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Ohh, back to school, back to school... (does anybody else think of this? Always? Every time?) (O'Doyle rules!) It seems like we're always in the sending-somebody-back-to-school mode in this house (usually that would be Brandon, owner of seventy billion post graduate degrees), though we had a funny three year break in there, where nobody went to school at all, it was wild. But it's been fun to get back into the swing of things this year with some fresh pencils, back packs, lunch sacks, and fresh shoes. New socks. And tooth brushes! Huck's school wanted us to send him to school with tooth brushes this year. Okay then!

Back to School Season! It's the most wonderful time of the year! It coincides with Holbrook Birthday Season, and is the time of year when we typically do our spring cleaning + list out our New Years Resolutions, make family goals and plan out holidays + vacations, so this time of year is sort of always itchy and busy and a good time for massive reorganization and deep breaths and jumping into things. There's something about the changing of seasons and the inevitable sniffles we always get that really feels like a fresh start for me. Nothing is fresh about January, who came up with that anyway?

I'm so so thrilled to be working with ACCOMPANY again this fall, helping to spread the word about all of the truly wonderful global causes we can help support with our dolla-hollas. I figured I'd start us off by highlighting probably my favorite product available on the shop right now, the Mercer backpack, since, you know, school time. It's pretty damn sexy. For every Mercer and Kane backpack purchased, STATE hand-delivers a backpack to an American child living in poverty here in the States (the Kane is the perfect size for yo small friends). Also, I hunted forever to find some Pee Chee folders online and holy cheese am I excited I found some. Can you believe they're still in production?

Happy Back To School! To you and you and youuu!

(A few other great backpack options here and here, the proceeds of which will assist in rebuilding communities in Haiti!)



I didn't think I'd have enough to do another of these so soon. This isn't even all of them. What can I say? I birthed a character. Huck for President!

Randomly, at the playground:
Huck: Are there any more kids who are stuck on band aids, Mom? Are they on the piano chair??
Me: Wait--piano chair?
Huck: Yeah.... Maybe....

Just waking up the other morning, shooting straight up in his blankets, his eyes shut tight, his hair a fantastic mess of bed head:
"Is it Christmas!?!? It was a second ago! There was snow!! But then it dis-der-ppeared.... How did it do that? Wait, let me check the day in case it's snowing." 
(Pads over to the window, clearly sleep drunk, like, this was not at all a straight line he was walking) 
"Oh. No snow. (Exaggerated frowny face). But it IS day out. (Brightens up.) Am I going to school now?" 

While coloring, after I told him I was going to take a bath, in a very sing-song-y voice:
"Okaa-yyyyy. Come back if you neeeeed meee."

After yet another epic you-need-to-go-potty-you're-dancing-around-so-just-go! negotiation:
"Noooo! I don't want to go peep!" 
(Suddenly remorseful) 
"Mom.... sometimes we get angry at each other. Sometimes everybody gets angry. But they don't go pee pee."

This one was reported to me the other night after date night:
Babysitter: Huck, are you ready to wind down for bedtime?
Huck: (stalling) "Uhhhh.. hey! I have eyebrows! Like you!"

While walking home from school one afternoon and suddenly noticing a sweet scent in the air. He said this in a rather alarmed tone, you have to picture him like a twitchy squirrel in order to fully appreciate this one:
"Mom! What does it smell like!?!?!?!? .... I think it smells like.... BROWNIES!!!! Mom I love those brownies, Mom! I looooove them!!!!!!!"

On the couch on afternoon in nothing but his undies, his eyebrows furrowed at me:
"Didja eat my apple, Mom? Didja? ....  You did, didn't you."

(I totally did.)

Before bed one night, after talking through a difficult moment we'd had earlier that day:
"I'm the boss of my poops, and I'm in charge of my farts" 
(He meant to say thoughts. But, you know. I laughed for hours.)

Panicked about bath time, suddenly in negotiation mode:
"Wait! Nooo. No, that's not right, basketballs go in the bath! I'm not a ball! I'm not bouncy!"

After discovering a hole in his favorite pants:
Mom: Oh honey, I think these pants are dead. Look at that hole.
Huck: *giggles* Mom, they're not dead.
Mom: Yeahhh, they're pretty dead, we're not going to wear these anymore. But maybe as pajamas?
Huck: But Mom. They're not dead. I didn't drop them off the rooftop or something. 

After I'd absentmindedly said no to something Huck was asking for that I somehow knew he really shouldn't have, even though I wasn't really listening all the way when he asked (I was sending an email), but I'd just hit send and was turning all my attention over to Huck, who was currently pleading his case, and this is where I picked up:
"... Mama, come on, doooo this. You're the BEST. You can DO it! You're the greatest mom EVER, but you're not letting me get candy! So come on, Mama. Do it. Come on you're the GREATEST."

To a boy scout who was handing out fliers for a senior citizens fundraiser deal, from his dad's shoulders, Huck's royal throne:
"Hey! Hello! I'm a kid! Just like you!"

One afternoon at home after spilling his popcorn:
"Mom? Will you do me a favor? Will you cleam up? Will you pick up the popcorn and put it in the trash can, please? Do it now."

At Starbucks, after he realized he'd lost his nickel:
"Oh no! My nipple!!!!!!"

While getting situated to finally go to the bathroom after a very long, very stubborn discussion about why we go potty right when we have to instead of waiting forever and nearly not making it in time:
"Don't even LOOK at me!"

Last one:

One night a little bit ago we were having ourselves a particularly hard time being friendly with each other. Huck was resisting bedtime with a vengeance, and I, well I was feeling done with it, ready for the day to be over, and rather firm and disciplinarian-y in the moment, so I declared it a very serious, very angry Time Out, sat him down in his room, shut the door quite firmly, and then leaned up against the door so I could be sure he wasn't going to open it prematurely and ruin my Mean Mom Moment. It was pretty spectacular, really, we were both playing our roles to the hilt. Huck seemed thrilled at the chance to be so blatantly naughty, throwing himself against the door with all his weight, and pounding and kicking and shouting through the wall at me, grunting and huffing and saying things like "I. AM. MAD, MOM," with every pound and kick for added measure. Strange to say, but I could sort of tell in the moment that neither one of us were really taking it that seriously, more like we'd both reached a level and needed to get it out of our systems. And then, suddenly, the pounding ceased. It got really quiet. Eerily quiet. In the silence I crouched down low, put my ear to the door, and held my breath. What is he up to in there? I wondered. This cannot bode well.

Suddenly, the sound of his heavy breathing appeared near my ear through the door. And then, muffled a bit by the wood and, I'm guessing, his hands as he cupped them around his mouth, he sang out to me,

"Do you want to build a snowmaaaan?"

I really don't know what I'm supposed to do with that.



A few weeks back, just about ten minutes after getting in and settled in our new place in Brooklyn, we had ourselves an interiors shoot for this damn book I wrote, which is coming out in March. March!!!! (March suddenly feels, like, tomorrow.) It was  kind of a comical situation, because here we had just moved in, I wasn't sure I was sold on where anything had landed just yet, we have way more space than furniture and way more chairs than necessary, and we'd just barely had our interiors shoot for Ikea Family Live the week before in our old place on the Upper West Side. So, life was starting to feel pretty surreal there for a minute. 

Though the procedure was more or less the same between the two shoots, the feeling of the two were wildly different. For Ikea, the point was to spotlight the way we use Ikea in a tiny home. We had a ton of Ikea already, but any pieces we had that weren't Ikea but could have been Ikea were swapped out (i.e. our dining chairs, which were from Amazon but had a very similar counterpart at Ikea), and a few cozy touches were brought in to "winterize" our space, since we were shooting in the summer for an issue set for release in winter. (Ikea was able to get so much great material that our story will now be spread out over two issues--first a teaser in the winter issue, and then a full spread in the spring!) So, for the Ikea shoot, it was my space, their way. Which I sort of loved actually, I loved getting a peek into how someone else would style our aesthetic + layout. I mostly sat back that day and made sure the bottled water flowed like honey and kept my mouth shut.

For the book shoot, it was all about whatever you want, Natalie, which is awesome and sometimes how I think things should always be, if you're gonna want the honest truth (hah! ;), but which was also completely, entirely terrifying. One of the feelings I had to ignore and push back the hardest when writing this book was this constant feeling of who the hell do you think you are, Natalie? Years of hateful words in forums, and a sense of inferiority that I think all of us deal with from time to time, if not always, plus the beautifully encouraging comments and emails I was receiving (and keep receiving!) from the coolest readers telling me they were so excited to read my words, to tell me what a difference my blog had made in their lives, it was kind of a complicated series of feelings to sort through. I still have a hard time sorting through them (and sort of I hope it never becomes too easy to sort through these feelings, that might be a bad sign of things). And I guess that had extended into my home, because I suddenly found myself feeling worried about whether or not it was going to be good enough, when really, I love it. And shouldn't that be enough? 

Uhh. Anyway.

I am blessed with the neatest team. It was an intense day of rearranging, lighting, shooting, and eating bagels-- it was nothing short of amazing. So much creative energy and love in here, and as soon as everyone left and the energy of the day had drained, I suddenly felt like I'd been hit by a NYC sanitation truck. When Brandon came home he found me plastered to the bed with no pants on, while Huck watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the living room eating a giant carrot, and he said, "You look like a deflated balloon."

But a happy deflated balloon. :)

Here's what the day looked like. 

Photography assistant Nicole Cordier.

Stylist and handmade coffee table/side table loaner Bronson Bigelow

Designer Abby Low and Photographer Lesley Unruh.

My exposed rolling clothing rack was made last minute and delivered to my door by Patrick Glynn, who is rad. 

"Purposeful clutter," as Abby put it ;).

Huck was a dream the entire day, I can't get over what a stud this kid is. He helped with all the heavy lifting, sang songs in the corner while coloring in his coloring book, and entertained us between setups with his impressive knock-knock joke collection. He fit perfectly inside Bronson's end tables and at one point had an entire bed made up in there. Pillow, blankie, penguin stuffy.

Huck's little room.

Corner of our kitchen. 

I'm a pretty lucky girl leading a very lucky life right now. It's so fun. I'm so grateful for all these experiences and for all the wonderful people I get to have as a part of my life thanks to this goofy little blog. Not a day goes by that I'm not completely blown over by it. So thanks, guys, for all of this. :) I like ya.



I am not a terrible cook. I make a mean pot of curry. But I pretty much suck at cooking anyway because I am a horrible meal planner. I have lots of excuses I like to tell myself, they're always entertaining and very, very valid. We are sort of emotional, spur of the moment type eaters, I like to say. Some days we crave red meat and set out for a burger, some days I'll get an idea at 3PM and it's on the table by 5, other days we snack on apples, cheese, radishes, salami, popcorn... mini Snickers... more popcorn... we go through a lot of popcorn. I guess we're an eat-to-live family, is the optimistic way to put it. And me, well I'm just an undisciplined homemaker with a heart of gold. I have yet to earn my pearls. 

We do eat pretty healthfully. You gotta keep up with the pace of life out here on foot, with nothing but ya grit and an expensive collection of shoes to get you through. We do a lot of moving and a lot of schlepping, and I don't just want my family to have the energy to manage it, I want my family to thrive. So I take what my body craves seriously and believe in eating pretty much exactly what my body tells me it wants to eat, when it wants to eat it, and I try to pry my kid's mouth open and shove all kinds of cruciferous vegetables in there when I can, it's practically a hobby. But there's no rhyme or reason to any of it and I struggle with structure and consistency. 

So I initially said no to partnering with Blue Apron. I've heard so many good things from so many friends who use the service and really, genuinely love it, but I didn't think there was much I could add to the topic and plus, y'all would see right through me so fast. I ain't no June Cleaver over here. Not even--but then--wait a minute--do I feel a personal growth opportunity coming on? .....Maybe, just maybe, if I make learning to be a structured cook into a work project, and thus actually have to do it... maybe this would be the time I'd finally get myself in there and make myself into a proper dinner-on-the-table type already, because probably it's just a matter of doing it, right? These days I do have a school kid or whatever. Hells bells, Holbrook. I think we have a challenge here!

So I chose the vegetarian plan (we aren't big meat eaters). I will say this immediately because it's true: I've loved having consistently fresh, sometimes weird ingredients to work with, that haven't been bruised bouncing against my legs in their bags by the time I get home. (The packaging for these meals is solid.) The other day I got to hang out with an eggplant, such a cheeky little vegetable. Eggplant has always intimidated me. We had a good chat, I gave her my best shot, she still freaks me out. Funky texture, weird seeds. We've made peace with it.

Hey Huck took these, impressed?

So your box arrives every week and it's a little like unwrapping an edible birthday present. You have no idea what'll be inside there and it's kind of fun to try and guess what all the ingredients are going to add up to make before you peek at the recipe cards and see what fate has in store for your dinner plans. The recipe cards are seriously great, though I still struggle to follow recipes and always end up missing an ingredient or obvious step anyway. It's a special skill.

Huck's was up for trying all of it, even the spicier dishes. His favorite was the whole wheat pasta + corn in a browned butter sauce. I told Huck those whole wheat noodles were worms, he was aaaaall over that.

Huck, ya cute. 

So I'm gonna level with you. Three weeks in and I haven't made much progress. Like, any progress. Dinner time is still erratic and unpredictable. I still open the fridge in the evening to make some delicious tostadas for dinner and then think, "no but what I really want is pad Thai." I'm still cheating on my kitchen with my Seamless app pretty regularly. I guess I'm a slow learner. But I have enjoyed the consistently delicious outcomes I get when I do get in the kitchen and cook. Confidence booster. There hasn't been a single dish that hasn't caused some slight disbelief that *I* actually made it. I do recommend the vegetarian menu full stop. But I haven't discovered my inner June Cleaver yet, and sometimes I worry I never will. 

But that's okay because I DID discover my inner [insert famous party hostess here] and she's pretty rad.

(Why it is I can not think of any famous party planners right now aside from Martha Stewart? Help!)

Here is how that happened: One hectic week during my 3-week trial with Blue Apron I managed to amass such a backlog of meals that every time I opened the fridge an avalanche of perfectly portioned Blue Apron ingredients would tumble all over me. This made me rather uneasy. Here I am failing so spectacularly, thinking to myself, I am the worst, as well as, I'd need an army to eat all this food, when suddenly! Ding ding ding ding! Lightbulbs and all that. Sparklers.

So I texted a few friends ASAP and invited them for an impromptu dinner party. Army = check! 

I prepared five Blue Apron meals in quick succession that afternoon. It took me about three hours, and since it was all there and measured out and explained to me in very clear steps, it was pretty easy. Enjoyable even. I felt pretty capable, too. Go me! I've always really loved hosting parties. I kind of consider it a skill on my short list of special resumé skills. What I really excel at is the last minute party. I love to scrounge up what all I got at the moment and turn it into something super low-key yet still really special. Working with Blue Apron on a last minute party was such an epiphany. No menu planning or hectic morning spent hitting every market in town means I have extra time to spend on the playlist and some flowers and on running the dishwasher one last time so I can make sure I have enough clean plates for everybody. Throw on a dress and some lipstick, your guests arrive, hurrah! One of the easiest and most relaxed parties I've ever thrown, and seriously fun dishes to try out. Some paneer, a watermelon farro salad, a friend of mine brought over bacon-wrapped dates and then it was a party! Brandon gave the sweetest toast that made one of our guests get teary-eyed.  I'm telling you. The greatest night.

Thankfully my girl Isabelle thought to snap some photos of the night on her phone, because way to go, blogger, forgetting to take pictures. Good one.

We ended the night on the roof making s'mores. After I put Huck to bed (mostly around his bedtime ;), we stayed on the roof talking and laughing way too late into the night. After they'd left and once the house was quiet, I caught myself humming while doing the dishes. At 2AM! That's a real party success. Like I was saying, all this led to a slight epiphany, steel yourself for this truly unique moment of self reflection.

When you're in the kitchen for that many hours and you're starting to think you'll never not smell like garlic, that's when it really dawns on you what a demonstration of love the act of cooking can be. I'm not just making a salad, I'm creating physical, edible form of my affection. Cooking isn't something I love to do but loving on my favorite people is, and so... Duh. This is obvious to the entire world and I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before, but now that it has, I'd especially like for cooking for my family to become a daily habit, because of course loving your people should be a daily habit! Meanwhile, here was my other good idea: a recurring Blue Apron delivery just for parties. Right? I love the idea of a few refrigerated boxes arriving on my doorstep every now and then, filled with enough food to feed my small army, a physical reminder to get outside my immediate self, reach out to my peoples, get into that kitchen, and celebrate the most delicious parts of life.

Thank you Blue Apron for partnering with such a slow learner, and thank you to my readers who often introduce themselves on the street, sometimes become close friends, but always turn out to be the raddest people on the planet. It is so humbling to me to have such rad, smart, cool people reading this dorky blog. Way cool, it makes me feel pretty great. The first 100 of you who'd like to can sign up HERE to receive two free meals on your Blue Apron order. I hope you cook them in good health for all the people you love who love you back. Heart eye emojis and stuff.