• Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet Week One: The $8 cushion of happiness

    image credit

    As always, I start off my Dollar Diet with a hiss and a roar, feeling smug about my frugality. “I can do this. It’s easy”, I tell myself.

    But of course, the reality of how much work it takes to be frugal sets in quickly. It’s cheaper and healthier to make snacks for my children’s lunchboxes than buy them, but first I must find the time and energy to make them. Baking never takes as much time in real life as it does in my head, and with this mantra, I got to work. I turned on my full Suzy Home-maker, and baked cheese muffins and chocolate chip biscuits as a lunchbox treat this week. The kids had a playdate with a classmate, who turned out to be gluten-free like me, so I made him a brownie, which he was beyond thrilled with. (As a GF adult, I regularly cannot eat anything at social events, so I can’t imagine how stink it must feel to GF kids!)

    We had to fork out an eye-watering amount for our children’s new school, as they are in a Montessori class that is not fully funded, and there is a ‘new student’ fee related to it. But it’s not an expense we begrudge, as the money funds their smaller-than-regular-class sizes (they only have 12 kids in their class) and specialist Montessori equipment. Even though we have to pay a bit extra (it works out to about $40 a week for both kids), it’s still nowhere near private school fees. We’re pretty sure that Miss E has inattentive ADHD (that’s a blog post for another time), and feel that the small class size, and the emphasis on following the child’s interests, is a better fit for her than regular ol’ school. So far she loves it.

    Last time I said I am pretty good at keeping to my grocery budget. However, this week it was impossible, due to:

    1. My husband decided on a last-minute whim to have a birthday party. And invited over 20 people. It was loads of fun.
    2. We have already had several parties and dinners, just reconnecting with our friends and family here in Wellington.
    3. We’ve had visitors staying with us almost every week since arriving.
    4. Food is SO FRIGGING EXPENSIVE here! Walking into my local supermarket, I just about died at the prices. Food in the South Island is simply cheaper, especially at Pak N Save, where they have the excellent Sticky Club – which is not available here in the North Island, for reasons that remain murky and impenetrable to me.

    So alas, my first week of Dollar Dieting wasn’t a massive success. However, a few weeks of mostly meatless meals and carefully using up the items in our pantry and freezer will soon have our grocery budget back in black. And we’re going to stick to having one or two people over for meals for a while.

    Even though I allow myself a little money to spend at op-shops (charity shops), I have had to enforce a new rule on myself: I can only shop there if I have something specific in mind. Keen op-shoppers like myself tend to just pop in to see what’s there, and can come home with bargains that we didn’t know we wanted. And there’s the rub.

    I think it’s fine to nab something you know you need (like clothes the next size up for you kids) and even the odd knick-knack that makes you smile. We all need little treats now and then. But if you find yourself ALWAYS coming home with a bargain, or your house is full to bursting with them, it might be time to make some changes.

    Having just biffed/donated/sold a whole bunch of stuff before we moved to Wellington, I am not racing to collect more things. Indeed, I found the amount of stuff we got rid of to be embarrassing – even if a lot of it was shedding the detritus of my children’s toddlerhood (bye-bye, balance bike!).

    I am trying to be more mindful of what we bring into our house, the reasons for which recently morphed from mere thoughts floating in my mind to seeing people struggle with their harsh reality. We spent several weeks staying with friends, whom I love dearly. One is a compulsive shopper, the other a hoarder. Not a great combination. Their house is overflowing with stuff. To the point where they regularly give up in despair over the state of the place.

    I could see what a massive strain their never-ending to-do list and their mountains of stuff placed upon their relationship, and their ability to spend time together as a family. It’s hard to spend quality time with your kids when you’ve got 101 things to tidy up just so you can sit at the table. Less stuff to sort through, care for and maintain, means more time can be spent doing something fun with friends, or pursuing a hobby, or taking a trip out with the family.

    Anyway, this less-is-more mindset is why it took me two years to buy a cushion. I swear I am not Steve Jobs, who took even longer to buy a damn couch, agonising over the ‘right’ one. I don’t even need a cushion. I never use one when I’m sitting on the couch, and can’t quite fathom why people want to shove one in the small of their back, but we frequently have elderly visitors who request them, and I have to trot out my son’s R2D2 one or my daughter’s bunny one. But I decided it was probably time to find one that could live on the couch.

    I am careful not to go into op-shops all the time, because the temptation to spend is great. I love vintage things, and the thrill of a bargain, and now I live close to no less than four excellent charity shops; I could pop in almost everyday if I wished. But my list has served me well, and reminds me that I don’t need yet another striped top, or vase or book. What I did need, was a cushion.

    I rejected many over the months of my hunt. Too frilly. Too shiny. Too lumpy. Too pink. Too many tassels. Too 90s. Too ‘Nana-ish’.

    And then I saw it.

    The $8 cushion of happiness

    I bought it immediately, forking over my $8 which IMHO is rather expensive for an op-shop cushion, but just look at it! (It actually has two sides – the other side has an equally French chic cat, but in blue, tres bon!) I love this damn cushion so much. It’s like the anti-Nana cushion. It’s cute and whimsical and makes me smile every time I see it. And if you don’t know me, I love anything cute and whimsical and just-a-bit-silly. I have a Hello Kitty toaster, after all.

    Anyway, if you come to my house, come, sit. Would you like a cushion for your back?

  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living,  Parenting

    It’s back! Dollar Diet 2020

    That’s right folks, the Dollar Diet is back!

    For my newer readers, I first embarked on a Dollar Diet back in 2015. Several years before that, I was quite the spender – now that feels like a lifetime ago! I am now a frugal living pro, and I love the freedom, creativity and fun it brings to my life.

    There isn’t just more than one reason that I choose to embrace frugal living, but my reasons include:

    • wanting to get my shit together and live like an adult!
    • eliminating the stress of living paycheck to paycheck
    • necessity, as we switched from two high-incomes to one high income (as I became a stay-at-home parent), and then to one medium income (as Rev G became a minister for the Presbyterian church).
    • saving for emergencies, holidays, housing, retirement etc.
    • being a good steward of the resources I have…which leads into…
    • living ethically when we are in the midst of a climate crisis, and millions of people around the world live in poverty. Compared to how most of the world lives, I live in luxury, and I never want to lose sight of that. We commit to reducing, reusing and recycling whenever possible.
    • and finally…spending less means we can give more. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have the money to help out people with emergencies, or to help support the work of the agencies we donate to.

    Despite getting myself more financially literate, and changing my spending habits over the course of a few years, Rev G and I seemed unable to save much, despite a good income.  We needed to plug the holes in our budget – and that’s where the Dollar Diet came in.

    The Dollar Diet is simple.  Buy what you NEED.  Think long and hard before buying what you WANT.  Is it necessary?  Can you do without it?  Can you borrow it instead?  Save up for it?  Even NEEDS can be slimmed down by growing your own fruit and veg, or bartering and borrowing when possible.

    My 2020 list of needs has changed since 2015 to reflect our new living situation, and the fact that our children are both at school:

    • Rent* (This is a nominal figure, as the church pays most of our accommodation. Yes, that’s a sweet deal, and reflects the unique calling of the profession. It also reflects the fact that were ministers and their families charged market rent, most could not afford to live in places like Wellington, Auckland etc as the cost of accommodation is too high).
    • Groceries (since beginning the Dollar Diet I seldom go over budget!)
    • Electricity
    • Gas
    • Internet/phone
    • Netflix 
    • Insurances
    • Petrol, vehicle maintenance
    • Rates (for the house we own in another city)
    • Tithing, sponsorship, church activities
    • University money for kids
    • Doctor’s visits & prescriptions, dentist visits
    • School fees and donations (we pay a fee for our kids to attend a Montessori unit at their school)
    • Performing arts class – Miss E
    • Gymnastics class – Master D
    • Gifts (making what I possibly can myself)
    • Haircuts (we both only get our hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
    • Moisturizer, the odd bit of makeup, sunscreen and bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies – A
    • A few invention gizmos – Rev G
    • Rubbish & recycling collection
    • Garden maintenance
    • Shoes, clothing and underwear. This budget line is pretty low. We make do with what we have, mending when needed, accepting hand-me-downs, going to clothing swaps, using second-hand clothing whenever possible. This line used to be zero, but then I got real about my love of charity shops. I must add that I am very good at hunting out bargains, and about 80% of my wardrobe is secondhand.
    • Holidays (free or low-cost accommodation where possible.)
    • A fun budget: to fund the odd meal out/takeaway/family outing

    * We do get a small income in rent from the house we own (freehold) in another city.

    Our list of needs will doubtless look different to yours.  

    For D and I, holidays are vital to our sanity, and for me they are the main reason I save money.  In fact, I will probably post later on in the year about why holidays are particularly essential to my well-being. We spent a lot on travel last year – for various reasons – but will be reining this in over 2020.

    image via Pexels

    It’s the things that aren’t on the list that save you money.  Walking or taking public transport when possible. Meal plan to slash your grocery budget and eliminate food waste. Pack your lunch everyday.  Say no to takeaway coffees each morning.  No splurging $300 on a pair of shoes that are almost the same as the pair you already own.  No mindless following of ‘fashion’.  Learn to make ‘fakeaways’.  Get rid of any subscription that you don’t use.  Don’t buy books or movies (that’s why libraries were invented) or pretty tchotchkes from K Mart for your home.  Avoid lavish gifts, and recipes requiring pricey ingredients.  Try a staycation, or camping.  Meet friends for a walk instead of brunch at an expensive cafe.  Learn to sit with FOMO by saying no to costly plays, concerts, exhibitions. Let go of extravagant hobbies like golf or skiing (unless your hobbies make you money or saves your sanity). Limit the amount of activities your children engage in.

    The fun and the challenge comes from trying to find free or frugal alternatives to keep living the good life.  Instead of going out for brunch, host a pancake breakfast for your friends.  Exercise for free by taking up running or using You Tube workouts instead of paying for the gym.  Pack your own lunch and your coffee for work.  Have a meal or two in the freezer for the nights when you are too tired to cook.  You get the picture.

    Frugality unleashes creativity

    I must advise that the biggest learning I have had from the Dollar Diet is the importance of having a fun budget.  Skimping and saving can get relentlessly grim without a few bright spots to look forward to.  These things don’t have to be extravagant, but small treats that feed your soul most definitely have a place in the Dollar Diet.

    For example…

    Me, I love this incredible brand of peanut butter. Rev G likes the odd beer, or a gadget from Ali Express. I love to go to shows, concerts, exhibitions and basically anything cultural – but I look for free or inexpensive events. My Christmas gift from Rev G was a ‘friends’ membership to Te Papa (a wonderful museum here in Wellington), as it offers me discounted entry into exhibitions, and free or heavily discounted entry to the various talks and workshops Te Papa runs throughout the year. Membership is not expensive, and I get to learn, be inspired and be a culture vulture all year long.

    We were so grateful to be gifted a family pass to Zealandia by our new church. Zealandia is a bird and wildlife eco-sanctuary not far from our new home, with beautiful walking tracks, and a great education programme that runs most of the year. Our pass gives us unlimited entry for the year and invitations to special events. I plan to ‘go bush’ at Zealandia a lot this year!

    Our savings goals for 2020 are pretty simple: have a good cushion for emergencies, enough money for a wee holiday or two, and to give more generously to our church and the various charities we support – and to anyone we know in need. Last year we gave several hundred dollars to a friend in a terrible crisis, without blinking. The Dollar Diet enables us to live generously.

    I plan to post regularly about my Dollar Diet attempts, triumphs and failures this year, so come along for the ride.

    Caveat: I can never post about the Dollar Diet without first acknowledging that I come from a position of enormous privilege.  I am a white, well-educated, happily married, middle-class, heterosexual female.  We have no debt and some of this is due to the privilege that Rev G and I were born into, and the opportunities given to us.
  • Faith,  Family

    Wellingtonians, again

    It feels like a year’s worth of living has been crammed into the last two months since we left Pleasant Point.

    I’d like to say it’s been a swell time, but the truth is it has been an exhausting ride to get to our new home in Wellington. I hung in there by the skin of my teeth, often counting the hours and minutes until the children started their new school.

    Farewell, manse carpet!

    Mr G left Pleasant Point a week before the children and I, to finish his last block course for his studies. We had a riotous celebration the day he handed in his last assignment. I simultaneously wanted to leap for joy and burn all of his textbooks, as he has been beavering away at assignments and essays for the last EIGHT years! Not having the spectre of assignments looming large over Mr G and our time as a family, feels like an enormous burden has been lifted.

    We decided to depart as soon as Mr G’s internship had finished, despite there being two more weeks of school, Christmas etc – because it was imperative that Mr G got a decent break between jobs. Having your father pass away, your wife be in a serious car crash, plus a workload of several assignments does not make for a fun time. But he got through it, with his usual grace, grit and humour, and earned that holiday.

    In his absence, I readied the house for moving. The movers packed everything, but I still had a list a mile long of things I needed to do before the moving trucks arrived.

    We bade a tearful farewell to our friends in Pleasant Point. In the weeks leading up to our departure, the stress and anxiety started to show up in the children’s behaviour. Miss E, kept saying things like “I just got a bit of that plant in my mouth, will I die?” I don’t know why, but that’s just how her anxiety manifested.

    Master D was even more argumentative and tantrumy than he usually is (he’s very strong-willed, …like his mama). He also stopped eating very much. He’s a very slender child, so it was a worry! My MiL is very wise and remembered not eating as a child herself in response to stress in her life, and I think that is true for Master D as well. Both my children are out-going extroverts who handle change pretty well, but there’s no getting around the fact that moving towns as a child is just blimmin’ hard and stressful.

    We spent two weeks on the road – seeing Mr G graduate from his studies, visiting friends and seeing some of the beautiful South Island. There was a major weather event (which we missed!) that closed several main roads, and meant we had to change our route. It was disappointing, but I know we will be back that way one day.

    Pit stop at Oamaru
    Getting to be part of the Christmas play at our friends’ church
    Toasting marshmallows at our friends’ farm
    Lupins at Lake Manapouri
    Rocking out at Lake Manapouri
    Kepler Track, Te Anau
    Queenstown
    Arrowtown

    Our road trip was a good one – our kids are good travellers, who are unphased by sleeping in different places. They had a wonderful time playing with the five children of our friends who farm near Gore. It was a beautiful thing to watch my two happily join in a triathlon that the other children were doing, and for them to experience life on a farm. Animals galore! Quad bikes! Marshmallow roasting! What’s not to like?

    We spent several days chilling out at Lake Manapouri, which is just as beautiful, but less touristy and expensive than Lake Te Anau. We stayed right on the lake front, and spent most of our time outside walking and enjoying the incredible scenery. We spent a night in Queenstown. I loved nearby Arrowtown, which has retained many of its heritage buildings from New Zealand’s gold mining era.

    After two weeks we were glad to put down temporary roots in our previous hometown of Whanganui. On the ferry from the South Island to the North Island, we were informed the church had rented us a house in Wellington and we could move in mid-January!

    We spent several weeks in Whanganui staying at a property our friends own, which is right next to their home. Our children are a similar age, and so the five kids had the kind of nostalgic summers one only reads about. Long hours of playing with friends, uninterrupted by adults. Coming home only for food and drink and to reapply sunscreen. Friends just a fence climb away.

    It was especially neat to see a firm friendship develop between my son D (5.5) and their son Z (4.5), as D went through a terrible bullying phase as a toddler. The usual object of his toddler rage was poor Z! But now they are great buds. Within three days of being back in Whanganui, among his old friends and his grandparents, I’m happy to say D resumed his normal eating patterns. E’s anxiety tapered off.

    One one of the rare summer days!
    Miss E with J, good buddies est. 2013

    We all got sick at some point during our time in Whanganui – which is typical for us when we are exposed to different bugs in new places. I got glutened twice, which took me quite a while to recover from. I didn’t get t see everyone I wanted to – but we don’t live far away now, so there will be other opportunities!

    Miss E turned 7 during our stay, and celebrated with a high tea party.

    Miss E, with K (2)
    We played old-fashioned games
    D, with his snazzy bow tie

    Mr G and I spent two nights away doing something fun and relaxing…jokes, we UNPACKED OUR ENTIRE HOUSE. I’m not sure how it’s possible considering all the stuff I sled/gave away/got rid of before we moved, but unpacking a house seems to get more tiring each time I do it! We wanted the children to be able to arrive at their new home with everything unpacked and ready for them.

    My original plan was to return to Whanganui, where we had playdates, friends and family on tap, and stay on there for the duration of the summer holidays with E and D. Whereas many of our friends in Wellington either don’t have children, or were away or busy working/at holiday programmes. But once Mr G left so he could start his new ministry job, E’s anxiety came back. After a few days she tearfully admitted to me, “I know Daddy is okay, but my brain keeps telling me he’s dead.”

    We left for our new home in Wellington the next day.

    Once we were all together in our new house, she came right again. She was definitely anxious about her first day at school, but she’s had a fantastic first week there, and seems to love it. Long may that continue!

    We did a few fun things before school went back (like the Weta Workshops tour, so cool!), but mostly we were just weary, worn out, cranky and tired. Living out of a suitcase for two months wasn’t much fun, and we are grateful to be settled in to our new home, and into life in Wellington. Being back in Wellington is a bit like putting on my favourite cardi that I gleefully pull out each winter – it is comforting, warm and familiar.

    Thunderbirds are go!

    We received a heartfelt welcome from our new congregation. I’m sure it won’t all be unicorns and rainbows over the next few years, but I like them very much already. Mr G’s ordination ceremony was a fun occasion and he is now fully-fledged Reverend. It was a fitting conclusion to all his years of hard work.

    Rev and Master D

    As for me? I am taking it easy for a while. I need to have back surgery (due to my car crash), so I won’t be looking for work until that’s done. The only trouble with being back in Wellington is that I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS! There are so many shows, workshops, lectures, exhibitions, talks etc on my doorstep, that ‘taking it easy’ might be harder than it seems! I am also helping out at church, so there is plenty to keep me occupied.

    Anyway, here’s to life as a Wellingtonian, again.

  • Faith,  Family

    Waiting

    People, we have seven weeks left here in Pleasant Point. Seven!

    Mr G’s two year internship has simultaneously dragged and whizzed by. I’m not entirely sure how that’s even possible, but it’s definitely how the two years have seemed to me. Perhaps there’s a time/space vortex just down the road from me, that the local council really should do something about? Don’t believe me?

    My baby started school today. My baby is FIVE and is at SCHOOL.

    He had a wonderful first day, and is so blase about the whole thing. If he were a teenager he’d be rolling his eyes, saying ‘Chill mum, I start school, like ALL the time!’ He’s not a teenager, so he just lays out the info like most children. In other words, school was ‘good’, and his teacher was ‘nice’ and he ‘played’. Can’t ask for much more! Well, there’s no getting any more out of him…

    Now D is at school, I find myself with seven glorious weeks before we pack up our stuff and move to Wellington. My oh-my-Lord-I-have-all-this-time-to-myself-for-the-first-time-in-forever list is ambitious, like always. Daily walks, dusting off my beginners French, writing, painting (a desk, not art), getting our things ready for the move. Bliss.

    I find myself in a familiar place.

    Limbo.

    That waiting-for-my-life-to-start-in-our-new-place feeling. I have moved so many times (I think I’m up to move 29), that once I know I am on the move (especially cross-country), I find it tempting to shed my ‘old life’ and am usually impatient to just get on with it and get to the ‘new’ place. I distance myself from friends in my old place as saying goodbye hurts. I stop trying as hard at work and elsewhere because ‘I’m leaving so it doesn’t matter’. I am eager to get to the ‘new’.

    But this time, I find myself strangely enjoying limbo. The old is comfortable and familiar. I am in no rush.

    Perhaps it is because this time our move is a little bit like going home? Mr G will soon be the Minister for Wadestown Presbyterian Church. Wellington is his hometown, and I have lived there for 15 years, on and off. We have good, old friends there who just know us as “DnA”, not as the minister and his wife. We have family there too (who we are looking forward to seeing more often!). I used to live a few suburbs over from where we will be based, and know the area well.

    Wadestown is a very affluent suburb, and not somewhere we’d ever visualised ending up as a ministry family. But God has been in each step of the process and we feel confident that we are going right where He wants us to be. I know it won’t be all unicorns and kittens and rainbows because church can be a difficult and messy thing at times, but I also know that God sure knows what he’s doing.

    Our two years in Pleasant Point hasn’t been easy. Many times Mr G and I have been on our knees, asking God why He brought us here, or why we needed such tough life lessons! Mr G has borne the brunt of it, of course, but has been moulded into a blimmin’ good preacher, if I do say so myself. It has been and still is, a troubling time for our small parish here, who are facing an uncertain future. But I have confidence that we were sent here for a reason, even though I may never know what that was or see the fruit of it. And I know that God is with our parish here.

    We have met some beautiful people, who I will really miss. I will miss the jaw-dropping scenery. Being able to walk anywhere in town in five minutes. The slow pace of life. The lack of traffic.

    I will not miss the parochialism that is rife here. The ‘oh, your family hasn’t been here for 150 years’ attitude which I find bizarre, not being the sort of person who actually cares about that kind of thing. I hear it gets worse the further south you go, but it’s not like there’s any scientific data to back that up so let’s chalk it up to a cultural experience?

    Anyway, as I’m going to take a leaf out of my kid’s books and live in the moment more over these seven weeks. Because I actually can. Seven weeks to myself. Wow.

    Be like Miss E, and savour the moment!
  • Family,  Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet: When it pays NOT to be frugal

    There are many reasons to embrace a frugal lifestyle: necessity, to get out of debt and build savings, to be a better steward of your resources, to minimise your impact on the environment, to reduce the stress that living outside your means can bring, or because you love the challenge of finding ways to live well on less.

    All of these reasons and more led me to start my Dollar Diet back in 2015.  Apart from the odd times where life got crazy and some frugal habits were temporarily ditched, frugality is a way of life for our family.

    The biggest factor in why I choose to live frugally is so that I have the money to spend on the things that are important to me.

    For me it’s travel and experiences.  I would rather see a Broadway-type show than buy a latte every day.  I’d rather explore a new place than have a designer wardrobe, and I’d rather introduce my children to different cultures than give them an expensive device.

    Frugal living allows my family to have some money in the bank for fun stuff.  It gives me peace to know that money is there when we need it, even if that need is just to save my sanity.

    Mr G went away for a week recently, as part of his learning-to-be-a-minister requirements, leaving me home alone for seven days with my 3 year-old and 5 year-old.  Apart from one day where I’m pretty sure I tore out a clump of hair, the kids were fine and things went smoothly.  What was hard for me is that I sleep very, very, very badly when Mr G isn’t around.  It’s ridiculous because rationally I know the kids and I are perfectly safe, but the reptilian part of my brain goes on high alert when he’s away because now I’m the one who is responsible for the safety of my kids if an intruder breaks in.  Again, this is totally silly because anyone who knows Mr G and I, knows that I’m the one who’d be up for a fight, whereas Mr G would probably offer to make them a nice cup of tea and talk to them about making better life choices.

    In short, I was extremely tired by the time Mr G got back home.

    When Mr G goes away I run the house with military-like precision.  But I made sure I went into self-care mode too and made myself sit down and relax as soon as all the jobs were done.  I watched something mindless on Netflix most nights (House Doctor, love it), and took every opportunity to rest.  I sat in a cafe a couple of times, people-watching and enjoying food I didn’t have to cook, plus I took the kids out for dinner one night.  There was definitely nothing frugal about the week.

    Mr G was also exhausted by the time he got home from all that learning and socialising.  While the kids were in kindy and school, we shot off to Tekapo and soaked for hours in the Tekapo Springs hot pools.  It was AMAZING.  We both found the hot pools worked wonders – so much so that we are already plotting our return.

    I undoubtedly would have survived without all of those little extras that week, but oh my word, they helped.  I was grateful that our past frugality meant we had the money to splurge a little.

    I know for many people there is zero room in their budget for the tiniest of splurges.  If you know someone in this situation and are able – give them a treat.  It helps so much mentally.  If there is wiggle room in your budget, set a little aside for the times when you need to indulge in some self-care.  You may not have a million bucks, but a wee sprinkle of indulgence can certainly make you feel like a million bucks.

  • Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living,  Parenting

    Woah, we’re halfway there!

    My favourite tree in Point (Is that even a thing, to have favourite trees?)

     

    Hey world, I’m back!  Since my tots are no longer in Tawhero, I decided to wipe the slate clean and start a new site charting life in our new town of Pleasant Point.  If you’ve been a Tots in Tawhero reader, I’d love you to stick with me over here.  You can do so by liking Living on a Prayer on Facebook, or subscribing below.

     

    Why Living on a Prayer? 

    Let me publicly confess that YES, I am a Bon Jovi fan, and I have nailed that song many, many times during karaoke sessions.  And by nailed it, I mean I sounded like a dying cat.   Sorry, Jon.

    But lest you think I shall be blogging about how totally awesome mullets and acid-washed jeans were,  the name actually refers to the new situation my family and I are inknee deep in church ministry.  My husband, who will now henceforth be called ‘Mr G’, decided way back in 2011, that he felt called to become a minister for the Presbyterian church.  After much blood, sweat and tears, two kids, more tears, lots of sweat and maybe a little blood, he added a qualification in ‘knowing lots of stuff about Jesus’ to his long list of qualifications.  Mr G is sole-charge of a sweet little congregation here in Pleasant Point, as he completes a two-year process as an ministry intern.  You can call him a not-quite-Rev, but I prefer ’embryo parson’ (shout out to all my Cold Comfort Farm fellow fans).

    I am the ‘not-quite-Minister’s wife’.  My kids are the ‘not-quite-Minister’s kids’.  Gulp!

    Living on a Prayer also refers to the fact that Mr G has taken a huge pay cut to become a minister, and he’s the sole breadwinner for now.  My long-time followers will know that I enjoy living a frugal lifestyle, and am looking forward to the challenges that our new life will bring.  Relying on God to provide – really, truly relying on God – isn’t something this pair of middle-class, educated folk have been used to, and it’s been a humbling realisation for Mr G and I.  So you can expect me to continue sharing my frugal doings – and I hope also sharing stories of God’s provision for our family.

    So how’s it all going?

    After the.most.hideously.stressful.move.ever, thanks to our terrible moving company, I arrived in Pleasant Point ahead of Mr G and the kids, with broken belongings and high blood pressure.  I was scooped up into the arms of the lovely church ladies who sheltered me for a night, helped me unpack, fed me, and generally soothed my blood pressure back to normal.  One lady had even made my kids presents as her way of welcoming them!  Folks, THIS is what church is all about.  THIS is what they do well here.

    We’ve settled in.  The people are nice – I already have friends!  It’s a pretty spot, surrounded by more pretty spots, which neighbour upon some of the most gob-smacking scenery on the planet.  Needless to say, I’m enjoying life here immensely.

    Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

    Here are some observations I’ve made:

    • If you call this place Pleasant Point, you are immediately flagging yourself as an outsider.  Pointsiders (I just made that up, umm, Pointers?  Pointizens?) simply call it ‘Point’, as in “Yeah, my kid goes to Point Primary, ” or  “I grew up in Point.”  Timaru (the nearest big town) is called ‘Town’.

     

    • No, they don’t roll their ‘r’s here.  I’ve checked.  But the local cafe does make a mean cheese roll.

     

    • I suck at predicting the weather here.  I have no idea what it’s doing.  But, I don’t feel bad, because clearly neither does the weather.  In one week it was so hot I considered taking up residence in our fridge/freezer, immediately followed by needing to dig out my winter coat and wondering where I put the matches to light the fire.  In ONE week!

     

    • The people here are mostly hard-working, practical farming folk.  See that lady in her 60’s walking her dogs?  Boom!  She’s actually 93.  That middle-aged man lifting bales of hay?  Boom!  He’s 86.  True story bro.  They don’t want to talk about your feelings or your latest hippie venture – it’s not that they don’t care, but there’s work to be done.

     

    • I am not merely an older mum here, I am frigging geriatric!  Most mums here are blond, pony tail sporting glamazons who were clearly child brides, because I’m pretty sure they’re all 23.  Either that, or I seriously need to get the number of their botox provider.

     

    • It’s like everyone remembers New Zealand being in ‘the good old days’.  I’ve been here two months and know loads of people.  People know their neighbours.  There’s little crime.  No graffiti.  No hoodie-clad teenagers misspending their youth.  You can leave your bike outside a shop without fear of someone nicking it.  It’s safe enough to ride a bike here.  CHILDREN PLAY OUTSIDE AND RIDE BIKES WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION.  Because it’s safe.

     

    • Point has all I need.  Point may only be home to about 1,300 people but it has two schools, a health centre, a bike park, a hairdresser, public swimming pools, a supermarket, a pub, a dress shop, a cafe,  a taxidermist’s, a railway museum, several playgrounds, scenic trails and more.  And I can WALK to it all.

     

    So walk with me as we navigate our new life in Point.  At the moment Mr G and I feel like kids dressed up in suits and ties – our new roles don’t quite fit right, but we hope by the end of the two years, they will.