Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Whole Cleaning Process

Our new home was definitely not a home when we first moved in. To say it was dirty is a huge understatement. The previous tenants had no interest whatsoever in cleaning the place and therefore, that job was left to us.

When we saw the amount of dust and grime the house had accumulated over the years, we decided the place needed a deep, deep clean. This is what we did:

1) Declutter. The owners had left a bunch of rubbish and old clothes, food, blankets, etc all around the house. We didn't want to keep any of it (I'm kind of a germ freak) so we packed it all up in plastic bags and threw it out.

{seriously, those curatins...}

2) We couldn't just throw out the old furniture so we called someone up to take it all away. It took two van loads but it was worth the 20€.

3) Once everything was out of the way, it already looked ten times better than it first did. It's amazing how just clutter can make a place look dirtier than it actually is. Still, the place was really dirty so we used a steam cleaner on the walls and floor, followed by a damp cloth to get rid of dust, cobwebs, larger stains...

4) Once it was all dry we grabbed the vacuum cleaner and that did the rest.

5) Finally, we gave all the rooms a good sweep.

We were left with an empty house and a clean slate. It still needed to be painted and the boxes needed to be unpacked. Not to mention we still didn't have running water (that's a story for another day). But hey, homes aren't made in a day =)

Anyone else been cleaning? I bet those patios are sparkling for upcoming summer BBQs!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Here's A Recipe: Slow Cooker Lasagne

Hey, guys!! Happy Weekend!!!

As you may have noticed this week, Life in Sam's Box is up and running again!! The posting schedule for now will be Tuesday and Thursday and the odd Saturday (like today^^). 

Soooooo, what do I have for you today? Well, a recipe, of course. Not any recipe, a SLOW COOKER recipe. Who's up for lasagne??

We don't have an oven yet at our new place, so we've decided to practice a little with the slow cooker. For our first take, I researched a few recipes for lasagne, but decided to personalize it a little. 


Pack of lasagne sheets 
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 carrots, chopped
400g ground meat (I buy a mix of beef/pork)
400ml tomato sauce
1 Zuchinni (or other vegetable)
Cheese sauce (bought or home-made)
Cheese, grated, for topping


First of all, make the sauce. (You can also buy pasta sauce ready-made). Fry the onion in a little olive oil in a pan and add the garlic, meat and carrots. Stir every now and then until meat is brown. Add tomato and a little oregano and basil. 

In your slow cooker, pour a layer of the sauce and cover with sheets of lasagne (you may have to break them to get them to fit). Add some chopped zuchinni (or vegetable of your choosing) and cover with some cheese sauce. Add another layer of pasta, another of sauce, another of vegetable and top with a final layer of pasta, cheese sauce and grated cheese. 

Leave to cook in your slow cooker on low for about 4 hours. 

Bon apetit!!

What are you cooking today??

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moving Tips

We recently moved from Granada to a smaller town on the outskirts, 18km away. Our new house is a three bedroom, two bathroom, patio, porch and garden kind of house. I'm used to sharing an apartment with three other roomates, so this is going to be quite a change. Plus, moving in with your partner is sort of considered a "big step". Wish us luck!!

Before the change of address, I started reading up on all these moving-related tips to keep this move stress-free. I was amazed at the amount of tips I could find around the blogosphere. And some will save you loads of trouble down the line. Here are some of my favourites!!

1. First things first. Make a moving binder-dossier. I didn't have many important documents for my move, since I was leaving a rented aparment and I do not own my future home, so I decided to keep all my move-related papers in a plastic folder for now. But if you have important documents you need to take, a list, an inventory, etc. I highly recommend creating a binder just for them.

2.  Start your packing early. Put away items you won't need until the move or rarely use. If you're moving in the Summer, you can pack some of your winter clothes as soon as spring kicks in.

3. Make an inventory. Keep a list of all the boxes you're packing and what you're putting in them. Write it down on paper or create an Excel file to print out later. Assign each box a number and keep it in your moving binder. Remember to take this list with you on the day of the move.

3. Colour-code your boxes by room and let everyone helping you what the colours mean. Put stickers on each box so your friends and family know where to put the boxes.

4. This next tip is quite curious, I never would have thought of it. When writing numbers on your boxes and sticking stickers, be sure to put one on the top of the box and another on the side. That way, no matter how to stack your boxes (vertical or spread out on the floor), you'll know the number and colour of each box.

5. When packing clothes and shoes in the same box (if you do this), put clothes in first and then set plastic bags on top and then place the shoes on top of these. That way they won't ruin your clothes and you can take them out the box first.

6. Go to your local supermarket, fruit store, etc and ask for empty cardboard boxes. These establishments throw tons of boxes away everyday and they won't mind giving them away. Don't buy any boxes until you've asked. This will save you a ton!

7. Pack a first day box. If you can, make it seethrough so you it stands out from the rest. Keep a change of clothes, sheets, towels, toiletries, etc for the whole family. You don't want to have to rummage through boxes at the end of such a long and tiring day.

8. If you're using a moving company, do your homework! Research different prices and double check what they include. The day of the move, make sure the movers know what they need to take, and what you'll be taking with you. (We didn't use a moving company since it wasn't too far away. It took just a few car trips to get the job done).

9. Keep screws and bolts from furniture in clear zip-lock bags and write the piece of furniture they belong to with a permanent marker. If you can, keep all these bags in the same box or taped to the item. Save you time later on.

10. Once you've moved: clean, paint, unpack, in that order. If you can visit the new place before the move, make sure it's ready and painted before moving in all the boxes. It's so much easier to change floors and paint walls without all the clutter in the way. If you can't visit the place, keep as much stuff in boxes until the room has been cleaned and painted.

11. And last but not least, if you feel you need furniture, don't rush out and buy the first thing you see. Live in your new home for a few weeks to "test it out" and choose a piece of furniture that will fit in your home and make your life easier (there's no point buying a console for the foyer in you have nowhere to put it).

I hope you found these tips helpful! I know we did!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Starting From Scratch

When I started this blog back in 2012 I had a lot more time than what I've had lately. I had a good year of constant blogging and then a not so good one. To be honest, it made me sad to have to set aside my blog for more important things such as finishing my degree. But now my uni years are coming to an end and that should mean some extra time. Time I can dedicate to the Box.

Another big event was my upcoming move. I'd mentioned moving before and we did it! We've moved to a quieter town just outside Granada; a house, not an apartment. And it's in great need of some TLC.

So, with hopefully more time and a bunch of new projects (as well as loads of before and after photos), I thought it was about time I got my blog back on track.

I've decided to leave my previous (and poor) attempt at blogging behind, so a lot of the posts on this blog will go back to being drafts and I'll post updated versions down the line. However, is any of you are interested in a particular post or projects you've seen on the blog or on Pinterest just let me know and I'll get on it a.s.a.p.

I also want to take a moment to say I don't expect this blog to be perfect. My photos aren't professional and neither are my writing skills, but my blog is my happy place and all I'm looking for is a place to share our projects with you. I have to admit I'm saying this because I used to follow quite a few more blogs in the past. To me, these blogs felt real and down to earth, something I could relate to. However, I sort of lost interest when it became more about the presentation than the actual project. I don't need five up close photos of those gold accents from five different angles. And I don't need ten pictures of that cookie jar either. I want to keep things real and (for once in my life) imperfect. I want a blog YOU can relate to.

So, to wrap things up, Life in Sam's Box is officially starting fresh as a place to share how I keep things organized (and hopefully, pretty!) because we all know an organized person is more productive. An organized person has more time to enjoy the little things in life =)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Home Inventory & Excel

At the beginning of this year I published a post about first steps to getting organized. In this post I shared with you a printable I made to keep an inventory of the valuables in your home.

Last week I was going through all the stuff I have in this apartment and decided to make a real home inventory, with everything I own (not just the expensive stuff). I thought about whether it would be best to use the computer or my writing skills and I finally decided to use Microsoft Excel.

The great thing about having a copy of this saved on my hard drive is I can add and delete items as needed. I still keep a printed version of it in my household binder. 

At the moment I have divided the inventory in three columns: room, item and amount. I can add any other columns if need be. 

This doesn't have to be done in a day, heck I didn't. Just pick a room and see what's in it. Make the most of it, though. Check to see if there's anything you don't need, things you can donate or need to be thrown away. You might even come across an appliance that doesn't even work anymore. As you fill in your inventory, look to see if there's anything you have more than one of. Ask youself: do I need that many? If the answer is no, get rid of it. 

This is a great way for you to see exactly how much stuff you have in your home. You could add an extra column with the store where the item was purchased and even the price. You may be shocked at how much you've invested in your home. But, hey, remember that if it makes you smile, it's worth it! 

What tips do you have to stay on top of the clutter? Do you keep a home inventory also? Please share in the comments below!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Food Storage and BPA

I only heard of BPA in plastic containers a couple of years ago. While it's an extended topic known to many in other parts of the world, for some reason in Spain, consumers don't seem to have a clue. There is no active information towards the customer or range of BPA-free products in stores. The only thing we know is that we shouldn't microwave our food in plastic containers.

BPA is a chemical that has been used to harden plastics for more than 40 years. It's in medical devices, compact discs, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks, and many other products. Studies have shown BPA to be safe at low levels of human exposure. But based on other evidence in animal studies, there is some concern about the potential effects on the brain, behaviour and prostate glands, especially in young children. Read more here and here

For these reasons I switched my plastic tupperware to glass.

Even though I use glass containers for the fridge and for reheating food, I still prefer plastic ones for the freezer. I like to prepare food in advance when I know I'm going to have a busy week and freeze any leftovers. I'm still careful not to put hot or acidic food into them and I never reheat food while inside the plastic container: always put it on a plate!

Talking about freezer food storage, I use labels to indentify what's in them and when it was prepared. If you stuff your freezer with meals like me, this is an important step. Sure, you might remember today but in two weeks who knows if it's chicken or pork.

Though I did mention at the beginning of this post that there isn't a wide range of BPA-free products here in Spain, I recently came across some containers in Carrefour (for those living here too). They are reasonably more expensive than ordinary containers but I think it's probably worth it.

What's your opinion on BPA? Glass or plastic for food storage?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Creating A Budget

If there's one thing I'm good it, it's living on a budget. Depending on grants and learning to stretch that money has been quite a ride, and it hasn't been an easy one.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I've been thinking about moving, but for that I have to make sure I can afford it. At the moment I'm living in a flat with 3 other roomates with whom I split the bills, but if I leave, the bills will be just for me. Sure, I'll probably use less water and electricity but I still have to do the math.

So I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss how I create and stick to a monthly budget (and trust me, creating it is the easy part!).

Okay, so first things first, gather all your bank info, old bills, receipts, tax papers, etc, a calculator and some paper. I use a Monthly Budget Control printable, but paper works just fine.

First you want to think about where your money is going and set two categories: "need-to-pay" and "want-to-pay". Let's focus on the "need-to-pay". Write a list of all the bills you HAVE to pay each month, what you can't cut and can't get out of: mortgage/rent, insurance, electricity, water, transport (people always forget this one)... Look at your old bills. How much do you usually pay per month? It doesn't have to be a concrete figure, just a rough idea. You'll also want to include groceries in this category, after all, we need food to survive (or so they say...). Note: I'd like to talk about how to save money on groceries in a future post, so stick around for that soon!

Okay, now add those numbers up and deduct that from your monthly income. That's the money you have "left-over" (I hope it's a positive figure). If you can, take about 10-20% of that and save it. Some people prefer to take this percent from the overall monthly income, but bills have to be paid and sometimes saving just isn't an option.

Now take whatever money you have left and divide it into subcategories for things you'd like to do or stuff you'd like to buy: hairdresser, entertaintment, clothes for each member of the family, babysitter...Use every last cent. This will be your "want-to-pay" category.

You should now have a few figures jotted down: total monthly income, "need-to-pay" expenses, savings and "want-to-pay" expenses. There you go! That's your budget! Now all you have to do is stay under those figures. For example, say you have 400€ for groceries each month. At the end of the month add up your receipts and see how much you've spent. It will be hard at first, but you'll learn to control your spending. If you really don't trust yourself, try the envelope method. Stick those 400€ in an envelope and take this with you everytime you run to the store. Only use the money that's in the envelope and once it's gone, that it!

I hope you guys found this post useful and I'd love you hear all of your ideas and experiences about budgeting so don't forget to leave a comment below!!