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Jennifer Hart

When Jennifer Hart met her husband-to-be, Mike, at Baylor’s welcome week during her freshman year, she didn’t know just how sweet her life would become. During college, Mike’s parents bought Blue Bonnet Bakery, a Fort Worth institution since 1934. The young couple helped out at the shop during school breaks.
 
After college and a 1995 wedding, Jennifer went to the University of Dallas for graduate school, while Mike worked in the financial industry. About 15 years ago, the couple moved to Fort Worth so Mike could help run the bakery. Jennifer worked as a designer and illustrator for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for about eight years, during which time her daughter, Ellie, who’s now in the sixth grade, was born. When her now 9-year-old son, Ethan, was born, Jennifer decided to turn her skills into a freelance career.
 
Today Jennifer works at the bakery during the day – social media, designing ads, pitching in wherever she’s needed (she also grabs one of the famous chicken salad sandwiches and homemade chips at least once a week) – and freelances on the side. You can see her work in local ads, but her talents aren’t limited to Fort Worth. Her illustrations have been featured on Pier 1’s Christmas gift cards and in the stores’ windows nationwide. She also paints colorful modern works with graphic touches for fun and for exhibitions. Despite Jennifer’s art background, though, she’s quick to point out that Mike is the genius behind decorating the bakery’s wedding and specialty cakes.
 
It appears that the kids have caught the artistic bug too. Ethan likes to draw cartoons, and Ellie, who goes to art camp at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, recently entered a school art contest. Jennifer says the kids became interested in art simply by watching her; she never sat down with the intention of teaching them. “Both kids are creative. I’m curious how that will turn out,” she says.
 
Jennifer’s flexible schedule allows her to take the kids to and from school each day, volunteer at school, and shuttle the kids to choir, soccer and various other activities. She also carves out time for herself by getting up before everyone else to have coffee or do some yoga. “I’m a die-hard fan of a certain spin class in town,” she says of her twice-weekly lunchtime class. “If I miss it, Mike knows I'm going to be a grump.” And like most moms, Jennifer has guilty pleasures. Project Runway is her favorite trashy TV show, and she likes to mindlessly wander around Target. (Don’t we all?)
 
The family’s days are busy, but the four Harts always eat dinner together. Jennifer says she tries to cook as much as possible; her spaghetti and meatballs are frequently requested by Ethan. Being in the cake, cookie and pie business, you might expect their home to runneth over with sweet treats. Unless Mike wants them to try a new creation, though, Jennifer has a “don’t bring baked goods home” policy.
 
Mike works at the bakery on Saturdays (delivering wedding cakes is one of his primary duties that day), so the family has down time on Saturday nights (movies and dinner) and Sundays (church and other activities). “Sometimes, we just let it all fall by the wayside, though,” Jennifer says.
 
The family takes an annual vacation. Last January they went to San Diego. “We really didn’t plan it out to a T,” Jennifer says. “The most fun we had was when we happened upon these great seals.” And the couple takes the kids along to Baylor football games when they can.
 
Jennifer and Mike recognize that Ellie and Ethan need time to connect with their friends, so they recently instituted Friend Friday. “The kids were always wanting to have a friend sleepover, but with their schedules it was hard to do – and by Friday, we’re all pooped!” Jennifer says. “We kept saying that we would do it, but never actually got it on the calendar. ‘Friend Friday’ was just a way for us to commit and make sure that we did it.” The Harts don’t do it every Friday, but even if they get in just one a month, they’re doing better than they did before. “The kids have so much fun,” Jennifer says. “It’s totally laid-back; we order pizza and the kids play, watch movies and jump on the trampoline outside.”
 
Now that Ellie is in middle school, Jennifer says she’s trying to be open with her daughter. “Even though you might cringe to talk about something, it helps,” she says of tough topics during the pre-teen years. “Just be honest. Don’t make it into something taboo. I want them to feel comfortable coming to us with any questions.”
 
Jennifer and Mike set parenting and the bakery aside every once in a while for date nights. When the kids sleep over at their grandparents’ house, the couple likes to go to the movies and try new restaurants. Salsa Fuego was a recent date spot. “It’s not new to us, but we like it,” Jennifer says. Ain’t love sweet?