Posted by: OffToExplore | April 17, 2011

Sunday “Roast” at Carriages

One of our friends, Mark, is leaving Yorkshire this week, so we met up with him and his wife for a farewell lunch today. The weather being particularly gorgeous, we were hoping to eat outside. Today was the Knaresborough farmer’s market, so we had planned to pick up interesting goodies there and eat them out on the grass somewhere. Unfortunately, the “real food” was somewhat lacking, so we had to come up with another plan.

Mark, for whatever reason, was feeling nostalgic for “classic Yorkshire food,” by which he meant heavy gloppy meat with Yorkshire pudding and gravy. He wanted a pub roast. Fine. This is not something we ever eat, so we had no idea where might put on a nice Sunday lunch. We wandered around town for a bit looking at options before settling on Carriages.

Not really a pub, Carriages is a nice-ish restaurant and wine bar. This meant that the food, while traditional, was a cut above standard fare. Even more crucially, Carriages has a great beer garden with lots of tables overlooking the train station. Perfect for dining with a toddler who needs some wiggle room. Our food was good (Ryan ate lamb roast, I had sea bream) and fairly well priced at 9.95. Service was laid back and the terrace was relatively empty. I think we will definitely be back next time we want a “nicer” lunch nearby.

Posted by: OffToExplore | April 12, 2011

A Hint of Imagination

We’re starting to get flashes of some pretty cute imaginative play these days.

B has 3 baby dolls, named (not so imaginatively) “Baby,” “Baby,” and “Big Baby.” And no, Big Baby is nothing like the terrifying Big Baby of Toy Story 3 *shudder.* B has started taking care of the flock of babies. She feeds them, brutally shoving crackers or cookies into their faces until a piece breaks off. She rocks them and gets me to wrap them in blankets for her.

This morning she did something really sweet. After carefully wrapping up Baby, she walked over to the window and held her up so that Baby could watch the cars go by, one of Miss B’s favorite activities.

Just before 8 this morning, we were delighted to get a package from Grandma and Grandpa. Delighted, I should say, at the package. Less so on the frantic pajama-clad run to the door so early in the morning. Parcel Force, I appreciate your dedication to prompt deliveries, but seriously? Before 8?

Anyway, the package contained a very cool set of castle building blocks, full of crenellations and arches. B was immediately drawn to the bright red turrets that can top each tower. I initially thought she was remembering our trip to Disneyland Paris, but no. Within a couple of minutes, she had turned them upside down and was licking them.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Ice Cream,” says my sweet little girl.

So guess where we are headed once she wakes up from her nap…

Posted by: OffToExplore | April 11, 2011

What She’s Like Now

Since it’s been more than a year since I last told you about her, and that’s a HUGE amount of time in the life of a child, I think it’s time to update you on Miss B.

She’s 16 months now, and she can walk, albeit with a slightly wide-legged stance. When she falls down, and it’s often, she cheerfully shouts “Boom!” dusts herself off, and gets up again. She knows how to jump and run, and it’s pretty hilarious to watch her try to do these things.

Her verbal development is incredible, beyond any reasonable expectation for a 1-year-old. She knows hundreds of words and can make herself understood to almost anyone, not just those who know her well. This week she’s started using more verb phrases, like “lie down” and “stand up,” and she can make short sentences like “I get it” or “Shut the door.”

We’ve reached the toddler “no” stage a bit early, though charmingly, B rarely actually uses the word. After months of us encouraging her to put her books back on the shelf when she is done with them, “shelf” has become her generic no. It sure sounds better when she’s loudly objecting, but it is befuddling to those around her.

Posted by: OffToExplore | April 11, 2011

And We’re Back

After an extremely long hiatus, I am restarting this blog. For B’s first year, I let a lot of other things get in the way of actually writing, but no more.

As of now, she’s 16 months old, and doing so many cool things that I don’t want to forget any of it. So I’m back, writing it all down. All of our adventures in England and elsewhere. Including many within the walls of our own home. I think the blog title is still fitting, though. A young child is always exploring the world around her, and I’m seeing many things in a new way through her experiences.

I make no promises as to how often I will publish, but I encourage you to check back in. Lots of exciting stuff will be happening here!

Posted by: OffToExplore | January 28, 2010

Growing up

My baby is growing up. At only 7 weeks, she can smile, laugh, and coo at me. She has outgrown her first sets of clothes. She sings along to “Werewolves of London.” She talks herself to sleep in a bassinet she will soon outgrow. Soon she will sleep through the night, be able to sleep in her own crib in her own room. Oh how I will miss having her nearby.

Today her tummy was upset, and she spent several hours just cuddled up on my chest. I could soothe her and keep her calm even though she was hurting. I know the time will come when she won’t want cuddles anymore, when I won’t be able to cheer her and distract her from her pain. But I will always keep trying, because I am her mother.

Posted by: OffToExplore | January 14, 2010

The baby on the bus goes…

Today was a big day for Baby B — her first trip on public transit. I had been invited to visit 2 other moms who had babies the same week that B was born. Since the host’s house was in downtown Harrogate, where parking can be tricky, I decided today would be the day we took our first bus ride.

I have it pretty lucky — the bus line is a 2 minute walk from our front door. Buses run every 7 minutes during the day, so one never has to stand out in the cold for too long. And the ride is a very reasonable £3 round-trip, likely equal to the cost of paid parking. The decision was easy.

So off we went. I did learn one important thing — if the bus is too crowded and there’s no nook to put the stroller, you have to wait for the next bus. I felt bad as I watched another mom try to get onto the bus but be turned away because I was already taking up the stroller room. Something to keep in mind for next time.

Posted by: OffToExplore | November 30, 2009

Dear Baby

Dear Baby,

It is now 4 days past your due date. Your daddy and I would very much like to meet you. For most of the last year we have been preparing for you. We now how some lovely accommodations for you — a nice crib and nursery, as well as a co-sleeper for you in our room. Everything is nice and cozy and just waiting for you. Our cat really loves all your new things, and I think she will like you too, once she gets to know you.

You also have TONS of friends and relatives who are looking forward to meeting you. They check in all the time to see if there is news about you. So far I haven’t had much to tell them. Let’s see if we can change that very soon, OK?

Waiting for you has gotten a little uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. It is hard for me to feel comfortable, get much rest, or get anything done. Most of these facts are not going to change once you arrive, I know, but then at least we will have met you! The mental stress of not knowing when you will make an appearance is getting a little old.

You have been a stubborn one for the last 10 months, unwilling to get into good positions for ultrasounds, moving around a lot more than is comfortable, kicking me in the cervix (!), etc., so I don’t expect you to immediately come as a result of this post. I just politely ask that you consider making your appearance sooner rather than later. You coming on your own will likely be more pleasant for both of us than interventions later this week or next week.

Looking forward to meeting you soon,

Your mom

Posted by: OffToExplore | October 7, 2009

Not completely MIA

Sorry for the long delay. We have moved into our house, but utilities are not quite as, well, utile in the UK, apparently. We won’t be getting our internet access until the end of this month! Until then, I am grabbing internet time here and there as I can, so no time for long and detailed posts.

In the last few weeks we have had our first visitors — Ryan’s parents came to see us for a week in mid-September. We had a good time visiting Manchester, York, and the Wensleydale cheese factory with them. The fact that none of them could sit through a 10-minute introductory movie without cracking up (memories of The Cheese Channel from European Vacation) only made it more fun.

Watching cheese being cut

Watching cheese being cut

Posted by: OffToExplore | September 5, 2009

Out and About: Betty’s for Tea

Today Ryan got some extra leave for Labor Day weekend, and we took advantage of the extra time to seek out a Harrogate institution — afternoon tea at Betty’s tea room. Ryan wouldn’t let me take photos inside (too touristy, says he), so you’ll have to make do with a few from across the street.

Betty's from the War Memorial

Betty's from the War Memorial

Betty's view 2

Betty's view 2

Note the pretty glass-roofed awning with wrought-iron trim. At first we thought it was just ornamental, but then we realized that this is where you queue up for a table. And most of the day, the queue is fairly long. Must be fun in the true Yorkshire fall and winter, though I bet standing in the cold for a long time makes one appreciate a cup of hot tea all the more.

After a fairly short wait, we were directed down into the top level of three subterranean rooms. Betty’s is built on a fairly substantial hill, and the restaurant takes full advantage of the grade. We already knew what we were having — full afternoon tea, at an extortionate 15.95 per person. Having been seated, though, we realized there was another, more expensive option: the 90th anniversary celebration tea, featuring nostalgic sandwiches, scones, and the greatest hits of Betty’s pastry. Of course, we can’t resist a limited time offer.

So here’s what afternoon tea for two at Betty’s entails — a pot of tea (we had the special celebration blend, not necessarily recommended), four tiny tea sandwiches, two scones with clotted cream and jam, and six mini pastries. Our sandwiches included potted beef; ham and butter; cucumber, cream cheese, and mint; and crab, prawn, and avocado. Of these, the ham and the crab were definite winners. Ryan didn’t mind the beef, which tasted like upscale spam, but he declared the cucumber to taste “like some horrible cleaning product.” I ate all the rest of the cucumber, and I didn’t find it so bad, though I don’t know what the mint was supposed to add.

The scones were very curranty and came with clotted cream. I far prefer plain scones and whipped cream which is what you will find in many other tea rooms in this area. This particular clotted cream had a kind of cheesy taste that took away from the over scone experience.

The pastries were tiny and perfect — two each of fruit tart, lemon macaro(o)n, and chocolate coffee opera. Each was maybe two bites, even with my small mouth, but the fruit was fresh and the macaroon had a lot of zing. Apparently  in the UK, they use “macaroon” for what the French call a macaron. I haven’t seen any of the U.S.-style macaroons (more like a coconut praline) here yet, but I’ll keep my eyes open. I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what these are called.

We left Betty’s nicely full but a bit shaky from the sugar rush. The small finger sandwiches do little to balance the intense sweetness of scones, jam, and pastries. That said, it was 7 hours later before we were interested in dinner, so I guess in some universe you could call this a good value.

Betty’s charges a premium for being famous and having a lovely historical atmosphere. The servers are all dressed in classic black skirts, white blouses, and little aprons, and the management are all wearing tidy little suits. Teapots line the walls, and a pianist plays from time to time. Very posh, and worth the experience at least once. However, for a good value and tasty if not as fancy food, there are other tea rooms that we will likely frequent more often.

Posted by: OffToExplore | September 2, 2009

Out on the Town: The Slug and Lettuce

The Slug and Lettuce was recommended to us by the staff in our hotel as good, basic pub/bar food. Since we were looking for an easy classic British meal, we decided to give it a go.

I hate to say it, but we weren’t all that impressed. Part of it may have been an expectations thing. We didn’t realize that we needed to order at the bar, so we ended up waiting at the door for quite a while. NOTE: At many pubs/bars, ordering at the bar is standard. While you may see servers bustling around, they may not be taking orders, only delivering food.

Once we finally determined that no one was going to come for our order, the food came fairly quickly. Ryan ordered the Steak and Mushroom pie, and I had the Fish Pie. He was not all that impressed with his pie, which had a pretty generic flavor and was somewhat greasy. The chips were similarly blah. Not horrible, just nothing special.

The fish pie, on the other hand, was pretty good. The pie was filled with generous chunks of smoked haddock, salmon, and prawns in a creamy sauce with a nice leek bite. The crust, made of mashed potatoes with crispy cheddar cheese on top, kept the fish toasty warm. This was classic comfort food, from the gentle crunch on top to the smoky nuggets of fish on the bottom. That the pie came with crusty ciabatta and not chips was not a big loss, and in fact the bread was perfect for scooping out the last bits of fishy goodness.

We will likely be back to The Slug and Lettuce at least once, but there wasn’t much else that particularly interested us on the menu. Still, the fish pie was good enough to give it another go.

The Slug and Lettuce

13A Montpellier Parade, Harrogate, HG1 2TJ

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