Monday, November 22, 2010

How to Host Like a Pro

Hosting for thanksgiving?  You're braver than I am!  Having everyone to your place can be a big to-do and often requires more work than you'd think, especially if you're trying to impress your in-laws or your friend's opinionated girlfriend.  Here are a few tips to help you get ready.

  • Pick a subtle scent.  Air fresheners are nice and can really set the mood but don't pick a fragrance that's too strong or that overpowers the smell of the delicious food you're making.
  • Get out the games.  If you'll still be cooking when people arrive, have something out for them to entertain themselves with like a couple of board games or a pack of cards. 
  • Make a party playlist.  I usually go for more mellow songs by my favorite bands so we can talk without loud drums drowning us out!  Make sure there's nothing too offensive in your probably don't want Eminem pumping with your nieces and nephews around.  If it's a mixed crowd, pick a variety of music that everyone will like.  You can even ask guests to bring their ipods or favorite CDs and switch them around every half hour or so.
  • Wrangle your pets.  If you don't know all your guests super well, it's best if your cats and dogs make only a small appearance at the party.  As someone who's not a fan of pets that don't live in a tank or cage, I can tell you it's not fun to have someone's cat constantly rubbing against your leg or see them climbing on the table near the food.  You may think it's cute that Fluffy licked the cheese plate.  I don't.  Gross!  Some guests may be afraid of dogs and not know how to tell you they feel uncomfortable.  Even friends who love your dog most likely won't want him pawing at them ALL night.  Be prepared to have your four-legged friends sequestered in a room or outside for part of the night.  Give them plenty of food, water, and toys so they're not too lonely and bored.  Let them out every now and then or make sure someone goes in the room to check on them a few times. 
  • Have a place for people to put their coat, shoes, umbrella, etc.  Make room for them in the coat closet or direct them to the room where they can put their stuff.  Also have a door mat ready to go so they're not tracking rain/snow/mud/grime into your apartment.  
  • If you don't want them to wear shoes in your place, put a pair or two of your own shoes by the door so they get the hint.  If you have a few extra bucks to spend, head to the dollar store and buy a few $1 slippers for guests who have cold feet, especially the ladies who are wearing pantyhose or tights.  Put the slippers in a basket by the door and maybe add a cute sign so people know they're for the taking.
  • Stock the bathroom with extra toilet paper, feminine products, a plunger, air freshener, and first aid supplies (Dollar Tree has good supplies for only $1). Make sure they're put away but easy for guests to find.  Now no matter what they need, you'll have it!  As for the toilet paper, put out a brand new roll before people arrive, that way they'll most likely never have to change it.
  • Clean your bathroom thoroughly!!  People are nosy and will look everywhere!  I can't tell you how many times I've gone into the guest bathroom after a party to notice that the shower curtain's pulled back a little from people peeking in.  Make sure your shower is clean and doesn't look like something out of a horror movie. Remove any toiletries or medicine that you don't want your guests to see if they look into your medicine cabinet.  Clean the toilet, get any gunk off your sink, and empty the trash can.
  • Have hand towels ready.  Put out clean, fresh towels so people know where to dry their hands.  I've gone to several parties where the only towels around are the hosts' bath drying towels.  The thought of rubbing my clean hands on the same towel they used to dry their entire body isn't appealing!  If you're a paper towel person, put out a new roll.
  • Clean the kitchen.  The last thing you want is your in-laws finding last month's lasagna.  Not cool!  Make sure everything you or your guests may need from the fridge is accessible and move other items to the back.  Empty the trash and dishwasher so they're ready to be loaded at the end of the night.  Don't forget to sweep the floor...crumbs are no ones friend.
  • Double check your dishes and silverware.  It's awkward when you go to someone's house and end up with a glass that has food from the dishwasher dried on it.  How do you kindly and discreetly ask for a new glass?  Check that everything came out clean so people won't be left with dirty utensils.
Over-night guests 
  • Have multiple blankets available.  This is something my mom taught me.  If you stay at her house, you'll find at least 2 or 3 blankets in the guest room.  It allows you to control the temperature without having to ask your host for a blanket if you get cold at night.  To save yourself on laundry, just put one blanket on the bed but let them know where the extra blanket is. This way if they don't get cold, you only have to wash the first blanket.
  • Always have extra toiletries.  Yes, my mom taught me this too.  The drawer in her guest bedroom has extra toothbrushes, lotion, toothpaste, Q-tips, soap, etc. so if I forget to pack something when I come to visit, I don't have to run to the store.  Now I do the same for my guests.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy.  If I need to buy a new toothbrush, I buy the 2pack instead of just one, then I put the extra in the guest bedroom...super easy.  For lotion, you can squeeze some out of your own bottle into a travel container and have it available.  Once again, the dollar store is the perfect place to get everything you need for only $1.  Even hotel samples you've been saving are fine.  If you're sharing a bathroom, let them know they can use your body wash and toothpaste in case they forgot theirs.
  • Magazines and books are always appreciated.  Just one more thing I learned from my mom!  She always has magazines perfectly arranged on the guest room dresser when we come.  It gives you something to do if you want to relax or read in bed.  If your guests read them, great.  If they don't, it's no big deal since it only took you a minute or two to put the books out!
  • Hash out wake-up times the night before.  If you get up early or like to sleep in, let your visitors know so they don't feel like they're waking you up or slowing you down.  If you're sharing a bathroom, try to shower at night so they can use the bathroom whenever they want the next day, or let them know what time you shower in the mornings so there's no confusion.
  • Invest in a bag of coffee, powder creamer and a cheap coffee maker.  We don't drink coffee but my grandpa does so I bought a cheap, $7 coffee maker from Walmart, a container of powdered creamer and a bag of Dunkin Donuts coffee.  Now, anytime he comes we can make him a cup.  The last thing you want is a cranky, under-caffeinated visitor!
  • Have breakfast foods out and ready so they don't have to search through your cabinets if they get up before you. 
Happy Hosting!

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