Back to Normal

I’ve committed to finding something to be grateful for every single day of 2017. I’ve experienced bouts of depression over the last few years and, as I worked my way through it, I noticed that I have a tendency to dwell on the negative and completely overlook the good things. This is my way of restoring some balance.

This morning, I found it immensely satisfying to remove the tree and all my decorations and get my house back to normal. And it was all done before 9am!

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Friends

This photo was last night’s table. My friends Jon and Simon came over and cooked a lovely meal for Phil and I. And then served it on this lovely table.

I don’t think it’s cheating to post this photo as my first of the year because this morning I was still basking in the afterglow of a lovely warm evening.

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A Yorkshire Thanksgiving

I lived in the US and Canada for 22 years, and never had a proper Thanksgiving – one where I cooked all day and had to get bedrooms ready for guests.

We didn’t have any family there, and the few friends we had were busy with their own parties (oh sure, someone would always ask if we wanted to come to their Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s a bit awkward to go to a celebration with other peoples’ family and friends, so – after the first year – we always said no, and anyway, that’s not the same as hosting your own meal).

So, fast-forward to the present day, here in the wilds of the Yorkshire hills (and it IS wild at the moment), and I finally hosted a Thanksgiving bash – albeit with a British twist.

Some of our oldest friends came to join us – sadly we didn’t have room for everyone – and I spent two days getting ready. I loved every minute.

After soliciting recipes from my American friends, I decided I just like British roast meals better than American ones. I can’t imagine having Mac n’ Cheese with a roast turkey, or adding sugar and marshmallows to sweet potatoes and then actually eating the result!! So I decided to make a traditional British roast dinner – crispy roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, mashed parsnips, roasted sprouts, peas, gravy, homemade sage and onion stuffing, and I replaced the turkey with my nut roast in puff pastry. It was all delicious even though I do say so myself.

Then we went American for desserts – and had a trio of them! Pumpkin pie with whipped cream, cheesecake, and brownie with ice cream. My friend Mark made the pumpkin pie and the cheesecake, and apparently was up until midnight the night before so he could finish them, which was super kind.

Lots of alcohol was consumed, lots of food was eaten, and lots of laughs were had. Here’s me and my old friend Ruth (she’s the one in the hat and scarf).

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And here’s the beautiful table that my best friend Jon decorated.

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I only wish we had the space to invite more people because we had such a wonderful time.

I have a feeling Yorkshire Thanksgiving might become a regular occasion!

 

 

If You’re Dreaming of England …

If you’re living in some far-flung corner of the world and dreaming of England, I know how you feel. I spent about a year feeling homesick before I told my husband how I felt, and then two more before we finally made it home. So I know about the nights spent lying awake picturing the English countryside, and the hours spent searching online or in stores for decent imported chocolate and tea, and most of all, the time spent looking at properties on Rightmove.com.

I think Rightmove.com is the crack cocaine of the homesick ex-Pat. Here we can indulge all our fantasies of beamed ceilings and wood-burning stoves and agas to our heart’s content. And every now and then, we find the perfect property and our heart lifts until we remember that we’re actually living thousands of miles away, and for whatever reason, we can’t – as yet although hope springs eternal and maybe one day – go home.

But if that’s you, I want to show you these photos. Because I am living proof that things can change. (And I hate posting my photo, but in this case it had to be done). On Tuesday of this week, we went to pick up the keys of our new house. The house I thought we’d never have. Because we had to sell a house in New York, and then get back, and find a place to rent, and get the cats back, and somehow navigate a mortgage, and then find a house we loved that we could afford … honestly there just seemed to be so many hurdles that it all seemed like a pipe dream.

And yet here I am, outside the estate agents in Skipton holding en envelope that contains the keys to my new home. A home I love more than I can tell you, a home I can’t really believe is mine.

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We Were Robbed. Literally.

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Well, we’ve been back exactly 10 months and to celebrate, our house was burgled.

Figures. Live right outside New York City for 15 years with never a peep of a problem, then move home to a little Yorkshire village where everyone assures us that burglary never usually happens, and get burgled!

We’re extremely lucky. The robbers thought the house was empty – we had just left about 15 minutes earlier – but we actually had a friend staying and he was at home. He was shocked to see a masked man burst into his bedroom, but not quite as shocked as the masked man was to see him. John leapt up and yelled at the robber, who turned and fled down the stairs shouting for his friends to run.

The police came right away but unfortunately the burglars had already escaped.

But here are all the ways we were lucky:

– Because they were interrupted, the thieves only got 2 laptops and an iPad, all of which are insured.
– Because it happened here in the UK, there were no guns involved
– John wasn’t hurt
– Our two cats were fine and didn’t get out (my worst worry to be honest)
– The house wasn’t trashed and no damage was done to our possessions.

The police were wonderful – efficient, kind, and very thorough. They think this same group has committed a few other burglaries within a 30-mile radius, so they really want to catch them. Therefore we had an armed response unit, a sniffer dog, CSI and CID along with the regular policeman who took our statement.

Everyone tells us that they can’t remember the last time a house in this village was burgled (just our luck!) and it seems the burglars were after jewelry because they made straight for the master bedroom and pulled out all the drawers. Sadly for them, neither of us wears any jewelry and we own nothing of great value. They grabbed the computers because they were lying on the bed, but they must have been a little disappointed in their haul. Should have picked another house, guys.

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Could this be a Yorkshire movement?

Two women are turning an ordinary mill town into an exciting pilot program for the whole country. British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made this short video about how the townsfolk are using scrub land to grow fruit and vegetables for use by the whole community.

Now apparently Leeds is getting in the act in a small way,by planting up 4 vegetable beds in front of the town hall. What a brilliant idea!

Everything is Great, and Nobody Says So

Here’s something I don’t understand about England – why isn’t everyone just perpetually amazed at how fantastic everything is?

Actually, I know the answer to that. It’s part of the British character to moan and complain and – as the Olympics seems to have shown – in the end we always knuckle down and manage to have a good time anyway. But seriously people look around you! This place is amazing and you’d never know it to talk to people here.

Phil and I had a pretty quiet day at home today, but late afternoon we decided to go out for a walk. We drove 2 miles down the road to a village called Kirkby Overblow and then just got out to have a wander round. This place is like something from a postcard – little stone cottages, a gorgeous old churchyard, the odd Victorian pile, two quaint pubs and a pretty little village store selling locally sourced meat, fish and cheeses. And yet despite the fact that it was a sunny Saturday afternoon at the height of summer, the only person we saw in 40 minutes was a man walking his dog – oh, and a couple of cars that passed by. If that village was in America, people would flock from miles around. It would cost $20 to park and there’d be no spaces by 10 am.

But back when we first lived here, I wouldn’t have come out for a walk here either. It wouldn’t have occurred to me. I wouldn’t have seen the charm in such a small and in many ways ordinary village. But now I not only see it, I see it in technicolour!

I mean look at this …

Here’s the main street through the village – how cute can you get?

Here are some shots I took in the beautiful churchyard

I had to take a closer shot of the grave in the last picture because the guy died in 1766 – the year the British parliament, struggling to deal with those increasingly troublesome colonists on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, passed The Declaratory Act.

In a nutshell, this act said the British parliament had every right to pass whatever laws it wanted and, basically, the Americans could suck on it. This of course didn’t go down terribly well with the Americans and 10 years later they made it official with their own declaration which basically said ‘We see your declaratory act and raise you a F*** you.’ I wonder if Henry Parkin knew about any of this.

The oldest part of the church was built in the 14th century, but this tower was rebuilt in the late 1700s.

After we left the churchyard, we wandered along a public footpath for a while. Again, how come all British people are not incredibly proud of the public footpath system? It’s amazing. Really. The entire country is criss-crossed with a vast network of public footpaths, often (mostly) crossing private land. Not only does the landowner have to allow people to pass through by law, he also has to maintain the footpath to make sure people can pass easily. Perhaps people here think that’s the way it is in every country, and so don’t realize the value of what they have.

I took this snap from the path as we passed through the gardens of a beautiful house overlooking the valley

I just love the way the light falls on certain parts of the fields while others remain overcast. (And that’s another thing … how come people don’t constantly stop and stare at the sky and the patterns of light on the fields? Are they blind?)

Seriously, I know we only appreciate all this because in many ways we are still tourists in our own country, but I’m just so thankful for that. I had very little appreciation for England when I left and now I am filled with it. What a blessing.