Prepping for the Holidays

November 30, 2017
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Photo courtesy Sickles Market

By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez |

We know exactly when the holidays come along – it’s the same date every year. Yet for some reason, many of us seem surprised.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas – and all the holiday get-togethers in between – there are both important and decorative ways to prepare your home for all the guests you will be hosting and food you will be cooking for them.

“When you think about having people over, it’s stressful not only on people, but also your appliances,” said Diane Belforti of Better Housekeeping in Red Bank. “Make sure your appliances perform as they should, whatever you can do maintenance and preventive-wise, so you’re not
in crisis mode.”

From Thanksgiving on, your oven may be working overtime, but there are a few rules to remember.

“Never self-clean your oven right before a holiday,” said Belforti. The self-clean cycle can be hard on some oven components and could cause a failure, something you don’t want at holiday time.

“We recommend having your oven temperature checked, which you can do with a thermometer, to calibrate where you are several weeks before. If there’s an issue, it can be rectified before the big cook day.”

Belforti says her sister
 complains that her dining room
is not “big enough” for holiday 
entertaining. “I tell her no one’s
dining room is big enough for the holidays,” she said. “It’s the same for refrigerators and ovens.”

How to cook multiple dishes with only one oven? According to Belforti, you could set the temperature to what the nonmeat dish requires because meat stays hot for longer. Large roasts, such as a ham or turkey, will stay hot for an hour after coming out of the oven. Also, arrange the dishes so there is enough space between them; air should be able to circulate between all the dishes.

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While you’re dusting the rafters, polishing the silver, and having the chimney swept, Belforti advises to remember to change the filters – on your refrigerator, icemaker, water systems, cooking hood and even the dishwasher drain, if your model has one.

Over the years, Eileen Fell of Red Bank has been hosting holiday meals for up to 40 guests. This year it’s an easy 25 family members who’ll be gathering at her table and she’s counting on all her appliances – from all five stovetop burners, a double oven and the ever-important dishwasher – to be in top performance mode.

Fell credits organization, delegation and confidence for smooth holiday celebrations. “You need to have confidence that your oven will be working properly.” But when all is said and done, Fell said: “It’ll all work out in the end and the most important thing is about being with family.”

Photo courtesy Sickles Market

Nothing speaks more to your guests – as well as neighbors and passersby – as your front door.

“The front entranceway is the most important first impression,” according to Natale Siclare, Sickles Market’s lifestyle specialist.
 Sickles’ holiday decorating service customizes a unique look for the home or business, from indoor lighting, holiday plant arrangements and more.

“The outside should be thematic that it flows into the home,” he said. “The front door is where it starts.”

According to Siclare, greens are by far the most popular decorative element, and Siclare uses them generously, from the front of the house and throughout the home, decorating the mantel, doorways, tabletops, staircases and elsewhere.
And never underestimate the decorating touch of ribbons – not just the red ones of yesteryear. “Sometimes we drop off more than 15 selections of ribbons for a client to choose from,” said Siclare.

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Another tip to keep in mind while decorating: “Brass is the new metal of choice,” said Siclare. “It used to be polished nickel but now we’re seeing more brass.”

So whether you’re decorating with a Christmas tree – either a stately one or one adorned with memorable but perhaps misshaped ornaments created by the kids – or a holiday-themed arrangement of poinsettias and living evergreens, Siclare and team can help showcase the home.
Siclare adds that outdoor window boxes and urn plantings can lend a festive feel throughout the winter holidays. “We’ll use a living Alberta spruce and keep that in there for the holidays,” said Siclare. Berries, white birch, all add to the seasonal look.

“Scent is a very big part of Christmas and the holidays,” Siclare said and tells how many people share their memories about a scent that brings them back to their childhood when they smell pine and evergreens. “That’s why we use the finest evergreens, wreaths and trees cut three days before arriving here,” he said.

Whether you’re decorating a spacious home, charming condo or business location, the popular message is to start the process early and find the style you’re most comfortable with.

“I always say, the holidays are the one time of the year when you can get away with going overboard,” said Siclare. “It allows you to be over the top and glitzy for the holiday.”


This article was first published in the holiday section of the Nov. 23-30, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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