The Fashion Magpie Amazon Orolay Coat

Reader Q+As: The Upper East Side Mom Coat, Gifts for Husbands, and What’s in My Toddler Diaper Bag.

Q: I am in need of a new winter coat that withstands rain and wind, and keeps me warm to below freezing temps, but is as light as possible. Have you seen any good winter sales? I’ve looked but I’ve either missed them or they haven’t started yet.

A: OK, my first thought was the much-touted “Upper East Side Mom Amazon Coat” (seen above on the adorable Bridget)  — have you been following this? It’s taken NYC by storm. You can hardly leave your apartment without spotting a few on the street! They are super chic (I think they look like a high-end designer with an urban/trendy vibe), cost around $130, and are apparently crazy warm. I’ve had a few pregnant friends mention how much they like the coat because it’s expandable and accommodates a bump. Anyway, if you snag this, you’ll be very on trend and for a fraction of the price of a Canada Goose. BUT. If you’re looking for an investment piece, I’d say Canada Goose — I own this style in the red and cannot say enough good things about it. They’re ubiquitous here in New York (if it’s not the UES Mom coat, it’s a CG), but for good reason. They are impenetrable to wind, rain, and cold. But they’re also pretty bulky, so I’m thinking this might not be the one for you.

And if you want something in between the two, a friend of mine has — and loves — her Marmot Montreaux coat, which is super lightweight and compressible (like you could fold it up and stuff it in a bag/backpack) but also surprisingly warm. She usually wears hers without the fur trim for a super sleek minimalist look. You can occasionally find discount codes for Moosejaw that bring the price down a little!

Q: Our fourth anniversary is coming up at the end of March, and I am absolutely stymied on what to get my husband. Would rather stick with the more traditional linen/silk than appliance and stay away from clothes and sheets, as I already gave him a silk tie from Venice as part of his Christmas present (wish I’d saved that now!). I thought maybe a fruit tree (I think fruits are traditional in England), but our soil is terrible and nothing survives in it. HELP!

A:  An early congratulations!  Love that you’ve chosen to stick with the traditional gifts — so elegant.  This is a tough one given that you want to avoid clothes and sheets.  My other thoughts are…

+A monogrammed robe.  Not exactly linen or silk but in the vein of linens.  Mr. Magpie insisted he did not need one of these, but I gave him one anyway and he wears it pretty close to every morning while getting ready for work.  We love the waffle ones from PB (we both have them).

+Not sure if this is his style, but if he’s the type to appreciate fine paper/might use it for personal or professional use, you could get him one of these linen notebooks (monogrammable) with a fancy pen (<<Mr. Magpie just gave me one of these and I AM OBSESSED WITH IT.  I literally carry it everywhere with me.)

+Not sure of husband’s style, but Mr. Magpie likes a smoking shoe — and Stubbs & Wootton is the ultimate.  These are in linen.  (Or if that’s way, way out of your price range, these linen sneakers are cool, too.)

+On the less expensive side (and not sure if this is again your man’s style), a personalized pocket square.  (This one’s also cool — I like the stitching.)

Q: I have a friend who has been named partner at her law firm and I would like to get her a congratulatory gift. Her style is similar to yours and I am drawing a blank for something appropriate (my research has led me to only bottles of rose  or things that say girl boss which just won’t do.)  I would like to spend in the $50-$100 with $75 being the perfect sweet spot! Please let me know or post of the blog if you have any ideas for adult lady gifts!

A: Wow — congrats to your friend!  And how lucky is she to have you as a girlfriend?!  So thoughtful of you.  A few thoughts:

+My husband recently gifted me one of these fancy but not-too-expensive pens from Caran D’Ache.  I LOVE IT.  I carry it around with me everywhere and am thinking of buying a second to keep at my desk/by my planner.  I like the way that it’s a nod to her professional career (you could do something less girly/less flashy in terms of color if she’s more into neutrals) but also a nice personal affect.

+I have given personalized Smythson notebooks as gifts to girlfriends at various milestones in their lives — engagements, promotions, etc.  Such an elegant gift (and comes wrapped soooo beautifully!).  Also not something you’d buy yourself.  Definitely get it personalized with her initials!  Makes it so special.

+Cuyana travel kits are one of my go-to gifts, but they’re a touch more expensive than you’d like to spend — how about one of their tech cases instead?  Again a nod to her professional achievement and you can get it personalized with her initials!  The leather on their products is AMAZING quality for the price. 

+Perhaps a little random (only if talking beauty is natural between you), but I’ve given a few friends these Slip pillow-cases.  They are supposed to extend a blowout and prevent wrinkles.  You could tuck in a note along the lines of: “Congrats on your big promotion…but don’t forget your beauty sleep!”  

P.S. If none of these are fitting the bill, take a look at my gift guide for girlfriends or one of my holiday round-ups. I still love and give all of the items in these lists.

Q: I know you’ve covered this before, but where do you get all of mini’s bows?

A: I have been a long-time devotee of PoppyBows — usually a 4″ for everyday wear and occasionally a 5″ or 6″ in style for over-the-top frou-frou-ness. Her prices have been raising steadily (though they’re now on sale — jump while you can!), so I have been investigating other sources, too. WeeOnes are carried by Amazon and ship via Prime, so I’ve ordered a few from there and have been very impressed with quality, too.

Q: I stumbled upon the Gucci bow ballet flats through you and it had been on my mind for so long. And guess what! I FINALLY pulled the trigger after maybe a year and O.M.G. (<– believe me when I say, I almost never use this expression but in this circumstance it is warranted), these shoes are THE STUFF OF DREAMS. I think I heard a choir of angels when I opened the box. I somehow managed to defend my dissertation this past summer (must have been sheer adrenaline) and had been waiting for the right moment to treat myself… and these shoes just HAD to be mine. So thank you for introducing me to these lovely, lovely shoes. I just want to happy dance in them. 

But… I need to ask, did you take yours to a cobbler before you started wearing them? I have read on a few forums that some people do this with designer shoes as it’s easier to protect them now (i.e., with a sole/heel protector) than repair later. I have not come across much information written about these shoes in particular, although on one site someone mentioned that once they are altered by a cobbler, Gucci will no longer take responsibility for any issues down the road. So… I’m weighing my options. Did you take yours to a cobbler, and if not, would you mind sharing why?

A: YES!!!  I love those shoes.  They elevate any old outfit and are probably one of my most-worn pairs of flats!  I did not take them to a cobbler, but I do have friends that have done that with higher-end shoes — they’ll get the soles and tips of the heels reinforced with pads so as not to destroy the actual shoe itself.  I don’t even have a reason as to why I haven’t pursued the cobbler route; it’s just never crossed my mind.  I’ve used a cobbler to repair shoes every now and then (usually high heels to repair the heel tip or boots to replace the sole when it gets worn too thin thanks to the cold/snowy climates I’ve been living in), but have generally found that my higher end shoes hold up really well — and that price is sometimes not just about projecting luxury but is also a measure of quality.  So maybe I’m not the best to consult on this, but that’s been my experience at the least!

I would say think about how and when you’ll be wearing them. Predominantly inside? For walks to/from the bus? Etc. If you’ll be getting a lot of “street wear” out of them, it may be worth a visit to the cobbler. If they’re more of an occasional indoor shoe, I think you can skip.

Q: The comments on this post have made me want to request a post related to cleaning – as odd and boring as that sounds. From what I’ve gathered, and the fact that you iron your sheets(!), you must have a great game plan and have probably gathered quite a few tips and tricks over the years that I would love for you to share!

A: I am so flattered! I have to first say that Mr. Magpie is an equal contributor in this realm — in fact, it’s possible that he carries more than the lion’s share when it comes to formally cleaning our apartment. We have a cleaning lady we call on sporadically when we have guests coming or feel the need for a really thorough cleaning, but most of the time, we tackle our apartment ourselves, on a weekly basis. Mr. Magpie almost always starts cleaning the apartment on Sunday morning when mini and I are at Church. He blasts loud music (hip hop or 90s rock) and gets into a groove. But, in between those weekly cleans (and I do think doing a full cleaning every week or every other week makes a massive difference on overall cleanliness/maintenance and your mindset about it; if you wait a month, it’s too overwhelming!), I’ve found a couple of things really helpful for keeping our home clean and tidy:

  1. Place products where they’ll be easy to access by chore. I’d much prefer to keep all of our cleaning supplies tidily in one space. It makes more sense and feels more intuitive — “I need to clean. Let me go to my cleaning cabinet.” But the fact is that I’ll often use proximity to the appropriate product as an excuse to defer cleaning — especially when we lived in a multi-story house. So I’ve learned to keep multiple stations with what I need at my fingertips. One example: we have mirrored glass side tables similar to these. I love the look but they’re prone to collect dust, fingerprints, and glass marks in short order. I’ve started keeping Windex wipes in the drawer of my bedside table and find that it’s much easier to quickly swipe them down every few days when I don’t need to go and grab glass cleaner (<<this stuff is REALLY good) and a cloth/paper towels elsewhere. The same goes for keeping our humidifier, which has been running nonstop for like three weeks owing to a revolving door of colds in our house, clean. You’re meant to disinfect with white vinegar once a week and I found myself deferring the cleaning for too long because the vinegar is in a huge jug all the way at the top of our pantry, buried behind other scarcely used products. I finally decanted a bit into a smaller jug and keep it in our bathroom, where I’ll have easier access to it. Similarly, I’ll keep a pack of Pledge wipes in the drawer of our living room side table so I can quickly swipe down the wood surfaces there in between bigger cleaners. Basically, anything you can do to keep the appropriate cleaning products close on hand will make it far easier to keep appearances tidy.
  2. Schedule weekly/bi-weekly cleans. As mentioned above, we’ve just worked it into our routine that Sunday mornings are cleaning times and we tag-team the work and make it as fun as possible by playing loud music from our teens/early 20s. I also find it dorkily easier to get myself excited about cleaning when I’m excited about the products I use. I like the smell of The Laundress’ products and Method’s wood cleaner is second to none. I like both the smell and the quality of the product. I use these gloves to clean dishes every day, and keep spare/old pairs for housekeeping. Murphy’s Oil reminds me of my childhood (and is the best for keeping hardwood floors clean and non-streaky — I’ve had housekeepers use solutions of vinegar and water but hate the smell and find that it leaves a kind of cloudy effect). And oddly enough this industrial-strength mop is THE ABSOLUTE BEST — does such a good job and somehow does not smell stinky when dried properly. Anyway, as you can see, I get jazzed about finding the absolute best products for cleaning; this helps me stay on point with keeping a tidy home.
  3. I am pretty much tidying all the live-long day, but if that’s a harder muscle for you to flex, consider designating a specific time of day and making the job more pleasant by putting on music or a podcast. We have an Apple Home Pod in our kitchen that syncs with our living room TV and bedroom TV so we can yell to Siri: “Hey Siri, play Alanis Morissette!” and suddenly tidying a messy kitchen becomes a lot more pleasant (and Mr. Magpie can listen in from a separate room). (I LOVE THE HOME POD. I can’t say enough good things about it. One thing I love is that you can control the volume with your voice — “hey siri, turn down the volume to 25%” — without removing your cleaning gloves.) I always spend about ten or fifteen minutes tidying the kitchen just before bed — loading/running the dishwasher if need be, wiping down the counters, reorganizing the fridge, emptying the dishwasher, tossing dishtowels (<<these are the best) in the laundry, etc.

I should caveat all of this by saying I am not perfect and I am not Martha Stewart and I could do a better job at a lot of things, especially regularly sweeping/mopping our floors given how much debris we bring in from the city and the fact that we have a dog. We do keep a small vacuum easily accessible for spot cleans of dust bunnies and the like, and that makes it easier, but I could do better in general…

Q: What’s in your diaper bag now that you no longer need all the baby gear from when mini was itty bitty?

A: I keep things super light nowadays (see what I used to carry on the daily here). I usually stow everything I need for mini in a monogrammed wet/dry bag and toss it into whatever bag I’m wearing that day — usually either my Goyard (<<I have this gray color) or my MZ Wallace backpack, depending on how hands-free I need to be. In it, I’ll keep two spare diapers, an OXO travel wipes dispenser, hand sanitizer, Munchkin trash bags (<<still come in handy for so much more than soiled diapers), a burp cloth (<<used to sop up small spills and wipe down face after meals), and snacks (I usually carry a small box of raisins, a snack bag of cheddar bunnies or Bambas or animal crackers, an apple in a baggie because she never fully finishes one, and Go Go Squeez). There’s also usually some floating bandaids and hair ties in the bottom of the bag that have come in handy more than once. I also keep a small pouch with toys/activities for her that I toss in alongside the wet/dry bag — a tiny coloring book and a handful of crayons, stickers, a Tiny Town book (<<she loves these), and one or two Little People (<<she is obsessed). Basically anything that is small that can fit into the pouch that I can pull out to distract her with when need be. So between those two pouches and a full thermos of water, I’m usually covered with everything I need. There are other moms who are way more prepared with things like neosporin, boogie wipes, a thermometer, etc, etc, but I have found that the amount of times I need those “just in case” items on the go is virtually nonexistent, and there are Duane Reades every few blocks if I’m really in a bind. I prefer to travel light and stay optimistic…

Q: What’s at the top of your lust list right now?

A: Everything here. And metallic Birks for my upcoming trip to FL, which I am still waffling about. I have this fear I’ll buy them and wear them for the one week trip and never return to them again. They aren’t really my style but they’re calling my name…

Shop Le Post.

Shop Le Post: Cleaning Supplies.

Shop Le Post: In My Toddler Diaper Bag.

34 Comments

  1. Chiming in too to say a resounding YES to Birks! My first pair from college in the 90s lasted me at least 15 years until the soles wore down so thin. They were the Madrid style. I’ve since branched out to other pairs of Birks and personally prefer the Madrid, the Molina, Gizeh, Mayari, and the Yao styles (Can you tell I’m a fan?! What can I say, a gal’s gotta have options), as I find them more feminine than the Arizona. I even have a pair that’s designated as my “house slippers” for exclusive indoor use. I cook and bake a lot and it makes a difference to have the support while on my feet for extended periods. My Birks came in handy after I gave birth since my feet were so swollen. I also wore them almost throughout my pregnancy, it felt good to have supportive sandals especially with the added 20 lbs! One thing I did find helpful especially with the Gizeh model is adhering a strip of moleskin around the part that goes between the big toe and second toe, which prevented any blisters. I’m curious to know which one you end up getting!

    1. Wow!! Lots of Birk lovers here. I guess my hemming and hawing was for nought 🙂 Thanks for chiming in — love the tip about the moleskin! xo

  2. I hemmed and hawed about buying a pair of Birkenstocks for over 5 years (!) and finally bit the bullet last summer and did it. ZERO regrets – in fact, I wish I’d done it sooner! As a fellow New Yorker, I have found them indispensable for everyday city life; they are SO much more supportive than other casual sandals that I’d been wearing! And I’ve grown to quite like the look of them with casual dresses; they add a bit of “edge” to my normally more feminine style.

    I do recommend breaking them in and making sure you get the right size (mine initial pair were too large and I had to exchange them); I think I started with wearing them an hour a day at home and gradually increased the time I spent in them. Now they are some of the most comfortable shoes I own. I’m planning to take them on an upcoming trip to Argentina and am thrilled to have an excuse to be reunited with them in the middle of winter!

  3. Yes to the Birks. Especially post-pregnancy if your feet swell (mine did). They last forever and nothing is more comfortable. I have heard the metallic can wear off. I have plain black leather and they’re virtually indestructible. They’re not water safe though. I used mine as pool shoes one summer and it caused the soles to crack.

  4. Yes to the Birks! 2 summers ago I was contemplating purchasing a pair and said to a friend, “they just seem so ‘crunchy’ to me, I feel like I’ll never actually wear them” and she looked at me and laughed and said “No, Molly. They’re mainstream, almost preppy ‘crunchy’ at this point. Get them”. I’m so glad I did as I’ve gotten use out of them every summer, especially on (very) casual beach vacations when I would usually just spend the whole time in flip flops — they feel a touch more pulled together.

    One word of caution though, they did take a while to break in and I suffered from a few nasty blisters.

    1. Thanks for the caveats! And yesss to your friend’s input. She’s right — you know that once J. Crew has adopted them, they’re “safe.” HAHA. xo

    2. I second the Birks! They are my most worn summer sandal (in gold), and I’m planning to get another fresh pair this year. Love them.

    3. Yay! Love all these Birk-wearers coming out of the woodwork. OMG, I almost typed “coming out of the woodstock.” Can you tell they project a certain kind of ethos?! Haha!

  5. Really great answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. My mom is obsessed with the Bona floor cleaner system and gifted each of her children one (ahhh the pleasures of adulthood). Of course I haven’t opened mine because my thinking goes something like this: I live in a rented apartment so what do I care how I treat the wood floors?! A+ tenant here. But I work in the design field and our floor guy always, always, always recommends Bona for maintaining hardwoods.

    Also, have been contemplating a humidifier for many years now and I would be lying if I didn’t note that the cleaning aspect is 99% of the reason I haven’t pulled the trigger. So my dry nose will continue to suffer…

    1. HAHA! Brigid, I so hear you on the cleaning aspect of the humidifier. It’s the most annoying aspect; you have to empty and dry it every single day (and so it is cluttering our tub all the live long day) and then formally clean it out with vinegar once a week and UGH. It’s kind of a pain. I was just thinking that this morning when I realized it had added yet another step to my protracted morning routine. It’s not like overwhelming, but it’s just another step. So I hear you.

      Good to know on the Bona system!! Will keep that in mind for when we buy again! xo

    2. Just popping up with a rec—I had the same problem with humidifiers and they would get gross because I couldn’t always reach all the little crevices to clean them. Look for TaoTronics top fill humidifiers on Amazon. They are just a cylinder with a lift off top. So easy to clean! Mine works well and wasn’t expensive either.

  6. Thank you again for answering my question! You always come up with such great ideas.

    I am slowly becoming more and more convinced I need a backpack in lieu of a diaper bag – some days, I need to be hands free so I can chase after the baby! I wanted a little more structure than the MZ Wallace (which I’ve been hemming and hawing over), and still don’t love backpacks (feel so school-like!), so I think I’ve finally settled on a convertible tote from Lo and Sons. (I also liked the Birdling backpack, but don’t know anyone who has one and am loath to pay shipping on something I’m not sure about…). My husband has made tons of fun of me for choosing yet another tote (but it does have backpack straps which I use, I swear!), and I like that it’s forced me to yet further streamline what I cart around with me on a daily basis.

    1. Love both of those options — they seem super versatile and feel appropriate for your West Coast digs 🙂 I hear you on the structure issue, too. I felt that way about my Goyard until I started using a purse insert when mini was little. I’ve now removed it because I don’t need all those pockets, and now I’m back to square one. xoxo

  7. Reading about your husband doing a weekly deep clean while you’re out of the house…swoon… (says a lot about the state of men these days, doesn’t it?!)

    1. HA! I know, he’s something else. I really lucked out with his overall tidiness; don’t know any other men like him. It’s interesting you say that, though — Katie Couric just started a segment on her Instagram account where she profiles “good men” (I think she phrases it more artfully, but that’s the gist), and it’s nice to see different role models out there than the ones we hear more frequently about on the news. xoxo

  8. Just a heads up about the Birks. I ordered and returned the same ones last summer. While I loved the look of the metallic, they ummm… tooted(? )when I walked. I can deal with uncomfortable shoes but not ones that sound like I’m making rude noises every few steps. I suggest trying them on in person rather than ordering online.

    1. HAHAHA! OMG. Sky! Thanks for the heads up! Will definitely order from somewhere with free returns 🙂 xoxo

  9. The Orolay coat! Haha. I’m still wanting it (in grey) but am going to NYC for a week in just a few days … I think I might wait until closer to when I’m back so it’s not sitting on my doorstep.

    Your cleaning tips are wonderful. I love the product recommendations in particular!

    I’ll chime in with another “yea” vote for the Birks. I have been wearing them on & off since 1995 (!) and while they’ve come & gone from fashion, I personally think they are pretty timeless. They do last a very long time as well! I have a new pair of white Arizona Birks that are on ice for this summer, and I wear a pair of the EVA ones around the house in warmer weather as well. I think the metallic ones would inject a cool vibe into your warm-weather wardrobe.

    1. OK, you’ve convinced me 🙂 I literally would have been pushed over by a feather. But do you find the issue with the “tooting” noise that Sky mentioned above?!?!? Or do you need to break them in for awhile??

      OROLAY COAT! DO ITTTT. You could have it Primed to NYC…it’s COLD here. And I’m sure it’s COLD in Boston, too…

    2. Haha! That’s so funny about the tooting issue — I haven’t noticed it with any of my Birks (and I have had probably 12 pairs over the years, yiiiikes) — BUT, I’ve never had metallic ones. Not sure if they’re different? I think your instinct to buy from a returnable retailer is a smart one, just in case.

      Ahhh, I didn’t even think about shipping it to New York! I’m staying at a hotel, though — is it #extra to Prime something there? Haha. I might just make it a mid-February Valentine’s treat for myself. It’s supposed to warm up next week, too — like low 50s! Woohoo!

    3. I kind of missed the second part of your question about whether or not I had to break them in. Most pairs I’ve had: no, I haven’t had a break-in period. However, I have a navy leather pair that’s a J.Crew collaboration — they are made of a much stiffer leather and gave me blisters at first. Now that I think about it, most of the other pairs I have/had are either suede, Birko-Flor (kind of like a synthetic, wipe-clean “leather” with a soft inside) or EVA, and none of those ever gave me problems with breaking in. The EVA ones are suuuper cheap in comparison & don’t hold up as well (obviously) but the major draw there is that they’re waterproof. Great for the pool/splash pad/etc. in the summer! xo

  10. Thank you so much for answering my questions! It almost makes me feel like I just texted a friend for a rec 🙂

    Re: Birks. If I’m thinking about buying something I’ll usually try to hold out a bit and see if I think about them (or how often) after. Sometimes, I think about the item frequently and that tells me to go ahead. Other times, I don’t think about it until I see it again and that tells me that while I do still like it, I must not need it or be in love with it. This doesn’t work all the time but it’s been a good rule of thumb for me.

    1. Hi hi! It IS like texting a friend. I feel the same way with all of your fantastic advice and input. Please keep it coming 🙂 That’s also a really good thought for when you’re on the fence about buying something or not. How long do you wait? A few weeks? A few days? I have a compulsion problem and the re-marketing is really getting to me…ha.

    2. I love that!

      It totally depends how long I wait. If I notice I’ve thought about the item several times in a short-ish amount of time then I will purchase as soon as it’s convenient. If I only think about it once then I probably won’t purchase. If I think about it weeks after I first saw it, I also probably won’t purchase. These sound like hard and fast rules but they’re not!

      For example, I found a pair of black leather sneakers that I deployed this rule over and have thought about them probably every other day. I WANT THEM! I’m just holding out for a sale price at this point 🙂

  11. Hi…
    LOVE your blog! SO many inspirations and good recommendations.

    I have the metallic birkenstocks that I got from Jcrew as an exclusive color. Absolutely love them. I got them in silver too.

    1. Hi Maria! Welcome! Thank you so much for reading along, and for the sweet compliments, too 🙂 Ooo you are TEMPTING me with those birks.

      xo

  12. I love reading about your thoughts on housekeeping. Beyond the practical side of it, I appreciate how well thought out your product recommendations are. I really like the Method wood floor cleaner, which has the same almond smell as the general wood cleaner. When we had hardwoods installed two years ago, the contractor recommended it as his favorite cleaner.

    Get the Birks. I think they will be handy as your pregnancy progresses and after you deliver. I hurt my back a few years ago, and was thankful to have a supportive, slip on sandal like my Birks. They also last a really long time.

    1. Kate! YAAAS! Pregnancy is the perfect excuse for the Birks. I’ll need something comfortable and slip-on for that final month of warm weather pregnancy 🙂 Thank you.

      And thanks for the sweet note! I do think a lot about these things and am glad that they can be of some use to someone else. I think I picked up this mentality from my husband and his mom, who are SO MINDFUL of every single thing they buy. They research and research and want to buy the very best thing if they’re going to buy anything at all, from the best salt to cook with to the best pillow to sleep on. Sort of a “measure twice, cut once” philosophy. I have to attribute it to them, but I’ve certainly cottoned to their frame of mind 🙂

      xo

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