Magpie Edits

The Magpie Diary: September 24, 2023.

By: Jen Shoop

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This week, I’ve been asking myself, How do I decide how involved to be at my children’s school? I left the inaugural HSA meeting revved up to sign up for everything, especially since I have always imagined myself stepping up to be class parent (and have done it twice in my children’s Montessoris), volunteering for field trips and bake sales, etc. But last year revealed something interesting to me: I might be of best use in narrower straits. By this I mean that last year, I plugged in to the school community in a couple of ways, and I found some draining and low-impact (to everyone, not just speaking selfishly! — like, I don’t think I was additive to some of these events), but my favorite and most meaningful was volunteering a handful of times in the school library. I’d go in and read to my daughter’s class and then help her and her classmates find and select books to take home. I had wanted to help with shelving, too, but the kind librarian waved me off. I treasured this small involvement and am not above admitting that it afforded the slightest impression of living out a childhood fantasy of owning a bookstore. More importantly, it gave me insight into my daughter’s school world and classmate dynamics and enabled me to model for her a lifelong obsession with reading. It was also quiet, and easy, and barren of any of the occasionally uncomfortable dynamics of interacting with mothers who are more involved in the school. I should say that absolutely none of the mothers I’ve met at my children’s school are ever unpleasant or anything but welcoming, but there is always — how to say it? — a slight chasm? A feeling of outsidership? Like, I inwardly wish I was that mom who was always at the school, and feel mild remorse that I am not? I tell you, guilt grows like knotweed in my motherhood reflections, equally unbidden and unmitigatible.

I read not long ago a bit of advice from a seasoned mother: “Get involved in your children’s school where your kids will see you.” Meaning: if you’re going to make the effort to be there, find a way to make your presence and volunteerism visible and high-impact for your child. I think the library was a good spot for this and plan to reprise this filter as I tick through other opportunities for the year ahead.

I was texting a wise mom friend of mine for her thoughts on how she decided how involved to be (she has a senior job at a major financial institution), and she said: “I sign up for one in-class party per year, and then just plug in a little when convenient. It’s just not a season for me to lean in hard at school. I’ve made peace with it.”

Increasingly, in this realm and others, I am aware of the impact of drawing boundaries and making peace with them. I dropped out of two book clubs this month, and I did it clearly and without beating around the bush. This might sound self-involved and obverse to social norms, but I am reminded of an old sales adage we tossed around back in my days of slinging software: “A quick no is much better than a slow maybe.” Like, why drag things out and open the door for awkwardnesses or repeated “no, can’t make it again” type conversations? Better, I think, to have a clean break? To entirely remove the agony of “can I finish that book by x date? How do I say no again?”

Trivialities, all, but inroads into becoming an expert in myself…


Some other notes from the week:

+I changed out my summer table linens for autumn ones thanks to Christina Dickson Home (in progress shots seen above and below). She sent over the most gorgeous bundle of tablecloths, placemats, and napkins, and generously offered us all 20% off with code MAGPIE20. In fall, I love to mix in woven placemats like these for a little earthy texture, put out dried hydrangea in a rustic vase (this is the exact one we have and it’s on sale!; I cut the hydranges above from our bushes and dried them myself!), and swap out the taper candles for fall colors like forest green (seen above). I shared these earlier this week, but if you don’t have dried hydrangea, I’m obsessing over the look of these faux plum tree branches or these magnolia ones. Terrain also has some really cool dried arrangements that would be perfect for the season.

+While we’re on the subject of table linens, Julia Amory is also running a big warehouse sale, with select linens at 75% off. It’s running through today!

+I’m firmly planted in my fall running regimen and it feels fantastic. Fall is my favorite running season. I love witnessing the turn of the trees on foot. Anyway, this week, it was chilly enough for layers, so I bought a bunch of the items in my fall fitness roundup. I’m especially excited about my new Harrier tee from Tracksmith (these are the absolute BEST; stretchy and breathable and warm despite being very thin; try code NETC-Team for 20% off…worked for me! I’m a major coupon code hunter), my new Nikes, and this running hoodie. Really leaned into marigold for fall. I also ordered those Athleta salutation leggings so many of you raved about (you can see me in them below). I am…so-so on them! I feel badly saying that since so many of you raved about them, so take my perspective with many grains of salt. Here’s my beef: I find the seams up around the waist/belly area and the pockets on the side not particularly flattering? (This is noteworthy since I run with cropped-length shirts a lot — if I were only pairing with a long sweatshirt, might have a different story). I also never feel the cell phone pocket does me any good — I will never put my cell phone there (cannot imagine running with my phone on my leg?), and so it just adds bulk/distraction where I want nothing. Overall, I think I prefer the seamlessness of Lululemon Aligns. I do think the Athletas have a good fit, length, and overall feel — slightly more compressive than Aligns and clearly fantastic quality. But I find already I’d prefer my Aligns to them. I also ordered a fourth or fifth pair of those inexpensive Amazon leggings, also in brown. They’re like my “beater leggings.” Take ’em out when it’s rainy/muddy and throw in the laundry. The fit is great, I tell you! The quality is definitely inferior to Lulu / Athleta, but they are only $20. Anyhow, I think I’ll be reserving my Athletas for more athleisure moments versus fitness. Below, I styled for a walk with this Amazon sweatshirt (runs enormous – do not size up; I think this was a Grace find!) and $20 sherpa bag. (And, per usual, Dorsey necklaces — I rarely take these off.)

+After my runs, I am always freezing, and I pack a big, boxy sweatshirt to throw on over top. My current favorites are this Paris one and an old “Cindy Crawford” one from The Reformation from years ago. I love the Cindy one because I usually could not look any less like Cindy when I’m wearing it — tired, sweaty, no makeup. I’m not a big athleisure gal (although this roundup is making me change my tune a bit…I influenced myself!), but I do love a crewneck sweatshirt like this. Such a splurge, but I keep coming back to this faded green Anine Bing one.

+We had a delightful crab feast last Sunday — the end of the summer always feels like the right time for this, though blue crabs in these parts are delicious all through fall, and especially in October, as they fatten and prepare to molt. (My father-in-law calls them “brown bellies” and hunts them out of the pile.) My husband and his family are — how to say? — purist? Puritanical? about crab-eating. They approach it like some of us do Sunday Church. There are rules and conventions to observe, and they are unwavering in their devotion. First, they serve nothing but crab. Don’t even try to sneak in a corn muffin or a sheet of french fries. Instead, you eat the crab until full, over the course of a few hours, or until you grow tired of picking and instead just sit back in your chair and sip beer. Second, the only acceptable accoutrements for steamed blue crab are Old Bay (or sometimes the house seasoning, if offered by the crab purveyor — they all have variations on Old Bay) and malt vinegar. They laugh — they scoff! — at drawn butter, which is reserved for lobster and other (in their eyes, lesser) types of crab. Third, no mallets/hammers allowed. They shatter the shell and make the meat difficult to eat, pierced as it will become with cartilage. Instead, you may only use crab picking knives purchased from an obscure Maryland company. These look like small, heavy butter knives and, over the past many years, I’ve learned that you can, in fact, capably pick a crab with just one of these implements. They will tolerate crackers (and set one out generously at my place), but generally turn up their noses to those, too. I find I still need them to crack the claws, though my in-laws use the leverage of the table to get into theirs.

I’ve come to cherish these idiosyncrasies, which make the feast simple, satisfying, and somehow reverent? All hail the blue crab!

+Sometimes classics are the only way to go. I put on the outfit below and felt like a million bucks — and so myself, too! The bag is the LL Bean medium in ecru/ecru with regular-length handles (had a lot of questions about handles — the long ones look too long and IMO out of proportion with the bag, and these regular length ones WILL fit over your shoulder, but just barely, FYI). I have so many of these boat totes but really love this size and colorway for fall. I’ve been wearing it all week in lieu of a proper handbag. The dress is G Label (seriously cannot rave enough about the quality and tailoring of Goop’s house label — it is SO good, and I love seeing Gwyneth style all of the pieces…apparently she remains very involved in the fit and styling of the house brand, and often serves as fit model) and the sweater over my shoulders is Quince’s cotton fisherman which is ANOTHER slam dunk from this brand. Guys! Where have I been? This brand makes the best inexpensive sweaters to fill out all your wardrobe holes. This navy one is so versatile and did I mention it’s 100% cotton and only $39?! Seriously insane. I love it. I sized up to a small in this for a looser fit and probably could have even gone up to a medium for a really slouchy/oversized look, which is kind of what I’m after these days.

+Some final shopping notes: 1 // my Tazz Ugg slippers, available in a super-cute teddy brown and stocked in all sizes!; 2 // the lip balm you’ve been raving about for awhile — cannot wait to try when these arrive in the mail; 3 // my current most absurd fashion craving: a designer baseball cap, specifically one of these Celine logo hats (I blame Nicole Cassidy) or this plaid Miu Miu. I don’t think I can legitimize such a $$ purchase, so looking for other fun fall hats — currently eyeing this plaid one (look for even less with this; 4 // found my Sleeper feather trim pajama set on super sale in a fun hot pink here. Trust me when I say these are SO fun to wear out for holiday affairs / birthdays / girls dinners. Just pair with a suede pump or velvet platform to signal intentionality and keep the rest of the look minimal. You can also wear just the top on its own. 5 // My Internet friend Chrissy shared these incredible under-$100 suede brown platform heels. Love! Perfect with all the wider-legs/flares or long fall dresses we’ve been buying. *Adds to cart.* I’m attending a fall party at the end of this week (will be debuting this Doen dress, which arrived and is SPECTACULAR — I ordered the XXS and I swear it looks tailor-made to my silhouette!; would be perfect for Thanksgiving! I got in the creme forest floral but also love the brand-new mulberry vine pattern) and thinking about ordering the shoes to wear with it.

P.S. Are you an expert in yourself?

P.P.S. What song do you secretly love?

P.P.P.S. My fall shop! And all the items on my current fashion wishlist.

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16 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: September 24, 2023.

    1. Hi! Mine have still not arrived (wahhh!) as I ordered from Moda Operandi when I couldn’t find elsewhere in my tiny foot size, and they were backordered until Oct 17. BUT! This photo on Harrods gives a better birds eye view and it DOES look like the same lining as a traditional Ugg to me —


  1. My philosophy, just for myself and no one else, is that if you have the time/energy/ability to help out at school, then you should. Coming from a family of educators I feel hyper aware of the support they need. I also remember growing up and never knowing when I’d see my mom on campus! It was so much fun. I’m definitely in my PTA mom phase and getting involved wherever I can. Not sure how long it’ll last, and I’m not putting pressure on myself to make it a 12-year thing, but for now I’m really enjoying learning what the needs are and where I’m most helpful. (Wrote this from the teacher workroom where I help make copies/laminate/deliver finished requests while I wait for my library shift!)

    1. Hi Quincy! This is such a great perspective – thank you so much for sharing. You are so right that the school/teachers deserve the support we can give (and that it’s therefore not all about being seen by your own children!). Thanks for the reset. I also appreciate the way you are doing what feels right for now, without a sense that you *NEED* to maintain this for a certain duration of time. So helpful to hear that!


  2. My children are older – college and high school age – and I still volunteer at my younger child’s school. The advice to focus on one volunteer opportunity where your child will see you is spot on. Like you, I love books and ran the Book Fair. I laughed when I read you volunteered in the library as a way to tap into your bookstore dream as surely that’s what I was doing too. My kids were always excited to come to the Book Fair with their class and see mom. With our busy lives it’s important to be strategic with extra commitments – quality over quantity!

    1. Teacher here, and volunteering with the Book Fair is a really great way to get involved at school! I know some schools also do like a “Friday Student Store” or something like that, where kids trade good-behavior points or slips (or even just money, lol) for little trinkets during lunch, and that’s usually always parent-run.

    2. I love this, Laura – and so, so many Magpies said the exact same thing via DM this weekend: “Quality over quantity” when it comes to engagements at the school!


  3. Thinking of ordering that Doen dress but am between sizes (small vs. medium). I find Doen often runs large for me but according to the size chart I should be a medium (I am a true size 6). Thoughts on going up or down based on the fit for you? I’m larger at my waist than my chest/bust if that helps! Thanks – weird question I know!

    1. Hi Tara! I took an XXS, which is the size I normally take in Doen, and it is pretty narrow. It’s a tight/slim fit. It does fit me, but I would say if you’re unsure, size up just in case, because the material is a thin cotton material without much stretch.

      Hope that helps! You will LOVE!


  4. How this resonates and the outsidership is so relatable. I remember my first PTA meeting at my children’s new school. I was seated at the large lunch room table with the other moms and we were brainstorming ideas for a family event. I suggested a venue that offered instructor led scavenger hunts. This venue also happened to have a restaurant attached. I can still remember the gasps and head turns of horror, with one mother advising me that they will not take the children to an establishment that serves alcohol. It was my first and last meeting. These women weren’t meaning to be unpleasant, but didn’t feel that it was the best fit for me or my time. I turned my focus to fundraising, chaperoning and later joined a foundation and became a mentor for a child in need to model volunteerism for my children.

    1. Hi Anne! It’s funny when experiences like that just point us in the right/best direction, you know? I love the framework of listening for / looking for signs that we’re doing something that is “the best fit for me and my time.” Thanks for sharing this – a reminder that there are lots of ways to plug in.


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