Saturday, July 23, 2016

Restaurant Table Manners and Tykes

When these rules were first written...

Cellphones in restaurants? "Hang on... Grandma's talking." "Yes, Grandma? What? It's not good manners to talk on my cellphone in the restaurant? Okay. I'll just text instead."

This was not only inconceivable, but unthinkable...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Etiquette and No Chicken Salad, Please

Unless, of course, the Cesar Salad is better!

When I saw the advertisement above for the first time, featuring a newly published, two-volume book of etiquette from the early 1900s, I smiled. I often use a story that involves my grandmother and chicken salad when talking about restaurant etiquette with my students. I share the story with kids, young adults and adults alike. I use it to illustrate a point about good manners when invited out to eat, and how to look for cues and clues of what to do in different situations when one is a guest.

Years ago my mother called to say that my grandmother, her mother, wanted to take all of the ladies in the family to lunch in celebration of the upcoming Mother's Day. When I was growing up, we frequently had seasonal "Ladies' Lunches" at one of my aunts' homes, or in our home. I even hosted a few after getting married and starting my new family. This was the first time a restaurant was suggested, and my mother said that grandma was insisting on paying for everyone's lunch.

My grandmother was on a fixed income after my grandfather passed away. It was very small, so I immediately questioned the generous offer.  My mother told me that she and her sisters had both pointed that fact out to their mother, but grandma was insistent. She also chose the restaurant she wanted to take us to, and it was not known for its low prices.

When we arrived at the restaurant and were seated at our table, we were handed our menus. Within a nano-second, one of our party (either oblivious to grandma's financial situation or just sharing her enthusiasm for her favorite dish) said, "Ooooh.... they have the best prime rib here!" while opening her menu. 

Before I could nudge her under the table and give her a look usually reserved for my children and students, my grandmother quickly closed her menu, the faux leather menu holder practically snapping everyone to attention. "I think we should all have the Chicken Salad," she said. The guest itching for the prime rib seemed to deflate right before my eyes and closed her menu along with everyone else at the table. Everyone at the table except for me.
Third from right, standing next to my grandmother, in a 1980 snap after one of our seasonal lunches.
I was never a fan of Chicken Salad, but I certainly knew a cue from a hostess when I heard one.  I just happened to have the menu open to the page with the featured luncheon salads. I quickly looked down at the price of the Chicken Salad. Way back then it was $6.95, so I needed to work within that "price point." I spotted a Cesar Salad for $5.95, and said, "You know... I think I'd like the Cesar Salad instead. As I recall it is fairly good here." 

Grandma's eyes got big and looking a bit ruffled, she quickly reopened her menu. She spotted the salad's lower price, and said very enthusiastically, "That is a good choice!" Everyone else was reopening their menus, and perusing the salads, while I quietly closed mine.

The luncheon turned out to be a fun affair, with all of us enjoying our salads and chatting away about how we needed to get together more often. I am not sure how many in our party wound up with the suggested Chicken Salad, but the bill was rather low and we convinced grandma to at least allow us to each chip in a small amount for the tip. There was also a surprise dessert that arrived at the table for each of us. No one confessed to ordering it, but I have always had my suspicions.

We haven't had a "Ladies Luncheon" in several years now, what with grandma gone since 1999, all of us spread out in several states, and some of us younger ladies even becoming grandmas ourselves. I will always have sweet memories of the luncheons though, and even have a great instructional tale for my etiquette students and future generations to learn from, about reading and following a host's or hostess' cues.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Outlander Etiquette and Dress

The bergère hat (also known as a Shepherdess hat) and the ornate dress, are pretty much on target for Louis XV's reign, but a lady never held hands or linked arms with a gentleman. The women’s skirts were so wide, she was to place her hand on top of the gentleman’s bent arm as they strolled through the gardens and chambers of Versailles.

With excitement building for the upcoming new season of Outlander, as with other well done period dramas, I will try not to kill the enjoyment of watching the storyline by fussing over historical inaccuracies I catch in dialogue, wardrobe, or the odd blooper every now and then. 

For one thing, I know it drives my husband nuts. For another, the crews and casts do work very hard to make such shows look so very good. However, I cannot help but notice little details. I spotted the first error in my recent copy of Entertainment Weekly, and the new season hasn't even started. I am hoping the etiquette blooper above is simply a one-off, from a publicity photo shoot – a photographer thought it would look better for them to link arms, or ??? I will most likely never know. So from this point on, I will simply try to ignore anything that rudely jumps out at me and keep my popcorn consumption to a minimum.

Clothing and Etiquette at Versailles:

When Louis XIV came to the throne in 1643, the fashion capital of the world wasn’t Paris, but Madrid. Taste tends to follow power, and for the past two centuries or so Spain had been enjoying its Golden Age, amassing a vast global empire that fueled a booming domestic economy. Spanish style was tight and rigid—both physically and figuratively—and predominantly black. Not only was black considered to be sober and dignified by the staunchly Catholic Habsburg monarchy, but high-quality black dye was extremely expensive, and the Spanish flaunted their wealth by using as much of it as possible. They advertised their imperial ambitions, as well, for Spain imported logwood—a key dyestuff—from its colonies in modern-day Mexico. While Spain’s explorers and armies conquered the New World, her fashions conquered the old one, and Spanish style was adopted at courts throughout Europe.

At Versailles, a strict code of court dress and etiquette ensured a steady market for French-made clothing and jewelry. Louis has been accused of trying to control his nobles by forcing them to bankrupt themselves on French fashions, but, in fact, he often underwrote these expenses, believing that luxury was necessary not only to the economic health of the country but to the prestige and very survival of the monarchy. France soon became the dominant political and economic power in Europe, and French fashion began to eclipse Spanish fashion from Italy to the Netherlands. French was the new black.

A lady of Versailles never held hands or linked arms with a gentleman. It was in very bad taste and nearly impossible because a woman’s skirts were so wide. She was to place her hand on top of the gentleman’s bent arm as they strolled through the gardens and chambers of Versailles. Ladies were only allowed to touch their fingertips with the men.
— Sources - Atlantic Monthly and Etiquipedia Etiquette Encyclopedia

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gilded Age Party Etiquette

The ornately designed goblet and cover that was issued a patent, was a multi-purpose drinking vessel. When the goblet was tilted to drink from, the attached cherub "pulled" back a cover, revealing a rim to drink from, while allowing the drinking rim to stay relatively hygenic and it could keep a gents mustache clean and dry, all the while remaining uniquely beautiful.

Gilded Age Etiquette 


Evening Parties

Evening parties are of various kinds, and more or less ceremonious, as they are more or less fashionable. Their object is or should be social enjoyment, and the manners of the company ought to be such as will best promote it. A few hints, therefore, in addition to the general maxims of good behavior already laid down, will suffice.

1. Invitations

Having accepted an invitation to a party, never fail to keep your promise, and especially do not allow bad weather, of any ordinary character, to prevent your attendance. A married man should never accept an invitation from a lady in which his wife is not included.

2. Salutations

When you enter a drawing-room where there is a party, you salute the lady of the house before speaking to any one else. Even your most intimate friends are enveloped in an opake (sic) atmosphere until you have made your bow to your entertainer. You then mix with the company, salute your acquaintances, and join in the conversation. You may converse freely with any person you meet on such an occasion, without the formality of an introduction.

3. Conversation

When conversation is not general, nor the subject sufficiently interesting to occupy the whole company, they break up into different groups. Each one converses with one or more of his neighbors on his right and left. We should, if we wish to speak to any one, avoid leaning upon the person who happens to be between. A gentleman ought not to lean upon the arm of a lady's chair, but he may, if standing, support himself by the back of it, in order to converse with the lady partly turned toward him. The members of an invited family should never be seen conversing one with another at a party.

4. French Leave

If you desire to withdraw before the party breaks up, take "French leave"—that is, go quietly out without disturbing any one, and without saluting even the mistress of the house, unless you can do so without attracting attention. The contrary course would interrupt the rest of the company, and call for otherwise unnecessary explanations and ceremony.

5. Sports and Games

Among young people, and particularly in the country, a variety of sports or plays, as they are called, are in vogue. Some of them are fitting only for children; but others are more intellectual, and may be made sources of improvement as well as of amusement. Entering into the spirit of these sports, we throw off some of the restraints of a more formal intercourse; but they furnish no excuse for rudeness. You must not forget your politeness in your hilarity, or allow yourself to "take liberties," or lose your sense of delicacy and propriety.

The selection of the games or sports belongs to the ladies, though any person may modestly propose any amusement, and ask the opinion of others in reference to it. The person who gives the party will exercise her prerogative to vary the play, that the interest may be kept up. If this were the proper place, we should enter an earnest protest against the promiscuous kissing which sometimes forms part of the performances in some of these games, but it is not our office to proscribe or introduce observances, but to regulate them.

No true gentleman will abuse the freedom which the laws of the game allows; but if required, will delicately kiss the hand, the forehead, or, at most, the cheek of the lady. A lady will offer her lips to be kissed only to a lover or a husband, and not to him in company. The French code is a good one: "Give your hand to a gentleman to kiss, your cheek to a friend, but keep your lips for your lover." Never prescribe any forfeiture which can wound the feelings of any of the company, and "pay" those which may be adjudged to you with cheerful promptness. – From 1887, Samuel Well's,"How to Behave"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Youth Etiquette Classes for 2016

Etiquette Classes in the Inland Empire
Start Sunday, February 28th!
The RSVP Institute of Etiquette continues to
offer ongoing, coed etiquette classes, at the
historic Graber Olive House in Ontario, 
with new courses starting February 28th! 
Every student is encouraged to develop the social skills vitally needed for smooth sailing throughout life... 

The 6 hour total, youth courses for ages 6 to 16, 
will be held every Sunday afternoon, 
from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., for 3 weeks. 
The $75.00 per student fee, includes foods to practice dining skills with and all necessary learning materials! 
Now in our 26th year, we are always adding new subjects and great foods to practice dining skills that are taught!

Each student receives weekly session handouts in order to practice lessons they are taught in our classes, when they are at home and at school. Role modeling, games and foods all help to practice the skills and lessons taught. The three, 2-hour session, courses cover:
• Basic Social Graces, Introductions and Greetings
• Dining Skills and Table Manners
• Manners for Home and Abroad
• Respect for Self and Others,
• Deflecting Peer Pressure
• Responding to RSVPs
• Notes of Thanks
• Social Media Manners and Digital Manners
• Making Eye Contact, Great Posture and Grooming 
Fun games and prizes help reinforce skills taught!
The Graber Olive House is located at 315 East Fourth Street, Ontario, CA 91764 
Phone–909 983-1761 

Questions? Contact
Maura J. Graber at for a registration form, or call The RSVP Institute of Etiquette at 909 923-5650 or Outside 909 800-891-RSVP Check, Cash or PayPal accepted

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Book of Manners for Children

The Life of Betty Graber 
Seen Through Her 
Daughter-in-Law’s Eyes
Betty, at 9 or 10 years old. It's the age she'll be in the next book, which jumps ahead in time 4 years. Pictured above, circa 1926, with Betty are her brother, Jeremiah, known as "Jack" in the book, Betty's grandmother, Mrs. William Martin, and Betty's older brother Bill.

Betty at 5 or 6 years old, in 1922, the year in which the current book is set, beside one of the book illustrations, by artist Christie Shinn.

Maura's daughter Katherine, and granddaughter Marina, enjoying the new book.
Mary “Betty” Graber loved the Inland Valley community where she grew up, raised a family and spent years involved in promoting its culture and history.

The late Graber family matriarch grew up when women gathered for tea, went to classes to learn to speak eloquently and kept/delivered calling cards. She was a member of the Chaffey Community Art Association, the Soroptimist Club and the Shakespeare Club. 

The only photo Maura has been able to find of Betty with a cat... The Graber family, circa 1955
Now, through the efforts of her daughter-in-law, Maura Graber, some stories from her past can help children learn about themselves, their actions and how they affect others. Maura Graber, has written “The Wallflowers and Wildflowers Learn Manners,” which is based on the late Betty Graber’s childhood in 1922 San Dimas. 

The book, which is the first in an expected series, teaches youngsters important social skills and manners through the eyes of the young Betty and her pets. Maura Graber, who has long taught etiquette lessons to the young and old, said researching the books also helped add even more stories to the family’s history. The family started the historic Graber Olive House in Ontario in 1894 and continues today.
Rags, a family dog, plays a big role in the etiquette books.
In fact, that’s where Graber and book artist Christie Shinn recently conducted a book signing. “I think that Betty would’ve been tickled by the book,” said Graber, especially since Betty was a devoted patron of the local arts scene. Friends of the family stopped by as did Petrina Delman of Ontario Heritage, who bought a book for herself and one for the nonprofit.

The next book, too, is set in San Dimas and will involve tea and tea-room etiquette while continuing the storyline. Betty grew up in the Martin House in that city. The house today is an historical building and home to the San Dimas Chamber of Commerce. “Tea rooms were so fashionable in the 1920s, Men fashionably drank tea in San Francisco and there were French, Scottish, British and even American tea rooms,” she said. “It’s pretty crazy, as I’m not that big of a fan of tea. Seeing as it’s basically a buffet with tea, coffee and possibly hot chocolate or lemonade, if done according to proper etiquette, it’s simply a buffet with a beverage. Americans have romanticized it to an odd point. I have never figured that out." 
A favorite photo of Maura's and husband Cliff, is this of Betty's older brother, Bill. It was taken in San Dimas in 1922.
She can see where it may have seemed exotic in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Russian tearooms with their glistening samovars had been very popular until the overthrow of the czar and murder of his family. After that, they fell out of fashion and British-style tearooms came into popularity. And it really wasn’t until the Edwardian era, and then into the 1920s, that women could go out to restaurants unchaperoned. “So I have a lot to work with regarding history, along with the story of Betty and the pets,” she said.

Book three will take the story back to the animals again, while tackling the issues of bullying and homelessness.                                     
Another favorite photo is this 1907, Edwardian Era shot of Betty's mother, Ruth, and a college chum, in "Zaferia" California. Zaferia later became "East Long Beach" California

Her research produced stacks of photos and family albums which were used in the book as well as some displayed at the book signing. “We even have a scrapbook that Bill kept (Betty’s older brother) that was from Bonita High School in the 1930s. They are really just wonderful.”      
Betty’s son and Maura’s husband, Cliff said, “The Wallflowers and Wildflowers Learn Manners” tells the story of his mother, her cats and their floral names. “It was so creative, the names, along with the fact that indoor cats were a rarity in that era,” he said.
Over 50 of the old photos were shown at the recent book signing and photo event at the Graber Olive House. The photos ranged from the late 1800s to the 1920s were from a variety of Inland Empire and Southern California communities; San Dimas, San Dimas Canyon, Zaferia (East Long Beach), Bay City (now Seal Beach), Balboa and Newport Beaches, Pomona, Mt. Baldy and "Camp Baldy." Betty's childhood was discussed, and nods to her adult life were brought up as well. In the book, the cow in the Martin House barn is named "Shakespeare," in honor of Betty's fondness for, and friends from, the popular local club.

Cliff and Maura heard the story just two weeks before Betty died in 2014 at the age of 98. “Maura and I were taken by surprise by her story, as Betty wasn’t really ever what one would call a 'pet person' and she had never told me about the cats when I was growing up.”

The “wallflowers and wildflowers” idea for the story was along the lines of the “The Prince and the Pauper” or of the country mouse and the city mouse, and the challenges of changing places for a day. “Maura is always looking for ways to get kids interested in manners and this story just sort of clicked with her,” Cliff said.

“The Wallflowers and Wildflowers Learn Manners” is $12.95 and available at the Graber Olive House and

The original article was written by  Suzanne Sproul, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Immortalizing Betty Graber's Childhood

Bringing Betty Graber's childhood and pets to life in a new book.

 One year ago today, we laid my mother-in-law to rest. Betty Graber was a formidable woman. To say that we always saw eye to eye would be a lie, but there was mutual respect that helped us develop a close relationship over the years.  
One of Betty's Wallflowers, "Violet"
Betty was a lover and patron of the arts. She loved and appreciated great literature, too. She was just at home whether in the great outdoors, or in her own home. And, of course, she also loved the Graber Olive House. 
Rags was one of the family dogs.
Betty once told me that she thought it would be fun to tell people she had lived to 100. I was disappointed that she didn't get to realize that dream. She made it to 98, just two-years shy of her goal. So it seems only fitting, on this weekend, to announce the upcoming book that Betty inspired.
"Rags" from the upcoming book.
A few weeks before Betty left us, Cliff and I were talking about cats while on one of our visits to her.  I asked Betty if she had any pet cats when growing up.  She then proceeded to tell us about the cats from her childhood. It was a story of her pets that my husband had never heard. On our drive home, I remarked that the pets could be used to help teach valuable, children's etiquette lessons.
Christie Shinn, of HoraTora Studios
With the help of the wonderful illustrator, Christie Shinn, "The Wallflowers and Wildflowers Learn Manners" will soon be published and brings Betty, her family and their pets, back to life at the Martin House in San Dimas of 1922. 
In loving memory of Betty Bowden Graber
1916 - 2014
Look for more on the book, upcoming book readings and book signings, in the coming weeks!