The Photo Gallery: World Photography Day

How do you choose one photograph to summarise a year? World Photo Day is celebrated every year on the 19th August, (but to understand more head over to the website and escape into a thousand images from around the globe).

Between August 19-26 the website opens for submissions and, for me personally, it’s a wonderful moment in the year to capture the magic that photography allows us to do. I chose this photograph, taken this week, of our middle daughter, so full of energy and zest for life.

Portrait for World Photography Day

The photograph is a snapshot of her, totally in the moment, on the beach in sunny Santa Barbara, California.

We have been back in California, on the western coast of the USA, in sunny Santa Barbara, for a couple of weeks, after a wonderful month in Europe visiting our family.

In October we head back to New Zealand to live, after having a full year of living in California. It’s a time of transition for our family. My husband and I, both having grown up in the UK – but having spent most of our adult lives in New Zealand, are well experienced in long haul travel and expat living; but seeing our children blossom over this past year of tasting a life somewhat different has been incredible.

Our youngest has turned four and learned to swim. Our oldest daughter turned eleven and has thrived in having time with her younger sisters (though missed her school and friends in New Zealand very much). Our eight year old has been the jam in the middle. She is incredibly active and has incredible zest for life. Her energy captivates and enthrals, as well as exhausts! She is the best personal trainer a parent could have and she motivates my hubby and I to keep fit, so that we can keep up – not just with her, but with our other two daughters as well.

Miss 8 & Miss 4

She motivates us all to swim in the pool, take a plunge when we’d rather not, head out for a bike ride or a run on the beach.

Miss 11 & Miss 8

She practically begs us to take her to the ‘batting cage’ or the ‘climbing wall’, or just stretch out on a yoga mat!

Hubby & Miss 8 on the beach at sunset

And work to keep up we certainly do try!

Hubby with his stand up paddle board…

Hubby at Leadbetter Beach, Santa Barbara

and me with my running (managed to sign Miss 8 up for her first 5km official run; she did great):

Miss 8 after her first official 5km run

This past fortnight, back in California, in between packing copious boxes for our return to New Zealand, has been all about balancing out the energy. We are a family of five. We’ve spent a year in each other’s pockets, out of the school system, living life closely and supporting the man of the house in his work. We’ve travelled, explored and learned so much together. We feel stronger and closer than ever before. Now we are ready to return to our home and continue life’s journey, grateful for each other, our love, our freedom of choice and a future in one of the world’s most peaceful countries - New Zealand.

IMG_6199

Linking up with ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog, celebrating World Photo Day 2014.

 

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At home with my folks, Hampshire, England

It’s been a fortnight since we returned from the UK to the US. We are heading back to New Zealand to live at the beginning of October, but for now we’re in limbo; between the two places we love.

FAMILY

I haven’t felt like writing anything much, but have tried to fit in a little reminiscing about our trip. It’s bittersweet to write about the times we shared with our wonderful family and friends whilst in the UK: On the one hand, the photos and memories make the trip linger on and make everyone we love there feel closer; On the other hand, I’m thrown against the wall of reality – that we shan’t see them for a year or so, at the least, and we are about to move even further away again – back to New Zealand.

On every trip back there are always so many people we don’t manage to meet up with; as well as all the wonderful reunions I write about. I haven’t seen many cousins, aunts and uncles in well over a decade. The UK is my home of birth, but not my children’s home. They were born in New Zealand and, as much as they’ve enjoyed this time living in the US, are looking forward to getting back there.

I am forever torn in two – trying to be positive for my children and their future (for sure they have an amazing life in New Zealand and a wonderful future with so much freedom of choice and opportunities), whilst feeling guilty at not being there for my folks. I feel driven to write down all the events, both big and small, that make up the passages of time; clinging on to them to protect them from fading. However faded those memories become they will live on in photographs and the love that we shall always feel in our hearts.

So, this is what it is; a place where I can write about the times we have shared and safeguard them in some small way.

Our last week in Europe was spent with my Mum and Dad in their Hampshire home.

My dear folks with their youngest granddaughter, Alice

It’s where they have lived for thirty-five years and where I grew up. My best-friend, from when I was 11, still lives a few houses away and many of my other school friends have stayed and are seeing their own children pass through the schools we went to. The week was one of spending time with people that have touched my life throughout the years and still mean so much to me. I caught up with friends over coffee, at local pubs, even at a new trampoline centre (anything to keep the children happy!).

Old University friends of both my husband and I (yes, we met way back then… at Southampton University) came together. We shared memories, talked of our different life journeys – the happy and sad parts that combine to make life’s rich tapestry – and looked forward through our children’s eyes at what is yet to be.

We took a day trip into London with my folks and our children, walking through the parks and admiring the sights steeped in history. Hubby took our older two children to the theatre to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’, whilst I spent a lovely afternoon boating along the river Thames with our youngest daughter and my folks.

ALICE, GRANDMA & GRANDDAD BOATING ALONG THE RIVER THAMES

The week came to a close on a Friday. Our flight scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon. The last day was spent sharing my best friend’s celebration of her youngest son turning ten. She kindly invited us to share the ‘football party’. It was lovely to see her sons and my daughters getting on so easily.

In the afternoon one of our nephew’s, Michael, came down from his University digs, along with his lovely girlfriend, to spend the evening with  hubby and I. One of the binding memories of our visit to the UK this time round was how our daughters enjoyed the company of their older cousins – they were reunited with all but one of their six cousins. All their cousins are boys, and most are a fair bit older, but the bond of family made their union easy.

Michael, Sophie & Alice

Likewise, the bond between Aunts and Uncles and the girls, their nieces, was lovely to see.

Seeing my sister and having the chance to head out for a run with her was a special highlight for me (yes, I’m still running – before wine… have to earn it now I’m forty!).

My sister and I

The memories will live on in our hearts forever xxx

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Linking up with ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers

 

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A coastal run in North Wales

Whilst holiday in North Wales I was delighted to escape out for a couple of runs along the gorgeous coastline that borders the Hafan Y Mor Havan Caravan Holiday Park. If the pull of spending time with my family hadn’t been so strong I would have strapped on a backpack and disappeared for a whole day! The bays that weave along the coastline, with the undulating land rolling into the sea, are a living, breathing gallery of art.

Coastal footpath

The pathways, cut into the dense, fern covered terrain, lead over land that has witnessed centuries of human history.

Ferns, sea & mountains

As I looked toward the magnificent hills of the Snowdonia National Park my eyes kept being drawn to Criccieth Castle, built around 1230. It’s not really visible in this photograph (the zoom on my phone camera wasn’t sufficient) but to my eyes it was a dominant feature on the landscape. A historic marker of the people that have inhabited this land.

Looking toward Criccieth

Running along the trails and along the foreshore, whilst the tide was out, felt so invigorating to my legs. The terrain mixed with the scenery filled my legs with energy to keep on going. My mind travelled from being blissfully in the moment, with the natural surroundings, to stepping back in time to a land that never knew caravans!

Toward Snowdonia from Hafan Y Mor

And then, as I turned inland, I stumbled across a country scene so reminiscent of New Zealand, my home for some seventeen years, and where we are heading back to live as a family in October of this year.

Country scene

But it was the sea that drew me back. Seeing the magnificent blue of the water, surrounded by green hills, under a beautiful blue, summer sky.

A path of natural beauty

And when my run was done I turned to bid the clouds (the non-threatening kind!), dancing their shadows over the distant hills, farewell; grateful for their presence after a year of living under a Californian blue sky.

My body and mind shan’t forget the feeling of running on the North Welsh coastline. I left footprints, I took photographs and Wales left my heart marked with love for its natural beauty so steeped in history.

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Instagram love – a poem

There are days when it’s hard to leave the house
not worth exchanging p-jays for a blouse.
To motherhood I surrender, with love -
yet the coop I escape from, like a dove.

Adventures I yearn for, without a care
just my own body and soul laid bare.
To Instagram I fly, fleetingly so -
a few minutes pass, yet time flies like a crow.

To Paris and Rome, over land and sea -
to landscapes of cities and mountains I flee.
So glad am I for the eyes of others
sharing their finds with escapism seekers.

© Sarah Lee, (August 2014)

Instagram love - a poem by Sarah Lee

Instagram love – a poem by Sarah Lee

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Exploring Portmeirion Village in North Wales

In an exquisite natural location of breathtaking beauty sits the artfully designed village of Portmeirion in North Wales. During our week’s stay in North Wales this was one of the highlights. Travelling in a large family group, a blend of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, can make finding a day-trip to suit everyone a challenge – but this worked out a treat.

PORTMEIRION

The younger members of our group weren’t sure that they were going to enjoy it and one of our daughters was overcome with hay-fever on arrival (thankfully she was calmed by her rock of a Daddy, after finding a heavily air-conditioned cafe). We split into groups to explore and I headed off with two of my daughters and two nephews.

Cousins

They quickly got into the character of the place and I had so much fun accompanying them. We meandered through the village and down to the coastline, admiring the scenery; that opened up before us, through the Italian styled architecture hugging the land.

Beautiful scenery

Portmeirion is a place that opens up the mind to creativity and it’s easy to see why it was used as a film location for a Dr Who episode and ‘The Prisoner‘.

My group of explorers were inspired to pose for the camera without any suggestion or prompting from me!

It was easy to escape into other worlds and be completely in the moment. I would have loved to have stayed for a long weekend, in one of the many choices of accommodation in the village. Hotel Portmeirion is beautifully situated on the estuary front and was the original mansion of Aber Iâ. It was built around 1850 and first described by Richard Richards in 1861 as, “One of the most picturesque of all the summer residences to be found on the sea-coast of Wales”. Famous guests here include H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Noël Coward and Sir Kenneth Clark.

I’ll have to wait for my children to be full grown and maybe revisit with my husband in our ‘silver hair’ years! I did manage to entice my group to sit and enjoy the view for a moment, so that I could at least ‘imagine’ a weekend of decadent relaxation. I ordered a Pimms for myself and a tray of club sandwiches for us all to eat. Most delightful, especially in the glorious sunshine.

Pausing for a drink

We stepped down onto the sand and marvelled at the expanse of the tidal estuary of the River Dwyryd.

ESTUARY

It was hard to leave such a beautiful, serene place, but before long we knew it was time to rejoin the rest of our family group.

Cousins

We bid farewell to the natural scenery and walked back up hill into the architectural splendour of the village, set amongst lush forest land – reminiscent of New Zealand’s bushland.

We went on a little train ride around the forest land. With the heat it felt like being in a tropical rain forest! I would have loved to have enjoyed more time to walk through and explore the extensive grounds and gardens.

‘Before anyone took an interest in developing the Portmeirion Peninsula, the natural vegetation would have been sessile oak with birch, rowan and locally in wet areas alder and willows. The soil would have been a thin skeletal, acidic brown earth on Cambrian shales and grits which would have dried out very quickly as it does today.

The climate is very mild , winter frosts are rare and this has allowed plantings of tender exotic genera and species in common with many Cornish gardens.’ (Gardens of Portmeirion)

 After the train ride we found the rest of our party and enjoyed a final walk around the main village before heading back to the caravan park.

On the scenic drive back to the Hafan Y Mor Caravan Park we marvelled at yet more beautiful scenery and passed by one of Wale’s many castles. Such a magical landscape.

Welsh castle

 

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A family reunion in North Wales

‘Pack the wet weather gear!’ everyone warned – and, as we drove from Lancashire to Pwhelli, on the coast of Northern Wales, the brooding clouds suggested we’d need them. Hills and castles appeared and disappeared as we drove the winding roads to our destination, Hafan Y Mor Caravan Holiday Park. But we need not have worried. It was as though Merlin had waved his wand, sending the dark clouds scurrying away. Blue sky opened up above us and the forecast looked heaven sent.

HEAVEN SET WEATHER

In fact, we were incredibly blessed – with a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures on a par to California. Jelly fish on the beach signalled sea temperatures warmer than average (even warmer than California!) and we welcomed the cooling spray of water guns, fired by our cheeky daughters.

ALICE WITH A WATER GUN!

We booked two, six-berth, caravans to accommodate our family, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was quite the reunion for my husband with his side of the family (my sister & her man did manage a quick visit too)!

MY SISTER WITH HER MAN & NIECES!

We spent an amazing week together, making memories to last till the next time (which sadly isn’t as often as we’d like – flights from New Zealand to the UK are hard work and time consuming – not to mention costly!).

We celebrated a Birthday, played endless games of badminton, tag and football; ran around the camp and down to the beautiful coastline with sweeping views over the Snowdonia National Park.

The cousins, a mixture of ages, came together like old friends and spent hours trying their hand at various activities like archery, go-karting and aqua jets in the swimming pool.

Our only wish was that we could have stayed longer – and maybe booked a few more caravans for my side of the family too!

 

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