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!

DSC_0027The Lightwater Wheel

DSC_0003Black Widow’s Web…maybe next time!

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.

IMG_5489Enjoying the Lightwater Express!

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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IMG_5497She definitely had fun!

 

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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DSC_0084The Bistro

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!

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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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!

 

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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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!

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

{Visas} My FLR(M) has been approved!

We’ve had a crazy couple of weeks here in West Yorkshire. The highlight of that being that my visa was approved! Hooray!

We got the good news on Wednesday when a packet arrived from the UKBA. It’s always nerve-wracking to receive post from the UKBA, especially when the cover letter takes four paragraphs to tell you that you have been approved. I was so excited that I burst into tears! The cover letter said I would receive my Biometric Residence Permit (the actual visa, also known as a BRP) within seven business days, but we were happy to just have the approval and to have all of our documents back (including both of our passports). Neither of us had realized how much stress this application process had caused us until the packet arrived and we immediately felt that a huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders.

Passports

It is nice to have our identities back from the UKBA.

The next day, I arrived home to a letter in a nondescript envelope with what felt like a credit card inside. I tore it open and there was my BRP! The letter included in the envelope suggests one should check the BRP for any errors. I looked it over once and didn’t notice anything. On my second review of the information on the BRP, I noticed that my place of birth was spelled as Pennsylvannia. (For those of you who don’t know, there should only be one n on the end of the state’s name.) Of all of the information to be spelled incorrectly, it is the least important, but it still must be corrected.

I sent the UKBA an email and received a reply the next day stating my passport and my BRP must be sent back to them. No biggie. At least this time, I was given a timeline of when I should receive the corrected BRP and my passport. I’ll be sending both to the UKBA on Friday after I attend an appointment for a National Insurance number (so I can finally start applying to full-time jobs!).

We celebrated on Friday night by staying in, watching tv, and drinking prosecco gifted to us by good friends for our wedding (thanks, D!). We both feel like life can move forward for us now, and it feels great!

Bubbles

A Lovely Little Weekend

I realized yesterday that I don’t often do posts in which I talk about the daily happenings of our life. And, I think I’d like to change that. Instead of always writing about big things, I’d like to share more about life here for us in West Yorkshire. Sometimes, it is hectic and busy, and we have our weekends booked solid. Other times, we don’t want to get up off the couch because there is a Big Bang Theory/How I Met Your Mother marathon (me) or one of the Back to the Future movies (the Brit) on, so we order Thai food and veg out to our heart’s content. It’s a funny little life, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

fireplaceI mean, who would really want to leave the comfort of their living room with this keeping them warm in the cold and damp English winters?!

Friday kicked off our weekend with the Brit out with some of his guy friends for a head wetting. This is a tradition here in which the men go out to celebrate the birth of a baby, so this particular head wetting was in honor of one of the Brit’s oldest friends and his fiancée who just had a sweet little boy. I’ve expressed my confusion related to this tradition multiple times and I’ve yet to receive a solid answer on why it happens, so I Googled it to see what the internet had to say. Most of the results that popped up were from various pregnancy and motherhood forums that involved rants from the women about the men not deserving these nights out as they haven’t done the hard work associated with the pregnancy and delivery. Fine, but that still doesn’t answer my question. From what I can gather, the term ‘head wetting’ stems from the idea of baptism and wetting the head of the baby, but in this tradition it  basically means to drink a lot of booze without making it sound like it’s a night full of pints.

I’m completely fine with the idea of the guys going out to celebrate as long as they aren’t claiming full responsibility for the work that is involved in the pregnancy and birth, and from what I can tell, that isn’t what is happening. What I’m not okay with is that the women don’t have a similar tradition and I feel I am completely justified in this. (Although all the men I’ve mentioned it to have had a good laugh about my suggestion!) So, if we are lucky enough to have children in the future, I’m definitely asking some of my lovely female friends if we can arrange a night out as well. I’ll be sure to blog about that when it happens…one day!

Saturday for us included a very quick trip to the mad house that is IKEA. We ran so quickly through there that we barely had time to grab what we actually went to buy. We both wondered if most of the people there were actually planning to make a purchase or if they just went for a day out with the family. The jury is still out.

We then popped into Next Home where we fawned over some of the beautiful furniture before we jetted to the cinemas to see I Give It a Year. I am unsure if this movie will be released in the States because it is very much a British movie complete with British humor. I think I have quite a sarcastic sense of humor and usually do ‘get’ British humor, but some of this was plain awkward and parts of the film just dragged on for what seemed like hours. I will rank it as a decent movie (the Brit says it is ‘good’) with some hilarious parts mixed amongst some awkward parts. Those awkward parts made me nervous laugh because I didn’t know what else to do. (Please tell me I’m not the only one to nervous laugh!) If someone else has seen it, get in touch because I’m curious if you felt the same way I did throughout most of the movie and I don’t want to give anything away in case someone is planning to see it.

Saturday night, my handsome sous chef and I made these delicious shrimp lasagna rolls and brussel sprouts in balsamic vinegar. (These are so good and so simple and I plan to share the recipe soon.) We actually sat at the dinner table for the first time in months. (We’ve gotten into the habit of eating at the coffee table whilst watching tv.) I set the table with a water glass and a wine glass for both of us, and we used our new dishes and cutlery. Seriously big deal in our house!

dishesNew dishes and a newly-organized cupboard.

Sunday was fairly low-key with a Skype session with my family (and a guest appearance by my aunt who recounted a hilarious tale of visiting her daughter/my cousin in Guam), a trip to the grocery store, and an unexpected but welcome family dinner at the new-ish pub in the village about 2 miles from us.

It was a really lovely weekend that went by far too quickly!