Hash Browns + Dreams.

The title of this post pays homage to — hm, what shall we call it?  I’ll charitably settle on the term “establishment” — so, an establishment named “Cocktails and Dreams” that my girlfriends and I visited on spring break in the Dominican Republic circa 2004, where we drank overly-sugary bahama mamas and mingled with other preppy college students from other Southern schools, all of us attired in some garish combination of madras, seersucker, denim, frayed baseball hats, and platform flip flops.  There was a large outdoor sand bar leading right out into the water, and I remember, as I sipped my fruity cocktail and tucked my straw Lilly Pulitzer bag under my arm and gossiped with my three dearest friends, thinking — “this is the life.”  No papers or deadlines loomed over my head; I had a loving boyfriend back home and didn’t need to participate in the aimless mimography of club dancing with fratty-looking boys in the hopes of finding one who *might* be worth pursuing; my posse was present.  It was warm and I was tan and all of life lay just ahead of me.  I was a Fitzgeraldian heroine, the future all greenswards and orgiastic green lights and the like.  The biggest problem on my horizon was telling my parents I’d blown through all of the spending money they’d given me for the trip within the first few hours of arriving in the D.R., as we’d been swindled into buying some sort of gimmicky “vacation package” at the hotel that ensured — with a few neon wristbands — we’d be able to attend all of the organized boat cruises and parties they’d arranged for the college set.  “But that’s all the money I brought,” I’d whined to my friend A. as she expressionlessly reached into her Coach wallet and removed a wad of crisp twenties.  “We have to,” shrugged my friend B., who had probably — wisely — budgeted for such college vacation bamboozlings.  I looked helplessly at my friend L., who tended to be the more practical minded of the group (sorry ladies; I know you’re reading this), but she’d already deposited a thin stack of cash on the table.  “It’s vacation,” she explained.

But even the wanton misuse of my modest means at the time couldn’t dampen my spirits: I was as footloose and fancy-free as I’ll ever be in this lifetime.  Perhaps that sounds bleak, but I don’t mean it as such: with age comes responsibility, but responsibility can be beautiful, too.  (Mini is currently in a “stranger danger” zone and she tends to reach for Mr. Magpie or myself when we are in a social setting.  I don’t mind a bit: it’s nice to be needed.)   But, there I was, on a sand bar in the tropics, as wide-eyed and unbridledly optimistic about the future as a girl could be, all ambition and opportunity.

Nearly fifteen years later (holy crap), I am sitting here with a pile of presents to wrap for my daughter.  My daughter!  I have a daughter!  I actually gave birth to a baby!  WHAT!  Mr. Magpie and I have been discussing logistics for our trip home to D.C. for the holiday — what time we’ll leave, where we’ll go first, how to handle Tilly.  And I had to interject — HAD TO — that we’ll need to factor in time to pull over and buy some McDonald’s hash browns.

Yes — you read that right.  Not a blogger-approved acai bowl or a chaste green juice or whatever Gwyneth’s latest food kick is (beauty dust apparently?) — I’m talking about those greasy, crispy spuds that likely have only 1% actual potato in them.

They give me heartburn.

Their grease seeps through the wrapper and coats your entire hand in a disgusting gloss that lingers for the better part of the day despite multiple scrubs at the sink.

And they’re…kinda delicious.

And…I must have them on this drive home.

Let me explain:

Did you ever sit behind a young family in Church on Christmas Eve and daydream about the day you might be married with your own children?

I did.

My sisters did.

We’d observe, wide-eyed and fancy-filled, and then collude afterwards, sharing shards of intimate dreams we’d had about the number of children we’d bear and the disposition of our future husbands and what we’d be doing in our 20s in general and what we might wear and who we might be.  (At the time, “our 20s” seemed like the peak of adulthood.  Now, “my 20s” feels like an extension of my childhood.)  I’d lay down to sleep at night and savor the vision of my life in my 20s: I’d have a devastatingly handsome husband (this came true, somehow) and a well-dressed brood of children with names like Hunter and Brooke.  (This was the 90s.  Incidentally, I still like both names.)  The dream would expand to include a beautiful white home with black shutters and a green lawn — in Bethesda, MD.  It was always Bethesda.  Why Bethesda?  I don’t know, as I grew up in D.C. proper, and most of my friends lived further out, in Falls Church or Potomac — and I would imagine myself scurrying around a beautifully-appointed house that looked an awful lot like my parents’, preparing my children for a drive up north for the holiday.  I imagined piling the adorable kids into an SUV at the crack of dawn, and handing out orange juice and McDonald’s hash browns as we’d pull out of the driveway.  The fact that it was always McDonald’s hash browns in my reverie was oddly specific — maybe it was because my parents rarely let us have fast food, or maybe I’d been conned over by some clever marketing, or maybe it just sounded delicious to me at some point.  But for decades, now, I’ve imagined a trip home for the holidays accompanied by greasy hash browns, and now, I’m here.  I’ve made it. I’ll have achieved a lifelong ambition.  A small one, admittedly, but it represents a lot more: the achievement of family.

Cocktails, hash browns, and dreams, my friends.

And with that, I wish you the happiest holiday if you’re celebrating Christmas, and if you’re not, a damn good day anyway.

And a few finds for you, too:

+I recently had a makeup session at Sephora — I hadn’t realized they’re complimentary if you’re VIB Rouge?! — and the makeup artist used Dior’s Airflash Spray FoundationI just shared all of my tried-and-true beauty products, including the only foundation I’ve ever found and liked, but the Dior stuff was AMAZING.  It looked so natural on.  My one gripe with it is that I hate the applicator — why would you make it a spray?  What a mess!  My artist actually just applied it to a brush and then painted it on, which then feels wasteful.  UGH.  Anyway, I’m contemplating buying a tube because I was so impressed with the results, but will keep you posted on whether it’s as good with time.

+I’ve always used a Peugeot pepper mill, but check out the reviews on this badguy!!!  I may need to retire Messieur Peugeot in favor of the new guy!

+These make me want to go out dancing.

+Update: I gifted my bestie this silk pillowcase for her birthday, as I’d read incredible things about what it does for your hair.  She was thrilled — I’m now permanently adding it to the list of gifts I’d actually give people.  The packaging was super cute, too!

+I’ve heard some rave reviews of this stuff for lips.  I remain staunchly loyal to a combination of Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream and Fresh Sugar Rose Lip Treatment, but…if my dance card weren’t full, I’d be intrigued.  (Plus, love the packaging.)

+Walks the line between sexy and cute very well.

+A fabulous evening dress on ridiculous sale.

+The bows on these!  TOO CUTE.


+Gucci, full-stop.  The item at the top of my lust list now…

P.S.  My current daydream.


  1. This is a great article. I dreamed of getting married and having kids but it didn’t happen for me. Now the McDonald hash browns I do like now and then but I agree the grease is disgusting. I’m still waiting for my cocktails by the ocean. Maybe someday. 🙂

  2. This is the first year since I left for college where I’m not traveling for the holidays! (Instead, my husband’s family is coming to us.) I am a diehard McDonald’s hash brown fan (along with their egg McMuffins) – nothing else will do for a road trip of any length! Drives my husband nuts because I won’t be satisfied with a fast food breakfast from anywhere else, and sometimes it seems that McDonald’s is always on the other side of the road..

    Hope your drive goes well!

    1. Hope you had a super cozy holiday at home! Nice not to have to travel, isn’t it? We stayed put for Thanksgiving and it was lovely. The hash browns were a delight — easily the peak of the looong, trafficked trip home!

  3. Those hash browns! They bring me back to my childhood and Christmas trips to NYC! Every year in early December, my church arranged a bus trip to New York that would leave the church parking lot at some ungodly hour. The pit stop at McDonalds was always timed shortly after Home Alone had finished playing on the VCR and those hash browns (and OJ) were heavenly! I’d always manage to sneak an extra one back on the bus to enjoy as we finished up the trip.

    1. HAHA! Love the idea of finagling an extra hash brown onto the bus! So funny that hash browns are such a lovely shared memory from so many people’s childhoods!

  4. I had the same gripe with that Dior foundation – it looks amazing on, but I found myself going through the (not cheap!) bottles too quickly because of the spray feature. I stopped buying it – it was just too wasteful!

  5. Honorable mention to sitting at one of the terrible “all you can drink” bar outings where we strategically gather twenty tiny cups of…essentially Boone’s farm, and had the envy of 200 college kids as we whipped out a deck of cards to play Purple Haze.

  6. That picture! Now I’m getting a hash brown on my way to work! I have to agree they do evoke a certain nostalgia, McDonalds was a road trip treat in our family. But man they make the body feel a certain way…woof.

    1. Haha! That’s a good way of putting it — “make the body feel a certain way.” But they’re a delight…

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