Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Everyday Etiquette: How to Write the Perfect Thank You Note

Many months ago my daughter and I were invited by a friend of mine to her little girl’s 2nd Birthday party. I really enjoyed taking the time to select a few girly gifts after having inquired as to what she would most need and want. The party was beautiful and a lot of fun. As the birthday girl unwrapped her gifts towards the end of party, I watched as her mother dutifully took notes of who gifted what which is why I was a bit surprised when I realized that several months had passed without having received a thank you note for the gifts. I always like to give the benefit of the doubt, let's face it, the postal service isn't perfect. However, in this scenario, I experienced the same with her wedding and baby shower. This really got me wondering if thank you note writing is becoming a thing of the past for many and what we can do to revive it.

Since the time I was a little girl my mother instilled in me the value and importance of being thankful which included writing cards to family and friends thanking them for birthday gifts or to my grandma and grandpa for sending Christmas money in a card, after having been invited to a special event or for inviting me to a sleepover, and it’s something that has always stuck with me. In today’s digital age of text messages and e-mail, it’s a breath of fresh air to receive something lovely in one's mailbox amid the usual bills, flyers and junk mail, from someone who feels truly appreciative and takes the time to express it in their own handwriting.

It’s sometimes hard to believe there was once a time when everything was handwritten in beautiful calligraphy and delivered by messenger. I think this gesture is appreciated even more today than ever since it has become a bit of a lost art. The beauty though, of this rarity as with any in life, is that it can allow you to stand out in the hearts and minds of others which is of particular importance in the business world while interviewing and building business relationships and of course bodes well in all of our daily relationships. At the end of the day people just want to feel valued and appreciated and we have the ability to communicate that with a note.

When someone has gone out of their way to help you, write a recommendation for you, has referred work to you or has invited you over for dinner or a party, it’s important to remember to thank them. They have put a lot of effort, time and thought into their actions, so it’s only polite to reciprocate. While verbally acknowledging the giver or host/hostess in question is always a must; a thoughtful gesture is to write a thank you card and pop it into the mail in a timely manner.

When to Send a Thank You Note:

You might be wondering what warrants a thank you note and what doesn’t. There are times when a simple thank you or an e-mail will suffice but when someone has gifted you with any of the following a formal handwritten card is in order:

1. Gifted with Money/Presents-Receiving actual cash in hand or a present is probably the most obvious time to send a thank you. This can range from birthday gifts all the way to a temporary loan.

2. Gifted with their Presence-Whether it’s a loved one who flew in to share a special moment with you or someone who helped you to improve your resume or has been extra supportive during a difficult time.

3. Gifted with Time-Perhaps your in-laws watched your children while you escaped to the spa for the day or a neighbor helped you put up a new fence.

4. Gifted with an Opportunity-When a friend has recommended you for a job position within her company or you have received work as a result of someone referring you and your company.

5. Gifted with Personal Belongings-Whenever you were loaned a baby swing, hedge clippers or a cake stand (just to name a few) or anything else that will be returned back to the lender.

What to Write Inside a Thank You Card:

The key is to be specific and make it as personalized as possible. It doesn’t have to be extremely long but it should include the following contents:

1. Address the Giver-It’s as simple as: “Dear: Charlotte,”

2. Thank the giver for what they have done for you-Whether it’s providing free passes to a theme park or picking up your mail while you were on vacation.

3. Tell them how their thoughtfulness blessed you-Share what a wonderful time your family had at the theme park for example complements of the tickets you were gifted with, with a quick highlight or two from the day. When it comes to borrowing an item, let the person know that you’re thankful that you have such a dependable neighbor and friend who you can count on. If someone had collected your mail while you've been out of town, you can offer to do the same in return when it’s their turn for vacation (if you intend to follow through).

4. Sign off in a sincere way- You can never go wrong with ‘Sincerely’or ‘Warmest Regards’ along with your name or the names of those in your family, etc. You can also use 'With Gratitude'.

My Favorite Classy Note Cards & Essentials:

I like to keep a variety of note cards on hand, specifically thank you notes and a few great pens. I'm loving these elegant pink, polka dot with gold foil Merci note cards-so soft and feminine. While I shop at an array of stores, boutiques and vintage shops to build my stationery collection, I tend to find myself gravitating towards the fun, classic and fresh stationery that Kate Spade has to offer. They are my immediate go-to for gifts for any occasion, especially when I'm shopping for a girlfriend.

How to Make Writing Thank You Cards Easier:

1. Gather the Essentials-Whether it’s a monogrammed set of personalized note paper or a pretty package of note cards that reflect your personality, begin stocking up on pretty thank you cards in advance. Building a little collection makes writing those ‘thank you’s’ so much easier when you have everything you need on hand.

One of the beautiful things about the forever stamps here in the U.S. is that they will never be outdated in terms of postage fees so place a few rolls into a lidded box along with your cards, envelopes and your favorite fountain pen and you’ll always have just what you need. You could also keep a small printed list of addresses for your nearest and dearest or a little address book if they are not stored in your phone's contacts or elsewhere. I keep mine in an excel spreadsheet on a USB drive. When everything is organized and gathered in one place it makes things so much easier and you’re more likely to actually get it done.

2. Finding the Right Time & Place-The main reason why a lot of thank you notes don’t get written or mailed out in a timely manner is because we haven’t made the time to write them. For everyone this time will be different. I once read that Princess Diana would take the time to write hers just before bed. That is a great time to do them, or perhaps on your lunch hour at work, keep a few in your desk while everyone is lunching and you have some quiet time to yourself. It’s a wonderful way to introduce gratitude into our day also, focusing on what we are thankful for. Make it a ritual and always write them in the same spot such as a writing desk, the dining table or in bed with a tray if you like to be extra cozy.

3. Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed-When writing cards in reply to a bridal shower, baby shower or your wedding day, the thought of writing 50 or 100 cards out can seem like a daunting task. Step number one is to ensure you order yourself some return address labels online which saves time and a hand cramp. ;) The majority of online stationery shops will print the addresses of those you are mailing in addition to the return addresses right onto the envelopes, or you can print your own clear labels easily using an excel document with all of your addressees.

My best advice is to break it down focusing on just a few per evening. Feel free to have your husband help out with the replies, sharing in the duty since it's not the woman's responsibility. If he has poor penmanship, he can always attach the stamps and address labels. Perhaps you can write the cards to your family and friends and he can do so for his own, etc. or randomly split the duty in half.  Writing 5 cards per night is far less overwhelming than trying to tackle them all in one day, and you shouldn’t aim for that as you won’t be as fresh in your remarks, it will start to feel monotonous and it will come across to the recipient.

It’s important to reply in a timely manner. Obviously, a thank you note sent late is better than no card at all but there are some timelines to be mindful of. Here are a few common ones.

Thank You Card Timelines:

Wedding Thank you notes-within 3-6 months’ time but try to send them within the first month or two after returning from the honeymoon so those who couldn’t attend (but who shipped a gift to you) know it was received.

Birthday, Graduation & Housewarming Gifts-These should all really be sent within 1-2 weeks.

Baby & Bridal Shower Gifts-It’s always better to get to these sooner vs. later, best if sent within 2-4 weeks, preferably before the baby arrives or the wedding date, since babies don’t always arrive on their due date it may mean writing them afterwards, if that is the case, try to aim for no more than 3 months after the shower date.

I’d love to know….what is the most memorable thank you card you’ve received? Perhaps it was unexpected or beautifully written with a lot of heart. Do you feel thank you notes and handwritten cards in general are a dying art form?

Thanks for Reading!


*image sources: Merci note cards

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Classy Woman Favorites for January

January is a time when we all tackle our fresh new goals, vow to put our best foot forward and some of us (a lucky few) may take some time off to travel to an exotic locale. I had some fun compiling my favorite classy items which include resort wear, practical desk essentials that add a bit of glamour including a new must-have 2015 agenda planner, cozy winter attire, the perfect accessories for a fun and polished look as well as a few good reads too! It doesn't get too cold here in Florida but we recently experienced a drop in temps for a few days, just in time to pull out my favorite jackets, cozy slippers and scarves. As the warmer weather has crept back in, it has me thinking forward to springtime and I have to admit I'm kind of obsessed with this silk top, this romperthis gorgeous bag and these dreamy heels right now-all 4 are definitely on my wish list!

*Simply click on any item images above and you'll be linked directly over to the exact item on the retailer's page for more details! 

  • J.CREW- 40% off wear now styles with code: SALENEWS
  • NORDSTROM- New sale items added! As always, FREE Shipping + FREE Returns
  • TORY BURCH- New items added to their sale + FREE 2 Day Shipping with Paypal
  • GAP-Save up to 75% off during their winter sale! 
  • WILLIAMS-SONOMA-Semi-Annual clearance event. Save up to 75% off! 
  • C.WONDER- 50% off everything during their Semi-Annual Big Wonder Sale!
  • ANN TAYLOR- 50% off your entire purchase with code: FLASH50
  • SHOPBOP- Up to 70% off and FREE 3-Day Shipping + FREE Returns

What types of things do you most gravitate towards in January? Are you headed anywhere tropical?

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, January 12, 2015

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

With this fresh year having just begun, I find myself evaluating little things that I can do or change to make my life more enjoyable and meaningful and essentially help me become a better person. I mentioned my Top 3 New Year's Goals in our last post but beyond those, I want to continually be growing and evolving more into the woman that I want to be. I've noticed a dissatisfaction I feel at times particularly while browsing Instagram. While I often find it a source of great inspiration for new recipe ideas, workout moves, photo angles I want to use, palettes for interior design, outfit combinations or working harder to enjoy some of the finer things in life, sometimes I find myself getting caught up in seeing all of the ultra-glamorous and "perfect" images that a particular account has shared. It can tend to leave me feeling as though my own home or life is less than, particularly if the person sharing is doing a whole lot more of what I wish I were doing in that moment-traveling to countries I haven't yet visited, building a grand custom home, vacationing in gorgeous destinations, dressing up in oodles of high end pricey garments, heels, handbags and being photographed in stunning locations. Can you relate? I do quickly snap out of it by reminding myself that social media snapshots are just that, a snapshot in time of a moment, not someone's entire existence. This led me to sharing today's quote as a reminder because if I struggle with these thoughts at times than I know for sure there are other women who have felt the same way. Comparison truly is the thief of all joy. Isn't it? I find the most contentment in life when I'm busy, head down and working towards my dreams, coming up for air to enjoy the company of loves ones and celebrating with those who have worked hard for their own accomplishments, inspiring my more of my own!

These are my thoughts that I shared along with today's quote image over on The Classy Woman Community Facebook page.....Jealousy and coveting (which sometimes leads to unhappiness and depression) is so tempting these days with social media being such an ever-present tool at our fingertips allowing us to be voyeurs into the 'highlight reel' of another's life forgetting that it's just that-a showcase of the best moments, rarely a share of the struggles, the mundane and the less-than-glamorous. It's easy to feel as though the grass is always greener elsewhere but the truth is that the grass is greenest where we choose to water it, tending to it by pulling weeds and nurturing it by giving it fertilizer and a regular trim. More than a cliche quote, I believe this to be true but ONLY when we first begin focusing on all that we are grateful for in our own lives and invest time in making those things a priority, spending more time tending to them than looking over the fence. Thankfulness begets thankfulness! Happy Monday Everyone! :)

Do you find yourself struggling in this area too at times? How do you remind yourself that the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence?

Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Goals for the New Year!

I hope you all had a truly fabulous holiday season! Happy New Year! Wishing you a joyful and prosperous 2015. We enjoyed a very low key Christmas and NYE in since having a toddler makes things a bit tricky but I wouldn't have had it any other way. While I love getting all dressing up and spending time out with friends, a quiet evening in was perfect for us after holiday busyness.

I wanted to take this moment to say THANK YOU to everyone who has followed along here as well as via my social media channels. I'll be the first to admit that my posts have been anything but consistent this year so I appreciate all of you loyal readers who have stuck around. I have plans to revive this blog with a lot more new content and the posts will be far more regular. I'm still just as passionate about the classy woman message as ever before so I've slowly been working to create a new schedule that allows me to get back to writing, something I really love. Thank you for being patient with me! :) XOXO

Every year around this time (usually a few days before New Year's Eve) as many do, I sit down with pen in hand during a peaceful part of my day and reflect on the current year writing down what went well, recounting my favorite moments, meditating on what I was most proud of, thinking deeply about what I could improve upon and how to make it a reality, pinpointing the goals that didn't quite happen the way I had planned and brainstorm how the next year will turn out differently. It's my little synopsis of how the year went down. It helps me to focus going forward. I'm not big into "resolutions" but I do try to create realistic, attainable goals and Jan.1st is the perfect reset button, it's a fresh start and chance to do things differently.

I can honestly say that 2014 was not my favorite year, it was a lonely one for me in many ways but I was thankful to get to visit my closest family and friends this year making two flights with Lily. A few circumstances challenged me in many ways that took me outside of my comfort zone at times (which always feels terrible in the moment but I know is SO necessary to continue to grow as a person and develop character). This year, I plan to make some big changes. Some have been a long time coming while others are smaller and have surfaced recently given new circumstances within my 'still new' role as a mother.

This year, I've decided to focus on 3 specific main goals. I have several smaller goals in mind too such as being more spontaneous and not having to plan things out so much, making more time for fun outings and making more time for mini trips such as weekend getaways to explore our own state (Florida) and neighboring states. I tend to get carried away with lists, I could probably write down 30 goals but the reality is I'm much more apt to stay on track when I keep it short + sweet with just a few that are truly going to impact multiple aspects of my life. These are the ones that I believe will truly affect my year in a transforming way if I am able to stick to them daily.

2015 Goals

1. Complain Less-As much as I try to be grateful even during the biggest storms of life  counting even the smallest blessings (and have even written an article about how Complaining isn't Classy in the past), this particular year I found myself griping more I'm not proud of it. In my mind I know what triggered the feelings which created the need for me to share what displeased me but at the end of the day there are no good excuses for complaining-ever. In the words of Maya Angelou, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." Besides, complaining affects those around us and is such an unattractive quality that breeds more negativity. This one was hard to admit publicly and embarrassing to share here given the topic of this blog in general, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? I'm going to take it day by day and week by week.

2. Spend More Time Doing What Makes Me Most Happy - For me, I'm am absolutely happiest when I'm creating. I've always been that way whether I'm writing, decorating, designing, trying out a new recipe or take photos. I realized a big part of why 2014 was not my favorite year was that I have forgotten to make time for myself. Somewhere between managing our home, running a part-time business and caring for our daughter full time as a stay-at-home mother to her (nearly 6 months of which was done solo while Paul was working in China) making her my absolute top priority, I lost sight of what was truly fulfilling for me. Even once Paul was back and I had a free evening or an hour to myself, I was typically found buying diapers/wipes/baby clothes, cleaning the house or doing a grocery run. I've started to delegate more now that my husband is here trying out various schedule ideas so he can help out and have promised myself not to waste my quiet time of freedom scrubbing dishes or folding laundry. I'm ready to get this part of me back that brings peace, joy, fulfillment, meaning and a sense of accomplishment to my life that are all essential to enjoy a balanced and happy life. 

3. Stop Procrastinating- My whole life for as long as I can remember I've been a procrastinator (when it comes to things I really don't want to do) and it's never served me well, whether it filing taxes the day of or researching a new healthcare plan, when it's not something I'm excited or passionate about, it gets put on the back burner over and over again in favor of more creative endeavors or easier tasks that I can cross of my to do list (I told you I like lists). ;) Yet, no matter how painful the outcome from being a procrastinator, again and again I find myself putting things off and then scrambling to get them done at the last minute just in the nick of time. I remember doing this with school projects in highschool and even in College. I'd always get everything done but I'd be exhausted after and always felt I probably could have done an even better job if I had just started sooner. I've realized many times how it affects various areas of my life in a profoundly negative way so this year I'm promising to do better in this area by tackling the very things I least like doing right away before I have a chance to talk myself out them. There really is no time like the present! 

Now, I'd love to hear what you're working towards this year! Feel free to share in the comments below. Do any of my goals resonate with you? Have you lost your way in one of those areas too or maybe you've overcome those challenges in which case I'd love to hear any tips you have that helped you become successful in those areas to give me some ideas along the way.

Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Classy New Year's Eve Attire

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1. Some say black is boring but this feather fringe dress is anything but. It's season-appropriate and adds just the right amount of elegant and fun detail for a night on the town. The footwear options for this dress are endless! If I were headed somewhere fancy this year, this dress would be at the top of my list!

2. Be a show-stopper in this red bow back gown. I love back detail on dresses, especially for women who have worked hard in the gym and want to show an elegant yet strong side. Red is gorgeous on nearly everyone this time of year.

3. A jeweled blush dress is the perfect way to add a little sparkle to your evening. This could easily be worn over and over again this winter and spring also.

4. The LBD is a staple in every classy woman's closet and no wardrobe would be complete without a strapless floor length gown, perfect for a variety of occasions, especially a formal NYE event!

5. For those who feel more comfortable with their legs covered (especially on a chilly evening), this black lace jumpsuit is an elegant option. Go monochromatic in all black or pull out some statement pumps with a pop of color.

6. For a house party or casual evening out (or in), a sweater dress and a pair of comfy riding boots are the perfect combo. This dress will get a lot of mileage-it's a chic staple with just the right amount of detail.

7. Blouses can create a wow factor just as much as a dress can. I love the detail on this jeweled tuxedo bib blouse for a dinner out and can be worn over and over again afterwards to the office or special function.

8. This beaded lace pencil skirt is definitely eye catching. The contrast of black and nude highlight the lace and is the perfect pairing with your favorite tank or blouse.

9. Get cozy in this blush hued embellished sweater. The perfect complement to a skirt or your favorite pair of black, light gray or winter white denim or pants.

10. Last but not least, this champagne lace number (not shown above) is another great neutral option to add sparkle to your evening.

Right now, one of my favorite classy women's apparel stores-Ann Taylor- is having their semi-annual sale. So, dresses and everything else on the Ann Taylor website is up to 40% OFF and all sale items are 60% OFF!Already found your perfect NYE outfit? Accessories, shoes, jeans, coats and everything else are part of the sale too. :)

How are you all doing? I hope you had a beautiful and memorable Christmas and are now enjoying the rest of the holiday season as these next few days lead up to the start of another year. Last year we took Lily out with us at 4 months old and she fell asleep ten minutes before the countdown which was awesome and let us enjoy the rest of the evening as we pushed her around in the stroller bassinet while watching the balloons drop and clinking flutes of sparkling white grape juice. It was a dressed up casual night and an excuse for me to put on a dress and feel festive in the midst of the demands as a new mommy. At 16 months old, she is now an active toddler on-the-go so our options are somewhat limited without a trusted babysitter (hard to come by, especially on Dec.31st!) So, this year we're going to ring in 2015 at a late local church service as we've done a few times in the past. I'm looking forward to all that this next year has to offer both personally and professionally. May each of you will be ringing in the New Year with those you love most! I hope these suggestions help you feel festive so you can ring in the near year looking your very best!

Thanks for Reading!


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