11 Clever Products to Take the Stress Out of Hosting for the Holidays

Elena Danileiko / iStock via Getty Images
Elena Danileiko / iStock via Getty Images

The guests are coming in a few days, your holiday shopping list seems to be getting longer, and the line at the grocery store never seems to end. The season is in full swing, and while the holidays are a lot of fun, they can be equally as stressful.

In order to help make things just a bit easier, we searched the internet to find products that will help take some of the stress out of preparing meals and hosting a house full of guests. Alongside making life a little simpler, these items could double as great presents, too, helping you cross another item off your to-do list.

1. iPstyle Pan Lid Holder; $8

Pan holder
iPstyle / Amazon

Hot, dripping pan lids and food-covered utensils are an easy way to make a mess on counters and floors while cooking big meals. The iPstyle Pan Lid Holder provides a place to set down both without getting food everywhere, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Kraft Paper to Cover the Kids' Table; $24

Paper to put on the table
DIY Crew / Amazon

While kids definitely make the holidays more lively, their short attention spans and penchant for spillage can definitely complicate your peaceful dream dinner. Covering the kids’ table in kraft paper, however, will not only keep them occupied—it’ll also make for the easiest clean-up imaginable. Toss in a pack of crayons or washable markers, and let your tiny guests’ imaginations do the rest.

Buy It: Amazon

3. Silpat; $17

Silpat matt
Silpat / Amazon

Even if you enjoy baking cookies for the holidays, you may be less fond of the clean-up that comes afterwards. The easiest way to avoid scrubbing burnt messes off your baking sheets is to use a silicone mat. The Silpat makes any surface non-stick, which means that baked goods come off clean every time without messy sprays and oils. The best part is that it keeps the tray beneath clean, and all the mat needs is a quick wipedown before it's ready for your next baking session.

Buy It: Amazon

4. Super Sonic Scrubber; $24

Sonic scrubber
Sonic Scrubber / Amazon

Cleaning up after the holidays doesn’t have to be backbreaking work. This super sonic scrubber helps remove stubborn stains and sticky residue from stoves, dishes, and sinks, to name just a few—leaving you more time to spend with family and friends (or to catch up on a Hallmark holiday movie marathon). The set comes with five removable brushes that you can switch out, depending on what and where you’re cleaning.

Buy It: Amazon

5. 16-Piece Rubbermaid Food Storage Containers; $56

Rubbermade
Rubbermaid / Amazon

Whether you’re hosting or being hosted for the holidays, there are going to be leftovers. So you may as well be prepared. This 16-piece set comes in all different sizes and is 100 percent leak-proof and airtight, keeping your food fresh for longer.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Automatic Pan Stirrer; $25

Pan stirrer
Uncommon Goods

Sometimes, when you’re working in the kitchen, you could really use an extra set of hands.With the automatic pan stirrer, you can have them. For recipes that call for continuous stirring, simply put the wand in a simmering pot, set the timer, and let the stirrer go to work as you continue crossing other items off your to-do list.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

7. Cookbook Stand; $60

Cookbook holder
Uncommon Goods

Made from salvaged wood, each of these cookbook holders has a unique design that makes a beautiful and practical addition to any kitchen. Alongside its beautiful look, you can adjust the angle, and it has a convenient space for charging cords if you're using a tablet. When you're not using it, the stand collapses flat, making it a snap to store.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

8. Wine Dispenser; $65

Wine dispenser
Uncommon Goods

Wine is a pretty important part of holiday gatherings, so make sure it’s served in style. All you need to do is put in the bag from boxed wine or fill the included three-liter bag with your favorite bottle—or bottles.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

9. Cheeseboard; $85


Uncommon Goods

What holiday party is complete without cheese? This board has four spaces for ceramic serving bowls, a section for crackers, and a drawer with three cheese knives. One of the best parts about this board is that when you're done, it folds down to half its size for easy storage.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

10. Power strip; $30

Power Strip
Echogear / Amazon

A house full of guests means a house full of gadgets. To keep everyone's favorite accessory nice and charged, pick up the Echogear power strip. It includes six rotating outlets that keep power adapters out of the way, plus two fixed side plugs, so no one will have to fight over a charger.

Buy It: Amazon

11. Wine cooler; $26

Wine cooler
Tezzorio Bar Supplies / Amazon

This marble cooler makes it easy to serve chilled wine without having to think about it. Simply put the chiller in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it and it will keep your bottles cool for up to two hours. The marble cylinder is also padded at the bottom so it won’t scratch surfaces. You can also get it in white for $30 on Amazon.

Buy It: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Write a Letter to Shakespeare’s Juliet for a Chance to Spend Valentine’s Day in Her Romantic Verona Home

Airbnb
Airbnb

Shakespeare didn’t specify which luxurious Italian estate was home to Juliet and her family in Romeo and Juliet, but hopeless romantics have linked a certain 13th-century house in Verona to the Capulets for many years. A balcony was even added during the 20th century to mirror the famous scene from Shakespeare’s play.

Now, Airbnb is offering one pair of star-crossed lovers the opportunity to stay in the house for Valentine’s Day. To apply, you have to write a letter to Juliet explaining why you and your sweetheart would be the ideal guests for the one-night getaway. The winner will be chosen by the Juliet Club, an organization responsible for answering the 50,000 letters addressed to Juliet each year.

juliet's house in verona, italy
Airbnb

If you’re chosen, you won’t just get to spend the evening reenacting the few happy parts of Romeo and Juliet—you’ll also be treated to a candlelight dinner with a cooking demonstration by Michelin-starred Italian chef Giancarlo Perbellini, access to a personal butler for the duration of your stay, tours of both the house and the city of Verona, and the chance to read and answer some letters sent to Juliet. Even the bed you’ll sleep in is especially romantic—it’s the one used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

juliet's house in verona, italy
Airbnb

juliet's house in verona, italy
Airbnb

And, of course, you’ll be giving yourself the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift: Freedom from the pressure to plan a perfect Valentine’s Day. The contest is open now through February 2, 2020, and you can apply here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

7 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd at the March On Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd at the March On Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
CNP/Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, under a sweltering sun, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to participate in an event formally known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. From start to finish, it was a passionate plea for civil rights reform, and one speech in particular captured the ethos of the moment. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 17-minute “I Have a Dream” address—which was broadcast in real time by TV networks and radio stations—was an oratorical masterpiece. Here are some facts about the inspired remarks that changed King's life, his movement, and the nation at large.

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the tenth orator to take the podium that day.

Organizers hoped the March would draw a crowd of about 100,000 people; more than twice as many showed up. There at the Lincoln Memorial, 10 civil rights activists were scheduled to give speeches—to be punctuated by hymns, prayers, pledges, benedictions, and choir performances.

King was the lineup’s tenth and final speaker. The list of orators also included labor icon A. Philip Randolph and 23-year-old John Lewis, who was then the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (He’s now a U.S. congressman representing Georgia’s fifth district.)

2. Nelson Rockefeller inspired part of the "I Have A Dream" speech.

For years, Clarence B. Jones was Dr. King’s personal attorney, a trusted advisor, and one of his speechwriters. He also became a frequent intermediary between King and Stanley Levison, a progressive white lawyer who had drawn FBI scrutiny. In mid-August 1963, King asked Jones and Levison to prepare a draft of his upcoming March on Washington address.

“A conversation that I’d had [four months earlier] with then-New York governor Nelson Rockefeller inspired an opening analogy: African Americans marching to Washington to redeem a promissory note or a check for justice,” Jones recalled in 2011. “From there, a proposed draft took shape.”

3. The phrase “I have a dream” wasn’t in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s prepared speech.

Rev. Martin Luther King attends a prayer pilgrimage for freedom May 17, 1957 in Washington
Martin Luther King, Jr. attends a prayer pilgrimage for freedom May 17, 1957 in Washington.
National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images

On the eve of his big speech, King solicited last-minute input from union organizers, religious leaders, and other activists in the lobby of Washington, D.C.’s Willard Hotel. But when he finally faced the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, the reverend went off-book. At first King more or less stuck to his notes, reciting the final written version of his address.

Then a voice rang out behind him. Seated nearby was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who yelled, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin!” Earlier in his career, King had spoken at length about his “dreams” of racial harmony. By mid-1963, he’d used the phrase “I have a dream” so often that confidants worried it was making him sound repetitive.

Jackson clearly didn't agree. At her urging, King put down his notes and delivered the words that solidified his legacy:

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream ... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

King's friends were stunned. None of these lines had made it into the printed statement King brought to the podium. “In front of all those people, cameras, and microphones, Martin winged it,” Jones would later say. “But then, no one I’ve ever met could improvise better.”

4. Sidney Poitier heard the "I Have A Dream" speech in person.

American actor Sidney Poitier, circa 1970
Graham Stark/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sidney Poitier, who was born in the Bahamas on February 20, 1927, broke Hollywood's glass ceiling at the 1964 Academy Awards when he became the first African American to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Lilies of the Field (and the only one until Denzel Washington won for Training Day nearly 40 years later). Poitier, a firm believer in civil rights, attended the ’63 March on Washington along with such other movie stars as Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, and Paul Newman.

5. The "I Have A Dream" speech caught the FBI’s attention.

The FBI had had been wary of King since the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was perturbed by the reverend’s association with Stanley Levison, who’d been a financial manager for the Communist party in America. King's “I Have a Dream” speech only worsened the FBI’s outlook on the civil rights leader.

In a memo written just two days after the speech, domestic intelligence chief William Sullivan said, “We must mark [King] now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Before the year was out, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy gave the FBI permission to wiretap King’s telephone conversations.

6. In 1999, scholars named "I Have a Dream" the best American speech of the 20th century.

All these years later, “I Have a Dream” remains an international rallying cry for peace. (Signs bearing that timeless message appeared at the Tiananmen Square protests). When communications professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M used input from 137 scholars to create a list of the 100 greatest American speeches given in the 20th century, King’s magnum opus claimed the number one spot—beating out the first inaugural addresses of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, among others.

7. A basketball Hall of Famer owns the original copy of the "I Have a Dream" speech.

George Raveling, an African-American athlete and D.C. native, played college hoops for the Villanova Wildcats from 1956 through 1960. Three years after his graduation, he attended the March on Washington. He and a friend volunteered to join the event’s security detail, which is how Raveling ended up standing just a few yards away from Martin Luther King Jr. during his “I Have a Dream” address. Once the speech ended, Raveling approached the podium and noticed that the three-page script was in the Reverend’s hand. “Dr. King, can I have that copy?,” he asked. Raveling's request was granted.

Raveling went on to coach the Washington State Cougars, Iowa Hawkeyes, and University of Southern California Trojans. In 2015, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Although a collector once offered him $3 million for Dr. King’s famous document, Raveling’s refused to part with it.

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