Generally in anticipation I clean and stock my house. I like to have areas that are clutter free and welcoming. If visitors are staying overnight prepare the guest rooms: ie: beds made and arrange places to put personal belongings. In addition, stock the bathrooms with toiletries and clean towels. If my kids are coming home, I have my washer and dryer ready to throw in their suitcase filled laundry loads.
Its always good to have plenty of the basics on hand in the kitchen. My list includes fruit, cheese, eggs, English muffins, always ice cream and other easy snack foods. For fluids I stock bottled water, coffee and wine. There is always something everyone will like.
When hosting there may be parts of your house that are open for guests as well as areas to keep off limits. Don't be afraid to set boundaries but clearly mark off the areas you consider private. I suggest giving guests a tour if its their first visit and showing them the areas that they are welcomed to be. If necessary, guide them where to best park their car.
If your home has any dietary restrictions please tell your guests in advance. For example, we keep Kosher so I always remind visitors that we do not allow non-kosher foods in our home. Likewise if a visitor is on a special diet, as a hostess I want to be informed ahead of time to be sure I have food they can eat.
Pet owners should always inform visitors ahead of time. Let them know of acceptable behaviors and treats that are permitable for your pet. Warn them of dangers such as chocolate and not being let outside. One of my neighbors had let their dog out off leash during a holiday dinner a few years ago, only to be attacked by a coyote. A guest of ours last year gave my dog, chocolate and we had to call pet control to induce vomiting. There are not things you want to deal with. In today's NYT is an article that outlines pet safety recommendation during the holidays.
The holidays are a time to have fun and enjoy family and friends. Keep in mind that conversations should be inclusive and welcoming. This is an opportunity to share stories and traditions with those you love and don't see often enough. Under the current political climate it is important to be aware of your guest list. If you are hosting anyone with extreme political or social views that may make others feel awkward you may want to set conversation parameters. Real Simple Magazine put together a suggested list of conversation starters to keep everyone on track.
Hosting is an honor and privilege. I am always thankful when people want to come to our home and always do my best to make them feel welcomed. I hope my suggestions will make your holiday time special and your guests feel like there is no place like your home. Happy Holidays!!
Note: For additional suggestions on How To Be a Perfect House Guest see an earlier blog.