Crush and I just returned from Chicago. As I mentioned in my last post, I had the final wedding of my Chicago career, a super awesome New Year's Eve bash. The wedding went off without a hitch, but the weather....OY OY OY. I am super glad that at the last minute, I decided to save the airline tickets (Southwest, you rock my world) and drive. Crush and I make quite a road trip pair and Chicago airports are always highly messed up when it comes to terrible weather since Chicago is the major middle city (location middle) in the country and local and far away weather causes an epic domino effect of flight cancellations. True story, I have had flights delayed for nearly 3 days. I always feel awful for the people who can't go back home to wait out their departures.
Instead of the little 8 day Chicago trip Crush and I planned, we ended up in Chicago for just about 2 weeks because the weather made it impossible to leave. First snow. Then arctic cold. Then some more snow. By the time we got the pass to go (one of the major highways we needed to use in Indiana was closed for 2 days), I nearly flew out the door. Being cooped up in a house for days on end will do that to you even though I loved my company (former roomies aka the folks and the man I am marrying in 9 months).
My mom couldn't stop gushing about how much she enjoyed having Crush for the visit. This is a women who secretly HATES company. My mom is very particular about how she keeps her home (super clean and tidy and sanitary at all times) and having people over (and having her adult daughter live with her....) causes her stress beyond belief. My mom likes to say that her own grandmother died of hospitality because people were always stopping by her apartment in New York because she was such a wonderful hostess and cook, but inside she hated it. The verdict is out on this theory, my dad said she died of a stroke, may she rest in peace.
So, why was Crush such a great guest? What did he do that made my mom so comfortable that she invited us to watch movies in her bed? Why did his presence help my mom calm down enough that she stayed in her pajamas (as she should have) on our snow days? Most importantly, what was it about Crush that helped her avoid having a public guest related meltdown that I was secretly expecting and even warned Crush about?
I asked my dear mommy and this is what she had to say about why Crush was such a great guest:
1. Bring a gift. As I get older, I think this is a given. If you are planning to stay at someone's house, even for dinner, bring a little something. A bottle of wine or champagne, a little treat from your city (I like to bring Carol's cookies or Garrett's popcorn sometimes, they are both Chicago yummies), a cute knickknack for the home, or even treat your hosts to a dinner out on the town at one of their favorite restaurants. Here are a few cute gift ideas for under $30.00. If you are on a budget, a simple thank you note for your hosts as soon as you arrive shows appreciation. And that is the point of a hostess gift. It shows that you appreciate the hospitality being bestowed upon you. My mom loved the Charleston pecan sampler Crush gifted her with as soon as he walked through the door. She said it set the tone for a sweet (ahhhh) visit. Just remember, that you still need to send a thank you note after you leave. Put it in the mail the day you get home, so you won't forget! PLEASE NOTE: My mom would have been fine without any gift, truly. Or a used tissue or a popsicle stick. But, the nuts made her feel special and thought of and that is the point!
2. Follow the flow of the house. The is a super important one. Do as your hosts do. If you hosts retire to bed early, do the same. If you aren't ready to sleep, head to your quarters and read a book or watch some TV or your laptop, remember to bring headphones in the instance that you don't have a private room, so you don't bother everyone with the bitch fights from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Before bed, inquire about what time your hosts plan to start their day and what the plans for the next day are. One of the worst things about having guests, can be that the hosts get their routine interrupted. Be aware that your presence is a treat, but also sometimes a bit of an inconvenience and be sensitive to that. If you are staying in a place that doesn't have many bathrooms, coordinate shower schedules in advance. If your hosts have to work during the duration of your stay, make yourself scarce when they are trying to make it out to the office or even wake up early and make your hosts coffee. If your hosts are retired like my parents, wake up when they do and join them for a long breakfast and many cups of coffee!
3. Be easy going about about food. Crush eats everything and loves food, so cooking for him is simple. I told my mom the things he won't eat (fish and shellfish because he hates the taste), so she knew what not to prepare while he visited. As someone who is always watching calories and now tries to avoid gluten when possible, I bring my own food when I can. I also fund my own grocery shops away from home when I have access, but I loosen up my own particular needs when I can. If a food won't kill me or cause me great physical pain, I try to go with the flow as it is just a meal and I am getting food and shelter for free. If you cannot eat certain things, make it known in advance. If you need to cook for yourself, be clear about it. I think the less surprises you spring on your hosts right when you arrive, the better. You want to be the least annoying guest as possible and the world doesn't revolve solely around you.
4. Keep your room and bathroom clean and tidy. This is a given, but I have seen this one abused many times. I admittedly had to help Crush with this because as I have mentioned, he is a slob, though he is getting tons better.... Make you bed in the morning, keep your clothes neatly in your suitcase or hung in the closet in your room (if you have one), wipe down the bathroom vanity, hang up your damp towels, don't leave your toiletries all over the place. Bring a laundry bag for your dirty laundry and don't assume that you have full access to the washer and dryer unless the host in question is someone you feel comfortable asking to either do your laundry or allow you to use their appliances (I only feel comfortable doing my own laundry at my folks or sister's). Be respectful to your hosts machines especially if they have babies or small children as they will be doing laundry constantly and often have a system going. I like to keep my room viewing ready. This means that once you get up and dressed, you should leave your room looking almost exactly like it looked like when you arrived minus your personal belongings.
5. Be a part of the group. Crush is always down for whatever, so he aced this one! If your hosts like to play board games or cards and ask you, join in. Even if you don't know the rules, be open to learn them. If your hosts ask you to watch a movie or TV show, be a good sport. If they want to make you a special meal or snack, accept graciously (same rules go for the dietary jazz above....don't eat shellfish if shrimp can kill you, but you get the idea). If your hosts want to take you to a historic site in their town or city that they think you will enjoy, be a pal and experience it. One thing that makes you a bad house guest is if you use your hosts place only as a hotel and don't plan to spend any time with them. If you want a total solo or couple trip, then you should save and stay at private accommodations, so you can come and go exactly as you please!
Remember as I said, send a thank you in a timely fashion after you depart. I wish you many happy visits in the future with repeat invitations to come and stay again!