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Encouraging our Children to Give the Gift of the Pen

Hello friends,

I want to take a moment to talk about the lost art of writing and sending letters, notes or cards.  I have been so very touched in my life when someone has taken the time to pen a letter or a note to me.  I have shed tears when opening an envelope only to find someone has written a note to thank me for a Sunday school lesson, or to share their concern over me being a new "empty nester" or the time someone dropped offed a sympathy card when we lost our dog.  These kind acts have been so warmly received and bonded me to these individuals for life.

Today, we are quick to send a text or email, which is appreciated as well, but I fear we are not putting enough effort into taking the time to personally pen a letter or note.  Parents, I want us to teach our children this valuable skill.  It is such an act of charity, when we take time out of our life, to do and give something that someone else will cherish.

When I was a child, as many of you, I loved all my different kinds of stationery sets and I loved writing and sending letters to my grandmothers, cousin Tracy and my friends that lived in my old hometown.  Finding letters addressed to me in the mailbox was a cherished memory.

I am excited to announce that The Etiquette Factory is now carrying adorable sets of stationery just for kids.  We have a beautiful stationery gift set that is available now, and starting next week, we will be carrying individual stationery sets.  Whether you purchase from us or from someone else, or decide to create your own, I hope you will encourage your children to find the joy in writing letters. I'm so excited for our efforts to bring back the art of writing to send love to those around us!

Blessings to you and your family.  Spring is coming!!

To see our new product, click here.

Very best,
Monica Irvine

President/The Etiquette Factory

It's the Small Things That Count


I'm going to start a series on being a host that I hope you'll enjoy.

This month we're going to begin with house guests.  If you're like me, I love having company... well, most of the time.  I love when friends and family come to visit, and I love to do things that show how much I enjoy and appreciate their visit.

One way you can do this is by putting forth a little effort in furnishing the guest room with some fun accommodations for your guests.  Even if your "guest room" is your child's room, with the right extras, you can make any guest feel like they're on vacation and well cared for.

For those who don't have an official guest room, making a guest basket is a really fun idea.

My children have helped me create our guest basket, which has heightened their excitement when guests visit, as they're excited for them to see our special basket.

Below you'll see a list of suggestions for your guest room or guest basket.  Please don't feel like you have to provide all of these suggestions, but hopefully you'll see a few that you like.  Your guest basket is not for your guests to take home with them, but it remains in your guest room while they're visiting.  Each time guests visit, just simply freshen it up with fresh snacks, etc.

Guest Room/ Guest Basket suggestions

  • Extra blanket, good reading light, clock radio, wastebasket
  • Coat hangers, safety pins, luggage rack
  • Lotion, bath salts, shampoo/conditioner, fresh soaps
  • Toothpaste, new toothbrush, fresh towels, fresh cloths
  • Magazines, short books, suntan lotion, snacks, sweets
  • Calendar, vase of flowers, lint roller, extra pillow
  • Headache medicine, stomach ache medicine, notepad, pens
Once again, just have fun with preparing your guest basket.

I don't purchase these things all at once.  When I'm out, I just keep my guest basket in the back of my mind in case I see a great deal on something.

Letting our children help prepare for guests teaches them a really valuable lesson.  The lesson is "it's the small things that count."  What a great opportunity to help your children experience the joy of giving and helping others to feel valued.

Have fun!

Monica Irvine

Top 10 Mistakes in Dining Etiquette

It's been a while since we've talked dining etiquette, and this is definitely a subject that needs refining from time to time.  More and more I go to business luncheons and dinners and I am usually in awe of the lack of skills at the dinner table.

I'm not stating this to sound judgmental but to encourage all of  us to pay attention to our table manners, because others really do notice, and it sends a message of how much we value the dining experience of those around us.

Here are a few things to remember:

1.  Your napkin should remain on your lap until everyone is exiting the table.  If you must exit first or during the meal for any reason place your napkin on your chair, and then upon return, back on your lap.

2.  It's not polite to heap your plate full of food.  You should never have food stacked on top of each other.  You also don't want to fill your plate so full that you can't see the rim of the plate.  Think conservative, especially if you're at a business or professional luncheon or dinner.

3.  Never place your fingers in your mouth for any reason -- not to clean your fingers, not to remove food from your teeth, and not to get the last taste of sauce from your hands.

4.  It's polite to only cut one to two bites of food at a time, placing your utensils down in between every one to two bites.

5.  Never push your plate away after you're finished eating to signal that you're finished.  Simply place your utensils side by side at five o'clock with the handles of the utensils slightly off the plate.

6.  Never stack plates in order to help clean up the mess when at a restaurant or formal dinner.  Only do this when you're at home or when you have been asked to do so by the host.

7.  Never reach across anyone to get something at the table.  A simple "please pass the ..." is all you need to do.

8.  Do your best to keep conversation at the dinner table light, refraining from speaking of too serious of topics or topics that aren't appropriate, such as gross things vulgar things, sad things or political or religious debates.

9.  Always find ways to sincerely compliment the cook or host.

10.  Never announce any dislikes while at the table.  Simply say "no thank you" if you would not care for something.  Hopefully your host knows her manners and will never ask "why not?"

These are just a few common mistakes we tend to make while dining with others.  Having proper table manners is a great indication of our education level, our ability to show self control, and our sincere interest in the dining experience of those we're dining with.

Happy dining!


It's Not Our Job to Correct Others

Believe it or not, it's not our job to correct others.  Really!

For some reason, many of us believe that we have an obligation to set the record straight or correct others when we believe they are mistaken with their information, opinion or overall approach to things.

How many times have we all been guilty of saying something like, "That's not how you do it,"  Why are you doing it that way" or Well, that's not true," etc.?

The truth is, it's really rude when we correct others unless we are their actual parents.

Let me make a few clarifications.  Standing up for what we believe is right or stopping a wrong from being committed towards another human being is, of course, expected of us all.  This is very different than going around to our family and friends being the "accuracy police" on everything they do, say and believe.

I recently spent time with a few friends, and after some time went by and a few disagreements occurred, I realized that what was causing contention was the need for a couple of friends to point out every time they disagreed with what was being said.  There is a time and place for making our opinions known, but during friendly, casual conversation is not one of those times.

Pointing out other's faults is the quickest way to becoming
 the person everyone wants to avoid.

It's also not polite to point out everything your spouse does that you don't like or disagree with.  This wears a marriage down and contributes to resentment and bitterness.  Yes, there are occasions where it is necessary to express disappointment in certain behavior, but these times should be the exception not the norm.

What if, instead of pointing out all the things that those around you did wrong, you recognized them for the things they did right?  (Of course this is only your opinion.)

Usually most people respond better to compliments
rather than complaints and negative comments.

If you really want to arrive to be gentlemen and ladies, then it is important to avoid being someone that others try to avoid.  Pointing out others' faults is the quickest way to becoming the person everyone wants to avoid.  Instead, compliment and praise.  If you feel you really can't do this, then choose to not say anything at all.  

Choosing to speak should be carefully evaluated with
thought going into what our purpose is, what you think the
outcome will be if you speak, and if it's worth it.

May we all strive to have relationships that bring great joy to us and others.

Teaching Our Children to Clean

What does cleaning have to do with manners?  Well, it actually has a lot to do with manners. Gentlemen and ladies strive to show respect for all things.

Remember, the definition of manners or etiquette is helping those around you to feel valued and comfortable.  

So, when we keep our homes, our rooms, our cars clean, we show honor to those who live and visit these places and we create a place of comfort.  Have you ever been to someone’s home and you are afraid to put your purse on their floor or you’re afraid to place your coat anywhere?   Yes, I have. This makes for a very uncomfortable situation.

Today, I think many parents are missing the opportunity to have their children play a larger role in keeping their homes clean and tidy.  More importantly than this is the opportunities lost for children to experience pride and even joy in being able to care for things.

There is no reason that children cannot be taught to clean just as well as we clean.  

They just need to be taught and held accountable.  I always kind of grinned on the inside when my son would call for me to come and see what he had done when he finished cleaning his room, or the bathroom or when he had finished doing a special job.  He wanted me to inspect but more than anything, he was proud of what he had done and he wanted me to see it.

Parents, one of the ways to teach children how to show honor and respect for all the things that they have is to allow them to help take care of them.  

It is such a privilege to have a home, toys, a bed, etc.  Our children need to understand that these things took hard work by someone to acquire and to show our gratitude for the things we have been given, we properly take care of them.

We are missing out on great opportunities for our children when we fail to teach them how to properly clean and manage a home.  

Remember, we are supposed to be teaching our children how to be independent of us so that soon, they will be able to live without us and properly care for their own homes.  This doesn’t just happen but takes years of practice and years of being given more and more responsibility so that they can excel at these responsibilities.  Not too long ago I was speaking to my son on the phone as he was at college and asked him what he was doing.  He said, “I’m taking apart the stove to clean it.”  I thought, “Yay…he really was listening!”

Parents, teach them!  They can do it and believe it or not, it will add to their joy.

Have a great day,

Monica Irvine

Accepting & Receiving Gifts Graciously

Hello Friends.  Happy Holidays to you all.  I hope this month is filled with precious memories of times past, hope for a better tomorrow and enjoyment in the moment.

Of course the holidays can be such a sad time for many as they are without precious loved ones which creates an increased measure of sadness during this time of year.

Ladies, gentlemen, may we each take many moments to quietly ponder who needs extra love this month?  

May we sit down with our families and pray and discuss what we can do to brighten someone’s door or day?

No, we cannot wipe away other’s pain, but we can do so much to let others know that we love them, we care for them and we have not forgotten them or their loved ones.

I would like to challenge everyone to use this time of year as we celebrate what is precious to us, to bring light to others.

I get many questions concerning gifts around this time of year…what is too expensive, when to buy and when not to buy, what if someone buys for me but I didn’t buy for them, etc.  May I suggest a few considerations to keep us focused on what’s important and enjoy the gift of giving and receiving.

Deciding to buy something for someone should simply come from the desire to give for the sake of giving.  

For instance, you walk through a store and you see something that just reminds you of someone and you think they would love it, that’s a great time to give.  We should never feel obligated to give to anyone.  I would never want anyone to buy something for me because they felt they should, would you?  Of course not.  We should each be so touched when someone has taken the time and thought to give us a gift, but we should never ever expect one.

If someone gives us a gift, but we have not reciprocated, instead of feeling guilty, just be grateful and show your gratitude in words and deed. I don’t give gifts to only those who I believe have gotten me a gift.  Surely none of us do.  The gift of giving comes from the heart and desire to give and should be received with pure joy.  

Remember, the greater joy comes in the act of giving, not receiving.  There is no need for apologies when we have not reciprocated, rather, just be grateful.

We should consider the amount we spend when choosing a gift.  It does create discomfort when someone spends a large amount on someone that they do not have an intimate relationship with. Make sure our gifts are more about the thought than the money.

Finally, if someone has asked us to please not buy for them or their children, please honor that request.  We can show love in many ways outside of gift giving like giving service, cooking dinner for others, spending time with others and simply meeting their needs.  Purchased gifts are only one small way to give to others.

Enjoy your holidays and make every day count.  Love each other.  Be kind.  Thus lies to key to happiness.

Happy Holidays!

Monica Irvine

Family Meetings…They Make All the Difference

Parents, I introduce you to the value in family meetings in raising ladies and gentlemen.  

Having a family meeting once per week can literally cut down on so much wasted time, help the family to be more united, give the family specific goals and create much needed family fun time. Let me explain.  

A family meeting should have an agenda and 
should be led by mom or dad to help everyone stay on track.  

A family meeting is not a time for mom and dad to bark out orders, complain about everyone’s previous week’s mishaps, or become a laundry list of “to-do’s.”  Instead, it should be a time where each family member feels like their voice is heard, their opinions matter and they are an essential part of the family unit.  

Here are some possible ideas for your family meeting agenda:

Go over the schedule for the upcoming week including doctor appointments, ball games, special occasions, birthdays, and any events that the whole family needs to be aware of.  
This helps ensure everyone is on the same page, that rides are coordinated and special occasions do not get forgotten.

Family Fun Times Ideas
Every family should have “fun time” put on their schedule every single week.  
Just like us adults usually have things each week that we are looking forward to, our children need this too.
Family fun does not have to cost money.  It can be a movie at home, playground time, library time, hide-n-go-seek in the dark time…it just needs to be on the schedule, so that everyone can look forward to it and mom and dad don’t forget about it.

Family meetings really help accomplish projects because it helps everyone prepare physically and emotionally for them.  
If everyone knows that they are going to clean out the garage on Saturday, mom and dad can make sure they have all the needed supplies and the kids can “gear up” emotionally for the fun.

One-on-One Time 
Children feel so important when they see their names on the calendar for special time with mom and dad.
Parents, we are trying to raise engaging, responsible, productive and capable children.  Help them to learn these skills by involving them in running the family.  

A family meeting is a great way to teach our children organizational skills that will benefit them for years to come both personally and professionally.

Have a great week.

Monica Irvine