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Pardon our dust! (And, yay for changes!)

We’re doing a little spring cleaning here at The Happiest Home! Sarah’s been working hard behind the scenes to switch us to a new theme that will make it easier for you to navigate content and discover gems that have gotten buried over the years. We appreciate your patience while we roll out the new changes, and – whoops! – apologize if some older content somehow winds up in your inbox along the way. Want to stay up to date on what’s happening here amid all the changes? Fill out the box below and we’ll get in touch with you via email

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Looking for inspiration and real-life connection? Join me at the BEYOND Retreat next fall.

You know one of the biggest benefits of slowing down and doing less? When you step off of the merry-go-round of doing, doing, doing just because it seems like, well, the thing to do, you suddenly have all this “new” time and energy and brain space to pursue things that mean a lot to you. For years I’ve been dreaming of putting together an event bringing together awesome women in one place to dream, plan, recharge and get inspired. And now it’s time to make it happen. In October of 2015 I’ll be hosting a small but mighty group of women (is

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“Fun Parent” vs. “Boring Parent” – It’s Not Fair! But Is It True?

My husband made this lunch for my daughter last week. I know. I should have known it was coming when I caught him poring over Bento box tutorials on YouTube, watching a woman meticulously arrange smiley faces onto tiny rice-ball heads, then cap them off with pita-pocket hats. The very next day, Jon made a special trip to the grocery store for supplies. And that evening, he and Clara hovered over the kitchen island for a good half-hour creating The Lunch To End All Lunches.  Heart-shaped salami framed by heart-shaped cheese slices, people. A tiny little star cutout peanut-butter sandwich with honey and sprinkles

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Delegate Like Downton: A Strategy For Managing Home Helpers

Imagine this: it’s a Sunday afternoon. One child just got done shoveling the walk, and another is unloading the dishwasher. You, on the other hand, are reading a magazine, sipping a cup of tea and enjoying the calm of a neat (enough) kitchen…that you didn’t even have to tidy up yourself. Sound like a fantasy? It’s not! It’s actually how my Sunday afternoon played out…and it’s a pretty common scenario around here. It hasn’t always been this way. Earlier in marriage and motherhood, I was surrounded by mess and chaos, and bogged down by resentment. Why didn’t other family members recognize

At Home with Meagan

5 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

I’ve been wanting to do a regular video series, like, forEVER. But when I had kids home with me during the day, I found it was just too difficult to find quiet pockets of time to shoot and edit regularly. A five-minute video may not seem like it takes much time to do, but there’s a lot of set-up and production involved, even in the most “candid” vids.  Now that my days are my own, though, I’m finding that I’ve got the space and quiet to take on some of those things I’ve been wanting to do! So, here it

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Whimsical Girl’s Bedroom Ideas

We’re moving! In less than two weeks my family is relocating to Southern California and we couldn’t be more excited. Our new house is ready and waiting for us and I’m itching to get into it and start settling in. One of the biggest differences between our current house and the one we’re moving into is the flooring. We have carpet now – lots of it – and we’re moving into a house with all hardwood floors. And while the new floors are beautiful, it’s going to be awfully echo-y in there until we get some area rugs down. One problem:

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Gardening with Kids, The (Really) Easy Way

I’ve always wanted to think of myself as the kind of mom who grows herbs indoors using a DIY seed-starting kit, turning toilet-paper rolls or egg cartons into frugal mini-gardens which nurture her child’s green thumb, creativity and resourcefulness. In reality, I’m the kind of mom who intends, every year, to start seeds indoors eight weeks before the ground is warm, or start a windowsill herb garden, but always forgets to gather the supplies or set aside an afternoon for putting together a system. So this year, I decided to skip all the usual “Oh man, I can’t believe I

3 things that are getting between you and being a pro blogger.

This post is part of an ongoing series on blogging as a profession and working from home in general. To read the whole series, click here.

When I asked readers to send along the biggest obstacles that keep them from launching a blog – or ramping up their current blogs – I found that several common themes emerged: I don’t have a lot of free time. I don’t know what to write about. I don’t know how to break into what feels like a closed “in-crowd.”

Here are my answers to some of these common issues – with a reminder that none of them are insurmountable!

 1. “I have a lot of obligations right now. Is it possible to be a pro blogger part time?”

Absolutely! You might not make progress as quickly as you would if you were working on it full-time, but any time invested in an activity will get you results. When I first started blogging professionally I was also doing a lot of other kinds of writing, so I was only working on my blog a few hours a week. As my blog grow, the time I was able to invest in it also grew. Even now I wouldn’t say I blog full-time. I have client work and freelancing projects I do that take up about half of my work time.

If you’re going to blog part-time, I think it’s especially important to avoid distractions and get really good at managing your time, right down to the minute. There is a learning curve involved, and in the beginning you will put in more work for less payoff. But don’t let other obligations keep you from blogging if you really want to!

2. “I’m worried about privacy.”

This is a tough one, and an issue you have to decide on for yourself. But I’ll share a little about how I personally approach privacy (and why I don’t let it get between me and my blog).

  • I write under my maiden name, which is a different last name from my kids’. It’s not a failsafe but it does offer a nice buffer between my “public” and “private” lives, and my written work and my kids.
  • While my kids play an important role in this blog (I wouldn’t be a mom without them!) the blog has never been about them. I do think that shields us, to some extent, from the kind of creeper behavior a blogger might have to worry about if her kids, their stories, their pictures, and their personalities were the main focus of the blog.
  • When I lived in a different city, I wrote a newspaper column in the local paper for five years complete with an enormous picture of my face on it and a bio that named all of my kids. It always amazed me how few people connected me and my family to my public “persona!” I think people are not paying as much attention as we might think they are. Which leads to…
  • Overall – and this is an important one, I think – I’m just not that worried about Internet privacy. I make a point of not sharing anything too personal online, I avoid situations and people that feel “off” to me, and I don’t have the kind of internet presence that I think is likely to attract unwelcome attention. Of course, there are no guarantees, which is why it’s important to stay vigilant – but that’s true for my real-life, too.

That’s my personal approach to the privacy issue, but you’ll need to consult your own circumstances and conscience on this one.

3. “I’m not sure how to find other bloggers to network with.”

A few years ago, Tsh from Simple Mom gave some awesome advice at a conference I was attending: when you’re trying to connect with other bloggers, reach up, reach down, and reach across. Her point: Ask for help from bloggers further down the path than you – they may be a lot more receptive than you’d think, and they’re in a position to help you. Reach out to bloggers who are at the same level as you, because you can all help one another climb. And give a hand to bloggers who are a few steps behind you: they’ll appreciate the help, and you never know where they’ll end up later.

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The key, I think, is doing this in authentic and engaging way. Every now and then I’ll get an email from a newbie blogger (who I don’t know at all), asking me to connect them with other influential bloggers. It makes me cringe because…well, that’s just not how it works, but I’m not sure how to explain that without sounding snooty.

Relationships are built through time, attention, and respect. So while I’m thrilled to recommend a blogger I know for an opportunity, or make an introduction to a bigger blogger, I can’t do that if I don’t know the person or her work first.

Another thing to keep in mind: Tomorrow’s “in-crowd” will not look the same as yesterday’s “in-crowd.” Yes, there are bloggers who’ve built strong relationships and networks over time, but those groups can be surprisingly fluid – and anyway, there are always up-and-comers who can band together and create their own networks. Don’t let a fear of clique-ish-ness or being on the outside keep you from getting started. You might be a freshman now, but you’ll be a senior sooner than you realize.

Here’s how those connections are made: read blogs you love, and leave comments. Retweet bloggers you love, and share their posts on your Facebook page. If somebody lives locally send an email and ask to meet for coffee. Attend conferences and try to connect with other bloggers. Bloggy Boot Camp is a great one for beginners because it’s small, friendly, moves from city to city, and is always very reasonably priced. But any conference is an excellent way to connect with fellow bloggers. You may even have a local conference or blogger support group.

If your traffic is taking longer than you’d like to build, take heart: remember that the online world is very crowded, and readership often grows in fits and starts rather than a slow, steady climb. Most of all, keep your current readers in mind. They are the ones who will become your disciples, spreading the word to other potential readers. Just make sure to keep giving them content worth spreading. 

Can I just say how much I’m loving writing this WAH/blogging series? I get a lot of questions from aspiring bloggers and moms who want to build a career at home, and while I always try to respond to all my email, I don’t always have the time to write out a long, helpful response. So I love that now I have my thoughts and ideas compiled in one place and can help more people. Yay! I’ll be continuing this series all summer, so please keep sending those questions and concerns along and I’ll do my best to answer – to submit a question just leave a comment here on this post, or email me at meagan@thehappiesthome.com.

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