Tag Archives: christmas

Sunset over the vineyards, summer time in Martinborough, Wairarapa.

Happy New Year 2016!

It’s been well over a month since I last blogged, but Instagram has been a constant online ‘fix’ and brought back a few memories from the year with the ‘Best of nine’!

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The end of 2015 came around so quickly, with our three daughters finishing a great school year in early December (in a flurry of carols, athletics events, prize giving ceremonies, art exhibitions and so on). They came home with lovely art from the year and glowing school reports (phew!).

Alice's cloak

Alice’s cloak

Sophie's character portrait!

Sophie’s character portrait!

The school holidays kicked off with putting up the Christmas tree and enjoying the sunshine with lots of free play in the garden and local beaches and walkways.

Hanging around enjoying the summer school holidays in the garden.

Hanging around enjoying the summer school holidays in the garden.

My parents arrived from England a week later and though their arrival was met with a couple of cold days of weather, we made the most of the time to visit Te Papa and the Dreamworks Animation The Exhibition – Journey from sketch to screen.

Dreamwork's Exhibition at Te Papa

Dreamwork’s Exhibition at Te Papa

We also celebrated our second born daughter’s Birthday in the last few weeks of the school term (knowing that few of her friends would be available to celebrate on her actual ‘Boxing Day’ birthday!). We invited her whole class to a trampoline place for a session of bouncing, afternoon tea and celebration. It was a lovely event and great for her to enjoy a moment to celebrate her Birthday before the Christmas countdown began in earnest. It was a particularly special celebration for her, as 2015 marked her first full year in formal school, after four years of home education.

2015 was also our youngest daughters first year of school and a big change for me – going from having all three daughters being home educated whilst we lived in California, from mid 2013 to 2014, to all of them being in formal school.

Young Alice, with her second milk tooth to fall out - just before New Year's Eve!

Young Alice, with her second milk tooth to fall out – just before New Year’s Eve!

Thankfully I had our puppy, Cocoa the Cavoodle, to keep me company whilst the children were at school and I have loved having time to run, walk and keep the house in order (as I’d previously become accustomed to living in amongst a productive kind of chaos – with several ‘works in progress’ always on the go, as my three daughters filled every corner of the home with their creations, play and experiments!).

Cocoa the Cavoodle

Cocoa the Cavoodle

I was pleased to participate in three half marathons this year and, in the later half of the year, I started to focus on making daily yoga practice a part of my life.

Hubby has a new job with a company called ‘Powershop’ and his work is taking him on business trips to Melbourne and the UK.

The girls are all thriving in their own unique ways. I adore this photograph, from our visit to ‘Lake Ferry’ on the south coast of the Wairarapa, New Zealand, taken over our New Year holiday 2015/16, of my hubby and our three daughters on the beach exploring.

Daddy and his daughters at Lake Ferry, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Our oldest daughter (who will become a teenager this year!) loves art, design, crafting and singing. She has a lovely group of friends and is so super organised (we live in hope that her younger sisters follow suit!). She has enjoyed participating in a Shakespeare production at school and can’t wait to start Year 9, with more opportunities for drama and singing. She’s also looking forward to learning Japanese! She’s great company and my hubby and I really enjoy opportunities to spend some one-on-one time with her.

Our second born daughter is as loud and active as ever! She spends as much time as possible hanging from a trapeze bar, bouncing on the trampoline and doing cartwheels and headstands. In 2015 she took up piano and represented her school in the choir, cross country running and touch rugby. She really had an exceptional year at school and we are so happy to see her feeling settled.

Just hanging around!

Just hanging around!

Our youngest daughter is an absolute delight and such a character. She adores nature and experimenting. She’s always creating, imagining and singing away. She has an imaginary friend called Rosetta and often skips around the garden looking for bugs, bees and butterflies, leaving a trail of happiness in her path.

Alice, river side, New Year's Day at the Waiohine Gorge.

Alice, river side, New Year’s Day at the Waiohine Gorge.

We are now well into the long summer holidays and have enjoyed mostly glorious weather (just a cold snap of a few days, when Mum and Dad landed from their week’s holiday stop-over in Singapore – poor folks were freezing!).  The sunshine soon returned and we enjoyed a good week of sunshine in the lead up to Christmas Day and over the New Year. On Christmas Eve we took Alice, our youngest, to talk to Santa in Kircaldie & Staines, visit the big tree at Midland Park in central Wellington and enjoy an ice-cream by the beach at Oriental Parade.

Christmas Day was perfect and we had a lovely morning of present opening, before strolling down the road for a buffet lunch at a local place overlooking the stunning south coast.

Christmas morning

Christmas morning

My dear Dad tried hard to get a photograph of us all together – but it was like herding cats – impossible… that is until he took a nap on the sofa after lunch – and then the opportunity presented itself!

Granddad caught taking an afternoon nap, captured by Charlotte 'selfie style'!

Granddad caught taking an afternoon nap, captured by Charlotte ‘selfie style’!

Christmas Day luncheon at The Pines, overlooking Princess & Houghton Bays.

Christmas Day luncheon at The Pines, overlooking Princess & Houghton Bays.

The sunshine continued over to Boxing Day, when our second born daughter turned 10! She had a fun morning playing in the garden, lunch of ‘Yum Cha’ at Majestic Cuisine, with her Daddy and younger sister, and then, later in the early evening, dinner at The Southern Cross, where she loves the ‘stone grill’. Meanwhile, I took my folks and oldest daughter around to ‘The Chocolate Fish Cafe’ for lunch, and we enjoyed a lovely little stroll with Cocoa the cavoodle puppy, and searching out a geocache, before catching up with the rest of the family in the afternoon.

After a sunshine blessed Christmas in Wellington, we headed over the hill to Martinborough on the 28th December, to see in the New Year in the countryside.

Rivendell - Kaitoke Regional Park

Rivendell – Kaitoke Regional Park

On the way over to the Wairarapa we made a stop at Rivendell – Kaitoke Regional Park – where the sunshine had brought every person and their dog out for a dip in the river! It was absolutely beautiful and a lovely start to our week long holiday.

Swimming in the river at 'Rivendell' - Kaitoke Regional Park, New Zealand

Swimming in the river at ‘Rivendell’ – Kaitoke Regional Park, New Zealand

New Year’s Eve saw the older two girls doing a ropes course at Patuna Farm Adventures, on the outskirts of Martinborough.

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Meanwhile, my folks and I took a relaxed walk around Greytown, stopping for lunch at the White Swan Hotel, with young Alice and our dog, Cocoa.

Grandma & Alice on New Year's Eve in Greytown, Wairarapa.

Grandma & Alice on New Year’s Eve in Greytown, Wairarapa.

In the afternoon I took a nap with Alice, whilst Mum and Dad did the Rapaki Walk.

Then it was to cool down in the paddling pool!

Daddy sorted for New Year's Eve!

Daddy sorted for New Year’s Eve (with the help of Sophie, a beer and a water pistol)!

We saw in the New Year in Martinborough, calling out to the cows and sheep ‘Happy New Year’ as the clock turned midnight.

Chinese Whispers around the dinner table over our New Year's Eve dinner.

Chinese Whispers around the dinner table over our New Year’s Eve dinner.

My dear Mum was most confused as to why there was no official countdown and ‘Big Ben’ on the television, so my hubby and Dad provided the entertainment – swinging on the yoga trapeze on the deck with a strange bubbly infused style!

New Year’s Day was spent enjoying the gorgeous scenery at Waiohine Gorge, (well my folks, my youngest daughter and I did – whilst hubby stayed at home with the older two, who weren’t feeling quite so energetic!).

Waiohine Gorge and swing bridge.

Waiohine Gorge and swing bridge.

We found a lovely spot at the river’s edge and set up a little ‘camp’ of shade from the sun. The ground underfoot was scorching and too hot for our bare feet on the sand.

Grandma, Alice and I by the river side.

Grandma, Alice and I by the river side.

Shade camp by the river.

Shade camp by the river.

Granddad and the dragon

Granddad and the dragon

Later in the afternoon, when everyone was feeling more awake, we visited the river for a paddle, swim and kayak.

Kayaking on the river by Martinborough.

Kayaking on the river by Martinborough.

It has been so wonderful to have hubby home from work to join in the fun and we shall miss him when he has to head back to work this week; though the long, light summer evenings and weekends still give us plenty of opportunity for playing out!

My folks are with us till the last week of January and our daughters don’t return to school, for the start of the new school year, until February! I am so loving having the house so full and treasuring this very special family time together; though getting out for runs and quiet yoga practice is a little harder to prioritise…

I’ll probably begin again in earnest come February – as I’ve signed up to run my very first marathon this year – The Rotorua Marathon, on 30 April! Before that, I have the Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon in February to help get my training in gear.

My biggest hope for this year is that my daughters will continue to be happy in their school days and that there will be an opportunity to travel to the UK to celebrate my sister’s 40th Birthday and my Dad’s 70th Birthday – both in September.

Right now, I’m treasuring every moment of the summer holidays and having my family together. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016! xx

Family. Together. Time, so precious. My heart singing with happiness.

Family. Together. Time, so precious. My heart singing with happiness.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!)…

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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.

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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.

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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