Overnight guests are just one type of visitors we have during the holidays. Some come for an hour, some for the day, and some come for dinner. And it doesn’t matter whether you live on a farm or in the city. We all have times when you host guests in your home. Whatever the reason, there is always planning to do. Cleaning to be done. Meals to be planned.
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I used to feel like my home had to be spotless, the table set elegantly and the food five-star restaurant quality. In order to accomplish that, I worked for weeks prior to the guests’ arrival to make certain everything was perfect.
Once we moved to the farm, I continued to try to do all of that, plus all the outside chores that needed to be done. By the time my guests arrived, I was too exhausted to enjoy their visit.
It only too once for me to say, ‘No more’. No, I don’t mean that I’ll never have guests again. I enjoy offering hospitality too much to do that. I just decided that I didn’t need to go to those lengths. Instead, I began to think of ways that I could still have the best of both worlds – a clean and welcoming home and the enjoyment of fellowship. Here are a few things I’ve done to help make hospitality at the farm easier:
As far as cleaning house, you don’t have to do baseboards, windows, and deep cleaning every time you have guests, unless they are really dirty. A simple cleaning of each room is plenty. Put away clutter, add fresh sheets to the beds, dust, vacuum, wash and put away the dishes, wipe down the counters and the stove and clean the bathrooms. Unless you have a huge mansion, most of this can be done the day before in a few hours.
If your guests come during the holidays, make sure any valuable and breakable decorations are put up and out of the way. With a house full of family and friends, the likelihood of something being broken is a valid concern. Especially if small children are part of the group. Those shiny objects can be just too much for them to resist!
If you are serving a meal, keep it simple. A pot of soup and some homemade bread, a casserole and a salad or just putting some hamburgers on the grill should be enough. Prepare as much as possible the day before and cook or reheat in time to serve.
One of my favorite go-to meals for company is Paradise Quiche, served with a fruit salad and muffins. The Quiche can be made the day before and reheated. Bake the muffins the day before as well, and wrap in tin foil. Put them in the oven along with the Quiche and they’ll both be warm and ready at the same time.
While the Quiche is warming, slice up some fresh fruit – strawberries, bananas, peaches, pears – and toss in some fresh blueberries. If you don’t have that, a second option is to use two cans of mixed fruit and blend it with a couple to tablespoons of Cool Whip. If you do want a touch of elegant, prepare a Becky’s Salad and serve it in stemware!
This also applies to holiday meals. Assign each guest who will be there a dish to bring. You can be responsible for the main entrée, and maybe one or two other items. Do your best to prepare as much food ahead of time, so you aren’t stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is having fun in the living room!
Hospitality means trying to accommodate overnight guests as much as possible. Our bookshelves are full, and we make sure guests know they are welcome to read any of them they want. We keep a small pitcher of water and a glass by their beds. Add a small plate of chocolates, fresh baked cookies or mint candies as well.
Don’t forget their bathroom. Add a stack of fresh towels. Place a basket of toiletries on the counter. All these little touches can say ‘Welcome’ with an easy flourish!
I used to keep a notebook for my guests. Each person had their own page. listed their likes, dislikes, allergies, preferences and any little fun thing that I could gather. That way, when they visited, I would be well prepared for their needs ahead of time. Especially if they were overnight guests. When they visited, I was able to add those little extra touches they liked.
Hospitality means Keeping It Simple
A simple centerpiece on the table can make it look inviting. Serve meals buffet style. Place the cooked dishes on the counter or an island, stack dishes on one end and let the guests serve themselves. This prevents you from having a crowded table.
If you are going to offer a blessing (which we do), offer it prior to anyone filling their plates. That way they don’t have to wait for everyone else to fill their plates and find a place to sit before they start eating.
Entertaining doesn’t have to be difficult. If there is a lot going on around you – summer concerts, amusement parks, etc. – prepare a list or gather brochures to leave in your guests’ room. Let them peruse them, then choose what they would like to do. My friends from Florida would probably not give one whit about visiting the Alligator Farm just south of us. But our guests from up North just might enjoy going.
Offer your guests a few ideas by letting them know what is available. But don’t feel as if you have to pack every day with an activity. Around here, there isn’t much to do without driving for at least an hour. So we usually offer a movie night or a chance to just sit, visit, knit, and catch up.
In the summer, we like to cook out and make our own ice cream. That always brings a smile to their faces! Sometimes a simple walk outside is a break from their otherwise hectic schedule.
Relax and Enjoy
Don’t fret about a clean house, perfect food, and a stream of entertainment. A less stressed hostess makes for a more pleasant visit. Your guests won’t feel as if they are putting you out, and you will enjoy their visit more. If a guest offers to help clean up after a meal, then let them. Washing dishes is a perfect way to catch up on each other’s lives.
And from experience, you usually can have a more intimate conversation over a sink full of suds. I have found that when the dish soap comes out from underneath the counter, the children and menfolk seem to disappear into thin air.
These are just a few tips that can help make an overnight guests’ visit much more pleasant. Does anyone else have some hospitality tips? Is there something you like to see or do when you visit someone? Please – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Head over to the Comment section and share your ideas. Remember – summer is here and that usually means more get-togethers. I can use all the help you can offer!