A bright and welcoming sunroom is spruced up for the holidays.
With the holiday season is upon us, make the most of this month by tackling these tasks.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year – and it only lasts a few weeks. Avoid seasonal stress by staying organized and having realistic expectations of what you can achieve. To help you make the most of the holiday season, here are 10 things to do this December.
1 Clean out the freezer
It's all too easy to let food accumulate in the freezer – and before long, not only is it too crowded to make room for more, but there are items in the back that should probably be thrown away. Set aside some time to organize your freezer – you may be amazed at what you'll find in there.
2 Make a wreath
Not only is a wreath on the front door inviting, but it really makes a house look like a home. If you've got the time, add a personal touch to your outdoor decor by making your own instead of buying one. And if you're really feeling inspired, make two and give the second to a friend as an early Christmas gift.
3 Get organized for gift wrapping
To save time during the hectic Christmas shopping season, set up a gift-wrapping station in an out-of-the-way spot in your home -- it will make it easy to wrap gifts as you buy them, and you won't be hunting around the house for the scissors, silver ribbon or gift tags. If you haven't got the space for a separate gift-wrapping table, put all your supplies in a couple of wicker baskets in the closet or under the bed for easy access.
4 Decorate the kitchen
Don't limit your holiday accents to the living room and entryway -- think about ways you can bring the spirit of the season into every room, including the kitchen. Try decorating the windowsill with candles and cedar boughs, putting a miniature Christmas tree on a shelf or draping doorways with garlands. For a finishing touch, simmer spices in water on the back of the stove to infuse your home with the comforting scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
5 Cook up some appetizers
Get ready for guests – whether expected or impromptu – by preparing a selection of appetizers ahead of time. Just pick recipes that can be made in advance and frozen, and you could have a season's worth of hors d'oeuvres ready in an afternoon.
6 Host a cookie exchange
Rather than devoting hours of free time to baking each of your favourite holiday treats, arrange an exchange with friends and family. Organize it so that each person bakes a different type of cookie, enough to share around with everyone in the group. Don't forget to make a few extras to serve while everyone's exchanging the goods!
7 Hang some mistletoe
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is said to come from an ancient Scandinavian tradition that when enemies met in the forest under mistletoe, they were to lay down their arms and observe a truce for the following day. Continue the tradition by hanging mistletoe in your home during the holiday season – and spread peace and goodwill among your guests.
8 Donate to the food bank
During this season of feasting, remember those who are less fortunate by bringing non-perishable food items or a monetary donation to your local food bank. Consider offering your time, as well, to help sort donations or perform other necessary tasks.
9 Let in the fresh air
It may be getting chilly outside, but that's no reason to keep the windows locked tight. Shutting up the house lets indoor pollutants accumulate, especially if it's fairly new and therefore airtight. Let in the cool, crisp air of early winter by opening the windows for a few minutes daily – longer if the weather is cooperating – and enjoy the fresh scent of a well-aired home.
10 Make homemade eggnog
Eggnog is so rich and sinfully delicious, it's probably a good thing we don't drink it all year round. So don't settle for nog in a carton – it's easy to make your own, and the results are well worth the time spent.
DIY project: Felt pinecones
1 Cut the felt sheet lengthwise into 4 equal strips. Snip 1/2” cuts into one side of each strip at 3/4” intervals to achieve a “fringed” effect. Round the corners of each “fringed” section with the precision scissors, so that the strip of felt has a scalloped look.
2 Starting at the short end, roll up one strip of felt until it’s approximately 1/2” in diameter; secure the inside tail in place with a dab of hot glue. Glue the felt roll to the small tip of the Styrofoam egg. Wrap the outside tail of the felt roll around the egg and hold it in place with straight pins.
3 Wrap the remaining scalloped-edged felt strips around the egg form, overlapping the edges slightly and securing strips with pins until you have covered the entire egg. (Note: You may need to snip the felt at times to get the proper positioning, especially when you get closer to the base of the egg.)
4 At the base of the egg, snip the scallops into individual pieces and apply them evenly around the base with hot glue.
5 Secure your ribbon to the bottom of the pinecone with a dab of hot glue and two or three straight pins.
Makes: 1 pinecone
Satisfy even the most discerning epicureans on your list with one of these fashionable foodie-approved finds.
We all have that person in our life who can prepare an intricate meal without so much as glancing at a recipe. That person who dabbles in all things culinary related on a daily basis and has a kitchen pantry that rivals that of celebrity chef Mark McEwan (or it at least comes close). Not sure what to treat them to this holiday season? Browse through our list of food-related gift ideas for inspiration.
A heart-smart treat for the health food aficionado in your life, this carefully curated six-pack of cold-pressed juices contains almost two pounds of fruit and veg in every bottle! Cold-pressed Juices, Dose Juice, $42 per 6-piece pack.
This elegant Art Deco-style coffee dripper is for your friend who has one foot planted firmly at home and the other off in some distant Parisian patisserie. Hario stainless copper Coffee Dripper, Indigo, $100.
If the Bat Cave had a coffee maker, this would be it. Nespresso’s latest boasts a matte black finish befitting anyone in need of a caffeine jolt before saving Gotham City. VertuoLine Coffee Machine in Matte Black, Nespresso, $249.
This high-ranking mustard deserves your salute. Flavoured with decadent wine and truffles – and only available for a limited time – it’s a covetable condiment fit for any top official. Black Truffle and Chablis Mustard, Maille, $43 US.
These striking mugs echo exotic corners of the earth that yield top-notch coffee, from Sumatra to Costa Rica. Pair a mug with beans from the same region for a gift guaranteed to please any java junkie. Stamp Art Mugs, Starbucks, $19 each.
These pretty, precious and feminine flasks are almost too stylish to sully with alcohol – but everyone has a friend who would! Stainless steel Odeme Flasks, 90 ml, West Elm, $29 US each.
This vintage-look colander is a timeless classic that takes an everyday kitchen tool from dull to display-worthy. Copper-plated steel Colander in Gold, Anthropologie, $34 US.
This Scandi-chic French press in pale pink (with a pretty copper detail) is not only a beautiful vessel for your morning brew, but also an ideal addition to any open shelf. Ceramic French Press in Sand, Yield Design Co., $120 US.
Treat fans of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation to “the gift that keeps on giving.” Translation: their very own Jelly of the Month Club gift set! (Reference lost on you? See here.) Griswold Jelly of the Month Club Gift Set, Retro Festive, $40.
It may resemble salami, but this treat is made entirely out of chocolate. Containing hazelnuts, almonds, cherries and even rum, the confection is a certified crowd-pleaser – especially when presented on a cutting board. Chocolate salami, SOMA Chocolatemaker, $23.
Count on Alessi to make a conventional utensil undeniably sleek. Crafted from stainless steel and boasting a unique shape, the modern citrus squeezer also doubles as a pestle. Valerio Citrus Squeezer, Alessi, $71.
Building a beautiful cheese platter is something of an art form, but it helps to have stylish spreaders to complement the nibbles. This gorgeous set with rose quartz handles will make any table sparkle. Rose Quartz Spreaders, HomeSense, $15 4-piece set.
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.