Worth the Drive: Mississippi’s Forest Retreat

forest retreatIMG_6631

forest retreat Mississippi

homochitto national forest


I haven’t been to Forest Retreat, a secluded trio of cabins in Mississippi’s Homochitto National Forest, since 2013. Forest Retreat was me and Thomas’ secret spot when the urge get out of the city for a few days would arise. There is no cell phone reception, no internet (the cabins do have wifi now), and the only noise that cuts through the silence is the rustling of leaves and an occasional dog howling in the distance. We used to make the three hour drive at least twice a year with Nadia, our retired racing Greyhound, in tow. The reason I discovered Forest Retreat in the first place was an ad in Urban Dog Magazine that touted dog friendly cabins. We weren’t sure our timid city pooch would take to being out in the country, but I’m pretty sure Nadia had more fun playing in the creek and going on hikes than we did.

Sadly, Nadia passed away two summers ago due to an inoperable tumor on her spinal cord. Her ashes are sealed in a large plastic bag, tucked away in a wooden box on a bookshelf in our living room. I’ve never been able to bring myself to look at her remains, and I didn’t want to go back to Forest Retreat for the same reason that box sits unopened two years later. We only had Nadia for three years, but she was the love of my life, the first dog we owned as a couple, and just like many rescued animals, we had to earn her affection. Most retired racing greyhounds aren’t accustomed to what we think of as a “normal home life” since they grow up around the race track. The dogs can be slightly skittish at best and scared of their own shadow at worst. I worked with Nadia to overcome her fear of the dishwasher, taught her how to climb up and down stairs, and eventually she stopped being petrified of the wind. Skateboards, on the other hand, were the devil incarnate. She would hyperventilate at the slightest hint of a thunderstorm, but fireworks were inexplicably okay.

After Nadia passed we waited a few months before getting another dog. So when we got two – Izzy, another Greyhound, and Beignet, a terrier/Catahoula mix – it just didn’t feel right to rush back to our old vacation spot with our new crew. I equated it with the awkwardness of bringing a new beau to the restaurant you dined at all the time with your ex. How do you explain to your new fling why you know so much about the menu?

So when Thomas recently suggested we plan a weekend getaway to Forest Retreat, I surprised myself and said yes. We ended up going this past weekend and my only regret is that we waited so long to go. The dogs loved it, we enjoyed the break from our day to day lives, and we both had to ask ourselves “What took us so damn long to get back here?” I’d like to think that Nadia is somewhere in that big dog park in the sky, running her skinny little butt off and being as stubborn as ever. I think she would agree that it’s finally time to move on and give some other pooches their turn to run through the forest.

For more pictures from Forest Retreat check out my Tumblr: christylorio.tumblr.com

If you decide to go on your own Forest Retreat weekend, here are a few things to consider:

  • GPS will only get you so far, so make sure you print out the direction given to you upon your reservation. That said, the directions aren’t the clearest (we get turned around every time) and cell phone reception is spotty on country roads. Give yourself ample time to backtrack. Trust me, you don’t want to traverse forest service roads at night.
  • The owner recently added wifi in the cabins but there’s  no cell phone reception, unless you stand on the parking hill, cross your fingers and make a wish. You’ll want to unplug but do keep this in mind in case of an emergency.
  • You’ll need to bring all of your food with you. The nearest store is several miles away and once you start to unwind you won’t want to see an ignition switch until vacation is over. The two cabins are furnished with essentials such as bed linens, towels and kitchen gadgets. You’ll need to bring your own toiletries and if you’re going in the summer bug spray is a godsend. I like to bring a good book, a board game or two, a flashlight, appropriate shoes for wading in the creek, my camera, and my laptop for playing music and watching movies at night.
  • Bring your dog’s bed and a blanket for the sofa if you have a four legged couch potato.

Worth the Drive: Tunica Falls

Tunica Hills Campground

Clark Creek Recreational Area
Tunica Falls
Tunica Falls
Tunica Falls
I desperately need to get out of town as much as I can but unfortunately, my schedule dictates that I’m stuck in the city seven days a week. Since I had fall break this week, we threw the dogs in the car, put some extra food out for the cats, and headed to Tunica Falls (aka Tunica Hills aka Clark Creek Natural Area), a two hour drive from New Orleans. Waterfalls, slight changes in elevation (read: not flat like NOLA) and shaded trails make for a quick yet satisfying weekend getaway. I’m not sure who had more fun, us or the girls.
 Four dollars gives you access to Tunica Falls’ 1.78 miles of “improved” trails and 2.6 miles of primitive trails. I’d suggest doing a little of both. Be sure to pack shoes appropriate for wading through creeks. You’ll want to splash around and explore. There are six waterfalls marked on the trail but the 700 acre Clark Creek Natural area boasts 50 waterfalls total, ranging in height from 10 to 30 feet. There are bathrooms at the trailhead and a water fountain. Be sure to stop at the Pond Store, located up the road, to stock up on snacks. 
If you’re in need of cheap lodging, Tunica Hills Campground is nearby and provides cabins and primitive tent sites. The campground is small, which ensures you’ll be greeted by fellow campers but it’s more private than than some of the larger RV campgrounds that I’ve been to. We opted to spend the night in the A frame cabin; for $52 a night you get a queen sized bed, air conditioning, a microwave and a coffeepot. There’s also a loft to stow your stuff and enough space for the dogs. Just make sure to bring your own bath towels and toiletries; you’ll be sharing a (relatively clean) port-a-potty and outdoor shower with the other guests. 
For more pictures of Tunica Falls and Tunica Hills Campground check out my Tumblr: christylorio.tumblr.com. 
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Road Trip: A Mississippi Getaway

Make no mistake, I’m sort of a country girl at heart. Growing up with a swamp for a backyard, I prefer to spend a little time in the woods vs. visiting big cities when I go on vacation. So January 1st we packed up the truck and headed to our little hideaway in the Homochitto National Forest.  A Mississippi getaway definitely isn’t a shabby way to ring in 2013. You can catch up with my woodsy adventures in the archives here.

Hitting up the apps hard- no shame.

Needlenose and a tranquil pond
Udon noodles, goat cheese pear crustini, liquid bread
Reading material+ a good fire= heaven
Princess prissy pants aka love of my life aka Nadia
Other love of my life, besides the cats and the ball python
Performance wear is the hottest trend, not really.
Merrell jacket, Hardtail skirt, Celine sunnies via Buffalo Exchange
Ralph Lauren over the knee socks via TJ Maxx
Lululemon leggings c/o Life Boutique (last year)
Keen boots via REI
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Gulfport Getaway

Crawfish nachos from the Ole Biloxi Fillin’ Station

Sometimes you just have to get away, even if it means getting a hotel room for one night. So away we went to Gulfport and Biloxi for a random Wednesday night a few weeks ago to enjoy a little Gulf Coast breeze, a spacious room at the Island View Casino Resort, and big winnings. We got ballsy during our Gulfport getaway and decided to upgrade from the penny slots to the quarter machines and won back our spending money and enough to pay off the entire trip plus some. Not too shabby for some amateur gamblers, no?

Coastal Cruising
Big winna
Desperately in need of a haircut here
Monogram necklace: Abeille NOLA
V neck tee: Everlane
Tropical print skirt: Ruby
Dansko sandals: Ebay
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Road Trip: Outfits for the great outdoors

Make no mistake, I’m a city girl girl in the sense that I prefer to have everything I need within walking or biking distance. I enjoy the comforts of having a coffee shop a block away and making a quick jaunt to my neighborhood corner store.  However I also crave the woods, and the luxury of solitude, if only for a few days.  My idea of a vacation is getting away from it all, whether it’s a romantic weekend getaway or a strenuous hike, I enjoy both equally. I shared an outfit post a few weeks ago from our Thanksgiving weekend at Forest Retreat, a magical little spot tucked away in the Homochitto National Forest in Mississippi. While what I was going to wear was the last thing on my mind that weekend it’s always nice to feel confident in what you are wearing, whether you are in town people watching at a big event or enjoying some solo star gazing with a cup of hot chocolate.

plaid button down & charcoal grey sweatshirt: J. Crew via Buffalo Exchange
 jeans: Seven for all Mankind via Buffalo Exchange
 Keen winter boots via REI
rain jacket: Land’s End Canvas
orange waterfall cardigan: Velvet via Buffalo Exchange
charcoal heathered tank: Alternative Apparel via Buffalo Exchange
sexy hiking pants: REI brand

For more photos from Forest Retreat go to my Facebook profile.

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What I Wore: My Forest Retreat

Our new Thanksgiving tradition is to spend some quality time out in the woods and go on a much needed digital detox. This year we went on our third visit to Forest Retreat, which I’ve written about many of times both here and other online publications.  During my time in the woods the only tweets I keep up with are from the birds, blogs are replaced with reading  my favorite print magazines cover to cover in one sitting  (National Geographic, Garden & Gun), and schlepping around town turns into leisurely strolls along leaf covered trails. There will be plenty more pictures but I’m trying to savor this vacation mentality for a few more days and lighten my work load just a little bit longer.

No matter how you unwind I’d suggest unplugging as well, even if it’s just for one day, even if you can’t get out of town. I’m always delighted by how much clarity and focus I gain when I come back from my jaunts to the woods thanks to tuning out the noise of the internet, if only for a little while.

They don’t call them high water pants for nothin’

An unfortunate DIY rhinestone mani, documented for eternity

Even creek water can’t disguise my horrible home pedicure

polka dot chambray shirtLand’s End Canvas
plaid square scarf- 3 year old Buffalo Exchange
skinny  jeans- DL 1961 from Blues Jean Bar
leather *ahem* fancy Tevas– Buffalo Exchange

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Guest Post- Audrey Grace pop up shop

Slow Southern Style is going to be featuring a few guest bloggers each Monday to liven the place up and get some fresh voices on a variety of subjects. This week Rebecca Diaz is filling in and interviewed Jaclyn Bethany, who is planning a pop up shop in Jackson, Mississippi called Audrey Grace Boutique . Interested in guest blogging? Contact me at nolagurl at gmail dot com.

Illustration Jaclyn and her dog

Why’d you choose a pop-up shop in Jackson, Mississippi?

Jackson is my hometown, and I know tons of people there. It is a logical step to try out my business before taking it somewhere that is more expensive and competitive.

What are you most excited about in opening a shop?
I think seeing all of my ideas come together when the shop opens will be amazing. I know I will cry! I am stocking so many amazing designers and artists, so I am also excited about promoting their work and sharing it with an entirely new market.

Promotional artwork by Tabitha Emma

What do you think makes Southern fashion “southern”?
I like to think Southern fashion is classy. Pearls and sun dresses come to mind when thinking about Southern fashion. But I do not dress this way all the time. I suppose I pick up inspiration wherever I travel and incorporate these influences into my style. My fashion sense always stood out in high school. People always would ask (and still ask me) where I buy things, so I thought it would be a great idea to just open up my own shop full of my favorite things.

Favorite Southern stereotype you embrace?  Southern stereotype you love defying?
This is a hard question. I suppose my favorite Southern stereotype is that we are nice, friendly people. I also love Southern accents- although I don’t really have one anymore. I think the Southern stereotype I love defying is the fact that people think we are dumb, and want the South to rise again. (really!!??) Also, the rumor that Mississippians don’t wear shoes. Where in the world did that come from? I have had some really weird reactions to telling people I am from Mississippi. A French guy didn’t know Mississippi was a state, and thought it was just a river. Most people are just confused as to why someone from all the way in Mississippi lives where I do (currently London, but in the past- NYC, Sydney, etc.) This has happened many times. People in the South have ambitions too!
Jaclyn in an Alice + Olivia dress at the Sydney Film Festival

Since you lived in Australia for awhile, and currently live in NY, but are a native Mississippian, can you think of direct influences each has had on your personal fashion aesthetic?
Well you didn’t mention London, but I am currently in London now and I would say as a whole this city most influences my personal style. Think of all the stylish women that have been from London- currently Alexa Chung and Kate Middleton reign as style queens, but in the past it was Princess Diana. I also love that each distinct neighborhood in London has individual style- the punks and hipsters in Camden, the Sloanes with their designer bags in Chelsea, the bohemians in Portobello, and the skinny jeans and t-shirts in Shoreditch, etc. 
A similar aesthetic runs throughout New York, too. People are more aware of how they dress there- because you have to go out on the street to go anywhere. New York is the fashion capital of the world, and you totally feel that at least once every day. I don’t think I dress like a “typical” New Yorker. I don’t even think that all black aesthetic applies to NYC anymore. 
Sydney was not really as stylish as London or New York, it was more relaxed and very much a beach culture. I think Australia has some fantastic design talent though including Lover, Romance Was Born, Ellery and Lady Petrova (which I am carrying in the shop!) But I found Sydneysiders to want to dress very much like Americans!

How’d you decide which brands to carry in Audrey Grace?
I basically researched and came up with a good price range. Then I thought of some of my favorite designers and also asked for suggestions from designers and friends. I am constantly on the lookout for new brands. 

Did you intentionally keep it a mix of independent designers (Kelsey Genna, Alexandra Grecco) and well-established names (Orla Kiely, Rachel Antonoff)?
I don’t think any one brand in the store is a huge name. I like that people can come into Audrey Grace and discover new brands they love. And yes the store will be a mixture of designers, vintage, art work, jewelry, accessories and photography. The main focus is clothing, but I have alot of art and jewelry, too. 

In vintage on her birthday in NYC

Describe your most perfect day.
This really depends on where I am. I try to work on my store every day. In London a perfect day would entail going to one of the amazing markets (like the Columbia Road flower market) and spend the morning finding little knick knacks and treasures. Then I would go somewhere like Laduree for macaroons or Hummingbird Bakery for tea and a cupcake. London has the most amazing sweet shops and bakeries. Then maybe I would go to Covent Garden and walk around, because it’s so beautiful and there are so many amazing shops. Even though it’s so touristy now, it still makes me feel like I am in My Fair Lady.  Then I’d see a show at one of the amazing theatres here- like the National, The Donmar Warehouse or the Royal Court. I actually had a really great weekend in London this past weekend. I attended the Vintage Festival on Southbank- which had a huge vintage market as well as clubs and restaurants dedicated to the different decades. I picked up a few little things for the store!

What is your most exciting Southern discovery of the last year? (Could be anything! Fashion, food, music, art, etc.)
I would say “The Help,” which was written by native Jacksonian Kathryn Stockett. The film is just about to come out and I can’t wait!

What comes next for you!?
After I finish these two acting courses here in London, it will be my senior year at Fordham where I am a theatre performance major. In the fall I will also be interning at Teen Vogue, turning 23, and hopefully writing my first play. Audrey Grace will then open in November or December, just in time for the Christmas holidays. After I graduate, I hope to go to graduate school either in New York or London and one day open my store full time in Jackson or NYC. 

Keep up with news of the Audrey Grace Boutique via the Facebook page and her blog.

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Help Ship Island through Nautica’s Colors of the Coast

Having grown up in the Gulf Coast area and lived here the majority of my life I’ve always enjoyed the beach even though my pasty white skin may say otherwise.

Image thanks to www.noadventure.com

 One of my favorite spots is Ship Island, just an hour ferry ride off the coast of Gulfport, Mississippi. It is a neat little island and it isn’t uncommon to see dolphins swimming near the pure white sand. Don’t believe me? Check out Mike Kennedy’s cool site NO Adventure and his snorkeling video for evidence.

Image thanks to www.noadventure.com

Ship Island received heavy damage after Katrina and has been struggling to come back ever since.You can help build up the beach by purchasing one of Nautica’s deck shirts. For every polo they sell Nautica will donate $50 to Oceana to help revitalize the island. The purchasing process is done entirely via their Colors of the Coast Facebook App. Simply click the square that you want to “adopt” then purchase your t-shirt and that’s it! You even get a reusable water bottle, beach towel, and bracelet. I suggest treating yourself to a weekend beach getaway to use your new accessories and enjoy Ship Island after doing your part to help save it.

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Out of this world

Affordable art? Vintage clothing that I’d actually wear? Pffft! You’ll believe it when you check out Jupiter & Mars and Poppyart, two sweet little Etsy shops based out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Y’all run two shops, Jupiter & Mars and Poppyart. Can you describe what y’all do and how you got started with both?

We initially had one shop, Poppyart, selling both vintage and art but found it too demanding so we opened up the second shop, Jupiter & Mars.  We started selling items on Ebay but found we didn’t really enjoy the venue.  Several friends told us about Etsy so we checked it out, liked it and started up there.

Southern Belle drinking glasses Southern Belle drinking glasses

 Both shops have a really fun, upbeat aesthetic. What’s the deciding factor on the vintage pieces that make the cut?
Anything we personally find interesting and that’s not in too bad of shape generally makes the cut.

Tweet Birdies halter top Tweet birdies halter top

 I noticed y’all stress recycled materials. Was maintaining an eco friendly inventory a conscious decision?
Yes and no.  We receive previously used packing supplies and also use remnants of vintage items such as ribbon, jewelry bits, and fabric to make a lot of our art pieces.  We didn’t start out trying to be ‘green’, we just thought how wasteful it would be to toss all these things, which are still perfectly good.  So our instinct to not be wasteful has turned into being very eco friendly.

Out of The Forest charmed bangle Out of the forest bangle bracelet

Any plans for the future that y’all would like to share?
For the future of the shops, who knows. For our personal futures and as artists- to never be stagnant, always growing and evolving, always learning. To be happy. To be true to ourselves and do good.

1950s Moroccan circle skirt 1950’s Moroccan circle skirt

Define southern style.

Subtly eccentric

Available at Jupiter & Mars and Poppy Art.

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If you live in the south you probably own at least one antique that was either passed down through the family or acquired at an antique shop. These items are usually packed away with care and once out of sight we forget about them. Kathryn of NOOBOO takes forgotten trinkets of yesteryear and breathes life into them with her jewelry. Be it a lost amusement park token or an optometrist’s lens all of her pieces have a story to tell.

You mention in your shop profile that you left your job in the legal field to pursue your art full time, which must have been a big leap! At what point did you decide as an artist to devote yourself full time to your work?

The decision to leave my day job was definitely a huge leap of faith, especially considering today’s economic situation.  It actually came down to a turning point of preserving my own physical and mental health, and I honestly believe that finally being true to my authentic self by creating art actually saved my life.

A Wing and a Prayer - Dragonfly Optometrist Lens Spanish Text Rosary Necklace A wing and a prayer
 How did growing up on the Gulf Coast influence your work?

I have lived on the Gulf Coast for 35 years and it has definitely influenced my work.  I think the Mississippi Coast has a real cosmopolitan yet “laid back” feel to it, which makes its way into my jewelry.

Honey Drippers - Vintage Amusement Token Honey Bee Sand Opal Earrings Honey Drippers

 NOOBOO has a definite victorian feel that you describe as steampunk. Can you tell us how you come up with your pieces?

My designs evolve in several different ways.   I am influenced by most anything and everything I see around me- shapes, colors, or even a line in a movie. I have a natural affinity for certain timeworn objects, of course- keys, tokens, watch parts, etc., and I never tire of incorporating these into my work.

 Do you have in mind a certain piece of jewelry or do you rely on the object to tell you what a piece will become?

 I sometimes wake up with an idea in my head for a complete design and I also do a lot of doodling to create others. Some of my best designs though are merely “happy accidents” due to my incredibly messy work space! I have all these pieces lying around where I can see them and a design will seem to magically appear as I place items together. It’s akin to putting together a puzzle; some pieces fit and others don’t. You also have to know when to quit!

Tag, You're It - Vintage Daniel Monique Bouche Clothing Tag Peacock Feather Locket Mirror Necklace Tag You’re It

 Define southern style.

  I believe Southerners, and especially Southern women, to be nostalgic collectors of their history, so their “southern style” would be sassy and strong yet extremely feminine–Scarlett O’Hara meets Julia Sugarbaker, or Grandma’s pearls meets Grandpa’s pocket watch!  This to me defines Southern style, which I believe is reflected in my jewelry.

Kathyrn’s work can be purchased at the following boutiques and galleries:

Caboose Art Gallery – Long Beach, Mississippi
The Art House – Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Gallery 782 – Biloxi, Mississippi 
Lysbeth Smith Antiques & Jewelry – Franklin, Tennessee

Or you can pick up a piece online via Etsy. Feeling inspired? She also sells her surplus supplies at noobootoo.

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