You wanna know a trick for making your ordinarily-sized house feel enormous? Simply stuff it full of people for three days and then when they all leave — ta-da! — you’re swimming in empty space!
It’s great wintertime therapy, really, both the intense people pick-me-up and the “my house is now HUGE” buzz you get afterward. So remember, when you’ve got a raging case of cabin fever come February, a monster sleepover for days on end is the cure. Easy-peasy.
We’ve hosted lots of people before, but I don’t think ever for so long, or for so many, or during such cold weather. Well, my blog tells me that we did, indeed, host this number of people before (the same ones, in fact), but this was back when the kids were a fair bit smaller. Now, most of them are solidly in the teen category, bookended by two preteens and two young adults on either end. Plus, Cousin Kenton made a guest appearance the last night. A few of the cousins got to know him in Puerto Rico and demanded (okay, okay — politely suggested) that he come, too, so he did!
How does one go about pulling off a three-day bash, you might ask? Well hey! HOW ABOUT I TELL YOU.
What you do is this:
Regarding readying the house…
*Put your husband in charge of all the cleaning. I repeat, ALL the cleaning. As in, one hundred percent of the cleaning. Offer, as needed, tips, suggestions, pointers, and an outline of what needs to be done and when, but do not — I repeat, do NOT — do any of the cleaning yourself. (Except for last-minute room checks. It’s okay to do those.)
*As far as sleeping arrangements go, fix up the kids’ clubhouse (insulate, drywall, paint) and then pack in as many teen girls as will fit (between six and seven, FYI).
Regarding food (this is the fun part)….
*Plan the menu, thinking through every single solitary detail. Balance heavy meals with light ones. Leave empty, no-cooking spaces in the day. As much as is possible, choose dishes that can be made ahead. Nix all snacking, limit sugar, and pile on the veggies.
*Schedule about three, six-hour chunks of time to do massive batches of pre-holiday cooking. Excellent make-ahead foods include: ludicrous mashed potatoes, unbaked pie pastries crimped and then frozen (you keep oodles of pie pans on hand for this very reason, use them!), sausage lentil soup, braided bread, stuffing (prepped, except for the milk and egg, and frozen), roasted and peeled sweet potatoes, multiple batches of cranberry sauce, extra turkey legs (roasted, deboned, and frozen in broth to keep moist) for in case one 19-pound turkey isn’t enough, boiled and peeled eggs for salad, granola, raisin bread, baked beans, etc. It’s dreamy, having a freezer and fridge full of ready-to-go items. Makes me wonder why I don’t treat myself to such loveliness more often.
*When people offer to bring something, delegate food items that travel well and that you’d otherwise have to purchase: hot dogs, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, chips, cereal. This cuts down on your grocery bill and, hopefully, simplifies their workload because they are, after all, the ones doing the dirty work of packing and driving (ugh).
*To keep the kitchen tidy and reduce the risk of food getting eaten out of order, hide all food (that you’ve pre-made or that people have brought). Out of sight, out of mind!
*Freeze all leftovers ASAP. This clears up precious fridge space and ensures that you’ll be eating like kings for days to come, whoo-hoo!
*Plan some! How and when will people get outside to burn off energy? What’s there to do if it rains? Do guests need to bring along sneakers for running and gloves for hauling wood (yes and yes). You might never get around to doing all (any?) of them, but knowing you have options reduces pre-hosting anxiety.
Regarding sanity-saving practices…
*Don’t feel obligated to participate in everything. When everyone decides to go roller skating, it’s fine to stay home to vacuum the floors and read by the fire.
*Since your entire house has now been taken over by a million talking, laughing, loved ones and you have no place to go, spend all your time in the kitchen, quietly prepping meals and cleaning up from them, all while enjoying the happy, and sometime utterly deafening, chaos that surrounds you.
*Break your “I never give up my room to guests” rule, turn it over to the couple with the most seniority, and go sleep in your parents’ pristine, cozy, and very quiet house. Slip between the crisp, smooth sheets and wish a thousand blessings on your mother’s head, for she truly is the queen of gorgeous bed-making. (But then, when the sheets are so crisp that they crackle and snap in your ears every time you roll over and actually wake you up, fuss. Your mother will feel bad and offer new bedding, but you’ll be too lazy to upgrade the bed. No worries — by the third night of noisy sleeps, you’ll mostly adapt.)
*When everyone leaves, take advantage of the freshly emptied places and go on a cleaning tear. Thirty minutes of wiping down and vacuuming up and a tidy, HUGE house is all yours. Collapse on the sofa and read, read, read. Actually, you can probably play the “I’m recuperating” card for several days. Milk it, baby.
Until next year!
This same time, years previous: Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2017, Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2016, and of 2015!, the day before, kale pomegranate salad, monster cookies, butternut squash pesto cheesecake, all a-flutter, apple chutney.