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Posts Tagged ‘visitors’

As Thanksgiving Nears, Ten Ways To Be A Gracious Host

In business, food, parenting, travel on November 22, 2010 at 1:32 am
New welcome mat from my parents

Image via Wikipedia

Being invited to someone’s home — as many of us will soon be for the holidays, whether for a party, a meal or a few days — is supposed to be a wonderful thing, a gesture of affection and hospitality. As we all know, it can also lead to sulks, sighs, flounces, shouts or worse.

Herewith a few rules for the host:

Make it fun. Really. Too many people stress themselves out to create Martha Stewart-esque perfection, determined to get it right, or else. I love to entertain in style, with candles and linen napkins, but if my guests aren’t having a good time, there’s not much point. Great music and soft lighting help. Delegate as many tasks as possible and allow plenty of time between the house-cleaning, food shopping, prep and cooking — and your meal or party. A pooped-out host(ess) is no fun!

Offer a wide array of beverage choices. Pellegrino, lots of lime and lemon slices, fresh ice, freshly-squeezed orange juice, V-8 juice and brewed tea make a nice break from sugary sodas or liquor. (Most fruit juices contain way too much sugar for those trying to lose weight.) If you’re serving tea or coffee, it’s great to have half-and-half and skim milk available as well.

Determine food allergies — but set your limits. This is really tricky in an age of vegans, gluten-free adherents and people choosing to follow any number of exotic diets. I once prepared a great salmon dish to have my 25-year-old guests sniff “I don’t eat fish.” Yes, we made them something else, but they haven’t been invited back since.

Be clear about your expectations. If the cat will rush into busy traffic if a door is opened, make that known. If you won’t tolerate anyone else disciplining your children, say so. If the apartment door must be double-bolted upon exiting to be secure, tell your houseguests, preferably a few times.

Write stuff down. If you have guests with you for a while, a written list of tips can’t hurt — where to find the coffee, whether you compost or recycle, the location of the nearest pharmacy or grocery store. Most people hate to snoop or nag, and everyone runs their household a little differently.

Anticipate disaster. If you really don’t want a red wine stain anywhere, don’t serve it. If your best crystal is irreplaceable, don’t put it within anyone’s reach.

Stock your medicine cabinet. No one wants to come unprepared, but emergencies happen — aspirin, Pepto-Bismol, bandages, sanitary supplies, extra razors or toothbrushes are all very much appreciated by needy guests.

Don’t assume your guests know how to (safely) operate any of your technology. Explain clearly anything they might find confusing. This might be anything from your remote to your coffee-maker to your music system.

Let your guests know it’s OK to do their laundry (if it is) and have extra soap on hand. If they’ve been on the road for a while, or have little kids or work out often, it’s a relief to be able to keep up.

Make houseguests truly feel at home. Nice towels, a few new magazines, a box of chocolates, a pitcher of ice water and some pretty fresh flowers in their room will make them feel pampered. If you really don’t want people around, don’t invite them, or limit their stay. They can feel it. Fake or forced hospitality is a misery for everyone.

Getting Invited Back For That Country Weekend: Tips

In behavior on May 15, 2010 at 7:27 am
Morris 16' canoe

Image via Wikipedia

This is all so true. If you know anyone with a cottage — Canadians’ version of a country house — listen up!

From The Globe and Mail:

Back in my early 20s, I won the Canadian girlfriend lottery. That is, at the time, I was involved with a woman whose family owned a cottage on what is – or so they said – “the second clearest lake in Ontario.” It was at this rugged setting that I, a cottage newbie, got to know her parents and siblings.

If you’ve managed to land a girlfriend-with-cottage yourself, first of all I want to say, congratulations. Your summers will be infused with cool air, refreshing swims and an endless landscape of trees. Also, you’ll be forced – I mean, have the opportunity – to bond with your girlfriend’s family in an unnaturally intimate setting where they are seasoned natives and you are a visitor with no escape.

In my case, by the end of the first summer I had learned the ways of the North and was able to earn the family’s respect and approval. But there were mistakes made. So that you may learn from those who have trod this prickly path before, here are some things to avoid from myself and a couple other former cottage initiates.

His listof errors includes sucking up too much and misplaced machismo. I’d add, wondering aloud why there is no…anything citified…you miss. Wi-fi,say. Or television. Fresh croissants. Or walls not made of crumbling particle-board.

The Canadian tradition of the cottage, (not to be confused with the social competitiveness of scenes like the Hamptons), means happily and uncomplainingly settling into someone’s family’s long-held traditions, from food to dress. I’ve stayed at friends’ cottages, and loved it, but it does have its own brand of etiquette. Try to have sex, really quietly, in a house with very thin walls, some of which may not even reach the ceiling. (Thus the “bunkie”, a mini-cottage on the same property.)

You’ll need to know, or graciously learn, things like gunwhale-bobbing (pronounced gunnel), which means standing atop the end of a canoe, one foot on each side, and pumping your knees up and down to make it go — of course — quickly forward in a straight line. Or how to water-ski. How to not turn blue or let your teeth chatter audibly when the lake water is icy, but your hosts find it “refreshing.”

Cupping your hands to make an excellent loon’s call? Not bad. But can you drive a motorboat or land a canoe at the dock not with a thud but a graceful J-stroke?

There’s a whole magazine, and a really good one, to prime you, should you ever be lucky enough to get invited to someone’s cottage.

It’s called Cottage Life.

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