Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

I treasure all of the reader responses to my getting to know you post. Did you know there is a Magpie reader who…

+”Makes chocolate chip cookies on average three times a week.”

+Describes “Hiddensee (small Island at the baltic sea coast of Germany)” as her favorite place on earth.

+”Built a standing committee at my very traditional synagogue to improve treatment of and relations with interfaith families. As a child of an interfaith family and current member of an interfaith marriage, this has been a real labor of love.”

+Describes her superpower as “patience and my deep love for my children. I put them first always.”

+Wishes she could tell herself ten years ago:  “You look amazing, own it.”

+”Was the first person in my family, extended included, to earn a college degree.” 

+Just before bed, every night, tells her husband she loves him and hopes he has sweet dreams — “Could not live with myself if he would pass in the night without it!”

+Lists as her desert-island book: “The Thornbirds by Colleen McCollough. (As my sister says, it’s a good book to read if you want to fall back in love with reading.)”

+Uses as a mantra: “‘Everything you need is already inside.’ It’s a quote from Bill Bowerman, former Oregon coach and co-founder of Nike.”

+Identifies the following mezcla of interesting people as her dream dinner party guests: “My grandfathers (who passed away) and fiancé (they never met but would have had so many interesting conversations) and Hannah Ahrendt.”

In awe of each of these women for different reasons. Today, I thought I’d get to know you better but leaving you with an asynchronous icebreaker — what are five surprising or interesting facts about you? I usually hate this prompt in real life because I can never think quickly enough on my feet, but because we can take our time here…GO. And feel free to scale back or dial up if you can only think of two or have a desire to share seven.

I’ll start. It was a little hard to think of these since I share so much with you already, but here goes:

1 // I am left-handed. So is my husband, my daughter, and, likely, my 1.5 year old son.

2 // My great-great-grandfather, Arunah Shepherdson Abell, founded The Baltimore Sun newspaper in 1837. (How bout that name?)

3 // I triple majored in English, History, and French. The University of Virginia did not allow triple majors (double majoring was the maximum permitted), but I completed all area requirements for majoring in all three disciplines nonetheless.

4 // Steven Spielberg scouted my childhood home for one of his movies in the early 90s. I’m not sure which film it was for or whether it was ever produced, for that matter, because my parents — fiercely private as they are — firmly declined to entertain the conversation.

5 // I studied piano lessons from first through tenth grades. Unfortunately, my hands were so small, they barely spanned an octave, meaning many classics (especially more technically complex ones) were logistically tricky for me to pull off. Serious piano playing was just not in the cards for me.


Post Scripts: Items You Never Knew You Always Needed.

*Many of these items would make incredible, quirky gifts for a loved one who is difficult to shop for. How about these beautiful shears for a flower lover?

+Premium cheese grater with olive wood box. We hunted for a long time for a cheese grater that would yield the kind of hard, pebble-like gratings vs. the thin, long shards you get with a Microplane. Surprisingly difficult to find! Then we found this, which is beautifully designed and yields the perfect grated cheese for topping pasta or soup (i.e., the gratings don’t dissolve immediately upon contact). It’s pretty enough to leave the wooden box out on the table with a spoon for serving! The shipping will make you pause and think twice, but don’t — even if this item cost double what it does, it would be worth it. Beautiful gift for a discerning cook! UPDATE: Mr. Magpie was adamant I should clarify this grater is for hard cheese only.

+Brass bumble bee door knocker. Can you imagine a happier greeting on a front door? Just the sight of this on someone’s door would make me want to get to know the homeowner.

+First day / last day pennant. I decided to forgo the individualized grade years for back-to-school and last-day photos and get this infinite-use pennant instead. One side reads: “First Day”; the other reads: “Last Day.” Comes in a range of great colors. Buy now and you’ll be ahead of the game come year end. (And this one will really be a “last day of school” to celebrate.)

+Acrylic headband stand. For the headband addiction from which so many of us suffer.

+Linen tissue box cover. Transforms Kleenex into something chic for your bedside table.

+Shun utility shears. I mentioned this in a recent post, but these are an MVP in our house. Cuts through just about anything, including crab shell, but great for things like trimming twine, assisting in the breaking down of a chicken, cutting anything from parchment paper to herbs, etc. The handles come apart for easy cleaning and they are dishwasher safe. We have two pairs of these and they are used daily.

+Upholstered sconce shades. You would be startled at how much a relatively small investment like this can transform and personalize a space.

+Botanical clogs. For slipping on to take out the garbage or grab the newspaper from the front lawn.

+Plastic trays. If you have small children, these will be your best friends. I use them daily and for infinite purposes — setting up activities, corralling markers while in use, arranging a sensory bin, etc. Easy to clean and the perfect dimensions.

+Marvis toothpaste dispenser/squeezer. It’s the little things in life, OK? Like a tidy spot for your toothpaste that forestalls the inevitable argument with your husband about squeezing the toothpaste from the top instead of the bottom of the tube. (Just me?)

+Silicone mat. Wonderful to use when little hands are coloring/crafting somewhere that makes your stomach uneasy (fancy dining room table) or using a material (glitter) that leaves you chanting quiet mantras of peace to yourself.

+Pack of 12 white appetizer plates. Used daily in our house for any manner of purposes — a spoon rest, a small snack, a bread and butter plate, a dish to set a small basil plant in, etc. The perfect size.

+Kuhn Rikon peelers. Just the best. So sharp and easy to maneuver. The design is perfect — we have more expensive ones from OXO that we hate in comparison to these.

+Pruning shears. Speaking of shears, everyone needs a pair of proper pruning shears. Even in our apartment, we’ve used them for things like our Christmas tree (which needed a little haircut on top), woody-stemmed flower arrangements, etc. We also have a pair for flowers (the pruning shears would be a bit heavy duty for standard flower arrangement) that I use whenever we have cut flowers in the house.

+A lot of the items in my organizational gear post fit the bill here, too!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

79 thoughts on “Icebreaker.

  1. 1) I’m an avid UVA fan.
    2) My current favorite book genre is memoir. Listening to the author narrate the audiobook while reading along in hard copy is my preferred way to read them.
    3) I never go to court without my grandmother’s watch and pearl studs or the pen I used to sign my law license and my oath when I was sworn in as an assistant district attorney (a gift from the first judge I worked for before law school, who used it to sign his law license and both judicial oaths he took before giving it to me).
    4) I’m the rare attorney who does not like coffee.
    5) My favorite hobby is singing in my church choir.

    1. Oo these are so great! Love that you carry your grandmother’s watch and pearls with you at court. So sweet 🙂

  2. Ooh, fun! Here are the first random tidbits about me that come to mind:

    + When I was 10, I wrote a letter to President Clinton in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. One morning in summer 1995, I returned home from the pool to find a large manila envelope bearing a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue return address, with a letter inside addressed to me, signed by the president! Still ranks as the most exciting mail delivery of my life

    + As a child, I modeled for textbooks published by a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster.

    + I’ve been a lifelong Yankees fan, even through 4 years of college in Boston and 6+ years of living here in my thirties, thanks to the fact that my grandfather played for them in the 1940s/50s!

    + I’ve been a lifelong Francophile, beginning in toddlerhood. I was the President of my high school’s French Honor Society and ended up majoring in French and Art History in college (I also spent the entirety of my junior year in Paris)

    + I lived in New York for 8 years in my twenties. One year during that stint, I was featured by Time Out New York as one of their “Stylish New Yorkers” of the year (!)

    1. These are EXCELLENT!!! Wow – so fun! So cool that your grandfather was a pro ballplayer!!! Hoping you kept a bat or ball of his!


  3. 1. My parents met on Capitol Hill while working in the same House office. 30+ years later, I married a lovely man I met… on Capitol Hill while working in the same Senate office.

    2. Related – we couldn’t get legally married on our scheduled wedding day, so we joke we married twice. Our wedding fell during the government shutdown of 2018, and turns out that the DC marriage bureau is controlled by Congress and was shut down too! So we had our big bash, and then two weeks later, got legally married between two ferns at a nondescript city building, with our marriage license being printed in the background. Definitely a weird but fun 15 minutes of fame.

    3. I never considered myself an athlete as a kid/teenager, and definitely would never have described myself as a runner. But I surprised myself the other morning (while lacing up my sneakers) by counting backwards and realizing I’d been consistently running (slowly – but surely!) for nearly 15 years – longer than any other hobby I’ve ever had. So, I guess I’m a runner!?

    4. My grandfather’s name was Socrates (perhaps not surprising considering my very Greek last name…but still fun!)

    5. I’m an avid needlepointer and painter.

    1. Wow!! Love the symmetry between your love story and that of your parents! And go you on running for nearly 15 years! Hoping I can join your ranks by persisting in my own practice.

      Socrates is such a great name, too!!!


  4. 1. I have my advanced open water scuba certification
    2. My husband & I are college sweethearts (perhaps why I’m drawn to so much of your writing about your college love story) and have been dating since I was 18
    3. I went back to school to take premed requirements at age 25, and now at almost 30 I’m halfway through my third year of medical school!
    4. I went to boarding school for high school, & I’m still best friends with the friends I made there. I’m convinced those years changed me so much as a person for the better. Deciding to move halfway across the country for school at 15 was a tough decision (and worse for my parents, I’m sure) but I’m convinced I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
    5. When I was younger I performed in about a million musicals and in college I performed in operas!

    1. What!! Multiple trained musicians in this bunch, and WOW to pursuing a “second” career — props to you! I am exceptionally inspired by people that make strong left handed turns. It takes not only vision but conviction and strenuous effort to change paths like that. I’ve written about this concept elsewhere, but I feel as though there are so many invisible forces telling us to stay put, stay in our lane, DO NOT MOVE and so it truly is a marvel when someone is able to run against the wind to do something different. Props, my friend!


  5. What a fun prompt! And I absolutely loved reading the responses from your readers too — just goes to show how interesting people are!

    1. I got lost in London during a family vacation when I was 8. I was probably only “lost” for under 20 minutes, but it felt like eternity. I kept it together until I saw my father running towards me (and in my head, he was taking the longest strides I had ever seen), at which point I bawled. This was on a multi-city tour of Europe, and my parents had prepared us for situations in which we would get separated, say at the subway station (e.g., if you get left behind at the train, get off at the very next stop and that would be the meeting point; if you get left behind at the station, stay put and the family would come back, etc). But none of those had applied to my situation, ha!

    2. I was able to do an aerial cartwheel (no hands) when I was 25. I took gymnastics as a young girl, but just for fun — I never competed as I did not like the pressure. I then taught kids’ gymnastics in my 20’s, and during breaks I would practice for fun, and after many attempts I got my aerial back. I could do a front walkover (kick up to a handstand, arch your back and “walk over”) until I was 32 I think.

    3. I took Krav Maga — I love the idea of being able to defend oneself. I wish I went through the tests/levels, but I kept getting wrist injuries (which I don’t attribute fully to Krav Maga; I was doing a LOT of computer work at the time). I HIGHLY recommend it to any woman, especially young women off to college (well, college in a post-COVID world). From day one they teach you to defend yourself from choking and other kinds of “holds”, defending yourself while you are on the ground, etc. I can’t wait to get back into it, as I had never felt stronger and more empowered in my 5’0″ body in my life. It was a woman-founded/woman-owned school which made it even more bada$$.

    4. Somewhere inside me is an adventurous spirit. I love scuba diving, skydiving (went only once though), wakeboarding… I think everything changed when I became a mother though… something about risk taking while also being responsible for another human being made me re-think these interests, I guess…

    5. I love peanut butter and I love chocolate even more, but not together. Reese’s? You can’t pay me to eat one. Same with chocolate and mint together. Never the twain shall meet. Ever.

    1. These are AMAZING and honestly — thank you so much for the note about telling your children what to do if lost. I should probably have this conversation with my daughter as we use the subway to get to school!


    2. A friend told me that she tells her children to “look for a mommy” if they’re lost or in trouble. Trying to teach my children the same – you know a mom knows what to do!

  6. These posts are always so fun to read! I’m having to think very hard to come up with any facts that are interesting enough to be in this company:

    1. In the past two years since I’ve set a reading challenge on Goodreads, I’ve read over 80* books per year! 97 last year…soooo close to a nice round number 😉 I guess I’m more goal-motivated than I thought. *This includes many audiobooks, which I know some purists don’t count, but I do! It’s the only way to read as much as I want while raising two small kiddos all day!

    2. I’ve lived a block away from my parents for the last 10 years. This was NOT the first thing I told my now-husband when we first met 😉 Although at first I wasn’t sure about living so close, it’s had many more benefits than drawbacks. And we have a double standard in which I can barge in on them whenever I want whereas they always call/text before they stop by.

    3. I love Downton Abbey so much! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched all 6 seasons. It’s my comfort TV. I even watched it while in the hospital being induced with my second child!

    4. My husband and I just paid off our mortgage. This finally makes me feel like a grown up, even though I have two children and celebrated my 40th birthday this year.

    5. I have naturally curly hair, and both my daughters have inherited it. Which is fun, since they mostly take after my husband otherwise.

    1. These are fantastic, Stephanie, and for sure worthy of the company here! Almost 100 books?!?!? WHAT! I’m so impressed. I’m proud I got through 24 this year (half audio, half Kindle)! What was your favorite?!

      So envious, too, of your proximity to your parents. I love the double standard rule — makes complete sense to me. Haha 🙂


  7. 1. Another double major here… English and Politics. Plus a JD. Yet somehow I wound up working as a creative strategist in an advertising agency, a job I love and in which I use both all and none of my skills from my degrees.
    2. I’ve worn glasses since I was nine years old and contacts since I was 12. My parents only figured out that I had poor eyesight because my grades in subjects that were mostly taught on the chalkboard started to slip (ahem, year four maths). Everything that was learned or practised up close (reading, writing, spelling, maths that I already knew) was fine!
    3. I first had my eyebrows waxed at 12 years old. I was terrified but about to start high school (in Australia high school starts at grade 7, we don’t have middle school). I had a little monobrow situation which my older cousins insisted on remedying before my first day of high school. My mum was very firm on only waxing the middle for years, which I’m now very grateful for as I have thick and bushy eyebrows despite having waxed them for a good 20 years.
    4. I love chopping vegetables. It’s my favourite part of cooking. I find it so therapeutic and love the challenge of precisely chopping veg into uniform shapes and sizes. Give me a carrot to julienne or an onion to dice and I tune out from the rest of the world.
    5. I studied Japanese for four years in high school. I was top of the class then but sadly now remember very little beyond basic greetings, except for how to ask for someone’s name and phone number, counting from one to twenty, and I can still recognise and read the characters from one of the three alphabets but could not tell you what the words they spell mean!

    1. So many smart, highly-educated women in this circle! Wow! You seem like you have a very well-rounded portfolio of skills/subject area expertises…is there anything you can’t do, Amy?!

      Envious of your eyebrows…


  8. • My grandmother was the 1951 New Mexico State Fair Queen AND won the tractor driving contest the same year – still the only one to do so.

    • I have been riding and showing horses since I was 7. This year, at 28, I cashed out stock given to me at birth by my grandmother and bought my first horse as an adult (much to my parents’ chagrin). He (and my Jack Russell pup) give me more joy and happiness than anything else; the barn is truly ‘my happy place’.

    • I also took four years of Latin and my pet peeve is misconjugated words… ahem, alumni/alumnae.

    • I’m slowly redoing my house and am comfortable with power tools, basic plumbing, electrical work, etc. and my younger brother can barely change a lightbulb. My parents still joke they would have never, EVER predicted that one.

    1. I forgot #5!

      • My biggest fears are space and escalators. I can’t watch any of the space movies and even talking about it makes me uncomfortable. I’ll (reluctantly) ride escalators, but I have to talk myself through it the entire time.

      1. I hear you on the space fear — when I think about it for too long, my head hurts in an uncomfortable way. One of Mr. Magpie’s cousins is a huge space fan and has set his sights on traveling commercially to space in his lifetime — he often posts about Space X, etc. I could break out in hives thinking about that. NO THANK YOU, WILL STAY ON EARTH FOREVER!


    2. These are fantastic and BRAVO on the new horse! Wow! I’m almost a decade older than you but you feel like a proper grown up with that purchase…!

      Also, mad impressed by your home remodeling skills. I have a girl crush on you!


  9. 1) I’m the only redhead in over 3 generations of my extended family
    2) I send 3 sets of holiday cards each December; the act of picking them out (I like them to coordinate and have a similar aesthetic) and writing messages inside each of them brings me such great joy that I look forward to it all summer (Though I should clarify that I would never expect others to go thru this exercise in options)
    3) I have successfully run a half marathon, yet on two separate occasions have broken a bone while crossing the street
    4) I competed in public speaking in high school without an ounce of nerves, and as an adult get deeply nervous before a presentation
    5) I save all of my Broadway playbills

    1. OMG – broken bones on two separate occasions?! Poor thing! Sounds miserable. I love your holiday practice with the Christmas cards. How sweet is that?!


  10. Oh these are so fun!

    1. I have a strong sense of direction and love navigating in a new-to-me city or place, especially on foot.
    2. My favorite part of the holiday season are the cards. It warms my heart to see photos of friends and family, to chart new marriages, family pets, babies, and homes through these yearly greetings.
    3. I took visual art classes every semester of high school and into college.
    4. One of my cousins died when I was a teenager, and my son is his namesake. My son has blue eyes, even though neither my husband nor I, or even any of our parents do. My cousin had these great, sparkling blue eyes, though.
    5. I add cinnamon to my coffee.

    1. Sarah — So many of these details speak to what a sweet-hearted, sensible woman you are! I love this. I’m so sorry (many years later) about the passing of your cousin and love that you’ve celebrated his memory with your son. xx

  11. Are we all double majors?
    1. Double major French and Political Science.
    2. Best job was my first job out of college, working in a tourist office in Montpellier, France.
    3. Married my high school sweetheart. A kind man who can fix or build anything.
    4. Same man is related to one of the members of Wang Chung.
    5. Was a majorette.

    1. I know, Karyn – so many double majors in these parts! Wow! Love your first job out of college – sounds like my dream job, too. And your man! “A kind man who can fix or build anything.” So sweet!


  12. I’ve been drinking regular coffee since I was five (potentially stunted my growth – I’m 5’0″ on a good day.

    The first person on my father’s side of the family to come to the United States was Abraham Weber. He immigrated in the early 1770’s and fought in the Revolutionary War.

    I have spent over 800 nights in a hotel during my adult life.

    I double majored in Operations Management and Decision Sciences (a fancy way to say business statistics), and I graduated with a 4.0 in both majors. I love math and solving problems!

    My parents owned a homemade chocolate store growing up, and the day they retired and sold it was one of the saddest and happiest days in my life so far.

    My marriage and my children give me supreme joy, followed by the unique work I am able to do.

    1. Wow!!! Such great details. Love everything, including the note that the closure of your parents’ homemade chocolate store was one of “the saddest and happiest days in my life.” Wow – I can imagine why.

      I’m also 5’0 on a good day.


  13. 1. I’ve been a fan of the Backstreet Boys since I 12 years old. I’ve seen them in concert more than 20 times and even flew to Vegas when they did a residency there.

    2. I’ve never had my eye brows professionally groomed.
    My mother warned me growing up that if I over plucked them they’d stop growing back so I’ve been scared to let anyone touch them other than myself.

    3. It’s been 9 years since I’ve owned a TV. In my pervious apartment, I lived 7 years with no TV, internet, microwave or dishwasher.

    4. I was kicked out of pre school. One of the offenses, letting the class butterflies go free.

    5. I’m currently dating someone 24 years older than me.

    1. !!! Oo these are such juicy and interesting tidbits. My mom issued the same warning about eyebrows and yet I did not heed her caution and have been trying to re-grow a patch my entire life…


  14. Wow, such good company around here!
    1. Double Major here, too: English & Philosophy. I found philosophy’s reading to be a challenge, but it helped my writing skills immensely and before I knew it, I’d taken enough courses to be a double major.
    2. My second job out of college (at 22) was my dream job, which I held for five years. In retrospect, very much a ‘springboard’ job.
    3. In the boyband era of the 90’s/00’s, I made my way to four *NSYNC concerts, all for free, including one meet & greet where JC called me ‘sweetie’. Still swooning.
    4. I’m a million kinds of fanatic about Aldi, the grocery store. Once I get started…
    I’d love to add a 5 but I’ve stalled out. This was fun!

    1. These are SO good, especially the insight about your dream job. So funny how so much of what we value when younger proves transient…

      JC called you sweetie! You basically dated! Haha!


  15. So fun! A few off the top of my head –

    1. I took ballet for 15 years (in a fairly rural, non-serious studio; not to discount the years of work but to highlight that I was distinctly *not* even remotely cognizent of making it a more serious passion/career, ever). I credit it for my sense of rhythm, continued love of dance (which now takes the form of 305 Fitness classes – the BEST), but miss the fluidity, music, and precision of true ballet. I was about to dip my toe into reentry via adult classes right as the pandemic began, but alas…

    2. I once accidentally drank used motor oil (mistaking the vodka container for our contraband stash of alcohol stashed in a parent’s car post-prom – in my defense, it was dark out!) and was too afraid to seek medical help and be caught attempting illicit drinking. So instead I spent 6 hours on the phone with a lovely Poison Control rep, drank a lot of milk and ate a lot of plain bread, and survived to tell the tale. Hoping my super powers kick in any day now.

    3. I read the WSJ cover to cover every day – snippets over meals, before bed, etc. I work in politics but also find articles and opinion pieces about varied and unfamiliar topics just fascinating. I love the tactile feel of paging through a physical copy daily.

    4. I have a very good innate sense of direction. On a hike, in the middle of a foregin country, within a labyrnth of city blocks, etc. I can always determine where we’re headed and where we came from.

    5. I have two best freinds and our little trio of friendship began in first grade. And while it often sounds try-hard when you see such prounouncements on social media posts, etc. these two women feel like a piece of myself at this point. Our friendship has outlasted middle school clique divisions within a larger group, three separate high school paths (that eventually ended with all of us together at the same all-girls school), different colleges, living in vastly different geographic areas, addiction struggles & rehab, introducing (thankfully seamlessly, on all counts!) husbands/fiancees, etc. We talk constantly, have weekly facetime catch-ups, gather together at a family summer house each year, have gone on a multitude of adventures together (including Istanbul as wide eyed early-twenties year olds!), visit each other both as a group and one-offs, etc. I couldn’t imagine my life without them and know how rare it is to have such a long lasting, true companionship together, especially one where there’s not even a hint of competition, awkwardness with one member, or anything other than mutual respect, joy, and celebration together. I feel so, so incredibly lucky.

    Okay wow, this because much more lengthy as I wrote! Great prompt.

    1. OMG the motor oil! That’s hysterical! What a lovely story about your 2 best friends. I also have friends that I’ve known from a very young age and it’s such a special relationship to share with someone.

    2. Aw, love that you share in a similar friendship, Lauren. It’s so special. Truly feels like they know me better than I know myself sometimes. And I love that we all have matching memories (and laughs) about awkward stages, memorable teachers, high school antics, etc.!

      And yeah, the motor oil… (face palm). I’ll never forget coming home from school that Monday after prom, and my brother – who was two years younger and a freshman at our brother school/the all boys’ Catholic school up the road – asking me, in a horrified tone, whether I was really “that girl who drank motor oil” ha! News spread fast, apparently.

      1. The note you make here about “matching memories” is so powerful – Landon has a few friends from his neighborhood he’s been best buds with since he was around the age you met your friends, and the depth of their shared memories is astounding. So sweet!


    3. Oh my gosh, Erica, I absolutely love your description of your girlfriends. Wow – that is rare and precious! So beautiful.

      The motor oil!!!! I had to call Landon in to read that tidbit aloud. Haha!!


    4. Ha, only at 16 are you more afraid of being caught underage drinking than, you know… dying.

      Love reading your comments back as I scroll – so fun!

    5. “only at 16 are you more afraid of being caught underage drinking than, you know… dying” — have truer words e’re been spoken? (I never drank actual motor oil, but the concoctions I’d make from 10+ dusty liquors (they’ll never notice!) came pretty close.)

  16. Oh, I’ll play!
    1. Along the higher education theme, I have two bachelor’s degrees: fashion merchandising and nursing and currently use neither.
    2. I hate to cook but have found relief in Blue Apron deliveries.
    3. Since May I have started every day with a 10,000+ walk (have only missed 1 day).
    4. I took up needlepoint a few years ago and am surprised at how much I love it. I mostly do Christmas ornaments and it is a fun way to document parts of our lives and year.
    5. I love really dumb tv and really smart tv, nothing in between.

    1. Haha – “really dumb tv and really smart tv, nothing in between.” I so feel you on this! I have a strange capacity for both extremes. Bravo on the 10,000+ step walks every morning!! Wow! Inspirational!


  17. Those trays are THE best. I even use them to corral all my crafts as well.

    5 things…
    1. Double-concentrated (we didn’t have majors at my school but rather concentrations) in international relations and French; was also pre-med

    2. Been to ~35 countries. Can’t name a favorite – I’d return to them all.

    3. I have a 2nd degree black belt in taekwondo. Yes, it is amusing to me too.

    4. Played three instruments (piano, flute, and violin) growing up. Liked the flute the best.

    5. Had a (very small) calligraphy business for a short bit after my daughter was born. I keep meaning to restart it – someday soon! (Still do custom work for friends/family though.) But now I have a small hair clip business – I like to stay busy, I suppose, since I’m still working part-time from home doing consulting for non-profits/NGOs.

    1. Jen! Send a link to your hair clip business so Magpies can shop it!

      Love all of this — what a badass you are!



      It’s been fun playing with glitter and resin – my daughter helps me come up with color combos (or dictates what she wants, ha). I’m also donating a percentage of proceeds to a nonprofit focusing on young children – rest of this year/Q1 of next year it’s the Brazelton Touchpoints Foundation in Boston.

  18. This is so fun!!

    1. I learned a song about the U.S. presidents in fifth grade, and I can still rattle off all 45 in chronological order.
    2. I have been Irish dancing since I was 6, although I “retired” this year from competing before going off to college.
    3. I only eat cereal dry. Milk makes it too soggy!
    4. My favorite chore is packing away leftovers in Tupperware after dinner, which my family has named “containerizing.”
    5. I love to paint (both acrylic and oil!).

    1. LOVE these — so fun and quirky. I’m also a lover of containerizing.


      P.S. Do you eat the dry cereal with a spoon?

  19. These are so fun! The decaf comment reminded me of a super chic Brazilian mother + toddler I met at a music class in Williamsburg last year who were calmly sharing a latte. I was in awe of the whole situation, especially as my own, slightly older son could barely operate a sippy cup at the time.
    Anyways! My five:
    1. I can’t smell (lost it when I was 18), but I’m fascinated by perfume — so much so that I wrote (and rererewrote) a book about a supernose perfumist.
    2. I’m a speed reader, as are two of my sibilings. We used to compete to see who could finish the Harry Potters the fastest each night one dropped.
    3. For a few years in college, I took Arabic, and got decently conversational. One of my great regrets is not finding a way to keep up with it, though it did permanently open my eyes to how mathematical language is.
    4. My great great grandfather was a horrible robber baron (is there any other kind?). True to form, he did collect some nice art — most of which has since been redistributed, though my great aunt did still have a few faberge eggs when I was a child.
    5. My favorite city yet is Ho Chi Minh / Saigon. It is so vividly, outwordly alive! (And crossing the streets is a real pulse-jumper)

    1. !!! Amazing list! You fascinate me. How did you become a speed reader? Like, did you train/take a class/etc? Or just — preternaturally fast?

      P.S. The loss of smell is something a lot of COVID survivors will probably relate to, huh?

    2. Not sure how the speed reading came to be. My mother credits it to her decision to get rid of the TV when we were very young (though that also made me RAVID for it during playdates).
      I didn’t comment on your great grandfather earlier, but wow, what a legacy! Did you ever think of writing for it?

      1. That could well be it. Love the idea of you and your siblings competing to read Harry Potter fastest — so amazing.

        You know, I was never drawn to the reporting field for some reason! I do think that I “inherited” some of the entrepreneurship of my forebears, though. I put inherited in quotes because I think it’s more a matter of observing and admiring family members who started their own businesses that gave me the legs, or models, or outsized confidence to start my own…


  20. 1. I also went to the University of Virginia (‘16) and double majored in French and Middle Eastern languages and literatures. I wonder if you ever took a class with John Lyons?

    2. I’m now living in London working on my PhD

    3. As far as I know, I’m the only person in the world right now doing a PhD in the history of carpets.

    4. I also started playing the piano at age 6, but stuck with it through college and still play. Even so, I still cannot sit down and play a single tune without a piece of music in front of me.

    5. I’m still incredibly close with a group of friends who met in middle school. We all moved far from our hometown many years ago, but talk all the time and make an effort to see each other a few times a year. I feel very lucky to have such long-lasting friendships.

    1. Thanks for sharing your post! It brought back memories of Brooks Hall!

      My dissertation is about Persian carpets from the late 16th and 17th centuries and how their designs were adapted for an international market. Think gorgeous carpets woven with the finest silk and thin strips of precious metals!

  21. 1 – Hooray for overachievers – I double majored in English and accounting.
    2 – There are twelve people in my family with “T” names, and five of us are in my immediate family.
    3 – Lifelong teetotaler – I cannot abide the taste or effect (with the exception of *special* occasions)
    4 – I sent in a message about Tilly a few years ago…and now I have two Airedales of my own, Finn and Henry!
    5 – Covid bride – We married in public park in SF and rented tie-dye VW tour buses to drive around the city with family. We fully embraced the 60’s theme – blue velvet blazer for him and mini sequin dress with white go-go boots for me!

    1. OMG — your wedding!!! So special and I love that you really embraced the vibe. Good for you and God bless!!

      These are SUCH great details about yourself. Hello, fellow airedale mama! Are yours as *well-behaved* (sarcasm) as ours?


  22. 1. I’m extremely good with names. I once won a surprise contest in high school when we were given 5 minutes and a piece of paper to name as many people as possible (first + last) who were in the room. I named all 88 people.

    2. I love Christmas music and listen to it year-round, particularly on bad days or during moments of anxiety. It really calms me.

    3. I am quite good at eyeballing measurements / levels / straight lines for hanging art and photos. My husband measures meticulously, and his turn out crooked. I eyeball it and they turn out perfect!

    4. I’ve seen every season of Survivor and my dream is to compete on the show.

    5. I took four years of Latin in high school as my foreign language. I still sing “Happy Birthday” in Latin to my friends and family!

    1. These are amazing! What a great super-power to have — a strong memory for names! Do you have any tricks or is it just inborn?? My husband always tries to repeat someone’s name back to them after meeting them — i.e., “Hi, I’m Gabby!” “Gabby, nice to meet you!” I could use similar help in this department. I remember words/phrases/what people have said, but often forget names!


  23. Fun exercise! I also have tiny hands. Here are mine:

    1. I learned to swim at a very young age and was doing running flips off the end of the dock before age 3. Sadly I did not end up an Olympic swimmer…
    2. At one point in my life I could carry on a basic conversation in Swahili.
    3. I am right-handed but left eye dominant (which really only comes into play during shooting sports, which I don’t find myself doing often these days…)
    4. My great-great-great grandfather founded Steinway Pianos.
    5. I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life.

  24. I love the idea and that somebody sees Hiddensee as their favorite place (the island is in my home state in Germany). Anyway, 5 things about myself:

    1) I love love love going to the dentist.
    2) I am ambidextrous, but only fully became aware of it after an accident about three years ago. Until then I thought all people used hands the way I did.
    3) I hate American bedding (with the comforter and extra sheets) and it is the one thing that my American husband and I just can’t agree on. I can only sleep with one duvet.
    4) As a kid I wanted to become a detective and crawled through bushes and dirt with my best friend – now I enjoy cozy mysteries much more.
    5) While I am very organized at work, I hate paperwork at home and do a terrible job. I’d totally pay someone to outsource those tasks.

    1. Oo Jana, these are such great details! I had no idea American bedding was so divisive — and loving the dentist?! I wish I could say the same. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂


  25. So fun!

    1. I have a doctorate in vocal performance (aka, opera singing).

    2. I went to Catholic school all of my life (nursery school through doctoral studies).

    3. After my husband and I got married, we walked out of the church and a couple was standing on the sidewalk. They stopped because they were married in the same church 30-something years earlier. Took that as a good sign!

    4. My children are the first in my husband’s family not to be 100% English. I brought in Irish, French, and German.

    5. I never took Drivers Ed, yet I have a drivers license. New York rules were much more lax in the 90’s!

    1. Love these — completely cosign on the idea that the couple standing outside the Church just after you got married was a good omen! Love! Thank you, Kristin!

      P.S. Opera?!?!!? AHHH! So talented!

  26. I’m jumping in too…
    I wasn’t a triple major, but was a double (math and business).
    I wasn’t smart enough to go to Notre Dame, but I was smart enough to marry someone who did go to ND! 😉
    I have two amazing children – one I do EVERYTHING for (totally disabled and please don’t stare when you see me out with him – it brakes my heart all over again) and the other child is on auto-pilot! Thank you God!
    My mother graduated from Wellesley with a degree in Organic Chemistry at age 16!!! Yep! She’s bright! She went to Madeira and tells stories about “Miss Madeira”.
    I’m the middle child of five! An older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister. I always tell them I’m the “well rounded one”! Wink, wink!
    I HATE yardwork! I laugh when my neighbors tell me that the flowers by my front door look so pretty. I answer that with, “my front door?, My husband must have put them there. If it was up to me I’d have a concrete front yard sprayed to look like grass”!
    I used to be a car snob! As I’ve aged, now I’m more into “I want to live in a nice retirement place”! Funny how what you value in life changes.
    I LOVE champagne! Maybe too much!
    Hope I didn’t bore you!
    Love to ALL you Magpies!

    1. Hi Cynthia! Wow – these are amazing! Your mom — wow!! I totally agree how what you value in life changes decade to decade, and sometimes even year to year…thanks for this reminder.


  27. 1. I must have cat DNA, I love to scratch a blanket I have had all my life… and I am in my fifties!
    2. I love cold and rain, I would be happy living in Paris or London.
    3. I would have loved to be a doctor.
    4. Africa is on my bucket list, I would be happy working in an animal reserve with lions and tigers.
    5. I believe in past lifetimes, I truly believe I lived in France sometime and the language and culture come so naturally

    1. These are wonderful, Rosa — so intriguing how attached you are to the French language/culture. Thank you so much for sharing!

  28. Ooo this is fun! I’ll jump in (though I don’t think I can get to five!)

    1. I’ve been drinking (decaf) coffee since I was about 11 months old.
    2. I have a matching tattoo with my mom and my sister (and no, we are not the type to usually get tattoos!)
    3. I’m 100% Irish – all of my grandparents were born in Ireland and emigrated to the States.
    4. Similarly, I “triple majored” in Political Science, Philosophy and Theology, at BC. Although, the latter two were part of a program that wasn’t recognized as a major, regardless of the fact that we completed the major requirements. I also firmly believe in the power of a Jesuit education.

    I don’t know any lefties married to other lefties! My mom would be so jealous – she is lefthanded but none of her children inherited that trait.

    1. Wait, explain the decaf coffee since 11 months old!? So funny – lifelong coffee lover! You were born for the Starbucks era we’ve grown up with…

      These are all so delicious and interesting. The tattoo! I’m so intrigued!


Previous Article

Next Article