When it comes to keeping it real, Erin Hiemstra of the lifestyle blog, Apartment 34, is your go-to gal. She takes life on with her eyes wide open, soaking in the beauty of her everyday life and then inspiring us to open our own eyes to the beauty that surrounds us.
Not only is Erin the ultimate girl boss, but she is also an incredible mom to the almost 2-year-old, Carter. She ventured into this whole motherhood thing “determined not to lose” herself. A noble challenge that she is taking on one day at a time with something she calls #TheYearofErin. Well, it is safe to say we are on board and we couldn’t be more excited to share more mantras from Erin to help you develop your own version of healthy living.
1. Tell us a little bit about what you do and how being a Mom to Carter has influenced the working mama that you are today?
I am the founder of the lifestyle site Apartment 34. That’s a fancy way of saying I run a blog. I started blogging way back - what some of us call the OG days - long before anyone thought it could actually be a career. Let’s put it this way Instagram and Twitter didn’t exist yet. Blogging was my escape from a boring and completely design-free desk job. But blogging and the entire world of online content creation began to take on a life of its own and eventually I was able to leave that desk job and run my site full time.
The great thing about blogging is that becoming a mom didn’t have to change my life too much. Well, my work life. Of course my entire life is now different. But being an entrepreneur means you can have a flexible schedule, set your own hours and make your life work for you - rather than trying to work to create your life. Not that I always succeed. But having a little one is the ideal reminder to think about your priorities. Are you more beholden to those emails clogging your inbox or to the ones you love?
2. What does healthy living mean to you? How does that influence how you raise Carter?
It’s an interesting question to think about what defines healthy living. The obvious immediately comes to mind. Eating well. Working out. Drinking plenty of water. Getting enough sleep. Limiting the wine to one glass. I certainly try to do as many of those things as possible each day. I rarely bat 1000 though. Does three out of five count as healthy? But there are so many other aspects to healthy living. For example, I recently realized the amount of stuff in my world is a cause of major stress. Having recently moved into a new home, stuff has become the source of a lot chaos and chaos certainly does not lend itself to healthy living. So I’m starting to embark on a major purge. I’ve also been reading a lot about those apps for guided meditation. Our online and offline worlds are so noisy and busy these days. I think adding 10 minutes of quiet time to my day would really improve my sense of health as well. But when it comes down to it, I don’t think there’s any holy grail to health. You can’t just check things off a list and declare yourself healthy. Ultimately, if you make mindful choices about what you do with your day, what you surround yourself with, what you put in and on your body - that’s how you empower yourself to make healthy choices. I hope that’s what I exemplify for Carter.
3. How, if at all, has San Francisco had an influence on raising Carter? What are some of your favorite activities to do together? What baby essentials always come with you?
San Francisco is a great place to have kids. First off, there are so many amazing, smart, creative fellow moms around, that good advice abounds. The coolest class to try, the best new park, the most kid friendly restaurant. Someone always has a great recommendation. I also love that San Francisco enables us to expose Carter to both city life and the great outdoors simultaneously. We can be riding on public transportation - a very urban experience - one minute and then be at the beach or in the middle of Golden Gate Park the next. And wine country is our extended backyard (and my source of sanity). When he gets a little older I can’t wait to introduce him to the arts, museums, dance.I feel very lucky to have so much at my fingertips. It will be really interesting to watch Carter discover all that this amazing city has to offer for himself as he gets older.
4. Most toys for kids are eyesores that we all try to hide in cute wicker baskets and vintage chests, but the toys you buy for Carter actually complement your space. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you shop for toys for Carter? Do you have criteria you like to stick by handmade, natural, sustainable, locally made, etc...)?
While I can’t deny that a plastic noise making this or that have crept into Carter’s toy collection, I’ve really made a point to search out toys that have great play value but also look good too. I’m also very conscious about where and how anything Carter plays with is made. Our skin is our biggest organ and you have no idea what they might be absorbing into their tiny bodies. I also really love supporting small makers who are creating really amazing things. I love the Hazel Village dolls (they’re now Carter’s “babies”) and toys like the organic wood Manzanita rattles are great. And then I do keep a few good looking baskets around to hide the stuff I don’t want to look at all the time!
5. #TheYearofErin might be the most genius wellness plan I've heard of to date. Can you spill what this declaration means to you, why you created it, and how it is playing out so far?
I went into motherhood determined not to lose myself in the role. We’ve all had one of those friends who literally becomes a different person or completely disappears after having a baby. But at the same time, that first year with a tiny human - if I may be so blunt - is some next level sh**. The sheer exhaustion, the new schedules, the physical toll it all takes on a mother’s body… I quickly learned it’s pretty unavoidable to succumb to the motherhood blackhole to some degree. But when Carter turned one I felt a discernable shift. He’s become much more independent. And I decided it was high time to reprioritize some of the things in life that I love - sans baby. That includes simple things like making time to cook again and workout regularly, but also some bigger things like travel, truly investing in friendships and taking real time for myself - be it a mama’s night out, an afternoon at a spa or just running some errands alone. I’ve learned moms are very rarely alone, but I strongly believe that investing in real me-time will make you a better mom, a better partner and just an all around better person.
6. Your new kitchen is just as stunning as the beautiful recipes you share on your blog. It seems like you have this whole home cooked meal thing down. Have you always found it easy to whip up a meal for your family of 3? What are some of your go-to recipes or tricks for finding the time to cook a healthy meal?
I’ve always loved to cook. It’s therapeutic for me and how I like to destress. But fitting cooking into my world has definitely become super challenging since becoming a mom. Thankfully, my new kitchen offers extra motivation to get in there and actually use it, but since having Carter, making sure we eat something besides thai takeout requires planning. These days I try to pick 2-3 new recipes each week either from my favorite cookbooks (I’ve been loving It’s All Easy by Gwyneth and the new book by food blogger Love & Lemons) or I hit up my bank of recipes on Pinterest. Thankfully Carter isn’t a picky eater so he just eats virtually whatever we eat. And when I just don’t have the energy to cook and resort to takeout I try to be gentle with myself about it. Food is supposed to be a fun energizing experience - not a cause of stress, so I really just go with whatever the daily flow requires.
7. Carter already has quite the personality. He seems confident in what he wants or feels he needs. Was Carter confident in himself right out the gates or do you have any tricks that aided in the development of one independent little mister?
While I think we’ve been lucky in that Carter has seemed to have a strong sense of self from very early on, I try to foster that tendency by constantly helping him understand what’s happening in the environment around him as well as offering (reasonable!) choices. One of my favorite pieces of advice from a seasoned mom was to give him choice within a closed universe, ie between choice A or choice B. So even at just 17 months Carter can decide if he wants to wear his green shoes or his brown shoes. Of if we wants to walk to the corner or be carried. That has seemed to make him feel very empowered and avoid a lot of tantrums. But we haven't’ hit the two’s yet so we’ll see how long that lasts!
8. Apt34 was just named one of 6 finalists for a @saveurmag style & design blog award. Congrats! Okay, so how do you find the time to do it all? What do you do for childcare on a daily basis or when you need to focus and get things done? Do you ever struggle with mom guilt when you have to sacrifice time with Carter to do work? Any advice?
Thank you so much! It was quite a stunning honor to receive that nomination. I am the first to say that the only way to be successful - in virtually anything that you do - is to surround yourself with amazing help. I’ve had a fulltime nanny since Carter was very small. I actually don’t suffer from mom guilt very often. I’m very passionate about and proud of what I do and I know I wouldn’t feel like myself if I wasn’t working. Working from home also helps as I get to see Carter throughout the day. But I truly feel that Carter will grow up respecting strong women who have their own passions if he sees me being committed to what I do.
9. What's your daily uniform? Carter’s? What are some of your favorite pieces from Noble Carriage right now and why?
I’m actually working on recreating my own uniform right now. After really not shopping since having Carter I’m excited to try to find a new balance of practical ease but still stay true to my style. There will be more to come about that on Apt34 soon. As for Carter, I love putting him in little dude outfits. I was a little nervous when I found out I was having a boy because I thought the clothes would be so boring. But I actually love mini guy clothes. The slouchy pants. The cool striped tops. The beanies. Oh the beanies! They’re the cutest. I discovered Gray Label through Noble Carriage and couldn’t be more obsessed. I’ve never felt such soft, squishy cotton. I’m just hoping they start making clothes for adults! And lines like Mini Rodini are great for avoiding all the stereotypical “boy” clothes that feature cars, or trains, or overly saccharin things like little bears or ducks. I love that Carter can have some real style! He often gets compliments on his outfits at playgroup. #proudmama
10. Anything else? Our readers are envious of how you make motherhood look so simple. Do you have a piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout this journey?
I certainly hope I don’t make motherhood look too easy because I’m the first to admit that it is anything but. My dear friend Natalie recently offered a mantra that I think is so applicable to motherhood - “I choose not to struggle. I choose to flow.” Everything about motherhood can be a struggle if you let it be. So if I can offer your readers any piece of advice it would be to choose to flow. Just take what each day brings and accept that there is so much in your world that you can no longer control. Becoming comfortable with that idea makes it all a lot easier.
And wine. Wine also makes everything a little bit easier!