Our Girl Turned ONE!

It’s hard to believe our sweet girl turned ONE in December!

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We love a good party in this house, so we went a bit wild for her 1st birthday party. I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means a crafty or artsy, so I was scouring the internet months before for help with invitations and decor ideas. We knew we wanted it to be rainbow-themed because one of her favorite books is about the colors of the rainbow, but I needed some creative help. Richard, on the other hand, has this creative side that most people don’t see, so he had some great ideas as well. With the internet and my husband as guides, I knew the party would be excellent and it did turn out so well.

The morning of was a bit of a disaster (that I really want to describe with some not-so-nice words!) because we had put up a marquee (basically a big tent) with heaters in it in the back garden earlier in the week to allow people to mingle outside as well as inside. Richard and his dad even lined the inside of the marquee with colored Christmas lights and it looked wonderful and went perfectly with the party theme. Well, the night before the party, a terrible windstorm blew in and it was actually lifting the marquee up in the air! In the rain and vicious wind, Richard, my dad, and I were outside taking the sides down from the marquee. We can look back now and laugh, but at the time, it was quite frightening to think this tent could just fly away at any moment! Richard had big plans for a back wall full of rainbow balloons, so he was gutted when it wouldn’t work out. Truthfully, so was I, as it would have looked great.

Originally, I had wanted to order a cake, but we decided to take on the task with me baking and Richard decorating. I’m so glad that Richard convinced me that we should do this. We had so many compliments on both how they tasted and how they were decorated. A few people even asked where we had bought the cakes! Score one for Team Becky & Richard!

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We had hot snack foods for the adults and kids, but the shining stars of the snacks were the rainbow fruit and veggie platters. We were really proud of these. (It’s funny the things that make you happy, isn’t it?!) I love Jelly Belly jelly beans, so we bought some in each color of the rainbow to add to the food table.

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Our little lady played with her friends and had lots of attention showered on her. We could tell she was getting tired (she had refused to nap that morning), so we lit the candle on her cake and sang happy birthday to her. She looked around at all of the people and had a little smirk on her face. It seemed it was kind of clicking that this was all for her. After the singing she went straight for a nap in the middle of her party! Haha…the life of a toddler!

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Because we had two cakes, we cut one after she went for a nap and used the other for a little cake ‘smash’ later on in the day. We did that with just the grandparents there, which was really nice for them to see her for a bit without so many other people around. However, we failed to consider that the cake was iced with fondant making it near impossible for her to do any smashing! Instead, Richard had to cut some of it and she went for it. It’s fair to say this girl loves her sweets!

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It’s hard to believe that our gorgeous and clever daughter is already ONE! (Honestly, I feel like I can definitely be inducted into the ‘parent club’ now because I have actually heard myself say, “I can’t believe how fast she is growing up!”) She keeps us on our toes and always laughing. She adds joy to every day, and I love that I get to spend my days with her. We love to watch her explore and pick up on how things work. She chatters non-stop and is saying “hi” and “Daddy” and a million other words that we don’t quite understand yet. She loves to eat and especially loves it when Daddy shares bites of his breakfast (either cereal, bagels, or crumpets) with her. She is becoming strong-willed and won’t hesitate to let us know when she isn’t happy. (The first tantrum, which stemmed from me not peeling her satsuma fast enough, was definitely a bit of a shock. Wow!) We’re so proud to be her parents and love when she gives us kisses and cuddles.

It was really nice to have so many of our friends and family there to celebrate our little girl turning 1, so a big thank you to all of them for coming! I think we were surprised at how many people we could fit into our house and it was definitely cozy, so maybe we should also thank them for being so accommodating and not flinching when not everyone had a place to sit!

I’m so happy we threw a party to celebrate her birthday (because let’s be honest…it’s really for the parents anyway). It was the perfect way to wrap up her first year of life that has been such a fun and wild ride for all of us!

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The Santa Special Steam Train

Yes, Christmas is long behind us, but I can’t not blog about the fun we had on the Worth Valley Railway’s Santa Special steam train. In the autumn, we had talked about looking into a Santa train ride, but it slipped my mind a few times. Then, my parents booked their flights to be here for two weeks in December, and we thought about how fun it would be to do this train ride with all four of the grandparents. I booked in October and they were only able to get all 7 of us on the 3:55 train out of Oxenhope. (If you are interested in this for Christmas 2015, I would definitely try to book in September when the tickets first become available. That’s our plan this year!)

At first, when I saw the nearly £17 (roughly $25) ticket cost for adults, I thought we should maybe give it a miss. But, that is because I thought the 10-mile journey with stops in Keighley and Haworth would be on a train similar to the commuter trains with the TransPennine Express. Oh, how wrong I was! This gave Richard a good laugh and he set me straight by explaining that this was actually a proper old-fashioned steam train, I became extremely excited. Honestly, I could not wait for the 13th of December!

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We arrived at Oxenhope station and it felt so Christmas-y — from the old-fashioned gas-lit lamps lining the platform to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ they had set up in the railway museum. Of course the moment we had to step outside to wait for the train, the rain started, so we kept the little lady covered as best we could and the rest of us anxiously awaited the train’s arrival with the hope of warmth once aboard.

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It was so neat to see the proper steam engine pull into the station (because of the rain I didn’t catch a clear photo of the engine), and it felt as if we had been transported back in time. We boarded our carriage and found our seats then were greeted by the jolliest woman who made sure we were comfortable and ready for a good time. I loved that the carriages had the original seats, upholstery, and luggage racks. Those details along with the Christmas decor really added to the festive nature of the train ride.

Soon, we were on our way and prepped for what was to come – a visit from Rudolph, Scrooge, and Santa and his elves. Well aware that we had a one-year old with us, the hostess on our carriage was kind enough to let us know there would be loud singing once Scrooge arrived as we needed to scare him off with our Christmas cheer in the form of Christmas carols. We would quite certain it wouldn’t bother our girl, but it was nice of her to forewarn us just in case. As we suspected, she was completely fine with the additional noise plus she loves music, so I think she enjoyed watching us sing along.

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I can’t remember at exactly what point they came through the carriages with mince pies and sherry for the adults, but that was a big hit with our parents…particularly our mothers who seemed to let that sherry go right to their heads! Hilarious. Our little lady surprisingly loved the mince pie. They do have a very specific (and almost spicy) taste to them, but she finished one on her own!

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Soon enough, Santa came through the carriage with an entourage of elves. It was a pretty impressive operation to ensure that each child received a gift appropriate to their age. Our girl got a great gift set that came with a book about an eskimo and a stuffed penguin like the one in the book. She LOVED the penguin!

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We were so happy with the entire train journey and our sweet girl seemed to enjoy it, especially the food part of it! We’re definitely planning to make this an annual tradition and look forward to making more memories on the Santa Special steam train in years to come!

A Night in with Friends

After a wonderful but busy Christmas season, we’ve now entered into ‘stay in and save’ mode, as have a lot of our friends. Last Saturday, we were invited for a relaxing get together at the home of two of our great friends, James and Amber. We chilled out and chatted and even got a tour of the beautiful home they are building just a short walk from their current place. A nice thing about going to the home of good friends is that they were completely fine with us bringing our girl and putting her to sleep at their house just as we were sitting down to a delicious homemade curry.

One of the funniest parts of the night was Richard’s amazement at watching his lifelong friend cooking a curry. He just could not get over seeing James cook this meal for us! He was even more blown away once he tasted the samosas, curry, and naan – all homemade! Richard kept telling him he must open his own restaurant. I agree that it was absolutely delicious and the right amount of spice for my liking.

The next day, I was thinking about what a fabulous night we had talking and laughing with these two. This will sound extremely cheesy, but that night was like you see in the movies where friends are smiling and laughing and full of joy for being able to spend time together. The conversation flowed as we reminisced about past memories and planned for future ones. We left with full hearts and feeling energized from spending quality time with such wonderful friends.

Thank you so much, James and Amber, for being such amazing friends that we’re so glad to have in our lives.

xx

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To Londontown We Went

Last year, during the last weekend in October, Richard and I went to London for our last getaway before our baby was due. This year, unknowingly, we booked the same weekend for the three of us to travel down south for a couple of days in our favorite city. In 2013, we had no idea what we were in for with a baby on the way, but I do know we hoped she would be an easy traveler and that she would just go with the flow. So far, she has proved to be an awesome addition to our travels – both near and far!

We had no real plans for our time in London aside from taking her to Hamley’s and Harrods to check out the toys. She is extremely curious about everything around her, so we were both excited to see how she would react to these two places full of sensory overload. If we had to do it again, we would skip Hamley’s. It was just too crowded.

Harrods toy department, on the other hand, was really enjoyable and just the right amount of hectic. It probably also helped that we got there just as it opened on Sunday, so we avoided a lot of the normal tourist onslaught. Our little lady loved looking around at everything there was to see, and we loved gawking at some of the crazy (expensive) gifts on offer. We actually found her Christmas gift there, which we think she will really enjoy.

After we left the toy shop, we wandered around the children’s clothing department and happened to notice The Disney Café. It was lunch time, so we thought we would give it a go. We really enjoyed it! The food was top notch, which we had expected from a restaurant in Harrods. The girl had a ham and cheese toastie cut into the shape of Mickey Mouse, Richard had a savoury crepe, and I had the mini cheeseburgers (and I was pleasantly surprised when the server asked how I would like them to be cooked). And, imagine my surprise when Richard ordered us a bottle of wine! It was such a nice lunch, and we loved watching our girl (wearing Minnie Mouse ears!) chomp away at her toastie whilst looking around at all of the older kids. She was in her element for sure!

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After leaving Harrods we walked towards Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace and on to St James’s Park. We stopped in St James’s Park because it was time for the girl to be fed. (Yes, she had just eaten, but sister needed her milk!) I plopped down to feed her underneath some fabulous towering trees. When she finished I sat her next to me in the leaves and she was amazed by them. She examined them and played for awhile, and it was fun to just see her taking in the textures and the colors of the leaves. Richard would pick up bunches of leaves and throw them up in the air, which absolutely amused her!

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After leaving the park, we headed to Westminster and crossed the Thames at Westminster Bridge to the Southbank. There is a carousel on the Southbank, so Richard took the girl for a ride. She was unsure when they first sat down on the horse, but after a thorough inspection, she smiled big whilst pointing directly at me stood along the side. (Someone had to look after the pram and our shopping!) She seemed to absolutely love the ride, and Richard laughed the entire way around. And me? I could not stop smiling! I love those unexpected moments that we share when we are all together.

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After the carousel ride, we decided it was time to call it a day (plus we had to get back to watch the Strictly Come Dancing results), so we set off walking back to Islington. Once we were near the hotel, I happened to spot an advertisement for Chipotle, and it was all I could think about since it has been ages since I’ve had anything remotely resembling decent Mexican food. We located said restaurant and grabbed takeaway to enjoy in the comforts of our hotel room. The day ended with us plopped on the bed in comfy clothes chowing down on delicious burritos and chips and salsa.

That weekend was made up of so many little moments that were completely unplanned. We smiled a lot and laughed hard and introduced our daughter to a number of new places and experiences. I don’t think either of us could have anticipated how much joy we would get from observing our daughter absorb the world around her. It was great to slow down and really watch her take everything in. This trip allowed us to look back on where we were a year ago – full of wonder about what our daughter would be like and what we would be like as parents – and realize that we are living our life as a family of three in the best way that we know how. And, in my mind, that is a great way to be.

I’m hopeful that we now potentially have a new family tradition of spending an October weekend in London! (What do you think, Richard?)

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Frightwater!

Growing up, although Halloween was enthusiastically celebrated by my friends, it was never a holiday that excited me. However, as our girl is growing up in England where Halloween is more of an up-and-coming holiday, a certain part of me is keen to make sure she has the opportunity to experience many traditions that I grew up with in the US. She’s still a bit too young to understand exactly what is going on, but this past Saturday, we ventured to Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon for some Halloween festivities.

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The theme park transforms into Frightwater Valley for the Halloween weekend. A lot of the park is decked out in Halloween decor and the staff contribute to the atmosphere by dressing up or painting their faces. There are a number of additional Halloween-themed attractions just for the weekend like the Live Scare Maze and the UV Monster Puppet Show. A few of the attractions didn’t open until after 3 PM and some aren’t suitable for an 11-month old, so we couldn’t check them all out, but we could still enjoy some of the walks and the actors that took their roles seriously as zombies/creepy people.

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Richard and I are major wimps when it comes to scary movies, haunted houses, and the like, so that part of me is glad we weren’t able to ride the haunted train and venture into the haunted forest maze, but I do wish we could have experienced them so I could give a proper review of all of Frightwater. Maybe next year! It was funny to watch our girl look at some of the Halloween decorations and the actors walking aimlessly with blank looks on their faces. You could tell she was trying to process it all, but it just wasn’t making sense!

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We were happy to be able to experience Lightwater Valley as a family and to take the little one on some of the rides. We enjoyed the Lightwater Express train ride around the park, Eagle’s Creek Farm in which you ride in tractors around a little farmyard with a variety of animals in it, and the Lightwater Wheel. We did plan to take her on some more rides, but when Richard went to take her out of her stroller, she was completely zonked out! So, that idea was short-lived and instead we walked around and enjoyed the day. Richard did ride The Ultimate, which is Europe’s longest roller coaster, and thought it was great. We also enjoyed wandering through Lightwater Valley Falconry, which is home to a number of birds of prey and some reptiles, ferrets, and rabbits as well. It was amazing to see some of these gorgeous birds up close.

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Of course, my American mind pictured a massive amusement park similar to Six Flags or Busch Gardens right off the motorway, but I was pleasantly surprised at the manageable size of Lightwater Valley and its beautiful rural setting. As a theme park, it is a good blend of rides that has something for everyone from our young daughter to those seeking something more thrilling. Being spread across the gorgeous grounds makes it feel as if you aren’t constantly fighting crowds. We really lucked out with the weather whilst we were there, and it must have made for a great last weekend of their regular season.

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I’d definitely recommend Lightwater Valley for a family day out. I’d also recommend what I saw of Frightwater. Lightwater Valley is closed for the season, but they do have a few special event weekends coming up, such as Meet the Gruffalo and the Santa Experience. It is a place to definitely keep in mind if you are looking for a day out with the family!

Our tickets to the park were kindly provided to us by Lightwater Valley for the purpose 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. Big thanks to Lightwater Valley for a fun day out with my two favorite people!

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Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: All of The Food!

Not only did we enjoy the hotel and the property at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, but we were extremely impressed with the food. When you read this post, you will think that all we did was eat…and well, it is sort of true! We were spoiled with afternoon tea, an evening meal, and breakfast the next morning. All of which were delightful.

After a visit to Scarborough, we headed to the hotel as we were booked to have afternoon tea at 3 PM. (Booking is required for afternoon tea.) We weren’t exactly sure where tea was served, so we asked Lynsey at the front desk and she told us we were welcome to be seated in the lounge. The lounge boasts a couple of leather sofas, and we cozied up on the larger of the two as we waited for our tea. We browsed some photo albums of weddings held at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel when Lynsey appeared with two glasses of fizz for us to enjoy! It was a welcome treat after being pounded by the wind on the seafront.

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Next, out came our tray of scones, sandwiches, and miniature desserts. It was presented nicely on the traditional three-tiered tray. We tucked into the sandwiches whilst waiting for our tea to be served. The sandwich selection included roast beef, prawn with Marie Rose sauce, and brie with chutney. Richard raved about the prawn sandwich. We both liked the roast beef sandwiches. However, Richard doesn’t like soft cheeses, so I ate the brie with chutney sandwiches. The selection was a bit different than the traditional choices, but they were nice.

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Our next course had us enjoying scones with absolutely delicious and silky clotted cream with our choice of jam. I’m a clotted cream enthusiast and Richard realized he is as well, so we constantly found ourselves adding more and more to our scones. With the scones demolished, Richard dove right in to the mini desserts whilst I took a little breather. There were two of each of these allowing us to indulge in lemon cheesecake, a fudge-y brownie with pistachios, parkin, and a chocolate cake with icing. I most enjoyed the brownie and the cheesecake. The cake and its icing were a bit too sweet for me. Richard had both his and my slice of parkin, so I’d say that must have been good! All in all, we enjoyed our afternoon tea and having a relaxing afternoon in the lounge at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

The second food experience we had was the evening meal. We ended up pushing our booking back from 7:30 to 8:15 for two reasons:  1) the afternoon tea left us feeling quite full and 2) the results show for Strictly Come Dancing finished just before 8. Priorities, people! We were slightly early, so we wandered to the bar in The Bistro. We were both planning to order a drink, but before we knew it, the bartender asked our room number and suggested we take a seat on one of the sofas in front of the fireplace before bringing us two glasses of prosecco whilst we perused the menu. We both commented on how we really like it when restaurants give you an opportunity to sit in the bar and have a drink whilst you leisurely look over the menu and place your order for starters and mains before being seated at your table.

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Although you can eat in The Bistro, we were having our meal in the Courtyard Restaurant. The Courtyard Restaurant has been awarded 2 rosettes for culinary excellence and is listed in the Michelin guide as a recommended restaurant, so we were both very much looking forward to this meal. Once we were seated at our table, the waiter brought us an amuse bouche of a delicious tomato bisque. He also came around with the bread basket, and we both opted for a slice of the fruit and nut loaf that tasted like it was fresh from the oven. And, the best part was the pats of butter on the table that were perfectly room temperature to top the bread.

For our starters I went with the Ham, Egg, Peas, which is a mini ham hock with pea mousse and a slice of a a hard-boiled quail egg. It had pickled vegetables as an accompaniment and the tanginess complemented the ham well. This isn’t a dish I typically would order and I’m not sure I would again, but I did enjoy it. Richard went for the Yorkshire Coast Fish Cake topped with a perfectly gooey poached egg. I tried a bite, and the egg really made the dish.

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Next up, our mains were delivered to our table. Richard went with the pork, which had belly pork, stuffed tenderloin, and homemade black pudding. I ordered the cod, which was perfectly cooked and served atop fondant potatoes, chorizo ratatouille, and a red pepper coulis. We both agreed the main courses were absolutely delicious, and I can say without a doubt that we both would order them again. All of the pieces of our meals meshed extremely well together in terms of flavor.

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Although we were both feeling full after two courses, we can never pass up dessert. After a peek at the menu, I decided on the apple and pear crumble. It was served delightfully warm with vanilla ice cream on the side. Richard chose the Caribbean Cocktail, which was a platter of four tropical desserts. He surprised me with his decision because if sticky toffee pudding (and it was!) is on the menu then he will usually order that, but he was so happy with his choice. I stole a small bite of the piña colada and it was a great blend of tropical flavors without it being too overwhelming on the coconut side as I find tropical-flavored desserts to sometimes be. We returned to our room incredibly impressed with the food and the service.

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When we went to sleep that night, we both wondered how we would manage to eat breakfast the next morning, but we did. Breakfast was served in the Courtyard Restaurant and we had a lovely table beside the windows overlooking the courtyard.

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For breakfast, there is a buffet of cereals, fruit salad, croissants, yogurts, and fruit juices plus you are able to order a cooked meal. We both ordered tea, and toast and jam were soon brought to our table. Richard went with the full breakfast, which was definitely one of the most well-presented full breakfasts both of us have seen. He said it was extremely tasty as well. I am not a fan of the full breakfast, so I ordered the goats cheese and tomato omelette. The fluffy omelette was cooked to perfection with cheese oozing in all of the right places. The breakfast was the perfect end to a great visit at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

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Our dining experience at Ox Pasture Hall was impressive. We particularly enjoyed the evening meal and the breakfast. I feel they truly excelled at those two meals, and the evening meal at Ox Pasture Hall is definitely one we would be glad to indulge in again. It was a fabulous 24 hours of food!

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: The Hotel

A couple of months ago, Richard and I were talking about how great it would be to have a night away just the two of us. We love our girl something fierce, but I think most parents can agree that it is so good to have child-less time for mom and dad to relax. This past weekend, Richard and I had the pleasure of doing just that thanks to Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in North Yorkshire. We truly enjoyed our stay at the hotel, which is set in the countryside two miles from the seaside town of Scarborough.

We headed there on Sunday morning and the drive took about two hours from our house in West Yorkshire. After a lovely and extremely windy visit to the seaside in Scarborough, we hopped back in the car to make our way to the hotel. I settled into the passenger seat expecting at least a 20-minute drive, but about 5 minutes later, Richard was telling me that the satnav had told us that we had passed the hotel. We drove a bit further and there was the sign indicating we were in the right place. It is amazing that in that short of a distance you can feel like you are in a completely different town altogether. The contrast from the hustle and bustle of the seaside and the tourists enjoying the front in Scarborough to the green and peacefulness of the countryside is remarkable.

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When we turned onto the tree- and lavender-lined drive, we were greeted with a view of the beautiful hotel and grounds. The view made me even more excited for our stay. After checking in and being shown to our room, we both acted a bit like kids and checked out the spacious Hornsea Suite. The bathroom was definitely a favorite for us both with the double sinks and drencher shower head. It was especially nice to have a lounge area to sit and completely relax with our feet up. As we don’t drink coffee and we rarely drink tea in hotel rooms, I was happy to see two large bottles of water placed in the room free of charge.

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After enjoying afternoon tea, we decided to explore the grounds. Despite the wind, it was a lovely autumn day. The rustic grounds are full of wild flowers that add to the charm of the country setting of the hotel. There are gazebos throughout the grounds that are a perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon or, even better, to get married under.

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Ox Pasture Hall would truly be a lovely place to hold a wedding. There are a number of locations both inside and outside of the hotel where you can be married by a registrar, so if you are looking for a countryside wedding, I would definitely recommend Ox Pasture Hall. Had we not gone for a destination wedding, I definitely think we would have chosen somewhere like Ox Pasture Hall. The wedding reception can be held in the Dovecote Suite, which seats 150 for the meal and can accommodate 180 for the night do. The Dovecote Suite has vaulted ceilings and exposed beams that add to the rustic feel of the setting. I was impressed with the size of the bar in the suite as it  definitely would accommodate a large wedding. There is also the option of hiring the entire hotel for exclusive use for you and your wedding guests, if you would like to go that route. If you chose to do this, a great way to take advantage of the entire property would be to host the wedding meal in the Dovecote Suite, to hold the evening do and dancing in the Courtyard Restaurant, and to use the bar in The Bistro.

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As well as the seventeen acres that the hotel is set on, there are a number of places (with car parking available) to hop on to lovely walking trails through the forest. We chose to walk (instead of drive) down the road (turning right out of the hotel’s drive) and happened to stumble upon a nicely maintained trail. It was such a peaceful afternoon exploring that part of North Yorkshire.

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We headed back to the hotel and decided a nap was in order before our evening meal. The bed was perfect – from the duvet to the mattress – and I honestly could have slept straight through the night, but I’m glad I didn’t as I would have missed a delicious meal (my food review will be posted in a couple of days). That bed left me looking forward to a restful night of sleep.

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Both Richard and I were extremely happy with the entirety of our stay at Ox Pasture Hall. We felt so comfortable there, and it was the ideal place to relax and have a quick getaway full of laughs and conversation. A big thank you to everyone there, especially Lynsey, for making our stay so wonderful.

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

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! 

A Weekend That Was So Much More

Two weekends ago, Richard was away (enjoying the Oktoberfest festivities in Germany, no less!), so the girl and I were on our own. I love our weekends as a family because our weekdays are so hectic, so I was a little sad when I woke up on Friday morning knowing that we wouldn’t see Richard again until Sunday night.

In a daze of melancholy and exhaustion, I grabbed the video monitor and saw the girl squirming in her cot and making her usual morning hey-Mom-I’m-here noises. I wandered over to her room and she greeted me with a smile, as she does every morning. When I saw that smile, the sadness didn’t linger and my heart was bursting as I smiled back at her and said, “Good morning, sweet girl.” After I picked her up, we opened the brightly-colored curtains and she waved out the window whilst I say, “Hello, world, we’re ready for another day!” We walked into the hallway where she continued her waves at a photo frame full of pictures from our wedding before we head back to my bed where I breastfed her then we snuggled for a bit.

I’d love to say that the rest of the morning was fabulous, but in all honesty, it was a little rough and I just felt off. Our girl is teething something fierce plus she is in a major growth spurt (or leap if you follow Wonder Weeks, which I highly recommend for any new parents, as it has been pretty much spot on for us). Right now, she is in a weird phase of high-pitched screaming, which is extremely odd for our smiley, laid-back girl. It is seriously ear-piercing!

This was one of those days where I felt super sorry for myself that we live thousands of miles away from my family. All I could think about was how badly I wished I could drive to my parents’ house and lounge in the living room with them whilst they swooned over their granddaughter. Also? I wanted someone else to cook for me. And? I wanted to avoid the overwhelming pile of laundry from our trip to the States.

I knew, though, that for the sake of our girl and her mood that I needed to snap out of this funk. When she went down for her morning nap, I decided to crawl back into bed and basically start the day over again after both of our naps. Honestly, this was the best decision I could have made. I woke up refreshed and ready to enjoy every moment of our girls’ weekend.

Over the next couple of days, I focused on spending quality time with my favorite girl. There were moments, like when we went to the park on Sunday and she loved every second I pushed her in the swing, that I wished Richard was with us to see the joy on her face. But, that weekend made me so grateful for our daughter and for our little family.

That weekend reminded me of so many things that I needed to remember. That the three of us are better together and that we have the most fun then. That we are incredibly blessed to be able to raise this sweet girl and to say that we are her mom and dad. That despite the miles that separate us from my side of the family that this is our home and it’s a place where I feel fortunate to live. That there are tough times, but really there are so many more amazing times. That I love that I have the opportunity to stay at home with our girl during these early years of her life. That even though Richard and I both like to have time away with our friends that we both come back from those times being even more grateful for our life together. That despite the fact that Richard and I have an extremely strong marriage we know it is still a constant work in progress. That he is, without a doubt, my best friend. That this life we have is pretty darn amazing, and I’ll take the good and the bad any day knowing that I have these two beside me.

So, the weekend that started with me feeling down about just about everything ended with me being reminded of what is important and of how fortunate I am. I’m so glad I chose happiness and positivity and to enjoy every moment of the weekend I had with our baby girl.

Have you ever wanted to start a day over again? Ever had one of those days/weekends/weeks where you are reminded just how fortunate you are?

IMG_4946 Look at that face! I love how she holds on to the swing…ah, my heart.