Allspice Chronicles

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The Five-Week Manners Makeover

by Danica Waters (photo credits at end of post)

Aahhhh…. Autumn.  Blustery late-October winds send the last leaves scattering and Christmas holiday merchandise creeps steadily onto Store-Shelves-Near-You.

This is an exciting time of year; with the onset of winter holiday festivities, you find yourself considering travel plans and gift lists, mulling over menu options and guest lists. And then, at the dinner table one night, the chilly mists of anxiety waft over you as you realize that the family table etiquette you thought you’d whipped into shape long ago has not even remotely recovered from the long, lazy, finger-licking days of summer.


Finger-licking indeed.

You watch for a minute or two with a bit of a sickening feeling accompanying your current state of disbelief.  Yes, you really did see Johnny lick his fingers after using them to pick up a long green bean and nibble it from the bottom up.  And yes, you really are watching little Katy blow air in and out of a limp macaroni noodle that has had all the cheese sucked off of it.   Eeesh.

The Five-Week Manners Makeover

There’s just enough time from now until Thanksgiving to give the whole family a manners makeover.  Since most major holiday celebrations involve lots and lots of time around a table, practicing basic table manners is the best place to start.

Week 1:  Focus on Table Settings and Basic Table Etiquette

Explain the placement of table settings and let them practice setting the table properly at mealtimes.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ll learn with a little practice!  To brush up on the correct way to set a table, feel free to visit the following videos, compliments of The Emily Post Institute and Howcast:


Basic Table Setting


Formal Table Setting


Review the Other Behavior Basics:

1.  Wash your hands before coming to the table.

2.  Put your napkin in your lap.

3.  Don’t start eating until everyone at the table has been served, or until the hostess eats.

4.  Hold and use your utensils properly.

5.  Say “please” and “thank you” when food, seasonings, or condiments are passed.

6.  Food is usually passed from right to left to avoid confusion; however, observe what’s happening and act accordingly.

7.  If you happen to be overlooked for something, no reaching across someone else’s plate; quietly ask for something to be passed.

8.  Chew with your mouth closed; don’t talk with your mouth full.

9.  Wait to be excused from the table; offer to help clear dishes from the table.

10.  Always remember to thank the cook!


It’s their party, too. 

Kids learn better when they are involved and treated as an integral part of the big picture.  Rather than teaching manners as “Rules-That-Must-Be-Followed”, explain that using good manners helps make everything more special.  Then get them involved in the creative and planning stages of the event.  Entrusting them with responsibilities, such as folding fancy napkins or making personalized place cards for all the guests, gives them a personal stake in the overall success of the event.

Practice makes perfect.

Every mealtime presents another opportunity to make something good even better.  Use the extra time afforded on weekends to practice something a bit more formal.

And remember: kids aren’t the only ones who need reminders and repetition. (Just sayin’.)





 Photo Credits:

table image:

girl licking fingers:

boy scratching head:

boy eating spaghetti:

man eating spaghetti:




Posted October 18th, 2011.

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How To Set A Formal Table (Just In Case You Need To Know)

by Danica Waters

It’s June! Wedding season is upon us. Mark my words: we are walking into of one of the biggest etiquette traps of the year. What do I mean by an “Etiquette Trap”? Imagine: you receive a beautiful wedding invitation. You happily RSVP. You attend the wedding, and afterwards the reception, which happens to be a very formal sit-down, multiple-course affair. You look down at your place setting, and there are, like, three or four of everything: forks, knives, glasses! What on earth do you do with all of it? What do you use first? Eeeeesh. It occurs to you that you shouldn’t have been laughing at Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman as your very own oyster threatens to go zinging across the room.

This is the season where many of us will be confronted with a formal table. While you may not be the person setting the table, you just might be the person needing to negotiate your way intelligently through all the utensils set for a formal multiple-course meal. Understanding the layout of the various plates and utensils will work wonders for your personal panache, or, at the very least allow you to “fly under the radar”.

I lucked out when I discovered this video; it is by far the most comprehensive, well-paced and interesting one I’ve seen. As a note, there’s some differences in opinion as to where to position the “oyster fork”. As long as you know what an “oyster fork” is, you’ll know what to do with it when the time comes.

Good luck!

Posted June 1st, 2011.

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