Why Netflix Cartoons = Better Than Pizza

Why Netflix Cartoons = Better Than Pizza

I am obsessed with Netflix. So much so, that I barely ever watch normal TV these days (to tell the truth, all I ever watched on there was programmes about houses, food and dating, anyway). Since I learnt my Dad’s Netflix log-in (hooray for up to 4 profiles!), I’ve been introduced to what feels like unlimited television and, surprisingly, the cartoons are some of its best offerings.

1) Castlevania



Adapted from a video game series (the first came out in 1986), this short season (a mere 4 episodes) still packs a punch. The premise is simple, and based off the Symphony of the Night installment: Dracula’s wife is killed, so an unlikely band of heroes form to combat the army he unleashes as revenge on mankind. Beautiful though gory, oppressive yet humorous, and set in the Middle Ages but with a dash of magic and technology, the averaging-25-minute episodes will leave you lusting for more. Sadly, we’ll have to wait til sometime in 2018 for the next series to drop.

2) BoJack Horseman

Washed up, cynical, self-absorbed: BoJack the celebrity horse is all of us when we’re past our prime. The show is set in modern-day ”Hollywoo” and follows BoJack’s adventures in narcissism with a cast of quirky characters – his ex-girlfriend-cum-agent and pink cat Princess Caroline, his witty-yet-awkward human autobiography ghostwriter Diane, and the smug Mr Peanutbutter, aka the golden retriever who copied BoJack’s ‘90s TV sitcom (or was it the other way round?). A fourth series is due later this year.

3)  Rick & Morty

A dark, drunken parody of Doc & Marty from Back to the Future, Adult Swim’s shocktastic, ‘spaced’-out cartoon is full of intergalactic gags and domestic drama. Playing like a combination of Family Guy meets Futurama, it stars egotistical grandfather, Rick, and his anxious grandson-cum-sidekick Morty, charting their weird and wacky interstellar adventures. Occasionally, Morty’s overbearing older sister, Summer, also features. Series 3 debuts in a matter of days.

It’s exciting to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg: I’ve discovered an animated version of Star Trek to delve into, there’s tons of decent anime to try (like Cowboy Bebpo and Full Metal Alchemist), plus a few shows from my childhood to introduce to Jack (hello, Pokemon!). I only wonder why I didn’t get Netflix sooner…

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5 Things I learnt in America

5 Things I learnt in America

Amy-Elizabeth Bates shares her opinions on the Land of the Free in this themed post.

I’ve been to America twice. Once was a West coast tour, stopping in Vegas, San Fran and LA, while the other was more Eastern promise, featuring North Carolina, New York and, er, Delaware. Anyway, in my short time in this great country, here’s what I’ve discovered…

1/ Everyone is friendly

In the UK, you don’t talk to strangers unless you need directions, you want to participate in an argument, or someone mentions the weather – and even then, this only really happens when you’re in a queue. In America, people open their homes to you, make conversation on the street, and even offer you lifts. Oh, and no topic of conversation is off-limits – favourites are your accent (‘banana’ and ‘butter’ seemed to be two favourites) politics (I spent 4th July there, and it happened to be during the London riots), and the royals (people assume you’re on first-name terms).

2/ Shopping is confusing

When it comes to spending money – whether on food or other items – you rarely pay what you see. Usually, there’s tax and tip to add on top. And it’s not just restaurants – many low-paid, labour-centred jobs require a tip. One American friend explained the restaurant scenario, where tipping can be almost a quarter of the bill, as ‘renting a seat’, and paying for an experience as much as paying for a meal.

3/ Food is…different

American cuisine is like something from another world:

Best things: 4th July ribs,* market-fresh tuna steaks, homemade crab cakes**
Worst things: grits, supermarket bread,*** service station corndogs
Weirdest things: Lack of custard, canned cheese, peanut butter flavoured everything****

*NOTE: Devoured savagely
**NOTE: I don’t even EAT crab
***NOTE: Supersweet!
****NOTE: Including cereal!

4/ Americans aren’t actually lazy

Yes, many places – including banks, pharmacies and bars – have a drive-thru. Sure, lots of national dishes are fast food (though many aren’t authentically American. Burgers, for example, are German in origin). And, admittedly, driving EVERYWHERE is a necessity (it’s generally too hot, and too far, to walk). But, most people I met loved some kind of sport – surfing, baseball, sailing, hiking – and were always up for going out.

5/ America is beautiful and diverse

Although I’m from a large city in the UK (Sheffield), I guess I’m more a country girl at heart. America has some spectacular scenery, from unspoilt beaches to sprawling mountains and rainbow canyons, and even dusty dessert roads spotted with cacti. Having said that, exploring the big cities is equally spectacular – walking the Golden Gate Bridge, ferrying over to the Statue of Liberty and squinting into the distance at the Hollywood sign are among my favourite memories.

In summary, I have a lot still left to see on either coast, as well as the entire Midwest, which makes America one of the few places I’ve visited where I’d go back in a heartbeat. I only hope they’ll have me!

The Good Girl’s Guide To: Wedded Bliss (AKA Marriage Myths)

The Good Girl’s Guide To: Wedded Bliss (AKA Marriage Myths)

Amy-Elizabeth Bates and husband Rik have just celebrated 1 year of marital bliss. Here’s what she’s learned…

Happy families (look away now, Herbie!)

I never imagined I’d get married.  While I loved Barbie and dolls’ houses growing up, and still haven’t got over my teen addiction to Final Fantasy X-2 (hello, power trio of kickass, yet fashionable, gals), somehow, the wedding planning never featured in my girlhood. 8 years, 2 break-ups and a baby after meeting my ‘OH’, we tied the knot, and have now survived another year of coupledom. Whether you’re still in the honeymoon period (literally) or are wondering whether to put a ring on it, here’s a few popular marriage myths debunked.

Myth #1: Your relationship will change

It bothers me that there’s a perception, especially amongst the older generation, that being married somehow makes you a more ‘serious’ or committed couple. Of course, being married means you have official proof of your relationship, and can make things more complicated if you ever decide to split up, but no more so than buying a house, or even having a baby, does – they all create ties. For the day-to-day stuff, it’s same old, same old. Don’t expect marriage to rescue a crumbling relationship, and equally, don’t think that getting hitched means everything will start going downhill.

Myth #2: You’re more likely to split up

People love to quote statistics about how many marriages end in divorce, but statistics can’t always be relied upon. How many people have stuck out an unhappy marriage for the sake of appearances, finances, or kids – and by comparison, how many relationships end in a break-up?

The fact is, a strong couple will get through difficult periods through love and communication – married or not. And in some ways, marriage can make you stay together – the ‘tie’ of the law and the formality involved in breaking up means it isn’t just a case of moving out when things go sour.

Myth #3: You can’t be monogamous

Remember this useful mantra: cheating is always caused by relationship problems, but not all relationship problems cause cheating. Some people worry that long-term relationships breed monotony, but even if this were true, why is this an issue only associated with marriage?

Myth #4: You live longer, so marriage is harder

While people tend to live longer nowadays, people are also getting married later in life – so there’s little difference between the amount of time a modern couple is married in comparison to their counterparts of the past.

Myth #5: You should live together before you get married

I knew my husband’s worst traits before he moved in, let alone before we married: rubbish at time-keeping, difficult to pin down, impossible to reason with, messy, charming to the point of it being annoying… you get the point. So, in my opinion, it’s more accurate to say that you should get to know someone before you marry them (including their still-arguing-with-you-at-3-am-because-they-refuse-to-back-down side).

Rik looking genuinely horrified at the prospect of signing the register…

To finish, here are 3 things to bear in mind for your relationship – married or not.

1. The happiest couples are friends
Couples who hang out together, confide in each other and support one another are much more likely to go the distance – just bear in mind that you need your own space, and your own friends, just as much.

2. Opposites may – or may not – attract

Like with many things, it’s all about balance. You need to have common ground in your beliefs, be willing to compromise on what you want in the relationship, and should have a few shared interests. Differences can keep things interesting – but they can also keep you on your toes.

3. Babies change everything
While many people think it’s marriage that changes a relationship, really it’s children that do. Why? Because your quality couple time takes a backseat – not to mention the sudden huge parental responsibility you take on.

So, here we are, 1 year later – an anniversary date at Pizza Express, plans to catch Ghost In The Shell later this week and, at some point, a very belated honeymoon…

Twin2ition, pretending to be Count Olaf. No occasion is too serious for a bit of Count Olaf impersonation!
Why Are We Pressured Into Drinking?

Why Are We Pressured Into Drinking?

It began with beer and wine, evolved into spirits, and ended in a few colourful cocktails. Actually, that’s not true – it ended in a disappointing sip of Prosecco. Amy-Elizabeth Bates is teetotal – and sick of the stigma.

People my age are meant to be ”big drinkers”. In my kind of career, you either go for after-work drinks or you down a bottle of wine with Netflix on in the background. But if you’re me, you don’t do either – in fact, you avoid social occasions that call for drinking, because people can’t seem to grasp that teetotalers actually exist.

I didn’t decide to become teetotal. I discovered I was – much in the same way, I imagine, vegetarians who ”never really liked meat anyway” discover they’re vegetarian, simply because they haven’t eaten meat in a few months and haven’t really missed it. They could eat meat again, but what’s the point?

Since becoming pregnant, and then a parent, my reluctance to drink has only increased – so it’s now been years since I’ve tasted the stuff (including alcoholic chocolates, which, like the dreaded coffee-flavoured Roses, I’ve always avoided anyway).

It’s not that I think having the odd drink is some sort of slippery slope. I just see it like this:

1) I hate practically all alcoholic drinks that don’t taste of something else – and so it’s better, in my opinion, to just have the something else, which is often the more authentic flavour, anyway.

2) I drank for the nice effects, but often ended up with the bad effects instead. I thought drinking made me more vibrant, but it just made me louder. I thought it made me confident, but it made me feel confused. And while I might’ve initially welcomed that invincible rush, it actually made me vulnerable – I would forget things, have public meltdowns and even put my trust in strangers.

3) I realised I should just be myself, instead of consuming things I mostly didn’t like, in order to be someone that I wasn’t, just in order to impress other people.

It’s funny that the point of this post was to point out that us teetotalers shouldn’t have to explain ourselves when we say we don’t drink. In fact, unlike the vegetarian analogy, people who don’t drink don’t really tell people they don’t drink – somehow, when we do, we’re perceived as boring, stuck-up and pointless, as if you can’t possibly enjoy socialising without a wine glass in your hand.

As a twenty-something millennial, I’m meant to be obsessed with gin and craft beer, not ordering a plain water with lemon (or somehow more cringeworthy – an Apple & Raspberry J20). But, if a J20 means I stay in control, be true to myself (however awkward that may be), and remember the night in its entirety (bonus points for remembering where i actually live), then I reckon I’ve had a better time than at least half the drinkers out there.

5 Reasons To Travel NOW

5 Reasons To Travel NOW

Amy-Elizabeth shares the unexpected things she’s learnt on her travels – and reasons why you should try it for yourself.

If you’re thinking of travelling but just need that final push, you’ve come to the right place. While travelling times are on the back-burner for now (blame it on my 15-month-old), the world is my oyster, and I know I’ll be whisking myself off somewhere new soon. In the meantime, here are some of the things I’ve learnt over the past few years…

The last trip I did – to Italy – at 6 months pregnant.

1. The meaning of friendship

Whether it’s the unbreakable bonds you form with those you meet on your adventures, the people you buddy up with to do that once-in-a-lifetime trip, or the faces you leave behind who keep you in the loop about home, few things unite like travelling.

I’ve visited over 20 countries in my lifetime and have made friends in Russia, Canada, Holland, America, Belgium and even Thailand. This equates to unforgettable experiences, places and people I know I can rely on and insiders who can show me unique things about their countries.

One of the best friendships I’ll ever have – with my travel buddy and other half of Twin2ition, Rachel.

2. A home away from home

I spent the summer of 2011 – the bridge between ages 20 and 21 – in North Carolina, America. Out of all the places I’ve visited, it’s the only one I could ever see myself living in (carefree lifestyle, small community, beaches and the homeland of former POTUS Barack Obama!). But that’s not to say that I didn’t find a slice of home in each place I visited. From familiar architecture in Brussels, to the beautiful countryside of Bavaria, to the affable rudeness of Italians, we might have differences from nation to nation, but there is always familiarity to be found.

Some of the countryside views around San Marino, Italy reminded me of back home…

3. A sense of adventure

Travelling definitely takes you out of your comfort zone and leads you to do things you’d never normally sign up to. I’ve ridden (and crashed) a motorbike, braved a hurricane, eaten a hash brownie, edged tightrope-like across several death-defying wooden bridges… Even pooped (which sounds much nicer than ‘’took a dump’’) in someone else’s garden (to be fair, it was during said hurricane, and there was no water, so I didn’t want to leave anything behind in the loo).  I’ve gone on a roadtrip with a group of piss-taking friends, run out of cash and somehow made it back to safety. I’ve eaten Canadian poutine, Belgian waffles and American pancakes (waffles win). I’ve looked for crabs on a beach at midnight, flown across the Grand Canyon in a helicopter and unsuccessfully driven a boat – and that was only in one country. Travelling definitely brings out the brave in you.

Okay, so I didn’t step SO far out of my comfort zone that I was willing to eat bugs… Even garlic bugs!

4. A soupçon of independence

Before I did my America trip, the furthest I’d been away from home was London (2-3 hours on the train), and I once burst into tears when I missed a connection from Doncaster to Sheffield (yes, really. Someone at the station was very concerned about me and kept asking if I’d been dumped!). Suddenly, I was going abroad by myself – and for 3 months, I’d have to get a job, find somewhere to live and not lose my passport. The reality hit hard: days of cross-country coach travelling, in which I did (briefly) lose my passport (not to mention job offer and practically all my possessions). Bearing in mind I was on a straight stretch of coastline, on the first day, I rang my Dad to direct me home with Google Maps. I was ridiculously out of my comfort zone and, to start with, utterly miserable. But being somewhere I’d always wanted to go, with genuine lovely people, made for one of the happiest times of my life. And, the trip paid off – fast forward a few years, and I’ve since travelled to part of Asia on tour, been to Berlin solo and taken my parents to Venice. Oh, and I actually drive and map read now (though not at the same time).

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, which I saw as part of a tour.

5. Inner happiness

Growing up, in terms of friendships, I had a pretty hard time. I had a strong girl group as a pre-teen, most of which I’m still in touch with, but they all went to a different secondary school – whereas I only knew one person at mine. I was basically Hermione, minus Ron and Harry. Everyone was in cliques and while I befriended the odd person, I never broke an entire group. I spent lots of time in the library because it was somewhere to go, or hanging around my siblings and older students in the hope they’d think I was cute and take me under their wing. Also, I had a rucksack that was bigger than me. Travelling really moulded me and gave me the confidence to be myself.  Sure, I was teased ruthlessly – especially the way I spoke – but nobody ever looked down on me. Because I was foreign, they assumed I was cool or quirky, and it’s only with age that I can look back and say that I AM cool and quirky!

So if you’re thinking about doing a trip, DO IT. A gap on your CV and being broke for a while is a small price to pay for life experiences and lifelong friends. You won’t regret going, and you’ll surprise yourself in incredible ways. Plus, I want to hear all about your adventures…

How To Deal With Depression

How To Deal With Depression

After an overwhelmingly positive response to a past post about depression, Amy-Elizabeth Bates has decided to dig deeper in a bid to help break the stigma and help others through their feelings.

Depression is not a dirty word. I think everyone goes through some sort of depression at least once in their lives – but maybe they don’t recognise it, or know what to do when it happens. In this post, I’m going to share my experiences (along with some positive photos) and offer some help and advice to others going through depression right now.

A
Me with my son, Jack, last August

My first depressive episode was as a 14-year-old. I had been in an emotionally, sometimes physically, abusive relationship. But I was surprisingly strong, and didn’t allow myself to be pressured into doing things I didn’t want to do. In fact, that was the reason I was dumped (I’m sure you can read between the lines here).

The second episode was during university, when I was 19. I should have been having the time of my life, but in fact, it was a time of uncertainty. There was a lot of conflict in my friendships and living arrangements, a lack of motivation towards my studies and issues with my relationship and personal feelings. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of any of these things, or what I was working towards in life in general.

The third episode was aged 26, for the first year of my son’s life, though arguably it started before he was born. I was worried about being a parent – how my career, relationships and life goals would change. I didn’t know anything about babies or how ‘’good’’ I would be as a mother. And when I returned to work at the end of maternity leave, part-time, it felt like starting all over again with my career and the way processes, team structures and ‘’culture’’ had changed in the office.

Here are some signs you might be dealing with depression, and what you should do if/when they happen.

  1. Thoughts of worthlessness

Feeling that you’re not competent at a job or skill, taken for granted in your personal life, or simply unattractive or ‘’past your best’’ all equate to thoughts of worthlessness.

It sounds silly, but make a list of your achievements, the things you like about yourself and the things you’ve got to look forward to. Think about the negative things in your life and try to rationalise them. Remember – there’s nothing wrong with self-complimenting.

B.jpg
Twin2ition on my wedding day, last March
  1. Thoughts of harm

It’s not uncommon to be self-damaging when at a low point – whether that’s physically harming yourself (eg. suicide or cutting), or something more abstract, like denying yourself food or drinking /drug-taking to deal with the feelings.

A lot of this comes from a) being unable to process and/or talk about how you feel and b) frustration that you can’t get the resolution you want from a situation, when you CAN process/talk about it. It’s also sometimes caused by a fear of something, where harming yourself takes your mind off dealing with it. And it can also be caused by a combination of other, depressive feelings listed in this post.

What you need is a release – the uplifting, feel-good factor you get from a good workout, watching a side-splitting comedy or being recognised for a proud achievement. Appreciating the little things goes a long way in life. It’s also good to really assess your thought process. Is it really rational to harm yourself to get out of that work presentation, social gathering or day at the office?

D
Me bringing home my puppy, Herbie, in May 2015
  1. Wanting to retreat

Part of this comes from a desire to initiate conflict and have others feel as angry and isolated as you feel yourself – so you avoid social situations.

The best thing to do in this situation is the opposite of what you want to do. Force yourself to get out there. You’ll never regret spending time with friends and family, or even just with yourself. Even a quick chat with someone who cares about you can elevate your mood.

  1. Not enjoying the things you used to

Losing interest in the things you have a passion for can make you feel like there’s not much to enjoy in life.

Again, immerse yourself in these things and don’t be afraid to try something new, whether discovering a new skill or visiting a new place. Both can be unexpectedly rewarding, giving you a change of scene, taking you out of your comfort zone and proving you’re up to a challenge.

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Twin2ition at Niagara Falls, Canada, 2015

5. Feeling tired and drained

You might find your sleep pattern disturbed (eg. waking at strange hours, or sleeping in late) or that you can’t sleep at all. You might always feel tired.

I can’t emphasise the importance of a good sleep cycle enough. Make sure you take time every day to switch off and relax (think reading, long bath, nice walk and candles) and go to bed at a regular time. If you find getting out of bed difficult, motivate yourself with to do lists and organise things with friends that would be difficult to wriggle out of last-minute.

**

Of course, there are many other signs of depression, but these are the ones I think most people can relate to.

Here is a cut-out-and-keep, from me to you, that summarises how to deal with your feelings on all of the above points. When you’re depressed, you can’t always think rationally and recognise these signs. Even the me of a few months ago could have done with being reminded of them, and how to combat them.  So take stock now – print this out and stick it on your notice board, pop it in your bedside or slip it in your purse:

How To Deal With Depression

  • Surround yourself with positive influences – family, friends, partners, teachers, workmates
  • Know your strengths and remind yourself of them often
  • Keep doing the things you love, even when you don’t feel like it
  • Recognise when you need a new perspective on, or to change the way you approach/think about, a problem
  • Talk and write about how you feel – keep a diary if you can
  • Try something new and go out of your comfort zone
  • Stick to good routines
  • Look to the future
  • Spend positive time with yourself

I genuinely wish you all the happiness you deserve – and then some!

20170310_123751.jpg
Me, today, after writing this post

Liz x

 

Otherworldly Women: The Kickass Chicks Of Sci-Fi

Otherworldly Women: The Kickass Chicks Of Sci-Fi

From Alderaan to…well…Earth, Amy-Elizabeth celebrates the women of her childhood.

When Carrie Fisher took ill in December, I watched the news like a hawk, knowing she was destined to die and just wanting to be there, somehow, when it happened. When it did – early in the morning of December 27th – I felt deflated to say the least. I don’t normally care for celebrities and don’t usually react to their passing. But when it’s someone who you identify with and who has inspired you, it’s a different story.

It’s true that Carrie has mainly inspired me through the character of Princess Leia, her most iconic role and probably the most famous female in sci-fi history. But after reading The Princess Diarist, following her Twitter and watching her interviews, it became clear that there’s a lot of Carrie in a little bit of Leia. That’s why Leia is my first ‘kickass chick’…

 Star Wars & Princess Leia

G3LLINE01 1D A FEA USA N/A

‘‘It has teddies in it!’’ This is how my brother got me interested in Star Wars (specifically Return of the Jedi) at a young age. I loved the movies – strange creatures, epic battles and a twist on the fairytale, where the princess was strong, fearless and independent. This princess was one of the reasons I kept rewatching the films.

To me, Princess Leia was like womanhood 101 – I wanted to look like her, be like her and have friends like her (especially Chewie). Sure, Luke fired the shot, but she was the one who hid the plans. She had sass when she spoke to Vader, strength when she strangled Jabba and sadness when Tarkin destroyed her planet. What’s more, she knew exactly how to handle Han’s ego.

Fast-forward 40 years or so after the first film and THAT cinnamon bun ‘do, and we see glimpses of her as General in the newest outing, The Force Awakens. My only hope (!) is that her story is perfectly finished in Episodes VIII and VIIII and that Disney do her legacy justice.

Star Trek: Voyager & Captain Kathryn Janeway

janeway-meme

For someone that unashamedly attended a recent Star Trek convention in Birmingham, UK, sporting a makeshift ‘uniform’ and taking sneaky photos of Robert Duncan McNeil (aka Tom Paris), I’m not *actually* that big of a Trekkie. While I watched a lot of the original series, TNG and the massive flop that was Enterprise, plus all the movies, it was Voyager that really resonated with me.

There were loads of female characters in Voyager – annoying-but-nice Kes, fiery B’elanna, tactless Seven and even bitchy Seska – but it was Captain Janeway who, for me, came out on top. Master of the icy-cold stare, Janeway was always ready to face off against the latest Alien Threat – whether telling them to get off her ship, release her crew, or back off, before she opened fire. Where TNG’s Picard had ‘‘Engage’’, Janeway had ‘‘Do it’’ – and, trust me, it was better for you if you DID do it. Imagine how much I fangirled when I realised that the actress behind her, Kate Mulgrew, was the voice of Felemth in Dragon Age.

Futurama & Leela

turanga_leela

Even though Futurama is an animated comedy series, it doesn’t mean its characters aren’t relevant. I remember watching the first episode, as a geeky-but-girly 11-year-old, when it debuted on UK Sky and thinking how cool and quirky it was – and, like the Simpsons, it’s aged well.

Out of all Futurama’s characters, Leela has to be my favourite. As arguably the most intelligent member of the Planet Express crew (even compared to Farnsworth), she’s also a pro pilot and martial arts master. Her ballsy, strictly no-bs attitude is always saving the crew’s skins and really, the only thing to dislike about her is her lack of self-confidence: after all, when you’re playing postwoman AND saving the world, what does being a Cyclops orphan REALLY matter?

So, what about you?