Monday Mantra: give

Good Morning!  I hope you had a fabulous weekend!  We snuck off last week for a much needed vacation and enjoyed a little R & R at the beautiful beach in Sandestin!!  Such a wonderful trip; made lots of great memories, caught up on rest and soaked in as much sunshine as we possibly could!!  Now its back to the grind and getting settled back into life!

“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a LIFE by what we give”

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.21.23 AM

Happy Monday!
~ Jillian

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Great Hikes: Gahuti Mountain Trail, Fort Mountain State Park, GA

Waaaaaaaaaaay back at the beginning of summer, the husband and I went on a longer hike at Fort Mountain State Park, just west of one of our favorite hiking areas {the Cohutta Wilderness}.  We tend to shy away from state parks, preferring the solitude of lesser traveled trails.  Well, we were pleasantly surprised by the well-maintained trails, the impressive views, and the abundance of wildlife.  Even though we were near park roads and campgrounds at a few points during the hike, most of the trail was quiet and peaceful offering that away from it all feeling that we crave.


*All photos were taken with a cell phone, because I’m not a fan of hiking with camera equipment.  Hopefully you can still get an idea of the gorgeous scenery this trail offers  : )

Gahuti Mountain Trail – Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth, GA

Distance: 8.2 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain:  500 feet, total elevation change of 4,000 feet along entire trail
Difficulty Level: Moderate to difficult (due to longer distance)
Trail Features: Long-range views, stream crossings, rocky paths, waterfalls, wildlife, campsites (permit required)

The Gahuti Mountain Backcountry Trail is a loop trail within Fort Mountain State Park.  The park itself is beautiful, full of activities and well-maintained.  While the park is great for families, this park is in the middle of bear country.  Therefore, all backcountry hikers are required to sign in at the ranger station and obtain a hiking permit.  We did not see any bears on our hike, but every other person we encountered had either heard about or seen a family of bears on the trail that day.

At the trailhead, you can begin the hike by heading either east or west on the Gahuti Loop.  I recommend the East Loop, saving the platform overlook for the end of your hike.


The first part of the trail closely parallels the park road, before veering toward the left and descending the mountain through a forest of mature trees and dense underbrush.



About 1.5 miles into the hike, the trail crosses Mill Creek via a foot bridge.  Turning right, the trail passes through a dense rhododendron forest as it follows the creek and passes backcountry campsite #1.



From the creek, the trail gains elevation quickly.  The trail then follows a ridge, as it meanders south toward the park entrance.  Reaching the park entrance at 2.7 miles, the trail cross the park road and continues uphill.

The trail is very well-marked with orange blazes.  There seemed to be an orange blaze every 3-4 trees.  At each road crossing, signs are marked with the trail name pointing hikers to the next segment of the trail.


After crossing the road, the trail continues to gain elevation.  This segment of the trail doubles as a park service road and is quite wide.


At 3.5 miles, a clearing appears on the left to reveal a beautiful view to the south and a bench to rest and enjoy the view.


From the overlook, the trail continues to ascend the mountain through another mature forest of towering trees, then crossing another roadway.  The trail continues on the opposite side of the road, passes through fields of rocks and boulders.


Shortly thereafter, the trail closes in again as it descends into a valley and passes through another forest of rhododendron and other flowering shrubs.  The timing of our hike (late May) was perfect and we were able to see a full display of blooms on the rhododendron, wild azaleas, and mountain laurel.  Needless to say, the trail was fragrant and featured a beautiful display of colors.



At 5.5 miles, the trail encounters Goldmine Branch Falls.  This makes a great place to rest or enjoy a snack, but beware in warmer months.  We saw two copperhead snakes in this area!




Departing the falls, follow the log “steps” up the hill and take the footbridge across Goldmine Branch Creek.


From this point, the trail traverses the west side of the mountain following the ridge through dense woods and past enormous boulders on the right side of the trail.  Occasionally, the trees open up to reveal a peek at the farmland and forest below.



The last mile of the trail is quiet, heavily wooded and mostly uphill, as you travel around the northwestern portion of the mountain and out of a valley.


All of your efforts are rewarded with the incredible, long-range view of the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the west overlook viewing platform at the end of the trail.


Although early summer was gorgeous, we are eager get back to hike Gahuti Mountain Backcountry Trail again this fall.  The views from the overlooks must be spectacular, once the green gives way to the rich gold, orange and red hues in the canopy.

- Brittany

Design School: creating Ikat

We’ve chatted about how beautiful Ikat fabric is before here at HSE, we’ve even shown you a fantastic resource for scoring some Ikat pillows, fabric and accessories of your very own!  But did you know how complicated and skilled the process of creating this gorgeous fabric is?!?!  I had NO idea and i’m in aww at the talented folks that have mastered the creation of these fabrics.

From a  design standpoint, Ikat is a wonderful way to add pattern, a color pop and even that final finishing detail to a space.  The patterns can pull together a color palette by incorporating colors together in an unexpected way.  Although many are bright and full of bold colors, some are subtle and soft and just add a beautiful pattern and texture to a more neutral space.  I have examples of both in my house and I LOVE how they add a cheerful punch!

There are two ways to color a fabric: to print the colors and designs to the already made fabric or to color the threads first and weave them together. The easier and more efficient way is to just print onto the fabric, whereas dying the threads first requires much skill. Ikat is a type of fabric that is dyed before it is woven. So how it works is that very skilled artisans arrange bundles of silk threads next to each other tightly. Then they bind these bundles in patterns they want to create on the fabric. This in itself is very time consuming work.


Then, these bundles are dyed. The threads are dipped into the dye. The bound parts of the silk do not receive the color whereas the unbound, exposed parts are colored. The tightly bound areas are waxed before dyeing so that the dye does not penetrate when the bundles are soaked in the dye.

men on loom

Fabrics that are more than two colors have to be bound and dyed more than once. This requires immense skill and time.  Lastly, the threads are woven on looms by hand.


on loom

The entire process is very demanding and labor intensive. The most skilled artisan could at most make about 2 yards of fabric per day.


You can check out some of these amazing fabrics, and pillowcases that have been made from these fabrics at the amazing and talented SilkWay.

Happy Decorating!!
~ Jillian

Recent Reads – July and August

Well, hello!  At the risk of sounding like a broken record…where has time gone?!   The husband and I had a busy couple of months, even with him having the summer off from grad school.  We enjoyed lots of time with family, with friends and with each other.  It was just what the our souls needed, before he begins the LAST semester of grad school!  We have just returned from an end-of-summer adventure to South Dakota, and I can’t wait to share the details!  Until then, I’m happy to report that I’m back to blogging regularly and hope you enjoy the last couple of months worth of book reviews.

July-August Recent Reads2

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City reads like fiction, but is a recount of actual events that took place in the 1890’s.  While the World’s Columbian Exposition committee struggles to bring the fair plans to fruition, a serial killer is silently preying on the influx of new residents and visitors of Chicago.   Erik Larson does a fabulous job of telling the real-life unfolding of events surrounding Chicago’s World Fair of 1893.  It was fascinating to read about all of the the present day products and brands that were first revealed at the Fair and the then-unknown influential individuals who were inspired by or involved with the Fair.  Larson poured over the hundreds of newspaper articles, written letters, Exposition pamphlets, trial transcripts, and other documents, in order to piece together the events.  That said, he was passionate and long-winded, at times, about the architecture and development of the Exposition grounds.   Between all of the details of the Exposition are snippets of the life and happenings of the sinister H.H. Holmes and to those he employed or provided services.  It was almost as if you were reading two books in one.  The character development of H.H. Holmes was terrific, keeping me in suspense during those chapters.

A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
This book was one so good!  Maybe because I love to hike in the Georgia portion of the AT?  Or maybe because I read it just before leaving for a hiking and camping adventure in South Dakota?  Either way, Bill Bryson had me laughing out loud at various points during A Walk in the Woods, and wishing I had the time to hike the Appalachian Trail.  Without realizing the arduous conditions of the trail, Bill announces to his family, friends and publisher that he will hike the entire 2,184 mile Appalachian Trail.   Of course, he had not trained and did not own camping equipment.  Somehow, he convinces an out-of-shape friend to join him on the adventure.   His personal account of the rigorous hike is peppered with hilarious stories and historical anecdotes about the AT and the towns  he encountered along his travels.  A must-read for all trail enthusiasts!

The Pact, Jodi Picoult
The Pact immediately begins with the gruesome discovery of two teens, Chris and Emily, covered in blood from apparent gunshots and Emily’s subsequent death.  The two were very close childhood friends and neighbors, bonded by their parents’ close relationships.  Eventually, their friendship blossomed into love.  Next comes the revelation that Emily was shot in the head, while the second bullet – intended for Chris – was never discharged.  The two teens had formed a suicide pact.  Doubt immediately creeps in and tears their two families apart, while the local authorities investigate further into Chris’ version of what happened that night.   This was the first book I have read by Picoult and rather enjoyed her writing.  The character development was great (although I despised a couple of them!) and continued throughout the novel.  The plot twists and suspense kept me intrigued until the very end.  Overall, I enjoyed the book despite the heavy topics involved.

What have you been reading lately?  Any good recommendations?

- Brittany

Monday ~er~ Tuesday Mantra: positive thought

Welcome back from a fabulous holiday weekend!!  I hope you and yours enjoyed some time off and got in some relaxation!  We took a different approach to the weekend and decided to go tromping thru the woods!!  3 beautiful days in the wilderness brought me so much peace, calmness and positivity (and a VERY welcome shower when we returned!)  It was a wonderful way to escape from the craziness of normal life for a bit and relax to the sounds of rushing water and the trees moving in the breeze.  We did have a crazy wild storm one of the nights (which lead to a middle of the night tent-duct-taping-inncodent) but other then that it was a fabulous trip!!

“Every positive thought propels you in the right direction”

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 8.44.52 AM(a beautiful waterfall along our hike at Pantertown Valley)

Oh and one more AMAZING thing…my beautiful niece Annabelle decided to make her entrance into the world!!!  I was SO thankful to be in the room when she was born…a TRULY awesome experience!!!  I am so incredibly blessed to be Auntie to two of the world’s cutest little ladies and cannot wait to be apart of their lives as they grow.  This was absolutely a weekend filled with love, energy and overwhelming JOY!

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 8.41.34 AM(in love with these two!!)

I hope you had an amazing weekend and have a fabulous week coming up.  Live each day to the fullest and remember to pause and enjoy those little (or BIG) moments of Joy!!

~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: Laughter

Hiya and happy monday to you!!  I hope you had a great weekend filled with joy and a few good laughs.  This year seems to be flying by so fast, its hard to believe that the summer is over, kids are back in school and its almost time for football season!!  We are trying to squeeze out every last bit of outside summer time fun that we can before we have to give in (and in our neck of the woods this weather is giving us one final dose of HOT & HUMID!) So we spent the weekend outside working in the garden, enjoying some time by the pool, even played a few good rounds of glow in the dark bocce ball (I have quite a few mosquito bites to show for it!!).  As these days fly by and life seems to get just a little bit crazier; my goal is to enjoy each day to the fullest…get the most out of those moments we have with our loved ones and find joy in the ordinary whenever possible!!

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
~ E.E. Cummings


Choose Joy (and laughter)
~ Jillian

Design School: unconventional artwork

When decorating your home, what goes on the walls really adds a layer of depth and interest to your space.  Its like the jewelry to a fabulous outfit…The icing on a delicious cake!  So when it comes to the things on your walls…go unconventional!  Artwork is lovely and absolutely a great solution for decorating your space…BUT there are so many other fabulous options out there.  Think outside the box…there is NO wrong thing!!  The trick is to go NUTZ but focus that in one great area.  If you want to put baskets all over the wall DO IT…and do it to fill out and balance that wall in the room!  Here are some other fantastic out of the box options to dress up your space…


wall map

vintage flash cards

plants on wall

wall flowers

random artwork

hats on wall

crazy artwork


wall plates

bike on wall




Be brave and add a little jewelry to your space!!

Happy Decorating
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: happens

Happy Monday to you!  I hope you had a fabulous weekend and that you feel refreshed and ready for the week ahead.  We spent the weekend catching up on some much needed rest, enjoyed some time catching up with friends and got out to enjoy a few minutes of sunshine amongst an off and on stormy weekend.  We also welcomed a new tree to our family (check out my instagram feed to meet “Charlie”…he’s pretty fantastic!!)  All in all it was a fabulous “planned Un-planned weekend!

“We need to stop analyzing the past and stop planning the future
Stop deciding with our minds what we want our hearts to feel
We have to go with whatever happens…happens”



Have a  fantastic week and just try to go with the flow!
~ Jillian

Design Details: GREEN!

There are so many wonderful colors out there…sometimes its hard to choose a favorite!  I can NEVER answer the question “what is your favorite color?”.  Its just not possible!  I love them all and my mind is constantly changing.  So instead of choosing…i just jump from color to color, loving and appreciating how wonderful they all are!!  Today i’m in a green mood.  Specifically a lovely rich shade of Emerald green!!

green door{source}

green sofa{source}

green cabinets{source}

green chair{source}

green outdoor{source}

green library{source}

green legs{source}

green tile floor{source}

green bathroom{source}

Does anyone else have the urge to grab a can of green paint and go to town?!?!!?

~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: Now

It’s monday…a {hopefully} fabulous weekend has come to a close and we look ahead to the start of a new week.  I hope you took advantage of a couple beautiful days off and were able to do something that makes you happy!  This year is completely flying by (hello AUGUST) and its hard to believe that it is nearing the end of summer!  With time whizzing by us…all the more reason to be sure that you are enjoying each and every moment and not letting any time go to waste.  Wether you are relaxing and allowing yourself some down time or running around keeping busy, take advantage of every second and live life to the fullest!!

“Enjoy life NOW
 this is not a rehearsal”


Choose Joy!
~ Jillian