I call it: 


dearest dudeman tee shirts
by natalie holbrook

dearest dudeman tee shirts

unfortunately, i have stained two of you already
with mysterious substances 
that i am guessing are watermelon

but, dearest dudeman tee shirts

fortunately, you cost next to nothing
and i can always get more of you
the next time i am at the walmart needing some milk
which is also when i pick up more yarn
almost without thinking about it
which is also why i own
more than four skeins 
of the same ugly off-white color 
that i thought was a good idea at the time
four times
a thought which has yet
to be proven

dearest dudeman tee shirts

you come in a bag, 
and you come taped together
and you peel the tape off
and i always wonder why
and you really only look best the day after a washing
but who is too lazy to prewash a shirt?
the kind of girl who is too lazy to buy shirts that do not come in plastic bags
to begin with
and that girl


Instant classic.



above: covert ops documentation, and my attempt at replicating sans lint brush

All Titanic references aside, I promised I would return + report on the sartorial situation over in France and I am here to fulfill! A WHOLE YEAR LATER! (Up next I'm scouring the Internet for what all's available to pull this look off with.) (clunkiest sentence ever?) This is a post I have been equally excited + stumped about writing. Because on the one hand, IS THIS NOT THE MOST FUN THING TO TALK ABOUT EVER!? And because on the other hand, I'm well aware of the danger of sounding like a complete idiot France fan-girl here. But do not worry! This is a risk I am willing to take. Oh yes! Here, allow me to sacrifice myself on this altar of willing-to-be-silliness, all in the name of fashion, beauty, and of appearing, like, really super cool and junk. I'll take the heat, you waltz off looking real French, okay?

So now here she is, your quintessential French girl in Paris according to my eyeballs and my iPhone, both of whom are terribly reliable sources, I assure you. (I also utilized my powers of Pinterest to provide a few visual aids.) (I know, isn't this thrilling?)

First of all let me make this much clear: No other footwear is allowed on your feet. Only "baskets." Baskets is the preferred term for sneakers over there. Aren't you getting smart from this post? Nobody wears anything else, I'm not even exaggerating. The guys, the girls, in sneakers. Sneakers sneakers sneakers, no socks, thank you. And pants cropped to show off your slender ankles (jealous).

You know, we called them tennis shoes where I grew up in Arizona. The first time I used that term in Connecticut when I moved there in middle school, the all kids looked at me like I was speaking . . . well, French. So it's baskets, like basketball. I'm assuming. Not a huge reach. 

I saw a lot of Stans, Bens, Jordans, Keds, Persols, Jacks, Pumas, Chucks (mostly on the teens), New Balance, Nikes (many Nikes), and just one Reebok but it was the Reebok to end all Reeboks because it was the exact Reebok I had when I was eleven and I remember thinking they were my favorite shoes ever because it felt like I was walking in marshmallows. 

All of these baskets I saw looked fully worn + loved + trashed. So go find a mud puddle? I'm just kidding. 

Granted it was winter-y out, but the chunky sweater reigned supreme as most popular option. I also saw oversized men's white button ups, slouchy baseball tees, and crew neck tees. Your color options go black, white, tan, gray, brown, or, if you're feeling really exciting, navy. 

Give these a try.

Aside from your classic skinny jeans, the denim look skewed a lot bit mom jeans, to be honest. Baggy, lighter wash, cropped. I also saw more than a couple khakis, also worn cuffed + baggy. Pleated fronts. Final vestiges of #normcore perhaps? Pretty much anything pants-wise goes so long as it looks like it's prepared for a flood.

Cocoon-y, menswear-y, wool-y, oversized. Not that it matters, hashtag is it summer yet?

Oui oui, there was definitely a scarf situation going on over there, a situation that I don't fully understand, I'll admit. As an experiment one afternoon I paid attention to nothing but scarves for a good chunk of time, and I have to tell you, it's just, scarves. Errwhrre. The men seemed to sport shorter, chunkier scarves looped together like this (thanks, George), while the women went more pashmina / cashmere / linen / cotton in all kinds of draping methods, in solid colors mostly. And by "colors" I mean varying shades of navy and brown. :)

Okay sorry, two more hot guys in scarves. Sorry. Carry on.

Appropriate hair styles seemed to come parted down the center, visibly unbrushed, messy as the day is long. Often pulled to the back à la half pony up there. I saw one set of bangs, and only two short cuts above the shoulder. Take from that what you will. 

I kid you not none of this hair had seen a brush in days, it was awesome. 

(As for whether or not said hair is washed terribly frequently, well, I didn't ask to sniff anyone's head so your guess is as good as mine ;). 

Bushy brows. NO MAKE UP. Like, how do these women walk around all day without their eyelashes on? I can't freaking go to the grocery store feeling like a full human without my eyelashes on. Geez.


A few weeks ago, my grandma Cherrill passed away. It's sort of strange to wrap my head around still. She died at home, surrounded by all her people. Her funeral was absolutely beautiful. 

Like my grandma Shirley, my grandma Cherrill also suffered from Alzheimer's Disease. (I am so screwed.) In Cherrill's case, her Alzheimer's primarily affected her short term memory, while Shirley's affected . . . well, all of it. 

The experience of losing both grandmothers like this within a couple months of each other has made me pause everything, like a car at a red light. This loss sort of creeps up on me, and is leaving quite a dent in the armor. A not-bad dent--this is life, after all, but I don't mind admitting that I'm bruised a little bit, and that every now and then I stop what I'm doing and question the air around me:
WHAT GIVES??" It's been an adventure, navigating myself + my emotions. It seems like just as I catch my breath, there is something else happening, almost always right away, almost always one right after the other, boom boom boom. That's my life these days. I'm sort of everywhere.

I'm coming to the realization though that maybe I'm not being piled on at all; maybe this is normal? Maybe this is adulthood? Maybe this is parenthood and daughterhood and wifehood and just what life is made of? Piles of life and piles of garbage; beautiful, messy garbage. Maybe losing loved ones and moves being tough and houses being sold out from under us and transitions being weird and families getting older and jobs being stressful is the way it is supposed to be and not some sign that we're doing it wrong. Maybe floating through life like a zen master of patience and acceptance isn't what's best. Maybe struggling with the struggle isn't something I should feel ashamed of?

I don't know, I'll let you know when I find out.

In the meantime I'm going to write about cousins. Like Huck and his 'super cousin,' Cole.

Cole is actually my cousin. He's three. 

I'm one of 40 grandkids of Leonard + Cherrill Lovin. Huck there is one of 24 great-grandbabies. 

We all grew up right there in that desert in the very same spot, more or less, like a crazy commune of talent show participants. And because I grew up like that, fully surrounded by family--in school, at church, at home, at dinner--I learned to love + trust my uncles like fathers; my aunts I can turn to for advice like mothers. A few have stepped in at times to pull that weight when immediate family was too far to help. My cousins were my first best friends and my first best enemies. They were the best people on earth to sing with and watch Newsies with and play Miss USA with. (I always insisted on being Miss Hawaii.) I grew up with this crazy kind of confidence in who I was and what I could do, mostly I assume because of the collective power of love from family that I had behind me, and I'm starting to guess that might actually be pretty rare. 

My grandparents have this tree in their back yard. I'm not sure what kind it is, but it is the perfect climbing tree. My cousins and I scratched our names into that tree so many years ago I can't even remember doing it. I climbed that tree daily for years. First thing after we arrived in Mesa, just to see if I still could, I scrambled up that thing and guess what? I could! 

Guess what else: Teaching your kid to climb a tree is a joy I never thought to expect. And then to watch that kid climb up that tree so quickly and confidently, and to watch him spend a few minutes up there just scoping things out + having himself a little think? That right there is the ultimate heaven.

Not much has changed after all these years, even though so much has changed in my family since I was a kid. But the pieces of the puzzle are all still there. The same old churches, the same old pools, the same old houses . . . even if we don't live in them anymore. There are still Lovin dogs everywhere. Dogs! Still all mostly insane + named after Disney characters and I still can't keep track of them all. And of course there is still the ever-important sausage-y chihuahua living at my grandpa's house, this one is named Minnie. Minnie hides in the sofa once things get loud at grandpa Lovin's house, as is customary among Lovin chihuahuas.

Thankfully, things still get mad loud at Grandpa Lovin's house.

Though maybe not as frequently as they used to.

Sandy is still always at the piano, still writing songs and teaching them to her people, still accompanying that classic Lovin voice: solid + steady, just a little bit wavy. We all still sit in the living room together just to listen, and every now and then when our talking becomes too loud we are still told to "shh or get out of here!"

The Westerns are still always on, always always always on. John Wayne still looks like my grandpa to me. Campfire cowboy songs will probably always be the soundtrack to my childhood. Those old beat up cowboy hats of grandpa's are still hanging out on top of all sorts of weird things--lamps + bedposts + bedside tables--all over my grandparents' room, only now that room is just my grandpa's. That's not my favorite thing to consider.

Arizona sunsets are still absolutely hideous. ;)

Those photos are straight out of the iPhone camera. Good gravy. So ugly. And the Diving Lady (now renamed The Diving Gini (long story)), still lights up every night as she dives into her tiny neon pool. 

That old house two blocks over from my grandparents house? Still feels like I could peek in that window and see my old white daybed.  

Orange groves still freak me the eff out, because of the scorpions. Thankfully "bad people in groves who want to sell me drugs" is no longer something I worry about too much? (Where did I even get that one?)

But here is what I really want to remember about this trip to Arizona, and about this family I'm lucky enough to be part of. We'll start at the beginning. One of my uncles died a few years ago. He had three children I'd only known from photos, who for various reasons hadn't been part of the family for a very long time. They were always sort of there though, just the same, trapped for eternity as tiny little kids in the giant family portrait hung on the wall in the living room. 

That Saturday at grandma's funeral as all us grandkids were singing Grandma's Song (my aunt Sandy wrote it for us to sing at my grandma's mother's funeral 20 some odd years ago), I noticed in the back of the room four faces that I just knew. I knew I knew them, though I couldn't for the life of me figure out how. After the funeral was over as we all funneled out the door we were able to track them down. And then! There they were! It was them! Our long lost cousins, those same baby features now on adult bodies, with us for the very first time in decades. And the healing that got to happen that night as they joined us for a movie in the backyard!

All because of a little lady named Cherrill who had the power to make family the most important thing in the world, no matter the situation, no matter how long you've been away.  

When you're one of us, you're one of us. And not just because our gene pool tends to spit out cookie cutters of each other, making finding a Lovin in a crowd about as easy as spotting a needle in a needle store. :) 

I'm so grateful for my people, and for the tiny, soft spoken woman who made it all happen. She was a tether. And a huge force in a very small shell. In her honor, I hope to pick up where she left off and try a little harder to put my family first--all of them--and to remember who I am, and to remember the wonderful legacy I've been given. I've been given a legacy of love. A lot of a lot of love. 



So long as I am living I will remember this one conversation with my mother that went down at the Washington Square Mall in Tigard, Oregon. (Wow, what an opener!) We were registering for china, and I was a baby. I was an infant! Okay, I was 20. And I was getting married. 

Prior to this funny time in my life I had been a college student at BYU, being all responsible and stuff by sleeping through my all classes (every single one) (I still graduated!), dating a red-haired boy with a beautiful smile, and decorating the hell out of my student apartments. 

I loved putting together my student apartments. I was the one thumb-tacking D.I. drapes above the windows at the start of every semester and running to the store for twinkle lights and accent lamps when things got stressful. This one time I constructed a seating area in my lofted bedroom out of patio furniture and swaths of gauze. I had this giant shipping trunk I'd discovered for $5 at a junk store + loved irrationally even though it was coming apart in giant wedges of deadly stake slivers? Sometimes I ate dinner on it with fancy chipped plates. Come on.

Oh! Relevant! But barely: One time a boy my roommate liked came over to pick her up for a date, wandered back to my bedroom and shouted, "It looks like a Pottery Barn catalog in here!" Not to brag or whatever but, while at the time I didn't really know what a Pottery Barn was, I did know that it sounded like an honor. A mostly useless honor, really--I was getting a D in Econ. Fortunately he wasn't remotely attracted to me and I didn't feel like I was upstaging my roommate with my housewife skillz (#roommatecode!) (#byu!), because my roommate, it must be said, had a really great rack and wasn't failing Econ. (#actualcatch!)

I'm still mostly bad at everything valuable in life, but boy do I love putting things together in a somewhat cluttered yet ultimately pretty, eye-pleasing way. It feeds my soul! Poor Brandon sometimes says, "Can't we just enjoy this for a couple months before you do something different?!" (He also sometimes takes down the twinkle lights while I'm in Arizona for a funeral, but what can you do? The man does not appreciate twinkle lights.), but what can I tell you, B? When all else fails and something's dumb, I can switch the chairs in the living room + pull out a table cloth and feel instantly better about things. So there.

There is a point to all this, probably. 

Oh yes! So there I was, holding my scanner gun aloft, thoughts midair, attempting to register for grown up things while also being a very young person, knowing instinctively that I would never be able pick out just one look for the rest of my life (and / or until the last plate broke and I'd get to buy a new set), and so my mother, sensing my distress, proclaimed unto me the following:

"Plain white. Trust me."

Yes ma'am! 

and ultimately the reason why this was the best advice ever in my life

I'm a scatterbrained ninny most of the time. I can't help it! I've moved around a lot in my life and I feel like that's contributed a lot to my somewhat scattered life with my somewhat scattered interests. I like a lot of very different things. Still to this day I could never pick an aesthetic, hobby, home style, lifestyle, that I know I could settle with for the rest of my life. Or even an entire year! (Oh but I've gotten real close!) I'm a windy person, in that my whims like to chaaaaange with the breeze. 

Snowe emailed about collaborating with their line of simple, white, basic, beautiful dinner, drink + serving ware, and I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon. We were MFEO.

Because, as my mother once told me: 

"Plain white. Trust me."

So, back story accomplished, let's move on to the pictures, shall we?

With help from Snowe, I styled a few of my favorite "looks" ("feeeelings!") over the weekend. Not necessarily place settings, not especially dinner party ready, just fun. All featuring favorite doodads collected over the years; all held together by this one impossibly beautiful set of porcelain, sterling silver, and Italian crystal. Here we go!


When I was in high school I went through a massive pink phase that never fully left me, and then recently, after my grandma Shirley died, I rediscovered my love of obnoxiously feminine florals. Add in mini marshmallows and ya got it.

(This plastic cutlery is from Michael's and it. is. fun.)

Snowe porcelain is oven safe! Microwave and dishwasher too, and its slim profile makes it stack together in your cupboard like a dream. 

I just want to say while we are here, sugar-free jello in antique cut glass is a really good way to go, thumbs up.

I like this frilly little look. Good for a tea party, a little lunch gathering, or some rather important business meetings. :) 

only a little bit though, let's not get carried away

While I was in Paris last April, the one thing I was consistently taken with was all the simple, rustic dinners at the most crowded outdoor bistros, and the simple, beautiful way in which that simple, rustic food took center stage. Maybe like me you think about French food and it starts to get all fussy, but these meals were the exact opposite. And so easy to replicate.

A couple sprigs of bay leaves for garnish, small handfuls of scattered nuts + dried fruits, the simplest florals on the planet, lots of cheese, and a really beautiful roast chicken.

none of my ladies were harmed in the making of this table setting


It's been a long time since I lived in the desert, but on recent trips back I haven't been able to keep myself from raiding every local Goodwill I pass for physical reminders of my first 12 years. 

LIKE THAT CROCHET HOT PAD. (I told my aunt, "I could just make that . . ." and then she said, "Or you could just BUY it, now." #logicwins!) 

Now that I think about it, I think I've instinctively been gravitating toward this look for years--who knew!? ;)

(I almost wanted to put little potted cacti on the table and then I realized, yeah that's probably a dumb idea; spiky things when you're reaching for the butter?)


Oh gosh I can't help myself. Sometimes I like to see all of my things! all at once! Brandon's people are farming people, mine aren't, so this is new territory for me, but what with this crumbling farmhouse we're living in and the barn out back . . . the miles and miles of wheat fields and cows wherever you turn. . .  I think I've been grandfathered in?

Currently the favorite. Easily.

Anyway and worth noting: these chef's towels will make you weep! Beauty! I've ordered similar linens on Amazon before and those just do not feel the same. Those feel like towels. These feel like parsnips and turnips and goats in the back yard. AND they have these amazing connected ties that make it double perfectly as a chef's apron. Dude.

And if you ask me, that's a damn good way for a towel to feel. ;)

. . . until we make our next move to a houseboat somewhere wherein I will decorate with fishy stuff and seashell themes. Hey! Here are some sources!

Snowe provides all sorts of sets, so it's easy to get exactly what you need for your unique situation, all the basics for life itself, while taking all the guesswork out of it.

Whew! This post was brought to you in partnership with Snowe. And the hoarded contents of my basement. ;)