Maternity Wear Woes

Maternity Wear Woes // Amy Elizabeth

I don’t consider myself a particularly stylish or fashionable person. I like to look nice, sure, but I mostly stick to a uniform of relatively plain clothes for the majority of my life. My office has a (very) casual dress code, and I don’t often go to fancy places at the weekend (and when I do, I tend to wear the same couple of things on rotation). I own a lot of navy-striped tops and dresses, and you’ll rarely find me outside of jeans. My attempts to accessorise are cursory at best, stopping at my wedding rings and a gigantic blanket scarf most days. However, I’ve been pretty happy that way for the last few years. I know what suits me, I like to think I look relatively pulled together and I rarely have a panic when I’m getting dressed. That is, until the bump entered my life. 

Over the past couple of weeks, my bump has very much made itself known, meaning that almost all of my regular clothes are very much out of the picture. I spent years finding pairs of jeans that would fit me, only for all of my pairs to be regulated to the back of the cupboard with the hopes that I will see them again come Autumn. Suddenly, I feel awkward and uncomfortable in everything – except for maternity leggings, which are some kind of godsend (and I will probably continue to purchase them post-pregnancy, they’re just that comfy). 

The thing is, I want to look like myself at a time when that is almost impossible. I can’t help but feel my hatred of maternity clothes is tied up with a bit (read: a lot) of anxiety about my body changing outside of my control. My previous style worked for my petite-but-with-big-boobs body and now I have to find one for short-with-even-bigger-boobs-and-a-growing-stomach body instead. It’s hard enough to find clothes that fit my too-short-for-the-high-street legs at the best of time, but factor in a bump and a headache is inevitable. 

Part of the problem is not wanting to buy *too* much, in case it doesn’t work when I’m even more pregnant than I am now, and also because buying a full new wardrobe for a six month period is a little decadent when you’re also trying to save for a new arrival and the inevitable period of maternity leave, which is not known to be the most flush time in anyone’s life. 

So I’ve ‘invested’ in a couple of pairs of maternity jeans – one Topshop Leigh under-the-bump pair, which fit length-wise but become irretrievably baggy the longer I wear them and thus are currently being held up by safety pins, and one ASOS maternity over-the-bump pair, which stay up more easily but still don’t *quite* fit well enough to avoid bagginess. I’m hoping that as my bump grows, they’ll become a little bit more wearable and won’t need the constant hitching up to look vaguely smart and fitted. Between those and my trusty maternity leggings (the grey are better quality than the black, for some reason), and I’m pretty much covered for daywear, for now.

Of course, an extra woe is formal wear – particularly for a wedding that we attended this weekend. Most shops don’t stock their maternity ranges in store, so you’ve got to give yourself plenty of time for deliveries and returns, whilst also factoring in the fact that your bump might have grown and changed before the big day itself. Having never been pregnant before, I was a bit at a loss as to which shapes would suit me so I ended up ordering at least 5 or 6 different ASOS deliveries in the space of a couple of weeks (I’m quite well known to the DPD driver now…) to try and find something that worked. The problem is that so much of maternity wear is also covered in hideous florals or made of strange materials, so narrowing down the selection was a little tricky. I did eventually find this lovely dress in teal (which appears to be sold out now…), which I’m hoping can progress into daywear as Spring comes around! I also picked up a black jumpsuit, which I didn’t think was wedding appropriate but is destined for a few date nights and meetings in the near future. 

I’m hoping that as the weather warms up, I can embrace my dreams of becoming an earth-mama style pregnant lady in an ever-changing series of maxi dresses (which, in my fantasy never drag inches along the ground because of those aforementioned short legs…) and maybe a pair of dungarees… Either way, I suspect my maternity woes are not quite over yet! 

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Freezer Meals to Take New Parents

[Photo by Sven Scheuermeier]

“A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this IS grace.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

Excuse me whilst I tear up for a moment, because that quote gets me every time. I think about it quite often, because to me it seems like the perfect way to show someone you care. I show my love with food. If you know me in person, I have probably foisted meals or baked goods on you at some point. I’m similarly obsessed with this article (one of the best things I’ve ever read on the Internet, and something that I return to often); there’s no doubt that food is a big part of community, and having rebuilt a community after moving miles away from my childhood home, it strikes me as integral in keeping that community together. 

 I think it’s pretty well documented that having a baby is one of the most stressful and difficult times in someone’s life, right? It seems like it’s quite a tradition in the States to bring casseroles and snacks for new parents, but not so much in the UK. But we’re all guilty of letting meals slide when we’re feeling overwhelmed, resorting to microwave options and takeaways more than is probably good for us, so when our close friends, who had similarly moved far away from their own support network, had a baby earlier this year, it made sense to pack their freezer full of meals.

I did my research, having never had a baby of my own before, on what would actually be useful, rather than just cluttering up space. It turns out, there’s no hard and fast rules – but if you want to err on the side of caution then stick to meals that are easy to reheat, easy enough to eat with one hand (in case the baby is in the other) and include some sundries (microwave rice packets, par-baked bread etc.) to make things complete and as simple as possible. Then it’s just a case of cooking it up, and portioning into freezer bags. Make sure you label the bags with the name of the dish, the date you made it and any special instructions for cooking. You can definitely spread the load, too! Get a whole bunch of you involved and you could cook up a month’s worth of meals without much effort at all. 

What else? I also threw in some pre-cut fresh fruit (good for vitamins and freshness), some nice juice (ditto) and some of my freezer cookies, because everyone needs freshly baked cookies. Oh, and pizzas. Because, obviously. 

The other bit of advice I read time and again is to not crowd the new parents. Whilst baby cuddles are definitely one of the purest joys in the world (and I’ll admit to sneaking one in when I dropped my parcels of food off…) – make your visit quick, tell your friends that they are heroes and expect to catch up with them for longer at a later date. 

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The Friday Five

[Photo by Veronika Homchis]

Hey pals! Hasn’t this felt like a really long week? It is weird how time is stretchy; some weeks just fly past and then others draaaggg along. This week I’ve been hanging out with friends and their tiny babies (so fun!), watching Friends with Better Lives (I’m weirdly obsessed with shows with James Van Der Beek in at the moment) and reading a couple of romance novels by Tessa Dare (A Week to Be Wicked and Any Duchess Will Do – loved them both). So it’s been pretty quiet, which is maybe the reason for time slowing itself down for me.

I think it’s also messing with me because our scan is in 12 days and I am entirely impatient to find out the sex of our baby. It’s hard to not make all of these weekly updates about being pregnant, but that’s the thing that is most front and centre in my life right now. I thought I felt the baby moving for the first time this week (it was a lot like being poked from the inside, which is a bit trippy) but nothing since so maybe it was just wishful thinking and my body playing tricks on me. Just tell me to shut up if the baby stuff is annoying you – I know it’s only really super interesting to me, the actually pregnant one! 

Other than that, I’m just looking forward to a lovely wedding in Sheffield this weekend (I finally found a dress!) – weddings are my favourite. How about you? 

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Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup // Amy Elizabeth

Apparently it is scientifically proven that soup will make you feel better when you’re ill. And none more so than chicken noodle soup, in my opinion. This soup is surprisingly simple to make, even if you’re a little under the weather, and the combination of comforting noodles, hot broth and a little spicy kick at the end is sure to cure what ails you. I’m not usually a big soup eater – I don’t find it really fills me up, so I get hungry almost straight away – but sometimes it’s exactly what you’re craving, especially when it’s so miserable out.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup // Amy Elizabeth

This soup is totally adaptable, too. Use up some of your favourite vegetables by throwing them in the mix, or swap out the rice vermicelli noodles for more substantial egg ones. You could even use small pasta shapes in place of the noodles (but don’t you dare think about leaving out the carbs altogether). Skip the chilli flakes when you’re making the stock for a mellower flavour, or garnish with fresh chillies or hot sauce if you like it fiery.  Want to make this even easier? Use the meat and bones from one of those supermarket rotisserie chickens to make your stock and soup. All that said, you must eat this under a blanket whilst wearing pyjamas and, preferably, with your favourite trashy TV show playing. There’s no negotiating on that part, sorry. 

Spicy Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
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For the broth
  1. bones of one whole roast chicken
  2. 1 large onion, peeled and chopped in half
  3. 1 large carrot, chopped into 2-3 pieces
  4. 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly smashed
  5. 1-2 tsp. dried thyme
  6. 1-2 tsp. chilli flakes
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 2 litres of water (or enough to cover the contents above)
For the soup
  1. shredded meat from 1 whole roast chicken
  2. 2 carrots, diced
  3. handful on mangetout, sliced
  4. 4 nests of rice vermicelli noodles
  5. fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pop all of the ingredients for the broth into the slow cooker, making sure the contents are covered by the water (add more if not) and cook for 5 hours on high or 10 hours on low.
  2. Strain into a large bowl and rest in the fridge overnight.
  3. Remove as much of the fat from the top of the broth as possible (it should be solid after the night in the fridge).
  4. Pour the broth into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the leek and carrot and cook until just going tender.
  5. Add the rice noodles and the chicken, cooking for a further 2-3 minutes until the noodles have softened and the chicken is warmed through.
  6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley, if using. Slurp noisily when eating.
Notes
  1. The finished soup can be frozen in individual portions and reheated when needed, either in a saucepan or by blasting in the microwave in one minute intervals until piping hot.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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Raspberry & White Chocolate Banana Bread

Raspberry & White Chocolate Banana Bread // Amy Elizabeth

It’s basically the law that if you see bananas starting to brown on your kitchen counter, they must make their way into a banana bread. Which is why I always keep baking supplies on hand, for just such an emergency. There is always unsalted butter in the fridge, flour and sugar in the cupboard and, thankfully, a plethora of cookbooks to choose from when just such a situation arises. It is one of my favourite things about my kitchen, really, that deliciousness can be coaxed from it at the drop of a hat. I get a bit feverish if I am running low on flour, so if anything I’m over-prepared. Paul is on board because it fits with his ideas about preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Either way, this banana bread was whipped up with nary an hour to spare with friends on their way round and the dregs of browning bananas, frozen raspberries and leftover chunks of white chocolate from making freezer cookies.

Raspberry & White Chocolate Banana Bread // Amy Elizabeth

Obviously, I would recommend that you make this bread faithful to the recipe, as it proved a rather lovely breakfast the next day, but really, banana bread is very forgiving and will take anything you’ve got lurking in the cupboards – so I want to encourage you to experiment. Dark chocolate and a splash or rum or bourbon would be delightful. As would chunks of fudge or swirls of salted caramel, or the addition of some browned butter. Blueberries are the natural bestie of banana, whilst some carrot and sultanas would make a nice carrot-cake-banana-bread crossover. Do what you feel, my friends. 

Raspberry & White Chocolate Banana Bread // Amy Elizabeth

Raspberry & White Chocolate Banana Bread
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Ingredients
  1. 250g plain flour
  2. 3 tsp. baking powder
  3. ½ tsp. salt
  4. 115g unsalted butter, softened
  5. 125g golden caster sugar
  6. 2 large eggs
  7. 3 bananas, mashed
  8. 100g frozen raspberries
  9. 100g white chocolate, cut into chunks (plus extra for decorating, if required)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a loaf tin by greasing with butter.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer (if you have one - it can be done by hand but it's a lot more work!) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between, before scraping down the sides and mixing in the banana.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Fold in the raspberries and white chocolate.
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 55 minutes - 1 hour, until a skewer inserted at the thickest part comes out clean.
  7. Leave to cool and decorate, if required, by melting some white chocolate in 30 second blasts in the microwave until smooth, and using the tines of a fork to flick the melted chocolate over the top of your loaf until you get the desired effect. Serve in thick slices.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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February Book Reviews

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell*

Holy shit, I have been waiting for this book for years. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. If you were around on a certain part of the Internet circa 2011/12 then you’re probably familiar with Cat Marnell; if not, then you should go and read some of her xoJane pieces from around that time and then you’ll get what all of the fuss is about. She was the beauty editor who wrote about how to disguise your night-before-drug-binge on the way to work; she specialised in beauty advice with an edge, which went (and still goes) against so much about what the beauty industry stands for. She’s also a phenomenal writer. Soon after she announced that she was writing a book, she mostly disappeared off the Internet, leaving us all (me) on a cliffhanger until now… 

This is an honest, raw, emotional and hilarious memoir, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. Cat charts her life through drug addiction with a candidacy that will make you cringe and cry, and occasionally cackle with laughter. She’s certainly not lost the skills that kept her on top at xoJane, despite her destructive drug problems, and this book is peppered with witty lines that I kind of want to steal for my own. From troubled teenager at boarding school with her Dad writing her prescriptions for ADHD medication, to beauty editor at large barely holding on by a thread, I could barely put this book down.

Her descent to rock bottom is a glamorous one, peppered by celebrity name-dropping, stints at high-flying magazines, and is therefore probably not a great portrayal of the ‘realism’ of addiction for many, less privileged people. At times, it is frustrating how Cat managed to sustain something that ‘a million girls would kill for’ whilst self-destructing at such a magnitude, but she is equally candid about her emotional distress, loneliness and even about just how self-absorbed and boring drug addiction can be. If you’re interested in the world of beauty, journalism or blogging then I think you’ll probably be hooked on this book; Cat Marnell was a pioneer of the ‘blog-style’ articles in journalism that are now a mainstay of the industry and her writing will feel familiar to so many who have grown up online. For me, it’s a five star read, for sure. 

Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding 

I’ll admit, I think a lot of my love for this book was pure nostalgia; I’ve been a fan of Bridget Jones for over ten years so reading the latest instalment felt so much like coming home and hanging out with old friends. However, I think that Bridget’s time may be coming to a close for me – I will always love her but this book definitely felt less substantial than the others. Maybe I’ve changed, maybe the world has changed, but the problem is that Bridget hasn’t really changed, which feels a little unrealistic given the timeframe. I feel like portrayals of women have moved on since Bridget; at the time she was the quintessential twenty-something girl struggling to find love and get her shit together… but now she’s a thirty-something and she’s still slacking at work, unable to talk to her friends, family and lovers, making poor life decisions and rather incompetent at looking after herself. That’s not to say that women don’t exist who are all of those things – and Bridget is also lots of other things, like a caring friend and daughter – but I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t have had any personal growth in the intervening years. This book is still funny, heart-warming and cringe-inducing in the way that Bridget Jones always has been, and there’s no doubt that I’ll continue picking up Bridget Jones books as long as they come out (unless this is the last?) but it is purely because of that nostalgia, and because I can’t resist the perfect Mark Darcy (perhaps the most unrealistic of all…). What can I say, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. 

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye 

Oh my god, this book. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre and you consider yourself a feminist then a) let’s be best friends and b) you must read this book. It’s glorious. Like the heroine of her favourite novel, Jane Steele has suffered the cruelty of her aunt and schoolmaster. Unlike Jane Eyre, however, she doesn’t take it lying down, leaving behind the corpses of her tormentors as she moves to London to start her new life. After years of living in the underbelly of the big city, she spots an advertisement for a governess at her old home, the place she believes herself to be the heiress to. Intrigued, she finds herself employed, and eventually enmeshed in the strange household of Mr Thornfield, who has a few secrets of his own… 

Jane Steele is a feminist vigilante serial killer, which is basically who I want as the heroine of all books I read from now on, if publishers could be so kind. Where she views herself as wicked for having murdered, the reader can see clearly her sense of justice and, at times, you’ll probably revel in the deaths of her victims – from attempted rapists to sanctimonious religious hypocrites who threaten the lives of her friends. As she goes from her aunt’s house to boarding school, and on to London, there is plenty of blood and excitement to keep you on your toes. 

The second half is probably more ‘traditional’ in feeling, and slows a little in pace but as she begins to fall in love with Mr Thornfield, and with his extended household, I was equally as captivated as in the first part. It almost feels like a separate book, as Jane works to find out if she is the true heiress to Highgate, and what happened to the mysterious trunk of treasures that Mr Thornfield is so adamant has been lost in another time and place. The references to Sikh and Punjabi culture were fascinating, and not at all what I was expecting from a ‘retelling’ of Jane Eyre, whilst Mr Thornfield was a much preferable romantic hero to dear Rochester. 

The nods to Jane Eyre are clear throughout, and will be a delight to anyone who’s a fan of the original book, but this novel certainly stands alone as a work of triumph. I never wanted it to end. 

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry*

At the age of thirteen, Julie is kidnapped at knifepoint and taken from her home never to be seen again – her younger sister, Jane, the only witness to the crime, hidden in the closet and unable to comprehend what’s going on. Eight years later, she reappears on the doorstep of her childhood home, the victim of imprisonment at the hands of a shady drug cartel leader, and the family look to start rebuilding their life. But her mother, Anna, has doubts – is the young woman upstairs really her daughter? Doubts she wants to ignore, until a former detective turns private investigator gets in contact with some information that might just lead to the truth behind Julie’s disappearance… 

I’ve avoided thriller novels for a while; so many of them seem to hinge on a common thread of violence towards woman – the more brutal, shocking and, in many cases, sexual, the ‘better’. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s important that we discuss the realities of violence against women – there are too many who seek to belittle and ignore it, and it’s unfortunately an experience that too many go through. That said, I think that there are a lot of suspense novels that are gratuitous about it, using it as a trope to shock the reader without any real exploration of the topic more widely. I was hoping that this novel, recommended by one of my favourite bookish podcasts – All the Books – and with a not-so-subtle nod in the title to ‘Gone Girl‘, which is one of the best in the genre, would be a little different. I think you can probably tell from my prelude that it was not, at least for me. 

At first, I was captured by the mystery; who on earth was this woman claiming to be Julie, and what was her motive for doing so? Safety? Money? Something more nefarious? As you’re taken back in time through the case and through the many lives of ‘Julie’, the plot becomes more intriguing, and slightly more obvious. I’m not that great at guessing twists and endings, but by halfway I was pretty sure I had this one nailed (and I was right). There were a few parts that I couldn’t (and would not have been able to guess) when it came to the actual revelation, so it wasn’t a total loss and I did read through to the end but I found myself a little disappointed that, once again, gratuitous violence against women (and in particular young girls) was at the crux of it without much context or depth. I’m left wondering, once again, whether I should just ditch thrillers for good – but when they’re good, they’re so, so good and I’m going to keep hoping for one that surprises me and goes against those tropes. 

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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The Friday Five

[Photo by Brooke Lark]

Hey there! Hope you’ve been having a lovely week. I’ve been pretty busy with various bits and pieces, including a wonderful macrame class at Stitch Up on Tuesday night with my colleagues. It was easier than I thought (isn’t it always, when someone who knows what they’re doing shows you?) but it got me thinking a lot about my relationship with crafting and creativity. Which basically means, expect an introspective post about that soon! In pregnancy news (do I ever have any other kind nowadays?), I also had an appointment with the midwife – all healthy and fine for now – and my bump has popped out enough that I’ve just about grown out of all of my clothes (or at least, the important things like jeans and skirts and dresses – baggy jumpers I’ll probably be able to wear forever). As I write this, I’m having a bit of a nightmare finding an outfit for a wedding we’re going to next week – I’m too small for maternity and too big for ‘straight’ sizes, so I’ve ordered about a million things from ASOS in a variety of sizes in the hopes that one of them works for me. Pregnant pals (or previously pregnant pals) – how did you deal with this inbetweeny stage?! I’m surrendering to the leggings for the everyday, but that’s not always practical for work or events. Side note: maternity leggings are the best invention ever, and I will probably not go back to regular ones ever. Other than that, I’m looking forward to a lazy weekend with a pre-Valentine’s date night thrown in. How about you guys? 

 

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Life Hack: Freezer Cookies

Is there anything better than a freshly baked cookie? Warm, slightly gooey with crispy edges, just the perfect amount of sweetness. If heaven exists, then I imagine it will have a lot in common with a cookie. Only, whilst cookies aren’t the most complex of bakes to whip up, sometimes you don’t have the energy, the time or the ingredients to hand. And let me tell you, those supermarket cookies will never quite scratch that itch. So let me tell you my little secret… freezer cookies! Make up your cookies like normal and then, instead of baking them, freeze them into little balls and save for when you’re feeling snack-ish.

Any cookie recipe will work for this, and you don’t really have to do anything special. Just follow the instructions and, instead of popping them in to bake, pop the tray straight into the freezer (because they’re not going to spread out like they would in the oven, you can probably fit all of your cookie dough balls on one tray, depending on the size of your batch). Once they’re frozen (overnight should do it), you can pop them all in one big freezer bag or tupperware box so they take up less precious freezer space. 

You can even bake them straight from frozen; just add a couple of minutes onto the baking time from your original recipe. Voila, freshly baked cookies any time you want them! They make a great gift for friends, too – we took some round to our sweet friends who’ve just had a baby, but I’m pretty sure there’s no occasion when people wouldn’t appreciate their freezer being stocked up with cookies just ready to be baked. All of the delicious with almost none of the effort. Life hack: achieved! 

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3 Romance Series That Will Make You Swoon

If October is the month for reading scary books, then February is definitely the month for reading romance books. I fell into the world of romance novels last year, and haven’t looked back since. The world doesn’t need another think piece about a snobby reader who discovered that romance novels are smarter, more feminist and better written than she ever expected (guilty) but suffice to say, they are. So throw away your prejudices, grab yourself a juicy romance novel and feel the love! 

Rules of Scoundrels by Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean has a stellar reputation in the world of historical romance and, whilst I haven’t had a chance to read her full back catalogue, I was happy to have started with her Rules of Scoundrels series. Prepare yourself for some brooding heroes, some feisty heroines and some pretty steamy scenes… Centred around The Fallen Angel, a notorious London gaming hell run by four aristocrats, once exiled from society, who now count themselves as royalty amongst the underbelly of London, this is *not* the kind of historical romance you’re imagining. There’s very little that’s prim and proper about these books – we’re not talking courtships and balls, here. Each book centres on one of our heroes, and the love that captures their heart and changes everything. With a few pretty major twists and turns along the way, this ragtag bunch of misfits is bound to capture your heart.

The Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn

Here you’ve got an extensive and close knit family, and a mother who’s desperate to marry them all off. From Anthony all the way down to Henrietta (there are xxx of them in total), they’re all looking for love in their own unique ways. This series is more of what you might expect from a historical romance series, with balls and carriages and dresses, but with a little twist… the ladies and gentlemen of the ‘Ton are plagued by the straight-talking gossip paper delivered straight to their doors, written by the mysterious XXX, which reveals their secrets at the most inopportune times. There’s something incredibly sweet and heart-warming about these books, and you’ll find yourself wanting to be part of the Bridgerton family (or married to one, at least), as they tackle their issues and find love across the pages.  

The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan 

I wrote about this in my ‘best books of 2016’ post a couple of months back, so I think you can tell that I have left my favourite until last. I think about the heroes and heroines of this series often – I devoured every part of this series looking for more snippets about the characters, not willing to let them go on with their lives without me. This is feminist romance at its very best, tackling the issues head on with heroines that defy expectations and heroes that love them all the more for doing so. The women are scientists, suffragettes and society outcasts, but they are also bold, brave and beautiful in their own unique ways. There are the obligatory kisses (and more) and marriage proposals, but there are also thrilling plots full of twists and turns, and I was left wanting more every single time. They were all wonderful, but I have a particular soft spot for Violet and Sebastian from The Countess Conspiracy.

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Where to Celebrate Galentine’s Day In Leeds

What’s Galentine’s Day, I hear you ask? 

“Oh it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” – Leslie Knope, Parks & Recreation 

Invented by my idol, Leslie Knope, Galentine’s Day is celebrated on 13th February and traditionally consists of brunch, all your best lady friends and the sharing of compliments. Here’s where you can kick it, breakfast style, with your ladies in Leeds. 

Ox Club

The food at Ox Club is seriously, seriously good. For somewhere that’s listed in the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide, the atmosphere (and the prices) are unassuming – letting the food do all of the talking. I would highly recommend their ricotta pancakes with blueberries and honeycomb, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to their Korean Chicken or Coconut French Toast, either. Basically, get all your besties together and order everything on the menu. The only problem is that you won’t be able to do that much catching up because the food will render you silent in appreciation. It’s worth it, I swear. 

Angelica

If you want a fancy lady brunch, then Angelica is the place to head. Whisk your way up in the private lift, take in the views over Leeds and enjoy their extensive range of cocktails whilst you brunch and revel in your mutual affection and awesomeness. In tribute to Ms Knope, you must have the waffles, and in tribute to me, you must have an Aperol Spritz. Get it, girls. 

Laynes Espresso 

For something a bit more low key, the newly revamped Laynes Espresso is definitely the place to head. Not only do they have a reputation for the best coffee in Leeds, their brunch menu contains such delights as Sweetcorn Fritters with halloumi and chimichurri, Toasted Banana Bread with orange mascarpone, and my favourite, Shakshuka. Not only that, but they stock cakes from the inimitable Noisette Bakehouse, so it’s going to be a party in your mouth by the time the brunch is done. Guaranteed. 

Cafe 164 

Cafe 164 is new to the brunch game, but I am ogling their small but perfectly formed breakfast menu every time I pop in for a morning hot chocolate. Basically, I need the Nectarines & Cream Toast in my face, stat. There’s plenty of choice for your vegan and vegetarian pals, and their cake selection is pretty epic, too. Plus, since Galentine’s Day is all about supporting kick ass ladies, you’ll be putting your brunch pennies into the pockets of some of the most kick ass ladies I know on the Leeds food scene. Can’t say fairer than that, can you? 

Shears Yard 

Am I saving the best until last? Only if you like your brunches with a side of unlimited alcohol (so, yes, yes I am). The bottomless brunch at Shears Yard features their signature brunch dishes, like Smoked salmon & dill risotto, Garlic & truffle creamed mushrooms on toasted brioche and Merguez sausage & spiced mixed bean cassoulet (so not your standard brunch fare – and all the better for it, I’d say) but also the opportunity to drink as much as you like from a range of brunch-friendly cocktails. Most bottomless brunches that I’ve seen stick to Prosecco or Bloody Marys, but there are some fancier options on the menu like, my favourite, Aperol Spritzes, and a delicious sounding English 75. It’s only available on Saturdays, though, so you’ll have to celebrate Galentine’s Day early if you’re heading here. 

Altogether now, Ovaries before Brovaries

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