Monday, December 29, 2008

Winding Down

Christmas is done for 2008, unless you plan to celebrate later than the 25th with family or friends. For the next few weeks in January, The Word Quilters will help you wind down and give you tips for tucking Christmas tinsel away but also give you hints for keeping the spirit of Christmas alive in your hearts throughout the year.

A couple of questions this week: Did you discover anything new about celebrating? Tangible or intangible? When do you typically take down your Christmas decorations? Are you sad when "Christmas" comes down?

I made this discovery this year, that everything doesn't have to be orchestrated: I kept my three-year-old granddaughter, Jolie, one day, while her brother, Jack, and his friends were birthday partying, doing guy stuff at my daughter’s home. In my pantry, Jolie saw a line-drawing of a cookie on a granulated sugar package and said, “I want to decorate cookies with sprinkles.” This grandma’s schedule didn’t include baking and the mess of frosting and multi-colored sprinkles that day. I remembered that I had vanilla wafers, a can of opened frosting in the fridge and the always-on-hand sprinkles (Jolie and my favorite quick pick me up is a spoon of peanut butter dipped into marshmallow creme and dotted with any kind of baking sprinkles).

Within minutes, I had her set up and frosting vanilla wafers. She had a fantastic time. She said she was making hers for “Jack’s party.” We later went to her home and a few of the boys were spending the night. My daughter said, “Mom, you won’t believe this. They kept coming into the kitchen and eating the frosted vanilla wafers, saying, 'Your little sister made these? They're delicious." So, that helped me learn that for children and adults the activity of doing something together doesn't have to be a big production and the results are often warm, fuzzy and covered with sprinkles.

When do you put away Christmas? Some friends of mine have the tree down by dusk on Christmas day. I usually put my tree up after December 15th, so I don't mind having it out through New Year's Day. I usually put away Christmas things after January 1st, but I leave out a small Nativity year round. It reminds me of a mother and child who both sacrificed. It's carved out of a white piece of limestone and we inhertied it from my husband's grandmother's estate. It's only about four by six inches and I keep it on an end table near our sofa for us and visitors to see.

Here is a New Year habit of mine that I do rather than resolutions. Each year I chose a theme scripture. Some years it is about an area of life that I want God's hand fully there in a special way--rescuing, delivering or altering. Other years, I may choose a scripture that fits upcoming projects that need completion, or I may choose a verse that fits hopes I have. This year, I chose the following because I refuse to choose to listen to the doom and gloom of media. I know the reality of a downturn in the economy and hardships, but I choose God's abundance: "You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance" (Psalm 65:11). In 2009, I will be frugal but I will also shop at his marketplace for the really good deals.

Happy New Year. May 2009 be crowned with his bounty for your household...Cathy Messecar

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mary Pondered

There is a verse in Luke, part of the Christmas story, that says, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:20 NIV) I have always been fascinated with Mary. She was so young and had to face so much and yet she "treasured up all these things" that happened to her.

What was Mary's treasure? She had very little that first Christmas. Not even a layette. But she had a God who loved her and had given to her Joseph, the man who would be her husband, to cherish and care for her and the beautiful baby in the manger before her. Shepherds had come to worship the baby and claimed great hosts of angels had filled the skies to tell them of this joy. Later, wise men would visit and bear expensive gifts, gifts that were meant for a king, an anointed one.

What did Mary ponder in her heart? I don't think she fully understood what the future held for her son but certainly all of the attention surrounding his birth affirmed her faith. This was truly God's son.

Each Christmas we create treasured memories with our families. Each Christmas through our celebration we honor the simple birth of Jesus. He is our treasure. Let us ponder with grateful hearts throughout the year this great gift of God's love.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day at Our House

My family plans to spend Christmas at our house, so our young adult sons will come over, and we four will visit, exchange gifts and enjoy a feast together.

My husband will cook a ham, and I will make lots of side dishes including mozzarela cheese balls with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, in olive oil. My son described this dish last year, so I tried it and it is delicious.

What kind of pie or tart shall we have?
We haven't decided yet.

Our church had a wonderful Christmas service last Sunday, with children singing, recognition of our members who are a married couple and who are retiring from being Wycliffe Bible missionaries, and our choir with additional singers from another church.

This sets the spiritual stage for our welcoming the birth of Jesus our King, and for family celebrations in our home.

John 3:16 is wonderful: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” The Message

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Personal Christmas Day Plans

Having grown up in Colorado, my family always skied on Christmas Day. It was never very crowded—especially not compared to the days before and after. We simply ate our big turkey or roast dinner on Christmas Eve.

The year we married, Bret and I established the tradition of spending every other year with parents on my side and his side. Starting in 1988, we spent Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his; we’ve alternated every year since. Christmas is with his family this year, and we’re having all of the Wilsons come to our home because we’re centrally located. Oh, forget it. Who am I kidding? It’s because we want to leave sooner to go skiing. Fortunately, this year our kids have a longer winter break; they don’t start back to school until January 8th. We can probably do our ski trip around New Year’s.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Got a Choice? Get Wisdom!

by Brenda Nixon, speaker and co-author of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

The book of James, in the Bible, is one of my favorites. I can relate to James, the writer. He was forthright, honest, candid, sincere, and I think his mouth may have occasionally offended readers. Did I say I can relate? Yep, I'm those descriptions and my honesty sometimes puts off people. I've been referred to as pushy, but I'd prefer the word assertive because, if I must, I can set limitations and boundaries. I can say "No," without guilt, although there are times I suffer
consequences from others who do not understand or agree with my answer.

In chapter 2, James writes about the sin of showing favoritism. He gives this example, "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there or Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" Ouch! Pretty blunt, right?

The most comforting, inspirational verse I heavily rely on is chapter 1, verse 5. Here he encourages readers to ask for wisdom and promises God will provide liberally and without fault. With daily decisions to make - and some life altering ones - I frequently ask for divine wisdom.

As a parent, I often wonder do I generously give to my children when they ask for help, and do so without a lecture or a I told you so attitude?

Here are three James facts:
  1. It's believed he was the half-brother of Jesus, having different fathers, but sharing the same mother;
  2. His readers were followers of Jesus; and
  3. His book was written around A.D. 49.
With a new year upon us, I hope you'll remember that God will always give you wisdom to make any decision. Maybe you won't recognize the wisdom (it never comes to me like a lightening bolt), but looking back you'll see you received it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Story Never Ends - Trish Berg

I have the most beautiful manger set you could imagine. But the beauty isn’t wrapped up in how it looks on the outside. My crèche has a beauty that comes from the hands that made it, the love that went into creating this place of hope and faith for me.

The walls are made up of old barn siding that was found here and there. The nails that hold it together are bent and crooked, and there are so many gaps in the corners, you are sure to feel a breeze blow through.

But it came from my husband. And it came with love.
It was our first Christmas as husband and wife, and we were poor as dirt, trying to find a way to celebrate Christmas without spending any money. So we made handmade ornaments for our families, and decided not to exchange gifts with each other.

But on Christmas morning, Mike surprised me with this handmade crèche. And every year since, he has blessed me with one figurine to fill our crèche with the story of

After sixteen years of marriage, our wooden crèche has become quite full. There are several angels that sit on top, watching from above. There are shepherds, maidens carrying water jugs, goats, oxen, sheep, camels and even three kings. And of course, there is Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus, wrapped in clothes, lying in a bed of straw at the center of it all.

When our first child was born, I decided our precious crèche was too precious to let little hands touch. So we put it up high on a shelf. But as our family grew, and the kids grew, I finally gave in and let them play with each and every piece.

Our growing crèche has become a treasured family heirloom of sorts. Not because of its beauty. Because old barn siding with cracks and dings isn’t that hard to find.

Not because of the many figurines. Because each piece is replaceable at any gift shop most places you travel.

Our crèche has become a family heirloom because of the love that went into making it, and the love that goes into playing with it every Christmas.

Year after year, my children arrange and rearrange the pieces, sometimes moving the angels closer to Jesus, sometimes the shepherds. They spend hours acting out the Christmas story with these precious figurines in this broken down, handmade crèche, and every year I marvel at their creativity and love for Christmas.

The story began in a stable, with Mary and Joseph, some cattle and sheep.

The story began with a star in the sky shining brightly, leading the way.

The story began with shepherd, abiding in the field with their flock, seeing angels singing praises.

The story began in Bethlehem, in a drafty manger since there was no room at the inn.

The story began when Jesus was born, when God Himself came down to earth to show us how much He loves us.

And the beauty of the Christmas story isn’t wrapped up in how it looks on the outside. How pretty your tree is or how much you spend on the gifts you exchange.

The story of Christmas has a beauty that comes from the hands that made the world, the love that went into creating this place and the gift of love that gives us hope and faith.

The story of Christmas is beautiful because it is Heaven sent.
And if you hold onto that - then the story never ends.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Countdown to Christmas

This is the last weekend before Christmas. For some of us it is panic time. The last minute shopping, the final Christmas card to send out to someone who sent you one, wrapping, planning the holiday meals and cooking ahead. . .the list seems endless. This week's theme was to give you some hints for preparing for impromptu visitors or for cleaning up after the holidays. Instead, I'd like to give you something else. Permission to:
  • slow down and enjoy your family for the day

  • escape with a good book or magazine for an hour or two

  • tell that last minute person who wants to stop by that you won't be home--and then take your kids to the mall or a movie for a while

  • not have a perfectly spotless house (you are probably the only one who cares about spotless)

  • indulge in a bubble bath

  • turn down another invitation to another function in order to spend some time with your spouse alone, maybe holding hands across the table from each other at a restaurant--even if it's McDonald's
You get the picture, don't you? At this point in time we Christmas organizers, keepers of the tradition, social secretaries need to stop and take a breath. We need to remember that this is a time for us to enjoy the family, renew our faith, and freshen our spirits. Don't let the to-do list zap what energy is left as you countdown to Christmas Day.

By the way, you also have permission to go out and make angels in the snow (should you be fortunate to have any). This is a picture of the snow angel made by my mother-in-law that I wrote about in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quick Home Spruce Up

When guests are coming over and you don't have much time to spruce up the house, what to do?
Every visitor to our home is admitted directly to our living room, where our pretty oak coffee table tends to be covered with mail and magazines.
With a few minutes notice I sweep all of the papers on top of the table into my arms, and deposit them in a bedroom, out of sight.
I then grab my bottle of Old English Oil that is lemon scented and polish the top of the coffee table. This is very quick to do and the lemon is a wonderful clean scent.
We have one or two bright red Amaryllis or Poinsettias to draw visitors' attention, plus our Christmas tree that is sparkling with ornaments and lights, and which deflect attention to them in their glory.
I include here photos my husband took of our brilliant red Amaryllis, in full bloom on our dining table.
We aim to keep the focus on hospitality and colorful Christmas trees and flowers.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Home Improvement

Home Improvement

The “Like Magic” Quick Tidy

Purchase a couple of giant Rubbermaid containers, plastic laundry baskets, or even wicker baskets. If someone will be stopping by (and you have any more warning that them ringing your doorbell), perform a quick tidy on your living areas. Stack newspapers, magazines and other paper clutter into one basket or tub. Use the other one to pick up kids’ toys, sporting equipment or other clutter. Stick it the baskets in your laundry room to go through as soon as your impromptu guests leave.

Stuff that Smells Good

Realtors suggest some of these same tips to improve the sales potential of your home, but the idea of things smelling good (read: homey) probably dates back to our grandmas’ kitchens. So, to re-create that peaceful, secure feeling, try popping some slice’n’bake cookies or a loaf of frozen bread dough in the oven. Or, set wassail on the stove to permeate your entire home with a Christmas-y smell. My sister-in-law Kendall uses light bulb rings dotted with scented oils, such as peppermint or apple cider.

Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the memory of such smells will linger long after the aroma is actually gone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ready or Not, Here They Come! by Brenda Nixon

by Brenda Nixon, speaker and co-author on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Greetings my faithful readers!
It's Wednesday and my day to post. I'm wondering, how do you spruce up the house for surprise company? Usually, I don't. I'm fortunate to have a living room that is rarely used, therefore it's always neat and ready to welcome guests. I might give a quick dusting if I have enough of a notice, but when impromptu guests pop in, the living room serves as a good first impression.
Now, to really get to know me and my family you'd have to go into our family room. I keep it picked up but it's not nearly as neat or clean as the living room. Go into my office and you'll see my professional side. There I have piles of books, an old school bench, calendars, a bookshelf and cluttered desk. But, of course, a cluttered desk is a mark of genius, or say I've heard. Sprucing up my office is not an option - when you come in there, it's a take it or leave it situation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Over the Hill and through the Woods to

...Grandma's House we go....

Christmas usually means company. This week, the Word Quilters will give you hints for spiffinng up your house in a jif when you get a phone call that company is on their way, or if you do this routine early, you'll be ready all day if somone drops in for a visit.

I heard this tip years ago, and I've found it to be a good one. Keep your mirrors and appliances shiny, and the gleam will catch your visitor's attention, making a good first impression. and it will make you feel better, too. Take a spray bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels or some lint free rags and only do the household mirrors. Go do that now. There. Do you feel better about your housekeeping?

I like to take a few minutes each day to tidy rooms. Round up any stray itmes and return them to their "homes." Also, keep a clear cookie jar filled with homebaked cookies out in a prominent place, and place something cheerful by the door guests enter--a plant, a welcome sign, r a bright welcome mat. Put on a smile and welcome any guests who happen to phone ahead or drop by.

What if thngs are mussed up and you have callers? Be gracious. Say as little about your mess as possible. You might make them feel bad for dropping in. Err on the side of hospitality and put your all-I-want-for-Christmas-is-a-neat-house ego on hold. Choose to be a blessing to all who cross your threshhold and seek your company. What a compliment. They wanted to come see YOU!

Merry Christmas this week as we go into the last few days, counting down -- 10 full days until Christmas ....Cathy Messecar

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Every Time You Hear a Bell Ring. . .

One of the best moments in It's A Wonderful Life is when Jimmy Stewart hears the bell on the Christmas tree ring and knows that his angel friend has finally earned his wings. A simple ornament made from a large jingle bell and some ribbon is a great gift to keep on hand for those unexpected Christmas visitors.

At a craft store purchase some large jingle bells. They sometimes come in colors of red or white or green as well as silver and gold. Buy some thin satin ribbon and large ornament hooks as well. Simply cut an 8-10 inch length of ribbon, thread it through the top part of the bell, tie a bow and add an ornament hook. If you want to get any fancier, you can glue on some berries and greenery or mini-pine cones. Keep the bells in a large basket or hang on your tree and use them to gift your friends in appreciation for their visit.

As always, it is more frugal to buy these after Christmas but beware that often jingle bells are one of the first things to sell out at the holiday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Extra Gifts to Keep On Hand

We keep extra candles on the fireplace mantle, in case surprise visitors appear and we want to give them a Christmas gift.
You can readily find candles on sale, and they are festive gifts. Red candles that are cinnamon scented or green pine scented candles are super choices.
Sparkling apple cider is another welcome surprise gift to have on hand.
And Happy Birthday today to my co-author Brenda :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last-minute gift ideas

Hints for Extra Gifts

Handy Ornaments

Again from Angela Allman. When the expensive Christmas ornaments—in the $15-25.00 range—go on sale, pick up several at half price. Wrap in tulle with a contrasting color ribbon. Keep them in a basket by the front door to hand out to folks who drop in or to deliver when you visit someone’s home. For a nice touch, add a Scripture verse printed from your computer then tied on with ribbon.

Couch Potato Kit

Buy a six-pack of Coke or Diet Coke, and hot glue the following items to the side:
· One big box of Junior Mints or other “movie theatre” candy
· One package of microwave popcorn
· A $5.00 gift card to Blockbuster (or other local DVD rental store)

I keep a few of these homemade items handy—for the drop-ins—as well as for little gifts that I give to service people along with tips (baby-sitters, hair stylist, mail and newspaper delivery folks, etc.).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Go to the Gift Drawer

Have you ever been caught with a last-minute birthday invitation? How about a holiday open house and you want to give a hostess gift? But what if time or money is limited?

That's why I keep a gift drawer in my home. I also have one in my office for professional gifts to program planners, editors, and others in my writing and speaking industry.

Throughout the year, I keep my eyes open for clearance sales, garage sale finds and markdowns. When I find something that would make a lovely, meaningful gift, I go ahead and buy it. Then my secret stock grows. It's real handy to have a gift on hand for last-minute needs.

By the way, this week is my birthday (December 12). Do you have a gift drawer? Hint, hint.

by Brenda Nixon, speaker and co-author on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Monday, December 8, 2008

Scrapbook Authors on the AIR!

We have quite an exciting week for media attention on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts this week.


Cathy Messecar (Co-Author) will be on tomorrow, December 9th, on WBCL with Lynne Ford out of Fort Wayne, Indiana from 8:05-9:00 am Central time. You can also listen online at


Trish will be on Midday Connection LIVE tomorrow, December 9th, for about 5 minutes sometime from 1:00-1:30 EST to share a few family traditions from SOCF. I will be chatting with Anita and Melinda. Yo can listen nationwide on your local Moody station, or catch us online at


Co-Authors Karen Robbins and Trish Berg will be LIVE IN STUDIO sometime from 8:20 - 8:45 am on 95.5 FM The Fish in Cleveland, Ohio with Brooke Taylor and Len Hauser. You can listen in Northern Ohio at 95.5 FM, or online anywhere at


Karen will be on 100 Huntley Street Full Circle THIS FRIDAY, December 12th, on Direct TV Channel 378. It is a Canadian, Christian television show which airs internationally on satellite TV. Think The View but with Christians. These ladies are awesome!

You can also watch online here:

So check out one or more of these appearances, and let us know that you did!

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts Goes Texas

You can watch a 5 min video interview with co-author, Lesile Wilson, on Good Morning Texas on a segment The Not So Perfect Parent.
She shares some wonderful Christmas traditions from our book A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, so stop on by and watch, and post a comment there if you would.

Fa, la, la, la, la, SOCF went TEXAS!

Check it out

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The grandkids are coming! The grandkids are coming!

My two guest bedrooms are set up to receive young children. When the first grandchild arrived, I went in search of a good sale on cribs and found one that was quite a deal. That has served well and still has a ways to go. But as the kids grew, it was more of a challenge to arrange comfortable sleeping.

My daughter-in-law came up with a great idea for Caleb when he got bumped from the crib by little sister Annalise. She bought a small tent that pops up easily. We spread a quilt on the bottom so that he has some padding, add a pillow and he's quite content to have his own space in Mommy and Daddy's room. It also keeps him contained so that he's not rolling all over the floor as was the problem with using sleeping bags for pre-schoolers.

To add to the festive spirit of Christmas, I make sure there are Christmas books available for that last story before little eyes need to be shut. And now, I'll have to be sure to have some young reader books for Tyler, the newest reader in the family. Maybe by Christmas, he'll be able to read the Christmas story to us!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Welcome to Guests

For holiday spirit to jazz up my home, I use Christmas theme towels, and fancy scented soaps, which I get out and display for use, especially when guests are coming.
Whenever you are out shopping for bargains be alert for the colorful sets of bath towels, embroidered with Santas, Christmas trees, snow flakes etc.
When not on sale these are a bit pricey for me, and I do adore a bargain.
A month ago I bought a set of a sky blue hand towel and a washcloth, embroidered with frolicking penguins.
By chance when we picked paint color when repainting our older bathroom we selected the palest of blues.
So that is my Martha Stewart coordinated moment for the year, blue penguin towels and blue walls.
I also indulge in fancy hand soaps, and share those with guests too.
I can definitely use a few more decorating holiday tips.
What are your ideas?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Preparing for Guests

Preparing for Guests

These ideas come from my very creative friend, Angela Allman. Our sons play baseball together and in the Texas July heat, she brainstormed some small touches we can add to make our guest rooms or bathrooms special for holiday guests.

Always shop the craft stores right before or right after Christmas. They have major markdowns on expensive garlands. Angela and I agreed that we’re too frugal (read: cheap!) to spend $24.99 on an evergreen garland with berries, pinecones, or even feathers. However, we feel like we’re getting a good buy if we snag the same thing for $12.50. Drape them over bathroom mirrors for a festive touch.

Pick up freshly cut pine or cedar bundles at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Arrange a few in the top of a hurricane filled with nuts in the shell.

To have your decorating energy go even farther, place a Christmas throw at the foot of every bed or drape one over your sofa. Decorating your home for Christmas couldn’t be easier!

Another inexpensive idea that’s very classy: Collect hotel shampoos, lotions and soaps during the year. Place them in a basket lined with a piece of gingham or tulle. Set one in the guest bath—and maybe even your own!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brenda's Tip for Braving the Bathroom

It’s time to prepare for guests, but P-U, do you have a smelly bathroom? The ways I quickly freshen my guest bath for company is to wash the sink and toilet, change towels, and spray some room spray. All that can be completed in about 10 minutes. If time permits, I light a fragrant candle and look to make sure there are no hairs in the bathtub (I hate hairs in a tub!)

When hosting long term guests, I also place out a basket of travel size toiletries for their convenience and comfort.

Do you have a tip for making your bathroom more beautiful for guests?

by Brenda Nixon, speaker and co-author, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Make Guests Feel Special - Trish Berg

Both my mom and my mother-in-law are amazing hostesses, though they have very different styles. They both make guests feel special and welcome.

My mom makes guests feel welcome by keeping things low key. Her home is very relaxed. Mealtime is just a part of the event. Guests sit around the family room and visit by the fireplace, and when people get hungry, she serves the meal. Not set time, just when people desire.

One way my mother-in-law makes guests feel special by putting little gifts at their place setting at the dinner table at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This Thanksgiving, she had hot pads and dishtowels with beautiful Christmas scenes at every female guest's place setting.

For her male guests, she had a sweet treat bag of 5 hand dipped chocolates at their place setting.

Other years, she has had seasonal pins (like snowmen or Santa's), mini flashlights for the men, cheese spreaders with holiday themes, candles or even sweet smelling hand lotion.

You can find many great little gifts at dollar type stores, and whatever you do, just welcome guests in as you would like to be welcomed.

Enjoy the journey-Trish Berg

Monday, December 1, 2008

Guest Towels and Travel Toothpaste

Last Monday, I didn't post about food drives because I was helping my mother-in-law after her surgery, but we do participate in one at our church--this year's goal is a collected 14,000 pounds distributed to families of one-seven members and up: staples, fresh produce and a ham or turkey. We shop from prepared grocery lists that we pick up when we choose the size family we can buy for. Our church is a county food distribution center all year, a main outreach for us, so we are known in the community as a food pantry.

The holidays offer another opportunity to give. On holiday distribution day, the boxes of food are arranged on the pews, and it takes nearly all of our huge auditorium to house the grocery items. It's a sight to behold. All those pews stacked with bread and ham, peanut butter and jam.

Now, let's switch gears. This week the Word Quilters will give you ideas for making your holiday guests comfortable. Not every one even has a spare room for guests, but whatever room you house your guest/s in, make sure it is as spotless as possible and clutter free. Depending upon their length of stay, provide closet space for clothing or a place where luggage can be easily accessed.

In the guest bedroom (we have one now that kids are grown and gone) I leave a few magazines and a book of devotionals and short stories in the room, and provide a lamp for soft lighting and one for reading.

In the bath area, I keep clean spare robes and small unused soaps and bottled shower gels. Also in a container, I place travel size toiletries: toothbrushes and paste, deoderant, shower cap, mouth rinse, throw away razors, and small shampoos, condtioners and hairsprays. Make sure you have a few paper cups in bathroom, too.

The final things I do--sometimes a non-family guest has a hunger or thirst late at nght and might not feel comfortable rummaging in your kitchen for food or drink. In the guest room, make sure there are light snacks and juices in a basket, and tuck in a few pretty paper napkins.

The last thing I d before a guest arrives is to fill two small vases in bedroom and bath with fresh flowers, tiny vases with just a few touches of wildflowers, garden blooms or hot house blossoms.

All the above lets my guests know that their visit was greatly anticipated. They see the "welcome mat" in all the pleasant details of care provided for their refreshment and comfort.

How do you offer hospitality to your guests?