The Winter Holiday Checklist

The Winter Holiday Checklist

A suggested schedule for planning a large house party for Christmas or New Year’s. It works for either.


1.Somewhere Between July and September:

Determine the following:

Home or away?

Number of family, guests, how long to stay?

Travel/pick up for family/guests, who will pay?

Outside accommodation if there is not adequate space in the house?

Meals at home, in restaurants? Which?

Timetable of events?

Presents to be bought, for whom, and what?

2. Christmas tree(s), decorations, Santa Claus, disco, dance, other?

3. Printing of invites, special Christmas cards, Thank You cards, menus, local events, special events?

Commissioning of special presents?

Staff  Christmas party, presents and bonus? What, how much?

Special themes, dress, songs, music?

4. Book as needed:

Hotel rooms or space


Theater, concert tickets



Temp agencies for waiters, drivers, household help

Tent in  hot climates if necessary


Disco, Band, Santa Claus actor, etc.


5. Draw Up Checklists for staff use

6. Hold meeting with chef and housekeeper; brief them and give them their checklists, adjust checklists according to their input

7. At the next staff meeting brief the staff on the plans and schedule extra time off later, discuss bonus and party for families as well, discuss reimbursement if they have already made other plans on presentation of receipts if the person is willing to change their plans.

If the staff really cannot be present, cover with temporary agency staff/ contacts you have

8. Determine and arrange any special transportation and accommodation needed for staff, and iron out any further problems or objections, enlisting their superiors or those they look up to, for assistance in resolving.

9. Chef to propose menus for whole period, including staff meals.

10. Employers approval obtained.

Beginning of September

11. Order, food, wine, non alcoholic drinks, spirits, dry goods, specially commissioned works, flowers, printing job, videos, confectionery and  Christmas tree

By October

12. Purchase the following:

Decorations for trees, rooms, outside the house

Wrapping paper, ribbon, gift tags, tape, bows

Games to play

Presents for family, guests, friends staff

By November

13. send off invitations to guests along with hotel and flight info if necessary

14. Check all guest rooms and ensure they have any needed upgrades/re-decoration done

15. Investigate church, community, cultural activities, listing out on a schedule basis with details and addresses. Add proposed schedule of events for Christmas and or New Year’s. Obtain necessary approval from employers, print out and distribute.

16. Bring in maintenance men to service, fridge, freezer, fan and all electrical, gas and fire appliances

17. Have the household cars serviced as needed.

Beginning Of December

18. Send gifts and Christmas cards at the beginning of the month

19. Confirm all orders and bookings and handle any problems

20. Contact all guests who have not yet responded, forming arrival and departure dates, special diets, and pet needs

21. In the event of any guests unable to come, confer with employer and contact secondary guests as needed.


22.Family to decorate the tree if that is their tradition, otherwise staff to do it

23.Presents put under the tree, stuffed into stockings

24. Ensure arrival of : drinks, food, flowers, printed menus, schedule, presents, tickets, dry goods, costumes, confectionery, decorations,  and videos.

Christmas Eve

25. Guests picked up and brought to the house if necessary

26. Those staying at hotel taken directly there to unpack and freshen up. Phone them on arrival to ensure everything all right and to arrange their pick up and transport to the house if necessary.

26. Put on buffet dinner

27. Put out Christmas stockings

28. Set up breakfast, tea and lunchrooms (prep and clean)

Christmas Day

29. Give staff a very good breakfast before nine in the morning

30. Do the usual morning teas, etc. with a Christmas twist

31. Breakfast may be a leisurely affair with a very wide selection. During the meal go over the lunch menu and note any special requests.

32. Adjourn to the living room where presents are distributed by Santa Claus or the employer and unwrapped, someone should note who gave what to whom for later thank yous.

33. Guests then scatter to take a walk, play, Church, and are offered refreshments when they appear at random.

34. Luncheon is served either informally in the dining room or kitchen depending on schedule.

35. Dinner is served in the dining room at the appointed hour, either as a buffet or sit down meal depending on the size of the guest list.

36. When dinner is over clear, clean and set up for the next day.

37. Ensure thank you cards are sent for all gifts from the family.




Fall Checklist for House Managers

Fall Checklist for House Managers



Fall Checklist for House Managers

Outside The House

Clean and store patio furniture and umbrellas.

Bring the cushions inside and wash with bleach and water if necessary and appropriate for fabric type.

Clean, drain and cover pool and service as needed.

Empty clay pots and bring inside if temps are below freezing.

Empty and turn over concrete pots so they don’t freeze and crack.

Cover grill and any outdoor furniture that will stay outside.

Touch up paint on trim, railings and decks. Use a wire brush to remove flaking paint; prime bare wood first.

Check caulk around windows and doors. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations to re-caulk if needed.

Inspect external doors and garage doors. Do they close tightly? Install weather-stripping, door thresholds if needed.

Wash exterior windows, Remove screens if necessary and replace with storm windows.

Drain and store garden hoses. Install insulating covers on exterior spigots. In hard-freeze areas, have sprinkler systems blown free of water.

Check gutters and downspouts. Clear of debris if necessary. In cold-weather areas, consider installing heating cable to prevent ice dams.

Have chimneys and flues inspected and cleaned if necessary. This should be done at least every other year depending on how frequent you use them.

Inside the House:

Schedule professional carpet cleaning early this month!

Warm October afternoons speed carpet drying. Carpet cleaning firms get busy by the end of October, so schedule now for best service.

Check and empty the central vacuum’s collection area.

Clean electronic air cleaner elements monthly for most efficient operation. Wash them in am empty dishwasher.

Clean or replace humidifier elements before the heating season begins. If needed buy a humidifier for bedrooms.

Check dryer hose exhaust tube and vent for debris and lint build up, make sure the vent door closes tightly.

Schedule fall furnace inspections now, Don’t wait for the firstcold night.

Drain sediment from the hot water heater.

Pull refrigerator away from the wall, and vacuum the condenser coils. For bottom-mounted coils, use a long, narrow brush to clean coils of dust and debris.

Wash light-diffusing bowls from light fixtures.

Inspect each appliance. Does it need supplies? Stock up on softener salt now, and avoid staggering over icy sidewalks with heavy bags.

Replace any light bulbs that need to be changed and consider new fluorescent style bulbs with warm light.


Winter Curb Appeal for Your House

In the north it’s important to consider what your front garden will look like in the winter. I believe that just as you always need to keep your resume up to date you always need to keep the front of your house looking it’s best. Too often I see the use of only flowering plants that have to be cut back in the winter leaving no structure or color. Here are some suggestions to help make the front on your home inviting all winter long.

Evergreen topiaries can look great in the right container or in the ground all winter. Boxwood, Blue Point Juniper and Yew are a few varieties you can find. Spirals, Cones and Balls look best either in the ground or in containers. In the spring and summer they can be under planted with annuals and in the winter they can be strung with lights or bows.









Putting the Garden to Bed for Fall

Here are four basic steps you can take to put your garden to bed for the winter.


  • Pull out all your annuals. Any plant that isn’t going to come back next year needs to be pulled out by the roots and disposed of. Once they’ve stopped producing flowers or vegetables altogether, get them out of there. If you have a compost pile they can go in there otherwise it’s off to the dump.
  •  Cut back perennials. Many herbs, flowers and some vegetables will grow again. Cut them to  about 2 inches above soil once they’ve completely gone to seed or are no longer producing usable leaves. You can wait until frost to cut the flowers back but if they start to yellow and look unsightly come them right away.
  •  Compost all disease free materials. If you mix your leaves and grass clippings together it makes better compost you need both wet and dry materials.
  • Turn your soil. It helps eliminate pest problems in a vegetable garden. Not necessary for perennial beds unless you have had pest trouble.

If you take the time to do this now, your house will look much better all fall. Pet peeves of mine are houses filled with dead leaves caught in their perennials. It doesn’t look good. Now is a good time to plant perennials and some evergreens, it’s not too late. I’m a big believer in 25% of your garden beds being evergreen. You need winter color and structure too and boxwood,  and other evergreens are able to do that. Clean and tidy help make the winter garden look lovely.

How to Purchase Bedding

How to Purchase Bedding

With all the talk about high thread count it’s easy to get confused when you go to the store or shop online for good quality sheets. So here is the quick and dirty on what is real and what is not.  Hint: It’s not the thread count.



Percale and Sateen are the two most common fabrics used in sheeting.  Percale is a fine, plain-woven cloth of closely set, combed and carded long-staple cotton. Percale produces very high-grade and fine-quality linen.  Sateen is a fabric made from yarns such as cotton or other staple length fibers. The fabric has a soft, smooth hand and a subtle luster. deMedici Linens from Eastern Accents are made in one of the 3 remaining Italian mills that make sheeting. Because the fabric is long staple cotton it has a soft hand and the durability necessary for a product that should last decades if cared for properly. The percale sheets are 200 thread count and feel like most sheets with a 600 thread count or higher from department and big box stores. The sateen sheets have a 300 or 600 thread count depending on the product selected. In addition, they sell silk and linen sheeting. The only other company I have had good success with over the years is the Supima cotton sheets from Land’s End. They may not have the huge variety of colors and patterns but they are a good value. Supima is the brand name for American grown long staple cotton.



Other Considerations:

1. Color: I prefer a white or ivory bed but sometimes for boys and young men you need a darker color. How often have you purchased a set of sheets only to find you stained the pillow case with make up and went back to the store and they were sold out of your color? It’s so frustrating. I prefer a brand of sheets that keeps the color palette consistent over a longer period of time. I don’t want to replace an entire set because they changed colors on a whim. de Medici sheets keep their color palette fairly consistent over the years. They don’t change from season to season. Beware the trendy when it comes to sheets, unless you are either extraordinarily perfect or you have lots and lots of sheets.


2. Sizes. Twin, Double or Queen and King are  commonly available, but the queen size flat sheet and duvet cover is often not large enough and the king is too large. Super Queen is a great compromise and available from de Medici. They also sell all their sheets in California King, you don’t have to settle for white if you have a California King bed or break the bank to get something different.


3. The duvet cover that doesn’t stay put. With rings and clips the de Medici sheeting allows you to clip the duvet to the duvet cover ensuring it doesn’t bunch up.


4. Choice. I prefer a white or ivory bed. If I want color, I like the three lines of embroidery that you get from Hotel style bedding. After a quick look online I found many stores carry that style bedding but usually only in 5 colors. Those colors change with fashion. What do you do if you have a print dust ruffle or curtains that aren’t in the current color palette? de Medici solves that by offering 25 colors of embroidery all the time. You don’t have to settle.


You also don’t have to worry about cleaning. All the  cotton products can be machine washed and tumble dried. Yes, you will have to iron the pillow cases to get a crisp look but you will also have sheets that last for decades like the ones you grew up with. Special care needs to be taken with the silk and linen sheets, but that is to be expected.


In the end there are lots of choices for sheeting, I have purchased sheets from Target, Penney’s, Macy’s, Ralph Lauren, Land’s End, Sferra, etc. I have thrown away $60 and $850 sets of sheets because they didn’t fit the bed correctly, pilled, and the pillow cases got stained and could not be replaced or the designer stopped making that pattern and nothing else was available. In the end, as a designer, I know the bedroom is all about the bed. It’s where you spend your time.  It needs to be the focus. Investing in good quality bedding ensures a better night’s sleep and keeps the focus where it needs to be. Color, pattern, and interest can come from artwork, curtains, dust ruffles, blankets,  accent pillows, lamp shades and  upholstered furniture.


Hotel style bedding with stripes available in multiple color choices

Cotton Sateen bedding with velvet stripe available in multiple colors

Hemstitch bedding available in white or ivory

Table top Decor for Fall Meals

Vagabond House is a great company that offers a wide array of products for the dining table. From salad bowls to ice buckets and everything in between. It’s hard to find items that reflect a northern or rural sensibility and by using nature as their guide they manage to do that very well.  As in interior design a well set table mixes and matches various elements to form a unique tableau. If you wouldn’t buy a “suite” of furniture for your dining room because it would be boring you also shouldn’t buy  totally matching dishes, glassware and silverware. It’s all in how you put it together and these pieces are distinctive enough they can stand alone and simple enough they can  easily blend with other items.










Can You Really Clean Your House in 20 Minutes Per Day?

So I was reading an article on Apartment Therapy and apparently there is a system created by Tom Baugis of Creative Commons about cleaning your place in 20 minutes per day. Since the guys are gone now and I really don’t have an excuse to hire a cleaner I thought I would post it here and try it. Check back in 30 days to see if I’m successful or if procrastination rules.

1) Dealing With What Comes Through The Door Set up a small area by the front door to act as a “landing strip” for incoming items into your home. If you’re a long time reader this is nothing new to you. If this is the first time you’ve heard this phrase outside of reference to personal grooming habits, then make sure to check out Maxwell’s latest Home Cure video on the topic.

2) Do Your Dishes After Every Meal This will help you stay on top of your kitchen instead of having it turn into a monster! No one really wants to do them (after all, you probably cooked dinner to boot). But waiting for another meal or until you have enough to fill the dishwasher just makes things feel overwhelming and easier to put off. The same goes for take out trash as well. If you need to take the trash out, place it by the front door to go out in the morning or dispose of it that night so it’s over and done with.

3) Laundry If you have a washer and dryer at home, do a little bit each day. Spread things out so you don’t feel bogged down by 200 towels and stinky socks. If you take things to a laundromat, sort clothes as you go so things are easier to load up into machines when you get there. Fold them before you come home so you aren’t dumping baskets out on your sofa or bed and they can go straight into drawers and closets.

4) Whistle While You Work: Those who are happiest when cleaning are few and far between. Singing, humming, whistling or turning up the stereo are all great options to keep the beat in your feet and have fun while working. Here’s a few past posts on killer cleaning soundtracks.

5) Set a Timer: Most items on the list below should take no more than 20 minutes total. It’s easy to rationalize 20 minutes, but it’s also easy to get distracted by phone calls, emails, children and other projects that call your name as you tackle each chore. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes (which ever works best for you) and that way when it sounds you know exactly how much time you have left. If you find yourself off task it’s easy to get back on track.


1. Surface clean living room and kitchen (pick up stray items, dust, sweep, vacuum)

2. Clean bathrooms (toilets, showers, floors, walls, mirrors)

3. Surface clean bedrooms (put away toys, clothes, dust)

4. Surface clean “extra” rooms (basement, office, play room)

5. Surface clean living room and kitchen

6. Clean bathrooms

7. Clean all interior windows (white vinegar and newspaper works great and is cheap!)

8. Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house (don’t forget stairs)

9. Surface clean bedrooms

10. Deep clean living room (mirrors, baseboards, dust artwork)

11. Clean bathrooms

12. Clean out closets (hang up clothes, mittens, jackets, hats)

13. Surface clean “extra” rooms

14. Deep clean bedrooms (organize drawers, check under bed, tidy closet, dust artwork, fans, lights, mop)

15. Surface clean living room and kitchen

16. Deep clean bathrooms (clean inside drawers, inside of trash cans, tops of mirrors, tile, mop)

17. Clean all door knobs, phones, entertainment equipment (remote controls), switch plates, banisters and other things that are repeatedly touched.

18. Clean out the refrigerator, take stock of food, organize pantry

19. Clean entryway, sweep porch (if you have one), clean out car (because they’re often our home away from home)

20. Surface clean living room and kitchen

21. Surface clean bathrooms

22. Surface clean bedrooms

23. Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house

24. Clean linen closet, straighten towels, sheets or regular closet if not applicable

25. Surface clean living room and kitchen

26. Deep clean kitchen (scrub appliances, wash trash cans, base boards, wipe down and straighten cabinets)

27. Surface clean bathrooms

28. Surfaces clean bedrooms

29. Clean one item you’ve been meaning to get to and haven’t (deep clean your stove, wipe down all light fixtures, tackle a particularly unruly area)

30. Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house

What To Do If Your CFL Lightbulb Breaks

Mercury is an element found in common household items including CFL’s or compact fluorescent lamps and tubes, the type of  light bulb many of us have switched to. They are also found in thermostats, thermometers and batteries.  It’s an extremely toxic element that can damage the brain, kidney and lungs and impair normal development of the brain and nervous system in young children in large doses.  You might have read or seen things on the internet that scare you into thinking one broken light bulb will ruin your health or scar you for life. Just use reasonable caution when dealing with a broken light bulb and you’ll be fine.  Here are the steps to take if a product containing mercury breaks:


  • Leave the room right away
  • Ventilate the room for 10-15 minutes
  • Turn off central heating for several hours
  • Collect broken glass and visible powder but don’t touch it directly. Wear gloves or use duct tape to pick up pieces

Use a sealed container or two plastic bags to contain materials before discarding

  • Make sure you discard the material properly, don’t just throw it in the garbage.

*Information sourced from the EPA, Robert Jaffin


Caring for Leather Furniture

If you are looking for tips on how to clean leather furniture, you will be heartened to know that in most cases leather is quite easy to clean.

Leather furniture is expensive, but can easily last a lifetime with just a little everyday care. It is best to follow instruction from your manufacturer, because different types of leather furniture may require different methods of cleaning.

If your leather furniture did not come with instructions, remember to always try the gentlest methods first:

  • Always test in an inconspicuous spot.
  • Consult a professional if the stain is hard to remove.
  • Use a wiping motion and don’t scrub.
  • NEVER use harsh chemicals, alcohol, strong detergents or abrasive cleaners to clean leather. All of these may cause irreparable damage to your leather sofa.

Everyday Cleaning and Care

  • Wipe down leather furniture with a clean, soft, white cloth every week or so. Do this more frequently in a dusty environment. A white cloth ensures that you don’t deposit dyes on your leather couch by mistake, and it is also easy to see if you have removed all the dirt.
  • Vacuum your leather furniture frequently and plump the cushions.
  • Use a damp, soft cloth to remove dirt build up if you have not been cleaning it regularly. Makes sure your cleaning cloth is damp, not soaking wet.


Grease Stains

  • Use a dry, soft cloth. Press down to blot up as much grease from the leather surface as you can.
  • Use talcum powder or cornstarch and sprinkle on the leather surface. Allow to sit for a while and then brush away using a brush with soft bristles. You may have to repeat this process a couple of times. Do not rub. This technique also works on fabric.


Water Stains

  • Blot with a soft cloth immediately as soon as the spill occurs.
  • If the water has dried, use a soft damp cloth and starting from the stain wipe outwards towards the edges of the cushion in all directions. Again, no scrubbing, only wipe gently. Use less and less moisture as you go outward.
  • Ink stains on leather may need to be cleaned by a professional depending on the kind of ink, and the severity of the stain. Fresh stains are easier to remove.
  • Small marks, as from ball point pens, may disappear on their own over a period of time. You can try cleaning small stains using a gentle soap solution.
  • Big blobs of ink will need to be treated professionally. Do not use alcohol to clean your leather furniture, as you could potentially damage the color.


Upholstered Furniture Care

Just a little special attention will add years of beauty and comfort

to your purchase of upholstered furniture.

  • All seat cushions should be reversed regularly and the right, left and center sofa cushions should be rotated to achieve consistent wear.
  • All back cushions and toss pillows should be fluffed frequently to maintain a luxurious appearance and comfortable feel.
  • Frequent vacuuming is also recommended to prolong the life of the fabric. Avoid direct sunlight which might cause fading.

These procedures will enhance the appearance and add years of service and enjoyment to your upholstered furniture.