You finally finished your holiday decorating and shopping, and now you’re prepping the house for guests. Regardless of whether it’s your in-laws, your adult children and their mini me’s, or your former college roommates who are on their way, Annie’s got some super-practical tips for taking the stress out of playing happy host. Today we’ll attack the kitchen and the bath; check back tomorrow for Annie’s advice on prepping the guest bedroom.
- When stocking the kitchen for guests, Annie says, “Anticipation is key.” That means asking lots of questions in advance about food allergies and preferences. You don’t want to find out, for instance, that you’ve only bought milk for someone who’s lactose intolerant, or that, as one Fresh American staffer discovered, some guests won’t eat anything with onions or peppers in it. (You know who you are, guest.)
- Pick up a selection of both coffee and tea. Although Annie much prefers fresh-ground and -brewed coffee, last year she got a Keurig so that guests can choose their own single-serving beverage, which not only pleases a crowd, but also prevents a half-touched pot of decaf from curdling on the burner all day. People have pretty strong opinions on milk types—whole vs. skim, half-and-half, almond milk, or soy milk?—so ask before you buy. “You want them to start their day off on a good note,” Annie says.
- While most of us are creatures of habit when it comes to breakfast, in addition to the usual cereal and yogurt, it’s nice to offer a specialty item, like scones or muffins from the bakery. Annie’s current faves are the decadent Cinnamon Roses from Cakewalk in Lee, Massachusetts.
- Keep a few bottles of Perrier and Pellegrino on hand, as well as a selection of soda. Coke, Diet Coke, and ginger ale have the broadest appeal for both kids and adults.
- Make sure you’ve got a variety of snackables for the midday munchies. No need to drive yourself bonkers making these; Annie likes to serve premade lemon hummus with fresh veggies and Stacy’s Pita Chips, cheese and crackers, a fresh arugula salad, and the small containers of Panera’s creamy tomato and chicken with orzo that are sold in any Price Chopper.
- Disposable paper napkins are convenient, but not exactly special. Let your guests know you’ve thought about them by setting out some pretty new linens. You can even hang them on hooks with colorful binder clips and the metal-rim key tags you can find in any office-supply store, with each guest’s name hand-printed on the tag.
- Who hasn’t left home at some point without a toothbrush or hand lotion? Give your guests the gift of stress relief by providing a bunch of often-forgotten incidentals. Annie puts out a basket containing a brand-new toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, as well as a disposable razor and all those teensy hotel toiletries—shampoo, condition, moisturizer—that accumulate in the closet after trips.
- Make sure you get plenty of toilet paper. This is not an area where you want to find yourself short. Enough said.
- Set out a cozy robe for post-shower warm-ups and morning pajama lounging. Pine Cone Hill’s Sheepy Fleece is always appreciated; choose a neutral or a darker color like Juniper or Twilight for unisex appeal.