Last weekend's hail storms did not dampen my enjoyment of being home in Whanganui for a couple of days.

First stop, the River Traders' Market.

My new discovery was roasted walnuts and spicy almonds - both containing some sort of healthy oil that's good for you too but that's just a bonus, it's all about the taste.

Then spring daffodils from Jo Melville's flower stall - Jo's also been doing school holiday art classes for kids.

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Next were some amazing old-school wooden toys - brightly painted fire engines, racing cars and planes, designed for some serious rough and tumble, they could even withstand my boys' enthusiastic attention. Made to order and built to last - you can email capechristopher@yahoo.co.uk.

These chunky toys are also sold from Evelyn & Moose in Victoria Ave.

And catching up with Jenna of Macey's Room, who makes the character-filled rag dolls among other creations, I heard they are enjoying their location.

Retail trade is the third-largest employer in Whanganui, following manufacturing and healthcare.

In a community of our size, research shows a dollar spent circulates up to eight times, compared with three to five times in a big city.

So yep, I did my bit for the local economy. My mother and I didn't even make it out of the one block of Victoria Ave without several purchases under my belt, plus the world's lightest muffin - blue cheese and caramelized onion from Big Orange Caf.

I was pretty impressed to see Ceramic Lounge (the night-time version of Orange) donating 20 per cent of takings to a charity every Wednesday night.

Shopping is my great weakness, but buying in Whanganui makes me even happier as I'm investing in my hometown and in individual creative enterprises.

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They say every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Whanganui's artistic and resourceful industries are a major part of the sort of world I want.

Hopefully, an advertising campaign to highlight Whanganui's boutique and unique outlets will bring more people into our city along with their wallets. Christmas shopping will be easily delivered here - flag the drive to Palmerston North, save yourself the parking and petrol money and buy locally.

Funnily enough, I met someone in New Plymouth on Monday who said she'd been in Whanganui and tried to find info on where to go shopping but didn't discover these amazing options - she was disappointed when I described what she'd missed.

Then driving back to my parents' house, we passed a very healthy looking council garden opposite Dublin Street bridge with parsley, spinach and maybe even kale growing - help yourself.

It certainly felt like a bustling and truly welcoming community - and Campbell Live's profile of our city post-zombie town the previous week was much more accurate and lively. I liked seeing Pacific Helmets on show - I worked there one summer after finishing school and it's been a long-standing part of Whanganui's success, exporting all sorts of helmets around the world.

Saturday night was catching up with friends then we checked out live music at Riverside Bar - great to see this venue back in action. It has one of the best locations in town.

Local band Clazzmatic Boogie Orchestra was impressive so a bit of a dance floor time was had too. My only disappointment of the weekend was not quite making it to the Savage Club or The Black Trio on Friday night, two of my Whanganui favs.

Actually, one real disappointment, I'm not impressed with the massive concrete monstrosity going up on the corner of Victoria Ave and Dublin Street - a prime bit of real estate that used to home the stunning Cameron House.

It's huge and out of keeping with the rest of the city.

However, the design of the new commercial building at 202 Victoria Ave is looking good.

So no zombies in sight, instead a creative community with heart.