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“Tea Time in Ludington”
Where etiquette and entertainment meet.
By: Betsy Lydick, Daily News Correspondent

Saturday was princess perfect at P.M. Steamers in Ludington. Dressed in princess attire, complete with tiaras, little girls anxiously awaited their chance to meet Cinderella at a special Etissentials children’s tea time luncheon. Stacey Carpin, founder of Etissentials hosted the event and tickets had been sold out for over a month.

Etissentials’ mission is to educate children – and adults - in the art of everyday etiquette. By encouraging proper choices through a fantasy environment, children learn and have fun at the same time.

“We live in a McFinger generation,” said Carpin. “Fast food and poor eating habits have become commonplace in today’s busy lifestyle. The art of dining has been lost. I believe there is a genuine need to revisit proper dining etiquette in our society.”

Combining etiquette and entertainment is what Etissentials does best. At the Cinderella Princess Tea, 109 guests learned important lessons about table manners and the proper way to deliver greeting, while having fun. Young girls practiced proper introduction technique as they greeted the fairy tail princess and posed for pictures with princess and her famous glass slippers

Each princess at the event received autographed coloring sheets before a menu of finger sandwiches, scones and dessert was served. After nibbling on lunchtime tea treats, the little princesses listened as Cinderella read from her favorite book, “Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette,” written by Babette Cole.

Little girls, ages 3 to 12, enjoyed the event with their mothers, grandmothers, aunties and friends. Some people traveled from Grand Rapids to Ludington specifically for the event.

“I am so happy to be able to share the beauty of Ludington with guests from out of town,” said Carpin. “I was raised in Ludington, so I am thrilled to be able to come back and share tea time with the community.”

Currently, Carpin and her husband, Christopher live in Holland. They are expecting their first child sometime in September. Prior to founding Etissentials, Carpin worked as an etiquette consultant in Atlanta. When Carpin returned to Michigan, she wrote a business plan and Etissentials was created. Etissentials is in its second year of operations.

Tea time luncheons are usually held at Alpen Rose, in downtown Holland. With the help of supportive family, including her parents Brent and Cherie Scott of Ludington, Carpin has been able to host about eight tea time events each year. The next scheduled luncheon is August 28, in Holland.

Events are usually sold out a month in advance. “I advise people to call early." If an event is sold out, we do take the names of people wishing to be placed on our waiting list,” Carpin said.

Debbie Nellis, of Ludington, and her 6-year-old daughter Allie were pleased when they were able to secure tickets to the Ludington event. “Allie had breakfast with Cinderella at her castle in Disney World,” said Nellis. “She couldn’t wait to be able to see her again in Ludington.”

“I love seeing the excitement and watching the sparkle in children’s eyes,” said Carpin. “I am blessed to have the opportunity to teach children manners. It is my goal to make a difference one tea at a time.”


Tips for formal dining from Stacey Carpin

Many Americans have a grasp on basic etiquette, but the advanced stages of the social art elude many.

Some finer points of the craft:

Eat soup by dipping your spoon in the center of the bowl and moving it up and away before consuming it, allowing any stray drops to spill into the bowl. Remember the phrase: “Like a ship out to sea, I spoon my soup away from me.”

Dinner rolls should be torn apart, with each piece buttered separately. Hot rolls are an exception, and should be buttered all at once.

The dessert spoon and fork should not be picked up like normal tableware. Instead, grasp each utensil from its resting place simultaneously and slide both down the table to a dining position beside the plate before lifting them.

Women should be seated to the right of men. The reason for this rule is lost to time, but it is a rule nonetheless. Place cards should not be switched, as the host has seated people in a specific order for a reason.

Sugar packets should be placed under the lip of a diner’s plate after use in coffee or tea.

In traditional continental dining, the salad fork is the nearest the plate, to the right of the meat and fish forks respectively. The proper order is alphabetical: fish, meat, salad. American settings with the salad fork to the far left is California-style.

To indicate your impending return, fold your napkin and selt it on your table. Waitstaff will recognize this signal. To indicate the completion of your meal, fold your napkin and place it under the lip of your plate.

To show you will continue a course following a break, cross your knife and fork, tines down, over the plate. To inform servers of the completion of a course, arrange knife and fork in parallel at a diagonal from northeast to southwest.