ICELAND

Wine at Ion Iceland.jpg

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/

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.

CAMPING IN.jpg

 

 

 

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

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...

Chic - Coats.jpg

 

 

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

sb packing list 1.png
sb list 2.png

 

DRESS/BOMBER JACKET/SHOES

For Afternoons at the Beach

packing list 3.png

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Everyone has guilty pleasures. Mine range from a higher-brow perusing of the Sunday Styles with a cup of hazelnut coffee on a leisurely weekend morning to snuggling Lola on the couch on a night home alone, while watching HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” alongside a glass (or three) of wine and sour patch kids, simultaneously “pinning” decor and desserts to my hearts content. My frozen yogurt covered in chocolate sprinkles and gummy candies is probably more habit than the occasional guilty pleasure at this point, as putting off work deadlines to crawl into bed early with a pile of freshly delivered shelter magazines is a luxurious procrastination worth the consequences. I won’t get into tuna sandwiches stuffed with potato chips, but when it comes to drink, I’m a happy gal with a decidedly low-brow frozen margarita, no salt, right out of the whirly machine.

For the nine years we lived in LA, despite an early job there as the Style Writer for Los Angeles Magazine, designating me in the know of foodie trends and dining destinations, my guilty pleasure was an economical ice cream sandwich shop delineated by long lines of wallet-over-weight conscious college students near the campus of UCLA in Westwood Village. You will not find de rigueur gourmand flavors here, like bacon infused avocado with sea salt on a farm to table cone. At Diddy Reese one can simply choose any two basic, freshly baked cookies with a “premium” scoop of good ‘ol fashioned ice cream in the middle - for $2. Because the price has gone up. While plenty of artisanal ice cream locales have opened in Los Angeles, many of which I am all to fond of (Salt and Straw!), the simplicity of this standby is what makes it so good. 

When we first moved to LA, we also lived in this neighborhood along “the corridor,” the city’s main strip of high-rise apartments, a housing model which you can find in few other places in Los Angeles. We were coming from my beloved New York City and, despite moving to Los Angeles with and for Mike, I was still lonely and confused about my bright, new, palm-tree filled world. I saw that short crop of Wilshire Boulevard and figured, “tall, over-crowded buildings and no space — that’s the place for me!” I had no friends, a freelance writing career telecomuting with New York, and not even a car (by choice) to remove me from my new life in Los Angeles that I was clearly refusing to accept. But location, location, location! I could walk to Diddy Reese and eat my feelings. And that I did. Often. When we moved to Brentwood, happy and settled at this point with my own mode of transportation, I still went halfsies after a late night out and then, years later, insisted I was standing on that long line for the kids.

My go-to has — and always will be — two chocolate chip cookies with strawberry cheesecake chunk ice cream. I can’t quite figure out the psychology, but I flew back to New York from our trip to Spain and Portugal craving them. Perhaps eating one’s weight in savory manchego, huevos and chorizo induces a need for something on the sweeter side and traveling can make you long for a taste of home. 

Since I’ll have to wait a few weeks to discreetly get my fix in LA, I went on a mad search for a Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream recipe that I could pair with my brown butter chocolate chip cookies. I should have known I’d finally find the ice cream on What’s Gaby Cooking. So here it is - my homage to one of my many, but delicious, guilty pleasures. 

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

(Here below with STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM adapted (only slightly) from What's Gaby Cooking)

 

BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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

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 

 

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. Flatten the tops just a tad.

6. Bake for about 12-14 or just until the edges begin to turn golden. The center should not appear browned, as we want the cookies to remain nice and soft for the ice cream sandwiches. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

 

 

STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM 

via What's Gaby Cooking

For the strawberries:

For the strawberries:

1 cup fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2-3 tablespoons water

 

For the cheesecake ice cream base:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup heavy cream 

1 cup sour cream (*Note: I used Nonfat Greek Yogurt...to make this diet ice cream. Ahem)

2/3 cup light brown sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

For the strawberries:

For the cheesecake ice cream base:

1. In a saucepan heat all ingredients over low heat. Stir frequently until it boils. Reduce for a minute or two and remove from the heat. Transfer to a shallow container, mash berries with a fork or spoon and refrigerate.

2. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, heavy cream, sour cream and sugar just until smooth. Add zest, vanilla and salt. Combine, transfer to a container with a lid, or bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until very cold, 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

3. Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer´s directions.

4. Transfer to a freezer-proof container, add strawberry mixture, swirl a few times, cover and freeze until solid.

what's in a name

(From the archives with an Africa Where to Stay list)

I have a confession. My name is not really Nicole Mann Novick. At least not legally.

Every time we have attempted an articulate discussion about the weighty subject of my name, no matter how Mike approaches the inevitable, “But why?,” all I can come up with is a somewhat daft, “Because that’s not my name.”  And, once in a while, I throw in a, “How do you just change your name?,” for good measure.

Who the heck is Nicole Novick? – It’s not me.  Nicole Novick has never been asked if her family likes to be referred to as “The Men,” while the asker waits with anticipation to see if that stinger really got her, like no one has ever asked that before.  No one has ever called Nicole Novick, Nicole Wo-Mann, stressing each syllable for what the jokester believes is the necessary punch to really make it a good one.  Nicole Novick was not the precocious eight-year-old on the tennis courts given the nickname Nicole Ineeda Mann by an older, trés cool counselor – an epithet that stuck for all of her camping years.  

Yes, I know, names shouldn’t define us.  But, I feel like the shrink that came up with that was thinking more along the lines of “Fat,” “Lazy” and “Stupid,” not what appears on our birth certificate or social security card. And I don’t give a hoot if I am referred to as “Mike’s wife – Nicole.”  You can just call me, “Mike’s wife” – I’d be proud of that.  I just don’t know who “Mike’s wife, Nicole Novick” is.  I am not concerned about carrying on the family name either.  I have a brother and a cousin that will inevitably produce tortured young women to carry on the tradition of being referred to as “The Mann Eater,” often accompanied by a chorus of “Whoa, here she comes, watch out boys she’ll chew you up.”

Mike doesn’t want to hyphenate Sweetlips and The Bean. I don’t want them to have a hyphenated last name either. Secretly, as a child, I always felt bad for those tykes during standardized tests as they shaded in the bubbles for their double name with a no. 2 pencil. There were never enough bubbles or a place to mark a hyphen. At the time I remember feeling that parents should have thought things like that through and I promised myself I would keep that in mind when I grew up.

Sometimes completely unrelated and benign incidents offer up revelations, ones that couldn’t be found or justified by love or sensibility alone.  I found mine at the dermatologist.  I have a very distinctive mole just at the inner edge of my right eyebrow.  Growing up my mother has always referred to it as a beauty mark, “because you’re beautiful” – you understand.  But, it’s a mole, nonetheless. Because of this mole I have decided not to completely change my name.  Some people reveal that it is my defining characteristic.  While I often forget that it is noticeable, a friend recently admitted that it is the first thing people see.  They stare at it during our entire first encounter and then they move on.  Yet, the mole would be my incriminating feature if I were ever to be put in a lineup of petite blondes. A dermatologist recently told me that she would like to remove the mole.  While it is completely healthy, she felt that my beauty mark is actually quite ugly and (I’m quoting here), “Whenever anyone looks at you they can’t even focus on your face. All they are seeing is that horrible mole.”  I wasn’t offended.

I recently brought up the mole removal to Mike.  All I nonchalantly inquired was, “Should I remove my mole?”

“No!,” he exclaimed, quite passionately for someone that thinks replacing all forms of my present identification is no big deal. “You wouldn’t be you if you remove it. Everyone knows you as having that mole.  You can’t remove it,” Mike pleaded.  And here’s the clincher: He added, “It’s who you are.”

So, let me get this straight – I can’t remove a mole, else lose my identity, but I can change my name?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

As it stands, I am not changing the moniker on my driver’s license or my Loehmann’s membership card. That will remain as Nicole Mann for now. My marriage license reads Nicole Robin Mann Novick, and I will continue use Nicole Mann Novick as my editorial byline and for Garland Collection. If “the kids’” teachers refer to me as Nicole Novick, so be it.  As for Mrs. Novick, I will do my best to remember to respond.  

Clearly, we haven’t sorted out all the details. (I can never remember what name I make dinner reservations or doctor’s appointments under, so I always offer at least three options when I arrive.) But, I love Mike and I wanted a family with him in theory and in name, so it’s a compromise with myself. I have decided that Sweetlips and The Bean will have nothing to do with it – they will be home free with the utterly harmless Novick (although Mike has recently informed me of what little rugrats can do with just the switch of a letter).

I, on the other hand, will have two versatile last names, sometimes using one and when it pleases me using the other, often penning both.  While my incredibly generous and understanding Mike insists that I should do whatever makes me happy, he frequently affirms, “It sounds ridiculous.”  Trust me, I know. But, hey – what’s in a name?

The moral of the story? Traveling with a husband, a dog, two kids and multiple last names continues to be a logistical nightmare and when someone books my flight for family trips under the name Nicole Novick, the only point it proves is that I am not allowed on the plane.

_____________________

We honeymooned in Africa after the name changing indecision decision and traveled back again with Mike's family. Here are a few of our favorite hotels and lodges in South Africa and Botswana, including Royal Malewane, where I took countless pictures of the decor, down to the bathroom floor tiles, knowing that I would one day want to recreate the look in our bedroom at home.

 Photographed from our canvas enclosed suite at Zarafa camp in Botswana

Photographed from our canvas enclosed suite at Zarafa camp in Botswana

 

CAPE GRACE HOTEL 

 

 

 

Cape Town, South Africa

Charming, welcoming and iconic.

(photo courtesy of Cape Grace)

ROYAL MALEWANE

 

 

 

Kruger National Park, 

South Africa

 

Expert guides, out of this world game drives, and a luxurious lodge and suites perfect for honeymooners.

(photo taken by NMN)

ZARAFA CAMP

 

 

 

Selinda Private Concession, Botswana

 

With only four tented campaign-style suites, this intimate camp amongst big game is reminiscent of Hemingway's journeys to Africa. Stunning in decor and awe-inspiring in setting, it was developed by National Geographic film makers Dereck and Beverly Joubert.