48 hours in Nashville…

I’ve been pretty spoilt this year and have done a fair bit of travelling already, but few trips could live up to my epic stateside adventures at the end of March.

I love American shopping trips (who doesn’t?!) and I bet that more than half of my clothes were purchased in the good ol’ US of A. Nearly all my skincare purchases are made over there (blame an unhealthy obsession with Kate Somerville, Ole Henriksen and Sephora generally) and if I think there’s even the slimmest chance that I’ll be in the US any time soon, I stop shopping altogether and save up for the deals that I just *know* I’ll get at Premium Outlets and the like. Even aside from the outlets, the shopping everywhere is comparatively cheap. We all know that of course, that’s why any trip to the states – no matter how cultured – usually still involves a mall trip.

There’s no point pretending that there aren’t certain states which people will always visit ‘first’ – New York, California and Florida being the obvious ones. But as much as I *love* all three, I’m enjoying discovering other parts of the US now as I attempt to fill up my passport. My trip to Philadelphia last year was insanely good and this trip I’ve just done to Nashville and Austin may have even been better, so it’s about time I bloody blogged about it!

Nashville and Austin are easy enough to combine into one trip – you can fly direct between the two in 2 hours – and I was amazed to see how many people commented on my Instagram posts while I was out there to say that I was doing almost the exact route of their honeymoons. I know a lot of people who have been to Austin (I honestly feel like the only person who hasn’t been to SXSW!!) but I rarely meet Brits who have been to Nashville.

So let me just make one thing clear: you should go to Nashville.

If you like music, GO TO NASHVILLE.

I will blog about Austin separately because there’s just far too much to say for it all to fit in one post, but here’s what I got up to in my 48 hours in Nashville, Tennessee…

FRIDAY

Breakfast – a Goo Goo Cluster en route to the mall

I can’t say I’d ever heard of Goo Goo Clusters, but I needed something to shove in my gob in the taxi and I was promised that these were a Nashville delicacy. And let’s face it, you can’t really go wrong with milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat.

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IT WAS SO GOOD.

They’ve been around since 1912 and claim to be the world’s first ever combination candy bar. Invented and still made in Nashville, you will see them everywhere and you need to eat at least 18 during your visit. It’s Nashville law.

Morning fun – Shopping at Opry Mills

Opry Mills is Tennessee’s largest outlet and value retail destination, so if you want to go to just one mall and ‘get it all done’ then you’d be hard pressed to find a better place.

It’s an indoor mall (yey! non-weather dependent shopping!) and boasts 200 + stores including Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, Coach, J.Crew, Victoria’s Secret, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren…all at outlet prices. The bargains were insane, made better still by picking up a coupon book from Guest Services (a nice perk available to all international visitors) and finding various coupons on the Opry Mills website. ALWAYS look for coupons when shopping in the US, they are much more ‘pro-coupon’ than we are here (have you seen Extreme Couponing on TLC?!) and it feels like the checkout staff actively want you to get a better deal. Be shameless with your coupons and plan your spending if you’re after products that are available in multiple retailers…it’s worth it.

The mall is big but easy enough to navigate, especially as all on one level.  I fought off jetlag with a coconut milk cinnamon dolce mocha (!) as I nipped from shop to shop. I’m not sure this concoction really counts as ‘coffee’ but when in Rome (AMERICA).

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I picked up new jeans in True Religion (American denim seems to be much more forgiving for women who dare to have curves), a ridiculous number of cheap Yankee Candles as gifts (some were a dollar!) and some more gifts at Icing (a shop a bit like Claire’s but less kiddy, I got some great presents in there as well as $5 ‘diamonds’ for me)…

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…and was then ready for lunch….

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How much difference does sleep really make to your skin?

A couple of weeks ago I posted this picture to Instagram with little explanation of where I was going or what I was doing…

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The guesses as to what I was up to were suitably amusing, but I wasn’t becoming a Russian spy or dyeing my hair (alas)…I was in fact taking part in a 10 day sleep experiment.

Like all human people, I love sleep. Sleep is great. I will happily miss out on “fun things” and “outdoor pursuits” for more lovely, beautiful, cuddly sleep.

I am fortunate to sleep very well. Having suffered years of pain-ridden no-sleep when my jaw and spine problems were bad, I really do know how lucky I am to now be one of those people who can sleep on a plane, adjust to new time-zones quickly and generally lie down, close my eyes and drift away instantly. I should put it on my LinkedIn.

I have busy periods where I don’t get enough sleep and I’d definitely like more, sure, but generally I get 7-8 hours. I very rarely go to sleep before 1am, but I make up for it by sleeping in slightly later. (Try working from home, it’s great).

So when I was asked by Bensons for Beds and Dr Guy Meadows’ Sleep School if I wanted to take part in a sleep experiment to see how sleep affects beauty, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve always known I look worse when I’m knackered, but never truly known if I look like death because of, say, a massive boozy night (in which case, is it the abundance of gin or the lack of pillow time?) or because I’m running around like a mentalist with too much work on (and as such is that more of a being stressed issue, rather than simply being tired?).

I was intrigued. I was ready. I SAID YES, DEPRIVE ME.

After all, a few nights with less sleep wouldn’t be that hard, would it?…

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What I got up to as a #24hrmillionaire….

In my last blog post I told you about the challenge I’d been set by The National Lottery and Lotto to “be a millionaire for a day”. I say ‘challenge’, but obviously it was less of a challenge and more of a massive treat.

This magical day took place last Wednesday and I documented everything I did throughout the day on Twitter and Instagram (I was completely overwhelmed with tweet replies on the day – especially when in Harrods – so apologies to those I didn’t reply to!) but I wanted to blog about the experience too…as it really was an *epic* 24 hours.

For those that didn’t read the last post, I’ll give you a quick re-cap on what on earth was going on…

To celebrate the fact that every Wednesday in May there’s an extra chance to become a millionaire with Lotto thanks to an additional £1m prize in the raffle (on top of the usual jackpot!) I was set ‘the challenge’ of spending £2,739.72 in 24 hours.

Why £2,739.72? Because that’s the amount you could spend every single day for a whole year if you won £1,000,000.

Oh and I had to spend ALL OF IT. Anything that didn’t get spent would have to be given back at the end of the 24 hours.

It was fascinating reading what Lotto fans and my followers would have spent the money on had they been doing the challenge, but obviously there were caveats on how I could spend it.

I wasn’t allowed to just put it towards my mortgage, give it to charity or spend it all on clothes. I had to spend it on ‘experiences’ (to get a real idea of how it feels to be a millionaire Lotto winner), make the money last for the full 24 hours, save some for surprise challenges aaaaand I needed to splash the cash on things that could be filmed/documented….which sadly meant my camera shy husband couldn’t skip work for the day to join me. I am constantly impressed by his quest for privacy, even when such treats are on the table! (To be fair he did join me to stay at The Savoy, which was the second best bit of the whole experience).

SO WHAT DID I RUDDY WELL DO WITH ALL THAT CASH?

Well you can get a little overview in this one minute video…

But this is basically what went down from 7.30pm Tuesday to 7.30pm Wednesday……

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How would you spend £2,739.72 in 24 hours?

This is quite a hard post to write without sounding exceptionally lucky and just a little bit smug, so I may as well just cut to chase.

From 7.30pm on Tuesday I am going to have a very surreal 24 hours. Thanks to The National Lottery and Lotto, I am going to live the life of a millionaire for 24 hours.

OBVIOUSLY I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS.

Now I love The National Lottery (guests at our wedding will no doubt remember our scratch card gift favours fondly….well, the winners will anyway!) and I am one of those people who thinks they will *definitely* win whenever they buy a ticket, but next week I will be getting a taste of the lottery winner lifestyle for real.

To celebrate the fact that every Wednesday in May there’s an extra chance to become a millionaire with Lotto thanks to an additional £1m prize on the raffle (on top of the usual jackpot!) I’m being set ‘the challenge’ of spending £2,739.72 in 24 hours.

Why £2,739.72? Because that’s the amount you could spend every single day for a whole year if you won £1,000,000.

Oh and I have to spend ALL OF IT. Anything that doesn’t get spent has to be given back at the end of the 24 hours.

I am currently in the process of planning my 24 hours….and it’s quite overwhelming to be honest! I only got asked to do this yesterday. Part of me wants to do a Ross from Friends and “invest it all in a very low yield bond” (anyone who doesn’t think the lottery episode is the best ever episode of Friends is WRONG! I will be very suspicious of pigeons next Wednesday!) but there are of course some caveats on how I can spend it.

I mean seriously, how do you spend that much cash in a day?! I could just buy a ludicrously expensive handbag, but that wouldn’t be much of a “millionaire experience”…it would be over pretty quickly and I want to stretch this millionaire feeling out for the full 24 hours!

Giving chunks to different charities is an obvious idea, but choosing which charities would be a 24 hour task in itself and the National Lottery already do a huuuuuge amount for worthy causes. (Did you know that National Lottery players raise £33million every week – EVERY WEEK – for Good Causes?!).

I have been told that there will be some surprises along the way though, so it won’t just be me enjoying this 24 hour millionaire lifestyle….watch this space!

But for now I need some advice, I know I want to stay in a ridiculously swanky hotel, hit one of the big department stores and see a show with really good seats (I’m intrigued to know what it feels like to not be at the back of the upper stalls – hah!).

Any advice on where to go?!

Feel free to vote below or leave a comment!

Which show should I see?

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
The Woman in Black

Poll Maker

 

Where should I stay?

The Mondrian
The Savoy

Poll Maker

Where should I go shopping?

Harrods
Harvey Nichols

Poll Maker

You’ll be able to follow along what I get up to (and if you’re lucky, you could be in for a treat yourself!) by following the hashtag #24hrMillionaire on Twitter and Instagram.

I AM RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED.

And, needless to say, very grateful to The National Lottery and Lotto for the opportunity for this insane experience.

Roll on next week!

x

p.s I have asked….but Hector Riva is not available to be my sexy +1 for the day. Shame.

REVIEW: Marley Spoon Recipe Boxes

Ahhhh, box subscription services. Don’t you just love ’em? You can get everything these days through a box subscription service it would seem, from the latest beauty must-haves to gluten-free snacks to more mundane things like sanitary towels and chocolate for ‘that time of the month’. (Yep, really!).

I’d never seen the appeal of the vast majority of box subscriptions to be honest, but then I started seeing ads for recipe boxes and I thought it seemed like a pretty good idea. You get sent a recipe – and the exact ingredients needed to make said recipe – at a frequency to suit you and your family.

Marley Spoon is one of the companies doing recipe boxes here in the UK and last week I tried out the service.

Marley Spoon Box

The company originated in Germany, but is now gaining fans across the UK (and Europe) and I can totally see the appeal of the product. You choose a delivery day and if you want enough ingredients for three meals or two (I chose two) and the number of portions, then you choose which recipes you want to try for that week. The recipes are all created by their in-house chefs (although they are doing some awesome food blogger collaborations which is pretty awesome!) and they make the most of seasonal ingredients, so it’s a great way to try something new.

The week I tried, there were three vegetarian options to choose from but obviously if you eat anything and everything you’ll have a lot more choice on which recipes to order.

I opted for a Korean rice and spicy tofu with peanut-sesame topping recipe and a gluten-free cauliflower pizza recipe. I was able to choose a timeslot for delivery and then I just waited for the food to come like a kid awaiting Christmas.

Marley Spoon recipes

Marley Spoon

Marley Spoon box contents

Everything was superbly well packaged. Sustainability is a big thing for Marley Spoon and they will recycle your packaging or you can recycle it yourself. You could understandably worry about fresh ingredients arriving in a ‘fresh’ state, but the packaging is very clever (sheep’s wool is used with ice blocks to keep everything perfectly insulated!) and I used the packaging to transport some of the ingredients to Manchester a couple of days later and the ice blocks didn’t melt at all in the sheep’s wool even having been in the car for 3.5 hours….so it’s all been pretty well thought through. (And I will definitely be keeping the sheep’s wool packaging to use an insulator again and again!)

Marley spoon ingredients

The recipes were exceptionally easy to follow and before you choose them they let you know what you’ll need to supply yourself but it’s only ever the very basics – a grater and salt and pepper, for example. The recipes seemed to be designed with the assumption that the cook won’t have anything on hand other than the most basic equipment, so you really should be ready to go when the food arrives.

Marley spoon ingredients

You get the exact amounts of everything, whether that’s a tablespoon of sesame oil or the exact amount of chives. There’s no waste, which is crucial. Let’s face it, it can be a pain to accurately plan meals throughout the week and not end up throwing food in the bin….

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