Service Skill: Making Tea

General Notes on Picking Your Tea Selection:

  • Offer both caffeinated and decaf options (in case of sensitivities).
  • For an event, pick teas that brew in the same temperature range for ease of serving.

Making a Pot:

  • Heat filtered water (measure it first, or before pouring into the pot) to the correct temperature, depending on type of tea.
  • Warm the teapot and the cups by filling with hot water for a minute, then dumping it out. Rinsing with hot water will also work.
  • Place one teabag or one tablespoon loose leaves (in the strainer) per cup in the pot. (Some add “and one for the pot”, or might want more or less depending on how weak/strong they like their tea. Check for preferences.)
  • Pour the hot water into the pot.
  • Cover, and steep tea for the correct amount of time depending on the type of tea/preference.
  • Remove teabags/strainer.

Serving Tea:

  • Ask how they take it (milk, sugar, lemon, etc.). Ask first in case you need to leave room for additions like milk or hot water.
  • Pour the tea.
  • Provide the desired additions.
  • Note: if you already know how they take their tea, they might prefer you put in milk/sugar/etc. first.

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Service Skill: Giving a Pedicure

  • Create a soothing environment.  Offer basic selection of drinks, snacks, and/or entertainment.
  • Place towel, then foot bath with hot water (as hot as comfortable) and desired additions, or wrap towel around bath.  Essential oils of choice and bubbles make a traditional luxurious touch.  For serious dead skin removal, try a large splash each of vinegar and mouthwash, though beware this might stain skin and the bath. 
  • Soak feet for fifteen to twenty minutes. 
  • Remove dead skin from bottom of feet.  Foot file and pumice stone works best.  You can also remove hairs if desired with method of choice.
  • Use a cuticle pusher to gently clean under nails and push back cuticles, removing loose dead skin around the nail. Apply cuticle oil if desired. 
  • Trim, buff, and file nails. 
  • Dry, then moisturize and massage feet. A gentle pull on toes and circular motions around the ball of the foot tend to be popular.  
  • Remove old polish if needed.  Apply a clear base coat, two coats of desired color, and a clear top coat.  Toe separators work well here, during and for drying. Keep common polish colors on hand. 

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Service Skill: Bootblacking

  • Unlace boots.
  • Clean with leather soap of choice and slightly damp cloth if needed. 
  • Make any needed repairs (clipping loose threads, etc.) 
  • Apply leather conditioner. 
  • Apply layers of polish (check the color match) as needed. 
  • Buff with horsehair brush.
  • Dampen cloth slightly and apply thin layer of polish in circles.  With a slightly damp cotton ball, apply circular shine.  Repeat as needed. 
  • Relace boots in the same pattern as before.
  • Dryer sheets placed in shoes when not in use can keep them smelling fresh. 

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Service Skill: Making the Bed

General Notes:

  • Bed linens and such that are properly sized, fit the color scheme, and are in good condition go a long way. 
  • Remember to change/wash the linens regularly (once a week is a popular guideline); watch the care instructions.  
    • Having at least two sets of bed linens can save some headaches.
  • Don’t forget appropriately keeping the bed frame and whatnot neat too.  This might mean dusting, or handling upholstery, or something else.
  • Remember mattress care—rotating, cleaning, etc.
  • Set the tasks mentioned on a repeating schedule.
  • Maybe try a light linen spray once in a while—but remember to check on allergies and sensitivities first.
  • I don’t mention certain pieces below—but if you have a bed skirt, mattress pad, etc., factor them in appropriately.
  • Make sure the piece you’re handling is facing the way it’s supposed to, both in vertical/horizontal orientation and where the patterned side is; a patterned flat sheet, for instance, needs to be put on the bed face down to have the pattern facing up when folded back. Note that the side of the flat sheet with the wider hem should be towards the head of the bed.
  • Customize it!  Make sure you adhere to your partner’s preferences.

Daily: 

  • If the mattress has shifted at all, for those tossers and turners, make sure it’s lined up/back where it’s supposed to be.
  • Fitted sheet: evenly place on the mattress; smooth out.
  • Flat sheet: make hospital corners. Remember to have pattern side facing down, and widest hem at top of bed.
    • There are many great resources on how to make hospital corners online.  A quick Google search should get you to guides for a variety of learning types if you haven’t done it before.
  • Main blanket: evenly lay on top; create hospital corners if desired; smooth out.
  • Fold down the flat sheet and the blanket so the fold lays not quite below where the pillows will be.  Neatly tuck the hem of the flat sheet under the hem of the comforter, or simply smooth out.  (This is really a preference point.)
  • Place any extra blankets, whether another layer altogether, or folded across the foot of the bed, or what have you.
  • Put pillowcases on pillows if need be (tuck excess pillowcase fabric, if any, under the pillow); arrange pillows practically and attractively; try slightly propped up on the headboard.
  • Handle any other pieces needed.  

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Service Skill: Napkin Folding

Version with visuals here.

The Rosebud

1. Lay napkin face down in front of you.

2.  Fold the napkin up in half diagonally. 

3.  Point open end away from you. 

4. Fold the right corner up diagonally to meet the top corner. 

5.  Repeat on the left.

6. Flip the napkin over, left to right.

7. Fold the lower corner up most of the way.

8. Flip the napkin over, left to right.

9.  Curl both sides in, tucking one into the other.

10. Stand up. 

The Envelope

1. Lay napkin face down in front of you.

2.  Fold napkin in half downwards.

3. Fold top left corner to center of base.

4. Repeat on the right.

5. Flip left to right. 

6. Fold in corners evenly.  Tuck in menu, card, favor, or whatever is desired.

The Cutlery Holder

1. Lay napkin face up in front of you.

2. Fold in half upwards.

3. Fold in half to the left.

4.  Peel one layer of upper right corner back to lower left corner.

5. Flip over vertically, downward.

6. Fold lower third in.

7. Fold top third in.

8. Orient vertically and insert cutlery/whatever is desired. 

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Service Skill: Setting the Table

Here are some quick overarching table-setting tips and guidelines I’ve run across.

  1. Space things evenly and line them up (bottoms of the vertical flatware all along the same line, for instance).
  2. All knife blades face towards the plate.
  3. Be consistent in your style. There are different types of settings (like North American versus European); stick to one.
  4. Use as few disposables as possible to increase class. Cloth napkins, real dishes. Have them match, and make sure they’re spotless.
  5. Napkins can go either to the left of the fork or on the charger (in less spacious settings). Under the fork is also an informal option.
  6. Big centerpieces might look pretty in isolation; on the table, they mean you can’t see the person across from you. Think smaller, or get creative on placement. Real or fake candles or flowers; consider string lights. Learn basic flower arranging.
  7. Certain types of plates, bowls, and glassware can be chilled for serving things cold or heated for serving things warm. Adds a touch of luxury.
  8. Remember drinks and condiments; arrange attractively (try serving butter in balls, curls, or piped shapes).
  9. Remember lighting and music/atmosphere, but keep it conversation focused: soft, instrumental music (or background noise—rain sounds, so on), and practical, but intimate lighting.
  10. Place cards make seating and identification easy; they’re very handy if not everyone is eating quite the same thing. Learn some lettering and do them yourself for an extra nice touch.
  11. Be mindful of attractive plating practices. Remember the protein/entree should be closest to the diner. The Clock Plate: (Veggie 12-3, Protein 3-9, Carb 9-12)
  12. Check what’s in your butler’s book for any special considerations for those who will be dining.

Service Skill: Hosting at Home

Some of my advice for hosting a group at home. These are things you can do the day of (some could be done a bit more in advance); therefore, some early planning, including invites, isn’t addressed.

Preparing Yourself (and Others)

  • Dress appropriately for the occasion—if you have a specific outfit in mind, you might want to change closer to the last minute to avoid any mishaps, especially if you’re doing messy prep work the day of.
  • Take care of yourself. While it’s easy to let this slip, try to eat something and drink water, if for nothing else, to keep efficiency up.
  • Try to put away your electronics and focus on the event when the time comes.  You might want to find a way to monitor certain notifications, though, if people might be reaching out to you with last minute questions.  If you have digital reference material, like recipes, that you might need: print it!
  • Remember to check on any special needs/wants of guests.  Polls are valuable.
  • Make sure that any pets’ needs are handled, and keep in mind what your plan is for them during the event, if they’re going to be in a specific area or have free reign, etc. (and remember to warn guests in case of allergies).

Some General Prep

  • Doors. Have the right ones closed, open, locked, unlocked, etc. If you expect to direct guests to a certain room, having the door generally open might help (like bathrooms).
  • Lighting. Have guest areas lit as desired, and don’t forget pathways between them. Consider turning off the lights in areas guests don’t really need access to, to help highlight where things are going on.
  • Do a quick thermostat check a bit before guests arrive, and set it to something comfortable. Consider the activities going on, the weather, etc.
  • If there’s going to be music, get that set up—volume, playlist, etc.
  • Label things if you think it will help—where certain supplies are, including food and drink, maybe rooms if people will spread out.
  • If you have a guest manual or something of the sort, make sure it’s updated. At the least, have any house rules available, and the WiFi information if you’re handing it out.
  • Keep an eye on certain supply levels close to the event—remember soap at the sinks, toilet paper, hand towels/paper towels, etc.
  • Set up for any specific activities.

Clean, Clean, Clean

  • Do the general tidying. Control clutter, straighten things up, especially picking up anything on the floor. Closing cabinets, drawers, and closet doors can instantly give a room a neater look.
  • Clean floors and surfaces as needed; also check on windows and mirrors.
  • Don’t forget any needed toilet cleaning.
  • Run any couch pillows through the dryer for a quick fluff if you can.
  • Get any dishes clean and put away; take out the trash (all of the bins if there are multiple, like little ones in the bathrooms), and don’t forget to put liners back in bins that have them.
  • Make the beds if needed.
  • Do any outdoor cleanup needed.

Food and More

  • Don’t make something for the first time at/for an event. Pick recipes you have confidence in, and the right timing for. Consider if the food handles sitting out well if that will be an issue—if reheating methods are available, make that clear.
  • Remember to set out anything guests might particularly want in the way of condiments, seasonings, etc.
  • Set the table if that’s relevant.
  • Try to at least have snacks, and if you’re hosting during a regular mealtime, serve something resembling that meal. Have snacks around even if you’re serving an entree, for the guest who shows up hungry before food is even close to ready, or the guest who gets hungry after the meal digests. Variety is always nice, and keeping snacks single-serve in some way can be helpful.
  • Labeling things can help people out, and you might want to mark common allergens at a bigger event, especially if that allergen’s presence isn’t obvious.
  • Drinks! Variety is your friend again. Ice is also your friend. Water and soda are always good. Consider coffee and tea depending on the time as well.
  • Keep cups, plates, bowls, silverware, and napkins accessible. Consider offering chilled glasses by keeping some in the freezer.

After, consider an event debrief!