Archive for December, 2023

Service of the Makings of a Perfect Dinner Party

Thursday, December 28th, 2023

I’ve been so lucky to have attended several magnificent dinner parties over the holidays. I will try to capture why I they worked so well.

It started with the hosts who were happy to welcome their guests. They worked as hard to create a beautiful table as they did to prepare succulent meals. Guests were honored off the bat. We appreciated the effort. Who gives dinner parties that often these days?

The mutual admiration inspired an atmosphere that was unanimously up even though some of the participants at one party were facing imminent life-changing circumstances. The most extreme: The parent of one guest is in hospice. She nevertheless made the effort to come to support her friend.

While the guests didn’t all know one another, they shared fondness for the hosts. The conversation was lively and informative and took all sorts of fascinating directions.

Time is a most precious gift, and the hosts have little to spare and yet they devoted hours planning and preparing to please their friends and family members. The result: Triumphs!

What do you think are the ingredients for a perfect dinner party?

The State Dining Room in Napoleon III’s apartment at the Louvre can seat 40.

Service of the Unexpected That Trips You Up

Tuesday, December 26th, 2023

In middle school my best friend’s father said, “It’s nice that you’ve prepared so well but it’s the unexpected that can trip you up.”

I’ve carried that warning with me whether producing an out-of-town weekend workshop for hundreds of retailers or a dinner party—intimate or grand. That’s why I try to get everything possible done well ahead so there’s time to meet a glitch. I reminded a friend who was freaking at the possible problems for her sit-down Christmas eve dinner for 15 and lunch Christmas day. She said she was detail oriented which is good as she can be a guest at her own party–something I strive to be.

Hitches can be small but intrusive and derailing. My dad had the habit of asking me to get something for him—a photograph to show another guest for example–just as I was about to serve Christmas eve sit-down dinners for 30. He didn’t like to wait. Kitchen work came to a halt.

I had worked out every moment of a set of room changes for simultaneous workshops and events at an hotel with an insufficient number of rooms. When I got to one of the rooms my boss, who hadn’t been part of the planning, made a room change with disastrous results causing countless headaches, destroying the seamless strategy I’d created. The trick was to pretend all was well and as it should be and to smile while wanting to wring his neck.

My first PR client decades ago involved nursing. I read a study in the day that showed that a hospital’s nursing staff could meet an emergency well if it was slightly understaffed, because the nurses were used to working at a brisk pace. If overstaffed they weren’t used to moving at speed and if severely understaffed, there was no flexibility for them to meet the crisis. A cousin of this theory is “if you want something done ask a busy person.”

Do you leave room for potential catastrophes or minor intrusions that derail your plan?

Service of Year-End Gratuities

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

Tenants in our apartment house place December tips in the slot on the roof of this house

I’ve only lived in a gargantuan building the last four years of my life and I still can’t get over my holiday tip challenge. This year there were 28 envelopes to fill for porters, handymen, door staff, manager and temps. I keep a chart of what I’ve given to every staffer each year. While expensive, the system is impersonal but efficient. We place the envelopes in a container in the lobby. If only half the 510 tenants give something, staff should do quite well.

Co-ops and condos often ask for $X.00 from each tenant and the money is divvied up by management. I’d come out way ahead if that were the case here.

One friend gives $0.00 to porters in his co-op because they “don’t do anything” for him. I guess he forgets who removes garbage from refuse rooms, vacuums the hallways, shines the marble lobby floor and polices the outside of the building, watering trees and flowers as well.

Another friend reminded me of all those who stiff the staff while urging me to bring it down a notch for some of the gifts to staff I never see. “You are one person,” she added. And during the year I tip anyone who so much as turns a screw to fix something in my apartment. [They are so quick to unclog a sink or fix a bathroom fan that sounds like a jet revving up on a flightline I suspect the word is out to expect $ from my apartment.]

My hair stylist told me that some ridiculous weekly or monthly customers go elsewhere in December so as to avoid giving a holiday gift and tip! They shouldn’t feel obligated, she said. If they have the substitute stylist color or cut their hair, this only-in-December person could ruin a year’s work not to speak of causing a dip of income in month 12.

Some staffers in office or home may be nasty or appear to be unconscious yet you never know if you’ll need them so stiffing them at Christmas may not be a great idea.

How do you handle the tipping situation?

Service of Keeping vs Tossing

Monday, December 18th, 2023

I hold my breath when I use either one of two of my small electric kitchen appliances that are almost 50 years old. I know that replacements won’t be as good nor will they last very long. And these are crucial partners when I bake which usually happens around a holiday with a hard deadline.

I mention this because a friend said the other day that every few years she tosses all of hers routinely. I didn’t mention to her my oldies–but very goodies–for fear of jinxing their longevity.

I tend to keep clothes forever as well although the new ones don’t last as long as they should—especially socks. Friends give me top-of-the-line socks with wonderful patterns in juicy colors. I hand wash them to help them last but the best hardly survive a year before developing a hole. They are 100% cotton. But cotton today isn’t as strong as it once was.

Do you keep things as long as they work–or fit–or do you replace them frequently?

Service of Word Fat: Unnecessary Words

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Scott Simon, host of NPRs Morning Edition Saturday, recently interviewed Benjamin Dreyer, author of “Dreyer’s English,” and also just-retired VP, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House.

Dreyer explained to Simon what a copy editor does—which is far more than spell checking surmised Simon. Dreyer said “copy editors do certainly attend to spelling. That’s a very important function of the job – and to punctuation. But there are so many other things that you do. And the longer you do it, the more you sort of accumulate this massive bag of tricks that you apply to every manuscript, including, for instance, pointing out to an author that, oh, you know, you’ve used the word irrevocably five times in the last 20 pages. So let’s maybe switch that up a little bit. And if you’re working on a novel, you’re going to be keeping very close track of the chronology to make sure that all the days run in the proper order and that people are aging at the same rate as the other. You’re there to do what an author might have done had an author not already looked at their manuscript 175 times.”

And, in my opinion, just as important is what Dreyer added “you are always, as a copy editor, looking for unnecessary fat that isn’t really helpful and suggesting, urging the author to consider disposing of that fat. To say that somebody is very smart almost sounds like pleading. If you want to say that somebody’s very smart, why not reach for a jazzier adjective like brilliant?”

Which brings me to a pet peeve.

Why do people insist on qualifying a greeting with “FOR THOSE WHO CELEBRATE?” When we wish someone Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, Happy Passover, Happy Easter, as some examples [to which, on July 15th, my husband would have added, Happy Saint Swithin’s Day], we only wish cheer to the recipient of the salutation. No harm is meant, only good cheer and the sharing of joy. So bring it on!

Is this qualification only a NYC thing?

I welcome all and every well-meant wish. Do you? What examples of word fat in both expression and writing drive you nuts?

Service of the Season to be Frazzled

Monday, December 11th, 2023

Packed schedules become more so during the holidays. When irritating things happen that usually don’t, isn’t it grand when they turn out better than expected?

On the same day two friends shared examples of uh-oh’s that ended well.

The Keys to Kindness

One friend is shuttling back and forth between her home and her daughter’s for a week to dog sit while the family is out of town. She spends the night with the dog at the pooch’s home—she has two cats and they don’t get along. Early one morning she arrived home after settling the dog and she couldn’t find her keys. To get in she woke a neighbor who had a second set.

She subsequently wrote: “I just got a call from the library. Someone found my keys on the sidewalk between our two houses and my library card is on the key chain, so that good person turned them in. I will pick them up at the front desk!”

The Bus Left Without Me

A friend arrived just in time to catch a bus that was taking a group on a museum tour and lunch only to discover it had left without her. As she had paid for the day she scrambled to get to the first stop on her own all the time wondering why the bus hadn’t waited for her and her plus one. Although they’d cashed her check, they may have been omitted from the list, she worried.

Once she caught up with the group she complained to the event organizer, eventually forgot about the anxiety she’d experienced and had a grand time.

She wrote a few days later: “The woman who organized the museum/lunch just dropped off a bottle of wine and Godiva chocolates as apology gifts with hopes that we will continue to attend the organization’s events.”

It’s so easy to be distracted during the holidays, increasing the chances that untoward things will happen. Have others saved your bacon or made memorable apologies for mistakes?

This was not the gift mentioned in the story.

Service of Christmas in New York

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Every city has its special time: For Paris it’s spring and New York–Christmas.

The joy and delight from the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show remains if after seeing it you walk east past the Rockefeller Center tree and Saks Fifth Avenue displays. Following are just some of the images I found around the city this season.

Send me a photo of a favorite holiday scene at home or outside and I’ll add it to the post.

The stage at Radio City Music Hall
“Are you worthy of entering my library?” says the iconic lion in front of the NY Public Library on Fifth Avenue
Santa in front of a Saks Fifth Avenue window.
Radio City Christmas Show –the Creche scene
Saks Fifth Avenue Fifth Avenue lights
Wreath on the Park Avenue South side of Grand Central Terminal
One of the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue
Creche in St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Trees in front of Whole Foods on the UES two days before Thanksgiving. On December 5 there wasn’t one tree or pine needle left.
Lotte New York Palace Hotel
West 42nd Street
Cartier on Fifth Avenue
Lotte New York Palace Hotel

One of countless trees lighting up office and apartment lobbies throughout the city
Actor Simon Jones in the red sweater, currently playing Bannister, the Butler in “The Gilded Age,” was the narrator at Marble Collegiate Church’s “A Caroling We Go Concert & Carol Sing,” on the first Sunday of Advent. It’s a not-to-miss concert for next year!
Baby it’s cold outside!
May be an image of 1 person
Nancie Steinberg posted this on Facebook
No photo description available.
Nancie Steinberg posted this on Facebook
No photo description available.
Nancie Steinberg posted this on Facebook

Service of Confidence

Monday, December 4th, 2023

Greeters at the first Society of Illustrators Craft Fair were welcoming and showed plenty of confidence.

I attended an annual meeting of New York Women in Communications last week. A panelist, Joanna Coles, said something I’ve heard or observed before that nevertheless resonated. The former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Hearst’s chief content officer from 2016-2018 pointed out the difference between men and women when, for example, technology, during a presentation, goes splat. A man might say, “that f-ing thing is broken.” A woman might get all flustered and mumble that she is terrible at all things technical.

I noticed a close cousin of that insecure behavior at the first holiday craft fair at The Society of Illustrators in NYC on Saturday. It took place in the society’s charming East 63rd Street townhouse. Most of the tabletop displays were staffed by women. I stopped by each one over three floors. Some female artists greeted me or smiled. Most sat silently on their chairs behind the tables or ignored me as they adjusted something in their display. Yet every man engaged me in conversation. Whose work do you think I remember most?

Just saying.

Are you surprised that these examples of reticence and lack of confidence continue to exist for some talented women? Do you have other examples?

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