Easy Recipe: Homemade Basil Pesto

The weather has been odd this summer.  After years of ridiculously hot, humid air and perpetual drought, we have received an unusual amount of rain in recent months and had only a handful of what I would call hot days.  Not that I’m complaining.   I’m usually not a fan of Georgia summers.  All of this rain has kept the temperatures cool and my herb garden plentiful!

I have quite the bumper crop of basil right now.  We only have a small 4 foot by 6 foot above-ground garden and usually plant a few tomato plants, three basil plants, jalapenos, cilantro and rosemary.  The basil has gone wild, taking over half  of the garden space!  I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I made a batch of homemade basil pesto.  I prefer to make our meals from scratch whenever possible, rather than from a can or jar.  The flavor is much better when it is freshly made and there are no preservatives involved.  Plus, basil pesto is SO simple to make and only took a few minutes.  Okay, let’s get started!

Basil Pesto Ingredients


3 cups (packed) fresh basil, washed well

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt, to taste

lemon juice (optional), to prevent browning

Rinse basil well and remove leaves from stems.  Toast pine nuts over medium heat until golden.  Watch the pine nuts closely, because the burn easily!  {Side note: I’ve also read that you can substitute the pine nuts with less expensive sunflower seeds.  I personally have not tried this yet.  If you do, please let me know how it works out.}  Once the pine nuts are cooled, give them a rough chop.  Combine basil leaves, pine nuts, minced garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil in a food processor.  Blend well until you reach desired consistency.  Add more olive oil, if needed.  Once blended, add salt to taste.  Adjust any other ingredients until you reach your desired flavor and consistency.

At this point, the pesto is ready to eat!  Use it as a sauce for pasta, a condiment on a sandwich or add an burst of flavor to a grilled cheese.

If you are not serving immediately, I would recommend adding lemon juice to preserve the color.  Otherwise, the basil will brown.  The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.  Simply place the pesto in a small jar or other airtight container and top off with olive oil.

How do you use basil pesto when preparing meals?  What are some of the jarred/canned items that you prefer to make from scratch?




Thrifty Finds: Brassy Goods

While I LOVE a good thrifty furniture find, the smaller home decor items can be just as exciting.  Check out some recent finds…

Brass Bowl-Books

Books are always great for adding height and visual interest in home decor.  Although they are intended for decorating, I always try to purchase books that I would actually read or that have great photos inside.  On this trip, I picked up these vintage hardback classics half-priced at Goodwill, because they were the color of the week.  I think I paid about $1-1.50 each.

The footed brass bowl was $3.03, also found at Goodwill.  It was in rough shape when I found it.  After a fair amount of elbow grease and a baking soda and lemon solution, I was able to restore its original finish.  I may be on an island by myself, but I’m loving the brass trend in home decor.  Luckily, there are plenty of brassy gems of yore to be found at thrift stores.


Would you believe that my lovely cranes were a thrifty find…..by my husband?!   Seriously.

Quick story:  During our trip to Alaska, my husband went to run an errand with his stepfather.  His stepdad is a hard-core thrifter, who has managed to build an entire lake house using a combination of items that were left on the side of the road, discarded leftovers on construction job sites and from thrift stores.  In short, my husband was taught how to be frugal at a young age.  Anyway, he came back to the house and presented me with this lovely pair of brass cranes.  He spotted them at an Anchorage thrift store and knew that I would love them.  The best part….they were $5 for the pair and in excellent condition.



Have you used any thrifted items to decorate your home?


Monday Mantra: help others

Happy Monday!  What a beautiful weekend here in Atlanta.  It was sunny and NOT rainy for a few days in a row (we have had a crazy summer of rain!!!)  and the temperature was just lovely.  We spent our weekend enjoying good friends and neighbors and catching up on some much needed chill time at home!  Life in our household has just been NUTS lately.  A lot going on; some things good, some things challenging; but its weekends like this that remind us of how much love and support we have in our lives which makes all of those challenging moments ok.

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.
And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
~ Dalai Lama

help others

To a great week ahead!

Choose Joy!
~ Jillian

Denali National Park

In case it was not evident in this and this post, I have a serious case of wanderlust.  While I love art, architecture and experiencing other cultures, lately I’ve been drawn to visit the peaceful beauty of nature.  My husband and I are happiest when we are away from the crazy, fast-paced and congested city, breathing fresh air and taking in views of mountains, lakes and other landscapes.  I credit my husband for my appreciation of the great outdoors.  He spent a the majority of his childhood living in Alaska and would give just about anything to convince me to move to that frozen tundra to the north.

Although my husband still has family in Anchorage and we have been together for well over 10 years, I still had not visited the great state of Alaska.  He had built up a lot of hype about this place.  So, when the time came for my first visit, he insisted that we visit one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska – Denali National Park.

Park Sign

Denali National Park, is a six million acre national park in the middle of the northern Alaska wilderness.  This vast area is bisected by a single 92-mile road, accessible only by park service shuttle buses and tour buses beyond mile marker 15.  Private vehicles are permitted in the front portion of the park, prior to the gate at mile marker 15 (Savage River).

denali park map

We opted to skip the tour bus and go with the park service shuttle.  The shuttle allowed us to get off and on at any point, provided that there was room on the next shuttle.  Not a problem, because the shuttles were much less crowded.  The tour buses were FULL of the cruise ship crowd that were on a multi-day excursion to Denali.  Tip: There really isn’t a bad seat on the buses, given that there is plenty of scenery and wildlife on both sides of the road.   But, if you want to get more valley and mountain photos, I’d recommend sitting on the driver’s side of the bus in the morning and on the opposite side in the afternoon.  The park service road runs parallel to the Alaska Range (see above map).

Denali 02

Perhaps the biggest attraction to Denali National Park is the mountain itself.  Denali, meaning “The High One”, is commonly  known as Mt. McKinley.  Standing at 20,320 feet tall, Mt. McKinley is the highest peak in North America and the third largest in the world!   It is an amazing sight to witness.  We learned at the beginning of our bus ride that only 30% of the park visitors actually get to SEE the mountain, due to weather conditions in the park.  Fog, low cloud cover and/or snow on the Alaska Range obstructs the view of the mountain.   Thankfully, we were some of the extremely lucky 30% and had a clear view of Mt. McKinley on the second and third days that we were in the park!

Mt McKinley

The wildlife.  You guys, I’ve never seen anything like it.  The park service is vigilant about protecting the inhabitants of Denali and most species are thriving because of their efforts.  On the tour/shuttle buses, tourists are encouraged to look for the “Denali 5” – Bears, Wolves, Caribou, Moose & Dall Sheep.   We were told that it is extremely rare to see the wolves when we visited the park, as the population had experienced an unexplained drop in recent years.  The population was under 70 wolves in the entire six million acre park!  As you can imagine, we only saw 4 of the Denali 5.  But, wow, did we see a lot of the other 4 on the list!!

Moose Family

{Our close encounter with a moose family}



Dall Sheep

{Dall Sheep}


{Our (too close for comfort) encounter with a grizzly bear!}

Holy smokes, you guys.   This was SCARY!  We had just finished a short, yet strenuous hike up the Alpine Trail, enjoying the beautiful view of Mt. McKinley and the valley below.  The vista offered a 360-degree view of the park.  As a fellow hiker turned to look behind us, she gasped, “Oh my, a bear!”  NOT the words you want to hear when you have a mile of continuous steep downhill terrain separating you from the nearest shelter.  The bear, what we are estimating to be a 400-pound grizzly, was casually making his way across the vista, parallel to our location and heading in the opposite direction of the trail.  We were all amazed by this site, but quickly noticed that there were hikers further along the vista and walking straight toward the path of said grizzly bear.

Panicked for our fellow hikers, we yelled “Bear!!!!” and started waving our hands in the air, to warn them.  See, this was not a wise move.  The grizzly heard us, stopped walking and looked in our direction.  We kept waving our arms, because we had been told that it intimidates them.  Not this grizzly.  He suddenly stood on his hind legs and faced us.  Now, let me pause and set the stage for you….because the camera just doesn’t illustrate the proximity well.  The park service warns to never come within 300 yards of a bear, because it increases the likelihood of an attack.  We were less than 100 yards from this bear!!!

Bear 2

Yes, I was scared.  Thankfully, the bear lost interest in us and kept moseying along the vista….toward our fellow hikers.  As luck would have it, the bear saw a ground squirrel hop into a burrow and began digging for it.  While the bear was distracted, the other hikers were able to hike down the backside of the vista, behind some rocks and make it over to our location.  Eventually, Mr. Grizzly made his way down the mountain well out of our view.  A collective sigh of relief was exhaled and we (quickly) made our way back down to the shuttle and visitor’s center…..only to be greeted by this guy AT the visitor’s center.

Bear 3

Yep, I’m the crazy tourist who was snapping photos of the 500-pound grizzly who was charging toward the visitor’s center.  Don’t judge.  I promise that I wasn’t the only one.  Immediately after this photo was snapped, a park ranger gave me a good shove toward the building and we were all locked inside until the grizzly left the area.

Despite a couple of scary animal encounters, I enjoyed every moment of our trip to Denali National Park.  And, now, I’ll let the pictures do all the talking.  Words just can’t describe the beauty and serenity of the park.

Mt Healy Overlook

Mt Healy Hike 2

Mt Healy Hike

Mirror Lake

Denali Trees

Denali 06

Denali 05

Denali 01

Alpine Peak

I hope you have the opportunity to visit Alaska and Denali National Park.  It truly is “The Last Frontier,” unspoiled nature at its finest.  The trip was an experience that I will never forget!  Check back soon for part two of our Alaskan adventure.

Safe travels, my friends.


Thrifty Finds – Dresser Makeover

Before-After Fish Stand

If Pinterest and DIY blogs have taught me anything, it would be the ability to look at an item and see its potential rather than its current state.  Because, really, some items at thrift stores can be dirty, dated or in a downright sad state.   Sure, it may take some work and maybe some additional money.  But, let’s say that you find a piece of furniture that has the right shape or dimensions for your space.  With a little work, you could transform it to the exact color, finish and style that fits your home.

A perfect example is this sweet find at my local Goodwill store….

Before Fish Stand

An impressive combination of colors, wouldn’t you say?  The dresser had paint flaking on all sides, a dent in the base and was pretty basic in appearance.  Still, the dresser was solid wood and fit all my requirements for height, width, storage space and durability.  So, much to the dismay of my husband, we shelled out $20 and loaded her up in the car.

First, I attacked the multi-colored, flaking exterior with a palm sander and 150 grit sandpaper.  After I took off most of the paint, I switched to a fine grit sandpaper.  This step helped to smooth the surface for primer and paint.  After wiping the whole thing down with a tack cloth, I was left with this….

Fish Stand After Paint 2

Believe it or not, this is the look of progress.

After removing the chunky piece on the front of the cabinet (in order to start with a flat surface), it was time to give this dresser a new look.  I added 3.5″ tall pieces of molding around the base of the dresser (with help from the hubby), to give it a more finished look and to cover up the dent on the bottom side.  Using a miter saw, we cut each corner at a 45 degree angle, nailed all four sides into place and used wood putty to fill the corners, nail holes and any other gaps.

Fish Stand Moulding

After a quick sanding and wipe down, it was time for primer and paint.  I used Zinsser primer and Benjamin Moore Advance Waterborne Interior Alkyd paint in a satin finish, color matched to Valspar’s Fired Earth.  Using a combination of foam roller for the flat surfaces and an angled brush for corners and detail work, I applied two coats of primer and three coats of paint.

After reading several bloggers’ suggestions, I let it “cure” for a couple of weeks.  With proper curing time, the Benjamin Moore Advanced paint dries to form an enamel like surface.  No poly or wax coating was needed to finish the dresser.  I’d highly recommend this paint brand for furniture, if you are not planning on distressing.

Fish Stand After Paint

The Benjamin Moore Advanced paint is self-leveling, which is a fancy way of saying that the brush strokes and roller marks disappear while the paint dries.  I didn’t believe it until I saw the third coat go on.  The finish was so smooth and there were no brush or roller marks to be seen.

Fish Stand Smooth Finish

Fish Stand Corners

Once properly cured, it was time to add some visual interest.  This piece was pretty boxy and bland on its own, even after a good sanding and fresh coat of paint.  Using this, this and this as inspiration from Pinterest, I decided to add some nail head trim to the drawer fronts.   I found a roll of nail head trim online, in an Antique Gold finish.  The 5 foot roll of faux nail heads comes with matching nails, which are hammered in at every 5th nail head.

Nailhead Trim

Attaching Nailhead Trim

Once I figured out the measurements, cut and bent to faux nail head trim to the right angles, I got busy hammering it to the drawer fronts.  It was a little tricky, at first.  Once I attached the first line of trim, it was easy peasy.  I’d definitely recommend using faux nailhead trim.  It would be perfect for upholstered headboard or detail on a fabric chair.

Once the trim was attached, I added new drawer pulls and called it done.

So, what do you think of the finished product?!

Fish Stand Finished

Remember…don’t shy away from the ugly hidden gems at thrift stores or garage sales.  They could easily be transformed into beautiful and functional pieces for your home.

Happy Shopping!


Monday Mantra: desiderata

This was a weekend of Love.

For some of my dearest it was a weekend spent celebrating new love and the start of a new life together (huge congrats and lots of love to Jennifer & Tim on their wedding weekend; I am so excited for what life holds for you two!)

For me it was a weekend spent with my family celebrating the life and love that emanated from one very special lady.  We caught up with each other and took full advantage of the short time we had together.  Sharing stories and reminiscing of the fun and eventful moments of our family’s past.  I love hearing how my Granny touched so many people in her life in so many different ways.  Stories of how she shared laughter, love and joy with those around her.  I learned this weekend, that this poem was something very special to her throughout her life and I think it speaks to the person she was and will continue to be in our hearts.



Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

~ Max Ehrmann 1927

Lots of love to my family.  It was truly a wonderful weekend!!  And most importantly a GIANT dose of love to my Granny.  You will be missed in this life, but I have no doubt you are forever with us, reminding us to laugh and share our joy with those around us.

~ Jillian

Curry Chicken & Chickpeas

Its no secret that i’m a bit of a crockpot junky.  Its fast, easy and a bit of a no brainer when it comes to pulling together an easy and healthy dinner.  AND people are always asking me for crock-pot ideas.   I promise you I do other things besides cook in the crockpot {every now and then} but these are just SO simple and easy I have to share!!  Crockpot recipes are the best to use the “add a little of this and a pinch of that” technique – which happens to be my favorite way to cook.  So feel free to add a bit more spice if you like it or even omit the hot sauce all together if you don’t!  Make it your own…YUMM


Curry Chicken & Chickpeas


  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 can chickpeas {rinsed}
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • curry seasoning
  • minced garlic {or garlic powder}
  • cilantro {or parsley}
  • lime juice
  • greek yogurt
  • sriracha or other hot sauce
  • rice or quinoa


  • Place chicken breasts & chickpeas in crockpot and cover with chicken stock.  Add curry seasoning and garlic.  Cook approx 2 hours on high {or until chicken can be easily shredded with a fork}
  • Add additional broth if necessary or even mix in some greek yogurt at the end to thicken up the sauce
  • Add a handful of chopped cilantro and lime juice to mixture.
  • Serve over rice or quinoa with plain greek yogurt, hot sauce and fresh cilantro

Happy eating
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: i spy love

Happy Monday!  What a crazy week and weekend its been.  Lots of changes going on around here which makes for exhausting days, a lot of daydreaming and plenty of fun celebrations!  Last week I finished up my final week at a firm i’ve spent almost 10 years at!!??!!  So many wonderful memories to hold on to and lots of excited jitters about the next chapter in my career!  So to help me make this transition I spent the weekend surrounded by loved ones.  The hubs and I were enjoying a dinner out together one night when we noticed a sweet old man glancing our way, he made his way over to us and paused to say…

“Nice to see so much love in the eyes and in the heart…keep it that way!”

What a thoughtful message from someone that has had so many more years to experience love in his life.  Wherever you are out there…Thank you so much for stopping to share your joy with us and for reminding us how important it is to always hold love close!


So this week I hope you can take a second to hold close the ones you love (even if it is just holding onto a memory) and remember that love is really what life is all about so SHARE it!  This world could use a little extra love spread around!!

~ Jillian

Outlet Eye Sore

One of these things is not like the other, One of these things just doesn’t belong…seeing visions of Sesame Street anyone?!  This is the story of one sweet little designer who had it out for one evil white kitchen island outlet {stay with me…I promise it gets less weird}


It has been so much fun getting settled into our new house.  So much to do, a list of things that just keeps getting longer and longer; but so much comfort, happiness and joy too!  As you settle into new digs you begin to see things that you might not have noticed when you previously walked thru the house.  Some of those things start to grate on your nerves until they are the ONLY THINGS YOU SEE.
Clearly its a bit of an occupational hazard that I notice when things are crooked, uneven, unbalanced or say…blaringly the wrong color.  {I’ve been known to straighten a few crooked pictures in public spaces in my days…just doing my part to make this world a more beautiful place I guess.}  So you can imagine why the bright shiny white outlet on my beautiful dark espresso wood kitchen island {that is visible from pretty much the entire first floor} was overstaying his welcome.  I needed to change his color and FAST!

{WARNING: the image below might be disturbing to some.  Prepare yourself…}


So outlet Make-over was a must!  There are many many different ways we could accomplish this update; I was looking for something inexpensive, fairly easy to accomplish, and something that utilized at least some of the existing “parts & pieces”.

Step 1: Remove existing outlet cover with a screwdriver.  (be safe here folks, turn off power to the outlet, be sure to keep little munchkin fingers away from the exposed outlet and just use your general common sense)

step 1

Step 2: Install new outlet cover that better coordinates with the cabinet color.  I found this lovely ORB (oil rubbed bronze) beauty at Walmart!  Love how its not the EXACT same color as the cabinet (no matchy matchy here folks) but its a beautiful compliment to the cabinet.

Step 2

Step 3: The new cover was already a HUGE improvement but those white outlets were still little dots of white awfulness.  One option would be to replace the actual outlets with new ones, but that was not on the top of my list, so I needed a solution that would transform the existing babies.  Enter a combination of paint, paint pens and {gasp} even a little sharpie action.  To test out the perfect combo I did a few test patches on the old white outlet cover.  (its not only the same color as the outlets its also the same type of material)

Step 3

(this is my…”I can’t believe i’m actually using a sharpie on my brand new outlets” face)

Do it

Ta-Da!  Brand new-ish outlet!  The final winning combo was a base layer of black sharpie followed by several coats of Folk Art: Burnt Umber acrylic paint.  (Note: I did remove the cover to finish off the paint job)


Quite a difference isn’t it!  I no longer twitch when I look into the kitchen.

before after

So moral of the story…Don’t be afraid to tackle those tricky eye sores in your home!  Got any unmentionables you are looking to make-over? Questions about how to give them a facelift?  Send in your questions…let the HSE girls take a stab at it (and who knows…your fabulous make-over just might make an appearance on the blog!!)

Happy DIY-ing
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: the Best

Oh my there has been so much going on lately…this HSE girl is a little exhausted to be honest!  But with everything going on, there is so much good; so many reasons to be thankful and joyful.  The times in my life that seem to be the busiest and the most crazy are also the times that I realize how blessed I really am and how many amazingly supportive and awesome people I have in my “corner”.  So on this lovely monday, Cheers to all my loved ones; to all my friends and family that lift me up and inspire me to be the best version of me that I can be.  And to remind me that in the end what matters most is having those we love around us {some in person, some long distance and some in our hearts}.

“Be with those that bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.”




And what would life be without a lot of laughter {and a few goofy faces thrown in there for good measure!}

~ Jillian