side, however, my brother and I have more cousins about our age and therefore we all really grew up together. Nana and Papa's house has hosted us at Sunday Dinners and many, many holidays. Their vegetable garden acts as the family's green grocer come summertime. And Nana and Papa's house, a big old Victorian, has a long front porch featuring a legendary porch swing!
   A porch swing is a wonderful type of social facilitator. You can sit on one and watch the world pass by. You can have a quick talk with neighbors passing by walking their dogs. You can enjoy the breeze on a hot summer afternoon. You can swing on a porch swing! I don't know who created the porch swing, but God bless whoever made them available to the masses.
  Nana and Papa's porch swing is rather ancient. My cousin Eric and I have sometimes speculated it being original to the house. The chains are rusty and everytime a couple of us sit on the swing we know we may end up on the floor. But, honestly, the story about the two cousins sitting on and breaking the porch swing would make for a funny and popular story at our house!
 The porch and porch swing are used in every season. I've sat on that porch during springtime rainstorms and to watch the leaves fall from the trees in the autumn with Nana by my side. Manys the time a group of us has sat out on the porch enjoying the swing and eating our fast melting ice cream during the summer. On Christmas Eve the porch acts as a smoking room for those in the family enjoying celebratory cigars.
 Porches and porch swings really are part of our American scene. Shockingly though, some people with porches are without porch swings! That's a shame. Rocking chairs are pretty decent substitutes, but very few rocking chairs, aside from those bulky looking "rocking benches," can fit two people at a time. I do love the rocking chair, but a porch swing is a must in my mind if you've got a decent sized front porch. So next Spring, pick up a porch swing as part of your home improvements. You won't regret it.
 In closing, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your dinner and your friends and family. Be thankful for what you have and those who have fought and fight to make certain our "Freedom from Want" is preserved. Enjoy the spilling of dishes and glasses, the staining of tableclothes, and the yelling at the TV. All those little things are part of the wonderful tradition we call Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Rustic Soup for a Cold Night

Who doesn't love a hearty stew or soup on a cold night? No one I can think of either. Two nights ago  friends of mine, Katie and Silas, were hosting a party they called "Bean Feast" at their family home on the outskirts of town. The catch was that everything eaten had to be based on some sort of bean.
 I was excited to go, but had no idea what to make. On top of not having any inspiration for a dish, I had little in the pantry to play with. And on top of that, a cold New England night was setting in and I was not driving to a grocery store. And the kicker of all this was I realized all these handicaps to my bringing a dish maybe an hour before having to be at the party.
 Thank God for the 1000's of sites on the internet dedicated to fast, easy cooking. After taking stock of what I had in the house and with a recipe for "Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes (courtesey of," I got to work. Sadly, there was no Swiss Chard in the house and the dish was not working out. At that point my improvisational skills kicked into gear and the recipe I'll give you now is what I came up with. Most of the ingredients should be in your kitchen. If there not, stock. You'll want to make this on a cold night.

Anthony's Cold Night Tuscan Soup

3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic (Sliced thinly)
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 Cups Canned Chopped or Diced Tomatoes
3 Cans of Cannellini Beans (Rinsed and tossed dry)
1 head of Romaine Lettuce
Balsamic Vinegar (To taste)
1 Small Jar of Pesto
3/4 Lbs. Cooked Sweet Italian Sausage (Optional)

 In a pot heat the Olive Oil on a low heat. Add the Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper and cook over a slightly higher heat until the Garlic is a gold color (don't burn it). Dump the Tomatoes (Chopped or Diced, your choice) and bring to a boil, stirring often.
 While the Tomatoes are heating in the pot,  cut the Romaine Lettuce into strips. Place the strips into a bowl and pour some Balsamic Vinegar onto the Lettuce. Stir these to coat the Lettuce and set aside.
 Next add the Cannellini Beans to the pot mixture. Stir these in and bring to a simmer over higher heat for atleast five minutes. Once the the beans looked cooked add in the Romaine Lettuce and let that cook too. Finally, you may lower the heat and stir in a small jar of your preferred brand of Pesto. Add the sausage if you like, or you may keep it Vegetarian.Serve hot with some sort of rustic bread.

 I made the Vegetarian version as I didn't know if anyone at the party was a Vegetarian. Without the sausage this is still a hearty and filling dish. Next time I'm adding sausage though for my own enjoyment.
 To end the story and this post, I'll tell you that my dish was very popular and we nearly finished the pot. The other dishes served included a bean dip made with roasted red peppers, a bean salad, a great pot of chili, a pasta and bean salad, and bean brownies (these were actually delicious and very chocolatey (spelling?)). After dinner atleast half the party stayed and played boardgames and Taboo and held various conversations until 1 am. Katie and Silas really do show their friends a wonderful, hearty, and casual hospitality that I know I appreciated sincerely. Their thank you card is in the mail now actually.
  Have a great Sunday and feel free to make comments or ask questions anytime.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why We All Need More Day Trips

   First of all, let me apologize for the length of time between posts. I hope to make two new posts happen every week. Of course, some weeks become crazier than others and we end up with less time to fulfill our goals. But here we are at a new post! So please except my apology and enjoy.

   As I often say, we are a people on the move with little time to make "quality" time. The goal of my blog is to give helpful tips and answer questions my friends have, so that we may add special things to our lives that create quality time. One thing that if revived would give us all a "quality of life" increase is the day trip. You may remember these from your more youthful days as things you did with your grandparents. Day trips are fun at any age for any age depending on the destination itself. They do not need to be an all day thing lasting from 6 in the morning until 9 at night. They don't even have to be expensive. A day trip doesn't have to involve a large group of people either. You can take one all by yourself! They just have to be pleasant excursions that get you out of your house. Here are a few examples that I hope give you some ideas for a fun outing or several.

1) When I was about 7 or 8, my mother's parents, Nana and Papa took my brother and I to a monastery about an hour away from our homes in the city. We spent a few hours walking the gardens and chasing each other on the lawns. There were shady trees to rest under and trails to explore. I remember several of the statues in the gardens around the house and that there was a shrine to the Virgin Mother on top of a hill nearby a reflecting pool. After that Nana and Papa took Adam and I out to lunch and then home to our parents.
 The monastery is now sold off and the land was used for subdivisions. I don't think the house even stands any longer. But the memories do carry on nearly 20 years later. That's some quality time!

2) Early last month I coordinated a picnic at a local farm with some friends. It was an ideal early October day and the five of us, plus Kathryn and Mike's puppy Arwen, had a wonderful time! The farm hosts a weekend farmer's market with a bluegrass band and cider donuts, hayrides, apple picking, and a petting zoo to boot. There was plenty to keep us enterained after we had a nice long picnic lunch (We used an old china dinner service I got at a yard sale to help stay "green" and look really elegant too.). There was no admission fee or parking fee so one just had to pay for whatever was picked or had to have at the market. After food for the picnic, cider donuts, food for the animals in the petting zoo, and apple picking I don't think our group spent more than $60.00. And for several hours of entertainment for five people that's money pretty well spent.

3) Last summer I had a day off from work and nothing to do at home. I didn't have a lot of money, so shopping was not a viable option. I didn't know what to do with myself that morning and ended up making a big breakfast. As I chomped that down it occurred to me that I might find some diversions in nearby Portsmouth. I looked online and found that the Wentworth-Coolidge mansion was still opened for tours.
 The place itself is on a charmingly rural dirt road not ten minutes from downtown Porstmouth. When I arrived and found the ticket counter, I was told that New Hampshire residents may tour the mansion for free, quite the pleasant surprise. The was a large group that had started a tour ten minutes before I got there and so I was given the option to join their tour or have a private one. Do I have to tell you I chose the latter?
 Being a history major, I was enthralled to tour the house and hear the stories of the families that had lived there. Since it was a private tour I was able to speak with the guide and focus on certains rooms and articles that really interested me. After my tour was completed I walked the gardens where I found century old Lilac bushes still blooming and an art gallery in the old carriage house.
 I wrapped up my excursion with a side trip to downtown for some tea and people watching. It was a worthwhile afternoon that cost me hardly anything!

4) In early September I took a weekend trip to Albany to visit two wonderful friends of mine. On Saturday Richard and Fred took me to an antique show/flea market about an hour away in Saratoga on the old county fairgrounds. We spent maybe five hours visiting vender after vender (There were well over 150 to peruse) and ended up with a couple treasures for our collections. I remember Fred found a really nice ceramic rooster for the kitchen. Richard got some sheet music. I left the fair with a wooden pedestal for a bronze statue I had at home.
 The fair offered several different, but equally and delightfully greasy, food vendors to choose from. Richard and Fred took me to their "Schnitzel Man" and I had German food for one of the few times in my life; Delicious!
 Our trip fed both or collections and our conversations for the rest of my trip. Aside from the antiques we had to have and the Schnitzel, the only other costs to bare were for tickets and gas to get there. It made for a great day trip!

   And so there are some examples of memorable, and somewhat recent, day trips that I've been lucky enough to enjoy. These trips are a wonderful way to get away from the house without dealing with airport security and keep within budget. I really recommend that if you have out of town guests to entertain or family to spend time with, or friends to reconnect with, or an afternoon by yourself that you go online and look up local attractions in your area. Get out of your house and make some memories! Even if you only walk the beach or local trails or call up a few friends to play ball in the park, those thing will make for good memories and true quality time for yourself and your loved ones. So go out and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And Everything Stops for Tea (atleast in Durham)

      For the past three years or so I have given in to the rejuvenating custom of "Afternoon Tea" as often as I can. It's been a rewarding habit to pick up and I've had the chance to share in the ritual with dozens of friends and relatives.
    As a child I didn't care for the taste or the temperature of tea. My tongue was always burnt and there wasn't enough sugar in the bowl or honey in the pot to make it bearable. Because of this, when Mom and I went to the neighbor's for Tea, I contented myself with cookies until we left. Both of my grandmothers served tea and coffee with desserts, but as a child I concentrated more on the desserts. Then there came a time when my brother and all our cousins began to drink coffee after our meals together. I found coffee far too bitter for my pallette and adding several lumps of sugar at a time did little to hide the bitterness.
 Luckily, my cousins Jenny and Jon started taking tea after dinner and I found it the lesser of two evils choicewise. It was also kind of fun to build a pyramid of sugar cubes in my cup and watch it dissolve when the hot tea poured in! Later, as a junior at the Univeristy of New hampshire, I joined the Alpha Delta Phi Society and learned the true value of taking Tea when my initiation was held at the chapter house at Brown University.
 When our group arrived at the house we were greeted at the door and invited to take Tea with the chapter. It was a really lovely time. There was hot water and a vast assortment of different teas to choose from. For refreshments there were only cookies, but the food didn't matter in the least. Everyone was friendly and obliging. The students at Brown are a wonderfully creative bunch and the grand piano in the corner of the room was in use that afternoon, filling the room with smiles and delightful tunes. After being initiated as a member in the society I decided to bring these Teas to New Hampshire.
 The summer was spent researching the traditional "Afternoon Teas" of the last couple centuries. A friend from school had just returned from a year at Oxford and he was full of useful information. Saturday mornings were spent yardsaling with my mother and aunt. Mom still describes her horror when she saw me buy a wall (that's right) of old china for use at the Teas. With careful planning and a lot of enthusiasm for my new favorite drink I started planning the program.
 The year that I started the tea program and became "Tea Chair" for my chapter I was merciless. Constantly harassing friends and community members and dragging students and professors alike to the "Community High Teas" my chapter hosted twice a month quickly became my mission. After a month or two people were coming on their own and I really didn't need to drag anyone to Tea anymore. Of course I kept advertising and the Teas grew. On average we hosted atleast two dozen people at any given Tea. These Teas proved to be a great outreach for the chapter to the community. We held an Alzheimer's Awareness Tea as well as a couple theme teas and even a Tea in honor of veteran state politician when Councilor Burton visited campus that first year alone.
 Of course, no program runs completely smoothly, but even with the little bumps experienced it was one of the most rewarding things I've been a part of. Infact, the program still exists! The Granite Chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi Society still holds "Community Teas" and is up to it's third "Tea Chair!" Each Tea Chair has had their own sense of style and taste and has kept some things and changed others, which has enhanced the ritual for chapter's members and friends. It's my hope that the ritual will become a tradition lasting as long as the Granite Chapter itself.
 The ritual of taking "Afternoon Tea" needn't be overly formal or elaborate. When I'm home all by myself at 4 in the afternoon I often brew a pot of tea and place a few cookies or biscuits on a plate, then head to the family room to listen to music or read a bit. Sometimes I share Tea with a friend or two. A couple times I've held larger Teas at our house in the place of expensive cocktail parties. According to Alexandra Stoddard, enjoying a sip of tea is a way in which we renew ourselves and open ourselves up to tranquility. I couldn't agree with her more. Tea has proven a wonderful bonding agent at school and can be enjoyed at the office or in the store too. Invite a few neighbors over for tea on a Sunday afternoon and you won't regret offering your hospitality (depending on the neighbors of course).
 In closing this post, I promise to delve into Teas as I continue writing. There will be menu ideas and anecdotes, as well as tips on china, silver, and parties. For now I just had to share the value I found in taking Tea and the success my chapter has had in hosting our friends at UNH. Infact, this week's "Community Tea" hosted just over a dozen happy, well fed, people!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Beauty of the Thank You Note

     It is as true today as it was 100 years ago; Americans are a very busy people. If you're a student you've  too much homework and too many after school activities. If you're a parent you have to manage those after school activities and work. If you've got a job, but haven't any kids, you're probably overworked too.
  We're all very busy. But there is no one as busy and constantly "on the go" as my dear friend Josiah. I met Josiah in college and in our years of friendship I've barely known him to have a spare moment. Recently, Josiah moved to NYC and with our conflicting schedules we didn't talk for nearly six months. That was inexcusable. I don't remember who called the other first, but we did end up talking for about an hour and it was great to catch up.
 During our conversation, Josiah mentioned to me his new found love for the Art Deco style (since moving to the Big Apple his tastes have matured immensely). At the time of our call, I had just come home from a quick visit to some friends in upstate New York and had been antiquing with them.  Among the treasures brought home was a pair of pressed glass candleholders from about 1940. I knew Josiah would love them. After writing a nice note I sent Josiah the candleholders as a housewarming present.
 Well, Josiah didn't call me to tell let me know they had arrived or anything. Luckily, I had a tracking number added to them. Then, just last week, a card arrived for me from Josiah. I won't bore you with the details of the card, but I will tell you that receiving a "Thank You" card made me feel like a million dollars.
 These type of communications may seem over-bearingly old fashioned, but nothing can replace them. The "Thank You" is one of the best things out there. People need to send them more often. Granted, as previously stated, we're a very busy people. But time spent on these kind of pleasantries is not time wasted.
 In the September 2010 issue of Southern Living, there was a small tutorial on writing a "Charming Thank You Note."  According to the tutorial there are five very simple steps to creating a note that anyone will want to keep rather than toss in the waste basket.  And I quote.....

1) Start with the date and salutation; As in, "October 30th, 2010" in the top right hand corner and beginning the note with "Dear Anthony," or "My dear Mary."

2) Say thanks right "off the bat."  Unlike the way my blogs are written you should get to the point quickly. Start off with, "I'm writing to say..." or "Thank you again for.."

3) Compliment the kind gesture. People like to know that their effort was appreciated. "I can't tell you what a surprise it was..." or "How did you know I had been looking for..." or "It's just what I wanted for.."

4) Allude to the future. Tell people how you plan to use the gift or suggest another time when you can return the hospitality.

5) Finish with sincere regards. "Yours Truly," "Always Yours," "Ever Fondly" and "Wishing you the Best,"

  Thank you Southern Living for the how-to tutorial. I hope this helps those of you who sometimes don't know what to say. Of course now we have the question of when one sends a "Thank You" or why we send one in general.
 We send "Thank You" cards to recognize people for the generosity or hospitality they show us or for an effort made on our behalf. I myself send notes to my Nana after visits with her. They serve as nice reminders of one of her grandchildren visiting. It's always appropriate to send a card to someone after receiving a gift. If someone tries to get you a job interview thank them for their efforts.
  Do emails count as "Thank You" notes? The answer here is a "yes" and a "no." Receiving a card is always a nice change of pace from the bills, advertisements, and other things we find in our mailboxes. A handwritten card is vastly more personal. It speaks of effort from someone who appreciates what the receiver has done. Effort in actually writing legibly. Effort in using nice paper. Effort in finding a stamp and walking to the mailbox. These efforts tell of gratitude. Emails, if written to thank someone, therefore, must be made personal and speak of just as much effort from the sender as a handwritten card would. Granted, it can be difficult finding an address, we live in a world of information and it can be done with a little gumption.
 These cards don't have to be overly elaborate and time consuming either. Just follow the guidelines from the folks at Southern Living and you can have a nice "Thank You" written out and addressed in five minutes. We can always find five minutes somewhere in the day to do this. You may have to miss a couple commercials in order to take the time and write out the card, but in the end everyone feels good. Your benefactor feels good that you like the gift or are grateful for the effort. And you feel great using the nice handwriting you learned in third grade!
 Try to send out the "Thank You" card within two weeks of receiving the favor, hospitality, or gift. This way it's still fresh in your memory and the card's receiver will have it within a timely manner. This is unless you're writing out "Thank You" cards for your wedding gifts. In that case, according to Emily Post, you have a full year!
 I hope you enjoyed reading this little how-to rant of mine and that you'll use it. Please feel free to send a comment, email, or question anytime. Have a great day and thank you for reading!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Inaugural Post!

   Hello and welcome to the inaugural post of Anthony's Everyday Advice! This blog has been conceived with the intention of handing out advice and answering questions having to do with etiquette, party-planning, and ideas for adding a little bit of elegance and ceremony to everyday life.
  We live in a world where men barely open doors for ladies and people rarely open doors for their elders. We've donated or sold off our grandmother's cherished silver services because they were to hard to keep polished. As a people, we all too often come home from being overworked and merely sit in front of the TV, instead of persuing conversation or a hobby. God forbid we read for enjoyment! Granted, there was never an ideal age when truly everthing was right with the world and everyone was treated with genuine respect and enjoyed giving and receiving hospitality or when a harsh word was never, hardly ever, uttered in public. Nor has there ever been a time like now, when a group sits down to dinner and may notice several people at the table having conversations with other friends miles away via text and when people wear jeans to weddings. There must be a happy, reachable medium that we may strive for and life with.
  As I write this I must convince and justify to myself that I am the person that should dole out advice. And, to be honest, I can't see why I should tell people how to live their lives, but I can't see why I shouldn't make suggestions and share the advice I've learned from some of the kindest and most considerate people it's been my priviledge to know.
 Six years ago today my grandmother passed away. After the sadness, anger, and sense of loss brought on by her death passed, I came to remember Grammy's spirit and her kindness. Of course, no one has ever been perfect, but we all hold our grandparents in the highest esteem and we tend to learn a great many things from those people we spend a great deal of time with. From my time with Grammy I concluded that kindness, consideration, and gentility are the most redeeming and memorable traits anyone can possess.
 My father's parents were mill workers. They spent their lives working for GE and raised six children on very modest salaries. On the eve of retirement they were run over and spent their last remaining years struggling to live and to enjoy watching their children and grandchildren grow. My grandfather died of cancer. My grandmother followed him within two years from Alzheimer's. Yet, with those troubles, Grammy and Grampy could make someone feel like they were the only person in the room. They were generous with what they had and no grandchild's accomplishment ever went unrecognized. Nor did we ever have a bad Christmas.
 My thoughts of Grammy run to her blue eyes and that everyone was welcomed in her home. My father told me that growing up he knew that no matter what time he got home from work or a game that Grammy would have dinner waiting for him. I remember how she loved tea and her many cups and saucers. I remember her love of music and how even years after the accident when she hard great difficulty walking and keeping balance how she and I would slowly dance to the old crooners, like Jerry Vale, in her parlor (or living room as most of us would call it now).
 What I mean to say, as I prattle on and on, is that Grammy and Grampy's example to me of hospitality, kindness, and respect is what I would like to impart with my blog. It's my goal that when people come to my house that they leave with the same feeling I left Grammy and Grampy's house with. I want to be able to give advice and suggestions to help people know that consideration and good manners are timeless.
  It is my sincere hope that I may play a small part in reviving some form of chivalry and a more "up-to-date" sort of etiquette that our fast-paced world seems to be lacking. With help in the forms of questions from readers, references from well-known and respected "Etiquette Gurus," and inspiration from everyday occurrences; I feel I will be able to do just that.