Month: May 2014

San Francisco’s Pier 39

With three children a visit to San Francisco’s Pier 39 wasn’t something we could skip on. We’d been to San Francisco before and the attractions on the pier were quite the highlight of their last visit. The moment we told them we were accompanying Daddy, on another business trip to San Francisco, they were amped about visiting the pier. The older children love the thrill of the 7D Experience and were particularly excited to hear that a LaZer Challenge had opened there (which they ended up topping the leader board on).

Young Miss 4 loves the Carousel – as do the older girls; especially as there’s a self-spinning tea-cup – which they love to spin as wildly as possible, with the chief aim of making Mummy and Daddy feel icky (delightful daughters we have!).

As well as the beautiful Carousel, the pier itself has a wonderful ambiance. There are always street performers and buskers. The choice of places to dine, or simply grab a snack and people watch, is abundant. The physical setting of the pier is also what makes it so special – overlooking the beautiful bays of San Francisco, out toward the Golden Gate bridge, with Alcatraz making an unmissable feature on the sweeping vista.

And a visit to Pier 39 would be incomplete without saying a quick ‘Hello’ to the resident population of Sea Lions that call the waters around the pier their home.

There is also a lovely ‘Aquarium of the Bay’, which we enjoyed a great visit to. It’s not spectacular, like the incredible Monterey Aquarium, a few hours drive south of San Francisco, but it’s very well laid out, with excellent exhibits. Definitely a perfect place to spend an hour or two.

Miss 4 absolutely delighted in all the exhibits, particularly loving the touch pools. We timed our visit perfectly for Miss 10 too – as a Californian King Snake was out of its exhibit for visitors to stroke! It was beautiful. Miss 10 wishes she could have one as a pet – but, for obvious reasons, snakes aren’t allowed in New Zealand (there’s enough invasive introduced predators as it is!).

The sea otters at the end of the aquarium were very delightful too, which populate the coastline of the Californian coastline – and are easy to see in the waters around Monterey.

Finally, Pier 39 was the spot where hubbie and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage – along with our three energetic daughters. We dined in a sports bar, by the carousel, where the children could play the arcade, whilst we enjoyed a quick drink in peace. Happy children, happy parents. Win, win!

It wasn’t the most decadent of places to celebrate – but we knew we had a weekend lined up in beautiful Monterey, staying at the superb Intercontinental, to look forward to. Feeling very blessed indeed!

Things I’m Loving | Catching some air in San Francisco!

The children discovered there was a ‘House of Air‘, in an old airplane hanger, in Crissy Field Park, San Francisco…

House of Air in Crissy Field Park

Our first visit was in the evening, when the older girls could play an exciting game of ball tag on a dozen trampolines, but our youngest had missed out on the younger children’s bounce session, so had to catch some air in another way… So I happily spent an hour kite flying in the park opposite (luckily I’d had the forethought to bring a kite with me!), whilst the man of the house got hot and sweaty with Miss 8 and 10 on the trampolines.

It was one of the most picturesque places I’ve flown a kite; overlooking the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. There were some kite surfers in the harbour having their own fun with the wind, whilst Miss 4 ran up and down catching the wind.

Miss 4 catching air in Crissy Field Park, San Francisco

The next day, after such a wonderful evening, there was only one place all the girls wanted to go – ‘The House of Air’ – again! They knew it opened at 2pm and they opted to walk from our hotel, near Fisherman’s Wharf, along the scenic waterfront of San Francisco. The walk was around 4 miles long, but they were up for it and we part jogged, part walked, pushing Miss 4 along in the buggy (to her delight).

The scenery is beautiful. I love San Francisco. It reminds me of our home city, Wellington, in New Zealand, with its hilly terrain and ever changing views dropping down into bays. The air has a freshness to it that is refreshing; and the temperatures, in northern California, are much more to my personal liking – than the often dry heat of Southern California (though it’s nice to have the choice!).

Once at the ‘House of Air’ the girls booked in for a couple of hours of fun. I was in awe of their energy (and the friendly, fun and energetic staff). There was a great cafe in the old airplane hanger too – which did a Latte to take me back to my Wellington, coffee loving, days. Miss 4 was so thrilled that a bounce house was open for her to go on – and she had a turn on the big trampolines too. What a great place! I loved it – and the setting over looking the Golden Gate Bridge made it all the more perfect.

Here’s a little video of love for San Francisco that hubbie discovered on Vimeo. We saw most of these sights in our week’s stay and I definitely left a little piece of my heart in San Francisco. A very special place indeed.

“I Left My Heart” SF Timelapse Project from Marc Donahue on Vimeo.


Linking up this post with the wonderful….


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Memorial Day in San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city and all the more so basked in sunshine, as it was on Memorial Day. Its hilly landscape is very reminiscent of Wellington, our New Zealand home (all be it on a much larger scale!). There was a welcome familiarity to driving up and down roads at 45 degree angles.The cable cars reminded us of the trolley buses that negotiate Wellington’s hilly terrain. The sweeping vistas of bays reaching down to the sea reminded us of the bays that we call home in Wellington.

We took the girls on a drive up Hyde Street and down the well known, and tourist frequented, Lombard Street, recounting stories from the Herbie movie and how we’d walked down Lombard Street when Miss 4 was but a babe, Miss 10 was 4; and our current Miss 4 was just a thought in our minds. There’s an old blog post of our visit – back in 2007 – over on our ‘Catching the Magic‘ blog.

Hilly streets of San Francisco

Our plan for the day was a visit to the incredible California Academy of Sciences, set in the beautiful Golden Gate Park.

California Academy of Sciences

This is a spectacular place to visit. The building itself is a work of art and science, with amazing natural lighting and a ‘living roof’!

Our visit was one of awe from beginning to end, with something to fascinate all of us.

Inside the California Academy of Sciences

The spectacular aquarium had our youngest daughter moving from one exhibition to the next with a running dialogue of exclamation.


We all delighted in seeing a New Zealand ‘Kiwi’, alongside other large-egg laying birds and under a huge skeleton of a blue whale.

Exhibition at the California Academy of Sciences

The collection of skulls was quite something and the earthquake simulator, and history of San Francisco’s shaky past, again reminded us of our Wellington home.

The white alligator left us mesmerised with its statuesque presence and the natural magnificence of the ‘Rainforests of the World’ exhibit in a 90-foot diameter glass dome had to be experienced.

White alligator

The visit was definitely well worth it!

We left the museum late afternoon, and took a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge for a scenic view back over the city of San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge

A great way to end a lovely day together.

Magic Sunday visiting Santa Cruz

After driving up from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz on Saturday evening, we woke on Sunday morning ready for some fun at the beautifully set Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

We spent a morning enjoying the sunshine, rides and thrills of the fun-fair.

Couldn’t believe Miss 4 wanted to go on the Haunted House ride! She spotted it as we rode the ‘Sky Ride’ over the boardwalk and insisted we go on it. She really surprises me sometimes. Her older sisters joined us and it was actually quite entertaining, rather than frightening – though I had my hand ready to hide her eyes if anything was too much!

Santa Cruz boardwalk

The funnest children’s ride was ‘The Speedway’. It didn’t look much at first, but once the engines roared it sped off, slow and gentle on the straight, but taking the corners at a great pace. Great entertainment and amusement for the parents watching on!

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

After a couple of hours well spent we hit the road again, heading up to San Francisco. We made a pit-stop at a place called ‘Dave & Busters‘ in Milpitas, to rendezvous with a friend of our older daughters – a friend they’d met online via Minecraft!

Dave and Busters

It was a fun meet-up and her parents were so lovely. We ended up heading to their place afterwards for a quick splash in the pool, where all the children had such a great time together – as us ‘old folk’ enjoyed a good chatter.


We arrived in San Francisco as the sunset, looking forward to Monday being a holiday, thanks to Memorial Weekend here in the USA and not having to bid farewell to the man of the house.

Arriving in SF at sunset

Great to have a change of scene from Santa Barbara – as lovely as it is there – it’s a little ‘quiet’ for us and we do love a bit of action!

Some days…

There are days when the sun shines,
but no part of it shines in me,
There are days when my heart aches,
and my head fights to make it see –

This feeling inside is nonsense,
though it seems to control me.
I run, even though I don’t feel like running,
turning off the voices in my mind.

I drink till I’m numb,
then write words to try and free me,
If I can get the right combination,
The key will turn the lock.

The tide has to turn, as sure as the moon appears in the night sky,
But right now I’m stuck in a vortex,
where time seems unchanging.
The light is so dim, but a flickering.

© Sarah Lee (May, 2014)

Prose for Thought

Things I’m Loving

A few gems I’ve loved this week…

❤ Watching my daughters and dear ‘hubbie’, on a Sunday avo at a local school field, being active, having fun and keeping fit together (and eating pizza together al fresco).

Family fun at the school field

❤ An afternoon visit to the marina and maritime museum in Santa Barbara with my three daughters.

Santa Barbara marina

❤ Loving seeing Miss 4 master motor skills like cutting and stapling (got to celebrate the little things!). She made me a cool hat at the museum. Also love how encouraging and supportive her older sisters are.

Miss 4 masters cutting

❤ Miss 4 is starting to write and read too, as well as continuing to draw pictures to make her own ‘story books’ for her home library.

Miss 4 painting, writing and drawing

❤ Yoga on the beach. That was how I started my Sunday morning. Bliss. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photographs – not easy to multi-task a downward dog with a camera!


❤ Swimming in the rain (rain is so rare here in Santa Barbara that we get extremely excited when it falls!).

Swimming in the rain

And finally…

❤ Zachary Levi and Sesame Street‘s Bert team up, with a song for the summer, that has an important message about turning off the gadgets – because, as the chorus goes…

The Bees are always buzzing ’bout the flowers they have seen.
And every tree is trending,
I don’t miss my little screen, because
The sky won’t need a filter
And the birds tweet just to say:
You should really take a walk on this lovely
sunny day.

Take a watch of the full song… and take a walk on a lovely sunny day 🙂


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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Prose for Thought | ‘Bring it On’ – a parody of ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen, for a friend turning forty x

The time moves forward on the hourglass tonight –
Not a frown line to be seen.
A kingdom of inspiration,
and it looks like you’re the Queen.

The date is here now,
on the winding path of life –
Cannot hold it back;
Heaven knows I’ve tried!

So bring it on! Open the door!
Be the fabulous, forty year old, you have to be,
Conceal the grey,
don’t let them know;
they cannot know!

Bring it on! Bring it on!
You are a girl of the seventies born.
Bring it on! Bring it on!
Leave your thirties at the door.

Here you stand,
Looking grand,
Let time lead you on…
Age shouldn’t bother you anyway!

It’s funny how some champagne,
Makes everything seem fine –
And the things that once bugged you –
Don’t get to you at all.

It’s time to see, what you can do,
To turn forty, and break through,
Swim that bay and eat that cake –
No rules for you!

Your power fizzes through the bubbles in your drink,
Your soul is sparkling, in party fractals all around,
And one thought crystallises, like Abba singing ‘Waterloo’,
You will party on and the best is yet to come!

So bring it on! Bring it on!
And party till the break of dawn,
Bring it on! Bring it on!
Cause ‘Love is All Around’

There you stand, in the light of forty,
Let the party rage on…

Age shouldn’t bother you anyway.

© Sarah Lee, May 2014 – parody for my friend on her 40th Birthday (and for anyone else joining the club!)

The beautiful friend this song is attributed to (in the black and white striped top in the photo below) has spent several years parenting as an expat, like me, and so we’ve sent many a ‘pick me up’ e-mail over the years. We met at Sixth Form College in England, when we were sixteen. I only spent a few years with her, but those were our very ‘formative’ years! She’s now living in Sydney, after many years in Dubai, and I very much look forward to seeing her in person again – when we return to New Zealand, after this current stint in California, USA.

A very, very long time ago...!!!!

And a video of me singing this song – (excuse the poor singing – but seeing as I’m now forty I’m past caring what people think! Have a good laugh xxx). In case you don’t recognise me in the photo above (have I really changed THAT much?!!) – I’m the one showing far too much leg!


Linking up with the talented and creative bloggers at…

Prose for Thought

The Photo Gallery | One Word – Metamorphosis

‘One Word’ is this week’s theme over on ‘The Photo Gallery‘ at Sticky Fingers blog and I’m going with ‘Metamorphosis’, after a magical visit to the recently opened ‘Butterflies Alive!’ exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

I visited on with my youngest daughter, age four. She entered the magical world of the exhibition with careful tread, mindful to watch for any butterflies on the ground. There was a mix of wonder and trepidation in her gaze. Numerous butterflies skimmed past us, seeking out nectar from the exotic offer of colourful flowers. She was a little concerned about one landing on her, and what she should do if that occurred, so I passed her my camera to distract her thoughts and she quickly became absorbed with taking photographs of them.

She proudly told me she knew what the word metamorphosis meant and enjoyed rolling all five syllables out on her tongue as she posed for photographs depicting the incredible transformation a caterpillar makes, changing into a butterfly.

All the while I couldn’t help but think what an incredible metamorphosis was happening in my own children, every moment, every day, every year.

Only four years ago she was a babe in arms, cooing to me as I pointed out nature’s wonders all around her. Now, here she was, striding along the pathways of the museum’s ‘backyard’, articulately describing to me all that her gaze fell upon.

Miss 4 taking me on a nature walk

Magic Moments – Family fun in Solvang

It was one of those Sundays that just ‘worked’. The only pre-planned event was my first ever morning yoga class on the beach (bliss). After I returned from my yoga class, feeling very zen and at one with Universe (carrying Blenders smoothies with a supplement of bee pollen for everyone in the family), everything else in the day was simply destined to go with the flow (a good flow; streamlined, smooth and plain sailing).

There was a call from the man of the house to do something different. He suggested taking our daughters to Solvang, where I’d finished my first half marathon the weekend before. The girls had stopped at home with our visiting friend from New Zealand and had never seen Solvang – a very Danish town in the middle of the Californian wine growing countryside of the Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang is just over a half hour drive, through scenic countryside, from Santa Barbara. In all appearances you could be in a Danish town, but there’s obviously the American flags flying along with the Danish and no one speaks Danish (at least not to the tourists).


So, we got the girls away from their Minecraft world and took to the real roads.

We arrived in Solvang, the town of pastries, wine, coffee, cakes, art, toy shops and windmills, under a typical Californian blue sky.


A couple of hours wondering the streets, eating, drinking, buying a few trinkets for our dolls house, and watching the Clydesdale horses pull the tourist tram around, were well spent.


We also drove the course that I’d ran (the girls were vaguely interested, but really they were hanging out for their Danish pastries after the drive from Santa Barbara) and stopped at a very cute playground.

Solvang playground

A magic place and somewhere that we could spend many more pleasurable hours… enjoy some wine tasting – if only we could find someone to watch over the children – ah well – that time will come again… and then we will no doubt be all reflective and misty eyed, remembering ‘those days’ with our children always in tow – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Feeling very blessed indeed to have such a happy family and the opportunity to experience gems like this.


Linking up with the lovely ‘Magic Moments’ at ‘The Oliver’s Madhouse’:

Things I’m Loving – whilst I can’t run – WINE :)

It’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day in New Zealand – 16 May – and whilst I sit here sipping a local Napa Valley, Californian white, I came across this beautiful little video about the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wines (a fav spot of the hubbie and I – and the sweet spot where he proposed to me back in 1997!).

I’m out of action on the running front at the present time, with an ankle injury, but my wine glass tipping wrist is in perfect form and couldn’t be more delighted that I’m on a forced break from training (though I am feeling a little guilty at the lack of physical action and have hence signed myself up for a beach yoga class this coming Sunday – got to love this southern californian climate – where beach yoga is something that can be pre-scheduled and rarely need a ‘Plan B’, due to the almost constant blue sky, sunshine, minimal wind climate (though the Santa Ynez winds can be a nightmare, especially for the firefighters – currently fighting a seasonally early outbreak of fires around the San Diego area).

So, we have wine, yoga, beach, sunshine and running (when not injured) on the ‘Things I’m Loving’ agenda thus far.

I did try a brief run on Monday, with Miss 8, who was so enthused by my return from the half marathon race I did on Saturday (blog post here) that she’s signed herself up for a 5K in August (after checking out the community section of the Santa Barbara Running Company website)!

Unfortunately the mother-daughter run was short lived. After 2 km I needed to phone hubbie to pick us up, as my ankle gave way – too much, too soon.

She’ll have to stick to training around the house and with her Daddy for a couple of weeks!

Aside from wine and talk of exercise (as that’s all I’ve done this week, given my jaw a good work out!), I’m also trying to embrace a heat wave this week. I’m so not used to temperatures over 30 degrees C (86 F) and it’s been close to 40 degrees C this week! It’s great weather for being a lounge lizard, flouncing around in summer frocks, diving in the pool and drinking lots of aqua (and wine), but so hard to do anything (unless it’s in an air conditioned building – and our AC hasn’t been working this week – so that’s not been great…). In the face of no AC we did escape for a teensy spot of cafe and retail therapy (I sound like a complete wimp right now – especially to my buddies in Perth and on the Gold Coast, but hey – I’m a British lass at heart – that’s spent 17 plus years living in windy Welly).

My Miss 8 took a brief pic of me sporting a floaty summer frock, which I’m digging (especially as it was a bargain from Zulily online shopping).

Summer frocks


I’m loving the big sister patience of Miss 10 with Miss 4, as she enthuses over Minecraft architecture! Downside of all this Minecraft action is I end up with less time on my computer (it’s a hard life!). I sit alongside them, listening in on their chatter and enjoying the sound of rainfall in Minecraft land (seeing as rain is such an extreme rarity in drought stricken southern California!).

Also loving Miss 8’s every present energy and determination to keep everyone active (she’ll make a sterling personal trainer!).

Miss 4 is keeping me busy with her story telling talents. Every morning Miss 4 and I wake before the other girls to do the chores in the kitchen and laundry, whilst writing stories. I’m usually multi tasking between making coffee, breakfast and doing dishes, whilst she’s drawing pictures and telling me the story behind them – I then sit down and write up the story to accompany the drawing (she has a pretty wild imagination – as this morning there was a picture of ‘Mummy in a wood, jumping up a giant daisy and leaping off the stem onto the fuzzy chest of a wolf – who was a good wolf – but then Mummy got caught in a booby trap by a baddy and ended up in a cage – luckily the flowers came to the rescue….’). We then usually take a break (whilst I drink coffee) to read some books and play with some sand or play dough outside under the verandah. Bird watching is another fav activity that Miss 4 and I do whilst waiting for the night owls to finally awake from their lie ins!

Finally, we’re loving the memories of the past couple of weeks – having our good friend Frances visit from New Zealand. We miss our home there very much – the children miss their friends especially. We’re thankful to a good friend house sitting all this time we’ve been gone and having caring neighbours over in New Zealand too.

I was reflecting on some old pics earlier this evening and came across this sweet one of Miss 4 (would have been 2 turning 3 in this pic) in front of her play house in our Kiwi garden – of course in bare foot natural pose – the Kiwi way. Love x

Kiwi fun for a 2 year old



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