Sex Object: A Review

I’m not sure what drove me to pick up Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism but to say that doing  so changed my life would be an understatement. I think I might always have been a feminist; growing up with the Spice Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer ingrained the idea of ‘Girl Power’ and I’ve always had a strong sense of justice (as all children have, it seems). But it wasn’t until I read Full Frontal Feminism that I understood more about the movement, and began to claim the word ‘feminist’ as my identifier. I don’t know that any women in my life before that point would have actively and proudly called themselves feminists, although many of them lived by feminist principles, so reading this book gave me an insight into exactly what the feminist struggle was about. I remember feeling that impotent rage that I think strikes all young people when they become politically aware; so angry at the state of things, and so unaware of how to affect change. Statistics on domestic violence and rape rang in my ears as I sought out more feminist work out in the world. My birthday present the year after was a pile of feminist literature, much of which still lines my bookshelves. I devoured feminist blogs and books and went on to study Gender, Sexuality and Queer Theory, doing my dissertation on online feminist communities like the one that Valenti set up – Feministing.com. My feminism became more nuanced, more thoughtful. Still angry, but in a different way. Slowly but surely, feminism (and the other social justice principles I learnt along the way) became the guiding light of my life. And I owe that lightbulb moment, that spark, to Jessica Valenti. 

So I was more than a little excited to pick up her latest work, Sex Object – a memoir that asks the question: 

Who would I be if I didn’t live in a world that hated women? 

This is not a book that tiptoes around the issue of misogyny and objectification, Valenti is unflinching in describing and discussing the effects of growing up female in a world where doing so means ‘that it’s not a matter of if something bad happens, but when and how bad.’ At times, her descriptions of the ways she has been objectified and abused by men (from the ‘everyday sexism’ stuff, to real violence and violation) feels too raw, maybe even exaggerated. But really, how many of women can’t come up with a similar number of stories that have either happened to us, or to people we know and love? We bond over these stories, sharing them between ourselves in the understanding that this is just what it means to be a woman, but, imagine, if just for one minute, that wasn’t the case? I am ‘lucky’ in the grand scheme of things; my stories amount to a handful of street harassment incidents, some uncomfortable conversations with customers and colleagues, and a litany of gropes from strangers in bars and nightclubs. The fact that makes me ‘lucky’ is a sad indictment indeed. I shouldn’t feel lucky, but I do, because I have heard stories from female friends that bring tears to my eyes to even think about – tears of empathy and pain, and also of anger that this is still the world we live in. That the best we can hope for is my story, the lucky one, rather than a life of lightness and freedom, of never having to go through life, as Valenti puts it ‘knowing that our discomfort gave someone a hard-on’. 

Valenti has been criticised for not giving her memoir an over-arching theme, for not finding a message in all of the pain and hurt and outrage to package up and give readers hope. I think it’s all the more impactful due to that. There isn’t an answer, and to expect women to be the one to provide one is in itself part of the problem. She is most honest and most scathing when she talks about the daily abuse she has been the recipient of as a prominent feminist on the Internet (flip to the back of the book for just a taste of the tweets and emails she has received, and tell me that these men don’t hate women with every fibre of their being). The accepted wisdom is to feel sorry for Internet trolls, to ignore them, but in doing so we expect women to perform the labour of being okay under a barrage of abuse that would take its toll on even the most resilient of people.  There are very real consequences to the kind of hate and abuse that men mete out to women they despise on the Internet, and it’s all part of the spectrum of other kinds of violence and violation that Valenti describes over the course of her life. If you want a light and fluffy read, this definitely isn’t it, but it will make you think and maybe change your perspective, which can only be a good thing. I highlighted so many quotes when I was reading it, but I wanted to leave you with this one… 

Still, somehow, “man-hater” is tossed around with insouciance as if this was a real thing that did harm. Meanwhile we have no real word for men who kill women. Is the word just “men”? … Still no name for the men who kill women because we have the audacity not to do what we’re supposed to do: fuck you, accept you, want you, let you hurt us, be blank slates for your desires. You are entitled to us, but we’re not even allowed to call you what you are.

Powerful stuff, right? I wasn’t kidding. 

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Summer Bucket List 2017

Summer Bucket List 2017 // Amy Elizabeth

Last autumn, I made a bucket list with all sorts of cosy delights on to celebrate the season – and I mostly stuck to it. I was partly cheating, because I’d already made a lot of those plans, but given that I was suffering with some pretty extreme nausea for most of the autumn and winter months this year, I’m still pretty pleased that I managed to cram in so much goodness. I’ve loved reading a few of the other summer bucket lists I’ve seen floating around the Internet, and wanted to make my own – but there’s a slight spanner in the works, in that I have *no idea* what the rest of the summer is going to hold for us, which makes it very hard to plan. All being well, it’ll only be another six weeks or so before we welcome our new addition (and potentially even less than that!) and everything’s going to be turned upside down. 

Finish the nursery 

This one needs to get ticked off pretty sharpish. We’re almost there, nursery-wise, and it has been a joy to be able to do something for our son before he arrives in the world, other than just carry him about and complain when he kicks me in the ribs. However, there’s still a bit of organising left to do, some pictures to hang on the wall, and a few small bits left to purchase. I know I’ll rest easier knowing that one job is off the list, even if he won’t actually be sleeping in there for the first few months. 

Make & drink an Aperol Spritz

Is it entirely sad that I am very excited about drinking alcohol again? I swear, I have never wanted a glass of wine more than when it has been denied to me. I am contrary like that, and also, wine is delicious (and there is no soft drink that can compare when you’re eating a fancy meal). I don’t miss being drunk, and I certainly don’t miss being hungover, but I do miss alcohol. Top of my list once I’m in the clear is an Aperol Spritz – so I’m stocking up on the ingredients already. I’ve sampled them at various bars, but never made one myself, so that’s the first challenge – but the reward will be sweet (and bitter, and sparkly, and oh, so good). 

Book a photoshoot for our little family 

I have to get Paul on board for this one, but I’d really like to get some professional photos taken of our family of three (or four, if you include Tuna…). Obviously, we’ll both be snapping away once the little one arrives (Paul upgraded his iPhone especially… although I expect that baby photos was only part of the reason!) but it’s difficult to take photos of all three of you without some outside help. We’ll likely be horrible sleep-deprived over the next few months, so I’ll mark this down as a win if we manage to just *book* rather than have the photoshoot itself. I’d also really like to get some snaps of the house now that it’s pretty much done, so I’m hoping to kill two birds with one stone, as it were. 

Have our first barbecue in the garden 

Paul’s parents donated their old barbecue to us last year, but we didn’t get a chance to actually use it before the weather turned. A barbecue is a fairly low-key commitment when it comes to hosting, and I’m imagining this as a casual, spur-of-the-moment style event. I just want to sit in a deck chair with a baby in one hand (preferably having a nice nap… we can dream!), a Pimms in the other, and that delicious barbecue-y smell in the air whilst I catch up with friends. I figure that’s pretty achievable, right? 

Make some ice cream 

I’ve been collecting ice cream recipes on Pinterest for years now, but never actually taken the plunge and made any myself. Paul is convinced that nothing can surpass Ben & Jerry’s in his estimation, but I’m pretty sure I can whip something up that will at least compare favourably. And if that fails? Boozy popsicles. 

Watch the new Baywatch movie 

The Rock and Zac Efron in a cheesy summer blockbuster? I am so there. Light entertainment is the order of the day right now. 

Go to the beach 

I haven’t been to the beach in years and years, so I’d love to take a day trip to one of Yorkshire’s many delightful beaches on a sunny day this summer. Really, I’m just in it for the really vinegary chips and the slightly sandy 99 flakes. 

What’s on your summer bucket list? 

Summer Bucket List 2017 // Amy Elizabeth

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A Few Book Reviews…

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

I’ve had some conflicted feelings about this series so far; the first couple of books seemed to be an amalgamation of a bunch of other popular dystopian YA novels, repackaged and resold. However, I couldn’t stop myself from picking up the sequels, so I’m probably not in any position to criticise – and if you want a story that will keep you turning the pages then this is a good place to go. I actually thought that King’s Cage was the best of the three, because it started to deviate a little from the expected storylines and gave some new perspectives on the storylines from other characters, but I still wasn’t totally blown away. I found the main characters hard to connect and sympathise with; I don’t care if characters are ‘likeable’ but when you know you’re supposed to be rooting for them, it can be tricky if you just don’t really care… Some of the fringe characters feel more interesting and fleshed out to me than Mare, the supposed heroine, and I find myself not caring about the love triangle she finds herself in – despite there being a lot of potential in it as a storyline. In fact, that’s what the whole book felt a bit like to me – wasted potential; there’s a lot of promise but despite my coming back for more each time, I leave a little disappointed. 

Ctrl, Alt; Delete by Emma Gannon 

I have seen this book lauded across the Internet as a relatable memoir about growing up online, and what that means for our generation. And I think I get why; at times, Emma is candid about her own experiences at the hands of the Internet – from the moments where she was the victim, to moments where she used it in slightly nefarious ways herself, as I think we have all done. A lot of her anecdotes were achingly familiar for someone who found the Internet at a similar time, and who has equally made her life and career online – from MSN messenger conversations to typing out blog posts to making friends online, long before that was cool. But, for all her candidness, I also felt a level of detachment in the writing that made it hard to actually ‘relate’ to the author as she charted her journey to adulthood. For me, the book couldn’t quite decide whether it was a memoir that spoke of the author’s learning curve, or whether it was cultural criticism of what the Internet has done to our generation. As the former, it didn’t dig deep enough to satisfy me, and as the latter, there were a lot of speculations and generalisations that didn’t hold water for this erstwhile sociologist. The premise was interesting, and definitely something I want to see explored more as we live longer with the Internet as the background to our lives, but this just didn’t hit the spot for me. 

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus*

If you want an addictive YA novel to see you through your summer holidays, then please pick this one up; it was smart, thrilling and excellently paced – and one of the only books that I have raced through this year, unwilling to become distracted from the storyline. Five strangers walk into detention, but only four walk out alive. When Simon, creator of a gossip website reminiscent of Gossip Girl, but even meaner, and focused on the students of Bayview High, dies under suspicious circumstances, his fellow detention attendees become suspects – especially when it’s revealed that they all had something to hide that Simon was threatening to expose… On the surface, this was a traditional ‘whodunnit’ read, that kept you guessing as pieces of the puzzle were slowly revealed or, rather, it kept me guessing because I am always terrible at working out the plot until it’s right in front of me – but I suspect that even if you do guess, you’ll still enjoy this novel enormously. Whilst the characters are described as the typical YA/high school stereotypes in the blurb (jock, prom queen, nerd…), they were written with complexity and sensitivity and given unexpected but realistic plot lines that made them more than just bit-part players in a murder mystery. Their lives were messy and real, and I’d have been happy to read about them even without the thriller/mystery element of the plot. I don’t want to give too much away, so you really must read this one for yourself! 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon*

Oh, my heart. This book is so adorable and precious, and it will fill you with joy. Sure, it’s a little unrealistic in places (namely, the ending) but do I care when it gives me such a happy feeling? No, not really. Dimple just wants to escape her over-bearing mother and ace her summer web coding programme. Rishi just wants to please his parents and impress his future wife. I want them to just fall in love and live happily ever after. After a very adorable meet cute, in which Dimple has *no clue* that her parents have arranged a marriage with Rishi’s parents behind her back, the two start a slightly rocky friendship. They think they have each other pegged, but as the summer progresses and they reveal their hidden depths to each other and love might just find them after all. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll definitely fall in love with these characters – with fierce, determined Dimple and sweet, soulful Rishi, as well as their friends and family. I never wanted this book to end; I wanted to stay wrapped in its warm embrace forever more – but the best I can do is to pass the recommendation on to you! 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION. BOOKS MARKED WITH A * WERE PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. 

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May

Celebrating our second wedding anniversary, a friend’s 30th birthday and reaching the third trimester! 

Napping more in one month than I have in my entire life combined… 

Growing at a rate of knots – my stomach feels ginormous to me now! 

Exploring Knaresborough with my brother and Jess. 

Scoffing scones with jam and clotted cream at every opportunity. 

Smashing my latest blood test with minimal squeamishness… for me, anyway! 

Learning a lot in our NCT classes – they should probably make you have them before you decide to have a baby! 

Barbecuing on a happily frequent basis. 

Buying plenty of bits for baby’s nursery – it’ll hopefully be done in a week or so! 

Sweltering in the hot weather, and wishing I could have a cool glass of Pimms. 

Watching a lot of new TV series – Master of None, Kimmy Schmidt and American Gods are all on our current list. 

Counting down the days until the election – I can’t stand the tension! 

Nurturing my plants back to life – I’m finally starting to see them flower, which is exciting. 

Failing to do as much blogging as I had planned. 

Welcoming a new little cousin into the world.

Binging on the My Favorite Murder podcast. Stay sexy, don’t get murdered, everyone! 

Feeling very pleased that we live across the road from a good Italian pizza place. 

Trying to guess when bubba will get here. Will June be our last child-free month or will be make an early appearance? 

How about you? 

 

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The Art of Aggressive Friending

[Photo by Evan Kirby]

A few things have got me thinking about making friends recently. The first was Emma’s post on friend dating (featuring yours truly) and the second was starting our NCT classes. As well as learning a bit more about what this whole baby business is going to entail, everyone’s main goal is making some new parent pals for this new phase of their life. I think we were the only ones who had existing friends with babies nearby, thus making us the focus of some envy – but, as I always say, you can never have too many friends, especially when you’re about to be spending a whole lot of weekdays flying solo. Someone described NCT as being a bit like University, which for many of us was the last time in our life where making friends felt easy and natural, with everyone eager to meet new people and make connections, rather than sticking to their tried-and-tested groups and relationships. 

There’s a general wisdom that it is hard to make friends as an adult, and whilst I don’t entirely dispute that, I have actually found it to be the opposite – I have more friends now than I ever had at school or University, and I like to think that I’m juggling quality as well as quantity, because they are all ace. Part of that is purely luck; being with Paul meant falling into a ready-made friendship group (or two) and, in fact, at my hen do it seemed like almost everyone’s answer to ‘how do you know Amy?’ was… ‘through Paul’.

But… part of it is also from practicing the art of what I call ‘aggressive friending’. Now, contrary to the name, there’s nothing really aggressive or violent about this method – I like to think it’s actually quite nice. But what it does mean is not being afraid to come on too strong in the friendship stakes. If you find someone cool that you want to be friends with, tell them! What’s the worst that can happen? No one is ever going to be mad that someone else thinks they are awesome. And then, you keep telling them, not in words but in actions – inviting them to events or parties or coffee meet-ups – until they’re your new besties. I know these things are easier said than done, but I promise that it has worked like a charm for me on many occasions since I moved to Leeds, so I thought I would share my top tips with you, in case you’re looking to make some new BFFs in your life. 

Be Generous 

A cornerstone of aggressive friending is generosity. People like people who do nice things for them, so it just makes sense. Now, being martyr-ish about the favours you bestow upon your new friends will not endear you to anyone, so only be as generous as you really can be – everyone has a different threshold for this, but have an open heart and good things will come back to you. This can be as simple as extending an invitation for dinner, or buying them a drink when you’re at the pub, or even just giving them a compliment (after all, you want to be friends, so there must be something you like about them!). Do them a favour, with no expectation of a return – just merely for the joy of helping out another awesome human, and you might be surprised at what happens. 

Show Your True Colours

Paul and I have often ‘aggressively friended’ other couples together, and if you’ve met us in real life then you might understand why that might be a bit much for some people. We are both incredibly chatty, overly enthusiastic, strongly opinionated and probably talk louder than we should do in public places. (We have some good qualities, too…). That makes us really great friends for some people, and probably really not for others. But there’s no point pretending to be anything other than what we are, partly because there’s no way we can hide it, but also partly because we want friends who *want* to be friends with us. If someone doesn’t like you? It stings but at least you’ll know so you can go on and find someone who digs your particular brand of friendship. 

Make Connections 

Don’t keep all your new friends to yourself! You can expand your circle so much and make so many more new friends if you’re willing to spread the love a little bit. Introduce your new friends to other friends if you think they’d get along, or invite lots of different pockets of friends to one event and let them mingle together. You never know what connections they’ll forge with just a little nudging, and the more you do it, the more people will offer the same back to you – thus increasing your potential for new friends exponentially. This also comes under the ‘be generous’ banner; don’t treat your friendship group like a clique – let people in and you’ll find it reaps all kinds of friendship rewards. 

Take People at Their Word 

I spent a lot of time in my teenage years worried that my friends were only friends with me out of some sense of obligation, rather than any real affection for me. What I have learnt over time is that almost no one is friends with someone out of pity, so you can pretty much safely assume that if they accept your invitation or seem enthusiastic, then they are as down for the friendship thing as you are. Second guessing people’s motives will only send you into an anxiety spiral; you’ll soon know for sure if someone doesn’t want to hang out with you, because they’ll just stop hanging out with you. Don’t be pushy, but extend your invitations and compliments without fear and you might be surprised at the results. 

How to make friends as an adult - relationship and friendship advice on making friends with new people // Amy Elizabeth

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Accepting the Season I’m In

Accepting the Season I'm In // Amy Elizabeth

Life moves in seasons. There are the seasons for hustling, the seasons for hibernating, the seasons for celebration, the seasons for nurturing and everything in between. The key, it seems, is accepting the season that you’re in right now, and letting it fill your life fully. This is not something that comes naturally to me; I am always looking behind and ahead, wishing things on the horizon could be happening right now rather than at some unspecified time in the future. I want to be doing and having it all, even though I know that’s not possible, and lord knows I beat myself up about not achieving the impossible. 

The phrase ‘you can have it all, but not all at the same time’ has never been more apt. I may want to be nailing it on Instagram, improving my photography, blogging regularly, bossing it at my job, keeping up with house projects, having fun with friends and family, trying new recipes every week, working on my knitting, reading my whole TBR pile AND growing a human, but that just isn’t feasible, even for someone with as organised a to do list as myself. I can only do a couple of things at a time, and this season *has* to be about growing a human first and foremost (can’t get out of that one now…) and preparing for his arrival. This is a nesting season, if ever there was one; I am napping more than I ever have (even when I was a student with 8 hours of lectures a week…) and my thoughts are preoccupied with nursery themes and pre-baby tasks that need to be completed. Second to that is time spent with Paul, and getting things together at my job so I can leave in 5 weeks time (!) without everything imploding. So you can see why this blog has very much taken a backseat, despite all of my best intentions and ideas. 

Now more than ever, I think I need to accept that this is the season that I’m in. I may want to be in a different season, sometimes, when I see people nailing it creatively or gallivanting on exciting trips abroad, but that just isn’t the place that I’m in. I did choose to be here, after all, and it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that you need to take it easy when you’re lugging around a baby all day, every day. It is easy to focus on what you’re missing out on, rather than being fully present for what is happening right now (especially when what’s happening right now is mostly weird joint pains and exhaustion…). But there are joys to this season, even if they are slightly harder to find. Our house has never looked better (even if I do say so myself) and it is a joy to put together a little room for our little man. I realise that babies don’t give much thought to interior design, but it’s nice to actually *do* something for him, in the small way that we can, before he actually arrives. As we get ready to welcome a new member to the team, I feel like Paul and I are working better together than we ever have. Tuna even seems to be being a little bit nicer to me, but that could be wishful thinking… 

There will be time enough, if I am lucky, to work on creative projects, start my dream business (bookshop bar? boutique bed and breakfast? something not beginning with B?) or travel the world if I want to. I don’t need to do it all right this minute, as impatient as I am by nature. So some things are being struck off my to do list permanently (or as permanently as they can be…) and others are going on the back burner until I’ve got this baby thing down. The next season, of course, will be a season for mothering – learning how to navigate life with my little pal and trying to find a new normal so that there’s room for the other bits and pieces to start creeping back in. But after that? I guess only time will tell. 

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Two Years

We’ve been married for two years today; a small drop in the ocean for some people (my grandparents are celebrating 60 years in June…) but a little achievement nonetheless. This last year has been a pretty big one for us, as far as years go; we bought our first house together and (mostly) renovated it into a home. We decided to try and become parents, and were lucky enough that I fell pregnant pretty soon after (although I know my recent moaning on the subject has not convinced you that I feel lucky…). We hosted Friendsgiving and Christmas at our new home, and moved my sister into University. 

I believe more strongly every day that it takes a village; not just to raise a child, as the saying usually goes, but to sustain any sort of relationship. I love Paul and he’s my favourite human, but without our friends and family around us – providing love, support and DIY help, it just wouldn’t be the same. I think that’s part of the reason why you have a wedding in the first place, to acknowledge that a marriage is that much sweeter when it connects with all of your other relationships. 

Last year, I wrote that I worried that there were trying times ahead – that I couldn’t continue on being blissfully happy. I was right. Being pregnant and preparing for a baby has been more difficult than I could have anticipated; perhaps because so little in my life has been difficult before (and what a privileged position to be in). As always, Paul has stepped up to the mark to help and support me; from insisting I nap on evenings and weekends, to picking up even more than his share of the housework than he did before, to coming with me to my dreaded blood tests (of which I have another today…). If I believed in karma, I would think that I had done something positively angelic in my previous life. 

But for all that, marriage continues to be one of the greatest joys of my life. It is not for everyone, I’ll grant you, but for me it has exceeded all of my expectations. To be a team with someone everyday is a magical thing indeed, and I’m excited for us to face the challenge of actual parenthood together in the next year (hopefully sooner rather than later – if he holds out until 42 weeks, I’ll be most unimpressed…) with our newest little team member. 

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The Third Trimester: Thoughts on Growing a Person

The Third Trimester // Amy Elizabeth

When I first scheduled in to write this post, I thought that it would be relatively upbeat compared to my previous pregnancy updates. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have not been enjoying pregnancy at all, but the second trimester hasn’t been nearly as bad as the first (just like everyone tells you). I know plenty of people who have had a rougher time of it than me, so I’m sure this will elicit some eye-rolls, but I have really struggled with the tiredness, the nausea (thankfully past now), the aches and pains and all of the associated nonsense that comes along with pregnancy. I know it’s supposed to be magical when the baby kicks, and sometimes it is, but mostly it just hurts. I thought I was getting on top of everything; we’d ordered the pram and the nursery furniture, which definitely made everything feel so exciting, but I definitely hit a wall last Monday. In the last week I’ve had more than one cry over the fact that everything I’m feeling is an almost permanent state for the next three months, and could even get worse. 

Maybe I’m hormonal, or maybe it just sucks to be pregnant (or maybe a bit of both). I hate that it hurts every time I go to get out of bed. I hate that I can’t stretch enough to put my towel on the hook of the back of the door. I hate that I get out of breath if I walk up the stairs too quickly. I hate having heartburn. I hate that walking into town to get some lunch now feels like an ordeal, complete with stitch-like pains across my bump. I hate that it’s almost impossible to get comfy, but that turning over or adjusting position when I’m sitting or lying down is a mission in itself. I hate having almost nothing to wear. And this baby still needs to get at least twice as big as he is now… I also feel a bit useless in my current state, and whilst it seems a nice idea to have people doing stuff for you, I’m not very good at sitting to the side and letting everyone else get on with things. I am simultaneously worried about leaving work and counting down the days; I’m worried they won’t cope without me, and maybe more worried that they will cope too well and won’t want me back. It’s all just a bit much. Slowing down is *hard* and I go from being grateful that I have time off at weekends to nap and recuperate to feeling guilty for not making the most of this time. 

Can I confess something to you, dear Internet? I also sometimes still have doubts about becoming a parent – even now, when there are less than 100 days to go until this little babe is with us. I catch myself wondering whether this whole baby thing was such a great idea, when we could have been swanning off to exotic locations, or visiting friends, or working on exciting projects, or any of those many other things that feel like they’re slipping away at a rate of knots. This isn’t a logical thought, since those things are not closed off to us in any way even when we become parents, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m *really* ready to saddle my whole life to a tiny being who relies on me (on us) for everything. Before I was pregnant, I was adamant that was what I wanted for my life, but as the reality draws closer, the doubts creep in. Don’t get me wrong, I already love this little baby and my daydreams are filled with all of the fun we’ll all have as a family, but just sometimes I am struck by the reality of this parenting lark and suddenly my carefree life where I’m only truly responsible for myself seems all that more appealing. Does that make me a bad mother already? I hope not as I’ve barely even started yet. 

I’m also getting to the point of dreading the whole ‘birth’ thing. For someone who really struggles when it comes to all things medical, I’ve been surprisingly calm about the actual birth part until now. Whether it’s blind delusion, or all of the very calming yoga classes I’ve been going to, I was sure I’d have it in hand. I wasn’t looking forward to it, exactly, but it felt entirely manageable the more I read about it. I had visions of being super calm and earth mother-ish at home, lighting candles and letting my body do all the work. The closer it gets, the more I feel like I was kidding myself that such a thing is even possible; although we’re in the process of planning a home birth, the stats suggest that most first time mothers end up in hospital regardless of their best laid plans. I know there’s really no way to know what’s going to happen, and for a control freak like me, that’s pretty scary – especially when it could end up with me in exactly the place I *least* want to spend any time. Whilst I’m pragmatic that medical intervention may be necessary, and I’m not going to resist that, I am still holding on to a little bit of hope that I might be able to avoid it and stay home. I am trying to surround myself with positive birth stories, rather than accidentally falling down comment threads with too many horrific details – whilst forewarned can sometimes mean forearmed, I’m not sure that’s the case for me right now. 

On the positive side (just so this doesn’t become a total sob-fest), I have been thinking lots about what our little bubba will be like. It’s exciting that he’s entirely a mystery to us right now, but soon we’ll know him better than we know almost anyone else on earth. I’m pretty sure he’ll be fair with blue eyes, if genetics are anything to go by (and I am reliably informed they are) but other than that? There’s just no way of telling. I’m impatient to meet him (and dress him in adorable little outfits), so I’m trying to focus on that feeling, rather than anything else – which is easier said than done when he’s giving me a good kicking… 

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5 Podcasts I’m Obsessed With Right Now

5 Podcasts I'm Obsessed With Right Now // Amy Elizabeth

If you’ve ever spent time with me in real life, you’ll no doubt have heard the phrase ‘I was listening to this podcast…’ (and probably rolled your eyes at it, too…). I have never been a big music fan, but podcasts? There are so many great ones out there, and it can be hard to keep up now that so many are publishing new episodes weekly, but whilst I’m happy to leave some in my queue for a long journey or to accompany a mammoth baking session, there are a few of my favourites that jump straight to the top of the list every time, that I just can’t wait to listen to.

Buffering the Vampire Slayer 

The rumour goes that babies can be soothed by the sounds they heard when they were inside the womb, so I’m hoping this little bubba of mine is slowly becoming indoctrinated into loving the sound of badass ladies discussing pop culture and dismantling the patriarchy. Starting with the Buffering podcast – a must-listen for Buffy fans everywhere. Kristin and Jenny are rewatching and discussing every episode of one of my favourite ever TV shows, and writing a song to go with each one. I can’t listen to this podcast out in public, because otherwise people will look at me very oddly when I burst out laughing at their commentary. But it’s not all jokes, 90s wardrobe analysis and awarding a weekly sexual tension award, there’s some serious discussion of gender, sexuality, race and culture. Buffy has a lot of depth (and is probably the reason I’m a feminist to this day…) so there’s a lot to chat about – and I only love the show more now. 

Dear Prudence

Mallory Ortberg’s brand of loving, wise but whimsical advice is absolutely in my wheelhouse. I’ve been a fan of hers for years (does anyone else still mourn the loss of The Toast and they’re ‘If X was my boyfriend…’ articles?) so it’s nice to have this little snippet making its way into my ears every week. This podcast follows the usual advice column format, tackling everything from petty office disputes to some more serious topics that provoke discussion between Mallory and her steadily rotating cast of guests (my favourite episodes are the ones featuring her family members – so they’re definitely worth seeking out if you’re new to this show!). I listen to quite a few advice podcasts (I’m also a fan of Savage Love and Dear Sugar) but I find Dear Prudence the most comforting, with Mallory’s combination of enthusiasm and joie de vivre, with her focus on kindness, empathy and boundaries – alongside some more amusing and ridiculous tangents. 

Hashtag Authentic

If you’re into Instagram, chances are you’ve come across Sara’s beautiful account ‘Me and Orla’ which features snippets from her life in rural Yorkshire with her daughter. Whilst many of us use Instagram to share snaps in any which way (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), Sara’s Instagram is a thing of true art and beauty, so it’s not wonder she’s become such an expert on the platform. She’s your go to girl for Instagram strategy, and she’s sharing everything she knows in her great new podcast. If you’re a blogger, photographer or small business owner, or you just find marketing and creativity really interesting to talk about (guilty) then you’ll probably be just as hooked as I am on the gentle, fascinating and inspiring conversations that Sara’s been having with her guests. Expect big things from this one, my friends. 

Another Round

This podcast has made me laugh and it has made me cry, sometimes even within the same episode. Tracy and Heben are the hosts of this podcast, chatting about everything from race, gender and pop culture to bad jokes and great drinks. It’s like happy hour with the coolest, smartest people you’ve ever met – and their interviews are some of the best I’ve heard (my favourites have been Hillary, natch, Kelly Rowland and Margaret Cho). I’ve learnt a lot from this podcast, and with such varied content you never really know what you’re gonna get – so it has me tuning in straight away every time. Seriously, you need to be listening. 

Call Your Girlfriend 

Yet another feminist pop culture and politics podcast that I’m slowly indoctrinating my unborn child with… and I’m not even sorry. Amina and Ann are real life besties who let us in on their weekly calls where they chat about everything from serious political issues (their ‘Cheeto Watch’ is basically how I keep up with what’s going on in US politics) and gender theory, to TV shows and celebrity gossip. So basically, all the things I like to talk about in real life but no one ever wants to discuss with me. It’s the perfect mix of highbrow and lowbrow, and since they publish on a Friday, it gives me something to listen to on lazy Saturday mornings. Total winner. 

Plus, a special mention needs to happen for Witch, Please, a feminist literary criticism Harry Potter podcast, which is currently on hiatus and due back in the summer. I cannot frickin’ wait. If you’re nerdy in the same very specific way as I am (I’ve only found one person so far…) then you will love it. 

Read more: 4 New Podcast Obsessions // 11 More Podcasts You Should Be Listening To // 5 Bookish Podcasts to Listen To

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Salted Caramel & Double Chocolate Cookies

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

So… you want to win a bake off. I’ve been there, my friend. There is something about charity bake offs that brings out my competitive side, and my inner show off. However, in the past I have gotten a little too big for my boots; home-made pies and celebration cakes have been the order of the day. There are two problems with this approach; the first is that I am much less practiced at such bakes, and the second is that really… my colleagues just want to eat a whole load of chocolate. They don’t care about the flakiness of the pastry or the lack of a soggy bottom – unfortunately, I’m not baking for Mary and Paul. They’re just chasing the sugar high that comes with a good work bake off.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

So this time round, I defied my ego and whipped up a batch of these cookies. They were demolished in about three minutes flat, with some people going back for seconds… and the votes don’t lie. These are a winner! I can’t take much credit for that; this recipe is from the incomparable Izy from Top with Cinnamon with almost no adaption. Just follow the instructions, and let victory reign down upon you… 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies
Yields 16
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Ingredients
  1. 110g butter
  2. 350g soft light brown sugar
  3. 55g cocoa powder
  4. 2 eggs
  5. ¼ tsp salt
  6. ¾ tsp baking powder
  7. 260g plain flour
  8. 100g milk chocolate chips
  9. 16 squares of Cadbury Caramel (or alternative caramel filled chocolate of your choice!)
  10. flaky sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare two baking sheets by lining with baking parchment.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, followed by the eggs.
  3. Sieve in the cocoa powder, salt and baking powder, and stir through. Do the same with the flour, stirring until everything is well combined. Finally, stir through the chocolate chips.
  4. Using a tablespoon or dessert spoon, place 16 heaps of dough spaced out on your baking trays. You may want to roll the dough slightly before placing on the tray to make them a little more even.
  5. Take a square of chocolate and press down into the top of each cookie so it's nice and snug. Using the remaining dough, make 16 disc shapes and use to cover the top of each square of chocolate, pressing down around the edges so the chocolate is fully sealed inside.
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool slightly on the trays before using a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack.
Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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