making it feel like home …

by Sharon Santoni

dahlias and elderberries

The blog will go a little quiet this week, just for a few days ….  I’ll have all my children home for a visit from their various watering holes and I just want to make the most of every single oh-so-rare minute.

A lot of you know what I mean.  Especially for the new empty-nesters like me, an opportunity to reunite the whole family under the same roof, even it’s only for a couple of days, is a moment to be cherished and for me, a big part of the enjoyment is the anticipation and the preparation.

Of course we all know that ‘home is where the heart is’, and that the most important thing is the people within the four walls, but a few creature comforts never really go amiss.

So as I scooted around the house this week, making plans,  making beds, making lists, making cakes,  …. I couldn’t help but think about the vitals that make a home just that … a home.  The little details that the family will appreciate finding again when they get here.

And I wondered if we’d all put the same things on our ‘home definition list’?  So here for you, accompanied by a few pictures of an end of summer bouquet from the garden, is my list of a few things that epitomize home to me … and once I’ve told you mine, will you share your list of the things you do to prepare your home for those you hold dearest?

dahlias and elderberries

a full fridge!

flowers in every room, including on bedside tables

beds freshly made with linen sheets

the house ready and  spruced

two dogs definitely  ready and spruced… who am I kidding?  make that just ready!

comfy seating in the garden for lazy afternoons and evenings

a fresh cut lawn

an empty work agenda

meals planned around those favourite dishes

a house full of music

a plate of chocolate brownies on the kitchen table


While the blog may be quiet, I’ll be instagramming each day this week, with pictures of the details that mean home to me under the hashtag #welcomehome.  Why don’t you join in and illustrate your list with pictures, it will be fun to see how we all make our home feel welcoming.

Have a lovely week, thank you for reading me.

dahlias and elderberries


tracy shephard August 19, 2015 - 8:21 am

I have my grandson for a week. my home looks like a bomb has hit it and all plans are out the window.

Sharon Santoni August 19, 2015 - 8:24 am

thanks for the reality check Tracy! 🙂 …. have fun!


Lori August 19, 2015 - 9:05 pm

Ohh i so know what you mean. My husband says I’m the happiest when my children are all home – 3 young adults, 1 married with 3 children. True love!
Have a wonderful time.

suzanna August 19, 2015 - 8:51 am

have a blissful time with everyone, sounds so sweet to me, what gorgeous flowers Sharon…
and I know you will savor this time away from the computer….it’s so so so good to do XO

CHOLLET CÉLINE August 19, 2015 - 9:06 am

Profites bien des jeunes Sharon !
Votre maison doit être merveilleuse…
Bons baisers,

Diana August 19, 2015 - 9:15 am

I try to do the same things, perhaps without quite the same aplomb as you! Cherish these times all together. They become fewer and further between….but oh so precious!

Bev August 19, 2015 - 9:42 am

Your welcome home sounds beautiful, and I wish you a wonderful weekend. My preparations are much the same as yours, and I add a personal hand towel and beautiful soap on the bed, and a bottle of the very best water on the bedside table.

Jean August 19, 2015 - 12:11 pm

I buy the best coffee beans available and make sure a pot is ready as guests awaken. I also like to have something baking in the oven so everyone wakes up to the heavenly smell of some type of baked good!

Saundra friedman August 19, 2015 - 12:20 pm

I would like to be your child coming home to visit such a wonderful mother who cares about flowers and fresh linens and delicious food, comfort and beauty all around.
How fortunate your children are and I understand completely about making everything beautiful and comfortable and cherishing every moment of their visit. I am a grand mother now and I feel that way about our children and our 4 grand daughters. Have a lovely time!!! Saundra

Cindi Brumpton August 19, 2015 - 12:37 pm

oh my list would have to include:

Laughter …. Hearing a loved ones laugh ring out is the best!

To me home is a haven, one filled with the homemade. It must be comfy and represent the person/people within. For me that is books, art, and lovely wools, and a pantry filled with preserves. Blue dishes! Fireplace. Windows. Comfy furniture. A big wooden table to gather around.

Delaine August 19, 2015 - 12:39 pm

Your plans and anticipation of family time sounds truly blissful. Enjoy your time with them. Can’t help but wish I was a fly on the wall as we say here in the Deep South to see all the goings on! Thanks for all the joy you bring us, too!

Debby August 19, 2015 - 12:54 pm

Enjoy the family being home! I agree fresh flowers, clean linens, meals being prepared and music…always music!!
Deb xo

Naomi Du Toit August 19, 2015 - 1:06 pm

Your home is so warm, welcoming and a haven for your family. A privilege for us to be able to peep inside. My son, daughter-in-law and beautiful little baby boy are coming to visit. I love the preparations of white linen on the beds, grey and white new towels and a colourful quilt for my grandson. Fresh flowers in bedroom, bathroom and on all tables, big and small. My home will be “baby proofed” to keep all little fingers and toes safe. My recipes of their favourites are ready! Just waiting for them. A very blessed grandmother am I.

Sharon August 19, 2015 - 1:06 pm

I love it when all my kids are home with the lovely additions they bring. I always have ideas and plans but my granddaughter comes with even better ideas and the lovely part of being a grandmother is letting go and not having to keep it all clean and neat while they are here. Its such a short time and after they are gone, I go through each room and put it all back together remembering the fun we had as it fell apart.

Kate Dickerson August 19, 2015 - 1:42 pm

I would add that I always have a new puzzle out for guests to work on as they pass through the dining room or living room. To me, putting together puzzles is a truly frivolous relaxation, and are especially welcome on rainy days. I like to have puzzles that are reflective of the area. We currently live on Cape Cod, so I have ones that identify shells, lighthouses, etc. for the grandchildren to learn from, too.

Jeannine Eitel August 19, 2015 - 2:02 pm

My three children and two grandchildren will be here this weekend too. They are coming to say farewell to their brother and our son who is leaving to teach school in Egypt for another year. There will be plenty of food and libation for all. I love listening to their laughter and escalating sound when they are together. We have a great time when we all gather but I must admit I am sad with the quietness after they leave. I know Sharon you will cherish your time with your children as I will. As they say “Time flies when you are having fun!”

Rebecca Hively August 19, 2015 - 2:44 pm

We have our three sons with their families for Sunday supper every other week so there are 20 to cook for and prepare. I do much what you mentioned but make a special effort with cleaning bathrooms and lighting candles (real and fake) and lighting lavender oil to make our home smell special. And, surprisingly, given their various ages (2 – 42) they do notice! Enjoy!

theycallmemommy August 19, 2015 - 2:56 pm

Clean kitchen, clean bathrooms, clean floors, and good food! 🙂 That’s my list!

Can I be one of your children? 🙂 I want to come and smell that bouquet! 🙂

Susan Gabriel August 19, 2015 - 3:00 pm

Aah Sharon,

That which comforts –
the long welcome embrace
a forgotten scent
laughter’s sweet honey
knowing glances

Those threads through the years
that weaves our hearts together
into One.

Susan Gabriel

Karena August 19, 2015 - 3:09 pm

Sharon, I am so happy that your family will be visiting you! All of the things you mention make a home more inviting!
I have noticed that the grandchildren also love to see photos of themselves around the house!

The Arts by Karena

Katherine August 19, 2015 - 3:41 pm

The joy of being a Mom. So many of us are like you – loving the idea of the kids coming in together and making sure that everything is special. Not everyone embraces this act – but for me the ritual as you described is heaven.
Are lists are similar (sans the dogs) and I love that a full fridge was on the top of the list. It’s all about open arms, warm hugs, baking with my granddaughter, having space in my agenda to have loud fun with everyone and to find quiet moments for private talks that each of them seems to need.
Enjoy every blessed moment. This is what life is really all about.

Susan August 19, 2015 - 4:03 pm

I recently had five houseguests, age 90 to 30. All are wonderful old friends, and some are Persians. I had fresh flowers from my garden in every room, a full fridge, homemade cheese Danish and date/orange bread. I cooked everything from a Persian feast for nine people to meat loaf and mashed potatoes.
Clean fresh white sheets
The yard as perfect as I and my mower crew could make it
Coffee and teas of all kinds in the morning, bottled water for daytime trips. My screen porch with candles, oh, and the weather was perfect!

Madeline Margraves August 19, 2015 - 4:03 pm

All of the above plus all the old photo albums laying about. Everyone loves looking and laughing at them……Wow, the back stories start coming out. Things I didn’t know back then, thank goodness !!!!!!

Ana August 19, 2015 - 4:10 pm

The dahlias in your flower arrangements give that extra special touch of joy and happiness to your home. Enjoy this magical days with your family.

A. Newell August 19, 2015 - 4:16 pm

Perfect list. I like to have nice soaps and candles plus water in the rooms. Live in Az.
Have a glorious week. Thanks for a fabulous blog. You are a very clever girl.

Donna Denney August 19, 2015 - 4:20 pm

Good Morning Sharon,

I had to chuckle (as always) about the dogs……I always imagine what is going through their little minds. I know my four-leggeds HATE when it is time to get spruced! I’m sure they will enjoy the company just the same…..with or without sprucing! LOL

Enjoy your precious time with your family.

Your virtual friend,

Donna 🙂

Joanne C August 19, 2015 - 4:45 pm

bonjour Sharon… Your list is exactly the same I have… I would add : have a travel plan to prepare quietly during lazy afternoons and evenings in the garden !!! Have fun with the visit of your children. You are blessed !

Pamela August 19, 2015 - 5:08 pm

I do pretty much the same straighten up the house, full refg. Pick up some of thier favorite foods, make sure there is enough coffee and tea. Fresh bed linens, flowers in the house, Enjoy this week!
Have a fabulous week !
Be Blessed

Penelope August 19, 2015 - 5:27 pm

Sharon, your list sounds lovely! Enjoy your children and your long weekend with them! A friend of mine always has little chocolates under glass on the dressing table when I visit her! It’s still an unexpected gift to find it! Also….so enjoying your lovely book!

Lori lane August 19, 2015 - 6:06 pm

I love your list and will borrow it thankfully!
When my three girls and their husbands and my three grandbabies come for a visit we always plan cooking and baking together. Of course with some great wine and hot chocolate for the kiddos!

Colleen Taylor August 19, 2015 - 7:05 pm

Your list is perfection & I must say close to my wishes. Not always a reality but I LOVE a sparkling squeaky clean house, crystal clear clean windows to see my surroundings, LIVE music always since there is a professional musician here, fridge stocked up to the gills, fresh clean sheets, laundry done & put away, ironing done, art projects caught up (which never happens, a good thing) my office organized (never happens) computer monitor cleaned up, backed up & organized (rarely happens) emails caught up, fresh flowers, oh yes, always! X

lissy parker August 19, 2015 - 7:13 pm

Have a wonderful fun filled time!
xo, lissy

PEGGY BRASWELL August 19, 2015 - 7:51 pm

a great list + add some pictures of whole family + they will love them. xx

Kelly August 19, 2015 - 7:52 pm

I make sure my home is clean and everything is in its place at the beginning of the visit…knowing that of course by the end of the visit, everything will have been pulled out and put back in the wrong place by the family occupying my house. Coffee is a must in our world and the stronger the better – I find that someone, somehow manages to keep a pot going for most of the day into the evening! My niece is nine yrs old going on, oh, thirty! I find everyone is happier if she gets to have a say-so in choosing something that we do during the visit. I keep plans loose and able to be changed at a moment’s notice because that is the norm for my family! After everyone goes home, I combat the sadness of an empty house by putting everything of mine back in its place and gathering items left behind in the rush to get packed and back home. Those items are mailed back immediately if requested but most of my family knows they’ll get an extra wrapped Christmas gift with those forgotten items lovingly nestled inside! I hope you and your family have a wonderful time! I just discovered your website and blog and absolutely love them!! Bon vacance!

Renee Thompson August 19, 2015 - 8:24 pm

Sharon, can Doug and I come to your “Welcome Home” 🙂
Just kidding. I have to say that after staying with you this summer, your home is already all of the wonderful things you mention above. You have such a talent for creating a relaxing, welcoming environment!!! Our stay in your guest cottage was at the very top of my list for our trip to France and I am so glad we were able to do it. I REALLY miss Gizmo and Gibson too!!!
Your list is the same as mine. The most important thing my kids/family appreciates when they come to visit is that I am able to “be” with them and not always working on meals, cleaning up, etc. That’s a huge challenge, but it sounds like you have that one tackled as well since you are doing all of the preparing now.
I wish you all the wonderful things that come with having the entire family together. Take lots of pictures of everyone and savor every moment.
Your flowers are absolutely BEAUTIFUL!
Best Wishes and lots of love,
Renee and Doug Thompson

Irita August 19, 2015 - 8:37 pm

Final touch at my house is a Starbucks gift card on the pillow for a few cups of delicious.

Kathryn August 19, 2015 - 9:38 pm

That’s funny….all the preparation we go through because we want our family to love our home and know that we love them. And then they come! The flowers are overlooked, the beds are not comfy like their own, the adult kids forget how to do dishes, or pick up socks. Everyone congregates in the kitchen…to eat; not to help. And when the grand-kiddos come…oh boy….just forget about flowers and try not to step on all the little toys. But hey…we empty nesters and even sorta empty nesters wouldn’t have it any other way. Not. In. A. Million. Years. Enjoy your family!

Madeleine August 19, 2015 - 11:01 pm

Because it’s Winter here (Australia) I would add a roaring fire that never goes out, and a hot water bottle for those who really feel the cold. And I love to have champagne!


Catherine August 19, 2015 - 11:13 pm

– fresh flowers
– stocked fridge
– coffee / beverage station
– breakfast station (bagels, toast, jams, etc.)
– photo albums – or a bowl with random old photos to look through
– Table Topics (a set of cards with questions typed on them – even for family that seems to think they know one another – they are great for lingering over the dinner table! And they make great hostess gifts, too. Leave them out on the kitchen counter the next day and listen to what transpires.)
– Silver shined and table set with fine china – even children remember the “formal” dinners long after. I once packed my china, silver and crystal in the back of my SUV for a Thanksgiving dinner in a water park condo. EVERY thought I was crazy before, and EVERYone was grateful that I did after.
– Everyone’s favorite beverage on hand.
– Closets cleaned out in the guest rooms – stuff just sneaks its way in there.
– Good camera – batteries charged

suzana borlovan August 19, 2015 - 11:24 pm

Oh Sharon, how I miss my 2 daughters and son in law, I’m not sure when they will come home due to our busy work schedules but the time spent with them is the most joyous of moments and it makes my home complete.
Enjoy your family time xxx

Mai August 19, 2015 - 11:59 pm

Such gatherings are about families, relationships and memories that will endure long after the flowers have wilted. These are precious times; enjoy every living moment of garnered love. Mai

Pandy Agnew August 20, 2015 - 12:59 am

I thought I might send you this picture of a very small Southern cottage circa 1880, in Springville Alabama, just outside Birmingham. I am proud for it was in a much different shape before I decided to restore it for myself. My Mom lives with me now, she has Alzhimers….but she tells me every morning she thinks she is in heaven. I find great comfort in seeing her happy…we never know what lies ahead of us, or our homes. I have learned as a decorator to always make the most of what we have…as creatively and beautifully as possible…but comfort is the most important, for the people you least expect, may be back under your roof…
So yes, I always have fresh flowers from my garden. The tomatoes and basil make our favorite salad with Parmesan cheese. Mom loves to watch the butterflies, hummingbirds…and the sprinkler spraying water all over the hydrangeas…who knew all the little things we have done for so long would make someone else so happy. My children and grandchildren live in town, so I am blessed with their company often. I am blessed.

Ellen August 20, 2015 - 1:53 am

Sharon, thank you so much for your blog and especially your story! Can’t wait for the last segment next week. I, too, am an empty nester and it takes some getting used to but now I find I have no time with all my activities (and that nasty thing called a job!).

Enjoy your family and thank you for surrounding me with the feeling of the French countryside that I miss so much.

Marilyn August 20, 2015 - 2:20 am

Such a perfect list of home. Enjoy having your family home.

la CONTESSA August 20, 2015 - 3:20 am

ANiMALS………..don’t forget the animals!xx

Karen August 20, 2015 - 3:33 am

My list is very much the same as yours when our three children, spouses and six grandchildren come home. Nice to have all your chickadees under the same roof! A favorite of our family is having several pictures framed in each room they are staying in. Pictures of family activities or fun individual pictures. The pictures change every time they visit. I also, have small treats for everyone to take home as a memory of the visit. Enjoy being with your family and make many memories!

Susan August 20, 2015 - 5:15 am

I seldom get to see my two children who are students and I so look forward to their visits. We had a wonderful time gathering food and seeing her take over a kitchen in which she had all the utensils she needed to have fun cooking. My son and daughter will both be home together very briefly in late September and I can’t wait… You are so right…the anticipation and preparation is part of the fun! Breakfast on the patio in my backyard garden …if weather permits! These are golden times!

amy August 20, 2015 - 12:36 pm

Hi Sharon – I think making my home cozy and welcoming is the best way to show my love for my family being together. One additional thing I do is to have a little gift bag with goodies that I have collected over the weeks/months that I am apart from my girls….things that I know they use, like make-up, or things I know they like, and things I know they can’t get elsewhere…like coffee from a favorite little coffee shop or certain brand of chips they can’t get anywhere but here in Pennsylvania. Have a wonderful time!!

Prince Snow Farm August 20, 2015 - 2:09 pm

ENJOY every second!

Mayree August 20, 2015 - 3:55 pm

Just ended a special visit with my 13 yr. old granddaughter and her best friend. Besides all the prep. of girly linens, gift bags, fresh fruit and flowers etc. I planned fun craft projects, a large new puzzle, walks thru the parks and museums. We pressed flowers to create pictures, cards; made potpourri,baked macaroons; refurbished old bird houses; played croquet; prepared summery meals from the garden and eaten under the grape vine covered patio.
The girls dressed in vintage dresses and hats for special photo session by the brook and in the rose garden. They decorated flower pots and planted them with lemon balm to take home as well as their hand painted totes and glitzied flip flops. We played board games into the wee hours, enjoyed daily devotions, and watched old movies. What wonderful memories we made in those two weeks that flew by! It’s too quiet now. Ha!

Jane Marcinko August 28, 2015 - 5:50 pm

Hi Mayree,
You are truly amazing in all your “planning and doing” with your granddaughter and guests! It must have been great fun to do all those wonderful ideas with them. I cannot think of any other fun projects to create so many wonderful memories. So fortunate you all are to share the love.
Bless you all for your energetic and loving ways of sharing a beautiful time together.
One day, I taught my grandson, age 4, how to mix paint to change colors and discovered he was a natural as he then created an awesome painting on canvas! He is a sophomore in college, certified scuba diver, hoping to be a naval architect.

Gail, in northern California August 20, 2015 - 6:42 pm

In the hub-bub, please don’t forget “A Summer Story” last chapter. Maybe you could post it early? I have a dear friend who fell and broke her leg. Your little story has been a ray of sunshine for her each week.

Niccy August 20, 2015 - 7:26 pm

Oh, je peux sentir l’odeur des draps frais. Les fleurs dans les chambres, peut-être les volets mi-clos afin de garder un peu de tiédeur.
Quelle belle maison!
Enjoy the time with your Family.

Susan August 20, 2015 - 10:55 pm

My list is almost the same as yours with the exception of the dogs. When the children left home and the dogs all died we didn’t replace. Now we are the proud owner of a cat who adopted us.
Enjoy your week~make lots of memories!

Sheryl August 20, 2015 - 11:41 pm

I enjoy all of your posts and photos. You are an inspiration to me and many others; I am sure. I couldn’t wait for each part of your summer story to come out. I’d grab my cell phone and head to the hammock for an undisturbed read. Enjoy your family. These are the best of times.

Kerry August 21, 2015 - 6:07 pm

When my nieces come its all about games and swimming at the river so lots of towels, juice, popsicles and of course wine pour moi!

Sally August 23, 2015 - 3:45 am

My dear Sharon

I do hope that your lovely family are cherishing their moments with you at the most special place in the world, their home.
Your preparations are perfect, so many special touches… you are encouraging me along as I prepare for August bank holiday… and a full house. I am smiling as I write, it is very late here, I have been emptying guest rooms of the items that creep in 🙂

When I have guests, I always try to have all the food in, and some meals prepared ( less tiring) To the list I am making the addition of English cooked breakfast every day, and a couple of extra televisions.. in case of rain
Have a lovely and very happy end to your summer Sharon, and Many many Congratulations on your book, which I shall be ordering soon

Please forgive me I haven’t left a comment in what feels like forever, I love all that you do and look forward to reading your story each week

Love to you,
Sally xx

emily piper August 31, 2015 - 8:46 am

I love this house. Thank you for share it.

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