Yesterday I went to the mall to try to catch a glimpse of Giada (she was doing a book signing at the Williams-Sonoma, and no, I did not even see her. I saw 400 people in line, though). The mall was already decorated so beautifully for the holidays.
And you know what?
I LOVED it!!!!
I am sooooo excited for Christmas this year I can barely stand it. Last year we were in a sea of boxes and packing paper; this year will be somewhat of the same but I don’t care! We are going to make this holiday season FUN. We’re going to make an advent calendar with fun holiday activities and put up a tree with lights. We will bake those Christmas cookies! We will put up the twinkle lights and revel in their sparkle. We are not hosting anyone this year (we’re going to California, wahoo!!!) and after a summer filled to the brim with visitors and guests, I must say I’m not disappointed. 🙂 But the other day I was reflecting on the times we have had guests and the many, many times we’ve BEEN a guest for the holidays, and I’ve realized there are a few secrets I’ve learned from some incredibly wise women. So take the following as not advice, but as things I’ve observed have worked when hosting for the holidays:
1. Invite, but don’t pressure your guests.
I know you might be thinking, hmph! I never pressure anybody! That’s lousy! But I’m serious here. During the holidays and especially when someone is staying with you for a weekend, it’s easy to plan a lot of activities. Lunch at the cafe, shopping, a movie, dinner at the town hotspot, a play at the local theater... All of these are fun things, yet sometimes guests just want to relax. Let them. Invite, but don’t pressure! They will feel more at home, they’ll feel loved– they’ll feel like they won’t have to be rude when excusing themselves because you already gave them a choice. Most likely, they’ll participate more often because they know they won’t be roped into doing everything– that they can bow out without guilt. They will feel comfortable and that’s really what you want when hosting overnight guests, right?!
2. Plan one activity per day for structure, but be flexible.
I learned this from one of the best hostesses I know, Kathy O. who is my husband’s great aunt. We’ve stayed with her for a couple long weekends and for a few thanksgivings as well, and let me tell you, this woman could write a book on hostessing! Her home is this peaceful, relaxed haven. One thing she always does when hosting overnight guests is plan one activity per day. One day it might be going out to breakfast, the next it could be going down to the city to walk around and see the lights. Another it could be to visit downtown Kirkland and grab a quick dinner. The great thing about planning one activity per day is it gives you structure, but flexibility to do other things. Your guests will know what is going on for the day but won’t be overwhelmed with too much crammed in. And if there’s no pressure, there’s flexibility to change things up. I’ve learned having structure while being flexible makes for a relaxed visit for everyone and gives you plenty of down time to just spend time together!
3. Open House
My mother-in-law is the queen of open houses, and I’ve learned from her that this kind of ‘party’ can really be a relaxing yet super fun way to connect with lots of people at once. If you’re hosting guests who have a lot of people to see, or if YOU want to connect with lots of friends but are hosting guests, having an open house is a great way to do both. It’s impossible to visit with everyone during the holidays for a 1:1 meal (and that’s just too much food anyway!), but an open house allows for multiple people to connect when time is short or when schedules are tight. Don’t think you have to go all out, either. A few snacks (nuts, veggies and dip, cookies– all things you can get at Costco!) and a signature drink (cocktail, hot chocolate, wine, or non-alcoholic spritzer) is all you need.
4. Keep breakfast simple.
When hosting, you never know when your guests will wake up. Heck, when you are the guest you want to be able to sleep in! Keeping breakfast simple by having cereal and milk, or yogurts on hand or fruit ensures guests or yourselves can eat whenever they wake or whenever they’re hungry. I love my coffee maker that has a timer so it just brews on its own! We literally wake up to the smell of hot coffee. Keeping breakfast simple just gets the day started with ease and sets up the rest of the day for fun.
5. You DON’T have to have a big house to host, you have to have a big HEART.
I’ve mentioned before that hospitality is only as big as your heart is. You don’t need a big house to host a couple or even a family for the weekend; you need a heart that is willing! People don’t expect a huge hotel bed with turned down sheets in the evening. They simply need a place to sleep! Guests don’t need a jacuzzi tub, they need place to shower and wash up. You’d be surprised that most people don’t expect lavish acommodations, rather, they’re happy to just spend time with you! Most would be happy to have a blow up mattress on the floor if need be! Open your heart in your house, and your guests will feel at home.
Whether you’re hosting or being hosted– or just simply enjoying the holiday season, enjoy it. It’s supposed to be fun and JOYFUL. No matter what you do, put your family first and enjoy them. Thanks for reading.