Finding More Hours In The Day {Meal Planning}

The Inspired Room - Blue Apron Recipes

This post was prepared in partnership with Blue Apron

The past few weeks have been a little crazy around our house! Between being book writing and book launching seasons, all the house projects I have going on and church stuff we are involved with, our family has been in one of those extra busy times. Those come along now and then (or a lot) for most of us who have a lot on our plate and if we want to stay sane, we have to get really good at juggling if we want to try to find some sense of “balance.”

I wrote a lot in my new book about how I have learned ways to create a more peaceful home and how I attempt calm the chaos of life. The good news is, I know it IS possible to juggle a lot and not feel totally frazzled at all times.

Juggling the plates well doesn’t mean you live a life of domestic bliss or that everything will be easy peasy, because perfect doesn’t really exist. You just have to know what to trim out so you can focus your energy on what really matters to you. That’s my thing. I am learning and training myself to be pretty deliberate about where I spend my time and how I can do what I really love in life and not feel like I’m dropping too many balls.

Blue Apron Fresh Ingredients - The Inspired Room

One of the areas I try to streamline as much as possible now is time spent on meal prep and shopping. We stick to our basic tried and true recipes that we can prepare easily and we know what to shop for, so we can buy mostly fresh produce and meats to keep our meals healthy and simple. I try to simplify our activities and schedules as much as possible because I want to have the maximum amount of time with our family. I just hate to waste any of it by being disorganized. Time is precious and how we spend it matters!

Panko Crusted Chicken from Blue Apron

Yet, I find that when we are extra busy and we dropped the ball on a plan for those days, we end up going out to eat more than I wish we did. Because it is easier. And we are hungry. And no one thought about dinner for that night until everyone is starving and crabby.

Usually my teen son is the first one to venture out to the kitchen and notes that no one is making dinner! Ha. He can cook for himself, but as a teen boy he’s always hungry and looking forward to the next meal. That’s something that matters to me, that we have family meal times and no one is eating on their own all the time.

Blue Apron Recipe Instructions Card

Those super busy days come every single week at our house, I’ll be honest, so they shouldn’t be a surprise. Yet if we treat them like a surprise, we will realize too late that we are hungry and we have to go out, or we will eat eggs again. Those situations happen because I didn’t plan for an in-between option. That is, planning on something for dinner that would be in between eating eggs again and going out.

Ingredients - Blue Apron

I learned years ago that if I wanted to save time and money, I absolutely had to plan for in-between options. In my dreams I would prepare food in advance for busy days and always be on top of my shopping game, but in reality with my schedule I’m not always able to set aside time for that, nor do I love shopping and cooking enough to make it a big priority every week. But if I plan for easy in-between options, it always saves the day and saves us money in the end because we didn’t have to go to a restaurant in order to eat well at home. And we didn’t have to resort to take out!

Blue Apron - by The Inspired Room
Meal services are the best invention. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried Blue Apron, but I love it because they deliver farm-fresh quality ingredients for a wonderful meal right to your door in a refrigerated box! You get to enjoy a delicious meal that you still prepare fresh at home, but all the indecision is out of the way so you can get right to preparing.

Blue Apron - Dining Room - The Inspired Room blog

It’s easy! Everything you need is ready to go, the recipe cards tell you exactly what to do and within a short period of time and just a little preparation, you are sitting at the table with your family eating something yummy for your tummy. I love getting to try a new recipe too. The meals are all delicious and I always come away with a new favorite recipe I never would have tried on my own.

Blue Apron Recipe - The Inspired Room Dining Room

Ordering even just one meal a week can be the perfect in-between option so you have a plan for for your busiest day, or even give you a day or two off every week of wondering or shopping for what you’ll eat for dinner and stressing out that you have no idea and no time to deal with it.

You can order just what you need with a two-person meal or a family plan. Each meal takes under 40 minutes to prepare. Check out their yummy chef-designed recipes here!

Best of all, you can give yourself a break! Sound heavenly? It is! Blue Apron nights could even be your favorite night of the week and something to look forward to (in addition to binge watching Fixer Upper, of course).

Want to try it for yourself? 

  • The first 50 readers to sign up will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!

  • Just click here to get started! There is no commitment and you can cancel the service at any time.

What are your tips for finding more hours in the day?

Home Decor Coloring Book – The Inspired Room

The Inspired Room Coloring Book - Interior Decorating - Colored Pencils


love being creative. I always have. When I was a kid, I loved going to paper stores to look at all the notepads, pretty pens, coloring books and stickers. While other kids played with toys, I wallpapered cardboard boxes for my dolls to live in. I drew floor plans and searched magazines for the perfect houses and color schemes (surprised?). In high school, my favorite classes were art and calligraphy (to be honest I barely survived biology and algebra).

My first business as a young teen was painting strawberries on clothes pins and glass jars and selling them. My second business was as a scrapbook business for Creative Memories. And of course, through the years I’ve been able to enjoy creativity primarily through decorating my homes.

I feel fortunate to be able spend a lot of my days now working on one creative pursuit or another through my work, which is really cool and really makes my heart happy. But I wondered a few years ago if I needed to find a new hobby, since my hobby (decorating) was now my job! Hmmm…something to think about.

The Inspired Room - Home Decor Coloring Book

Even when I try to just stop working for the evening I tend to start doing what I love doing, which is being creative and working on my house. HA! Sounds weird, but I STILL love what I get to do as my job just as much as I did when it was just a hobby.

So, even though I do not consider myself crafty at all, in recent years every time I saw cute idea for a craft, I’d buy the supplies with the intention to use them as a different way to be creative and relax. I got all the rubber stamps, all the paper, all the ribbons, all the embroidery kits, the beads, the markers, the colored pencils, the photo albums, the stickers, the glue, the washi tape, etc. So much stuff!

Make Room for What You Love - New Book by The Inspired Room

A couple of years ago Courtney and I tackled decluttering all of our art and craft supplies, organizing each and every thing we wanted to keep. Everything we hadn’t found time to use in ages went to the church for the Sunday School or women’s groups or Goodwill.

It felt so good to make room for and organize the supplies we wanted to keep in a way that inspired us to actually use them! Our IKEA drawers are my favorite for crafts. My mindset used to be KEEP ALL THE THINGS just in case we wanted to use them for something someday. But I no longer think like that! Or at least I try not to because the funny thing was, the more stuff we had the less likely we were “do the things” because it was just too overwhelming to find and manage all that stuff! Now I strive to keep less, but actually make time to use what I love!

Ikea Alex Drawers - Navy Blue Office - The Inspired Room

I share some of my stories and thoughts about the significance of “doing the things” in my new book Make Room for What You Love. It isn’t just a book about decluttering and organizing! It’s about making room in your home and life for what you really love, including what recharges your energy for what you love and how to be more intentional with what you keep in your home and what you do with your time.

Speaking of doing what you love and making room for it in your life, months ago my girls and I started looking at all the coloring books in our favorite paper stores (yes, I still love going to paper stores!).

Coloring seemed to be the perfect way to unwind and relax because it was a creative task that wasn’t a part of a “to do list” (like painting a wall might be) nor did it require a lot of supplies to organize, other than a coloring book and a box of pretty colored pencils! We brought our favorites home and indeed we can confirm, coloring is just as amazing as it was when we were kids!

The Inspired Room Coloring Book - Home and Decor - Prismacolor Pencilscolored pencils

But you know what? In our house-shaped heart of hearts, we really wanted HOUSE coloring books.

Since we couldn’t find what we were looking for, we partnered with our awesome publishing company to create the coloring book of OUR dreams!

It’s for all of us house and home lovers.

New Coloring Book for the Home - Interior Design - The Inspired Room Coloring Book

On July 1, our first coloring book will be released and you guys, if we can say so ourselves, it’s adorable! We were blessed to be able to be very involved in the creative vision, which was super fun for us to dream up such a neat book!

The wonderful artist Nicole Dougherty (who worked with us on our other books) hand drew the most precious artwork and special quotes for this book, we can’t wait for you to see it!

New Coloring Book for the Home - The Inspired Room

Houses, rooms, patterns, and all the most adorable of house-y things are inside.

You can dream up ideas, try out new color schemes, pick your favorite color and pattern combinations, and even color pretty pages that you can frame as art or hang on your inspiration board (all the pages are perforated, one-sided and printed on high quality paper).

The Inspired Room Coloring Book - Creative Spaces to Decorate As You Dream - New Home Decor Coloring Book

What you see in this post is just a very tiny sneak peek of what you’ll find in the book (we haven’t yet received the first actual copies, just sample pages!) we will share the book with you the moment we have a copy in hand! The cover is a gorgeous companion to The Inspired Room book with shimmery copper leaves and would make a fun gift or girls’ night activity book!

> You can preorder it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and it will be delivered to you as soon as it is available! <<

**  The colored pencils we use are these and these (the second ones are our favorites, great quality!) **

The Inspired Room Coloring Book for the Home - Creative Spaces to Decorate As You Dream
We can tell you for sure after spending the past few weeks coloring pages, coloring is just as fun (if not more so) than it was in kindergarten! We can’t stop! We hope you’ll love this coloring book as much as we do. It was a complete joy to be involved in this project.

It is so important to make room in your home and life for the things you love. Make the time to be creative and to do things you enjoy!

This week I’ll be sharing some updates around my house (progress on my fireplace!) as well as more about making room for what matters most to us in our home!

The colored pencils we use are these and these (the second ones are our favorites, great quality!)

That Time We Almost Bought An Alpaca Farm

John-Marshall-Custom-Homes-Modern-Farmhouse-North-CarolinaModern Farmhouse – John Marshall Custom Homes via Hooked on Houses

So, there’s something I haven’t told you. We almost bought an alpaca farm. You might think this is something that happened, like, way, way in the past, but it actually was only about a year and a half ago. I didn’t tell you because I had just written a book about all the times I moved to my dream house (Love the Home You Have). I just felt like it was way too ironic and awkward that I would be considering buying an alpaca farm. 

But it is true, before we even considered a move to Seattle to live near our family, we considered an entirely different life. A life on an alpaca farm.

Our goal at that time was more family togetherness and in the process, we dreamed some pretty big dreams. We dreamed about ways we could expand what we do as a family and somehow, the idea of a bigger property seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

When an alpaca farm came up for sale, we went to look at it. We fell head over heels in love with it … the farmhouse, the circular driveway, the big studio, the amazing barn, the rentable apartment, the property and the way the buildings were set up and … the alpaca.  We visualized our future there, living off the land, planning events and church gatherings and weddings in the barn and hosting craft days in our own studio.

We pictured how cute those alpaca would be running up to greet us when we would return home. That’s what they did when we came to check out the farm, they ran along the fence to greet us! It was so charming. They must have known we would be suckers for that.

Alpaca Farm

We were really serious about the farm. We couldn’t get it out of our heads. We dreamed of ways to decorate the house and imagined waking up every morning to make a farmhouse breakfast. We dreamed of looking out the window to see our doodles Jack and Lily frolicking through the fields with the alpaca. We dreamed of having chickens. We thought of great ways to use the property and figured out how it might impact the things we already do in positive ways. It was a dream in so many practical ways, as well as impractical ways.

It was a big vision, I’ll admit, but our entire family got on board with it. It wasn’t just me dreaming big this time :). The property was a dream. The potential was exciting. But fortunately, before we went off the deep end and bought an alpaca farm, we all came to our senses.

Not that the property or the dream weren’t worthy of considering, they were! We just had to stop and re-define what and where our true priorities were for that season of our life. My natural inclination when I have a big dream is to just be brave and to jump off the deep end to see what happens. And doing that is a good thing, as long as you’ve carefully considered what you are doing to make sure it aligns with your goals and you are ready to take the plunge.

As dreamy as that property was, we had to be honest with ourselves about what we could handle and what we actually needed in our life. We weren’t the right people to take it on, nor was it the right season even if we wanted to. We wanted to simplify life to have more time for our family, not complicate it.

As idyllic as it sounded to frolic around on a farm with chickens and alpaca, we had to get real with ourselves. We aren’t farmers. We aren’t big property people. We don’t need more to manage, even if we would laugh all day long just knowing we owned alpaca.

Turns out, we loved the idea of the alpaca farm more than we would have loved the work involved.

We could have become farmers if we put our mind to it and felt it was the right timing, but did we want to go through the learning process, time and expense that would be necessary to succeed at farm life?

The Alpaca Farm

We decided we really weren’t prepared to add alpaca to our life. We needed to pare down and focus our energy on less things, not more things.

As a big dreamer, I always have more ideas in my head than time or money to do them. In fact, I have always have more grand ideas of what to do with my time than is humanly possible to squeeze into a day! Being a dreamer gets me in over my head if I’m not careful. I can get easily swept away with the romance or the vision or the potential of anything and lose sight of what is more important to me.

To experience peace in my life and my home, I have to continually pare down, refocus and simplify everything we do to what is really essential if I want to succeed at what matters to me. I can’t do it all. I can’t keep it all. I have to be intentional.

If I don’t take the time to be more purposeful in what I do and what I invite into my life, I’ll be ALL OVER THE PLACE. Like, literally I could have set myself up to be wearing overalls, FEEDING baby alpaca, PLANTING wheat fields or DRIVING TRACTORS or whatever we would have to do to live off the land while trying to still keep up with everything else we already had going on. It could be a dreamy life, but it just wasn’t the right dreamy life for us at that time.

I just got sidetracked from my real goals for a minute.

I’m definitely getting better about reining myself in so I can focus my attention on the dreams and house and people and pets we want to commit to. Simplifying means letting go of all the extra stuff (even if it is good stuff like an alpaca!) that will just weigh us down and distract us from our our real goals.

Sometimes simplifying means I have to let go of the dream of owning an alpaca farm.

Sometimes I just have to let go of the clutter in my closet.

But saying no to one thing I really don’t need (even if I love it!) means I have room in my home and life for something that matters so much more to me, and that makes letting go worth it.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of my new book, Make Room for What You Love, word on the street is that Amazon already released it two weeks before the launch date ( and maybe even Barnes & Noble!)! In it I’m sharing the little ways I’ve learned to simplify my life and home and pare down to what really matters. Enjoy!

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