Women of Substance.

{SURPRISE!  Magpie got a little facelift today.  Thoughts?  Tell me what you think!}

When Mr. Magpie and I were discussing potential names for #minimagpie, one of our criteria was that her name had to sound like it belonged to “a woman of substance.”  I’m not sure where I found this phrase, but Mr. Magpie and I both agreed that it was an appropriate lens for evaluating name candidates.

For Mr. Magpie, this meant that he considered each suggested name in terms of whether it sounded like “the CEO of a company.”

I love him so much for this, for already imagining–assuming–big things for mini.

For me, this ultimately meant two things: first, that I gravitated towards gender-neutral names, and second, that I had to define what it meant to be a “woman of substance.”

I shared this naming specification over dinner with my brilliant + beautiful friend K. a few weeks ago.  A high-powered attorney by day, she is one of the most deeply thoughtful women I know.  And by thoughtful, I not only mean considerate, but truly filled with thought: this lady is mindful and perceptive and curious about everything she comes across and will really keep you honest.  She is careful with her words in a way that I deeply respect: there is no fat or lassitude in the way she speaks, no accidental insult or opening for misinterpretation by way of lazy word choice.  And, magically, in spite of — or on top of — her intellectual brawn, she lives her life with remarkable lightness and level-headedness.  Everything in perspective.

As we talked about what it meant to be a “woman of substance,” I mentioned something about how much I enjoyed writing this blog, and how much I wanted to invest more time in it, but how worried I was that it wasn’t, well, substantive enough.  She made the comment that if it was a good outlet for me and could help contribute to supporting my family, how was it not substantive?  I am so grateful to her for this pep talk because it has led me to spend more time right here with this blog and you kind people (so many INCREDIBLE emails and comments lately, I can’t even deal! — soon-to-be-moms would do well to read the comments on this post — and I also received so many texts and emails with additional suggestions that I will eventually need to update it!  For ex: one friend I trust recommended this bra for sleeping/hospital (“like a teenager bra, perfect for holding nursing pads in place but super comfortable”), my sister implored me to buy these, and another urged me to download a few movies to our laptop just in case).  This conversation led me to invest more time in the writing of each post and it’s giving me life, people.

At any rate, midway through our dinner discussion, it occurred to me that K. was herself a perfect example of a WOS (woman of substance), and that maybe it was impossible to define the phrase in any more exacting way than through the examples of the many WOS I am fortunate to have in my life, who wear such a diversity of hats and aspire to such a sprawling range of different goals and work across such a wide array of industries and spaces–whether in the home, as mothers; in their spare time, as volunteers; in their careers, as working women; or anywhere else they spend their time being bad-asses.

But I thought mainly of my sister-in-law, who, despite living through unspeakable tragedy in the last few years, carries herself with such beautiful self-possession and, at the same time, candor and down-to-earth-ness, that it’s impossible not to marvel at her.  She’s also–casually–an incredibly talented poet, creative writing professor, and doting mother.  NBD.

I thought about all of my sisters, such a bright and sassy and opinionated and loyal bunch–and particularly of the words my brother-in-law said to my sister during her epically romantic wedding a year ago, one cold night in December in New York City: that across the long list of attributes he’d drawn up when thinking about her while crafting his vows (insert sob face at the thought of this sweet guy sitting down and making a list of all of the things he loved most about my sister), the one that stood out in highest relief was passion.  How true this is about her, and how true it is about all of my sisters.  My sisters are nothing if not passionate, each in their own way and in their own spaces.  They all hold deep convictions, and will not shy away from getting their voices across, though some more quietly than others.  (And, I got a little choked up re-reading this post from two years ago on how much I adore each of them.)  And it occurs to me that none of them have ever shied away from taking the less beaten path, the harder path, the longer path.  One worked her way up through the brutal world of New York fashion quietly and humbly, moving from picking out buttons in the Fabric District to graduating from Parson’s to becoming head designer for a nationally-renowned brand.  And all without fanfare, something she maybe learned from my father (skip to the section on him in that post).  To say that this chick has grit is an understatement.

I thought about my brave and sharp friend W., who survived a near-death experience and intense post-partum medical complications bringing her daughter into the world, and yet has the perspective and strength to write me, when I am complaining about far lesser challenges, and say: “Everything that happens in life is the best thing that can happen.”

I thought about a picture of my great-grandmother that my father once showed me.  Wide-eyed and somber, she’s just left her hometown of Frosolone, Italy, for America, leaving behind everything she knows besides her young husband.  When my parents and I visited Ellis Island last year, I was awestruck at the courage it must have taken to make that trip, and was deeply moved at the opportunity to stand, roughly, where she had, almost a hundred years earlier, my life as I know it so deeply dependent as it is on her pioneering spirit a century ago.

And I thought about my cousin, who lost her mother at a young age, and who has grown up with such grace and poise and optimism, and of my aunt, who once left her job in order to move in with and care after her ailing brother, and–

It can leave you dumbstruck, the pluck and (often quiet) tenacity of these women, in the face of adversity.

And it felt appropriate today, after a weekend when women have been marching together, to mention this.  I bring up the march with no political agenda, but rather as a timely prompt to spend some time reflecting on the women of substance that I have in my life and the incredible role models they provide for me and that they will provide for minimagpie, too.

And it felt appropriate, too, when we did settle on a name for minimagpie–two family names, actually, one male and one female–even though the process of deciding on it had led me to realize how ancillary her name was to the fact that she is already so blessed to be surrounded by a circle of inspiring women of substance.

And on that note.  10 things for you WOS today.

After we’d settled on a name, I promptly ordered a few sets of these personalized book plates ($14.50 for 12) from Etsy shop Preppy Prodigy.  We received dozens of books from family and friends for #minimagpie (they know me well) and I wanted to be able to inscribe the name of the gift-giver in each so that we could remember that person when we read: You should know that the generous owner of this boutique donates a pack of pencils to children in foster care for each purchase, either through www.caseforkids.org, or www.convoyofhope.org.  Talk about a  #WOS!  Also — all of her products are made in America with materials sourced from American-made companies, including packaging (and the packaging is gorgine – I should have posted a pic of it on Instagram, but my package came arrived in beautiful yellow wrapping paper!)

This satchel from Creatures of Comfort ($380) looks like something a true grown up would wear, amirite?  Also available in navy.

the fashion magpie creatures of comfort bag the fashion magpie creatures of comfort apple bag smooth leather pink

I recently snagged this limited edition Diptyque candle ($68) and not only is it gorgeous, but it smells insane (like, well, roses).  I’m so obsessed, I think I might buy one of these scented porcelain medallions ($50) in the same scent for my closet.  Wouldn’t mind waltzing around with this perfuming my clothes!

the fashion magpie diptyque rose candle rosamundi

The puffed sleeves on this blouse are SO good and SO of the moment and SO high fashion, and yet it bears the lovely price point of $50.

I know I’ve featured a number of monogrammed goods recently (ahem, here — and don’t forget that you can get an exclusive magpie 10% off your purchase from SouthernLinen with code valentine now through 2/14), but I have to share one epic additional source:

The Monogram Studio.

SO many gorgeous items, including these personalized linen cocktails napkins ($80 for 4), bath mats ($260), baby pillows ($75), and OMG these terry child robes ($65).  


And I have to mention that the sweet owner of this beautiful monogram shop, Dancia, told me: “I put my heart and soul into my business and what I do” and, while she was quick to state that she was “not good at self-promotion” (few women are, in my experience!), she did underscore that her focus is on quality.  She said: “I know I am not the cheapest site out there but people can trust that they will receive or send a high quality gift.”  Love that.  Thanks, Dancia, for the gorgine inspiration!  I want all.the.things in your shop.

For Christmas, my brother gave me the COOLEST set of ear jackets (shown at top below) — slightly edgy but delicate, they were designed by his friends Leah and Billy, who own Seattle-based jewelry company Baleen.  I’m obsessed with them and wear them constantly.  I feel like they add a little spunk to my look right now, which, at 8.5 months pregnant, feels more frumpy than anything else.  (I can barely see my toes.)  I also love these $24 cross studs and these $26 circle studs.  GREAT source for gifts for friends and loved ones, and it’s so rad that these pieces are handmade in Seattle by married artisans.  (And for those of you local to Seattle, they opened a brick-and-mortar shop in October 2015 that you must visit!)

OK, so this is not the chicest of the litter, but let’s face it: sometimes we women of substance also find ourselves struggling to keep a household  running and can use all the help we can get.  I personally use a great cleaning service (VMaids, for those local to Chicago — the thing I love MOST about them, aside from good service and decent prices, is that they make scheduling super easy: you email them and they usually respond within a few hours to confirm) once a month.  But I also, especially in my insane nesting mode, spend quite a bit of time cleaning our floors, which tend to accrue dust bunnies and show salt and mud residue thanks to a rambunctious dog and the Chicago winter.  I mop the floors frequently using Murphy’s Oil (my mom always used this growing up and the smell is pure nostalgia for me — but I also love that it does not leave a streaky, cloudy surface, which so many other cleaners do!), but, for spot cleaning and ridding our floors of those pesky dust bunnies, I am obsessed with this handheld vacuum ($133) from Black + Decker.  So much easier to use than my big vacuum — I reach for it at least once every few days.  It works like a charm and you need it.

the fashion magpie black and decker flex vacuum handheld

I am bowled over by the coolness of this embroidered blouse from Gap ($69, but currently 40% off with code HAPPY).  So my steez.  Wear with white jeans to encourage an early spring.

This packable New Balance for J. Crew jacket ($120) has to be mine.  I love the color, the style, and the functionality of it.  I cannot WAIT to get back into my running regimen post-baby, and this, along with my new Alo moto leggings (I ended up getting them in the glossy navy color) will be fun motivators.  (I also LOVE the scalloped trim on these Lululemon leggings — what a cute detail!)

the fashion magpie j crew anorak sport

the fashion magpie j crew anorak sport pink


the fashion magpie j crew anorak sport pink

I am smitten with the sorbet colors in the current Mara Hoffman collection, especially this adorable $195 romper.

the fashion magpie mara hoffmann striped romper

This striped flared top ($215) also caught my eye, as did this midi dress ($350).


+A fab pair of distressed jeans from my favorite jean-monger, J Brand, on sale for $160.  LOVE the wash and rise.

+Well, if this isn’t the cutest skirt I’ve seen in a long time, I don’t know what is.  J.Crew, you dirty dog.

+The cutest elephant hamper for a nursery (on sale for $55)!

+I’m all about cardigans right now, and this $98 find from Gap looks like something Mara Hoffman designed!  SO CHIC.

+I’m already stockpiling lots of finds that minimagpie will need down the road, and my most recent discovery has been these “first stage” silicon spoons for her first bites.  A few moms have recommended them.  These containers by the same brand (Beaba) are also on my list.

+This black one-piece is both sexy and classic at the same time (on sale for $121).




  1. I want that NB jacket in both pink and that amazing spring green. I wonder much I’d need to up my weekly mileage to justify *two* overpriced running jackets? 😉

    I love the redesign! I have had some problems in the past viewing the column format –sometimes images were cut off or off-center, and I’m sure it was me (my browser or settings or something) but I could never figure out how to fix it. But now I don’t have to!

    1. YAY! Thanks for the good word. I’m now working on figuring out how to speed up the site — it’s running a leeeetle slow right now — but at least things are loading properly 🙂 And, hey, if you think about it…isn’t an extra $120 worth it if you lose an extra pound or two?!?! HA!

    2. And, I should clarify — I meant spending the extra $120 on those running jackets. HA.

  2. Thanks for creating a post about women!!! Also, thank you for supporting my shop, Preppy Prodigy. I’ll be spending my morning checking out all your recommendations. Thank you!!! Jen

  3. I love this post, it was so heartwarming!! I love that you have given so much thought about a name for your little, not only that you love, but that will have a positive impact on her as she grows up. I can’t wait to hear what you decided on, as I’m sure it will be perfection!

    On another note, the new website is so so so amazing, I love it!! It’s so user friendly and clean, I am so jazzed to see it updated!!

    1. YAY! Thanks, Nicole! I was nervous to make a big change but I’m so glad one of my most loyal readers approves 🙂 And, thanks, as always, for the sweet note. xoxo

  4. Love your posts! I love Preppy Prodigy too! They stationery makes great children’s gifts for all of those birthday parties you will be going to!

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