An Update

amyliz

Hey friends, how’s it going? You might have noticed that things are a bit quiet around here at the moment – and I am blaming that all on The Wedding. We’re getting married a week on Saturday (so soon!), so I’ve had to start doing all the jobs and chores that I completely ignored for the first 17 months of planning this thing… On top of an increasingly busy work life and some social bits and pieces here and there, it hasn’t left much time for blogging. I don’t want to abandon this space, but at the same time it has been nice to have some weekends where I’m not worrying about getting blog stuff done. Running a blog and posting even semi-regularly takes up an awful lot of time and brain space, so I think I’m going to be adjusting how things work around here to give me more time for Real Life (such as it is). We’ll see how that goes, once I’m back off honeymoon. I just wanted to drop in and say hello, and see what you’ve all been up to! So, what have you been up to? Here’s a few things that have been filling my days: 

  • I went to a crochet class at Baa Ram Ewe and it was excellent – I’ve been practising my crochet ever since! 
  • I freaked out about wedding stuff a lot. Mostly because no one had RSVP-ed. Never again, my friends. Never again. 
  • I went to Kielder Observatory and shivered a lot and looked at the stars through a telescope. It was pretty cool. 
  • I put on my walking boots and walked around Kielder Water in the sunshine. Can I do that every weekend, please? 
  • I spent waaayyy too long reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Have you read it? 
  • I picked all my favourite songs for our wedding playlist and relived the glory years of 00s hiphop. 
  • I’ve spent all my spare money on a Spring wardrobe – including a denim dress from Oasis that I never want to take off. 
  • I had a fantastic meal with my favourite girls at The Hungry Bear. There was a lot of wine and it was good. 
  • I made an excellent Lamb Kleftiko over the Easter weekend. I’m still dreaming about it (and the potatoes that went with it). 
  • I’m getting excited about asparagus season. It’s my favourite season. 
  • I’ve been to about a million wedding dress fittings. It’s almost done, and I’m excited to wear it. It’s sparkly! 

And that’s about it! How about you? 

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Book Club

book 1

I find myself quite attracted to Young Adult fiction at the moment. I have avoided it for the most part in the past, finding a lot of the tropes that characterise the genre a little frustrating, but right now it’s exactly what I need and I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by a couple of those that I have picked up. It’s nice escapism, which is exactly why I loved reading as a teenager. I feel like I’d lost that part of reading for a while – I read to appreciate the beauty of writing, to find passages that made me think about the world, about myself – but sometimes I just want to read purely for entertainment and that is why Young Adult has been so perfect for me in the past few weeks. 

On a separate note, I’m considering doing these book reviews in video format in the future (or maybe as a podcast?!). I’ve been watching some BookTubers and I love hearing other people talk about books. I think it’s easier to get across enthusiasm and nuance when you can see someone’s face rather than just read their words (is that ironic, given that we’re talking about books here?!). Anyway, watch this space! 

 

book 2

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

This is the book that really epitomises the adage ‘you should never judge a book by its cover’. So many people have raved about this book, so I picked it up on the Kindle Daily Deals a few weeks back. I was hooked as soon as I started reading, which is really not what I was expecting. It was surprising in so many ways, but I particularly enjoyed the depiction of fan fiction culture, which sat so well against the other storylines. I loved the way the characters gleefully embraced their fangirl natures. This book was really heart-warming and I couldn’t get enough. It made me want to go back to Uni and do research on fan culture, which is the nerdy sociologist in me talking, but I really thought it was an excellent, unusual backdrop for the usual YA story. Definitely worth reading, even if you’re put off by the pastel cover! 

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas 

Combining a murder mystery thriller with glamorous teens, this is YA tropes writ large and I am unashamed in having enjoyed it. I think the ending was a little more predictable than I think was intended, but it still had that glorious moment of realisation when you realise your suspicions are true, and the whole story has been turned upside down. Some of the characters were a little bit lazy – the boyfriend, in particular – and I’m sort of over the ‘hottest, richest guy at school dates the protagonist and turns out to be perfect and sensitive’ because it’s so unrealistic, but it the story was tense and the friendship between the two main characters made up for a bit of laziness in the other areas. 

Perfume by Patrick Süskind 

Something slightly different from all that YA! This is a dark, Gothic tale about Grenouille, a man with an intense sense of smell – which doesn’t sound that dark until he starts murdering women in order to capture their perfect scent. He becomes obsessed with creating a perfume which would cause others to worship him as a God, which goes pretty much as you can imagine. This book is deliciously creepy, and the descriptions of scents are incredibly evocative. I wasn’t in love with this book, but I definitely appreciated the exploration of smell as an important part of humanity and the sinister, but slightly pathetic, character of Grenouille. 

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill 

I absolutely LOVED this book. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, going into it, which made it all the better – it was unusual, surprising and lifted me completely out of my own world and into the chaotic, slightly dingy version of Montreal that O’Neill had created on paper. The story follows Nouschka Tremblay as she begins to navigate adulthood; she’s the daughter of a famous folk singer who exploited her and her twin brother Nicholas for the sake of his career whilst abandoning him to the care of their grandparents and her whole life has been messy, grubby and lacking in stability. Her relationship with her twin brother is destructive, as he goes down a darker path and she tries to cling on to a ‘normal’ life, always teetering on the edge. This is a slightly surreal read – I particularly loved the way she described the many cats that hang around in the novel – and incredibly compelling. I loved Nouschka, I wanted her to have the best, happy ending. You’ll have to read it to find out if she gets one! 

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill 

I couldn’t put this book down; it was absolutely fantastic. O’Neill (no relation to the previous O’Neill, I don’t think…) creates an intense feminist dystopia, where women are ‘bred’ and trained in a special academy to be the companions of men. Only a few can have the coveted wife spots, and there is prestige to be won by being chosen by the richest, most important boys, so they are in fierce competition with each other. A lot of the novel is taken up with their obsession with the way they look, with their weight, with how they compare with each other. It’s society’s body image issues writ large, and it’s both horrifying and fascinating. I’m addicted to this book, I wanted to read it again straight away – if you’re a fan of feminist dystopian fiction (and who isn’t, amiright?) then this is a definite must-read. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 

Another book which I’ve heard a lot about, and another book which deserves the hype. It took me a little while to get into at the beginning, but by the end I was pacing the house, book in hand, too tense to sit still but desperate to find out the ending. The twist at the end was so surprising; I didn’t see it coming at all, which I loved. The main character, Rachel, was so frustrating but so excellently written – her alcoholism (no spoiler, it’s revealed pretty quickly in the book) is the perfect device to keep you guessing as most of the story is told through her eyes but her blackouts keep you from knowing the full picture until the very end. A lot of people have compared this to Gone Girl, and I can see why, but I actually enjoyed this a lot more so if you’re after a bit of a thriller I would highly recommend this one! 

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Our Leeds Engagement Photos

Paul and Amy by Jenna Woodward Photography

Photos by Jenna Woodward Photography

 

Paul and Amy by Jenna Woodward Photography

My love for Paul and my love for Leeds feels inextricable. I would love both of them separately, I am sure, but they are so tied together in my heart. Without Paul, I would never have even thought to move to this amazing city, and my life would be so different. I fell in love with Paul in Leeds; I fell for him first and the city second as it became a backdrop to everything we did together. Neither of us is from here, but the city suits us so well and I sometimes think we could never move from right here, this flat, this place. I know that we will, but I doubt it will be far. I’m too in love with Leeds. So it was super important to me that our wedding reflected both us and our city. 

Paul and Amy by Jenna Woodward Photography

P&A-34

So, you can imagine that I am absolutely head over heels for these gorgeous photos that Jenna and Ewan took of us. Aren’t they just dreamy? We started off at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, making the most of their picturesque, hipster roof terrace, which afforded endless nooks and crannies to snap away in, before wandering down Briggate (to some weird looks…) and through the Victoria Quarter. We couldn’t have taken them anywhere other than Leeds city centre – and whilst it’s lovely to have nice photos of the two of us, it’s equally fantastic to have photos that make the city I love look so amazing. I don’t know whether we’ll live here forever, but Leeds has been such a big part of our story, and I’m so happy we have these photos to remember that. 

Paul and Amy by Jenna Woodward Photography

 

 

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Weekend Link Love

seagulls

(Photo by Oliver Berghold)

How good is the long weekend? I’m writing this on Saturday and there are still TWO WHOLE DAYS before I have to go back to work. Tomorrow I’m cooking a fancy dinner for a couple of friends, which I’m very excited for. There are welcome cocktails. There are three courses. It’s rare that I get to go all out like that. This is why I need a proper dining room, so I can start a supper club and get to do this all the time.

Other than that, we’re just powering through a lot of wedding admin this weekend. It’s getting so close, and although I am most definitely excited, I am done with all the to-do lists and the pile of jam jars in my living room. Planning a wedding is a lot less fun than you are led to believe at the beginning. 

How are you spending your Easter weekend? 

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My Netflix Recommendations

netflix logo

(Photo Source: Slate

I’m not sure how we ever lived without Netflix. What did people do when they couldn’t watch a whole series in one sitting? It doesn’t bear thinking about. Whilst we don’t get quite the breadth of shows here in the UK as in the US (*sniff* Gilmore Girls…) there’s definitely plenty to be getting along with. I am definitely more of a TV watcher than a film buff; I don’t have the attention span to sit through a two hour movie, but give me a gripping show I can chain watch for days on end and I am so there. Here’ sa few of my favourites, in case you’re looking for something to binge on… 

Orange is the New Black 

I’m pretty sure if you’ve not heard of ‘Orange is the New Black’ you’ve been living under an Internet-less rock. It’s still worth mentioning though, since it’s pretty much the best show I’ve ever seen. The story follows Piper as she enters a women’s prison on a 10 year old drug charge (she’s since become a proto-typical WASP), but although she is the main focus of the show, you also get peeks into the lives of so many of the other inmates. It’s beautifully done, totally compelling and shows a fantastic diversity of characters. More shows about women by women, please! 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

 Okay, I know I said OITNB is pretty much the best show I’ve ever seen, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer actually IS the best show I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s a little bit dated now – no mobile phones, special effects leave something to be desired, the questionable 90s fashion… – but the show still stands strong. Following the adventures of a 16 year old girl who just happens to be a vampire slayer (in case the title didn’t give it away…), as she navigates high school, friendship, love, parents and the supernatural. It sounds cheesy. It sometimes is, but it’s also witty, moving, and sometimes a little bit scary. It’s Joss Whedon, through and through. I cry and laugh at this show in equal measure. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favour and get to Netflix right away! I promise, even if you’re sceptical, you will love it. I’m pretty sure this show is what made me a feminist… 

Orphan Black 

I am beyond happy at the moment, because it has just been announced that season 2 of Orphan Black is on Netflix so I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. This show is totally addictive, if a little ridiculous at points. There are so many twists and turns, it’s hard to keep up and the cliffhanger ending to season 1 is a total killer (hence my excitement for season 2!).  In the opening scene, you watch as the main character – Sarah – runs into someone who is her exact double, just as she is about the jump in front of a train… (the double that is). You’ll be hooked from that moment on, I promise. 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

There’s been so much chat about this show online in the past couple of weeks, and with good reason. Written and produced by Tina Fey, one of my favourite ladies of all time, and starring a lot of the 30 Rock cast, it has that same surreal humour of 30 Rock, which I love. It’s bright and colourful, it’s slightly absurd, it’s heart-warming, it’s very dark in places (in a fun way), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is simple brilliant. The eponymous Kimmy moves to New York after being rescued from an underground bunker where she’s been kept as part of a cult, and you get to watch as she navigates this world that she always believed was gone. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and the supporting characters are absolutely wonderful – especially her flamboyantly gay room-mate, Titus Andromedon. If you need some light relief, this is most definitely it. 

Episodes 

I missed Episodes when it was first on, but we recently got a bit addicted after finding it on our Netflix queue. Partly because Matt LeBlanc is absolutely fantastic, playing a parody version of himself – I’m a little bit in love with him. The story follows a British couple, who also write a hit TV comedy in the UK, who have moved to LA at the behest of a big-time producer to make a US version. There’s a lot of miscommunication, as the show gets bastardised by the Americans, and it has that frustrating quality that so much British TV does, with people not quite saying what they mean and getting into scrapes as a result, but it’s very funny and definitely worth a watch. 

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 

Paul has raved about this show for years, but I was very sceptical – partly because he described it as a show about the worst people ever. He’s not wrong, but it’s actually really funny. ‘The gang’ are a bunch of truly narcissistic, downright evil people, but they fail at everything as a result of their extreme narcissism and laziness. The characters are excellent, and I love how they resist the traditional sitcom happy ending. Danny Devito stars in later episodes, which is also excellent. They own a failing bar in Philadelphia but are constantly trying to get rich, labouring under the impression that they are all much smarter and better looking than they are. It sounds odd, I know, but watch a few episodes and you’ll be chain-watching them in no time. 

What are your Netflix recommendations? 

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March

plants

(Photo by Death to the Stock Photo

Experiencing a bit of writer’s block. 

Feeling very loved at my hen do. 

Cutting out hundreds of paper hearts. 

Baking hot cross buns (unsuccessfully…). 

Making my own gyoza (more successfully…).

Playing with a baby kitten (but still loving Tuna the best).

Recording more podcasts with Emma – you can listen to us on The High Tea Cast

Posing awkwardly for engagement photos in Leeds city centre. 

Enjoying impromptu dinners with some of my favourite girls. 

Spilling soy sauce down my white shirt at Little Tokyo. 

Loving my new Naked 3 palette. So many pretty colours. 

Recovering from a nasty cold. Hopefully the last of the year. 

Shivering … because our boiler has broken. 

Eating lots of salad. Feeling smug about it, too. 

Reading food magazines. It’s nice to see food photography on paper. 

Waking up to bright mornings. I have never been so grateful for sunshine. 

How about you? 

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Weekend Link Love

grapes

(Photo by Maja Petric

Life has gone into overdrive over the past couple of weeks, and it’s not left much space in my brain for blogging. We’re just under a month away from the wedding, which means spending free time tying twine around jars and chasing people for RSVPs. It’s not so much fun. But there are definitely some exciting parts. My hen do was last weekend, and it was so lovely to see everyone – it’s the greatest joy to watch your friends making friends with each other. We also had our engagement shoot with Jenna and Ewan, and although it was slightly awkward and chilly, the photos are wonderful. I’m excited to share them with you! On top of that, work has been full throttle for weeks, and then there’s all that pesky socialising to be done. I shouldn’t complain, really, but I am definitely looking forward to the four day weekend for a little bit of R&R. Have you got any plans for Easter? I think I’m going to cook some lamb and binge watch Orange is the New Black. 

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This Much I Know For Sure

sparkler

(Photo by Morgan Sessions)

I am 25 years old. I like to think that I know a thing or two by now. There are plenty of things I know that won’t turn up on Internet lists, and probably plenty of things that you know too that aren’t there either. The world is full of knowledge, collected from years at school and University, or from simply being a curious human who wants to know more about the world. Those facts are easy to grasp, to read from textbooks or to hear from lectures, to corroborate and collaborate until you understand. There are truths, however, which are harder to get hold of – that take time and experience to learn. We probably don’t spend enough time learning those things, compared to the facts and figures which dominate our education. I certainly don’t know as much about life as I do about the early Roman emperors or Foucault’s panopticon. And I don’t know all that much about either of those things. 

But this much, I know for sure: 

1. Nothing good happens after 1am. 

Go home. Don’t succumb to FOMO. Nothing good has ever come from staying out past 1am, and it never will. 

2. Only boring people get bored. 

My Grandad, who is 79 today incidentally, taught me this and I’m pretty sure he has never been bored a day in his life. The world is full of things to discover and do, and I am more afraid that I’ll never have enough time rather than that I’ll have too much and get bored of it. 

3. Packet hair dye is never worth it. 

I have never really liked a dye job that I’ve done myself. As a blonde, packet hair dye is very much the enemy – it’s so tempting, but can go so wrong and does so much damage to your hair. I have learnt to pay the extra to get my hair done professionally, or to go without. 

4. Never read the comments. 

Never. 

5. Happiness is so much more about your outlook than about what actually happens to you. 

Obviously, if you are in the midst of a full-blown tragedy then there’s not a lot you can do. But for the most part, having a positive attitude towards life, towards other people and to the occasional mishaps that happen along the way will do wonders for your happiness. It has changed my life to think this way, to give other people the benefit of the doubt and to not be cynical. I still have my moments of melodrama, don’t get me wrong, but happiness breeds more happiness for sure. 

6. Related: You can’t change events but you can change how you react to them. 

As a control freak, this is something I find very hard, and is something I am working on all the time. You have no control over life’s many twists and turns, but you can control how you react when they happen. I would do well to remember this. 

7. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. 

Yep, it pays to be nice to people. A smile goes a long way to getting what you want – although that’s not the only reason to be nice to people(!). I’m not sure I believe in karma, but who would risk it? 

8. If something’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right. 

Another one that I should give a hat-tip to my Grandad for, and another one that I could do with remembering every now and again. I am impatient, and so often want to be finished with something or find it frustrating when I’m not the best right away. But if something is worth doing, then it is worth giving your full attention to and seeing it through. 

And that’s what I know for sure. 

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Mini Ginger Shortbread Biscuits

Ginger Shortbread Biscuits

I don’t have anything inspiring to say about these biscuits. I’m not sure anyone ever has anything inspiring to say about biscuits. What I will say is that – as with all things, as I am fast learning – it is so much easier to make delicious biscuits than you think. I am really trying to get over my idea of what baked goods will be a lot of faff, and therefore not worth making (compared to, say, brownies which are both quick and delicious). The crunchy, crumbly texture of these biscuits is definitely worth the effort and actually it doesn’t take too long to knock these up and stick them in the biscuit tin. A little bit of crystallised ginger adds a welcome warmth to the buttery biscuit, and they go very well with a cup of tea. You can’t ask much more from a biscuit than that, can you? 

Ginger Shortbread Biscuits

Mini Ginger Shortbread Biscuits
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Ingredients
  1. 125g unsalted butter
  2. 55g caster sugar
  3. 180g plain flour
  4. 1 tsp. ground ginger
  5. 30g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
  2. Sift in the flour and stir. Add the ginger (ground and crystallised) and combine until the mixture starts to come together into a dough. This part can be a little tricky, so if it's still looking a little crumbly, you can get your hands involved and press together.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out until around 1cm thick. Cut out using a small round cutter (around 2 inch diameter) and lay onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
  4. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before placing in a pre-heated oven at 190C for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Take your biscuits out when they're golden brown, and remove to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with a bit more caster sugar before serving.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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Weekend Link Love

boat

(Photo by Kiran Valipa)

Whilst I’m sure you weren’t pining for my absence, it feels good to be back! I took an unplanned hiatus last week because blogging on top of everything else would have just been too much. Life is ramped up to full throttle at the moment: we’re less than 7 weeks from the wedding, so we’re tying up all the loose ends there; I had a bit of a crisis re: next week’s hen do, with a small mishap sending everything awry for a few days; work is super busy and of course, all the regular life stuff is still finding it’s way into the melee. I’m excited for the wedding, but I think I’m even more excited for the few days in Copenhagen afterwards when I can relax, read and stuff myself full of food and wine. Proper time off is most definitely needed. But enough about me. How are you? 

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