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How to combat that cuffing season pressure

‘Tis the season to get cuffed but don’t fret if you haven’t found a cinnamon apple to go pumpkin-picking with.

I completely understand – life’s done a complete 180 on your ass. Those ‘hoe summer is upon us’ friends are the same friends getting cuffed left, right and centre this fall/winter. It also doesn’t help when your Facebook feed generally consists of engagement, wedding and pregnancy announcements. These transitions are alarming and you’re feeling quite the pressure. But here’s some advice: Don’t go actively looking for something because chances are you just won’t find it.

As the saying goes ‘good things come to those who wait’ and the last thing you want is to dive into a relationship and rush into something you’re subconsciously being pressured into. Social media is very toxic in that sense as you feel like you’re missing out or you’re doing something wrong. Well, truth is, you’re not. Everyone’s life clock varies and progresses at a different pace. You don’t want to force and fabricate life experiences just to stunt on social media and seem in the loop.

These years are about finding yourself so be selfish. I know you’ve heard it all before, but I want you to hear it again. And again. And again. I can’t stress how important it is to put yourself first. Find yourself first. And love yourself first. By doing that, you’re able to be yourself and potentially find someone right for you. This is lowkey cheesy but I remember reading somewhere that you won’t find your soulmate doing something unlike you. If you’re an introvert but you’re clubbing/going out just to find a potential partner – then that isn’t the way to go. (However, if you’re clubbing for some company then go on).

My point is that you don’t want to search for yourself and someone at the same time. It’s tiring because chances are one of you will get hurt. You need to be confident and comfortable on your ones rather than dependent on someone to give your life some meaning. You want to be able to hack life both on your own and with someone, so keep discovering your needs, desires and aspirations, and that special someone will enter your life and fit in like a puzzle piece.

You must also keep in mind that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You may feel left out and lonely when your friends are preoccupied with their significant others, so just focus your energy elsewhere. Go to the gym, start writing a book, join a club/society, do something you’ve never done before, make new friends, or strengthen existing relationships with family and friends. Trust me, when you get into that routine, your life feels so much fuller and busier. It feels great when you don’t give yourself time to wallow in your own solitude. But when you do get free time, don’t get upset that you’re alone. Alone time can be so therapeutic and it’s best to appreciate it now before it’s too late. Stay woke king/queen and let life follow.

-L

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The tech innovations reducing food waste

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With the UK being the biggest food waste culprit in Europe, cutting-edge technology is constantly being developed to tackle this crisis. Lara Elcheik explores how two mobile apps are aiming to unlock the value of food destined for the bin.

 

Sinead Fenton has just collected 39 jars of red onion chutney from an Enfield food bank. It’s pelting down with hailstones and the 25-year-old has completely underestimated the weight of the jars on her back, but she is determined to spread the chutney love.

“Want the equivalent of gold dust in chutney? Well, I’ve got 39 jars of the amazing Rubies in the Rubble Red Onion Chutney up for grabs!” Sinead then posts on the food-sharing app OLIO. “Here’s some quick maths for you: 468 red onions were carried across London on my back in a food saving feat!”

She soon receives a request on the app from someone nearby and the OLIO exchange is complete within minutes.

OLIO was founded by Tessa Cook in 2015 and aims to connect neighbours with each other so that their surplus food and non-food items can be shared, instead of thrown away. This could be unwanted food, food nearing its expiry date, or unused cupboard items. Users like Sinead simply post a picture and description of their items, pick-up details, and wait for a neighbour to request the item.

Sinead leads a busy lifestyle. Besides being a food waste warrior and avid user of OLIO, she’s a geologist who currently works for a management-consulting firm. In her spare time, she volunteers at a food bank, writes and takes photos. She created her OLIO account a year ago, but only started to actively use it 2 months ago.

“I had a very bad phone last year so I couldn’t use the app as much,” she admits. “Now that I’m working in London, I’ve started using it a lot more especially since there’s a new ‘non-food’ section. I’m quite thrifty when it comes to food waste so I initially never really had that much to put up on the app.

“It’s only when I get a hold of something bulky like 12 kilos of onion chutney or  even 10 kilos of carrots, that I’m able to use it for food-sharing.”

Sinead has already listed many non-food items on the app, sharing household items like toiletries, cosmetics and kitchen utensils.

“I used to be a bit of a hoarder with anything used for making cupcakes so I had every kind of cupcake-making utensil that you could possibly think of. I put a few of those on OLIO and it felt good knowing that they’re no longer just sitting in my cupboard and that somebody’s actually going to use them.”

One of the reasons Sinead enjoys using the app is because of the connections users make. She has recommended the app to fellow volunteers and users at the food bank, as well as her co-workers at the firm, and hopes that more people will start using it when they comprehend the message and dialogue surrounding food waste.

“I think OLIO is a great concept as it’s a good way of building that sense of community. I think a lot of us have moved so far away that we don’t really know our neighbours or people within our community,” says Sinead, who moved to London from Hertfordshire. “Utilising that collaborative world of food waste and technology as a tool to exchange and meet people is a brilliant idea.

“I did a meetup yesterday morning when I got off the train with someone and we just had a chat, which is unheard of from a stranger in London, about the app,” she recalls. “It’s just really nice to be able to chat with people over something that’s doing good for both the community and environment.”

A digital spin on an outdated tradition

Initiating the digital revival of the once commonplace practice of borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbour wasn’t so easy for Tessa Cook. While supermarkets often take the blame for food waste, we bin nearly half of the 15 million tonnes of food thrown away annually in the UK at home.

The founder of the app and mum-of-two is the daughter of a North Yorkshire farmer and says that she has always hated the idea of food being wasted.

“I know from first-hand experience just how much hard work goes into producing food. As a result, the inspiration for OLIO came when I was moving country and found myself on moving day with some good food that my family hadn’t managed to eat, but that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away,” she says. “And so, I set off on a bit of a wild goose chase to try and find someone to give it to, and I failed miserably.”

Tessa thought it was crazy how she should have to throw her food away when there were potentially plenty of people within hundreds of metres of her that would gladly take it. The problem was that they just weren’t aware of her dilemma.

“That’s when the idea for a mobile app where neighbours and local shops and cafés can share leftover food came about,” she says. “Once I’d had the original idea, I started to research the problem of food waste more broadly, and what I discovered shocked and terrified me.”

And it is indeed both shocking and terrifying. Over a third of all food produced globally is thrown away so it’s no exaggeration to say that food waste is currently one of the largest global problems. UK households waste £13 billion worth of edible food each year, costing the average family £700.

Tessa’s ultimate goal was to address and prevent all the issues caused by food waste. Such issues include food waste being the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and the fact that the government is spending over £1 billion a year in disposal costs.

Tessa then convinced her classmate from the Stanford Business School in California and daughter of Iowa hippies, Saasha Celestial-One, to help her set up the app.

The co-founders realised that apps and the sharing economy undoubtedly seem to grow symbiotically. By harnessing the powers of mobile technology and the sharing economy and combining them with an engaged local community, OLIO was born. OLIO was officially launched in the second half of 2015 and was made available across the entire UK at the end of January 2016.

Since then, almost 170,000 users have signed up to the app and over 200,000 items have been shared, which is equivalent to 80,000 meals.

“We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the positive feedback from our OLIO users,” Tessa says. “Neighbours are loving how quick, easy and fun it is to share both food and non-food items with their neighbours.

“Businesses are also extremely positive about our Food Waste Heroes programme, where small groups of OLIO volunteers are matched with a business location to collect any unsold food at the end of the day and re-distribute it to the local community via the app.”

But with such an accomplishment, there’s bound to be some difficulties.

“Our biggest challenge is encouraging more of our signed up users to take the leap of faith and add or request their first item,” she explains. “Once they do, they absolutely love it, because obviously sharing food feels great and meeting a neighbour is fun! However, we appreciate that at first the idea of ‘sharing food with a neighbour’ can seem a little strange to some.

“But we hope that much like Airbnb has normalised renting your home to a stranger, OLIO will enable it to become second nature to share surplus food rather than toss it away, especially when so many people are going hungry and the environmental consequences of food waste are devastating.”

With a growing number of users and a volunteer number nearing 10,000, the future for OLIO is looking bright.

“Our vision is an unashamedly bold one of millions of hyper-local sharing networks all over the world, so that our most precious resources can be shared, not thrown away.

“At its heart, OLIO is all about community, and using mobile technology to reconnect neighbours over the road and round the corner with each other.”

The response to unsold meals

While OLIO focuses on preventing household items from being thrown away, Too Good To Go saves leftover meals from being chucked away at restaurants, cafés and bakeries. The mobile app is linked to eateries across the UK that list how many unsold meals they have at the end of the day, selling the food at discounted prices for as little as £2.

The app is the brainchild of another duo, Chris Wilson and Jamie Crummie, who met as freshers at Leeds University in 2010. After graduating, both had a shared lightbulb moment.

Jamie was attending an Amnesty International event that was catered by The Real Junk Food Project back in 2013. The organisation served meals made with intercepted ingredients that would have otherwise been consigned to incineration or landfill.

“That event was the catalyst for me. I talked to the staff at the event and I couldn’t believe the gravity and scale of food waste as I really wasn’t aware of it before,” He says. “We’re very much in the dark about food waste and there hadn’t been any push by anyone to look at ways to curb our own food waste and the impact that it has on our planet.”

Meanwhile Chris had moved to Denmark to be with his fiancée and was studying for a master’s degree in Business Ethics at the time. That was when he stumbled upon what was a Danish Too Good To Go website which intrigued him. Chris approached the team behind the concept and set about developing the app for the UK. Jamie visited Chris in Denmark and was soon hired after he was told the idea. The duo eventually went door to door to get restaurants in the UK to sign up and four years later, we have Too Good To Go in its form now. With 200 active partners as of 2017, the initiative has rescued nearly 20,000 meals in the UK since operating.

The team have big plans for themselves and aspire to make Too Good To Go synonymous with tackling food waste.

“We want to up our numbers in terms of the meals we can rescue from going into the bin,” Jamie says. “A lot of restaurants cafés and bakeries are already very receptive to our idea, but some more so than others as it’s quite a novel concept.

“I mean, it does seem strange to have someone randomly come up to you and say: ‘Oh, hey guys, you know that food you throw away at the end of the day? Yeah, we want people to come and pick it up’.”

Although most of the app’s partnering eateries are in London, Jamie thinks the app is the biggest success in Aberdeen, where the few places partnered with the app have taken Too Good To Go by storm.

Jamie adds: “There are places up there selling out daily which is fantastic. It means they’re closing their doors having to throw absolutely no food away.”

When asked whether he is a frequent user of the app, Jamie laughs: “I live off Too Good To Go! You’ve got to practice what you preach so I often stack my fridge up with different meals I’ve picked up one day and it sorts me out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I probably shouldn’t boast about that, though. It’d seem as if all those 20,000 meals have been rescued by just me.”

Though they have already achieved so much, the Too Good To Go team wish to expand, but are finding it difficult.

“We haven’t been very active in expanding as we are quite a small team. We do want to be operating everywhere and we want to ensure that Too Good To Go is an app that can be enjoyed by everyone. In the coming weeks and months, we want to get more places and users on board for the app.

“Current users themselves can help us in expanding by referring us to places that can benefit from the app and get introduced to the concept. We do really want to be active in as many places to rescue food from going to landfill.”

The best thing about the sharing economy, or collaborative consumption, is that, besides connecting you with people, they can also save you a lot of time and money. There’s no need to travel much or spend money with OLIO, and Too Good To Go links users with perfectly good meals in danger of being binned at a reduced cost.

What about Too Good To Go working with apps like OLIO?

“It’d be great to work with similar initiatives,” Jamie says. “After all, we’re all striving towards the same goal, which is to eliminate food waste.”

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The Veggie Review: graze

Hi guys!

I’m sure you’ve all come across graze. I remember receiving graze coupons when I first moved into my student accommodation but I sort of forgot about them and never used them. Anyway, it’s a subscription snack service which delivers food straight to your mailbox. The service offers to deliver a box of 4 out of a potential 100 snack options for £3.99. Of course, to entice all customers, the first box is free* and you get to specify what you want in your box. What I like about graze is that it offers something for everyone, especially those watching their calorie intake or those with specific diets (veg/vegan/gluten-free…etc). Snacks include nuts, seeds, dried fruit/veg, mini cakes, biscuits, crackers, dips, and more.

Now, I rarely order food online. The only snacks I recall purchasing online are Flamin’ Hot Cheetos because you honestly cannot find them anywhere in this country. The process online is simple and straightforward with graze but when it came to actually reviewing the four snacks I received, I was met with three hits and a miss. I was left quite disappointed because the ‘miss’ was the one snack I was looking forward to eat.

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Service: graze

Type: Subscription snacks

Website: http://www.graze.com

What I’m reviewing: Herby Bread Basket, Moroccan Harissa Olives, Boston Baguettes, Beetroot Crisps

Price: £3.99 (first box is HALF-PRICE/FREE WITH MY CODE)

Herby Bread Basket: 4/5

The 90-calorie Herby Bread Basket punnet included mini basil breadsticks, oregano crackers and garlic crostini. I chose this one because it’s quite a popular selection and it’s one of the few options sold at supermarkets like Tesco. So, I thought it was worth trying. The flavours were all strong yet they complemented each other quite nicely. Crunchy, buttery and flavoursome… it was worth including in my very first graze box.

Moroccan Harissa Olives: 4/5

I’m a huge fan of olives so I had to include them in my box. There were around 16 green olives marinated with harissa, chilli and garlic in the punnet, which came with a pick-stick. They were juicy and fleshy, subtly spiced and easy to eat. I love my olives.

Boston Baguettes: 5/5

The punnet contained 8 crunchy tomato-flavoured breadsticks as well as a barbeque relish. I enjoyed eating the sticks dipped in the sweet, spicy and almost chutney-like dip. However, if you’re not a fan of chutney, you might not like the dip. I was extremely satisfied with this combination and would strongly recommend this snack to anyone. Also, it was only 84 calories so I would definitely add this in my grazebox again.

Beetroot Crisps: 2/5

Last but unquestionably least… the beetroots crisps. I was actually devastated. No lie. All I could think was, “This is what I’ve been looking forward to try for 3 days?” I’ve been a fan of beetroot crisps ever since I tried Tyrrells Mixed Root Vegetable Crisps last year. I was so impressed with them then that I was positive I was going to like the ones graze offered. But I didn’t. At all. They were dry, stale and flavourless. Nasty! The punnet also contained dry jalapeno chickpeas and sunflower seeds… which are the only thing preventing me from giving this snack a big fat zero.

OVERALL RATING: 3.75/5

Despite quite a good rating, the reality is that you’d probably save more money by preparing your own snacks at home. If you haven’t got enough time, then it is worth considering a subscription to graze… but expect to be disappointed by at least one snack. I personally didn’t love the snacks enough to buy graze boxes on a regular basis. But I will be giving it another go very soon.

Remember, you can get your first box for half-price. Or for FREE with my code!

Message me on Twitter: @sugaviolet

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The Veggie Review: Byron

Hi everyone!

Second year of uni is fast approaching so I thought it would be a good idea to resume blogging. One thing I regret is not blogging at all throughout my first year… even though I was actually looking forward to writing all about my experience! I guess I got too caught up in the new atmosphere…

Anyway, this isn’t another ‘I’m going to blog more frequently you guys, I promise!‘ post, it’s a veggie review. I’ll be reviewing a series of vegetarian options at various restaurants located in both London and Kent. I am aware that reviewing Byron may be unfair, considering they specialise in hamburgers but if there’s a veggie option, there’s a review.

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Restaurant: Byron

Type: Burger joint

Location: Covent Garden

What I’m reviewing: Mushroom burger

What’s inside: Grilled Portobello mushroom, goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and aioli

Price: £7.95

 

 

Visually, the Mushroom Burger itself looked very appetising however the overall presentation of the plate was so-so. It could do without Byron’s signature wedge of pickle on the side and be replaced with fries or coleslaw, in my opinion. Moving on to the actual burger, the bun was squishy and fluffy but didn’t hold the components well enough to eat the burger without any fuss. The supposedly ‘grilled’ portobello mushroom wasn’t as smoky or flavoured as expected and was rather soggy, much like the peeled pepper which, by the way, I just had to remove. The goat’s cheese melted nicely with the spinach, tomato, onion and the hint of garlic from the aioli, but considering the main component is the mushroom, I was left slightly disappointed.

I only entered Byron with high expectations due to the hype surrounding the chain but whatever, at least the carnivores are pleased. On a serious note, I was surprised Byron even provided two seemingly appealing vegetarian options to begin with, the other being the Bean Patty, so I can’t complain that much. I just wasn’t blown away by the Mushroom Burger. I am, after all, a huge fan of mushrooms. In fact, I will definitely be trying the Bean Patty next time as the flavours in the whole burger did work quite well. If I replace the mushroom with a bean patty, I’m hoping it’ll be my preferred veggie alternative.

Rating: 3/5

 

-Lara, still alive

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‘Uplifting and romantic’: couples celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year in London

 

VALCHINA.jpgCouples from all over the world travelled to London to celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Chinese New Year festival yesterday.

Many couples hoped to experience ‘something different’ on their special day and they were not disappointed.

Colourful parades during the day and a spectacular fireworks display to mark the at night to mark Year of the Monkey made their occasion ‘uplifting’.

Over 700,000 people spent their day in Trafalgar Square and the historic Chinatown, making it one of the busiest cultural events in Europe.

 

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An apology and updates on my whereabouts

I sincerely apologise to my 0 readers out there. I am a bad friend. I am a bad blogger. I am just a bad person. SO I’M SORRY, OKAY? I was sOoOoOOo busy, you know? (I was so busy delaying this apology post…) No, but seriously…I was. So here’s just a post to first and foremost apologise for my absence (Lord, it’s been over 7 months?!?!) AND to update you.

  1. I’M SORRY.
  2. I’LL TRY MY HARDEST TO POST.
  3. I’M SORRY.

Okay… so now I feel much better (We all know this is actually an apology to myself, really, it’s not like you give a damn).

THE LONG-AWAITED UPDATE

Well my birthday happened (like, 5 FAHRIGGIN’ months ago)… aaaand so I’m 18 now! Woohoo! I have successfully completed my A levels! I got into my firm choice – University of Kent – to study Journalism and the News Industry! (Wow, I already know that I’m going to have a hard time… I can’t even update my blog once) And now I’m suffering from stress! WOOHOO!

On a serious note, I’ve been busy preparing as I’m going to be staying at Kent. I mean, it’s not too far away, but it’s a different experience. I’ll be staying in dorms, meeting different people, cooking for one -cue All Byyyyy Myself- so I’m basically growing up fer real. God, I’m making this sound so dramatic, please bear with me. Aaaanyway, I’m hoping to make a post soon about university essentials. Not that you care, I mean, YouTube exists. I still have quite a lot to buy though and a lot to pre-read so that explains my stress. I just feel like I have so much to keep up with yet I keep binge watching anime, kdramas, Friends and just a bunch of unnecessary things. Wazzz goin’ awnnn?

HERE’S A FUN POP QUIZ: Am I taking this too seriously? Tick yes or yes.

And to sum up this pointless, melodramatic and, I just realised, pretty narcissistic post, I’m sorry and I’m off to university/cry myself to sleep in 2 weeks.

-Lara, dramatic piece of shiitake mushroom. (Yes, I referenced Spy Kids.)