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Day trips from Whanganui: King Edward Park, Hawera

When a suitable day arises, most folks in my town, Whanganui, like to head over Palmerston North to shop (hello, K Mart) and make use of the great facilities that bigger cities have.  Me, I like to head in the opposite direction.

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There’s loads to do in South Taranaki; you’ll only need a few minutes on Google to find something that will float your boat.  I am easily pleased.  I love parks, the beach, museums, libraries and art galleries, and a good cafe or two.  My kids are following in my footsteps as going to a museum is their idea of a good time, but long road trips are not.  However, they can be placated by the promise of a great playground along the way, and that’s what brought us to King Edward Park in Hawera, this time around.

We passed through Hawera on our way to New Plymouth, but Hawera itself is definitely worthy of a day trip.  Along with King Edward Park, you could check out the incredible Tawhiti Museum (although it has the most frustrating opening times, check their website before you go) or stick with nature at Goodson Dell and Naumai Park. 

But I digress, back to the park!

King Edward Park has something for everyone.  Cool play equipment, a duck pond, manicured lawns and flower gardens, free BBQs, plenty of picnic tables, and tennis courts.  We spent a good couple of hours here and I’ll definitely go back with my family in summer.

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Entrance to the beautiful Chinese garden

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Thanks Hawera!

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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.

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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.

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

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

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  • 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: 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.

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

Hello summer, can I get a refund please?

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

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

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

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Family life in pioneer New Zealand

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The standees are informative and make good use of historical photos

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Lady biker

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Old Milk Truck

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rope maker

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

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Bobs

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One of several pinball games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Things to do in Whanganui with kids: Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia

Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia is located on Rapanui Road, five minutes drive from the centre of Whanganui.

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Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia is a wonderful place to take your tots, particularly if they are mobile and need to run off some steam in a pretty safe environment.  The track is mostly flat and would take an average adult 30 minutes to walk around it.

Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia is surrounded by 20ha of native New Zealand bush and farmland, and is a wildlife refuge.  On any given day tuis, piwakwaka and kereru are evident.

The first part of the track is buggy-accessible.

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A few minutes walk leads to an isthmus, with a small clearing and a picnic table.

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After the picnic area, the track becomes less buggy-friendly.  The track can be narrow and sloping in places and has a few hilly spots (the hills are pretty small).  It is possible to lug a buggy around the whole way, but baby-wearing is a more sensible option.

On this visit, my two spent 40 minutes jumping off logs.

Playing hide-and-seek was popular too.

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You could definitely spend the better part of an afternoon exploring all there is to see at the lake.

My one criticism of this glorious place is that there are only a few spots where you can view the lake, as it is (naturally) surrounded by reeds and other tall foliage.  But there are tantalising glimpses most of the way around, and some scenic outlooks once you get to the hillier part of the track.

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Here’s a much better shot of the lake (not taken by me) on a sunnier day:

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Get out into it folks.

Note: Do not confuse Westmere Lake/Roto Mokoia with the Westmere Walkway, which is located in Aramoho.  

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Things to do in Whanganui with kids: Paloma Gardens

25 minutes out of Whanganui lies a not-so-wee gem that is perfect to explore with your kids for a day: Paloma Gardens.

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A private garden that has been a labour of love for Clive and Nicki Higgie – who are sort of like rock stars in the botanical world – Paloma Gardens boasts a staggering collection of plants and trees from all over the world, and countless fine examples of New Zealand flora.  Paloma Gardens can be found on Pohutukawa Lane, just past Fordell.

There is an entrance fee – $10 for adults, and children under 15 are free.  Compared with similar gardens I have visited overseas, I think this price is a bargain.  You really could explore this place at your leisure all day, it’s that big.

There are wonderful sculptures all around the garden, such as this:

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And this:

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And there is even a sculpture walk:

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(This bit is probably not the best for rambunctious toddlers who want to touch the precious sculptures, but there is plenty of garden left to explore.)

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The garden beckons

Paloma Gardens has many parts to it: the Desert House, the Palm Garden, the Garden of Death, a wedding lawn (they host many weddings here), a labyrinth, a lake and much, much more.  The plants and trees are incredible, and there are delightfully quirky touches all over the gardens.  It’s obvious that the owners have an irreverent sense of humour.

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I loved it.

My tots had a brilliant time exploring the wonders of the garden:

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We inadvertently took a wrong turn on our way to the lake and ended up taking a rather long hike.  The climb back up the hill from the lake is very steep, just FYI.  My two were knackered from all the hill climbing and exploring, so we didn’t get to see all the gardens before they needed to head home for a nap.  Parts of the gardens are buggy accessible, but if you have a wee one you’d be better off with a front/back pack.  Due to the gardens being situated on a very hilly site, only parts of Paloma Gardens are wheelchair accessible.

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We’re already planning our next visit.

Thanks Clive and Nicki!

 

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Things to do in Whanganui with kids: Cameron Blockhouse

I grew up in a house filled with history buffs.  If there was a museum to go to, we’d be there.  “Look kids, a historical marker!  Let’s check it out.”

All of this naturally rubbed off on me, and I am an unabashed history nerd.  So it was with some sense of shame that I confessed to a friend the other day that I had never visited a particular historical site that is just outside Whanganui: Cameron Blockhouse.

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I’d driven past that beguiling historical marker many, many times, but was always in too much of a rush to stop.

Today the weather was nice, and I was looking for somewhere reasonably contained to let Chip loose.  At almost 20 months, his favourite activity is to run like the wind whilst calling out ‘Running! Running!’, hence the need for containment.  I figured Cameron Blockhouse might be a goer, and I was right.

Cameron Blockhouse is situated just off the main highway south out of Whanganui (State Highway 3), just past Kaitoke.  It’s about a 5 minute drive out of town, and is well sign-posted.  (The entrance is just past a corner, so take care as you leave the place.)

Cameron Blockhouse is situated on working farm land (there are two farmhouses nearby), so a) big ups to the kind people for letting the public on their land, and b) please be respectful of this fact when you visit.

As it turned out, the farm equipment alone was enough to enthral my machinery-obsessed son.  Because there wasn’t just a tractor, there was a TRACTOR:

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ain’t she pretty?

Just for scale, here’s one with my tractor-loving toddler:

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It was an auspicious beginning to a good outing.

Cameron Blockhouse hails from a fascinating and often shameful era in New Zealand’s history, the New Zealand Wars, which happened over 1845-1872.  The timber blockhouse is one of the few surviving examples of a privately-built redoubt from this time.  Built in 1868, it was constructed to protect the Cameron family, from the growing threat of Maori Chief Riwha Titokowaru and his army.

The blockhouse was designed to withstand a 24-hour siege and was situated so that signals could be passed onto other blockhouses on the way to Whanganui, alerting the British troops that were garrisoned there.  The house is made of totara, and the walls were stuffed with clay to make them bullet-proof.

The house is still in remarkably good shape.

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One of the three rooms in the blockhouse

On the inside, the blockhouse has three rooms, and a loft, so you can imagine that it could have protected quite a number of people.  Musket holes are situated along every wall:

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Fortunately for the Cameron family, the threat of an angry army never eventuated so the blockhouse was never used for its original purpose.

If you like history, and have time to spare, Cameron Blockhouse is definitely worth a look.  Historical information is displayed throughout the blockhouse, and the design alone is enough to interest military buffs (like me!).  I think most children would find the blockhouse interesting – especially those musket holes.

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And if that’s not enough, is this view enticing enough for you?

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Farm valley view from the blockhouse

Free, informative fun.  What could be better?