Musings + Essays

Magpie Mail: Cocktail Shakers, Homemade Onion Dip, + Family Traditions.

By: Jen Shoop

Q: I’m looking for a less-expensive evening gown (under $250) that doesn’t look like a bridesmaid’s dress. I’m also petite (5’2) and can’t wear strapless. Any recs?

A: Hi! Here are a few gorgeous options:










Q: What are those jeans you’re always saying you love?

A: J. Brand Photoready denim! The material is absolutely magical — the right amount of give and hold.

Q: I’m hoping you can help me in my quest for the perfect green sweater. I saw “slytherin green” (as Eva Chen put it) all over fashion week, but can’t seem to find a fall/winter sweater in this color. Do you have any recs?

A: Love this! I’ve been tracking that color, too. This sweater in the “juniper green” looks close to the mark, and I love its open weave. Also love this one from Anine Bing, this embellished Le Lion, and this simple ribbed knit ($60). All of them feel like they are in the slytherin green family.

Q: I could swear you just recommended a cocktail shaper that will open easily when cold but when I did I search, it found nothing!  Am I dreaming?

A: Ha!  I did not recommend one specifically but this is the one Mr. Magpie has and loves, and I believe he specifically selected it because it’s easier to break the seal on it. While on the topic of cocktails, this jigger is absolutely incredible. You can see how much you are pouring from a bird’s eye view, without crouching down. Helpful when you are mixing lots of little amounts of different ingredients.

Q: What are some family traditions you want to cultivate for your children?

A: I love this question! The first thing that sprang to mind was going to Church every Sunday and making the Catholic faith a central part of their lives. That’s vague, but in practical terms, it means that we say prayers daily, I try to talk about the principal narratives of the Bible as often as I organically can, and I put out the Advent calendar, nativity set, and Christmas books (mini has always loved this one) in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The other is eating dinner at the dining room table every night. This is something to which we aspire but have not yet been able to logistically accomplish between Mr. Magpie’s work schedule (he gets home between 6-6:30) and mini’s needs (she is ravenously hungry for dinner by 5 and then we need time for a bath before bedtime at 6:30). Mr. Magpie and I both grew up in families that celebrated the daily ritual of dining together and loved that experience. That’s a goal for us.

A lot of our other family traditions center around the holidays, religious or otherwise: for Halloween, we decorate the living room with bats on the windows/walls, balloons, and a little basket of treats, and I make her pumpkin pancakes. I started this year making my beloved pumpkin cookies with her at my side a few weeks prior to Halloween. I’m planning to have her bake Christmas cookies with me this year now that I see how excited and eager she is to help — and also, how capable she is of accomplishing minor sous-chef tasks. I am hoping that we will take her to pick our tree from a tree stand and then include her in hanging ornaments on the tree — something Mr. Magpie always do with homemade eggnog. Which reminds me that I am very excited about incorporating the children into some of our own traditions as a couple as they grow up. For example, every year, we watch “A Christmas Story” and open presents just the two of us after an extravagant dinner at home (recent menus have included duck a l’orange and lobster with drawn butter). And on Thanksgiving Day, we watch the parade while drinking coffee and eating those kind of horrible Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (I swear every year I’m going to make them from scratch but then I buy these because I am preoccupied with prepping everything else for the big dinner). It will be fun to fold them into these rituals.

None of these are groundbreaking or mindblowing but they are the fabric of family traditions.

Q: Inclement weather ideas for toddlers while stuck indoors?

A: In Manhattan, we love the children’s museum and the Natural History Museum. I have also taken mini to the local bookstore to pick out a book (and spend some time reading on premises). More generally, I try to keep a stash of art activities on hand — I don’t usually keep paint or markers readily accessible for mini, so I will pull out our large Gathre mat and let her paint or color with markers in her underwear — ha! We’ve also been doing things like stringing pasta onto kitchen twine to make necklaces (or painting the pasta!) or playing with play-dough (a new obsession of hers — I keep a stash of these on hand and let her pick a new color when I need a distraction) or some kinetic sand a friend gave her. Baking is also a fun new favorite pastime of ours.

Finally, I have been stealthily filching and stowing toys away for a literal rainy day. They seem like new to her if she hasn’t played with them in awhile! I’ve heard other moms actually wrap old toys or keep them in a special bin/box that is fun to open.

Q: What are your thoughts on pregnancy announcements? Social media? Paper in mail?

A: I say do whatever makes you happiest and most comfortable. Most of my friends have announced in cute ways via social media. I was nervous during the first halves of both pregnancies, so I did not make a formal announcement on social media/paper.

Q: Any new stationery/holiday card favorites?

A: Oh man do I love paper. I shared some of my favorite stationery sources here, but specific to holidays, I love (and have used in the past) Carrie and Seash, Sweetly Said Press, and Dixie Design.

Separately, I am eyeing these gorgeous monogrammed notepads (thanks to Mackenzie for the rec!) and how cute would these be for a teacher gift?

Q: Decorating for the holidays! Tips? Sources? Thinking primarily wreath and mantle.

A: I will do a holiday decor post soon (!), but this year I am specifically drawn to creating a little “village” as mantel decor or centerpiece decor. I love the zinc houses here or the ceramic ones here. So adorable! I also love the look of a live garland on a mantel or wrapped around a banister, preferably punctuated with oversized velvet bows in ivory. I always love the look of a bay leaf or boxwood wreath on a front door, too. And we hang our personalized quilted velvet stockings for weeks prior to Christmas! We hang them off of bronze reindeer hooks like these and these.

Finally, if you do a live tree, I cannot urge you strongly enough to buy one of these tree genie stands. Those traditional plastic ones with the screws you turn to secure the tree are such a joke and nearly impossible to use. The tree genie makes the process so easy and the tree so much more stable!

And if your home decor style veers towards the coastal — how chic is this tree collar?

More Christmas finds here.

Q: What recipe did you use for the homemade onion dip you mentioned on Instastories?

A: This Ina Garten recipe! Easy and so delicious. My only tip is to leave the cream cheese out basically all day so it softens to room temperature. Otherwise the texture is off! I was having girlfriends over for a wine night, so I served this dip with ruffles potato chips (can’t improve on a classic) and crudite; shrimp cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce; and brie-and-fig grilled cheese sandwiches cut into small triangles. More entertaining ideas here!

P.S. More mail here and here.

P.P.S. Pretty sure I need these matching socks for mini and me.

P.P.P.S. I wish these balloon jammies were available in mini’s size — the perfect birthday jams for a little one! Meanwhile, swooning over these mules for myself.

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6 thoughts on “Magpie Mail: Cocktail Shakers, Homemade Onion Dip, + Family Traditions.

  1. So many good tips here! I have been sleeping on that Krinner stand for YEARS (you definitely introduced me to the idea) and this will be the year I take the plunge. 🙂

    Also, how much do I want a Le Lion sweater?! Sooo gorgeous. xx

  2. Random unsolicited tip – you must try the Immaculate cinnamon rolls. I have found them at Whole Foods and they are in a can like Pillsbury, but they are SO much better. Also, that Ina onion dip is one of my faves! Such a great post! Xo

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