Hosting the Holidays

Beach Christmas

It’s that time of year…

Christmas lights happily blinking from tress, Menorahs gleaming in windows and Kinara Candle Holders filled with 7 candles!

Fireplaces are warmly blazing across the country (except for my house… I am strictly forbidden to play with fire in my home. Ask Mike), alcohol is an accepted nightly ritual, and delicious treats are invading the kitchen.  The time of year to snuggle up with loved ones, and when friends and family come to stay- WAIT…. come to STAY?? Already?? EECK!!

Ahhh the holidays, everyone’s favorite and most dreaded time of year.  As we get older, have kids, or just move out of our one bedroom apartment our homes inevitably become the destination.  As local readers know, our San Diego location definitely encourages family and friends as a winter retreat.  Or, if you are like me your parents downsized their home in hopes you wouldn’t move back in for the 9th time. Regardless of why, this year may be the year you are hosting holidays.  And you may be worried. Or perhaps just running behind. I have been hosting holidays for the past 5 years, and people tell me I do a pretty decent job.  This month’s tip is to fake a fabulous home for hosting. My only warning is it may grant longer or more frequent visits. Remember, part of being an amazing hostess is setting boundaries with your guests. Perhaps my next tip series entry should be on how to be a great guest-?? 😉

Smell.  90% of success is smell.  I swear.  You have no idea how much you can fake just by having a home that smells nice.  We have two children and 3 dogs, so keeping a home smelling nice is HARD.  People say my house always smells great. If my house smells good, pretty much any house can smell fab.  I rely on three different smell devices to eradicate the stench of pee stains, diapers and overall nastiness.  Scentsy, plugins and carpet powder.  Scentsy (or the generic they sell at BBBeyond) is pretty cool and they seem to have enough fragrances to please any taste.  Be careful though, some of them are overwhelming.  I order online and then when the pellets of scent come in I cut them into threes. I think 1/3rd of one little pellet is perfect for the day.  You can find carpet powder for about $2.00 in the fragrance section. It is so easy and the smell lasts for a few days. If you don’t know what plugins are, you need to seriously reconsider the rock you are living under.  Plugins are saviors for bathrooms, but they have to be changed well before the oil is actually gone. I recommend every 2 weeks.

Floors. If you have carpet, then vacuum. There is nothing like vacuum lines to make a person think your home is spotless.  It takes 5 minutes and is so rewarding since the carpet lines boast cleanliness. If you have hard wood/laminate/granite floors, buy a swiffer.  In a perfect world, your floor is meticulously clean.  In a pinch, use a swiffer in the corners to give the illusion of clean floors.

Sleeping.  Do you have a guest room? A futon? A couch? It doesn’t matter what you have, but how you prepare it.  Take the time to buy bedding for your guests.  I have noticed people get too excited about aesthetics rather than quality. I promise, your guests don’t care if your sheets are the perfect taupe, but will notice if they are soft.  Places like Home Goods, Ross, and Marshalls offer high thread count sheets at discount prices. Typically the color is a bit off, but who cares? In addition, any discount store has great deals on mattress toppers.  It does not matter what type of mattress or futon you have, if you put a memory foam topper on it, your guests will be elated.  One other little gem? A sound machine. You can get them really cheap, and almost everyone who has stayed has used it and commented on it. We have a loud home with the dogs and the kids, but I think it is a great idea in most homes. Last, and I am sorry if I sound like Gwyneth Paltrow, but if you are blessed enough to have a guest room that isn’t near the kitchen, consider putting bottles of water in a basket.  I swear, I am not a pretentious snob peering down from my glass house. I am just an avid wine drinker and wake up in the middle of the night really thirsty. It is awkward, and a bit unsettling, to creep around someone’s house to find a glass of/bottle of water.  You aren’t together, a bit dizzy.. maybe embarrassed by the quantity of wine you ingested hours prior.. but I digress.  Water close to the sleeping domain is much appreciated.

Bathroom. All guests hopefully take showers. Take the time to make their bathroom experience enjoyable.  First, buy a set of matching guest towels. This is not the time to put out your holey, stained towels that should only be used for washing a car (who does that anymore except for my dad?) Again, the discount stores above have great deals – Don’t get hung up on color!! No one will ever remember the color, but will be so appreciative of the towels!! If you have a guest bathroom, stock it! The essentials will make your guests feel appreciated and at ease.  Go to Costco and buy the bulk toothbrushes/toothpaste and hand soap.  In addition, put basic medication in the drawers.  I put Pepto, Advil, and GasX in the cabinet.  I cannot tell you how many times the bathroom essentials are quietly absent after a visit!

Considerations.  I was a Vegetarian for almost 15 years. I was always anxious about going to other’s homes mainly because I was scared about food options and just wanted to fit in. My last houseguest didn’t drink alcohol.  My dad only likes vanilla creamer. My Mother in law likes to have instant iced tea around.  It is just a downer for everyone when your welcome spread is beer and chicken wings, when your guests are vegetarian recovering alcoholics. While we are discussing food let’s discuss your kitchen.  Food and cleanliness are the only tips you need to remember.  Your kitchen should not be the place to put a bunch of clutter.  People will think your house is clean just by having clean countertops. Most of this can be accomplished by eradicating stacks of mail, the pile of “pending” items to deal with, etc.  Put the dishes in the dishwasher.   Clean counters make you look like you have a clean house.

On to food. Keep in mind, your eating schedule may not coincide with your houseguests. Before anyone visits, I make a snack run, if I don’t already have the basics on hand.  Basics are (unless the aforementioned considerations are involved) cheese, crackers, some type of fruit, some type of meat and bread.  You can survive just about any time of day or night with these items.  I like the assorted cheese platters offered at any store, and light salami.  They look great on a plate, are filling, and sandwich ready.  Plus, your guests will be grateful for the reassurance of easy snacking at any hour.

Lastly, ASK.  Last month I found a great answer to something and told Mike about it.  He said something so simple, but it has stuck with me.  He said,”Sometimes, you just have to ask questions, and then genuinely listen”. DEEP Man, Deep.  It was just so easy.  Since then, I have been trying to listen more and have had some pretty awesome results.

Best! xo Mari


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