Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thoughts On Hospitality

This past weekend, my hubby and I traveled to the tip of Ontario for our first dog trial. We were so excited when our dog, Bee, took a third place rosette on the first day of competition and a second place rosette on the second and final day of the trial. It was a good weekend for us and we were pleasantly surprised because this was truly our first competition.

While away, I began to think about hospitality. We'd been staying in a number of hotels and other's homes lately as we have been doing quiet a bit of traveling. As we prepare to head away again next weekend for American Thanksgiving, I want to share with you some of the things that I was thinking about in regards to hospitality.

Provide a Wonderful Welcome

When I head to Pennsylvania to visit my family, we are always greeted with such a warm welcome. Sometimes my Dad is waiting at the backdoor for us as we pile out of the car. Or Mom jumps up from the couch to greet us. Whatever the welcome, it's always warm, filled with excitement and always appreciated by us after such a long drive. Mom usually has something for us to eat and Shane and I relax and unwind while catching up with my Mom and Dad.

Hospitality all begins when you greet your guests at the door. Greeting them with a warm welcome can be the best way to set the tone for the visit or occasion. You certainly cannot fight your personality so an uber enthusiastic greeting may not suit your style. But that doesn't mean that you cannot come to the door as your guest enters, offer a warm smile, a friendly handshake or hug and invite your company into your home.

Here are some other ways to welcome friends into your home:

- Write "Welcome" and your guests names on a chalkboard where your guests will see it.
- Take guests coats and hang in the closet or drape on a bed.
- Have drinks and snacks ready for your company. At bare minimum, have glasses and fresh water at the ready. Add orange, lemon, or lime slices to the water to add a special touch. Or simply throw on a pot of coffee.
- Make the house smell great. A wonderful aroma can truly by a wonderful welcome. Light some candles or try this homemade simmering potpourri that I often make. Here is the link to a past post.
- Offer guests a seat. Even if they refuse by saying they don't need to sit, grab them a chair anyways. Nine times out of ten they will sit down. [I totally made that statistic up, but I'm betting it's pretty accurate.] Make sure there is a seat for every guest as well - even if if is squishy beanbags on the floor for kids - or kids at heart.
- Soft background music is always a treat. Pop in a little instrumental tunes. Keep the volume low. You don't want guests competing to talk over the music.

Be Prepared - The Food

As I mentioned above, when we travel to Pennsylvania, Mom usually has some sort of dinner waiting for us. It can be anything from sandwich fixings, our favorite pizza or leftover dinner from that nights meal. Growing up, whenever we had friends spend the night, Mom always had a wonderful breakfast in the morning. Sometimes it was a breakfast casserole, homemade Danish puff or bacon and eggs. On many a Sunday morning, while growing up, Dad often went into town for the newspaper and also brought home sausage McMuffins from McDonalds. I still get excited when I am home and Dad has that breakfast waiting for us late risers.

The point? Have some delicious things waiting in the wings for your guests.

Here are some more thoughts on preparing food for your loved ones:

- It's holiday season and the time for visiting is upon us. Be prepared with a few go-to appetizers. One night this week, sit down with a few cookbooks or some of your favorite cooking websites (or blogs!) and write down the recipes to a few good appetizers.
Your goals?
1. Easy to prepare.
2. Easy ingredients - choose recipes with staples you usually buy.
3. Easy on the pallate - avoid anything to spicy, too fishy, or too exotic. Pickled pigs
feet? No way!
Write the recipes on a sheet of paper or individual recipe cards, shop for your ingredients and store everything together in a special box or bin in your pantry. Do the same for the cold ingredients in the fridge. This way, you know the ingredients are on hand and you won't be too tempted to use them.

Be Prepared - Keep It Clean

Surely if your house is a wreck, you are not going to want to have guests over. How can you begin to open your home if you are feeling pressure because the dishes are piled high to the ceiling, you can't see the dining room table because it's covered in craft projects and the living room looks like a tornado just hit. One of my favorite podcasters, Donna Otto, says that "hospitality is about expressing God's love and that entertaining is about impressing - showing off our 'stuff'". Remember this gals! We certainly don't want people to NOT come into our homes because we haven't finished the umpteenth millionth project that we want to complete. But keeping a tidy home - especially around the holidays - will allow us that freedom to welcome others into our homes.

Set some routines for yourself. Dishes after every meal, bathrooms cleaned on Monday, floors mopped on Tuesday. That kind of thing. When you leave a room, put away a few items that don't belong there. Take 15 minutes to tidy the house before bed. Stay on top of things! Doing so will make life sooo much easier for you. And you will find that you don't have to do that deep clean that can be so draining before having company.

Who Are You?/Where Is...?

Have you even been to someones home and didn't know the host? Perhaps you were at your husband's boss's house for a BBQ. Or were accompanying your best friend to her friends Pampered Chef party. Chances are, you've been to someone house that you didn't quiet know. Sounds bizarre but when I thought about it, I have been in that situation dozens of times. So, when you find that you have guests that you barely know in your home, here are some suggestions.

- Introduce yourself. Certainly this should go without saying but it often happens. It happened to me this past weekend! If someone is in your home, you should make every effort to let them know who you are. Ask them if there is anything that you can get them. Make them feel welcome. Even if it is totally out of your comfort zone. This is your role as host. Fake it 'til you make it.
- Here's a sort of "ice-breaker" that you can "play" with guests at your home. Perhaps written on place cards at the dinner table or just randomly, pose different questions that everyone goes around answering. For instance:
- Who would play you in the movie of your life?
- You just won $1 million dollars. How do you spend your winnings?
- What is your most embarrassing moment?
- What is the thing that most every guest needs to know when spending time at your home. Where the bathroom is! Don't be too shy in letting people know where the loo is. Also, have a couple extra rolls of toilet paper and some air freshener out in plain view.
- People usually need to know where the garbage is too. [Especially if you are hosting a party with food.] We keep our garbage under the sink but I'm thinking if we had a party I'd want it a bit more accessible so people knew where to stash their trash.

Okay, that's enough for today. I have a bunch more ideas for overnight guests that I will share with you soon. Stay tuned! [Sorry for the lack of photos - the library is booting me out!]

What are your best hospitality tips? I'd love to hear!


Della said...

It's so true about the chair statistic! I always say no- even if I do want to sit's the same when I'm offered a drink or food. Maybe I'm too shy? Ha!

McMom said...

This was such wonderful advice. I agree with every bit of it. Sounds like you have a mom like I do!

I once knew someone who kept a guestbook in their entry and asked everyone who came over to write something in it. I'm sure it was fun for them to go back and review all the visitors they'd had over the years.

Tracey said...

Usually it's my sister or my daughter's friends from college that come to the house. I have fresh towels for them in the room, some hand lotion, glasses for water and plenty of food! Especially for the teenagers! I have candles burning, vacumed rug, and fluffed pillows on the couch.. and of course a clean bathroom! Great post this thought!

Holly said...

Can I come over? I'm sure you'd be a very welcoming hostess!
Several years ago when the boys were little we had some business in the town where my aunt and uncle live. We don't see them too often, but stayed over night with them. We arrived close to midnight. The lights were on, it was early Dec. and the xmas decorations were up, and my aunt had baked yeast biscuits and cut them into shapes for the boys. We say around the kitchen table chatting and snacking. It was so cozy, and it felt like coming home, especially since my mom (sister of my aunt) had passed away years before and it reminded me of her.

Lucy Marie said...

Sounds like you are a fantastic hostess! I love all of these tips. By the way, what tip of Ontario were you at?

Small House said...

Makes me wish we were having company!!

Pray~and~Wait said...

Hi Mandi! I'm glad you found my blog...b/c it led me to yours! I LOVE your hospitality post!!! Such good ideas!!! I love having something cooking when people come over...the thing I have the hardest time with is cleaning...I will try some of your tips!


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