Get ready for the holidays with these easy ideas

By From page C1 | November 21, 2012

Home & Garden Television

George Washington wasn’t just the first president elected; he also started Thanksgiving by calling for a “national day of thanksgiving” in 1789. And it was President Abraham Lincoln who officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Thanksgiving-specific tips:
* Instead of one large centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table, which has to be moved when the turkey arrives anyway, sprinkle the center of your table with votive candles and gourds. Complete the look with a mini-pumpkin on top of each plate.

* Transport casseroles by placing them on a folded kitchen towel set in two layers of plastic shopping bags. The kitchen towel protects and stabilizes the baking dish and the double-ply of bags is insurance in case a handle breaks.

* Remove the rings that contain sets of measuring cups and spoons — each item is easier to use and clean. (Use the rings to organize recipe cards or as napkin holders.)

* If a gas burner isn’t lighting, try giving it a good scrubbing. Remove the grate, cap and burner unit (if there’s a third removable part, that is) and clean using soapy water made with dish soap (do not use other cleaners, which may leave flammable residue). Use a paper clip to clean the burner openings; let dry completely.

* Lightly wet the underside of a sheet of aluminum foil when lining a baking sheet. The water acts like glue and will help the foil lay flat.

* When measuring sticky ingredients like honey, molasses or corn syrup, spray cups and spoons with nonstick cooking spray for easy cleanup.

* Save the feathery fronds from a bulb of fennel and use as an herb garnish on turkey or other meats to layer on some anise-spiked flavor.

* In lieu of a roasting rack, use a crumpled wad of aluminum foil snaked around the pan to form grates. Spray with cooking oil to keep foods from sticking.

* Pearl onions peel easily once blanched: Trim the ends of onions opposite the root end, then drop into boiling water for 2 minutes before draining. Once cool enough to handle, pinch the onion from the root end and it will slip right out of its skin.

* Peel and slice potatoes up to one day in advance — keep them submerged in cold water so they don’t discolor. Unless they’re being boiled, remember to pat dry before using.

Holiday tips:
* Once Thanksgiving is past, add autumnal elegance to your dining-room table with a simple basket or bowl full of gourds. Available at most grocery stores, these mini-squashes come in several shades of orange, yellow, red and green. Mix and match or choose a monochromatic scheme for an even more sophisticated look.

* Mix and match metallic looks with natural elements like fall branches or fresh fruit, says HGTV designer Erinn Valencich. “Metallics add a great modern touch to a fall tablescape. Deep copper and bright bronze are lovely additions to a traditional table.”

* Fireplaces are the ultimate form of cozy fall comfort. No fireplace at your place? Get the same glow by assembling a large collection of candles, or adding small votive candles to windowsills.

* Give your foyer style and personality. Add a mirror and several small baskets to collect keys, mail or shoes that are often dropped when your family walks in the door.

* Just in time for holiday travel, not to mention rough weather, take the car in for an oil change and new wipers, and have the tires checked, too. Any questionable noises, knocks or shakes should be looked into now.

Scripps Howard News Service

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