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! 

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I’m fairly sure that most of us thought our summer was over, but we have been pleasantly surprised with some great weather over the weekends, and we’ve been doing our best to enjoy it by being outdoors. A few weeks ago, we decided to spend the Sunday at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

We’ve driven past the park numerous times and it has always peaked my curiosity. Richard had never been and he was equally intrigued to visit. And our girl? Well, she’s just happy as long as the three of us are together and she gets to look around!

Pulling into the car park, it appeared that many other families had the same idea as us. It was great to see so many people of all ages out enjoying the day with family and friends. Many of them had packed picnics, and there were kids running around soaking up their last days of summer before school began.

We made our way to the main visitor’s centre, where there is a gift shop, a restaurant, and a snack shop. We paid for our parking, which is £8 for the day, then picked up a map to plot our walk. (You can pay for smaller chunks of time, but £8 seemed completely reasonable to spend the day wandering the gorgeous grounds without the need to continually be checking our watches.) We decided to walk the cross country walking route to the Longside Gallery that took us to the opposite side of the grounds from the visitor’s centre, which the map says is 2 kilometers one way. This walk takes you past many of the sculptures – in a range of mediums – and within viewing distance of the larger buildings on the grounds as well as through a pasture complete with cow pies (or, as I just learned from my husband, cow pats as they are known here). It definitely was a beautiful walk through the park. When we finished exploring, we made our way back to the visitor’s centre and had a late lunch at the restaurant whilst sitting outside on the deck upstairs.

We really enjoyed our day at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and will for sure be returning. It’s a wonderful place for families with all of the open space for kids to run around, and it will make a great addition to our tour of Yorkshire when we have visitors. If we get snow this year, I’d love to visit then as I imagine it is incredibly beautiful on a clear winter day. I just wish it was a bit closer, so we could go more often!

(Richard just informed me I don’t have many photos of the sculptures. This appears to be true! Oh well, hope you enjoy the photos anyway!)

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DSC_0002Molecule Man 1+1+1 by Jonathan Borofsky

DSC_0006Buddha 2000 by Niki de Saint Phalle

DSC_0009Everything is Connected by Peter Liversidge

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DSC_0029Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei

And a super cute photo just because these two melt my heart….

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To the dungeon….

Yesterday, I took the train to York to visit The York Dungeon. I’ve walked past The London Dungeon before, but even after a few visits to York, I did not know there was a similar experience there. Truthfully, I also had no idea what these dungeon experiences were even about, but now I know!

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When I arrived, I was greeted outside of the entrance by the Ringmaster of Carnivále, which is the current sideshow at The York Dungeon that runs until the 1st September. Before the tour begins, I had my photo taken holding a board declaring the crime I was convicted of (‘Being a Witch’) and another of me looking shocked. In the second photo, they make it out to seem you are looking at a body during an autopsy and you are not aware of that until you see your photos at the end of the tour. (You can purchase these photos in the gift shop.) Well, I looked like I was busting a move above the body – hilarious!

As my group waited for our tour to begin, we sat in a corridor to make us feel like we were in Clifford’s Tower listening to the talking head of Robert Aske, a Yorkshire lawyer during the reign of Henry VIII. He gave an introduction to the dungeon tour and warned us about Henry VIII. It’s quite cool as the ‘talking heads’ are images of the faces of actual actors that are projected on a faceless mannequin.

We were then introduced to a former washer of robes at St Mary’s Abbey in 1541. He lost his job when Henry VIII took over all of the churches. The man was attempting to pillage the room of its valuables before Henry VIII and his men caught us. This first show started off with a scream as the man came flying into the corridor, so I think most of us were on edge for a good portion of the 80ish-minute tour. I’m not a big fan of scary movies or haunted houses, so the prospect of something jumping out at me was slightly unnerving. This did definitely add to the atmosphere of the dungeon. I found some of us never wanted to be the first to enter a room or the last to leave a room. It was during these times when I wished I was there with a friend or Richard (also a scaredy cat like me!).

We then moved through a series of other rooms with the majority of the shows being done by live actors and only a couple being told by the talking heads or a recorded narration. There was actually quite a lot of historical information to absorb throughout the course of the tour. Some of the highlights for me included:  hearing a recording from ‘Guy Fawkes’ of his role in the plot against Westminster on the 5th November 1605 and his subsequent torture once caught, listening to the story of the Ghost of York from 1821 as told by the very animated pub landlord who witnessed the hanging and then the appearance of said person’s ghost in his pub, a demonstration on an unsuspecting tour member by the torturer of his various instruments, and the equivalent to a dark yet comedic stand up show involving the talking head of Eric Bloodaxe as he tells tales of the Vikings bloody invasion against the English complete with heckling by the talking head (on a stick!) of an Englishman he had beheaded.

My favorite of all of the shows was one in which we met the doctor’s assistant during the time of plague in 1551. We heard about the symptoms of the plague and the methods they used to attempt to heal those with the plague. We even played witness to a bit of a ‘live autopsy’! The assistant was just a little mad, which was completely understandable seeing as she would have dealt with such doom each day. This actress played her part extremely well and her dry sense of humor really added to this portion of the tour. She used a member of the tour to really engage us and the moments of pitch black kept us all guessing as to what was going to come next.

From the first live show of the tour, I could tell the actors were knowledgable about their respective times in history and each of them really got into their parts, particularly the pub landlord and the doctor’s assistant. They use humor that appeals to all ages (There were even a few innuendos thrown in for the older crowd!) and great storytelling to provide a synopsis of the darker times in York’s history. There are little surprises along the way, but I don’t want to give too much away because I really do feel it adds to the drama and atmosphere that they set out to create during the dungeon tour.

There are typically 24 people in each tour group, and the group members ranged in age from about 8 to 60ish years old. Everyone, but me, was there with someone else. It wasn’t awkward being there on my own because you tend to chat to others as you connect over your shared desire not to be frightened! The York Dungeon experience is most definitely a tourist attraction, but it is well worth a visit if you don’t know much about the dark history of the city. I think it would be a neat place to take some of our U.S. visitors as York is typically one of the places we tend to take people on our tour of Yorkshire. I really did enjoy my visit to The York Dungeon and would certainly recommend it!

I was provided a ticket by The York Dungeon for purposes of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

Exploring London with Our Girl

A few weeks back, Richard was to be in London for work, so the girl and I tagged along with him. Because we were driving, we decided to stay at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford to allow us a place to park and easy access to the tube. It also was convenient for me because there was a Waitrose just below the hotel, which became our go-to for quick and healthy food for me and our girl.

The two days we were there were boiling hot, so I wanted to be sure to enjoy the summer weather but also make sure that the little one was comfortable. So, on the first day, we walked a 5 minutes or so to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the London 2012 Olympics were held. We wandered around enjoying the flowers and the buildings until we settled in under the shade of a tree along the river. Our girl and I had a nice little picnic, which resulted in her being covered in strawberry (her favorite food) juice!

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The park was a nice place for us to chill. If you have older kids, there are water fountains that squirt up at various times and it was full of kids running and laughing through the water. There is also a sand and water play area for kids. It was a pleasant surprise to see how much they have transformed the park to cater to families. The thing I wish I had known though is that the Aquatics Centre to open to the public. How cool would it have been for us to swim in the Olympic Pool?! Next time, for sure!

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We walked around the park a few times during our stay and really enjoyed seeing all of the buildings we saw on television. Although we were lucky enough to watch the women’s beach volleyball finals and the women’s marathon during the Olympics, neither of those events took place in the park, so we had never made our way out there until this trip. During our walks though the park, it was always full of people enjoying the weather and the beautiful surroundings. I hope that this area continues to bring people in, and hopefully its proximity to Westfield will help with that.

I definitely recommend checking out Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park if you have some time and are in London. It’s especially great for families. You can access it easily from Stratford Station via the DLR and the Jubilee and Central lines.

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With Westfield having such great access to the tube, our girl and I hopped on the Jubilee line the following day and headed to Green Park, so we could meet up with a friend who works near there. We did a little sightseeing first, and I made sure to take her picture in front of Buckingham Palace. We then headed over to St James Square for a picnic with our friend. It was a great place to get some relief from the heat and escape the busy-ness of the city during the summer.

We had such a lovely time down south that we’re already planning a trip back in autumn over a weekend, so Richard can join us for our jaunts around London.

PalaceSNot impressed with the Palace.

A Day at the Sea

This past weekend, we spent 24 hours in our home away from home, Abersoch in North Wales. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Richard’s family has been visiting Abersoch for years during the summers, so it’s fun to carry on that tradition now that we have a daughter.

Although this was our second time there this summer, this was the first time it was warm enough for us to sit on the beach. That meant that our girl felt sand AND sat in the sea waves for the first time! It was absolutely a huge milestone for us since Richard and I are such big beach fans! She giggled away at the sand, but was slightly unsure about the waves. The wind picked up as the day went on, but it truly was a glorious day on the Welsh coast.

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And what makes a day at the sea even better? Oh, fish and chips or some equally delightful seafood dish! We didn’t indulge this visit as we had a barbecue in the evening, but enjoying fish and chips really does make a trip to the British coast! That being said, Beach Hut Life put together this very cool infographic featuring a range of seaside dishes and where they can be enjoyed. I’ve never mentioned that the beach huts of Abersoch Beach are absolutely iconic, so it’s very fitting that you will see an Abersoch eatery featured on this infographic by BHL. We have yet to try 5 Degrees West, but we plan to in the near future!

Hope you enjoy the infographic and will take a look at BHL as they look to bring more attention to the delights of beach huts and the color and fun they add to the coast!

Fish n Chips: Posh or Nosh – An infographic by the team at Beach Hut Life

I was asked to post on behalf of Beach Hut Life as they grow their website. I obliged as I love gazing at the colorful beach huts of Abersoch. I only wish I would have taken a photo of the huts to share on the blog!

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!

 

Le Tour de France Comes to Yorkshire

This weekend is a very exciting time for Yorkshire! I don’t think it is very well known outside of the UK (or maybe it is and I am really out of the loop!), but the Grand Dèpart of Le Tour de France begins in Leeds on Saturday the 5th of July.

What makes it even more of a once-in-a-lifetime event for us is that Stage 2, which will be raced on Sunday the 6th, goes through our little corner of West Yorkshire and wildly enough RIGHT past our house! To say we are excited is an understatement! The buzz in the surrounding villages is incredible, and everyone has gone Le Tour-crazy with bunting and yellow bike decor. It’s extremely fun to be a part of the build up and to witness this world famous cycle race from our drive!

The girl and I went on a little walk around one of the villages yesterday to snap some photos. I’m hoping to take more as the week goes on, but for now I’ll share a few of my favorites.

TDFgraffitiThis is on a barrier surrounding a construction site that is typically covered in random graffiti. We saw this being painted during the day, so it was obviously something they were asked to do, which I think is nice. I like that they included two Yorkshire roses at the bottom.

TDFjerseybunting My favorite of all the bunting I’ve seen!

TDFsignThe signs marking the route.

TDFbikeflowersYellow flowers and spray-painted yellow bikes are everywhere! 

As I was writing this post, I remembered I had taken some photos in Harrogate when we spent Mother’s Day there in March. These are two of the best that I took. The excitement was even beginning that early in the year!

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A Very Yorkshire Day

There have been moments during my time living in England that I would classify as very British – a grey and misty day along the Thames watching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Floatilla with friends whilst drinking champagne and a day dressed to the nines at the races at York Racecourse to name a couple. But until last week, I have never had a day that I can categorically refer to (in my mind at least) as a “Yorkshire day.”

Two events happened that make me say this, and I’d like to share….

Situation #1

The council is doing work on the road that runs in front of our house, which has meant that the road is closed to through traffic during the day. I looked out the window and noticed a dump truck parked in front of our drive. The girl and I were set to leave for her swimming class, so I walked outside and asked one of the workers if I would be able to get out of the drive in about 20 minutes. He assured me that I would be able to leave when one of his co-workers joined the conversation and in his broad Yorkshire accent asked, “What time do you need to leave, love?”

“11:45.”

He then asked, “And what time is it now?”

“11:20.”

He cheekily said, “You couldn’t get us two teas then, could ya?”

I was fairly certain I heard him right, but I asked anyway, “What?”

“Could you get us two teas with the tea bags left in and one sugar in each?” he replied with a grin.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I told him that wouldn’t be a problem. He thanked me with, “Ah, you’re a star, love.”

Off I went into the house smiling to myself as I made their teas. I quickly learned that when you live here you always ask a person who comes into your house – either for a visit or to do work – if they would like a drink. It’s just the polite and appropriate thing to do. Although these guys were not doing work directly for us, I was glad to help them to enjoy their morning tea break.

Situation #2

On the way to our swimming class, we had to pick up our friends and I chose to go ‘over the tops’ to get to their house. ‘Over the tops’ essentially means that the route will take you over the tops of the hills and the road is usually rural (read:  narrow). I was coming upon a blind curve on a stretch of road only wide enough for one car.

As I cautiously approached the curve, I saw the recycling truck stopped in the road as it collected the recycling that day. This was the first time I had to reverse my car up the hill to a place that would allow the truck sufficient room to pass. I did well and even received a polite wave from the driver. This left me thanking my lucky stars that I now drive an automatic!

Both of these occurrences were fairly minor, but they were real reminders that I live in Yorkshire!

Have you ever had a moment – during travels or as an expat (if you are or have been one) – that left you thinking, “We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto?” 🙂

P.S. Those road works, by the way, are in preparation for Le Tour de France that departs from Yorkshire this year and, lucky for us, goes RIGHT past our house! Post to come on that excitement!

{We Do: Travel} Life as a US Expat in the UK

Hello to all of you who have made your way here from The Charming Blog! I’m Becky, and I’m a U.S. expat living in West Yorkshire, England. I moved here in September 2011 and haven’t left! (There is so much behind-the-scenes in terms of visas and logistics that has allowed me to stay here. I don’t plan to go into that in this post, but if any of you have questions about those details, please don’t hesitate to email me.) I hope you enjoy my post and that you’ll stick around to read more from me!

When I found out from Amy that I would be contributing to the We Do series by writing about life as an expat, I was equal parts excited – because I have the opportunity to share about a topic I know well – and nervous – because there is just so much that can be shared. I really had no idea where to even begin, so on the advice of my husband and my mom, I went through some of my old blog posts for ideas. They are smart ones, those two! I stumbled upon this paragraph from this post I wrote in February 2012:

Sometimes, I feel there is an assumption that when you move abroad your life will immediately be more glamorous and full of adventure. I admit that is an easy trap to fall into; wishing that every day I had some incredibly amazing story to tell. And yes, sometimes my life here is more glamorous than my life in the US (and I love those times too!), but it’s the every day that has become so meaningful to me. The mundane to me is the perfect.

Even after I wrote that post, I had only been living in England for just over five months, so I still found myself feeling as if every day should be full of adventure. One of the great things about being an ex-pat is that you can truly find your own place in whichever country you choose to make your home. So, although you might not think your life abroad as an expat is all that exciting, it actually is pretty great. It’s almost as if you know you have really assimilated when life in your adopted country seems normal to you. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when the tourist feeling finally went away, but at some point it did. It was then that I truly realized that my life here in England is perfect as it is and that I could call myself an expat without feeling like I was pretending.

BoltonAbbeyExploring Yorkshire landmarks much older than any building in the U.S.

So, what were some of the things that made me realize I was no longer a tourist? Although I honestly could write so much more on this topic, I have chosen to share some of my favorites today.

Shall I just swing by the chippy? My husband, Richard, will sometimes ring on his drive home from work and ask me that question. The chippy is the fish and chip shop. Oh, the fish and chips of northern England are most definitely done right and so delicious! They are often served with mushy peas, which are essentially mashed peas. I have texture issues when it comes to food, so I wasn’t sure if I would like them, but I definitely do. This simple side dish is the perfect accompaniment to the fish and chips. When we return to England from a trip abroad, Richard always likes to have fish and chips for our first dinner back. I used to poke fun at him for it, but now I actually look forward to it!

Fancy a cuppa? After much practice and instruction from my husband, I am able to make a mean cuppa the proper way – milk and sugar (if you like), but always milk. Previously, I found it so strange to put milk in my tea, but now I find it odd to drink my tea without milk. Also, I look forward to a cuppa before bed with my husband while we’re winding down from the day. In fact, we’re watching MasterChef (a BBC classic) and enjoying our teas as I type!

IMG_3272What’s better than tea and cake in the afternoon?!

The pub. Most people know that the British love their pubs. They are everywhere making them an easy meeting place when you want to catch up with friends. Even in our tiny village, I can count four without even thinking about it. The best part about the pub though is that many of them are family establishments, which is not something you would find with bars and pubs in the U.S. Yes, everyone loves a night out just the adults, but we have a little one now so it’s nice to know you won’t get the side eye from the other patrons if you bring a baby with you. In fact, she is usually the star of the show when we take her with us! Also, this was the first Christmas since we’ve been together that we have actually stayed in England as we usually spend the holidays in the U.S. We went to the pub before dinner on Christmas Day and I didn’t think twice about it. My parents were visiting at the time, and they thought it was the funniest thing!

Hiya! You okay? This is a common greeting when you see someone you know. To be honest, it got on my nerves when I first arrived, but now I often catch myself saying it to friends as we’re greeting each other with a quick kiss on the cheek. I find that it just fits into the flow of conversation here.

The ‘x’. With close friends in the U.S., I would sometimes end emails and text messages with xo. The in the UK is a bit of an institution. With friends and family and even some people you aren’t that close with, every email, text, and greeting card will be signed with at least one x symbolizing a kiss and the end of a thought. At first, it felt forced and I would often find myself asking Richard when it was appropriate to use the x. However, it has become second nature. I’ve even found myself signing professional emails with it (and thankfully catching it before I would click send!).

The ‘wrong’ side of the road. For the first 2 1/2 years that I lived here, I did not drive, which was odd for me because like many others from the U.S., I had become reliant on having my own car. I could have driven legally on my U.S. license for the first year, but in all honesty, as a newbie to Yorkshire living, it was fairly nerve-wracking. We live in the countryside with narrow roads that sometimes are only wide enough for one car and left me holding my breath as a car approaches from the other direction. Because of that, I was content taking public transportation (which thankfully is quite good) and walking everywhere. However, public transportation is not as easy with a baby in tow, so I was keen to pass my test. (It’s funny to me that she spent the first few months of her life taking taxis with me!) I applied for my provisional license in March 2013 and began driving lessons in July. In March 2014, after two failed attempts, I finally passed my UK practical driving exam!

The exam here is nothing like the U.S. exam. Yes, you take a theory and a practical exam, but that is where the similarities end. In fact, I’m fairly certain I ran a stop sign on my U.S. test when I was 16 and still passed while that would be an automatic fail on the UK exam. (If you have a few minutes, I’d highly recommend reading this article written by an American describing his experience with the UK driving exam. My experience was nearly identical!) The fact that I now drive here on the opposite side of the road and from the opposite side of the car has been a massive factor in making me feel more settled. It’s so nice to be able to pop to the shop or catch up with friends as I please. It’s hard to remember what it was like before I drove. (I will be blogging about the entire process in the next few days, if you want to hear more about this, then be sure to check back!)

IMG_2900I’m pretty proud of that certificate!

Shall I just pop round for a quick catch up? Just reviewing this post, I see a number of words and phrases that I either didn’t use or never would have felt comfortable saying or typing prior to settling into life here…a bitring (as in call on the phone), poke fun at (as opposed to make fun of), cuppa, was keen toand pop to the shop. They now just seem to roll off the tongue when I’m speaking and writing. Here are a few more that I catch myself using:  have a thinkpop round, and watching some telly. I’d definitely recommend you read this great post written by another US ex-pat on some common British phrases and how they fit into conversation. She also mentions some words that don’t seem to sound right in an American accent if pronounced the British way, and I wholeheartedly agree with her point of view on tomato and aluminum. I’d like to add basil (pronounced bah-sil) and oregano (pronounced or-a-gan-oh) to that list if I may!

Living Across Two Cultures. Aside from the every day, there are so many things about being an expat that excite me. I enjoy the ease with which we can travel to continental Europe as well as a number of other places that aren’t as accessible from the U.S. I love that our daughter, although she will spend most of her younger years in the UK, will grow up with traditions from both sides of the pond. I find it funny that although the Yorkshire accent is slowly rubbing off on me, I’m still a bit of a novelty when meeting new people. I like to talk about where I’m from, but I also like to see people smile when I say I love living here.

RBParisParis is just a quick plane ride away!

All of this is not to say that I don’t still have moments that leave me frustrated or asking Richard way too many questions about why things happen the way they do. Being an expat is most definitely a continual learning process, and I enjoy being a student in my own life. I feel it is natural to still have moments when I find myself pining for things in the U.S. There are times when I desperately miss my family and friends in the States, despite the fact that my friends and family here are all incredible people. This is my home now though and it is hard to imagine life any other way. Life as an expat is about finding a balance between learning to love your life in your new home whilst still keeping a place in your life and heart for your home country. So, although the adventure isn’t always apparent to me, it is definitely still there!

countrysideIt’s hard to imagine living anywhere else, especially on days like the one pictured above!

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The Charming – Travel Packing Essentials: Carry-on Luggage
Bella Vida – The Most Helpful Travel Apps
Whispering Sweet Nothings – How to Prepare for a Big Trip (like moving to Australia for a year!)
The Charming – Travel Packing Essentials: The Personal Item
Aubrey Zaruba – How to Plan Activities as Your Destination
A Yank in Yorkshire – Life as an Ex-Pat – An American in England
The Charming – How to Pack Your Camera Gear

We Do: Wellness week is June 9 and if you would like to sign up for that series or any other one, click here and fill out the form.

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An Update on My Adventures in Driving (on the Wrong Side of the Road)

I mentioned a few months back that I began taking driving lessons in hopes that I would be able to pass my UK driving test prior to the baby’s arrival. One would think that switching from driving in the U.S. to the UK would not be that difficult, and I’m sure it isn’t when you are in an automatic. But suddenly, everything is on the opposite side and I’m expected to learn to drive a manual at 31 years of age. Okay, cool.

Here’s the thing…you can actually take the test in an automatic. However (and this is a big however in a country dominated by manual cars), if you take the test in an automatic, you are only qualified to drive an automatic on your own. That is fine and dandy, but Richard’s car is a manual. So, I get that license and I basically am back to still not being able to drive. This meant I definitely needed to take lessons. Lessons not given by my husband.

I’m really happy with the driving instructor I chose and so far I’ve completed 12 hours of lessons with him (with more on the way!). He does push me and challenge me outside of my comfort zone, and he’s always ready to answer any questions I have. He says I am improving and I have to agree. This is evidenced by the fact that I no longer feel the need to take a nap the minute I get home because I am so exhausted from concentrating on the the gears and the parked cars (on the wrong side of the road!) and not turning onto the wrong side of the road and ‘Ah, so many pedals!’

A few weeks back, I asked Richard if I could drive the few miles to our house after we got off of the motorway. (On a provisional license, you cannot drive on the motorway.) He cautiously agreed and let me take the driver’s seat. Much to his surprise, my driving of a manual has drastically improved since the day I got out of the car and attempted to walk home during what would be the last of his attempts to teach me. He later told me that he thinks I’m well on my way to passing my test. Yes!

I’ve come a long way since that first lesson when I was so excited to have driven at 20 mph. Now, I’m frequently driving in 4th gear and have reached speeds over 50 mph when permitted, I’ve reversed around corners, and I don’t need my instructor to tell me what gear I should be in anymore. Sure, I’ve stalled a few times and I’ve over-revved the engine when doing an incline start, but mostly I’m getting the hang of it. It really has been amazing how much confidence I have gained on the road since that first lesson at the end of July.

So, what happens next? Before I can put in for the driving portion of my test, I am required to pass a theory portion which I’ve been studying away for. I feel like I’m 16 all over again with the nervousness and excitement that came with getting my permit and then my license. (Come to think of it, it is really similar to being 16 because I was the youngest of my friends, so I was the last to get my license. All of my friends here drive and I’m back to being the one who they need to pick up if we go anywhere! Haha.) This weekend, I plan to book the date to take the theory test. Things are moving along slowly but surely with the driving and soon I hope to add a bit more freedom and independence to life here by being able to drive.

I can’t wait to be able to take little road trips with the baby once she is here and after I get my license!