Hike the Hooch: First Stop, Island Ford

{SMIJ by Jill “Game Day” hats and football thermal available at Henry & Pearl}

We love to hike and part of the fun is heading out of town an hour or more to find great spots to explore.  Let me clarify “we love”.  It’s always me coming up with the idea and “breaking the news” to the rest of the family.  Pat is usually pretty quick to jump on board.  I think he has already prepared himself for what he knows is coming as soon as the weather starts getting nice.  The kids want to know “how long of a drive is it?”, “can we bring our iPads, iPhones, etc?”, “What time will we be back?”, “What about my friends?”.  They give in pretty easily because they know I won’t give up!  And, let me tell you, without fail, 100% of the time, the one who complains the most about going is the one who never wants to leave.  Just sayin… Sometimes mom does know best.  And, we are all just different people after a few hours in nature.  There is just nothing like getting that fresh Georgia air into every last cell in your body.

So, while it’s fun to explore the endless options to hike around Georgia, sometimes you just don’t have that much time.  For those days, we have so many great options right in town.  I thought this Fall it would be fun to explore some favorites around the Chattahoochee.  Please share your experiences, too.  We are always looking for new places to explore.

First stop, Island Ford in Sandy Springs.  This park is right off Exit 6 in Dunwoody.  Very easy to get to, lots of parking and well-managed and staffed.  It is open every day except Christmas!  There is even a nice visitor’s center with clean restrooms and a park attendant to answer questions.  For your little – or big – scientists, they have a cool microscope display where the kids can get up close and personal with things they see in Georgia.

We started with this hike because it is very easy.  It is short and flat with breathtaking views of the river.  You can even take your shoes off and wade into the cool water in some kid-friendly spots.  We wish we would have brought a little snack because we wanted to enjoy a picnic on one of the rocks sticking out into the river – and because no one wanted to leave.  Remember that “mom knows best” thing…. The kids want to come back next weekend with bathing suits and a picnic.

The trail is fully shaded the entire way, but you can easily step off the trail at many spots to get close to the river and enjoy the sun.  I do recommend bug spray although we didn’t get bit, it seemed like a good thing to have along.  There are also two huge rock formations along the trail that kids can explore.  Great picture spots, too!  People were fishing, rafting, kayaking and enjoying this river.  We had a blast and we were back home right after lunch time with our lungs full of fresh air, our minds calm and plans for our next Chattahoochee adventure.  Stay tuned…

What Makes Me “Shop Local”

I love to shop local boutiques and stores.  They have unique things, a cool atmosphere and the owner’s personality and style can really come across.  I do know that some people can feel a little intimidated to enter a smaller boutique because you might be the only one in there, you don’t know the price points or sales approach – you basically don’t know what you’re getting into and you’re afraid to check it out and leave without buying anything.  I am a professional browser and never feel bad about doing just that.  I’m often getting an overview and then someday when I need something, I may think of that store and be back to spend.  I think store owners realize this is part of a shopper’s process and welcome “browsers”.

I thought it might be fun to share why this Shopper stops into local boutiques.  What makes me enter one and not another?  Here is my list of attractive qualities in a local shop.

  1.  Welcome Signs.  This doesn’t even have to be an actual “sign”, but it doesn’t hurt.  When a store has a cute “open” sign or a “sandwich board” with the latest info outside, it invites you in to visit.  My favorite is an actual outfit outside each day.  This really pulls someone like me right in the front door and gives me something to immediately inquire about.
  2. Events.  I love a store that does events.  This is a great way to show people like me the types of brands you carry or the type of customers you mostly attract.  For example, a brand trunk show, a “girls night out” and mom’s morning out or even just a “come browse and meet your local boutique” event is cool.
  3. Bright and cheery.  I love it when a store has great lighting, changing displays and clean and open spaces.  It looks active and like it’s merchandise is moving and changing giving me a reason to visit often.
  4. Active Social Media.  Often when I see a store and I can’t pop in right away I look them up in Google.  If they are active on social media with Outfits of the Day, Facebook activity with good reviews and look lively and engaged, it makes me want to stop in and follow them on social media.
  5. Consistent AND Surprise Inventory.  I have a few stores that I can count on to carry brands I like – Henry & Pearl to carry the latest MUMU, BiltHouse to carry big selection of Old Gringo, Mercantile to carry Johnny Was and the list goes on.  These stores are go-tos for these brands, but I also know they always have some new find or unexpected brands or pieces that are fun to shop, too.  They do the hard work at the Markets to bring us cool, new things along with our go-to brands.
  6. Carry Local Brands.  I love going to other parts of the country and locally, finding cool stuff and learning the story the “designer who lives in the area”.  I found the cutest cowhide purses in Sis & Moon the other day and found out they were made locally.  How cool!  Being one of those local designers (SMIJ by Jill), I especially love to hear the stories.  It really gives a store a character and connection to the local community and a great reason to stop in.

What makes you enter a store?  This is my list of what draws me in!  Happy Shop Localling (not a word!)!  www.smijbyjill.com


Succulents & Strategies

Ring | Boots | Jeans

I’ve been doing a house refresh this January and am loving succulents.  These make perfect gifts, too!  They had a unique texture & color to a neutral palette.  I am no expert at decorating, but I do have two strategies to get what I want.

First one is to copy people!  Yes, I can admit that.  I love to tour model homes for ideas from the experts and, of course, there is no end to on-line ideas.  Then, I realize that there are a few “rules” that make sense to follow (picture height, etc), but, like fashion, there really are no rules you have to follow.  I used to stress myself out about home decor because it felt so permanent.  You can wear a bad outfit and it only lasts for a (excruciating) day, but home decor mistakes live on….  So dramatic, I know.

My second strategy is to do what we like in our family.  After all, we are the ones who live here day in and day out and if we like it is really all that matters.  This is home and I want our home to reflect us, even if it doesn’t follow a “rule”. Right now I have cotton branches in a vase on my mantle because that reminds me of driving through the deep south with the cotton fields bursting.  These are usually very happy drives because we’re headed out on some adventure or to the beach.  I’ll share more of our personal touches as I complete (do you really ever finish?) our January refresh.

For now, here are some very pretty succulents to browse:

Mini Pots ($14), On a Branch ($19), Cool Stone Pots ($56), Faux Succulents if you like REALLY low maintenance ($150), Succulent in a Whisky Bottle ($50), With Terrarium ($39).