My Fitness Journey

When I moved to Washington state, I became quite the running fanatic. I ran a few times during the week on my own, and my Saturday mornings were reserved for running followed by a gab-fest at Starbucks with a great group of ladies. I was by no means the fastest runner, but I enjoyed it and I had discovered the rumoured “runner’s high.”

When I began to run in 2009, I would hear people talk about half and full marathons thinking I could never do that. But soon, my 3-mile runs turned into 8-mile runs and those 8-mile runs turned into 13-mile runs. If someone asked me to go for a run, I never asked the distance because I knew I was ready for it.

Life changed though. I moved far away from those awesome running buddies. And then, I had a baby. Although I still love to run and want to continue doing it, it no longer loves my knees. Things aren’t the same anymore for me when it comes to running. And, I’m okay with that.

This past year, after a few failed attempts at rekindling my previous running skills, I knew I needed and wanted to find something that was more suited to my current lifestyle of chasing a toddler around and the unpredictability of Richard’s travel schedule. So, last autumn, after hearing one of my wonderful friends back in Washington talk about her experience with yoga and becoming a yoga teacher, I thought I’d might like to give it a go. I knew it had to be a form of yoga that really challenged me though. As much as I value relaxation and mindfulness, I needed bang for my buck – as we say in the States – when it came to my limited hours for a work out.

I searched and searched and stumbled across a small studio on the second floor of an old mill along the canal that has a pub on the first floor. How is that for character?! I Facebook messaged with the teacher prior to my first class, but I was still anxious entering into this unknown new-to-me form of fitness. Once we started though, I knew I was hooked.

Ashtanga. It’s crazy and awesome and mental and challenging and tough and beautiful and grounding. Each week, I get on the mat and it surprises me. Some days, it isn’t necessarily a good surprise in that maybe my balance might be completely off! But, most days, it’s an hour and a half of time for me in which I push myself to try harder and to hold that pose for just..one…more…breath.

My teacher is incredible as well. Ashtanga is not for the faint of heart, but she makes it accessible to everyone. She’s down-to-earth and funny and likes to tell stories as we go along. We have a laugh, and everyone that I’ve encountered at her studio comes with an open heart and the willingness to learn.

Ashtanga has truly become something that can bring me so much joy whilst simultaneously slapping me across the face. The postures are a constant reminder that my practice is only about me and no one else in the room. I see this as a pretty good metaphor for life and the tendency to compare ourselves to others. To properly practice (in yoga and in life), we need to focus on ourselves and our own limitations and learning to push through them when necessary.

Each time I practice, it not only affects me physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Whether I can swing the full hour and a half studio class or I just have 15 minutes with a toddler beside me doing her (quite impressive) version of a vinyasa, any time I spend on the mat positively impacts my day. I’m forever grateful for walking into my first Ashtanga class back in October as it has become the exercise that I see myself doing throughout my lifetime.

Have any of you tried Ashtanga? Do you have a form of exercise that you absolutely love?

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A Twist on the Traditional Afternoon Tea

There are not many things more quintessentially English than tea, and I do believe that some of my family and friends in the US are convinced I spend my afternoons sat indulging in a traditional afternoon tea with my best china on a frequent basis. It makes me chuckle, but that is just not my reality!

When we have visitors or if we’re feeling particularly fancy, we’ll splurge on traditional afternoon tea complete with finger sandwiches, scones, jam, clotted cream, and a selection of miniature desserts. To me, afternoon tea is a very nice treat, and my daily tea drinking comprises of me with my cuppa (just milk, please!) curled up on our sofa watching television with Richard in the evenings. And, if we’re going all out, one of us will pop to the local shop for some cookies for a treat. We’re pretty rockstar over here!

As I said, the full fancy spread is a wonderful splurge, but the Picnic Bench Afternoon Tea at The Fox Bar & Bistro in Ripponden is more laid-back and much easier on the budget whilst still making you feel like you’ve had a deliciously fun afternoon out.

Earlier this year, a friend mentioned she went to The Fox with her mum who was visiting from New Zealand, so when she explained exactly what the tea compromised of, I knew I had to book in for my mom’s visit in April. The girl and I took my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day with her since we wouldn’t be in the US to share the day in May. We arrived and were asked if we wanted prosecco, tea, or coffee with our tea. I’m pretty sure you know what we went for – bring on the bubbles! Yes, this is afternoon tea and the prosecco option is a few quid more, but definitely the way to go in my opinion.

Our prosecco arrived, and not long after, the lovely creation in the photo below showed up on our table. Prior to that day, I had never eaten at The Fox as it is usually a place we meet friends for a few drinks, so I was pleasantly surprised when we tucked in and all of the food was really tasty. The savory selections included a crayfish sandwich, calamari and chips, leek and potato soup, goats’ cheese tart, salad of rocket (arugula) with parmesan shavings and a balsamic dressing, and a ham and chutney sandwich. The sweet selections were scones with clotted cream and jam (jam first!), strawberry smoothies (served in mini glass milk bottles with adorable striped paper straws), two different cookies, cheesecakes, and chocolate truffle-like puddings served in mini clay pots with a Cadbury mini egg on top (as it was Easter weekend actually). Mom and I did our best to work our way through the food, but it was a lot of food as you can see. It was all very nice, but my favorites were the crayfish sandwich, the calamari and chips, and the scone. We ended up taking all of the desserts home with us and having those for dinner!

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I’ve since been one more time for a ladies’ day out with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. The menu was fairly similar with a few variations in there to adjust to the change in season. It was the first time both of them had been, and we all left happy and pleased with our afternoon chatting and eating. Again, we headed home with leftovers. (And yes, I went with the prosecco once more!)

Something I really like about this twist on traditional tea is that it definitely is for everyone, so we’ve booked in for a date in November with the other families from our antenatal class to celebrate all our babes turning one over the next few months. The Fox recently released their autumnal afternoon tea menu, and I can’t wait to try the mini burger, the mini fish and chips, and the gooey brownie!

If you decide to head to The Fox to enjoy their afternoon tea, these tips will hopefully help you out…definitely book in, it’s only served from Friday to Sunday during certain times, and enjoy the afternoon with some of your favorite people!

This post is just me sharing a fun find! I was not asked to write it by The Fox, but I hope they see it and know they’re onto something with the Picnic Bench Teas! 

Things That Are Ace, Vol. 1

Many bloggers have a series highlighting things they like, and since moving to England, I’ve acquired quite a few favorites that I’d like to share. So, in what is now about 43rd attempt to get back to blogging, I’d like to start a similar set of posts. The first in this series is a locally-inspired one.

Just Jenny’s Ice Cream

Oh. My. Goodness. If you live in West Yorkshire, get yourself to one of their stockists immediately. About a month ago, I was at our local farm shop and noticed the mini tubs of Just Jenny’s in their freezer, so I picked up two for Richard and I to enjoy that evening as an after dinner treat. Richard loves his vanilla ice cream, so I went with the Just Vanilla for him and I decided to try the Honeycomb flavor. His response, “How have we never tried this before?!” Honestly, this ice cream is incredible! Richard and I have come to the conclusion that we will always have Just Jenny’s in our freezer for visitors from here on out. If you check out their web site, you’ll see that the ice cream is made from milk and cream from the cows on their farm in Barkisland, and they only use natural flavors and locally-sourced ingredients. You can’t argue with that. This ice cream is the real deal.

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Farm Shops

As I mentioned above, I discovered Just Jenny’s at our local farm shop. Farm shops are something special. There are a few farm shops near us, but our favorite is Far Barsey Farm Shop in Barkisland. All of their beef is raised from their own herd while the other meat and poultry they sell are raised locally. We bought our Christmas turkey as well as our bacon and sausage for Christmas breakfast from them. And that Tour de France party we had? All of our burgers and sausages were purchased at Far Barsey. We had a vegetarian in the group, so I picked up a cheese and onion quiche for her and she raved about it’s deliciousness! Some of my favorites from Far Barsey are the mango and chili marinated chicken, the Figit Pie (filled with pork, sage, and apple), and their bacon and sausage. Okay, I basically love everything from there. Everyone who works there is so nice as well, which makes visiting the shop an even better experience.

The Larder Delicatessen (Or, ‘the deli’ as it is referred to in our house!)

The Larder is located in Ripponden and has become a Saturday morning breakfast staple in our house…sausage and egg with brown sauce on ciabatta for Richard and bacon (well done), avocado, hold the red onion, and light mayo on a granary baguette for me. (Leave it to the Yank to request a lunch sandwich for breakfast!) Their lunch sandwiches are incredible as well, and their selection of deli salads, meals, and side dishes (all made in house) are delicious. You can walk into The Larder without a clue as to what you are having for dinner that night and walk out with your entire meal as well as homemade bread, cheese platter, and wine sorted. It’s amazing the deliciousness they have been able to fit into such a small shop. And like Far Barsey, the staff are always friendly.

If anyone reading is local, I hope you’ll check out some of my favorites…if you haven’t done so already! And, if you are ever in the area, definitely add these to your list of must do’s!