My Recent Reads

Hello all,

It’s been a while since I wrote about books I’ve read so I thought I would share with you what I’ve been into this August and September.

 

     1. Elements of Etiquette by Craig Claiborne

This concise book on etiquette was written by famed restaurant critic, Craig Claiborne. What I liked about this book versus others that I have read is that it is relevant to today’s modern social situations. While it can be interesting to read about more obsolete social expectations from long ago, this practical and contemporary approach will give you the information you need to make the best decisions in today’s world.

     2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Don’t read this book with makeup on! It’s rare for a book to make me cry, but this one definitely did. Written by the late Randy Pausch, it encapsulates a lifetime of wisdom and lessons in a humorous tone despite the author’s knowledge that he will soon die due to cancer. This book is not emotional because of the author’s impending death — he has had way too much fun in his life to allow that too happen — but because of his acceptance and resiliency in spite of that. It’s a tear-jerker that teaches us to never forget our childish innocence and do whatever it takes to  live out our own fun and beautiful life.

3. Paris in Love by Eloisa James

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to live in Paris then all you have to do is read this book! This beautiful memoir captures the author’s Paris experience in a way that is both dream-like yet accurate. After living in France for two years myself, I can certainly say that I left my heart there and this novel brings back all of my own memories. It’s amazing how this book is so personal to the author and yet I find myself remembering my own experiences in her words.

4. What Islam Did For Us by Tim Wallace-Murphy

This book was not what I expected it to be. I was expecting to learn more about the inventions and discoveries in the field of medicine, mathematics and astronomy by Muslim scientists that I’ve heard so much about, but instead this book focuses heavily on the historical ties between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is not necessarily a negative point, but based on the title it definitely wasn’t the subject matter I was expecting to read about. This is a great book for those who want to understand how each of the three religions have affected each other since ancient times until now.

That’s what I’ve read so far in the last two months. I’m open to recommendations for new books to read so feel free to comment. Watch my video to see what I’m currently reading and what I’m planning on reading soon!

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3 Ways Elegant Women Remain Collected

We all want to feel more in control when things go awry. I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed feeling nervous and helpless and I’ve also met some women who seem to defy all characteristics of normal human reactions when it hits the fan. It made me wonder what this quality was and if I could learn it too. After some study of their behavior, I realized that this quality was “elegance”.

Now, elegance is not snobbery and high tea with lace fans and finger sandwiches.

Elegance is a state of mind and therefore anyone can be elegant — strands of pearls and diamond rings are not compulsory. What elegant women share in common is their mind. They are focused, clear, and decisive in their thoughts which leaves very little room for them to feel “off”, worried or hysterical. After much study, I’ve reduced their behavior down to these three ways to that use to stay calm, cool and collected.

1. They know their priorities

If you ask most women what is important in their lives, you’ll be inundated with an avalanche of things which is no wonder most women feel like their running on steam much of time.

Elegant women are not super-human. They have the same amount of time and energy as anyone else, but they know where to focus it and not give it away to unimportant people and things.

To feel in control, you need to be able to constantly decide what is truly, deeply important to you and be at peace with your decisions. There is this phenomenon called “FOMO” today. That stands for the “fear of missing out” and that has no place in an elegant woman’s life. If you find yourself at the mercy of FOMO and afraid to cut off things and people, just remember that if everything is important to you, then nothing really is.

2. They abhor drama

In a world where vulgar, outrageous personalities are gossiped about, emulated and celebrated, elegant women take a step away from these people and prefer to acquaint themselves with those who uplift and inspire others to our highest ideals. Choose the high road all the time and soon you’ll find yourself among others who have done the same.

There’s also the drama that women create within themselves by giving away their feelings self-worth to other people. How many women do you know always think about what someone else is thinking about them and base their decisions on what someone else thinks? These women torture themselves which shows up as social anxiety by trying to know the unknowable — and frankly, the not worth knowing. Elegant women are truly confident in themselves, not confident in what others think of them. There’s a distinction there that makes all the difference.

Lastly, an elegant woman does not create negative thoughts in less than ideal situations. She understands that things will happen that are beyond her control and all she can do is remain level-headed and make the best decision with the knowledge she has. These last couple of weeks have not been the best: my husband got in a car accident (thankfully he’s fine even though the car is totaled!), my car has some sort of electrical issue that even the car shop can’t figure out so that car can’t be driven until they bring in an electrician, my husband’s job interview did not go as he wanted and they chose another candidate, and due to all of the car issues there are going to be some hefty, unexpected bills coming our way soon. With all of these events, it is very tempting to succumb to the stress and anxiety and begin to weave negative thoughts into my days, but an elegant women sees the facts for what they are.

Have these last two weeks been an anomaly? Yes.

Does that mean my life is falling apart and that nothing good will ever happen to me ever again? No.

Can I handle this with grace and not let it affect my overall happiness? Yes.

Life happens and there’s nothing that can stop that. Sometimes what seems like a bad thing can actually end up being good for you. It was time for a car upgrade anyway.

3. They are disciplined and intentional

Like I mentioned before, elegance is a state of mind and the mind is an incredible thing. It takes a lot of discipline to control your thoughts and actions, most people just let the first feeling that comes into their brain decide their actions. An elegant woman knows that life is just a series of decisions between what is right and what is easy.

On the same line, if something is important then you have to truly intend to do it. An elegant women does this by putting it down in a calendar. This can come in many different varieties and can be electronic or old-fashioned pen to paper (my preference). For example, if you decide that writing that novel is truly important to you (this is key) then you will write in your calendar the steps required to accomplish that:

  1. Write the novel
  2. Research the best publisher for you
  3. Find an illustrator

All that’s left to do is to tap into your discipline to believe in yourself and do those steps.

Of course, elegant women have their days when they feel stressed out, get angry, make some drama and commit themselves to something that they don’t truly feel is important to them. No one is perfect. But they don’t stay in that space for long, certainly not long enough to ever make a real impact on their lives, but if you are ever feeling that like, just remember these 3 methods and get back to being and living your fabulous elegant self.

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Storytime: You Can’t Buy Manners

I’ve always been interested in all things etiquette and manners because I think its becoming a lost art in our world. I don’t consider myself a snob about it and I understand that a lot of people don’t find it important enough to understand the value of a handwritten thank you note, know which direction to pass the bread, or if its appropriate to use your cell phone at the table. I also understand that what is considered to be socially acceptable behavior changes through time, but there is something about a person who knows how to behave with tact and confidence that makes everyone around them feel more comfortable and welcome. In the end, that is what the purposes of manners are: to make each person in the group feel involved and comfortable with each other.

The reason I am writing about this today is because yesterday I was witness to some very bad manners by some very affluent and (what some people would consider) cultured people. The event was a birthday party for my 1 year old nephew and there were about 20 people including me and my husband at the party. Most of the people that were invited were the parents, grandparents and extended family of the birthday boy, and it was among that group that the offending members could be found. The venue was at a local restaurant chain — a completely acceptable, family-style place, so please don’t think that I’m going to drag them over the coals about not knowing which fork was the salad fork.

Let’s just get into what happened. This was the first time I had brought my husband to an event with me and my sister’s in-laws. They had asked for me to bring him to parties and other gatherings before, but the timing was never quite right so it just didn’t happen. So since this party was a good time for us to both go together, some weeks before this party, I RSVP’d my sister who was organizing it and said that I would be coming and asked if it would be alright if I brought my husband since the invitation said I could bring a guest. She said “of course” and so he came.

We arrive at the party and my brother-in-law greets us and introduces my husband to everyone there. We all sit down to chat with each other and wait for the food to arrive. Part of being a good host means making everyone feel welcome by conversing with those who are seated next to you. My husband was sitting next to me and my sister’s parents-in-law. My husband and the father-in-law make eye contact and my husband nods his head with a “Hello” to him. The father-in-law looks away without a word. Now, I know that the father-in-law is reserved person, but no matter if this may be the case, it is good manners to return a greeting. Being a CEO, one would think that the father-in-law would possess basic table conversation etiquette and at first I thought that perhaps he wasn’t paying attention and didn’t notice, but as the party went on I knew that this wasn’t the case if his family members’ manners were any indication.

I was chatting with the mother-in-law and she’s asking me about work, life and normal things and then asks “So, when are you guys having kids?“. My husband and I don’t have kids and don’t plan on having any anytime soon, so I answer, “We don’t want any.” She goes on to talk about why she’s glad that she had 3 kids and that she was glad to not have been an only child growing up and all of the joy that comes from having a large family. I can understand if someone very close to me, like my mother or sister, asks me this question, but this is considered to be a rude question in most circumstances. Some people want children, but can’t have them, so there’s no reason to offend or inadvertently hurt someone for that fact.

Towards the end of the party, the restaurant brings out a small cake for my nephew to eat and we all sing “happy birthday” to him. After the song, the mother in law and father in law place the cake in front of him to let him have at it. He’s a one year old so at this point in his life I loves touching everything and putting everything in his mouth. So it’s not his fault that he literally smashed cake onto the carpet and sprayed and smeared frosting onto the table, all over himself, his shirt, high-chair and the clothing of those around him. A couple minutes of this would have been enough, but I was horrified to see the mother and father-in-law egging him on until he, the floor and table were covered in cake. I know that people like to let the child smear frosting on themselves for a photo op, but it’s another thing to let the child create a sticky, sugary mess on the restaurant floor and elsewhere as other diners look on at the ruckus. After the pictures were taken, the cake was demolished and the child was taken by his parents to be cleaned, I was feeling bad for the waitress who would have to clean up after the child, so I grabbed some baby wipes and started cleaning up the table and high-chair. Seeing me do this, the mother in law says to me with a look on her face, “Oh honey, don’t do that. Trust me, we are leaving a very good tip for her.” Throwing around your money is no replacement for having good manners and treating others with respect.

When someone has good manners, it elevates all of their good qualities and forgives their bad qualities. When someone has bad manners, it sullies all of their good qualities and emphasizes their bad qualities. This party confirmed those statements for me and made me more conscious of how I treat others despite their privilege or lack thereof. Manners are not inherited and you cannot buy them as we can see from the story above. They are learned, practiced and honed in order to make others around us feel comfortable with us and make the world a more civilized and harmonious place.

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Candlelight Dinner for One? Yes, please.

I eat dinner alone most of the time.

Not because I’m single or friendless, but because while my husband is content with chowing down in front of the T.V. while nestling on the couch, I absolutely insist on eating dinner at a table that is fully set with plates, silverware, cloth napkins and candlelight.

I can understand that most people, including my husband, might find this ritual out-dated, unnecessary and tiresome. After all, after a long day’s work in this society’s hustle and bustle, what can be more comfortable and relaxing than eating some food and zoning out in front of a screen? The promise of a comfy and cozy body and stomach and easy entertainment can be too much for some people to give up.

I have my grandmother to thank for my peculiar dinner habits. She was Austrian. By that I mean that she was born in Austria and came through Ellis Island with her mother and younger sister on a boat that left from Germany. I spent a lot of time with her during my formative years and I remember her as being one of the most elegant and sophisticated women I ever had the privilege of knowing. She had such class and a sense of decorum about everything that she did and she is the reason why I dine the way I do. Without fail, for every meal she would have me help her set the table while she put the finishing touches on a delicious and nutritious meal. This included all of silverware (all of it!), cloth napkins, place mats, dishes and flowers for breakfast and lunch but a candle for dinner.

When I was a young child and helping her with this, it seemed like such a chore. Now that I am older and she is no longer with us, I remember her whenever I complete my evening ritual. I find that I also eat better and slower than my husband and I don’t think this is a coincidence. I know that there a many people that promote this “slow food” lifestyle, and I’m glad to have been exposed to it from a young age by my grandmother.

It is truly amazing how the simple and shared act of preparing a dinner table can have such lifelong effects on someone. I hope that one day if I have any children, that they’ll take after me and learn to acquire this ritual.

What rituals do you have that are important to you?

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