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October 28, 2016

A-Z of Amyleigh

Hello you wonderful people - today I thought I'd do another more personal but lighthearted post because I know my 25 Things I've Learned in 25 Years post back in April was a big hit with a lot of you and well I just wanted to write something that was a bit more chatty and fun. One thing I've noticed my blog is sometimes lacking in a more personal insight into me. I mean, I write posts 3/4 times a week, talking about the things I like or things that I have done, but I don't necessarily talk about myself on a deeper level. So with that said, I thought the A-Z tag would be a perfect post to do. Months ago, I considered doing this as a series on the blog but that would mean it would take 26 weeks to complete and I ain't got enough blog schedule space for those kind of shenanigans so one post will suffice! I hope you enjoy reading this as I had a good ol' think about what to include and what you guys might want to know about me or just completely random facts that you might not have ever have guessed. So grab a cuppa and strap yourselves in because it's going to be a long one:

A - Art. I absolutely love drawing and painting and although I don't get to do it much at the moment because of my hectic full on job, I love it as a topic of discussion, a way to spend spare time, and a way to learn more about people/history/culture/religion etc. I plan to do a full post on art - which may include some of my own creations - in the near future in my "My Other Interests" series so keep a look out for that if you're a fellow art aficionado. I find Tumblr is a great site for me to collate artwork I like and feel inspired during those times I can afford to spend several hours beavering away myself so again, check out tumblr if what sort of art I like intrigues you.

B - Bananas and Bourbon biscuits. I bet you were expecting me to mention something about books here but har har I've deceived you. Books are pretty important but no where near as important as banana flavoured stuff and bourbon biscuits. I'm actually not that keen on bananas (they have an odd texture and I'm not a fan) but give me banana flavoured milk or those little foam sweets and I am aaall over that. If I had to choose just one snack option for the rest of my life though, albeit a tough decision to make, I know I'd have to pick the best biscuits in the world. Custard creams you come a close second though so don't worry.

C - Custard Cre- just kidding. Comics comics comics. This one is another not surprising statement for most of you, but I bloody love comics and graphic novels. Although I like to get stuck in and lost in a good novel, I always prefer picking up a comic or thirty. There's so many different and adventurous stories that comics can bring to life I'm always spoilt for choice - it also means I can appreciate some pretty darn good artwork too so win win.

D - Dance. From the age of about six, I went to weekly dancing classes and was particularly good at line dancing (yep, cowboy hat and boots and all). I'm blowing my own trumpet here but I was actually incredibly good at it but foolishly gave it up when I became a teenager because it was "embarrassing", too much effort, and ugh it meant I couldn't wear my MCR or Green Day hoodies 24/7. I'd love to go back to it someday.

E - Engagement. Back in August, Matthew proposed to me and I was so happy I (almost) did a cry and I'm the "ice queen" so I never cry. Since then my favourite bit of jewellery will forever be my engagement ring.

F - Fangs. If you google the phrase "yaeba" or "yaeba teeth", you'll be met with a definition that states: "In Japan, yaeba is human teeth, especially upper canines, with an uncommonly fang-like appearance. In Japan it is perceived as a sign of youthfulness". After having braces for a while when I was little, I managed to fall down the stairs and knocked my upper canines into the mess they are now and I still haven't had them fixed. People in Japan will pay up to £350 per tooth to get the look I got by cartwheeling down the stairs like a buffoon so maybe I should move there to be the ultimate trend-setter.

G - Games. Something I occasionally mention on NB is games. I am an avid video game player when I have the spare time to get completely lost in one and have been feverishly playing them since I was really young. Both of my parents were into gaming and into completely different styles of it at that so I adopted a love for all sorts of stuff and the love has never really faded. I did a whole post on some of my all-time favourites already and I do a monthly mention of anything I've been playing in my monthly review posts too! Also feel like I should mention here that Gabumon was my favourite Digimon growing up because I know you need these golden nuggets of information.

H - Hook. I could have put so many things here but there was just a niggling feeling that I should mention Hook. Peter Pan is one of my all-time favourite stories and has been since I was small. I love the original Peter Pan story, I love Disney's Peter Pan adaptation, but the Peter Pan-related story I love the most has to be the Spielberg movie, Hook. Robin Williams is absolute gold in it (when is he not though, come on now) and no matter how many times I watch it, I never get bored and almost always cry at least once. It's just so good.

I - Introverted Homebody. I've definitely mentioned it somewhere before, but I am an introvert through and through. It has taken me a long time to realise this and come to terms with it/accept it, but I'm happiest at home, basking in my own company, reading or watching TV. If people don't like that, I don't mind because I'm happy.

J - Juice. I am an utter juice fiend. Particularly for cranberry or apple juice. I just can't get enough.

K - Kerrang! all the goddamn time. This probably isn't that surprising if you know my music taste, but Kerrang! was pretty much my whole teen years. It was on TV from the moment I got in from school until I went to bed everyday and my local newsagents had to order in two copies of the magazine - one for me and one for the only other goth in the village - because I lived in a delightful chavvy place so it wasn't a mag that would usually grace the shelves.

L - Labyrinth. Another film I had to mention was obviously, Labyrinth. David Bowie is one of my most favourite musical artists and the Labyrinth film is my firm childhood favourite and easily in my Top Five as an adult. I just have extremely fond memories of it and if I ever have children, they will be made to watch it until they appreciate it for all it's cheese and amazingness too.

M - Cormack McCarthy and Mass Effect. Mr McCarthy will be one of my most favourite authors from now until the end of time. His writing style and storytelling is like no other and his wonderful book, The Road, will always make me want to cry, throw it across the room, but also cradle it because it gives me every single feeling all at once. If you haven't read it, you have to ASAP. Also just thought I'd pop Mass Effect in here because other than Final Fantasy, it is my favourite game series and I'm literally chomping at the bit for the release of the new game next year. Oh. my. GOOD. god.

N - Northern Blood. I don't think I've ever mentioned why NB is NB, but its because I'm a Geordie (someone who hails from the north east of England) and I'm proud. Simple as that. Whey aye man!

O - Ocean. One thing I really miss about living in the north east is how easy it was to get to the beach. Hop on the underground or a bus and 30 minutes later, you could be sitting next to the crashing waves with a hot drink. I never ever get the feeling I do at the beach anywhere else and even just walking along the coastline for half an hour or so can give me a positive boost that will last for days.

P - Pangolins and Proteas. As all the other letters are taken for some of my favourite animals (sloths, tapirs, bees, owls) I thought I'd mention the wee little cuties pangolins. That meme saying they look like they are about to ask you to prom? I die. I also thought I'd mention proteas (or sugarbushes) here too. I love yellow and orange roses and I'm a big fan of sunflowers, thistles, eucalyptus leaves, and ferns when it comes to flowers and plants, but my ultimate favourite flower are those big ol' beautiful proteas because they look out of this world. Oh I should also mention that I put pepper on/in pretty much everything I eat. And far too much of it too - I love it.

Q - Quality Street green triangles. Now if were unfortunate enough to have ate the green triangles out of the Quality Street tin/tub at Christmas time without consulting me first, your life would not have been worth living. Whether it was my mam, brother, or grandparents, they all had to (and sometimes still do) save the green nougat triangles for me because they're my faves.

R - Ryan Gosling a.k.a. my second boyfriend. People who know me will be rolling their eyes right now (including Matt- hi Matt, you know about this fling it's fine) because this love affair is no secret. I fancy the pants of Ryan Gosling because duh, it's Ryan Gosling, but I would also say alongside Heath Ledger (third boyfriend), Robin Williams and Paul Rudd, he's one of my favourite actors because he's in a lot of my favourites films. Coincidence? Probably not. But he *is* a great actor... He just also happens to have been handcrafted by the gods too.

S - Serial Killers and Silent Hill. That took a deep uncomfortable turn there didn't it? I have a morbid fascination with true crime/serial killers and criminal psychology. At college I wanted to study criminal psychology because, believe it or not, Silence of the Lambs made that job look hella appealing to me. I still think it would amazing to work with people in that sector because I love finding out what made them do what they did, but I guess it's safer to just observe it all at a distance via documentaries/books. I also thought I'd give a quick shout out to Silent Hill because those games fucked me up as a child and I still love the movies - even if they're not that great I regularly watch them anyway. I just love the monster character design of the franchise and I personally thought the storyline for the initial games was a pretty great one.

T - Twin Peaks. Sticking with the macabre and the strange because why the fuck not it's almost Halloween, I had to quickly mention my all-time favourite show: Twin Peaks. Special Agent Dale Cooper is a heartthrob, David Lynch is a mastermind, and the theme tune is the most relaxing thing in the world. This show makes me feel incredibly nostalgic when I watch it and I love every character and what to have all of their wardrobes (Log Lady is my ultimate favourite though for obvious reasons. I mean, she has a talking log and great glasses). If you don't know what Twin Peaks is, it's a show about Special Agent Dale Cooper, an out of town investigator, comes to Twin Peaks to investigate a death of a young school girl. It's briliiantly bizarre and unpredictable and if you watch it, you can thank me later.

U - University. Let's go for the triple threat and talk about how I want to study death at university. I have kinda done this already as I studied Archaeology for my undergrad degree, but I am desperate to get back to studying and next on my education hit list is a masters in looking at how death and bereavement is celebrated and conducted in different cultures and religions. It literally sounds like the ideal course to me.

V - Vincent Valentine and Vileplume. If you read my post about my favourite video games or know about my love and obsession with Final Fantasy, you might just know who Vincent Valentine is. He's a character from FFVII and he is the most emo, vampirish character in anything ever so naturally, I've loved him since the first time I played the game. Cid Highwind is a close runner up though just because he's such a grumpy old dad of a man and I love it. Vileplume was also my favourite original Pokémon if you were wondering!

W - Wagner. No, I'm not talking about Wilhelm Richard Wagner, the German composer no no no, I'm talking about Wagner from X Factor. Remember him? He was the best contestant there has ever been on that show ever and he was the one reason I managed to watch a who season of it. What a guy.

X - The X-Files. Another cult favourite show of mine has got to be X-Files. It has the slightly cheesy but super nostalgic 90s feel for me and it is truly a great show - if you haven't watched it and sci-fi is your thing, you need to watch all of the old series. This year they also relaunched it with the same main characters and I'm pleased to say, it's still a delight for the senses.

Y - Yellow and Yoga. I've almost definitely mentioned it before here on NB, but my favourite colour is yellow. It's such a lovely bright vibrant colour and sunflowers and bees are yellow and they are some of my favourite things. I also love spending time doing yoga. I had a bit of a hiatus this year but I'm back on track with it now and it makes me so relaxed, calms down my anxiety, and boy oh boy does it improve my flexibility and muscle tone. Big thumbs up to yoga.

Z - Zombies. When it comes to horror, I love giving myself the willies but I'm also terrified of everything. One thing I do enjoy though is anything to do with zombies. The Walking Dead is a *great* TV show, Tokyo Ghoul is one of my favourite animes which has human flesh-eating ghouls in it, and as I mentioned earlier, Silent Hill and the likes of Resident Evil were some of my favourite games growing up. I also love watching makeup YouTubers do zombie SFX stuff too - my current favourite is this trypophobia zombie offering from Jordan Hanz. I quite like the blood and gore of horror, I just don't deal well with the paranormal and jump scares! Also if you haven't watched Mark Plier play through the zombie/horror survival game "Outlast" specifically, the "Whistleblower" playlist, you need to watch it.

Gosh, this post is a long one but I had a lot of fun writing it! I had to ask Matthew for help several times because it's incredibly tricky trying to think of something for every single letter. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you managed to read it all without getting bored, I salute you. I hope you've gained a little insight into me, the nutter who runs NB, and complete the tag yourself!

- A.
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October 21, 2016

The World's Best Beef Pie

It has been a wee while since I last did a recipe post on NB so today's offering will hopefully make up for the lack of food posts here! It will probably come as no surprise that today's post is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe and it should also come as no surprise to see my trusty kitchen elf Matthew in some of these photos as he is the brains and muscle behind most of our culinary operations. Matt first made this pie for me when we first started dating and boy oh boy did it make me fall in love (with him, but also with the pastry covered slices of heaven I was shovelling into my mouth). If you're British, there's a good chance you enjoy a good stodgy, comforting pie now and again as I know I do. There's something about pie, mash and some gravy that just makes me feel a bit warm and content inside. But this pie? This pie in particular is the best I've ever had. As Jamie mentions in his book, Jamie's Great Britain, he served it to Prince William & Princess Kate on their wedding day so if it's good enough for royalty, it's certainly good enough for me.

Pie is such a good way to get rid of random leftovers and ingredients in one easy way and it's also a super good meal option for those of us who might want to be a little fancy in the kitchen and make our own pastry, or for us lazy bones who buy premade but like the idea of leisurely making a hearty meal on a lazy Sunday afternoon. So throw in some good beef, some beer, and some pearl barley and you've got a winning combination and if you want to make it yourself, keep on reading and I'll tell you how!

Total time: 3.5+ hours
Serves: 10 people (or can be kept refrigerated for a few days if there's just the two of you!)

For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 knob of butter
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 2-3 medium red onions
- 1kg shin of beef
- sea salt and ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
- 400ml of Guiness
- 2 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
- 1.5 litres of beef stock
- 140g pearl barley
- 3 table spoons of English or Dijon mustard
- 100g of cheddar cheese

For the pastry:
- 1 box of Just Roll shortcrust (no one has time for making pastry come on now!)
- 1 large egg, beaten, or milk (for egg/milk wash)

To prep & cook:
1.) Throw the olive oil, butter, and the herbs into a large casserole/chilli pot type pan which you need to have on the hob on a high heat. Roughly chop and add the onions (and the carrots if you have them - they're not part of the original recipe but this is a good leftovers recipe!) with the diced meat, and some salt and pepper. Mix it all together and let it cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the tomato purée, the guiness or stout beer, flour, and stock, and stir until everything blends togethr and begins to simmer. Now we play the waiting game: turn the heat down really low and pop the lid on the pot, letting it cook for 1 hour - just make sure to check on it occasionally.

After that initial hour, it's time for my favourite ingredient: begin to stir in the pearl barley. Put the lid back on and simmer the mixture for another hour, and once the time is up, simply remove the lid and let the pot simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the meat shreds easily and the gravy has thickened. If there is any oil sitting on the surface, spoon it away and stir in the mustard and finely grate the cheese to add. If you have Worcestershire sauce - add this in too!

Whilst the pie filling is still simmering away, now is the time to get the pastry ready. Don't waste time making some - you can if you want to go all out but Just Roll pastry is just as tasty, less hassle, and takes no where near as much time to make. Simply take the pastry out of the fridge in good time, flour your surface which you are going to roll the pastry out on and your rolling pin and you're good to go! Once you have rolled out the pastry to about 1cm thick, preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Take the pot off the hob and ladle the stew into a large pie/lasagne dish. Make sure you have beaten your egg/have some milk ready and use it to eggwash/milkwash the edges of the pie dish, ready for adding the pastry soon! If you don't have a pastry brush you can always use a clean foundation brush if you don't mind needing to wash it afterwards. It's also worth noting if you want your pie to be really golden and shiny once baked, an eggwash will get a better finish but it's not a necessity.

Now is your chance to make sure your pastry is big enough to cover your whole dish. If it *just* fits it's not the end of the world - the pastry will just collapse and lie on top of the filling, making it less crisp (this happened this time around for us making it!) but it doesn't ruin it. But to avoid pastry shrinkage, make sure you have rolled your pastry out so it is a little bit bigger than the dish. Carefully place it on top of the pie and then trim off any pastry which is hanging over the edges to stop them from burning. Pinch and squash the edges of the pastry (or use a fork to imprint the edges) for traditional pie deco. If you have any leftover pastry from the edges you can always use them to put some letters/decoration on top of the pie! Eggwash/milkwash the pastry and cook the pie at the bottom of the hot oven found 45 to 50 minutes or until the pastry is looking golden and mouthwateringly good.

Once it's ready, take it out of the oven and give it a few minutes to rest and cool down. The best thing about this pie is that it is great on it's own or with a multitude veggies/side dishes. As you can see, Matt & I had it will far too much mustard mash and tasty wee sweet peas but we also had it with mash and beans, with wedges, or you could just simply have it with lots of good veggies if you don't want anything extra stodgy.

And that's it! This pie is such a nice idea for any big gathering or to impress family members! It's a nice meal for any time of the year but it's obviously especially good during the autumn/winter months because it's such a comforting dish which is warming on a chilly evening. It's also a nice alternative to your traditional Sunday roast if somehow that sort of meal is getting boring. Like I mentioned earlier, it's a good one for serving larger groups but also for small groups with leftovers. Matt made this pie on Sunday and we were still working our way through it on Thursday - it lasts quite well in the fridge so you can definitely save it and keep it for lunches/dinners later in the week, making it quite a cheap and cheery meal to make too!

As always, our recipes are either missing or adding ingredients when compared to the originals, but let me know how you get on if you decide to make it!

- A.
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October 19, 2016

Foundation Free & Happy

For a girl who loves makeup and has always worn it if she has needed to leave the house since around the age of 12, this blog title was something I never expected to sit down and type yet, here we are. A couple of months ago I posted all about why I wear makeup and how my reasons for doing so have changed dramatically over the years, but one thing I never thought I'd do is be foundation free everyday and most shockingly, feel confident about it. If you've read this blog from the start, or my previous blogs from the last several years, or you know me, you will be well acquainted with an Amyleigh who used to wear a mask of matte foundation and nothing else would do. I was an Estée Lauder Double Wear, topped with MAC's Studio Fix powder girl through and through and that was my daily routine for such a long time. As I got older, I dabbled more and more with other brands and I guess I just started to look for other things. Being extremely oily and fighting acne meant I always wanted to keep my skin looking as matte as possible but now? I guess I'm getting used to that being an option only for the first hour or two of my day.

So this all came about when I went to visit my best friend during July. I had been away to Rome with Matt, melted in the heat everyday, wearing either no foundation or barely any and came back to the UK super pleased to hide my blemishes and oils again. But then I went up to Manchester, got far too drunk and wanted/proceeded to vomit my guts up after my first night there so putting on foundation was the *last* thing on my mind. I managed to slap on some concealer and steady my shaking hungover hands enough to draw on my brows and that was enough effort for the day. Funnily enough, I couldn't be bothered to put any foundation on again the next day. Or the next. Or yep, the next. I came back home to Winchester and didn't wear any for a few days then put a full face on one day to go and get tattooed and I have never felt so gross, tacky to the touch, and self-conscious in my life. As soon as I left the house I had an overwhelming feeling to wash my face and start again. It just felt so restricting. I felt like I didn't look like me and I felt like the makeup was actually making my oils worse when I used to think they were helping mask them.

So once I got home that day, I swore I wouldn't wear any unless I felt it was really necessary and I've not looked back since. I'm still wearing everything else - concealer, translucent powder, brows, and mascara - but foundation? Good riddance. My skin has been so grateful for the transition too. I no longer worry so much about my blemishes and just deal with the fact that they're there and sometimes they can't be covered up that well if at all and oh well, what a shame. It's not the end of the world. I've noticed that, although my skin is still pretty oily, it doesn't look *that* bad even if I've not been able to check my face in a mirror for over 7 hours whilst I've been at work because the oil hasn't had any foundation to break up and make look cakey. Not wearing it is giving my pores a chance to breathe too and yeah they might be big and noticeable, but I feel so much cleaner and fresher each day, all day.

I absolutely adore makeup if you couldn't tell by a weekly theme of posts on this blog, but I also love the fact that my interest in it and my reasons for being interested in it have changed. No longer am I trying lots of new and different products because I need to find something to cover up my skin; something to hide behind. No longer am I so self-conscious that I'm checking in the mirror every half hour to make sure my face hasn't slipped or started to crack and crease. Sure, I still don't have the level of confidence I think every girl *should* have. I'm not sitting here saying I love myself but I am getting there and that's what's important. I'm starting to accept the fact that I'm always going to have acne and you know what? That's fine. I'm always going to be an oily son of a gun and that's okay too. It's just something I need to learn to manage and come to terms with, not something I have to disguise in fear of what other people might think. I also totally need to come to terms with the fact that my brows are just non-existent and that you all now are probably looking at them thinking "wow, Amy, you really do need to paint them on everyday don't you" but that will be the next step for me to work on.

I don't really know what I wanted to get out of this post but I just wanted to make others aware that if you think positively and push yourself out of your comfort zone just that little bit more and more, you can begin to accept the parts of you that used to make you dislike yourself - the things that made you feel ugly as a person. It might seem like a vain thing to be so hung up on and you know what? It completely is but if you're someone who suffers from acne, someone who doesn't have the time or energy to apply makeup everyday, or if you're just someone who thinks they rely on it too much. Try having some makeup free days and see how it goes. If it doesn't empower you, I don't know what will.

- A.
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October 14, 2016

Real Talk: The 'Grey Area' of Sexuality

Something I've wanted to talk about on NB for quite some time now is sexuality. There's seems to be a level of stigma attached to being open and confident with your sexuality no matter what your "preferences" are. If you're homosexual you can be hit with some horrendous words from repulsive folk, if you're straight you can be called a "slut" and a "whore" just for being comfortable with your sexuality and promoting good sex. Even in more "forward thinking" areas, the law might say one thing about freedom of speech, free to love, free to marry etc., but people's attitudes to one and other is a totally different kettle of fish.

For me, my sexuality usually isn't too much of an issue but over time, I've realised I've kept it to myself more and more and sometimes outright lied just to avoid the conversations and questions it would inevitably produce. But honestly? That's not okay. I want to talk about it here because it's my space to let my mouth run free and for me to express my opinions and thoughts on various matters but also I don't want other people thinking they're on their own when it comes to things like this because I guarantee, there will be some more of us out there that have had similar experiences. So with that said, let's talk about bisexuality. If you were to google "bisexual" in search for a definition, it will inform you that it is 'sexual behaviour or a sexual or romantic attraction to males and females' and that's it. That's what it is. That's the definition and that's the meaning of the word yet over the years, over the time I have identified as bisexual, I have had a lot of things said to me, I've had people act a certain way towards me, and just generally it has usually resulted in an overall negative experience for me to be confident and honest about my sexuality when in conversation with others. I'm not saying being bisexual is more of a struggle than other sexualities because - it's not. However I can only talk about my own experiences and I've often found people to act rude or overly vocal/nosy about bisexuality towards me which I can't understand. So I thought it was high-time I busted some myths surrounding bisexuality that I have either been asked or accused of.

"Being bi is greedy." This has got to be my favourite thing because people have actually said it to my face! The whole "having your cake and eating it" statement has been thrown around a lot when talking about being bi and I just don't get it. I mean, sure. You've got more choice in the sense that you have two genders you can 'pick and choose' from however it doesn't mean I am greedy. I'm not saying all of these individuals are mine; I'm not capitalising on them. Think of it if you are a heterosexual person who likes both blondes and brunettes. Are you greedy? Are you stealing your fair share of suitable suitors because you like both hair colours?! You can see how ridiculous it sounds right? Which brings me on to my next point.

"Everyone is at risk." Another favourite as I didn't realise I was the plague. As soon as the "bi" word is thrown into the mix, everyone thinks you fancy everyone else. I don't know what it is about saying bisexual that makes people hear 'sexual predator' but it seems to happen more often than not. I always think this is a slight breakdown in education as if you were going to be really blunt and black and white about things, pansexuality has more variety and is more inclusive of even more sexualities/identities than bisexuality however again pansexual individuals will still have a 'preference' or a 'type' to some degree. People seem to assume if you say "I find men and women sexually attractive" that means you find ALL of them attractive which is so far from the truth. I like really *manly man* looking men and I basically fancy anyone who looks like Ellen Page when it comes to women so no, I don't fancy everyone. Every person on the planet will have a preference or something they look for in another person if they are sexually or romantically interested so why it has to be different for bisexuals is beyond me!

"Oh so you're BI huh? *heart eyes and drooling*." I blame porn and American high school movie settings for this one. There's something about saying the word bi to people (usually straight guys - sorry for generalising but this is the only time I've came across this trauma!) that turns them into the strangest perverted folk around. I'm of course saying that with a jokey way but the way people instantly change is bizarre. I fully understand and respect that two women being sexual together can be a turn on for some people and that is absolutely fine - I am not here to say what people should and should not get a kick out of, but when you become treated like a level entertainment, that is when I have a problem with it. Teamed with the "you must fancy everyone" mindset, suddenly you are asked if you'd kiss that girl over there in a bar, or if you fancy every girl who walks past. I hate to be a disappointment and a let down, but I'm not really into having a pillow fight with 7 tall leggy blondes in my underwear. I've even had friends try to be almost pushy in the past when you're in a bar; trying to make you talk to another drunk girl who they assume will want to get in on that sort of action for attention. I can promise you the majority of bi girls in this instance do not want to be part of that and it's verging on abusive to force that expectation for your sexual benefit onto others - just saying!

Before this post gets a little bit too ranty, I just want to say I am saying these things in a lighthearted way. The majority of my negative experiences with people's reactions towards my sexuality have been things that I have long since forgotten or that just don't bother me anymore. However if I was to think about how secretive I can be with my sexuality, it is clear to see that I have took some of it to heart over time. As someone who is engaged to a man and has been in a long term relationship for the last few years, it's easy for people to assume you're straight and that doesn't particularly bother me but I don't seem to go out of my way to correct them either. That has made me realise I need to be more "out and proud" of my sexuality and I need to stop hiding behind what society assumes. I still don't think I will ever be someone who will be so confident to be like "Hi I'm Amy, I'm 25, from the north east, and I fancy men and women" because that level of self-assurance does not suit me, but I do want people to know that it is okay to be comfortable with your sexuality.

You don't need to change it or lie about it to fit into the mould others have made for you. You should feel confident and comfortable enough to be able to say "I like/don't like this" to some level and if people act differently towards you because of that (which I have experienced, particularly from female friends because you know, as I said, everyone is at risk because I'm a big sexual predator monster,) then they're simply not worth your time or friendship. Even if it's not a concern for you to make others aware of your sexuality (god only knows I kept mine to myself most of the time until I sat down to write this post), making sure you are happy within your own state of mind to say "I like this and that is fine" is such a relief and a positive sensation only you can provide for yourself. So be confident with yourself and your sexuality - it's yours to own and no one else can tell you any different.

- A.
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October 07, 2016

September in Review

Ahhh it's October! October is my favourite month of the year because it fully signifies the "proper" end of summer for me as the leaves begin to change colour and there is a crispness to the cold morning air. Although I'm looking forward to October, it's time to reflect on September and the busy ol' month it was. Unlike most of my other monthly review posts, September felt like a looong hard slog of a month for me for a number of reasons but I have discovered some absolute gems this month - so keep on reading!

The Personal
So the major point on the personal update is I started my new job! It has been stressful, sleepless, and mildly terrifying, but I still have a smile on my face. It has been tricky settling into a new job with new responsibilities but working with teenagers is something that always brightens even the very worst days for me so I'm grateful I've got the opportunity to work with them on an almost daily basis. Working outside of Winchester has also meant I've had the chance to have a nose around a new town and explore a little bit (which I plan to do a lot more of when I eventually find the time!).

Matt also started his university teaching again this month and he's also been accepted for his PhD! It's exciting but stressful times for the both of us at the moment so after celebrating his successes, we found out about a beginners taxidermy course that was taking place in Winchester and thought it was the perfect opportunity to let our hair down for an afternoon and just do something together because we're both so busy lately. If you want to read more about it, you can catch the full in-depth post here but be warned - there are some images of dead mice included but I've kept them gore free! Although it isn't for everyone, it was certainly an experience and as an individual who loves taxidermy and collecting it, I only respect taxidermists even more now I know how much work goes into creating something just as small as a mouse.

I've watched a mix bag of movies this month. Through being too exhausted to do anything most evenings and the weather taking a rainy turn for the worst, Matt & I have ploughed our way through a few things that were both bad and good. As a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, I realised I hadn't seen Whisper of the Heart and after borrowing the DVD from one of Matt's friends, we sat down to watch it because it was supposed to be a goody. I love Studio Ghibli but this one was just 'meh' for me. I did enjoy it, it was a sweet film about teenage romance and how serious it can seem and feel at that age, but it didn't have a lot going on. It starred The Baron from The Cat Returns so I thought the film would have a little more adventure and action, but it was a beautiful film nevertheless. I also *finally* watched the docu-film, Amy, about one of my favourite singers, Amy Winehouse. For some reason, I put off watching it for the longest time and decided to watch it one evening when I was home alone. I sobbed like a baby. It was such a heartbreaking thing to watch as it really made you realise what a sad individual she was and how far she was pushed. It also made me laugh though because my god was she a funny woman, talented woman. Even if you're not particularly a fan of Winehouse, I'd definitely recommend watching Amy as it was so insightful.

A great movie Matt & I watched was Nice Guys. Nice Guys stars my other boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, and Mel Gibson as two private detective types in the 70s and it's just a really bizarrely funny film. They end up getting involved with something bigger than they're used to and have to work together and the story mixed with the off-the-wall humour is something different and refreshing. It reminded me a little bit of your typical American comedies like Super Bad or Role Models, but a more mature version (if there's such a thing!). Possibly the best thing I watched this September though was the comedian Trevor Noah's documentary "You Laugh But it's True". I first fell in love with this guy when he starred on the panel of QI and have enjoyed his stand up comedy and appearances on TV ever since. His documentary follows him around areas of his childhood in South Africa and he talks about what it was like to be biracial comedian there and what it was like to grow up during apartheid. It was so interesting to hear someone's first hand accounts of such a terrible and hard to understand period of time and to learn more about what it is like in South Africa. Trevor Noah is an extremely talented and charismatic comedian so the documentary is really easy-watching despite the dark subject matter at times. I'd really recommend it if you like your docos but you want to watch one that's a little different.

Because of the shitty weather this month, Matt & I have blitzed our way through a few TV shows from start to finish. The first thing we decided to watch was Being Human. If you've never heard of it, it's a UK drama that used to be aired on BBC Three and is about a werewolf, a ghost, and a vampire living together in Bristol. I remember watching the odd episode late at night when I couldn't sleep but I forgot *just* how good it is. The first series is especially gripping and I really enjoyed blitzing through episode after episode. Once the original characters started to leave the show/plot, it lost its edge for me, but have a watch of the first series for certain. The other show I've finally bought into is American Horror Story. I know I know, I'm so late to the party but the look of it didn't really appeal to me previously. After watching the first episode of the first series, I still wasn't convinced but once I got into it properly, I was hooked. Matt & I have just started Season 4 but I'm not enjoying it as much as the first series. Each season is a completely different setting with a different theme/focus and different characters but most of the same actors are used. The acting in it is fantastic just because of that but I'll carry on watching throughout October in the hopes that the stories get as interesting and cleverly planned out as the first season was for me.

September has been another awesome month for music but first up, I'll talk about some new releases from some of my favourite artists/bands. James Vincent McMorrow is an acoustic *genius* who I love listening to when I need to relax or I'm walking anywhere on a cold day (so specific?!). He released a new LP this month, We Move, and I'm really enjoying it! Some songs are a little more upbeat compared to his other work and there's a little bit of an electro vibe throughout the album but I like it just as much as his other more simple acoustic jams. Still Corners also released Dead Blue which is true to their synth, techno/electro sound and again, I can't complain and I'm enjoying listening to it more and more. Two of my favourite heavier bands, Norma Jean and Every Time I Die released new albums too and although I'm still trying to fit in time to listen to Norma Jean's Polar Similar, I've enjoyed it so far and Every Time I Die's Low Teens has been on repeat in my flat since it's release date because Matthew is a little bit in love with them. I've also listened to a whole lot of Man Man this month too despite them not having anything new for my ears but they're always a winner for me!

Bon Iver has also had a new release, 22, A Million, which is so *so* different to what I'm used to when I think of when I hear the name, Bon Iver. It's a very different sound and the only way I can describe it is it's weird... but a good kind of weird. I don't think it really sounds like him but it somehow distinctly him and is apparently more the style/genre he wants to go down so I say it's all good in my books for that reason. Angel Olsen has been a favourite female singer for a while now and she reminds me of Tori Amos which can only ever be a good thing. Her new album called "My Woman" is really lovely - I've played it a few times this month and there's not one song on there that I don't like. It's strangely/strategically suits the coming colder months and autumnal change in the air and maybe that's why I like it so much. Olsen has a gorgeous voice and I like the melodramatic-ness to her lyrics and the slightly down and droning music she produces. Big big fan! Just like Every Time I Die, Touché Amoré has been played a lot in this household too. I had never listened to them before I met Matt but I really enjoy listening to them - particularly this new album of theirs; Stage Four. Although its early days, I would definitely say its my favourite of all their albums I think it is *that* pleasing to my wee ears!

Spotify's "Discover Weekly" has actually been pretty bang on this September and has introduced me to some new artists and bands and thus some current overplayed albums. Harbours are the first I'll mention and they are a pop-punky, Blink 182-esque band so they were an instant winner with me. Their album Nothing Stays the Same is the one I've chosen to play again and again and I will definitely continue to play this right through October. Set Your Goals are some more newbies for me and their album - This Will Be the Death of Us - is something I, again, plan to play even more as the year progresses. As Soon as I heard Set Your Goals, 30 seconds into one of their songs I knew I would like them because they remind me a great deal of Four Year Strong. Whereas Four Year Strong are usually described as "beardcore" because of their hairy faces, Set Your Goals are more smooth/baby faced but have a similar melodic metalcore sound which I always enjoy listening to. I could carry on waffling about more bands and artists, but to save you the ache of reading 1000s of more words about each one, I'll just mention a few more that are worth a listen:

Wil Wagner: Laika
Our Past Days: Keep Safe
I The Mighty: Oil in Water
Okkervil River: Away

Video Games
This month I haven't played a single thing because I just haven't had the time and that has been completely rubbish. However, I have been watching Matt play a couple of things whilst I've been doing some work and I know what I *am* going to be playing as soon as I have more free time. The new Destiny release looks amazing - I have played a small amount of Destiny and whilst I think it is a good game and it is suuuch a nice and smooth shooter to play, it just doesn't have enough of the typical RPG detailed story for me. I like more linear games that don't have as much freedom as to how you complete/play them so I haven't played too much of it but the new release seems like a breath of fresh air from the previous Destiny releases. It seems more upbeat and positive (I know that sounds strange to say) but if you've played/seen any of the previous aspects of Destiny, this time it seems different. Another game I've watched but can't wait to play is Journey. This is *such* a beautiful game visually and is very calming and relaxing. The colour palette of it, the gentle music, the lack of dialogue and the casual attitude you can have playing it because it doesn't really have a goal or point to it makes it such a pleasure to play and watch.

What did you love and get up to this September?

- A.
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October 04, 2016

Why I Love Winchester: The Architecture

Ahh, Winchester. As someone who spent her teenage years feeling like Newcastle Upon Tyne wasn't that big and it was a city that didn't have that much to do, no one was more surprised than myself when I decided to move to the tiny city of Winchester for university. The "city" is pretty darn small and really only has it's city status because of its beautiful cathedral and the fact that it was once our capital city (that's right London, move over, you didn't always hog the lime light). I first moved to Winchester just over 4 years ago now and considering I'm still here holds testament to how great I think it is. So now that my posts all about Rome have sadly come to an end, I thought I'd fill this wee travel gap with a place I fell head over heels for and I'm very pleased and proud to now call my home.

Okay so first up we've just got to talk about the architecture. I can remember getting off a coach I had been on for 10 hours, with all my belongings packed into one suitcase, and as soon as I looked up at the town hall with it's amazing architecture, all the flowers blooming outside of it in the setting sun, I knew I had made a good decision to move there. This city is steeped with old buildings - quite similar to York or Durham in a lot of ways - but it also has a modern contemporary buzz to it because of the thriving universities in and around the city. I'm a huge fan of architecture. Give me all of the old buildings, the historical essence of a place and I will undoubtedly instantly fall in love. Although Winchester is a small place in the grand scheme of what you think of when you hear the word "city", the amazing buildings more than make up for what it might lack else where.

Whilst the high street is beautiful in itself, if you hop down the side streets or walk in pretty much any direction from the high street, in around 10 minutes you will stumble across a gorgeous old church that gets overlooked, a cute as a button thatched cottage that someone luckily calls home, or just simply somewhere that has been converted to meet the needs of contemporary society. One of my favourite spots for this is the YMCA café at the bottom of the high street which is actually in an old medieval hospital. If you ever happen to pop in there and you're sat enjoying your coffee (don't get coffee - I'd 110% recommend a white hot chocolate from there if you've got a sweet tooth!), just take a look around you. You can still see on the walls where the partitions used to be for each hospital bed's privacy; the coffee shop has a wall running down the centre of it which makes it feel like it's two separate cafés but it's actually the original wall that separated the men's and women's wards... That's just one place out of many that is soaked in history and still displays it's gorgeous architecture many years later.

But even if you're ever just paying Winchester a flying visit - a wander around will surely suppress your architecture-loving appetite. The same rule applies to Winchester that seems to apply to many other cities and towns across England which is to "look up" when you're walking around. The high street for instance has all your typical multi-million pound stores (Boots, Starbucks, Costa, The Body Shop, WHSmith etc.) but if you look up past the glaring shop signs and sale windows, you will see old tudor buildings, old roofs that are far from straight, and also the odd Freemason symbol or two signifying where they once met. If you're majorly into your history, of course, Winchester is going to be a place you will enjoy. Not only do you have the beautiful cathedral to explore but also many other churches, old hospitals, museums and - possibly the best destination - The Royal Oak which claims to be the oldest pub in England (records date back to as far as 1002!).

If you couldn't tell already by this gushing post, I do love living here. It's a breathtaking place all year round and the buildings definitely support the awe and splendour that the nature also provides (but I'll talk about the natural side of Winch in another post). I've tried my best to photo dump a *small* selection of architecture photos from all around the city but you really need to visit here to fully appreciate it's beauty if I haven't enticed you enough already. If you've enjoyed this post, please make sure to keep an eye out for future ones talking all about the joys of nature in and surrounding Winchester and all the independent places I'd recommend grabbing a bite to eat, a coffee to slurp, and where to waste all our hard earned money on handmade items and vintage treasure.

If you'd like to see more of my photography from Winchester, make sure to check out my Flickr account and my Instagram for more daily photos.

- A.
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