Mother Essentials: Laura O’Neill of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
If your goal is to eat more ice cream in 2024, look no further than today’s Mother Essentials on Laura O’Neill for inspiration. The Melbourne-born new-ish mama (her daughter Rada is 2 1/2) is the co-founder of the much-beloved Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, which debuted in New York in 2008. After kicking things off with a very photogenic, pale yellow ice cream truck that was an instant-hit, the company has since expanded to over 50 scoop shops, as well as grocery stores across the country. (O’Neill now splits her time between NYC and Los Angeles). In addition to its innovative seasonal flavors and wholesome ingredients, Van Leeuwen is also known for out-the-box collabs with everyone from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (seriously!) to NBA star Jimmy Butler’s Big Face Coffee brand. Perhaps not surprisingly, O’Neill’s Mother Essentials list below is equally colorful, creative, and delicious. Enjoy!
Zojirushi Rice Cooker. “I was gifted this rice cooker a few years ago and love it so much. It cooks the rice perfectly and keeps it warm, fluffy, and ready to eat for a couple of days.” Zojirushi Rice Cooker, $213, Amazon.
Zerrol Ice Cream Scoop. “This is the go-to ice cream scoop at Van Leeuwen and the one I use at home too. As a special treat, we do scoops in cones with sprinkles at home for Rada and friends.” 1020 Original Zerrol Ice Cream Scoop (2 oz.), $24.75, Amazon.
Rao’s Marinara. “Hands-down, the best red sauce. We buy it in bulk at Costco. I load it up with veggies and crumbled tofu (Hodo is my fave) for a vegetarian bolognese riff that we all love.” Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, $8.99, Amazon.
Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen. “I try to remember to wear sunscreen every day. I love this one because it doesn’t feel like sunscreen. I also use the PLAY one for Rada—it rubs in quickly and well.” Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, $22, Supergoop. PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50 with Sunflower Extract, $12, Supergoop.
Film Camera. “I love taking film photos and I am the self-appointed documentarian of my family and friends. I’m so much more intentional about the photos I take with film and it’s always fun getting them developed and putting them in albums. I currently have a vintage Olympus Stylus 120, but you can find lots of good ones around in camera shops and on eBay.” Olympus Infinity Stylus Zoom, $89.95, eBay.
Mathmos Lava Lamp. “My boyfriend, Greg, gave me this original Lava Lamp for my birthday a few years ago. It’s a replica of the one my family had when I was growing up. We turn it on every night when it starts to get dark and love the relaxing vibe it creates. You can’t currently buy these in the U.S. (long story), but you can find them on eBay and get an adapter.” Retro Rocketship Lava Lamp. $149.99, eBay.
DIY Pin and Flair Kit. “A friend gave these to Rada for Christmas this year and it was a super fun and nostalgic activity to do together. (Remember Shrinky Dinks?!)” Yellow Owl Workshop DIY Pin & Flair Kit, $16, Maisonette.
Good Culture Cottage Cheese. “When Rada first started solids, a friend shared a cottage cheese pancake recipe with me and it’s been a staple ever since. I sometimes add chopped baby spinach to the mix or sliced bananas. Good Culture is our favorite cottage cheese.” Cottage Cheese Pancakes: Combine 1 Cup Cottage Cheese, 4 Eggs Beaten, 4 Tablespoons Melted Butter, and 1/2 Cup Flour. Cook in a oiled pan. (Original recipe from The Inn at Manchester).
Summer Camp Island. “This adorable and hilarious animated show, Summer Camp Island, was created by Julia Pott. Rada is obsessed and dressed as the character Suzie—a camp counselor/witch—for Halloween. The stories are cute and the classic animation is beautiful. I feel very ok having this show on high rotation.”
Poketo Wall Calendar. “I’ve been using these wall calendars for about seven years, and they help me keep my head straight when I’m bouncing back and forth between New York City and L.A. They are really pretty too.” Poketo Wall Calendar, $48, Amazon.
Bungkus Bagus Spicy Sambal Goreng. “We buy this one in bulk because we put it on everything! I love Indonesian flavors and the sisters at Bunkus Bagus in L.A. are totally nailing it.” Sambal Goreng Chili Topping, $18, Bungkus Bagus.
Passionfruit. “I planted a passionfruit vine in our backyard before Rada was born. This past summer was the first time it fruited, and it was so fun for us to check it together everyday to see if the fruit was ready to eat. I grew up with a passionfruit vine in Australia, too.”
No Lights No Lycra. “No Lights No Lycra is a dance community that started in Australia in 2009. I ran the Brooklyn chapter in a church hall every Tuesday night for eight years and we recently revived the L.A. chapter. An hour of dancing in the dark, for the pure joy of dancing. Thursdays, 6:15 PM at Heartbeat House in Atwater. It’s a great workout and even better for the soul.” NoLightsNoLycra.com.
Jump Rope. “I try to exercise in some form everyday. Jump rope is a super efficient workout and easy to do wherever you are. I use this slightly weighted rope and HIIT timer app.” FEECCO 1/2 lb Weighted Jump Rope, $19.95, Amazon.
Rancho Gordo Beans. “Our favorite beans. They have so many varieties and all of them are delicious.” RanchoGordo.com.
Bidi Boon Jeans. “These London-made kids’ jeans are so adorable. They are made from vintage offcuts and roll down to fit as the kid grows. I love that Rada will have the same pair of jeans for a few years.” Little Baggy Tapers, $69, Bidi Boon.
ESPRIT Kids Tees. “I wore Esprit when I was a kid and was excited to get Rada one of these iconic logo tees when they re-released them a few months ago.” Organic Cotton Logo Tee, $49, ESPRIT.
For more MOTHER ESSENTIALS, peep our recent features on author and doula Brandi Sellerz-Jackson, designer CLARE VIVIER, GRACE NA of Pistola, the designers behind MILK TEETH, photographer NICKI SEBASTIAN, Duster co-founder MELISSA MAGSAYSAY, Herman Miller creative director KELSEY KEITH, chef VALERIE GORDON, artist ERIN JANG, Chicago party mom KRISTEN KAZA, Hedley & Bennett founder ELLEN MARIE BENNETT, Mochi Kids founder AMANDA STEWART, chef CRISTINA KISNER, chef CAMILLA MARCUS, artist CAROLINE Z HURLEY, Just Date founder SYLVIE CHARLES, food icon AMANDA HESSER, Prickly Pear founder MONA BAHRAINI, Solace Summer founder MEGAN BRE CAMP, Wonder Valley co-founder ALISON CARROLL, OZMA designer HEIDI BAKER, author TIFFANY ROSE SMITH, HEIDI BAKER of OZMA, and PHOEBE SUNG of Cold Picnic.
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