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Avec Amour : September 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Go Camping (without hating life)

I like to think of myself as low maintenance, but I think the truth is I draw the line at bugs and sweating all night. So, as you can imagine, camping sounded good in theory but I had some concerns.

I found the best way to overcome these concerns, and to thoroughly enjoy myself, was to be extremely prepared! Isn't that always the solution? :) I read this article in Bon Appetit and I was inspired to have an enjoyable camping trip with a slightly upgraded menu.

We went camping over Labor Day, and although Nashville's summer has been mild, this was a particularly warm weekend. Our camp site at Henry Horton State Park ended up being very shady and nice, providing a little solace from the sun. (I'll mention more about it, but camping at this state park was really wonderful!) 

From one city girl to (potentially) another, here's my list of being prepared for camping.


  • Tent
  • Air Mattress
  • Battery operated air pump (unless you KNOW you'll have power! We did not)
  • Bedding: lightweight sheets (ones you don't necessarily care about), a light blanket, and pillows
  • Lighting (headlamps are handy, but cell phone lights or flash lights will work too!)

I really didn't want to eat burgers all weekend, so I got serious about our menu for the weekend.
  • Cast iron pans are going to be your best friend. You can put them right over the fire! They'll make the best eggs & pancakes you've ever had (more about cast iron here). Dutch ovens (non enamel coated!) also work wonders.
  • Additionally, stainless steel pots and pans do great over high heat.
    • No matter what you do, leave the teflon/nonstick pans, and plastic spoons & spatulas at home. Metal or cast iron only!
  • Bring 1-2 big bowls that you can use to serve & mix in. No need to bring the whole kitchen.
  • A few multi-purpose serving spoons/tongs
  • Paper Plates & plastic forks are great. Disposable and less dishes to do in the woods. Bring twice as many as you think you need. 
  • Tin coffee cups or disposable coffee cups, depending on your style
  • A roll of paper towels
  • Tin Foil
  • All your normal spices/condiments. For me it was salt, pepper, oil vinegar, garlic, mustard, hummus, salsa. I picked up a few packets of ketchup and mayo from the Publix deli on our way out incase anyone wanted them (they did!)
  • A blender bottle (used for protein shakes) can be very multi functional. I used it to make salad dressing, mix batter and more!
  • Breakfast
    • We cooked pancakes, eggs, bacon, and even cinnamon rolls over the fire. They were all easy and even tastier cooked over an open flame.
  • Lunch
    • Keep lunch easy with snack-y foods, like raw veggies, hummus, hard boiled eggs, pretzels, sandwiches, and cut up fruit. 
  • Dinner
    • Prep as much as you can at home. I pre-cooked pasta to make a pasta salad (just add basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella at camp), and quinoa that was easily re-heated or added into a salad.
    • Chili was also a game changer: cooked at home, frozen (helped keep our cooler cold!) and reheated over the fire. It was amazing. We even made cornbread in the skillet which was an amazing addition!
    • Salad kits were great as the prep work was minimal, and we still ate tasty gorgonzola and almond salad!
    • In the spirit of camping, of course there were burgers and hot dogs. Just not every night :)
  • Snacks
    • Chips and salsa are always a winner. 
    • We brought some hard cheeses (they do better without proper refrigeration) and enjoyed a custom cheese plate in the middle of the woods. Yeah, definitely not roughing it.  
    • Chex Mix and trail mix seemed fitting and were great by the river or over a game of cards
    • S'mores.... duh! We got creative with Oreo's instead of grahams, and Goo Goo Clusters or Reece's instead of chocolate. (Heather is a genius)
  • Drinks
    • Bottled water was the obvious choice. Stay hydrated!
    • La Croix with a slice of lemon was a fun day-drink
    • Bota Box of Sauvignon Blanc was so easy and lasted the whole weekend - no corks, no vinegar taste by day 3. And 4 bottles per box... win. Add some La Crox or Perrier for a spritzer
    • We made Moscow Mules (minimal ingredients) and they were a great addition around the fire! 
    • Leave the beer & the bottles of wine at home. They are cumbersome and complicated. 

  • A few extra ziplock bags 
  • A set of Purel wipes to get rid of anything nasty
  • Brillo Pads Pre-Soaped - these were AWESOME and I got them at the Dollar Store.
  • Microfiber towels (also picked up at the dollar store)
  • Extra paper towels. You'll need them.
  • A gallon jug of water (that you can refill at the bath house) to make your own dishwater
  • Tin foil 
  • A medium size tupperwear bin that can be used as your "sink". This is also a great place to store dishes after they're washed to keep them away from the elements.
  • Shopping bags are great for trash, as you won't want to keep scraps around all night. I budgeted 7-10 bags per day for the 8 people, and that worked well.

My friend Heather asked me if I was going to be "Sporty Spice" or "Cute Camper Girlfriend" for our weekend in the woods - I opted for both.
  • Running shoes & socks
  • Workout clothes (for hiking and trails)
  • Bathing suit
  • Cover up
  • water - friendly flip flops (wore these most of the weekend)
  • lounge clothes (jean shorts, tank tops, easy sundresses, romper)
  • Comfortable pi's
  • light sweater for nights around the fire 
  • Sunscreen, bug spray, and your favorite facial wipes

  • Clothesline / clothespins. Hang up wet bathing suits, towels and the like so they don't get nasty.
  • A few extra towels.... just incase.
  • Bug spray
  • Sun screen
  • Proper footwear 
  • Firewood/fire starters (or pick some up on your way)
  • Hammocks
  • Camp Chairs
  • Ice, ice, ice!

Guys, camping is FUN! Don't forget to have some of that. And even if you just throw some burgers in the cooler and sleep on the ground.... it's gonna be a great memory :)

What's on your camping list? What did I forget?

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Monday, September 14, 2015

This Week in Travel: Vol. 29

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.

It seems fall is upon us. While it doesn't feel like that, there is something about Labor Day that does make me feel like it's time to move into the next season of the year. We went camping last weekend and it was SO FUN. Camping guide coming soon, and it's a lot more simple and enjoyable than you'd think. 

After a simple summer, fall is jam packed. We are gone a lot for work, fun, visiting family and adventure alike - it's gonna be a good one! Stay tuned for packing lists and city guides.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nashville Neighborhood Guide: Downtown

I've never liked country music. 

I can appreciate the genre at times, with classics like Martina McBride (not that FL/GL Line crap...), but that's not why I moved to Nashville. While seeing the honkey tonk bars can be fun for a few hours just to say you've done it (like Times Square in New York or the Hollywood Walk of Fame in LA), that's not where I like to spend my time downtown. Here's a few favorite restaurants, bars, and places to have fun if you aren't a country music fanatic.

There are a number of places you can pay for $10 or more for parking, but here are some more affordable options. 
1 - UBER. Depending on where you're staying, Uber can be super affordable. From our house (about 2-3 miles from downtown), it's $5-$6 one way.
2 - Park at the Titans stadium and walk over the bridge. As long as there isn't a game or event happening, this parking is completely FREE!

Acme Feed & Seed
This has become my favorite Downtown haunt. They have 3 levels and tons to do! The ground level almost always has live music, a bar, and a great food menu (The Hatchery, Down Home Falafel, and Vegetable Garden are my favorite meals!). You order your food and can take it to any level. Level 2 has trivia some nights, sports games on others. They also serve sushi on this level. Top floor is a roof top with a bar and awesome vibes and views of downtown. Check it out if the weather is nice! Check their event calendar to see what they have going on.

Great upscale southern food. Make a reservation for sure! Whisky lovers, take note - they have some rare ones available (like Pappy Van Winkle! the only place in town I've seen it available).

M Street
This group of restaurants might technically be considered the Gulch, but I think it's worth going to no matter where you're visiting in the city! Saint Anejo (mexican), Kanye Prime (steak), Virago (sushi), and Moto (italian) are favorites of mine - but they also own Whisky Kitchen and the Rosewall in their complex (and Tavern tucked away in Midtown). Make reservations at any of them, you won't regret it.
Upscale bar food, great vibe. Amazing beer list and really fun rooftop! The perfect place to grab a drink before going to a show at Bridgestone.

Pinewood Social
Pinewood is one of a kind - it serves every meal, has an amazing cocktail menu, serves Crema coffee, has a bowling alley, and a pool. Yes, seriously! You can make reservations for all of the above, and I'd suggest it. No matter what you are looking for, Pinewood has something to offer, and they do it well.

The best bread in town. They do great pastry, sandwiches, and breakfast. Additionally, if you are looking for a delicious loaf of bread to bring home this is your place!

The best place for beer in the city. Sooooo many beers on tap!

A local favorite, originally on 12 South, but now has a downtown location. They serve great coffee, beer & wine, as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not to mention fresh made pastry and breads all day every day! 

One of the best coffee shops in Nashville. Most locals are fans of the Cuban. I am a fan of their coffee soda at the moment, but they had a mulled coffee option that was to die for! Absolutely worth your time. 

If you aren't looking for honkey tonk bars, country music, or line dancing.... this is what you'll want to do downtown.
Bridgestone Arena is where all your major players will be - Taylor Swift, U2, Cirque du Soleil, Nashville Predators... you name it, this is where it happens. Check early for tickets, shows sell out all the time!

Nissan Stadium
The Tennessee Titans play here, and sometimes large festivals happen here, too.

Schermerhorn Symphony Center
A beautiful place that puts on amazing events! The Nashville Symphony is extremely talented, and I've been lucky enough to be there for the Christmas show a few years ago. They offer discounted tickets on the regular and have really fun events. Check the calendar for events.

Traveling broadway shows, ballet, and other arts will be at TPAC. I've seen Wicked there and it was great!

The "Mother Church" of country music, but really, it hosts great musicians from all around the world. There's something "holy" about being in this space, and musicians live for the day they play the Ryman!

The Frist
A great art museum in downtown Nashville, there are several different types of galleries to see. One of my favorite places. 

The walking bridge will always be a favorite of mine.... because Matt and I went their on our first date, and also got engaged there ;) But even if you're not proposing, the bridge is great! You can park at Titans field and walk across to get to downtown, plus its a beautiful walk. Enjoy :) 

At the Titans field-side of the walking bridge, there's a great park. If you have kids, definitely bring them here! If you're just looking for a nice walk, this is also a great spot to check out. They did such a great job of making it an urban green space.

Downtown can be really fun, even if it's not country music fun! You can leave your boots at home and enjoy Nashville for its diversity, great food, and awesome events.

Updated September 2015

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nashville Neighborhood Guide: 12 South

We love living in Nashville! I thought I'd start creating a neighborhood guide on where to eat, drink and play if you ever visit!

12 South is one of my favorite areas to be in town. It's always hosted one of our favorite coffee shops, but has grown SO much over the years! We are fortunate to live so close (less than 2 miles) away, and have taken many a spring walk or bike ride over there. 

Here are a few of my favorite places in 12 South!

Eat & Drink

Frothy Monkey
Frothy has been a Nashville staple for over 10 years. This 12th South location is the original (they now have 4 other locations AND a bakery!) and will always be my favorite. Cozy atmosphere inside, amazing patio outside, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, beer, wine, and some of the best coffee and specialty drinks in town. Definitely worth your time on a visit!

This newcomer is a favorite of many. It's beautifully decorated inside and has a wonderful brunch. Dinner is intimate and tasty. I'd suggest making a reservation, as it fills up quickly!

12 South Tap Room
One of the best beer lists in town, including Gluten Free beers, craft beers, and locals on tap. They also have some of my favorite house made salsa & chips if you need a snack! This place is casual and unassuming, but a great spot.

A Nashville pizza favorite. Also featuring GF pizza crust that doesn't taste like garbage... amazing, right? This place has everything you want in a local, family pizza joint. It's delicious and it will always be a win in my book.

Lebanese food with a modern twist - the Mediterranean at its finest. Loved their menu and simple, but intentional drink menu, and the beautiful vibe. Grab a seat on the patio at sunset and thank me later.

Burger UP
Fancy burgers, great truffle fries, and a cool vibe. They have a good veggie burger and a gluten free bun, plus some non-burger options like great salads and delicious nachos.

Edley's BBQ
Carnivores, enjoy this one. Everyone loves the bbq at Edley's. Vegetarians, you won't find much here except the salad or a grilled cheese. Even the collard greens have bacon in them. BUT! 

Las Paletas
Local, home made popsicles, with amazing favors like Rose, Hibiscus, Mexican Hot Chocolate, or classics like Lime, Watermelon or Caramel. One of my favorite summer day treats!


Imogene & Wille
Super cool denim shop, also has other clothing, hand bags, and some cool house wears. It's worth stopping in even if you don't need a pair of custom jeans. 

White's Mercantile
Imagine if the home section of Anthropologie was it's own store, with a handful of clothing and handbags, all upscale goods. Great candles. Adorable tea towels. Some cool Nashville "souvenirs" in a non touristy sense of the word. I absolutely love this store.

MODA Boutique
A beautiful boutique. Right next to Frothy, so take a wander when you're waiting for your coffee.

Savant Vintage
My favorite vintage clothing shop in Nashville. She has a great eye and always has new and interesting stuff! 


Sevier Park
One of my favorite Nashville parks. Walking path, pretty hills, great for a picnic and a nap on a blanket. Grab a Paleta and a patch of grass and enjoy some shade.

12 South Farmer's Market
Tuesdays from 3-6pm in Sevier Park there's a great farmer's market. Fresh produce, artisan goods, and live music! Some food trucks are usually there, too. It runs April-October.

Sevier Park Community Center
If you're looking for a quick work out, check out the community center. It has a small gym w/ all the basic equipment, it's $3 to drop in. They also offer tons of group classes like Pilates,  Zumba, Boot Camp, and Yoga.... also $3. It's clean and nice and we love it.

Also, if you're looking for this photo op.....
You'll find it in 12 South.

It's one of Nashville's cutest neighborhoods, and I love it! There are other restaurants and shops, but these are ones I personally love. Hope you enjoy!

Update September 2015

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