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Forest Trees

Have a fun 50's Party at home!

Edited by Gena Martine Santoni

a magical mixture for a meaningful life

Manners & Mayhem is the blog of the Martine Cotillions and is devoted to supporting families who value courtesy, character, high personal standards, respect for self and others, and of course, good manners! As life moves faster and faster, we offer ways to slow down and focus on those who matter most in our lives. We hope you find much to enjoy!  

Holiday Placesetting

Getting Out the Good Stuff

         by Julie Sweany

The other day I was cleaning out my garage, getting out decorations and thinking I have far too much “stuff”.  As I began to look at the boxes, I realized I have not one… not two… but three different sets of china dishes stored in my garage.  I shook my head and questioned my judgement. Why in the world was I keeping three sets of china?  But then I opened the boxes and began to look at the pieces. The memories began to flow – the first set brought memories of Sunday dinners with my in-laws; the second set reminded me of holiday dinners with my grandparents; and the third set held memories of the look on my mother’s face as she set our special holiday table - carefully looking at each plate, tea cup and gravy boat, reminiscing about how excited she was when she picked them out and received them as wedding gifts. It suddenly didn’t seem quite so crazy to be storing them.


While wedding china has become less of a “thing” for brides today, the process of decorating the holiday table in our homes is more popular than ever.  But why?  As Miss Martine says, just as getting dressed up shows respect for important occasions and fellow guests, taking the trouble to set a special table shows your guests that you think they are important and worth the extra effort. A beautiful table set with care and attention takes the entire experience out of the ordinary, marking it as a festive event and creating an atmosphere for a special and memorable occasion.

The special efforts you make in setting your holiday table can turn a mundane, ordinary task into something that surprises your loved ones. You certainly don’t need three sets of china, but you can take what you do have and make it look amazing!  If you have any pieces that bring back memories – now is the time to use them.  If there are family recipes that you remember from your childhood, include them in the menu so that those special feelings and traditions can be passed along to your own children.

When your children are old enough, begin to get them involved in the holiday table setting.  Nowadays, it is commonly called the “tablescape” – a fancy term for decorating the table and making it look welcoming. There are so many centerpiece ideas – some elaborate and some simple.  If you need ideas for a “tablescapes” there are hundreds of ideas on Pinterest .  Creative napkin foldingcan be a fun activity! Search the internet for even more ideas – they are endless.  Now granted, some of them require a little more creativity and supplies than I am willing to tackle – but many DIY sites simply take what you have, or give you ideas to get your children involved. The goal is to make that table look and feel special to those enjoying the meal.


This is a perfect opportunity for your children to learn how to set a proper table and have fun doing it! Where do the knife, fork and spoon go?  It is often a surprise to realize the number of children who have no idea how to set the table, which silverware goes where and is used for what. Some of our young members have even shared that they never sit at the table to eat their meals.  While some family schedules make it a challenge to sit at the table all together, the holidays offer a time to slow down and focus on one another.


Wear something festive to mark the occasion. Take advantage of the “captive audience” you have at your holiday dinner table by sharing stories about ancestors and family lore. Talk about the food, recipes, memories of holiday dinners past, and trips to see family and friends.  Encourage good posture and proper use of silverware along with lively conversation. In doing so, you are providing your children with dining skills they can use throughout their lives.


The most natural way for children to learn is by being included and seeing the steps along the way and helping where age appropriate.  By including children in the table and meal preparations, you are also allowing them to develop appreciation for all the effort that goes into making special occasions special. Then, instead of merely enjoying the fruits of other people’s labors, they feel that they played a meaningful role in a team effort that all can enjoy together, creating new holiday memories to share at the table next year and all the years to come.

Recommended Reading for Parents

Miss Martine's Top Tips for Thank You Notes

         by Gena Martine Santoni

The Holiday Season is the time for giving and receiving, for thinking of others before ourselves, and to practice gratitude for all of our blessings. What better way to convey heartfelt thanks than a handwritten thank you note? Too old-fashioned? I don’t think so. Remember that it is effort that shows respect. This is the purpose of so many niceties that are slowly being lost because they are “too much trouble.” Getting dressed up for important event, standing to show respect to another, helping someone with their chair. Even holding a door seems too much trouble for some whose noses seem perpetually buried in their phones!

Thank you notes take time and effort: To procure just the right cards or stationery, to choose a moment to sit and reflect on the time and thoughtfulnessof the person who invited you to a special event or gave you a lovely gift. How much time, thought and effort did they spend? Can we not show our appreciation through expending a bit of thought and effort ourselves? Sometimes an email equivalent is quite appropriate. Sometimes, a personal phone call. We usually know what is most appropriate given a little bit of thought.


The purpose of expressing thanks is not to conform to some social rule, but to take our focus off of ourselves and pay thoughtfulness back in kind. Children quite naturally tend to be self-centered. If the gift they received was not exactly what they wanted, or the wrong color, or boring in their eyes (like clothes, for instance), they often let their immediate disappointment show - sometimes quitebaldly. All events where gift giving is the focus, be it holidays or birthdays, are opportunities to practice self-control and thinking of the feelings of others, whichis not natural to us. This is why we all must be urged to step into another’s shoes and to imagine what their intention was. There is good reason for the saying that it’s the thought that counts!

When to send a hand written thank you note? Whenever you wish to delight someone! It is always appropriate when one did not have the opportunity to express thanks in person, such as when the gift was sent from afar. Even if the gift was given in person, if it was very special due to the occasion or value, the addition of a thank you note is definitely in order.


Even when utterly delighted by a particular gift, many children are nervous to write a thank you note simply because they are unsure of how to go about it. Luckily, for those who attend Cotillion, it is very straight forward! Simply modify the “Four Things” we say when we practice thanking our host or hostess at an event into written form.

Four Elements of a Thank You Note:

1. The person’s name:  Dear Aunt Sara, . . .

2. Thank you for . . .  inviting me, the gift, the help . . .

3. I had a wonderful time (event) or I can’t wait to use it when (gift)

4. I especially enjoyed (about the event), I especially like (about the gift) . . .

Think of how the recipient of your appreciation will feel when they read your thoughtful words. A well- written thank you note can feel like a gift in itself!

Forest Trees
Forest Trees
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