ICELAND

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STAY:

 

ion Luxury Adventure Hotel

As we approached the Ion, my husband turned to me and said, "I feel like we are on another planet." About a 40 minute drive from Reyjkjavik, with nothing but lava fields as far as the eye can see, the boutique hotel's location does seem otherworldly, which -- besides it's convenient location by the route of the "Golden Circle -- is precisely the reason to stay. After long drives and hikes to geysers, waterfalls and glaciers, a thermal outdoor hot pool and a wall-of-windows bar overlooking this spectacular vista is the perfect home base to recharge for the next day's adventure.  http://ioniceland.is/

 

 

EAT:

Reyjkavik:

Lunch at Saegreiffin (Sea Baron) fish shack on the marina. Let me be clear, this is an actual shack, but don't let it deter. It is THE place for amazing, fresh off the boat seafood. http://www.saegreifinn.is/en/

Dinner at Grillmarkadurinn - Fine dining in Reykjavik in an unusually chic atmosphere. 

http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is

En route along the Golden Circle (EYRARBRAUT 3A, 825 STOKKSEYRI)

Fjorubordid - A tiny little restaurant, in a house off a road, in the middle of absolutely nowhere! And if you want the best lobster soup in the world, you will go there. But plan out your evening route in advance to get there in time and make sure to have a reservation. 

https://www.fjorubordid.is

 

Notes & Advice:

Blue Lagoon: 

No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to the waters of the famous geothermal spa. But, you MUST get tickets in advance. The best time for entrance is on the way back to the airport, as it is less than five minutes from the terminal and otherwise out of the way. Book an entrance that will allow for two hours before you need to be at the airport for your flight. An excellent way to end a memorable trip.

There is now a luxury hotel on the premises, so if you do have the time, no need to rush out. 

https://www.bluelagoon.com

 

Golden Circle:

Wear layers! You will go from needing a fleece, hat and gloves along a boat on a glacier, to wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses as you hike to a waterfall and then back again as the drive goes on.

Whenever you see a gas station, fill 'er up! It may be the last time you come across one for hours. 

There are plenty of companies that organize glacier hikes and site seeing. We chose to take a boat ride amidst the glaciers at the end of a long day's road trip via this group: http://icelagoon.is/tours/

BeautyCounter Sunscreen

Thanks to their Godmother and all around favorite person, my two boys are only willing to use Beautycounter products. And that's great by me. While I have not 100% transitioned to clean, chemical free products for myself (although I have happily been able to replace a very, VERY long list thanks to Beautycounter and the pleas of my dear friend), I have been insistent that my children only use non-toxic and safe products on their precious bodies. 

As a momma concerned about protecting my six-year-old boys' skin while they are outdoors playing sports, swimming or traveling, it has always been a relief that I never have to argue about applying lotion. The sun stick is not only safe and protective, it's easy to use and argument free! They each keep a sun stick in their camp bags and know how to easily apply it to their faces themselves, so I never have to worry when they are running around in the sun all day without me. And because the cream isn't sticky, they allow me to quickly lather their bodies up each morning or when we are hanging by the pool. We keep the sticks everywhere -- our travel bags, the pool house for guests and in my bag for sports.  I do not rave about beauty products often -- you know I'm a shoe, home and jewelry gal -- but Beautycounter sunsticks have been a total game changer for my family and I find myself constantly sending out the link to fellow parents. 

The boys have been asking for a spray sunscreen (I'm pretty sure they are quietly working in product development at this point!) and they know I will never allow them or the environment to breathe in aerosol. When I got the text from their fairy Godmother that Beautycounter was launching a safe, non-toxic, non-aerosol mist (Countersun Mist) I quickly placed Sweetlips and The Bean's order. 

So in honor of Sweetlips & The Bean and their fabulous godmother who cares deeply about our health and beauty with a purpose, I am thrilled to partner with Beautycounter to share our favorite products, starting with Countersun

SHOP: Countersun Stick, Countersun Mists, Countersun Lotion

 

Source: https://www.beautycounter.com/upchicscreek

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies - "Levain-esque"

Levain-esque Chocolate Chip Walnut Chunk Cookies

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Many have tried, but I think it's fair to say, you can only get a chunky, walnutty, chocolatey chip Levain Bakery cookie at Levain Bakery. But, these come close -- and, if nothing else, they are delicious anyway!! Perfect for a snowy day. Hot chocolate not included. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cake meal
  • 1¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

 

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and both sugars. Cream until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

3. Add eggs. Mix until incorporated.

4. Add in cake meal, flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix on the lowest speed until all the flour is just incorporated. Do not over-mix.

5. Add in walnuts and chocolate chips and mix on lowest speed until just incorporated.

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6. Separate into two-inch clumps. Place no less than 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. I can fit a max of 8 cookies on mine. Do not roll into balls. Leave in loosely shape round clumps. 

7. Bake one sheet at a time in the middle row of the oven -- about 12-13 minutes. The tops should be golden and the cookies should appear cooked, but not set. Let cookies cool at least 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

XOXO

Brown Butter Nutella Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

BROWN BUTTER NUTELLA SEA SALT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES 

(Continuously adapted from I don't know what because I have been making them for that long)

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Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)

1/2 cup chocolate chunks 

Nutella

Sea Salt

 

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. 

2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat whisking somewhat continuously until the butter begins to brown.  Once the butter has begun to brown and gives off a nutty aroma, remove from heat.

3. With an electric standing mixer or a hand mixer, blend butter and both sugars. Add the egg, vanilla and yogurt and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and chunks.

4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into approximately 1.5 inch balls. Place two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Gently make a thumb print in the center of each cookie dough ball. Scoop a small teaspoon of Nutella into each and then fold the dough from the sides back over the Nutella. (If you need to grab a little dough off the bottom to completely cover the Nutella, that's OK too.) Roll back into a ball if need be. Flatten the tops just a tad.

7. Bake for about 12-14 or just until the edges begin to turn golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

Enjoy! xoxo

Best Brownies

I baked these brownies during a snow storm on the hubby's birthday. It was below zero outside, the wind was whipping against the windows, a sink overflowed from a frozen pipe, our alarm wouldn't stop beeping due to a series of power surges and finally water started shooting out of a wall by the washing machine. Mike was mad at the house, the weather and birthdays in general.

So I went into the kitchen to cheer myself up (disengage) with a glass of wine and a little snow day baking. Some of you may have seen the insta-story of the making of these brownies. The one with the soundtrack ranging from "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want to" to "Birthday Bitch." And thank goodness for comfort food (and wine) -- particularly of the chocolate kind (sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand if you're asking) -- because these brownies soothed his stomach and soul. They are, in one word...INSANE. Easy to make, but impossible to stop eating. The entire batch was gone in a day. These are officially my new go-to brownie recipe.

Notes: I did not have espresso powder in the house and I was not leaving to get it (see frozen tundra above). While I'm sure the taste would be elevated with its inclusion, if you are missing this ingredient, no need to hold off. They were still amazing minus the espresso. 

The original recipe calls for baked and coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts. My family complains whenever I put nuts in desserts, which is just so misguided, but it was the hubby's birthday, so I decided to be nice (see freezing temperature and bursting pipes). I imagine that pecans would be truly awesome inclusions, but I will say that the mushy, chocolatey deliciousness of these pure classics was heavenly. 

The Best Brownies

(adapted slightly via Jessica Seinfeld)

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Directions:

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Preheat oven (with oven rack in the middle) to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan (I used 9 x 9 and they were still perfection). Line with an 8-inch-wide strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from the head and add the chocolate chips and espresso if using. Let stand for about 2 minutes, then whisk until creamy and smooth. Whisk in both sugars. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and whisk with gusto for a solid 45 seconds, or until batter is thick and glossy and pulls away from the pan. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with more than a few moist crumbs attached (best to undertake than to overtake). Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Grab the ends of the parchment and lift the brownies onto a cutting board before slicing. 

Enjoy! xoxo

Browned butter, chocolate and toasted pecan blondies

Browned Butter, Chocolate Chunk & Toasted Pecan Blondies

 

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

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These are the most buttery, sugary and sweetest blondies I have ever tasted. If you do not have a major sweet tooth, they are not for you. In fact, if you are not a fan of eating straight butter, which I personally am, I think it would be OK to cut the butter a tad. They may be less moist, but should do just fine. You can also feel free to switch the chocolate and pecans to any other kind of mix-ins that you fancy. Place them in an air-tight tupperware and they are even better the next day. Or the day after that. I know this for a personal fact. Also delicious for breakfast. Just saying.

 

 

Ingredients:

16 tablespoons (2 stick, 4 ounces or 113 grams) butter, melted and browned
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 cup (4 3/8 ounces or 125 grams) all-purpose flour                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1/2 cup toasted pecans                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1/4 teaspoon flakey sea salt

 

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Directions:

Butter a 9×9 pan

Melt butter in a saucepan until butter is browned but not burnt. 

Beat melted butter and sugar in a standing mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Add kosher salt salt and baking powder. Stir in flour. 

Mix in chocolate and pecans. 

Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until set in the middle.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt.

Cool on wire rack.

Enjoy! xoxo

For the Love of Camp

(Originally published August 8, 2017)

It was the summer of ’91 and my husband, clad in a top hat and tux, was belting out “There Is a Sucker Born Every Minute” with all the bravado of Broadway. I, on the other hand, discreetly cartwheeled behind him across the social hall stage in a leotard and costume room cape uncovered from a previous summer’s rendition of “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Unlike the future father of my children, I had neither lines nor delusions of camp grandeur. But the play was required, so a mute, but boldly-outfitted acrobat was the drama counselor’s solution. 

I had no predilection then that this precocious and universally beloved camper was my future. In fairness, I was twelve-years-old, paying attention only to boys that were at least Bar Mitzvah’d. Mike was nothing more than my pet, a sweet kid a whole year younger than me, often clad in an overly self-assured getup of Led Zeppelin T-shirt, Rastafarian beanie, John Lennon sunglasses and not a hint of irony or at least self-awareness that he was a Jewish boy from Long Island and decades too late. But this affable kid who rejected embarrassment as I somehow managed to revel in it secondhand, over the years became, as so many of us do when afforded that eight week freedom to be the person that we see in ourselves, a fixture at this summer home that still remains to each of us the most influential place on Earth.

And so, it was in a desperate search to regain a semblance of this wholesomeness that I lost somewhere on the campus of my small liberal arts college that I returned to camp as a counselor after a long hiatus. The campers had not yet arrived when I abruptly dialed my mother from a payphone and told her that I knew the person that I would marry. There were two peculiar things about this canteen-side confession. First, I was not a believer in sharing feelings. And second, I wanted to be perceived as emotionally detached, so falling head-over-heels in love, admitting it to myself and then unabashedly declaring it to my mother was against my principles. 

But Mike had called shotgun on me. Like the front seat of a car. It seems that he had loved me all those years since he stood on the stage as P.T. Barnum and, when news hit that I would be returning, there was a scramble amongst his former bunkmates and “calling shotgun” felt like the appropriate way to secure his future. 

Beyond Mike’s chivalry, something immediately struck me. I instinctively foresaw that the uncomplicated joy I felt at camp would not be left behind, but that with Mike, who embodied the spirit of this place, we could invariably carry camp with us into adulthood. It was as though the idealism of my past had collided with the fantasies of my future — I was in the middle and I could still choose both.  I didn’t love him because of camp, but I loved Mike because his free-spirited character exuded all of those precious and happy qualities that camp also represented to me. And, while the reality still seemed a lifetime away, I knew with pure conviction that Mike’s children were going to have a lot of fun. Simply put, he was the ultimate camp counselor — legendary for his shenanigans, but also a mentor to his campers and champion of the misfits, making all kids feel good about themselves with his knack for celebrating not just their achievements but also their idiosyncrasies. Mike seemed destined to one day be the kind of dad that would make kids feel lucky because he was theirs. I wanted to be the mother of those kids.

Looking back, it comes as no surprise that the essence of camp - laughter, tradition, individuality and camaraderie - would be the foundation that I required in the family I created as an adult.

As we planned our wedding, more than seven years after that phone call home, we instituted our mantra — as long as we were still finding a way to laugh together we would get through anything. If camp had a resonating sound beyond the countless HC shack announcements squawking over the speaker system, the collective shower hour whir of hair dryers on Girls Camp, or the chosen anthem of each summer blasting from the wooden bunks, to me it would unequivocally be laughter.

So when we were told in our early thirties that the children in my visions were never to be, it was remembering that original need to be the mother of Mike’s lucky kids that kept me forging us ahead through three long years of heartache and disappointment. And finding that laughter— even in the darkest moments — sustained us. Our now six-year-old twin boys Crosby and Sawyer, also known as Sweetlips and The Bean (because nothing says camp like an eternal nickname), have proven that my youthful convictions were true. I often hear them telling Mike that he is their best friend. 

Now, we did not go to scouting camp. From my husband they will never learn to survive in the wilderness or forage for food. We went to a plush sleep away camp in the Poconos where we brought our own down duvets and counselors snuck in pizzas after their nights off. When it comes to survival skills Mike can’t screw in a lightbulb. Because ‘they never go in straight.” And the one time I asked him to hang a gifted mezuzah I became the victim of a self-inflicted hate crime. That one has always bewildered me as hammers are, without argument, the most straightforward tool in the box.

Mike has to their amusement educated our children on how to relieve themselves in the great outdoors, even though I am quite certain that in all our camping years we never actually went camping, making this resourcefulness altogether unnecessary. There were always bunks with multiple toilets and even showers that, while perhaps required flip-flops, were within feet of us. So when Bean dropped his drawers and peed in the flowerbeds at the entrance of his nursery school while the other mothers watched in horror, I felt validated that this boyhood life lesson was unwarranted and misguided. 

It’s not that Crosby and Sawyer do not see Mike as an authority figure — although at my nephew’s bris he could be found sitting in a corner sucking in helium balloons and shouting out different words for male genitalia — but as a confidante that will guide them through both the confusion and the comedy of their coming of age. If only I could summon the resilience not to laugh.

A few years ago, we learned that one of our boys had been uncharacteristically mean to a girl in his class. Mike left a meeting and within an hour was waiting for him outside of swim. Our son explained that he loved a girl and her best friend was coming between them on the playground. He was jealous. How someone his age could have feelings that are so mature and complex surprised us, but now he was also beside himself with our disappointment. Mike discussed our parental expectations — that harmless mischief may slide, but kindness, respect and understanding of others is fundamental. Mike then footnoted our camp-learned code of conduct with advice for his little buddy. “Sometimes the way to impress a girl,” he told our toddler, “is by winning the heart of her best friend.” My husband knows firsthand that a boyhood crush, no matter how youthful or innocent, is a sacred thing. 

What Mike teaches our boys is to have fun without abandon. To celebrate those that are different. To laugh like they are bunkmates on a lifelong adventure. To follow their hearts in love and in life. To feel the confidence to be whomever they know themselves to be. May Crosby and Sawyer too have the self-assurance to play lacrosse by day and passionately belt out show tunes by night. 

I will continue to bandage their knees, pack their snacks, wipe their tears, put chains on the tires in the snow (one of us needs to have life skills), cartwheel when they are centerstage and be the enabler and sometimes even the initiator of the inane.

I feel blessed that when I say, “It smells like camp,” after a rainy day, Mike knows from our collective experience that I mean wet asphalt baking in the sun. And when our boys go to bed singing Taps it is because this ritual reminds us both that, at the end of the day, we are blessed. The collective memories of our happiest place do not need to be explained — they are shared — and our kids are products of that joy.

And while we have plenty of our moments, it delights me that my husband always sees me as he did when he was eleven. He sometimes asks how it makes me feel that after all these years he still has a crush on me. I carried two children in my stomach at once. The butterfly tattoo that once seductively peeked over my vintage jeans grew to be a pterodactyl and has since shriveled to what appears to be a dying moth. It makes me feel forever young…and also very loved.

Realizing that it has been nineteen summers since the canteen and decades since Barnum, I recently turned to Mike while getting ready for bed and as I put my bite plate into my mouth casually lisped, “You know, you are the only person in the world that I would want to spend every waking minute with.” 

Dumbfounded — in part because the girl of his pre-pubescent dreams now sleeps by his side, never mind that the adult orthodonture alluded his childhood fantasies — Mike half-jokingly responded, “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” I am still not a big believer in professing my emotions. 

But to me, my husband is camp. And there is still no place I’d rather be. 

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It should come as no surprise that we live in a ramshackle 120-year-old farmhouse with board and batten barns that always smell like camp. From dessert to design, here are a few other reminders of summer sleepaway all grown up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am absolutely enamored with Will Kahn's "Notes on Camp" from the June/July issue of Town & Country. I'm inspired to design another guest room in the barn.

 

 

 

 

PACKING YOUR CAMP TRUNK...

I'm crazy about these vintage-inspired campy tees, particularly when paired with old-school denim shorts that bring me right back to my sleepaway days. My tennis game may need work, but I fell in love with this cross-body racket bag when shopping at the GOOP pop-up in Amagansett last weekend and, while I've been trying to hold out, I will unquestionably own white Birkenstocks by week's end. The GC CAMP necklace comes with and without diamonds and 10% of all proceeds benefits SCOPE, an organization dedicated to sending children from underserved communities to summer camp. Email us at info@garlandcollection.com for details. 

T-SHIRT/GC CAMP NECKLACE/TENNIS BAG/SANDALS/SHORTS

CAMPING IN...

Strewn with handmade dream catchers and John Robshaw pillows, we used to keep this teepee in our living room in LA. It's now in Sweetlips and The Bean's bedroom where they read books and "camp out" on Saturday nights. We keep one of these cozy floor mattresses inside the tent, as well as in the guest cottage for parent/kiddo sleepovers and also strewn around the house for relaxing in style. Even if you don't bunk courtside, everyone has room for badminton and this set is a perfect hostess gift. We often pack in duffles for multi-destination road trips and this stylish piece is reminiscent of a camp trunk gone glam. And while I never learned to rub sticks together to start a fire, an elegant match striker ups the ante all year long, as rustic-chic enamelware mugs remain forever classics.

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Nothing beats the real thing, but these S'Mores Cookie Bars in our Recipe files are a close second on a rainy day.