• How To Be The Best Guest

    Posted by Max Kater

    Photo Annie Lebowitz for Vogue

    There are LOTS of articles about preparing for guests and cute ideas for hostess gifts out there this time of year, but very little useful information on the art of being a Good Guest.

    Successful entertaining relies on a carefully choreographed little dance that we all do, whether we admit it or not. Admittedly, some people are just naturally better at it than the rest of us. But, I’d argue that like dancing, the entertaining gene can be mastered with patience and practice and a strong desire will to learn. A lot of you might be traveling this week, so to that end, we’ve compiled our top tips for HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST.

    1. RSVP (the right way). You’ve been asked to a party…yay! The best thing you can do is to check your calendar immediately, and respond as soon as possible in the same way you were invited. For example, if you got a formal, written invitation (lucky you!) you have to write back. If you got a text or an online invitation through Evite or Paperless Post, then text back or respond on the app. Don’t call or email. Get it? The reason is that busy Hosts have set up a system of receiving RSVPs through the app or a similar email address. If you respond outside of that invitation, your response can get lost or miscounted and that is like not responding and then showing up late with a drunken Tinder date. Not good.

    2. NEVER SHOW UP EMPTY-HANDED. Of course, you always ask if you can bring something, but even if your Host says “No, no, no, just yourself!” You bring something. It’s what nice people do and you are nice people. A bottle of wine will always be nice, but if they don’t drink (first of all…why are you going)? JK! A scented candle or nice soap for the bathroom always goes down as a treat. The idea here is if you don’t know their taste and even if you think you do, don’t buy them a piece of art or a sweater. Stick to consumables, especially those that come in handy at a party.

    * A word about flowers. Bringing flowers is a lovely gesture and always appreciated. However, DO NOT, under any circumstances, bring your hostess a freshly cut bouquet that needs to be trimmed and arranged in a vase. That is a project. You’ve just handed your busy hostess a project that has to be dealt with at the exact moment she is trying to welcome her guests. Bring flowers in a vase, or better yet, a plant or orchid in a pot.

    3. BE HANDY. The best guests are the ones who have been Hosts themselves. They know when to pitch in, when to fade and when to be totally independent. If you don’t know your hosts well, ask! A good host isn’t shy about asking for help making drinks, collecting late arrivals from the train station, taking out the trash or talking to a slightly deaf Aunt before dinner. Your efforts will not go unnoticed, believe me.

    4. BE HONEST. If you are allergic to fish or dogs, you can’t ski or play tennis, or you have any special dietary restrictions, the time to tell your Host is when you are invited. Also, deal with it proactively. Bring your allergy medicine, a good book to read or a lentil loaf to share so you don’t overburden your Host with special planning or menus.

    5. BEHAVE. The old adage of NO POLITICS, RELIGION or SEX at the table is probably still good advice. Unless you are 100% certain about everyone’s views on any of those topics, better to steer clear. Also, put your phone away, keep your children under control and don’t fight with your spouse in company. That’s what bathrooms are for! Also, don’t try and seduce another guest while you are there. It’s creepy (especially if you get caught). Just exchange numbers on the D/L and arrange to meet up again later. Seriously Tiger, keep it in your pants!

    6. ACT LIKE YOUR HOSTS. If they are up-at-the-crack-of-dawn types, staying in bed until noon and coming down to lunch in your PJs is probably a bad idea. Likewise, if they aren’t morning people, banging around the house at the crack of dawn isn’t a good idea, either. Try and match their style within reason.

    7. HAVE FUN. The best guests (like the best hosts) actually enjoy the dance and have fun. They are relaxed, but not too relaxed, they participate and bring something to the table both literally and figuratively. Learn a few good jokes to tell, offer to make lunch, walk the dogs or take the kids for a swim. Play cards with Grandma. That sort of thing. But have fun doing it! Just not too much fun…

    8. LEAVE. The best guests know when to bounce. If your hosts have gone up to bed and you are still downstairs drinking, you’ve stayed too long (unless you’re staying overnight). Good Hosts will straight up tell you when it’s time to go, or clearly signal when it’s time to go by clearing up, asking if they can get you “anything else” and lowering lights + music etc. Say your thank yous and beat it. A follow up thank you note is always a good idea.

    This seems like a lot to remember on the surface, but just remember to put yourself in the place of your hosts and act the way you’d like people to behave in your house…maybe a bit better. Stick to that Golden Rule and you’re guaranteed to be asked back again.

    Bon Voyage! 

    xmk

  • Keep Calm and Thanksgiving

    Posted by Max Kater

    Photo by: Linda Pugilese for Martha Stewart

    We’re hosting Thanksgiving again this year. I love doing it, but people always ask me “Aren’t you super stressed out about it?”

    The short answer is no, but I probably should be! After all, Thanksgiving Dinner is when you invite your very best friends and family for what amounts to the American Decathlon of a Dinner Party and you never want to disappoint.

    I get all of that, but I like to think of Thanksgiving as just a big chicken dinner. Once you break it down that way, it takes the pressure off and you can have more fun. Plus, you can do most of the cooking ahead of time. And, unlike most dinner parties, everyone is weirdly prepared to chip in, which is great. Mr. Handsome and even the Man Cubs seem more willing to help out with moving tables and chairs, etc. because it’s Thanksgiving.

    Apart from milking any and all goodwill and help you possibly can, I also highly recommend getting your T-Day Game on early. Here’s my 5-day prep step program. Live and learn, Pilgrims!

    5 Days to T-Day: Finalize the Guest List. By now, your guest list is sorted and you should know who’s coming. If you don’t: Passive/aggressively call, text, and email those tardy stragglers to find out if they want to be fed on Thursday or not. And think twice about inviting them again next year. Humph!

    4 Days to T-Day: Plan your menu. It’s common advice because it’s true: Never, ever make anything you haven’t made before. This is not the time to get experimental, Possum! Stick to the tried and trues (even if that means pasta). People will have more fun if you are relaxed and you can’t be relaxed if you are sweating out some complicated Martha Stewart-type dealio in the kitchen.

    3 Days to T-Day: Go shopping for everything you can. Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie filling, stuffing mix, potatoes, coffee and booze can be bought well in advance. I’ve seen women get shouty and grabby over the last ornamental gourd at Wholefoods. You want to side step that action if you can.

    2 Days to T-Day: Set the Table. This might sound premature, but you can at least get the tables and chairs sorted. Count the napkins and find and iron the tablecloth, etc. Wash and ready the stemware and any special serving pieces you plan to use.

    1 Day to T-Day: Start your oven! This is when I do most of my cooking. I buy a Frozen turkey and leave it in a sink full of lukewarm water. I haven’t killed anybody so far and my bird is always juicy! I kid you not, stuffing is actually better when it’s been made and refrigerated the night before.

    T-Day: Cook the Bird. The potatoes are peeled, the stuffing is made and the corn is ready to boil. All I do on the day is give the house a quick once over (giving special attention to the bathrooms because…Man Cubs) and assemble the drinks and a hearty cheese + charcuterie platter. And just BTW: I FEED NO ONE until 3pm, so it’s take-away or burgers from a drive-through for lunch. I am not cooking lunch on Thanksgiving Day… are you kidding me?

    At 2pm, I shower and dress and am downstairs, playing music, with a LARGE glass in hand What?! It’s Thanksgiving! And am ready to greet my guests on the hour. BTW: First Guest to arrive gets a job.

    That’s it. Enjoy, don’t stress and remember, if it all goes pear-shaped, there’s always Chinese.

    xmk

     

     

  • How To Use: Dish Soap

    Posted by Max Kater

    Obviously, you now how to use dish soap, duh. But did you know that you can use it to unclog a blocked toilet?
     
    Yes, Honey! Now that’s some news you can use. If you ever find yourself stuck without a plunger (or the will to use one) just do this instead:

    1. Get yourself a bottle of dishwashing liquid. We know a great one that’s safe for septic tanks.
    2. Pour a generous amount (generally half a cup should do it). The idea here is that the soap is denser than the water and will drop to the bottom of the bowl.
    3. Leave it there. Go away and do something else for at least 30 minutes. The dish soap should have penetrated the clog and lubricate the trap way.
    4. Put the kettle on! After 30 minutes, pour a bit of boiling hot water down the loo. Be careful not to overfill the bowl.
    5. Cross your fingers and flush. It should work the first time, but if you have a Titanic type dealio down there, you may have to repeat steps 1 through 3 again.
    6. If it’s still no good, you may have to resort to a plunger, but it will be a lot less trouble after the soap trick. If you don’t have a plunger, this is the time to find a stick or get a wire hanger out of recycling to push the poo through the loo.

    Just FYI: a regular squeeze of Dish Soap down the bowl is a great way to make sure this Never. Happens. Again.

    Good Luck!
     xmk
  • LICK THIS?

    Posted by Max Kater

    Grown-up humans touch an average of 300+ surfaces and then touch their own faces an average of 2500 times a day. Fact.

    But Kids? They touch twice as many surfaces and then stick their fingers (or the object of their attention) into their mouths.

    It sounds gross, but it’s perfectly normal behavior and can even be healthy as long as there isn’t a choking risk or the bacteria count isn’t off the charts. 

    Kids (and pets, by the way) navigate our germy world by touch and taste, it makes sense that we should keep our surfaces clean with something that’s safe and gentle and less toxic than dirt!

    So, what to do? We aren’t advocates for living in a sterile bubble, but we also can’t stop them from licking everything in sight, either.

    We can help with that. Our plant-based Counter Safe All-Purpose Cleaner tackles the everyday grime with ease and you don’t have to worry about harsh chemical residue when they decide to sample your freshly cleaned surfaces. Use it on counters, trays, high chairs, and toys and also in and around the dog’s bowls. It’s especially good on the Diaper Genie.

    Keep one in every room in the house. You’ll need it. We got you, Mama.

    xmk

     

  • Dogs On The Bed?

    Posted by Max Kater

    There he is: The big, irresistible eyes, the adorable face and the yelping and whining…oh Lordy, the whining! All. Night. Long. And the puppy was even worse! 

    Despite my best efforts to stay strong, by 2am, I finally broke down and allowed our gorgeous Whippet puppy onto the bed so we could all get some sleep.

    Are you co-sleeping with your dog? We get it. No judgment here! In fact, a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association estimates nearly half of all dog owners in the US allow their dog to sleep on the bed.

    Successful co-sleeping with your dog can be healthy and even beneficial (as long as you’re not allergic). But there are a few simple rules that you should follow.

     

    1. You’re the Boss. You can share your bed with your best fur friend as long as it’s firmly established that you are the Pack Leader. He has to be invited onto the bed each night and if he growls or starts to show any dominance or marking behavior (like peeing on the bed) he’s immediately bounced!

     

    2. She can’t have your pillow. You can still maintain dominance over your pet, if she sleeps on the bed, but your head must be higher than hers. It’s a hierarchy thing, plain & simple. Her place should really be at the foot of the bed.

     

    3. No treats or chew toys. It’s not her crate or area, it’s yours. See rule no. 1

     

    4. No co-sleeping with babies or toddlers in the bed. Even the most protective and well-trained pets can be clumsy or suffocate a young child accidentally. It’s just not worth the risk.

     

    5. No co-sleeping if you’re allergic or he’s disturbing your sleep. Pet dander will be in the air and also settle on your bedding. Curiously, most pet owners will continue to sleep with their dogs, even if they are allergic. If this is you, you need to be super diligent about washing your pillows and changing your bed linens every week. A morning refresh with a good plant-based fabric cleaner is a great idea. It will dampen down the dander and also keep the Eau de Doggy smell at bay. #wecanhalpwiththat

     

    On the plus side, sleeping with your dog on the bed can have positives. Dogs are warm, cuddly, make us feel secure and tend to raise our oxytocin (the purported “love” hormone) levels just by petting them. Some pet owners even find their rhythmic breathing to be a soothing, natural sleep aid. Bottom line? If you allow your dog onto the bed, enjoy! Just clean your sheets + pillows more often, please. #cleaniseasy

     

    xmk

     

     

     

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