Despite your best efforts to prepare, you'll probably encounter a blip or two during your family gathering. Here's how to handle the unexpected __Karen Ziga, thisoldhouse.com
Murphy's Law states that the one day a year you use your best linens is the same day someone will knock an entire glass of red wine onto them. And onto the carpet or your favorite blouse. The key to fixing the red-wine-spill problem is speed. Immediately treat the stain. Start by blotting the stain (don't rub!) and pour cold water on it. Then, sprinkle it liberally with salt. For fabrics, it's ideal to sit the stain in a small bowl, then pour boiling water over it and let it soak until the stain is gone. If that doesn't work, steep the stain in diluted white vinegar (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water). See more in this video on removing a red wine stain from our friends at Real Simple.
For a carpet spill, blot first to remove as much liquid as possible. Then, make a paste of baking soda and water, and set that on the stain. Let it dry in place, then vacuum it off. If this doesn't work, follow up with an oxy cleaner. Check out How to Remove Every Type of Carpet Stain for tips to help you take care of other messes.
Last-minute shopping item: Bissell Stomp 'n Go stain lifting pads are damp cloths preloaded with oxygen cleaner; you place them on the spill and step on the pad to soak and clean at the same time. They're about $5 for a pack of five.
02_The Range Breaks
The kitchen range is command central at a holiday dinner. It roasts the turkey, bakes the pies, and keeps casseroles warm. But if it goes down before your bird is golden brown, you're in a pickle. What to do? Don't even think about trying to find a repairman. Try knocking on some doors along the block to see if someone will lend you a spot in their oven. But if you can't rely on the kindness of neighbors, head straight for Plan B: Divide and conquer.
• Put the bird on the grill. Yes, you can cook a turkey on the grill; here are some great ideas from MyRecipes.com. If your grill isn't large enough, consider pre-slicing your bird and cooking it that way.
• You can bake some of your desserts using your grill, too. Lower the flame or wait for the coals to die down, grab the oven thermometer, and keep an eye on the temperature with the lid closed. (Note: This won't work well with cakes that have to rise.)
• Stick the small stuff in the toaster oven and the microwave. You may not even realize your microwave has a convection setting, but that will work best for savory nonmeat items. Not sure how to work this unfamiliar feature? Go to the manufacturer's website or manualsonline.com to find the owner's manual.
Last-minute shopping item: Charcoal (or a propane-tank refill) and an oven thermometer
03_A Chair Needs Repair
You're setting up the table, the guests will be arriving in a few hours, and you just now notice that one of your dining chairs is dangerously wobbly. Quick-get out the wood glue. If you have it, a fast-drying, yellow wood polyvinyl acetate glue is your best bet. But in a pinch, a white craft glue, like Elmer's Glue-All, will do. (Just save that chair for, how should we say it, a more svelte guest). Apply glue until it starts to seep out when you secure the joints and wipe away excess right away. Set the leg or loose stretcher in place, and clamp the piece together. If you don't have a band clamp, use rope or a large belt. To be safe, let the piece dry overnight, or at least an hour or more. For more on fixing wobbly chairs, see Tighten Loose Chair Legs and Using a Tourniquet Clamp.
Last-minute shopping item: Polyvinyl acetate glue (yellow wood glue)
04_Unexpected Guests Don't Fit at the Table
When Cousin Jimmy brings his new girlfriend and her three kids without telling you, you're gonna need a bigger table. If you're handy (and we know you are), that's an easy problem to solve.
To construct a makeshift, temporary table extension, rip a sheet of ¾-inch plywood to the width of the table. (For extra strength, rip two sheets and double them up.) Cut the plywood to the desired length, and also cut three 2x4s to this same length. Set two sawhorses off the end of the table (parallel to the end), and lay the 2x4s across them. Screw the 2x4s to the sawhorses with 2 ¼-inch deck screws. Lay the plywood over the 2x4s and fasten it down with 1 ½-inch screws. Cover it with a tablecloth, and no one will be the wiser.
Don't have any plywood? Take a flat-faced closet door off its hinges, remove the knob, and lay it on the sawhorses. Just don't screw it down.
Last-minute shopping item: Deck screws
05_The Stove Catches Fire
First things first: A day ahead of time, check your fire extinguisher's pressure gauge. If it's low, contact your local fire department to find out where you can get it refilled and place it prominently in your kitchen. While it may be helpful to have a small extinguisher near the stove while you're cooking, make sure you've also got one by the door; you should not have to risk burns just to reach your extinguisher in the event of a fire.
The other thing you need to keep handy is a large pot lid and a heavy-duty oven mitt. Stash both of these within arm's reach of the stove in case you face a grease flare-up while you're cooking. Whatever you do, don't try to put out a grease fire with water; water will only spread the fire and make it more dangerous. The National Fire Protection Association recommends first turning off the burner to eliminate the heat source. Then throw on the oven mitt, grab the pot lid, and smother the flame. Keep the lid on the pan until it's completely cool, to keep the fire from restarting. For more ways to be prepared for a cooking fire, see our guide on Stovetop Fire Safety.
06_The Plumbing Backs Up
More people in your house means more food down the kitchen sink and more flushes in the bathroom. In fact, the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. But you don't need to pay premium rates for a pro if you bone up on a few skills.
Before the heavy cooking starts, give your kitchen drains a quick, natural cleaning with a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar. (It's a good idea to do this once a week, and it's much better for your pipes than chemical drain cleaners). But if it's the bathroom where you expect trouble, find out How to Clear a Clogged Toilet. And just in case the stoppage is elsewhere (shower or sink), read up on How to Clear Any Clogged Drain.
Last-minute shopping item: A 20-foot snake will cost you about $22. You'll thank us.