By Marilyn Pribus –
“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” go the familiar song lyrics and if it’s going to be your home this year, it’s not too early to start prepping. Whatever the plans, remember that happy visits don’t just happen. You’ll be much more relaxed when you are well prepared.
Eyeball Your Home for Safety
Consider whether your guest list includes persons with disabilities or allergies or children. Toxic items and fragile things are the greatest risks for youngsters or visitors with physical, visual or cognitive disabilities, so remove valuable breakables and heavy, tippy objects. Stash away scatter rugs that might trip a guest using a walker or stroller. Reduce the temperature on your water heater if it’s especially hot.
How about the sleeping arrangements? Do you have adequate space for everyone? Is that old sleeper-sofa really comfortable or only suitable for guests you hope will leave quickly? If your visitors include youngsters, you can probably put some of them on the floor on air mattresses, but don’t wait until the last minute to rent or borrow rollaways or inflatable beds.
Do you need to hunt up items for little ones? One local grandma is always ready for the grandkids since she bought a crib and high chair at a local thrift store. She just stores them away between visits—when her other grandmother friends aren’t borrowing them, that is.
Speaking of little ones, ensure that medications or poisonous items are stored safely. Post the phone numbers for medical emergencies including poison control and the nearest urgent care facility or emergency room in case of an accident or other medical problem. Even better: pre-program the numbers into your phone.
Protect visitors from pets and pets from visitors. Prepare a retreat for your animals and make plans to introduce your guests to your pets in a calm setting. If you have young visitors, remind them how to behave around animals. If you have pets that might be upset by visitors, consider boarding them while visitors are there.
If you’re sure there are no allergies, a bouquet of flowers in the guest bedroom is always welcoming. (Especially if one of your children is being displaced and the “guest” room is filled with basketball posters or Barbie dolls.)
Provide an extra blanket and, if possible, a choice of soft or firm pillows for each guest. If you don’t have a folding luggage stand, be sure there is a convenient place to set a suitcase. Include glasses and a water carafe for the bedside. Have extra hangers in the closet and clear out drawers if guests are staying several days.
Is the bulb in the guest room lamp bright enough for visitors who like to read in bed? Provide a clock with numbers that can be seen in the dark. Install nightlights in bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms. Be particularly sure stairs are well lit, especially if you have visitors with any sort of vision problems. Consider small flashlights for bedside tables.
Add a touch of hospitality by providing some toiletries in the bathroom along with clearly identified guest facecloths and towels. And be sure to have plenty of T.P. that can be easily found right in the bathroom when it’s time to replace a roll.
Plan Ahead for Entertainment
Make a list of places for good times together such as attending special holiday programs at the Paramount Theater and other live music venues. Monticello is free for one local resident of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Augusta, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rockingham with each paying adult visitor. (Proof of residency is required.)
There’s plenty of free or very-low-cost entertainment as well. Stroll the Downtown Mall. Visit Charlottesville’s Holiday Market between November 25 and December 23. Attend religious services. Exercise in your neighborhood, on the Rivanna Trail or go farther afield to Shenandoah National Park.
If children are coming, find the nearest park or schoolyard with play equipment for them to burn off youthful energy. Invest in a soccer ball, a jump rope, snow saucers (it might happen), and other equipment for vigorous play.
The Kitchen Is: OPEN
Check for food allergies and preferences. Have easy-to-find snacks for middle-of-the-night hunger pangs as well as a breakfast plan for early risers. Will you do all the food prep, shop for ready-to-serve items, hire a caterer, have guests pitch in on cooking or all of the above?
These days your guests might range from omnivores to those needing (or simply preferring) items that are gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, halal, or vegan. Browse the internet for likely recipes and test them ahead of time. Everyone can eat a vegetarian dish, but that’s not true for recipes with meat, poultry, or seafood.
Plan a simple menu and freeze some lasagna, soup, and casseroles ahead of time. Save some pizza coupons and order in. Have eateries in several price ranges in mind if your guests want to treat you to dinner out.
Above all, don’t let the “shoulds” get you down. Maybe your mother-in-law did make her own cornbread for her homemade dressing; boxed stuffing tastes fine. Use paper napkins, even if your sister always uses linen. And recognize that something always goes wrong and will be a lot funnier when you look back on that memory in the future.
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. They’re relaxing this year because they will be the visitors.