Smart Solutions: Be ready as holiday time strikes once more

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News


With Halloween around the corner, the holidays are upon us once again and professional experts aren’t the only ones with tips for the celebratory season. I asked a few supermoms from my daughter’s field hockey team for some ideas and they had plenty to share.

Halloween is just around the corner, ushering in holiday party season.

The first is a mother of twins in high school who likes to prepare in advance. For Thanksgiving, she’ll make mashed potatoes in a slow cooker the day before and get the sweet potato casserole ready to go in the oven. One year, when they had some guests who had to leave early, she even baked the turkey a day ahead and sliced it to reheat the next day.

This mom also reminds us to keep it simple. When she hosts her annual Christmas party, she makes the main dish and has everyone bring something and they do a little gift exchange with a theme, such as DVDs or gift cards.

Another mom with triplets and a bonus kid certainly has her hands full. While she’s driving them to extracurricular activities, they often have to eat in the car. Instead of fast food, she opts for veggies and other finger foods. They also eat sloppy joes in hot dog buns, which are less messy than a hamburger bun.

At home, she keeps color-coded towels for each child and they rely on a wall calendar to keep them on track. Power “pick-ups” that last for 10 minutes offer the kids a fun way to clean up.

Before Christmas, she and her extended family take time out to visit a tree farm and pick a real tree. They also host a New Year’s Eve party for parents and kids.

Another mom who has four daughters loves to entertain. When her kids were younger she even turned her home into a haunted house for Halloween. One of her tips is to use inexpensive eye masks and a glow stick to create creepy glowing eyes. Then you can put them in the bushes or above your curtain rods.  

Last year for Thanksgiving, she bought a Chocolate Party Turkey filled with goodies to be cracked open by the kids. This fun find came from Gayle’s Chocolates in Royal Oak that has since moved to Arizona, but the chocolates can be ordered online at (Orders for the Chocolate Party Turkey should be placed two weeks in advance.)  

During her Christmas Eve party, guests of all ages devour the cheeseballs she prepares in advance that can be popped in the oven at any time. I’ve watched them disappear in minutes because they’re so popular (see recipe below).

Cheese Balls

Cream together: 1 jar Old English Cheese and 3 tablespoons butter (room temperature)


3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix until combined.  Refrigerate dough in plastic wrap for 10 minutes or until firm.  Roll into 1” balls. Freeze.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes

Legend has it that the recipe comes from a “Joy of Cooking” cookbook. You can make a double batch, but not a triple. The best part, she says, is that you can wash the jars out and use them as juice glasses.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at