Musings + Essays

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 148: An MZ Wallace Tote and The Idiosyncratic Rituals of Love.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: M.Z. Wallace Metro Tote.

I finally pulled the trigger on the M.Z. Wallace Metro tote in rose gold. I love the backpack version (which I own in black) and despite the fact that several of you wrote in to complain about the “slippery” straps (i.e., the straps slip right off your shoulder if you’re wearing a coat), anything would be an improvement from my Goyard, which is so overstuffed that I can only carry it on my forearm because it won’t actually fit over my shoulder with everything crammed into it. This last trip back to D.C. reaffirmed that I NEED a roomier, more practical option when I have both children with me. I pride myself on being economical with what I bring on outings, but with a toddler who is still accident-prone (and needs a backup outfit) and ravenously hungry and a seven-month old who often needs multiple diapers, a back-up outfit, formula, bottles, and food, it was just too much.

I love this line of bags because the fabric is super lightweight and wipeable and non-precious (non-leather), and the pricepoint is reasonable enough that I don’t feel like throwing up every time I think about where I’m placing my bag (ahem, my $1500 Goyard has been on bathroom floors, playground jungle gyms, etc.) . Plus, the quilting and colors are fun and interesting and it doesn’t scream “DIAPER BAG.” I can easily see myself using this for travel/gym in a future life. If it survives.

I’m so excited about this. I know it sounds crazy but I’ve been hunting for a roomier bag to use with both children since Hill was born and I kept thinking an even better solution would present itself — but this is perfect for me for right now.

You’re Sooooo Popular: Vintner’s Daughter.

The most popular items on the blog this past week:

+My beloved serum.

+Heavily discounted joggers.

+Such a cool fit.

+Zimmermann vibes for less.

+My favorite leggings.

+Cashmere joggers for your little one.

+This classic sweater is only $28!

+One of my favorite lipsticks (actually more of a balm — glides on!)

+The best socks for little ones.

Turbothot: The Idiosyncratic Rituals of Love.

I ran a business with my husband for two years. For two years, we rose together, ate breakfast together, worked long hours together, ate dinner together, watched TV together, and then went to bed together. One of the most common responses to our husband-wife venture was: “I don’t know how you do that without killing each other. I could never work with my [husband/wife].” The reply was always delivered with a cheeky, knowing look and I typically brushed it off with a smile and a shrug, but at some point, I started to feel salty on the subject, in the way any rote prodding will eventually fray the nerves. (Just try walking down a street in 30 degree weather with a toddler who has refused to wear her coat/mittens/hat. The number of concerned bystanders who will let you know you’re doing something wrong will both reassure you that people care and and leave you irrationally, unattractively defensive — “YES, I KNOW SHE IS COLD. YOU TRY GETTING HER INTO THE COAT.”) But it mainly made me sad, suggesting — based on the volume and consistency of this kind of reaction — that the marital default in this country is acrimony.

Such has fortunately never been the case in our marriage and, if anything, working with Mr. Magpie strengthened our relationship. We toasted our enterprise in the good times, drinking champagne on the roof of our house together, and we cried over it in the harder times, nursing our wounds alongside one another. As we were winding it down, we arrived at the impression that it was just the two of us against the world, a small and unbreakable pod being tossed around in a roiling sea of bad news. I remember that once we’d moved on and started our new life in New York, Mr. Magpie would occasionally say, of the paltriest of victories — like my success in arranging all the paperwork to have a dining table delivered to our building, which had protocols more stringent than Fort Knox when it came to the delivery and egress of items to and from its service entrance, or receiving a check for $107 from the Chicago MTA after elbowing through a ridiculous ordeal to cash out our “L” cards — “THE SHOOPS ARE BACK!”

In short, that experience, alongside a string of other personal challenges and tragedies, endeared me to him in ways that have forever changed the way I understand our relationship, such that I feel a kind of radiant, second-hand delight in any small turn of luck for him (“I got to the 72nd street stop and the local train was right across the platform!!”) and I presume the same to be true for him on my behalf.

All this to say — after he rejoined the traditional workforce and I set out to focus on this blog and rear our children — I found that I missed the dozens of tiny little observations, gripes, musings we’d exchange with one another over the course of a day. To be perfectly fair, I do not miss his routine agonizing over what to eat for lunch (“how about a turkey sandwich?” [GRIMACE]; “do you want to order ramen?” “I JUST HAD NOODLES YESTERDAY”; “why don’t you thaw out the chili?” “We’re having soup for dinner…too much soup”; “What about those good kielbasi sandwiches from around the corner?” “Too greasy”…ETC ETC ETC) , but I miss everything else.

And so for maybe the first year and a half, we’d text one another throughout the day and then talk on the phone during his lunch break and usually again in the afternoon. That pattern disintegrated as things picked up at work (he went from a handful of direct reports to something like 13!) and I fell into the rhythm of caring for a newborn. So instead, I started to keep a tick-list of observations and thoughts and logistical questions on my phone, everything from an unpleasant interaction at the grocery to an item in the news weighing on my mind to whether he’d prefer to leave on the 14th or 15th for that wedding in Austin? And now, one of my very favorite times of the day is after both babies are asleep, when we pour a glass of wine and sit down to go over our “Shoop Talking Points” or, as we now call them, “STPs.”

This is the practice of two unabashed type-As compressing the alternately insignificant and freighted happenings of our days into something we can digest together. We run through our agenda with the efficiency of two seasoned board members, and I almost always leave the conversation with action items, noted carefully in a new note on my phone. But truly, in spite of its semi-parodic business trappings, it is a ritual of love.

What idiosyncratic rituals of love do you share with your spouse/significant other?

Post-Scripts: A Shaggy Coat.

+A super-fun coat on sale for $55!

+URGENT: NEW MOMS: A SNOO BASINETT FOR $225. And a great rocker from Restoration Hardware for under $200. Can you tell I’m obsessed with TRR?

+This glitzy but reserved dress is on sale! Such a fun statement piece when you are ready to party but not sure if the rest of the crowd will be.

+So many cute new things at TBBC — I’m swooning over this cover-up for mini and this button-in for micro.

+Exercises in tedium.

+This skirt is so 90s chic — something from Calvin Klein circa 1998, right? I love the way they style it with a chunky knit.

+This puffer for little ones is on sale for $20 and looks just like something you’d find at Jacadi!

+Literally a perfect shoe.

+An easy and elegant dinner party. (We are in fact hosting a dinner party at our house tonight! I hope it will be elegant, but it will not be easy. Mr. Magpie has been ordering specialty products and coordinating the menu for the better part of two weeks now. I think we will have gone to about seven different groceries/purveyors when all is said and done — possibly more?! Good Lord. Let me get to the most impressive point: Mr. Magpie is nixtamalizing corn to make his own tortillas in our kitchen. The carnitas have been in preparation since Wednesday. And my sole submission is dessert — flan — which I’ve never made before. If all else fails, we’ll have a great story and a pitcher of margaritas.

+Swooning over this romper for a baby girl.

+I love this shirt.

+Expecting moms: this is a no-brainer. So chic in the polka dot! I’d wear with maternity jeans or leggings.

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20 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 148: An MZ Wallace Tote and The Idiosyncratic Rituals of Love.

  1. Ahhh so much to comment on here!

    Glad you went for the MZW tote — even though I was one of the ones who grumbled about the strap issue, I find that it’s less annoying if the tote isn’t totally heavy/packed to the gills. I truly haven’t found a better tote in terms of stylishness, functionality (love the zip-top and interior pockets) and durability. I have the grey/black colorblock in the medium size, and while I sometimes wish I’d gone for something more “fun”, it works well for most situations (NB: I work in a creative field, so I would use it for all work situations except mayyybe interviewing!) It’s great for travel, too — I just wish I had the current version with the luggage sleeve!

    I LOVE your practice of “STPs”! That’s so inspiring. I’m in a somewhat-unique situation as my partner & I both work from home (!) but we do both travel quite a bit, so I’d love to adopt a similar practice for days when we are apart. I do enjoy the luxury of being able to have lunch with him every day, and pop in on each other to bounce around ideas when we both have a free moment … and the impromptu neighborhood walks!

    I find it a bit depressing that the default attitude towards marriage is sort of a wry, acrimonious one. I’ve experienced this same reaction when people learn of our work-from-home situation, and it gets very old very quickly. I think the success of any marriage/partnership is a baseline of respect for the other person, and it seems to me that in some long-term relationships, this can run aground or wither over time. It’s sad to me!


    1. Oh man you TOTALLY get it. I was so annoyed by the end — could barely mention that I work with my husband without eliciting the same reaction. So envious of your working arrangement with your SO!


  2. Love the idea of Shoop Talking Points and writing out a list. I always try to keep track of the things I want to share with my husband (or mom!) and inevitably forget something.

  3. May I ask your opinion about the size of your new tote? I have been schlepping my “pumping bag” AND my trusty Cuyana tote around together in a large LLBean tote. Three totes together! Do you think the medium metro tote would fit a breastpump, along with my daily essentials (mostly just a wallet, lipstick, planner, and keys)? I purchased the MZ Wallace Sutton bag as a “quick trip” diaper bag and love the lightweight material!

    1. I will report back as soon as I test it out! It’s on its way to me now…I have a hunch this will be decently roomy enough to fit everything you’ve listed but stay tuned! xxx

  4. Ooo share photos of the gold tote! I agree about MZ Wallace! I had been on the hunt for an alternative to the backpack (mine is also black) and I gave up. It’s just too comfy and the only backpack that feels adult and easy to me! I’ve looked at the metro totes SO many times and always hesitate. Have you heard of the brand Oliver Thomas? Absurdly similar to MZ Wallace and cheaper, I plan to purchase a tote for my third baby and possibly a small backpack for when my older two are in school!

    Also, if you want to use your goyard something I do and many moms in my circle and church do is to fill a seersucker backpack (monogrammed ha!) or a Stephen Joseph backpack with all the baby and toddler items! I do this often for church.

    1. Yes! Will keep you posted, especially on the strap slippage issue…had not heard of Oliver Thomas!!! You guys are a wealth of information. Thank you!

  5. Nixtamalizing corn?! Your Mr. Magpie is committed. Wow!

    Love love love the metro line from MZW. I’ve had the tote and backpack for years and they work for almost everything (except perhaps more formal business settings) – pre-baby, post-baby, and on days without the baby! I find that if I cross the tote straps over another, they stay on my shoulder better. Hope that helps!

    PS: “The Shoops are back!” – love that expression! It sounds so victorious 🙂

    1. Thank you for the tip on the straps! Will try immediately.

      And YES. Those tortillas were INSANE. Oh my GOSH. It’s ruined us for all others…


  6. steve got me the mz metro tote for xmas (at my request :)) but i took it back because of the slippage! i walk 2+ miles round-trip during my commute and i just couldn’t stand it. i was so crushed bc i love the look so much (i got the navy camo)…

    1. SHOOT. I can see that being irritating. I wonder if I’ll have a different experience because I’ll almost always be using it with a stroller in front of me to hook it onto? Anyway, that’s too bad. They really need to improve that feature since so many of you have mentioned it!! xx

  7. Yay! I have a metro tote bought years back in a limited edition plaid and just picked up a second one in gold. The rose gold is so pretty too! I’m borderline tempted to get the rainbow one for summer. It’s so fun.

      1. Hi Nancy — The backpack does NOT slip off your shoulders; it stays put. However, the straps on the tote seem to be polarizing across Magpies — some said they slip right off and others weren’t bothered by it.


    1. I don’t have the issue of the tote sliding off my shoulder as others cited. I do wish the handle drop was longer though. Carrying it on my shoulder over layers and a heavy parka, it’s a snug fit. It does wear beautifully. The one I’ve owned for years still looks like brand new. 🙂

      1. Good to know, Betsie! So interesting that this issue has bothered some but not others. So excited for mine to come. I agree on their durability, too — the backpack I own has lasted multiple-times-a-week wearing and still looks good as new.

    2. Oh man I debated for SO long about whether to do a print or not. I generally favor the fun/impractical/bright colors but this was a time where I went with something that would be a neutral (rose gold feels like a neutral to me at least). BUT. If I LOVE this bag as much as you do, I anticipate buying a second in a bold print. xx

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