Barbour Altair Waterproof Jacket / Navy Isobar Waterproof Jacket (Also available here. Other favorite jackets include the classic Beadnell in navy and olive, and the warmer quilted Beadnell. Same cut and look but so toasty!) / Roll Collar Sweater / Bird Shirt (In white here.) / Umbrellas (Though this is my favorite, and the navy is adorable, too!) / Green Scarf (Here’s the cape version. And love the navy!) / Wellington Boots / Dog Jacket (Love this one, too!), Dog Leash and Dog Collar
If you’ve been coming around here for a while, you probably know that Jessica Lynn Keys is one of my very best friends. There’s a running joke with our husbands and friends that every year, we do a couple of projects together that result in a zillion “engagement-like” photos of the two of us. 😂 I mean, who can forget this collaboration with Barbour, which kind of looked like a pregnancy announcement? Or this pajama shoot? Or this one, where we’re snuggling Noodle together? And nothing tops this. All jokes aside, these projects hold a lot of special memories for us, and they remind us of just how lucky we are to have each other.
Today, we’re sharing “Kelly and Jess” photos that will undoubtedly be our favorite from 2018. We’re also partnering with Barbour to talk about the brand’s amazing new “Weather Comfort” line and answering a lot of the questions we’re most often asked about our friendship. 😉
How did you meet?
A mutual blogger friend of ours, Krista from Covering the Bases, messaged us when I moved to Chicago and told us that we had to meet. Shortly thereafter, Jess reached out and told me that she was attending an Anthropologie fashion show–which Emily (now one of my best friends, too!) was modeling in–on the Southport Corridor. I’ll admit that I was really nervous to go, but when I got there, I couldn’t believe how amazingly welcoming the girls were. (Maya was there, too!) Midwestern friendliness. It’s real.
And Krista, thank you so much for my best friend. ;)
What was your first impression of Jess?
BLAIR WALDORF. I could not believe how much she resembled her. It was uncanny… and frankly, I couldn’t concentrate while talking to Jess because all I could think was Gossip Girl. I seriously think the first thing out of my mouth was, “Oh my god. How does this impact your life? Do you get stopped on the street all the time?” Okay–maybe I was just thinking that, haha. In all seriousness, though, Jess was incredibly warm and seemed to immediately take me under her wing. I was lonely and homesick when I arrived in Chicago, and felt completely lost. Jess saved me!
Are you best friends in real life?
This question always cracks me up. 😂 But yes! Very much so. I totally understand why people ask, though, simply because of the competitive nature of the blogging industry. (It’s a silly and sad thing, but bloggers often compare themselves to others, even though it’s pretty impossible to effectively do so!) With us, though, there’s never been any competition with “work.” We’ve always shared everything with each others–from strategies to real numbers–in an effort to help each other grow. We celebrate each other’s triumphs; we build each other up when we’re feeling discouraged or uninspired. I love this about us.
To be honest, Jess has totally crossed over from the “friend” category into the “family” one. She’s like a sister to me. When my parents tell me they’re planning on visiting, the first thing I do is text her to see if she’s available because “Mom and Dad” are coming to town. (She calls them that! I won’t tell you what they call her, because taken out of context, it’s truly bizarre. A story for another day, haha.) But yeah: had we met in 2013 when Mitch and I got married, Jess would have been right up there next to me.
How often do you hang out?
This might be another reason why people ask whether we’re actually close: because we don’t see each other as much as we did pre-Emma. I obviously miss the days when we hung out every other day, had regular coffee shop work days, shot tons of content with each other, and galavanted around the city together. Those were some amazing times. But we grew up. Jess moved in with Neal, they got engaged and then married, and after that, they moved across the river to Wicker Park. And me? I had a kid, and that kid goes to sleep at 7:30 every night. Things are very different.
I think that anyone who reads this blog can gather that between work, motherhood and life, I’m spread a bit too thin. I mean, it’s a miracle if I’m able to get the laundry done every week. 😂 Jess doesn’t care, though. While she’s not a mother yet, she understands. She calls. We text. We have a girls’ night every month.She offers to babysit. And every couple of weeks, she and Neal drop by on a Friday or Saturday at like 10 p.m. after dinner and hang out with us until the wee hours of the morning.
Very honestly, it used to make my heart sad that I couldn’t see Jess as much anymore. I put a lot of blame on my shoulders, and told myself that I just needed to be a better mom, wife, blogger, and housekeeper–and sacrifice a little more sleep (and so on and so forth) so that I could get back to the way things were. But then I realized that friendships morph. They take new shapes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just that life doesn’t stay the same. It changes, too.
I miss living next door to Katie, my childhood best friend, for example. And I miss my Notre Dame High School crew. Also, I desperately miss my best friends from college. And my Bronx crew: gosh, sometimes I just want to go back. (Kind of. 😜)
But I can’t. These people remain incredibly important people in my life, but we’re all on our own, individual journeys right now. The best friendships are the ones that withstand change.
With Jess and me, it’s the same. We aren’t physically attached at the hip anymore because Emma has totes claimed one of those hips. ;) Whenever we do see each other, though, we just pick up where we left off. And I think that’s truly special. We’re lucky girls.
What qualities of hers do you admire?
I think what I said in this birthday post really sums it up. Jess is the most amazingly kind-hearted, selfless, supportive, loving and fiercely loyal friend you could ever imagine. Like, don’t even get me started on the number of times she’s lost it on those who’ve slightly insulted me or our other friends. 😂
I’m kidding, though; it’s so much more that that.
It is that time she packed my hospital bag because I was overwhelmed and couldn’t think straight. It’s that time she cooked me a whole separate “Kelly meal” for a party because she wasn’t sure I’d like the other dishes and wanted to make sure I was fed. It is that time she cleared her weekend so she could keep Emma and me company because Mitch was on a bachelor party.
Jess and I have been through a lot together. There have been times of great personal pain and loss; there have been wonderful milestones and celebrations. And there have been very regular days, too–what perhaps reveal the most about a person.
Jess is there for you through thick and thin, but she’s also there for you during the not-so-extreme times. Like, if happen to have a busy week, she’d totally do something like drop off a Jimmy John’s sandwich on your front stoop because she knows you love the “Turkey Tom.”
What are some “little known” Jess facts?
Oh my gosh. This is going to be SO FUN. Here are some randoms:
- Whenever I walk somewhere with Jess, I have to factor in time for “the need to pet every dog” so we aren’t late. It could be the mangiest canine you’ve ever seen, and Jess is near tears, hugging it and asking the owner about its life history. I suppose this is the reason why she’s the only person who’s ever offered to watch Noodle a second time. ;)
- The girl cannot stand fish or other types of seafood, but she’s such a good sport about it. If everyone wants to go get sushi or oysters, for example, she’ll just order the chicken and be happy as a clam. (Hehe. Seafood joke.)
- While I feel like everyone now knows that she lived in Oregon considering she got married in Portland last year, little-known fact: she also lived in Arizona and spent her summers riding horses in Kentucky.
- She was homeschooled for a year.
- She cannot travel without snacks. Mental breakdowns will ensue if she doesn’t have ’em.
- She was the first person to make Emma “belly laugh.” It was so cute.
- She has like one MILLION best friends. Here’s the thing, though: she’s actually that close with all of them. I’m really not sure how she’s able to maintain all those friendships, but she does it, and she does it amazingly well. It’s no wonder the girl has a bachelorette party, bridal shower or wedding every other weekend!
- Her college friends all have albums on their iPhones titled “Bad Keys Photos.” At first, I was kind of like, guys! But then they showed them to me and they’re downright hilarious. (Most of them aren’t actually bad photos; they’re just so funny.) Jess loves them, too. Who wants her to do a whole blog post on ’em? Pure gold, I tell you.
- She’s a really good cook. She can easily whip something awesome up with fridge contents that most would look at and say, “I need to go food shopping.” (Or grocery shopping, as it’s called in parts of the country other than the New York Tri-State Area. 😉) My favorite are her pulled chicken sliders.
- Every Thursday or Friday, depending on when Neal gets home from his trip (he travels during the work week), Jess frantically cleans the house and pretends that it looked that way the whole time he was gone. Neal knows, Jess knows, everyone knows. But I can relate to this on so many levels, since I too let my house explode during the week. Only half the time do I clean it up, though. ;)
- Bonus: One time, Jess accidentally left her (brand new) engagement ring in cleaning solution and only realized just as she and Neal were boarding a flight. Everyone was freaking out that it was going to be ruined, but Mitch broke into the apartment and saved it. (And fake stole it, haha. It’s a gorgeous ring–can you blame him?!)
Favorite memory of your friendship?
Her wedding! Jess had a small religious ceremony here in the Midwest before the Portland wedding, and it was so special. It was largely family, but Kira and Tom watched Emma (Kira’s parents’ lake house is five minutes away from Neal’s parents’ place) so Mitch and I could attend. I loved talking to and getting to know members of the Keys and Loftus families, and seeing just how close-knit, fun-loving and family-focused they are. That day, it was just so clear why Jess and Neal are the great people they are.
Afterwards, there was a reception at the Loftus house, and once that was over, the four of us went to the casino to celebrate. We danced the evening away to a live band, and had the best time. Apparently, Mr. Loftus asked Jess the next morning whether we’d seen any live music at the casino, and Jess quickly and casually responded, “No, I don’t think so.” We were all in stitches, haha!
And, of course, there was the Portland wedding. I talked about it in this Instagram post last year, but a giant forest fire broke out a few days before, and everything had to be re-planned at the last minute. Both Jess and Neal handled the situation with such grace; I couldn’t believe how cool, calm and collected they were.
Technically, there were a zillion things that went wrong that weekend. But as they stepped out onto the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife–ironically enough, in the rain, of course–it was clear that all the important stuff “went right.” It was truly powerful.
I’ll also always remember trying to get Jess’ blackened wedding dress off in the bathroom of the hotel after the wedding. Makeup streaming down our faces and covered in mud, we were laughing and crying and slipping all over the place, trying our hardest to undo all those darn buttons. I’m not sure I can even put into words why it was such a powerful moment. Maybe because it had been such an emotional experience, and we were overwhelmed by how so many people–including complete strangers–came together so Neal and Jess could get married. So much love! Or maybe we were just delirious. ;) Either way, I’ll always remember it.
And I know that this is totally off-topic, but then there was that time four years ago when I was driving home from Jess’ apartment and she called (from Neal’s phone, I guess) to see if I had her iPhone. I swore up and down a zillion times that I didn’t have it, and we were hardcore panicking. Tons of theories: had it fallen from the balcony? Had we accidentally thrown it out when we took out the trash? Was it simply under all the outfits we had just shot? When I got home, though, I discovered it in the bottom of my bag, and I had to sheepishly call her and tell her I’d stolen it and then drive it back. 😂
What are your favorite projects you’ve done together?
Again, I honestly need to say our Barbour projects, even though that might come across the wrong way right now since this post is one of ’em, haha.
When Jess and I met, we were just starting out as bloggers and learning the ropes. And because we were always together, a lot of our early collaborations came from companies who wanted us to do friendship posts together. Barbour was the first, if my memory serves me correctly!
We were so excited. First, because we felt like all our hard work was finally starting to pay off. Second, because it was BARBOUR–a brand I grew up with, and one that always reminded me of good times with family and friends. And third, the “assignments” were so much fun, and we did them with each other. Also, we spent hours in the store creating holiday outfits and running out into the cold for a
hot freezing cold minute to take pics. We hosted events with the Lincoln Park location. We helped promote new lines. Honestly, we LOVED it.
And even though our businesses have changed a lot over the last few years, Jess and I still get just as excited every single time a new opportunity to work with the brand arrises. It’s just special!
What are you wearing here?
The new Barbour “Weather Comfort” line! I’m obsessed with the Altair and Isobar jackets because they solve all my cold rainy day problems. I love the look of traditional raincoats, but unfortunately they just don’t do the trick during fall in Chicago. The Altair and Isobar, though, have a polyester fill, making them much warmer than any other raincoat I own. Of course, they’re waterproof, and I love that they have a removable hood and that they’re machine-washable. A must for my current lifestyle! Don’t know who’s rougher on my clothing: the toddler or the miniature dachshund. ;)
And I know I’ll have the sweaters for life. They’re such classics. The gray one is amazing because it’s on the longer side, and therefore can be worn with comfy leggings… and the camel one is the perfect color. It goes with all my navy and olive jackets, and looks polished but also feels cozy.
I should note that these photos were taken in Humboldt Park in Chicago at night. Isn’t the location beautiful?! It was such a group effort; Mitch took the photos and Neal babysat. I also think we laughed the entire time. From Noodle jumping/falling into the pond to Emma telling/teaching “Uncle Neal” how to make a birthday cake on the iPad for like two hours, it was a hilariously fun evening.
Looking forward to more fall adventures with everyone, and photos of the boys and Emma are incoming!
Be sure to check out Jess’ post, in which she answered the same questions!
Shop the looks:
Barbour Altair Waterproof Jacket / Navy Isobar Waterproof Jacket (Also available here. Other favorite jackets include the classic Beadnell in navy and olive, and the warmer quilted Beadnell. Same cut and look but so toasty!) / Roll Collar Sweater. Bird Shirt (In white here.) / Umbrellas (Though this is my favorite, and the navy is adorable, too!) / Green Scarf (Here’s the cape version. And love the navy!) / Wellington Boots / Dog Jacket (Love this one, too!), Dog Leash and Dog Collar
This post is sponsored by Barbour, but all opinions are my own. As always, thank you so, so much for supporting the partnerships that keep Kelly in the City up and running!