Musings + Essays

Magpie Mail: My Fall Bucket List, Baby Halloween Costume Ideas + Marriage Best Practices.

By: Jen Shoop

Q: What is on your bucket list for this fall?

A: My main goal this fall is getting mini back into the swing of school and normalizing all of the COVID-related changes. I know that sounds so ridiculous, but right now, I’m feeling desperate to settle into a good rhythm. We’re still battling a lot of tearful pick-ups and drop-offs around here, and the occasional resistance to wearing mask/shield. I want to be through the transition and into the pattern. I’m sure a lot of moms can relate to this right now.

On the “fun” side of things, we have already purchased timed tickets to go apple picking at Fishkill Farms, and we are also planning to visit Storm King Art Center (an outdoor art gallery) if we can swing getting tickets. (All of these venues have sought-after timed tickets!) We have also been in an amazing and extravagant routine of having my brother-in-law and sister over for dinner every other Saturday, and we continue to up the ante on cuisine. Sometimes we cook in and sometimes they bring us carry-out from New York landmarks like Carbone and Prince Street Pizza. Hoping we continue that and can also swing a visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which is currently offering amazing (socially-distant) picnics on its property.

Q:  I am intrigued by the Artis makeup brushes. Which one do you think is best for my face for foundation and which one for concealer? 

A: I’m in love with my Artis brush. I own the mirror oval six. I think it’s best suited for concealer, but I also use it for foundation/tinted moisturizer. I will likely soon upgrade to a slightly bigger size for the latter purpose, but — honestly? The oval six gives me good control over application so I don’t mind its small size. I strongly recommend starting with the six, which can be used for both concealer and foundation, and then, if you want to expand your collection, add the seven as a dedicated foundation brush. I actually bought my brush from Walmart because it is a good deal less expensive there, but Artis reached out to let me know that Walmart is not an authorized retailer of their products, so they couldn’t be sure of its authenticity. In all honesty, if the Walmart brush I bought is a dupe, I can’t tell because it is amazing regardless. But just a buyer beware. Probably safer to buy elsewhere.

Q: Outfit recs for in-home newborn/family photo shoot in December?

A: Ooh! Love this as you can go so many different directions since you are indoors. I would probably pick a dress I really love and build the shoot around that. If I were having a girl, maybe I’d buy this dress for myself and have my little one in this beyond darling cashmere set ($75, WOW). Or if you’re more into a casual vibe, pair your favorite jeans with a statement sweater like this. Alternately, I feel like I would have loved the ease and airiness of this autumnal dress post-partum, with baby boy in a knit set like this or this. Husband would look amazing alongside any of these looks wearing a classic navy blazer and khakis, or — if going more casual — dark denim and a white oxford or camel sweater.

Q: Where can I buy cute hair bows for my four year old?

A: I love Wee Ones for solids and Belles Like Big Bows has some fun seasonal prints I buy now and then, too. If your little one is less into the big bow and prefers pigtails/ponytails, I also love this inexpensive pack of 40 when I’m doing those hair styles.

Q: What are your go-to weeknight dinners?

A: Some of our long-standing favorites are here, though I have to say Mr. Magpie has really upped his ante during COVID. Since he no longer has a commute, he’s been crazy ambitious in his cooking — and he does about 90% of it around here. I will say that when I’m on the hook for dinner, I lean heavily on America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. I find the recipes are excellent, and they present American classics like beef tacos, lasagna, etc, in super approachable and clear writing.

Q: How would you celebrate being pregnant with our first child in the time of COVID?

A: Wow — congratulations! I know you must be awash with emotions. I have seen some people do socially-distanced baby showers and “drive-in” gender reveals (i.e., couple stands in lawn and releases balloons of one color or another). So clever! Where there is a will, there is a way. People will always celebrate life and the ones they love, so trust that they and you will find ways to make this season special. Honestly, a few of my favorite memories with my husband pre-baby are all completely doable in the age of COVID: long morning walks together with our dog; food adventures that took us an hour to drive to (you could do carry out and then eat in a park/back at home or even in your car); watching all of the Harry Potter movies in our basement; picking up to-go sundaes from Margie’s Candies (we lived in Chicago at the time).

A few plus sides to pregnancy in the COVID-era — easier to disguise that you aren’t drinking if you’re in your first trimester (ha!) and less pressure to go out when you don’t feel like it (basically the entirety of both my pregnancies).

Thinking of you, friend. Pregnancy is enough of an emotional roller coaster without this damned virus on top of it all.

P.S. My baby registry, baby gear I wish I’d known about earlier, and how to build a layette.

Q: Any cute baby Halloween costume ideas?

A: I love the textured animal costumes from Princess Paradise — mini was this bee two years ago and I’m pretty sure micro will be inheriting that this fall. There is also a super cute lamb one and a sweet pig one. I love the loopy texture of these costumes — look so much cuter than a lot of the other velour/plush styles out there.

For itty bitties, I love this little knit giraffe set.

Last year, mini wore this Cinderella dress (it has the most amazing hoop skirt!) with these glitter shoes.

P.S. Halloween jammies for your little one!

Q: I need a dress for a wedding in Aspen in two weeks. I forgot how to dress!

A: I actually think it might have snowed there earlier this week — yikes! Pack layers! A few wedding guest dresses I’m loving…










Q: I’m looking for a piece of jewelry that pays homage to my children. Any recommendations? I’d prefer a necklace but am open to options.

A: So sweet! There are a lot of great options in this roundup of stunning every day jewelry, but I love an engraved gold disc necklace like this (endlessly customizable — initials, nicknames, dates, etc.) or the child silhouette pendants from Aurelia Demark if you’re looking for a splurge.

Q: Do you have any marriage best practices?

A: I’m so flattered you’d ask me this. I feel like my parents are probably better suited to answer this after 35 years of marriage, but here are some of the things that really keep us connected:

1. Saying I love you multiple times a day.

2. Aligning our thoughts with one another every single night, often over dinner or a glass of wine. Sometimes it’s a free-form chat and other times, we march our way through a tick-list of action items (meal planning, what to buy so-and-so for a birthday, thoughts on how to ease drop-off with mini, etc — we call these “STPs” or “Shoop Talking Points”).

3. Giving one another the space and respect to continue to evolve and grow and pursue our own interests. I think one reason Mr. Magpie is so attractive to me is that he is deeply curious by nature, always burrowing deep into his own interests — many of which I frankly do not share. I think having separate pastimes is healthy and reminds me to step outside my little bubble and see him as the incredibly smart, passionate person he is.

And, as with any relationship, be kind. Offer the benefit of the doubt.

Q: Statement booties for fall? (I’m not crazy about the Paris Texas python ones, FYI.)

A: I am obsessed with these kitten heeled beauties from Talbots. I owned them last season and Talbots generously just sent me a new pair for this fall. I wore them constantly. Isabel Marant always does the coolest fall boots — wear these and instantly channel your inner Parisienne. For something sportier, I love these Ganni quilted “hiking” boots. Also love these versatile booties from Zara — the perfect height for tucking skinny jeans into — and of course you know I love these pearled ones from Nicholas Kirkwood.

P.S. More boots and dresses for fall here.

Q: What are some fun Halloween traditions we can do given that trick or treating is canceled this year?

A: I have learned that surprise balloons / decor go a long way in making a toddler excited about just about anything. I will be hanging these bats on our walls (we did this the last two years, too) and maybe hanging BOO balloons or these cool spider ones.

Our tentative plan is to have my brother-in-law and sister over and to have trick or treating in different rooms of our apartment with different treats at each stop.

And then Emory LOVES the Charlie Brown pumpkin movie, which we played for her last Halloween and I anticipate we will also play for her this year.

Little things like dying cream cheese orange for bagels or decorating Halloween cookies with themed sprinkles also go a long away.

Q: Where should I buy charms for my necklace? (Under $75 please!)

A: Helen Ficalora has some fun options in that price range in sterling silver — I like the dog bone for my pup and the airplane would be a cool remembrance of a great trip. I also have had good luck hunting around Etsy if I’m seeking something specific, like the Eiffel tower to remember my favorite trip ever with my parents. The key to finding good stuff on Etsy? Look for strong reviews by previous buyers and also number of sales — if they’ve done thousands of transactions with 4.5 or 5 stars, you’re probably safe. If they accept returns, that’s another good sign that they’ll stand behind their products.

Happy hunting!

Q: What is the age difference between your children? Pros/cons?

A: Mini and micro are just over two years (26 months) apart. I don’t really have a point of comparison, so take what I have to say on this subject with a grain of salt, but two years felt like the right timing for us largely for selfish reasons — because I’d finally emerged from the haze of caring for a little baby, felt like I had a grasp on myself as a mother, and yet was still enough in the headspace of baby care that I felt it would be easy to snap back into place without having to re-learn anything (ha ha ha — how naive; there is nothing so humbling as a second child! That said, I did have a kind of muscle memory when it came to soothing, rocking, intuiting what steps to follow in a crying fest, etc). I don’t know how mothers with two under two (or less) do it, and my hat is off to you, permanently.

On a more general level, being one of five children and all of us around two years apart from one another, I also liked the age gap growing up — we were close enough in age to hang out and have mutual interests but far apart enough in age to have different friends and not feel as though we were competing for the same things.

I will say that for nearly 3.5 years, we have rarely gotten a full night of sleep. My hunch is that if you spaced your children out further, you might be able to get back into a normal sleep groove for at least a little stretch of time. (Or maybe you will just be better than I am at sleep training!) But babies and toddlers wake up a lot! And wake up early! And it is exhausting. We have been in a major sleep regression of sorts with both of our kids recently between teething and mini getting out of bed in the middle of the night and it is rough.

Q: Serveware recommendations? I’m hosting some people (finally!) and looking for some chic options.

A: I shared some of my absolute favorite serveware at the bottom of this post. (Ah, remember when we could entertain girlfriends on a whim?) In general, food always shows so beautifully against white dishes. I am drawn to pieces like this scalloped style from Crate and Barrel, these footed bowls (so fun to have different heights to add dimension to the sideboard/tablescape), this shallow bowl (it’s just asking for a big mound of spaghetti with meatballs!), and this footed compote (I’m imagining Thanksgiving sides served up here).

P.S. More magpie mail here and here.

P.P.S. Statement sweaters for fall.

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18 thoughts on “Magpie Mail: My Fall Bucket List, Baby Halloween Costume Ideas + Marriage Best Practices.

  1. Love these posts! You have excellent marriage advice — all of these tips are bang-on and many have really helped me deepen my relationship with my partner. 🙂

    I LOVE Storm King — highly recommend a visit if you can swing it! I haven’t been there in a few years and miss it so much.

    Also, sending happy thoughts and positive vibes re: the school transition. We’re feeling that over here even though we’re in a different situation (older kids + virtual school). It’s tough no matter how you slice it! Thinking of mini and you as you navigate the transition during such a difficult year. <3


    1. Thank you, MK! For all the positive feedback. Thinking of you and all other parents guiding their children through this rocky year…

  2. Ahh Storm King and Fishkill Farms are great. You’ll be driving right past my ala mater West Point. Not sure if you’ve been before, but the whole area is beyond gorgeous this time of year.


    1. I KNOW. This is one of the most requested things — I need to pin him down about it but he insists it’s sort of “by memory.” I’m going to stalk him and take down notes next time he’s cooking. Sorry for the unnecessary mystery :/

  3. I hope school drop off/pick up gets better soon! My daughter practically flew out of the car her first day, she was so excited to go back to school. I told her if she missed me, she could look at her bracelet and know I’d be thinking of her (we wear the same bracelet). When I picked her up, she told me she didn’t look at her bracelet at all, sigh. I guess I’m glad she didn’t cry and have a rough transition, though!

    I’ve been to Blue Hill Tavern a couple of times and really want to go to Blue Hill at Stone Barn – hope you can get tickets, so I can live vicariously through you.

    1. OMG – hats off to your brave daughter!! I love her independence, but I am sure it was a little bit of a tough pill for you to swallow. xx

  4. A picnic at blue hill at stone barns sounds glorious! I’ve only been to blue hill so far but have been dreaming of going to blue hill at stone barns for years- tough to coordinate a visit to the east coast + a reservation. Fingers crossed you’re able to swing a visit!

    1. My fingers are crossed, too! Hard to coordinate even though we live a relatively short drive away, as we need to rent a car, find a sitter, make sure it’s a time my brother-in-law and sister can do…BUT it is a major goal :). Will keep you posted!


  5. Hi Jen,

    Just saw Artis is running a huge warehouse sale. A lot of brushes including the size six are under $20!

    Take care and happy Friday.


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