I don't know if you could call this a series because I have no idea if I'll do one ever again? But hey! Today I'm bringing you a little studio tour of miss Nina Z's clog shop in Brooklyn. Mostly because I get a kick out of snooping in other people's places. :) You probably do too! And also because I'd always wanted to see how Nina's studio worked, since the first time I met her. I just think the process of hand-making such beautiful, highly functional pieces of art must be so satisfying, and kind of romantic in a way, and I wanted to see it for myself. Nina had just finished a pair of clogs custom-made for my foot (is this not the fanciest idea ever!?) and I needed to come by for a final fitting, so the timing was perfect. It was so, so, so much fun.

P.S. While I was there Nina asked if I maybe wanted to give a pair of custom SONJA clogs to one of my readers, too? And I said "DUH YES." Obviously! Just leave a comment below to enter. Our winner will be chosen Monday, and contacted by Nina for all ya foot specifics. Fancy! 

I love all of the clogs, but Nina makes my very favorites. They're a little more rustic than a Hasbeen or a Lotta, and clogs have no business being sleek, if you ask me. These are work shoes! Her leather is also much softer, so, no blisters. I first met Nina when I was hugely pregnant, at the Brooklyn Flea. We were still doing that "poor college kids" song and dance, so I wasn't able to bring a pair home with me that day, but oh man, those clogs haunted me in my dreams. A year or so later, Nina emailed out of the blue. And then we became friends. Isn't that a lovely story? I don't know, I think that's a lovely story. Anyway, this year Nina's taking the steps to both source and manufacture the entire shoe from sole to toe right here in New York City. I think that's pretty dang neat.

△ My new SONJAs. I think they look especially killer with a chunky pair of socks, but maybe that's just me ;). 

Pinkies out, Huck! 
I just have a lady crush on Nina so it's exciting for me to spread the word.

Studio visits yes? No?

P.S. Brooklyn back yards. Sigh.

(You can also find her at the Brooklyn Flea most weekends. ;)
(Good luck and happy commenting!!)



Not the right church. Actually a schoolhouse.

Last weekend we went to a wedding, and spent four hours in the process utterly lost on various country roads. It was a beautiful place to be lost! And such a fiasco. I have a beef with you, east coast. We could never tell what town we were in at any given moment, or even what state we were in, the whole thing was a mess. At one point we thought we'd found it, but then it turned out we were in.... Connecticut. So we circled and back-tracked, we passed the same gas station six times, we stopped in at every church we passed along the way, and then, we found it! We snuck in quietly and sat down in the way way back, just in time for the You May Now Kiss The Bride! And then we were like, well, back to the car? And then we got lost again trying to find the reception location. Disaster. At one point I was reminded of a story I'd read about a family trapped in a car on a snowy mountain road who managed to survive thanks to breastfeeding. Yes, all of them. Luckily, I'd packed dried mangos. 

And now comes the part where I tell you about the wedding lunch, which took place on a totally different day, in handy list format: 

1. There were about 200 people or so invited to this lunch, and we were all encouraged to spread out over their 50 or so acres of land and explore to our hearts content. Even with that many people, it felt like we were the only ones there. At one point an ice cream truck drove through the property handing out free popsicles. I KNOW!

2. The family rents out the stables on their land to nearby horse owners, so there were, like, ten million horses. They'd pop up here and there as you wandered around.

3. I decided this was what it would feel like to spend the day at Downton Abbey. Or Pemberly! Or some other romantic place like that.

4. In between moments of jaw-dropping scenic beauty and loving up on all the animals, I managed to take a merciless amount of photos.

5. It was pretty much the most blissful afternoon EVER. 

And now, a few photos of our day at Green Gables. (The place did have a name and it wasn't Green Gables but, you know.)

These hairy men were my dates for the afternoon. (Stick-on mustaches as wedding favors. :) (But the beard is real! And I know that hashtags are true, amen.)

We got to meet some harses. Including babies! There was a huge bag of rather enormous carrots, easily the size of my forearms, and we were told we could use them as bribes to make any animal love us that we pleased, except for the colts and the llamas, because the colts were on a special diet and the llamas were super mean and did not suffer fools kindly. 

We spent a lot of the day at that fence, talking with other guests. Occasionally Huck would run back and forth between the chickens and the pot bellied pig. A few times I'd be mid-sentence and get a horsey nudge. 

"Just a minute, sweetie. Mommy's talking."

(Natalie Holbrook, proud owner of sticky outy elf ears and weird cowlicks since 1982!)

After a bit a kickball game got organized and the sporty two-thirds of our family went to scope it out. Natalie and kick ball equals a dramatic emergency room visit, every single time, so instead I took my inner introvert out on a date. 

SELF-INVOLVED SIDE NOTE: So Brandon's been to a few training seminars through work this year, and he always comes back with these personality tests as part of their management training. I found one on the dinner table the other day and decided to take it and nearly fell over dead when the results told me I was an introvert. Outgoing, maybe, but in-tro-VERT. Suddenly my whole life made sense! Well. Maybe not my whole life. But I have stopped feeling guilty when I drift out of conversations in large groups and go into what Brandon calls "Natalie Land," because look, a quiz told me it was okay.

So I sat with some chickens, I cooed at some pot-bellied pigs, I discovered a hidden bocce ball court in the middle of nowhere, and I did a lot of thinking about the Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet relationship dynamics.


!!  Come on. 

The end.



There was this moment, before we'd even seen the place, where I knew it was a foregone conclusion and I was already feeling pretty apologetic toward my husband. Moving is expensive, we weren't going to be at Education Level Emergency Code Red until next year, when Huck starts kindergarten at the failing elementary school we're currently zoned for, and I had promised Brandon I would be super critical, only considering a place if it checked off every. single. one. of our boxes. It had to be perfectly serendipitous and fall-in-your-lap easy, it couldn't be more expensive than our place is now, we needed lots of storage options; it had to be a total upgrade. We needed perfection, pretty much. But as I was walking to meet the broker with Huck before the showing, we passed a street light at the corner that had "IDAHO" scrawled across it in spray paint. And that's when I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon. The place was meant to be ours and that was all there was to it. I believe in signs (and in making rash decisions), and clearly someone was trying to tell me something. So I texted Brandon to apologize in advance, because no matter what the place looked like now, I was going to have to sign on it anyway. Objectivity had completely flown out the door. 

But luckily then God said, "LET THERE BE EXPOSED BRICK." 

And he saw that it was good. 


Amen, and Glory to God in the Highest.

Done every box got checked, son. More space? Check. Full-size Washer/Dryer in the unit? CHECK and CHECK. School district? Impeccable. Charming Neighborhood? YES WHY NOT. Even the boxes I hadn't thought to make boxes, such as Enormous Bathroom with a Claw Foot Tub.... 

Ack! Check!

(There is a shower head, you just can't see it from this shot.)

Or the box for rooftop access and a sick view....


We keep shaking our heads at each other, because fortune has favored us this summer in the kind of way that's really overkill. The good times are smacking us in the face. We have been so lucky. It's not often that life decides to be so civilized to a person, and one thing I'm always taken with is how, when the good times come (especially after a particularly crap time), they really do seem to come with gusto. I wouldn't can't call it karma, because that implies I've done something to deserve this--when if you ask me, I don't think any of us deserve anything that we do or don't get--but I do think that maybe the Universe (just like a Lannister) always pays his debts. ;)

So thank you for this one, Universe. The Holbrooks are much obliged. Not to mention extreeemely flippin giddy. :)



I like to start these off with the very best photos of us I can find. Here we have Huck looking thirty, Brandon looking all debonair with his beard growing in (hallelujah!), and, I can admit it, I look pretty sexy too. These might be my most flattering photos of all time.

Here we go! 

I took this photo on my phone from the D train as we crossed the Manhattan bridge a few weeks ago. It's a pretty lovely view, as far as views go. We've been loading and reloading our MetroCards all month, zipping back and forth from the UWS to Brooklyn, and here is what I love most about crossing the Manhattan bridge: If you sit on the south side of the train as it climbs from underground, you're treated to this (sort of ugly) view. A jumble of buildings to your left, the urban sprawl of Queens to your right, and the gray and brown chaos of the Queensboro bridge straight ahead. It's a cool view, I guess, but it's this depressing mix of flat colors and fighting patterns, it won't exactly inspire a sonnet or anything. I like to think about how, if all you ever did was sit on the south side of that train, and all you ever saw was that view to the north, then you'd have to conclude that it was the ugliest train ride probably of all time. But if you just turn around, BAM. You get THIS. And is this not a nice metaphor for something? Do you not feel super inspired and things? I do love me a good metaphor. Anyway, use it in your next motivational speaking engagement, I won't mind. ;)

This is of my favorite photos from our weekend in the Catskills. Does this couch make me look short?

Speaking of our weekend in the Catskills...

People of my blog, meet Barry. Barry is a handsome old feller I saved from a sad, lonely life in an antiques junkyard. He wasn't even inside! Poor friend! The shop owner told me he was 75 years old (plus however old he was when he was... well..), and I've taken it upon myself to make up for all those lost years of love by showering him with affection whenever I walk by (which is how I found a hidden cobweb on Thursday, just under his ear. Barry! The gift that keeps on giving!) He needed me, I needed him, we named after Barryville, the town where he grew up (???), or at least the town where we adopted him, but the more I get to know him the more I'm starting to think he might be Barry short for Barack Obama. You'd have to meet him to see it. I can't put my finger on it. He does seem like the type of guy to be friends with Beyonce. 

In my defense, this appears to be genetic, and I just don't know what else to tell you. My mom's got mounted pronghorn and a stuffed goose named Ferdinand Ralph Lauren, which she got to replace Alex and Blake, respectively, when they went off to college-slash-went on a mission... respectively. When Huck woke up our first morning back and saw Barry on the table, he said, "Aww. Barry's still dead." (He'd dreamed Barry came back to life and that they'd become best friends.)

Speaking of Huck.

We're teaching him all the important life skills. We're really good parents.

This week I got to hold two brand new babies, and I am telling you. Newborns! Nothing bad can exist when you're holding a newborn. This is a good time to be me, I love playing auntie when my closest friends have babies. I posted this photo to my Instagram the other day and there was a really great discussion in the comments about all of our favorite things to give brand new babies as gifts. I always give a pack of my favorite white onesies and a beautiful blanket, you can never get enough blankets. This one is from PlumStitch, it says "you are my sunshine" across the front in yellow thread. It's just about the most perfect. Not to mention it's gender neutral, which, let it be whatever but above all, let it be gender neutral. (What do you like to give to new mamas? I have a friend who goes over and does the dishes. Right?)

Huck offered to make cookies for us the other night, don't they look delicious? He created a very splendid mess in the process, but those cookies bought us a full Game of Thrones, and not to mention I'm fairly certain this is Montessori approved. ;) Best Parents Ever. In case you're interested, Huck's recipe seems to be about seven cups of flour, all of the sugar in the world, three bottles of stale sprinkles I'd forgotten we had, and a couple handfuls of oats. You know, so they're healthy.

We'd already decided not to take our dry goods with us to Brooklyn, since most of it is pretty old and I only seem to bake in the winter, and this brings us to, yes! Brooklyn!

We finally found ourselves a dream of a space in Brooklyn. Oh Brooklyn we've missed you! We are beside ourselves. We found it in the most cosmically beautiful kind of way. It's zoned in one of the very best elementary schools in all of the city, it's mere steps from a bagel shop, AND, dot dot dot .... Claw Foot Tub. (This deserves its own post, and it will have it.) It's pretty perfect, as though the Universe picked it out, wrapped it up, presented it with a trumpet cadence, then patted us softly on the head and sent us off with kisses from the skies. I walked in and, after uttering a slow motion cuss word, plunked down the deposit so fast you'd blink and you missed it. Truly, I'm a quick draw with a wallet, but this one was extra impressive.  

Huck will be getting his own bedroom (!!!!), his parents will be getting a spiffy lofted bed situation that I'm already nervous I'll fall off of (no no, there'll be guard rails, I'm sure), and I've got a good-sized pile of clothes going that I'm planning to sell on IG later this week (editing my closet's gotten addicting). 

Speaking of!

I got an email the other day about an app called FittingRoom that made me laugh so hard and then get kind of excited, and I instantly knew I had to share it with you. I love this idea. You know when you're in a fitting room (or even at home getting dressed), and you've put something on that you're not sure you're pulling off, so you take an awkward selfie of it then desperately text it your sister, all, "IS THIS AWFUL Y/N," and then you wait and wait and wait and hope she answers before you've been in there too long and the sales associate starts to get suspicious? Fitting rooms are the loneliest places, I've always said. So, this is an app where you take a photo of your outfit, then submit it for opinions from a group of people who are also sharing their outfits for feedback (so there's generally good karma in there). It's kind of like having a whole bunch of sisters to text that you don't happen to be related to. You'll never be alone in a dressing room again! I've been uploading photos of a few of the pieces I'm toying around with selling. It's kind of like Instagram meets Hot or Not, only with this one you can blur yo face, soooo. Someone finally came up with it. It makes me giddy. :)

HERE is the FittingRoom app, and HERE is my closet shop IG account. Look for some stuff starting Thursday ish. :)

P.S. Huck's Animal Trackers box came this month and it was all about zebras. Zebras, if you didn't know, make for pretty great grocery store buddies, I discovered.

Nat, over and out.



Greetings from Camp Anawanna

If I think about it hard enough I can still conjure up exactly the scent of pine and sunshine and warmed wet earth that followed us around all weekend upstate. I'm already starting to over-romanticize it. Warning! Once I start to over-romanticize things it's really hard to stop, and pretty soon I'm researching real estate options and plotting out things like where I'd keep my llama and what she'd like to eat. I'd been gunning for a summer lake trip for whatever reason for, like, four years, and it was one of those instances where somehow it managed to live up to the hype I had pumped into it and how often does that happen? Beach house smeach house. As for me and my house, we will choose the lake.

And so it was that on Sunday we drove through Bethel (Woodstock! Party on, Garth!) to Lake Superior for a swim and the best BLT experience this planet has ever given me. (The waitress, a kind older woman, ruffled Huck's hair as he asked for a glass of milk and it was so lovely I could cry.) 

Huck had been experiencing the kind of jonesing for a swimming day that only a three-year-old can produce, it was nothing short of spectacular. From the moment we crossed the threshold into New Jersey on the George Washington bridge it was all he could talk about. He insisted on carrying his swim trunks in one fist all day, every day, everywhere. Just in case we happened to pass a swimming hole, the man was going to be prepared. After exploring a bit and scoping out the swimming situation, we were finally able to find the perfect spot for a three-year-old who sometimes believes he's an octopus. We were relieved, if we didn't deliver on that swim day we were going to have to live forever with our shame.  On first glance when I got out of the car I swear to you the lake winked at us. It sparkled! I think the clouds may have parted too and I'm pretty sure I heard a choir of voices from somewhere in the distance. And if there were ever any sound I wish I could play on repeat it would be the sound Huck made as he giggled through a very high-pitched Woo-hooooo! as he raced down the hill.

Do you know what I want to remember about this weekend, and why I think it was such a wonderful escape, is just how long it took for the last of the city chaos to work its way out of our systems, and just how intensely good it felt once it had. I forget sometimes that the amount of work it takes for even the simplest things out here, like grabbing a gallon of milk, or getting to the post office before they close, is bordering on stupid, and I should give myself more credit. But by Sunday we had acclimated perfectly to the slower pace and I was able to sit there at the water's edge, lake water lapping at my legs, thinking absolutely zero things while I watched Huck splash about and explore in the shallow end of the lake. Far from the hustle of Manhattan there's a heart rate better suited to chirping birds and open skies and tiny towns built on dirt roads. It was good to remember I could get there, and it was good to remember what it felt like. 

Lake swimming is gross and fantastic. Mud! Weird creatures! The soundtrack to Pocahontas stuck in my head!

Here come the photos, aren't you excited?

Please to appreciate Brandon Holbrook, always fully dressed in the least appropriate places to be fully dressed.

Huck schmoozing the hot lifeguard. He knows what he's doing.