Missing New Zealand

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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Joining in with…

The Photo Gallery | A Favourite Place – South Coast, Wellington, New Zealand

Less than fifteen minutes walk from our home in Wellington, New Zealand, lies the stunning South Coast, encompassing Lyall Bay, Princess Bay, Houghton Bay, Island Bay and Owhiro Bay.

Princess Bay, Wellington, New Zealand

The bays are met by the shoreline, which gradually rises up into the hills of Wellington. The hills are dotted with houses, balanced out with lush green bush in the town-belt strips; for the local population and visitors to enjoy. The bush has footpaths running through it, inviting explorers to enjoy the native vegetation and greet the birds that call this their home. Whilst Fan Tails flutter in and out of the trees, following your footsteps as you walk, Tui call out from the branches, seeking the nectar rich flax to feast on.

Wellington's south coast

The rugged coastline is of mixed terrain, from rocks to scramble over, and pebbled shorelines, to sandy beaches, that welcome the toes, and sand dunes that invite a picnic, a sketch pad and a book. This isn’t a coastline of long, straight, never ending beach, with uniform sand leading to an overwhelming ocean. This is a place that feels like magic, with nooks and crannies, full of adventure . The water that rolls into the bays is the Cook Strait, a band of sea stretching between New Zealand’s North and South Islands.  On a winters day the snow cloaked mountains of the South Island can be seen from the shore.

Seagulls caw overhead, soaring on the uprising wind currents by the cliffs. This is a place that I feel completely at home, whilst also having a deep sense of wonder and desire to explore. I feel uplifted by the sea, whether it’s like a mirror or a white-water froth of white horses.

The sky is always changing, with the four-seasons in one day weather that the people of Wellington are accustomed. It’s a place that offers a thousand living works of art, that are in constant flux and motion. I am missing it so much right now.

As much as Santa Barbara, California, USA, is beautiful too – it’s dry, drought exhausted land, doesn’t offer the lushness of vegetation I love. There are cactuses and succulents clinging to dry land and trees that stand tall, with little fullness. The beach rolls on and on, with few pebbles and shells to marvel at, and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean feels overwhelming to look out upon. I know many people think I’m nuts to not want blue sky and no rain almost every day of the year, but it just feels too bland in comparison to the drama I’m used to living in Wellington. My personality is one of ebb and flow. On the south coast of Wellington I feel at home, at one with the forever changing landscape of nature.

… and there’s always a good cafe nearby, full of character and rich with community spirit, serving an amazing Latte too (miss you Maranui Cafe, The Bach CafeQueen Sally’s Diamond Deli and, a new one for me to check out when I’m finally home, the Spruce Goose Cafe!).

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Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

A place with no real weather | Prose for Thought

Dare I say, ‘I’m getting used to this place’?

Where the weather barely changes –
apart from the length of light in a day.
Where clouds are cause for exclamation –
and rain is a rare, yet welcome, distraction.

I’ve come from a place that knows big weather,
where a person learns to dress in layers.
Four seasons in one day are quite the norm –
and umbrellas are found frequently torn.

Where the wind rushes through the changes –
faster than the met office can print pages.
People look to the sky and feel the air –
their bodies move with elemental care.

We’ve been here four months and seen rain twice,
I still open the curtains and exclaim –
‘It’s a lovely day, look at that blue sky!’

My British upbringing has strong roots.
My mother’s voice still whispers in my head,
‘Get out in the sun, make the most of it!’

My children are quicker to embrace the new.
Responding to my pleas to ‘get out!’ with,
‘Mum! It’ll still be blue tomorrow!’.

We can plan parties outdoors, without care –
I can let go of ‘Plan B’, in the past I wouldn’t dare!
There are no need for things to weigh everything down,
tarpaulins, indoor venues and frowns.

Do I miss the drama and surprise?
Do I miss the spontaneity –
of going with the weather, changing plans,
in a moment, day by day, hour by hour?

Do I miss the smell of the air after rain?
Days when a walk down the road was a battle –
when the warm car, or cafe, held great appeal,
from where I could wait out the storm and watch –

Maybe I do, maybe I don’t –
Most days I’m happy to wake to the blue.
But in a vacuum of sameness –
do I really feel alive?

Maybe I need to find new ways to feel –
let go of my emotional tie to weather –
go with the sameness and embrace it.

It won’t be forever, this time, this place.
There will be years ahead in lands of weather.
For sure, I’ll look back and yearn for this –
So, come on girl, get used to it!

There are far more important things in life,
than harping on about the weather!!

© Sarah Lee, December 2013

Santa Barbara

For anyone that doesn’t know me – I’m British born, but have spent the past seventeen years living in Wellington, New Zealand. I am currently living in sunny Santa Barbara, California, where there isn’t really any ‘big weather’! My British roots and my time living in ‘windy’ Wellington have made me rather ‘weather focused’… so living somewhere without ‘big weather’ is taking a little getting used to (as lovely as it is too!).

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Prose for Thought

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

A week in reflection: Moments to love & be thankful for.

It’s Friday. The weekend is nearly here, which means family time with the man of the house. It’s so much easier to keep all three of our children entertained when he’s at home. As much as I am enjoying having the girls all at home, I do have moments of feeling like I’m being held under ‘house arrest’ by my own children! There’s always someone that doesn’t want to go out, or a discussion about where we should go and why. Thankfully the house we are staying in is a very lovely environment to spend hours and hours, but I definitely need a couple of ‘outings’ to keep me sane – even if it’s down to the local village for a cup of coffee!

This week we had one outing which was particularly lovely, to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. We’ve been once before, enjoying the outdoor setting, water course, fort building and nature glen. This time around we discovered a ‘Planetarium’ and a new dinosaur discovery pit, where my junior palaeontologists got to work digging and brushing away the sand to reveal a skeleton. They enjoyed discussing what type of animal it would have been and whether it would have been a land, sea or air animal.

Dinosaur excavation at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

We were also opportune to visit on a day that an insect expert was sharing his knowledge. He had a ‘pet’ Vinegaroon to tell us about, otherwise known as a whipped tail scorpion (though it’s not a scorpion at all… See! I was paying attention!). He demonstrated the difference between six-legged insects and eight-legged arthropods and arachnids. He had some wonderful exhibits to show us and was so interesting to listen to.

After listening to him for a while, we made a speedy getaway as a big school group approached, thanking him for his time and feeling quite sorry for him as the crowd descended! We ducked into a fantastic display of more insects and bugs, trying to make our own spider web from a single piece of rope.

Learning at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Talking of rope, there’s been quite a lot of activity happening on the end of one too. Miss 7 has joined the Santa Barbara Rock Gym and, after her Dad took a belay course, she’s spending many an evening scaling the walls and hanging around. We all went along on Monday evening, with even young Miss 3 having a go – but she didn’t like wearing the climbing shoes or a harness, so had to be pulled back down the wall every time she climbed higher than my head!

The rock gym has a super friendly atmosphere and is definitely a great way to expel a little of Miss 7’s seemingly unstoppable energy (and there’s some good eye candy for me when the college lads are scaling the wall!). She went on Thursday evening as well, as a reward for working hard with her tutor that now visits twice a week; just for a couple of hours at a time.

Santa Barbara Rock Gym

I am so loving having a tutor in, to help with Miss 7’s learning. She’ll be eight by the end of this year and has only ever spent a total of two terms in formal school since turning five. It has been great for me to hear, from a professional teacher, that Miss 7 is achieving above average and not at all behind in any of her learning areas. She has a very ‘natural learning’ home environment, where I don’t so much ‘teach’ – rather I ‘facilitate’ her learning, with resources and encouragement. I see her reading, writing, applying mathematics in her every day life, as well as conversing confidently with people we meet in museums, cafes and so on, but do sometimes worry a little about ‘where we are heading’. Thankfully, I know a couple of inspirational people, through the blogging and homeschooling communities, that give me inspiration and faith to ‘trust in the process’. Nevertheless, I appreciate the input of a tutor.

The tutor brings in fresh ideas and energy, such as organising a fabulous practical experiment of ‘goo’ making on Halloween, tying in with the science of understanding the difference of a solid, a gas and a liquid, as well as sitting around the table doing formal learning.

Goo!

Our first ‘US’ Halloween was a very creative one and the evening was spent with lovely ‘Kiwi’ friends, enjoying ‘trick or treating’ in their friendly neighbourhood, where the home decorations were fantastic.

Trick of treating

Everywhere we went, in the weeks building up to Halloween, there were decorations in shop windows, cafes, restaurants – even the local Zoo!

Decorations

And of course the girls loved carving their own plump, orange, pumpkins – which are in very short supply in New Zealand in spring!

Pumpkins

The man of the house turned up to a very different office on Halloween too…

Halloween at work!

In the home this week my older daughters have loved designing and creating, both on paper with traditional pencils (which will probably be found only in a museum in another generation or so!) and on their computers. On paper they’ve been doing fashion design and looking at how fashion has changed over the last century. On their computers they’ve been designing virtual advent calendars on Minecraft.

Miss 3 has been doing lots of drawings and made a ‘turkey’ out of her hand and foot shapes. Her drawings always come with long explanations that I am asked to ‘write down, with arrows’!

Miss 3, 7 & 10, creating

She loves her drawings to be stuck into her ‘Dinosaur Book’ of treasures, that she likes us to read through every night before bed. She is quite taken with animals and dinosaurs at the moment, so we’ve been creating with play dough, as well as paints and drawing. She comes up with some interesting fictional species and tells me their behaviours, what they like to eat and the environments they live in.

Playdough creatures with Miss 3

Alongside her creativity Miss 3 has been showing great progress with recognising all the letters and sounds of the alphabet, numbers and doing simple addition with numbers under 10. She’s trying to write the letters of her name and creates letters with anything she has to hand – straws, play dough, skewers, in the sand or with water on the dry ground. When she’s not writing or drawing, she’s swimming and diving in the pool with great enthusiasm. She makes me smile with her wonderful imagination and living ‘in the moment’ – an art young children practice with ease.

Miss 3 picking me wild flowers and making me smile

So, that’s my week, the first since the clocks went back, throwing us into darkness from 5pm onwards. My body still thinks it is in New Zealand and expects spring sunshine and light till 9pm. I’m trying to compensate, with fairy lights and red wine… but feel totally confused and disorientated after over a decade of adapting to a southern hemisphere build up to the festive season. Thankfully Santa Barbara’s day time climate is beautiful, but I do miss getting out in the light of an evening, when the man of the house is home from work, for a run or some exercise by myself.

Ah well, candles and fairy lights are my friends for now (and my two bears, to make me feel close to my ‘two’ homes, where my heart sits, split in two, on opposite sides of the world).

Fairy lights and teddy bears

Loving – Finding contentment in the moment, whilst aching for New Zealand

Loving the time my daughters are sharing together. I haven’t seen my oldest two so close for years and our youngest is loving the constant interaction of having her older sisters around.

Sisters close through time well spent together

Loving the natural flow of our days, where ‘fitness’ is a swim in the pool, a bike ride to the village or a run on the beach. There’s no classes to dash to, or planned events, simply time for the children to be together and fill their time naturally – which they do with wonderful ease. Though of course they are missing so much from their lives in Wellington, New Zealand too. Our eldest misses her dance classes, her school friends and neighbourhood friends, her choir and singing lesson. At the age of ten, her friends are her world. As much as this experience here is wonderful too, she is keenly aware of missing the continuity of her happy life that she enjoyed so much in vibrant Wellington. The other children miss their close neighbours and friends. I miss my support networks and the friendships that have built up over the seventeen years we’ve spent living in New Zealand.

Where we are, right now, is a beautiful place, but the energy required to make it feel like ‘home’ is HUGE. Yes the weather is incredible here in Santa Barbara – but really that isn’t enough to trade up life-long friendships for and our children’s happiness! I can live with wind – in fact it makes me feel alive (the horizontal rain in the wind isn’t something I miss – but ‘all-weather gear’ helps to battle that!). Yes, the financial rewards of staying and career opportunities for the man of the house are incredible – but again – family, above all else, is so much more important and no value can be placed on that.

Family

So, in the meantime, we are taking each day as it comes. The girls are making the most of this time together as sisters. There is learning happening – but the children don’t call it that, until I point out that the game they’ve invented using a bingo wheel is maths, the songs they have written are ‘creative writing’ and the designs they made on a fashion App is ‘visual art and design’. They play board games, argue on strategy, practice their English grammar with games like ‘Mad Libs‘. They ask for my camera to take photographs of the lizards in the garden, they ask to go to the Zoo, so they can learn more about snakes (my oldest), I walk in on them reading a book at leisure or watching a nature documentary (or Merlin – a favourite at the moment).

When weekends come round, and the man of the house is on deck, we visit museums and parks, and their minds glitter with new interest and questions. During the week we make the most of places in our locality, learning happens everywhere. In the evenings, after work, their Daddy asks them maths problems in the spa pool.

Our youngest is learning the way the others did at the age of three, fast and enthusiastically, moving from cutting and drawing, painting and sticking, to counting her toy trains and ponies, observing sizes and shapes, letters and numbers, full of questions about the world about her, the animals that share the earth and where we are ‘in Space’. She is the best, out of all of us, at living in the moment. She stops to notice the flowers and asks to ‘Pick for Mumma’.

Flowers for Mumma

She sits with me in the garden and watches nature. She sees the woodpecker on the tree and the butterfly gliding overhead.

Woodpecker

We are trying to make the most of the time we have here, trying not to dwell on the aches in our hearts. I spent the first decade of our lives in New Zealand homesick for England, before finally recognising that New Zealand is actually where my home is – however much I will always ache for certain parts of England and the people I love who live there. Right now, I have a feeling of home sickness for two countries! I really don’t know how long term trailing spouses with children do it. I have absolute admiration for families working in diplomatic posts of three year durations at a time in various overseas posts.

This experience, for me, with children, is not at all easy, but I know we will look back on this time, the photographs, the happy moments and forget the pain and we shall feel proud of ourselves for giving this a shot. I can’t say how much I feel proud to be a Kiwi by residency and have three New Zealand born children.

This photograph I bought, whilst in San Francisco, last week, holds a lot of meaning to me.

America's Cup

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Linking up this post with ‘Things I’m Loving’ hosted as ‘Catalina’s Cottage‘ this week

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