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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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Dollar Diet: Week 11, a frugal St Patrick’s Day celebration

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

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

Green chrys

I got a huge bunch of green chrysanthemums for $3

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

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

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

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

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

     

I’m looking forward to next year already.

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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

 

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Dollar Diet Week 9: Of Plums and Pancakes

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

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

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

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

plum panccakes tots in tawhero

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

pinecones tots in tawhero

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

 

  • I attended my local free gym a.k.a. the great outdoors.  At the moment I am relishing my kid-free mornings, and after I’ve dropped Sausage off at kindy I take the top track at Virginia Lake.  It takes me 30 minutes and is just like doing a HIIT workout as the track has very steep sections, undulating sections and quite flat sections too.  I come home in quite a sweat.  I don’t meet a lot of people on the track – which suits me fine as I like peace and quiet when I’m exercising – but I’ve been stunned by the number of elderly people who are on the track too.  I hope to be as sprightly when I’m their age!  The only downer is my faithful running shoes finally gave up the ghost after long service, and now I have the task of finding some that are actually decent.  Quality shoes are so hard to come by!  If you have any recommendations, do let me know.
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Dollar Diet Week 5: Love walks in

An unexpected expense hit our wallets this week – getting the house flea-treated.  Yuck.  Extremely frustrating as we didn’t have any pets (although we do now, more on that later).  It wasn’t a bad infestation or anything, but I react very badly to insect bites so we had to take action asap.

Aside from that, it was a relatively frugal week.

I:

  • had friends over/visited friends
  • made bread and baked cookies with the children
  • made several jars of plum chutney, as our plum trees are fruiting nicely
  • passed on outgrown clothes to friends
  • packed lunch and snacks when out and about
  • hung out at home as much as possible

The big news is that my Dad won a girl’s bike in a competition!  The bike is really decent (it’s an expensive brand) and will last Sausage for several years.  She turns five next year so getting her a decent bike was on my radar, but Dad’s win has saved us quite a bit of money.

bike-tots-in-tawhero

Happy girl!

I am always on the lookout for free or cheap things to do with my family, so when I spotted an article about ‘Wheels in Whanganui’ happening over the weekend, I marked it on the calendar.  It’s the first time this event was run, and was a collection of cars, trucks and other machinery for families to come and look out.  They also had bouncy castles, a merry-go-round, other rides and food stalls so there was very festive atmosphere.  It was run as a fund-raiser, with a small entry fee to get in ($2 each for D and I, kids free) and it was a fun and frugal way to spend the afternoon.

 

At the end of the week Chip and I spent the morning visiting his new kindy (more on that later).  A little calico cat was hanging around much to the delight of the children, but no one had ever seen her before.  She was obviously hungry and looking for company and it was love at first sight for me.  We only live around the corner from the kindy, so I thought I could take her home until we discovered who her owners were.

We knocked on doors and I put her picture on Facebook.  We found her owner within a few hours.  Only the ‘owner’ didn’t want her anymore as they are moving countries, nor had they inoculated  or spayed her.  Don’t get me started on irresponsible pet owners!  Anyway, she has a new name and a new home (Sausage’s bed…), and she’s a brilliant cat, so we feel like we got the better end of the deal.  She’s been with us a week now and I am besotted.

cali-tots-in-tawhero

Seriously, who could resist that face?

Crazy Cat Lady, that’s me.

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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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Dollar Diet: Week 2, a frugal birthday party

This post is late as last week ended in a flurry of birthday party, broken arms, sermon writing, special visitors and planning a spur-of-the-moment trip.

The week was mostly spent hanging out with friends, and D went back to work.  One of my best friends A-M recently moved to Whanganui with her family so we’ve had loads of fun spending time with them.  Our kids are close in age, and our four-year old’s are particularly firm friends (most of the time).  Oh, did I mention that Sausage turned four????  Before I get on to the party details, here are some of our frugal happenings:

  • D took lunch to work
  • I packed lunch and snacks for the kids and I, if out and about
  • The kids and I did free stuff, like play dates and parks
  • We used up our leftovers
  • I hung out at home with my BFF, R who helped me prepare for the birthday party, and survived it.
  • R, A-M and I had an extremely rare night out with just the three of us.  We worked out it was 16 years since the three of us had been together like this.  We had a great time, and kept the cost down by going out for drinks and a snack after dinner.

Er, I can’t think of anything else because my mind was frazzled by Chip ‘breaking’ his arm.  He was mucking around on our trampoline with D and then lots of crying and ow’s ensued.  They weren’t sure if the arm was broken (he hurt the elbow area) but they strapped it up and Chip was back to his frenetic self in a couple of days.  He was very proud of his sling and displayed it to all with a loud ‘I got hurt!’  We took him back this week and it turned out not to be broken, so phew.  I am incredibly grateful for the free health care children receive in New Zealand.

Birthday party time!

4th-birthday-2

My beautiful Sausage is now four.  She is most definitely in pre-schooler territory.  She’s long and lanky, and is a funny, confident, easy-going kid who you can actually reason and negotiate with.

As her birthday is in January (summertime in NZ) I have her birthday party at home and let the kids rampage around our massive back yard.  I try to keep it small and simple, but she’s still at the age where parents and siblings come along too, so it always ends up being bigger than I think.

I’ve whinged about it already, but our summer sucks.  It’s been the worst one I can recall, and naturally it rained on Sausage’s birthday forcing us indoors.  Still, we had a lovely time and I spent a whopping $40 on the whole soiree, which includes party food and drink, the birthday cake, decorations and prizes.

As is often the custom in New Zealand, some friends and family offered to bring a plate of food, so that saved quite a bit of money (and prep time).  R and I made a vege and hummus platter, popcorn, egg and ham sandwiches, cheerios and sausage rolls (requested by the birthday girl).  The food from other people meant there was more than enough to go around.  Drink was juice leftover from Christmas (we don’t normally drink it) which I dilute with soda water.  Kids love it.

I saved money by making the cake myself.  I talked Sausage into having this easy cake.  I had my BFF here the night before Sausage’s birthday which is usually when I’d make the cake.  I wanted to maximise my time with R, so I opted for easy, easy, easy.  I made the cake her favourite colour (pink), and put a big 4 on top using sprinkles.  She loved it and everyone said it was delicious (I don’t eat sugar, so I don’t know!).4th-birthday

Professional cakes can cost upwards from $100 dollars.  I consider it a waste of money to buy a cake, when my child loves the cakes I make just fine.  It makes my wallet cringe when I see the elaborate cakes people seem to be buying these days.  I bought $6 worth of sprinkles (most of which weren’t needed in the end, so hit me up if you want some) but otherwise we had all the ingredients in our pantry already.

Sausage also requested ‘Tunip cupcakes’.  For months leading up to her birthday.  Tunip is her favourite character from the show ‘The Ocotonauts’.  Tunip looks like this:

tunip_prof

Not overly complicated I guess, but would certainly require lots of different colours for the icing.  I knew I would have little time and limited fondant colours so I did the next best thing.  I found some free Octonaut cupcake toppers on Pinterest, and iced the cupcakes blue.  They were just as popular as the birthday cake, and Sausage was thrilled with them.  I didn’t get any decent pics I’m afraid.

Decorations were limited to some balloons given to Sausage, streamers we bought in the Netherlands that we put up for parties, and a couple of purple tissue balls ($4) which will likewise be used again.  I don’t do themes, and won’t unless my tot asks for it.

For the first time ever for a birthday party, I bought disposable plates and cups.  I hate these things, but there were several wee ones present and we don’t have enough kid-friendly crockery to go around.  I bought recyclable things, including paper straws.  Someone had given Sausage the party whistles previously, and I managed to get matching stuff.  We have some left over, so expect to see them next year too!

party

We played two games – Pass the parcel, and pin the carrot on Olaf – and I purchased the prizes for peanuts.  One prize was a tin Star Wars lunchbox, and another was a decorate-your-own-mask set.  Simple.  My mother made some beautiful gift boxes for each child to take home, and these were extremely well-received.

Sausage was given some amazing gifts, some of which (like a make your own wand set, so cool!) I have purloined to bring out on a rainy day.

I learned two things:

  1. Outside parties are so much better for my floors which looked like a cake bomb had exploded on them and,
  2. You can never rely on old Mother Nature.