SantaBarbara

Back to better health & really ready for 2014

There’s nothing worse than flu to knock a person off kilter. It’s worse when the whole family, children and all, are affected. It’s forced us all to slow down and write off the first week or so of this New Year. The only silver lining for the adults, particularly me, has been a forced detox – as I felt too ill to even think about having a wee drop of red (I even went off coffee for five days!). Anyway, that is all now in the past. A few snuffles and coughs linger in the children, but (touch wood, cross fingers, do not let this blog post be a jinx!) we are on the road to recovery and can finally look forward to making this year a positive one of action and happy memory making.
Kite flying with Grandma & Granddad at Santa Barbara Beach
We’ve already made some gems, with so many happy moments cherished with Grandma & Granddad visiting from the UK – on the beach…
On the beach with Grandma & Granddad
And exploring at the pier…
Sea Center, Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

Having my dear folks over from the UK was an absolute blessing. The day we returned from our family holiday in San Diego (which wasn’t without illness either), hubbie had to travel to Cincinnati for a couple of days work. He was staying in the middle of no where, and his trip happened to coincide with the worse weather in a couple of decades. A ‘polar vortex’ descended on central USA and he just happened to be right in the middle of it. He made it there okay, thank goodness, but it wasn’t a surprise that his return was delayed (thankfully by only one night – it could have been much worse). Whilst he was away the flu struck me down. I was a shivering mess, alternating between feverishly hot to down-right freezing, unable to warm up, even under copious layers of blankets. It’s horrible being ill, but even worse when you are a parent and one’s own children are also ill. I was just so, so grateful my folks were here and well enough to do the supermarket runs, which kept us all well provisioned with healthy food and plenty of liquids.

We spent many hours in bed, or on the sofa, thankful for the pleasant surroundings of the house we’re staying. Granddad and Alice hung up the humming-bird feeder, which him and Grandma had given us for Christmas, and we sat by the window, sipping cups of ‘get better tea’, looking out for birds.

In the garden
In between supermarket runs, and making sure we were all resting up, they did get out for a couple of gentle walks and enjoyed exploring some of the local scenery in Santa Barbara. From on high, where the hand gliders launch themselves …
Hills overlooking Santa Barbara
To the coastline, where the bird life is plentiful and entertaining to watch – darting in and out of the surf and swooping low over the sea looking for a snack.
Hendry's Beach, Santa Barbara
We are now, thank goodness, looking and feeling brighter. We bid farewell to my dear folks today; they are on their return to the UK as I write, and are ready to take on this year with renewed positivity.
Goleta Beach, UCSB Lagoon

We will continue with our adventures in California until September and then head home to, much loved and missed, New Zealand. Our oldest is trying a new school, our youngest taking a look at a play-school and our middle daughter, who turned eight on Boxing Day, is carrying on in her own un-schooling way. She saw in her Birthday with a visit to the cinema to see ‘Frozen’ and a spin on the ice skating rink.

The evenings will get lighter and we have two summer’s in a row to look forward to. My first gentle jog of the year has been accomplished and given me the impetus to keep fit and healthy. I can finally feel, after a week of not feeling much positivity at all, that I’m ready to welcome 2014 and get it moving, onwards and upwards. This moving to a new country for a year, with three children, hasn’t been easy, though from ‘the outside looking in’ it all seems exciting. For us, the highs and lows seem more undulating, unpredictable and harder to ride at times. Each day, each week, each month, we look back, on all we have done, look at the smiling faces in the photographs, and take stock, whilst thinking – always – of our friends and home in New Zealand.

Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara
Hoping this blog post finds you in good health and spirits at the start of the year x

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

Moments of happiness with friends from NZ on Santa Barbara’s Waterfront

It’s been a lovely week shared with friends. We returned from Disneyland on Tuesday evening and have been enjoying a quieter time back at the house in Santa Barbara. The children have been playing in the pool a lot and we’ve had a couple of trips out and about, including a gorgeous little boat trip in the marina on the very cute ‘Lil’ Toot’; one of many lovely attractions on the waterfront.

Lil Toot, Santa Barbara

It’s so great to have our New Zealand neighbours here with us. In the above photograph I am sat next to my Miss 3, then my lovely neighbour and her son, Master 6, and then my daughter, Miss 7. Master 6 has an older sister, Miss 10 (same age as our eldest), and unfortunately we couldn’t persuade the older girls out of the house for our little waterfront excursion (but it was the day after Disneyland – so they were a little jaded!). They had a great time having the house and pool to themselves, whilst we enjoyed the company of the younger children.

The sand-dunes were, as always, a great attraction for the young ones. They adored running up them and jumping down, trying to take off in the air as they flew down the sand. The man of the house watched over the play and added to the thrills, whilst my friend and I watched on.

sanddunes by the marina

After our play in the dunes we headed to Stearns Wharf and the lovely Ty Warner Sea Center there.

Ty Warner Center

 

It’s a great little place of learning. There were some children demonstrating how to extract goo from kelp and there were lots of questions and gasps of amazement at how the seaweed extract is used in toothpaste and ice-cream.

Upstairs in the centre is a lovely jelly-fish exhibit and opportunities for children to make their own puppet shows, or just enjoy a quiet read.

Ty Warner Center

 

The visit to the pier was made complete with ice-creams, a few squashed penny souvenirs and a rather freaky, larger than life onion ring – that the man of the house wished could be the ‘One Ring to Rule Them All’… as in his three daughters behaving themselves 😉

One rather large onion ring

 

 

 

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Prose for Thought – Rain in the Black of Night

It’s been months since we’ve had consistent rain in Santa Barbara, Southern California. As much as I adore the sunshine, I do miss the ever-changing weather of our home in Wellington, New Zealand. Last night, and this evening, we’ve had proper rain – that lasts for more than an hour and leaves real puddles behind!

I thought the rain was definitely deserving of a little poem 🙂

Rain in the Black of Night

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Linking this poem up with these wonderful people at –

Prose for Thought
&
Lyrical

Things I’m Loving

Merry-go-rounds and sisters

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Sunshine and convertibles

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Pretzels and chilled drinks

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Shopping areas with architectural flair

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Sea creatures and an inquisitive child

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Water fountains and wishes

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New cafes, tastes and children who are willing to try
(at least two out of our three are!)

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Joining in this week with the wonderful Meghan of ‘The Adventures of MNMs’,
from our beloved home of Wellington, New Zealand, with –

The days before routines return

Tomorrow school starts for the year. Two of our three children will start at a new school, in a new country, in a completely different hemisphere. Our Miss 10 is coming from a private girls school in Wellington, New Zealand. Our Miss 7 is coming from a couple of years of free-spirited ‘natural learning’ (home schooling, but without the feel of school). The transition to the well respected local school, they will be going to whilst we’re living in the USA, will be interesting.

The school itself is fantastic, with a teacher to child ration of 1:17, specialist music, art, science and computing teachers. A great library, awesome technology available, wonderful open grounds and a strong community supporting the school. As parents, we couldn’t ask for more – but do expect a few bumps in the road as the girls adjust from over six weeks of travelling, being at home, hanging out with their beloved three year old sister and enjoying late nights with us and leisurely lie ins way past 9am every day.

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The past week has been so relaxed, going with the flow, eating and drinking when individuals feel like it, that it’s really going to be quite hard to get used to the routines initially…. but, we will hopefully get there without too long a transition (who am I kidding – it’s going to be an emotional, psychological nightmare!).

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I’m just so relieved we have beautiful beaches to escape to and restore our sanity in the evenings. I shall be driving off into the sunset for a stress busting run on the beach several times in the next few weeks (or giving my arm a workout opening bottles of wine with a corkscrew… so out of practice since New Zealand turned to screw tops eons ago!), or simply hanging with my man and enjoying the laughter of our cute Miss 3 in the balmy evenings. No need to check the weather forecast here in Santa Barbara – it’s all sunshine, blue sky, heat and repeat (and if it does ever rain I shan’t be running for cover – far from it!).

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Exploring new ground: Labyrinth

Running a new trail, no preconceptions

Following the track, as long as it runs.

Uphill legs are taken without knowing

Desire to explore overriding exertion.

Unexpected surprises of nature –

Cross the path ahead, & sour in the sky.

A labyrinth of trails, for mind and soul –

Prick the senses, revive the body.

© Sarah Lee, August 2013

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Discovered this labyrinth by chance on a new trail today. It reminded me of how uplifting it feels to explore new ground, be surprised by new nature and to run without knowing where the path will lead. I’m going to enjoy discovering Santa Barbara and its surrounding country.

More information on the location of my run today can be read about on ‘UCSB Campus, Lagoon, and Beach‘ and ‘Lagoon Island Labyrinth | Earth Research Institute‘.

A Week of Firsts in Santa Barbara: The Good & The Bad…

It’s been a week of firsts here in Santa Barbara.

First time for driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road; first purchase of a brand new car (a very nice 2014 Acura MDX) in America (serious paper work!), with the driver’s seat on the left hand side; first time dinging a rental vehicle three times in one day (well, it was called a ‘DODGE’ – so I figured I’d test its ‘dodge’ ability… unfortunately it didn’t dodge the school secretaries car very well, when I parked up for our first school visit!); and first visit to Santa Barbara Zoo (where Miss 7 saw a snake for the first time, and is feeling a lot less freaked now she understands a bit more about them, besides – she has other things to worry about… her new class, at a new school, has a pet tarantula named ‘Harry’!). Santa Barbara Zoo By the end of the week (I am still miffed at me writing this on a Thursday evening in California, whilst my good friends in New Zealand are well into their Friday ‘avo and my folks in the UK are fast asleep, in the early hours of Friday morning) I will be the owner of my first American bank card and have visited a doctor for the first time in the USA .

Unfortunately, I will not have discovered my first proper Latte since leaving the shores of New Zealand a few weeks ago (it feels like we’ve been away for months!), but my first tastes of local beer and wine have been favourable.

My children have sampled their first fish and chips Santa Barbara style (the chips get a thumbs up – but we’re yet to find fish that compare to our favourite Island Bay, Wellington, takeaway) and had their first close encounter with some of the native wildlife – namely pelicans, storks and cute little geckos. Santa Barbara Beach We’ve enjoyed our first social gathering of new friends (still waiting till 4th September to move into our house of residence for the year, but we did have a lovely spot for socialising, up until Tuesday this week.. now we’re in a little place on a housing complex – but it’s free – so not complaining… just thinking how to spend the money we’ve saved – have my eye on a little Californian sunshine convertible that would suit my hippie style nature!).

Enjoyed my first delicious smoothie and relieved to be discovering refreshing places to cool down and take a rest (especially when Miss 3 decides to conk out for an impromptu nap!)… gives me a chance to day dream on my dream car (ha, ha!)… really don’t think I am skilled enough to be trusted with a brand new, sparkling motor! Smoothie and daydreaming.And we took our first steps, as a family, on ‘Miramar Beach’ (kind of nice to have a local beach with the same name as one of our favourite Wellington peninsulas!). Miramar Beach, Montecito, Santa Barbara

Friday evening will be spent at the new schools ‘pre-term’ gathering – which will be another first – a ‘Mustang Roundup and Family Picnic’, complete with a band and country dancing… Yee Ha!!

Next week will be one of even more firsts… as Miss 10 starts a new school, in a new country, in a new hemisphere… and Miss 7 gives school a go – after a couple of years ‘natural learning’! I am going to find it so strange, as I’ve had all three of my daughters at home with me for at least six weeks now. Little steps…!