How to be the Host(ess) with the most(est).

January 26, 2010

DH and I do a lot of travelling.  Sometimes we stay at resorts or hotels and sometimes we stay with friends and family.  My preference, when possible, is to stay in a hotel, but sometimes that just isn’t possible or fiscally feasible (looking at you European cities).  This past weekend we spent some time with a couple DH knows and it was, well, less than a stellar experience from the accomodation point of view.

I am a moderately high maintenance guest.  I freely admit this.  I am too old to sleep on a futon/sofa bed (unless we’re staying in New York City or various European cities where I suck it up rather than pay through the nose for a room I will just be sleeping in) and I prefer to stay in a dedicated guest room if at all possible.  But I also get that not every person has a room they can set aside just for guests.  You take the good with the bad when it comes to free accomodation.

I do believe though, that there are unwritten rules for being a good guest.  Good guests don’t drain the hot water tank when showering.  They also don’t eat the host out of house and home.  Nor do they make countless long distance phone calls, expect to be picked up/dropped off at the airport or demand that the host take time off work to entertain them.  A good guest will try to minimize their impact on their hosts’  life (super crucial if the hosts have kids).  Good guests will try to be fairly quiet at night and not stumble drunkenly into the house when everyone is asleep (unless the hosts are out and about with them).  It’s also in poor taste for guests to leave their crap strewn about the house.  And let’s face it, it’s always polite to say that everything tastes delicious and that they slept well.  Good guests also bring small gifts (wine, fancy preserves, flowers, whatever) or take their hosts out to dinner to show their thanks for being put up for the night(s).

But just as there are unwritten rules for being a good guest, there are also unwritten rules for being a good host.  I once read, probably in Martha Stewart Living, that you should sleep (or spend a good chunk of a day) in your guest room and/or guest bath.  Afterall, if you’re not comfortable in there, how can you expect your guests to be?  Now Martha often goes over the top with, well, everything.  But I agree with her on this point.  Your guest area needs to be given a once over every once in a while.  Guests may not complain to your but why give them anything to complain about at all?

A good host will ensure that the house temperature is not just slightly above freezing.  And if, for whatever reason, the temperature can’t be changed, a good host will provide extra blankets when watching tv or going to sleep.  Slippers are a nice touch too if you don’t have wall-to-wall carpet.  I totally get that not everyone has the financial ability to have a top-of-the-line bed in the guest room but decent pillows are inexpensive and the pillow that is doing an excellent imitation of a pancake isn’t going to cut it.  Stop being a cheap ass and go to Walmart/Zellers/Target and pick up a four pack for $20.  Your guests’ necks and backs will thank you.

It’s classy to provide not only an alarm clock but also a glass for water.  You probably don’t have time to play wake up call operator if you are working and your guests may need to get up earlier than you do on occasion.  Plus, in a strange house in the dark hours of the early morning the last thing you want your guests to do is to be wandering around looking for a drink and a glass to put it in.  If your guests are staying more than a night you might also want to clear out a drawer or two or provide some space in the closet for them to hang their clothes.  At the very least, put a chair in the room for guests to store luggage or clothes on.

In the bathroom it’s always a good idea to NOT hide the extra toilet paper.  Really.  I don’t particularly want to rummage around your bathroom cupboards looking for this.  It’s embarrassing for all of us.  While you’re picking up that four pack of pillows check out the decorator baskets too.  Stick a few rolls in them and leave it in plain sight. 

I also don’t think it’s too much to ask for the host to provide a bar of soap.  I don’t like to travel with soap.  It’s messy, the case takes up a bunch of room in my cosmetic bag and it always leaks slimy water all over everything.  Even those tiny hotel soaps are good.  It’s kinda hard to wash anything other than hair with shampoo and conditioner people.

Multiple towels are nice too.  One for a guy and two for a girl.  I don’t know many women who don’t use a separate towel for their bodies and their hair.  By only giving me one towel I either have to awkwardly stand with my drippy head in the shower while I dry off or drip all over your bathroom floor while my hair is wrapped up.  Neither is a win-win situation.  And on the topic of hair, sometimes I travel with a hairdryer and sometimes I don’t.  Make it easy on your guests and have an extra one.  Just in case.  No one needs to wander around with wet hair in the winter.

And speaking of just in case, keep some of those toothbrushes you get from your dentist Oor the Dollar Store) on hand.  And some dental floss and other basic things like toothpaste, hand lotion, hair spray and a disposable razor.  People forget to pack stuff and I’d rather be rummaging through my linen cupboard at midnight than making a run to the 24 hour drug store.

It’s not rocket science but being a good host takes a little thought and effort.  I would be appalled if my guests had a miserable time in my house.  I want them to eat well, drink well, sleep well and want to come back.  I want my guests to be comfortable and enjoy their stay at my house.  Afterall, if I like you enough to ask you stay with me, odds are I like you enough to want you to come back.


It’s official. I have married my father.

January 22, 2010

They say it’s quite common.  Many women end up marrying men like their dads.  Maybe it’s a physical resemblance (kinda icky if you think about it) or maybe your husband has very similar traits/characteristics your father has (this could be good). 

I think my dad is pretty awesome.  Most of the time I also think my husband is pretty awesome too.  Especially when his parents are not around. 

But I have to say, my dad is a pack rat.  He keeps EVERYTHING.  In fact, he has a piece of wood he found on the side of the road in Windsor BEFORE I WAS BORN.  This piece of wood has moved houses four times since then.  And it still hasn’t been used.  That’s right.  It’s currently sitting in my parents’ basement, against the wall by the stairs, just waiting.  Waiting for what I do not know.  But it was too good to pass up my dad says.  He might have a use for it one day.  So far it’s been nearly 40 years and he has yet to figure out what to do with it.  Some days I swear my mom is a martyr.

I used to laugh at this kind of stuff.  I mean it’s pretty funny right.  My dad keeps all kinds of useless crap in the hopes that on that one occasion when he needs something like oh, a wooden pallet, all he has to do is go out to the shed/garage/his workshop and there it is.  Wooden pallet emergency averted.

Yeah.  So.  DH came home from his parents’ house last weekend with a load of stuff for the cottage.  Which is quickly turning into a repository of other people’s crap, but that’s another rant.  Anyway, lovingly nestled in amongst the boxes of mostly useful stuff were three empty carboard boxes.  One had previously held Rubbermaid containers, one had held some sort of no-name version of a Chia pet and one, well, I was so annoyed at this point I don’t know what it originally held.

So I asked DH what he was planning on doing with these boxes (I was thinking kindling for the wood stove at the cottage) and he replied nothing.  Ummm nothing?  Well, he said, they were perfectly good boxes and we could use them for something one day, maybe for wrapping presents.  Ummm maybe for filling the blue bin.  Which funnily enough made him annoyed.

Which in turn made me annoyed.  We have an attic FULL of dusty, emptycardboard boxes left over from our move.  Nearly TWO years ago.  I can’t get rid of these boxes because we MIGHT need them one day (believe me DH does random checks to make sure he still has enough boxes and I haven’t tossed any out when he wasn’t looking).  Doesn’t matter that we can get boxes from my office.  Or the grocery store.  Or Costco.  Nope.  We might have a cardboard box emergency when those places are closed and whatever would we do?

Now I’m not sure what a cardboard box emergency consists of.  Would it entail not having enough boxes to store Christmas ornaments?  Which, for the record at Casa NotSoClean, are stored in giant plastic bins.  Would it entail not having enough boxes to store yarn?  Also stored in giant plastic bins/Ikea shelving.  Off season clothes and shoes?  Nope…more giant plastic bins.  Hmmm, how about using them to transport stuff up to the cottage?  Nope, that’s what laundry tubs are for….stuff goes up inthem and dirty laundry comes home in them.  Oddly, DH couldn’t explain what a cardboard box emergency entailed either.  He didn’t want to talk about it anymore.  Which is how I know I’m right but he won’t admit it.

There are worse things DH could hoard  keep I suppose.  Cardboard boxes are pretty good for temporarily storing things and even if they do sit up in the attic all empty and dusty, I don’t have to see them unless I open choose to rummage about in the storage closets which happens oh, NEVER.  And, if worse comes to worst and our furnace breaks, we could burn them to stay warm until the repair man comes.

It’s true though.  I’ve found and married a younger version of my packrat father.  And if DH ever comes home with a piece of wood he’s found on the side of the road I’m pretty sure I’ll hear my mom laughing…from three cities away.

Year of the Frog

January 15, 2010

Ok, it’s actually the Chinese Year of the Tiger (oh the jokes that’s going generate) but in my world it’s the Year of the Frog.  In the past I rarely rip back.  I’m nearly always happy with what I make.  Most of the time I fix mistakes and it’s not very frequently that I deviate from the pattern.  Gauge is never an issue (knock wood) and stuff usually fits. 

Clearly 2010 will be different. 

So far I have thought I was smarter than Kate Flagg because really,  what did she know about Feather and Fan and  just because she wrote Multnomah (Rav link) I’m sure I’m smart enough to make mods to her pattern?  Well, turns out she’s a lot smarter than me since my modifications turned the shawl into something that might (and that’s a loaded might….it was pretty messed up) fit a person who was lacking shoulders and I had to rip it out completely two days ago.  For the record I don’t know jack about feather and fan.  Ribbit.

Prior to the Multnomah debacle I was knitting  Thuja.  I’m not much of a sock knitter but Claudia has done the impossible and herded cats in the Smartass Yarn Ho group (does it suprise you I’m an active member of this one?) on Ravelry and started a sock KAL.  January’s pattern is Thuja and despite the fact that socks aren’t my thing, I threw caution to the wind and joined up.  I do have a sizeable trunk (yes trunk) of sock yarn that I really do need to start using. 

So I cast on and knit like the wind.  I tinked my mistakes and turned the heel (it’s magic people!) and was halfway through the foot when I realized that oh, maybe I should try this bad boy on for size.  And of course it didn’t fit.  I couldn’t get it over my high arch (thanks mom!) and the cast on was a little tight.  Ribbit ribbit.  So much for technical perfection.

But I prevailed and cast on again using a size bigger DPN (I’ll get to that two socks on one circ eventually) and it’s going well.  I know it fits too since I tried it on.  I’m using Dream in Colour Classy in Cloud Jungle and I like that it’s a colourway that is just slightly out of my comfort zone.  It’s got a little pink, a little brown and a little mauve in it but it’s mostly green and it’s all pretty.  It was a gift from a swap and while I would probably not have chosen it, I love it nonetheless and have been waiting for something good to make with it.  I think socks for myself fit that bill.

Maybe I’ll finish the first sock tonight.  I’m going to cheer on the Sketchy Warriors as they begin the epic Sock Wars battle.  I’m not fast enough (nor competitive enough to be honest) to play but I’m happy to cheer them on and knit socks in solidarity.

Mean Girls

January 10, 2010

Ok I am almost 38 years old.  Which is far too old for this kind of foolishness.  However, sometimes there is no better way to deal with things than having a hissy fit.  It’s been that kind of weekend here at Casa NotSoClean.

Yesterday DH and I went to my sister’s house for my niece’s 2nd birthday.  Which really involves all the kids playing in the rec room and the adults standing around drinking, eating and chatting.  No big deal.  I’ve known most of these people for 25 or so years and while we’re not great friends, we usually can chat for a few hours and the evening, while not the best evening EVER, is not so bad.

Oh and I also should mention that my sister and I aren’t super super close, she was the “cute” girl growing up and in my own humble opinion many of her friends are kind of dingy.  Most of them are really nice but they aren’t people I would choose to hang out with regularly.

I don’t know what was up yesterday though.  Maybe the stars were misaligned.  Maybe I was hormonal.  Maybe there was some residual weirdness from DH’s poutfest from yesterday.  But I came home in tears.  And proceeded to cry and sulk for a good two hours afterwards.

To his credit DH was supportive and took my side, but he was kind of confused as to why I was so upset.  And in the clear light of day I am a bit confused too.  I guess I’m upset because I felt a bit like an afterthought.  When my sister and I are together she’s one person.  When she’s with her friends, specifically one friend we’ll call oh, Christina, she’s totally different.  And this Christina chick, she’s the biggest C U Next Tuesday I’ve come across.  And I’ve worked with lawyers so that has to tell you something (no offense to any lawyers reading but women lawyers can be the nastiest of the nasty let me tell you).

Christina insulted my salad dressing…after she found out it was made by me.  Prior to all of that it was “delicious and amazing”.  She’s a judge-y mom type who watches everything everyone eats and drinks…and then tells the group loudly at how HER 2010 resolution is to avoid whatever it is everyone just ate.  And the bitch is skinny too so you know she’s sticking to it.  Although I suspect she’s hungry which is why she’s so mean.

She then, with my sister, in proceeded to plan their holidays even though she had minutes before told my sister they couldn’t afford to go away this year (she no longer works outside of the house and money is tight).  And while this is not a big deal the part that stung me was that my sister has never once thought to ask if me and the DH would like to go away with her and her family.  We’d definitely go.

Reading back over this post I sound like a big whiner.  And I am whining.  And it’s hard to put into words that don’t make me sound like I am 12 years old why I was so upset.  I guess, what hurts the most and becomes the most evident at these little parties is how close my sister and I aren’t.  These people all vacation together, party together, visit back and forth and play bigger roles in my sister’s  (and her family’s)  life than DH and I do.  And it’s not for lack of trying on my part.  I have repeatedly asked my sister to visit, asked if it was ok if I dropped by on when I’m not working or during the weekend.  I’ve mentioned to her that we’d love to go to wherever it is that she and her family are going.  I’ve even told her repeatedly that DH and I would LOVE to take the girls to zoos and amusement parks and all kinds of kid-friendly places.  But it’s to no avail.  She fobs me off with excuse after excuse and I end up feeling marginalized.  Kind of like the high school nerd looking longingly at the cool kids lunch table.  I want to sit there but I have no idea how to even get them to acknowledge my presence let alone invite me to the table.

I know it’s pathetic.  I’m many many years out of high school.  And I see these people so rarely.  But I guess I can’t shake that feeling of wanting to belong, wanting to be included.  At least in my sister’s life.  DH says that maybe she feels the same way about me.  I don’t know.  I’ve extended invitation after invitation only to be shot down every time.  I’m happy to meet her halfway but at this stage of the game I’m not even sure we’re on the same road.

2010 has been a bit of a drama filled sulkfest so far.  I hope we’re getting it all out of the way early because I’m too old to face a year of this.

It’s complicated

January 9, 2010

I’ve hinted and alluded to this and figure that given the state of affairs at Casa NotSoClean today is a good day to tell this tale.

DH and I have been unsuccessfully trying to have a child for nearly two years now.  Without getting into too many TMI-type details, we know that there is an issue with him.  It’s not treatable but it’s not entirely insurmountable either.

And yes, we’ve seen a fertility doctor.  I personally don’t believe in medically assisted pregnancy for myself.  If you do, or you have done it/will do/want to do it/are doing it that’s fine.  It’s not based on religious thought or anything, it’s just not something I want to do.

Our doctor suggested a course of action that was not something I felt comfortable with.  As I’m contraindicated for Clomid, the drugs they wanted to put me on are still in clinical trials and are developed for and used to treat breast cancer .  Apparently an unexpected side effect happened to cause ovulation. Doctors THINK these drugs are safe.  I don’t want to play Russian roulette with my body or the body of any child I conceive.  Thalidomide anyone?  Doctors thought that was safe too.

The testing (for me anyway) was arduous, painful and unpleasant.  The “monitoring” was daily until they were sure I had ovulated.  Then the turkey baster would come out and woo hoo….oh wait, they couldn’t guarantee anything.  And they expected us to keep trying the old fashioned way while all of this is going on.

Because let’s face it, while I’m having an ultrasound wand shoved up my hoo-ha by a perfect stranger every morning for a week or so AND THEN GOING ON TO WORK AFTERWARDS, I know I’ll be feeling frisky and ready for some sexy time once DH walks in the door every night.  Ummm no.

The rate of success for us was predicted to be very low.  And we were told that we should continue this “treatment” for at least six months before they’d tweak the drugs.  The rest of the procedures wouldn’t change.

Given my long-standing (and well vocalised) opinions on medically assisted pregnancy, the course of action that was recommended to us, the fact that DH doesn’t even live at home for much of the week now, the pushiness of the clinic to start “treatment” and let’s not discount the fact that my outlaws are off-the-charts nuts in all kinds of ways, I had a meltdown.  I cried for two days, embarrassed myself at work by not having my act even remotely together and worked myself up into a big hot mess and finally told DH I couldn’t go through with it.

I (sort of) joke about it now, but this whole medically assisted pregnancy business upset me on a deep and visceral level.  It infuriated me by the unfairness of the whole situation.  For something that isn’t my issue I’m the one who would have to be “treated”.  There is no treatment for DH.  Period.  End of story.  His contribution to all of this would be to give some blood, have some “happy time” with Palmela, pay the annual $250 monitoring fee as I flat out refused (and yes, state-sponsored healthcare rocks USA…and no we weren’t going for IVF, although that turned out to be a lot cheaper than I would have thought) and wait…for something that may or may not happen.

So I said no.  No to tests, no to drugs, no to monitoring, no to turkey basters, no to pushy doctors, no to no guarantees, no to it all.  And I felt good about it.  Happy even.

Until today.  Recently we’ve found out that a few of our friends are pregnant, all with their second (or third) child.  Some of them have been trying for a long time.  And I’m happy for them. Really, really happy.  But today DH came home upset.  It seems that one of his co-workers’ wives is pregnant.  His co-worker is 26.  DH is devastated.

I tried to cheer him up by reminding him that our lives could be so much worse.  We’re healthy (his co-worker with the pregnant wife has a very, very serious heart condition and in reality may never live to see his child grow up), we have each other, DH just got promoted to a position he’s wanted for a long time, we have well-paying, reasonably secure jobs, we have a beautiful house and now a vacation property, we’re planning some awesome trips this year, we have families who love us (well, DH’s is a little twisted but hey, in their own way they love us).  In short we have great lives.  I even told him I’m fine with getting a dog.  Or adopting a child.  He refuses to be consoled.

He keeps dwelling on how everyone has children but him.  Which, to be honest isn’t true at all…none of his close cousins have children, many of his friends don’t and his sister is unlikely to, regardless of the “I want to find a man and have a baby” line she’s currently spouting.  She may want the man but I have my doubts about the baby.

He spent tonight holed up in the home office.  He wanted to be alone and I respected his wishes.  Later on I tried again to cheer him up but he told me he still wanted to be alone.  DH isn’t prone to bad moods and pouts…those are my domain and my specialty.  I am hoping that tomorrow he cheers up.

But I am worried.  He has never  said anything about me refusing fertility treatments.  And I won’t do them even if he does want me to.  But I wouldn’t blame him for being bitter about me refusing them.  I am petty enough that I would blame him if the situation was reversed.  I’m not proud to admit it but it’s true.  He just keeps repeating that he doesn’t know what he wants to do.

In my head I imagine worst-case scenarios of him leaving me for a woman with many children.  In my heart I cry for his sadness.  In reality I’ll wait it out and see what fate has in store for us.  We don’t have a lot of time left before the ability to have children in any way is no longer an option for us.  We might get lucky or we might get not.  And depending on the day the definition of lucky changes.

It’s complicated.  And sad.  And it makes me wish I could give him what he really wants.  But I like our lives.  No, I love our lives.  Sure I wonder what life would be like if the pitter patter of little feet were more than kitty cat paws.  But I’m not entirely sure I want to find out.  And that makes me feel bad when I see how upset DH is now.  But not bad enough to endure fertility clinics and off-list drugs.  I’ll take my chances with fate and the tried-and-true way of making babies.  You make your own luck in my opinion.