London – Day 3

First day solo, for me, with our kids. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous. I’ve traveled to Europe by myself before, and loved it. But this time, I had my babies with me; relying on me for their safety; for everything. I’m happy to say, that the second my feet hit the sidewalk in front of our apartment, I was fine. I simply decided that we would take our time and all would be right with our day.  Because I was nervous about relying solely on myself to navigate through a foreign city with my kids, I did some good research ahead of time. I chose four venues that I thought my kids would enjoy; hitting two per day.


Buckingham palace emblem

This was going to be our last sunny day for a while, so we ventured to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. They do not do this every day, so I made sure that I confirmed their schedule in advance. Unfortunately, I didn’t do enough research. I wrongly assumed that they would have a parade route of sorts, where the crowds could get a decent view. Although we could see the approaching regiment with ease, once they passed through the gates of the palace, we were not able to see anything else. People were stacked on shoulders and standing on walls, so views beyond the gates were impossible.


Buckingham palace

It was exciting seeing the incoming guard on horseback, the lead mounted on a white horse denoting that The Queen was “home” (as does the flag flying above the palace), but after that, I would recommend moving on.  Unless you get there early to stake out a spot on the palace gate, there is no more to see.  Our next stop was to The Royal Mews.


Changing of the Guards

I really wanted at least a little taste of a “royal” experience in London and this was perfect. The Royal Mews is part of the palace grounds that houses the royal cars (which incidentally were NOT there the day we visited), the royal horses and all of the carriages and coaches used by the royal family.


The Royal Mews

This little “museum” is still fully operational for the royals. An audio guided tour comes with the purchase of your ticket. While there, you get introduced to some of the royal horses and a magnificent collection of carriages and coaches used throughout the history of the monarchy for coronations, jubilees, and those beloved royal weddings.


wedding coach

Every item is meticulously maintained (including the ladies room which was gorgeous!). They had a few hands-on activities for the kids including some “liveries” (or uniforms) that they could try on and a coach to climb in for a fun photo op. They also had a small wooden pony that the kids could learn how to harness.


Wooden pony

For me the highlight of the tour was the carriages and coaches. Gorgeously appointed, of course. It was fun to learn about the deliberate design choices that were made and see, up close, the actual coaches used for the coronations and royal weddings “as seen on tv” in America.


Coach with rider

The oldest of all was the grandest; The Gold State Coach. This coach was commissioned by George III in 1762! They still use it! To extract the coach from storage, they used to dismantle and reassemble it to use it for various events, however, it is so old and fragile now that they have stopped that practice. Now, if they want to use it, they actually remove the wall of the building housing it and pull it out. Crazy!


Gold Coach

Of course, we ended our tour at the sweet little gift shop full of English china and teas in beautiful tins. (Regretfully, I didn’t purchase anything. Next time.) After hitting a local restaurant for lunch we moved on to The Guards Museum.


Liam in gift shop

The Guards Museum was free for the kids, with my entrance a meager 6 pounds and a very short walk from The Royal Mews. This small museum was PACKED full of military garb and accouterments. A little boy’s paradise. I truly think my middle one could have hung out here aaaaalllllll day. Expertly displayed, Smithsonian-like, they had it all; from the recognizable red coats and tall, black hats of the Queen’s Guard, to modern day military gear.


kids guard stand

We made an earnest pass through the museum and then decided to jump on the tube to meet my hubby at his office. A stroll through St. James Park, complete with ice cream and AMAZING scenery, lead us to Green Park and the tube station for a quick train ride to meet up with Chris. A very nice pit stop with AC and clean bathrooms and we were off, on foot to a SPECTACULAR dinner near The Tower of London. One great bottle of wine later (and dessert – it’s vacation!) and we headed out for a leisurely walk back to our apartment, over The Tower Bridge and along the riverfront.   A royally awesome day.


Chris with wine

To see more pictures from our trip to London, follow @jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.

1 Buckingham Palace emblem

2 Buckingham Palace

3 Incoming Queen’s Guard regiment

4 The Royal Mews

5 Diamond Jubilee State Coach (State Coach Britannia)

6 Learning to harness a horse!

7 Gold State Coach display.

8 Gold State Coach

9 Royal Mews gift shop

10 Guard shelter outside of The Guards Museum

11Brasserie Blanc – French Restaurant in Tower of London.

London – Day 2

Our trip overseas was a legitimate business trip for my husband, so we only had touring time with him on days 1 and 2. We had been told by everyone who had an opinion, that The Tower of London was not to be missed, so that was our objective for the day.


tower of london

As I mentioned in blog post “LONDON – DAY 1” posted on July 23, 2017, our apartment was ideally located between London Bridge and The Tower Bridge. It was a gorgeous walk along the river, over The Tower Bridge and straight to The Tower of London complex.


Tower Bridge

One of the things that endeared this city to me is the fact that they consider kids, under the age of 16, children! This was almost shocking to me. In The States, we are so consumed by the almighty dollar, that our kids lose their “child” status around 10 or 11. But in the fair city of London, it is quite affordable to tour with kids. Infact, several of the museums that I will highlight on other tour days, admission for children was free!


kids and london mural

Anyhoo, back to The Tower of London; a super interesting place. And when I go back there, I will make sure to get a guided tour, although winging it on this trip worked sufficiently. First stop within the complex was The Lower Wakefield Tower to get a quick education on the methods of torture. (I joked with my kids that I needed to brush up on some new ways to torture them. Embarrassment seems to be waning a bit as my current method.) Anyway, within you found your standard fare of torture that we’ve all seen in movies like irons, where you are chained to the wall with your hands above your head, and the rack, where they would stretch you. But, did you know that they had something called the Scavenger’s Daughter? This little nasty was used to fold a person up and compress them. Documented accounts state that this was measurably worse than the rack. CRINGE. (Suffice it to say, I would not have lasted very long in medieval times, but that era totally fascinates me.)



Continuing through the complex, we made a quick stop to the gift shop (again, traveling with kids). This was a lovely little shop, which I might add, is a trait that I found at all of our points of interest throughout London. Low on the junk, high on the super cute!


tower of london gift bag

One of the best pieces of advice that I read prior to going to Europe was that if you were traveling with children, to keep museum visits to an hour. No more. So we had some ground to cover. Next stop, the crown jewels. I mean the real things, including the jeweled coronation crowns worn throughout the history of the monarchy. The oldest item in the collection, the Coronation Spoon, used for anointing “the sovereign” with holy oil, dates back to the 12th century. A truly spectacular display of opulence.


crown jewels

Ironically, two days prior to our departure to the UK, I learned the story of St. Thomas Moore. After reading the story, I was super jazzed to visit The Tower of London and find his resting place. So a quick pass by the Queen’s Guard and we dropped by The Chapel Royal. A tiny, gorgeous, military chapel that also houses the remains of three English queens. I asked one of the Beefeaters where I would find the remains of St. Thomas Moore. Since Thomas Moore was executed for treason, it stands to reason, although disappointing as a tourist, that his remains were placed in a cavern between the inner and outer walls of the Chapel Royal.


beefeater with kids

Our run through The Tower of London was complete for this trip. Spectacular. It had something for everyone; armaments, jewels, ghost stories, and animals. Oh yeah! I don’t want to leave out the Ravens. Legend has it that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. Thankfully, the seven “on staff” (one is a spare) are well tended and a really fun part of the experience at The Tower.


tower of london ravens

Our day ended with a walk home via London Bridge. We passed by a makeshift memorial for the victims of the June 2017 attack on our way to our apartment. A reminder of the fragility of our human nature, but an equal reminder of the resilience and the enduring fortitude of the English.


london bridge memorial

For more photos from our trip, follow @jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.

1 The Tower of London

2 The Tower Bridge

3 Mural on The River Thames

4 Photo from

5 Tower of London gift shop gift bag

6 Cover of Anna Keay’s book The Crown Jewels.

7 Tower of London Beefeater

8 Tower of London ravens

9 A small portion of the London Bridge memorial

London – Day 1

As opposed to my mental image of Paris, I had no preconceived expectations of what London was going to be like. Literally none. I purposely left that element of surprise totally intact so that I could experience London with unaffected eyes. It worked. I was blown away by the whole London experience, from entry to departure.


UK flag

Traveling anywhere with three kids in tow, especially for an extended period of time, demands a little more space than your standard hotel room. The kids are getting bigger (The boys are bigger than me! I know that’s not a big surprise. Whatevs…eye roll.), so a little extra space helps minimize our desires to kill each other at the end of any given day. My husband is a MASTER at travel planning. He is just really, really good at it, and seems to enjoy it. He booked us in Airbnbs for London and Paris. Brilliant!


Aston Webb house

The apartment that he found in London was perfect. The building was designed by, famed architect Aston Webb, whose designs include the current façade of Buckingham Palace.   The exterior had old-world charm, but the interior was updated with every modern convenience, with the exception of central air and a clothes drier. Bathrooms were immaculate, kitchen was modern, and the beds were super comfy. As a bonus, the space still contained some of its antiquated charm in the form of an old cast iron stove in the kitchen (purely decorative at this point) and what looked like an early 20th century fireplace in the living room. And location?! Perfection. It was located practically at the base of The Shard (the tallest structure in the UK), nestled equidistant between the London Bridge and The Tower Bridge on the south bank of The River Thames.



A two-block walk from the apartment brought us to Hay’s Galleria that contained multiple shops and restaurants in a beautiful glass covered promenade. It afforded the feel of outdoor dining but provided complete protection from the temperamental weather. My favorite tenant? Well, as much as I wanted the full European experience, it was quite comforting and delicious to find one of my true loves, Starbucks. I did indulge…a few times. (I would order my usual, but they had much better coconut milk than we do. Much creamier….I digress.) Anyway, The Galleria became a frequented piazza for us.


Starbucks at Hays

The primary item on our agenda for the day was to attend the company picnic for which this trip was planned around. The event was held at the beautiful Paddington Recreation Ground located within The City of Westminster. The park is made up of outdoor sports facilities including a bowling green! It was a welcomed party that provided our kids with plenty of free-ranged activities, my husband and I excellent conversation with amazing people, and a lovely picnic lunch.


paddington flowers

We bid farewell to our hosts and took off walking through the park (which had a real San Francisco feel).  We caught the Tube (The London Underground metro system) back to The River Thames to get a birds eye view of the city via The London Eye. From the pinnacle of the large Ferris Wheel, we could take in the mixture of old classic landmarks amid a very modern collection of glass and steel. A combo that was most unexpected to me.


Big Ben

Back on the ground we were entertained with street performers and colorful venues with food stands and shops. The time change took a hard grip on us and it was time to eat again. Being such an international city, and lacking any real reputation as a foodie destination (at least in my mind), we set our sights on a noodle house. I don’t know if it was extreme hunger or what, but that was the best, damned plate of Teppanyaki ever.


Caroline London Carousel

Day one was in the books and I was hard in love with London. Come back to the blog to read more about our trip across the pond.

To see more pics from our trip, follow jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.


1 Photo from

2 The Aston Webb Building located in the Borough of Southwark.

3 The Shard.

4 Hay’s Galleria.

5 Photo taken in Paddington Recreational Ground.

6 Big Ben and the Palace of Westminister.

7 Carousel on the South Bank of the River Thames.

Across the Pond

Six months ago, my husband, Chris, was given responsibility for the London office for his company. He travels there for a week every 4-6 weeks. I had never been to London. I had flown through the airports there on several occasions, but never had the opportunity to spend any time there.


Queens guard tower of london

After 12 years in our home, we had finally begun renovating our kitchen. (Hang in there with me, there is a connection coming.) No structural changes, but a cosmetic overhaul; new flooring, painting cabinets, new countertops and backsplash. You’ve seen glimpses of our kitchen in previous blog posts, in all of it’s burnt orange splendor. The layout of the space is great and works for us, but I have always hated the finishes. But I digress. Anyway, my hubby and I agreed on a budget for the reno, but the more I thought about it, the more I hesitated. I had already made all of my choices in flooring, countertops, etc, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger.


backsplash and countertop samples

To toot my own horn just a bit…one of my best qualities, I think, is that I am thrifty and fiscally conservative. When mulling over the budget for our project, I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t spend that amount of money on something that we didn’t really need. I shared these feelings with my better half. I suggested that we go ahead with replacing the flooring. (‘Cause good God, the original flooring was horrendous.) The cabinets were painted last summer, and we could postpone the counters and backsplash for next year. (I’m nothing if not patient.)


old floor new floor

Of course Chris LOVED this idea, which I expected. (He doesn’t share my passion for interior design and décor, but whatevs.  AND I was about to save him mucho dinero.) But what I didn’t expect was what he said next. He said, “You know, the London office is having a family picnic in June. If we don’t do the kitchen, we could take the kids [to London].” (GASP!) And to sweeten the deal, he threw in, “We could do a few days in London and then go to Paris for a few days.” (Say what now?!?)


mind blown meme

It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Paris. The gorgeous architecture, the food, the wine, the whole gosh-darn vibe; I wanted to experience it at least once in my lifetime. And my husband, a notorious fulfiller of dreams, was working his amazing magic once again to make a dream of mine come true. For the next three months, I had to contain my excitement about our trip just to be able to focus on real life. We were going to London AND PARIS!!!!


Chris Good stone inn

I’m excited to share with you my account of our travels. Come back to the blog on Sunday to read about “LONDON – DAY 1”.

1 The Queen’s Guard – The Tower of London

2 Countertop sample – “Glacier” from Dekton by Cosentino.  Backsplash sample – “Greecian White Interlocking” from Premium Mosaics.

3 Old flooring – “Mystery Meat” (cow meat of course ’cause it looks like orange cowhide). I contacted our builder to see what the name of the tile was, but no one seems to want to remember this monstrosity. New flooring – Somerset Character Collection – Maple Onyx.

4 Photo from

5 My love.

Guest – Stefanie Kamerman Photography –

Introducing, Stefanie Kamerman of Stefanie Kamerman Photography and the monthly subscription box company, I was interviewing another local entrepreneur who recommended that I get to know Stefanie as we both share a love of hand-stitched crafts and knitting. I reached out and here we are.

Stefanie is a busy lady. As I mentioned, she has two businesses. She is a photographer, specializing in photographic support for creative small businesses in Loudoun County, VA, and lifestyle photos, and she runs a subscription box service for makers out of her home. (Shazam! I’m a maker!!! Total score!)



Managing both businesses was somewhat of a natural fit as her photography visually supports the subscription business. She explains, “With social media, I’m taking the pictures and I write the copy. It all works hand in hand. It’s nice as I can let my photography clients know that I run a small business as well.”

On the side of her life, she likes to find high quality small businesses that are not well known “yet”, and selects their products and puts them in a collected box. She loves getting these lesser-known brands into boxes to build awareness for her vendors.



She began her businesses a year and a half ago. She explains, “I became a photographer by accident.   I began taking pictures for events at church. It just became one of those paths where I needed a better camera, now I need a new lens, I want to learn how to do this… And before I knew it, people were saying you should become a photographer, you should get in the business.” She hired a business coach last year to help lay the foundation, and is really working to take it to the next level.

Before the birth of her businesses, Stefanie was a new mother finishing up school as an English major. She reflects, “I was writing term papers and developing my business while I was in school, so life was chaotic, I think. I mean it’s crazy. You’re trying to get through school, be a mom, be a wife, and building a business…. But it was a good kind of chaos. Now I’m working two small businesses! I’m mean how did I handle school!?”



Stefanie gains inspiration from Instagram, as well as an online Facebook group called Rising Tide Society that promotes community over competition. She says, “That’s how I meet people for my subscription box business and how I meet other photographers and say, “I love your work.””  She’s found that she’s really inspired by learning what they do in their community and how they inspire other photographers too. She laughs, “Facebook groups are great for interacting with other photographers, because you have to have a sense of humor when you’re in business. You really do! Things get crazy and sometimes you just have to let off some steam with someone who understands. And of course the Internet is full of really hilarious memes, so there’s never a dull moment on there.” (Y’all know I’m a huge fan of a good meme. LOL)

Stefanie wants her business to be more of a “grassroots thing”. As an English major, she looked a lot into American history and the setting. She was drawn to the mom and pop mentality of business where it’s not all about the money, but it’s about having a heart to serve others. And that, she says, is where her business is; it’s grassroots. She adds, “I hope that other people will do the same. I always think about those general stores where the owners would not charge someone because they knew that they were in need.” She admires that small town mentality especially in our big town world.



Her short-term goals are simple. Stefanie would like to book a shoot per weekend.  She says, “Nothing too crazy; either a portrait, commercial shoot, or lifestyle. I’d like to grow both businesses and give back to the community; find ways to bless the community.” She was clear in mentioning that she doesn’t have a monetary goal, like making a million dollars or even having a monthly monetary target. She truly doesn’t want her business to be about making money. She says, “I want it to be about enjoying what I do and providing quality photography for people who could be on a budget.”

Although she has always been apprehensive about weddings, recently she has started to get the “wedding photography bug”. Long-term, she would love to be a wedding photographer. And although money is not her driving force, she would like to make enough to pay off her student loans and to “give back”. She says, “I feel that God has given us a lot and I want to give back with what God has given me. Making more from my business would allow me to do that.”


Stefanie Kamerman pure love

I always love to know how the reality of one’s business differs from their dream. Stefanie answered, “Well, you think, wow I’m going to produce great photos and people are just going to come to the bar. And all of a sudden, it’s crickets. And it’s slow, and it’s a slow build.” She adds, “And people say, if you have a dream you have to work really hard at it. It’s cliché, but it’s so true. You can’t just expect a handout; you have to work for it. “ She continues, “ I come from the millennial generation, too, unfortunately. Even though I’m one of the older millennials, I still maybe have that mentality, but I’m excited to push myself to the limits and to inspire the generations after me, that yeah you’re going to have to work hard, sorry.” She found this especially true with her subscription box service. She thought, “Wow, people are really going to want this; they’re going to sell out, but it really hasn’t been that way and it’s humbling, so humbling, and it’s just what I needed. The slow growth is where I’m supposed to be and I tell myself that every day.”

I found it interesting that what Stefanie was most proud of professionally was being able to call herself a photographer. Recognizing that she has a talent and that she wants to use and share that talent.   She reiterates, “Again, it’s not about the money or getting the big clients, but it’s about believing in yourself.”



Personally she is most proud of her daughter who is nine, who is funny, and sweet, and caring, and humble. She says, “Because at the end of the day, it’s about family. And that little person is going out in the world and she’s not a jerk.” (Love her!)

Stefanie believes that life is about being humble and serving others, and using the gifts that you have to make the world a better place. She believes that business is not about money, but about believing in yourself and helping others.

* Photos by Bethanne Arthur Photography.

**Photo by Stefanie Kamerman Photography

And Baby Makes 6?

About 5 years ago, when my youngest was 4, I started longing to have another baby. This shocked no one more than me. Raising the three that I had, at that point, had been hard, exhausting work that I feared was only going to get more complicated as they started to age and mature into a thousand different after school activities.


kids 2012

I began to really think about WHY I wanted another baby. Was it because I wanted to hold a tiny human again? No, not really. Was it to bring my husband and I closer? Nope, need no help there. Was it to try to give my only daughter a sister? Oh hell no. That’s what cousins are for. And we all know it surely wasn’t because I longed for multiple doctors’ visits, sleepless uncomfortable nights, or anything that had to do with the word “pump” (unless it’s a shoe).



In truth, what I found I missed the most was the excitement and anticipation of it all. (This is a reoccurring theme in my life. Stay tuned. You’re bound to see this again.) I loved finding out the gender as early as possible so I could spend endless days concocting the very best name and designing the most creative and adorable room.



And there we have it. I wanted to have another baby so that I could design a new room in my house. That seems reasonable. (Insert eye roll here.) Thank the good Lord, I came to my senses and decided to redo my powder room instead! LOL! (Another post on my powder room redo in the future. I promise.  I can sense your anticipation and excitement.  Again, eye roll here.)



I LOVED designing my kids’ rooms. I like to work with a theme in a child’s room. (As described in blog post “Inspiration” from 6/1/17.)  For my own children, the themes came easy. I would fall in love with an inspiration piece and then my mind would just explode with ideas from there.


liams sheets

For my oldest, Pottery Barn Kids was featuring this adorable percale sheet set of old woody style cars holding a surfboard on the top. The colors were AWESOME. I still love that mix of medium french blue with navy, avocado and a brick red.   I cut up the sheets to make a crib skirt, valances, and a box pleated dust ruffle for the daybed. My hubby and I were also able to find really handsome framed art for the room that kept the theme going without installing a full on tiki bar in the corner. (Although I did use metallic palm trees from to frame out the two windows. SUPER fun.)


liams artwork

I like to add at least one special element to the room on the ceiling since babies spend so much time on their backs. In this room, I found a flying fish kite at The Discovery Store that we suspended from the center of the room with its bright colored tails trailing off and down one corner.


flying fish kite

My middle’s theme came just as easy. Again, I fell in love with a bedding pattern. This time a bold bug themed printed bed set from Ikea. I purchased two twin sets of the duvet cover and pillow sham. I used one as is for a twin-sized top bunk and cut the second set up to make a full sized comforter cover for the bottom bed. Ikea also had this super cute, lime green rug with a family of large black ants marching their way across.


Colins comforter and rug

In keeping with my love of putting some charm up high, I found a large butterfly kite to hang just as we had the flying fish kite in the other room. SO fun! And a piece of art that we had purchased on our honeymoon in St. Lucia (See post “Tickled Pink” published 7/6/17) was the perfect addition.


Colins butterfly

And then the princess’s room. Oh, I was SO excited to find out that I was having a girl. I love my boys terribly, but momma needed some girl hormones in the house. I picked out a print when I was pregnant with my middle child, that I knew I would use for a little girl’s room, if I ever got the chance. Here was my chance! The “Ballooning over Paris – 1890” print was ordered the very day that I found out baby #3 would be a girl. In contrast to the boys’ rooms, I kept the pallete a little more quiet. I chose a buttery yellow for the walls and used crisp white and chocolate brown spread throughout. With small touches of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, and hot air balloons sprinkled about, it was a very sweet and cozy space.  And in keeping with tradition, for her ceiling, I splurged on a petite crystal chandelier from Pottery Barn Kids. Fit for a tiny palace.


ballooning over paris

Although my kids have outgrown their original décor, and have moved on to Crazy Tween Town where mom no longer reigns as head designer, I still have my attention grabbed by pieces that I see that inspire me for a child’s room.  Take, for instance, the artwork from one of my FAV artists, Ellen Kelley McHale. Her sweetly colored palletes would be the most amazing launching off point for a room design. I personally own a few of her prints. But, man oh man, if I were having another kid…..



For a boy, I am mad for the “Dream Big” print. Group that with “When Rabbits Surf”, “Under the Sea”, and “Whale”??? Really?? Do I need to say more? Pair that with a soft green and white ticking striped bedding, bold navy to “anchor” the room (no pun intended, but how funny?) and splash an unexpected yellow or orange…???!!! LOVE!



And for a girl? A sweet tea party theme could start with the “Breakfast in Bed” print. Use fresh turquoise, white, and a poppy pink to make the room fun. Or calm things down with a sweet cherry blossom pink and white and make the “Geisha 1”, “Geisha 2”, and “Geisha 3” prints collection be the star of the room. Pottery Barn Kids even has some beautiful cherry blossom accessories right now!



I can’t stand it! Maybe I need to rethink this baby thing….

I would love to hear what inspired your kid’s room. Please share on my FB page. Or, if you need help getting started on your room, let me know!


1  Picture by Picture People.

2  Shoes, Bow Pump Red by Aminah Ambdul Jilil.  Medela Breast Pump.

3  Boho Playhouse Canopy by Magnolia Home Kids.

4  Robert Downing Jr.  LOL!

5  Pottery Barn Kids sheets circa 2003.

6  Scored this print at a Flea Market in Daytona Beach, Fl in 2003.  Could not ID the artist.

7 Flying fish kite from The Discovery Store circa 2003.  You can also see the metallic palm tree on the window from Oriental Trading Co.

8  Bedding and rug from Ikea circa 2005.

9  Found this butterfly kite at Kitty Hawk Kites in Outerbanks, NC circa 2005.

10  “Ballooning Over Paris 1890” from

11  “Wildflowers in Glass Jar” by Ellen Kelley McHale.

12  “Dream Big” by Ellen Kelley McHale.

13  “Breakfast in Bed” by Ellen Kelley McHale.

Guest – The Vintage Key


The Vintage Key logo

Allow me to introduce Kama Darr of The Vintage Key. Kama and I have known each other since we were about 13 years old. We met at John Adams Jr. High School, in Charleston, WV, and became close friends after both making the cheerleading squad at the end of 7th grade. We continued to cheer together throughout junior high and all through high school at George Washington HS. We were very close during our young school days and I do believe that our moms had a hand in raising both of us. (Her mom made THE BEST pot roast ever. Sigh.)

Kama and me GW


Kama is a jewelry artist. Since 2007, she’s been making jewelry in her home studio that has been displayed in art galleries and magazines. Kama has been a featured artist in the Emmy Award gift bags and was the first place winner of the Midwest region and a national finalist for the national RAW awards. (RAW Natural Born Artists.  An independent arts organization, for artists, by artists.) She also travels to art festivals in the Midwest – Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. Her jewelry is in the steampunk style, using vintage watch parts, typewriter keys, and other items to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

vintage key watch part ring

After graduating from college, Kama worked in public relations for a large insurance company in West Virginia, and then for the Chamber of Commerce in Lafayette, Indiana. After her two children were born, she became a stay-at-home mom until they were about 3 and 5 years old. She says, “After I lost my mom, I realized how short life can be and decided to pursue something I had always been interested in. I started off making jewelry and selling it at small festivals and it grew and grew into a full time small business.”

vintage key dream bracelet

Kama shares, “I’m inspired by vintage items from the late 1800s to mid 1900s. I’ve always felt like an old soul. Working with pieces that are sometimes over 100 years old feels natural and it is very rewarding to convert them into wearable jewelry.”

vintage key watch face bracelet

Kama’s immediate goal is to have a good fall show season. She wants to stay creative and productive to “keep things fresh”. Many clients come to visit her every year at the festivals where she shows her work. She remarks, “They will be looking for something new.”

Vintage key watch part cufflinks

Long-term, she wants to continue being able to make a living doing what she loves. She goes on, “I would also like to have my own shop. I would start by having a really cool space where I could bring items in and create a pop-up shop 3 or 4 times a year.” Her dream also includes showcasing many of the wonderful artists that she has met over the past 10 years.

Vintage Key monogram necklace

When describing how the reality of her business differs from her dream she says, “I think every single day you work toward your dream. So in that sense, I’m living my dream; working closer to my perfect reality every day.”

Vintage Key jeweled bracelet

Having her work exhibited in The Art Museum of Greater Lafayette has been her greatest professional honor. She adds, “My work was displayed next to several original Norman Rockwell paintings. It was a great moment. He was one of my mom and dad’s favorite artists and I knew that they would be proud of me.”

Vintage Key spoonhandle necklace

On a personal note, she is proud of the home that she has created with her husband and children.  She adds, “Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you have to live in a box. I’ve worked in the home for 10 years and have been able to make a living making art while staying very close to my family. I’m home every day when my kids get home from school and I also have a very fulfilling job making jewelry that people enjoy.”

Vintage Key leather cuff

As people do, Kama and I lost touch for many years after high school. Through the magic of social media, we have reconnected. I was blown away by her business and I’m lucky enough to have amassed a collection of her pieces (thanks to my überly smart and generous hubby). But more than the fabulous jewelry that I proudly own, I am beyond thrilled and grateful that we have reconnected and have rekindled our special friendship.

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Tickled Pink

I originally wrote this article in February, in the midst of the advent of St. Valentine’s Day.  One could not help but be visually assaulted by pink at every turn, but in a good way!

Valentine balloons

The color pink has enjoyed a rich history.  It has surged in and out of home interiors and apparel for centuries. It has been used liberally in art and was even mentioned in ancient time writing of “The Odyssey” by Homer. It comes in varying degrees of energy (closer to red has more, closer to white has less), pairs nicely with a multitude of other colors and can invoke the gambit of emotions.


Mauriece Quentin de la Tour 1748-1755

It’s no secret that pink is the baby of red and white, as in, “If red and white had a baby, it would be pink”; literally. As with any color, there are countless combinations of shade (the addition of black) and tint (the addition of white) to make equally countless numbers of values and iterations that, when drilled down to its core, are pink. Throw in a little more red, or a little more blue and you have yet another family of pinks. And if you ask what color a pastel is that is either from the red or orange family, and most boys will tell you it’s pink.


pink paint samples

As a very young girl, my first favorite color (that I can remember) was purple! Shocked? Yeah, you shouldn’t be. I’ve just always been an out-of-the-box kind of girl. Since I was about 8 years old, I’ve had a real love of interior décor and space planning, so the first time that pink got a real foothold on me was in the late 70’s early 80’s. (I wanted my bedroom in pink and yellow, like the Bubblicious gum packaging.) In college, my apartment was totally pretty in pink (You see what I did there?  Thank you John Hughes.  Unfortunately, no relation. Dang.), complete with a handmade pink and green Lover’s Knot quilt! Sigh.   (I made this for myself. Even handcut all of the lace trim.)


lovers knot quilt

Being up with the trends as I love to be, pink made it’s departure from my home after graduation. (Or did it?) And once married, I said Sayounara to pink forever. (Or did I? Ok, I’ll stop.) I can even remember, when I was pregnant with our third child (our FIRST/ONLY girl), having a conversation at a dinner party, 3 days before she was born, about my color choices for her nursery. I explained to the more seasoned mom of girl babies that I was not a “pink kinda girl”. That other mom knowingly chuckled, rolled her eyes and said, “You will be.”


Me holding Liney

Boy (or should I say “girl”?) was she right. The beautiful, subtle room that I had created for my new bundle, in it’s rich brown velvet and buttery yellow walls was getting smacked upside the head with each and every pink gift that I unwrapped. So what does any self -respecting interior fanatic do? I added pink. I HAD TO! It was EVERYWHERE!


pink toys

I was extremely fortunate to find a subtle pink, light yellow and cream large-scale plaid fabric that I crafted into removable “skirts” for the brown velvet blackout curtains already hanging in the room. (One of my better engineering projects, if I must say so myself.) Problem solved. And pink had forever returned to my home. Having a girl (other than me of course) in the house now gave me license to use pink at will! It’s awesome.

Caroline's curtains

But what I discovered, since pink was now not banned from the house, I started to notice a common thread in some of the original artwork that we had collected for our home. A common PINK thread! That’s right. It was there all along. The hand painted piece of silk that we bought on our honeymoon contains fuchsia! As did the small art piece that we bought from a street vendor in St. Lucia. I started to notice that a little element of pink was in nearly every one of my favorite pieces.


honeymoon painting on silk

How about that? Not a “pink kinda girl”. Boy was I wrong and I’m delighted that I AM a pink kinda girl.


St. Lucia art

We are currently in the midst of a kitchen remodel that involves removing a plethora of burnt orange from cabinets, flooring, you name it. (See “Green is Neutral” posted 7/2/17) Stage one was having the cabinets painted a combo of cream and a medium/dark grey. Now that the orange is not the primary color in the room (redo still in progress), I was so excited to break out a pink/red/green/white vintage cotton floral tablecloth just in time for Valentine’s Day this year. THRILLED! I’ve been sitting on this little lovely for YEARS!


vintage tablecloth

I’m also inoculating my boys to the color, which is a win! Although they would not be caught dead wearing it (the fit that was had when I picked out a creamsicle colored shirt for my middle one for Easter last year – good gracious – SMH – IT WAS ORANGE!!!!), they do not cower in fear when they see it around the house. Yay for my sweet little future husbands.


creamsicle shirt

Try paying closer attention to the sentimental art pieces and decor that you have.  See if you don’t find a common thread of something that you love binding it all into a neat little collection.


painted pillow

For more pictures that did not make the blog, check out Jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.

1  “Madame de Pompadour” by Mauriece Quentin de la Tour, 1751.

2  Sherwin-Williams paint samples.

3  That’s our kitty, Wonder.  Ignore the crooked lampshade in the background.  I just really liked the picture of the cat.  LOL.

4  Photo by Kama Studio Photography.  Notice my pink Ann Taylor Loft trench and my sweet baby’s pink blanket.  Sigh.

5  Bear on the left is a Vermont Teddy Bear.  Rabbit on the right was made by yours truly.

6  Painting on silk by Jean-Baptiste.

7  “Galvanized Support” by Alicina Nolley.

8  Vintage Wilendur tablecloth.  Lenox Butler’s Pantry Dinner plate.  Scottish Pewter Quaich Bowl w/Celtic Knot Handles.

9 Vintage ’90’s orange creamsicle linen by DarlingVintage on Etsy.

10  Handpainted pillow cover that I purchased on a trip to Capri, Italy in the late 90s.

Green is a Neutral!

On this day, in our Lord’s year of 2017, I am forever declaring that green is a neutral. Part of the definition of “neutral”, as stated on my handy Dictionary app on my phone, is, “matching well with many or most other colors or shades”. Traditionally we think of neutral colors as those from the brown, white, or gray families, and also black. These colors are well suited to allow another to be the star.


Neutrals fandeck

I have had a guacamole color kitchen for years and years (Sherwin Williams’ Offbeat Green #6706). I almost felt forced into this wall color due to the burnt orange color of the cabinets that we inherited when we purchased our home. With the large expanse of the strong orange color in the kitchen, I had to seriously analyze the wall color that I could, or would introduce. In truth, I wanted the cabinets to go away. I hated that intense hue dictating the rest of my décor. The logical starting point was the old color wheel. The opposite of orange on the color wheel is blue. Using its color opposite would immediately make the cabinets stand out more, and that was a definite NOPE! Using a blue shade on my walls, I felt would also instantly give my room a nautical or collegiate feel and I knew I did not want either of those things happening. (Think school colors – UVA, Florida…uh, no.)

Kitchen cabinets before

When you want a color to blend, you stay close to it in relation to the placement on the color wheel. With orange as our example here, you could go red or yellow. At the time that I was originally selecting a paint color, red was heading out of fashion for interiors and would seriously darken our space; make it cave-like. The Tuscan golds were still popular, but that shade can sometimes be associated with sickness. Not a vibe that I wanted in my kitchen (although it may help with limiting snacking!).


Luxurious Red and Overjoy

Since neither of orange’s direct neighbors were going to work, I had to continue around the wheel. The pink/purple family was definitely off the table, and I had already established that blue was not going to work. The only choice was green. I actually pulled the shade of green that I settled on from a beloved piece of pottery that I had purchased on a trip to Italy.  The pottery pattern contained shades of green along with the hot orange that I was dealt.  The shade I chose is a green found in….wait for it…nature! It is the color of the inside of an avocado or the outer leaves of an artichoke.


olive oil jar

Without changing the wall color, and after 11 years of enduring orange, we finally had our cabinets painted. We did the uppers in a creamy white (Sherwin-Williams Shoji White #7042) and the lowers in a medium gray (Sherwin-Williams Porpoise #7047). I was delighted to find that the green painted walls still worked. And why was that?

kitchen cabinets after

Sure my cabinet color got totally neutralized, but let’s go back to that definition. A neutral is a color that matches well with many or most other colors or shades. Consider for a moment; have you ever seen a flower, of any color, that did not have a green stem? Think about it; red roses, green stems, yellow daffodils, green stems, orange tiger lilies, purple violets, pink peonies….You get the picture. If you pull your green shade from inspiration found in nature, it is, my determination and by the virtue of Mother Nature, a neutral. (Giant curtsy.)


1  Sherwin-Williams color sample book

2  Sherwin-Williams paint colors.

3  Modigliani Frutta Laccata Olive oil jar.