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Tag: finances

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 2

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 2

Meal planning this week was mostly about eating leftovers and using fresh produce that needed to be eaten. We did our last major grocery run on 1/02/22 so after a couple of weeks some of our produce was looking like it would go bad. I […]

Meal Planning: A New Start

Meal Planning: A New Start

This past year I realized we have fallen down a hole of eating not so healthy foods more often then we should. We totally fell off the bandwagon of both eating well and keeping our grocery costs down. The pandemic has really split our routine […]

Gardening Update 07.08.21

Gardening Update 07.08.21

The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like crazy during the heat wave, some plants got water three times a day and others twice. Still, several of my plants were damaged and my vegetable output this year will be much smaller than previous years. For instance, I planted about a dozen cabbages and only got small one bug eaten one head of my spring crop. I will be planting more for fall but it was still pretty heartbreaking to see all of my plants either decimated by slugs/caterpillars or burnt from the sun.

 

zucchini plants
Squash Plants

Some of the plants that did not make it through the last few weeks were my squash plants. As you can see they have been decimated by slugs despite my best efforts to deter them. I put new soil here, fertilized and mulched but my plants are doing poorly in general. Last year this area had potatoes and they did ok. You can see that there are a couple of potato plants coming up from some of the potatoes left in the soil. I have planted both zucchini and spaghetti squash here in years past and they flourished but I realized this year when I was watching the light patterns that this area no longer receives the amount of light it did when we moved in five years ago. The trees surrounding it have grown significantly since then and I have lost one of the few full sun areas I previously had in my garden. I am not sure what I am going to do for next year in this area. For now, I planted some peas and installed some branches for trellising but at the moment not much seems to be growing. I will probably plant a cover crop here for fall and mulch extensively. It may be time to cut down the tree that provides shade to part of my garden but I am reluctant to take such an extreme measure. I may just cut it back significantly this year and plant more shade tolerant plants in this spot next year.

 

potato plants
Potato plants under a bush.

Speaking of potato plants, one of my strategies this year has been to plant potatoes all over in my regular garden beds and hope I get something out of it. We had a bunch from the harvest last year and some that started growing in our pantry and I basically just planted them wherever I had a bare patch. I have not been hilling them at all but I may add straw or mulch this weekend to some areas such as the one above to see if I get a higher yield. Last year I spent tons of time, money and energy carefully hilling my potatoes and it really didn’t increase my yield very much. These are in an area I have trouble growing things in front of our large bush. There isn’t a lot of sun and the large bush traps most of the water but these are doing well. I have been watering them on hot days with the hose and it has been enough. They are also crowding out the creeping Jenny which we can’t get rid of. I am not a fan of it and it is spreading all over my yard. It traps moisture and is a slug breeding ground and I am pulling as much of it out as I can.

 

Red Potatoes
Red Potatoes harvested after the heat wave.

A few of our potato plants did not do well in the heat wave so I dug them up and recovered as many spuds as I could. I ended up digging up about four plants and got double the yield shown above. I am guessing it was around two or three pounds worth. We steamed some of them with our single cabbage and they were delicious! I will probably either roast or steam the others for dinner in the next few days. My middle daughter and I love them steamed with butter and salt. She was very excited for the potatoes! I also planted a few more I found sprouted in our garage, probably victims of the heat wave as well and pulled the ones I could find near the zucchini patch. I have a few mid-growth cycle right now so we will have some more potatoes to harvest in about a month or so and then another month out from that. We really don’t eat a ton of potatoes but I do like to have them fresh when I can. I saved some of the sprouted ones which I will plant in two week intervals so we have a steady supply of potatoes for the next few months. I am not good at storing them (clearly since they all sprout) so having a steady stream of plants to dig up is better for our family.

 

Baby Pumpkin
Baby Pumpkin

One plant I had to baby through the heat wave was our pumpkins. They loved the heat but needed watering two to three times a day otherwise they wilted like crazy. Since it isn’t good to get the leaves wet during the heat of the day, during lunch I very carefully watered them with the hose on a super low setting under the leaves. I roasted in the noon sun but it saved my pumpkin plants. I did not see any bees for about a week and a half during and after the heat wave and the pumpkin started flowering in earnest once everything cooled a bit. I had to hand pollinate for about a week and we now have two pumpkins growing. Usually you don’t want more than one per vine if you want large ones but we have had such bad luck this year with pests I am probably going to pollinate one more per vine just to guarantee we get something in the fall. To hand pollinate I took a paint brush and transferred pollen from the male flowers to the female ones. The flowers on my variety of pumpkins only lasted one day so I had to go out there first thing in the morning to pollinate before anyone else had taken all of the pollen. It seemed like there was very little pollen this year. Usually I have enough to pollinate several flowers but we haven’t grown this variety before so I don’t know if it is the variety or the heat.

 

Mammoth Beets
Gigantic Beets forming.

One of the giant varieties of vegetables we are trying this year is these Mammoth Red Mangel Beets. These are traditionally used for animal feed since they get so large but I thought it would be fun to grow them. I am not a huge fan of beets but have discovered that I love eating the greens. I will definitely grow beets again next year if only for the greens. This particular variety forms the beet super slowly and has a 100 day growing period. I was really happy to see the beginnings of a beet forming on one of my plants. I am hoping to harvest one or two by the end of summer just to see how they taste. The rest I will leave until late September or so to see how large they get. Any guesses?

 

baby cucumber
Baby Cucumber on the vine.

Another plant that did well in the heat was our cucumbers. I planted these in a super shady spot that get some afternoon sun in the summer when the days are longer. I purposefully put the garden bed here in the hopes of extending some of my shade loving crops into the summer and so far it is working. My cucumbers are thriving here and I have a few small fruits on the vines. We eat a lot of cucumbers so I am hoping in a month or so there will be a bunch more and both plants will be well on their way up the trellis. The greens I planted in this bed did bolt during the heat wave but I am going to wait until the end of July and try again. I also have giant Kohlrabi in this bed and it is my first time growing that as well. I am not really sure how they are doing. A couple were eaten by slugs and one had an aphid infestation but they haven’t really grown much the past few weeks. I am going to have to do some Googling and see if there is anything else I need to do for them besides wait. I am not seeing any bulbs forming under the soil but I may need to add more dirt around the bases again.  I mounded dirt up around both my beets and kohlrabi when I planted them but some of it has washed away during watering.

 

apples
Apples growing on our tree.

Our apple tree did really well in the heat. I thought for sure we would lose some leaves or they would be burnt but I just watered it when the sun wasn’t on it and not even that much and it did fine. This area is where the water settles from the rest of the yard and I typically don’t need to water it as much. The apple tree got a lot of runoff from the sprinkler and the pool water and I really only watered it once or twice during the heat wave. We did get way fewer apples this year but that is actually a good thing because last year we had way too many and it attracted pests. I do need to go through and thin a bunch but I am still recovering from my surgery last month and limited in how much gardening I can do. Maybe I will be able to get to it next week. The few apples that we do have are larger and much healthier looking than last year. We don’t put nets over our tree but I might try it next year after the flowers have been pollinated to prevent insects from getting in there.

 

Weeds
Weedy area needing attention.

The weeds have gotten out of control in my side yards, strawberry patch and backyard. My goal the next few weeks is to spend maybe 30 minutes a day working on clearing them out. I can’t do much more than that at the moment but hopefully it will help with my recovery. I worked on the the vegetable bed last week and this week but there is so much to do in my yard I probably won’t catch up until fall. I haven’t done much trimming back of the many bushes that grow faster than the speed of light and the ones I did trim have grown about three feet since I trimmed them last March and need trimming again. I did trim the Smoke Bush pictured above after I took this picture. It had grown about five feet out into the “gravel area” that is now choked with weeds. I do want to take this bush out eventually. It grows super fast and weedy and if I remember correctly they are considered a weedy species here. I also have a rather large Butterfly bush I need to remove that is on the Noxious Weed list. I was waiting for it to bloom since the bees are struggling so much this year and they love that bush. I want to replace these non-native species with native ones over time.

 

Red Huckleberries
Red Huckleberries on our gigantic bush.

One bush I forgot to water but should have is our Red Huckleberry bush. I always water it during the hot parts of summer but this year I forgot for some reason. My son picked a bunch of berries off of it earlier this week and I guess they were good but they look super pale to me and I think they still need a couple more weeks before they ripen. The squirrels have been eating the berries though and usually that is our litmus test to see if they are ripe. I will probably water this one and keep watering it over the next few weeks since we don’t seem to be getting any rain this summer. This bush is older and well established so I am not super worried about it but if I can avoid stressing it by watering it a bit I will.

 

My goals the next few weeks are to keep our plants hydrated, weed like there’s no tomorrow and start getting beds ready for fall planting.

 

How did your plants do in the Seattle Heatwave?

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. […]

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 […]

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 our income and increased our savings rate. Over the last 10+ years many of the small habits we started are so ingrained in us that we don’t even think about it any more. We have added a couple of kids since then and now we have one in college and our expenses have dramatically increased so small changes are much more important for our overall financial health. I find that when we don’t keep track of the smaller things the larger ones get lost as well. One of our biggest costs every month is child care and keeping those costs low is a priority for us right now as we head into another school year where we could potentially be paying way more than we budgeted for if we are not careful.

 

Eating out is now reserved for vacation and free lunches from work.

 

As ridiculous as it seems, “sleeping in” until 5:30 am every day costs us around $300 a month. How you might ask? When I sleep in I start work an hour later and we end up paying for an extra hour of child care after school. At $15 an hour for two kids times 5 days a week is $75 a week extra in child care. Multiply that times 4 and you are at $300 a month which of course would be higher in a 5 week month. It is kind of ridiculous to think of that extra hour of snooze time as costing us so much money a month and $3900 a year if we do it all 52 weeks!

 

Small changes over time add up to huge improvements later on in life.

 

We are super lucky to have flexible schedules and childcare that charges us by the hour for after care instead of a blanket amount each month but it also leads to childcare costs not being steady and harder to budget. Starting this summer is our first time having to pay for after care for both kids. Prior to that our son was in a more traditional day care setting and had a flat monthly rate which was great for budgeting but it never went down when we missed days. Now that he is a preschooler his official school end time is at lunchtime and we pay for afternoon care by the hour. Our daughter gets out at 3:00 and we pay for care after that time.

 

We spend our free time before dinner puttering about the yard for free.

 

One of the good things about this arrangement is that we are able to put our child care costs on a credit card and earn cash back for something we would be paying anyway. This only works though if you are paying off your credit card every month and not paying any interest. We find out about three weeks in advance how much our bill will be and prior to that I put a placeholder in my Quicken account for an estimated amount that is over what I think it will be and that helps us prepare for making a large payment on the next payday. I budget for childcare based on when they bill us. We get billed on a monthly basis from September through the first half of June and then we get a separate bill for care from the second half of June through the end of August. Last year all of the charges for the second half of June, and all of July and August went through in September so it was quite a large amount but I knew it was coming so I was able to set aside money and schedule my payments out in advance.  This uneven way for charging us for child care is part of the reason why we have had a hard time budgeting over the past few years. Our expenses vary so much based on which month we are in that it is difficult to plan. Putting our expenses into Quicken months in advance and then looking at our lowest point over the next six months has really helped keep things in perspective.

 

We budget six to nine month in advance to get a bigger picture of where our finances are heading.

 

To reduce our child care costs Mr. Oscoey and I do a mini split-shift with work . I go in super early and pick the kids up as soon as I can and he drops them off when school opens so we are not paying for before care as well. We do this to save money and because our son can’t really be dropped off early enough to make a difference in paying for before care for our daughter. It does cause some issues, mainly because sometimes Mr. Oscoey has to go in earlier but so far we have been able to work it out where I work from home before dropping the kids off closer to 9:00 but honestly this is pretty exhausting for me. I usually end up having to work another hour at night and spreading my 8 hours out over the course of the day like that makes the work day seem soooo much longer. My commute is pretty bad and when I split my working hours up I end up spending the entire day working, driving, working, driving, eating dinner, and then working some more and that is not super fun. I need down time every day and when I work those crazy split shifts I don’t get enough.

 

Stitching time is precious and I get far too little of it.

 

Last year when we were only paying for after care for one kid some months Mr. Oscoey was able to get off early and pick the kids up by 3:00 nearly every day our bill was only $150 for an entire month which is super cheap. Based on our normal pick up time for this year with two kids in after care we will end up paying $262.50 a week if I sleep in until 5:30. This ends up being over $1000 a month which is a huge chunk of our budget. If I can leave in time to save an hour of after care every day that will lower our bill by $75 a week and $3900 a year! Unfortunately when Mr. Oscoey got off work early enough to pick up the kids and avoid after care he would have to work late at night and we would not get grown up time. For everything there is a trade off and finding balance while being a working parent is difficult.

 

Leaving an hour earlier will save us $3900 a year in child care costs!

 

If we wanted to save $3900 dollars a year and pick the kids up right after school I would have to get up at 4:30 every morning and unfortunately that is not an easy task for me. I need my sleep, like really need my eight solid hours a night and I would have to go to bed immediately after the kids if I wanted to get up at 4:30 in the morning every day. Leaving earlier would also be a guarantee that I would not see the kids in the morning, even for a little bit, nor would I get alone time with Mr. Oscoey at night.  Being a working parent is all about balance and I love seeing my kids in the morning before I leave. We snuggle on the couch for a few minutes and we talk about our day for a bit. Sometimes if they get up early enough I am able to eat breakfast with them and maybe read a book. The days that I don’t see my son before I leave it is hit or miss whether or not he will cry for a long time because he didn’t see me before school and that is hard to hear about when it happens.

 

Copious amounts of coffee keep me going during the day with little sleep.

 

Alone time with your spouse is also key to a healthy marriage and difficult for any couple with small children. Mornings are spent packing lunches and getting ready for school/work and the evening is the only time Mr. Oscoey and I are able to catch up about work or talk about what our family plans are. I also spend some some of that time working on the blog and balancing our checkbook. Right now we are trying to watch “Game of Thrones” which is pretty inappropriate for kids so we are only able to watch when we are alone. Running the numbers on how much we would save if I leave earlier in the morning was pretty eye opening though and I think I will try to find a compromise where I can leave earlier some of the time and maybe have Mr. Oscoey pick up early when he can. I don’t want to lose too much of my morning time with the kids nor my evening time with Mr. Oscoey so we will have to find a way to reduce our costs without bringing too much stress into our lives.

 

Balance is key when you are a working parent. 

 

What could we do with an extra $3900 a year? I can think of so many things but I would absolutely love to travel with part of it and invest the rest. If we saved $3900 for the remaining 6 years that we are paying for after care for both kids it would be a grand total of $23,400 plus interest! This small change would have a huge impact over time. It is definitely something I am going to work on and see if even leaving 30 minutes earlier will save us that hour of child care in the afternoon.

 

What small changes are you making that have a huge impact on your life?

 

 

Using Quicken to Budget

 

Spending Alone Time with Mr. Oscoey

 

Sadly my last stitching update…two years ago!

 

 

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 […]

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 […]

A not so Brief Hiatus…Part 2

A not so Brief Hiatus…Part 2

A few months back I wrote my first post after going back to work (A not so Brief Hiatus) about the gap in blogging while I went back to work. I didn’t blog for eight months last time which was almost the entire length of my employment until I was laid off in October. Although this time around the break from blogging was shorter at seven months the long break did feel very long. I have had so many ideas floating around in my head about blogging that I wish I had really had the time to write everything out but the reality is that my week is packed and the weekends aren’t any better.

 

One of our many day trips out in nature.

We have made a huge effort this year to go out and do things. I have always wanted to travel more and this year instead of always talking about traveling I decided we were just going to go ahead and do it. It has been a huge success! We have so far gone to San Francisco, Eastern Washington, checked out the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington and headed up north to the tulip fields. We have two family trips scheduled for June, a yet to be determined beach vacation penciled in this summer, a something else over Labor Day weekend and we are trying to figure out what to do towards the end of the year. Our family has had an awesome time and our kids love getting out of the house and exploring new areas. We are definitely going to try to hike a bit more this year now that our youngest is three and can keep up for almost a mile before getting tired so any family friendly hikes you know of in the PNW I would love to hear them!

 

Golden Gate Bridge on our San Francisco trip.

 

Cherry blossoms at University of Washington.

 

Rock paintings along the Columbia River.

I started back up at work right before Christmas and I absolutely love my new job. It is at a much larger company with room to grow. My schedule is flexible enough and most importantly of all it is pretty low stress. My biggest complaint is my commute but we are torn about moving closer into the big city with the market starting to be unstable so for now it will continue to be a huge chunk of my day. I am now driving a hybrid car and even though I drive 2-3 hours (yes it really is that bad) each weekday getting to and from work and picking up kids after school I am only filling up my gas tank once a month or so at $40 a tank which is so low I don’t ever worry any more about how much we are spending on gas every month.

 

I plan on blogging more now that our schedule has smoothed out a bit but in the meantime follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! Here are some of Oscoey’s most popular posts:

 

The Importance of Walking in the Wood With Kids

 

Dried Banana Chips

 

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

The Dreaded Lay-off…

The Dreaded Lay-off…

A little bit ago I was laid off from the job I started last spring. It was very sudden and shocking to me but the job was not going that great and if I had not had the most dreadfully awful week I probably would […]