Entertaining. Entertaining house guests. Am I too late to be talking about this or too early? We’ve all just been through the entertaining period, Christmas and New Years, so why would I be posting about this now? Because we don’t just entertain in December.
There are birthday parties, anniversary parties, quiet dinners for two, small dinner parties, big dinner parties, surprise parties, home-shopping parties, outdoor parties, just because parties, friends or family coming to stay for a few days…the list goes on and on.
When we invite people to our homes for whatever reason, we want them to feel at home and be relaxed and comfortable, whether they’ll be there for just a few hours or a few days. So what makes you feel comfortable and relaxed at home? A home cooked meal? Big fluffy cushions on the couch? A soothing cup of hot cocoa? A comfy bed? These are just a handful of things that make you or your guests feel good. But there are so many other little things that add to the experience of a guest at your home.
Think about some of the small touches you might find in a hotel room…
hangers for your clothes
shampoo, soap and other toiletries
paper and pen
You can do the same for your guests to make them comfortable. My ex and I used to throw a huge barbeque in the summer with nearly 50 guests at one of them! I’d start planning a good 4-5 weeks in advance to make sure everything was right. Here’s a few tips that could apply to any sort of event you may be holding at your home.
Let’s start with the bathroom…
First and foremost, it should SPARKLE! Your guests don’t want to see dirty towels on the floor and toothpaste on the sink.
- Put away your stash of make-up and toiletry bottles.
- Hang a clean hand towel for guests to use or even better, use paper hand towels which are more hygienic. You can find decorative ones in most department stores in the U.S. (I had to have my mom send me over some Christmas ones last year as they seem to be unavailable over here in the UK)
- Make sure you have extra toilet paper rolls. Leave 2 or 3 in a small basket on the floor so they can help themselves should it run out on the holder.
- If you have a toothbrush holder with a hole for a cup, put the toothbrushes away and put some flowers in the cup.
- Put a small basket on a shelf or the back of the toilet with some small essentials that may be needed by your guests during their visit: tampons, panty liners, hand lotion, Band-aids/plasters, safety pins, Q-tips/cotton buds and anything else you might think of.
- A box of tissues…no one really wants to blow their nose with toilet paper.
- A bottle of hand soap, not a BAR of soap.
- Small paper cups.
For overnight guests, make sure you have extra towels and wash cloths for them. You might not use a wash cloth yourself, but that doesn’t mean your guests don’t. Leave a set in your guest room on the bed.
Have hooks on the back of the bathroom door or a peg rail on the wall for them to hang robes, clothes, towels, etc.
The Guest Room…
- If normally your guest room is used as a dumping ground, put away any clutter, vacuum and dust.
- Clean sheets and pillow cases, most important. Iron them if necessary. You don’t find wrinkled sheets at a hotel.
- Again, have some hooks on the back of the bedroom door with an extra hanger or two.
- A clock radio allows a good night’s sleep without the worry of over sleeping.
- A mirror on the wall is always helpful.
- Put a carafe of ice water with a glass by the bed. Place them on a tray with a cloth napkin.
- A box of tissues
- Keep a few easy-to-read books and magazines in the room that appeal to both men and women.
For large parties (particularly outdoor parties), have an area for making beverages so that guests can help themselves. Have a table with various spirits and mixers, including water, cola or lemonade for those who won’t be partaking in alcohol. Have plenty of cups/glasses (I always had plastic tumblers and wine glasses for the outside parties), a bucket with ice, cut-up pieces of lemon and lime, cherries, napkins, stirrers and straws. Keep beer cans/bottles in a cooler full of ice or rent a small keg, depending on the amount of people.
Provide plenty of seating and tables for people to eat at and be comfortable. (We had a huge backyard patio and had room for two picnic tables and more).
Have some games that can be played such as horseshoes. We had special sandpits put in specifically for horseshoes. If there will be small children around, provide a kiddy pool and remind the parents to bring their swim suits!
Do you have a friend who does balloon sculpting? Ask them to bring along some balloons to keep the kids entertained and even the adults. (My husband [Chef P] has a friend who does this and he was at a wedding doing the balloons but was asked to stop because he was doing ‘adult only’ balloons and there were some children present!)
If the party with go on well into the evening, make sure you have plenty of outdoor lighting. I hung small twinkle lights all around the banister railing of the patio and along the eaves of the house. We also lit citronella torches further out in the yard so the horseshoe games could continue.
Have some background music playing, but nothing too brash that the neighbors will complain. We had a 50-CD player so I could put all the CDs in and set it at random and it would play during the whole party with me never having to worry about it. And if your community has a noise ordinance, (ours was from 11:00 pm until about 6:00am) turn the music down so again, not to annoy the neighbors or have the police show up.
We always had everyone bring a dish of food of their choice but sometimes we would do a theme. I never wanted to know what people were bringing which made it all the more interesting. Everyone always brought something intriguing and I think there was only one time that we had a duplicate dish (two people brought potato salad). Regarding the themes, one year I instructed people to either bring an appetizer dish, a salad type dish, a hot dish or a dessert. I put one of these choices on each of the invites. Another year they brought dishes pertaining to their ethnic background.
So these are just some suggestions for you.
What do you do when you know you’ll be entertaining? Since I’ve shared my ideas with you, I’d love to hear some of yours!