Random Thoughts By Jen

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Hey guys! I’m writing on the blog! Whoa now! What do you guys think? Are blogs on the way out? Do you enjoy reading blogs anymore? Other than a lot of food blogs and blogs of friends I’ve been reading forever, my feed reader is pretty sparse. Are you satisfied with just Instagram/Snapchat posts from people? I am not sure how I feel about it all. I love this blog, but definitely don’t come and sit at the computer to share like I used to. I don’t know why? I mean, I do and I don’t. There isn’t much time nowadays, but honestly that never stopped me in the past. I used to make time no matter what. So many bloggers have stopped blogging lately and I totally understand it. Not sure if I am ready to throw in the towel yet though. I would love to hear your thoughts on it all!

Everyone is sleeping in our house right now and I just sat down here at my laptop to share a few things. Like the old days. I never use my laptop anymore. We have an iMac on our desk that I always use, but it just took it’s final breath so… well, there’s that. Maybe this is good. Maybe having to use my laptop again will make me want to write more. Hahha maybe not, time will tell.

Sooooooo Orion ate a cigarette tonight. Mom of the year award over here. We were eating ice cream outside at the local Stewarts and Orion was playing on the ground. Kev noticed he had something in his mouth and yep, there is was… a dirty old cigarette. ACK! Gross! I kind of wanted to rinse his mouth out with hand sanitizer.

Finley has been sick lately. Not sure what is really going on with her- and it’s killing me that we don’t have a straight answer to make her feel better. It’s such a hard part of parenting. Seeing our kids in pain or discomfort and not being able to fix it right then for them. Praying we have some answers this week and we can move forward with a plan for her.

Rowan has been reading up a storm lately. It is sooooooo awesome to hear her up in her room with a book, sounding out all the words and reading to her self. I LOVE THIS STAGE. It is so fun!!

Can you believe summer is half over already. Ahhhhhh! I don’t want it to end. Everytime it’s summer I think to myself why don’t we live somewhere  where the weather is nicer more months of out the year. Where do you think is the best state for this? mild seasons, mostly warm, never deathly hot. I want to live there.

I came up with a ramen recipe about a month or so ago and I.CAN.NOT.STOP.EATING.IT. It’s pretty much the best thing I’ve ever made (patting myself on the back over here). I had to because I would sit here and day dream about Wagamama all day long and scheme up reason why we had to head back to Boston every week. Have you eaten there before? It’s my favorite.

I almost cut bangs last night. I had the scissors out and everything. Then I stopped to go get the mail. Random maybe but! BUT! There was a J.Crew catalog in there and ooooh thank you J.Crew model with your long, center parted hair to make me realize I do not want bangs again (well, not until next month). What I really want is to grow my hair out longer again.

I laid in bed last night figuring out how I can become a family travel blogger. hahahahahahahhaa But seriously, how can I do that? Like for real????!?!?!? Just putting it out there to the universe. Dear Universe, All I want to do is travel with my family, like to allllllllllll the places. I want to see everything and I want Kev and the kids to come with me. Let’s make this happen. I promise to take lots of pictures and write fun stories about our trips. I will love you forever and ever, XOXOX Jen.

Here are my thoughts on adult coloring books. Why are people just figuring out that coloring is fun now? Coloring has always been fun. The end.

I GOT A NEW CAMERA AND IT IS SO AWESOME IT NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED IN ALL CAPS. HAVING 3 KIDS AND LUGGING AROUND A GIANT DSLR SUCKS. WE WENT MIRRORLESS AND WE ARE NEVER GOING BACK. TOTALLY GOT THIS CAMERA AND WE LOVE IT! IT’S SO TINY.

Ok. So ends this episode of random thoughts by Jen.
Night. Night.
xoxox

4th of July | Lake Placid

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We packed up the car on Saturday and headed 2 hours north to Lake Placid for the holiday weekend. We love Lake Placid and were all totally stoked to be up there camping for 3 days. It was Orion’s first camping experience and overall he did pretty good. One of my favorite things to do in Lake Placid is head up to the summit of Whiteface Mtn. It’s one of my most favorite spots. The view is just beautiful (like stunning!) and it’s easy enough to get up there with the kids. There’s a short hike once the road ends but totally doable (although a tiny bit nerve racking) with little ones. Finley loved climbing all the rocks to the top. They’re becoming such great hikers, I love it! We spent the morning hanging out on top of the mountain and then headed into town to watch the parade and fireworks. We feel so very lucky to live so close to the Adirondacks. I highly recommend everyone coming and checking out the area at least once in there lifetime. There is just so much to see and explore. New York is really a cool state. It took sometime to win me over when we first moved here but I have to say I am a total convert. New York you have my heart.

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and our little parade goers…
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Sweet Potato Pasta with Hemp Seed and Kale Pesto

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Hey Guys!

Anyone LOOOOVE pasta out there? I am a huge pasta fan. It’s for sure my comfort food. Until this year, I was really hesitant about the whole spirializer trend. I mean, a zucchini is no pasta dish, even if it’s in the shape of spaghetti. But then I ended up getting one and oh man! It’s a game changer. My favorite thing to turn into noodles is by far a sweet potato. It’s the perfect kind of al dente noodle. We have this recipe below at least once a week. It’s so easy and quick! Don’t be intimidated by making the pesto either- so quick & easy. You don’t have to worry about needing a food processor; a blender works great.

Sweet Potato Pasta with Hemp Seed and Kale Pesto
Serves: 2-4 | Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 10-15 mins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup hemp seeds
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 cups of chopped kale
3 tablespoons of lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
1/4 cup of olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I used plain, unsweetened almond milk)
2 large sweet potatoes
1 package of cherry tomatoes, halved
Optional: grated Parmesan cheese and chopped basil for garnish
Optional: Add some chicken for the meat eaters in your life

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Instructions:

1. Make the Pesto: In a blender, add the peeled garlic and hemp seeds and pulse together. Add kale and pulse again.
2. Add lemon juice, olive oil and generous amount of salt and pepper and pulse again.
3. Scrape sides and blend into a smooth paste
4. Transfer to a small pot and heat on cooktop over low heat. Add non-dairy milk a little at a time and whisk together until it’s your desired consistency. I like to thin out and make a creamier sauce.
5. Sweet Potato Noodles: With a spirializer, make noodles with your sweet potatoes. You could use a julienne peeler – it’s tedious, but it can be done.
6. Add noodles to a large skillet or wok. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss with tongs to coat. Continue to toss with the tongs every minute to prevent the potatoes from burning or becoming stuck on the bottom of the skillet. Do this for 5-10 minutes. The cooking time will depend on your preferred texture of the noodles. If you love a little crunch, cook for 5 minutes. If you like a softer noodle, cook for around 10.
7. When the noodles are at the desired texture add the pesto sauce and tomatoes. Toss to coat.
8. Serve in bowls and top with chopped basil, freshly grated parmesan and sprinkle with a few hemp seeds.
9. Enjoy!

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Cooking Tip: In a rush for dinner? Add a tiny bit of water to the pan when cooking the noodles. The high heat of the PowerPlus Burner on the Frigidaire Professional Cooktop will help steam the noodles and cook them in a jiffy.

This post was sponsored by Frigidaire Professional and Lowe’s. All opinions and pictures are my own.

8 tips For Creating Successful Open Shelving (and a pantry)

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We love our new open shelving and pantry! It’s everything we had hoped for! It totally opens up the kitchen and I love the modern look of it all. When I posted the picture of the kitchen reveal last week, I got a ton of questions about how to create open shelving, how to make it function well in your kitchen and what we did with the rest of our stuff! I decided it would be a good idea to go into the nitty gritty of it all so you can feel confident if you are thinking about making the switch in your own kitchen.

Materials:

Metal shelving brackets
Drywall/wall anchors
Screws
Drill
2”x10”x8’ wood cut to shelf lengths
Minwax Weathered Oak Stain
Foam brushes
Masonry drill bits
Level
Various glass jars/containers

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Directions:

1. Take all the measurements for how long you will need each shelf. When you don’t have all the tools, Lowe’s is there to help! They cut all our wood for us to the exact measurements we needed. I wanted a thicker shelf so we went with 2” thick wood.
2. Stain each of the shelves. We used a Weathered Oak stain and I love how it gives it a reclaimed wood type look without the hassle of finding reclaimed wood. It’s the perfect stain color.
3. Take measurements on your shelves where you want the brackets to go and screw in each bracket to the shelves. I decided on placing the brackets 7” in from each end of the wood.
4. For the pantry area, we used heavy-duty dry wall anchors. I didn’t like where the studs where in relation to where I wanted to place the brackets, so the anchors let me do whatever I wanted. TIP: Measure twice! Drill once. haha. Learned that lesson a few times.
5.With a level, measure out all your spacing for your shelves. For our pantry, the shelves are 16” apart and for the kitchen, they’re 12.”
6. Drilling into tile is intimidating!! We watched soooooooo maaaaaaaany YouTube videos (anyone watch the videos with Shannon?). What helped us the most was to get a masonry drill bit, make an “x” with masking tape to give some texture for the drill bit to stick to, and using a sponge, drip water on the drill bit while drilling into the tile. We used these anchors to hang the shelves over the tile.
7. Start organizing, styling and putting your new shelves to good use. You will love how open it makes your new kitchen!

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Tips for having open shelves and pantry:

1. Clean and purge! You will be surprised about how much you have when you empty your kitchen all out. I ended up donating about half of what we kept in our kitchen. I only kept the things we use everyday.
2. Find the balance between function and decoration. When you take your upper cabinets down, the shelves need to be functional, as well as look good. For us, we kept all our dishes a single color (white) or clear glass so it didn’t look messy or overwhelming.
3. Maximize the storage in bottom cabinets. Look into organizational items, like wire racks, that can really help organize every inch of space. It really makes a huge difference if you aren’t wasting space!
4. A closed-door pantry. We are lucky enough that we actually have a pantry with two doors. We moved the items that we didn’t want on the open shelves in there (i.e. kids plastic cups and plates). We also have our large bulk items from Costco in there. Everything else gets put into the glass jars on the open pantry shelves.
5. Dry goods. I love the bulk section at our local co-op. I get most of our dry goods from there and keep them in large mason jars on the shelves. It makes for a perfect open pantry – they all look so beautiful with their subtle colors and interesting textures. We keep an array of nuts, seeds, flours, sugars, oats, shredded coconut, cranberries, chocolate chips, etc… in our jars. We store our packaged snacks/food in cabinets to help keep an organized and minimal look.
6. Transfer all your spices to clear glass jars. I love these spice jars from Amazon and how they look on the shelf together.
7. Get creative, use hooks under the shelves to hang mugs, or try hanging bowls/baskets for fruit.
8. Have fun! That’s the best part of having open shelving. You get to rearrange and decorate anytime the mood strikes. Let your creative side go wild!

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This post is in partnership with Frigidaire Professional, but all words, opinions and styling are my own. A big huge thank you to Frigidaire Professional and Lowe’s for helping our kitchen dreams come true.

You can see the full kitchen reveal post here!

The Playoffs and a Marathon

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The past 2 weekends have been sort of a whirlwind (in the best possible way of course)! Last minute I decided to head up to Toronto with a friend to watch her husband (who plays for the Albany Devils) in the playoffs. They were playing the Toronto Marlies. Oh man was it fun! and stressful! but awesome!. They ended up losing in game 7 which was such a bummer, but I was so glad we got to be there to watch the final 2 games. It also meant we got to pop in and see family while we were up there for the weekend. I love when the kids get to see my Grandparents!! We also went to the yummiest little place with my cousins called The Cold Pressery where I had a delicious acai bowl and killer iced matcha latte. I/m pretty sure I also ate my weight in Canadian candies that I can’t seem to find in the states very often. The 7 hour trip always takes waaaaaay longer with kids in the car but we muscled through and all in all everyone did pretty well. Well except for the lady at the toll booth who was NOT impressed that we were paying a $12 toll with quarters. It provided Courtney and I some good amount of laughs after so totally worth it.

Last weekend we headed down to Brooklyn for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon. A friend (same friend as above- we love you Courtney!) have been training for this half for a few months now. We’ve been running 2-3 times a week together. During the week we run in the morning while Rowan is at school. Courtney pushes her son in her Bob and I push Finley and Orion in our double BOB. Goodness I love that stroller! And then the husbands watch the kids on the weekend for us to do the long run. Anyway, race day was Saturday morning. I guess this is the largest half in the whole country, there were over 27,000 people running! Which was cool and not cool all at the same time. Once the race stared, we didn’t cross the start line for 35 mins??!?!?!?! Crazy! There was a whole lot of weaving in and out of people which got kind of tiring after a few miles. It was a nice race though- through Prospect Park and down to Coney Island. We stayed over an extra night so I could go to the ErgoBaby event the next day. It was in the most beautiful location in Brooklyn! And I got to see Dani! Love that girl. The rest of the day we wandered (kids scooted) all around Brooklyn. We left convinced we should rent/sublet a place for an extended amount of time sometime soon. Brooklyn we love you!

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The Day I Took The TV Away.

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Guys, I did something crazy. I took away our tv. Like completely got rid of it in the living room. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but have always felt too scared to go through with it. How would it go? Would it be too exhausting to entertain the kids alllll day? Would they whine about it? How would I watch the bachelor? I had been having this heavy guilt about it though for about 6 months. Our kids didn’t ever watch a ton of tv, but it was there and when I wanted to get stuff done, I would use it as a tool to give me space. I wholeheartedly believe there is nothing wrong with that- Mom’s need a break too. However, it just wasn’t sitting well with me anymore (again, just for us). I don’t know why? It all the sudden just felt like it was more of my problem then theirs. It was too easy to rely on I guess and I felt like I wanted to change that. I love the idea of letting kids get bored. When the girls would say they were bored, they would ask to watch tv. Like that is what you do when you are bored. I hated that the tv just sat there in the living room staring at them when they were playing. I wanted to create a space that was warm, welcoming and not where the tv was the center of the room. I wanted them to know that if they felt bored and Mommy was doing stuff, they had to figure something out themselves to do. Go color, go build blocks, go ride bikes, go dig in the dirt. I don’t care what it is but they have to figure it out themselves though. It’s a balance because I make sure I am there most of the day to play with them together, but I want them to learn to use their own creativity the other times when I am cooking dinner or nursing the baby or whatever.

It’s taken some getting used to on all parts. And there is definitely a detox period. It worked out that we were in Florida for 2 weeks and were super busy out doing stuff pretty much everyday. The girls hardly watched tv at all while we were there, so when we came home I knew it was time. I didn’t want to fall back into old habits so out the tv went. I rearranged the living room, made a small play area off the kitchen and brought up a few toys from the basement (blocks, legos, doll house) and that was that. No more tv. So far so good. The girls have been playing so well together. Their attitudes are better overall and it has been awesome seeing what they come up with when they play. Rowan ended up creating all these birthday cards the other day, that Finley and her went door to door to sell around our neighborhood. Hahaha. Kev was such a good sport, he went with them. They knocked on all our neighbor’s doors and made like $7 bucks. We sure have some sweet neighbors! It was so cute. Rowan worked really hard and spent her time coming up and executing the whole thing and we wanted to honor her creativity. That’s what makes my heart full, seeing them use their little imaginations!

I will say that it does make more of a mess not having a tv. hahaha. Playing and finding fun makes much more of a mess than sitting in front of the tv. It’s a small price to pay though, right? Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an adjustment for me as well. I’ve never been someone who loves to watch tv but it’s been an adjustment to not turn it on for the kids. There are moments when I want so badly for everyone to stop touching me, asking me questions or fighting and I want to turn the tv on for them so badly. It’s an exercise for myself as well. To work on being the kind of Mom I want to be. I loved this post a while back on Monica’s blog about expanding. It’s true. I think when we get to the point where we think we can’t take anymore, if we stop, take a deep breath, pray a little and move forward we can expand a bit more for our children. I know I have a shorter fuse with them then say a friend. Why is that? Anyway- this is a chance for me to look at my own short comings and expand as well. In full disclosure I didn’t throw out the tv. It’s up in our room for maybe a movie on the weekend or special occasions like the Olympics, but day to day during the week there is no tv allowed.

Annnnnnd Spring/Summer is here guys! This makes life sooooooo much easier, am I right? Who needs a tv when the warm weather is here. Long days outside in the sun does the soul good. We love heading out and finding fun wherever the day leads us. We teamed up with Zappos and Crocs for this post and are loving these super comfy jellies for all our summer adventures. Like these are seriously the most comfortable shoes I own. I’ve never owned a pair of Crocs before! I was pleasantly surprised by how many different styles they have to offer. I also got this pair for Kev for when he hikes and cliff jumps up in the Adirondacks, and this pair for myself for gardening!

OUTFIT DETAILS:

Jen:
Knit Top: LOFT (on sale and 50% off!)
Jeans: Urban Outfitters
Crocs Isabella Jellies: Zappos
Sunglasses: LOFT

Rowan:
Denim Top: H&M (similar)
Pants: Target (similar)
Crocs Isabella Jellies: Zappos
Sunglasses: Target

Finley:
Denim Top: Carter’s (similar)
Skirt: Old Navy
Crocs Isabella Jellies: Zappos
Sunglasses: Carter’s

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This post was sponsored by our friends at Zappos and Crocs. Love the Zappos’ promise of fast, free shipping, 365 day return policy, and world class customer service. Thanks guys!

The Kitchen Reveal!

BEFORE

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Eeeeek! We are so happy with how this all came out. I’ve been so excited to share. It feels so fancy- I’ve never had a fancy kitchen before!! So above you can see how outdated our old kitchen was. We did our best when we moved in, but I’ve longed to redo it the last 3.5 years. When we moved in, the walls were yellow and there was a floral type backsplash. We painted both the walls and the tile with white paint as a quick band-aid. So when the chance to redo the kitchen in partnership with Frigidaire Professional and Lowe’s came up, we knew we wanted a major update! What we love most about the Frigidaire Professional Collection, is that you can have professional-grade appliances in your home, without having to do any kind of renovation. The collection’s appliances are all designed to fit existing kitchen cutouts, making upgrading your kitchen totally accessible to even remodeling newbies, like ourselves!

AFTER

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Appliances: 
Oh baby! Let’s talk about the stars of the kitchen. I have always LOVED to cook, but since everything has been finished I’ve been extra excited to get in there and cook on my new Frigidaire Professional appliances. I’ve been cooking up a storm these last few weeks. I’ve only ever had an electric range, so switching to gas was such a treat. I love that the Gas Cooktop has grates on top that are continuous. It makes sliding heavy pots and pans across the burners super easy. It also comes with a griddle/grill attachment that fits over the center burner! Let’s just say Rowan is pretty pumped about this feature. That girl loves her pancakes!

One of my favorite decisions we made for the kitchen is the cooktop and wall oven combination. I love the finished look!! I was totally surprised that a wall oven didn’t have to go, you know, up in a wall. We weren’t in the position to tear walls down and restructure the kitchen. The Frigidaire Professional Wall Oven fits perfectly below the counter and gives such a clean, professional style. I also love the powerful performance and No Preheat feature.

The Frigidaire Professional Dishwasher runs quietly and has lots of great features, We love the blue light that turns on when the load is clean. With all the cooking I’ve been doing, I’ve found that you can’t beat a 30-minute wash cycle. Washes dishes in a quarter of the time with a powerful and fast clean!

Now. Let’s all bow down to the king of the kitchen, shall we? I’ve never had a refrigerator that could hold all the fresh produce I buy, and I buy a lot. Four out of five of us are vegetarian so we consume fruits and veggies like whoa in this house. Our old fridge was always stuffed to the max and I would get so frustrated trying to find stuff. I’d be super bummed out when I would have to throw something away that had gone bad just because I forgot it was in there. The Frigidaire Professional French Door Refrigerator is my knight in shining armor. THERE IS SO MUCH ROOM IN THERE! And when you open the doors, it all lights up fancy like angels are singing about the glorious food inside. Am I getting too carried away with how much I love this fridge? Maybe, but it’s true. I love it! It’s got awesome shelves that you can change in a flash to organize all your stuff. It’s perfect.

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Open Shelving:
 The big thing we wanted to do was take down the upper cabinets and replace them with open shelving. Our kitchen has always felt super dark. There’s really only the one window above the sink and with the heavy cabinets up top, it really made it feel smaller than it was. We got some great thick wood from Lowe’s and had it cut right there in the store to the exact sizes we needed. I just simply stained them, and the result was the perfect natural, yet slightly worn looking shelf. I was so weary of finding the right stain and I can’t say enough for how beautiful the shelves came out! DIY post and tips for having open shelving and an open pantry to come soon!

Tile: 
I also really wanted to subway tile from the counter up to the ceiling to help brighten up the kitchen. The tiling was by far the biggest project. The nice people at Lowe’s were so helpful when I showed up with 3 crazy kids and explained I had no idea what I was doing or what I needed, but I needed them to help me out quickly before everyone started having a meltdown. Hahahah. We went with your standard white subway tile and a lighter grey grout. It was the most labor-intensive part of the project, but so worth it. The finished product is gorgeous!

Countertops: 
This was our biggest investment, but totally worth it. We really wanted a nice countertop! We decided to go with quartz and you know what color we chose? It was called Blanco Orion!! It was the first sample I picked, and when I found out it was called Orion–Duh! Of course I was sold. It’s so beautiful and totally makes the entire kitchen. I love the subtle grey hues throughout the piece of stone.

Cabinets: 
We were planning on just painting the bottom cabinets, but when we decided to replace the countertops we thought, here is our chance to actually do something with the bottom cabinets. We wanted to keep the footprint the same to keep things easy on us. We decided to go with cabinets that Lowe’s has in stock, instead of getting custom cabinets made. It really helped keep the cost down and we loved the white Arcadia style. It was a win-win for cost and convenience.

Island: 
 Do you remember the custom pipe desk/shelf thing I built right off our kitchen? Well, I wanted to create an island that tied those two pieces together. Lowe’s sells these beautiful precut butcher blocks in two different sizes that you can get right at the store. All we had to do was assemble the parts and attach them together. DIY post to come so you can all build your own kitchen island as well!

Hardware + Fixtures: 
I have been drooling over brass hardware for quite some time now and decided to go for it. It may be trendy, but it’s an easy switch if I ever get tired of them. The faucet we went with was a matte black to match the black shelf brackets and black iron pipe under the island. And the sink… ooooh the sink. I love this sink. It’s this beautiful extra large single basin white granite sink. It’s so pretty! hahaha. Omgosh I’m such an adult. My 16-year-old self would hate me for just saying I loved a sink.

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Resources: Refrigerator | Gas Cooktop | Wall Oven | Dishwasher | Blender | Hood | Frigidaire Professional Collection | Sink | Faucet | Track Lights | Cabinets | Brass Hardware | Shelf Brackets | Hanging Brass Planters (fruit holders) | Letter Board | Floor Mat | Stools

This post is in partnership with Frigidaire Professional, but all words, opinions and styling are my own. A big huge thank you to Frigidaire Professional and Lowe’s for helping our kitchen dreams come true.

Hi, I'm Jen!

Welcome to my personal lifestyle blog. It features topics such as motherhood, family life, fashion, cooking, and all sorts of adventures. I hope you enjoy what you find!

Jen Loves Kev
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