caroline constas tiered dress

New Year Thoughts.

*Image above via Caroline Constas. Je l’adore. And my brides to be: she is launching a bridal collection in 2021! Swoon! (Also, witnessing a wedding in the COVID age was moving.)

I go back and forth on resolutions — some years, I take the time to write a few out, and others, I designate a specific word or intention for the year ahead. This year, I have a couple of specific commitments I’m making to myself, and most of them center around self-care:

  1. Persist in my every-other-day running habit, running at last three miles per session, and grafting on some calisthenics and weights afterwards. I would really like to feel strong this year after enduring the flu, COVID-19, and a nasty stomach bug in 2020. Pending pandemic-related logistics, I would love to hire a personal trainer for just a couple of sessions to help me designate a specific and realistic course of weights/calisthenics/stretches to use post-run.
  2. Commit to a reading routine. I averaged about two books/month this year, which felt manageable and decent, but I often leaned on the arbitrary deadline of my book club meetings to binge large portions of my tsundoku. I would love to set aside specific evenings or even portions of my evenings for reading. It’s been tough to balance with my one-on-one time with Mr. Magpie, as we love to use the evenings to go over our “STPs” (Shoop Talking Points — how business gets done around here) and then unwind while watching a show together, but I like the idea carving out some QT with my Kindle. I think I will start by marking Monday night as reading night. I’m such a rule follower — I’m much more likely to follow through when I set something hard-and-fast (and calendar it!)
  3. Double down on skincare. I will be 37 this year and seriously feel I’ve aged two decades since having children and have the face to show for it. Ha! I do not use Botox, so I am slowly making peace with the wrinkles that have come with age and am focusing on getting into a skincare regimen that really works on helping my skin look bright and clear. (I am doubtful any treatment prevents or treats wrinkles…) I have some good components in play already (I specifically think topical Vitamin C has done wonders for brightening my skin — I have tried a number of different brands and frankly they all work very well; this is a great and inexpensive formula if you want to test without breaking the bank) but my specific goals are to finally dominate the occasional breakouts that I have battled since 13 and achieve a Courtney-Grow-status glow. I’ll be chronicling all my experiments in future “Honest Review” posts, but right now, I’m in the midst of testing a pattern of retinoids (I am using Differin on the recommendation of countless Magpies) and glycolic acid (I use these wipes). Currently, I have a three-day cycle: Differin one night, glycolic acid the next, then a hydrating face mask the third (I really love Philip Thomas Roth’s rose stem cell mask, which I think they might be discontinuing as it is increasingly difficult to find, but each tub lasts an eternity…buy now and you’ll be set for, like, a decade.)
  4. Uphold the one-screen-at-a-time rule. Since around Thanksgiving, I have been ruthless in upholding this rule in the evenings by banning cell phone use once I’m in bed and moving my cell phone out of reach while we are watching TV in the evenings. It has been unbelievably healthful and deeply satisfying. I sleep better (!!! so much better!!! have not slept this well in my entire life) and feel as though I enjoy myself much more while watching TV and reading. It also feels that my evenings are far longer and more graciously-paced! I could do better on this front during the day, and, as a corollary, could be better in general about not using my phone when with the children, but the one-screen-at-a-time prohibition is an easy mnemonic to start with.
  5. My intention for the year is grace, which has many meanings, all of which I love, but I am specifically dialed in on the notion of courteous goodwill toward others. This means giving people the benefit of the doubt, creating space for them and their feelings, and also — and this is a key one I picked up from a Magpie commenter earlier this year (read Beth’s comment) — acknowledging that I cannot control how others will react or respond and accepting that truth with calm understanding.

Any you want to share?

Post-Scripts: 2021 Shopping List.

+Thanks to many reader suggestions, I am now following skincare guru Caroline Hirons. She has several helpful cheat sheets with useful tips on designing your own skincare regimen. One thing that surprised me was how many products she uses — wow! It’s encouraged me to try a cocktail of products, though I am going slowly and adding individual items one at a time so I can isolate ones that aren’t working for me. I find the order of products she lists especially enlightening. At any rate, one refrain of hers is that the single-most important product category to invest in is serums. One of the ones she loves (and so does the gorgeous Courtney Grow, mentioned above) is Clarins’ Double Serum, which apparently Clarins sells one of every few seconds. It is a long-time best-seller. I finally bought this to layer on top of my Vitamin C. I am still researching Hirons’ suggested ordering of products and have a few blank spaces in my own regimen, but this is an exciting start.

+More beauty finds for the new year here, and my favorite beauty buys from last year here.

+I ordered this day designer for myself for the new year. Last year, I used an undated weekly calendar pad most of the year, which I liked because I am a leftie and there was no binding to contend with, but I did miss having the calendar days easy to access and found I was often penciling them in for pages weeks and weeks out. (More agendas here.)

+I bought mini her own wall calendar (she loves Snoopy) this year, too, an idea I lifted from mini’s Montessori, which hosts a number of helpful parent education nights throughout the year. We had a fairly bumpy time getting mini out the door for school towards the end of the year, and I think it was related to the strange and inconsistent schedule from Thanksgiving onward — it really threw her for a loop and she was always asking “do I have school today? Do I have a half day? Is tomorrow the weekend?” One of the school’s suggestions (more generally related to minimizing toddler tantrums) was to hang a calendar on the wall so that children know what to expect the following day. Time is such a complicated concept, and most toddlers thrive on routine and/or well-set expectations. Our plan is to work the calendar into mini’s nightly routine, i.e., after brushing teeth, we talk about what’s going on tomorrow, and for the rest of the week.

+New workout gear to help with my exercise commitment! I have written about most of these items already quite a bit, but on my list/already bought:

TRACKSMITH MERINO BASE LAYER AND TURNOVER TIGHTS

ALO RETRO TUBE SOCKS (THE ICE BLUE!)

MORE LULULEMON ALIGN

RUNNING VEST

YOGA MAT FOR AT-HOME EXERCISE (THIS $24 MAT ALSO GETS AMAZING REVIEWS)

MY FAVORITE ATHLETIC WATER BOTTLE — THE SPORTS NOZZLE IS AMAZING AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH I’VE GIVEN IT AS A GIFT TO SEVERAL PEOPLE

NEOPRENE-COATED FREE WEIGHTS

+Other highly random finds for the new year:

CALDREA MAKES BEAUTIFULLY SCENTED COUNTER-TOP SPRAYS

A SELFIE LIGHT (I MEAN…IT’S 2021, WHY NOT?)

THIS TAPER CANDLE HOLDER IS AMAZING

HOW DARLING IS THIS PINK AND WHITE STRIPED POT HOLDER SET?!

THIS BODY SCRUB IS IN MY CART THANKS TO A READER REC

I HAVE BEEN A FAN OF TOWELS BY MATOUK AND YVES DELORME FOREVER, BUT AM CURIOUS ABOUT BOLL & BRANCH SINCE I HAD SUCH A GOOD EXPERIENCE WITH THEIR SHEETING…I WISH THEY HAD MORE BOLD DESIGNS, BUT THERE’S SOMETHING APPEALING ABOUT A PILE OF FLUFFY WHITE TOWELS ANYWAY

THIS NIGHTGOWN FOR MINI!!!! TRULY WISH THEY HAD IT IN MY SIZE

LUSTING AFTER THESE SANDALS FOR SPRING

OBSESSED WITH THIS REVERSIBLE QUILTED PULLOVER

THIS SIMPLE PLAID CAMEL SCARF IS TO DIE FOR (AND ONLY $26!)

DARLING BLUE FLORAL PUFFER COAT FOR MINI

SOME CUTE NEW STATIONERY

NEW PILLOWS FOR OUR LIVING ROOM

P.S. In case you’re in the mood to organize.

P.P.S. Some of our favorite weeknight meals.

P.P.P.S. For my recently engaged Magpies.

8 Comments

  1. Aaahh a resounding yes to grace! For ourselves and others. One of my friends operates on the assumption that everyone is doing their best. It’s such a helpful mindset to have especially in a stressful year.

    I go back and forth on resolutions, too. I feel that if I don’t write them out as “SMART” goals, they become too elusive and I set myself up for failure.

    Do you subscribe to Alisha Ramos/Girls Night In newsletter? In her new year issue she described creating rituals over setting resolutions, particularly in the context of this past year and everything that is continuing on to the next. She cited the book The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile. In that book, the author described rituals as “a way of putting meaning to a feeling in order to give it greater permanence in your life.” I’ve been reflecting on that today, particularly on how I can create rituals to help me show up better for my family and myself in this challenging time. Ramos also uses categories for rituals, e.g., a calming ritual, energizing ritual, connecting ritual, gratitude ritual, etc. This is really resonating with me right now and it’s sparking some ideas that help me look forward to the year ahead. My paraphrasing doesn’t do it justice, so if it resonates with you too I highly recommend looking into her newsletter!

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Jen! Thank you for your lovely writing and the community you’ve cultivated here!

    1. Love this idea of the ritual over resolution — thanks for sharing that framing. I think that mentality has helped with exercise habit (both an energizing and calming ritual for me…! alone time! with my own sparse thoughts!) and also with my prayer habit (there were some really great suggestions along these lines from readers on a recent post on prayer I published). I love the idea of a gratitude ritual. I recently heard a psychologist say on TV that expressing gratitude on a daily basis is strongly recommended as a good habit for mental health.

      Anyway – thanks, Mia!!

      xx

  2. Hello! I love your intentions. It really helps me to have “rules” too! I think you’d like Gretchen Rubin’s books and writing about habits. One question – was 2020 an “answer” or a “question” year? I loved your framing of years that way.
    xoxo
    Emily
    P.S. Thank you so much for all the wisdom and big-heartedness you poured into the blog this year. It was —and will be continue to be — a major bright spot for me and all your readers.

    1. Gosh, Emily, thank you SO much for the tremendous compliments. “Big-hearted” is exactly the way I’d characterize this Magpie community. I have learned SO much from the comments this year in particular…thanks for reading and writing along!

      To your question (thank you for it!): strangely, it was both and neither? On a macro level, it has definitely felt like 2020 was an enormous question mark — there has been such unimaginable upheaval, loss, devastation in the world and in our country on so many fronts this year. It has been hard making sense of any of it and then applying those lessons to my life, in part because we’re still majorly in the throes of it. At the same time, I was able to realize some personal and professional goals that have given me a sense of stability and accomplishment. I feel as though I hit a new level of maturity in my own emotional life, in no small part owing to the chaos of contracting COVID and parenting during quarantine. Like everyone, I just had to figure it all out and move through it the best way I could and I find myself now consciously exercising some of the strategies I used back when things were really choppy on a regular basis. (Specific example: I find that I’m better able to gain perspective and let go of the small things that used to really ruffle my feathers.) For these reasons, I feel as though God was confirming something for me, or through me, this year — I feel as though I have found a lane I love and am at peace with myself and my life in a way I wasn’t until my mid-30s. I feel settled. And that feels like a big fat answer.

      How about for you??

      xx

  3. Ah, I LOVE the word “grace”, and more importantly its versatile application. I actually tend to err on the side of giving too much grace at the expense of healthy boundaries, so I continually work on finding the balance. But I have found I am happier with myself and more content overall when I freely extend grace to others. I’ll be praying for you on this journey and wholeheartedly believe it’s very much worthwhile.
    I want to tell you what a delight your corner of the internet is and how appreciative I am of your authenticity here. Thank you for being a bright spot in an otherwise difficult year. Happy New Year, Jen, and many blessings to you and yours in 2021.

    1. Heidi — Thank you so much for the tremendous compliments, for your continued readership, and especially for your warm-hearted and encouraging participation in the comments section! I have so enjoyed getting to know you (and your full-of-grace spirit!).

      Happy new year to you!

      xx

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