3 Gift Ideas for Toddler Girls

It's the time of year when bloggers start sharing all of their "top picks" and "gift guides." Generally speaking, I find these types of posts annoying and self-serving (they usually include tons of affiliate links) and full of products that are way out of everyone's price range.

So, today I'm going to share three affordable gift ideas for toddler girls -- three things we love and actually own. No weird affiliate links. Just stuff we love.

These Mix & Match "dolls" from Petit Collage are so cute. My mother-in-law bought them for Livia and we have so much fun with them. They are actually flat, thick cards that you can mix and match to create fun characters.

This doll house from Melissa & Doug is a modern take on your typical little girl's doll house. You can move the furniture from room-to-room, it has an "elevator" and you can buy a little car for the garage. We have a lot of fun with this and it's great for stimulating the imagination.

To say that Livia has an obsession with music would be the understatement of the century. She loves it. We got this KidKraft guitar for her 2nd birthday thinking she would love it, but maybe not be ready for it right away. We were surprised just how quickly she figured out how to hold and support the guitar and strum away. It's easily the best $30 I've ever spent!

So, there you have it. Three solid gift ideas for toddler girls that I can almost guarantee will be a hit.

Family date at the Bargello

bargello-1 bargello-2 bargello-3 This past weekend we took a family date to the Bargello. The big open courtyard on the first floor is a great spot to let Livia run around and explore. She would occasionally stop and stare up at the sculptures in awe (some of them are massive) and then turn around and run in the other direction. We got just enough energy out in the courtyard that she was quiet as we explored some of the other rooms. She *loved* the pottery room and was mesmerized as she looked through the glass at everything -- although all I could think was, "I feel so bad for the person that needs to clean the glass tonight." Fingerprints galore!

In my opinion, the Bargello is a great museum to visit with kids because there are a lot of spaces for them to roam, catch a breath and reset. It's also typically not very crowded so you don't have to worry about your kid getting too overwhelmed by crowds or, even worse, lost in the crowd. Plus, I think sculpture more so than painting is a bit more interesting to really young kids because it seems a bit more lifelike.

7 of the Best Lifestyle Blogs that I Can't Live Without

Best lifestyle blogs So often on this blog I share my Italy and travel favorites, but the truth is I spend most of my blog-reading time on lifestyle and home design blogs. Today I'd like to share a list of my favorites and 7 of the best lifestyle blogs out there (in my very humble opinion).

  • Oh Joy! is a wonderful, fresh and modern lifestyle blog run by graphic designer, writer and all-around awesome lady Joy. I've been a regular reader for years and love how Joy's blog has grown and evolved.
  • Emily Henderson is an insanely talented interior designer and stylist. Every room she posts to her blog I would live in in a heartbeat.
  • Notes on Design is a tumblr full of amazing design-related photos from fashion, home design and travel.
  • Lesley and Natalie are two wonderful women I had the pleasure to work with on Southern Flourish a few years ago and I've been following their blogs ever since. Both are amazing, honest writers and extremely talented gals.
  • A Cup of Jo is an obvious choice, but like everyone else I adore Joanna and have been following her for years. Seriously, I think I stumbled upon her blog in like month #1. It's been fun to see her life grow and change. Also, her hair tutorials are amazing.
  • Elephantine is a recent discovery of mine and I absolutely love it. It's a great mix of photos, stories, fashion and the little things that make a day. So pretty.

What I love about the bloggers above is that their blogs feel honest and fun -- they are definitely meant to be inspiration and a bit aspirational, but they are still real. Because, seriously, if I see one more craft blogger posting about DIY homemade paper flower crowns I will hurl -- I mean, really? Who wears those in real life?

What blogs do you ready every day? Tell me over on Facebook!

Living in Florence: City Details

florence italyWhen we were walking home from our palazzo tour on Saturday I looked up and said to Rob, "Wow, I've never noticed that before." Story of my life here in Florence. This city is so rich in beautiful architectural, artistic and design details that it seems like you are discovering something new every time you go outside.

Anyway, what I noticed was a beautiful corner with the red cross, beautiful lamp posts and a sweet little devotional box (is that what they call them?). It was a crowded, but lovely little corner.

Hidden Florence: Palazzo Portinari Salviati

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On Saturday Rob and I had the opportunity to tour Palazzo Portinari Salviati, an amazing palazzo "hidden" in plain site on via del Corso and just minutes from the Duomo. In fact, when I studied abroad I lived just down a nearby side street and never knew the palazzo existed! Part of the palazzo was most recently a Banca Toscana, which I would like to say contributed to some of my ignorance.

It was definitely a treat to take the tour. The palazzo is currently undergoing a lot of renovation and refurbishment to bring it back to its old glory. That being said, a lot of the frescos, stained glass, ceilings and other decorative elements are just as beautiful as ever. It was a visual feast for someone like myself that loves these details. Rob, of course, loved learning the fun historical details (see below for more), including the fact that the ceiling in one of the rooms was completed by the same artist as the Uffizi ceiling. If you've been to the Uffizi you'll recognize the ceiling above right away.

30-Second History Lesson...

Palazzo Portinari Salviati has an invaluable historical importance, closely related to the most significant cultural events of the city of Florence. The Palace, which dates back to the 13th century, was inhabited by European rulers, diplomats and politicians and was the birthplace of both Cosimo I de' Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany and Beatrice Portinari, Dante Alighieri's muse. Throughout centuries of history, the Palazzo has hosted prominent figures of the Renaissance, sculptors and artists and now it features important frescoes and invaluable works of art by famous artists like Giambologna.

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We absolutely love discovering places like Palazzo Portinari Salviati. It's a huge tease to know there are more palazzi just like it lurking around almost every corner of the city!

I shot a hopelessly terrible video during the tour, but decided to share it anyway so that you can see just a few of the wonderful rooms that we were privy to on the tour.

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