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Hospitality

I dreamt last night that the Jacket Tour (.pdf) participants were all staying at my mother's house, and I was completely freaked out first because my sister had not cleaned the litterboxes (FYI:  My mother does not have a cat) and there was litter tracked everywhere, and then, because one of the people on the tour had brought her young child, and the child had emptied all the litterboxes into my mother's indoor pool (FYI:  My mother does not have an indoor pool, nor an outdoor one, for that matter) where everyone was swimming.

Silly anxiety dreams aside, I really worry about things not being right or comfortable for my guests when they stay at the farm (or when they used to stay at the apartment, but it's so full of stuff now there's not room for a litterbox, let alone guests).  Harv and Vic came over for a couple of days last weekend, and Vic and I got to talking about what it's like staying at someone's house sometimes.  It can really run the gamut from desperately uncomfortable (no snacks/food you can eat, nowhere comfortable to sit, generally weird - though this is uncommon) to so comfortable you never want to leave (my personal aspiration), and I try very, very hard to keep the guest experience at my house on the positive end of the spectrum, sometimes to the point of being oversolicitous.

I know it's quite a silly thing, but I was heavily influenced by a small bit in Heinlein's novel I Will Fear No Evil (we'll leave aside the problematic elements in Heinlein's work for the moment; we're talking about hospitality) where the main character says that they always keep the guest bathrooms stocked with anything guests might need.  This seemed like an awesome idea to me at the time (I was eight), and still does, though sometimes the logistics are interesting with a house that we only visit twice a month or so (expired Rolaids, last time - did you know they go bad?  I certainly didn't).  I was also influenced by my paternal Grandmother, who had the most delightful guest rooms - comfortable beds, beautiful views, and a tin of biscuits (cookies) by the bed in case you got peckish during the night. 

(The giant black hairy spiders that got in were not her fault - they're a feature of country cottages in England, especially ones where roses grow up the house.  I had to go hunting with my hairbrush every night to kill the inevitable spider lurking somewhere, because the idea of a 3" black eight-legged creature cruising the room while I was asleep was way too much for me to take.)

One of my guest rooms is really small - the fault of the builders, who made the foundation on that side several inches too short, which resulted in a loss of several square feet in that room.  But, to compensate for that, I have 600 thread count sheets on the bed, and very soft, fluffy towels.  I plan someday to put in a memory foam mattress topper as well, for super-luxurious sleeping.  It is a small room for adults, but it's great for younger children, who need a quiet place to sleep.

The other guest room also has the nice sheets and fluffy towels, but also is big enough to move around in.  Someday it's going to be the SCA room/office, but for now, it's a guest room.  The guest bathroom is also small (thanks, builders!), but I try to keep it fully stocked with anything my guests might need, from ibuprofen to feminine products, to travel size shampoos and stuff.  It's always awkward to forget your own stuff, so I try to make it as complete as possible, down to extra toothbrushes just in case.

This litany of stuff is not to show off, but to illustrate how paranoid I am about my guests' comfort.  I keep all sorts of snacks and nice nibbles on hand, too - nothing is worse than having nothing good to eat in the house, as far as I'm concerned, and "good to eat" can run from fresh fruit and dippable veggies to oreo cookies and cupcakes, so I keep all sorts of things on hand.  The thing with being way out in the country is that there's nothing to do but enjoy the land, so making people comfortable is part of a successful visit.

After all, I want people to come back and visit again!  I love having guests.  When I was a child, we used to spend two-three weeks in the summer at my father's house in Bamburgh, Northumberland (it's now my brother's house), and part of the fun was inviting several friends to stay with us - there were multiple guest rooms, so we could fit a bunch of people in, and I loved big parties of people - we played cards, went swimming, put on "shows" (audience:  Long-suffering adults), and did all sorts of fun things, but it was always more fun with a bunch of kids (at least, it was for the kids). 

I'm also looking forward to spending a couple of days at my mother's house at the end of the Jacket Tour with pinkleader  - it's not only nice seeing family, it's great fun to have someone with me to tour London. 

People who don't know me well find me intimidating, but really, it's just awkwardness on my part; I love company, but I'm very self-conscious around people I don't know well because I'm worried I'm being boring and not a fun companion.  While I need my down time, I really, really love being with people, especially having guests at the farm.  It's just so nice chatting and sharing, and having fun (not to mention that Harv and Vic and all my lovely friends have also helped us out immensely with the house).  When I'm with a bunch of friends, I really feel happy.

So, I need to make my house as comfortable as possible, right?

My apprentice, lisettelaroux , is taking this concept to events, and she's loving it, even though it's a lot of work.  She puts on a gorgeous dayboard, provides chairs, a pavilion, and all sorts of creature comforts at events, and she's fabulous at it.  I'm so proud of her (and delighted to have a nice place to hang out), and she is versed enough to be able to handle moochers with aplomb (or to call me in if she needs backup), so that no-one takes undue advantage of her hospitality. 

Sure, taking care of guests is work, but the payoff is so worth all the effort - ten times, a hundred times worth it.  And having a place where people want to be, whether at the farm, or at an event is wonderful. 

Comments

( 12 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
ravena_kade
Sep. 8th, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC)
As I finally get compfortable in my house it is my goal to have an ultra comfy guest room as well, but I need to be careful as the room is also a studio for watercolor...if I am good it should stay neat. But I have been invited places and not fed...not that it is usually a huge deal, but at the time I had no car and they basically lived on a island with just a causeway to the rest of the land (at least an hour walk off the island and a 2 hour walk home in January) They were not ready to take us home untl a certain time, but offered no food. My sister and I still talk about it...meanwhile my mother tended ot offer guests food every 10 minutes ;-)
attack_laurel
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
Ooh - I hate that! I've been to people's places and not been offered food, but it's been a long time. I still remember it, though!
hsifeng
Sep. 8th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
I have a dear, dear friend who was brought up as a 'knight’s daughter' in the SCA. What this means (to her and those around her) is that she is a wonder at anticipating the needs others and at providing odd creature comforts. This becomes especially remarkable at events – where she can randomly produce the sort of things you don’t even realize you are missing from the “Real World” until you are out in the middle of nowhere with no access to anything you didn’t pack in 15 miles. *chuckle*

I would like to grow up to be her someday. :)
raventhourne
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
I grew up in the upper midwest so you always provided drinks and at least a nibble for any guest, no matter if they were unexpected or not. Heck on the farm we always had a pot of cowboy coffee (had egg white in the grounds so it could stay on the heat all day and not get bitter) for anyone wanting a cup. Our UPS and mailcarriers would come in and drop off packages and fill up a cup. Even if we weren't at home though usually out in the fields. (That house only just got door locks in the last 5 years)

When I first moved to AZ folks were very perplexed by the fact that I would always ask them if I could get them a drink or a piece of cake etc. It was so weird to be refused and people saying "oh, no, you don't have to bother" They thought it was weird. I didn't get that it wasn't "normal" in the southwest to have that. But I soon turned folks around. Heck if you end up at our house around dinner time you will be invariably be asked to have dinner. I feel rude if I don't ask. I was just brought up that way.

I too do the stuff in the bathroom, its just nice. What you do is just fine and alright in my book and my upbringing.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
I rather like the method that both my family and Carrie's family uses. If we invite you into our house, you're welcome to anything to eat or drink we have in the kitchen. With large families, everyone needs to fend for themselves. We try and let new guests know this when they walk in the door. Its taken some of our kid's friends that come by a long time to learn they don't have to ask before pouring themselves something to drink.

Brian
lady_guenievre
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
I envy that ability immensely - my tendencies towards packing very lightly and living a bit minimalistically means for myself, if I don't have something I tend to shrug and go on with my life, but at the same time I value hospitality enough that I'd still like to be able to provide for others. It is a puzzle.
sewloud
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
My mother and grandmother both say to strive to be the "Hostess with the Mostess" and they're remarkably good at it.
mistressarafina
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
I love what your apprentice is doing at events and I'm working my way towards that as well. I think that sounds like a lovely way to spend an event.
grnvixen
Sep. 8th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
Three cheers for memory foam toppers! Currently we do not have a room we can dedicate to guests but our regular crashers have a raised airbed, +MF topper :).

Have as great time on the tour and a lovely visit with your family. Please post pics!
vikingsparrow
Sep. 9th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
I am having Jacket Tour anxiety because I'm traveling to a foreign country by myself. I hope I can hang out with you and Jen.
attack_laurel
Sep. 10th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course you can. We're going to be doing some things separately, like seeing my mother, but when you need friendly faces, we'll be there. :)
eithni
Sep. 9th, 2010 07:26 am (UTC)
I'm very big on the hostessing thing too and often end up having people crash with me when I am out of town or need to be up and out before they are. Some things I do just to make sure everything is covered:

I made a "local guide" to put in the guest room - this has directions to the local SCA meetings, local attractions, shopping locations, great food joints, etc and the contact info for all of them. There is a local laminated map with all the points of interest marked as well as copies of visitor fliers or menus from the places cited. There are also directions to the local ER printed on red paper, just in case. This guide also provides a list of the amenities offered in the room or the guest bedroom, so people don't need to rifle though wondering whether there is a spare toothbrush - it's on the list!

There is a bin in the kitchen which is clearly marked as guest munchies. Usually it contains granola bars, dried fruits, and instant oatmeal. The tea tray is placed beside it and the kettle on the stove. Refrigerated items marked with a G are fair game. (I have boarders who live with me, so not everything in the frige is poachable.)

I check the expiration dates of all my household meds twice a year with daylight savings time since I am checking the smoke alarms anyway. I also go through the toiletry bins at this time to see in anything has been used up/expired. In addition to the general stock, regular visitors get a little bin in which to keep personal items like their brand of shampoo and a spare hairbrush or whatever seems necessary to them.

There is a hotel-esque "arrival and departure procedure" posted on the back of the guest room door, informing people about the binder, the available toiletries, the breakfast options, where the spare key is stashed, and how I prefer dirty linens to be handled (towels in the tub, linens left on the bed).

Also: Bamburgh - so cool. I got to live in Alnwick for a semester some years back and I loved Northumbria...
( 12 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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