How to Host House Guests

ImagePart 1 of my 2 part series posted on Mitten Stretcher. Cuz, ya know, we’ve all had really really good house guests… and some really really bad ones.

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It’s summertime, or as anyone living away from where they grew up refers to it, house guest season.Summer brings in guests like none other. College friends wanting a break from their normal pace, siblings on summer vacation, parents wanting to enjoy the beautiful weather and enjoy some scenery, that friend who’s constantly job searching, or someone needing a couch and a shoulder to cry on after a dramatic breakup. No matter the reason, if you live somewhere that has some level of excitement, people want to visit you. And they will.

So brace yourselves. House guests can be awesome, but they can also create some big rifts in a relationship.

Having lived in Washington, D.C. for three years, I’ve seen my share of house guests. But trust me, with a little thought and care, you can survive it, even if just barely. Here are some handy tips.

1) Define space. Everyone likes to know where they belong. And someone staying in your living room does too. Maybe they don’t have their own room, but they’re surely sleeping somewhere and need a place for their luggage. 

On arrival, let your guest know where their things belong and there’s a better chance they’ll follow your lead.

2) Point out the necessities. Maybe you’re working during the day, but your guest won’t be tagging along. Show them the necessities. A towel, extra toilet paper, snacks/ food that they’re welcome to and of course drinks that are theirs for the taking.

3) Be a better you. It’s really hard to expect guests to be super neat and tidy if you’re not. You need to set the expectation you have for them through example. Don’t want dirty cups left on your coffee table? You better make sure to load your dishwasher regularly and leave your shoes by the door, or be prepared for the worst. 

As much as I struggle with this sometimes, making your bed daily should be high up on that list. If you don’t cleanup your sleeping area, your guest surely won’t fold up their blankets on the air mattress. So make them think you’re neater than you really are.

4) Suggest activities. Face it, you aren’t always able to/ wanting to spend every second of your guest’s trip with them. But you still need to help them find things to do. A week or two before they arrive, send them an email with some suggestions to get them thinking. 

Pro-tip: keep a word document with a list of your favorite things to do in your city. Have contact information, directions and a sentence or two about it contained, and then edit the document to send to guests that are coming. It’ll save you time, but also make life easier for your guest.

5) Make an agenda-ish. Most people don’t like to live on a minute-by-minute schedule, but rough outlines work wonders in situations like this. I’m not saying plan out every bathroom break, but get an idea if you’re going to cook dinner on Saturday or go out somewhere; go to some sort of famous landmark during the day or patio-drink all afternoon.

You don’t have to print it out or put it into your phone’s calendar, but just outline what sorts of things could be done and then go for it.

6) You’re already doing a lot.  Ok, this is easier said than done for me. But you need to remember, you are giving your guest a free place to stay. In a place like D.C., that means saving them at least $100 a night. At least.

You are already doing a lot for them, and no matter how close they are to you, you should not feel the need to do everything for them during their entire stay. Making some meals is great, but it is completely reasonable to think and expect that they should do *something* to show a small sign of gratitude. Maybe it’s taking you to dinner, maybe it’s a nice bouquet of flowers, but something.

7) Live your life. Often, these friends or family that are coming to stay want to see your life. They want to know what bar you crawl into at last call, or how you typically spend a Saturday. Don’t feel the need to put on a fake show entirely for them, let them fold into your life.

This doesn’t mean letting them watch you readThe Catcher in the Rye all day on your couch, but it also doesn’t mean eating at the most expensive restaurants in town for every meal just to show off (well… unless that’s your goal, I guess.)

8) Give them spare keys. There is nothing worse than always needing to be within a few minutes from home, in case your guest resurfaces and needs to get into the house. Put a little trust in your friend and get spare keys made and clearly explain any lock particularities, or codes they’ll need for entry.

9) Keep it cool. It’s your home, they’re your rules. This applies to just about everything during house guest season. But really, set your thermostat at a level that would make you comfortable, but that also won’t kill your energy bill. Keeping your place fairly cool in the summer will also set the tone and hopefully your guest will get comfortable, instead of taking it upon themselves to adjust the air on their own.

10) Stock up on alcohol. Face it, no matter how amazing your friend may be, or how excited you are to see them, something’s not going to be perfect. They’re going to cramp your style, they’re going to mix up your routine, and well, it comes with the territory of house guests. So be ready to pour a strong , stiff drink at a moment’s notice.

Times like these call for maybe moving that $100 of single-barrel bourbon out of plain sight and stocking up on something more affordable that’ll do in a pinch, but is also drinkable.  Now start pouring, you’re going to need it.

See more of my postings on Mitten Stretcher.

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Stretch Your Michigan Love 

Stretch Your Michigan Love

When it comes down to it, everything I know came from Michigan. And hey, that good ol’ state has seen its ups and downs, but dammit, it’s not going anywhere. Some awesome folks just created a new site, www.mittenstretcher.com where they’re helping to spread the greatest news about Michigan to displaced Michiganders around the world.

I’m happy to be guest blogging from time to time, so go check out my rambling, or some of the other awesome articles about beer, vodka, bicycles and other awesome stuff.

Sour Cherry Pie with the Flakiest Gluten-Free Pie Crust Ever!

Once you’ve gotten used to baking with the “normal” ingredients of flours, sugars, milk, eggs, etc., the idea of changing that up can be rather frightening. And I have to admit, I’ve had some pretty big flops in the kitchen in the “non-traditional” baking world.

But, I just can’t quit. I welcome the challenge (not the frustration and shouting that often follows) and know it’s all about trial and error and patience. Yeah, that P-word is not one of my favorites…

But it’s summer, and there are few desserts that shout summer as much as a sour cherry pie.

Gluten-Free Cherry Pie

Gluten-Free Cherry Pie

It was a sad year for these beautiful fruits. My home state of Michigan, the state that grows more sour cherries than anyone else, suffered a huge loss of around 90% of their crop this year. A crazy warm front came in early spring, and then lots of frost followed it, so those baby buds couldn’t even compete. Hey, I’ve heard of this thing called global warming, have you?

Funny story, Michigan was actually somewhat able to survive, due to sour cherries imported from Poland. Rather interesting, but apparently the Polish variety are similar enough that the Michigan fruit production industry could make do.

Back to pie. Gluten free baking is definitely a challenge, or can be for a novice. But if you can set some time aside, as well as a pile of something to throw every now and then, you’ll do just fine. And the end result (even if the cherries are from the NW)? The flakiest, most delicious gluten-free crust ever.  Continue reading

Christmas Breakfast in February

This year's loaf of pannetone (and only $5 at Trader Joe's)

Pannetone is a marvelous Christmas bread. Each year when December rolls around, I have to find one. This Italian holiday tradition pops up at most grocery stores and gourmet shops the last few months of the years and is pretty hard to find the rest of the year. If you’re as big as a fan as I am, it may warrant stocking up when you can.

The buttery, flaky bread is filled with all sorts of dried fruits. But this past year, for whatever reason, my beautiful Christmas loaf sat lonely until well after the holiday.

But lucky for me, it holds up for a few months. But what to do with this caloric-beast? I mean, it’s buttery and sweet enough as it is, and can be perfect just lightly toasted, but that just won’t do.

But dipping it in an egg and milk mixture, dusted with cinnamon then drowned in Michigan maple syrup, now thats a winner.

Continue reading

My Best Bite II

So this isn’t exactly from this week, but I have to go back into my food archives and share this, I just can’t refuse.

When I was in Northern Michigan in late May, I *finally* was able to try local morels. Morel mushrooms are a delicacy that can be found in woody areas in the spring, and Northern Michigan is one of the best breeding grounds for these magical little guys.

They aren’t cheap, do realize that — but they are worth every cent. I am a pretty big mushroom fan typically, but the morels blew my early thoughts out of the water. I had them at LuLu’s Bistro in Bellaire which has also become one of my new favorite places. They were served sauteed, with a light custard, greens and crustini to bring it all together. Man, I wish I would have ordered more. Even though morel season has just about come to a close, if you can still get a hold of some of these, do yourself a favor and eat it.

Morel Mushrooms from LuLu's in Bellaire, MI