5 tricks for hosting a stress-free holiday party
How to clean your oven
Everything you need to know about getting this in-demand appliance clean – and keeping it that way.
The holidays are a busy time for your oven, whether you’re making a turkey, gingerbread cookies, salt-dough ornaments or all of the above. Winning results require a clean appliance, as built-up grime can affect foods’ flavour or, worse, lead to fires. Repeated heat will burn spills and splatters in place, so make a habit of wiping them after each use, once the oven has totally cooled (a sprinkle of salt will loosen the mess while the appliance is cooling). For a deep clean , make a paste by adding water to baking soda, and apply it generously to the oven’s interior using a clean cloth; leave overnight. Wipe the surface using a damp cloth and scrape off large stuck-on bits with a spatula. If any grime remains, generously spray on white vinegar – it will react with the baking soda to work the dirt off – and wipe clean.
KNOW YOUR OVEN
Get to know your oven’s built-in cleaning function (or lack thereof) before getting started.
Self-cleaning: In an isolated cycle, extreme heat turns grime into ash to be wiped off with a damp cloth. Racks must be removed (and cleaned separately); commercial cleaners are prohibited.
Continuous cleaning: A chemical coating on the walls dissolves splatters during cooking. Avoid commercial cleaners (they may strip off the coating).
None: It can handle both homemade and commercial cleaning solutions.
Your oven racks work hard and, every so often, they could use a bubble bath – literally. Start by lining your bathtub with old towels to protect it. Place the racks on top and submerge them in hot water; mix in several generous squirts of dish soap. Let stand overnight to loosen dirt before wiping clean with a soft sponge.
Behind closed doors
Grease-carrying steam can get in between the door’s interior and exterior glass panes. Cleaning this requires taking the door apart, so check your warranty to see if this service is covered or call in a pro.
Expert tip: “Keep a baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven to catch spillage. Then simply remove, clean and replace it.” -Natalia Bronstein, Team Leader, Aspenclean.
Dos and Don'ts:
Do: Be patient. Allowing cleaning solutions to sit for the full recommended length of time will minimize your scrubbing effort.
Don't: Get any water or cleaning solution on the door gasket, as it damages easily.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
5 steps to the perfect table setting
Setting a table properly doesn't have to be a mystery. Follow these basic rules - but remmber, you can break them, too.
5 steps to the perfect table setting
1 Utensils are arranged in the order of use - from the outside in.
2 Forks are placed on the left side of the plate, while the knives and spoons go on the right.
3 The napkin goes on the left of the forks or on the plate
4 Glassware is positioned directly above the knives.
5 The breadplate, if using, sits above the forks, with a butter knife laid across it.
PLUS: Dress up your table with these super-simple napkin folds!