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By invitation only, how to be a great guest

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By invitation only, how to be a great guest

What’s more splendid than spending a lazy summer afternoon under a big, blue sky? Why, doing so at a cottage situated by a big, blue lake, of course!

For the cottage-less, opportunities for that will depend on being invited by friends with recreational properties. For their generous hosts, it means laying some ground rules so that visits are mutually pleasant, and don’t add unduly to the weekend workload.

Cottage etiquette

Fortunately, both visitors and their hosts can do their part to see that everybody has fun.

Hosts can avoid an exhausting revolving door of guests by sticking to designated weekends for visitors that work with the family schedule. Unless, of course, an endless stream of folks is their idea of fun.

Cottages that are easy-care mean less worry about guests. Fortunately, handsome and low-maintenance furniture and accessories — for both indoors and out — are a boon. Great examples include weather-resistant outdoor cushions and rugs from Crate and Barrel and unbreakable dishware in pretty patterns or realistic wood grains from retailers like HomeSense.

Host/guest relations

The savvy host tells guests what to expect, including whether they should bring bedding, sleeping bags, or towels, and sketches out what the general vibe of the weekend is; if they all rise early for a communal breakfast, or stay up late and have a sing-along by the campfire.

The gracious guest, on the other hand, asks about issues specific to their visit: so if you’re allergic to pets, or would like to bring Rover with you, talk to your host.

Meal prep & cleanup

Endear yourself by offering to oversee at least one full meal. Pre-make, or at least pre-prep, to reduce water use, time spent, and cleanup required. Or offer to bring the fixing for a signature drink for the weekend that works either with or without alcohol. It’s easy to make a sparkling cranberry drink — that can be spiked with vodka after 5 p.m. — with the highly portable Soda Stream, which turns tap water into sparkling water. Bring fixings for a low-fuss snack too — a cheese and charcuterie board, your world-famous guacamole, or fresh fruit and a yogurt dip.

Plan to help with tidying up at the end of the weekend, or offer to handle at least one chore before taking off. There’s a fine line, here, of course; the thoughtful host will not casually mention at breakfast that a retaining wall needs rebuilding, and suggest guests pitch in.

Reduce waste

Go easy on bringing anything with a lot of packaging — many cottagers have to take garbage out with them or to a landfill. Try re-usable options like beeswax- coated wraps from Toronto based Etee, which now also sells sandwich and food storage bag formats, or Kliin, a machine washable cleaning cloth that’s an alternative to traditional paper towels, and which, by the way, is also made by a Canadian company.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend offer you their cottage and refuse rental payment, think about splurging on a gift they’ll get lots of use out of. Hauser has very handsome solar lanterns: they’re pricey — about $170 and up, but these beautiful, eco-friendly lights cost far, far less than the cost of rental, and might just ensure that you’re invited back.

SOURCES Crate and Barrel, SodaStream, Hauser, Etee, Kliin

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