Saturday, June 29, 2013


Friday night was a special occasion at our school, as we celebrated Matariki (the Māori New Year) with a powhiri and hangi. The school my children attend is small (approx. 55 pupils, up to year 8 (13 year olds)) and rural. It is the centre of our community, as there is nothing else here! We are close to two villages (5 minutes drive), and two towns (about 15 minutes drive in either direction). We have almost lived here for two years, but it feels like a lot longer as we are all so settled, and that is mainly due to the school.


Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises just once a year, in mid-winter. Traditionally, Matariki was a time to remember those who had died in the last year. But it was also a happy event – crops had been harvested and seafood and birds had been collected. With plenty of food in the storehouses, Matariki was a time for singing, dancing and feasting. Matariki, or Māori New Year celebrations were once popular, but stopped in the 1940s. In 2000, they were revived. Only a few people took part at first, but in just a few years thousands were honouring the ‘New Zealand Thanksgiving’. [taken from Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.]

As the school had not held a powhiri (Māori for welcoming ceremony) for more than two years we were part of the manuhiri (group of visitors)  who were welcomed by the tangata whenua (hosts) to the school. This involved us waiting at the entrance with the other families while we were called on to the grounds. A powhiri must involve four people, one female to do the karanga (call) and one male to do the mihi (speech) on either side. [Further info can be found here.]

When we got to the top of the drive we took our seats and there was singing and speeches. We were honoured that "H" was chosen to say the mihi for the manuhiri.  We then lined up for the hongi - where we shook hands and pressed noses and foreheads, which means that one is no longer considered manuhiri (visitor) but rather tangata whenua. This was a completely new experience for the hubby and I. It was lovely to see how the kids took it so naturally, but then they have the benefit of a bi-cultural schooling. As I said to them all we learnt at school in the 1970s was a couple of pretty dodgy songs that had been translated to Māori. We weren't taught the correct pronunciation of  Māori words, so now the kids correct us!

H's mihi:
Kia ora koutou
Kua tae mai nei mātou
Ki tenei kura
Ki te hakari o te matariki
Ka nui te koa
Mo to koutou kaha
Ki te koreroreo
I nga take
E pa ana ki teneu kura
Ko (his name) toku ingoa
No Whakatu ahau
He uri tenei no Haina
Inananei e noho ana ahau ki Mahana i te Waipounamu
He whakatauki - Matariki ahunga nui

After the powhiri, the refurbished classroom was officially opened by the local MP, with "H" (being the eldest at the school) along with the youngest pupil cutting the ribbon. Then we waited for the hangi to be opened.

A hangi is the traditional way of cooking food in a pit in the ground. There is a real art to laying a hangi, and is was carried out by one of the dads. The kids had earlier dug a hole in the playground, and on Friday morning a fire was lit to heat up pieces of metal (traditionally stones were used) which were placed in the pit with the baskets of food wrapped up in tin foil and cheesecloth. The baskets of food were covered with damp sheets to keep the soil away from the food (traditionally leaves would have been used).  I think it took about 7 hours for the food to cook throughout the day.

Hangi food has a taste that is so unique it's hard to describe, it's definitely smoky but not like barbecued or smoked food,  its very moist too, very delicious. There were three different meats, potatoes, pumpkin, kumara (sweet potato), cabbage and stuffing. It had been years since the hubby or I had eaten at a hangi, and it was the first for the kids.

It was getting quite dark and cold by this stage, but with the fire still blazing, and the stars above us it was a magical night. We were home by 7.30 to light our log burner and warm up!

This is my attempt to get a shot of the super moon setting on  Monday morning, about 7.30am. Here's a much better photo of the moon rising, wish we'd been home to see it, but we were driving back from Blenheim after a weekend of dancing competitions with Miss L.

It's quite amazing to turn around 180 degrees and see the sun rising at the same time.

"H" actually got better shots than me the following day! And of the sunrise too!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013


I've just had what I consider to be two and a half days of luxury - I went on a painting workshop! Thankfully the hubby wasn't away for work, so was able to pick up the kids afters school on Monday. At first I was quite apprehensive, as being the introvert I am, I was unsure of what to expect and who I'd meet. I did know one other artist, which helped. But what really helped me was painting. And having the time and space to focus on painting.

The setting was amazing, in a 1905 building (which is pretty old by NZ standards) built over the sea overlooking the Boulder Bank. I think I'll just let the photos do the talking.......

The workshop was taken by Richard Adams, an abstract painter from Auckland. I picked up some techniques for working on paper with texture, and colour. I haven't taken any photos of the end-product, as they're really only experimentations. Not only was it a great location and venue, the organisers were also great cooks! Ah luxury!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Life is busy, with lots of things going on. I'm off to a market on 7th July, so the kitchen table has not been seen for a few weeks! I'd read about The Hottie Project on Lisa's blog, which is all about making hot water bottle covers to keep children in Christchurch snuggly and warm this winter. Having spent about seven winters myself in Christchurch, I know it can get a bit cold, and add into the mix houses that have still not been fixed since the earthquakes, I know its a bit of a miserable time for some people. So hopefully my hottie cover will cheer someone up this winter.

I wanted to make a unisex cover, so chose a lovely soft gray jumper that I'd felted.  I'd never made a hottie cover before, but it really is quite easy with Lisa's template, or using a hottie as a guide.

We use wheat bags to warm our beds, which are heated in the microwave with a glass of water (a very important detail). No electric blankets around here! I love my wheat bags - yes I need three strategically placed about my person, and in the morning, if I haven't kicked them out, they are still warm. Here are some I made last year from a flanalette pillowcase.

When I'd finished the hottie cover there was enough left overs to make a pencil case. I've been making them like this for a year now, but felt like a change, so the rest I've made have different faces. It's more work, so I might have to put the price up slightly, it's so hard to calculate how long each one takes, I'm sure I have a very low hourly rate! 

I had to find time to finish off a small painting (A4 size) which is a donation to the Suter Art Gallery's redevelopment fundraiser. I did the background at art group, but it took me a few days to work out where to from there.  In the end I masked off the shapes and used white oilstick on the background. I've titled it "Glimpses", and have now got some other ideas for larger paintings.

There are quite a few other things going on in "life" which I'll not bore you with. Before I knew how busy this month was going to be I signed up for the 100 Days Project, where I'm doing a quick Sharpie drawing every day.  Seven days done, 93 to go! Some days I've found it easy, and others are harder, it's definitely a challenge!  Here is Day 1's drawing. If you want to check out the others take a peek here.

While on the theme of 100 - this is my 100th blog post. I've actually been putting off writing it, as thought I should make more of a song and dance about such a milestone and hold a giveaway (like proper bloggers do!). But I haven't quite got myself that organised - yet! I would like to thank my faithful followers and especially those of you who write comments. Comments are great - I appreciate them so much, if I was a better blogger I'd reply individually to you all, but I'm not, so sorry about that.

I'll leave you with a sunrise, we've been having some crackers lately, and heading towards the shortest day of the year I don't even have to get up early to appreciate them. Excuse the power lines but I was in my pjs and slippers and wasn't venturing off the deck to get the perfect shot!