Celebrate kindness

Hello and happy 2011!

After a short hiatus, we are back and ready to celebrate the many ways we can spread kindness and good manners.

First, let’s bid adieu to 2010, with this symbolic photo:

 

Bye-bye 2010

 

Now, it’s time to tackle the etiquette, style and grace issues of this brave new year. The No. 1 order of business, thank you notes.

We are fortunate enough to have received gifts from a few friends and acquaintances from whom we didn’t expect a thing. It’s so important to acknowledge these kindnesses, whether or not you intend to reciprocate. To make this task more enjoyable, we recommend you pour a cup or glass of your favorite bevvy, find the pen you most enjoy using and dig out that lovely paper you have tucked away for just this sort of thing. You might even want to light a scented candle, who are we to judge?

Simply thank the giver, tell them how you have used or intend to use the item and sign it with your usual salutations. For example,

Dear Sally,

The gorgeous scarf you gave me for Christmas is an absolute hit! It complimented my various holiday ensembles so well, I wore it to nearly every fete. Thank you so much for thinking of me amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.

With love,

Jill

It’s really just that simple and what with your delicious couple of glasses glass of wine, it was also a treat.

May your 2011 be filled with many treats and even more reasons to say thank you.

Cheers!

Melanie

 

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Wealth and prepdom: If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it

Today marks the release of “True Prep,” by Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd, which is the long-awaiting follow-up to “The Official Preppy Handbook,” (well-worn copies of which many of you likely still cherish own).

Our copy of the book arrived a few days ago and we spent all weekend pouring through it. The section devoted to etiquette is delightful, as expected, and it reinforces our beliefs that a thank you card is always appropriate, overt displays of wealth are TTFW and when in doubt, proceed with restraint (a more detailed post on the etiquette portion to come).

Meanwhile, further reinforcing our beliefs on the latter was David Brooks’ column in today’s New York Times, entitled, “The Gospel of Wealth.” Here is an excerpt:

“The United States once had a Gospel of Wealth: a code of restraint shaped by everybody from Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie. The code was designed to help the nation cope with its own affluence. It eroded, and over the next few years, it will be redefined.”

We sincerely hope Mr. Brooks is correct in his predictions and that if anything good can come of America’s financial woes, it might be that we get over the compulsion to show and tell anyone and everyone how much money we have or want them to think we have in our bank accounts.

In other “True Prep” news, Birnbach launched the book with an appearance on the Today show this morning and amid a media blitz. Visit the Preppy Princess blog for an excellent synopsis of all things “True Prep,” and Birnbach, including a links list of the Today show segment and myriad articles about the book.  Note that you can order a copy of the book, $13.95 (as of the date of this post), through the Preppy Princess online store by clicking here

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday and stay tuned for a giveaway of “True Prep,” after we finish taking notes!

Cheers!

M

Do you have questions for “True Prep” author Lisa Birnbach and designer Chip Kidd?

Happy Friday everyone! Some of us are gearing up for the three-day Labor Day weekend and the rest of us are doing our best to keep the grumbling to a minimum, because we have to work. Either way, we hope you find a way to enjoy yourself.

We apologize for abandoning you several days this week, but as you may have seen on Facebook and Twitter, we’ve been hatching plans for the coming months.  

On Oct. 18, join us in Austin, Texas for the Texas Book Festival, where we’ll be moderating the author session for “True Prep.”

Written by Lisa Birnbach and designer Chip Kidd, this new book is a sequel to “The Official Preppy Handbook,” or the book that launched a million pairs of Sperry Top-Sider’s, and will let us in on what Muffy has been up to all these years. We’ll be interviewing Birnbach and Kidd during the session, so if you have questions you’d like for us to ask, shoot them to us here, via Facebook, Twitter or at charmfinder@gmail.com. We hope to see you at the festival!

We’ll have more on the book as soon as we get it into our hot little hands (we are awaiting it from the publisher). Preppies know a little something about manners and we are looking forward to reminding ourselves of the proper etiquette for sailing, cocktail hour and volunteering at Mummy’s favorite charity.

Until then, have a great weekend!

Cheers!

M

Tuesday turnaround

Happy Tuesday readers! Today, we decided to turn things around and ask you about your top etiquette pet peeves. From people eating with their mouths open and oversharing to bad hygiene and bad FB habits, let’s gab about what makes you gasp. For example, people who drink too much and behave badly. Exhibit A:  

Image courtesy AMC Mad Men

Mad Men’s Don Draper is smart, charming, elegant and mysterious, but we all know when he drinks too much, he is a naughty boy. OK, he’s bad with or without the booze, but you get our meaning.

So, post your comments here, on Facebook or Twitter or shoot us an e-mail at charmfinder@gmail.com and tell us what offends you or what society could do to re-find its style, sophistication and respectability.

Cheers!

M

Weekend getaway gift: Felted soap

Throughout the summer, many of us find ourselves spending weekends with friends or family in another city, because of weddings, vacations or yearly visits. We’ve discussed before that you should do everything possible to be a great guest when someone is kind enough to open up his or her home to you. By bringing or sending a hostess gift (or both), you are on your way to being invited back for another fun-filled getaway.  We often gift little luxury items, because while we like to indulge in the small, but decadent things in life, we try not to go overboard and therefore love to get them as gifts ourselves.

One of the best places to find fabulous toiletries, especially fancy soaps, in a pinch or otherwise is Anthropologie. Yes, it’s a chain, but by golly, it’s a chain that gets it right every single time! From the store’s music and decor; to the clothes and accessories; down to the scents and quirky books and household items we just love it in spite of ourselves. Oh, and they gift wrap. For free.

So, for your next hostess gift purchase, we’d like to recommend the natural, handmade, Fiat Luxe Felted Soap, $14, at Anthropologie:

Image courtesy of Anthropologie

These pretty little soaps are wrapped in felted wool to create a sort of washcloth. The wool is naturally antibacterial and it serves as an exfoliator (remember, exfoliation is your key to the fountain of youth). If that wasn’t enough, the felt shrinks as the soap is used, so when the original “melts” away, pop in a new bar.

Find them at your nearest Anthropologie store or order online by clicking here.

We like to buy several at a time and keep them handy for gifting. Also, it’s always fun to have a “signature” gift, especially when it’s something as divine as delicious smelling soap.

Happy travels this weekend and beyond and remember to send a thank you note (Anthropologie has those too).

Cheers!

M

Links we love

We’ve been meaning for some time now to tell you about a few of our favorite online haunts. So, when a friend recently asked for a list, we thought we might use the opportunity to multi-task a bit. That said, we’ve had linkage posted at the bottom right of the blog since its inception, so for those of you who have already seen it, please accept our apologies.

This list includes blogs, websites and print publications from the areas of style, travel, design, etiquette and all around lifestyle-type of content.  It is in no particular order, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings:

A Life Obscura: A fun and informative blog about travel, life, experiences, people and things written by a dear friend.

All Things Austin Design: This is the design blog of a former colleague and fellow writer in Austin. She knows her stuff and keeps it fresh, funny and fairly local. The design scene in Austin is hoppin’ so if you like design, check it out.  

Daddy Likey: A hilarious fashion blog. You will likey.

Garden & Gun (Think of it as the”Vanity Fair of the South”): You can thank me later.

Ivy Style: Intelligent, informative and lots of good eye candy.

Mad Men Unbuttoned: Because one night a week isn’t enough Draper or Holloway (Harris) for any of us.

Melanie Spencer Words and Pictures: In case you want to look at my fabulous photography.

Muffy Martini: Because we like martinis.

Preppy Princess: We’ve been reading Preppy Princess for years. She keeps us informed about all things pink and green (especially as it relates to Lilly Pulitzer) and all things preppy and for that, we love her (and her little dog, Silly Tilly too!). The Princess also has an online boutique at www.preppyprincess.com.

Social Primer: Manners, Conversation, Style and Handling Your Liquor — what’s not to like? All from the male perspective. This is also a good place to find a few select stationery (swoon) items and things with monograms (be still our hearts).  

Social Q’s (New York Times): This is another long-time favorite, written with style, wit and taste by Philip Galanes.

Town & Country: An absolute must in everyone’s periodicals library. Unfortunately, the website leaves a lot to be desired, but we are purists and prefer print, so no harm, no foul.

Thanks to all of the above for entertaining and educating us. Please check the links list often, because we update and add to it whenever we discover something fun and fabulous. Also, send us your fave links. We love to share!

Cheers!

M

Please and thank you

“Whether one believes in a religion or not and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion. “ Dalai Lama

When you ask for something say “please.” If you get it or if someone does something nice for you, say “thank you.”

It really is that simple.

Cheers!

M

New places, new faces

During our recent travels through the South, we met scores of wonderful new people. In Mobile, we attended a magazine launch and visited several art galleries, gathering memories and business cards along the way. In New Orleans, we met fellow travelers, locals out on the town and locals working in the cafes, bars and restaurants, gathering more memories and names and e-mail addresses scribbled on scraps of paper and napkins.

Call us old-fashioned, but when we get a number or an e-mail, we follow-up with a thank you and an “it sure was nice to meet you.” We may or may not have the pleasure of ever again seeing our new friends and acquaintances, but either way, who doesn’t like to get a call, note or e-mail of hello and “thanks for the laughs” or “the suggestions of things to do and see” or “I hope to see  you again in September” from a person whose company you enjoyed? Also, it’s a great excuse to use the new fountain pen and paper you bought during your travels (see yesterday’s post).

Finally, if you don’t just want to be a lovely person leaving a trail of kindness and good will in your path, think of it as networking. One never knows where the next great opportunity might lie.

Cheers!

M

Southern hospitality

Let me tell you friends, you’ve never known hospitality until you’ve stayed with a good friend in a southern city. For M and the Mister, it was our vera, vera good friend (and M’s Theta sister), Ms. S in Mobile, Ala. Boy did she roll out the red carpet for us during our two-day stay (one must never wear out their welcome, because as Benjamin Franklin put it, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”)

Upon arrival we were greeted at the door with hugs and a libation. Hostess and guests then exchanged happy little gifts (we came bearing a couple of bottles of Texas barbecue sauce and Ms. S surprised M with a lovely little scarf — a fave item to hoard collect). After a few moments to freshen up from our travels we were whisked away to an early evening soiree, followed by dinner then a nightcap.

The next morning, our hostess had to work, but she left a note arming us with directions to the nearest coffee purveyor, Cream and Sugar, which is in the verdant Oakleigh Garden District. We treated Ms. S to lunch as a thank you on day two and came away with a list of suggestions for things to do downtown that afternoon, including bike riding, art galleries, touring the Cathedral and museums, as well as notes on a few nearby cafes. We took in some art at Space 301 Contemporary Art and Education Center, then had a pick me up at Serda’s.

M's tasty mocha

Opting for museums, cafes, the Cathedral and art galleries gave us much to discuss during a casual dinner at Ms. S’s neighborhood Irish pub, Callaghan’s Irish Social Club.

Oh how we heart Callaghan's!

The next day before we turned our chariot in the direction of New Orleans, we picked up our room, tended to the bed linens and made a sweep of the house to a) make sure we didn’t forget anything and b) leave everything as we found it. We bid farewell to Ms. S over lunch at Bienville Club, which offers striking views of the causeway and the USS Alabama.  

As always, we came away from Mobile feeling rested, pampered and swathed in gentility.

The takeaway from this entry: When you stay with a friend, don’t show up empty-handed; offer to pay for a meal or two; clean up after yourself; and send a thank you note and, or gift.

Cheers!

M

Picking up the tab when you pick someone’s brain

For most of us, occasionally the time comes when we need to ask the advice of a colleague or pick a friend or peer’s brain about their child’s school or their favorite charity. So, we invite them to lunch, coffee, dinner or drinks and ask away. But, what happens when the check comes to the table?

Simply put, if you did the inviting, you should pick up the tab. Think of it as payment for their time and trouble.

It’s possible that your friend or colleague will insist on paying his or her own way, but you shouldn’t count on it. If you are unemployed in career transition, a college student or journalist on a tight budget for any reason, avoid dinner invitations and instead, propose  meeting for coffee.

Most people are happy to pass along their wisdom, but be sure not to ask for too much free advice, which can result in resentment or a bill in your mailbox. Also, even though you paid for the cocktails or lunch, as always, it’s good to follow up with a thank you note and, or e-mail.

Cheers!

M