0

Dollar Diet: Week 10, Use it up

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

te manawa 1 tots in tawhero

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

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

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

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

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

banana bread tots in tawhero

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

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

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

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

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

Te Manawa 2 Tots in Tawhero

One of the playrooms at Te Manawa

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

reading party tots in tawhero

Reading party for two 

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

 

0

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.

coach-museum-feilding-tots-in-tawhero

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.

coach-museum-1-tots-in-tawehro

Family life in pioneer New Zealand

standee-coach-museum-tots-in-tawhero

The standees are informative and make good use of historical photos

motorcycle-coach-museum-totsintawhero

Lady biker

milk-truck-coach-museum-totsintawhero

Old Milk Truck

rope-maker-tots-in-tawhero

rope maker

farrm-implements-tots-in-tawhero

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

bobs-tots-in-tawhero

Bobs

play-space-tots-in-tawhero

old-fashioned-game-totsintawhero

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!’

toy-collection-coach-museum-tots-in-tawhero

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.

0

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.

Westmere lake 1Westmre lake 2

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.

Westmere lake 9

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

Westmere lake 7

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.

Westmere lake 6

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.

Westmere lake 8

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

Lake-Westmere-1200x413

image credit

Get out into it folks.

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

0

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.

DSCN9281

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:

DSCN9304

And this:

DSCN9332

And there is even a sculpture walk:

DSCN9288DSCN9290DSCN9293

(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.)

DSCN9282

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.

DSCN9344

DSCN9328DSCN9333DSCN9296DSCN9329

I loved it.

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

DSCN9340DSCN9349DSCN9359

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.

DSCN9366DSCN9370 (1)

We’re already planning our next visit.

Thanks Clive and Nicki!

 

0

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.

Cameron Blockhouse tots in tawhero.jpg

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:

tok! tots in tawhero.jpg

ain’t she pretty?

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

tok2.jpg

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.

blockhouse 2 tots in tawhero.jpg

blockhouse inside tots in tawhero.jpg

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:

musket hole.jpg

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.

plaque tots in tawhero.jpg

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

cameron farm tots in tawhero.jpg

Farm valley view from the blockhouse

Free, informative fun.  What could be better?

 

0

Things to do in Whanganui: Waitahinga Trails (alternative title: I’m just wild about Harry)

The Waitahinga trails are a 40 minute drive from Whanganui, and are 12km past Bushy Park Sanctuary (the road past the sanctuary to the trails is unsealed, FYI).  The land has been owned by the Whanganui City Council for many years, but it is only recently that the trails have been developed for all to enjoy (thanks Whanganui Tramping Club, you guys are awesome!).  The forest is a mix of old and regenerating flora, and in most parts you will be serenaded by tuis, piwakawakas, riroriro, cicadas, and the occasional hive of bees.

There are several trails, rated from easy to moderate.  I took the longest route to the Waitahinga Dam and found it challenging in some parts (more on that later), but mostly fine for my level of fitness.  The tracks are very well marked so there is slim chance of getting lost.

There are two easy trails – the Picnic Dell and the Chicken Run – however, to get to the start of the trails you have to walk up a ruddy great hill, so I would only recommend trying these on foot with your more active toddler.  The road to the dell is fine for strollers etc, but you will need muscle power to get that stroller up the hill.

The Chicken Run is a 30 minute loop walk that has two vista points (where you can see Mts Ruapehu and Taranaki) and is suitable for school-aged children and older toddlers.

The other tracks can be done as shorter walks, but most people will take them all in getting to and from the Waitahinga Dam.  The dam is located 250m lower than the start of the track, which means after you get there, a decent climb back UP awaits you.

The Okehu track takes you through gorgeous bush, and then it is recommended to take ‘Tom’s Ridge’ down to the dam, and ‘Harry’s Ridge’ back up.  Of the two, Tom is shorter but steeper, while Harry meanders its way back in a more leisurely fashion.

Tom’s Ridge looks newer, and the track is -for want of a better word – quite rooty.  I know, tree roots in a forest?  How very dare they!  Anyway, what I mean is, this section of the trail can be a bit tricky due to the roots, so you do have to watch your step.  I definitely recommend wearing boots for this walk.  I didn’t find Tom too challenging until the last 100m or so when the track suddenly plummets down.  This part of the ridge is less dense with bush, meaning fewer things to hang onto.  I was quietly terrified by the steep, slippery incline and ended up having to turn myself around to climb down, clutching onto roots and saplings when I could.  But I survived.

At the bottom of the hilly slip-o-rama, it is a short walk to the dam.  I made it from the carpark to the dam in 2 1/2 hours.  I’m a cautious walker (and by that I mean, I’m a naturally clumsy person, so whilst walking solo, I take my time lest I should break a leg and have to be ignominiously rescued…) but I’m surer more nimble folk could do it in two.  Anyway, here is the dam:

waitahingadam3totsintawherowaitahingadam2totsintawherowaitahingadam1totsintawhero

Beautiful, isn’t she?

It’s a wonderful spot to just sit and marvel at Creation, and I had the place (and indeed the track) all to myself.  The dam was once the source of Whanganui’s water and is absolutely worth the trouble of getting there.

And then, there’s Harry.

I so enjoyed this part of the trail.  It’s pretty steep in places, and being mostly uphill, takes more time than Tom (it took me just over three hours to get back to the carpark).  The occasional steep part aside, Harry wanders calmly back up.  There is a wonderful area called Spaghetti Flat which is filled with supplejack, and really does look like tree-made spaghetti.  I ran into several families of goats (unless it was the same group stalking me?) along here.  From there you enter the Rimu walk which then rejoins the Orehu track, taking you back to the carpark.

waitahingatrail2totsintawhero

I found the last 15 minutes of the Orehu track to be hard slog, and was relieved to see the end of the trail.

What a great day!

3

I like to move it, move it…

Last year I shared my resolutions for 2015 and how I was going to keep them.  For the record, I kept two out of three, which I reckon is pretty darn good seeing as the majority of people fail within the first few weeks of the year!

The resolution I failed to keep was to do with writing regularly.  I blogged away quite contentedly over 2015 but probably only wrote a few hundred words of the novel I need to get out of my head.  And I’m okay with that.  The truth is that writing my novel required the sort of mental energy I simply didn’t have after a day spent running around after my two tots (who are only 18 months apart in age).

This year I couldn’t be faffed with any of that resolution malarkey.  Sure, I will try to bash out that novel this year, but if that doesn’t happen again, well there’s always time when my kids have left home, right?

I do however, love the clean slate that the new year brings, and I like to be very intentional about how I live my life.  Before 2015 came to an end I toyed with the idea some bright spark had of having one word to describe how I would like 2016 to unfold.  Many people do this, using words like ‘passion’ or ‘travel’ or ‘breathe’ etc.  I couldn’t narrow it down to one word, so I am greedily using two.

Outside and Move.

They kind of relate to each other in a way, but aren’t quite the same, if you follow me.

I am not a naturally outdoorsy sort of person, but being a stay-at-home-mum means I suffer frequent bouts of cabin fever.  After spending far too many sunny days indoors at various playgroups I decided last year I had had enough of INSIDE.  I wanted OUTSIDE more than Michael Schofield.  Outside is still my mantra for 2016.

This year I will continue on with only turning up to certain playgroups if the weather is really rotten, or if there is something special going on.

I also want my kids to know that the world doesn’t stop just because it’s raining.  This year I will buy rain trousers like my tots have so I have no excuse to not be outside in all sorts of weather too.  We have wetlands  and reserves around Whanganui that are perfect for exploring any time of year, no matter the weather.

Sausage will be attending a Forest Kindy one day a week this year, which I hope will help her learn her own physical boundaries (she’s not a high energy kid) and instill respect for our environment.  And I want her to have a grand old time just playing!

Anyway, the upshot of it is, I want my kids and I to be outside as much as possible this year.  Now, it’s all very well to have good intentions, but I need to take certain steps to make sure they happen.  One was coming up with a list of outside things to do as a family.  This grew into sort of a ‘family fun day’ list so I drew up this:

bucket list 2016

Not all of these things are outside, but most of them are.  And most of them are free.  We have already ticked one off (which funnily enough, was one of the inside things to do, har har.).  I’ve put the list in a prominent place in our kitchen where it calls to me like the Sirens calling to Odysseus.  ‘Come on Angela, have fun Angela.  Let’s do all the fun things NOW’.

Having it in my face is the perfect recipe to get me to actually schedule all these things.  By schedule, I don’t mean I will sit down an assign specific dates to x, y and z, but rather if we are at a loose end I can see what’s left on the list to do, or if we have a free weekend and the weather cooperates we can choose what to do.

MOVE is related to how we do things.

We finally bought a bike trailer, so I can take the kids on the myriad of little trips needed each week, and I get some incidental exercise.  It means we can finally sell the second car we don’t need.  Our ‘outside’ family trips will get us moving, and hopefully our kids will get the message that moving and challenging our bodies  is a natural part of life.

D and I are going to take a dance class (rock and roll) this year.  D has excellent rhythm for a bloke and he didn’t run screaming when I made the suggestion, so this bodes well.

D kindly bought me a Fitbit, which after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book on habit formation, Better than Before, I decided would suit my personality as a way to monitor my exercise.  And flippin’ heck, does it what!  I LOVE it.  I have friends who also have Fitbits and beating their number of steps everyday is so much fun.  My Fitbit has made me aware of how sedentary I can be at times (like when sitting down to write a blog post), and I can use it to track my daily exercise sessions, my sleep and my eating too.  At any given time you may now see me marching as I cut up veges for dinner, or dancing around like a loon with my tots, singing “Must beat J, must beat J”.

In fact, I need to get my steps in now, so see ya!