With the advent of spring, there comes to our valley the arrival of houseguests. Most are as welcome as daffodils, a few as welcome as dandelions. What divides the daffodils from the dandelions? What makes the hosting or guesting experience a happy one for all involved?

I talked with a number of people who frequently host out-of-towners who shared their tips, insights and pet peeves. To encourage candid replies, I’ve identified my interview subjects by first names only.

The Walla Walla welcome

Every host I talked with makes a point of promoting local businesses and growers. Several like to give locally sourced gifts. Shira’s guests, for example, are given a bottle of Walla Walla wine and one of Ben Czyhold’s hand-forged wine openers. Heather loves to share chocolates from Bright’s Candies or Petite Noir. Two hosts mentioned giving Walla Walla shopping bags (available at Safeway) that guests can use at the farmers market or local farm stands.

Other welcoming touches include fresh flowers, bottled water, notepads and a Wi-Fi password in each room. Heather likes to provide bathrobes, soaps and a choice of firm or soft pillows. Lisa likes to set out mini cupcakes. Anne, who’s not a coffee drinker, always makes sure to have some Walla Walla Roastery coffee beans on hand.

Wine tasting and “the polite standard”

Wine tasting is the number one tourist activity for many, and local hosts are delighted to share their favorite wineries with guests.

Each of the hosts I interviewed were members of at least one wine club and had cultivated relationships with other wineries. Guests benefit from those relationships in the form of waived tasting fees and other perks.

“Most people get it,” says Lisa. “Especially when tasting fees are waived, they understand that the polite standard is to purchase at least one bottle per tasting.”

But not everyone does gets it, and that can be embarrassing for the host.

“We now let visitors know up front that if we take you winetasting, it’s important that you support the local wine community by buying a bottle of wine at each location,” says Lisa. “And of course, guests are welcome to explore wineries on their own.”

Alternative activities

One can only drink so much wine and — gasp — some folks don’t drink wine at all. Here are some alternative activities suggested by our hosts.

Walking — Explore the Whitman College campus, Whitman Mission National Historic Site, Bennington Lake, tree-lined streets with stately homes.

Biking — If guests can’t bring their own, bikes can be rented at Allegro Cyclery, Bicycle Barn, or through the outdoor rental program at Whitman College.

Shopping — In addition to Walla Walla’s Main Street shops, hosts mentioned Milton-Freewater stops at Saager’s Shoe Shop and Petits Noirs boutique chocolatier as favorite destinations.

Side trips — Pendleton Underground Tours offer an interesting glimpse of the region’s history. Be sure to include a tour of the Pendleton Woolen Mill (and shopping for seconds). A drive through the wheat fields with stops in Waitsburg, Dayton and Palouse Falls is another great outing.

A relaxed approach to meals

An overstressed host is not a good thing for anybody, so make things easy on yourself.

“I’ve stopped making every meal,” says Lisa “I just have grazing options. Meat and cheese, breakfast options. I’ve even suggested people bring a favorite snack for everyone to share.”

Heather likes to set the table and leave it set the entire weekend. She keeps cheese, crackers and cold cuts on hand for lunches on the go.

Anne likes to take guests to the farmers market so they can help shop and prepare a meal together.

Barbara likes to throw together an easy, adaptable frittata (see recipe) that can be served hot or cold and portioned for a meal or appetizers.

Don’t be “that guest”

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to stay in someone’s home, here’s how to ensure you will be remembered as a daffodil and not a dandelion.

Give a little — Before coming, ask if there is anything the hosts need. Bring a gift. Pick up the tab.

Help out — Make your bed. Don’t leave dishes in the sink. Ask the host if they want the bed stripped on leaving. Offer to prepare a meal or at least part of a meal.

Be complimentary — Notice and show appreciation for the delicious meal, the pretty garden, the lovely town and more.

Be sensitive to rhythms of the household — try to work with the hosts’ schedules rather than make others adjust to yours.

And always, always follow up with a heartfelt thank you!

Happy host/happy guest frittata

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together in the order listed:

10 eggs

1 pint cottage cheese

(small curd)

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup flour

6 Tbsp melted butter

10 drops Tabasco

1 pound shredded jack cheese

7 oz can diced green chilies

1 tsp salt

Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake until egg mixture is puffed and set.

Barbara Nombalais is a communications consultant, freelance writer and avid home cook specializing in locally sourced, globally inspired, scratch-made food.

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