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Tips for preparing the big feast

Next up, Thanksgiving, as we make the transition from candy corn to candy canes. For your festive dining table, avoid the awkwardness of "who's sitting where" by using place cards (let the kids make them). Keep the candles unscented so their aroma doesn't fight with that of the food. Toss a couple of items you know you'll need into the grocery cart each trip for the next 11 days (yes, it's that close): cranberry sauce, pumpkin, nuts. On Turkey Day itself, editors at Family Circle magazine suggest, press a couple of coolers into service to chill side dishes and beverages, or move some of the unused items in your refrigerator into the coolers to free up refrigerator space for dinner ingredients. You'll need extra potholders for all those additional cooks in the kitchen. And do yourself a favor: Name a cleanup crew, so whoever spent all day preparing the feast has a chance to relax and visit with guests.

Have a red, white and blue Christmas

Wreathsource.com, which provides holiday greenery from its "bough orchards" (don't you love that term?) on Lake Huron in Northern Michigan, is offering a 23-inch balsam wreath decorated with red and white flowers, blue glass ornaments and a tricolor bow. It's $29.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling, and 20 percent of sales will be donated to the American Red Cross. Call them toll-free at 1-888-881-1880, or visit www.wreathsource.com.

Avoid indoor pollution

Cool weather reminds us to get out the caulking gun and seal up the holes and leaks that let cold air in (or air-conditioned air out). The American Lung Association cautions that if we're too zealous in winterizing our homes, we can create an unhealthful living environment: Harmful particles and allergens have no way to escape, and indoor air becomes polluted. Try these tips: Run the furnace fan continuously, regardless of the outdoor temperature, because the filter can capture particles only if the fan is running. Use a high-efficiency furnace filter and replace it every two months. Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the house. Crack a window when you operate the fireplace. The Lung Association and 3M, maker of Filtrete furnace filters, offer a free booklet, "A Guide for Creating a Healthier Home," with more tips for creating a healthy home. Call toll-free 1-800-388-3458, or visit the Web site at www.filtrete.com and click on "Education Center."

Hands-free faucets

You've seen those hands-free faucets in public restrooms that start the water flowing when you place your hands under the tap and shut off automatically. The first such faucet for the residential market has just been introduced by Delta. The e-Flow faucet, powered by four AA batteries, runs for 30 seconds at a temperature you preset. It comes in two finishes: chrome ($410) or pearl-nickel ($510). The temperature-control knob comes in six interchangeable colors. The faucet is marketed as a benefit to children or the elderly, who might be scalded by too-hot temperatures, and as a water-saving device so no one's letting the water run. It meets requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Information: www.deltafaucet.com; toll free, 1-800-345-3358.

_ Compiled by Homes Editor JUDY STARK

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