Pakira Marae Opening in Waitahanui

A special day was dawning so in the dark  we all gathered outside waiting to be welcomed in. The call went out and slowly the crowd moved through. We filed along with them expectant. Ipads and camera flashes illuminating the dark along with fire drums emitting both light and heat. The drone overhead capturing the moments for everyone. Such a variety of people…plenty of colour amidst the sea of black clothes.

Arriving at the door of the meeting house we followed the example of those before and took our shoes off carrying them with us to avoid the incredible confusion that would occur if a thousand shoes were left at the door and you had to try and retrieve a matching pair afterwards (that appealed to my messed up brain and I saw a cartoon emerging 🙂 )


I was amazed standing in the line outside as to how many people reached up and touched the carving over the door. Inside was even more so. Admiration abounding for  the artwork and carvings with lots of ooh’s and aahs and affectionate touching of the works. Imagine going into the Louvre and touching the paintings? It wouldn’t be allowed and yet here it was pretty standard practice. A tactile people, maybe?


Finding a corner out of the road of the masses I had a go at capturing the scene in front of me. I may have no reason to come back here and I want to remember the insides well. Panels interspersed the woven walls with a panel for Ratana and another in the centre top. A big carved statue was on the floor in the middle.  A simple design, but very effective.


People gathered outside and through the wharekai (Foodhouse or kitchen). SO many catchups and conversations. People greeting each other with the traditional hongi and a kiss. There were soooo many scenes and interesting people that I would have loved to sketch but I need to do more work on honing my ‘fast’ skills…30 seconds or less is a pretty hard call.

After breakfast at the local community hall there was a Haka Powhiri.  Good, loud and fierce. Then inside again for speeches and song.  After a few speeches, a man in a blue suit stood and began to sing. A beautiful voice and right on key. Many joined him and some with harmonies. Then after he had spoken the Ratana Brass Band played a hymn very tastefully.


For a little Pakeha (white) girl who grew up with virtually no Maori contact, I am constantly surprised on our return to the Land of the Long White Cloud, at how strong the Maori culture is now. Although English was spoken today, the Maori language was much more prevalent. I heard parents talking to their kids in Maori, greetings in Maori… ‘morena’ is my new word for the day…speeches and singing totally in Maori. They have a respect for the elderly common to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders we previously lived with.  Today was an opportunity to show respect to my fellow Waitahanui community. …to give them honour. May they enjoy their new marae.

#Grateful for this opportunity

Kindness in Rotorua

They offered and I accepted. And thus, we got to spend a day together travelling over to Rotorua for my appointment at the hospital.

This was only Miss C’s 2nd trip to New Zealand, and her first to the North Island. I knew that she was seeing more of the country by taking me over but how exciting was it really for two girls in their early 20’s to take one of their mothers for her hospital visit? I felt kinda guilty for taking away their precious time together, especially as they had been planning this visit for such a long time.

Instead of worrying I decided to make the most of the day as best I could. It’s true that we didn’t race down the luge at frightening speeds together, Hang glide across the lake, or zip through the forest canopy on a harness, which I know they would have LOVED! But, we had lots of laughs as we chatted about this and that, had lunch at the Lakeside Cafe and enjoyed the glistening sunshine on a lovely day at the end of Winter.


I would have loved to have stopped here and there to do my sketching on location but there was only so much I could ask of them, so instead they happily drove round the roundabout a few times until I had a photo I could sketch from later. Fun can come in many forms 🙂 The clock tower in Rotorua is an icon of the area.


All still feeling adventurous, we hived over the hill to the Blue and Green Lakes. It has been years since I have been up there. And, although Miss C was looking at all those hills and wanting desperately to go and conquer them, Miss J kept the laughter and silliness going to keep her from being too bored with our little dilly dallies around the lake edges. We are really blessed here in New Zealand to have such beautiful scenery all year round.


We hived over yet another hill on our return home to the Wai-O-tapu geothermal area. Watching that mud plop and steam was fascinating. You found yourself kind of mesmerized as you anticipated the next plop, or how high it would go. Miss C got a lesson on how the geothermal works in our area (once a teacher…always a teacher. I just couldn’t help myself 😦  She was polite enough to be enthralled.)

I was really grateful to these girls for the day. Their kindness in being so willing to drive me over to save me pain. Their enthusiasm for the activities we did do, albeit not at their energy or ability levels. They thought of someone else other than themselves and in this day and age you don’t always see too much of that quality. Thank you Miss J and Miss C for the day. It was appreciated greatly.


#usksymposium From Afar

Instagram is full of them.

It’s all over my Facebook.

They’ve been on WGN news.

And I gotta say that seeing these urban sketchers everyday, all day, is paying off and getting me all inspired. But, as beautiful as Chicago is, why go there when this place I call home is SO amazing?! It might not be strictly ‘urban’ sketching all the time, but it is sketching our lives here…can we help it that our natural beauty is so gob-smackingly incredible?!


So, a few art friends joined me and we went out on our first sketching morning. We met at 2Mile Bay Coffee Shop and enjoyed coffee, gourmet pizza and sketching. It’s full of interesting boating memorabilia and not so many people due to the cold SouthWesterlies blowing across the lake at the moment, which was perfect as some in the group were feeling a little awkward drawing in front of the public for the first time.cof

Our sketches might not have been earth shattering  masterpieces but we began, we embraced the experience and we enjoyed each other. Our little piece of paradise was being imprinted on our brains and appreciated.

Cottage in Waitahanui for Liz Steel lessons

I came home #grateful for these gals who were willing to brave something new with me (new for us, anyways). Inspiration is still flowing so it will happen again. It’s so easy in your home town to miss the beauty for the daily dailies that bog us down. This week we got to look around and appreciate.

Thanks #usksymposium for the inspiration all the way down here in lil ‘ol New Zealand.

2MileBay Coffee Shop

Firstborn Mama Moments

It’s a long time since I held that precious bundle in my arms and we looked into each other’s eyes. There’s been a lot of water go under the bridge since then.

Over the years there have been times when I have felt akin to Pooh Bear and his friends from 100 Acre Woods as they raced their ‘Pooh Sticks’ under the bridge. Sometimes ecstatic like Roo, at other times covering my eyes and holding my breath just as Piglet did. I have had mothering moments where I felt as positive as Rabbit and then as despondent as Pooh. And then there were the Eeyore moments…when something happened that was a total surprise and you had no idea what to do with it and we all needed to help each other to get out. The joys of parenting!!!

How we have all grown! But none so much as that gorgeous firstborn of ours.

This week has seen her accept a new job position in another city. Delighted for the new adventures ahead of her. Impressed with how she has learnt from the present ‘adventures’. Adversity has forged values in her that make her parents smile.


She has always been a BRILLIANT organiser, but I have watched her learn to think of others in the organising. Proud of the way she has grown. This week I braved a new haircut and she came for support and took photos, laughed and encouraged me on. Thank you for thinking selflessly of me.


We finished the week by taking her to our favourite restaurant to celebrate her new adventure and we talked for two solid hours about the things that have passed under the bridge. She asked her dad to pray for her. We laughed. We cried…they never have enough tissues in fancy restaurants. We celebrated her and were thankful for this time when she has been back under our roof. We acknowledged the growth in ALL of us.



#Grateful for all the Firstborn Mama moments and the story we have written together.


#Grateful for time to celebrate just three this weekend. He watched sports reviews. She did Sudoku and I drew at a local cafe…all quiet.


#Grateful for opportunities to find the positive…such as enjoying the raindrops on my glasses making it almost impossible to see. Just a different perspective!

What have you had happen in your week? Are there things to be thankful for? A new way to look at it? Feel free to post below.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

A week of bitter winds, hail and snow.

Not a week I wanted to walk the dog. How come my dog doesn’t know it’s cold and stay in front of the fire like other dogs? She even still wanted to swim, but I drew the line at that…well, the two coldest days, anyway. Those pleading eyes won out and I braced myself hard against the winds. Please don’t tell her but I felt better after each walk…much better than sitting inside all day. #Grateful for her gentle insistence.


My Ugg boots and I became best friends this week. Warm extremities help in warding off the cold and my darling dearest’s thoughtful gift was appreciated all over again.


Daughter’s boyfriend came to enjoy the snow. The wonder of it falling fresh was not lost on him and increased our own joy at this magical time of year.


My darling dearest worked from home for two days and I got to enjoy him at the end of the table working hard. It was too irresistable not to draw. #Grateful for his work ethics and devotion to us. I got a goodie!

IMG_20170710_195849_987 (1)

Then once the storm had cleared that dog took daughter #2 and I for a walk. We took the camera to have some creative fun along the way and happened on a little European Goldfinch clinging to a Toitoi stalk on the edge of the lake. Thinking he would fly away we took a photo from a distance and then crept further and further forward with not a flinch from him. With each step closer we took another photo in case this was our last and he would surely fly away. Just a foot away behind a large rock she got great close-ups showing all his lovely bright colours. He didn’t fly even when the dog came within inches. All puffed up and looking a tad worse for wear we decided to move him to a more sheltered position. He hopped onto the finger offered as if he had done it all his life and we carried him up to behind the rocks amongst the thistles and grass. Immediately he turned his head into his feathers for a sleep. Maybe the storm had been just too much for the little fellow. Such opportunities to engage closely with free birds don’t come along every day. #Grateful for this special moment.



Winter has a special set of joys. This week was no exception. Dean martin had it right when he sang ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’. We sang right along with him. Do you have something that makes you thankful in Winter? Do you like the snow? Add you ‘winter thankfuls’  below to the list.




I am Gr8ful.

Gr8ful for all the love I have been shown this week past.

It started with a dinner date with my darling dearest just for two at our favourite restaurant. Plateau has been an absolute winner every time we have been there. Love the ambiance. Love the flavours. Love the company.



Then the week progressed with all the kids coming home to celebrate with me. Each one had thought of something special to do for Mum that she would really appreciate. One had organised to bring their guitars and at night we played and sang till my fingers were sore.

Another bought two books that we could read together.




Someone brought a fun game down and we played and laughed until midnight doing the highland fling and all kinds of other crazy stuff.

Everyone took Mum shopping.

Each took a turn to have a ‘D&M’ at some point.

They walked the beach with me and the dog.

Another fixed my bike.



My darling dearest had a much thought about ‘surprise’ gift he had secretly worked on.

‘Happy Birthday’ was sung in every eating house we entered, down the street, and in the car. We had three part harmonies and operatic versions, along with great out-of-tune gusto and laughter following




I was hugged, loved and honoured.


And when my heart was so full I thought it would burst they all went home to their places leaving in their wake a VERY Gr8ful Mama.

Thank you, Family.

Man’s Best Friend

She might not understand too much English but she sure can understand body language, tone, emotions, and definitely tears.

The tears started to flow and Nylah was over in a shot offering her paw, putting her head up for a rub, giving the big brown eye treatment…being man’s best friend.

An occasional acknowledging pat will not cut it for our dog…she is the ultimate physical touch dog. She will nudge and nudge and nudge every time you stop rubbing her. I am not sure who is really getting the best therapy here…her or her humans, but, whichever, it worked and the tearful felt loved.

Somedays her insatiable need for physical affection can drive me nuts but today I was filled with gratefulness as I watched her meet a need.

Thanks, Nylah.

Skype and Sunsets

Walking the beach to clear my head between studying and painting all day and classes for the evening still looming. That lovely dog as keen as ever to accompany me.



A skype call on my phone. My parents want a quick chat and then he notices the background.

And I realise again how VERY blessed I am to live here and walk this beach everyday…sunrise or sunset, it is beautiful! Definitely #lovetaupo  and definitely #grateful 🙂


All Boxed In

No, we are NOT shifting again. Rather, it is that moment when you are all settled then decide you R.E.A.L.L.Y. need some thing from the storage.

In this case, it was art books for a class tomorrow night. I’ve wanted them before but managed to do without. Tonight, that hero of mine offered to enter the storage we affectionately call ‘the gray vortex’ and see if he could emerge unscathed with the boxes I wanted.

We were jumping up and down complaining of the cold, while he was sweating with the effort of moving all this ‘stuff’ to find the right boxes. The night air was a welcome relief for him.

So, my lounge room now looks like a cardboard maze, and in the next few days I will need to find homes for all these ‘friends’. We are definitely all boxed in. But, for tomorrow night’s class I am all  prepared and grateful to my darling dearest for his efforts.

Cold hands and Warm Heart

I have a gift.

At least, that is what my darling dearest tells me.

The ability to still function with a body temperature below 0°C.

I don’t know if I call it a gift, but, I sure do it well!

He reached over to hold my hand…a romantic gesture that nearly had him in ICU for frostbite. But, instead of recoiling he offered me the other one too. He’s good like that.

“How do you do it?”, he asked as he wrapped my cold digits in his warmth.

I clung to him like a life-raft knowing from experience that warmth will soon start to flow. And while things are heating up in the physical department I have a VERY warm heart despite the cold hands.

#Grateful for his continuing kindness.