November

november

Neglecting my blog, somewhat! 

Hosting 5 guests in 3 weeks. 

Throwing our first annual (dare I say it?) Friendsgiving shindig. 

Running the Abbey Dash and considering embarking on some #adventrunning next month. 

Toasting marshmallows and eating chilli on Bonfire Night. 

Crocheting the start of a little purple rabbit. 

Trying baby food at a friend’s baby shower. It’s… not so great. 

Eating my body weight in cheese at the Homage to Fromage pop up. 

Watching Gilmore Girls, as often as I can. 

Craving strawberry pop tarts as a result… 

Taking a walk by the sea on a work trip. It was, as they say, bracing! 

Obsessing over Dorshi dumplings at their all-too-brief stint in Sheaf St Cafeteria. Come back soon!

Feeling ever so Christmassy at Bettys

Buying Christmas presents (but there always seems to be more to buy!) 

Planning my Christmas decorations and Christmas menus.  

Reading yet more Jilly Cooper – I’m obsessed. 

Wearing my thickest jumpers and still feeling chilly. I’m not about this winter weather. 

Working on my Instagram game

Relaxing with a week off work – much needed! 

Baking pumpkin pie for Friendsgiving. Needs some work, but a good first try! 

How about you? 

 

 

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November Book Reviews

november-books

No Virgin by Anne Cassidy* 

I’ll admit I was a little cynical when I picked this up; I think it’s important that young adult fiction (or any fiction, really) addresses issues of sexual assault and rape but after reading some very hard-hitting books of this ilk recently, I was worried that it was becoming a bit of a trope, a way to short-hand deep feelings and trauma into a novel without always acknowledging the realities of such a traumatic experience. I needn’t have been so worried; this is an stark portrayal of sexual assault and the ways that class and power allow perpetrators to get away with it. Stacey Woods is your typical teenage girl; she worries about her best friend abandoning her for someone else, about her prying younger sister, about her Dad getting serious with someone new, about exams and finding a career she’s passionate about. When it all gets too much one day, she finds herself in a café being chatted up by a posh boy, who takes her on a whirlwind adventure. It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to Stacey, until it all takes a dark turn. Stacey’s experiences of rape are raw and unflinching, without being gratuitous, and highlight some important issues that I think it would benefit everyone to think about more. 

Small Great Things: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century’ by Jodi Picoult* 

This book is a punch in the gut, especially given the current political climate in the USA. (I’m sure the publisher couldn’t have planned it, but now more than ever are books like this important). Ruth is an experienced labour and delivery nurse, but during a routine shift she is abruptly told that she can no longer care for a particular newborn. The parents are white supremacists and they don’t want Ruth, which is African American, to touch their child. When an unfortunate incident leads to the baby’s death, the parents accuse Ruth of a serious crime and the life that she has built up around her starts to crumble. Kennedy, a white public defender, takes the case and the two struggle to see eye-to-eye as they confront racism, privilege and prejudice in order to win Ruth’s freedom. 

I think this book will make for some pretty interesting book club discussions; I’d be interested to see how others have read it. I admit to fluctuating between being completely hooked by the story, compelled by the characters’ journeys and also a little reticent at the sometimes simplistic way that the novel laid out the realities of racism in America. At times I felt it was spoon-feeding the morality of the tale, but that may have just been my reading and, as I mentioned, I’d love to know what others thought. It’s difficult to talk about a book like this without becoming mired in a lot of history and politics (don’t get me wrong, that’s exactly where I like to be mired, if I am to be mired at all, but it’s not always great to be mired). I think it’s an important read, as well as one that is interesting and emotionally smart. However, at times it felt very black and white, if you’ll excuse the pun; I loved Ruth and wanted only the best for her, and she felt like a very rounded character to me, but the white supremacist couple were almost cartoon-ishly bad to me. They were consumed by their obsession with white supremacy; it infected everything they did, even the ordinary mundane things, and whilst I don’t doubt (having seen the evidence in the coverage of Trump rallies) that people like that exist, I thought it made it almost too easy to draw a line between right and wrong. Perhaps the hope is that white people reading this book will identify more with the white lawyer, so sure that she is not racist until her own privilege and prejudice are presented to her starkly by Ruth and by the facts of the case. Either way, whilst I think it would be hard to do, there is room for a little more nuance on each side. 

I am maybe biased because when looking up some facts about the book, I stumbled across the sub-title given to it by Amazon: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century’. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked this book; maybe even loved it. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year and will stick with me for a long time. But to compare it to To Kill A Mockingbird, which is very subtle, and therefore perhaps more powerful and long-lasting, in its messaging is mis-leading, I think. I know those were not Picoult’s words, but I think it’s worth thinking about nonetheless. With everything that has happened, are we ready now for a more heavy-handed portrayal of racism in America? Is subtle no longer going to work on us; do we need something more to hit the message home? I urge you to read this book and find out for yourself (especially since it’s just £4 on Amazon at the time of writing – you’ve got no excuse not to!). 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han 

What a contrast to the other books on this list! If you spend any time on bookstagram, you’ll probably have spotted the cover of this sweet book. When it popped up on Kindle for just 99p, I couldn’t resist and I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s heart-warming in the best way; if you want to lose yourself in a teen romance then this is an excellent one to pick. Lara Jean is one of three sisters; after her mother died, her older sister Margot took on a lot of the responsibility but now she’s off to college in Scotland and it’s Lara Jean’s turn to pick up the slack. In a year that’s already going to be full of change and turmoil, something disastrous happens; the letters that she wrote to each of her previous crushes and stashed under her bed have been posted and everything has gone awry. As her crushes start to confront her about the content of the letters, Lara Jean starts to learn a little something about love… Whilst the romance in this book was touching and definitely had me squealing with joy at the end, it was the relationship between the sisters, and with their father, that I really loved the most. Definitely one to pick up on a dreary day! 

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

In Tally’s world, sixteen is the age when you are turned from an ‘Ugly’ into a ‘Pretty’; when you’re a Pretty, everything is wonderful and you can forget all of your problems. Your only job is to have fun and hang out with other Pretties. Tally can’t wait to join her best friend Peris across the river after her operation, but when she meets Shay everything is turned upside down. Shay isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty and when she runs away, Tally begins to learn more the ugly truth about being Pretty. If you’re into young adult dystopia, then this could be one for you but it didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. Tally was a bit of a nothing character; somehow she managed great feats without previously demonstrating any particular drive or intelligence, which made it difficult to care about her eventual fate, and there was something a little bit obvious about the big reveal (if you’ve read any dystopia before, you can probably guess pretty quickly…). There were a few action scenes, but they were not as exciting as others I’ve read, and a bit of a romantic storyline that, again, didn’t capture my imagination. It ended on a cliffhanger, and I’m in two minds about picking up the next one; I hate to leave a story unfinished but I find myself not caring all that much about what happens to Tally and her gang.

 

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Tomato & Orzo Soup

Tomato and Orzo Soup // Amy Elizabeth

It’s soup season. I like to think I’ll be sipping my soup from a mug whilst dressed in autumnal knits and staring out over a beautiful foggy landscape, but more realistically I’m eating it al desko because it’s too cold to go on a walk at lunchtime. But, however you’re eating it, this soup is delicious and warming. It’s got all the classic flavours of a good tomato soup, but with the addition of some orzo for a bit of texture and some more substance. Orzo’s a bit of a new obsession of mine; I’ve been using it instead of rice in risottos and it’s kind of the best. As with all soups, it keeps well in the fridge or freezer until you need it, and is best served with plenty of cheese on top, and crusty bread to dip. It’s almost enough to make these colder temperatures worth it, isn’t it? 

Tomato and Orzo Soup // Amy Elizabeth

Tomato and Orzo Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. olive oil
  2. 1 onion, finely chopped
  3. 3 gloves garlic, crushed or finely grated
  4. 3 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  5. 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  6. pinch dried chilli flakes, to taste
  7. 1 tsp. caster sugar
  8. salt and pepper, to taste
  9. double cream, to taste
  10. 150g orzo
  11. parmesan, to serve
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more, stirring regularly and checking the garlic doesn't start to brown. Lower the heat, if needed.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano , chilli flakes, caster sugar, salt & pepper. Mix together and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
  5. Stir the double cream into the tomato soup - a generous swirl should sort you out but taste as you go so it's just how you like it!
  6. Stir in the orzo and serve with freshly grated parmesan and black pepper.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

Tomato and Orzo Soup // Amy Elizabeth

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November Goals

book

So, I didn’t exactly plan my NaNoWriMo novel like I had anticipated. October ran away with me, and November is shaping up even busier, so I think I might have to leave it for this year. I still have a few ideas so I might have another look at it another time. But 50,000 words in a month? So not going to happen when I’ve got four different sets of guests over November (not panicking…). I did manage to finish my 101 books challenge, though! 

So… what will November have in store? 

Have A Relaxing Week Off 

I have a week off work in the middle of November and absolutely no plans. I don’t want to waste it trying to be productive; I am going to watch Gilmore Girls, read books, bake pies and explore a little bit more of Yorkshire. Some low-key staycation fun to gear me up for all of the festive fun coming up. 

Finish A Blanket 

All the babies are making their way into my life over the next few months (by which I mean that friends are due, not that I’m about to have triplets!) and I’m halfway through a baby blanket for one of them. So this is a pretty easy goal, but one I need to keep! 

Be The Hostess With The Mostest 

As I mentioned, we have four sets of guests coming to our house in November. I’m also hosting a bonfire night bonanza on Saturday, and Friendsgiving later in the month, so we’ll be inundated. Nothing makes me feel happier than feeding my favourite people, and organising fun things for them to do. So my aim is to make sure everyone leaves the house feeling happier than they entered, and well-fed to boot. 

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October

october

Watching early morning movies with my favourite little people. 

Relaxing at the spa. 

Eating a whole lot of tapas on date night (Pintura Kitchen is a must-visit, Leeds friends). 

Helping a friend choose her wedding dress and celebrating with bubbles.

Picking apples and baking an apple pie.

Learning how to hygge with Signe Johansen.

Dining at Norse – another absolute must-visit for foodies. 

Singing the Chicago soundtrack on work road trips. 

Going on puppy walks! More, please. 

Starting my Christmas planning (first presents have been bought!). 

Moving friends into their beautiful new home. So exciting! 

Cooking plenty of warming soups and stews.

Baking toffee apple muffins and a few loaves of bread.

Putting up shelves and unearthing my cookbooks at last. 

Gearing up for two excellent final months of the year. 

Finishing my reading challenge – 101 books in 2016! 

Worrying a little about our damp problem… 

Photographing every pretty tree I come across. Autumn is the best.

Getting a bit giddy at how beautiful the new Victoria Gate is – so pretty! 

Hoping for some Trick or Treaters to visit tonight… 

How about you? 

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Weekend Link Love

sunset

[Photo by Kristofer Selbekk]

Hey pals! Happy Sunday, as always. I’ve been most lax on the blogging front this week, but things have been rather hectic. After a lazy Sunday with friends walking their puppy, having tea parties with their kids and eating a delicious roast dinner, it was all systems go for the rest of the week. And yesterday we helped some different friends move house; they got the keys last minute on Friday so it was all systems go! So I’m glad of that extra hour of sleep, for sure. Today I’m going to bake some bread, knit a blanket and go on a run in anticipation of the Abbey Dash next weekend. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to run all the way around but it’s the participation that counts, right? Right? Let’s hope so. 

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Weekend Link Love

autumn-road

[Photo by Denys Nevozhai]

It’s been a weekend of highs and lows. Or rather, highs and one low. The high points being finally fitting the shelves in the dining room, tidying the house from top to bottom, having some lovely visitors and watching ‘How To Be Single’ on Saturday night (Rebel Wilson is amazing, as always). The low being my laptop deciding to give up on me after 3 years of loyal service. I’m taking it to the Genius Bar this week, so hopefully they can resuscitate it. You can’t have everything in life, can you? And when you have a clean house, some lovely new shelves and a pile of freshly baked toffee apple muffins to contend with, you can count the weekend a good one. 

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The Pink Spritz

In Collaboration with Crock-Pot 

pink-spritz-5

One of the best things about our new house is the bar cart. A little copper cart in the corner, stocked with our favourite booze for making cocktails. Our friends have kindly gifted us some little bits and pieces, from match cocktail shakers to all the fancy bar tools you need to mix up a little something of an evening. Which is a good thing, because we’re staying in a whole lot more because this new house needs paying for (… especially now damp is starting to come through the walls…). 

pink-spritz-2

So, when Crock-Pot asked me to shake up a little spritz appropriate for a night in, I luckily had almost everything I needed on hand. The best thing about a spritz cocktail is that it always feels a little bit fancy (it’s all those bubbles) and you can adjust them so easily; this recipe makes two but if you like yours a bit stronger, keep all the gin mix to yourself and just top it off with the bubbles. Or swap out the elderflower cordial for elderflower liqueur. 

pink-spritz-3

You don’t have to use pink bubbles for this cocktail, but it’s just a bit more fun when things are pink, isn’t it? Especially for a night in with a little bit of pampering involved. Maybe a face mask. Maybe a home pedicure. Maybe just a giant bar of chocolate and a whole lot of Gilmore Girls. You do you, and let the spritz do its thing. I used a dry-ish Rose Brut but anything sparkly and pink will work. 

pink-spritz-4

Pink Spritz
Serves 2
Write a review
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Ingredients
  1. 1 shot gin
  2. 1 shot freshly squeeze lemon juice
  3. 1 shot elderflower cordial
  4. Sparkling Rosé
  5. Ice
Instructions
  1. Shake the gin, lemon juice and elderflower over ice.
  2. Strain into two champagne flutes and top off with the Sparkling Rosé.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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The Very Best Way to Make an Apple Pie

orchard

Like every other pumpkin-spice-loving basic bitch on the Internet, I have fully embraced the concept of ‘hygge’ this season. This Danish concept of ‘cosiness’ is having a big impact on how much I can embrace the darker days and colder temperatures of autumn.  There is no literal translation for ‘hygge’ in English, but it amounts to living simply and seasonally, finding ways to enjoy the chilly winter days rather than just endure them, and encouraging community rather than isolation. There are copious amounts of candles and hot chocolate involved, and plenty of blankets, but more than that, it’s about spending your time meaningfully, getting outdoors when you can, and spending quality time with your nearest & dearest in a low-key and switched-off sort of way. 

group-picking

And so it came to pass that we spent an afternoon making an apple pie in the very best way possible. In the morning, I prepped the pastry so it would be ready, using my trust Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook (seriously, this recipe has never failed me and makes the most perfect crust for your pies). With the pastry chilling in the fridge, we pulled on our walking boots and our snuggly scarves and headed over to Lotherton Hall for Apple Day! 

picking-apples

Because, of course, picking the apples fresh from the tree and squirrelling them home to bake your pie is the pinnacle of pie-making perfection. Armed with a couple of apple-picking contraptions, a leaflet full of apple information, and a whole lot of enthusiasm, we plundered the orchard for the very best cooking apples. It was no mean feat, let me tell you! The birds and the bugs had had their pick of the apples (not to mention the toddlers who were far more skilled at this apple picking business than us!) but we walked away with a haul of 26 apples ready for baking. 

amy-cheryl-and-katie

With cheeks rosy pink from all that fresh air (we’re all office workers, we’re not used to such things…), hair slightly damp from the rather abrupt rain shower and arms full of apples, we headed back to the house for the next stage of the operation. One of my favourite parts of hygge is sharing the cooking; entertaining becomes more a communal activity than a fancy dinner party. And many hands make light work – especially when it comes to pie baking. So everyone played a part; from peeling and cutting the apples to mixing them up with spices & bitters, to rolling the pastry and pouring over the caramel and assembling the lattice on top. It was truly a group effort, and it tasted all the sweeter when we divvied it up and poured over copious amounts of cream. Truly, the best way to make (and eat) an apple pie is with friends.

apple-pie

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Weekend Link Love

pies

[Photo by Brooke Lark]

Hey there! Hope you are having a wonderful weekend, as always. I have spent the weekend relaxing at the spa like the luxury bitch that I am, and I came home to a tidy house with fresh sheet on the bed – so basically I’m living the dream. It’s been a busy week – but isn’t it always? I’m full of the joys of autumn today – the trees along our street are a plethora of beautiful colours, I’ve just eaten a leftover pumpkin muffin and I have my snuggliest pyjamas on. If every day could be a little like today, I would be a very happy woman. 

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