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Being a Guest on Fourth of July

Being a Guest on Fourth of July

I was fortunate to spend my Fourth of July weekend as the guest of a couple who live in a lovely home on Chesapeake Bay. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, about two hours before my hosts’ annual Fourth of July celebration began. I had been asked to arrive early, get settled, and help with a few chores.

Our hosts provide crabs and corn while everyone else brings a side and their beverage of choice. This leads me to a hosting issue which I hear frequently. When hosting such an event is it better to assign sides or let the chips (and dips) fall where they may? If it’s a large event such as this, I like the free-form event. Folks get to make their specialties and if someone doesn’t show up, there isn’t a hole at the table that the hostess may feel obligated to fill at the last minute. But I know it bothers some folks to have too much of one thing and not enough of another. In this case we had a lot of pasta salad and one guest was heard to remark, “With a little planning this wouldn’t have happened.” I guess my thought is, who cares? Thoughts?

Several couples spent the night and I was in charge of breakfast Sunday morning. As usual we had an assortment of diets including vegetarian, pescitarian, and pregnant. With the help of another guest I made a huge load of bacon, pancakes, homemade blackberry syrup, fruit salad, and watermelon salad. For future reference, that combination seemed to work really well. Two of the couples peeled off to go home and the remaining six people spent a relaxing day puddling around in the water and eating leftovers.

On Monday we gave our hosts a break and went to Calvert Cliffs along with the other remaining guest couple. I almost hate to promote it, but this is an amazing 4 mile hike along a shaded path through forest and bordering several different ecosystems. You end up at a small swimming beach on the Bay with an amazing view of the cliffs. It’s also dog friendly, and our Boston Terrier swam for the first time. We headed about seven miles down Route 2 to Soloman’s Island for lunch. Again, found a dog friendly restaurant with shade and really good sandwiches. That night we took our hosts out to dinner. Really nice day.

On Tuesday, one couple went to check out Chesapeake Beach, two of us went to a small-town parade, and two of “us” stayed on the couch all day watching Robocop movies. I love a parade, there’s something about gathering with other people on Main Street America and complaining about their children that I enjoy. That night the other couple treated us all to pizza.

We could see fireworks from different localities from our hosts’ backyard every night. I also love fireworks.

This trip reinforced several of my best practices.
1) When you have a group staying at your house for several days, it’s helpful if people can entertain themselves, at least during the day.
2) It’s OK for people to do different things. Guests shouldn’t be pressured to participate in activities that don’t interest them. When someone on vacation is forced to do something they don’t want….it shows and takes away from the enjoyment of others.
3) Don’t complain or make negative comments about anything. If there is a serious safety or comfort problem, don’t whine about it, suggest a solution. “I know we need some room in the fridge. Mind if I toss this mayonnaise-based salad that was out on the sun for 10 hours?” “I know it’s just me, but do you mind if I turn the AC down just a couple of degrees?” You know stuff like that.
4) If you bring a pet, take responsibility for it! The first night, my bad cat woke everyone up at 5:00 am yowling in the hallway. Once again, my apologies.

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.

Thank you for visiting.

House Guests and Graduations…Don’t Invite Ted Koppel!

House Guests and Graduations…Don’t Invite Ted Koppel!

When I graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism (please don’t use the acronym), Ted Koppel was our keynote speaker. As you can imagine, those of us in the audience from Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Journalism were thrilled to have him there and cheered wildly. He looked right at our section and said, “Thanks. But there are still no jobs for you out there.” So you’re telling me, my family invested all this money to go to a really expensive private school and THIS is my going away gift!

Turns out I was employable, but it took a lot of time, effort, and low paying jobs to get to a point where I was existing above the poverty line. I’m sure Jenna Bush is a really lovely person but I hope she’ll understand that I shudder when I see her on national television then think of myself at my first professional gig working part time for minimum wage in a former key kiosk that had been turned into an all-news radio station. “Now Kiki,” you might say. “That sounds like sour grapes.” You’re damn right it is!

But what were we talking about….ah yes, house guests and graduation.

I’ve hosted a lot of graduation parties and the house guests that come with them and here’s my take.

When your host is throwing a party, the basic rules of etiquette are just a little different. You need to understand that you are not the main attraction and that your host has a lot going on. Try to make yourself useful, but if your host turns down help, graciously fade into the background, or better yet find something to do outside of the house.

Fend for yourself as much as possible. “Please don’t bother with breakfast for us. We saw this coffee shop down the street we can’t wait to try.”

Don’t make suggestions regarding the arrangements unless you were part of the planning, this is obnoxious.

Don’t provide food unless specifically asked. Chances are there is a menu planned and your offering might screw things up.

Put all your stuff in your designated area, preferably behind a closed door.

Don’t make demands of your host. They probably don’t have time to stop and set up the ironing board for you. This has actually happened to me on several occasions. And in my house who knows where the ironing board is, do I even have an ironing board?

Our eldest niece is a good example of a handy thing to have around for a party. First of all, she’ll do whatever you ask without question. One time I handed her a pair of pants to hem. Second of all, she’s really good at getting other “helpful” guests out of your hair. “Sweetie, would you help Aunt Agnes gather some lovely flowers in that meadow ten miles away?” “Why certainly Auntie, I’d be glad to do that.” This is actually not far from the truth.

Don’t get in the way of the caterers if they have them. In my case, the “caterer” is my sister. Guests tend to treat her like she’s free to chat. She is, but wait until the food is out and she’s holding a glass of wine or cold beer…that’s your sign to approach.

Make an effort to talk to guests who seem shy or socially awkward. This is incredibly helpful to your host. You obviously have something in common to get the conversation going.

When the party is over, offer to clean up but be sure to follow the host’s instructions carefully. You don’t want to throw out the good paper plates by accident.

Getting back to Ted Koppel, try really hard to say only positive things to and about the graduate.

Things not to say:

“I’ve heard the job market is really awful.”

“How you gonna pay off all those student loans?”

“I hear they’re hiring greeters at Walmart.” Not that there’s anything wrong with this job, it’s just an overused meme.

“So you’ve moved back in with the folks? How long is that going to last?”

“Let me tell you about my wildly successful child who had a full time job with benefits even before graduation!”

Here’s my favorite: “You got a degree in Broadcast Journalism?  So you’re going to work fast food, huh?”

You get the idea.

Congratulations to all the graduates and their families who read this. I wish you well. The only piece of advice I have is to keep your sense of humor. It’s even more important than your degree.

Thank you for visiting,


photo attribution

Best practices for houseguesters.

Best practices for houseguesters.

Everyone has their own sensibilities, and no one can read minds. These two elements of human nature can set you up for uncomfortable situations when it comes to houseguests. Here are some best practices that apply to just about anyone…I think. I sincerely welcome your remarks and additions. Leave a comment below or send me an email at

For the Host

  • Your ultimate responsibility is to the safety and wellbeing of the family and household you have created. This doesn’t mean you can’t be gracious.
  • Be mindful of your guest’s resources.
  • Give your guest downtime and respect their privacy.
  • Be interested and be interesting.
  • Be appreciative that your houseguest values your company enough to stay in your home.
  • If you are not enjoying the visit, fake it!


For the Houseguest

  • Show up.
  • Respect your host’s schedule and resources.
  • If you are staying more than two nights, provide a meal.
  • Give your host downtime and privacy.
  • Offer, but do not insist, on helping with household chores such as meal prep and clean up.
  • Don’t offer unsolicited decorating or cooking advice.
  • Be interested and be interesting.
  • Be openly appreciative.
  • No whining unless it comes in a bottle.
  • If you’re not enjoying the visit, fake it!


In my next posts, I’ll go into more detail about these best practices and will have other topics as well including; host/hostess gifts, houseguesting with children, houseguesting with pets, meals/food, what to have on hand, and electronic etiquette. I’ve decided to turn houseguesting into a verb.

Thanks for visiting,

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