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Scattershot Thoughts on a Monday Morning.

A roundup of truly scattershot thoughts this Monday morning — everything I’m reading, buying, thinking about.

+We are watching Stanley Tucci’s CNN show “Searching for Italy.” Mr. Magpie and I — like the rest of the world — are suffering from a serious case of wanderlust and Italy is at the top of our list post-pandemic. We are desperate to eat our way through the country, and the show is whetting our appetites. I find Tucci disappointingly vain and self-absorbed in the show — at least, that’s the impression afforded by statements like “don’t worry – I have the metabolism of a teenager” and “you’re only seeing a blur on a screen, but that’s me looking amazing in a Maserati” — but my, he cuts a stylish figure and seems to be leading a very ascertaining journey in food-lover’s heaven. I am specifically drawn to the cropped, trim trousers-no socks-loafers look a la Thom Browne he sports and am desperate to have Mr. Magpie follow (literal) suit. Like, could we do a little of this but have a tailor crop to above the ankle? So slick.

+Speaking of scattershot, I love this poem.

+What activities for littles have been home runs in your homes lately? I generally set aside Tuesday afternoons to plan out the following weekend so I can order supplies/materials as needed. I am all ears for suggestions. Does anyone have any great Easter projects? This past weekend, we did manicures (this set is genius because the polish washes off with water), played with these new sticker pads, baked banana bread, did this “shearing” activity from Myriam (love it because I had everything on hand), and then used some of the leftover shaving cream to paint in the bathtub (another Myriam trick). We also managed to spend quite a bit of time in the Park, including enjoying donuts with my sister and brother-in-law.

+Funny note on the shearing activity: Mr. Magpie took mini to her routine six month dental cleaning and, afterward, treated her to the toy store to pick out a special prize. Out of everything on the shelves of the charming old school toy store she visited, she selected this shaving kit! Ha! (BTW – Janod has such great, well-made toy sets. We love their doctor set. Mini used to bring it with her to the pediatrician and give the doctor a check up! Too cute.) Since then, she has been shaving all of us and all of her toys. “The baby just had a shave,” she’ll say. Ha!

+On the subject of toys: mini received so many thoughtful gifts for her birthday in addition to the ones we had selected. Three stand-outs were Connectagons, this flower garden set, and this Story Orchestra book, which plays portions of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as you move through the pages/press the buttons. (It is so clever!) I’d never heard of any of these items and was so impressed with each of them for different reasons. The flower garden set is actually amazing for micro, who is a few months from two years old. It’s great for helping him think through sequencing and practicing fine motor skills. He will sit patiently arranging the flowers for surprisingly long stretches. Too cute. (And ICYMI, this toy also looks very promising for similar reasons. It’s going in his Easter basket.)

+I’m easing out of my reading slump. You know what really helped me? Cynthia’s comment that I should set my reading goals aside for now. I mean, truly — why was I putting pressure on myself to read so quickly? Life happens when we’re making plans, and in this case, we are contending with a lot of moving parts as we prepare to move to another city this summer. Letting go of that aggressive reading goal has left me feeling much lighter. A gentle reminder to self of a couple of things: first, I can be somewhat tightly wound and rule-abiding to a fault. Sometimes I need to breathe a little bit. Let go. Loosen up. Second, I came across a quote recently that said: “If it cost you your peace of mind, you overpaid.” I mean, I don’t know how much I subscribe to that belief in the aggregate, but on this issue? Where I was putting undue guilt on myself for…what? To feel accomplished at the end of the year? Yes. I overpaid for that goal. Finally, someone recently told me that instead of setting numerical goals at the start of the year, she abides by the “more/less” framework. That is, instead of: “I want to read 45 books in 2021,” she would say, “I want to read more books this year than last.” On the one hand, this logic goes against all of the best practices in goal-setting that I’ve ever heard. (We all know the “SMART GOALS” framework — goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.) “More” is vague and possibly tees us up for missing the mark. On the other hand, what a graceful way to think about self-improvement. I want to read more and spend less time on social media. I want to run more miles and spend less time indoors.

+Another thing that has helped me out of the reading slump is finishing those handful of books I was trudging my way through and starting something totally different and delightful — on audiobook, I have been listening to Lauren Bacall’s self-narrated memoir (I finally got to it, Mama Cynthia!) and oh gosh what a treat to listen to her, and what a class act she was! One element I particularly admire about her is how fair and straight-forward she is in her self-assessment. She’s come out and said, “I was horrible at this, I shouldn’t have done that,” but in a tone of self-possession rather than self-denigration. She seems so beautifully composed. I’m now desperate to watch some of her old movies.

+Books I am about to start (in the final pages of thriller Confessions on the 7:45, which has picked up a little bit but I am still not crazy about it — so dark, so drawn out): No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (for one book club) and The Safe Place by Anna Downes (for my thriller book club). For something very light and diverting, I am going to try out some Jasmine Guillory per a reader rec (I actually read and was so-so on one of her earlier books, but I still recall it being delicious), am curious about Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane (going to be made into a Netflix show soon and my mother said she has been sobbing through the end of it), and, after many Magpie upvotes, am anxious to start Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings. Finally, this summer’s big reading project will be the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, which I’m reading in concert with my three sisters, my mother, and my sister-in-law! Happy to have a whole lineup of books I’m positively ecstatic to be starting.

+Every year, during the first few days of mild, non-winter-like weather, I immediately order a spring candle. This peony scented one is my favorite and is on its way to me now.

+In case any of the Easter jammies you were eyeing have sold out, a couple of others worth considering:




+And also – mini needs these pajamas for summer. Goodness are they cute!

+Even though I’ve shared literally dozens and dozens of Easter and spring dresses (even more special occasion wear here), I cannot figure out what I want to wear for the occasion (!) I have this as a back-up possibility but am still finding myself searching for something else. I had been considering this, but it sold out in my size. Then I found this, and I love so many of the details and the colors but the style isn’t my favorite — I do better with a well-defined waist.

+I found a couple of seriously cute hair bows for mini, including this pink floral (perfect for pairing with a pima cotton dress in solid white or pink, like this and sweet shoes like this) and this lemon print style.

+If you live on the UWS, you must go to Vanessa’s Dumplings, which just opened on Amsterdam. Oh Lord. Unbelievable. There are other locations in the city, but we are fortunate to now have one up in our neck of the woods. The pan-fried pork and chive dumplings…I dream about them. We used to go down to a hole-in-the-wall on the LES called Super Taste. No frills, super-authentic, and the best damn dumplings I’ve ever eaten. Vanessa’s gives them a run for their money. I’m thinking of writing a roundup of all of our favorite food haunts in NYC in the next few weeks, just to put them all down on paper before we leave. (And also to remind myself to dig in to all of these spots one more time!)

+If you are looking for a pick-me-up today, look no further than this $80 spring dress. Yes yes yes. Totally Cara Cara vibes with the shape. *Adds to cart.*

P.S. More random roundups along the lines of this post here and here.

P.P.S. My most recent batch of honest reviews of hyped beauty products. The TL;DR (too long; don’t read)? Buy this serum.

P.P.P.S. Oh la la, chic swimwear.


  1. P.S. stop what you’re doing and read anything and everything Anthony Bourdain has ever written. And all his shows. You will never be the same. I love him so and his death still brings me to tears. Maybe another reason Tucci’s show left me sour?

  2. I was so excited to watch the Stanley Tucci show but… I stopped halfway into the first episode. I found him insufferable- snobby and tone deaf. Did I stop watching too soon??
    That said, a show I do love on CNN is United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, if you haven’t seen it!

    1. OK, so glad I’m not alone in my reaction to Tucci! Disappointing! We still enjoyed the food and videography, though. A delicious little escape.

      Thanks for the show rec, too!


  3. I am interested to see what you think of Firefly Lane. I don’t think I’ve ever hated a book more, and I am in the minority. I wanted to throw it across the room. I thought the characters were terrible to each other, and it read, to me, like “sadness/grief porn,” a la the poverty porn title people sometimes use. A weird exploitation of what real people might go through, but twisted because the characters were so awful.

    1. !! Yikes!! I am intimidated by this review to the point of bumping it down on the list. I was actually just looking at it today as a contender for my next audiobook but all of hers are so long, and I was put out by that. I don’t think I want to listen to any novel for more than 20 hours? Anyway, maybe I’ll hang back on this one. Thanks for sharing a dissenting opinion. I totally understand what you mean by grief porn.


  4. Have you or any fellow Magpies read any of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon books? There is certainly a fair amount of repetition in them though it does make it easy to start anywhere in the series instead of having to begin with the first one. I have loved the historical fiction and travel aspects of them especially during this last year of lockdown.

    1. Hi Jeanne! I am not familiar but am confident there are Magpies who will come out of the woodwork sharing your perspective. SO many voracious readers here. Thanks for the tip! I just added it to my ever-growing Amazon wishlist when I need something different.


  5. I am laughing to myself over “The baby just had a shave” – too cute and funny!

    I love that Alice McCall dress as it looks like some other commenters do as well – the waist might be more defined in person? Hard to say but it’s just gorgeous!

  6. Jen,

    I’m so glad someone agrees with me that Stanley Tucci is…the least interesting/noteworthy/exciting? part of the show. I love everything about it, but I could also do without him haha. I loved his wife and the production assistant (in Rome)’s takes on the food though. Of course–it’s so beautifully shot, I don’t even care who’s in charge.

    If you’re looking for reading suggestions that help scratch the travel bug, Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour is phenomenal. It inspired and shaped my trips to both Spain and Vietnam.

    Wishin you all the best in this new spring season,


    1. Ha! YES! And Mr. Magpie has noticed that he rarely offers any interesting commentary on the food — just expletives or “Oh my God!” It’s not exactly…riveting? But as you say, it’s so beautifully shot, and so stylish and intriguing, it’s easy to shrug off.

      Thanks for the book rec! This is right up my alley, and Mr. Magpie’s!


    2. P.S. I just checked to see if the Bourdain is available on audiobook, narrated by Bourdain himself, but it is not. Now I’m wondering if I should try his “Kitchen Confidential,” which is available and narrated by him. Did you read that one? I know there was a lot of press about it but I never did.

  7. Several years ago I adopted the “more/less” approach to my New Years’ resolutions and what a game changer! More reading/less scrolling, more tea/less coffee, etc. The results are far more successful and way less stressful, I have to say! Adding Lauren Bacall’s memoir to my list — I was just thinking I needed a break from fiction! Have a wonderful day 🙂 xo H

    1. So good to hear approach this corroborated! It feels like a much gentler way towards reaching goals. More of a “point me in the right direction” vibe. I think I’ll try it on for size for the rest of this year, especially with so many moving parts ahead.

      I think you’ll like the Bacall! I found her admirable. Her love of her friends was stirring. I also admire how honest she seemed to be about herself — her feelings, her failings, etc. Something to strive for.


    1. Were you really?! How cool! She is iconic. Interestingly, her given name was Betsy! You’ll enjoy this book. So easy to listen to. I finished it on audiobook in a couple of days.


  8. Ohh I am particularly interested in the Kristin Lavransdatter series (especially because I see the author compared to Elena Ferrante!), will look forward to hearing what you think. On a related note, if you’re in the Italy mood, my husband and I just watched the first season of the HBO series “My Brilliant Friend” (I don’t know what took me so long since I’ve long had Ferrante Fever) and I loved it. The story is set in post-war Naples and features impressive Italian actors speaking Italian. It was fun to experience the story in the language it was written, and I quickly forgot I was reading subtitles.

    1. Oo thank you for the rec! I am very intrigued by that series. On the note of subtitles — Landon and I just started watching “Lupin,” in French, and I also quickly forgot it was subtitled. It seems like such a hurdle to get over but then, if it’s gripping cinema/tv, you just forget. I’m enjoying it!


    1. Hi Diana! Thanks for the rec! I actually finished it not long ago and while I found it easy to get into (and parts of it were SO fun to read, so imaginative), I wasn’t wild about it in the end. Will be curious to hear your thoughts after you’ve finished! But enjoy the ride for now!!


  9. Hi Jen!!!
    Thank you for all of your ongoing recommendations of all things.

    I know how busy you are, but if you should come across legging sets (as transition pieces) for 3 year olds, I would be so appreciative!

    1. Hi Susan! My absolute pleasure! Yes, happy to look for this — will send you a note asking for more detail on what you need and will share finds on blog for everyone. Thank you for reading!


  10. That Alice McCall dress is quite pretty! I think the diagonal lines going in at the waist may surprise you on how flattering it could be. Just MY two cents.

  11. Oooooh! I’m so thrilled to hear you’re reading By Myself! It’s at the top of my most loved books. So much of just everything in that one book. I enjoyed all of the pictures in the book too, so you may need to browse through them next time you’re at a book store. (One downside of audio books) One BIG upside is you get to listen to Lauren herself. How cool is that? Enjoy! P.S. Magpies, it’s a great book!

    Check out the list of the most stressful things in life and moving will always be up there in the top! Moving with kids? Are more stress points for that. Remember, reading is a pleasure!

    I had to learn many of life lessons the hard way. Perfection is no longer in my name. It’s now closer to “this is my best work today, and thank you very much!”


    1. Hi! Yes, such a treat to listen to it in Lauren’s distinctive, elegant voice! I just finished it yesterday. It’s interesting because the book (at least the version I had) was clearly written in two separate legs, separated by a few decades, and the first portion has such a different tone than the second portion, which (sadly) reads more like a protracted set of obituaries of her dear friends, many of whom were celebrated actors, writers, producers, etc. Her love for her friends and the way she really seemed to dedicate a good deal of her life to them comes through in it, but it is sad.

      I love this note: “Perfection is no longer my name.It’s now closer to “this is my best work today, and thank you very much!”” Same!!


    2. Oh yes, I had forgotten that she added that second part to the book. I read it so long ago that it was still the original book. I did go back and read the addition later, but like you, I didn’t enjoy it as much.

    3. Yes – definitely a different tenor. But still elegant and interesting! I really relished the entire thing. Great suggestion. It helped me out of a dry slump for sure!


  12. If you haven’t read Patricia Lockwood’s first book, a memoir called Priestdaddy, I HIGHLY recommend. It is w i l d and provides a lot of important backstory to her very unique perspective/singular voice.

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