Last Minute Christmas
By: Deirdre Uria
Christmastime means different things to different people, but for most it is a time of togetherness and family. If you are the host or hostess of your family’s Christmas celebration this year, there is an element of frenzy and fear that comes with getting you, your home, and your family ready for guests. Don’t be scared, we have cleaning tips, décor suggestions, and a delicious recipe to share, in hopes of helping you have a magical (and stress-free) holiday gathering.
Cleaning and Tidying the Home
Julie Edelman, also known as The Accidental Housewife, has a number of smart cleaning tricks that will leave your home sparkling, while leaving you with enough time to dust your cheeks with some blush and throw a few curlers into your hair before the doorbell rings.
• “Worry about the high-traffic areas,” Edelman says, and just close the doors to the other rooms that aren’t prepared for peering eyes to see.
• To clean your toilet bowl in a flash, throw either a denture cleaner table into the bowl, let it dissolve, wait 20 minutes, and voila.
• If your toilet has rust, pour a can of cola into the bowl, let it sit for about 10 minutes, gently scrub with a toilet brush, and watch the rust disappear.
• Newspaper is a natural odor absorber, so wrinkle up the classifieds section and put it in those smelly sneakers in the foyer, on the shelves of your pantry, and even at the bottom of your garbage can.
• Mix some baking soda with water (to create a thin paste) and shine up both the sink and bath faucets. Also, throw a box of baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb any foul smells.
• Need to clean the dust (and perhaps cobwebs) from the corners of the ceiling, but don’t have a broom? Take a golf-club, cover the head with an old sock, and dust away. (Feel free to spray the sock with a little dust cleaner or all-purpose agent, if you feel it is needed.)
• Mix a cap full of antiseptic mouthwash into a gallon of water and use that solution to mop your floor.
• Did the kids place a cold glass of water or juice on your wooden coffee table and leave a water ring? Rub a spoonful of mayonnaise onto the ring, let it sit for four hours, and wipe away.
• If you bought flowers last minute (and at an unbelievably inexpensive price – they are so cheap for a reason), but they are starting to droop, pour a shot of vodka into the water and they will perk right back up.
• If you drop a glass ornament while dashing to decorate, use a fresh slice of bread to pick up the shards. For safety, throw on a glove or oven mitt, just to make sure no shards make it through the bread.
• Using new stemware for Christmas dinner, but forgot to remove the sticky price labels on the bottom of the glass? Microwave some white vinegar (enough to cover the bottom of the glass) until steamy, place wine glass in bowl, and watch as the label detaches.
Setting a Sensational, yet Inexpensive, Dinner Table
Jaclyn Smith – actress, clothing designer, and houseware guru -- believes that “everyone can be well dressed and have a beautiful home,” especially for the holidays. She offers some quick and easy tips on how to decorate a holiday table in no time. She adds, “Simplicity is key.”
• Instead of using a table runner down the center of your dining area, use three runners (or more, if needed) spaced evenly and lay them vertically, so that they serve as placemats. This also allows a little bit of the natural texture and color of your dining table to peek through.
• Set each place with a dinner plate, a salad plate, and a bowl (if soup will be served), but instead of using an expensive charger plate as the base, you can use paper lace doiles (such as those used underneath baked goods on a platter) to give each setting that extra special touch.
• You don’t have to decorate each place setting with baubbles and expensive decorations to create a luxurious dining experience, but rather tie (with flexible crafting wire) an ornament from your Christmas tree around each napkin. (Jaclyn Smith has a wonderful line of jewel-toned ornaments at Kmart.)
• Pine, leaves, and winter berries from outside your home also make simple, yet wonderful decorations. Wrap pine garland around the metal arms of your chandelier, cover leaves in glitter and place them on the table (filling empty spaces not occupied by serving dishes), and lay a twig of berries alongside the utensils at each place setting.
• Flameless candles (such as these from Essential Home) create a beautiful ambience, but are also safer to use, especially if children are around.
Filling Plates and Bellies
Art Smith, celebrity chef extraordinaire, owner of Art & Soul (in Washington, DC) and Table Fifty-Two (in Chicago), and co-founder of Common Threads (a charity that helps low-income children learn to cook healthy and affordable meals), has a fool-proof recipe (from his cookbook Back To The Family) for jambalaya that makes an ideal holiday dish. Not only is it satisfying, but if you get unexpected guests you can “grow” this one-pot-wonder to feed everyone. Bonus: Smith likes to make this for larger groups of people, because it is budget-friendly.
Art Smith’s Jambalaya for Company
The following recipe will feed 8-10 people (but feel free to double or triple, if needed).
• 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 stalks celery, chopped
• 4 cups long-grain white rice – basmati rice is amazing in this dish, as it really retains its shape, but absorbs all the juices.
• 2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning – or you can make your own with the following: cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and dried thyme
• 1 pound chicken thighs, cut into pieces
• 1 pound smoked sausage (we love Chorizo), sliced
• 8 cups chicken broth (or enough to cover the top of the ingredients)
• 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
• 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
• 1 pound tilapia or white fish, cubed
• Salt to taste
Place the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and place over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken, shrimp, fish, sausage, onion, bell pepper, garlic and celery. Cook until just lightly brown.
Add the Creole seasoning, tomato paste, tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Add the bay leaves, season with salt and stir in the long-grain rice. Reduce the heat so that the mixture simmers, then cover. Cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 30 minutes. Great jambalaya should be a little wet.
Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and stir in the freshly chopped parsley. Serve and enjoy.
See, getting ready for Christmas with no time to spare can be done! Happy Holidays to you and yours.
*Recipe from Back to the Family by Art Smith (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007). All rights reserved.*