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The Care and Feeding of Guests
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Expecting houseguests? I have some suggestions to make things go a bit smoother. These are tips I’ve collected over the years—or (mostly) learned them the hard way.

Meals: Eating together is a major social event. But if your houseguest is a vegan and you’ve made reservations at a steakhouse, it can be too eventful. Find out what restrictions (if any) you guest has on meat and spices and any allergens. There are some terrific recipes online, but try them beforehand to be sure they work for you and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. I once sent a near and dear friend out in a driving rainstorm for raisins and he hasn’t been seen since.

And don’t try to make each meal a gourmet adventure at home. You’ll wear yourself to a frazzle and chances are your company would prefer your relaxed companionship to a once-in-a-while visitor from an overheated kitchen. Go out to dinner; take the night off.

If they’re staying with you a while and may at some point be Home Alone, it’s a thoughtful gesture to have a list of phone numbers Chinese/Pizza/Mexican delivery spots (menus, too) available.

Adventures: Let your guests know beforehand what you’re planning. A night out on the town at Disneyland can require warm clothing, comfortable shoes and rain slickers at this time of year. They (and you) will want to dress very differently if you’re going to a nightclub.

Personal items: Gather an emergency supply of the toiletries likely to be on the “I forgot” list and have them in an accessible spot. You know: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, disposable razors, hand lotion, etc. And don’t forget the can of air freshener. Your guests will think they’ve died and gone to Marriott.

Bathroom: Of course you’ll have the pretty hand towels and soap out for show. But be sure to show them where the spare bath towels and tissues and toilet paper are—it’s awkward for a naked, wet guest to appear in a rush wanting something larger than a fingertip towel. Or, heaven forbid, run out of toilet paper at a crucial moment because the dog ate it (don’t laugh).

Laundry: If they are staying a couple of weeks—or more—they will need a laundry hamper or basket, soap, water softener, spot remover, whatever. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness if they don’t have to guess what to do with the dirty clothes.

Bedroom: Before guests arrive, be sure the temperature isn’t set for Nanook of the North. A cold, dark, dusty room is hardly inviting to anybody but spiders. In the summer, quite the other way, you have to check the room by day. Can you open the window? Do the shades work? Is the bedding fresh and clean (no cat hair, especially, for my allergic relatives)? Is there an alarm clock for guest use? Is there room to hang clothing and spare hangers? Extra blankets are nice for people who like to cocoon or who are always cold.

Nice touches: A few books or magazines to read with a note saying that the book/magazine can go home with them. Of course, then, there should be a lamp situated for reading. A cookie jar (with cookies, chocolate chip for sure). Bottled water. An afghan or two for comfort. I even have a teddy bear who greets every guest with a twinkle in his eye (OK, so I exaggerate for effect). Some people put out fruit, but beware of bananas: sitting in a closed room for a few hours, they can perfume (or stink up) the whole room.

Word of caution: If your reputation as a top-notch host gets around, you may have more company than you can shake a stick at. And speaking of sticks: teach your dog to have good manners around company. Treats from a stranger are a good way to make introductions.

Hope your festive occasions rock!

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