Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Welcoming out-of-town guests to your home

Sharing your home for the holidays is a Christmas tradition everyone should experience at least once. For those who know what they're doing, it can be an event that is cherished long after the holidays are over.

So Aunt Millie is coming to town? Face the date and get cracking.

To help with the process, here's a game plan from one of the best penny pinchers I know, Ashley Grimaldo, whose advice for frugal-minded families has appeared here as well as "Redbook" and "The Chicago Tribune":

Create a meal-sharing spreadsheet.

"After a decade of gathering for Thanksgiving with my mother's extended relatives, we finally wised up and started assigning cooking and cleaning to each family," said Grimaldo. "We... made sure each group knew what they were responsible for. Make the most of Facebook and send out small group messages."

Prepare the guest rooms with necessities.

Your guests should have two towels, extra linens and enough toiletries to get them through the weekend. Once the room is stocked, let them know where they are and what to do if they need something else such as aspirin. "Don't forget to leave a few bestsellers and magazines on the nightstand for late-night reading," Grimaldo added.

Do a guests-are-here drill with the family.

"Most of us don't have spare rooms lying around throughout our house. Your guests will most likely need to encroach on current inhabitants," Grimaldo said. "If those evicted youngsters are under 3, let them share a room with their older siblings a couple nights ahead so they will sleep well when company arrives."

Plan activities to burn off calories and steam. 

"Two big ideas here: You will eat far more than you should (despite your steely resolve) and cabin fever leads to badness (as dramatized in 'The Shining')." A brisk walk gives family members time to talk, wear off dinner and enjoy nature.

What's going on around town?

Find out what shows, plays or fun activities might be going on around town and give your guests the option to attend. If you've got snow consider gathering everyone together to build a snowman or go sledding. 

Be a good host and think ahead.

Rather than playing GPS on the night of arrival, send your first-time guests an email with map attachments and directions. Include other need-to-know stops nearby such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Consider buying a good air mattress.

How many times have you had to borrow a mattress for overnight guests? Watch for sales after Christmas on quality air mattresses. After all, if you're finally going to get one, be sure it's durable and something even you wouldn't mind crashing on.

Ask about food allergies and what kids like to eat.

If you have someone with severe conditions, check for tips and recipes on sites such as Eating With Food Allergies

Spare the carpeting and the dishwasher.
Instead of mopping up spilled soda or constantly filling the dishwasher with unidentified empty cups, consider purchasing a batch of souvenir cups with lids to contain the mess and give your guests something to take home later. Have a permanent marker handy so everyone can autograph their own cup.

Consider the family's pets.

"If your cat-crazy relatives can't make it through the weekend without toting Whiskers along, address it ahead of time," Grimaldo said. "Consult this list of safety tips for dogs at "ASPCA For everyone's sake, ask your guest if the animal has any peculiar habits or needs such as a pet bed or chewy toys.

Send your comments or home and garden tips to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com.

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