Try mixing a festive cocktail like a Cranberry 75 punch. (Photo by Mike Garten)

Our GH Institute pros share their best and surprising tricks for a totally stress-free season.


1. Create a “quick-chill” station. Make a tub of salted ice water (one cup of salt per gallon of H2O) to chill bottles of wine and other drinks. It will also free up fridge space — just keep a few bar cloths by the tub for wiping drippy bottles.

2. Direct food and drink traffic. If you’re serving things buffet-style, keep drinks and food on opposite ends of the room to prevent gridlock.

3. Stock up on to-go boxes. Get new containers that don’t cost a ton (like those from Lab favorite Glad) so you can send everyone home with leftovers without raiding your own supplies.

4. Opt for no-cook appetizers. Put together beautiful cheese and charcuterie boards instead of fussing over hot hors d’oeuvres. They’re delicious and can be assembled in minutes on pretty wooden, slate or marble cutting boards, says our Kitchen Appliances Lab. Include an assortment of cured meats, cheeses, olives, crackers, grapes, spiced nuts and spreads!

5. Mix self-serve cocktails. Forget stocking a bar cart with endless supplies for everyone’s favorite drink. Decide on one or two festive picks (like spiked apple cider or Moscow mules) to prep ahead and let guests serve themselves from punch bowls.

Repurpose Household Items To Store Decorations. Pack ornaments in egg cartons or plastic cups lined with tissue paper or paper towels. Wrap Christmas light strings around a piece of cardboard or a hanger so they won’t get tangled.

Use Wine (Bottles) for Baking. Halfway through making cookies and can’t find your rolling pin? Do the job with a wine bottle in a pinch; just make sure it’s unopened, and use a light touch as you roll the dough. Wipe it clean afterward.

“Hire” the DJ. Instead of spending hours making the perfect party playlist, queue up an online streaming service for tons of well-curated (and free!) options. Pick a mix you like, then forget about it. Hate commercials? Opt for a premium version of Spotify or Pandora.

Bring a Two-In-One Potluck Dish. Cook your contribution in an affordable slow cooker, then leave it behind as a hostess gift. It’ll take less effort than cooking old school and serve as a memorable treat.

Share an Instant Family Photo Album. Sick of taking the same group picture on five different phones? Create a digital album to which everyone can add their shots from the party. You won’t have to hold the same pose for five minutes, and you might be surprised at moments other people capture. Our Media & Tech Lab pros like the easy-to-use Google Photos app.

Organize Boots With Pool Noodles. Place cut-up noodles inside winter boots so they’ll stand up neatly instead of falling into a giant pile. Designate a shoe area in your foyer or mudroom so floors will stay dry.

Turn Cards Into Contact Photos. Before you toss personalized holiday cards, take a picture of them. Use these to update (or set) everyone’s contact info in your phone so you’ll have their most recent family photos.


Crate Training 101: Home Sweet Home

Teach a new pup to like her “bedroom” (a crate is not a cage) to keep her safe and happy.


Imagine what would happen if you let your toddler roam the house while you were at work or in bed. You’re freaked out, right? A dog can get into similar kinds of trouble: “One who’s a chewer might go around the house when you’re not there, munching on [dangerous] things,” says animal behaviorist Brandon McMillan. Plus, being able to hang out happily in a crate gives her a place to self-soothe if she’s feeling anxious, says Andrea Arden, founder of Andrea Arden Dog Training in New York City. 

TIP 1: Get the right one.

Stay away from wooden novelty models, which Arden calls “one big chew toy.” McMillan suggests a durable wire-mesh crate that allows you to see what your pup is doing. 

TIP 2: Help her adjust.

“The No. 1 way to get a puppy to love the crate is to feed her meals in it,” Arden says. If she won’t enter right away, place her bowl at the front and work your way back. Don’t close the door or leave her alone until she enters when you say “crate” or give a similar command. And keep it positive. 

TIP 3: Set a practice routine.

Once she goes in on her own, start leaving her in the crate with the door closed for several minutes a few times a day. Arden recommends setting aside 15 minutes for each training session.

TIP 4: Be strict but kind.

If your dog whimpers or barks to get out right away and doesn’t need to go potty, wait 30 seconds to a minute after she quiets down to retrieve her. Letting her out when she barks just reinforces that behavior. But “if you see panting, rapid barking, digging or biting at the frame, you know you’ve moved too quickly and should pull back,” Arden says. 

Recalls Alert

The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, 800-638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.


Self-Esteem brand girl’s clothing sets with a gold leaf pendant necklace, sold at Burlington and Shopko stores nationwide from February 2018 through October 2018 for about $14.

The metal pendant on the necklace contains levels of lead that exceed the federal lead content ban. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health issues. Consumers should immediately stop using the necklace from the recalled clothing sets, take it away from children and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

2012-2014 Subaru Impreza sedans

2012-2013 Impreza wagons

2013 BRZ coupes and XV Crosstrek SUVs

2013 Scion FR-S coupes

The engine valve springs may fracture, causing an engine malfunction or a possible engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will replace the valve springs for free. Neither Subaru nor Scion manufacturer Toyota have yet provided owner-notification schedules. Subaru owners can call the automaker at 844-373-6614, Scion owners can call Toyota at 888-270-9371, and both owners can call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236 to learn more.

© Hearst Communications Inc.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate



GOOD HOUSEKEEPING REPORTS: Genius holiday hacks–