Its summertime and that means there is a fleet of U-Haul trailers crisscrossing cities all over America helping families make big changes and move into new homes. Whether you dread the moment a “For Sale” sign goes up or look forward to meeting someone new, how you welcome new neighbors can set the tone of your relationship down the road. There’s no one way to do it but here are 5 tips to lay a firm foundation for future relationships! …
The reason why I bake was captured perfectly in an article I was reading recently. It was a rare moment of peace. I was neck deep in tub of warm water surrounded by bubbles leisurely reading an embarrassingly outdated copy of Sunset magazine and my heart skipped a beat when I turned the page to see an article entitled “Sweet Talk” featuring an interview with Rosie Daykin, the owner of Vancouver’s Butter Baked Goods complete with great recipes for lovely layered cakes. Sigh. This WAS going to be a good bath.
My love affair with baking has definitely been slow and steady. Sure, I baked cookies with my mom and helped decorate birthday cakes but it wasn’t until a family friend showed me how to make a beautiful cherry pie from fresh pie cherries off the tree in her backyard that I truly saw the magic of homemade baked goods. I’m always looking for new recipes to try and new techniques to master. But, as excited as I was to see Rosie’s technique for getting the perfect rustic looking frosting on the outside of a delicious cake, it was the opening quote that really resonated with me, “I want to spoil [my friends and family], celebrate them, or make what wasn’t such a great day a little better.” Yes. THAT! That is why I bake.
Of course, I love the compliments from others and the sense of satisfaction that comes from pulling together a totally beautiful dessert but that’s not really why I do it. I do it to show others that I care for them and value them. That they are worth the 30 minutes, hour, three hours it took for me to pull together this delicious confection in their honor. You can’t help but feel loved when someone gives you a fresh baked good or, better yet, invites you into their home to share it with them. Chris and I stayed up late the night before Ian’s second birthday to make a chocolate cake in the shape of Daniel Tiger’s head. It was fun to have a project to work on together and we were both pleased with the result but nothing made it more worth it than the look on Ian’s face when he saw that cake the morning of his party and exclaimed, “Daniel!!! Daniel Tiger!!! Ding, ding!” Or the look on my husband’s face when a week of scheming and watching YouTube videos resulted in a beautiful dark chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache topping piled high with fresh raspberries (his favorite) and a very special birthday dessert (thank you Elise Stratchan!). Chris and I also had so much fun frosting and decorating heart shaped “Lily” cookies in honor of a friend’s new baby. It’s moments like this that remind me, once again, of a piece of wisdom from one of my childhood icons, “There are many ways to say “I love you.’” How do you use hospitality to show others you love them? Share your ideas in the comments below!
“Date your family.” I know you read that title and thought, “What the heck?!” Bear with me my dear friends. There are perspective shifting, family changing ideas ahead! My husband and I are both old souls and I knew we had something in common when he invited me over to watch an old movie and started out the night with a hilarious 1950-something educational film called “A Date with Your Family”. The film painted the picture of a laughably quaint family life that was so “Leave it to Beaver” it would make even the most conservative person living in 2016 cringe at the gender stereotypes. (Note how sister changes into a festive frock and helps mother with dinner while brother takes time to do his homework. Um, when is sister supposed to do her homework?!)
As over the top as this film is, it’s really stuck with me – obviously since I’m still talking about it over six years since first seeing it – and it left me thinking about dinner in the modern home. We all know that the dinner hour has become a frantic and rushed part of the day. But, when it comes to hospitality, how can we ever hope to get to a point where social get-togethers are less stressful if we never take the time to practice our skills the rest of the time? What if we put a little extra effort into everyday dinners – both in preparing and presentation but also in conversing with one another? I bet you’ll find not only have you honed your hospitality skills but you’ve also created more meaningful moments with your most important guests – your family! So, here are some ideas to help you “Date Your Family” even if you’re no June Cleaver –
- Plan Ahead – Think back to when you were dating your spouse, you always thought through your plan for a date well in advance. It was fun to imagine how it would work out and it made everything run a little smoother. The same is true for family dinner! If you haven’t found a rhythm for meal planning, I highly recommend it. And, I know what you’re saying. “I’m too busy to meal plan!” Well, here’s a little secret, the busier you are, the more important it is to carve out the time to plan your meals. You’ll eat better and spend less and have less stress. Find the system that works well for you – weekly meal plans, every two weeks or even having a freezer full of a few staple meals. Whatever it is, work at it and fine tune it to fit your family. You’ll never regret making the effort!
- Set the Mood – There’s someone I’d like to introduce you to – – – your table. For some of you, your table is like a distant acquaintance used more for craft projects and collecting the mail than bonding with your family. Meals are eaten on the couch, standing in the kitchen or at the breakfast bar. But tables are different. Tables encourage us to sit down and engage with each other. Take a little time each week to spruce your table. Wipe it down, put out fresh napkins or a pretty table cloth or place-mats (You own these things anyway, why not use them?!) Make it inviting! When it’s time for dinner, dim the lights and light a candle. I know you’re scoffing at me but my mother frequently lit a candle for family dinner and I do it too. We’ve noticed that even our toddler seems to mellow out with the more relaxed mood.
- Turn off the Electronics – In my house growing up, we didn’t even answer the phone if it rang during dinner. I think that was pretty common for a lot of homes in the 80’s. I’m not sure how we progressed from that to where we are now but I know I’m just as guilty as the next person of having my face buried in my phone while I shovel food in my mouth! Consider making dinner a 30 minute technology free zone. Silence the phones, turn off the TV and tune into each other. Be present with the ones you’re with. You’ll be teaching your kids how to do the same.
Okay, so here’s the honest truth, is dinner like this at my house every night? Absolutely not!!! Have I mentioned I have a two year old who won’t eat and a 10 month old who can’t get enough food? We battle over food, order pizza because I don’t have a plan and leave the TV on from time to time but I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule. If 80% of the time you’re making an effort to treat dinner more like a date, the 20% of the time you can’t, won’t really matter in the long run. You’ll see the positive effects from all the little changes you make! So, tell me, is dinner an important time at your home? Do you have ways that you encourage your family to slow down and enjoy each other? Any words of wisdom for drawing kids more into the conversation? I’d love to hear it all below so don’t forget to leave a comment!
Acts 2:46 – They broke bread in their homes
and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
We’ve all been there – the awkward overnight! You’re hungry but not sure how to ask for food, you forgot your toothbrush, the bed is terrible! All of these problems signal to a guest that they are not your priority and reduce the likelihood of a return visit. But, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a posh guest suite to make a guest feel at home, just a few thoughtful touches and preparation can make all the difference!
Start off by living in your house as guest for a night or two. Sleep on your “guest bed” whether that’s a bed, a futon, a fold out couch, or an air mattress. Does the mattress have that dip that makes you roll to the middle? Did the air mattress deflate at 2 a.m.? Is your couch guilty of having that awful bar in the middle of your back? Make an effort to change it! Inexpensive options like foam toppers or a new air mattress can eliminate a poor night’s sleep for your guests. Don’t forget to use your guest bathroom too! My sister was my first guest to my very first house, I’ll never forget her saying “You probably don’t know this since you don’t use your guest bath to shower, but there’s really no place to hang a bathrobe or a toiletries bag.” Whoops! Simple hook on the back of the door solved that problem.
Leave out essentials where it’s easy for guests to find them. Repurpose a basket you have kicking around the house to be a bathroom toiletries catch all. Stock it with extras and travel sized shampoos, soap, toothbrushes, feminine products, pain killers, etc. If you’re like me, these things tend to multiply like rabbits in my house anyway. It’s also a good idea to stick an extra roll of toilet paper in there so guests don’t have to dig around your cabinets in the middle of the night when the roll runs out! In your kitchen, set out a bowl of granola bars and fruit on the counter for easy, healthy snacks and put easy drinks front and center in your fridge.
Be prepared for bed and bath time. Nothing makes a guest feel more like an inconvenience then you scrambling to pull together linens and towels at bedtime. Even if you don’t have a guest room, you can still identify sheets, pillows, towels and washcloths and have them set aside for easy access when needed. If it’s been a while since you’ve used your guest linens, try to send them through the wash so they don’t smell weird and musty!
Give them a safe spot for their “stuff”. Once again, even if you don’t have a guest room, that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a safe spot for your guests to keep their luggage away from prying eyes and hands. A hall closest, bathroom linen closet or a home office are all good options. No one wants their skivvies accidentally on display in the living room for all to see! Teach kids and pets to leave guests things alone or encourage guests to close the door.
Leave reading material ready and think about charging needs. Once it’s time to retire, lots of people need a little something to read to quiet their mind but it’s often forgotten. Leave some magazines or other light reading in the room they’ll be staying for their convenience. Also think about outlet accessibility. If all your outlets are full or hidden behind furniture, add an extension cord with multiple plugs at the end to make it easy for guests to charge phones and tablets while sleeping.
I hope this gives you some new ideas about making guests comfortable! I’d love to hear what you do to make overnight guests feel welcome in your home! Comment below with your ideas
If you look up the definition of hospitality, some of the key descriptors include friendliness, warmth, kindness and helpfulness. A fantastic way to show this type of hospitality outside the home is with a hospital visit. A hospital visit can make someone feel valued and appreciated and no one is more in need of this kind of hospitality than the friend or loved one who is hospitalized. When someone is hurting and in the hospital, it can be very intimidating to visit but it can also give the person you’re visiting a huge boost!
Here are some tips to take the edge of hospital visiting and ensure the best visit:
- Plan ahead – If possible, text (or call) the person to determine when would be a good time to visit and that they want visitors. It’s also kind to ask if there is anything in particular they need – toiletries, fresh socks, etc. Depending on how the patient was admitted, they may not actually know their room number, the best place to park or the best entrance to use so I recommend calling the main hospital line to figure out these details.
- Bring something to leave behind – A little gift or a treat is a great way to leave a little sunshine even after you depart. Here are three types of gifts that really lift the mood:
- Make the hospital room feel more like home – A picture of a favorite happy time or a drawing from a favorite child are great ways to warm up a hospital room. Gifts like a soft blanket, fuzzy socks or a new fleece or flannel pillowcase also make things feel a little less institutional and help the patient feel more “human”.
- Activity gifts – Movies, books (keep the subject matter light – this isn’t a time for Schindler’s List), magazines and craft projects that can be done in bed are all great options.
- Classic hospital gifts – If you’d like to bring balloons, food or flowers, its best to call the hospital operator and ask to be transferred to the nurses’ station assigned to the patient’s room to clarify what’s allowed. The nurse will know if patient can have outside food or flowers and many hospitals don’t allow latex balloons (Mylar are usually okay). I once arrived at my sister-in-law’s room with a beautiful bouquet from a local florist only to be greeted with a sign by her door saying that she was neutropenic (easily susceptible to illness) and flowers weren’t allowed. That was such a bummer! I will never make that mistake again!
- Leave the kiddos at home – Unless they are the patient’s kids or grandkids, its best to leave them at home when visiting. Visiting a hospital room tends to either be scary for kids or pique their curiosity. If you do bring them along, make sure to help them be on their best behavior. Nothing can add more stress to hospital visit than kids running around attempting to push the buttons on the machines. If you have to bring your kids, you should let your friend know and see if they are up for a stroll around the floor with the kids in a stroller. Depending on how they are feeling, they might welcome the opportunity to get moving.
- Let the patient drive the conversation – It’s always best to let the patient set the tone for the conversation. Sometimes they’ll want to talk about why they are in the hospital but they may want to talk about anything else! Try to avoid trite sayings like “God is in control” or “Everything happens for a reason”. It’s okay to just say, “I know this situation really sucks and I’m sorry you have to go through it. I’m praying for you everyday.” Sometimes they may want a pep talk but oftentimes they just want someone else to come alongside them and acknowledge the challenge they are facing. Most of all, people in the hospital don’t want to be forgotten.
- Be mindful of the time – There is no perfect length to a hospital visit but you should always be aware of the mood of the room. No matter how much a patient wants a visitor, they just may not have the stamina for a long conversation. Fifteen to thirty minutes is a great length. If you’re going to stay longer, it might be best to recommend an activity like watching a movie, reading a book aloud, or playing a game. All of these still give the patient a sense of “togetherness” without the stress of keeping up their end of the conversation.
- Don’t forget the caregiver – If a family member is staying in the room with the patient fulltime, its kind to bring a little something to lift their spirits too. You should also make it clear that while you’re there, the caregiver is welcome to take some time for his or herself. While people are visiting is a great time for them to hop in the shower, take a walk to get a break from the stress or make important phone calls.
- The needs don’t end just because someone is discharged – Don’t forget your friend after they are discharged! Call them up to see if you can help run errands, bring by a meal or do chores around their house. It’s surprising but hospitals are actually not very restful places so most people need a day or two to recoup from being in the hospital! There are lots of little ways you can help them ease back into the swing of things!
I hope these tips have taken some of the uneasiness out of hospital visiting! Please comment below if you have any great tips for visiting the hospital and spreading a little cheer to those not feeling their best! Remember Romans 12:13 – “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
We all heard it before they were born, “A kid changes everything!” But few of us really knew what that was going to look like for us. If you are anything like my husband and I, one of the hardest things to navigate is how our social life changed with kids. We used to host a monthly movie night, great theme parties, had people over for dinner all the time – there wasn’t anything we couldn’t celebrate. Then, enter kiddo and we turned into downright hermits! We don’t have it all figured out but here are some ways we’re getting our social needs met while still meeting the sleep needs of our toddler and infant.
The Weeknight Dessert
I’ve posted about this before but I just can’t say enough about how awesome the weeknight dessert is! Why weren’t we doing this even before kids?! Dessert is so much easier and less stress than dinner. It can be prepared earlier in the day when things are less crazy or even the night before. The trick is to find people to invite over whom either don’t have kids or their kids are old enough to stay home alone. We really enjoyed getting to know people who weren’t one of our “usual suspects”. This kind of gathering does require you to let go of your perfect ideal for house cleanliness. With little kids, there is no guarantee the going to bed process will be smooth enough for you to get your house completely put back together from the day’s activities. The good news is your guests don’t really care. They are just as excited as you to have something new to do.
The Playground Picnic
This summer we’ve been trying a new low-key way to connect with all our other friends with or without kids – the playground picnic. I used Facebook to set up a standing event for the third Saturday of the month May-September that rotates between different parks and that’s it! Everyone is responsible for bringing their own chairs/blankets and their own lunch. I scheduled it for 10:30 a.m to 1 p.m. to accommodate a variety of nap times. We also invited a pretty big crowd – around 40 people plus their kids – but so far we’ve really only had 10-12 people at each which is a really nice sized group socially. It’s also been a fun way to check out a bunch of different parks.
The Family Walk
We have a motto in our family, “Why drive if you can walk?” It’s part of our family philosophy that moving more will equate to a happier and healthier family overall. We also try to take a family walk every night before or after dinner depending on the day. You’d be surprised how many families try to take a walk in the evening in the summertime – why not meet up? Most kids love taking a ride in the stroller and it’s a great way for parents to get to visit – no money or food involved! If you have another family in the neighborhood that’s the easiest but we spent one summer taking a weekly walk with friends who live about 15 minutes away and swapping back and forth between our two neighborhoods.
Do you have a great way you connect with others despite the restrictions young kids place on you? I’d love to hear about it! Share it in the comments below!
Our house contains a two-year-old which means we are required to watch far more Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood than recommended to maintain peace and order. If you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s essentially the 21st century version of Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood complete with the catchy songs that help toddlers learn how to navigate this oh-so-confusing world. As I was getting ready for a 4th of July party this weekend, a line from one of the songs came to mind, “It doesn’t really matter what you do. Your friends just want to play with you!” How often do we forget this as adults? As I found myself stressing about freezing fruit for the water, the inflatable pool collapsing and having enough chairs for everyone, it was refreshing to realize, my friends just want to play with me. They aren’t coming to my house for fancy fruity water, or coordinated chairs, or even the inflatable kiddie pool I’d promised in the invite. They were coming because they just wanted to spend time with each other!
This past winter, my husband was feeling particularly isolated and like he wasn’t getting much social interaction. Little kids make it so hard to get social activities on the books – especially with a 7 pm bedtime. As a work-from-home mom, I have a lot more flexibility with play-dates, MOPS and other kid friendly events during the day but my husband doesn’t. So I took it upon myself to think outside of the box and come up with new ways to connect with people and the “Weeknight Dessert” was created!
A “Weeknight Dessert” takes place during the week after the kiddos have gone to bed. It is so much less work and less stress than having someone over for dinner during the “witching hours” of 4 pm to 7 pm. Desserts can be made earlier in the day when things are a little less hectic – or even the day before. The trick is identifying the right kind of guest. This forced us to think beyond the “usual suspects”. We needed people who either didn’t have kids or whose kids were big enough they wouldn’t have to worry about childcare. What surprised us is how many people were thrilled to be invited over for dessert! They dressed up, brought little gifts, went on and on about how nice it was to get out. I realized, as a society, we aren’t doing this enough. Everyone feels a bit isolated in their own busy lives. It didn’t matter if I was serving Baked Alaska or vanilla ice cream straight from the paper carton, they were just so happy to get out and connect. “Your friends just want to play with you! It doesn’t really matter what you do!” My kitchen was usually a mess, in a few cases I hadn’t even gotten the table fully cleared off from dinner. Toys were strewn everywhere. No one cared. It’s so easy to idealize what entertaining looks like that we forget its heart, connecting with one another. Truth comes from the mouths of babes or, in this case, one animated tiger.
Nothing beats a pineapple! The sweet, golden fruit reminds us of summer and the freshness of life but the pineapple has also long been the symbol of excellent hospitality – true hospitality, the kind that makes people feel warm, welcomed and valued. If you have a passion for people and believe that investing in others is one of our primary purposes, then check back regularly for tips to make your home more welcoming and how to add a little more celebration into the everyday without the stress of perfection.