country kids

Exploring Portmeirion Village in North Wales

In an exquisite natural location of breathtaking beauty sits the artfully designed village of Portmeirion in North Wales. During our week’s stay in North Wales this was one of the highlights. Travelling in a large family group, a blend of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, can make finding a day-trip to suit everyone a challenge – but this worked out a treat.

The younger members of our group weren’t sure that they were going to enjoy it and one of our daughters was overcome with hay-fever on arrival (thankfully she was calmed by her rock of a Daddy, after finding a heavily air-conditioned cafe). We split into groups to explore and I headed off with two of my daughters and two nephews.

Cousins

They quickly got into the character of the place and I had so much fun accompanying them. We meandered through the village and down to the coastline, admiring the scenery; that opened up before us, through the Italian styled architecture hugging the land.

Beautiful scenery

Portmeirion is a place that opens up the mind to creativity and it’s easy to see why it was used as a film location for a Dr Who episode and ‘The Prisoner‘.

My group of explorers were inspired to pose for the camera without any suggestion or prompting from me!

It was easy to escape into other worlds and be completely in the moment. I would have loved to have stayed for a long weekend, in one of the many choices of accommodation in the village. Hotel Portmeirion is beautifully situated on the estuary front and was the original mansion of Aber Iâ. It was built around 1850 and first described by Richard Richards in 1861 as, “One of the most picturesque of all the summer residences to be found on the sea-coast of Wales”. Famous guests here include H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Noël Coward and Sir Kenneth Clark.

I’ll have to wait for my children to be full grown and maybe revisit with my husband in our ‘silver hair’ years! I did manage to entice my group to sit and enjoy the view for a moment, so that I could at least ‘imagine’ a weekend of decadent relaxation. I ordered a Pimms for myself and a tray of club sandwiches for us all to eat. Most delightful, especially in the glorious sunshine.

Pausing for a drink

We stepped down onto the sand and marvelled at the expanse of the tidal estuary of the River Dwyryd.

It was hard to leave such a beautiful, serene place, but before long we knew it was time to rejoin the rest of our family group.

Cousins

We bid farewell to the natural scenery and walked back up hill into the architectural splendour of the village, set amongst lush forest land – reminiscent of New Zealand’s bushland.

We went on a little train ride around the forest land. With the heat it felt like being in a tropical rain forest! I would have loved to have enjoyed more time to walk through and explore the extensive grounds and gardens.

‘Before anyone took an interest in developing the Portmeirion Peninsula, the natural vegetation would have been sessile oak with birch, rowan and locally in wet areas alder and willows. The soil would have been a thin skeletal, acidic brown earth on Cambrian shales and grits which would have dried out very quickly as it does today.

The climate is very mild , winter frosts are rare and this has allowed plantings of tender exotic genera and species in common with many Cornish gardens.’ (Gardens of Portmeirion)

 After the train ride we found the rest of our party and enjoyed a final walk around the main village before heading back to the caravan park.

On the scenic drive back to the Hafan Y Mor Caravan Park we marvelled at yet more beautiful scenery and passed by one of Wale’s many castles. Such a magical landscape.

Welsh castle

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A place to play in central Copenhagen

We stumbled across a lovely playground in the centre of Copenhagen on a hot summer’s day. A paddling pool invited the children to splash around and cool down. Ride-on bikes lay about for children to freely play on.

ride-on fun

A welcoming hut had toys outside, akin to a pre-school, but all the toys were for passing children to enjoy, share and play with.

The spirit of community was strong and as visitors to Copenhagen we were greeted with welcoming smiles.

Playground and community hub in Copenhagen

It was a beautiful play-area and a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. A couple of children’s tennis racquets sat invitingly on a bench next to a swing-set . Miss 4 had a great time knocking the ball back and forth with me, whilst Miss 8 had fun nearby on the swings.

A beautiful imaginary play area, including carved wooden horses, totem poles and canoes, was surrounded by trees with bird boxes. As the children played I could hear baby chicks chirping from within the bird-boxes.

What’s more, there was a cafe that served a superb latte for the adults and ice-lollies for the children. Perfection!

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We visited this playground, Skydebanehaven, a few times over the 12 nights we stayed in Copenhagen (earlier blog post here). It was only a ten-minute stroll from the apartment where we stayed and just the place for children to be happy, nestled in a natural retreat within the city.

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Parenting Moments to Love – whilst we lay low between travel adventures!

We’ve been very much home bodies after our exciting week away in San Francisco, with side trips to Santa Cruz and Monterey. It’s been nearly three weeks since we got back and we’ve been very self contained in the house we’re renting in Santa Barbara, till the end of August this year. The three girls are so content with their own projects that we rarely feel the need to get away from house and having a swimming pool in the backyard gives a wonderful release when indoors gets too much! I also think there’s an unconscious need to pace ourselves – as we tend to go ‘all out’ on exploring mode when we’re away; and we’ve recently had the news that we’ll be travelling to Europe in a week’s time!

Yes, we’re off to Copenhagen, in beautiful Denmark, for the first two weeks of July, followed by a week in North Wales, in the UK, visiting family and a week in Hampshire, south of London, in the UK, visiting more family. The first two weeks hubby will be working and I’ll be navigating the streets of Copenhagen with my three daughters (once we’ve got over the jet-lag!). Thankfully daylight hours extend to nearly midnight – so I’ll probably encourage the girls to lay low in the morning and party hard in the evening, once their Daddy has finished work!

All this travel is definitely exciting, but kind of exhausting with children too! So, when we’re not travelling, this is how we pass the time – and it’s pretty special too…

In between the crafting, imaginary play, rabbit chasing and Minecraft Skype sessions with friends, late into the night, there have been copious games in the swimming pool,  song writing, singing, reading and quieter moments to watch the birds nesting in the eaves of the house we’re staying. I’m going to miss this year of natural learning, without having to rush out the door to be somewhere at a particular time. It’s been wonderful to have all three girls at home, interacting, living, playing and being together.

I’ve enjoyed stretching out on the yoga mat, under the endless blue sky of southern California, and heading out the door for runs in the evening. The girls inspire me with their energy, often encouraging me to dive into the swimming pool with them, to try a new stretch or go for a run on the local running track. In the past few weeks they’ve been down the batting cage and to the climbing wall. There’s always something happening, but it’s all unscheduled, natural flowing action.

In preparation for our next trip away I have loaded up a Danish App on our gadgets, so we can use our manners in the native language whilst in Copenhagen! The girls are looking forward to the adventure and have been watching YouTube videos about Copenhagen and experimenting with the language. We’re staying in a lovely apartment, in central Copenhagen, near an area known as ‘Little Paris’ (good coffee and Danish pastries!).

Our travelling will soon take us back to New Zealand too, as after this trip we shall have a couple more months in California, USA, before heading back to our home in Wellington, New Zealand! It’s the birth place and home of our children. Our children, particularly our eldest daughter, very much miss their friends and their home. It will be good, in many ways, to get back to the community and good friends we know and love – but a part of me will miss the travelling! Thankfully, with my daughters getting older, I feel a few more independent trips of exploration on the horizon.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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.

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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!

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❤ 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

Sand dune action

The other week, on a drive down to Disneyland California with a friend, we stopped off on the Pacific coast for some sand dune action. The children went up to the top with no hesitation, before pelting it down in a storm of sand! Fantastic fun.

Heading up the sand dune

I would have joined them, but I was limping on a dodgy ankle and didn’t want to do any further damage. Our friend took this snap of hubbie and I with two of our three daughters, which I kind of like – so thought I’d throw it in for the memory box!

Hugs on the sand dune

Whilst hubbie ran up the sand dune, with our daughters, I caught the action as they bowled down towards me…!

This was their view from the top, looking down!

Looking down from the top of the sand dune!

Meanwhile, circling on the air currents above us, huge pelicans looked upon our antics.

Pelicans

A great pit stop on our road trip to Disneyland with our Kiwi friend Frances.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Country Kids – more like ‘Spy Kids’!!!

Okay, last weekend we had a blast. I turned forty in style, celebrating in Santa Monica, California.

Santa Monica

My daughters LOVED the beach gym that brings the community and tourists together for some active fun.

Beach gym Santa Monica

There were some serious gymnast types, flexing muscles on the ropes and swings cirque du soleil style. I was in awe of their strength and flexibility (also made for nice eye candy in the background of the holiday photo snaps I was taking of my children!).

Eye-candy in the background!

My children were amazing too (aren’t children always?!).

Hanging around at Santa Monica beach

I tried… but alas, it’s been too many years since I accomplished monkey bars – but if I had that set up on my door-step I would totally be enthused to get back to that place in my childhood when monkey bars were my best friend!

And they had swings that were super sized for adults to actually fit their arses in and feel like a kid all over again! Yes!!

Me going HIGH on the swings!

This video features a snippet of hubbie having a blast, as well as Miss 3 swinging ‘Tinkerbell’ style (and Miss 8 & 10 showing off their incredible strength!)…

And if you’re in for more action then here’s a video that my Miss 8 put together using iMovie (she threw together video clips from the past fortnight, not just shots from Santa Monica beach, but the video tells its own story… and what I’m living in every day with her being at home ‘unschooled’! What an active lass indeed – and yet, she can still read, write and do maths – just prefers to do it all standing on her head x ! )…

Hope you’ve found some outdoor fun to enjoy in your neck of the woods this past week. I didn’t manage to keep up with my children on the monkey bars, but I have ran my first half marathon in just over two hours (with a sore ankle to boot!), so I’m now feeling amped for chilling out a little, before running some more to earn my wine (just hoping the frozen pea and elevation treatment will work magic on my ankle!)!

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Linking up this post with the amazing Country Kids at Coombe Mills, where you can find tons of inspirational posts from folks who enjoy outdoor fun and action with their children!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Country Kids | Active snapshots from our week

Sharing some active snapshots from the past week of my three active daughters…

Swinging in the garden under a shady tree, with friendly lizards and birds for company –

Swinging in the garden

Climbing at the playground, with the agility of monkeys, the enthusiasm of bees chasing pollen, and the confidence of feeling comfortable in their own bodies –

Climbing at the playground

Active in the home, just as much as outdoors, even baking in the kitchen is interspersed with some door frame exercise!

Activity in the kitchen

Doing yoga in the garage, a full Mum and daughter activity!

Yoga time!

And even eating ice-creams they prefer to balance on a wall than sit on a seat!

Icecreams in the sun

Hope you’ve had a lovely week of active fun and enjoy a wonderful Easter. We are heading off to Santa Monica to celebrate Easter and my 40th Birthday! Going to have some active fun at the fairground on the pier! xx

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Let’s Go Ride! Miss 4 & Her New Cycling Adventures

She’s got pedal power and she’s not afraid to use it! She’s done her practice ‘miles’, with cycling around the house and down the lane. This week Miss 4 decided she had what was needed to make it from the house to the village, and back, on her wheels (with a stop for a bite to eat and something to drink mid-way at Pierre La Fonds).

The way there was up hill all the way – and dear Daddy aided her pedal power with some back crippling pushing (he totally deserved his poached eggs on toast).

On the return journey it was downhill all the way, but Miss 4 wasn’t interested in breaking any speed records. She was happier to enjoy the scenery, stopping every few minutes to point out a flower, take a drink, and eat some salad.

Pedal and point

A lizard was worth stopping for, a butterfly and a hummingbird too.

Flowers of every colour bordered the pathway and Miss 4 picked a small collection to make a posy for her Mummy.

Picking a posy of flowers for Mamma

A beautiful sunshine, Sunday morning, all the better on wheels!

Flowers of every colour

Go Miss 4! We look forward to many more pedal power adventures!

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

An active week in Santa Barbara – and yes, I am running a half marathon…

Between the game play (Minecraft), the crafting (Rainbow Looming) and all the preschool arts and crafts (baking ginger-bread men, sand play, painting, imaginary story telling and so on…) there’s been a lot of action in the house in California this week. My New Zealand born children have been energised with slightly cooler temperatures and rain (yes, rain!). We took a trip to the the local zoo in Santa Barbara (we signed up for annual membership, since we are here for a year) and spent a few hours enjoying some action, with a touch of animal education – but mostly ‘physical education’!)…

We also visited a fav park – Goleta Beach Park, for a kick around, as well as a park near the Zoo – where we played ball-tag, baseball, climbing and anything that stretched a limb!

Opposite Santa Barbara Zoo park

After my 8km run on Monday (in training for a half-marathon – my first – in May) I was on ‘cross fit’ day – so certainly got my exercise in – in a round about way! Why a half-marathon? Well, I’m turning forty in April, so it seemed the right thing to do – plus I’m doing it for a very good cause (yes, I need the motivation!). Also, the run is in ‘wine country’ – the ‘Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon’… aye, I’m no saint!

Monday's run

Oh and, whilst I’m at it, I did a decent run on Friday too (which was followed by reading Facebook updates of forty something friends in NZ completing a half-marathon in Wellington… which resulted in me signing up to do one – inspiration through Facebook – it’s real!).

Friday night's run

The run on Friday was swiftly followed by a vegetarian curry (thanks hubby and the wonderful curry house ‘Tamira Santa Barbara‘ that made it). Sunday, I should have gone for a run – but had friends around for a pirate shin dig (but that’s another post), in honour of our youngest lass having just turned four (didn’t seem real till we’d celebrated with some ‘Kiwi’ mates!). A pirate shin dig wouldn’t have seemed right without a few drinks to wash down the salty BBQ food.. ahem… (any excuse) so I indulged as any pirate would (given the chance) and set the world to rights (on the running front) on Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday were followed with lots of planking, squatting, yoga moves and gentle weights throughout the day – combined with multiple trips up, down, round, square and figure of eight; chasing dirty laundry, plates, children and chaos. And now, Wednesday night, I sit listening to the wonderful (and extremely rare) sound of rain thinking, ‘I really should have gone for a run today as I’m drinking far too much wine!’. Tonight, along with drinking wine, has been a fun one of putting out multiple rain catching containers with Miss 4 (she obviously recalls the drought in Wellington, NZ, of summer 2013, which I wrote about here and here, over at ‘Catching the Magic’), baking gingerbread men (she found the cookie cutters, whilst emptying a large plastic box – to use for rain collecting, and decided baking was the needed… and boy am I glad she did… as I sit here typing, wine fuelled, with the munchies!) and drinking rain water (well, wouldn’t you if it hadn’t rained more than 3 days in six months?!… never mind the water might be polluted!).

So, there you have it. A little post for the week to link up with the lovely active folk over at ‘Country Kids‘ who make the most of the weather in the wonderful UK, whatever it may be, and get out with their children to enjoy a bit of action x

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall