Practicing Hospitality: Easy ways to welcome guests into your home

I heard a few years ago that some families are creating mottos or values which they prioritize. For example, a family might practice generosity and their family motto might simply be "The _____ family is generous." They remind themselves of this and teach their children to similarly value that trait or characteristic.

I think what others notice about Adrian and me is that we are hospitable. I don't think we initially set out to be hospitable but with my love of party planning and his cooking talents, we found it best to shower our friends and family with love through opening our home to them at every chance we get. 

I wanted to write a bit about what we do to make guests feel at home when they come to visit. This is by no means an exhaustive list of must-dos, but rather a compilation of a few ideas that have worked for us over the years.

Before your guest arrives:
  • Check in with your guest before they arrive to find out about food allergies and/or preferences. Adrian is an excellent cook and many of our guests have favorites dishes he's made in the past and we aim to please.
  • Have a few ideas of places to visit. Lots of cities have passes available to different museums. Chicago offers these through the libraries. I usually try to get passes before my guest arrives. I also do some research beforehand, searching for attractions, neighborhoods, stores or restaurants that might be interesting for my guest. In the end, the guest has the final say. Sometimes we do none of what I've thought of and that is totally fine. The idea is to avoid the "I don't know. What do you want to do?" conversation. 
  • Set out a welcome basket. I love to include favorite snacks/drinks/souvenirs/trinkets, anything to let them know that we are excited to have them with us. If they lived in Chicago or visited before, I try to find snacks or foods I know they love that they can't find in other places.
  • Have fresh flowers just because. I love fresh flowers and they don't have to cost a lot. Grocery store flowers are fine. (The flowers in this post came from Whole Foods for just $10.) They brighten up a space and add some cheer.
  • Set out towels, face cloths, toiletries. I generally fold them and place them on the desk in our guest room where they will be seen. If our guest wants to shower at 5am, they have everything they need to be able to do so without searching.
  • Place extra blankets at the foot of the bed or in a basket nearby. Who hasn't shivered through a night and wished for extra blankets? It's awful so extra blankets within reach are a godsend. You never know how a guest prefers to sleep, but best safe than sorry.
  • Have extra toiletries on hand. I usually try to keep a small stock of new toothbrushes, deodorant, etc on hand in case a guest forgets something.

Once your guest has arrived:
  • Pick up guests at the airport. It can be difficult at times and yes cabs are easy, but nothing says "I can't wait to see you!" like picking someone up at the airport. Even better if you can meet them inside the airport!
  • Help without offering. Adrian is wonderful at anticipating needs. You almost never hear him say, "Would you like me to __________?" He just does whatever needs to be done. The question "Would you like me to help you with ________?" can leave a guest feeling like they need to refuse in order to be polite. How often have you said, "Oh no, I'm okay" just to be polite? Carry luggage, open doors, anticipate needs. Guests always appreciate it.
  • Give your guest space. While it's super exciting to see them, they may be exhausted and might just want some down time alone so offer that to them. They may also need a couple minutes alone to let their loved ones know they arrived safely. 

After your guest has left:
  • Make sure your guest arrived home safely. I always ask our guests to text me to let me know they got in okay. If they don't text me, I call them just to double check. It's also a good chance to let our guest know how much we loved having them. 
While I'm sure none of these are particularly life-altering, the idea is to make others feel at home and welcomed. We think about how we feel when we're not home and strive to meet those needs for our guests to cut down on the discomfort of being away. I find it's small preparations that make people feel comfortable.

I hope these ideas help you out the next time you have a guest in town! Tell me, what are some things you do to make guests feel welcome? I'd love to hear some fresh ideas!

DIY Diecut/Cut Paper Cake Topper: Dessert First

I had a great discussion with my friend Jen about the place my photos have in my life and maybe in the lives of others. Sometimes I feel like my work is frivolous. Is there much meaning behind a picture of a pretty cake with some flowers and a "dessert first" sign? Sometimes it feels indulgent and superficial.

And maybe it is. But sometimes life is so heavy, no? I work and live in a neighborhood most often characterized by violence and poverty and a serious lack of hope and opportunity. And certainly there are beautiful parts to this neighborhood: the sense of community, the cultural pride, the vendors on every corner reminding people of home, the spirit of resilience and joy. So much joy. But sometimes, oh sometimes, it's hard to remember those good things when life just seems so heavy. 

In the midst of a dark Winter, it's hard to remember that Spring is in fact coming.

And I think that, that's why I make these photos. To remind myself that there is a light at the end of this proverbial tunnel. That flowers will bloom and birds will chirp and we'll watch movies in my backyard. We'll have drinks and laugh and string lights up so we can stay out long after the sun as set. And when that first ice cream truck of the season makes its rounds, we'll be out there waiting in line because Spring has finally come and the darkness has passed.

So here's this cake I bought and these flowers I chose and this little sign I cut, reminding me that sometimes I should eat dessert first. Because the small joys can get us through the tougher seasons.

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