Landscapes of autumn from Wellington

Wellington south coast, Island Bay

Dusk on Wellington’s south coast, on a calm autumn evening.

The seagulls flock together at dusk, thankful for a calm evening, after a torrid week of storms.

On the high hills, of the greater Wellington region, the wind catches on the cliff edge, strong enough to lean into and imagine one could fly.

I can fly!

Alice, age 5, taking in the view at the top of the Rimutaka Hill, between Wellington and the Wairarapa.

In the Botanical Garden of the capital city the deciduous trees beckon in the autumn, forming a stand of gold and red hues against the evergreen native stronghold.

Botanical Garden Wellington

Wellington Botanical Garden, autumn hues.

The rose bushes of summer linger on, long into autumn, defiant, in their coloured brilliance, to the shortening of the days.

Rose gardens

Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Wellington, in autumn.

The beaches are quiet, the camper vans rare, no bathers in the sea and only the brave on their surf boards. Winter is coming, though the blue sky beguiles the armchair watcher.

Princess Bay

Princess Bay, Wellington, New Zealand on a quiet autumnal day.

These are just a few of the beautiful landscapes of Wellington in autumn; at least, when the sun is out. On the less inclement days I’m to be found immersed in a landscape of a different kind – on the couch with a good book!

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Drawing in the wet, dark nights of late autumn in New Zealand | Mini-creations

Rain at school pick up

Last week was a crazily wet one in Wellington (and much of New Zealand) and, with the short days of late autumn, there’s stark few hours for out-door fun after school; so we’ve been keeping dry at home and enjoying some drawing.

Any parent with more than one child will concur; it’s a bonus when all is harmonious between the siblings in the home. Last week I witnessed one of those ‘golden moments’ that make parenting all worth while. I glanced through the glass-panned French doors, from our living area to the hallway, to see the oldest of our three daughters (age 11) teaching her youngest sister (age 5) some drawing tips. It was a beautiful moment to see on a dark, wet evening, one that made my heart glow, with such warmth and pride.

Charlotte & Alice drawing together

Our oldest daughter has been increasingly creative lately and was presented with a Principal’s Award, at school, for her focused and diligent work in all areas of design (she’s been designing and making a tote bag). When she’s not drawing, and pinning up her latest certificates above her desk (got a great science badge in marine biology, and another in forensics), she’s stretching out with our beloved family dog, Monsieur Cocoa.

Charlotte, Monsieur Cocoa and drawing

Our middle daughter, age 9, has been really focused at school too. She auditioned to be part of a rhythmic gymnastics group at school, which some older girls are tutoring. She was so thrilled to get into the group and to have an excuse to spend her Tuesday lunch-times stretching and jumping around! She’s also been invited to participate in a ‘Tournament of Minds’ team – which will mean getting to school for 7.30am on a Wednesday morning, as well as spending one lunch time a week practicing.

She made a lovely Powerpoint presentation for me on Mother’s Day (10 May in NZ), which she exhibited on the television first thing that morning.

Presentation from Sophie

I didn’t have any plans or expectations for the day, but it turned out great – thanks to the weather being glorious (which always helps!). Hubby cooked up a fabulous brunch, after we’d been on a walk with dog first thing. We came across this fabulous sculpture, made by a local, out of natural beach materials, on our walk –

On our Mother's Day walk

Here’s hoping for more sunshine days between the rain showers – and lots of happy, harmonious, sibling drawing time when it does rain!

To finish up, here’s a drawing (with a lick of paint and colouring) my five year old did today (it’s Tuesday, she should be in school – but she’s sneezing all over the place and we agreed it better not to share the germs!).

By Alice, aged 5

This is a picture of ‘Jemma’ (Dan TDM – aka the Diamond Minecart – other half) – which my 5 year old daughter asked me to photograph and send via Twitter! She says she’d like to marry someone like him when she’s older!

And here is Alice, in her rain coat, on a day when she did make it into school! She’s proud to have learned to skip this past week too!

Skipping Alice

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A letter to my five year old

Dear Alice,

Since turning five you’ve accomplished so much in your young life. Seeing you head off to school with such confidence and independence has filled me with many moments of deep pride (and a few Mummy tears!).

Alice busy at art in school

I wasn’t sure how you would adjust to school life, having never been to any type of pre-school education, playgroup or kindergarten, but obviously your years travelling and living overseas, as well as hours playing with your two older sisters and wonderful friends and neighbours, have been very well spent.

Alice alongside her older sisters (Alice in the middle)

I feel so fortunate to have spent so much time watching you grow into the amazing young school girl you are.

I also feel incredibly grateful to your older sisters, particularly Sophie – who is in junior school with you. They have been so supportive in helping you adjust to the routine of school life.

It’s a wonder to me where this time has gone and I still have to pinch myself that you are no longer ‘my baby’ (though, of course, in a way, you and your sisters will always and forever be ‘my babies’!). Your fifth Birthday, in February, just three, short months ago, was such a happy celebration. It was wonderful to be back in New Zealand, your birthplace, and celebrate with neighbours and family friends.

You are such a kind, caring and loving person, and so brave too. Whenever you feel disappointed, afraid, or hurt in some way, you are quick to take in deep breaths and work out how to calm yourself. You accept comfort and support, as much as you give it to all those that need it. Your personality is one of great warmth and character.

Alice on Mother's Day, 10th May 2015

Alice on Mothers Day, 10th May 2015

I love all your various expressions and the way you burst into song all the time. You have some serious power in that voice of yours! Growing up with two older sisters you’ve been introduced to modern bands and songs, not just the likes of ‘Hi-5′, ‘The Wiggles’ and ‘Play School‘ nursery rhymes. You sing along with your sisters to Maroon 5 (Sugar!), Katy Perry (Roar! and Dark Horse), Imagine Dragons, Wake Me Up (Avicii) and Sheppard’s ‘Geronimo’!

You have finally learned the meaning of what a ‘parody’ is – having listened to copious ‘Minecraft‘ parodies of popular songs for the past couple of years. You used to hear the original song on the radio and say, ‘It’s a Minecraft song, but oh, the words are wrong!’ – not understanding that the Minecraft song was a parody of the original song.

Your mind is a wonderfully creative one and your drawings are a wonderful insight into your world. Imaginary play has always been a love of yours – and still is. You have some wonderful friends in our neighbourhood and play with them for hours and hours, making up stories, dressing up and exploring the nature in the garden, at the beach and on the bush trails that weave through Wellington’s hilly terrain.

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It’s magic to be your Mummy and I know Daddy is filled with happiness at your every word, song, smile and movement too.

Alice always catching sun beams

Lots of love sweetheart, we will always be by your side and with you in your heart,

Keep being you! xxxx


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The Photo Gallery | One Day in May

May in New Zealand is a month of shorter days and candle-lit nights, a month of celebrating mothers on Mother’s Day and cross-country running.

It’s a month when the colours of a summer well spent are trying desperately to cling on – but fading with every short day of light and howling storm.

I love the light and find the darker months of the year a personal challenge to keep sane. To feel mentally well I have to make myself get out the door, in the daylight, every day, no matter the weather, and exercise. This year is a lot easier to do that – as our family now has a pet dog (and when he gives me his puppy eye look, pleading to go on a walk, even when the rain is falling from the sky like someone has turned on a giant shower in heaven to full power, I find my head nodding in submission).

There isn’t one photograph to sum up all of this, but the closest I can come to it, is the one below – of my daughter Sophie running with all her heart, in her cross-country race this week. It was one of the most memorable days of this month so far.

Y5 cross-country at Karori Park

The night before she ran the heavens opened and let down a torrential downpour (typical of this time of year). We woke to a calmer morning, but her nerves were still heightened with anticipation. Thankfully, by the time she got to school – and her teacher had reassured her (as well as at least half the rest of the class) with some words of enthusiastic words of motivation – she was pumped.

My husband and I met at the beautiful Karori Park to cheer her on. We had told her, multiple times, to just enjoy the run and give it her own personal best. She had found the weeks building up to the race hard work – having to get to school every morning, change into her PE gear, and run laps around a park adjacent to her school. There were many mornings she woke up hoping for rain (meaning fitness would be circuits in the gym instead – which she preferred).

Anyway, on race day, she didn’t have to run first thing, she had a chance to let her body wake up, digest some morning tea, and run in the late morning. The change of scenery and knowing she’d be running on a looped course, with no repetitions of laps on the same ground, gave her an added boost of excitement. When the start gun was fired she set off fast, as did her seventeen class mates.

She gave it her all, through the stream, up the grass hilly verge, through the forest, down the steps and on to the final stretch.

We were surprised to see her running in so fast and she was clearly giving it her all, as she made it around the final bend, passed a class-mate (with an apologetic glance) and crossed the finish line in 7th place!

The final stretch

It was one of those great parenting moments – to see one of our children overcome anxiety and push through to achieve a strong result. She was so thrilled with her result and proud of herself – rightly so!

A wonderfully happy moment in the week building up Mother’s Day in New Zealand – this Sunday, 10th May – which I’d already enjoyed an early celebration of at a wonderful ‘Mother’s to School Day’, where I spent a gorgeous morning in the classroom with my two junior school daughters, a delicious morning tea and wonderful entertainment – as the girls sang in their respective choirs.

Mother's to School Day 2015

May, it’s a pretty good month, despite the dark evenings, and my thoughts are frequently of my dear folks and family in the UK, enjoying the light evenings of spring after a long, dark winter.

And when I am blessed with a good day in May, like the one I’ve written about, when my daughter triumphed over her nerves & ran with all her heart, I top it off with a good run of my own! This was how I spent the afternoon, before school pick-up, running on Wellington’s beautiful south coast, delighting in the autumn sunshine and spotting a beautiful New Zealand Kingfisher at the end of my run.

A day in May 2015

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The Photo Gallery | My Back Garden

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This is the garden of our home in Martinborough, where we escape to as often as time allows. It’s our weekend retreat in the countryside, where the climate is frequently several degrees warmer than our place in Wellington – on the beautiful, but often wild and rugged south coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

We only took ownership of the property at the beginning of this year and the roses are thanks to the previous owner. I love their colour and scent, but hate the thorns. We plan to have them moved to another part of the garden and push the grass area back further, to make room for more summertime play with the children.

The girls adore making flower arrangements with them, and the other flowers in the garden.

flower arrangements from the garden

I love the lavender bushes that line the deck.

Lavender

On every visit to the house I pick the fresh lavender and hang it to dry, making me feel instantly relaxed.

Lavender hanging to dry

Once it’s dried I place it around the house, in little pottery vases, like this one I discovered in a gorgeous shop called ‘Vintage Treasure‘ in Martinborough.

Lavender and pottery

It’s always lovely to bring something from the garden into the home, especially as our days are shorter now that Autumn is here in New Zealand. I do love the late afternoon light – I just wish it would last longer.

Afternoon light

The garden in Martinborough is also blessed with lemons, limes and other fruit trees. The climate is kinder to them there. I brought home a basket of goodness from the back garden to enjoy in our Wellington home, until our next visit.

Treasures from the garden

Looking at those lemons makes me think of a ‘G&T’ first and foremost – just what I need to warm me up on what is a very windy day in my Wellington back garden. The silver-birch tree is losing the last of its leaves with every gust.

In our Wellington garden - autumn

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Linking this post with the lovely Tara at Sticky Fingers blog for ‘The Photo Gallery | My Back Garden‘.

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Every wine has a story to tell

I read a beautiful story about a prize winning New Zealand wine this week, ‘The story behind the world’s best pinot noir‘ and it made me think of particular wines that have become markers of special occasions in my life.

On Valentine’s Day 1998 my husband proposed to me at the wonderful Marlborough Food and Wine Festival, so when we married a year later it was befitting to toast our lives together with a sparkling wine of that region. We got married in England, thousands of miles from where we’d got engaged, but toasted our happy occasion with Pelorus Brut NV, from Cloudy Bay in Marlborough (available to order online via www.advintage.co.nz). Little did we know that, a short three months after our wedding, destiny would call us back to New Zealand. My husband was offered a job in Wellington, New Zealand, and so began our married life.

On 29 May this year we celebrate sixteen years of married life – which has been spent living mostly in New Zealand (except for a year and a bit in California in 2013/14). We have three beautiful New Zealand born daughters and a wonderful lifestyle. This year, like every other year of our married life, we shall raise a glass in celebration of all we have achieved and toast to all that we hope for the future too.

Wedding day 1999

We are both grateful to have supportive, wonderful family in the UK, that though far away in distance, are always close in our hearts and often treat us to a celebratory bottle of our favourite Pelorus on our anniversary. With the extensive collection of NZ and International Wines from Advintage, it’s only a click away to order a bottle of beautiful wine to celebrate that special story.

At the time of writing it’s autumn in New Zealand and with the autumnal nights I am reflecting on where I was this time last year, in the spring of sunny California. I was preparing for my first half marathon, which I ran in the scenic wine growing region of the Santa Ynez Valley, a short drive from Santa Barbara, on the 10 May – Mother’s Day (in the USA and, also, in New Zealand).

I think it’s only right I should order myself a little tipple that will warm my heart this coming Mother’s Day in New Zealand and I’m plumping for Gnarly Head Zinfandel, also available online, from Advintage, as one of their wonderful imported wines. It sounds just the right wine to enjoy on a candlelit evening with a few slices of dark chocolate. The onset of winter doesn’t feel so bad with a few delicious treats to savour!

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