Great Hikes: Blood Mountain, Blairsville, GA

With a few recent days of cool temperatures, I was excited to try out a new hike in North Georgia with my hiking buddy over the weekend.  We were hoping to see the changing colors in the leaves and definitely saw the beginnings of the Fall colors.  The Blood Mountain hike is more heavily traveled than most, due to a large segment of it being on the Appalachian Trail.  I thoroughly enjoyed this hike, despite the strenuous hills and switchbacks at the beginning.  I guess it is best to get those out of the way early though 🙂


Blood Mountain Trail – Chattahoochee National Forest, Blairsville, GA
Distance: 6.2 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain:  1,800 ft
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous (elevation)
Trail Features: forest, rock outcroppings, long-range views, Appalachian Trail

 With an elevation of 4,459 ft, Blood Mountain is the second highest peak in Georgia and the highest peak in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail.  The Blood Mountain loop trail is comprised of three trails on the southern edge of Vogel State Park.  The loop begins at the Byron Herbert Reece Access trailhead, located just off of US 19/29.  My advice would be to arrive early, due to limited parking at the Byron Herbert Reece trailhead.


The Byron Herbert Reece Access trail  travels through a forest of rhododendron.  The terrain becomes fairly steep as you climb stone steps and switchbacks, gaining about 400 feet in elevation.



After 0.7 miles, you will reach a three-way intersection.  Turn right to follow the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) up Blood Mountain.  The terrain along this segment of the Appalachian Trail is quite steep, with an elevation gain of nearly 1,400 feet in the 2.1 miles up to the top of Blood Mountain.  Your hard work is first rewarded after about 0.8 miles, with your first glimpse of the view.



Continuing on the trail, the terrain becomes steeper and features switchbacks until you reach the second clearing, at the 1.4 mile mark.   At this point, you will climb up steep boulders to a level area with a stunning view.  Take advantage of this area for a water break and enjoy the view.  As you continue to gain elevation, the temperature drops substantially.  Be sure to bring layers, if you are hiking in Fall/Winter months.


At the summit, you will find a primitive shelter, built in the 1930s for hikers on the Appalachian Trail.   Climb the rocky area to the right of the shelter, to enjoy the a snack and the long-range views from Picnic Rock.




From the summit, you will head down Blood Mountain on the opposite side from which you ascended, following the Appalachian Trail southwest toward Bird Gap.  The Freeman Trail (blue blazes) will be located on the left.  The trail will be significantly more dense and appear not as heavily traveled, compared to the Appalachian Trail and Byron Herbert Reece Trail portions of the hike.   The 1.8 mile Freeman Trail traverses around the side and base of Blood Mountain, making the terrain very rocky at times.  Although there are no views from the Freeman Trail, this portion of the hike is quiet and peaceful.




Once you return to the three-way intersection at the end of the Freeman Trail, cross over the Appalachian Trail to return to the trailhead via the Byron Herbert Reece trail.


If you care for a shorter hike, you could do the 4.3 mile out-and-back trek of the Byron Herbert Reece trail to the summit of Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail and return the same way back down the mountain.  The Vogel State Park map shows this loop at the bottom, with the trailhead parking lot appearing just north of Neels Gap and the Byron Herbert Reece trail and Freeman trail appearing in blue.

The Blood Mountain trail was perfect for a Fall hike.  But, the stunning long-range views make this a great hike any time of the year!  Have you been on any great hikes recently?  (Like this post?  You can read the first of our series of Great Hikes here.)

– Brittany


Monday Mantra: Find the good

Top o’ the morning to you!  What a lovely weekend it was.  We did a little early Halloween celebrating, enjoyed some fun times with our neighbors…And WOW do they sure know how to throw a fun party!!  We also FINALLY had some time to just be.  Enjoy our house…relax…get things done…and it was lovely!!  (and much needed!!)  Sunday afternoon we were visited by a cute little deer family! They spent a few minutes poking around our yard, scoping out our plants for possible yummy treats.  It was such a calm moment and beautiful thing to watch!!  Our sweet animal visitors reminded me that in the craziness of life its so important to stop sometimes and breath.  Take in the beauty around you and see the good!

“Every day may not be good…but there’s something good in every day.”

deer(source unknown)

Choose Joy!!
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: tracks

She’s baaaa-ack!!!  I snuck away last week!  Me and my boy made the trek down to St.Pete Beach last week for a MUCH needed vacation!  We met some of my family there and enjoyed some beach time and some long over due family time!  What a great week that went by way too fast, was filled with lots of  laughs and was just what the doctor ordered!  My number one favorite thing about being at the beach is the calm that comes over you when your feet hit the sand, you smell the sea air and the sound of the waves surrounds you.  It’s like no other!  But today it’s back to business.  Time to get back into the swing of things!

“We will forever be known by the tracks we leave behind us.”

footprints on the beach

I hope you have a great week and are able to stop and take in the moments as you go thru the week.  Take in the beauty of the things going on around you!

With Joy
~ Jillian

** Stay tuned for lots of fun holiday crafts, gift guides and recipes to make your mouth water!!

Up, Up…and Away!

This past weekend, I visited some great friends in Anderson, South Carolina.  On Saturday morning, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and ventured out for some hiking in the mountains of western South Carolina, right at the Georgia border.  I’ll post more about those hikes later.   Today, I want to tell you about our afternoon at Balloons Over Anderson, an annual hot air balloon festival!


Balloons Over Anderson is a weekend long hot air balloon festival, hosted by local balloonists and volunteers.  The event is free to the public and features several coordinated launches of up to 25 hot air balloons and hired hot air balloon flights.  They even do a balloon launch at dusk, with illuminated balloons!  I was not able to see the dusk launch, but I bet it is an amazing sight.

There were other activities on-site, to entertain children and adults between balloon launches.  In addition to your typical festival food tents and other vendors, there were carnival-type rides for the kids and local band performances.  They also had a few balloon-related activities for all budgets, including a $10 tethered balloon ride, a $200 hot-air balloon flight and a $1 balloon walk, which allowed patrons to walk inside of a partially inflated hot-air balloon.


Inside Hot Air Balloon


Once the hot-air balloon operators arrived, they began assembling the baskets and inflating the balloons.  It was fascinating to watch them pull those enormous balloons out of the backs of vans or trailers and assemble them within a few yards of where we were sitting.  Once the operators finished the basket assembly, they attached the burner system and tested it.  At this point, the rest of the crew would begin to inflate the balloons.  I was surprised to see that they use large fans to start the process, before switching over to the burner to upright the balloon.









The balloons launched at varying rates, making the whole show last about 20-25 minutes.  By the time the last balloon launched, there were 25 hot-air balloons dotting the sky over Anderson.  It was such a neat thing to witness!

My friends are Anderson residents and have been to Balloons Over Anderson numerous times.  They told me that some of the the same balloon operators come every year, but there are usually a few new balloons added in with the regulars.  We saw a balloon crew that had traveled from Pennsylvania!


If you live within a couple of hours of Anderson, you could easily make a day trip out of visiting Balloons Over Anderson.  I hope to make this event part of my Fall traditions, along with our annual trip to the apple orchards and Amicalola Falls.

Do you have any Fall traditions that you enjoy with family?  Is anyone planning to head to the pumpkin patch this weekend?


Fall Favorites: all things Yummy

Oh fall.  How i Love you!!  Crisp cool air, leaves falling, FOOTBALL, boots & scarves…but most of all I love fall for all (try saying that 3 times fast) of the delicious and mouth watering foods that come around this time of year!!  Pumpkin things, warm comforting soup kinds of things, apple yummy things, squash things.  Really there are so many YUMMY things!!  I took a poll of some of my favorite ladies for the things that make their mouths water this time of year, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised with some out of the “typical fall” box recipes they sent my way!!  So get ready…you are about to be hungry!!

Apple Pie Dip

apple pie dip(image & recipe source)

Apple Pie Dip (submitted by one of HSE’s most rockin contributors Brittany!)


  • 2 cups peeled, cored & diced apples
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water


  • Combine all ingredients in a small pan (except the cornstarch / water mixture)
  • Heat to a bowl (allow the mixture to extract some of the juice from the apples)
  • Add cornstarch / water mixture and bring back to a boil; until sauce has thickened
  • Sauce can be served warm or chilled; with chips, crackers or even something sweet!!

“I was on a hunt for unique and healthy ways to use up a HUGE pile of apples that we picked at a N. Georgia apple orchard.  Mike and I had been on a day hike, visiting the spot where we got engaged and heard there was an apple orchard down the road.  The dip is always a hit at gatherings….first tested out at PCGGE.  Best served with cinnamon sugar pita chips.” ~ Brittany

Cajun Crockpot Boiled Peanuts

boiled pnuts(image source)

Cajun crockpot boiled peanuts
  • 8-10 cups green/raw peanuts (NOT roasted or dried or salted), washed/rinsed off (in shell)
  • 2 Tbs. cajun seasonings
  • 4-6 whole garlic cloves
  • two lemons, quartered
  • 1 cup carrot sticks (chop sticks so they’re about 2 inches long each. essentially half the sticks-in-a-bag)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • water
  • Put all ingredients in a crock pot and cover with water.
  • Turn crockpot to high, and cook COVERED about 8-10 hours.
  • Boiled peanuts can take a long time, so test one at 10 hours, and if need be, go to 12 hours if the peanut isn’t firm but easily smushed.
“These are modeled off the cajun boiled peanuts at Twains in Decatur, one of my favorite places EVER!” ~ the Mayo
Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
(image source)
Cheesy Cauliflower Soup (submitted by HSE’s favorite momma!)

  • 1 c chopped green onion
  • 1T olive oil
  • 4 c chicken broth
  • 16 oz frozen or fresh cauliflowerets
  • 1/4 c all purpose flour (Gluten free)
  • 1 1/2 c shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/4 c roasted red peppers, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 t hot pepper sauce
  • Saute onion in oil in saucepan about 3 minutes or until tender.
  • Add 3 cups broth. Bring to boiling. Add cauliflower. If frozen, I rinse with cold water until defrosted; return to boiling.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Cook about 6 minutes or until almost tender if using fresh.
  • Whisk together flour in the remaining 1 c of broth in a small bowl.  Stir into the saucepan.  Bring soup to boiling; cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.
  • Remove soup from heat.  Add cheese, stirring until melted. Stir in roasted red peppers and hot pepper seasoning.
“I usually make a larger batch….it reheats wonderfully and you can add more cheese as you reheat.” ~ HSE momma
Jalapeno Cornbread
(image source)
Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread (submitted by HSE’s favorite foodie Sarah)
  • 1 cup self-rising yellow corn meal mix
  •  ½ cup self-rising flour
  •  2 eggs, beaten
  •  1 cup milk
  •  2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos
  •  1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  •  1 small onion chopped
  •  1 cup creamed corn
  •  ⅓ cup oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  •  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Grease an 8 or 9-inch pan or skillet.
  • Combine all ingredients and bake 40 minutes or until golden brown
“This corn bread makes a great side for chilis, spicy gumbos, and hearty soups. Yum! Fall is my favorite time of year to cook up a storm!” ~ Sarah
Maple Glazed Salmon
(image source)
Maple Glazed Salmon (submitted by the fabulous and always lovely Maren)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 lb salmon
  • In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper.
  • Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake salmon uncovered 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork.
Time to EAT!  Happy Fall Ya’ll!
~ Jillian

Great Hikes: Sawnee Mountain Preserve

We have decided to start a new series – Great Hikes!   We plan to share our hiking adventures in Georgia, the Southeast and beyond.  In addition to sharing some of our favorite trails, we’re hoping that gives us a good push to trying out some new ones too.  Enjoy!

View from Indian Seats

Indian Seats Trail
Distance: 3.5 mile (loop)
Difficulty Level: Easy
Trail Features: 180-degree summit views, abandoned mine shafts, Native American history

We had a warm and sunny weekend in Atlanta over the weekend.  My husband and I typically make the hour plus drive to the North Georgia mountains for hikes, but we were getting quite a late start.   Instead, we headed for a somewhat in-town hike that we recently discovered.

Sawnee Mountain Preserve  is a 963-acre nature preserve, located just 40 miles north of Atlanta, in Cumming, GA.  Indian Seats is the main hiking trail, but the preserve has a couple of short connector trails as well.  The mountain was named after a Cherokee Native American, Sawnee, and the summit was used in Native American ceremonies, dating back to 500 BC.  Later, the mountain was the site of a (failed) mining operation.  More recently, Sawnee Mountain has been designated a natural preserve and is protected by the local county in which it resides.

For our hike, we parked at the visitor’s center and veered to the left at Indian Seats trailhead.   If you are hiking with small children, my suggestion would be to veer to the right (see trail map).  The elevation gain is more gradual heading up the mountain on that side.  We saw quite a few families with small children on the trails and the kids all seemed to be enjoying themselves. We were pleasantly surprised and quite enjoyed the hike!  The trail is well-maintained and marked, features a couple of abandoned mine shafts and a stunning view of the North Georgia Mountains at the summit of Sawnee Mountain.

Sawnee Mtn Hike 3

Sawnee Mtn Hike


Indian Seats Lookout

Indian Seats

The “seats” of Indian Seats Lookout are three depressions that were carved out over time by rain.  I sat in one of the depressions and enjoyed this view…

View from Indian Seats

Have you been on any great hikes lately?  I’m excited to see the Fall colors transform the tree canopies within the next couple of weeks!

Happy Hiking!


Monday Mantra: sweet dreams

Oh what a weekend!  Happy monday to ya.  We had a “let’s get stuff done” kinda weekend.  Organizing, cleaning, throwing things away…feeling very productive!  We also squeezed in some much needed family time and even a little time to ourselves to celebrate our anniversary! (man…i’m tired just reading this!)  As you may have read in some previous posts…its been crazy town around here lately.  We’ve been riding a bit of a roller coaster for what feels like this whole year!  And my number one take away from it all is that we are blessed!  Blessed to have amazing friends and family.  Blessed to feel settled and comfortable in our new home.  Blessed to have people in our lives that keep us going and inspire us.  Blessed to have so many things to celebrate.  Many reasons for Joy!

“May you have Joy in the morning and sweet dreams at night.”


I hope you have many reasons for Joy in your life and that you embrace them, share them and try to hold on to them as long as possible!!

~ Jillian

Love and Love

Today, at the end of what has been a very crazy week, we are celebrating love.  The love of family.  The love of friends.  The love of those around us that are there when we are down.  The love that allows us to move past hard times.  The love that can make us smile even when we are down.  The love for one another that looks past flaws.  The love that fills our hearts when we need it most.

“You will find as you look back on your life that the moments when you have truly lived
are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”


“If not for love then why?”


“There are four questions of value in life…

What is sacred?
Of what is the spirit made?
What is worth living for?
What is worth dying for?

The answer to each is the same.

Only Love.”

~ Johnny Depp


First I have to send out lots of love to my family, who lost a very special lady yesterday.  My husband’s grandmother was a strong and passionate woman that loved her family with all of her heart.  She welcomed me (Jilly) into the family from the first moment I met her and she will be missed!!

Today is also a VERY special day in this house, it it our 5th wedding anniversary!  I am filled with so much love in my heart and reminded every day how lucky I am to be married to such a wonderful man.  A man that puts up with me, loves me unconditionally and is always there for me.  It’s been quite a journey and I wouldn’t change a thing!!

Happy Friday to you all!  Give a little extra squeeze to those around you and have a wonderful weekend filled with LOVE!
~ Jillian

Mountains In Motion

I was introduced to the Mountains in Motion video by a friend, who suggested watching whenever I needed a Zen moment.    Mountains in Motion is a short film, which documents landscapes of the Canadian Rockies through time-lapse photography.  The creative force behind the film is a local Atlanta partnership, The Upthink Lab.  Cameras were set up on in various locations in the Canadian Rockies for days, weeks and even months at a time, capturing changes in seasons and landscapes.

The video reignited my passion for travel and adventure.  It left me inspired and in awe of the beauty that surrounds us in nature.  While watching, all of the worries of the day melted away and I felt completely at peace.

When viewing, be sure to turn up your speakers, sit back and relax…

If you do not have time to watch the full Mountains in Motion video, you may also enjoy this three minute Eye of the Beholder video by The Upthink Lab.

The UpThink Lab is a creative partnership formed by Erik Huber and Doug Urquhart.  They are based here in Atlanta and I hear that they are working on another time-lapse video of Sweetwater Creek State Park.  I am looking forward to seeing that one soon!


Ikea trip

Oh Ikea…the lovely, always crowded, two story, time warp of awesomeness.  With so many fun and inexpensive things, from furniture and light fixtures to artwork and pillows, the chances of walking out of the store empty handed are slim to none!!  These days there are TONS of bloggers out there jumping on the Ikea hack train; taking these cost effective finds and turning them into something AMAZING!   So HSE decided to take a little field trip recently to this fabulous Mega-store to check out whats cooking and get a little creative inspiration ourselves!!!  Here is a taste of some of the new things that might just make your home a bit more awesome (or get your creative juices flowing!)

angenam-bowlThis bowl is gorgeous!  Perfect on its own, filled with some sort of decorative goodies or even flipped upside down as a sweet custom pendant light fixture!!  (all you would need is a drill and a pendant light kit!!)

vittsjoThese shelves are the bomb.  I can say that because I may or may not have walked out of the store with a couple of them!!  Super simple to put together, sturdy and perdy!  Great as is or even painted a fabulous gold or bright color as a fun pop of color in your space!  Ours are currently residing in our sunroom as is…I’m marinating over possible color options!

ursula-throwThis fabulous sweater blanket is perfect for a cool fall day!  Its available in this warm tan color or a sweet winter white and a steal of a deal!!  Cozy and comfy thrown over the bottom of a bed or snuggled up on your sofa.

Ragrund chair

This multi-functional chair is slated as a chair / towel rack for your bathroom!  This extra tall but still slim chair would also be great flanking a buffet in a dining room or dressing up an empty corner that could use a little extra height.skovel-wall-clockHow cute is this wall clock (its actually 23″ diameter!)?!  I love this in an office or study, in the kitchen or even as a part of a rocking collage wall.

liatorp-sideboardThis sweet cabinet is pegged as a media cabinet, but it could also be lovely as a hallway console, extra display and storage for your favorite dishes and serving pieces or even an excellent towel and bathroom accessory storage piece!


Loving this new lamp!!  Cool modern crystal base and glass shade take a classic material and give it a fresh look!  This would be a super cool bedside lamp or even a nice addition to an entry way table.

leende-carafeCheck out this cute little pitcher!!  Obviously this would be perfect for your favorite beverage but would also be the perfect container for your favorite flowers, a handful of twigs from your backyard or even with some fresh greenery around the holidays!

alvine-ruta-rugI love this area rug.  Nice geometric pattern, warm yellow color palette…all around lovely!

preben-chairLook at you go Ikea…with this super chic dining chair.  Clean wood and metal legs with a lovely neutral upholstered seat and back.  Obviously perfect for a dining table but I think would also look fab as a desk chair or even a side chair in a guest room.


Last but certainly not lease is this cool woven basket number.  Hand woven of renewable water hyacinth and seagrass this basket with a POP of color would be perfect as a planter, book & magazine storage or even for extra toiletries in your guest room!

We managed to escape our trip with only one fully packed cart (between 2 people…that’s not too bad?!?).  But let’s just say I see a few more trips in our future!!

Happy Shopping
~ Jillian