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A plague on both your houses

Hello gentle reader, I have returned.

My tots and I were struck down by what we call the ‘plague o’ doom’, namely a cold/flu type virus that leaves you wiped out, and gives you a 50-cigarettes-per-day cough that goes on and on and on.  Seriously, it’s been over a month now.

Long-time readers may be thinking, man this chick gets sick a lot.  You’re right, I do.  Unfortunately it is one of the biggest bummers about having an autoimmune disease.  AI suffers can often be prone to catching anything going around, get it worse, and take longer to recover.

It is also a reflection of life with small children, who seem bound and determined to catch every illness possible in order to have kick-ass immune systems later on in life.

So AI sufferers, I see you.  Parents of diseased-ridden little people, I see you.  Feel better soon.

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Resurrection Sunday Prayer

Here’s my prayer I read at church this morning.  Happy Easter!

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed.

 

Yahweh, we come before you on Easter Sunday, the most significant day of celebration for us, your followers.  Although many hundreds of  years have passed since the first Resurrection morning it is still so easy to see ourselves in the Easter story.  We, your people have learned much, and yet so little.

 

We are the crowd on Palm Sunday, hearts full, cheering for Jesus when times are good.  It is easy to have faith, to believe and to be thankful when everything’s going right.  Father, forgive us for how quickly we turn on you when things go wrong.

 

We are Judas, for many of us have done or said terrible things to people we love that we come to regret.  We have schemed and betrayed, we have been false.  We have presented a bright smile when our hearts were filled with treachery and deceit.  Many of us are still selling out our fellow man in the pursuit of money.  Mother, forgive us.

 

We are the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, sleeping while so many around us are in peril, or in need of our support and comfort.  Father, forgive us when we fail to see what is happening around us, for when we do not respond as we might.

 

We are the soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane, bringing swords and clubs to quash rebellion, even when that rebellion speaks of nothing but peace.  We are quick to assume that those who seek to live differently to us are dangerous, and that those who challenge our society are wrong.   Mother, forgive us.

 

We are Peter denying Christ, when we feel embarrassed to admit we are a Christian; or when we fail to speak up when a workmate disparages religion as being for the weak-minded; or when we feel like we don’t have all the answers so we shy away from debating the tough questions from those who don’t know you.  Father, forgive us.

 

We are Pilate, confused and unsure what to do, going with the wishes of the crowd, afraid of their anger.  We do not always do what is right when the circumstances around us mean that doing right is hard.  Mother, forgive us.

 

We are the mocking soldiers when we fail to see Jesus in the face of the mentally ill lady muttering violently to herself on the bus, or the tattooed Black Power member, or even in the angry, orange hue of Donald Trump.  We fail to remember that all are worthy of your love and grace, and that we all have that God-spark within us.  Father, forgive us.

 

God, with every Easter I wonder why the symbol of your followers is the cross, that bringer of pain and death, when I wish it was the empty tomb instead, with its promise of new life and hope.

 

Help us to be like the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb, who were so struck by the power and might of Jesus, that they fell down immediately.  Help us to see you at work in this world.  Help us to be so amazed and awestruck by your creation that we fight to protect its splendour, and help us to be inspired to join in when we see people being your hands and feet to those in need.

 

Help us to be like the women at the tomb on that Sunday morning, so full of joy that we tell others about you, even when we are not believed.

 

Help us to be like the men on the road to Emmaus.  Open our eyes to the truth around us, help us to see what you need us to see, help us to recognise Jesus every day.

 

Christ is Risen!

He is risen, indeed.

 Copyright: A Gordon 2017
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Dollar Diet: Week 11, a frugal St Patrick’s Day celebration

This was not the most frugal week ever as we had not one, but two special occasions.

Isn’t that just typical?  Nothing much for ages, and then everything happens at once.  This year D and I decided to make a special deal out of St Patrick’s Day; and we were also privileged to see two beautiful people get married.  I had a great time at both events, enjoying the company of some of the people I love the most.  Special occasions can mean you spend more money than usual, but they don’t have to break the bank.

Green chrys

I got a huge bunch of green chrysanthemums for $3

Now I have a few kid-free mornings, I have more energy to entertain and to put more effort into celebrations.  I think celebrations and traditions are vital for families: they teach a child their family history, culture or religion; traditions help instil a sense of belonging, they help mark the passing of the year, and can bring generations together.

D and I are pretty intentional about what cultural or religious events we do or do not observe.  For instance, we don’t do Halloween, and Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy don’t visit our house.  But Christmas and Easter are still a big deal, so are Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and birthdays.  We also have our own traditions that are special to our family, like our family and whanau nights, breakfast in bed on your birthday, and Gordon ‘sandwiches’ (someone yells ‘Gordon sandwich!’and we all have a group hug).

This year we want to mark a few ‘Saint days’.  While St Patrick’s Day has largely morphed into a cultural holiday of craic and drinking rather than a religious observance, I am more than happy to mark this day, and for my children to learn about the life of St Patrick, and indeed, about other key figures in Christian history.

I put together a fun St Patrick’s Day party on a shoestring budget.  Here’s how I did it:

  • Make it potluck.  This is the norm in New Zealand fortunately!  I provided the main dish of Beef and Guinness stew, along with peas, green apple spritzer, and lime jelly.  As is often the way, we ended up with a feast.  Soda bread, scalloped potatoes, lamb, an all green salad, and several green desserts.                                                                green
  • Keep decorations simple.  I am not an OTT, decorate-anything-that’s-nailed-down sort of person, but I do like to put up a few special things to signify that it’s special event time.  I had some green card left over from Christmas cards my kids made, so I made some shamrock bunting.  I also found some lovely Irish blessings online, and put them up around the dining table.  Some green flowers reduced to clear were the finishing touch.  I decorated the children’s table with shamrocks and wrote their names on their place setting (Big hit!  Plus I strategically seated my son far, far away from my friend’s son who he likes to pick on, I dislike this phase).  The best thing is I can re-use the bunting and blessings in the years to come.
  • all set tots in tawheroblessingkids table tots in tawhero
  • Make it meaningful.  I spoke one of the blessings over the group as our grace before the meal.  After the meal we all sat down to watch the excellent BBC kid’s show Let’s Celebrate.  If you aren’t familiar with this show, it follows children as they celebrate cultural and religious holidays (They look at ALL faiths too, which I appreciate).  They have a great episode all about St Patrick’s Day which follows two girls in Northern Island as they get ready for the day.  Let’s Celebrate always goes into the history and meaning of each event, and this bit is acted out by kids.  It’s gorgeous!  You can watch the St Patrick’s Day video on YouTube here.  It wasn’t only the children who learnt a lot from this episode, many of our guests didn’t know much about St Patrick.
  • Unleash the craic!  I don’t think anyone does a party quite like the Irish.  To their credit, all our guests played along with my shenanigans.  We wores green, played Irish music in the background, D led us on the guitar in old-fashioned sing-a-long, and we played a hilarious ‘Minute to Win It’ game I found on Pinterest, called the Shamrock Shake (which I now can’t find to link to it, sorry).  Basically you fill a tissue box with balls (or plastic eggs in my case, which I have for Easter), tie it over your bottom, and shake, shake, shake to see who gets the most eggs out.  It was very funny, and even my 2 and a half year old got the gist of it.

     

I’m looking forward to next year already.

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Tawhero Tots Snapshot

cheeky tots in tawhero

The majority of my tot snapshots are like this, blurry little beings who won’t keep still

I thought it high time I gave you an update on my tots as this blog is often derailed by my ramblings on other matters.  So here goes!

artist tos in tawhero

Sausage, 4 years old

Name: Sausage (not really, just a silly nickname)

Age: 4

Occupation: Pre-schooler

Likes: Singing, dancing, saying ‘potato’ as if it’s a rude word, reading, kindy, climbing things, stickers, princesses, fairies, ponies, pink, sea creatures, insects, cats, pretending to be a cat, dress ups, torches (flashlights), clothes, Frozen, painting, the trampoline, her friends, tomatoes, chocolate.

Favourite books: Burglar Bill, Sleeping Beauty, The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Favourite toys: Her toy lamb, dress up clothes

Favourite TV shows: The Octonauts, Thunderbirds are Go!

 

boy tos in tawhero

Chip, aged 2 and a half

Name: Chip (again, not really)

Age: 2 1/2

Occupation: Toddler

Likes: Heavy machinery, planes, toys cars, toy heavy machinery, books about heavy machinery, the sandpit, sandpit toys that are play heavy machinery, running, using his bottle like a pacifier which drives me crazy, saying ‘helicopter toilet’ as if it were terribly rude, watching heavy machinery, playing ‘Daddy Jump Jump’ on the trampoline with D, pointing out heavy machinery on car trips, his grandparents, our 5 year old neighbour N (who has lots of heavy machinery toys), and painting pictures of heavy machinery.

Favourite Books: Planes, Monster Machines, The Monster Book of Tractors.

Favourite toys: his soft toy reindeer and hippo, combine harvester, bi-plane.

Favourite TV shows/movies: Thunderbirds are Go!, Planes, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Cars, Cars 2.

 

In the photo above by the door, the kids are watching the lawnmower man. Because, heavy machinery.

It’s never a dull (or quiet) moment with these two…

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Dollar Diet: Week 10, Use it up

This week was a very good week in our frugal Tawhero household.

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Sausage and Chip mucking about at Te Manawa museum, Palmerston North

A couple of bitterly cold mornings found me digging out our winter clothes, which then in turn sparked me to go through ALL my clothes.  I tossed some, ruefully packed some away that don’t fit because I’ve put on weight (gah!), and generally gave everything a good once-over.  I realised I had a serious ‘hole’ in my wardrobe – namely a decent pair of jeans that fit properly – so I toddled off to buy a pair.  I didn’t find anything second-hand, but I managed to get a great pair at one of our local stores and my loyalty card gave me 30% off.  I’m not quite sure how that happened as I hardly ever buy from that store, but I’ll take it!

The weird thing is, it’s like sorting out my wardrobe has given me a new lease on life.  It galvanised me into action, and I was a busy beaver most of the week, especially where saving a buck or two was concerned.

I woke up with a migraine on Wednesday (yay) and generally felt nauseous and yuck for almost the whole day.  I’d postponed whanau night, which then left me with the dilemma of having to cook.  It was very tempting to get a takeaway, especially as D wasn’t around that night, but I said to myself ‘nay young Angela, you’re on a Dollar Diet.  Gird your loins, girl.’ [I really do talk to myself like that, I swear.] I rifled through our freezer and was grateful that I almost always have a few heat and eat-type meals in stock.  Crumbed fish, I thank thee.

I was ruthless about eating at home and using up what we had.  When we ran out of bread on Friday (and it was too late to make some), I didn’t nip out to the shops to buy a loaf.  I whipped up a tuna pasta salad instead, easy-peasy.  I finally found a use for the tin of applesauce that had been sitting in our cupboard for ages (turns out your two-and-a-half-year-old will just love it and basically just eat that for his dinner).  Two bananas and half a pear that were starting to turn got baked into banana bread.  Slightly-manky-looking veg got thrown into a shepherd’s pie.

banana bread tots in tawhero

Only half the banana bread survived long enough to make it into the photo, RIP BB.

I’d bought two packets of malt biscuits (they were on special) as a treat for my children.  They turned up their nose at them because they like a different brand.  Toddlers!  No amount of persuasion worked and now I was stuck with two packets of biscuits that I wouldn’t eat myself (too sugary).  I did however have whanau night, our minister’s ordination (such a big deal, yahoo!), and my FIL and S-MIL come to visit, all within days of each other.  So I made my family’s fudge cake recipe that has been lovingly handed down from generation to generation.  Okay, so from my auntie to my brother and I…

Anyhow, it was a brilliant choice.  Fudge cake keeps well for several days, everyone loves it, and you can eke it out if you cut it into bite-sized squares.  One batch did all three occasions.

The kids and I had a grand outing this week, which barely cost us a cent.  My mother very generously paid for the tots and I to go to a Peppa Pig stage show over in Palmerston North.  It was so. much. fun.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, me or the kids?  Bing bong boo, I say!  The tots behaved beautifully – even though it was Chip’s first-time at a show.  Chip was obsessed with Daddy Pig, screaming with delight every time the porcine father appeared on stage.  It isn’t the sort of thing our budget normally allows, and I was very grateful to my mum for treating us.

We topped the day off with a trip to their favourite place in Palmy North, Te Manawa.  Te Manawa is a wonderful, free museum that is pretty much paradise to my children.  It is an incredible yes space, with so much that children can play with, sit on, create with and touch.

Te Manawa 2 Tots in Tawhero

One of the playrooms at Te Manawa

The weekend found us with two sick tots on our hands.  Sausage with a cold and Chip with a vomiting bug.  Such is the reality of life with two small children.  My MIL offered to watch them for a bit on Sunday afternoon.  I leapt at the chance to actually leave the house!  (Hello world, I missed you.) D and I went to the library, and then bought a drink and muffin each at a cafe, where we sat and read our books in blissful, sickness-free peace.  A lovely date!

reading party tots in tawhero

Reading party for two 

What frugal wins did you have this week? Chime in below

 

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Dollar Diet Week 9: Of Plums and Pancakes

After our extravagant holiday to Great Barrier Island, D and I recommitted to tightening our wallets.  Our holiday was two years in the planning, but even so, holidays have a way of making money slip through your fingers like water.

We have some short-term goals, like a possible wedding in Australia to attend (I have my fascinator at the ready, R…), saving for further studies/possibly moving towns, and a long-term goal of, well,  just saving as much as we can.

Despite a dentist bill, we had a pretty frugal week.

  • I made plum jam, which we enjoyed on pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.  Easter is a big deal in our house, and it was a fun way to signal the beginning of Lent with my tots.  I keep seeing pancake mix on special at my local supermarket, and throw my hands up in despair that such a product is even required (okay, so my hand-throwing is metaphorical, lest I be known as the crazy supermarket lady).  I mean, come on, pancakes are almost as easy as making toast.

plum panccakes tots in tawhero

  • I went pine cone gathering at a local pine-treed spot for us to use as kindling this winter.  The pine cones are an excellent source of fuel for our wood burner, and are absolutely free.  For 15 minutes worth of effort (which including scrabbling up a steep bank) I netted two bags of cones.  I’ll be going back for more.

pinecones tots in tawhero

  • We packed our lunches and snacks when out and about, and entertainment was our weekly whanau night, and an impromptu BBQ (with the same friends) at the Bason Botanic Gardens which have free gas BBQ’s for the public.                                                   Bason gardens tots in tawhero

 

  • I attended my local free gym a.k.a. the great outdoors.  At the moment I am relishing my kid-free mornings, and after I’ve dropped Sausage off at kindy I take the top track at Virginia Lake.  It takes me 30 minutes and is just like doing a HIIT workout as the track has very steep sections, undulating sections and quite flat sections too.  I come home in quite a sweat.  I don’t meet a lot of people on the track – which suits me fine as I like peace and quiet when I’m exercising – but I’ve been stunned by the number of elderly people who are on the track too.  I hope to be as sprightly when I’m their age!  The only downer is my faithful running shoes finally gave up the ghost after long service, and now I have the task of finding some that are actually decent.  Quality shoes are so hard to come by!  If you have any recommendations, do let me know.
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Island Time

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Stone at Orama Oasis Christian Retreat

I’ve been to paradise and back since we last ‘spoke’.

My family has just returned from an incredible holiday on Great Barrier Island/Aotea (GBI).  Two years in the planning (and saving!), the trip was a 70th birthday gift for my well-travelled father who only had only two places left in the whole of New Zealand to visit: GBI and the Chatham Islands (Chathams, you’re next).

What an adventure we had!  Tiny planes, schlepping all the food we could, flooded and nail-biting roads, tropical downpours, pristine beaches, breath-taking views, and magic family moments to treasure.  I want to go back, the island is just so beautiful.

Great Barrier Island lies north-east of Auckland, and is a 30 minute plane trip or 4-and-a-half hour ferry ride away.  With a resident population of 800, and around 60% of the island being conservation land, GBI is a fantastic spot to get away from it all and recharge tired batteries.

I went with D, my two tots, my parents and my mother-in-law.  D took one for the team and drove our car to Auckland, and then caught the ferry over to GBI the next day.  The car was packed to the gills with food for the week, as being an island, food is expensive due to having to freight most things over from Auckland.  Meanwhile the rest of us flew to Auckland, and then caught a tiny six-seater plane over to the island.

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Chip enjoying his first plane ride…for the moment

Sausage has been to Europe and looked rather bored with the whole plane thing, but plane-obsessed Chip was so excited to go on his first plane ride.  He amused us by asking if we were ‘ready’ about 30 times before we took off.  He did well, but we had a rough descent into Auckland so he screamed the plane down for the last 15 minutes.  Such fun!

Chip was a champ on the next flight however, because he could see out better, and the view of the Hauraki Gulf with all its beautiful islands, and our first glimpse of GBI is not a flight I will forget in a hurry.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, GBI is beautiful.  Lush rainforest, quirky settlements and golden beaches.

We stayed in the north-western part of the Island, at Orama Oasis.  Orama is a Christian community that has been based on GBI since the 70s, and they provide adventure holidays, spiritual retreats and run training workshops.  D had stayed at Orama before and loved it, and when I discovered we could get a sea view unit I was sold.

What a special place.

The top left picture is the view of Karaka Bay from our accommodation.  Most nights found us simply watching the sunset over the bay, revelling in the stillness and beauty.

Orama has about 20 staff and also has volunteers that run the retreat centre, the farm and work on their garden.  The Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre is also based at Orama, and a large group of home-schooled teenagers were having the time of their lives when we arrived.

On our second day, we were car-less (waiting for D to arrive) but it mattered not.  ‘Did you know we have a creche?’ said one of the workers to me.  No, I didn’t.  My jaw hit the floor when I saw it.

orama-creche-tots-in-tawherostory-time-tots-in-tawhero

It is a mini-Playcentre with everything a toddler could want, including a playhouse and sandpit outside.

That day just happened to be play group day, so we got to meet several locals, including a family who live in a boat.  My tots had an absolute ball playing with the other kids, and we enjoyed chatting with the lovely mums who either lived at Orama or nearby.

We got some beach time in at Mabey’s beach before the rain came.  Golden sand, warm water.  We had it all to ourselves.

We were unlucky to get three days of tropical downpours, but the locals were thrilled to get rain after weeks and weeks of none.  We had one day where it poured all day, and we were extremely grateful for the creche room at Orama which kept Sausage and Chip happy and probably saved our sanity.

We checked out Claris and Tryphena, the main villages, and Port Fitzroy where D and I were given a night out by his mum.

The kids, D and I headed to Okiwi Park, next to the closest school to Orama (there are 3 schools on the island).  Okiwi Park has a cool bike track, and lots of charming information signs made by the local school children.

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We had a brilliant play at Gooseberry Flat beach at Tryphena.

gooseberry-flat-tots-in-tawhero

But the best bit was being together.  D and I loved having extra eyes on our tots, and the grandparents loved their shenanigans.  Having dinner with everyone at Orama, giggling at ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little’, heaving a sigh of relief at making it through a flooded road, and never getting tired of the view of Karaka Bay meant for one special holiday.  Little moments like this:

Grandpa was a very good sport about being ‘stickered’.

My folks and MIL flew back while D, the kids and I took the ferry back to Auckland.  We spent a couple of days there, taking the kids to attractions that we don’t have closer to home.  My sea creature-mad girl loved Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium, although I almost died at the price – $90!  Insane!  It is an amazing place, but the entrance fee puts it out of reach of many people.

We also took our machinery-mad boy to MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology.  MOTAT was one of my favourite places to visit as a kid, and it was a joy to see my own kids scampering around excitedly.

I was reminded of how much I hate Auckland.  The traffic is diabolical, and D and I ended up in a shouting match due to the stress of navigating its busy roads.  It made me realise that visiting there is not my idea of a good time.  I have lived in big cities (including Auckland, London and Seoul) but I don’t think I could ever do it again.  I really value our lifestyle in Whanganui with its five-minute commute anywhere.  Much less stressful!

We definitely came home rejuvenated from our trip away, and are plotting to return to GBI one day.

Great Barrier Island, I’ll be back!