Affresh Blog

December 19, 2012

Tis the Season


For years my family would throw two holiday parties, over one weekend, back-to-back. The first one was designated for my dad’s close colleagues and it would always be on a Saturday night. It would start as a relatively formal event – low lighting, red wine, Pavarotti echoing softly on vinyl – but would usually conclude with 9-Ball, scotch, and the Rolling Stones. It was never quite Christmas in my house until an English Lit professor exclaimed, “It’s only rock-n-roll, but I like it!”

Did I mention this was a party for academics? A pretty raucous crowd, no doubt.

Anyway, the very next day we would wake up – some of us later than others – and pull it together to host another holiday party, this one for friends and extended family. More food, more people, more hassle. The only thing different was Pavarotti being replaced by similarly aesthetic NFL Sunday.

We’d all have fun – but only after the weekend was over. The week before would be a nightmare of last minute errands, dashes to the grocery store, and constant upkeep. The amount of prep work and maintenance to pull off back-to-back parties was…well, let’s just say it was a lot.

Point being, we couldn’t have pulled it off every year without all hands on deck. We each had to contribute and pull our weight when it came to preparing our home before the invasion hosting holiday guests. This was even more so after the parties, when we’d have to get the house back in working condition.

So this year, as you prepare to host or attend holiday parties, remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. A successful party takes a lot of hard work and hopefully a lot of support. Cleaning becomes a team sport. So lend a hand and pitch in where you can – trust me, it would be greatly appreciated! 


December 13, 2012

Smart Storage for the “Charming” Home


As the snow starts rolling in, we are heading into our third month of apartment living. We’re still in love with the space but quickly learning the fine art of organizing our charming (read: tiny) apartment. 

When you are living in a “charming” house or apartment like ours, you have to get creative with storage. It’s important to set up a very strict border patrol at the entrance of your home. Question every item before it enters, be it new clothing, furniture, accent pieces, collectables, etc.

“Excuse me, over-sized round table lacking storage and extendable leaves. What is your purpose here? What will you add to the space? Will you fulfill a current need that we have?”

That may sound a bit funny, but questioning every item’s purpose in your home is a great habit to get into. It will help eliminate unnecessary purchases that can only make your space more crowded and less functional.

For example, the aforementioned over-sized round table lacking storage and extendable leaves didn’t make the cut. We opted instead for a rectangular kitchen table that can be pushed flush against our small, open wall in the kitchen. It has two extendable leaves on either side that, when fully opened, can seat a total of six people. We have the option of dropping one leaf when it’s just the two of us, and when both leaves are dropped, the table takes up very little room in the kitchen.

BONUS: it has three drawers on either side for added, and much needed, storage. These features made our new table a shoe in.

Living in a small space with little storage? Share some of your best tips here!


December 10, 2012

A Clean Home is in the Details


So I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping my apartment clean and more or less in order. I make it a point to always clean-up after myself, not to leave laundry strewn about, and to wash newly-dirty dishes just after eating off of them. I’m still far from a being labeled germaphobe, or worse a ‘neatfreak,’ but I’m trying. And with the big stuff, trying is relatively easy.

But the little things! Well, it’s the little things that are driving me crazy.

What do I mean by little things? Literally the smallest things in my apartment – crumbs, dirt, dust particles, etc. I can clean my apartment and straighten everything to look orderly and pretty from a distance. But on closer inspection, there is always more that I can do. And it can be pretty frustrating.

I also feel like this time of year produces an ungodly amount of crumbs thanks to the influx of holiday food, cookies and additional sweets – it’s so much easier to keep up a clean home in the summer! (Or maybe it just seems like it now that I’m up to my neck in leftovers). If there’s ever a good season for crumbs, trust me, I’m living it.

Either way, having a truly clean home means taking the extra time to finish the job and be mindful of the little things. Just because I have clean dishes and laundry that’s folded and put away, does not necessarily mean my apartment is clean. I’m becoming a better housekeeper overall, but I still have a looooong way to go to garner that neatfreak title.


December 05, 2012

A Lesson in Pie


When it comes to the holidays, I have very specific memories that center around pie. My grandmother makes the best pumpkin pie. You know how other people say their grandmothers make the best pumpkin pie? It’s simply not true, I am sorry to say.

Days before Thanksgiving, the pie making would begin. She’d make up to 10 or 12 of them for Thanksgiving alone and more as the holiday season went on.  She makes her dough from scratch and puts just the right amount of orange rind in the filling and it’s the best pie you’ve ever had. Perfection.

During the holidays the pies appeared in random places. If I needed a bowl for breakfast, I’d open the cupboard and find a delicious surprise - two of them stacked on dinner or salad plates. Another two were shoved into the cupboard with the coffee mugs. Some were set out and covered on the counter.

Sometimes she’d throw in a homemade apple pie just for kicks.

As she’s gotten older, my grandmother has had to retire from the pie business. It’s been a mission of mine to take on all of her signature recipes, learn the tricks of the trade and keep the food I grew up with alive for generations to come.

But that darn pie…

My first attempt last year failed when I’d kneaded the dough too long and even my sharpest knife couldn’t cut through it. This year, I had a fool proof recipe for pie crust and I had read it through to get the process down.

The night before Thanksgiving, the kitchen had already taken a beating. I had food to make for the week ahead and pumpkin breads to bake.

Crumbly crust dropped onto the floor. I couldn’t get the first batch to roll out. I shoved the second batch into the pie plate the way some women will shove a size nine foot into a size eight shoe – because I had to. It had to work. Pie filling spilled out of the bowl as I poured it into a patchwork crust.

And then I put it in the oven.

The butter, kept cold, is the secret to a flaky crust. But when it stays chunked at the edge of the plate, I am
here to tell you, it will drip onto the bottom of the oven and start to smoke. A lot, if you don’t get to it quick enough. Jessica – 0. Pie – 2.

This is the part where I tell you I pulled out my affresh™ Kitchen and appliance cleaner and restored my kitchen to its natural order. I did. And soon the mixer had been properly cleaned, the kitchen smelled like oranges and the now melted and mushed crust had been scraped from the kitchen counter. I let the oven cool and wiped down the cooktop. I took a deep breath and looked at the clock, which told me it was way past my bedtime. Perfection would have to wait another year.