The Magpie Diary: October 15, 2023.

By: Jen Shoop

I spent a lot of this week unfocused and absorbed in the news. How to create in the face of a great void? This poem found me, and I was struck by the way Mayer conjures the dizzying sensations of loss, ambiguity, and disproportion and cuts to the pith with the line “how will we socialize / in the winter?” Not uplifting, but refracting.

The Lobelias of Fear

by Bernadette Mayer

there are maple trees, one, two, three
but wait there’s 5 more, 2 behind the bungalow
and lots in the poetry state forest
I hear target practice from far away, it’s
probably for shooting deer, bears and dinosaurs
but how will we, still alive, socialize
in the winter? wrapped in bear skins
we’ll sit around pot-bellied stoves eating
the lobelias of fear leftover from desperation
last summer’s woodland sunflowers and bee balm
remind us of black cherry eaten in a hurry
while the yard grows in the moonlight
shrinking like a salary or a damaged item
when we return in the morning for a breakfast
of harvest petunias sprinkled with wild marsh mallow


Also this week…

+Kiwis heavy on the vine in our backyard. In the fall, we harvest dozens of them. They keep for a long time if cellared and then brought out to ripen on the countertop for a few days. We haven’t yet found any innovative ways to make use of them, so we just slice them for breakfast for weeks on end in the cold months. The still-novel presence of this yielding vine, two years into our lives in suburbia, charms me — hidden, hen’s teeth fruit.

+I’ve been further reflecting on Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake (full review here), and I love the way she enshrines the virtues of a solid, if possibly unexciting, home life. The things we take for granted often stitch our worlds together, you know? On Saturday night, I folded laundry while enjoying a Mai Tai and watching Jose Andres’ series on HBO (I adore him). It was kind of perfect.

+My daughter has been waiting with bated breath for the green light to switch out her earrings after having her ears pierced six weeks ago. (I’ve had so many questions about this. Quickfire replies to the most common — 1) How did we choose when to do it? She’d been asking since Kindergarten, as some of her close friends have their ears pierced. My mother made me wait until I was 13 to have mine done, and I respect her decision, but also felt it was old to be having it done and longed to be like my friends — I was the latest of the crew. I didn’t see any big downside to doing it earlier, so I decided we’d make it a “you’re a big grade schooler now; let’s mark the occasion by doing something a big girl gets to do” just before she matriculated into first grade. 2) Where did we have it done? Our pediatrician! Check if yours offers this service. If not, you could ask him/her for a rec on where they’d go. 3) Did it require a lot of care afterward? What’s the responsibility like? We cleaned the area with an alcohol pad and turned her earrings twice a day for two weeks. This felt minimal because I did it when I was already tending to her for other reasons — in the morning, when tying her hair back, and in the evening, when helping her prep for bed. Since then, it’s required almost nothing of us.) The children’s jewelry line Pip Pop Post generously invited us to select a few earrings, and mini chose stars, lightning bolts, and “E” letters for her name. I could not be more in love with this brand — in fact, I ordered some myself before they swooped in to send us a few. The brand was started by two mothers who hated the cheap (infection-prone), cheesy earring options out there for little girls. They set out to create cute, perfectly-sized options in stainless steel with a clever screw-on backing (less like to fall off, and without the standard, stabby point packing my daughter hated) and a shorter, more comfortable stud length.

+Last weekend, we had friends over for drinks, snacks, and football, and I used this guide from Food52 to make homemade French Onion Dip. It was delicious. The post has a couple of variations, but I went with the sour cream / cream cheese / mayo base and the mixed allium. I’m going to make again for a chili cook off in a few weeks — it was a crowd-pleaser. I served in this cute little pumpkin cocotte with crudite and — duh — Ruffles. De rigueur! We had all kinds of drinks on hand, but I mixed up a batch of “Mother’s Ruin” Gin Punch from Death & Co cocktail book that was popular with our guests. You steep orange-cinnamon tea in sweet vermouth in advance, an ingredient that gives the cocktail a wonderful fall spiciness, and top with dry sparkling wine, which makes the punch effervescent and dangerously drinkable. Mr. Magpie even made and cut his own enormous craft ice cubes for the pitcher.

+I found myself reaching for this Goop Color Blur “cheek balm” all week long in the Afterglow color. I know I’ve mentioned it many times, but it’s a beautiful colder weather / winter weather color, and exactly what I want to pair with the burgundies/navies/golds I’ve been wearing. The other ingredients in my quick morning makeup routine: the Merit complexion stick (which is sort of a hybrid concealer-foundation), this Trish McEvoy mascara (I’m just so so — it’s the best tubing mascara I’ve ever tried, but you must apply with ultra-light-hand…more than a coat or two is a disaster, and I generally like an inkier lash line), this UBeauty lip plasma (truly plumps the lips — I did not want to love this pricey lip product as much as I do; a Magpie reader recently wrote to say she also bought this, skeptically, and it’s the only thing that’s made her thin lips look full in her entire life), and my beloved Airbrow brow gel. Using just these five products can get you a fair way to looking very polished in under 5 minutes.

+A pause to admire Mr. Magpie’s monochromatic outfit from earlier this week. Both the cashmere sweater (on sale for 50% off!) and cords are Todd Snyder.

+My baby, dressed up in an RL sweater and skinny cords, on his way to Church. We are working on the concept of a Church voice. Since he’s just started at Catholic school, he has a lot of new information he urgently needs to share once we are in the pew — “Joseph is Jesus’s Dad,” and “the babies get dipped in water” and “this is God’s house.” Such a sweet age, with no concept for venue or vocal volume.

+Concluding with my favorite things to wear at the moment: this Sezane cardigan, this Leset tee, these Gap kick flares, and my ultra-minis. I’ve been wearing these items constantly. They constitute my favorite “reach for as I run out the door for school drop-off” outfit.

P.S. Six helpful reframes.

P.P.S. In praise of a normal day.

P.P.P.S. Smoke signals.

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12 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: October 15, 2023.

  1. I wanted to come back and share two things that comforted me this week, in these unthinkable times… the first was in Father Rohr’s newsletter this week, the second is a long time favorite by one of my very favorite writers I come back to again and again. XO

    If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech;
    If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted;
    Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday….
    “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
    “Restorer of ruined dwellings.” —Isaiah 58:9–10, 12

    “If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.”
    ― Gabriel García Márquez

  2. I’d love if you made a list of your bar items! Like what utensils / cocktail set you use to make all your cocktails, punch or pitcher serving ware, glasses, ice cube molds, etc. they seem always so lovely!! You’ve inspired me to buy the Death & Co book and be more inventive at home!

  3. Ooh would love a leg shot of the ultra minis! Currently debating between the ultra and the classic minis. Did you get the forest color?

  4. The image of your son wanting to share his church knowledge at top volume is too cute. I will tell my 4 and 5 year-old students, “Ok while we eat we are at a volume 1!” And since I’ve taught them to repeat instructions back to me so I know they’ve heard me, they will SCREAM back-“WE ARE AT A VOLUME 1!!” Hahahahaha. It’s a work in progress 🙂 xo

  5. Mini looks sooo adorable with her little E earrings! What great choices she made on studs. Impeccable taste just like her mama. Also, not sure if this is place to ask for a future WYSF segment, I’m hosting a Friendsgiving dinner in November. They’ll be 6 of us in total. Would love your thoughts on table decor and food, drink and game ideas for a fun night. I’m trying to keep the menu simple as I’m not the most experienced cook. Thank you.

    1. Hi Anne! I’m working on a Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving vibe as we speak, so stay tuned…! Are you serving Thanksgiving food or doing something different? xx

      1. Thank you, Jen. My initial thought and preference was to serve something different (was trying to avoid turkey as to not take away from the big day), but everything I’m reading online points to Thanksgiving food so I’m tossed.

        1. Hi Anne! I feel like people typically expect traditional Thanksgiving food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t serve something different, or a twist on the theme. What about a turkey/chicken pot pie? Ina has a great recipe and you can prepare most of it well in advance, and either bake it off before people arrive or keep in a warm oven tented with foil.


          Pair with a big green salad tossed in a peppery/shallot-y vinaigrette to offset the heaviness/richness of the dish.

          For appetizers, I’d do something simple but festive — maybe look up a recipe for a baked brie with cranberry/seasonal relish? Or do timeless and delicious pigs in a blanket (I like the ones prepared from Trader Joe’s) gussied up with everything bagel seasoning (brush the “pigs” with egg wash, then sprinkle with the seasoning) and fun/festive/fancy mustards (Lusty Monk’s is outrageously good — a Magpie find). Or toast up some good sausage from a reputable butcher (my husband’s Polish side of the family LOVES Kielbasi sliced, toasted, served with toothpicks and really spicy mustard) on a big platter.

          Dessert — keep it simple with storebought cookies, sorbet or really good ice cream. We once served storebought ice cream sandwiches and guests LOVED. You can usually find some fun seasonal themed ones — I saw pumpkin spice ice cream sandwiches somewhere recently (Whole Foods?) but peppermint would be good, too!


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