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Karen Cleveland

Finishing School

Karen Cleveland is a Toronto-based etiquette writer and advisor. Her column, Finishing School, tackles all things etiquette, from the traditional to the taboo.
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Staying Merry in Common Holiday Conundrums

Isn't it ironic that what's supposed to be the season of giving, reflecting and general do-gooding is tied up in the most stressful expectations for shopping and hosting? It can be enough to make you want to say bah humbug, but please, don't. Here are some common holiday conundrums, and some advice on how to stay merry.
11/24/2014 12:50 EST
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Keep It In Your Pants. Your Phone, That Is

The survey showed that respondents overwhelmingly admit to using their smartphone to tune someone out, or to avoid conversation. Fully 75 per cent of people said they purposefully use their smartphone to tune people out and nearly a third (30 per cent) even admitted to doing so on the day they were surveyed.
07/17/2014 12:35 EDT
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Yoga Studio Decorum 101

Don't know your Hatha from your Ashtanga? One of the best things about yoga is its intrinsically welcoming nature -- your practice is really just that, your own. And while everyone is welcome, certain behaviours are not.
03/20/2014 12:44 EDT

Four Things To Bring Along On Your Valentine's Date

Bring your phone so that you can smartly map out where you and your date are meeting, so you can get there nice and early. If you are going to a place that doesn't take reservations, arriving well before your date will ensure you're not awkwardly huddling in the freezing doorway, waiting for a table to open up.
02/11/2014 05:23 EST

4 Valentine's Day Ideas That Won't Make You Cringe

If you haven't been hit over the head with onslaught of bad chocolate and tacky lingerie, count yourself lucky. Then, come on out from the rock that you've been living under, and concede that Valentine's Day is here. But your honey might not give a hoot about how commercial or stupid you think February 14 is -- they might still be hoping you do something, anything, to mark the occasion.
02/04/2014 12:18 EST
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The "End of Men" Debate Felt More Like the End of Feminism

The Munk Debate titled "The End of Men: Be it resolved that men are obsolete" let me down. I had my face in my hands, cringing at what these women -- billed as voices of modern feminism -- were saying. Get off the stage, I thought. You're hurting feminism more than you're helping it right now. For the first time in my life, as a proud graduate of York University's Women's Studies program who was raised on Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolf, I felt anxious identifying as a feminist. How could, and where did, the debate go so horribly wrong?
11/19/2013 05:20 EST
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How to Make Your Workplace a Better Place

If you log a typical eight or nine hour workday, you likely spend more time with colleagues than friends -- all the more reason to inject some kindness into these business relationships. Regardless of whether it it is your first week or fifth year, inspire kindness among your colleagues with these tips.
09/11/2013 12:22 EDT

How to Do Good at Home

People for Good are at it again, carrying on their crusade for kindness. Thank goodness, literally, for their selfless goal of making the world a better place, one good deed at a time. Incidentally, w...
08/09/2013 10:25 EDT
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Have Wedding Gifts (and Expectations) Gotten Out of Hand?

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.
07/18/2013 09:17 EDT
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People For Good Use Good Deeds to Make Your Day Better

To cram into a packed subway train, you might never guess this is a country known for its politesse. But People for Good, a coalition formed in 2011 by a collaboration between a media and creative agency, has a simple, albeit grandiose, mandate: to make the world a kinder place, one good deed at a time.
07/03/2013 05:05 EDT
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Cocktail Hour -- Ode to the Negroni

When I don't know what I want to drink, or what to serve friends, I default to a Negroni. A classic cocktail with three ingredients, this drink doesn't require a minor in mixology or complicated bar equipment (you don't even need a shaker) -- and yet it is a damn solid drink. Here's how to make one.
05/29/2013 12:40 EDT
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Efficiency Shouldn't Win Out Over Etiquette

Send those thank you emails. Send them liberally and sincerely. While efficiency is key, particularly in a business capacity, I also appreciate doing business with nice people. Kindness and thoughtfulness go a long way in building and maintaining relationships, a distance that efficiency alone cannot.
03/12/2013 05:46 EDT
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Emily Post's Advice On Writing a Love Letter

As if Emily Post prophesized the Internet's ability to make a message go viral, she warned, "Never write a letter to anyone -- no matter whom -- that would embarrass you were you to see it in a newspaper above your signature." Or, I'd add to that, a screen grab of your declaration on someone's Tumblr. This all sounds terribly unromantic, doesn't it?
02/07/2013 12:19 EST

Handwritten Notes: For When an Email Just Won't Cut It

Emails are to the art of letter writing what instant coffee is to a meticulously crafted espresso. I know, I know, email is so much more convenient than sitting down to write a note by hand. Not every message warrants a handwritten note, but don't write them off entirely (horrible pun intended).
01/30/2013 05:35 EST
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Setting Intentions for 2013

January is the perfect month to re-calibrate and set intentions for the year ahead. Of course, some help from an internationally renowned Buddhist teacher certainly can't hurt. U.K.-based Buddhist teacher Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong will give a free talk in Toronto on Wednesday, January 30 on Meditation & Modern Buddhism.
01/04/2013 05:24 EST

Five Ways to Holiday Shopping Salvation

A daunting shopping list, annoying music at full volume, crowds of people walking with their heads down texting...welcome to the fresh hell that is holiday shopping. The stress of shopping can make even the most festive, patient person want to start throwing elbows, but some of the trauma can be curbed with these five tips.
12/11/2012 05:28 EST