Magpie Mail: Toys for Babies Learning to Sit Up, Quarantine Clothes, and Career Changes.

By: Jen Shoop

There were so many great Magpie Mail inquiries this go around (you can always DM / email me with them) that I’ve had to split into two posts and still haven’t gotten to them all. Here, in any case, is partie une. (Partie deux tomorrow.) I promise I will get to them all — am likely currently sitting poolside while away with family trying to answer a couple!

Q:What toys do you recommend for a baby starting to sit up?

A: Such an exciting time! Both of my children have loved this sit-to-stand walker. Yes, it’s hideous and yes, its music will haunt your dreams, but it’s great for little fingers and babies can lean on it while developing core muscles. I would set Hill up with his little legs on either side of one of the wheels (sort of on the corner) when he was just learning to sit up so he could reach everything without bonking his head. Hill also loved this stacking set (read reviews – seems like every baby loves these), these cups, and these moluks. Anything bright, relatively lightweight, and impossible to injure himself on was a pro, and I loved that these encouraged him to stack and nest. If I were to go back, I think I would have signed up for one of these Lovevery toy subscriptions. They send you age-appropriate, Montessori-esque toys (read: beautiful and often wood). I’ve seen so many babies with one of their toys in particular — it’s like a toy version of a tissue box (a cube where they pull little pieces of fabric out). Hill would have loved that! He has destroyed many a box of tissues, and I feel like it’s the perfect shape for a baby just learning to sit up.

P.S. More great toys for children here.

Q: I’m looking for casual clothes that still make me look put together.

A: I hear you – quarantine has put pressure on the notion of “getting dressed.” I would suggest investing in a good pair of white jeans and a variety of casual tops — I live in these affordable tees from J. Crew (I especially love the navy and white with white denim), Kule striped tees, these boxy LS tees (on sale), and Ralph Lauren oxfords. It’s an easy uniform when I don’t have the energy to think about what to wear, and I always feel timeless and chic. I will add either my Hermes orans, a pair of Chanel ballet flats, or Supergas — any of these combinations work.

Otherwise, I live in “nightgown day dresses” at home. So comfortable and yet so fun and on-trend. There are tons of reasonably-priced versions in this lane that I love — especially this!

Q: What should I wish for for my 23rd birthday?

A: Happy birthday, friend! Hm. In terms of an actual gift wish list, items that I would have loved and found incredibly luxurious and useful (and never purchased for myself at 23) —





If you’re fortunate to have all of those basics covered already…




Mainly, though: your 20s are crazy — full of unknowns, twists, and turns. I found it challenging because so many of my friends were at such wildly different stages in their lives: in my mid-20s, some friends were still in school; others were married with small children; still others were already financially successful because they had pursued careers in consulting or finance. It was hard to benchmark my own progress with so many different markers for “success.” If I could go back in time and give my 23-year-old self some advice, it would be: focus on yourself and your own lane; trust your instincts; work hard; take risks (it becomes harder and harder to do so as you get older); try new things; wear your bathing suit as often as possible (your body will never look better); call your mom; invest periodically in good things you’ll keep for the entirety of your life; understand that some years ask and others answer. I know you weren’t soliciting for that kind of birthday advice (sorry — couldn’t help myself!), but those would be my birthday wishes for you.

Q: Navigating a complete career change. Any tips?

A: Go you! Yes! I’m cheering you on! I think the main thing is having conviction in your decision. A reader once wrote something along the lines of: “Make the choice. Then go boldly into it.” I loved that. You’ve clearly made a brave decision to change tacks and it’s scary to venture into the unknown. Trust yourself; don’t look back. Beyond that, know that the uneasiness of the initial transition will eventually give way to confidence and prowess. You are going to walk through an uncomfortable time where you are the novitiate; this is temporary and you will make it to the other end, suddenly surprised by the depth of your knowledge in your new field when someone asks an unassuming question. (“Wow, I know all that?!”)

While you’re learning the ropes, lean into your greenness. I so admire people who can admit they don’t know something rather than posturing as if they do. I have learned that people tend to like that earnestness and will often take you under their wing because of it.

You got this!

Q: Do you ever feel overwhelmed keeping up and in touch with friends? Any system?

A: I know what you mean. Sometimes I realize it’s been weeks since I’ve checked in with my girlfriends — but the beautiful thing is that they all “get” it since they’re tending to their own busy lives, too. My main advice is to send a quick text the minute someone passes through your mind — even just: “Thinking of you today!” Sometimes I find myself disinclined to send a random text because I feel like I owe a given friend so much more — a life update, a long phone call, etc. But modern technology makes quick check-ins so much easier and keeps the conversation going, even if we only respond to one another at 9 p.m., after the babies are down and the kitchens are cleaned. I also like to send snail mail (following my girlfriend Alison’s lead) and occasionally an unexpected gift (recently gifted this and a pair of these to girlfriends) out of the blue to remind them how much I love them even if I haven’t been the best at phone calls.

Q: What would you do/buy for your mom’s 70th birthday?

A: Ooh, happy birthday to your mom! I love the idea of taking a weekend trip to celebrate the occasion, though times are strange and I’m not sure whether that’s practical right now. But I just know my mom would value a long weekend of chit chat and delicious food (maybe a spa trip?) with me over anything I could buy her. If trips aren’t practical, a few items I would consider buying my mom:








Q: What are your go-to snacks?

A: I try not to nibble too much during the day unless it’s a piece of fruit, but I nearly always have an intentional snack at 5 p.m., while I’m preparing the children’s lunch and my own dinner is still about two and a half hours off. And it’s almost always something salty and crunchy. Lately, I’ve been into these cayenne pepper crackers with a few slices of cheese. I also love my Grandma Carm’s ranch crackers, Virginia peanuts, marcona almonds, kettle-cooked potato chips (so, so good with a glass of sparkling — the perfect foil in my opinion), hard pretzels. If we have it on hand, I love a little hunk of salty parmesan cheese (so good with a glass of red), ricotta drizzled with honey, dotted with sea salt, and served with a few crackers, or chorizo toasted in a hot cast-iron skillet, preferably with little slices of bread I’ve browned in the pan juice. When we lived in Chicago and had access to the most incredible Polish/German butchers, we often bought kielbasi sausage that we’d slice into coins and toast in a skillet, then serve with mustard. Heaven.

During quarantine, we have been buying boxes of Frito Lay lunch-sized packs — just the right size for a snack alongside a glass of wine — and I will often accompany an artisanal cocktail from Mr. Magpie with a bag of Doritos, Fritos, or Cheetohs. All absolutely delicious.

This was a fun question! I’m hungry now…

Q: Need a pretty cotton robe that breathes in generous XL under $100.

A: The elegant Emily of Born on Fifth recently recommended this $30 cotton robe, which comes in the cutest prints, including a navy sailboat toile. I also am a huge personal fan of pima cotton (so soft and silky) — the Company Store has a beautiful style in the most perfect shade of mist blue (if you sign up for emails, brings the price down to under $100). I know it’s a little over budget, but I cannot rave enough about Lake Pajamas, and their robes look like heaven.

Q: Would love your thoughts on engagement photos! What to wear, when to take them, etc.

A: Congratulations on your engagement! Woohoo! We did not do engagement photos, but if I had, I would have aimed for a warm weather shoot outside (botanical garden?), worn a dress, and had Mr. Magpie wear something like a seersucker or linen suit (look for less). Personally, I favor feminine styles and would have been comfortable wearing something on the trendier side (maybe not balloon sleeves, but something that feels contemporary). While I tried to go for classic and traditional on my wedding day (tiered ivory lace!) as I knew I’d look back on those pictures forever, I’m guessing that most engagement photos will appear on Save the Dates but not necessarily be framed in your home for the long haul. (Wedding portraits will.) In short: I would have felt encouraged to have some fun with my dress choice!

A couple of dresses I’d consider for the occasion:

+Blue and white feels winsome and dreamy for a bride-to-be and would look perfect next to a seersucker-wearing beau; I love this (40% off!), this Sleeper dress (I own this exact style/print), and this (under $100).

+Something white with a bow — love love love this dress (imagine a picture from behind!) and this one (under $100).

+White eyelet magic! (More ideas in this postthis is a standout for under $100.)

+Splurge/investments: Dolce & Gabbana or Brock Collection (alternate option).

If you’re more on the conservative side and are skittish about being photographed in something that could read trendy: I am dying over this white pleated shirt dress. So timeless and so chic — and reasonably priced at $100! And this Saloni with its covered buttons is everything.

P.S. More bride finds here.

P.P.S. Great source for fun but elegant bridal/engagement earrings, most under $200.

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10 thoughts on “Magpie Mail: Toys for Babies Learning to Sit Up, Quarantine Clothes, and Career Changes.

  1. Thats ok… not meant to. be because its sold out anyway in both L and XL and when I called customer service, no restocks coming. So…still looking for cotton robe suggestions… I have a waffle one and its ok but not super flattering on my size.

  2. I turn 25 tomorrow (eep!) and your advice spoke right to my heart! Tucking it away for future encouragement.

    As far as gifts go, I second your advice on the kitchen aid and good sheets (and towels!) Also a chic wallet or card case! Elevated everyday things really go a long way in your early twenties.

    1. Happy birthday!!!! 25 is a big one. Sending you all the best!

      A chic wallet or card case — great suggestion. I still love my Prada card case, something my mom surprised me with a few years ago! Makes me happy every time I use it.


  3. I needed this today – “Make the choice. Then go boldly into it.” I loved that. You’ve clearly made a brave decision to change tacks and it’s scary to venture into the unknown. Trust yourself; don’t look back. – thank you!

    1. So happy you found what you needed to hear today 🙂 Funny how that can happen. Wishing you the best in whatever you’re going boldly into!

  4. This is my favorite magpie mail yet! I saved it in my bookmarks to refer to later on.

    I really enjoyed–and second–your advice about your twenties. And now I’m dying for Fritos with my champagne (settled for a bagel, ha).

  5. The Company Store robe looks PERFECT. Can anyone speak to their sizing? Do they run on the small side or true to size? THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    1. Hi Nancy — Ugh, I wish I knew! Anyone else can comment? Maybe you can ask the store??


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