For the Love of Camp

(Originally published August 8, 2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

PACKING YOUR CAMP TRUNK...

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

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

CAMPING IN...

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

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. 

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

 

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.

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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

 

spring Cookbook Roundup

Among my many collections - heart-shaped rocks, vintage table linens, scraps of bubblewrap (they can be reused, people!) and flower vases in the shape of heads — my accumulation of cookbooks may reign supreme. Curling up with a morning coffee and a scrumptious food tome of recipes and fare can be deeply satisfying, especially when the dishes are accompanied by the stories or anecdotes that inspired them. When I read a cookbook, to me it is no different than a novel. I start from the beginning and become absorbed within the story of someone’s kitchen, never missing a chef’s note or an ingredient. It’s a ritual that is part curiosity and part comfort that can only be found through the nurturing solace of food. 

I prefer to cook unfussy dishes that are more soul soothing than snap worthy, but when it comes to my cookbook obsession, how often I will put the pages to use when I am at the stove is of no matter, as I do not treasure them for their utility alone. Some books in my collection have added only a single recipe to my repertoire and others are dotted with dozens of sticky flags, the pages splashed with syrupy evidence from the preparations of countless celebrations. I cherish cookbooks mostly for the joyous opportunities that they represent — homemade gestures of love, sharing a table, coming together, celebrating life.  

While planning the menu for a large family dinner at my home, I recently came across an old cookbook that my grandmother had given to me shortly after I graduated college. Covered in the same pink and violet floral wallpaper that decorated her kitchen, as all of “Loni’s” cookbooks were, her 1965 second printing of “The Blessings of Food and Flowers,” had originally been compiled as a synagogue fundraiser, the mid-century heirloom describing itself as, “The most prized recipes of members of the Sisterhood.” 

The plastic spiral binding disintegrated long ago, but it is still easy to get lost within the volume’s pages, the dishes and entertaining tips a window into a bygone era. The options are neither fancy nor complex, like beef stroganov and “Tanta Betty’s Chicken in the Pot.” Offerings like cottage cheese jello salad are no longer de rigueur and others, like deviled tongue, should probably be left to the archives. When it came to grocery lists, sherry was clearly essential to a well-stocked pantry. Proper recipe format was abandoned for what presumably appeared on the handwritten recipe cards of inherited tradition or were dictated like familiar instructions recited from friend to friend over a rotary phone.  “Have fish dealer roll sole around salmon,” begins Mrs. Bases’ recipe titled “Sole and Salmon Rolls.”  Some of the notes are cinematic in the Mad Men era images they now evoke. Mrs. Louis A. Jaskow’s recipe for “College Punch” consists of three types of fruit juice, four cups of sugar and eight bottles of wine. It serves 100. I would like to have been invited to one of Mrs. Jaskow’s parties.

The potato puffs that I baked in homage were ultimately less inspiring than the evening I spent immersed in the kitchens of women I will never know, but I went to bed that night with an unusual sense of calm, imagining that our current volatile world was momentarily replaced for a simpler time, at least within my home. Both cooking and the written word can have that effect. 

________________

 

The fantasy renovation plans for the Barn House (more on that another time) include a kitchen library, complete with floor to ceiling shelves dedicated to the food alters that are currently stacked around my home, an antique ladder to add some culinary drama and a cozy reading nook to soothe my soul. Below are my most recent additions to those shelves — one made me laugh, two made me cry, all gave me a sweet escape. Try them. You’ll like them. 

Jack's Wife Freda: Cooking from New York's West Village

A couple of years ago, inspired by one of those last warm New York nights of summer, Mike and I decided to take the boys for scooter rides and a family dinner date downtown. We were in the area of Jack’s Wife Freda, a West Village restaurant whose accolades we were eager to affirm, but figured a last minute seating request on a Friday night with two toddlers in tow was unlikely to be met with the same enthusiasm. But, as I now know is customary, we were warmly greeted amongst a patient gathering of patrons, our server quick with crayons for the kids and a glass of wine for their momma. Having lived on both coasts in cities that can sometimes be more scene than substance, this is just a warm and happy place. Mike and I still reminisce about that magical New York night with our boys, which was highlighted by our time at their neighborhood table. The food is, as it’s regulars testify, delicious, but their welcoming approach truly elevates the experience.

Owners Maya and Dean Jankelowitz’ new Jacks Wife Freda cookbook begins with an introduction that is as much biography as it is culinary, offering a glimpse into the flavors of their childhoods in Israel and South Africa through the homemade dishes of their families, including Dean’s grandparents for whom the restaurant is named. It probably says a lot about someone’s emotional capacity if a cookbook can move them to tears, but I too have a business that is named after my beloved grandparents whose love inspired me, and so I found myself getting choked up at the preparation of Dean's family's Friday night feasts. I am an untethered happy crier, but I presume that most readers will have the fortitude to indulge in chef Julia Jaksic’s trademark grain bowls and zucchini chips without drama. Although, the savory croque madame could make any sane person emotional. I waited patiently to inaugurate the grill this season with chicken kebabs and Peri Peri sauce, while I anticipate the Bloody Marys and mint lemonade becoming hallmarks of our summer. And just as the recipe for smoked paprika egg salad is my lunch dream come true, the prospect of warmer nights promises we’ll also be scooting back for dinner real soon. 

 

Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

  From that special night at Jack's Wife Freda (@garlandcollection)

From that special night at Jack's Wife Freda (@garlandcollection)

Like many home cooks, when in doubt, I turn to Ina. From “my” signature mac n’ cheese to “my” trademark brussel sprouts, the foundation of many of the dishes in my rotation are found within the pages of her Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks. Even last night’s craving for a sweet butternut squash sans sugar was scrumptiously resolved with a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and maple syrup via a frequent culinary Google search, “Ina Garten recipe for (fill in the blank).” Sometimes I follow the direction to the 1/2 tsp of salt and other times it is a method of preparation or squeeze of lemon that I borrow to inspire when my own creation is just missing something. 

In her latest book Cooking for Jeffrey, Garten fills her devotees in on the relationship that has fortified her recipes and career. A culinary valentine, Garten writes about her husband Jeffrey’s early belief in her and his encouragement to follow her passion. Knowing firsthand what it feels like to be buoyed by a husband’s unwavering confidence and support, her words reminded me to count my blessings…and also to keep cooking for him. In full disclosure, I once again cried from a cookbook without even a chopped onion to blame, but true love is a trigger point for me.

The book’s skillet-roasted lemon chicken and tsimmes have both made their way to our table and the pumpkin flan will no doubt have a Thanksgiving debut.

With considerably less success, seeing that I almost poisoned Mike on my first attempt, I too began cooking as a young college graduate wishing to care for the person I loved, and I can count Ina Garten’s many books as guidance on my road to competence in the kitchen. Her recipes are usually simple in approach, but also flavorful and foolproof. But as I plan to attempt the chocolate creme brulee shared in her latest pages, operating a kitchen blow torch does give me pause. I hope that if he is running for the fire extinguisher, Mike once again remembers that it was made with love. 

 

Food Swings: 125 + Recipes to Enjoy Your Life of Virtue & Vice

In order to curb my compulsion for carbs and brisket, I try to avoid meat and pasta during the week so that on weekends I can blissfully eat like I’m on death row. If health was not an issue, I’d enjoy a steak dinner every night with an appetizer of bolognese and I’d only scoop out a bagel if I could stuff it with pasta. But that sort of gluttony is apparently frowned upon. 

Food Swings, Jessica Seinfeld’s latest cookbook is separated into “Virtues” and “Vice,” offering meal choices ranging from healthful to downright indulgent, depending on your mood or, in my case, day of the week. I wonder what it is says about someone when a cookbook makes them feel understood. 

Nightly family dinners with our two boys feature wholesome ingredients and a variety of flavors and dishes, so cookbooks that include hearty vegetarian options, like Food Swings’ eggplant cauliflower meatballs and “Deceptively Delicious Tacos,”  keep my whole family feeling satisfied with a single dish. Plus, those “almost vegan” tacos call for sour cream, which albeit accidentally, I once literally drank through a straw. I typically switch it out for greek yogurt, which tastes less like sadness than you’d expect, but if Jessica Seinfeld proposes the real deal in a virtuous recipe, I am obligated to follow direction.

As for vices, I spent the better part of an evening planning my Saturday morning cookoff, flipping back and forth between the cinnamon buns and the strawberry shortcake. The sweet and sticky ribs were obviously a given. Chocolate-popcorn-almond-clusters were a hit with the boys during a family movie night screening of “The Money Pit” (I want them to be cultured foodies) and strawberry buckle muffins are now officially in the repetoire. 

The bottom line…As many of you know, I am constantly encouraging people to just cook if you want to cook! Don’t say you can’t because it’s not your thing. It’s not that deep! You don’t have to be a professional cook, the best cook or even a good cook. Just start somewhere. Follow solid recipes for those staple dishes that make people happy and you’ll learn. Have fun. Enjoy the process.  

While there are plenty of recipes in Food Swings for those who already wow guests with their culinary creations (see key lime pie), this is also the perfect cookbook for easing yourself into the enjoyment of finding your happy place in the kitchen, no matter if you are hoping to nurture a family or nourish yourself. Seinfeld’s friend to friend style will give you a comfortable start. Basically, she keeps it real. Plus, she writes about her granny and you can imagine how I feel about that. Many of the recipes, like chicken parmesan and meatballs marinara, are personal takes on traditional dishes that may not be groundbreaking in menu, but are savory signatures for adding to your new epicurean resume. Then you can make me the pasta carbonara. Also the chocolate banana pudding. And the lasagna. But only if it’s the weekend.

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.

_____________________

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.

Smart Cookie

(From the archives)

smart cookie

“You will have a successful year in business,” read one friend.

“Your magnetic personality will take you far,” read another.

Assuming that mine would be much of the same, I popped a piece of my fortune cookie in my mouth and nonchalantly prepared to recite my tiny prophecy, which I would discreetly stow in my wallet as tangible validation if it positively applied in even the most arbitrary way to anything that was questionable in my life.

Anticipating a manufactured cliché, but hoping for one that I could at least inject with implied significance to project onto Mike during the car ride home, I pulled out the ubiquitous rectangular paper and found this weighty fortune:

“WORK ON IMPROVING YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE”

Fortune cookies are supposed to reveal factory-packaged slivers of hope or at least the punch line to a dirty joke. But while my friends received words of encouragement and gratuitous praise, I literally unraveled judgment. And did the person that prepared this bold-typed condemnation even recognize the irony that it was baked inside of a cookie?

If I wasn’t five months pregnant with twins and hadn’t arrived at the restaurant to see my dinner companions in huddled whispers with the host, discussing what I later learned was their concern that I would not be able to fit in the booth, this would have seemed less comical. The well-meaning waiter had even asked if I would like something spicy to help induce labor, assuming that at this girth I had to be well past my due date.

At this point I could still get my knee-high boots over my calves and my trademark bangles were still firmly on my wrists. I did not yet know that within a month or two I would no longer be able to push the bracelets over the bear paws that soon passed for my hands or that even Birkenstocks would become a distant memory. I was literally barefoot and pregnant. By the end of my pregnancy, the small tattoo of a delicate, fluttering monarch butterfly that I had emblazoned on my right hip in high school to coyly peak out over my low-slung, vintage bell-bottoms took on the countenance of an angry pterodactyl.

But after many years of heartache in my inability to conceive, I was simply too overcome with bliss and gratitude to indulge vanity or signs. It’s true – love is blind. Plus, I could no longer see the tattoo anyway.

The boys spent the first week with me in the hospital covered in my salty tears. I thought my heart would burst with the love that I felt for them.

But as the months wore on and my love for Sweetlips and The Bean grew, so ultimately did my fear. It wasn’t until they were on the outside and I was on my own that I had any perception of the physical toll that both the years leading up to and the pregnancy itself had taken. Five months after I gave birth, a flight of stairs left me unreasonably winded and my stomach muscles were so weak that I could not sit up in bed without using my arms to pull myself. Not to mention the fact that I had amassed an enviable wardrobe over the years from keen collecting and editorial swag and if I continued to rely on maternity leggings, my sartorial classics would sadly soon be archived.

One afternoon, when the boys were six months, I laid down for a quick rest while they napped. And as my mind wandered, I began to think about all of their tiny accomplishments – the first time Bean smiled. The determination that Sweetlips exuded as he rocked back and forth until he willed himself to roll over. No matter how clichéd, no one can prepare you for the awe you feel in the miracles that are your children.

And then I thought about the milestones to come. The first time we would take them to the beach or teach them to ride bikes. Their first day of kindergarten and the painful, but proud day when we would drop them off at college. As I imagined my tiny little men one day getting married, I began to weep. I decided then and there that I needed to do whatever was in my power to be there.

The next day, I rejoined the gym, met a trainer who has truly given me strength and then literally began running for my life.

While only a time machine will bring my postpartum stomach and boobs back to their pre-baby state, a man recently shouted at me, “You are the hottest piece of meat on the street!”

I was in a dark and desolate alley, running to catch a train out of Penn Station in the hopes of making it home in time to put my now eighteen-month-old babes to sleep, and this kind man who had just been talking to a garbage can clearly did not have all of his faculties. For all I know he was so inebriated that he was mistaking me for actual sidewalk vendor street meat, but once you are insulted by a fortune cookie you feign ignorance for flattery. Exactly one year had passed since my pledge and I was so elated from the unsolicited, if not in fact delusional, catcall that I shouted, “Thank you!”…. Three times.

From the day that I became pregnant with Sweetlips and The Bean, regardless of life’s many challenges, I have woken up each morning feeling eternally grateful for my unexpected good fortune.

And those words of wisdom that I unwrapped during what seems like a lifetime ago? This week I was amused to find them sitting snuggly in my wallet right where they belonged.

_____________

In the spirit of a healthy lifestyle (and because I don't know how to make fortune cookies), here is my all time favorite cookie recipe:

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

(POSSIBLY STUFFED WITH NUTELLA & MAYBE SPRINKLED WITH SEA SALT)

*Note: I adapted this cookie recipe from haphazard instructions passed along in an old email chain more than a decade ago and I’ve been baking them ever since. I tried to put them into proper format for you here. They should be golden on the outside and soft and scrumptious on the inside. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2.5 Cups Oatmeal

1 Cup Butter

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

2 Cups Flour

2 Cups Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

12 Ounces Chocolate Chips

*Nutella (optional)

*Sea Salt (optional)

 

Blend oatmeal in a blender or food processor to a fine powder. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips to the bowl and mix using a standing or handheld mixer (or serious elbow grease). The “batter” will not appear wet, but somewhat grainy — it should still stick together when you roll it into a ball. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. (*Optional Nutella: Press a thumb into the center of each cookie ball. Fill thumbprint with a small teaspoon of Nutella. Press the cookie dough back over the nutella covering the nutella completely and reshape into balls if necessary.) Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

*Optional: Sprinkle with seas salt right when they come out of the oven.

Enjoy!

Summer Smoothie

While most newlyweds arrive to their hotel room on their wedding night to a bed strewn with rose petals, mine was romantically scattered with Skittles. Don’t get me wrong, my morning workouts are my lifeline, but when it comes to food, I live like I’m on death row. Truthfully, if they covered our nuptial bed in a heart made out of bacon strips, I would not have felt slighted, but rather satisfied.

In recent years, my sister-in-law has been on a crusade to save me from myself. She’s one of those healthy people with radiant skin, shiny hair, and bright eyes that uses the word “juice” as a verb. As in, “Do you want to juice with me?”

“Is ‘juice’ code for Peanut M&M’s? Then no.”

Aunt Jo Jo, as Sweetlips and The Bean call her, has now made a career out of promoting this healthy lifestyle and I’m becoming her cause célèbre. But I’ve attempted to curb my eating habits before.

You see, as a designer and style editor, I am supposed to be known for being chic, stylish, and sophisticated, not salivating over a meatball sub. So, a few years ago, after so many fashion events watching women put up a manicured hand with a polite, “No thank you,” to the waiter passing out fried cheese balls, while I poshly stood by, tearing satayed chicken off a stick with my teeth, it started to dawn on me that my habits could use an overhaul.

After hearing my plight, a friend suggested I take a go at a new epicurean fad. 

Apparently, with good proteins at its core, it would leave me feeling energized, fit, and ready to hit the gym. The only catch was that I had to trade in sugars and sweets for a yogurt-based smoothie, which I would need to make myself. I am never opposed to smoothies since they are basically one tequila shot away from a frozen margarita. How hard could this be?

Everything started out fine. Since I could enjoy many of my favorite foods, like olive oil, cheese, and even the occasional sausage link, I didn’t feel like I was giving anything up. Besides, I was becoming quite adept at a variety of blended drinks and figured if the whole magazine and design thing didn’t work out I could always franchise a Jamba Juice.

About two weeks into my culinary adventure, I decided to make a romantic dinner for my husband. He is particularly fond of my marinated salmon recipe that calls for a spoonful of sour cream, which in moderation, happened to be an allowed condiment in my new healthy lifestyle. I sent Hubby an email, letting him know that I would be cooking dinner that night and went about my cupcakeless day.

At about 7 pm, I began setting the table and pulling things out of the fridge to prepare for my little lovefest, celebrating the healthy new me.

“Hmm…That’s odd,” I thought to myself, noticing that the sour cream container was ¾’s empty. “I just bought a brand new thing of sour cream this morning. I didn’t think that we had any in the fridge.”

I figured that since I had just bought a fresh container I might as well use it, and began to move things around the shelves, trying to find the new one.

“Where the heck did I put that thing?,” I wondered, hoping that I hadn’t left a container of sour cream to congeal on the backseat of my car all day. Just as I was about to go check, I grabbed something unexpectedly heavy in the refrigerator. Removing the fat-free yogurt container, I fearfully checked the seal.

“You must be kidding me,” I now said to myself out loud, almost too mortified to be in the same room as myself. “No way. It can’t be,” I shouted, now ransacking the fridge, hoping that I would find another half empty container of yogurt in there. 

Not a chance. In my heart of hearts I knew that I had also been out of yogurt that morning. I had gone to the store and bought a fresh container of sour cream and a fresh container of yogurt so that I could have my smoothie at snack time and use a tablespoon of sour cream marinade at dinner.

Oh, say it ain’t so. But it was. That afternoon, I drank a thirst quenching … mouthwatering … lip smacking … sour cream smoothie! And I liked it. I liked it a lot. When I had gotten what I could from the straw, I had pressed the glass to my face and, spinning it, tried to lap up the excess cream with my tongue like a dog with a peanut butter jar. I had even thought to myself it was the best smoothie I ever made.

The worst part was that I am such a junkie I didn’t even notice the difference. And it wasn’t like this was just a spoonful either, it was the main ingredient. I drank eight ounces of sour cream. Why so much? Because I had been guzzling double the recommended portion, not realizing until weeks later when my clothes were getting considerably tighter that the smoothie recipes were for two servings.

I should have known that I was doomed from the start.  I was literally subconsciously drawn to the sour cream like an addict going through lard withdrawal. It was as though my stomach and brain were giving me some sort of intervention. “This is who you are,” they were shouting. “Be comfortable in your clogged arteries!”

I realized that in my attempt to be someone I’m not, my plan backfired, leaving me no more healthy or sophisticated, but self-loathing and licking the remains of 40 grams of fat from my lips.

So, I went back to my regular diet of black coffee and Sour Patch Kids, having seen the error of my psychologically damaging healthful ways. The fact of the matter is that I’m happy with who I am – a designer-clad persona that’s a tad out of my league, but hoping to ride on a whole lot of character.  I’ll drink to that.

________________

“SUMMER SMOOTHIE” with Strawberries and Banana

(adapted from The Abs Diet by David Zinczenko)

Despite my earlier mishap, I still make this smoothie all the time when I want something refreshing and sweet (again, minus the sour cream) and it was one of my go-to’s when I was pregnant with Sweetlips and The Bean. It’s called the “Summer Smoothie,” but I think it’s an energizing and tasty breakfast or midday snack all year round.

***(Alternatively, I now make a quick, non-dairy version of this by simply popping a single banana, a handful of frozen strawberries and coconut water to taste in the blender).

 

And don’t forget…This one serves 2!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup frozen strawberries

1 banana

4 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt

3/4 cup 1% milk

2 teaspoons vanilla whey powder (Optional)

3 ice cubes, crushed

 

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Yum!

 

 

Bake Watcha' Momma Gave Ya' + Bolognese

(From the archives)

About a decade ago, I decided that it would be a heartfelt gesture to cook Mike, my then boyfriend, a delicious meal of yummy comfort food. I was in a kitchen of our very own, there was a saucepan in hand, and I was wearing an apron. Having the necessary equipment and dressing the part was half the battle, I decided. So what if I had recently asked my mother “At what temperature do you boil water?”

“Nic, you cannot screw up chili,” my mom assured me through the phone as I began combing over her instructions, which I had transcribed word for word. (i.e. 1. Mush up meat 2. Throw stuff in pot, 3. Brown meat, etc.)

“Mike is going to be so happy when he sees what I have done for him,” I told her, smiling at the thought of my boyfriend entering the apartment with delicious smells wafting through the air.

“I’ll bet,” she said, and then whispered to my dad that she hoped Mike knew the number for Poison Control.

I began gathering together all of the necessary tools – saucepan, large spoon, Madonna’s “Immaculate Collection”, and a glass of wine – and then got down to business.

I mixed together the chopped meat, beans, chili powder, and tomatoes. After what seemed like more time than necessary, the chili just didn’t seem to be taking on the consistency that I had anticipated. The pan looked like it was filled with brown sludge.

I decided that I, being new at this, would have to put aside my pride, and ask my mother when my delicious home cooked chili would actually begin to look like delicious home cooked chili. I reluctantly dialed the parents, daintily took another sip of chardonnay and after further inquiry confirmed that we do indeed have a fire extinguisher. My dad then passed the phone to my instructor, who asked, “What now?”

“I think that you missed a step in the instructions,” I said indignantly, as I looked at my very first recipe card, which had been perfectly decorated and placed in my new, vintage recipe box.

“That’s not possible,” my mother (a.ka. Ms. Perfect) replied. “This isn’t complicated enough to ‘miss a step’,” she added, clearly implying that I was the one missing a step.

“Well, mother, this just doesn’t look like chili.” Boy, I’m asking my grandmother for a recipe next time I thought, and peered into the bubbling brown liquid.

“What does it look like?,” my mom asked.

“Uh, use your imagination,” I answered.

“Ugh. Well, did you brown the meat?,” Mom asked.

“No, I bought green meat, Mom. Of course the meat is brown. I might not cook that often, but my shopping skills have been finely honed.”

“No, did you brown the meat?,” she shrieked.

“What are you talking about?,” I yelled with exasperation and took a large swig from the wine bottle, which I believe should be on the “Tools You Will Need” list in every recipe. “I just said…”

Still cackling, my mom got off the phone to call my grandmother and tell her about my latest misadventure.

“Ha, ha, ha – brown the meat,” I mimicked to myself, spooning a bit of the brown stuff. I felt like Amelia Bedelia. You know, Amelia would be playing baseball and they would tell her to run home and she would actually run to her home.

I was now slamming cabinets, swigging wine, throwing extra beans in the pan in order to thicken the stuff. So, while I was planning to stunningly and seductively serve my boyfriend a bowl of home cooked love, I was tear-stained, drunk, and mumbling curses, while stirring poop. I had even taken off my sexy shoes in order to stamp around the kitchen in fits of Martha-less malaise.

I heard a door slam and a huff of work-related exasperation and I knew that my equally miserable counterpart had arrived home.

“I made you dinner,” I sang into the living room when my boyfriend had plopped into a chair in order to be with his remote.

“You did?,” he said, not attempting to veil his surprise.

“Well, I sort of misunderstood one part of the recipe, but it should be fine,” I lied. “Anyway, don’t you think it’s sweet of me to make you comfort food?,” I asked, batting my eyelashes and waiting for a peck on the cheek as he entered the kitchen. As it turns out, I was dead wrong about two things that night.

“What is that?,” he asked scrunching his nose in disgust.

“Chili to cheer you up,” I chirped, attempting to hold back another rush of tears.

“Where is the meat? Why is it liquid?,” he asked. Apparently, serving your boyfriend food that can pass for sewage does not make him happy, no matter that it was a gesture of love.

 Then, he did the unthinkable. He picked up the sauce spoon, my sauce spoon, and began giving me instructions. No one, especially a man, tells me I’m wrong – and one that can’t cook either! He thought he was miserable at work – I’ll show him miserable!

“Forget it!” I said, now actually crying for affect. Boy was he gonna pay. My mom wouldn’t think I was stupid now.

“I’m going to eat the chili!,” he replied. “I don’t like to waste.” He was going to be a martyr. Eating the food would prove that he puts himself in jeopardy for my inadequacies, including recycling. If I learned one thing from the women in my family, it’s the affectation of martyrdom – and eating bad chili ain’t it.

“I’m ordering Vietnamese,” I yelled dramatically, grabbing for the phone. This had become a battle of wills. No one gets to play the martyr but me. I spent my evening slaving over a hot stove for the man I loved, and the prima donna was going to force me to order him take-out? He was going to eat his words and the chili too.

“I’m eating the chili,” he called out, force-feeding spoonfuls of muck into his mouth, silently pleading that I wouldn’t place the order. He knew that with one delivery from Saigon Grill, I could hold this over his head forever. Just the site of a Julia Child’s rerun ten years from now would be enough of a reminder that I had ammunition. “Remember the night I put my heart and soul into a home-cooked meal for you and you ate Number 78 Bun Xao Chicken instead?”

Through trial and error, I learned two things that evening. The obvious lesson on browning meat was the first test towards competence in the kitchen, but didn’t compare to the greater message. The real coup was realizing that I already was a domestic goddess. I managed to spin a bowl of crappy chili, which was intended to take my boyfriend’s mind off of a bad day, into a symbol of my own sacrifice, hard work, and time, coupled with his obvious lack of appreciation for my continued selflessness. 

 At that moment, I knew I was going to make a great wife.

_____________

It's been many years since that first attempt at bolognese. Since then, I've worked out a few of the original kinks, like not giving Mike food poisoning. Now that I've had quite a bit of practice, Ina Garten's recipe for Bolognese is my Sunday night favorite. Ironically, she calls it "Weeknight Bolognese," but I think it's worth serving any day of the week. 

Here it is...Just don't forget to brown the meat. Wink, wink. 

 

INA GARTEN'S RECIPE FOR "WEEKNIGHT BOLOGNESE"

From the Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?, 2010

 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsps good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta

1 lb lean ground sirloin

4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/4 cups dried red wine divided

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferable San Marzano

2 Tbsp tomato paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3/4 lb dried pasta

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

 

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

 

 

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

 

Ask and You Shall Not Receive

From the archives

“If you do not love it, I do not listen to a word you say,” Mike said triumphantly.

My husband holds the title of “Worst Gift-Giver” and I, in turn, have learned to manage my expectations. I’ve received a travel coffee mug for Valentine’s Day, one of his favorite movies for Chanukah, and a pair of gorgeous sunglasses when we were in college that I later found out The Outlaw had actually chosen for me and wrapped…without him.

But this gift was hyped. And he just seemed so proud. He was even boasting his listening skills, which I know that he does not have.

I frantically dug through the pizza-sized Mrs. Field’s cookie that soon arrived at my front door, looking for the real treat baked within. When I found nothing more than chocolate chips, I am only a little ashamed to admit I cried.

Looking back, I’m not sure what’s funnier…the note that read, “For you and your dad. Enjoy the lard” (I inherited his sweet tooth) or that when Mike is actually listening – truly hearing me – what monumentally stands out to him is “cookies.” And no, I don’t see the irony that “cookie” was my first word, Mom.

Through the years, we have learned that if there is a little bauble or something sparkly and sentimental that I happen to have my eyes set on, I am to send him an email with a picture and very specific instructions referencing how one might purchase such an item, so that he may file it for future gift ideas. He currently has a vintage 1940’s Men’s Rolex and a toolbox with complimenting hand drill in his inbox.

Yet, he never ceases to amaze me.

As I approached my 26th birthday, I was also eagerly anticipating Mike’s marriage proposal. After all, we had been together for seven-and-a-half years and Mom Squared had already begun planning the wedding.

So, on the morning of that birthday, when Mike told me to stay in bed while he ran out to get me birthday coffee, you can imagine my excitement. I snuggled in bed, my stomach overcome with butterflies and an expectant smile plastered across my face, waiting for Mike to return from his last-minute preparations and romantically present his big reveal.

And then I heard the door unlock. I thought I’d faint from the excitement. Who would have known when we were eleven and twelve-year-old kids at sleep away camp that we would one day be engaged? This was our moment!

Mike walked into our bedroom, put his hand over the cell phone he was speaking into, handed me my coffee and threw a rolled up newspaper onto the bed.

“Happy Birthday, Nic,” he said, and walked out of the room to finish his conversation about the upcoming Giants football game.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, registering no disappointment, assuming that these were just decoys – all part of his master plan.

I unrolled the paper to see that it was the Sunday edition of The New York Times.

I stared at it for a minute, puzzled by this odd turn of events. And then it hit me! Holy matrimony! I tore through that newspaper towards my holy grail,”Sunday Styles,” discarding “Business” and “Classifieds” like yesterday’s news. I found my section and began manically searching the wedding announcements for the words I now knew I would one day be showing our grandchildren, realizing that Mike must have orchestrated his marriage proposal within those happy black and white pages…

“Why else would a newspaper be my birthday gift?,” I reasoned.

 Garland Collection CAMP necklace featured in  The New York Times

Garland Collection CAMP necklace featured in The New York Times

“The bride is a lawyer and graduated from Harvard, the groom evaluates risk for a hedge fund,” “The bride was an extra on “Law and Order,” the groom plays the bongos in a kids’ band,” “Bride is keeping her name professionally,” “Groom’s maternal great uncle was a neighbor of someone that once ran for Congress.”

I scanned and scanned those announcements looking for the words, “We met at camp when we were kids and I have loved her ever since.  Nicole, you complete me. Will you marry me?” Or something to that effect. And when I couldn’t find them, I searched again.

“Mike, can you please come in here?,” I finally called out, covered in newsprint and trying to mask my confusion.

“Do you love your gift?,” Mike asked as he rounded the corner, clearly pleased with himself.

“I’m sure that I love it,” I gently replied. “But I am just having a little trouble finding it.”

“What do you mean?,” Mike asked.

“What do you mean,” I interrogated, smiling sweetly through gritted teeth. I’ve feigned excitement over some doozies through the years, but this really took the cookie cake.

“You love reading Sunday’s Times in bed with a cup of coffee. Since we just moved to LA, I thought you would miss me getting it from a bodega for you every weekend, so I got you a subscription to make you feel at home,” he cheerfully explained.

It’s true. “Styles,” then “Travel,” then “Book Review” with a coffee by my side is my lifelong guilty pleasure.

Once I got over responding to everyone who asked, “What did Mike get you for your birthday?” with a simple, “The newspaper,” I ultimately realized that while it wasn’t what I expected, it represented exactly what I wanted. A loving gesture from someone who truly knows me. (It did take a few days.)

And that newspaper? It has literally been the gift that keeps on giving. Eight years later, when we are in LA, I can count on that Sunday New York Times being at my door, just as I can count on my now husband for always being by my side. Good things come to those who wait.

Be my baby

A month after we moved to Los Angeles, Mike decided that we should meet his college buddies in Vegas for Halloween.  While hanging out with a bunch of dudes in a casino may not be appealing to most women, it frankly seemed exciting that our new life on the west coast meant that weekend jaunts like these were simply an impetuous drive away.

I spent the week prior busy on my first editorial assignment covering California fashion and, while I do love a good costume, I was too focused on proving myself as an LA writer to think about putting together the elaborate getup that Mike assured me was required for Halloween nightlife in Sin City.

Luckily, we moved to LA for Mike to pursue his dream of acting, so he suddenly found himself with a lot of free time and enthusiastically volunteered to pick up costumes for the both of us.

“Don’t get me anything slutty,” I told him. “I want to be a little sexy…but also cool.”

“You got it,” he said.

“Like a pirate,” I added. “I want to be a pirate. Aaaarrghh.” Sex appeal has always alluded me.

“Don’t worry about it. I can handle Halloween costumes,” Mike assured me.

I still remember getting out of the car as he dropped me off at an event I was covering and as I swung my legs out of the door I yelled, “Just an eye patch will work!”

Quietly, I had recently purchased a very chic, leather Armani vest at a sample sale and I could picture zipping it up with nothing more than a pushup underneath. I would show just enough cleavage to be revealing, as my boobs had yet to succumb to motherhood, but paired with cutoffs the Armani would keep things classy. A prude pirate I would be!

We drove to Vegas the following weekend and headed to the room to prepare for the all-night escapades. I was laying out my cutoffs and vest, wishing that I had asked Mike to pick up a sword to complete my look, when Mike excitedly said, “I got us the best costumes you have ever seen!”

“What do you mean?” I asked foolishly, with no anticipation of the humiliation that was to come, despite the sense of shame that I am aware Mike innately lacks. “Didn’t you pick up an eye patch?

“An eye patch? No way! I got something for us to be together,” he said with a genuine and heartfelt smile.

I can vividly picture myself standing in the hotel room thinking – that’s just so sweet. His moronic friends are mammogram machines (classy and tasteful) and, with no care of what they would think of him, Mike continues to show his commitment as my partner, even on Halloween.

Then he said, “These are going to blow your mind. They are the best costumes ever.”

Mike then reached into his suitcase and pulled out two giant onesies. One pink. One blue.

“I don’t understand,” I muttered.

“We’re enormous babies!” he cried, clearly misunderstanding what I didn’t understand, and then blissfully handed me my bonnet, pacifier and rattle.

In fairness, this would have been a humorous costume if we were anywhere else. But we were in Las Vegas, where every woman’s costume consists of nothing more than a G-string and pasties. Women in Vegas literally go as naked on Halloween. I was being discreet in my partially zipped leather pirate vest. The giant pink onesie? It was flannel and long sleeved.

“I’m not wearing that,” I told him.

“It’s hilarious” he insisted.

“People will be laughing at me, not with me,” I pleaded. “You have to get me something else.”

“Don’t worry, it has a butt flap,” was his means of reassurance.

I padded downstairs to the casino in my feetsie pajamas to wait for our group to gather and sat down against a wall, my arms wrapped around my knees like a petulant child, watching the traditional and more appropriate parade of nipple-tassels and thongs. Mike happily remembers walking toward me and seeing me in my pigtailed bonnet being taunted by some beefcake in nothing more than French cuffs and a bowtie. The clever muscleman was pointing at me and whining, “Awww…look at the baby.” Mike lovingly recalls how I, without shame or irony, dropped my rattle and flipped the guy the bird.

From there we headed to the club where his roommate assured us we were on the VIP list. Picture this: A bouncer is standing outside of the hottest night club in Las Vegas and more than twenty single dudes approach, including Cheech and Chong, Buzz Lightyear, what looks like a few of The Village People, a human condom (I can’t) and the aforementioned mammogram machine. And the only female in their midst is visibly pissed off and wearing a giant pink onesie. After an hour on that line, the bouncer finally said, “I’ll let you all in if the baby stops yelling at me.”

Once inside, I stood by the bar all fleece and resentment, taking shots of tequila and bitterly wondering how I ended up in this predicament.

“Excuse me,” said a woman clad in a leather-fringed bikini and cowboy boots.

“Yes?” I asked, adjusting my bonnet and scowling into my drink.

“I just wanted to tell you that I really admire your confidence.”

With a body that would look good in dental floss, this woman was baring more on that dance floor than I do in the shower. She admired the confidence of a grown woman in feety pajamas? And she professed this compliment with no trace of mockery. My costume was so embarrassing that this woman felt compelled to praise my character for wearing it despite the obvious indignity. She assumed that I was making a statement.

Obviously annoyed at the accusation, I stormed outside to find my twin consumed at the blackjack table. By this point, I was on a rampage of mortification and within five minutes you could find us babies in heated debate, Mike defending himself with the sentiment that gambling is for “entertainment purposes,” while I had my finger in his face, carrying on and rattling off all of the designer bags that I could have purchased with the money lost at that table. I was still wearing the bonnet.

 Halloween in Las Vegas, Nevada 2004

Halloween in Las Vegas, Nevada 2004

I literally spent the whole night as a giant, angry baby. And a drunk one at that.

Yet, I have always looked back on the weekend fondly. I can remember feeling secretly touchedthat Mike always wanted me with him, with no regards for his reputation – or my dignity, for that matter.

At twenty-five years old, I had a devoted boyfriend who didn’t consider going to Vegas with his buddies without me, even though I was the kind of girlfriend that would have encouraged it. Why wouldn’t I go with him to a club where scantily clad women dance in cages suspended from the ceiling? (In hindsight, this deserved more speculation on my part.) And it didn’t occur to him to leave me out of the comedy when he chose those costumes – as far as he was concerned, the fun and the funny were more so when we were both in on the joke.

The truth is, for better or for worse, we’ve long been each other’s sidekicks. The comic foil to execute a good laugh or the partner to lean on when life seems less funny. And, even when I’m a being a big baby, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

__________________________

I having been wearing these Stubbs & Wootton smoking slippers in red velvet for decades. They work with jeans or with a pirate costume: 

  photo courtesy of Stubbs & Wootton

photo courtesy of Stubbs & Wootton