Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 31

When I started this journey of 31 Days of Hospitality I really had no clue what I was getting into.  Sure, I was going to blog about this one topic for a whole month.  No problem.  Well, it really was no problem but it was challenging and I had never blogged everyday for a whole month before.  There were days when I thought I was at the end and could do no more on this subject.  Then something would come to my mind out of the blue that I hadn't thought of before.  i really had to think outside the box some days.  Around day 18 or so my sister emailed me some ideas just in case I didn't have a topic for each day.  Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't.  And that was the boost I needed to finish.  I actually still have a few more days I could blog on this subject.  But I won't. :)

I hope everyone has enjoyed the topic and maybe come away with some new ideas.  I appreciated all the comments that I have gotten.  I look forward to doing this again but I am glad it's 11 months away! 

Thanks to the Nester for putting this challenge out there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 30-Getting Ready for the Holidays...

Gourds with ribbon and welcome

Halloween is tomorrow.  Then we will head into Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah & KwanzaaThe prime entertaining season.  I am sure we all take on too much during this time of year. Baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping, cards, shipping, volunteering, shopping, traveling, more shopping.  And entertaining.  ON TOP OF WHAT WE DO EVERYDAY to keep things humming along: cleaning, cooking, laundry, working, volunteering.  You get the idea.  We are stretched t h i n during the holiday season.  I don't know about you but the entertaining part is my favorite.  What's a girl to do?

We all know the answer is to say 'no' more often, right?  Easier said than done for sure.  But every year, right about this time, I vow to have things run smoother and calmer than last year.  As I was hauling my supply of Christmas wrapping paper through Target yesterday I was getting some looks.  I know what they were thinking, 'Lady, here we are dragging our kids through the store looking for a Halloween costume and you are buying Christmas wrapping paper.  What's up with that?'  What's up is that I want things to run smoother and calmer than last year so in order for that to happen I start early.   It's the only way I can do this Christmas thing without losing it.  And sometimes I still lose it a bit.

I want to be able to have people over, even last minute, during the hustle and bustle of this season.  Enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend before a big bake fest.  Have friends over for dinner without worrying about all the stuff  I have to do.  How on earth will this serenity happen?

First off, I make a list of everything I have to do from November 1st to January 1st.  Use whatever format works for you: paper, electronic, both!  A great website to help you get started is called Orgainzed Christmas.  If you've never been there you need to check it out.  They have all kinds of printables to help get you started on your list making.  Once you have your to do list in front of you, pull out your calendar and give everything a date to be done by.  Break things down as managably as you can.  Delegate if you can.  YOU don't have to do everything.  Your family can help or you can hire things out if you want.  Just make sure you do it now - lots of housecleaners, bakeries, caterers, etc get booked up quickly this time of year.  Make sure you also check your kids' school calendars - there are lots of festivals, programs and parties this time year at school and you don't want to miss anything.

Here comes the hard part - once you have everything you need to do written down on your calendar, cross out two of those things.  That's right, you will be saying no to two things on your list.  When you say 'no' to something you are saying 'yes' to something else.  Trust me, you will be happy you did this.  You decide what the two things are.  Once you have crossed two things off your to do list it's time to get moving.  I check my list @ night so I know where things stand for the next day.  I try (hard to do here) to get up a bit early each day to start off with some quiet time.  It really makes a difference for me - 15-20 minutes usually does it.

If you look back at the rest of the hospitality series you will find ideas to help you get ready for your guests while still working on your list.  Being organized through this holiday season will help you enjoy yourself & your family more than ever.

I would love to hear your tips on staying sane throughout the holiday season.

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 29-The Party's in the Kitchen...

It seems like just about every party ends up in the kitchen.  Big or small, it doesn't seem to matter.  Should it?  Does it matter to you?  Sometimes it's hard to steer the guests to another room.  Sometimes it's downright impossible.  If you want to get the group to mingle with your other rooms, try these ideas:
  • Move the drinks out of the kitchen.  Try to set up a 'drink station' in another room.  We have a wet bar in our living room area.  This is a perfect place for us to set up drinks.  You can also set up a drink station on a table in the living room or great room- just remove your usual decor from that table and set the drinks up there.  You can even add a small card table to a corner and make that your drink area.  Likewise, you can take it all outside. 
  • Move the food out of the kitchen. Same idea as moving the drinks out.  Be creative - look at your space and see how you can accommodate the food with the tables you already have.  I actually love the idea of setting food out on the coffee table.  Unless you have pets.  Yes, I learned that one the hard way.  But the dog loved the cheese dip! :)
  • When the weather is nice take the whole party outside.  Have your guests enter the yard and not the house.  Basically keep them out of the house! Sometimes this is the only way to keep the group out of the kitchen.
  • Make sure you have seating in the living room/great room/den/basement.  If your only seating is in the kitchen then people will naturally flock there.  I have been known to take the dining chairs and barstools into the living room to encourage people to mingle in there.
And sometimes no matter what you do people will migrate to the kitchen.  I am not sure it's always a bad thing.  Especially if you need help in there...

If you have missed any of my 31 Days post you can find them here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 28-Quiet Inspiration

Image Coastal Living

Image Southern Living

Image Coastal Living

Image Coastal Living

Image Coastal Living
A little quiet inspiration for your Friday.

More of my 31 Days posts can be found here.  Other bloggers are also taking part in this series.  They can be found here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 27-Relaxing

As I was looking at the other 31 Dayers posts last night I came upon one of Melissa's posts that I really enjoyed.  We are all giving tips, advice, inspiration, etc on a certain topic for 31 days.  A whole month.  That's a long time.  A long time to write on one topic and a long time to read the same topic.  Melissa talks about how overwhelming her 31 Days of holiday inspiration might be.  Lots of  to-do's to consider during the month.  She suggested that her readers take a break.  Disconnect.  Relax.  Read a book.  Savor this fall season.  So, being the copy cat that I am, I am suggesting the same.  In the blink of an eye we will all be running around trying to get a thousand things done for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and New Years. It's time to enjoy what's left of fall.  Read.  Drink tea.  Play with your kids.  Spend time with your husband.  Take in a movie.  Jump in the leaves.  You get the idea.

Tomorrow my husband & I are going to see Darius Rucker in concert.  I cannot wait!!  My husband's birthday is Saturday and Halloween is Monday so there are lots of festivities coming this way.  Tomorrow's 31 Days post will be some quiet inspiration for your upcoming holiday entertaining.  Saturday will find me yapping talking about some hospitality ideas to take you into the busy holiday season.

I'd love to hear how you unwind or relax!  If it's by reading my 31 Days posts you can find the rest of them here! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 26- When you're too tired to cook...

Image Coastal Living

Sometimes the last thing you feel like doing is entertaining.  Sometimes it doesn't matter, you have to put on your happy face and serve up some dinner!  Spur of the moment guests drop by.  Your husband calls to say he's bringing a client home (does this only happen on TV?)  You had a busy, crazy day but it's your night to host Bunco.  It happens to all of us at some time.  Being prepared for anything can help keep the chaos at bay. Let's look at these 3 scenarios:

A spur of the moment guest drops by:  Since we are a family of 3 we always have leftovers.  Which means there is always enough for an extra person or 2.  If that's not the case at your house and you've started dinner when your guest arrives, you need to add to your menu.  It's not always easy to thaw an extra piece of chicken or fish.  But if you keep some frozen veggies on hand you can pull out a bag and add another veggie.  Same with a box of rice.  Make your salad a bit bigger. For your meat I would suggest slicing it and placing it on a platter instead of giving each person a chicken breast or fish fillet.  It will go a longer way when sliced like this.

Your husband is bringing a client home:  I would suggest doing a similar thing as above.  Frequent travelers often appreciate any home cooked meal.  I always keep a brownie mix on hand in case I need a quick dessert.  I have found that most people love brownies and always seem impressed that I made them myself!

Girls Night at your house:  Things I always keep on hand: cheese, crackers, popcorn, raw veggies (carrots, peppers, cukes), sour cream.  Pop some corn, slice the cheese & veggies and whip up a quick sour cream based dip, make some iced tea and you are ready in a flash.

So, on the nights you can't just give the family cheerios and a glass of oj make sure your pantry's stocked with a few basics and people will think you're a genius.  We all are, aren't we?

Find more of my 31 Days posts here.  Check out the other bloggers taking part in this series here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 25-Invitations

Holiday Party Circle Cards Cookie Circle - Front : UmberInvitations are my favorite part of throwing a party.  There are so many options out there.  I LOVE the idea above for a cookie swap (from Tiny Prints). 

Flat Holiday Party Invitations Embroidered Holiday - Front : Ruby This Holiday Party invite (also from Tiny Prints) is really fun, too.

When doing your invites there is some important info you don't want to leave out:
  • Type of party & who it's for.  For a Christmas or Holiday Party it's pretty cut and dry.  For a birthday choose something like: Hailey's 3rd Birthday Party!  Again, pretty simple.  Just make sure your guests know what they are invited to.
  • Date & Time.  I like to add the day (as above) as well as the calendar date.  For a child's party I always include a begin and end time.  If you don't people will linger - this may include little people whose parent has dropped them off - you need to know when they will return!  For an adult party in the evening I usually don't put an end time.  Most people (at least those in my age group) will start departing around 11:30 or so.  If you're okay with that then I would leave it open.  If not, state an end time.
  • Place.  At the very least you need a street name and number.  Our town is isolated so I don't put the town but if you live somewhere where one town goes into another and people will be coming from all around I would list the town name.  For LM's parties I always write 'LM's house -123 Oak St' so people know it's at a home.  If it's not at a home you should name the business to make it easier to find - (ie. Chuck E Cheese, 123 Oak Street, Hooterville)
  • Hosted by.  This is kind of optional.  If you have stated 'Hailey's 3rd Birthday Party' your guests will assume that Hailey's parents are hosting.  If you have stated 'Holiday Party' you should list your name as the host.
  • RSVP.  I always say 'RSVP by date to Debra at xxx-xxxx.  Be prepared to have some guest not RSVP - sad, I know but it happens.

If you order your invites on line most companies will show you a proof before you complete your order.  I love this!  If you make your own invites or buy the fill in type I suggest writing our your info on a sheet of paper before writing on the invites.

If you have missed any of my 31 Days posts you can find them all here.  Other bloggers are taking part in the 31 Days series too.  Check them out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 24-Traditions

Image Donna Hay

Traditions are important.  They make people feel comfortable.  With the holiday season around the corner many of us will be partaking in decades old family traditions.  From what we serve at Thanksgiving to where we spend New Year's Day, traditions are often what makes the holiday the holiday.

When my husband and I got married I added his Thanksgiving food tradition - yams (from a can) with marshmallows - to my family's traditional Thanksgiving fare.  The year I made homemade cranberry sauce (it was good), my dad asked where the cranberry sauce was, 'the kind with the lines'.  Traditionally, we served Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce & I tried to change that.  As good as that homemade sauce was, it wasn't our tradition.

On Christmas Eve we have the tradition of opening one gift.  Only one.  No more, no less.  Since my husband's family does Secret Santa on Christmas Eve we have the one gift picked out for us: it's our Secret Santa gift.

While some traditions date way back, most young families will start their own traditions once they have kids.  A few years back we started making these sticky buns for Christmas morning breakfast & New Year's Day breakfast (they're that good).

Some of our other holiday traditions include:
  • LM and her dad carving the Halloween pumpkin.  Other than taking the pictures, I don't get involved.
  • Christmas cookies - we spend a Saturday making cut-out cookies and decorating.
  • One night in December we hop in the car, bundle up (who am I kidding?  There's no bundling up around here!) and drive around to look at lights.  Our paper has something called 'Christmas Tree Lane' and people send in their addresses indicating they will participate and the paper publishes them one Sunday so we know exactly where to head.
  • Make a gingerbread house.  Again this has turned into something for LM and her dad to do.
What kind of holiday traditions do you share with your family?

If you have missed any of my 31 Days posts you can find them here.  Check out hundreds of other bloggers participating in the 31 Days series.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 23-No Children...

Some events you will host and some you be invited to will be ones that are 'adult only'.  Living in a time when (in my opinion) children are taken just about anywhere without regard to appropriateness,  you are bound to offend someone when your event is deemed 'adults only'.

Our wedding was adults only.  My husband & I both liked the idea and since we weren't having a flower girl or ring bearer it seemed appropriate.  I thought we would get some grief from some of this (12) siblings but they loved the idea of a 'date night'; an excuse to get a sitter.

There was a little to do when my husband's cousin tried to bring his (toddler) children to the reception. They didn't bring them to the wedding ceremony but tried to sneak them into the reception. Because we wouldn't notice the only two little people at all...  One of these children was the same one that almost knocked over the tall lit candle sconces my sister-in-law had at the end of the pews at her wedding a few months earlier.  As I caught the candle holder, keeping it from falling on myself and other guests, I made the decision that an adult wedding was just what I wanted (especially if this little guy was going to be attending).  My husband nicely told his cousin and his cousin's wife that the reception was adult only (it was printed on the invitations) and they would not be able to come in with the children.  I guess they were okay with it since they came back later without the kids. 

Since LM was born most of our parties have been kid friendly with the exception of my husband's 40th birthday party.  Again most people were happy to have a date night and enjoy the company of other adults without having to worry about the kids.  There was an issue with 1 friend not getting a baby sitter (there's always one, right?) but we held firm and everyone had a good time.

There have been times when we have been invited to adult only events and have had to get a sitter.  There have been times when we couldn't get a sitter and either we didn't attend an event or one of us went and the other stayed with LM. 

I will say that infants are the exception to the rule when I am hosting a 'no children' event.  Especially nursing infants.  They usually just sleep and I always have a quiet room available for the mom to nurse and the baby to sleep.  I know I always appreciated that when LM was small.

How do you handle 'no children' situations as a hostess?  Do you even host these type of events if you are a parent?

Find my other 31 Days posts here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 22- Books

I feel that a lot of inspiration can be found in books.  I wanted to share three of my favorites with you.  The first one is an oldie but goodie.  First published in 1982, Entertaining by Martha Stewart is one of my favorites and one of my first entertaining books.  Twenty-nine years later it is still relevant.  One of the first chapters called Entertaining with Style covers everything from making guests comfortable and creating an ambiance to setting the table and making food look beautiful.  She has menus and ideas for a cocktail party, Thanksgiving for eight and much more.  I find this a lovely shower gift for the bride who wants to entertain.

Frugal Luxuries by Tracey McBride is kind of like a manual for me.  I have post it notes on quite a few pages.  The idea of the book is that you can live and eat well without spending a fortune.  And this includes entertaining and hospitality.  One of my favorite sections is called A Harvest Calendar which lists by month when each fruit, vegetable & seafood is in season.  Truth be told, if the store is selling asparagus for $4.99 a pound, you know it's not in season.  But I love being able to reference this list for more questionable fruits & veggies.  This book was written in 1997 when frugality wasn't quite as 'trendy' as it is now.  I am glad I have kept this one on the cookbook shelf for all these years.

Who doesn't love Susan Branch?  I have most of her books, in which she mixes recipes with decorating and entertaining ideas as well her beautiful drawings.  My go to book of hers right now is her Autumn book.  It just gets you in the mood for Autumn (even when it's still in the 90's - will it ever cool off here?)  If you haven't experienced one of her books, this is the perfect place to start.

Do you have a favorite entertaining, hospitality or cook book?  I'd love for you to share.  Leave a comment or go to my facebook page and leave a comment there.

See the rest of my 31 Days posts here,  Find the other bloggers taking part in this series here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 21-Signature Drinks

If you entertain alot (and even if you don't) it's fun to have a 'signature drink'.  I never had one until I was in a Bunco group and the hostess was to provide the drinks.  Most of my friends had fun things like margaritas & martinis when they hosted our group.  Since wine is really our signature drink I had to find something for Bunco that was a little more signature-y.  Once again, came to the rescue.  That's where I found the Red Rooster.

Red Rooster

Makes 1 serving

1 cup ice cubes
2 fl oz vodka
4 fl oz cranberry juice
1/2 fl oz orange juice

Fill a tall glass with ice, pour in vodka & cranberry juice.  Top with orange juice.  Stir.

I have also quadrupled this and put it in a pitcher.  To share, not just for me!

Emeril Lagasse also makes a slushy version of the Red Rooster.  I haven't made it but it looks yummy too.

Do you have a signature drink?

You can find my 31 Days posts here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 20-Thank You Notes...

Image Crane

 Thank You Notes.  When you are on the receiving end of hospitality, whether as a guest for the weekend or just for dinner, a thank you note is a must.  I am a stickler on this one.  A hostess gift does not take the place of a note.  A phone call is nice but it is not a thank you note.  An email is also not a thank you note.  Either is a (gasp) text.  In my opinion, a gesture of hospitality requires a thank you note.  Hand written.  On stationery.  Nothing else will do.

What you write your note on is personal.  Monogrammed or personalized stationery is always appropriate.  A thank you card from Hallmark is fine as long as you add a personal note of thanks along with the pre-written message.  The idea of the thank you note is to extend  gratitude to your host/hostess for taking the time to invite you into his or her home.  It should be heartfelt and sincere.

Image Crane

As a parent, one of the most important things we can do is teach our children to be gracious.  Teaching them from a very young age to write thank you notes will serve them well throughout their lives.  If our family goes to dinner at a friend's home I will write a note for the whole family.  But we have a rule in our house that a gift is not played with & a check is not cashed until a thank you note is written.  I got some flack from the beginning from LM about this but as the years go by she gives me less and less.  And my hope is that when she spends the weekend at her college roommate's parent's home down the road the first thing she'll think to do is write a thank you note.

Image American Stationery

As I said, stationery is personal.  For myself I like the basics.   A cream foldover with my monogram.  I have other, cuter, more exciting notes too - for variety.  For a family/couple thank you we have a cream foldover that says 'Mr & Mrs xxxxxx'.  And LM has her own personalized notes.  Of course, she likes more exciting stuff than I do.  But we try to compromise when it's time to shop!

On the Nate Berkus show I once saw him say that he will often frame a very special note so he likes to use flat cards.  I love that idea.  I plan on ordering flat notes the next time I need some.

There are TONS of places to order notes.  Crane has been around forever.  I like American Stationery as they have great service and reasonable prices.  And lets face it, even reasonable monogrammed stationery may cost more than we can spend at times, so the $1 bins at Michael's always has a fun selection.

Find my other 31 Days of Hospitality posts here.  There are hundreds of other bloggers taking part in this series.  They can be found here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 19-Breakfast for your guests...

A few years, right before Christmas, I was watching Good Morning America when Ina Garten made her Sticky Buns.  I got the recipe from the GMA website and those sticky buns have been my 'go to' recipe for holiday breakfasts as well as when we have guests.  I usually make them 5-6 times a year-they're a special recipe here @ September Acres.  We could eat them every week but then they wouldn't be special.  You can find the recipe here.  You won't regret making them!

Do you have a special recipe you make for your overnight guests?

If you've missed any of my 31 Days of Hospitality posts you can find them here.  The rest of the 31 Dayers can be found here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 18-Who Invited You?

I'm sure we've all encountered it:  the uninvited guest.  The only way the gracious hostess can handle this (in my opinion) is to smile and nod and welcome the uninvited guest into your home.  After all, in most cases the uninvited guest was brought to your soiree by one of your friends.  They most likely have no clue you have no clue they are coming, right?

For this reason, I always make sure I have prepared a little extra food and provided a little extra drink.  On top of that you can usually count on one of the guests you planned on having at your event being unable to come at the last minute.  So, in theory, you should always have a little extra for those uninvited guests.

How do you handle the uninvited guest?

My other 31 Days posts can be found here.  The other 31 Dayers can be found here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 17 - Accidents Happen...

Every once in a while accidents happen while we are entertaining.  A broken wine glass or dish or a spill.  I would be lying if I said these accidents are avoidable.  They aren't.  If you entertain you will, at some time, encounter some breakage or something involving the carpet cleaner. 

My first bit of advice for any hostess is to put away anything you would be devastated to lose.  Everything else is fair game.  That's it. 

Once you have put all your valuables in a safe place think about how you would handle a breakage.  Remember, you are a gracious hostess and should act as such.  None of our friends will intentionally break or damage our 'stuff'.  Smile, say 'it's okay, it was an accident', clean up any glass quickly and worry about the rest later.  We never want our guests to feel bad or as if we are mad at them for any type of accident.

Have you had any damages to deal with as a hostess?  How did you handle them?

My other 31 days posts can be found here.  I'm joining these other bloggers in this challenge.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 16-Hostess Gifts...

Sometimes we are on the other side of hospitality.  We are the guests, the visitors, the recipients of a gracious deed.  When I am invited to someone's home for a weekend or just for dinner I like to bring a hostess gift.  

While I try to tailor the gift to the hostess (or host) there are some universally accepted (and welcomed) gifts.  In no particular order:
  • Wine - my number one, all time favorite gift to take to a hostess (and receive as well!).  Unless she is not a wine drinker.
  • Liquor - we are not liquor drinkers so we seldom give this but if I know that my hostess loves something special and is not a wine drinker I will venture over to the liquor area.
  • Home baked goodies - I love to share some good cookies or a cake.  This pumpkin cake would be especially nice during the fall season.
  • Candles - Most people I know like candles and a seasonal scent is usually a welcome treat.
  • Flowers or a plant- unless allergies are an issue I love this idea.
These are usually 'safe' gifts that most hostesses will enjoy and appreciate.  Do you have a 'go to' hostess gift you like to give?  What's your favorite hostess gift to receive?

There are 15 days of hospitality before this one.  If you've missed any you can find them here.  There are many more bloggers taking part in this series.  Find them here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 15-The Symbol of Hospitality...

 I guess we all know that the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality.  But have you ever wondered how that came to be?  This is what I've found out:

In 1493 Columbus brought a pineapple back to Renaissance Europe from the Caribbean Island of Guadalupe.  At this time Europe was largely devoid of sweet foods, including fresh fruit.  The pineapple became popular over the years.  In the 1600's, King Charles posed for an official portrait receiving a pineapple as a gift.

In Colonial America hostesses would set out a pineapple on their dining tables when they had visitors.  The pineapple would become dessert at the end of an evening.   Often colonial grocers would rent pineapples to hostesses desperate to make an impression on their guests and appear to be of a higher financial status than they were.  After the pineapple was returned to the grocer it would be sold to a more affluent customer who could afford to buy and eat the pineapple.  Regardless of social and economic status, visitors to homes that displayed a pineapple felt honored that the hostess spared no expense on their behalf.

These days the pineapple is still considered the symbol of hospitality.  We see this in carved decor, furniture and stationery as well as on the tables of our hostesses.

If you have missed any of my posts during the 31 days series you can find them here.  Check out the other 31 Days posts at the Nesting Place.

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 14-Pumpkin Cake

So much of hospitality revolves around food, doesn't it?  So I thought I should share this pumpkin cake recipe that I recently made.  It is delish and without frosting it can also be called pumpkin bread!
I found the recipe at  I am a huge fan of this website.  I have made quite a few things from recipes I have found there and have yet to be disappointed.
(just a note on this cake:I reduced the sugar from 2 1/2 cups (yikes, that's a lot of sugar!)of white sugar to about 3/4 cup of white & 3/4 cup of brown. Tastes great- and not too sweet.)

This cake/bread is perfect to serve during coffee with friends, take to a potluck or new neighbor or even decorate like the above photo (from to take to a Halloween party.  It's really tasty!

If you've missed any of my 31 Days posts you can find them here.  The other really cool 31 Days participants are found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 13- Southern Hospitality...

 Southern Hospitality.  Just the sound of it is nice.  It conjures up visions of men holding doors for ladies, people smiling and saying 'hi' on the sidewalk, men giving up their seat on the bus for ladies and welcoming new neighbors to the neighborhood.  Just all around being polite and friendly.

After living in the south for much of my life, I guess I just took that all for granted.  Moving to the Southwest was a real culture shock - and not just the summer heat!  I'm not sure if it's because most Arizonans moved here from somewhere else - being the 48th state admitted to the union means most of us aren't 'natives'.  Since it's kind of a 'melting pot' there's no southern hospitality, Yankee ingenuity, Midwest values; just lots of everything from everywhere. 

No one's grandma has lived her for all of her 90 years (at least not in our town).  An 'old' house was built in the '60's, not 1910.  There's not that same history that you have in Savannah or Charleston.  I have never heard a child say 'yes mam' to his or her mother.  My own daughter looks at me like I'm off my rocker when I tell her to say yes mam or yes sir (a real work in progress).  It's just different.  And not always in a good way.

Southern Hospitality is a good thing.  It's nice for people to be friendly, bring us a muffin basket when we move into the neighborhood, hold the door as we're leaving the bank.  Unfortunately, it happens all too seldom.  Even southerners may have noticed a change over the years.  But I hope not.  I still like to think that ideal is still alive and well in Dixie.

If you have missed any of my 31 Days posts you can find them here.  The rest of the 31 Dayers are listed here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 12-Favorite Things...

 On Day 6 of the 31 Days of Hospitality I talked about overnight guests.  I mentioned the things that help make your guests feel at home.  I thought that today I would mention some of my favorites.  I am not getting a thing for mentioning these products, they're just faves of mine and when I find something I love I like to share.

Towels: Royal Velvet are my faves.  I prefer white towels but I know everyone has an opinion on colors.  For wash cloths I do like something darker since they usually get dirtier; taking off makeup and such things.  I remember reading years ago that Martha Stewart gets dark wash cloths and has them embroidered with the word 'makeup' so guests know to use those clothes for makeup and they're easier to keep looking clean than white.

Sheets:  I love the Pottery Barn Essentials line.  The prices are reasonable for good quality.  300 thread count sheets that are comfy.  Again I prefer white but they are available in a few other colors.
 Soap:  I love Caldrea's Basil Blue Sage.  Having hand soap and lotion is a nice touch for guests.  For bath soap I usually put out a bar I have from a hotel visit (a new, unopened one!).  They are small and I can toss them when the guests leave.  If you don't have any hotel soaps you should be able to find small bars at Target or the grocery in the travel/sample section.
 Candles: I always love a candle in the guest bath and also in the guest room if you have the space.  My all time favorite candle scent is Yankee's Buttercream.  It's good for all year long but during the holidays a cinnamon, pumpkin or apple is very festive.

What are some of your favorite goodies to leave out for your guests?

If you've missed any of my 31 Days series you can find everything here.  See the other 31 Dayers posts here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 11 - Quotes

I love quotes.  Quotes about anything.  A few quotes about hospitality caught my eye.

For 't is always fair weather
When good fellows get together
With a stein on the table and a good song ringing clear.
Richard Hovey
Let me live in my house by the side of the road, And be a friend to man.

Sam Walter Foss
When friends are at your hearth side met, 
Sweet courtesy has done its most   
If you have made each guest forget     
That he himself is not the host.  
 Thomas Bailey Aldrich Quotes
Image Better Homes and Gardens

If you have missed any of my 31 Days series you can find the posts here. Meet the other 31 Dayers here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 10 - Come on in...

 Yesterday, I talked about the outdoor entry way.  It's definitely the first impression that someone gets of your home.  An extension of your outdoor entry would be your indoor entry, or foyer.

                                         foyer:  an entrance hall or vestibule in a private house

I'm going out on a limb and saying that most of us don't have foyers like this:
 But more like this one below.  You will notice one thing they have in common is that they are neat and inviting.  Very welcoming to guests.  The perfect place to receive those guests.
Part of hospitality is feeling welcome in someones home.  A clean, tidy foyer is much more welcoming then one that is cluttered with shoes, backpacks, shoes, toys, shoes, etc.  Something we struggle with here is shoes (if you didn't notice!).  People kick off their shoes at the front door and there they stay.  Usually until Debra moves them.  If you are visiting someones home the last thing you want to greet you is a pair of shoes for every family member.

Make your foyer inviting by:
  • Clearing the area of 'stuff'.  Put the shoes away.  We have cubbies with baskets by the door for shoes. It helps a bit but I am usually putting shoes away sometime during the day. 
  • A small rug at the door helps keep from tracking dirt in to the house.
  • A small table (keep the size of your foyer in mind when picking it out) gives you a place to put keys and other small things when you come in.
  • Hooks for hanging jackets and handbags when you come in.
  • Setting out a bouquet of flowers or a scented candle.  Nothing says "I'm glad you're here" like flowers.
Take a look at your foyer and try to see it through the eyes of your guests.  Does it invite your guests in and make them feel welcome?

If you've missed any of my 31 days posts you can find them here.  Check out the other 31 Dayers here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 9 - A welcoming entry...

 As guests approach your entry way are they welcomed with an inviting sight or one that's a little 'blah' or messy?  I'm sure we've all been guilty of a messy entry way every now and then.  I know I have!  Fall is always a fun time to spruce up your entry way.  Mums are in abundance.  So are pumpkins.  Trick or Treaters will be coming around soon.  So will Thanksgiving guests.

After sweeping up around the entry way I brought out some of my Halloween goodies.  The chalkboard rocks fill an empty pot for now.  I hope to get some more mums- there were only 2 of the rust colored mums when I was shopping the other day so I think the rocks will work until I get more.

The most important thing to make your entryway welcoming is to make sure it's clean.  Sweep often.  Anything else just makes it special:
  • A wreath on your door.
  • Potted plants. 
  • A 'welcome' sign.
Keep the size of your entry way in mind.  Don't go crazy buying things that are too big (or too small) for your area.  Your entry way is the first impression your guests get as they walk up to your home.  Make it a great one...

If you've missed any of my other 31 Days of Hospitality you can find the whole list here.  Check out the other 31 Dayers here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

31 Days of Hospitality: Day 8 - Compassionate Hospitality

As I was doing research about hospitality and the bible, I came across an interesting phrase: compassionate hospitality.  A combination of the definitions of the two words, compassionate hospitality goes a bit beyond opening our homes to friends.  It is more focused on helping others than on entertaining others .  It is extending hospitality in a variety of ways. A few examples from the bible include:

  • The Jews came to comfort Martha and Mary after Lazarus' death (John 11:19)

  • Shobi, Machir and Barzillai brought couches, coverlets, basins and earthenware as well as food to   David and his people while they were in exile (2 Sam 17:27-29)

  •  Pharoah's daughter adopted baby Moses (Exod 2:6-10)

  • Job's friends journeyed to give him sympathy and comfort after his misfortune (Job 2:11-13)

  • How can you practice compassionate hospitality?
    • Taking meals to a friend or acquaintance who is ill, recovering from surgery, just had a baby, etc.
    • Providing clothing and household goods to someone who has had a home destroyed due to fire, natural disaster, etc.
    • Spending time with a friend after the death of a loved one.
    • Donating supplies to a the humane society.
    • Working in your church or community soup kitchen.
    • Watching a friend's children without expecting anything in return.
    Most of us have done some or all of these things at one time or another. And most of us have also been on the receiving end of compassionate hospitality. 

    You can find out more about compassionate hospitality at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

    How has compassionate hospitality touched your life?

    If you have missed the beginning of my 31 Days of Hospitality please see this post for info on the other days.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    31 Days of Hospitality: Day 7 - No guest room? No Problem

    Yesterday I talked about overnight guestsHolly had a question about how to make an office with an air mattress and inviting guest retreat.

    We all can't have that dedicated guest room.  What a luxury.  When we bought our house it was just my husband and me - and 4 bedrooms.  Plenty of room for a guest room and it was nice.  Then the guest room became a nursery and we had that, a master, a game room and and office.  At that point we moved the bed into the office.  Looking back I am not sure how we accomplished that.  But I know we didn't have as much stuff then so we had the room. Now the bed is in the shed and in it's place is 2 bookcases and scrapbooking cubbies.  What about our guests, you ask?  The guests now reside in the playroom (used to be a game room) on an air mattress.  How do we make that comfy?

    The principles are the same as when you have a dedicated guest room.  Clean sheets, clean towels, blankets, toiletry basket.  When using an office as your guest room the first thing I do is put away all the stuff.  No one wants to see your bills, checkbook, etc. so put it away.  Make sure there is plenty of flat space for your guests to use for their personal things.  It's all about keeping the room clutter free, or at least making it that way for your guests.

    Next, invest in an air mattress. They are fairly inexpensive so look around for a queen size one that fits into your space.  If not, a double will work.  Most of them are high enough now that you don't need the 'legs' but if you want one you can get a portable bed frame to raise up the bed.  Make the bed just like you would a regular one.   Try to have the bed close enough to a lamp so your guests don't have to get out of bed to turn off the light.  Sometimes office lighting is harsh so a nice small lamp is a good investment, even if you just take it out for the times your office becomes the guest room.

    Finish off the room with a small bouquet of flowers.  This will soften the room a bit and take away a bit of the office-y feeling.

    If you use your office as your guest room do you have any secrets to share?

    If you've missed any of my 31 Days posts you can find them here:

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    31 Days of Hospitality: Day 6 - Overnight guests

     Most of us have overnight guests once in a while.  And most of us have been an overnight guest our share of times.  When entertaining overnight guests I like to make them feel at home. To accomplish this I try to think of things that make me feel at home.  I don't get all crazy and think I need to have them feel as though they're at the Palazzo or something with robes and a mini bar but I want them to feel comfy. 

    Image Coastal Living

    Here's what I do:
    • Clean sheets.  I know we all think that's an obvious one.  Let me tell you a little story.  My family and I traveled to an unnamed destination to stay with unnamed people several years ago. Our hosts apparently purchased new sheets for the bed we were sleeping on - a nice gesture - but failed to wash them before putting them on the bed.  So for more than a few days we slept on these unwashed, chemically smelling sheets.  I didn't have the heart to say anything and never had an opportunity to sneak the sheets into the wash.  I will never forget that.  My dad always says 'clean clothes are dirty clothes'.  That goes for sheets (& towels) as well.
    • Clean towels. I generally offer one bath, one hand and one wash cloth.  Just like at a hotel!  But I know people have different towel requirements so I will let the guests know where the other towels are if they'd like to help themselves to them.  If someone stays for a few days I'll usually wash towels after the 3rd day unless there's a reason to do it sooner.
    • Extra Blankets.  Only in the winter since we're in Arizona.  In a colder climate I would offer one all year round.  I will place this at the end of the bed.
    • Toiletries. I will put a small basket out with shampoo conditioner, soap, bath gel, lotion.  We have oodles of these small size from travelling (yes, I am one of those who takes those things home.  I know some people call this stealing.  I don't.)  I also have small toothpaste tubes available.  I picked up a few of these after an unnamed guest took home one of our large tubes when they forgot their own toothpaste at home.  And while I don't put them out, I have a nice supply of toothbrushes.

    Before our guests arrive I ask them about any dietary requirements, allergies, etc.  I also ask about drinks since we have very little to drink here besides milk,coffee, tea, wine and water.  We don't buy soda or juice as a general rule but if a guest wants it I am more than happy to oblige.  Upon their arrival I show them around the kitchen and ask them to help themselves to anything.

    I think what I do is pretty basic.  Do you do anything different or more extravagant?  I'd love to hear...