Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Twitter Name

If you've been following me on Twitter you know that I tweet a lot more than advice. As a result, it seemed misleading to continue to use the handle @newetiquette, so I've changed my Twitter handle to something that better reflects my eclectic tweeting style. I am now @observacious on Twitter. If you've been following me, expect more of the same. If you haven't been following, perhaps you want to try now? I tweet blog updates and advice as well as other items of interest.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 Tips for Packing (Relatively) Light for a Baby

When I was pregnant I remember being out with a friend and her one-year old. She didn't have one of those enormous diaper bags; she just had a moderately sized purse into which she had stashed a couple diapers, some wipes, an extra onesie, and a rattle. (She was breastfeeding, so she didn't need a bottle.) When I commented about her lack of a giant bag she said, "It's just a baby." I try to remember that whenever I go out with my now one-year old.

I feel that a lot of parents (usually mothers) burden themselves with far too much kid related stuff. Granted, the longer you are going to be out with the baby the more stuff you are likely to need. Also, although I don't have the personal experience yet, I understand that as kids get older they get more demanding about have certain things on the ready. Still, I think a lot of parents overdo it. At some point I should post about my philosophy of what you need for normal days out with a baby, but since this is a follow-up to my previous 10 Tips for Packing Light when travelling, I'm going to focus on overnight trips particularly those involving air travel.

First, what was tip number nine for mommy packing is the number one item for babies:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

10 Tips for Packing Light

I didn’t post last week because we were traveling. I think this was the baby’s 9th plane ride. He’s a pro. Because this was his first trip since learning to walk I was nervous. He generally doesn’t like to sit still for more than 2 minutes much less 2 hours, but as per usual, he slept for most of the flight.

Despite the good behavior, I have to admit that traveling with a baby is annoying. You see, my husband and I were always proud to travel light. Even before the days of exorbitant fees for checked bags we rarely checked luggage. For short trips, we usually used one small, roller bag for BOTH of us. However, with a baby comes stuff. Diapers. A car seat. The baby himself. We usually check luggage now if only because we don’t have enough arms to make it through the airport. Still, we manage to pack a lot lighter than most of the crowds in the “family and medical liquids” security lane. (I’m guessing a lot of these families don’t worry about getting housesitters since I doubt they have much left at home.)

Packing light makes traveling easier and more enjoyable. Not only don’t you have to pay those bag fees, but you don’t get a backache hauling mounds of luggage through unfamiliar terrain. Plus, you can use that extra space for bringing back treasures from your trip!

For those, like @spicymeatball who may be at a loss for how to pack light I’m sharing some of my tips. Today I’ll share tips for grown-ups (mostly's what I know). These are the tips I’ve followed for years and continue to do today. Then, I’ll follow up with some tips for packing light (or at least lighter) with a baby.

Packing Light: For You

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

3 Oscar Party Etiquette Tips

The Oscars are on Sunday, and many of you may be going to Oscar parties. For some people, this is like their Super Bowl. Others like the opportunity to make clever menus. But like any thematic social occasion some specific rules apply.

1. No spoilers.
As someone who finally saw The Wrestler last month, I can definitely say that just because someone hasn't seen a movie before the Oscars does not mean they never intend to see it. Unless you know for sure that everyone has seen a particular movie, don't spoil it. That means not describing the ending OR revealing any plot point that you might lead into with "I couldn't believe it when..." or "I totally wasn't expecting..." Learn to talk about why a movie was good or bad without revealing it's secrets.

2. Know A Serious Man from A Single Man.
You may not be a big movie buff. You may only be going to an Oscar party to critique the dresses on the red carpet or to eat your host's food. Regardless, you'll be a much more interesting guest if you have at least a rough idea what's going on. Saying "I've never even heard of that movie" may be acceptable when the nominations are announced, but by awards time you should some of idea of what the nominated films are. Not to do so is the equivalent of going to a Super Bowl party and asking "Who's playing?"

3. Realize that Opinions Vary.
Much like at a Super Bowl party, it's okay to to engage in some smack talk as long as you obey the rules. But realize that no matter how much someone loves something you hate or hates something you love, everyone has a right to an opinion. Disagreeing with you does not mean other people are matter how stupid their taste in movies may be.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Simple Recipe: Chicken and Apple Soup

I didn't used to use my slow-cooker very much, but since becoming a mom I've started to use it a lot more. It allows me to cook dinner for my family without having to feel rushed in the evening. In honor of  Smockity Frock's “What’s in your CrockPot?” Link-up, I'm sharing my husband's favorite slow-cooker meal. (And since the chicken is juicy and the apples are mushy it's a favorite of my son as well even though he's only 11 months old and still getting used to solid food.)

Chicken and Apple Soup
  1. Cut a large onion into 4-6 wedges and place in the the bottom of a slow-cooker.
  2. Core a large Granny Smith apple and cut into wedges. Place in the bottom of the slow-cooker.
  3. Cover apples and onions with chicken broth.
  4. Coat 6 chicken legs (We remove the skin first.) with Penzeys Turkish Seasoning.
  5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Don’t think of Buzz as just another social media app

The release of Google Buzz is making a lot of people ask, “Do I really need another social media thing?” Others ask if Buzz will kill Twitter or Facebook or even its own sibling Wave. But these are the wrong questions to ask. You shouldn’t look at social media sites as different versions of the same thing. You should think of them as unique tools that you use can for different things.

Those of you old enough to remember when email starting rolling out to the masses may recall that many people preferred to just pick up the phone. Then they realized that email was a much cheaper way to contact people long distance. Or that it was nice to have a record of certain correspondence. Or that it was useful to send a message to multiple people at the same time. Or so many other things.  Now most of us have situations in which email seems best and others when calling seems best. See also IM/Chat. See also phone text messages.

If you only use social media for a vague purpose (i.e. being “social”) using multiple sites can easily become overwhelming, but you can greatly improve your privacy and your sanity if you use multiple sites for distinct audiences and specific content.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fine. Be passive aggressive. Whatever. See if I care.

The days prior to Valentine's Day have the highest incidence of passive aggressiveness of any other time of year. Okay, I don't actually have any data to support that, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's true. People have expectations about this manufactured holiday of forced romanticism, but they are too *polite* to ask. So instead they combat undesirable suggestions with "Whatever" or "I suppose" or other incredibly unattractive attempts at getting people to read their minds.


There is a saying "Put up or shut up," but the key to overcoming passive aggressiveness is "Speak up then shut up."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Etiquette of Smack Talk

Generally it is considered rude to hurl insults at complete strangers. Sporting events, however, are a bit different. Smack talk is a tradition among fans, but that doesn't mean that you get to be a complete jerk. In anticipation of the Super Bowl, here are some smack talk guidelines that should prevent you from getting bounced, punched or arrested.

  1. Don't fire on civilians. Even if they appear to be rooting for a specific side, if someone hasn't bought or borrowed team apparel to wear they probably aren't that invested. As a result, smack talk won't get under their skin as a fan; it will just be annoying. Unless the person engages you in some smack talk first, find another adversary.
  2. Take a hint. Even if someone is bedecked in the opponent's colors from head-to-toe, he or she may just want to watch the game. If someone is trying to ignore your smack talk, leave them alone. You can certainly find someone else who will dish it as well as take it.
  3. No racial, religious or other epithets. Keep the comments to a team's or player's skills (or lack thereof). Personal insults to fans, players, coaches, or even the officiating staff are tacky and hurtful even during the "big game." Show that you've still got a touch of class by stretching your imagination to come up with more creative material.
  4. Keep it under control. No matter what someone else says or what the final score is, remember that it is only a game. Escalating to violence or destruction of property is just plain idiotic and has a good chance of getting you arrested or worse.
For potential targets of smack talk,
  • Realize that if you are wearing team apparel you are a target, particularly if you are entering into enemy territory. Be prepared with a sense of humor and a few prepared retorts.
  • When responding to smack talk, all the above rules still apply even if the other person isn't following them. 
Finally, smack talk stops being acceptable once the game is over. Show you've returned to polite society by shaking your opponent's hand, saying "good game" and going home.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Conversation without hyperlinks

The announcement of Oscar nominations this morning reminded me of a gathering of friends nearly 15 years ago. We were having dinner and started talking about Oscar winning movies. Maybe we had just seen a movie; I don't remember. The restaurant was one with white paper on the tables, so we used a crayon to write down the best picture winners from previous years based totally on memory. No one knew the list by heart. Some entries were agreed on only to later realize they must have been a few years before or after. Evidence came in the form of anecdotes: where someone lived at the time, with whom someone had seen the film, what year someone was in school when it came out. The conversation had many tangents. We talked about movies that should have won. We talked about what we liked and disliked about each movie. Occasionally we'd comment on who had won the directing and acting awards that year as well. In the end, we had a pretty good list and a pleasant conversation that lasted over an hour.

When I went home I checked a reference book to see how we had done. We got a few things wrong, but it didn't matter. It had been an enjoyable evening.

That wouldn't happen now. Once someone wondered aloud about Oscar winners at least one person would pull out a smart phone and look up the answer. Eye contact would be lost, and the conversation would degrade despite protestations of "No. Keep talking. I'm listening...Man, I have no bars in here. What about you?" 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Non-Parent's Guide to Baby Shower Gifts

I just bought some gifts for some friends who are expecting a baby in February, and it made me think of how much my idea of what constitute good baby shower gifts has changed since having a baby of my own. Before having my baby I would usually buy clothes and/or toys. After all, baby clothes and toys are so cute! Baby clothes and toys are so fun to shop for! But now, I'd rather buy someone a Diaper Genie or some burp cloths. Because now I realize that the most-appreciated gifts are the practical ones...even if the parents don't know it yet.

Congratulating expecting or new parents is probably the only gift giving event when people actually need things. Now that people are getting married later the concept of wedding gifts, which used to help the newlyweds establish a household, now mostly serve to upgrade things the couple already have (or may even have two of if they weren't living together beforehand). But unless someone has a good source for hand-me-downs, most new parents are starting from scratch.  If they don't receive key baby gear as gifts the parents will probably have to buy it themselves, which can add up to a lot of expenses at a time when one or both parents may be about to take unpaid leave.

Of course, "need" is relative. We all have relatives with stories of babies sleeping in dresser drawers, and $900 designer strollers do seem excessive. Still, most people won't argue there are some basic items that are really nice to have when you have a new baby.

At the risk of offending people who bought presents for my baby showers (assuming they haven't already angrily closed their browser windows before getting to this point), I will say that clothes and toys aren't bad gifts. Certainly, I received some good ones, and I really like them. But still, I must say that the gifts I received that have had the most impact were:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do Not Disturb: Courtesy in a Highly Connected World

My granny always said that you shouldn't call people before 9 AM or after 9 PM unless it's an emergency. With occasional exceptions--when I know people's schedules--I still try to follow her advice. However, that rule is not enough anymore. Now we have text messages and emails and Twitter/Facebook updates all of which may create notifications on our phones. And many of us keep those phones by our beds to use as alarms or just in case there is an emergency. Any form electronic update has the potential to disturb us from sleep (or our "busy getting ready" morning time or our "just want to relax" before bed time).

So does that mean you can't use ANY form of communication before 9 AM or after 9 PM? (If you immediately think that's silly you have obviously never known an early morning texter.) Of course, if you know someone is awake--for example, you are meeting for late night plans--feel free to keep in contact by whatever means makes sense, but this post is about those times when you don't know for sure and don't want to disturb anyone.

Plan ahead.
If you know a person who regularly keeps different hours than you due to work schedules, time zones, or general lifestyle, ask how he or she would prefer to be contacted and when. Perhaps someone doesn't get email updates on her phone, so you can use that at anytime without disturbing her. Or perhaps another friend doesn't mind if you wake him up. One example I know from experience: it's considerate to ask new mothers how they'd like to be contacted because you don't want to be the one who woke up baby, mommy, or both.

But sometimes you haven't planned ahead, and you want to contact someone at an odd time. Maybe you can't sleep and want to see if someone else is awake. Maybe you just got a brilliant idea that you want to share before you forget it. Because everyone's schedules and phone settings are different it is difficult to make rules that will work for everyone every time, but here are some guidelines for using electronic communication with a courtesy that will usually prevent you from waking and/or annoying your friends, family, and other contacts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm Royalty!

I have been named to RedEye Royalty. I'm honored to be recognized as a Chicago blogger/twitterer only three months after starting this site.

I plan to use that blog space for sillier stuff most of the time, but my first post is about how social media is bringing people together to save orphans in Haiti. Before you read that though I encourage you to go to to see the most recent updates regarding the BRESMA Orphanage. If you have the means to help, please do; otherwise, share the link and the story in hopes that the word can get to someone capable of assisting those children and their caretakers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


By now any sentient being should be aware that a devasting earthquake has hit Haiti. Many people are dead. Many more need help. I try not to swear on this blog, but that country's status is most simply described as fucked.

These are the days when you need to look around you and give thanks for what you have. I'm pretty confident that anyone with the opportunity to read this is far better off than pretty much anyone in Haiti right now, which means you should do three things:
  1. Be thankful for what you have.
  2. Hug someone you care about.
  3. Give.
That last step is the one that many people forget. You don't have to give much if you don't have much. The phrase "every little bit counts" exists for a reason. Buy a regular coffee instead of a latte and donate the difference. Dig for change in the couch. Donate something. Donate anything. Many experts have stated that what charity organizations need most right now is money.  Here is a good list of options:

But you don't even need to spend a dime. Some blogs are celebrating "delurking day" whereby the authors will donate money for each comment they receive. Go read their blogs and leave a comment. (You might even find a new site for your RSS feed!)
I'm not doing that here because this is a new blog with limited readership, so it would be embarrassing. I donated $100 to Doctors without Borders regardless of my popularity. But to keep in the spirit of things, if I get comments from more than 25 people I'll donate another $100.

And for anyone reading this from anywhere in the world, I am happy you are alive.

photo of Red Eye Chicago from

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grieving on Social Media

Scott Kleinberg at Red Eye Chicago wrote a post in which he asked "Is it in poor taste to mourn in public via a social network like Facebook or Twitter?" His personal is answer, "I say not at all. We all mourn differently." I agree with that, but I also feel there are some things to think about before you post your grief online. Additionally, those seeing an online message of grieving need to think about how they respond.

Not wanting to ramble on in the comments field and needing a blog topic for this week, below you will find my tips for the grieving and their friends & followers online. Before you read on you may want to look at Scott's article for the complete background to this post and some great comments from his readers.

Social Media Considerations for the Grieving
Yes, we all mourn differently. If you are a heavy social media user it may feel natural to include news of your loss in those forums. Do what makes you comfortable, but before you update that status or send that tweet consider a few things:

  • Are there people who don't yet know about the death that should find out more directly? Although not quite second-hand, hearing about something via a wall post or public tweet is far from personal. Take reasonable steps to make sure that the people who should know first do. Some people should probably get a phone call, while others may just need a quick email or text message. Try not to let someone very close to you or the deceased feel like he or she was the last to know.
  • Consider the privacy of other survivors. It is likely that other people in your network are suffering the same loss, but they may prefer to grieve in private. Realize that posting something, for example, about a friend passing away may result in a lot of unwanted messages to the friend's spouse from mutual friends. Take care not to broadcast information that other's may prefer to keep private.
  • Don't grieve on LinkedIn. You wouldn't put the date of your brother's death on your resume, so don't put it on a professional networking site. Ditto for professional blogs. For example, this blog has a specific purpose: providing etiquette tips and other advice. An obituary does not belong here, although I have written about loss on a personal blog.
For Online Friends and Followers of the Bereaved
So, somewhere between Farmville updates and links you see that someone someone is grieving. How should you react? (Note: This advice is for people who are not particularly close to the other person: the casual connection or follower. Of course, close friends should offer additional support than that described here , but that is most appropriate out of public channels.)
  • Do not click "Like." At first you may think you'd clearly never do that, but imagine a post similar to "Grandma is at peace now." You like being at peace, right? That's good, right? Yes, but still don't click like. It's too easily misinterpreted.
  • Keep it simple. My husband often says that people online are just looking for a gentle squeeze on the arm. A simple "I'm sorry for your loss" goes a long way. Too much outpouring of sympathy from someone who follows your tweets or who you haven't spoken to since high school can feel awkward. And unless requested, advice can be unwelcome in early stages of grief.
  • But don't say, "I'm sorry to hear that." Although not what people mean, this literally says that you are sorry to have found out about the person's loss not that you are sorry the loss occurred. Banish this phrase from your writing and your speech.
  • Don't politicize the death. Unless the bereaved is championing a certain cause in honor of the deceased, don't use their grief post as a forum for proselytizing. For instance, when a soldier dies the family and friends don't want to hear your views on war. 
  • Don't judge. Maybe you would never consider posting about personal loss online. Maybe you think it's tacky. Fine. Don't be tacky yourself by confronting a grieving person about their choice to post. Ignore the update. If you are really offended, unfriend or unfollow. The only exception is if you are a family member or close friend of the deceased. In that case it is appropriate to politely request that an offending post be removed, but realize that the author may not do so.
What are your thoughts about grieving online? Have you done it? What responses did you want? What responses did you get?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Enjoy Live Theater (Politely)

I love live theater. You know, the thing that's like movies but isn't on a screen. (Amazing 3D effects without special glasses!) I've been participating in theater since I was a little girl studying at the San Francisco Children's Opera. Since then I've moved from actor to choreographer to director to playwright, also finding time to serve as an enthusiastic audience member.

In case you don't know, there is a lot more theater than Shakespeare and musicals. If you aren't a regular goer, I encourage you to check your local theater listings and see something new this year. Perhaps you should put it on your uberlist.

Some assume theater is a bit snooty, but I assure you that much of it is really laid back. (If you are looking for a more casual atmosphere try theaters described as "black box" or "storefront.") Of course, there still is etiquette for theater. Live theater etiquette is pretty much the same as movie theater etiquette. The difference is that the impact of rudeness at live theater is greater because you are potentially disturbing the performers as well as the audience. So in honor of a production of one of my plays opening this weekend* here are some guidelines for proper theater etiquette: