With only a few weeks until Christmas Day, our guest contributor and award winning, interiors journalist and blogger, Kate Watson-Smyth of Mad About The House offers invaluable advice on how to prepare for the festive season.
“As if there wasn’t enough to do at this time of year when planning for Christmas, what with present-buying and parties there is one other, really important thing that you should make time for if you want everything to run smoothly.
Whether it’s the neighbours dropping in for a glass of mulled wine, or the entire family descending like ravenous hordes, it really pays to take a good long look at your kitchen and make sure it’s fit for purpose.
This doesn’t have to mean a full revamp – unless you want to of course – but more of an inventory to make sure that everything is working properly and you have all the necessary equipment. We all have a tale of someone whose oven broke on Christmas Eve, or the fridge that stopped working shortly after they filled it with a week’s supply of festive food.
Now while you can’t prevent bad luck you can, at least, minimise the chances of it happening and work to lessen its impact.
After all, as Jack Reacher says in the Lee Child novels – usually about a gangster planning to run amok - but it works for Christmas too: hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Start with a really thorough clean of everything. It’s a good idea to get your oven professionally cleaned or use a pyrolytic cleaning function if your oven has one, and you are expecting to feed lots of people and even if you aren’t, it won’t do it any harm.
Then make a list of things you need to buy. Do you need more ice trays? Do you want them in pretty seasonal shapes? One trick, with ordinary square ones, is to add a twist of lemon zest or an olive to bring a little extra flavour to the cocktail.
Do you have enough pans for cooking everything? Does the blender still work – someone has to make soup with all the leftovers and in the meantime do you need to either buy more Tupperware for food storage or set one of the children to reuniting the right box with the correct lid?
Now, we all know Christmas is a time for giving. And no-one said you can’t include yourself on the gift list, so maybe it’s time to look at a few kitchen appliances that might make life a little easier. Do you have room for a dishwasher? Knowing you haven’t got to wash up after a three-course dinner for eight people is more likely to make your party go with a swing.
Or is there a particular gadget that you’ve always wanted? I have a boiling hot water tap in my kitchen which I use and love every day. Perhaps you would like a steam oven for healthy meals, or a new coffee machine – Miele have brought out a rose gold one this year and a little extra caffeine kick might keep you awake while Uncle Louis tells you in minute detail how he got to your house while avoiding the snarl up on the M11 and using a sneaky little short-cut he found on his way from stocking up on mince pies at the farmers’ market.
Gone are the days when Auntie Flo would start cooking the sprouts in November “must make sure they’re done dear” but you could always treat yourself to a new gadget like a freestanding steam oven which keeps the moisture in and the mushiness out. It is also perfect for freeing up space on the hob when preparing Christmas dinner.
In addition to family arriving, this is also the time of year when friends and neighbours come round for drinks so check you have enough glasses – they don’t all have to match – and a selection of pretty bowls and dishes to arrange nibbles on. Even the humblest bag of peanuts looks more exciting when it’s well-presented. And, after all, on the one hand Christmas is the time for giving but on the other that does mean someone has to go shopping and it might as well be you.
So it’s time to apply that well-worn rule – a present for them, a present for you, one for them, one for you…. And repeat. As well as buying the practical stuff why not treat yourself to new tea towels, trays, mugs and some of the fun stuff to prettify your kitchen as well as help you cope with the extra mouths.
If you’re the person that is always in the kitchen at parties then it’s worth looking at your lighting. Is there a dimmer switch? Low lighting will hide the dirty glasses and empty crisp packets if nothing else. Can you bring in a few table lamps from other rooms and use those instead of overhead bright task lights? Or string a few fairy lights along the top of cupboards and picture frames?
It’s a temporary measure that will make the place feel prettier and more intimate and when you de-clutter and move it all back again a week later will make it all feel instantly bigger and brighter again which is almost as good as redecorating.
Wishing you all the best for the festive season.”