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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.
5

Queen’s Birthday Weekend

Warning: This post contains ridiculous amounts of photographs of Autumn leaves.  Leafophobics, look away.

Colour at Virginia Lake, Whanganui

Colour at Virginia Lake, Whanganui

In New Zealand, this past weekend has been a long one, with a day’s holiday for the Queen’s birthday.  Only, it’s not even held on her actual birthday…

Anyhow, whilst we didn’t have a good old shindig in which to toast her HRH, we at Tawhero (that’s a royal ‘we’) were nevertheless very grateful for the extra day off.  Here’s a few snaps of our long, leisurely weekend.

Waitahinga Tracks, just out of Whanganui

Waitahinga Tracks, just out of Whanganui

Finding forest 'treasure'

Finding forest ‘treasure’

Tots in Tawhero

Tots in Tawhero

Waitahinga forest

Waitahinga forest

On our walk we came across this wonder:

Now that's a digger

Now that’s a digger

Diggers are extremely exciting

Diggers are extremely exciting

I also did a lot of gardening.  D helped me move bricks that were put down as paving along the side of our house.  The paving served no purpose (it was in an awkward spot so walking on it was tricky) and was a NIGHTMARE to weed.

Stay tuned, you'll see these brick beauties again

Stay tuned, you’ll see these brick beauties again

I will be reusing the bricks for various projects around our garden, and have replaced the bricks with some groundcover plants.  These, and a layer of woodchips, will turn this high-maintenance strip of garden into a low-maintenance dream.

Much better

Much better

Oh, and I did this:

Ye olde wheelbarrow

Ye olde wheelbarrow

There was more walking, this time around Virginia Lake:

Could my baby get any smilier?

Could my baby get any smilier?

Mummy, I can neither confirm nor deny that I have been eating a stick...

Mummy, I can neither confirm nor deny that I have been eating a stick…

Tots in Tawhero

Virginia Lake

Virginia Lake

Tots in Tawhero

Tots in Tawhero

Tots in Tawhero

Tots in Tawhero

6

Virginia Lake, Whanganui

If you are a visitor to Whanganui, or merely a local in need of a nature fix, Virginia Lake is a must.  The lake is most certainly my happy place; my favourite bit of my home town since childhood.  On the rare occasion I get some time to myself, a walk around the lake does wonders for my soul.  It’s also my go-to place when I have scratchy kids as the lake never fails to cast its spell of fun and excitement.  And it’s free, of course.

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Situated in St John’s Hill on Great North Road, Virginia Lake is a 5 minute drive from the centre of town.  Popular with locals, it’s the number one place in town to have wedding photos taken.  For good reason.  It’s blimmin’ beautiful!  There are three walking paths around the lake, with the most popular path being the lakeside path which meanders all around the lake and would take most adults 25 minutes.  If you’re with kids, expect to take much, much longer.

The water fowl alone will amuse most kids.   There are ducks, geese, swans, pukeko and more.  The birds are used to being fed bread by their daily visitors so if you take the lower path PREPARE TO BE BESIEGED BY BIRDS.  Sausage loves it until they get too close for comfort and scolds them vociferously.  The birds are a great part of the lake experience, but I find if I want a nice, peaceful, meditative sort of stroll, then I take the middle path.

Who can resist this face?

Who can resist this face?

A cheeky pukeko

A cheeky pukeko

I like this sort of black swan a lot more than the movie...

I like this sort of black swan a lot more than the movie…

There’s plenty at Virginia Lake to keep everyone happy.  Besides the beauty of the lake itself, there is a bird aviary, a child-friendly cafe, free gas barbeques, a fountain which lights up like fireworks at night, an amazing Winter Garden complete with a wishing well and a tunnel(!), a band rotunda, a small pier, and a toddler playground.

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The Winter Garden (image credit)

The Winter Garden
(image credit)

I love visiting the lake at any time of year as the greenery never fails to delight me.  Sausage is flower-mad and we spent a good hour at the lake just looking at all the different flowers on show, and touching tree bark.  Because tree bark is just begging to be touched.

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Basically, Virginia Lake is awesome.  Go there.

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xxx

4

Whanganui Playground Review: Virginia Lake

This is part of a series where I review local playgrounds in and around Whanganui.  Non-locals will want to skip this!

Virginia Lake is the crowning jewel in Whanganui’s tiara.  It is my  favourite place to go in Whanganui and probably our best-loved tourist destination.  I will do a review on the lake itself at a later date, but for now I’m focusing on the cool playground at the Lake.

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In my opinion, Virginia Lake playground is the best playground for toddlers in Whanganui.  Tucked away behind the bird aviary and free barbeque to the left of the main car park, the playground can also be accessed from the Babbage Place entrance and car park (lots of people don’t know this car park exists, keep going a bit further along the road past the main car park). 

Look!  Shade and benches

Look! Shade and benches

If like many parents, you have a baby as well as a toddler – this is the playground for you.  The playground is fully fenced so there’s no chance of your tot doing a runner to terrorize the ducks.  There are two picnic tables, conveniently located in the shade where you can plonk yourself and your baby if need be.  There are rubbish bins just outside the play area.

There is a standard climbing frame with slide that is exciting enough for most toddlers, and I think it’s the best climbing frame I’ve come across in a Whanganui Playground for tots who are crawling/furniture-surfing/climbing/just learning to walk.  When we first came to Whanganui, Sausage was 10 months old and was only crawling, but she loved this climbing frame and was able to haul herself onto it with only a tiny bit of help from me.

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There are two sets of swings – one with two bucket swings, and one with a bucket and a regular swing, although the day we visited the regular swing was out of action (aside from this, everything else was in good nick).

E at the lake

There are three different types of see-saw which is a bit over-kill, but two of them will appeal to slightly older children.

See-saw 1

See-Saw 1

See-Saw 2

See-Saw 2

See-Saw 3

See-Saw 3

There’s not heaps of play equipment, and definitely nothing to grab the attention of older kids, but it doesn’t have to because there’s the lake, ducks, the bird aviary, a fountain, some Winter Gardens, a Cafe , a grassy dell with stage, a band rotunda, several different paths to take around the lake…I could go on.

Pros:

  • Fully fenced
  • Shade, picnic tables and rubbish bins
  • Toddler-friendly play equipment
  • Close to the lake, aviary and cafe
  • Generally plenty of parking

Cons:

  • Not very exciting for school-aged kids

Tots in Tawhero rating: 7/10