Be the Hostess With the Mostest

I recently had family from all parts of Canada in town visiting.  Normally I am what you would call a neat freak, and since I had 9 guests, including a baby, in my modest-sized 3 bedroom house I needed to let go of the impulse to constantly straighten everything out or clean up every mess right at that moment. Usually, when no guests are around, everything is in its orderly place, neat and clean! (No, I don’t have kids yet!) This weekend taught me how to relax, enjoy the company of my loved ones, and get to the mess later.  It actually felt quite liberating - I felt free! 

(Amusing side note: while cleaning up after all my guests left, I did however find certain things misplaced and rearranged in random areas, like upside-down picture frames, straws lining picture frames, I even found a plastic lemon from my bar cart tucked away in my sofa.. my one cousin really knows how to mess with me. ;)

So that said, I naturally wanted to ensure that I had everything set up just right to make my family feel at home and as comfortable as possible!  Here are a few tips that I find helpful when I am hosting a big family gathering:

Making up the guest rooms is the obvious first step.  You don’t have to go out and buy all new things- you can shop your home to update your guest rooms and make it cozy and comfortable.  That’s what I did -- fresh sheets, throws, and pillows are basically all you need! No flat pancake pillows please!  Fresh flowers are always a nice touch as well, because everyone loves flowers.  They add a fresh welcoming aroma to the bedroom while also brightening it up. Flowers are an inexpensive way to change the atmosphere of any room!

Make sure you have plenty of towels available in an easily accessible place for your guests. You can even have a basket in each room made up with towels and other necessities such as soap, face cloths and cream etc. - nice and handy, right in their bedroom. For the bathrooms, be sure to have all your toiletries easily available such as extra toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, and hairdryers so they don’t have to dig around looking for anything.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee – I think it’s a nice gesture to have coffee made first thing in the morning - I know we went through ton of it. Like most people at home, they like to have their morning coffee, tea, or juice, so have a few options available for them to wake up to. Coffee lovers will REALLY appreciate it. Trust me. The first morning, we cooked a big family breakfast which was really nice... if you’re not into cooking, organize a breakfast/ brunch out at your local diner or restaurant.

Alcohol – If your guests are anything like my family, they like to drink! Hey, we’re from Cape Breton! I like to have a couple of beers and a few bottles of wine handy to offer a drink when my guests arrive. Not to say it’s an open bar for the majority of their stay, because that can get quite expensive, but it’s always nice to offer your guests a nice cold beverage when they arrive especially from a long flight/drive. Or, if you have a bar cart, keep your alcohol out for them to help themselves!

Snacks – Having snacks out on the table is always a necessity. That way if your guests are hungry at any time they can snack in between meals! During the days we had cheese plates, veggies plates and a variety of chips and dips.  Sometimes your guests may be hungry but are too shy to ask! So it’s good to be proactive and have some food out just in case. It can also be as easy as candy and nuts. Also, it’s good to know of any food allergies in advance so you don’t have food that they cannot eat (especially the kiddies).

WIFI – Everyone loves to save data especially if they are roaming, so have your password handy for your guests. I’ve seen wifi passwords framed and put in the guest rooms, which is such a neat idea! I have a chalkboard wall on the kitchen so that’s where I wrote ours down for everybody to access.

Temperature - Be mindful of the temperature (if you can control it). I didn’t realize this until I had so many people stay at one time. Half of my guests were cold while the other half were too hot! We have air conditioning in our home so we managed to keep the temperature at a happy medium for everyone. 

Window treatments – this one was definitely trial and error for me, I have guests that don’t mind the sun shining in on them in the morning and I have others that like to block it out. I like to keep all my bedrooms light and airy with white drapes so I came up with a solution - I installed vinyl pull-down blinds from Ikea in all three bedrooms! This way my guests have the option to let the sun in, or block it out! This saves throws or towels hung over your curtain rod :P

Itinerary - If you don’t have anything in particular planned for when they visit, offer up an itinerary of things to do and see. Luckily my family came for my annual street party this year, and we also organized a baby shower, so there was already plenty to do. Other times they’ve visited, I have planned dinners, shopping, and made sure to research any fun events happening locally. If they are from out of town, it’s nice to have some options for them to choose from.  But that said, there’s also nothing wrong with sitting on the couch with a cold Budweiser watching the Nascar race on a giant home theater screen... right Dad?

And lastly – have fun! Enjoy your time with your friends and family, especially if you only get to see them a few times a year like I do. Worry about the mess later!

Hosting guests is a lot of preparation but it’s always so much fun (for me, anyway).  I know I definitely enjoy entertaining! Even though I had to improvise with extra sleeping areas (i.e. air mattresses all over the basement floor), everyone seemed happy and comfortable, and were just so happy to be together.

I would love to hear some of your tips on how you make your guests feel right at home, so I can add them to my list for next time.