Where to Celebrate Galentine’s Day In Leeds

What’s Galentine’s Day, I hear you ask? 

“Oh it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” – Leslie Knope, Parks & Recreation 

Invented by my idol, Leslie Knope, Galentine’s Day is celebrated on 13th February and traditionally consists of brunch, all your best lady friends and the sharing of compliments. Here’s where you can kick it, breakfast style, with your ladies in Leeds. 

Ox Club

The food at Ox Club is seriously, seriously good. For somewhere that’s listed in the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide, the atmosphere (and the prices) are unassuming – letting the food do all of the talking. I would highly recommend their ricotta pancakes with blueberries and honeycomb, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to their Korean Chicken or Coconut French Toast, either. Basically, get all your besties together and order everything on the menu. The only problem is that you won’t be able to do that much catching up because the food will render you silent in appreciation. It’s worth it, I swear. 

Angelica

If you want a fancy lady brunch, then Angelica is the place to head. Whisk your way up in the private lift, take in the views over Leeds and enjoy their extensive range of cocktails whilst you brunch and revel in your mutual affection and awesomeness. In tribute to Ms Knope, you must have the waffles, and in tribute to me, you must have an Aperol Spritz. Get it, girls. 

Laynes Espresso 

For something a bit more low key, the newly revamped Laynes Espresso is definitely the place to head. Not only do they have a reputation for the best coffee in Leeds, their brunch menu contains such delights as Sweetcorn Fritters with halloumi and chimichurri, Toasted Banana Bread with orange mascarpone, and my favourite, Shakshuka. Not only that, but they stock cakes from the inimitable Noisette Bakehouse, so it’s going to be a party in your mouth by the time the brunch is done. Guaranteed. 

Cafe 164 

Cafe 164 is new to the brunch game, but I am ogling their small but perfectly formed breakfast menu every time I pop in for a morning hot chocolate. Basically, I need the Nectarines & Cream Toast in my face, stat. There’s plenty of choice for your vegan and vegetarian pals, and their cake selection is pretty epic, too. Plus, since Galentine’s Day is all about supporting kick ass ladies, you’ll be putting your brunch pennies into the pockets of some of the most kick ass ladies I know on the Leeds food scene. Can’t say fairer than that, can you? 

Shears Yard 

Am I saving the best until last? Only if you like your brunches with a side of unlimited alcohol (so, yes, yes I am). The bottomless brunch at Shears Yard features their signature brunch dishes, like Smoked salmon & dill risotto, Garlic & truffle creamed mushrooms on toasted brioche and Merguez sausage & spiced mixed bean cassoulet (so not your standard brunch fare – and all the better for it, I’d say) but also the opportunity to drink as much as you like from a range of brunch-friendly cocktails. Most bottomless brunches that I’ve seen stick to Prosecco or Bloody Marys, but there are some fancier options on the menu like, my favourite, Aperol Spritzes, and a delicious sounding English 75. It’s only available on Saturdays, though, so you’ll have to celebrate Galentine’s Day early if you’re heading here. 

Altogether now, Ovaries before Brovaries

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A Birthday Brunch Party (Plus Tips on Throwing Your Own!)

I’m not one for making a big deal of my birthday, but I do like to feed the people that I love so I didn’t want the opportunity to go to waste. Since I’m not drinking this year (and feeling very sore about it, if you can’t tell…) a dinner or night at the pub felt like it wouldn’t be all that much fun for me (being the only sober person at your own party is not my idea of the best time!) so brunch was the obvious choice.

I considered a brunch out, but with almost 20 people on the guest list, finding somewhere suitable felt like too much of an undertaking, so I decided to throw a little brunch party instead. Bloody Marys were still on the table for those that could partake, but it’s not such an alcohol-focused event (and meant I could still have an afternoon nap once all the guests had left…). Plus, with two new little babies due into our friendship group by the end of January, the casualness of a brunch party just seemed to work for everyone. Oh, and there’s French Toast. Whilst I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, it’s a winner of an idea all round. 

It was so lovely to spend time with my wonderful friends, and on a Sunday morning to boot – which is usually dead time in the world of socialising. The casual nature of the event worked so much better than a dinner party for this number of people. I got to have baby cuddles, some of my favourite brunch dishes, and I didn’t spend the whole time over the stove. Best birthday ever? Maybe. (Unless you’re Tuna Fey, who hid upstairs under the spare bed the entire time. Safe to say she’s not a party person). 

If you want to have a go at hosting your own brunch party, here’s a few top tips from me to you. 

Keep it Casual 

People are busy these days, which means getting people to all sit down together at a set time can sometimes be more hassle than its worth. The beauty of a brunch party is that it can span over a few hours, with people popping in and out as needed. Don’t stress about getting everything on the table at once, let people pick dishes as and when they come out of the oven, and save yourself the trouble. But… set an end time so people know when to expect to leave – it’s much easier than having an awkward ‘kicking out’ when friends have outstayed their welcome past your nap time! 

Make Ahead 

You ideally want to minimise your time in the kitchen, where possible, so make ahead dishes are your friends. Here’s what I made as a starter for ten, but there are infinite varieties on French Toast, scones, muffins and breakfast casseroles to suit any taste. 

I find that a mix of sweet and savoury works best to satisfy everyone when it comes to brunch! A few condiments, some freshly cooked sausages and a fruit salad with honey and yoghurt completed the menu and there was more than enough to go around (despite my panics to the contrary). 

Decide Where to Cut Corners

I like to serve people home-cooked meals when they come to my house, but it’s not always possible (or pleasurable) to make everything from scratch when you’re hosting for a big number. Deciding where you’re happy to cut corners will make your life a lot easier – especially when people are turning up at 10am – and most people probably won’t even notice (or care). For me that looked like non-fancy coffee, frozen pastries that could be baked on the day, store bought condiments (like salsa and guacamole) and a quick dash to the shops for bread in the morning (I would have liked to make my own, but who has the proving time?). Your corners might be different depending on what you care about the most on your brunch table, and don’t forget the best corner cutting measure of all – asking people to bring a dish! 

Go Disposable 

Whilst I realise it’s not great for the environment, sometimes it is easier to just gather everything up at the end of a party and throw it in the bin rather than saddling yourself with piles of washing up. I certainly don’t have enough crockery or cups for 20 people, and I doubt you do either, so grab some paper or plastic plates and vow to recycle religiously for the rest of the year. 

Happy Brunching! 

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January

Starting the New Year with some of our favourite people in Wales. 

Seeing our baby for the first time at our 12 week scan! 

Arguing over baby names, already. 

Celebrating my 27th birthday with a brunch party. 

Wearing maternity jeans for the first time. 

Being a bit of a homebody – much needed after a hectic end of 2016. 

Knitting with my first every Stitch & Story kit (and it won’t be my last). 

Welcoming two new babies into our friendship group (and stealing as many cuddles as possible!). 

Baking with rhubarb as much as I can. 

Taking down the Christmas decorations and giving our bedroom a bit of a refresh. 

Shivering every time I go outside – who so cold, January? 

Attending a sweet friend’s hen do, and looking forward to the wedding in February. 

Starting to plan my first ever hen do as a bridesmaid! 

Re-watching Buffy, inspired by the Buffering podcast

Perfecting a recipe for raspberry cheesecake brownies, that I can’t wait to share! 

Despairing at the news on a daily basis. 

Feeling empowered and hopeful at all of the coverage of the Women’s March. 

Writing more blog posts than I have in month – and feeling inspired for even more. 

Resolving to take more photos and share more on Instagram in 2017.

Getting back on my yoga mat for some Pregnancy Yoga. 

Trying not to make my whole life about being pregnant right now! 

How about you? 

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On Turning 27

There is nothing remarkable about turning 27. It’s a rather banal number. Not yet 30, and yet certainly not 21. It’s the year you might have to officially start labelling yourself as ‘late 20s’, and also the year that so many rock stars die young. That fact has always made me a little sad, but even more so now that I have reached this age. 27 is at once so grown up and yet it’s no age at all. 

There is a lot on the Internet about how your twenties is a confusing and difficult time; I suspect that is partly because so much of the content on the Internet is dominated by Millennials and this is what we’re living right now. But it is an odd sort of time zone to be occupying; for the first portion of your life, there are clear demarcations of each year. You are either in Year 3 or Year 4. You are either in Primary School or Secondary School. You are doing your GCSEs this year, or your A-Levels, or perhaps moving to University. There are clear goals for each year, even if they are not your own personal goals – finish the year, move up to the next, take on the next challenge as it is presented for you. After University (if you take that path), you are left out to sea, fully free to decide what path you take next – an opportunity that is both thrilling and terrifying, and not one that you are able to ignore. Of course, that continues for the rest of your life, but it is so new and raw in your early twenties, with little sense of yourself or of the world (but thinking, of course, that you know both of those things pretty darn well indeed). If I compare myself now to the person I was at 21, it almost makes me laugh – and I’m sure I will do the same again in another six years. 

I am pleased with how my life has turned out (such as it is so far). For all the articles on how difficult being in your twenties are, there are as many (if not more) decrying the ‘traditional’ life; ignore marriage, babies, houses, they say – travel the world, take chances, don’t get tied down. There is merit in that, of course, and I would never want anyone to think that there is one true life course to take – variety is the spice of life, of course, and in a troubling economic and political climate, those things may not be wise or accessible to many, or even wanted. But in the mix of all that, I think it’s easy to forget that there is some merit in that more traditional way of living, and I have been glad to have the opportunity to do so. It is nice, at 27, to feel relatively settled – even as our entire world is about to be turned upside down. Strong foundations, and all that. I have been lucky, that much is certain, but I am also proud of the life and the home that I have built for myself – I couldn’t have imagined this for myself at 21 (even though everything now has been built on the things I had then). 

27 is going to be the year that everything changes for me. Every year until now has been made up of slow, plodding progress, as life tends to be. There are very few times in life when things are shaken up entirely, and I’m pretty sure that having a baby is just one of those times. All being well, I will become a mother in July, and there is no turning back from that. I will never not be one ever again – even as I could shed all of my other identities, should I so wish. It is, like the moment you leave University, thrilling and terrifying all at once. The best is yet to come. 27? Let’s do this. 

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The Friday Five

Hey pals, how are you all doing on this fine Friday? I am currently hibernating indoors and planning my birthday brunch party. Yep, it’s my birthday this weekend and I want to eat French Toast to celebrate! Even if there will be no mimosas for me… 

This week I’ve been feeling a weird mix of super inspired (I have so many blog posts to write!) and super lazy (bring me a blanket!). I can’t tell whether that’s because I’m still feeling pretty wiped out due to this whole pregnancy/parasite living inside me (jk, gonna love my kid) or if it’s just a natural reaction to the greyness and coldness of January. Either way, my to do list is as long as my arm, and so is my Netflix queue. 

Here’s some lovely Internet things to distract you from your own to do lists (it is Friday after all): 

 

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Kimchi & Prawn Egg Fried Rice

Kimchi & Prawn Egg Fried Rice // Amy Elizabeth

After reading Rachel’s post on Asian ingredients, I was inspired to raid my local Asian supermarket on Friday night. And by raid, I mean spend an obscene amount of money on kimchi and kewpie mayonnaise. So, I would argue that this isn’t so much a recipe as the result of me throwing a bunch of new ingredients into a pan and hoping for the best. Which sometimes is how the greatest dinners come together (and, in this case, a couple of leftover lunches, too).

There is nothing authentic about this dish, but it was filling and heart-warming, and slightly sour from the kimchi and slightly spicy from the sriracha, and colourful and basically everything I wanted to eat right at that moment, so maybe it is also the thing that you want to eat right at *this* moment, too, and I couldn’t not share it. 

As with all food of this nature, you can make it your own by mixing up the vegetables and protein (some peppers and pork might work nicely!) or, instead of scrambling the egg into the dish, you could serve one fried or poached on the top. Just do what you feel, spice it up nicely and eat it in big forkfuls from a bowl whilst reading a book or watching a trashy TV show. Live your best life, is what I’m saying. 

P.S. For Leeds pals, I bought my kimchi and gochujang (and a whole host of other fun ingredients) at Taste the Orient on Vicar Lane, which has been my go-to for Asian ingredients for a while now. I also picked up some gyoza skins in the freezer section to make these Pork & Chilli Gyoza so it was a winning weekend for food! 

Kimchi & Prawn Egg Fried Rice
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 leek, sliced
  2. 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  3. 3-4 spring onions, sliced (plus more for garnish)
  4. 1/3 cup kimchi, sliced into smaller pieces
  5. 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  6. 200g raw prawns
  7. 500g cooked rice (I used two of those microwave basmati packets)
  8. 2 tsp. gochujang
  9. 2 tbsp. soy sauce (or more to taste)
  10. 1 tsp. fish sauce
  11. 2 eggs
  12. Sriracha & kewpie mayonnaise, to serve
Instructions
  1. Heat some oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the leek, mushrooms, spring onion and kimchi. Fry for 3-4 minutes until the leeks and mushrooms are starting to soften.
  2. Add the prawns and garlic and cook for a further few minutes until prawns have gone pink.
  3. Stir through the gochujang, and then tip in the rice. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce, and stir together until everything is mixed through. Taste and add more soy sauce if needed.
  4. Make a little space at the side of the frying pan by pushing the rice to one side, and crack in both eggs and mix to scramble slightly. As the eggs start to cook, stir them through the rest of the ingredients until evenly distributed throughout the dish.
  5. Serve immediately, with extra spring onions and sriracha and kewpie mayonnaise to taste.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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On Being Pregnant

Being pregnant is the singularly weirdest experience of my life. How could it not be? There’s a tiny person growing *inside* me. However natural that is, it’s also incredibly trippy. I know, of course, that I am just one in an incredibly long line in women to go through pregnancy but, despite having read all the blogs, questioned all my friends and done all my research, it still feels like such an individual and strange experience. 

Before I found out I was pregnant, I was desperate for children. Or, it certainly felt that way. Trying for a baby was far more emotional than I expected; the sense of failure and disappointment each time it ‘didn’t work’ was crushing, however much I tried to stay light and breezy about it. Luckily for us, it was a relatively short process (shorter than I expected) but my heart goes out a million times over to those who are not so lucky – I don’t know how people go on that journey for years without breaking into tiny pieces. Partly, I think, my need for control was what was making it more difficult; you have no say in what your body does, and there’s no way of knowing what will happen. I suppose it prepares you for having a child, when the idea of control is laughable, at best. 

However, the moment that little window on the test said ‘Pregnant’, it was like a switch was flipped and I wasn’t so sure, after all. Of course, by that point, it was too late to change my mind, but the feeling of finding out was so overwhelming that I just burst into tears. I don’t think even now that I could pinpoint exactly what emotions I was feeling but it was a mix of elation at getting exactly what I want, and fear that I had made a terrible mistake. Be careful what you wish for, and all that. The first few weeks were definitely filled with more of the latter; I was incredibly anxious that it would all go wrong, whilst at the same time equally anxious about what would happen if it all went right. There’s no denying that parenthood, in whatever form it comes to you, changes your life beyond recognition, and certainly does a number on your body, too. I spent a lot of time worrying and crying, which is not really what I pictured for my first few weeks of pregnancy. 

As I got used to the idea and started to allow myself to get a little bit excited, that definitely calmed down. However, that was when my pregnancy symptoms hit; and, oh boy, did they hit. So many women I know talk about how they loved (or love) being pregnant, but I am definitely not getting that feeling. As I mentioned last week, it’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride of experiences that have made me feel *very* sorry for myself. Suffice to say, I am not great in the face of adversity. I’ve just not felt like myself for weeks; being exhausted and nauseous all the time has stopped me from doing a lot of the things that I enjoy, like blogging and baking, and I’ve gone from being an ‘up and at ’em’ sort of girl to a ‘let me just take a nap’ one. And there’s nothing wrong with being the latter, but it’s just not *me*, you know?

I’ve also had to face my greatest fear – blood tests. I know that no one exactly loves them, but I have been phobic of them pretty much all my life. I’ve avoided them thus far (thankfully due to good health) but that wasn’t an option. I had a small meltdown in the midwife’s office and eventually managed my first one on the third attempt, thanks to some very wonderful nurses at Chapel Allerton Hospital who I want to shower with flowers and chocolates. 

Thankfully (for me, and also for you, as this is turning into quite the essay…), I feel like I’ve turned a corner over the past week or so. A little bit of feeling faint and a sore back are still plaguing me, but it’s infinitely preferable to eating toast for every meal and napping as soon as I get in from work every day. Now that we’re into the second trimester, it also feels okay to get even more excited – to plan a nursery and think about names and coo over tiny baby clothes. The mantra I’ve been working with until now has been ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’ but now I think I’m ready to switch to ‘it will all be worth it’. 

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The Friday Five

What a week! We started off by announcing our impending arrival, and we’re finishing up with the inauguration of a sentient cheeto. Highs and lows, that’s for sure. I’m not sure I can say anything here about today’s events that hasn’t already said before, but suffice to say that I had a little cry before I got out of bed this morning when I say a ‘goodbye’ Facebook post from Obama, and I don’t think that will be the only time I shed tears today. I’m hoping the second time might be a little happier, because I know I’m going to bawl my eyes out when I meet a friend’s brand new baby tonight. There is a lot of pain and evil in the world, but there is also so much good and so much hope. We have to believe in the latter to make it through. 

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January Book Reviews

Another year, another reading challenge for me to tackle. For reasons that are probably obvious now, I’m only giving myself a target of reading 52 books this year – less than half my total last year. My hope is that I can sit with a sleeping baby in one arm and my Kindle in the other so I’ll actually be able to read more than ever, but suspicion (and anecdotal evidence from friends who are parents) suggest that is a rather unlikely scenario. S0, I’m just going to try and get as much reading done before July and then we’ll see, shan’t we? Luckily, this set of books was a rather wonderful way to start a reading year… 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer*

Heartless is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland from the perspective of the Queen of Hearts (you know, “off with their heads!”)… before she became the Queen of Hearts. If you’re after an unputdownable read, then I think this might be the one for you: you’ve got a star-crossed love story, controlling parents, unexplainable events, delicious descriptions of pastries and some familiar characters sprinkled in there. 

Catherine is a favourite of the unmarried King but, unlike her social-climbing parents, she’s not fussed about becoming the Queen. She wants to open a bakery with her best friend – a goal that seems to be slipping out of her reach with every new attention from his majesty. At a royal ball, she meets the handsome and mysterious Jest, the new court joker and the two begin a secret love affair. Cath wants to follow her heart, but in a land filled with magic, madness and monsters, is that even possible? 

Marissa Meyer manages to capture so much of the quirky, surreal, nonsense quality of the original Alice in Wonderland tale in this novel, which has twists and turns around every corner. Characters that you know and love, from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter, are given new depth and personality, whilst you can’t help but fall in love with both Cath and Jest. My heart ached for them, for the impossibilities of the stifling sexist society they live in, and for the ending that you know is coming. As a re-telling you sort of know where the story is going, although the ending did manage to shock me and break my heart regardless. There’s a really good balance between the original and Meyer’s own innovations that make this feel so fresh – I wish there was another one to come! 

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp 

As more school shootings happen, so, too, do books about them seem to proliferate as people try to make sense of something that seems nonsensical. There’s the infamous We Need To Talk About Kevin, the darkly funny Vernon God Little and plenty more – including this young adult offering, This is Where It Ends. At 10am, the principal of Opportunity High School finishes her welcome speech, marking the start of a new semester. At 10.03am, the auditorium doors won’t open. At 10.05am the shooting begins. Told from the perspective of four different students with personal connections to the shooter, this book tracks the incident minute-by-minute in heart-stopping detail. At moments, it is truly terrifying. The shooting, as I imagine it is in reality, is brutal, indiscriminate and all the more scary for it, and the scenes inside the auditorium were incredibly powerful.

However, for me, it just wasn’t nuanced enough; school shootings are such a complex issue and tackled so well elsewhere, that this felt a bit bland at times. The four voices we hear all felt quite similar; although the characters ostensibly had quite a few differences between them, they spoke in the same way and were all quite clearly the ‘good guys’ when put against the shooter. There were moments were the narrative tried to give him redeeming qualities, but they were weighed down by how ‘evil’ he was portrayed in other moments. I’m not sure it’s always as clear cut as that, and I wish that he’d had a chance to speak in the same way as his ‘victims’. There was so much potential, but I feel like the other books I mentioned do a better job of tackling such a deep and difficult topic. 

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson*

Jacqueline Wilson was one of my favourite authors when I was a child, and my favourite book of hers (at the time) was The Lottie Project, with half of the novel set in Victorian England. So it was with no small amount of childlike excitement that I set about reading ‘Clover Moon’, a novel set in the Victorian slums about a plucky young girl with a lucky name. Clover’s imagination is her best escape from her poverty-stricken life, but when tragedy strikes she realises that everything she once loved about her home is gone, and her abusive step-mother and indifferent father loom large in her life. She’s heard of a place that girls like her can run to, but can she find the courage (and the opportunity) to break free and find a new home? 

Wilson excels when she’s writing about hardship, never shying away from the details – a skill that I think is the reason why she is so beloved as a children’s author. In Clover, we have a brave and brilliant heroine that you will root for from the very first page, and despite the moments of darkness, there is a huge amount of hope within this book – again, a typical feature of Jacqueline Wilson. Clover encounters some real characters on her travels, including the kindly Mr Dolly, a hunchbacked doll-maker who will bring tears to your eyes, and Hetty Feather, the eponymous heroine of another of Wilson’s books. Whilst the happy ending might not be realistic for most children in Victorian England, this heart-warming tale has all of the elements of the perfect story. There’s a reason why Jacqueline Wilson is a national treasure, and I’ve yet to read one of her books that proves otherwise. I hope to be able to read many more of her books in years to come! 

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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When 2 Become 3…

So, the secret is finally out! Not that we’ve been able to keep it much of a secret at all… not drinking over Christmas and New Year definitely tips people off, and I’m a terrible liar at the best of times. We’re very excited (and also a little bit terrified) to announce that our first baby is due in July 2017. 

I should probably have titled this post when 3 become 4, because technically we already have an extra member of our family in Tuna but I don’t think she’ll mind on this occasion. In fact, she’s been indifferent to the whole thing (like she is about most things, really…). 

I found out pretty early on, so despite only being 14 weeks along I really feel like I’ve already been pregnant for years but we’re only just getting to the good bit. That is, the bit where we can actually buy stuff for a nursery and think about names. I’ve got some thoughts to share about being pregnant more generally next week, but suffice to say it’s not been my favourite experience so far. The nausea! The exhaustion! The blood tests! The constant worry! In fact, you might even have guessed that something was up by my inability to blog for about three months straight. I’m hoping I’m out of the woods with some of that stuff now, although I’m just about to tackle the fun of maternity dressing now that I actually have a tiny bump (!). It’s all very surreal, let me tell you. 

So, if everything goes to plan, a tiny Paul or Amy (or, more likely, some mix of the two) is on their way this summer. It’s all about to get a little crazy around here… 

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