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

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. 

_______________

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. 

Shop Fall Entertaining

I love the creativity and even artistry that can come from designing a chic and welcoming tablescape. Some holidays I stick to a color scheme and at other times its a mash-up of pattern and hues. But even when I try to establish a particular theme, I am ultimately drawn to mixing things up, matching rustic with ultra-modern and quirky with classics. The thrill of collecting is the fantasy of future meals in the making.

Here are a few of my favorites as of late for preparing dishes and setting the mood. XOXO 

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FALL SHOPPING X MATCHESFASHION.COM (DEDICATED CHIC)

Mike insists that I become hostile at the first cool breeze in October and that by winter I'm an absolute monster, my mood worsening with each degree the temperature drops. He eagerly awaits the first stretch of warm days in late spring/early summer because I "become a different person," one that is apparently pleasant - i.e. not angry and accusatory at the weather. But hey, I'm not the one that thought we should move our home base back east from L.A. Just sayin'! Ahem. 

Outside of warm weather vacation plans on the calendar, happy deliveries neatly packaged with wardrobe offerings of the season - sleek boots, chic wool coats, sophisticated velvets and pretty sweaters -  give my husband hope that I will be willing to leave the house and brave the elements. 

So, I'm excited to once again partner with Matchesfashion.com to share my fall weather picks, as my online shopping bag there has been quite full these days. From casual weekend wear to luxe evening looks, I've selected my absolute favorites - scroll down and happy shopping!

Dedicated Chic X MatchesFashion.com 

Matches ships DHL (Free Delivery and Free Returns) and any returns may be organized by requesting a DHL pickup or by dropping it off at a UPS location that accepts DHL shipments as well. I'm a bit enamored with their luxe boxes and packaging which I reuse in my closet to organize trinkets.

*Be sure that you are linked to United States and $USD to see correct pricing if you are shopping from the US.

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Procrastinating: chic Obsessions

Currently, I'm hyper-focused on the completion of two essays as well as a few very exciting developments for the GC brand. In other words, I'm procrastinating. I'm either all in undeterred by any interference from the world around me or I must immediately clear my head and I'm quickly heading down the illustrious path of being the first person ever to surf the entire internet. So, in a desperate need to take a break from myself, while attempting not to move from my office desk, I've decided to do something mildly productive beyond compulsively refreshing Neiman's clearance sale. Below I'm sharing my latest obsessions, some of which I have found by stalking the World Wide Web (see Neiman's sale) and others I have less shamefully been introduced to in person.  Hoping you're obsessed too...And that you'll share your obsessions with me. I have valuable time to kill. 

MAR X Clare V. Marmy Jacket

Marlien Rentmeester, who I have known since my editor days in L.A., has grown her much-adored fashion blog Le Catch with MAR, a capsule collection of her own designs, including a chic collaboration with handbag maven Clare V. I visited Clare's Soho store during their NYFW launch and got to see Marlien and the painted and personalized MARMY jackets in person. You know I believe in monogramming everything and hand painted military jackets now rank high on my list. 

  Image courtesy of Mar.lecatch.com

Image courtesy of Mar.lecatch.com

 

 

MAR X Clare V. Collaboration MARMY jacket, $395 at Mar.lecatch.com.                                                                                                            Public service announcement: This is the last batch.

 

 

 

  Illustration by Jennifer Vallez via insta @sophieandlili

Illustration by Jennifer Vallez via insta @sophieandlili

 

 

 

Illustration of Clare Vivier and Marlien Rentmeester by Jennifer Vallez, whose family portraits are a fabulous gift. Plus, she's an artist who's not afraid to speak up for what's right and there's nothing chicer than that.                              

 See her work on insta @sophieandlili

 

 

 

In other jacket news...

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While attempting to hold onto summer, I'm now determined to find some sartorial excuses to look forward to fall. Here are a few more of my favorites for when the temperature drops, including this peacoat that will be mine. Oh yes Mike, it will be mine.

 

 

 

 

 

ONE (ALSO IN BLACK HERE. AND CHECK OUT THE PLEAT IN BACK!)/TWO/THREE/FOUR (OR A NAVY VERSION WITH STRIPED CUFFS HERE)/FIVE (OTHER COLORS HERE)/SIX

 

I have always been in love with wicker...

  Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Growing up, a white wicker desk, headboard, etagere and mirrors complimented my Laura Ashley floral upholstery and pink and white striped wallpaper. Later on, the souvenirs of teenage reflection - Grateful Dead stickers, Tribe Called Quest posters and the "Dazed and Confused" High Times Magazine cover - that I added to the preppy overload were the perfect juxtaposition. These days, I've been particularly drawn to everything rattan, woven and bamboo, but now I prefer the look in natural hues. I often scour flea markets and antique stores for special scores, but I always appreciate modern pieces that offer an equally timeless look. Here are a few of my favorite images for inspiration as well as some very chic finds.

 

  TOP: Baskets at the Whitby Bar at The Whitby Hotel, BOTTOM LEFT: Via "Home Again" movie, BOTTOM RIGHT: via  Garden Inspirations by Charlotte Moss

TOP: Baskets at the Whitby Bar at The Whitby Hotel, BOTTOM LEFT: Via "Home Again" movie, BOTTOM RIGHT: via Garden Inspirations by Charlotte Moss

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LAMP/STOOL/PLACEMAT/DAYBED/CHAIR

Don't judge me...

 

 

But I'm going to need a pair of these babies in pink. That's all.

 

 

 

 

That's not all.

 

 

These too.

 

 

 

 

 

Can't stop. Won't stop.

  Not my size, but one of you should really buy these!! Via www.neimanmarcus.com

Not my size, but one of you should really buy these!! Via www.neimanmarcus.com

 

As I mentioned earlier, I take a shameful amount of writing and designing breaks by compulsively refreshing the Neiman Marcus clearance sale. It includes a very happy amount of pieces from Co, one of my cult favorite designers, as well as Gianvito Rossi and Tabitha Simmons. Oh, and it's up 75% off...plus free shipping and free returns. (See how I feel about SALES here) I cannot (will not) stop.  The whole thing is ridiculously satisfying.

 

 

 

Mascara. Yes, seriously.

  Image via BEAUTYCOUNTER

Image via BEAUTYCOUNTER

 

The mascara that I have been devoted to since it landed on my desk when I was the Style Writer for Los Angeles magazine has been discontinued and I've tried countless replacements only to be left with raccoon eyes. Sweetlips and The Bean only use BeautyCounter bath and sunscreen products, thanks to my dear friend who has become committed to safe ingredients. When I was in L.A. a few weeks ago, she insisted that just because Beautycounter mascara is safe does not mean it won't work. I've been a tough convert to that concept. But I tried it. And...I love it! (In full disclosure, I already use their face cleanser, body lotion, lip balm and lip sheers, but I am very particular about eye makeup). No clumpy lashes, no raccoon eyes and I get to say it's non-toxic. 

 BEAUTYCOUNTER Lengthening Mascara, $29 at www.beautycounter.com

 

This Cookbook...

  Malibu Farm Cookbook by Helene Henderson

Malibu Farm Cookbook by Helene Henderson

 

I have really been missing L.A., particularly our friends who are family, Pacific ocean views and farm to table living. A few weeks ago, we had the most delicious meal overlooking the ocean on the pier at Malibu Farm and one of the first things that I did when I returned to New York was order their namesake Malibu Farm Cookbook.

I love enjoying the recipe tome of favorite restaurants or places once I return to my own kitchen (See more here). There is something about the sensory experience of food that can take you back to a place you love. I'm crazy about this cookbook. It reminds me of the farmers markets, driving along the ocean and eating fresh, quality food. I am begging you to try the recipe for potatoes. They are so easy and so delicious and excellent for a crowd. My kids (and I) cannot get enough. Plus, I get to pull the rosemary right from my garden. A potato farmer I am unfortunately not. 

    

Gold Letters...

 

Simple or statement, subtle or bold - the look of a solid gold initial is always classic or timeless. I always wear a GC single Statement letter or a Small solid gold initial piled with my other charms. But lately, I've been very into the idea of wearing multiple Medium letters layered or on a single chain. The look is chic and sleek. The perfect gift for someone else...or just yourself.

 

 

 

On a Serious Note - Hurricane Relief Effort...

  via insta @garlandcollection. On the French side of St. Martin earlier this year...

via insta @garlandcollection. On the French side of St. Martin earlier this year...

Last, but certainly not least, I want to mention St. Maarten. While this obsession as of late has not been of the joyful kind, as many of you know from interviews and instagram it has, and always will be, my "happy place." I am heartbroken by the devastation of this beautiful island that is filled with tangible memories for my family, continuing to tether us to my grandparents for whom Garland Collection is named. Garland and Up Chic's Creek are committed to supporting the relief efforts faced by the devastating hurricanes. Our hearts and thoughts are with ALL those in the U.S. and Caribbean whose homes, livelihoods, families and happy places were affected by the storms. We are committed as a brand and as a family to the relief efforts. 

As we have posted on instagram, 20% of all sales of fine jewelry on the GC site through September will benefit the American Red Cross and UNICEF. As we learn more about what can be done through drives and necessity registries we will share them with you. In the meantime, you may also donate directly to the American Red Cross, UNICEF, the Humane Society and many other organizations on the ground via their individual websites. 

 

XOXO,

Nicole

Guide to Santa Barbara & Montecito (+ a Packing List)

We no longer live in LA full-time, but rather in denial that our life is not at least bi-coastally filled with palm trees, surf and skateparks. (More on that move here). When our new poolhouse flooded and needed to be gutted to the studs, I comforted myself by modeling it’s decor after the Beverly Hills hotel, Martinique wallpaper and all. We live in a farmhouse and barns, so the juxtaposition may be unexpected, but it works from both a design perspective and an aesthetic coping mechanism. My own version of hygge.

Whether Mike or I fly out for work or the whole family needs a west coast fix, Lola included, we are lucky enough to have the most generous friends-who-are-family living in our old west side of L.A. neighborhood and I thankfully still have the keys to their house. For all eight of us (ten including the dogs), the Santa Barbara, Montecito & Ojai area is our Cali happy place. When we lived in Cali full-time, its where we spent both of our 30th birthdays, where we went to rejoice when the day after we found out that I was finally pregnant with Sweetlips & The Bean, where we spent our first Anniversary with the boys and the place we set off for on any weekend that we need a little rejuvenation. These days, we still head up the coast on every trip, sometimes for a few nights, other times for just a jam packed day. When we’re back east, those amazing friends, along with their twin girls (our precious goddaughters), are on the ground reporting on the latest and greatest there. But no matter what we discover, our original go-to spots from skateparks to scones to sand are forever sacred...so here they are:

 Where to Go, What to Do and How to Get it Guide:

Santa Barbara & Montecito 

 

 Lucky's Steakhouse

Lucky's Steakhouse

EAT: Drop in for a scone at favorite Montecito brunch spot Jeannine’s (my must-have is raspberry. Just sayin’.) Our friend Josh (see saint above) turned me on to Hoppy Poppy IPA from the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. Visit their beer garden in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone where you can order salads, sandwiches and pizzas from the Lucky Penny restaurant next door. Eat under the stars at the romantic and rustic-chic Plough & Angel at tony hotel San Ysidro Ranch. Rori’s Artisinal Ice Cream at the Montecito Country Mart is essential. The “3 Itty Bitty Scoops” for five dollars is a game changer for those that don’t like to choose — I go with Brown Sugar Banana, Nutella and Strawberry Cheesecake. Enjoy dinner at Lucky’s Steakhouse in Montecito. It’s our families’ favorite restaurant. Please order the mac n’ cheese.

 

 Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

SLEEP: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa — A bit South of Montecito in Ojai, we often stay here in their Mediterranean villas amongst the lavendar. 

Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara — Just across the street from our favorite beach with access to their famed pool, Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. If you can snag a cottage, make it happen.

When we want to zen just the two of us (and Lola, of course) with ocean views, we head to Bacara for utter relaxation. 

San Ysidro Ranch will set you back, but this retreat in the Santa Barbara foothills where John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned is simply dreamy. Save it for an anniversary or birthday treat (hint, hint).

 

 Sunset at Butterfly Beach

Sunset at Butterfly Beach

GO: Hit Santa Barbara Skater's Point Skatepark to see real Southern Cali skaters in action. The park is closed on Saturdays year round from 9-11 am for free lessons for the kiddos. Visit the lovely and very manageable Santa Barbara Zoo with your family. Make sure to get there in time to feed the giraffes. Head to Butterfly Beach directly in front of the Four Seasons Biltmore for a dog day afternoon (your pup will make many friends) or soak in the spectacular sunset over the Pacific. Off the beaten path, take a drive to Los Olivos for wine tasting and a little shopping. Sides Hardware and Shoes - A Brothers Restaurant, will make you glad you did.

SHOP: Browse William Laman for beautiful antiques and exceptional accessories. You won’t want to leave. While you are here by San Ysidro Village, check out House of Honey for glam home goods and Jenni Kayne for minimalist Cali girl designs. Wander the Montecito Country Mart where you will find Co, a pop-up shop by one of my favorite cult Cali designers, as well as chic tabletop shop Hudson Grace and swimwear favorite Malia Mills. My amazing friend Kerri (again, see saint above) introduced me to Raoul Textiles on State Street in Santa Barbara, the showroom for the company’s exquisite hand-printed textile designs, as well as select furnishings and accessories from favorite California based companies. 

 

Packing List

Days can be chilly in the shade and in the evening or quite warm in the sun. This time of year, I choose pieces that still work for summer and warm weather holidays, but can easily transition into layering for fall. 

For a Day of Shopping and Wine Tasting

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DRESS/BOMBER JACKET/SHOES

For Afternoons at the Beach

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Sales & Marriage

When Mike gets the mail, he carefully tears open the envelope, using two fingers to widen it so that he may peer inside without removing the actual bill. Craning his neck and squinting his eyes, while carefully poking at the still folded contents, he is able to locate the accounting total in the dark abyss of the legal sized stationary. From what I can surmise, it’s a coping mechanism — if the paper is never removed from its source, he’s never really seen it. But from the outside, it’s the kind of careful hesitation that someone might heed if they were bracing themselves for a crime scene. Then he leaves the bill for me, the official family bookeeper, so that I may take it to the office for payment, removing himself emotionally from the final assault of the burst pipe that resulted in our lovely plumber’s latest correspondence.

Yet, the credit card bill that arrives during sale season is an altogether different affair. I probably keep ten percent of what arrives, so as far as I’m concerned, the initial number is just a rough estimate — like overpaying your taxes, knowing that you will get a lot of it back at the end. But while I whittle down my purchases significantly, there’s a lot happening on that pre-returns bill. So I prefer to intercept it, hold onto it for a few days, and then nonchalantly stick a random post-it on Mike’s desk with a non-descript total. This way, everyone is on the same overall marital page about where our household expenses are going. Sometimes I’ll jot a little asterix with some diversionary highlights - *Dentist. *School Supplies. *Lola’s health insurance (i.e. that dog really needs to get a job). I then try to discreetly slip out of his office and back into mine hoping the post-it gets lost amongst the paper recycling plant that doubles as his office.

You see, I treat sale season like someone would a side hustle, working the night shift into the wee hours, stalking the internet for the shoes and jackets that at full retail seemed like irresponsible purchases. During these few times of year, my porch looks like a shipping and receiving dock and I’m constantly worried that Lola is going to give herself a heart attack from the anxiety of the UPS and FedEx drivers that she can see making their daily rounds down my driveway from her living room perch. She has literally spent the last two weeks barking at the constant clanging of the trucks’ metal doors rolling up to reveal my concealed garment bags stacked within.

In the throes of my sale season compulsion, I truly believe that I am saving us money when making these purchases. Plus, when I end up returning something and the funds are credited back to my card, there is a fairly large piece of me that feels justified in the conviction that I am actually making money. I do realize that this sounds like a fashion Ponzi scheme.

For Mike, there is no question about what is going on here. We share office space and he is fully aware that my company’s business shipping is done from there. This is personal and, as he side steps over the cartons that are often stacked in the foyer, he knows exactly what’s happening.

The other night, knocking on the door of my closet, which is just a tiny room filled with cheap rolling racks, Mike peaked his head in and jokingly asked, “What do you do in here?” 

“I try on clothes,” I responded. 

Again, very direct. I was surrounded by boxes, tissue paper, plastic hanger bags, return labels and a box cutter, which I keep in my costume jewelry drawer for slicing through packages with ease. Having one on hand is a habit I picked up as an editor wrangling in product for photo shoots, so keeping one in an accessory drawer seems not only appropriate, but also professional. In full disclosure, I also store a tape gun in there for proficient returns.

Yet, when it comes to the credit card post-it, before I make it to the door I inevitably hear a stunned, “Nic…what was on this bill?” 

“You know, life stuff,” I usually respond. To deflect further questioning I might even throw in, “Do you know how much the co-pay is for the boys’ pediatrician? It’s insane!”

“Can I look at it?,” he’ll call out to me without the accusatory tones I surely deserve.

The man knows to the penny what the cable bill will be every single month and yet he won’t make eye contact with it, but this of all financial reckonings he wants to see? Why did he not grasp the full implications of this operation when the postman was using a dolley?

Yet, every four months, we do the same dance. I go back to my office in our shared suite, returning with the paper and acting excessively nonchalant, which by definition is not at all nonchalant. I’d normally insist that if he wants to see something, he needs to walk to my office, but tactically I prefer that he is sitting down. Mike leans back in his chair and, clearly practicing great restraint, calmly scans the bill.

My husband will then rub his temples to settle himself, look up at me and, without irony, ask…                                                                        

“What did you buy at Trader Joe’s?” 

And while this pattern repeats itself, I am almost always shocked by the purposeful evasion of the actual matter at hand. 

The way the breakdown of designer dot coms reads, most rational people would assume their wife’s credit card was stolen. And yet my husband projects his astonishment and distress on the supermarket, which we both know carries life necessities. Food for our children, for example. It’s a ridiculous charade. 

But instead of playing along with the grocery game and appreciating Mike’s impulse to protect our marriage from the issues that have plagued so many couples before us, I react as though I am being accused. Which, in fairness, I am - but under the guise of buying too much food to feed our sons. 

So while I want to say, “What the f do you think I bought there?,” but should in solidarity say, “Those boys just plow through snacks,” and then get myself the hell out of there, I instead sarcastically respond with, “You know, a Chanel bag. They are nineteen cents like the bananas, so I bought a ton.”

“Nic, you don’t have to get defensive,” Mike always responds reasonably. “I’m just asking because I can’t understand what you do with all of this money at the supermarket. I mean, what happened at Whole Foods?” 

“Well, I know the Whole Foods charge seems a little high, but they had the Marni sandals I’ve been searching for,” I quipped the last time. Is he kidding? If he ever went to the supermarket, he’d know how much organic lettuce runs these days.

Of course I’m defensive. We have two children and a 120-year-old house that is falling to the ground and I’ve got a warehouse of designer shoes being unloaded in the driveway. I am a maniac. Feeling victimized is my only option. And if anyplace can make a wife a martyr, it’s the supermarket.

In truth, we have always had a democratic marriage when it comes to money and everything else. As adult partners that share the responsibility of two children and a household, there is simply the unwritten understanding that we have priorities, but we trust each other to make individual decisions about the personal purchases we make. 

The issue with this arrangement is that I know in my heart it is completely imbalanced. Mike doesn’t even buy underwear and wears the same “vacation shirt” on every trip that we have taken since I bought it for his first visit to St. Maarten with my grandparents almost twenty years ago. Every fall he has the boots resoled that I got for him at the Barneys Warehouse sale before we moved to California. We lived in Los Angeles for nine years and we have been back for three, so you do the math. Last Father’s Day, my boys asked if we could get him a new bathing suit because, “Daddy always wears the same one.” If only they knew that he was wearing those trunks when we were counselors at sleepaway camp decades ago. It would not surprise me if his name and bunk are written in them. 

He’s no buddhist, but my husband is a person who truly wants for nothing. At least beyond his wife and childrens’ happiness. So, while I would have never married someone who didn’t feel that I was free to make my own financial decisions without oversight, I do realize that my material values may be called into question in comparison to someone who doesn’t wear underwear because it seems like a waste. 

Mike simply wants to enjoy his home and the world’s many experiences with his family. I do too, but sometimes momma wants to do it in a new pair of shoes. I may be defensive about this twice (ok, thrice) yearly compulsion, but I have enough self-awareness in hindsight to admit my shortcomings. And Mike, to his credit doesn’t judge me.  More often than not, when I have buyer’s remorse, he urges me to keep the pants. “They look cute,” he said to me the other night as I was hemming and hawing over a new arrival, smiling at me like he used to when we were teenagers. Everytime he does that he reminds me that I have all that I need, so those pants will likely go back. Maybe it’s a tactic. 

Reflecting a little, I can see why Mike's reaction touches me. My  grandfather adored my grandmother Leona, always wanting her to have beautiful clothes, taking true pleasure in seeing her enjoyment in getting dressed. When "Loni" recently passed, we found stacks of photos that he had taken of her often standing at the top of their stairs, modeling her outfit before a night out. But they grew up during the depression and my grandfather’s desire was born of a need to give his love the life she had only dreamed of in hopes of erasing those memories of never having enough. And yet, for her, from the time she was in high school with a wardrobe that could fit neatly in a grocery bag, he was already her everything. 

Always reminding me, “You don’t love things, you love people," for my grandfather it was never about the clothes, but rather the wish to see someone you love enjoy a little uncomplicated delight in an uncertain world. I can draw no comparisons to the bread lines that my grandfather was too pained to speak of, but I did grow up wanting to emulate my grandparents’ relationship — one where I would wake up everyday appreciating feeling treasured. It may sound trite, but that’s how I feel when Mike smiles at me lovingly and tells me to keep the pants. It reminds me of my grandparents. If I close my eyes, I can vividly picture my grandfather grinning at Loni and telling her the same.

“Ok,” Mike will finally say about the bill. “I think if we can both make a concerted effort not to waste, we’ll reign in the supermarket runs and be back on budget.” 

Having come to my senses I always answer, “I totally agree,” both of us knowing that nothing will change but the seasons.

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A few months ago, friends requested that I share some of my finds during my frenetic nights of sale season. Some of my best gets sold out, two of them because of me, but here are three handfuls of items that have either made their way to my door or I have my eyes on.

P.S. If those Marni sandals pop up in a 7 (they run big!), be a friend and message me! Happy Sale Shopping. xoxo

1. TOP 2. PANTS 3. SLIDES 4. BLOUSE 5. JEANS 6. LOAFERS

 

1. TOP 2. PANTS 3. SANDALS 4. T-SHIRT 5. CULOTTES 6. SANDALS

 

What to Pack: Spain & Portugal (Dedicated Chic)

My hubby and I recently took a beautiful road trip through Spain and Portugal. In Madrid we visited the stunning parks and inspiring museums by day and ate at the chicest restaurants by night, while in Seville we wandered through the ceramic day dream that is Plaza de Espana and had our fare share of tapas by afternoon with a side of Flamenco into the wee hours of the night. La Alhambra and Generalife in Granada is a design and architecture dream and can keep the garden lover smelling the roses for hours on end. By the time we reached the red cliffs and white sand beaches of the Algarves in Portugal, our days were spent boating along the coast, sipping rose by way of breathtaking views and enjoying dinners with our feet firmly in the sand. Meandering up and down the windy streets of Lisbon, we explored the tile-laden architecture, shops and restaurants, immersing ourself in the city. 

Our many photos (um...ok, thousands), which ranged from the scenery to GC jewels to city nights, inspired many attire inquiries and I found myself DM'ing tons of insta friends, directing them to favorite designers, many of which I purchased on MatchesFashion.com.  Matches Fashion recently celebrated their 30th anniversary and they are one of my go-to sources.

I am now very excited to be able to share this

Dedicated Chic X Matches Fashion Packing List!

Matches ships DHL (Free Delivery and Free Returns with code: USAFREE) and any returns may be organized by requesting a DHL pickup or by dropping it off at a UPS location that accepts DHL shipments as well. I'm a bit enamored with their luxe boxes and packaging which I reuse in my closet to organize trinkets.

 

I've fashion packed for you a range of my favorite designers and pieces that will do double duty for your end of summer adventures and for transitioning into fall. I've included amazing sale finds that are perfect for storing away in anticipation of a winter getaway and shoes and sunnies that can keep you going from day to night (gotta save room in those suitcases for shopping). 

Happy Shopping!

MADRID - DAYS

1. OFF THE SHOULDER DRESS/ 2. PEPLUM TOP/ 3. MAXI DRESS/ 4. SUNGLASSES/ 5. PANTS/ 6. MULES

travel days - in the air or on the road

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.43.00 AM.png

Born to shop

I sat in bed the other night with Lola snuggled by my side, engrossed in Kate Schelter’s visually delightful new book, Classic Style: Hand It Down, Dress It Up, Wear It Out until the wee hours. Through vibrant and playful watercolors, thoughtful anecdotes, and personal memories, Schelter celebrates iconic items, ranging from Stan Smiths to a signature Rolex to a Le Crueset pot, encouraging a less is more approach that embraces the simple luxury of the well designed, allowing for more space to express one’s true self. Dig deeper and the imagery and essays become about so much more.

Some might say that I am a more is more kind of person — my shoe collection is in the Carrie Bradshaw vein and my jewelry style distinguished by layers of gold chains and statement hoops that I have amassed since childhood has an Adriana from the Sopranos quality. 

That being said, my motto in life and for Garland Collection has ironically always been “Classic is What Counts.” If I’m not going to wear it forever, I’m not going to buy it. Buttondowns are staples, as are the silver Birkenstocks that I bought before a trip to Rome almost a decade ago. I garden daily in the Naot clogs that I purchased in Israel on a teen tour when I was fifteen. And while my greater shoe situation does give me reason to wonder if there is a void I’m trying to fill (everyone has a weakness), if I could only keep one pair, it would be the Prada wooden heel platforms that I have worn to almost every meeting and most events over the last fifteen years. They are so comfortable that I am sure I could go for a run in them, they look good with everything, and their height and timelessness give me confidence. 

But I am no bag lady. I invest only once every few years and if its lack of sartorial experience means my grandma could not have owned it and my grandchildren won’t want to borrow it, I’ll happily stick with what I have. For this reason, my collection of Goyards are so worn in that the monogram and stripes have chipped away on one (it has seen a lot of life in its decade and a half) and each one is smattered with small(ish) holes that I like call “haute hobo.” But their utility and history keeps the well-loved look in regular rotation. As a personal appeal, now that everyone has been informed that this designer dishevelment is a means of self-expression, stop telling me I need new bags. You know who you are.

I rarely travel without my Louis duffle — it matched my grandma’s when we went to St. Maarten together (we once mixed them up at security and I had to explain to the officer why I had a ziplock of roughly twenty prescriptions with someone else’s name on them) — and my LL Bean Boat N’ Tote that I bought at the flagship in Vermont twenty years ago with my pre-married monogram is still a summer staple. My Smythson “Travels and Experiences” diary is always with my passport or road map— it’s pages lined with notes on the random field to find Shona sculptures in South Africa, how to locate the fisherman in a remote Belizean village who will take you out to catch Barracuda, the address of the best antique store in Cleveland and the less than appealing fish shack in Iceland that will blow any seafood lover’s mind. 

And while I am typically known as a refined blazer-loving dresser come fall, Roberta Roller Rabbit kurtas with vintage costume jewelry are my summer look. In full disclosure, I wore one to my first meeting with Vogue when my Garland signet ring was chosen for the September cover. My publicist was appropriately shocked by my entrance in beachware, but it was August and it’s all about personal style, right? And since I design jewelry, there is no shortage, but if I were ever forced to grab one thing and run (beyond my children, dog and photographs who in this fantasy are safely outside), it would be the charm bracelet which I have been adding to since my parents gifted it to me for my sixth grade graduation. What’s more classic than that? 

My twin almost six-year-old boys are subconsciously starting to gravitate toward distinctive styles as a way to project their own sense of self. Sweetlips has been wearing Air Jordans since he was a year old and Bean has only recently allowed skater style Air Force Ones into his rotation of old-school Converse. They are each allowed only one pair of sneakers for camp and for school, so they choose thoughtfully. (I do see that this rule is at real odds with my own shoe situation, but collecting kicks seems even less appropriate when you are only graduating Kindergarten.) Sawyer Bean has never seen a pair of Bermuda shorts he doesn’t like and Crosby’s collection of retro sports team tees will be outgrown but not forgotten. Polo shirts, (“Big RL pony only”) are visible in most photographs (they know momma likes a popped collar), and I’m pretty sure that they are the only humans beyond Mario Batali to still make Crocs look cool. They have been their trademark warm weather shoe since their infanthood in LA. 

Unexpectedly, Classic Style also happily brought me back to the first post I included in this blog years ago, long before our new redesign. The essay, titled “Born to Shop,” about the women in my family’s link between fashion and memory ended with inspiration boards featuring just these items that I’m still reminiscing about. Because the emphasis on the Garland womens’ legendary wardrobe treasures influenced so much of who I am, it’s the first essay I archived on this updated site. I love how Schelter’s book had me thinking back, musing on my own classics and reminding me of my roots in starting this blog back when I was an editor and designer trying to bridge the gap between my passions.

_________________

Below is that original essay from long ago. My grandmother is no longer with us, but the memories still ring true. I again updated the boards from years ago mostly with new links…as classics, my choices are inherently unchanged. 

On that note, what are your classics? Share them with me — I love to hear personal anecdotes! And more importantly, share them with Kate Schelter @kateschelter. (Her instagram is filled with her joyful watercolors) I don’t know her personally, but I’m sure she’d love to hear how she’s inspired. 

P.S. If you are looking for a great hostess or birthday gift this summer — Classic Style is a great choice. It’s as pretty as a coffee table conversation starter as it is a great read on a glorious beach afternoon.

 

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Born to shop

(from the archives and updated with a new "Get" list below)

Lying on my parent’s bed, my face cradled in my pudgy hands and steel blue eyes wide, I gazed up at my mother as she was putting the finishing touches on her evening’s attire, and like any innocent two-year-old would question as mom slung a purse over her shoulder, I sweetly purred, “Mommy, is that your Gucci?”

There were so many things wrong with my childlike curiosity.  First off, the bag was a Fendi.  

The second, more obvious issue, was how at two-years-old, the same age at which many of my peers had yet to gurgle words like cookie or poop, my vocabulary consisted of high-end Italian designer labels. And, I didn’t just throw these words around without understanding their connotations, like a child overhearing an unknowing parent’s accidental expletive, who for the next month will inevitably drop the F-bomb at regular and altogether inappropriate intervals.  At twenty-four months old, I could match accessories, like shoes and bags, to their proper couturier.  I took born to shop to a whole new level.

I obviously wasn’t flipping through pages of Vogue to view 1980’s must-have culottes or pounding the pavement on Madison Avenue.  So where did my diaper clad propensity for the bag de jour, (or more aptly at times, the bag Dior) come from?  While I have always been a slave to fashion, my family recognized that this wasn’t the sign of an overindulged toddler. Rather, it was something immensely more innocent -- a revealing example of the early devotion to the women in my family. My grandmother Loni has always been my fashion idol and, more importantly, the person whose every word I have lovingly hung onto since the age of two. When I took inventory of my mother’s accessories like the diaper-clad fashion police, it wasn’t about the clothes, but about my desire to emulate Loni and be a part of all the stories and laughter that was traded between the women in my family.  

At two years old, I was the only grandchild, and the daughter and niece of three women, all still in their twenties.  My mother, aunts, and Loni often sat at the kitchen table, telling stories and laughing until tears poured down their cheeks and their stomachs hurt from fits of doubled over hilarity.  Even though I was so young, I always sat with them at the table, and in a very innocent way, I absorbed all of that female camaraderie. 

So, as Loni would reminisce about the “good ‘ol days” when she was kicked out of the weekly dance at Poe Park in the Bronx with my grandfather because she bravely wore pants when the dress code for women was clearly skirts, the story would somehow become proudly engrained in my childhood brain as my own personal inheritance.  Loni spoke of those difficult days of the Depression, days she looked on fondly because she knew of no better life, and the $25 (a lot of money in those days) Loni’s aunt gave her for her college wardrobe at NYU.  She can still tally off her little luxuries – one sweater set, one skirt, and one pair of shoes from B. Altman & Company. She would ultimately have to leave to go to work to care for her young brother and ailing father, but that tough personal interior became a part of my own biography very early on. 

While the surrounding circumstances of that event were tragic, it is my grandmother’s ironically joyous memory amongst all that hardship that has remained in my heart, despite the privileges that I, because of them, have had.  It’s never really been about the clothes themselves, but the stories behind them that taught me about character and helped me to shape my own.  Oddly, as an adult, with so many of my own life experiences to share, I still manage to repeat the story of Loni’s NYU “spree”, for it seems to be a more acute representation of who I am, shaping my own outlook on life.  Those four little pieces of clothing gave Loni joy and made her feel special and that, not the part where she had to leave the education that she loved, is the Depression story she remembers.   

We all seem to have inherited Loni’s tendency to weave together the past through the clothes we wore, remembering our attire from a particularly memorable life event as though they are the landmarks to find our way back. I guess at times it is because the clothes alone tell the story – past, present, place, and person.  My mother often recalls her time as an art student at American University by mentioning the 70’s-esque tube top and painter pants she almost always wore to class, as if the outfit itself embodied the cool, young, free-spirited artist that she once was.  When my aunt Valerie fondly remembers going to my aunt Susan’s college graduation and becoming drunk for the very first time, she never fails to detail the white wedged clogs she was wearing that day.  She was the first person in her high school to introduce those fashion forward “wedgies” with the thick pieces of wood along the bottoms, and when she became sick into a pillowcase at seventeen, all she remembers seeing were those shoes – they, not the Tequila Sunrises, were the symbol of her coming of age.  Even I reminisce on the low slung corduroy “recycled” bell bottoms that I wore practically every day through my eleventh-grade hippy phase, including the afternoon at sixteen I sparked a crush on a tenth grader who would one day become my husband.  

From countless hours around my grandparents’ kitchen table, perched on my knees between my grown-up aunts, I learned the difficult stories about my grandparents’ life and love for each other during the Depression, and at other times, like when I encountered the word “Gucci,” they laughed about the story of a bag, which represented a different life than what my grandparents were born into.

So, chances are, like some kids learn the word bake or knit because Granny has taught them of her two joys, I learned about Gucci because my grandmother told the story of when she received her very first one – and, oh yes, was it joy.  As legend goes, the doorbell rang and my grandmother answered the door knowing that the highly anticipated monogrammed Gucci purse with the bamboo handle had arrived.  

Who would have thought that Leona from the Grand Concourse would one day have such a luxury?  My aunt Valerie, who was still in high school at the time, began yelling out the windows in mock excitement, “It’s a Gucci! It’s a Gucci!,” lovingly mocking my grandmother’s delight over her new designer bag.  Loni put the bamboo handled Gucci in retirement many years ago, but it has remained in it’s original box at the top of the closet, one of the few pieces that she is not willing to part with and add to my vintage collection.

At twenty-four months old, after hearing the story that has become female family lore, as far as I was concerned, everyone must have a Gucci…and, I still don’t disagree. Yet, to my naively astute two-year-old mind, the value of the Gucci was not monetary or social standing, but an altogether different status symbol — one in which I was allowed to claim my place around the kitchen table with the women I adored.

Garland Collection was named for my grandparents, 

Leona and Stanley Garland.

______________________________________________

I shop a range of high and low - "Classic is What Counts." But I keep a handful of investment pieces that will stand the test of time. A few of these items are long-time staples in my closet, and one (i.e. the vintage black Kelly bag), are on my “one day” list. 

 

1. HOOPS  2. BLOUSE  3. SIGNATURE PENDANT 4. WATCH  5. SANDALS  6. JEANS  7. BAG  8. RING  9. BLAZER

 

PETAL PUSHERS

Despite my lack of training and only sporadic success, my passion for flowers and gardening borders on primal. The psychological connection to growing life is obvious, but it’s the satisfaction of getting my hands dirty in the outdoors, too physically consumed in the work to focus on my daily worries, that often feels like therapy. 

  Sweetlips & The Bean preparing our first project at the Barnhouse

Sweetlips & The Bean preparing our first project at the Barnhouse

Sometimes I deadhead roses in solitude to methodically clear the clutter in my head. Other days, Sweetlips & The Bean help me prepare our summer bulbs and dig holes for the carrots they proudly plant.  Despite a partnerhship with my husband, much of my job feels solitary, but this is a project with responsibilities that my boys and I can share together. (Mike struggles with the garden hose, so this type of work is not a good fit for him.) When I really need uplifting, I’ll give myself a summer Friday, play my favorite music through the speakers and spend the whole day singing and tilling the Earth. In full disclosure, I once did this for hours on a 100 degree day and Mike came home to find me saying “Hello” to the wheelbarrow. Happy, albeit delusional: life lessons from the garden.

Some of it, I have realized is instinctual, like my relationship with the old-fashioned rose bush I lovingly brought back from the dead when we moved into our turn of the century farmhouse. The stairs were collapsing, carpet removal uncovered holes in the floor that exposed the dirt below and the pool quickly took on the appearance of a swamp. One day in our dream home and it felt like we were starring in a remake of “The Money Pit.” I decided that if I could bring back this decrepid and forgotten rose bush, I could bring back “The Barnhouse.” Our finicky abode will always be a work in progress, but that now spectacular rose bush, which I nurture like a child, gives me hope. 

Other plantings have been trial and a lot of error. When we were still living in Los Angeles, I became compulsively determined to grow bougainvilla on our small deck. Each week my bougainvilla plant died and each weekend I went back to purchase another one. After months of nursery runs and shattered hopes, a friend not-so-gently pointed out that bougainvilla bloom with abandon everywhere in LA — gas stations being her first example — and perhaps gardening was not my strongsuit. While I never gave up, that bougainvilla always alluded me. Looking back I can now see that regularly firing up a barbecue grill inches in front of the trellis that I was hoping flowers would climb was not well thought out. Actual fire, it turns out, is not the same thing as full sun.

  Last year's tomatoes

Last year's tomatoes

In addition to reading gardening books and looking for advice online, I now ask tons of questions when I’m beginning a new project. I cornered someone knowledgeable at the garden store and borderline interrogated him before constructing our first raised vegetable bed last year. I took actual notes while he answered my rapid fire questions, ranging from the time frame that each vegetable could be planted to how many mint crops I’d need to grow mimosas all summer long. This patient man finally put his hands up in surrender and quickly removed the piles of beautifully packaged seeds from my shopping basket (they were going to look so nice on instagram!), replacing them with container plants that could withstand my lack of expertise. Being green, ahem, I had no idea that I would need to cultivate the seeds indoors before they were ready to be transfered to the ground. When we construct my fantasy greenhouse, I can promise that I will be learning to start from seed, but thanks to the expert, we had the freshest tomatoes and basil (caprese, anyone?) all summer long.

 

 

 

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Since I am clearly just a hobbyist, here are a few places for inspiration and tips, as well a selection of garden variety goods that are going to look so chic in that greenhouse one day: 

The Goods 

1. CLIPPERS  2. GARDEN SCISSORS  3. GLOVES  4. SEEDS 5. WATERING CAN  6. APRON  7. TRUG

 

Books

 

 

When it comes to the vegetable garden, a friend raves about the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, which is a guidebook for both experts and beginners. I just ordered my copy.

 

 

 

 

 

More aspirational than attainable, I keep this beautiful gardening tome on my coffee table as a magical escape. While it is unlikely that I will ever have the acreage or expertise of Carolyne Roehm, I am inspired each time I leaf through the stunning pages of At Home in the Garden

 

 

 

 

 

I am patiently awaiting the arrival of my copy of Salad for President, the debut cookbook by Julia Sherman, creator of the "Salad for President" blog, which thoughtfully shares anecdotes and interviews along with complimenting salad recipes in collaboration with people "living their lives" artfully. It's pretty genius and, well, very cool. 

None the Worse for Wear

(from the archives and updated with a new "Get" list below)

 

No matter where in the world we travel, be it Botswana or Belize, Baja or Boca, there is always one setback that I can count on and, regrettably for me, it’s not delayed flights or lost baggage. To my unbridled discontent and even preemptive stern warnings, my husband will, without humility or even self-awareness, wander the hotel’s grounds and enjoy the property’s amenities clad in nothing more than his complimentary hotel bathrobe.

I have stumbled upon him enjoying the open view of the bush in the lobby of a South African lodge in this getup, jovially greeting stunned new arrivals as they checked in. I have found Mike in his man-robe, enjoying a snack by the pool in Florence while sophisticated Europeans enjoyed Prosecco nearby. Most recently I witnessed him dressed for a bubble bath while reveling in a nightcap at a quaint boutique hotel in the Berkshires. The other couples still wearing appropriate cocktail attire were at least inebriated enough at that hour to be easily amused.

Mike firmly insists, “That’s what the robe is there for.” I cannot imagine that the other guests who enter the business center to find Mike tapping away in terrycloth would agree. We have never stayed at a nudist colony.

To add insult to injury, he wears the plush wrap tied low, Tony Soprano style, and balances out the show of misinformed masculinity that is the chest hair peaking out of the over-exposed neckline by completing this well-edited ensemble with the equally flattering, and also complimentary, bedside slipper mules. I mean, he can’t wander Ojai barefoot, right?

I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same person who has coined the phrase “No Pants Tuesday.” You see, Mike spends this day with our toddler boys, taking them out for a “Dudes Lunch” and then to a wild afternoon of bonding at the playground. Just envisioning my three men together out on the town truly warms my heart, which is what I like to focus on. Because when I arrive home at the end of the day, eager to see my crew, and even though Mama has curated an enviable wardrobe for Sweetlips and The Bean, no one is ever wearing pants. Because it’s “No Pants Tuesday.”  (He swears that everyone leaves the house fully clothed.)

So, when despite my earlier protests, I do inevitably encounter my husband swathed in his jetsetting finest and chatting up other fully clothed patrons who are trying to engage in polite conversation while praying that this affable guy has boxers under there, I try to take a photograph to document my plight. When it comes to marriage, always have proof.

I like to send these displays of mortification to my mother-in-law. Why do I bother to involve her? Because she made this bed and now I have to sleep in it. You see, it is my opinion that this sort of blissful oblivion to basic human protocol had to be ingrained as either acceptable during childhood, or at the very least it was consciously overlooked. So while this may seem like a coping mechanism, I blame my mother-in-law for all of her son’s shenanigans, and if I have to suffer through them now, I’m not going to let her retire and take a cruise. As she always says, “Hey, you married him.” Yeah, well you made him.

Yet, we’re still traveling.  The truth is, against my better judgment, I can’t help but laugh. I’m literally an enabler of the inane. When I give a stern warning, it’s simply because I fear that we won’t be allowed to return, not because I want to change him. As his co-parent, I’m glad that Mike is showing the boys to take life seriously by making the details more fun. And I can only hope that one day Sweetlips and The Bean’s partners will continue to bring me in on the joke. Even in our darkest moments, I believe that we pressed through because we’ve been able to unearth even the slightest morsels of humor or levity. Or, in the case of the bathrobe, which my husband truly believes that the hotel has offered for his all-inclusive comfort, I’ve learned to just let certain things go for the sake of my sanity.

The bottom line is, he has no shame and for fourteen years this has been good for me who has plenty. While he’s lucidly padding around a resort in a bathrobe and slippers, you can be sure that I am meticulously accessorized within an inch of my life. We balance each other.

What can I say? Love is blind.

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Since this essay was pulled from the archives, I've added my new wishful packing list for an upcoming summer getaway...and a little something for the hubby too.

the outlaw

(from the archives with updated links to our nursery decor)

 

“I wanna baby, I wanna baby, I wanna baby!,” my mother-in-law squealed at the top of her lungs as we stood outside a Los Angeles restaurant late one Saturday night many years ago.

“So get knocked up,” I responded placidly, undisturbed by the absurdity of a grown woman having a hissy fit.

Yes, to most, my mother-in-law’s level of involvement in our life together seems inappropriate. But my mother-in-law is completely inappropriate and, well… she’s mine. When I married my husband, I effectually married her too. I knew what I was getting myself into and after seven and a half years of dating, “The Outlaw,” as my painter called her, was part of the package.

Was I always so accepting of our, ahem, her little arrangement? A year and a half into our relationship, Mike and I were home from college and staying at his parents’ house. We were lying in bed when the door suddenly swung open and in walked The Outlaw, who proceeded to climb into bed with us, squealing and clapping with joy. Stunned, horrified, and stuck in the middle, a good foreshadowing of the years to come, I crawled out the other way on all fours. 

But this was a shining moment for my mother-in-law, a story that more than a decade later she recounts with pride, while I wonder if perhaps therapy could have helped me get to the root of whatever emotional issues I have that forced me to stay with someone else’s meddling Jewish mother that doesn’t simply lack boundaries, but bulldozes over ones that most would innately believe are set in stone…like loudly stating that my “headlights” were on at a family friend’s chilly backyard party six months into Mike and my very fragile relationship. 

She’ll embarrass you into submission if she has to.

The truth is I already have overly needy emotional issues with my own mom, who I call fifteen times a day, despite an inordinate level of neurosis on her part that has clearly begun to rub off on me. Why would I have exacerbated an already unhealthy situation with the coupling of two mothers who would become friends and get branded with the singular nickname “Mom Squared”?  (Two separate lunatics melded into one completely insane human being.)

When I decided to leave a job I loved to take a daunting leap of faith, I received a little pewter, swinging door in the mail from The Outlaw that reads, “Another opens.” It has. And The Outlaw was behind me.

 

____________

 

We did not know then that when the time finally came for us to also desperately want that baby, we would have a very long and difficult journey ahead. But in the end, as my grandmother mused, “I guess when you wish and work hard enough, sometimes you get twice as lucky.”

So when I saw those two healthy heartbeats, the years of heartache turned to bliss. The fun could finally begin. I poured my excitement into creating a precious nursery in our very first home as a family. 

Playful and quirky decor ideas that may not work in other areas are right at home in a child’s room — it's free reign for a chic fantasy land. And while there are plenty of sophisticated furniture lines for kids, there’s no need to restrict your choices. Sweetlips and The Bean’s changing table was a nine-foot 1940s bar console with lion handles found on 1stdibs.com. The top was fitted with two changing pads while the cabinets stored their little onesies. Today, it’s in our living room lined instead with cocktail tray and highballs. And yes, I do see the irony of parents turning their twin infants’ changing table into a home bar. 

Here are a few of my favorite elements from that first precious room…

 

1. TEEPEE  2. DREAM CATCHER  3. WALLPAPER  4. SCULPTURE  5. RUG  6. BASKET  7. PILLOW