over the weekend, brandon and i snuck away for an afternoon drawing class at the metropolitan museum of art.

and this is my confession: i've never taken an art class, because i'm a dolt. brandon isn't a dolt so he knows all kinds of stuff about these things, but as the newbie i'd been looking forward to this date since we booked it all the way back in august. maybe one class in and i would unleash my inner felicity porter or something? you never know.

this class was so much fun, and such a neat change of pace from our usual routines. our teacher was lovely, she had really pretty red hair, and she was able to explain the basics in a way i could understand. plus high waisted skinny jeans and really beat up white keds. she was sort of dressed exactly how i'd always hoped an art instructor would be dressed. and while i'm on the important stuff: also there was this really adorable couple in the class with us. he'd booked the date as a surprise for his girlfriend, because it turns out they'd met at the met. and isn't that great? they were the cutest. also they had the perfect museum outfits on. skirt, cardigans, blazers. elbow patches. you know. adorable. 

and then we were off to choose a sculpture to draw. i chose the three graces. i wanted something feminine. which of course turned out to be really challenging, getting all those lines just right. soft but square, round but not too curvy... my drawings kept coming out all masculine; i started feeling really intense about it. i just think female bodies are so gorgeous and spiritual, especially in the nude, and i really wanted to do it justice. talking about the different lines and shadows on the bodies with our teacher, and sitting there really focused on just one thing at one time and thinking of nothing else, it was like therapy. duh. and blah blah blah, in the end i was really proud of what i got! i sort of want to hang it on the fridge.

brandon chose to draw some dude's tombstone, very masculine indeed. i thought it was kind of neat to see the decisive, straight lines of his drawing next to mine. kind of says a lot about who we are as "peoples" (henry holbrook-ism), and why we've done so well together as a team all these dang years. i liked it.

at the met you always see people camped out in front of various pieces with their paints or pencils, slaving over their recreations. it was kind of a thrill to be one of them for a few hours. we can't wait to go back and do it again sometime. with henry, too! we'll bring the crayons. ;)

hah! this is my favorite. "i don't really want to pose for this picture but i'll do it anyway because i love you." what a hero.

this post was sponsored by HowAboutWe. right now you can get $50 off your first date! just click HERE. we are so thrilled to be working with HowAboutWe, this is the most fun we have had ever, and we are so grateful for the support of our readers. 
p.s. on me
jeans: zara (last year)
boots: anthropologie (last year)
glasses: lookmatic
bag c/o nena & co



last week brandon's parents were in town to love up that huck of ours, and while they were here old poppa joe had just one request: pumpkin bread. so, you know, i do aim to please. i also made him THE pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, because come on, but he declared the pumpkin bread the winner anyway, so... if that means anything to you. get on this one! i'm only a barely passable cook, but i happen to be a pretty damn decent baker, it turns out. 

this is my last pumpkin recipe i swear it.

pumpkin bread!

1 can pumpkin puree* (always libby's, guys)
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (bonus points: sub out 3/4 cup of it for bran flour)
1T pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon) (or some combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, whatever speaks to you)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
all the chocolate chips you feel like!

mix and pour into greased pan
bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes 
(i start to check the middle around the 20 minute mark, the very worst thing is overcooked pumpkin bread.)

this time i got fancy and spread a layer of chocolate chips across the top of the batter before baking. it was pretty smart of me, if i do say so.

*it's really easy to sub out the pumpkin here for banana, or grated zucchini, grated carrots... whatever fruit/vegetable you have on hand that feels like becoming bread. plan for about a cup and a half or more, depending on the water content of the vegetable. the batter consistency on this guy is supposed to be real thick, so don't over do it.

p.s. sick of pumpkin recipes yet?
because... pumpkin sage pasta. 
i made some the other night with spaghetti noodles and sliced sausage and you know what? pretty flippin great.



the ladies i've met living in the city have all been bonkers, let me say that up front. one of the girls in our moms group had the idea to call up the magnolia bakery on the upper west side to see if they do bakery tours for kids. turns out, they do. and they're free! and then you get a cupcake at the end too, so, bonkers.

after many emails back and forth we were able to agree on a date and time. we made it out there the week before last. (we had so many in attendance we had to split up into two tour groups.) and i just want you to know . . . magnolia has a sprinkle closet. like, an entire closet for just sprinkles. pretty great.

demonstrating how to get that perfect magnolia frosting swirl. she did it for us four times and i still don't understand it.

frosting in a tub, yo.

thank you magnolia for the tour! 
(you should definitely call up your local bakeries to see if they offer tours as well. it was so neat.)



on saturday morning my baby turned three. 

we had a little party for him and his friends on friday afternoon. i did all the set up the night before, once huck was asleep. we'd been talking about birthdays, and birthday parties, and who should be invited, and what it would feel like to be three, every night before bed. we'd crouch under the covers with our flashlights and books and talk out the specifics of the thing in our quietest whispers. huck wanted penguins. every night i'd ask him what kinds of things one would have at a penguin party, and every night he'd say cupcakes, penguins, and black and white cookies. of course. only he calls them "brown and white cooties," because really the chocolate is more brown than black, he's got a point there.

once he was conked out i stayed up late to put the finishing touches on things. i have an inner party planner that comes out every now and then, i forget she's there. she's sort of insane. (i even pulled off a pretty spectacular bit of penguin nail polish art at, uhhh, 3AM. i don't know what i was thinking.) when the last penguin cupcake had been frosted and put in its place, the last paper lanterns had been hung, the plates and napkins were ready for action, and all that was left to do in the morning was cut little sandwiches into fish shapes and put out the string cheese and carrot sticks, i sat myself down on the couch and just . . . thought. about everything. babies mostly, and all my hopes and dreams for this boy. all of the wonderful moments we get to have together every single day, and all of the exciting things that lay ahead for us.

earlier that night, while putting huck to bed--our flashlights beaming under mountains of blankets--i tickled huck's back as his whispered account of all the things he'd done that day got drowsier and drowsier. it reminded me of our first night together in that hospital room almost three years ago to the day. the pads covering the mattress, and the funky pink pitcher of water, and all those ankle bracelets and hospital blankets with the blue stripe down one side, and pink and blue striped cotton beanies and that squished little face, and the way he stuck his lower lip out at me and squeezed his eyes shut. easily the world's most perfect, most indignant little pout. i loved that pout so so much. that night was the first night i got to tickle his back as he fell asleep and i remember so clearly how soft that skin felt. it was unbelievable;  brand new, fresh, just barely finished, completely perfect skin. i remember exactly the way that brand new skin felt under my fingers, and the shape of his little ribs underneath and the curve of his little spine and the weight of his tiny baby bum in my hand, his pouty little face on my chest. and while i sat on the couch that night i thought of that newborn baby skin and this almost-three big boy skin and gosh. it about broke me in half. it felt like every single feeling ever felt all at once. 

before i finally crept off to bed i stopped to snap a few photos of the party-in-waiting. huck and penguins, man. it is such a pleasure to be this boy's mom. 

it was a hit.

so there we are. holbrook birthday season twenty thirteen / over and out.

p.s. some sources
the banner i freehanded and taped to white string with scotch tape
the star bunting is c/o nahbi
(my glasses are from west elm but i couldn't find them online!)
our crowns every year come from a local party store 
(huck refused to wear it this year!)
our cake plate was a gift from darlybird many moons ago
(but how great are these? 1 2 3 4 5)
and also pinterest. 
thank your, pinterest.

p.p.s. every year we try to record huck's lullaby, moon river, as a family. this year we weren't able to get all of us together, so over the weekend when everyone was asleep and i had a few minutes to myself, i recorded it quickly so we wouldn't miss a year/ (HERE is last year's... we didn't post his first year's lullaby, maybe i should find it? also i'm still pretty rusty.) 

anyway, here it is. huck, this is for you bubb.

p.p.s penguin nails



oh hey! hi. hiiiiiiiii.

so it's been a hell of a week at sea over here, how are you kids holding up?

brandon's parents are in town. half the time we've spent playing tourist and the other half the time i've spent taking serious advantage of my mother-in-law so i can run off and write in the afternoons. i've been so productive, it's freaky. three days in a row i've kept my nose to the keyboard and completely forgotten that all along all i really meant to do was go play hookie and get a pedicure. 

joe took off monday morning for a leafy drive around new england. dude this is THE TIME. the leaves here in the city are really going for it, i bet the scenery up there is out of control. he keeps texting us photos of these enormous lobsters and oysters that i can only assume he intends to eat. which reminds me! we went to peter luger's over the weekend so all of brandon's wildest dreams could come true. it's been ranked best steak place in the city since the dawn of the cavemen, and now i can confidently add my stamp of approval: peter luger, your name sounds weird but your cows taste fiiiiiiine.

otherwise i've been spending a lot of time at the post office. actually i really love going to the post office! any time i can strategically map out the most efficient way of accomplishing something mundane it makes me oddly happy. plus those machines are fun. i don't know, it gets me going. the other day i was there with a lot of things to ship, i mean i was really in the zone, when i became aware that the lady next to me had a cat in her backpack. by the sounds of things, he wasn't much of a fan of the automated postal service.

we've been enjoying fall, eating everything pumpkin flavored in our path with gusto, plotting our halloween costumes, talking about huck's upcoming birthday party, and listening to a lot of music around the house. huck's discovered his musical side and spends most of the day singing songs and asking "what's that noise?" when a new instrument comes out over the record player. just the other day i had a beethoven record spinning, and huck sat himself down on the carpet and played a determined bit of air piano. his air guitar is another thing all together. once in a fit of musical excitement he played air guitar on a slice of pizza. 

i don't know, my dismounts on these sorts of blog posts are never very graceful so, hey! holbrooks over and out. :)



you know how there are certain home purchases that are super boring (garbage bags, detergent), and then there are other home purchases that are sort of exciting in a tingly, i-guess-this-is-adulthood kind of way? i swear, there is nothing more exciting than when you realize it's time to replace yo cookie sheets. (similarly, one time i realized we needed a new ironing board cover and the thought of it made me giddier than i'd felt in days.) 

we'd been using the same large frying pan and cookie sheet since i was in college. that is how bizarre it felt to march myself to the market at west elm to find replacements. i sort of stared at the display for a while with wide eyes because i swear the cookie sheet/frying pan technologies of the last ten years have changed so much it is like we were speaking different languages. 

and after brandon accidentally used so much tilex on the bathtub situation the other day that he started coughing and gagging like he was on the verge of death, i made a solemn pledge to finally replace all those junky chemicals with some healthier alternatives. and then, i did! pats on the back and things. (brandon is the tub master at our house) (carpets too, he's pretty versatile).

and now, in the vein of not grown up purchases (balance, zen, all of that), i looked up marshmallows online tonight, because our oversized jar of marshmallows in the kitchen is bordering on almost empty, and i want the ENORMOUS marshmallows this time, and in the process of searching i discovered that apparently the marshmallow market in america has gotten out of control. you have no idea how wonderful the next couple of UPS deliveries are going to be at our house. 

toasted coconut, chocolate browniechocolate mint (this sounds weird), JUMBO PUMPKIN MALLOWS (seriously that label screamed at me), pumpkin spice mallows, and not to give you a heart attack or anything but did you know you can buy cereal marshmallows now without the cereal!? my brain has exploded.

anyway. here are some other fun things i found on the internet.
(i'm signing off for the weekend, the in-laws are coming the in-laws are coming!)

my friend courtney passed along the link to this madonna essay in harper's bazaar. life changing. i'm serious. madonna, who knew?

this NPR interview with alec baldwin and lena dunham. you guys, lena dunham is one of us. next time i see her in brooklyn i'm giving her a big old hug, i don't even care. (via hither and thither)

how to unshrink a wool sweater

an amy poehler essay! via cup of jo

and another joanna find, this facial expression quiz where you test your ability to read emotion in others' eyes. it was fun, although hilariously gender biased. seriously, new york times. (i scored 35/36, because i am an emotional freak.) 

lastly, due to extreme demand (emails upon emails!) we've decided to bring back the kathleen kelly totes for the holidays. you can preorder them now through november first HERE. they'll be fully available for purchase around thanksgiving, along with a few other new ladies we'll be introducing soon .(what would . . . felicity do? maybe?) i'm super excited. like, fanning my face excited.

hoping you have a wonderfully happy weekend. xoxo



(p.s. after yesterday's post i got a few requests for my pumpkin bread recipe. i'll get that together right quick. in the meantime . . . this!)

last year i shared a pretty great recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. they weren't "theeeee" pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, but they were still pretty great. (you'll have to read that post for the back story, it's involved). 

not even three weeks after i posted that recipe, i got an email from my friend rachel, who'd gotten an email from her sister sarah, who said that her mom had said that finally she could share the super duper top secret ultra hush-hush famous stratford pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe--the recipe that we all obsessed over for years and years and years--with the world at large. i about died and immediately made four batches. 

that's maybe a slight exaggeration but you've come to expect that here by now.

the difference between regular pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies is enormous. like red vines vs twizzlers. yes, twizzlers are amazing, but red vines are for grown ups. this recipe remains, to this day, the very best cookie of my very entire life, i really think you'll enjoy it. 

(by this time in my career as a human i'm starting to feel rather like an expert in all the things chocolate chip, which actually is really rather nice. like a distinctive honor of some kind, possibly a knighthood!?)

so, right. 

"the" pumpkin chocolate chip cookies     !!!
recipe straight from the horse's mouth (sister stratford looks nothing like a horse)

wet ingredients
2 eggs
3/4 cups canola oil (i'll usually do a half cup instead)
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups sugar
1 can of pumpkin (about a cup and a half) (my sources tell me libby's is best)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

dry ingredients
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon*
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg*
(*alternatively you could use 1T pumpkin pie spice, or, if you're me, 1T straight up cinnamon, cause that's how i roll)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
as many chocolate chips as you need, spiritually.  (milk chocolate. guittard are best.)

mix wet and dry ingredients until smooth, then drop by the spoonful onto your cookie sheet using a scoop or large spoon. bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until the middle of the cookie feels firm to the touch.

these make a light, cake-y, highly addictive cookie. and please note also that these will bake up looking exactly the way they looked as lumps of dough on your cookie sheet, so if aesthetics are a priority, you're gonna want to put some real effort into a more artful form of plopping. i forget this most of the time and thus mine usually look a little like cow pies.

and thank you, sister stratford! :)
(according to actual popular vote.)



perfect weekends are hard to come by. here is how ours went down. 

on friday night brandon looked at me terribly seriously and told me that it was going to be a relaxing weekend.

i was not to accept any social engagements.
we were not to leave the upper west side.
above all, we were going to take it EASY.

normally these kinds of declarations would make my hands go straight to my hips because, look. but actually it all sounded rather nice to me, so i patted brandon on the head and said, okay. you win this time, red.

so that is exactly what we did! n o t h i n g.
in the end it was probably the loveliest, most restorative weekend i've had in a good long while.
here's what all we did while we were busy not doing anything at all.

// a lot of our friends have spent recent weekends going apple picking upstate. i've super enjoyed all their photos on my instagram feed! they are not redundant one bit! but every time brandon or i start to talk about renting a car and making the trek up ourselves, we mostly just shrug at each other and ask, "why?" but these apples i picked up at trader joe's the other day--hand picked, even! (by somebody else)--tasted pretty darn good to me. eh, we'll make it up there one of these days.

// saturdays are for staying in your pajamas until as long as possible. huck and his "puppy-penguins!" are becoming one of those situations where i need a decoy set for when it's time for a wash. 

// a little fresh air after lunch at one of our favorite chinese places. central park was made for weekends.

// brandon and huck are movie-goers. any time a new movie comes into town (that isn't the smurfs, that's where i draw the line), they go together and check it out. this time i was invited (lucky me!). and when it was over we walked out of the theatre right behind george stephanopoulos and his wife. they probably weren't there to see cloudy with a chance of meatballs, but bygones. 

(p.s. if you like puns, then THIS MOVIE. i laughed a lot harder than i expected to. but then, this is humor-specific humor. brandon was all, this isn't that funny natalie, and i'm like, but it's a leek! in a boat! get it?)

// i got an itch for some serious baking this weekend, so as soon as we got home huck and i whipped us up some pumpkin bread. heavy on the chocolate chips, we know what we're doing.

// sunday morning cartoons and brandon's insane bed head. huck caught up on his backyardigans, i caught up on the second season of girls, a good time was had by all. (that ocd plot line totally stressed me out beeteedubs.) 

huck's at the age where he's really empathizing with the characters on the shows he likes, and embarrassing situations are hard for him to watch and gosh, it's cute. 

// ever since i discovered that a penny on the needle was all our record player needed in order to stop skipping, the record player has been back in action. when i was pregnant with huck i found this great vintage winnie the pooh record at the brooklyn flea market. we busted it out sunday afternoon and the sound of those old pops and fizzes and the look on huck's face as he listened was so good i about burst.

ready to be super productive this week or what?!
as my mother would say, 
"produce things!"

(i'm totally going to produce some more pumpkin bread because dang that junk was good.)

other bits of announcements:
our birthday giveaway was a huge success. our winner has been contacted and packages are on their way, and as a bit of a consolation prize, HowAboutWe is offering two months free membership to anyone! everyone! just use the link HERE and enjoy.

this week only, all remaining mary poppins totes are 30% off. get yours HERE.