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


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


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:


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

How An Hour In The Kitchen Hour Gave Me Back My Evenings

Michigan Snow

Last winter, I noticed that my late afternoons and early evenings didn’t seem to have enough shape to them.

Dinnertime felt uninspired and chaotic, the dishes were done haphazardly and homework time was becoming a rushed afterthought near the end of the day. March malaise was making it difficult for me to feel particularly enthusiastic about…anything.

Between writing work and housework and books to read and Facebook and permission slips and texting my sister and my husband texting me and – hey, how did the dog escape again? – and the daily schedules of five kids, I’ve got a lot going on. And with all these moving parts wheeling around my distraction-prone brain, when I don’t go through the effort to intentionally anchor things that are important to me, they have a tendency to get overlooked.

For me, part of that “anchor” is a routine, or series of routines, that help set my intentions in motion and keep them there. And that’s how The Kitchen Hour was born.

Around that time I discovered a few podcasts, and started listening to them in the kitchen to keep me company while I was (sluggishly) getting dinner on.  But I found that once I started really puttering around the kitchen, I didn’t want to stop.

Some days I’d cook a big meal. Other days I’d toss in an easy meal in the oven and then get to work cleaning off a shelf in the fridge or scraping who-knows-what off of a burner. Since I’d want to listen to the podcast all the way through, I’d find little jobs to do around the kitchen until it was over. One night my husband came home early and asked what I was doing, and I said something to the effect of “Oh, it’s my daily ‘stand around the kitchen cooking, talking to the kids and listening to podcasts hour’.” We eventually shortened this to “the kitchen hour.”

Like most modern families, the majority of the action in our house takes place in or around the kitchen. This is more than a little awkward, because our kitchen is small, cramped, and located at the back of the house, without an island to congregate around or so much as a chair to sit on. But it’s right off of the dining room, and I can easily carry on a conversation with somebody who’s sitting at the table.

Meagan kneading
I’ve noticed that where I am is where the kids want to be. When I’m in the kitchen, I’m present for them in a way that I’m not when I’m in my office, or my bedroom, or the living-room sofa. But at the same time, I’m getting stuff done. And that creates a nice feeling of productivity and connection that I find difficult to recreate elsewhere. In truth, my “kitchen hour” often stretches to two hours or more. And I love it.

Oh sure, I chase the kids out of the kitchen sometimes when I’m trying to transfer a pot full of boiling pasta from the stove to the strainer in the sink, or when their energetic bouncing makes it hard for me to concentrate on the recipe I’m working on. And I don’t actually spend the entire hour (or more) in the kitchen –  I wander in and out, straightening up the dining room or swapping the laundry. What counts is that I’m on my feet – not sitting at a computer or staring at the TV – and I’m in the heart of the home, available to my family, and making a point of doing things that matter to me instead of trying to squeeze them haphazardly wherever I can make them fit.

And I didn’t give anything up to have this time, either; at least nothing important. Sure, some end-of-the-business-day emails now go unanswered until later in the evening, and I stopped mindlessly watching Food Network in the afternoon, and I missed out on some Twitter drama, but the things that mattered to me still managed to fit, and the stuff that didn’t…well, it didn’t matter anyway.

The Kitchen Hour experiment is a good example of how time can just seem to open up out of nowhere when you create routine around it. On the other hand, time can slip into the abyss and just disappear when it’s not managed. Creating a to-do list is great, but you are far more likely to actually get around to the things on it if you set aside focused, committed time.

In fact, I look at my Kitchen Hour as the anti-to-do-list time in my life: I just take what comes, whether it’s a chat with my teenager or the sudden urge to make chocolate-chip cookies. Stuff still gets done, but it’s not always the stuff I would have planned for.

Meagan Apron
I’m great at setting aside time for big, creative projects, but the day-to-day minutiae of life sometimes slips through the cracks. Which is too bad, because that minutiae can be pretty darn enjoyable when you approach it with a sense of meaning. By setting aside focused time for something I felt was missing – dedicated attention to home and family – I wound up with a lot more than clean counters.

Could adopting a nightly “kitchen hour” help you enjoy, rather than dread, getting dinner on the table? 

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