7 Lifehacks For Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just passed you’re likely feeling relaxed and happy that all the stress is over with.  Believe me, I’ve been there.  But this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the chaos of the past few weeks and unlock the secrets of a convenient holiday for next year.  Peruse this list, and see just how easy Thanksgiving can be.

  1. Shop Early

One of the worst parts of preparing for a holiday like Thanksgiving is braving the crowds at the local grocery store. Unfortunately, it’s an unavoidable task for any of the fresh foods required for your dishes. You can make it easier on yourself by dividing and conquering. In the days or weeks before, head to the store and load up on all of the non-perishables that will stay fresh until your festivities commence. Make two lists: the things you can buy now, and the things you’ll need the day before. With the first list in hand, head to your grocery store and load up. When the fresh ingredients become necessary, you’ll have a much smaller second list to attend to which means less time spent in the store.

  1. Make Décor Easyautumn-mood-947484_640

Creating DIY centerpieces for your holiday occasions can be so much fun, but not when you’re on a time crunch. If you’re stressing about how to decorate your home before all those Thanksgiving guests arrive, don’t worry! Order a seasonal arrangement from a flower company and put it on your table for a one-step centerpiece. You can also use leftovers from your most recent holiday. If you have any uncarved pumpkins sitting around that haven’t started to slump, core them out and throw some lush Thanksgiving greenery and flowers in the center for your very own do it yourself bouquet.

  1. Turkey Takeover

Turkey is a mainstay of the Thanksgiving meal, but these huge birds can take up all the space in your oven—meaning no room for the other sides you were hoping to make. Consider different ways of cooking your bird. Whether it’s the crockpot or a deep fryer, trying alternative spins on this Thanksgiving fowl will give your feast a whole new taste and vibe next year. If you’d still like to cook your large turkey in the oven, consider slow roasting it overnight. You can throw it in the oven at 11 pm, and come morning, the low temperature cooking technique will have you a golden brown bird ready for the day’s feast—and an empty oven ready for that green bean casserole or Grandma’s famous fresh baked rolls.

  1. Dessert With No Effortpumpkin-pie-1041330_640

Do something a little bit different than just the normal pumpkin pie for the holiday season. Add a dessert table filled with the perfect finger foods to make your Thanksgiving festivities the most delicious your family has ever experienced. Whether you offer chocolate covered strawberries, cupcakes, cake pops, or delicious melt in your mouth cookies, the kids and adults alike will easily be found hovering around your dessert table.

  1. Avoid the Bloat

Holidays are rife with fantastic foods, but that can mean terrible things for our health—and our waistlines. Do what you can to avoid binging and feeling awful by snacking on healthy items throughout the day, offering healthy choices on your Thanksgiving table, and saying no to seconds. The effort now will be worth it later, especially when you are ready to start your New Year in a healthy way.

  1. Cooking in Advancetea-314671_640

Limited kitchen space makes cooking all of your main entrees, sides, and desserts in one go an impossible task. Do what you can to plan ahead, and prepare any items that you can during the day before Thanksgiving. Baked goodies, certain vegetables, and meats like bacon can all be prepared 24 hours ahead of time—sometimes even longer than that—meaning you can focus on the big items the day of. Examine the different cooking temperatures you’ll need for your oven and plan to cook items that can go in at the same time.

  1. Separate Drink Bar

Set up a specific area and table for all of your guests’ drink needs. Whether it’s alcohol or punch, place the libations of choice in this area to ensure your kitchen is free of unnecessary bodies (making it easier for you to get done all that you need to without distraction or interruption). Lay out plastic cups, utensils, straws, and a full ice chest to ensure guests can grab what they want when they need it without having to ask.


Being Prepared For Personal Disasters

When people say ’emergency planning’ we all tend to think about natural disasters and catastrophes but there are more emergencies in life than those. Not to downplay the effects of an earthquake, flood or tsunami, which affect the lives of the many, but sometime emergencies are small, affecting only a few, but those are no less debilitating or stressful to the few. In fact, in a huge tragedy, there’s often more help available, because there’s more attention drawn to it, but in a small tragedy, people are often alone, frightened and helpless.


Welcome to the May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Emergency Preparedness

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their plans to keep their families safe. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.



What are these ‘small’ tragedies?

How about the sudden and unexpected death of a spouse? The main breadwinner? A loved one? Or the unexpected loss of a job? Or a house fire? Or a malicious burglary? (i.e. where they don’t just take the TV and computer, but destroy all important documents and so on?) These are smaller scale emergencies, but huge to affected none the less.

My mother was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness – as it happens she’s defied all medicine and doctors are confounded as to why she’s still alive, but at the time of diagnosis when they gave her four weeks to four months, we didn’t know that was going to happen.

I’ve learned a fair bit from this experience.

For one thing, my mother was the higher wage earner at the time she was diagnosed. She suddenly had to stop working, and if her life insurance hadn’t covered the cost of their house, they would have stood a very good chance of losing it to medical bills. Having the correct insurance in place saved huge amounts of stress, and potential financial ruin. She’s not rich for having her life insurance paid out, but it’s given them private treatment options which is probably why she’s still alive.

Having a savings account with a few months worth of salary in it is essential. Don’t get excited though – I have a few months salary worth of debt, rather than savings, but I’m working on it. I went to Australia to be with my mother for six months, and wasn’t allowed to work. Savings would have helped us all out. Dave Ramsey recommends starting with a three month buffer, and working towards six months.

Have backups of important documents. Seriously. We have traveled a lot and one of the best tips I ever received was to scan and email all your important documents to yourself – at an easy to retrieve address, like Gmail. It’s no good if you can only access it from the home computer that was just stolen!  Scan your passports, visas, bank card numbers (but don’t put passwords and pin codes with it!), insurance information, birth certificate and all that information and email it to yourself. Our children’s godparents have copies of their passports, birth certificates and ours in case they ever need it for information pertaining to legal guardianship.

One of the hardest topics of conversation in mothers groups comes from the question: where do your children go if something happens to you. I’ve rarely met a parent who emphatically knows without doubt or concern who their children will go to if they died. It’s a horrible conversation. It’s also a really important one and a will is necessary to make sure that your wishes have a voice. I’ve had to think long and hard on this, and for me the decision is partially to do with which country I’d prefer my children raised in, since our family is split over three continents.

Also, in cases where one person is the primary financial managers for the family, it’s valuable to have an ‘in case of… ‘ file or folder somewhere – again, not locked behind a passworded computer! – that a spouse/partner can find important information, like life insurance policies, medical aid information and other important information at the drop of a hat. As I say that, I realise that I don’t even know some of the companies my self-employed husband works for. He is also password king, so I’d never crack his codes, and he would literally just drop off the grid! (Which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter, but it’s still polite to let people know the work they’re expecting isn’t coming!)

And finally, and I feel so strongly about this one, is contracts and agreements. No one gets married to get divorced. No one falls in love to simmer in hate, no one falls pregnant to be bound by a lousy partner. No one goes into a relationship, baring your vulnerabilities, weaknesses and heart to another person, expecting them to use those very things against you.

Unfortunately, just in this year, I have seen three cases where this has happened and one parent has used choices made with regards to child raising against the other person in custody cases.  Especially in the case of mothers, but not exclusively, I might add, we tend to make most of the day to day choices for our children. Of course we take our partners views into consideration, but often it is the mother that drives how things happen. I have seen court cases and custody battles involve breastfeeding, or a couples decision not to vaccinate being used against the mother, or a desire to homeschool manipulated by  lawyers into something it was never meant to be.

My husband and I have agreed, in writing, the decisions that we have made with regards to our children. We don’t plan to divorce, but should that ever happen, neither of us will be in a position to use our choices now against each other, even if we wanted to, because we’ve agreed it.

(It goes something like ‘I… and I… have jointly agreed to babywear, co-sleep, practice baby led weaning, etc etc [all stipulated] and jointly commit to raising our children present and future this way based on our individual and joint research into the varying styles and options available to us. We both feel that these choices meet the needs of all members of our family, as pertains to parenting and child rearing.)

We hope to never need to use this document, but I certainly never want to be fighting for custody of my children because of something we agreed on together – like co-sleeping. And sadly, as deeply as we love, so deeply we can hate, and the future is unknown.

So, despite this grim and downer post, remember that every moment is precious, and that life is in fact, very, very short.




Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon May 14 with all the carnival links.)


Writing a Birthplan: The Where, The Who And The Documentation

As a starting point to how to write a birth plan, I want to have a look at some of the very basics of who, where, and what to expect with it.  Before I do though, let’s recap two very important points about birth plans:

  • The benefit of a birthplan is how it guides you in planning and researching your options for childbirth.
  • It is not a script, and doesn’t mean it’s how your birth will go, especially if you are in a hospital setting.
  • With the experience of one birth behind me, this is how I’m breaking it all down in my mind. You may have different needs, experience s and outcomes.

The first question is one that impacts on many of the others:

Where will you give birth?

The location of your birth makes a big difference to how much ‘calling the shots’ you get to do. I’ve never had a hospital birth, but I know I also never want to. Others have had wonderful hospital births and would never feel comfortable in a homebirth. Neither is right or wrong, it’s a personal choice.
Read more: Writing a Birthplan: The Where, The Who And The Documentation

Help Me Plan Next Year On Diary Of A First Child

This is a survey for regular or at least occassional readers of Diary of a First Child. The aim is to help me plan for next year – both to manage my time better, and to provide as meaningful a resource as possible to you.

Of course, nothing is for nothing, so if you’ve answered all eight questions, and leave at least your email address in the final section, you will be entered into a draw to win a £15.00 (or your currency equivalent) voucher at Amazon/Ebay/Etzy – again, your choice.

I will be very grateful for your participation, and thank you in advance!

The survey will be closed at noon on the 13th of December – giving you time to spend your voucher for Christmas!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.