The halls are decked, everyone’s feeling festive, and you have every reason to open your doors to guests and pop a cork or two. But all the shopping, gift-wrapping, and cookie-baking create a time crunch that can be anything but merry. This year, we’re gifting you with our five favorite time- and sanity-saving hacks for holiday hosting from local experts.
1. Quick-Chilling Bubbly
Holiday traffic just added 45 minutes to your commute. Friends will be dropping by soon, but the champagne (or perhaps cava) is still at room temperature. Not to worry; Maxine DiJulio Hendry, manager of Fairfax Wine and Spirits (aka Marczyk’s Colfax) knows how to chill you (and your bubbles) out. “If it’s just one bottle, there’s a quick and easy way: Get a paper towel and wet it in the sink, then wring it out slightly, wrap it about the bottle, and put it in the freezer. It should be nice and chilly in 10 to 15 minutes.”
The key is making sure the towel goes all the way around, especially at the widest part of the bottle. For multiple bottles, put everything in your sink, one layer deep, and pour enough ice in to partially cover all the items. Then, add cold water, enough so the bottles can move around a bit but aren’t swimming. To speed things up further, add salt to the water. In 15 to 20 minutes the bottles should be ready to serve.
2. Easy Hors D’oeuvre
One stop at the cheese shop can make holiday entertaining a breeze. We asked Robert Lawler, owner of the Truffle Cheese Shop, for three cheeses that will keep well in the fridge and be ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice for an impromptu cheese board.
This cheese works well for December entertaining when paired with gingersnaps and a glass of port. “Colsten-Bassett is the best producer in England and the only one we sell,” Lawler says. “It’s a summer milk cheese, so when the heart of England is green and lush and the cows are happy, the cheese is being made. Six months later, it’s a holiday classic.”
Colorado Goat Cheese
With several local cheese purveyors to choose from (Fruition Farms, Avalanche Goat, Haystack Mountain), the holidays are a great time to introduce out-of-town visitors to some local flavor.
Something from the Alps
Look for cheese purveyors from Switzerland, as their cheeses will typically hold well in the refrigerator. They provide a nice balance on a cheese plate but will also melt beautifully and work especially well in holiday recipes.
3. Keeping Linens Fresh
Pulling out the holiday tablecloth should harken memories of holidays past…but all too often it’s a visit from the ghost of last year’s Pinot Noir (think: ugly wine stains that have been festering for the past 11 months). Michael Di Paulo, president of Homefest Decor, recommends a product he says will remove even wine stains that have spent the summer in storage: Chateau Spill, available at Homefest Decor in Greenwood Village and Fort Collins or online.
When stains appear during a meal, keep your cool by having a box of cornstarch handy for oil-based stains (like salad dressing) and club soda for colored liquids (cranberry sauce). Treat the stains quickly at the table. Should the gravy spill, Di Paulo suggests getting the stain under running hot water as soon as possible. Translation: As soon as your guests have left, leave the dishes on the counter and address the tablecloth first.
4. A Go-To Cocktail
The holidays often inspire us to try new recipes in the kitchen or at the bar. But who among us hasn’t suffered a new-recipe fail? This easy hot cider from DiJulio Hendry won’t let you down.
Combine 2 quarts apple juice with 1 cup dark rum in a pot with a few dashes each of nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, and allspice. Set the mixture on low to medium heat and let it simmer. (Suggestion for the ladies: Use this time to execute the makeup tips below.) If you really want to be fancy, mix a little brown sugar with a teaspoon of butter and add it to the cider right before serving. Bonus: Your house will smell divine.
5. Five-Minute Makeover
While the cider simmers, sneak out of the kitchen for a beauty fix that will have you feeling (and looking) less frazzled in no time. Denver health and beauty expert Michael Moore, creator of Moore for Life, has your prescription for a party-ready look.
Forgo foundation and just dab concealer in the most common trouble spots: under-eye circles, around the nose, and the lips and chin. Most of us can skip the powder and just blend concealer where it’s needed.
Pick one feature to play up: lips or eyes. If you swipe on a bold lipstick, just add mascara to your eyes. If you opt for smoky eyeliner, give your lips a quick coat of gloss.
Use your highlighter, or a shimmery eye shadow, to highlight your cheekbones, forehead, nose and chin. This final step will give you a candle-lit glow. (We won’t tell anyone you’ve actually been burning the candle at both ends.)
—Photos courtesy of Shutterstock