It always comes to me with a little dose of surprise to find myself in the last week of another year. I know time marches on, but really, hasn’t been galloping of late?

It always comes to me with a little dose of surprise to find myself in the last week of another year. I know time marches on, but really, hasn’t been galloping of late?

Christmas has come and gone and now we stare 2012 square in the face.

Our Christmas was spent steeped in our 12 year tradition of having Christmas Eve as our desired time for familial rejoicing, and hosting my darling daughter and her gorgeous husband for dinner, where we make egg nog to kill for, glavana – a Croatian dish my lovely Sir adores – and dinner of Madam’s choice.

We spent the rest of the evening talking to various friends and family back in Oz on their Christmas Day, and without fail coming away with many laughs and some good stories.

My former bridge partner and great friend, Sooz, mentioned she had played golf the other day and had struck up a conversation with an elderly gent. Nattering away, he asked if she played bridge, which launched her into the explanation about how I came to be here in the U.S. Stopping herself a tad short, she realized that this man would no doubt have known my father who was in TV and radio back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

She mentioned this to him: “You probably would remember her father, Terry Dear.” The gent fixed her with a look, and then “well yes. My daughter is married to his son.” Well blow me down, Sooz had met my brother’s father-in-law. Small World Part I.

Said brother had spent 4 months of 2011 traveling rough around Australia with a mate, raising money for charity. After so long away, E was I’m sure looking forward to getting home to his wife, his own bed and his own shower, and after packing away the tent and the provisions for the last time, he and his friend headed north-east through the bush towards Sydney.

Miles still from home, he noticed a car riding next to them. Glancing across, he realized the occupants were our other brother and partner.

Now how’s that for Small World Part II? Both countless miles from home and gliding up the same highway.

Having satisfied my little family’s tradition, we were all left to our own devices for Christmas Day. Madam and Beau were hosting his family for lunch, and we were footloose, fancy free and I think still in our jammers at 4 p.m. My idea of perfection.

Our friend from down south, Little Hot Tamale, was at that point hosting the full catastrophe. Decorations, cooking, cleaning, guests, table setting, dog washing, turkey stuffing – the whole shebang. Now that’s all fine and dandy – I used to do it myself after all – before I grew to understand the Dinner Guests from Missouri.

I haven’t hosted a proper dinner party for the best part of 10 years because of the Dinner Guests from Missouri, and so I will now give you a Miss Manners countdown of why.

The Invitation: The invitation, whether written or verbal is a formal request for the pleasure of your company. It’s not something which should be ignored, nor is it something which should sit pinned under a magnet on your fridge while you wait to see if something better comes along. It is to be accepted or rejected quickly, leaving the hostess no doubt as to the number of guests she can expect.

Our poor Tamale was wrestling with just this problem for weeks on the run up to Christmas. Variously she had 6, then 12, topping out at 18, and then back to 14. Now come on kids, it’s not as if the hostess is going to sit around eating bon bons until the day. These things take planning and care.

The Time of Arrival: If the invitation is for 6 p.m., then – I don’t know, call me silly – it should be roughly the time you aim to arrive.  Get there at 5 p.m. and you’ll find yourself with a hand up a bird, or peeling potatoes; 7 p.m. you’ll find your reception a tad justifiably chilly.  

Again – back to our Tamale – guests wandered in with scant regard for the time, and one even had the gall to not turn up at all, just leaving a message on her cell phone that she wasn’t coming. No explanation, no apology.

That’s happened to me, and that was the reason I stopped hosting formal dinner parties. As we would say in Australia, that guest has been relegated from the short to the long list. Don’t hold your breath for another invitation.

A Gift for the Hostess: Never turn up to a dinner party empty handed. Flowers, or a nice bottle of wine fit the bill beautifully. Now is not the time to re-gift that perky little drop you got from someone at the office, neatly labeled “Ohio’s Best 2011.” Now is the time to go to the store and find something to be enjoyed, not turned into salad dressing.

So there you are, Missourians. I don’t mean to lump you all into one basket of rotten apples, but let this Miss Etiquette push a new slogan for 2012.

Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be tolerant. Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to a year of peace and understanding and turning up on time.