Our New Home!

home

 

Oh, hey there! Welcome to our new home! 

At the moment it’s empty and filled with horrible-looking carpets. Hopefully, in a few months time, everything will be shiny and new and stylish. 

We’ve spent all of our pennies on furniture and DIY tools. We’ve been spending every waking moment stripping wallpaper, sanding skirting boards and painting walls. 

It’s going to be worth it, right? 

On the first day, I was very enthusiastic. I was ready for the challenge. But then I had to wake up and do it all again the next day. And the day after that. 

There goes my dreams of ‘flipping’ houses and becoming an ethical yet incredibly wealthy property mogul. 

I’m not even really sure what a mogul is… 

Right now, my vision feels so far away. So much of it is in boxes and in the garage and in my head. I want it on the walls and floors. 

But it will happen. And then I can have parties and sleepovers and supper clubs and afternoon naps on the sofa and evenings curled up in my reading chair. 

Yes. The chair will be solely dedicated to reading. And maybe to putting clothes on. I’m only human. 

I’m worried about living without a kitchen. I’m dreaming of pot plants. I’m tired, but happy. 

Watch this space… 

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May

may

Celebrating our first wedding anniversary. 

Enjoying the calm before the storm of DIY… 

Collecting the keys to our new house. 

Getting very acquainted with the wallpaper stripper… 

Picking paint colours and floors. That’s the exciting bit. 

Brunching on vegan food with Emma and Jo at In Defence of Plants. 

Hoping for more blue skies and sunshine than grey clouds and rain. 

Buying my dream bar cart (although it won’t be in use for weeks…). 

Wearing high-waisted jeans and bodies. Trying to ignore the fashion ‘rules’. 

Exercising my democratic right to vote. I’ll never get bored of it. 

Stuffing my face with six courses of desserts with Cheryl & Katie. 

Meeting baby Bella and baby Meredith for the first time. So many baby cuddles. 

Reading my 50th book of the year! 

Starting (and re-starting) a new baby blanket for another new arrival! 

Baking with sprinkles. So much fun. 

Suffering from my second major cold of the year. And hopefully the last for a while. 

Watching the new season of Alway Sunny. I shouldn’t laugh, but I do. 

Drinking pre-mixed margaritas. Not as good as home-made, but a darn sight easier. 

Wishing for another NYC holiday. Not this year, but maybe next. 

Feeling tired but grateful. Ready for the next stage. 

How about you? 

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Weekend Link Love

flowers

[Photo by Leonardo Wong

Hey pals! How are you getting on? I hope you’re enjoying this wonderful Bank Holiday weekend. I’m up to my eyes in DIY and am taking a fun trip to IKEA today, so whilst you read this I’ll probably be in a flatpack-induced meltdown. But still, we have the keys and the house is ours! Which is definitely something. We have no kitchen and a terrible bathroom and the worst carpets that the world has ever seen, but they are all ours. Is anyone interested in progress reports on the new house as we do it up, or are you kind of bored of me talking about it now? Maybe don’t tell me of it’s the latter and I’ll live in blissful ignorance. I am trying to squeeze some fun out of the weekend (what, you mean sanding skirting boards isn’t the most thrills anyone has ever had?!) with a little date with my girls to watch Reign tomorrow, and maybe a takeaway pizza tonight. Who says I don’t know how to party? Let’s see what the Internet has offered up for us this week, shall we? 

 

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Life Lately

image1

All being well, we get the keys to our house tomorrow. I am so ready. Not in the sense of having everything packed, but definitely in the sense of ‘let’s just do this!’. My weekends are going to be spent DIY-ing and IKEA-tripping for the foreseeable future and I’m actually okay with it. I’ve got such a clear vision for our new house in my head, and I can’t wait to get started on making it happen. Please remind me of this when I’m knee-deep in sanding skirting boards and complaining about it on Twitter. It will be worth it. Oh, will it be worth it.

I am sad to leave our little flat, though. It was our first proper home together. It’s where Tuna joined our lives (for better, or worse…). It holds many happy memories (and some not so happy ones, but thankfully far less of those). It will be weird for someone else to live in our flat. I’m not quite so ready for that part. Call me sentimental, because I definitely am. 

I’m also not ready for not having a kitchen and for the inevitable stress and drama of dealing with builders. Why do they never answer their phones? That is my question for you, right now. I’m also worried that Tuna will hate me even more for making her live in a house filled with noise and dust and building work. (Or more specifically, in one room of said house where nothing is going on). 

I worry a lot. Don’t we all? I’m not sure Paul does. Yesterday I started to tell him that I was worried about what we were going to do for Christmas, and how we were going to fit everyone in without spending our entire time on the motorway like last year, and he sort of laughed at me. Not in a mean way, just in a ‘haven’t you got enough going on right now, what with this house we’re buying’ sort of way. He’s right, of course, but I’ve never been able to live in the moment. I worry just as much about hypothetical situations in the future as I do about stuff that’s happening to me right now – which is silly, because there’s no way of knowing what will happen and some of the stuff I stress about is *so* far in the future that there’s really nothing I can do to help right now. Those things are old lady Amy’s problems. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course (see: getting the keys to our house). As always, I am feeling so grateful for all of the lovely people and things I have around me. I had a day off on Monday, and I just spent it baking, knitting and watching Girls. Which is a pretty excellent way to spend a day, if you ask me. I’ve been trying to knit a baby blanket for all of our friends who have babies, but I can’t keep up – they just keep popping them out (and I am a slow knitter). It’s truly a thing of joy, of course – so many lovely little people coming into the world. I’m really happy with the one I am currently making, with a lovely soft mustard-coloured wool. It’s the best thing to do whilst watching TV – I can’t just sit still and not do something, and this is far more productive than scrolling endlessly on my phone. 

All this to say, things are pretty much the same as always. Things are moving forwards, but aren’t they always?  

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May Book Reviews

may books 1  

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney* 

Oh gosh, this book. I loved it. It’s acerbically funny, nostalgically touching and just so wonderful. I can’t really believe that it’s a debut because it just feels so substantial and perceptive. The Plumb family have been relying on ‘The Nest’ – a trust fund payment they’ll all be receiving when the youngest sibling turns 40. But just before that date, Leo Plumb – notorious rogue and erstwhile businessman – gets into a car accident whilst inebriated, and the resulting fallout depletes ‘The Nest’ to almost nothing. Each of the siblings has been counting on the money to get them out of a self-inflicted problem, so they’re understandably pretty mad. As they all struggle to find a solution, old conflicts arise, new friendships form and they must all learn to face up to their choices. It’s entertaining, a little madcap in places, entirely emotional in others with a really lovely ending. Definitely one of my favourite books of 2016 so far. 

The Crown (The Heir, Book 2) by Kiera Cass*

These books are my guilty pleasure. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty about them – there’s no shame in reading romance, young adult, or any combination of the two – but I can’t help it. They’re a little too saccharine sweet, the characters a little too perfect (except when they’re not…), whilst world-building and any meaningful storyline has been abandoned for pretty dresses & kissing princes. But, just like sometimes you need Gossip Girl instead of The Wire, so too do I need The Selection Series instead of A Little Life on occasion. You can easily devour one of these in a day, immersing yourself in the world of Illea. Despite myself, I really enjoyed the first three books in the series, focused on America Singer as she takes part in ‘The Selection’ – where a group of girls compete Bachelorette-style to win the hand of Prince Maxon. There’s a vague undercurrent of political unrest in this supposedly dystopian society, which is ruled by a caste system, but it takes a back seat to dates in the palace and stolen kisses between the characters. The following books, however, which focus on princess Eadlyn as she conducts her own Selection process to find a husband, didn’t have quite the same charm for me. I found myself more invested in the secondary characters who had made it from the first few books into the newer ones than I did in Eadlyn and her story. The romance wasn’t quite as exciting or, for me, realistic – and the ending felt rather rushed to me, hurrying to tie up all the loose ends which had never been fully explained beforehand (see above: world building comments). If you’re looking for escapism, stick to the first three books and don’t blame me if you get hooked! 

Girls on Fire by Robyn Wasserman*

Hannah is kind of a nobody, until she meets Lacey – who is dark, mysterious and obsessed with Kurt Cobain – and the two form a tangled, passionate friendship. They talk of riding off into the sunset together and leaving their problems behind – the fierce bully at school, the puritanical and abusive stepdad, the total ennui of being a teenager in a dead end town. Events start to spiral, and Hannah starts to realise that maybe she doesn’t know Lacey all that well after all – but what will she do when she discovers the truth? Is she in, or out? 

I feel like I’ve read a lot of books of this genre – the intense female friendships of teenage girls turned destructive. The clue is in the title, of course, but I think I was hoping for something a little bit different from this one. To me, however, Hannah and Lacey felt more like stereotypes than any real teenage girl that I’ve ever come across (and I went to an all girls’ school) – they were the bad girl and the good girl who wants to go bad, with the troubled home lives to match. I wanted to believe in them, and their friendship, but I just wasn’t rooting them in the way that I think I was supposed to be. That said, the chaos and violence of this novel is pretty compelling – you never know when the final blow will land – and the secret that Lacey has been holding onto is a pretty explosive one, which was worth sticking around to find out. 

may books 2

Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison

Does anyone remember when Playboy was a Thing? Back when Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were the celebrities de jour, and we were all wearing a lot of Juicy Couture? Okay, well I never wore any Juicy Couture but I remember being fascinated by glamorous Playboy bunnies – and I know I wasn’t the only one if the plethora of Playboy pencil cases at school was anything to go by. Reading this book was like time travelling back to that era – it was all so familiar, it was actually a little spooky.

Holly Madison was one of Hef’s live-in girlfriends at the Playboy Mansion and one of the stars of ‘The Girls Next Door’ TV show based on their life – and in this book she spills the secrets of what it was really like to live with the infamous Hugh Hefner. I think you won’t be surprised to find out that it wasn’t all peachy keen – in fact, it was pretty horrible and Hef himself is an abusive ‘boyfriend’, which makes some parts hard to read. Holly charts how she ended up living at the Mansion, and how she eventually finds her freedom – as well as dishing plenty of juicy secrets about celebrities and the Playboy life. It’s quite a one-sided look at events (it is a memoir, so that is understandable but she glosses over the manipulative or mean quips that she makes – not necessarily without justification – and focuses a lot on when the other girls were mean to her) but it’s definitely an interesting look at a rather bizarre lifestyle. 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh 

I can never resist a bestselling thriller. I get serious FOMO when I don’t know what the massive twist is, so I have to read them myself to find out (god forbid I should ever see a spoiler!). However, despite my precocious desire to know everything being satisfied, I often find them to be a little disappointing. For all its faults, Gone Girl has set the bar incredibly high with beautiful prose, dark and twisted characters and an about-turn (or two) that will genuinely shock and surprise you. Obviously, it is not the fault of the authors that all subsequent thrillers written by women have been marketed to fans of Gone Girl, but it can’t help but linger in the back of your mind.

I Let You Go is everything a thriller should be – it’s suspenseful, with a twist that I, for one, didn’t see coming, with a race towards the end that will leave you turning pages as fast as you possibly can. Jenna Gray’s whole life is turned upside down by a horrific incident; her only hope of moving on is to walk away and start a new life in a remote Welsh seaside village, but she is constantly haunted by her memories and her ever-present fear. As the story unfolds, her past begins to catch up with her and you begin to realise that everything is not as it seems…

If you’re looking for an entertaining read then this is definitely one for you – whilst the writing takes a backseat to the storyline in this case, that’s the most important part of a thriller, right? However, I don’t think you’re going to be blown away; I don’t think I’ve read that many thrillers but this one already felt familiar to me, with the broken, scared woman running from a hideous past, a policewoman who vows to do the right thing despite pressure from her bosses and a couple of more-than-coincidences thrown in for good measure. Although there are some pretty graphic scenes (trigger warnings for pretty much everything…) it was more suspenseful than truly terrifying for me. I enjoyed it, but I suspect I’ll have forgotten it before long. 

Not Working by Lisa Owens*

I wish I liked myself a bit more, and wine more than a bit less. 

This book reads like a memoir, which I actually though it was until I twigged that the author’s name is not the same as the main character. If you’ve read any Millennial memoirs, then the subject matter will be pretty familiar – girl quits job to find purpose, girl gets grief from more successful friends, girl sabotages self etc. However, despite feeling like I’ve covered this so many times before, this book still felt fresh and funny to me – so if you’re not jaded like I am, then you’ll probably love it. The writing style was unusual with little tiny paragraphs with different purposes – from telling the story to pithy observations that ring very, very true. If you’ve ever struggled to feel like your work and life is meaningful, then I think you’d really enjoy this light-hearted read. 

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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Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies

Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

Baking should be fun. It’s butter and sugar and flour and joy. For me, it’s sticking on a podcast, closing the door to the kitchen and taking my time making something delicious. Is there anything more fun than that? Some baked goods, however, are more fun than others – and I think anything with sprinkles very much falls into the category of ‘most fun’. I spotted these confetti cookies on the Smitten Kitchen blog and I knew immediately that I had to make them. All kudos to Deb, because when I’d finished, Paul hoovered up two in a row and admonished me for not making cookies more often. So I added a little cocoa powder, swapped my pastel sprinkles for chocolate ones and these were born. Cookies that are made of chocolate and fun – can there be anything better? 

Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 350g plain flour
  2. 25g cocoa powder
  3. 1 tsp. baking powder
  4. 1/4 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  5. 3/4 tsp. table salt
  6. 200g unsalted butter, softened
  7. 80g cream cheese
  8. 250g caster sugar
  9. 1 large egg
  10. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  11. 140g (ish) chocolate vermicelli sprinkles
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C and prepare two baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb of soda and salt.
  3. Beat together the cream cheese, butter and sugar until fluffy (using an electric mixer is recommended!). Add the eggs and vanilla and mix.
  4. Add the flour mixture gradually until everything is just incorporated.
  5. Using your hands, roll a tablespoon-ish of mixture into a ball. Gently roll in the sprinkles until coated.
  6. Place on the prepared baking sheet and press down slightly so the cookies are flat and about 1/2 inch tall. Repeat, placing cookies about two inches apart.
  7. Bake for 9-10 minutes - they should still be a little soft. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Although soft, they should keep their shape after that few minutes - if not, they may need a couple of extra minutes in the oven.
  8. Using an electric mixer, add the butter and cream cheese gradually until
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/
Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies // Amy Elizabeth

 

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Weekend Link Love

limes

[Photo by Hoach Le Dinh]

Hey friends! How is your weekend going? I’m kind of enjoying the fact that it’s a little bit miserable outside – this afternoon I plan to bake a crumble and then sit under a blanket and do some reading, which just feels so cosy when it’s raining, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t perk up in June, though, I’m going to have to start searching for another country to live in – one with actual proper seasons. Leave your suggestions…

This week has been pretty lovely – on Thursday night I went to a six-course dinner made entirely of puddings, which is a wonderful way to eat if you ask me, and yesterday we popped over to Sheffield to see some friends who are over from the States and their sweet little baby, who we met for the first time. They were staying with their parents, who have three dogs, so basically my day was alternated between baby cuddles and puppy scruffles, which I think is my happy place – especially when there’s a glass of Prosecco thrown into the mix (figuratively, of course).

I hope you’ve all had similarly wonderful weeks – I’ve got so many links for you today, so grab yourself a cuppa and let’s get started, shall we? 

 

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My Food Philosophy

food philosophy

[Photo by Andy Chilton]

All food is good food, but some food is better. 

Variety is the spice of life. In all ways. 

Eat what you need. Sometimes that is salad. Sometimes it’s salt & vinegar crisps.  

Don’t beat yourself up, you’re only trying your best. Even if your best is ready meals and takeaways, for now.  

What you eat does not make you a bad person. Or a good one. 

You deserve nice things just for existing. You don’t have to earn treats. 

Feed the people you love, but only if they do the washing up. (Just kidding. Sort of.) 

More colour is good. Even if just for Instagram. 

Eat what’s in season, if you can. Take particular joy in asparagus season. And strawberry season. 

Baking is good for your soul. As is pasta. 

Try as many new things as possible. Even pig trotter. 

If you eat more than usual, then move your body more than usual. Or try to, at least. 

Take a wide view. Balance doesn’t come in one day. 

Eat less than Paul. He is twice your height (almost) – it’s okay if he gets more on his plate. 

It’s always worth walking into town to get sushi. Even if it’s raining. 

Make recipes your own. Pass them on, if they’re good. 

Make the kitchen a happy place. Welcome people in. 

Hoard cookbooks like they hold the secrets to the Universe. Maybe they do. 

Live to eat. Eat to live. 

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In Defence of Luck

lucky

[Photo by Irene Dávila]

It seems to me that people are quick to reject the idea that they are lucky – seeing is as a bit of an insult. I understand why – there is the insinuation that it was all a twist of fate that you have ended up where you have, rather than because of any merit or struggle or talent. I don’t see it that way – in part because I am incredibly lucky. 

That is not to say that I have not and do not work hard. I give my all at my job, I work on side projects like this blog, I studied hard when I had the opportunity (and am still quick to pick up a book). I’m certainly not the hardest worker in the world; parents, carers, people with multiple jobs – the list goes on of people who are giving far more than I am. But I am smart, I work hard and I am nice to people, all of which have contributed to the good job, nice home and happy social life that I currently enjoy. 

But I am lucky. So, so lucky. And I’m going to bet that you are, too, in at least some small ways. I am lucky to have been born to loving parents who had the means to support me and who prized education and encouraged creativity. I am lucky to have a high IQ, which I’ve been allowed to use and develop at good schools and at a good University. I am lucky to have had the luxury of free time to pursue the passions that have lead me to my career (this blog, more than anything else, has definitely got me where I am today). I am lucky that a stranger read this blog and decided to email me, and I am lucky to have fallen in love with him – and I am lucky, too, that he also had the means to support me when I first moved to Leeds. I am lucky to have spotted a tweet with a job advert that seemed like it was made for me – not once, but twice. I am lucky for so many chance encounters that have lead to friendships and opportunities and joy. 

I am not an exceptional person. I’m actually quite average, I suppose. I’m not saying that you have to have had a lot of luck to get to where I am, because I am sure there are people with a lot less privileges than I have had who have achieved as much, and likely so much more, than me. You can use your smarts and your creativity and your determination and hard work to overcome a lack of luck, and many people do so. But I don’t think that it is an insult to say that someone is lucky. Like so many other things, if you are lucky, as I have been, it is what you do with that luck that really matters. It is up to you to seize the opportunities – however frequent or infrequent – that are presented to you. But to deny the existence of luck? Is to deny all the people and circumstances that gave you a helping hand. It’s not a weakness to admit that, I don’t think. 

In fact, recognising my own luck has made me so much happier. A few years ago I decided that, rather than despairing over all the ways I was hard done by (which were few, I admit), I chose to see and recognise every moment that felt ‘lucky’. I guess you would call it serendipity, really. All of those ‘fortunate happenstances’ that have contributed, in their own small ways, to my wellbeing. Like seeing a tweet with a job advert, just when you’re feeling a bit down about your current position. Or even just a friend asking if you want to grab a drink, when what you really need is a glass of wine. Serendipity is everywhere. I don’t think that I am lucky because all the best things happen to me (although a lot of lovely things have indeed done so) – but rather because I choose to notice it every time something good happens, and to try to ignore the bad stuff where I can. It’s the sister of gratitude, of counting your blessings, I suppose. But I do urge you to try it, to notice the little lucky things that happen every day – when the lights go green just as you’re about to pull up, when you get the last cookie in the packet, when you have just enough change for the bus. It starts to feel like you’re making your own luck. And what is more lucky than that? 

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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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