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.

photo-2

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!

 

Advertisements

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!

Travel 250 button

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We Do Everything Button 300

A Sunday at Bolton Abbey

Ever since I heard Gesci talk about visiting Bolton Abbey when she lived nearby, I knew it was a place I wanted to visit at some point. Two Sundays ago, we were looking for something to do, and because the weather was so nice, we decided to visit Bolton Abbey and do some walking.

We paid the £7 to park and walked past some cute cafes and shops, which I’d love to check out at some point. That day though, we were focused on getting in a good walk before the forecasted rain was to come later in the afternoon. We headed straight through the cow pasture (Seriously, the cows are just wandering around you chopping on grass, so pay attention to where you step!) to the Priory and the Ruins.

Bolton Abbey dates back to the 12th century. The ruins are what is left from the monastery and its buildings. The church was allowed to continue on as a parish and is still open to this day. We had a little wander inside the church, which is fairly small but full of character and history. I didn’t take any pictures inside, but the stained glass, the baptismal font, and the kneelers in the pews are just a few of the characteristics that really caught my eye. I think some of my fascination with the beauty and the details of the church has to do with growing up going to mass in a church built in the 1970s.

After leaving the church, Richard spotted the stepping stones across the River Wharfe and said, “You do know we will be crossing the river on the stones.” I never imagined we would have crossed the river in any other way. We scoff at bridges! Ha! And, off we set on what would be about a 6ish-mile hike for the day.

The grounds truly are beautiful. More than once I found myself thinking how lucky we are to live in an area surrounded by such incredible scenery. I hope you enjoy some of our photos from the day and maybe you’ll decide to check Bolton Abbey out if you are ever in the area!

BA1Walking to the Priory and Ruins

BA2The Ruins

BA6The River Wharfe

The areas right around the car parks were busy when we were there, so take one of the walking trails and miss the crowds if you want a more peaceful experience. Although there are other walkers out there, it will allow you to see some more of the beauty and hidden gems of the grounds at Bolton Abbey.

BA3

BA4You can leave the trail and walk these big boulders for a closer look of The Strid.

BA5The Strid

A Yank at the Cricket: Bowled Over or Board to Death?

Big thanks to my witty husband for the ‘punny’ post title!

Last year we tried to make it to a cricket match, but the weather had other plans for us. This year though, we were much luckier. First and foremost, England is having a summer (!!!) that has made for perfect cricket weather. (I really should spend every day writing about this weather after all of the moaning I did last year about the lack of summer.) Second, England was host to The Ashes 2013, which is a big deal cricket series between England and Australia. Our brother-in-law scored some tickets from a friend and asked us if he wanted to join him and Richard’s sister for Day 2 of the third test match series which took place at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester over this past weekend.

**At this point I must point out that I am still learning cricket and all of its intricacies, but I feel like I have a decent grasp of how the sport works from the endless watching of it that Richard has done since we got the Sky Sports package on tv in the new house. With that disclaimer, please grant me some leniency as I write about the match and the game. Richard has already said he might write an addendum to this post if I go into a lot of detail. I welcome his addition, but think I will stick to a simple post that doesn’t involve too much discussion about the rules!**

TheAshesfieldofplay

For those who do not know, a typical cricket test match last for five days, beginning on a Thursday and finishing on a Monday. There are two innings in each match allowing each team to bat and to bowl twice. (When I learned this fact, I started to compare cricket to baseball, but they really are not that similar so my comparison should not be acknowledged.) The Ashes are comprised of test matches, but there are also a few other types of matches that are shorter in duration and might be a good place to start if you are new to the sport.

TheAshespitch

We ended up with great seats that were just under cover, so we didn’t roast throughout the day like most of the other 20,000 fans did as proven by their extremely red faces. We were on the side of the pitch where the team ‘dugouts’ (I have no idea what they are called, but they are like actual boxes.) are and had a great view of the field of play. The match began at 11 AM and play ended around 6:30 PM. They take two breaks during that period as well – one for lunch and one for ‘tea’. (Ah, England.)

I will be honest and say that it can make for a long day. Because Australia was batting the majority of the day we were there, I didn’t consider runs to be a big deal as we did not want them to score more, so in my eyes, it took nearly 1 1/2 hours for the first major thing to happen, which was someone being caught out. As Richard likes to point out, that is an extremely long time to wait for those of us used to sports in the U.S. that are filled with big plays from start to finish! (I actually agree with him.) But, you make your own fun when the innings get long by laughing at drunk people and their antics. I also had a lot of questions about things that were happening, so that helped to fill some of the down time. I’m actually looking forward to going to another match next summer when I’m not pregnant because I spotted some people with pitchers of Pimm’s in the stands – now you’re talking!

So, what’s the verdict? Was I ‘bowled over’ or ‘board to death’? Overall, I would have to consider myself ‘bowled over’, which actually surprised me! It was fun to be part of a tradition that has gone on for years and to soak up the beautiful English summer. I couldn’t believe it on Monday when I was home alone and found myself putting the match on the telly to see how it finished. It ended in a draw (or a tie as we like to say in the States), which means that England will retain The Ashes urn for the time being!

Have you been to a cricket match? Do you enjoy watching the sport?  

TheAshessleepingA cricket match – the perfect place for an afternoon nap!

My First Driving Lesson

After two weeks in the U.S. and driving on the other side of the road and the car, I returned to the UK full of nerves for my first official driving lesson on Wednesday night. I say “official” because Richard tried to teach me how to drive a manual twice and both times ended in disaster. Those disasters usually involved tears and may or may not have included me getting out of the car and starting to walk home. (We can laugh about it now!) Those “lessons” took place last year when I was still legally allowed to drive in the UK on my U.S. driver’s license (or licence in the UK). So, after I received my FLR(M) visa in March, I went through the process of applying for my provisional UK driver’s licence. Basically, I am starting from scratch and currently hold what is the equivalent of a driver’s permit in the U.S. This means I have to take both the theory and practical part of the driver’s exam to get my full UK driver’s licence – ah, the joy!

So, back to Wednesday night…I was extremely nervous. I had spoken to the instructor on the phone and explained to him my situation, so to have him know my driving background was comforting, but I still felt anxious because of my previous UK driving experiences. Thankfully, he didn’t put me in the driver’s seat from the start. We drove to a quieter road where he explained to me how the manual transmission and gears work. (I realize this is Driving 101, but I’ve driven an automatic for 15 years, so I needed the full lesson.) Next up, it was time to get going and I took my place in the driver’s seat. For the first time, driving a manual seemed to make a little bit of sense to me. We started out slow (really slow) with me only using first and second gear during this first lesson, but he was happy with how I was doing so he let me drive the majority of the hour. I was gripping the steering wheel like I was 16 all over again learning to drive for the first time, but slowly I gained more confidence and he had me making right turns across traffic. This is big, people!

I still have a long way to go, but I feel much better about learning how to drive a manual on the opposite side of the car whilst driving on the opposite side of the road. I have two more lessons lined up and I will no doubt require more that that, but this is a great start and I look forward to gaining some added independence when I get my full licence. I explained to him my goal is to pass my test before the baby is due in late November and he seemed fairly positive that this could be done, even after telling me most people require an average of 45-60 hours of driving lessons prior to taking the exam. (Does that seem like a lot of lessons to anyone else?)

When I returned home from the lesson that night, I was so proud of myself for basically driving no more than 20 MPH and making a few turns! I’ve been living here nearly two years now, and it really is the little things sometimes that make the biggest difference when adjusting to life in a new country. I’m excited to continue learning to drive “on the wrong side of the road”!