10 More Websites for Creative Gift-Giving

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Warning: an onslaught of hyperlinks ahead.

Looking for some gift-giving inspiration? Look no further. My original post full of gift-giving tips seemed to go down a treat so I thought I’d follow it up with another. Since that post, I’ve been discovering plenty more websites filled with fun gift ideas that will leave your nearest and dearest in no doubt of your love for them. Old faves like Society6, Red Bubble and Etsy still stand, but allow me to introduce you to some new gems…

1. Living in La La Land (UK based)

This is my current obsession, with free UK shipping and very reasonable prices all around. I hope the collection continues to expand but, so far, their products are so bizarrely diverse in terms of the corners of pop culture to which they choose to venture. One minute you’re looking at a Breaking Bad chopping board, the next you’re like, “Do I need a notebook covered with the sassy emoji?” and eventually you conclude that it is the Jessica Fletcher “Don’t Mess With Jess” notebook that you needed all along. (You know. From Murder, She Wrote.) It’s a wild ride. With their popcult pencils collections, you also have the option to have your own message printed on pencils, should you so wish.

Fandoms encountered thus far during my adventures in La La Land include: Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks, The X Files, The Office, Mean Girls, School of Rock, Harry Potter, Murder She Wrote (still weird), Pitch Perfect, Parks and Recreation, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ryan Gosling (with pizza), Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friends and many, many more.

Pros: Free shipping to the UK! (with no minimum spend; arrives nice and fast, too)

Cons: International shipping costs. Certain random items within the clothes section seem disproportionately more pricey, but that doesn’t take anything away from the many, many bargains the site boasts.

2. Eclectic Eccentricity (UK based)

I’m in love. Seriously. This might be The One. It’s like a sea of radiant, glittering beauty that I just want to swim in forever. If you know anybody with a predilection for all things spacey (of the stars and planets variety, not Kevin) – and isn’t everybody just a little bit mystified by the stars? – this is a wonderland for you. And, should you choose not to shoot off into the stars, you can always just float through the sky. I want to gush about all that this site has to offer because some of these pieces are transcendent and magical, with titles like, “Heading in the Right Direction” and “Spread Your Wings” (a feather necklace, because of course). Eclectic Eccentricity is a danger to me because not only is it filled with gems, but the names make me want to buy everything as a supportive gesture to all my friends who are heading in the right direction or spreading their wings. If you visit this site without a particular purpose, you will soon find yourself thinking of all kinds of reasons to buy everything. I warn you of that.

Pros: All things are bright and beautiful. Also, based in Norwich. As so many of the best things are.

Cons: You may hurt your finances due to an inability to restrain yourself. Not cheap, but prices are more than reasonable. Quick dispatch for orders and delivery only minimally more for international orders.

3. Ashley Bridget (US based)

While a little pricier than La La Land, the quality of Ashley Bridget’s collection reflects that (similarly to Eclectic Eccentricity). This is a great site if you’re looking for a special piece of jewellery and, right now, you’re likely to find some bargains thanks to the 50% off summer sale (applies to all items with the discount code: SUMMER). I discovered Ashley Bridget when looking for a gift for my Harry Potter fan of a friend and was very excited to find a wealth of bracelets, necklaces, etc. that would both tap into my friend’s HP love but would also be beautiful accessories. Currently, they have collections and pieces inspired by Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Frozen, Lord of the Rings and tennis, as well as more general interests.

Recs: The Magic Collection, The Expression Collection.

Pros: Ships internationally.

Cons: A little pricier, $50 minimum spend for free shipping (though this also applies internationally). Has recently added a Grey collection. Thank you for respecting my privacy at this difficult time.

4. Adolescent Clothing (UK based)

This site is filled with fun t-shirt, beanie and sweatshirt designs with slogans such as “You’re freaking meowt.”,  “Girls > Boys” and “Bae-con“. The collection is relatively small at the moment, but there are bargains to be found amongst what is currently available. If your bestie has a penchant for pizza or is on her way to crazy cat lady status, you might just be in luck. Definitely worth a browse!

Pros: Free shipping to the UK.

Cons: The sizing is limited to small, medium and large and I canny find a size guide!

5. Emily McDowell Studio (US based)

How to adequately articulate my love for the Emily McDowell designs that so often express my inner most feelings better than I ever can? This card just about does it. The site has a collection of cards, mugs, dish towels, prints, bags, postcards, notepads, gift tags, stickers and temporary tattoos with designs that are all both aesthetically delightful and amusingly frank. I feel like everyone should have a “basically just waiting to go home and take off my pants” work mug, or a “short, encouraging phrase” tote bag. The specialty of Emily McDowell Studio, though, is the card selection. The messages tap into the reality of what it is to be a human in 2015. While the birthday cards, the valentines and the wedding cards are all uniquely special, there are a whole host of designs for the in-betweens: a card for someone who you’ve lost touch with, a card for a friend with cancer, a divorce card, a card for your honourary mother, one for your platonic soulmate, the awkward dating card “for when you’re kind of together but it’s not a big deal”.

Pros: The selection of cards gives you plenty to choose from; really good value price-wise!

Cons: Variety of items like bags and mugs is limited. International shipping might be a bit of a faff and delivery is not free. I recently ordered three cards to the UK and the shipping came out at just under $10, but per card that’s not too bad and the actual items themselves are priced pretty fairly.

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Pawnee Forever: A Farewell to Parks and Recreation

fdgfParks and Recreation is the last remaining of NBC’s beloved, though criminally under-watched, sitcoms from their old Thursday night comedy block, but soon it too, hot on the heels of The Office (ended), 30 Rock (ended) and Community (rehomed), will conclude its run. I have to admit, I write this post with more emotion than can usually be found on this here page. As the finale date draws closer with alarming velocity (anyone ever told you, you’re the worst, NBC?), I am struck by just how missed this comedy will be. It’s rare that a cast of characters is so universally warm, energetic and loveable, reiterating the message, time after time, that no one achieves anything alone. That is Parks‘ heart and soul.

If there is one thing to take away from the critically acclaimed comedy, it’s the value of creating rich relationships with every combination of characters that you have in your arsenal. I imagine half the fun of writing this show was pick-‘n’-mixing character pairings for subplots. I mean, think about it. Think about any two characters and, if you’ve seen the whole series, you’ll know their dynamic. From Ben and April (“She’s like the little sister I never had, because the little sister I do have is normal and not terrifying.”), to the mutual respect between Leslie and Ron as they settle their differences over breakfast foods, to the juxtaposition of super-fit Chris and, well, Andy, to the inspiring masterminds behind “Treat Yo Self”, Tom and Donna, everyone fits together and, crucially, provides an endless source for comedy. One relationship above all others really steered the show and that was the friendship between Leslie and Ann, unique in its platonic nature as the focal relationship. Given how female friendship has been portrayed within the media when it’s portrayed at all, Parks was a rare treat, celebrating the way that women can support and inspire one another – often over breakfast food. This started with Leslie and Ann but quickly seeped into every female dynamic the show has to offer: the mentor relationship Leslie has with April, the love-hate-but-secretly-just-love between April and Ann, and the ladies’ casual and constant admiration for Regal Meagle.

The reason these friendships are all so special, of course, is because the characters that make them up are a wonderful bunch of weirdos, just as any comedic cast should be. When shows end, often it can be hard to say goodbye to a beloved favourite character. How do you keep it together when you’re saying goodbye to so many favourites at once? If anyone knows, share with the group. I’m desperate here. As I haven’t figured it out, here are my heartfelt goodbyes to each one of Pawnee’s finest…

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Lessons Learned From Leslie Knope

Parks-and-Rec-2This month marks the beginning of the end for Parks and Recreation fans, as the final season starts its brief run. This wonderful show, exploring the trials and tribulations of local government, was the gift that gave generously throughout its seven years. Perhaps the biggest gift of all was its leading lady, Leslie Barbara Knope, an icon to many and the future president of the United States. In Leslie, Parks presented viewers with the warm-hearted, ambitious heroine that they had long deserved.

The fact that Leslie Knope was so impressive while still hugely relatable, a woman pushing forward in a world built for men, meant that it became easy to learn from her mistakes and heed her best advice. Here are some of the gems that Leslie Knope has bestowed unto us humble Padawans.

1. Be ambitious.

“2024. I win. We move in there. I’ll take the West Wing. You take the East Wing. You can be the First Gentleman.”

Despite her modest position as Deputy Parks Director of the parks and recreation department, Leslie had more firepower than everyone else at Pawnee City Hall put together. When the budget cut Grim Reaper came, in the form of Butch Count-sidy and the Sum-dance Kid, Leslie had one hell of a fight on her hands. Forced to go big or go home, she masterminded the Harvest Festival with great success, winning the admiration of her beloved hometown and taking the first step on a road that would eventually lead to the city council election. In the words of Leslie Knope herself, “Winning is every girl’s dream. But it’s my destiny. And my dream.” And it was. Both.

Her campaign to replace Councilman Pillner (aka my beloved Josh Lyman) was a genius move by the writers, creating a perfect season-long timeline that united the entire ensemble in one aim. Her ambition, both in this venture and always, has subverted the archetypal representation of the career-minded woman. There is no edge of coldness about Leslie; as she breaks Ben’s heart as well as her own to avoid a career scandal, the viewer remains steadfastly on her team while tearfully embarking on their own tragically futile attempt at claymation (probably). You want to see all of Leslie’s big ideas find a home. You want to see her be given the respect she deserves by the town that she adores. You want to see her face brimming with pride when she finally wins that long-desired seat on the city council. The necessary sacrifices that she is forced to make along the way do not define her as cold and ruthless, but determined and brave. Her ambition is portrayed as aspirational, not detrimental.

2. Patience pays. Sometimes.

Admirably, while the many public forums that Leslie has hosted have uniformly proved anarchic and unproductive, Leslie’s attitude remains firm: “These people are members of a community that care about where they live. So, what I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.” Even though that community has really not helped very much at all, it was at one of these public forums that Leslie was first introduced to Ann Perkins. There began the greatest love story of our time. It was also at this very first public forum, way back when, that the saga of the pit was introduced. Whether we ever get to enjoy the fruit of Leslie’s labours at Lot 48 remains to be seen, but without her constant patience and perseverance, it would probably still be a pit – or a fast food restaurant.

3. Don’t let people shame you for your passion.

Leslie Knope is passionate about many, many things – namely, friends, waffles and work. And let’s not forget Joe Biden. In a world where it’s become all too cool not to care, Leslie’s enthusiasm reminds us why passion is far preferable to apathy. The special thing about this show, pushing against the heavy tide of cynical television, was that in Pawnee, passion was celebrated and not mocked. Even April, who began as Parks’ representative of the apathetic youth that Leslie tirelessly seeks to inspire, is moved by the dedication of her friend and boss. As we near the end, it’s clear that over the course of the series, April’s journey has been to learn from a seasoned pro that it’s okay to care. In fact, maybe it’s actually kind of… nice?

April explains: “Where I live, there are a lot of apathetic people, people who don’t care at all about what they do or how they do it. They let the world wash over them and barely notice anyone else is even there. Leslie Knope is not one of these people. She cares about everything and everyone in our town. I don’t know how she does it. People come to her with the pettiest, stupidest problems and she cares, like really actually cares what happens to them. And if you’re lucky enough to be her friend, your life gets better every day. She spends every waking moment thinking of new ways to make her friends happy.”

4. Don’t let the haters keep you down. Bounce back.

Of course, with great passion comes great disappointment. Leslie’s taken more than a few knocks in her time in the parks department: government cuts, relationship scandals and the recall vote, to name but a few. While she’s had to deal with her professional setbacks, she has also faced a series of personal ones, with the second season charting Leslie’s often-disastrous attempts at dating. With Ann on hand to console her, it’s never long before Leslie is back on fighting form, though. Her irrepressible positivity has afforded her the dream job and the dream husband, so it seems that bouncing back has done pretty well for Leslie Knope.

The key, with Amy Poehler’s portrayal of Leslie Knope, has been maintaining the balance between her theatrical side and her competence. ‘The Comeback Kid’ is the perfect example of one of Leslie’s turbulent attempts to bounce back. She is finally getting back on her feet but is faced with the reality that, in a town like Pawnee, the ground will always be shaky – or rather, slippery. Even when the entire cast are sliding around on the ice, the belief that Leslie can and should win the election is absolute. The viewer knows that no one should ever bet against Leslie Knope.

5. Love yourself. (Also: love Leslie Knope.)

vlcsnap-2015-01-05-23h57m00s241“I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself,” Leslie says unapologetically as Ben notices the framed picture of his girlfriend that she displays on her “wall of inspirational women”. I adore her total lack of false modesty, particularly within the context of her relationship with Ben. Women should never feel inclined to reduce themselves for the ego of a man. Despite her small stature, Leslie is a powerhouse. She should not and, delightfully, does not pretend otherwise for Ben’s benefit. Leslie’s self-assurance only makes all of her friends love her more, so it’s win-win. Leslie’s relationship with Ben works because he is not intimidated by who she is, and she allows it to flourish by not moderating herself for his benefit.

6. Love your friends. Love them a lot.

Leslie Knope loves her friends. Like, reeeeally loves them. Especially beautiful Ann. No matter how swept up she might get in her relationship with Ben (her brilliant, sexy little hummingbird), Ann always comes first: “You know my code: hoes before bros, uteruses before duderuses, ovaries before brovaries.” When we are first introduced to the colourful world of Pawnee, it is Leslie and Ann’s relationship that provides the opening chapter of our story, and their bond holds firm from that point on. To celebrate the ladies in her life, Leslie even created Galentines Day, a day of “ladies celebrating ladies”. If we take one thing away from this show, it should be that February 13th is henceforth set aside for ladies celebrating ladies.

tumblr_mc3n7kzhsR1qe9t4zo2_1280 If there’s one thing I find most relatable about Leslie Knope, it is her unabiding love for Ann. I have my own Ann, named Hannah. Her name even contains “Ann”, so it’s kismet. As Leslie declares, “Less man time, more Ann time,” I will proudly do the same (with an ‘H’ in front).

As well as her love of Ann, Leslie maintains numerous other firm friendships. Her growth, from everyone’s pain in the backside to their respected leader, has allowed every one of her friends to realise the value of having Leslie in their life. To show their gratitude for Leslie’s unwavering loyalty, they frequently team up with interventions of support and motivation. There’s nothing that that team of people wouldn’t do for her, and I promise that I’m only paraphrasing The West Wing there by accident. Remember, “one person’s annoying is another person’s inspiring and heroic.”

7. Love your hometown. Hate Eagleton.

Eagleton sucks. Pawnee forever.

2014: A Year in Review

1920336_10152035606485698_205299555_n2014, for me, was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of year. There weren’t any big life-changers. Time just passed me by and before I knew it, we were on the cusp of a new January. Looking back over the events of the year is a happy reminder that it wasn’t all just a waste of time, so allow me to reflect on the last 12 months…

  1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I went on a little holiday without the parents. It only took 22 years. You quickly realise that within a group of friends, everybody quickly adopts the archetypal family roles in a holiday situation. I think I was probably the dad that no one really listens to and often mocks, but who still gets to sit in the front seat of the car. My friends might argue I was the grumpy teenager but don’t listen to them, they are all known liars. These kids don’t gimme no respect!

  1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’m not really a new year’s resolutions type of gal, but I definitely went into the year with the hope that I would continue to progress in my running, having run my first 5k on Christmas Day. I can happily say that all of my fitness goals were achieved. I’m training harder than ever and I’ve run nearly 40 races this year. And I won my little trophy for my efforts.

For next year, I have no resolute goals but I would like to keep the running going strong. I hope to run further and faster over the course of the year, with my eyes on a quarter marathon or perhaps even further.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.

  1. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

  1. What countries did you visit?

None. I’m rather deficient on the wanderlust. Also quite poor.

  1. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Given that I’m about to drop off the end of a big ole cliff, finally reaching the end of my degree, a heavy dose of confidence wouldn’t go amiss. I can feel the anxiety rising in my body, stress coursing through my veins as though my transformation into the nerve-killing superhero I always knew I could be is imminent.

I hope that finishing university will also give me a little time to just enjoy being a person in the world again. So much of the last five years has been consumed by essays and exams and journal articles; I can’t wait to just take a breath. Not that the prospect of finishing education isn’t also terrifying.

  1. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 14th. HAIM. UEA LCR. Not only was it an incredible experience to watch my favourite musicians absolutely slay on that stage, but seeing three incredibly talented women at the top of their game was energising. They can do anything with their guitars in hand, and why shouldn’t I be able to do the same with a pen in mine? Sharing it with my best friend, my soupsnake, the platonic love of my life made it every bit more beautiful. I believe that seeing the band you love the most is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The hope that we’ll be able to repeat the experience enthuses me no end. Este, Danielle, Alana – your move. Tickets please.

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Este Haim performing Go Slow at the LCR. Photography by me.

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably my little running trophy. Surviving my second second year of university was no small feat, though. Both of my experiences in second year have been rough but knowing how much more it mattered this time, both personally and professionally, made the knocks harder to take. I’m proud of how I dealt with it, though – by taking the advice of the wise women in my life and lacing up my trainers, which brings us full circle to my original answer: my little running trophy. Not only was it an acknowledgement of my efforts on the track, but it represented overcoming the challenges I faced and continue to face at university. It made me feel like I could accomplish anything I wanted. I felt strong.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

Maybe the mark I got in February for an essay that I thought I’d nailed. I remember picking it up first thing in the morning and having it hang over me throughout a day of lectures and seminars. Nothing stifles creativity like being on the verge of tears, and so I left my creative writing seminar feeling totally defeated and spent about an hour in the uni toilets. The real kicker was that I was weeping in the cubicle so long that the motion censor lights switched off. Picture me sniffling away while performing star jumps in an effort to get the lights back on. I wish I could say it was the most pathetic moment of my life.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I went over on my ankle at the end of a Parkrun in April, landing arse-first in a muddy puddle, putting me out for a few weeks. Later in the year, the saga of my terrible toe began. No, Taylor, we are not out of the woods yet.

  1. What was the best thing you bought?

Cinema tickets for Guardians of the Galaxy. Spending the last hours of my birthday with a giant Chris Pratt, watching him dance-off into a new day was very special. It was a new dawn, a new day, a new life for me. And yeah, I felt pretty good about it.

  1. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

This answer would probably remain constant whether you asked me this year, last year, next year. My best friend, Hannah. She is there for me day in, day out. No matter what is going on, I have someone to go through everything with me. Every best memory I have from this year, and from the moment I met her for that matter, has Hannah at the heart of it. And if I think about my bad memories from the year, it’s Hannah who was helping me deal with them – that, or texting me cute things about Josh and Donna (e.g. “Today I thought about Josh and Donna’s child having a first crush and Josh offering advice. I did other stuff too but that was important.”). On top of that, she really nailed my presents this Christmas. I’m still reeling from her gift-giving prowess. (more…)

A Year in Television

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While others may call themselves movie buffs or bookworms, the small screen is my preoccupation. The 2013-2014 television season has been an eventful one, so allow me to reflect on the highs, the lows and the WTFs…

Heartbreaker of the Year – Leo Fitz (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

LET ME LOVE YOU. Putting aside my crush on real life Iain De Caestecker, Fitz is my ~male character of the year~ (imagine a little jingle). In between being a science whizz, offering up more than his fair share of witty asides and looking cute in a cardigan, Fitz was busy being the underdog hero of this show. There’s no doubt Fitz clocked up more heartbreaking moments this year than anyone else. First there was F.Z.Z.T., in which he was faced with the prospect of losing the other half of his portmanteau. A few episodes later, he was blaming himself for Skye’s perilous decision-making. In Turn, Turn, Turn, he was touchingly single-minded in his mission to save Simmons from the rampant HYDRA dudes. Then came his shining moment: standing up to the Big Bad, tearful and trembling. Later, there was the revelation that his sub-bestie was secretly evil, though Fitz adamantly refuted it until the bitter end. And then came the bitter end. In one of the most moving scenes of the show full-stop, he sacrificed himself to save the woman he loves. His goodness and courage is something else. So Gryffindor it hurts. Please be okay, boo.

Most Contrived Breakup – Nick and Jess (New Girl)

After almost a season of a relatively healthy, happy relationship, New Girl’s dorky roommates decided that it was time to split. Apropos of really nothing, as far as I could tell. The problem was less that they broke up (as is typical of TV relationships), and more that the non-issue that broke them up isn’t really solvable. It’s been there the whole time. Yes, they’re polar opposites. This breakup throws into question whether they even want to be together that much if they can’t work the fundamental differences in their personalities. It reeks of panicking writers instead of good storytelling. Prince would be so disappointed in you.

Best Declaration of Like-Like – Jake Peralta (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Despite my AOS temptation here, I’m going to show a little love to the best new comedy on the block: Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Jake’s admission to Amy in the final episode of the show’s inaugural season won my affection for three reasons.

  1. “I wish something could’ve happened between us… romantic styles.” A perfect sentence tbh.
  2. The no-pressure approach. Expecting nothing in return is the best way, and in my mind the only right way, to admit to someone you like them. Four for you, Jake. You go.
  3. It will undoubtedly lead to interesting changes in the Jake/Amy dynamic for Season 2.

 Worst Finale – How I Met Your Mother

Untitled-2I think we can all just agree this finale was a total mess. But we can all take relief in the fact that we never have to watch another episode of this again.

Best Soundtrack Moment – ‘Love is Blindness’ (Peaky Blinders)

The use of music throughout this show was phenomenal. Despite its post-WW1 time setting, this series had a contemporary feel to it, slickly using modern music over stylized direction. Nick Cave and The White Stripes were peppered throughout the series, with Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ providing a pretty stunning opening theme. The musical highlight was offered up in the final episode, though. Jack White’s ‘Love is Blindness’ seamlessly held together a dramatic montage that closed out the series, with an eerie relevance in the lyrics of the song.

Asshole Award – Dan Egan (Veep)

He’s the worst but I totally would. His repartee with Jonah has renewed his asshole status until the year 2026. At least.

 Biggest WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU, SHOW? – Parks and Rec

parksFive babies and a time-jump? Really? I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you. How dare you. Learn something from this. When you go to bed at night, you lay there and you take responsibility for yourself, ‘cause nobody’s gonna take responsibility for you.

 Biggest ‘We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together’ Moment – Jaime Lannister rapes Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)

Very, very done with Game of Thrones at this point. The fact that the (already quite disturbing) sex scene between Jaime and Cersei was consensual in the books, combined with the fact that the rape was entirely ignored in the following episodes left me more than a little disturbed. HBO’s cash cow has had its problems from the start, but those problems seem to be snowballing at an exponential rate. People make fun of all the “but it wasn’t in the books!” fans, but at the end of the day, why would you add an unnecessary rape scene in? Not for the first time, might I add. Enjoy the brutal deaths of the remaining 83 characters without me, y’all. Jess out.

 Pointless Baby of the Year – Tie: Baby Swanson, Baby Traeger, The Triplets (Parks and Rec)

If you’re thinking three pregnancy storylines in one season might seem excessive, you’d be right. A bizarre narrative choice with zero pay-off. There must have been a sale on. Baby Swanson, while the big reveal in last season’s finale, has been straight-up shunned for most of Season 6. Ann hopped town with hers still in utero. Bizarrely, with Chris. Then came the triplets. Three? Really? That’s a lot of work for one female lead to handle while also having to juggle A-plots week-in, week-out. But you knew that already, didn’t you Parks? And then came the worst plot device in all of Dystropia, found just around the corner from fridging the love interest: the time jump, skipping several years in time, bypassing birth and new parenthood. I’ll be right back, just gotta go find the point.

Most Inappropriate Use of Music – Grey’s Anatomy (constantly)

o-GREYS-ANATOMY-SEASON-10-facebookI say this disparagingly, but it’s actually brought me a great deal of joy despite that I don’t actually watch Grey’s Anatomy. I caught one musical moment, and later discovered that there was a trend: John Lewis covers of 80s pop music. I’ll give you some of the most ludicrous examples, but just imagine some of these over a montage of dying people in a hospital:

  • ‘I’m So Excited’ (10×16)
  • ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ (10×18)
  • ‘Fame’ (10×19) …no, really.
  • ‘Like a Virgin’ (10×22) …WHAT.
  • ‘Jump For My Love’ (10×23)
  • ‘99 Red Balloons’ (10×24)

Unnecessary Death of the Year

There were too many entries for this category, so the machine that processes them imploded. R.I.P. everyone. You will be missed. (Obviously not by your showrunner.)

 Best Finale Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

agents-of-shield-cast-0002The one comfort that viewers had going into the finale was that things couldn’t possibly get any worse. S.H.I.E.L.D. had turned Hydra, and so had Agent Ward. Fitzsimmons were at the bottom of an ocean. Coulson’s team were in a bit of a sticky situation, all things considered. The episode was fast-paced and fun, with a surplus of one-liners flying around and a Fury cameo thrown in for good measure. The beautifully written Fitzsimmons scenes anchored the finale in humanity (with absolutely stunning performances from both Henstridge and De Caestecker), while the action sequences were delightfully threaded with humour. Samuel L. Jackson was used brilliantly, with the temptation to over-use expertly resisted. What elevated the hour-long from solid episode to killer finale was that it absolutely left you dying for the next episode. It was the perfect balance of closure for old storylines and introduction of new ones.

 So, what do you think? Do you agree? Or was the HIMYM finale the highlight of your year? Were there other shows that deserved consideration for these prestigious titles?

Ladies I Look Up To

I decided to talk a little about my role models. I’ll admit, my choices are a little varied. They range from fellow bloggers to First Lady, from actress to activists, from fictional to fashionista. The one constant, though, is feminist.

In no particular order:

Tavi Gevinson

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Yes, Tavi Gevinson is four years younger than me. I don’t like to limit my role models to my elders. Blogger, feminist and teenius (new word), Tavi is everything I’ve wanted to be since I had vaguely any grasp on my identity. I mean, I didn’t always know it was her specifically but she’s many of the ideal characteristics in one human: incredibly intelligent, politically-minded, fun and funny. She can also rock the block fringe.

Tavi started off, at the age of 11, as a fashion blogger, but has more recently commented: “I even think that fashion can be a tool of feminism and of self-expression and individuality and empowerment. But clearly there are flaws with the industry that still really grind my gears.” Fuck, yes. Early on, people thought that Tavi’s writing style was too mature to legitimately be a young girl (= she’s really, really good, you guys).

The reason I’ve taken such a liking to talented Tavi, though, is her attitude regarding the media and the many pressures it puts on teenage girls. She decided that the best thing that a fifteen-year-old could do to improve the media that she consumes was to be involved in creating it. So, she founded Rookie. “On Rookie, everything is through a feminist lens and we’re a feminist site.” Hurrah! I like you.

In summary: this lady has to balance school and being editor-in-chief for an online magazine. I can’t even balance school and my freaking diet (shit, when was the last time I ate a vegetable?). Also, one time she said, “my brain is farting” and it was beautiful.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

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One of the primary qualities I respect about Hillary Clinton is her ability to handle criticism. For any person in the political arena, this is vital. One of my favourite quotes of hers is: “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.” I think that’s a really valuable lesson to learn. I’m not particularly thick-skinned and probably pay too much attention to criticism, but I think it’s so important to differentiate between constructive criticism and hatin’.

As First Lady of the United States, her focus was universal healthcare. That’s a pretty good policy from where I’m sitting – which is the UK, where we have the NHS (would recommend to friend). She’s been First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States (the main First Lady of all the First Ladies), a New York Senator and Secretary of State. Sometime in the midst of all that she tried running for President. Maybe she’ll do it again sometime. Maybe.

Joe Biden actually said once: “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me.” I actually had a better job in mind for Hillary, Joe (but I do love you).

How she hasn’t lost her mind over the running commentary on her hairstyles alone is a mystery to me. She hasn’t had the easiest time from the right wing media but she’s still standing. Fingers crossed that soon she starts running.

Malala Yousafzai

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Malala Yousafzai might perhaps be the most courageous person on earth. Malala is the youngest person on this list, in fact, but may well be the most impressive of all. Malala started off blogging for BBC Urdu about the Taliban banning girls from receiving an education. Thus began her fight for a privilege that we all take for granted. I love to write more than anything, but I’ve so often wished I didn’t have to go to school or take an exam. Here is a person fighting to be able to do just that. It’s a lesson in appreciating what you have and recognising the privilege that you have.

Malala had to blog under a pseudonym for her own safety. However, after the truth of her identity came to light, she became a target for the Taliban. In October 2012, as she was travelling home from an exam, a Taliban gunman shot her. Thankfully, she survived the assassination attempt, but she and her father both remain targets of the Taliban.

Hillary Clinton has commented on Malala’s bravery “standing up for the rights of girls” against those who threaten “that kind of empowerment”. In response to the shooting, aforementioned Tavi Gevinson organised a Get Well Soon card for Malala.

Malala was also nominated for the Nobel Piece Prize. Let me just remind you: she’s fifteen years old.

Amy Poehler

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Amy Poehler is one of my favourite people on the planet, just simply because of how happy she makes me. Her comedic talents are, quite frankly, unparalleled. She is, at the core, a badass feminist. She created Smart Girls at the Party, the motto of which is “change the world by being yourself”. On SNL, Amy was the co-anchor on Weekend Update with Tina Fey – the only time two women have anchored. She also played Hillary Clinton opposite Tina’s Sarah Palin, as well as playing Regina’s colourful mother in Mean Girls. Currently, she stars in the truly brilliant Parks and Recreation as the show’s only lead (and is overdue an Emmy). It’s also great to have someone on this list who didn’t achieve all of their awesome by the age of, like, ten. I DON’T NEED THE PRESSURE.

So, remember that time Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes? Yeah, me too. It was awesome. Highlight: when Bill Clinton appeared, I tweeted “OMG, it’s Hillary Clinton’s husband” and then she made the same joke. When I say highlight, I mean of life, not just that night.

Amy Poehler is fearless. I think it’s such an important quality for a comedic actor to have. She pays no attention to the boxes she might be put in, always performing with the bold confidence that is so irrepressibly Amy Poehler. There’s no one else like her. Her co-stars unanimously adore her. She kind of has a free pass to lightly insult anyone in Hollywood, so long as she’s doing it with a cheeky grin on her face and that perfect cackle. She just exudes sunshine. You know who else does that? Leslie Knope (and Donna Moss but we’ll get to that in a minute).

Amy plays Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec. She’s the tireless, optimistic government worker of her beloved Parks and Recreation department in fictional Pawnee. To express my love, I will simply share an anecdote from watching a recent episode. There was a storyline about Leslie being obsessed with gift-giving and my best friend just turned to me and said, “She is you.” Greatest moment of my life.

Other reasons to love Leslie Knope:

  • “My ideal man needs to have the brains of George Clooney, with the body of Joe Biden.”
  • In response to, “I believe one problem with hiring women is that they’re frail and breakable.” she said: “Is it possible you’re thinking about lightbulbs? Or your hip?”
  • “Barack Obama said yes we can and now he’s president. Ben says no we shouldn’t and now he’s working for his girlfriend.”
  • “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.”
  • “You know my code. Hoes before bros. Uteruses before duderuses. Ovaries before brovaries.”

Donna Moss

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Donna Moss is my favourite fictional character of all time. Let’s start with that. She’s often overlooked because of the brilliance of Allison Janney, as is everyone else on The West Wing (and in the world), but there’s room enough for more than one complex, talented, smart woman in this White House. It can sometimes feel like she is viewed as an appendage to Josh, or that her character is analysed only as a direct comparison to Amy. Why? We don’t pit male characters against each other in the same way. So, I propose an end to this. And a beginning. The beginning of the midnight train to Donna appreciation. Hop on board.

She is deeply compassionate, patient and kind. These qualities are displayed time and again: from realising when Josh had PTSD and her reaction to finding out the president had MS, to standing up for the people – not names – on the list of potential pardons. And, remember Molly Morello?

Donna’s funny, too – let’s about talk about the funny. Every bit of banter she and Josh share is quick-witted and brilliant. There was also the thoroughly enjoyable, “Knock, knock! Who’s there? Sam and his prostitute friend.” and that time Donna found out she was Canadian. She’s so great (*gush*).

The real reason she’s on this list is her character development. She’s shown to be Josh’s much-depended-upon assistant for the first five seasons, always wanting to do more. She proves her competence endlessly and it becomes clear that she’s too good for the job. Eventually, she puts aside her personal feelings for Josh and quits, gets hired on the Russell campaign, gets promoted to spokesperson and White House point person and later lands a job on the Santos campaign after he gets the candidacy. When Santos wins the election, a very proud me gets to watch my baby girl Donnatella get hired as FLOTUS chief of staff and walk into her beautiful, big office. Congrats, show, on the one good thing you did post-Sork. Appreciated.

So, who would make your list of ladies you look up to? Share, share.