Monday Mantra: Happy & Grateful

I feel like I have been saying this a lot lately…but things have just been nuts!!  Busy busy days…so much to do and so little time to do it in.  With time flying by WAY faster then it should and this HSE girl about to get another year older…eeek; it makes me step back for a second and think about life.  Where I am today, where I’ve come from and the possibilities of where I might go next.  I am incredibly grateful for everything that has happened in my life to this point.  I’ve learned so much, have been blessed by so many wonderful people and have so much to  be thankful for.  That’s not to say that everything has been such an easy road, I’ve had my fair share of challenges in this lifetime so far, but I know that there is a greater plan for me.  The most important thing I can do is trust in that plan and keep on truckin’.

“It’s not that life has been easy, perfect or exactly as expected.
I just choose to be Happy & Grateful no matter how it all turns out.”

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Choose Joy
~ Jillian

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Pillow Party (& a special offer)

Who doesn’t love a fabulous pillow party (mind out of the gutters people) we are talking accent pillows!  Pillows that add a little extra design, pattern and fabulous-ness to your most comfy spaces!  We are so SO lucky to have the support of one of the COOLEST and unique pillow cover creators I know…Silkway.  The brains and creative talent behind this amazing Etsy shop, Jonali is truly an artist and just the sweetest!!  Here are just a few of the new and lovely things rolling out of her shop these days…

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Ahhh…Don’t you just want them ALL!  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!  Please stop by Silkway to check out all of her amazing designs!  I must admit I am starting to build up quite a collection of her beautiful work and I could not be more thrilled.  I predict that someday soon a little piece of Silkway will be in every room in my house!! (well maybe except for the bathrooms…unless Jonali can come up with some super creative way to get a little of her beautiful Ikat fabrics in there…and then i’m totally down)

AND as if this post couldn’t get any better…Jonali is offering a discount to Her Split Ends readers!!!  Her prices are amazing so this is just icing on that already delicious cake!!

For an additional 10% discount on your order enter coupon code is: ILOVEJILLIAN (isn’t she just the cutest!!)

Happy Shopping!

~ Jillian

100 Days of Happiness

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Have you heard about the 100 Happy Days Challenge?   With all the craziness that life throws at us each day, it is easy to lose sight of our own happiness.  I’m a firm believer that life is what you make of it and that you hold the key to your own happiness.  This little challenge helps to refresh the “enjoy the little things” mentality and encourages you to take time each day to do something for yourself.  Maybe it is a run at the park, a morning latte, a snuggle from your pup, an extra scoop of ice cream, curling up with a good book, or spending an afternoon catching up with a friend.  When that moment of happiness strikes, be sure to capture it with a photo.

Go to the 100 Happy Days website for more information and to sign up for the challenge.   Once you register, use Instagram, Facebook or email to submit photos of things that make you happy, using the #100HappyDays hashtag.

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I’m signed up and will begin documenting my #100HappyDays today on Instagram.  Follow along and join me in the challenge!  By participating, I hope that I have a greater sense of appreciation for each day and that I will take more time for myself in the future.   At the end, I will also have a lovely collection of photos that make me happy to reflect on in the future.

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“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”  – William James

– Brittany

Monday Mantra: tomorrow is a new day

Although Monday’s can sometime be tough, they really are like a fresh start.  A new week, time to kick back into gear leaving behind anything that has weighed you down in days past.  Its a good lesson to take with you (even on other days of the week).  What’s behind us is exactly that…behind us.  No need to focus on what was or what could have been.  Look forward.  Forgive yourself and move on.  This time of year reminds us that there is new life, new beginnings possible each day all we have to do is nurture the possibility of growth and it will come.  Here’s to a new week.  Here’s to growth.  Here’s to a fresh start.

“Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit
to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
~ Emerson

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Namaste
~ Jillian

Great Hikes: Kalalau Trail – Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, HI

Today, I am sharing one of the most scenic trails I’ve ever had the pleasure of hiking.  This trail happens to be located on the edge of paradise, also known as the Na Pali coast, in Kaua’i.  I previously mentioned the remote and rugged Na Pali coast when I shared photos from our vacation in Kauai.  In addition to views of the Na Pali coastline, the trail also offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, a trek through Kaua’i’s rain forest, guava trees, valleys, stream crossings and ends at a beach!

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Kalalau Trail – Trailhead to Hanakāpī’ai Beach – Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, HI
Distance: 4 miles (out and back)
Elevation Gain:  Starts and ends at sea level, but there are a lot of steep climbs and descents
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Trail Features: 180-degree Pacific ocean views, beach, rain forest, streams, sea cliffs

The Kalalau Trail is 11-mile trail located within the Na Pali State Wilderness Park.  The trail follows the coastline, crossing several valleys of lush rain forest, streams and along sea cliffs with wide-sweeping ocean views of the Pacific.  The Kalalau trail is the only land access to this portion of the Na Pali coastline.  There are no roads on the Na Pali Coast.  The only way to see the coast is by boat or by foot.   So, if you are physically able….you should hike a portion of the Kalalau Trail while in Kaua’i.

This hike travels the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail.  It is a good distance for beginner/intermediate hikers and for those who are short on time.  We only had half of a day and this hike worked out perfectly.

The Kalalau Trail departs from Ha’ena State Park, located at the end of Kuhio Highway, the main highway in Kauai.  Parking is very limited and fills quickly, due to the popularity of the trail and public beach access adjacent to the trailhead.  My best advice is to get an early start.

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Wear shoes with good traction, as the trail is narrow, slippery and rarely level.  Boots are strongly recommended, but we managed fine with sneakers and Tevas.  The trail begins with a steep, rocky ascent through the forest.

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Shortly thereafter, the terrain becomes slick and muddy.

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The first portion of the hike is all uphill and quite steep.  But, the reward is well worth the effort, once you catch your first glimpse of the long-range views of the Pacific Ocean approximately 1/4 mile into the hike.

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Continuing uphill, the terrain becomes rocky again before leveling off to a dirt trail at the ridge line.

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The elevation gain affords a nice view of Ke’e Beach, which is located adjacent to the trailhead.  Ke’e Beach is open to the public, safe for swimming, and is a great place to relax and cool off, once you finish the hike.

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From this point, the trail turns inland and meanders through the lush rain forest.

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As you approach the descent into the first valley, the trail winds back to the sea cliffs for a spectacular view of the Napali coastline.

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The trail rapidly descends into the valley, complete with switchbacks and gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and vegetation and periodic glimpses of Hanakāpī’ai Beach.  As you approach Hanakāpī’ai Beach, the trail drops to sea level.

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After 2.0 miles, you will encounter a wide stream leading to the ocean.  Once you cross the stream, you have arrived at Hanakāpī’ai Beach.

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Although inviting, it is not advisable to swim at Hanakāpī’ai Beach.  The currents and riptides are strong and dangerous for swimmers.  Additionally, the shoreline is lined with sharp volcanic rock.  But the views are gorgeous and relaxing.

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After relaxing on Hanakāpī’ai Beach, return to the trailhead along the same route.  Fair warning – that first half-mile is all uphill on the return!  But, the last half of the return trip is all downhill and Ke’e Beach will be waiting…

Aloha and happy hiking!

– Brittany

A piece of Peace: Heavy

There are days that you feel happy, light and free.  Other days seem to weigh you down.  It’s normal.  We all experience it.  And there is no fool-proof way to release yourself from sometimes falling into that heavy feeling.  But when you do find yourself sinking…remember that it’s important to let go.  It’s important to refocus and find balance.  Even if in the moment you can only find one tiny bit of positive…GRAB it…hold on to it and let the rest go.

A very wise man has told me many times in my life that I need to learn to let go.  That the only thing in my life I can control is how I react to my life.  What simple and pure advice that at times seems…IMPOSSIBLE!  The very act of letting go is one of the most difficult to accept.  But reminding ourselves that it can happen is how we can maintain balance and achieve true peace.

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go;
simply for the reason that they are Heavy”

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Let go

Breath in – “let”

Breath out – “go”

Breath in – “let”

Breath out – “go”

Namaste
~ Jillian

Chicken Pasta with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

I’m a pasta lover – angel hair, linguine, macaroni, lasagna…I love them all!  Lately, I have been straying away from the typical marinara-based recipes to try more unique flavor combinations.  The original sauce recipe for this dish was posted several years ago by Annie’s Eats.  The recipe was meant to be a main dish of chicken topped with a goat cheese sauce.  Instead, I decided that I wanted to use the sauce over pasta.  After doubling the sauce recipe and adding a few ingredients, I ended up with a new favorite in our recipe rotation.

Chicken Pasta with Goat Cheese Sauce

Chicken Pasta with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes, Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
1 lb boneless and skinless chicken breasts, pounded or sliced thin
8 oz. bowtie pasta (or preferred pasta, gluten-free)
2 tbsp olive oil (or preferred cooking oil)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (and drained, if packed in oil)
4 oz. herbed goat cheese
1/2 lb portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb asparagus spears, cut into bite-size pieces

Method:
Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle about a tablespoon of preferred oil.  Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Once the pan is hot, add the chicken breasts and cook approximately 6-8 minutes per side or until done.

Once the chicken is in the pan, begin heating the water for your pasta.

Meanwhile, drizzle the remainder of your preferred oil into a medium pan.  Saute the chopped asparagus and sliced mushrooms over medium heat, stirring occasionally until done.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, transfer to a plate and cover with foil.  At this point, your pot of water should be boiling and ready to add the pasta.

In the same pan that you cooked the chicken, add the wine and cook over medium-high heat, scraping up the browned bits from the chicken.   Once the wine has reduced by half, add the chicken broth and sundried tomatoes.  {Tip: I like to soak the sun-dried tomatoes in the chicken broth while doing all of the prep work, to soften them before cooking.}   While heating the broth, slice the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Once the liquid has reduced by half again, reduce the heat to low and add the herbed goat cheese.  Stir constantly to incorporate the goat cheese and prevent burning the sauce.

Ladle the sauce over the noodles and top with sliced chicken, mushrooms and asparagus.  Serve with a side salad.

It may not be a one pot meal, but it is quick, simple to prepare and flavorful.  Enjoy!

– Brittany

Recent Reads – February

Oh, wow.  February was filled with heavy reading material.  I garnered a good bit of perspective from these books.   While I could really use a good lighthearted book right now, I loved each of these books for the way they opened my eyes and made me appreciate the things I take for granted each day.

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Little Bee, Chris Cleave
Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee, who is desperate to leave behind her tragic past.  The book begins when Little Bee and her sister with a chance meeting with an English couple on a lone stretch of beach in Nigeria.  This encounter ended horrifically for all parties involved.   Little Bee was later detained when discovered as a refugee on a container ship bound for England.  After a mistaken release from the immigration detention center, Little Bee crosses paths with the English couple, Sarah and Andrew, again.  Constantly fearing the moment “when the men come,” her capture would mean certain death upon her return to Nigeria.

“We knew what we had: we had nothing…That is how we lived, happily and without hope.  I did not miss having a future because I did not know I was entitled to one.”  Although Little Bee is fiction, the story is  based on the greed and alleged genocide by the government and corporate oil companies in Nigeria, and the treatment of captured refugees in immigration removal centers.  This book personalized the human atrocities that happen globally and demonstrated how easily they are overlooked or forgotten.  Little Bee also illustrated how different our daily lives are than those living in third world countries.  Yet, the book also reminded me that there are good people in this world that are willing to make sacrifices and do the right thing.  It was a beautifully written and compelling story.

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, Kelle Hampton
As a long-term follower of Kelle Hampton’s Enjoying The Small Things blog, I was familiar with the story of her daughter, Nella.  Kelle had it all – a loving husband, supportive friends, a beautiful daughter and another baby girl on the way.  Life was good.  Upon her daughter’s arrival, Kelle’s seemingly perfect work was rocked.  As she laid her eyes on her newborn daughter, she realized she has Down syndrome.  Her reaction – sadness, dread and the compulsion to run away from this tiny baby.  Bloom is Kelle Hampton’s memoir, recounting her reaction to her new daughter’s diagnosis, her fear of the future with a special needs child, and her journey toward acceptance, love and learning to be her daughter’s biggest advocate.  Kelle is an amazing writer, her words tugging at your heart and inspiring in ways that make you appreciate all the beauty that life has to offer.  If you would like a preview of the book, read Nella’s birth story and a few of my favorite excerpts from Bloom:

“Living a life of comfort does nothing to make us grow…hard times shape us into interesting, developed characters.”

“I wouldn’t say my glass is always half full.  There are days when it’s cracked and leaking, days when it’s chipped and even shattered.  But then I get the Krazy Glue out and fix it, and suddenly it’s half full again.  Even though it’s patched up in places, I’ve made it my own with the beveled edges and beautiful etchings that perspective brings.”

“The concept of perfection is not flawless or ripped from a magazine.  It’s happiness.  Happiness with all its messiness and not-quite-thereness.  It’s knowing that life is short, and the moments we choose to fill our cup with  should be purposeful and rich.  That we should be present for life, that we should drink more deeply.  And that’s perfection.”

In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
While in college, I went on a mission trip to a couple of orphanages in the Dominican Republic, near the Haitian border. The trip had a profound impact on me, making me appreciate bare essentials that we take for granted in the United States such as reliable sources of running water and electricity.   While I was volunteering at the orphanage, the sponsoring organization showed us a movie based on a bestselling historical novel – In the Time of the Butterflies.  It took me several years, but I finally picked up the book.

In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical novel about the Mirabal sisters of the Domican Republic – Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa (Mate).  The book begins in their childhood and continues into their adulthood, told from each of their perspectives in first and third person, at various stages of their lives.   The girls were raised during the dictatorship of Trujillo.  Once adults, three of the four sisters became involved with an underground movement to overthrow the Trujillo regime that had terrorized the country for decades.  Their code name in the movement was “the butterflies.”  The sisters were eventually discovered and imprisoned, along with their husbands and other family members.   After their release from jail, the girls became a symbol of hope to the people of the Dominican Republic.  In order to send a message to the political activist groups, Trujillo set up a trap for the girls on their way home from visiting their husbands in jail.  The three girls and their driver escort were beaten to death along a deserted mountain road.  Their car was then pushed off of a cliff, attempting to make it look like an accident.  The remainder of the book is from the perspective of the lone living sister, Dede, who was not with her sisters on that fateful day.  It was her duty to tell the girls’ stories and make sure they were not forgotten.  After their tragic deaths, the girls were mourned by all and became national heroes, who are still celebrated today for their courage during the Dominican Republic’s darkest hours.

It is hard to pick a favorite of my February books!  They were all great books, touching on a wide range of heavy topics.  If I had to pick a favorite, I would say In the Time of the Butterflies, with Bloom coming in a close second.  Little Bee was more of a stretch plot-wise, but I enjoyed Chris Cleave’s style of writing and Little Bee’s personality.

Any suggestions for lighthearted or funny books for March?  Leave me some suggestions in the comments below!

– Brittany

Monday Mantra: Ready

Hey Monday.  How the heck are you?!  I hope you and yours enjoyed a fabulous weekend.  Here in Georgia we had a cRaZy beautiful day yesterday!  Having warm temps and so much sun gave me a BAD case of spring fever!!  I’m ready for sunshine.  Ready for fresh air.  Ready to get outside again!!  It’s time to seize the day…stop hesitating and just go for it!!  Whatever you have had sitting on your mind lately, wondering if it’s the right time…close your eyes, take a deep breath and then open yourself up to change.  Let life show you the path to follow and then TAKE that first step!!

“If we wait until we are ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives”

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Choose Joy
~ Jillian