being a stay-at-home-mom {entertaining a toddler all day}

Posted: October 30th, 2015

entertaining a toddler all day

When I first made the decision to step back from working as much as I was and spend most of my time home with Evelyn, my biggest fear was figuring out what we were going to do all day.  We had spent her infant months together at my office for the most part, which was hard in its own way, but was also a familiar.  I had no idea how I was going to entertain Evelyn all day all week at home.  What were we going to do?  Where were we going to go?

Well, it’s turns out, there’s a lot to do.  A couple of weeks ago I had plans for us to run to Target on Monday for a few things.  Our week ended up so busy though, I don’t think we made it to Target until Friday.

Getting Out of the House

I used to shy away from errands during the week, always asking Gerrit if he could run by the store on his way home from work, but with Evelyn running errands gives us something to do.  And she LOVES seeing people at the store.

We also have play dates from time to time and go to the library a lot; and I’m on the hunt for a couple more things to add to our rotation of activities, especially because I have a suspicion she’ll be dropping her morning nap sometime soon.

Getting Outside

With the weather turning nice this fall, we’ve been going on walks a lot more than we did during the summer.  I’m not sure how this will change once winter hits, but I plan to keep it up as much as we can.

We also have a swing for her in the backyard which is always a big hit when we’ve been inside just a bit too much.  (She is always, night and day and rain and shine, pointing to the door trying to get us to take her outside to her swing.)

Pinterest Crafts and Activities

This seems obvious, but there are SO MANY great toddler activities on pinterest.  I’ve made a list of some to try, and on days when we don’t have a lot of other things going on we’ll work our way through them.  Some of them have been a hit (plastic bags of paint in the window!), some have been a flop (cloud dough…which I think she’ll like when she’s a bit older), but they all give us something new to try.  And I’m excited for her to get older and our potential activities to expand as she learns and understands more.


Again, obvious, but we love books.  When I read them Evelyn only half listens as she plays, but I’ll sit on the couch and we’ll have story time at least once a day.  And usually she brings books to me at other random times during the day to read as well (although at this point in her life she often walks away after the first page or two).

Good Old Fashion Play

So much of our day is just taken up by Evelyn playing with her toys, either with me or by herself while I do things like load the dishwasher for the thousandth time (In the book I’m reading, Sabbath in the Suburbs, I think my favorite line has been “Parenthood is not repetitive. It’s liturgical.”)  The trick I’ve found to play time is to rotate rooms.  We have toys for her in the family room, her room, and in the playroom.  On days when we are home a lot, a change of scenery is a must.


Gerrit and I have had a lot of conversations about limiting the technology Evelyn uses, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also use it to our advantage.  We have Pandora on (lots of Toddler and Raffi radio) almost constantly.  And on days when we’re really dragging, we’ll break out an episode of Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger.

A Few Things in My Back Pocket

There are few small things I always try to keep in reserve for when we really need them, like bubbles and coloring.  Evelyn’s not quite at an age where she can color on her own (in fact, she’s just starting to understand how coloring works), so when we break out the crayons it is a special and supervised activity. I also keep a few toys in a closet and only pull them out once a week or so, like her Megablocks.

Anyone else have any wisdom to share on entertaining toddlers?

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whole wheat pumpkin pancakes

Posted: October 27th, 2015

whole wheat pumpkin pancakes

I’m reading a really fantastic book right now called Sabbath in the Suburbs.  I’m sure I’ll tell you more about it later, but for now suffice it to say that it is changing the way I am thinking about weekends.  Our weekends have felt kind of stressful in the past couple of months, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because football has been on and on Saturdays that is generally our focus.  But we’ve had weekends out of town, to-do lists that are longer than I would like, and instead of focusing on family time I feel like I have spent a lot of time waiting until I can move on to the next thing I need to do.  It’s been stressful and I don’t want to always approach my weekends like that.  It more often than not does not leave me feeling refreshed and ready to go on Monday mornings. Read more »

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preparing for the holiday busy-ness

Posted: October 22nd, 2015

preparing for the busy seasons of life (like the holidays)

{Look, I know it’s not even Halloween yet…but the busy weeks ahead as we finish out the year have been on my mind majorly this week.  So just bear with me.  When things are looking busy, I think it’s never too soon to start preparing for it.}

This season is filling up quickly.  Just last night I was filling in our December calendar and it is already jam packed.  So much so that I went ahead and put in some other things we want to do so that we don’t accidentally schedule something over them and miss out on the opportunity for certain Christmas traditions.  November is looking pretty busy, too: my mom’s birthday, a wedding, and Thanksgiving.  And so far, October has had its share of events, as well: dinners with family and friends, a trip out of town, a work event, and Halloween is still to come.

The truth is, I don’t particularly love busyness.  I love it on paper; when I look at my calendar right now there are so many things to be excited about.  But when I’m in the midst of it, it can just feel stressful.

So I’m trying to prepare myself for the busy days ahead.  It’s easy to say “Well, Erin, maybe you should take some events off your calendar.  You don’t have to do everything.”  But the truth is, every single event on my calendar in the coming months is something I am so looking forward to and something that is important to me.  But I’m thinking of a couple strategies to make the impending busy-ness easier for my introverted self.

1) Realize that we are pretty much already at capacity (especially for the month of December).  If an event comes up, it has to be REALLY GOOD and REALLY IMPORTANT to make the cut to make it onto our calendar.

2) Prepare as much as I can ahead of time.  I’m a big plan ahead person, so my mom and I have already discussed Thanksgiving menus and birthday dinner menus.  I’m thinking about a Christmas menu (I’m hosting this year! which I asked for, but still…yikes!) and have been thinking about Christmas presents (with high hopes to get a decent amount of shopping done in November).  I’ve also put certain kitchen tasks on my calendar (like when to bake the cake layers for my dad’s birthday and store them in the freezer)–it might sound crazy, but it will help me think clearer when everything seems to be going on at once.

3) Schedule nights/days to do nothing.  With so many events already on my calendar, I’m filling in a few days with NOTHING.  As in, a normal day/night at home, catching up on stuff around the house and having some time to ourselves.

4) Realize that this is seasonal.  Yes, there may be some nights in the coming months when I want to pull my hair out.  But I’m going to try my best to realize that this is seasonal.  Both in that it is temporary and that it is part of the holiday season, so I’d do well to get into the spirit and enjoy it and be excited about it instead of being stressed by it!

What about you?  Any strategies for dealing the busy seasons of life?

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pasta with sausage and tuscan beans {updated}

Posted: October 19th, 2015

pasta with sausage and tuscan beans

The truth about fall is this: it is my favorite season to cook in.  I think that generally speaking (although I could be wrong), summer is usually a favorite for a lot of people, what with all the fresh fruits and the tomatoes.  But I am not a fruit and especially not a tomato person.  I love the homemade ice creams, and I’m always happy to have chicken marinating in the fridge ready for the grill; but the food of summer isn’t magic to me like the food of fall is. Read more »

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loving my freezer {freezer tips and tricks}

Posted: October 13th, 2015

I’ve long used my freezer for a lot of storage; but with Evelyn eating so much and such a wide variety and even the smallest bit of leftovers capable of providing part of a meal for her, I’ve developed a new love for my freezer.  (Plus we have an extra one in our garage now!)  I thought it would be fun to put together a list of some of my favorite things to put in my freezer along with tips on how to freeze them.

freezer tips


Using my freezer to store meat is perhaps my favorite thing.  I can buy whatever is on sale, wrap it in plastic and foil, label it, and then pull it out to defrost whenever I need it.  And this isn’t limited to beef and chicken either.  I love freezing bacon, too–we never use the whole pack at one time, so I’ll freeze what’s left in little packs of three or four slices.  It is perfect for things like carbonara or brussels sprouts with bacon.


I am not a big fruit fan, but Evelyn is.  I buy a lot of frozen fruit for her (and she loves eating it with minimal defrosting).  I also freeze a lot of fresh fruit that I buy because we rarely use it all before it goes bad.  I place the fruit on a parchment lined baking sheet, spread it out evenly, and freeze it.  Then, once it is frozen, I put it all in a plastic freezer bag.

Pancakes and Waffles

This is a new favorite freezer trick, and I especially love having them on hand for Evelyn.  It helps us mix up her usual banana-yogurt-cereal/oatmeal breakfast.  Just place pancakes or waffles between sheets of parchment paper and freeze them.  Then, once they are frozen, put them all in a plastic bag (without the parchment paper).  They reheat so quickly, too!

Leftover Cake

Freezing leftover cake is the best.  I especially love when we have people over and all I have to do for dessert is pull out a wedge of leftover cake from the last birthday my family celebrated.  It is always delicious and everyone is so impressed and really all I did was pull it out of the freezer.  To freeze it, I cut cake into large wedges (enough for about 4-6 slices), then wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, label it, and stick it in the freezer.  Before serving it, I usually pull it out to defrost for a couple of hours.

Parmesan Cheese Rinds

I have so many parmesan cheese rinds in bags in my freezer.  They are great flavor boosters for soups.  Admittedly, I don’t make soups that often, but when I do these are great to have.

Broth Bag

This is something I used to do a lot more than I do now, although I’d like to get back into the habit.  Whenever you have leftover chicken bones and vegetables, stick them in a bag in your freezer.  Then later, dump it all into a pot with some water, add some onion and garlic, salt and pepper, and you can make homemade chicken broth with a few hours of simmering on the stove.  (And then you can freeze the broth, too!)

Pizza Dough and Pizza Sauce

We always have leftover pizza sauce when we make pizza, and sometimes we also have leftover dough.  I love putting it in a plastic freezer bag, and then we have everything we need for the next pizza night.

Extra Pasta Sauce

I love to have extra pasta sauce on hand; it means that for dinner on any given night, all I have to do is boil some noodles and heat up my sauce.  One of my favorite sauces to freeze is roasted red pepper pasta sauce.

A Few Other Things I ALWAYS Keep in My Freezer…

Frozen yogurt.
Frozen store bought sweet potato fries.
Frozen peas for Evelyn.
Ice packs.
Nuts (they last longer in the freezer).
Ice Cream Maker bucket.
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