One Whole Year

Leeds City Wedding

PHOTOS BY JENNA WOODWARD PHOTOGRAPHY

One whole year and one day. That’s how long we’ve been married. A lifetime and no time at all. 

How wonderful, truly, it is to be loved. In any capacity. Our wedding was not just about the love that I have for Paul, and that he has for me, although that is part of it. It was also about the love that we have for and from our families and friends. 

But how ridiculously lucky I have been, and still am, to love and be loved by Paul. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to look after my heart and to be on a life-team with. That has been proven to me time and again over this year, at times big and small. People say that marriage is hard, and that the first year of marriage is the hardest – but for me, the opposite is true. It is easy to love and be loved by Paul, and I attribute that far more to his spirit than to mine, which is high-maintenance at best.

Leeds City Wedding

I have no doubt that there are far more storms in our future for us to weather than there have been in our past. Sometimes I worry about what is to come – at times it feels like I’m using up all of my quota of happiness all at once, and that stressful times are just around the corner – but I’m hoping that’s just my general anxiety trying to spook me rather than a real premonition of the future. That said, life is full of things both trying and truly wonderful, so we can only hope that the latter outweighs the former. 

I often think about the way that Paul and I met, and it weirds me out that we ended up here. For him to read my blog all those years ago and to take a chance on sending me an email, and for us to end up married? I could never have imagined it, but I am so grateful for it. The Internet has brought me so many things, but Paul is the best one of them. 

wedding at left bank leeds

I can only apologise for the soppy nature of this post – it’s certainly not my usual fare. I want to share some wisdom on a year of marriage, but what can I possibly share? It’s a lifetime but also no time at all – and I feel I’ve learnt nothing, really. Nothing that will be of any interest or help to you, anyway. I hope to stand here (or stand somewhere – who knows how the Internet will look by then?) in fifty years and really have something to share, but until then I’ll just think about how lucky I am. 

 

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Weekend Link Love

grass

[Photo by Sujan Sundareswaran]

Hey pals! First up, did I just blog five times in one week? Yes, I think I did. My new attitude towards blogging is making things a whole lot easier and less stressful. There will be more recipes coming soon, I promise, but they just take that bit longer to plan and the weekends have been chock-a-block recently! Even when they’re three days long, they just seem to fill up, don’t they? Yesterday we helped our sweet friends Joe & Cheryl move into their new house. They’re having such an exciting year and they are the best people. Although next time, they need to live in a ground floor flat – my legs can’t take all the running up and down stairs! 

And then we spent the evening at Kendell’s Bistro, celebrating our wedding anniversary. How did that come around so fast? Technically it’s on Monday, so pop back for a soppy blog post then. I’ve been wanting to go to Kendell’s for almost as long as I’ve lived in Leeds, so it’s exciting that I get to use this opportunity to not only hang out with my favourite person but also eat delicious French food. Life is good, people. This week also saw me wearing my first pair of dungarees as an adult, celebrating pay day with Aperol Spritzes and finishing ‘The Nest‘, which is a pretty stellar read. If you like New York books and family drama books, then definitely check it out! How has your week been? 

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April

april

Exchanging contracts on our new house. 

Changing my attitude to blogging and feeling better for it. 

Crying at Katie & Ed’s speech at their beautiful wedding. 

Singing karaoke after getting very drunk at said wedding… 

Reconnecting with University friends. 

Making TV a much more social activity with Netflix nights (and Netflix brunches). 

Getting addicted to Reign

Planning my Leeds Indie Food line-up

Taking ballet classes and not feeling that graceful… 

Falling in love with Mr Darcy all over again. 

Listening to podcasts every day. How did I live without them? 

Buying new sofas like a real grown-up. 

Re-starting Game of Thrones Mondays. 

Battling with my birth control. What fun we have as women, eh? 

Performing my first bridesmaid duties – watching the bride try on dresses, Prosecco in hand! It’s a tough life. 

Making salads, despite the weather being less than Spring-like. 

Helping Joe & Cheryl move to their new home. Stacking up the favours ready for our own move! 

Dining at Kendells to celebrate our anniversary. So happy to get there at last. 

Buying (and wearing) dungarees! 

How about you?

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Things I’m Looking Forward To

In less than one month, we’ll be holding the keys to our new house. It’s going to be a big project – when we’re through, no room will be the same (hopefully). I’m not looking forward to the weekends and evenings of DIY to get it that way, but here are the things I am looking forward to… 

home

[Photo by Alvin Engler]

Taking a bath whenever I want one. We only have a shower, right now.

Stocking up on fancy bath bombs and oils and other assorted accessories for said baths. 

Tuna discovering that her kingdom has doubled overnight, and watching her find her new favourite napping spots. 

Hanging art and photos and prints all over the walls and not worrying about landlords who don’t like nails in walls very much. 

Stocking our wine fridge with bottles of Prosecco for upcoming celebrations (because, of course, there will be lots to celebrate whilst we live there). 

Popping open said bottles of Prosecco, just because. No need for celebration, really. 

Not having to close the curtains whilst it’s still light outside. Our current front room has a large window which looks out onto a fairly busy walkway – not what you want when you’re chilling in PJs! 

Having a desk for working and blogging and writing letters to my Grandma. 

Afternoon barbecues which run into evening drinks which run into night-time dance parties. 

Cooking Christmas dinner on our range, with plenty of space for all the pigs-in-blankets my family always demands. 

Mixing up cocktails from our bar cart, whatever the occasion. 

Baking bread on a Sunday afternoon, with the windows open and the radio on. 

Taking Instagram pictures of said bread on the dining table that Paul is threatening to build for me… 

Fresh towels. Unscratched plates. Pristine bedding. New everything, almost. 

Sitting outside on the decking (not built) with a fire in the fire pit (not bought) and toasting marshmallows (essential). 

Unlocking the door for the very first time… 

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April Book Reviews

April Book Reviews // Amy Elizabeth

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld*

I was so sceptical when I picked up this book, but by the time I put it down I had been utterly charmed by it. A modern re-telling of Pride & Prejudice set in Cincinnati, where Elizabeth Bennett is a journalist and Mr Darcy is a brain surgeon – you can see why I was a little wary, yes? I love the original Austen novel so much and reread it as often as I can, so felt very protective of the story and of the sentiment but I needn’t have worried; Curtis Sittenfeld is quite obviously an even bigger Austen fan than I am, so diligently has she observed and recreate the spirit of Austen’s work. If anything, she is kinder to the characters than Austen once was – Lydia and Kitty, in particular, get off very lightly and Lydia actually has one of the best storylines in the novel. It’s not an exact replica, but Sittenfeld captures everything I love about the original story and adds some delicious twists and turns that I would never have expected but which added another layer to this modern story (see: hate sex with Mr Darcy…). If you’re a Pride & Prejudice fan, then this is definitely one for you.  My one complaint is about the cover, which appears to have no bearing on the book itself and is just dire – so please, do not judge this book by its cover! 

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell* 

Lois & Carly-May were abducted by a stranger and imprisoned in a cabin for two months when they were just twelve years old. Whilst there, they formed a bond that would never be broken but after they were released they fell out of touch. Decades later, they both have new lives and identities but when Carly-May is cast in the movie that Lois wrote about the incident, they must face each other and their past. 

 

For a thriller, this book felt a little flat to me and the events were a little too far-fetched and convenient to have me at the edge of my seat. It starts out very promising – an abduction not based on murder or sexual violence with two victims selected very specifically by their abductor? Tell me more, please. But the book seems to hinge on the mystery about what ‘really’ happened that summer – when nothing really happened that much at all. Lois is the main storyteller, and we get an extract from her book as explanation for the summer’s events which makes you, the reader, at least two times removed from the truth, which is very frustrating and makes it hard to grasp at the heart of the story. Whilst teenage Lois and Carly-May were pretty interesting, their adult selves just didn’t inspire all that much excitement and were actually kind of frustrating (Lois, in particular, acts in a ridiculous way throughout the novel with very little explanation). There was one heart-stopping moment, for me at least, but it fizzled out before it could really begin. I just wanted more from this book – more action, more insight, more character. 

The Doll-Master And Other Tales Of Horror by Joyce Carol Oates* 

We all know dolls are one of the creepiest things around, which is why I had high hopes that this book would chill me to the bone. However, the focus of this collection seems to be more on disorientating and disturbing the reader than on truly terrifying them. Each was a suspenseful story, with deranged characters and an ominous feel about them, but at no point was I really scared the way I was when I read Bird Box, for instance. Some, I felt, were a little drawn out – particularly those which are monologues – and I had guessed the ending far before it came, which is quite unlike me. My favourite stories actually came near the end of the collection – Big Momma, about the new girl in town, who hitches a lift with a classmate and her rather creepy father, and Mystery Inc., about a businessman who comes across a beautiful (and profitable!) mystery book store which he is determined to make his own… These are dark stories, in truth, but they are not terrifying ones. 

April Book Reviews // Amy Elizabeth

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood*

Miss Ona Viktus is one hundred and four, and has lived a mostly uneventful life. When the Boy Scout troop send round an earnest eleven-year-old boy to help her with some chores, they form an unlikely friendship. Obsessed with world records, they embark on a project together and Ona starts to feel like she’s special after all. Until one weekend, his father, Quinn, shows up in his place to finish his good deed for him… 

If you’re looking for a whimsical, heart-warming read then I do urge you to pick this up. It’s a little slow to begin with and I had to force myself to keep picking it back up until I reached the halfway point where I began to speed through the rest. The relationship between the boy and Ona is really beautiful, and they are both wonderfully memorable characters with unique little quirks. Not all that much happens really, although you learn the life story of both Ona and Quinn, but it is warm and thought-provoking – about the value of a life, the connections we make and how we can really make an impact. I don’t think I’ll rush to pick this back up again, but it will stick with me for a good while longer. 

Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard* 

I am so easily sucked into this little novellas that are starting to pop up everywhere around young adult trilogies. I just always want to know more – and Cruel Crown tells the story of two women who feature prominently in the Red Queen series but who don’t get a chance to tell their own tales. Queen Song tells how Queen Coriane became the first wife of King Tiberias, amongst deadly challenges from her rivals, whilst Steel Scars gives us Farley’s back story as she travels the land to further the Red cause. These were both enjoyable enough stories, but I don’t think they added anything particularly to the overall story arc of the series. Whilst I found Queen Song compelling – who doesn’t love a bit of royal romance and some intrigue – I wanted much more from Steel Scars which I actually found quite dull. If you’re a big fan of the series, you might want to check these out – but if you’re more of a casual observer like me then I’d give it a miss and wait it out until the next instalment! 

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Elena loves Star Wars, and she’s determined to queue for the new movie despite her mother’s warnings to the contrary. She’s expecting parties to happen and lifelong friendships to form. Instead, there are just three people in the queue (including Elena) and she doesn’t think that either of them understand how she really feels about Star Wars. 

I honestly don’t know how Rainbow Rowell does it. She is some sort of magician. Every time, I fall head over heels for her characters and find myself rooting for romance – which is so not my usual style. This is a short novella, published for World Book Day, and is a perfect one day read if you need something to make you feel good about the world again.

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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Is It Okay to Enjoy Sad Books?

a little life

I need to talk about ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. I think I might need to talk about it for the rest of time to process the many, many emotions that it inspires. This is a heavy book – both in actual weight and emotional weight – and it left me sobbing by the end. What seems a simple story about male friendship becomes so much more when you begin to dig beneath the surface. It is heart-breakingly sad. I say that about so many books (my heart is easily broken) but A Little Life took a piece of my heart and will never, ever return it.

After college, Jude, JB, Malcolm and Willem move to New York to pursue their dreams. They are more like brothers than friends, and their affection for each other is the light of this book and moved me to tears at more than one point. There is a scene where JB is painting portraits of his friends that will stick with me for a long time. But whilst they are close, none of them know the true pain that Jude is carrying with him; they know that he has long-term injuries because of an accident in the past and that he avoids certain topics, but they can never guess at the events that have lead him to the moment where they all met. As the reader, these events are revealed to you in time and they are more horrifying than you could imagine, and they haunt Jude (and as a result, everyone around him) for the entire novel. 

I don’t get to see this side of male friendship much – in life or in fiction. Obviously, as a woman, I am au fait with the nuances of friendship between women but the world of male friendship is closed off to me. I’ve not come across a portrayal of such strong male friendship in literature before; maybe that is because of the books that I read – my wheelhouse is very much books about women – or maybe it’s just because it’s not something that’s touched on all that much. As I said, for me that is the shining light of this novel; the friendships between Jude and his friends – both the original foursome and others he encounters – are touching in the extreme and display true love for one another. However, it’s not enough to cover the great pain of this book. 

But whilst it broke me down into little shards and left me emotionally drained for days, I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the prose. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the rare moments of joy and the hope that I carried through the book. And it made me wonder… is it okay to enjoy a book which is so desperately, desperately sad? Which plays off real human suffering to create the story? 

Because Jude has suffered. His suffering is almost unbelievable. At times, it was uncomfortable to watch. It felt voyeuristic, to be so keen to find out what happened to him before he met Malcolm, JB and Willem. He is so private about his story, that it makes you want to find out even more (although when I did find out, I sort of wish I never had). Not only that, but the events of Jude’s life are improbable, if not impossible (how can one boy be so unlucky?) and it felt at times like Yanagihara was piling on the most intense experiences onto him as a sort of game. How much can one person suffer and still live? How much can one person suffer and still be a good person (for Jude is so good that he is basically a saint, despite never having been shown a speck of real love in his formative years)? 

Not only that, but the reading of a sad book like this is cathartic. I felt drained after it, but also purged. Guilty, slightly, but also glad that it was not me nor any of my loved ones who had suffered such a fate. I was shocked that the happy ending I had hoped for never materialised – although I am often shocked in this way, as an eternal optimist who is often falling in love with doomed characters. But I did enjoy it, overall. And I would recommend it one hundred times over – if anything, I would demand that you read it (although be sure to grab a box of tissues before you do). 

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Weekend Link Love

strawberry

[Photo by veeterzy

Hey, friends! Long time, no speak. It’s been a funny few weeks, all in all. We bought a house! Like, really truly bought it. We have a moving in date and everything. This summer is going to be for a whole lot of DIY and maybe some backyard picnics. I’m down for it. I started ballet classes, which I love. Anything that gets me moving and makes me listen to dramatic classical music is definitely A-OK with me right now. I got to do my first ever set of bridesmaid duties, which basically consisted of drinking Prosecco and looking at pretty dresses and telling my beautiful friend how beautiful she is. Which is kind of how I want to spend every day for the rest of time. I have felt stuck in a rut for most of 2016. I’m not sure what it is, but I suspect that it’s all the waiting that goes along with house buying – we can finally make plans without worrying if they’ll clash with house things, and I’m hoping that will make all the difference. It is no fun to be in a rut. I’ve felt a lot like I was in the same place this year as I was last year, which is not the best feeling in the world. I think getting stuck into a massive house renovation project will stop that, too. I’m ready to start enjoying all the things and skipping down the street and generally loving life all over again. We only get one, you know? 

 

 

 

 

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Connection

bus

[Photo by Matthew Wiebe]

This morning, I got on the bus as usual. The sun was shining, which was unusual. The driver smiled, which is also a bit unusual (why so grumpy, bus drivers of Leeds?). But everything else? Was usual.

A couple of stops along, a woman sat next to me. Her phone rang. I don’t like to eavesdrop (who am I kidding, of course I do, but I don’t like people to think I do), but her conversation was the only noise on the otherwise silent bus. It was her mother on the other end, and from what I could gather from a rather one-sided conversation, she (the mother) was in respite care and unhappy about it. The woman next to me, on her way to work, could do nothing about that fact, of course. But she listened and reassured. She asked her mother to stop crying, and she said she would visit tomorrow.

I was in awe of this women. To have that much stress put upon you before you even get to work in the morning is no easy feat. But I also felt a bit paralysed. She was clearly upset (the mother, but also the woman next to me) but this was a private conversation – even if it was happening in such a public arena. I was torn – to reach out and pat her arm as I would to a friend who was having that conversation next to me, offer an acknowledgement and perhaps a comfort, or to stay silent and not get in her business. It’s still plaguing me now, because I, of course, stayed silent.

I wanted to tell her that she was doing a great job. That she was a wonderful daughter. That things must be tough but, as my Grandma says, this too shall pass. Keep on keeping on. Can I buy you a coffee or maybe a hot chocolate stuffed with cream and marshmallows to bring a smile to your day? But we don’t talk on buses, right? She is a stranger to me (although I now know all this about her). It is frowned upon to hug a stranger, even if they probably really need a hug. We deny that connection, out of fear and politeness. The British stiff upper lip.

I am still torn, now. I can’t decide whether I would want someone to reach out to me if I was in a similar situation (I think I would…) or whether I would find it embarrassing for my pain to be seen so clearly by another, a stranger. What would you do?

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An Open Letter to My Blog

open letter to my blog

[Photo by Green Chameleon]

Hey Boo

It’s me. I think it’s time that we talked. Because what we’ve got going on? It’s not working for me. And I don’t think it’s working for you, either. You deserve more from me. I know that I can be hot and cold – some weeks, it’s like we’re barely apart, and others, it’s like you don’t exist. But I’ll be honest, I think you expect too much from me sometimes. It’s unhealthy, this cycle of obsession, neglect and guilt. That much I know for sure.

But you know what else I know for sure? I am a blogger. It’s just who I am. I have been blogging for around ten years – longer than I have done almost anything else other than eat, sleep, and read. Blogging is my first love, and is so much a part of my personality that I think I would be a blogger even if I didn’t have a blog.

Things have changed in that time. What was once a nerdy hobby that none of my friends understood, now blogging is a glossy career that my friends still don’t understand. Scribbled musings have given way to staged photoshoots and content creators. I started blogging before I started tweeting, Instagramming or even oversharing on Facebook (although I like to think I’m not too guilty of that one). Now? Social media is an extension of blogging, an obligatory if enjoyable extra. I’m not saying that any of this is a bad thing – I don’t like the lamenting for the ‘good old days’ without an acknowledgement of the ‘good new days’. But things are different, now.

Let’s be real – we’re never going to be professionals, you and I. That’s just not the way we work. I like the buzz of an office, the security of a regular paycheck, and the company of colleagues. Not to mention that, despite my many years in the trenches, I don’t think I have what it takes. So I want this to be fun, for both of us. I’ve got a lot going on IRL. There’s a lot of competition for my time, and I often feel a lot of anxiety about how I spend it. If I’m blogging and spending time with you, I worry that I’m missing out. And if I’m doing something else and spending time with others, I feel guilty about not taking care of you. You are selfless – you wait for me to return – but sometimes I threaten not to and that seems unfair to you. Sometimes I like the idea of a life without you – whole weekends without posts to write, emails to return, photos to take. Can you imagine such a thing? And yet, when you left me briefly earlier this year (thanks to my own technical incompetence) I sobbed as if a relative had died. I have poured myself into this space, it is a record of my life and a testament to my achievements and I couldn’t live without you.

So let’s change things up. Let’s make friends again. No schedule. No pressure. More posts that I can look back on in years to come and sigh and giggle at the memories. Less blogging for blogging’s own sake. More writing and enjoying and recording. Shall we?

You’re still my number one. Always and forever.

Lots of love

Amy

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My Leeds Indie Food Picks!

Photo by Ifty Patel

Photo by Ifty Patel

Hey pals! Can you believe that it’s almost that time again? The Leeds Indie Food Festival was definitely one of the highlights of last year, and it’s back again with even bigger and better events. They’ve just released the tickets for everything so I thought I’d pull together a little round-up of the events that I’ve got my eye on… 

Photos by: http://www.facebook.com/tomjoyphotography • Instagram/Twitter: @tomjoyphoto

Photos by: http://www.facebook.com/tomjoyphotography • Instagram/Twitter: @tomjoyphoto

Leeds Feast

Paul’s been buzzing about Leeds Feast ever since last year, and he marked it in the calendar as soon as the dates were released. This is an unticketed event, so just turn up and get ready to gorge yourself silly on some of the UK’s best street food. This year it’s spread over Belgrave, Headrow House and Northern Monk Brewery – some of the coolest venues in town – and it’s sure to be a good couple of days. See you there, yeah? 

In Defence of Plants

I’ve already booked my spot for this brunch, hosted by two of my favourite foodie ladies – Sarah Lemanski from Noisette Bakehouse and Izy Hossack from Top With Cinnamon. It’s a bit of a departure for me; as suggested by the title it’s a plant-based menu, and I’m excited to try something new! 

Jessie Leong - #LIF15- The Great Edible Art Show- Eat the Art - d1b8e4dc-fcad-11e4-aebe-46bfd53c547e - Original

Photo by Jessie Leong

Edible Art Show: City of Cake 

Last year’s exhibition was one of my favourite parts of the festival, and this year The Tattooed Bakers are stepping it up a notch with an ‘awe inspiring architectural representation of our city’s cultural landscape’. Made of cake. Yep. The exhibition is running for a week, so don’t miss out on the chance to catch a glimpse of this masterpiece! 

50×50: A Night At The Spa 

This is the stuff that my dreams are made of. Truly. Sadly, I think the price tag may preclude me from going (new kitchens don’t buy themselves, unfortunately) but I’m sure I’m going to regret it when I see photos. You might already know that Norse is one of my favourite restaurants, and one of the most exciting places to dine in Yorkshire, and for this event they’re making the trip to Leeds for one night only with an ambitious FIFTY course Nordic tasting menu, matched with beverages from some of the finest Yorkshire drinks producers. Be still my beating heart… When you put it like that, it really sounds like a bargain. 

The Swine That Dines at Lazy Lounge: Cocktails and Canapes

Two of Leeds most well-respected foodies are teaming up for two of my favourite courses – cocktails and canapes! The Swine That Dines is renowned for their innovative food, and the cocktails from Lazy Lounge have been described as ‘exuberant’. Now that’s my kind of evening… 

Chef: The Experience

This was one of the best things that I did last year (second to marrying Paul, of course!) and I’ve been raving about it to everyone who will listen ever since. If you only do one Leeds Indie Food thing this year, make it this. Have you ever been watching someone cook on TV and wished you had a plate of what they’re making in front of you? Well, Belgrave are gonna make your dreams come true. Sit back and watch the wonderful, happy-making film Chef whilst being served the delicious food from the screen. You’ll be buzzing afterwards, I promise. 

Jessie Leong - #LIF15- An Evening with The House of Fu-Schnikens - 5ae44a42-fb25-11e4-a5b2-46bfd53c547e - Original

Photo by Jessie Leong

An Evening with Fu-Schnikens

Street food legends Fu-Schnikens are bringing their infamous asian cuisine to Ox Club for a one-off pop-up experience. I’ve heard theirs going to be sake, so you know it’s going to be a good night. 

Turning Tables: A Cous Cous Bang Bang Supper Club

If you’ve ever read Thom’s blog then you’ll probably have giggled at his reviews and drooled over his food. Making his supper club debut, Thom’s working with The Grub & Grog Shop to bring you five mysterious courses inspired by the Tripadvisor Top 10 and all proceeds are being donated to The Trussell Trust. Good food and a good cause? I’m there. 

Women / Art / Food: A Woman’s Place

Do you know what I love? Pudding? Do you know what I love more than pudding? Pudding and booze. Do you know what I love even more than that? Six courses of pudding with matched drinks inspired by and honouring six powerful women from the patisserie and confectionary trade. It’s almost like they made this event for me. 

Photo by Jessie Leong.  Oh, how I wish I'd bought this print last year!

Photo by Jessie Leong.
Oh, how I wish I’d bought this print last year!

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