Nashville’s Bicentennial Mall

bicentennial_mall (4)I have to admit, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when Stacie and I went to Nashville. I’d never been before but she seemed to really love it. The most surprising thing to me was how small it was. I know Phoenix is one of the larger cities in the US, but it was still a shock to see how different Nashville was. Not that it’s a bad thing, in fact, as a tourist it was amazing! We stayed in East Nashville but it seemed like everywhere we wanted to visit was only about 15 minutes away (although every restaurant in town always had an hour wait… more about that later). Although we were only there for three days, we zig-zagged all over town and got to see everything on our list, without the usual exhaustion that comes with trying to do too much in a day. The first couple of days were chilly and rainy, but the last day was sunny and beautiful. That was when we made the trip to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (also known as Bicentennial Mall).

bicentennial_mall (3)Nashville’s Bicentennial Mall is a park at the base of the Tennessee State Capitol building. It was built in 1996 to celebrate Tennessee’s 200th year anniversary of being a state. That was another crazy thing to think about- Arizona only recently celebrated it’s 100th birthday in 2012 but nearly 20 years ago, Tennessee was turning 200! One end of the park has a plaza with plaques commemorating musicians that have made their mark in Nashville. The plaza is surrounded by these pillars that contain bells which play at certain times of the day.

bicentennial_mall (2)The edge of the park has pillars with dates for each decade since Tennessee became a state. Next to the pillars is a wall that details historical events that happened during those time frames. I thought it was really interesting to read about the history of Tennessee and being able to visualize how much time has passed was pretty cool (and definitely put things into perspective).

bicentennial_mall (5)The Bicentennial Mall also happens to be, well, a park! There are lots of trees and plenty of open areas and a farmer’s market is also held next to it.

bicentennial_mall (6)The park also contains several memorials, like this one for World War II. I was really surprised by how extensive the park was- definitely not just an open plot of grass, but a place full of history about the state.

bicentennial_mall (9){Stacie pretending she’s back in Europe}

bicentennial_mall{I was having fun being in Tennessee}

bicentennial_mall (7)The other end of the park has a 2000-seat amphitheater and the Tennessee Map Plaza. The map was fun to see. It is a 200-foot wide granite map of Tennessee and shows all of its cities, roads, and rivers.

bicentennial_mall (8)I’m really happy we were able to swing by Bicentennial Mall on our trip. We got to do so many fun things in Nashville but learning about Tennessee’s history was really interesting. I was impressed with how nicely done the park was and how much there was to see and learn. We didn’t have much time while we were there but I would definitely go back. And the farmer’s market would be fun to check out!



Julep Maren

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julep_marenIt’s no secret that I love a good pink nail polish. Light pink cremes are my go-to although bright pinks are super fun. One color I’ve been coveting for awhile is Julep’s Maren. I didn’t get it when it was initially released because it was described as a sheer color and I didn’t think it would be very noticeable on the nails (and Julep’s swatches are notoriously off). After seeing real-life swatches I was hooked. Yes, it was sheer, but not French-manicure-sheer. I purchased it a couple of months ago and couldn’t wait for warmer weather so I could try it out.


one coat

Maren is described as an electric bubblegum sheer with blue sheen. I’d say the description is pretty accurate even if Julep’s swatches are not. One coat is pretty sheer but the polish is so vibrant that it adds a lot of color to the nails. The blue sheen is totally noticeable, especially in sunlight. Even though Maren is a sheer polish, it can definitely be worn with just one coat, but I wanted a more vibrant color.


two coats

Applying two coats really makes the color standout. Maren is such a pretty bubblegum pink and the sheer formula and blue sheen make it different than the typical light pink creme polish. I’ve read a lot of complaints that Maren took so many coats to become opaque but I thought it looked perfect with only two.

julep_maren4It does still look just slightly sheer with two coats but it’s only noticeable if you look really close. In person it is a very vibrant pink shade that is soft at the same time. I’m really happy with two coats of Maren on its own but I think one coat would look really nice layered over other polishes. The formula was fantastic- it went on smoothly and wasn’t too thick or too thin. It also dried pretty quickly. Maren is $14/11.20 Maven here. Other Julep pinks I love are Caitlin, Sushmita, and Avery.



Moda Boutique and The Frothy Monkey

moda_boutiqueOne of our stops in Nashville was Moda Boutique. Located in Nashville’s trendy 12 South area, Moda is a house-turned-boutique that carries cute clothes, jewelry, and gifts. I loved the look of the boutique with its fun purple paint and stepping stone walkway. The clothes were pretty nice but what really drew me in was the jewelry. I’d been eying a few pieces from Consider The Wldflwrs (see their matte stacking rings on my spring wishlist), and since the brand is from Nashville, I thought something from them would be a fun souvenir.

moda_boutique1I ended up buying a couple of rings from local designers. The one on the left is the Sparkle Ring from Christina Kober (I also debated on getting some of her fortune cookie pieces). It’s a fun twist on a simple stacking ring design. Moda did have some of Consider The Wldflwrs’ Matte Stacking Rings but unfortunately none of them were in my size. I did leave with their Slvr Twist Stacker though. Stacie also bought a Slvr Twist Stacker and a pretty gold bracelet which I believe was from CLP Jewelry.

moda_boutique2I’m really happy with my purchases. They are both simple enough to wear everyday and easy to stack with other rings. I love the delicate bands with interesting textures and I really love the story behind them. It’s much more fun to say, “I picked that up in Nashville,” than, “I bought that online from a Nashville designer.”

the_frothy_monkeyRight next door to Moda is The Frothy Monkey Coffeehouse. Stacie had heard about it but never been so we decided to pop in and see what it was all about.

the_frothy_monkey2It was definitely a happening place (it probably helped that it was gray and rainy outside). We ordered and Stacie found a spot to sit in the patio area while I waited for everything.

the_frothy_monkey1It was late afternoon when we went and we were hungry but not ready for dinner. To tide us over we split the Lucy salad and I ordered a chai tea. The salad was really good. It was made with mixed green salad, feta cheese, candied walnuts, and port marinated berries and was served blood orange vinaigrette and toast. The chai tea wasn’t anything remarkable, just a regular chai tea that was perfect for the weather outside.

the_frothy_monkey4Overall these were a couple of fun places to see in Nashville. The 12 South District is really nice and we actually went back during our trip. Moda had some really cute pieces and I’m really happy with my souvenir stacking rings from Nashville. The Frothy Monkey was a great spot for an afternoon pick-me-up and just what we needed to stay energized for the rest of the day. These are two places definitely worth checking out if you’re in Nashville!



Sephora VIB Rouge Beauty Before Brunch Event

sephora_beauty_before_brunch1Yesterday morning I attended Sephora’s VIB Rouge event, Beauty Before Brunch. Basically a kick-off to their annual Chic Week (during which Beauty Insiders get a special discount on everything) Beauty Before Brunch was a VIB Rouge-only private shopping event. I’ve been to a couple of Sephora’s VIB Rouge events before (read about my previous experiences here and here) and I’ve always had fun so I figured I would also attend this event.

sephora_beauty_before_brunchThere’s a Sephora pretty close to our apartment so I just swung by on my way to work. I like going to these Rouge events at my store because they really have things organized and under control. When I arrived, they checked me off the guest list and gave me the event goodie bag (a clutch filled with samples) right away. My store had a few brand ambassadors (I saw Algenist, Benefit, and a hair company) and they were also giving mini makeovers. I never have enough time to visit with the brand reps or play with any makeup but it’s still a lot of fun. My store also had some breakfast items- cinnamon bread, lemon bread, mini cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins, plus coffee, orange juice and water for refreshments.

sephora_beauty_before_brunch2I didn’t really have any beauty products that I needed (my low-buy is really working) but my mom asked for some moisturizer. I absolutely love Perricone MD’s Face Finishing Moisturizer and had gotten her a sample at Christmas. She also really liked it and asked me about getting some more. Since this moisturizer is amazing but a little pricey, I always stock up during Chic Week. 15% off isn’t a whole lot, but it does help.

sephora_beauty_before_brunch4I was really excited to receive the foldover clutch. Unlike the cheap totes from the previous events, this clutch is sturdy and something I will actually be able to use regularly. One side has black and white stripes and the other is solid black. It also has a fun, bright red lining.

sephora_beauty_before_brunch3The clutch is big enough to use as a makeup bag and cute enough to use as a clutch. I like the two different sides because I can either fold it so it looks striped or fold it the other way and have a black clutch.

sephora_beauty_before_brunch5When I received the invitation for Beauty Before Brunch, it said I would get a foldover clutch filled with samples, but didn’t specify what samples. I was pretty sure there would only be three or four one-time use samples, nothing too exciting. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the clutch and found all of this inside. I did get a few single-use samples (Alterna Instant Recovery Shampoo and Conditioner, Nude Progenius Omega Treatment Milk, Benefit Puff Off!, Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate) but I also received a vial of Daisy Dream perfume, a deluxe sample of Buxom’s Full-On Lip Cream, and a full-sized Formula X for Sephora nail polish.

sephora_beauty_before_brunch6I don’t wear much lip gloss but I do like Buxom’s formula so I’m always happy to get new colors. I received the Full-On Lip Cream in Pink Lady, a creamy, electric pink color. It’s a light bubblegum pink that will be a nice alternative to a neutral lip. The Formula X for Sephora polish I got is Extreme, a coppertone pearl. It’s a red/orange color with metallic copper. Extreme is an unusual color but it’s not really my shade. My mom will probably get this with her moisturizer.

Sephora’s “Love Note” discount is 15% off everything, in store or online, for VIB Rouges and VIBs, and 10% off for BIs. The Rouge discount has already started and goes through 4/21 (use promo code ROUGELOVE). The VIB discount starts 4/16 and goes through 4/21 and the BI discount starts 4/17 and goes through 4/20.

Are you planning on purchasing anything with the discount?


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Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies5When we were younger, our Easter baskets consisted of a new outfit, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Whopper Robin Eggs, and some Peeps to share. I was never a big fan of Whoppers or Peeps so I usually convinced Stacie to trade me some of her Reese’s for my Robin Eggs. It was one of the only times our trading worked out in her favor (I was happy to give up all of my candy for only a couple Reese’s). Eventually my mom caught on and now our baskets contain a card and a box of Cadbury Creme Eggs.

cadbury_creme_egg_browniesI’ve been seeing photos everywhere of Cadbury Eggs stuck into brownies and the idea sounded so amazing to me that I had to make my own. I mean, brownies….. and Cadbury eggs?! At the same time?! Seriously, Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies?! How did I never think of this before? Since I had at least half a dozen brownie mixes in my cabinet, I made them the easy way, but this looks like a pretty similar substitute to my Ghirardelli Triple Fudge box mix.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies1These brownies are pretty simple. Basically you cook your box or homemade brownies until they are almost done. Then you push the Cadbury Creme Eggs into the top and cook them for another 5 to 10 minutes.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies2Most of the pictures I’ve seen had half a Cadbury Egg on each brownie square. While they looked delicious, the brownie batter I used already included a packet of fudge and chocolate chips. It seemed a little much to then add half a Cadbury Creme Egg to each piece (is it really possible to have too much chocolate?). So I cut each egg into quarters and then added them to the brownies.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies3I cooked my brownies for about 30 minutes and then added the Cadbury Eggs to the top. The brownies will have developed a crust by this point but they will still be soft and gooey in the middle.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies4I cooked mine for about another 10 minutes or so and then removed them from the oven. I usually like my brownies just barely done so they are still soft and fudgy. There’s nothing worse than a crunchy, overcooked brownie (except maybe burnt and inedible ones, but luckily I’ve only done that once when I completely forgot I was baking some).

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies6These turned out even better than I had hoped. The brownies were super fudgy, chocolatey, and soft with that crisp brownie top. I’m really happy I went with the Ghirardelli Triple Fudge Brownie mix over some of the more basic ones I had in the pantry. They really were a step above other brands in taste and they were perfect for this recipe.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies7The Cadbury Creme Eggs were a really great addition. The milk chocolate paired well with the fudgy brownies and the creme filling added some sweetness and a little bit of a sticky texture. I’m glad I only used a quarter of an egg for each brownie, it was sweet enough but not overwhelming. These were so good that I’m considering stocking up on Cabury Eggs now and making them several more times. In fact, these are good enough to be my new signature Easter dessert.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies8Usually I just leave my brownies in the pan, cover them with foil, and stick them in the fridge, but this small batch was perfect for showing off my new cake stand! I’ve wanted one for awhile but recently started thinking seriously about getting one. Unfortunately, the options that I found online were either too expensive for something I wasn’t sure I would use that much or poor quality. Luckily, my grandpa had one that he was willing to part with. It’s heavy and large enough, plus it has a matching cake dome.

cadbury_creme_egg_brownies9This looks so cute sitting on my counter that I can tell I will be using it a lot. These Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies won’t last very long though (I’m giving them through the weekend, tops) so I’ll just have to think of something else to make!