Friday, June 29

Summer 2012: three easy tips to help you become the consummate host this summer, and keep your sanity in the process...

Summer is my favorite season,
and it's no secret
I enjoy hosting family and friends at the beach

These three helpful hints 
I'm offering today
may make it less labor intensive
to host guests this summer in your home, 
and in a way that works for you and your family
Happy Summer 2012
Over the years I have hosted many weekend guests. 
all my dinners are not this perfectly coiffed
because quite frankly when you entertain in your home it's real life and you host in a way that works for you and your family, 
yet welcomes your guests with open arms.

What is so special about weekend visits 
away from home in summer?
 Whether your heading to someone's cabin in Maine, their palatial mansion in The Berkshires or a beach shack in Montauk, Long Island, summer travel and staying with friends can be a very special way to see an area from a local's perspective. To me, summer travel reminds me of my childhood when every August we visited our extended family in Vermont.  It was like going away to summer camp arriving to Gammy's home to find she had stocked up on our favorite foods and had lots of fun activities planned.  
I like to make these easy popovers for my guests - it's a mix from Ina Garten's collection.  The house smells wonderful as well
When Randy and I were first dating and traveled a bit we had the opportunity to stay in many bed and breakfasts. I enjoy the cozy, intimate setting of arriving to a a homey environment where guests gather around the farmhouse table in the morning before heading off to the beach.  Bed and breakfasts, inns and small boutique hotels offer a more personal setting that feels as if you are a guest in your relative's stylish home. The way the screened in porch door slams shut like in a real home, or the hammock swings in the back yard, or the smell of fresh blueberry muffins baking in the morning are moments that create fond memories and bring me back to Vermont summers. There was even a "hot minute" when we dreamt of becoming inn owners.  We imagined what it would be like to move to an island and bring our artistic eyes and love for design and cooking to a private bed and breakfast. Well, real life settled in, we got married, Randy took a corporate job in New York City and those dreams became a distant memory. What continued was our love for hosting guests, and cut to twenty years later we have hosted dozens of friends and family in our weekend guest cottage.  When we designed our home we thought long and hard about the space and how it would accommodate family and friends yet fit within our budget and smaller square foot floor plan. 

 I enjoy cooking, but sometimes it's difficult to be the absolute perfect hostess.  I have fine-tuned a weekend system of entertaining, putting my guests at ease while not putting me over the edge.  After all, you want to do this again and again in a way that is fun for you. 
Check out my Americana board on pinterest 
showing images of summer activities

Source: via tamara on Pinterest
Helpful Hint number one:
provide a Welcome Dinner
If I'm feeling ambitious I prepare a soup-to-nuts meal for my guests with music and candles lit for their arrival.  My feeling is if the rest of the weekend is more relaxed, at least I have welcomed them in a way that is warm and inviting.  It can be a casual backyard barbecue if weather permits, but I like to welcome guests with food and spirits.  However, life is life and sometimes if we are having an especially hectic week, I run to the local deli that day and pick up pre-made sandwiches, salads, and chill a bottle of my favorite local rose in the fridge.
I grab my handy picnic basket and pack a portable dinner in a basket complete with blanket.  As soon as the guests arrive, I load up the car and we head to the beach for dinner.  This gives everyone the feeling of being indulged without all the fuss plus it gets them in the beach mode right from the start.  We pop open the wine, the kids run around in the sand, while we catch up, relaxing on the beach.  Sometimes we light a campfire (this requires bringing logs, a shove and tub for dousing the fire so only if we are feeling up to it) and we roast smores after dinner.  Either way, we have a fun-filled evening at the beach with relatively little clean up and no dishes. 

 Helpful Hint number two:
First Morning 
First Morning is a ritual, although casual, that I like to commemorate with visitors.  It's not about making an elaborate breakfast, but more about welcoming my guests to the kitchen or under the pergola in a warm and convivial setting.  In a perfect world, I will make something homemade, but if we are running to an early morning activity, I stop off at my favorite farmers market the night before and pick up cinnamon buns or fresh made muffins and pop them in the oven.  I always set the table festively with flowers (these are tips I took from staying in bed and breakfasts).  No elaborate breakfast but I fill a wicker tray with fresh fruit, muffins and pitcher of orange  juice, and the morning paper.  If I am out to an early morning activity and my guests have slept in, I leave a house key, map of the area and a couple bottles of water on the tray.  Again, simple but hospitable.
Helpful Hint Number three:
Give your guests space
and take a break from cooking,
go ahead and make a dinner reservation in advance  
Although being a successful host is about providing comforts to your guests (don't forget to sleep one evening in your own guest room to make sure it has all the comforts of home, like nice towels an alarm clock and comfortable pillows with ample blankets), it is also about giving them the space to explore and allow some independence.  We may have family activities planned so I often encourage our guests to come and go as they please, maybe planning a rendezvous time just before dinner.  I offer up ideas of local sights to see and as mentioned above I give everyone maps of the area to familiarize them.  By day three however, I like to take a break from cooking and entertaining so I make dinner reservations in advance for all of us to venture out.

As we head off today on our summer vacation throughout New England, I'll be documenting some of the fabulous places we stay - 
my favorite places to "nest" in cozy traditional hotels and inns throughout Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. 
Stop back to check it all out!

Happy Summer Entertaining