Student

Top 5 Life Hacks for Students

The stresses of daily life are hard to bear sometimes, particularly if you have an assignment coming up, but frustration can reach new levels when it comes to the tiny annoyances that shouldbe simple but aren’t. Here is a list of life hacks that can make your day easier:

1) How many times have you opened the microwave to be greeted with a spaghetti-crusted mess courtesy of the last person who used it? I’m sure it’s happened at least once, but if not, then the following advice will prepare you if (or when) it happens in the future. Stick a bowl of water in the dirty microwave for 3 minutes; this will cause steam to loosen up the particles and make cleaning much easier.

Photo captured by Mary McFadden
Photo captured by Mary McFadden

2) Laptops heating up is a bit of a pain in the ass, especially when you’re cosy in bed and don’t want to have to move during your Netflix marathon. Cooling units that strap on to the bottom of your laptop are relatively cheap, but if you don’t feel like splashing out on one there is a cheaper solution! Buying things in bulk is a smart idea for a cash-strapped student, so next time you’re at Tesco for the weekly shop, pick up a 24 pack of eggs. Spend the day making pancakes/ omelettes, eating the yolks Rocky-style and then place the empty egg pack under your laptop for a makeshift cooler. Simple!

Photo captured by Mary McFadden
Photo captured by Mary McFadden

3) There’s no disappointment quite like being told it’s your turn to bring the bins out. I don’t know about you, but random smelly juices have dripped on my shoes one too many times!  A great way to absorb food juices and act as a barrier is if you stick an old newspaper at the bottom of a new bag before anybody in your flat has a chance to throw rubbish away.

Photo captured by Mary McFadden
Photo captured by Mary McFadden

4) Trying to fill the kettle but there’s a sink full of dishes in the way? Get a dust pan, stick it under the water at the spade end and fill it that way. Alternatively, you could invest in a small plastic jug and use that to fill the kettle whenever you face obstructions.

Photo captured by Mary McFadden
Photo captured by Mary McFadden

5) There’s been many times when even the five alarms I set the night before can’t get me out of bed. Sometimes you just don’t hear it when you’re in the warm embrace of sleep! An easy way to amplify the sound of your alarm is to stick your phone in a glass and put it by your bed.

Photo captured by Mary McFadden
Photo captured by Mary McFadden

What are your best life hacks? Post them below!

Fruit snacks

Weight Loss: A Lifestyle Change

Problems with weight have plagued many people and you’re likely to have an issue with your weight at some point in your life. However, fad diets and ‘get thin quick’ schemes are not going to work. The thing about diets is that that many people start them thinking that they’re going to lose the weight and then they’ll be fine to relax a little. You could lose the weight but unless you’re going to keep up with the diet for life then you’re not going to be able to maintain the weight you’ve lost. Popular diets are usually extreme, and they are not viable long term solutions to a weight problem. If you are looking to lose weight, you need to make this a lifestyle change and view it as such, not as a diet.

Photo captured by Public Domain Pictures

A lot of diets are about people going cold-turkey and completely abandoning what they used to eat in favour of a selection of foods that they may have never touched before. This is a shock to your system and being extremely strict like this at the beginning is just asking for a binging session sooner or later. It’s best to begin slowly, giving yourself small goals and then rewards for meeting those goals; for example, switching from full fat milk to low fat milk or eating a banana as a snack instead of a chocolate bar. These things, although small, are little victories that will build up your confidence early and encourage you to make more bold choices with what you’re eating.

Photo captured by Agencja_PRide

This advice has helped me greatly with my own weight loss journey; every time I started a diet in the past I would be much too hard on myself, which inevitably led to failure after failure because I wasn’t tackling my relationship with food. I now realize that I am a pleasure-eater; I love the taste of food and I tend to munch when I’m bored. After realizing this, I was able to make a conscious decision not to open the fridge or the cupboard in search of food when I’m not even hungry. I’ve had little victories such as cutting out fizzy drinks and replacing them with fruit-infused water, eating breakfast whereas before I would have skipped it completely and eating things like fruit, rice cakes and popcorn instead of unhealthy junk food.
I know everybody is different with their progress, sure it took me years to even get to a point where I was willing to properly change the way I eat so I know how tough it is to get that motivation and keep it. The point is that you need to cut yourself some slack, being fit and healthy is a life long journey and of course you’re going to have ups and downs, you might have a Chinese one night or you could have a packet of crisps (or a few) one night. Nobody is perfect and everything should be in moderation, so if you have a slip-up don’t worry about it. Try again the next day!

I wish you good luck on your weight loss journey and leave you with my top 3 favourite healthy snacks for when the cravings come knocking:

Greek yogurt with honey and rasberries

Photo captured by Schwäbin

Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as other yogurts. As greek yogurt is a bit bland, you can mix in other foods to add flavor such as a spoonful of honey and mixing it with some fresh fruit, alternatively you could use a few drops of vanilla essence. This is a versatile little food as its composition is flexible enough to change flavours with whatever you add so that it doesn’t get boring!

Banana and dark chocolate

Photo captured by Derrick Coetzee

Bananas are nothng exciting, but they’re packed with potassium, they’re high in fiber and they stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the bowel. Bananas also produce digestive enzymes to help absorb nutrients so they’re multi-functional and delicious. Though sometimes the flavor can get a little hard to stick after days of eating them, so it’s a nice idea to slice it up into sections and drizzle some dark chocolate over them. Dark chocolate is packed with anti-oxidants and contains theobromine which has been shown to harden tooth enamel which lowers your risk of getting cavities.

Sweet potato chips

Photo captured by Albert Cahalan

Sweet potatoes are so tasty if you’re willing to give them a chance. We’re a potato-eating country so we might as well be open to the healthier versions! They contain almost twice as much fiber as other types of potatoes. They’re slow burning, so their caloric energy is used more slowly and efficiently than a low-fiber carbohydrate. You basically just cut them into slices, dust with pepper and stick in the oven for 20 minutes. Done!

What are your go-to healthy snacks? How is your weight loss journey going? Please post any comments below.

Photo captured by an Murphy [Flickr]

Irish Taxi Safety: ‘Driver Check’ App

A few weeks ago, a taxi driver who attacked a passenger with a meat cleaver was jailed for three years. The driver refused to give the victim change for his fare and began attacking him once the passenger reached for his ID to take down his name and licence number.

There have been several stories in the news about taxi drivers in the past few years that raised questions about passenger safety, such as a Meath driver being jailed this year for the sexual assault of a female passenger.

Recently, I was getting in a taxi at night time when two drivers got in a fight behind the car. One of them was an illegal driver and had snuck into the rank. Obviously the other driver wasn’t happy about that and the driver of the car I was in explained to me that the illegal drivers were ruining business.

He went on to talk about a few horror stories of some drivers locking doors on passengers when they wanted more money, sexual assault and hostile reactions with passengers who didn’t have enough money to pay the fare. He told me about ‘Driver Check’ which is an app by the government to ‘check’ the details of taxi drivers before getting in the car. You can download the app for free from the Apple store for iPhone and iPad, or Google Play store for Android devices.

A screenshot of the app
A screenshot of the app

The app allows you to check the licence details of taxis, hackneys or limousines and their drivers and report if details aren’t correct. You can also email the details of the taxi you’re in to a friend or family member. You can check this in several ways: Use the roof or door sign number on taxis, use the vehicle registration number, scan the QR code or use the driver identification number on the dashboard if you’ve already gotten inside the taxi.

After downloading the app, you will be asked to provide your name, email and a friend or family member’s email so that you can register. The app can be used in both rural and urban locations including Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. There is also a handy ‘history’ section that records all of your searches.

The app is extremely useful and stop many passengers feeling uneasy about their safety. Sometimes there are only a few taxis on the road, particularly at a very early hour, and at times you don’t really have an option but to take it to get home. However, safety is paramount and if you feel worried about getting in with a certain driver for whatever reason, you should check the licence details first.

A screenshot of the app
A screenshot of the app

The app also identifies illegal drivers so that they can be reported. Illegal drivers have been endangering the livelihoods of licenced drivers and plaguing them for years so it is important that the authorities are alerted whenever you come across one.

Here is a news report of the new app that gives more information and taxi drivers’ reactions:

Photo captured by Tiberiu Ana [Flickr]

Beer without the Fear: Guidelines for Drinking

Waking up in a puddle of your own vomit is almost a rite of passage for a student these days, sad as it is. I’m sure there have been plenty of times where you’ve denounced drink for what it is – pure evil. Though I’m guessing there have been many speeches of how you’ve gone off the drink for life, how you’re “deadly serious this time lads”, and then of course the next night out you’ll relent and have a ‘quiet one’ which inevitably turns into the scenario previously mentioned.

This doesn’t have to be the case though. Unfortunately with things like Freshers’ Week it’s hard not to go on the piss, particularly if you’re a naïve ickle first year who’s trying to make friends for the year ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – it’s just depressing that the more alcohol you throw down your throat, the more popular you are.

Here is a guide on how to end a great night sober and hangover-free: 

Photo captured by Bernt Rostad [Flickr]
Photo captured by Bernt Rostad [Flickr]
1) Drink less than you’re used to. The thing is, you don’t need to cut out drinking altogether. Drinking is one of the biggest social activities in Ireland, probably the most popular. Some drinks taste great, like strawberry daiquiris, but then there’s pure poison like absinthe.

According to Drink Aware, people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3 – 4 units of alcohol for men and 2 – 3 units of alcohol for women. ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or most days of the week. Stick to your assigned units and you’ll be the only one wobbling down the street because of your bad dancing rather than a belly full of beer!

Photo captured by waferboard [Flickr]
Photo captured by waferboard [Flickr]
2) Drink plenty of water. Alcohol severely dehydrates you and even though men have a higher water to fat ratio than women so that alcohol is easier diluted, you’re still going to be feeling pretty rough by the end of the night and even worse the morning after. Sometimes it’s easy to think that you’re hydrating yourself while throwing back a vodka and coke because it quenches your thirst, but be careful about this, and make sure to have a pint of water now and again throughout the night and before you go to bed.

Photo captured by Dario Alvarez [Flickr]
Photo captured by Dario Alvarez [Flickr]
3) Fill up on food before going out. Order a large pizza, tuck into some sausage rolls or even just tackle a petit filous yogurt, because as long as there’s something in your tummy, you’ll be able to absorb alcohol better and as a result, won’t get drunk as quickly. I know there’s the traditional take away at the end of the night and that it tastes like heaven but you’re far better off to eat beforehand. Or better yet, both! Though this isn’t the healthiest option and may pack on the pounds!

Photo captured by Frances Berriman [Flickr]
Photo captured by Frances Berriman [Flickr]
4) Don’t let somebody force you into drinking more than you can handle. Pressure from your friends is a major factor. You could be reading this piece in a group and you’re all scoffing at the thought of anybody pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to do. However, I’m sure there’s been at least one time where you were out and felt that if you weren’t drinking then you weren’t being ‘fun’ and were subsequently ruining everyone else’s craic. Or worse yet, somebody told you! Plus if you say you’re not drinking for the night, you get the standard, “Are you on antibiotics or something?”Make sure to stand your ground and know your limits.

Do you have any personal guidelines to add? Please comment below.

Photo captured by Marc Cornelis [Flickr]

How to know if you’re in the Friend Zone

From the wise words of Ryan Reynolds in that film nobody remembers the name of, you are in the friend zone “when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.”

It seems a bit harsh, but then again most true things are. Some guys are in the friend zone and don’t even know it, desperately clinging to the hope that he and that girl he’s had a crush on since forever will become an item.

To all those guys out there who don’t know whether they’re in the friend zone or not, there are a few signs to help you have that eye-opening moment when you realise. 

Photo captured by  epSos .de [Flickr]
Photo captured by epSos .de [Flickr]
1) You’re always told what a great boyfriend you’d be, for SOME LUCKY GIRL

This is the classic line. She could spend ages reassuring you that you’re the best guy she knows, that you’re a great listener and how attractive you are, but if you hint at a relationship between the two of you and she recoils in horror, it’s pretty obvious that you’re perfect, just not for her.

Photo captured by Mary-Frances Main [Flickr]
Photo captured by Mary-Frances Main [Flickr]

2) You participate in girly activities with her just to make her happy

I’m talking about things like letting her paint your nails, make pot pourri and gossip about what so-and-so did behind the bins with whomever. If you’re the kind of guy that likes that stuff then that’s fine, but if you’re not and you’re putting yourself through it just so she’s around you, then you have a bit of a problem.

Photo captured by Vic [Flickr]
Photo captured by Vic [Flickr]

3) She ignores you when you bluntly tell her your feelings

You could spontaneously go to her house with 12 dozen generic roses to surprise her or pull the moon with a lasso so that it sits just outside her window and it won’t matter. This girl will respond with “Oh who’s your friend?” if you dare to say, “I know someone that likes you…” You either get rejected by telling her your feelings, or you keep them hidden long enough to see yourself enter the friend zone.  

Photo captured by Holly Williams [Flickr]
Photo captured by Holly Williams [Flickr]
4) She says things like, “I love you like a brother”

Unless she’s into incest, you’re not going to have any luck with that one. If you don’t get that she isn’t into you after a line like that, then you need to allow a merciful friend of yours to slap some sense into you.

Photo captured by Magi Edos [Flickr]
Photo captured by Magi Edos [Flickr]
5) She talks about guys with you, and she is not doing it to make you jealous

By doing this, she is sending a clear message that she is interested in other men. The trouble is, you could be a great listener and you actively try to hear what she is saying in a bid to be ‘in the loop’ and work out what she’s thinking. But this could just reaffirm her notion of how much of a good friend you are. When you make other people’s feelings more important than yours then you’re accidentally letting people know that your feelings don’t matter. This could make it seem like you don’t have a high opinion of yourself, which is the opposite of confidence. And that’s just not sexy.

Photo captured by melabird [Flickr]
Photo captured by melabird [Flickr]
6) There’s no sexual tension

This is the crucial deal breaker. No matter how much you may look ideal on paper or how much you are crazy for her, if both of you don’t have chemistry then it’s never going to work. You should realise this now before getting so deep into the friend zone that you think something is wrong with you for not being accepted by her. Chances are there isn’t anything wrong with you (I’m going out on a limb with that!), it’s just that you’re not compatible and the sooner you accept that, the happier you will be.

Photo captured by Carlos Varela [Flickr]

Taboo Tattoos: A Thing of the Past

Gone are the days where it was a fearsome thing to behold if someone had a tattoo; plenty of assumptions in the past about the character of someone with such body art have all but disappeared. Tattoos are no longer the rebellious symbols of bikers and criminals, they have now become a fashion accessory of sorts and many people are desiring them and finding them more acceptable. This is especially true of the younger generation, who are being influenced by inked celebrities and popular reality shows highlighting the process and art of tattooing. 

Photo captured by mjtmail (tiggy) [Flickr]
Photo captured by mjtmail (tiggy) [Flickr]

Most people who get tattoos will say that they got it because it was meaningful in some way to them or perhaps was a memorial of a person they hold dear. However it is becoming increasingly common to get a tattoo just for the sake of it. Small tattoos are being favoured lately, such as little hearts, stars or words. Prices in tattoo shops generally have a starting price so no matter how small the tattoo is, you’d still have to pay around forty euro to get one. To some people, this seems a large sum of money for something so small. The artists themselves are the ones who benefit from this, as it lessens their work load with a smaller tattoo but also leaves them unchallenged as big, original pieces of artwork are few and far between.

Photo captured by Julian Tysoe [Flickr]
Photo captured by Julian Tysoe [Flickr]
For some people, tattoos allow people to feel different from others. If the popularity of this practice continues to grow, however, how unique will it be in the future? Will it be as common as going to get your nails done? Getting a tattoo because of a style or fad is not a good idea, it should be something well thought out because although there is access to laser tattoo removal, it’s a lengthy, painful and costly approach to something that didn’t have to be an issue if you had just taken a few months to really think about something that you could regret.

So if you’re thinking of delving into the world of tattoos, make sure to think it through first and avoid those ‘spur of the moment’ type scenarios – for some people, it would be safer to buy a nice sweater instead.

Photo captured by Jerry Huddleston [Flickr]

Oblivious Irish Eating: Calories on Menus

In 2012, Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly promised legislation would be brought in to include calorie information on restaurant menus. He has not kept this promise and it remains voluntary for restaurants to offer this service or, more usually, not.

Calorie menu labelling is a relatively new concept, and as such, evidence is still being analysed on the impact that this approach has on eating habits. Calorie menu labelling has the most impact on those who engage in it. Studies show that individuals who use calorie menu labelling purchase fewer calories.

A large study in 2011 by Dumanovsky reported on consumers who used the calorie information provided. The result was that 15% purchased 106 fewer calories on average compared to the 85% of consumers who didn’t use the information.

Photo captured by Edward Stojakovic [Flickr]
Photo captured by Edward Stojakovic [Flickr]
Another study by Bollinger in 2010 showed that, on average, 6% fewer calories were purchased by consumers in a coffee chain, though a reduction of up to 26% less calories was reported for some consumers. Very importantly, this reduction was sustained over the 10 month period of this particular study.

Paulette O’Reilly of the health department said, “Minister Reilly has indicated that he is still very much in favour that the programme of putting calories on menus in Ireland be introduced, but on a voluntary basis at first. The Minister requested the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) to carry out a national consultation, which found that over 95% of consumers in Ireland want calories on menus. Nevertheless, if a voluntary approach fails to make the desired impact then forced legislation will be introduced. The consultation showed that 92% of consumers and 88% of health professionals supported a mandatory approach for large food service businesses although only 58% of food businesses would support that approach.”

Photo captured by Department of Health [Flickr]
Photo captured by Department of Health [Flickr]

The principal function of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland aims to ensure that food complies with legal requirements, or where appropriate with recognised codes of good practice. 

Jane Ryder, a spokesperson of the FSAI, says, “There is no single approach which can successfully address the obesity crisis that plagues Ireland today. It is important to recognise that a small but continually positive change in the eating behaviours of a large number of individuals can have a huge effect on the obesity crisis; calorie menu labelling offers this potential.”

Apart from the minority of consumers who use the calorie menu information with immediate effect on their food purchases, there are other positive effects, which can be expected to increase the health benefits of food sold. These effects include consumer demand for smaller and more appropriate portion sizes for meals and snacks; and for healthier foods and beverages. Without the drive of consumer demand, food service businesses could not initiate these changes without risking a loss of revenue.

The current food environment is represented by excesses of energy-dense foods. Such foods strongly appeal to people’s innate preferences for sweet, salty and high-fat tastes. Such taste preferences, combined with the human tendency to eat when food is available and to eat more when more food is readily available, increases the risk of being overweight or obesity.

Approaches to change this environment are needed to protect the population against foods and eating patterns that add to these problems. There is no single approach which can successfully address the obesity epidemic – a varied approach involving all levels of society is required. Recent data from the FSAI shows that 18-64 year olds consume 24% of their total energy from food and drink outside the home. As such, the food service sector can play a very positive role in promoting public health. Calorie menu labelling is one approach to addressing the obesity crisis which benefits consumers who use the calorie information provided.

On the matter of forced legislation, Zack Gallagher of the Irish Food Guide, said, “I think the cost of implementing it is something restaurants have been thinking about for a while anyway. However it is quite a lot of work to find out the calorie count of a whole menu. The government made an announcement to make it mandatory before they thought about the implications; they should concentrate on a campaign that encourages restaurants to modify their menus rather than enforcing it.”

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) agrees. They feel that implementing forced legislation will cost the industry €110 million.  The planned changes to put calories onto menus have not been supported by owners of restaurants, who are currently finding it a struggle to get money from the banks. They won’t be able to afford the estimated €5,000 it will cost to give details of calories on their menus.  This would be a stretch for struggling independent businesses.

Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, says that only a small amount of restaurants have decided to change their menus to include calorie counts. He says, “Any chef will tell you that menus in restaurants can vary every few days and therefore calorie counting would be highly inaccurate anyway. A common sense approach to healthy eating is what is needed in our society. Restaurants are not the cause of Ireland’s weight problems. People are rarely eating out in these bleak times. It’s a rare treat for them, and the last thing they want is to be made to feel guilty or conscious of enjoying a meal.”

Photo captured by eyeliam [Flickr]
Photo captured by eyeliam [Flickr]

The RAI have proposed that restaurants should include a ‘healthy option’ on menus and offer a universal ‘healthy options’ symbol that would help to curb the obesity problem we are faced with, while also being an inexpensive solution for those eating out.

Seeing as Minister James Reilly hasn’t forced legislation on businesses yet, it doesn’t seem likely that it is going to happen straight away. Although it may have some adverse effects on businesses cost-wise, calorie information on menus is what consumers want and that needs to be addressed by both food establishments and James Reilly himself.

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