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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

Want to beat the 5 o’clock “what to make” panic? Think about dinner as soon as you get up.

We’ve started dedicating Monday mornings to a single tip or simple idea to get your week off to a better start. Enjoy! -Meagan

plan a better week

As recently as a few years ago, I’d often start my day without giving a single thought to dinner.

Sure, I’d have made a meal plan (usually, at least) over the weekend, and had often even shopped for the needed items.But I’d somehow fail to make the connection between the meal scrawled on my calendar and the fact that oh hey I actually need to feed some people today. 

Head down in my work, or in the frenetic afternoon ending-nap-lunch-cleanup-after-school-rush, I’d somehow neglect to consider the dinner hour at all until suddenly – whoops! – it was 5:30 or so and I’d realize dinnertime was almost upon me. 

In my interview with Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner, a Love Story, we talked about the benefits of thinking about dinner as soon as you get up. Not at 5, not at 4, not even at lunch time. No. First thing in the morning, while you’re also attending to crucial details like changing soggy early-morning diapers, or making sure bigger kids have their folders in their backpacks.

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Thinking about dinner at breakfast time doesn’t mean you have to obsess all day. After I give five minutes or less of thought to dinnertime at 7 AM, I usually don’t think about it again until it’s time to start cooking.

But at some point, I realized that when you give yourself ample time (like, 8+ hours if possible) to get in the dinner mindset, it makes everything easier and nearly eliminates unpleasant and panicky last-minute decisions and wrenches in the works.

You’ll remember to pull the ground beef or salmon out of the freezer or stick that flank steak in the marinade in adequate time, note that you need another stick of butter, or remember that the roast needs to go in the crock pot before you leave for work or in the Dutch oven by 3 PM. 

When I was just getting used to the “thinking about dinner at breakfast time” thing, I’d put a written cue on my to-do list, the same one that I leave next to my laptop or sometimes, right next to my bed to find first thing in the morning (when I’m feeling anxious at bedtime, I like to get all of the “to dos” for the week out of my head and on paper, and usually leave it on my nightstand.)

Giving myself a written reminder to think about dinner helped me avert a lot of 5 PM emergencies, like un-thawed meat or un-purchased milk.

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But the best part is that I soon got in the habit of opening the fridge while my tea brews, doing a visual check of ingredients, and just making sure I have a plan for dinner. It takes all of two minutes most days, and once I know I’m set, I don’t think about dinner again until I start my Kitchen Hour. But that little bit of thought, that little bit of preparation, makes it so much easier to face making the nightly meal.

So if you’re finding yourself with a lot of “Oh crap, it’s 5 PM and we have nothing planned for dinner!” moments, try thinking about dinner at an unexpected time of day: during breakfast.

Give yourself a written reminder or set an alert on your phone, and just take a minute or two to check ingredients, double-check the recipe cook time if needed, and make sure you’re all set.

That way you can set up your day to incorporate food prep and maybe, a trip to the grocery store in the quiet early afternoon, rather than at 5:30 PM when everybody else in town is there.

Why not give it a shot? Let me know if thinking about dinner at breakfast time helps you!

Want more Monday morning inspiration? You can read all Plan a Better Week posts here.

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