Month: November 2013

Moments of happiness with friends from NZ on Santa Barbara’s Waterfront

It’s been a lovely week shared with friends. We returned from Disneyland on Tuesday evening and have been enjoying a quieter time back at the house in Santa Barbara. The children have been playing in the pool a lot and we’ve had a couple of trips out and about, including a gorgeous little boat trip in the marina on the very cute ‘Lil’ Toot’; one of many lovely attractions on the waterfront.

Lil Toot, Santa Barbara

It’s so great to have our New Zealand neighbours here with us. In the above photograph I am sat next to my Miss 3, then my lovely neighbour and her son, Master 6, and then my daughter, Miss 7. Master 6 has an older sister, Miss 10 (same age as our eldest), and unfortunately we couldn’t persuade the older girls out of the house for our little waterfront excursion (but it was the day after Disneyland – so they were a little jaded!). They had a great time having the house and pool to themselves, whilst we enjoyed the company of the younger children.

The sand-dunes were, as always, a great attraction for the young ones. They adored running up them and jumping down, trying to take off in the air as they flew down the sand. The man of the house watched over the play and added to the thrills, whilst my friend and I watched on.

sanddunes by the marina

After our play in the dunes we headed to Stearns Wharf and the lovely Ty Warner Sea Center there.

Ty Warner Center

 

It’s a great little place of learning. There were some children demonstrating how to extract goo from kelp and there were lots of questions and gasps of amazement at how the seaweed extract is used in toothpaste and ice-cream.

Upstairs in the centre is a lovely jelly-fish exhibit and opportunities for children to make their own puppet shows, or just enjoy a quiet read.

Ty Warner Center

 

The visit to the pier was made complete with ice-creams, a few squashed penny souvenirs and a rather freaky, larger than life onion ring – that the man of the house wished could be the ‘One Ring to Rule Them All’… as in his three daughters behaving themselves 😉

One rather large onion ring

 

 

 

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Loving: A bunch of Kiwis doing Thanks Giving USA

With our NZ neighbours visiting us in our temporary home in the USA we had the perfect reason to celebrate and feast. So we spent a relaxed day at home, preparing the table, for a Thanks Giving feast. Young Miss 3 delighted in sticking cloves into oranges, Miss 10 made up some name-places for the table and we threw on our New Zealand ‘Pohutukawa’ table cloth for a touch of ‘Kiwiana’.

Thanks Giving table

The man of the house was the ‘Master Chef’ and cooked up a delightful feast. We all sat down and toasted to friendship, feeling very thankful for the opportunity to be together and share a meal.

Cheers!

In between the feasting there was the New York ‘Thanks Giving Parade’ screening on television in the morning and college American football in the afternoon, whilst the turkey was cooking. The children played in the pool and around the house, working up a good appetite for dinner!

And of course, we had to try a ‘pumpkin pie’ – which was actually delicious, served with ice-cream and cream. Yum!

A really lovely day, made special shared with friends and definitely a tradition to transport back to New Zealand with us – but as more of a ‘Harvest Festival’ celebration at the end of Autumn in New Zealand.

Loved it! Happy Thanks Giving!

Prose for Thought | Is Disneyland Your Happy Place?

I watched my children’s eyes, filled with wonder –
But saw the the plastic cups and plates in bins.
I marvelled at the sparkling lights and shows –
But thought about the electricity.

I laughed alongside them on the rides –
But wished to hear the same laughs in nature.

I waved at the characters in costume –
But struggled to answer,
‘Is that a person dressed up?’

I steered through the crowds of people, wishing –
I was in a place of large, open spaces.

I gawped with them at all the toys and clothes –
But wanted to wear blinkers, like a horse.

I took photos of so many Christmas trees –
But would have gained immeasurably more –
Taking photos of trees in the wilderness.

I went for my children – they loved it – but –
I struggled with what this was teaching them.
In a time when so many in the world –
Live with so little, hoping for peace –
I felt troubled.

I thought –
Let the memories be happy and thankful –
Let the ‘magic’ be more than a few days –
Let not the excess merchandise taint them –
Let them see past the lights and laughter –
Let them understand happiness –
In its purity.
A happy that is not bought –
But can be found –
in The Everyday.

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After I wrote this poem, I looked over the photographs and video clips, seeing the magic, happiness and laughter in my children’s eyes. And yet, still, my other thoughts still remained in the background. Was it worth it? My children would say, ‘Yes!’ and perhaps, with their innocence, they are right. My mind is so jaded with the cruelty in this world, that they are too young to yet understand and definitely not emotionally strong enough to cope with (are we ever emotionally strong enough?). What would I have rather done? I could list one hundred things – camping, visiting village children in a country where they have so little – but make their own happiness, appreciating every moment of life as a blessing – knowing all too keenly how quickly life can be taken. But they did love the magic of it all, the surreal world of what is possible with imagination and creativity. It will be interesting to hear their own recollections in years to come.

Here’s the video clips of those happy faces –

Prose for Thought

The Photo Gallery: November

When I read the challenge for this week’s ‘Photo Gallery’ at ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog I was stumped – one photograph for the month of November! How could I possibly sum up a month in one photograph? Then I had my light-bulb moment. This year we are in the USA for November and our contribution to ‘Thanks Giving’ has been making a decorative leaf wreath for our front door. I asked the girls what they were thankful for and then wrote their answers on the leaves.

It’s been a very exciting month, counting down the days till our New Zealand neighbours flew over to see us and holiday in Disneyland California. This photograph, of our wreath, probably sums up enough. We returned from Disneyland last night and our New Zealand friends are with us for another week, before flying home. It’s so great for me to hear the house full of children playing and having my husband home from work for the week. This is my November! Very thankful indeed.

Thankful for

 

 

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

LOVING our New Zealand neighbours being here with us in the USA!

They arrived today! Our wonderful New Zealand neighbours. Our children are ecstatic and it’s magic for us adults to see them all together. Their ages span from three to ten, but all five children (three of them being our crazy girls) are like a little family in their own right. They mix up play between them all and have so much fun together. We have yet to get a photograph of them all together (any attempts are faced with silly faces, ducking behind pillars and under tables, diving under the water or behind a Christmas tree… sigh!).

We left sunny Santa Barbara at 9.30am this morning and arrived in a rainy Disney just after midday. The sight that greeted was beautiful Christmas poinsettias and the biggest, twinkling Christmas tree in the entrance room of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Very magical indeed!

Christmas is BIG at Disney!

Within half an hour of us arriving at the hotel, our dear friends arrived (we’d arranged a limo to pick them up at Los Angeles Airport after their long haul flight from New Zealand).

I was relieved the drive wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated (imagine the worse and it can only be better – right?!). With only Miss 3 as my passenger in my lovely turbo VW red bug (the other two drove in comfort with their Dad – who I tailed most of the way through LA), it was a surprisingly relaxed drive. She slept half the way, and spent the remaining half of the journey happily taking in the scenery.

Arriving at the hotel

The drive down started with the beautiful coastline south from Santa Barbara towards LA, in glorious sunshine…

Leaving sunny Santa Barbara

– before hitting the outskirts of LA and five lanes of highway in each direction (that’s when I refrained from being a speed demon, leaving my husband to chase my tail, and took time out to follow his tail through the heavier traffic and lane switches to keep us in the right direction for Disney!).

Our first afternoon together has been so much fun and it’s as though we’ve never been apart. Our friends had incredible stamina to stay awake till 10.30pm pacific time here (after not getting much sleep on their long haul from NZ). The children even all managed a swim in the hotel pool at 9.30pm!

I’m now signing off, as this Disneyland stuff takes a lot of stamina (whilst my dear hubbie is still out in the park – with our two eldest daughters – and it’s close to midnight!). He sent this pic and I can’t WAIT to see this with my own eyes tomorrow!

Disneyland castle

Good night from here, sweet dreams and may all your wishes come true!

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Linking this post up with my lovely friend Meghan in Wellington, New Zealand, who really makes the most out of life.

Prose for Thought – Rain in the Black of Night

It’s been months since we’ve had consistent rain in Santa Barbara, Southern California. As much as I adore the sunshine, I do miss the ever-changing weather of our home in Wellington, New Zealand. Last night, and this evening, we’ve had proper rain – that lasts for more than an hour and leaves real puddles behind!

I thought the rain was definitely deserving of a little poem 🙂

Rain in the Black of Night

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Linking this poem up with these wonderful people at –

Prose for Thought
&
Lyrical

The Photo Gallery: Nature

Elephant at Santa Barbara Zoo

I don’t enjoy seeing elephants in small enclosures. I’m thankful that the majority of zoos across the world are no longer breeding elephants. The ones that remain in zoos, are hopefully the last. They belong in the wild, or in large landscapes of protected land. They belong with their kin.

When I do come across one of the remaining generation of elephants in zoos I feel a certain bitter sweetness. I feel blessed to see one. I feel in awe of their grace, strength and dexterity. I watch them, without wanting to stare, through downcast eyes and with a tinge of sadness.

The elephant in this photograph is one of two at Santa Barbara Zoo in California. I found myself watching with quiet reverence. My children, running around beside me, weren’t in the mood for listening to my speech of awe and wonder. I stood, motionless, apart from moving to take a photograph. The elephant stopped to look at me when the shutter of my camera blinked to capture the image I sought. I felt guilty for intruding on the moment, trespassing on the little space that was the elephant’s home. If I could have spoken ‘elephant’ I would have asked permission before taking the photograph. Instead I bowed my head in respect, hoping the elephant could read my thoughts.

Nature is wonderful, but I’d rather capture it in a natural setting. I hope these beautiful, intelligent animals of grace and strength can live a more peaceful life in the future, free to roam without unnatural threats from certain people who do them harm.

I am a great supporter in WWF and TRAFFIC and the work they do in the war against wildlife crime.

 

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

He understands. He loves her. He will stand by her. She loves him.

So many people don’t understand.
They make her feel weak for depending on medication.
It’s not just the medication though – it takes much more than that.
She has a family who understands, who appreciates her, as she is.
She was born with strong sensitivities.
Life, in her youth, was always a see-saw.
Little things would throw her off balance –
a busy scene, crowds, too much noise.
She’d find herself feeling dizzy, tearful, out of control,
needing to retreat, into her shell.
Growing up wasn’t easy, but she had a family who cared.
Even if they didn’t always understand – she knew they wanted to –
That was enough.

The man she’s now married to has known her since then.
He’s loved her through all the see-saws of emotion.
They met when she was just eighteen.
She was a mess, first year at University.
She was escaping, retreating, in a pool of alcohol.
She didn’t realise then, how much she was ‘hiding’,
She was numbing herself to reality.
He was her friend, her constant.
He never took advantage of her precarious state –
but sought out the woman that was underneath.

He waited, patiently, avoiding intoxicated advances,
maintaining the friendship and courting with refrain.
He listened, with a genuine ear, and made her smile –
the best medicine of all.
She spent most of her twenties seeking to find,
the person who was hidden beneath the veneer.
A person that cared, too much at times,
about the world around her and the wrongs she saw.

A fixer, a perfectionist, a troubled soul,
seeking a better way, but confused with reality.
Avoiding conflict and troubled situations,
looking for a path of peace in a twisted world.

Then motherhood came.
She loved living in the moment, seeing the world anew.
Her children, she found, were her biggest teachers.
No time for vanity, or desperate analysis,
only time to ‘be’, in the moment, in a mist of sleep deprived fog.
Moments of clarity, moments of light.
Realisation of when things were not right.
Wishing to be the person she envisaged,
a mother who could lead by example and set the path right.

She sought out help, and help she found.
The light went back on and her senses were lit anew.
She could take the world, in all its shades.
The beauty she would embrace, with awe,
the pain she could take – without desperation and collapse.
She found a balance, without extremes.
Feel, she still could, but without distress.
Beauty and beast, together she could take.
Her path she could walk, with patience and grace.

At times she’d feel so fine she’d stop taking the ‘help’,
she’d feel fine, at first, for a week…
and then, the old horrors would return.
She’d feel overwhelmed with tears and anxiety –
when she needed to be her strongest.
She needed to lead by example, stay calm in a crisis,
her children needed her, she could never surrender.

Now here she is, still seeking answers,
but gaining more wisdom as the years pass by.
Thankful for him, loving her through it all,
understanding her, growing with her, open heart, open mind x

Things that have made me smile this week in Santa Barbara

Love the girl that wants to give her Mamma flowers, whenever she sees an opportunity to pick them… though in many a situation I have to urge her not to pick them!

Miss 3 and her sand flower castle

Love Autumn here in Santa Barbara (though it’s the warmest, sunniest one I have ever experienced in my lifetime!). The days are definitely shorter, but the sunshine still has plenty of heat in it.

Love the Zoo here in Santa Barbara, set on hills, close to the sea, with lovely gardens and play spaces for families. We enjoyed the ‘Rainbow Garden’ on our visit this week, with different herbs to discover along the winding pathways, fairy glen, miniature hedge maze and tree stump stepping stones.

Rainbow Garden at Santa Barbara Zoo

We hired a little buggy for Miss 3 to whizz around in, which she thought was ‘the best’ – she really believed she was steering it too – and was quite determined the buggy went in the direction she wanted it to go!

Santa Barbara Zoo

Love the Maritime Museum here. We had fun completing a ‘treasure hunt’ when we visited this week. The older girls had to read the displays to get the answers (something they don’t tend to do a lot of – unless it’s a game!).

There was a treasure hunt for young Miss 3 too. She had to find the cannon and shoot it (her older sisters made for good target practice!). She also had to describe what she could see through the submarine’s periscope (that was once she’d found the submarine). She was delighted to see trees, the beach, boats and the sea, depending on which direction she turned the periscope.

Maritime Museum Santa Barbara

On completion of our visit to the museum we took the lift to the look out above the museum, where the periscope must come out somewhere, and enjoyed seeing the beautiful view directly with our eyes (all be it very briefly, as Miss 3 suddenly became tired and insistent that it was time to return home for a rest!).

View from Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Loving finding a moment to read, whilst the girls play ‘wizards’, ‘princesses’, ‘doctors’ or ‘spies’ (just a few of their favourite at the moment!).

A moment to read

Loving the blossoming friendship of Miss 3 with a young friend and enjoying the company of another Mum who is a wonderful person, who is originally from the US, but married a Kiwi and both her boys were born in Wellington. Her hubbie works with our dear man of the house, so it’s great the men can have some ‘man chats’ whilst us ladies can swap parenting notes! We spent this morning getting drawn on with face paints, turning our children into dinosaurs (didn’t take much) and enjoyed a lovely walk to the upper village in Montecito, before returning for a rest and singing time for my eldest daughter.

Loving crafts with my youngest daughter, collages, painting and play. The older girls have started to think about Christmas decorations too and we’re going to be doing lots of home-made decorations this year (as I left all of our lovely collection of decorations back in New Zealand).

I’ve come across several lovely ideas on ‘Homegrown Friends‘, this sun-catcher idea is one of many I’ve come across so far…

Suncatchers

There are signs of Christmas beginning around Santa Barbara and we’re beginning to feel excited, especially now that my dearest Mum and Dad are coming to spend the festive season with us!

Signs of Christmas in Santa Barbara

Finally I’m loving a few reminders of home, with this beautiful video of New Zealand – ‘Land of open spaces, open hearts and open minds…‘ (and we can’t WAIT to see our New Zealand neighbours, next Friday, who are flying to the USA to spend nearly two weeks with us!).

The New Zealand Story from New Zealand Story on Vimeo.

The transcript for the video is beautiful…

The New Zealand Story

Welcome to the country of Open Spaces
Where nature bursts and flows,
Where the elements come alive,
Where there is room to breathe and places to find.

Welcome to the country of Open Hearts
Where care for the land and people is genuine,
Where life is for living,
Where time spent together is never time wasted,
Where lasting partnerships are formed,
Where strangers are treated as friends and memories are treasured forever.

Welcome to the country of Open Minds
Where learning is embraced and opinions valued,
Where freshness is championed and quality is prized for the world to enjoy,
Where nature inspires incredible thinking,
Where ingenuity drives innovation and productivity,
Where big ideas are born every day and new technologies are perfected,
Where the impossible becomes real and where every sunrise inspires the extraordinary.

Welcome to the country of Open Spaces, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.
Together, we can do amazing things.

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Linking up this post with the wonderful Meghan, in New Zealand, for…