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Dollar Diet: The cost of keeping feet shod

This week bought its usual share of expenses, most of which were not a surprise.  I went to the dentist for an initial check-up and will have some work done in a few weeks time.  Our dentist is very reasonably priced so it’s not going to blow up our bank account.

I bought some seedlings for the first time in ages because I just hadn’t gotten around to planting seeds over the holidays.  The weather has been so terrible that pretty much every good-weather day was spent out and about making up for the bad days.

I went to a cafe as a treat, and I must admit I find this a hard habit to break at times.  It’s really interesting though, because it highlights my ‘need’ to have a treat.  I’m working on where this may have come from, because it is a strong impulse.

I went with friends to the lovely Ashley Park (petting zoo, picnic area) , and had a great time feeding the animals and watching the children enjoy themselves.  I think Ashley Park is really cheap compared to similar places, and I thoroughly recommend it.

I bought Sausage a bookcase for her room, as she has more space now Chip has vacated his cot for his big boy bed.  Sausage, like all children, has various trinkets and treasures that seem to multiply overnight.  Due to lack of space they would invariably end up on her dressing table or the floor, but now they are nicely corralled into the bookcase.  I found a small, low bookcase which I think is made of rimu at a second-hand store for $45.  This is a bit pricey for the size of the bookcase, but I’d rather have that than the MDF options that were available.  It has the bonus of being low enough to fit under most windows, so it may come in handy if we ever move house.  Which looks likely in a  year or three.

Our biggest expense was shoes for the children.  They both outgrew their shoes at the same time, so inconsiderate of them.  Finding decent shoes in New Zealand is a problem.  I often have to source mine online, which I don’t like as I do prefer to shop locally when possible.  Most department stores here get cheap shoes from Asia which a) don’t fit properly and b) fall apart if you so much as sneeze in their direction.

Fortunately we can find good shoes here in Whanganui for children, although they are two or sometimes three times the price of the cheap shoes.  My tots trash their cheap shoes really quickly, so it is a false economy to buy them.  Buying the more expensive shoes saves us money in the long run as they withstand all that play quite well.

With Sausage, we’ve often needed to buy two different-sized pairs of shoes because she has a club foot.  Even though her foot has been treated successfully, it will always be smaller than her other foot.  In her case her foot is one size smaller than the other, and in some people it can be up to three sizes smaller.  As you can imagine, buying two pairs of $80 shoes that she’ll grow out of in a few months gets me right in the wallet.  Not to mention have to chuck out the two shoes that are perfectly fine!

Fortunately one of our local stores has a great range of Bobux shoes.  They are quality, NZ made shoes that are recommended by podiatrists.  At the visit this week, I discovered that they hold Sausage’s feet so well, I didn’t need to buy two sizes.  Her smaller foot is totally fine in a slightly bigger size.  Phew.  Oh, did I mention the shoes were on sale?

I got Sausage a pair of Mary Janes and a pair of sneakers, and Chip got a pair of boots.  He is almost out of his sneakers, so I’ll be back for more soon.  I reckon tots only need three pairs of shoes: a good, serviceable pair that they can play in and that might do for a special occasion, a pair of sneakers, and gumboots in winter/sandals in summer.  And that’s extravagant in many countries.

So yeah, buy quality.  You know this.  A good pair of shoes will outlast several cheap and nasty pairs.  I think it’s getting harder and harder to find goods that quality these days as brand names are no longer an indication of something well made, but that’s a rant for another time!

This week I saved money by:

  • Staying home a lot.  I pottered around the house and garden with Chip.  He spent an hour and a half playing in his sandpit or watering the plants the other day!  Which is 2.7 years in toddler time.
  • Packing lunch and snacks when out/at work
  • Having an at-home date night
  • Baking (I made a THM cheesecake, which was terrific, hooray!)
  • Meal planning
  • Inventing whanau night.  Our friends hosted this week’s dinner, and we bought a side and dessert.  It’s a fun and simple way to catch up on a weekly basis.

Next week will involve lots of jam and chutney.  I have a surfeit of plums and grapefruit.  Yeehah!

 

 

I am not affiliated with Ashley Park or Bobux shoes in any way.  All opinions are my own.  They both rock.

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Dollar Diet: Week 3, a binge

Last week was in no way frugal as the kids and I took an impromptu trip to Wellington.  I needed a change of scene, and D needed some peace and quiet, so when I found a decently-priced holiday home on-line, I went for it.  We had two nights away and had a great time.

I’d been thinking about taking my tots to Bug Lab, an exhibition on right now at Te Papa.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too scary for my tots – who love bugs and insects – but the entry fee wasn’t too pricey ($20 for Sausage and I, Chip was free) so even if they hated it I figured it was worth a try.  The exhibition was amazing.  My tots did get a bit scared as it’s not every day you see insect models that are the size of a small car.  Sausage still enjoyed it and we spent a good half an hour looking around.  Chip got scared, but was content to play with the interactive stuff outside of the bug ‘lairs’, and of course he loves the rest of the museum.  If you’re an NZ parent who is thinking about taking your kids, I wouldn’t recommend it for under 4’s.  School-aged kids, heck yeah.

I’m looking forward to travelling by bus to Te Papa in the future so I don’t have to pay for parking.  At the moment my tots are too little to walk from the bus stop to the museum (a reasonable distance), and the thought of taking our stroller, backpack and two tots on a bus gives me a panic attack.  Anyway, another time perhaps.

We caught up with several friends on the first night, and it did my soul good to see some of my favourite people all at once.  We kept it simple, fish and chips from the local takeaway, and had some vigorous Donald Trump discussion around the dinner table.

We took my plane-obsessed son to Wellington airport.  It cost a little for parking, but it was worth it to see his excitement.  Even Sausage enjoyed it.  We followed it with a trip to Lyall Bay beach.

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I got little sleep the first night, as it was Chip’s first night ever in a bed.  He fell out twice.  Fortunately there was a spare mattress I was able to put down on the floor beside him.  Anyway, the upshot was I was so tired the next evening I was too knackered to cook, as had been my original plan.  I couldn’t face greasy takeaways again, but I managed to find a local Indian place that delivered.  Chip slept just fine that night.

In fact, once we got home he decided he wanted to sleep in his ‘big boy bed’.  He’d been rooming with his sister, and we’d been using his bedroom as a playroom and spare room for guests.  I’m delighted that he’s transitioned smoothly from his cot to his bed, but it has meant springing for a new duvet/sheet set so there is a spare in case he wets through/when one is in the wash.  I have bought second-hand bedding in the past, but it ended up having fleas in it(!), and I can’t bring myself to give it another try.  I managed to get him a duvet, duvet inner and sheets for $60.  Chip fell out again once this week so we used the pool noodle trick from Pinterest as a bed rail.  It was only a few dollars.

We’ve been enjoying all the sights and sounds of Whanganui’s best event: the Vintage Weekend.  Our city is host to all things vintage – cars, fashion, music, boats, a soapbox derby, planes…you name it.  I was feeling in rather a party mood – it is my favourite time of year – so we bought lunch there rather than take it with us.  D and I got some expensive sandwiches, but as they were pretty much the best sandwiches we’ve ever eaten, we’re okay with that.  The beauty of this weekend is that most things are low-cost or free, and it really is a joy to participate in.

Anyway, after all that spending I did make some honest attempts to limit any more.  This week:

  • I packed lunches and snacks, including when we were on our trip.
  • We’ve stuck to our meal plan and used up leftovers.
  • I included free activities on our trip, such as the beach and a visit to a friend.
  • We enjoyed a free lunch out using a gift card.
  • Although there were loads of things we could have spent money on at the Vintage festivities, we settled for a traction engine ride (a gold coin), a ferris wheel ride ($3) and entry to the family zone where free games, activities and bouncy castles were available (gold coin).  Looking around at the amazing car collection or listening to bands playing cost nothing.
  • D and I enjoyed a date night at home, watching The Mask of Zorro.  Love that movie.
  • We had our first whanau night.  My brother has been coming over for dinner once a week for ages, and now we’ve expanded this to include our friends who recently moved here.  One week the guys will go off to Toastmasters while the kids play and my friend and I have a chat, and on the non-toastmasters night we will play board games.  We’re alternating who hosts, and we all contribute to the meal.  Simple and fun and much cheaper than a restaurant!
  • We went on some free outings in Whanganui.  The kids and I went with friends to Gordon’s Reserve and Kowhai Park.  Hours of fun for zilch.
  • Swapping childcare to get a break.  My daughter gets on well with my friend A-M’s daughter, J.  J came over for an afternoon so her mum could get a break.  (It ends up being a break for me too, as the girls play so nicely I barely see them.)  A-M had Sausage for a few hours the following day.  Both times I was able to get loads done on a sermon I was writing.
  • I managed to get 3 sets of summer pyjamas for Sausage for $4 each.  I couldn’t find any in Chip’s size but I will keep a look-out.  I buy for the following year at the end-of-season sales and save big.  Even though I am not buying a single item of clothing for anyone THIS year (none of us need a thing!), I am still practising the frugal habit of buying ahead for next year.  I save huge amounts of money doing this (along with buying ahead second-hand, accepting hand-me-downs and going to clothes swaps).

 

This week has left me feeling rather a sham at frugality!  But I guess I am grateful that we have the money to go on impromptu trips.  Next week will definitely involve belt-tightening and getting back to basics.

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Dollar Diet: Week 2, a frugal birthday party

This post is late as last week ended in a flurry of birthday party, broken arms, sermon writing, special visitors and planning a spur-of-the-moment trip.

The week was mostly spent hanging out with friends, and D went back to work.  One of my best friends A-M recently moved to Whanganui with her family so we’ve had loads of fun spending time with them.  Our kids are close in age, and our four-year old’s are particularly firm friends (most of the time).  Oh, did I mention that Sausage turned four????  Before I get on to the party details, here are some of our frugal happenings:

  • D took lunch to work
  • I packed lunch and snacks for the kids and I, if out and about
  • The kids and I did free stuff, like play dates and parks
  • We used up our leftovers
  • I hung out at home with my BFF, R who helped me prepare for the birthday party, and survived it.
  • R, A-M and I had an extremely rare night out with just the three of us.  We worked out it was 16 years since the three of us had been together like this.  We had a great time, and kept the cost down by going out for drinks and a snack after dinner.

Er, I can’t think of anything else because my mind was frazzled by Chip ‘breaking’ his arm.  He was mucking around on our trampoline with D and then lots of crying and ow’s ensued.  They weren’t sure if the arm was broken (he hurt the elbow area) but they strapped it up and Chip was back to his frenetic self in a couple of days.  He was very proud of his sling and displayed it to all with a loud ‘I got hurt!’  We took him back this week and it turned out not to be broken, so phew.  I am incredibly grateful for the free health care children receive in New Zealand.

Birthday party time!

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My beautiful Sausage is now four.  She is most definitely in pre-schooler territory.  She’s long and lanky, and is a funny, confident, easy-going kid who you can actually reason and negotiate with.

As her birthday is in January (summertime in NZ) I have her birthday party at home and let the kids rampage around our massive back yard.  I try to keep it small and simple, but she’s still at the age where parents and siblings come along too, so it always ends up being bigger than I think.

I’ve whinged about it already, but our summer sucks.  It’s been the worst one I can recall, and naturally it rained on Sausage’s birthday forcing us indoors.  Still, we had a lovely time and I spent a whopping $40 on the whole soiree, which includes party food and drink, the birthday cake, decorations and prizes.

As is often the custom in New Zealand, some friends and family offered to bring a plate of food, so that saved quite a bit of money (and prep time).  R and I made a vege and hummus platter, popcorn, egg and ham sandwiches, cheerios and sausage rolls (requested by the birthday girl).  The food from other people meant there was more than enough to go around.  Drink was juice leftover from Christmas (we don’t normally drink it) which I dilute with soda water.  Kids love it.

I saved money by making the cake myself.  I talked Sausage into having this easy cake.  I had my BFF here the night before Sausage’s birthday which is usually when I’d make the cake.  I wanted to maximise my time with R, so I opted for easy, easy, easy.  I made the cake her favourite colour (pink), and put a big 4 on top using sprinkles.  She loved it and everyone said it was delicious (I don’t eat sugar, so I don’t know!).4th-birthday

Professional cakes can cost upwards from $100 dollars.  I consider it a waste of money to buy a cake, when my child loves the cakes I make just fine.  It makes my wallet cringe when I see the elaborate cakes people seem to be buying these days.  I bought $6 worth of sprinkles (most of which weren’t needed in the end, so hit me up if you want some) but otherwise we had all the ingredients in our pantry already.

Sausage also requested ‘Tunip cupcakes’.  For months leading up to her birthday.  Tunip is her favourite character from the show ‘The Ocotonauts’.  Tunip looks like this:

tunip_prof

Not overly complicated I guess, but would certainly require lots of different colours for the icing.  I knew I would have little time and limited fondant colours so I did the next best thing.  I found some free Octonaut cupcake toppers on Pinterest, and iced the cupcakes blue.  They were just as popular as the birthday cake, and Sausage was thrilled with them.  I didn’t get any decent pics I’m afraid.

Decorations were limited to some balloons given to Sausage, streamers we bought in the Netherlands that we put up for parties, and a couple of purple tissue balls ($4) which will likewise be used again.  I don’t do themes, and won’t unless my tot asks for it.

For the first time ever for a birthday party, I bought disposable plates and cups.  I hate these things, but there were several wee ones present and we don’t have enough kid-friendly crockery to go around.  I bought recyclable things, including paper straws.  Someone had given Sausage the party whistles previously, and I managed to get matching stuff.  We have some left over, so expect to see them next year too!

party

We played two games – Pass the parcel, and pin the carrot on Olaf – and I purchased the prizes for peanuts.  One prize was a tin Star Wars lunchbox, and another was a decorate-your-own-mask set.  Simple.  My mother made some beautiful gift boxes for each child to take home, and these were extremely well-received.

Sausage was given some amazing gifts, some of which (like a make your own wand set, so cool!) I have purloined to bring out on a rainy day.

I learned two things:

  1. Outside parties are so much better for my floors which looked like a cake bomb had exploded on them and,
  2. You can never rely on old Mother Nature.
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Dollar Diet 2017: Week One

My Dollar Diet didn’t get the best start because:

a) it’s summer holidays here in New Zealand, and

b) Sausage’s birthday is almost upon us.

I snickered as I wrote ‘summer’, because the weather has been total RUBBISH.  We get one or two nice days, sandwiched amongst day upon day of cloud, rain and unrelenting wind.  I’m sure I’m not alone in dreaming of summer holidays.  Kids laughing and playing in the water, while I’m sunning myself on the sand.  Long walks in the forest, day trips to the many attractions in our area.

Dream on, Angela, dream on.

Because of the weather I spent more than I would normally on petrol, ferrying the kids over to Palmerston North and Feilding so I wouldn’t go insane from having two ratty kids with a bad case of cabin fever.  Our trip to the Coach House Museum was great, and definitely worth the extra cash.

I needed to go over to Palmerston North (a bigger city, 45 mins away for my non-NZ readers) for a few things, and decided it would be a great opportunity to take Sausage to find her a birthday present.  D and I deliberately make birthdays a bigger deal than Christmas.  As my kids grow, they will get big-ticket items like bikes etc.  At the moment there is nothing Sausage needs, so for the first time ever I took her shopping to choose whatever she wanted.  Of course she chose something at the top end of the allocated budget (a castle), but I admit it felt great to be able to say ‘Yes, of course you can have that’.  Her castle is tucked away until the big day, and she tells me ‘I will be so surprised when I open it Mummy!’  Ah, kiddo.

I spent money on some picture frames.  I don’t know why, but I got the urge to change up our artwork and put out some new pieces.  We’d had professional photos taken of the kids last year, and I wanted to hang those on the wall too.  Poor Chip, first professional photos taken at two years old.  Second child, that’s for sure.  Anyway, the whole exercise was relatively inexpensive, and I’m getting a lot of delight from the new things on my walls.

I also took my yearly retreat.  I use the time to take stock and to go into a new year intentionally.  Plus the silence and peace does wonders for my frazzled mummy eardrums.  This year I paid $70 for a 5-bedroom(!) holiday home about an hour’s drive away.  It even came with breakfast.  The holiday home is on a working farm and has SPECTACULAR views.  My trip was worth every cent as I came back with recharged batteries.  I’m already scheming to return…

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My view

While I was away, D hired a mulcher to turn some trees we’d cut down (they were pests, not planted by us!) into mulch for my garden.  $140, kerching.  Worth it though, our place was looking so scruffy with bits of dead tree lying around.

And lastly, I had brunch out with friends ($21.00) and took an historical guided walk around the city ($4).  It was good for the soul to swap stories with other mums in the trenches over brunch.  I know I’m not alone in my childrens’ refusal to eat leafy greens!  The walk did wonders for my brain.  I am a history nerd, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing tales of early life in Whanganui.  As I said in my last post, a fun budget is necessary in life.  Small things to look forward to can make all the scrimping and saving much more bearable.

It wasn’t all throwing money about though this week.

  • I shopped our pantry.  Even though I meal plan, stuff happens from time to time and things don’t get used as planned.  I tried to use up all the things that were lurking at the back of the cupboard, and as a result our big grocery shop total was quite low.  Most people probably have a week or two’s worth of meals in their pantries.  It can just take a bit of creativity to make use of mismatched ingredients.
  • We took lunch and snacks on trips out.
  • We played close to home when the weather allowed, mixing it up by going to play in a couple of school playgrounds that are open to the public.
  • We did plenty of indoor activities like painting, reading, playing board games and watching movies.

    painting-2-totsin-tawhero

    Sausage with a new creation

  • I had some avocados that were about to go off, so I turned them into dip along with a languishing-at-the-back-of-the-pantry can of lentils, some Greek yoghurt and some lime juice.  The dip was quite nice!avo-dip-totsintawhero
  • I made berry-yoghurt popsicles, using up some frozen berries that have been in our freezer since Noah was a boy.  Just blitz some berries, a banana and some Greek yoghurt in a blender, pour into moulds, and voila!  A healthy treat.popsicle-tots-in-tawhero
  • We had friends over (*waves* at E and P).  The best and cheapest form of entertainment.
  • We played in our own backyard.  To keep Christmas-related costs down, D and I made a sandpit from an existing veggie garden for Chip (still in his pyjamas and dressing gown on Christmas morning in the photo below), and hopscotch for Sausage.  Throw in a trampoline and a pole tennis game from grandparents, along with a paddling pool, it means our backyard is pretty much paradise.  When the weather lets us enjoy it.

     

    Some big expenses kicking off the new year, but most were one-off happenings.  Next week has a 4th birthday party in it, and I’ll be blogging about how to throw a kid’s party on the cheap.

How is the start of 2017 going for you? Chime in below.

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Dollar Diet 2017

Oh Dollar Diet, I never really left you, but it’s so good to be blogging about you again!

For my newer readers, I first embarked on a Dollar Diet back in 2015.  I had already changed a lot of my spendthrift ways, and look back on those days with some shame and embarrassment at the money I wasted.  Despite getting more financially literate, D and I seemed unable to save much despite a good income.  We needed to plug the holes in our budget.

The Dollar Diet is simple.  Buy what you NEED.  Think long and hard before buying what you WANT.  Is it necessary?  Can you do without it?  Can you borrow it instead?  Save up for it?  Even NEEDS can be slimmed down by growing your own fruit and veg, or bartering and borrowing when possible.

My 2017 list of needs is much the same as it was in 2015:

  • Groceries (since beginning the Dollar Diet I hardly ever go over budget!)
  • Electricity, firewood
  • Internet/phone
  • Netflix (How else can we watch Designated Survivor or Travelers?  I’m addicted.)
  • Insurances
  • Petrol, vehicle maintenance
  • Rates
  • Tithing, sponsor children, church activities
  • University money for kids (we put $10 a week into their accounts)
  • Doctor’s visits & prescriptions, dentist visits
  • Kindy and playgroup fees
  • Gifts (making what I possibly can myself)
  • Haircuts (we both only get our hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
  • Moisturizer, foundation, bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies – A
  • Theology papers, Toastmasters, a few invention gizmos – D
  • Rubbish & recycling collection
  • House maintenance (2017 EDIT: I will be mowing our huge garden myself this year.  Our new mower will pay for itself in a year)
  • Chicken feed
  • Shoes and underwear for the children, and a raincoat for Chip (he refuses to wear this AWESOME fire chief one I found secondhand…)
  • Holidays (free or low-cost accommodation where possible)
  • Sausage’s hospital appointment (she is still being treated for a club foot, which means 1 trip to Wellington a year)
  • A fun budget: to fund the odd meal out/takeaway/family outing
* Rent/Mortgage is not on the list as we own our home freehold.

My list of needs will doubtless look different to yours.  For D and I, holidays are vital to our sanity.  We have a family holiday coming up in February that we have been saving towards for a couple of years, and I cannot wait!  Some might see kindy and playgroups as a want, but for my sanity they are on my needs list.  Both my children are extroverts, and are much, much happier when they are busy, challenged and socialising with other kids.

It’s the things that aren’t on the list that save you money.  No buying lunch everyday.  No takeaway coffees each morning.  No splurging $300 on a pair of shoes that are almost the same as the pair you already own.  No mindless following of ‘fashion’.  No buying takeaways just because you don’t feel like cooking.  Getting rid of magazine subscriptions, gym subscriptions, any subscription that you don’t honestly use.  No buying books (that’s why libraries were invented)or pretty tchotchkes for your home.  No greeting cards and wrapping paper.  No lavish gifts.  No recipes requiring pricey ingredients.  No expensive holidays.  No meeting up with friends for brunch at an expensive cafe.  No costly plays, concerts, exhibitions. No extravagant hobbies (unless it makes you money or saves your sanity).

The fun and the challenge comes from trying to find free or frugal alternatives to keep living the good life.  Instead of going out for brunch, host a pancake breakfast for your friends.  Take up running instead of going to a gym.  Pack your own lunch and your coffee for work.  Have a meal or two in the freezer for the nights when you are too tired to cook.  You get the picture.

I must advise that the biggest learning I have had from the Dollar Diet is the importance of having a fun budget.  Skimping and saving can get relentlessly grim without a few bright spots to look forward to.  These things don’t have to be extravagant, but small treats that feed your soul most definitely have a place in the Dollar Diet.

Our savings goals are pretty simple: have a good cushion for 2018, when D changes vocation and our income takes a nose-dive.  And enough money for a wee holiday or two.

 

What are your savings goals this year?

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Family day trips out of Whanganui: Coach House Museum, Feilding

Hello summer, can I get a refund please?

This summer has been a non-event.  When we were faced with a dreary, rainy day I had the bright idea to check out the Coach House Museum over in Feilding which is 50 mins drive from Whanganui.

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I am so glad we went!  The Coach House Museum is brilliant.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away by what a great place this is.  For a museum developed by volunteers, it’s first rate.  The Coach House Museum is home to an incredible collection of historical vehicles, farm equipment and machinery.  It is all put together to showcase over 140 years of rural and farming history.  Despite many exhibits being static and roped off, the Coach House Museum is still a wonderful YES place for children.  YES you can touch that button.  YES you can play with that game.  YES you can climb on the tractor.

The museum is Eurocentric but does touch on Maori agriculture at the start of the exhibition.  The exhibits focus on different aspects of farming and rural life , and is certainly a feast for the eyes.  Most of the explanatory text with the exhibits is well-written and brief.

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Family life in pioneer New Zealand

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The standees are informative and make good use of historical photos

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Lady biker

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Old Milk Truck

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rope maker

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In the middle of the exhibition hall there is a great play space for families.  The four of us played here for ages.  There are several old-fashioned games to try, including Chinese checkers, knucklebones, balsa wood aeroplanes, and these:play-space-2-tots-in-tawhero

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Bobs

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One of several pinball games

There is a fantastic display of old toys, like Meccano, Dinky, Fun Ho! and Hornby.  Again, my two loved this area.  My son in particular was so excited he could barely speak except to yell out ‘Train! Helicopter! Another train! Old-fashioned Ute!’

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The Coach Museum has involved local children in this display, and hosts several Meccano-related workshops over the summer holidays.  Definitely something fun for enthusiasts.

Children can also board a mechanised coach and ‘ride’ around Feilding, and there are a few other buttons that make machinery spring into action.  Like the excellent Tawhiti Museum in Hawera, the Coach Museum has a collection of tractors and farm machinery that children are allowed to sit on.  It’s not as extensive as Tawhiti’s collection (but then, what is??), but still great fun for kids and adults alike.tractor-collection-coach-museum-tots-in-tawherodriving-a-tractor-tots-in-tawherocoach-museum-2-tots-in-tawhero

At $12 for adults, $6 for children aged 5-12, and FREE for under 5s the Coach Museum is good value for money.  We spent two hours here, which is like 3.5 months in toddler-time.

There is a small shop, an area where you can sit and eat lunch, a workshop, and toilets.  What REALLY impressed me was how disabled-friendly this place is.  There is wheelchair access to all areas of the museum, and they provide wheelchairs and a mobility scooter(!) for the mobility-impaired.  Fantastic job, Coach House Museum.

As Chip’s car/plane/machine obsession shows no sign of waning, I expect to return here many, many times in the future.

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Thank heaven that’s over!

I know I am not alone in feeling like 2016 was like an awful, dastardly  cousin (twice-removed) who is never mentioned in polite company.  I am pleased to shed the year-that-was and feel somehow lighter now that I am faced with a blank slate new year.

2016 definitely had some great happenings, but I had a dreadful flare-up of my autoimmune disease which left me with little energy and a pile of unwanted weight. Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve I handed in my resignation at work.  I greatly enjoyed the job – and my colleagues – but my little family has 3 tricky years ahead and it felt like the right thing to do.

This year D will be taking two papers a semester to complete his theology degree, and working enough hours to support us financially.  It may seem counter-intuitive to quit a job, when our income will drop (more on that later) but it is a sensible decision for me.  D will swamped with assignments and exams, and won’t be able to be as hands-on with the children.  I am happy to pick up the slack, but being an HSP I need breaks, which my little job cut into.  Like many jobs in the non-profit sphere, I worked much more than my paid hours in order to deliver a first-class programme.  So this year I find myself instead with a few child-free mornings to myself as Chip is starting kindy, meaning it will be much easier for me to be ‘on’ the kids in the afternoons and evenings thanks to those breaks.

In 2018-19 D will begin an internship with a church and then be ordained as a minister.  Our income will drop significantly, but if you make mega-bucks as a church leader then there’s something wrong!  In anticipation of leaner times ahead we’ve decided to live off what D will make as an intern this year, and save the extra money he makes at his current IT job.  This will leave us with a good cushion.  In this spirit I will be resurrecting the Dollar Diet, so expect weekly updates on my frugal efforts.  These updates really do help to keep me accountable.

One thing I aim to stick to resolutely is throwing my hat in the No New Clothes for a Year ring.  As the main clothing buyer for our family, this means everyone.  I’m quite confident that my tots will have plenty of great clothes to see them through 2017, thanks to hand-me-downs and savvy bargains I nabbed last year.  I have a closet of great clothes I aim to fit back into, and I know I have plenty of outfits for any occasion.  And D?  He’s already got a hefty collection of novelty print t-shirts to keep him clothed until the next decade so he’ll be fine too.  If you want to use your resources more wisely or stop a shopping habit, the Facebook group you will find at the link above is a great source of support and encouragement.

Towards the end of the year I started to get a bit more vroom again, and I aim to stick to the Trim Healthy Mama plan to shed the weight I gained last year, and more hopefully!  I know the plan works.  I can’t really explain why I drifted off it last year other than my AI flare-up sapping my motivation, but I’m back in the saddle again.  I’ll also be using some of my free time to exercise by doing a mix of walking, running and HIIT.

We ended up ringing in 2017 with an impromptu, low-key BBQ.  It was lovely. Great weather, great food, superb company.  We had a toddler disco, complete with a countdown at the respectable time of 9pm.

backyard-tots-in-tawhero

All set to party (note D’s famous ginger beer on the deck)

toddler-table-tots-in-tawhero

Toddler chow (I can say with complete confidence that the wine did not belong to a toddler)

toddler-disco-tots-in-tawhero

J and Sausage invent a new type of lying down dance

I guess you could call my plans for 2017 resolutions, but to me it feels more like getting back into a good groove.  I’ve done all these things before.  I enjoy living this way.  2017 is going to be a great year!