Host Musts: Favorite ways to welcome visiting family?

We have family visiting for Thanksgiving so I spent all last week getting ready.

I love to plan menus and make special foods that I know they will love.  (More on the menu below. )

One of my guests is a reader who likes history and spy novels so I have picked up from the library several books for him to choose from.

I also bought a new super bright reading lamp for this same guest. There is never enough light!

We’re mapping out movies to see at the theater (Bond or “Lincoln” anyone?) and picked up several movies and TV series DVDs we think they will like.  (We want to introduce them to “Downton Abbey” and “Homeland.”)

Our guests will take over Rose’s room so I am laundering all my fluffiest bedding to make them an inviting bed.  And I picked up some new thick towels and bath mats and some lovely soaps too.

I’ve got a day trip planned to Sedona for them to see the Red Rocks. (The weather is finally lovely – chilly in the morning and at night but warm in the middle of the day.)

We also picked up a little metal fire pit to sit around and make smores with the kids.

As for the menu, I am making all their favorites. I am working ahead on some things such as caramelizing six pounds of onions that I can use for quick onion soup for lunches or a dinner. I’m also making Julia Child’s quiche recipe that I can freeze and reheat while they are here. I am making an ice box coconut cake that I made six months ago when they visited and is still being talked about. (It has to sit in the fridge for thee days while it all melds together.)

I’ve got chicken and dumplings, chili, fake Honeybaked Ham, and  steak with roasted beets and Brussels Sprouts planned for dinners.

I’m also planning our new favorite pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and baked French toast. I am considering a banana and walnut slowcook oatmeal that I think would be cozy to wake up to.

So what are your favorite ways to make family and friends feel welcome when they come to stay? What are must-haves in the house? What recipes are family favorites? How do you have nice meals every night and still keep up with your regular family stuff?

37 comments Add your comment

DB

November 19th, 2012
12:25 am

Wow . . . sounds delightful! If this is how you treat all your guests, I’d like to make a reservation at Chez Giarrusso for January! If they are good guests, hopefully they will plan on taking YOU out one evening, as a break from all your hard work! The slowcook oatmeal sounds delicious. I like to make homemade cinnamon rolls with omelets for brunch when I have guests. Shrimp and cheese grits are another staple for a lunch or light dinner, as well as champagne chicken and mushrooms slow-cooked in crockpot. I also like to put fresh flowers in their bedroom, even if it’s just a couple of pretty flowers in a bud vase.

Fred ™

November 19th, 2012
1:43 am

Theresa,

What a wonderful host you are. I think from what I just read you have gone way above and beyond expected norms. We do the same lol.

I hope Thanksgiving goes nicely for you and yours and you put a foot up the ass and ban that person who has been stalking mother Jane Goose.

Fred ™

November 19th, 2012
1:45 am

DD: Don’t sell yourself short. Reading your menu, I want o come to your house to lol.

Seriously, I like to make my guests happy as well. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one….. or two…..

ssidawg

November 19th, 2012
8:24 am

A trip to your house rivals a stay at the Ritz-Carlton! This sounds lovely. Enjoy your guests and your holiday.

misawa

November 19th, 2012
8:30 am

Having relocated this past February some 500 miles and three states away from family, I can tell you I know think of stuff like this. If anyone in my family/in-laws are making the long ride to see us, I make sure to have things planned or stuff available. I don’t have to worry too much about books – I’ve got quite a selection myself – but I will check local theater listings, community calendars (we’re in Richmond, so there’s ALWAYS something neat going on somewhere), and ask for meal requests. I was the “big-family-get-together” cook back in GA, so it’s not uncommon to hear a request for something smoked – turkey, pork shoulder, ribs, etc.

And I always make sure there’s plenty of batteries for the Wii remotes for the kids. And the Skylander Portal of Power. :D

Techmom

November 19th, 2012
8:52 am

Wow, I feel a crappy hostess! We had friends passing through town last night on their way from FL to IL for Thanksgiving. I did make up the bed nicely and had air mattresses all setup for their kids in another room but we ordered pizza for dinner! What can I say, we know all kids love pizza, they’re vegetarian and pizza goes great with homebrew!

TWG, you sound like a wonderful host and I’m sure your guests will be thrilled with your hospitality.

Sluggo

November 19th, 2012
8:53 am

Given the expected mild weather, I would suggest a nice walk on one the local nature trails in the area. It gives everyone a chance to get some fresh air, burns off some calories, and helps prevent cabin fever too.

Becky

November 19th, 2012
8:57 am

Add me to the list that is ready to come stay with you..The things that you have planned, sounds great.. Most of my family lives here, so I don’t have to plan much for their visits..Of course, the family that lives out of town, never stays at my house, since they can’t smoke or drink there.. :)

Wow, even I,...

November 19th, 2012
8:59 am

…the usual curmudgeon who can find fault with most anything, am tipping my cap to your hostesssing prowess for this week – kudos to you, TWG…(}maybe I will ge back to normal next week!).

And sinceyou and Micheal are stuck out west, HOW ‘BOUT THEM DAWGS – 2 games away from playing in the Mythical National Championship… GOOOOO DAWGS, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF…

Me

November 19th, 2012
9:03 am

OMG — When compared to the effort you put forth, I’m no longer certain we even “welcome” our family members – and, for some, this is really accurate. But I digress. TWG, you are certainly going above and beyond and, as stated by @DB, your guests should seriously be planning on a day for YOU.
To answer your question, however, while not going anywhere near your level, we do try and accommodate any special special diet needs and I insure that we have the correct wines, beer, and other distilled spirits covered. (Although, I must admit that, by the end of their stay, the only important distilled spirit is mine!!)
Even though we have three vacant bedrooms, all completely furnished, along with two pull-out sofas and enough “other” sofas to sleep half an army, all of our family prefers staying in hotels and those flying in also rent vehicles to prevent us from having to play taxi.

Mayhem

November 19th, 2012
9:06 am

OK, two comments have been eaten……(how appropriate..LOL).

JOD

November 19th, 2012
9:26 am

A tip of the hat to you, TWG! Christmas is our big holiday, and we always host my in-laws and typically Hubs’ brother. I’m planning meals for the week they will be here, and like to include their favorites as well.

I’m very interested in the fake Honeybaked Ham recipe. We usually get one, but it’s so expensive and such a pain to pick up, that I’d like to try something else.

The only thing I can think of is burning a CD of all the pictures we take while they are here. And it is a lot.

Denise

November 19th, 2012
9:42 am

TWG – WOW! That is great!!! I never have company so I never think of what I’d do to welcome company. (Since it’s just me, everyone assumes that it’s easier for me to travel to family rather than the other way around.) If you get a chance please post the recipe for the baked french toast and the slow cooked oatmeal. They sound sooooo good!

Sk8ing Momma

November 19th, 2012
9:43 am

Wow! You certainly earn a gold star for hospitality.

I keep it simple for guests around here:
1. Fully stocked fridge and pantry; and
2. Nice linens, towels and soap.

I do cook. I don’t make anything special. I cook what our family would normally eat, just in larger quantities. I also pull out a variety of board games.

We’re VERY easy guests when we visit family and friends and I appreciate the same when people visit us. There are few things I loathe more than demanding and high maintenance guests — Grrr! Let’s just say that my patience is thin for such guests and I’m not inclined to accommodate such behavior.

polly m

November 19th, 2012
9:57 am

I always like to have a basket of sample size toiletries in the bathroom in case toothpaste or something was forgotten. I also leave a flashlight and bottled water in the guest’s room. Nightlights in the hallways are nice for folks who are visiting.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 19th, 2012
10:01 am

Hey Guys — I will post some of those recipes but it may be after this week — ill see what I can get done —

MG is THRILLED with the weekend turn of events and is torn between coming to see Dawgs take on Tech and visiting with friends or saving the air fare for the championship game in Miami — At this point he is being optimistic and saving airfare for championship game!!

He was up late reading all the recruiting news since Dooley was fired — says Richt is going to hit up Auburn and Tenn. players.

I will post some of my welcome photos for our guests on the Momania FB page and also some shots from Sedona yesterday. Walsh and I climbed a good ways up Bell Rock — he was moving fast and off the trail — a little scary. But the photos are amazing.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 19th, 2012
10:29 am

Kat

November 19th, 2012
10:38 am

Am I the only one who thinks this is going a bit overboard? Were your towels in such poor condition that you HAD to buy new ones? Seems like there is a whole lot of thought going into this, which is commendable. But, it seems like trying to fill some other kind of void (lack of visitors, too much time, etc.)

I always do things nice for my guests – our main guest each year just prefers a particular type of cereal so I get that for him. If I go to huge expense and effort, it seems to make my guests feel like they can never repay my efforts in kind. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m Martha Stewart either.

Would Rather Be The Guest, But Will Host

November 19th, 2012
11:03 am

3 LOW cost items I include that make my guests feel special: 1) flowers in vase somewhere in the bedroom (Ingles sells lovely bunches for $3.33 if you look for it) 2) wine when they arrive and want to chill after that drive or flight (there are good inexpensive wines, but find out what they like) 3) FRESH BAR OF SOAP—-I WANT TO SEE THE ENGRAVED WORD DIAL OR LEVER. This only applies if you don’t use the body wash liquid. How awful that you are using soap that has been run across someone’s body part and now yours. Please, all hosts, spring for a NEW BAR OF SOAP. Toss after guests depart of course!

Mayhem

November 19th, 2012
11:19 am

I keep hotel soaps, shampoos/lotions, etc when we travel, and put those out for the rare instance I have an overnight guest. It’s usually one of the kids’ friends….or a friend who had too much to drink…LOL

Techmom

November 19th, 2012
12:24 pm

@Kat, if the towels and bath rugs were never going to be used again, I might say so as well but the bathroom is also the kids’ bathroom which means the towels and rugs have probably seen better days and could refreshing. Doing it right before guests arrive just means they will be appreciated by someone!

@Would… I usually opt for liquid soap and shower gel in our guest bathroom. Unless I’m the one unwrapping the bar soap, it creeps me out and I would never use it at someone else’s house. I like the hotel soap option better; I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting an entire bar of soap.

@TWG – Sedona looks awesome! Makes me want to come out west for a trip!

Stacey

November 19th, 2012
12:52 pm

Like Sk8ting Mom, we’re pretty laid back hosts and guests. We are usually the ones to travel to visit my family and we stay with the same sister (we are also best friends). She know within an hour or two what time we will arrive and if she has to leave she will send me a text to let myself in and she will be back soon (I know where the extra key is). We eat whatever she had already planned to cook or order pizza. Since our body clocks are on eastern time, my family is usually showered and dressed when they get up and I will have started cooking whatever I decide to cook for breakfast. Since I only make it “home” once or twice a year, we normally visit elderly relatives and my other siblings and their kids and grandkids come to us since the sister I stay with usually hosts the holiday meals. They will come up with a menu and everyone brings their assigned dishes (I cook mine once I get there) and everyone pitches in with the clean up. Other days and/or meals are handled like we did growing up – one cooks and the other one washes dishes.

jmb

November 19th, 2012
1:13 pm

Like others have said, you’re going way out for your guest for sure, kudos to you. We have a finished basement with a guest room that over looks the lake so I always make sure the room is fresh and clean of course as well as the patio outside of the room being clean & neat and some fresh plants on the table. The only thing I do special so to say is I pick up a ton of snacks & coffee cakes of different kinds as well as drinks and a coffee pot and put it all on a poker table with a nice table cloth. Similiar to a hotel I guess and it always amazes me how much it all gets devoured. I have an aunt that comes down every year for a week during her vacation and she always says it’s the only place she can go to get some rest and feel like home. She can lay around and read her books, watch tv or if she wants, we can go out on the town or cruise the lake on the pontoon. I have a really laid back relaxing atmosphere for her or any quest and I don’t go and make a lot of plans without their input. I figure they’ve traveled a long way to visit and I don’t like to push them to do things they don’t really want to do or enjoy doing.

Mayhem

November 19th, 2012
2:12 pm

I like the coffee pot idea. I’m an early riser, and would love to have access to a small coffee pot in my room when visiting. You don’t have to disturb your Hosts…..

missnadine

November 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

I don’t think most guests would find this comfortable, only because I have gotten used to your columns, and I am pretty sure that nothing gets done for others unless you then tell them how hard everything was to get together, and/or how expensive.

You might be surprised that they feel uncomfortable with it, only because of the way you turn things around to get sympathy for all your efforts. I have a family member like you as well. My family now will only stay in hotels! In the end, the cost is worth it, as we don’t have to spend hours a day hearing about how much effort our trip has caused them. We really get to enjoy the hours we do spend with the family, and we no longer have to hear about all the drama our visit has caused the hosts.

motherjanegoose

November 19th, 2012
3:56 pm

HOSPITALITY? I am in Florida for business .Almost five hundred miles from home. I called my Dad to let him know that I could meet him and my stepmom for DINNER today. I am an hour from my Dad. I checked in with them last week. I have not seen them since July. I touched base this morning at 10:00 and told them I would get back with them after I finished working. My daughter called today me at lunch ( to tell me her schedule this week) and while we were talking, my Dad called and left me a message. I checked the message. He told me that they were hungry and going to lunch ( without me). He does not own a cell phone. I called their house and left a message about dinner. He called back and said they had already eaten and would not be going out to dinner now. I realize that he is in his 70s but I did give them some advance notice. This is just another chapter in the book of my life with parents that I really do not understand.

Sedona IS amazing. We visited that open air church on the hill last summer and it was beautiful. One of my favorite day trips from Phoenix.

jmb

November 19th, 2012
4:10 pm

missnadine, why so bitter today? Theresa isn’t complaining IMO. She’s just letting everyone know what she’s done or doing for the holiday.

jmb

November 19th, 2012
4:13 pm

Mayhem, the coffee pot works out perfect with my family. Most of them drink coffee all day long and I don’t so this way they don’t have to come upstairs for anything unless they want to. I just put out the coffee, creamers & sugar and I always grab some disposable coffee cups. We also have a fridge downstairs and put all the juices and sodas in there for them.

missnadine

November 19th, 2012
4:47 pm

@jmb – sorry if I seem bitter. Around this time of the year, I remember all of the columns she writes, and in all of them, there is a common thread about how tough everything is. I just tire of the martyr-like posts, and judging from what others write, I am not alone. No one is happy when the host tells them how much time and effort it took to get the house ready, and judging from her other columns, that is how T operates.

I read this column to hear from others because I think others have good advice. I am serious about the hotel. I have traveled enough in my life that I have amassed more hotel miles than I will every use. I never stay at someone’s home when visiting. it has been great!! I am out of their hair, I can be myself when I wake up, and there is no line at the bathroom. I offer the same when people visit my home.

@MJG – sorry about your dad. I know you have not had it easy. It is tough to not have had supportive parents. I know your mom had been especially cruel to you. Sounds like your husband and kids are great!

Techmom

November 19th, 2012
4:53 pm

@MJG – you have the type of parents who make me wonder why they had children other than because it was expected of their generation. My mom’s mom (and all 5 of her husbands) made me wonder the same thing. I hope you have found your “family” elsewhere.

Kat

November 19th, 2012
4:56 pm

@TechMom: That’s true; I hadn’t thought about it that way – the usual may have seen FAR better days if it’s anything like it is at my house.

motherjanegoose

November 19th, 2012
5:16 pm

As I sit here, I realize I have more control on the outcome of my children than my parents. I am heartbroken that I do not have a normal relationship with my parents. I wonder why I beat my head against the wall over and over. My two kids are the best. Oh yes, there have been days when I wanted to snatch their ears off but for the most part, they are wonderful. It is fascinating seeing them become adults and watch the seeds my husband and I planted bear fruit. They have also had some other generous people plant a seed in their life and I see that fruit too. It is heartwarming, for sure.

My parents did not have a good relationship with their parents. My Dad still complains but he has not changed. I do not know why I do the same things over and over and expect a different result..this would be nice….”Oh wow…you are going to be in town and you are working…please tell us when we can meet you for dinner or stop by to visit you at your hotel!” Instead, ” Oh that does not work for us, as we have ____ planned.” Reminder, that I do call them in advance and only see them once or twice a year. I remember when I told my Mom when my daughter was due and she told me, “We have something at church that week and it will not be a good time for me.” That was at least 7 months in advance. Even as an adult, it is painful to know that your parents do not find your visit to be something they look forward to and would make time for it.

My son was in Gallup NM for a Pharmacy Clinical at the Indian Reservation. I was at a meeting in ABQ. I drove out 2 hours to see him and spend the night. The host family was kind to let me stay with them too. I brought them flowers and treated them to dinner. The Mom asked me why I drove all the way out from ABQ? Because I love my son and want him to know that I am interested in his life. I am breaking the chain of parents who are really not that interested in their kids. I want my kids to know I love them and am proud of them. My children do not understand wonderful grandparents as the other side has alcoholics. I hope I can be a wonderful grandmother to their children someday.

Thank you cyber friends for your support…anyone want to go to dinner…I guess I will be dining alone…haha!

Denise

November 19th, 2012
6:54 pm

I don’t see Theresa as a “martyr” at all on this column. I think she is sharing some things that she is doing to prep for her company, period. Just because she is doing wayyyy more than most of us would ever do doesn’t mean she expects sympathy or even congratulations. I think she is just telling her story. I appreciate it. I feel like I need to do a better job…clean up the guest room better (I have stuff in there that I need to go thru) – not just put clean sheets and comfy pillows and say “enjoy” – and do a better job with the whole soap deal. I expect that my guests will use TOWELS to bathe with, not run soap over their bodies, but putting out a fresh bar (with the name engraved in it..smile) or liquid soap or hotel soaps is a good idea. I don’t put enough effort into the one, maybe 2, guests that come through each year.

And MJG, I really think you are showing your children your love, admiration, and pride for how they are and what you see for them in the future. They are lucky!

missnadine

November 19th, 2012
9:14 pm

I actually like having people over, but I really made some changes in my life. I lived in Florida for many years as an adult, and we would have people stay with us all the time, since they lived in much colder climates. Things got so out of hand, and we found ourselves being treated like a hotel, and I put my foot down. The limit for a guest at our house is 3 days – I am serious – regardless of who they are.If you tell people upfront there is no problem. Like I wrote earlier, I traveled for years in my prior job, almost exclusively overseas, and have reached a Million Miler status with Delta, and also have hundreds of thousands of hotel miles for both Marriott and Holiday Inn. What I would do after the 3 days was to find guests a nice place to stay. Many of those stays involved beachfront hotels in Florida, so my guests actually loved coming by…

Denise

November 20th, 2012
9:31 am

Missnadine – I love that idea…send them to a hotel! I don’t really like company for more than a few days (hours if they start to annoy) and I don’t really like to put people out. I try to stay low profile when I’m a guest but I do like to visit. My standard answer is usually “it doesn’t matter to me” (which drives my hosts nuts).

jmb

November 20th, 2012
11:27 am

Getting rid of guests seems to be one our problems. They assume because we live on the water that it’s just a free for all party and sometimes forget it’s also my home. I love having company, don’t get me wrong but after a week I’m over it. My most recent was my brother who dropped in one day in February and just left the first of this month. I had to finally tell him that we had company coming for the holidays and the quest room wouldn’t be available for him. At first it made me a little bad but now that he’s gone, I know I did the right thing even though he won’t be here for the holiday.

missnadine

November 20th, 2012
12:38 pm

@Denise – it does take time getting used to the 3-day rule, but I promise, if you and your husband stick with it, people will get used to it. You just BOTH have to stand ground. no exceptions LOL. You are like me in that you don’t want a host to greak their back trying to serve you. I figure it this way: if people have the $$ to take vacation then they should have the $$ to get a hotel. I never stay with family, and the holidays are always stress free :)