Another Christmas done and dusted! Hope everyone had a good one. To be honest, I actually enjoy Christmas Eve more than the big day itself – I love watching the kids' excitement go into overdrive in their anticipation of the arrival of 'you-know-who?' Mind you, with one thing and another, it was amazing that Santa was able to make an appearance at all. We came up with a supposedly simple plan to deposit the stockings in the little playroom directly behind the boys' bedroom before they went to bed and close the door. More than anything this was to make sure Tui didn't destroy anything, but also because we didn't like our chances of sneaking them in without getting sprung this year. While myself and our guests for the evening downstairs did our best to distract the boys by madly sprinking Magic Reindeer Food everywhere, it was Noel's job to get the ready-filled stockings out of my car and dash upstairs to pop them in their hiding place. They had been safely stashed in the boot in an empty bag of chicken pellets to escape further discovery and when the boys and I trooped back inside, Noel indicated that all was well, so I tucked them into bed and we read 'The Night Before Christmas' as is our custom every Christmas Eve. Just as I was about to turn off the light, I took a quick peek through the playroom door to ensure all was in order – and found the bag of chicken pellets in the middle of the floor. I couldn't believe it – he hadn't taken the stockings out! Since when did Santa leave children all over the world their precious gifts in a bag of 'Peck and Lay?' Some quick thinking was needed. 'Oh no – we haven't left Santa his cookies!' I announced dramatically and as the bleary-eyed boys were marched downstairs to arrange their offering, Grandma quickly nipped back upstairs, dragged the stockings out and threw the offending chicken bag out of the window. Phew – mission accomplished!
The boys declared it was their best Christmas ever next morning as they surveyed their presents. I saw Noel blanch visibly when he saw how big the present pile was for each of them, but even he had to admit once opened that I had bought wisely, with plenty of gifts doubling up as things they already needed and for once didn't waste any money. Ali's Brumbies beanie from Stephen Larkham didn't leave his head all day and the signed pictures were immediately stuck above his bed, next to the photos of Agro, his newly adopted crocodile. Liam loved his guitar too – although we can't wait for him to get started on some proper lessons! I had to chuckle at my gift from Noel and the boys too – an iPod of my own 'so you can stop putting your Simple Savings radio shows on Ali's!' they said. It will be interesting to see what things look like when the January bills come along, but although I was initially panicking that I would be doing $21 Challenges every week from now until June, at this stage I don't think I'm going to have to resort to such drastic measures. I'm sure my attack of pre-January nerves is just due to the fact that I have such trouble spending money these days and all the extra spending up until Christmas has just filled me full of miserly guilt.
Time will tell, but I still intend to start the New Year off on the right foot and with January 1st falling on a Monday, I figure it's the perfect day to start a $21 Challenge. I'm picking it should be pretty easy at the moment. Noel's garden is keeping us all well-fed and one of my free hams from Forlongs will go a long way to keeping everyone in dinners, snacks and lunches. I can't believe how much money we are saving through growing our own food! I know it sounds basic common sense, but until you actually do it, it's hard to believe how much. It even makes cooking so much more enjoyable too – and easier to menu plan as you simply base meals around whatever you have in the garden. The weather is proving really frustrating here at the moment – I think someone forgot to tell the NZ weather gods it's supposed to be summer. Noel still has a week off work and all we want to do is get outside and continue our outdoor projects, but the constant wind and rain keeps putting a stop to it. Christmas Eve saw the start of another major new project – chopping down a long row of straggly, untidy trees on our roadside boundary. We have tried to keep them trimmed over the last few years but many of them are leaning towards the power lines in a rather worrying, wobbly manner, so we decided there was nothing for it but to cut down the old ones and plant a row of new ones. When we began cutting down the trees, all we thought about was getting rid of the mess and potential hazards. What we didn't anticipate was the amazing view we would open up once they were gone – wow! What with a brand new view for miles on one side and the one we recently established on the other with the orchard, it looks amazing. All our new view has cost us so far is $150, which we had to pay for Noel's new chainsaw, largely paid for with gift vouchers from the Christmas before. 'Look at that!' we admired our new surroundings, 'A million dollar view for $150!' Once upon a time we would simply have chosen to replace the old trees with new evergreen ones, but now we figure we would rather grow something more productive, so are planning to grow an edible hedge. The question is, what do we plant? All suggestions gratefully received!
There's still a few days' work left to do on the trees but I'm loving it – not least due to the much needed exercise! It feels so good to get outside and do something physical and productive. I've been walking the neighbour's dog every day for the past week or two while they're on holiday and it's made me realise how unfit I have got, so I'll definitely be keeping up the walking. I must print out my 2007 Wealthy Habits calendar and fill it out in readiness for January 1st. Tomorrow marks four years since I have given up smoking – which by my calculations means a staggering 43,800 cigarettes I have NOT smoked since that day! If only I had the same willpower when it came down to giving up red wine, Diet Coke and cheese... I'm determined to do it this time though. The November newsletter feature 'Save Money and Help the Planet' really got me thinking about 'killing two birds with one stone. For example, I love Diet Coke and have been fighting a constant losing battle at giving it up, even though I know it's really bad for me. But when I think about the environmental aspect of drinking the stuff, it adds a whole new dimension. Do I really want to be contributing yet another 2.25 litre plastic bottle to our local landfill with every one I guzzle and discard? No way! With this method of thinking, I reckon it should be much easier to kick the habit as I don't want it weighing on my conscience! I still kick myself on a regular basis for forgetting to use my eco-friendly shopping bags when I'm out and about, but at least I have found a good use for the plastic bags I do end up with now – I use them to fill Liam's bean bag after I saw this hint Fill bean bags with plastic bags. Bean bag refills are really expensive, not to mention bad for the environment, so I figured I might as well use some of the rubbish I already have to save money and avoid buying those nasty wee polystyrene beans. It works a treat!
With just three days to go until the New Year, I had better go and plan my $21 Challenge menu. It looks as though I'm certainly not the only one to be kicking off 2007 this way as I've been sending out Survival Guides left, right and centre all week! Then I must prepare my new calendar, I'm excited about that already! Have just stumbled upon a new thread in the Forum called Wealthy Habits for 2007 which is a great read for habit changing ideas and motivation – just what I need! Have a wonderful New Year everyone!