After an expensive couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, this one has been a pretty good one for saving. First and foremost, we saved $350 by not going away as planned! We were offered the use of another friend's beach house for a few days, but we ended up not going. The reason largely was due to the howling gales and torrential rain forecast for the entire time but another main party pooper was me. I'm enjoying being at home so much lately, I just didn't want to go away – and I admit, after all the Christmas shopping and gold plated posters, I just couldn't bear the thought of spending all that money unnecessarily when we really needed to be saving. The boys were more than happy to stay at home too, so we decided to make the most of our time by getting some much-needed jobs done instead.
The main job we wanted to get finished was the new orchard/vege garden extension. Noel finished building the post and rail fence and we all raced along it with a paintbrush in between the rain showers to give it two coats of fence stain. Once that was done, all we needed to do was line the fence with shade cloth to prevent Friday and Bob sticking their heads through and eating the vegetables on one side and my climbing roses on the other. Actually, the roses were one less thing I needed to buy. Being a bit of a rose fan, I had intended to buy a few more to fill in the gaps along the fenceline, but once we cleared the land I found three beautiful old-fashioned roses struggling to find sunlight, so all I needed was to move them to their new position. Our mammoth project is now finished and if we say so ourselves, it looks brilliant. What a great team effort! Noel has been madly cultivating seedlings in our little strawberry punnet hothouses and already the new garden is filling up nicely. As I didn't need to buy any roses after all, I treated myself to a packet of 'Insect n' Flower' seeds from Wildflower World NZ to scatter around the edges of the orchard and garden. This blend is a special mix intended to attract beneficial insects and bees, which will help control pests as well as hopefully create a beautiful garden. Thanks SS member Amy for that lovely tip! I used some of my birthday money to buy the flower seeds, so all up, our whole new area cost a grand total of $50 for the fence paint and shade cloth – oh, and two bottles of red wine for the kind neighbour who donated the fence timber!
Already the new garden is rocketing away with all the rain we've been having and we never know what we'll find to harvest in there from one day to the next at the moment. Even the kids are eating more vegetables because they know they came from Daddy's garden! The chickens are finally laying again after a lengthy break – just as I finally found out what was wrong with them – they were moulting! I found a really helpful website on chicken health called Omlet which told me all I needed to know. I wish I had found it weeks ago, I would never have been so despairing! After a long search I finally found a copy of Linda Woodrow's 'Permaculture Home Garden'. I had to pay full price for it, which I am so not used to doing these days, so considered it a luxury and have put it under the Christmas tree for Noel and I!
Fencing done, it was on to other jobs, such as kitting my car out with a new set of tyres. Noel told me to ring around several outlets and get a quote, which made me grumble as with all the Christmas holiday traffic I didn't want to travel too far afield. However, I did as I was told and was very happy I did in the end, as I saved $160 on the same brand of tyres just with a few phone calls. I know shopping around is one of the golden Simple Savings mantras, but sometimes you just want to get the job done as quickly as possible, so it was really good to have a little reminder of why it's so well worth the extra small effort. With Noel having officially finished work for the year, we quickly ran out of most non-vegetable food sources, so he decided it was high time we visited a supermarket. I knew this was going to be a costly mission, as he's one of those males who don't set foot in a supermarket very often, so when he does, he goes all out filling the trolley up with exciting new products and luxury items. I looked on woefully as he insisted on grabbing his own trolley before taking off with Ali at an alarming speed while Liam and I ambled along behind, carefully filling up another with things we actually needed. By the time we caught up with him I was fuming and it wasn't until I showed him our two trolleys, containing two lots of bacon, two lots of cheese, two lots of yoghurt and countless other things that he agreed to let me take charge of the rest of the shopping and followed meekly behind. I breathed a sigh of relief; even so, the young chap at the checkout was still somewhat overwhelmed at the huge amount we had acquired. 'You're my second biggest order of the day!' he declared excitedly. As if that was supposed to make me feel good! 'There!' said Noel, triumphantly as he carefully shut the bulging boot of his car. 'I bet you've never filled the boot up that much before – now you won't have to buy any more food for ages!' With him at home raiding the cupboards for the next 12 days? Somehow I doubt it...
At least we'll be out on Christmas Day, so that will be one day less he'll be attacking the pantry. All I need to bring is my signature Hokey Pokey cheesecake, which is made with Crunchie bars. At this time of year I get asked to make it wherever I go!
Hokey Pokey Cheesecake
250g plain biscuits (I use Vanilla Wine)
150g melted butter
3 tsp gelatine
½ cup water
250g softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup caster sugar
3 x 60g Crunchie bars
Mix crushed biscuits and melted butter together and press into tin. Sprinkle gelatine in ½ cup water and stand in hot water until the gelatine has melted. Beat cream cheese and sugar together with vanilla essence until smooth. Whip cream in a separate bowl until it forms soft peaks and add to the cream cheese mixture. Stir in gelatine and chopped Crunchie bars. Pour into biscuit base and refrigerate until set. Decorate with grated chocolate. That's it! Yum!
This year we are spending Christmas at the in-laws, where there will be 15 of us for dinner. I thought that was a big enough number to cater for, until I spoke to a friend of mine who is having 25 people round and one of Noel's clients confessed they were hosting Christmas for 70! I hope they're sharing the expense around, maybe I should get them both a Vault membership so they can learn how to reduce their festive costs in future!
Another lovely surprise saving I made this week was on a Christmas present for Liam. I had purchased an All Blacks breakfast bowl on Trade Me several weeks before and while it was no fault of the traders, who had packaged it more than adequately, the bowl had arrived smashed into a hundred pieces. I wrote to let them know what had happened, saying 'them's the breaks' (pardon the pun!) and that I realised it was no fault of theirs and they wrote back, apologising profusely. This was a few weeks ago, so imagine my surprise when another box arrived yesterday, containing a new bowl in perfect condition! The sellers didn't think they had any more available but on clearing out their warehouse a few days ago had found another one and sent it to me, refusing to take any payment. Much appreciated!
Ali was most excited to receive a bona fide 'Letter from Santa' a few days ago too! Remember how he had posted all those letters and cards to 'Santa, Santa's Workshop, North Pole' a wee while ago? It turns out NZ Post helps Santa out with his huge mailbag and Ali received an official aerogramme from the man himself. What a lovely idea and good on NZ Post! With just two days to go the boys are beside themselves with excitement now and bending over backwards to be especially helpful in the hope that Santa sees. Apart from their sterling effort with the new fence, they have also been helping me strip wallpaper in their bedroom. It took me three afternoon of wetting, wiping down and scraping before I remembered I had bought a steamer on special the year before. Doh! Never mind, it was a good team building exercise. I discovered that the Beatles music is very good to strip wallpaper to and the boys soon found themselves singing along in amazement at all the songs they recognised. 'I didn't know the Beatles wrote Yellow Submarine!' they exclaimed as they scraped away. It made me chuckle to hear them as I remember saying the exact same thing to my parents many years before!
So now the boys are on holiday until February 7th, which seems like a very loooong time away. We still have a few activities to keep us busy until Christmas Day. First we are taking a leaf out of Sophie Gray's book and making Noel's Dad some Christmas shaped shortbread to put under the tree 'made with love and clean hands' from the boys. Noel has gone fishing today, which gives us the perfect opportunity to mix up his own home made 'blokey blend' of Eau de Toilette as instructed in a recent Hint of the Week. We've chosen sandalwood as the fragrance, which is good as we happen to have some and it is very beneficial for eczema, which Noel gets. We also have to make some Magic Reindeer Food to sprinkle over the lawn tomorrow night – I'm not sure who's more excited, the kids or me! Hopefully there will be some shortbread left over to leave a piece for Santa, although Liam and Ali are worried that Tui might try and get into their stockings as she sleeps in their room. With this in mind, they have made a polite notice to ask Santa to please choose somewhere new this year that's safe to put them instead. It's not a bad idea either, as she's already sniffed out and consumed an entire box of Roses chocolates from under the tree before we even knew what was in there! Merry Christmas!