Palm oil, the cause of all shame this winter. Who remembers Sustainable Struggles? Back in August I wrote about all the things I was finding difficult about shopping for sustainable fashion. Little did I know that the challenge of sustainability wasn’t entirely limited to this…
The Palm Oil Scandal Everyone’s Talking About
Has anyone seen the Greenpeace palm oil film that Iceland wanted to run as an advert? It’s difficult to avoid such a huge publicity scandal but if you did miss it, here it is.
This advert was banned on the basis of being too controversial and political. Despite this, it’s gone viral and has a really powerful message. I didn’t realise that palm oil was such a huge contributor to environmental damage. Nor did I realise that 50% of food products on shelves in the UK contain it. This is huge!
Palm oil contributes to deforestation and therefore the loss of wildlife, as well as global warming. Recently I have been studying climate change and it’s shocking to learn about what we have done to the earth.
Not Just Plastic
It’s seems as though we are finally leaving plastics behind and recycling more. But what about palm oil?
The problem is that choosing to go palm oil free is easier said than done. Not only is palm oil an ingredient in around 50% of products, but it also has many different names. Brands disguise ‘palm oil,’ with variable names (that don’t even contain the key word, ‘palm’), making it more difficult to spot. I’ve been familiarising myself with these names lately – here is a helpful guide.
Three weeks ago I naively sat in my flat and declared to everyone that I was going palm oil free. What a challenge! It’s definitely not a quick switch.
Sustainable Struggles 2.0
When I food shop, I check the ingredients in everything and am left totally perplexed… It’s impossible to remember all the names for palm oil! Often shops don’t stock a lot of palm-oil-free options and if they do, they are expensive so I have to go without – student budgets don’t go very far.
I have found that a lot of Sainsbury’s own breads and snacks either don’t use palmitate or at least claim to use a sustainably sourced palm oil (better, but not perfect.)
Tis the Season
At this time of year, the palm oil ban is really getting to me! I just want to eat all the chocolate and Christmas goods I can; except most brands use ridiculous amounts of palm oil. I failed to find an advent calendar that was palmate-free and even if so, it would have been made entirely of plastic. I ended up hunting the Sainsbury’s aisles, searching for a palm-oil-free chocolate and could only find Lindtt. Thankfully, it was on offer so I stocked up and did a bit of advent diy!
Palm oil isn’t just found in food. It wiggles it’s way into beauty products, shampoos, soaps, detergents… It’s in these cases, when the names tend to be very confusing(cue – ‘hydrated palm glycerides,’). I used to think that buying cruelty free products was sufficient, but no! I have since switched to buying The Body Shop’s eco-friendly range, or even better, purchasing shampoo and conditioner bars (Zero-waste and package-free).
Essentially, I’m still very new to this palm-oil free life. I am still failing in many areas but I’ve made a positive start. I really challenge you to think about the products that you buy. Yes it might mean giving up a few things, but hopefully brands will start to catch on – look how far we’ve come on the plastics front!
Once again I’m totally confused about it all and just wandering through life trying to do my best!
The world is ours to look after. Let’s take care of it!
Who else gets a little angry every time they see “palmate” written on a label?
Student life is no longer a future thought. Three weeks ago I was determined to love university but terrified to actually get there. When you’ve had something in the distance for so long, it’s truly daunting to stare it in the face.
I live in a flat with 16 other people, I spend most days 9-5 in a studio and I’m juggling a million other things in typical Eleanor-style.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of questioning what the heck I’m doing. There have been days of “I hate this course and I want to give up.” Not to mention, the late nights and early mornings of student life.
When you finish an adventurous season such as a gap year, things get a bit dull. Throughout teenage years, our lives are constantly getting more and more exciting. Last year I hit the climax and now I’m back at “school.”
Remembering what student life looks like
It’s vital that I constantly remind myself of this dull truth. A flatmate also pointed out how much they studied for A-levels… A-levels are a lost memory for me and I guess I have to remind myself that I can and will have to prioritise the studies for now. I did it in 2016 and now I have to learn to do it again.
I have to put last year’s adventure aside and stop comparing this season with the last. Once I do that, I can fully throw myself into experiencing life at university.
I am starting to find my passion for architecture again. I am loving the extrovert environment created by a house of 17 students. I have enrolled in (too) many sports and societies. I have made incredible friends. And I’m enjoying the variety of lecture content!
University is crazy. But it’s also such a great opportunity to live alongside people and try new things!
I’ve stepped down the adventure level and I’m busier than ever. But I’m learning, experiencing and loving student life.
Has anyone else started univeristy recently? How are you finding it?
I’ve discovered the best way to have a good morning. Bold as I may be to claim this, it’s really worth a thought. I feel good, productive, and calm!
In the past few months I seem to have slipped back into the UK norm. The things that I learnt to prioritise whilst living in Guinea now just sit at the back of my mind. Do I feel guilty about this? Sometimes. Does it feel as though I’m wasting precious life lessons? Definitely!
A good morning is one without Wi-fi
One of the greatest influences during my time overseas was the lack of mobile phones. I’m not going to stand and say that before I left last October, I was addicted to my phone. That just isn’t true. I did however spend a lot of time on social media. I had Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,Time-hop, Pinterest…
A good morning was one without wi-fi.
I used my phone for 30-60 minutes a day in Guinea. If I wanted to chat to someone, I phoned them or visited them. I lived in the moment and didn’t think about recording it. Call me a recluse, but I delighted in the idea of a few days’ “disappearance” at a time.
Now I use Pinterest and Instagram – these are the only social media apps on my phone. Facebook gets checked every few days for the sake of blogging and university updates. Why? I got so used to having real life interactions! I stopped caring what people think of me. I realised that I don’t need to update the world to qualify a good happy moment.
Getting my good morning back
Lately, I’ve been reaching out for my phone again. I’ve been scrolling endlessly rather than uploading, checking and leaving. I get distracted and then I feel like I haven’t done anything today.
So I’m finally forcing myself to seize back the reality that I’ve recently lost.
Every morning when I wake up, I leave my phone exactly where it is. I get up at 8am, put on some clothes and go straight downstairs. I make a good morning breakfast (granola, eggs, pancakes, porridge…), grab a coffee and eat slowly. I then spend time reading a good book. Often I find this time a great opportunity to study my bible but I also love a good novel or creative article! I’m working my way through the summer reading list!
What’s so good about this morning?
- It fuels my day with good words!
- I don’t feel rushed.
- In just 1 hour I have eaten well, read something good and can be ready to leave the house!
- It creates a boundary between your real life, and the life that all your friends are viewing.
- It sets you up for a positive day.
By 9am most days I feel like I’ve already done so much – that is a brilliant achievement. When I eventually switch airplane mode off (my new favourite setting) I no longer have the desire to scroll through everything that everyone posted last night. In fact, once you go without your phone for a while, it is surprising how rubbish social media appears!
I have always been a morning person but I haven’t always felt good every morning. Now I feel amazing and this one little change carries itself through the day. One boundary leads to a day’s discipline. Yes I still post. Yes I still love Instagram! But my relationship is healthier. I enjoy it but real life memories always come first.
If I’m waking up, I wake up. If I’m watching TV, I watch TV. If I’m with friends and family, I ignore messages.
And all of this starts with a good morning! Forget waking up on the wrong side of the bed – wake up on the right side of a screen!
Try it! You’ll feel in control of you and your day.
If you want to read more about my Guinean Adventures and lessons learnt, you can find it all here.
Another month has come and gone in a flash. Perhaps it’s all the summer sun, or just a busy pre-holiday schedule that seems to always chase me down in June. Whatever the culprit, I find myself sipping my coffee and discover that I have only finished one book… A book that issn’t worthy enough for a summer reading review.
Sometimes we just have to prioritise other things and reading certainly hasn’t been top of the list for a while! However now that I have a long summer ahead, I can finally catch up. I have quite a few books piled up ready to read. Therefore, for this month’s Coffee Time I am sharing the books that are on my summer reading list.
- The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak – This novel is set in Istanbul and follows a stowaway boy during the sixteenth century who lands himself in Istanbul. The book explores how a lowly character rises through a “city of easy forgetting,” and encounters a royal architect. As a student about to start architectural studies, this book caught my eye and the plot intrigues me since it weaves both muslim and christian culture with adventure and mystery.
- The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman – Set in Rome, this is going to be a brilliant read as I will be spending two weeks travelling through Italy this month! Whilst I’m not sure how great the plot will be (the story of eleven characters who depend upon a newspaper about to fall apart), my Dad has read some good reviews about Rachman’s writing, so both of us are eager to test them.
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Who doesn’t love a good historic novel based on a true story? I know I will enjoy reading this! The book is based upon the tale of two Slovakian jews who find themselves at Auschwitz: the male character is employed as the tattooist and as he begins to etch a number onto the arm of a young girl, the two fall in love. The plot then follows them both in their attempt to survive the horrors of the holocaust.
- The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey – There is no denying that Jesus is a historical figure who existed. The question is, who was He? Was He who He claimed to be? As a christian, I have heard many people talk about this book. Yancey looks at the Jesus described in the bible and gives a new perspective of who He was and what He did. He also challenges the reader. The book is said to answer many questions, raise many others and “uncover a Jesus who is brilliant, creative, challenging, fearless, compassionate, unpredictable, and ultimately satisfying.” However with all devotional books, I am aware that this may not be as great as crowds make it out to be.
- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson – I have currently read two out of the three original books in the Stieg Larsson Millennium Series. The series plays with the issue of crime in Sweden by employing a character, “Lisbeth Salander,” who has been neglected, abused and previously a victim of sexually related violence. In fact throughout the series, Larsson draws upon Sweden’s large issue of violence against women. The trilogy follows Salander and a journalist Blomkvist, who end up solving and creating all sorts of mysterious thrillers. Whilst the books are very dark, it’s definitely an interesting insight into Swedish crime.
So there we have my Summer reading list! Perhaps one of these five will make it into next month’s Coffee Time review?
Are there any books on your reading list this summer? I’d love to hear about them and maybe even add them to my list!
After a very long break, I’m returning with Coffee Time! Coffee Time is a monthly book review. I share books that have taught me new things or inspired something within me. So, as always, let’s all grab a coffee and get talking!
This month I am talking about a novel that I read back in January. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is a fantastic historical novel that follows a female spy during the first world war. The younv British woman is recruited to work in the French Alice Network. The plot follows two parallels: the horrors of an Alice Network spy and an American searching for a disappeared cousin. The plot then comes together when the traumatised, drunken spy meets the desperate cousin searching for answers.
I couldn’t put this book down! Based on a true story, you find yourself living the life of a female spy. You encounter the truths behind the Alice Network and horrors are exposed. It really opens your eyes to a previously hidden side of war. As a lover of history I find the parallels allow two time periods (1910s and 1940s) to intertwine providing a war and post-war perspective.
The greatest thing I took from this novel was the consequences of the war for the female spies in the Alice Network. Not only were they essentially neglected and starved, but when fleeing dangerous situations they were sent back to the field. This led to time spent as prisoners of war – even murder! These women suffered on behalf of our country, sourcing as much information as they could and were tortured for it. Our country owes so much to these women!
I definitely recommend giving The Alice Network a read. If you love history, are interested in intelligence or simply want to learn from strong females, this will certainly inspire you!
Have you read any other books that tell of strong, suffering women?
Find The Alice Network Here:
It’s time that I introduced you all to my “housemates.” Meet Team Guinea! Seven months ago I met three wonderful girls for the first time and flew across the world to live with them for six months. I left all my other friends behind and quite literally, ended up stuck with them…
Lauren, Cara and Mhairi have been the best team mates I could have asked for! We worked together, lived together, cooked together and pretty much didn’t spend any time apart for six months! In some ways this has been incredible but of course, living together does have challenges too and we have learnt to navigate our way through all of these things together – ups and downs. Most importantly, I’m incredibly proud of these three girls and all that they have accomplished this year.
After learning to live alongside each other as a team, we are now best friends and whilst its was definitely difficult at times, we certainly are glad we did it. Today I’m sharing our top ten tips for team living, whether you are currently about to live with flatmates for the first time at university, or are working in a team of colleagues.
- Have give and take. Living with house mates or team members really can be a challenge. If you think about your family, you don’t always agree with one another, or be kind to each other. Families argue. They contrast yet have grace for each other and are built on love! If your family doesn’t always get along, your house won’t either! Accept that, choose which battles are important to fight, and leave those that really won’t matter in the long term.
- Cook good food together! As a team in Guinea, we found that cooking together was such a relaxing and enriching activity. When we all came together to share ideas, tastes, skills, we didn’t just manage to cook something incredible but when we shared it, we could all enjoy the reward of our creation. Our favourites were curry complete with homemade naan bread, pancake brunches, lasagne, stews, soups…
- Laugh together, cry together. This was one of our team values! We had to understand that sharing in good times was just as important as accompanying one another in tough times. Having this as a grounding allowed us to support one another, to encourage each other and have a deepened understanding of each other’s emotions, circumstances, joys and tribulations.
- Be quick to forgive. Seriously – grudges are no good for team living! Anything unsaid can build up to cause explosive arguments. If something was upsetting us or annoying us, we would honestly tell our team member, resolve the problem and then move on, forgetting it happened. We all make mistakes and living together is difficult! I definitely learnt to be patient with my team.
- Share the roles. Now it’s not a healthy team if one person is carrying a heavier load. It’s vital that you share roles and each take up a fair amount jobs. It’s not just about getting a fair rest but also learning to serve your house mates, proving that you care for and value them as individuals. In our house we decided to create a “day off” rota so that each day, one team member would be excused from all cooking and washing up. This was brilliant! There were still three people to share the load, and we’d all get the chance to put our feet up twice a week.
- Employ each other’s strengths. It’s pointless forcing the quiet team member to stand up and present a whole lesson to a class of 80. Likewise it’s silly to ask the outgoing, active one to just work on the sidelines and do all the administration. This applies to living together too! Pick out one another’s strengths and delegate roles based upon that. For example, I am strong in Mathematics and was encouraged to manage our team’s finances and food budgets. Lauren however was really good at coming up with social activities to do on an evening, so we’d often get her to plan a film night or worship night whenever we needed some down time…
- Celebrate each other! We all love to be built up! So celebrate each other’s successes as friends and compliment one another’s efforts.
- Find a mutual activity. You can’t just live together and never socialise together. Discovering mutual interests or trying new things together is an important for bonding and also maintaining a good relationship with your house mates. In Guinea this looked like watching films, playing games and journalling together. Now in the UK, it’s going for walks and even doing crazy things like going to a trampoline park to destress for an hour!
- Take the short straw. There will always be jobs that no-one wants to do. Sometimes you just have to big yourself up and do them because if you all stand around, you’ll be there for ever! I hate to admit it, but I even had to unblock a toilet and kill a mouse for my team! These things need doing and if you just get it over with, you can move on as a team. Your housemates will really appreciate you for serving them in that too!
- Have hyper moments! Sometimes you just need to scream hysterically at each other or dance stupidly around the house. It’s these crazy memories that really build a happy team – you’ll remember wild nights forever!
We are still living together and learning to navigate through life together… We are now spending eight weeks travelling around the UK, talking about our trip and meeting one another’s families. With this comes new challenges and these ten lessons still play a huge role in our team!
What tips do you have for living with house mates?
There’s something about riding sideways in the back of a jeep watching a landscape go by that pulls at heart strings you never knew you had. I just spent six months living and working in Guinea. Each time we left our home and drove out of town I’d sit fascinated by the country before me.
West Africa used to be a tragic poverished spot on a map. Now it’s a population of welcoming people yes in need, but human and struggling just like westerners. Now to me, West Africa is a home where I am welcomed…
Alongside retreats in mountains watching monkeys swing in trees and exploring islands off the capital, I experienced some tough things. I experienced what it is like to have no water for weeks when city supply is cut; the frustration of teachers struggling to control huge class numbers; the devastating truth that first aid is limited and hospitals not reliable; the value that children lack; underlying superstitious fear that results in FGM…
Yet all the same Guinea is a beautiful country slowly developping. The spirit of the people we met is one of wanting to learn and grow.
Guinea became normal to me. My house felt like my home. Whilst I knew it was temporary, I embraced it all: food, routine, language… I can’t even imagine a night’s sleep undisturbed by the islamic call to prayer or a tarmaced road leading to a house that doesnt require three turns of the key to unlock. Cleaning teeth with tap water is a no go and what on earth is a hot shower?
Yet underneath the surface lies something deeper. Living in Guinea has changed my heart. My perspective upon what is necessary has completely changed my desires and priorities. My unwillingness to leave the comforts of a western life and western career no longer exists and my eyes are open to what mission really is: living alongside others.
Six months have been transforming and whilst my identity remains in Christ, my character has been radically shaped. It’s not something that I can pin point and neither is it something anyone will ever understand. That’s so hard for me to process right now as I return to my old life with a completely different outlook. As I relaunch this blog I can only try to explain part of that. It’s almost as if I’ve moved to a completely new place when in fact these places and people are incredibly familiar…
I am excited to reunite with my readers but I ask your patience and understanding. My return brings new perspectives, new desires and a developped character attatched to the same identity.
How have you been growing since October?
If you have been following Distinctivemode from early on, you will know that in November the blog will turn four years old. As I write this I am speechless – quite literally! How on earth has it been that long? Not only this but I myself have changed considerably and I do hope that the blog has reflected that somehow.
Four years is a heck of a long time. I still remember the first few days of blogging in 2013, when the site was purely a fashion communication platform and I’d read articles from Bazaar and Vogue, then blog my thoughts about them. Initially Distinctivemode was my step into fashion journalism. Then as I changed, I strayed from this and started to expand: inspiring thoughts and faith. As I grew up, I started to creatively explore different avenues and see how we could creatively journey to “become the person we want to meet”- as we used to say!
We’ve seen a year of Give Save Love in 2015, Grace Cherish Go in 2016, and now 2017 is a year to throw off all boundaries and let adventure unfold. Looking back I see a timid girl with little confidence and a big dream. Now I see a woman stood on a cliff edge about to jump into a very different dream – a much greater dream!
So far this year has been filled with crazy travel opportunities and day by day my heart grows for more – I’m curious to see the world and that means getting outside of my comfort zone. It means going beyond the reach of media for a little while.
Something I have mentioned a few times on the blog is that over the past three years, I’ve dreamt about taking a gap year, seeing something new, and growing in the knowledge of who God is. Now, I’m about to embark on just that. It’s been a challenge to study hard, blog a lot, plan for this year and still live the spontaneous adventure of life with Jesus! But in prayer I have managed it. There have been times when I’ve come close to giving up on the blog. I had so much to do but I’m incredibly thankful for the team of readers backing me, being patient and encouraging efforts. We made it to four years – together!
But it’s time that I did step down – just for a little while. Over the next 9 months I’m running off to experience Africa! To serve God, to work in a brilliant team and to grow in faith. I’ll grow, I’ll change and I’ll see a lot more of creation! I need to be fully present in this – not sidetracked by other things. It’s time I laid down all other responsibilities to commit my all to this.
So until the end of March there will be no more posts on Distinctivemode due to no internet. After this, I do hope to update you on my period of journeying but I know I will be incredibly busy and unable to resume our usual Sunday and Wednesday schedule.
So until the summer of 2018, I wish you all the best. Take time out to adventure. Take time to grow. I’m about to leap from the clifftop – perhaps you’ll join me in that adventure?
I’ll see you when I see you – refreshed, full of stories and ready to grow a little more!
Happy four years,
Got your coffee? Great lets go!
Whilst all previous Coffee Times have incorporated lessons learned from books, as we step into September I want to discuss visual media also. Over the past month I have encountered and experienced so many influential things however there was one spectacular and inspiring moment that stands above it all… Kynren.
Kynren is a 90 minute outdoor show directed by the Olympic ceremonies veteran, Steve Boyd engineering a cast and crew of 1500 volunteers to tell the story of the history of England, with a particular emphasis focusing upon the surroundings of County Durham. Starting at sunset, you are immersed in a timeline of tales complete with scenery, live animals, music and fireworks. It’s incredible and certainly indescribable. So indescribable that the best I can do to explain is link to the trailer, here.
But what was so inspiring? Kynren not only contains amazing visuals but also incredible lessons. First of all, stories and scenes transition fluently, all linking with the aid of large props and stage sets, hidden under a water reservoir ready to be elevated in time. Although I previously studied history, I have always struggled to piece together the whole time line of British History and the 29 scenes for me were that final Eureka moment. I found my mind was able to process all stories from monks, saxons, vikings… up until the first and second world war.
There was a valuable message amongst all of this. The show follows a young boy called Arthur, who travels in time through all of these generations and grows older as he transitions throughout them. He comes into contact with “the old Arthur” early on whilst still young and as he moves throughout history, he is counselled. The message? To learn from previous generations of leaders, lead your in present generation and make way for the new generation of strong leaders to come. The fundamental in all of this, is simply: let generations inspire you!
There have been some incredible forces of change in our country including Saint Cuthbert, Julius Ceasar, Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill… All of these people we admire – but may we dig deep. Let us research them, read their stories and think about the things that they brought about. From this, may we hold onto the influences that we find, allowing them to raise us up as great leaders also. All historical figures came from ordinary backgrounds. Likewise, new generations will rise up – and we can be a part of that! Yet all generations must also step down – may we gracefully make way for the new, younger Arthur…
With this I ask, is there a historical figure that you admire? Why? How can they influence your decisions and actions? Or perhaps, could you learn something by digging in and being curious about a figure you’ve never really listened to?
Kynren is an old word meaning “generations.” So lets learn from Kynren this September!
We are back again for the third edition of Coffee Time! By now you should know what to do: grab a coffee and let’s get started!This month I had to choose Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland. Whilst I’ve read other books this month as well, sometimes you can’t beat a good novel – especially when it hits number one bestseller! Besides, within this book you’ll find challenge, memory, fairy tale and a very important lesson to learn.
The book is incredibly easy to read and makes the perfect Summer novel – I couldn’t put it down. The main character is Robin Wilde who is a single mum to Lyla Blue. She starts out in a phase of sadness, insecurity and loneliness that she calls “the emptiness,” but gradually overcomes this by focusing on the happiness of her child. She goes on dates that fall, and lives in the fear that she isn’t a good enough mum, that Lyla is emotionally scarred from the parent break up and that all the “posh school mums,” are all secretly looking down on her.
I don’t want to give spoilers so I’ll skip past the middle and ending. Rather I want to share a very important lesson I’ve learnt by reading Wilde Like Me…
People are too busy thinking about themselves, to care about you. What Louise Pentland means by writing this is that often, we may think that somebody has a very low view of us, but in reality they actually look up to you. Rather than judging others they are too busy judging themselves. We all do it. Therefore we ought to have more confidence. In the book Robin Wilde spends so long feeling like a nobody when actually the school mums were admiring her the whole time! This truth is fundamental. Perhaps you often worry that your friends don’t really like you, that you aren’t good enough or that being different means social failure – wrong. It’s time we all said no to this voice inside us and held our heads high!
Power of Positive Thinking. Throughout the novel, Robin Wilde is portrayed as a motivated woman, battling with optimism. After bad days she starts afresh with a lot of positive thinking. What stands out the most is how she declares optimism: “today will be a good day,” “I can do this,” “This is a new day.” Even in her emptiness, Robin Wilde battles to climb up out of it. Whilst reading this novel, I had a bit of a bad day myself and inspired by this lesson, I put the power of positive thinking into practise. All day I told myself, “today is a good day,” and it completely changed my attitude – in fact I had one of the best days ever!
Wilde Like Me is such a wonderful novel! I can’t help but feel proud of the main character Robin Wilde and I have learnt some incredible, much needed lessons. In my opinion, everyone should give it a read! If you find yourself in the same boat as Robin, feel a bit stuck in your current phase of life, or not, it’s a great eye-opener into the struggles of a single mum as well as a kick-ass pick me up full of motivation and encouragement!
Have you read Wilde Like Me? What have you learnt in your own reading?
P.S. Buy Wilde Like Me here