My Holiday Entertaining Superhero . . . My Mom!


This post is the result of a series of unexpected yet serendipitous events. Saturday night my family and I decided to watch the movie “Man of Steel” on DVD……..two days later I was invited to be part of Samsung’s “Women of Steel” contest honoring the heroines in our lives…….which came right as I’d been thinking about upcoming holiday entertaining and what a SUPERHERO my Mom is at all this stuff! Maybe it’s just me…but I think those are some pretty amazing coincidences!

The more I thought about all of these interconnected events..I decided that this post, sponsored by Samsung, was meant to be an homage to my Mom’s entertaining style. Although it’s impossible to list ALL the things I have learned from my Mom, this list is meant to at least encapsulate the spirit of my Mom’s holiday entertaining, which I now try to make part of mine.

My Mom’s Holiday “Formula”:

pie crust rolling

Homemade is best. Period.

No canned cranberries, frozen pie crusts, or whipped cream in a can at our holiday table. The rolls were all homemade and the jam too!


It’s never too early to get up to put the turkey in the oven.

My Mom’s recipe for cooking the perfect turkey involves long hours at a lower temperature which always necessitates her getting up VERY early to make sure it’s done in time. Our BIG family requires a BIG bird. :-)

thanksgiving table

Family comes first…and “family” is anyone who needs a place to call “home.”

There are very few years I can remember that there wasn’t at least one “stranger” at our holiday table. Whether it was the lady at the post office who had no family to spend the holidays with, or a elderly neighbor who had recently been widowed…there has always been room for more at my Mom’s table.

christmas china

It’s worth bringing out the “good” stuff for the holidays.

Every holiday dinner that I can remember has been eaten off the “good china” set on the “good linens.” While my collection of “good stuff” isn’t quite as extensive as my Mom’s yet. I’m working on it.

kid christmas

Keep it kid-friendly and kid fun!

My Mom always made sure to remember the holidays weren’t too “fancy”. Not only did she make the decor and food kid-friendly, she made sure to involve us in the preparations as well…which meant the world to me!


Embrace the spirit of the season as well as the beautiful touches.

Despite all the effort put into making the season “cheery and bright”, she always made sure we remembered the reason for the season as well. Each Thanksgiving dinner was concluded with everyone sharing what they were most grateful for that year and we didn’t go to bed on Christmas Eve without reading The Christmas Story from the Bible and listening to “What Child Is This?

the flour game

Traditions makes the season richer.

Strawberry waffles for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning breakfast……The Flour Game on Christmas Eve……playing Secret Santa to a family in need…….Grandma’s Fruit Salad……picking out the perfect Christmas tree from the local tree lot…..Thanksgiving Day family flag football game…..are just a FEW of the ones I will remember the most.


Be willing to try new ideas.

As rich as our holidays are with tradition, my Mom has always been open to finding new and better ways to celebrate. When I got married and introduced a few Norwegian dishes from my husband’s family, my Mom was one of the first ones to embrace the wonder of Lefsa. :-)

my beautiful mother

I am so grateful to my Mom’s wonderful example over the years of how to be “the hostess with the mostest” without even trying. Her entertaining “style” always came from the heart…and that’s what ultimately made it SO very beautiful.

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee



  • […] week I shared the things I’ve learned from my Mom over the years about holiday entertaining. One of the things I always remember her being extremely good at was making sure EVERYONE felt […]

  • My Mom was also a great source of inspiration and my hero. She never knew a stranger and could not imagine anyone not having a warm, friendly, loving place to celebrate any holiday. We would joke that if she couldnt find someone to invite for the holiday she would go find someone on the street and bring them. She, my Dad and my brother also put in untold hours at the local shelter feeding, clothing, and serving the homeless year round. Mom loved to cook, loved to share, and loved to have her family around her. She was the glue that held our family together and spark that made holdiays and family get togethers special. I can only dream that I can in some way even begin to fill her size 5 1/2 shoes. Love and miss you Mom – especially this time of year.

    Thank you for sharing and allowing us to share as well.

  • What a lovely tribute to your mother. She is a beautiful lady and she obviously has filled your life with wonderful memories. My mom passed away 15 years ago and there is not a day that I don’t think of her and miss her. It looks like we were both blessed to have incredible role models.

  • This is absolutely beautiful. It’s definitely NOT what I’m sure many of us readers were expecting when we read that it was another list of tips for entertaining during the holidays, and I, personally, am SO grateful for that! It certainly helps that your “tips” remind me so very much of my Nana (who coincidentally also married a Norwegian). Thanks so very much for sharing!

  • The Woman of Steel in my life was my MOM. She is still living, but no longer in my life.
    It was great growing up with her. She taught me so much. Wish I could have had more.
    Soooo… I turn my attention to some of my clients. I have been a hairdresser for 30 years. My little old ladies have left a lasting impression on me that I will treasure forever.
    I take the best of each one and keep it in my heart.

    My favorite is a little lady named Faye. Oh I am sure everyone has a Faye in their life. It is their Mom or grandma or a little neighbor lady. Petite, grey hair, bright blue eyes and an infectious smile.
    She has shared recipes with me, life lessons, her faith and her incredible strength as the matriarch of HER family. Family, faith, music and food are all important to her.
    She spends her days now, taking care of her bed fast husband and never says an unkind word.

    I would say she is my source of strength and hope. Someday I will have her hootzpa.
    She is an inspiration to me and my nomination for Woman of Steel.

    Thank you for this post. It makes me miss my Mom , but appreciate what I have learned over the years.

  • I was so heartwarming to read your tribute to your Mom. Having said that family was anyone who needs a place to call home allows me to understand why you have opened your life up to all of us. I learn so much from your e mails and it goes far beyond recipes for detergent (which are great, by the way).

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday and thank you for always sharing with your internet family.

  • What a wonderful tribute to your mother Jillee !
    I especially love the part where you quote her, ” Family comes first and family is anyone who needs a place to call home. You can tell she is a very warm hearted woman. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What a blessing ! Thank you for sharing your Mama with us ! Mine has been one of my angels in heaven for nearly 6 years now. Holiday blessings to you & yours.


  • I LOVE lefse, having eaten it from my earliest bites of solid food. We can’t have a family get-together without it! Of course it is always homemade:) In fact, I’m going to whip up a batch today!

    M aunt Linda was a very powerful and positive influence. While she was struggling with the ravages of diabetes; weekly dialysis, surgeries to remove parts of her foot, then her entire foot, and unbeknownst to me, knew her heart was on numbered days, she took me under her wing when I needed a mother’s love. I had only seen her a few times until I was a married adult. Then she and her husband, who were childless due to her diabetes, moved to our town. I think having me fulfilled her empty heart from having been childless. We forged a very fast and strong bond. I was her support through her medical difficulties, taking her shopping and for lunches, and running her errands when she could no longer get around on her own. Just a year after she died, our first-born came into our lives. I just knew it was because of her. She knew how strongly was my desire to have a baby, after years of infertility. I firmly believe she went to bat for us in Heaven to give us our first and long-anticipated baby, and is rejoicing now and forever for the life I’m living in her honor, and for the person I am now – so thankful for the brief light she brought to my life with her presence and love.

  • Jillee, Bless your heart, you have a wonderful blog and it’s no wonder, with a Mom like yours! I too married into a 100% Norwegian family and embrace and LOVE lefsa!! I wonder if we can make it GF?? I just may have to try that since there are at least 4 of us in the family who really miss that delectable little treat, especially over the holidays!

    • Lefse could VERY easily be made GF. If you already make your own, simply substitute GF flour in place of traditional flour. It can also be made paleo and dairy-free by substituting dairy for coconut or almond milk.

  • Jillee, that was precious. What a lovely lady your mom is – and, you so resemble her. What a heritage you’ve been blessed with. I love where you said there were always extra folks at the table who needed family especially at holiday time.

    Of course, this put me in mind of my mama who has passed on. Some of the clearest memories of holidays past include all the pretty special touches she would bring out of their hiding places at Thanksgiving and Christmastime….the little Pilgrim couple candles and the turkey candle that went with them. I always thought he looked a little uncomfortable ;) And at Christmastime, she’d let me put up the miniature aluminum Christmas tree on the piano and decorate it with the shiny glass bead garland. Also, those little felt elves everyone our age remembers with delight, and a sleigh with the tiny reindeer pulling it.
    Oh, and she had this wonderful Christmas green tablecloth with holly leaves designs along the edges with gold sparkle.

    She’s whom I credit with my love for putting out pretty decorations around our home every Holiday season…those special touches that warm my heart.

  • I LOVE you, Jillybean,
    Thank you. How kind you are. I am SO proud of your entire life. You have overcome and become an exemplary woman to SO many wonderful people throughout the world. I am very grateful that a kind Heavenly Father sent you our way.
    Always love,
    p.s. Dad is “popping his buttons” too. :-)

    • Hello Jillee…I was going to tell you how beautiful your mom is inside and out, and this seemed to be the best place to say it. You’ve given your mom so many reasons to be so proud of you….your loyal followers love this blog!

  • My grandma.

    She has always been my biggest supporter and thought I could do anything I set my mind to. She would babysit me during the day when I was a baby so my mom could finish high school. She doted on me and always said what a good baby I was. I remember making Christmas cookies with my family and a flour fight would always break out and Grandma would allow it to a degree but when she said stop, it was time to clean up. No one made noodles like her and with dementia stealing her from us more every day, the noodles are a thing of holiday’s past. It won’t be long now before she doesn’t recognize me and I’m just some nice girl that comes to visit. It’s any day now as my husband has been lost in her mind and she looks at him like a stranger. Every day is a struggle just to get up, dressed and exist…things we all take for granted. She will always be my hero.

  • My mom was the most wonderful living example of love in action. Everything my mom did was totally from the heart and she always did was right and fair. She moved her from Missouri at the age of three and raised her whole family (2 boys and 2 girls) in the same home for all her life. In 1936 she opened her own little café to feed the local oil workers and then later as the need arose the care was turned into apartments and then when the only local grocery store burned down, Mom opened her own grocery store and she and dad drove 100 miles away to Billing, Montana on a weekly basis to stock her little country grocery store with the town’s necessities. She ran that little store from 1936 until 2007 when her vision was causing her challenges and the let some local investors revamp the store and tried to run it as mom sat in her little antique shop right next door to the store and watched with hurt and disappointment as the store finally closed due to lack of management and judgement. It was one of the saddest days of her life. I’ll never forget her tear filled sobs as she called me to let me know of her heartbreaking news. Mom continued to life a full life until the day she took her heavenly wings, October 7, 2009 and returned to heaven to be with my dad, and her son who passed away in 2007. I was with her the moment she took her last breath after singing our song WIND BENEATH MY WINGS together and I shall never forget that most spiritual moment as she returned to heaven to be with all her loved ones who paved the way for her years before. Oh what a celebration was waiting for her.

    Everybody who knew mom had nothing but wonderful memories of her and it makes me proud to not only have her beloved name Dorothy but to have been raised in a Godly family with a loving mother and father and sibilings…Lucky me to my be parent’s daughter…their third child the first darling girl.

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of something that I want to share with her. Daily phone chats were a norm for us as I always lived so far away and that truly was the highlight of my day to call and chat with mom and share our days happenings…Oh how I miss her.

    Today I have taken over her little antique shop and have turned it into a massage spa health center for our little Wyoming hometown of only 600 people. I feel my mom’s presence all the time and it is such a peaceful refueling place for me to go weather I have a massage appointment or not.

    I thank God every day for the wonderful childhood and living example of goodness in which I was raised. Daily gratitude lists keep me going forward with a greatful heart and soul.

  • loved the blog today ! Now, you need to share some things. What is the flour game ? Recipe for Lefsa, and anything else! Those are wonderful memories, and it is so kind of you to share with us a part of your life with a special mom….we should all have been so lucky !

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