Our impeccable etiquette expert Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD, is on the scene to share her keen insight on how to start off the year right.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I always believe in setting a good example for myself and others. Can you tell me how to finesse hosting payment of the restaurant bill at the end of dinner without the awkward haggling among diners that is so common these days?

Complete Conundrum

Dear Perfect Host,

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this is the perfect time to set an example for yourself and others. The person extending the invitation to lunch or dinner is the host or hostess, and is responsible for payment of the bill. When extending invitations, inquire about special dietary requests such as tree-nut, or other food allergies, kosher, halal, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free diets. Book a restaurant that accommodates these needs. Remember that guests don’t split the bill, unless specific arrangements have been made in advance, and the guests agree.

If you want to be a sophisticated host or hostess, arrive early and provide a credit card, or call the restaurant ahead of time to pre-arrange payment. After coffee, or at the end of the meal, you can meet the server and sign the check privately. Your guests will appreciate that everything is handled seamlessly.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

With this New Year upon us, and I want to start work in 2017 with new energy and better focus. What can I do?

Working Overtime

 Dear Energetically Engaged,

You are wise to energize yourself for 2017. The average worker spends almost 100,000 hours on the job in a lifetime. With approximately 30% of life spent working, creating a positive office environment is a priority. Consider these three ideas to improve your energy and focus…

1. Spice It Up

Depending on your workplace regulations and unwritten rules, add decor that will motivate, encourage and make you feel comfortable. Studies have shown that fresh flowers (or silk if you have allergies) directly relate to increased work productivity. Whether it’s flowers, photos or art, take time to create a happy work space.

2. Set Those Goals

A major catalyst for work unhappiness is lack of progress. Set yourself (and team if possible) SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Timely) goals to track progress. Then self-assess your progress and improvement. When you are moving in the right direction, enjoy a fat-free yogurt.

3. Scheduling Is Key

A major stressor is lack of time management. Create a system to block time for specific tasks and follow through. Organize your week with a system for follow-up and important decision making. Use apps to schedule effectively and increase focus.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I am the proud godmother of my sister’s first child. Any chic and unusual gift ideas you recommend?

Grand Godmother

Dear Gloriously Grand,

Congratulations on being named the godmother of your sister’s child- what an honor! Offering your godchild a chic, personalized gift such as a baby blanket embroidered with their name or a special edition of your favorite children’s book are sweet gift ideas that they will cherish throughout childhood. You can also draw inspiration from some of your favorite luxury vendors who specialize in customized gifts.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We love hosting, as well as being guests, too.  We’ve been asked to a skeet shoot at a friend’s place in the country, a highly coveted invitation in our circle. What is the policy for tipping the personnel who “pull” and also, do we bring a host gift to something like this?

Shooting High

Dear Shot Heard ‘Round The World,

Personnel who “pull” and keep score should receive approximately $5-10 per round, depending on the geographical location. Bringing a thoughtful, personal gift for the host is a lovely way to say thanks for the invitation. While the gift needn’t break the bank, it should reflect sincere gratitude. Discover your host’s personal tastes, and then bring the appropriate best-selling book, wine, liquor, luxury candle, or fine chocolates as a tasteful option for this occasion.