There are LOTS of articles about preparing for guests and cute ideas for hostess gifts out there this time of year, but very little useful information on the art of being a Good Guest.
Successful entertaining relies on a carefully choreographed little dance that we all do, whether we admit it or not. Admittedly, some people are just naturally better at it than the rest of us. But, I’d argue that like dancing, the entertaining gene can be mastered with patience and practice and a strong desire will to learn. A lot of you might be traveling this week, so to that end, we’ve compiled our top tips for HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST.
1. RSVP (the right way). You’ve been asked to a party…yay! The best thing you can do is to check your calendar immediately, and respond as soon as possible in the same way you were invited. For example, if you got a formal, written invitation (lucky you!) you have to write back. If you got a text or an online invitation through Evite or Paperless Post, then text back or respond on the app. Don’t call or email. Get it? The reason is that busy Hosts have set up a system of receiving RSVPs through the app or a similar email address. If you respond outside of that invitation, your response can get lost or miscounted and that is like not responding and then showing up late with a drunken Tinder date. Not good.
2. NEVER SHOW UP EMPTY-HANDED. Of course, you always ask if you can bring something, but even if your Host says “No, no, no, just yourself!” You bring something. It’s what nice people do and you are nice people. A bottle of wine will always be nice, but if they don’t drink (first of all…why are you going)? JK! A scented candle or nice soap for the bathroom always goes down as a treat. The idea here is if you don’t know their taste and even if you think you do, don’t buy them a piece of art or a sweater. Stick to consumables, especially those that come in handy at a party.
* A word about flowers. Bringing flowers is a lovely gesture and always appreciated. However, DO NOT, under any circumstances, bring your hostess a freshly cut bouquet that needs to be trimmed and arranged in a vase. That is a project. You’ve just handed your busy hostess a project that has to be dealt with at the exact moment she is trying to welcome her guests. Bring flowers in a vase, or better yet, a plant or orchid in a pot.
3. BE HANDY. The best guests are the ones who have been Hosts themselves. They know when to pitch in, when to fade and when to be totally independent. If you don’t know your hosts well, ask! A good host isn’t shy about asking for help making drinks, collecting late arrivals from the train station, taking out the trash or talking to a slightly deaf Aunt before dinner. Your efforts will not go unnoticed, believe me.
4. BE HONEST. If you are allergic to fish or dogs, you can’t ski or play tennis, or you have any special dietary restrictions, the time to tell your Host is when you are invited. Also, deal with it proactively. Bring your allergy medicine, a good book to read or a lentil loaf to share so you don’t overburden your Host with special planning or menus.
5. BEHAVE. The old adage of NO POLITICS, RELIGION or SEX at the table is probably still good advice. Unless you are 100% certain about everyone’s views on any of those topics, better to steer clear. Also, put your phone away, keep your children under control and don’t fight with your spouse in company. That’s what bathrooms are for! Also, don’t try and seduce another guest while you are there. It’s creepy (especially if you get caught). Just exchange numbers on the D/L and arrange to meet up again later. Seriously Tiger, keep it in your pants!
6. ACT LIKE YOUR HOSTS. If they are up-at-the-crack-of-dawn types, staying in bed until noon and coming down to lunch in your PJs is probably a bad idea. Likewise, if they aren’t morning people, banging around the house at the crack of dawn isn’t a good idea, either. Try and match their style within reason.
7. HAVE FUN. The best guests (like the best hosts) actually enjoy the dance and have fun. They are relaxed, but not too relaxed, they participate and bring something to the table both literally and figuratively. Learn a few good jokes to tell, offer to make lunch, walk the dogs or take the kids for a swim. Play cards with Grandma. That sort of thing. But have fun doing it! Just not too much fun…
8. LEAVE. The best guests know when to bounce. If your hosts have gone up to bed and you are still downstairs drinking, you’ve stayed too long (unless you’re staying overnight). Good Hosts will straight up tell you when it’s time to go, or clearly signal when it’s time to go by clearing up, asking if they can get you “anything else” and lowering lights + music etc. Say your thank yous and beat it. A follow up thank you note is always a good idea.
This seems like a lot to remember on the surface, but just remember to put yourself in the place of your hosts and act the way you’d like people to behave in your house…maybe a bit better. Stick to that Golden Rule and you’re guaranteed to be asked back again.
Way before Martha Stewart made us all feel bad about ourselves for using paper towels as napkins, regular folks would use cloth napkins at every meal. Using an actual piece of fabric to wipe the vinaigrette from your chin had an obvious downside: eventually it had to be laundered, folded and maybe even ironed before it could be put back into service.
Score one for paper towels. Yeah, they’re easy and always available when you need them, but they’re also super wasteful and use up a lot of resources (namely trees) to make.
So, back to cloth napkins! But how to avoid endlessly washing and folding said napkins after each use?
Napkin rings, that’s how!
Today, napkin rings have been elevated to the status of tabletop bling, mostly reserved as a decorative item at dinner parties and special occasions. But that’s not where they started, oh no.
The actual point of napkin rings was to hold a (used) napkin for the exclusive use of the same dinner on multiple occasions until it was ready to be laundered again. Sometimes for as long as a week. That’s why they were plain silver and always engraved with the diner’s initials to keep them separate.
I know, to the uninitiated it sounds pretty gross to keep a used napkin in a drawer to use all week, but really, if you know how to use a knife and fork, it shouldn’t be all that dirty.
Having said that, I freely admit that when we are eating something saucy/messy and hands on (BBQ ribs come to mind) I opt for a paper napkin. But…as a rule, I don’t like to use them because it does encourage sloppy use of cutlery (there really shouldn’t be any vinaigrette on your chin) and I really hate the waste of it all.
I want to encourage you to swap out your paper napkins for real ones this year. You can find a cotton or linen napkin to suit any budget and likewise, you can find engravable napkin rings at any price-point. And don’t feel like you have to match them! Way back in the day, they were given as christening gifts with the assumption that he or she would use it for life.
We love having our own napkin rings. They’re an easy life upgrade and will make everyday dinners feel that little bit nicer. And who doesn’t love that?
Barbecue Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Great Australian BBQ
Australians are a pretty relaxed bunch. We like our sunshine and our no-hassle way of life but there are a few things we hold sacred. The great Australian barbeque is one of those sacred past times. For many Australians, attending a backyard barbie is second nature but some it can be a new or daunting experience either hosting or attending.
So we’ve put together some tips to ensure that your BBQ is a success:
- Seating: Ensure that there is enough comfortable seating for everyone attending, indoors and out. Make the seating conducive to conversations amongst your guests.
- Food: Count up your RSVPs to ensure you have enough food and drink for everyone attending. Most people cook hamburgers and hotdogs at cookouts, so be sure to have a vegetarian option for any guests that are not meat-eaters.
- Drink: Provide plenty of water and juice. Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, are popular, so be careful about offering too much. Ensure that any guests that have overindulged have safe rides home.
- BBQ: Make sure the grill plate is clean well before guests arrive. Also make sure you have enough fuel (propane or charcoal) to cook all of the food you plan to barbeque.
- Utensils: Refrain from using any rusty or dirty barbeque utensils. Also, to keep food safe, use two sets of utensils and platters, one for raw and the other for cooked foods. Make sure not to mix them up!
- Timing: Arrive early only if your host is aware and you plan on helping to set up and prep food. Arriving a bit after the scheduled time is perfectly fine. Also, avoid overstaying your welcome late in the evening, unless you plan on helping to clean up.
- What to bring: Even if host says to bring nothing, bring something. Side dishes are great idea. Be sure to bring enough of your dish to feed everyone. Also, if you bring it, leave it. It’s cumbersome for you and the host to gather up your half-eaten container and half-full bottle of wine at the end of your visit.
- What to wear: Casual, tasteful outfits are appropriate. If it is a work-related cookout, then go with business casual.
- BBQ: Avoid touching or taking over the grill unless the host asks for help.
- Drink: It’s easy to get dehydrated on warm days. Drink plenty of fluids, and be careful with alcoholic beverages. These will dehydrate you further and can be even more potent when you’re sitting in the sun. Avoid embarrassing yourself or your host by overindulging.
- Clean up: Even if your host declines, it’s a customary kindness to offer help in cleaning up here and there throughout your stay.
Flick through any design magazine and you’ll notice that a room is rarely featured without some flowers or a bit of greenery. While we love to splurge on the occasional fresh cut bouquet, the benefits of live potted plants indoors cannot be overstated. Here are 5 good reasons to get your Green on.
1) They clear the air (NASA said so).
Remember your middle school biology class? Inhaling brings oxygen into the body and exhaling releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants do the opposite: They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Plants help to increase oxygen levels. They are a natural air purifier.
2) Orchids in the Bedroom!
Good to know: When photosynthesis stops at night, most plants switch things up and absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. However, a few special plants – like orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads – flip that script and take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Meaning, use these plants in bedrooms to keep the oxygen flowing at night.
3) Plants are good for your complexion.
Studies show that live plants help to regulate humidity levels indoors, preventing the air from becoming too dry (especially in Winter months). There are studies that suggest that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin (!) colds, sore throats and dry coughs.
4) Plants are medicine.
Bringing flowers or a plant while visiting a hospital patient may sound cliché, but one study, conducted at Kansas State University, found that viewing plants during recovery from surgery led to a significant improvement as evidenced by lower blood pressure, and less reported pain, anxiety, and fatigue as compared to patients without plants in their rooms.
5) They help you work better.
Being around plants improves concentration, memory and productivity. Being “under the influence of plants” can increase memory retention up to 20 percent, according to a University of Michigan study. Two Norwegian studies found that workplace productivity is greatly enhanced by the presence of plants in the office. “Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration. Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.”
Affordable Home Décor that’s good for your health? We’re sold.
*Excerpts taken from TreeHugger.com
We love our children. And we are especially charmed by the art they create. So sweet! But children can be fairly prolific artists and if you try and keep everything they make at school and at home, you will need to rent a separate storage unit just to keep it all. Have you ever asked your Mother for that box of your old art projects from school? Exactly.
So, you need a system. We’ve moved countries at least 3 times and each time, we have to edit down some of the precious artwork that the boys have done. But I hate to lose those memories and all of that special work they were once so proud of, so instead of keeping it all, I archive it.
1. Photos: After your child’s work has taken Pride of Place on the fridge, mantelpiece or bedroom dresser for a suitable amount of time, it's ready to be "archived". If it’s especially special, then, by all means, keep it in a clear Perspex display box (or better yet, give it to grandma)! But if that painted clay turtle is destined to live forever in a box in the attic, just shoot it instead! Take a great photo of it and keep a photo file with the name of the author, title of the piece and the date it was made. My boys get a real kick out of “naming” their works. They are endlessly pleased to see their long forgotten projects on my computer. So professional
2. Start a special Art Archive Box for those few pieces that you really can’t bear to part with. Try and limit it to one box per child, and once each box reaches capacity, it’s a one in, one out policy. Let them choose what to keep, but be firm and make sure you photograph and archive the outs!3. Exhibit: If all else fails and you are still overrun with various art projects, you can always hold an exhibition gallery night! They can “sell” their art to family and friends and display the rest. IKEA shelving was practically made for this purpose. After a year or so, you’ll be surprised how little they care for it once they need room for their laptops and skateboards.
When done with all of this a quick once over the house with the essential 6 set will bring your sanctuary back to beautiful from a crazy creative studio…