Getting ready for overnight guests

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

My mom and sister came in recently from Colorado for a short visit to see my new grand baby. They were only here for three nights, so I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. Not time in the kitchen preparing food.

Two of our children live out of state, and whenever they come in for a visit, it's the same thing. I want to plan ahead so that I can spend every possible moment with them, talking or playing board games, going to a movie or walking around our little downtown. Not having to run to the grocery store or cook.

Even when I have guests just for dinner, I try and prepare as much as I can ahead of time. Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when you can visit?

So I try to get as organized as possible ahead of time, planning out all the meals, and buying all the ingredients needed. I also make sure to have ingredients available for guests to make their own sandwiches or snacks, and buy anything extra I know they'll like (diet Dr. Pepper for a dear friend, almond milk for my DIL).

 I select recipes that can be cooked up ahead of time. If there will be family staying over for longer than a couple days, like at Christmas, I'll plan out all the meals and freeze them -- breakfast casseroles and muffins, stews and lasagne, bread and cookies. It's easy to pull out and add a salad or fruit.

So for this most recent visit I just had two dinners to plan and a brunch. My mom and sister were coming in very late on a Thursday evening, so Thursday I did my cooking and baking. 

I made a beef stew for Friday night. I always make stew the day before we eat it anyway, because it always tastes better the next day. We were babysitting that night, so it was easy to carry the pot of stew over to my daughter's house. I brought along bakery rolls and some fruit and dessert.

Then I made this one pot Middle Eastern chicken dish for Saturday night.

This also tastes better made ahead because there's time for all the flavors to meld. I love this dish. It's got olives and apricots and cinnamon and all kinds of yumminess in it. I normally serve it over couscous, but because we have some gluten-free family members, I made rice.

I added an easy green salad and some naan bread quickly warmed in the oven.

It was our daughter's birthday that night so I made a cake that I also was able to partly do ahead of time.

I baked up a doctored devil's food cake (adding sour cream and mini chocolate chips). I wrapped the two layers up on Thursday. Then on Saturday I just needed to make the ganache (heat up heavy whipping cream and add with butter to chocolate chips) to spread over two layers. The other two layers (I split the cake into four layers) I spread with seedless raspberry jam. The recipe called for a homemade raspberry filling, but again, I wanted to make it as easy as possible.

This cake was so delicious! It's definitely going to be making future appearances around here.

The weekend before my mom and sister came we also had overnight guests. I had made a big recipe of breakfast casserole ahead of time, divided it into two dishes, and froze them. I pulled one out for that weekend, adding fruit and muffins. The second one I was able to pull out when my mom and sister were here.

Another thing that's nice to have set up is a coffee station. I've changed this a bit now as spring is here, and we're not really drinking hot chocolate anymore. But here I have hot chocolate mix and peppermint flavored mini-marshmallows, cinnamon sticks, and flavored syrup for coffee. The Keurig and electric kettle are just to the right of this tray, the coffee and tea cups in the cupboard above, and tea bags in the drawer beneath.

This makes it easy for guests to help themselves.

Although I like to make as much as I can from scratch, there's no shame in buying prepared foods!

Book club was last night, and I didn't have time to make anything or go to the store. I remembered I had this triple ginger cake from Trader Joe's in my freezer. I popped it on a pink Target cake plate. It was delicious.

I also had some eggs so I made up a quick plate of deviled eggs. My friends usually bring treats as well, so I was all set.

The less fun part of getting ready for guests is cleaning the house!

Since The Massive Decluttering of 2018, it has gotten easier to clean my house. But it still needs to be done. I try and keep on top of it so it's not such a huge job when people come over. I also have someone come in once a month for a few hours to help out.

Clean sheets on the beds, and clean towels and soap in the bathrooms. And we're ready.

I am not Super Woman. Far from it. I know my limits, and know that I can't run around like a crazy woman. Planning is key. And with so many in our family out of state, times together are few and precious. A little planning ahead of time helps guarantee I can relax and enjoy their visit.

How about you? How do you get ready for guests?
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