Thanksgiving may have come and gone, but that means the holidays are really just getting started. The invitations have been sent, the stockings have been hung and the menus have been meticulously planned. Through the remainder of December and into New Year’s Eve, people are frantically working to prepare their homes for the holidays, and for most people the kitchen is likely at the center of this prep work. Preparing a kitchen for the holidays can keep it in great condition, make guests feel welcome, and most importantly, help preserve the host’s sanity. Basic Kitchen Prep De-clutter the kitchen, especially the countertops. For homeowners with granite countertops, this time of year is perfect for displaying their natural beauty. Unfortunately, countertops can become a catch-all for everything from mail to schoolwork. Before the holidays begin, take the time to remove the clutter and find organized and out-of-sight places for it. Guests will be able to enjoy the granite countertops, and the space will be easier to work in when preparing food. Clean those appliances—including those icky insides. It’s easy to overlook the importance of cleaning appliances, although it’s an important detail—it will not only simplify cooking, but guests are likely to notice if appliances are not looking their best. Sharpen knives and take an inventory of current serveware. For a host who’s afraid they don’t have enough necessary items, or that something is missing altogether, now is a good time to add to the collection, rather than being unprepared when guests arrive. Preparing Granite for the Festivities Leading up to the holidays is the ideal time to add a fresh coat of sealant to granite. This will protect it from whatever wear and tear it may endure. Granite is easy to maintain, and simply requires cleaning using a damp cloth and a stone cleaner that’s pH neutral. Keep an appropriate cleaner close by while during cooking, so that it’s easy to quickly disinfect areas, preventing guests from becoming sick due to food-borne illnesses. When cleaning granite countertops, avoid soap, citrus cleaners and abrasive solutions. Prior to the holidays, invest in a collection of decorative trivets that can be used to place hot pans and dishes on countertops, to prevent damage from occurring. As a final tip, never use the same sponge to clean both dirty dishes and the countertops—this spreads germs and can lead to sick guests. It’s best to use disposable cloth or dishrags, and if sponges are used for clean-up, designate a separate one for the countertops. Adding a Bit of Holiday Cheer to the Kitchen With all of the focus that’s often placed on the kitchen during this time of year, don’t forget it during holiday decorating. Choose items that highlight the natural beauty of the materials in the space, including kitchen countertops and stone flooring. For homeowners with sleek white countertops, opt for modern, metallic decorations that will perfectly complement the stone. Consider adding a silver display tray filled with holiday-themed items on the counter. For darker or more traditional countertops and kitchen finishes, incorporate natural beauty in the form of evergreen accessories and pinecones. Floating candles are a great way to add ambiance and cheer to a kitchen. Place themed-items, like cranberries, along with a floating candle into a jar or clear glass holder and place them on the kitchen counter. The glow of the candle will highlight the stone surface, and create a warm, welcoming environment. Finally, as an easy way to spruce up kitchen countertops for the holidays, use a basic cake pedestal and create a “cake” from wrapped presents. Complete the look with a rich, beautiful bow. During the holidays, guests should enjoy the beauty of the kitchen as much as homeowners do on a yearly basis. Take the opportunity to showcase the best features of the kitchen, and in particular those beloved granite countertops. Don’t simply look at the kitchen as a utilitarian space this season—look at it as the focal point of a home.