Being the natural creeper that I am, when my college friend posted an adorable picture of his niece recently, I couldn’t help but click through to the link in the caption—and thus, a new girl crush was begotten. His sister-in-law, mother of said niece, is Jen: the brains behind Fruit Snacks and Flannel, aka my new favorite blog.
So when I got the chance to sit down with Jen and ask her more questions (please, I swear I’m not actually that creepy)… well, I was enthralled.
Jen is a 26-year-old mother of two from Marlton, New Jersey, but, in her words, “home is wherever the Navy sends us” (her husband, S, is a Navy officer). She studied at Philadelphia University, with a semester in London, a place she says she’d go back to in a heartbeat. An Anglophile at heart, huh… No wonder we LD ladies adore her.
I also ask about the family, and she positively glows as she speaks.
“Liv has been an old soul since day one. Always smiling, happy, never crying, and very observant. She made up for lost time once she hit one and started to really become our wild child. I often call her ‘trouble’ because well, the name explains itself! Landon is allllll boy. He’s always covered in snot, boogers, smells like poop… I’ve never seen a child so dirty in my life. We joke that he has second child syndrome because honestly, he’s lucky if he ever has two matching socks. But, at the end of the day he laughs harder than any child I’ve ever seen. That must mean we’re doing something right!”
Fruit Snacks and Flannel is a cute, beautifully designed blog that documents Jen’s experience as a new mother with a healthy dose of humor and a handful of adorable photos. Indeed, I am quite sure that little Liv is the most well-dressed 2-year-old I have ever seen! When I bring up the topic of the blog, Jen squeals.
“Eeek, the blog!”
Fruit Snacks and Flannel is relatively new, so I’m interested to know what prompted her to begin, or if she’d blogged before.
“I actually [did have] a blog before. It was basically just on blogspot.com and I would post family updates, recipes, and cliché things like that,” Jen tells me. “In August I had the idea of starting Fruit Snacks and Flannel.”
So what was different about FSF, as opposed to her previous blogging ventures?
“I wanted to start something I would want to follow and read,” Jen said. “I wanted some place where I could write my heart out one day, post a family trip to a great spot I think others should check out another day, and a feature small businesses I love here and there.”
Fruit Snacks and Flannel’s mission statement is “where the only thing that’s sugar coated are the bribes,” a statement that Jen stands behind when juggling life as a small business owner, wife, and mother of two.
“I don’t sugar coat anything. If Liv pees on my kitchen floor, you’ll most likely hear about it in the caption of a photo. I may be super selective with the photos I share but I try my best to not hold back with what’s actually going on with our life,” Jen says.
This mantra holds true to the way Jen approaches her site as well.
“I truly believe in what I write about and the shops I feature. I’ve been asked multiple times to promote different shops, apps, products, etc.,” Jen said. “But, I don’t sugar coat anything with offers either. If someone approaches me for a write-up (paid or not) and I don’t like it, I will NOT write about it.”
I am surprised when Jen admits that she doesn’t spend a lot on personal clothing, but she does let me in on a great little secret: “I signed up for Stitch Fix last month. It’s a monthly fashion subscription. I fell in love with [it] … I’m excited to see what my next box includes and share my goodies with my readers.”
So basically, it’s a glorious amalgam of Birchbox and a personal stylist? Umm… count me in.
“Kids clothes, accessories, and decor are my specialty!”
In terms of favorite shops and stops, Jen has many.
“Freshly Picked, Finomenon Kids, Love Crush Bowtique, K & Elphy, Subsidy Shades, Emma Laue Children, Cute Heads Kids, Taylor Joelle Designs, Sloan and Co., Joyfolie Shoes, Rags to Raches, The Leotard Shop, Ryleigh Rue, Ryan and Rose, June and Penny, Bitty Wrists, Poppy Lane and Co, Madly Wish, Life with Peanut, Kate and James Shop, Rowdy River, Southern Adoornments, Ruby Blue Inc., Kyle and Kale, Fitted Kids, and the list goes on. Am I rambling yet?” I say no, of course not; the passion that shines through is endearing. While Jen’s kids are clearly beautifully dressed, what really strikes me is her real love for supporting small businesses and connecting with owners, something she does religiously.
“I’ve learned that it’s all about reaching out. It all started with me sending out 130+ emails to small shops and businesses I had purchased from and/or followed and loved. A select few decided to take the leap of faith and join the Fruit Snacks and Flannel team as sponsors. I figured the worst someone could say was no. I was rejected or received no response from 100+ businesses but that didn’t stop me from trying and continuing to reach out.”
The key advice Jen has for her success? Perseverance.
“Perseverance is the key to everything in life (in my personal opinion) and I refuse to give up. I’ve taken some “this will never happen” chances and have been blown away by the positive response I’ve received,” Jen said. Since starting the site, she has amassed contacts with a wide array of notable names.
“I’ve worked with Freshly Picked (as seen on ABC’s Shark Tank), will be working with Joyfolie shoes, and have been asked to collaborate with Kardashian Kids on their SS ’15 collection,” Jen said.
Of course, it’s important to note that while I stumbled across Jen as a blogger, she’s a business owner first and foremost. When her daughter, Liv, was four months old, Jen was encouraged to open Livie Loo’s Bowtique.
“When she was a newborn I was always shortening headbands so they would fit her little peanut head! And as she got older, I was finding gorgeous pieces but not willing to pay that kind of money for them. I bought some ribbon, alligator clips, flowers, felt, and embellishments; that’s how it all started.” Since then the shop has exploded, with more than 1,800 sales on Etsy.
“I pride myself on everything in my shop being made by my two hands. I hand cut every piece of fabric, hand sew every bow tie or headband, package everything, and my husband usually takes my packages to the post office,” Jen said. “Owning a business isn’t easy but it’s the second most gratifying thing in the world—the first being a parent.”
While Jen gained a loyal following on Facebook and Etsy, the desire to branch out to a larger audience led her to Instagram. Jen started the IG account for Livie Loo’s Bowtique in November 2014, and since then has gained a veritable army of 7,000 followers. In many ways, this extra exposure has been an immense blessing.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people through the IG rabbit hole,” Jen said. But, as anyone with a social media following will know, there’s a darker side to things. “I’ve learned a lot through being on social media. I’ve been walked all over, copied, and torn down by strangers. But, I’d like to think, I came out on top.”
While Jen has learned the hard way to push past critique, it’s something she still struggles with occasionally.
“Something I’m trying to currently deal with is ‘not taking everything to heart.’ I’m the kind of person who puts the weight of the world on my shoulders. I get crushed when negativity comes my way but it’s inevitable in the world we live in,” Jen said.
“Recently, I’ve been told I exploit my children. I’ve also been told I need to stop dressing Liv like an adult and dress her like a child. My point of view on that is: her clothes are bought in the toddler section. I don’t feel as though she needs to wear a shirt with Olaf on it 24/7 or need light up shoes in order to be a child. She has T-shirts, wears sneakers, and plays just the same as any other child in the world. HATERS GONNA HATE.”
On Fruit Snacks and Flannel, it is very apparent that Jen’s children are… well, children. The image is very much one of a happy, wholesome clan, but without all the pretentiousness and austerity of lifestyle magazines and catalogues; instead, the blog finds humor in the delightful quirks of raising a young family. “Go with the flow,” Jen says.
A refreshing message, indeed, in a world where new parents are inundated with pressures to perfectly maintain both themselves and their kids, with smooth hair and a kale smoothie in hand.
Jen continues: “It’s hard not to get caught up with what’s socially acceptable. I remember there was a day I saw someone post on their Facebook page about a meal they had just made for their family. It was a recipe from scratch, 100-percent organic, gluten free, etc. etc., etc. I was staring at the chicken nuggets I had just taken out of the oven and the Mac and Cheese I had just made. I broke down in tears. I could have made my kids a meal from scratch, but I didn’t. But guess what, WHO CARES. They were fed and they were happy.”
At this point in my own life, with several friends with young children (or expecting), I ask Jen if she has any more advice for new parents.
“Take everything with a grain of salt,” she says. “Everyone and their mother will be giving you advice! Take it, store it in the back of your head, but don’t feel obligated to use any/all of it.” Jen’s honesty is, quite simply, incredibly heartening. “Every day [is] a learning experience. We had good and bad days. And, now as parents of two, we’re still learning. We still make mistakes. But life is all about learning from experiences, be that good or bad.”
To end things off, it seems natural to ask Jen what, or who, inspires her.
“The thing that inspires me most are other mothers, business owners, wives, and bloggers encouraging me and making me realize I CAN do it all,” she says. “It may mean the laundry will have to wait another day and my floors aren’t swept, but at the end of the day ,I love the chaos.”
For more Jen, be sure to check out her blog Fruit Snacks and Flannel.