What to pack for a hen do…

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending THE BEST WEDDING EVER (still recovering from that one, Pip and Matt!!!!) but a few days before that I went on a hen do with a twist…

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It involved helicopters, fragrance consultations, rooftop pools and perfectly poached eggs…and nobody even had to get married to justify this gorgeous girly day. Win win!…

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Cooking quinoa with Novak Djokovic…

Okay so there’s a post title I never thought I’d write, but here I am reminiscing about cooking with the world number one last week….as he gets on with the important task of defending his Wimbledon title just on the other side of the river.

What can I say? Blogging leads to all sorts of keerrrrrazy shenanigans.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY Novak Djokovic hosts an exclusive Jacob’s Creek cooking masterclass to celebrate the UK launch of the Made By film series – short documentaries about Djokovic’s life, at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 25, 2015. The documentary style films have been created by Jacob’s Creek, the official wine of Wimbledon, as part of their Made By series, taking viewers back to the beginning of Novak's journey with three chapters – Birthed from Serbia, Shaped by Jelena, and Inspired by Dreams. Photo credit should read: David Parry/PA Wire

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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…

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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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