Saturday, January 20, 2018

Coping with Unexpected Company

"What should I stock up on for last-minute guests?"

Thistlewood Farms asked this question -- and it's a good one.

On my side, we have literally hundreds of cousins. On the Brick's side, dozens. (Sadly, our uncles and aunts are nearly all gone now; only The Mama is left from her original siblings, though several sisters-in-law, all in their late 80s or early 90s, are still going strong.)

We don't get many long-term guests, but have had more than our share of "just in the neighborhood for a few hours, a day or two, can we stop by" calls. Probably has something to do with the lure of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, the Wild West (or perception thereof). Stuff like that.

The girlies also enjoy making quickie visits...with little warning. Who cares! It's great having them stop by, whenever they can do so.

Voila: the girlies. I love them both (and Son #1) dearly.

So here is what I do:

*Keep clean sheets on the guestroom bed.  If she's visiting, Daughter #2 will often stay overnight. That way, the bed is ready for her to hop in. (Now if I can only keep that room clutter-free, as well...)

*Have a basket of goodies ready, too. Bath items, fresh soap, toothbrush and toothpaste -- stuff like that. Fresh towels and washcloths are already in the cabinet.

*Always include a few small food items in the present box.  I keep a box stocked with little present-type items for piano students, unexpected birthdays or anniversaries or hostess gifts. A small box of chocolates or package of cookies looks well on the guestroom pillow, and is always appreciated. (Let's put it this way -- I've never seen it NOT eaten, or taken with.)

*Add a small tray with mug, plus drink mixes: tea bags, instant coffee, packets of hot chocolate, things like that. And of course, a clean water glass in the bathroom.

*Keep a selection of books and magazines available. There are few things worse late at night in a strange place, when you're wide awake and can't figure out how to turn on the television. (Or are worried you'll disturb someone when you do.)

*Write out the WIFI password...and how to access it.  Put the card on the tray or pillow, or pin it to the wall under the lightswitch. Now your company can easily access your internet, without having to feel that they must pester you about it.


*Somehow, sometime you WILL have someone with no-gluten requirements. Keep at least one or two food items that satisfy this, stocked in the freezer or cupboards. (A box of no-gluten pasta will at least let you serve macaroni and cheese.)
     You'll also want to keep decaf coffee or teabags, for the same reason.

*Feed them fresh stuff. From your garden, if you've got it. Or eggs from your chickens. Anything that's famous locally -- or from your state. (In our case, it's items like mountain trout, salsa or green chilies.)  This is particularly successful if they don't normally have access to shrimp right off the boat,  a Michigan tomato picked ripe and still warm from the garden, or buffalo burgers. Whatever -- just so it's local and fresh. 

*Cookies (boxed) or cookie dough in the freezer. All cookie dough, so far as I know, will freeze successfully -- either as a tub (easier to store) or already-measured spoonfuls. (Freeze on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a bag. This way, you can pull out and bake only a few cookies, if needed.)
     A tube of refrigerator cookie dough works, too. Bake at the temperature specified, and serve warm. Makes your guests feel special -- and gives your place a homey smell.
     If you prefer your cookies readymade, be sure to buy a brand your family likes -- but not too much. If it's too good, they'll sneak it...and eat it! (Or you will.)

*Cake. A plain basic cake keeps easily in the freezer. Serve it with fresh or frozen fruit, plus a spritz of canned whipped cream. (Which I always keep a tube of, anyways.) I prefer pound cake because it's so versatile, but the Brick would be thrilled if I kept brownies around more often.

*Canned beef stew or a good soup. Stock at least two or three cans. Serve over rice or biscuits, if you have more guests than planned. I keep a box of better-quality crackers on hand, for the same reason. Besides, they look good with:

*Cheese. Grated, it stirs into pasta for a fantastic macaroni and cheese. Chunked, it's decorative served with crackers and cut-up veggies. If at all possible, I keep both mozzarella and cheddar, in the freezer and fridge. Cream cheese is good too, as well as specialty cheeses like gouda.

*Ranch dressing. Use it for veggies, potatoes...or stir into soup or a main dish, if you need a touch of sour cream (and don't have any). I keep a bottle of Oriental vinaigrette for chopped salad or stirfries, as well.

*A good bottle of another bottle, this one of sparkling juice. (The Brick likes to stock a six or twelve-pack of beer, as well.) We have family members who drink alcohol -- and others whose lips would never touch liquor. If they're both at the same meal, I serve both bottles. Or either, depending on whose sitting at the dinner table.

*Good. Strong. Coffee. The Brick is known for his skill at making this. Granted, not all our guests drink coffee anymore -- but a surprising number do. And there's nothing nicer than sitting around at the end of a meal, scraping idly at the last bits of cake, sipping coffee, and listening to funny stories.

Welcome, Guests. You are always welcome.

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Another Mom Moment That Fits

Which may have led to this: Did I ever do that to our girlies? Naahhhh....