Monday, 9 June 2014

Weekly Round-up

It’s been a mad-crazy couple of weeks and we have been away on our latest family adventure (look out for a blog post on our trip to Italy, coming very soon) so blogging has taken a bit of a back seat recently. And I haven't had much of interest to blog about. So, this week's post is a quick round-up of some of the small rays of sunshine in a period that's been a bit hectic, a bit stressful and not hugely interesting (bar our lovely break to Florence, of course. Talking of which...)
1.Half term in Florence
I lived in this lovely city for a year as a student and had been hankering to make a visit back to my old stomping ground for ages. The only question was, would Florence make for a successful family break or would all that art, history and culture make my kids’ heads explode? We decided to risk it, and thanks to relatively cheap EasyJet flights and very family and budget-friendly accommodation, it was a risk that didn’t prove too costly. And the kids’ heads didn’t, thankfully, explode. I think they enjoyed it, though I have a suspicion they liked buying rip-off Italian football shirts from the market more than staring at Giotto frescoes at Santa Croce church….
A full blog post on our trip is coming soon…

2. Cheap 'n' cheerful jewellery
I picked up this little beauty on a recent trip to London, at the Forever 21 store on Oxford Street. If you’ve never ventured into a Forever 21 store before, it’s a pretty manic experience, clearly pitched at the teen age group – I am not their target audience at all. That said, if you’re after cheap, fast fashion and have the time to trawl the rails, I noticed some nice little pieces and the prices are exceptionally wallet-friendly. But as I’m trying to buy less stuff and choose quality over quantity, and resist the false economy (and dubious ethics) of fast fashion, I ignored the racks of hippy-style dresses that looked quite nice and concentrated on the accessories, stumbling on this gem of a necklace that has a hint of the Anthropologie about it – but without the expensive price tag. This beauty cost me £7. Yes, just a little more than a magazine and a bar of choccy.

3. Reading 'Quiet' by Susan Cain
I rarely read non-fiction and have never in my life felt drawn to self-help books, and while this wonderful, fascinating book isn't strictly a self-help book, it does help you understand yourself better if you consider yourself an introvert and reveals the natural reflexes and responses that make some people quiet and anxious, and others confident and gregarious. It's a reminder to yourself that if you like your own company, work best on your own in quiet, familiar surroundings, or shy away from public speaking and 'putting yourself out there' in the workplace there actually isn't anything wrong with you and that your contribution is just as valid as anyone else's. In fact the book is subtitled 'The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking'. If, like me you are a 'quiet' person and fancy understanding yourself a little bit better, READ this book - find out more here.

4. Eating cheese  
My kids don’t ‘do’ shopping. So I knew there’d be no browsing the boutiques of Florence’s enchanting side streets, spending hours picking through vintage knick knacks in the flea markets or searching for the perfect leather sandals (for which Florence is famous)in San Lorenzo, the city’s bustling shopping area. However no trip to Florence is complete without a visit to the Mercato Centrale (an amazing food market) and I knew my kids would be okay with this, given that they love looking at weird cuts of meat and barely dead fish…and this place is full of that sort of stuff. It was while browsing the amazing food stalls at the market that we came across a cheese that sounded just a bit special – pecorino infused with truffle oil.
All I can say is the block we bought was nowhere near big enough. Sublime doesn’t go anywhere near describing just how good this stuff is. You can buy something a little similar here albeit it at quite a price!

5. Shoes, shoes and more shoes

Alongside the cheese I somehow managed to buy TWO pairs of sandals in Italy. Just need to fix the weather so I can actually wear them, now. Florence is renowned for its leather goods so if you’re in the market for a well-made pair of shoes or a new bag, it’s a good place to be. I was most definitely in the market for some new sandals as the Topshop numbers I’d packed decided to break on me midway through the holiday. So I simply HAD to buy some new ones. I opted for some simple, traditional-style leather sandals which I picked up in a teeny shoe store near San Lorenzo, selling proper ‘Made in Italy’ products. They are unbelievably comfortable and made from high quality leather. And at just £34, an absolute steal. And how cute are the raffia slides? A rash purchase from Pisa Airport and a great way to use up the last of our euros (29 of them, to be exact – bargain)
Oh, and then I remembered we have a friend's 40th birthday party coming up, requiring another shoe purchase, hence the lovely heels that found their way into my basket on a recent trip to M&S. I really rate M&S for shoes - their range is often quite 'fashion forward', they are much better made than other high street alternatives, and they come in half sizes and wider widths, perfect for my rather awkwardly-sized hoofs. Go take a look at what's in store now - I saw some really nice, sensibly priced shoes on my last trip. 


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