The Magpie Diary: September 17.

By: Jen Shoop

I’ve changed the title of my Magpie Edit series to The Magpie Diary. I think it’s a better fit for the evolving format, which is more like free-form self-reflection these days.

The week that wraps around September 11th sits heavily. I was seventeen the morning those planes hit the twin towers, and the world seemed one way on September 10th and another way entirely on the 12th. “What’s going to happen?” I asked my unflappable father. He was standing in the front hallway of my childhood home in D.C. The skies were a gridlock of helicopters, and tanks roamed the streets. Classmates of mine had parents who worked in the Pentagon, and they had cried in the school gym along with the rest of us. We did not yet understand the day’s extent. “I don’t know,” he replied, and the look in his eye was unrecognizable to me.

I think all of us carry these “demarcation days” in our hearts: the day a loved one died, the day we learned something horrible, the day we witnessed tragedy. I must remind myself, then, of the beneficent demarcation days, too: the day my daughter was born, the night my husband returned to himself after our stressful move to New York, the afternoon I discovered I was pregnant with my son. I can still feel that two o’clock hour, and crisply. The lay of the light in our pink-tiled bathroom in Manhattan, my daughter’s muffled, chirping voice behind the two doors separating us, the way my hands shook as I deposited myself onto the cold floor and thought: “This is it, this is it, this is it.”

Much of life runs like the C.S. Lewis quote: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is different,” but the demarcation days force us to observe difference immediately. I specialized in high-modernist poetry as a graduate student, and I was drawn to the modernists because they confronted the abruptnesses of their times with remarkable grace and innovation. The world was one way before the war, and another entirely after: their poetry reflects that fracturing in the tenderest and most insightful of ways. After centuries of representational art, they imagined in abstractions. Such was the volume and intensity of change in their lifespans. A phrase I once read occurs to me: “The history books will tell us what happened; the artists will tell us how we felt about it.”

I cannot reduce these spooling thoughts to any one point. They run like spilled milk across the table. But it is good to let them pool and drip for a minute, anyway.

What was on your heart this week? Maybe let this be your prompt to take a minute to let the thoughts collect on paper.

On to some brighter things:

+On Saturday, we had our neighbors’ 14-year-old daughter over for a portion of the day as a mother’s helper. We were hosting a dinner party and had a lot of prep and cooking, and she managed to keep our two children out of our hair for a few hours. For a sliver of the afternoon (seen above), I slipped into my favorite Lake nightgown and read the new Sally Rooney short fiction in bed. It was divine. How often do we find that kind of time to ourselves? (P.S. All of my bedding details here.)

+The dinner party was absolutely epic, if I don’t say so myself. My husband outdid himself. He served ceviche, two salsas, and guacamole to start, then birria tacos, green rice, and beans as the entree — and absolutely everything was homemade to the hilt. He pickled his own escabeche, made his own lactose-fermented hot sauce using vegetables from his own garden, nixtamalized corn to make his own tortillas, made his own farmer’s cheese, etc, etc. It was a week of carefully-orchestrated cooking projects, and the result was insane. I helped (minimally) by selecting and purchasing the wines (we use this book to help with wine pairing), making the cocktails (a classic margarita) and an agua fresca (watermelon-lime), handling the desserts (I shared the polvorones recipe on Friday, and also made two paletas from this book), and setting the table. We’ve become semi-professional when it comes to hosting dinner parties. We are incredibly organized, and everything is pre-squeezed and prepped and ready to rock by party time. I only managed to take a handful of photos from the affair…

My freezer, before the guests arrived: I salted, iced, and pre-chilled the glasses for margs, and the paletas were ready to go for dessert. I used these molds. You might be asking how we had the space for this? (That’s what I’d be asking, given how much frozen stuff we keep on hand for little children.) Landon bought us a second freezer a few weeks ago, and it’s been a gamechanger. We keep all the backstock in the basement!

My tablescape, in formation. The tablecloth is Sweetgrass Home; the acrylic mats are Proper Table; the dinner napkins are Coley Home; the “Club Pour” cocktail napkins are Half Past Seven; and the mini pinatas are Etsy. (BTW, if you’re celebrating a birthday with this theme, this Etsy shop can customize someone’s name with mini pinata letters!)

This is the only marg recipe you’ll ever need. It’s from Death & Co (longtime readers know that 95% of our cocktail recipes come from this book). I personally like to rim the glass with Red Clay’s spicy marg salt, but I want totally traditional here. (To rim the glass, rub a cut lime along the rim and then dip into a bend of salt and sugar — it actually sticks this way!). We’ve been loving G4 tequila for margs — it has a nearly vegetal quality to it that tastes insanely good mixed. Unpopular opinion: I hate Casamigos. It has no tang or taste! I think they’re trying to make it ultra-smooth for people who enjoy sipping, but I personally like a little more intensity/interest/color! When you make the marg below, my big rec is to strain the lime juice using a fine-mesh sieve. It gets all the pips/pulp out. Little details like this make for excellent cocktails! I made a new playlist for this dinner party (it had a more festive vibe), but here is my go-to playlist for entertaining guests. And while we’re talking music, is anyone else absolutely obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo’s new GUTS album? It sounds like the angsty 90s I grew up with! This album could absolutely be the playlist for “Can’t Hardly Wait” (!)

On Instagram, I did an “Ask Me Anything,” and one of the questions was: “What’s in your bag?” I was tickled by this, and then promptly realized I carry nothing interesting or exceptional? The only possibly unusual thing is that I am never without floss. I usually carry Cocofloss (if I inspire you to buy nothing else but this floss, my job is done — it is leagues better than anything else I’ve used), but my Dentist gave me this tiny Colgate sample, so that’s where we are. Since having adult invisalign, I absolutely cannot bear to be without floss. Also in my bag: the Goyard pouch that comes with every St. Louis tote — I use it as a wallet because it’s the perfect length for cash and virtually weightless on its own. I tuck my pink Prada card case inside. I also have a gorgeous Chanel wallet (this exact style in this exact color) but find I prefer the thinner, weightless Goyard. I keep all my keys in this old Fendi eye case — my car key, my house key, my parents’ key, etc. I hate when keys get lost in a bag; this means I can always find them. Then, of course, one of my five pairs of Le Specs Air Hearts (still doing penance for losing two pairs of Chanel sunglasses, cannot bring myself to buy designer again), my beloved Amazon hair claws, and a lip product. Right now, I’m using Summer Fridays, which I enjoy, but I realllly want a reason to buy UBeauty’s lip plasma, which I’ve heard such good things about.

I was so excited when my first Jenni Kayne order ever arrived this week. I’ve been eyeing this brand for a long time and I know many of you are devotees. The pared-down, neutral aesthetic, historically, has not been totally “me” — I love to spring for a colorful dress, a bold statement shoe, a puffed sleeve jacket, etc — but I’ve been slowly won over by the appeal of simple, high-end basics. To be honest, my white alpaca sweater from Alice Walk taught me this lesson last year. I wore it allll the time and it went with everything and held up so wonderfully. Anyhow, I ordered Jenni Kayne’s Cruise Cocoon sweater (XS, Safari color) and their Everyday Sweater (XS, taupe — for some reason, this sweater is $30 less on Shopbop) to see about the hype. Both are gorgeous and they drape exactly as they look on the site. The perfect slouchy, hygge fit. I think I might actually get more wear out of the everyday sweater? It has a great, thin (tuckable) weight and I’m obsessed with the color, which is sort of like a heathered cocoa. It looks phenomenal with ivory/ecru denim.

jenni kayne bag

I already shared a bunch of photos of me wearing the Everyday Sweater this week (ahem), but you can see me styling the Cruise sweater with these 90s fit Madewell jeans (take your true size but note that they run a tad long; I got the petite length and they run over the top of my shoe, FYI!), and my Sambas (more details on Sambas styling / fit / etc here). The bag is past-season Marc Jacobs, but you can still find it in black here and in my exact colorway brand new on Poshmark. It is SUCH a good bag. Love the color blocking and bungee detailing, and you know I love a crossbody!

Also, details on my jewelry (both necklaces from Dorsey) are here.

jenni kayne cruise sweater
jenni kayne cruise sweater

Last but not least, I cannot deal with this tiny man. He has been sprinting around the house in his underwear and this cape at all hours of the day, pronouncing himself “Captain Underpants.” (From the book series he loves because his sister does.) Here he is, giving a backwards peace sign, which felt so…advanced? for a boy in dress-up and boxer shorts. We’re at such wonderful ages with both children (four and six); I don’t want anything to change. I’ve been focused on scheduling playdates for both of them as part of my effort to help them acclimatize to the school year, and my children absolutely vibrate out of their bodies with excitement whenever we bring a friend home from school. They are screaming, they are chanting, they are acting like wild and devious versions of themselves — it is a lot! And it is so good. Can you remember the barreling enthusiasm and joy of having a friend over at this age?! Anyhow, I’ve given up multiple afternoons the past two weeks where I would normally be cloistered in my studio in order to handle pick up and supervision for these little playdates, and I will confess an occasional, fleeting begrudgment of the interruption in my day, but then I think — “This is where I’m meant to be.” Amen!

boy in superhero cape

And onwards into the week!

P.S. Favorite fall finds under $160.

P.P.S. My Amazon shop.

P.P.P.S. Everything on my fall wishlist.

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11 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: September 17.

  1. I have a question for you Jen! I have found my dream wedding dress; it’s a pre-loved Carolina Herrera. It’s on Still White but for some reason the seller has stopped responding to me. So, my question is, any tips for tracking down another one?? I’ve tried in vein! Thank you so much, in advance!! Xo
    P.S. that dinner sounds BONKERS!! Yet another reason I wish we were neighbors


    1. Hi! I’m so sorry to hear about this – that must be so frustrating! I am so sorry but I don’t have any resources for this question. My gut was to prowl Real Real, Poshmark, eBay, etc? I’m sure you’ve tried all of those places. I’ll keep my ears open for other ideas. Maybe another Magpie has some experience doing this kind of tracking?


  2. Please share your entertaining tricks of the trade. Would love a post dedicated to this. Threw a dinner party last weekend that was everything short of a disaster. Burnt the dinner, over blanched the green beans, forgot a critical ingredient for a sauce, dropped a serving tray with desserts leaving broken glass and sticky custard everywhere. Thankfully the wine was good, ha!

    1. Hi Anne! I’ve TOTALLY been there. I do have two thoughts: 1) if truly everything goes wrong / you aren’t sure you can salvage what you’ve started, order a pizza/delivery Shake Shack and make light of it! “God wanted us to have pizza I guess” — ! We had to do that a year ago when a smoked meat just stalled in its cooking temp for hours. The stall is a known and dreaded phenomenon from BBQ masters but we just could not get past it. So we ordered a pizza and enjoyed the BBQ later! 2) If there are smaller infractions (e.g., overblanched beans, slightly burnt dinner), don’t make any comments or apologies. Act like you know what you’re doing. This is something I learned from my MIL. Most guests won’t even notice/comment/etc! They’re usually just relieved/delighted to have someone else making dinner for them. You know?!

      But more to the meat of your question, I personally think it all comes down to really careful pre-planning. We try to plan menus that involve dishes we can make most of in-advance. We prioritize items that can be served at room temp or be made the day before. This means you can control the pace / spread out the responsibilities over a few days versus running around all day. Generally, our goal is to get absolutely as much as possible done the day before — this might mean even setting the table the night before. I also try to do all mise en place as early as possible the morning of the event, even pre-slicing limes / squeezing citrus for cocktails earlier in the day just so it’s out of the way. The goal is to have the hour or two before guests arrive more focused on plating / mixing versus actual cooking.

      Also – pour yourself a glass of wine / mix up a cocktail before guests arrive. I find it makes for a more relaxing start to the evening and invites guests to dip into whatever you’re drinking immediately without the usual “well, what are you going to have?” rigmarole.


        1. Oh of course!! Sounds like you have the right attitude to begin with — “at least the wine was good.” Yes! It’s all about having fun and being together!


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