Month: September 2013

Country Kids in California

Driving up the West Coast of California, north from Santa Barbara, we made a pit stop at a place in the country called Avila Valley Barn for a ‘Fall’ experience Californian style.

fun on the farm

The youngest of our family was the most enthralled. She tore into her roasted sweetcorn with the appetite of a cowgirl that had been working hard on the ranch all day (well she had ridden a pony for the first time in her life, as well as tackling some hale bales).

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She’d had a go at being a scarecrow, along with one of her older sisters too. They did a pretty good job!

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The array of fresh fruit and bright, natural colours from all the lush foods of the farm was a feast for the eyes. If time had allowed we would have taken a ride on a tractor trailer to see more of the farm, but one of our group wasn’t keen to stay for long (let’s just say hay, farms, flies, animals and smelly doo doos are not our eldest child’s favourite things!).

Pony rides, pumpkins and flowers

I couldn’t leave without snapping a pumpkin pic (Miss 3 tried to lift the largest she could find too – insisting we take one along on our road trip up to San Francisco – but we managed to escape without an orange friend!).

Pumpkins California sunshine style

A perfect stop to celebrate the season of Fall here in California (though it felt like a hot summer’s day to me!). I live in hope that our eldest child will one day not be so disabled by her ‘super senses’ and be able to enjoy the beauty of life on the farm (I too recall finding the overpowering smells too much for me as a child). Thankfully, she understood how happy the visit made her younger sisters and was quite content to wait in the comfort of the air-conditioned car with her Daddy for a spell.

We drove on up to Monterey (our stop for tonight) with a happy family in the car, enjoying the scenic drive and admiring the farm workers in the heat of Californian sun.

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Joining in with….

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Gems of family life in Santa Barbara

Two weeks into staying in the house we have leased for a year we are beginning to feel a little more settled. We are finding our way, had friends round for drinks (all be it friends from New Zealand that are also setting out on this new journey with children in tow), been out for a meal at the local restaurant, enjoyed a couple of family weekends doing regular things and are all feeling more positive about embracing this adventure (the only downer is fitting all the fun around the man of the house’s work – they work HARD here in the USA and he has only four weeks annual leave – so we are making sure we fit plenty of exploring around the weekends!).

Thankfully we are living with beautiful beaches a short drive away and the climate is beautiful year round – so even though it’s officially ‘Fall’ (and our New Zealand minds are revved up for spring) we can still enjoy being out in the evenings, despite the sun setting earlier.

Summerland Beach, Santa Barbara

There’s a lovely pathway along the main waterfront of Santa Barbara – Cabrillo Boulevard – friendly to people on foot and wheels (and dogs – there’s always a lot of dogs here!). It’s my new favourite place to go for a jog – plus my Miss 7 (a keen roller-bladder) can come along too (though I’m mostly trailing her – not the other way round!). There’s always plenty to see (even the occasional wedding) and every Sunday there is a fabulous arts and crafts show (I just need a child free morning to explore the arts and crafts leisurely!).

Santa Barbara Waterfront

The warm, calm weather also makes playing, reading and painting outside a pleasure. I don’t have to clear up at night, just incase a howling gale force wind comes blasting through (oh, Wellington – don’t worry – I still love and miss you lots!). Came across this great book ‘Goodnight iPad’ (a parody of  ‘Goodnight Moon’) this week – had to get it – reading it sums up my ‘love / hate’ relationship with modern technology and parenting! It is a constant battle of awareness to balance out the time on electronic gadgets with time in nature, enjoying baking, crafts, reading and art.

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In the past week we’ve also found a couple of other new indulgences – not all beach and games.

The girls have sampled ‘Root beer float’ and think it’s kind of cool!

Root beer float

Whilst I have found a little time to enjoy playing the wonderful 100 year old piano in this house (with a little wine, naturally!). If this piano could sing it would surely have some amazing songs to tell!

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Then there’s plain ‘ole fun in the garden in the evening. The man of the house is definitely enjoying the BBQ weather, spa and pool. Most evenings he is out with the girls splashing around.

I’m enjoy stretching out with a little yoga every day (there’s even a local Santa Barbara yoga show on one of the many hundreds of channels on the TV here). Last night the whole family got into it (well, the man of the house nearly did – he spent the first half of it half in awe and half in fits of giggles at the ‘heavy breathing’ sounds – by the time he decided to join in the ‘meditation’ section had started – so he just lay down and did some of his own heavy breathing!).

There’s been some strange red ninja figure around the house too (the build up to Halloween starts early here – the pumpkins are everywhere, HUGE and plentiful).

Red ninja

And of course there’s been a lot of nail biting at the America’s Cup racing… not so sure the Kiwis will take home that cup now (but of course we have to keep strong!).

Still, we’ll get over it. There’s plenty of wine, good fruit and craft beers to keep us smiling here and ‘The Funk Zone‘ – that we really need to check out (without the children, preferably).

Man of the house

And we’ve found a good couple of playgrounds to keep the children swinging around like the three wise monkeys that they are – Alameda Park and Chase Palm Park the favourites to date (nothing compared to Wellington’s 102 top class playgrounds… but I shan’t get into that comparison expat game…!).

Alameda Playground

The Alameda Park is a great wooden, towering structure, combing fun and art – loved by Miss 3 & 7, but ‘too many bitey things’ for Miss 10 (it’s a tough job pleasing everyone all of the time!).

Alameda Park playground

Chase Palm Park, on the other hand, has the approval of all three children. It also has the benefit of being opposite the main waterfront of Santa Barbara, closer to eateries and other entertainment.

Chase Palm Park

So, there you go! Some little gems from our life here in Santa Barbara (oh, and don’t worry folks – the girls are learning and doing ‘school’ fine at home too xx).

We’re really looking forward to taking the coast road from Santa Barbara up to San Francisco this coming weekend, stopping at Monteray Bay and Aquarium. Dan will work Monday to Friday in San Francisco, whilst I give the children plenty of educational and fun adventures, and then we’ll take our time driving back to Santa Barbara the following weekend.

Oh, and BIG NEWS, our goodies from New Zealand have landed! We are waiting to see how quickly they can clear customs… but, with a bit of luck, we may have them delivered before we hit the road (would be great to have my decent camera for the trip – and a few extra jumpers for the cooler temperatures in San Francisco).

Hasta ahora, Sarah x

A little bit of loving and an action plan

It’s a strange feeling living in a place without commitment, with three children in tow. It’s all very well saying, ‘Live in the moment,’ but to really immerse in a place one has to put out a lot of energy. Whilst nurturing friendships in our country of origin, we also have to open up – and encourage our children to open up – to new people as well. There have been moments, for certain, of  ‘being in the moment’, but they are sometimes short-lived and interspersed with drama from one child, or another. Nevertheless, they are moments, however short or fleeting, to be embraced, savoured and clung to with every cell of our beings.

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This week has been one of sending out e-mails to homeschool groups, singing tutors and dance schools (the two latter pursuits for our eldest daughter).

There’s been much researching on the Internet as to various educational opportunities for our school aged children and delight in seeing the various opportunities, of private tutors and the like, available. But all this takes time, research, work, and patience. All of which, us adults respect and understand, but in the meantime our children need happy engagement in ‘the now’.

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There’s been the excitement that this choice makes in being able to travel when the man of the house travels – (a week away to San Francisco has been planned – we leave a week on Saturday – driving up the Pacific Coast, from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, taking a weekend, either side of the working week, to enjoy the sights).

Us adult expats (a couple from the UK, having lived 15 years in New Zealand) are now practised in being open to new contacts, friendships, acquaintances and passing moments of inspiring exchange with fellow travellers on life’s journey – but we need to focus on teaching our children to open up. Our younger children – aged 3 and 7 – are much more accepting of this. Our oldest – who is 10, finds this harder. She has left behind an environment, school and friendships that she was comfortable in. She was ‘game on’ for this adventure – but is finding the adaption the hardest. Nevertheless, she’s a trouper and will definitely pull through. She has our love, time and focused attention. All will be well (so we repeat, over and over, to ourselves!).

Once she’s engaged in a new dance school, found a singing coach and has a couple of hours dedicated ‘computer programming’ time with her Daddy (she’s a keen Minecraft learner and has got to the stage where she wants to learn JAVA to start creating her own mods!), she will be fine.

We have an action plan, that includes inviting our ‘gated’ neighbours, in this prestigious area, over for an ‘open day’ at our home. We can hear them playing in pools through the trees – but can’t see them or easily see them to say ‘Hello’ in passing. It’s kind of nice living in a slice of private paradise – but our children need to feel they can play with the neighbours, like they used to do in our friendly nook in Wellington, New Zealand.

We are so fortunate to have online connections to dear friends back in New Zealand through Skype and e-mail, but the children need children their own age to play with too. As much they love each other (and fight at times… siblings!), they still need to have that ‘mix’ of other children, apart from their own family ‘bubble’. Nevertheless, the past ten weeks or so of family intimacy has been of benefit to family harmony, rather than a hindrance. There is definitely more acceptance and getting along, more tolerance and give and take. There is plenty of laughter and harmony ‘in the camp’! Whether it be chilling in the warm spa in the evening, or ‘bombing’ each other in the swimming pool!

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Hubbie and I definitely need a little more ‘couple’ time. Our children, between the three of them, burn the candle from 11pm to 5am – there isn’t much time for private relations (so to speak!).

Though this photograph looks the epitome of a perfect ‘couple moment’ at dinner… it was taken by one of our three children – in a fleeting moment, whilst dinner, in a beautiful restaurant, was hurried so as to keep everyone happy and not disturb fellow diners in the prestigious ‘upper village’ of Montecito!

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We have three double beds in the house we’re leasing (but with five of us, there had to be some sharing – and currently it’s oldest child sleeping solo – middle child choosing to share with man of the house, youngest wanting to be close to her Mama). We are so hanging out for our personal belongings to arrive off the container from New Zealand – most importantly Miss 3’s futon and Miss 7’s single bed. Finally hubbie and I will be able to have a few hours of ‘snuggle’ time (all I can say is, ‘I’m darn grateful for the ‘walk in wardrobes’ – that are more like ‘bedrooms’ – as they make for perfect ‘quickie’ spots!!).

Enough already!! Take a break, have a coffee (thank the heavens for sending us a place in Santa Barbara that serves a wonderful Latte!!).

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We are surviving (the climate does make that pretty easy). The people are friendly (just not easily accessible with the long driveways and gates!), the local convenience stores are laden with delicious delights (but it’s not the same as popping down ‘The Dairy’ in Lyall Bay barefoot, or grabbing a full strength, cuban bean loaded, latte, at the ‘Diamond Deli’). We are finding our way (and making our heads ache with inevitable expat comparisons of one life from another). Where there grass is greener, it also has patches that forever need watering…

No place is perfect, but the more we move about the more we learn – and, more than anything else, it is the people you know that make the place. xx

And, there’s always yoga!!

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New country, new species, new discoveries

We’ve seen the groundhogs, (also known as woodchucks), playing peek-a-boo, we’ve stopped in our tracks as a little (or not so little) lizard dashes across our path (or up a wall of the house) and we’ve noticed the colourful, varied birdlife and numerous damsel-flys and dragon-flys. Living in a new country offers great opportunity for exploring and last week the girls and I visited the lovely natural history museum here in Santa Barbara, to learn a little more about all the wonderful new species we are coming across. We had a very interesting time and a fun visit.

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At the museum there is a wonderful collection of insects that can be found around Santa Barbara (some of them we hope not to see in a hurry!), as well as a fabulous exhibition explaining the migration of the monarch butterfly, which come to Santa Barbara, amongst other places, to rest over the winter months (more information on the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve here and the Coronado Butterfly Preserve).

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We are familiar with this beautiful species, as it frequented our summer garden in Wellington, New Zealand, and we loved to plant flowers and ‘Swan Plants‘ (a species of milk weed) to attract them to stay and lay eggs, but we’ve never seen them in such numbers – so definitely a ‘must see’ whilst we are here!

The museum itself is located in a beautiful area, with plentiful outdoor exploration spaces – of particular appeal to children and families. The girls thought pulling a chord to discover how long a blue whale is was a lot of fun (and amazing too!).

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They also spent time enjoying the nature discovery areas – where there are large bamboo poles for fort building, rocks to climb on and a water course – offering plentiful learning opportunities! They spent a while toying with little wooden boats on the rapids, filling buckets with water and working out how many they could carry using a pole, rather than just their two hands, and making the water pumps work.

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And whilst they played around the water course, a very friendly, inquisitive squirrel scampered down from the trees to watch us too!

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We very much enjoyed the opportunity to explore and learn both indoors and outdoors at the museum. Next time we’ll have to take a picnic and stay for longer (there are vending machines, but that’s all).

Finally, I must add this write up on the mineral exhibition by my eldest daughter – a lovely piece of expressive writing;

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A Cave Filled With Minerals

I was treading carefully through the dark room filled with exquisite minerals and crystals including ruby and pyrite. In the dark room filled with riches there was an old abandoned mineshaft filled with amethyst and more priceless gemstones.

As I left the abandoned mineshaft a group of rocks captured my attention, out of the corner of my eye. 

On a small information board I spotted a small red button.  I was curious to what it was, so I pressed it.  After about 5 seconds an ultraviolet light appeared and instantly the once old, and not colourful rocks, became a cascade of fluorescent colours. My neon green top was not nearly as bright as these rocks, but there was one especially that captured my attention; it had the same pattern as a bright green and black poison dart frog, it even looked like one!  I had a look at what it was called, as I was curious to know, I have to say it had such a ridiculous name, it was called a ‘Williamite’! 

Finally it was time to leave and return to our home.

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Linking this post with the wonderful ‘Country Kids’

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Decisions made & always some things to love!

What a crazy couple of weeks we have had here. We’ve finally settled into the house we’ll be based in for a year. It’s very pleasant here – the climate, the people, the environment – tick, tick, tick… but after spending over a decade of our lives making New Zealand our home, we don’t have our hearts in starting all over again. This time here is definitely an ‘adventure’, an ‘experience’, a ‘temporary thing’, not a permanent move, for sure (but then I’ve also learned to never say, ‘Never’… so who knows how we’ll feel in a year’s time).

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We have made a few big decisions this past week. Our eldest daughter, who is ten, was very committed to her schooling in New Zealand and so we’ve decided to continue with the NZ Curriculum and sign up to the Te Kura Correspondence School. Our middle daughter, age 7, is continuing with natural learning using the fabulous ESA Publications – such as ‘Start Right’, along with online learning on the likes of ‘Study Ladder’, ‘Mathletics’, ‘Sum Dog’ etc. Our youngest daughter, age 3 and a half, is happy living life and learning as she goes – every day is something new for her and she has a beautiful spirit.

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All this means we can travel with the man of the house on his various business trips around the USA and Europe over the coming year. We can be flexible with our learning and still feel a connection to our friends and the education system in New Zealand. Everyone is happy (and I’ve find a place that serves Latte just how I like it!).coffee French Press

We are beginning to make friendships and the climate here is very convivial to outdoor entertaining. There’s a positivity in our family that feels very hopeful, after the bleak feeling that felt so heavy. Adjustments take time. There will be peaks and troughs, but we are feeling more hopeful that the troughs won’t be deep or long lasting.

With such strong characters in our family, how can life not be interesting?!!

Three wise monkeys

Linking up with….

The Photo Gallery | ‘Selfie’

Me in California

Sunshine smiles in California. This is me looking happy on a good day. A day before we started to try and integrate two, of our three, children into a new school, in a new country. A day after getting a lovely new vehicle to cruise around town in – a sunshine red VW Convertible. A day after I’d been out for a run along a scenic cliff-top over looking the Pacific Ocean.

We’ve since moved into a house that we’ve leased for one year. It’s a beautiful house, fully furnished, with a swimming pool – a ‘paradise’ in a warm, sunny climate. At home the children’s voices are happy. They keep themselves entertained, with little outings and plentiful good food to help themselves to when they feel hungry. But, it’s not our home, our house back in New Zealand. It’s a gated house, like most of the other properties surrounding us in this affluent neighbourhood. We can hear other children playing – but can’t see them. It’s not the same as our friendly, close knit neighbourhood, where we had lived as a family for seven years, in Wellington. We are missing our home, our routines, our friends, our local ‘haunts’. We are trying to live each day positively – but there is a sense of ‘holding back’ from all of us, a knowing that this is only a temporary stay in our lives.

It would be easier to be on the road travelling, moving from one place to the next, in some ways. Perhaps that is the solution. We use this house merely as our base. We embrace the online public school opportunity that is available here in the US and travel as much as we can, accompanying the man of the house on various business trips. This is a time of finding our way, our pace, deciding on how best to focus our time whilst we are here.

I need to feel that smile, that was from the heart last week. I need that smile to sparkle in my eyes and override the well of tears that seem to rise all too easily when the integration into a local school feels at ill with our family. Thank goodness for options is all I can say – now to choose the best fit for us!

Sarah

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Joining in with….

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Missing our life in New Zealand

As beautiful as it is here in Santa Barbara, California, I’m missing so much of our home in New Zealand. People will say I’m ‘nuts’, since much of New Zealand is currently experiencing full on spring storms of destructive proportions, whilst the climate here is very easy to live with, but I love the ‘wild’ of our home in Wellington and need to have a fix of it – so am sharing some photographs of my home with this post.

Lyall Bay

I know I should ‘just get on with it’, ‘make the most of it’, ‘live in the moment’, ya de ya… but right now, I just want to have a moment to reflect on what I’m missing – and be happy knowing that this time living here is only temporary after all (so, yes, I should ‘make the most of it’!).

A larger reason for my melancholy is the ebb and flow of my children’s happiness – and right now, as much as they are fine in the house we are living right now, they – like me – are missing their friends and their home in New Zealand.

We’ve done with the darker evenings of winter and find our bodies ready for lighter evenings of spring, but the nights are drawing in fast here for ‘Fall’ – though it isn’t autumn like we know it. I cannot imagine not seeing the spring bloom of the Kowhai and hearing the trill of the Tui. Four seasons in one day, barely catching my breath in the spring winds.

The scent of the air, on Wellington’s south coast, and the roar of the waves in the bays, cutting through the rocks.

Island Bay

The crystal blue of the sky, that is a deeper hue of blue than anywhere else I have been.

The clarity of light and the amazing night skies.

The rich lush of the bush, with every hue of green, luminescent with vibrant life, from city to sea.

Wellington harbour from Te Papa, museum

The freedom to step out my front door and be running by the sea in moments, or through native bush in the town belt reserves. Sweeping vistas for miles around, distant mountains across the Strait, towering to the sky from the South Island’s majestic land mass. Fantails flitting around me as I run, matching my steps with every beat of their wings, searching for insects that my footsteps disturb, hoping for a snack, whilst I seek out a moment of time.

Rainbows aplenty on my southcoast runs

The cafes with views, the people that make the most amazing coffee and serve it with love. Friends that know us, no ‘getting to know you’, no explanations, just friendly acceptance, support and understanding.

Maranui cafe, Lyall Bay

It’s so tempting right now to jump on a plane back to Wellington, living on the edge in the beautiful shaky isles, where the weather always keeps you on your toes, never complacent, makes you feel so alive and appreciative of the sunshine between the showers.

Kite flying on Lyall Bay beach

Where the land is green and lush and the scenery is breathtaking. A place where the ground itself is forever moving, growing, changing, just like every cell in our own beings.

Kapiti coast