The No-Show Birthday Party: How Our Seemingly Harmless Actions Can Hurt Others


I was recently killing time on Facebook when I came across a girlfriend’s status update that stopped me in my tracks:

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One of the comments in the thread revealed that fourteen of the little boy’s classmates RSVP’d that they would attend the birthday party, but only one of them actually showed up. I blame this on the parents. It’s doubtful that the parents of the thirteen kids who failed to attend had legitimate emergencies that would warrant not showing up for an event that they already committed to. And what about texting or emailing the birthday boy’s parents ahead of time to let them know they had to cancel?

Until I had children, I never fully understood the amount of time and money involved in throwing a party. I imagined the situation where the little boy was probably counting down the minutes until his friends came to his birthday party, only to have one person show up. (And thank God for that one person!) Sure, it was gorgeous in Florida last weekend and there were likely other things these parents would have rather been doing than sitting at some kid’s birthday party, but couldn’t they have just sucked it up for two hours and honored their commitment? My heart goes out to the birthday boy and his parents, which my girlfriend described as “devastated.” I hope I never have to see my children experience that type of heartbreak and disappointment, even though it’s probably inevitable. Anybody who thinks that the birthday boy should “get over it” because disappointment is a part of life needs to consider how they would feel if the birthday boy was their child and they were the ones who had to see the pain in his eyes.

What made reading this status update more difficult is that I’ve been guilty of RSVPing to events and subsequently being unable to attend. This happens rarely and usually only involves weekday girls’ nights where the event seemed like a great idea when I initially received the invitation and RSVP’d. Then, by the time it rolled around a couple weeks later, I was exhausted from working and traveling all day, had a screaming (and sometimes sick) child to feed, bathe, and put to bed, and the last thing I felt like doing was getting dolled up and driving to a place where I had to be social. And when I sent that horrible text to the host(ess) “Hey, I’m so sorry but I had a crazy day today and am not going to be able to make it tonight,” I am usually thinking, “It won’t matter if I don’t go because I saw on the E-Vite that twenty other girls will be there.” Well… what would happen if the rest of those twenty girls did the same thing? Or even ten of them? In reality, during these scenarios I’m thinking about myself and not the person it might be negatively impacting: the host!

Let’s put the RSVP issue aside and move onto attending events that aren’t necessarily appealing (or convenient) to us, but are important to the person of honor. Like the bachelorette party in New York City for the girl who attended all of your events when you were the bride-to-be? Or the baby shower for the girl who hosted your baby shower when it was your turn to be celebrated? Or the awards luncheon (all the away across town when you only have an hour lunch break) for the friend who worked her tail off toward the accomplishment that she’s now being honored? It’s impossible to attend everything we are invited to, and sometimes there are genuine conflicts but, overall, who are we considering when we accept or decline? Ourselves, or the person being celebrated? Shouldn’t we want to make other people feel special, the same way other people have made us feel special?

We live in a world that teaches us to think solely about ourselves: “What do I want to do today?” “What feels like the best decision for me?” “I have to put myself first.” Me, me, me. To a large degree, it’s important to consider our own best interests when making decisions, but where do we draw the line? I don’t know the answer to this question. We can be so absorbed with ourselves that we don’t think about how our seemingly harmless choices can hurt somebody else. What would happen if the world taught us to base our decisions on love and service for others? What would happen if we universally had that attitude?

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this horrible birthday party story is that anybody who hears about it might second guess the next time they consider blowing off a commitment. I know I will.

(Linking up with Annie and Natalie on Thoughts for Thursday). Photo credit by Can Stock Photo/ Vishnena.

    Regifting: Forgivable or Faux Pas?


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    I witnessed something happen at a bridal shower that was so mortifying that this is the first time I’ve told the story. It was so mortifying, in fact, that even writing about it is mortifying.

    It was 2007 and Shelby (whose name isn’t Shelby) was elated about her bridal shower, the first in a string of what would be fabulous events prior to her June wedding. There were around 40 guests at this shower, comprised of Shelby’s mother, grandmothers, future in-laws, great aunts, hometown girlfriends, and sorority sisters. After the cocktails were served, brunch was eaten, and games were played, everyone sat in a large circle around the bride-to-be as she opened gifts. Per custom, Shelby read each bridal shower card aloud and announced who the gift was from before she opened it. (Cue the oohs and aahs). The third gift was immediately recognizable, a large square blue box from Tiffany’s that was tied with a perfect white ribbon. Inside the box was a gorgeous crystal pitcher and Shelby’s friend, Caroline, beamed as Shelby read her bridal shower card and announced that it was from her. As this was happening, I thought to myself “Wow, Caroline is about to get married and finish grad school in a couple months, this is a generous shower gift!” Before Shelby moved onto the next gift, she stopped and said, “Wait… I see another card.” Tucked inside the pitcher was a tiny white envelope that was 2″ wide by 2″ tall. Shelby opened the envelope, and inside was a card that contained typewriter-style font, which Shelby read out loud: “Dear Caroline, wishing you and Bobby many years of love in your marriage. Jim and Patricia Perkins.”

    Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do or how to react. Everyone was speechless, including poor Shelby, who probably wished she never accidentally discovered the card to begin with. Caroline was silent and her cheeks were scarlet. She was just red-handedly caught regifting.

    We’ve all been victims of regifting. I have a girlfriend who received a used ceramic “vase” as  wedding gift, which we all swear was an urn. I think most of us have also been guilty of regifting, though not to the same extreme as poor Caroline. For example, you received two copies of Goodnight Moon for your baby shower, so you gave your extra copy to someone else at their baby shower.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with regifting. And so we are all on the same page, my definition of regifting is giving away a new, unused item, that somebody purchased for you to somebody else under the guise that you purchased it for them. Regifting, to me, is not giving a used hand-me-down as a gift. (I mean, I appreciate hand-me-downs, but just don’t wrap them and represent that the items are new). I realize it gets incredibly expensive and time consuming to routinely attend bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, and kids’ birthday parties. If Little Susie received two Sparkle Studio Barbies at her birthday party, I wouldn’t be offended if I found out that Susie’s mom wrapped one of them and gave it to my child as a gift at her birthday party. No harm, no foul. I think it’s nice that people take time out of their schedules to attend these events and don’t believe people should be fixated on the gifts they receive. (Unless, of course, we’re talking about a wedding and a guest doesn’t give a gift at all- not even a card- which I find despicable).

    Evidently, most Americans agree with my position on regifting. In 2012, The Huffington Post cited a survey initiated by CreditDonkey.com (sounds legit) where 83% of respondents said they wouldn’t mind receiving a resifted present. Further, about half of the 1,125 adult Americans polled in the survey said they suspected they had received a regift in the past. However, only 35% of survey respondents admitted to regifting something.

    Emily Post disagrees with my stance on regifting. According to her, it’s “not really” acceptable to pass along a gift you’ve received to someone else. She believes that gifts should be recycled rarely and only under the following circumstances: 1) You’re certain the gift is something the recipient would really like to receive; 2) The gift is brand new and comes with the original box and instructions; and 3) The gift isn’t one that the original giver took great care to select or make. In other words- you have to make sure you don’t hurt feelings, either the original giver’s or the recipient’s. (Emily Post is my go-to for scenarios when I am tempted to do something tacky, and you can purchase her most popular book here).

    What do you think? Is regifting a forgivable offense or a faux pas? Is it greedy and selfish to expect people to attend your event with a brand spanking new gift, let alone any gift at all?

      The Second Child: How Pregnancy and Parenting Differ Among Children


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      When I was pregnant with my first child, I routinely stayed hydrated with water, anxiously awaited doctor’s appointments so I could stay apprised of the baby’s development, was terrified of taking anti-nausea medication because of the child born with lobster claws in the Daubert case (lawyers, you know what I’m talking about), and diligently avoided tuna and shellfish.

      With my second child, I was downing five cups of coffee per day, “forgetting” about doctor’s appointments, popping Zofran with reckless abandon and, in desperate times of starvation, eating Cuban sandwiches straight off convenience store shelves. (Putting the sandwich in the microwave will kill the Listeria, won’t it?).

      With my second child, the five-second rule became the five-minute rule. I breastfed my first child for three days. My poor second child didn’t receive even a drop of colostrum. Hey, it wasn’t for me.

      My first child had a closet full of haute couture that would impress even Joan Rivers. My second child received a closet full of our first child’s stained hand-me-downs.

      With my first child, I was terrified to leave the house and risk exposure to germs. I took my second child to a zoo with my then-toddler in the dead of summer when she was ten days old. (Maybe if I expose her to lots of monkeys, she’ll be immune from the Ebola virus when she joins the Peace Corps in 2032).

      $30 off Sun Basket

      When I was pregnant with my first child, I was consumed with the “newness” of the entire experience. I found myself saying things like, “Oh my God, I just felt her kick!” and “Jason, get the camera, it’s time to take the 9-week belly picture for her album!”

      When I was pregnant with my second child, the conversation became, “I can’t freaking sleep because she’s kicking my ribs!” and “If I rub my skirt really hard with a Shout Wipe, do you think anybody will notice the vomit residue? I’m too huge to bend over and change.” When I was pregnant with my first child, my baby bump became a photographed shrine. With my second child, it became my first child’s pillow and, occasionally, chair.

      When I was pregnant with my first child, I loved when strangers stopped me on the streets and asked when I was due and whether I was having a boy or girl. When I was pregnant with my second child, I became homicidal when somebody asked me about being pregnant. Or gave me dirty looks when I was downing that fifth cup of coffee.

      On the same token, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was a panicked, uncertain mess. With the second child, I had an idea of what to expect and didn’t have time to stress about the pregnancy because I was so busy chasing a toddler while juggling a career and marriage and attempting to reach Domestic Goddess status. (Never made it to the latter).

      With my second child, I knew that most of what I thought mattered during my first pregnancy didn’t really matter at all.

      What does matter is that she is loved, nurtured, and raised to feel a sense of validation and belonging in our family and the world. What does matter is that she, like our first daughter, is raised to treat people kindly and to understand her purpose and work hard at fulfilling it.

      What won’t matter, dangit, is whether I ate and enjoyed a giant slice of brie during my pregnancy.

      How did your first and second pregnancies and child rearing differ and do you think it made a difference?

      Cheers!

        Plan a Baby or Bridal Shower in an Hour: It Can be Done!


        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        Bridal showers. You’ve been there. Your friend is getting married (or is pregnant) and you offered to host a shower- in addition to caring for your own family, killing it at the office (or at home with your kids), and honoring your expanding list of volunteer commitments that you wish you never signed up for in the first place.

        Shoot me.

        You need to get this planned, and fast! No worries, with the assistance of Tracie Domino of Tracie Domino Events, here are some tips on how to quickly plan a shower, with it looking you spent days making Pinterest projects.

        To illustrate this work-in-progress, I included photographs from my sister’s bridal shower in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

        Set the Date and Time: This will help dictate the rest of the planning process. Work with the Guest of Honor to select a date and time that is convenient for her, usually 2-3 months before the baby is due or 2-3 months before the wedding. If you choose an evening event, you might want to include the father or groom-to-be and invite other men. Guys typically don’t like baby or bridal showers, but you can entice them with booze and good food.

        Pick a Venue: Hosting a shower at someone’s home is often the most cost effective, but if nobody has the space, there are other options. Private rooms at restaurants and clubs work great for this. Make sure you ask the venue about minimum fees for food and beverages so you don’t have a heart attack when you receive a ridiculous bill.

        Choose a Theme: The theme of the event should jive with the venue. Depending on the location, and the taste of the guest of honor, you might not need a theme. For Amanda’s shower, the hostess’ home was beautiful, and we didn’t want to spend money on decorations and ruin the flow of the home. Should you choose a theme, which is usually better for baby showers, you can order everything you need in one click on Etsy, and the decorations will usually arrive at your house pretty quickly. Etsy is a lazy person’s (me!) manna from heaven.

        Send the Invitations: I prefer digital invitations over hard invitations because you can send them on the same day that you create them and they make it simple to track the RSVPs. My hands-down favorite company for this is Paperless Post.

        Choose the Menu: Don’t drive yourself nuts by committing to making food that requires massive preparation the day of the event. Either order everything from a local restaurant that delivers or make platters the night before. Costco or Sam’s Club will be your God. For my sister’s shower, we went to Costco and purchased three large tubs of chicken salad, two dozen croissants, two dozen dinner roles, kale salad that’s already bagged, and pre-cut fruit. All of those items were enough to feed around 25 people and cost only $110. The shower hostess already had beautiful serving bowls, so we put the food in those and it was picture perfect. We purchased a couple dozen white cupcakes from Publix and placed them on a three-tiered platter.

        What to Drink: One of the biggest mistakes people make at baby showers is not drinking because the Guest of Honor is pregnant. Absent religious or health reasons, don’t do that to your guests. With regard to bridal showers, alcohol is often expected. For my sister’s shower, we set up a bar that contained two signature cocktails: orange creamsicles and mimosas. With mimosas, you can use the inexpensive champagne, like my college preference of Andre, and nobody will ever know. Except when they wake up the next morning. But that’s their problem.

        Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

        Play a Game: While shower games can be lame, they can be an ice breaker for your guests. Some of my favorites are here for a baby shower and here for a bridal shower. Most people like gambling for fun, so have everyone guess the date the baby will be born or it’s weight, gender, and length of the baby.  If it’s a bridal shower, have them bet on a “Newlywed Game” where the groom answers certain questions ahead of time and the bride is tasked with correctly guessing his responses. Regarding whether games will be played, leave it to the Guest of Honor. And please skip the “poop in the diaper” game if you’re throwing a baby shower. If you don’t know what game I’m talking about, then you’re lucky.

        Opening Gifts. Years ago, it was an absolute requirement to open gifts at a shower. This is no longer the case. If you have a huge invite list or you are inviting men, you might want to skip this altogether and let the couple open gifts after the shower. Trust me… with the exception of the Guest of Honor’s mom and some great-great aunts, nobody would mind. I recently attended a baby shower where all the guests sat in a large circle with each guest holding another guest’s gift. One by one, each guest introduced themselves, stated how they knew the Mother-to-Be, gave one piece of motherhood advice, and then opened the other guest’s gift and stated what the gift was. I loved this idea. It was a way for all the guests to interact, and spared the Mother-to-Be the trouble of opening tons of gifts in front of everyone. Cheers to that!

        Below are some photographs of my sister’s shower.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        The bar featured mimosas and orange creamsickles, our “signature cocktail” for the bride-to-be and guests. The recipe is awesome because you don’t need to “measure” anything… just start pouring and tasting. Combine Liquor 43, vodka, orange juice, fat free, non dairy vanilla creamer, and a touch of vanilla extract (only if you’re using plain, non-flavored creamer). Blend it all together and you’re good to go.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        The hostess rented tables and chairs, and decorated the place settings with a variety of winter-colored flowers. She used her own China and rented the linens. The China is Spode and was purchased in Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

         

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        This table wear is so special that I couldn’t resist photographing it. The hostess purchased this in 1997 in London at “Bermondsey Fair” and it is dated around 1840.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

         

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        The hostess made this shrimp salad and it was a hit. She took 6 lbs. of cooked, deveined, shelled and cooled shrimp, chopped celery, mayo, and Old Bay Seasoning to taste, and combined everything together. She then refrigerated it until it was ready to serve.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        The cupcakes are from Publix, which supplied the heart-shaped toppers.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

         

        Me and the Bride-to-Be.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        The Mother-of-the-Bride, Mother-of-the-Groom, Bride-to-Be, and Me.

        How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

        Some of the awesome guests who helped to make the day so special for my sister.

        About Tracie Domino: Tracie is the Founder and Creative Director of her own company, Tracie Domino Events. Her stylish expertise and relatable sophistication have made her a trusted wedding planning consultant to business leaders, professional athletes, and high society since 2004. She and her team make fun, memorable weddings happen on the west coast of Florida, and are available to travel to destination weddings worldwide. She is a fan of beach vacations, Florida State football, Vegas casinos, guacamole, and one smart and sexy six-footer. Tracie can be reached at 813-810-0621 or via e-mail at Tracie@TracieDomino.com. Cheers!

         How to plan a baby or bridal shower in just an hour | The Champagne Supernova

          The Nine Most Annoying People: I Just Need to Vent


          Annoying I’m not perfect. I think I’m funny when I’m probably not. I tell stupid jokes and inappropriate anecdotes. I generally suck at being places on time. However, there’s a breed of people who I find difficult to tolerate. Ladies and gentlemen, the list of the nine most annoying people: The Know-it-Alls. We’ve been encountered by know-it-alls all our lives, but these people become more prevalent during the childbearing years. You MUST purchase this car seat… it’s the best. You aren’t breastfeeding or vaccinating? The horror! Oh my God… little Mumsy must see this specific pediatrician, but only after she consumes her organic peas that were grown from the richest Peruvian soil in my backyard while Daddy plays his harp that was manufactured by handicapped monks in a [third world country] as Spot sits whimpering nearby in the comfort of his fair trade, cashmere blanket. I want to shoot this person. Unless specifically asked, I don’t want your opinions. Namedroppers. I worked with a dude who was the World’s.Worst.Namedropper. He would routinely show up at work on Monday and spout off a list of local people who he hung out with over the weekend. Nobody knew any of these people he was talking about and they were irrelevant for purposes of the conversation. Unless it’s the President or somebody legitimately significant, nobody cares who you and your spouse ate dinner with last night. We get it. You’re a cool dude(ette). Your weekend was probably cooler than mine. Now cut it out. Big Leaguers. You know these people. They are the ones you have met literally ten times and they act like they have no clue who you are as you are biting your lip and introducing yourself for the eleventh. These people are one of two things: 1) mentally deficient, or 2) trying to make themselves feel important by acting like you are unimportant. Move on. Elevator Gunners. People need to become versed in elevator etiquette. I work in a large office building with 41 floors and have been “elevator roadkill” to someone who couldn’t wait for me to get off the elevator before they attempted to get on. It goes like this: push the button, when the elevator arrives, wait until the people inside the elevator get off the elevator before getting on the elevator yourself. Got it? Thanks.

          Street Snails. These are pedestrians who take their sweet time crossing the street, even though they know you are waiting for them to completely cross before you can move your vehicle. I get it- they have the right of way. But, every time I know someone is waiting for me, I put a little “pep in my step” out of courtesy. Can’t everyone else do the same? Scary Sneezers. I can’t stand people who do not control the loudness of their bodily functions. There’s a vendor in my building at work who is the loudest freaking sneezer I’ve heard in my life. So loud, that when I was pregnant, my daughter would jump IN UTERO every time she sneezed. It’s rude, unnecessary, and obnoxious. If you wouldn’t sneeze that loudly in church or at an important meeting, then give everyone else the courtesy. El Cheapos. If someone buys a round of drinks and you are a recipient, then eventually it will be your turn to buy a round. I don’t know how I can make this more clear. We aren’t in college anymore. If you can’t afford to go out and you have to mooch, then stay home. If you borrow money from someone or if someone “covers” you for something, then reimburse them before they have to feel awkward by asking you for the money. (See also: if you owe someone money, then don’t let them see you running around town wearing fancy new clothes and dining at expensive places). You are putting a bulls eye on your back for people to secretly hate you. I-Don’t-Know-My-Audiencers. These are the people who brag to public servants about their country club memberships, luxury vehicles, champagne wishes and caviar dreams. They are the people who discuss their valuable stocks, 401k plans, and prenuptial agreements to people who are struggling to make ends meet. Aside from the fact that it’s rude and tacky, it makes you look like a schmuck. My-Social-Media-Life-is-Perfecters. These people have been written about ad nauseam, but I couldn’t resist. Use your imaginations. There you have it, the nine types of people who drive me bananas. Did I leave anybody out? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.    

            What to do When You have the Boss from Hell: Quit!


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            When you have the boss from hell, don’t stick around hoping things will get better with perseverance. Don’t stay around hoping, by some miracle, the boss from hell will leave you alone and turn his negative attention on somebody else. Instead, find another job. You don’t deserve to put up with that garbage.

            I’ve experienced the boss from hell.

            We’ll call him Lucifer.

            He tried to make my life [read: everyone’s life] a nightmare and he temporarily succeeded. I once worked at a dysfunctional law firm where Lucifer was a young partner notorious for preying on newbie associates (like me!), berating them, making them feel insecure about their legal abilities, and running them off.

            Lucifer must not have gotten a lot of hugs from his mom when he was growing up because he was a hateful, mean-spirited person who had no life or friends outside the office. Heck, he had no friends inside the office, as his colleagues- whom he considered to be friends- routinely gossiped behind his back.

            There was an instance where Lucifer called me into his office to explain a Memorandum of Law that I prepared, which he believed was pure crapola. To demonstrate how I was a “baby attorney” who was metamorphosing into an “adult attorney,” Lucifer literally got down on his hands and knees and crawled around the room like an infant.

            It was the Twilight Zone.

            In the three years I was an associate at this firm, I would walk around the office looking for hidden cameras, thinking I was on some crazy reality show because SURELY a professional work environment could not truly be this nutty.

            It was.

            I stayed at this firm way too long because I was paralyzed from the lie that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to go anywhere else and be successful. At the time, the economy was in shambles, major “silk-stocking” firms were experiencing historical layoffs, and I was worried that I would have to take a pay cut (and still be unhappy) somewhere else.

            I was a battered work wife.

            According to a 2013 article posted in the LinkedIn Influencer program, two-thirds of employees aren’t fully engaged in their careers. The number one reason for the disengagement? Their boss sucks. In other words, if you have a bad boss, you are in good company.

            However, you can do something about it by taking control of your life and peacing the heck out.

            It was probably the tenth time that I came home after work crying because of something horrible that Lucifer did when my husband grabbed me, looked me in the face, and said “What are you doing? Find another job. Your misery isn’t worth it.”

            He was right.

            I finally left the firm. Not because I had the chutzpah to leave on my own volition, but because a major client had left the firm, leaving me and several other associates and staff members with no work and no job.

            Fortunately, I secured another position in a couple days, where I ended up staying for almost seven years before I went part time. It was a great work environment. Maybe this was God paying me back for the three years of hell I endured at the other firm, but it was refreshing to be at a place where I felt valued, appreciated, and respected, and the only workplace politics involve getting your work done.

            When I reflect on the abuse I put up with from Lucifer, it makes me feel sickened that I’d allow someone to treat me that way. Maybe I have a different perspective because I’m older, more experienced, have kids, and a different outlook about life and myself, but I’d never let someone treat me that way again.

            Ever.

            The bottom line?

            When you have a horrible boss, it will never probably get better absent a miracle. Leave. Run out the door as fast as you can.

            You will find another job.

            You are good enough, you are smart enough, and you deserve better.

            Cheers to that!

              Valentines Gifts for the Slacker Parent


              Easy Valentine's Gifts | The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/02/valentines-gifts-for-the-slacker-parent/

              Valentine’s Day at my kids’ school has been a repeated reminder of what a slacker I am. For the last two years, Arden has come home from school with intricate treasures from her classmates that look like they cost a lot of money to buy and a lot of time to make. This will be the first year I purchase Valentine’s gifts for my kids’ classmates. I mean, what could infants and toddlers possibly need for Valentine’s Day? At this point, spending a lot of time on a gift is fruitless for me because 1) I don’t have the time and 2) I wouldn’t do it even if I did have the time.

              With the help of some friends, I came up with a list of the best Valentine’s gifts that are not food, are gender neutral (the true slacker doesn’t want to have to get separate gifts for boys and girls, now do they?) and do not require a lot of time.

              Books. One of the moms in Arden’s infant class gave each child a cardboard Sesame Street book for Valentine’s day. It was gender neutral, probably cost around $2.00, and was a perfect “distractor” to put in the diaper bag for when we went out in public and were looking for ways to entertain our daughter. As an added bonus, it’s educational. This is the Curious George book I bought for my daughter for Valentine’s day. Don’t tell..

              George

              Bookmarks. These are free at hardware stores and all you need to purchase is a heart shaped hole punch and ribbon. Specific instructions on how to make these are on Old Town Home.

              Bookmarks

              Crayons. Encourage creativity and are inexpensive. Check out the off brand crayons at the dollar store. Picture taken from the Mother Nature Network. I recommend washable crayons. Crayons Lip Balm. With an added note that says “You’re the Balm!” I have a sick sense of humor but wish I could claim this was an original idea. And as we’re in the middle of winter, isn’t this perfect? Here’s an example from Jollymom, where they are offering the printable FREE. Tip: you could do something similar with small container of jelly with a note that says “You’re the Jam!” Heck, you could even pick up free samples of jelly from your local Cracker Barrel. (No, I wasn’t born during the Great Depression…) balm Animal Figurines. These are good for older kids who aren’t likely to choke on the toys. Had to add that disclaimer, I’m a lawyer. My two year old daughter loves playing farm animals, and these don’t contain sugar that will likely get other parents angry. Best of all, you can buy a huge package of farm toys for like 89 cents. Here’s a cute suggestion from Popsugar: zoo Bouncy Balls. These double as gifts for kids and their parents because they provide at least 10 straight minutes of distraction for the children. You can probably get them in bulk from the dollar store. Here’s a cute idea from PositivelySpendid. A friends suggested the adorable idea of enclosing a note with the ball that says “My Heart Bounces for You.” Love it! Bouncy balls

              Throwback Boxed Valentine’s Cards. You know, the ones we had in elementary school. Ideal for mini-hipsters. Here is some awesome FREE clip art from Vintage Holiday Crafts:

              Vintage Pic

              DIY Valentines that Come in a Kit: These incredible little smackaroos come straight to your front door in a kit with everything you already need. This provides good bonding time with your kids and, best of all, are only $10.95 per package. I love this from Kiwi Crate:

              ValentinesDay

              And for the teachers…

              Nail Polish: Inexpensive but still shows you thought about them. Who doesn’t like a nice bottle of nail polish? The gift tag is FREE from Gone Like Rainbows: nail polish

              Soap: These are inexpensive and smell nice. These are also perfect for washing your kids’ mouths out when they sass the teachers! (muahaha). Photo from Fun Holiday Crafts.

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              Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends! Cheers.

                Quit Screwing Up Your Pictures


                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova

                I’ve wasted a lot of time and money trying to learn how to take great pictures.

                This entailed the painstaking hours of learning how to use my digital camera solely in manual, taking photography classes, buying fancy-dancy cameras, lenses, computers, and editing software, bugging my photographer friends for advice, and finding time to learn how to use Lightroom.

                The latter is still a work in progress.

                I recently attended an awesome mentoring session with the oh-so talented Justin DeMutiis of Justin Demutiis Photography, and learned more in our two hours together than I learned in the last year of “figuring it out on my own.” I learn by doing, and I think it’s important to spend the time with a photographer actually walking you through the steps on how to edit versus reading an instruction manual or relying on Youtube.

                While being able to edit pictures serves as the icing on the cake, no amount of editing will fix a crappy picture that has a bad foundation. Here are some of Justin’s top ten things to avoid if you want a great shot.

                Letting the camera do the work. Avoid relying on the camera’s automatic settings. While using aperture priority is very useful and widely used by professional photographers in fast moving situations, by putting the camera on full auto, you relinquish creative control. (My note: I never thought I’d be able to figure out automatic settings, but I did, and it’s easy).
                Leaving distracting elements in the frame – This can be odd trees, plants, water bottles, etc. It’s worth the extra few minutes to clear an area before shooting, or a few extra seconds of looking through the viewfinder to create a clean composition.

                Putting the subject dead center in the frame. If you hand the average person a cell phone and ask them to take a picture of you and a friend, chances are, your heads will be in the center of the frame. This is much more manageable in the age of Instagram, but for vertical portraits, it is more pleasing for heads and eyes to be in the top third of the frame.

                Shooting with a lens that is too wide. Cell phones generally have wide lenses, professional portraits photographer generally shoot with longer and more flattering lenses.

                Taking too many images and/or not spending enough time on a single image. With babies and children, it is vital that you know your equipment and never stop shooting. You never know when the perfect moment will happen. With older children who take direction well, you will not feel as much pressure to go on autopilot and put the camera in burst mode. If you have a loose game-plan, a beautiful location and beautiful light, you can take a few additional moments to pay close attention to the details, perfect a pose, and create a overall pleasing image.

                Moving slowly with kids. The above being said, it’s important to be prepared to move swiftly with children. If you take too long or give too much direction, it will be very challenging to capture a genuine moment or expression.

                Tiny Prints - Up to 30% Off

                Being unspontaneous. With many great moments, it is necessary to just step back and let the moment happen.

                Being unwilling to get up close and personal. Notwithstanding the above, if a newborn baby is sleeping, for example, getting closer can often be better. By simply getting closer, you can often eliminate distractions and emphasize your subject.

                Being unreceptive to light. Light is ever changing, but many new photographers do not take the time to learn to “see” the light. When I search for locations to shoot, I first look for the light, then a pleasing background, and lastly I consider the pose. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Light is the first of painters”.

                Lack of Patience. With photography, practice really does make perfect. Don’t get frustrated when you don’t like your product and, instead, find ways to improve it. Here are examples of Justin’s work, all of which are being published with his permission:

                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova
                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova
                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova
                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova
                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova
                Justin’s first glimpse of becoming a professional photographer came as college freshman. He became one of eight college students in North America to win a scholarship to attend the North American Nature Photography Association’s annual summit, for which he owes his style. Not long after, he found his true calling in wedding photography, a place where all his technical skills seamlessly blend with so many things he loves. To Justin, nothing compares to providing a timeless set of images that tells the story of one of the most important and happiest days of two people’s lives.

                If you are interested in a setting up a photo shoot or mentoring session with Justin, please contact him at 813-229-5960.

                Tips on how to take great pictures | The Champagne Supernova

                Cheers!

                  Bachelorette Parties in Vegas when You’re a Mom and Over 30


                  Vegas

                  As the self-proclaimed “head honcho” in the bridal party for my younger sister’s upcoming wedding, I had only one stipulation: that she could never refer to me as the “Matron of Honor.” I don’t care that I’ve been married for five years and have two kids, I don’t want to ever be referred to as a Matron. It’s geriatric, grotesque, and carries a connotation that makes me think of a lonely spinster, sitting in a rocking chair, holding a cat. Given that stipulation, I had to agree to accommodate her wishes of planning her bachelorette party in Vegas. “Oh hey… I have a full time job, two kids, a husband, and live on the opposite side of the country… THIS SHOULD BE EASY TO PLAN.” Well… with the help of her amazing friends and some eager-beaver club promoters, it was a BLAST. Here are some of the highlights.

                  Vegas7

                  Me and the Bride-to-Be.

                  Vegas1

                  The girls on Night 1 at Hakkasan for dinner.

                  Vegas4Steve Aoki was the guest DJ at Hakkasan night club… I never heard of him before, but apparently his trademark is to throw cakes in peoples’ faces. He switched to champagne.

                  Vegas

                  The ladies on Night 2 at Blue Ribbon Sushi inside our hotel at The Cosmopolitan. This was after a wild day at Lavo for the Party Brunch. This is a must-do for any bachelorette party in Vegas.

                  If you ever want to feel like an incredible dancer, come dance next to me. After all, what happens in Vegas goes on the internet:

                  Vegas3

                  In terms of recommendations, the only place I wasn’t crazy about was Blue Ribbon Sushi. The waiter forgot about my wine order and the staff was slow. We were originally supposed to have dinner at Tao but switched our reservation when we arrived at the hotel at 6pm after brunch and didn’t want to trek back across the strip to The Venetian for dinner.

                  Another BIG bachelorette party recommendation is to not go to Vegas with a group of more than 8 people. We had 8 and were maxxed out in terms of filling the hotel rooms, being able to get reservations at a restaurant, getting taxis, and getting into the clubs. Adding even one more person to the mix would have complicated things. Eighteen people came to New Orleans for my bachelorette party and that was ten too many. Everyone ended up getting divided into groups (college friends, high school friends, law school friends, etc.), and because of the size, I couldn’t get to have “quality” time with very many of them.  Lesson learned for my next bachelorette party (haha).

                  What are your recommendations for Vegas? Do you have any favorite places?

                    The Art of the Appropriate Hug


                     

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                    I recently had a humiliating hugging encounter at a Christmas party that left me sweating when it was over. While engaged in conversation with the hostess, I spotted a young woman  who my peripheral vision conned me into believing was the hostess’s sister, whom I’ve met several times. After my conversation with the hostess was over, I went in to hug the “sister” and realized, once it was too late, that it wasn’t the “sister,” and rather a girl I briefly met at the hostess’s baby shower a few months back and exchanged- maybe- two sentences with. She probably thought I was a lunatic and wondered why I was hugging her- she may not have even remembered me from the shower and figured I was just crazy and awkward. She politely proceeded with the hug, which was the one-armed-pat-on-the-back-no-frontal-contact-haphazard-hug and I desperately tried to play off the situation and pretend that hugging her was normal and intentional.

                    Is hugging generally awkward? Not for me, because I love hugging. However, I occasionally forget that some people are finicky about not wanting weird people to touch them. Like me. To prevent future snafus, I contacted Myka Meier, an old college friend who founded and directs her own international etiquette company, Beaumont Etiquette.

                    According to Myka, the key to determining how you should greet someone depends on the formality of your relationship. That being said, there are a few general etiquette rules to help the greeting process become [slightly] easier to manage:

                    HACH: Social Code to Hugging (rated by formality level, with 4 being most formal occasion)

                    Handshake – Right hand to right hand (4)

                    Air Kiss – Right cheek to right cheek, but lips never actually touch the other person’s skin (avoid the lipstick smudge!) (3)

                    Cheek Kiss – Right cheek to right cheek, however you may actually kiss lips to cheek (2)

                    Hug – Full embrace (most intimate…not for everyone) (1)

                    1. Social acquaintances (i.e. someone you have met a handful of times, but wouldn’t necessarily consider a friend). HACH LEVEL RATING 4/3 “When meeting an acquaintance for the first time, I would recommend shaking hands. After the initial meeting, for men, I typically advise they continue to shake hands with other men and give an air kiss to women. After a woman initially meets someone, an air kiss to either a man or woman is an elegant yet informal way to show recognition. If a woman puts out her hand to a social acquaintance after meeting them previously, it’s perceived that she does not recognize them (which is offensive) or does not care to be more than acquaintances (which is doubly offensive). If you felt a mutual (key word) connection (no matter the sex) or share close friends, after the first meeting a hug may feel most comfortable and is fully appropriate.”

                    2. FriendsHACH LEVEL RATING 2/1 “A handshake might be perceived as cold and unfriendly to a person who you consider a friend. Therefore, a hug or cheek kiss is typically most appropriate. When greeting both friends and family, some prefer to give a “pat hug” or the “shake hug” which is a combination of a pat on the back and hug or handshake and hug…which show mutual affection while not being too intimate. All are appropriate, depending on comfort level.”

                    3. Family membersHACH LEVEL RATING 1 “Hugs (and in some families, kisses) are considered the most common form of greeting family. That being said, determining whether to kiss may depend on the formality of the family situation or relationships.” [Note that is strictly the author’s personal opinion: if you are related to someone and opt to kiss them as a greeting, you definitely need to avoid this regardless of your gender, race, and culture].

                    4. Professional colleaguesHACH LEVEL RATING 4/3 “Hugging at work is not recommended. If done, especially to someone of the opposite sex or between superiors and subordinates, it can cause many issues. I would advise to always stay formal and professional by greeting with a handshake. Pending the industry you work in (and if you know a colleague extremely well) and feel it would be awkward to shake hands, an air kiss may be more appropriate.”

                    5. The bossHACH LEVEL RATING 4 “Generally speaking, you should remain respectful and professional by shaking hands. That being said, as a superior rule, always follow the lead of the person more senior or powerful. If your boss attempts to hug you, it would be awkward to put out your hand.”

                    6. Your subordinate (i.e- your assistant). HACH LEVEL RATING 4 “No matter the sex of the subordinate, stay professional. Hugging subordinates can cause employees to undermine rank and therefore often respect, can cause the relationship to lose professionalism, and even be seen as sexual harassment.”

                    Miscellaneous Considerations:

                    Is it okay to hug some people and shake hands with others when greeting a group? “Yes. If there are two people you’ve met before and two you have not, I would still recommend shaking hands upon first meeting.”

                    Is it okay to hug a client? “Treat the client the same as your boss. Always be respectful and professional, yet follow their lead.”

                    Do the rules differ depending on the situation (ie- holiday party or running into them at a concert/ purely social function)? “The rules always stay the same. If you bump into your boss at a concert, there are many ways to make the greeting more casual while still maintaining appropriate measures. For instance, you can show warmth by smiling and verbalizing pleasure to see them “Hello XX, It’s so lovely to bump into you out of the office”… It will show you’re not in your normal professional bubble while still remaining in line with your position at work.”

                    Is there any person who is always off limits to hug? “Yes. Royalty.”

                    Caution: “When traveling, make sure you know the hugging/kissing customs in country you’re going to… i.e. London is two cheek kisses (one on each side) and Switzerland is three kisses: right, left, right; and in some countries the religion prohibits you from hugging.”

                    Myka Meier is the Founder and Director of Beaumont Etiquette, a distinguished and modern consultancy that offers courses in British, Continental European, and American etiquette to adults and youth. She is accepting private and corporate bookings in Florida between March 23 and March 29, 2015. For more information, please contact Myka at info@beaumontetiquette.com.

                    Myka

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