Musings + Essays

Out of the Way.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above not of our new house, but so gorgeous.

Last Friday morning, Mr. Magpie and I signed three thousand and forty nine legal documents, our signatures gradually degrading to the point of chicken scratch, and at one point, the attorney guiding us through the paperwork paused, a leaflet of papers in hand, and said:

“And now this document is magic. It’s called ‘delivery,’ and the minute you sign it, you become homeowners.”

It was driving rain outside, and we were in a nondescript office, and we’d been exchanging loose and distracted pleasantries with our real estate agent and the attorney, and suddenly the scribble of our pens on paper gave way to what I am considering a reward for the last ten years of hard work, adventure, heartache, multiple stressful and botched moves, missteps, homesickness, and wandering:

A home we plan to live in for, possibly, the rest of our lives.

I write those words and I feel my shoulders relax, and my breathing deepen and slow, and something inside me unfurls. Life will undoubtedly continue to throw us curve balls. There will be dips and curves and bumps and grievances and losses. But to feel as though I am ensconced in a place I love that is close to my parents and parents-in-law, to which my children can attach all of their memories of Christmases and birthdays and crab feasts on the back patio — to not feel the imminence of leases ending or renewing, to not have the persistent question of “but what if we moved…?” on the table, to not be peering a few years down the road wondering whether we need more space — is the most enormous and delicious relief. Mr. Magpie and I realized that we have moved every two years or so since the age of 18. That’s nearly half my life spent in impermanent perches. I am ready for the long haul. I want to dig in, paper the walls, commit to harvesting tomato plants, settle.

So, yes — the paper was magic in the sense of an immediate and unanticipated conjuring of a permanent difference in my life. On the other hand, not magic: signing that flimsy paper was the result of a grueling home-buying process, hundreds of hours of searching and planning and taking weekly Friday trips down to DC and back and all of the thousands of conversations that led us to want to leave New York in the first place, not to mention a pandemic that expedited the decision-making process on the heels of ten years of living in urban places that have gradually worn us down to the point of wanting to be, in the words of Mr. Magpie last Friday night, “out of the way.” I had mentioned to my parents that I had fleetingly wondered whether we would feel disconnected after the move, transitioning from living in right-in-the-heart-of-it NYC to “a tucked-away” neighborhood outside D.C. Mr. Magpie jumped in: “We’ve been in the way too long. I’m ready to be permanently out of the way.”

I’m ready, too. So that’s where we’ll be. In a magical home we earned not-by-magic, on a cul de sac in Bethesda, MD, fifteen minutes from my parents and twenty minutes from Mr. Magpie’s, permanently out of the way.

Post Scripts.

+Lessons in house hunting.

+Our decision to move to the DC area.

+I love DC, and I also love NY.

+I shared all my favorite restaurants in NYC here.

+I leaned heavily on the picks in this post for the nine hours we spent in the car the past few days.

Shopping Break.

+This dress is nearly sold out but such a great style for easy everyday wear — my Mom ordered it and specifically mentioned how much she loves this kind of dress for after playing golf, in the evenings.

+Also love this dress for similar reason — so easy to throw on!

+A GREAT summer wedding guest shoe. Speaking of — still some fantastic scores to be had in the Matches sale, including multiple appropriate-for-wedding dresses, like this polka dot maxi ($103?!), this cheerful red mini, and this fun orange Self Portrait.

+This candle in the Montauk or Tomato Vine scent are delightful for summer. Just gave this as a hostess gift, in fact!

+Swooning over these gift enclosure cards!!!

+Such a cute everyday dress for a little one ($24!).

+Love this to throw on over a swimsuit.

+My MIL had this enormous giraffe sprinkler set up in her front yard with a sign that read: “WELCOME EMORY AND HILL” when we pulled up. How amazing is she?! (More backyard/pool toys here.)

+Shared some chic athletic finds for summer here, but two other pairs of shorts I’m eyeing for myself: these from P.E. Nation and these from On (on sale!)

+Just ordered these adorable bandaids to carry with me — my children are so rough and tumbly at the moment! Hill is literally never without scraped knees.

+A simple and attractive mirror for above-vanity in a bathroom — currently on sale.

+Have been wearing this dress a ton — love a good shirtdress.

+These $30 woven/raffia espadrilles have been tres popular since I first posted last week.

+These espadrille sandals for a little lady!!!

+Great Amazon finds.

+Designer looks for less.

+So many chic throw pillows.

+Some of the items I’m eyeing for our new home. (Even more here.)

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34 thoughts on “Out of the Way.

  1. Congratulations, Jen! Your new home sounds magnificent and just perfect for you and your family. As someone your same age, I certainly relate to the mid-30s feeling of want to put down roots. I’m so thrilled that you are able to do just this in MD! 🙂


  2. Congratulations on your new home! I love the concept of “out of the way” – after many years in bustling urban east coast cities, I settled in a smaller southwestern city where I feel permanently out of the way. It’s vibrant and sleepy and comfortable and exactly what I never knew I needed. Plus, it helps that family also settled here, and being an easy 20-minute drive away sweetens everything.

    1. I love this, Jessica! Thanks for the encouragement!! Sounds like we’re settling into a similar life phase and it sounds wonderful.


  3. Congratulations on your new home and new tranquil surroundings! Bethesda is lovely. What a blessing to be near your families! I completely relate to the desire for “out of the way.” I traded big city (and then smaller city but still very urban) for the suburbs several years ago. Our home is the right place and space for my family. And we’re not too far out of the way—within 20 minutes of DC.

    Tangent: Do you have recommendations for waterproof mascara and eyeliner? For a beach vacation. Bonus for “natural” brands but I’m open to conventional brands. Suggestions for low maintenance casual everyday dresses? I need a break from hang dry and lay flat to dry.

    1. I just realized that the HHH nap dresses fit my requirements. Will be my first purchase. What size do you take for the Ellie? We have somewhat similar height / weight. I’m 5’1” 112 lbs. According to the size chart, I would need XS. But the reviews say to size down. Would that mean I need an XXS?

      P.S. Count yourself lucky that you missed peak cicada season. Can’t wait until they’re all gone!

      1. Ooo lucky day! YES to HHH, though they do need an iron afterward (PSA). I am 5’0 and 100 lbs and take the XXS. I had an XS before they came out with the smaller size and it was a bit big in the bust especially!


    2. Thank you, Linnea!!! So excited by how many of you have had positive experiences moving from urban areas into suburban ones. Ready for the change!

      I do not have good clean waterproof mascara/eyeliner recs, unfortunately. I think Dior’s is the best waterproof mascara, but it’s not clean:

      And then I know SO many people who go wild about Saie’s mascara, which IS clean, but not waterproof:

      I so hear you on low-maintenance, casual everyday dresses. Have you tried Kule tee dresses?

      I find their products launder nicely. I do not air dry them.

      I also launder and machine dry all of my SZ blockprints dresses:

      These would probably be better off if I did not machine dry them — the styles with tassels are a particular pain / get tangled easily — but they are so my everyday uniform that I usually do machine wash and dry both.


  4. WOW! Congratulations, Jen! It must feel wonderful to be able to set your roots down after being in transition for a while.

    Excited to follow along!

  5. Oh, congratulations!!! I am just so happy for you!

    (Side note: Bethesda has always seemed like a #goals suburb. SO close to DC but still has everything you need right there)

  6. Congrats! I am so happy for your family and excited to follow along as you make your house your own and begin to decorate!

  7. Congratulations! I love hearing about everyone’s real estate shopping journeys, requirements, etc. so thanks for laying that out downthread. It sounds like you guys really lucked out. I lived in a house in AU Park my senior year of college and spent a lot of time riding my bike into/around Spring Valley, Bethesda, etc. I actually worked at the lululemon in Bethesda and commuted there via the Capital Crescent trail on my bike. Got my appendix out at Sibley Hospital….I could go on. All that to say, I’m very familiar with that corner of DC! I wish you all many happy years there.

    PS When I had my closing in July 2020, my lawyer was pregnant and couldn’t be present, so it was me in the room with the other two lawyers and her on the phone and honestly it was all very anticlimactic. Hah. I guess it finally felt real when I walked out of there with a literal armful of papers and realized, I’m a solo homeowner!

    1. Ha! I know, there’s something mismatched about the enormity of what you are doing (buying a whole house) with the humdrum perfunctoriness of signing a bunch of papers in a back office.

      Thank you for the well wishes!! We are SO excited. I know that Lululemon!!!


  8. Very happy for you and your family. As a mother of adult children and now grandchildren (my entire heart) …I know how happy both sets of parents must be to have you so close.

  9. We are anxiously awaiting our closing date (it was supposed to be this week, but is almost certainly being pushed back because of the seller’s delay in paperwork). Cheers to you on surviving this housing market and best wishes as you land in your new home!

    1. Oh Tricia! Sending you the best wishes for a smooth closing ASAP. I know how stressful and drawn-out the process can feel! Thinking of you and hoping you are soon on the other side. xx

  10. Welcome (officially!) back to the DMV – can’t wait to follow along from my perch on Capitol Hill. Wishing you a smooth moving process as your family (+ all your things) make your way down. I’m so looking forward to following along as you settle in and make your house your own!

    1. Thank you so much, Erica!! I so appreciate the encouragement and well wishes and WARM welcome 🙂

  11. Congrats!! As a DC-er, I would love to know more about your decision process to land in Bethesda. Was it just the right house, or was it something else about that location that DC or Northern Virginia didn’t quite have? We are hoping to move to NOVA , as it’s closer to most friends and my family, but haven’t ruled out MD so would be interested to hear your thoughts. Thank you!

    1. Hi Elisabeth! It was the house! We decided to be flexible on location and looked in North Arlington, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Westmoreland Hills area, and Spring Valley for the perfect home that ticked all of our boxes. Our thinking was that we have lived in dense urban areas for a long time where we have prioritized access to restaurants, walkability to playgrounds, etc and we are moving away from all that and instead choosing to prioritize the house itself, where we intend to live for a long time. In the near term especially, we anticipate spending a LOT of time at home. We will both be working from home, we are homebodies in general and frankly prefer to entertain at home versus go out, and we have young children we imagine spending lots of time at home with cousins and friends. So we wanted a house that would fit our needs for the long haul, and have every (or almost every) amenity we could think of. Interestingly, initially, I had been interested in older houses but then we were surprised to find we were attracted to newer builds or homes that were thoroughly remodeled within the past decade, and we found that most of the houses that fit that profile were either in Arlington or Bethesda. There was just so little inventory in NW DC when we were looking — I feel as though there were maybe three houses total that came up in NW DC over the course of the two months we were hunting that were within the ballpark in terms of how many bedrooms we wanted, general style, etc. Crazy!! Anyway, when we saw the house we eventually bought, it was just like — kismet. We knew it was the one. It had every single thing we’d talked about wanting, even wishlist stuff we would never have made a requirement but had always dreamed of (like double ovens in the kitchen and two sinks in the kitchen — total luxuries but we will 100% use them heavily), and there were absolutely zero concessions we had to make. (The other two houses we had liked and seriously considered had at least ONE or TWO things we were iffy about.) So, long story short, it was purely the house. As it turns out, the neighborhood is ideal, too — quiet cul de sac, a little tucked away, but a very short drive from downtown Bethesda and my parents, too. Our thinking was that as long as both of our parents were at or under 20-ish minutes away, it would be feasible. If we were 30 or 45 minutes from them, it would have been more of an issue — so much harder to do the “drop by” if you know it will take an hour just to get there and back. Somehow 20 minutes feels totally reasonable. Maybe you can draw a similar line in the sand in terms of how far you are comfortable driving for a stop by?

      Whew. Happy to share more, but that’s where we landed 🙂


    2. Thank you so much for this reply! So interesting, and totally makes sense. Very helpful as we consider our next move as well. The house you make a home is so important, and I know your family will be so happy and comfortable in your new one. Congrats again!

  12. Congratulations! We were homeowners for 30 years and now find ourselves “in between” and loving it — but soooo many wonderful memories of our two houses, all the children growing up, neighbors (good and not so good), that permanence you are longing for. Wishing you all the best as you transition out of your “in between”. 🙂 xo H

  13. Welcome to Bethesda! I have followed your journey and I think you will love it here. Feel free to reach out if you need any recommendations.

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