HOW TO BE A GRACIOUS HOST

[ezcol_1third] It's wonderful this time of year how family and friends travel to be together... But we've all experienced the awkward frustration that too often ensues when hosts and/or visitors don't live up our versions of The Houseguest Code. Nick and I have had our fair share of guests stay at our little Cottage - it just comes with the territory when your buddies live on the other side of the world and see your home as a dream holiday destination - so we've had a bit of practice getting our act together as hosts. From my persecutive, creating a pleasant experience all round is about getting the balance right between being anticipating your guests' needs and keeping things casual. The goal is to set a tone for the visit that's fun without taking on so much responsibility for everyone else's good time that you create a rod for your own back (which for us, I'll be honest, is the hardest thing to d0). Here's my strategy for making it work:

1. Before guests arrive, clean the house paying special attention to where the guests will be sleeping (whether it's the guest room, your bedroom, or another space in your home). Dirtiness makes people feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, so at the very least give the place a quick vacuum and make up the bed with clean sheets so everyone feels off to a good start.

2. In the bedroom (or bed area) lay out towels, tissues, and make sure there's a bin where your guests are staying so they don't have to ask. Provide a hamper for their laundry (and offer to show them how to use the machine). They'll be glad to strip the bed and put their used sheets and towels there at the end of the stay. A few other welcoming touches to set out are hand cream, sun screen, candles and matches, magazines, a plant/flowers.

3. Write out a card with your wifi details, phone numbers, address, and lay out a bus pass if applicable, plus a spare key. This fosters independence and lets your guests know that you're happy to spend time together and time apart doing your own things. Chances are, this will come as a huge relief to all parties!

4. In the bathroom, again, make sure you have a bin and provide an obvious place to hang their wet towel. (I never know where I'm supposed to hang my wet towel in other peoples' homes!) Different coloured guest towels from house towels are a good idea so there's no mixing up. Lay out a glass somewhere near the bathroom with a note so they know they can claim a bit of space for their toothbrush and other toiletries. Lay out a basket with soaps, shampoos, razors, or just a few samples from hotels in case they've forgotten anything.

5. In the kitchen, make some food ahead of time that keeps well in the fridge like pasta salad or fruit set beside a pot yogurt and homemade granola. If you know your guests love a particular treat, buy it or whip some up. Find out whether they have tea or coffee, and if they take milk - I know my morning and afternoon cuppa is crucial to my day, and I feel completely lost without it wherever I am! Encourage your guest to help themselves to whatever's in the fridge and show them where tea, coffee, mugs, plates and cutlery can be found. It'll let them now that it's ok to fend for themselves so they don't feel they have to wait to be waited on. And you don't feel you have to do all the waiting.

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