santa barbara

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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Joining in with the lovely…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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!

IMG_3944

❤ 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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Linking up with…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Things I’m Loving – whilst I can’t run – WINE :)

It’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day in New Zealand – 16 May – and whilst I sit here sipping a local Napa Valley, Californian white, I came across this beautiful little video about the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wines (a fav spot of the hubbie and I – and the sweet spot where he proposed to me back in 1997!).

I’m out of action on the running front at the present time, with an ankle injury, but my wine glass tipping wrist is in perfect form and couldn’t be more delighted that I’m on a forced break from training (though I am feeling a little guilty at the lack of physical action and have hence signed myself up for a beach yoga class this coming Sunday – got to love this southern californian climate – where beach yoga is something that can be pre-scheduled and rarely need a ‘Plan B’, due to the almost constant blue sky, sunshine, minimal wind climate (though the Santa Ynez winds can be a nightmare, especially for the firefighters – currently fighting a seasonally early outbreak of fires around the San Diego area).

So, we have wine, yoga, beach, sunshine and running (when not injured) on the ‘Things I’m Loving’ agenda thus far.

I did try a brief run on Monday, with Miss 8, who was so enthused by my return from the half marathon race I did on Saturday (blog post here) that she’s signed herself up for a 5K in August (after checking out the community section of the Santa Barbara Running Company website)!

Unfortunately the mother-daughter run was short lived. After 2 km I needed to phone hubbie to pick us up, as my ankle gave way – too much, too soon.

She’ll have to stick to training around the house and with her Daddy for a couple of weeks!

Aside from wine and talk of exercise (as that’s all I’ve done this week, given my jaw a good work out!), I’m also trying to embrace a heat wave this week. I’m so not used to temperatures over 30 degrees C (86 F) and it’s been close to 40 degrees C this week! It’s great weather for being a lounge lizard, flouncing around in summer frocks, diving in the pool and drinking lots of aqua (and wine), but so hard to do anything (unless it’s in an air conditioned building – and our AC hasn’t been working this week – so that’s not been great…). In the face of no AC we did escape for a teensy spot of cafe and retail therapy (I sound like a complete wimp right now – especially to my buddies in Perth and on the Gold Coast, but hey – I’m a British lass at heart – that’s spent 17 plus years living in windy Welly).

My Miss 8 took a brief pic of me sporting a floaty summer frock, which I’m digging (especially as it was a bargain from Zulily online shopping).

Summer frocks

 

I’m loving the big sister patience of Miss 10 with Miss 4, as she enthuses over Minecraft architecture! Downside of all this Minecraft action is I end up with less time on my computer (it’s a hard life!). I sit alongside them, listening in on their chatter and enjoying the sound of rainfall in Minecraft land (seeing as rain is such an extreme rarity in drought stricken southern California!).

Also loving Miss 8’s every present energy and determination to keep everyone active (she’ll make a sterling personal trainer!).

Miss 4 is keeping me busy with her story telling talents. Every morning Miss 4 and I wake before the other girls to do the chores in the kitchen and laundry, whilst writing stories. I’m usually multi tasking between making coffee, breakfast and doing dishes, whilst she’s drawing pictures and telling me the story behind them – I then sit down and write up the story to accompany the drawing (she has a pretty wild imagination – as this morning there was a picture of ‘Mummy in a wood, jumping up a giant daisy and leaping off the stem onto the fuzzy chest of a wolf – who was a good wolf – but then Mummy got caught in a booby trap by a baddy and ended up in a cage – luckily the flowers came to the rescue….’). We then usually take a break (whilst I drink coffee) to read some books and play with some sand or play dough outside under the verandah. Bird watching is another fav activity that Miss 4 and I do whilst waiting for the night owls to finally awake from their lie ins!

Finally, we’re loving the memories of the past couple of weeks – having our good friend Frances visit from New Zealand. We miss our home there very much – the children miss their friends especially. We’re thankful to a good friend house sitting all this time we’ve been gone and having caring neighbours over in New Zealand too.

I was reflecting on some old pics earlier this evening and came across this sweet one of Miss 4 (would have been 2 turning 3 in this pic) in front of her play house in our Kiwi garden – of course in bare foot natural pose – the Kiwi way. Love x

Kiwi fun for a 2 year old

 

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Joining in with…

The Photo Gallery | Theme of the week ‘Up Close and Personal’

It’s scorching in southern California and this British Mamma & her Kiwi born daughters are seeking out ways to cool down (especially with the air conditioning broken and the temperature inside the house reading over 88°F 31.1°C!). Outside, around the swimming pool (thank the heavens hubbie rented a house with a pool!) it’s in the 90’s and there’s a choice of take shade or get wet! Miss 8 has the right idea… whilst I zoomed in with my camera to get up close!

Heatwave pool time!

My favourite place to sit is in the shade of the house’s verandah, watching the gorgeous little birds flitting about in the shade with me, building their nests. This little visitor was very friendly and photogenic.

Nest building is hot work for birds, taking a break in the shade

Miss 4 couldn’t quite decide what to do with herself in the heat, playing with the ribbon of a balloon she’d given me for Mother’s Day (or should I say, ‘Mom’s’ Day as it’s better known in the USA!). I don’t get out the camera and get up close enough, and this photograph reminded me that I should more often!

I love the beautiful green of her eyes…

Alice and Mom's Day Balloon

as much as her long lashes as she cherishes the balloon for a moment.

Miss 4 and the Mom Day balloon!

Before finally hitting the pool, Miss 4 joined her oldest sister, Miss 10, for a spell of Minecraft. Miss 10 is definitely more of a winter loving lass!

I love the way Miss 4 gets up on a surf board now (though she’s yet to sample a real wave in the sea on one!).

Miss 4 the surfer girl

Miss 8 really looks the part with her sun bleached Californian locks and tan!

Sophie surfer girl

All the swimming soon had Miss 4 asleep on the couch, enjoying a late avo siesta. Bless!

Siesta time!

She later woke up with energy to play with her best friend Ollie, who’d arrived whilst she was slumbering.

Miss 8 carried on surfing, splashing and cooling down in the water for the rest of the avo, whilst the rest of us sought out the shade (and a cool beer for Mamma and her visiting friend!).

Miss 8

Here’s hoping the air conditioning gets fixed soon, but at least we have ways to cool down – might have to put the bed sheets in the freezer before I go to sleep tonight though!!

Joining in with….

 

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

My first half marathon – in the bag & for a great cause!

I woke at 5am feeling nervous about whether my ankle was going to hold out for me to complete the half marathon in the beautiful wine country of Santa Barbara, California. I wasn’t just running to achieve a goal for myself, or to take in the beautiful scenery surrounding of the Santa Ynez Valley, but running for a cause. A close friend in New Zealand has a wonderful son who battles with pain day and night. He has rare ‘Prune Belly Syndrome’, amongst other conditions. His name is Elijah and through all the pain he suffers he keeps his humour and fights to embrace life with all he’s got. His spirit is supported by his wonderful brother and sister. They are amazing in helping their solo Mum take care of Elijah.

running for Elijah

I’d given myself just eleven weeks to train for the half marathon. Before the training I’d never ran past 10 km (around 6 miles). I had to work to build up strength and stamina, whilst all the time feeling grateful and in awe of what my healthy body could achieve the more I trained. Along the way friends, family and strangers rallied around to donate to help Elijah, through the fundraising page I’d set up on Give a Little NZ – Running for Elijah (which is still open for any last minute donations!). I hoped to raise $NZ 500, but my hopes were gratefully exceeded.

Race day came and my hubbie woke early with me. We were lucky to have a friend staying from NZ and she’d kindly said she’d look after our three daughters, whilst hubbie drove me to the race (a 40 minute drive from Santa Barbara). It meant the world to me having him there.

He dropped me off at the start point, where I picked up my bib and took a swig of energy drink. Then I joined the lines of people waiting to use a porta loo, where the humour and pre-race atmosphere was high. In the sky above the throngs of runners, nearly 3,000 in total, a Go Pro camera hovered on a mini helicopter device, taking in the scene.

With minutes to the start time, of 7am, I dashed from the porta loo (made it just in the nick of time, phew!) to the race. I looked for the pacer holding the two and a half hour sign. I knew, if I wasn’t for my ankle, I could have lined up with the 1 hour 50 minute pacer, but I was planning to start out at a comfortable pace and hope to high heaven my ankle would hold it together.

Start line

In training I always had a tendency to start off fast, but there was no chance of that in the race. I was surrounded by a sea of bodies moving happily in the same direction and the pace was comfortable.

First mile

After the first mile I started to edge forward, until by the sixth mile I knew I was going to finish the race. The sea of bodies had turned into a gentle flow over the country lanes. I had space to run and had found my pace. The scenery was beautiful. I felt like I was back in New Zealand, in the wine country of the Wairarapa at the bottom of the North Island.

Beautiful scenery

Along the course locals stood at their gates with coffees in hand and cow bells clanging in support. Every couple of miles friendly folks offered up water at the water stations and gave words of support.

The course undulated over rolling hills and for every uphill push there was a flying down hill decent, which I leaned into and relished.

Up the hill!

By the tenth mile I felt a little lag in my legs, but just kept going. My energy levels were dropping a little, but my spirit was strong. The uphill sections felt a little tougher, but the supporters along the way kept me running, along with my inner voice telling me to just keep on going!

I was so relieved to see the finish line and the throngs of people cheering me in. I scanned the crowd, looking for my hubbie, but heard him before I saw him. ‘Sarah!’ he called out. Hearing my name from his lips was music to my ears.

As I crossed the line in 1 hour 57 minutes and 16 seconds, a friendly face handed me a medal and I slowly walked through the crowds to my waiting hubbie.

At the finish line!

I did it! I couldn’t believe it and was so thankful to my ankle for holding out.

Elijah’s running tags on my laces had given me strength and a sprinkling of fairy dust 😉

After strolling around Solvang, and getting in a post race latte, hubbie drove me back to Santa Barbara, with the top down on the VW and the sun smiling down on us.

Driving home

My daughters gave me a wonderful greeting when I walked in the front door and spent the rest of the day telling me how they wanted to race too. Miss 8 even took her Daddy out for the first stage of a couch to 5k training schedule (whilst I rested my ankle on ice!).

Linking up with…

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 🙂

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!

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

Running the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon – for a good cause & other reasons…

I’m into my third week of training for my first half marathon and loving it. The run is on 10 May 2014 in Santa Barbara’s Wine Country. I will have turned forty the month before, making it a great event to really kick start this next decade of my life.

Santa Barbara harbour

I plan on making my forties full of action, to keep pace with my three active daughters, and to rediscover a slice of the ‘old me’ that was always running off exploring in my twenties (before I got busy with making babies in my thirties!).

Running Santa Barbara beach

I am running for a great cause – ‘Running for Elijah‘ – (certainly helps to keep me motivated and stick with the training!); whilst staving off a mid-life crisis (although it could be argued – by some of my friends – that running a half marathon is a mid-life crisis in itself!) and dependence on wine & chocolate… (of course those still figure in my life – I’m just trying to make them minor blips – not full feature spreads!).

Running in the heat of the day

I’m also running for my daughters, as there is no better way to teach than to lead by example. They are all active individuals already, but seeing their parents continue to be active throughout life will help to set in place that lifestyle for them too. We all motivate and spur each other on, in our own ways, and I’m so grateful that they realise how important exercise is for us all (thank you my girls – Mamma is a much happier Mamma when she can run!).

Santa Barbara beach

I’m also so thankful to my hubbie for making the extra effort to be there to look after his gorgeous daughters, whilst I go out running. Just tonight, we met him down the beach, near where he works, so I could run whilst they played around at the park.

I’m following a great training schedule, that’s building my strength and endurance gradually, without me risking an injury early on. I am so tempted, every day I go running, to run more and more, to keep going until I can’t move my legs anymore; but, the training schedule holds me back and keeps me from doing that.  It’s exciting to build up to race day and I’m enjoying not just the focus of having a ‘race day’, but making running and exercise a priority for me.

Santa Barbara bird reserve

I’m also loving the scenery and opportunity to explore parts of Santa Barbara, whilst I run. I’m grateful for the time to pause and take in the landscape around me.

Whale tail Santa Barbara harbour

I run on sand, on trails, on road and footpaths. I run whenever I’m free to run. I run because I love to run and running makes me feel free.

Santa Barbara

Miss 3 & I visit The Mission in Santa Barbara, California

Weekends are my golden time with my youngest daughter. During the week, Monday to Friday, I have to please all three daughters single-handedly (and Miss 8 and 10 rarely have the same desire to do the same outdoor activities & excursions as their younger sister). So it was that Miss 3 and I awoke with a plan this Saturday morning. A plan to explore ‘The Mission’ in Santa Barbara.

The Mission in Santa Barbara, California

As well as to make the most of our time to stop at a passing beach if we so pleased…

Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara

and run on the grass if the fancy took us…

The Mission, Santa Barbara

The Mission in Santa Barbara was established on the Feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, 1786 and was the tenth of twenty-one California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans.

The Mission Santa Barbara

When I’d attempted to visit The Mission with all my daughters, earlier in the week, it was very short-lived due to my two older children finding the smell instantly overwhelming. My younger daughter and I couldn’t smell anything, but the older two insisted on there being a strong smell of pigs and we had to race through, with me promising my Miss 3 we’d return together for a one-on-one visit. It wasn’t till I got home and read more about the history of The Mission that I realised how startling my older daughter’s reaction to The Mission was –

‘The Franciscans taught the Indians agriculture.  The principal products of the field were wheat, barley, corn, beans, and peas.  Orange and olive trees were planted, and grapevines were cultivated.  In 1807, an Indian dam was built to bring water to the mission via an aqueduct.  Mission Santa Barbara also had cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, mules, and horses in great number.  In 1809, there were 5,200 head of cattle and in 1803 11,221 head of sheep.’ (Our History, Old Mission Santa Barbara)

So, perhaps my older daughters had some sensory, historical link back in time! Whatever it was, they both said they’d never go back. Thankfully, Miss 3 wasn’t at all perturbed and I was delighted to return to explore the beautiful church and grounds.

Church of the Mission Santa Barbara Church of the Mission Santa Barbara Mission Santa Barbara

Miss 3 was very much in awe of the building and the incredible cacti in the grounds!

The grounds of the Mission Santa Barbara The Mission Santa Barbara

A lovely visit, second time around, with a willing explorer (who had no weird sense of strange smells from hundreds of years ago!).

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Linking up with the wonderful Coombe Mill, Country Kids, linky –
where this week they have been involved with the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Bird Watch Day’.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Twenty Fourteen in San Diego

We have seen in the New Year from the vibrant city of San Diego, where there is an abundance of attractions, activities and beautiful scenery. There is so much to do here that I already want to start planning my next visit. On the drive down we stopped a night at Legoland California, where all the children enjoyed an amazing time, from the ‘disco lifts’ and themed hotel rooms to the park itself, with rides and exhibits set in a wonderful natural setting, under deciduous trees, still hanging on to a few leaves, around waterways and over meandering bridges and pathways.

New Year’s Eve itself was a quiet one from the hotel, with stunning views – but an unfortunately timed sea mist rolled in to put a halt to the firework display that was on the agenda. Being one of the last places in the world to see in the New Year, after so many years of living in New Zealand – one of the very first places to see in the New Year, was a new experience.

Last sunset of 2013 from San Diego

By the time the sunset on New Year’s Eve in San Diego, we all felt more than ready to kiss farewell to the good, the bad and the in-between of 2013, and move on to 2014.

Our two youngest children, along with their Daddy, spent the sunset hours partying with new friends, from Vancouver, Canada, they had made in the hotel pool. They got invited to an apartment near our hotel – to meet the grandparents and had a wonderful time.

I stopped in the hotel room with my oldest daughter, who wasn’t feeling well – and still isn’t (hence my time to write a blog post today, whilst the rest of the family is out exploring San Diego Safari Park). Later in the evening we were joined by Grandma & Granddad, and enjoyed their company very much, over a few quiet drinks and Despicable Me 2 screening in the background. We were all asleep before midnight, but glad of the energy to greet the first day of 2014 without any sore heads!

New Year’s Day itself was a wonderful one for me. It was my turn to get out the hotel, whilst Dan did the honours and took care of our oldest. However, he did manage to get out for a few hours of fun – persuading Miss 10 to come out to Sea World for a couple of hours and then, later in the afternoon, to Belmont Park with Miss 10 and Miss 8.  We didn’t make the decision to visit SeaWorld lightly. It breaks my heart to see Orca, such as Tilikum, as well as any whales or dolphins in captivity and the continued breeding of these intelligent animals for the entertainment of people should be stopped. However, there is still room for SeaWorld – but they really need to move with the times.

Orca at SeaWorld

SeaWorld put on excellent attractions for children, with large scale climbing frames and activity areas, rides and educational exhibits. The entertainment by dancers, acrobats, actors and singers in the park is top notch (there is no need for performing dolphins really – as the people do such a class act!). Our youngest daughter loved the ‘Winter Wonderland’ and making her first snowman (not that this has much to do with the marine environment – other than perhaps experiencing a taste of Antarctica!).

Winterwonderland at Sea World San Diego

The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund grants millions of dollars to conservation projects worldwide – and this is what SeaWorld needs to promote and get young people involved with. There needs to be more hands on conservation exhibits and educational displays, so that the actions of everyone can help to clean up and protect our oceans.

We have two more nights left in San Deigo, before driving back to Santa Barbara on Saturday. I’m hoping to get out to San Diego Zoo tomorrow, which Grandma, Granddad, hubbie and our youngest two daughters have already experienced with great reports back.

There is so much here in San Diego to see, besides the big parks, I wish I had more time to visit the Old Town, Little Italy and the Seaport Village. The USS Midway would be fascinating to visit too.

On our first morning here, I did venture out to the Seaport Village, on the recommendation of my dear Dad, to explore a wonderful cafe and bookstore (and much more!). It was my equivalent of heaven – good coffee, plentiful reading material, trinkets of all kinds to discover in every corner, seats in the shade and the sun, overlooking a meandering footpath, past a quaint duck pond and beyond, to the crystal clear harbour and ever blue, southern Californian sky. There was classical music playing to further stir the senses, and hideaway nooks inside to enjoy a quiet cuppa and be alone with ones thoughts – whilst being surrounded by the written thoughts of thousands of others. Just perfect!

Seaport Village, San Diego

Around the corner from the bookstore we discovered a beautiful, historic carousel, which had been lovingly restored in 1992. Hand-carved in 1895 this delightful attraction features 54 animals and two horse-drawn chariots. There is a sea dragon, giraffes, camels and a bear, as well as the traditional horses. Of course we had to have a ride on it, along with Grandma and Granddad too! It is so wonderful to have them visiting us from England.

So, a couple more days of holiday, before returning to Santa Barbara. Our oldest daughter is going to start a little private school and give it a go, whilst our other two daughters will still be learning from home. We have made no definite plans to stay in Santa Barbara beyond the year, or to return to New Zealand. Our current lease on the house, that we are renting in Santa Barbara, runs out in September, so we’ll make some decisions around May this year, depending on so many factors and the feelings of everyone in our family of five. It’s good to know our home in Wellington, New Zealand, is being well looked after by a good friend.

The biggest word for our family this year is ‘open’ – the continual drive to be open to new experiences, opportunities, people and adventures. Letting the tide take us!

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and wonderful year.

Sarah x

Kissing goodbye to 2013