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The Photo Gallery | Happy – Finding ‘Happy’ at Disneyland California!

Guess where we are?

Known as¬†‘The Happiest Place on Earth’!

Disneyland!

This visit I am the happiest I’ve been visiting Disneyland California, and it’s not just because of the dashing man by my side (though of course he is a big part of the reason!).

Me & hubbie at Disneyland

It’s also because our Miss 4 has finally reached the magic height of 40 inches, (corresponding with me reaching the age of 40!) which enables her to go on so many more rides!

She stands proud and tall when asked, ‘Can I check your height?’, with a look of determined confidence. She is now able to ride all of our favourite rides in California Adventure Park, like Soaring Over California, Radiator Springs Racers and Silly Symphony Swings. In Disneyland she loves the newly reopened Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Star Tours!

Here she is, between our friend Frances, visiting us from New Zealand, and her Daddy, preparing to go on Soaring Over California:

Soaring over California

Our friend Frances being here is another reason to be super duper happy. We have three adults to three children and everyone is getting to have fun! Hurray!

Miss 8 and Frances hanging out in the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel:

Disneyland Hotel lobby

Frances having a laugh with some flashing ice-cubes that landed in our drinks at the wonderful Blue Bayou restaurant on Monday evening! Fabulous food, wonderful company and superb setting:

Blue Bayou ice cubes

I’m so happy to be dining out and soaking up the good vibes. We had an incredible table for dinner this evening, overlooking the fun of Paradise Pier.

Dinner overlooking Paradise Pier

What a view!

California Adventure

Our older daughters are super happy, now they know the layout of the parks so well, that they feel confident to run onto rides, as ‘single riders’, skipping the long lines of people waiting to ride together. We stay at a cafe nearby, enjoying a drink, whilst they ride to their hearts content! They must have been on California Screamin’ over a dozen times!

We are even managing to get our oldest daughter, Miss 10, to make the occasional appearance in front of the camera, so long as its a ‘Selfie’; those are all good in her book.

Selfie with Miss 10

And Miss 4 is super happy to have her wish to become a mermaid finally come to fruition – at least in painted portrait form…

Alice the mermaid

We have all week here and the weather is scorchio’, the swimming pool inviting and the cocktails…. ahhhh, so happy!

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Linking up with lots of other ‘Happy’
over at ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers blog this week:

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

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

Loving turning Forty in Santa Monica!

My Facebook feed was flooded with lovely messages of ‘welcome to the club’ and ‘forties are the best’ this weekend. It’s been like reliving turning eighteen again, as I’ve watched friends slightly older than me party into their forties and then, last weekend, it was my turn.

It was a fabulous weekend away in Santa Monica, staying at a beautiful hotel overlooking the beach and pier. We shared the weekend with a really wonderful family, that we know from Wellington, who are also living here for a spell, but hold New Zealand in their hearts as their ‘forever’ home. Their gorgeous 4 year old son is a very close friend of our Miss 4 – and their relationship got a little closer at my 40th dinner celebrations… (he proposed!!!!!!)….

So, there’s me feeling like a really old lady, having a daughter get engaged (ha, ha! ‘Watch this space’!) on the same weekend I turned forty… and yet, I felt so ready for this ‘milestone’ Birthday. Of course, I decided to face it head on, battle style. There was no way I was going to head into my forties without a fight. I signed up for a half marathon several weeks before and am running it on 10 May, three weeks fresh from turning forty. After spending my thirties breeding, nappy changing and breastfeeding, it’s great to enter my forties at a new stage in my life. My children are no longer babes and it’s exciting to be ‘growing’ with them (though of course my growing taller days are way behind me – just have to keep on running to keep up with them and earn my chocolate, cake and bubbly!).

Anyway, a fabulous weekend and I don’t feel any need for deep reflection on this milestone Birthday, I’m just so grateful for my health, my family, my friends and living a peaceful life with freedom of choice, that’s full of possibilities.

Thanks dear friends for all your lovely messages. I really do feel fabulous at forty and am looking forward to the adventures this decade in my life will bring.

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Joining in with…

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

Joining in with…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Writers Workshop | Easter

This Easter we are far away from our home (though home, for my husband and I, is forever split between the UK and New Zealand). By home, I mean our literal home, the property we own and have lived in for eight years. Our little patch of New Zealand, on Wellington’s south coast. The place our children call home. The place they were born. The place they love, talk about, and currently miss very much whilst we are living in the USA.

Whilst Wellington, New Zealand, is bathed in an autumnal glow, we are in California, where spring is moving toward summer. For the first time in a decade we are in the northern hemisphere for Easter. We are celebrating in the spring. The last Easter we celebrated in the northern hemisphere was in England, with my family, with our oldest daughter, who was then only nine months old. We enjoyed a wonderful holiday in beautiful Falmouth, Cornwall (blog post over on Catching the Magic) and then had a fabulous reunion of family and friends around the week of my 30th Birthday (photos here).

This year, Easter Sunday corresponds with my 40th Birthday; and I’m quite glad the focus will be placed more on the children’s collection of Easter eggs around the swimming pool, than my growing number of smile lines and grey hairs. But hey, I can still do a head stand, so my old noggin isn’t doing too bad ūüėČ

Headstand on turning forty!

We are spending the weekend away in Santa Monica, hanging out with friends and their children. We anticipate lots of play in the swimming pool, fun at the fair-ground on the pier, and a few pleasurable glasses of wine (that’s after I’ve run my scheduled 12 miles on Friday evening … only 24 days to go till I run the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon to raise funds for brave Elijah!). I can’t say I’m looking forward to running 12 miles on Friday, but I’m sure I’ll be on a high and very proud of myself afterwards. It will be the longest I’ve ran yet. Just 1.1 mile short of what I will have to run on 10 May. I’ll definitely feel proud to finish the half-marathon at the beginning of my forties (I know some friends have ran a full marathon, or more, on the cusp of their fortieth, or at a much earlier age – I really can’t imagine being capable of that – but who knows… maybe for my 50th!!!!).

Anyway, back to Easter and how we’ll be spending the weekend (the turning forty thing is obviously trying to overshadow the real importance of the weekend; which for my children will be chocolate, fair-ground rides and playing in the pool!). We shan’t be dipping and colouring¬†our eggs on Easter Sunday, though we have been doing plenty of that this week (as well as baking some scrumptious cookies and adorning the windows with paper-towels, dipped in dye, to make the windows glow with colour), but will¬†definitely be celebrating love and light on Sunday.

Scrumptious

I shall personally be grateful for my life thus far, blessed with mostly good health; a wonderful family; three happy, healthy, children; and a life richly filled with choices, opportunities and freedom. And, my wish this Easter, is that more people in the world could have this.

Happy Easter!

xx

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Joining in with….

Mama’s Losin’ It

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 Cafe,¬†Queen 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

‚̧ 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 ūüėČ

Weekend Fun Carpinteria & Santa Barbara

Some family weekends are golden and this was one of them, the highlight being a delicious meal at a local restaurant (Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro, Montecito) with all three daughters behaving charmingly.

Family dinner at Pierre La Fonds

It was an impromptu meal out (often preferred to a scheduled, overly anticipated evening) and the love around the table was brimming over (this doesn’t always happen… normally hubbie and I scoff down our food, trying to avoid indigestion, to escape as swiftly as possible without causing a scene!).

It was one of those dining experiences where the children were so good that we had time to request a second drink (and enjoy it, not neck it!) and even requested the desert menu – and followed through with ordering and enjoying every mouthful at a pace that allowed our taste buds to savour what we were eating.

A wonderful end to a beautiful day together (even if I hobbled around most of the day after my most challenging week of half marathon training yet!).

Half marathon training

We’d spent the morning around the pool and the afternoon at the¬†beautiful beach town of Carpinteria, that lies between Santa Barbara and Ventura on the Californian Coast.

Carpinteria

We discovered the delightful Tomol Interpretive Play Area – which is written about in great, illustrated, detail on Michele’s wonderful website, ‘Fun Orange County Parks‘.

Interpretative play area in Carpinteria

Wonderful for younger children, or those that enjoy imaginative, creative play.

Tomol Interpretative play area

After playing for a while we strolled down the high street (Miss 4 with pedal power – more about that in this post). There are some gorgeous, independent, shops in Carpinteria, especially wonderful for arts and craft lovers, as well as some great surf shops (I couldn’t resist a couple of purchases!).

A beautiful town to visit and one that deserves a lot more of our weekend family time ūüôā

Life is currently unfolding in a natural, easy way, with all three girls at home. It’s very nice not having the stress of school and copious hobbies in the mix! I’d much rather hang out with them all day than drive them around from x, y and z like a taxi driver. And I don’t miss having to hound them to do their homework, eat their breakfast in a hurry to get out the door for school and packing them lunches – they have become super self-efficient in the kitchen at preparing their own food this year.

Though it’s not all ‘living the dream’ – for every moment of chillaxing in the SoCal sunshine, there’s a daughter with a water pistol waiting to bring us back down to earth with a cold wake up call… as the man of the house was reminded this weekend!

Don't get too comfortable Daddy!

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!

Linking up with ….

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall