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Hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house can be uber-stressful, no matter how many times you've done it.


So, whether this is your first time (eek!) or your thirtieth time, here are 25 time-saving Thanksgiving dinner hacks that will definitely make your day go easier.

1. Make a menu and stick to it

There are lots of great ideas out in the world that you can add to your menu a few days before the big day, or even as you're cooking. But don't do it. About a month before, write down what you're going to cook, what you're going to ask others to bring (see Delegate, below), and forget the rest. This will be a big stress-reducer and will also help you work through what you have to do to prepare.

2. Make a shopping list

Do not head out shopping until you've got that list in hand. Write out every ingredient for every item on your menu, then split the ingredients up into separate shopping lists for those items you can buy a month out, a week out and those you have to buy a day or two before. This will help reduce (note, I didn't say eliminate) the number of emergency trips you'll be running to the store.

3. Grate the butter

In any of your recipes that call for folding-in the butter (ie. pie crusts, dressing, biscuits, etc.), it's way easier to take the stick of butter and grate that bad boy into the mix!

4. Chop chop

The veggies, always with the veggies. So much chopping and cutting and gah! But I found a Cuisinart Chopper that makes my chopping life less of my life. For Thanksgiving, I like to chop my veggies well in advance (at least a day), before I prepare the specific dish. Then, I float them in a bowl of water until I need them, allowing me to worry only about putting together the dish, not chopping veggies for half of a day.

5. No-roll pie crust

You don't have to roll out the pie crust, which is awesome both for saving time and saving sanity (as well as your arm muscles). You've got enough to worry about getting this meal to come together, you shouldn't have to worry about how to transfer your perfectly rolled crust from the wax paper to the pie plate!

6. Lattice-top pie

To make pies look both traditional and pretty, you need a lattice-top on many of them, especially fruit pies. But that's kinda hard—except when you follow these easy instructions using your cooling rack.

7. Freeze-a-pie

Make your pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato pies a month early, then freeze them. If you buy the little cheapy pie-pans and cook them in that, you won't mess up grandma's heirloom pie plate…yet. After they're cooked, you can take the cheapy pie-pan off, then put them in a gallon-size baggie and put them in the freezer. Done.

8. Stale (or toasted) bread = better dressing (or stuffing)

Always use stale bread for your dressing, unless you have absolutely no options. This means buying a loaf of bread a month in advance and leaving it out. But if you just can't stand that thought or you forget (because I totally do that every year!), you can toast your bread and that will help wick out a lot of the moisture.

Don't be afraid to be too dry with your bread. You can always put more moisture in when you mix prior to baking, but you can never take moisture out. For a really great dressing , you can check out this Texas Cornbread Dressing recipe.

9. Dry cornbread = better(er) dressing (or stuffing)

Make your cornbread like you normally would (or you can try this awesome recipe), but leave out the eggs. Drier cornbread will make the dressing less soggy, just like when using stale bread. So, start dry. But if you do go with this hack and leave out the eggs, be sure to double or triple your recipe as the cornbread won't rise nearly as much as you're expecting.

10. Freeze-a-dressing

Make your dressing (or stuffing) a week or more in advance—then, like the pies, freeze it. Depending on your pan size, you might have to cut the sheet of dressing in half, but if you cut carefully, you can fit it in a gallon size bag and just stack on top of the pies.

11. Homemade cranberry sauce

Want to look like a fancy, real chef? Make homemade cranberry sauce a week before (just follow the instructions on the back of the bag of fresh cranberries), then pop it into the fridge. That stuff will save in the fridge for weeks and you'll look like the best gourmand.

12. Smoked turkey

I know everybody wants to cook that perfect turkey, but honestly, there's too much that can go wrong. No way will I take that risk. You can make your own, like this awesome recipe for smoked turkey on a grill, but I always hit my favorite BBQ place to see what kind of smoked turkey deal they're selling or I make my way to Honey Baked Ham—their turkey is reliably wonderful every time.

13. Frozen drinks

Don't stress about drinks. A few days before, brew your tea or make your kool-aid, put it in a gallon-size baggie, then freeze. Then on the big day, just pour into a pitcher!

14. Kids play before, then put someone else in charge

Thanksgiving is an exciting time for kiddos—they want to help and participate! Plus, they're out of school, so they might be a little bored (if they stopped bugging you for two seconds).

Be prepared to have some fun activities to do on Wednesday together. You can make some placemats for the kiddy-table, whip-up some Pumpkin Slime, make Paper-Bag Place Settings for everyone, or (my favorite) put together some Salt-Dough Leaf Ornaments in preparation for putting up the tree on Friday.

If they'd rather make some food, they can help make the biscuits a day ahead (nothing wrong with that) or have them make some Turkey Pretzels for snacks. Then, on the big day, make Dad be in charge (or Mom, if Dad's the chef of the family), or ask Great-Aunt Myrtle to come watch the kids—trust me, it's worth calling in the favor.

15. Thaw overnight

Take everything out of the freezer that you've frozen and put them in the garage or on the counter wherever you can find space. That will give even a huge turkey time to thaw before showtime. Just be sure to calculate about 20 minutes for every pound on that turkey.

16. Pre-made breakfast

You're making dinner for the big day. Why mess around with making something the day-of for breakfast? A few days before, make something unique and fun for the kids like this apple strudel or this cream cheese filled pumpkin bread of goodness. Then just warm it up and get ready to accept the compliments. Or, if you're making breakfast for a huge crowd (because that's what happens here at my house), you can make an awesome fruit salad, a holiday favorite around my family.

17. Simple, light lunch

Keep lunch easy and light-don't fill your kids up before the biggest meal of the year. For lunch, you could make something like this apple squash soup or these blue cheese and pecan-stuffed celery bites.

Anything quick and simple so that you don't have to waste your time making anything or having to clean up a huge mess. If you're preparing lunch for more than just you, your spouse and the kiddos, you can throw together a slow cooker meal.

18. Sides galore

No reason to make all the sides the day of. Mac and cheese casserole can be made a few days prior and refrigerated, so can green-bean casserole and candied yams. Be sure to make sides the kids are going to like (or even eat). If you're having trouble coming up with ideas (because I'm always stumped when the question is presented to me), you can check out this quick list of Side Dishes.

19. Perfectly formed biscuits

Cut your biscuits with a wine glass to make them perfectly shaped. Then turn the glass right-side-up, rinse and have a little bit of wine to ease the day. No stress and less mess. Right?

20. Wash potatoes in bulk

Rather than washing you're 'taters by hand, run them through the dishwasher! No, really, this is a thing—check it out here.

21. Boil potatoes to skin

Instead of spending a half-hour or an entire day peeling potatoes for your party, boil them first, peel and all. Once they've boiled for 15 minutes, the skin will just come right off when you rub them.

22. Fluffier mashed potatoes

Everyone (and their dog) has a recipe for their mom's mashed potatoes. However, not all 'taters are created equal. A recipe for French Mashed Potatoes calls for a little bit of baking soda—when I made this, it made my mashed potatoes so much more fluffy. And that was very nice.

23. Delegate a few sides

Crazy Uncle Charlie really is good at making that green-bean casserole, right? Flatter him a little by asking that he bring it with. It's nice, saves you stress and, frankly, a little bit of pot-luck can bring a family together.

24. Schedule a break

If things are going well, you can actually take that break, but if you're totally running behind, you have a few minutes to catch up.

25. Make reservations

My father-in-law suggested I add this to the list! He's right sometimes, though. I'll be honest, it probably wasn't the best idea for me to host Thanksgiving two months after my daughter was born—we should have made reservations that year at a very nice restaurant.

Originally published on Totally the Bomb.
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I was walking in Target the other day talking to my sons, who are two and three, about getting Mama a birthday card. "Which one should we get for Mama?" I asked. They wanted the $7 cat one that sang "I'm too sexy for my hair," of course. As we laughed about the different cards, a woman walked by and patted my arm. "They are so lucky to have you." I smiled and thought, how nice. Only a few aisles later did I realize she may have thought I was their nanny, not their mom...

I look nothing like my kids. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed—they have the most perfect blue eyes that they got from my wife, who was the one who carried our children. I am Colombian, and my 5-foot-nothing stature is more Oompa Loompa than Barbie.

As a girl, young woman, and even early into adulthood I never had the urge to have children. When I was in first or second grade teachers would ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and a bunch of girls would answer, "a mommy." I answered, "a banker."

Times have changed and when I grew up I no longer wanted to be a banker and I surprised myself in the fact that I did want kids. And I am so happy I married someone who not only wanted kids too but who also wanted to be the one to carry them.

Our kids have her last name. She did the work for those nine plus months—she deserves that. And honestly, it's not important to me that they don't have my last name, and I don't feel any less connected to them because I didn't carry them in my womb. What counts is that we are a family.

I was adopted at two months old. I look like my Italian mom and absolutely nothing like my English dad. From a young age, I always knew I wasn't biologically their child, but in every single other way, I still am their kid. (They joke that their offspring wouldn't be as cute or as athletic, and I joke back but they'd probably be smarter and taller.)

Our never-ending love, our respect, our gifts of compassion, and the fact that we're always there for each other—these are the treasures that make us a family. Not anything biological. So that has taught me a lot about how to raise my kids with the all of those same treasures that also include politeness, honesty, the gift of laughter, and always doing your best.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but I am there to calm them in the middle of the night because of an accident, nosebleed, or scary dream.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but the diaper changes are real. (Trust me.)

I didn't give birth to my boys, but I read to them, dance with them, and laugh with them—every day.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but somehow, one of my boys has a matching birthmark in the same place as I do and our little inside joke is that we high-five them together.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but both of them smile the same way I do…total full teeth smile.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but they call me "Mom," and I've never loved two human beings more.

But being one of two moms definitely makes for some interesting and funny stories. We got rid of our crib a few months ago and when someone found out she asked, "But what if there's—ya know—an accident?" I told her that one of the many joys of being a lesbian is that there will not be any "accidents" in our future.

Or the time right after my wife had our first baby when I was in the hospital bed with our son while my wife went to a new parent class. (I told her we should do one before the baby actually came, but a lesson I've learned is that one should definitely choose their battles wisely with their pregnant wife.) I was in the bed, holding my son and the nurse came in and said, "Time to get your vitals" and so, I had some explaining to do.

Or the time we went to do our taxes. The woman said, "Okay, which one of you wants to go first?" My wife replied, "We are married. We'd like to do it all together." The woman looked at us for a few seconds and said, "Oh, I've never done this before." I looked at her and said, "You've never done a married couple's taxes before?" She shrugged and said, "Not like this."

So how does all of this make me feel? It makes me feel human. Sometimes people judge, sometimes people do not take enough time to ask questions, sometimes people assume. These stories make me understand that I am blessed, confident, and my biggest struggle with my kids—besides too long of a bedtime routine right now—is that I sometimes have to explain a little more. I know this is teaching them to do the opposite of what is sometimes done to us—to take time to ask questions, be patient, be curious and be polite.

So sure, having two moms does make for some funny stories at times, but it also provides us the opportunity to raise our kids well and show society that we, as women, are capable. Our family is two moms—a mom and a mama—and our two precious boys who make up this team. We smother our kids with all the snuggles in the world, and they will forever be mama's boys, which we could not be happier about.

The funny stories keep us laughing, but they also do something much more serious, much more important. They remind us that gay people, not too long ago, did not have the luxury of being on a child's birth certificate together, or filing taxes jointly. They remind me to be humble, unassuming and, most of all, grateful. I am grateful that my friends and family have all accepted us as we are, a loving couple who wants to be happy and raise kind, healthy boys.

In the future—later today or in a few years—I am hopeful that more and more people will see us as a family. There are so many different types of families out there, and we all deserve to be validated and seen. We are so fortunate that so many people already do recognize us as a family and hopefully, it will get easier and easier over time and the stories will become less and less frequent.

Maybe, just maybe, Target lady knew I was their mom, and not their nanny. Maybe she saw the love and pride in my eyes, the casual banter in the bright red cart, and the fact that I am confident in who I am to my boys—their mom.

After all, we are a family bonded by love and all the other treasures that have been passed down from our parents. Because relationships are not just blood…it's all of the other stuff that makes us a family.

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It may sound hard to believe (or perhaps obvious 😉), but with an infant and toddler in tow, I'm thinking of making the move from the city to the 'burbs. Living in the heart of New York City was at one time exciting, invigorating and extremely convenient.

But now? Well, it has become un-accommodating, brash and expensive (well more expensive). And I find myself browsing real estate sites and dreaming of a house with a big yard. Although unimaginable before kids, with two kids, the pull of the suburbs is real. I still think NYC is the best in the world, but the more I analyze logistics to schools to safety... I'm leaning toward the 'burbs.

Here's why.

1. Schools! Schools! Schools!

This has got to be the number one reason most people leave the city. The stress and money to get into good schools in the city is a lot. We just went through the first step—preschool applications—including an interview and reference letters.

I had to stretch my creative muscles to illustrate the brilliance of my 2-year-old: "He can successfully build sandcastles, his Lego structures have the foundation of an aspiring architect" or should I just go with, "He doesn't hit!?" It's become close to a part-time job. All this aside, my child did get in (#mombrag), but now I just have to come to terms with the astronomical price tag.

But the 'burbs? The burbs of New York have some of the best schools in the country. You may pay for it via your property taxes, but when you have more than one kid, the economics just make sense.

2. Logistics

The struggle that is the double stroller. I love the history of New York, but as one of the oldest cities in America, it can be a real nightmare for strollers. Small doors, steps and tight passages result in the fact that we can't go into many places.

When I had my single stroller, although it took some work, I figured out which stores were stroller friendly. However, once I upgraded to the double stroller, my world became too small. The huge wheels barely fit through the doors and I get the side eye from my favorite coffee shop for bringing in such a monstrosity. And it's a lucky day if you manage to have an elevator on either end of your trip when you're riding the subway.

In the 'burbs, I dream of leaving the double stroller at home and upgrading to the spacious minivan. I look forward to those gigantic parking lots where I will be able to walk the grocery cart up to my car! Oh, the luxury!

3. Sports!

Did I mention I have active kiddos? As they get older, the confines of a city apartment incite an unbearable case of cabin fever. New York City has some lovely parks but unfortunately, the patches of grass at Madison Square Park just aren't cutting it anymore.

The suburbs promise full-size football and soccer fields, public tennis courts that you don't have to wait an hour for and numerous sports teams to participate in. I think sports should be a part of any childhood and I don't want my kids to miss out. (Another 'burbs bonus: There is something so magical about opening the back door and telling your kids to go play outside!)

4. Space

The toys are creeping into every crevice of the apartment and nothing is sacred. I just can't wait to send my kids to the basement with all of their favorite things. In addition, our house in the 'burbs would have a guest bedroom! It would be nice to entertain my family (aka free babysitters) without subjecting them to the blow-up mattress on the floor.

5. Noise

After a couple of months in the city, the noise of the police cars, fire trucks and ambulances just fade in the distance, but now with kids, every noise is accentuated. My toddler points out all of them while demanding an explanation "Is that a fire truck, mommy? What is it doing?"

I also feel the need to cover up my little one's ears, lest he wake up from our hard-earned nap time. I'd much rather be explaining the noise of birds and crickets to my kids rather than the loud noises of emergency vehicles.

6. The people

I love my fellow New Yorkers who are driven, worldly and tell it like it is. I know it has changed the Canadian in me to be a little more blunt. However, part of this New Yorker attitude doesn't mesh so well with kids.

I've been honked at to hurry up while I try to strap in my two kids in at the car park or have gotten an audible sigh from the hostess for bringing my kids to our local restaurant. Kids take a little more time and patience and that time is money to a lot of folks.

I love you New York, but I am ready to make the move.

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Leadership is often misunderstood with being bold, arrogant, self-centered or wanting attention. However, that's very far from the truth.

So, who is a leader? And why would you want your child to become one?

A true leader is someone who:

  • is confident about who they really are because they know themselves,
  • inspires others with his/her gifts and talents because they recognize them,
  • is trusted because they can trust themselves,
  • can express themselves to the world easily and effortlessly because they don't feel afraid to do this,
  • celebrates other people for their talents and leads/ inspires/ listens/ guides/ people to share their gifts with the world,
  • is ready to make a change to the world no matter how small or big,
  • and leads a happy and fulfilling life that is true to their nature.

The reality is that a leader is actually someone very positive and highly evolved as a human being. Why wouldn't we want to nurture our children's leadership mindset then? We all most certainly should if we really want to help our children reach their full potential.

Here are some ways creative play nurtures the leadership mindset

  1. Creative play allows your child to express themselves they way they like and prefer in the very moment.
  2. Your child can explore their inner gifts, talents and preferences, experiment with them and deciding how they can make best use of them in the real world.
  3. Creative exploration opens up the whole world of possibilities which your child can flexibly test, reflect on and improve until they are satisfied with the final result.
  4. While creating, your child develops great confidence in their own skills and talents.
  5. Creative play allows plenty of space for celebration of your child's own individuality.

Every play is creative when it's child-led. Children create all the time and creative play is not restricted to arts and crafts only—it goes far beyond that. Construction is creative, discussion is creative, dancing is creative, gardening is creative, role-play is creative, the possibilities are endless.

To really nurture your child's leadership mindset, any creative experience must always be child-led. Otherwise the creativity aspect will most likely be controlled, restricted and shaped towards a certain direction or agenda-driven.

Child-led means that your child is the author of the experience—they can take it wherever they want it and however they want it. This also means that you, as a parent, are a facilitator of that experience, offering child-friendly and safe space and access to tools and resources, but you don't impose any structure, outcome or result.

You allow your child to experience whatever they wish and need at that moment. And by doing this we show them that we trust them, that we celebrate who they are, and that whatever they offer to the world is wonderful and it doesn't need to be changed or modified to our liking.

Originally published on National Born Leaders.

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Caesar salad should not be on the menu this Thanksgiving, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Romaine lettuce has been linked to an E. coli outbreak that has seen 32 people in 11 states fall ill. More than a dozen people have been hospitalized.

"Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick," the CDC notes on its website.

There have also been cases in Canada—15 in Quebec and 3 in Ontario. The Public Health Agency of Canada says people in those provinces should avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak.

Officials on both sides of the border agree this outbreak is linked to a previous outbreak in 2017.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, genetic analysis of the E. coli strain indicates this outbreak isn't linked to the one that occurred back in the spring of 2018 but is related to an epidemic in the fall of 2017.

"Genetic analysis of the E. coli O157:H7 strains tested to date from patients in this current outbreak are similar to strains of E. coli O157:H7 associated with a previous outbreak from the Fall of 2017 that also affected consumers in both Canada and the U.S." the FDA notes on its website.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the agency is taking steps to "get ahead of this emerging outbreak to reduce risk to consumers; help people protect themselves and families from foodborne illness outbreak, especially ahead of Thanksgiving meals."

"This isn't the first romaine outbreak we've seen in recent past," Gottlieb said in a statement posted to Twitter. "We're taking steps to identify root causes of these events and to prevent future outbreaks. We're committed to working with partners to implement additional safety practices to prevent outbreaks from occurring."

The FDA is asking the food industry to help it contain the outbreak by voluntarily withdrawing romaine products from the market and withholding distribution until the source of the outbreak is identified.

Bottom line: If you've got romaine in the fridge, toss it, mama.

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