By Marilyn Pribus–
It’s right there on the calendar. Company’s coming for the holidays. Whether it’s long-time friends, your child’s college roommate or a flock of in-laws, it’s not too early to start prepping. Remember, happy visits don’t just happen. Plan ahead because you (and your guests) will be more relaxed when you are well prepared.
Be especially aware if your list includes persons with disabilities or allergies or children.
Toxic items and fragile things are the greatest risks for youngsters and 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.
Do you have adequate sleeping space for everyone? Is that old sleeper-sofa 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.
How about bedding down the little ones? One Belmont grandma solved that problem by buying a crib and high chair at a local thrift store. She just stashes them away between visits—when other grandparents aren’t borrowing them for their own visitors, that is.
Speaking of little ones, ensure that medications or poisonous items are stored safely. Program your phones with numbers for medical emergencies including poison control and know the hours of the nearest urgent care facility or emergency department.
Protect visitors from pets. And if necessary, protect pets from visitors.
Ensure your animals have a safe retreat and 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 aggressive or upset by visitors, consider having them stay elsewhere while visitors are there.
The Little Extras
If you’re sure there are no allergies, a bouquet of flowers in the guest bedroom is always welcoming. Provide extra blankets and, if possible, a choice of soft or firm pillows for each guest. Include glasses and a water carafe for the bedside.
If you don’t have a folding luggage stand, be sure there are convenient places to set luggage. Have extra hangers in the closet and clear out drawers if guests are staying several days.
Does the guest room lamp work and is it 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 toiletries in the bathroom along with clearly identified towels and face clothes. 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.
Make a list of places for good times together such as special holiday programs at the Paramount Theater and other live music venues. Monticello is free (with proof of residency) 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. Ashlawn and Montpelier are other nearby significant historical sites.
There’s plenty of free or very-low-cost entertainment as well.
Stroll the Downtown Mall. Attend religious services. Exercise in your neighborhood, on the Rivanna Trail or farther afield in 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 could happen!), and other equipment for vigorous play.
We Haven’t Eaten in Minutes
Check ahead of time for food allergies and preferences so your pantry will be well stocked. 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, stock up on ready-to-serve items, eat out most meals, have guests pitch in on cooking or all of the above?
These days your company may well 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. Most everyone can eat a vegan dish, but that’s not true for all selections.
Plan simple menus and freeze lasagna, soup, and casseroles ahead of time. Save pizza coupons and the menu from your favorite Chinese restaurant 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. You can use paper napkins instead of linen. (Have the kids decorate them with holiday motifs.) You can also use paper plates. You can buy frozen lasagna instead of making it. It’s the holidays—take the easy way and leave yourself free to enjoy every minute.
Above all, recognize that something always goes wrong. Remember also that the jammed garage door, the dead-battery car, and the ants that invade the kitchen 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 neither visiting nor visited.