Manner Monday®: Napkin Rings

Do you recall, a time not so long ago, when families ate dinner around the dinner table?  I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine in this fast-paced, fast-food focused world we currently live in.  And when families sat down to dinner, quite often they used the ‘real’ stuff – china and cloth napkins??? I say this in jest – but also realizing that many kids today aren’t sitting down to dinner with their family.  Dinner is eaten on the fly from one activity to the next, and it’s usually picked up at the nearest drive through.  Hey, I get it!  I’m there with you!  We’re busy.  And then when we do actually get our family gathered for dinner – don’t get me started about technology at the table!!!

I digress… when we do actually get our family gathered for dinner, we’re not thinking about setting the stage – we’re just happy everyone is in the same place at the same time!  And the thought of getting out the china and cloth napkins – really?  One more thing to clean – no thank you!

When in reality, using the good stuff makes everyone at the table feel special.  My good friend, Suzanne, and I joke that food somehow just tastes better when eaten off ‘real’ plates.  More than likely you have some china in your house that’s not being used?  Get it out and dust it off.  You can look at it as a way to save money, and the environment, by not buying paper (disposable) plates!!!  And not to mention it’s a great opportunity for your kids to help clean up after the meal.  Great conversations happen when you’re in the kitchen together.

So, you’re still following me…  Thanks, I’m getting there! Now let’s take it one step further and dig out some cloth napkins.  We’re on a roll; think of how many paper towels you may save.

And here’s the good news – you don’t have to wash your napkins after every use.  Cue the moans and groans of; ‘gross’, ‘disgusting’, ‘I don’t want my brothers disgusting napkin’.  Believe it or not, that’s how Napkin Rings evolved!  They were originally used to identify the napkins of each family member between weekly washdays!  Did I hear a ‘hallelujah’ from some of you?  You don’t have to wash them after every use (unless they worked overtime during a shift).

The European bourgeoisie invented the napkin ring concept and they first started appearing in France in the early 1800’s.  The trend took off like wildfire and spread to many more countries including the western world.  In the 19th century, most napkin rings were made of silver, but some were also made of bone, wood, embroidery, porcelain, and glass. As the middle class grew to show wealth in household accessories, engraved napkin rings became popular gifts for weddings and christenings.  Once the paper napkin was invented, use of cloth napkins and the napkin rings declined significantly.  Today, napkin rings are viewed more as jewelry for the table setting, an added special detail, or the finishing touch.

I’ve enjoyed collecting unique napkin rings, some of which have been handed down through the family.   I even found an antique one on eBay engraved with my sons name on it! Score!  On a rainy day, you could have craft time and let the kids make their own creations.  It provides another opportunity to give them ownership in the process and to enjoy their time together around the table.

Do you set the stage for family dinner and use the real stuff?  If so, what’s you take on using cloth napkins more than once?  I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Here are some pictures of our dinner table and napkin rings:

I found Billy’s napkin ring on eBay.  It was already personalized!!!

This placemat has been a great tool in teaching him how to set the table!!!
You can order customized placemats for your kiddos at our Etsy shop:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/CareySueVega

Special Announcements:

Cupcakes and Coffee
Will you help spread the word? … this week we have scheduled two ‘Cupcakes and Coffee’ informational meetings.  Please share with your friends that these meetings are not mandatory for new parents, but serve as an opportunity for parents to gather information about the program in addition to the information included on our website.  If they have any questions, they are more than welcome to call or email.  I would love to visit with them.

And we would love to have you join us as well is you’re available!

  • Tuesday, April 15, 6:30-7:30pm, at The Nigh University Center (Campus of UCO), 2nd Street and Garland Godfrey, Edmond
  • Thursday, April 17, 6:30-7:30pm, at the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association (COHBA) Event Center, 420 East Britton Road, Oklahoma City

Early Bird Registration for 5-8th Grade Programs
The highest compliment you can give us is a referral to your friends and coworkers. Please share our registration and contact information with any families you think might be interested in participating in our program.

Each year we build on the previous year as we add to the curriculum.  We have many students who continue with us each season, from our Level 5 (5th grade) program through our Passport (High School) Program.  Our goal with the continuous exposure, and gentle reminders, of the courtesies we teach over consecutive years – is to assist you in raising well-mannered young adults.

  • Continued Exposure:  Just as continued exposure to athletics and school homework reaps rewards; continued exposure to the social skills taught in our program will provide lifelong lessons that will benefit your child throughout the classroom and into the boardroom.
  • Benefits and Rewards:  One of the biggest rewards of our students returning year after year, is the virtual ‘light bulb’ that seems to turn on and stay on; the students are really starting to get it and they are very proud of themselves.  Their confidence is building.  We’ve highlighted some of our graduating seniors on my blog atwww.CareySueVega.com/?s=senior+spotlight

5-8th Grade Levels:  We encourage you to register early to take advantage of the ‘early bird’ discount.  Regular tuition for the 2014-2015 season will be $425.

9-12th Grade Levels:  Registration is open and will continue with the Early Bird discount into the fall.  Register early to avoid the waiting list.

As always, thanks for reading!
- Carey Sue

 

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners

Manner Monday®: Napkin Etiquette

I was always taught to put my napkin neatly on the table when I excuse myself, either to go to the restroom, or when I was finished eating but still chatting at the table.  Recently a friend mentioned that putting your napkin on the table is actually rude?  I do know that in better restaurants the waiter will pick it up and drape it over the chair until the diner returns.  So just what is the correct napkin etiquette?   Thank you! - Kathleen

First off, many people may not know the intricacies of Silverware Sign Language TM.  Not to mention that different Etiquette Experts have different opinions on the topic (Emily Post and Letitia Baldridge, are two of the most famous who don’t agree), so I wouldn’t say placing your napkin on the table is rude.  And unless it was a REALLY good friend who pointed this out – they’d actually be the one to fall under the ‘rude’ category for bringing it up and making you feel uncomfortable.  Manners and Etiquette is more about making people feel at ease than focusing on the rules.

So now to answer your question, here’s my take on the topic:  When leaving the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair (on the seat, over the arm, or over the back), this signals ‘I’ll be back’.  My theory is that your neighbors don’t want to look at a dirty napkin while they’re still enjoying their meal.   And yes, in finer restaurants, many waiters will pick up the napkin (no matter where you’ve left it), gently fold it and reposition it to their preferential waiting place.  Once you are completely finished with your meal, placing your napkin on the table signals, ‘I’m finished’.  A general rule is to gently fold your napkin keeping the soiled spots out of sight, instead of just wading it up into and tossing it in a jumbled pile. If your plate has been removed, you can place the napkin in the center where the plate was.  If your plate is still in position, gently place your napkin to the ‘left’ of your plate.  An easy way to remember going to the left, if you have a coffee cup it would be on the right – so there would be ‘no room in the inn’ for your napkin.

A few other napkin tips:

  • Place your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated.  The custom of waiting for the hostess is reserved for formal affairs.
  • If you’re wearing dark colored pants or skirt, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if the restaurant has a dark napkin. Often a white napkin will leave lint marks on your clothing.  Some of the finer restaurants will be proactive in making this happen before you have a chance to ask.
  • Your napkin should be placed on your lap, not tucked into your shirt collar or tied around your neck (unless you’re a toddler and mom forgot the bib).
  • If you have a large dinner sized napkin, leave it folded in half, with the fold at your waist.  Much less material to deal with and it makes it so much easier to manage.
  • Ladies with lipstick, be consistent when picking up your napkin and dab with the same spot, this helps to keep lipstick stains corralled in the same area and keeps your napkin from looking like something found at the scene of a crime.
  • If your napkin falls on the floor, leave it.  Not only is the floor extremely filthy, but if you bend down to retrieve it, your head gets precariously near your neighbors lap – and all I’m going to say is ‘awkward’.  The waiter will happily bring you a new napkin.
  • If you accidentally make a big spill on the table – hopefully the waiter is near by to help save the day.  But if not, you can easily put a ‘bandaid’ on the spill by moving your plate, glassware, etc., and then placing your napkin over the mess.  Reset your place setting, apologize, and then move on.  Don’t keep bringing up the accident.  Trust me – it happens to everyone at some point and time… move on and try to forget about it.

In the grand scheme of things… just make sure to use a napkin!  And along those lines, Emily Post said it best, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

napkin-toddler

Special Announcements:

Cupcakes and Coffee
Will you help spread the word? … in April, we have scheduled two ‘Cupcakes and Coffee’ informational meetings.  Please share with your friends that these meetings are not mandatory for new parents, but serve as an opportunity for parents to gather information about the program in addition to the information included on our website.  If they have any questions, they are more than welcome to call or email.  I would love to visit with them.

And we would love to have you join us as well is you’re available!

  • Tuesday, April 15, 6:30-7:30pm, at The Nigh University Center (Campus of UCO), 2nd Street and Garland Godfrey, Edmond
  • Thursday, April 17, 6:30-7:30pm, at the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association (COHBA) Event Center, 420 East Britton Road, Oklahoma City

Early Bird Registration for 5-8th Grade Programs
The highest compliment you can give us is a referral to your friends and coworkers. Please share our registration and contact information with any families you think might be interested in participating in our program.

Each year we build on the previous year as we add to the curriculum.  We have many students who continue with us each season, from our Level 5 (5th grade) program through our Passport (High School) Program.  Our goal with the continuous exposure, and gentle reminders, of the courtesies we teach over consecutive years – is to assist you in raising well-mannered young adults.

  • Continued Exposure:  Just as continued exposure to athletics and school homework reaps rewards; continued exposure to the social skills taught in our program will provide lifelong lessons that will benefit your child throughout the classroom and into the boardroom.
  • Benefits and Rewards:  One of the biggest rewards of our students returning year after year, is the virtual ‘light bulb’ that seems to turn on and stay on; the students are really starting to get it and they are very proud of themselves.  Their confidence is building.  We’ve highlighted some of our graduating seniors on my blog atwww.CareySueVega.com/?s=senior+spotlight

5-8th Grade Levels:  We encourage you to register early to take advantage of the ‘early bird’ discount.  Regular tuition for the 2014-2015 season will be $425.

9-12th Grade Levels:  Registration is open and will continue with the Early Bird discount into the fall.  Register early to avoid the waiting list.

As always, thanks for reading!
- Carey Sue

 

 

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Business Etiquette, Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manners

Manner Monday®: #Foodie Photos at the Table

First off, we all know that your focus should be on your friends and family.  But if you feel as though you HAVE to snap a picture, do so quickly and discreetly.  And do I even have to say this part (yes… I do); wait until you leave the restaurant, or event, if you plan to post your photo to your social media sites.

If you do want to snap a #foodie photo here are some tips to avoid ruining the rhythm of the meal and annoying your fellow diners:

  •  Your phone should already be on silent, but double check before snapping your pic.  You don’t want the ‘shutter’ sound disturbing nearby diners.
  • While you’re checking the mute function, turn off the flash.  You don’t want to disturb and distract others with the flash, plus it makes your food look horrible in the photo.
  • Don’t rearrange furniture, food placement or people.  Remember the key is to be quick and discreet.
  • Get a closeup of the food. If you can’t sense being able to touch and smell the dish through the photo, you’re not close enough.
  • Make sure to leave other diners in the restaurant out of your pic.
  • After you leave the event, give the photo a quick edit before posting it. Don’t forget to crop out any extraneous table clutter and correct the white balance before you share it.  And again, don’t even think about doing this at the table!
  • Finally make sure your picture is actually a good one before sharing it.  You don’t want the ‘best-meal-ever’ to end up looking like something you would serve Fido.

It’s great to take pictures to keep as a memento of a fabulous dinner or event, but don’t forget to actually enjoy the moment with the friends and family who are at your table.

 

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Business Etiquette, Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners, Uncategorized

Manner Monday®: What Would George Say?

Happy Presidents Day!

In honor of the Holiday, we’re revisiting George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation which he penned at the ripe age of 16 (yes, 16) to highlight one of his ‘archaic’ rules to see how it’s still pretty relevant in today’s modern world.

Rule #90 “Being set at meat scratch not neither spit, cough, or blow your nose, except there’s a necessity for it.”

In other words:  Sometimes it happens and a bodily function accidentally slips up on you in the presence of others.  If you’re at the dinner table, do your best to cover your mouth with your napkin and not draw attention to it and politely say ‘excuse me’ to your neighbor who may have heard you; at some point I’m sure it has happened to them and they completely understand.

If you feel a sneeze coming on and are not able to make a quick enough getaway: sneeze into your shoulder, turning your head and body away from your neighbor.  Make sure to catch the sneeze in your shoulder so you don’t share it with the table behind you.

If the bodily function is something completely within your control, such as blowing your nose, excuse yourself to the restroom where you can take care of things privately.  You tablemates will be eternally grateful.

I wonder if George knew how hip his ‘rules’ would still be in 2014???

ELAINE-BLOWS-HER-NOSE

 

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Business Etiquette, Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners

Manner Monday: Formal dinner rules – ‘Time to turn’

I thought it would be fun to share something I noticed during a recent episode of Dowtown Abbey.  At dinner one evening, Mary was engaging in polite conversation with a gentleman suitor seated to her right.  Mid-conversation, she politely smiled and said ‘time to turn’, as she then turned to the gentleman to her left to engage in polite conversation.

Back in ‘the day’ there were conversation rules during formal dinner.  The ladies were to keep an eye on their hostess and when the hostess ‘turned’ her conversation to the person on her opposite side, you were to follow suit.  I have a fabulous book in my arsenal, ‘The Rituals of Dinner’, by Margaret Visser.  In it she shares more detail on the topic:

“At the merest turn of the hostess’s head, from the guest on her left to the guest on her right, every couple has to interrupt their conversation.  The women take the responsibility of turning in the direction the hostess has initiated; the gentlemen, turned from and turned to, merely submit.  It would of course be exceedingly rude, not only to the host but to everyone present, to become so engrossed in conversation that you failed to notice the command, or refused to change partners; chorus line precision is required, or else at lest two people would be left ‘staring alone at the their plates.’”

Do any of us need to know this information… probably not?  But is it a fun fact to know?  Yes (or at least I think so).

And hey, let me know if you have a chance to eat with a Queen, Dowager Countess, Earl, Lady, or some other dignitary and this information actually comes in handy!

Lady Mary

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners

Manner Monday®: Thanksgiving Etiquette – Viewer Questions Answered

This past week Channel 4 asked me to come in and answer viewer questions about ‘Thanksgiving’.

Here is the video segment.

 

What other questions do you have about Thanksgiving that you would like answered before the Holiday?  Click here to jump over to our Facebook page to post your question.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and enjoy some quality time with friends and family.

For more tips on Thanksgiving:

Setting the Table

Comfortable Conversation at the Table

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners

Setting the Table

With Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays right around the corner I’ve been asked to share some fun and easy tips to make setting the table a breeze.

First of all, keep it simple.  If it’s not going to be used – don’t put it on the table.  No need to line up all of your grandmother’s silver ‘just because’ and leave your guests navigating unnecessary items.  Plus, you will more than likely need as much tabletop real estate as possible to squeeze everyone into an overly crowded table.  If you do have additional space and want to ‘spiffy’ up your table, you can add extra touches through flowers and other accessories to make it a bit more special for the Holiday.

Forgo the ‘kids table’.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Mix the kiddos’ in with the adults.  This is a great opportunity for children to ‘learn’ in an atmosphere where it’s ok to make mistakes.  Reach out to an Aunt or Uncle, Brother or Sister, and ask if they would mind lending junior a helping hand during the meal.  More than likely your child will be excited to sit by someone they admire and will be more open to taking ‘coaching’ suggestions from them anyway!

Basic Table Setting Tips

  • 4 letters in “Left” and 4 letters in “Fork”, the four letter utensils will be placed to the Left of the dinner plate.
  • 5 letters in “Right” and 5 letters in “Knife”, “Spoon”, and “Drink”, the five letter utensils will be placed to the Right of the dinner plate.  By placing the Drink at the top of the Knife, it keeps the glass out of the way of passing food leaving fewer opportunities for an accidental spill.
  • Bread and Butter Plates:  If your table has enough space and you want to add them to the place setting, they will go to the Left, above the Forks.  It’s a ‘stretch’ but there are four ‘words’ in ‘Bread and Butter Plate’, going with the theme of 4 letters in Left, it will help you to remember which side.  Plus there is ‘no room in the inn’ on the right with the drinks.

Don’t forget about ‘assigned seating’ on ‘conversation starters’.  Click here to read more.

 

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners

Manner Monday®: Large Family Gatherings and ‘Comfortable Conversation’

With the Holidays fast approaching, many people will be sitting down to ‘break bread’ with sometimes a great number of extended family members.  Oftentimes, this includes ‘unfamiliar’ family members.  Not too many of us actually enjoy that awkward moment of ‘what am I going to say’ or being stuck in an uncomfortable moment when the conversation isn’t flowing as freely as we would like for it to.  By spending some time now with your immediate family, during your FFT dinner, you can work on ‘comfortable conversation’ starters, so hopefully you won’t be stuck in an ‘uncomfortable conversation’.

If you’re hosting this year, here are some helpful tips to make sure things go as smooth as possible when it comes to creating ‘comfortable conversation’ opportunities:

Assigned seating:  It helps to take the guess work out of where everyone will sit and you’re also able to corral “Uncle Tom” between you and your sister… who will be able to help you keep him in check.

Place Cards:  You can use something as simple as a piece of card stock, or you can do something fun such as a pinecone with the persons name tied to it with construction paper or ribbon.  You can also do something a bit more special such as a mini picture frame with your guest’s name, or photo, in it that they can take home with them as cherished memento.  If you have a little one, have them get in on the place card task; they love being included and can add an artistic touch that everyone will appreciate.

Conversation starters:  Another benefit of place cards, you can place a question on each place card that helps to get the conversation going.  Planting questions is a fabulous way to get the family talking and to share stories from ‘days gone by’ and create wonderful family memories you will treasure for a lifetime.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Ask an ‘older’ relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend) what they remember about:
    • the invention of ‘cell phones’ and what did it look like?
    • What were their telephone ‘rules’ in the house before cell phones?
    • Before text and email, how did they send correspondence to friends and family. Did they have a ‘pen pal’?
    • Landline phones that were attached to the wall via a cord Party lines.
  •  Tell us about your favorite childhood Thanksgiving memory.
  • What was life like before Cell Phones and DVRs?
  • What are you most thankful for this year?
  • What is your most memorable school picture?
  • What special childhood memory do you have of a family member who is no longer with us?
  • What luxuries do you take for granted and why are you thankful for them?
  • Which teacher were you most grateful for?
  • What is your favorite memory from grade school?
  • How did you meet?  Tell us about your first date.  (This is a great one for the Grandparents.)
  • What family recipe reminds you of something special?
  • Tell about a time when you were reminded “it’s better to give than receive”.
  • Thinking of the pilgrims and their adventure, what do you think it would be like to leave everyone and everything behind and move to a new country…without a job secured?
  • What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life?
  • What do you appreciate most about the person on your right?

As people are answering their questions, think of saying things such as “tell us more” instead of cutting them short to share your version or answer.

Turn the TV off and leave your cell phone at the front door (or in the car).  Take this time to focus on good old-fashioned ‘face-time’!!!

What are your tricks to keeping the conversation comfortable at your Thanksgiving table?  Please leave a comment below to share your tips and stories.  I’ll be giving away a Manner Monday placemat to a lucky winner who leaves a comment or shares a story from their Thanksgiving dinner.  I will randomly draw the winning name on Monday, November 26.

Happy Thanksgiving!  …and may the conversation be comfortable!

 

 

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manner Monday, Manners

MannerMonday®: Family Dinner

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) has instituted a national movement called “Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children.  Launched as a grassroots effort in 2001, it has now grown to a nationwide initiative that is celebrated on the fourth Monday in September.

Here is some great information from their website:

As children age, it is important to build trust with them and keep the lines of communication open so that if at any point they begin to feel increased pressure to experiment with smoking, drinking and using drugs they can feel comfortable talking to you about it. 
 Everyday activities like having family dinner together, helping your children with their homework or attending their after school activities have a lasting effect on your kids.

Each of these moments offers an opportunity to connect, share and really listen to what’s on their mind. Research shows that children with hands-on parents are far less likely to smoke, drink or use other drugs. Remember, parental engagement matters!

 If you can’t sit down for family dinner today, that’s ok.  Take a look at your calendar for the next week and schedule a ‘date’ (or two or three) with your family for good old-fashioned ‘family-face-time’ (FFT).  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Keep it simple and as stress free and as much FUN as possible.  FUN is when great things happen.

Determine if FFT will take place at home around the table or choose a restaurant where it can be accomplished (no TVs distracting with the game overhead).  The goal is for whomever is participating to sit at the table for a meal with no distractions.  Yes, mom and dad this will be just as hard for you J – no cell phones and no TV.  Think quality FFT.  Believe it or not, teenagers really do want uninterrupted quality time with their parents – even if they don’t act like it.  By planning ahead and exerting a little bit of effort in small stages, we can start now to prepare for mealtime outings with family, friends, and even colleagues… without cringing at the thought of the idea.

And if you want a fun, creative way to set the stage and ‘invite’ your family to dinner… take the lead from the mom of one of our high school students:

family dinner invitation

I’d love to hear about your ‘Family-Face-Time’!  Click here top over to the Facebook page to share your stories…

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner

Practice, practice, practice – even with manners

I was visiting with a friend the other day and she was asking for tips on how to get her four year old to sit through dinner.  My answer was practice and repetition.

Consistency is also helpful.  Each week, make it a goal to pick at least one day (more if possible) when you will sit down as a family to the dinner table.  Yes, the actual dinner table – not in the car (yes, we’ve all been there), or at the kitchen island, and definitely not in front of the TV.  Ask your kiddos to help with setting the table, it doesn’t matter if they get all of the silverware in the right place, you’re starting with the baby steps of practice and repetition.  You’re setting the stage, for family time where many more lessons can easily be woven into the dinnertime conversation.

Something else I find helpful is that I try to make it a point of ‘reminding’ our son what’s expected of him before we do something.  Do I still have to prompt him? … Yes.  When we’re eating at home, does he still get up every once in a while out of the blue for some random reason? … Yes.  But I know one of these days our persistence will pay off.

Not only do we need to practice table manners on a regular basis, we need to practice all of the mannerly basics like being respectful.  Take time now to practice all of those ‘little’ things that make a big difference in character.  It’s tough duty raising kids, and as parents we want nothing more than to raise well-rounded, respectful children and send them out into the world prepared.  So in between scheduling practice for baseball, soccer and gymnastics, make sure to carve out some practice time for the soft skills that will carry your child through the rest of his or her life.

As much as we all would like to believe that it only takes one time of being told how or what to do – reality is, it takes a few times to actually ‘sink’ in.  So turn off the technology, get ready for some good old-fashioned family ‘face-time’ and practice, practice, practice.

Photo is courtesy of www.ASubtleReverly.com

 

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Etiquette, Family, Family Dinner, Manners