Holiday Intentions.

By: Jen Shoop

Last year, I told Mr. Magpie I wanted “a Christmas Vacation-type holiday”: a busy house full of loved ones, friends dipping into egg nog, Mele Kalikimaka, “good, old-fashioned Griswold family fun.” This was in large part shaped by multiple years of COVID protocols and our recent move to the suburbs: I desperately wanted the big, crowded, busy holiday we’d missed for two years owing to COVID and much longer owing to the constraints of urban living.

Then, the Monday after Thanksgiving, Mr. Magpie tested positive for COVID. We thought we were being responsible by having him self-isolate from myself and the children. On the ninth or tenth day of his sequestration, my son tested positive. I remember calling my mother from the powder bathroom, cloistered there so that my children wouldn’t hear, crying like a teen. “I can’t do this for ten more days,” I spluttered, thinking mainly of how challenging it had been to unexpectedly solo parent while we were tethered to the house — and I was somehow attempting to still write every day. My mom gently reminded me that I would no longer be alone; I could have Landon join us again. “But ten more days inside?!” I wondered aloud. And then: “This holiday is not at all what I had hoped.” She permitted me the drama, and I’ll never forget what she said after I’d finished my outsized lamentations: “What can I do?”

“Nothing,” I sighed. “Thanks for listening.”

She and my father then, promptly, dropped a box of wine on our doorstep, with a note: “COVID lubrication.” Ha!

I am hoping for a different tack this holiday season, but not so much a Griswold-style one. This year, I want to focus on “the small thing.” A reader used this turn of phrase when presenting her approach to living with small children in tow a few months ago and I’ve never forgotten it: instead of the overblown party, the elaborate activity, the packed Saturday, “do the small thing.” Funfetti cupcakes with candles. Paper dolls at the kitchen table. A family hike. This year, I want the small thing. I want to prioritize rather than “squeeze in” the making of Christmas cookies, the trimming of the tree, the wrapping of gifts. I so dearly enjoy those aspects of the holiday, and yet I sometimes find myself a whirling dervish as I whip through them. Recently, I have gotten better at this by practicing what I have elsewhere called “the realistic preview.” A very narrow example (as I am still a work in progress on this front): last week, an American Girl doll holiday catalog arrived in the mail. I felt a surge of nostalgia, as I remember clipping out photos of Samantha’s brass bed multiple years in a row in the hopes that I might find it under the tree. (I never did, and now I get it, Santa — the doll furniture is overpriced! Mini has been asking for AG’s “washer-dryer” for over a year now and how, just how, does anyone pay $175 for that?!). I knew I needed to carve out intentional time to watch her thumb through it. And so I did. I woke up one morning a few days later and said “everything else can wait – I’m going to do this with her.” And we sat at the dining room table while she ate oatmeal and pored over every page, annotating verbosely, her little socked feet swinging back and forth beneath us.

This is my wish for the the 2022 holiday season: more slow mornings spent in pajamas with my girl while the magic of Santa remains.


+A first look at holiday 2022.

+Holiday baking and my favorite baking gear to boot.

+On my perennial quest to be present.

Shopping Break.

+I am wearing the perfect holiday morning pajamas from Lake in the photo above (generously gifted). Already planning on wearing these on Christmas morning!

+A chic Thanksgiving dress contender — under $150.

+Just stocked up on Jefferies tights for my daughter for the season ahead — navy tights are part of her winter uniform and this brand makes really high-quality hosiery for littles. I prefer the cableknit look but it seems that the plain are preferred. I also think these (come in pack of 3) are excellent for the price and love the color options.

+I don’t *need* another La Ligne cashmere Marin sweater, but…I need this one. I missed out on all of the La Ligne x Target knitwear in my size and am mopping up my sorrows by contemplating one of the real deals.

+Another good striped knitwear buy.

+I have these personalized sketchbooks on my radar as a great default gift for the littles in our life this holiday season — order now, bundle with Ooly crayons or pens. Specifically thinking this would be cute for mini to give to her little gal pals.

+Apiece Apart is running 25% off sitewide with code FRIENDS25. Love this dress and this cropped bomber!

+An inexpensive way to get in on the pleated high waisted trouser moment. Diane Keaton vibes!

+This patterned fall dress is CORD! Why am I so obsessed with corduroy?

+The under-$10 headband I’m wearing with everything.

+This embroidered cardi is so chic! For some reason imagining layering over this knit dress? The cardi loosely brings to mind some of the pretty knits from SEA.

+OK, this bag is SO fabulous. Wasn’t familiar with the brand, but it gives major high end designer flair and I love the knotting.

+These quilted coats from Rylee + Cru are a major splurge for a little one, but omg. I’m swooning. (You can twin with her in this.)

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10 thoughts on “Holiday Intentions.

  1. Echoing some others to say I POURED over the AG catalog every time it came. I don’t think my parents ever bought me anything from it apart from the doll itself, but man it was a highlight still. I had a talented uncle make us furniture, and we bought a lot of doll clothes at craft shows locally — my mother is also a seamstress and made us extensive wardrobes, and I cut my sewing eye teeth on 18″ doll patterns. Good memories for sure.

    My early teenage friends and I also (later) enjoyed mocking the ridiculous overpricing as a sign of our financial savvy 🙂 We were independent-minded but still somehow tethered to those catalogs for a good time.

    1. Love this – such a ritual from our collective girlhood! And wow – so cool that your family handmade the accessories/outfits! We used shipping boxes as beds. Haha!


  2. Love the idea of focusing on the small things that matter most. What special memories you are creating for your daughter! Since moving to a different state and forging new relationships with neighbors and friends, I’ve started a little tradition of making special care packages for them for each holiday. Try to make it something thoughtful, useful and fun. It’s been such a big hit and small way to let them know how much their friendship means to me.

    1. Oh my gosh, what a beautiful gesture! I love this! If you have a minute, please share your thoughts on what to include — maybe I can copy 🙂


      1. Oh thank you!! For Halloween, I did miniature cinnamon whiskey bottles, glass skull shot glasses and personalized fun ‘boo’zed gift tags. For Thanksgiving, I’m planning on making baskets for a Thanksgiving Eve movie night. I’ll include a fleece throw blanket (found inexpensive ones at Target in seasonal colors) and a make batch of homemade caramel popcorn that is my sister’s recipe. I’m going to include a recipe card with it. Christmas has yet to be determined, ha!

  3. This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully pen such a wonderful holiday intention.

    On a side note, I have a relatively extensive collection of AG dolls, clothes, furniture (including Samantha’s bed), etc. from my childhood. I have been planning to sell it for quite some time, so if you are interested in any particular items, I’d be happy to sell to you (or any other Magpies) for the holidays! I even have some handmade dresses/outfits in my child size that matched dolls clothes handcrafted by my grandmother. Since children aren’t part of my plans, I’d love to find homes for these items with children who will appreciate it!

    1. Hi Melinda! So glad this resonated! Heading into the busy season with a (hopefully) clearer head.

      Love the idea of you passing on these items! Please share a link/details when you have them!


      1. Jen- do you have a preferred way you think would be best to share the inventory? This is where I have struggled with pulling the trigger to sell! Is a document with photos/specs sufficient if I don’t do a website/link everything?

        Thanks for any guidance!

        1. Hi Melinda – I would post the items to eBay. That’s the clearest way to share accurate information/photos about all of the items, arrange payment and shipment, etc!


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