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!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Next Steps

Now that my degree is coming to an end, I've finally decided what my next steps are going to be. I'd like to take an exam next February and try to get a spot for a Hospital Pharmacy program.That means that once I'm done, I'm going to really have to push myself and study a LOT. Probably more than I have so far. I know, it's gonna be tough and for some reason, it's got me thinking about moving.

The thing is I've been thinking of looking for a new place for a while, so I can study in peace and at my own rhythym, without having to worry about other people's schedules. Plus, I'm really looking forward to having a place of my own, even if it's only for a year. (Not to mention a whole new place to organize and decorate!).

Now I have a chance to make another to-do list and some upcoming posts so you guys can follow me on my journey:

  • Study expenses and savings and set a monthly budget
  • Search ads for places to rent
  • Pick 4-5 and weigh pros and cons of each area, and visit the apartments
  • Look at phone+Internet companies and compare fees
  • Call landlord to say I'm leaving
  • Make moving binder/dossier or similar
  • Pack 
  • Moving Day!!
I'm sure there's a lot more in there to do but I'll just talk about it along the way.

I'd love to hear your moving tips, especially if you're renting. Please share in the comments below!!

PS. I'm going to stop the bilingual posts for a while due to lack of time, but if anyone is interested in the translation of a particular post, just let me know! 
PD. Voy a dejar de traducir las entradas por un tiempo debido a falta de tiempo, pero si hay alguien interesado en que traduzca una entrada en particular, avisadme!

Friday, March 21, 2014

My First Washi Tape!!!

For months I've been searching for a shop where I can buy washi tape, I was kind of jealous of all those people making awesome projects and jazzing up simple items using just a bit of decorative tape. Well, this weekend my search didn't exactly finish, but I did manage to pick up a couple of rolls of my very own washi tape!!!

Durante meses he estado buscando alguna tienda en la que pueda comprar "washi tape"; estaba un poquito celosa de todas esas personas que estaban haciendo proyectos con ella o mejorando objetos sencillos simplemente con un trocito de cinta decorativa. Bueno, pues la semana pasada la verdad es que no terminó mi búsqueda, pero sí conseguí dos rollos de mi propio washi!!! 

So cute!!!

A que son adorables? 

Truth is I picked them up at comic-con. Strange place to buy craft tape, I know, but I was smiling for the rest of the day^^ {You can see a few pics of the day over at Following Sam}

La verdad es que los compré en el salón del comic. Extraño lugar para comprar cinta para manualidades, lo sé, pero estaba sonriendo toda la mañana^^ {Puedes ver algunas fotos del día en Following Sam}

So, what to do now with this tape? I think I'm going to fry my router looking for ideas on Pinterest. Any ideas for me? Please share in the comments below!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making a Herb Garden

I love using fresh herbs, but I always buy way more than I need, so I decided that perhaps growing my own herbs was the best bet. And when I got to the supermarket and saw that a small pot of the same herb was only 20 cents more and it keeps growing back I was delighted.

I picked up 3 different pots: parsley, chives and basil, and a large planter.

Me encanta usar hierbas frescas en la cocina, pero siempre tengo que comprar más de lo que necesito, así que decidí plantarlas. Cuando vi que en el supermercado tenían las macetillas por sólo 20 céntimos más que el botecito de hierbas cortadas, estaba encantada. 

Escogí 3 macetas diferentes: perejil, cebollino y albahaca, además de una maceta alargada para plantarlas.  

To mark which was which I used three popsticks.

What have you guys been planting for spring? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Seeds

Sam is back in the garden!! Yep, that's right, my nails are black with soil and I'm loving it!

After quite a while without having to water anything I finally grabbed a couple of packets of seeds and decided to make them grow.

I picked two varieties of summer-blooming flowers, Calendula and Centaura.

Sam vuelve al jardín!! Sí, eso es, mi uñas están negras de jugar con la tierra y me encanta!

Después de bastante tiempo sin tener que regar nada, por fin compré un par de paquetes de semillas y decidí sembrarlas. Escogí dos variedades de flores veraniegas: Caléndula y Centaura. 

I used a couple of small plant pots to start them, though they can be sown directly into soil, without the need of a pot.

Usé unas macetillas pequeñas para germinarlas, aunque se pueden sembrar directamente en el suelo.

Since I had more than half a packet of each type left over I thought of some way to organize them. I remembered I'd kept a few empty "tic-tac" boxes and thought they would do the trick. I just added a label (a simple handwritten on, for now), the seeds and the instructions. And there you go!!

Como me sobró más de medio paquete de cada variedad, pensé en cómo podría organizar las semillas restantes. Me acordé de que tenía algunos botecillos de caramelos vacíos y que quizá servirían. Les puse una etiqueta (por ahora simplecita, a mano), y meti las semillas y las direcciones. Y ya está! 

I love how you can pour the seeds so easily now!

Me encanta cómo se levanta la tapa para sacar las semillas! 

Have you started spring gardening yet?? 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Memo Makeover

When it comes to organizing, I've found that corkboards are one of my best friends, after bins and baskets (and labels) of course! The problem is I don't always like how they look. I mean they're BROWN. Most of the time it's an ugly brown at that.

You may remember that not too long ago I made over one of these corkboards to use as a jewellery organizer (this post here).

A la hora de organizar, he descubierto que los tablones de corcho son mis mejores amigos, después de cajas y cestas (¡y etiquetas!), claro está. El problema es que no me gusta como quedan. Son MARRONES. Y casi siempre es un marrón feo encima. 

Puede que recordéis que hace poco decoré uno de los tablones que tenía para usarlo como un organizador de bisutería (en esta entrada). 

As you can see, this last project was really simple, all I did was paint the frame white and gold. Easy peasy. 

This time around it also just involved some paint, just a lot more of it.

 Como puedes ver, este último proyecto fue muy sencillo, lo único que hice fue pintar el marco de blanco y dorado. Facilísimo.  

Esta vez también usé pintura, sólo que mucha más cantidad. 

I took a plain 40x60cm corkboard and hung it above my desk. But it was borrrrrrring. So I started jazzing it up by painting the frame silver (just like the embellishment on the drawers and it also matches the silver paper bin). 

Cogí un tablón  de corcho de 40x60cm y lo colgué encima del escritorio. Pero era aburrrrrrido. Empecé a mejorarlo simplemente pintando el marco con un permanente plateado (igual que los detalles del cajón y la papelera plateada). 

I then painted the cork white, though it was a bit tricky to get good coverage (perhaps next time I'll use a roller instead of a paintbrush). I didn't worry too much though since I would be covering the board with photos and other momentos. {I used a small paintbrush to do the edges}

A continuación, pinté el corcho en sí de blanco, con pintura acrílica. Fue un poco difícil cubrirlo bien (quizá la próxima vez use un rollo en lugar de una brocha). No me preocupé demasiado de todas formas porque lo iba a cubrir con fotos y otros detalles. {Usé una brocha más fina para los bordes}

And here she is now! (or is it a he...?)

Y aquí está!

That's all I have time for today! As you can see you don't need a lot of money to spruce up your home/room/nook. Just a little bit of paint!!

Eso es todo por hoy! Como puedes ver no necesitas mucho dinero para mejorar tu casa/habitación/hueco. Sólo un poquito de pintura!!!

What projects are you guys working on today??