Keeping Your Kitchen Holiday-Ready!
By Sharon Ng
The holidays are creeping closer and last week I got a reminder of what is in store if I don't get myself and my home in order for the chaotic (all-be-it fun) season ahead. Last week I had two occasions where unexpected company just popped by and in both cases I was embarrassed because my living room and kitchen showed all too well the evidence of a busy week with my four little tornados! I don't know how to explain it, but my littlest child (a petite little two year old) can create a larger mess than any other soul I have ever met and my home often shows her mark as she can create it much faster than I can clean it up!
After my two little embarrassing drop-in moments I resolved to do better at cleaning. As I was scrubbing my microwave the next day I started thinking that with the holidays close at hand there will be a whole lot more pop-ins, stop-bys, and impromptu get-togethers. Add all that to the planned parties and celebrations and it is a recipe for disaster if we aren't prepared! So, I committed to start getting my kitchen ready for the holiday season now! That way I can have it ready to go with simple upkeep and avoid stressful party days and embarrassing chances to get caught with the mess.
These 10 steps will help us all be prepared for the holidays and enjoy our time celebrating even more!
1. Clean clutter from countertops. This is my weak spot, but it is so very important! Get rid of mail and bills lying around, and put things away that don't belong in the kitchen. This may seem like a no-brainer to many of you, but I have to imagine that there are others like me with lego creations and preschool projects left collecting on the counter tops. If I am the only one, please don't tell me! I prefer to live under the impression that you all store Legos, crayons, and mail right along side the toaster - just like me! In the interest of making and keeping the kitchen ready for holiday parties and drop-in visits clear these things out and you will be amazed how much stress you clear away with them! Make sure all your surfaces - backsplash, counters and floors - are sparkling clean. Entertaining will be much easier if you start out this way!
2. Clean the microwave. This poor appliance is often forgotten, but it can be so embarrassing when someone offers their help in the kitchen and opens it to find spaghetti sauce or any of a million other messes. Clean it well now and it will just require a quite wipe down to stay clean.
3. Clean your oven early. You don't want to leave oven cleaning to the day before a big party. First of all, it will cause you extra stress and, second, it will cause your oven stress! Clean it well now and then rely on simple wipe downs to keep it ready through the holidays. Once the new year is here it will be a great time to use that great (but smelly) self cleaning feature!
4. Clean the fridge. You will likely need every inch or fridge and freezer space in the coming season so clean it out now and spare yourself the last minute stress. Clean out old left-overs, check expiration dates, and scrub the shelves and drawers. Get the elbow work done now and it will be much more simple to keep up when things get busy and you are trying to cram in one more casserole dish before the party!
5. Give your dishwasher some attention. The time to have a problem with the dishwasher is NOT just after you have fed 30 of your closest friends and family! By taking a few minutes to clean and check your dishwasher now you can hopefully avoid crunch time issues. Make sure it is cleaning well now. Run a cycle with no dishes and just a couple cups of vinegar. This will clean the inside and help clear out buildup in the drain. Check the drain and clean off any residue, then wipe off the rim of the door and the door gasket, using white vinegar and a sponge to remove any gunk.
6. Get your dinnerware ready. Have your knives sharpened, polish any silver, iron cloth napkins, and wash the china if you plan to use it. This will save you a lot of time and stress in the days leading up to parties. Be sure to take a quick inventory and make sure you have enough utensils, plates, serving pieces. It is better to know now that you need a new gravy boat than to figure it out when the old one is leaking on the Christmas Eve table!
7. Disinfect and scrub trash cans. This is one of those things that seems silly, but I am always amazed at just how much has accumulated in and on the can when I really pause to look. No matter how careful you are, food and gunk manages to collect at the bottom of a trash can. Holiday entertaining is a perfect excuse to get them all cleaned out! Take them outside and wash them with a garden hose and dish soap. If it is too cold for the hose, then you can through them in the shower - just be sure to disinfect it after! Disinfect them with a cleaning spray and make sure you have plenty of extra trash bags, too.
8. Safety matters. This is particularly important is small children are going to be a part of your gathering. Make sure that things are childproofed and set aside an area away from the hustle and heat of the kitchen where the kids will be able to safely play or hang out. Make sure plugs are covered, glass and sharp things are out of reach, and stairways or other dangerous areas are blocked off. My sister learned this lesson the hard way when, in the hustle and bustle of family reunion preparations, her 3 year-old son rode his tricycle down the front steps. Instead of enjoying the family luau they spent the afternoon at the emergency room having his adorable little face stitched up! Parties bring chaos and a little preparation goes a long way in keeping accidents from happening.
Also, check your smoke detector and CO2 detector batteries, replace them if needed, and check the inventory of your first-aid kit. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand, too. If there is an emergency, you want to know you are ready to handle it.
9. Stock the kitchen properly. Make sure you keep the essentials on hand and take in to account and special dietary needs of your guests. Do any of your guests have allergies? Is anyone vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free? Make a list of things you would like to always keep on hand and be sure to include any special items for your guests. Simple preparations and changes can avoid some embarrassing and frustrating blunders later.
10. Create a cooking schedule. This is so important, but so often overlooked! Take a few minutes now to plan what you will be having and when you need to prepare it. Whether you are planning for on lrge meal or just smaller, casual gatherings throughout the season you will want to note what can be done ahead of time, what will need to that, and narrow down what really needs your last-minute attention. Not only will having a written plan give you piece of mind, but it will help you and your guests when they offer to help. Everybody enjoys a party more when the host isn't flustered!
Whether you are planning to feed the masses or just trying to keep a handle on the house for when those sweet neighbors stop by with a plate of cookies, I hope these little reminders will help you feel ready and enjoy a more relaxed holiday season!
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