Come in! Well, well, well. Look who's here. I haven't seen you in many a year.
If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, baked a cake, baked a cake If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake Howdya do, howdya do, howdya do?
Had you dropped me a letter, I'd a-hired a band, grandest band in the land Had you dropped me a letter, I'd a-hired a band And spread the welcome mat for you... (Here's the full version of this song - written by Al Hoffman, Bob Merrill, and Clem Watts, published in 1950 and delightfully sung by Eileen Barton in January 1950 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1wEVPqFFCg)
I grew up with my mum and auntie always singing this song... I had no idea it was even a real song until today, but it still plays in my head, often, and brings back so many fond memories of afternoons spent with family and friends. Whether someone was dropping by unannounced, or coming to stay from overseas, there was always the house to be tidied, a cake to be made, and the tea kettle to be put on. It wasn't about being fancy, it was about making someone feel welcome, having a sense of pride in where we lived, and wanting to share our home with everyone who visited.
But, most of all, it was about making that certain, visiting someone feel special.
Once, it was said that this was all just too much fussing. As I paused, and wondered if my vintage plates and orange tea cake really were too much fussing, I felt a bit hurt, and almost hid it all away in the cupboard. Moments later, they pulled into the driveway, and I just knew that a hug and a freshly baked cake was exactly what we all needed.
To me, it isn't about being overly fussy, it's about wanting everyone who walks through the door to feel that something wonderful (or at the very least, a relaxing few hours and something yummy to eat) is about to happen. And, that they know that I'm genuinely happy to see them and want to spend time with them.
There's nothing nicer than arriving at a home and feeling that someone cares, and that they truly want you to be there. Whether it's a handful of flowers in a jam jar, a plate of cookies waiting in the kitchen, or a big smile and a warm hug when they first open the door, it's the feeling that you're welcome and they're happy to see us. It's about the care, not the cost.
As you know, I love to bake, and my home is generally tidy (ish) so even if it's a last minute visit, I can usually pop something sweet in the oven, then run around for a quick ten minutes to straighten up. But, life doesn't always go to plan, so even if I'm completely unprepared, and I feel less than ready to entertain, I still want my friends and family to come and visit (and always feel welcome!). So, if you've hesitated to have people over, or feel that the word "entertaining" is far bigger than you can wrap your head around, why not invite them over for a visit, but do it in an easy, afternoon-or-morning-tea/snacking kind of way. It never has to be a full-on meal or a gigantic food extravaganza - you're just having people over because you want to see them, and they want to see you. That's all.
Here's a few, simple thoughts on how to ease into it, and take the fuss and fear out of welcoming your favorite people into your home.
What do you feed them?
Always have something sweet and unopened in a cabinet or freezer. A roll of chocolate chip cookie dough keeps in the freezer very well, and is ready to portion and bake at a moments notice (and will make your home smell delicious!) Or, next time you're at the grocery store, buy a crumb, tea or pound cake. Wrap it in foil and pop it in the freezer. It'll thaw easily on the counter in an hour or less. If it looks a bit sad and plain when thawed, dollop a scoop of ice cream on the top. Almost everyone will snack on a cookie. Have a packet of something in the cupboard. It doesn't matter what it is (oreos, imported shortbread, supermarket sugar cookies, plain tea biscuits etc.).
Never underestimate the thought of cheese and crackers. It doesn't have to be posh cheese at all - just cut up whatever you have in the fridge. Scatter a couple of pieces of chocolate or fruit around them (or not) and you're done!
Use a fancy plate, wooden board or platter to serve things on. Whatever type of cookies, cake or snacks you're having, this always makes everything look (and feel) a bit more special.
What do you do if you feel your home is too messy for company?
Take a quick peek at the entrance where they'll be arriving. Make sure they can get to your front door without tripping on the hosepipe, or stepping on your puppy's fossilized poop collection. Clear the entrance hall as best you can, quickly (again, you don't want people tripping on your shoes or being unable to navigate their way safely).
Attack the main room mess next. Gather up any strange, unwelcome bits and pieces that are lying around the area where you're going to be hanging out. Put them in a bag, basket or box, and hide them in a closet.
Check the bathroom is clean and usable. And, that there's plenty of loo paper.
Close any doors to messy rooms.
Clear the dirty dishes off the counter. If they'll be coming into the kitchen, pile your dishes into the dishwasher (if you have one) otherwise, wash and dry them all quickly (if you have time). Or, just put them all in a big sink of fresh, hot soapy water.
Empty the garbage can and open the windows.
Glance around and throw away any dead plants or miscellaneous, broken uglies that are staring right back at you. .
And, if none of this seems to work (or you don't have time to primp and prep) just give them a big hug, welcome them in, and pop the kettle on! :-)