Nursery Reveal // Our Neutral Nursery

Nursery Reveal // Amy Elizabeth

We finally hung the pictures on the wall in the nursery this weekend, so I thought it was about time to show you a little sneak peek of what it’s looking like! Putting together this little room has been one of the funnest things about being pregnant – I love an interiors project at the best of time – but it’s also been a bit fraught. There are so many lists and suggestions out there of the things you might need, whilst everyone who’s actually had a baby will tell you constantly that they didn’t need half the things they bought. Plus there’s the whole tricky business of gender; I wanted the room to be fairly neutral so we’re not pigeon-holing him from the get-go but so much baby stuff is invested in whether you’re growing a ‘princess’ or a ‘prince’ (vom) that it can be hard to navigate. 

Our nursery is the little box room in our house, so we didn’t have a lot of room to play with, and we also wanted it to fit the style of the rest of the decor. Obviously, whilst this is going to be bubba’s little room, he’s not going to have a lot of sense of what he does and doesn’t like interiors-wise for a while and we’d be the ones left grimacing if we went too baby-friendly. So, we stuck with the white walls and the grey carpet that pretty much characterise the rest of the house, and went from there. 

The furniture set is a Mamas and Papas one, designed specifically for small spaces. Luckily, the configuration of the room means we can fit a cot bed, chest of drawers (with changing mat on top) and a slim wardrobe into the space without making it feel too cluttered. We’ve popped his everyday items (mostly a whole load of wipes and nappies…) into the top drawer and his first set of clothes in the other drawers, and relegated everything else to the wardrobe. Whether that set up works for us once we get up and running, we’ll soon see! 

I’ve only picked a few prints for the space at the moment, and I’m still on the lookout for something appropriate for over the changing table, as I didn’t want everything to feel too cluttered. A quick search on Etsy and a dash to IKEA for frames means I feel like the room has enough personality without going overboard. This is actually the only room in the house with curtains, too; we’ve got blinds everywhere else but some blackout curtains felt like they fitted better here and they add a little bit more texture and pattern so it doesn’t feel cold. 

We’ve also added some IKEA picture shelves to one wall, and they’ve been stocked with plenty of reading material for some bedtime stories. My friends and family very sweetly bought their favourite books for us as part of my baby shower, so there are plenty of old faithfuls and new discoveries waiting for us once he’s on the outside. I figure you can never have too many books, although his shelves are already full so we may need to find another storage solution for any future ones… 

There’s some boring, practical things in here, too – a washing basket, a nappy bin and some storage for parts of the pram, but that’s not nearly so fun as the cute cuddly toys and the tiny onesies. Overall, I’m really pleased with how it’s looking for now and I’m excited to see how this little room will grow and change with our little man. Now, if he could just hurry up and get here… 

Sources: Furniture Set // Grey Chevron Curtains // Nappy Bin // Washing Basket // Changing Bag // Bear Print // Mountain Print // You Are So Loved Flag // Wooden Arrow // Wild Thing Cushion // Blanket

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What I’ve Been Reading…

Despite being fairly committed to reading books over the past few years, and having a to-be-read list longer than both my arms, I’ve found it quite difficult to concentrate on reading whilst I’ve been pregnant. Partly, it’s because I’m a lot more exhausted, so I’ve forgone my extra reading time in favour of naps and early nights, and also partly because my brain has been racing with all things baby, which makes it tricky to fit in a trip or two to my favourite fictional land. I’ve mostly been devouring historical romance novels, which I know will have happy endings and are easy to read so are perfect for my current state of mind (would people like recommendations? I’ve found some great ones!). But, since I’ve been on maternity leave and found myself at a loose end with no baby currently in sight, I’ve been able to get stuck into a few more books than usual – so if you’re looking for something to throw in your beach bag this holiday, then look no further… 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

If you read just one book this year, please make it this one; I know I’m not the first to rave about it but believe the hype, it’s all true. Plus, it’s less than £4 on Amazon right now, which is ridiculously cheap for such a masterpiece. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give follows the story of sixteen-year-old Starr and what happens when she becomes the only witness to the fatal shooting of a friend at the hands of a police officer. As she finds herself at the middle of a media circus, trying to balance her life becomes more and more difficult as she seeks justice for Khalil whilst trying to maintain her own safety, and that of her family. 

It’s not just the timeliness and poignancy of the story, but the characters which make this book so incredibly readable and wonderful. In the first instance, Starr is just someone you want to be friends with, and there is a real focus on her family, who are all fantastic characters in their own right, as well as being amazing in their supporting roles. Everyone in the book felt fleshed out and important, from her ex-drug-dealer father to her Asian best friend, and they all had their own storylines that ultimately fed into the wider plot. Basically, this is some complex writing that will still have you tearing through it to find out what happens – which is a surprisingly rare thing to find. I teared up on more than one occasion; anyone who has followed #BlackLivesMatter will recognise just how *real* this story is, which makes it all the more heartbreaking, but I also felt like it left room for hope, too. 

Becoming by Laura Jane Williams

If you hang around on the Internet, you’ve probably come across Laura Jane Williams and her brilliant blog at one time or another (and if you haven’t, where have you been?). There was a lot of praise for her first book when it came out last year but it’s only just fallen into my hands. With a subtitle of ‘Sex, Second Chances, and Figuring Out Who the Hell I am’, you can guess at the subject matter, and I think a lot of people will have similar stories to tell from their own lives – but isn’t that the point? After being dumped by the man she thought she was going to marry, Laura turned to booze and sex to try and heal her heart. But, after finding that it just isn’t working for her, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery from Derby to Detroit, and finally to an… Italian convent?

The comparisons with Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert are inevitable, but I think they are justified; not only does this book feature solo female travel, designed to repair and restore the traveller’s heart and soul, but Laura manages to combine that wonderful mixture of honesty and sincerity with humour and self-deprecation, which makes this kind of memoir work for me. It would be so easy to go too far down the navel-gazing route, or to make the story more light-hearted in an effort to shun emotional intimacy with the reader, but Laura is unfailingly honest, even when it doesn’t picture her in the best light, whilst remaining warm and self-aware enough to have you rooting for her the whole way. We might not have all gone on such a journey, but anyone who has ever experienced heartbreak (and haven’t we all?) will find something special in this book. 

The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik*

I read Ayisha Malik’s first novel, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, on honeymoon almost two years ago, and the protagonist is one that’s stuck with me ever since – so I was delighted to find that there was a sequel! Sofia Khan is touted as a Muslim Bridget Jones, letting you in on her diary as she struggles with love, life and finding her purpose – but (spoiler alert) it looked like she had found her happily ever after at the end of the first book. But what happens after? Is it really as easy as sailing off into the sunset with your true love? I think we all know, of course, that it isn’t – and it was refreshing not only to revisit this beloved cast of characters but also to get a glimpse at the reality of life after the ‘I do’s.

Sofia finds herself torn between countries and priorities, as she struggles to balance her life with her new husband, Conall, whose work (and annoyingly attractive colleague) is keeping him up at all hours, with the demands of her family and her own work as a writer and publisher back home. Mourning her father, supporting her friends with their own turbulent love lives, and writing a book on Muslim marriage when she’s not sure hers is going to work out, all take their toll as she discovers Conall’s darkest secret and has to decide just what to do. It’s a book full of strife and struggle, but also of warmth and humour; reading this book was like returning to an old friend and I hope that it’s not the last we hear from Sofia Khan. 

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes*

If you’re after some pure escapism, you could do a lot worse than taking a trip to 1980s Oxford with Ursula Flowerbutton and trying to solve a murder… Ursula is expecting Pimms, punting and parties at her first term at Oxford University but when a glamorous classmate is discovered with her throat slit on the first day of term, Ursula finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation. With the help of uber-fashionable American exchange student Nancy Feingold and uber-camp gossip columnist Horatio Bentley, who dresses almost exclusively in purple, Ursula navigates the snobby world of the champagne set, dodge romantic overtures from potential murderers and try to find the time to write her first essay. It’s a little absurd, sure, but with a ridiculous(ly posh) cast of characters and some stellar pop culture references, this was a seriously enjoyable read for me. Think Jilly Cooper meets P.G. Wodehouse meets Cagney and Lacey. I mean, how can you resist? 

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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#prettycityleeds

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Living up in Leeds, it often feels like London gets all the attention. All the shiny new openings, the exciting events and all of the praise. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to love about London – but there’s also a lot to love about Leeds! London doorways and murals and shopfronts are ten-a-penny on Instagram – with people making pilgrimages to the floral haven outside Liberty London and the candy-stripe houses of Notting Hill just to get the perfect Instagram snap. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked as many photos of Peggy Porschen’s as the next girl, but I think it’s time to give some credit to my own city. We’re not just a gritty city, we’re a pretty city, too – and I’d love to start seeing more of that side of Leeds over on Instagram. 

Siobhan Ferguson launched the #prettycitylondon project many moons ago, and you can see the fruits of her labour over on the @prettycitylondon account; and, of course, it didn’t stop there. There are plenty of people out there who want to share the pretty side of their own cities, and you can see snippets of them over on @theprettycities – but Leeds is sorely lacking in representation. And there’s only one way to fix it…

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Whilst on maternity leave, I’m hoping to get out and about across the city far more than usual so I’m planning to snap my own #prettycityleeds photos but I’d love to get the ball rolling with some help from all of you – I’m sure there are plenty of pretty pictures of Leeds lurking out there, so let’s join them all together and show the world that Leeds is pretty darn, well, pretty! You just have to look up when strolling along Briggate, or pop down a side street in Chapel Allerton or Headingley, or take a walk in Roundhay Park (to name but a few locations) to prove that. So, hashtag your snaps of Leeds and I’ll share my favourites over on Instagram and on this blog. Leeds, I know you’ve got this… 

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Planning a Home Birth

Even before I was pregnant, I knew that I would want a home birth – and that was only cemented as soon as I found out I was actually expecting. As I’m sure you’ve heard me mention, I have a real phobia of hospitals and anything medical, which has made certain elements of pregnancy very un-fun for me, and so it made sense to me to avoid that as much as possible. I’ll be honest, it was just a gut feeling at first, a ‘how do I get out of this?’ sort of decision, but as time went on and we discovered more about the whole process of labour (staying calm is key, it seems…), it started to make logical as well as emotional sense. 

As soon as you mention that you are planning to have a home birth, you get one of two reactions; the first, quite predictably, is something along the lines of ‘ooo, you’re brave’ or ‘isn’t that a bit risky?’. I’m sure it’s not meant to sound quite so insulting, but it is certainly off-putting. I understand why; as a society we have ‘medicalised’ pregnancy and see labour as very much a medical process – only safe when there are doctors and surgeons on hand should the worst happen. Paul was very much of this opinion when I first floated the idea to him, and it definitely took a while to bring him around (although he is very much on board with the home birth plan now!). Labour is a scary thing to go through (she says, as it looms ahead…) and many people I imagine that it is comforting to have nurses and doctors around, but that is very much my idea of a nightmare even at the best of times. I have since learnt that for low risk pregnancies (of which I am lucky to have one!), there’s really no greater risk when having your baby at home. Yes, things can go wrong, but they so rarely go wrong so quickly that you can’t get to the hospital if you need to – and given that we live a short ten minute drive from two hospitals, that’s not something that concerns me massively. On TV, things tend to get a bit dramatic, but whilst it’s not impossible for things to turn sour within moments, it’s much more likely that the midwife would spot any upcoming problems ahead of time and get you into hospital with plenty of time. 

The other reaction you get is the complete opposite; from people who have had home births (few and far between though they may be in my particular circle) you get nothing but glowing reports, and from those who haven’t, you can sometimes get an ‘I wish I’d done that’. Our health visitor actually did a little fist bump when he found out we were planning to have a home birth! After all of the former comments, it’s actually quite a relief to find out that not all people who do go that route regret it (I’m sure some do, although luckily no one has yet told me that!). It’s all very well to read all about it, and to work out all the reasons why it’s right for you, but quite another to actually go through with it when it’s not really the done thing. Of course, the baby may have other ideas entirely, and we’re prepared for a hospital stay if it is necessary, but we’re all prepped and primed for staying at home if we can. On top of my medical phobias playing a part, I also just like the idea of being in my own space – I’m a control freak at the best of times, and especially when I feel a bit vulnerable. 

One thing that I will say is that planning a home birth means we’ve had to do a lot more ‘admin’. I had to chase the home birth team a few times to actually get them to come and chat to us (they do a home visit at 36 weeks to talk you through everything) and we’ve had to get a fair amount of stuff in that you wouldn’t have had to bother with if you were going into hospital where everything is already set up. We’ve bought a birth pool and all the accessories that go with that, and stocked up on extra towels and blankets to cover up the furniture (*insert cringing monkey emoji here*). I think it’s been quite good for us; we’re definitely planners and we like to have lots of ticked off lists, so it’s helped us feel a bit more prepared at a time when you really can’t be all that prepared for what’s to come, but I know that wouldn’t be for everyone. Now the only thing left to do is wait his arrival… 

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The Lottery Game

How playing the lottery game can help get you on track with your dreams and goals...

Do you ever play the lottery game? It’s a bit of a fruitless past-time, given the odds, but it’s sometimes fun to imagine just what you would spend all that money on, if given the chance. Paul and I like to get very specific, choosing our houses on Rightmove and plotting just exactly where we would travel first, depending on the size of the jackpot. It’s fun to dream about, but I think it might serve another purpose, too… 

Whilst there’s no doubt that we would buy *stuff* (mostly pretty houses and wine cellars full of booze for parties…), what winning the lottery would really do would be to buy us opportunity and time to explore the things we really care about. It begs the question, what would you dedicate yourself to if you didn’t have to work or worry about money? 

Just off the top of my head… I would travel more, try my hand at writing a book, be more conscientious about this blog, spend more time with my family and friends, start a supper club. I would want to open up my home, to host friends and family but also strangers. Maybe some sort of writers retreat situation, supper-club-slash-bed-and-breakfast. Some way of sharing and meeting people and having the kind of home where the door is always open and there’s always a bottle of champagne ready to pop. I would maybe want to own a bookshop, or some kind of beautiful space that people could hire for parties and weddings or just because. 

None of those things are impossible without a lottery win, of course. Thankfully, my dreams are not all that expensive, but to achieve them without the backing of my imaginary millions would take more dedication and work. They need to be fitted into a smaller space of time, since I do have to go to my day job and do (some of) my own chores. They’d need more careful thinking to fund and maybe I’d need to choose one or two to start with, rather than jumping in at the deep end with all of them. 

But playing the lottery game, and allowing yourself to dream big and imagine the ‘best case scenario’ can really help solidify your thinking on what you’d like to dedicate your time and energy to in the long run. Whilst it would be ideal for millions to land in your lap so you could see it all through, the chance of that is unlikely so it’s far better to start small(er) now and make some steps towards incorporating those things without the lottery win. I’m hoping to start with this blog (baby-clingy-ness-dependent) over the next few months but you can be sure that I’ve made a note of the other things on my list to start checking off… 

What would you be doing if you won the lottery?

How playing the lottery game can help get you on track with your dreams and goals...

How playing the lottery game can help get you on track with your dreams and goals...

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June

Counting down the days until our little one’s arrival…

Being showered in lots of love and presents at my beautiful book-themed baby shower. 

Feeling very slow and heavy! 

Drowning in baby-related admin and appointments. 

Finishing work for the year (but already sort of wanting to go back…). 

Loving Master of None and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt being back on our screens. 

Learning to do laundry now I’m a housewife! 

Celebrating Paul’s 37th birthday with chocolate cake. 

Scoffing Poffertjes at Eat North with my family. 

Travelling down South to toast my Grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 

Getting fancy at Bettys with Emma for a long overdue catch up. 

Signing off on our last NCT class… but not feeling much more prepared. 

Writing a birth plan and realising that it’s all getting very real… 

Making the most of peony season with plenty of bunches. 

Googling every little twinge + ‘sign of labour?’ 

Needing to fill up the bath more to try and cover the bump… 

Enjoying the sunshine, but also feeling rather glad that it’s gone for a little while. 

Getting butterflies that we’ll have a baby by this time next month… 

How about you?

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My Pregnancy Survival Tips

Tips for surviving and thriving during pregnancy

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have *not* enjoyed being pregnant. This, despite the fact that I have been blessed with a (so far) healthy and low-key pregnancy. Mostly, I’m just a big whiner. Growing a human, it turns out, is not one of my favourite past-times but sadly it takes rather a long time – so I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks along the way to make it a bit more bearable. 

Take a Lot of Baths

This is tip number one, for sure. Baths are relaxing and lovely at the best of times, but even more so when you’re pregnant. It’s a chance to take the weight off, quite literally, and feel comfortable. Plus, it’s a relatively effective method for easing the minor aches and pains that you pick up on the daily when living the pregnant life. I’ve stocked up on a whole bunch of romance novels for light bath time reading (no complex plots or distressingly sad endings!) and was happily gifted a load of Lush bath bombs for Christmas and my birthday, so they’ve been keeping me going for the most part. Pro-tip: take a bar of chocolate or other favourite snack into the bath – it’s about as decadent as life gets when you’re pregnant. My only other ‘beauty’ tip – invest in some Palmer’s Cocoa Butter for your bump. I don’t know whether it’s actually contributed to my total lack of stretch marks, or whether that’s just luck, but it smells lovely and feels very luxurious to give yourself some fancy daily moisturising. 

Buy a Pregnancy Pillow 

Having a pregnancy pillow has been an absolute life saver for me; I’ve actually been sleeping relatively well since I started to use it properly, which has made everything else seem a little bit rosier. I have this one, which also handily goes with my bedroom decor. 

Nap As Often As You Can 

I have never been a big napper, but whilst pregnant I have learnt to let go of my guilt around napping and fully embraced having one or two extra little sleeps a day. In my first trimester, this was absolutely essential in order to survive to the end of the day, and that feeling is looping round again now as I near my due date, but even when I was feeling a bit perkier, it’s been a great way to feel a little bit more human and capable. Plus, everyone tells you to sleep whilst you can, and although I’m not sure you can ‘bank’ sleep, it’s better not to go into your new adventure totally exhausted, if at all possible. 

Try Not to Overload Your Social Calendar 

This is a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ if ever I saw one. At the beginning, we had something on every weekend (including hosting almost 20 people for Friendsgiving…), which was very poor planning on my part as having no time to rest and recuperate led to me getting super sick over Christmas with a lovely combination of ‘morning sickness’ (which was more like all-day-nausea) and a two-week-long cold. And then we’ve just had another run of busy weekends as everyone ramps up their social events again for summer – which is lovely, but also very tiring.

Surrender to Flat Shoes 

For a short-arse like me, this totally sucks. But my back and my hips thank me for it if I opt for trainers over boots, so I’ve been living in my Converse. Bonus: they’re basically slip-on, which is very handy now that there’s a baby in the way of me bending down to tie my laces. I’ve also just invested in a pair of TOMS sandals on the recommendation of a friend, and they’re maybe the best sandals I’ve ever owned (plus, they’re on sale right now…). They don’t rub, even though my feet are, ahem, larger than usual at the moment and they have a squidgy base so they’re super comfortable. 

H&M Do the Best Maternity Wear 

Dressing for pregnancy is the biggest challenge (you know, other than the whole ‘growing a human’ thing) and finding clothes that make you feel like yourself can make all the difference to how you feel, as shallow as that may seem. Having tested quite a few of the high street brands, it’s H&M that have led the way for me; my wardrobe is mostly made of basics anyway and H&M have a good collection which isn’t too pricey (given that you’ll only be wearing these clothes for a short period of time). However, there are a couple of exceptions to that rule – New Look Petite maternity jeans are the only ones I’ve found that fit the length of my legs and don’t end up falling down after twenty minutes of wear (so if you’re also 5’0″, this might be relevant to your interests) and I have loved the two dresses that I picked up from the Seraphine sale for special occasions. 

Go To Some Classes & Do Your Research 

I know that people have mixed feelings about NCT classes, but we had a wholly positive experience with ours (even if my squeamish self did have to leave the room for some of the more graphic descriptions of labour…). I feel a lot more calm and confident about what’s coming up as a result, and it’s been a great jumping off point for doing our own research. I’d already read a few books and done some general investigating before the classes, but having someone with some qualifications confirm what I thought I knew was really invaluable. I think the classes were particularly good for Paul, too, as there was an equal focus on what birth partners can be doing to support and prepare, which has helped him feel a lot happier with the whole process. Plus, we made some nice parent pals to hang out with on maternity leave, so that’s a positive, too! Knowledge is power, my friends – but be careful where you get your information as it’s very easy to fall into a forum or two where misinformation is rife… I’ve freaked myself out on more than one occasion doing that! 

Feel All Your Feelings Without Guilt

I have been wholly honest on this blog and on my social media channels (mostly Instagram) about the ups and downs I’ve experienced during pregnancy. As someone who is generally pretty positive and who considers herself very ‘blessed’ (ugh, I know), it’s been tricky for me to feel so down so much of the time, especially when pregnancy is supposed to be the harbinger of joy rather than sorrow. At times, I have felt really terrible about it and as if I’m already a terrible mother simply for wishing for one damn minute I could not be pregnant, but, ultimately, my feelings are my feelings and there’s no point feeling guilty about them. (Phew, that’s a lot of feelings in one sentence!). There have equally been moments of pure joy and happiness, so it’s all swings and roundabouts (especially due to those pesky hormones), so don’t beat yourself up (and don’t let anyone else do the metaphorical beating, either). 

Let People Be Nice To You 

Oh god, do I struggle with this one. When you are pregnant – and especially when you are visibly very pregnant – everyone will go out of their way to be nice to you. You will have the same conversations about names, due dates and sex of your baby multiple times a day with strangers. And it’s not just strangers – friends and family will buy you presents, travel for your baby shower and insist that you take a damn seat rather than running around doing things. At times this is particularly difficult; it can feel like you’re a bit useless, which is rather frustrating. But, let people be nice to you and revel in having drinks brought to you and chores taken off your hands. You’re growing a baby – you deserve a little rest and relaxation! 

Do you have any tips to add? I’ve still got a few weeks left, so there’s still time… (!) 


 

 

Pregnancy Survival Tips // Amy Elizabeth

Tips for surviving and thriving during pregnancy

A few tips for surviving pregnancy and how to thrive during pregnancy. [/caption]

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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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