A Guest Above The Rest

What type of guest are you?

I grew up in a home where I don’t remember EVER eating a meal without having someone extra at our table.  My parents are great hosts and I know that being a good host/hostess is a challenge. I have seen countless articles and books dealing with the complexities of this role.  Who doesn’t already know this since we are bombarded with Martha Stewart lessons in hors d’oeuvres, napkin folding tips, table settings and beautiful flower arrangements? Hyper-hosting has turned the simple act of having parties and getting together with friends into three course events that usually include a theme and a party planner.

Napkins and flower arrangeements

Hyper-hosting

The other side to this hosting equation receives much less publicity, the forgotten link that can make or break your role as a host:

The guest.

You want your hostess with the mostess to see you as a guestess with the bestess? Here’s my breakdown of the good and bad guests. Plain and simple:

The Bad Guest:

  • The Shmoozer– It is totally irrelevant whether anyone is listening or not. They are totally oblivious as to whether people are interested in what they have to say and they can stay for countless hours after all others have left to continue their “fascinating “ conversation with whoever is not yet nodding off to sleep.
  • The Cruiser– this is the guest who just stopped by long enough to eat the last danish, make a promise about that they will be back again real soon, to use the bathroom and to make a grand exit.
  • The Loser– they never seem to have plans and for a good reason. Whether it’s their lack of social etiquette or their inability to make eye contact. They are the ones who bring their leftover bread slices and pineapple juice to “share” so that it doesn’t go bad and they generally aren’t able to connect with anyone inparticular despite repeated attempts on everyone’s part to make conversation.
  • The User– These are guests of convenience. Their convenience, not yours. Once they don’t need you anymore you will never hear from them again.
  • The Abuser- They make sure to let you know in advance that they only eat japanese vegetarian food, that the music is too loud, the soup too salty, and they apologize profusely while asking you to wrap up the leftovers for them to take home. 
  • The Muser- They don’t comment, compliment or join in the conversation and they tend to spend most of their time staring into space. You wonder if they are philosophers and if there is MORE to them than meets the eye when really there is LESS…much, much less. You wonder if your meal will be the contributing factor to their suicide attempt when, miraculously, on their way out they somehow manage to mumble: “Thanks, I had a great time.”

The Good Guest:

Gratitude goes a long way…
  • Give- Just bring something, damn it, even when your host insists otherwise.
  • Gauge- Don’t be oblivious to everyone around you. Yes, Spanish Inquisition Era manuscripts may be fascinating to YOU but if everyone else is staring into space then zip-it!
  • Good Nights- Overnight guests should not overuse any one household item without confirming that it is ok with their hosts first. Don’t take overly long showers, don’t leave a mess in the bathroom, don’t leave wet towels on the floor and make sure to keep your room neat when you are going out.
  • Grace- you walk into a room and see people talking, recognize when it’s a conversation that requires privacy and don’t get involved.
  • Gratitude- Make sure to thank your host at different moments during your stay as a guest. It’s all about gratitude. Thank them for thinking of you when you arrive. Thank them again when you leave and make sure to compliment. Compliment their home, their cooking, their efforts and their kindness. And please try to sound sincere.
  • Gregarious- Smile and the world smiles with you. Meal time is not the time to burden everyone with your hardships and woes unless you are very close with your hosts. Smile, shmooze and enjoy.
  • Guess- Ask questions, show interest in others around you.
  • Giddy-Up! HAVE FUN! Nothing more fun than a guest who knows how to enjoy themselves.
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Setting Up Your Home

Ten years ago, when I still newly married and living in Toronto, Canada, I used to love to visit this houseware’s store called Cayne’s. I used the excuse that I needed something specific but I really didn’t need a reason to go there because I would always find something there I needed or could use at home anyways.

I drove 45 minutes from my home to buy this specific item of the utmost importance to my life although I don’t remember what it was. I would never leave that store without a cartload of things that I didn’t come for and I would usually forget the thing that I did. No matter, since it was probably something boring anyways, a peeler, dish-drainer, strainer…

At the store there was this woman shopper who was obviously engaged to be married, and was going through the store with the saleswoman who was “helping” her make a list for her registry. You know, the usual household necessities like pots & pans, fondue sets, glasses, cutlery…FONDUE SETS!

3-in-1 30 pc. fondue set

3-in-1 30 pc. fondue set

Did you hear me?? What is this woman? Martha Stewart? Julia Child? For goodness sake! Who makes fondue?

She fell for it hook, line and sinker. She registered for the fondue set.

I was thinking about this woman this past week when I was privileged to see my cousin’s daughter get married. She is young and just starting out on her path in life with a wonderful guy whom she has known for years. They are a sweet couple. So excited, idealistic and energetic. There is such beauty in seeing young people dancing enthusiastically at their wedding.

But just like at many other points in my life, I am purely practical. I am no fun! When they bring out the fried chicken pieces at the buffet reception all I can do is stare in awe at people loading up their plates and say, “Yuck! Do you know how fattening those things are?” Party Pooper you say? That’s me!

At this wedding my highly practical mind began its designated purpose in life. I start thinking about the proper organization that goes into setting up your first home. Whether a person has just gotten married, moved out on their own, moved to another city, or just started out their life anew, there is the need for stuff! Lots and lots of stuff. Stuff that makes day-to-day life bearable and maybe even enjoyable (gulp, did I say that?)

I would love to meet the woman from the housewares store today. I want to ask her how she felt about her registry. Was there anything that she wished she had bought? That she was sorry she wasted the money on? What were the items that she decided to donate to the “poor” many years ago? Did she ever use the football shaped chip bowl or the glasses set that included all shapes and sizes most of which are only useful to someone who is a professional bartender or who has kidney damage and needs to drink 1.5 litres of water at every sitting.

I most likely won’t meet that woman so I will have to rely on my own judgment and personal experience. I have compiled a list of the important items a person should prioritize when setting up their home. These items you will use on a daily basis and unless you have a family tradition to make spring rolls every week under duress, this list should suffice. To all you newlyweds out there, newly divorced, just moved to a new city, just left home et. al, this if for you! And to all of you people who are pondering whether to keep the vacuum cleaner or the electric volcano light, this one’s for you too!

Kitchen

  • Dishes- cutlery, glasses (water, wine, old fashioned), mugs, plates, bowls
  • Baking Utensils- cookie sheets, baking sheets, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, spatula
  • Cooking Utensils- Colander, cutting board, knife set, ladle, serving spoons, pots and pans,
  • Much Needed- bottle opener, can opener, oven mitts, pot holders, peeler, wooden spoon
  • Small appliances- blender, coffee maker, hand mixer, toaster, microwave, kettle
  • Kitchen Furniture- Chairs, kitchen table, garbage can
  • Miscellaneous- dish towels, dish drying rack, plaastic food storage containers, paper towel holder, salt and pepper shakers, sponges, tableclothes, placemats

Bathroom

  • Scale, bath rug, shower curtain with liner or plastic, and shower rings, toilet brush, towels, towel bar or ring, trash can, toilet plunger, soap dish or dispenser, toilet paper and holder, shower head with bar and caddy

Living Room

  • Storage- Bookshelf, CD storage, DVD/VHS storage, magazine rack, TV stand, wall hooks for hats and coats
  • Seating Area- Coffee table, couch, rug, floor lamp
  • Office area- Desk, desk lamp, office chair

Important Odds and Ends

  • First Aid- Band aids, anti-biotic ointment, antiseptic, thermometer, acetaminophen, ibuprofen
  • Safety- Carbon Monoxide Detector, flashlight, smoke detector, fire extinguisher
  • Tools/Hardware- batteries, light bulbs, drill, extension cords, hammer, screwdriver set, level, measuring tape, pliers, step ladder, wrench and surge protector on your more important plugs and appliances
  • Cleaning Supplies- broom, dustpan, mop and bucket, rags, vacuum, cleaning supplies, rubber gloves
  • Laundry Room- drying rack, iron, ironing board, clothes hampers and laundry baskets.

Bedroom

  • Headboard or bed frame, mattress, boxspring, nightstand, bedside lamp
  • Bed Sheets, pillowcases, comforter, duvet cover, mattress pad, pillows
  • Alarm clock, hangers, fan, full length mirror, clothes cabinet or clothes storage