[HOW TO] Create a bedroom you’ll love

pinterest home inspiration board

I hate decorating. Painting is so messy and the prep alone is such a pain. But I do love the end results.

We just repainted our bedroom. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the tired yellowing peachy walls – complete with holes! But, believe me, it was not pretty – and certainly not somewhere we wanted to spend any time.

Now, though, it is a haven to retreat to.

The decoration process started, as most processes do these days, with a Pinterest board! I love the whole simplistic minimalistic Scandi decor of white washed walls and white washed bare floorboards.

Working with what we had (dark red carpets which we can’t afford to change right now), we set about doing everything we could to make it as Scandi as possible.

We went for cream walls. We did white walls in an old house and they looked quite cold and uninviting in the winter, so we went for a slightly off white shade – Dulux’s Natural Calico.

I’ve changed our bed linen too – for all white – white pillow cases, white duvet covers, white sheets – it looks cleaner and kind of hotel-esque.

white ikea bedding

The room is quite small (with a fair amount of furniture) so we wanted to keep the wall decoration as simple as possible. One of the things I kept seeing on Pinterest, was a picture rail above the bed. With an impending trip to Ikea, I grabbed one and we added it to the wall.

bedroom redecoration

We already knew we wanted to use the letters that my sister made for us for our wedding in the bedroom and the rail was a great way to display these. I didn’t want to add too many different colours to the display as we were trying to ensure everything else was light and simple, so I picked out the yellow and blue and used a couple of photos from our wedding and a holiday snap of a blue Fiat 500!

For the rest, I’m trying really hard not to clutter up my bedside table too much!

Is your bedroom a place to hide out in or a place you’d rather hide from?

[HOW TO] Travel on a budget part 2

fly away on holiday

Last week we talked about ways to save money on getting to your holiday and on where to stay, this week it’s all about how to save money once you arrive.

  • If you’ve chosen self-catering, one of the easiest ways to save the pennies is to eat in. We try to eat in once of twice a week (depending on how long we’re away for) so that we can afford even better meals when we do go out.
  • Eating in doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your meals. We’ve found lovely (and cheap) take out pizza places in Italy and grabbed a few beers to go with them. In Sorrento we bought olives and a bottle of prosecco from the local supermarket and enjoyed aperitif hour on our balcony – complete with a view of the sea.

prosecco on the balcony

  • Whether you’re self-catering or in a hotel, buy bottled water from the local supermarket. Don’t buy bottles of water from tourist trap shops – or the mini bar! You’ll find it for pence in the supermarket and can then take a bottle with you for days out.
  • Check out free walking tours. A lot of European cities offer free walking tours. We’ve found them in a number of holiday destinations, including Seville, Copenhagen and Naples. They’re a great way to find your feet and get some local inside tips. We found a couple of great places to eat on these tours that we would never have found without the advice.
  • Walking will save you money on transport but will also mean that you see even more of the place you’re visiting. Sure, you’ll find you need to use public transport for some parts of your trip but for the most part, you should be able to take your time and soak in the atmosphere and sights of where you’re staying. Just remember to pack some comfortable shoes!
  • Do your research before you go. This will save you loads. Check out how to get from the airport before you arrive. You’ll likely be tired and keen to get to your accommodation when you arrive at the airport, so if you’ve not done your research, you’re far more likely to take the easiest route, which will also likely be the most expensive. If in doubt, if you’re self-catering, you can usually ask the owner of the place you’re staying for their advice.
  • If you’re planning on using public transport and visiting the sights, it might be worth getting a tourist card. A lot of cities have tourist cards these days which offer free or reduced entry to museums and sights, as well as travel options too.
  • Check out local blogs for tips before you travel. I’ve found some great places by checking out local blogs and sites before heading off on our hols – a few of my favourites are Mad About Copenhagen, Lisbon Lux and a new one (closer to home) The CDF.

What are your tips for travelling on a budget? Any hot reading tips? Favourite travel blogs or websites?

[HOW TO] Travel on a budget part 1

travel tips

We’ve been asked a few times now by readers for some general travel tips and we thought that it was time to share what we’ve learnt of over a decade of travelling on a budget. The first part will cover travel and accommodation:

Save on flight and accommodation prices

  • Being flexible is always going to help make the pennies go further, for flights and accommodation. You’ll also likely save by booking each part of your trip separately. We tend to book our flights and accommodation ourselves, at different times and through different sites. We use skyscanner to search for routes and cheap lines and then go directly through the airline’s website.
  • An extra tip for saving a few pennies is using your Sainsbury’s Nectar points for money off Easyjet flights and converting your Tesco clubcard points for Avios points for use on BA and other airlines.
  • These days my husband and I prefer to choose a self-catered apartment where possible as it gives us more space and flexibility for our money. We’ve trialled a few sites now that offer apartments for great prices:

Air Bnb – we used for visiting Amsterdam for my sister running hehalf marathon and in Edinburgh for her running her first marathon! I think a lot of people think that you stay with the owners/hosts when using Air Bnb but this isn’t always the case. If this isn’t your bag (it wasn’t ours) then just search for “the entire home”. This is the view from the bedroom of our Edinburgh apartment – looking out up to the castle:

edinburgh air bnb apartment

HomeAway – we used HomeAway for finding our apartments for our honeymoon in Naples and Sorrento – they were both wonderful. Both apartments had balconies and views of the sea:

honeaway italy apartments

Owners Direct – we have used for many, many trips, including Lucca, Seville, Palma (photo below) and Barcelona. Each apartment has been fairly priced and always with everything you need for a place of your own:

owners direct palma apartment

All Copenhagen Apartments – this is one we’ve used for our last two trips to Copenhagen and found them to be very bargainous and always very spacious – except for the bathrooms! But I think this is a Copenhagen thing – just don’t expect a luxury bathroom!

Save on baggage charges

Once you’ve saved on your flight costs, there are a few ways to save further on your baggage costs:

  • Choose hand luggage and pack light! How many times do you go away and end up wearing only half of what you pack? Every time, right? So only pack half what you would normally and you’ll easily fit it all into your hand luggage sized suitcase! This is particularly true if you’re only going for a long weekend but also as true for a longer period. We always choose self catering (see below) and always choose a place with a washing machine so that we can put a load on if we’re running low on clean clothes!
  • Toiletries always seem to take up a lot of room and are often too big for hand luggage restrictions. You have a few options to save space – buy at the airport or when you arrive at your destination. If you don’t want to be bothered with buying when you arrive on holiday, Boots have set up their click and collect service which allows holiday makers to order online before they go and pick up after security at the airport. Of course, the other option is to pack mini versions of your everyday toiletries. Most brands now produce minis of their best selling products, even No7 have just launched their Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Travel Kit (launched today).
  • The alternative is to choose an airline that includes baggage in the ticket prices rather than as an expensive add on. We recently flew with SAS airlines for a trip to Copenhagen and their prices include your checked in baggage – and their prices were less than the “cheap” airlines options.
  • Or if you are flying with a budget airline and your travelling with friends or family, you could share the cost of one checked in bag and fill that with toiletries and other heavy things like shoes. I’ve done this with friends and my husband for previous trips and it’s worked out cheaper and easier.

Next week we’ll be sharing our top tips for saving money while you’re away.

What are your top tips for holidaying on a budget?

[HOW TO] Home Cooking

cooking

I love cooking. But I’m not a very adventurous cook. I think, like many people who work fulltime, I tend to stick to the same tried and tested recipes most nights, out of convenience rather than anything else. So I recently decided to set myself the task of trying out a new recipe every weekend that I’m home – which is probably about once a month in reality. Most of these are main dishes which can then be added into the weekly rotation. I thought I would share a few of my favourites:

  1. Chicken Sauternes with tarragon and pea and lemon rice. This was a very decadent but delicious meal and surprisingly easy. I’ve actually only made this once but I keep intending to make it again. The recipe if from Lorraine Pascale’s How To Be a Better Cook. I really love Lorraine Pascale’s cookbooks – the recipes sometimes look a little daunting and long but actually they just explain every step really clearly and are so easy to follow.
  2. Lasagne. I can’t really believe that I hadn’t made this until recently. I make Bolognese a lot but only recently decided to venture beyond. My recipe (for the béchamel really) is from another Lorraine Pascale book: Home Cooking Made Easy. I still stick to my own tried and tested Bolognese recipe – in fact I usually make this for us a meal one night and save half for a lasagne later in the week. The leftovers make great packed lunches if you have a microwave for reheating.
  3. Courgette and green bean salad. This salad also from Lorraine Pascale’s  How To Be A Better Cook. It makes a lovely spring/summer lunch and is very light and refreshing.
  4. Meringues. I love meringues and always remember my mum making these for summer desserts when we were little. When we went to a dinner party at a friend’s house for New Year, we offered to take dessert – and then panicked!! But I borrowed the recipe from my mum (from a very old Sainsbury’s dessert recipe book) and they were so simple. Made them again for the same friends for dinner last weekend too!
  5. Red pesto. This is a recipe by the other much talked about food/chef bloggers of the year, Hemsley + Hemsley. I got their cookbook for Christmas. This recipe is actually from their website and is easy peasy. I throw everything into my Nutribullet and it’s ready to go.
  6. Lamb rogan josh. This is another recipe from How To Be a Better Cook and is so good. I’m a fan of curry recipes that use the spices to make a paste and this one tastes really authentic (I got the balti serving dishes in the photo above in Aldi!).
  7. Veggie chilli. I had the much talked about Deliciously Ella cookbook for my birthday and I love this recipe. The grated carrot creates a deliciously sweet alternative to the mince and I skip the kidney beans, just adding the black beans which are kinder on the stomach. An added bonus is using the Le Cruset dish we got for our wedding!
  8. Hummus. Another Deliciously Ella recipe. Not really a meal as such but a great healthy snack option for the office. Again, I make this in my Nutribullet and it always works.

If you want to see what I’m cooking up in my kitchen, make sure to follow the blog on Instagram @sugarandspicesg

[HOW TO] Wear White

How to wear white

  1. Get the right underwear! Seems obvious but maybe not. Make sure to try on your choice underneath your white dress too. I bought the white dress above for my honeymoon, so threw my white wedding knickersinto my suitcase and figured I was sorted. Turns out, white doesn’t always work with white! Cue a quick trip to Italian lingerie store Intimissimi for “the right pair”!
  2. Be careful what you eat. I chose spaghetti for dinner in this white dress. Risky. But it didn’t have the dreaded tomato sauce – it came with mussels, garlic and oil, which don’t stain – so badly! I also used my napkin!
  3. Finally, don’t be afraid! For so long I’ve been terrified of wearing white but I think my wedding day may have cured me of that fear!
  4. Oh ok then, another two for good luck!! Toughen up your white look with black accessories à la Alex at The Frugality.
  5. For a more summer holiday look, team with delicate gold accessories to really highlight your tan.

Will you be wearing white this summer? Do you have any handy tips?

[HOW TO] Pack For Your Summer Holiday

Suitcase holidays travel

My hubby (still feels strange to write that!) and I have just got back from our Italian honeymoon. We spent two and a half weeks touring the islands in the  Bay of Naples and the Amalfi coast. It was wonderful. But moving around every few days with a heavy suitcase has made me reassess how I pack for my holidays.

Capri

This post from Garance Doré totally sums up my attitude to holiday packing. Wicker baskets – lovely idea but how?? Beach towels – great in theory, HEAVY and BIG in practice. Straw hat – stylish but impossible to pack. Toiletries – bulky, heavy but oh-so necessary! Souvenirs? How do you even begin to fit your holiday purchases in?

Holiday purchases carpisa purse

The answer to these holiday packing dilemmas? Here’s what I’ve learnt (if you want to read Garance’s take, you can find it here):

  • Wicker baskets – great for weekend trips and picnics at home, when taking the car! Not for holidays. Unless you can snag a really cheap version at your destination.
  • Beach towels – leave them at home! A Pareo or Hamman style towel which are much thinner and, therefore, lighter are the way to go – plus, as they are cotton, they work as a sarong/cover-up too. I spotted these everywhere on the Amalfi coast but my suitcase was already so full and heavy that even a light towel/sarong was too much. Instead, I’ve hunted out some reasonably priced versions at Notonthehighstreet.com.
  • Straw hat – wear it, don’t pack it. This is not the approach favoured by Garance but I am still quite attached to the look, so wear my hat for my trip.
  • Toiletries – if you can do without your usual brand, buy abroad. If you’re travelling with friends/partners/family, share the load and the bottles. Alternatively, order them online at Boots, to pick up at the airport, after security and ditch anything left before heading home.
  • Holiday purchases. This is a trickier one. Leaving space in a suitcase can feel like a waste but also means no room for those inevitable purchases. One way I do it, is ditching the toiletries I packed and making room for them. Alternatively, throw in a couple of rolls of loo roll – they’ll come in handy on your travels and are surprisingly big – you could certainly fill the space they leave with a pair of new holiday sandals and a few pieces of holiday clothing!

What are your top travelling tips?

[HOW TO] Shop Online

online shopping

Since moving to the country from the city just over a year ago, my shopping habits have had to change. Online shopping has become my most usual retail therapy and trips to the shops are more of a special occasion these days. Over the past 12 months, I’ve learned a few things about how to shop online and thought I’d share them with you.

Shopping online is quite a different experience to shopping in store and it has it’s pros. The first is that you can try on the pieces with those you already have in your wardrobe and make sure that they do work before committing to them. You also have the bonus of being able to try on in the comfort of your own home which means no harsh changing room lights, no annoying queues and no awkward communal changing room experiences!

But there are a few tips for making sure that the cons don’t outway the pros on the online shopping front:

  1. Be prepared to make returns. If you’re not prepared to make returns when shopping online, don’t do it. You’ll end up wasting too much money as the chances of getting the right size and the right piece the first time are slim, particularly if it’s a new store.
  2. Look out for free delivery and free return codes. Delivery and return costs add to the price of online shopping and are costs that aren’t refunded if you decide to return an item. Almost all online stores offer free shipping and returns at some point, be savvy and keep an eye out.
  3. Sign up for newsletters and email updates from your favourite online stores. This is the best way to making sure you’re the first to find out about free delivery and return codes, as well as other discount codes. If you’re on twitter, follow our #sssavings for the latest discount codes that we can get our hands on too.
  4. Know your size. If you’re in the city, try to make it to the stores you shop in online and get trying on. Not only is it quite fun when you don’t often get the opportunity but it’ll also help you learn about the fit and sizes in the different shops and will, hopefully, cut down on the number of returns you have to make.
  5. If you’re not able to get into town for a good ol’ trying on session, order a few size options, if you’re unsure. This is where free returns come in handy. As with shopping in store, don’t be afraid to size up (or down) to get the right fit from a piece.
  6. Pay off your bills on time. Many online stores offer credit for their customers which is great – as long as you remember to pay them on time, otherwise you’ll end up stung with late charges and interest payments. If you can avoid credit payments, do.

Do you have any top tips for shopping online?