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!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New Etiquette Classes in So. California

Etiquette Classes in the Inland Empire Start September 20th!

The RSVP Institute of Etiquette continues to offer ongoing, coed etiquette classes, at the historic Graber Olive House in Ontario, with new classes starting September 20th!
Every student is encouraged to develop the social skills vitally needed for smooth sailing throughout life.

The youth classes for ages 6 to 16, will be held every Sunday afternoon, 
from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. 

Teen and kid approved foods are served to help with utensil manners!
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 foods to practice dining skills  that are taught. 

Each student receives weekly session handouts in order to practice the 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
  • Table Manners  
  • Manners for Home and Abroad
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Respect for Others, 
  • Deflecting Peer Pressure
  • Responding to RSVPs
  • Notes of Thanks
  • Social Media Manners
  • Digital Manners
  • Making Eye Contact 
  • Developing Great Posture
  • Good Grooming 
We love getting thanked by our students!

The Graber Olive House is located at 
315 East Fourth Street, Ontario, CA 91764

Questions? Contact Maura J. Graber at for a registration form, 
or call The RSVP Institute of Etiquette 
Payments by Check, Cash or PayPal are accepted

Maura J. Graber – Teaching etiquette since 1990

Monday, June 15, 2015

Remembering Demita Usher

Demita Usher, aka "Brown Betty"

This is the hardest blog post I have ever written. I lost a wonderful friend over the past weekend. Demita Usher died of congestive heart failure. She had not been ill. A blood clot was the culprit. My husband and I knew exactly what was going on when I received a text from Demita, apologizing and explaining why she would not be able to teach a class with me the next day. 

She sent a text that she didn't have the energy to walk to and from another room in her apartment, and she was having problems breathing. She texted that her brother was going to take her to the ER when he got off work. I texted back that it could be her heart. She needed to go to the hospital immediately. 
I didn't like to continually email and text, but Demita did. I would rather talk on the phone. But then again, we would be on for hours, so emailing and texting it was!

I called Cliff. He and I both suspected congestive heart failure as his mother had been hospitalized for it in March of 2013, just prior to me being hospitalized for heading into congestive heart failure in May of 2013. My 98 year old mother in-law lived for another year and 9 months.  I am still here. I was 10 to 15 years older than Demita, and as healthy as she was otherwise, she should still be here too. I am emotionally devastated. 
I have no idea what we were discussing in that etiquette class training session, but her smile is what I will miss the most.
We kept exchanging texts. Her brother hadn't taken her yet. I wish I had called her, or 911, for her. I regret not doing that.  The last texts I received from her was that she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and "I'll keep you posted." The last text was at 11:40 p.m. She died a few hours later.  

The Demita I knew was always healthy, happy and enthusiastic about what we did together. She helped take care of me while I recovered through the spring, summer and fall of 2013. She would come and stay for days at a time, helping out when Cliff wasn't here and walking the dog for me. She was here for us each subsequent time I was hospitalized over the last 2 years. She took over my classes when I couldn't teach them and I told her I wanted to eventually turn my business over to her. 
Demita took pleasure in teaching etiquette, as much as I do, if not more.

When she was passionate about something, Demita committed 200% to whatever it was; teaching etiquette, writing, history, vintage clothing, racial issues... She was committed to our friendship and I appreciated her more than she will ever know.
Demita wrote for several online publications, many times as "Brown Betty"
In May of 2011, I had my first conversation with Demita. She had called about my Etiquette Instructor training program. We spoke for 3 hours over the phone. I came downstairs where my husband and son had stopped waiting for me to watch a movie with them. "You were on a business call for 3 hours?"I was excited... "I know! I just had the most incredible conversation with someone who feels exactly the same way I do about etiquette! It was like talking to a twin or something!"
Demita once told me early on in our friendship, that she had very few photos of herself when she was younger. So I went to work sleuthing and found two high school photos of her. She was as shocked as she was pleased.

Demita was up for anything and let nothing hold her back. She wrote continually, and researched historical etiquette works probably as much as me, always asking for tips. Before we met, she once flew to London to take hat-making classes with the former milliner to the late-Queen Mum and royal family.  

Practicing her royal wave? Demita with a fellow contestant when she became the 2007 Ms. California

She had entered the "Queen of Queens" pageant and was the 2007 Ms. California. She was interested in mentoring younger pageant contestants. 
Much of my family is stunned and saddened by her death as well.  Here she is with my brother in-law Vince, my sister Barbara and me at CSUF's wine event/fund-raiser in August 2013. Cliff was taking the photo.
She guest blogged for me, even though I continued to prompt her to "keep digging for more information." She volunteered for anyone that needed her. I was continually getting photos texted to me of herself at different events.

Don't let that glamour fool you... I discovered Demita was a "secret nerd"when she bought a "Captain Kirk vs Captain Picard" t-shirt. She said it was for a "friend," but after she started "covering" and writing columns about Cosplay, I told her I had figured out her secret. She simply turned to me and beamed!

Demita and I swapped books and videos continually. I still have one of her favorites with me. It's titled "Forgotten Elegance: The Art, Artifacts, and Peculiar History of Victorian and Edwardian Entertaining in America" By the books she enjoyed the most, I always felt Demita was born too late, as if she belonged in another era. Now I know, she is gone much too soon.
Rest in peace, my dear friend. You will never be forgotten by those whose lives you touched!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Etiquette Classes in the Inland Empire

The RSVP Institute of Etiquette continues to offer ongoing, coed etiquette classes, at the historic Graber Olive House in Ontario, with new classes starting June 14th!

Every student is encouraged to develop the social skills needed for smooth sailing throughout life!
Teen and kid approved foods are served to help with utensil manners!

The youth classes for ages 6 and up through the teens, are held every Sunday, 
from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. 

The $75.00 per student fee, includes foods to practice dining skills with and all necessary learning materials!
Each student receives weekly session handouts to practice lessons taught when at home. The three, 2-hour session Etiquette 

Courses cover: 

Basic Manners 
Introductions and Responses, 
Dining Skills & Table Manners 
(w/foods to practice dining skills), 
Manners for Home and Abroad, 
Cultural Diversity, Respect for Others, 
Deflecting Peer Pressure, Tech Etiquette, 
Notes of Thanks,  
Social Media Manners, Cell Phone Manners, Text Manners,  
Making Eye Contact, Developing Great Posture and Good Grooming  

We love getting thanked by our students!

The Graber Olive House is located at 
315 East Fourth Street, Ontario, CA 91764
909 983-1761

Questions? Contact Maura J. Graber at
Email for a registration form, 

Or call The RSVP Institute of Etiquette 
800-891-RSVP or 909 923-5650 
Payment by Check, Cash or PayPal is accepted

Maura J. Graber, Teaching etiquette since 1990

On Etiquette and Acting Civilized

Etiquette: It's not just about which fork to use.
(Above~ Beautiful, antique French melon forks)

Etiquette is, in point of fact, nothing more nor less than the law, written and unwritten, which regulates the society of civilized people, distinguishing them from the communities of barbarous tribes, whose lives are hard and their manners still harder. 

It is to a well disciplined and refined mind the fundamental principle of action in all intercourse with society, and they are interested in maintaining it in its integrity, and bound to heed and obey its simplest as well as more formal precepts. 

The real law-giver is the general convenience, speaking with authority and the experience of many years; and it will be found that even in those cases, where the meaning of its rules may be somewhat obscure at first sight, there is an underlying reason for the regulation laid down. by Sarah Annie Frost, 1869

Etiquipedia: Cycling Etiquette and Romance

Etiquipedia: Cycling Etiquette and Romance: A proper woman's "Cycling Costume" from 1901 The Bicycle In Love-Making from 1895 Extraordinary Number of "Sco...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Youth Etiquette Classes at the Historic Graber Olive House in Ontario

The RSVP Institute of Etiquette is now offering ongoing coed classes at the historic Graber Olive House in Ontario
Every student is encouraged to develop the social skills needed for smooth sailing throughout life!

The youth classes for ages 6 and up through the teens, are held every Sunday
from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. 

The $75.00 per student fee, includes foods to practice dining skills with and all necessary learning materials
Each student receives weekly session handouts to practice lessons taught when at home
The three, 2-hour session Etiquette Courses will cover: 

  • Basic Manners 
  • Introductions & Responses 
  • Dining Skills & Table Manners (w/foods to practice dining skills) 
  • Manners; Home & Abroad, Cultural Diversity, Respect for Others 
  • Deflecting Peer Pressure, Tech Etiquette, “Thank you” notes 
  • Social Media Manners, Cell Phone Manners, Text Manners, etc... 
  • Making Eye Contact, Developing Great Posture & Good Grooming  

The Graber Olive House is located at
315 East Fourth Street, Ontario, CA 91764
909 983-1761
Hands-on training for utensil use with difficult foods is given weekly

Email for a registration form. 
Or call The RSVP Institute of Etiquette 
800-891-RSVP or 909 923-5650 
Payment by Check, Cash or PayPal is accepted

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Etiquette and the Recipe for a Garden Tea-Themed Bridal Shower

A stunning shower gift from the mother of the bride-to-be was  this bouquet brooch to be used at the rehearsal: Said Peggy, "Rather than the traditional ribbon bouquet that many people make at the shower for the bride’s wedding rehearsal, I made a brooch bouquet out of brooches that were mine and I asked both grandmothers to donate a brooch as well. I made this about a month before the shower as it was a little time consuming. I presented it to Kelly just before she opened her shower gifts. I also gave little history on the significance and tradition of giving a brooch to a bride. It turned out very pretty and we had it sitting out next to the guest book at the wedding."
The etiquette rule used to be that the bride's family members could attend the bridal showers, but not host them, nor plan them in anyway. Those rules went the way of June Cleaver ~ They left the building.
Peggy, with her daughter Kelly, posing at the shower
Nowadays, family members do participate and sometimes in a pinch play hostess. In many cases they are "blended family" members now too. They also offer space if they have the house large enough to get everyone together in one place at one time.  This is no easy trick in the 21st century!

Sadly, illness kept me from attending the bridal shower, that was given  last August, for my niece. I had really been looking forward to it and when I later saw the photos and read about the details, I knew I had to post something on it. Also, January is National "Hot Tea Month." Did you know?

A garden tea luncheon was my sister in-law Peggy's idea. Peggy was playing off of Kelly’s wedding theme of a "Royal Garden Wedding" and Kelly does love tea. So the theme was not a complete surprise for Kelly. Her mother told her about some of the details, but not everything. She did want a few things left as surprises for her the day of the shower.
Peggy said, "I used Archive Rentals for the flowers and the place settings. I picked out mixed-matched floral china, silverware and stemware. I had cards printed with “As rosemary is to the spirit, so lavender is to the soul” and attached a fresh cut sprig of rosemary and lavender and tucked that into the napkin at each place setting." Simply gorgeous!
The table decorations and centerpieces were birdcages arranged with bright multi-colored flowers (these were then reused at the post-wedding cocktail area, though decorated with the same flowers selected for the wedding). Peggy had hoped to give them away to guests to take home, but it seems the florist’s helpers packed them up after the cocktail hour, and they were unable to get to them by the end of the wedding.
One of the many tables set with the bird cage floral arrangements.
Peggy has a very spacious home, and though she was not playing hostess to the shower, as a few of Kelly's closest friends were, she had enough room to use garden animal statues around the room, (frogs, turtles, birds, rabbits, etc...) and then mylar flower balloons that grouped around the statues. Peggy's idea was to create a whimsical garden indoors. She also used a few mylar butterfly and ladybug balloons to complete the look.
Kelly sat under a garden arch and Peggy suspended a crown with a veil in the arch. At the foot of her chair was a frog prince statue.
Bride-to-be Kelly opening one of many gifts.
For activities, a photo booth was created with fun accessories to use in the photos and an Instagram sign with Kelly’s wedding # to post the pictures was also used.
Kelly and friends mugging it up for the Instagram Photo Booth. (L to R) are Penney, Alexa, Kelly, Brenna, Casey, and Jamie
Peggy also had a table to create one's own tea: She set bowls out of different teas, and using provided tea bags, guests could scoop tea and make their own blends.
Said Peggy, "We also provided labels and tea tins that I had found, to put them in. This was a big hit!"
Each guest received a china tea cup and saucer (each one was different) along with detailed instructions on how to brew the perfect cup of tea. Also a tea pouch personalized with autumn leaves and “Falling in love” Kelly & Casey 10/4/14

Of course, Peggy asked good friend, Chef Cathy McKnight, to help with the menu and she provided everything as a gift to Kelly.
The cake looked fabulous. Peggy found the beehive cake pan at Victoria Trading Company online. After showing it to Cathy, it was made as a lemon pound cake with a lemon liqueur glaze. Cathy added the adorable honey spoon with the bee on it!

The Menu:
Quiche Lorraine
Quiche bacon & cheddar in potato crust
Egg salad on brioche
Chicken salad with green apples on croissant
Watercress & butter tea sandwiches on squaw bread
Aloha salad with fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and poppy seed dressing
Mini cheesecakes
Lemon bars
Heath crunch brownie bites
"Frog Prince" cookies
Also served were iced tea, lemonade, a signature cocktail and Kelly’s favorite- Irish Breakfast tea.

Princess Kelly
Yum! Chef Cathy McKnight poses with her daughter, Shannon Quiring and good friend, Cindy Beck.

Bridal Shower Etiquette of Yesteryear

“Allied to the afternoon tea are various phases of informal daytime entertaining. For example, there is the "shower" for a bride-elect ("linen," "culinary," or what you will). A friend of the bride-to-be invites a coterie of girl friends to meet the guest of honor, giving each girl time to provide some beautiful or useful gift, the presentations to be made with amusing ceremonies.”

“The "thimble bee," a favorite diversion of the quiet matronly set, each one bringing her own bit of needlework to while away an hour or so in pleasant conversation. One of the number may read aloud, with pauses for comment at will. The thimble bee is a modern version of the good old-fashioned "spend the afternoon and take tea." Both the shower and the thimble bee may be given in the forenoon, if preferred." 
From 1919, Agnes H. Morton's “Etiquette” 

A good many years ago a friend of a young woman who was about to be married decided that the only gift she could afford was too slight an offering to express the love and good wishes that she felt. Knowing that there were other friends who felt the same way she called them together and suggested that they present their gifts at the same time. Then and there the idea of the "shower" was born.

The custom has prevailed and in most instances to-day the shower has a special purpose, such as the linen shower or the kitchen shower or the book shower. It is a very charming way of presenting gifts that would seem too trifling if they were presented alone. Intimate friends of the bride are the guests at a shower. It is usually a very informal affair and nearly always a surprise to the bride. The gifts may be hidden in a Jack Horner pie, they may be wrapped in all sorts of odd packages, or they may be presented in any of a hundred and one attractive ways. Originality in this, as in all entertainments, is greatly to be desired.

The young lady who is honored with a shower thanks the guests verbally, and afterwards she may write each of them a little note expressing her gratitude. It is necessary to do so if the affair was an elaborate one and the gifts were expensive.” 
From 1924 Lillian Eichler's “Book of Etiquette / Volume I” 

“It is not uncommon for a bride-elect to receive a few engagement presents. (These are entirely apart from wedding presents which come later.) A small afternoon teacup and saucer used to be the typical engagement gift, but it has gone rather out of vogue, along with harlequin china in general. Engagement presents are usually personal trifles sent either by her own very intimate friends or by members of her fiancé's family as especial messages of welcome to hers—and as such are very charming. But any general fashion that necessitates giving engagement as well as wedding presents may well be looked upon with alarm by those who have only moderately filled pocketbooks!” 
From Emily Post's 1922, “Etiquette”

A Good Housekeeping Magazine article account of a 1907 bridal shower, courtesy of @GeroDynamics