As you can see in the following photo, all was not quite what it seemed. It was a freak snowfall, and only on the top of the mountains overlooking SB - and even though my girls are wearing quite a fine array of Old Navy fleece, they are in fact gloveless and completely unprepared for real snow.
Here I am herding them towards a patch of snow, iphone in hand, desperate for that 2012 Christmas photo...
Anna said "I've never seen snow in the wild before!" and Lucy looked at her reddened frosty hands and couldn't understand why it hurt so much. We don't have gloves in California.
Here are the snowmen we built.
Not everything in California is bigger.
So yes, even though it had snowed on the mountains a few days prior to our England trip, I did make a facetious comment on Facebook about the incongruity of packing for vacation and taking the sunscreen and sunglasses out of my handbag. Turns out I was very wrong on that score. A chorus of disapproving Brits gave me a virtual smackdown citing unprecedented March weather; t-shirts and temperatures higher than Mexico. Having just been on the receiving end of a big storm system that came up to California from Mexico (producing the snow), I was understandably cautious. There's California 'warm' (bikini and flip flops at work) and then North Yorkshire 'warm' (take off one layer of fleece - leave the remaining six).
In the end they were right. It was gorgeous and we were unbelievably lucky. Here are Anna and Lucy fishing in the River Wharfe in March one week after the Santa Barbara snow photos were taken:
I had to keep looking at the leafless trees to remind myself that it was indeed March and spring had not yet sprung. It felt like England was trying to woo us back. She was putting on a spectacular show; daffodils, lambs, blue skies, Cadbury's Easter eggs, pub gardens and pints. When the sun is shining, nothing can beat the beauty of North Yorkshire. (When the sun in shining.....)
I bought the girls cheap bamboo fishing nets, the kind I played with when I was their age. I thought they would have fun fruitlessly chasing minnows.
Anna caught seven trout.
OK, they were tiny, but still. The girl is a phenomenon. The first time she went fishing with her grandfather in Santa Barbara she caught (and ate) a massive Halibut.
Five minutes after this photo was taken both girls were down to their knickers so they could wade deeper in to the river. Later that day in her journal Anna wrote 'the river was cold, or at least my toes thought so'.
Anna declared she could "fish and fish until the day is done" she was enjoying herself so much, so of course Lucy, my little contrarian, decided fishing was for the birds and instead she wanted to cross the river and 'pet a sheep'.
We weren't about to tell her that sheep aren't the most cheerfully petable creatures - but there was an ice-cream van parked across the way, and it had been years since I'd had a 99 (an ice-cream with a chocolate flake stuck in it), so we headed that way. Lucy took one look at her 99 and wailed "someone put a stick in mine!"
We hadn't been on holiday for two years. Not even a weekend away. I'd forgotten what a difference taking a break from things can make. We packed a lot in, but it's true, a change is as good as a rest. I feel recharged. Positive. Hopeful. Who knows, maybe I'll even write a little more frequently.
I've already booked our next holiday. I think you should too. Tell your boss I said so.