Becoming Kindred Blog

The Art of Preparing for Guests- Dea Daniels

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In the wee quiet hours of morning, I’m sitting sipping my morning coffee. I, who never really drank coffee, now sip a morning coffee. I attribute it to being able to pour thick, lovely cream from Sugar the cow in it. Anyways, I digress. With the arrival of my parents this week , we’ve kicked off a truly full summer that will see a steady come and go of guests until sometime in September. Mix that with Dan’s current schedule of wedding photography, a music tour, music gigs, an art show, as well as my gardening and canning and we might need to hibernate for the winter in order to rest up for next year. I’m excited though because I love having company. Part of why we own this house is because it’s a duplex that we hope to one day turn into a working guest house. I’d hoped to have it running this summer but despite considering many options, it’s just not a financially viable plan at this point. And so the guesthouse waits with it salmon colored entry, Micky Mouse wall paper, and countless other “features”. At times when I think of everyone who will be sharing our home and space this summer, I wish that I had more to offer beyond the potential of beautiful resting spaces. Then I remember that many of them are coming to see us, to share life with us for a brief while. They are coming to enjoy the beauty of Nova Scotia and to experience a few days of life on a little farm. In some cases I can’t offer much more than an air mattress on the floor and hopefully enough pillows to go around. I may not always offer gourmet meals but I can send children out to pull peas and lettuce from the garden. I can offer homemade bug spray for a traipse in the forest. We can offer ourselves as we are to share in love and community.

As I was thinking about the summer and how I wanted to make the most of our time with everyone who is visiting, I thought of my friend Dea. I have spent time with her as she has prepared for guests and I have also had the pleasure of being a guest in her home. I’ve always been inspired by her ability to prepare for and welcome guests. I’ve asked her if she would share a few of her suggestions here on this space.

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When Marissa mentioned the topic of this post I was both thrilled and chagrined. Thrilled, because it really is a topic dear to me. Chagrined, because it remains an exercise in growth and discipline. Overall? The ‘thrilled’ won out and I agreed to share my experience and perspective.

I love opening my home to others. Love it! I am the kind of person who would rather fill my house with guests and meals and motion than trip about to fill the homes of others. I love the energy and the treats and most of all…the planning.

Given my desire and interest to open my doors and share the table, I have picked up a few practical tips to apply when preparing for guests within your home. My hope is that they will be a help and encouragement to you. If not, hopefully they will give you some perspective for those blessed days when you have the opportunity to be a guest in the homes of others.

1.     Deal with your mess first.

For me, my mess is…a mess. Laundry, dishes, floors, counters, etc. Housekeeping remains an area of weakness and a focus I desire to strengthen. Lest you be tempted to comment about perfectionism or “at least you’re…” please don’t! Without excuse or justification, I really do find that I need to DEAL WITH MY MESS FIRST before I can adequately prepare my heart for the bodies and souls of others.

That said, your mess might not be “a mess”. Perhaps your mess is finding a place of calm hospitality of spirit. If so, you need to deal with your messy spirit before your guests arrive. Or, perhaps your mess is food prep. Get on it! Do it first, before the ‘fun’ stuff!

Whatever your ‘mess’ is, it needs to be tended to early in the planning. This allows you to really enjoy the parts in which you find peace and pleasure, while also inviting you to move on in preparing your home and heart in other practical and unseen ways. If you neglect the mess, you will likely find it pressuring you in those last hours before your guests arrive. Skip the frantic fuss and get the mess out of the way well in advance.

 

2.     If it can be done before the guests arrive…do it! {especially meals!}

If I’m given enough notice, I sit down and plan meals well in advance. Through much trial and error, I have found that there are a few meals that are both worthy of company while providing ease of preparation. Surprisingly, they’re not all ‘easy’ meals, but most of them allow for preparation to be done well in advance. When possible, do any chopping, crushing, soaking, etc., BEFORE guest walk through the door. It is possible to prep several day’s worth of fresh, quality meals {ie. Not take-out or solely out of the freezer!}without spending hours of precious friend/family time hunched over the cutting board. Meat can be portioned and marinated in glass containers. Many veggies can be sliced and diced, then labeled in ziplocs. Brunch casseroles can be in the fridge. Soup in the freezer. It really IS possible to put on nourishing and satisfying meals while savoring good conversation and dealing with a minimal of cleanup

Likewise, towels can be set out, snacks portioned, the car fueled up. If it’s going to be used during the visit…get it ready.
{I know I’m beating this horse, but seriously, this is THE key for me when it comes to really enjoying my guests. I remember one time when I had a houseful and knew I wanted to just soak up every moment yet cater to their ‘foodiness’. I spent a solid day chopping and bagging and prepping, and it was tough, but once they arrived it was a breeze! The meals were fantastic and there was a sense of flow and rhythm which just supported the whole visit. Sure, it’s not always possible to get every meal prepped ahead. But if you can get a few steps on it, do it! Slice the yams into fries. Dice the onions. Shop the greens. Ziploc bags and a fridge drawer were created for such a time as this!}

 

3.     Next, If it promotes community or conversation…share it!

Given the above, you’d think I’m saying that everything should be done ahead of time. Well…no. There are certain activities and interactions which lend themselves to conversation and community. Maybe it’s the daily farm chores: mucking, milking, feeding. Invite your guests to participate, embrace the fumbles, and breathe through the laughs to the place of story. Perhaps it’s the daily reading time with the toddlers or homsechool session: invite, share, feel the flow.

Every home and family holds a unique rhythm. Sometimes we lose our rhythm and fumble into the frantic…especially during the ‘upsets’ of guests. There is value in preserving the rhythm of the home and embracing the unique vibes that our guests bring to the greater picture. You might need to move slower or adjust some details, but where there is Welcome there is Home, and where there is Home…everyone dwells in peace.

 

4.     If it has nothing to do with them and isn’t urgent or necessary to the rhythm of your home…leave it!

Moving on from ‘inviting to the rhythm’, be honest with yourself. Must you attend that particular event while you have guests under your roof? Should you tend to that project while he or she is sitting in your kitchen?

There are activities and commitments which support the rhythm of the home. There are others which add color and flavor in season, but which detract from visitors. Choose wisely. Reflect value to your guests. Move slowly, with depth; rather then quickly, through the shallows.

 

5.     Enjoy what you enjoy…and don’t apologize

At the end of the day, at the end of the visit, you are who you are. Not every guest and gang is going to appreciate your lifestyle. Not every head resting upon your pillows will understand your philosophy of parenting or food or church or what-not. Not everyone will love that meal. Not everyone will see how cute she is. Not everyone will understand just how tired you are the last hour before they leave.

And that’s alright. It’s fine. It’s even Good.

Live well and within your beliefs, no matter who is beneath your roof. Live the same way when you’re alone. Believe the same things when you visit them…and then be open to seeing their story as well. Just breathe and realize these homes are just houses, for now.

 

Home is where we all shall be, when we are all guests and Heirs, forever.

 

 

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