Hospitality Q & A: The Sassy Cousin

My friend Kristy Miller (no relation) asked yesterday, “I need hospitality advice before tomorrow! A very special cousin of mine is coming for one night Tuesday and maybe part of Wednesday. I’ve never hosted her, so I don’t know her likes / dislikes. She is fun, very sharp, and sassy. I really want to make her comfortable and spoil her a bit.”

My first response was to laugh – Kristy and her family hosted us last summer in an emergency and made us very comfortable. I should be getting hospitality advice from her! My family went to Charlotte, NC, for a convention, and we arranged last minute to visit Kristy and her husband, Nate, briefly before heading to Ashville to stay with other friends, the Linikers. Our car broke down and had to be repaired before we could leave Charlotte, so we ended up staying with the Millers for a couple days. They gave us their own bedroom and Kristy slept on their futon while 7 months pregnant! They fed us delicious barbecue and other amazing food, connected us with their mechanic, let us do laundry, and made some important professional connections happen for us. I told Kristy she would have no problem making her cousin feel right at home.

Kristy had decided to put her cousin in the girls’ room because there is a double bed, and the room is right next to a bathroom. Great idea – proximity to a bathroom is a nice thing for guests.

Here were my suggestions to her:

  • Cook food that is regional – visitors to North Carolina often want to enjoy NC’s famous barbecue,
  • Be aware of food allergies – if you don’t know a guest’s allergies or preferences, avoid common allergens like peanuts and shellfish,
  • Make up a gift basket to welcome your guest – local food or gift items make great gifts. Burt’s Bees products are made in NC, and the Linikers gave us Burt’s Bees products and local goodies when we visited them in Ashville.
  • Guests sometimes feel awkward asking if they can raid your kitchen. Stocking their room with a few snacks lets them eat if they get hungry.
  • Put a clean towel on the pre-made bed so your guest knows which towel to use in the bathroom. Kristy said she had bought a special new towel for her cousin.
  • Give your guests downtime when they arrive. Often traveling leaves people tired and feeling rumpled. They might want to rest or freshen up.
  • Have a list of possible interesting things to go and see, depending on what your guest feels up for.
  • Create lots of casual time for conversation. Especially on a short visit, don’t run around so much that you fail to really connect with your guest.

Kristy said she makes a great banana pudding, which is a Southern specialty. And she said she likes to bake as guests arrive so the house smells welcoming. So we talked about how she could have dessert and coffee ready when her cousin arrives so they could sit down, relax, and catch up.

What suggestion do you have for Kristy?

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  • Becky Miller

    Suggestions for stuff to do in Charlotte from my friend Rebecca Knowe:

    Restaurants I often send people to:
    Mac's Speed Shop: for barbecue (there are a couple locations in the city). You can't leave NC without eating barbecue!
    The Penguin: greasy spoon in the hipster neighborhood (yummy fried pickles!).

    For entertainment:
    Ikea is pretty entertaining!
    Nascar hall of fame (?)
    Bechtler Museum of Modern Art downtown (recently opened, pretty cool!) (Here's a NYT article showing the mirrored statue where we took that pic you liked)
    Mint Museum of Art (2 locations)
    National whitewater center (go rafting and get some relief from the heat)
    Shopping at South Park Mall (and I highly recommend hitting nearby Dean & Deluca for gourmet grocery samples… plus their wine bar across the street).
    Movies: there are a few Imax theaters around town, and my favorite theater is the Village Theater in Ballantyne which shows a lot of indies.
    Discovery kids museum, the Charlotte tourism site, is a great resource for events and destinations in Charlotte. We get a lot of big-name musicians so a show could be fun too!

  • Kristy Miller

    Thank you so much Becky and Rebecca!

    Becky, what kind words!!!!

    Rebecca, those are great suggestions. I've not been to the Bechtler (hope I don't pronounce Belcher – all those babies…) anyway, that sounds like a great idea, as does the Mint.

    I thought of the Whitewater center, and will ask her when she arrives. It would be so fun to mountain bike with her there while Nate chases the kids around.

    Southpark and Dean & Deluca are great, great, great.

    I forgot about Village Theater.

    I'll check out that website.

    Outlaw BBQ in Matthews, NC is crazy good!!! I think I'll pick up something from him and make some of my own sides.

    Y'all are peachy-keen! :-)

  • Rebecca Knowe

    I got some more restaurant suggestions from coworkers, Kristy!

    Cabo Fish Taco
    Thai Taste (in Matthews)
    Nikko Sushi
    Amelie's French Bakery (coffeeshop w/ amazing desserts & open 24 hrs.)
    Loco Lime
    Common Market (good sandwiches & beer)
    Phat Burrito
    300 East

    The aforementioned Penguin is actually a great spot to take vegetarians—they have lots of options like sweet potato fries and black bean hummus which are amazing.

    There really is a lot to do in Charlotte. Something else I thought of later: Carowinds theme park! And I'm sure you'll do fine with the museum name—just say "BECK-ler" and you'll be close enough. :)

  • Peter

    Hey I'm on the internets!

    We should get together again one day. I miss my Millers.

  • Kristy Miller

    Hey Girl!
    Well, I worried too much. My cousin is so laid back. I ended up not cooking at all because she could only stay one night.

    I did give her the bedroom that my two little girls share. They have a full-size bed, so it was just fine for my cousin. The room was straightened, cleaned, dusted and vacuumed. (a lot of work for this corporate type…)

    I purchased a new, nice towel because I just did not know how all my regular towels were looking, and place the towel and wash cloth on the extra bed in the room.

    Next to her bed we place a pretty plant and a basket of goodies and necessities that she may have forgotten. Water, tea, grape juice, a chocolate bar, nuts, a FiberOne bar, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaver, Colgate Wisp disposable toothbrush – and, I think that was it.

  • Kristy Miller

    When she arrived I showed her to her room, and her bathroom, (which I dressed up nicely with a pretty little lamp that could be used as a nightlight.) I pointed out the basket of goodies and let her know it was for her.

    I had found out the day before from one of her daughters that she loves Mexican food and rarely gets to indulge because her husband (who is a great guy) does not like that type of food. After my husband arrived home for the evening, we took her to La Unica in Indian Trail. The restaurant is only about 5 miles from our home. This is a very authentic Mexican restaurant and the food is crazy-good. She enjoyed it.

  • Kristy Miller

    We came home and chatted away. She told me so much about my family that I had never known. She was a connection to our grandma in such a fun way. (another story)____The next morning the kids went in to wake her and she was just fine with that. She seemed to love it actually. When she came downstairs I had cut up some fresh peaches and made a fruit salad for breakfast and make a yummy and healthy smoothie in my Vita-mix.____We drove uptown Charlotte and walked around a bit then had to get one of my children to a birthday party.

  • Kristy Miller

    After dropping Kayleigh my cousin and I went to a great tea shop in Monroe, NC called Sweateas. We shared a pot of tea, and some chocolate cake and had a canolli and chatted up a storm.

    After the tea we went to my favorite store called The Silver Lining (see their page on Facebook) for some "window-shopping", just to kill some time and enjoy lots of eye-candy.

    After we picked Kayleigh up we came back to my home and I baked her some chocolate-chevre' brownies, and made her fresh mango-yogurt freeze and packed those goodies in a cooler for her to bring back to her place to enjoy for the week.

    I'm thankful for all the suggestions from y'all. I passed the suggestions on to my friend Naomi whose sister was coming into town with three teens and they went to some of the suggested sites.

    Becky you have some great guests here on your blog-spot!

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