Musings + Essays

Petite Excitements.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above via Del Pozo.

+I am *so* excited about Roxane Gay’s just-launched newsletter, The Audacity. If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I am a huge fangirl of hers (one of her books changed my life). She is brilliant, thoughtful, clever, and observant in a way that reminds me of that quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “to a great mind, nothing is little.” She could write about labyrinthine tax regulations or jigsaw puzzles (she has, actually, written about puzzles) and I would hang (and have hung!) on every word. I signed up for a paid subscription simply to support her but am of course eager to participate in her virtual book club. (So if you’re still hungry for something more appealing after my roundup of books to read right now, check hers out.)

+Um. Sarah Jessica Parker just announced a continuation of Sex and the City is coming to HBOMAX and I can’t. I can’t! Thank you, HBO, for giving the people what they want. We need this after the bleak start to 2021.

+My brother is teaching a literary theory course this semester and one of the first books on his syllabus is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He mailed me a Broadview Edition copy that I’d marked up in graduate school and that he no doubt filched from my parent’s garage, an entire alcove of which houses boxes of neglected books from my studies, on some recent visit home. On the cover, in his familiarly tidy hand-writing: “Back in your hands again! Love ya, Tom.” Now I have to re-read it, of course, and jostle the rusted bits of my brain that used to think about things like “language/communication barrier — Tower of Babel” and “intercession of women” and “the rites of Catholicism” (all notes in the marginalia on page 35 of my copy, written in my own familiar, tidy hand-writing). I’m excited for the challenge.

+Do you remember I was idling over a bag strap for a little sherpa pouch from Alexander Wang that I own? I literally could not make up my mind and then found these much-less-expensive straps on Etsy (I got mine in color #5 because the bag is gray and I wear it with a red Canada Coat fairly often) and it felt like a much lower-stakes decision. It arrived and I am SO impressed with the quality! I think I will also order one of these in the baby blue or pale pink! I can’t find a sherpa pouch with strap loops like the one I have, but this sherpa crossbody would be darling gussied up with one of the bag straps I mentioned. And if you just want the flat pouch, look no further than this $29 steal!

+Did you watch Netflix’s “Bridgerton” series? Of course I did. It is lusty stuff (you’ve been warned, mom!), and I have found myself wondering over it as a future artifact or misrepresentation of fourth-wave feminism. At the end of the day (spoiler-ish alert), the show’s premise is that a man is controlling a woman’s desire to bear children. The key to resolving this stand-off? The female protagonist must take the time to learn about the man’s background, about why he is the way he is and how he has come to his position on this matter, and only then are they able to come to an agreement in her favor. (Hm.) I couldn’t help but wonder if the plot were configured in the inverse: the woman does not want to bear children, and the man does? What would the outcome then have been and what would be the implications? In some ways, the protagonist’s single-minded desire to bear children felt out of sync within the context of the show’s more progressive themes. (Then again, I realize the show takes place in Regency-era England and so there are some socio-historic aspects to contend with…but then again, the show made the interesting decision to re-write the racial history of the past many centuries, so it clearly had the imaginative wherewithal to re-draw the lines wherever it pleased. Because of this, I again return to the confusion over the plot premise!). There are other confusing moments along these lines, too — for example, the protagonist physically defends herself from a wanton villain despite the implied male hero’s arrival on the scene, and there is a fair amount of sex positivity in the show. Empowerment! Progress! But then again, there is the conflation of motherhood with fulfillment/success, the narrowness of focus on the marriage plot, the overblown, irritating, and titillating naïveté of the protagonist. All-in, a lot to digest. What say you, Magpies?

+My NYE dress is now marked down to $101 (orig $424). See it and other amazing Saloni statements on serious sale here.

+We just completed a really fun puzzle which for some reason is out of stock or marked up to like $50 on Amazon, Target, etc but that you can find on eBay (unopened!) here. It was fun because Emory owns many of the books displayed on it and really enjoyed working on it with us — because of the design (fairly easy to figure out pieces that go to each book cover), we were often able to hand her pieces for a specific book cover after working on some of the trim and she was capable of putting some of the puzzle together herself! I have really (!) enjoyed having a puzzle out for a few days of every month. It’s a lovely way to decompress while listening to an audiobook or just zoning out after a long day of parenting. I just ordered this puzzle to work on next (this one is also in my cart) — this brand is THE BEST. The pieces are much better-made and more interestingly-cut than most other name brands, and they do great reproductions of interesting artworks. They are also VERY difficult — like 5x as difficult as the 1,000 piece ones from Ravensburger, etc. (Also, I don’t know anything about this brand, but was drawn to the image!)

+The return of the tube sock! What a weird thing to be excited about, but wearing them over leggings really makes it much more pleasant to run in the low 20s. I found an Etsy shop that dyes Nike tube socks in cool colors. If you have small enough feet, these kids Nike socks have great retro-styling. And of course my Alos. They just came out with a pastel pink that I snagged as well!

+Currently reading Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet and it is delightful. It strikes me as profoundly truthful writing in the sense that (at least in the early bits of the book) O’Farrell really gets at what it feels like to be a young child, what it feels like to be feverish, what it feels like to be young and in love, etc. Currently listening to Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. The book is long (!) — I joked to Mr. Magpie that I feel like I’ve been listening to it for months now, which may actually be true (it is over 24 hours long, and when you listen to audiobooks in small 20-30 minutes increments…!) — but interesting, especially in the concise, sharp way he compresses complicated social, historical, and political narratives into easy-to-digest synopses. It’s been particularly useful in clarifying some of the international embroilments of recent decades and in framing the bitter and deep-rooted rivalry between political parties at the moment.

+A restock (as of today…) of Caldrea’s Rose Driftwood counter spray. Jump on this one, ladies. For some reason, it keeps selling out! It smells like HEAVEN. (Related: my favorite scented hand soaps.)

+New discoveries I am excited about at the moment:













P.S. It feels like a different lifetime that I wrote this post — so early into this pandemic. The piquant awareness of what we were “missing out on” has given way to a kind of plodding acquiescence to the way things are at the moment.

P.P.S. Great bath gear for little ones.

P.P.P.S. My bedtime routine and children’s bedtime books I love.

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20 thoughts on “Petite Excitements.

  1. Hi! New Magpie reader here. I’ve started a mini-ritual of reading your posts after putting my littlest (9months) to bed for the night. It’s such a nice way to wind down from the day and read adult conversation (!) in peace and quiet (!). I have to say that we love the Owlivia jammies for my 2.5 year old. They are soft, thick, and hold up well in the wash. I did find that they started sagging in the tush after awhile, but that was after a good amount of wear, tear and washes. They also come in the sweetest prints…is there anything cuter than a freshly bathed baby in bunny print pajamas?

    1. Hi Valerie! Welcome! You are so sweet to include me in your wind-down — love the idea of carving out a little time for self-care, adult conversation, unwinding, etc, and so happy I can be a part of that!

      And thanks for the upvote on Owlivia!! So good to know. There is NOTHING cuter than a freshly bathed baby in bunny jammies.


  2. Aaaahhh so excited about the continuation of SATC! Can’t wait. Thanks for the PSA!

    I LOVED the Owlivia footies when my daughter was a baby. The fabric was very soft, yet held up well wash after wash. My only gripe at that time was that it didn’t have the fold-over cuffs (why are newborn fingernails so sharp?!). But I really liked the muted prints and colors — so sweet! I can’t speak to the 2-piece pajamas for toddlers as my daughter is now into the more colorful pieces from Hanna Andersson and Gap, but I would imagine they’d be similar?

    Also reading Promised Land — I’ve really been appreciating the behind-the-scenes insights, and the way he writes with humility and down-to-earthness. It also makes me curious about his writing process: i.e., did he regularly write in a journal? And when? First thing in the morning, before going into the Oval Office? Or at night, after all the presidential duties of his day? I mean, I sometimes can’t remember what happened 3 days ago, let alone 10 years ago. 🙂 (Not that my life compares to the former President’s, by any stretch of the imagination, haha!) It is written in such detail (in both dialogue, reflection, setting the context, etc).

    1. Hi Mia! Thanks for the upvote on those jammies!! Agree with you on The Promised Land — the level of detail and clarity with which he recalls complicated thought processes, logistics, happenings, etc is astounding! I wondered about how he kept it all straight, too, especially the ins and outs of votes in Congress!


  3. You inspired me to purchase a bag strap, thanks for the rec!

    Owlivia pjs are great, well-priced and relatively thick. I ordered them in particular prior to giving birth when I wanted a couple newborn sized items, they have cute patterns and aren’t $30+ for a onesie baby immediately grows out of.

    1. Yay! The strap was such a fun and inexpensive way to breathe new life into a pouch that I rarely use sans a nightlife/opportunity to go out with friends!

      Thanks for one-upping the Owlivia brand!


  4. Officially petitioning for regular “Petite Excitement” posts!! This was such a satisfying potpourri.

    It’s like you *knew* I was browsing Etsy for bag straps yesterday (!! literally!!) and pausing because I wasn’t sure about quality. THANK YOU! I have an old Marc Jacobs that is going to be zhsushed up with a #6.

  5. That birthday dress is breath taking! Have you ordered from that brand before? If so, do they run true to size? I am quite petite and worried that it will be too much fabric!

    1. Hi Marcie! Isn’t it?!? I have not ordered from this business before BUT I find most small businesses to be very responsive/happy to help via email! I would ping them! Let me know what you hear…


  6. Hi! I’ve tried the Owlivia baby footie PJs and think they are fantastic – they are soft and wash well. Highly recommend!

    1. Yes!! So into this trend!! Don’t know why it’s sparking so much joy for me…but there you go.


  7. I also was a tad confused by Bridgerton, especially with how to reconcile the scene where Daphne forces the Duke without his consent. Of course, in modern times, that is unequivocally sexual assault. Yet within the show, her complete lack of understanding of sex coupled with the patriarchal society’s expectation that women are to bear children and this act is treated as more of a grey area (apparently in the book, it is much worse as she intentionally gets the Duke drunk so that he’ll be compliant with her wishes – the definition of rape!)

    I spoke about the issue of gender here, but I also thought that the show teetered between a post-racial society and one where race is a factor in a way that didn’t do the Black characters justice.

    All in all, what I keep coming back to is that this show is first and foremost a romance. I don’t read a lot, if any, romance novels and so I’m not entirely familiar with the genre. But in comparing it to other shows (chiefly, Gossip Girl or other Shonda shows like Scandal) I realize that I might be reading too much into a text that is meant to simply be enjoyed and is therefore not capable of reconciling the modern twists with the fact that it’s set in Regency England?

    1. Hi Molly – These are SUCH great observations and provocations, and I was positively radiating with thought and comment and question as I read this on my way back from dropping mini off for school. My sister-in-law and I were texting about this as well and she said: “What do we want out of historical fiction? Does an ‘old-fashioned’ set up allow the characters to push against norm of the time in interesting ways?…or do we want the history rewritten, in a sense, through our modern lenses?” WOW. It made me wonder about the exigency to apply our current social values on cultural artifacts — do we have a moral imperative to do that work? Or is it OK to say: “Ok, yeah, this is not really clicking with what I believe to be good/right/just/correct, but I can set that aside and enjoy.” I think that’s especially well-considered in the context of this show, which is clearly operating within the Romance genre and therefore also beholden to certain genre standards. (And then there’s the fact that this is a derivation of a pre-existing book.) All in, Rhimes really had to contend with a lot of “norms” of the historical, social, and literary varieties.


  8. Bridgerton was definitely strange but I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. It came at just the right moment in this pandemic for me. So many SOCIAL EVENTS! Remember those?? But I agree that its remixed nature pretty much occludes any real in-depth analysis. There are too many elements that just don’t make sense when considered together. Again I find myself returning to my belief that “is it good?” and “did I enjoy it?” can be two entirely different things.

    1. So accurate – I think you’re getting at the crux of it, as is Molly: do we *need* to understand everything within the contemporary social framework? Maybe it is enough to simply enjoy something frivolous. I felt that way certainly about “Emily in Paris” which also engendered quite a bit of controversy for analogous reasons. xx

  9. Wow – this line truly resonated with me this morning. “The piquant awareness of what we were “missing out on” has given way to a kind of plodding acquiescence to the way things are at the moment.” If there could be two words to perfectly capture this time, “plodding acquiescence” seem pretty spot-on.

    As ever, your writing is so keen and reflective – thank you!

    1. Thank you so much, Dana! Yes – this phrase really captures the entirety of it for me. Just — it is what it is, until we get to the next phase of life. I think that this experience has taught us to be gritty, determined, resilient in ways that will shape our generation in interesting and hopefully good ways. xx

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