Painting the town red

Posted November 5th, 2007 by Penny Wise

I might be a Simple Saver veteran of almost three years now but I'm no saint. Everyone needs a bit of a treat now and again and Noel and I decided at the weekend it was high time we went and painted the town red. We were also hoping to rewrite history! After 16 years together we have learned not to plan anything because you can pretty much guarantee it will turn to custard – just like the last time we decided to paint the town red. Ali was still in a cot (he's nine now!) and Noel decided to whisk me away for my birthday. He had it all carefully planned, dinner, a movie and a night in a top notch motel. It was a big surprise and I didn't like to tell him I wasn't feeling the flashest so when he said I could choose whatever restaurant I wanted for dinner, I figured I would either kill or cure it and picked a vindaloo curry. By the time I left the restaurant I was in so much pain I could barely walk and I spent the whole of that night either on, or looking down, the toilet. I swear to goodness I thought I was dying! Noel was not amused, especially as he blamed my daft choice of vindaloo entirely but to top it all off his plans of a leisurely sleep-in were also dashed when my mum rang at 7am and asked us to come home as both the kids had been up all night throwing up!

Consequently we have been almost too scared to plan anything remotely romantic ever since but we finally decided to give it a go and we headed up to Hamilton city for 24 hours of child-free, pet-free and phone-free bliss. It took far less than that before we wanted to get the heck out of it though – city slickers we are not! We went to see the movie 'Atonement' (most disappointing ending but worth paying for if only to ogle James McAvoy for two uniterrupted hours) and as we left the movie theatre and wandered through the shopping mall, I was completely blown away by how many shops there were. So much stuff to buy everywhere! Jings, no wonder so many city dwellers are broke, the poor souls can barely go a few yards at a time without temptation standing in their path. When the time came to pick a restaurant for dinner, I couldn't begin to choose one – there were two whole streets of them!

We got a couple of bottles of wine to take back to the motel and I briefly considered getting a bottle of something posh seeing as it was a special occasion but we ended up getting cleanskins. I wanted to buy NZ made but you know what? The Australian cleanskins were $4 a bottle cheaper! Don't get me wrong, I love Australian wine but it's the whole food mile thing that really gets to me lately. Needless to say, we ended up getting two bottles of that in order to save $8. Anyway, a lovely relaxing evening was had – we even had a free sneak preview of the Brooke Fraser and Op Shop concert by hanging around the back of Founders Theatre! The following day was ours to do as we wished and with both our mothers having birthdays this week we thought we had better go and do some shopping but first we had another exciting mission to get out of the way – our first ever visit to Bunnings!

Yes, Bunnings – the hardware haven I have heard about from so many Simple Savers, can you blame me for being excited! Our nearest branch is rather inconveniently located an hour away from us so we had never been but with leaky water tank pipes to fix we had a worthy reason to enter the big green building. Three hours later we emerged exhausted. 'I don't care if I never set foot in that place again!' groaned Noel. My sentiments exactly – we couldn't find a blasted thing, the place was just too big! On top of that, by the time we had queued for ages with our purchases and made it through the checkout, we discovered that we had been overcharged $83 for two $6 pieces of plastic pipe and had to go and queue up all over again!

We were both pretty grumpy after our Bunnings experience but still had to head to another mall to get the birthday presents and couldn't believe it when we could hardly get a car park. 'A beautiful sunny Sunday like this and everyone's shopping? Don't they have anything better to do?' Noel asked incredulously. We couldn't work out why for the life of us until we drove through all the new housing estates on the way home. Urban subdivisions are made so small these days and houses built so big that nobody has room to do anything! Not even room for a flower bed, let alone a vege garden. No room for kids to kick a ball around in the back yard. We figured henceforth that this must be the reason why everyone in the city goes shopping on the weekend, because they don't have room to do anything outside in their own homes!

It certainly made us feel pretty fortunate to have our own wee patch of the country and as soon as we returned from shopping in suburbia Noel couldn't wait to get out in the garden. Actually, he ended up making a whole new vege patch with the help of our old neighbour's rotary hoe! I think Noel's a bit disillusioned with the whole food miles thing too. There's nothing we like better than sitting down as a family eating a feast of fresh food we have grown or caught ourselves. In fact we decided that as soon as we have enough ready in the vege garden, we're going to have a week-long Caveman Challenge, where our goal is to exist solely on food we have produced ourselves. I'm looking forward to it!

Talking of Challenges, have you seen the new 2008 Wealthy Habits calendar yet? Is it brilliant or what? Why on earth would anybody go out and buy a calendar ever again when you can get this for free? If you haven't seen it yet, go and check it out, right now. I can't wait to get started! In fact, our family is going to get started on it well before 2008. I love the idea of the 'We Don't Need It' room and I'm going to start one of our own this very weekend to get rid of some of our excess stuff!

We also have something else to prepare for this weekend – a new addition to the family! Years ago when we lived on a farm I used to rescue, foster and rehome unwanted or neglected Labrador dogs. I know what you're thinking – Labradors are gorgeous, placid dogs, who wouldn't want one? Lots unfortunately and in the four years I did Labrador Rescue I successfully rehomed a total of 66 beautiful dogs. Anyway, even now I still get the odd call from people looking for a new dog – or someone wanting me to find a new home for another. Just like the other day – except in this case it's not a Labrador, it's a Jack Russell. An adorable, roly poly one with short legs and dainty feet. Her name is Nushka and she's nine years old. Her master died recently and she's pining away, constantly looking for him. Her mistress is going into a retirement home where she's not allowed dogs and she was worried that she was going to have to put little Nushka to sleep, as nobody would want a nine year old dog. However, she really didn't want to have to do that but she was desperate so gave me a call. The last thing we need around here is another dog but I just couldn't stop thinking about the poor little thing so we went to meet her yesterday and the boys and I wanted to take her home to our busy, noisy, definitely not lonely house straight away! Amazingly Noel didn't even say we couldn't have her! Well – he did the first time, but not the second so that was good enough for me. She's spent all her life in town so I hope she's going to enjoy living in the country. I have a feeling she will!

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