Need-to-Knows for the Nashville Novice

Statistics show just under 100 people move to Nashville each day, and with all the place has to offer, this comes as no surprise. The city has everything – rich culture, diverse cuisine and more musical talent per square capita than any other place in the world. Whether you prefer hopping from honky tonk to honky tonk down Broadway or immersing yourself into history, Nashville promises to keep you satisfied and planning out your return as soon as you depart.

Where to Eat

Brunch is a must and my top pick for starting your day off on a high note is The Southern.  The portions aren’t huge but that’s just fine because it saves room for more indulgences later in the day like ice cream from Jeni’s. If you’re in the mood for more of a grab and go meal, check out the Frothy Monkey.  With a few locations around town, this is the perfect spot for a morning pick-me-up minus all of the frills (and lines).

Nashville might be known for its country music connections, but there’s another thing synonymous with the city that’s gaining popularity: hot chicken. For those of you brave enough to try it, this now basic food group of Nashville can be found in restaurants across the city but there are a few recipes that stand out above the rest: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B’s.

It’s probably hard to go wrong when it comes to dinner options, but here are a few places to consider. If you’re craving a casual vibe, give South a try (along with their Lavender Lemonade). For a slight step-up, sip from mason jars while enjoying slow-cooked BBQ and local talent at Puckett’s Grocery. If you want something a tad more upscale, look no further than Husk, brought to you by award-winning chef Sean Brock. The Crispy Chicken Skins, though perhaps not the most appealing by name, are truly phenomenal.

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Where to Drink

There are 51 bars along Broadway that keep the beer flowing and the music bellowing. A few of the staples along the route include Tootsie’s and ACME Feed & Seed (both with rooftop views), Honky Tonk and Rippy’s.  Another favorite of mine is Big Shotz on 2nd Ave., right off of Broadway and a little less crowded during the day with awesome drink specials and incredible entertainment.

Nashville’s burgeoning brewery scene is also worth exploration with the likes of Tennessee Brew  Works, Yazoo, Czann, Fat Bottom, Jackalope and Tailgate – just to name a few.  For those of you who prefer the lighter drafts, I’d highly recommend Tailgate’s Watermelon Wheat.

If you’re bold enough to stand in line for anywhere from 30 minutes up to two hours, The Patterson House speakeasy is well worth the wait. The low-key environment transfers you back to the prohibition era as soon as you pass through the curtain.

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Where to Shop

The 12th South neighborhood offers a blend of chic, yet electric shops and eateries – plus plenty of Instagram backdrops. Ranging from Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James to holistic pet shop Wags & Whiskers, this up-and-coming neighborhood has something for everyone (four-legged friends included).

Venturing back to the heart of downtown, you’ll find a plethora of shops and an endless selection of boot stores like Boots & More and French’s. Muse Inspired Fashion is an adorable and somewhat affordable boutique on 2nd Ave. that is also worth a gander.

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What to do

If music is your thing, then you’re definitely in the right place. Rewind through musical history with a tour of Studio B – you may even get a chance to play Elvis’ piano. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Jonny Cash museums are also a must. No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to Opryland or the Ryman and here’s a hint: if you’re going to be in town for a few days, wait to book your tickets and keep monitoring until the timing gets close before you purchase your tickets as new talent gets added to the line-up regularly. You never know who will be in town so it’s worth waiting for the best schedule! For a more intimate sitting, The Listening Room gives you a a front row seat to raw, unadulterated singer-songwriter talent.

If you’re in town to party, add a little exercise to your day with the Nashville Pedal Tavern. Biking through the city streets will make you feel better about all of the beverages you’re consuming (only you will still be drinking while doing it so maybe the purpose will be defeated but who cares, you’ll still have  fun).

If you’re looking for something more relaxing, stroll through Centennial Park and check out the Parthenon. Visits to the Cheekwood Botanical Garden or Belle Meade Plantation are also in order – plus, the latter even has wine tasting!

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Sure, Nashville is known as a center of musical talent, but the city has so much to offer and will keep you coming back for more.

 

 

 

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My Best Friend’s Indian Wedding

Ten years ago I moved in with a complete stranger – one with a name I wasn’t even certain how to pronounce.  We knew nothing about each other and only talked once before setting out with our families to find a place to live.  We settled in a borderline ghetto apartment off the campus of the University of South Carolina – right up the street from a homeless center (whose residents we would one day meet at our door).  If our surroundings weren’t going to take us out, our lack-of-homemaking skills were certainly enough to leave our families fearing for our survival.  But somehow, like all college students, we learned to live.

The moments after our parents pulled away, the very first few we had alone, set the stage for what turned out to be an unbreakable bond.  We had a super small box TV with limited reception.  The only thing on was a Richard Simmons exercise video.  So we did what any strangers would do – we looked at each other, got up, and starting sweating with the oldies.  From there the rest was history.  Barkha became the little sister I never had, though all too often, she was so much wiser than I.

We used to talk about the weddings we would one day have.  As a first generation here is the states, her plan was to return to her parents’ homeland of India when that day came.  But, time changes everything.  A few years back, she met an amazing Indian man with a huge personality and name that could not be more fitting for a person who always seems to have a smile on his face – Sunny.

Instead of making the trip to India for their nuptials, Barkha and Sunny brought their traditions, celebrations and family to Florence, South Carolina, for an unbelievable three-day, 5-outfit changes, event.

The first night is the henna tattoo night, or Mendi.  On this night we learned never again to ask an Indian, “Is this spicy?”  Their anwser will likley be no but if you’re brave enough to try, make sure you’ve got a bottle of water (or five) on hand.

Outfit Details: This maxi was a Black Friday deal from Instagram – just $10!

The next morning was the Manglik Prasango – it’s essentially a pre-wedding ceremony filled with prayers and activities that purify and cleanse the bride and groom (their events are held separately).  A turmeric power mixture was spread on Barkha’s face and arms via family members.  The yellow dress she’s wearing has to be discarded afterwards; she can never wear it again, even as beautiful as it is!

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Outfit Details: Adrianna Papell dress retailed at $189 and found at Belk after-season clearance for $35. Jewelery set just $6 from Burlington. 

Later that evening was Garba Raas.  For hours upon hours, guests dance in a circular formation to a series of synchronized steps.  I was able to wear a traditional Indian outfit that night but as if my blonde hair didn’t say “I’m not Indian enough,” the fact that I took out a row of chairs because I was not used to the shawl definitely made it clear!

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Outfit details: Big Buddha Bag (retails for $79) found at Hamrick’s for only $30.

The big day came on Saturday and if you think a Catholic wedding is long, it has nothing on an Indian wedding.  The ceremony started at 10:30 a.m. with Sunny making his way to the Civic center with a majestic white horse among family and friends singing and dancing; the whole shebang ended around 2:00.

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Outfit Details: This amazing three-piece set was handmade in India and given to us as a gift from the bride. 

By the time evening rolled around, it was time to party – and man can those Indians party!

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Outfit details: No special deal on this Cachet dress but sometimes you’ve just got to splurge. The Jessica Simpson Beryl Glitter Platform sandals were on clearance at Dillards for $35, but you can find them still at Lord & Taylor for $53. The rose gold earrings also came from a clearance rack at Dillards, just $7. 

From start to finish, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life but the best part was seeing two incredible, genuine, driven, insert any other positive attributes you can think of here, begin the next chapter of their lives together.

Post-grad guidelines: letter to my 22-year-old self

I honestly can’t fathom the fact that it’s been seven years since I walked across that University of South Carolina stage and took hold of my degree.  Time moves so quickly and seems to speed up even faster as each day passes.  This week marks a milestone for me, seven years since starting my career at Wireside (!), and with that, it only seems appropriate to reflect upon the lessons learned in these post-college years.  Looking back, here are some takeaways I have for my 22-year-old self.

Priorities will shift.  Right now, you’re straight out of the college gates, ready to tackle the world.  Slow down.  Focus.  Take time to explore your passions.  Many of the things that motivate you today will be mere memories in the days of tomorrow.  You don’t need to craft a game plan for the rest of your life, but you must make choices now that will keep you on the path you inevitably want to follow.  Connect with mentors that can guide you and watch you grow along the way.

Chances should be taken.  This one is tough for you, a person that feels most at ease in a safety net of the familiar.  But regret is a strong force, one that will serve up a constant reminder of moves you did not make.  Taking a leap of faith, no matter how difficult it may be, can turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.  Go against your internal grain and force yourself out of the comfort zone.

You’re unknowingly taking those you love for granted.  Although you’ve lost friends and family members, you still don’t fully grasp the true impact of loss.  As you grow, times will come when those close to you are no longer a part of your life here on earth.  And the stories of lives taken too soon, even those you don’t know personally, will touch you on a deeper level and help you to realize that not a moment in life should be taken for granted.  Every hug, every conversation, could be your last so embrace tightly and connect deeply.

Friendships will fade.  Not all of them.  Some will pass the test of time.  But others, the bonds you thought could never be broken, will prove to have been held together by a Velcro that slowly loses cohesiveness over time.  This will be a harsh realization, but it’s often a shift where no one is at fault.  Life will take you to different places and accelerate at different moments; you may not always be able to keep up with one another.  As you grow, you’ll learn that certain people were a part of your life at a certain time because that’s when you needed them, and they needed you, most.  They played a role in making you into the person you’re becoming and it is okay if they’re not by your side to see the final product.  You’ll carry a piece of them with you, always.  A friendship, even one that once seemed so strong but is now visible only in a stack of old photos, will still be an important friendship when you look back at your journey through life.

You’re in for an amazing adventure filled with limitless opportunities, unwavering love from those around you and unwritten storylines.  Just don’t sit back and enjoy the ride because you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

Bridal Brigade: Showering our Bride with Love

All the planning, crafting and 57 lb suitcase carrying paid off during my best friend’s bridal shower. The party turned out better than we could have ever expected.

We hosted the shower at a local restaurant. It was a private setting and the staff was super to attentive to us the entire time – through set-up, during the event, and after it was over.  The layout was ideal, too.

Decor

Instead of spending money on decorations that would simply be tossed out after the event, or buying a gift from the registry, I decided to work/shop with a dual purpose in mind: make or purchase items that Diana could use for the wedding or in her future home.  Luckily, their house colors will be the same as the wedding colors!  We were also able to reuse a good chunk of the decor we bought for the bachelorette party.

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For the “What do you love most about our bride?” activity, we asked the groom to share five things he loves most about his bride-to-be (written on the black hearts).  Then each bridesmaid, along with the mother-of-the-bride and future mother-in-law, wrote one thing they love most about her.  Blank cards were available for guests to share their thoughts as well.
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Each guest was asked to share a bit of love advice for the soon-to-be newlywed couple.  Then, each week during the first year of their marriage, Matt and Di will be tasked with opening up one heart, reading the advice, and making it a point to abide by whatever that particular message guides them to do.

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The bottom of the gift table was lined with pictures of Di’s early years (and boy were there some gems in the collection!).

2015-07-25 13.21.39One of the bridesmaid put together this incredible wedding dress cupcake compilation.  Looks like something a culinary professional designed (with a heavy price tag).  She did such an amazing job on it.

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Some of the bridesmaids put together these awesome centerpieces as well.  The faux flowers were laid on a bed of diamonds and illuminated by a changing color light.

2015-07-25 15.49.31We brought back props from the bachelorette and set-up a photo booth that was put to good use.  The frame was a fun addition, but also something the couple will be able to use in their new home.

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Games

We kicked the party off with an ice breaker. Each guest was handed a card with a name on it – 1/2 of a famous couple.  They were tasked with finding their soulmate.  Of course, Matt and Diana cards were included!

ice breakerWhile everyone was eating, we played a round of bridal trivia.  Tables were broken up into teams of five and everyone had to compete in the categories of wedding songs, wedding movies and general wedding knowledge.  Ironically enough, it came down to a tie between the Mother-of-the-Bride and the future Mother-in-Law.  They had to duke it out over tie breaker Q’s about their son and daughter.  In the end, the MIL team brought home the prize.

Next up was the “Nearly Wed” game.  In advance of the party, we asked Matt to answer a few questions and then Diana had to guess his responses.  For each one wrong, the poor girl with lock jaw had to put another stick of bubble gum in her mouth (I’m a horrible friend).  Luckily she knows him pretty well after 10+ years!  We gave guests a copy of the questions so that they could play along, too.

The ladies also played a bridal scratch off and two lucky winners got to bring home a prize.  While the bride-to-be opened up gifts, guests had to follow along and mark off items from the gift registry Diana received that matched up to their cards.  The first two winners scored a Bath & Body Works candle.  Gift bows were handled off to one of Di’s ridiculously talented friends, who created this masterpiece (the groom even got in on the action):

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It was absolutely amazing day celebrating an even more amazing person. Can’t wait until we get to stand by this girl’s side!

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Like I said, we are like twins: reflection of a lifelong friendship from a 9-year-old’s perspective

Nearly 20 years ago I wrote a diary entry about how my best friend and I were “…like twins ‘seperated’ at birth.”  As we grew older, the differences between us became more evident (like the fact that she’s half a foot taller than me L), but the one thing that has never changed is the unbreakable bond we share.  Reflecting on the validations I put forth back on March 2, 1996, I realize how much is different but more importantly, how the underlying intention still remains the same.

We both have the same toothbrush.LO

While this one probably held a lot of clout back in the day, I can’t really relate to it today.  At all.  And I REALLY hope she’s still not using that same toothbrush 😉

We like the same exact same food.

This statement could not be further from the truth.  Lauren lives an extremely healthy lifestyle and that’s reflective in her diet.  Where she opts for protein and veggies, I opt for ice cream and Mac & Cheese.  But the one thing we do have in common is that we be both detest cooking, so, that counts for something!

We both like playing store we both like playing “detictive.”

Playing store turned into both becoming shopaholics (a reason I’m sure her husband does not want me to live in the same cityJ) and playing detective became figuring things out together.  Throughout our 20+ years of friendship, Lauren has been and will always be one of the first people I turn to when I’m struggling or in need of sound advice.  She’s always there to listen and to talk through the hurdles that arise in life.  She helps me analyze the situation and find the best solution, even if it’s not what I want to hear.  While her brutal honesty can be painful, it’s often what I need to know.

We both hate Michael O’Dell (a lot).

I feel bad for this one; I really do.  Mike O’Dell, wherever you are in this world, I apologize for making you the subject of my 9-year-old self’s diary entry!  Now that maturity has set in, this statement obviously no longer holds any truth, but the deeper meaning does.  Part of what has held our friendship together for so long is the fact that we share the same values.

We both like dogs (Cody).

This will never change.  Though Cody has long since left us, our hearts have been filled with dogs of our own and one day, the space will widen to make room for the children we plan raise together.  I’m confident that my future children will adore their Auntie Lo the way that I do and that she will be a person they can always turn to in life, just as I always have.  Unless they want to eat, then they’re out of luck.

Like I said we are like twins.

The twin part may have been a stretch, but the sister part?  That is a fact.  I will be forever grateful for the loyal, genuine, hilarious, brutally honest, forever friend I have in you, Lo.  Let’s enjoy our last year of our twenties, my friend, and get ready for a lifetime more of memories.  Love you!

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