Amazing Discovery

I made an amazing discovery a few weeks ago whist shopping at my local grocery. Amazing is probably setting you up a little high for what I found, but let’s call it amazing anyway. Now, mind you, I have shopped at this store for 11 years; since it opened, and yet I have never seen this tiny, but important, and VERY cool section in aisle 1. Perhaps it’s because of the white noise of looking at the same store for 11 years, but I’m so excited to find it and kind of blown away that I never saw it before.  Have I built that up enough? Are you on the edge of your seat? Well wait no more! I discovered a “Local” section of our store! I KNOW!

HT Local section

All jokes aside, I really am excited to find this, especially this time of year, and I’ll tell you why (of course I will). Truthfully (really), I’m excited for a few reasons. Reason one. I love the movement that I’m picking up on everywhere to support your local and surrounding communities. I mean whole-heartedly love. When a community thrives, lives are improved and people are happier and more content. I, for one, want to be surrounded by the happy and content. Supporting local businesses is a fantastic way to contribute to the place in which you live.

HT local products

Reason two. I am mad for manners. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a “yes ma’am, “ or “no sir”, or have a door held for me. These traditions are dying and that makes me die a little inside. It should be reflexive to treat others with respect, and manners are just the gateway. One mannerly tradition that I love is the giving of a hostess gift. If you are invited for dinner, or a party, please, do not show up empty handed. The smallest gesture is still a gesture! (You heard it here!) As we are approaching summer, when many of us will travel out of town, and perhaps will be invited guests at someone’s home, these local goods make THE PERFECT hostess gift! Some of them you don’t even have to wrap!

tray w:local products

This section was teaming with awesome, local options. There were salsas, and nuts, pickles, and seasonings. And who would not love to receive a local coffee or a sweet little package of tea paired with some local honey? Foolproof gifts.   And if that’s not enough, the next aisle over had a collection of local wines. (But I already knew that was there.  Of course I did. LOL)

local wine section

Reason three. Not sure it’s an actual reason; more of another idea. These little items would make great favors for a party or wedding. Or, better yet, group a few together to include as welcome goodies for your own out-of-town guests.

regional wine sign

I’m certain that this is not isolated to my grocery store. Next time you are crawling through the aisles to check off your 5-thousandth trip to the store, keep your eyes pealed for a “Local” section, and stock up on some goodies for your next reason to make someone feel special.

Soul Day

I used to hate Sundays. I mean really hate them. In my mind they were to be peaceful, restful days. No work, just a lounge-y kind of day. But with three young kids, my Sundays basically sucked.

Liney's tile

I would wake, run around and fix everyone their made-to-order, unique breakfast (‘cause why would they all like the same thing?), do the dishes, rush off to take a shower to get ready for church and then spend the rest of the morning at home bullying my kids into getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and attempting to make church on time.

brewing storm

Within an hour of waking, I found the day completely ruined. I’d be frustrated and angry to have to replay my yelling commands like, “Go back upstairs and change into something appropriate! No skulls, no zombies, no sweatpants!” GRRRRRR!

litter box tee

We’d fight about the need to go to church and Sunday School every…single…week. I hated it. And just when we’d get settled at home from the morning’s bad mood, it would be time to start dinner, dishes, and prep for the following school day and work week. Weekend over. Dislike. Thumb down. I dreaded Sundays, with a capital D.

thumb down emoji

I’m not sure when the change officially came, or even how, but thank The Good Lord, it came. I decided to claim and name Sunday as “Reading Day” (Said with the inflection one uses to announce The Queen and with arms spread wide in presentation). Although my day’s activity starts the same as it did, with breakfast and the like, I now look forward to the biggest chunk of the day spent reading.

Reading Day

I park myself in the middle of the family room, in my favorite chair, grab a coffee or hot chocolate and bring my stack of magazines and books. TV is rarely on, and my phone is only on hand to look up an item source notated in my magazine article. (I LOVE that they do that!)


Reading spot

This time refreshes my soul! I’m feeding my heart and mind with imagines and articles of things that have meaning to me and make me happy. I am typically so jazzed from this that I can’t wait to get to work on something creative and beautiful the next day.


books and mags

I no longer resent having to snap back to action in the evening, or get back to real life, as I often put it. I feel energized and relaxed. I’m kinder to my family and have seen the change in my demeanor totally transform the atmosphere of our home.


books and fandeck

Sunday may not be the right day for you, but I encourage you to carve out time for your Soul day. Feed your passions, feed your mind and heart and soul. Your happiness is the immediate reward and who knows what beauty can bloom from that?


flowers in berry carton

*Pillow fabric – “Watercolor lemons” from, Chair fabric – Birkly Aqua from Better Homes & Gardens, Paris in Color by Nichole Robertson, table from Home Goods.

**June 2017 issue of HGTV Magazine, Paris in Color by Nichole Robertson.

***Sherwin-Williams paint sample fan deck, Notebook: The Kendall Kollection by Jack!e for carolinapad, May 2017 issue of HGTV Magazine, Summer 2017 issue of Magnolia Journal.

****Berry carton – green.

You Don’t Know Jack

Even at a very young age, I have been blessed with a monster helping of beginners luck. I try something for the first time and execute it perfectly. Problem is, I usually can’t repeat such excellence. This has plagued me throughout my life. I’ve always felt like a Jack-of-all-Trades (Master of none.).


I spent my life envious of folks who always knew what they wanted to be. My sister always knew she wanted to be a nurse. How lucky for her! Each life choice that she had to make could be made in the direction that would help her to achieve becoming a nurse.

Nurse Cathy

I joke that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Even though I’ve written about how I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, that in itself, doesn’t feel like a concrete thing. An entrepreneur can wear a gazillion different faces. An entrepreneur can own an online clothing shop. (See The Missing Piece Boutique) An entrepreneur can design and sell limited production Jeep soft tops (See American Convoy Soft Tops). An entrepreneur can own and operate a Tae Kwon Do school (See Majest Martial Arts). (Which was my former home away from home. HI-YA!)

Black Belt

To me, possessing the entrepreneurial spirit does not define a direction. And when you are a Jack-of–all-trades (again, Master of None), and are not an expert at any given thing, life can feel directionless and chaotic.

Map chaos

It’s a hard concept for experts and one-track minded folks (and I mean that lovingly, of course) to wrap their brains around. I’ve verbally danced around this topic, most of my adult life, with people who just don’t understand how it feels to lack direction. And when paralyzed by no direction, you end up letting life just happen to you. (I’ve had hundreds of conversations about this with my sister. Sorry Barbara.)

If you find yourself with these feelings of a directionless life, I encourage you to take charge and make a move to…something. Need help? A great read to help sort things out is Second Acts by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine. It’s full of stories of folks who have changed gears at different stages in their lives. It contains fun, self-reflective and “dissect-tive” exercises to help you drill down to what really makes you happy. For me, I was not handed a clear job description, but I was able to clearly identify job attributes that could help give me focus.

Second Acts

Through the exercises, I learned that I would be happiest doing work that was project based; (i.e. had a beginning and an end), work that allowed for opportunities for me to receive feedback from others (i.e, someone likes what I do…or doesn’t, I suppose), and, of course, [insert choir of angels here] has to be visually appealing to me. (And look at that. I’ve come full circle back to my Center…my obsession with BEAUTY. How nicely packaged is THAT?!)

Job description

It is never too late to pursue your passion. Grandma Moses didn’t start pursuing her self-taught art until her 70’s and was 78 years old before she was discovered by a collector. And if you haven’t had the opportunity to hear Jim Carrey’s 2014 commencement speech delivered to Maharishi University of Management, I encourage you to watch it. What he said smacked me hard upside the head. He said, and I summarize, that you can fail at something you hate, so why not do something you love.


Grandma Moses

This simple, beautiful truth got me up and moving. It’s a truth that I want to instill in my children and you! If that isn’t enough of a push to pursue your dreams, consider the biblical idea that fear of failure is a form of Pride. (I read that recently somewhere.  Yikes.)


Each of us was born with gifts that we are meant to use and share. It would be a shame to let life just happen. It would be a shame to rob the world of your talents. Remember, the hive needs EVERY bee.



*Grandma Moses 1969 – LawrenceLong – Art Print

**From the Rose Garden I – Vision Studio

To see pictures that did not make the blog, follow jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.


Puerto Rico

I had the immense pleasure of traveling to Puerto Rico last summer with my sisters, my aunt, cousin and family, and my mother. My great grandparents, on my mother’s side, made their way to the U.S. from Puerto Rico around 1904. My mother had never been, so we decided, at the age of 82, it was high time she made a visit.

*My great grandparents.


We spent a week in the resort town of Humacao, which is on the eastern coast of the island. Having grown up in the age of Gilligan’s Island reruns, all tropical destinations kind of look the same in my mind. I really had no idea what to expect of Puerto Rico, but I can assure you, I never guessed that it would be as hilly as it was! I was newly put in a “boot” due to a broken leg, so I kept excellent pace up and down the hills with my mom. (We were QUITE the very slow pair.) Thank goodness for golf carts!!


The beach on our side of the island was very beautiful. It had a Floridian feel at first, but then you would look off in the distance and see, an almost Italian looking village. Amazing.


A favorite local delicacy is Mofongo. This is not to be missed. It’s a delectable combo of mashed green plantains, garlic, salt and small pieces of chicharrón (small crunchy pieces of pork belly, pork rind, chicken, mutton or beef).   The locals are überly proud of their recipes. You will even find them advertising, in the restaurant windows, their high rankings on


As you get to know me, you will see, in my travels, I’m always drawn to the local architecture and architectural details. I love seeing intricate tile and surprising colors that different cultures use. (In Northern VA, you’d be hard pressed to find a turquoise church!)

turquoise church

During our time on the island, we took a day trip to Old San Juan. En route to the city, we stopped for a super cool (and TASTY) tour of the Bacardí Rum Distillery at Casa Bacardí. Even if you are not a big drinker, it is a really fun tour with free samples!

Bacardi pinup

Bacardi sunrise

Old San Juan proper was a BEAUTIFUL city with a mix of impressive government structures, and quaint and colorful shops and restaurants. We spent the day hunting for my great grandmother’s birth certificate, so I look forward to heading back to this sweet city to properly explore some day.

San Juan capitol

Old San Juan

No trip of mine would be complete without a sample of photos of the beautiful flowers that grow in the area. (Kind of an obsession of mine….taking pictures of flowers.)

PR yellow flowers

I’ve been fortunate, in my life, to travel to several cities in the US and foreign countries. Looking at all of my travels as a whole, I can say with great confidence that the people of Puerto Rico are, hands down, the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of living among, even though just temporarily. I would not hesitate, and look forward to, taking a return trip to this lovely island.

PR Beach

*By Unknown – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. (Original text: Belinda Torres-Mary,great grand-daughter who maintains information regarding Isabel’s history and immigration struggle and is the keeper of the family documents.), GFDL,

To see more pictures from my trip, visit jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.


As you may have read on my “About” page, I crave beauty.   Nearly as equal in its pull for me is a craving, or desperate need to be creative. When I’m missing opportunities to be creative, it is almost painful. At a minimum, it actually causes me anxiety. Seriously. I get anxious and I start prowling about the house to see what I can DO.

felt craft

These strong desires can be satiated many different ways. Thankfully, there are all kinds of ways to be creative. It could be doing a craft with my daughter. It could be rearranging tchotchkes on my bookshelves. It could be changing out furniture or organizing my closet. It could even be writing a blog post!


There are countless ways to fulfill that creative craving. Sometimes it’s just cruising around Pinterest or flipping though a beautiful magazine, or design book, to get new ideas. Even problem solving requires us to fire our creative engines. Sometimes, these moments are the ones we end up being the most proud of.



I’ve always described myself as “if MacGyver and Martha (as in Stewart) had a baby, it would be me”. I can make something out of nothing….but in a good way (not a gossipy, mean girl way)! I am the Queen of Making Do. Give me a lunch bag, a paper clip and some glitter glue and I will give you a MASTERPIECE! (Or give me some bulletin board paper for a last minute elementary school request.  Just sayin’.)

Dr Suess Door

In my early adult years, money was super tight. I had to be creative to have, really anything. I once created a coffee table out of fabric covered boxes and a clear glass top. That same year, I could only afford a very small Christmas tree and “A” string of lights, so I made ornaments by cutting angels from some beautiful wrapping paper, stringing brass buttons and fashioning a star from aluminum foil. I used what I had. (And face it, shiny and glittery = over halfway there.)  My motto during these years?  “Poverty is the mother of invention.”

pine branches

I am lucky to have access to more at this point in my life, but I still like to challenge myself (and my kids) to try to work through or create with what we already have. (See Easter Centerpiece below. I found out Friday afternoon that I would be hosting 10 for Easter Dinner!) You may not get exactly what you first envisioned, but you may get something better. For me, I think it’s just really fun to work out that puzzle of, “how can we make it happen without having to run to the store?”

Easter Centerpiece

Next time you’re in need of a creative solution, challenge yourself to work with what you have. Don’t be afraid of a Pinterest fail. Each time you try this, you’ll find a little more genius in you that you didn’t know was there.


Oh, and please, for me, please post your Pinterst Fails. I love them so much.

Pinterest fail

*Book – Modern Mix by Eddie Ross, HGTV Magazine, Country Living Magazine, Magnolia Journal.

**Print shown is “Daydreamer” by one of my favorite artists, Ellen Kelley McHale.  You can see her works at

The Mother Ship

Mom and me early

mom and me at Cathy's

I was going to write a Mother’s Day piece talking about fun gifts to get for mom this year, but I had a change of heart. Instead I’d just like to take a moment to talk about motherhood in general.

Lanchi and Maddox

I was thinking of my own mom, and the relationship that we have. I was thinking of my own experience as a mom, but also thinking of all of the other moms in all of their beautiful variety.

Meg Brinker and mom

Motherhood is a weird thing. I think it’s one of the rare skills where no one ever gets better. Think about it. If you took 4 years of tennis lessons, it stands to reason that you would improve your tennis skills. But in the trenches of the training and execution of motherhood, the sport keeps changing! Example: Just when you’ve got your 3 year old down, he turns 4 and becomes a wholly different alien creature. (Don’t get me started about teens and tweens….bartender!)

JenSphar and mom

Another thing that I find weird and kind of mind blowing about motherhood is that even if you never have a relationship with your mom, ever in your whole life, she is still your mother….until the end of time. It is a biological title that no one can erase. (I always loved reminding my kids of that fact, especially when they were little.)

Barb and Cristina

Collin Beckie Will October 2016_No. 1

Society has gone to war over stay-at-home moms versus working moms. Each side coming with it’s own heaping helping of guilt. Awesome! And who can’t help poking fun and labeling soccer moms, helicopter moms and the ever “popular” mom jeans? (I have a secret fear of “mom hair”. Ask my stylist. Yikes!)

simone and boys

Despite the labels (and the jeans), there is an awesome and simple beauty of being a mom. And to clarify the distinction, a mother = biological, and a mom = The love part. Moms come in every shape, size, age and gender. There are old-school moms that are textbook womb to tomb. There are grandmothers who have raised grandchildren and have filled that mom role. And let’s not forget all of the single daddies out there pulling double duty and giving their all to make heads or tails of nail polish, prom dresses, and feminine products because of a missing lady of the house.

Nicole and kids

Kimberly and kids

I’ve witnessed (and probably been aaalllll of the following) good moms, bad moms, mediocre moms, super moms, tired moms, happy moms, overwhelmed moms and outstanding moms who were blessed with children who are not easy. I have seen mothers spend every waking moment bedside in an ICU and I’ve seen mom warriors taking to the streets to fight for the rights and dignity of their babies.

Link moms

cathy and kids

Despite where you land in the immense field of mommy wild flowers, I wish you a happy mother’s day. I challenge you to thank your mom for something today. Think about something that you have learned from her and thank her for that, even if she has moved on from this world. If you don’t have a good relationship with your mom, thank her (via the universe) for giving you life or even for teaching you what kind of mother you DON’T want to be.   Also kinda important, no?

Cristina and Amalia

The most valuable lesson that my own mom taught me? Everyone you look at, everyone you see; that person is someone’s baby. Someone loves that person more than anybody else in the whole world. Just imagining that softens my heart and feelings toward others. It makes that person important and it makes me consider each person; really consider them, because I know what it’s like to be loved that much and I know what it’s like to love that much. Thanks mom! And Happy Mother’s Day to all.

mustache momA big thank you for all of the friends and family who shared their beautiful pictures with me.

My Dream

As I have moved through my life, my dream for myself has changed and evolved. I don’t think that this is unusual, but I wanted to share my story.

me and raggedy anne

As a very young child, I wanted to be a Mouseketeer. You heard me, a genuine (pronounced gen-u-wine) Mouseketeer. I was a huge fan of the Mickey Mouse Club and, in my six year old mind, I could see that I would be a perfect fit for Disney. I was lucky enough to get to go to Walt Disney World most summers with my family in my early years. The day that we would go to the park (there was only The Magic Kingdom back then), I would get up early and put my very cutest outfit on. I would fix my hair as perfectly as I could and would accessorize like a boss. I just knew that I was destined to be discovered just walking around the park. Strangely that strategy didn’t work.

mouseketeer pic

Once I matured to a ripe age of 9, I wanted to be a ballerina. I loved to dance and I danced everywhere. I began taking dance lessons and I was pretty good. My OCD personality (there, I said it) was a perfect fit for choreographers because I would do exactly what the teacher said, every count, without fail. My teacher LOVED me.

I continued to dance for several years and enjoyed it, but as I got deeper into the art, I realized that I did not have the body or flexibility to go very far. Those feelings came to a head just in time for me to try out for cheerleading at the end of 7th grade. My dance days were over (in truth only suspended until I took it back up in college to combat the dreaded Freshman 15).

As I neared the end of junior high school, it started to become clear to me that I had the entrepreneurial spirit. Without really knowing it, I had begun a business decorating sneakers. I would sell them to my friends and to entire cheer squads at rival schools. I had a real interest in fashion and taught myself to sew and designed my own clothes. My grandmother taught me to knit, so I was able to make my own sweaters as well. (I also made my dad loads of sweaters. This was back in Cosby Show days where wild men’s sweaters were really popular. God bless my dad. He was such a good sport. He wore every sweater I ever made him. My #1 fan. Poor thing.)

In High School, I was offered the opportunity to go to a special seminar about being an entrepreneur. I couldn’t WAIT to go. The day was spent learning about the pros and cons of owning your own business. I was sold. None of it scared me. I still remember that day as one of the highlights of my high school experience. I even had my first clothing store idea. I would open a clothing store called Hues (my maiden name is Hughes – get it?) where all of the clothing would be displayed by color.

My plan was set. I signed up to take a fashion class my last year of High School to start preparing myself for my future as a clothing boutique owner.

This class was so exciting to me. I began to change my focus. Design. That’s what I wanted to do.   Ever since I received the board game, The Wedding Game, when I was 8 years old, I was obsessed with weddings and getting married (goes hand in hand with my love for beautiful things, ‘cause weddings are loaded with pretty things!). So naturally, I was going to design wedding dresses.

My best friend and I worked at a newsstand and we would spend our downtime browsing through wedding mags and verbally redesigning every dress. Again, my plan was set. I was going to be a wedding dress designer. I graduated with honors from high school and went on to college to pursue a degree in Business. It was the responsible choice to get a business degree if I wanted to own my own business after school. I hated it. It was soooooo boring and I longed for creative opportunities.

End of my first semester of my sophomore year I changed majors to a primary focus in Clothing and Textiles. I was doing it! I was going to make my dream of being a wedding dress designer come true.

I really did love my major. I did quite well in all of my classes and graduated at the top of my field of study. I did everything that I knew to do to improve my working knowledge of fashion design. I was quite limited in job opportunities in the small college town that I lived in, but I got a job at a local fabric store to help subsidize my small sewing business and help me to get a discount on fabrics that I would purchase to make my own formal dresses for the various parties on campus. I also began working for a locally owned, high end children’s boutique, to get a feel for what it was like to run a store day after day, with duties that included dressing the store windows that were right on the main street in town. I was working it.

As graduation approached, reality began to set in. I was not going to hit the ground running as a wedding dress designer. I would need an apartment and money to pay for utilities and food. IE, I needed a job. But I was unwilling to let the dream go.

Through the help of my college professor and advisor, I reached out to a former graduate of my program, who we knew was working in “the industry”, to see if she had any contacts that I could hit up for a job interview. That led me to my first real job in my field. I ended up temporarily replacing my contact in the design and development department for a high-end running and cross training apparel company. I was to back-fill her spot while she went out on maternity leave. And so my career in apparel manufacturing was launched.

I worked in the industry for 8 years, ending up in procurement of raw materials and running production lines throughout the Caribbean Basin and The Far East. I was no closer to my dream job than I was when I started school. And real life had a chokehold on me. I had climbed as high as I could in my company and could barely afford to pay my rent and car payment.

Worst of all, I knew I could continue to seek out my dream if I relocated to New York, but I knew that lifestyle was not for me. The pace of life in NYC is too fast for my liking on a daily basis. (But gosh I love to visit. <3) As it was, I was barely able to make ends meet in the DC suburb that I lived in, how could I ever make a move to New York? I walked away from my dream forever.

Up until that point, I had prided myself on taking work that would help me get closer to my dream. For the first time, I was going to take a job for the money. Although these jobs made me more comfortable, they most certainly did not make me happy.

Years of this type of work continued until right before I had our first baby. Because our son was born with unusual health issues, I was now going to be a stay-at-home mom. Before I knew it, I had delivered our third child and had been home raising babies for 4 years.

mommy to 3

Other than the obvious mommy duties, my purpose in life was, at best, unclear. I was able to slightly satisfy my creative side by planning the kids’ school parties and birthday parties, and decorating our home. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to make something…of myself.

One day on my way to drop my kids at preschool, I passed this tiny dilapidated barn, if you will. It was in really bad shape, but had the most beautiful stone arch just to the side and it was on the market! I fell in love. I reached back to my earlier dream of having a shop, but this time it would showcase other artists’ works. In addition, I would host art space up in the loft, so that fellow crafters and makers could have good workshop space. I could picture it. It would be lovely and filled with beauty and creativity. Unfortunately, it just didn’t make sense with our young family’s lifestyle.

my little barn

But here it is, a gazillion years later, and I am finally going for my dream. ..again. It’s a hybrid of earlier dreams, but a dream that excites me. Although I cannot host my artist workshop and dreamy store in that cool barn down the street, I can host it here.

I am so happy to get the opportunity to work with local artists, crafters and makers and help promote their beautiful wares right here. As exciting products come available, I will share them here and give you the info on how to get the goods for yourself!

So stay with me folks. This dream is happening!