As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]
This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]
This past June as soon as school got out we took a weekend trip up to Victoria, B.C. with the younger kids. One of our goals this year is to increase our travel and since Victoria is so close to us we decided to take the plunge. Our last trip to Canada with the kids was not so great and afterwards we took a two year break from traveling. We wanted to wait until the youngest was older since he had such a difficult time on both the trips we had taken with him when he was a baby. We have received a lot of criticism for our decision to take a break from traveling when the kids were little and some people get it and others try to push the whole idea of getting kids used to traveling when they are little so it is easier when they are older but it is such a personal decision and every kid is different. Our youngest is not a good traveler and even though he has gotten way better we will probably always have to shorten or modify our plans with him to accommodate his needs. Not every kid handles travel well and in our case the change in routine, lack of “normal” foods and being confined to a car seat for long periods of time lead to a pretty disastrous trip for the kids’ first time to Canada. We are working our way up to longer trips and I am hoping to try a 5 hour flight with them at some point in the next year. My ultimate goal is international travel but I think we will probably wait to leave the continent until the kids are much older.
It was most of our first time to Victoria, B.C.. We drove across the border and took the Tsawwassen Ferry across the water to Victoria. We didn’t feel confident that we would make a 8:00 am sailing on the Port Angeles Ferry and the Tsawwassen Ferry has staggered sailing times without reservations which fit our schedule better. It was also a nice break from the drive since the ride is 90 minutes long and everyone is required to get out of their cars to go above deck. We watched a nature talk, ate some lunch and played in the kids’ play area. The kids had a lot of fun on the ferry. Although we ride the Mukilteo ferry pretty frequently it is only 15 minutes long and we almost never get out of the car. I have been riding that ferry all my life to visit relatives that lived out there and getting in and out of car seats does not always go over very well with cranky children so usually we opt to stay in the car for that one.
We got off the ferry and immediately drove to our must see spot of Butchart Gardens. We went on the last day before the price increase for the summer tourist season and saved a little bit of money. We got there at about 11:00 and it was also pretty cloudy so our first few hours there were not too crowded. It did get very busy after lunchtime and I would highly recommend going early in the day to beat the crowds. We had no problems finding parking and getting photos mostly without other people in them (see the peekaboo head in the sign picture?). Our kids don’t really like crowds so we always aim for low traffic times to avoid the inevitable meltdowns that come from over stimulation.
We love looking at gardens and I get a lot of inspiration from seeing how other people plant their flowers. There were so many ideas and great combinations of flowers that there is no way I could ever incorporate them all in my garden. I also had some guilt about how little gardening I have done this year. Time is short and adding the extra travel in has taken up some of my weekend gardening time. I don’t mind though since I am really enjoying all of the traveling we are doing. These beautiful pink flowers I took a picture of because our daughter loved them so much she wanted a picture. It was great to see her wonder and delight at all of the plants. She has been helping me quite a bit in the garden this year and I am loving how much she enjoyed the flowers, at least until the kids both got bored.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife in the gardens including this cool lizard that was just hanging out on a rock way along the staircase to the Sunken Garden. Another older girl noticed it and we spent some time looking at it before moving on to other things. We don’t really see lizards at our house so our kids were pretty excited to see something different. I bet if we hadn’t been rushed through the gardens with eager children we would have seen more of them or even a snake or two but I am glad we at least got to see one!
The gardens are part of an old quarry that was turned into an awesome display of gardening skills. There are a lot of ups and downs and fabulous vistas. My favorite part was looking out over a large vista and then walking along the path to look at the details. There were so many things to see you could probably go many times and not see it all. We are currently listening to “A Secret Garden” in the car and the Butchart Gardens kind of remind me of the story and how the gardens at the manor had so many hidden gems that came out at different times of year. I would love to look at the Butchart Gardens during different seasons to compare. We went during the height of the flower season but I wonder if the fall and winter gardens have some interesting plants as well.
There are several ponds throughout the garden and we loved looking at the water plants and how the water moved. Some of the ponds were more still and it was interesting to see how the trees on the shore cascaded over the edge. I was inspired by the use of smaller water plants along some sides of the pond to create a different effect than the larger trees and shrubs along other sides. It was cool to see how the gardeners had used light and position to create a scene with greenery.
One of my favorite fountains was the Ross Fountain. The backdrop was the quarry walls and the way the water moved against it was very pretty. The view coming up to the fountain was superb. You come out of some trees and across a gravel path and there below you is this beautiful fountain that is spraying water in many different patterns. I had a really hard time getting a human free picture of it since so many people were gathered in this area to look at it.
One of the coolest things we saw at the gardens was the owl that flew right over our heads as we were walking along the path. It then perched itself in a tree until some robins chased it off. I am pretty sure it was trying to have a baby robin snack but it looked like the robins were successful in scaring it away without harm. My kids loved seeing the owl. They still remembered the one we saw outside our deck a few months ago and since this was the same type of owl it was pretty exciting.
After we walked the gardens a bit we stopped at the cafe to have lunch and look at the boar statue out front. This statue was very amusing apparently, especially when my daughter decided to stick her finger up it’s nose (lots of tourists laughed…). The food was pretty good and I found a lot of gluten-free options as well as options for our picky kids. We spent some time in the gift shop as well but it was mostly full of kitschy stuff that we would never use. There was tons of tea, garden statues, toys for kids and flower seeds from the garden itself. I was pretty tempted to buy some flower seeds but I have not had time to garden much this year and I did not have a place to plant them so they did not come home with us. We generally don’t buy a lot of souvenirs from places we go but this trip we did buy each of the kids something. Our daughter picked out a thick super soft sweatshirt that she loves and wears all the time and our son picked out a ferry toy with a couple of cars that he plays with quite a bit. Mr. Oscoey and I usually get a picture frame with the name of the city we visited and put a picture of us from the trip but we didn’t really have time to look for one on our trip this time around and honestly we don’t miss it.
After lunch the sun came out and the gardens got crowded. We went straight to the rose gardens but we had a hard time walking around there were so many people and everyone got annoyed if you stopped for even a second to take a picture so we didn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked. The paths are pretty narrow and there were so many people we were a little bit worried about our son running off and getting lost since he was tired and having a hard time staying with us. After the rose garden we headed off to the Japanese gardens to briefly check things out. It was shaded there and a little bit cooler but our kids were tired so we decided to head out.
On our way out we were inspired by this well manicured hedge. You can’t see it in the picture but it went off at an angle which looked incredibly difficult to accomplish. Maybe when we are retired we can create a hedge with an angle in it just because it is cool!
On the way out of the gardens you walk through the Italian gardens where we happened to get some Gelato to eat in the hot sun. The Gelato was delicious and the Italian gardens were beautiful so it was a great stop on our way out. It was interesting to see that the colors in the Italian garden were much louder and stood out with the large amount of concrete. Although there were bright colors throughout the gardens for some reason the contrast was higher in the Italian gardens and it was very beautiful to see.
One of the last things we looked at on our way out was Mrs. Butchart’s private garden. It was very neat and orderly with straight lines. I loved that they still keep it separate from public access just like when she was alive. There is a small window in the gate you can look through but that is it. I don’t think you can even see the whole garden which adds to the air of mystery.
We had a great time at Butchart Gardens and I definitely want to go back. I may even plan to go at the same time every year with the kids since the flowers were so beautiful and we saved quite a bit of money going before the summer price increase. Stay tuned for my next post about the rest of our Victoria trip! I couldn’t restrain myself with garden pictures so it was too large to fit into one post!
If you go:
It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen […]
In honor of Halloween I thought I would post some pictures from our pumpkin farm visit and pumpkin carving extravaganza. We have been going to the pumpkin farm with the same group of friends for the last five years and our kids love this tradition! Every year the kids get a little bit older and we are able to do more things. The first year all of the kids were about one year old and all we did was eat and walk through the pumpkin patch. This year all of the older kids are around five and the younger siblings range from 2-3.5 years old and we had a bunch of fun going down slides, digging in corn, eating hot dogs and finding the perfect pumpkin.
It took our 5yo a really long time to find the perfect pumpkin and when she did it was super tall and heavy.
It was so tall we had to carve it on the floor. Normally I have old vinyl tablecloths hanging around for crafts but we were completely out so we made a frugal choice and saran wrapped part of our kitchen floor. It worked well and we had a super fast clean up.
The kids are still pretty young and the do not like touching gross things so they helped a little bit with the carving but in the end I did most of the pumpkin cleaning out and Mr. Oscoey did all of the carving since he is our resident carving expert.
This year I bought some small white pumpkins and let the kids paint them. It worked pretty well and I think we will try it again next year with larger pumpkins and see how it goes. I am a huge fan of buying lots of pumpkins for decorations and carving but one of the frugal choices we made this year was to cut back on our Halloween decoration buying. I didn’t think the kids would actually carve their pumpkins though so I did end up buying four of these little ones for under $10.00 and we used painting supplies we had on hand so this fun craft was fairly cheap. Maybe next year we will have our garden back into shape and we will be able to grow our own pumpkins again!
Our finished pumpkin! Our kids are obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas right now so our 5yo chose a Jack pumpkin this year.
Our son’s pumpkin is rather squashed and was too difficult to carve so he used some leftover plastic eyeballs and and a mouth to make “Zero” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I would have loved to buy up a bunch more of these types of decorations since the kids can use them over and over again but we exercised our frugal muscle this year and made do with what we had on hand. I do need to remember to buy new carving tools though when they go on sale after Halloween since our last knife did not make it through the experience of carving Jack and Mr. Oscoey had to improvise with a kitchen knife (they are way less nimble). We also have a couple of pumpkins from the kid’s school carnival on our porch that are decorated with stickers and the fabulous green one I found at the pumpkin patch.
What kinds of pumpkins did you decorate this year?
About eight months ago I took a break from blogging. There were many reasons, the most pressing being a complete utter lack of time while trying to maintain balance with both Mr. Oscoey and I working full-time with small kids. To say it was difficult […]
One Year of Blogging Done! Last weekend was the one year anniversary of Oscoey. I can’t believe how quickly the last year has gone! I have learned a lot about blogging over the past year and gotten to know many fabulous bloggers as well. […]
Meal Planning to Save Time and Money
I have heard of the wonderful idea called meal planning many times over the past few years and every time I read a post about it I love the idea of having all of our meals planned out at the start of the month but quickly come to the realization that we are not that great at planning out our meals. We are very last minute dinner makers and our only “planning” is to decide what meat and vegetables we want during our weekly Costco trip and then cobble together a meal based on what else we have lying around. And let me tell you, that is after years of making a serious effort at not just going to the store the day of to buy whatever we want for dinner. I will confess that we used to go to Costco multiple times during the week, sometimes daily, to pick up one or two items (at least we were good at only getting what we needed right?) and make dinner that night. There was no planning involved. It was all very haphazard and as you can guess we ended up throwing out a bunch of food because we would forget what we actually had at home.
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I went back to work a couple of weeks ago so I thought we would try a little bit of meal planning to reduce the stress of trying to figure dinner out every night. I got a full-time job which I am really excited about but I have not worked full-time since my oldest daughter was a preteen so needless to say it will be a huge adjustment for our family. I worked very part-time before and after our 4 year old was born and quit when she was about a year to stay home and I am really appreciative of my time as a stay at home mom but it is time for me to go back to work. I did not have my act together enough to have all of the meal planning ready for all of April but we are going to try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.
Planning Out Grocery Trips
We have made a genuine effort to cut back on our Costco trips and most of the time we are really good at going once a week now. I am still going to the store more than I would like but we have discovered that certain items are cheapest at a particular store and many of the dairy-free items we buy are not at the same store so it leads to multiple outings. Generally throughout the month I go to Target, Whole Foods, and Fred Meyer once or twice each depending on how much dairy-free milk and cheese we go through. Target has the cheapest price on the milk our kids like, Whole Foods has the best price on their yogurt and cheese and Fred Meyer has the best price on soy milk for the adults, the dairy-free yogurt I like and on Luna bars which have become a great source of protein and calcium for our kids and sometimes the only thing I eat for breakfast. The morning rush out the door for us is no joke and many times I do not have time to eat so I always keep a couple of Luna bars in the car to munch on during my morning drive. They are also great for those morning when the kids sleep in and are too tired to eat before we leave. Hands down the family’s favorite flavor is the Chocolate Peppermint flavor. They go super fast in our house!
Once every few months I make a trip to our local Franz Bakery outlet to purchase massive quantities of bread. This particular run netted me so much bread I had to do quite a bit of rearranging to fit everything in the freezer and it only cost us $19.98. It would have been $10.00 but I bought two loaves of gluten-free raisin bread for my peanut butter toast in the morning and they are sadly $5.00 each but they are way more in the regular grocery store and I was able to get an extra pack of hot dog buns out of it so it saved us an extra couple of dollars that way too. Most of it goes in the freezer as soon as we get home and we slowly work through it over a couple of months. My kids love bagels and sandwiches on hot dog buns and at 4 for $5.00 and a free loaf of bread for every $10.00 you spend it is a bargain you can’t beat. Having a freezer full of bread is also a great way to always have a meal on hand. You just need a few extras stored away and you are set for a week even if you have a week where grocery shopping is not in your budget. For this reason we always have peanut butter, sun butter, jam, frozen hamburger patties and some sort of meat for sandwiches on hand. Bagels can also be made easily into breakfast sandwiches with an egg and a little mayo or of course with cream cheese (we buy this brand for our dairy-free people in the house). Since I have a freezer full of bread I also have no qualms about gifting it when requests for food due to financial stress come up in our Buy Nothing group. Sadly this has become a frequent occurrence in our group and 95% of the cases are a genuine need from families that have come upon rough times with no emergency funds.
Meal Planning Motivation
After participating in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge this past January I was amazed at how we were cooking way too much food on a weekly basis. We still have not adjusted to having one less adult in the house and having our daughter home for an extended Christmas break threw off our cooking schedule. In January we also ate less meat and for some reason we just didn’t need to cook more. Our fridge was emptier but we still had plenty to eat. We only had to cook every few days and we still had extras for lunch.
Then came February and we hit a few bumps in the reducing our food waste bandwagon. We hosted a large group of people, threw a birthday party, attended several friend’s birthdays (free lunch!), had major illness in the family and our oldest daughter was in and out for a couple of weekends and we ended up buying a lot of food we didn’t end up needing (I am looking at you lettuce I found in the back of the fridge). I am not even sure if we made our grocery budget because I have not had a chance to look at it. Needless to say we need to make some changes and make more of an effort to reduce our food waste and stay on track with our budget. Cleaning out the fridge this week and finding tons of little containers with a mouthful of food or two was a huge motivator to be more conscious of the food we are buying.
Meal Planning How-to
The basic idea of meal planning is to sit down at the start of the week or month and write out a plan of what you want to eat every day. Some people get very involved and write out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so that they know exactly what they will eat for every meal. There are a bunch of different ways to write out your meals and you should probably use which ever one makes the most sense to you. Some people make a spreadsheet, use a printed calendar, use a digital calendar, us a planner or even just write it out on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge. The important thing is to look ahead and see exactly how much food you need to buy without wasting any. A lot of people do this by buying one item that can be used many different ways. For instance, we buy chicken in bulk from Costco and that is our meat for the week. One day we might have fried chicken, another teriyaki chicken, another “basic chicken” and then we would use leftovers on a salad, in soup or even as chicken salad so that the one jumbo pack of chicken lasts the whole week (or even two if you incorporate vegetarian meals as well).
This past month we did this with a ham we bought. My husband found it at Safeway with a 50% off sign and the entire 20lb ham ended up costing us about $7.50. It was a steal! Mr. Oscoey heated it up with the sous vide so it would not dry out and then sliced a large chunk of it. We then ate it over rice with steamed vegetables, in sandwiches and also cold straight from the bag (our kids’ favorite method of consumption). He also made a delicious ham broth out of the bone and used that to make a lentil soup that also used up some carrots in our fridge. We still have a lot left that we sliced and put into the freezer.
Getting Started with Meal Planning
We are going to start our mini-meal plan adventure next week. This week we have a wonky schedule due to the flu going through our house and nobody is eating their normal meals. Next week is Spring Break but neither my husband or I can take any time off since we were home so much with the kids this past week. On Friday I am going to sit down and finalize a plan for just our dinners for the week. We have sandwich stuff for lunches and I will just need to buy some fresh fruit this weekend and breakfast is usually toast, oatmeal or cereal with eggs. Baby steps are the key to making any change in our household!
Our plan will be something like:
Sunday: chicken, rice, roasted Brussels sprouts
Monday: leftover chicken, steamed peas/salad, rice
Wednesday: chicken nuggets, steamed green beans, carb (Dance Night so we have to eat quickly and early)
Thursday: chicken cooked a new way, Beans, salad/corn
Friday: My husband usually comes home early enough on Fridays to cook dinner so I will have to see what he is thinking but I have a feeling we will be having more chicken
Saturday: Grocery shopping day! We will see what new meat we buy for the week and go from there!
It will be interesting to see how the week plays out and how well we stick to our plan! Have you tried meal planning with any success?
Indoor Seed Starting Time It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year […]