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 […]
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 […]
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 […]
Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out […]
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?
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 […]
We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]
When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our friends she was quite the center of attention. It was quite a shock for me just how many presents one child could receive and how insistent people would be that they buy her something every time she sneezed. Things got worse once we started having a “family” party separate from the “kid” party and we suddenly had twice the presents, many of which were small plastic pieces that soon got lost. Once we had a second, and then third child the gifting got completely out of control. Suddenly everyone needed a present at everyone else’s birthday even though my kids are not upset by others getting presents and everyone started getting gifts randomly even though there was no actual reason. It was a waterfall of gifts people. Many more than my kids ever needed and these same people that were giving all of these gifts, sometimes one a month, were very critical of how many things we had for the kids. My constant pointing out of the excess that others had bought them fell on deaf ears and I began to get really frustrated. A solution had to be found!
I have spent many years trying to reign people in and insisting that we did not need more clothes, toys or whatever random things were suggested and I was largely ignored. Family members “needed” to buy the kids many things and parents of friends would tell me their kid really wanted to buy something. We tried small wish lists on Amazon. That resulted in gifts cards of various degrees of usefulness. We tried explaining about how we were cutting back and didn’t need any more stuff. This sort of worked but mostly resulted in a smaller number of gifts at holidays and then random giving all year round. We also tried doing a white elephant party at one of our daughter’s birthdays but the kids had such a diverse set of interests it didn’t really work.
This year I decided we have had enough. We are trying to cut back on our “stuff” and reduce our waste and all of this random gift giving was not helping. We started the seeds of change early, at our youngest’s first birthday with a very firm we prefer no gifts but if you insist on buying something stick to the wishlist (which mostly contained diapers and a couple of toys both kids could share). It worked out pretty well. He still got a lot of gifts, but nowhere near the amount the first two kids did and we had more people at the party since we invited a bunch of friends too. I also took every opportunity I could to point out cute clothing items the kids were wearing that we had received from our Buy Nothing group and to firmly state that the children did not need clothes. Thankfully people started asking me if the kids needed anything and actually listening and the number of random gifts started to slowly decline.
The true test of our reduced gift receiving strategy was the middle child’s 4th birthday. She has a lot of friends and started at a new school this year so I wanted to invite everybody in her class. We ended up doing separate family and kid parties since there would be so many kids invited. For the family party I set up a small wish list on Amazon with things she actually wanted (mostly Legos) and a couple of clothing items to satisfy those that always buy clothes for her. I made sure to tell everybody that we really wanted to see everyone but to keep the gift giving to a minimum since our kids have way too much stuff and you know what? It actually worked this time! Our daughter got presents, but this was the first year that she didn’t seem to get way too many. People only bought her one or two items instead of four or five and about half of the items were Lego sets which took us a whole month to put together so she didn’t experience present burnout after a few days. I am really glad we stuck to our guns!
The kid party was a little trickier since we didn’t know a lot of the families as well. We invited about 25 kids plus their siblings and had it at a local gymnastics place where the kids got to run around for an hour then have cake. Since I haven’t had luck telling friends not to buy gifts I decided to see if people were willing to donate a gift to a local charity called Holly House for Kids instead. We asked our daughter’s friends to make her a card or draw her a picture since she loves receiving art from her friends and to donate a gift to a charity in our area that buys Christmas gifts for kids instead of buying her a present. It worked out really well! A few parents didn’t read the part on the invitation about gifts but almost everyone else brought her a piece of artwork and many people donated gifts to our charity. Holly House for Kids has an Amazon wishlist where all gifts can be sent directly to the charity so I didn’t even have to drop donations off afterwards! It was an amazing experience to have most of the families donate to kids that may go without. We also took the opportunity to talk with our 4yo about how some kids don’t get presents at Christmas time and that she had gotten lots of gifts at her family party and didn’t need anything else. Honestly though, she was so busy having fun with her friends that she didn’t really notice that she didn’t have a bunch of presents until we got home. She really enjoyed reading her cards and looking over her art work over the next few days. It was really cool to see what the other kids had made and our daughter loves art. She was very excited that the kids had made something for her which was really sweet to see.
We will definitely do the donation instead of a present idea at the next birthday party. I am really glad our kids are young enough that they won’t remember getting tons of presents at every birthday party and hopefully they will grow up with the expectation that spending time with friends is more important than receiving a large number of presents.
What have you done to reduce the amount of presents given to your household?
Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our […]