This country is not short of beautiful places to visit. Around every corner, there’s a new experience waiting to be had. A hidden hot pool, a mountain to climb, a river mouth to explore, another little country town or a cafe randomly situated in the middle of nowhere.

The other day we took another beautiful drive following the road we’ve driven for the past few weeks. Early mornings and we’ve wanted to stop to watch the sunrise but, being on our way to work, didn’t afford such a treat. It was the weekend and we went with intention, not to snap the sunrise, we’d slept too late for that, but on our trips to Taupo, we’d spotted a cafe that we’d wanted to visit. So, as the fog began to lift, we set off for this little patch of quirky beauty.

‘The Art deco Cafe’ in the Eskdale Valley isn’t too far out of Napier and well worth a visit.

You may be wondering why pics of animals!! Well not only does it have AMAZING food, but it also has its own little farmlet. That’s the beauty of this place. The setting, at the base of the mountains,’ affords its own serenity and all the sweet little creatures wandering around do your soul good.

The decor is perhaps a little kitsch, but I guess that goes with the art deco era and I must admit I quite like it and love that the Chef, come owner, wore a crisp white uniform accompanied by REDBAND GUMBOOTS and can often be found wandering through the crowded tables with his slightly-rounded belly, checking that everyone is content and happy with their orders. It’s salt of the earth service here and it’s had us coming back for more.


We visited again recently with our Australian friends and had a lovely time around the same table we’ve sat on all our visits.

We’d taken them on a Tiki Tour. (Our term for NZ sightseeing) After a few hours Tiki Touring, we needed to refuel and decided to bypass our regular stop Six Sisters, in Napier and headed straight for the hills. Just on a side note, apparently, Six Sisters has accommodation too. You’ll find them on Airbnb. It’s a great place situated on the Marine Parade, in Napier. You can gaze out over the azure blue ocean while sipping great coffee!

But back to the Esk Valley and the Art Deco Cafe.

If you ever in the Hawke’s Bay region in New Zealand and crossing over the ranges between Napier and Taupo (said ‘Toe Paw’) be sure to stop in at The Art Deco Valley Cafe for a bite. It’ll be well worth it and don’t forget you’ll find great coffee at Six Sisters with a blue view!




A Christmas Gift

Three and a half years in waiting and the door opens.

Not everyone would consider an operation a gift, but for us, it is a long awaited door and the beginning of a new day.  We almost can’t believe it, we’ve waited so long, everything hinging on this day and as Christmas approaches a sigh of great relief falls from our lips.

Waiting Resting Expecting


It’s a slow mend and with it comes more emotion.

I left him on that table yet again and the tears of relief wouldn’t seem to stop. Then the nagging thoughts of ‘will this make any difference and what about the risks?” I can’t even think about that.  Hoping for the best but fear the surgeons words might be true ‘this won’t fix any thing, it will only make him safe’.  He shows us the irreparable damage and the stark truth screams at us,  but still we believe.

IMG_0029_2Why do we still believe against all odds?

Why do we continue to hope after all this?


HE DELIGHTS IN US!  I’m reading this and I’m feeling this. I’m reading David’s song in a book called Samuel and I’m feeling God’s overwhelming presence rushing in.  Today it’s almost tangible.

I can see Him coming to our aid like never before.  He’s angry with the one who has tried to destroy us.  I’m crying and I realise I need not fear.

My Rock – My Fortress  – My Deliverer – My Refuge – My Shield –  My Salvation – My – Stronghold – My Saviour – My Rescuer – My Supporter – My Holder – My Strengthener


The earth trembles, quakes and there’s fire coming from His mouth, smoke from His nostrils.  The heavens part and he’s coming on the Cherubim to help ME just like he did for David.


Rain and Thunder as his voice booms out.

He shoots arrows and the enemy scatters, gone, they run they scour as bolts of lightening chase them. The scene is pandemonium but we’re on the winning side. No fear here.



IMG_0123_2He Holds

He Lifts

He Rescues

IMG_0109_2He carries us to a SPACIOUS place, a safe place far from trouble, far from pain.



We are so frail, fickle and oft times faithless.


Why is his heart moved to help us?


BECAUSE HE DELIGHTS IN US, I’ll say it again


I believe it.

Read it all in 2 Samual 22:1-50


When the road stretches almost as far as heaven

When I was young, I always dreamt of owning a Combie and for a short time I did! It wasn’t the one you see below……


Mine was the good old split screen.. in Canary Yellow.

 Those of you that know ‘Combies’ will know just how cool that is! I paid a whole $600 for it. A steal at that price! It was so old and needed so much work but it was mine and I loved it….well I loved it long enough to realise it was a dream that wasn’t so important and I could let go of it, so I did.



Big ones, little ones.  Some realised, some awaiting fruition and some we’ve had to leave behind for one reason or another.

Happy to leave my ‘Combie Dream’ by the wayside, I QUICKLY moved on to a more reliable means of transport as this was going to take a labour of love to keep alive.  I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

The Combie in the photo below was much newer than mine and belonged to my daughter’s friend. Here they are setting off to follow their dreams. An adventure that took them across the other side of the country.  

Young ones full of hopes and dreams, fun and laughter seeking a future of their own.


I love that about Youth

When we’re young the world is our oyster and anything seems possible. So much to do, so much to see. It’s all just one brilliant adventure!

In no time at all, daughter number one had made a new life in the east, met the man of her dreams, returned later to the West to marry ‘said’ man under  Mulberry tree found deep in the South. Then together, travelled back east to buy their first little home of their own,  2000 miles away from where their lives began.



A lovely little real life fairy tale!

I look at them and wonder at their story, almost a mirror image of my young adventures. When I was young I did the very same thing. Leaving what I knew and venturing alone into the world, searching for my own dream.

Living in the east I was about to follow one of my dreams to ‘sing for Jesus’.  Ready to set off with a group called the Continentals, when suddenly I was interrupted by ‘the man of my dreams’.  Another dream shelved in order to take up the ‘get married, settle down build a house dream’. Very exciting for a young 22 year old.

Here we are almost 30 years later and still in love


I married ‘the man’ and before I knew it, son number one arrived.

Although I left behind the ‘singing dream’ I’ve been blessed to sing my way through life. Nothing fills my heart more than this but these days most of the time it’s just me sitting by piano bearing my heart in song to a loving Father God, ….worship keeps me close. I never want to be too far from him.



Italy cottage

But the cottage dream never came and the next 25 years is history. A life in ministry.  Cottage dream took it’s rightful place down the ladder of importance as following ‘the call’ rose to first place.


Along came Son one, daughter one, two, three and finally son two, five in all. Little happy faces to fill my cottage dream.  Life rolling on, ministry highs and lows, family adventures, weddings, funerals, holidays and then ‘the dreaded accident’. An unexpected curve in the road.

Continue reading “When the road stretches almost as far as heaven”

A Month to Remember

a month to remember

This month started out with a long weekend in the city watching our daughter Pania play at the Regional Netball Competitions.  The weekend finished on a high with our team winning the Under 13’s category. Pania played like a champ!


Noel joined us on the Tuesday for a visit to the Neuro Surgeon. IMG_7169
Still smiling but no good news. We left the hospital opting to stay on the list for surgery and yet still feeling a miracle could be in store.
Driving home that evening we had a call that everyone dreads. It was Noel’s sister (who happens also to be called Pania) telling us that ‘Koro’, Noels dad had died.


nothing could be done

Dad and Mum had arrived in Melbourne two days earlier in preparation for a birthday celebration.  Everyone was excited and looking forward to the time that they would spend together. All the brothers and sisters would be flying in over the next week to celebrate the up an coming event but on the eve of the their second day of holidays while cooking the family a curry, dad suddenly collapsed.  He had suffered an aneurism in the lining of the heart. There was nothing anyone could do. His time was up and the Father  had called him home.


Needless to say dad sadly didn’t make the event, his daughter Joanne’s 50th birthday. But it was agreed that eventually the celebrations would go ahead as planned and memories of Jo’s birthday would not be just of the sadness of dad’s untimely departure but of a joyous time had by all.
One might say Dad created a whole new event of his own! Noel and I called it “Le Festa del Koro” – “The festival of the old man”.  You see ‘Koro’ is the name that the grandkids called him. It’s the Moari equivalent of ‘grandad’ and can be interpreted as ‘old man’ and although it literally translates ‘old man’ it holds a sense of dignity and honour, something that our ‘Koro’ definitely deserved.

le festa del koro begins

Some of the family gather around dad ‘moari style’ singing and sharing stories, sharing tears, awaiting the day that we can all fly with him home to New Zealand



The Moko’s decorate the coffin ready for the flight under Aunty Pania’s supervision.

off to new zealand


Awaiting flights with our lovely mum (Marion, bob’s beloved) dressed ready for the 4am arrival and call onto the Marae. Needless to say the mokopuna (grand kids) were tired and none of us would sleep that night.

the mokopuna – grand children


The last of the 24 flying landed after midnight ready for the drive to Cambridge where the rest of the Whanau (extended family) would meet us and together we would drive in convoy, despite the  blinding rain, to Maungatautari.


the marae

Here the traditional Tangi will take place and Koro will be finally laid to rest on family land. Meanwhile we feel blessed to have had this precious time with dad before he is taken in by the extended family from the Marae and we become secondary as tradition takes over.

Marae view 1

 We stood with the Whanua for some time breathing in the cold dank air, frost on our breath, awaiting the welcome song that would signal us to walk onto the Marae. Mothers carrying sleeping babies, toddlers moving here and there, sons and daughters chatting, the elderly waiting but mostly the voices of the many Mokopuna (grandchildren) could be heard whispering and giggling when they would normally be fast asleep.

and finally the song came

Marae Entrance

As the ‘Karanga’ (the call or greeting) sounded out we were ushered slowly in the dark through the doorway of the Marae to the front of the meeting house.  We were greeted by Elders in the traditional fashion, they awaited our response. It was slow in coming, neither Noel or Toni spoke enough Moari to reply.  Eventually they realised and ushered us to sit down beside dad’s resting place.

‘haere mai, haere mai’

This can be a haunting sound if you’re not use to it but I loved hearing the “Hare mai’s” ringing through the valley, signalling to the family to assume our position by the coffin and listen to the ‘mihi’ – ‘ancestoral stories and loving words’ most of which are  spoken in Moari and none of which i could really understand but within the foreign words I could hear a familiar heart.

Here the family sit as they would for the next few days only taking the occasional break .

family by coffin

The next few days would pass slowly as we sat beside the elders welcoming family and friends that came in a steady stream to pay their respects. It was a long process and although it was filled with tradition, formalities and tears, laughter could be heard as we were reminded of dad’s life here on earth.
Over the next few days, every time someone arrived at the entrance of the Marae (whether by 2’s or 20’s) the formalities would begin.  As visitors waited at the entrance of the Marae one of the women would sound out the traditional ‘Karanga’ to signal their arrival and call them on.  Everyone dressed in black as is the custom.
Even some of the Moko’s (grandchildren) would be dressed in black.

 alissa and domenic on the burial day

elicia and flowers


the po whakamutunga- or night of ending

After Paul (our Brother in law) addresses the crowd, Noel gives his own version of a ‘Karanga’, complete with ‘river dance’ overtones bringing laughter to the crowded room! Thus began the ‘po whakamutunga’ – the final evening of the Tangi.

Noel talking on Marae

family singing

This is the first time the immediate family is allowed to speak and share their stories about Koro’.

Custom requires that after one has spoken one must sing. Fortunately for us we all love to sing and had readied ourselves by brushing up on all the traditional Moari songs and many of dad’s favourite tunes. What a joyous time we had listening to all the stories and songs that night as many others shared their fond memories.



 I can’t remember this lovely ladies name but I wont forget her words of wisdom as she reminded us not to forget how dad’s passing had reconnected us to the Marae and the special connection we had to this place.  I can still hear her words ‘do not forget what you have here’.
This was all part of a plan dad had begun to orchestrate along with the hand of the an Almighty God. Something happened that weekend for our family and in those few days, something very significant had been brought to life. A family separated by lands and seas had been united for a greater purpose.

on into the night


Brother Tony speaks and below Beth sings along with family and friends in response to a story shared. Beth was amazing in instructing us all on ‘Marae Custom’ and as her husband Paul wove ‘God stories and Moari stories together one could feel the bonds of love drawing us all closer together.
We chose Paul to do the official speaking for the family as it is customary that none of the immediate Kin can speak during ceremony times.  So on the eve of the po whakamotunga (night of ending) Paul led the official opening. He, the white bearded one below, was very close to dad shared with him many life experiences.

beth sinsing

beautiful sisters pania, rose and joanne


The celebration goes long into the night and finally we try to get some sleep along with all those that have joined us over the last few days…and they are many!

sleeping on the marae

Me sleeping on Marae

It was a case of first in best dressed. Bodies everywhere, babies crying and men snoring. Needless to say there wasn’t a lot of sleep except for the smart ones that brought sleeping tablets.

Sleeping on the Marae

and the final farewell


Finally the day came to say goodbye. Brothers and husbands carry dad to the place he asked to be laid the final resting place for his body but not his soul.


As the long procession followed the men through the archway and down the road to the ‘Urupa’ (burial ground) the rain began to fall.


After the coffin was finally laid in the ground (and I do mean finally – the funniest thing was that in true Kara fashion, the coffin wouldn’t fit into the hole – a kind rellie jumped in – not once but twice to shovel out the necessary dirt) then we could say our goodbyes!
Suddenly, ome of the younger ones broke out in a spontaneous Huka and the sound of a shell horn rang out a last farewell. It’s hard to explain the sense of joy and exhilaration that could be felt, not because it was finally over but more that it was such a grand finale!

 and then a celebration feast


The feast went on and on. There were so many people that there had to be three sittings and at the end of it all, the immediate Whanau had to sing and entertain those that were left to clean. Here is Jo,  and fellow daughter in law with her son Manaia on the final day of celebrations.


the brothers at the final feast


I would love to say that is the end of this wonderful month to remember but it is not. Its only a third of the way through.
We still have a trip down to hastings with Whanau, a 5 hour drive back to Auckland to fly back for a  50th birthday party in Melbourne and a flight home to Perth just in time to repack for a wedding in Bali!


So for now, our time on the Marae comes to a close.
Thankyou ‘Koro Bob’
Although the journey was at times difficult for all involved, the ramifications of what you have done will go on into eternity.  So until we all meet again on the other side.

‘Haere Ra’ – Goodbye to our Father, Koro and FriendKoro Bob