Relationships

How to Be a Great Houseguest, and Other Reader Questions

How to Be a Good Houseguest, and Other Reader Questions

We’ve featured nine reader questions in the past, and we’d love to do it again! This week, we’re talking about how to be a banner houseguest and how not to embarrass yourself at work…

Q. My girlfriend and I will be staying with friends in their tiny apartment this weekend. Any tips on how we can be good guests? — Amanda
A. I’m sure they’ll just be excited to see you! But these four things would add a special touch: Bring a nice edible host gift, such as homemade brownies, a few bottles of rosé, or this fancy olive oil. Give some breaks to your hosts now and again by reading in your room for a while or taking a walk around the neighborhood. At the end of your stay, strip the bed and put all your sheets into one of the pillowcases (it creates a neat little bundle, which we learned from these guys). And afterward, snail mail a thank-you note, telling them your favorite parts of your stay. I would love if someone did those things while staying with us!

Q. My office is planning a karaoke night, but I’m the world’s worst singer. HELP. What’s an easy song? — Naudia
A. We took an informal poll around our shared workspace, and here’s the deal: Build Me Up Buttercup and Sweet Caroline are big crowd pleasers that don’t need a big vocal range. And for 500 Miles, you basically just talk. You could also go for a duet like I Got You Babe, if you want to share the spotlight. (Any other ideas from readers? Curious to hear:)

Q. I’m coming to New York next month. My burning question is, where can I get a great burger? — Rachael
A. Fun question! Which kind of burger do you like — tavern-style (plump and juicy) or griddled (thinner and crisp at the edges)? If you prefer thick, try The Spotted Pig in the West Village or The NoMad Bar inside the NoMad Hotel off Madison Square Park. Or go for the buzziest burger of the year at Pizza Loves Emily, in the West Village and Brooklyn — it comes on a pretzel bun with special sauce. If you prefer thinner burgers, Shake Shack, The Corner Bistro and Burger Joint are all casual spots that serve burgers compact enough to eat with one hand. Also, if the weather is good, we like Mister Dips, the new burger truck parked on the grassy rooftop of the William Vale hotel. You can take in sweeping views of Brooklyn and Manhattan while filling up on one of the best new burgers in the city. Have a great trip!

Q. I don’t have kids, but many of my friends do, and more often than not I feel awkward and stiff around them. This might sound dumb, but how do I talk to little kids? —Zoe
A. From my experience with two little dudes, the one thing to know is that kids LOVE the details of their cute lives. No question is too specific: What did you have for breakfast? What kind of pancakes? How did you get that knee scrape? Do you have any pets? Just listen, smile and you’re good.

If in doubt, this three-part conversation never fails:
1. How old are you?
2. Oooh, [their age]! When’s your birthday?
3. What kind of cake are you going to have? (THEY ALWAYS KNOW.)

Maybe just avoid focusing on their clothes or asking about school, since it can be overwhelming. “A school day is an eternity when you’re nine,” wrote Emma Jane Unsworth wrote in this great piece, “so [asking how their day was] is basically like asking an adult what they did in 2014.” Haha.

Thoughts? Do you agree with these? Any different answers? And are there other questions you’re mulling over these days? We’d love to hear…

P.S. 10 things I’ve learned in my career, and more reader questions.

(Photo of Audrey Gelman’s home by Mark Lund.)

  1. eee says...

    Re: houseguests – just be observant of how your host lives. If the bathmat is always draped over the tub before you shower, then don’t leave it on the floor to get trampled by dirty shoes (also, take off your shoes in the apt. if your host does) all day.
    Also, doing the bare minimum is sometimes worse than doing nothing at all: oh, you washed the plate and fork that you used? Great! Might you have also washed the additional two or three dishes in the sink just because it would be a nice gesture? Yes, yes you could have.

  2. Gitty says...

    I want to know how to cover up under eye circles! I have beautiful skin and don’t usually wear too much face makeup but those puffy red circles drive me crazy! Putting some concealer on only de-emphasizes the redness. How to hide the puffiness?

    • Celeste W says...

      As I’ve gotten older, I have the opposite problem-my eyes are sunken and dark, and I have no idea how to address it! Drink more water?

    • A great eye cream should help greatly! Probably not overnight but with consistent use, Id say you should begin seeing a difference within two weeks. A good eye cream will diminish the appearance of dark circles/redness and reduce puffiness. I consistently use the rejuvenating eye cream by Beautycounter – I loved their products so much I became a consultant myself! Beautycounter is about being safe AND effective! I like to say think whole foods meets Chanel :)

  3. Maria says...

    My favorite karaoke song is “Young Folks” by Peter, Björn & John. It’s such a sweet, low key, yet happy song, and a simple duette to sing – it’s perfect! (I sang this in a Japanese karaokeroom in Osaka, that we rented from midnight till the first morning trains started going. Very Lost in Translation!)

  4. Rachel says...

    If a child you are chatting to has siblings, ask them “What do I need to know about…(sibling)?” They always know the good stuff about their brother or sister, and what they think is important about siblings is unexpected. When they share a great feature/trait of bro or sis, a follow up question is “How did you find that out?”. No siblings? Ask about a best friend or parent/grandparent/nanny etc. This also works well for an icebreaker at a party – insert name of host/a fellow guest.

  5. Michelle says...

    How is The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern not on your list?! This is the best damn burger I have ever had. Not to mention the restaurant is classic New York and a perfect spot for those crisp fall days. The wait for dinner is usually long. Try to belly up to the bar, order a fabulous cocktail (some of the best in the city) and prepare to be amazed!

  6. I live in Dallas and recently had some Houston friends come stay with us over night.
    We have an air mattress instead of a guest bed and when I woke up in the morning to bid them farewell, I found a deflated air mattress rolled neatly into the corner, folded sheets on my couch, and their guest towels placed inside my washing machine. No sign remained of their stay with me.
    I was so pleasantly surprised by the large impact these seemingly small gestures had on me. Then as if that were not enough, two weeks later we received a slew of assorted air plants in the mail as a thank you.
    That is one of the best cases of teaching by example in my life, they have no idea but because of them I will now be a better house guest moving forward.

  7. Thank you for sharing the post. For the karaoke night question, one of my favorite song in karaoke is Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, always makes my friends dance and sing a long.
    I also don’t know what to talk to kids, it’s easy for me to talk with my little cousins, but my friend’s children, it’s a bit harder, the tips is nice idea to start. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Maiz says...

    Kids are usually very emotionally sensitive, so if you’re feeling “awkward and stiff,” they’ll probably notice. Before you go for one of the brilliant conversation starters suggested here, take a second to check in with yourself. Notice that you are feeling awkward and stiff, and try to let it go a little bit before you talk to the kids. Also (this is especially great for people who are stiff with babies), try to think “I love you,” when you are holding them.

    • Melanie says...

      That is incredibly sweet!

      I will also use this tip when I am frustrated with my kids and feel like I might yell. It sounds calming.

  9. Tammy Sutherland says...

    As someone who used to have to run karaoke while working on a cruise ship, I implore you all to stay away from “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Nothing against Bob Seger, but that song goes on and on and ON! Just trust me on this one.

  10. Brigitte says...

    Re: Karaoke.
    I was at Karaoke night with a group of friends recently. One friend got up and sang “Tequila” by the Champs. The song has exactly one lyric, repeated three times. Everyone cracked up, it was hilarious… and now everytime I think of Karaoke, I will remember that song.

  11. molly says...

    A couple of dos and don’ts for houseguests:

    DO:
    – bring flowers or wine
    – ask to help set dinner table
    – wash dirty dishes
    – strip bed when leaving

    DONT:
    – take pictures of the house to put on Facebook, or show their friends who you don’t know
    – offer to empty dishwasher and either asking where EVERY item goes, or randomly assign items where you think they belong
    – follow the host like a shadow, asking a billion questions
    – leave dishes in the sink

  12. Re: talking to kids; if you’re interacting with young kids (like 3 and under), talking isn’t always the best way to go about it. They’re so physical, so in their bodies…high fives are a good start, or asking how high they can jump, if they can walk backwards, challenge them to a foot race…

    • Mandy Winter says...

      Great tip! No that I think of it that would really work for people approaching my shy 3 year old!

    • Whitney says...

      I agree with this! My son (2.5 yrs) can feel put on the spot when new people ask him questions, but I can imagine him being delighted to show them how far he can jump!

  13. Claire says...

    I find for karaoke that any song that you loved in your teens is generally a crowd pleaser. I may or may not have recently belted out an ENTIRE Hanson song a few months a go (after many drinks) and people went nuts for it. So, do what you love…or secretly love…drunk :)

    • Nikki B says...

      I’m a BIG fan of doing fat joe and jlos “I’m real” with a guy friend THEN he sings the Jlo part and I do the Fat Joe part. It’s funnier that way and always gets a good laugh.

    • Julie says...

      I totally agree! and these are usually songs where you already know all the words and timing which makes it much easier if you aren’t feeling confident.
      I usually do “Say You’ll Be There” by the Spice Girls which is kind of hard cos you’re singing 5 people’s parts at once but also so easy and fun and dumb.
      I didn’t even like this song that much when it came out but now it’s a total party banger!

    • Anne says...

      I second that. Also, if you really are a terrible singer (most people just think they are) you could just pick Girls just wanna have fun and all the female guests would join you on stage. Result: No-one will hear your voice and all the girls will be happy. Win-win.

    • keri says...

      Hanson are still the best :)

  14. Alice says...

    Ask pre-10 kids:
    – what they climbed recently
    – what they made/built recently
    – what book they like (this can lead to stories they write, or draw)
    – if they’ve ever been on a midnight walk (this will lead to any stories about being out at night and can be as scary or not as needs be)
    But actually, isn’t it way more enticing to do than say?
    One of my best memories of meeting an adult I didn’t know as a child was when one of my dad’s students (he taught drama so they were always a bit leftfield) sat down with me and this sheet of paper and drew a wavy line across it and said casually “Where shall we take this line today?” and we drew a picture, taking it in turns. I can remember everything about it.
    The ‘would you rather game’, does work a treat with teens: would you rather be stuck in a ski lift in a blizzard, or an elevator at night? etc.

    Karaoke – Welcome to the Jungle, Funky Cold Medina, Bust A Move, Run DMC’s Walk This Way, Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay (everyone joins in), Come on Eileen (ditto), All Night Long (everyone loves cheese), David Bowie, Norwegian Wood, Here Comes The Sun, . I lived in Asia where it is a serious pasttime, and found one of these worked in most situations and none are painfully long.
    But the best thing for karaoke is a large shot of tequila beforehand.

    • Alice says...

      OMG YES to “would you rather”!! Works on younger kids too- I’ve spent many a dinner playing this with my now 8 year old sister. She loves it!!!

  15. Kathleen says...

    I do know the WORST karaoke song ever and that is The Lion Sleeps Tonight :) A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh…….

    • I second this and would add that any song by Salt-n-Pepa is karaoke suicide. You do not know the words. No, you don’t, you’ve been drinking. And even if you can fake them, you don’t know the rhythm. Please trust me on this.

    • Mikaela Fuchs says...

      YES TO THIS KATE- I actually DO know all the words to Shoop by Salt n Pepa, I could rap it for you right now, but let me tell you being able to rap a capella is WAY different from try to match to a karaoke beat. I lost the beat after the first line and then stood bobbing, panicking, trying and failing find my way back into the song….officially my embarrassing moment.

      Funny thing is, the childhood friend who I memorized it with had the exact same experience, separately from me.

  16. Willa says...

    I have a hard time talking to older children – preteens and younger teenagers. I have a two year old, and for whatever reason have always found younger kids easy to chat with (probably because you can say or ask the most random stuff ever and they’ll totally roll with it – my favorite is to ask if they’ve learned how to drive yet after they told me how old they are. It usually elicits a shocked, laughing “NO! My MOOOOOM drives!” or some silly story about their car). But my nephews are now 11 and 13 and it’s so hard to find something that will open them up. I don’t know anything about video games, so I feel like I’m just badgering them when I try to ask specific questions about that, or open ended questions about their lives, or just bring up current events. They’re lovely, intelligent, kind boys, but wow i feel like such an awkward loser trying to hang out with them.

    • Kiana says...

      Hi Willa! I teach preteen boys and girls so I feel like a dork around them too. The best way to get them to talk and open up is to be vulnerable around them. Ask them if they can teach you how to play a video game. It doesn’t matter if you’re awful. Just try to have fun and laugh at yourself. Kids, no matter their age, love to know something someone else doesn’t (especially when that someone is a grown up) and they will feel so proud to teach you. Hope this is helpful!

  17. Jane says...

    We had my mother-in-law and father-in-law stay with us for two weeks this summer. We’ve had them stay that long before without incident, but this might have been the last time they stay in the house (eeek). So, here’s a list of things NOT to do as a houseguest:
    – Scrub down the kitchen cabinets
    – Offer to touch up paint on cabinets where it has chipped off.
    – When nicely told no, find the paint anyways and do it.
    – Go through the fridge and throw out any expired condiments or food
    – After being told (nicely and repeatedly) that we don’t want them cleaning the house, to then proceed to clean out and reorganize a storage room. The room that is the basement equivalent of the junk drawer.
    – When you clog the toilet (old house, old toilet, old pipes), berate your host for not being responsible and ignoring this plumbing issue.
    – Then, when you are told that you have crossed a line, proceed to mope for the rest of the trip.

    • Agnes says...

      So far, so family! LOL!! Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh at your pain but this was ever so slightly hilarious ;) maybe it’s the way you told the tale.. :)

    • Silver says...

      oh Jane, that sounds like my family. It drives me nuts – because I know it is part hug and part punch in the face. I know they are disappointed that I am not a clean freak (they are clean freaks and what others see really matters to them). However I also know they want to help -they are doers, and they want to make my life easier and they don’t have money but they can clean tings, or fix things. The thing is when I was a child I decided that I would not clean the house when I could play with my kid, or read a book -my messiness is my philosophy. Friends of mine found that doing a call around to see if any friends are going away, and putting their family in friend’s house for future visits works great!

    • Heather says...

      How about family guest that:
      – proceeds to buy 5 canvases that cover your entire wall
      – purchases paint, 80s color scheme
      – decides to paint on our deck all week, despite insisting we did not like the purple, turquoise and orange colors chosen,
      – leaving paint on the deck and French doors
      – expecting us to entertain his wife and kid and offering no help with meals, clean up, etc.
      – pushing back departure to actually measure and hang the art despite our protests
      We still shake our heads whenever we think about that one. Needless to say, the art was removed promptly.

  18. Nesli says...

    Dear Joanna, this is a clothing related question but…my best friend’s birthday is approaching and mustarish yellow is her favorite color. Dr. Rachael’s yellow dress would be perfect gift for her. Could you please ask her where the dress is from? Many thanks!

  19. Maureen says...

    Regarding kids – the sillier the better I think. My 4 year old daughter fell down and burst into tears. My sister pulled a sticker off a banana she was holding and stuck it on her forehead. My daughter burst out laughing. Tears forgotten.

  20. When we got to the chapter books stage, my mom read all the books we read at the same time, and took them as seriously as we did. We were like our own mini book club. Ask that lady about Animorphs!

    When I started dating a new guy, I made an effort to read the same books as his intimidatingly adorable younger twin siblings. They always fascinated me, and even though I only saw them on breaks from school and whatnot, I always bought them books for holidays and took their recommendations to heart. Years later, the youngest boy’s best man speech was about how we always made him feel important and valued when we talked to him like an adult. I bawled.

    • JB says...

      “Ask that lady about Animorphs!” is the absolute #momgoals. Amazing!

    • Caitlin says...

      this is SO sweet! What a lovely tradition and family.

  21. Another great, and my personal favorite, place to get a burger is at JG Melon. They do a lovely happy hour that comes with a cheeseburger, fries, and a Stella Artois for $15. It’s heavenly. Sit at the bar for the best service. Sit outside for the best people watching. I enjoy the Greenwich Village location the most!!

  22. Twyla says...

    If you’re a terrible singer and have to perform some karaoke – pick a song that everyone will join in, like I Love Rock and Roll, or Living on a Prayer. Everyone will be singing at the top of their lungs and you will barely be heard!

  23. Kathleen says...

    Recent house guests had champagne delivered to our house about an hour after they left via Drizzly — -was so unexpected and fun and kind.

    • Anna says...

      I love this idea!

  24. Cara says...

    These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ is super short (like two and half minutes) and requires a surprisingly small range. You can basically shout-talk the words. It’s great.

  25. Rachael says...

    re: houseguests—We live in a small apartment with a child, without a lot of extra stuff. We have a busy life since our child is young and we both work. Our best houseguests understand this, and keep their belongings in their room and not all over the place. They ask about longer bathroom use since we only have one. They make their own plans, but check in with us to see if we’re interested, relieving us from having to plan an entire weekend for our guests. They offer to buy a lunch or dinner and bring wine. And most importantly, they make sure to try to connect with our child. This all may sound anal and inflexible, but if houseguests make sure to do the above, we aren’t exhausted when they leave, and we’re more likely to invite them back because it was a pleasure. And some of our favoritest houseguests of all time stay in a hotel after the first or second night because they know our apartment is just too small and they’d be staying too many nights in a row. Amen to them.

  26. Alanna says...

    Ugh I hate Karaoke! I am so bad. The last time I did it I sang Ace of Base’s I saw the sign because I thought I knew all the words. Turns out there is a lot more to it beyond the chorus that I completely forgot about. Afterwards a guy came up to me and tried hitting on me with the line: “it’s so cute how bad you were.”

  27. Bran says...

    Best conversation starter for kids who are still learning to talk (ages 1-2.5): Show me your owwie! They are strangely obsessed with their bumps and scrapes and love to show them off, even when the scrape is 2 weeks old and all that remains is a faint shadow.

    This is also an especially great distraction tactic when they’re having a meltdown.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i love that one! yes, any scars are HUGE sources of pride and lead to a big recap of the event :)

    • Yes! My 20-month-old had a scrape on her knee for 2 weeks and could not stop talking about it! (And by talking about it, I mean pointing it out with a serious face and saying, “hurt. knee. ouchie.” ;)

    • Silver says...

      Perfect!

  28. re: karaoke – anything nostalgic from the 90s-early 2000s will get people singing along so loudly that no one will even be able to hear you. ie “my own worst enemy” by lit or anything by blink 182.

  29. Em says...

    The key to karaoke (especially if you aren’t feeling too confident) is to pick something that’s a crowd pleaser. People will sing along, making the experience 10 times better! Disclaimer: do not pick something that you don’t 100% know all of the words to, no matter how popular it is. I have been known to practice before a big karaoke night!

  30. Annie says...

    Re: being a good houseguest – if your hosts are cooking for you, do the dishes (or at least, help)! The last couple of times I’ve had houseguests, they have done the dishes after dinner. I love it! It’s the best. :)

    • Carrie says...

      As someone who constantly experiences the opposite, great addition to that list :)

  31. Elizabeth says...

    My husband and I have a lot of houseguests, so I have a list of tips for guests:
    1. Check in about shower schedules and bathroom use, especially in the morning.
    2. Offer to buy or cook dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a bag of tacos will suffice, but it’s a really sweet gesture.
    3. Offer to walk the dog. It’s so nice!
    4. Let your hosts know your general schedule, and make sure they know when you’re there. I learned this one secondhand, from a friend who didn’t alert her hosts that she was present, and wound up hearing a savage and deeply personal marital spat. Yikes.
    5. Try not to keep a radically different sleep schedule from the rest of the house. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but it stinks to have to tiptoe around the apartment for a guest who sleeps until 2pm.
    6. Don’t leave a mess. It seems obvious, but I have found used coffee cups, tissues, and wet towels in the guest room after someone departed. Don’t be that guy!

  32. jessica says...

    Karaoke- do ” we didn’t start the fire” by Billy Joel! Total crowd pleaser, more of a chant than anything else

  33. Ismelda says...

    On Burgers
    Just go to Umami Burger and order the Throwback with Sweet Potato Fries. Won’t regret it! <3

  34. Lisa says...

    I always ask kids if they are married? They laugh and look at me like I am crazy, but it always gets them going. If I need more material, I ask them if they have a job? Again, laughter and silly looks. Works every time! Maybe they open up because they figure this silly lady needs help!!! I love it.

    • Desiree says...

      This made me laugh, so for sure going to use it in the future!! Haha!! This is very creative–thanks!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha that is so cute, lisa!

    • Marcella says...

      Lol! This reminds me of when I was babysitting recently and one of the boys asked if I was married. I was like HAHA, no, I am definitely too young to be married!! I guess they thought I’m super adult as the babysitter :)

  35. Just wanted to come back here and share: last night I went to meet my friend’s new boyfriend and his two kids, 5 and 2. I decided to employ the advice above…and neither of the kids knew when their birthday was! Hahaha. I decided to not even take it to the cake level. Ironically, they both wanted to tell me about school/daycare and what they loved there. I just thought it was so funny. The 5 year old even said, when I asked her birthday, “I never remember. Daddy is aaaaalways having to remind me.” We just hung glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling instead.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so, so cute.

  36. Cindy says...

    I don’t have a very big vocal range, so my go-to song is “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John. You have to memorize some lyrics, but it’s not too high, and it’s super, super fun to sing and dance to. Total crowd pleaser. Also, it’s in the movie “Sing,” so there’s that.

  37. I don’t have kids, but I have two cats, and I volunteer at a wildlife hospital. I take photos and videos of my guys and the cute/exotic animals I treat, and then text them to my friends with a note for their son or daughter: “Hey, Violet, this little cardinal wanted to say hello! He likes to eat blueberries and sunflower seeds,” or whatever. When I visit, I then bring them a book about their favorite critters or a plastic animal. I guess I’ve gone for the role of Zookeeper Penpal, which has been a big hit so far. My nephew gave ME a little plastic fennec fox, which I bring on trips with my husband and photograph in front of landmarks; his mom then sends me back a photo of him with his matching fox sitting on a globe wherever we are.

    • Summer says...

      That is so cute! My kids would love you! :)

    • Caitlin says...

      oh my goodness my heart is exploding! How precious

    • Lisa says...

      That is so sweet! You are a great friend and aunt!

  38. I remember when I was a teenager, a friend’s mom described how their present houseguest “was the best ever at being a houseguest”. She said that he would often be in his bedroom reading or listening to music, but would leave his door open–sending the message that he was happy to entertain himself, but was also open to chatting/socializing/joining in an activity.

    • Anna says...

      This is really nice! We had a houseguest who spent most of his time in his room with the door closed and it made me feel like maybe he was angry. So uncomfortable!

  39. liz says...

    I really enjoy talking to kids. If they are under 10, I ask them if they have kids or if they are married yet? I will also ask them what job they have. The seem to love to get indignant and I will follow up with “so what do you do all day if you don’t have a job?” If there are siblings, I too like to ask if the sibling is good and quiet or bad and noisy. A plus is the parents will squirm but kids seem to love to rat each other out too :) I ask what they are happy about, what their favorite game is, if I can try on their shoes. I like to discuss books we have both read and ask questions – would you want to have to tame a dragon? what would you name your dragon?
    I no longer ask babies if they have any teeth, as it caused one baby to start wailing. Who knew it was such a sensitive subject? On a more serious note, I learned not to ask if they have a brother or sister when that question brought a mother to tears – they had just lost a child. It was horrible.

  40. Amy says...

    Minetta Tavern has the best burger in NYC, don’t @ me.

    • Lauren says...

      and the best cocktails and BEST soufflés. Sit at the bar if you don’t have a reservation (but know there will be a bit of a wait. Oh, and its a splurge)

    • Kira says...

      It is so, so good. Runners up: Happiest Hour (apparently, it’s a cross between In n Out and Shake Shack? Whatever, it’s delicious), and JG Melon on the Upper East Side.

  41. Kate says...

    I have a three year old so I’m very comfortable talking to little kids, I will sometimes ask him a silly question but in a sensible voice while we are killing time at a cafe or if he is a bit grumpy.

    Soooo, what do you think an (elephant/camel/kangaroo/moon/washing machine/dinosaur.. ..whatever) might eat for lunch?

    And he will laugh and answer

    And I always reply, ohhhh really, I thought they might eat (rocks/carrots/snails/sandwiches)

    And sometimes he might tell a little story about it.

    Works with other little people too.

    • Julia says...

      That’s a good idea, since I tend to only focuse on “serious” subjects and questions with children…

  42. Jen says...

    I wish had done a better job at talking to my nieces and nephews before I had my own child. It’s such foreign territory for someone who doesn’t have their own kids.

    We just had family stay with us in our small apartment for just over a week. I just kept wishing we had an actual bedroom for them or that we could have put them up in a hotel. It was pretty overwhelming to be together for that amount of time. At the same time, I was so grateful to have them visit and spend time with my son. I think that having some of your own plans to go out and your around as visitors help take the load off hosts. But that’s probably my inner introvert talking :)

    • Katharina says...

      More often than not talking to kids still feels like foreign territory to me and I do have three of them ;)

  43. Laura S says...

    Someone once told me that young kids cannot resist correcting you when you’re wrong. So, if you say something silly, like “wow the sun is really green today”, they will very quickly (and usually vociferously) say NO, IT IS YELLOW!! And then you get to have a wonderful debate with a young kid about the true colour of the sun/whether dogs can talk/why you should wear your bathing suit in the snow etc. etc. My kids and I always end up in hysterics and its a great ice-breaker with kids you don’t know very well:)

  44. Rachel says...

    My favorite karaoke song is Kissed by a Rose. Everybody knows most of the lyrics and wants to join in, which takes the pressure off. No one expects you to sound good at karaoke– the fun people to watch are the ones who don’t care that they sound terrible & embrace that enthusiastically.

  45. Rebecca says...

    Interesting that you had both the houseguest and the “how to talk to kids” questions, because when I read the houseguest question my answer was “play with their kids!.” We just had friends visit from our pre-kids days, and they don’t have kids yet, but they took such an interest in our five-year-olds and actually played tag with them for a while in our driveway. It really meant a lot to me. Of course we made sure to get adults-only time too, but for houseguests without kids who are visiting families with kids, I can’t emphasize enough how much it means to your parent friends when you care about their kids. And this thread is offering so much good advice on how to engage them!

    • Totally agree here. It was so sad to me when my kidless friends or relatives would just opt to ignore my daughter when they came to visit. Not only did it make her feel left out, but it left me having to entertain two separate groups and I’d always feel burned out at the end of those visits. My best friend (who will never have children) is SO great with my daughter! I can always get in a shower, make a meal for us or know that she will enjoy a kid-friendly activity just as much as our solo time. It’s honestly made us much closer these past 4 years.

    • Julia says...

      That’s so true! If I have someone visiting who ignores my kids and is only interested in me, it gets heavily stressful for me and the kids.

    • Jen says...

      I’m so guilty of having done this in my pre-kid life. Wish I knew back then. It truly does feel like everything when someone takes the time to love on your kiddo.

  46. Carrie says...

    Kids are so much fun because if you bring up a topic they’re not into, you can shamelessly just back track and try something else until you strike a chord. With my nephews I can truly tap into my weird side. Also, kids like to hear about YOUR hobbies too, as well as talk about their own. For example, I love essential oils and now my nephews are all very interested in them too.

  47. Em says...

    For the woman who’s nervous around kids, here’s another tip: avoid talking in a baby voice. As someone who is also very uncomfortable around young people and babies, I notice that I get nervous and go right into a pandering, high-pitched voice — whether they’re two or 12. I’ve gotten some incredulous stares over the years (from the kids) so I’ve learned to talk to them like adults. They seem to like it a lot more :)

    • Rose says...

      Yes! Also I had a theory about kids before I had mine that I think still holds up (it at least worked for me): They’re like cats. They can tell if you want it too bad. If you treat them like adults and then kind of ignore them, they sidle up to you and love you. They key is to stay really responsive, caring, and tuned in. So it can’t be an icky “Ugh, KIDS. Let’s ignore” vibe it has to be “Wow, it’s great to see you. Whoa, you’re a whole human being doing your thing over there. Cool. ” vibe. Not sure if that even makes sense! But if you can nail an undemanding yet still warm vibe, it can win them over and make them way easier to talk to.

    • Whitney says...

      Yes! As a parent one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone baby talks to my 2.5 year old – and it really throws me son off too! Kids (even tiny ones!) are people – and they’ll enjoy you more if you chat with them as a person instead of talking down to them.

  48. Sarah says...

    My karaoke song is “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood because even if my singing voice is horrible, no one can root against (or boo) the U.S.A.!

    • DC says...

      Unless you’re doing Karaoke in a foreign country. The song I heard the most last time I sat in a beer tent at the October Fest in Munchen was Take me Home Country Road by John Denver. :)

    • Katie says...

      15 years ago, I was in a nightclub in Hannover, Germany. Country Roads came on and the crowd of young, hip Germans went bananas – dancing and singing their little hearts out. It was…surprising.

    • Dana says...

      Country Roads was extremely popular at a karaoke place near where I worked in Rwanda, of all places. Ironically my husband (who grew up in Ohio) had never heard the song before he met me!!

  49. My daughter can be slow to warm up…until you ask her to teach you how to do something. How to draw a pig, how to hold her stuffed animal (the way he likes to be held), how to sing the song she learned in music class…anything she’s learned at some point, she relishes the chance to teach it.

    • Emily says...

      yes! my friend is a pediatric nurse and when i introduced her to our little 3 year old cousin with “this is wilson, he gives great high fives,” she immediately jumped in like “cool! i’ve been practicing, can you help me? do you ever do the ones where your hand is down low? can you teach me that?”

      he was sold!

  50. I’m not sure if this is a universally right or wrong thing, but I (a person who doesn’t have their own kids yet) have a tendency to talk to kids not all that differently than I do adults (about appropriate topics, of course!) My friend, who has 5 (!) kids, once said she really likes that about me. I don’t ask about their favorite color, but I ask what books they’re reading and discuss the world around us not all that differently than I would with someone my own age. I have taught her kids some interesting words (her 5-year-old now uses the word “irritating” with regularity, she tells me) and that way I actually enjoy the conversation more. Because when you get on interesting topics with kids, you find out they have really interesting things to say!

    • Julia says...

      You are right: Most kids love when you treat them like a grown-up. This way they feel that you are truly interested in their opinion and that you listen to them with your full attention.

  51. Now that we travel with toddlers – usually to other homes that also have toddlers – the extra step of remembering to bring a hostess gift is too overwhelming for me. So my new go-to is to ask our hosts where their favorite local restaurant/thing to do is – and mail them a gift card for that place when we get back home. I feel like it’s something I would really enjoy for myself (I should probably start including cash for a babysitter too though – ha).

  52. Re: Karoake. I have CLEARED out rooms with my awful singing. Another fan favorite that us tone-deaf folks can handle: Bust a Move by Young MC. Just get someone who can sing for the actual singing parts.

  53. JB says...

    My husband was a guitar teacher in his youth so not only is he amazing at conversing with kids, he knows every Taylor Swift song on guitar EVER. It’s hilarious.

    I ask him his secret and he always says “Just talk to them like adults. How about the weather? What are your weekend plans? Cool haircut. What are you watching on TV these days?”

    I talk to kids like I’m in a wind tunnel. “HELLO DOWN THERE! CAN YOU HEAR ME?”

    • Talia says...

      I talk to kids like I’m in a wind tunnel. “HELLO DOWN THERE! CAN YOU HEAR ME?” — hysterical!

  54. In terms of being a good house guest, I’m a big believer in the old saying that like fish, company starts to stink after 3 days. People need their space and downtime, don’t overstay your welcome!

    • Carrie says...

      Amen

    • Dana says...

      Yes. Recent houseguests (with children) recently extended a planned 3-day visit into a week long visit after they had already arrived. Tooooooo much.

  55. Heather says...

    Kids LOVE would you rather questions. The sillier the better. If they’re older, throw in something just borderline gross. Like… “Would you rather ride a giant tiger who tooted as loud as a truck, or drive a car that pooped chicken nuggets?” This kind of kid humor has never failed to get even the sternest child to crack a smile.

  56. Kristyn says...

    The last question made me think of your post on “How to Talk to Little Girls” that was SO FANTASTIC. I still think about it when I hang out with my 3 year old niece. Asking about her swim classes or what she plans to teach her baby brother who is currently in Mommy’s belly (little niece wants to name him ELMO!) leads to such fun conversations, rather than blanket statements about her cute clothing.

  57. Laura C. says...

    Oh, and thanks everybody for your advice on being a house-guest. Next month I’ll be flying to my dear Scotland to visit one of my dearest friends. Last year, she and her husband hosted me three nights, and they took me to an incredible, amazing and unforgettable weekend trip. They paid for EVERYTHING. I felt overwhelmed, they earn well and they know that I am jobless now, but really they paid for EVERYTHING, from the train tickets to the hotel and meals and drinks! Only the last day, the breakfast was on me! Scottish people are very generous. I took with me some gifts for them and their toddler. Now my friend has a baby girl too, and I would like to help her with chores, kids, leaving the home for a while, but I’m not sure how to do it. Do I plan for a tour of the museums or do I wait for her suggestions?
    Let me say, last year was absolutely perfect.

    • Jessica Burton says...

      My friend visited this summer and offered to stay home with the kids while we went out on a brunch date and it was so wonderful. She just said “hey why don’t you go to brunch together and I’ll hang with the kids?” We couldn’t get out of the door fast enough!

      You could also say “I’d love to take the kids on a special date, what are some places they love to go?” and I’d put money on them rattling off a host of things you could do with them. I know I have a back pocket list for when my in-laws come and want to do something special with our kids- the park, the science museum and the library.

      re: chores. I love when friends visit and offer to do bath time and read stories for bedtime.

  58. KL says...

    Somewhat related to being a house guest, though mostly for a dinner party or holiday dinner: my favorite thing to bring is breakfast for the next morning. I bring OJ, scones, eggs, and fruit (and sometimes a good magazine if I know the person’s tastes well enough).

  59. Fay says...

    Hi COJ crew!

    I am coming to NYC for my honeymoon at the end of October! I am so excited (my first visit!) but also overwhelmed (it will probably be our only visit). I don’t want to miss anything and want to eat ALL THE GOOD STUFF! Do you or your readers have any great recommendations for us please? We are staying on the Lower East Side. We love to eat and looking for cosy, romantic spots for drinks too! Thank you so much! xoxox

    • Carly says...

      So fun! You’re already on the right track by staying in the Lower East Side- so much to do right out your door. Some of my favorite bars are just north of you in Alphabet City- particularly The Wayland on Avenue C for a cozy bar with fun cocktails. During the day, walk up the East Village (hit up the great boutiques on 9th street), maybe stop at Veselka for a potato pancake, and then walk up to 17th street and Irving Place, grab a coffee at 71 Irving and cheese at Bedford Cheese Shop, walk around Gramercy Park, stop in the National Arts Club to see the Tiffany ceiling and probably some characters that hang out there, then duck into the Gramercy Park Hotel for a drink at the Rose Bar and grab amazing cacio & pepe at their restaurant Maialino. Honestly just wandering around the city and ducking into little places is the best way to get to know New York! Have fun!

    • Em says...

      The Musket Room is near the lower east side and delicious! Fancy without being stuffy and the food is incredible if you’re looking for a splurge night (the tasting menu is one of the best meals I’ve ever had)
      Bar Primi is also close and delicious!
      If you make it into Brooklyn at all, Juliana’s is actually owned by the Grimaldi family who made Grimaldi’s pizza famous. It’s right next door to Grimaldi’s and has a shorter line usually and delicious pizza!
      For drinks, the speakeasy Please Don’t Tell on St. Mark’s is worth a visit.

    • Fay says...

      I don’t know to reply individually to say thank you but THANK YOU! So far we have made a reservation at Cagen and amgoing to book La Esquina. I am so excited. 4 weeks tomorrow (small matter of getting married on the 23rd first though!!!!)

  60. Erin says...

    To the burger question! Rachael- may I highly recommend Rye in williamsburg on South 1st St. They have an awesome $5 Cheeseburger + $5 Old Fashioned deal at happy I believe bet 5:30-7pm? It’s a super steal by all measures, cute place, delicious burger! And there’s so many cute shops along the way to pop into on Grand.

    • Megga says...

      Fanelli’s in Soho! Delicious Burger in a perfect old New York Bar.

  61. Eliza says...

    *completely NOT care less? I think?

  62. KL says...

    I’m usually pretty stiff around kids, too. The last eight year old I was around was at a baptism. She had the most gorgeous dress on with her perfect head of moppy curls. Throughout the day, I heard so many people compliment how ‘pretty’ she was, and how ‘pretty’ her dress was. Nice enough compliments, but I thought back to your post about complimenting girls (thanks for that!) and decided to ask her what grade she was in and what her favorite thing to learn about was. Turns out she’s extremely intelligent for her age. Her favorite thing to learn about is planets. It lead to a whole conversation about her favorite planet [Jupiter], why it’s her favorite planet [it’s made up of gases], what Saturn’s rings are made of [“rocks and things”], etc. I don’t have children, I’m not sure if I want them, but that one conversation changed things in a big way for me. It also made me think of the poem “Emotional Nutrition” by Nayyirah Waheed (which I have decided to frame in a nursery should I ever have a daughter):
    “i will tell you, my daughter
    of your worth
    not your beauty
    everyday. (your beauty is a given. every being is born beautiful)
    knowing your worth
    can save your life.
    raising you on beauty alone,
    you will be starved.
    you will be raw.
    you will be weak.
    an easy stomach.
    always in need of someone telling you how beautiful you are.”

    • Elizabeth says...

      I have two little girls, who are so much MORE than beautiful. I love this. Thanks for sharing. Another favorite is from Nikita Gill…

      When your daughter asks you if she’s pretty, looking like the universe is weighing down her little bones with insecurity, resist the urge to say “Ofcourse, darling, Ofcourse you are.”
      Tell her instead: “Everyday, I bless the stars that fell apart to allow your body’s embers to glow to life.”
      Tell her instead: “In the 7 billion that exist on this planet you are the only one of your kind.”
      Tell her instead: “You are so much more than pretty. The stars that gave you to me made you to be like the sun. You are their best ever masterpiece. You aren’t pretty. You are inspiring.”

    • KL says...

      Elizabeth- CHILLS. THANK YOU. I just emailed this to myself and saved it in my ‘Maybe Baby’ folder. I’ll also keep this in mind for little girls I come to know throughout my life, even if they’re not mine.

  63. Kate says...

    The best advice I ever got for talking to kids was to ‘talk to them on their level’. Literally. Now I crouch/kneel down when playing with them or even just saying hi and I think it elicits a better response. It’s kind of funny that someone even had to remind me to do it in the first place because it comes so naturally now!

    • Lydia says...

      I was going to say the same thing! Nothing makes talking to kids more awkward than doing it from 2 feet above the top of their head.

  64. I always talk to kids in the form of questions. “Are you going to have a hamburger for dinner tonight?” “Who is that character on the show you’re watching?” “Wow, are those shoes new?” (It’s annoying when the parents decide to answer for their kids though :/)

    For older children (10-15ish), I try to give some interesting tidbit about whatever they’re/we’re doing. My younger cousins love to hear, “When I had to take the SAT, my friends and I skipped class all day and took the test for 8 straight hours,” and “I used to have a guinea pig like that! His name was Pumpkin.” Etc.

  65. Maybe it’s the fact that I have two boys, but I generally start conversations with children I haven’t met before with ‘I sense that you have a superpower – do you feel like telling me what that is?’ While I I usually get ‘I can see in the dark’ or ‘I can say the alphabet backwards’, a 6 year-old once delighted in telling me that he can fart the national anthem. That’s the joy of chatting smallies – the complete lack of filter.

  66. Emma A says...

    About karaoke singing: Pick an easy, super catchy, popular but older song —like, Dido’s Thank You or White Flag. You can ask others to sing along. They might even automatically sing along— out loud or quietly. The important thing is: they will get distracted by the song, their own singing -or- by any feeling or memory that song will bring back. Also, try to find the karaoke version/versions in YouTube. Practice several times… but less when the “performance” is only a day or two away— to “save” your voice. ;) Instead, listen to the original (not karaoke) version again and again… especially before sleeping. Oh, it also helps if you really like the song— or if it’s somehow special to you. So you will be distracted. :D

  67. J Chan Smith says...

    We frequently have friends and family to stay. Here’s something I’ve noticed that goes a long way to not wearing out one’s welcome. Some of our guests take care to not leave their stuff around the house. It makes a difference! I am currently hosting other guests who leave their laptops/devices in our kitchen/dining room/living room… I think a guest should take their cue from the hosts – if an area is clutter free, don’t leave your stuff around.
    Another huge thing that we appreciate from our guests is a contribution to meals – buying ingredients, or, taking turns to cook.
    One of nicest gestures of appreciation was when guests thoughtfully replenished everyday household items that they had used – they stocked us up on laundry detergent etc – as well as giving us lovely gifts.

  68. Kat Simonyi says...

    I am a terrible singer but I have always felt like karaoke really comes down to the rest of the performance and how much fun you have doing it! I can never take myself too seriously. That said, I have found Katy Perry “Firework” to be a good starter. It’s definitely a singing song but most people know the chorus so chances are when you hit the high notes you won’t be singing alone!

  69. Lilia says...

    One thing I always try to do when talking with kids (including my 3-year-old) is literally getting down on their level. First thing I do is squat down so my eyes look into theirs. I’ve found kids to respond well to this — they’re being looked down at by adults all day, so it must be nice to feel like an equal. :)

  70. spark says...

    For Zoe: Questions that I use in my workplace are: what is your favourite snack? If you had to choose between an ice cream or chocolate, which one would you choose? (asking open questions with an either/or/ both options works a treat), telling them your favourite colour, who is the fastest runner/ highest jumper in their class, can they go the full way across the monkey bars? However, as a kid, I always liked the adults who smiled and laughed. I fondly remember my mum’s friend Suzy who gave us the most enthusiastic welcome and was intensely interested in what we had been up to. My mum has Aspergers and didn’t always appear to be the warmest person to people outside her immediate family (she has the kindest heart). She also wasn’t able to give us many cues about how to interact with people or how to interpret other people. I was intensely shy so any adult trying to get a conversation out of me wouldn’t have had much luck but I can remember feeling that nice glow when someone made the effort but didn’t’ push too hard. As a parent and teacher, I do know this: Smile, be friendly, be interested. Sometimes kids won’t want to talk but they will notice who is friendly and that will go a long way. I can see you are that type of person already because you are asking the question. You might feel awkward but the kids that are around you would already see you as nice and when they are ready, they will chat.

  71. Karen says...

    I love the halloween question – it works for most elementary or younger ages and genders. My kids were both slow to warm up when they were younger and my daughter responded much better to adults who don’t try too hard or use an over the top voice that sounds like ‘Why hello there! this is my talking to kids voice!!!”. She would also sooner talk about sports than anything she is wearing or hear that her hair is pretty, and she definitely never wants to be called ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie’ , so maybe try to avoid gender stereotypes if you don’t know much about the kid. In our experience, asking about their pet, a favorite team or or a current lego project in a casual way works best for kids who are not super chatty. And if they are not comfortable responding at first, don’t sweat it. They’ll chime in when they are ready and it will probably be a more genuine interaction for everyone.

  72. The Halloween question? Only works for American kids and even then those who celebrate the holiday – there are loads of countries where Halloween is not a big deal and lots of kids in America who don’t ‘do’ Halloween.

    Just something to think about for all the people suggesting ask about Halloween when stuck on talking with kiddos…

  73. Amy P says...

    Yeah, I was confused as to how my guest stuffing their sheets into a pillowcase would create a nicer experience for me as a host. I mean, go for it, but it’s more work for you and makes no difference to me.

    As a semi-frequent host AND guest (lots of family going back and forth for visits) – we often need a few things out in the main living area (there’s often a kid napping in the guest room and we can’t access it for portions of the day), so I’ve started taking a little bin along with us that can sit on a counter or tucked in a corner of their kitchen/living room. This keeps us from having phone chargers, books, and other paraphernalia littered around their house – and also helps us pack up easier and forget less.

  74. Jodi says...

    This is a more serious question that’s come up for me lately, maybe someone has thoughts on it. I’m wondering how (if ever) to ask someone if they’re going to have children – or more children if they already do. I want to be sensitive to the fact that many women struggle to get pregnant, but sometimes in the course of a conversation it feels like a natural thing to ask. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to broach the topic in a way that won’t seem insensitive, or is it better left unsaid?

    • My two cents: best to avoid. Within a few months of my wedding, well meaning older women, who had grown children of their own, would ask my husband “soo….. any NEWS?”, wondering if I was pregnant. I had just had a miscarriage and was very sensitive. Now, my daughter is 14 months, more women are asking him (interestingly, no one asks me) if we are going to have another child and opine on how my daughter would be happier if she had a sibling. Mind you, I’m 41 and we were lucky to get pregnant at all! When I was in my early 20s, I asked my brother – yes, my brother – if they were planning to have a second child and he told me that was a personal question and none of my business.

      Point being: one never knows what folks are going through in their family planning process and it could be a very sore subject. I don’t ask anyone – not even my closest friends – ever.

  75. Megan says...

    I have an easy houseguest tip! If you’re sleeping on the couch, fold up your sheets and blankets each morning so everyone can still use it as a couch. It’s such a small thing, but almost all our guests have done it unprompted, and I just really appreciate the gesture. Communication is also key: whether you plan to stay with me all day or stay out all day (or something in between), I like to know what to expect :)

  76. MK says...

    So, my sweet husband is super tone deaf & has zero rhythm. (It’s adorable.) One night, at a fairly intimidating karaoke bar in SF, he chose Surfin’ Bird as his jam and brought the house down. He just WENT for it, and not having a ton of lyrics to negotiate made it easy for him to just enjoy being silly. Hours later, a pack of youths on the street screamed “SURFIN BIRD GUY!!!” at us on our walk home. Legendary.

  77. Julia says...

    For karaoke I like to go with Bohemian Rhapsody because its so ridiculous everyone ends up joining in.

    • That is a tough one to do–I’m impressed! I do much better with anything by The Beatles.

  78. Clare says...

    My karaoke stand by is Tiffany “I think we’re alone now.” It’s repetitive enough that I don’t get nervous trying to keep up with the words, has a limited range, and it’s a really fun throw back that people aren’t usually expecting!

  79. ECH says...

    You nailed the “how to talk to kids” question. Ask and listen! Maybe this is obvious, but for little kids (9-ish years old and younger) it’s meaningful to get down on their level and speak relatively slowly and clearly with long pauses so they can digest what’s being said. I also think little kids really appreciate simple observations about the present moment, “Wow! Have you ever seen a green bus?!” “Do you hear the birds? They sound so happy today.” :)

  80. Mac says...

    I have a hard time with small talk, so I actually love chatting with kids–they just get right to it! Most kids I talk to love to hear short stories of naughty things I did as a child. It’s wild for them to think that I was both young AND naughty once. I was telling a 2 year old about getting something stuck in my nose … and ended with the moral of the story, to never put things in your nose. Her eyes got wide and she whispered “not even fingers” and then sat on her tiny hands!

  81. Jessica says...

    For karaoke, my sorority sister gave the best advice. Sing any chart topper from Kesha– they’re easy to follow along to! This wouldn’t apply to her new single, though. She really shows off her range in Praying!!

  82. As a auntie to 6 and a school teacher I’ve made a conscious decision to stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. If a child is enchanted by the idea of their future career they’ll tell me, but I want to value the experiences they’re having right now! I live in Australia so my go to ice-breaker is ‘have you been swimming lately?’ They love to tell me about their last trip to the pool, beach, river etc.

  83. Ana says...

    I love the one about kids and feel it could really work with the ones I know. However, I have found myself lost for topics to talk about with my ten year old cousin. I know he is older than Toby and Anton but would anyone else have any tips? It is a weird stage, he is not a kid kid but he is certainly not a teen… plus Im in my twenties and a girl, so not that many points in common! I have been trying to get him to live Harry Potter, but thats about it!

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      minecraft. minecraft is the answer. first you should learn about minecraft, lol. I haven’t yet.

  84. NRenee says...

    So, breaking the ice with strange kids is basically how I start every day (I’m a neuropsychologist), and I always have the best luck when I don’t immediately start asking questions and just share the space with the them. Once they’re warmed up a bit without pressure, I launch into how cool their bandaid is, talking about what they’re literally playing with in the moment….

    Now that I have a (very, very anxious) preschooler of my own, I’m even more conscious of avoiding open-ended questions about school days, favorite toys, etc. Nothing will shut him down faster!

  85. Jen says...

    I have always enjoyed talking with kiddos, but I have a friend who is REALLY good at it. My nephew Jack visited us once when he was about 3, and my husband and I took him over to this grown-up friend’s house for dinner. Before we ate, my friend and Jack were both sitting down on the floor playing with some toy Jack had brought along. After a while of pleasant playing and visiting, he looked up at my friend and said, “So, are you the only other kid here?” It was hilarious!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg! that is so, so, so cute.

    • Adorable! Please ask her for tips and share them!

    • A says...

      This is just too sweet!

    • Maiz says...

      My grandmother was like that! She was very short (4’8″), but really looked like a little old lady. She just had such a way with kids, that sometimes they would think she was one!

    • Starlene says...

      I never thought much of it but I guess I’m that adult. I’m 53 and have grown kids but we went to Michigan last summer to visit my husband’s family and his nieces couldn’t understand why I got to stay up when it was bedtime for the kids!

  86. Karaoke song suggestion from a fellow non-professional singer: can’t go wrong with Ciara’s 1, 2 Step, featuring Missy Elliott. Similar to the suggestions made, it’s mostly talking. If you memorize Missy’s entire rap, people WILL believe you are cool (I am certifiably not cool and have tricked many people otherwise with Missy Elliott lyrics). It’s short and doable, but if all else fails, just remember her last line, say it with confidence and you will be the talk of the office:

    “I eat fillet Mignon
    And I’m nice and young,
    best believe I’m number one” -Missy Elliott… -Also, me

    • Kara says...

      Fav karaoke song! Great duet with a friend.

    • Heidi says...

      I wholeheartedly agree… Missy Elliott is the gateway to coolness.

    • Jody says...

      This is the cutest (and coolest) advice :)

    • Shannon says...

      I’m so inspired by this and you. Just LOLing with my morning coffee.

    • Meghan says...

      also, fergalicious.

  87. E says...

    My go to karaoke song is Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones, it’s fun, short, mostly yelling.

  88. ClareV says...

    “Barbie Girl” by Aqua is a full-proof non-singing karaoke song. Everyone loves the boy/girl “Come on Barbie, let’s go party…Oh, oh, oh yeah!”

  89. I used to test students (think IQ style test) kids as part of my job, and it was usually kids that didn’t know me. For talking to kids, the best ice breaker I found was asking if they had siblings, and, if the answer is yes, the follow up question was “Oh, are they an annoying brother/sister or a good one?” Which opened them up to share aaaaaalllllll sorts of stories about their siblings (and themselves). I think the key is to treat kids like people, in that you take their responses seriously and continue the conversation by sharing and asking open ended questions.

  90. Alex says...

    BURGERS! Nom. I love love love the burger’s at Rose’s on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn. Juicy + special sauce + toasted bun… I just had Chipotle but I could totally eat one right now. #preggolife

  91. Kerri says...

    Regarding conversation with children…

    A friend of mine surprised me when she asked my 3-year-old, “What brings you joy?”. I’ve never thought to ask a child this but I was so excited to hear his answer. I wasn’t even disappointed when he said, “My dad!” ;)

  92. Joanna & Co,
    I’m 24 and I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve either been to busy to notice boys (college) or throwing myself out there but none of them want a relationship (present day). Plus my job of being a flight attendant gets in the way. Did you ever give up on love? Do you have any advice?

    • Courtney says...

      My sister in law was a flight attendant when she met my brother on a dating site. They met up, liked each other, continued dating and fell in love, making it work while she had to travel a bunch for work. Eventually, she was able to secure a more stable position at the airport. I’m not sure if this is helpful to you, but it seemed like a boon of being a flight attendant is that it is a foot in the door at other airline jobs, which seem to have quite a bit of mobility.

    • jade says...

      I know I’m not Joanna or Co but thought Id share my insight. I am 26 and somehow – like you I have found myself in my mid twenties and have never been in a serious relationship either. I too just found myself busy (I’ve worked 2 jobs since high school) and a relationship was never something I prioritised. I am a total introvert and completely fine in my own company and had made a very conscious decision in my late teens (in the knowledge that I was very fortunate to have been raised in a First World Country, in a time where Young women can work and save and make their own way) that I was going to spend my twenties focused on me. On reading books and asking big questions and travelling as much as I possibly could. Selfish I know. However, I am now in a position where all of my friends have coupled off and thoughts of giving up on love have been creeping in lately. I think about it a lot actually and I keep going back to a quote from Joanna (I can’t remember the specific article now). In essence I remind myself that I have lived in England and ventured by myself through India, I have volunteered for a cause I wholeheartedly believe in, I have started a business with my Dad, I have developed a career over 10 years and just this year switched to a field I have to completely relearn. I have decided to be strong and kind and that Cheese is always a good Idea and I figure that it is because of all of this mental furniture I’ve built – one day if I am lucky and the time is right – Love might be on my cards. And if that time comes – I can enjoy every second knowing I am the person I’ve wanted to be, I’ve had those experiences and (hopefully) won’t ever feel that I have missed out on a single moment.

    • Laura C. says...

      Hi Kelsey,
      NEVER give up on love. ;)

    • Kelly says...

      I could say: “You are so young! Don’t give up on love! Don’t give up on anything!” It would be true, but maybe not so helpful. I would suggest that you have a conversation with your 80 year old self and see what she suggests. It will help you tap into your own wisdom and give you an expanded perspective on your life. My 80 year old self is so cool…… : )

    • ooh! I find myself in a very similar position! Basically same situation except i work at a school where 95% of my coworkers are girls and the 5% that are men, are in relationships already.

      I feel the same as though maybe giving up on trying to find someone might be best but also I really want a boyfriend? i second this question, advice on this would be great!

    • Elle says...

      Kelsey, do you have any close male friends from college or since? I feel that’s an important question for you, since friendship is an ideal way to develop good relationships with men that may or may not lead further.

      At least that’s how it’s always worked for me. I never dated; it seemed so . . . random. I never approached a guy because I thought we’d have a romance. Instead, I was drawn to men as friends because of common interests, their humor, intelligence, etc. And we’d go out together, casually, as friends. Twice that developed into a romance, and we got married. Confession: I wasn’t really physically attracted to either one at first, but the more I got to know them, the more attractive they became! (And, after 7 years of just friendship, 3 years in a relationship, and 20 years of marriage, the second one is SUCH a keeper.)

      For some of us, romance develops only after we know and trust someone. I consider myself lucky to be that way: much less drama and bad surprises, much more fun! Sometimes you just end up having a bunch of nice, platonic men friends, too. You might already know the guy you’ll fall in love with someday.

      So my advice to you is stop viewing interesting guys strictly as potential partners. Be patient, just have fun getting to know them, and develop your friendship skills. Some of us need to know a fair amount about another person before we fall in love, and that’s true for men, too. But when those relationships do go further, they are great.

    • Ashley says...

      Kelsey!

      When I was 23 I remember reading words Joanna had written in her then Glamour blog. I’m older now and still not married but I think of this all the time. I hope it inspires as you as it still does me seven years later! (ahh I feel old!)

      Quote below…

      “If there’s one thing I hope you take away from my posts over the past two years, it’s this: You will find love. So many readers have worried that they’ll never be kissed or never have a boyfriend or never get married, and if you’re open to it, I know that love will come your way. (My own story: On Valentine’s Day, when I was 28 and hopelessly single, I felt sad and worried that I’d never find true love and would never get married…then, two weeks later, I met Alex. So you never know what’s right around the corner!) I would encourage you to be confident and honest and reveal your true self (even the quirky, goofy parts of yourself–let your freak flag fly, as they say!), since that’s how you’ll discover and connect with your real soul mate. And don’t be afraid to tell guys how you really feel, since authenticity is the most attractive trait ever. So, if you like a guy, tell him. If you’re falling in love with your boyfriend, tell him. (Many times a day, if you’d like!:) If you’re nervous or unsure or curious about something, tell him. And remember that at the end of the day, despite TV shows and movies that make men seem scary and judgmental and foreign to us ladies (exhibit A: Mr. Big in Sex and the City), in real life, guys are just big nerds who want to be loved. They will be thrilled when you touch their arm at dinner and thankful that you laugh at their jokes and incredibly lucky that a lovely woman like you is spending time with them.
      So bottom line: Have confidence, be true to yourself, and go out in the wide world to love and be loved! :)”

    • Cooper says...

      I was in the same boat (mid-20s, no relationships, busy job)! It’s hard, and I gave up on love many times :) I know people are really quick to offer dating websites as a panacea, but if you’re curious, I really did find them to be helpful, with a couple of caveats: (1) Dating sites are an efficient way to meet people, but when you find someone who seems compatible and interesting, get off the site and meet in person ASAP! Develop your own screening measures (a phone call helps), take safety precautions, of course, and don’t hesitate to walk away / back out if you change your mind (you don’t owe the person ANYTHING!), but emailing back-and-forth more than a couple of times can quickly lead to confusion. Basically, meet online but date in person :) (2) Take breaks! When it stops being fun, quit for awhile (or forever!). I hope this is helpful and not intrusive – I would just love for someone else to benefit from my experience!

    • Laura says...

      I have a different job, but on the same boat! :/

    • Jessica says...

      Hi Kelsey, I’m 35 and single, so I realize my voice isn’t maybe the most comforting, as opposed to people who can assure you that they have found love in spite of going for a long time without it (because it does happen! every day!). But, just for another perspective on this subject, because believe me, I’ve felt the same way as you despite being a decade older: it’s easy to feel like you’re lacking love because you don’t have a consistent romantic partner in your life, partly because the Western world emphasizes marriage and family as the key to a fulfilling life. But there’s so much more love in the world than that! I’ve been reminding myself lately that there’s no need to give up on love because I have so many people to love in my life: my family, my friends, my friends’ partners and children, my students, my work colleagues, even complete strangers. I suspect the same is true for you. And the beauty of this approach is that when you go looking for love, you tend to find it everywhere around you. And if that practice leads you to romantic love in the end, then that’s something wonderful too.

    • Lindsay says...

      Never give up!

      When I was 24, a week away from 25, I read the book The Defining Decade by Meg Jay. At first, it made me completely freak out about where I was in my life. But it really got me thinking about what I wanted out of life and what I already had.

      I had a good job, great friends but a dislike for going out to bars to meet people and I lived at home. My circle was the same friends I’ve had since kindergarten, my lovely coworkers who are like 10 “Work Moms” (that I love!) and I lived with my parents. I was surrounded by the same faces each day. And while I loved it, I knew I wouldn’t find my husband in this crowd – because I determined from the book, that was what I wanted next (besides buying my own home).

      I reluctantly joined several online dating websites with the simple goal of meeting new people. In the process I learned a whole lot about myself and what I wanted and didn’t want from my partner. I’m happy to say it worked out for me. I met my now husband after 3 months of a ton of online dates from a random website (howaboutwe.com, I mean really, has anyone heard of it? haha I had a coupon..) I’m now 28, we’ve been married a year and are expecting our first child. And honestly, I don’t know how I lived a full life before I met him. It’s like it was meant to be, the universe was just waiting for me to take the first steps.

      Read that book. I give it full credit for giving me the tools to determine what I really wanted in life. (Sorry for the long comment!)

  93. ceciel says...

    Yes to #4. Quit asking my kid how he likes kindergarten–he hates it, mm-kay?? You hit the nail on the head, Joanna–details and favorites: what’s your favorite animal? Stories about you as a kid or other kids in your life are nice icebreakers, too. “When I was little, I had a cat who’s tongue was so rough when she licked me.” “My daughter has a hamster–we feed it carrots for a treat.” “When my son was your age, he could roar like a tiger”. Cue the loud roar from your new child friend.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      roar = omg that is so cute :)

  94. Michelle says...

    While living overseas for three years we had loads of short term guests, sometimes just one night. I learned to
    just tell guests to place towels in the laundry if they needed washing but provided hooks for those who liked to reuse. And also told them not to strip the bed. One family stripped four beds of their linen making it a big job to wash it all and remake the beds. By leaving the linen on the bed I can wash them at my leisure while the room looks presentable in the mean time.

    • Meredith says...

      I totally agree! I was raised to always strip the bed after I stay with someone, but now that I have my own guest room, I would rather guests remake the bed so that it looks presentable until I get around to washing those linens; otherwise it just sits around in a big pile somewhere while I finish other laundry. Maybe it’s because an unmade bed makes me totally anxious.

    • Amanda says...

      I totally agree with you, Michelle. It stresses me out to be forced to wash the guest linens when I’d rather do it on my own timeline.

      The whole houseguest thing is a topic of regular conversation at our house because my husband is a Kiwi and the New Zealand guest expectations are TOTALLY different than American. They are insulted if you don’t put them to work making dinner, give them chores, ask them to pick up groceries. Unfortunately, I only learned this after taking my American leisure guest habits to NZ to meet his friends and family. Luckily, they still love me and now understand why I kick them out of the kitchen when they visit us.

    • I thought this too about stripping the beds part!

    • A says...

      Yes! Totally agree with this. I hate it when guests strip the bed. (It’s like someone else wiping my kitchen counters – I know they’re trying to be helpful, but it feels like a criticism!) We have no space to store dirty laundry, so stripping the bed leaves a big heap of linen with nowhere to go. I wash it on a fine day when I can dry the sheets outside, but if it’s winter that heap is just going to sit there until I can get to the launderette. I actively tell people not to strip the bed when they visit, in fact.

      Wow, didn’t realise I felt so strongly about this until I started writing that essay!

    • Madame says...

      I TOTALLY SECOND THIS! We have a very large home in the country, and many many beds!! It is a total nightmare to have ALL the sheets after a visit of a family immediately needing tending to. Generally speaking, after entertaining ( cooking ,tour guiding the chateaux in the vallée Loire, and translating) guests, I am super excited to not have any obligations…. Imagine ALL the laundry for your regular family, PLUS___ ( fill in the number!) sets of towels, sheets (antique embroidered linen which require special drying/ironing). I hate having the beds stripped. It leaves several bedrooms looking like crap, and OBLIGES me to deal with it . I guess if it is a smaller place it is different. We hardly ever seem to have groups of less than four.

    • SW says...

      I agree with this! I do not like when guests strip the bed, because I hate the look of a naked bed, and don’t always want to do laundry immediately after a fun weekend of hosting.

    • Melanie says...

      I actually agree with this one. I always tell my guests not to strip the beds as I have alot of other things to do to put my house back together after they leave and i’ll wash later. But unmade beds drive me just batty so i’d rather they bed dirty but put together until I have time to deal with washing the linens. And I never worry about whether i’ll forget as I have a very particular way I put the bed back together.

      Reading this I recognize that I sound totally anal but whatevs

    • Yep! I always ask guests to just leave the bed alone because I’ll get to it later. I am not ashamed to tell you that once I left the sheets from one guest on the bed for two months before getting ready for the next set of guests!

      Oh and I also like to leave a card on the guest room desk with the wifi information on it. That way, guests don’t necessarily have to ask me for it.

    • Laurel says...

      I feel this way too!! Now when I’m a houseguest, I ask “Can I strip the bed before we leave?” Everyone has said no, and always for these reasons. (“No I don’t go to the laundromat until next week” or “Please don’t, I won’t have time to do laundry until later.”)

  95. Margaret says...

    One of the best burgers I’ve ever had in NYC was at Midwood Flats in Brooklyn. Not really on the known list of best burgers, but it was amazing!!!

  96. Elle says...

    That room! That wallpaper! That cat!

  97. Sarah Beth says...

    A few weeks ago, we were at the drugstore with our toddler and ran into a friend of my husband’s. My daughter totally clammed up, but our friend asked if he could see her shoes. Not a compliment, just, “hey! Can you show me your cool shoes?” She held out her little foot, he held out his, and started comparing them. She got into pointing out her sparkles, his shoe laces, etc. then they were buddies! It was GENIUS. We’ve since tried this trick with shy toddlers of both genders, and they all love showing off their shoes. It works great for the youngest kids who really can’t answer questions yet.

  98. What a FUN read. My response to the karaoke question- don’t worry about talent- go out there and have fun! I sound a lot like Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding and whenever I’ve done karaoke, I just sing loud and proud with my terrible singing voice. If you have fun, everyone else will too. Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day.

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea

  99. jade says...

    I am slightly terrified of Karaoke.

    Build me up buttercup is now going to be my go -to~ Love it!

  100. Emma says...

    I always ask kids to show me something. Depending on the situation, “can I see a favorite toy?”, “do you want to show me your room?”, “can you bring out a favorite stuffed animal to sit with us?”… They often get excited showing-off their favorite things. Sometimes no matter what you talk to kids about, it’s going to be a flop. That’s okay, you tried.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a cute approach!

  101. TMI but the last time we had houseguests for the weekend they definitely had sex in our guest bathroom more than once and we ALL heard it! I love when people are in love but don’t be all over each other on the futon (which we use as a couch, too) and in the shower! Yikes. My biggest thing is at least offer to help clean up, cook, do random chores. 99% of the time I will say no it’s totally fine, but offering is still really nice!

  102. Nicole says...

    Ahhhh the Nomad is one of my fav places to go in NYC- soooo good.

    Love the idea of bringing brownies or olive oil, and I think coffee or fancy tea would also be great.

    Here’s a question: do you have suggestions for winter time/Christmas activities in NYC? With and without kids. My husband and I always visit in December as we love to see all the lights and decorations. But we tend to revisit the same (crowded) places. I’m thinking fun cold weather activities followed by cozy bars….would love to hear your ideas!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, great question, nicole! we’ll work on a post about wintertime NYC activities.

    • Margaret says...

      I highly recommend trying to see The Hard Nut in Brooklyn–it’s a modern take on the nutcracker and is an incredible performance that isn’t too pricey I think! It only plays for a week I believe, so hopefully you can catch it one of your trips!

    • Mrun says...

      I’ve got the same question about Brussels in winter. I am going for a work trip in late November for a couple months (so about 6-7 weekends). I went there the same time last year and simply could not find a fun way to spend time. The Christmas market at Brugee was great though! And I plan to make a trip to Paris one of the weekends.
      Any suggestions Belgium residents?

    • Allison says...

      Ditto on this one! I’m working on surprising my husband with a winter NYC trip (he’s never been and it’s his less-busy season at work). I want him to experience the magic and would love to have some new fun for me! Thanks for asking, Nicole!

    • DIANA says...

      My favorite winter things in NYC:
      bowling! It allows you to be a little active even when its frigid out. There are lots of options from fancy to dingy. I like Lucky Strike, Bowlmor, Brooklyn Bowl, The Gutter.

      Also, there are lots of breweries/distilleries in Brooklyn that are close to the city and can be really nice to check out. New York Distilling Co, BK Brewery, Big Alice Brewing, King’s County Distillery.

      One of my favorite things to do in winter is go to the Time Warner center, get a Bouchon coffee and pastry and look out through the big windows of the third floor at a snowy Central Park.

      I have about a hundred more.

  103. Anna says...

    I’ve found that little kids are often entranced by the specific details of my life, too–so if you say, “Oh, I had [….] for breakfast just like you, before I went to work!” then all of the sudden you might get a lot of cute questions about your work.

    I’ve just graduated from college and am living with my parents for a few months while I apply to jobs and have an ankle surgery, and I’ve been babysitting A LOT to make some money and add structure to my days before I’m laid up. One little girl has been especially fascinated by the fact that I seem to be a grownup *and a kid* at the same time, so she’ll ask me what I do that’s for grownups (drive a car, vote, drink wine, decide where I want to move to next, have a boyfriend) and what I do that’s for kids (watch TV with my parents, cook & eat dinner with my parents, go for walks with my parents…). Cute to see my funny in-between time through her completely curious and thrilled eyes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that is SO cute, anna!

    • Nicole says...

      Anna, I just graduated from college two years ago and have experienced the same things with my younger cousins! One of them, who’s 8, even coined the term “kidult” to describe my time in life. I think they won’t really see me as a true adult until I have kids of my own! Though by that time they’ll probably think they’re little adults themselves ;)

      My favorite was when my cousin asked what my favorite part of being “kind of an adult” was. I told him it was that I don’t have to do homework anymore, lol.

    • Kate says...

      When I was 18, My parents had extended family over, I offered to go to the shops to get some lunch for my family.

      My cousin who was probably 8 or 9 wanted to come to.

      We walked out the driveway to jump in the car and she said to me “ummmm, are you even allowed to drive a car” in her eyes I was older, but not adult old.

    • Cooper says...

      So cute! I rented a basement from a family with a four-year-old, and one day after living there for several months, I walked him to the neighborhood park and pushed him on the swings. After a while he climbed down, walked behind the swing, and said in complete seriousness, “Your turn.” I realized that he thought we were peers, so of course I should take a turn being pushed in the swing (which obviously I couldn’t resist :)

  104. Vanessa says...

    I like to take my hosts out for a meal. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy!

  105. Meg says...

    That last bit of advice made me giggle (truth!) and reminded me of my husband’s grandpa. Since my hubby was born in the 80’s he asked his grandpa what he liked best about the decade. After a minute of thinking, and in the most deadpan voice, he replies, “Well, I don’t really remember the 80’s. Sorry about that.” It was like he remembered every day of his life but for some reason the 80’s were ripped out pages in his memory book. We all couldn’t stop laughing… grandpa included :) haha

    • Jeanne says...

      I was just telling my friend that all popular culture from the early 2000s is lost to me. I was too sleep deprived and busy raising very little children. Instead of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, my days were filled with the Wiggles and Oobi!!

  106. Courtney says...

    Most of my friends have children as well, and I too feel totally awkward chatting with their kids! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  107. I love those suggestions for how to talk with kids and actually one of my all time favorite posts is “how to talk to little girls” which I always think about when I chat with my 5 year old daughter’s friends. Halloween costumes are another great topic…it’s never to soon…ha!
    This year she started kinder and I find that she is SPENT when she gets home from school and I never get more than a cursory “great” when asking how her day was…BUT…if I crawl into bed with her right before she’s in for the night she will first ask me a funny animal question (how do blue jays protect themselves??) and then slowly reveal a few details from the day (I like school but I just wish it was shorter…I played with Lola today, can we have her over for a play date). It has become the sweetest time.

  108. Go to David’s Cafe on St Marks for the BEST burger. Seriously. They’ve won awards. Enjoy!

  109. Laura C. says...

    OF COURSE THEY ALWAYS KNOW

  110. Jill says...

    My rule as a houseguest is 3 night maximum, unless it is immediate family (siblings, parents). And, go out and explore instead of hanging around all day in their home. That way, your hosts appreciate your visit and you are out of their space before you wear out your welcome. Stay in a hotel for the duration of your stay if you are planning on being somewhere longer.

    • My rule for houseguests is a 3 night maximum, ESPECIALLY if it is immediate family ;)

    • ECH says...

      LOVE the 3 nights max rule! My husband’s friend from college just asked if he and his family can stay with us for FIVE nights 😬

    • Anna says...

      How do you enforce this?? I’m too polite and often end up with someone on the couch for 8 days :|

    • A says...

      Yes! ‘Fish and guests stink after 3 days’ is my family motto. My in-laws always stay a week and never do any of the helpful things you describe here, like going for a walk to give us a bit of space. They’re nightmare house guests.

    • Jill says...

      I practice what I preach :) I find friends enjoy your company for 3 days…that length of time implies that you are here to visit them and enjoy their company. Anything more means you are too cheap to get a hotel (sorry to be harsh). I just tell people are home is small and we would love to see them, but 3 nights is preferable.

    • A says...

      My parents went to visit my brother (who lives with his wife and 2 y.o. daughter in a small apartment) and stayed with them… I couldn’t believe they didn’t get a hotel. I think they were just being thrifty, they could’ve afforded it if necessary. My brother tried to suggest a hotel but my mom told him “it’s fine we’re not fussy.” Um that’s not the point? I hope they gave them some space while they were there.

  111. Susan says...

    On being a great house guest: Help with chores: offer to wash dishes, push the vacuum, tidy up the living room, walk the dog. I love to cook so I go food shopping and cook entire meals if I am staying more than 3 days. I do not expect people to entertain me and always make plans so I am out of the house for a few hours everyday. ALWAYS clean up after yourself in the bathroom. No one wants to see your hair in the drain or wadded tissues on the sink counter.

    • june2 says...

      I agree about cleaning up after yourself but I would never let a guest do housework. I believe in hospitality, (though the 3 day limit is key here…). If they are restless and want to walk the dog, fine, but that’s really their choice. They can and should bring gifts or make offers of help if they are bored, but otherwise I enjoy their company in exchange for hosting their visit.

  112. Teree says...

    This is an adorable feature! I agree that kids love to talk about Halloween.

    Random story about karaoke: I do not like to sing in public but my friend and I were at this charming little Brooklyn bar where everyone was happily tipsy and keen to sing. So, for some reason, we picked ‘Sara Smile’ to sing, which, seriously, is the quietest and maybe hardest vocal to sing EVER. I just stood there, with my mouth in a stunned o-shape while my poor friend took over. And there ends my public singing forever. Haha

  113. Karina says...

    Karaoke was made for mediocre singers. It’s actually embarrassing if someone is TOO good! Like join a band, we’re just here to have fun. That being said I reccomend choosing a song where the original singer is also so-so. The song Tainted Love basically sounds like the lead singer is doing karaoke.

    • Vicki says...

      Oh, good heavens, Tainted Love. Worst ear worm ever! Don’t you think that’ll make it a great karaoke song? Everybody can join in! (This also makes Sweet Caroline a great choice!)

  114. Charlotte K says...

    Re the first question, if there IS no guest room and you’re occupying a sofa bed in a living room (likely in a tiny apartment), suck it up and keep all your stuff packed, and put away the sofa bed every day. And don’t stay longer than 4 nights. I have been on both sides of this equation. Everyone will be happier if you don’t treat the living room like your private bedroom. (PS. I love having guests!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i agree that 3-4 days is really perfect for stays!

    • Katie says...

      Yes! Our “guest bedroom” is a twin-sized daybed in the living room that we also use as a couch. Our most frequent guest would pass out on the bare cushion if I let him, but 1) it would make me feel like a bad host, and 2) I don’t want his drool on my upholstery. So I make it up each night, but am very happy if guests strip it down each morning. I feel so weird sitting on it if it’s still in bed mode!

  115. Cooper says...

    In my experience, some kids seem overwhelmed when asked their favorite book, food, color, etc. or when asked to list a bunch things (“What did you get for Christmas?”) I’ve had much better luck when I ask my shy nieces and nephews shorter questions like, “What is one job you think might be fun?” or “What is one food that you like?”

    • Katie says...

      Yes! I think even adults get overwhelmed when put on the spot to name their favorite movie, vacation spot, author, etc. Or at least I do! Phrasing it more like, “can you tell me about a *specific topic* that you really like?” alleviates some of that pressure. And then go with something you think might be age appropriate…like a favorite color or animal or cookie for a littler one, and maybe a really good book, movie or sport for a child slightly older?
      Don’t sweat it if they don’t chat away super easily at first. Like adults, kids can be shy and take a while to open up to people they have just met.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      anton can be shy at first around new adults, and sometimes it’s nice when they just sit down near him and kind of play, relax, examine a toy, etc. then it helps him slowly warm up. i had forgotten about that until i saw your comment, katie:)

    • Eliza says...

      My 5-year-old son is super shy UNTIL you ask him about basically any rodent/small animal (this year’s hot pick: armadillo). Then try and get him to stop talking, JUST TRY.

  116. Reem says...

    These are perfect! I also have a really hard time talking to kids…I almost fear them!

  117. Colleen S says...

    I would be the worst person for a karaoke party—I refuse to sing—period. I also don’t drink a lot, so that wouldn’t make me any more willing to sing. I’d go if I had no other choice, but there is no way on Earth I would be singing.

  118. Diana says...

    Another GREAT question to ask kids, literally any time of year, is: “What are you going to be for Halloween this year??”

    • Abbie says...

      Yes. Always a winner!

  119. Katie says...

    On the easy karaoke song question- this literally comes up in training for US diplomats heading to East Asia since karaoke is such a key social activity there. The recommendation: Yellow Submarine. Super easy, fun, everyone can sing along.

  120. Dominique says...

    Here are some questions my 5-year-old would love to be asked: What is your favorite song? Can you sing it for me? What is your favorite book/food/movie/etc.? How many times did you play outside today? Our 2-year-old likes to talk about her favorite animals (owl/dolphin) and what they do (fly/swim). Getting them talking about their friends or what they want to do tomorrow is also usually a success. Games – like “I Spy” or “I’m thinking of a Person” or with cards like “go fish” and “old maid” are also fun with the 5-year-old.

  121. Melly says...

    A thousand times YES to giving your hosts a break now and then! I really love having my friends come to stay with me, but as I get older, I find myself more and more often saying “I’d love to hang out and grab dinner when you visit, but can’t host” to some friends because they’re the type that expect you to spend 100% of your time with them during the visit. As an introvert, it’s exhausting! I’m much more like to say “Absolutely, come stay with me!” to those who I feel like don’t need me to “babysit” them and choose to entertain themselves some of the time!

    • Jo says...

      So true, in my case!!
      I’d never realized until my late 30’s why some guests exhausted me – it was not the cooking & cleaning which I’d do for all guests. Its their need to want me constantly around them. They get offended if I choose not to join them for an outing. I’eve even faked an illness to get some alone time. not proud :(

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i actually started running when we had a houseguest for a week and i needed a break at night! i was like, oh, um, yes, i better go on my nightly run now….

  122. Lily says...

    What a room!

    • Marlena says...

      This is one of those “how on earth have I not thought of this” things. Genius!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha that is awesome, liz!

    • Kari T says...

      hahaha amazing! But this would like me stress me out even further as I’d feel obligated to be dancing around if I’m not singing, and dancing in public is right up there with singing in public, terrifying!

  123. One thing for the houseguest question, would be to not leave your suitcase’s items sprawled all over the place. To me, that includes not leaving your toiletries all over the bathroom. Especially if they live in a tiny space, that kind of clutter builds up fast. I had friends who had someone staying with them for an extended period, on a blow-up air mattress. Every day he would scoot the mattress up against the nearest bare wall, put his clothes in his bag, and tuck it somewhere not in the middle of the room. They said it was THE NICEST thing he could have done. And, having had people stay with us who have done the opposite…it’s difficult to navigate. :)

    • Yes to all of this! I’m so happy to have friends and family visit even in a tiny one bedroom apartment (once we had my parents, plus my brother and his wife and 8 week old baby!). That being said these tips make a big difference!

      I love the idea of leaving a note about something they really liked. To add to that I’d say if a host leaves a list of things to check out or places to eat doing one or two of them is really nice. At least for me it makes me really happy that I was able to “host” even though maybe I was at the office all day.

    • Sinds says...

      Second the comment about toiletries. I have a big basket on top of the toilet tank just so guests can throw their toiletries in there.

      Also, those of you with long hair: throw it away after taking a shower would be an enormous help. My husband and I let family stay in my condo while we were honeymooning, and we came back to two *very* clogged showers.

    • Rachel Simmons says...

      GREAT point! This always stresses me out when my Mom comes to visit.

    • katie says...

      I can’t reply to a reply, but I second the note part in Danielle’s comment. We had a random one-night house guest who disappeared early to run a marathon. He left a few post-it notes, including a “this is GREAT!” attached to our custom framed wedding invitation. 5 years later, that post-it is still there and makes me smile all the time.

    • Cara says...

      I came here to make this exact comment. I’m glad others feel the same, and it’s not just me being cranky haha! I’ve always lived in one bedroom apartments (the current one is VERY tiny), and the only place I can put up guests is the living room. Over the years I’ve offered to host people less and less because I find it very unpleasant having a suitcase, other bags, clothes, and toiletries sitting on every surface. I don’t care if anyone brings me a present (travel isn’t free! I’m so happy they bought train tickets or braved the $15 toll to get into New York) or does anything with their sheets/towels. Between having to take sheets off a mattress and having to spend several days stepping over bags and moving leggings in order to access my table, I think the later is far more frustrating and stressful!

    • Haha, replying to Katie’s reply. The post it notes are such a great idea! I have friend who actually leaves (easily removable) stick on googly eyes on random items. Some are obvious and some are on things we would come across weeks later. It’s so silly and it always makes me smile and gives me all the warm fuzzy feelings.

  124. Sasha says...

    I need questions for how to talk to kids- teenager edition. My little cousin answers everything with one line and a shrug. Also, don’t put all your bedding into a duvet cover. It is extremely annoying having to fish it all out when you are doing laundry. I lost a towel a guest left in a duvet cover once, and did not discover it until we had more house guests later and I was once again making up a bed.

    • Justine A Clark says...

      Teenagers – especially boys are more communicative while doing an activity or moving. I get my son to talk while riding in the car or going for a walk. Something about the lack of eye contact makes it easier for teens to open up and share. He’s also good at sharing while he’s playing video games :-)

    • Hilary says...

      I teach middle schoolers and definitely agree with Sasha! I also find I usually have success with asking about a good book they’ve read recently (if they’re readers) or a movie/show they are watching. Teenage boys can talk my ear off about the latest Marvel movie. Is your cousin into sports? College football is a popular topic around here too or even asking about the teams they play on- what position do you play? What exactly does that position do? How does a lacrosse game even work?

    • jennifer says...

      Yes to not stuffing the bedding into a pillowcase or duvet cover! It would be annoying to me and creates more work for the host than just leaving it in a pile.

    • Cazmina says...

      Oh my teenage nephew does the same! A shrug and a “yeah” or “ok”. Drives me nuts!
      One thing that I have found that works is embracing the fact that teenagers think we are all old and don’t know anything by finding a topic you know they like (a computer game or sport or TV show or whatever) and just saying “Tell me how it works/what it’s about.”
      You can also get fun insights into their minds by playing silly games like “Would you rather…?” e.g. “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” or “would you rather never be able to speak again, or forced to say everything that comes into your head?”

    • Eliza says...

      My teenage niece loves Dr. Who and a host of anime – things I could completely care less about. But I ask about the shows shes currently watching and I listen (at least enough that I can ask follow up questions and input). I don’t care about the content but I like bonding with her. I do the same with my younger nephew about baseball – even if I know the answers or they’re basic questions I could easily google (“How many innings? What does the umpire even do?” )

    • Shannon says...

      I teach middle school too and I love what Hilary and Justine said. I like asking what kids if they’ve seen ____ new movie and “will it be too scary for me? What if I couldn’t sleep for an entire year after I got suckered into watching the conjuring? No, like kept a light on constantly scared….” on and on. Kids will start talking about other movies they’ve seen and how NOTHING scares them and you can share your experiences about being a giant wuss.