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Last year was the first time I hosted family for Thanksgiving, and as every holiday host can tell you, it's a major undertaking. Between the side dishes, the desserts and the turkey, it's easy to get overwhelmed and find yourself pressed for time getting everything done. But it doesn't have to be that way!

This year, check out these Thanksgiving food hacks to save time on your family's meal.

1. Use a slow cooker

You can use your slow cooker for the mashed potatoes, green bean casserole or even your turkey. This allows you to prep these items ahead of time and frees up your oven or stovetop for preparing other dishes.

2. Make your Thanksgiving dinner a potluck

Take some of the pressure off yourself as the host! Take your guests up on any offers to prepare a side dish or dessert. Or discuss the potluck idea ahead of time and hand out assignments for all the Thanksgiving must-haves to your guests. This will save you tons of time on preparation and saves money as well.

3. Tape recipes on the cabinets in plain sight

Instead of spreading your recipes out all over your counter to get buried under ingredients or spilled on, tape them all up on your cabinets. With the recipes in plain sight, you can zip through them quickly without pausing for Where did I put the recipe? searches.

4. Use your microwave

You can speed up your mashed potatoes by microwaving them instead of boiling them. You can also warm rolls and anything else in need of little heat by popping it into the microwave.

5. Cook your turkey while you sleep

Do a quick search online for an overnight turkey recipe and you'll find several great options for cooking your turkey overnight while you sleep. Here is one I like. This Thanksgiving food hack will save you tons of time and oven space while producing a perfectly done turkey for your family dinner.

6. Skip the potato peeler

Check out this simple hack for peeling potatoes without spending half your day peeling the skins off. By boiling your potatoes whole and then shocking them in cold water, the skins peel right off! You can also consider mashing potatoes with the skins on, which is something many members of my family actually like.

7. Make your vegetable side dishes a day (or more) ahead

Do a quick search for freezer-friendly make-ahead Thanksgiving side dishes. Or check out this list for some options. You'll save yourself several hours in the kitchen on the big day by preparing and freezing your side dishes before the holiday.

8. Lay out your kitchen tools in advance

Before you start cooking your Thanksgiving dinner, assemble all of the ingredients, pots, pans, baking dishes, measuring cups and utensils you will need for the meal. You can even get this stuff organized the night before if you plan to start cooking first thing in the morning. Having everything laid out and ready to go will save you a ton of time when you don't have to go searching for every little thing while you cook.

9. Serve dinner buffet style

Rather than spending the first half of your Thanksgiving dinner plating and serving the meal, arrange the food on a table or your countertops and make it self-serve. This way everyone can sit down to eat at roughly the same time and start enjoying their meal and each other's company.

10. Learn to let go

Thanksgiving is about being grateful and spending time with loved ones. If your meal doesn't turn out perfectly or you don't get all the decorations done in time, don't let that spoil your enjoyment of the holiday. Enjoy yourself and the meal you've worked so hard to prepare!

Originally posted on Organized Mom.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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