You want to be a welcoming host. You want to be considered a thoughtful hostess. You want to maintain your sanity, and your smile until that final wave good-bye. As with many things, there's a knack to this.

We're in the early days of having a month-long guest. My husband's sister is here for all the right reasons: newborn granddaughter about 10 blocks south of us, aging parents about 10 blocks north. So we won't be seeing all that much of her.

But we're her home base, meaning that she's here every night and every morning, and bits and pieces of the day. We're fortunate in that we can give her a basement bedroom and bathroom -- except that this was "my" bathroom. It's humbling, and a little embarrassing, to realize how much I like "my" space, even as I move all my stuff up to a perfectly functional bathroom upstairs.

Casting about for any tips for successful hosting, I think I'm on the right track, having provided a cozy bed, plenty of extra bedding, and a spare bathrobe. Here are some other ideas gleaned from that wonderful place called the Internet:

-- "Speaking of cold feet, one of my favorite hosting tips is to have a variety of warm slippers in a basket by the door. You can buy slippers for cheap at Walmart or Target. Since everyone is going to be taking off their snowy boots, having a cozy alternative in which to walk around the house is a thoughtful touch."

--"Let themhelp around the house. Don’t put them to work, of course, but I’ve learned after having 25 overnight guests this year alone, people will be more relaxed and feel less like an intruder if you say yes to their inevitable question, “Can I do anything?” Let them do something small, like set the silverware at the dinner table, or stir the soup bubbling on the stove."

-- "Give your guests a key so they feel free to come and go on their own. After all, you won't be spending 24 hours a day with them. If you have a security system, show them how to work it.

-- "When somebody is visiting you, this usually means they have gone out of their way to come over, sometimes coming from out of the city or out of the state to see you. Other than their transportation costs, they shouldn't have to pay for anything out of pocket, including entertainment and meals. Of course, if they suggest going out to the fanciest restaurant in the city, then, by all means, allow them to chip in."

--"Make time for your guests to enjoy their privacy. Having guests doesn't mean you have to entertain them 24 hours a day. They may want some time to just relax and rest."

I think we'll survive, partly because we all genuinely like each other. What tips do you have for hosting houseguests? Pitfalls to avoid?