Funky Town

For as long as I can remember, the time between Christmas Day and the day that the kids go back to school is a very blue time for me. I’ve spent years trying to stop this from happening, but try as I might, I find myself in Funky Town once again (and not the town with cool afros, bell-bottomed pants and bitchin’ music). Don’t worry, I’m going to keep digging in and fighting the good fight to push my way past this, but perhaps you’ll indulge me and take a walk though this with me. Maybe together, I can make some sense of it all. And maybe, I’m not the only one.


It used to be that I was actually terrified of the New Year. A really struggled with massive anxiety each year as the calendar poised on change. I would desperately try to hold on to the current year because within that year, all of my family and friends were safe and whole and with me. The New Year always felt like a big black hole of scary. But as my logical brain knows, trying to hold on to time is impossible. I’d have an easier time trying to stop sugar from melting in a handful of water.

handful of water

It took some major back-to-back losses in our family for me to lose my true fear of the New Year. I’m no longer terrified. Just funky. Through those losses I learned that nothing is worse than losing a loved one, so the turn of the page of the calendar, or the closing out of a year is nothing.

happy new year balloon

And yet here I am again, feeling the post holiday blues. I think a contributing factor is that I liken the debris and mess that comes after all of the gifts are unwrapped to that of black snow. You know that cruddy black snow the day after a beautiful snowfall? Yeah, that. The beauty and the sparkle is gone. We’re left with shreds of wrapping paper, crushed up boxes, and big black trash bags holding all of the previous loveliness that was so carefully chosen, wrapped, displayed and presented. All reduced to black trash bags and piles of new stuff that no one knows where to put. Ugh.

I also find the thought of New Year resolutions daunting. I have failed for years at keeping them, so I don’t make them anymore, which fills me with guilt. Setting goals is good, I get it. But the pressure to resolve to commit to something right now…. How on earth can I choose? There are so many things that need fixing. How can I pick just one? And I certainly cannot handle more than one. Help!

white flag

Sometimes I think that these feelings stem from the simple fact that Christmas is over. For months I have spent every extra moment thinking and planning for others. What gift will I buy for my husband? How soon do I get the presents for out of town family into the mail? What special dessert will I make for my inlaws on Christmas Eve? Did we pull enough ornaments off the giving tree at church? What special activities can I squeeze in with my kids to really make some awesome Christmas memories? Literally every free moment from Halloween until Christmas Day revolves around thinking and planning for others. And isn’t that what we’ve been put on this earth to do? It brings me joy to do this, but it’s also exhausting. So now what?

xmas eve dessert

I envy those who get super jazzed about the prospect of a clean slate with the New Year. I wish I could see it that way. In truth, that’s how I look at a new school year.   A fresh start full of possibilities and excitement. But the crushing fall schedule has sufficiently killed off all of those feelings. The New Year just feels like free falling and I’m afraid of heights. But off I go, whether I like it or not, into the unknown with nothing but my parachute of internal joy and gratitude. 2017 was an amazing year of good changes and growth. I pray that 2018 offers all of us opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. But for now, I’m just going to do… tomorrow.

2017 leap to 2018


Guest – Denise Petty – Tasting Room Manager & Mixologist – Catoctin Creek Distillery

Several months ago, my husband attended a work social at a local whisky distillery. My better half gets to do a lot of really cool stuff with the company that he works for, so I’ve learned, over the years, to tune it out. A girl can only take so many Cinderella moments, so his mention of another fun outing had become white noise to me. But Chris was so impressed with this place that the next chance he got, he booked us seats (along with four friends) to one of Catoctin Creek Distillery’s whisky and food pairing dinners.

whisky & food pairing

Boy was I glad that he did. For the obvious of not having to cook and do dishes for a night, but, in all seriousness, we had so much fun and were treated with delicious food and the most outstanding cocktails that I have experienced in my not-so-young life. I was so smitten with the degree of complexity and the thoughtfulness that went behind each cocktail that accompanied each course, that I made sure to speak to the very talented mixologist and bar manager, Denise Petty.

catoctin creek food pairing

And if I’m really being honest, our initial meeting was one of my, if not THE most, embarrassing moments. (At least one of my least graceful.) Denise had just served the second cocktail of the evening, and as she rounded the table, I took a sip and blabbed out, and I quote…myself, “Wow, now that takes me back to my childhood.” To which she replied, “That just might be the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.” (Insert oh-crap-did-I-say-that-outloud face here.)

did i say that out loud

So to spare my poor mother from a child endangerment suit (even though I’m now in my 40’s), “back then” (as my kids would call the era of my childhood), my mother used to make a mixture of whisky, honey, and lemon and would give it to my siblings and me if we were suffering from a cough. Subsequently, my siblings and I have all grown into whisky lovers. (Thanks Mom!) So that was my initial meeting with the amazing talent that works behind the bar at Catoctin Creek Distillery and I couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to her.

Denise Petty tasting room

Denise is the tasting room manager at Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, VA. The distillery was founded by Scott and Becky Harris in 2009 and is the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. They are the proud producers of Roundstone Rye, which is Virginia’s most awarded whisky. Denise has been working at Catoctin Creek since last summer. Says Denise, “I got the opportunity to meet [the owners] at a collaborative cocktail dinner while I was working with Magnolias at the Mill.

rounstone rye

Denise is in charge of everything that happens in their tasting room with regards to the monthly cocktails offered and she spearheads the cocktails that the distillery provides for their special private dinners, whether the events are held at the distillery or off sight. She also manages all of the Catoctin Creek merchandise and is charged with finding local vendors for the variety of hot sauces, teas, and products such as candles and soaps that they offer for sale.

catoctin creek merch

The Catoctin Creek Distillery Tasting Room offers four flights to sample. Three flights consist of their spirits served neat and then a cocktail flight is offered. There are four cocktails on the menu and Denise changes them monthly. Some are classics, and some are a classic with a twist. For example, says Petty, “We’ve got a gin and tonic on right now, but as opposed to just our gin and tonic water, we’ve got a local tonic syrup to bring in a little bit more depth to the cocktail.” (With one beverage, they offer a delicious experience, as well promoting another *local business!) She shares, “Folks will come in to the tasting room and say, ‘well I really don’t like gin’. Don’t be afraid. Just come in, try something new, step outside of your box and you could really surprise yourself.” (She’s right! I don’t like gin and I LOVED the gin cocktail that she made for me. I was just going to taste it, and man I finished that whole darn thing. LOL)

Denise with flight

Because I lack the skill and creativity to develop specialty cocktails, I’m completely fascinated by Denise’s cocktail mixing acumen. Says Denise, “I feel like the majority of the time I’m trying to come up with cool cocktails, I’m just honestly juicing. I believe in that really fresh and hands on aspect of it all.” She also likes to use seasonal ingredients and uses a lot of local mixers. She adds, “Just a shout out to True Syrups [& Garnishes] and Element Shrub, you know I love using their products and they’re just a hop skip and a jump away.”

catoctin bar

Both food and mixing are hobbies for Petty. She explains, “I’ve had my hands in the mixing aspect for about eight years now. I’ve been everywhere from dive bars, to much more fancy locations, and places in between.” Her boyfriend is also a bartender and so she finds that their home is their biggest laboratory. She enjoys the whole spirit aspect, as well as food, but to pair them both together, (sigh) that’s where the artistry comes in. Since she dabbles with food as well, she has a serious understanding of how flavors compliment one another. Denise adds, “Within the past five years I’ve really developed more of a palate for the finer things in cuisine. Finding those very small hints of acid or those small hints of heat and then portraying that in the cocktail to give it some likeness.” Brilliant!

Denise and boyfriend prohibition party

Denise clearly has a sophisticated palate that allows her to combine flavors as she does so elegantly. Not a huge fan of the sweet side of the cocktails, Denise tends to focus her concoctions a little more on the bitter side of the spectrum. She shares, “I think that just brings in such a different taste that people aren’t necessarily used to.” Denise’s cocktail recipes are available on the Catoctin Creek Distillery website. When speaking of the night that I attended, Denise said, “For that dinner, a curve ball for me that was I had been given the menu but I really didn’t have the opportunity to see or taste any of the food, or really understand how [any given] component was actually going to be served.  It was all kind of a surprise.” I can say with my whole heart, it worked, and in the best possible way. That’s why I’m sharing her exceptional talent with you!

catoctin creek food pairing 2

Denise has gotten one of her cocktails featured on Magnolia at the Mill’s cocktail list, which she is very proud of. But she is equally proud of the cocktail dinner that I attended in August. A huge weight was lifted off of her shoulders after the evening was such a success. She shares, “That was the first full dinner that I had to provide cocktails from the beginning until the end, especially not knowing that menu. When everyone enjoyed themselves and especially when you contacted me back, and told me how much you enjoyed it. Yes, that was an exceptionally proud moment.” Denise went on to express her gratitude for all of the great chefs that she has worked with and those who have let her “annoy” them. She says, “I’d ask them so many questions during service. There’s a lot to food that most people don’t necessarily understand and there are a lot of great techniques that people put into their food, I just try to pull out the best of what the chef is going to offer.”

denise and barrel

Where does all of this inspiration come from? Denise is inspired by the area in which she lives and works.  She says, “It’s really hard to lack any inspiration here in Northern Virginia, especially right here in Purcellville. We are surrounded by amazing people going out on a limb and putting their life savings [into] starting a distillery, or starting a brewery, or a restaurant. There’s just a lot of ambition in this area and so many people that care about the products that they are producing. Whether it be farming or whether it be making whisky. The care that each person in this area provides, and how everyone is all about being local here and being their own artisan. Not necessarily having to buy all of their stuff from corporate companies, but more so mom and pops. It’s really hard to lack in any creativity in this area just because I’m surrounded by so much greatness.” She goes on, “I mean, look at, for example, the people that I currently work for. Scott and Becky [Harris] just one day decided this was what [they were] going to do. [They were] not going to sit behind a desk any more. [They were] going to make big things for [themselves]. So it’s really hard for me to try and stay small in this area.”

Denise and boyfriend at brewery

Denise is proud to be part of Catoctin Creek. She shares, “I’m not really looking for myself as much as I was. Now I’m in a comfortable position that I can call home and know that I have a solid place to stay and be creative and experimental. I just keep going back to the fact that I’m so fortunate that the Harrises have let me take over this room and they’ve given me pretty full rein on whatever it is that I’d like to throw out to the world. That’s fun for me.” Personally, she’s just really happy. Before starting at Catoctin Creek Distillery, Denise and her boyfriend were contemplating a move to Florida. She shares, “We were just looking for something different. We were looking for something a little bit bigger than what we were at the time, but this opportunity has allowed me to realize how big I actually really am.”

Catoctin Creek barrel tops

Denise declares Catoctin Creek to be her home. She feels quite fortunate that she was picked up to be their tasting room manager. She shares, “I do feel like this is going to be home for quite a bit of time. I see so much potential in myself and especially in this distillery. I just see us expanding here and I see myself flourishing.” Before working at the distillery, she describes feeling like she had hit the glass ceiling where she couldn’t get any bigger than she was where she was. She feels very fortunate for the opportunity that she has been given; an opportunity that she feels affords her potential for personal and professional growth.

Denise at distillery

Eventually, Denise would love to open her own restaurant or cocktail bar. She says, “You know, I’ve just immersed myself in the restaurant and hospitality industry and I’m stuck in it. I love it. Food and spirits really drive me, so one day, I would love to have a little food truck, or potentially a nice rooftop bar. Somewhere my creativity can keep on growing. [A place] where I won’t have a lot of limitations and I can really put my whole vision and provide a home for other folks who want to grow and want to open up their creativity for Loudoun County.” (I would love to go to that rooftop bar. Just sayin’.)

Denise and Boyfriend 2

Denise encourages everyone to be brave and try something new. She explains, “When I first started here in the tasting room, I thought I was a little too small and I didn’t know what I was really doing. But I just immersed myself in here and I owned it. I can do it.” She adds, “And for anyone who’s got a dream to start their business or start some creative project that they would like to put out in the world, just do it. Don’t be afraid.” She goes on, “I try not to be scared. I just try to put my whole heart into it and as long as I feel good that I tried, I know that I did well. So for everyone out there who’s afraid to try something new or afraid to think that they’re going to fail, just go on and do it. You’re being your biggest enemy. Just go out there and be confident.”

*True Syrups & Garnishes of Washington, DC

Element [Shrub] of Arlington, VA

Please be sure to visit Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, VA and to follow them on Facebook and Instagram


I recently published my story of how Joy follows me, so in the season of Comfort and Joy, I feel it only fair to give Comfort it’s due. I, myself, am a huge fan of comfort. I’m all the way into warm sweaters, soft blankets, cozy sock, hot drinks, and comforting food. But when I stop to think about that, I’m not sure there are many on this planet who are not fans of comfort.


Comfort can come in many forms: physical comfort, mental comfort and spiritual comfort. The easiest of these to recognize and often to fill are physical comforts. In many parts of the world at this time of year, physical comfort can be challenged just by the weather. It’s time to bundle up and stuff our layered selves into coats and boots and hats and gloves, all in the attempt to stay comfortable. For me, this is a serious challenge. For one thing, I’m not comfortable stuffed like a sausage into a million layers. And another, I’m convinced that my inner core is primarily lava or fire that needs to be stoked often, especially once the outside temperatures begin to plummet. If I don’t keep my internal temp fueled, it becomes extremely difficult for me to get and stay warm and therefore, I become UNcomfortable. (No kidding. I sometimes have to sleep in a hoodie. I’m talking with hood on!)

freezing on the soccer field

Physical comforts can come from squishy socks, soft flannel jammies, and cuddly blankets. A nice atmospheric fire can contribute to your comfort level as can a bowl of mac and cheese! (Or coffee or hot chocolate in my case). There are books written about comfort foods that give us temporary comfort from a bad day, or bring memories flooding back of more comfortable times around your Mother’s kitchen table. In any case, thousands of industries thrive on our desire to find physical comfort. And I’m 100% in favor of all forms of cozy/physical comfort.

Chatman jammie pants

But comfort can be a mental game as well. Have you ever had the thought, “I won’t be comfortable until I know….x,y,z”? We seek mental comfort from reassurance and information. The right information can set your mind at such ease, that you no longer even care about your physical comfort. I can tell you that I would not care one bit if I was freezing to death, if my mind was worried or occupied by something stronger like the welfare of a loved one. It simply wouldn’t matter. So in this instance we can see that physical comfort is not the be all, end all. Is it then mental comfort? I don’t think so.

Chris hugging Liney at Tower of London

There is something that I’ve come to possess in just the last few years for myself, and that is spiritual comfort. Now this is still very much a work in progress for me, but even the slightest effort in seeking that type of comfort in my life has changed me forever. I actively seek out this type of comfort and some days the search is harder than others. There is nothing that I want more for myself than to be spiritually comfortable because beyond that, the rest in the hierarchy is so small. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs chart has been telling us this since he published his paper, “The Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943. Spiritual health, or comfort (for the purposes of this article), is the most important focus that we can attend to for ourselves and, stay with me now, for each other. Boiled down, if your head and your heart are not right for you, your head and heart cannot be right for anyone else.


I’ve been trying to reverse engineer all of the recent cultural unrest in our country and what it boils down to is self respect. If we do not have self respect, if we do not have our head and heart focused on what is down right good for our souls, we cannot provide the respect that the person sitting next to us deserves. Everybody knows that you can have all of the physical comforts known to man, but true comfort, true peace comes from deeper than any 6 bedroom house, or cozy sweater, or cup of hot coffee (although cashmere socks are close. Just sayin’.)


So in this season of Comfort and Joy, do yourself a favor (and the rest of humanity) and find ways to improve your spiritual comfort level. Don’t let outside nay sayers have any impact. Stay firm on your path to calm the internal storms that churn up your life. If you feel yourself drifting, do what you have to do to regain your direction. Turn off the holiday music if you have to. Read something uplifting. Or just sit quietly and let yourself start understanding how to untie the knots of your life that keep you uncomfortable. There’s safety in numbers, so stay close to those in your life who make you feel better about yourself and happier about your situation and give you the encouragement (or the shovel) to dig a little deeper into your spiritual comfort.


I hope this holiday season that you find all of the beautiful physical comforts that bring you even a smidge of joy. I hope that you have a peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday you may celebrate. I hope that over the holidays, you truly get to enjoy a mental break and get to take a breath. And I pray that you find all of the Comfort and Joy, in all aspects of your life, during this season and beyond.

good tidings of comfort & joy

Guest – Olive and Ford Design

Olive and ford logo

Back in the summer, when I was interviewing my friend and Guest Krystal Culpepper of Sweet Pea Studios (See Jennifer the Beholder post dated September 21, 2017), Krystal said to me, “Oh, you have to interview Kate Davis from Olive and Ford.” I did a little research on Kate and her interior design business and I concurred. I needed to interview Kate Davis from Olive and Ford! These two very talented ladies are friends. I find their friendship endearing. It’s a beautiful thing to hear them speak of each other and promote each other’s talent. So that is how I was introduced to Olive and Ford. It is especially exciting to me when I leave one interview with a contact for another. The Jennifer the Beholder Guest network is working!

Kate Davis

Kate Davis is a completely self taught interior designer. (Not unlike one very popular lady in one Waco, TX.) Kate has loved design for a very long time. She says, “When I look back, I think I’ve been fairly consistent [with my personal style] all along. But when [my design business] really came about was [when] my husband and I built our first house, from the ground up. We had trades come in and do the foundation, do the framing, but otherwise my husband and I were in there every day actually building. I hung windows!” She explains that initially when you’re building a house you think of all the pretty things like flooring and paint colors, but then the non-sexy details enter in like what kind of switches do you want, what kind of trim do you want on the windows and the like. Things most do not normally consider. (Nor do we really want to.  Am I right?) Making decisions on these types of finishes can be very overwhelming. Kate adds, “When it’s more than just picking a floor [for example], it can be a lot. You know, where do you want your switch on the wall? Or [do you want] a door or a window [in your garage] so it won’t be so dark?” (Most just want it to look pretty when it’s all done and don’t really care how it gets that way.) Says Davis, “[Our house] was my first in-the-trenches experience with [design]. And I loved it. It was amazing.”

Olive and Ford living room

Kate’s entrance into interior design was definitely a very gradual process. At the inception of Olive and Ford, she was a stay-at-home-mom. But prior to building her house, Kate was a court reporter and background investigator. (Totally different, right?) But once her second child was born, she stayed at home. She explains, “[Interior design] was definitely not something I ever would have thought would be my career path. I never would have thought that it was …not a possibility, [more] an option maybe? You’re thinking you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer, right? The traditional things. So it just evolved organically, which is my favorite way for things to happen. It just popped up and I went with it. And it just keeps rolling into something bigger and bigger.“

Olive and Ford living room 2

In the beginning of Olive and Ford, Kate was doing projects for friends. Finally her husband said to her that she had to stop because it was taking so much of her time. He said, “You can’t just give this away to people because you’ve got a [family]. You need to go grocery shopping. We need to feed our children at some point. You can’t forget to do the laundry.” Kate explains, “Not that he was telling me what to do, but I was spending so much of my time doing [design projects], I was neglecting all of these chores that I normally have for myself.” Her husband suggested that she start charging for her work. Initially, Kate was not comfortable with the idea. But her good friend Krystal (Sweet Pea Studios) suggested setting up a Facebook page which became the launching point of Olive and Ford. Kate created the Facebook page, but didn’t publish it. Krystal encouraged her to “just hit the button”. Just hit the button. Of course, Kate insisted, “No, no, I don’t want to hit the button.” Kate continues, “I was working on [the Facebook page] and I hit publish by mistake.” She described her blood draining from her face. Total Panic Mode. Thankfully Krystal encouraged her to just leave it and reassured her that nothing was going to happen.   She left it and that was how Olive and Ford was born.

Olive and Ford living:dining

Kate’s offered services run the gamut. Whether a client needs a quick design online, needs recommendations for accessories, or needs an entire floor of their home renovated, she’s done it all. She even offers color consultations, furniture placement and space planning.  Says Davis, “My taste often exceeds my budget, so I found the perfect formula to get high style from thrift stores and big box stores.  A monochromatic color scheme, clean lines, statement lighting, and a touch of nature.  Those four elements unfailingly combine into a comfortable elegant, simple, livable home.” (Sign me up!)

Olive and Ford dog in the tub

Kate confesses that she’s currently in a little bit of a transition. When she first started designing, her focus was truly on the house that she and her husband built. People loved the colors that she chose and would ask for advice in their own homes. Because she doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on furnishings, Kate started getting her hands on second hand pieces or inexpensive items from stores like Target, for example. She would strip, sand, and paint them to change them to look like higher end pieces.   These newly refurbished furnishings got attention, so Kate began selling them. Her business continued to evolve to where she began consulting with real estate investors on houses that they were interested in flipping. She naturally moved into color consultations and creating e-designs for clients. But Kate explains, “I’m at a point now where I may refocus my energy on my own real estate investments where I’m putting my mark on properties.” When asked if this was a short term or long term plan, she readily answered, “Yes!” She shares, “You know, I’m kind of rolling with it. That’s kind of where I see things going. I love working with clients. I love working with people, but that may be where my passion is.”

Olive and Ford desk

In our current age of YouTube and HGTV stardom sweeping our culture, Kate interestingly shares that possibility does not interest her.   She says, “If someone were to….not that this would happen, but if they came to me and said you get a TV show today, I can’t say that would be something that I would do. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just got more work to do or something. Do you know what I mean? I’m just saying that I’m happy.” The truth of Olive and Ford is that it was never a dream of Kate’s. Infact it’s the organic way that the business was born that appeals to Kate the most.

Olive and Ford baseball bats

Kate shares, “I feel like we’re hard on ourselves, especially as moms, to have everything together. I wish that there was a way to make that messiness super pretty. I think we all have messy moments and we just [shove] things aside and it’s pretty for a second and that’s what you see on Instagram. God love Instagram. Everything is so pretty and you can scroll through and it’s all pretty, but let me tell you, behind the scenes…. I can say across the board, with all Instagrammers’ beautiful pictures, there’s a bunch of crap behind the camera. We go like this (mimes shoving) and it’s all outside the frame of the picture.” She finds that to be the biggest difference between how the business of interior design appears versus how it actually is. People think everything is picture perfect always and the reality is that Kate and her family are just like everybody else. (Everybody else who incidentally has 45K Instagram followers!!!!)

Olive and Ford white sofa

Kate adds, “My house is not always staged. People are always asking about my white sofas. How do I keep them so white? Well guess what, they’re not always so perfectly white. I’ve got a black dog, I’ve got a white sofa, people freak out! It’s not always perfect. I vacuum it and when it gets a little dirtier than I want, I rip it off and put it in the washer and I put it back on.” I told Kate that whenever someone comes to my home, I always apologize first and say, I’m sorry about the mess, but we actually live here. Her response? “Stop!” She concurred that she found herself apologizing too. But she goes on, “I’ve decided I’m going to stop apologizing. Because the truth of the matter is that you do live there. And frankly, I know for myself when I go to someone’s house and I know that they haven’t run around to pick things up, it’s more welcoming because it’s more real.” (You heard it here! Woohoo!) Kate wishes people were easier on themselves. (I agree. I have some friends who I swear live in their basement because their first floor is like a model home. It’s unbelievable.) Kate recognizes the level of stress that accompanies that perfection and she is not interested in that type of lifestyle for herself. “Otherwise,” she admits, “[Designing is] just as fun as you would imagine.” (I’m so happy to hear that!) Kate enjoys learning about people and what people like, and trying to find things that make them happy. (How much better does it get? I’m a little jel. LOL.)

Olive and Ford Country Living Mag

Kate is naturally kind of reserved and introverted, so she is quite proud that she’s even pursuing design in the first place. Beyond that, she’s learned a lot. She shares, “Sometimes when I hear myself talking I think, how do I know that? But I know it. I’ve learned it. That’s really exciting.” In addition to her comfort zone stretch, Kate had a feature in Country Living Magazine. (O..M..GEEE!!! It’s one of my favorite magazines and I’m not even a country girl!) She humbly refers to the feature as a “really fun moment”.   (Again, O..M..GEEE! My head just exploded.) But equally important to her is the working relationships that she has developed with some really great companies. Kate says, “I never thought that they would even know who I am.” She’s worked with companies such as Rugs USA, Bemz, Casper, Boll and Branch and Lumber Liquidators, to name a few. Kate shares, “It’s been really fun, getting to know the people behind the companies.” In the beginning, it was Kate reaching out to them, but as time has gone on, the companies have begun to reach out to her. (Sweet!)


As with most “artists”, everything inspires Kate. Colors from nature, looking at magazines, shopping in stores….it comes from everywhere.  She explains, “I want to know how [a client] wants a space to feel. That’s a big deal. I think everyone deserves to have a home that is whatever they need it to be. A refuge at the end of the day, a place to get them pumped up, whatever it is. So if I’m working with a client, it’s going to have to be their emotion about the space [that’s the driver]. But I get inspiration from everything.” She adds, “I think it’s all about energy. [Each designed space has] a very individual kind of feeling and I think your home should reflect that. Everyone needs a place to recharge and whatever recharging is for me may be different than what recharging is for you. It is fun to follow trends and be trendy and current for the moment, but then also to be true to yourself.”

Olive and Ford wreath project

Admittedly, Kate feels that she’s in a little bit of a creative slump. She explains that she, like the rest of us, are exposed to so much input from all kinds of places.  She noticed that she was forgetting her own design aesthetic.  She shares “Energy, right now to me, its really interesting. I’m realizing how important it is to create a space that supports the person, which is different from pretty. I don’t know how that’s going to evolve, but I think it’s so important. I think it’s something that maybe we forget.” She admits that it may be difficult to put a finger on but reiterates it’s importance. She’s now finding herself walking through her own house thinking, “I don’t like it.” She shares, “I was doing color and I need to go back. If I go back 20 years ago, or even further, I always had white curtains, white beds, white whatever. My colors: white, black, gray, neutral (like a tan). I need to go back.” She attributes her need for decor change to her need to change the energy of her home; how she wants to feel in her home. She also feels that people get hung up on buying things and thinks that everyone deserves a beautiful space. Not only the people that can spend tons of money on their houses. Everybody needs a beautiful space. She declares, “No matter who you are, or where you live, or how much your house is worth, or how much money you make. You get people to find ways [to make their home beautiful]. Is it paint on the wall? Is it arranging your furniture in a particular way? Frankly, I think it’s getting rid of a bunch of crap. I think we all have TOO MUCH STUFF. Way too much. It [creates] visual clutter and mental clutter and it exhausts us. That’s free! Just clean!” She wants people to know that no matter what, it isn’t just the people on Instagram, who are spending thousands of dollars on a pillow, that can actually have a pretty house.

Olive and Ford dog in mud room

Kate loves fancy houses where the dogs come in, and there’s paw prints on the floor but it’s beautiful anyway. Says Kate, “I want everyone to give themselves permission to live in their homes. Make it yours. [Don’t] apologize for it. [Don’t] ask permission. Do what feels good and what feels right for you. So whatever that may be, don’t apologize for your messy sinks. You live there. Make [your home] beautiful. Make it serve you. Your house should serve you.“

Olive and Ford let's stay home

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Joy Follows Me

Joy Logo

Do you know Joy? Do you know the difference between Happiness and Joy? Do you have real Joy in your life? My sincerest hope is that you can answer yes to all of these questions. I think we all know at least one joyful person. We may even hate them for it. If you can’t identify a joyful person in your life, and you do not consider yourself to be joyful, I would like to be that person for you because Joy follows me.  But before I tell you my story, I’d like to address the questions that I asked.

hello my name is joy

Do you know Joy? Not your favorite Aunt Joy. Not the barista down at the Starbucks, and not that cute blue-haired pixie of a girl that Disney says lives in us. (Or is it?) Joy is internal. There is a recipe for joyfulness and I’m going to share it with you.

1. Recognize that Joy is possible for everyone regardless of circumstances.

2. Recognize Joy in yourself and identify what sustains your Joy.

3. Seek opportunities to fuel your Joy. (More is more here.)

4. Allow Joy to live in you. Embrace it and commit to it.

joy vs happiness

There is a distinct difference between Joy and Happiness. Happiness is momentary. It often times is created or even purchased. You can be having a happy day, get some disparaging news, and bam, happy day is over. In the very next moment, you can receive a call that you’ve won the lottery and bam, happy is back. Happiness is influenced by moments. I’m not saying that this is bad. (That would be ludicrous.) I’m saying Happiness is not Joy. Joy is internal and owned. Even devastating news has it’s work cut out for itself to extinguish internal Joy.

joy apple core

Are you Happy or Joyful? If you’re lucky, you are both! But Joy comes from your soul. Joy is held in the core of who you are.  The challenging part is that it takes effort and commitment to maintain it, but the beautiful gift of Joy is that no external source can extinguish it.  Only you can.  So as long as you protect it, you get to keep it and enjoy (pun intended) it’s perpetual stream of gifts.

present to you from joy

Now that we’ve established what Joy is. Allow me to share with you how Joy actually follows me.

I think of myself as a positive person. I look for the good in others. I strive to surround myself with things and people that bring me Joy. I fuel my faith, which is personally my greatest Joy builder. But like everyone, I have faced hard times. I’ve talked openly about the death of my father and the complicated birth of our first child. I think it is universally agreed upon that those two experiences alone would be considered “hard”. Although I was definitely NOT Happy while living through them, I was lucky to hold on to my internal Joy. But was it luck? I think I’d call it more of a commitment. I say this, because I’m not sure I’ve always been a Joyful person. I am now. I work on my Joy daily and I will NEVER go back.

Three years ago, during the holiday season, I was very preoccupied by the deterioration of my father’s health. Advent has always been my favorite time of the year. It’s kind of my Super Bowl, but this particular year, I just couldn’t…. I couldn’t do any of it. I was having a particularly sad day, filled with worry when I walked outside to my car to run an errand.

For some reason, in our neighborhood, there is a sort of wind tunnel that, when active, blows everyone’s loose trash into our yard. On this particularly windy day, I walked out to my car to find more trash in the yard. As I customarily do, I gathered up the newest bits of trash to be tossed. To my surprise, the last piece of paper that I picked up was an ice cream cone wrapper that said, “JOY”.

I think I literally laughed out loud when I saw it. It was a true gift to me. It was a physical reminder of “JOY”. I was so incredibly moved by that message that I had picked up off the ground that I couldn’t’ bear to throw it away. I framed that little wrapper and I have it displayed in my bedroom. It is a constant reminder to me, that even in hard times, Joy can always be with me.

framed joy

Months went by. My father passed and life moved on. As I approached the first Christmas season without my dad, I began to physically feel the sadness and loss. It was especially hard at Christmas that year because he had died right after Christmas the previous year and he had loved the holidays so much.

I was having a particularly sad day this past December and decided to go outside to try to literally walk off my mood. Again, it was a windy day in our ‘hood. As I walked down the street I heard a noise behind me. The wind was blowing a Styrofoam cup down the street behind me as I walked. I noticed it, but I ignored it and just kept walking.

Oddly, I didn’t walk around the block on my usual route. For some reason (that I simply can’t recall), I got to the corner and I turned around to walk home, retracing my steps. Once again, I began hearing that Styrofoam cup being blown down the street. Once again, behind me! It had followed me down the street in my original direction and now it was following me again, going the opposite way. I got so irritated by the noise that I rolled my eyes, huffed, and chased that darn cup down to pick it up and throw it away.

When I picked up the cup, to my complete shock, I read that fateful word once again. Say it with me now, “JOY”. This “JOY” cup had actually followed me down the street going in both directions. Well if that wasn’t a message, then there have never been messages. And who cares? To me, it was loud and clear and that is the most important part of the story.

joy cup

Joy follows me. And I allow it to follow me.  I recognize that Joy lives in me and I know that I am not just Happy, but Joyful. I literally pray every day that those that I love and care about experience real Joy in their lives. I am grateful for the gentle reminders that I have been given (and even the smacks upside the head) to continue to live my life Joyfully.

Guest – Styleby Kristal

Kristal Eastman

Kristal Eastman is my hair stylist. I was trying to figure out how long I’ve been going to her. I think it’s been about eight years. I first met her when she swooped in and saved the day after one of her coworkers (at a different salon) gave me a terrible highlight job. I had been bouncing between stylist for a few years trying to land on someone new who worked closer to where I lived. One trip to her chair and I was sold and have been following her ever since.

When asked how she would describe what she does, she simply answers, “I make people beautiful.” She is a true artist and her medium is hair. Whether styling, coloring, or cutting, her business is transforming people. In the classic, but literal sense, Kristal is a beautician (I call her my stylist. It makes me feel glamorous to have a “stylist”. I think a lot people want a stylist. I do! In my mind a stylist has a different and unique perspective on … me, and an ability to guide me to enhance my own personal style. But this isn’t about me. Lol.)

my hair

Kristal has been styling hair for 11 years, beginning her career straight out of high school. She realized early on that doing hair was a real passion for her. Life before this started as it does for most of us. Going to school and trying to uncover what she wanted to do. Kristal shares, “I always had a natural skill for hair. I’ve always done hair.” I actually envy the fact that she was able to identify her passion at such a young age (as it has taken me many years beyond my young ones to figure out what my passion is). Kristal agrees by adding, “I never really had a chance to waste my time doing something else, or paying attention to something else. I found out exactly what I wanted to do at a very young age and [have continued] sticking with it over the years. There were definitely times when I thought, “Oh maybe I should be doing something else. Maybe I want to sit behind a desk,” but I always enjoyed doing hair.”

Says Kristal, “For myself, [I’m inspired by] whatever is around me. Art is all around me.” But professionally, Kristal is inspired by her clients. She says, “A lot of my inspiration is actually from [clients]. To me I always want to stick to whatever is going to bring out your style versus my style, and then follow that, and enhance it with my knowledge and my skills.” An avid follower of fashion trends and what’s current in Hollywood, she uses a lot of pictures and visual inspiration to assist her and her clients to achieve their style goals.

Kristal hair 1

Kristal is so proud of how far she has come and her consistency. She shares, “The fact that I haven’t given it up or tried something else. I mean I stick with it, which to me is really good.” She is also proud of all that she has learned over the years whether with regards to products or techniques. She’s proud of her work and how many people really depend on her to make them look good.

Kristal is always striving to provide a style and cut that her clients can recreate on their own at home. She says, “That’s always my goal. [I hope] that by the work that I put into their hair and the style of the cut, that [my clients] can go home and achieve the look that made them so happy when they left here. That makes me really happy.” She jokes about how good of a “therapist” that she is. But in truth, she says, “I’m actually really good at listening to people. That surprised me.” After seeing Kristal for the last eight years, I’ve come to know what a grounded person she is. Admittedly, she is an old soul. She laughs, “I actually enjoy giving people advice. And I’m like, I hope you take it.” (Fingers crossed.) She has gained a tremendous amount of incidental experience because of all of the personal stories that she has heard from her clients over the years. She has an excellent grasp of what is right and wrong. She goes on, “I’m really into core values. That helps a little bit. Although I’m not that great myself, but I try. That’s what’s important. Making that effort to be a decent human being and a great stylist!” LOL. (What a great combination!)

Kristal hair 2

Kristal has come to realize that an unexpected byproduct of being a professional hair stylist is having clients unload their problems on her. Kristal says, “When you listen to people, it’s so easy…you know, you care and you take their problems home. I found myself being worried or concerned about that person the next day. Or [wondering] how are they going to feel tomorrow. How are they going to deal with that issue when they get home? Whether it’s with their husband, or girlfriend or a “side chick”, [you hear] all of those different things and problems. I can’t help it. I take it home. So you really have to find a way to separate it and that’s probably the hardest thing to do, just listening and helping them and leaving it here. But peoples’ problems are concerning.” (She is such a sweet soul.)

I asked Kristal how she felt about her impact on her daughter. She jokes, “I hope that she can definitely eventually figure out how to do her own hair. I’m trying to help her to really understand how to do that. That’s the goal here.” LOL. She goes on, “I think she definitely picks up a lot from me. I hope she learns that it’s fun getting up and doing what you love to do, which is what she sees me do almost every day. I really want her to be like, “You know what, this is what I love to do I should go out there and do it.” And have fun doing it.” Her dream is for her daughter to find her own passion one day and follow it. To find something that she really wants to do and not what Kristal might want her to do.

Kristal and family

Eventually Kristal would like to own her own salon. She describes it as a little boutique with a little more style to it. Her dream includes being able to also offer a fashion element as well as incorporating a little bit of the healthy lifestyle too, by including a small gym. Says Kristal, “Ideally, owning something of my own would be the big goal, whether it’s short term or long term, eventually I hope to achieve that. So [I’m] working towards it.”

Kristal adds, “I actually love what I do and think that’s what really keeps me going. It’s fun for me. I enjoy talking to [my clients]. I’m intrigued by people. I feel that they are all special in their own unique way and that’s really what I’ve learned. No one is perfect in this world. We’re all unique and perfect in that way. Uniquely perfect, I guess.”

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To schedule an appointment with Kristal, Call LifeTime Fitness Spa at 703-266-6200.  You won’t regret it.