New Zealand

24 hours in England

We touched down at London Heathrow early afternoon on Saturday. Our flight from Los Angeles went smoothly enough – after a delay boarding the plane due to a fatality on the incoming plane from New Zealand. Thankfully, we had access to the Air New Zealand lounge, which was so much more pleasant and peaceful than the alternative. It was a lovely touch of ‘home ‘ for our three New Zealand born daughters. They walked in to a greeting of ‘Kia Ora’ and a big cuddly Kiwi bird. New Zealand wine and beer was available, cheese from the homeland, carrot cake and pictures of red Pohutakawa trees bordering a pristine New Zealand beach.

We enjoyed grazing on snacks, chatting to the cabin crew, watching the World Cup football and the airplanes coming and going.

The cabin crew on the Air New Zealand flight to London Heathrow were so friendly and welcoming; a blend of nationalities from Welsh to Spanish. We settled in for the ten hour flight, with a great assortment of inflight entertainment. The children were all impeccably well behaved on the flight. They didn’t sleep much (probably three hours at tops!), but were quietly happy with the movies and games. The man of the house was delighted to enjoy a ‘Speights’, so he was ‘good as gold… mate’!

When we landed in London, early afternoon, it was morning in Santa Barbara, California. They’d been on the go for 24 hours and were extremely sleep deprived, but still held themselves together for the nearly one mile walk from the airplane to customs!

It was incredibly humid in the airport. By the time with reached the lines of people at customs we were all dripping with perspiration. After a relatively short wait, of around twenty minutes it was our turn to hand over our passports for inspection. Unfortunately our middle daughter was feeling very queasy at this point and shortly after declaring, ‘I feel like I’m going to vomit’, she spewed on the floor at the customs desk. My heart went out to her, whilst my stomach churned. It was all too much for our eldest daughter, who withdrew as far back as possible. Our youngest was sweetly comforting and sympathetic. The staff at customs were so good, offering up water, a cloth for our daughter and a bag for anything else to follow. Poor love.

Half an hour or so later, we finally emerged with our bags at arrivals to be greeted by my dear parents.

Whilst Dan headed off with our eldest daughter to pick up a hire car, I headed off with our two youngest in Grandma & Granddad’s car to their home in Hampshire. We skipped an awful traffic jam on the M25, by driving via Windsor – pointing out the castle on the way.

We spent the rest of Saturday resting. The man of the house enjoyed watching some more World Cup football, having a couple of pints in an English pub with his father-in-law and picking up a primo English curry (the Gulshan in Fleet is such a good’un!).

Our youngest daughter was the liveliest. She was so excited to be at her Grandparents house.

The next day, Sunday, started incredibly early. Miss 4 and Miss 8 awoke before 5am. By 7am Miss 4 was ready for some exercise out and about (she’d already circled the garden, said ‘Good morning’ to the wood pigeons, and eaten a pancake). I headed out to the local swimming pool with Miss 4 and Granddad  – at 7am! We had a really fun time and returned back to the house. Miss 4 was still bursting with energy. Meanwhile Miss 11 awoke and headed up to the local town centre with her Daddy and Grandparents for a full cooked English breakfast, before walking up to the local Calthorpe Park to check out the annual carnival festivities with young Miss 4 in tow.

They all returned about midday, with Miss 4 asleep in the buggy. I’d stopped at the house to keep Miss 8 company – still in recovery mode from the being sick on arrival at Heathrow.

We had a few good hours left to rest before having to head off on another journey – this time to Copenhagen in Denmark. All the girls fell fast asleep and we had to wake them up at 4pm when it was time to leave for Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5.

Terminal 5, London , Heathrow

Terminal 5, London , Heathrow

So, a flying visit to England indeed! Managed to get a quick fix of an English curry, pub and full cooked breakfast though. I managed a nearly 4 mile jog too (on the day we landed – definitely had a touch of cabin fever to expel!). It’s always a great feeling to arrive in England, the birth place of hubby and I. There’s a feeling of completeness, for me in particular, when I’m at my folks home. We bid farewell, knowing we’d be back on British shores again in a fortnight, after a two week business trip for the man of the house in Copenhagen. Phew! Busy times, but precious too.

Our free wheeling 11 year old!

Our oldest daughter has just turned 11 and she celebrated in sunny California (her first ‘summer’ Birthday – as she was born in the middle of New Zealand’s winter – on a particularly wild day in Wellington!). She has grown tall enough to have her first proper bike, with gears and all that jazz, for cruising around. She very much wanted a retro style bike, with a large saddle, mud guards and room for a basket. She’s not keen on mountain biking, but definitely needed some gears for when we get back home to hilly Wellington, New Zealand.

On the morning of her Birthday she slept in – way past midday – finally waking at nearly 2pm in the afternoon (she’d spent the night before on Skype with her New Zealand pals), giving her Daddy plenty of time to go and pick up her new bike. She woke to her sisters greeting her in bed. They had been so excited to see her open her presents and waited very patiently all morning. The afternoon was a wonderfully relaxed one, with the girls all cruising on their bikes down the lane by the house. We ate a very late brunch and celebrated in the evening with a wee cake. Miss 11 was quite overwhelmed (in a good way) at her bike.

Birthday wheels for Miss 11

I was reminded of my own first ‘big bike’, a white racer that I rode throughout my teenage years all around the country lanes of north Hampshire, in England, where I grew up. I have so many fond memories of Sunday bike rides with my Dad and sister (usually with a pub stop for lunch, a coke-a-cola in a glass bottle with a straw and a packet of salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps!). It was wonderful to have those wheels and the freedom to visit friends. I kept my bike well into my University years and spent my first holiday with Dan, my now hubby, cruising around the Isle of Wight on my bike. We spent a week cycling up and down the hills of the beautiful island off the south coast of England, a short ferry ride from Southampton, and camping in a wee tent.

I could see in my daughter’s eyes the significance of this new set of wheels, how she envisioned herself biking around the bays of Wellington and along the waterfront (on those stunning sunshine days – probably not in a howling southerly!). It’s the perfect bike for her.

A few days after her Birthday she ventured out a little further on her bike, enjoying an evening ride with her Daddy around the streets of Montecito in Santa Barbara. The first of many rides!

She also celebrated her Birthday with a visit to a super duper cinema at ‘Muvico Thousand Oaks‘, where she watched Transformers 4 (she loves all things science fiction) in 3D and sat on a ‘D-BOX‘ seat! Her eight year old sister and Daddy joined her. They thought it was amazing and the ‘D-BOX’ seats were a huge hit! 

She’s done so well this past year, having to leave the school she loved in Wellington, New Zealand, to live in California, USA, for a while. She was so brave in making the move. She has missed her friends and school very much, but coped brilliantly. The ‘icing on the cake’ of her Birthday celebrations was the news that we will be flying back to her home in Wellington, New Zealand, in early October this year – just in time for ‘Term 4’ at the school she loves and to be a part of her dance school’s end of year show. She’ll then have the long summer break before starting Year 8 in 2015. She’s so thrilled and the sparkle in her eyes and smile has totally returned.

The Photo Gallery | The Longest Day

It’s normally at this time of year, in New Zealand, that I’m rugged up with a Pinot Noir, glaring at a flickering candle and wishing I was somewhere warmer. There’s a certain romanticism of tucking up and hunkering down for winter – but it wears off pretty quickly (unless of course there’s a ton of fresh powder snow on a mountain nearby!).

This year, I am in the northern hemisphere, seeing in the longest day, and feeling very appreciative of the sunshine, warmth and long daylight hours. I looked at my Facebook feed of updates from family and friends in the northern hemisphere with shared appreciation and not a shred of envy. Meanwhile, I looked at my southern hemisphere pals in New Zealand with admiration – as some were running marathons and half-marathons, others throwing themselves in the water at Lyall Bay for a mid-winter swim and some hitting the snowy slopes.

I suppose I could have thrown myself in the Pacific ocean for a swim, but went for a run instead. I finished up with a beautiful walk along the beach, at high-tide, getting splashed by the break waves hitting the rocks as I carefully made my way from Santa Barbara beach to Butterfly Beach.

Santa Barbara beach to Butterfly Beach at high tide

I wasn’t alone on my walk. This beautiful pair of white heron were never more than ten yards from me. They kept a wary eye on me, not entirely pleased to be sharing their spot with a bumbling, bare-footed, human. I did try to channel my inner mountain goat spirit whilst scrambling over the rocks, but really didn’t look very graceful – although I managed to complete my walk without a twisted ankle, so that’s a result.

White Heron

I feel very fortunate to be here at the moment, knowing that when the daylight hours start to decrease toward winter, I shall be back in Wellington, New Zealand, just as summer approaches. I shall take the memories of this year in southern California with me, where the sky has almost always been blue and outdoor celebrations have rarely needed a ‘Plan B’. There were two summer-solstice weddings set up on the beach, with typical Californian confidence of the weather being good.

I love the light. I can cope with cold, wind and rain, but natural light is like water to my body and soul. It’s been great to have such a good dose of it this year! Definitely good for my health. 

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Joining in with ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers, with this week’s theme of ‘The Longest Day‘.

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…

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 😉

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 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

Signs of Spring in Santa Barbara (where the seasons aren’t easily identified!)

This is my first experience of spring in Southern California. I’ve spent the past decade or so seeing in spring in New Zealand, whilst the northern hemisphere starts getting their autumn / winter fashions out and decking the halls with holly.

This will be the first time in several years that I’ll see Easter in the spring (obviously living in NZ meant celebrating in autumn – but there were still plenty of fluffy chickens, chocolate eggs and bunnies in the shops). It’s also going to be the year I see in my Birthday, my 40th no less, on Easter Sunday (all the more chocolate for me, mwah, ha, ha, ha!).

But I digress from the focus of this post, ‘Signs of spring in my neighbourhood‘ – the fifth prompt on ‘Mama Kats’ wonderful ‘Writer’s Workshop’ this week.

It’s from a balmy winter we have emerged into spring here in Santa Barbara. Winter was far removed from the northern hemisphere winter of my childhood growing up in England. There were no visits from ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘dragon breath’ days were absent. The only real signs of winter were the short days and a few deciduous trees that cooperated and dropped their leaves.

Spring has arrived without much of a fanfare, other than longer days bringing about more freedom to get out the house in the light evenings (a huge high point for me – a lover of light and being outdoors). There are daffodils aplenty for sale in the supermarket and blossom trees are trooping the colour. The ‘strawberry man’ – as my daughters call him – has returned, selling massive trays of strawberries for $12 out the back of his truck.

Rose in the garden

The swimming pool in the garden of the house we’re renting is almost plunge worthy, without needing to be heated, and there’s been a rare day or two of rain. There’s even been some wind, to remind us of windy Wellington and our home in New Zealand (the locals get quite panicked by it here in Santa Barbara, but it’s nothing compared to the flying trampolines, car doors being ripped out of out hands and near death – by self propelling wheelie bins – that we are used to experiencing in Welly!).

On the rare rainy days my children have exuberantly celebrated being able to dance in the rain, with an umbrella not being turned inside out in a nano second or propelling them Mary Poppin’s style through the air.

Spring rain a novelty in Santa Barbara

Humming birds visit the fruit trees in the garden and Monarch Butterfly have emerged from overwintering in the eucalyptus trees of the warm southern Californian coast. Lizards are showing their faces once again, basking in the sun on the rocks around the succulent beds. Miss 4 is following their movements closely, determined to capture one for a pet.

lizard in the garden

The difference between day and night temperatures are less extreme and we are getting our sporting mojo on (in order to counter balance the undoubtedly successful BBQ season to come). I’m off running most days, training for my first half marathon on 10 May, whilst the man of the house has joined a soccer team and is playing a couple of times a week. The children are as active as ever, barely sit down!

Getting our sport mojo on!

Love spring.

Love the return of the light.

Love the extra hours to get out and play, eat and drink! x

Mama’s Losin’ It

An expat Christmas twice over, with some outdoor fun

Any expat will understand that Christmas (that is if it is a holiday that means something to you) is hard away from your home. This year, our first Christmas in Santa Barbara, California, USA, could have been twice as hard – particularly for my British husband and I. We spent our growing up years, till our early twenties, enjoying Christmas festivities in the UK. From then on, we adapted to life in New Zealand – and brought three New Zealand born daughters into the world. We learned a whole new way to celebrate Christmas, southern hemisphere style. We adopted new family traditions, whilst telling our children how we grew up celebrating Christmas in the winter of the UK. We spent hours on Skype with family half a planet away, celebrating Christmas morning, whilst we finished our Christmas Day and turned in for bed.

Christmas become one we celebrated around the BBQ and picnic table in the garden, rather than the dining table in a centrally heated home, and we quickly ditched vegetables for salad, turkey for chicken on the BBQ, and christmas pudding for pavlova. We kept the mince pies, exchanged glazed cherries for fresh strawberries and blueberries. We left Christmas dinner till the evening, and spent lunch at the beach (if the weather played in our favour – southern hemisphere summer in Wellington, New Zealand, isn’t as dependable as Bondi Beach, Sydney, or tropical Queensland, Australia!).

In New Zealand, with daylight beyond 9pm, we ditched fairy lights for mirror balls, that caught the sunlight, and decorated the garden with bunting and wind socks.

This year, in Santa Barbara, we were placed in between, with darkness at 5pm we could go all out on the fairy lights, but the blue sky of sunny California by day allowed us to enjoy some fun outdoors, by the pool and in the sunshine – a mix of both our known worlds.

Of course, family and friends really are what make for a merry Christmas, and we could have easily felt lost this year. Thankfully my dear folks come over from England, arriving a week before Christmas Day, to help aid the festive spirit and make us feel grounded in our new abode. Our children have thrived having the grandparents for extra company. The man of the house took time off. It has been all about family, fun and making the most of every moment. We felt in the present, not weighted down with ‘what might have been’. We dived in the swimming pool, soaked in the spa, lunched at the golf club and enjoyed the festive lights along Santa Barbara’s ‘State Street’.

Christmas in Santa Barbara 2013

Christmas has been wonderful this year, despite being away from our home in Wellington, New Zealand. We have felt more connected, in a strange way, being geographically placed between the UK and New Zealand. We have enjoyed the extended celebrations of being a good 20 hours behind New Zealand’s Christmas celebrations, 8 hours behind the UK and finally seeing in our own Christmas. Instead of making us feeling further away, the time differences have allowed us to watch the unfolding events of dear friends and family, and then enjoy our own. It’s been different, of course, but not difficult.

We are feeling so much more positive about what the New Year will bring. Change is never easy, but it brings unknown surprises, lessons and strengths. For everything we miss, we have gained. For everyone we miss, we are thankful for the modern day world keeping us connected and the memories of great times we’ve shared with them. For everything yet to be, we are more positive and feel stronger to adapt and be flexible. Bring on the New Year… which we are seeing in with my dear folks in the vibrant and beautiful city of San Diego!

Wishing you all the best for 2014 too and hope it brings with it positivity, good health, happy days and plenty of memorable moments.

Sarah xx

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Now go check out the outdoor fun that so many other wonderful folk have enjoyed over the past week….

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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

Feeling Festive | The Photo Gallery

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It’s been so many years since we’ve celebrated the festive season in the northern hemisphere. It took me well over a decade to adjust to celebrating in the southern hemisphere – and just when I thought I’d finally done it… I went and jinxed it! Spending Christmas in Santa Barbara is a wonderful ‘best of both worlds’ place to be. The days are always sunny, the days – of course, being in the northern hemisphere, are shorter, the evenings cooler, but rarely freezing, and the lights – everywhere – are beautiful.

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It gets dark at 5pm and with little wind, or inclement weather, outdoor decorations are able to be on display without risk of failure. It’s glorious to be out in the evening and enjoy the festivities, of which there are plenty. Just this weekend there was a Christmas Parade on Friday evening and a wonderful ‘Festival of Trees’, where Miss 3 was awe-struck to see Santa ice-skating. She also had a jolly good go at it herself, as well as decorating a beautiful stocking.

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Of course my heart is still in the two places I love – my birthplace and home of some twenty-three years – the U.K. – and my ‘adopted’ country and place that welcomed my three daughters into the world – beautiful New Zealand. I miss the beautiful red, flower of the Pohutukawa tree in New Zealand – it’s bloom always arriving to welcome Christmas and summer simultaneously, and the long days and light to savour celebrations at ease with my family and friends. My heart is also with my friends and family in England (though, admittedly, I have less of a desire to be there, in the frigid conditions of winter, where it’s dark at 3.30pm and the days quite often grey and overcast – at least with children in tow – however I could definitely enjoy some couple time with hubbie in the many gorgeous pubs and strolling the lit streets of London town!).

But despite my heart feeling forever torn, there is enough room for it to feel happy in Santa Barbara this year. We are blessed with the excitement of having my parents visiting from the UK to celebrate the festivities and a wonderful house to call home for a year. It’s easy to make it feel festive, with a few twinkly lights and some adornments to remind us of a summer Christmas and our roots in the U.K. There have been a few additions to mark our time here in the USA too… Mickey Mouse couldn’t help but make an appearance!

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Our lovely landlady here gifted us some decorative delights, including red flowers that tie in both the beautiful Pohutukawa of New Zealand and the poinsettia, one of my all time favourite Christmas flowers. Our lovely New Zealand neighbours, that recently visited us, sent a gorgeous poinsettia as a thank you, which brings us so much love and happiness.

And, the lights, everywhere, lining the streets and shopping malls, are totally magic. So with memories of our recent visit to a Christmassy Disneyland  and the company of our New Zealand friends, we are feeling ready to celebrate the festivities and welcome in 2014!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! xxx

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Linking up with other lovelies on the theme, ‘Feeling Festive’, here…

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery