Q: What chocolate chip cookie recipe do you use?
A: The OG: the recipe on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse chocolate bag. However, I use the best ingredients I can find, like good butter (Plugra and Kerrygold are widely available and excellent) and Nielsen-Massey vanilla. They make a huge difference.
Q: Looking for a baby girl bonnet that isn’t $75. Suggestions?
A: Etsy to the rescue! These are a dead ringer for the Beaufort Bonnet Company ones I assume you’re referencing, and you can add a monogram. If you want something a little less frou-frou, these are precious and this floral is sweet (mini owned this exact style but in a different colorway — a solid chambray).
Q: First birthday gift ideas?
A: This roundup of gifts for babies (oriented around Christmas) is a perfect jumping-off point. I love to give a sweet pull-along that the baby can grow into as they learn to walk for first birthdays — this Brio is a classic, especially accompanied by this classic book (in hardcover). But I have to be honest and say that my favorite first birthday gifts Emory received were chic clothes! The babies are still so young and are generally more excited about the wrapping paper anyway…! A few lovely pieces:
Q: What are you making for Easter dinner? It will be just the three of us for the first time.
A: We had planned to have lamb but cannot find it from any of our butchers right now. We are going to have to wing it and make the occasion special by getting dressed up, setting the table, and drinking the nicest wine we have (luckily, alcohol delivery is still fairly easy to come by). We have a shipment of fish and meat coming on Saturday — my guess is that we will have something decidedly non-Easter-like for the occasion from this delivery.
If ingredients are more plentiful in your parts, here is a menu from a past Easter that we loved.
Q: Feelings and advice when you just found you are pregnant!
A: Wow! Congratulations! Will be thinking of you — I hope you can breathe easy in the optimistic view that the current chaos will be well behind us by the time you are delivering your little one.
Re: how I felt. I want to first underscore that you are allowed to feel however you are feeling. Pregnancy and motherhood are such complicated nests of emotions and hormones and expectations and realities. Just know you don’t need to feel like anyone else does — you are entitled to feel exactly the way you feel, and how you feel is exactly right.
For me, with both Emory and Hill’s pregnancies, I was in a kind of haze-y daze for the first few weeks. I felt a lightening bolt in my stomach every time I’d think about the fact that I was pregnant — and that was often. I was anxious during every stage of pregnancy to get to the next one. Early on, I just wanted to have the bump! Middle way through, I just wanted to be closer to the end! At the end, I just wanted to have the baby! I was always hyper nervous about the health and wellbeing of both my baby and myself, and so I often agonized over the faintest of twinges.
Everyone will tell you “just relax, rest, and enjoy this time with your husband” and though this is well-intentioned, it is 100% unpracticeable (or it was for me). I was so anxious and eager to get to the finish line through both pregnancies and winced every time someone would urge me to “just relax” or “enjoy sleep while you have it!” — grr! Instead, I downloaded an app that would tell me the size / developmental milestones of the baby each week and found that interesting and exciting — plus, I enjoyed the ritual of reading the new week’s details at the “turn” of each week. I spent a lot of sleepless nights researching baby gear (my full registry here, plus a few things I discovered with my second that I wish I’d had for my first) and decorating the nursery. And I also made a list of things I needed to do to get ready for the baby that my husband and I shared — everything from setting her up with insurance to planning birth announcements. The list was helpful for an anticipator like myself, and it meant I nearly always had something to “work on” when I’d find myself spiraling with nerves. I also took up long, tedious things like doing puzzles, taking baths, and watching entire seasons of shows to help pass the time — ha!
To summarize, I was excited and nervous. I was not one of those women who feels at her best while pregnant.
My advice? (Take it or leave it!) Listen to your body, identify your coping mechanisms (this includes identifying which people can you really lean on and who need to tune out — I had a few friends who would make me incredibly anxious about giving birth and I had to take a polite step back from them), and trust that you are strong and you can do this. I always took comfort in thinking of how many other millions of women were doing and had done what I was doing, and I also told myself (with regards to delivering the baby): “Jen, you can do anything for 24 hours.”
And treat yourself! A few of my favorite pregnancy things here. In particular, I cannot encourage you to buy a set of Cosabella maternity pajamas more. Wearing them was my favorite part of the day, and I owned a few pairs I wore through the second and third trimesters and then for at least six weeks postpartum (great for nursing).
Q: What are your favorite candles for home?
A: My absolute favorites:
DIPTYQUE FEU DE BOIS (FOR AUTUMN / WINTER)
Q: What are some gift ideas for a new baby boy — he lives in New York.
A: Welcome, baby boy! What a time to be born in New York…have been thinking a lot about all the new moms (and veteran moms) giving birth right now. You are warriors. I wrote a post on gifts for new moms that includes a bunch of my favorite gifts for new babies, too. But here’s a perfect little bundle:
KISSY KISSY PAJAMAS (THE BEST)
A LOVE TO DREAM SWADDLE (WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT THESE EARLIER)
For something splurge-y, a De Buci baby bear personalized with baby’s name. I had one of these made for Hill and know I will treasure it forever.
Q: I’ve been looking for a black midi shirtdress with a full skirt and at least 3/4 sleeves. Any thoughts?
A: I think this might fit the bill perfectly. My other thought was DVF, doyenne of the shirtdress. She has a lovely one in crepe de chine but it’s pricey. Super elegant! If you can bear to go at knee/just above, this is perfect and well-priced.
Q: How has your everyday routine changed since COVID-19? Would love another day in the life post!
A: Hi! You are sweet. Life is definitely different from the last time I shared a day-in-the-life post (though you could already see COVID cropping up even in early February!)
6:17 a.m. Thudding feet, then a door slams closed. Then our door swings open. More thudding feet. Breathing in my face. “Mama? I want bweck-fast.” Mr. Magpie and I have been alternating mornings with the children. Under normal circumstances, I get up most mornings with the children so he can sleep and get his day started — he has to be out the door by 8 and works long hours in the office. But right now we’re trading off and it’s honestly been the most delicious form of self-care now that our time to ourselves is whittled down to the two or three hours between their bedtime and ours. Two hours of alone time per day does not a satisfied introvert make.
6:19 a.m. I escort mini back to her room, where we play for a little bit. I read an article somewhere recently about “teaching your children to play by themselves.” We’ve been struggling with this a bit with mini — in part, I think, a reaction to all the changes going on in her daily life. She’s been a bit clingier than usual. But one suggestion from the article was that you set your timer for twenty minutes, put your phone away, sit down on the floor, and say: “I am yours for 20 minutes, and then I need to [go make breakfast]. What do you want to do?” Today, it’s “playing chef” with play food and her matching Disney game.
6:37 a.m. I hear micro over the monitor. It’s always a crap chute in terms of which child will wake us up first. Today, micro’s slept in. Mini loves to help “get baby brother up” by opening his door, turning off his sound machine, and switching on the light. I make him a bottle and mini a cup of milk, change his diaper, and get them situated. Micro will usually take his bottle while laying in his crib and then play with toys if mini is in his nursery with him, which is conveniently off the kitchen.
6:39 a.m. I make breakfast — this morning, muffins mini and I made a few days ago, some mandarin oranges, and Noosa yogurt — and empty the dishwasher. I used to listen to the news while doing this, but I find I can’t bear it these days and instead rely on CNN news alerts on my phone / whatever Mr. Magpie shares with me over the course of the day. I pop in to check on the children every few minutes, distributing new toys to micro and somehow redirecting mini’s incessant “but momma play with me” pleas.
6:55 a.m. I carry a tray of breakfast dishes and mini’s silicon placemat into the living room and set out mini’s breakfast. We let her watch one episode while she has breakfast — right now, she’s deep into vintage Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I get her situated and then put micro in his “office.” I know he will not last long in the Office. He is so wildly mobile these days, and I cherish this period when he will still happily stay in there for stretches of 10 or 15 minutes. I use this time to make mini’s bed and tidy her room, check my email, and participate in the daily digital prayer circle my mom, sister, and I have started.
7:11 a.m. Micro has had it with The Office. I transfer him to his Ingenuity seat and feed him breakfast.
7:22 a.m. Mr. Magpie emerges from the bedroom. We chat; he eats breakfast; he makes coffee.
7:30 a.m. I clear the dishes, wipe down the table and booster seat, put away mini’s little bench, etc. We move to mini’s room for some free play.
8:00 a.m. Mr. Magpie taps in after making coffee and walking the dog so I can get myself dressed and brushed. Today, I’m wearing lightwash J. Crew denim and a white tee with this chunky cardigan (currently eyeing this distressed pearl trim cardigan, too).
8:25 a.m. I quickly run to micro’s nursery to change him for the day — a Kissy Kissy onesie and Rylee + Cru overalls. It is so, so hard to get him dressed at this age. I am wrangling him for a solid seven minutes and he’s screaming.
8:32 a.m. I sprint back to mini’s bedroom to set up the laptop so she can participate in the morning session for her school. Micro seems happy playing (precariously) with mini’s broom set, and I keep one eye on him as he nearly impales himself multiple times while singing the morning song to engage mini in the computer session.
9 a.m. After multiple unceremonious let’s-slam-the-laptop-closed incidents, the session is done and I have set up two activities in two different trays: one is filled with her necklace kit and the other is a few printed dot activities to complete with her dot markers. I check Instacart to see if there are any delivery windows. Nope.
9:05 a.m. I log in for a lesson from mini’s teacher — she’s been hosting caregiver sessions to teach us how to instruct our children in different Montessori-approved activities. Today’s is about helping them learn shapes and develop “lightness of touch” by tracing the shapes. I have micro back in The Office and then on my lap for most of this, while mini floats in and out of screen showing her handiwork to her teacher.
9:20 a.m. “I want a snack!” “Mama, can you do this for me!” “Mama, I need to use the toilet!” “Mama, play with me!” You get the drift…it’s a long session of free play, small activities, thuds, raisins, etc.
10 a.m. I put Hill down for his morning nap. Again check Instacart. Nada.
10:05 a.m. Time for mini’s main activity of the day. Today, we complete the activity her teacher shared with us by printing out shapes, cutting them, tracing them onto cardboard, and tracing those shapes onto paper. I have to admit I did not do a good job scaffolding this activity, as she seems fairly bored. She does enjoy scribbling all over all the pages and pieces of cardboard. I shift tacks and set her up with washable paint and paper in her bathroom, and she happily paints for a long while. (A roundup of more activities for toddlers here.)
11:20 a.m. Micro is up. We transfer playtime to his nursery. I check Instacart — nope, still no delivery windows.
11:40 a.m. I make lunch — we’ve been doing a lot of PB&J or cinnamon raisin bread with cream cheese on it. I serve it with berries and snap peas for the children and then reheat yesterday’s Peruvian chicken delivery with rice and beans for myself.
12:02 p.m. Mr. Magpie breaks to eat lunch with us and I relish the companionship. We all sit around the dining room table, breaking in and out of conversation and sing-song, and sporadically texting with two of my sisters.
12:34 p.m. Lunch abruptly ends with micro shrieking to be let out from his high chair, mini mashing raspberry into the carpet, and Mr. Magpie running off for a call. I transfer micro into his crib to play with some spatulas (the world’s best baby toy), set mini up with a sticker book, and clean the kitchen, mentally mapping out dinner — tonight, it’s going to be fish sticks, rice, and peas for the children. Mr. Magpie is thawing some corned beef he made himself for St. Pats for us — it’s been frozen in the most delicious broth with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, so it’s sort a delightfully easy one-pot dinner for us with no effort thanks to his earlier elbow grease.
12:45 p.m. Normally, we return to mini’s room to play, but today I suggest baking chocolate chip cookies. Mini’s all in before the word “chocolate” can even leave my lips. I install micro in the booster seat on the floor of the kitchen and off we go.
1 p.m. Mini has licked the flour keeper’s lid, dragged her fingers through raw egg, rubbed dough in her hair, and eaten about forty chocolate chips. I am smiling awkwardly to mask my distaste for the entire scenario. I have got to learn to let go. Some days I am more relaxed than others…
1:05 p.m. It’s a multiple-activity kind of day. Thankfully, I’d frozen her sea animals (description of activity here) into an ice cube the night before, so I set her up with this on the kitchen floor. She’s now done this activity at least three times in the past month, but has not shown any signs of boredom with it. She’s become more dextrous with the dropper and more patient with the thawing of the cube, and this brings me a small measure of pride. Today, she makes my heart swell when I ask her: “And now why are you adding salt to the ice cube?” and she says: “Salt makes ice into water.” Science! Facts! Yes!
1:15 p.m. Micro has been fussing to get out of his seat for awhile as I’ve rapidly cleaned the kitchen and placed the second batch of cookies in the oven. I retrieve him and let him crawl freely for a spell, walking behind him to prevent stray objects from entering his mouth.
1:30 p.m. Mr. Magpie taps in and I retreat to the bedroom to take a deep, cleansing breath before diving into writing.
4:20 p.m. I emerge to help with the most trying portion of the day. Micro is now up from his second nap, and we have time to kill until dinner and bedtime. Mini has about an hour of iPad time from around 3-4 or sometimes 4:30 and she is not pleased when you pry it out of her hands. I distract her with her Frozen colorforms. The next hour is a blur of moving parts, fetching snacks, playing on the floor.
5:00 p.m. Happy hour has arrived. Mr. Magpie makes himself an artisan cocktail and I pour myself a glass of wine. I put out some cheez-its in a bowl, which mini promptly avails herself of. I start the rice cooker, put the fish sticks in the oven, and start a pot of water for the peas.
5:25 p.m. Both children are seated at the table, eating/complaining/screaming/laughing. Mini is very into singing “Down by the bay” these days and will laugh hysterically coming up with her own variations: “Have you ever seen a goose eating a pumpkin?” Etc. We play this with her for a long while, too, and then FaceTime two aunts.
6:03 p.m. We are only doing baths every other night (unless needed) during COVID19 because they aren’t really going outside or getting into much trouble anyway. It’s one less task to worry about, too. So tonight we all go into mini’s bedroom to play after dinner.
6:41 p.m. I’ve made it. I put micro down to sleep while Landon handles mini. She has always been very good about bedtime, once we’re over the hurdle of convincing her to get into her pajamas. Still, now that she’s in a big girl bed, she routinely gets out of bed two times after she’s been put down — once to ask for “one more hug” and once to go to the bathroom. It’s fine now that we’ve all accepted this is the process. After that second visit, she’s lights out.
7:00 p.m. I cheer on the essential workers out my window, along with the rest of Manhattan. This makes me teary-eyed nearly every night.
7:02 p.m. I call my mom. I used to call her during the day but things are usually too busy now.
7:15 p.m. Mr. Magpie returns from walking the dog. He’s been doing 100% of dog walks lately. I jump in the shower while he finishes heating/prepping dinner.
7:45 p.m. I pour another glass of wine and sit down to dinner. Tonight, we decided to watch the new Jumanji movie, in search of some levity. It’s horrible. I spend a lot of the movie texting two girlfriends and my sisters.
9:15 p.m. I clear the dishes and clean the kitchen, then make myself a cup of peppermint tea before retreating to my bedroom. I read and scroll through my phone for about thirty minutes before washing my face and going to bed.
P.S. More Magpie Mail.
P.P.S. Let me know about YOU!