Monday Mantra: difficult roads

Happy Monday to ya!  I hope you had a fantastic weekend doing whatever makes you the most happy!!  We had a busy busy weekend…spent time catching up with friends we’ve missed, celebrating soon to be new additions and helping loved ones move into the next phase of their lives.  All and all it was a wonderful and exhausting weekend!  Life goes by so quickly and doesn’t always go the way we have planned.  Have faith, stick with it and you will soon realize that although your journey might not be as smooth as you might like it will all be worth it in the end!

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”


Choose Joy
~ Jillian


Thrifty Finds: Random Number box

You all know we LOVE a good thrift store find here at HSE.  There is something so exciting about the “hunt” and then the “what if” when you find an item that needs a good home and a little love.  Sometimes you find things that you have the perfect place for, sometimes you find things that just need a little cleaning and are good to go.  Other times you find things that you are unsure of their function…but they are just too cool to pass up.


Enter random number box…I was purusing  the aisles of my local Goodwill when I stumbled on a very cool looking, beat up wooden box with these random number dials.  I had NO clue what its original function was…but I just knew i needed to have it!!  What i loved about it is that it happened to have 4 number dials…just the right amount to display a special date perhaps?!?
number box combo

This was a SUPER simple update that gave this cool found object a new life!!  CLEAN IT / SAND IT / PAINT IT.  Seriously does not get easier than that!!  Once he was showing off his pretty new color, I turned the number dials to our wedding date (10.04.2008) as a little nod to a very special day!!  Right now he has the perfect home adding a little pop of color to my white framed collage wall (i promise i’ll get around to some pictures of that wall someday soon…promise!) and I must admit I smile a little extra when i catch a glimpse!!

081What kind of thrift store finds have you scored lately??  Any fun and easy DIY projects?? SHARE your projects here on HSE, we might just highlight them on the next episode of Thrifty Finds!!  Oh an P.s. Anyone know what this random find was originally used for?

Happy Crafting
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: will be

Happy Monday to you!  It is rainy and cloudy here in Georgia, which makes it a little bit tougher to get out of bed and get moving on a monday morning!!  We gambled with mother nature this weekend and decided to go Camping despite the nasty weather and not so sunny forecast.  Well we LUCKED out and the weather agreed with us!  A little chilly (especially for July) but we stayed dry and were able to enjoy a beautiful night camping right next to the water!!  Not going to lie, there were moments in the morning as we were packing up to head out that we thought we were crazy (thunder crashing in the background and TONS of rain falling down), but we were determined to get out there and make the best of the not-so-ideal conditions.  In the end we enjoyed a fabulous night with friends, sitting by the campfire enjoying our beautiful surroundings!  Just goes to show that sometimes when things seem like they are not going your way, hang in there, have faith and you might just be surprised at how fun the journey can be!!

“Whatever will be…will be”

camping(View from our campsite Sunday morning)

Happy Monday
~ Jillian

Making the Basics: Vanilla Extract

Okay, I know it is easy enough to find vanilla extract.  By making your own real vanilla extract you will not only save money, but also have the comfort of knowing exactly what ingredients went into your extract.  Many extract manufacturers add sweeteners and coloring agents to extracts.  These are completely unnecessary ingredients!



After a little research, I split the cost of a large order of vanilla beans with a friend.  We bought one pound of the extract grade Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans from here.  Vanilla beans can also be really costly at the grocery store and usually only sold with a couple of beans in a jar.  Have I mentioned that we use vanilla almost daily, adding a bit to my coffee, baked oatmeal, smoothies and desserts?  Its crazy.  Sharing the expense of the vanilla beans helped make this DIY a real money saver.

After perusing several vanilla extract tutorials, I used the following combined method:

Needed supplies

  • a one pint mason jar
  • 70-90 proof inexpensive name brand vodka (I used Smirnoff)
  • approximately 1.6 oz. vanilla beans, sliced length-wise and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve

{ Don’t let the alcohol scare you.  Check any bottle of vanilla extract and you will see alcohol as the main ingredient. The alcohol cooks off when you bake with vanilla extract, and only a few drops are used for flavoring coffee or smoothies.}

1. Sanitize the mason jar in boiling water and let the jar cool completely.

2. Slice the vanilla beans length-wise.  Do not scrape out the vanilla caviar!  Once split down the middle, chop the beans into 1/2″ pieces.  {In a couple of the tutorials, I read that, by law, commercial producers of vanilla extract are required to use at least 1.6 ounces of vanilla beans per pint of extract.  Additionally, the vanilla bean supplier site indicated that 10 beans equaled approximately 1.8 ounces.  So, I went with 10 beans.  It can’t hurt to have a little extra, right?}

3. Add the vanilla beans to the mason jar and fill the remainder of the jar with the vodka.

4.  Store jar in a dark and cool location.  Remove the jar from storage a couple of times per week to shake up the contents.


Six weeks later….you have made your own vanilla extract!  To remove the beans and vanilla caviar from the extract, simply pour the contents of the jar over a cheesecloth.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I used a fine mesh sieve.  The result left behind some of the caviar, but it doesn’t hurt the flavor or shelf-life.

Store the extract in an air-tight container.  I found a cute pour spout bottle at HomeGoods, which came with a stopper.

Do you think  you will try to make your own extract?  I would like to try almond or hazelnut for the next batch!

– Brittany

#100HappyDays Recap

I did it!  I completed the #100HappyDays Challenge by capturing moments that make me happy for 100 days straight.  The challenge was harder than I expected.  A few bad days here and there made it tough, but the required photo-a-day task reinforced the need to find the good in every day.  Looking back at my images, it becomes very obvious what makes this girl happy – family, friends, food, exercise and being outside.  (Although a little shoe shopping and vacation planning doesn’t hurt either.)

If this challenge taught me anything, it was to enjoy the little things in life and to take time for myself each day.  Even just a few moments to enjoy a blooming flower.  Or, indulge in dessert after dinner.  Make time to catch up with a friend.  Escape from the city to enjoy the peace of a hiking trail in the mountains.  Whatever brings a smile to your face, take the time to do it.  Life is far too short – live it to the fullest!




Did any of you participate in the challenge with me?  What did you learn about yourself?

– Brittany

Recent Reads – June

Wow, how are we already a week into July?!  June was filled with quick weekend trips, lots of time with family and friends and household projects, including painting the exterior of our house.  Needless to say, June was busy!   I only managed to get through one book – the latest Emily Giffin novel.

June Recent Reads

The One & Only, by Emily Giffin
Growing up as the best friend of the coach’s daughter, Shea Rigsby’s life has always revolved around Walker college football.  She remained in Walker for college and accepted a job in the college athletic department following graduation.  Shea and her mother were still incredibly close with Lucy, Coach Carr and his wife, Connie.  When Connie suddenly passes away from a long-term illness, Shea experiences a midlife crisis of sorts.  She questions her life decisions and begins to push herself outside of her comfort zone.  In the process of finding herself, Shea realizes she is in love with someone that has been there all along.  But, when Shea follows her heart, she gets herself into a real mess…

I have read all of Emily Giffin’s novels and have enjoyed them as quick and easy poolside or airplane reads.  However, The One & Only left me rather disappointed in comparison to Giffin’s previous novels.  The book was predictable from the start and had far too much football talk for a chick-lit novel, in my opinion.  Without giving too much away, I thought the subject of her crush was a bit disturbing.  Additionally, there were a couple of loose ends or story lines that were never fully explained.  The end also felt a bit rushed, in comparison to the rest of the book.

Have you read The One & Only?  If so, what was your opinion?

– Brittany

Monday Mantra: trust

Happy post-4th of July weekend!  I hope you had a fabulous time celebrating.  We got in our fair share of Independence Day shenanigans and added a little extra to our “reasons to celebrate list” with a birthday bash for a very special birthday girl!  Lots of friends, family and good times!!  SO much good times in fact, that I’m still feeling a little tired today…All worth it though!  Spending so much time laughing and catching up with so many wonderful people reminds me of all of the blessings in our lives!  That no matter if things aren’t going the way we’ve planned them or how we think they should be, life is good!  We are fortunate and blessed with so much love around us.

“Trust that when the answer is no, there’s a better yes down the road”


Have a fabulous week
~ Jillian