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 […]
Hello and welcome to the first gardening update of 2021! This year my goal was to expand our vegetable garden and add in more pollinator friendly plants. My usual spring garden supply budget was much larger than usual because we ended up needing a large […]
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. I have pictures from my office from mid-February and then by the second week of March everyone in our house was home and we were adjusting to the chaos. This virus took us by storm and the last year has been extremely difficult all around.
The first few months of Covid for us were all about adjusting to spending LOTS of time together and figuring out how to do work and school at home in a relatively small space. We were all crammed into our living room which is decent sized but with four people on computers in meetings all day it got really loud and difficult to concentrate. We also just happened to be at a natural low point with our groceries towards the end of February and were slightly scrambling to find some much needed items. We tend to eat down our pantry every February and were out of everything, including staples such as soap, TP, paper towels, laundry detergent, rice, flour and beans. We ended up waiting until large bags of our favorite local legumes went on sale and did without for some of the fresher items like tofu for a while. We are mostly vegetarian in our house so the meat shortages didn’t really affect us much.
The hardest part for me was adjusting to working with two loud children at home every day and our oldest moving back home at the same time. My kids are loud and the youngest is still pretty high needs as far as attention goes but he did get way better about playing by himself last spring. We have saved ton of money on daycare costs this year and had almost no summer camps lined up so I made the executive decision to spend a little bit of that savings every month on activities to keep the kids busy. I bought a lot of lego sets, art supplies, coloring books, dig kits and other items to keep them busy on their own. We also tried Outschool this summer with mixed success. I used it mostly for social interaction so that the kids were used to taking instruction from other people and focusing similarly to the classroom.
Staying active while at home has been a challenge for us. We don’t have a back yard that is great for the kids to be out on their own in and our street is pretty busy so they aren’t allowed out there by themselves either. We have been walking our trails nearly every day and bike riding has become a thing in our house with one child learning this summer. Luckily our oldest daughter has time a couple of days a week to take the kids on longer bike rides and that has helped tremendously. Mr. Oscoey and I do not own bikes which I know is probably unheard of in the personal finance realm but neither of us been super into it although I am seeing a need for us to get at least one so that we can go on long rides with the kids. We also splurged and bought a bouncy house which has been a lifesaver! It takes five minutes to set up and about 10-15 to take down (which is mostly time waiting for it to deflate) and wears out the kids fabulously. I bought a bouncy house just small enough to fit in our living room so we have even had lots of opportunities to bounce as the weather has gotten colder. It is pretty loud but I am able to work with it running and since it is pretty contained I could sit inside and work with an eye outside to the kids while they were bouncing this summer which was helpful.
We have tried over the past year to find Covid safe activities in our area but honestly we are pretty cautious and it has been hard. We went to Shadow Lake Bog which was nice but the hike was way shorter than we thought and it ended up being too easy for the kids. We did learn a lot about the bog and saw some amazing things but it was not the rigorous hike I was hoping for. The way they had it set up was you could reserve one of two parts of the bog and then hike it for an hour. We reserved the smaller side and it was about a mile round trip which is how far we walk most days in our neighborhood so for our kids it was not very challenging. The drive out there was almost not worth the hour we had the bog reserved for. I would recommend it for smaller kids or for people that live closer and aren’t spending 45 minutes in the car to get there. I would however love to go back when they have opened up their nature center and we would be able to see both sides of the bog on the same day. There was tons of nature that we don’t see every day and it was really cool to see.
Now that the weather is colder we have been trying to find indoor activities to keep our minds busy. The kids have been doing lots of art, Legos, pretend play, book writing and robot making on their own so I decided to try doing a cooking activity with the kids on the weekend. The first few weeks we baked brownies and made desserts but those don’t take up a lot of time and the weekends were starting to get long so a few weeks ago we tried out making a formal tea for lunch. It was a massive amount of fun! We didn’t dress up but we did get out the good china and practiced our manners at the table and the kids loved it. Everyone helped make fancy veggie bowls, fruit, sandwiches, salami “UFOs” and dessert. We cut our sandwiches into shapes and came up with interesting combinations which most of us tried.
We had a lot of fun with our tea time and I am already thinking of some ideas for the future. We will probably do some more smaller teas but in a couple of weeks I want to do another larger one. The kids and I have been talking about what we will make and thinking about new sandwich combinations. I found some gluten-free digestive biscuits and once they come in the mail we are going to try making the Queen’s favorite dessert which is a chocolate cake made from them. I am sure at some point we will get tired of it but for now, finding something to look forward to and plan for is super important for everyone’s mental health. The days have been blurring together and I realized we were just sitting around all weekend. Doing tea for lunch on Sunday gave the kids purpose for the day and a sense of schedule that we really needed so we will continue to do them every week or two until we tire of them.
Although we have not been out there nearly enough, we are incredibly lucky to have woods to visit on family property out on Whidbey Island. It is great to go out there and walk around in the woods without having to worry about Covid. For the most part we have been maskless except now that cases are skyrocketing in the Seattle area we are wearing our masks to protect my Dad. We have one kid in person at school and we really don’t want to pass anything on to him. We have been super cautious and barely seen any of our friends and family but for us it is worth it if everyone stays healthy.
We spend our time out on Whidbey walking in the woods while my dad shows the kids around. He has found several hiding spots for the kids to play in and has great plans to add cabins to the raw land. Hopefully by next year there will be power and water and we will be able to stay longer than a couple of hours but for now our kids get overtired and antsy after a couple of hours so we head home. Our last trip was about a week ago and it was getting a little bit too cold out to be comfortable so we may not be back for a few months. We saw a bunch of mushrooms this time out which was pretty neat to see.
Covid has definitely made the last year way worse than we ever anticipated but I am incredibly grateful that those around us have been staying safe and we have not lost anyone close to us yet. Just in the past couple of weeks we have been hearing of friends who have been in contact with others that have had it but so far nobody in our inner circle has gotten sick. I am certain however that is because we most likely all had it back in January/February when we all got this horrible sickness that fits Covid symptoms before it was even reported in the U.S.. We are continuing to find ways to keep ourselves entertained at home relatively cheaply and I am hoping that by next spring we will have a little bit more freedom.
Stay safe everyone.
As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]
This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]
This past June as soon as school got out we took a weekend trip up to Victoria, B.C. with the younger kids. One of our goals this year is to increase our travel and since Victoria is so close to us we decided to take the plunge. Our last trip to Canada with the kids was not so great and afterwards we took a two year break from traveling. We wanted to wait until the youngest was older since he had such a difficult time on both the trips we had taken with him when he was a baby. We have received a lot of criticism for our decision to take a break from traveling when the kids were little and some people get it and others try to push the whole idea of getting kids used to traveling when they are little so it is easier when they are older but it is such a personal decision and every kid is different. Our youngest is not a good traveler and even though he has gotten way better we will probably always have to shorten or modify our plans with him to accommodate his needs. Not every kid handles travel well and in our case the change in routine, lack of “normal” foods and being confined to a car seat for long periods of time lead to a pretty disastrous trip for the kids’ first time to Canada. We are working our way up to longer trips and I am hoping to try a 5 hour flight with them at some point in the next year. My ultimate goal is international travel but I think we will probably wait to leave the continent until the kids are much older.
It was most of our first time to Victoria, B.C.. We drove across the border and took the Tsawwassen Ferry across the water to Victoria. We didn’t feel confident that we would make a 8:00 am sailing on the Port Angeles Ferry and the Tsawwassen Ferry has staggered sailing times without reservations which fit our schedule better. It was also a nice break from the drive since the ride is 90 minutes long and everyone is required to get out of their cars to go above deck. We watched a nature talk, ate some lunch and played in the kids’ play area. The kids had a lot of fun on the ferry. Although we ride the Mukilteo ferry pretty frequently it is only 15 minutes long and we almost never get out of the car. I have been riding that ferry all my life to visit relatives that lived out there and getting in and out of car seats does not always go over very well with cranky children so usually we opt to stay in the car for that one.
We got off the ferry and immediately drove to our must see spot of Butchart Gardens. We went on the last day before the price increase for the summer tourist season and saved a little bit of money. We got there at about 11:00 and it was also pretty cloudy so our first few hours there were not too crowded. It did get very busy after lunchtime and I would highly recommend going early in the day to beat the crowds. We had no problems finding parking and getting photos mostly without other people in them (see the peekaboo head in the sign picture?). Our kids don’t really like crowds so we always aim for low traffic times to avoid the inevitable meltdowns that come from over stimulation.
We love looking at gardens and I get a lot of inspiration from seeing how other people plant their flowers. There were so many ideas and great combinations of flowers that there is no way I could ever incorporate them all in my garden. I also had some guilt about how little gardening I have done this year. Time is short and adding the extra travel in has taken up some of my weekend gardening time. I don’t mind though since I am really enjoying all of the traveling we are doing. These beautiful pink flowers I took a picture of because our daughter loved them so much she wanted a picture. It was great to see her wonder and delight at all of the plants. She has been helping me quite a bit in the garden this year and I am loving how much she enjoyed the flowers, at least until the kids both got bored.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife in the gardens including this cool lizard that was just hanging out on a rock way along the staircase to the Sunken Garden. Another older girl noticed it and we spent some time looking at it before moving on to other things. We don’t really see lizards at our house so our kids were pretty excited to see something different. I bet if we hadn’t been rushed through the gardens with eager children we would have seen more of them or even a snake or two but I am glad we at least got to see one!
The gardens are part of an old quarry that was turned into an awesome display of gardening skills. There are a lot of ups and downs and fabulous vistas. My favorite part was looking out over a large vista and then walking along the path to look at the details. There were so many things to see you could probably go many times and not see it all. We are currently listening to “A Secret Garden” in the car and the Butchart Gardens kind of remind me of the story and how the gardens at the manor had so many hidden gems that came out at different times of year. I would love to look at the Butchart Gardens during different seasons to compare. We went during the height of the flower season but I wonder if the fall and winter gardens have some interesting plants as well.
There are several ponds throughout the garden and we loved looking at the water plants and how the water moved. Some of the ponds were more still and it was interesting to see how the trees on the shore cascaded over the edge. I was inspired by the use of smaller water plants along some sides of the pond to create a different effect than the larger trees and shrubs along other sides. It was cool to see how the gardeners had used light and position to create a scene with greenery.
One of my favorite fountains was the Ross Fountain. The backdrop was the quarry walls and the way the water moved against it was very pretty. The view coming up to the fountain was superb. You come out of some trees and across a gravel path and there below you is this beautiful fountain that is spraying water in many different patterns. I had a really hard time getting a human free picture of it since so many people were gathered in this area to look at it.
One of the coolest things we saw at the gardens was the owl that flew right over our heads as we were walking along the path. It then perched itself in a tree until some robins chased it off. I am pretty sure it was trying to have a baby robin snack but it looked like the robins were successful in scaring it away without harm. My kids loved seeing the owl. They still remembered the one we saw outside our deck a few months ago and since this was the same type of owl it was pretty exciting.
After we walked the gardens a bit we stopped at the cafe to have lunch and look at the boar statue out front. This statue was very amusing apparently, especially when my daughter decided to stick her finger up it’s nose (lots of tourists laughed…). The food was pretty good and I found a lot of gluten-free options as well as options for our picky kids. We spent some time in the gift shop as well but it was mostly full of kitschy stuff that we would never use. There was tons of tea, garden statues, toys for kids and flower seeds from the garden itself. I was pretty tempted to buy some flower seeds but I have not had time to garden much this year and I did not have a place to plant them so they did not come home with us. We generally don’t buy a lot of souvenirs from places we go but this trip we did buy each of the kids something. Our daughter picked out a thick super soft sweatshirt that she loves and wears all the time and our son picked out a ferry toy with a couple of cars that he plays with quite a bit. Mr. Oscoey and I usually get a picture frame with the name of the city we visited and put a picture of us from the trip but we didn’t really have time to look for one on our trip this time around and honestly we don’t miss it.
After lunch the sun came out and the gardens got crowded. We went straight to the rose gardens but we had a hard time walking around there were so many people and everyone got annoyed if you stopped for even a second to take a picture so we didn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked. The paths are pretty narrow and there were so many people we were a little bit worried about our son running off and getting lost since he was tired and having a hard time staying with us. After the rose garden we headed off to the Japanese gardens to briefly check things out. It was shaded there and a little bit cooler but our kids were tired so we decided to head out.
On our way out we were inspired by this well manicured hedge. You can’t see it in the picture but it went off at an angle which looked incredibly difficult to accomplish. Maybe when we are retired we can create a hedge with an angle in it just because it is cool!
On the way out of the gardens you walk through the Italian gardens where we happened to get some Gelato to eat in the hot sun. The Gelato was delicious and the Italian gardens were beautiful so it was a great stop on our way out. It was interesting to see that the colors in the Italian garden were much louder and stood out with the large amount of concrete. Although there were bright colors throughout the gardens for some reason the contrast was higher in the Italian gardens and it was very beautiful to see.
One of the last things we looked at on our way out was Mrs. Butchart’s private garden. It was very neat and orderly with straight lines. I loved that they still keep it separate from public access just like when she was alive. There is a small window in the gate you can look through but that is it. I don’t think you can even see the whole garden which adds to the air of mystery.
We had a great time at Butchart Gardens and I definitely want to go back. I may even plan to go at the same time every year with the kids since the flowers were so beautiful and we saved quite a bit of money going before the summer price increase. Stay tuned for my next post about the rest of our Victoria trip! I couldn’t restrain myself with garden pictures so it was too large to fit into one post!
If you go:
It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen […]
In honor of Halloween I thought I would post some pictures from our pumpkin farm visit and pumpkin carving extravaganza. We have been going to the pumpkin farm with the same group of friends for the last five years and our kids love this tradition! Every year the kids get a little bit older and we are able to do more things. The first year all of the kids were about one year old and all we did was eat and walk through the pumpkin patch. This year all of the older kids are around five and the younger siblings range from 2-3.5 years old and we had a bunch of fun going down slides, digging in corn, eating hot dogs and finding the perfect pumpkin.
It took our 5yo a really long time to find the perfect pumpkin and when she did it was super tall and heavy.
It was so tall we had to carve it on the floor. Normally I have old vinyl tablecloths hanging around for crafts but we were completely out so we made a frugal choice and saran wrapped part of our kitchen floor. It worked well and we had a super fast clean up.
The kids are still pretty young and the do not like touching gross things so they helped a little bit with the carving but in the end I did most of the pumpkin cleaning out and Mr. Oscoey did all of the carving since he is our resident carving expert.
This year I bought some small white pumpkins and let the kids paint them. It worked pretty well and I think we will try it again next year with larger pumpkins and see how it goes. I am a huge fan of buying lots of pumpkins for decorations and carving but one of the frugal choices we made this year was to cut back on our Halloween decoration buying. I didn’t think the kids would actually carve their pumpkins though so I did end up buying four of these little ones for under $10.00 and we used painting supplies we had on hand so this fun craft was fairly cheap. Maybe next year we will have our garden back into shape and we will be able to grow our own pumpkins again!
Our finished pumpkin! Our kids are obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas right now so our 5yo chose a Jack pumpkin this year.
Our son’s pumpkin is rather squashed and was too difficult to carve so he used some leftover plastic eyeballs and and a mouth to make “Zero” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I would have loved to buy up a bunch more of these types of decorations since the kids can use them over and over again but we exercised our frugal muscle this year and made do with what we had on hand. I do need to remember to buy new carving tools though when they go on sale after Halloween since our last knife did not make it through the experience of carving Jack and Mr. Oscoey had to improvise with a kitchen knife (they are way less nimble). We also have a couple of pumpkins from the kid’s school carnival on our porch that are decorated with stickers and the fabulous green one I found at the pumpkin patch.
What kinds of pumpkins did you decorate this year?
About eight months ago I took a break from blogging. There were many reasons, the most pressing being a complete utter lack of time while trying to maintain balance with both Mr. Oscoey and I working full-time with small kids. To say it was difficult […]