Eat: 5 quick Iftar Go-Tos

With the last ten days of the holy month upon us (that’s right!), it’s crucial to spend your time catching up your prayers, reading the Quran, and still making time to prepare for Eid. All while continuing on with the regular day-to-day stuff. 

I don’t know about you guys, but my busiest time of the day is right before Iftar. It’s also the one time in the day we should be the most focused on reflecting and praying. With so much packed into the final days of Ramadan, it’s a good idea to try and prep ahead of time for the rest of your Iftar meals. But, as amazing as that sounds, sometimes it’s just not realistic. That’s exactly why I am sharing my favourite go-to quick fixes for a fast and delicious iftar meal. Hopefully, this can let you focus on all the other more important tasks at hand.

 

1. Order-in:

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This is the first and most obvious choice for me. When ordering is as simple as an app and endless all the possibility of choice, it’s really my first go-to. I’ve been using Foodora this Ramadan and have gotten a delicious Iftar exactly on time – no work required! This makes it so easy to focus on prayers without having to worry about going back into the kitchen to check on the food. Because participating restaurants also give you two bottles of Happy Water and Masa Dates, it’s a direct living room to dining room situation. Skip the kitchen!  The best thing I ordered this month was Jerk Chicken with rice, two beef patties, and a Jerk Chicken kebab. I tossed in two drinks and my iftar was good to go! All I had to do was place everything on the table (& really, you could forego the plates!). The app is so easy to use and you can filter by attribute so you’re only seeing halal options.  With so many choices – it’s a no-brainer. Why not give it a shot tonight? Click here so that you can get $10 off your first order! 

 

2. Use a pre-made sauce with pasta

Quick and easy pasta for iftar

Call me plain-Jane but sometimes I love the simplicity of some quick and easy pasta. Although for me pasta is a bit of a treat, something I save for eating out, it’s the easiest go-to when I have skipped grocery shopping to go to the movies instead 🙈 🙈 🙈. It’s super quick and is as simple as boiling your favourite pasta (white or brown), tossing in some pre-made pasta sauce and giving it a good mix. I usually add in some chilies or chili flakes and salami or even garlic for more flavour. This can be as easy or complicated as you want. 

 

3. Have a soup or a salad 

Soup for iftar

This is super easy, especially if you already have canned soup on hand. It’s also a good choice if you want to go with something lighter than a pasta. If you have some veggies on hand, toss together a quick salad with your soup so that you have something a bit more substantial. Add high-fat veggies to your salad such as avocado or even some nuts to keep you full until your post-Taraweeh snack (don’t kid yourself, we all do it!)

 

4. Pre-marinated fish

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I love this option since it’s a healthy one! I always keep some marinated salmon in the freezer for those nights I really don’t want to cook. It’s a good way to avoid tossing a handful samosas into the fryer instead of eating well! You can find some great options at your local grocery store and all you’ve got to do is pop it into the oven!

5. Make a leftovers sandwich

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During the month of giving, there will be days you’ve cooked up a storm when someone shows up at your door with full iftar. I usually freeze one of them since there is no way I can even eat that much after all that fasting. This would be the time to recall what you’ve got in your freezer and make use of it! Grab two slices of some really good bread, add some toppings, sauces, cheese and a protein in between and you’re good to go!

What are some of your go-to quick fixes during Ramadan? Let me know in the comments below!

See what I’m cooking up on my Instagram stories or follow me on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date with the blog!

Happy eating + praying!

5 QUICK IFTAR GO-TOS

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Summer Vibes: Backyard Essentials

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If you have been following along on my Instagram stories, you will have noticed that we have moved from our Toronto condo to a house (still in Toronto), and the timing for this couldn’t be better! With the summer creeping up, I am so excited to start gardening, having BBQs and of course, decorating the new space.

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Our backyard already had a large deck, firepit (find your fave one here), and a cute gazebo and I wanted to fill the space up with some furniture and seating space as quickly as possible so I could start enjoying it. Although it’s a process (houses are hard work!), and we’re in the middle of Ramadan, I have done as much as I can! I would still like to add some white sheer curtains around the gazebo to keep bugs away and some raised garden beds to bring some more greenery to the back! Read on to see what I did so far. 

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To start with, I picked up some really fun dishes. I really wanted to get the most colourful things I could since my interior home decor is mostly monochrome and minimalist. I spotted this super cute flamingo/tropical-themed melamine dinner set for outdoors and knew I had to have it! During the Victoria day long weekend we went down to the U.S. to shop and I fell in love as soon as I saw these at Target (I am still not over the fact that they left 😭😭😭).

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After grabbing the dishes, I rushed like nobody’s business to get the number one summer must-have  string lights! The best way to get anything you want asap is to just order online. My go-to for home decor, accessories and furniture is Wayfair. I absolutely love them since it’s a one stop shop for everything that I need. Another perk is that I never have to worry about delivery fees or cramming everything into our car! 

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I also got my hands on a backyard dining table and a small table-top BBQ. Both of these items are things we debated over in terms of purchasing. Mainly because we are not sure how long we will be in a house and don’t want to commit to a large BBQ or a massive table if we won’t be able to bring it along with us! One last thing I may want to add is an outdoor rug below the table and I am already eyeing some beautiful ones on Wayfair… 

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Since we don’t have a year-round summer, it’s a good idea to consider how often you’ll be using these types things. It is also a good idea to think about how many people will be using these items. For me, it’s just the two of us, and as much as I enjoy entertaining, realistically it doesn’t happen often enough for me to justify splurging. Again, another great place to score good deals is online or even on Kijiji. 

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One of my favourite things I put together for the backyard were the seats around my fire pit. They’re just cushions on top of some pallets but they are the perfect height and have the cutest al fresco dining vibe for a summer backyard! As I add more things, I will share more backyard DIYs so keep an eye out! 

Keep up with I’m currently working on by following along on my social channels. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

What DIYs do you want to see? Let me know in the comments below! 

Wayfair - Summer Outdoors

Eat: Experience Ramadan with Iftar Host

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you may have seen a link circulating from Iftar Host (now referred to as Experience Ramadan). As soon as I saw it, I signed up right away with no hesitation. The concept seemed simple and intriguing – be a host or attend an Iftar. It’s your choice and people of all backgrounds are welcome.

This simple concept of breaking bread together is the best way to get to know new people, encourage friendships and share your cultures with one another. I couldn’t wait to open my door and let my new friends Experience Ramadan.

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The Table is set!

I was so excited when I got the email that I was matched! Iftar Host asks to fill in a form with a few things that can help them match you to the right people. We put in our ages, opted to host two people and that was it! I believe the form is a little more robust now as many more people are likely signing up and matching can be more accurate with more info. We were introduced via email and then took it from there to discuss timings, dates and share the location. Both parties were equally as excited to be a part of this.

Hosting a dinner is really fun for me. I loved being able to choose a meaningful menu, setting the table for the iftar dinner and meeting new people! Below I’ve shared a run-down of the evening and what you can expect if you decide to host!

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Our new friends Sam & Mike!

I signed up on Sunday night and was matched early on Monday. After exchanging a few emails, we agreed to an 8 p.m. arrival on a Friday. We clarified that iftar time was closer to 9 p.m. just to make sure they were not surprised by the late dinner.

We chose to go with 8 p.m. since this would give us enough time to get to know them before Iftar time without having too much time without any food to keep us going! On the day of the dinner, as the clock moved closer to 8 p.m., I started to get a little nervous on whether or not they would show up. I had just prepared all this food and only texted to confirm an hour before they were meant to arrive. Both V and I were nervous and excited – this was going to be a unique night.

When our guests arrived, they so kindly brought with them a beautiful bouquet of flowers which was such a pleasant gesture. We were off to a good start! We asked how they found out about the program and were given a story similar to our own. The conversation started to flow right away and before we knew it, we were headed to the dining table.

One thing I always make sure to do when hosting a dinner party is to have everything ready to go and laid out. I prepared all the food in advance and placed it in the oven at the perfect time. The table was set earlier and all the dishes I would be using throughout dinner were placed on my counter ready to go for the next dish.

We started by explaining to them how sacred the time before the Iftar is, a time we used to reflect and make Du’a. They asked how we knew what time to open our fast and we shared that date are based on the lunar calendar and prayer times surround dusk and sunset. Once it was time to eat we offered them dates, sharing that this was the way fasts were open, followed by water.

After this, we started eating and of course, talking – a lot. It was so great to be matched with another couple who we could speak so easily with. Conversation ranged from travel to politics, gardening to rock climbing and of course, food!

Our menu for this Iftar dinner included Dates, Haleem, Falooda, Savory Pastries, and a main dish of a Baked Pasta. For dessert, we had some flourless dark chocolate cake with ice cream. Each dish was chosen strategically and we shared why these items were generally on iftar menus in our culture – especially the Haleem and Falooda.

After dinner, we moved to the living room and found ourselves connecting on everything under the sun. When guests leave as late as 1 a.m., you know it’s been a great time!

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Dates, Falooda and some delicious pasta! for Iftar

This was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had. We will be joining our new friends soon for another dinner and likely a session or two of rock climbing! We would definitely do it again and hope more people can Experience Ramadan.

Is this something you would try out? Want to hear more about it? Read my husband’s review of Experience Ramadan? Head on over to his blog!

I hope this post was helpful! I am happy to answer any questions anyone might have either in the comments below or on my social channels. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Look out for my next Ramadan post later this week Inshallah! Hint – It’s food based!

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We recently hosted another couple via Experience Ramadan and Iftar Host for Ramadan 2017

Ramadan is Here! (+ a free printable!)

Ramadan Mubarak everyone!

I hope your fasts are going well! We’ve got only a few hours left before we can eat and I’m happy to say I haven’t really felt too hungry today! I am sure everyone can agree that a Saturday start was such a blessing.

I will be doing a series of posts during this month to highlight different Ramadan things all leading up to Eid prep and more so be sure to stay tuned.

To help with keeping your Salah times in check, I have shared a handy printable of Toronto Salah times (and eating times of course!) for the month of Ramadan. Use this in your cubicle at work, locker at school or in your home. It’s also a great thing to screenshot onto your phone for handy access! This beautiful Ramadan calendar was created by my brother to share on this blog. Please enjoy and keep us in your Duas!

Download free printable Ramadan calendar here.

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Ramadan 2017 prayer times for Toronto

 

 

DIY: Budget Industrial TV stand

I am a late kinda gal, let’s face it! Regardless, here’s a blog post for this week.

I built this TV stand when I moved into my place because I wanted something that was affordable but had an industrial look.

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This entire DIY industrial TV stand cost me only about $50. I got the cinder blocks off of Kijiji because I wanted them dinged in a bit and the wooden planks from The Home Depot. You can also find brand new cinder blocks at your local Home Depot.

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The wooden plank was one large piece which they cut in half for me right at the store. I also purchased a sanding block to make sure the plank was smooth with no risk of splinters (crucial step!), as well as some sticky felt floor protectors.

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After hauling these heavy blocks home and giving them a bit of a clean-up, I placed the felt stickers on two of the blocks which touched the floor. After this, I simply added a second block on top, placed down one plank before repeating the process for the top layer. You can do this with different dimensions or shorter planks to create an DIY industrial bookshelf or display shelf as well.

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This is a super-easy DIY project which could be completed in an afternoon. I usually have a wooden crate of blankets and some coffee table books on my shelf but we are in the process of moving to a new place and some of my things were already packed away!

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Would you build something like this? Any other home-related DIYs you may want to see? Let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, follow me online on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Catch you later!

 

DIY

Follow me on Bloglovin’!

Hello all!

Just wanted to do a quick post to ask you all to follow my blog with Bloglovin.

I have finally taken the time to add my blog to Bloglovin‘. I had done this a long time ago for my older domain which I lost. 😦

If you’re not using Bloglovin‘, I would highly recommend it! This is a great place to get curated content from all the blogs you follow in one place. It also has categories where it pulls content from a variety of blogs to get into one place.

You can follow my profile here and get updated whenever I post more! Of course, you can always follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for all the support!

Project Wedding: A Pantone-themed Bridal Shower

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All signage for the event was Pantone-themed

With spring — and love — in the air, it is officially the start of wedding season! As I slowly go through my photos from last year, I realize I never really shared the fab Pantone-themed bridal shower that my bridesmaids put together for me. This is a theme I really wanted to execute and knowing me, I know I wanted to have a hand in at least passing along some must-haves and working on a few DIYs.

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DIY large-scale poster backdrop

A big piece of the shower decor that I worked on was the Pantone backdrop for the dessert table. I designed and put it together on Adobe Illustrator and then printed off using Adobe Acrobat Reader with the tiling option. You can see the instructions for printing a poster at home here. This made it super affordable and easy to have a big ‘wow-factor’ backdrop without the price tag.

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Setup of the DIY perfume bar

There was a DIY perfume bar where guests could make their own little rollerball perfumes and mix their own scents. This was as simple as setting up some essential oils, a carrier oil and having the bottles and droppers ready. The guest also got a chance to name their scents by making a small label for themselves. This small activity was easy to setup and a great way to keep guests entertained. If you would like a post about this setup, just comment below!

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Pantone-themed favours and bridal shower games!

Other small details of this event were little drink tags using circle-punched paint chips and adding a Pantone-style code to each one.  Paint chips were also used to create the banner and as a photo mat for another game. It’s all about aesthetics! The best part of this was that it was an easy DIY banner with free paint chips.

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Watercolor paint guestbook

Aside from the obvious—and fun—bridal shower games, there were lots of smaller details with things such as the Pantone chip cookies and marshmallow pops, the water colour paint swatch guestbook, Pantone chip style candle favours and amazing little details in the purple being used across the board. One of my favourite things is to use wrapping paper as table runners!

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Marquee light signage for decor

I loved every bit of my Pantone-theme bridal shower. It was so exciting to see all the small details (it really is in all the details!) and the great work my girls put into it. I love how it all came together. For more inspiration and photos for bridal shower ideas, take a look below. For more wedding ideas and wedding DIYs, take a look at my Project Wedding page here.

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Pantone-themed sugar cookies

Comment on a theme you might want to see in the future. Follow me online for more on either Instagram or Facebook!

P.S. These photos are gathers from my guests so the lighting may not be consistent on all of them!

 

A resort-free trip to Mexico

There is a lot more to Mexico than resorts and full days on the beach. Yes, I know many people head south to enjoy beaches, sun and sand in order to relax – and there is nothing wrong with that – but I just can’t be that person. Trust me, I tried! 

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The beautiful coast of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

During our time in Mexico, we visited a beach twice and although the first time was really fun, we just couldn’t get into it the second time around. 

During the week we were gone, we visited Cozumel, Tulum and Play del Carmen (for a short time)! We balanced out being on-the-go and relaxing on the beach. Our itinerary was as follows:

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Overlooking the Caribbean from Cozumel, Mexico

Day 1: On the first day, we took the time to explore the downtown area of Cozumel, the boardwalk, eat some local food and check out the touristy places that cruise-goers flooded – we even popped into a grocery store! Cozumel is not massive, and a lot of it is actually untouched territory, so it really is doable in a day or two. The island of Cozumel is known for snorkelling and diving because of the coral reefs around the island. There is also the beautiful ‘other side’ of the island which is very remote – almost untouched and breathtakingly beautiful. Unfortunately we couldn’t get there without a car and renting one would mean using it for a whole day. We had to make the decision to let it go since there were other things on the mainland we wanted to see more. 

Cozumel is very tourist-friendly. We would walk around the downtown area, where our hotel was, until midnight and the bars that were open were full of tourists from the resorts or nearby hotels.

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Speed-ferry between Cozumel and mainland Mexico

Day 2: The first thing we did the next morning was get on a speed ferry to go across to Playa Del Carmen from Cozumel.

It takes only 45 mins and is only about $6 return. The tickets can be used on any day and it’s cheaper to buy it at the pier directly from company. There are a few desks along the pier but not all boats come back until late night. We chose the one that had an option to come back as late as 11 p.m.

Play Del Carmen’s beach area is really vibrant and this fun party-atmosphere goes until the late hours. You can find all of the well-known brands on their ‘5th Ave.‘ including Nike, Zara, Tous, Bershka and more!  Once we got off the boat, we had lunch along the beach and roamed around the stalls and shops before making out way up a few streets to catch a local bus. This bus was packed full with both tourists and locals and we paid about $5 to get from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum by bus. The local bus is really safe and a lot cheaper than taking a taxi. 

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Super-cute AirBnB in Tulum, Mexico

Once we arrived in Tulum, we checked into our really cute AirBnB and went for a stroll in the small town. We planned on going out to Chichén Itzá the next day so we went straight to the bus station to get details on tickets and scheduling. After coming across a full-day tour which was already pre-planned and included swimming in the Cenotes (sinkholes), visiting the ruins, lunch and visiting a small local town (Valladolid), we went with that option. This tour was a lot more expensive when I looked online and I was really glad to find it at a fraction of the price ($56) in-person.

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Picture-perfect, powder-white sand on the beach in Tulum, Mexico

After this, we went straight to Tulum’s famous beaches. Although we didn’t visit the Tulum ruins, we got to enjoy an afternoon at the beach and I cannot explain how beautiful it was. With powder-white sands and turquoise waters, this beach was heaven! We used the local bus or shared van, also known as a Colectivo, to get to the pathway to walk down to the beach and took it back to our AirBnB once we were done. I just wanted to keep taking photos!

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Waiting for our delicious vegan dinner at Restaurare in, Tulum, Mexico

Our evening in Tulum was spent at a beautiful Vegan restaurant called Restaurare. The vibe of this place was so amazing – almost making you feel like you are dining in the middle of a jungle. The restaurant was totally outdoors with the original trees still in place with dining tables setup around them. The food was really, really good but we were pretty full and couldn’t finish it all. We had Soy Tacos, Traditional Mole and Mayan Curry. If I could choose again, I would order less for sure! I would also try going to that area during the day time if I got the chance. It is right along the water and although we could hear it, and see the stars in the sky at night, it would’ve been beautiful to see in the daytime. Once we took a cab back, we ended our night strolling the downtown strip, enjoying the chill vibe of the small town.

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Waiting at a super-cute outdoor coffee shop before our tour starts!

Day 3: With an early 8:00 a.m. start to our full-day tour, we made sure we slept on time and woke up early to make it to our tour. This was a long day and we had our bags with us – thankfully we packed light and were assured the coach-sized bus would have cabins for our bags, which it did! We started this day at a general meeting spot with the rest of the group at a really cute local coffee shop. Again, this was a guided tour which I will cover in another post! We got back to Playa Del Carmen after this tour by about 8:30 p.m. and spent time having eating and relaxing on 5th Ave. before taking a 10 p.m. ferry back to Cozumel. This boat ride was one of the scariest ones of my life! It was pitch-black, in a speed-ferry and while everyone else looks normal, I felt like I was gripping my seat for my life! Looking back, it’s almost laughable but, at the time, I was pretty scared! Our hotel (which we didn’t check out of) was right by the ferry docks so we were able to get to bed right away!

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Good reads and good eats at the beach in Cozumel, Mexico

Day 4 & Day 5 were spent relaxing on the beach. On the first day we snorkelled and kayaked in clear turquoise waters and relaxed on beach chairs while eating guac and drinking delicious fruity drinks. It was my first time snorkelling and I had such a great time. I was a bit nervous at first around the fish but after a while, it really didn’t bother me. We paid to get into both of the beaches but this included one free drink and the activities. The second one we went to, Paradise beach, had a beautiful large pool, water games and activities, hammocks to relax in and a nice pier to walk down. This beach was really fun because it had that ‘resort’ vibe but I couldn’t imagine spending everyday there for a week. By the time we left, I was more than ready to go!

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Strolling along the boardwalk on our last day in Cozumel, Mexico

On Day 6 we spent time shopping for gifts, strolling the waterfront in a different direction than what we did on the first day, had dinner at an Italian restaurant a few blocks up from the main centre and then had delicious churros on the street of the main centre. I really wanted more on our last day but the stall didn’t open until the evening and we had a flight to catch!

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Waves crashing along the shore in Cozumel, Mexico.  A welcomed sight for a Canadian in February!

Cozumel was one of those trips we decided on very last-minute and I am glad I went. I don’t think I would have been able to spend all my time on the small island and both of us were very glad we went over to the other side. In the future, I think I would base myself in Playa Del Carmen instead of Cozumel but at the same time, this gave us the chance to have a much more laid-back trip in comparison to the ones we’ve had in the past. Each night we would go down to the local bars (our hotel was in the main square) and watch cover bands play, see breakdancers perform and just people watch while sitting on a bench under a tree. This was a nice trip and very different from other ones I have done. I would highly recommend Tulum to those who want to try a different type of trip to Mexico.

I would also really say skip the resort and enjoy the real, local culture. You meet so many more people this way, learn more about where you are and get the chance to eat really good food!

I will be sharing my tour and experience at the Chichen Itza in another post, really soon.

Below are some more photos from our trip. Enjoy!

Project Wedding: Weddingbells Feature – A Romantic Cross-Cultural Wedding

A couple of months ago I shared on my Instagram page that I had been featured in Weddingbells Magazine. I am extremely excited to say that the full details and lots of photos by my fab photographer, Belinda Burtt are now featured on their website. A list of my amazing vendors can be found there too!

I also thought I would share the wedding highlights video below as well. Fortress Studios did one heck of a job on it!

Enjoy and be sure to ask anything below!

 

How to travel more for less

Since graduating from university, I have had the pleasure to travel at least once a year. The first two places I went to were in the US (Washington + Chicago). In 2014 I got the chance to go to India and in 2015, Pakistan.

Over the last one year though, I was able to go to a few more places – Greece, Turkey, Spain, France, England, the US (Orlando this time) and Mexico. Alhamdulillah I have been lucky to do this and hope to continue traveling!  The key to being able to travel more is to spend less and stay on a budget.

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Swimming pool at the ITC Maharashtra in Mumbai, India

Here are my top ten ways to keep your wallet and experience happy!

 

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Mazar-e-Quaid, also known as the Jinnah Mausoleum; Karachi, Pakistan

 

1. Travel during the off-season

Sure, summer is great, but there are also the downsides – higher prices and children everywhere! Choose to go on the cusp of these popular times and you’ll enjoy shorter lines, fewer crowds and cheaper ticket prices. It’s also extremely hot in the summer. We went to Greece in the summer and at one point during the day in Santorini, we actually stood in an covered walkway for about ten minutes to stay away from the heat!

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Wedding celebrations in Mumbai, India

 

2. Travel with friends

We have yet to do this but are planning something soon and can already see the benefits of costing out cars/cabs/accommodation when doing it in a group.

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Hot air balloons over the beautiful region of Cappadocia, Turkey

 

3. Travel for longer

If you’re going to fly all the way to Europe, take the opportunity to travel within the EU. Last summer, we flew from Greece to Turkey for less that $150 each and only paid about $500 or so to get from Cappadoccia to Barcelona. We would have had to pay much more if we wanted to go there from here. While you may not always have the long vacation time, if you do, make use of it. Sometimes it’s better to go on one long trip instead of two or three shorter ones. It feels much more relaxing this way too!

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The view from our Airbnb in Santorini, Greece

 

4. Stay in an Airbnb or with friends/family

Fancy hotels are nice – if you’re planning to spend time in them. We splurged on our honeymoon hotels in Santorini because we planned on spending a good chunk of our time relaxing and just hanging out. We also stayed at a nicer hotel in Barcelona because we had just dealt with a whole ordeal and wanted something fuss-free. Airbnbs offer a lot of options and some of the apartments are even nicer than hotels. They offer a lot more autonomy and can even give you the option to cook if you choose to do that.

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Some posage in front of Kensington Palace in London, England

5. Use public transportation + walk – a lot!

Always remember to pack comfortable shoes. The best way to see the most of the city is to walk around, get lost, discover new places and meet locals. Whenever we travel, we research the best ways to get around using public transportation. Obviously, there will be smaller places where you can’t always get a public train or bus but you can always arrange for a shuttle to take you to and from the airport and this is usually cheaper than a cab.

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Walking in the beautiful gardens at the Chateau in Versailles, France

6. Pack smart

Sometimes you can get away with a carry-on and other times it just won’t happen! Many flights offer really cheap rates but then get you with their luggage fees. Always read ahead and look into this before booking your flight. At times, it is still cheaper than going with another airline, but again, do your research! Another work-around this is to take one shared larger piece of luggage and a backpack that still meets the dimension requirements and split your clothing into this. Look at ways to minimize what you’re taking by using travel-sized toiletries, wearing a dress instead of a top and pants and reuse bottoms!

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La Sagrada Familia; Barcelona, Spain

7. Avoid shopping

You can be doing really well and then go all out on the last day by popping into a mall – trust me, we’ve been there. There is nothing wrong with buying things when you are away, there are lots of new styles, great deals and different stores! If you do plan to shop, build that into your overall budget and remember you are not always paying in your own currency so the prices will be different than the number you see on the tag. If you do shop, research what the minimum-spend is for tax-refunds. The amount you spend varies by country and you need to get a form from the store in order to get this refund at the airport. If you don’t do it before you leave the country, you won’t get some money back!

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In front of Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom. Orlando, Florida

8. Stick to your budget!

I can’t stress this enough! Build a budget AFTER doing your research. This way you can have a realistic idea of what things cost, how much is too much and what a local meal can cost you. Having parameters and tracking what you spend will keep you in-check and you won’t go home with a big credit card bill to face. Although it’s easier to track if you take cash, sometimes it’s just more convenient to use your credit card. This way you can check online or have a record of what amount you spent where. Generally, we just jot things down into our phones to get an idea of what we’re at in terms of spending and this way we can ensure we don’t go over budget.

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Traditional Turkish breakfast in Göreme, Cappadocia

9. Eat like a local

Not only is this a great way to eat different foods, it’s also another way to have a budget-friendly trip. You can’t always eat street food or at Mcdonald’s (you won’t want to!) but there are lots of places that you can dine in that the locals go to on a daily basis. If your hotel has breakfast, eat there and then spend a bit more on lunch. If you have an Airbnb, chances are you will have access to a kitchen and a chance to make your own meals or at least your own breakfast. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nice restaurants but treat those as ‘date-night’ or a special dinner. We always try to go to one really nice restaurant that is vegetarian or vegan so we can enjoy at least one higher-end meal of that region instead of a series of restaurants with mediocre food and high prices. The two notable places we ate were in Spain and Mexico. In Spain we are a delicious vegetarian tapas dinner with a tasting menu (Sésamo) and in Mexico we ate at a vegan Mexican restaurant by the sea, at night, amongst the stars and untouched forest (Restaurare).

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On the Acropolis – Old temple of Athena in Athens, Greece

10. Research, research, research!

It all comes down to this! Do your research, take your time and plan your trip. Don’t go somewhere because someone else just went. Go somewhere that you want to explore, somewhere that you know you will have a good time and somewhere that you can learn more about who you are. I always create an itinerary which is very detailed but not rigid. I am happy to explore other options, see what a local might recommend but I always want to have everything I want to get to on my list so that I don’t forget. I don’t always get to everything but that’s what second trips are for! I use online resources such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and travel websites such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. I tend to get a rough guides pocket guide or guidebook if available because it goes into every depth and detail and I can mark which parts I want to see or use the maps to create my itinerary based on the physical location of places. Lastly, I like to use Instagram to search things by using the hashtags. This lets you see what other people are doing and you can look into it more.

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The Louvre at night. Paris, France.

That’s it – that’s everything I’ve got! I can go into further detail on each of these points if that is something of interest. Let me know in the comments below!

Do you have any go-to budget travel tips? Let me know this below too!

 

Happy Travels!