17 December 2013

The Etiquette of Giving and Receiving - Part I


'Tis the season for giving and receiving, isn't it? Gift giving is such fun. What a wonderful way to use our creativity to show others we value what they think is really cool, and that we love them enough to take the time to select (or make!) something just for them.  For me, gift-giving is a gift in and of itself! Are you with me? I happen to also think that being on the receiving end is also lots of fun!  It's great to be thought of, considered, cared for.  

What fun!

I think most of us would agree that there is definitely a gracious way to give, and a gracious way to receive. We want to be that gracious friend, don't we? 

Between now and Christmas, I have a few posts planned on the etiquette of giving and receiving gifts. What better time of year to explore such a topic? Today we'll focus on being the gift giver.

In all cases, as a person who is giving a gift, you must consider your recipient. 
What are their hobbies? Do they have any food allergies? What is their style? Do they value time spent over material items? Are they an experiences person? What is something you could give them that they'd probably never splurge on for them self? What have they mentioned in passing when you've been together? Basically, put some thought into it! It's such a great way to show loved ones they're valued.

1. Hostess Gifts: I get pretty excited about this one, so hang on tight.  If you're invited to someone's home, always offer to bring something. A great way to find out what would be helpful to your hostess is by asking, "What can I bring?". This is what we refer to as an open-ended question, and asking in this way elicits a response that's not just yes or no (which are the only options if you ask the question in one of these ways, "Do you need me to bring anything?", or "Is there something I can bring?").  In addition to your contribution to the meal, a hostess gift is often appropriate, as well.

If your hostess can't think of anything for you to bring, you still bring something, as a way to thank them for having you.  A bottle of wine or champagne is always lovely, especially if you know what variety she most enjoys. If she's not a wine-drinker, a scented candle is another great option. A universally-appealing scent I've gifted is Anthropologie's Volcano from their Capri Blue line. Yankee-brand candles are also a great option.

Of course there's an exception to every rule.  If your best friend invites you to grab a bite at their house, bringing a hostess gift is probably not relevant, however I would still always ask what you can bring. Everyone can use a hand. You could even volunteer to prepare a specific item, like the salad.  

2. People you're not necessarily close to: Even if you don't know someone very well, there are plenty of times when offering a gift is still appropriate.  These are not the times to slough off! Be creative, ask for help brainstorming ideas with a friend, ask for ideas from someone who knows the recipient, or gift something that's universally appealing, like a certificate to a trendy local eatery.  Everybody loves a thoughtful gift!

3. Keep a few gifts on hand: One of the smartest things I did this holiday season was keep a basket of items I could combine into simple gifts for friends or hostesses throughout the season. I grabbed a large canvas basket from my closet, and loaded it up with festive tissue paper, gold star ornaments, cellophane favor bags, bubbly wine in cans, specialty chocolates, gourmet coffee packets, curling ribbon, and some gift boxes. It made my life SO much easier than holiday seasons past.  I ended up having lots of festive occasions this year, so having small packages I could assemble in a hurry was a life saver. 

All year round, I also keep several gifts in a special (visible so I don't forget!) spot in my closet for occasions when I'm not as prepared as I'd normally hope to be. In there, I stash popular books, small jewelry pieces, and baby accessories that can easily be combined with other simple items to make a thoughtful gift.

What are your best tips for being a thoughtful and polite gift-giver?

See other Etiquette for the Everyday Girl thoughts right here!

02 December 2013

Things that became uncool that no one ever mentioned


Do you ever stop to think about those things in the world that kind of suddenly yet gradually became uncool? 

And nobody ever talked about how they weren't cool anymore!

It's so weird.

So without further ado… let's review some things that at some point - became uncool.
  1. The generically tied scarf.  This tying method used to be THE. THING.  And now it's not.  Scarves are GREAT, but now we go for much more volume in how they're fashioned around our necks.
  2. White sports bras. I'm not going to lie. This one caught me by surprise.  Suddenly the white sporties that had served me so well were bland and altogether unappealing.  Instead of blending in, now our sports bras stand out. So great.
  3. Cargo pants. Four words: pockets on your thighs.  Good riddance.
  4. Huge hoop earrings. They were a big deal. Now they are not.
  5. Cucumber Melon fragrance.  Inhabitant of high school lockers and college dorm rooms everywhere, and recognizable from across the room.  
  6. Scrunchies. I don't have a lot more to say, but if you're still wearing them, you may be giving off an impression you don't actually want to give. Time to toss 'em.
  7. Body glitter. Remember when body glitter came in gel, spray, lotion, and every other substance you could think of? We Some people put it on their arms, d├ęcolletage, eyes… etcetera.  
  8. Tall white cotton gym socks. Goners. When did this happen? I haven't worn them in probably five or six years, but I don't have any recollection of what made me switch.


What other items have you noticed have become obsolete?

26 November 2013

H A P P Y H E A L T H Y H O L I D A Y Wheat Berry Salad


If you're like me, you're always on the lookout for healthy holiday side dish options that showcase bright and delicious flavor, appealing texture, and requests for second helpings.  As a hostess (or as a guest that's offered to bring an accompanying dish), I hope to provide family and friends with yummy food that leads to happy bellies, and the wonderful thing is we can be thankful there are lots of great alternatives to traditional not-as-healthy holiday dishes.

Enter the beautiful wheat berry.

My mom introduced me to wheat berries several years ago, and like most things, she was exactly right when boasted their nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture.  Yum.

Our family makes her version of the wheat berry salad for various occasions, and it's always a hit.  It's festive and just a little different. It's also dairy-free, so if you have loved ones with dietary restrictions, this could be a really nice option.


I'm a proud supporter of the Wisconsin Women's Health Foundation. I'm sharing this family favorite over on their blog today. Click over to read more!

14 November 2013

Introducing Etiquette for the Everyday Girl


I'm an etiquette girl.  

In fact, I buy etiquette books and read them for pleasure. CALL. ME. CRAZY.  I'm drawn to etiquette because I tend to lean traditional, and love knowing the proper way things should occur.  It's fun, and knowing the proper way gives me confidence in uncertain situations.

I'm introducing a new series here on the blog called Etiquette for the Everyday Girl.  You can count on etiquette essentials for this modern world - in business and in life.  YAY!

Here's today's tip:

The proper way to make an introduction:

Here's the gist: Introduce the "more important" person first.  Break it down:

  1. In business, introduce the CEO to the Director of Operations: "Hailey, (CEO), I'd like to introduce you to Taylor (Director of Operations)." Think of it this way: The Director of operations should already know who the CEO is. The CEO, on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily already be acquainted with the Director of Operations). 
  2. In life, introduce the elder person to the younger person: "Grandpa, please meet my friend Carter."
Good stuff, no? 

What are your favorite etiquette tips? What etiquette questions would you like me to cover in this series?

11 November 2013

Drinking from a Firehose

can you help me source this image?
I went to an industry conference last week. It was intense. And awesome. 

There was so much information, I literally felt like I was drinking from a firehose. I took notes furiously, but couldn't get it all on paper. I'm hoping some of the content seeped into my brain even if it didn't make it into my notes.

What do you do in situations like this? How do you make the most of the information even when the quantity is overwhelming?
  • In addition to my notes page, I keep a To Do list for conference-things that require an action on my part.
  • I make note of books that are mentioned, and make a plan to order them for myself. Most great teachers are also great readers. I want to learn from them.
  • I review my notes after each session. The most important things will stick out to you.
  • I'm a doodling listener, and let myself doodle as I listen. Instead of my brain concentrating on getting down every word, I let the information sink into my mind, and doodle along the way.

What are the best ways you've learned to absorb abundant information?

08 November 2013

How-To Hand-Lettering with The Simple City Girl

I'm SO excited to welcome my friend Christine (aka The Simple City Girl) from The Simple City Life today!  I met Christine on our drive to the Influence Conference and subsequent roommate-ness this September, and have loved the girl ever since. She so patiently taught a bunch of PJ-clad conference-going roomies her best hand-lettering techniques in an impromptu tutoring session that has come to be referred to as The Hotel Room Sessions (a name I made up today). From the moment we all eight sat rapt by her talent and patience, I knew I MUST share this with you. How timely with the holidays (hello gift tags and Christmas cards and New Years Eve invitations!), and what fun. And you don't have to be VanGogh to figure it out!

Without further ado… please meet my sweet (and HILARIOUS - gosh I love someone who can make me laugh 'till my side hurts) friend Christine.

****************

Over the past year, I've really fallen in love with hand-lettered everything. I mean, who hasn't really? I realized over time, and also with some time, it was easier than I thought to spiff up my very own handwriting. 

While Cammie and I were at The Influence Conference, I held a late-night impromptu tutorial for all of our roommates. These women caught on so fast and in those moments of laughter, hilariousness, and teaching my friends, I realized it is pretty easy for anyone to make their handwriting into something pretty. Today I am honored to teach you some of the tricks and tips I've learned over time on beautifying the art of the cursive font.


What you need:
- A fine-tipped pen
{My favorite is the Pilot G-2 with a .38 tip.}
- paper
- and why not make yourself a fresh cup of coffee? I did. 

Step one:
Write a word out in plain ol' cursive.
I chose the word hello. 



Step two:
Take note of all the downstrokes in each letter.
This is key in the spiffing up process.


Step three:
Thicken each downstroke line.



Step four:
Soak in your beautiful hand-written work of art!

Extra fun step:
If you're feeling adventurous, add some swirls or change up the spacing of the letters.



Some encouragement:
- You'll get better over time, promise. 
- Just keep on practicing.
- Don't be afraid to get creative. 
Make big ol' letters.
 Draw outside the lines.
 Make your words into a circle.
...things like that. 

As you journal, or sip your morning cup of coffee, or take a mid-day break, I encourage you to get a little imaginative today. Step outside the box and see what happens! 
Cheers!


*********************

You guys. Quit it, right? How cool and easy! 

So try it. Get yourself a pen that makes your handwriting look good (don't even tell me you don't play favorites with pens), a notebook you can feel freedom in, and a fresh cup of coffee. Now give it a go.

What fun! Maybe we can talk her into coming back for another tutorial!

Also - as a side note (Christine didn't tell me to say this!): The Simple City Girl has a hand-lettering business. Now go support what she's doing.  Because she's awesome. And because she's taken time to teach you what she knows. Find out how to contact her here.

Another side note: Christine wanted to let you know she learned this cool skill over at www.jonesdesigncompany.com.

06 November 2013

What are your favorite blogs?


I think because I am a blogger, people often ask me what my favorite blogs are.  

I am a big blog reader, partly because I love the content, and partly because I use other people's blogs for inspiration.  I also follow a handful of "how to be a better blogger" blogs.  I personally use Bloglovin' (which was a fiasco to decide on in the first place), which I transitioned to when Google Reader retired, and it works just great.  

Last week, my life group girls asked me to put together a list of blogs for them to check out, and that's what this list is going to be. Here you go, ladies!

If you're really cool and beautiful on the inside and out - you might like these. Ok, side note: It's REALLY hard to rank blogs by level of favoriteness.  So I'm just going to list these in no order, because trying to determine their actual order is not going to be possible for this Type A.

Shauna Niequest - She's on my short-list of favorite authors right now, and her blog moves me in the same way her books do.  Love this lady.

Nesting Place - She makes me feel like I could be an interior designer. Her motto is It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Need I say more?

Cup of Jo - The woman posts so insanely much, I can barely keep up, but when I have time, I love perusing her posts. 

Be Up & Doing - If you followed along with my Savvy Business Secrets series, you already know I'm obsessed with all things Allie.  Her blog is no exception.

House of Earnest - Love at first sight, here, people.  Beautiful yet still achievable decorating ideas and product recommendations.  Much love to another one of my Savvy Entrepreneurs. AND her new product line launches next week!

Hollywood Housewife - Just the right amount of sassy, and plus the girl lives in Hollywood.

Lara Casey - The founder of Making Things Happen, and all around nutritious lady, her writing will challenge and inspire you.

Emily Ley - Because her products are impeccable and following her blog is the best way to make sure I don't miss a thing!

I Heart Organizing - The best organizing blog in all the land. Not a joke.


And just because we're on the topic, I hope you'll take a moment to follow Polka Dotted Peony on Bloglovin'!

Follow on Bloglovin

05 November 2013

Famous Black and White Photos in Color


Have you seen these historic black and white images that have been colorized? 

They're captivating.


Lots more images and all sources found here.

04 November 2013

Savvy Business Review


In October, I wrote for 31 23 days about Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs.  I absolutely LOVED the topic and the style, and am in the process of brainstorming ways to incorporate the topic and the style into more regular posts here on Polka Dotted Peony.  Since the series took place over a series of days, I thought I'd provide a little review here of my favorite posts in the series, so you can catch any you may have missed. Just click on the graphic to be taken directly to the post.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to change it up a little around here. I felt more at home in this series than I have in awhile. And I love feeling at home.















31 October 2013

Learn to Say Thank You // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days


The information in this post could actually be part of a series called "What to do in Life", but it really really really applies in business, so we're putting it here, too.

Ok?

One of the best opportunities we have in life to make people's lives better, make them feel appreciated, acknowledge them and their value in the world is to thank them.  

It's so simple, isn't it? But don't we often forget to stop. And acknowledge a word, an action, a service, time spent, help given, or no reason at all.  Sometimes people just need to hear that they're appreciated, and that we notice them.  It's a beautiful way that we can build into other people's lives.

I love putting the practice of thank you into my own life. I have a long way to go, and still forget at times, because there are 324350956 emails waiting and my laundry just buzzed and my eggs are getting over cooked, and I have a 7:30 meeting, but it's WORTH it.

Here are some of my favorite ways to say Thank You:
  • The age-old handwritten note. It's fun to sweeten up the address area of the envelope, too. I have a Resources pin-board, and pinned some inspiration there.
  • A quick text message.  It's simple, isn't it? Just tell the person you loved seeing them, and thanks for making time.
  • An unexpected treat. I keep a supply of Starbucks gift cards in my desk drawer at work.  When I have a conversation with someone who I can tell just needs a lift, is feeling frustrated or unappreciated, I write a quick note (I found some simple and stylish stationary here) telling them they are doing great work, and I appreciate what they do, stick in the Starbucks card, and off it goes. 
  • Have WARM COOKIES DELIVERED. There's a company in our town that delivers warm cookies and ice cold milk all over town.  It's more of an investment than the other I've given you, but sometimes you need a really unique something that will make an impact. This is it.  Last year for Administrative Professionals Day, our office sent cookies and milk to all our advisors' assistants across town. It was a hit. We've also used it to acknowledge new clients joining our practice.  If you send it to a client's workplace, not only do they become REALLY popular, your name gets out there, too.  You can check to see if they are in your area right here.
This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself
Day 17: Allison Lehman of The Wonderjam Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 18: Make it Happen
Day 19: Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 20: Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection)
Day 21: Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal
Day 22: Erin Souder of Grandiflora Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 23: Help the Little Guy
Day 24: Learn to Say Thank You

30 October 2013

Help the Little Guy // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days


Can you remember back to the time when you learned to ride your bike? You were so wobbly, and more so because you were shaking a little bit a lot than from lack of skill, some because of excitement and some because you were just plain scared.  Thankfully your dad had a strong hold on the back of that bike seat, and you knew he was going to let go eventually, but thankfully he didn't until you were good and focused on that road, confident as you peddled on. 

And the first time you made it to the end of the cul de sac, all your family was there, and they cheered and made a huge deal out of the accomplishment, because they'd been in your proverbial seat before, and knew that part of the learning and succeeding is having people there to cheer you on and hang onto your seat until you're ready to stay up on your own.

I wonder if it's the same in business.  

Wherever you are in your business right now, there's someone who's not quite as far along as you. Their ideas are new and fresh, their work ethic is strong, their integrity the driver. Where they're headed is so good and so relevant - you believe in what they're doing - but they just haven't yet gotten to where you are.

As someone who's been on the bike before, making it to the end of the cul de sac, hang onto their seat to steady their nervous legs a bit. Cheer them on. Make a big deal about people who are just a little behind where you are. Find or ask(!) what would be valuable to them, what would build into their business, their visibility, their credibility. Then do something. Build into what you think the world needs more of.

Some of those things might be:
  • A simple re-tweet
  • An Instagram of their design/hand-letting/handbag/blog post 
  • A handwritten note of encouragement
  • An email introduction between two people who could work synergistically
  • A blog post
Hey big people: Let's build into little people so we get more really awesome big people to build into lots of really awesome little people who turn into big people.


Ok?



This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself
Day 17: Allison Lehman of The Wonderjam Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 18: Make it Happen
Day 19: Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 20: Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection)
Day 21: Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal
Day 22: Erin Souder of Grandiflora Savvy Entrepreneur Interview

28 October 2013

Savvy Entrepreneur Interview: Erin Souder, House of Earnest, Grandiflora // #31Days


Today's Savvy Entrepreneur is Erin Souder of Grandiflora, a soon-to-be-launched Home + Decor line. Erin's blog is House of Earnest , which I've followed since last spring; she's one gifted lady, and her new line is sure to be as stylish as she is.




I am the owner and designer of a home decor and entertaining accessories line, Grandiflora - which launches officially in November. Grandiflora showcases 4 yearly capsule collections, each collection with a common theme or color story that runs throughout the pieces. This holiday, the line includes a lot of black, cream, gold, and warm wood tones. It's going to be gorgeous!




Yes, It was when I realized that I didn't want to be a full time blogger. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE blogging, but I wanted something tangible to create and to make others lives a little more beautiful. I sat on the plane on the way home from Alt and just started brainstorming. What was it that I loved about blogging and what was it that I loved about my day job (as a product developer for an apparel brand). I worked it down to a very simple desire: I love to create. That's it. At the very center of what I do everyday is that I create something that was once just an idea and I mold it into reality. The idea of forming my own home decor company based off this one realization was daunting to say the least, but my husband and a few very encouraging friends believed in me and that encouraged me to take the leap.




First is to channel those classes you used to have in high school or college and build a business plan with a mission statement. Its so easy to get lost in a sea of decisions and reading that pared down specific goal will keep you on track.

Second, hire the right people. I mean a lawyer, an accountant, and (for me) a graphic designer. Having other professional experts is really important to stay on top of issues and to also get another eye on things. If something isn't' your expertise, you'll end up worrying and second guessing it which leads nowhere fast.

Third, Jump in with two feet. I think a lot of endeavors fail because people are tiptoeing into it. Get your plan together and do it 100% 



I think a lot of people don't delegate the right things. I'm all about branding and having a very strong and recognizable brand image. You know I love DIY, but a home-done logo and business cards makes my skin crawl, and you can always spot them. Unless you are a graphic designer, hire one.


oh man, that's hard! I'm currently working on a big project with West Elm which was a total dream goal of mine. The project (official details to come soon) mixes a DIY element with a styling element and gets to play around with their new Christmas line. It incorporates all of my favorite things - DIY, Product, and Styling.



Creating relationships and networking is huge. This project didn't come along over night, I had one small interaction which turned into something bigger which culminated in my sending a really scary pitch (and it being accepted). At the end of the day, I try to always respond to email, never close a door completely, and take risks. 


I don't know that I have one yet, but at this point I'm researching the competition. I've been doing so much research, I know what every other ecomm shop in my demographic has, what prices they're selling at and how quickly they're moving through inventory. I want to set myself apart when it comes to product, but ensure that I'm in line with the price points and marketing exposure of those in my demographic.



Firstly, One MUST have a passion for their idea. It cannot be a fleeting 'like'. I've been working as a product developer for 8 years for other companies and still absolutely love it. I knew that I wasn't going to fall out of love with the day to day job function and I knew that I had a real drive and passion to make this my career.



Success is so subjective, but for me I want to achieve build an internationally recognizable brand selling beautifully designed, unique product which allows me to live a comfortable life working alongside my husband. I believe the formula for this is about 1 part having a relevant and unique product and 5 parts really hard work.


Y'all - So great, right?!  Now go to the Grandiflora launch site and stick your email address in that little email box so you know when they launch.  You don't want to miss what's coming! What she is doing is awesome. Now go support her!

Erin - thanks so much for sharing with us today! Can't wait to see your beautiful creations come to life!

This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 1: Why It Matters
Day 2: Business Basics You May Have Forgotten
Day 3: Get Control of your Day
Day 4: Do Looks Really Matter?
Day 5: Find Your People
Day 6: Resources You Should be Using
Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 8: What are you Afraid of?
Day 9: Margin
Day 10: Change Your Surroundings
Day 11: Get (really) Good Before You Go Wide
Day 12: Take your Birthday Off
Day 13: Done is Better than Perfect
Day 14: Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully
Day 15: Outsource your Weakness by Trading your Talent
Day 16: Invest in Yourself
Day 17: Allison Lehman of The Wonderjam Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 18: Make it Happen
Day 19: Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags Savvy Entrepreneur Interview
Day 20: Ask the Pretty Girl to Prom (aka Fall in Love with Rejection)
Day 21: Not a Grey Suit Kind of Gal
Day 22: Erin Souder of Grandiflora Savvy Entrepreneur Interview