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Fantasy Dinner Party Challenge July 30, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Food & Drink, Humor, People.
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A few days ago, I posted A Sunset Dinner Cruise and encouraged others to plan their own Fantasy Dinner Party from setting to menu to guests.

If you plan to host an elaborate State Dinner as part of your Fantasy, here are a few fascinating (and somewhat disturbing) tips from a PBS Special on the Queen’s visit to America in 2007.

Place settings should be aligned with the precision of a surgeon performing open heart surgery on an infant.

Buckingham Palace and the White House both employ people whose primary function is to measure the placement of each serving vessel and utensil ~ not by eyeballing them, but with a ruler.

This acute attention to detail reminded me of an attorney who would check the conference room before each deposition to make sure that the bottom of the mini-blinds were equi-distant from the sill, and that each slat was perfectly perpendicular.

The same attorney would examine each piece of out-going mail to ensure  that his secretary had typed the address not just correctly . . . but in perfect horizontal alignment to the bottom edge of the envelope itself.  An address typed slightly askew had to be retyped.

He fervently believed that clients would fire otherwise competent attorneys if they sent brilliant and astute briefs in envelopes with crooked address labels.  Perhaps he misunderstood the reference to “crooked lawyers” in    jokes casting well-earned aspersions on the practice of law?

Consider the hobbies, occupations, and interests of guests when selecting  which china service to use.

Before the State Dinner, Laura Bush lovingly explained that she had selected the Rose China because she thought that Her Majesty would appreciate the flowers embossed on the rim.

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but other than a cursory look at my utensils (to ensure that they are clean), I’m not obsessed with the design on the china, the color of the napkins, or the number of forks I’ve been provided.

Instead, I’m focused on who is seated immediately to the right and left of me (“please let them have the table manners of a toddler”), the quality of the food, and the general nature of the conversation.

I promise, should you invite me to your home, I will not subtract stars from your rating due to your choice of dinnerware unless . . . I see dried egg yolk  smeared on its rim.

As you obsess over the choice and placement of table settings for your next dinner party, do not overlook the chairs.

Before the guests enter your main dining room, please double-check the chair alignment and spacing so as not to turn your guests off before the meal is even served.

All backs should be perpendicular to the table edge, without any visible leaning to the left or right (which could be construed, by some astute guests, such as the Mentalist, as a sub-conscious indicator of your political beliefs).

Time everything in advance (to the precise minute) so that your party has the proper flow and ease.

Before the State Dinner, President and Laura Bush met with The Timer (an individual whose job it is to time every step, wave, and handshake down to the closest fraction of a second):

At 11:50, be dressed and ready
At 11:52, we’ll shoot your photo in the foyer
At 11:54, take 2 steps forward, then 2 steps back
At 11:56, dosie-do your partner
At 11:57, bow to the corner
At 11:58, proceed forward to the Red Carpet

What happens if the President needs to make an unexpected last minute visit to the Little Boys Room:

Timer taps foot: “Why didn’t you take care of that upstairs?!”

President looks chagrined, like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Timer taps watch: “Well, alright, but make it snappy.  Proceed directly to the urinal.  Do not stop to admire your reflection in the mirror.  Spend no more than 15 seconds to unzip, drip, shake, and zip.  Remember to wash your hands.  Use soap.”

Odd isn’t it, thinking of a President, or Monarch, actually having the same bodily functions and needs as the rest of us.

Take the path of least resistance by keeping comments neutral and non-confrontational.

As Her Majesty interacted with American commoners, she said little of a substantive nature ~ nothing that would draw attention to the fact that she has a mind, and knows how to use it.

Instead, she responded with hesitant, non-assertive, meek, mild murmurs designed to put each recipient of her benevolence at ease:

* When shown a portrait of a previous occupant of the White House, she responded, “Fascinating.”

* As Laura pointed out the candelabra on the mantle, a gift from the Queen years earlier, Elizabeth nodded, adding a polite, “I wondered.”

* At the Kentucky Derby, when shown the Trophy, she showed sincere interest with a question, “Lovely.  Is it always the same size then?”

Her seasoned responses are worth keeping in mind if you’ve ever been tempted to respond to an uttered inanity by pointing out that the speaker’s  IQ must rival that of, say, a broom.

Next time you find yourself in that type of sticky wicket, instead of saying:  “I don’t care why you elected to serve crème brûlée rather than vanilla pudding.  I like vanilla pudding.  And, if you weren’t out to impress everyone with your  nouveau sophistication and refinement, you’d have served vanilla pudding,”  merely nod and say, “I wondered.”

It’s as easy as using “STOP, DROP, ROLL” to extinguish blazing clothing . . . once you get the hang of it.

Just keep these 3 points in mind:

STOP:  Never disclose your actual thoughts on the matter at hand.

LOOK INTERESTED: Allow others to shine without showing how smart, cultured, and well-read you’ve become in your short time on the planet.

LISTEN:  Pay attention to ridiculous comments and inane  conversations  swirling around you.  When no one is looking, jot down tidbits to share.

All most people want from a conversation is an audience for their ideas, and the occasional acknowledgment that those thoughts have been heard.

So, just smile and nod, boys.  Smile and nod.

No rules.  Just write!

Further suggested reading (thanks, Liz!):

If you ever want a fun, fictionalized account of life in the White House, may I vehemently recommend “The President’s Daughter” and “White House Autumn” by Ellen Emerson White?   There are two others in the series as well, and they are absolutely brilliant and compelling reads.

“You’ve Got Mail” July 30, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Humor.
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So, I’m sitting in my office this afternoon, minding my own business, when I feel a tap~tap~tap on my leg. 

I look down to see my six-year-old tabby, anxious to climb onto my lap for some much needed R&R ~ after a vigorous morning of sleeping, catnapping, and washing up on the guest room bed.

As Tigger climbed onto my lap, I decided that I could use some R&R myself.  So, while he purred with bliss, I meditated to the sound of his blissful purr. 

After absorbing a few brilliant insights on the meaning of life, my reverie was interrupted by that familiar voice intoning, “You’ve got mail!”

Already in a contemplative state of mind, I thought of something I had not previously considered:  doesn’t he ever tire of saying the same thing every time an e-mail bounces into my mailbox? 

And into your mailbox?

Maybe he doesn’t mind because he receives a commission each time he utters those three magic words. 

Imagine how wealthy he would be if he had negotiated properly at the outset of the partnership:  “OK, I’ll be your e-mail delivery guy . . . but I get one cent for every time I have to say, ‘You’ve got mail.'” 

That’s a gig that I’d like to have ~ record once, receive commission checks for life. 

Even so, wouldn’t it be more interesting for him, and us, if he mixed up the message a bit, or spoke in different languages, or with funny accents:

“What now?”

“Why can’t they leave you alone???”

“Junk mail!”

“Come quick ~ it’s from Publisher’s Clearing House!”

“Hey Meester . . . an e-mail from your seester.”

“OMG!  E-mail!” 

“Vite! Vite! Cherchez le message!”

“Bonjour!  Une message, c’est arrivee!” (Sorry, my French is a bit rusty).

Well, I may get tired of hearing the same three words repeated throughout my day, but I love regular distractions which cause me to re-surface from imagination long enough to realize that I’m still sitting in my office, with Tigger purring in contentment nearby. 

Off to read the latest!

The Age of Entitlement July 30, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness.
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In Everything’s Amazing . . . Nobody’s Happy, Louis C.K. reminded viewers to focus on the wonders of the world.

To really “wake up” and smell the coffee brewing.

Great advice.

Following his lead, here are a few things that: did not exist just a few short years ago; free up our time for more important pursuits (like living life); and are often taken for granted in this Age of Entitlement.

First, the kitchen appliances:

* With a flick of my wrist, my coffeemaker starts brewing, filling the house with a delicious aroma, leaving me free to attend to other morning rituals and ablutions.

* During the day, I toss in a few basic items (water, flour, salt, sugar, and yeast), and my breadmaker mixes, kneads, and bakes a loaf of tantalizing, homemade bread for dinner.

* My microwave perfectly steams fresh veggies, pops popcorn, and reheats left-overs.

* Through it all, our refrigerators keep food from rotting, and our A/C’s keep us from melting, in the sweltering heat of summer.

Thanks, guys!

Snoopy5Second, there are entertainment gadgets, like our DVD Player:

* We can watch movies in the privacy of our own home, on our timetable.

* We don’t have to drive to a theatre, stand in line, pay for a ticket, sit in a sticky seat, and listen to other people talking, eating, or emitting other (even more disgusting) noises.

* We can pause the movie for a quick snack run or bathroom break.

* We can replay selected scenes, or watch the movie with captions to clarify dialogue (or learn a new language).

* We can enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film ~ an especially nice feature on documentaries.

Thanks for bringing the world of entertainment into our living rooms!

Third, there are cleaning gadgets, which enable my husband to clean clothes at the same time he is dusting, vacuuming, or scrubbing toilets.

(Sorry, girls.  He’s taken.)

(And, before you ask, he came this way . . . I didn’t have to train him.)

Thanks, BFF.  You rock!

Fourth, the digital camera transformed Kodak Moments:

* We can take a photo, see it, and take another if necessary (for example, if Johnny is picking his nose in the center of the reunion photo).

* We no longer mail film to a processing lab and wait. . . wait . . .  wait . . . for the developed photos to be delivered (or lost in transit) via snail mail.

*  We no longer flip through the long-awaited prints only to discover that every photo on the roll is blurred, smudged, too dark, too light, or someone else’s photos entirely.

* We choose which photos to print, obviating the need to a) callously toss scary bad photos of loved ones into the trash, or (b) hold a cremation ceremony to dispatch their bad hair day images to  Kodak Heaven.  With a quick flick, those truly awful images are deleted and no one is the wiser.


Fifth, communication gadgets:

* Used to be that neighbors had to run next door to ask if they could borrow a cup of sugar or an egg.  Now, they can pick up the phone, start chatting, and forget why they called in the first place.

* Now, instead of running around looking for a pay phone, while searching grimy pockets for quarters which were never there when needed, we can calmly pull a cell phone out of purse or pocket and place a call.

* Used to be that someone who’d had a bit too much bubbly would sleep it off without bothering to share their shadow self with the world.  Now, they can call WordPress and record those thoughts (about the boss from HELL)  and, in the morning, while struggling with a wicked hangover, rush to their laptop to erase the verbal abuse, only to find that the internet is DOWN.

* Even if we don’t use cell phones for daily chats, it is a lovely lifeline for unexpected “emergencies” ~ a safety net when family members are spread out through enormous McMansions and it’s time to gather for take out.

* Internet provides instantaneous answers to questions that bother us so, raising new, even more troubling, questions.

* E-mail allows us to communicate with the outside world without waiting for a reply, or having to remember what we said.  When we press “Send,” our computers keep a copy.

* We can e-mail ourselves any time of the day (or sleepless night) to jog our memory, “Remember to take a sleeping pill before bed tonight.”

* When we want to share something funny, we don’t have to repeat the same story over and over and over until it ceases to amuse.

* Best Invention EVER:  Please Leave A Message at the B*E*E*P 

We have it so good.

And still we find things to complain about:  like the guy who cut us off in traffic LAST WEEK, or the cashier in Taco Bell who got our order WRONG.

I wonder why that is . . .

Quote:  Recognize the richness of your existence.

Related post:  A Day in the Future (Raptitude)

Aphorisms from Aa to Zz: Ff July 30, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness, People.
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I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.  – Michael Jordan

The greatest mistake we can make is to be continually fearing that we will make one. ~ Elbert Hubbard

If you aren’t making some mistakes, you aren’t taking enough chances ~ John Sculley

Our glory lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.  ~ Nelson Mandela

You cannot fail until you stop trying.

Edison FAILED to invent the lightbulb 1,037 times before the lightbulb finally went off.

When we hang on too tightly to what isn’t working, we lose the opportunity to gain that which is worth having.

When we are jealous of the success of others, we cannot achieve true success in our own life.

I’ve never liked the quote, “Good guys finish last,” because it implies that greed, and power, and arrogance will get you to the finish line first . . . but that’s not the finish line that I’m aiming for.


No God.  No peace.  Know God.  Know peace.

Have faith that you are growing whole
And learning lessons craved by your soul.

God is the breath inside the breath.  ~ Kabir

Even in the stillness, the cosmos swirls. Even when silence reigns, we hear its heartbeat.

Awaken to Spirit and you will know.


Although the chance of stubbing your toe increases the more you walk, it is always better than going nowhere by standing still. ~ Robin Sharma, in The Top 200 Secrets of Success and the Pillars of Self-Mastery

Face your fears.  Rise above your limitations.

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. – Moliere

Freedom lies in being bold. Do one thing every day that scares you.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt


Each act of forgiveness is, of course, an act of love. ~ Lama Surya Das

Betrayal by others is a gift which allows us to grow in forgiveness.  We betray ourselves by hanging on to every slight, real and imagined.

Failure to forgive is like swallowing poison and hoping it hurts the other person.

Be patient with everyone, but above all, with yourself. ~ St. Francis de Sales

Always forgive your enemies.  Nothing annoys them so much. ~ Oscar Wilde

When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us:  power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.  Our hate is not hurting them at all, but our hate is turning our own days and nights into a hellish turmoil. ~ Dale Carnegie

When you have conquered the enemy within, there are no enemies left to conquer.


We take showers each morning to wash off yesterday’s junk, but we often forget to toss out yesterday’s anger, pain, and frustration.  Instead of toting yesterday’s trash around, let it go. ~ Marianne Richardson (paraphrased)

How can you seize the day until you let go of yesterday?

People hang on to so much of the past that they can’t find room for the present moment.

To fully embrace this moment, you must let go of the past.

He who trims himself to suit everyone else will soon whittle himself away.
~Raymond Hull

Be who you are and say what you mean, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.  ~ Dr. Seuss

Happiness overflows and spills onto others when we take the time to please ourselves.

How much time we waste on matters we would brush aside if we knew our time grew nigh.

The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do what you will and harm none. ~ Wiccan Philosophy

Moments of freedom will never be given to you.  You must take them.

When we understand who we really are, we free ourselves from the illusions that hold us back.

I am invisible . . . or is that invincible?

What you think of me is none of my business.  ~ Wayne Dyer