A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: frugal

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 […]

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, slugs and pill bugs decimating some of the plants. I planted a full packet of green beans and got only one viable plant. I was very bummed about the lack of green beans this year. Fresh green beans off the vine are one of my favorites!

 

Zucchini harvest.

 

We had a bumper zucchini crop this year with so many grown that I contemplated becoming one of those gardeners that leaves baskets of zucchini on neighbor’s doorsteps and runs but seriously, we shared the wealth with relatives and the local food pantry during the height of the season and my husband became an excellent maker of zucchini fritters and muffins which everyone loves. My goal this weekend is to blanch and freeze a bunch of it and maybe try canning but honestly I am not sure if we will eat it once it has been canned. The PNW is scheduled for our annual September last gasp heat wave next week and once that is over my summer squash plants and tomatoes will be pulled to make room for fall crops. I will miss checking the zucchini plants daily with my kids to see how many we have and how big they are but we are getting just a little bit tired of eating it so it will be nice for a change.

 

 

Cabbage harvested from the garden.

 

This was our first year growing cabbage with mixed success. My Nappa cabbages were much anticipated but didn’t end up working out. All of the ones I direct sowed into the garden were munched to the base by slugs and the couple that I started indoors were crowded out and then eaten by a variety of bugs and not good to eat. We did however get a couple of nice green and red cabbages although they were pretty small. I have started some more cabbage seeds for the fall garden and hopefully they will work out better with the cooler weather. We had a massive cabbage butterfly problem at the start of the summer and my daughter and I spent weeks scraping off butterfly eggs by hand every day to keep it in check until the cabbage plants were big enough to fend them off which made me pretty sad because we love butterflies but there were literally hundreds of eggs and the cheeky butterfly in question was aggressively laying eggs while we were scraping so I am sure a few made it to the end.

 

 

Our potato harvest.

 

I should probably confess my massive impatience with our potatoes. I may have been super eager to free up some garden space and to see if our potatoes had actually grown and dug them up a little bit early. I probably should have left some of them longer so that we had some larger potatoes but overall I am pretty happy with the harvest. I wish I had measured the pounds of everything we harvested this year but that will have to go on the list for next year. Our potatoes did mediocre for how many spuds I planted. We ended up with about 20 plants and got about 3/4 of a dish pan of potatoes total. I went back through the potato beds a few weeks after our harvest and dug up about 15 more small ones. There were also quite a few starts that I left in the dirt that might sprout next year for some surprise potatoes but if they don’t I am not worried. I am formulating a better plan for potatoes next year. We need to move them to a different spot that is easier to harvest and I need to leave them in the ground much longer. I haven’t decided where to put them yet but I am definitely thinking about it!

 

 

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts

 

Our Brussels Sprouts our growing slowly but surely. This is our first year planting these and we did have a huge slug problem with a couple of the plants but now they are growing really well and I am hoping to be able to harvest in another month or so but honestly we haven’t done these before so I am not sure when they will be ready. I may have over planted these just a little bit with 5 in a decent sized pot but I was running out of space and I really wanted to try them this year. A large part of our garden this year was experimenting to see what works and where to put plants. I am not sure if we will grow these again next year because it was a lot of work and it looks like we will only have a few meals worth of sprouts. Our space may be better off growing something more prolific but I am waiting to see how they turn out once we harvest them. If I do Brussels sprouts again next year they will be in the ground and not in pots though. It was too hard to keep them watered and they need more soil.

 

 

Pumpkin!

 

We have three pumpkins growing this year. Two of them are pie pumpkins and we got one medium sized jack-o-lantern one whose shape is pretty lopsided. I love getting a bunch of pumpkins for Halloween so we will be buying more from the store or hopefully from the local pumpkin patch if they open. I would love to grow a bunch of varieties of pumpkins but they take up a bunch of space and we just don’t have the room. Our ripest pumpkin should be ready in a couple of weeks and our kids are pretty excited about it. I am really hoping that they don’t get eaten right before I pick them since we have been watching them all summer to see how they grow.

 

 

Tomato

 

We had mixed results with tomatoes this year. I could not get my cages to fit in the pots we planted our tomatoes in so they were not very well supported and lots of branches were broken. I won’t be doing them in pots next year because the amount of watering needed was ridiculous. I had to water twice a day most days this summer and even that wasn’t always enough. We planted three varieties which were cherry, roma and beefsteak. Our cherry tomatoes are doing well and we are getting a handful every day which the middle child promptly eats. Our roma tomato plant has lots of tomatoes on it but only a couple are ripe. I have been trimming the flowers and I put a sprig of ripening cherry tomatoes over the romas to try and speed up ripening but I am not sure if they will ripen quickly enough. After our heat wave next week I am pulling all of the tomato plants and hopefully any that aren’t ripe will ripen indoors.

 

We have one sad small beefsteak tomato on our plant and I am not hopeful that it will be remotely ready in the next week. For some reason this plant did not flower until a few weeks ago even though we used the same type of soil and fertilizer as the others. It was actually the healthiest plant but only produced leaves. I am doing more research into tomatoes for next year and hopefully we will have a better crop next year. Everyone in our area struggled with tomatoes this year though so I am not surprised our crop wasn’t that great.

 

Spaghetti squash

 

Our spaghetti squash crop has been surprisingly great this year. I almost pulled the vines in late June because they simply weren’t growing but I am really glad I didn’t. I have harvested 4 or 5 good sized squash so far and there are several more on the vines that should be ready in the next couple of weeks. We also lost probably 4 or 5 smaller ones to squirrels and slugs which was pretty sad and I am harvesting the last few a little bit smaller so they do not get eaten. I had better luck with the squash that were up off the ground this year, even though in the past it wasn’t an issue, so next year I am planning on trellising these somehow. We grow spaghetti squash every year and it is one of my favorites. The variety we grow does not get that yellow color you see in the store but once the rinds are hard they can be stored for a up to a few months. I keep them on my kitchen counter so I don’t forget to eat them.

 

 

Massive sunflower.

 

By far our most impressive garden growth has been with one of the five sunflowers I got to grow this year. I planted about two packets worth but most of the seeds were eaten by squirrels and the rest that came up were chomped down by the slugs. I have a few smaller ones that were planted in the kids’ fairy gardens but only one of those will flower in time. I am not sure if our massive one is an American Giant or a Mongolian Giant sunflower since I planted both varieties but I do know that it is so tall I have to go to the neighbors yard to check the status of the flower. I am really hoping it will open soon and we will get a few seeds from it. Next year I am going to start my seeds indoors and hopefully we will get more sunflowers but this year I was late starting my seeds and magically out of sunflower seeds when I went to do my spring seeds. I ordered a bunch more seeds for next spring already in anticipation of shortages again next year.

 

 

Winter Squash

 

We are not huge fans of winter squash at our house but I ordered some buttercup squash seeds from Territorial Seeds this year to try. I was low key worried about supply chains last spring and I figured since we were expanding our garden and trying to grow new things that adding a couple of winter squash in there wouldn’t hurt. Seeds were in short supply when I ordered them in March and there weren’t a lot to choose from so I got buttercup squash since they store well and are easy to cook. They are very dense and I have accidentally picked three of them just trying to see how heavy they are. We did cook one of them a few weeks ago and it tasted like winter squash for sure so we may have some difficulty eating these. There is at least one more small one on the vine and this variety is supposed to produce four to five squash per vine that are about four pounds each. I did weigh our largest one and it was about 3.5 pounds which is pretty good. These plants did not appreciate our wet spring and early summer and a large number of the first fruits they put out rotted on the vine. I am going to have to plant these away from the summer squash next year and farther apart so that water on the plants dries faster and to prevent rotting.

 

 

Apple tree crop.

 

We are going to have a decent amount of apples this year mostly because I did not thin them enough. We have a tree from Costco that produces several varieties of apples and it looks like the Fujis are the most prolific this year. I am not really sure when they all will be ripe but we have been harvesting a few and picking up the windfalls and so far I would say we have picked about 5 pounds of apples and there are still lots more on the tree. I am making applesauce out of some of them this weekend and maybe fruit leather. We are having an issue with our apple tree leaning heavily to one side and I have been researching ways to fix it. We cleared out all of the bushes that surrounded the tree and we are going to try staking it to the house as well as doing a meticulous trim of the branches after all of the apples have been harvested this fall. I cut it back every year but it grows so fast that I can’t really keep up. I am going to work on the shape of our tree and thin the apples much better next year so that the tree isn’t so overloaded.

 

We have had a great time gardening this summer and it has really broken up the monotony of being stuck at home. It has been a great bonding experience with my kids and we have loved eating food that we have grown! My fall seeds have been started indoors including cauliflower, cabbage, onions, kale, and broccoli so I am eager to get those in the ground in a few more weeks. Look for an update after our fall seeds are in the ground and happy gardening!

 

Helpful links with no affiliation, just things we enjoy:

 

Seattle Urban Farm 

 

Territorial Seed

 

Buttercup Squash Recipes

 

June Gardening Update

 

 

 

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 […]

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 […]

Garden Update 06.08.19

Garden Update 06.08.19

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 this time of year so not much gardening has been going on. I have made an effort to do some weeding and mulch some areas of the garden but time is limited and the garden is still rough around more than a few edges.

 

Faded Peony

Our Peonies came up beautifully this year. They seem to be recovering from their accidental stomping the first spring we lived in our house. We bought our house in the fall and a large number of dormant plants popped up during our first spring that we had no idea were there. This particular plant was stepped on as it first started emerging while we were digging our asparagus beds. Last year it had one blossom and this year there are several which are very beautiful! We have two Peony plants and honestly even the second year one of them was so damaged I didn’t really see it until much later in the season. Strangely one only one of our Peonies is blooming and almost done. The other has several blooms ready to pop, and even the bees are trying to get inside but they have not opened yet and it has been a couple of weeks. It is pretty interesting how these plants are probably about 20 feet away from each other but they each have their own micro climate and are blooming at different times.

 

Strawberries

Our strawberries are coming along nicely. We planted one of these Alpine Strawberries we inherited from the neighbors a couple of years ago and now we have several plants along with many, many June bearing plants that have all taken over one area of our garden. These tiny tart strawberries were our son’s favorite last year and the only fresh fruit he would eat. So far this year he has not been as interested but hopefully he will come around eventually!

 

Gigantic bush with white flowers.

Our gigantic bush that shades our front door is blooming beautifully this year. In the afternoons it is buzzing with the hum of dozens of bees.

 

 

I finally got around to planting annuals in our gigantic pot. It is really heavy and under the cover of the roof so every year I plant annuals in it since watering can be tricky. I also filled most of the pot up with Plastic milk bottles before I added soil to cut down on the soil used and to keep the pot from getting too heavy.

 

 

We did official fairy gardens this year for both kids. My daughter had only a couple of hens and chicks left in her pot and some of her fairies were broken so we added a couple more to her pot, some more hens and chicks (a girl after my own heart) and some annuals. I like to do annuals in the kids’ fairy gardens because they love choosing plants every year. Since we use smallish pots there isn’t a lot of room but it is nice for the kids to have a little piece of their own gardens.

 

 

My son got to make his own fairy garden this year. He was too young the first year and last year we never got around to it so he was very excited. He picked out mostly pink and red flowers and they look really good. He also picked the red gnome because he looked like Santa Clause which was really cute.

 

 

I bought some vegetables for the kids to plant as well. They picked out some squash, snow peas and cantaloupe which is tricky to grow in the PNW. I fully intended to plant them immediately but when I got home I discovered that my garden beds are missing quite a bit of dirt and are at best half way full. I am going to get more soil this weekend so I can get these in the ground before I forget.

 

 

I should probably show you a few of my weeds that popped up despite the mulch I laid down. Next fall my goal is to lay down cardboard and mulch and try to keep the weeds in check for next year.

 

 

Most of the gardening I have gotten to has been in the front yard. This picture is of my side yard…there is supposed to be a path through there but clearly it is super tiny and mostly non-existent. This area was way over planted by the previous owners and is prone to weeds, despite mulching and regular weeding. I have taken out about half the plants but everything that is there overcrowds. At some point I will probably take out everything on the right hand side but I am hesitant since a lot of those plants bloom later in the year and they feed our resident hummingbirds and healthy bee population.

 

Despite my lack of time to garden ours is flourishing. How is your garden going this year?

 

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 […]