The Art of Aggressive Friending

[Photo by Evan Kirby]

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

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

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

Be Generous 

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

Show Your True Colours

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

Make Connections 

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

Take People at Their Word 

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

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

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Accepting the Season I’m In

Accepting the Season I'm In // Amy Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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Two Years

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

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

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

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

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The Third Trimester: Thoughts on Growing a Person

The Third Trimester // Amy Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Podcasts I’m Obsessed With Right Now

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

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

Buffering the Vampire Slayer 

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

Dear Prudence

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

Hashtag Authentic

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

Another Round

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

Call Your Girlfriend 

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

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

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

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Salted Caramel & Double Chocolate Cookies

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

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

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

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

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

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March

Feeling a little overwhelmed. 

Wearing my dungarees all the damn time. 

Loving the lighter nights and the bursts of sunshine we’ve been having. 

Cooking a couple of roast dinners. 

Getting my bridesmaid on and organising a hen do! 

Celebrating my new tumble dryer! Adulting at its best… 

Buying our new car (can you tell we’re nesting?). 

Laughing until I cried at the All Killa No Filla live show. 

Lathering this moisturiser on now that I’ve got a proper bump! 

Trying to practice a bit more self care

Moving a lot slower than before! 

Feeling baby kicking more and more every day but… 

Stressing when I don’t feel him quite so much! It’s a rollercoaster, this pregnancy lark. 

Learning more about copywriting with the wonderful Elly

Watching Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra, Garfunkel & Oates, and Big Little Lies

Taking some of my favourite Instagram pictures of all time. 

Starting the countdown to maternity leave… 

Receiving a wonderful email letter from my Grandad about this post

Scoffing Mini Eggs. It’s basically compulsory at this time of year. 

Going on a pizza date with Paul at Pizza Fella

Winning the work bake off! (At long last…) 

How about you? 

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5 Things I’ve Learnt About Self Care in Pregnancy

Self Care in Pregnancy // Amy Elizabeth

This weekend, self care looked a whole lot like caterpillar cake. Like any good grammar school girl, I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to be ‘perfect’, which tends to mean bringing freshly baked goods whenever I visit someone’s house, or invite someone to mine. This weekend, though, I gave myself permission to buy a cake instead – a birthday caterpillar cake for the birthday girl in question. Cake is cake, after all, and after two nights of broken sleep and a hectic week at work, I just couldn’t bring myself to drag myself into the kitchen. And you know what? The world didn’t burn to the ground. My friends didn’t love me any less. And we still ate cake. 

Being pregnant has been a game changer in so many ways, but it’s really made me take a step back and prioritise self care. In the original sense of the word – not bubble baths and scented candles and manicures, but remembering to eat, getting some basic exercise and all that jazz. You know, the stuff that actually keeps you alive and able to function. As someone who has previously enjoyed good health, both physical and mental, it’s been a bit of a learning curve and I suspect it will only become more so as this baby makes himself more at home. 

Work with your body, not against it

I’ve always been able to ‘push’ myself on the occasions that I’ve needed to; whether that’s late nights or early mornings for work or play, I’ve been able to ignore what my body’s telling me if I’ve needed to. Obviously that’s not a sustainable strategy for life, so it’s not been something I’ve done much – but I could if I wanted to. Now? I just can’t without suffering the consequences quite severely. Me and my body have had to become a bit of a team, working together rather than against each other. Things are a lot easier if I give my body what it wants and needs, even if that means missing out on a night or two. 

You really, really can’t do everything

I didn’t expect growing a baby to take up so much time and effort. I kind of thought it was going to take place in the background, and I would mostly get to carry on as normal. Oh, how I laugh at poor, naive past Amy. Despite not requiring any *active* participation, your body’s going through a whole mess of stuff and I’ve definitely found myself a lot slower over the past few months, even as I’ve felt better from all the morning sickness and whatnot. I am slower at walking, at turning over in bed, and there’s so much ‘baby stuff’ to be thinking about that I’m always a little bit distracted. Gone are the days of blogging until the early hours (jk, my bedtime is always 10pm at the latest), cooking everything from scratch and packing my diary full of plans. It’s the caterpillar cake all over again. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what you can do, because you can’t do everything. 

Make fewer plans 

There are some things you just can’t avoid in life; work and chores are on the top of that list for me. I need to turn up to work every day and continue to do a good job, and I need to keep my house vaguely clean & tidy, and make sure we have some food in the cupboards every week. On top of that, other obligations are pretty much optional. Gone are the days of heading out after work every night for some such or the other event or gathering, I’ve worked out through trial and error that two is my maximum. That includes my volunteering commitments and my yoga class. And if I exceed that number for some reason (usually work meetings running late), then I need to have a free weekend or I will eventually cease to function. It’s a good reminder to give yourself some space in the calendar for rest and recuperation – and is probably applicable to pre-pregnancy Amy, too… she just tended to ignore it. 

Exercise is not optional

I have never been a big fan of exercise, in any form. I’ve tried to get into running a few times, and taken a few exercise classes here and there as an adult, but the attitude towards exercise that I developed as an awkward teen during freezing hockey lessons has pretty much stuck. It’s always been on my list of ‘one day’, but that day really needs to be right now. I felt super sick for the first few months of my pregnancy, and I feel like I’ve been super busy and hectic ever since, but it’s something I really need to make time for to stop my body from rebelling against me entirely. A weekly yoga class, at the very least, goes a long way to relieving the various aches and pains I’m currently experiencing, and I need to incorporate more stretching and whatnot into my everyday life to try and make life a little bit better for the next four months. Turns out that they’re not  entirely bullshitting when they say that exercise is good for you, after all… 

The Rule of ‘Most’

Are you eating healthily, getting some exercise, sleeping the right amount… most of the time? It can be easy to beat yourself up if you let something slip for a day or two, but if you take a wider view of things, you’re probably doing okay. A takeaway every now and again, or an occasional late night is not the end of the world as long as you follow the rule and try to do better most of the time. Over the course of a week, or a month, or a whole pregnancy? As long as you’re looking after yourself for the most part, those slip ups will fade away in the big picture.  

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All the Brownies // Brownie & Blondie Recipes

Baking is my therapy. I find it very soothing to create something out of flour, sugar and butter, surrendering to the process and then enjoying the fruits of my labour at the end of it all. Which means that I generally prefer to bake ‘easy’ things; lovely layer cakes with fancy decoration or elaborate patisserie creations rarely find their way out of my kitchen. Instead, simple bakes like brownies and blondies are my go to. They don’t involve a whole lot of brain power, or washing up, which makes them the perfect cure for what ails you. Whilst a really good fudgey brownie is a thing of beauty, sometimes it can be fun to mix it up a bit, so I’ve pulled together my favourite brownie and blondie recipes for you to try… 

Toblerone Brownies Recipe

Toblerone Brownies

Win friends and compliments with these super simple brownies. Best of all, they don’t use the whole bar, so you can still sneak a few triangles whilst you’re baking…

Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies

Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies

Rhubarb is my jam, and it’s still just in season – so make these quick! You could substitute for strawberries, if rhubarb is hard to come by – but you just can’t beat those beautiful pink stalks when you find them!

Mini Egg Brownies // Amy Elizabeth

Mini Egg Brownies

Mini Eggs are basically crack to me, which makes these brownies very dangerous indeed.

Vegan Coconut Brownies // Amy Elizabeth

Vegan Coconut Brownies

Don’t compromise when catering for vegan friends; these vegan brownies don’t use any unusual ingredients (by which I mean, you won’t have to make a special trip to the health food shop) and are just as fudgey as ‘regular’ brownies.

Lemon and Raspberry Blondies

Simple, summery and full of fresh raspberries that burst in every bite. Don’t give these all away, or you’ll regret it!

Dark & Stormy Brownies - Rum and Ginger Brownies // Amy Elizabeth

Dark & Stormy Brownies

Ginger, lime and rum all come together to make these brownies a bit of a tastes sensation. A little bit unusual; a lot more-ish.

Brown Butter Blondies

Sometimes it’s best to let your ingredients do the talking. Browning butter brings out a delicious nutty flavour that’s the star of these simple blondies.

 

The best brownie recipes including Toblerone brownies, vegan coconut brownies, Mini Egg brownies and Dark & Stormy brownies

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On Being the Eldest Child

[Photo by Jenn Richardson]

Unsurprisingly, I think a lot about what our little baby will be like, and what his life might be like. I am boundlessly curious about the future, and an endless planner (even when I know there can be no such thing as planning for the future, not really). If we are lucky, he will be the eldest brother to a sibling or two, which is something I’ve been also thinking about a lot. I recently listened to the Dear Sugar episode on sibling rivalry, and a few comments they made really gave me pause for thought. 

I have always thought of myself as the quintessential eldest child; I have a brother who is younger than me by 2 years and a sister who is younger by 7. I don’t know if it is scientifically proven, but myth suggests that birth order can shape your personality, with eldest children tending to be high achieving, perfectionist Type As who have trouble admitting when they’re wrong or accepting criticism. Um… so far, so very, very me. 

With great power comes great responsibility, of course, because as the eldest child you are also cast into a surrogate parenting role. I’ve felt that very strongly in more recent years; with my family no longer the tidy unit it once was, I do feel more of a responsibility towards my siblings, to look after and look out for them (not that they really need it so much, they are adults after all). I remember speaking with a friend who is another eldest child about this very idea; when it comes to family trouble, it can sometimes feel as though your worry is doubled as the eldest, as not only are you struggling with the situation yourself, but also perhaps shouldering a greater part of the burden. I remember quite clearly not crying at my grandmother’s funeral; not because I wasn’t incredibly sad, but because I had one sibling sobbing on each shoulder and *someone* in that situation has to be the non-cryer. 

This is quite literally the latest photo I have with my siblings (and our hangers on) and it’s maybe 3 years old?! Note to self: take more photos. 

It is interesting how much stock we put into friendships and romantic relationships in comparison to those we have with our siblings (I’m sure the breadth of articles on the Internet about the former two would eclipse the latter by far) when in fact our sibling relationships are likely to be the longest relationships of our lives, if we have them. Our relationships with our siblings are a template for the relationships we have with others for the rest of our lives; through them we learn to negotiate, to compromise and what our ‘place’ in the world is. I know not everyone is as lucky as I am; I actually like and love my siblings despite, as well as because of, the fact that we share our genetics, and whilst I wouldn’t characterise our relationship as particularly close, they are still a central part of my life and I consider them often in the decisions I make. I don’t doubt that I am often replicating the role I take with my siblings in my other relationships, and I would be interested in whether my siblings do the same. 

One of the most interesting things they mentioned on the Dear Sugar podcast was that you don’t grow up in the same family as your siblings; whilst it sounds absurd, it is, of course, true. We have individual relationships even within our family, and the same scenario that seems wildly unfair to one sibling is likely to feel just or natural to another. It’s interesting to step outside of your own experience (in my case as the eldest child) to think about what those defining years of childhood might have felt like for the people sharing your home, but not your exact same view. Again, I am lucky that I don’t *think* that my parents favoured any of us in particular (my Mum always says that we are all her favourite children) and actively, in my eyes, discouraged sibling rivalry. My siblings and I are all quite different in personality, skills and interests, which certainly helps in that regard. 

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out in my little family now – once baby arrives, and maybe when we add siblings to the mix. Are you a quintessential eldest/middle/younger/only child? I’d love to hear your stories, too!  

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