How to Craft a Courteous Camp Care Package

July 14, 2015


Summer is in full swing by this point in July which, means that for many of us who are parents of elementary school children, we are getting ready to send them off to participate in that rite of passage that is sleepover camp.

My three left nearly two weeks ago to attend fabulous camps in Algonquin Park. I miss them terribly but I know that they are having a fabulous time and that our whole family is better for the experience. We all appreciate each other so much more with the benefit of a little time apart, having our own adventures, learning new things and meeting new people. So what’s a slightly despondent parent with a little extra time on her hands like myself to do — send a care package of course!

Care packages are little packages of goodies and gifts that parents, friends or family put together and mail off to their little campers as reminders of home and to let them know we’re thinking of them. However as many camps will tell you, parents often do not understand what is appropriate to send and many care packages end up being full of items that aren’t allowed meaning the campers never get to enjoy them.

To avoid that unfortunate situation, I’ve put together a list of my top five favourite things to include in a courteous care package that your camper (and their camp) will love:

1. Books & Writing Material

I like to include comic books, magazines and lighter reading material as well as some extra pens and pre-addressed post cards to me — this way they can’t say they didn’t have a way to write home!

2. Lights

In camps without power, light is a valuable resource so I always send along a little flashlight or lantern and some extra batteries, as flashlights have a habit of getting lost.

3. Game/Crafts

Depending on your child a card game, Frisbee or some kind of beading craft can be a really fun surprise.

4. Clean Clothes

Kids get SO dirty at camp despite their counsellors best efforts to get them to wash up. I often send along an extra t-shirt and a pair of socks so at least they have something clean to wear on their way home from camp.

5. A Letter With Photos From You

This is the most important part, as much as you miss your kids, they miss you too! I always include a letter with what mom and dad (and our family dog) are up to and include a few photos so they don’t forget who we are while they’re away!

Now that your care package is ready make sure you’ve checked these last few logistical items off your list:

To be courteous to your camp — absolutely respect any care package restrictions they have put in place but things never to send include:

I hope your camper enjoys your care package just as much as you enjoy putting it together. And don’t worry they’ll be home soon — at least that’s what I keep telling myself.


How to Be a Civilized Cyclist

June 28, 2015


Summer is in full swing here in Toronto and fabulous events like Pride and the Pan Am games will be bringing lots of visitors to the city. That also means lots of traffic, which means it’s time for me to get back on my bicycle.

I want to emphasize that I am a recreational cyclist and my goal on my bike is to get from point A to B in an eco-friendly way and to ideally have a pleasant ride along the way.

But in order for me and my fellow riders to have that pleasant ride that means that we all must observe appropriate bicycle etiquette. Here are my top five etiquette tips for getting behind the handlebars:

1. Do not “hog” the bike lane

If you are fortunate enough to be in a bike lane, be sure to travel on the right side so you can be passed and never EVER ride two across so you can have a chat with your friend. I know this one sounds ridiculous but I saw two gentlemen doing just this the other morning and it created quite the bicycle traffic jam behind them!

2. Wait your turn at lights

I know everyone is in a rush to get where they need to be during the morning commute but the polite thing to do is cue up at the traffic light behind your first rider and wait single file. I accept that there are some very fast cyclists who “need” to be up at the front and for you few I suppose I don’t mind if you have to go up there, but for most cyclists there is only so fast you can go when you are navigating downtown and traffic lights so you aren’t going to get there any faster if you cut in front.

3. Do not spit!!

I can’t believe I have to say this but please dear friends on bikes if you feel the desperate urge to spit — do the cyclist behind you and the pedestrians beside you a favour and wait until you get to your final destination.

4. Observe the rules of the road

One of the reason cyclists get a bad reputation with drivers is that drivers feel they are unpredictable because they don’t always follow the rules of vehicle traffic. So cyclists, please obey stop signs, use hand signals and communicate with drivers using your bell and eye contact and do not dart and weave unpredictably between cars — it just makes everyone stressed out, including me if I’m riding my bike behind you!

5. For cars: Please remember cyclists are people too and we don’t wear armour!

If you give us the space we need and don’t intentionally try and run us over I promise we’ll all get where we need to go in a positive and punctual way.

Happy Cycling!


The Best (and Worst) Teacher Gifts for 2015

June 10, 2015


With summer vacation just around the corner as an etiquette and protocol expert I get a lot of phone calls about what to give the fabulous people who have inspired brilliance in our adorable children all year — their teachers.

To make it simple I’ve put together a list of my favourite teacher gifts as well as my definitely don’ts.

Etiquette tips with Lisa Orr

March 16, 2015

At ASC, we think etiquette is an important topic that’s not discussed nearly enough. We had expert, Lisa Orr, discuss some valuable tips for the dinner table.

As an etiquette and protocol consultant I teach every aspect of etiquette including social, dining, corporate and international but most of the time the thing that people are most nervous about is dining.  There are a few things that people always want to know so I have put together some simple tips on people’s most frequently asked questions:

Which one is my water glass?

The way I remember it is that I drink the way I write which for me is my right hand.  My husband doesn’t love this rule because he’s a lefty so for him  – I say the same thing to use his left hand but he has to remember to cross his plate.  The dining world really isn’t fair to left-handed people!

What is the “correct” way to eat with a knife and fork?

 There are different styles of dining around the world but the method I teach with a knife and fork is called continental.  The most important thing to remember when dining continental is that you always hold both pieces of cutlery while you are eating, fork in the left tines down and knife in the right and you only put both down when you’re taking a break, in which case you put the fork across the knife to form an X on your plate.  When you’re finished you should point your cutlery towards the northwest corner of the plate and fork tines should be down and the blade should face in.

Where does my napkin go?

First to dispel the napkin tucked in your collar myth there are only a few times when you can do it which include if you are on an airplane or somewhere turbulent, if you are eating lobster or if you are a child under FIVE (AKA someone who needs a bib).  The rest of the time napkins go on your lap.  There are two styles though little square lunch napkins are fully unfolded and a large dinner napkin should be partially in half to form a rectangle and the fold should go at your bellybutton.   Be very careful here though, all unfolding should happen on your lap, avoid the faux pas of shaking our your napkin beside you and then placing it, you’ll see some waiters do this at restaurants but it’s a no no.

Can I ever put my elbows on the table?

The answer to that question, I am very happy to report, is YES! When the meal is finished and all the dining has ended and you’re just having an after dinner and chat and a cocktail maybe then absolutely I was can go back on the table.

But remember the most important part about eating meals is enjoying great food with the special people in your life so if you focus on being engaged and respectful of the people you are with (and the people who are serving you your meal if you are out) – you’ll have great manners no matter which fork you use.