What kind of a guest are you?

I was a busy hostess in 2006. I had visitors for at least a week almost every month, some even back-to-back. It was a wonderful year because so many friends, clients and colleagues visited us! It was also a year that I remember washing, cleaning, and cooking the most. I vowed to make 2007 the year of Manisha the Guest! I was kidding, of course, but it made me think long and hard about being a guest in someone else's home.

Apart from not sitting on my butt and helping out while I am there, there are some things that I like to do before we leave.

  • If I have enough time between waking up and leaving, and I have access to a washer and dryer, I pull all the sheets off the bed, run them through the wash and put them back on the bed.
  • If we borrowed towels from our hosts, I wash those, too.
  • I clean the bathroom as much as possible.With my unending supply of Lysol wipes, I wipe down all the surfaces, including the washbasin, toilet, bath and floors.
  • If I have access to a vacuum cleaner, I clean the carpeted floors of the room we occupied. Or swiffer wooden floors clean.
There are times when I cannot do any of these because we may have to leave at an ungodly hour or the washer may be in a shared laundry. Most of my hosts appreciate my efforts, especially if they work through the week. There are some who would rather you did not get into their cleaning and left them to do it. So I always ask first.

My last few guests were fabulous! Gabi washed all my dishes as I struggled with my errant printer to get her boarding passes printed. Before Thanksgiving, a family of five stayed with us and, despite having a sick child, they cleared up the guest bedroom and the family room so much that it was probably cleaner than when they first arrived!

I take pride in being a good guest. But, unfortunately, that went for a toss when we showed up at Anita's in Delhi with our suitcases of unwashed laundry.

She made me wait

Seriously, she did.

She wasn't there with garlands. There was no Bollywood music playing. No-one was dancing. My life wasn't moving in slow motion. This was for real.

So I took pictures of this Indian Army soldier instead.

Security at Delhi Airport
Army jawan at Delhi Airport

But, ha! I found out why Alice was late getting to the airport. She was busy chopping cabbage because she was afraid of the Rabbit with the Stopwatch (and the video camera.) How else could she continue to claim to decimate a large head of cabbage into angelhair slaw in less than 90 seconds?

spot the chopped cabbage

Not just that, she canceled the picnic in the park, too! What?! Did I end up with Dorothy in Kansas instead of The Mad Tea Party?

But I am home

You're going home after so long?

How did you stay away all this while? We try to go home every year, if not every other year.

Enjoy your trip home!

Didn't you miss home?

But I am home.

I bit my lips, quelled those words and smiled because they meant well. But try as hard as I might, I could not think of my visit to India as going home or returning home because I am home. My home is where my husband and child are. We build the walls of our home together. It does not matter where we live.

Recently, an Australian woman living in Boulder tuned into a Sydney radio channel while making dinner for her family and tweeted that "Surrounding myself with home is pretty awesome." Again, I brushed away those same words.

Your slip is showing

Warm up with Glühwein

Or vin chaud.

Or, as we know it, mulled wine.

It was a treat to walk the streets of Zurich clutching a steaming glass of glühwein. It was a cold, damp and gray day but it was also the only day we had in Zurich. We took a combination of trams and buses to get to Banhofstrasse, Zurich's Michigan Avenue. None of us wanted to step out into the miserable weather but we managed to walk along the frozen promenade of Lake Zurich, and duck quickly into a side-street across the river where a street truck was selling hot dogs and warm wine. The hot dog was huge. The bun around it, even bigger. Dipped in the wine, it was bliss!

I think I first had mulled wine at a friend's Christmas party five years ago. Boulder has been charming that way. We've made it every winter but I've always suffered the following several days because wines are a sure trigger for my migraines. Enter sulfite-free / sulphite-free organic wines. They have tannins but those don't bother me as much so I was home free!

Until now though, I have had nothing to compare my variation of mulled wine to, except for what I had had at my friend's. I'm happy to say I've perfected a recipe that works for me each time and is very close to what I had on those cold streets of Zurich. Sweet but not cloyingly so. Spicy but not overly so. Just right and gluggable by the mugful. I am not much of a drinker but I can easily consume three-quarters of a bottle of wine, when mulled. Pfft, I hear you say, most of the alcohol has evaporated by the time it is ready! Not so. It contains at least 60% or so of its original alcohol content but wait till you read how to make it more potent! It's something I never fail to do, now that I am in the know!