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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.

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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!

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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.

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  • 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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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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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.

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

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

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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!

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Our journey to Christmas

Phew, we’re almost there.

Every year I decide to do less in the lead up to Christmas, and every year I still get exhausted!  Getting the flu (I know!  It’s summer, for goodness sake!) hasn’t helped, but we have had a lot of fun during Advent.

Sausage helped put up the tree.

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Her brother was supposed to help too, but he chose to pack a massive tanty so he got packed off to bed.  Toddlers.

The advent calendar has been a huge hit, as always.

Chip has managed to respect the rule that we only open one bag a day.  Kudos to him, because patience is soooo hard when you are two.  I filled the calendar with a chocolate each and a note about what Christmas-related thing we’d do that day.  Note to self: do not choose cheap wrapped chocolates from bulk bin ever again as they mostly get spat out by picky toddlers.  Despite not liking some of their ‘treats’ the kids don’t seem to care, and are still excited to see what is in the bag each day.

We haven’t always managed to do the calendar activity each day – mostly due to sickness – but my tots aren’t old enough to care, let alone remember.  I have found that thinking ahead to prepare the calendar had really helped with being organised for Christmas.  I finished my shopping ages ago, and only have a few consumables left to make.

St Nicholas Day was very exciting, and Sausage shared chocolate coins with her class at kindy.

We have been very involved in our church Christmas events.  A float telling the real Christmas story has been lacking in Whanganui’s Christmas Parade for several years, so this year several churches from several denominations got together to make a float and participate as a group.  One of the leaders from my church spearheaded the amazing design of the float, and she said the children’s ministry leaders from each church had such a great time organising this event, that they plan to meet regularly to share resources and pray for the churches.

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Waiting to march

The parade was wonderful.  Sausage, my mother-in-law and I had a ball with our church friends, and it was such a joy to see the thousands of happy faces lining the streets to watch the parade.  The weather was perfect, and it felt so great to have joined forces with other like-minded folks to do our bit to share the Christmas message.

We also supported our church’s annual Nativity play.  Chip refused to participate.  He can’t sit still for more than two minutes so his being in the play was always going to be a long shot.  However, he did help by handing out invitations to the local community.

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Sausage was an angel again, and I warned the minister that she will probably demand a speaking part next year!  She loves an audience.

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D has been incredibly busy dealing with Christmas lights.  For the past three years, we have entered Whanganui’s Light Up Your Home competition.  Households and businesses compete to win prizes, and a map is published so the community can go around looking at the lights.  D’s brother, an electrical engineer, has been in town so the two of them tried something new with the lights this year.  They spent hours, but it was definitely worth the effort.

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Chip helping D with the lights

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The finished product (complete with Christmas people mover…)

It’s hard to get a decent picture!  There are more lights in the trees and around the house and fence, but the main feature are the flickering camel and star lights.

We have never entered to win.  We enter because we know the delight it brings to the many families who venture out each Christmas.  I have an especially fond memory of piling into our van with my family, my aunt and her friend to look at the lights, singing carols at the top of our lungs.  I think at one point my Auntie was singing out of the sunroof!  Anyway, going to look at the lights became a family tradition, and it’s lovely to think we are play our part in carrying on that tradition for other families too.

The past week really threw me for a spin though.  I have said NO to anything that was a ‘nice to do’ but not essential to do.  Despite this mantra, this week was crazy-busy with several MUST-GO-TO events.  We had Sausage’s kindy’s end of year concert on Thursday night, immediately followed by Chip’s playgroup Christmas party Friday morning, and Sausage’s BFF’s birthday Friday afternoon.  Argh!  I was so exhausted I couldn’t attend the birthday party, but fortunately D took the kids.

My exhaustion turned out to be the flu, but even still, it was frazzling.

End of year Christmas parties really are a bugbear of mine.  I’d like to be able to say ‘sod the lot of them!’ but my tots are old enough now to a) know that these parties are happening, b) are expected to participate (e.g. the kindy concert) and are c) important to my tots.  I do get frustrated at the mandatory $5 gift from Santa at every.single.one.  Why???  It’s not like these privileged children won’t get a gift come Christmas day.  I was really pleased that our Playcentre decided to do away with this and instead gave families different options on how to give to people in need.  Go Playcentre!  I know I’m a grinch, but I reckon if more organisations and workplaces shelved Secret Santa and gave to charities, so much more light and love would be spread around at Christmas.

*Steps down from soapbox*

On a brighter note, I’ve been so chuffed that one of my best friends has moved to Whanganui with her family.  They were living in Auckland, and decided they wanted a better lifestyle for themselves and their children.  It is beyond cool to have them in the same town.  Their children are similar in age to mine, and are the closest thing to cousins my children have.  We’ve done loads of stuff with them already, and I’m sure many adventures await.

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My tots playing doctor (with paintbrushes) on their ‘cousin’ J

These friends gave Chip a disco light for Christmas, so it is party time at our house until we can party no more (bedtime is at 7pm, after all).

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The rest of Advent is somewhat quieter.  Workplace lunches for both D and I.  Seeing the lights with friends.  Gathering with church friends on Christmas Eve.  Playing as many Christmas carols as I can possibly squeak in.

On that note, I will leave you with the words of our friend Rev. Malcolm Gordon, who recently composed the wonderful song, Hey Mary, which you can listen to (and buy) here.  And the video is here.  It’s based on the annunciation in Luke’s gospel:

‘Hey Mary, there’s an angel in your house!’ 

Said, ‘Mary have I got some news for you.’ 

‘You seem to think you’re nothing much but Heaven’s coming close enough to touch, yeah!

Hey Mary, God is coming here through you!’ 

‘There is no such thing as ordinary now God is here. 
Every life and breath is blessed, you never know when God might appear.’

 

This Christmas I wish you peace.  Peace from the busyness, the shopping crowds, the parties and to-do-lists.  I wish that you can find pockets of peace for yourself, to rest, and to reflect on the miracle that is Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

 

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A Buy Less Christmas

Last Christmas I led an Advent study all about trying to reclaim Christmas from the consumerist trappings that have overtaken the true Christmas message.  I find it heartbreaking that many people approach Christmas with dread, as it has become a time of insane ‘busyness’, end-of-year parties up the wazoo, and shopping.  Jesus barely gets a look-in amidst the Santas and Rudolphs on display.

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Sausage choosing her ‘Wise Woman’ costume for the Christmas Parade

This Advent season, I’m approaching Christmas just as mindfully.  I absolutely love the ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’ movement.  Buy Nothing Christmas was started by a group of Canadian Mennonites who had a desire to tell a better Christmas story than one of stress, shopping and debt.  They took action, and this initiative has spread across the globe.  Their website is full of terrific ideas on how to reduce our consumption and spending at this time of year.  They emphasise making gifts, re-gifting or upcycling, and really having a good think about how you might spend your time, money and energy at Christmas.  You can find some of their ideas here.

While I cannot commit to a Buy Nothing Christmas (due to lacking certain necessary skills), I can commit to a Buy Less Christmas.

It’s been hard!  Christmas was a big deal in my family growing up.  My mum filled our Christmas pillowcases (yes, we had pillowcases – thanks Mum) with cool stuff, like felt pens, calendars, chocolates, and these cool soap pens which kept my brother and I amused writing on ourselves in the bath.  My family of origin love to celebrate, and I’ve always appreciated this.

It’s hard for me not to go overboard at Christmas.  I love seeing my tots happy and excited.  I love giving presents.  So how to balance this with ensuring the message of Jesus isn’t lost?

We are doing lots of Advent-related things over the coming weeks, to keep our hearts and minds on the right track.  We are saying no to lots of events and parties, and yes to those that involve our church, and our other loved ones.  With more time on our hands, we can hang out with our special people, or just relax.  We are giving to more charities, especially those based in our city.  The kids and I will be making gifts for their friends and family members, so they learn how wonderful it is to GIVE to others at Christmas.

Our local friends and family will be getting my world-famous-in-my-own-head chocolate truffles and D’s amazing ginger beer.  Most of my closest friends live scattered around the country/world.  We have swapped small gifts for years, and unless they decide to stop, I am happy to keep this up as I have so much fun choosing something for them.  This year I decided to decorate tote bags for them.  They are useful, cute and light to post(!).  I really enjoying decorating the bags, and made each one personal.  Here are some:

book-bags-tots-in-tawhero

Pinterest was a great source of inspiration, as always.  I could have sewed the bags myself, but I sourced these for less than it would have cost me to make, despite them being fair trade cotton!  So pleased.

For my tots, I went for a mix of ‘useful things’ and ‘following their interests things’.  I sourced pretty much everything secondhand or on sale.  The kids get three gifts from D and I, like the wise men gave Jesus.  They also get a stocking from us.  I usually have a few frivolous things in there, but mostly the items in it are useful.  We intentionally keep gifts on the low-key side, preferring to keep big-ticket items for birthdays.

This year, Chip is getting a decent sandpit from D and I.  The old one is definitely a case of ‘this town ain’t big enough for the both of us’.  Our home came with a raised vege garden planted in a stupid spot – in a corner, that sits in shade a lot of the time.  I subsequently put in several more vege gardens in sunnier spots, so this one is now redundant.  We put our chickens on it to clear it up, and enrich the soil.  D and I will soon remove the topsoil for compost, transplant a rosemary bush, put down some plastic and get a load of sand.  The raised garden is the perfect size for our kids (and a couple of friends) and comes with edging for little bottoms to sit on, should they wish.  One set of grandparents is gifting Chip with sturdy sandpit equipment like a kid-sized shovel, and they are giving us a gazebo they no longer need to put over the sandpit for shade.  The only expense for us is the sand.  Score!

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This will soon be a pit o’fun

Chip is also getting a Superman costume (his latest obsession) that I got for peanuts, and a hefty die-cast bus (another interest) I got for 90% off.

In his stocking some of the things he is getting are: a ball, a mint condition Paw Patrol onesie I got for $4 secondhand, soap pens (Hmm, wonder where I got that idea from?), some chocolate, a super hero cape, undies (toilet training, here we come), a couple of action figures, and secondhand books.

For Sausage, I’ve been dying to make her this idea from Pinterest:

hopscotch-pinterest

She is starting to recognise numbers, and this is a game that gave me hours and hours of entertainment as a child so I’m betting she’ll love it too.  We are blessed to have a big backyard which can easily fit the hopscotch pavers.  I had pots of paint already, and sourced 9 pavers for $1.19 each.  I’m pleased with how they’ve come out and will post pictures of these in situ after Christmas.

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I had loads of fun painting some river stones left on our property by the previous owner, that Sausage (and friends) can use as hopscotch markers.

 

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For her other main gifts, she is getting a Princess Aurora dress I scored for $8 at a secondhand store (which looks brand new, and retail here for $40-50), with an Aurora doll.  I’m not keen on the whole Princess thing, but she is.  I figure that as I am still a card-carrying feminist despite being entranced by princesses and all things Disney as a kid, so I suspect Sausage will be a-ok too.

Sausage also getting a portable karaoke machine that you plug into an mp3 player and sing along to any song you want.  It sounds much flasher than it is, and I got it for 60% off.  Again, this is a following-your-child’s-interests thing.  If you knew my child you’d know she sings and dances through life, so I thought this would be a good fit for her.  Oddly enough, since I bought the machine a few weeks back, she has become obsessed with pretending to be a ‘rock star’ and asking me for a microphone (apparently to be a rock star you must have tap shoes, tutus and microphones).  I have no idea where the rock star thing has come from, but it’s funny as heck.

In her stocking she’s getting things such as: a jewellery box, a super hero cape, bubble bath, some chocolate, a sticker book all about sea creatures (her greatest love), and some secondhand books.

The only gifts left to make now are the truffles, which are quick and easy.  Christmas Day is shaping up to be a low-key, low-fuss affair with our in-town family.  I’m looking forward to eating my Mum’s turkey and my auntie’s meringues, singing carols at the top of my lungs, and going to church.

So that’s it.  I bought some stuff, but I tried to keep it on the useful side, and kept costs down by buying secondhand or on sale.  I made as much as I could.  I’ve probably bought more than strictly necessary, and that’s something I’ll be working on for next year.

 

What do you do to reduce stress and consumption at Christmas? Chime in below.

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Advent in Tawhero, pt 2

In case it’s not evident by my other Christmas-related posts, I loooove this time of year.  I really do.  I look forward to Christmas more than any other time.  Christmas brings up so many warm and fuzzy connotations for me.  If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I hate the consumerism of Christmas.  The stress.  The hustle and bustle.  The debt.  The family fights.  It saddens me that Christmas has been overtaken by all those things, and that there is nothing but a sea of Santas and Rudolphs to tell the Christmas story.

What I most want to pass on to my tots is the story of Jesus.  I also hope to instil in them the joy of giving, making things instead of buying when possible, caring for those less fortunate, and the importance of family.  But how to do it?  Enter our second advent calendar.

Sausage and Chip LOVED their advent calendars last year.  It was the highlight of their day.  I liked the idea of making an interactive calendar – one that has an activity each day.  If an activity a day seems overwhelming, fret not.  Advent should not be a time of busyness or stress.  The trick is to fill the calendar with things that you would do anyway.  In fact, spreading all those things out over 24 days is actually less daunting than a flurry of activity the week of Christmas!

As I’m doing a Buy Less Christmas, I made an advent calendar from some paper bags, scraps of wrapping paper, numbers printed off the internet, pegs and ribbon.  I think it cost me $4.  I’m stoked with how it turned out:

adventcalendar-totsintawhero

I’ve seen some cool calendars done in frames like this which I may do in the future,

but I’m going to hang our one on our mantelpiece (the joys of Christmas in summer) this year.

Here’s what my tots and I will be up to in the countdown to Christmas:

  1. Decorate the Christmas Tree
  2. Make and send a Christmas cards to relative in the Netherlands
  3. Read the story of St Nicholas with Daddy
  4. Make a Christmas wreath with Mummy
  5. Put your shoes out for St Nicholas
  6. Give out gold coins to your friends today, like St Nicholas
  7. Donate toys and books you don’t want anymore to less fortunate kids
  8. Read the story of Baby Jesus with Mummy
  9. Make Christmas stars with Mummy
  10. Watch a Christmas movie for family night
  11. Learn a new Christmas carol (Te Harinui)
  12. Have a dance party to Christmas music
  13. Buy each other a Christmas present, and for a Birthright child
  14. Make a card and a present for your teachers
  15. Make wrapping paper
  16. Get Christmas photos taken at the museum
  17. Sing Christmas carols with our church
  18. Make gingerbread cookies and give them to our neighbours
  19. Make Christmas presents for the grandparents
  20. Make Christmas presents for the Uncles
  21. Take a trip to see the Christmas lights
  22. Make Christmas presents for your friends
  23. Make and deliver Christmas cards (and the presents) to your friends
  24. Call Opa, Auntie G and Uncle J in the Netherlands and sing them a Christmas carol

 

So that’s it.  Nothing complicated or earth-shattering.  I’m going to let the kids decide what gifts to make  – within reasons, and with plenty of suggestions.  Both will be given a small amount of money to buy the other one a gift, and to buy a gift for a child who is less fortunate.  I figure it’s a good lesson for them to go into a toy shop thinking about what someone else would like.  I’m pretty sure Sausage will insist that her brother really wants high-heel dress up shoes, and Chip will think his sister is dying to have a toy combine harvester, but hey, we must start somewhere.

What are you up to this Christmas season? Chime in below.