Valentine's Day Gift Guide: For the Guys

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Well, hey!  How as your weekend? Ours was nice. We hung around and had a tasty dinner out on Saturday and on Sunday I went to my friend's baby sprinkle. She's expecting her second child - and first son - in only a couple of weeks! So exciting!

Speaking of boys (did you like that smooth transition?), today I'm sharing a Valentine's Day gift guide for the guys in your life. Whether it's your dad, significant other, or another important man who deserves a little something, I've rounded up some ideas at various price points. 

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: For the Guys

My husband loves the Nordstrom dress shirts and I don't think you can go wrong with a Home Depot gift card (or gift card to your guy's favorite restaurant, store, brewery, etc.). The Yeti tumblers are great if you know a man who travels a lot or enjoys outdoor sports and the chocolate tools are deliciously corny (I love some good old-fashioned candy gifts for Valentine's Day!). 

PS - Here's my Valentine's Day Guide Guide for the ladies, if you missed it. 

Five on Friday: Let's Chat

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fridayyy! It's you!

It's been another crazy week over here, so for today's Five on Friday link-up you're getting a brain dump. Here are five things that are on my mind right now.

[one] This is Us. We need to talk about this. I actually may need to talk to a therapist after all is said and done. You guys... what are they trying to do to us? Trying to torture us? Trying to draw out every last tear? But really, the writing, character development, song selection, acting, and so much more is brilliant in this show. I couldn't stop thinking about Tuesday's episode and was even emotional talking about it the next day. What I love about This Is Us is how it captures humanity. The way it highlights the significance and insignificance of all of our ordinary moments. The beauty and stupidity. The deep and flawed relationships. Do you watch? What did you think of Tuesday's episode? Please tell me I wasn't the only one ugly crying into my dog's fur.

PS - The beautiful, haunting song at the end of the last episode is this one.

PSS - This is the best theory for how exactly Jack dies that I've read -- and it isn't what I initially expected (warning: there are some spoilers from Tuesday's show if you haven't watched it yet).

[two] Rosemarie Aquilina. If this name rings a bell, it's because this is the name of the judge in the highly-publicized trial of the former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. There have been differing opinions flying around the web about her, but if you ask me, the woman is badass. Watch her sentence Nassar here.

[three] Let's lighten things up a bit. I'm not a big skincare products girl, but I've been using this nighttime hydrating mask for a while now (2-3 times a week) and really like it. I can tell a difference in the overall moisture of my skin and it has lasted forever. It smells good, too. Oh, and it has great reviews, and not just from me!

[four] I have a dear family friend who just received some very scary medical news about her son (who is just a couple of months older than Hadley), and I was wondering - if you're reading this - can you say a prayer or send some positive thoughts their way? Also, any suggestions for unique ways to help from afar (we're a state away) are welcome. <3  

[five] Go forth and weekend, my friends.

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: For the Ladies

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I'm not going to lie, in addition to laying in a warm pile of laundry and eating bread & having a dance party with Ellen, being a personal shopper has definitely occupied my daydreams once or twice. ;) I love choosing things I think would make great gifts for different occasions, so I thought I'd put together a Valentine's Day Gift Guide for women, men, and kids. Today is for the ladies!

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: For the Ladies 

I have the necklace, perfume, and water bottle and love all three. The PJs look so soft and comfortable (can you ever have too many pairs of pajamas?), the lip treatment is perfect for dry winter months, and I just thought that card was so cute because it's true (#cardhoarder). Check back next week if you'd like for a few ideas for the man in your life, and the following week for some ideas for your littlest valentines!

Girl Chat: Reintroductions

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I'm looking forward to joining a link-up with some fantastic bloggers today for Girl Chat. As you all know by now, one of the biggest draws of this space for me is connection, so when I heard about this particular conversation-style monthly link-up, I thought it would be a great way to connect with readers and new bloggers!

For the month of January, the topic is "reintroductions." Which is perfect. Because there have been some new faces around here (and Facebook) lately and I'd love to get acquainted. :) Here's a little bit about me:

me and my oldest daughter last summer

my sweet family of four (Layla girl not pictured!)

My family: I'm Jen, married to my first love (15 years together this year!), Steve. Together we have two daughters, Carrington and Hadley, and one pup (who is, admittedly, like my third daughter), a golden retriever named Layla.

What I do for work: I'm a publicist specializing in author/publisher/expert promotion. Besides a lot of writing, what that entails is working to gain media exposure for my clients (newspapers, magazines, online outlets, blogs, television, radio, podcasts, trade pubs) with the goal of building their presence, brand, media experience/clips, and sales. I feel extraordinarily fortunate because I have the opportunity to do meaningful work in my field while staying at home with my girls. So, for now, I bust my little behind and drink lots of coffee. ;)

How I started blogging: I actually started blogging almost eight years ago, but at that time I had just gotten married and started a blog under a different name. I'm not sure what it was focused on, to be honest. All I knew was that it was something I wanted to do -- but the timing and focus just wasn't quite right. I didn't really post for years, and then after feeling re-inspired following the birth of my kids (and a lot of planning), in July 2017 I relaunched as The Lucky Lifestyle. 

My favorite way to relax: I wish I could say something great like running or yoga, but honestly the thirty minutes during which my husband gives the girls their baths and gets them ready for bed might be one of the most relaxing times of my day. I usually make myself a hot drink and sit down with a catalog, magazine, or my phone until I hear the splashing stop and the nighttime routine begin. 

Favorite food: I mean... I love food. I'm not too picky. But I do love me some pasta and pretty much anything Mexican. On the lighter side, cereal and popcorn are right up there, too. I'm a major night snacker (working on it!).

Introverted or extroverted? Both. Extroverted because I'm fascinated by people and making connections (and I don't mind holding a conversation!), but introverted because I'm also a creature of comfort: I love my own home and crave the company of people who I know and love.

Pet peeve: When people are looking down, or to the side, or anywhere else but the road when they're driving. Look ahead of you! Drive! 

I couldn't live without: My family, a pen and paper.

Favorite place to vacation? We rent the same house for a week in a small NJ beach town every year. As far as vacations go, it's nothing exotic or over the top, but it is perfect for us and for this stage of life (and maybe forever!). The shore is my happy place.

Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving!

Hope this helped give a bit more insight into me. If there's anything specific you want to know, ask away! Leave a comment, connect with me on Facebook, or shoot me an email at I'd love to hear from you. :)

3 Small Changes That Have Big Impact (I've Tried Them!)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hi and happy Tuesday, all! Things have been and might continue to be just a bit quieter around here as my day job is extra busy and, of course, I have the kiddos and their activities and daily needs to meet on top of that. But I love this space so much and my goal is that even if I can't post as frequently at times, I post thoughtfully and about things that I think are helpful/inspiring/relevant as much as possible.

With that said, in the continued spirit of the freshness of a new year, I want to share three small changes I've made within the last several weeks that have made a big difference in my life so far. These are doable -- maybe even obvious -- everyday lifestyle changes (and they're free!) that have added up to less stress, more time, and better quality of life. 
1. Meal planning. I know you're probably hearing a lot about meal planning right now since a lot of people start diets at the beginning of a new year. I so admire those who make huge (and even sometimes drastic) lifestyle changes when needed. I've learned over time, though, that when I make small but mindful shifts in my everyday life, it tends to stick better for the long haul. Every Sunday morning, iced coffee in hand, I carve out some time to plan our dinners for the week. Here's how I do it:
  • Pick a time. For me, Sunday mornings make the most sense. I have backup to hang with the kids so I can tackle planning in (our version of) peace and it's the beginning of the week. I've actually grown to really look forward to this Sunday morning ritual!
  • Gather necessary supplies. I grab a pen, list notepad, my weekly meal planning pad (like this one or this one!), my planner, and a cookbook or two/my phone for Pinterest. 
  • Consult the calendar. The first thing I do is take a look at our calendar for that week and note any nights we will be out, will have a visitor, or plan to go out to eat. That way I can plan accordingly.
  • Check for ingredients we already have. I like to really try to use up what we have. So if we already have a bag of frozen peas and a box of pasta, I might start by looking up recipes that use both (just as an example!). While I'm looking through the pantry and fridge, I note all of the daily staples that we're out of and begin making my grocery list on the list notepad. 
  • Browse cookbooks/Pinterest. These are my top places for finding new recipes. I like to try at least one new recipe a week, as we can get stuck in a rut pretty easily if we don't put some effort into finding something new. I'll start jotting down meals on my weekly meal planner, usually accounting for 1-2 meals out (if we do two, one is inexpensive/quick like Chick fil A, Chipotle, takeout Chinese, etc.) and one night of leftovers.
  • Complete grocery list. I'll make sure I add ingredients from each recipe to my list as I go (I'm a non-complicated ingredient gal) and once I'm finished with the list I'll either immediately put together an online grocery order (curb side pick up is a mom's best friend!) or we'll plan which evening we'll do our shopping (if we go in person, we usually go as a family).
And that's it! It's simple but effective and I've found almost meditative. When I meal plan, we eat healthier, less money and time is wasted, and the week just goes more smoothly because the "what's for dinner?" question is easily answered. :)

2. Going to bed by 10pm. Maybe a lot of you are asleep earlier than this, but typically I'd be up working until 11:30 or 12. I almost always need to work after the girls go to bed, but I realized that I could adjust the day's schedule so I could still get to bed at a decent time. So now I try to do some work after they go to sleep, usually from about 8-9:30pm. That last half hour I try to read, blog, write, etc. Something relaxing and just for me. If I still have more to do, I'll set my alarm for 6am and get a head start on the day before the rest of the house is up. By shifting my sleeping hours, I'm now getting eight hours and making the most of my time both at night and in the morning. Don't for a second think it always works out perfectly (of course I hit snooze some mornings!) but I've found that, overall, it's really helping to improve my productivity and overall mood. I don't start the day feeling so stressed and rushed!

3. Doing the laundry every other day. Steve and I split chores pretty evenly and the laundry has always been one of mine. I have to admit: I always did the laundry weekly. It would pile (and pile) up and then I'd throw several loads in at once, usually on a weekend. By the time everything was out of the dryer, the mountain of clean clothes would sit next to our bed waiting to be folded for... far too long. Please tell me I'm not alone! 

Since the beginning of the year, I've been trying to throw a load in every other day. It's usually almost a full load and I fold the load the very same day I wash it -- not too daunting, since it's just a small pile and not a mountain! For weeks, our clean clothes have actually been fully stocked in our drawers and, although this definitely makes me #old, it's kind of life changing.

I'd love to hear: what small changes have you made that have made a big impact on YOUR life?

18 Months of Hadley + A Letter to My Second Born

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hadley Kate turned 18 months a few days ago. I can't believe this little girl is half way through her second year of life. It all flies so much faster with your second kid. I thought I'd do a little spotlight on my littlest so I can remember her well at this fun age.

Age: 18 months

Weighs: 25 pounds

Eyes/Hair: Eyes are still a dark mossy green, although I'm becoming convinced there could be brown creeping in... maybe hazel in the future? Hair is dark brown and looks auburn in the sun. She is rocking a full blown mullet these days as her hair stays short on top and the curls grows longer in the back. ;)

Eats: Three meals and two snacks a day, plus a "pop" (yogurt ice pop) after her dinner for "dessert." Her big sister has one and she will not be left out. Hadley's favorite foods are any fruit, eggs, cheese, mac & cheese, and the kid lives for milk. She's getting slightly pickier -- she will no longer shovel just anything in her mouth before looking at it. I can tell she's eyeing up veggies and meats much more suspiciously, although we abide by a "bites rule" where both kids must try the food we serve a couple of times.

Wears: Mostly 24 month/2t clothes with some 18 month pieces that run bigger thrown in there. How am I already buying 2t for my baby?

Says: A lot now! Hadley has a lot of words and has started stringing a couple of words together, too, like "Bye Daddy!" and "Hi Mommy!" and a newer favorite "Oh boy!"

Sleeps: 12 hours at night + a two-ish hour nap around noon.

Teeth: She has all of them, and starting to work on two year molars!

Loves: Babies, animals, her dolls, cuddling (be still my heart), dancing, music, being read to, following her big sister around, people, the bath, climbing things, mickey mouse.

Dislikes: Being told no, having her face wiped.

Quirks: Runs to the bathroom any time she has to go yelling "poo poo!" and wants to sit on the potty, grabs toilet paper, wipes herself (but doesn't go). In general, she loves to mimic what her big sister and we do.

Memorable: Her first real play in the snow since she was too little last year!

My sweet Hadley girl,

I can't believe you are a year and a half old already. Where is the time going? All I know is that I'm so happy to be spending it with you. You are such a joy and a cuddle bug. You can be doing the most mischievous thing that you know you're not supposed to be doing (ahem, climbing tables, ahem) and just one flash of your sweet smile with that dimple and mommy and daddy are done for. You seem like you're growing so much quicker than your sister because you have her to look up to and imitate. It's so fun to watch you both truly play together now, and I can already tell how deep your bond is.

In my belly, I called you Hurricane Haddie. That is still true -- you're a wild one! -- but we also call you Happy Haddie because you're just such a joyful soul. You're social and love to make friends when we're out, waving and flashing your smile in the direction of anyone close by. You're also a tough cookie. You handled getting all of your teeth like a champ and can fall down and get back up with hardly a tear. 

When I look into your eyes, I see decades of conversation, fun, and love to come. I just know that as much of a perfect addition to our family as you are now, that will just continue to grow. I am so very lucky to be your momma. The luckiest.

Love you always,


What's Catching My Eye

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Happy Tuesday! Have we gone over how Tuesday is the most universally hated day of the week? I've always agreed with that. was your weekend? Ours was really nice. Pizza and birthday cake for my big brother (is it weird to still call him my "big brother" now that we're in our thirties? But he is!) on Saturday, and Sunday was spent in pajamas stripping the house of holiday decor. I thought I'd feel more sad than I do -- in fact, I feel a sense of relief to have things clean and cleared out. Our family room looks about 5 times bigger and brighter!

I'm sure this has happened to you: You're surfing the Internet, flipping through a magazine, reading a book, or watching something on TV, and you come across something that catches your eye for whatever reason. Maybe it's a video clip that makes you laugh, an excerpt that immediately speaks to you, or a unique wardrobe addition. Happens to me all the time, and though I usually mentally bookmark these things, over time it's easy to forget about them. That's why I thought I'd document them here for myself and for you, in case you're interested. :) Let's get started, shall we?

+ I've shared my love for motivational/inspirational/fun/thought-provoking quotes here before. But a few days ago I was looking through a book and found this one. I think I actually whispered "Wow." It immediately resonated with me. Maybe it will for you too.

+ By now, you all have probably heard of or watched Oprah's recent acceptance speech. If you haven't, check it out in written form here

+ I have had the itch to organize the play room (surprise, surprise... more organizing) lately and really want to get one of these. While browsing, I came across these seagrass baskets (sold as a pair -- and there is also this one for only $15!) and then came across this ridiculously adorable rug ($19!) separately. How cute would all of this be together? It doesn't work for our current play room but someone please get them.

+ These d'orsay flats are kind of cool, don't you think? I like the blue color for winter to spring transition. Target for the win, always.

Well, that's it for now. Off to make paper snowflakes with my big girl while the little one finishes up her nap. Then later it's a hair cut for C, some cleaning, and writing press releases until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Have a great day!

Five on Friday: 5 Highlights from 2017

Friday, January 5, 2018

Hello, Friday. I could just kiss you right on the mouth.

It's been a snowy week here in the Northeast, which means school has been cancelled, work was called off, and the world pretty much shut down for a couple of days. Normally I'd be thrilled for a few unplanned "lazy days," but we are just coming off of an entire week of nothing but lazy days and I was sort of looking forward to getting back into some semblance of a routine and changing out of pajamas. Oh well! ;)

What are you up to this weekend? We are celebrating my brother's birthday tomorrow with a low key dinner and on Sunday plan to put all of the holiday decor away. I'm pretty excited to get things cleaned up and cleared out this year!

For the first Five on Friday of the year, I thought I'd share five highlights from our 2017.

1. Our annual trip to the shore. One of my very favorite traditions and our happy place, made sweeter every year by two little girls. 

2. 30th & 1st birthday celebrations. It was a big year for birthdays with Hadley and I celebrating milestones 3 days apart. We had our wonderful family and friends over for a big backyard barbecue and it was just perfect.

3. Wilmington wedding. As you all know by now, my cousin got married in NC in September and I was matron of honor and Carrie was one of the flower girls. It was her first time on a plane and a really memorable adventure for the two of us! The wedding was beautiful and it was fun to celebrate with family.

4. Hadley graduating from physical therapy and her helmet. Because of her torticollis and resulting plagiocephaly, Haddie began physical therapy and got her helmet in the fall of 2016 and graduated by May of 2017. It was quite the journey, but I couldn't be prouder of how well she did and how incredibly far she's come. She's the most active, perfect little 18 month old I know. :) 

5. Carrie's first dance recital. Although she's since traded ballet for gymnastics, going to C's first dance recital in the spring was memorable. Who doesn't want to remember their kid's first recital forever?! 

It felt almost impossible to narrow these down, actually. That's why it's nice to do a little year-in-review... there's so much to remember. School days, birthdays, holidays, ice skating, exploring new towns, day trips, baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, brunches with friends, Easter egg hunts, Santa visits, hayrides, fruit and pumpkin picking, fall fest, zoo trips, trick or treat. And then there's all of the ordinary moments in between: splashing in the pool, blanket forts, reading countless books all snuggled up, playing dressing up, summer walks, and so much more. The days are long, but the years fly by.

Getting Organized

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year, friends! 

How has 2018 been treating you so far? We rang in the occasion with a 4:30pm dinner reservation (#parentlife) at one of our favorite restaurants with the girls all dressed up in tutus, and then Steve and I watched a movie and tried our best to make it to midnight. We succeeded, but just barely! We were asleep by 12:10am. ;) Fun fact: I can't remember the last time I missed the ball drop. For NYE 2013/2014 I had a 1 month old and still managed to catch it. Going to sleep at a normal time is so tempting these days, but there's something about counting down to the new year that I just hate to miss.

This week finds us back in our regular routine: work, doctor appointments, preschool, kids' activities. Bring it on!

I know I shared my resolutions for 2018 and have already made it 3/4 through the book I mentioned, A Simplified Life. It must have lit a fire under me, because Steve and I spent a good chunk of New Year's Day cleaning, purging, and organizing. I mean, I cleaned out my sock drawers and had two grocery bags full of socks to toss. I swear, some of them dated back to middle school (I know). We have a VVA donation truck coming to pick up fifteen bags from our house on Friday, and I'm already filling up more bags and boxes for another pickup. I've sold a couple of large items and have given away multiple things on our local "Buy Nothing" Facebook page. It all feels so good, which brings me to the topic of getting organized. I'm no expert, but I definitely feel like my brain -- and my life, overall -- is less scattered when my surroundings are organized. So, in the spirit of the new year, I thought I'd share some tips and tricks, plus storage/organization solutions.

Tips for Cleaning/Purging/Donating/Tossing

+ Put a garbage bag in every room. Move from room to room as you're able, tossing anything that is worn out or worn through, expired, broken, or that you simply haven't used/no longer reflects you into the bag. Of course, some items will be appropriate to donate or even to sell -- put those aside in a pile. You'll come back to them. Some examples of things I've tossed: old makeup, socks with holes or pairs that I haven't worn since the 8th grade, scrap pieces of paper, pens without ink, expired vitamins and eye drops, etc. You get the point!

+ Gather up the items that are still in good shape or useful but you haven't used in the last year. If you've made it through four seasons without touching it, it probably won't get used in the next four. Here are some great resources for donation:

1. VVA Pickup ( -- this is what I use because they come right to your house to pick it up. I've learned that if I put donations in my car, I will drive around with them for months.

2. The Library -- most public libraries accept book donations, and what a great way to pass along books you no longer read. Check with your library about their policy.

3. "Buy Nothing" Facebook Groups -- as I mentioned, I'm part of a "Buy Nothing" Facebook group for my town. People post items that they want to get rid of (for free, of course), and members of the community will comment if they're interested. This is an extremely active page in my community and I've found it's an easy way to get rid of those things that are still in nice shape and might be useful to others, but aren't to you. Just leave it on your porch or driveway for quick pickup, or arrange a drop off. 

+ Keep the things that are truly irreplaceable. Think: "Can this be replaced?" A letter from your grandmother, a handmade card from your kid, a necklace that was your aunt's... these things can't be replaced, so although they're not "necessary," don't be afraid to keep them somewhere special and safe.

My Favorite Organizational Tools
+ A planner is an absolute must for me to be mentally organized. Every year, I buy a brand new paper planner and it might be one of my favorite purchases of the year. I love to see its blank pages, fill in special dates, and get a big picture at the month and year ahead. They don't have to be fancy or expensive -- this one is almost identical to the one I bought this year.

+ I keep a letter sorter like this one in our kitchen to sort things like receipts, bills, important school papers, even coupons -- it's a quick place to file those things until we put them into the big filing cabinet. It keeps things clean and organized.

+ Last year we added a hanging wall basket system to our entryway, hung right above the shoe rack. It holds our pup's leash, mail that we bring in or needs to go out, and is a great place to toss keys. I also love this one for the same purpose.

+ I just got this for our master bath and so far I love it. We put our toothbrushes and toothpaste, my basic makeup that I wear daily, and my brush in it and it easily spins around to make life easier while getting ready in the mornings. It really simplified all the clutter on our vanity... which is a great way to start the day!

Also, give me all the baskets. They are an absolute must as a mom -- I keep one in every room of the house to collect whatever lands there and either return it to its proper spot or store it if need be. I even have a basket in between the girls' car seats in the car for blankets, books, and things like that.

Are you inspired to simplify this year? What are some of your favorite tips for getting (and staying) organized?
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