Mostly this works great for us with our circumstances; getting stuff out of the way sooner is lovely. But the thing non-Minnesotans who live here need to know is that you are absolutely within your rights to say, "Sorry, no." They may passive-aggress at you. But if you arranged to be off work and home between 10 and 1 and they are sighing and twitching over the phone at you about how convenient it would be for them to show up at 8:30, if it is not convenient for you, you can say, "I'm sorry, I'm afraid that just won't work, I'll see you between 10:00 and 1:00 as planned. Thank you," and hang up the phone. They are the one asking you a favor, even though it may work out better for both of you.
Anyway, very soon we will have fully carpeted basement stairs, padded against falls, and the peasants rejoice.
Another thing I want to clear up, because it came up recently in an e-mail, is that I have heard the misconception that you have to be offered something three times before it's polite to accept it--coffee, say, or cookies. Either this is absolutely not true or I have the rudest Scandosotan family on the planet. (Note: this latter case may, I suppose, apply.) Never once have I waited for the third offer if I actually wanted a cookie. Someone offers me pepparkakor? I am on that. Ya sure you betcha. I may even articulate, "You don't have to ask me twice!" Does this make elderly Scando ladies sniff and draw back at my forwardness? Not at all. They are delighted. (They like to see a young woman enjoy her pepparkakor. Or coffeecake. Or like that.)
I was trying to think where this myth might have come from, because I have never, ever seen it work that way around here. I have known lots of Lutheran church ladies in my time, and never once have I seen the dance of, "Would you like some coffee?" "Oh, no, I couldn't trouble you!" "It's no trouble, are you sure you don't want some coffee?" etc.
The only conclusion timprov and I could come to is that some of the Lutheran church ladies we know--and this applies to Catholic and Presby and Methodist and Quaker and Episcopal and Jewish and Buddhist and atheist ladies too, and also some ladies who are perhaps gentlemen and so on--are physically incapable of understanding that someone might be saying no to an offer of cookies.
"No, I am allergic to everything you have in the house," okay. But other than that, there are just people who are going to keep offering. And keep offering. And just. Keep. Offering. Because, "I do not care for a cookie, thank you," is not a thing they can really believe in. I think my grandmother has some friends, and I'm pretty darn sure I have some great-aunts, who believe with all their hearts that there are some cookies that I secretly wanted in 1983, and I was just being shy, or trying to be polite, or it was an attempt to look like those silly stick-thin fashion models, or something inexplicable about Kids These Days or my own personal quirks. So if they offer three times in the hour that you are there, and then you go home, it's not that there is a ritual around threes. It's that you didn't stay all weekend, so they didn't get to thirty-seven times for the cookies plus setting out the cereals in a row on the counter plus the late night row of grapes and Doritos and inexplicable cinnamon and prunes.
I try not to do this myself. The way I get around this is by instructing people that I will wait on them for their first visit here but after that they are family and must get their own beverages and second helpings and things. This is not strictly true--I will often serve up helpings of dessert to order. But telling you to get into my cupboards to get yourself a glass of water if you want one (the glasses are to the right of the sink and the mugs above them; the wine glasses above the stove) is my way of not repeating every fifteen minutes, "Are you sure I can't get you anything?" Because, y'know. It's sort of genetic. Or possibly environmental. Either way, I got the full dose.