The Best Guest

Guests, like fish, start to smell after three days.  Heard this one? Summer is prime season for beach invites or long weekends with friends, so what’s the best way to secure your invite next year? Here are five simple tricks to guarantee you’re at the top of the list.

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The Art of the Thank You Note

Only surpassed by Birthday cards, the Thank You note is the most frequently sent correspondence.  In the age of email and text messaging, the art of writing a "Thank You" note has been misplaced.  Not lost, mind you, just sat to the side while the informal nature of the electronic age takes center stage for all correspondence... for the time being. With monogrammed stationary, luxurious letterhead and even options at big box stores, like Target, there are countless reasons to buy some stamps, grab a pen and send a little gratitude via snail mail.

A well-written "Thank You" note is:

  1. Sent when you receive a gift or when you have been a guest in someone's home, either for dinner or the weekend.  When opening a gift in the presence of the gift giver, a "Thank You" note is not needed (but is always welcome!)
  2. Sent from the person who received the gift and include what you like about the gift or something specific from the weekend
  3. Written as soon as possible, but a delayed note is better than no note.
  4. Inclusive of the children, even where writing isn't an option.  Have the child or children each draw a picture, but be sure that you too include a personal written note.
Ways to make the note special:
  1. If you were sent flowers, include a dried bloom in the note.
  2. Include a photo from the weekend.
  3. Use an embosser, melted wax or a personal (age appropriate) sticker to seal the envelope.
  4.  Whether it be sports related, a dainty print or a classic monogram, select a stationary or card that is reflective of who you are as a person.

Gym Etiquette 101

Rule #1: Take your calls outside.  With everyone listening to music on their smartphones, it can be tempting to pick up a call—or make a quick one—while you're working out. Everyone else has headphones on, so no big deal, right? Wrong.  Keep the cell phones in your locker. Your fellow gym-goers––and your waistline––will thank you, as your focused on the task at hand.

Rule #2: Don't hog the machines. 

If the gym is busy and you notice people lining up for your treadmill, don't let your jog last more than 30 minutes, says Ivan Ferran, Director of Clinical Exercise at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami. "A 30-minute workout on cardiovascular equipment like a treadmill or an elliptical is generally sufficient for a great workout." Similarly, refrain from reserving equipment or a spot in class for your friends. "A gym is not a restaurant. Don't try to save a space by laying out towels next to you in classes or hanging stuff from a treadmill," he says. "If another member comes up and wants that equipment or space, they're entitled to it."

Rule #3: Use the right weights.

Don't use weights you can't handle safely… and quietly. "Even during the hardest workouts you should be able to place your dumbbells or barbells down after using them," says Fleischer. "The loud noise from weights dropping is often disruptive to other gym-goers and draws unwelcome attention." Can't hold tight? Try a set of lighter weights.

Rule #4: Ask for help. 

If you aren't sure how to use a particular machine or how to do a certain exercise, don't fake it. "It's very easy to hurt yourself or the machine if you don't know what you're doing," says Ferran. Not to mention you'll be holding up the line as you struggle to learn. Always ask for assistance from an exercise supervisor on staff. If you're brand new to working out, most gyms offer a free session with a personal trainer to get you acquainted with the equipment.

Rule #5: Be on time for group classes. 

"Arriving late for class is a big no-no, especially at this time of year when classes tend to be packed," says Danielle Hopkins, a Group Fitness Manager at Equinox in New York City. "Anything more than 5 minutes late is considered impolite, and anything more than 10 minutes late is completely off-limits." Why the strict rules? Many teachers use those first few minutes to explain what the class will entail and make important announcements. According to Trish Berry, general manager at The Sports Club/LA in Washington D.C., "We ask that members don't enter a class in progress because, if they miss the warm-up, they could risk injuring themselves"

Rule #6: If you're going to leave a fitness class early, tell your teacher. 

Most fitness instructors understand that everyone has commitments, and won't mind if you leave class a few minutes early. Just be sure to alert them before class starts and pick a spot near the door so you can make a discreet exit. "It totally kills the vibe for the rest of the class if people start loudly departing early," says Hopkins. But, she warns, "If there's an hour-long class that you can only do 30 minutes of each week, it's probably not the class for you."

Rule #7: Respect other people’s space. 

If you're taking a group fitness class, don't plop yourself directly in front of someone else. Instead, suggests Hopkins, look around and "make sure you have a spot where you can clearly see yourself in the mirror, and do the same for those around you." That way, everyone can check out their form while they work out.

Rule #8: Keep your voice down. 

Generally the steam room and saunas are for relaxation, which means they are a quiet zone. "Since they are usually the size of a large elevator, having a conversation with your BFF is not only disruptive but also awkward for others who are trying to unwind," says Fleischer. Keep noise level in mind while you're in the locker room or on the gym floor, as well. "Working out with friends is great, but understand that people are very alert and their senses are heightened while they're working out, so keep your voices low," says Hopkins. "Not everyone wants to know what you did last weekend."

Rule #9: Use the locker room. 

Even if you don't plan on showering or changing, it's a good idea to stash your belongings in a locker while you work out. Toting your gym bag around the floor can be a safety risk to yourself and to those around you. Extra clothing, however, is fine to bring along with you, says Berry.

Rule #10: Be neat and tidy in the locker room. 

"If you’ve spread out all your belongings to the point where you look like you’re moving in, you’re taking up too much space," says Ferran. Not only is it disrespectful to those around you, but it can also be a safety hazard. "You don’t want to be the cause of someone falling on hard tile and breaking bones just because your gym shoes were in the way."

Most importantly, use the gym and enjoy it! There are so many interesting classes and ways to workout, fitness never loses it's luster!

{Adapted from Woman's Day}

Etiquette of Eating: What about the Knife?

I've heard that many a spy had their cover blown while living in a foreign country by simply switching their knife to the opposite hand.  The reason this matters? The practice was not customary in the country in which they were inhabiting.  To prevent this, spies were educated in the etiquette of the country to which they would live, while performing their duties of espianage. While I'm in no danger of committing a culinary offense that would bring me any legal ramifications, I  wanted to ensure that I wasn't committing any eating etiquette punishable by dirty stares either! The Continental Method:

Applicable in England and throughout European Countries, the Continental Method (or European Method) has the fork in the users left hand and the knife in the right throughout the entire meal.  Push the tines of the fork into the food, while using the left hand to make a gentle sawing motion across the food.  It is not acceptable to violently chop or wildly saw the food, most especially with a closed fist!

After cutting the food, the fork remains in the left hand and is used to put the cut food in the mouth.  The knife remains in the right hand while eating.  There is no passing of the fork from hand to hand and the tines of the fork are facing down. (Reverse hand placement if left-handed)

The American Method:

The American Method (or Zig Zap Method) is seen as inappropriate most anywhere outside of the United States, although it starts off as similar to the Continental Method.  The fork is in the consumers left hand with the knife in the right hand.  While pressing the tines of the fork into the food, the knife is used to gently cut the food.  After each piece is cut, the knife is placed across the outer most right-hand side of the plate, cutting edge facing the food.  The fork is then changed from the left hand to the right hand, and is used to bring the food to the diners mouth. (Again, reverse hand placement if left-handed)

Origination of the Difference:

The American Method was the standard way of eating in France and England until 1732, when a nobleman in King Louis XV's court made the decision that noblemen should eat differently than the townspeople.  Hence, the Continental style of eating was born and used by the noblemen. When America was settled in the 1700's, the settlers wanted nothing to do with the ways of the King and continued the practice of eating the way in which they originally learned, the American Method.

Similarities:

In both methods, the tines are pointing down towards the food and the utencels should never be placed in a vice grip, with a wholly closed fist.  Rather, its best to the handle of the fork running alongside the palm of your hand, with the pointer finger and thumb gripping and guiding the fork.  The same handling goes for the knife. Even if eating meat, which has surely been appropriately handled and cooked before reaching your plate,  there is no need to stab your food in a hawkish manner. Please!