Musings + Essays

The Magpie Diary: June 30, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop

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I turned 40 this week! (And I wore pink for my birthday dinner with my family — this little ditty from Few Moda. It reminds me of something by Juliet Dunn!) I’ve been writing a lot about this milestone because — as one of my friends put it recently — “now we’re on the back nine,” and it seems appropriate to contemplate the shift. At my birthday dinner, one of my friends asked for my rose, bud, and thorn this past year. I found the bud easiest to call out: the burgeoning sensation of stability. This is largely driven by the fact that, until this past year, Landon and I had both moved every two years (or less) since we were 18. That sensation of impermanence bled into everything: “nah, I won’t order that bed because we’ll move in a year,” and “I don’t want to get too committed to this gym because we might move uptown in a few weeks — I’ll wait.” Until we decamped to Bethesda, our minds were constantly whirring in the background with questions of: “Will we stay in D.C./Chicago / NYC forever? Why or why not? At what point would we move? How and when will we know to make the decision?” Even in our most peaceful and happy moments, enormous, life-sized question marks waited in the wings. I distinctly remember visiting Dan Barber’s phenomenal Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns (Tarrytown, NY) just when we’d turned an early corner in COVID, back in fall of 2020. It was one of the first excursions we took with my sister and brother-in-law after the quarantine period, and I was deeply relieved and delighted to be with family, and to enjoy such an extravagant and picturesque meal to boot. But on the drive back, I found myself idly thinking “that might be the only time I visit Stone Barns” and felt a shadow pass over me. I moodily contemplated how long we’d be in New York, and whether my sister would be around for all of it, and hated that I couldn’t sink into the present enough to dispel those meanderings. Even now, looking back, my concerned “what if…?” thinking tinges what would otherwise be a golden memory.

It is probably a function of my tendency to worry, but I feel at ease now in ways I haven’t since I was 18. There is a bone-deep sensation of rest. More room in the back of my mind. The not-needing-to-move aspect is a big piece of the puzzle, but it also feels good to know our family is complete (no “what about a third?” questions anymore), I’ve carved out a viable vocation for myself that seems to have stuck, and we are burrowing into our home here. Our children are at a school they will presumably attend until 8th grade; we have joined a pool and golf club; we know our neighbors well; we are nearly done outfitting several rooms of our house with an interior designer; we have a suite of vetted doctors and service providers of various kinds. When something goes awry with the house, it’s no longer: “Crap, we need to find an HVAC guy” or “Who might fix a garage door?”

There is also the more abstract. I feel more solid in my center. Specifically, when something goes wrong, I am better able to take the long view. This, too, shall pass. And I’ve made major strides in being able to sit still and absorb the present without my mind sprinting down the street. I also feel I have a better understanding of who I am, and this means taking the good with the bad. I know my faults and foibles, and I know how to avoid circumstances that will draw those out, and how to apologize for them, too. (Of course, a work in progress!) One of the biggest learnings of this past decade has been that not everything will resolve. Not everything has to make sense, hang together, come to a full stop. I am still learning how to let it go — how to find peace in the irresolution — but I have my marching orders: give people a wide berth; be as tender as I can; be slow to provocation. Per our recent chat, I don’t necessarily need to react to everything I observe. Importantly, this does not mean to let people walk over me. It means sometimes it is best to walk away and let it go.

Taken together, all of these developments leave me seeking the peaceful path wherever possible. Do the small thing; let it go; lean into yourself.

Onward, into my forties, seeking the peaceful path.

The view looks pretty good.

Also this week…

We went to Charlottesville for a few days with friends to celebrate! We stayed at Keswick again — it is, simply, phenomenal. I had my first facial at the gorgeous and relaxing spa there and absolutely loved the experience. One thing I learned from my technician is that my skin is pretty dry (I had no idea?) and she said using heavier moisturizer more frequently would help with fine lines. I have to say I am noticing a difference ever since she pointed it out! Been more heavy-handed with the nighttime cream. I really love this face mask from Chantecaille — I’ve been sleeping in it and applying to my forehead in the mornings sometimes, too. Pamela Anderson just started a skincare line and they sent me this multi-hydrating moisture mask that I’m bringing with me to test in Colorado!

Very happy after my first facial ever.
Country roads, take me home — vista on the Applachian Trail. Some of my friends begrudged me this hike but I couldn’t help myself. We did see a garter snake cross the trail at one point…!
Keswick Hall, VA
Keswick Hall, VA
Crawford’s Bar at Keswick Hall, VA. Great cocktail menu. We also had dinner next door at Jean-George’s Marigold. The space is beyond gorgeous, and the staff was wonderful.
The infinity pool at Keswick Hall looks out over Virginia’s signature rolling hills — zen Jen. I’m wearing my Doen x K. Jacques sandals and favorite packable hat.

Back at home, we let the children stay up until 10 P.M. one night (they’re usually asleep before it’s fully dark!) so they could witness the firefly magic. They had the best time catching them and marveling at the way they twinkle like Christmas lights.

Birthday celebrations throughout the week: a Mai Tai one night, and a mezcal-spiked daiquiri the next.

Some of my favorite family room accessories: a Half Past Seven rattan tray and Proper Table acrylic coasters.
These coupes rank highly among my favorite belongings.

Will be seeing my sister for the first time since she became a mother of two in just a week! I got her maternity Lake Pajamas — truly my go-to gift for any woman. I think I’ve given these to 90% of the women in my life. A perfect gift for any occasion — sick? birthday? just gave birth? just hit a big accomplishment? The best.

A moment for a favorite corner of our living room. Our interior designer did such a fabulous job pairing these patterns. The colors are perfect together. I believe the pillow is Cowtan and Tout and the chair is Thibaut but am checking to confirm.

New in from Minnow! The CUTEST pieces for peak summer — I think you can probably still order and have items come in time for the Fourth if you do expedited shipping. They sent me this classic cardigan, these swim trunks, this shorts set, and this adorable terry dress. Everything went straight into the suitcase, along with Lake jammies, these striped tees, and some new shorts from Cadets.

The latest from Minnow – probably my favorite children’s brand.

I’ve officially become a body oil vs. lotion gal. My two favorites are Osea and Nerra — the Nerra one below is nice because it has a spray applicator (easy to put on!)

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16 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: June 30, 2024.

  1. I am late on reading and replying. I hope you had a wonderful birthday. The view from 40 is a unique prism. Enjoy.

  2. Happy Birthday! What has your experience been like with Few Moda? I am SO intrigued by them and their targeted ads have almost gotten me a few times, but I am not sure about their membership structure. Would love your thoughts!

    1. Hi Katherine! I am generally impressed with Few Moda – would liken quality to Madewell / J. Crew? They carry brands that I’ve seen elsewhere, too. Good but not, like, great details or incredible quality. Good for jumping on a trend / for special occasion dresses IMO!


  3. Happy birthday!! Glad you got to have a fun celebration with friends. And a facial! One esthetician told me that dry skin can happen if you aren’t drinking enough water. An inexpensive add-on to the regimen!

    We let our girls stay up *slightly* late over the weekend at a German picnic (it was definitely still light out, haha), and it was meltdown city all the way home. But they were perfectly pleasant the morning after! Maybe we’ll let them stay up late for sunset in a few weeks when we’re up north and it doesn’t get dark until after 10. I feel like I need to be more lenient about these things now that they’re older…

  4. Happy 40th Birthday Jen! My granddaughter was born this week on the 26th! June blooms!!!! Such a special month for a birthday!

    Couldn’t wish a happy day/week to a better person. This Maggie loves you, your writing, thoughts, love, style…oh it never ends!

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