IMG_3662Once you start reducing your single-use, it gets a bit addictive. I have now started storing the cold water whilst waiting for the hot taps to come out, reusing and saving any plastic packaging and generally trying to avoid anything going to landfill. This is usually sometimes at my own expense, and drives my cohabiting partner mad. Saving the world was never going to be easy right?

Here is an update on the bathroom swaps that have worked for me (and those that have not):

  • Reusable cotton pads. Why are these only materialising now? Super easy swap that I just bung in the white wash each week. I bought bamboo and organic cotton ones, but theres lots of different ones out there, keep in mind they are cheaper online.
  • The reusable mentstrual cup. This simple little piece of magic has changed my life. I have been using it for 2 years and will not go back to tampons. It’s perfect for trips away too, because you don’t have to rush around trying to find tampons. Even if you’re not ready for the reusable. Please PLEASE look for organic cotton tampons. There are currently no restrictions for the materials used to make tampons and this can lead to cervical cancer. Yoni is a great organic tampon provider in the Netherlands.
  • Reusable razor. Apart from anything else this is SO much cheaper. And a better shave. I use the Bambaw razor which was around 20 pounds and change the razor every month.
  • Soap and shampoo bars. I have been using the Lush volumiser shampoo bar and experimenting between L’occitane en provence (post payday and Alterra when the wallet is a bit light)
  • Natural products. Using a few more natural remedies on my skin such as a bulk buy Shea butter and , I have been loving the Susanne Kaufmann skincare products for something a bit more luxurious as well as We Are Paradox Game Changer hair mask.
  • Toothpaste. I have tried Georganics, toothpaste tablets, and even tried making my own but none of them feel like their working, do you have a recommendation? The natural toothpaste part is something I can’t get on board with.
  • Deodorant. I have been using the Mamalin very easy homemade recipe for a while now, and loving it.
  • Cotton buds. I tried to give these up completely, but let’s just say it didn’t go well. I’ve started getting the wooden cotton buds from The Humble Company
  • Recycled toilet roll or The Good Roll. Sure, the recycled stuff might not be as soft as the bleached Andrex stuff, but honestly it’s a small price to pay.
  • Bamboo toothbrush. No brainer.
  • Using stuff up. Okay this sounds simple but I realised I was saving fancy toiletries, and they ended up just going off. I have started using stuff, and when the bottle cannot be reused or is not included in a take-back scheme I cut it open to be properly used up. And boy is it satisfying.

I would love to hear about what has been working for you, what hasn’t. If anyone has toothpaste recommendations let me know!

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Like a lot of girls growing up in the UK in the noughties, I was raised with the Spice Girls and watching the friendships of popular US sitcoms like Sex In The City, Will & Grace and Friends.

These sitcoms were all based around friendships that knew each better than most of us know our families, who saw each other more regularly than I see my colleagues and who were barely seen apart. A friendship that worked so well together, that nothing would come between them. Naturally, I thought my adult friendship circle would be something akin. Well HBO, Warner Bros, I feel like I was sold a lie. Perhaps it’s a different era, but getting one or two friends out to lunch one the same day more than once a week is one thing, but spontaneously getting four individuals to have a coffee??? Without a Doodle? You’re kidding me. Forget it.

Growing up, I was hooked on the shows. They made you feel you were part of the friendship group and I was convinced I would one day find my own Charlotte and Miranda and we would have an unbreakable friendship and go to art gallery launch parties (pah!) and eat lunch out at restaurants all over town (how rich were these women??). I would find the Chandler to my Joey, and we would eat pizza every night, chirpse on the hotties and shrug off any adult responsibilities. Politics were irrelevant in these TV shows, climate change and sickness ostensibly didn’t exist and most of the time everything was pretty great. These were friends that would  *be there for you*,  that never did anything too serious to get in the way of  the friendship. Maybe it is the era of social media, maybe it’s being in a long-term relationship but this kind of friendship is tough to find. I went to an all-girls secondary school, and whilst I would like to say we were a supportive community, that shared body positivity think pieces between classes, we didn’t . It was vicious. I was sure I was going to meet this magical cluster at university, this was the place you found the ONE, and your friends for life right? Well, not for me. It was a continuous feeling of not quite fitting into groups, or having to try so hard to get other friendship groups to keep a space for you that it got humiliating.

A few years on from those days, and I can look around a but more judiciously. I have some really brilliant friends, but they are from all different walks of life. There is no way we will be forming a group, and spending every single day together. In fact, I am almost certain that some of my good friends wouldn’t get on with each other if all placed in a room together, probably one of the reasons I don’t like hosting any kind of party or social event. Friendships are tough, there is always a different level of expectancy and apart from anything else my friends now seem to be located in different places.

I don’t have a gang, and you know what? I’m okay with that. I am still meeting people who I hope will be in my life forever, and I love that I get to have one-on-one time with my current circle of friends.

These sitcoms after all are made up, played by group of actors some of which can’t even get along in real life. Plus what kind of coffee shop realistically always has space for 6+ people these days anyway? It’s a logistical nightmare.

 

 

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I love to eat. The only thing better than eating in is eating out because you don’t have to do the washing up. And let’s be honest, eating out in a restaurant that is also doing something good is a bonus. I don’t mean to boast but I was quite the connoisseur of conscious restaurants when I lived in London. After I moved to Amsterdam I had to start from scratch, and I have been eating my way around the city (budget allowing),  which is ahead of the curve when it comes to conscious eating. There are so many cafes and restaurants that use sustainably and locally sourced food. Here is my growing list of my favourites so far:

InStock, Czaar peterstraat Amsterdam

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We can all agree that food waste is one of the most pointless things existing due to various policies and laws in restaurants and supermarkets. Instock is a social enterprise restaurant that makes incredible meals out of surplus food. This restaurant was started by some pals who worked at Albert Hein (supermarket) and were shocked by the amount of perfectly good food that was thrown out by the supermarket each day.

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They started InStock, to combat food waste, and create a business from things people usually throw away. Pretty cool right? InStock is now in three locations in the Netherlands. Their menu changes dependent on the season and what is “in stock”, but mainly have small plates to share. They kindly invited me to try their current menu and I basically ate almost everything on the menu. Every year, Schipol airport has to cull a certain amount of geese that fly too close to the aeroplane and Instock uses the meat that would otherwise go to waste in some of their dishes.  Even their wine is mislabeled wine that cannot be sold, and their beer is made from excess potatoes and bread.  You can find their products on the online shop Looped Goods.  Around the corner you can find a windmill that has been turned into a brewery for a pre-dinner beer. I think my favourite dish at Instock was the gazpacho (above) and the grilled croissant banoffee (below). Instock run a food waste programme for primary schools, have recently set up a B2B marketplace as well as running  regular events at their restaurants… is there anything these guys don’t do?

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Dignita, Koninginneweg

One of my favourite brunch places in Amsterdam, Dignita employs and helps people who have been victims of sex trafficking to integrate them back into the workplace. Go for brunch early, before the torrent of tourists get there and try the mushrooms on toast with sage butter. And the pancakes. Ah it’s all delicious.

Cafe De Cuevel, Korte Papaverweg

Based in the North of Amsterdam, this little sustainable haven is well worth a visit. De Cuevel is a circular creative and office space built in an old abandoned shipyard. At their cafe,  they grow their own vegetables, grow mushrooms in old coffee grounds and even are working on a “Biogas boat” which would allow organic waste to be transformed into biogas to cook with. So far, I have only tried their homemade beer which was delicious, but this place is very special to any eco-warrior.

Pllek,  T.T. Neveritaweg 59,

Also in the North of Amsterdam, based in shipping containers Pllek works with seasonal local products. Their fish is sustainably and responsibly caught and they won’t use additives in their bread. Their menu is 75% vegetarian. I went here in winter with a big group, the place is really cosy and the food was very good. They offer events on different evenings and weekends, so check out their agenda before you go.

De Peper , Overtoom 

This is somewhere I’ve wanted to try for a while. Close to the Vondelpark, it’s a not-for-profit vegan kitchen, operated on a voluntary basis from an organised squat. They have a rich history of supporting artists and there is a performing space and usually some kind of cool event going on. They are only open 3 days a week, and only serve food between 7:00pm – 8:30pm (it’s almost like they don’t want you to eat there) so I am hoping to go one day after work.

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IMG_1319When I first graduated from university, I was deluded. After three years of partying studying and working in a pub on the side, I was ready to become a young professional. I was ready for the big smoke, the little smoke, whatever smoke would come my way to enable me to earn my own money on a wage that wasn’t paid by the hour. I naively thought that my degree in Anthropology would give me a foot in the door of a full-time professional job, or at the very least a fingernail in the door. An unpaid internship? Forget it. Like hundreds of thousands of other people in the UK, with much more relevant degrees or experience, I was a needle in a haystack, a brick in the wall and the reality crushed me.

I remember writing application after application to every graduate scheme, every entry-level job and every internship I could find. Some of  them were so questionable and jarring to my personality, but “doing something you loved” seemed like a privileged fairy-tale. Yeah right. I didn’t even know what I liked doing. It felt like I didn’t have one single passion that I could turn into a job, and it terrified me. Someone once asked me what I liked doing, and when I replied “recycling, looking after children and going on holiday” they laughed. They said I could maybe open a nursery in the area. Sure, with my giant trust fund of IOU’s.  I remember every rejection email making my stomach knot, the sinking feeling that I might never be able to get a job. That everyone around me was going full steam ahead in their careers or travelling whilst I was on job-seekers allowance (which is pittance by the way). It felt like everyone I went to university with had a parent or a friends’ parent that worked in television, and was glamorously working in studios up and down the country. I was finding it difficult to get a job in a cafe in East Sussex.

I eventually found a weekend job in a shop in Brighton, with the dreamiest manager I could ask for. She was interesting, intelligent a little bit outrageous and most importantly she actually cared about the people she managed. The team I worked with was great, and I soon realised I wasn’t alone in my quest. A colleague of mine who had gone to a prestigious dance school was working lots of days for free as a wardrobe assistant in order to get her lucky break. Another colleague who studied fashion, and was very talented was also struggling to make ends meet and had to depend on her boyfriends’ income whilst she was looking for paid opportunities, for which anyone who works in fashion design knows are scarce. When I finally did get an unpaid internship in London with my income it just wasn’t realistic. There was no way I could afford to move to London. Instead I commuted, and worked at the weekends to enable me to afford the internship. I was working 7 days a week. It ended with me getting what we now call burnt-out, but which back then was called “can’t hack it” , and I got pretty sick and had to finish my internship early.

Of-course, I did find a full-time job, but it took me a long while to get there, and frequent dips into the closest thing I have ever known to depression. I still get the panic when I am “out” of a job, like when one of the companies I worked for went into administration and I was made redundant. Call me a slave to capitalism but I find it terrifying not knowing where my next pay-check will come from. I am incredibly aware that I live in a country where there is a “safety net”, where there are benefits for people who cannot find work. This topic is something I have wanted to write about for a while, because I think it’s not something people often talk about. We are ashamed to say how not having a job can make us feel, the lack of routine or purpose and we seem to forget how long it can take us to find something and how frankly depressing every rejection email is when you spend so long on each application or handing out CV’s to not hear anything.

I don’t have the answers or the step-by-step remedy to coping with unemployment. If this is something you are going through now, my biggest advice to you is to stay calm, and avoid the rabbit hole of social media. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Take breaks in-between applications, and only go for jobs you actually see yourself doing, the interest will show through on your application or interview.  Reach and see what benefits are available in your country, there is no shame in leaning on a benefit scheme for a while and believe me you will have more than paid for it in taxes once you retire or finish with employment. Do some voluntary work to get you out the house. Ask people to read through your CV and take criticism constructively. Go for a walk. Treat yourself to a fancy coffee. Keep going, you’re doing great.

 

 

 

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So, this post is a bit of a life update. I have moved into a new place. And this time there is actually room to swing a small cat. That’s a horrible expression. Enough room to do some jumping jacks. I even have more than two work surfaces people. I have an oven that doesn’t look like it is typically used for camping. I have toilet without a weird ledge, and doors that don’t come off their hinges when you open them. Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

Since living in Amsterdam I have always lived in furnished apartments.  Our new place  is a blank canvas (without furniture) and I am so excited to finally fill it with my own stuff.  The only problem is a slight lack of budget and a determination to not buy everything brand new.  I have been scoping out secondhand markets and “dumping” points to try to reuse, and rescue as much stuff as possible. Sure, there are definitely some pieces I want/ need to buy new. A new mattress, for example was a must for me, but it does feel like in 2019 there have been enough people, enough “first” homes, enough last homes that we now have enough stuff for us all to at least get one secondhand piece of furniture. If you know where to look, there’s so much stuff out there that can be picked up secondhand for cheap or free. I have included a few tips that have really helped me to get some goodies.

Firstly, have a little patience. Figure out exactly what you need; don’t panic and buy everything you see in the showroom at Ikea. Think about what you can definitely find secondhand, or at least scope out what preloved items are out there.

Online:

Check out Facebook.  I have been using Facebook Marketplace for almost everything, and learning a bit of Dutch vocabulary as I go. There are always people looking to sell something in a rush, and you can find some bargains on there. I also use a Facebook group called Amsterdam deelt/geeft (literally Amsterdam sharing and giving) . It is such a great community of people who hate waste, and so you can usually find anything on there from cat food to a King sized bed. I picked up a 4 man tent on there! It can get a bit addictive and you’ve got to be fast. If you don’t have one of these in your area, why don’t you create one?  Check out Marktplaats (Netherlands) or Ebay and change the location settings to see what is available locally. I was big fan of Freecycle when I lived in London.

The Street: 

Do not be ashamed to take something off the street that someone has put out. Most of us are lazy. It’s much easier to put something outside our house in the hope that someone will take it, than it is to take it to a charity shop or sell it.  I have actually had a lot of luck already with rehoming some street treasures. I found our sofa on the street (in perfect condition!) and a couple of chairs that were left near the bins. I gave a good clean and they have become our new dinning chairs. I’ve also found house plants, casserole dishes and frying pans looking for a new home.

There are actually bulky waste collection days in Amsterdam, so you can check out the dates for your area and take a long walk or cycle before the night before to see if there is anything that takes your fancy. You can check out the designated dates here. I am not sure if leaving stuff is a thing yet outside of London, but you can always take a snoop around your local skip.

Secondhand Markets

IJHallen, Amsterdam 

The biggest flea market in Europe, hell yes. Pre-warn the flea market does cost €5 to enter but most things are pretty cheap.Make sure you check out the Oedipus brewery round the corner afterwards.

De Lokatie :

De Lokatie has various locations, I went to the beanch on Distelweg 85.  So far this has been my favourite place to find secondhand pieces, I am talking 40 cent for a wine glass, 3 euros for a saucepan kind of cheap! And the stuff is in great condition. We found some mismatched ugly plates we love (think 70’s flowers) some baking dishes and some other crockery. They also have furniture and clothes, lamps etc. This is a real thrift shop, a place that employs and supports people with a difficult past, and whose aim is to contribute to a more circular economy.

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Van Dijk en Co 

This place is really close to our apartment and is a warehouse full of vintage pieces. Personally, I found it a bit pricey but the place you want to go want some furniture with a vintage edge.

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Neef Louis:

Since you are in the area, cross over the road to have a look around Neef Louis. Very similar to Van Dijk en co, a huge shed of old furniture for a treasure hunt. Don’t forget to have a veggie sausage roll and a slice of apple pie at the lovely cafe in the courtyard. 

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I am a total newbie to buying secondhand furniture, so I am sure I have only scratched the surface. I’d love to hear where you get yours? Do you have any tips to share?

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