Picture of a 30 minute dinner

How to become a 30 minute dinner chef

I’m sure any mom can relate to those moments when your kid says, so sweetly, “Can you come play with me?” My heart sinks as I answer, go play by yourself – I have to finish these dishes.” Or make dinner or ________ (insert house or work project). How do you win? There must be a way to “do it all”… some way to keep the home running and also have time to soak up our sweet children, and maybe a little time for ourselves somewhere in there. 

I’ve heard about dinners that take half an hour to make. Are those a real thing? Can someone learn to be a 30 minute dinner chef? Recipes often claim that’s all it takes to whip up a tasty meal. I don’t know about you, but dinners take me about an hour to cook, whether it’s from a recipe or something I make up on my own. But surely it must be possible! I did a little internet sleuthing to bring you tried and true tips from experts who really do know how to make a meal in 30 minutes. 

Tips from real 30 minute dinner chefs

The kitchn.com has a fabulous article that dishes up all the places we unwittingly go astray when we cook. Think:

  • Are the things you almost always use gathered in the same place, like your spices, olive oil, onions, garlic, and most-used cooking tools? 
  • Read a recipe thoroughly before starting. That way, you’re not surprised by directions part way through that required chilling or thawing or something else you should have done yesterday. 
  • Clean as you go. This gives you space to work as your cooking progresses, and makes for less clean up later. This is especially helpful in tiny kitchens where messes can make you start to lose your cooking ingredients or tools, which obviously eats up time when you spend a minute looking for the measuring spoon that you just put down. 

Eat This, Not That! offers 30 tips to cut down on time in the kitchen. Some of my favorites include:

  • Sharpen your knives (it makes chopping faster)
  • Get yourself some kitchen shears (think – fancy, sharp scissors that replace a knife – you’re faster and your fingers are safe). 
  • Cook with a small pot. It takes less time to heat and also distributes heat more evenly as your food is heating. 

Finally, remember the old wisdom to measure twice, cut once. It’s the same in the kitchen – if you move deliberately – read the recipe twice, don’t rush – you will be way less likely to make mistakes. And not having to fix a mistake? That’s solid gold.  

Keep showing up

Getting systems in place so that cooking or cleaning takes less time doesn’t happen overnight. But if you keep showing up in this area, looking at where you’re at and choosing small changes to make, you’ll find yourself in a new space before you know it. If you become a 30 minute dinner chef, maybe you really can sneak in a half hour of laughter and play with your children before dinner! 

woman performing a juggling act

Why Busy Moms Need to Prioritize Their Juggling Act

I lost momentum on this blog thread for a good while this year. My commitment to post once a week no matter what fell to the wayside in March. That month heralded the onset of early-pregnancy nausea in the evenings (my prime writing time). Wisconsin’s stay-home order also went into effect and I just felt lost for a while – head spinning, trying to understand everything going on while feeling utterly exhausted from the pregnancy. The pause became a gift. I was quiet long enough to hear the whispered wishes from my heart. Quiet long enough to prioritize what’s most important. This busy mom is finally prioritizing the juggling act.

Your One Thing

Some time ago, I wrote a post about Your One Thing. It’s based on a book that recommends prioritizing based on the one thing that – once done – will make everything else easier. I actively employed that idea – my One Thing at work, my One Thing for housework, my One Thing for this blog, my One Thing for health. But I ignored the wisdom of someone else, who said there has to be a One Thing for all of it. One thing that I care most about and prioritize above all else.

For me, that was health. And I knew it. But I so desperately wanted to run a blog and start up a business where I feel challenged. I so desperately wanted to be part of a choir and make friends and make music. All this while holding a full time job and giving all my love to the sweetest little one-year-old on the block – dinner by 6 pm, stories and songs and bedtime by 7:30 pm sharp.

I wanted to do it all. So to Lady Health I said, “I’ll take care of you, too, but it’s going to have to be mixed in with everything else.” Then the pandemic hit and like you, I was suddenly at home all the time. No choir, no going out to see people, no date nights with my husband. I was suddenly relieved of the daily, intensely stressful routine of getting my daughter to daycare and myself to work relatively on time. I no longer had to spend 40 minutes a day commuting during rush hour.

Suddenly, health could take a front seat. With my usual activities gone, my body has been slowly remembering how to relax. Relaxing, it turns out, isn’t something you can will your mind to do. Not something you can force a body constantly in fight-or-flight mode to shift to. I find myself holding a softer smile, a more joyful, open presence. I didn’t know I was so constantly tense. I had no idea. But now I feel like the me I remember from years ago. I’ve missed her and I don’t fully know when she disappeared.

It’s safe to prioritize the juggling act

So, my path ahead is clear. I must be infinitely gentle with my body. This body that carries me and sustains me and is me. This body has wanted to be this calm for a long time. Continuing this may mean some major life shifts – a reckoning with what success means for me, a willingness to let go of who I think I am for who my heart wants me to be.

My personal vision for self care has also changed. It’s more than the occasional self-pampering get-away and saying kind things to myself. It’s a deep acknowledgment and honoring of what I need most as a physical being in this world. A commitment to honoring those needs while trusting that all my dreams are there and will still come true. It’s safe to prioritize the juggling act. I don’t need to push so hard. Neither do you. <3

Ice cream with sprinkles. Who says adults don't know how to play or have fun?!

Big smiles served here: how to amp up your play

Today my daughter (she’s 2 now) spent some time playing with stickers. One sticker was a pair of eyeglasses. She carefully sticks it on her eyelid and smiles at me. I smile back, especially with my eyes but I make no declarations about the situation. After a few moments she laughs out loud and says “I silly!” I join her laughter. There are a thousand reasons I love being a mom, but the steady stream of laughter and play ranks high on the list. 

Play is something I’ve been pondering…adults are just kids in aging bodies. We love play, but it can sometimes feel elusive. How do we tap back into that fun side of ourselves? Read on for some ideas on how to amp up your play at home and work.

What is play?

In a sweet article with 37 reader-driven ideas for play, Sandra Pawua describes play as, “a purposeless activity that brings about joy and pleasure […]  You’re simply immersed in the moment-to-moment experience of play with a child-like abandon.” Isn’t that such a nice summary? Play is this thing that brings lightness to our hearts, but it can be forgotten in the mental train track of the day (unless of course we’re in the thick of playing with our kids). One of the play suggestions in the post is to build a snowman, which brings back a fond memory. 

One night, while living in the coastal city of Olympia, Washington, it snowed buckets. At around midnight, my husband and I decided to do something about our rain-free fortune and built the parts for a massive snowman. With hushed giggles, we assembled it outside our neighbor’s front door, eager to share in some smiles the next day upon its discovery.

Sometimes all you need to spark play is curiosity. Ask yourself: What is the most fun thing I could do right now? 

How to strengthen your Play Muscles

Funnily, the things I found entertaining as a kid are often still the case today. It’s fun to skip rocks at the beach, to draw, to play games that require looking or acting silly. But ya know, it’s sort of like a muscle – if you don’t use it, the skill becomes a little rusty. How do you amp up your play if it’s been a while?

In her post on 10 Ways to Have More Fun and Play More as Adults, Marelisa Fabrega offers a number of ways to strengthen our play muscles. These range from planning minimum play time (similar to minimum daily exercise time) and scheduling specific time blocks for fun activities. She also recommends going on a play date with your partner instead of your standard date night activity. Sign me up! 

Play at Work

Play at work…now here’s a realm where the idea of play can feel a little far fetched. But some people have figured it out! 99designs has a nice article that covers the spectrum of what play is, describes play’s ability to maximize team creativity, and offers some ideas to get us going. Ever tried writing your to-do list as a limerick? Have you invented a fun tradition that you do before starting a difficult task?  Check out the 99designs link for more inspiration.

Amp up your play!

I hope this week brings you laughter, and play, and moments of delight. And wherever this finds you, be it nursing a sick family or eagerly anticipating the next phase of life, give yourself a big dose of appreciation and gratitude for all that you are and all that you’ve become. It’s breathtaking.

Aw, why not sweeten the deal. Go on and treat yo’self to some sprinkles on that next scoop of ice cream. Just for fun.

****Know anyone who would love more play in their life? Share this post with them! Extra points for anyone who leaves a comment telling about something playful they did recently.

Fall leaves - something I list to calm my mind

The easy way to calm your beautiful mind

Those moments where your mind is spinning out of control and you just wish something could make you feel calmer? A gratitude practice, my friend, is it. The easy way to calm your beautiful mind.

My husband and I did a gratitude practice the morning of our wedding day. We spent a half hour just feeling grateful for our lives and all the love in it. We did that before anything else on our to-do list. And what could have been a very stressful day… started off just right. We rode a giant wave of love from start to finish, and I attribute the positive momentum to that gratitude practice. 

This week, gratitude made a difference

I’m soaking in the beautiful fall weather from a rocker on my front porch as I write. Enjoying the warm fall air and the beautiful trees, the soft bellows of my baby’s breathing, his body curled up snug against me. Even enjoying the sense of not knowing as we head towards presidential election results later tonight.

Yesterday didn’t feel so pristine and easy. I was exhausted after a sleepless night, and my mind spun out of control with anxious thoughts about affording daycare for two children. Not knowing what else to do, I wrapped baby up and off we went on a gratitude walk around the neighborhood. 

There’s the saying that love and fear can’t exist together. It’s the same with gratitude and anxiety. During the walk, I listed all the things I’m grateful for that I could think of. Pinecones, sunshine, people who inspire me, people who joined our meal train, the spot that opened up for my daughter in a coveted daycare nearby, red leaves, red doors. Twenty minutes later, I can’t say I was flying high on life, but I was much calmer. I’d stopped the mental train tracks. 

All good things

Try a gratitude practice next time you find yourself in a negative mental state. It’s the easy way to calm your beautiful mind, and you can do it anywhere. Try it before a big day, or before any normal day. Gets you set up in a positive place – ready for all good things to come to you. And they will. You are enough. <3


Tell me – I’d love to hear! – what are five things you’re grateful for in this moment? Please share in the comments below. May our lovin’ energy inspire and lift each other up. Go mama love.

3 ways to joyfully say goodbye to summer

It’s September – can you believe it?! I feel like fall crept up on me this year. It’s my favorite season but it’s hard saying goodbye to summer this time. Something shifted in the past month and I’ve felt more energetic and awake than I have since becoming pregnant two years ago. I feel like myself again. I’ve missed this. 

There are a whole slew of reasons I’m feeling so good, and I know they won’t stop with the onset of fall. Vitamins and fish oil pills, my daughter finally sleeps through the night, I’ve probably doubled my intake of vegetables, and I’m running for longer and longer stretches. (Don’t get me wrong – this means I can go up to a mile now without a break. We’re not talking marathon runner here, but hey, I’m feeling awesome!).

Maybe this all boils down to that old theme of resisting change. And in this case, it’s the weather: resistance is futile. There’s this new blogger out there in the world named Ingrid Fetell Lee who spreads the idea that, “our greatest source of joy is the world around us.” Her monthly joyletter (aka newsletter) is seriously inspiring. And in honor of this idea that joy is all around us, I’ve dug up some ideas that will prompt some creative activities that honor the transition into this season that is as full of abundance as it is beautiful. It might sound a bit rambunctious, but we really can joyfully say goodbye to summer.

Celebratory Fall Planting

Make this a just-mom project or loop the kids in:

  • Make a fall outdoor planter for your porch or balcony. Fill it with textures and colors that make you smile. For a little inspiration, check out this post by Pam Kessler in House of Hawthornes.
  • Plant bulbs for next spring – tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and irises are great options. The DIY gardener has some other pro fall-gardening tips for your list. 
  • There are tons of vegetables that thrive in a fall garden – chard, kale, broccoli, beans, the list goes on….Jill Winger at The Prairie Homestead can get you started with her detailed descriptions for what to plant and how to keep each vegetable happy. 

Artsy fall projects

There are a million fall craft ideas out there and I can say that usually I have more ideas than a single human can handle. I maybe get to one or two. So with that in mind, here are some super easy and fast fall projects that we busy mamas can probably squeeze in! 

  • For some fun with the kids, Frugal Mom eh! Suggests we try these pumpkin apple stamps. A halved apple is the stamper – using orange paint it makes a pumpkin shape on the paper. Paint in a stem and leaves and wolla, pumpkins abound! 
  • 10 Minute DIY Pumpkin Soap looks like a lot of fun. Heck, you could invite some other moms over and make it a hang out session! Heidi Kundin at Happiness is Homemade has the instructions. 
  • Make a wreath for your door. Personally, I just rummage through thrift stores for cast off wreath bases and fake flowers. Then I tie ‘em on with some ribbon or twine and wolla! 10 minutes and Done. But if you want something a little more fine-tuned, these are some beautiful and affordable ideas from the Prudent Penny Pincher.

Get out of the house

If there are any trips you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t, now is a great time to plan them! We’re squeezing in some late season camping over here in Wisconsin, hitting up those last farmers markets, and keeping our ears open for word of the area’s best pumpkin patches. I do love fall. Ahhh, yesssss…..

***I’m curious, what are your favorite parts of transitioning to the fall? How do you say goodbye to summer? What are your traditions, and what new things are you thinking about doing this year? Do share a comment. May our lovin’ energy inspire and lift each other up. go mama!

These inbox habits will make you the boss of your time

Email – can’t live without it, but living with it? My sister-in-law laughed at me recently when I told her I try to keep my unread personal emails below 1,000. It hadn’t occurred to me until then how crazy that is – but it’s just so hard keeping up!

Fellow closet-email-hoarders, this is your sign! You deserve to live every minute of your life with a clear mind and less distraction. Email wastes more time than most people realize, and it’s totally hidden.

Time is wasted every time you read an unread heading that you’ve read before. Think about it:

2 seconds to read a heading….

That you read 10 more times that day

….and the next day…

for 3 weeks….

…until you finally open it and deal with it.

That’s 2 seconds x 10 reads x 21 days = 420 seconds = 7 minutes. Seven minutes spent reading the same thing 210 times!

If you’re like me and have more than 1 email like this – the lost minutes really start to pile up. Ten emails passed over at this rate means you’ve lost 1 hour and 10 minutes (over 21 days).

What do you wish you could do with that hour?!!

You deserve to live every minute of your life with a clear mind and less distraction.

-Ashley Fisher, gomama.love blogger

I have since whittled it down and stayed on top of the inbox game. There are some tricks to it that I’ll share with you here. Some of these ideas were introduced to me at a conference. A high-level executive from a company came in and shared insights from his book. If I can find the book and his name, I will update this post and share it with you!  

  1. Set up your inbox to automatically tag and file receipts. You don’t have to read them or even see them – they just go to the right folder.  
  2. Unsubscribe from that listserv that you’ve stayed on just in case you might need that company. You know they exist, you can find them when you need them. Unsubscribe.
  3. As soon as an auto-notice of any kind comes in to your inbox, delete or move it to another folder. Especially if it’s the kind of notice that you never read.
  4. If an email will take mere minutes to respond, do it right there. Your mental energy and time are too precious to repeat the reading and thinking about it.
  5. This one’s important, so I’ll say it in bold. Your inbox is not your to-do list. If you need to remember to do something, keep an actual to-do list. Emails are checked so frequently that running through a to-do list every single time you log in is a recipe for feeling scattered and overwhelmed.

I can proudly say that I have way less wasted time than I used to because of these tricks. And I want you to know that I didn’t implement them overnight. I whittled away at my 1,000 emails over the course of 2 weeks. It became kind of a game, getting the number down.

You deserve to live every minute of your life with a clear mind and less distraction. You deserve more minutes freed up. I hope that these tricks will be useful to you. And if you have some email tips of your own, I very much want to know about them! Please share them in the comments. May our energy inspire and lift each other up. go mama!

Five ideas to make remembering a loved one easy and healing

May is a month with some sadness for my family. It’s the month my grandfather passed away. I sat at the foot of his bed in the dark, early hours of that morning, rubbing his feet and singing him on. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I miss him all the time. Especially in May.

I’m sure you have months with similarly hard anniversaries.

The most important thing is that we honor our hearts and whatever it is we’re feeling as these anniversaries approach.  

-Ashley Fisher

Today, let’s explore some simple and meaningful ways to honor loss. Things that take no extra time, which is especially important for mothers who struggle for time to sit still for anything! Our hearts still need care.

Five easy-to-do ideas:

-Make their favorite dinner and share some stories about them with your children while you eat.

-Grab a bouquet of flowers when you’re at the grocery store. Put them on your table as a reminder of their love for you, and yours for them.

-Plant a flower they loved if it’s garden season and you garden

-Talk to them as you drive to work (or write them a letter in present tense if you’ve got time)

-Call someone who also loved them and share some memories.

Want to do a bigger project in their honor? The website Love Lives On has over 100 ideas. I especially love their suggestion to buy a biodegradable sky lantern. You could even fill it with notes for them before sending it into the night.

The most important thing is that we honor our hearts and whatever it is we’re feeling as these anniversaries approach. There is no wrong feeling. No perfect timeline for grief. And no death for love so true. We are blessed.

****What about you? How do you remember your loved ones on the anniversary of their passing? Write a comment below or respond to another person’s comment. May our energy inspire and lift each other up. go mama!