Reader Q&A – Advice on Dishes

Reader Question: I have been looking at china patterns for our home. It can be a little overwhelming, so I was hoping to see what advice you may have. How many sets do you recommend? What parts of each place setting are necessary? I’m actually looking to replace our everyday dishes, since several pieces have been broken or chipped, in addition to have a set of china. Currently we own no china. We’ve been married for nearly five years, so I’m obviously not doing a registry and will just purchase as we can afford. Thank you!

Answer: It truly can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! As fun as it can be to have every piece made, it just isn’t that practical. For china I recommend a minimum of eight sets – more if you tend to entertain at the holidays, which is when the china will likely be used. For everyday dishes, 12 sets would be more ideal. Many everyday sets are sold as a set as opposed to individual pieces. The most common set includes a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, bowl and coffee cup. These would be the most basic pieces you need. I enjoy having a bread plate and saucer for the coffee cup, as well. I’ve never found the need for both a dinner plate and a luncheon plate. For my china, I have the same pieces. Each year for my birthday or Christmas, I’ll accumulate more pieces, like a butter dish, serving bowl, etc. The ones I highly recommend would be a butter dish, two serving bowls, large platter and salt & pepper shakers. I have other pieces that I enjoy but don’t consider necessary, such as fruit bowls, asparagus dish, baking dishes for my everyday set, batter bowl, etc. My best advice is to get the type and amount of dishes that suit your lifestyle!

Reader Q&A

Reader Question: I was recently invited to dinner by my boss to celebrate my upcoming graduation from college. I have had to work while going to school, and I have a young son, so money is tight. I was happy to accept the dinner invitation. My husband planned to stay home with our son to help limit the money spent. However, my boss recently decided to change restaurant locations, and we truly cannot afford the new restaurant. I know that, per etiquette, I shouldn’t decline once I have accepted an invitation. I can’t put my family in financial harm, though. Is there an exception to the rule since the game was changed? Thank you!

Answer: Absolutely. First and foremost, congratulations on your upcoming graduation! You can tell by your letter that you have your priorities straight, and I truly admire that. The rule of not changing your response when accepted is for times when it’s simply that something more appealing comes up. In truth, your boss should treat you to dinner since the dinner is to celebrate you. You are the guest of honor. It it completely acceptable to let him/her know that the new restaurant choice isn’t in the family budget but that you appreciate his support of your graduation. He/she may affirm their intent to pay for your meal. If not, they may at least change back to the original location. I appreciate your question, as it helps highlight the importance of everyone (your boss, in this case) knowing how etiquette plays a role

As an aside, I think it is very important to highlight the importance understanding etiquette plays in not putting someone in an awkward situation. I encourage wording such as, “I would love to treat you to dinner to celebrate…” in order to let the other person know your intent, as, unfortunately, not everyone knows that when they invite someone to dinner, they should also pay.

Why It’s Important to Accept a Compliment

What is your initial response to someone giving you a sincere compliment? Do you say “thank you” or brush it off? An area of etiquette that many people struggle with is correctly responding to compliments. They have given me every excuse in the book – they feel that saying “thank you” makes them seem egotistical, they disagree with the person, they think the person may be teasing them, etc. The list goes on and on and on.

A little secret to etiquette is to focus more on the other person than yourself. You don’t have to justify why you’re dressed up or wearing make up. You don’t need to give a 20-minute monologue on where you found the top and the spectacular deal you got. Don’t fret over the fact you’re not where you want to be. You just need to say thanks. Genuine thanks.

We’re taught to keep to ourselves and to look out for ourselves. However, I truly believe that we are meant to be with others. We are meant to have relationships of all kinds and learning how to correctly interact with others is a key part of that relationship flourishing.

I encourage you to accept the compliment when someone steps out on a limb to give one instead of dismissing it, essentially dismissing their opinion and thought. It isn’t always easy to get out of your comfort zone and say something kind to a stranger. You are who you’re meant to be.

Etiquette In a World That Glorifies Mediocrity

I’ve hesitated on how/if to write this post. However, after numerous emails from people who are mainly put out with friends and family who seem to promote tardiness and flaunt disrespect, I’ve decided it’s time to go ahead and lay it all out there.

Today’s world seems to glorify mediocrity.

You’ve seen the memes that say, “I respect parents who have it all together. But parents who stumble in to drop their kids off at school, looking like they just got attacked by a flock of angry birds? Those are my people.” This post is not intended to shame anyone who is doing their best in the season they’re in. I’ve been there. I’ll soon be there again after baby #3’s arrival. (Side note….we need to pick a name…) There are seasons, sometimes ones that last for years, where we have to give ourselves lots and lots of grace. Perfection isn’t attainable all of the time. Nor is it wrong to show our realness and our flaws. But by promoting that it’s not only acceptable but desirable to be someone who isn’t considerate of other people’s time by being late consistently – where does this come from? Why do we accept the status quo and try play up the “cuteness” factor of not having it all together?

After truly thinking and praying on this subject, I think at the core, the real issue is that we have a culture who glorifies busyness. If you seem like you have it all together, you must not be doing enough. You must not be a parent who lets their kids be involved or you would be late to everything. You must be a subpar employee or you wouldn’t be able to leave to make your kid’s soccer practice on time. It’s almost as if someone decided that if they can’t be perfect all of the time, they’re going to do a 180 and be imperfect all of the time. We incorrectly associate busyness as progress. It is not.

If you bring Brookshire’s chicken to a potluck at church instead of fixing homemade, that is wonderful. If you deliberately show up 20 minutes late with wet hair and nothing in hand, I do think it may be time to step back and reexamine your priorities. We cannot do it all; why, though, are we allowing this to keep us from doing anything?

I’ve said it over and over, but it bears saying again. Etiquette is about respect of others and respect for ourselves. We should each respect our self enough to choose to be our best self – it will be unique for each person. We know, though, deep down, if we’re doing enough to just get by or if we’re choosing to prioritize ourselves and others. It is a subtle difference, but it’s enough to get recognized by others. Trust me when I say that people are drawn in by and attracted to this trait. It’s 100% okay to not be the best. Why, though, would you not want to be your best you?

 

 

Reader Question: How Do I Get My Kids To Behave At Restaurants?

In 2017 at Commander’s Palace

The most commonly asked question I get from parents is “how do I make my kids behave at a restaurant?” There isn’t a magic pill. This takes consistency and lots of grace. When I first started taking my kids out to eat. I made up my mind to be prepared mentally and emotionally to leave at any point where my kids disrupted another diner. Of course, I always make sure to not put my kids in situations that are selfish, such as having them out too late. Last year at ages 3 and 5 we were able to enjoy a very nice, long meal at Commander’s Palace with my mom. My daughter understood that eating there was very special and a treat. This is not to toot my own horn. This is simply what has worked for us and for others. I promise you, it has not been easy from the beginning. When they aren’t accustomed to something like eating at a restaurant, they won’t inherently know how to behave. It has taken consistency in my expectations and sticking to my guns if something happened. Thankfully, it hasn’t in years. Enjoying a meal out is not a right that we are given, so having respect and courtesy for others is important. Here are a few tips that have worked over the years:

(1) Let them know your expectations upfront. I would always let my kids know what the plan was and what was expected of them. We didn’t eat in front of the tv every night and then magically expect them to know how to act at a table. I would go over basic table etiquette with them so they would become more comfortable using it, such as using a spoon or fork instead of their hands.
(2) Be consistent. Just like in a restaurant, we don’t allow yelling or crying at the table. If they’re frustrated, they may tell us why. We also have them place their napkins on their laps. By practicing at home, it is a more natural transition for them to use these techniques in public.
(3) Be realistic. Don’t expect your 18-month old baby to be okay sitting still and quiet for three hours at a fancy restaurant. For your first time out, ask for a to-go box at the start, if that makes you more comfortable. If your child is old enough to talk, point out all of the fun colors and build up this experience for them. Once you consistently see the results you want, you can incorporate something new, like dining in the evening.
BONUS TIP: Be prepared. This is especially necessary if you’re going out to eat during a busy time. Take a board book, colors or silent toy to keep your child occupied. Also, it’s okay for those who are little (think under four-years old) to have a snack brought from home if things are too busy, such as puffs. If you bring something for them to eat, have everything you need. Don’t ask for the restaurant to provide anything.