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Free things to do in the school holidays

Parents definitely fall into two camps when it comes to school holidays: they either love them or loathe them.  I love the school holidays, especially being able to sleep in a bit longer and not having to nag my tots to get out the door in time for kindy.

Filling in the time over the holidays can be tricky.  It can be an expensive exercise to keep your tots entertained for two weeks if you want to give your kids all the bells and whistles, but it’s perfectly possible to have lots of holiday fun for free.

tea party

Here are some ideas for free things to do during the school holidays:

  1. Get into the great outdoors.  Weather permitting, visit your local playgrounds, parks, and hiking trails.  The beauty of small children is they can turn a 20 minute walking trail into a two-hour odyssey where every rock is overturned on the hunt for slugs and slaters, leaves are used for fans, fairy umbrellas and swords, and new pathways will be created where no pathway has been before.
  2. While you’re outside, go on a scavenger hunt.  Some great tot-friendly printables can be found here, here and here.  If the weather is rubbish, as it frequently is during the school holidays, take your scavenger hunt indoors.  You can find a printable for a colour scavenger hunt here, a shape hunt here, and for kiddos who can read, a genius make-and-find hunt here.
  3. Make a craft from your existing supplies or from things in your recycling bin.  Pinterest is your friend!
    A fun way to make an egg carton dragon craft. Great Chinese New Year craft for kids and fun way to craft with recycled materials.

    make this here 

     

    Marble Run game made for elementary students. Could be used for classroom management or as a reward.

    make this here

    Build a mini city for your child's toys and figurines with this recycled paper towel roll craft.

    make this here

  • Play dates with friends and family.  This is by far my favourite way to pass the time during the holidays.  I get to catch up with my mates while my kids get to play with their friends (and their toys!  Other people’s toys are way more exciting than your own) or just be with their family members who love them to pieces.  Win win.
  • Check out the free programmes run by your local library, museum or art gallery.  Heck, even our local shopping mall runs free kids events. In my town over the holidays kids can build robots, build a cardboard maze, make bug-related things, learn printmaking, bookbinding and more!
  • Check out your local library, museum or art gallery.  Even if they don’t have a kids programme, they are always well worth a visit.  Ditto any other free tourist attraction in your town. Full Length of Man Sitting on Floor
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.  If your kids are older, make it into a competition for the fastest time.  Again, if the weather is rubbish, take the fun indoors.  My kids LOVE jumping from seat squab to seat squab as we pretend the floor is ‘lava’.
  • Make a movie together.  If your kids are older, have them come up with the storyline and script.  If they really get into it, this project could take several days.  With little ones, film them doing their favourite things, get them to sing and dance for you, or simply film them throughout the day and play it back to them.  They will soon get hooked at seeing themselves on the big screen.
  • Bake.  If your tots are under three, assemble the ingredients before you begin.  Trust me on this one, they cannot wait.baking tots in tawhero
  • Go to the beach.  Even in the middle of winter, my tots love the beach.  They love getting mucky, building structures out of driftwood (one of our local beaches seems to attract driftwood like you wouldn’t believe), and making sandcastles.  Take spare clothes, towels and a thermos of hot chocolate.
  • Visit a farm.  If you are lucky enough to have farming friends, ask if they would mind a visit from you and your tots.  My tots like nothing more than being put to work feeding the animals or ‘helping’ around the farm.
  • Have a dance party.  Put on your favourite tunes or dance along with GoNoodle on Youtube.
  • Go for a walk/scooter/skate/ bike ride.
  • If your kids are bored with your local playgrounds, go to a school playground instead.  My nearest school is locked up like Fort Knox, but there are many schools in my town that welcome families to use their grounds outside of school hours.  Our favourite school playground has fake roads, a long bike track, plenty of asphalt for scootering, lots of picnic tables and shade, a sandpit and several climbing structures.
  • Have a picnic somewhere unexpected: your bed, under the kitchen table or trampoline, or at a local spot you’ve never visited before.
  • PJs and movie day.
  • If you have the ingredients lying around, make an ice cream sundae buffet.  
  • Give 2s and under paint brushes and a bucket of water and invite them to ‘paint’ the footpath/outside of the house.
  • Have a fancy tea party for your kids and their favourite toys.  Dress up to the nines and play waiter.  Even better, play at being a terrible waiter who spills/drops/forgets everything.  bright, cloth, drink
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Dollar Diet 2017: Week 37

money 2

Now I’ve finished a piece of work that was sucking most of my spare brain-power, I have more time again to devote to my blog and all things frugal.  This week I was stuck indoors with sick kids.  I thought we’d escaped the worst of what winter has thrown our way, but no, my tots seem to be catching everything just as the weather is warming up.

This week’s frugal happenings:

  • Made two batches of tortillas which I used for enchiladas and burritos.  Tortillas are seriously easy to make (it’s the cooking them that’s the time-consuming bit), and once you’ve had home made tortillas, you’ll never buy commercial ones again.  For the enchiladas I made the sauce from scratch too.  Yum!

 

  • Found a mint-condition Tinkerbell summer dress from Disney at a secondhand clothing store, which will make a perfect gift for my friend’s daughter who is turning 5 soon.  She is really into long, swishy dresses and this one fits the bill nicely.  The wrapping paper and card are, as usual,  handmade by my tots.

    party dress tots in tawhero

    Such a cute dress!

  • Stayed home most of the week.  This has been a self-enforced embargo on going out as my children came down with conjuctivitis.  It is doing the rounds here at the moment and is ridiculously contagious.  Anyway, saving my town from more pink eye saves me money on petrol and saves me from the temptation to spend.

 

  • Stocked up on basics that were on sale at the supermarket.  It’s not often I come away from a supermarket these days, saying ‘Wow! Great bargains today,’ but this happened to be a week where many of our regular groceries were heavily discounted.  Items like canned corn and tomatoes were 75c each, toothbrushes were 58c etc so I stocked up on as much as I could and still came in quite a bit under budget.

 

  • D won some headphones in a competition he entered quite randomly.  He already has a great pair so he sold them on for $130.  Apparently there’s quite a demand for decent gaming headphones, and the buyer was very happy with his purchase.

 

  • Purchased at $60 meat pack from one of our local butchers, which I’ve then divided up into 14 meals (some of which include our whanau* night, when we feed 5 adults and 4 children).  As we eat several vegetarian meals a week, I won’t have to buy meat for three or four weeks.  For NZ prices, this pack was a great deal, working out at just over $4 per meal.

 

  • D’s tax return finally showed up!  That is now salted away with other savings to help with our moving costs.  As we are moving islands (which requires taking our household goods and cars on a ferry), our moving costs will be in the thousands.

 

  • I made a batch of gluten-free date scones with baking mix left over from my 100th failed attempt to go gluten-free.  We have a GF family at my church, so I thought I’d surprise them with something nice for morning tea after the service.

 

  • Gave a bagful of grapefruit to friends.  I am not making grapefruit marmalade this year as we are likely to be moving soon and I am trying to take as little as possible with us.  I am really going to miss all the free fruit our garden provides us with!

 

  • We had several meatless meals, including baked potatoes, which D reckons are the best foodstuff ever invented.

 

Lest you think I am some sort of saint, I did splurge on some unwarranted things this week.  After several days inside my MIL offered to take both my tots for the afternoon.  I was so thrilled, I went to a cafe because I felt like I needed to celebrate!  It was wonderful to spend time without being whined at, or having to wipe snot or eye gunk.  I also went to a Tupperware party (for a friend’s birthday) where I came face to face with an old friend, their children’s tea party set.  My brother and I had one growing up which we LOVED.  I remember holding many, many tea parties in our shed.  The tea set wasn’t too expensive (I don’t usually buy Tupperware as I think it is outrageously overpriced) and I plan to stash it away to give to the kids as a joint present at Christmas.  So there you are, suckered in by nostalgia!

Image result for tupperware kids tea set

Who remembers this?  Ah, the colours of my childhood.

 

 

* whanau: (noun) extended family, family group, a familiar term of address to a number of people – the primary economic unit of traditional Māori society. In the modern context the term is sometimes used to include friends who may not have any kinship ties to other members.

 

 

 

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Effortless ways to save money

Effortless ways to save money tots in tawhero

I want what she’s having…

I am an avid reader of frugal blogs and articles about how to stretch my dollar further. Many ways to save money require time and effort, like cooking from scratch to de-cluttering and selling off your unwanted stuff.  I’m not averse to putting in my time or my effort to save money, but thanks to my AI disease I may not have the oomph required or I just don’t have the time.  But there are still loads of things we can do to save money without taxing our brain cells.

Here are some truly effortless, very-little-brain-power-required ways to save money:

  • Use a third or up to a half less sugar or cheese than indicated in a recipe
  • Likewise, swap out some milk for water in a recipe
  • In fact, use less dairy period.  Even here in New Zealand, the dairy capital of the world, the price of butter, cheese and milk is getting off-the-charts-ridiculous.  A word of caution though: many dairy-free recipes can still be costly because they use things like almond milk or coconut oil.  Search for depression-era recipes for cheaper dairy-free alternatives.  beverage, black-and-white, business
  • If you are a multiple cup of tea or coffee per day person, boil the water once, and make up a second drink in a travel mug (heck, if you use the same tea bag you probably won’t notice).  This way you save money on power and resist the temptation to buy a cup of coffee/tea if you’re out and about.  If you are going to be at home, pour the hot water into a thermos.  Now, if only I can remember where I put my thermos…
  • Drink water.
  • Switch off the lights in rooms that aren’t in use (I am CONSTANTLY doing this is my house, sigh).
  • Put your spare change into a piggy bank at the end of the day.  My brother (who is on a very limited budget) does this and is able to really treat himself every few months with these savings, which helps with the grimness of life on a benefit.  He regularly finds he’s saved $60-70 once his piggy bank is full.  White Piggy Bank on Brown Wooden Surface
  • Shut the fridge door as quickly as you can.  
  • If you are heating a room, shut the door! (My family, this one is for you!)  My kiddos, like everyone else’s, were born in a tent.
  • Don’t have time to use up that produce before it goes off?  Chuck it in the freezer.  Veggies can be added to soups and stews and fruit into smoothies.
  • Unplug appliances at the wall if they use standby power (e.g. microwave) or at the wall for appliances that don’t (e.g. toaster)
  • Reduce your portion sizes.  Experiment with how much food leaves you satisfied.
  • Put on warmer clothes if you feel cold, rather than switching on the heater.

    Put on your coat and hang out with a tree

  • Use less meat or include more vegetarian meals in your diet
  • Buy generic.  Supermarket own brands or budget brands usually come with significant savings, and many times these products are EXACTLY the same (often made in the same factory!) or they are indiscernible from the market leader.  I have certain brands that I prefer because of the taste or results they give, but you can bet I’ve tried all the generic alternatives first.  If it’s something I’m not picky about, like headache pills or canned tomatoes, I go for a generic brand every time. I use a generic brand moisturiser (of which I only need a tiny amount so it lasts for ages) and save hundreds a year.

    Women in Yellow Dress Holding Hands in Purple Grassland

    Buy generic so you have more time and money to hang out in lavender fields with your mates

  • Find a frugal alternative to your favourite-but-expensive recipes.  There are loads of copycat recipes out there.  I find it also helps to have a think about what it is you like about a certain meal.  I know for me, it’s often the sauce or the dressing!  My family loves to get fish and chips as a takeaway.  Recently we decided it was just the chips we love, so now we bake frozen, crumbed fish fillets at home while D nips off to buy the chips.  This saves us several dollars.
  • Use less.  Experiment with how little shampoo, soap, moisturiser etc that you can get away with.  You may not notice any difference if you reduce the ‘splonge’ of shampoo you regularly dish out to yourself.
  • Use it up!  Opening up toothpaste tubes, mayonnaise bottles, foundation tubes, moisturiser bottles etc to get the dregs at the bottom mean you really get your money’s worth.  I find when my moisturiser is getting low and won’t squirt out anymore, storing it upside down means I get another two or three weeks out of it!
  • When your spray cleaner is half empty, dilute with water.  I don’t notice any difference in its effectiveness.
  • When an old bulb blows out, swap it for an energy efficient one
  • Make extra dinner portions for an effortless lunch the next day.  The savings from making your own lunch instead of buying it can be huge.
  • Double or triple a baking recipe if you can squeeze the extra portions in the oven, or if it’s something that freezes well, like cookie dough.
  • Embrace the slow-cooker.  They will save you so much money!  Cheap cuts of meat become mouth-watering, and prep is minimal for many recipes.  My favourite curried chicken recipe requires no more effort than chucking whole pieces (because you can shred it later) of chicken into the slow cooker, along with a tin of coconut cream, a tin of tomatoes, and a few spices.  It takes me all of two minutes!  Roasting a chicken in the slow cooker takes me maybe 40 seconds as all it needs is rubbing with oil.  The added bonus of slow-cooked roast chicken is every single piece of chicken will fall off the bone so nothing is wasted.  Once everyone has eaten, I leave the carcass in the cooker with water, a few veges and some seaweed to make nutritious chicken stock.
  • If it’s a warm but not boiling hot day, switch off the air conditioner in your car and open the windows.  Free stock photo of road, traffic, man, person
  • Read your free community newspapers to find free or low-cost things to do in your area.  My city has cool events on almost every weekend, and they’re usually free.
  • Stay home!  If you’re bored and don’t know what to do with yourself look up lists like this and this for inspiration.
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists for stores that are your kryptonite.  If you don’t know there’s a sale on in your favourite store, you won’t be tempted to spend.  Ditto group deal sites.
  • Do subscribe to mailing lists for stores that sell the essentials, so you know when the sales are on.  I stock up on winter coats and thermals for my kids a year ahead when these items are at rock-bottom prices (how weird is this saying, by the way?).
  • If you’re not already on Pinterest, sign up and create frugal ‘boards’ for tips and recipes.  You can find my frugal recipe board here.  When I’m out of inspiration or time when I’m meal planning, my Pinterest board comes in very handy.
  • If you are on a power plan that gives you a night rate, push the ‘delay start’ button on your dishwasher or washing machine so you can take advantage of it.  comfort, control, cooking

 

Share your effortless ways to save money below:

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Dollar Diet: Frugal birthdays

I haven’t posted much Dollar Diet material in a while, but this doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying to save a buck whenever possible.

Spring (which is right now, for us in NZ) ushers in a ton of birthdays for special people in my life.  I have three just this week alone, plus Father’s Day!  Frugality doesn’t mean stinginess.  I love, love, love celebrations and giving presents, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Here are some ways I save money on gifts and other birthday-related expenses:

  • Set a budget.  It’s helpful to look at gift-giving over the course of a year, as you can spend a shocking amount if you’re not careful.  I have different dollar figures in mind when it comes to giving a gift to one of my children’s friends, compared say, to one of my friends or to my husband.  For example, I usually limit a child’s gift to $10 as each of my tots gets invited to several parties a year.  It all adds up!  $10 might not seem like much, but it forces me to be creative.  I can come up with a darn good present for that amount – like a baking set, clothing, books, art supplies, or materials with which to make a gift with myself.

 

  • Make it yourself.  I am not a super-crafty person (knitting is not my idea of fun, for instance), but there are tons of great ideas on Pinterest and other sites for easy and inexpensive gifts. For adults, I try to gift perishable things where possible, as most of us don’t need any more stuff cluttering up our houses.  Food or drink that I’ve made myself is well received.  I make my own cards and wrapping paper as well, which is loads of fun as I can personalise them to the birthday person.   The wrapping paper is from a newsprint roll I bought in 2014, which I then decorate.  Here’s a card I made recently.  I found this meme online for my Star Wars-obsessed brother who found it hilarious…          star wars.jpg I also make party decorations myself when practical.  Here’s some table decorations I made for a tea party recently from (mostly) op-shop frames and pictures I found on the internet:  tea party decorations

 

  • Making it yourself includes the cake!  If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a gift, you can always bake a cake for the birthday person instead.  A dear friend is having a birthday this week.  She’s just had child number 3 so life is rather hectic for her family.  I volunteered to make a cake (the cake with the heart below) so her husband doesn’t have to worry about it.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday, so a simple cake sufficed.  I calculate that I’ve saved hundreds of dollars making cakes for my children’s parties and for other special occasions by doing it myself. 

  • Limit what you say YES to.  I have a rule for my children that they only attend parties for children who they are actually friendly with.  For some reason it seems to be trendy at the moment to invite your child’s entire class to a party, but it’s not a trend I buy into.   Unless your child is begging you to go for fear of social death or it’s a party for a child who tends to get excluded by others (I’m trying to raise includers here), it’s not the end of the world if they don’t go.  In a similar vein, if a friend invites you out to dinner to celebrate their birthday but money is super-tight, there’s nothing wrong with politely declining and inviting that friend over for a home-cooked meal or a drink at another time.

    Related image

    Okay, so maybe don’t do it quite like this..

 

  • Plan ahead.  Unless you are a hermit, we all have people we regularly give gifts to.  I know that my children are bound to be invited to at least 4 or 5 parties a year.  At the end of last year a local store had character t-shirts on sale at a heavily-reduced price.  I grabbed a few because I knew they’d make good gifts for my children’s friends this year. I also try to avoid giving toys whenever possible, so they fit the bill nicely.  Last year I gave most of my kid’s friends child-sized baking sets, which included a measuring cup, spoons, whisk, tongs, cupcake liners, cookie cutters and sprinkles.  I bought the cookie cutters and liners as sets, which I then divided up.  A friend recently commented that her child uses his set all the time.  Also, when I am out and about during the year, if I see something that would make a great gift (sometimes for a specific person, sometimes not) – and it’s a great price – I grab it.  For instance, I’ve had my November-born dad’s gift since February, and I have a small stash of gifts that cover those unexpected birthday invitations that come in from time to time.  Planning ahead helps me to save time and serious money by not having to buy something at the last minute.

 

  • If you are hosting a party, keep it simple.  Parties seem to be getting more and more elaborate these days.  If spending hours hand-painting in-theme straws for your child’s first birthday is your thing, then that’s fine.  Do that.  But if you find yourself grumbling into your handmade chia-infused ganache, or moaning that your toddler only ate the icing on his $100 cake, it might be time to scale things back and think about what’s actually important to you or the birthday person.  Is it the cake or certain foods that just say ‘BIRTHDAY!’ to you?  Is it more about the party games? The decorations?  Is it getting to catch up with friends?  Focusing on one element and spending less on others makes for a cheaper and more meaningful birthday.  For my son’s recent birthday, he only cared about having his special friends there, and the cake.  It was an evening party, and all I needed to serve was a few pre-dinner nibbles, fish and chips and cake.  Easiest party ever!

 

  • Involve your children.  If they are invited to a friend’s party, have them make the card and wrapping paper.  Get their input into what gift they might give or make, if appropriate.  If it’s their party ask what they would like.  Even at two years old my son was able to tell me exactly who was on his invite list and what food he wanted.  A friend recently scaled back her plans after learning her child longed for a family-only dinner.  She was grateful that she took the time to really listen to his desires instead of assuming he’d want a traditional party.  Another friend loved the handmade birthday banner my children made to mark his birthday.  Frugal gifts made with love mean more than anything flash or expensive.

    Making wrapping paper

 

What do you do to save money on birthdays?  Share your tips below.

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I think a change is gonna come…

I’ve been rather absent on here for a couple of reasons.  One, life just got busy and I didn’t have the headspace for Tots in Tawhero.  Even churning out a small post can take upwards of an hour.

Reason Two – we will be moving soon.  This news threw us for a bit of a loop.  D is in his last year of theology studies, and will begin a two-year internship before he becomes ordained as a fully-fledged reverend.  While we were super-excited about this change in career, we were hoping to be able to remain here in Whanganui for the internship.  But it hasn’t worked out that way.  We were given the options of several places in the South Island (we currently live in the North Island, overseas readers) that are looking for ministry interns, and were told to rank them in order of preference.

This really made my head spin, as some of the options were places I had never visited before.  Pre-internet, I suspect this would have made my ENFJ(oh yes, I am such a planner) head explode, but within a few days, thanks to Google, we had a fair idea of where we want to end up.  I can’t reveal where until meetings have been had, and contracts have been signed, but I think we’ve been given the best opportunity for D to grow as a minister, and for us as a family.  We’ve definitely had the feeling of being in good hands, both in terms of the people who make the internship decisions, and in God’s.

I will continue blogging here until we move, but then this site will be redundant as my tots will no longer be in Tawhero!  I plan to start a new blog once we’ve settled in to our new town, but the focus of this blog will be less parenting stuff, and more…well, I don’t honestly know just yet.  Because quite frankly, I’m over parenting blogs.  When I started blogging several years ago, there weren’t so many parenting blogs, but now they are everywhere.  I followed many for a while but have unfollowed most of them now.  Many parenting blogs are divisive and fuel the fires of the mummy wars that I see raging around me.  Breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding, attachment vs ‘babywise’ etc,  the vitriol meted out at those who dare to have a different opinion can be astonishing.  I am saddened by the nastiness that women (because let’s face it, most parenting bloggers are mums) can display towards one another.

I realised with no lack of cringing, that I was contributing to this in my own small way.  Many times I think we parenting bloggers put stuff out there just so we can have others go ‘Oh cool, well done you’, and thereby justify our own decisions as being the ‘right’ way to do things.  Some bloggers have rabidly loyal followers who pounce upon anyone who dares to question anything the blogger has said.  And it’s brutal.

So while my new blog will have some kiddo-related stuff in there because I have kids in my life, it’s not going to be the main focus.  It will be just Angela, doing Angela things.

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Best-Ever Baby Shower Activity

Hi gentle reader,

Sorry for disappearing for a while.  Life got rather busy, and I’m glad to be out the other side of it!

In the midst of the chaos, I threw a really fun baby shower for my friend A-M, who was having her third child.

tea time tots in tahwero

The baby shower was the perfect excuse to bust out my tea set

I wanted to celebrate because A-M is someone who tends to keep in the background, and she is someone who gives, gives, gives to others.  She is a quiet hero who deserves a fuss made of her!  I also think that every child deserves to be celebrated.  You know how it is, the first baby gets a massive party, and by the time you’re on kid number three or four, no one cares as much.  A-M also had a valid reason for needing a shower: her other two children were born in the opposite season, so she had no warm stuff to pass down to this baby.

I’m going to share a secret.  Most baby showers make me cringe.  I find games like name-the-baby-food, guessing how big Mama’s belly is, and what-poop-is-that (I kid you not, someone invented a game where you smear different chocolate bars into a nappy!  Such fun!) quite demeaning.  I just feel like, I know it’s a bit of fun, but really?  That’s the best we can come up with?

However, showers that focus on supporting the Mama have such a different feel.  Some friends here have a tradition of gifting a bead that is then taken with others to make bracelet or necklace.  The beads can then be used as a focus tool (a bit like a rosary) during birth – a beautiful reminder of all the friends who have your back.

So it was with the second sort of shower in mind that I arranged A-M’s little party.  I invited A-M’s 4-year old daughter, and my own daughter, as I think there are so few female-celebrating spaces in my culture.  Sausage and J were so excited about the party, and they definitely had a ball.  I had an activity in mind that I knew even 4-year olds could do…

I had a few little things for everyone to do while they mingled and had something to eat.  I printed out a calendar for people to guess the due date (A-M’s mother won), and provided a pack of newborn nappies to write words of encouragement and put a smile on A-M’s face during those 2:00am feeds.  We also played ‘Name the Baby’, as A-M and her husband had been unable to agree upon a name.  I still can’t believe they didn’t go with my suggestion of Agamemnon

name the baby tots in tawhero

My piece de resistance, was sparked by an idea I saw on Pinterest, where people had used Sharpies to sign their names on a onesie for the baby.

I remembered seeing self-adhesive fabric squares for sale at one of our local dollar stores, and thinking at the time, ‘What on earth would you want that for?’

Now I know.

Here’s how to create a fun baby shower gift that is made with love, and very, very practical.

I downloaded cute images from the internet that I thought would be great shapes to decorate a onesie with.  I put them on card, used them as a stencil on the fabric, et voila!

my onesie tots in tawhero

Seriously, how cute it this???

I bought enough onesies for each guest, and got them in different sizes, just to be even more useful.  I got a wide selection of adhesive fabric, put out the onesies and stencils and told the guests to go for it.  I made a variety of stencils that had nothing to do with princesses or any other gendered stuff that gets shoved down our throats by clothing retailers.

stencils

Some of the stencils I made

Oma lends a hand

Oma lends a hand

hard at work tots in tawhero

creative juices flowing

We had a wonderful time crafting together, and everyone wanted to do something like it again (tote bags, next time?).  The results were beautiful, and now A-M’s baby girl has several one-of-a-kind onesies made with love.

Sausage with A-M

A-M, and Sausage with her creation

oneise tots in tawhero

Onesie love

Between the decorated onesies, and the other fabulous gifts the baby received at her shower, she is going to be the best-dressed baby in town.

So there you have folks, a cringe-free, practical and fun baby shower activity.  And for my Dollar Diet followers, it’s frugal too.  The packs of fabric cost $3 each, the cardboard for the stencils I had to hand anyway, and I got several of the onesies second-hand (in mint condition).

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School holidays on a budget

Phew, the school holidays are over and I survived!

Thomas train tots in tawhero

That face!  Melts my heart.

The first week of the school holidays was rough as it coincided with Chip deciding that 4am was a really good time to get up for the day, and I re-injured my back.  I am not a great parent person when I’m tired and sore.  I turn into Crabby McShouty.  Fortunately we managed to get Chip back into a more normal wake up time, and my back didn’t take long to get better.

Last year I put my extroverted daughter into her kindy’s holiday programme (4 days) as after a week’s holiday she would be bursting to get back there.  This year the hideous cough o’ doom left her tired and run down, so a complete break was in order.

Holidays and fun are in our budget, but even so, I don’t go overboard.  We manage to have a great time for free or cheap.

On Good Friday Sausage and her friend J made an Easter craft, which can then be used to tell the Easter story.  I have lost the link to it, but I found it on Pinterest.  The great thing about it is we can use it again next year.  Sausage really started to get the Easter story this year, I was quite impressed with her ability to remember who was who, and who did what.

Easter craft tots in tawhero

Busy crafting

I also took my tots to an Easter Egg hunt that was a fundraiser for one of our local playcentres.  It was brilliant.  Rock hunting is all the rage here (I’ll post on that soon), and children had to find five rocks which were then swapped for a bag of marshmallow eggs.  The children were also allowed to keep their two favourite rocks.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

Sausage got her face painted, and my tots loved the egg and spoon obstacle course and bouncy castle.  All of that for a $5 entry fee!

I am queen of the day trip.  I like nothing more than getting out and about to explore.  So it was off to the Coach House Museum again with friends.  My machinery-mad son loves clambering on to the tractors, and this museum will probably be a school-holiday must-do for years to come.  (My photos turned out to be completely rubbish, sorry E!)

I had a ‘girl’s day’ where my friend A-M and I took our daughters to the Fantasy Cave in Dannevirke.

Fantasy Cave tots in tawhero

Sausage and J

I don’t know who enjoys the Fantasy Cave more, me or the kids.  It is old-fashioned, low tech goodness, and well worth the visit.  At $10 entry fee for myself and Sausage, it’s a bargain too.  The girls LOVED having a day away from their annoying little brothers and getting Mummy all to themselves.

We went with friends to visit Owlcatraz, a bird park in Shannon.  If I’m honest I was rather underwhelmed by the place, but it didn’t help that it was pouring with rain while we took our tour.  We did manage to get a cute train ride there which was a highlight for the kids.

Owlcatraz tots in tawhero

All aboard the Owlcatraz Express

 

I also took my tots on several free outings to playgrounds and reserves as we were blessed with fantastic weather.

sliding tots in tawhero

Westmere Lake tots in tawhero

Playing hide and seek.  Mum’s seeking skills: Ninja Level

butterfly tots in tawhero

We took two mini-breaks which were very frugal.  The first one was an over-nighter to attend a dear friend’s 21st birthday.  We stayed at a beach house that belongs to family friends, which only requires us to make a donation to cover power etc, so it’s a very cheap option.  The weather was stunning the entire time, which meant we had an absolute ball at the beach.  It was too cold to swim (which is almost every day in New Zealand waters), but the kids relished the opportunity to get sandy and mucky in their clothes as they played on the shore.

Beach boy tots in tawhero

Waitarere beach

Our next mini-break was a scheduled holiday at Foxton Beach on the Kapiti coast.  Last year we only had one week away together as a family, which was just not enough for D and I.  This year we’ve resolved to take more little breaks throughout the year to rest and recharge. Foxton Beach is a perfect destination for us while our kids are little as it is only an hour away.  We found a cheap holiday house online, which comes with the use of bikes, and a whole bunch of games and toys.  We prefer to stay at holiday houses because we get an entire place to ourselves so that our noisy kids don’t bother anyone, and we can cook what we like quite easily (taking our own food cuts costs dramatically).  They are also often a much cheaper option than a hotel or motel, and in some cases, even cheaper than camping.

toys tots in tawhero

Other people’s toys are so much fun!

The house is right next to a forest and is therefore in a very quiet and peaceful spot.  After a quick walk through the forest we got to some sand dunes where my tots spent over an hour doing this:

sand slide tots in tawhero

sand angels tots in tahwero

sand angels

Another reason we like Foxton Beach is that it is close to friends.  We caught up with two groups of friends on a day we knew it was forecast to rain.  Our tots were so happy to see their friends, they didn’t mind being cooped up inside.

friends tots in tawherohappiness is reading a book

Anyway, school holidays: done and dusted.