Magpie Mail: Chic Caftans, Staying Emotionally Connected During a Pandemic, + Take Home Outfits for Babies.

Q: I’m inspired by the gorgeous caftan I creeped on today. Favorite swim cover ups?

A: [Ed. note: This was a submission by a friend who had sent me a stealthy picture she’d taken of a very chic beachgoer wearing a blue and white blockprint caftan.] A couple similar styles:

THIS EMERSON FRY

THIS SPLASHY J. CREW

THE NOW-ICONIC $30 AMAZON R VIVIMOS CAFTAN IN BLUE AND WHITE

A SHORTER VARIATION ON THE THEME AT A GREAT PRICE

I OWN THREE SZ BLOCKPRINTS KITTY CAFTANS (ALSO AVAIL IN A KURTA STYLE IF THAT’S MORE YOUR SPEED)

THIS IS NOT REALLY THE CAFTAN STYLE YOU WERE SEARCHING FOR, BUT IT IS SOOOO GOOD

Not so much cover-ups, but in a similar blue-and-white-caftan-style-dress vein:

+I bought this as a present to myself after giving birth to micro last year. Not perfect for the beach as the material is heavy and a maxi isn’t ideal for sand reasons, but I love to throw this on in the evenings at home.

+I am in love with the print on this Thierry Coulson dress.

+These Sue Sartor dresses are major #goals.

+I loveeee this delft print blue dress! The sleeves! The pattern! The length! And it’s on sale.

P.S. Chic swimwear for under $122.

P.P.S. If you’re in a shopping mood — all “Nordstrom Insiders” can access the Nordstrom Anniversary sale today. Here is what I am eyeing this year (I just had to update this post to remove items that had already sold out).

Q: What sandals would you wear to dinner? I’m looking for something flat, flattering, and neutral.

A: These beauties by Malone Souliers immediately came to mind. They are elegant and versatile. I also absolutely live in my Hermes Oran sandals, easily one of my best wardrobe investments in the last decade. I think I bought them (in the saddle brown color, which they call “gold”) five years ago and they have only improved with time. They are butter-soft, go with everything, and completely comfortable. There are a lot of similar styles out there for less; I like these in the white.

If you consider python a neutral, these are such an incredible score!

More great flat sandals here!

Q: What are some ideas for bringing home the baby girl outfits?

A: Congratulations!!! I personally felt most comfortable bringing my babies home in pima cotton footies. They were so itty bitty and tender and fragile, I only wanted them in the softest, coziest coveralls. I like the ones from Pixie Lily (you can have these monogrammed!) with their sweet hemstitching; Kissy Kissy; Little English; and Livly Baby. I actually brought Emory home in Kissy Kissy (they had a precious pink bunny print they’ve since retired) and Hill home in Livly (in a gray and white elephant print they’ve since retired) — I especially like both of those brands for the early weeks because they come in a true size NB. Most new babies are way too small for a size 0-3 months!

Mini was born in a Chicago March and it was freezing outside. We layered her in a Kissy Kissy footie and its coordinating knit hat (definitely buy the coordinating hat!), a knit pram jacket, and a fluffy blanket over the top.

Micro was born at the end of an NYC May, and I had bought him this velour bunny coverall because I couldn’t not buy it, but it was totally unnecessary as I think it was 85 the day we brought him home. I did manage to squeeze him into it at the end of summer and it was just the most precious.

Q: Any other beauty finds on your radar?

A: Right now, I’m testing (and really liking) HyperClear skin-clearing and brightening serum, but a few beauty finds I am lusting after…

WESTMAN ATELIER’S FOUNDATION STICK (HAVE HEARD SUCH GOOD THINGS)

CLARINS MASK (SO MANY OF YOU HAVE RAVED ABOUT THIS)

OLAY EYES ULTIMATE CREAM (A LOT OF LOVE FOR THIS DRUGSTORE EYE CREAM)

PANTENE RESCUE SHOTS (ANOTHER PRODUCT WITH AN INTENSE CULT FOLLOWING)

MORE ARTIS BRUSHES (I’M A NEW ADDICT)

KOSAS CONCEALER (GRACE ATWOOD RECOMMENDED THIS AND I TRUST HER ON COSMETICS)

D BRONZI DROPS

P.S. I reviewed a bunch of other beauty/skincare products with considerable cult followings here, here, and here.

Q: Any advice on carving out writing habits and creativity rituals?

A: I read this little book on the creative habits of celebrated artists many years ago and it made me realize how differently many of them have approached their crafts. You might find inspiration there, too, but the book makes clear that there are many modes of and channels for creativity. Personally, I find I’m at my most creative when I am reading widely–observing the craft of others, stewing in language, imagining other worlds and lives and experiences. When I do not dedicate time to reading, my writing suffers. I also try to write every single day, inspired in part by the dictum that practice makes perfect (well — not perfect, in the case of writing, but better). Early into writing this blog, I decided I would prioritize process over product. I would aim to write roundly, fluidly, consistently every single day rather than hem and haw over one well-edited piece. I think it has paid off. I’ve had the space to explore a lot of different subjects, hone my voice and style, and be playful–I can’t take myself too seriously when I’m trying to publish something every single day.

Finally, knowing the time of day that is most conducive to creativity has been helpful. I think I’m at my best writing early in the day, but that’s not practical in my life right now, so I’ve also had to learn to adapt. I find that since I can’t write at dawn, the second best thing is to write at 9 A.M., after my mind is cleared of the clutter of morning to-dos: beds are made, children are dressed and fed, and I have dressed myself in something that makes me feel good.

Q: If you could redo your wedding registry, what would you add or remove?

A: Not much, to be honest! I think we did a good job of prioritizing cookwear, dishes, and serving appliances — we cook and entertain a lot, so the investment our friends and families made into our kitchen has paid off manifold. We have put every single item on our registry to good use over the past decade. (But if you are not huge on cooking, I would probably be honest about that and diversify your registry!) Some specific thoughts:

+I’m so glad we registered for really high-quality cookwear — we love our All Clad stainless steel pots/pans, Nordicware baking sheets, Emile Henry dishes, and Goldtouch pans. (You can read more on why and a full list of our favorite kitchen gear here.) We’ve not had to replace any of these items in ten years!

+Steak knives were an unexpected boon. We love ours, from Laguiole, and find that we use them frequently (and not just for steak — great for any protein, really). They’re beautiful!

+Registering for a full 12 place settings in our wedding china and all of the serving dishes that went with it has proven very smart. We actually did not register for everyday dishes — just every single item (down to the coordinating salt and pepper shakers) that belonged to our Kate Spade china setting. My mother-in-law even bought us multiples of serving bowls and dishes, and I’m so glad she did, as they make for a cohesive tabletop when we entertain! Plus, our pattern has since been discontinued, so I’m glad we bought everything when it was available.

+Our china is machine-washable, which I think has led us to use it a lot more frequently than we might otherwise. We eat off of it probably once a week and certainly whenever guests are over. That said, I do sometimes day dream about a beautiful, whimsical hand-wash only set from Haviland, Pinto Paris, La Double J, or Laboratorio Paravicini.

+If you do register for everyday china (totally reasonable, by the way, if you don’t entertain or find formal dining stuffy/impractical for your life), can I suggest all white plates? They show food so beautifully and you will never get bored of them. We have donated nearly every printed plate we own because we always reach for the white ones. Juliska’s Berry and Thread is a classic and we eat off of Aerin for Williams-Sonoma scalloped plates 6 out of 7 nights of the week.

+The only thing I might have registered for more of? Good towels. I like Matouk Auberge, Yves Delorme Etoile, and Weezie.

Q: What can I do or not do to be a good mother-in-law?

A: What a sweet question. I adore my mother-in-law, so I am trying to think how I might describe her and capture her relationship with me. She has achieved a magically perfect balance between being supportive and giving me space to make my own decisions (and mistakes). I am sure it must take a lot of will to hold her own opinions to her chest — especially since Mr. Magpie is her only child — and to exude only support and encouragement. One specific example: she told me she did not want to come out to see our babies until after they were a month old. “I just remember my mother-in-law being there in the first few days after I’d given birth, and I was so exhausted, and it was not good,” she had said. I think that experience must have left her cautious about giving me room then and at so many other junctures in my married life.

I suppose, in summary, it’s all about setting boundaries and leading with love. She has always made me feel supported, even though I am sure I have made decisions that she did not agree with. Similarly, I have found that sometimes biting my tongue is the most generous thing I can do with family.

Q: How have you stayed emotionally connected with Mr. Magpie during the pandemic?

A: The same way we always stay connected: saying I love you multiple times a day and aligning our thoughts with one another about parenting, the pandemic, and even small things like what we’ll make for dinner tomorrow every single night. We always sit and talk after the children are down, often over dinner and a glass of wine. Sometimes we’re going over what we call “STPs” — “Shoop Talking Points” (i.e., agenda items that need answers, like whether I should sign up for ZipCar, what to buy for so-and-so’s birthday, what to bring to the socially distanced picnic on Saturday — the hangover of building a business together is that we are now exceptionally efficient and business-like about household admin, too) — but sometimes it’s just a free-form reflection on the day.

But truly, I am lucky. We have been through many tough times together, and our relationship has not only been the easiest part of those circumstances, but my saving grace. Mr. Magpie is easy to love and he always makes himself emotionally available to me.

Q: Gift ideas for daycare teachers as kids transition to the next room?

A: So sweet of you! I feel as though a lot of Magpie parents have suggested gift cards in the past (to popular coffee spots, Amazon, Sephora, a salon, or Target). If that feels too impersonal, maybe a personalized notepad wrapped in cellophane with a big red bow or a set of bookplates reading “from the library of Miss X’s Room”?

Q: Any ideas for asking girlfriends to be in your bridal party?

A: I invited my girlfriends over for dinner, cooked for them, and asked them on the spot–and then we all toasted together with a glass of champagne. If that’s not feasible thanks to coronavirus (sigh — is there anything this virus won’t touch?), I love the idea of sending a card in the mail. These are beautiful, I love the handwriting on these, and if you’re a fan of Bridesmaids

P.S. Bridal finds!

Q: What is your best advice for a new mom?

A: Trust yourself. That was the best advice I received prior to becoming a mother. The first few weeks especially will be overwhelming, and there will be so many opinions floating around. Though it was hard to accept that I should trust myself when I felt I knew next to nothing about child-rearing, breast-feeding, or caring for a newborn (everyone else seemed to know so much more than I did!), my friend’s words were like a talisman around my neck, something I could reach for when I felt particularly overwhelmed or found myself inclined to do something that for whatever reason seemed “wrong” according to everyone else’s standards.

A friend (and pediatric doctor) once told me: “The moms always know when something’s wrong before we do. They just have a sixth sense. I always listen to the moms.” Listen to yourself!

P.S. Also, never go anywhere without these mini trash bags.

P.P.S. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Q: Any family photo outfit ideas? Taking them in September but hoping to use them for holiday cards.

A: Love this! I would go with something traditional and focus the palette around a timelessly chic color like navy, pale blue, or mint green. My preference would be to include a little bit of one chosen color on everyone — whether it means your daughter is wearing a white collared dress with a big mint green bow, your son is wearing a mint green jon jon, and you have a floral dress with mint green in it. I don’t think it all needs to match 100% — just tie together nicely. I also don’t think you need to wear something holiday-esque even if you’ll be sending the photo out in a holiday card! I’ve received so many beautiful family portraits at the beach, wearing jeans and white shirts, etc, and I never give it a second thought. A few ideas I love that have great coordinating and/or matching options for children:

PALE BLUE FOR BABY GIRLS, OLDER GIRLS, AND BOYS — AND THIS IN THE BLUE FOR YOU

MINT GREEN — YOUR GIRLS COULD BE IN GORGEOUS FLORALS, YOUR BOYS IN COORDINATING GREEN, AND YOU COULD WEAR THIS OR A LITTLE WHITE DRESS

PALE BLUE GINGHAM FOR BOYS AND GIRLSWHITE ON YOU

FOR MORE OF A FALL VIBE, NAVY BLUE CORD FOR BOYS AND GIRLS; YOU COULD INTRODUCE PATTERN BY WEARING THIS OR THIS

If you want matching prints for children, look at Beaufort Bonnet, Rachel Riley, or Dondolo.

And this flattering Shoshanna in white or navy would probably look perfect with just about any setup, and a classic striped shirtdress is lovely (children could be in white or blue dresses).

P.S. More Magpie Mail and check out this incredible muralist! I love her fanciful colors and the scale of her work.

12 Comments

  1. Thank you for answering my Q regarding creativity πŸ™‚ Prioritizing process over product is such a timely response for me right now, as I’m re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” (have you read it?) and she would totally agree with you. She is a big fan of daily writing (and free-writing with pen and paper) and not taking things to seriously. A good reminder for me as I’ve been editing a single essay for weeks (ha!). I appreciate your insight!

  2. Have been eyeing all things Kosas and recently bought that Clarins mask – cannot wait to try! My latest beauty obsession is the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless foundation applied with the Artis Oval 6 brush. Holy moly – it is beyond! If you mix in a little of the Flawless Filter highlighter, it’s even better.

    And the SZ Blockprints are the absolute best. Constantly reaching for them! Xo

  3. the Kosas concealer is my best beauty buy of 2020!! I tried a slew of popular concealers after my old favorite was discontinued last year and Kosas won by a mile. I love that it looks natural enough to wear alone with dab of blush (my quarantine routine) but also plays well with a full face of ‘going out’ make up. I just read Grace’s review and she may have convinced me to try the face oil too…

  4. Another suggestion for day care teachers (or any teachers – I would love this for me!): Yeti tumblers with their name monogrammed on them. As a Mainer I did it through Beans, but I think you could get it through other retailers.

    1. Oh I love this! Practical and the kind of thing you wouldn’t necessarily buy yourself. Love! xx

  5. I love these posts and always find nuggets of wisdom and/or inspiration within! Thank you. πŸ™‚

    I have that exact SZ Blockprints kurta you posted and LOVE IT for the beach! I do find that cut a bit easier/more beachy than the classic Kitty caftan (which I tend to wear more in the city?! Maybe it’s just me) Anyway, love love love SZ Blockprints!

    I’m intrigued by that Kosas concealer and am adding it to my wishlist … I adore their lipsticks (Darkroom is my favorite for a cooler-weather drama moment)

    I totally agree with you on the timelessness/versatility of white everyday china! I especially love china with a generous lip, e.g. Iittala’s Teema line.

    Also, that mother-in-law question (and answer) tugged at my heartstrings! How endearing. My mom and I are very close and she has confided in me that she approaches mother-in-law-hood in a very mindful, considered way. I think that’s so sweet and generous to be that way! Your advice is spot-on, I think.

    xx

    1. OO that red lip color!!! Major! I want to wear that in the fall with an LBD…and I’d not heard of Iitala! Beautiful, simple, and yet dramatic. Love.

      xx

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