Tag Archives: christmas

Pohutukawa Tree at Scorching Bay

December reflections | Christmas, a Birthday & holidaying

It’s been a wonderful few weeks of holidaying in the countryside of the Wairarapa, enjoying the build up to Christmas, and our daughter Sophie’s Boxing Day Birthday, catching up with friends and enjoying the long light evening’s of summer.

Our oldest daughter finished school for the year at the beginning of December and we’re loving having her home. She performed in her annual dance show, which was wonderful, and it’s amazing to see how quickly she has settled back into life and her hobbies in New Zealand – having only returned from California at the beginning of October.

The Pohutukawa trees are in full bloom and the garden is thriving with a bountiful crop of tomatoes, strawberries and peas.

Pohutukawa Tree at Scorching Bay

Our daughter Sophie made an amazing new friendship, whilst holidaying in Martinborough, in the Wairarapa (her first ‘boy-friend’, ahem!). They are both nature loving, tree climbing adventurers!

Sophie & Sage

We bought a holiday house in Martinborough, loving the open space of the countryside and the friendly atmosphere of the little village, surrounded by vineyards.

Holiday home

It’s only an hour an a half drive from our home on the south coast of Wellington, so an easy distance for us to escape away for a weekend or a night. Here’s a few snaps from our week’s holiday in the Wairarapa –

Our puppy, Cocoa, is reaching five month’s old now and is so adorable and a great addition to the family. He took his first paddle in the sea the other day!

Christmas was beautifully relaxed and Christmas Eve was a scorcher! Our neighbour and friend has her Birthday on Christmas Eve, so we enjoyed celebrating with a meal out in the evening – and I took her off in the morning for some child-free pampering and lunch.

Chantel and I

Christmas Day wasn’t as sunny and hot, but beautiful all the same. We enjoyed a relaxed morning opening presents (making sure puppy didn’t run off with paper!), pavlova and summer berries in the morning and dinner in the late afternoon. Our oldest daughter gave us all hilarious cards, with her usual kookie humour reflected in the greetings!

We celebrated our Boxing Day babe’s birthday a few days prior to Christmas, so she could be sure of seeing all her friends. She loves the ‘stone grill’ at the Southern Cross in town, so we booked a table and enjoyed a fabulous few hours of good company and food on the 23rd December. Her new ‘boy-friend’, from our holiday in Martinborough, joined us – with his lovely Mum. They ended up staying over at our home that evening, so we had a really wonderful time.

It’s so good to be back home in Wellington and we are enjoying hanging out with all our good friends so much.

Now we are looking forward to enjoying the New Year celebrations and welcoming in 2015.

Hope you have enjoyed a wonderful festive season too x

Pohutukawa Tree

Christmas & my Pohutukawa Fairy!

Pohutukawa fairy meets Santa

We’ve got the tree up and are feeling festive. The Christmas CD’s have been dusted off and we’ve had our first sing along around the piano. The weather (it’s supposed to be summer in New Zealand now) is very northern hemisphere… with a few days of sunshine to remind us that summer is ‘here’, it’s just very, very slow in hotting up.

The garden is looking lush (thanks to all the rain). The vegetables, herb garden and (very important!) strawberries, are thriving. Most importantly, the New Zealand ‘Christmas’ tree – the Pohutukawa Tree – is in bloom; so we can be in no doubt summer is the season and Christmas is getting closer and closer!

There’s lots of little Christmas jobs to do, as well as ‘keeping house’ and taking care of our pets. Thankfully I have a little Pohutukawa Fairy to give me a cheery, helping hand!

Pohutukawa fairy at the beach

She’s been busy at the beach arranging the driftwood into pretty piles and walking our puppy (as well as teaching him how to go down a slide!).

Walking Cocoa the puppy

She’s been popping up at Wellington Airport, to help pick up friends –

Pohutukawa fairy at Wellington airport

 … and has even met ‘Smaug‘ the dragon!

Smug the dragon

She’s been helping to do some Christmas shopping too, what a wonderful helper she is!

The festive season is definitely in full swing (even if summer is a little slow to load!) – and my Pohutukawa fairy will need her dress washing very soon! x


Linking up with The Photo Gallery theme of ‘Christmas’ this week at ‘Sticky Fingers’.

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


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

Merry Christmas from Santa Barbara!

Christmas in Santa Barbara is a wonderful place to be, with sunshine and blue sky by day, and a festive feel by nightfall at 5pm.


Every tree trunk along State Street is snaked in white fairy lights, the shop windows and restaurants are decorated with class, style and an abundance of sparkles.


There is nothing tacky or over the top, this is a place of distinction and class. The atmosphere is happy, not hurried or overwhelming. There are no pushy shoppers or crowded streets, but there are plenty of smiles, groups of singers, trumpeters and festive balloon makers. Even the bronze statues are happy (well a good candy stick can do that!)…


It has been a really lovely place to be in the festive build up and that’s even without participating in any of the various events that have been listed in the local paper. We’ve simply enjoyed being together and sharing this time, first with our NZ friends at the beginning of the month and now with my dear parents visiting from England.


We’ve also had seasonal colds and coughs, to slow us down – but that’s to be expected, with temperatures reaching highs in the mid-twenties (degrees C) by day and dropping below ten at night. Pretty pleasant weather by all accounts here!

The final days building up to Christmas have been all about spending time together (sharing germs and swapping hankies!), drinking jolly good red wine (medicinal of course!) and wrapping presents in locked rooms. We are all very much looking forward to sharing Christmas Day with all the merriment that comes with family life, three excited children and wonderful Grandparents.

For me personally, having my parents here with us is the best present of all. I would have felt quite lost without them.


As it is, we feel as though our Christmas has been stretched out as we share, via the Internet, the celebrations of friends in New Zealand and Australia, and then wake Christmas morning to be 8 hours behind our UK family and friends. We shall be the last to celebrate this year, quite a novel feeling after over a decade of being the first in the world to get a visit from the man in the red suit ;-)

So, Merry Christmas to all, wherever & however you are celebrating xx


Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree… | The Photo Gallery

It’s been many years since we’ve seen so many Christmas trees in the build up to Christmas. Visiting Disneyland in the festive season was, as you’d imagine, mind-blowing in a sensory overload of lights, baubles, ribbon, glitter and a touch of fake snow – even in sunny southern California – for good measure.

Disneyland California Christmas Trees

It’s also the first time, in well over a decade, that we’ve spent Christmas in the northern hemisphere, with the daylight fading by 5pm. Everywhere we turn there are Christmas lights wrapped around tree trunks, adorning houses and shops. I daren’t think too much of the electricity usage – I just hope the sun is being put to good use with multiple solar panels to channel the light to make the light! There’s certainly enough blue sky days throughout winter to put solar panels to good use.

Disneyland California by day, and by night, was equally magical.

Disneyland Christmas cheer

Our own little Christmas tree, here in Santa Barbara, is missing our collection of adornments from over the years – we left them all in New Zealand – but with a few bits of red and white bling, some lights and a couple of crystals, we are feeling the magic – so much so that Miss 3 told her Grandparents on the telephone, “You will never believe how beautiful our Christmas tree is! Your eyes will pop out when you see it… but don’t worry, I’ll help you find them and pop them back in again.”

So, for my photo gallery this week, and the theme of ‘Christmas Tree’, I am sharing a few of the snaps I took whilst in Disneyland and hope you enjoy a very magical and merry holiday season too!

We have only three sleeps to wait till Grandma & Granddad, my dear folks, arrive! The best Christmas present of all x

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

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


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

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery