The Magpie Diary: Nov. 19, 2021.

By: Jen Shoop

Above: view from top floor of Swan House in Atlanta. Spectacular in its fall regalia!

Last weekend, I spent two nights in Atlanta visiting with my best girlfriends from college (minus one, who couldn’t attend — we missed you, T.) I do not think I’ve laughed so hard in years. There were multiple instances in which we were literally crying with laughter as we re-lived college stories, compared notes on “what ever happened to…?”, swapped lore about the boys we dated and the dramas we created. It felt delicious to relax into a weekend whose predominant mode was laughter. More profoundly, though — there is something specifically unwinding about being with the girlfriends who knew you when. I’ve written in fits and starts about the unique intimacy of girlhood friendships — the way you style one another’s hair, swap clothing, curl up in twin beds in crappy rentals, find yourself in trouble for being unable to be together without dissolving into giggles — and how the dearness and intensity of those relationships seem to fade as you age, for reasons practical and self-protective (at least, in my experience). This past weekend made me realize that while we may no longer be preening one another while listening to Mariah Carey at full volume, there is a unique, un-recreatable understanding between us born of decades of shared history. We might be talking about career ambitions, marriages, children, but those conversations are anchored in a firm and long-tailed grasp of one another, as though we are seeing not just the ice cap but the entire berg beneath.

Sometimes I have an impractical thought: would my life would be fuller and happier if all of my closest friends and siblings would somehow decide to move within a few minute radius of me? Are people who live close to their best friends enjoying some kind of elevated, rarified life experience? Distance is an unintentional abrasive to close friendships. It is hard to stay in touch when someone is not woven into the fabric of your daily routine. It still gives me deep pause that I seem to have more frequent interaction with neighbors and members of my children’s school community than I do with my closest friends. Nothing against the neighbors/school — it’s just, how do they get the bigger share of my life?

And yet. This past weekend made me realize that we might be entering a new era of our lives that I had not anticipated. Most of us are nestled in long-term jobs and homes and have children that are firmly out of the toddler years and heading into (or already in) grade school. Much of the volatility of our 20s and 30s has dissipated. We were not only able to get 7 out of 8 of us together for a girl’s trip (! small miracle!) but were already talking about a girls’ weekend next year, and we launched new shared albums and Whats App threads (one of us lives internationally). We also have a slew of 40th birthdays just around the corner that may lead to imminent reunion. Are the 40s the time to reclaim female friendships? Does life in one’s 40s open up new opportunities to reconnect?

Also this week…

+My unofficial kick-off to Thanksgiving week: Thomas’s limited edition cranberry English muffins. I’ve loved these the past few Thanksgivings. You can find them (at least in DC) at Safeway. We’ve also had a puzzle out on the counter, are burning a holiday candle, and have friends coming over for martinis tonight to kick off the season. More great seasonal hygge finds here.

+I’m working on my zhushing my son’s room. We’ve been living in this house for two years and his room is in desperate need of some love. I’ve recently ordered this chair in the dusty odalisque blue (25% off with code BFSALE23), this throw pillow, this table lamp with the red shade, and this $30 waste basket (seen above). Such a random thing to be enthusiastic about, but the $30 waste bin is SO CUTE. Comes in lots of great patterns/fabrics. The pillow seen in the background is a Pendleton blanket pillow (similar here and here) that we’ve had for years, and the rug is Erin Gates. I’m now hunting for a better book/toy storage solution for his room. We did buy him this grow-with-me activity table awhile ago, and it’s been a major source of joy, creativity, action for him. We got it in the brushed fog color, which is really interesting and different. I love that it comes with taller legs you can attach as they get older, so it can eventually become a craft or homework table. The lip around the edge is brilliant because my son principally uses the table for Legos, and they don’t end up scattered across the floor. Strongly rec. I did not buy the matching drawer/bins that go beneath because I found the price absurd (as expensive as the table? — then again, they probably require just as much wood/materials), but now I’m contemplating for a more finished look. It would be nice to stow all his Legos and magnatiles in them when not in use.

+Beginning to outfit my holiday gift wrap supply. I obviously had to have this champagne-themed gift wrap from Dear Annabelle, and the gorgeous Merry Christmas tags are perfectly retro-chic. Both (and the entire site) are 20% off this weekend (discount applied automatically). I also love these gift tag stickers from Joy Creative Shop. I was just telling a friend that I’m not sure how I missed the memo of stickers for gift tags for so long — they are so much easier! No using tape or ribbon to affix to the package! These will be such a big help for all of the smaller gifts this year. Finally, I just ordered a bunch of the fill-in-the-blank thank you cards for kids from Joy Creative, including (not seen above) the holiday-themed ones. Going to make thank you note writing much easier this year. For more gift wrap inspo, see here.

+In the photo with my gift wrap goodies, you can see a glimpse of one of my most beloved home accessories, Half Past Seven’s rattan tray. It has a wonderful, gracious size that makes it ideal for a coffee table or bar area. This charming home decor brand recently sent me one of the pieces from their new colored glass collection, and I am now keeping this beautiful carafe in our guest bedroom. I believe they are running a deal where you can get 20% off with code THANKFUL. You might need to be an email subscriber to access. (BTW, if you’ve not read the comments on my “What Do You Keep in Your Guest Bedroom?” post, you must! Such thoughtful, gracious answers.) I have a list of items I still need to buy based on your recs — specifically looking for a laundry hamper (love the look of this, this, or this), not-too-expensive robes (any recs?), and a luggage rack (eyeing these because I like the lighter colors — will go better in our room than the dark wood I tend to see elsewhere). I also want to add chargers up there, per many of your notes.)

+Speaking of gifts, I brought two of my girlfriends in ATL gifts last weekend (two of them live there and hosted us for much of the weekend, so wanted to send a little thank you). I was legitimately excited to hand these over. One went to a girlfriend who texts with me frequently about clothes/beauty, and I couldn’t wait to introduce her to my fav UBeauty Lip Plasma. (I continue to think the UBeauty lip plasma set would be a great gift for any beauty lover. It’s included in my meaningful gift guide for women we love post.) I also tucked one of these Jillian Dempsey eye masks in there — I wrote about these recently but they are SO incredible for tired eyes. I now tuck a pack in my suitcase any time I travel, but they also come in handy for small gifting opportunities like this. I gave my other girlfriend one of these Camilla Moss Advent card sets. She has a strong faith and we’d talked at some point about the fact that neither of us do Elf on the Shelf in our homes. Nothing against Elfers (and we may give in at some point — who knows), but since we are already doing daily Advent calendar surprises, it’s just too much! Anyhow, I thought these Advent cards were a great way to re-anchor the season in its spiritual meaning, and knew she’d relate to that effort.

A few other miscellaneous notes…

+I had about fifteen tabs open with different sneaker possibilities for my son, and he chose this pair! He has the exact same pair currently, but in blue, and loves them. (They’ve been totally destroyed by wear and tear, though — little boy stuff! — and he needed a fresh set for the new year.) This exact style has been difficult to track down in my son’s toddler foot size, at least in colors that are interesting to him, but I did find them at this European site. I’d never ordered from them before and they do take about a week to ship, FYI. However, they’re currently offering 15% off with code 15BF, which more or less covered the international shipping, so I called it a wash. You can find this style for even less here ($30!!), and in most toddler sizes!, but of course Hill didn’t want the red. This specific pair of NBs are AMAZING for toddler boys. The velcro top makes them easy to put on, they stay put, and they offer a lot of foot support. I’d also suggested to him these Vans (such good colors/patterns — was shocked he didn’t want the space ones) and these Sauconys, but he was not taking the bait.

+Also this week: panic ordered him a pair of dressier shoes for Thanksgiving. Their constantly changing foot sizes and footwear needs are hard to stay on top of. I don’t know how you moms with more than two kids do it. I feel like I’m always crunching numbers and flipping to my “note” that has a list of their current sizes in different things! Anyway, Sperrys are classic and I was drawn to the velcro top. I also changed my mind on my children’s Thanksgiving outfits at the last minute and ordered my son this beautiful knit from La Coqueta. I love the leather button detail, and I thought the green / snowflake fair isle would mean he could wear it from Thanksgiving through Christmas. My daughter will be wearing this set from Sunhouse Children. We’re going a touch less formal than last year!

+Ordered a bunch of things to try from Shopbop, including this cocktail dress, this fair isle cardigan, this hot pink mini (thinking of pairing with something like this or this on top), this Alice + Olivia, and this SEA knit. I will probably not keep all of them but am weighing outfit options for a few upcoming events / activities. We have holiday cocktail parties, Christmas teas, a fairly formal Christmas Eve, a children’s Christmas party, caroling, etc! I’m also hoping to reprise my Kacey Christmas party from last year but time seems to be slipping right through my fingers. Need to get organized if it’s going to happen.

+On the holiday front: one of my girlfriends texted to say she is swapping out her children’s sheeting for holiday-themed patterns! How cute?! I love this set from Petite Plume (20% off). Also have long loved Juliska’s holiday-patterned Berry and Thread dishes, but especially this adorable little serving plate. Other holiday finds: this smocked Rachel Riley dress for littles and these FUN sequin heels (under $100), which remind me of a pair I keep ogling from Giambattista Valli. DROOL.

+Writing this several days in advance of the sale details going live, but Kilte will be offering up to 50% off starting today (11/19), and I am finally going to test one of their washable cashmere sets. Will be a dream for future long travel days. And this sweater is still one of my favorite ways to introduce color to my cold weather wardrobe! (You can see me in it here.)

P.S. Fun to go down memory lane and remember the college days.

P.P.S. A meaningful educational experience from UVA.

P.P.P.S. How do you fill your cup in under an hour?

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4 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: Nov. 19, 2021.

  1. Ah this topic has been on my mind so much! This period in the mid/late 30s feels so burdened sometimes by the different stages of life we are all in (kids/no kids, where we live, what stage our careers are in). My college group and I rarely find time to gather as we all live in different places and are in different phases of children/no children and all the weddings have come to a stop at this point. The group text is alive and well though and we’re working on planning something!

    I smile though thinking about my mother who has a once yearly (sometimes twice!) meetup with her 6 closest friends from 1st grade. Sometimes she’ll go out to visit them (they all live in the midwest and she is here in DC) and then they always try to plan a destination trip. Next year they’re heading to Montreal! I hope to have this kind of gathering with my friends when we’re in our 70s.

    1. The note about your mom gives me hope for the coming decades, too! I can totally see these reunions happening more frequently at the next phase of life.


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