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! 

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DSC_0002Molecule Man 1+1+1 by Jonathan Borofsky

DSC_0006Buddha 2000 by Niki de Saint Phalle

DSC_0009Everything is Connected by Peter Liversidge

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DSC_0029Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei

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

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To the dungeon….

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

YorkDungeon2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Tour de France Comes to Yorkshire

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

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

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

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

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

TDFsignThe signs marking the route.

TDFbikeflowersYellow flowers and spray-painted yellow bikes are everywhere! 

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

TDFHarrogatetree

TDFHarrogateflowers

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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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

How We Came to Buy Our New Home

I say our new home because this house we recently bought and moved into is definitely a home. Within two minutes of our first viewing of the house, we looked at each other with bright eyes and big smiles and didn’t have to say a word. We both just knew. This was the place we wanted to buy and to start our family together. It all happened very fast, but to say it was meant to be is an understatement.

We found out we were pregnant 8 days before Easter and 5 days before Richard was set to leave for his annual skiing holiday with the guys. It was also a day after much of northern England was pounded with a massive snow storm. The amount of snow we had rivaled the winters of my childhood in western PA. It was crazy! We walked everywhere that weekend and spent a lot of time just puttering around and smiling at each other. (This, in my opinion, is a totally normal way in which to react when you find out you will be having a baby!)

snowday2

 

snowday1

We also spent some time online looking at houses for sale. This had become a fairly regular occurrence for us over the past 6 to 8 months. During that time, we saw one house that we were interested in viewing. I contacted the estate agent and that house was under offer already. We just laughed as it obviously wasn’t right for us. On this day though, Richard spotted a house that we knew we HAD to see. I called the estate agent first thing on Monday morning from a hotel in Wiltshire as we had driven down the night before because Richard had a meeting. The woman I spoke with first asked if we had a house to sell before she would arrange an appointment for us. I explained that we planned to rent our current home then she proceeded to ask if we could come that evening to which I told her I would get back to her in a few hours as I had no idea when Richard’s meeting would finish and if we could make the 4- to 5-hour drive in time for a 7:00 viewing. It turns out we could, so we were set and we were anxious.

That evening, when we arrived at the house, we were greeted by the seller who lived there alone. He was friendly and we chatted with him about skiing and travel and the guys bonded over Sky Sports. When you walk into the lounge (the living room to those of us from the US!), you cannot help but immediately walk to the back of it, which offers the most stunning views of the countryside. The same is true for the dining room. He showed us around the rest of the house and then let us have a nosey on our own and we knew. This was it. The only house we ever viewed, but we could see Christmases here and barbecues in the back garden. We could actually have visitors stay with us because we would have space for them. We both pictured us cozy in the lounge relaxing with a new baby this winter. It was everything we had discussed and pictured when we spoke of buying a new house.

view

 

Our garden and our view.

We were probably in the house for 20 minutes and had about zero questions for the seller. We said our goodbyes, got in the car, and started to try to figure out how this was going to work. This house came probably about 10-12 months before we really had planned to buy, but we could not let this pass us by. The next day, Richard got to work by contacting the estate agent to put an offer on the house and by meeting with a mortgage advisor to acquire proof of funds. (What?! You won’t just take our word that we can pay for it? Come on!)

So, that was all taken care of and the waiting began to see if our offer was accepted. Richard took off to Austria, the pregnancy hormones kicked in, and I cried a lot. Awesome. On Thursday, I got a call from the estate agent and my heart stopped. Our offer was accepted! I was ecstatic! And, I couldn’t get in touch with Richard. Haha! Both sets of parents knew, but he was still oblivious in Austria. He called me later that night asking if I was joking about the texts I had sent. Um, no…who jokes about something like that?! (We later came to find out through the estate agent that there were 2 other offers the same as ours, but the seller really ‘took to us’ and that sealed the deal for him. We both took this as a massive compliment!) Three days after we had put the offer in, it was accepted and the craziness started. Not only were we buying, but we were renting our other house. We were a great team – Richard dealt mostly with the purchase and I dealt mostly with the rental. Thankfully, we found a couple around our age to rent the house very shortly after it went on the market, so that was a major relief.

Yep, so that is how we bought a new home completely out of the blue! I’m not going to say I recommend this way of making a large purchase, but it definitely worked for us. I had to laugh one day whilst shopping for a new lounge/living room suite as I realized it took us three trips to the same furniture shop before we finally made a purchase, yet it only took us 15 minutes to decide we wanted to buy a house. But, so it goes sometimes!

Just out of curiosity, would anyone be interested in knowing more about the buying process in the UK? I think I could get Richard to either guest post on it or else I can do my best to explain it with his guidance. Let me know!

Don’t worry — more pictures are to come!

Just a note:  I must take a minute to say how amazing my husband has been through all of this, especially as I have been not well with morning all-day sickness. I don’t see his work personality much (I mostly get the fun-loving, stress-free guy!) and he deals mostly with contracts and overseeing both small and large-scale projects, so I knew he would handle this home-buying process well and he did. But wow, his professionalism and gentlemanly-ness throughout it made the whole process run smoothly and quickly for us. From the date we found out our offer had been accepted until we moved in, it was only 6 weeks and 1 day. This might not seem that fast when it comes to buying a house in the U.S., but in the UK, it is extremely quick. Richard had a lot to do with that because he was on the ball with emails and appointments and following up with appropriate people that it all went through without a hitch. This house was something we both saw as an incredible opportunity and investment for our family and he did everything to make sure it happened for us. Thank you for always doing what you feel is best for us, babe!

Our First Real Visitor from the U.S.

Do you have those friends that you might not see or speak to for months at a time, but you know that they are always there and they know the same about you? The friends that when you do see each other again it’s like no time has passed at all? I feel really lucky that I have a number of friends like this in my life, and at the beginning of May, one of those friends, Jeff, came to visit us! Jeff and I met when we worked at the same study abroad organization as recent college grads. I’m sure he (and the rest of those work friends) would agree that was a funny time because we were still young and figuring out where we wanted to go with our lives, but we all had a great time together – both inside and outside of work.

Jeff was one of the first to leave our office to move on to bigger and better things, like grad school in London! I’ve been pestering him since I moved to England about when his next visit back to the UK would be as he still has friends in the city and has a strong love for this country. Finally, the time had come for him to dish out the cash for a ticket across the pond, and he took the train up from London to spend a few days with us during his trip.

On Sunday, we picked him up from the station then headed to Hebden Bridge and showed him around the funky little village before stopping in for a drink to avoid some of the misty rain that had started. After a quick stop at our house to show him his room for the next three nights, we went to one of our favorite local pubs for a meal. I think Jeff would agree that the fish and chips up north really have something on the fish and chips of other parts of England – not that I am partial or anything!

The next day, we decided to take the train to York as he had never been before. Thankfully, we had pretty good weather to walk around and enjoy the city. First, we checked out York Minster. I had only admired it from the outside, so we paid the admission fee (your ticket is then good for a year) and spent awhile exploring the Minster and the various rooms inside it. There are many areas to explore and discover once inside that make the building so intriguing. It is extremely impressive, and I would definitely recommend paying the admission fee because there is so much more to it than the main cathedral section.

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Next up, we wandered around in search of some lunch, and we took care of making sure Jeff visited one of the restaurants he wanted to be sure he hit at while in the UK, Wagamama. Then, it was down to The Shambles. The Shambles is definitely one of the most unique streets that I have seen here in the UK and is worth a nosey. (Unfortunately, and I don’t claim to be a good photographer at all, my photos of The Shambles came out extremely poor.) We then walked over to the York Museum Gardens. The sun had come out by this point, so there were a lot of people milling around the gardens and lounging on the grass. The gardens are home to the ruins from St Mary’s Abbey, the Abbey Walls and Gateway, St Leonard’s Hospital, and the Roman Fortress as well the Hospitium (They book weddings!). It’s a beautiful area to walk through and snap some photos.

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Earlier in the day, Jeff had spotted the old walls that circle the city, so after our stroll through the gardens, we decided to explore the walls a bit. We got on near the train station and followed them the entire way to Clifford’s Tower. We walked to the top of the hill that is home to the tower, but decided against paying the admission fee to visit it. We took a few photos then headed back to the train station to return home.

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On the way, there was one spot with a great view of the York Minster from a distance, so Jeff asked another tourist to take our photo. That resulted in the most hilarious photo, as seen below. The best part of this is the man then asked Jeff to take a photo for him and he wasn’t happy with the first one, so he had Jeff take a second one yet he had no issue that there was a giant bus directly behind us in the photo he snapped! Ha!

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I just noticed the blur of his finger in the bottom left corner, too! Such a laughable photo!

It was a fab day with a fab friend! Thanks for visiting us, Jeff! I just wish you could have seen the new house, but we’ll save that for next time!

Blue Skies, Sun, and…Snow

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This morning, I woke to a sun-filled bedroom and thought, “Could spring finally be here?”

That wishful thinking was quickly squashed when I got out of bed to have goosebumps immediately form all over my body. Because underneath our down comforter, I was protected from the chill of the outside that had seeped into the house. I wish I could pretend that I didn’t crawl back into that warmth for another 20 minutes, but we all know that I did.

The sun has been shining off and on throughout the day taunting me as I wish for warmer days. But, as I sit next to our toasty fireplace bundled up in layers and look out the window, I’m reminded that we are still in the midst of some sort of winter. One minute, it is bright blue skies and sun. While the next, I’m provided a show of blowing snow that is either glistening from the sun or made to look dark and ominous against a grey sky that leaves no trace of the bluebird day present just a moment ago.

I’m sure you can tell I’m now looking forward to warmer days, but I’ll take blue skies, even is they are laced with snow, until the spring weather comes out to play.