Baguette? How I Come up With the Word of the Day
Joie de Vivre + A must-visit beach in La Ciotat, close to Paradise!

Pouponner: How Do YOU care for your guests? (And vice versa). Send tips!

Tarte-de-pomme French apple pie
A homemade apple tart by my mother-in-law offers a loving touch. I want my American family to feel cared for--pouponné!--when they stay with me this month. Tell us what makes you most comfortable when you are a guest in someone's home. Conversely, tell us ways you try to be a good guest.


    : to dote, to look after

ECOUTER: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav

Quand vous avez des invités à la maison, comment faites-vous pour les pouponner?
When you have guests at the house, how do you dote after them?


     by Kristi Espinasse

My mind is reeling with images of my brother-in-law in our bathtub. Now that I have your attention, would you please help me with my current obsession? (No, it is not my hunky beau-frère. It is my hunky French bathroom--the one that adjoins our bedroom (never mind you have to walk across the TV room and the foyer to reach it!). I love its original (and rough!) features: 50's bathtub, solo sink (still proudly sporting its sticker from the last century: "fabrication Française"), and even the shoe-box size triple mirror-pharmacy, over the sink, which is chipped around the edges after decades of use. (The sink has its own originality: you cannot set down your trousse de toilette, for one--and, second, it is placed beside the bidet (we use ours to soak laundry).

I am always trying to view our home through a visitor's lens. Depending on your international perspective, a few things may be amiss. In previous posts I've talked about the missing clothes dryer and a garbage disposal. But I no longer wish for those conveniences. In their absence, I have learned to make "black gold" (compost) from all the kitchen scraps, and I now find bucolic pleasure in hanging my family's laundry (that is, when our golden retriever, Smokey, isn't bursting my pastoral bubble--by leaving fresh "landmines" beneath the laundry line, making it necessary to dodge them as I hang the bath towels! Grrrh!)

Which brings me to another concern for my visiting family: les serviettes de bain. As I've told you before, our towels are as stiff as cardboard and scratchy as sandpaper after drying in the Provencal sun. Should I explain this to our guests...or just smile to myself when I hear the bathwater draining from the tub? Someone's in for a suprise! Aïe-aïe-aïe!

This all brings me back to those bath-time worries I told you about. Will my brother-in-law know how to use our tub like a Frenchman? (Sit down. Hold extendable shower nozzle over your head until drenched. Set down nozzle. Suds up and hurry up. Hot water is limited!)

A phone call from Dad last night reminded me that I need not worry about this. "Brad and Kelley can use my shower! But if they are staying in your room -- where will you and Jean-Marc stay? In the pigeon coop?"

Ouf! What a relief when guests work out the quirks among themselves, n'est-ce pas? (And no worries, Dad. Jean-Marc and I will make a cozy nest in his vineyard office--across the hall from Max, who will be staying below the pigeonnier while you and Marsha stay in his bedroom). This'll be like camp! "Camp Quick Bath for The Pigeons."

Speaking of we pigeons and our grooming schedules....Dad's comment reminds me of one last quirk:  the upstairs shower he will now be sharing with Brad and Kelley. Owing to a blip in French construction (!!!), it is necessary to enter the shower sideways--and to suck in your stomach to clear the very narrow entrance.

Ah well! It is a quirky French house and I love it. I hope my family will too!

What are the quirks in your home and how do you get ready for guests? Tell me ways to make a guest feel at home--and tell me how you try to be a good guest when you stay with family and friends.
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le beau-frère = brother-in-law
trousse de toilette = toiletry bag, make-up bag
la serviette de bain = towel
aïe = ouch! ow! oh, dear!
ouf! = phew!
le pigeonnier = attick, garret, place where pigeons stay (dovecoat)


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Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I love this post. Sometimes it's the quirks that make things so charming! You can always tell your guests that the stiff towels double as a loofah so they will have especially soft skin. Rub off with the towel and apply body lotion and voila.....smooth as a baby's bottom! hehehe

I remember our first day in our Belgian house with packing boxes all over and our son Collin had unpacked one of his boxes in his bedroom and found his little boats and was floating them in the bidet!

Enjoy your family!

Our French Oasis

Oh this was so funny. Our towels are stiff as a board too, I love them that way! They are kind of like a body brush, so they serve a duel purpose which works for me!!! However, I do put the guest towels in the dryer, I just don't think everyone is ready for my stiff towels quite yet!


as a host and as a guest, the most important thing is that the visit is no longer than 3 days max, preferably with only 2 nights. as we get older, this seems to become the most important issue...other items like quirks of the house can always be tolerated for this amount of time. The second major issue is smoking...we had a European guest once who although he smoked outside, reeked of the smell and the guest room had to be aired for a week...wish he had stayed elsewhere nearby. I find non-North Americans are not as aware of this as we are. There are other things like when guests bring their dogs (we have 2 cats that are terrified), guests who don't talk much, guests who talk too much, guests who do not help with mealtime, guests who are not appreciative, guests who don't speak English or even try, guests who etc etc
me, I am a perfect guest of course. No, actually I am not because I do enjoy a comfortable bed and a good night sleep which is sometimes hard to come by in a guest room bed. One house which I visit often because I love the people so much I always fear going to has a duvet my husband and I have to sleep on...hard to get down and up that low anymore.

Joanne Polner

Search for second-hand tall mini tables or square seated four-leg stools that can act as mini-tables at each side of your bathroom sink. That's what I have done. The items may not come to the same level as your sink, but almost as tall.Or have some one make such items for you to be equal in height to your sink top.

Joanne NJ


Here's a link to a handy website called Apartment Therapy that has some ideas for your scratchy towel syndrome! Have a lovely visit with your family - I'm sure they'll be far more interested in you guys than your towels. Thank you, Kristie, for continuing to delight and enlight us with your escapades in France.

Jenine Clifford

What makes me most comfortable when I am a guest in someone’s home? To not be treated as a guest but as an honored family member. I love the ability to pitch in around the house and especially the kitchen. Cooking is not my gift, but I’m very comfortable when it comes to serving others and cleaning up.
When we have guests in our home, we always put fresh flowers from our garden in the guest room. I also leave a basket of goodies. A map of the area (Atlanta), a local magazine or newspaper, snacks, fresh fruit and bottled water. And of course chocolates on the pillows at night. I tell my guests that I would like them to feel at home, help themselves to what ever and let me know if there is something specific that they need.
No worries Kristin, your family is going to love your home and your gracious spirit!

Dane Wells

Travelers need putting-down and hanging-up space. They need someplace where they can open up their luggage and remove things (luggage racks are great and easy to stow when not in use.) The floor is inconvenient, except perhaps for children. They also need a place to open and use their toilet kits, a small table or shelf near the sink might work. Guests will also want to hang some things up, is there some free space in the closet and some empty hangers?

Even fancy hotels miss this thought: if you want guests to re-use their towels, give them ample places to hang them up.

Building quirks are pat of the adventure of travel. I wouldn't worry about them, if they are that fussy they can find a hotel. Sun dried towels are the best (if you have a dryer, you can give them a simple and short "fluff-up" to make them less stuff.

(the writer is the former innkeeper/owner (for 23 years)of The Queen Victoria Inn, Cape May, NJ


Quirky is charming and for me, the excitement of people staying is the most enjoyable part of the experience. As the saying goes, "the company makes the feast!"

A cup of white vinegar in the final rinse makes towels soft and leaves no unpleasant odour either.

Your guests will love it!


Kristi -
Always a thank you for bringing a smile to our faces! As far as handling guests is concerned. First of all, remember that they are coming to see you and your family, and will in general manage regardless. As a guest, the last thing I want to do is to be a burden on the host/hostess, but I know that as a host/hostess one always goes out of their way (even when told not to do anything special) such as giving up their more spacious sleeping arrangements for the guest's use. Be yourself, and everyone will have a great time. Don't sweat little things like the stiff towels - one of the things that most people enjoy when traveling (besides seeing family and friends) is to learn how life is in that location. So use it as a learning tool!

One specific thing that we used to do when we lived overseas and had guests, is to invite them to bring a favorite recipe and cook dinner one night. The day before we would go out to the local markets or shops and get the ingredients (substituting when not available) and then letting them cook it in your kitchen - we found this a great joint effort and lots of fun, it helped to share the load so the host/hostess wasn't doing all the cooking, and we got to eat something that the guests loved as well. Then we always kept a recipe book where we wrote these special recipes down as a memento of their visit.

Above all, have fun!

L Flett

I'd say my priorities are : surface to put washbag down on, when doing ablutions/makeup etc, designated space for suitcase or rucksack, flat surface to put out earrings/jewellry/hairbrush,nail varnishes etc, (doesn't need to be fancy, an upturned bucket or box, or a wooden stool or chair will do) refillable bottle of water for each person, by bed, more than 1 pillow each, place to air wet towels, access to some local info/guidebooks/leaflets, place to charge phone etc and lastly a good-sized mirror in a place with light! If all these are available, anything extra like sweets or nibbles would be just icing on the cake. An idea I'd appreciate, for my partner, is a little shoebox or small crate so he can put all his loose stuff (sunglasses,keys,phone, loose change, etc), as he inevitably loses all this stuff around our house, never mind other peoples houses, on a daily basis. However, bear in mind that the best of times often happen in places where none of this is provided....we spent an excellent and memorable stay in an amazing Alentejan guesthouse without any hot water and a bed so short we had to take the end board off to get in it - there was not a single chair large enough for us to risk sitting on it in the room and the dressing table mirrors were at the level for a child, so impossible to see what my outfit looked like above waist level! Incredible house, hilarious pair of elderly ladies who ran it and superb breakfast, with scented freesias on table and cake heaven. Quirky and so worthwhile! Bon chance, L.

Andreas Wagner

Lovely post - as always a very interesting read!! Michelle already mentioned the vinegar idea - i've been using that on all of our laundry since I found out a couple of years ago. The towels come out softer after line-drying (not as soft as in the tumble dryer though), and they stay wonderfully absorbant. I use 'vinaigre crystal', which you've probably seen in every supermarket here. if yo wan to get new towels I've got two suggestions: in Japan they use towels made of two layers of woven cotton fabric - they dry in a flash and always stay soft; the other towels I've found here are the serviettes d'hammam, which is a flat or 'nid d'abeille' weave, and again, they come out soft after each wash.

But I'm sure your guests will have a wonderful stay with you, soft or scratch towels!!

Cynthia Lewis

Don't forget, Kristi, that your family is excited about their upcoming visit with you and your family! They will enjoy the differences they encounter and find them refreshing. Preparing dishes which are your specialities (and we know you have many of these!) will take the stress out of serving meals. Everyone will be enchanted with eating outside as you so often do.

I always love the small bouquet of flowers placed somewhere in the bedroom to let your guests know how special they are to you, also a piece of fruit or two is nice in case someone gets hungry in the middle of the night. You and your guests are going to love and remember every minute you spend together!

My best wishes, Cynthia PS: Luggage racks are nice, but the bed will serve as well when needed. Your family will be gazing out of your windows to see the photos you have posted in "real time"! ... having not a moment to waste on small inconveniences....


You already have many good tips on taking care of guests so I will just say that when I travel I want to live like the locals and experience life as they live it as much as possible. So do not worry about the towels or the quirks of your charming French home. They are coming to see you and your family and walk in the garden and vineyard and pet Smokey. Enjoy.


One guest rule we have: Guests can be first in the shower, but if the last (fourth) person gets a cold shower, her or she who went first gets to be LAST the next day! Always works as an incentive.

Jeanne in Oregon

Many folks enjoy watching TV in bed while traveling, and your guest quarters might not offer that option. Having books and magazines available will be helpful, and offering a DVD player and some DVDs would be nice (or suggesting they bring their own). I would also suggest a small supply of local post cards and postage should your guests wish to send a quick note to friends or family back home. As for the towels, hand them over with a smile, a quick comment about their "loofah" qualities, and ask them to smell the lovely scent the sun has graced them with. Ah, that smell will remove any discomfort. And how nice it will be when they snuggle into the sheets and bedding that have that same sunshine smell. Nothing like it in the world!


I always make it a priority to have some "me" time every day; whether it be a quiet early morning coffee before my guests have stirred, or an hour to read, putter - whatever - in the afternoon. I make certain my guests have the same. It's so important to me not to have to be "on" all of the time, even with family.

gwyn ganjeau

It's going to be a wonderful time for you all! Some nice touches for guests -- a small table or chair to put the suitcase, perhaps one of your wine bottles filled daily with fresh water with one or two real glasses, and a nice little welcome notecard from you will put smiles on their faces immediately!

enjoy every minute of it!

Fran Reed

I always tell my guests the house rules: 1)Go to bed when you want, 2)Get up when you want, 3)If you're hungry or thirsty go to the kitchen - easy, and they all come back!


Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

This was such a lovely read. What a great way to start the day! The comments especially so today, too. And we all learned about the vinegar for softening air-dried towels. I miss the clothesline.

I have had up to 3 guests at once in my former Manhattan studio apt. and for more than 3 days. (The apt., creatively arranged, managed to fit both a double bed and sofa bed, though when the sofa was opened into a bed, we had to relocate the drop-leaf kitchen table.)

Flexibility is key on both sides (guest/host). YES, knowing where to hang towel to dry is very useful. A little basket of toiletries is nice. Being treated like family is the best.

I generally pack my own snacks, just in case I've gone hungry (rather than let a host know I didn't like a meal choice or felt under fed, though I've rarely used them; they then become good airport snacks).

I think if you expect guests to help out in the kitchen, ASK. Many people don't help out for fear of imposing.

Open communication and a welcoming heart for both guests and hosts and all will be more than well ♡


I love quirky houses and yours sounds charming. From all your past stories, I know that you are a careful, caring hostess whose guests will most certainly enjoy their stay. All the tips provided above are wonderful, as is the tart baked by your belle mere. :)

So hilarious! I remember my French husband taking a quick bath in Nantes and I laughed at the scene with the nozzle... you are so right!
First of all, I appreciate privacy and I think that is the thing to offer. I really want to seek out things on my own and of course, welcome suggestions and so forth on what to do but I think most people want to feel at home and relaxed without too much interference.
As for the towels, (and yes, I remember this too:) I'd go ahead and let them feel one or just tell them about how they can be a surprise at first but they work! Remind them that it's the things that are different that make us either appreciate our own or relish other places and things.
Bonne chance mon amie!

Fred A Caswell

I feel most comfortable in a modest/simple house made into a welcoming home by warm, unpretentious. genuine people who make their quests feel "at home" -- rich or poor, they share whatever they can, if only a cup of tea flavored with love. Your home is a perfect example.

Heidi McElroy

If your family reads your column, they are probably aware of the quirks. Don't worry about the towels...they must smell wonderful. As for the shower, a post-it note might be helpful. I have one that I put by my coffeemaker when I have guests. A night light is always welcome, as are tissues and a glass of water by the bedside. One guest told me how she appreciated a couple of empty drawers in the dresser as she did not like living out of a suitcase. One more thing ..a small rug in front of the toilet is more pleasant than a cold floor in the middle of the night.
Wish I was your guest. Your family and friends are very lucky to have you!

Beth Fiacco

This is so charming and funny! I think of Smokey's landmines as a quite different type of fabric scent than the usual dryer sheets! aïe aïe aïe! I'm sure the fresh Provencal breeze takes care of that! :-)

Seriously though - when my family comes from Sweden for a visit, I make sure to have their favorite sweets on hand - stuff they can't get at home, or maybe don't eat normally at home because it's just plain bad for them! Things like coffee ice cream, Dots candies, Dr. Pepper, etc. This always lets them know I was anticipating their visit and wanted to have some fun stuff ready for them. I also cook their favorite meals, and they join me in the kitchen for the sake of spending time together and lightening my load while cooking.

I think this arrangement sounds so whimsical and fun! Kristin - you're the glue that sticks it all together and makes it work! :-) Bien s'amuser!

Marcia Lehrman

My guests have to put up with two free flying African Greys who consider the bathroom one of their private properties and decided to dive bomb and peck on the head my girlfriend when she came to visit from Florida. She also has parrots and we made light of it , but now when guests are present the bathroom remains off limits. The two Greys perch outside the room with glares of disapproval. C'est la vie😊🐦

Enjoy! What a special time for you and your family. You will all be making the memories to last a lifetime---complete with laughs about learning to enter the shower sideways.

For preparation, flowers in the room and a carafe & drinking glass (some of us need to take pills at bedtime)

For the visit: I am happy to explore idiosyncrasies of old rooms & plumbing (What a sense of personal triumph when I finally learn to adjust the shower for the heat level I want!) but as a guest, I have really appreciated an andante warning that the heat will be brief.

I think guests, especially family, want to help out, so perhaps plan in advance how you can assign helping chores. And NEVER say, "Oh, that's ok. I can do it. You just sit there & enjoy your wine!

Tami Dever

I like to have a little basket with personal items that they may need/may have forgotten. I also leave a personal note thanking them for visiting along with bullet points like what to do with wet towels, where to find an extra blanket, offering up books to read, the wi-fi password, and letting us know if they need anything else. Of course, love is the best thing you can give any guest. :) ENJOY!

Gordon Lyman

Wide experience and wisdom show in the comments above, especially those by Dane Wells, the innkeeper.
Good post, Kristi!

Jill Switzenberg

Do not worry. If your family is as loving and compassionate as you seem to be, I have a hunch you will not need to worry about them at all. Enjoy their visit!

Diane Young

Chere Kristi,
Your family will love being with you and yours. They know your house and the quirks of any house by now, so "non perspirum". Good suggestions from the readers, especially giving them time to do their thing. Anybody who is so lucky as to be in that lovely part of the world will not be upset about little things. Ask them to join you in the kitchen, if they don't automatically. My family always wound up in and out of there. Ask what they want for breakfast, such as tea or coffee and croissants, etc., and have them available in the morning hours so people don't have to all get up at same time. Tell your beau-frere about the shower but otherwise don't worry about the quirks. Serve them some of that delicious looking tarte if possible. That would make any visit better. Mostly, just go with the flow. They wouldn't be there if they didn't want to be.

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

Be your wonderful, charming self and let go of the rest! I'm most comfortable when my host is relaxed and comfortable. I think finding time to yourself and allowing your guests their space is important too.

I once had a guest cook her favorite meal for us. It was such a treat and all these years later it's one of my favorite recipes. I wish I had the time to read all the comments as I'm enjoying them so much!

P.S. I love to line dry my linens. I read in Martha's Living magazine to line dry towels so as to have the added benefit of a loofah --- see you're a natural at this!

Diane Young

I forgot that when I'm the guest, I let my hosts know any dietary needs (food allergies) I have and ask if I can help in the kitchen. I make up my own bed daily and at end of visits strip bed and put linens in the hamper. Clean up after myself in guest bathroom. Compliment hosts on amenities, activities which have been planned and food prepared.

Karen Cafarella

I am picturing all those quirkiness in your house, it brings smile to my face. With all the love and family that will be in your house I don't think anyone with care how quirky it is.

Big Hugs.


Not to worry about the clothes line dried towels. I find that they are only a bit scratchy at the first use. After using them again, they soften up. The scratchy feeling is good though and provides a bit of rub down on first use. Also, put out a box of facial tissue and maybe a lamp by the bed to provide light for reading. A morning smile is good too or maybe "les bises" on first seeing your guests each morning. Sitting around the kitchen table chatting with a second cup of coffee after breakfast is always a good and relaxing thing to do when guests are visiting, especially family who often have lots of news!

Have fun.


Our dear Kristi,
Today's post is wonderful and gave me smiles that I am still wearing!
Your words and descriptions make us realize once again how gifted you are,and(!) how fortunate we are to be able to share in your life and absorb all of the inspirations you give us.
Our houses have always had plenty of quirkiness,too.
(But then,so do we!)
We always made a joke out of it,and told our guests,hey!C'est la vie!Let's just get on with the fun and enjoy each other's company!
Outside of close family,our favorite remark was "After three days,both fish and guests stink!"Said with a grin,of course.(completely agree with Katherine!) It really helps to be honest about ground rules.
Natalia XO


It is part of the experience :-)! As long as they know in advance, they can mentally prepare for the cultural differences. The first time I visited my friends close to Brive, I experienced the same quirky French bathrooms and had no warning but I embraced it! The bathtub was a novelty for me :-). The towels dried outside smell good - we dried our towels outside in Colorado. Loved it. it will all work out because the good food, countryside, wine and people will make up for it. Enjoy.

John Woodall

I am always interested in the French Word of the Day. Having lived in France and visited many times since, we are always ready to learn something new.
Today's "word of the day "POUPONNER" intrigues me. Is this a derivative of the word for a baby doll? " Poupee"?
Love your blog!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salute Kristi,

I could have used Tamara's book a few weeks ago as I was publishing my book, Pic-poems and Stuff. It was quite venture for this novice.


joie in Carmel

Quirks....oh yes, when you live in a hundred year old house (as you know) there are always quirks. For years the the hot and cold in the shower were switched.....and sometimes you got locked in the bathroom. Finally got those fixed.
As for what makes me comfortable when staying with someone for any period of time. When I ask if I can help prepare a meal or clean up, please say yes. You become one with the household then and some of the best conversations take place at that time. Relax and enjoy, they are there to see you and your family and all the external "stuff" is of no consequence.


I didn't read ALL of the previous comments so may be repeating: Good lighting for reading in bed at night and washcloths (which the French seem not to use/need). Enjoy your company!

Dawn Johnson

I always leave a nightlight in the bathroom and kitchen when I have overnight guests. When I've stayed at someone else's home and if I need to get up to use the bathroom in the night it can be really hard to find my way around in the dark in an unfamiliar place. I like to leave tissues, and some water and maybe some chocolate in my guest room. Whenever I travel to France, I just like to embrace the differences as not better or worse just different. Drying my clothes on a rack. Not getting ice for my drinks and/or not having drinks that might require ice etc.. We can all learn from another. Have a great visit with your family.

faye lafleur

Rinsing towels with baking soda and vinegar helps to keep towels soft in dryer, perhaps helps w/ line drying...worth a try.

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