I received so many inquiries for this round of Magpie Mail that I am going to run another mail post next week to answer the rest, so sit tight if you’re waiting on an answer!
Q: Any ideas for special and festive ways to celebrate ringing in the new year at home? I just ordered some champagne coupes as a start.
A: Yes! This is the only way I’ve rung in the new year for many, many years now. Mr. Magpie and I like to pull out all the stops on a fancy dinner at home for NYE — sometimes with a few friends, but usually just us. In the past, we’ve put together “seafood plateaus” (not sure why we insist on that name): steamed lobster with drawn butter, spiced shrimp with cocktail sauce (shared the recipe here), and oysters with mignonette sauce. We have also occasionally splurged on caviar served with blinis or steamed red potatoes and creme freche, and I usually put together some other fun party food — once or twice I have made savory butter-dill monkey bread and one year we made crab hush puppies from our favorite Southern cookbook. I always buy or make a fun dessert, too — for some reason I tend to want to make a cheesecake for the occasion (?). And of course great champagne!
Even when it’s a small group, I like to make the occasion special by pulling out an NYE garland, festive decor, and even confetti poppers, which are kind of a nightmare to clean up but so fun. I also put tons of candles out and pull out all my favorite servewear (<<shared a bunch of my favorite picks here).
We usually watch a special movie, too — my parents watch “Casablanca” nearly every year and so we’ve done that on occasion. I also love “When Harry Met Sally” because it concludes on NYE and occasionally “The Godfather” trilogy feels just right?
Over the years, we have also spent some portion of NYE prepping for New Year’s Day festivities. Some years, that means I am making overnight cinnamon rolls to be devoured the next morning and others, that means Mr. Magpie makes reubens on the griddle for lunch along with bloody marys.
Finally — put on something you LOVE! I am into the idea of feathers this year in particular (see gorgeous mini dress at top!), and the brand 16Arlington has some amazing scores along these lines. (For something a bit more toned-down, check out this.) However, I am thinking I need to own this dress for some holiday occasion this year, and it might just be NYE. I also love this with some glitzy earrings or a fun brooch; this (on super duper sale!); or this (<<budget buy!).
Q: Need a rec for affordable (under $75) camel, non-bulky sweaters please.
A: My first thought was J. Crew’s Tippi sweater, which is on sale every other day. I own this in the camel and wear it frequently. I especially love it with light-wash denim and then an oversized cashmere/wool scarf in tone-on-tone camel / some print that incorporates camel.
Q: What was the process of having movers pack up all your stuff before moving? And did you like it? We may be moving later this year and I just can’t see myself doing the packing part. Any tips for making the most of what you’re paying for?
A: I am so, so glad you asked me about this because having the apartment fully packed was worth every last penny. Given logistics (two small children and a dog, the quick turnaround, and the small amount of space in which we lived), I simply could not figure out how we would have packed ourselves. I mean, where would the boxes have gone?! We would have had to live in a wall of boxes for weeks if we’d tried to do this on our own! It took a lot of the stress out of a very stressful few weeks, even though I felt ambivalent and wistful about the move at the time. I can’t imagine we’ll ever move without being packed again. (We also had movers pack us when we moved from Chicago to NY.)
A few suggestions:
+Get several quotes from reputable movers. I tapped my network of friends to learn who they’d used when moving within Manhattan and had those companies come out to do “on-site/visual” scans well before we’d found our apartment so they could provide us with an estimate and so I could get the wheels in motion quickly once we did have an apartment lined up. Then I negotiated. I was especially attracted to movers that had worked in our building in the past, as they understood all the stringent regulations it had (certificate of insurance hell).
+Assume they they will underestimate the amount of time it will take to pack you. Both times we’ve had companies pack our homes, we have been gritting our teeth nervously as the clock ticks on. (“Will they ever finish?!”)
+Spend some time before the on-site/estimate deciding what you will keep, donate, sell, etc., and be sure to flag what you will not be taking with you so that those items are not factored into the estimate. Focus the rest of your time on donating / selling / getting rid of whatever you don’t want to take with you. Now is the time to watch Marie Kondo.
+Negotiate! I got a few hundred dollars knocked off the estimate just by asking.
+Separate valuables and move them yourself. Anything that is truly important to you should be handled on your own. I would not have lived with myself if somehow a ring I inherited from my great aunt had gone missing in the move! We made a few hauls to our new apartment for prized possessions — things like my designer bags, jewelry, inherited artwork, silver, etc.
+Tip the packers at the end of the first day as well as at the end of the second day. (We also provided them with water and gatorade.) These people are working SO hard — can you imagine a more exhausting job?! Plus, they are handling your entire life! Good to be in their good graces.
+Our team packed most of the apartment on day 1 and returned to finish the pack and handle the move on day 2. Accordingly, they left our beds/cribs and bathrooms largely untouched so that we could sleep comfortably on our last night in the apartment. I would confirm that they will leave everything you need intact for that final night.
+Take pictures of everything that catches your eye, i.e., “Ooh, that couch looks like it was dragged…” or “Why is this box smooshed?” We did that and have been able to recoup some money from a couple of items damaged in transit because we kept meticulous record.
+The trickiest part of having the apartment packed was making sure we had everything we’d need the final night in our old apartment and the first few nights in our new one. Some key things I am very glad we had thought to keep out for ourselves: trash bags, paper towels, a wine key (!!!), a few cups, toilet paper, more changes of clothes than you think you need for your children, bottles/formula/sippy cups, a dishwasher pod or two, snacks.
Q: Recs for visiting NYC with a toddler/small child? We are taking my three year old in December.
A: Such a magical time of year here! We have spent a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History and Children’s Museum of Manhattan in the winter, both of which are highly appropriate for small children. If weather permits, the children’s zoo in Central Park is a beloved pastime of ours. (Mini loves feeding the animals!) The Color Factory was also really fun last year both for mini and myself, and you might check out the new Museum of Ice Cream, too, though I’ve not personally been. We took mini to the train exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens last Christmas, which was fun, though I’m not sure I’d say it’s worth the trek if you are staying in Manhattan for only a few days.
Because it will be Christmastime, I would spend some time walking up and down Fifth taking in the Christmas decorations! The windows are spectacular and mini enjoyed looking at them. I’m guessing it will be a little bit of a nuthouse, but an F.A.O. Schwarz flagship store opened by Rockefeller Center last winter, and I have been daydreaming about taking mini there for a special excursion at some point. Pure magic for a kiddo!
I love Bubby’s for brunch with children — it’s a non-fussy, kid-friendly, ebullient environment and the pancakes are insane.
Q: Favorite brick and mortar stores?
A: I rarely shop in-person anymore unless Mr. Magpie needs new gear, as he prefers to go somewhere, try on fifty things, and then move on with his life. (We have recently shopped at the Todd Snyder store in Flatiron. Great mens’ clothing — they aren’t afraid of color! Eyeing this alpaca crew in the pink or lime green for Mr. Magpie right now.) I also occasionally stop in to Zara and Intermix if I need something for an evening out. I always find incredible stuff at Zara at a great price and Intermix does a fantastic job styling/merchandising their clothing.
Q: I’m new to cold weather. Any ideas for practical but cute work shoes for winter?
A: I would invest in a pair of high-shaft black leather boots with a low heel that can be worn with skirts/dresses (or over jeans, if your work permits!) I’ve owned a few pairs of Loeffler Randall boots along these lines that get heavy use every year. I re-sole them and have the leather treated for salt stains at the end of each of season. Their Mathildes (no longer made, but you can still find them in a few sizes here and gently used here) are my all-time favorite. I also like the look of these or these.
I also own a few pairs of ankle-height kitten-heeled booties that are already getting a ton of use this fall. My favorites are these Alexandre Birmans in the cool sparkly/gunmetal color, though those are a bit much for work. These snakeskin ones would be such a cool way to add panache to a predominantly neutral/dark winter work wardrobe. These python ones are also incredible. Get the look for less with these.
Finally, buy a couple of pairs of Darn Tough micro-cushion socks. They are SO warm and the cushion on the sole makes them so incredibly comfortable. I wear these in my boots every day of winter!
Q: Have you had postpartum hair loss and how have you coped?
A: Yes! I made an emergency trip to my hair stylist, who suggested moving my part over, more towards the center of my scalp, to help with my uneven hairline.
The truth though? No one notices as much as you do!
Q: How do you store jewelry? Especially earrings!
A: I have this large jewelry box from Pottery Barn (also love this style) for my finer jewelry, but for my statement jewelry, I threw away all of the boxes/dust bags they came in and transferred the pieces to these inexpensive plastic jewelry bags which I in turn keep in a pretty box like this. This has been the most space-saving approach, and the individual plastic bags keep things from getting tangled while also making all of my jewelry easy to find!
Q: I’m a massive list-maker: grocery, amazon, to do, etc. Any tips on organizing?
A: Same here! List therapy, my friend. I use Wunderlist for most of my lists on my phone because it’s always at my fingertips (i.e., if I’m out on the town and think of something I need to add to a list, my phone is right there!) and I can share the lists with Mr. Magpie when need be. This latter functionality has been so helpful in the event that he runs to the grocery before I do, as he can see what I’ve already added to this list (and vice versa). It’s also helped us divvy up tasks for various projects, i.e., getting ready for micro’s birth, moving, etc.
But more generally, I organize my day around my planner, which always has a list of calendar-based to-dos that I check off as a I go through the day. I like these Day Designers because they have enough space to write down a set of to-dos every single day of the week.
Q: Do you miss going into an office for work?
A: It took me a minute to think about this, and the truth is: not really. I so deeply value the flexibility my current arrangement affords in this season of life. I am able to see my children throughout the day, dash out to complete an errand, walk my dog, etc. (And up until recently, was able to breastfeed my son on demand.) I feel that right now I am able to be more productive as a member of this family stationed at home and so I haven’t given the alternative much thought. There’s too much upside with this arrangement!
That said, I do struggle with closing the door and focusing solely on writing because I’m often interrupted or distracted by household chores, and I do miss the camaraderie of colleagues and the intellectual challenge of navigating those relationships and dynamics from time to time. It feels good to exercise those muscles. But I find other avenues for that kind of stimulation.
P.S. The dotted lines between personal and professional life. Loved your comments on this post!
Q: Could you recommend some every day dishes and glassware?
A: I absolutely love my Aerin for Williams-Sonoma scalloped plates for everyday dining. I have come around to the perspective that white plates are the best option for everyday dishes, and the scalloped trim affords them a little something interesting. I have also always loved Juliska’s Berry and Thread pattern if you’re looking for more of an investment. Timeless, gracious, and a perfect blend of casual/elegant.
For glassware: these bodega glasses are fun and modern-looking (I love to drink wine out of glasses like this, per the Spaniards in San Sebastian!) and I love French-style tumblers with bees on the side like these (we inherited a set when we were married!) Perfect for juice/water. I also like these elegant highballs for a beautifully-set table. That brand is amazing for stemware, too!
Q: I’m looking for some timeless pieces of heirloom jewelry to pass on to my children.
A: Ooh! Wow! I love the pieces from Aurelia Demark. She does a lot of custom work, engraving, etc., and I’m sure you could create something magical with her.
Q: I need help finding the perfect dark green everyday bag.
A: The Lee Radziwill bag in green croc has been on my lust list for a full year now. Ugh. Perfection.
The Cuyana in the forest green would also be a great pick (I have several of their bags and they are sturdy, well-made, and reasonable-priced). Mansur Gavriel also has a tote in green out this season that is worth considering.
Q: Where do you get your blog photos from? They’re always so appropriate!
A: I still use and love Pinterest and Tumblr all the time. I love collecting inspiration/mood boards on Pinterest in particular, and I scroll through there to find the right image for a post. I also save images I like on Instagram!