A blog about family, food and fun!

Author: Oscoey

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. […]

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

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, […]

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

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 that after work I put on my garden clothes and take the kids outside for some sunshine. My workplace is closed for until the fall and even then they are only allowing a few people in the office and things are up in the air as far as going back to school so I have planned an ambitious vegetable garden this year.

 

Front garden bed.

 

I started out this spring with sprucing up our front garden bed. We share part of it with our neighbors and our side needed a bunch of work. Every fall/winter I am good about cutting our monster hydrangeas back so that was taken care of this year. They grow so much over the summer that if I don’t cut them they will cover most of the garden bed! In late February and early March I pruned back the sword ferns, redid the edging, weeded aggressively, pulled out a bunch of salmon berry and then mulched the whole thing with a thick coat from the stuff that has been hanging out on our driveway for far longer than I would like to admit. The mulch is not super great quality but I needed something to make it look more uniform. The front bed looks fabulous and it was so uniform at first that people were walking in it as if it was empty so our asparagus was slightly trampled this year and we did not get more than a few spears before I decided to let it grow. We have since installed a small fence where the asparagus is and I am hoping that will keep people and dogs out of it in the future.

 

Seed starts from April.

 

I was a little bit late starting my seeds this year. I am not the only one upping their gardening game and many of the seeds I wanted were on backorder or were out at the first couple of places I looked. I ended up ordering from Territorial Seed Company and they took a while to get here but the quality was fabulous and we had a very successful germination rate so l ended up ordering way more seeds later on for my fall gardening. For the spring I planted Napa cabbage, two different green cabbages, a red cabbage, bush peas, pole peas, pole beans, lettuce, spinach, potatoes (from a bag in the pantry), watermelon, cucumber and several varieties of squash.

 

Potatoes in a bag.

 

I may have planted too many potatoes. I planted a bunch early from a bag in our pantry that had started to sprout. A couple of weeks later I noticed squirrel holes all over the bed so I planted more, and some in another part of the garden. Then a couple of weeks after that I replanted more potatoes to fill in even more squirrel dug holes and planted some potatoes into the potato bags I found in the garage and we somehow ended up with about 20 plants which is way more than I wanted. I keep running out of soil so I have not been great about mounding dirt up around the potatoes but if things go ok we should have enough potatoes to last us a little bit. My kids don’t really like potatoes except when they are made a couple of ways so I may end up donating some of them to the local free pantry if we have too many.

 

garden beds
New garden beds.

 

This year I decided to put our plants into garden beds instead of directly into the ground. Our soil is not that great and I wanted to mulch around the beds to create a path and reduce the mud. In the past I planted directly into the ground with squash varieties but since we are doing more than squash this year we got some raised beds off of Amazon. We bought three total and used some landscape fabric underneath to reduce the weeds. Our older beds need a soil refresh and but I discovered that after I had done some planting so one of my plans for next fall is to add a bunch of soil and plant some cover crops for the older beds.

 

potted plants
Fairy gardens and our containers.

 

Over Mother’s Day weekend the family got together and planted some seed starts from the store of tomatoes, pumpkins and cantaloupe as well as the Brussels sprouts and artichokes I started in March. I should have planted the seeds I started earlier but honestly I ran out of space in my main vegetable garden and we had to buy both containers and more soil. We had some issues transplanting two of the pumpkins and the cantaloupe and as of right now our cantaloupe won’t make it and the pumpkins might recover. In order to use up more of the empty space in the tomato planters I also sprinkled some lettuce seeds in there and so far we have a few plants coming up.

 

Cabbages April 2020

 

cabbage
Cabbages June 2020

 

One part of our garden that is thriving is the cabbage bed. I totally over planted this one with nine or ten cabbages but they are doing great. These seeds were started around the 14th of April and most of them should be ready to eat around the first week of July. This year I got smart and I wrote the day I planted them and the days to maturity from the package on the popsicle stick labels. I already have another set of seeds planted under these ones so we shall see if those do ok with the larger cabbages in there as well. If not, I plan on starting more seeds indoors with our grow light just in case although I have heard that Napa cabbage will bolt when the weather turns so I may try something else here over the heat of the summer. Cabbages are just starting to form and it is really cool to see. I have not grown cabbages before and honestly I didn’t do any research ahead of time but I view the garden as a gigantic experiment so if these don’t work out I will have a better idea for next year.

 

squash
Squash bed.

 

We have always had good luck with zucchini and yellow squash in our garden. This year is no exception. This bed has three zucchini plants in it as well as some bee attracting flowers. They are probably too close together but that was not a problem for us last year and we fertilized this soil so there is plenty of nutrients. Our male flowers are already blooming but I have not seen any female flowers yet. We have about 8 total squash plants so I am sure we won’t have any issues with pollination. Usually we do three or 4 plants and it has never been an issue for us. We have a really healthy bee population which helps tremendously.

 

strawberry
Strawberry plant.

 

We have been harvesting quite a few strawberries off of the plant I threw into a pot a couple of years ago. For some reason it does really well in the spot that it is in and has strawberries on it weeks ahead of our actual strawberry plot. I think this spot is more sunny than the other and even though the bees have been pollinating away in our main strawberry bed the berries are still super immature and won’t be ripe for another week or two.

 

ladybugs
Releasing lady bugs into the garden

 

One fun thing we tried this year was releasing ladybugs into the garden. I ordered them from Territorial Seeds a couple of weeks ago along with my fall planting seeds and some garlic starts that will ship in September. My kids were a little scared of the lady bugs at first but by the end of it they were picking them up gently and letting them crawl around for a bit before asking for the grownups to remove them. We will definitely be doing this again next year or maybe even later on this summer since we had such a good time. I would have loved to do praying mantises as well but everywhere was out so we haven’t yet. Ladybugs only stick around long enough to lay some eggs and then they move on to the next area. I am hoping in a few weeks we will have lots of little lady bug larva crawling around eating up any aphids on our plants. So far the weather in the PNW has been mostly gloomy and wet and I haven’t seen many aphids but I know that as soon as it warms up a bit we will start to see them more.

 

We are having a great time in the garden this year and hopefully in a few weeks we will be able to start eating most of our vegetables out of the garden instead of buying them at the store. Below are some resources for your garden with no affiliate links, just sites we have used and liked. Happy gardening!

 

Territorial Seed

 

Seed Savers Exchange

 

Ladybug Life Cycle

 

 

 

Three Year Blogiversary and Reflections on the Past Year

Three Year Blogiversary and Reflections on the Past Year

Oscoey’s three year anniversary passed in March and as much as I wanted to write a post about it we were dealing with Covid-19 and still adjusting to working from home, teaching our kids and being home together all the time. Oscoey was something I […]

Victoria Part 2: Miniatures, Petting Zoo and More!

Victoria Part 2: Miniatures, Petting Zoo and More!

Out last post detailed the first half of our Victoria, B.C. trip last year when we went to Butchart Gardens. June was definitely a great time to go and see all of the flowers in bloom and it seemed far less crowded that it would […]

Victoria Part 1: Butchart Gardens

Victoria Part 1: Butchart Gardens

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.

 

Tsawwassen Ferry
Tsawwassen Ferry

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.

 

Butchart Gardens

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.

 

There were lots of carpets of flowers.

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.

 

A lizard, a skink? Either way it was super cool!

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 bottom of the Sunken Garden.

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.

 

The Ross Fountain.

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.

 

An owl!

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:

Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay

Butchart Gardens 

How “Sleeping in” Until 5:30 Costs us $300 a Month

How “Sleeping in” Until 5:30 Costs us $300 a Month

I really love the idea of small changes over time adding up to huge improvements later on in life. When we first started our journey towards better financial health way back during the 2008 financial crisis we made many small changes that reduced our spending, raised […]

Walla Walla for a Kid Friendly Wine Weekend

Walla Walla for a Kid Friendly Wine Weekend

Last April we took a road trip to Walla Walla, Washington for a kid-friendly attempt at doing a bit of Wine Weekend. We have been saying for many years that we would love to go to Walla Walla to pick up wine and this year […]

Our Not-So-Frugal San Francisco Trip February 2019

Our Not-So-Frugal San Francisco Trip February 2019

Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off mind you) we heard about a screaming deal on plane tickets out of the newly opening Paine Field in our area. Our little kids had never been on a plane before and we figured that leaving from a smaller, much less crowded airport would be a good introduction and test of air travel. Our kids get overwhelmed in crowds and with all of the new experiences they would have with flying we thought taking off from a small airport with less people would help them get used to the idea. Unfortunately the government shut down at the beginning of 2019 and some of the airport permits did not go through in time so we ended up flying in and out of the much busier Sea-Tac and it ended up working out. Our kids were very excited and even though security lines were so long we almost missed our outbound flight, there were no dreaded airport meltdowns and our first plane rides were a success!

 

Sea Lions on the Pier.

We stay fairly close to the waterfront and were able to walk to a lot of destinations. Since we were close to everything the hotel was a little bit pricey but we continued our tradition of finding a place to stay with a kitchen and after stopping at Trader Joe’s we had some pretty inexpensive meals ready to go. Our kids get up at 5:00 in the morning and not many places are open at that time so we bought some milk and cereal for them to eat before we left in the morning. We also bought snacks and some bacon and spent about $30 total for 6 days worth of breakfast and snacks.

 

Bay Bridge San Francisco

The plane ride and following shuttle went smoothly but I was pretty disappointed that the kids were not more interested in watching the plane take off. They were too busy watching Octonauts…which I am grateful kept them busy during the flight. The first place we stopped was the Ferry Building where we ate the most delicious gluten-free pastries ever and walked around seeing the sites. We walked out onto a pier and got a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge. The kids were very excited and walking around got most of their wiggles out. One of the ways we saved money was by buying a Citi-Pass. With that we got into the California Academy of Science, bus/cable-car rides, a cruise of the San Francisco bay, into the Aquarium of the Bay, and into the Exploratorium. Our son is three and he was free at most of those places so we only needed three Citi-Passes for all four of us and it ended up being a good deal.

 

Aquarium Fish
Aquarium at the California Academy of Science

The second day we spent most of our time at the California Academy of Science. We loved the aquarium on the lower floor. It was so big we had to stop mid-way for lunch! Our kids love fish and the way the aquarium was organized it was easy for even my three year old to understand that they came from different places around the globe. We learned a lot about our oceans on this trip for sure!

 

Amazon Rainforest Exhibit

My absolute favorite area was the underwater Amazon Rainforest area. You can’t tell from this picture but these fish are seriously 8 feet long and it was amazing to watch them swim around overhead. I had no idea that freshwater fish could get that big!

 

Rainforest Exhibit

Part of the gigantic Rainforest Exhibit was a sphere similar to the Amazon Spheres we visited last fall only with way more plants and animals. It was much cooler and we got to see so many things with great displays that taught my kids about how coffee grows, where in the canopy different animals live and how we can protect the rainforests for the future. I am a plant person so I loved looking at the plants and got some ideas for how to lay out a garden.

 

The roof of the California Academy of Sciences.

We spent most of the day and explored a large chunk of the California Academy of Sciences, including the amazing roof but we still did not see the whole thing. We definitely want to go back next time we are in San Francisco!

 

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

Our second full day we took a boat tour of the bay. This was something that was out of my comfort zone and honestly if we hadn’t bought the Citi-Pass we never would have gone on it. I get really seasick and boats are something I usually avoid but the water ended up being pretty calm and besides being a little bit cold we ended up having a great time. Our kids loved looking out at everything and seeing where we had been from the water. We went under the Golden Gate bridge and it was eye opening to see how big it actually is up close. We also went past Alcatraz and got some great views.

 

Aquarium of the Bay

After the boat tour we went to Aquarium of the Bay which was right next door to the boat dock. Although it is a little bit small (you can do it in about an hour) it was jam packed with fun and we ended up going through the entire Aquarium twice because we loved it so much. Our favorite part was these two long tunnels that went under different types of fish. The coolest one was the shark tank! You can see sharks up close and they are swimming all around you which the kids loved. They also had a great area where you could feed rays and our daughter got to feed one which was super cool. We would definitely go back here next time we are in San Francisco!

 

Ghirardelli
Ghirardelli Square

We made a stop in the evening at Ghirardelli for some ice cream. The kids loved it! They got to eat sugary treats and we picked up some chocolate as gifts. There were shops to explore and most importantly a fountain to jump around.

 

Exploratorium

Our last full day we had coffee with a friend, went to the Exploratorium and rode the cable car. The Exploratorium is basically a gigantic warehouse with tons of science experiments. It was a lot to take in and we let the kids wander and look at what they were interested in. There was no way we would be able to do the entire thing in one day. It seemed to be geared towards a little bit older children. Our 5yo had a great time but there was a ton of reading to do to be able to do the experiments and although our 3yo had a great time I think he would have gotten more out of it if he had been a couple years older. Our favorite part was the outside exhibits where the kids could run around. The inside was pretty crowded and echoey which my kids had a hard time with. There also wasn’t a lot of room to run around since it was packed with experiments. We would definitely go back but probably not until the kids are older. ‘

That evening we rode the cable car and it was fun but we were super tired from a long week and we ended up cutting it short and heading back to the hotel to sleep. We packed a lot into our trip and even though we took naps every day we were pretty exhausted by the end of our trip.

Golden Gate Bridge
A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the beach.

Our last day we had some time in the morning so we went to the beach and hung out for a while before driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. Our kids are early risers so we were able to get there early enough that we had the beach to ourselves.  We walked around, looked at the bridge from another angle and then drove over and looked at the city from across the bay. It was a nice way to end our trip reflecting on where we had been and what we had seen.

Hanging out on the beach.

 

We had a great time in San Francisco and I am really glad we decided to rip the bandaid of air travel off with our kids. We are excited for more plane rides in the future and we are already talking about going back to San Francisco possibly next year. It is definitely one of our favorite places to go!

 

I don’t have any affiliations with the places listed below but here are links if you are curious:

 

San Francisco Citi-Pass

California Academy of Science

Aquarium of the Bay

Exploratorium

 

A Declaration of More Family Travel

A Declaration of More Family Travel

Travelling has always been something that we have wanted to do as a family but we have never actually done much of. Before we had the youngest we took 2-4 small trips a year spread between Oregon, the Washington Coast and Vancouver, BC for a […]