Toronto Star

How to survive a family visit

- Alexandra Slaby

It’s Saturday morning and I’m dashing out of my condo to pick up carrot juice. I have family visiting and my dad is on a health kick.

I know you’re probably thinking: “How on Earth could she forget to stock her fridge with carrot juice?”

Luckily, there are four places to get cold-pressed juice in the neighbourh­ood. It’s one of the perks of living the downtown condo life; no food trend passes us by. We’re well juiced.

I deliberate­ly choose the one farthest away for today’s errand.

I need to work in little breaks when family comes to stay in my 700-square-foot condo.

Hosting guests is never simple when you’re short on space, but it requires extra-special planning when family members visit.

“Your aunt and uncle are driving up from Illinois and we’ll be coming to Toronto,” my dad announced a couple of weeks ago.

I knew immediatel­y what that meant. Family Code of Conduct ensures anyone is welcome to stay with you, regardless of the circumstan­ces. My family doesn’t understand restrictio­ns such as roommates, privacy or a lack of spare beds. They don’t do hotels.

I don’t bother arguing anymore. I roll up my sleeves and start executing the “Condo Owner’s Survival Plan for When Family Visits.”

The first order of business is to convince my roommate to move out for a few days so no one has to sleep on the floor — especially me. This time all I had to do was describe my aunt and uncle’s symphony of snores and she quickly found somewhere else to stay.

I need to be able to sleep in order to keep up an enthusiast­ic demeanour about going up the CN Tower — again — with aunt Helen. I’ve been up there 17 times the past few years. The trick to surviving the weekend is to keep everyone busy with tourist attraction­s, walking around the city to the point of exhaustion and spend minimal time cooped up in my condo on top of each other.

After that, I begin a week-and-ahalf of deep cleaning. There can be no cutting corners when laser-eyed relatives descend. The condo needs to be sparkling. Baseboards need to be polished, couch cushions need to be vacuumed and rotated. The illusion of a perfectly neat and orderly space helps to ward off prying questions about when I’m going to fully grow up, get married and buy a house in the suburbs.

Eating in isn’t an option without space for an adequate dining-room table. So the next step is to narrow in on suitable restaurant­s for dinner. Although there is a plethora of dining establishm­ents at my doorstep, I can’t just wing it. Making the right choice requires legwork.

I draf a list of questions and begin making calls. Do they take reservatio­ns or do we risk having to wait in line? Do they play music? How loud is it in there? Do they have TVs on the walls? Do they have chairs with back support? Is there a good enough amount of space between tables? Are there dairy-free options?

I can usually find one or two restaurant­s in the city by going with whatever hostess hasn’t hung up on me.

Then I head downstairs to my lobby to sweet-talk a security guard into giving me extra visitor parking passes. It’s crucial to everyone’s peace of mind that uncle John just leaves his car in the building’s undergroun­d garage for the duration of his stay. Out of sight, out of mind. That way we can reduce the number of discussion­s we’ll have about the cost of paying for parking in the city and why anyone would want to ride their bicycle down here.

So with all that in order I slow my pace on my way back to the condo and take a swig from the bottle of carrot juice. Not bad.

I need to remember to add it to the survival plan. Thanksgivi­ng is right around the corner and company is coming. Alexandra Slaby is a television producer with CTV and has worked as a news producer with CBC. After work, she attempts to produce her own life by running marathons, travelling and spending too much money on cauliflowe­r, kale and Pinot Grigio. Alexandra can be reached at

 ?? DREAMSTIME ?? There can be no cutting corners with cleaning before laser-eyed relatives descend, Alexandra Slaby writes.
DREAMSTIME There can be no cutting corners with cleaning before laser-eyed relatives descend, Alexandra Slaby writes.
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