A Request for the Secret Formula

Posted on June 25, 2013

My husband’s Grandmother could create magical butterhorn crescent rolls from scratch.  They were buttery, flaky little treasures that would flush the cheeks of Betty Crocker.  After years of enjoying these tasty treats on holidays and special occasions, I summoned up the courage and made the request for her recipe.  She humbly complied with my request and carefully scripted the top-secret formula on a 3 x 5 index card.  I excitedly returned to my kitchen where I spent the next 2 weeks painstakingly following the directions she so carefully transcribed.  Each attempt resulted in varying degrees of disaster leaving me to question my culinary proficiency.  Following every embarrassing result I would phone her in hopes she could diagnose the issue.  The response I received with each S.O.S. appeal was the same: “Well dear, if you just follow the directions I’m sure they will turn out perfectly.”  There you had it…I was a dope.

Eventually, I gave up the quest for butterhorn crescent roll perfection and allowed my dear ‘ole Grandmother-In-Law to reign supreme.

Years past when out of the blue my husband made a suggestion I still question to this day.  He proposed that I invite Granny to our house and video tape her making her rolls.  He said, “This would be such a great memorial and she is in her 80’s.  Won’t live forever.”  I said, “What a great idea!” He said, “Oh by the way, you may be able to get some baking pointers.”  I said, “What the hell.”

I did in fact, receive some pointers although they were inadvertently provided.  I learned that dear ‘ole Gran Gran left out a key ingredient.  I suspect this was intentional because I also learned that she had been cheating in our weekly games of Canasta.

So…are there etiquette rules for this sort of situation?  Of course there are!  Go ahead and humbly make the request for the delicious recipe.  This is well within acceptable boundaries however; be prepared for a refusal.  While the request is the ultimate form of flattery, some folks are just not comfortable divulging their secret formulas.  That’s OK to.

The other lesson learned is never underestimate the craftiness of an elderly woman and don’t allow her to ever cut the deck.

Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace

K. Martini

Hey you, Bartender!

Posted on June 5, 2013

It’s a widely known fact that I’ve been blessed with an abundance of unreserved expressions and social comforts.  I’ve naively believed that everyone contains the same characteristics but in only slightly differing measure.  My measure however; happens to be greater than most.  While this characteristic comes in handy in most social situations, there are a few that require less spontaneous and reserved (dignified) engagements.  Gaining a bartender’s attention is one such occasion.

martini glass white

A recent Girl’s Night Out provides a glimpse into today’s illustration of a common social foible and some offense advice.  Having just dined on a delectable meal of Greek food, we ladies adjourned to the bar area of the restaurant for a refreshing libation.  After spending 20 minutes patiently waiting for table service, I sauntered up to the bar to place our order directly.  So did 20 other thirsty patrons.  I’m not a physically large girl so you would assume that the larger person would be the first to gain the attention of the barkeeper.  You might also assume that a large person with personality traits akin to mine would be the winner of Who Can Gain the Bartenders Attention First Contest.  You would be correct in your assumption if the large person with a large personality also had self-restraint and manners.  I handily won the stealthy contest with a personal best time of 15 seconds.  Before I divulge my attention-getting secrets, let me tell you what I DID NOT DO but what I witnessed as desperate, tacky and disrespectful tactics:

I DID NOT..

  • I did not yell “Hey Bartender!” and/or snap my fingers at him as he flashed before my eyes.
  • I did not whistle.
  • I did not throw a condiment, straw or coaster.
  • I did not lower my blouses neckline or crawl onto the bar top.

WHAT I DID…

  • Positioned myself strategically.  As smaller girl, this was not behind the towering beer taps but rather close to where the bartender was most active.
  • Smiled, smiled and smiled some more.
  • Engaged and attempted to retain eye contact while simultaneously….
  • Keeping a slight bend of my relaxed but extended arm (see diagram below) with a $20 bill conspicuously visible.

Suggested Arm Placement

Cheers!

K. Martini

Book Crooks

Posted on May 11, 2013

“Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.”  Anatole France

A quiet little phenomenon pervades our culture and my home.  While relatively mild on the spectrum of Faux Pas foibles, it is one that continually infiltrates my life.  It is the issue of book borrowing.  My husband and I lead small groups for our church and have come to acquire a large library of books and materials that support not only group topics but also personal enjoyment.  In the past 15 years, we’ve lent out approximately 50 books.  To date, not one of these books has been returned.  This shocking statistic came to me yesterday as I was re-organizing my bookshelves.  I’ve resisted putting pen to paper to calculate the total dollars lost as my denial is much more comfortable than the reality.

With the popularity of eBooks and other electronic forms of literature becoming the norm, I’m going to assume that my little problem will self-correct.  It will not however; prevent me from incurring the cost of replacement.  As an etiquette writer you might presume that my life is free of personal blunder.  You would be mistaken.  I recently (relatively speaking) borrowed a book from a friend only to return it 12 months later after losing interest in it then losing it all together in my wellspring of reading material.  After blowing off the dust,  I sheepishly returned it along with a gift card to a nearby bookstore.  It was a guilt gift.

So…is there book borrowing etiquette?  There sure is.  In short, you handle the borrowing of a book as you would anything else that does not belong to you.

You politely ask

You quickly read

You promptly return

Allow me to expound on the last point, please.  You promptly return it in the same condition as you received it.  You are not the owner therefore, you are responsible for the borrowed item while in your possession.  You will resist the urge to use it as a coaster.  You refrain from dog-earring the pages.   You battle your impulse to read while bathing.  You contain the compulsion to highlight the text or make notes in the margins.  You wash the remnants of the chocolate lava cupcake from your fingers prior to opening the first page.

I’ve adopted three new policies for the Martini household which you also might find helpful: 1.) I will not loan a book that I highly value. 2.) I will keep a log of the books I have loaned out.  3.) I will keep a stash of bookstore gift cards handy when I fail to take my own advice.

book

A Graceful Layoff

Posted on May 6, 2013

6 months, 16 days, 1 hour and 38 minutes.  That is exactly how long I held my dream job before I, along with 1100 of my colleagues, received notice of termination.  Thankfully, this did not come as a complete surprise.  There were bold indications weeks before the deed was done which allowed me to complete the cycle of emotions that accompany unwelcome news.  Also thankfully, I cycle quickly.  This cannot be said for many of my colleagues.  Surviving a layoff with style and grace is not easy.  As with many other traumatic life events, it calls one to dig deep, swallow hard and rise above the fray.  This must be accomplished when your surroundings are anything but normal.

Today’s advice comes to you born of my recent experience during the weeks leading up to and shortly after the receipt of my pink slip.  While the situation could be best described as a blood bath (1100 individuals all released simultaneously), many of you may find yourself in a party of one.  No matter the circumstance or number, your release from employment is an opportunity to demonstrate the character you possess.

Anger, resentment, shock, denial.  These are all common emotions felt in the aftermath of a termination.  While you may not immediately care how you publicly demonstrate your emotion, the long term damage resulting from unchecked reactions can be more catastrophic than you realize.  As an (unemployed) Faux Pas aficionado, please review the following advice:

→ Don’t bad mouth the company or any of your fellow employees.  This may be the greatest temptation of all but your resistance to disparaging remarks signals dignity and professionalism.  Your public display of emotion will follow you long after your exit from the building.  This tip also pertains to social media sites inside and outside the company.  P.S.  If you think your username is anonymous, it is not.  Be remembered for your grace not the tantrum.  You may need references and networking opportunities for your next job search.

Don’t take it personally or shoot the messenger.  The person delivering the bad news is generally not the initiator of the directive.  Layoff decisions are typically made at the highest levels of an organization and made without names or faces attached.  If, on the other hand, you threw up eggnog  on the corporate copier during the holiday party, were repeatedly cited for raiding the office supply cabinet of Post-It Notes and you are the only one receiving the pink slip – you might want to consider it personal.

→ Leave all company property with the company.  If you did not purchase the goods with personal funds and/or it was used for your job, it belongs to the company. Period.  This includes all the files on you company computer whether they are personal or not. Aside from the moral issue, there could be a legal issue as well.  Your bad day would be a whole lot worse looking out of a jail cell or having to face financial restitution.  Yes, this includes the Post-It Notes hoard.

→ Resist sending mass email goodbyes.  I received no less than 50  of these “Dear John” pity notes during the last week of my tenure.  After reading the first 10, the time I dedicated to them was as long as it took me to hit the delete button.  If  you must send an email of departure, take the time to address them to close colleagues and future contacts individually and include your updated contact information.

Complete all your unfinished work and complete it well.  Depending on the situation, this may not be possible however; make every attempt to complete your work to the best of your ability.  Go a step further and offer to transfer your knowledge and collateral to a retained employee.

As for me, I am confident that I will land on my professional feet again soon.  I am taking pride in my previous contributions as brief as my tenure was and I look forward to the next chapter.  Until then, I will take advantage of my circumstance and intensify my search for Faux Pas worthy specimens and the knowledge and stories I can impart.  I have a feeling Faux Pas’s tenure will be substantially longer than my last job. 🙂

K. Martini

At the Eatery: Splitting the Bill

Posted on April 6, 2013

Handling the division of a restaurant bill is a situation that presents itself with regularity.  How to handle it with taste and grace can be tricky especially when your table is filled with diverse palates, relationships and wallet sizes.

Here are some common sense strategies and etiquette tips that will aide in your bill-splitting navigations.

#1:  Request a separate check upon ordering.  This not only assures that you will be accountable for only your costs but it conveys to the rest of your table partners you prefer to pay your portion only.

#2:  If the group suggests an even split, graciously contribute your portion and don’t get hung up on the pennies (i.e.: error on the generous side).  This work well if the group is fairly uniform in individual costs.  If, on the other hand, Doris dined on lobster and a bottle of 2005 Chateau Angelus Saint-Emilion and you had the soup of the day with a Diet Coke – well, that could change the dynamic.  If you find yourself with a lopsided financial division and no desire to fiscally contribute to Doris’s big ticket buzz, it is perfectly acceptable to plunk down your portion only.  Do this along with a simple statement of “I believe this should cover my soup and soda.”  Message delivered.  If you happen to be Doris, please ensure that you cover your costs sufficiently to prevent anyone else from having to pony up for your extravagances.

#3:  Even splits should be divided by person, not couple.  This is obviously applicable to tables where there is a mix of singles and couples.  If there are children in attendance, those responsible for the child, pay for the child’s fare.

#4:  Don’t forget the gratuity!  This is the one area that is often overlooked when splitting the bill.  Please ensure your tip is added to your final costs.  Once again, error on the generous side.

#5:  Don’t assume and/or take advantage.  Unless a member of your party generously offers to foot the bill, don’t assume your tab will be paid.  This scenario often plays out when parents or wealthy tablemates are in attendance.  Making an assumption that Mama’s Friday night bingo win is paying for your meal is rude and presumptuous.  Unless your age qualifies you for a kid’s meal, fork over your share of the pie.

Business situations require slightly different rules.  Frankly, I find the business lunch or dinner to be easier to navigate through than the typical social one.  This is due to the simplicity of the relationships and hierarchy rules.  If you’ve extended the invitation you are expected to fund the expense.  EXCEPTION:  If you are trying to solicit the other parties business, it is customary that you pay the expense.  In a large group, the most senior level employee should foot the bill on behalf of the group.

While these are all customary guidelines. don’t assume that your comrades are in the know.  Always be prepared to pay your share of the meal expense then tell them about a clever, little blog you’ve stumbled upon.

K. Martini

A Priest and a Rabbi Walk into a Bar: The Unscrupulous Joke

Posted on March 13, 2013

Most of us have one.  We have one member of the family, friend or acquaintance circle who is best described as “colorful”.  I am no exception.  Last Thanksgiving was especially meaningful.  For the first time in 25 years my entire extended family joined together for merriment, food and fellowship.  The youngest tot to the oldest patriarch united together under one roof for a day of loving chaos.  As the day progressed and the wine flowed, my “colorful” sibling became increasingly colorful.  Never one to restrain his gaiety (or his filters), I found we were about to enter forbidden and uncomfortable territories.

shock1Good taste does not have to squelch good humor.  Unfortunately, there are some folks whose joke telling stipulates that all those within earshot appreciate the expletives, vulgarity and/or blasphemy.  In this case, all three elements were present and accounted for.  The victims within earshot ranged from a four-year-old girl to a Japanese immigrant to an 80-year-old man in a wheelchair (with perfect hearing) to a woman with overly generous breast implants to a Catholic.  I think the audience pool was too rich for him to ignore.

Just like a major league homer, my brother hit it out of the park and proceeded to insult everyone.  Exception: The four-year old who learned new and wondrous words to share at story-time but was innocently spared from offense.

I realize those reading this will never reach these extremes.  You are elegant and filled with common sense even when your wine glass has been repeatedly drained.  For “The Others”,  I beg you to take heed of the following Faux Pas advice:

YOU KNOW YOUR JOKE IS INJURIOUS AND YOUR DIGNITY METER PLUMMETS WHEN…

  1. Profanity is required to achieve the punch line successfully
  2. EVERYONE can’t enjoy the joke
  3. Personal weaknesses are used to produce a laugh
  4. Anyone is brought to tears or flushes of embarrassment
  5. Something sacred or revered by another person is the object of your joke
  6. The “Your Mama” joke is about someone else’s Mama

What do you do when someone has conveyed an inappropriate joke?  The best response may be no response.  You can effectively communicate your distaste by looking the offender in the eye without amused emotion and quietly walking away.  If the circumstance clearly warrants a comment, calmly stating that their joke was rude and offensive will do.

So, did you hear the one about…

A new pastor was visiting the homes of his parishioners.  At one house it seemed obvious that someone was home but no answer came to his repeated knocks on the door.  Therefore, he took out a card and wrote, “Revelation 3:20” on the back of it and stuck it in the door.  When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned.  Added to it was this cryptic message: “Genesis 3:10.”  Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter.  Revelation 3:20 begins “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”  Genesis 3:10 reads, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid, for I was naked.”

K. Martini 😉

Usernames: Not Just Another Moniker

Posted on February 16, 2013

You will never get the chance to regain a first impression.  This is a universal rule and can be applied to every situation worldwide including the virtual variety.  Usernames convey identity.  Your username is your brand, your stamp, your label.  It is a reflection of YOU.  The following list  illustrates just a sampling of the usernames I’ve encountered over the past 60 days.

MissTittsTrick
Hardboy69
Jkfg((y*948qup$S#@n09sfnwbp
HairyLeftToenailed
SoullessBitch
Herpes_free_since_03
InJail_Outsoon

As you examine each username above, close your eyes and call upon your own visual slide show to summon the image each one conveys.  I believe I’ve made my point.

K. Martini

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