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Things to do in Whanganui: Westmere Walkway

westmere walkway totsintawhero

The Westmere Walkway is unhelpfully, NOT in Westmere, so don’t confuse this walk with Westmere Lake.  The entrance to the Westmere Walkway is by the Savemart car park in Kelvin Street, Aramoho.  I know a few people who haven’t been able to find the place, but if you see these gates you’re in the right place.

entrance to westmere walkway

The walkway opened last year thanks to a local farmer who granted access to his farmland, and Rotary Whanganui.  You can find a brochure about this walk and others around Whanganui here.  The blurb said it included hill climbing (I need all the practice I can get for Tongariro in December…), went through farmland, and included ‘rewarding views of the city’.  The walk supposedly takes 1hr 30mins.

My husband D had kindly offered to watch the kids while I went out walking, so I headed off on my own.  First mistake.

The walk started off pleasantly.

toi toi tots in tawhero

totsintawhero westmere walkway

style westmere walkway tots in tawhero

But then I was greeted with this:

Oh hi, you want to get past us?

Oh hi, you want to get past us?

I was not daunted by the slips along the track (there are many).  I was initially undaunted by the herd of cows in the first field that the track meanders through.  I have been around cows before and they don’t bother me.  Until now.

As I got near them, some got skittish and ran away.  The field spread out to the right, and there was a sharp drop off a cliff to the left.  The ground was extremely wet and boggy, because a) it’s September and b) it’s rained a lot lately.  The remaining cows got in a line between me and the open field.  One looked particularly ornery, and it gave a little bellow and charged.

Did I mention that I was on my own, feet sinking in the mud, right next to a sharp drop?  It was a tad terrifying.

I gave my best Xena, Warrior Princess yell which stopped the cow (I’m calling her Mad Martha) in her tracks.  Thank God, because I reckon getting charged over a cliff by a cow would hurt.  I high-tailed it outta there along the track as fast as my legs could carry me.  Phew.

The walk gives the promised lovely views of Whanganui early on into the walk, not too far past Mad Martha and her cronies.

Looking towards Bastia Hill

Looking towards Bastia Hill…

and looking towards Durie Hill

and looking towards Durie Hill

An awa runs through my life (the Whanganui River)

An awa runs through my life (the Whanganui River)

The track is well marked, and aside from detours over or around slips created after the last flooding, it is in good condition.  There was no warning about the slips posted on the sign at the entrance and I feel there should be, as some of the slips are quite significant.

A recent slip along the track

A recent slip along the track

Marker poles along the track

Marker poles along the track

City views and mad cows aside, I was rather underwhelmed by this track.  The description is correct – it does cut through farmland.  And that’s it.

I enjoyed being in the great outdoors, but there are much more beautiful walks to be had.  I’ve been around this sort of farmland most of my life so it wasn’t particularly exciting.  There are a couple of pretty spots along the way:

westmere walkway view tots in tawhero

But mostly it’s this:

farmland tots in tawhero

and this:

The cows o' doom are coming for you

The cows o’ doom are coming for you

Eeek!

The walk took me two hours to complete, due to cow detours, slip detours, and mud.  Lots of glorious mud.

muddy boots tots in tawhero

I am moderately fit and found the track pretty easy, although there are lots of steep hills to climb.  But as I said, that’s what I was there for.

Unfortunately it is a loop track so I had to go past Mad Martha and the Gang again.  And again, I was charged at.  Mad Martha was clearly having a very, very bad day.

After scrambling down part of the cliff to avoid her, I made it home alive.

All in all I would NOT recommend this track to families, unless you are dairy farmers who know how to keep stroppy cows in line.  Except for the great views of the city, the track has little to recommend it.  See you around Mad Martha.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: A dilemma

This was not a good week for Trim Healthy Mama and I.  I had several meals out with family or friends where good choices were either not on offer, or not made my me!  I am a comfort eater and have been under some stress so I think that’s why I had a few times where I thought ‘stuff it, I’ll eat all the carbs I want’.  I get enormously irritated at myself for behaving this way under times of stress.  I often fall prey to the old trap of ‘Oh well, I’ve stuffed up now, I may as well carry on this way today’.  So dumb I know, but my goodness, I find it a really hard habit to break.

Now D is back from the Netherlands, I feel a bit more on an even keel.  I’m back into my usual routines, so sticking to THM and exercising just seems…easier.

Despite this, I still had a big win this week.  After a few particularly warm and sunny days (oh weather, how you mock me right now), I got out my suitcase which holds my out-of-season clothes.  I had loads of fun having a little fashion parade and seeing how my clothes from last summer (pre-THM) fit me now.

I had to toss a whole bunch.

Seriously.  Loads of things are now so big they are very unflattering, so out they’ve gone.  I even had a couple of things I’d purchased that had never fitted but I’d kept for that elusive time ‘when I lost some weight’.  They fit now, which is worthy of a little victory dance, but I tried them on and thought ‘eugh, why did I want this?  It doesn’t suit me’.  So out they went too.

My summer wardrobe is quite depleted.  I have a few things that are just a bit too small, so I’m hoping that by the time the weather warms up (again) they will fit just fine.  And I won’t be stuck having to match three peasant skirts with four violently clashing tops.

Even my winter wardrobe is suffering.  Yesterday I put on a top usually reserved for the gloriously messy play of Playcentre.  It cost me $5 at the time, and I didn’t particularly care for it – which meant it was fine if it got covered in paint, sand and dirt.  Even with a thermal layer on underneath, the top was ridiculously big.  I looked like I was channelling Jennifer Beale’s sloppy sweatshirt look in ‘Flashdance’, but not in a good way.  I have to retire my favourite jeans as they are now so big they look extremely unflattering.  There are many empty hangers in my wardrobe.  Even my leggings are getting too baggy.  It’s a good problem to have though, there’s no denying it.

My dilemma is this: it seems silly to spend money on clothes that may only fit me for a little while if I keep on THM-ing.  Which, trust me, I’m going to.  I am on a strict Dollar Diet, so needing new clothes because mine are swimming on me is a problem.  I figure it’s prudent to make the most of what I currently have, and slowly buy a few things as and when I need them.  Given the rate that I’m biffing out my clothes I am a little concerned about being starkers next winter.  But I still need to dress my now-body, and I’m running out of options.

I had some birthday/reward money to spend, so I went out and got two tops and a skirt for a grand total of $26.00, because I buy second-hand.  That blue floral skirt on the left in the picture is from Jacquie E and cost me $12.99.  It’s in perfect condition.  But giving my current wardrobe a complete overhaul?  No way.  I can live with baggy clothes for a while.

Hmm, my husband accuses me of having a floral obsession...do you think he could be right?

Hmm, my husband accuses me of having a floral obsession…do you think he could be right?

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14 Ways to tighten your belt when you have a drop in income

14 ways to tighten your belt financially (image credit)

14 ways to tighten your belt financially
(image credit)

I started the Dollar Diet this year as a bit of fun.  Money and I have never quite seen eye to eye.  At times our relationship has been tense, heated and demanding, due to me treating money irresponsibly and frittering away more cash than I care to admit.  A few years back I decided to grow up and transform my relationship with money into a healthier, more adult alliance.

Even though my spending habits are much improved, the Dollar Diet felt like a challenge I (and my family) was ready for.  D and I knew there were holes in our budget as we never seemed able to save as much as we ‘should’; plus the idea of being good stewards of our abundant resources is something that resonates with us.  We knew we could do better.

They say you should be careful what you wish for.  The Dollar Diet has gotten real.

We are living on a reduced income while D’s business grows (which naturally takes time), and our savings have dwindled due to holidays that were planned and booked well in advance to his job change.  We’re okay, and thanks to the Dollar Diet, we are in much better shape financially than we would otherwise have been.  But as we ride out this particular chapter in our lives, suddenly my fun challenge has become a necessity (and I appreciate that it is for many, many people).

Here are some of the things we are doing (or plan to do) to tighten our belts during this time:

  • Become a one-car family.  We bought a Mazda People Mover last year with the idea of transporting one of my family members around (a long story I won’t be sharing here), and we also thought it would come in handy as our kids get older to transport their friends, for holidays etc.  We’d planned to sell our little Honda Jazz, but never got around to it as having a second car came in handy while D was required to visit Wellington each month for his old job.  But the reality is we have rarely needed to transport this family member, and now D has no need to go to Wellington.  A second car is a luxury that we cannot afford, so kissing it goodbye makes excellent financial sense. The Jazz is far more fuel efficient and less costly in terms of insurance.  Shifting to a one-car household can save the average family thousands of dollars each year in insurance, petrol and maintenance.
  • Buy a bike trailer.  I have been nagging at D to get a bike trailer for me so I can take the kids out by cycle rather than a car.  I see it as a great way to build in more exercise into my day, as I frequently make little trips to play groups, friends and the like.  My children are hugely excited by going for bike rides, and we are lucky to live in a city where it is very safe to cycle thanks to the nice, wide streets of Whanganui.  We are also fortunate that our city is not hugely spread out, so most facilities are comfortably within cycling range.  D has already been cycling to his office down town, so even if the weather is rubbish or we are simply pushed for time, our car will be available to use.
  • Wean our son off soy formula and onto soy milk.  Chip is allergic to the protein in cow’s milk and was put on soy formula by his doctor.  It was heart-breaking, but Chip has thrived on the stuff.  It costs almost $30 for one tin of formula, so now that he is over one and mostly on solids he doesn’t simply doesn’t need formula any more.
  • Be more diligent about using cloth nappies and wipes.  I use cloth nappies in fits and starts.  I will slavishly use cloth until I get sick of my kid wetting through their clothes (yes, they are on correctly and I do change them often), as laundry is my most loathed household chore.  I’ve been too squeamish to use cloth wipes, which is silly because really, using cloth nappies is absolutely no different.  So I’m biting the bullet and using cloth wipes as well.
  • Buy in bulk when possible.  The Dollar Diet has given us wiggle room in our grocery budget so we’ve often been in surplus.  This has meant we’ve been able to bulk buy on meat and other grocery items when we see good deals.  This week my local supermarket was selling large bottles of my shampoo for the same price as the small bottles that I usually get, so I snapped them up.  I doubt I will need to buy any more shampoo for a couple of years.
  • Cook in bulk when possible.  Jamie Oliver says ‘if you want to save big, you have to buy big’.  By that he means you get more bang for your buck buying a whole chicken instead of chicken breasts as you can usually get multiple meals out of it and use the carcass to make stock.  Preparing and freezing multiple portions is also a good way to ensure all your vegetables get used before they turn all manky in your fridge; plus you have the added bonus of having meals at the ready when you’re having one of ‘those’ days.
  • Shop our pantry.  I don’t know about you, but we’ve got stuff in our pantry that hasn’t seen the light of day for a loooong time.  For the next few weeks I will be only getting absolute essentials (like milk and loo paper) from the supermarket, until that pantry is bare.  This is such an easy way to free up some cash.  The money you don’t spend on groceries this week can be salted away or used to pay bills.  Admittedly some meals can get rather…uh…creative, but variety is the spice of life, right?
  • Cancel our newspaper subscription.  I almost did this earlier in the year, but they offered me a crazy good deal so I kept it on, as we try to support local businesses whenever possible.  But it’s gone now.  Any sort of subscription – whether it is for a newspaper or a gym – is a luxury item and can be culled from your budget.
  • Use up all the fruit and veg from our garden.  I sometimes miss the pick-me-now window with some of the veggies I grow, so I will be more diligent about harvesting anything that is ready.  We have tons of tangelos that are ripe, and masses and masses of grapefruit that is almost ripe, so I won’t be buying any more fruit until we’ve eaten, preserved and marmalade-ed it.  We will eat, sleep and breathe tangelos and grapefruit.  Until strawberry and plum season.  Anyone over 60 will tell you how they got sick of the sight of tomatoes, or never wanted to see another apple again when they were kids.  Somehow we’ve all gotten so used to eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – and that hits your wallet, even if you do shop seasonally.
  • Say no to any unnecessary entertainment.  We were awesome at this at the start of the year, but with the onset of winter some cafe trips and little outings here and there snuck back into our lives.  It will be strictly free or home-grown entertainment for us.  We’re at the perfect stage in our lives for this anyway – our kids are small, and the beach, forest or museum and visiting friends are quite exciting to them.  If I was a young singleton I’m sure I would find this a really tough challenge.
  • Scale back kid’s activities.  My daughter was going to start going to pre-school a few mornings a week for the last school term this year.  It’s not free for her until she turns three in the new year, so we’ve decided to wait until then.  While she is ready for pre-school, it certainly won’t harm her to stay at her current playgroups which she loves.  She also started kindy gym this term, but I discovered a free class is available on another day, so we will change our routine a bit so we can make it to that one.   I will also be dropping a play session next term, and will be doing free things at home instead.
  • Make our own cleaning products.  I have been really lazy at doing this since having children.  I used to in the past – mostly because I am super-allergic to chemicals – but since my kids arrived I told myself ‘I don’t have the time’ and have picked up products from an eco-friendly New Zealand store which don’t set off my allergies.  The truth is, I do have time.  I have loads of time, if I simply make it a priority.
  • Sell off our unwanted items.  I have a stash of good clothes that no longer fit, and baby paraphernalia no longer required.  We may as well turn it into some cash.
  • Keep on with our good habits.  We already do plenty of frugal things: we cook almost everything from scratch, re-use plastic bags, save scrap paper, only do full loads of laundry, ride bikes or walk when we can, visit farmers markets, check our library books instead of buying them, and buy second hand almost exclusively.  We live well and have found these habits to be pretty painless (except maybe biking into a strong wind…).

How have you managed a drop in income?  Share your frugal habits here.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: solidifying good habits

I really wanted to focus on getting plenty of exercise this week, after barely breaking a sweat during the time I was in Auckland.

As soon as we got back home I was raring to go and did a great HIIT workout.  As I am home alone (without my husband) I have to fit my workouts around my baby’s sleep.  When D is home I workout first thing in the morning, while he gets the baby up for the day.  I like to get my exercise out of the way for the day, and D has a body clock that wakes him up early anyway so this has been a good system.

In D’s absence I decided to workout after I put Chip down for the night.  This worked well for that first raring session, but failed for the next two nights as I was too knackered by the end of the day.  I have been eating and sleeping well, but I think having sole charge of Chip has been wearying as I am used to more ‘breaks’ in my day, thanks to the presence of D and our daughter Sausage.

So I switched to working out over Chip’s nap time and that has worked well.  It does mean I madly rush around doing the housework, do meal prep, eat lunch and exercise all in this sacred space of time, but at least it gets me off my butt.  Regular exercise is a habit I want to cultivate so it’s worth investing in a little thinking time to figure out how to make it work.

D will be home in a few days time so I can go back to my normal routine, but I am glad all the hard work of my previous months has not been wasted.  I miss running and can’t wait to get back into it.

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Dollar Diet: week 47, these boots are made for walkin’

totsintawhero

This week I spent more than I should have.

I am enjoying spending one-on-one time with Chip while D and Sausage are in the Netherlands, but all this time with him has bought home to me just how much stimulation my active boy needs.  He was very happy and content while we visited friends in Auckland; I guess because everything was new, there were lots of people around and we did some really cool stuff.  Back at home it is just him and I, and well, Mum just doesn’t cut it.  As long as we are out doing stuff he is happy, but otherwise he is whiny and clingy.

With this in mind, we’ve had more outings than usual in order to save our sanity.  I took him to Ashley Park, and spent $10 more than necessary as I thought some relatives were going to join us but they changed their minds after I’d paid…

Still, Chip, my brother and I had a marvellous time being out in the sunshine and feeding the animals.  I also took Chip swimming which keeps him happy for hours and hours.

I needlessly wasted money on buying a packet of biscuits to take for morning tea at church.  I keep forgetting to bake something, and as our church service is quite early in the morning there just isn’t time to quickly prepare something.  I’m going to try a new strategy of doing some sort of baking over Friday lunchtimes and see if that works instead.  Even though biscuits are reasonably cheap, it is still money down the drain when we have all the ingredients here to make a healthier and tastier batch than store-bought biscuits.

I was also gutted to discover a terrible stain on one of my favourite t-shirts.  I have no idea what happened to it because I certainly don’t remember spilling anything down it.  Unfortunately it is beyond saving, which sucks as my collection of nice t-shirts that fit me properly has drastically dwindled thanks to THM.

My Mum kindly presented me with a new pair black boots, which means I no longer have to save for some!  Hurray!  She had purchased a lovely pair last year but never wore them.  They fit me perfectly and are good quality so I am hoping to get several years of wear out of them.

I find I am still struggling with the shopping urge.  I am desperate to get my next fix, even though I have long switched my high street stores for op-shops.  I haven’t ventured into any, but still the desire remains.  I have plenty of clothes.  Even though I have lost weight, I still have a stash of clothes in my new size (and smaller, waiting in the wings).  I have enough to cover any sort of occasion.  I do not NEED anything.  And yet the desire to get more remains.  It’s so frustrating, and I wonder what it will take to break this.  Should I buy no clothes at all for a year?

I recently spent time with a friend who is a compulsive shopper.  She cannot go out without getting a little something, and as a result, her place is filled with junk.  She’s a parent and has transferred some of this onto buying stuff for her kids, and I find I have to watch myself on this issue too.  My kids have heaps of clothes, but I still find it hard to go past something they ‘need’, especially if it’s a good price.  But anyway, going shopping with this person was an eye opener into my own past bad habits – habits that I have firmly left behind or are working on.  I really would like to get over the clothes shopping habit, even if I am just spending a few bucks on an op-shop ‘bargain’.

What do you think?  Have you tried to break a shopping habit?  Does the thought of not buying clothes for a year fill you with dread?

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Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye…

Just like that, I am now the mother of two toddlers.

While we were in Auckland Chip started walking.  He is delighting in his new-found freedom and wobbles off as fast as his little legs will go.

Bipedal is definitely the way to go

Bipedal is definitely the way to go (excuse how blurry this is, he’s so fast!)

IMG_20150912_141730

While my children will always be my babies, even when they are old and grey, it is with only a teensy bit of sadness that I kiss babyhood goodbye.  Our play gyms, bouncers and slings are officially retired, and I just gave away the last of Chip’s baby clothes to be worn by the soon-to-be-born baby of a dear friend.

I have several friends who are either due to give birth soon, or who have recently had baby number two or three, and all I can think is ‘I am so glad I’m not in your shoes!’  That first year with a new baby is so intense, even if it’s your second, fourth or tenth.

I know many parents struggle to know when their family is ‘done’ and regret not having another child, or who suffer the pain of secondary infertility.  D and I have never hankered after a large family and both have a very solid sense of being done.  I have a new appreciation for just how breathtaking and clever and fun and mucky and miraculous babies are, but I do not hanker after any more.  Any such thoughts are deftly quashed by the thought of having another dreadful pregnancy like I had with Chip – only this time with two children in tow.  No, I could not go through that again.

I’m enjoying having children who (mostly) sleep through the night.  I love the utterly random conversations I have with my almost three year-old girl, and the ‘what the heck is that’ pointing from my 13 month-old boy who just wants to know what absolutely everything is called – and preferably put it in his mouth.

Life is still dictated somewhat by the midday nap, but at least there is only one nap to worry about.  While my brain has years of sleep to catch up on, it definitely seems to be more functional these days…unlike the baby sleep-deprived brain when I forgot how to spell my last name.  I like having more capacity for other things in my life, and being able to have conversations with D that don’t involve monitoring the bowel movements of our baby, or desperately trying to get the baby to stop crying.

So bye bye baby, hello toddlerhood.  I hear ‘threenagers’ are really, um, interesting.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: Tough times

So first up, I did not do as well at sticking to Trim Healthy Mama and exercise as I’d hoped.

I did almost no exercise as I was either too knackered from driving hours and hours, or I was physically unable to (due to rain, and there being no room where we were staying – long story).  I did however take Chip on several vigorous walks, and ran around the zoo with Chip and my friend’s toddler giggling in the pram.  Trust me, 20kg of child and 10 of pram is a good workout!  Now I am home, it’s straight back into it.

I ate at McDonald’s a couple of times on the journey as it was raining and Chip desperately needed to play.  I have never thanked God for McDonald’s before, but their playgrounds really are wonderful for wriggly travellers.

While away I managed to stay on plan about 70% of the time.  Breakfasts were easy, and I made a couple of THM dinners for my friends while I was staying with them.  My friend had a wonderful birthday party while I was there, complete with a smorgasbord – so it was very easy for me to eat the THM way.

All set for the party

All set for the party

I did get a surprise after a few non-THM meals though.  When I am a house guest I simply eat whatever my hosts eat out of politeness (I do not have deathly allergies, therefore I do not expect anyone to cater to my every dietary whim), so we had sandwiches for lunch and some bread with dinner.  After two days of eating bread, I was soooooo hungry!  The feeling was reminiscent of whenever I eat a bit of sugar, now that I’ve been sugar-free for ages.  I didn’t throw in the towel.  I simply went out and bought some cheese sticks and beef jerky to try and fill the gap.

The next time I go on a road trip I will definitely take more THM food with me, even if it means lugging a cooler around.  And pray for fine weather so McDonald’s playgrounds are off the menu!