One of my first blog articles (November 2018) was titled Holiday Planning: Menus, Rooms, and Entertainment Ideas. It came from a week of Facebook posts in 2017 where I broke down each area and provided tips for each day leading up to Thanksgiving. Another post was about Social Gatherings in a Physically Distant World (2020). This article is a merging of ideas from both of those articles.
I’ve written several blog articles about event planning, holiday planning, meal planning, and travel tips, yet due to the continuing pandemic of COVID-19, I feel I need to share some ideas you can use to entertain family, friends, co-workers all while preventing the spread of the virus. The reason I think we still need to take extra precautions is no one plans to infect another person and since we are seeing breakthrough cases, why not take a few easy steps to prevent or limit the spread?
We have learned that Sanitation, Ventilation, Individualization, and Communication are most effective to stop the spread. And like in my article about Restaurant tips for your home kitchen I will share ideas for how you can adjust your home entertaining from lessons learned at restaurants, hotels, airlines, and classrooms.
Communication may be the most important aspect of the planning process this year. Let’s use the airline industry as an example. Airlines and other travel industry companies are looking at how they can build consumer confidence so they can get their bookings and revenue back up. Much of what they are doing is informing and communicating the steps they are taking to clean and sanitize their planes, their rooms, and their parks. (Each airline and hotel chain has published their new cleaning protocol on their websites. Please visit before booking your rooms or flights.)
Honestly, some of these steps probably needed to be done before (like wiping off tray tables between flights) yet when the consumer did not require it, the airlines did not spend the time or resources to do it. Now to build consumer confidence back, the airlines are not only taking the time to wipe down every tray table and to sanitize restrooms, overhead bins, and other high touch areas but they are making sure that you know about these extra steps.
In my article about traveling after COVID-19, I said to do a HEALTH CHECK before traveling. Just like you make a disaster preparedness plan, make a travel plan, and let your family know your plans. Communicate your expectations to anyone coming into your home and ask about preparations for anywhere you are traveling to. If you are protecting your elderly mother or little children, you need to know that everyone is practicing steps that also protect them.
SANITATION of surfaces frequently and especially in the kitchen area. The first stop when anyone comes into the kitchen for anything should be the SINK to wash hands or a least a quick squirt of sanitizer. Before opening a refrigerator for milk or juice, before pouring a cup of coffee, before grabbing a muffin or cinnamon roll, wash your hands. And then after eating, wash your hands again. If in doubt, WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN. This also helps with other viruses like the flu!
If you have been to a doctor’s office or school classroom you see frequent wiping of surfaces. Practice the same steps at home. Buy extra Lysol wipes and use them frequently on countertops, light switches, faucets, and handles, charging stations/plugs and remotes, or game controllers. Wipe off things you bring inside after trips to the store. Set up a “drop area”, preferably not the kitchen counter or dining table.
Anything that is touched by several people. Wipe it off at the end of every day.
Ventilation of rooms is going to be determined by the weather. If you can move some of your activities outside or at least to the patio, garage, or carport, the better the ventilation will be. More ideas about this later in the article.
Individualization is being practiced by more and more businesses in everything from disposable items to changes in packaging. Sanitation and Individualization are co-dependent. If everyone washes their hands before coming to the table then touching the same serving spoon isn’t as much of a concern! But if everyone is eating chips and salsa or popcorn from the same bag or bowl, then you have hands and mouth close by and the chances for the spread of germs (FLU, Colds, Pink eye) and diseases are much greater.
Taking the 2018 article apart by sections I will make specific suggestions for adjustments to today’s new normal.
Meals: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Instead of one GIANT meal, plan for 2 or 3 smaller meals. You can still fix all the items you normally do, but just don’t fix them all at the same time.
Split up the GIANT meal into smaller meals like:
Turkey and Dressing with Gravy, Green Beans, Cranberry Sauce
Ham, Mashed Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, Jello Salad, or Fruit Salad
Large meals like this are hard to INDIVIDUALIZE—you can put some of the side items in small bowls or ramekins, and you can have one person serve or dish the food onto clean plates. But once you put leftovers back in the refrigerator, you increase the chance of multiple persons touching and contaminating the dish and possibly spreading germs. There is less risk if all of the food is consumed at one time. And also less risk if everyone is washing hands before opening the fridge!!!
Snack items: INDIVIDUAL SERVINGS. Here you can get creative and even use holiday decorating ideas to make these items more fun. Check out Pinterest for ideas—that’s where I always go for inspiration/ideas.
Mixed Nuts, Snack Mix, Chips: Buy large bags and then put in small bags with colorful ribbons and tags. Put small bags in a large basket and set out for “self-serve”.
Beverages: Again think smaller sized, individual servings. Instead of “handles” 1.5L of liquors and 2 L sodas, you want to go to “minis”.
I know these can be more expensive and more waste, but when the priority is to stop the spread of germs, you must reduce the number of times a container is touched.
For example, a 2 L bottle of coke. You will get 4 – 8 oz servings or if using for cocktails, you could get as many as 8 – 4 oz servings out of each bottle. That could be 8 different people picking up the bottle. Whereas, if you get the small cans, they are a “one and done” solution!
Other beverages like beer are easy—they are already single-serving cans or bottles.
I know that many restaurants were selling small bottles of liquor during the pandemic (375 ml) as part of their To Go Menus. This may be an option for your holidays or even purchasing the airplane minis. Again, get creative and decorate the bottles with name tags or use colorful ribbons. As crazy as it may sound, why not buy each person their own bottle, and label it. Or have them BYOB, and no sharing!
Wine is going to have 4 to 5 servings per bottle depending on the size of glass, and FYI-a 12 oz can of wine is 2 servings (6 oz = 1 serving) or there is the option of the 4 pack minis (not a good tasting option, but an option).
If you can’t go to single servings, then have sanitizer wipes available to wipe bottles and countertops often. And it never hurts to, WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN.
If you have traveled during the past 18 months you have noticed that hotels and vacation rentals have all removed “extra” bedding. No more do you have comforters and throw pillows on beds. You also will not find pens, paper pads, or magazines in the rooms. Whether or not you choose to remove these from your guest room is up to you. You could make a “care pack” for your family with a small water bottle, notepad, pen, toiletries, and even a phone charger and put it all in a gift bag with a note tag that has the WIFI password on it. They will think you are very thoughtful, and you can rest easy knowing that will have what they need and not be rummaging around in your “junk drawer” or grabbing one of the chargers from the hall table.
As I mentioned in the post in 2018, if you are converting a kid’s room to a guest room you have to deal with the kid’s STINK factor. Every piece of bedding down to the mattress pad and pillow covers needs to get a washing. If your washer has an extra rinse option when using fabric softener, I encourage you to use it. If your guest room hasn’t been used in a while, it is also a nice idea to freshen up the sheets with a wash or at least a spray of Fabreze.
Do you have small quilts, blankets, and throws? Be sure all of them are washed before your family and friends arrive and then have each person pick one that is theirs to keep for the entire visit. I know cuddling up with one on the couch is a great way to spend the afternoon, and again we don’t know how long the virus can survive outside of the body so try and keep each person’s blanket to themselves and wash them all again when the family leaves.
Plan to use extras. Just like at a buffet, food can only be placed on clean plates. If you are going back for second servings, then get a fresh plate. Why? You’ve just eaten off that plate. You have transferred saliva to the plate. And now if a serving spoon touches it, then your saliva is now on the serving spoon and in contact with the serving dish and any remaining servings of food (YUCK!)
Many restaurants have gone to plastic ware during the pandemic. If you are recycling everything you can, a few extra plastic spoons are not going to overflow the trash can, truck, or landfill. Again, taking the lead from restaurants, space your seating out whenever possible, and move outside if possible.
If you are going to use “real” plates, glasses, silverware, be sure that your food preparation area is separate from your cleaning area. Restaurants never have the dish room by the food prep. You don’t want dirty dishes stacked up in the sink when you get ready to wash fruits and vegetables.
Here’s a tip from my “catering manager” days—set up an area just off the kitchen/dining room where dirty dishes can be taken, food scraped off, and the dishes stacked in tubs. Then once the meal is complete and all food items have been stored properly, you can bring the dirty dishes into the kitchen to wash.
A trend that started with the pandemic was more outside activities to enjoy. I hope the trend continues because it is a more healthy option in many ways. Take walks around the block or find a new neighborhood to walk around. Have a campfire and roast marshmallows for s’ mores. Find a new hiking trail or visit a local zoo, botanical garden, historical site, or state or national park. You can even set up games to play in the garage with the door open—Charades, Pictionary, Texas Hold Em, Dominos. Or do crafts and puzzles in the garage or on the patio. Everyone doesn’t have to be inside all the time with the TV on or their eyes on their phone. Get outside and move!
In the original post, I discouraged talking about POLITICS, SEX, MONEY, AND JOBS. And although these may still be difficult conversations, I hope that we can start to talk more about politics. Not argue, not demonize, not criticize but actually TALK. We don’t need more bullies or mean girls we have plenty of those on the national level.
In our families and with our friends we need to start listening with the intent to understand, not to defend our views. Everyone deserves to have their opinion considered. Because we stopped talking to people with different opinions, we have become more and more polarized and now only get more of the same from social media. Challenge yourself to listen to a different opinion. You may not change your opinion on an issue, but you may have a better understanding of why they feel the way they do.
All of these ideas and suggestions are shared with the hope of keeping all our families and friends healthy this holiday season. If you would like help planning your holiday menus or gatherings, please contact us. And of course, we can shop, deliver and stock all your food and beverages to enjoy the holidays at the beach.
Happy Holidays! Stay Well! Eat Well! Wash your Hands! Be Kind!