We all run into those sticky situations from time to time where we are not sure how to handle it - politely! We covered lots of these everyday conundrums on the Better Kansas City morning program! Nosy questions? Avoiding a hug or handshake? Did they get my gift? Can I bring my kids? It’s all there!:)
What do you do when your co-worker trims their toenails at work? Yes, it happens!
I think we have all had some interesting situations at work. The key is knowing how to handle it without causing a scene or embarrassing another person. I got the chance to talk through a few situations on KC Live and brush up on how to have a great handshake!
I was asked to contribute to an etiquette experts article on modern day etiquette rules for gloves for an international glove maker, Harssidanzar. It’s such fun to think about how we can keep this gorgeous tradition alive, especially in the States. If you want to add instant polish to any outfit, simply put on a pair of nice, wrist-length gloves a la Kate and Meghan. It’s so stylish, and also so very functional - especially in those cold winter months.
If you want to read my specific tips, I’ve pasted below, but all of the etiquette expert tips are practical for today and valuable. Remember - jewelry goes under the gloves, and always remove before eating!:)
I’m a firm believer that, much like your grandmother’s silver isn’t just for special occasions, gloves are not just for “fancy” events. Or even, as some people may think, the past!
Gloves are classic and timeless and like a great strand of pearls, they stand out in all the right ways. It’s heartening to see they are making a modern-day comeback for women in a big way. Look no further for proof than Kate or Meghan. But the good news for all of us is, we don’t need to be a Duchess to pull it off! Here are a few key tips for your glove etiquette:
If you want to add instant polish to any outfit, try a pair of short wrist-length gloves. They are incredibly flattering, and a show-stopping addition to your Sunday brunch or sunset cocktail party. Remove the gloves before eating, of course.
Out for a stroll and meet some new acquaintances along the way? It’s completely fine to keep your gloves on for the handshake. However, once you are indoors (especially in a business setting) be sure to remove your gloves before you shake hands. It would be awkward, and possibly offensive, to keep them on in such an instance.
Lastly, the “Material Girl” may have worn her diamond jewelry on the outside of her gloves, but we most assuredly should not;) All jewelry should be worn underneath the glove. This assists in easily pulling off the gloves whenever necessary.
Not long ago, I got an email from the Chicago Tribune asking if I might help as an expert contributor to the newspaper’s “Social Graces” column. The topic was, “Your friend is on her phone at the table. Should you tell her to put it away?”
I think we’ve all been in this situation at least once, if not a dozen times! So it was really fun to contribute to an etiquette conundrum that pops up far too frequently sometimes. It was an honor to contribute, and hope the article answer below helps you the next time this happens. Just remember to make sure your phone is put away!:)
Spring brings its own set of unique etiquette conundrums! We talked through lots of situations many of us are facing this Spring from Spring Break travels to whether or not to open those baby shower gifts on Better KC!
Is it okay to leave your holiday work party early? We tackled this etiquette conundrum and many other holiday dilemmas on KC Live television!
Discussed all the etiquette do’s and don’ts of a date night out whether one-on-one, or with a group of couples or friends on Better Kansas City!
With wedding season upon us, and the BIG Royal wedding right around the corner, it is a good time to talk wedding guest etiquette - specifically how not to be the topic of conversation! Great wedding guest etiquette keeps the focus on the special event and the couple. I had the chance to sit down with Better Kansas City and talk through a few guest dilemmas. Starting with when to arrive!
A few weeks ago I sat down with Firesign Marketing to tackle an interview on a tough topic - how to handle a colleague's passing as it relates to the workplace. Firesign Marketing caters primarily to legal clients i.e. law firms, and they were interested in providing their readers with some etiquette in how to best handle this very delicate topic.
I love the consideration of this article topic, because there is truly so much to consider when this occurs. How does the firm relay the news? Who is in contact with the family? When and How should you notify other partners, colleagues or clients?
Read on below for our interview and the answers to these important questions.
How to Handle a Partner’s Death with Grace
From employee handbooks to partnership agreements, there are plenty of resources to help navigate the straightforward “do’s” and “don’ts” of law firm management.
However, there are sometimes unexpected instances that aren’t explicitly covered – like how best to handle the death of a partner. Who should you contact first? What’s the most suitable way to inform your staff? Do you post on the website?
While a partner’s passing may be unexpected, you do not have to be unprepared. Handling sensitive issues is easier with a plan; if you develop a general protocol for these situations, the process will be smoother for your firm and the family. You can balance business needs with empathy and emotional intelligence.
We talked to Courtney Fadler, founder of Courtney Fadler Etiquette. Fadler, a graduate of the Emily Post Institute, stressed the importance of offering condolences to all parties and keeping sentiments focused on the partner’s life and accomplishments. Fadler teaches the three etiquette principles of consideration, respect and honesty.
Here’s how to apply those principles to the passing of a partner:
- Work with the family. Fadler says the first point of contact should always be the family of the deceased. The family may wish for privacy, and it is important to know that before communicating a partner’s death to your staff. The family may have specific wishes on where flowers, notes and charitable donations may be sent, and they may not wish to have meals delivered to their home. Remember: They are grieving.Be mindful of putting too much pressure on the family. It is often more helpful to say “We are thinking of doing such-and-such, is that OK?” versus “How can we help?” Don’t put it on them to develop your plan. Be tactful when asking permission to inform staff, clients and the public of a partner’s passing.
- Tell your staff as soon as appropriate. Once you have received approval from the family, communicate the partner’s death to other partners and leadership first to discuss the best course of action for your firm. Be efficient in your execution of strategy. Do not let your staff find out in the newspaper or through gossip channels. Give them some time and space to mourn.
- Contact clients, too. Make a practical effort to call the decedent’s clients, when possible instead of email. Let them know the new contact at the firm and offer some reassurance.
- Post the news on your website and social channels. Once staff and clients know – and with the blessing of the family – make a tasteful announcement on social media. Consider adding a remembrance page on your website’s news section. Don’t immediately erase the deceased; add an In Memoriam header to the partner’s online biography. Fadler says it’s best to have the partner’s email automatically forwarded to someone who can personally respond to each email, whether by phone, email or in person. Make sure your receptionist knows how to direct calls, too.
- Remember your colleague. Consider memorializing the individual with a dedicated conference room or internal award. (Again, be sure to get the blessing of the family.) We know one firm that named its annual office putt-putt event after a deceased partner who used to organize it; the firm invites his widow and toasts his memory each year. It is a genuine, heartfelt commemoration.
“In these delicate and sometimes unexpected situations, it’s important to make every decision based on consideration for the family and those closest to the deceased,” Fadler said. “If so, you are probably making great etiquette decisions that will help honor the deceased and be comfortable for all involved.”
The weather is giving us a little break in this area of the country, and it's starting to feel like (ahhhhh!) SPRING! Though we know better in the Midwest than to think Winter is done with us, the hope is certainly there. But one thing is for sure, the colds aren't gone just yet!
I sat down to talk with the lovely host of Better Kansas City to talk about cold and flu season etiquette. Can you avoid shaking hands for the benefit of attempting to stay healthy? What do you do with a guest who is clearly under the weather? We tackled all of this and more in our segment. Below are a few quick Do's to help you stay safe AND civil during cold and flu season!
DO Shake Hands! The damage you can do by avoiding or refusing a hand shake, especially in a business situation, may be detrimental. Etiquette is all about building relationships, and properly greeting someone is an important part of that. Shake hands and then, if needed, discretely excuse yourself and wash your hands.
DO Stay Home! If you've been invited to do something with others (let's say a dinner party...) and you are feeling under the weather, be considerate of the other guests and don't bring your ailment to the party. On the show, we talked about the reverse - What if you have a guest who is clearly under the weather in attendance? Do you ask him/her to go home? Your good manners would never do such a thing, just be the gracious host you are and don't bring attention to it.
DO Hold The Door For Others! Keep your gracious manners in mind and continue to grab and hold that door for others. With everyone scurrying inside quickly to get out of the cold, this is such a simple way to show consideration and respect for others.
DO Excuse Yourself! Don't forget that some things have no place at the table. If you need to blow your nose or manage a prolonged cough, do excuse yourself from the table to the restroom. Your fellow companions will appreciate it!
And one last one that I selfishly include - please DO wipe down the exercise equipment after each use:)
Hang in there! Spring is just around the corner!
Wondering if you have to tip on wine at that holiday dinner? Is it okay to re-gift? How many drinks are too many at the company holiday party?? These questions and more answered on holiday party etiquette with the hosts of Kansas City Live TV!
Does "don't bring anything" really mean just that? I answered this question, along with many others around holiday social etiquette, on KCTV5 Better Kansas City's morning show. Listen in below for what to do if mother-in-law is expecting her recipes to be used, how to handle that late guest, should you get your boss a gift and is it okay to send your holiday cards to everyone?
You'll be calm as a cucumber all holiday long with a few of these tips - and remember to have a few small host gifts at the ready.:) Let the holiday season begin!
Have you met Theminivanmom yet?! Well, if you haven't just yet, allow me to introduce you!:) Libby is the brains and beauty behind www.theminivanmom.com, a fantastic blog/Web site for us moms (and dads) dedicated to "making life easier, practical and affordable with or without the little ones." I think we could all use some of that!
Libby asked if I would collaborate on some quick tips video sessions (Libby's specialty) on etiquette tips that would be helpful for both children and adults. We've filmed 2 so far, and are so thrilled to share them with you below.
The first one is on "The Family Dinner Table" and I hope you'll gain a few tips on how to make this more achievable 2 to 3 nights a week.
The second one is on "4 Tips for Dining Out with Children" in a way that helps instill practical etiquette skills for the future.
We will be filming more short etiquette videos in the coming months, but in the meantime, enjoy these two and subscribe to Libby's blog on her Web site, or follow her on Instagram @theminivanmominsta. Her humor is contagious!
Here they are!
I had the opportunity to visit KC Live TV morning show this week and talk through some VERY frequent workplace email conundrums. Knowing how to navigate these sticky situations can sometimes be the difference between hiring and firing, or a promotion. These aren't just etiquette skills, these are leadership skills. Here's a helpful hint: if in doubt on email tone - pick up the phone.
I think for most of us who are parents, we are in a constant love/hate relationship with technology when it comes to our children. It’s ridiculously convenient on a long road or plane trip, waiting in the pediatrician’s office or when we desperately need to get something done around the house for a few minutes. But it grows very irksome as our children grow older and ask more and more to play on our phones, ipads, laptops, etc. Or even more so, ask for their own devices!
How do we foster the next cyber entrepreneur genius, while still ensuring our children are able to hold and master a face-to-face conversation?
I received this article out of The New York Times from my children’s Head of School, and I immediately printed it out and pinned it up. It’s written by a psychologist and practicing family physician, Dr. Leonard Sax, who has studied the effects of social media on children. My immediate takeaway….many of the “answers” to the growing issues with our children and technology lies in teaching them, and demonstrating in our homes, the basic principles of Etiquette! Here’s a few snippets from the article to show you what I mean:
“In the typical American household today, when kids go home, they go to their bedrooms and aren’t seen again except perhaps for meals. That’s crazy. A family can’t be a family if the kids spend more time alone in their bedrooms than with their family members. Insist that your daughter, or son, do whatever they’re doing online in a public space: in the kitchen or the living room. There should be nothing in the bedroom except a bed: no TV, no PlayStation, no screens. That’s the official recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Another suggestion: fight for suppertime. And don’t allow phones at the table. In a 2013 Canadian survey of kids across a range of backgrounds, those who had more meals with parents were much less likely to have been feeling sad, anxious or lonely. They were more likely to help others and more likely to report being satisfied with their own lives…A third suggestion: No headsets and no earbuds in the car. When your child is in the car with you, you should be listening to her and she should be listening to you – not to Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus or Akon or Eminem. Teach the art of face-to-face conversation.”
Here is the link to the full article. It’s short and definitely worth your time! Hope you gain as much from it as I have. What a wonderful reminder that the basic principles of etiquette (consideration, respect and honesty), whether taught from day 1 or started at day 3,001, remain a phenomenal tool for grounding our children in success for the future.
Wonder if it's okay to take your shoes off on an airplane? Have a guest who is always late to dinner? Curious if it's okay to have your cell phone in a meeting? Etiquette answers here from last week's visit to Better Kansas City!:)
5 Quick Tips for Email Etiquette (at work and at home):
· If you’re upset, sleep on it. Give it overnight to think on it before you respond. This will help your response be less emotional and most likely more measured and gracious.
· Texting rules need not apply. The same type of short-hand that might be acceptable in texting, (only in social circumstances, and even then take care) should not be used within an email. This is especially true in business email communications, even in the most casual of ones between colleagues. While we’re at it, you should hold yourself to the same grammar and word choice standards for social and business emails. No foul language, misspelled words or mis-shapen sentences. Emojis don’t typically belong in any form of business correspondence.
· Read it again. Before you hit send, read it twice and possibly three times to make sure you have gotten to the point and the message is as concise and clear as possible. Being considerate of other’s time is just good manners.
· How’s your tone of voice? This may sound crazy in a written email, but that is exactly the problem. Tone of voice is completely left open to interpretation by the reader. So beware of sounding too pointed or short. Using a salutation, opening greeting and closing salutation can help in that, i.e. “Hi Leslie, Good morning, hope your week is starting off well. In regard to the memo you mentioned….Best, Courtney”
· Pick up the Phone. If there is any reason where a situation feels out of line or is escalating in a negative way, pick up the phone. You can alleviate so many possible issues by just speaking directly to a person. Often times tone can be misread in an email, by you or them.
When I just barely bring up this topic of baby shower etiquette among my friends or family, it always sparks a large conversation filled with everyone’s anecdotes on something that happened to them, or some shower protocol (or lack thereof…) they weren’t quite sure how to handle.
With so many generations involved, as is often the case, with baby (and wedding) showers, it’s no wonder differing opinions or traditions come up. And with the addition of “sprinkles” and “sip n see’s” into the modern mix, it can just add to the protocol confusion.
I’ve taken the most talked about baby shower etiquette questions straight to the top of the pile, and here they are in no certain order:
Baby Shower Tricky Questions and Simple Answers!
Q. I’ve been invited to more than one baby shower for my friend who is having her first child. Do I need to take a present to both showers?
A. No, you are definitely not on the hook for multiple presents. The best solution here is to take your present to the first shower you attend, and for any subsequent showers after that feel free to take a nice card or some other small, sweet expression for the mother-to-be, like a small bouquet of flowers. Duplicate shower invitations sometimes happens among friends who are involved in multiple friend groups, and of course among family members too. You should absolutely attend, but never feel as though you should have a gift for each shower.
Q. I’ve been invited to a baby shower where a group gift is encouraged. Do I have to participate in the group gift, or can I get a gift of my own choosing? If I participate, how much should I give toward it?
A. The simple answer to both is, you should always do what you are most comfortable with, and what fits within your budget!
Sometimes those hosting a shower use it as an opportunity to fulfill a more expensive registry item, like a baby stroller or car seat, and a group contribution can be a great way to do that. An appropriate contribution, should you choose to participate, is in the $20 to $25 range per person. If you are contributing as a couple, you might choose to do more – or less – again keeping your overall budget in mind. There should be no price point expectations for group gift contributions. And anyone hosting the shower should always convey the gift they are hoping to purchase so guests have a better understanding of how much they might want to contribute.
In any event, you should always feel free to go on your own and get a gift of your own choosing if you prefer not to participate in a group gift.
Q. My family is having a large baby shower for me, and the thought of opening gifts in front of all those people makes me nervous. I don’t like all the attention. Do I have to open them during the shower, or can I do it later on at home?
A. This is a difficult one to be sure, but as etiquette is all about trying to do the most gracious thing, the answer is to do everything you can to open the presents during the baby shower. This goes for any shower of any size, baby or wedding.
Here’s why – typically people really go out of their way to pick that special gift off the registry, or even give something that is personalized or an heirloom. They love and want to be able to share in that moment with you when opening. So if you’re nervous, pull in a friend, family member or the father-to-be to help take some of the spotlight off of you if you can.
Q. I’m co-hosting a shower with some friends for a very good friend of mine. The problem is, I can’t afford to spend a lot of money on the shower. I want to participate, but I don’t want to break the bank doing it. What should I do?
A. So many of us have been in this situation. Do not fear, there is a solution! It’s an honor to be a host, and your friend who is the mother-to-be is going to be thrilled with what you are planning, and not for the amount of money spent on it
Co-hosting with others is a great way to share costs in a resourceful way. The key is to set expectations from the beginning. For instance, you might each agree to contribute $100 toward any shower costs, and not exceed that. With that in mind, you can develop a plan and stay on track. There may be instances where others want to take on a larger piece of the cost. If so, it’s okay to be upfront and honest with your limits, you don’t owe any explanations about it. Conversely, if others wish to contribute more – or less – be gracious and okay with that too.
Q. I’m having my third child, and some friends want to throw a shower for me because it will be my first son. I feel silly doing it though since it is my third child. Is it appropriate to have a shower?
A. These days, there aren’t many “rules” as it relates to showers for multiple children. People love an excuse to get together and celebrate a baby!
If you’re uncomfortable with another shower, consider a “sprinkle”, which is a smaller, more intimate gathering of close friends and/or family with a smaller amount of gifts.
Or, you could ask your friends if they might consider a “sip n see” once the beloved baby has arrived. A “sip n see” is a chance for people to gather to “sip” on something (punch, champagne, etc.) and “see” the new arrival. Presents may or may not be involved, depending upon the preference of the mom-to-be.
Now Go and Be Gracious!
So you’re ready to land that first job, or maybe move on to another opportunity. You’ve spent an enormous amount of time getting your resume or C.V. together, in the various forms they come in these days (remember back when it was on paper??), and you’ve finally been invited to interview. Now is when it’s time to shine and showcase your polish and confidence. That first impression is when you make your mark:
Mind Your Social Media Manners – Don’t think twice that potential employers won’t first look you up online to quickly weed out if they want to take your resume any further. In fact, for some larger organizations, their H.R. department may be tasked with doing just that. Your potential employer is looking for someone who will be an exemplary representation of that organization, and if your online presence turns up any photos or words that are questionable, you can probably consider yourself out of the running. There’s a lot of competition out there, and you have to set yourself apart in a positive way.
P.S. This goes for life in general. Your online image and presence sends many messages about you, intended or unintended. Keep it courteous, respectful, civil and dignified, and you’ll find it will help you keep relationships and flourish new ones.
Prepare for the Interview – You should be doing as much advance work as your potential employer is! Review their Web site in depth so you can answer questions and pose thoughtful, educated ones. And, if possible, look up the person with whom you are interviewing so you recognize their face when you meet in person and possibly know a little more about them to add to conversation.
Dress the Part – You’ve likely heard the expression, “Dress for the job you want.” Well, it still holds up. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed, especially when you are trying to land the job. You may already know that the organization has somewhat of a “relaxed or business casual” environment, but that does not give you permission to assume that is okay for the interview. Most would never fault you for, say, a suit and tie, or a lady’s business suit or dress, even if it’s a casual workplace. But, they just may note you didn’t bother to change out of your jeans and tennis shoes. Always err on the side of looking your personal best.
Be on Time – Be on time, be on time, be on time. Cannot overstate this enough. Going into an interview with a strike for lateness puts you at a tremendous disadvantage, and can taint the overall tone of the interview. It’s discourteous to the person interviewing you, who likely has a full day already and is short on time. Not to mention, you lose out on that time you could have been using to impress. CONVERSELY, don’t arrive too early. Ten to 15 minutes early MAX is an ideal time to arrive. Arriving 30 minutes early or more puts the interviewer in a position to have to figure out what to do with you, especially if he or she is tied up until the interview time.
Make an Impression – When the moment arrives, and the interviewer walks toward you to greet you, follow these rules:
· Stand Up
· Extend your Hand and use their last name i.e. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Jones/Mrs. Smith”
· Shake Hands (2 or 3 firm pumps) and smile!
· Say “Thank You” for taking the time for the interview. You will say this again at the end.
Follow Up – When the interview is over, say “thank you” once again as you are leaving. Always end with that message of gratitude. Then follow up, immediately, with a “thank you” note. It will likely distinguish you from the others. If you feel compelled, you may also send an immediate follow up “thank you” email for same day timeliness. But still put that written “thank you” note in the mail too as it shows an added touch of effort, which just may make the difference.
Now Go and Be Gracious!
Is there anything better than a meal of just appetizers? It’s not really a question, the answer is “no.” Appetizers and rose’, this is all I need. And half of those appetizers should consist of various forms of cheese plates, as long as I’m still planning my perfect meal.
If you’re like me, and you never host a dinner party without a few apps to start – or if you’ve ever eaten (or plan to eat) an appetizer – then these 4 Quick Tips are for you!
Here’s a quick debrief on what to do for those tricky appetizer encounters, whether you are the host, guest, or out to eat at a restaurant. And if it involves burrata, you should definitely get that!
1. Use the Plates. Know those stack of plates your server brings to your table with that heaping bowl of spinach dip and chips? Well, go ahead and start passing them out to everyone at the table. Because no matter what the appetizer (yes, even chips and salsa/guacamole), you should put it on your appetizer plate and use it. Not the bread plate you may have already been using for, well, bread. And not your hand either that you’re using as a makeshift plate for that chip dip from the bowl in the middle of the table to your mouth.
Spooning a reasonable amount of the dip, sauce, etc., on to your plate and then using a utensil to get the conduit (i.e. chips, bread, veggies) on your plate serves many beneficial upsides: the food is now closer to your mouth so less chances of embarrassing yourself by dropping on the table halfway, less germs are shared by a communal appetizer bowl, and you decrease the chances of the gross broken chip left by another person in the queso bowl by 100%.
Conversely, if you are entertaining at home, set out appetizer plates for your guests. For quick one bite options, feel free to use plastic disposable tooth picks (they make really cute ones now), or even tiny little individual cups for nuts. There are so many clever table hosting options these days. If you find yourself in a situation where plates aren’t available, use a napkin instead. Always remember the First Rule of Etiquette – Be Gracious! Never make a fuss when someone else is cooking for you, make do and appreciate what they are doing for you.
Other appetizers this section also applies to:
· Pita and hummus
· Cheese plates
· Buffalo wings
· Shrimp cocktail
· Endless jalapeño poppers/mozzarella sticks/toasted ravioli
· And every other appetizer you can think of or have tried (In the U.S. anyway, remember other cultures have other customs. You should always defer to the customs of that culture, including in other people’s homes.)
2. Seconds, After Everyone else First. You know when you’re really hungry, and you can already tell dinner is going to take awhile, and there’s only a few slices of bruschetta left, and everyone else has had one except your wife/wife’s friend who is busy gabbing to the host about her centerpiece? (Right now my husband is nodding his head “yes”.) You want to get another piece of that delicious tomato and mozzarella heaven, but you know good manners precludes you from doing that. But, what if someone else does it anyway, and then it’s all gone?!
Follow your instincts and good manners. Instead of giving in to the voice of your grumbling stomach, pick up the platter of heaven, and take it over to your wife/wife’s friend and offer her a plate (or napkin) and a slice of the bruschetta. Once she accepts, or declines, then you are free to take it back to the table and help yourself to another serving. As always with your good manners, don’t go crazy, just take one. It’s likely some other starving husband (or wife) has been eyeing those last few pieces too.
Same goes for restaurant etiquette, take a reasonable portion of the appetizer, and then pass it along ensuring there is enough for everyone at the table to have the same portion. And don’t forget, for those odd-portioned or large-sized appetizers, cutting items in half to ensure there is some for everyone is not only gracious, it’s just plain good manners.
3. Pass to the Right. Once you’ve sliced those mouth-watering beef short-rib sliders in half so there’s enough for everyone at the table to have one, go ahead and start the platter by passing it to your right. Same rule applies at any “Family Style Dinner” setting i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. You always pass to the right. And while I’m at it, I love a person who forgoes their own first selection to pass it to the right and then claims theirs at the very end. This is not necessary! I just love the thought behind it.
4. “Finger Foods” for a Reason. A quick word on utensils and appetizers – it’s completely okay to eat “finger foods” with your fingers. Once you’ve gotten those truffle fries and aioli on your plate, go ahead and dip away with your fingers. If you’re a person who prefers to eat their pizza with a knife and fork, you may also be one who prefers to use a fork for all finger foods as well. This is completely okay. The best rule of thumb in any situation, if you’re unsure of what is and is not a finger food, is to look to your utensils setting and/or your host for what they are doing. For instance, if you have a tiny fork among your setting and your host is using it for the smoked oysters, go ahead and do the same. In all instances, make sure you utilize your napkin, whether in your lap or under your plate while standing at a cocktail party, to wipe your hands. If need be, make a quick dash to the restroom to wash up after particularly messy appetizers.
BONUS TIP: The Barefoot Contessa says all you really need for a great appetizer spread at a dinner party is a (preferably silver) bowl of salty nuts, some shavings of really good Parmesan cheese and some nice baked crackers along side. Two things you can buy, and one you can make if you desire. So simple and so elegant. Now go plan a party:)