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❤ Paper towel art, birds, snails, ice-cream, wine-tasting & running!

A few things I’m loving from the past week…

❤ Colourful paper-towel art – dipped with fascination, in food coloured water; observed in awe, as the paper towel absorbed the colours; unravelled with surprise, as the pattern was revealed; put out to dry with love and a toy animal, to stop the breeze blowing away the artwork; and finally taped up on the kitchen windows to enjoy in the light.

Colourful paper dye artwork

❤ Loving the ‘Scoop‘ in Montecito, for its amazing ice-cream, frozen yoghurt, gelato, fresh waffle cones and welcome, heart of the community vibe, plus a good latte  (much appreciated from a coffee loving Mum, used to only the finest; from the coolest little capital in the world – Wellington, New Zealand; recently mentioned, by CNN, as one of the world’s great coffee cities!).

We went along on Sunday for the Scoop’s tenth Anniversary celebrations and spent a very entertaining hour watching a fun magician. The man of the house, Miss 4 and Miss 8,  volunteered to be the magician’s assistants… well, the man of the house not so much volunteered – but wasn’t going to let the team down! Ha!

Entertainment at The Scoop

 Loving Miss 4 and her nurturing of animals, from Sea Monkeys she has grown from eggs to ‘pet’ snails she has taken in from the garden.

Miss 4 and her pet snail

❤ Loving the beautiful birds that visit the Santa Barbara garden of the house we’re renting.

Santa Barbara garden visitor

We love to watch them drinking and bathing in the water fountain.

A beautiful bird in the garden

❤ Loving a few hours of wine tasting, with a yummy Mummy friend, exploring the ‘Funk Zone’ of Santa Barbara and sampling some delicious wines.

We found a wonderful place called ‘The Lark‘, which reminded us of Wellington’s cafe and restaurant scene, in that it had such originality in its decor and ambiance – not just a run of the mill place. Every piece of furniture had a story to tell. There were old bath tubs overflowing with wild flowers, antique cutlery, picked piece by piece, from a pre-loved home.

At The Lark

The bill even came in a novel way – tucked inside an old book (I’m sure the title of the book was chosen dependent on the client – I received, ‘A Fat Old Englishman’, my friend, ‘The Road Less Travelled’). Inside the pages, there were only a few – most had long gone, people had written their comments on their own experience at ‘The Lark’. A wonderfully novel and entertaining idea!

A bill with a difference at The Lark

❤ Loving that Miss 8 and 10 entertain themselves so well and are getting on the best they ever have since they were preschoolers (school, unfortunately, put a wedge in their relationship for a while). They are still loving rainbow band looming and Minecraft gaming. They are super duper with Miss 4 too, who I spend most of my day with. She shadows me in the home, helping with all the daily tasks and filling them creativity, song and her smiling face.

❤ Loving running (but will be glad, in a way, when the training for the half marathon is done!). At the moment I am focused on getting in the miles and building strength and speed for the half marathon on 10th May. I’m amazed at how the progress is coming along. The hours I’ve put in have been well spent. I’m feeling fitter than I have in years (which is a great way to feel when my fortieth Birthday is only a few sleeps away!). I feel guilty when I stop to take a photograph and enjoy the scenery – as I’m just so focused on the training! I shall enjoy resuming normal ‘running’ for pleasure and fitness and the pure fun of it after the race!!

Running for half marathon training

Last night I was supposed to run 9 miles, but on the way back I became mesmerised by the full moon coming up on the horizon and had to stop on the beach to savour it.

Full moon on Santa Barbara beach

Tonight, I shall make up for those lost miles, but I’m still proud of myself for running nearly 6 miles last night, in under 8 and a half minutes a mile. That’s a big improvement on what I found do-able five weeks ago!

Running

Hope you are finding lots to love wherever you are in the world too x

Oh, and Miss 4 requested I share her sea monkeys with the world 😉

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