Gratitude & Some Thanksgiving Hostess Tips & Recipes

Embracing the holiday spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to share one of the things for which I am the most grateful: time spent with my husband, kiddos, and pup.



We were so fortunate in the Midwest to enjoy a long, gorgeous autumn this year. My family and I took full advantage of the singular pleasure of being outside. Both children riding bikes was new for us, and it has been a joy to watch the siblings bond as the youngest stretches her wings, determined to keep up, and the oldest appreciates his newfound playmate.

I am so grateful for the experience of being a mother, and I love watching my family grow. My husband and I have had our relationship deepened and strengthened through being parents, and seeing our children develop and mature is a daily wonder. We live in a beautiful part of the Midwest, and playing outside and riding bikes on our local bike path has been a favorite activity this fall. We pause along the way to collect leaves or pick up sticks. It is just a very simple time, and I know this season of having little ones will pass all too quickly. My son’s greatest desire in life right now is to climb a tree. I want to be that playful mom too, since I was quite a tree-climber back in the day! So I am doing my best to pause and be present, and let them be little.

My grandmother hosted Thanksgiving for… ever? We celebrated that holiday with her, even when she had to move into assisted living in her 90s. After she passed two years ago, the drumstick was passed down to me. I don’t host the entire extended family like she did (some 30 people), but I have about 10 guests that I inherited, including my father. My dad is quite the cook, and he, along with my siblings help cook and each bring a dish. My grandmother had always been known for her amazing cooking, so it was kind of a lot of pressure to have the responsibility of cooking the turkey. We had also just moved a few months prior to that first Thanksgiving in our home, so I had a new-to-me convection oven. I did a little reading online, and decided to go with these instructions, and I cannot recommend this method of making a turkey more highly. I also used a brining kit from the grocery store, which was pretty fun and “fancy” without being too tricky. The turkey came out of the oven that picturesque golden brown, and our guests could smell the aroma as they approached our home.

Hosting guests and parenting is quite the balancing act. While I knew that we would be making amazing memories, I also knew I would have a lot on my plate, so to speak. Prepping some easy, non-messy¬†kid-friendly activities ahead of time for them to do with aunts and uncles and keep them safely out of the kitchen while I was cooking has worked really well. I also ask everyone to bring a dish, and do all of my other prep work ahead of time, so that I’m not stressed out. My dad is the gravy guru, and he handles that task while the turkey “rests” and it gives me a few minutes to tend to anything that needs attending to, or just relax myself. My latest little tip for an easier Thanksgiving is to add bits of the whole gigantic shopping list to each trip in the weeks prior to the holiday, watching for sales and specials, so that the majority of the meal that can be purchased ahead of time is already in my pantry, frig or freezer. I hope I won’t forget anything going this route, but it feels like less work so far!

And of course, we still always have my grandmother’s famous jello “salad” every year, and fight for the leftovers! Here is the recipe:


Orange Pineapple Carrot Jello Mold

1 Lg. pkg. orange jello

2 C boiling water

1 C cold water

1 C sour cream

1 large can crushed pineapple, undrained

3 large carrots, shredded

1/4-1/2C chopped walnuts


Combine jello and boiling water and mix throughly. Add cold water and sour cream and blend with a mixer. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until it starts to jell (about 1.5-2 hours). Add remaining ingredients and pour into mold. Chill until firm.

Hope you all are looking forward to the holiday! Any tips or tricks or favorite family recipes? Please share! xo, Karen