Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

You are currently browsing the Special Occasions category.

Nifty Napkin Folds: The Crown Fold

by Danica Waters

 

What is it?  A red banana? “

Ummmm….No.  This is the Crown Fold.  If you need something regal or royal, this is one way to pull out all the stops and embellish your table setting (in a royal banana sort of way).

Just about the time you think it’s “stuffy”, think again!  This is a terrific fold for a kids’ party; use reversible patterned napkins for fun results.

 

Don’t panic if you have to practice this one a few times.  And note: an iron and some spray starch work wonders… if you’re going to the trouble, go all the way!

 

Enjoy!

 

The Crown Fold

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half diagonally, and orient it so that the open ends face away from you.

Step 3:

Fold the right corner up so that the point rests directly on top of the middle corner and the fold creates a center line.

Step 4:

Repeat Step 3 with the other side, and create a diamond shape with all points facing away from you.

Step 5:

Turn napkin over carefully so that the new open seam lies face down.

Step 6:

Fold the bottom corner closest to you up about 2/3rds of the way up and press down well.

Step 7:

Now take the top of the inner triangle and fold it down, bringing the point to rest on the near edge of the napkin, and exactly on the center line.  Press well.  (This is a good time for an iron!)

 

Step 8:

Curl the right and left sides of the napkin up and around, tucking one inside the other so that they securely meet and hold in the middle.

Step 9:

Now stand the napkin up and tug at the sides, molding and shaping where needed to make sure it’s even and well-rounded in appearance.

Voila!

Posted November 28th, 2011.

Add a comment

Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows

by Danica Waters

Tomorrow brings the United States of America’s cherished annual Thanksgiving celebration.  A kickoff to our winter holiday season, Thanksgiving is a special day hopefully spent with family and close friends in shared celebration of each other and with a grateful spirit for all that we have.  In an ideal world, Thanksgiving inspires warm and beautiful visions of bounty and togetherness, laughter and shared memories, hopes and dreams for the future, and lots and lots of “Kodak Moments”.  And food.  Lots of food.

Indeed, across Facebook, American friends of the Allspice Chronicles are conversing about how their kettles are steaming, their pie crusts are filled with lovely, tempting deliciousness, their tables are set and ready for wonderful celebrations nationwide.  As most cooks will confess:  on this holiday, there is no place we’d rather be than creating art in the kitchen by stirring spices, magic and love into a feast for those we love the most, for new friends and old.

But Thanksgiving can quickly turn into a daunting and disheartening experience for those who have fallen on hard times, and in our great country and around the world, that number is rising.  I am reminded of a young mother of two whose husband had lost his job last year when his company closed its doors.  She was one of the best employees at this place of work- always on time, always one to give 110 percent.  Although she never complained about her situation, just before Thanksgiving she became rather withdrawn.  We all vaguely knew she must have been under some serious financial stress, given that there were medical problems within the family and she had no medical benefits, but no one knew the extent of it, and everyone felt uncomfortable about inquiring into the particulars.

In a moment of work stress and desperation, she finally confided in one of her peers about her financial situation, about how she didn’t know how she was even going to afford groceries, let alone a celebratory dinner for her husband and her precious little girls.

(Now here, folks, is where the human spirit shines.)

The news went around the workplace like wildfire, and within 24 hours a plan was developed to provide her family all the ingredients for a generous Thanksgiving dinner.  Employees who really didn’t have the extra cash to give found a way to pitch in, and what started as a Thanksgiving rescue plan morphed into an offering of food and enough cash and grocery gift cards to take care of the distressed employee and her family for a good while.

This Thanksgiving, the Allspice Chronicles would like to offer its first toast to the human spirit.  May we always remain aware of and sensitive to the plight of others, and may we diligently work together to alleviate suffering in our own backyard, if not worldwide.

It is, after all, a very small world.

To that point, after posting Camille Glenn’s recipe for Alabama Yams with Oranges, one of our readers from Africa submitted a request for the Allspice Chronicles to expand on the traditional American preparation for Sweet Potatoes/Yams with Toasted Marshmallows.  Given that the sweet potato is a staple of the African diet, and given the horrible state of drought and famine that certain portions of Africa are experiencing, it was humbling,  endearing and enlightening to receive such a request.

We at the Allspice Chronicles hope more than anything to see the eradication of world hunger, poverty, suffering.  It is the least we can do to provide a recipe, extracted from the sentimental foundation of our cherished common American experiences, and we look forward to the day when our little blog will feature personal stories and heirloom recipes from around the world.  Diversity makes us rich, stories show us how much we are the same.

After all, food, like music,  is an international language.   We all may express it differently, but in the end it contains the same basic ingredients which serve to nourish and inspire, comfort and console our weary spirits.  And for this, may we all be thankful.

Here’s the recipe for Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows.

Enjoy!

 

Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows

4-5 medium sweet potatoes

1/4 C butter

1/4 C milk

2-3 Tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Marshmallows

 

Bake sweet potatoes until soft.  Scoop out the soft flesh from the skins into a large bowl; discard the skins.  Add butter, milk, salt, and brown sugar; mix with hand mixer or potato masher until light and fluffy.  Taste mixture and adjust seasonings to suit your preference; mix thoroughly.

Spoon sweet potato mixture into buttered 9 x 9″ baking dish.

Top with miniature marshmallows, or with whole marshmallows cut in half.

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes;  switch heat to “Broil – High Heat” and allow to cook until marshmallows bubble and turn dark brown on top.  (This will give it the perfect flavor)

Allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.

Serves 4 – 6

 

 

 

 

Posted November 23rd, 2011.

Add a comment

Nifty Napkin Folds: The Standing Fan

by Danica Waters

 

The Standing Fan fold is an elegant, show-stopping way to dress up your formal holiday table.  Although it looks  a bit intimidating, it’s actually very simple to achieve.

 

For a softer presentation, hand-pressing the folds is sufficient; however, for crisp folds, an iron and a bit of spray starch will work wonders.

 

Here’s the how-to:

 

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you.

 

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half, bringing the corners towards you. (Yours won’t have the accordion creases yet…  we’ve worked the fold backwards so you can see what it is supposed to look like!)

 

Step 3:

Fold the napkin accordion-style from either side, leaving approximately 2-1/2 – 3 inches on the opposite side un-folded to support the fan.

 

Step 4:

Fold the napkin in half with the accordion folds on the outside.

 

Step 5:

Holding the accordion folds in one hand, grab the unfolded corners with your other hand and tuck them under the accordion folds.

 

Step 6:

Open up the fan and stand it upright.  Voila!

Posted November 21st, 2011.

Add a comment

Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

by Danica Waters

 

I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago.  What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.

 

During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.

 

(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long.  And it was full.)

 

While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box.  My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”

 

This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie.  Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…

 

Enjoy!

 

Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

 

½ C white sugar

½ C brown sugar

½ C butter

½ C chunky peanut butter

1 egg slightly beaten

1-1/4 C flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

 

In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter.  Add egg and mix thoroughly.  Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.

 

Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 

Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet.  Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.

 

Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Posted November 18th, 2011.

Add a comment

Cranberry Nut Bread

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

I will never forget the day I first tried my hand at making cranberry bread.  I’d discovered this fantastic heirloom recipe in a fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine, and I was particularly excited because I happened to be experiencing one of those rare, breathtaking moments when the house was gleaming, the laundry was done, the kids were clean and contentedly immersed in their paper dolls upstairs, and the groceries were in-house – all before it started to snow.

I put some CD’s on shuffle, pulled out all the ingredients, and prepared for a fun afternoon of baking.  All was going swimmingly well until I actually pondered the recipe.

 

It said to put the fresh cranberries with the sugar and orange peel in a pot, and bring it to a boil.

 

No water.

 

No butter.

 

Just cranberries, orange peel, and sugar.

 

Something had to be wrong.

 

Call me crazy, but fresh cranberries look like little red leather balls.  They don’t squirt when you pinch them.  Having never worked with fresh cranberries before, I cut one open just to see if I was missing something.

 

Nope.

 

It was still the equivalent of a little red leather ball.

 

I’ll admit I am a person who tends to over-think things.  I also will reluctantly admit to having a few trust issues, which I personally prefer to label “Critical Thinking”. And my Critical Thinking Cap was spinning with visions of little red leather balls coated in a goopy sugar-brittle mess that would take weeks to clean.  Heaven knows there was nothing to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan!

 

I called my mom to see if she had any insight into the world of cranberries, certain that the recipe was missing a step or some ingredients or something.  Mom told me I had trust issues, and I should just do what the recipe said to do.

 

I told her I would enlist her assistance in cleaning up the mess if it didn’t work.

 

She said to bring her a loaf when it did.

 

It did.

The insides of those little red leather balls melted like butter once I turned on the heat; the internal pressure made the skins “pop”, and my terror visions of singed sugar-brittle turned into a ruby-colored mash that made the whole house smell like Christmas.  I was ecstatic.

 

So now we know.  And I have pictures to prove it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe is an annual favorite.   It is a rich, moist, dark bread with the perfect balance of sweet-tart and savory, and it is equally delicious with a smear of cream cheese on top as it is served all by itself.  Best of all, it takes mere minutes to make, and it freezes ahead like a charm.

 

Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Nut Bread

(Taste of Home Magazine, December/January 1995 issue)

 

2-1/2 C halved fresh or frozen cranberries, divided (note:  over the years, I’ve taken to leaving my cranberries whole – it gives a chunkier, jewel-studded texture to the bread)

2/3 C sugar

2 tsp grated orange peel

2-1/4 C all-purpose flour

¾ C light brown sugar

1 Tbsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ C sour cream

¼ C butter or margarine, melted

1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferred)

 

In a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups cranberries, sugar, and orange peel.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the cranberries are soft.  Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining berries and set aside.

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.  Combine eggs, sour cream and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended.  Fold in cranberries and pecans.  Pour into two greased 8-1/2 in x 4-1/2 in x 2-1/2 in loaf pans (mini loaf pans and muffin tins work, too – just adjust your baking time accordingly!).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests done.

 

Photo Credits:

Cranberry photo courtesy www.vegetarian-nutrition.info via Google images

All other graphics by the Allspice Chronicles

 

Posted November 16th, 2011.

Add a comment

The Art of Receiving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 5

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

Now that we’ve covered Basic Table Manners, The Art of Conversation, The Art of Greeting, and the Art of Giving, now it’s time to learn The Art of Receiving.

 

Everybody likes to receive presents, right?  In theory, receiving an outpouring of someone else’s thoughtfulness and generosity should not only make us feel super-special, it’s supposed to be downright fun.  So why is it that so very many of us unwittingly make an absolute mess out of the act of receiving a gift?  See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

 

Scenario #1:

After spending a month quizzing common friends on gift ideas, scouting out every retail shop within a 50-mile radius for exactly what she was looking for, and spending nearly an hour gift wrapping, Betsy finally found what she thought was the perfect gift for her dear cousin.  She was so excited!  Upon arriving at the cousin’s annual holiday party, Betsy proudly handed her the gift and said, “This, my dear, is for youwith a look of anticipation all over her face.  “Oh!  Thank you so much!” her cousin replied, giving her a hearty hug.  Then, without opening the gift and much to Betsy’s dismay, her cousin proceeded to tell her all about the wonderful, mind-blowing gift she’d just received from another friend of hers.  Betsy’s package disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the house, and she ended up leaving that evening not even knowing if her cousin had opened her gift or what she thought of it if she had.

 

Scenario #2:

Still smarting from her gift-giving experience the night before, Betsy delivered a small but thoughtful gift to a co-worker.  Upon presenting the gift, the co-worker looked at her, cleared his throat, and said, “So I suppose you want me to open this now?”  The situation became instantly uncomfortable; Betsy replied that he should feel free to open it whenever he had a minute – it was nothing big, just a small token to say “happy holidays”.  The co-worker brusquely said “Thanks”, and Betsy spent the rest of her workday feeling awkward and uncomfortable about having tried to do something nice.

 

Scenario #3:

Betsy had had just about enough, but she figured that the holidays were really for children anyway.  She’d been invited to have afternoon tea at a friend’s home.  Knowing that her friend had children, she brought a little something for each of them in beautifully wrapped boxes.  Her friend called her children, telling them that Betsy had brought them each a present.  The kids ran into the room, snatched the presents from Betsy’s hands without even saying “hello” to her, and ripped into the boxes.  Two of the three seemed to like what they got, quickly saying “thanks” as they ran upstairs with their new toys.  The third opened his box and said, in front of everyone in the room, “That’s it?  But I don’t want this one.  It’s a little kid toy.”

 

Ever been in Betsy’s position?  “Just can’t get no respect“?  Before you find yourself stocking up on lumps of coal to hand out next year, here’s something to consider:

 

For some people, receiving isn’t as easy as it seems.

Sometimes people who are normally terrific, jovial, outgoing folks can morph into somewhat defensive, definitely ungracious, and in some cases downright rude individuals when they are presented with a gift.  These folks demonstrate receiving issues for a variety of reasons:

1.  They feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything to give in return;

2.  They don’t feel worthy;

3.  They’re not comfortable showing you how much your gift really means;

4.  They feel vulnerable, like they’ll owe you something by accepting your gift;

5.  They simply don’t know how to be grateful;

6.  Alas!  They are rude and selfish ingrates who should be banished from society forevermore.  (Thankfully, this isn’t usually the case.)

 

The Art of Receiving

Receiving is an art form that must be carefully considered and even practiced, especially if you or your child happens to experience receiving issues accompanied by any of the feelings listed above.  Receiving graciously is ultimately an act of humility, and, in the words of Jacques Maritain, “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.”

When mentally practicing the Art of Receiving, here’s some things to keep in mind:

1.  Receiving is the other part of a two-way street.  By receiving any gift graciously, you are allowing the Giver to experience the joy of giving.  To receive in an ungracious, stunted, or rude manner strips the Giver of his/her opportunity to experience that joy..

2.  The Giver has already decided that you are worthy.  Accept their opinion.  Insecurity is a heavy beast to battle.  But if feelings of low self worth are stunting your ability to receive graciously, turn your attention to the thoughtfulness of the Giver.  Make them feel appreciated and special for their kindness and consideration towards you.

3.  The Giver didn’t expect you to have a gift ready to reciprocate.  Honestly, unless you just totally blew off your duties as a Secret Santa, the person who just gave you a gift really has no expectation of receiving anything in return.  Your sincere expression of joy and gratitude will be enough to make their giving experience complete.  Don’t rush to reciprocate, either, or you’ll run the risk of looking like you’re giving out of a feeling of obligation rather than inspiration.

4.  Learn how to be grateful for the little things. Learning to focus on and be grateful for seemingly little things that we receive every day is a great way to become accustomed to the experience of receiving.  Maybe it’s really appreciating how your mom always put the right amount of brown sugar on your oatmeal in the mornings, how your husband always brings you perfectly-brewed coffee every morning as you are getting ready for work, or how Grandma always sets out hot tea and cookies when you drop in out of the blue.  Maybe it’s really noticing that your co-worker always has your back in a pinch, or that your neighbor always brings in your trash cans while you’re at work. Getting used to feeling grateful on a daily basis will hone your ability to experience and convey a genuine feeling of gratitude for any gift you’re given, no matter how big or how small.  Becoming acutely aware of and grateful for the little gestures people extend to us every single day sensitizes us to our own ability to positively impact others’ lives in little ways, as well.

 

The Formalities: What to do when you are given a gift:

Having tuned into your sense of gratitude, it’s now time to practice the formal expression within the Art of Receiving:

 

1.  Look the Giver in the eye, smile, and say “Thank You”.

2.  Mention that you sincerely appreciate their thoughtfulness, and express excitement at seeing what they’ve given you.

3.  When opening the gift, your focus and attention should be on the Giver; try to avoid becoming distracted until you’ve finished opening and appreciating the gift.

4.  Take a minute to compliment the gift wrap, if applicable.  Express gratitude over the time and effort taken.

5.  Even if you HATE the gift you’ve been given, look past any personal disappointment and find a way to compliment the Giver’s selection, i.e. “This scarf is simply the nicest color pink!”

6.  Look the Giver in the eye again, smile, and express your gratitude again for the Giver’s time, consideration, and generosity.

 

How to teach your kids the Art of Receiving

Practice makes perfect.  Role-playing potential gift-related scenarios in advance helps kids know what to do and say when the time comes.

 

Hopefully, with awareness and a bit of practice, the circle of giving will be complete and joyous this holiday season and beyond.

 

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credits:

Baby with gift courtesy www.thehalfwaypoint.net

Woman handing gift courtesy www.jessicakateproductions.blogspot.com

Woman with several gifts courtesy www.life123.com

Disappointed child courtesy www.parentsconnect.com

Rodney Dangerfield courtesy www.ranker.com

Insecure girl courtesy www.ronedmundson.com

Circle of hands courtesy www.nonprofitlawblog.com

Chinese women exchanging gifts courtesy www.blogofasia.com

 

Posted November 15th, 2011.

Add a comment

Alabama Yams With Oranges

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.unwinnable.com

Traditionally, any yam served in my childhood home during the month of November was baked, mashed with butter, cream, a wee bit of salt and brown sugar, and covered with mounds of fluffy marshmallows that were subsequently broiled until nearly black and gooey on top.  Come to think of it, the only time we actually ate yams back then was during the month of November.

Upon having children of my own and deciding early on there was no way I was going to feed my babies processed baby nasty-food,  I did some research into the nutritional merits of these terrific tubers.  It seems they have a far lower glycemic index than regular potatoes.  They also happen to be packed with potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B3 while registering low on the sodium counter.  Best of all, kids actually like to eat them with little or no negotiation, marshmallows or no marshmallows.   I started serving them regularly to the whole family as a tasty side that could double as homemade baby food.  Two birds with one stone?  That’s how I roll!  Baked in their skins with a dash of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, or cut up and oven-roasted, yams are delicious and appear on my household menus at least once a week.

However tasty the good old fashioned yam might happen to be all by itself, the holidays call for something a bit more elegant, more celebratory.  This is it.  From the Heritage of Southern Cooking, author (and southern cooking guru) Camille Glenn has this to say:

 

” This is the Deep South way with yams or sweet potatoes.  It seems to always show up with the Thanksgiving turkey, but it is just as compatible with a good ham or chicken.  Do not peel either the potatoes or the orange.  If you don’t have a luscious rich sauce, you have been too cautious with the butter.”

 

Amen.  Be sure to slice the oranges as thin as possible – if you have a mandoline slicer, use it, but if not, just be sure to cut the slices super-thin.  Use real butter, and for heaven’s sake, listen to Ms. Glenn!  Don’t be shy!  It’s the holidays, after all.  This dish is excellent served with Green Beans Sauteed With Olive Oil; the citrus overtones keep the palate fresh and thoroughly entertained.

Enjoy!

 

Alabama Yams With Oranges

(Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn)

6 yams or sweet potatoes, fully cooked and cooled (I bake mine for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees – the yam shouldn’t be too mushy, but it should be cooked to the point that it can be easily sliced)

3 navel oranges, thinly sliced

1/2 to 3/4 C (1 to –1/2 sticks) butter

3/4 C sugar

1 C fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel and slice the cooked sweet potatoes very thin and place one layer in a shallow buttered baking dish.  Top with a layer of orange slices.  Dot generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Continue layering.  You should have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, butter, and topping it off with sugar.

Mix the orange juice with the lemon juice and pour it over the potatoes.

Bake until a pleasant syrup has formed and the top is tinged with brown.

Serves 6 – 8

 

 

Posted November 9th, 2011.

Add a comment

The Art of Giving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 4

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

With three weeks of practicing Basic Table Manners, two weeks of practicing the Art of Conversation, and a week’s worth of practice on how to nail the perfect greeting and a great handshake, it’s time to move on to the next step in our Five Week Manners Makeover:

The Art of Gift Giving

 

This next step takes some time and lots of talking, so be prepared.

 

With the sometimes mind-numbing hustle and bustle of the holiday season, all too often gift-giving endeavors are reduced to:

a)  an ever-evolving list of people who should receive something of equal or greater value to the gift slated for the next person on the list, often based on a sense of historical or social obligation vs. inspiration and joy;

b)  a distribution from a pile of whimsical but impersonal things collected from various sales throughout the year;

c)  a detached, materialistic and rather mechanical “thing that must be done” during the holidays, often accompanied by little or no thought of the person to whom the gift is to be given;

d)  a dreaded financial burden when all is said and done.

 

Needless to say, kids get confused when they are told time and again that “giving is better than receiving”, and yet they never really learn the art of giving and how it can make them – and the gift recipient – feel when the act is genuine, personal, and from the heart.  Like any other life skill, kids only know what they’re taught.  Kids can learn how to “get off the hook” and mechanically give Grandpa another token pair of holiday socks just as easily as they can learn how to really consider everything Grandpa really means to them and construct a meaningful gift accordingly.

Listen to your heart.

Try this:  before you write your holiday gift-giving list, take a quiet moment to ask yourself who impacted your life in a truly positive way this year.  What does that list look like?  Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised; the list may include people you don’t really know, but really, really appreciate, like that checker at the grocery store who always manages to put a smile on your face, even when you’re grumpy after a long day, or that teacher that makes your children feel inspired, like they can achieve anything?  (Note from author: To me, honoring these folks first makes me feel like I’m honoring myself and my intuition, adding emotional substance to the gifts I choose to give and the reasons why I choose to give them. It also helps me put my values and my relationships in perspective, while taking a good look at how I impact others’ lives, as well.)  Do this by yourself first; then sit down and try the exercise with each of your children.  You’ll gain precious insight into their lives and their values, as well.

 

Give unconditionally.

Sometimes folks can feel put on the spot, or perhaps as though you have ulterior motives, when they receive a gift of appreciation. In instances where you would like to show your appreciation but feel that it might result in an uncomfortable situation, giving anonymously is a great way to go.  Even if you don’t get the pleasure of seeing the recipient’s response, please don’t ever underestimate how much that coffee house gift card will be appreciated.

 

On the same note, unconditional giving means that even if you give personally and directly and do not receive the kind of appreciative response you’d hoped for, your heart was in the right place.  Do not become offended.  It just might be that the recipient is overwhelmed, self-conscious, or simply doesn’t know how to respond appropriately.  Move on, forgive, and be happy knowing you gave for all the right reasons.

 

A great way to teach your kids the joy of unconditional giving is to come together as a family to choose a recipient for an anonymous family gift.  In addition to charitable giving, choosing an anonymous gift for someone who is just simply an awesome human being is a fun way to bring your family together to celebrate great energy.

 

Great gifts mean something .

Retailers are there to be, well, retailers.  They put lots of “pretty shiny things” out to attract and distract shoppers, usually overwhelming and confusing them to such an extent that they end up purchasing items they never intended to buy in the first place.  Putting thought into the meaning behind your gift-giving will not only help you stay on track with your budget, but it will ensure that the meaning behind the gift you give will not be diluted along the way.  Does your aunt really need another scarf/hat/mitten set?  Or would it mean more to her for you to give her a unique piece of vintage jewelry to add to her collection?  In talking with your son about a possible gift for Grandpa, chances are that token pair of holiday socks will turn into an elaborate handmade picture of the time he took your son fishing, accompanied by an assortment of Grandpa’s favorite fishing snacks.  More expensive?  Nope.  More meaningful?  Absolutely.

 

“Think beyond the stuff”.

Most of the time, stuff is just that:  STUFF.  We don’t know what to do with the stuff we’ve already got, let alone more of it.  As a happier alternative, give gifts of shared time and/or experience, such as a monthly scheduled tea party with Grandma or tickets to the museum for your child and his/her BFF.  Be creative.  Make it special.  Try giving Grandma a new calendar with pre-scheduled dates for your tea parties already marked in bright, happy colors – make each party have a different theme, i.e. – February = Valentine chocolates, March = lemon cakes, September = celebrate the blackberries, etc.  Lighter on the heart, easier on the environment!

 

Wrap It Up!

Yes, it takes time.  And patience.  And maybe even a couple of tries.  But what would YOU rather receive:  an unwrapped gift, or one that had been carefully wrapped to the best of the giver’s ability?

 

Now take gift wrapping one step further:  how can you make it eco-friendly?

 

Here’s a video on how the Japanese utilize pieces of cloth to wrap their gifts:

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
Gift w/ Gold Ribbon courtesy of www.mysmartshop.wordpress.com

Hands holding heart courtesy of www.esquire.com

“Pay it forward” courtesy of www.midatlanticarthritis.wordpress.com

Smiling Child courtesy of www.couponsaver.org

Seedlings in eggshells courtesy of www.themorningnews.org

Clip art gifts courtesy of www.absoluteuniquegifts.com

 

Posted November 8th, 2011.

Add a comment

Nifty Napkin Folds: Tiered Silverware Pouch

by Danica Waters

Now that we’ve mastered the Basic Silverware Pouch, it’s time to turn the aesthetics up a notch.  Ready?  You’re about to become a napkin-folding, silverware-pouch-creatin’ BOSS.  Here’s instructions on how to make a Tiered Silverware Pouch.

 

Tiered Silverware Pouch

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you.  Keep your tag in the upper left corner.

 

Step 2: 

Fold the napkin in half so the open end faces towards you.

Step 3:

Fold the napkin in quarters.

Step 4:

Orient the napkin so that the open corner faces away from you and to the right.

Step 5:

Roll the top layer down to the center and press down.

NOTE:  Your tendency is probably going to be to try to create a hard fold the first time out.  Don’t – it overcomplicates everything and causes your tiers to overlap rather than lay flat neatly next to eachother.

Simply roll the first layer down…

 

Step 6:

… and then roll the second layer down to meet the first; press flat…

Step 7:

… and then repeat with the third and final layer.  Press all layers down well – you might want to use a warm iron at this point to reinforce the folds and give a super-crisp appearance.  Usually, though, pressing the folds with your hands is sufficient.

Step 8:

Carefully turn the napkin over.

Step 9:

Fold the right side in about a third of the way and press it down hard.

Step 10:

Now fold the left side back and press down hard.  This is another good time to use an iron, to make sure everything looks nice and crisp.

Step 11:

Flip over your pouch, insert your utensils, et voila!  Oooooh – Aaaaaah!  The Tiered Silverware Pouch is so pretty, it brings “tiers” to my eyes.  (Ok! Ok!  I couldn’t resist!)

Posted November 7th, 2011.

Add a comment

The Art of Greeting: The Five Week Manners Makeover, Step 3

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of liluinteriors.com

Remember being a little kid and absolutely dreading those first few awkward minutes of meeting someone you hadn’t seen in a long time, or perhaps didn’t know at all?  No matter if the semi-strangers had extended an invitation to an event at their home or if the occasion found them invading your home, one of two things was certain to happen during the greeting process:

1.  You’d be eyeballed up and down like you were some sort of germ-ridden-troublemaker-to-be and summarily dismissed, or;

2.  You’d end up having your cheeks pinched off your face as you were slathered in kisses and lipstick stains,  barraged with a million questions you didn’t know how to answer, by someone you really didn’t know all that well at all.

Not knowing what to do in either instance, you’d visibly shrink there next to your parents, feeling awkward and silent and uncomfortable and wishing to all heck you could will yourself to disappear altogether.  Anxiety amplified as you quickly realized that your own embarrassment was unwittingly embarrassing your parents.   “Say something, silly!” they would admonish, nudging you further into the line of fire. “Don’t just stand there like a bump on a log!  Ha ha ha….!  Kids – I’ll tell you…”

And there you were, feeling like a germ-ridden-troublemaker the rest of the evening.

 

In the words of America’s etiquette expert, Peggy Post, “Most etiquette dilemmas arise when people don’t know what to do. This results in a feeling of uncertainty and, ultimately, a sense that you may do something wrong or offend someone.”  Yep.   And that’s not a happy space for anyone to be in – especially kids.

Now’s the time to practice the Art of Greeting, so that your children can negotiate these awkward moments with confidence and poise now and in the future.

 

Tips to a perfect greeting:

1.  Look the person in the eye and smile!

2.  No mumbling!  Speak confidently and clearly, even if you’re feeling shy.

3.  It’s best to call the person by name:  “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Humphries / Aunt Matilda / etc.  It’s nice to meet you/see you again.”

4.  Strangers or acquaintances should be greeted with a handshake; if the person is a relative or someone close to you, you should greet them with a hug.

 

How to give a proper handshake:

1.  Right hand to right hand, thumbs up (not a limp, palms-down hand)

2.  Firm grip, but not too tight or too limp

3.  Only two to three “pumps”, then release hands.  No shaking the other person’s arm off!

 

Other tips:

1.  Feeling useful is one of the most powerful confidence builders out there.  If the event is being held in your home, children can offer to help take guests’ coats or show them a secure place where they can put their bags.  Teach them to treat these articles with care.  (If you are attending an event at another home, remind children to say “thank you” when someone takes their jacket.)

2.  If you’re hosting the event, it’s a great idea to review the guest list with your kids in advance.  Letting them know about the personalities and interests of the people coming to the party goes a long way towards helping kids feel confident about their participation in the event.

 

With practice, your kids’ kind, confident greeting skills might even help them avoid lipstick and cheek pinching altogether.

And remember:  keep practicing Basic Table Manners  and The Art of Conversation!

 

 

 

Posted November 1st, 2011.

Add a comment