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Postponing plans – see you in 6 months Rome!

18 Dec

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So, a lot of developments have taken place since my last post. It never fails to amaze me how life can change course in the blink of an eye! So, what’s the latest news…

February Plans
I am no longer spending my month in Rome in February – fear not, I will still be there for 2 weeks starting on 2nd February, but instead of coming to study, I am coming to learn…there is still so much of Rome I haven’t seen and plan on spending the two weeks I have there exploring the city and the areas around it.

What’s 6 months in the course of a lifetime?!
The atmosphere at work hasn’t been great since the pre-Christmas redundancies were announced. It was that which was driving me to forge on ahead with my Italian plans, but I felt that it was time controlling me, not me controlling my time. Luckily, work is now secured until mid-July, and as much as it upsets me to postpone my Italian dream, logically, it makes more sense to stay here for the 6 months, work, save, rent my house, save more and then look to move mid-summer. It does make more sense that way (sorting pet passports can take MONTHS!) and in the course of a lifetime, 6 months is nothing! And I can rack up more air-miles flying to/from Italy in the meanwhile!

All work and no play make…..?
Work is always a tricky subject, especially when hunting in another country. About 2 weeks ago when I was looking for work in Rome, I was amazed at how much contact I had. I registered on a site called Au Pair World and had some great contacts from people in Italy, one couple that I loved the sound of, who lived in downtown Rome, looking for an Au Pair. I was ecstatic when I heard from them, we exchanged emails and seem to have a lot in common. It breaks my heart to say no to them – they were offering everything I wanted; downtown Rome is one of my favourite areas, a great apartment in a century-old building, a cat! I can only live in hope that similar roles are available when I make the move permanently.

Christmas and New Year 2012
So it’s a week today until Christmas day – and I can’t wait! I love Christmas and will be spending it at home with my parents and Aunt and Uncle from Cornwall! It’ll be a great few days and I love spending time with my family!
New Year’s Eve I am flying out to Rome to spend 4 days with the boy. Looks like 2013 will be brought in at at house party with lots of champagne and my home-made brownies…flown out there in my hand-luggage!

So, there’s not much left to say except a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers!

Nina

Love in the Eternal City: Valentines Day in Rome

26 Nov

The clue really is in the name…’Roma’-nce. Is the Eternal City the most romantic place to spend Valentine’s Day?

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Look through some brief history and it will tell you that Saint Valentine is a third century Roman saint associated with the tradition of courtly love who died on February 14th. Traditionally, it was mid-February that was chosen by Romans to meet and ‘court’ new people. It was the handwritten gestures of admiration that built to the red-tinted craze we now know as St Valentine’s Day.

There is no doubt that Rome is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Steeped in ancient history, you are offered a heady cocktail of day-long (and accepted!) wine drinking, seductive food and a backdrop of basilicas, monuments and ruins to add just some more drama and intrigue to February 14th. And, not forgetting, the divine charm of the Roman males, (consider this English girl sold!) who’s old school wooing techniques will have your heart racing in no time.

So where in Rome is best to spend the most roman-tic of days?

The Trevi Fountain
As obvious as it may seem, this is one of the most romantic spots in the city. Visit at night when the fountain is looking its finest, and throw a coin in together, guaranteeing your return to the city.

The Trastevere Neighbourhood
One of my favourite neighborhoods in the city, the Trastevere holds its charm in the ancient cobbled streets that haven’t changed for generations. The unique character of the area attracts independent artists and famous people alike. Strolling through these streets hand in hand is one of the most romantic experiences in the city.

Piazza Navona
In the heart of the city, this famous Piazza features 2 amazing fountains and a wonderful buzz from all those that are there. It has long been a meeting place for the inhabitants of Rome. Full of acrobats and performers, it is guaranteed a great place to spend part of your Valentine’s Day.

Pincian Hill
Personally, I consider the Pincian Hill as one of the most romantic places in the city, offering a breathtaking view of the Piazza del Popolo and all of Rome.
Pack up a champagne picnic and spend the day watching the bustle of the city pass beneath you.

Rome is a city perfect for Valentine’s Day. If you want to escape the city, visit Castel Gandolfo, a small Italian town in Lazio overlooking Albano lake, about 15 miles south-east of Rome (take the train from Termani – about an hour).  It is most famous for being the summer residence of the Pope.The town was voted one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Walk the Albano lake, then walk up to the town to enjoy a great cappuccino or lunch, overlooking the tranquil beauty of the lake.

Roma-nce can be found within the city walls and beyond. I for one, cannot wait to experience a Roman Valentine’s Day in 2013.

Why I want to make Rome my home

18 Oct

I’ve made no secret of my love affair with Italy. I first went in 2005 and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. I stayed in a typical Tuscan villa near a town called Montespertoli and visited Florence (swoon!), San Gimignano and Sienna. I loved the place so much, I went back a year later.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I went back to Tuscany to stay with my parents whilst they were there. Cue another week-long stay in a perfect villa, drinking amazing wine for less than 3 Euros a bottle and eating some of the best food I had tasted. After Tuscany, I took the train to Rome, my first time in the Eternal City.

I can’t really explain what happened, but stepping off the train at Termani in the scorching July mid-afternoon heat made me feel at home. I didn’t feel like I was visiting or on holiday, there was more of a connection than that. The city was intense, hot and rich. I was in love.

I have been back 3 times since my first visit in July and have seen many sides to the city, and I have fallen even deeper in love. There is a strange comfort to be found on the cobbled streets, walking past church after church. There is something almost movie-set like about Rome, it’s exactly as you would imagine, and more.

So, I figured I would compile a list of the things that have helped me decide that Rome is the home for me…

1. The sunsets
I noticed this first when there in July. The sun setting over the city creates a rainbow of colours in the sky that you can sit and watch til they fade.
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2. The cobbled streets
There is something almost energetic about negotiating the cobbled streets. As a girl who was practically born in 4in heels, it makes a scary yet refreshing change to have to spend the majority of my time walking about the city in flat/sensible shoes. I have observed many an Italian fashionista strutting across the cobbles with the grace of a figure skater and I guess that is something I will develop over time.
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3. Nuns
I’m not religious and make no illusion that I am, but there is something very comforting about the constant reminders that Ave Maria is never far away. It seems like I cannot step off a plane or train in Rome without seeing one her her loyal representatives. It’s humbling and funny to see them, in groups, enjoying the gelato of the city!
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4. Graffiti
I see a lot of graffiti in the UK, but there is something about the graffiti in Rome that always brings a smile to my face. I think its the combination of the modern work and the centuries-old walls it adorns that makes me realise the true beauty of Rome; it is old and new, modern and traditional.
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5. Water Fountains
These are everywhere in the city and something that always captures me when I pass one of them. They range from basic to elegant and I was delighted to discover one 30 feet from the front door of my own palazzo.
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What are your reasons for loving Rome?

Ciao for now,

Nina xx

Benvenuti a Roma!

10 Oct

OK, so I may have jumped the gun a bit and have already scheduled in my housewarming party in Rome for when I move there in February! But, I think that with all I will have to arrange between now and then, it will get forgotten so I am happy that’s now scheduled in! My lovely Italians and some of my English pals are also invited!

So, where are we at with the plans?

Apartment
Finally this has been sourced and booked – I have liaised with a charming man called Valentino who I believe has single-handedly restored my faith in humanity…
Me: Shall I pay the 20% deposit to secure?
Valentino: Nooooo, I shall pencil it in, that’s enough for me! Once I pencil something in, nothing changes my mind!
Such a lovely man!

The space itself is beautiful, right in Rione Monti, practically in the back garden of the Coliseum, in a beautiful neighborhood. I couldn’t be happier about the location. I have a bizarre connection with the Coliseum (maybe I was a Gladiator in a past life!) and quoted various lines (“Father to a murdered son….”) from the film every time I saw it! So to be living in a Palazzo built in 1600 next to the Coliseum = one happy Nina!

Course
I am now fully enrolled on my 4-week Italian course and can’t wait to learn more of this beautiful language. Somehow I seem to be picking it up well on my current 10-week beginners course so will be heading onto the ‘elementary’ course in Rome! Exciting! The school is a 20 minute walk from my apartment and I am there 4 days a week for 3 hours, which should provide good exercise to help burn off the gelato/pasta/pizza!

My first weekend in Roma!
I am very luck to have parents that are supportive of this move and want to do as much as they can for me to make this get off on the right foot! They will be traveling out with me on the Saturday 2nd February and staying there with me until the Monday morning, before flying off to Malaga to pick up their cruise ship (they are always on holiday!), which ironically docks at Civitavecchia (closest dock to Rome) on Saturday 9th February, so they will be spending that day with me too! As this is the day after my planned housewarming, they could be fortunate enough to be sharing my new abode with my lovely Italians!
I am delighted that they will be coming there with me that first weekend, it will help me with settling in and I know full well that waving me off at departures will not be enough for Mummy B! She will want to inspect the venue that will be the hub of her daughter’s crazy month in Rome with a fine tooth comb. As she is not as well adjusted to Rome as I, cue comments on the graffiti everywhere, rubbish, cobbled streets (not compatible with Marc Jacobs boots) and near death experiences whenever crossing the street! p.s – its these exact features that made me fall in love with the city the second I first stepped off the train in June this year!

Things I will HAVE to take with me for the month as there cannot possibly be a decent Italian equivalent! (or, things I’m packing!)
As I plan to make Italy my home one day, I think that I need to make this feel as less like a holiday as possible! So, factoring in some key items is essential in this quest!
1. English tea – I refuse to pay through the teeth for imported tea! 90 Typhoo tea bags should cover it!
2. Bold 2in1 Washing powder – yes, insane, but I love the smell and have to have it with me! (yes, I did partly fall in love with my apartment because it has a washing machine!)
3. Pictures of my family/friends/cats – because I want this to feel like ‘home’ these simply have to come along!
4. Pimms! – I introduced Pimms to my lovely Italians and they love it! Every time I return its with a liter of Pimms in tow! Luckily, with Mum and Dad’s suitcases, I can take far more in February!
5. My favourite DVDs – I am under no illusion that there will be nights when I am sat in at home like I am in the UK and these nights I want to be able to sit back with a bottle of vino and watch some films/TV shows that I love! Likewise, when my girls come to stay, these will be essential!
6. Docking station – I cannot live without music on so this will be essential!
7. Nikon camera – a ‘yet to be purchased item’ but totally essential to photo-doc my month in the Eternal City. This isn’t the time for 3,000 shabby iPhone pictures, this is the time to capture life-changing memories! My Dad’s Nikon is pretty decent so that shall be my weapon of choice!

Ciao for now!

Nina xxx

Things I will miss about the UK ‘when in Rome’

8 Oct

OK, so I am sat at my desk at work literally counting the weeks until I can live la dolce vita for a whole month, and I got to thinking about the strange things I would miss…of course there are the obvious things, but what about the more…less-obvious.

1. English TV
I know/have been told that Italian TV is some of the worst in the world. From experience I have encountered badly-dubbed episodes of ‘Friends’, films that only seem to have been made up to the 1970’s, and lots and LOTS of football! How will I cope without the Hollyoaks omnibus on a Sunday morning when my head and heart are feeling a little delicate from the night before? No Big Bang Theory…I know, I am not going there to watch TV, but it’s something that crossed my mind when thinking of this blog!

2. Driving…especially in the Mini!
I LOVE my car – red Mini Cooper and it’s just ‘so me’. I also adore driving and a whole month without it is a scary idea. I had contemplated hiring a car when in Rome, but a) I’d have more chance of parking it on the Moon, and b) I respect my life, and don’t feel like cutting it short! Italian drivers are crazy!

3. English Tea with FRESH milk
I can say that buying fresh milk in Italy has always proved impossible to me…you get what I consider to be stuff similar to our ‘long life’ muck that is sold on the SHELVES of stores in Italy, not the FRIDGE. That will take some adjusting to! Luckily, as my parents are helping me move in, I have the luxury of 3 suitcases to fill with Typhoo! Mum suggested opening an English Tea Room there – yes, but only with fresh milk!

4. Tescos…Sainsburys…Waitrose
The decent UK supermarkets do take a lot of beating and I happen to live close to all three above. I’m not saying I will miss them per se, because I don’t rate their fresh stuff or meat highly, and nowhere can beat Italy for the quality of fresh produce, but the ease of use is what I shall miss.  I dare say that on my return I shall miss picking out my own fresh of fruit and vegetables from the local markets like no-one’s business!

5. Reliable, fast internet
The Italians rush nothing and their internet is no exception. They have an attitude of ‘if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t’, which on the surface is an amazing attitude – we Westerners spend far too much time stressing out about things like ‘slow broadband’ when in the scheme of life, it’s not that important. It will take a period of re-adjustment to the much slower internet of yesteryear (they don’t still have dial-up, surely?!) but it will all be part of my readjustment to Italian life.

6. Cleaning products I know and love!
Yes, random I know, but it takes a lot for me to love a washing powder – I am so picky! After 7 years of living in my own home, I still struggle to find cleaning products that measure up to my fussy standards! I know the Italians have odd names for their cleaning products too…’Bum Bum’ dish soap and ‘Lady’ multipurpose cleaner…give me a bottle of Fairy Liquid over Bum Bum any day!

Ciao for now!

Nina x

My Life Essentials…

29 Sep

There are a few things in every girls life that becomes what I refer to as her ‘kit’…things that make life that bit more bearable and I thought I would talk you though mine…

Oliver Peoples ‘Deacon’ Frames:
My eyesight is pretty poor and I have had glasses since I started Secondary School. I first got contact lenses at 16 and treated myself to the Deacons from www.pretavoir.com last September after a few months of hunting for the right frames. I think that they are a real statement pair of glasses and I always get compliments on them. I feel that if you have to wear glasses, make them as stylish as possible.

Wella SP Repair Shampoo and Mask:
I colour my hair regularly and since going Ombre, I need a shampoo and conditioner that helps maintain condition and shine. This is the brand used at my salon of choice and I really rate this for coloured/dry hair. I tend to purchase online from www.beautybay.com as they are cheaper than salon prices and delivery is always top notch! I do like to change my shampoo and conditioner regularly though and am dying to try Label.M Honey and Oat next!

Sudocreme (not photo’d):
Something of a cult product and once just a cream I used after changing my goddaughter’s nappy, this wonder cream is a staple in my beauty regime! Perfect for helping with those unexpected breakouts, Sudocreme is perfect for slapping on overnight (cue Casper the Ghost comments from the housemate!) when I find myself on the business end of a chin breakout! The next day, the spots are calmed and reduced right down!

Liz Earle Skincare:
I have fallen head over heels for the Liz Earle skin care range. I tried their Hot Cloth cleanser after reading rave reviews and suffering from a bout of dull skin, which was subject to horrid breakouts. Ordered directly from www.uk.lizearle.com this has become something of a life saver and one of my all time favourite cleansers. As a Dermologica girl for many years, I didn’t think anything would be good enough to tear me away, but I have fallen hook, line and sinker for the entire range! I have since added their Skin Tonic to my regime and am in the process of sampling their moisturisers! I am now also trying out their make up range – FURTHER REVIEWS TO FOLLOW!

Benefit ‘They’re Real’ Mascara:
I consider (along with the new Ombre doo!) my eyes to be my ‘thing’. I have always had compliments on my eyes, so I feel I should make the most of them, and this mascara is possibly my all time favourite. Lengthening, curling and extending – it does it all and can turn my eyes from dull and sleepy to wide and alive without me having to do a full face of make up. As a frequent flyer, I was over the moon when I received a travel-sized version with my latest purchase as Benefit were celebrating the anniversary of the launch of the product! Win!

St Moritz Fake Tan:
There is no hiding from the fact that I am pale and without doubt, feel 100% more body confident when I am tanned! I like to get spray tans done, and so far, have found Sienna X to be the best by far, but when finances/time do not allow, I use this tan, which I have to say is amazing. And cheap – I can usually pick it up for about £3 a bottle and its simple – it works! In a pump bottle that produces a foamy mousse, it applies well, doesn’t streak and lasts 3-5 days. I have tried various other ‘at home’ tans (Vita Liberata/St Tropez) and nothing touches this for price or quality!

Primark Natural Look False Eyelashes:
I ADORE fake eyelashes and would wear them every day if I didn’t work in a slightly boring office! I have tried practically every make going and can’t really fault these ones from Primark at a delicious £1 a pair! I always stock up on these when I’m on one of my Primarni trips! They are simply fabulous and I don’t get heartbroken if I lose them after a night out! I took a stash on my recent trip back to Italy and they didn’t let me down! The glue provided isn’t amaze, but that is neither here nor there and the quality and value makes up for the slightly shoddy glue!

Ciao for now!

Nina

Product Review – Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanse and Polish

10 Sep

I’ll be honest and say that I often have a love/hate relationship with my skin…

I’m naturally pale (fake tan costs per month is usually high for me!) and suffer with a condition called Polymorphic Light Eruption (Google it if interested) which results in a rash that appears mainly on my arms and legs after exposure to UV light.

As for my face, I was lucky that I managed to avoid serious breakouts in my teenage years – I would get what I described as ‘hormonal break outs’, usually on my chin at that ‘time’ of the month! I would often find myself doing one of my beloved overnight Sudocreme face masks to dry and soothe and reduce the breakout on my chin…

In my later 20’s, I found the hormonal break outs to get worse, and I would often spend mornings caking on the concealer. It wouldn’t stop there, I noticed that I would have dull looking skin; no matter how well I was maintaining it. I tried a variety of cleansers, moisturisers and serums to try and help, many only offering a short term improvement.

Liz Earle was a brand I had been aware of for many years; a boyfriend of mine when I was in my late teens swore by it, as he had problematic skin whilst at school. I waited until I was 29 to try it and wish I had done sooner.

The Hot Cloth Cleanse and Polish is a cult product – it receives rave reviews amongst beauty bloggers and after suffering with break outs on my chin and dull looking skin that even my beloved Dermalogica couldn’t solve, I ordered the 100ml starter kit from their website http://uk.lizearle.com/

Ordering + Product Arrival

I have to say that the website is great to use and navigated easily…it looks stylish and professional and I wasn’t left hunting about for what I wanted. I chose my product, created my account and happily waited for it to drop through the door (I selected the Standard Delivery – 5 – 7 Days)

5 days later, my order arrived and I was delighted. It was well packed and I was also sent a 50ml sample of the Tonic (which I was dying to try!) and the full colour range of their Skin Tints…(I use the palest but the others were gratefully received by my housemate!) I was eager to try the products out so got down to it straight away!

Ingredients and Use

The full ingredients list is*: Aqua (water), Caprylic/capric triglyceride, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl esters, Sorbitan stearate, Polysorbate 60, Glycerin, Cera alba (beeswax), Propylene glycol, Humulus lupulus (hops) extract, Panthenol, Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract, Anthemis nobilis (chamomile) extract, Eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus) oil, Limonene, Citric acid, Sodium hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Dehydroacetic acid, Polyaminopropyl biguanide.

*taken from the Liz Earle website

The instructions are great – the product comes with a detailed instruction list along with the 2 x pure muslin cloths…for the full polishing effect! I love the packaging – it reminds me of Tiffanys!

You use 1-2 pumps of the product (I have found 1 full pump perfect) and massage onto dry skin. The product has a lovely smell, which is clearly the eucalyptus oil, and reminds me of the smell of Spas – gorgeous and refreshing. I massage the product fully over my face and down on to my neck.

The muslin cloth is great – you dampen it in hand hot water and use this to ‘polish’ the product all over your face. You can, remarkably, use this product to remove eye make-up and it does so with no stinging WHATSOEVER! Personally, I remove make-up with a wipe first and then go and cleanse and polish. For the purpose of this review, I did test it removing Saturday’s eye make-up and it was fully removed, pain free! Amazing!

To finish off, rinse the muslin cloth out and splash your face with cold water.

It’s recommended you wash the cloth after every 3-4 uses at 40. I put the cloth in with a towels or bed linen wash.

Initial Review and thoughts…

Although I have only used this product since Saturday ( 6 full uses when this review was written) I can already notice a difference in my skin – it looks better, feels smoother and the ‘dullness’ I was suffering with has gone. Even the awful spots I was suffering with on my chin have all but disappeared.  I have been using the Tonic after each cleanse and this is also great and something I will be investing in. I am currently using my Dermalogica ‘Skin Smoothing Cream’ at the end of the routine but will also look into investing in the Liz Earle moisturiser if this improvement in my skin continues.

So far, amazed with this product, the customer service and delivery are all great. I highly recommend this product to anyone looking to brighten up their skin – it’s certainly worked for me!

Things that have rocked my world recently…in more ways than one…

7 Sep

Let’s start with something positive shall we?

Chanel’s Vitalumiere Aqua Foundation

This superb foundation has become one of the newest loves of my life. I didn’t believe anything could make me cheat on my MAC foundations…we have been together many years but it was time to move on. At £31 a pop, it’s not the cheapest out there, but having used Chanel make-up since I was 14, I can safely say this is one of my favorite products to date. And let’s face it; no nail varnish will ever compete with Rouge Noir. Ever. Done. No arguments! A perfect foundation for ‘Summer’ (or the three days we had of it) it’s light to apply and gives a wonderful dewy look to your complexion. I will be hard pushed to find anything that will beat this as we head into the winter months! Thanks Chanel, another make-up triumph!