What You Need to Host Thanksgiving

Sweet Maple Lane shares kitchen necessities for hosting Thanksgiving dinner

What do you need to host Thanksgiving dinner?  Well really, all you need is a meal, people to share it with, and a grateful heart.  After all, it’s a holiday about being thankful for what you have, not about feeling pressure to throw a perfect party.

But, if you are hosting for the first time, you may be wondering what you need, or what is good to have to cook this fancy meal.  Or maybe you’ve hosted before, but are in the market for some fresh Thanksgiving kitchen supplies.  If so, read on, friends!

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I’ve been thinking about the menu and planning all the details.  This will only be the second time we’ve hosted at our house.  Last time we hosted we were newly married and had just moved in.  We had almost nothing from this list, but thankfully my mom brought all of her stuff.

Let’s just say things have changed quite a bit around here!  At this year’s Thanksgiving there will be five toddlers (3 and under!) running around in addition to twelve adults.  I have more of the items below, but still not everything.  My mom still brings her turkey roasting pan and huge casserole dish for green bean casserole (we love us some green bean casserole!).

So if you’re curious about what you ‘need’ to host Thanksgiving, I’ve compiled a list of necessities.

Affiliate links are included for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.

Gravy Boat

gravy boat

If you’re making turkey, you need gravy.  If you’re making gravy, you need something to serve it in!  Gravy boats are super affordable and bring a little touch of fancy to your table.  (Look at me, I’m fancy enough to own a gravy boat!)  I like white for dishes and serving ware, but you could go bold with a fun color or pattern if that’s your thing!

Roasting Pan with Rack

roasting pan

This is an absolute must if you’re cooking a large turkey.  This pan is also great for roast chicken, which I do fairly regularly around here.

Meat Forks

meat fork

If you’re cooking a large turkey you’ll need assistance lifting it out of the pan.  I still remember one Thanksgiving when I was a kid my dad trying to use a wooden spoon to lift the turkey, and breaking the spoon right in half! Meat forks like these are on my wish list.  Or, get both the pan and meat forks together in this Calphalon set.

Turkey Baster

turkey baster

Use a turkey baster to prevent a dry turkey.  This stainless steel one is a nice upgrade from plastic!

Turkey Platter

turkey platter

A fancy dinner deserves a fancy platter to serve your turkey on!  I like the traditional ones with the image of a turkey on them.

Drink Dispenser 

drink dispenser

This drink dispenser is the best.  I got it to serve punch at my wedding, and have used it for nearly every major holiday, birthday, or celebration since.  It’s big enough that you don’t have keep refilling it, it has a built in center tube for ice to keep your punch cold, and it comes with a stand that lifts the spigot above your glass for easy filling.  This Thanksgiving mine will be filled with sparkling cranberry punch!

Pie Plates

pie plates

Pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert, so pie plates are a must.  These come in packs of two so you can make a couple different varieties!

Serving Bowls

serving bowl

You’ll need pretty serving bowls for all those yummy side dishes.  I love these Pioneer Woman serving bowls.  Everything in her line is so cute!

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year?  What are your kitchen must haves for a successful dinner?

 

Meal Planning 101

Meal planning 101 at sweetmaplelane.com

Hi friends!  I’ve been back at school for a few weeks now, and I’m feeling a little more settled into our routine here at home.  The transition from summer to school in the fall can be hard, but I’ve found one thing that helps me stay organized and keep my sanity: meal planning!  Just a small time investment on Saturday morning and I’m planned and ready to roll for the week.

Here is how I do it:

Early Saturday Morning

Plan: While the kids are drinking milk and watching cartoons, I sit down with my coffee and computer and plan what we’re having for dinners for the week.  I jump on Pinterest to look up recipes and ideas, and I make a list for the next 7 days (Saturday to Friday).  I check the calendar to see if we’re out or having company any night during the week, and plan accordingly.  I like to cook a bigger meal on Saturday or Sunday and keep it easy during the week.  Friday night we always do frozen pizza and whatever veggies we have left from the week.

List: Once I’ve planned dinners for the week, I make a list of all the ingredients I need for those plus lunch and breakfast stuff. The kids eat at daycare and my husband and I usually pack sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, pretzels, or leftovers.  I make sure to check in the fridge and cupboards to see if we have the ingredients we need or if we’re running out of something.

Later Saturday Morning

I take my list, my reusable bags, and two toddlers to the grocery store for our weekly shopping.  I usually take the kids with me and give my husband an hour to be kid-free.  The kids really enjoy it, and our grocery store has free cookies for kids, so they love that. We drive around the parking lot of our local Hannaford looking for the two-seater cart that looks like a car (complete with steering wheels) and glare at any parents using it for ONE kid (moms of multiples, you feel me?)  No seriously, though, I can’t grocery shop without that cart, so I sometimes have to wait in the parking lot until one becomes available.  Ok, so I shop, use my list, and am in and out and home in record time.

The Rest of the Week

During the week, I come home with the kids around 3:30 or 4, relax for a bit, and then throw together whatever dinner I have planned.  Then we eat together when my husband gets home from practice around 5:30.  Ok, in all honesty, often my husband and I eat together while the kids play and run and scream as toddlers do.  Kids, you know?

Menu Board

Menu board

I had this chalkboard that I picked up at Michael’s with a coupon a few years back, and right before school started I decided to turn it on it’s side and hang it in the kitchen.  Now I use it as a menu board so I don’t forget what we’re having for dinner.  You can see last week’s dinners below:

FREE Grocery List Printable

I whipped up this grocery list printable to make your meal planning and grocery shopping just a little bit easier (and prettier too).  Just click below to download the free printable!

Free grocery list printable from Sweet Maple Lane

Click HERE to download my grocery list printable for free!

How I Organize Mail

Hi friends!  Sweet Maple Lane is officially back to school, which means our schedules are busy, busy, busy!  Open house, practice, daycare, cross-country meets, you name it.  I’m always looking for any way to streamline things and make life run a little more smoothly.  One thing I always struggle to organize is the mail and papers in general.  It just seems to pile up so quickly!  I’ve just implemented a new mail organizing system on the hutch (see this post for reveal pictures!) and so far it has been working great!

Affiliate links are provided in this post for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.

I use three baskets to organize the mail:

Hutch reveal by Sweet Maple Lane

  1. In Box: Incoming mail that needs to be opened.  When I get the mail I immediately recycle junk or things I don’t want, and put the real mail that needs to be opened in this basket.  I’m usually walking in the door with two cranky toddlers who immediately need a snack, drink, potty, snuggle, you name it.  This gives me a place to put it if I can’t open the mail right away.
  2. To Do: This is where I put bills to be paid, forms to be filled out, or other things that need attention.  Again, I can’t always do things all at once.  I may have time to open the mail, but not time to write checks or fill out forms or whatever, so I put the things I need to take care of in this basket to get to when I can.
  3. Out Box: This is where I put mail to go out, bills to send, or paper that has to go back to school or daycare or whatever. This way I can just grab the mail that’s ready to go on my way out the door.

I used baskets and labels I already had, but if you’re looking for something similar I’d suggest these baskets and these labels.

This system, while simple, has been working great.  I’ve also organize the small drawers in the hutch with general office supplies, envelopes, stamps, etc, so that I have what I need right where I need it.  If you’re looking for a way to organize your paper clutter, try this three basket system and see how it works for you!

Pin the image below to save it for later!

How to organize mail by Sweet Maple Lane

10 Classics to Read as an Adult

As summer winds to a close, Sweet Maple Lane is getting ready to go back to school.  My husband and I both teach high school English and are super lucky and grateful to spend the summer home with our kids.  With two English teachers in the house, we do a lot of reading, both at school and at home.  Here are 10 classic books that are pretty standard in high school English curriculum, but might be overlooked by adults.  Even if you read these in high school, consider reading them again.  You might be surprised at how much you enjoy them as an adult!  And — bonus! — many of these books have fantastic movie adaptations!

10 classic books you should read again, or for the first time, as an adult!

Afilliate links are provided for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.  

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Pulitzer Prize winning story of innocence and coming of age set in 1930s Alabama.  The movie with Gregory Peck is also a classic and a must-watch.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A beautifully written story of friendship and tragedy set in 1930s California.  The movie with Gary Sinise and John Malcovich is moving and fantastic as well.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A love story, a tragedy, the American Dream, murder, infidelity, secrets, and the decadence of the Jazz Age.  Fitzgerald’s writing is beautiful, and the movie with Leonardo Dicaprio is amazing too.

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

An enthralling story about human nature and what can happen when we are pushed to our limits.  Fast-paced and full of symbolism, this one keeps you reading until the very last page.

Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

A story about growing up, clinging to childhood, and dealing with loss.  Holden, the protagonist, will remind you what it was really like to be a teenager.

The Crucible

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

A play about the Salem Witch Trials, but also about McCarthyism.  And also about any other ‘witch hunt’ modern or historical.  The movie with Daniel Day Lewis is great (because Daniel Day Lewis is great!)

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A dystopian future where a fireman’s job is to burn books, not put out fires.  A message about the power and the freedom of knowledge.

 

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

An allegory for the Russian Revolution, and a message about the perils of a totalitarian government.

Night

Night by Elie Wiesel

This book makes me cry every single year.  The author is a Holocaust survivor who was sent to the camps when he was 15.  And don’t skip the introduction, preface, or Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech if your copy includes them.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare

I know, I know.  Shakespeare is hard to understand.  But here’s the thing: it’s so worth it!  Just give it a try, even if it’s one sonnet, one scene, or a movie version!  If you have the chance, see a live performance.  The language is beautiful and rhythmic, and the stories vary from tragic to hysterical.  Try it!  Some recommendations: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth

Well, there you have it!  Straight from an English teacher: 10 high school books to read again as an adult.  Let me know what you think of these titles in the comments!

The Perfect Purse for Moms

This is the perfect purse for moms!

If you’re anything like me, you change purses a lot.

I’m always looking for the perfect blend of style, organization, and comfort.  With two toddlers, a full time job, and a busy life, my purse has to work for me.

After using a bazillion different purses in my life, I think I’ve found it.  The perfect purse for moms like me:

The cross body purse.

Ok, maybe you’ve already discovered the magical unicorn that is the cross body purse, and you think I’m a little slow to the game, but I have to share just in case other mamas out there are still searching!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  This means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the link.  Your purchase supports my work and this blog.  Please know that I only recommend products I have used and loved.  Read my full Disclaimer for more information.

 

Why the Morgan Traveler Cross Body is the perfect purse for moms.

I have this Fossil Morgan Traveler Cross Body Bag, and it’s the best purse ever!  Here is why it’s the perfect purse for moms:

It’s hands free!

Like the name suggest, the strap is worn across your body.  No hands!  For a mom slugging twin two year olds to daycare, the grocery store, gymnastics, and the doctor’s office, this is a necessity that I didn’t think about before I had kids.  Mamas, you’re with me.  Two hands are necessary when parenting toddlers.

Versatility

Yes, you can wear it like the name suggests, OR, you can wear it over one shoulder for a more casual look.  And, if you get one with an adjustable strap like mine, you can shorten the strap and have a completely different style.  One purse, three ways!  Versatility, people!

Organization

Is there anything worse than a purse that is just one giant pocket?  A black hole of disorganization that makes it impossible to find anything.  This purse has pockets, pockets, and more pockets!  Inside pockets, outside pockets, zippered pockets, open pockets, even a pocket with slots for your driver’s license and cards if you don’t want to carry a wallet.  I can organize all my stuff and access it easily.

Size

This purse is the perfect size.  It’s big enough to fit what I need, but not so big that I end up carrying too much stuff.  I usually carry my wallet, small first aid kit, keys, lip balm, sunglasses, and still have room to spare.  When I travel, I can fit a small bottle of water and an umbrella too!

Travel

Not only is this my go-to everyday purse, but it’s also perfect for travel.  I’ve worn this purse in London, Paris, Rome, and on more local trips to the White Mountains, Rhode Island, and Boston.  A cross body bag is a must for travel because it’s hands free, it secures your belongings better, and it makes you less likely to be pick-pocketed.  Just turn the purse around to the front, hold onto it with one hand, and pick-pockets will move on to someone with their purse slung under their shoulder or even around to the back.  Also, the millions of pockets make it super easy to organize all the essentials for a travel day.

Style

I bought this purse in the color ‘saddle’, a light brown kind of color.  I love that the color goes with everything and is classic.  I tend to lean more towards a classic, timeless style and shy away from anything too trendy, and this purse fits the bill.  I wear it with jeans, sneakers, and a tee, and just as easily with black skinnies, boots, and a blouse.

What do you think?  Is the cross body purse the perfect purse for you?  What kind of purse to use and love?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Why I Love My Kindle and What I Use it For

I bought a Kindle a few months ago, and I use it almost every day.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you should really think about buying one!  Here is why I love my Kindle and what I use it for most.

Why I love my Kindle and what I use it for

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links.  This means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the link.  Please know that I only recommend products I have used and loved.  Read my full Disclaimer for more information.

Why I love my Kindle:

Cost

I bought the Kindle Fire (7″ display, wifi, 8GB) from Amazon for $49.99.  Bargain!  And for such an affordable price, you get a lot for your money.  It’s basically a small tablet: you access the e-reader, games, internet, Pinterest, or whatever you want through apps on the home screen.  It’s super versatile and cheap too!

Size

The Kindle I bought is 7 inches, and super light.  It’s really slim and not too heavy.  It’s comfortable to hold when reading or casually surfing the web, and I bought a case for it that has a stand to keep it upright on a flat surface if I want to.

Portability

Because of its size, I can easily take the Kindle with me on the go.  I always used to lug books around with me to read when standing in line or in a waiting room, but now I just take my Kindle.  It fits easily in my purse or diaper bag.  I also always take it with me when I travel.  It’s great in airports, on planes, or even in the car on long drives.  And because it has wifi capabilities, wherever there’s wifi, I’m connected (shout out to Logan airport for free wifi!!).

What I Use My Kindle For:

Reading

I bought it to use as an e-reader, and use it for this daily.  I read a lot (at least a book a week!) and usually in bed before going to sleep.  The Kindle app is awesome. Here are some features I love:

  • It syncs across all my devices (like my phone), so I’m always on the right page.  I do make sure to sync it before I leave the house, in case I’m going somewhere without wifi.
  • I can look up my reading history to see what books and authors I’ve read.  This has come in handy when I’m recommending or talking about books I’ve read and I can’t remember the title or author.  #englishteacherproblems
  • The in-book menu lets you read information about the book, skip to a certain page or chapter, and includes links to the Kindle store.
  • The in-book dictionary.  Just press and hold on a word, and the definition pops up!  This is so handy, and make me wish I had Kindles for all my struggling high school readers.
  • When you finish a book, Kindle includes links to other books in the series and recommends similar titles, so you always have something to read next!
Videos

Although I bought my Kindle to use primarily as an e-reader, I also use it a fair amount for streaming video through Netflix.  Sometimes I just need a break from endless episodes of Sofia and Jake, and yes, I plug in my headphones and watch Fixer Upper while my kids are watching cartoons.  Don’t judge!

Web

I also use my Kindle to browse the internet or use Pinterest.  It’s a lot easier to use my Kindle than my computer when I’m sitting in the living room with my kids.  I also use it in this way when I travel.

Are you convinced?  I hope you’ve found the reasons I love my Kindle and what I use it for helpful in making your decision!