Host an “Oh, it’s no big deal” Summer Party

As promised, here’s the second in a little series as a guest contributor for This Beautiful Day.

Host an “Oh, it’s no big deal” Summer Party

We’re helping you have the BEST summer evaaaaa with Etiquette ExpertKaren Cleveland who will be sharing her gems all summer along. This is the second in our three-part series. Missed the first one? Catch it over here!

Summer weekends are prime real estate in social calendars, booking up well in advanced. Between cottage weekends, weddings, showers and vacations, I’m lucky if I’ll be able to round up all of my dearest and dearest before Thanksgiving! When weekend dinner plans aren’t in the cards, midweek entertaining is the answer. Even an intimidated host can pull together a Thursday night dinner party with ease and it is a fantastic respite to break up the work week.


The dog days of summer, with fresh produce, late sunsets and BBQs, beckon for unfussy dinners. Invite friends a week or so out, then use that window of time to set mini deadlines. Plan the menu one night, shop for beer, wine and shelf-stable ingredients the next night. Buy flowers and ice, do some chopping and before you know it, everything will practically be done.

If your space (and menu) is conducive to it, make the most of your BBQ. You can tend to it within chatting distance of your guests and it minimizes clean-up. Bonus! Grill everything you possibly can: some bread to serve with a salad to start, fish, meat, veggies or pizza for mains, then some hard fruit for dessert (grilled peaches with a brush of bourbon? Pineapple with a super easy rum sauce? Yes, please). Add in some beer and wine on ice at arm’s reach, an abundance of white candles and a fun soundtrack — recipe for a nice midweek for the night and you’re set. Best part of grilling your entire meal? Very few dishes to wash up.

(Originally published on This Beautful Life, July 2013)

Have Wedding Gifts (and Expectations) Gotten Out of Hand?

Call it a faux-pas, call it cattiness, call it what you want. I’ll call it Giftgate.

In case you missed it, Amy Kenny of the Hamilton Spectator wrote a fantastic piece about an embarrassing turn of events. In a classic case of two wrongs not making a right (but making for great journalism and lively water cooler banter), a local couple lambasted their wedding guest for giving them a gift they felt to be of inadequate value. The scorned wedding guest made the private discussion extremely public, the local paper caught on and the story went like wildfire. Giftgate, if you will.

Once I could pick my jaw up off the ground, I was thrilled to chat about the subject. It struck a nerve. The CBC, the National Post, radio stations, even the Vancouver Sun, covered it.

I write this on an evening, my own week bookended by bridal showers on either weekend. I’m lucky that the brides I’m celebrating with are lovely, kind, diplomatic women, but reading and talking about Giftgate fires me up. And I’m not alone. The subject of wedding gifts, from the lead up events, to the expectations on guests, to the cost of all the rigmarole, is a loaded one.

To set the record straight, it’s nice to bring a gift to a wedding, it’s a norm some might say, but couples are never to expect or demand a gift. That reeks of entitlement, and does greed have a place at your wedding?

  • Weddings are life occasions, not profit-and-loss forecasts. Wedding guests are not on the hook to cover the cost of a wedding. For those planning a wedding, if that’s the thinking behind your budget, consider scaling back your guest list or your expenses.
  • It’s never OK to ask a gift giver for a receipt, or to substantiate a gift they got you. If this is asked of you, however, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for new friends.
  • Weddings can be complicated. However, the rules of giving and receiving gifts are refreshingly simple. Couple gets gift, couple writes thank you note communicating gratitude for said gift, couple and wedding guests live happily ever after.

(Originally published on The Huffington Post Canada, July 2013)

Be the BEST Damn House Guest this Summer

I was thrilled to do a little guest post for my friend and recent Toronto expat-to-California, Lisa Ng. This is the first in a series, so watch this space (and Lisa’s great site) for more to come!

Be the BEST Damn House Guest this Summer


Photo Credit – House Dreams


We’re helping you have the BEST summer evaaaaa with Etiquette Expert, Karen Cleveland who will be sharing her gems all summer along. Karen and I first met when we whisked off to Madrid, Spain for 72 hours to cover a Coldplay concert from a bull ring….fuuuuuun! I literally met her in the departures lounge and thankfully she came from the world of awesome because I will never forget that trip. She’s also very wise on the etiquette-front, so listen up!

Score yourself an invitation to a friend’s cottage or beach house? Lucky you! Charm your hosts so much on your first visit and you just might secure an invite for every weekend until Labour Day. The more pleasant the experience for the people hosting you, the better the odds of keeping your name at the top of the invite list.



· Know what time your hosts expect you to arrive and depart, so you don’t surprise them with an early arrival, hold up dinner plans or overstay your welcome.

· Overestimate the travel time, it’s better to kill 15 minutes by stopping for a coffee and a stretch than it is to show up late.

· Arrive with a little something for your hosts — something to snack on and wine are perennial good bets.

· Make yourself helpful by pitching in with meal preparations and cleaning up.

· Relax and enjoy your host’s space. Having a great time? Do they make the best Caesar you’ve ever tasted? Tell them. They’ll love to hear it.

· Show your gratitude by swiftly sending your hosts a thank you card once your visit is over, telling them how much you enjoyed their company and their lovely space.




· Don’t leave a trail in your wake. Your hosts shouldn’t see your products all over the bathroom vanity or your things strewn across the dock.

· Be negative by complaining. If you can pick the onions out of your salad or tan on the dock instead of swimming in the weedy area of the lake, do so quietly and humbly.

· Make yourself at home to the point of being boorish. We’ve all borne witness to those dirty iPod dock hijackers,

Karen Cleveland is a marketer and brander by day, etiquette steward by night. You can follow her Twitter, visit her at or send her questions at


(Originally published on This Beautiful Day, July 2013)