about me

    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    Personal Bests

    5K - 23:28

    10K - 52:35

    15K - 1:38:14

    1/2 Marathon - 1:57:39

    Marathon - 3:50:58

    A Look Back.



Tulip Town 2016.

Last week was the boys’ spring break, and even though we were going on vacation the following week, I still wanted it to feel like a fun week of (free/cheap) local activities. 

On Sunday (while Casey worked at the market), we rode scooters all the way down to Discovery Park and hunted for pine cones.  Then we took them home and on Monday, we rolled them in peanut butter and bird seed, and hung them in the tree to make bird feeders. 

On Tuesday, we went miniature golfing.  We pass this little mini golf course on our drive every single day, and Cullen always asks if we can go.  We are typically en route to Whole Foods when we drive that way, so I always say no.  But this time, the sun was shining, it was only 10am, and we had no other plans – and so we golfed and it was awesome.  And they were actually pretty good at it!

And on Wednesday, we went to the tulips.  I don’t know if you know about the tulips out here, but they are an EVENT!  The tulip fields are a little over an hour outside of Seattle, and they bloom for about three weeks every spring.  They draw thousands and thousands of visitors from around the world, who to come see the incredible rainbow fields and surrounding scenery. 

In our five springs here, we have never gone – and this year I was determined to change that.

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Things I had heard about visiting the tulip fields before we went:  It would be muddy, be prepared for a big mess.  It would be crowded, expect horrible traffic and big crowds.  It would be worth it, it will take your breath away.  And oh it did.

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My plan of attack was to leave early and go on a weekday.  I had hoped to make it a family adventure, but Casey was swamped trying to get business stuff in order to be able to go out of town.  And so I borrowed his pick up truck and headed out into the country with the boys in search of rainbows of tulips.

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Part of my grand plan was to avoid the main highway exit directing people toward the tulip fields, and to go a slightly longer back way.  As we rolled along toward Roozengard – the main tulip field that was still in bloom this year – I glanced to my left out the window and saw big bands of bright color in the distance.  Tulips!

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It was Tulip Town, another spot I’d looked into, but the website warned that because of the unseasonably warm start to spring, the tulips were all being “topped.”  And indeed when we got there, we found crews in the field cutting all the beautiful tops off the stems of some of the rows, as they need to be kept healthy for the following season.

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Rather than push on toward the bigger more popular field, something told me to turn off and go check this one out.  I don’t know if it was because we came into town from the opposite direction, or because their website had claimed to be all but done for the season, or maybe because it was a weekday – but there was no one there.

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For all the warnings of enormous crowds and hours of gridlocked traffic, we swooped in and ran through the muddy fields with only a few other people.  It was kind of amazing. 

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And the mud – ohhhhh the mud.  I learned quickly that as a mom of boys, dirt happens.  And the quicker you accept that and let it happen, the happier everyone will be.  My two rules were no splashing near other people, and no splashing with your hands – otherwise, have fun. 

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And so they did.  In fact, I’m not sure they even noticed the tulips.  They just jumped and ran and splashed and screamed with delight.

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Cullen seemed particularly unconvinced that he was really allowed to get as muddy as he liked.  And so he’d jump and splash mud everywhere and then sheepishly look up at me, not sure what I’d think.  But I was so taken aback by the fields of color and felt so grateful to be on an adventure with my kiddos – what else could I do but smile?

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The kids might have not been totally impressed by the tulips themselves, but man – I was.  It was so incredible, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

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I kept thinking how much I knew my mom – a florist for 20 years – would have loved it too.  Next year we will plan to go back mid-season, when the fields are in peak bloom – I can only imagine!

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We spent a little over an hour just slowly making our way around the giant rectangular field.  I still couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have the place to ourselves. 

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I think another part of our luck was that it was drizzling rain when we left Seattle.  “You know it’s raining, right? asked Casey as I packed up lunches and got us ready.  I did, but between radar mapping and blind faith, I was convinced that once we got outside the bowl of the city it would stop.  And it did, and it was beautiful.

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With just enough leftover rain to make for some epic entertainment.

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We made our way all around the fields and then said goodbye til next year to the pretty tulips.  We will definitely be making it an annual tradition! 

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And then the boys enjoyed sticky PB&J’s on the tailgate of the pickup truck – which, when you are 2 and 4 is pretty much the best thing ever.  We hung out and took our time, and I thought about how lucky I felt to be spending a Wednesday morning out in the beautiful countryside with two kids that I adore.   

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Being home with them every day for years and years – it’s easy to lose sight of the gift that it really is to spend time with little ones.  I get easily bogged down in house work, and never ending toy explosions, and arguments over who gets which milk cup every morning.  And day in and day out that stuff can really wear you down. 

But I’ve been working hard at seeing the bigger picture, and not getting so wrapped up in the day to day stuff.  I’m trying to be less controlling, more spontaneous, and more appreciative of the little bit of time I have left before these boys roll out the door to Kindergarten and stop telling me all their secrets.  And for me, that means steering the car into mini golf instead of the grocery store.  And letting them get as muddy as they want to. 

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Happy (Marathon!) Monday, my friends!  Have a wonderful week!



New Business, New Budget.

This post is sponsored by You Need A Budget.  Thanks for your continued support of Daily Garnish!

In January of 2015 we set out on a path to start our own business.  It didn’t happen overnight – it was more of a slow slog, really – but almost immediately we knew we needed to make changes.  The biggest change of course, would be financial.  The end goal of starting our business was always to eventually transfer Casey into a full-time role working for himself.  Of course this meant a big financial change from what we were used to, so we had to start thinking about and managing our money differently.

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In the past we’ve used programs like Mint, as well as self-made spreadsheets, but I am not a natural budgeter and I was easily frustrated by lack of customization and excessive advertising that came with some of these programs. 

Recently we’ve started using You Need A Budget – a budgeting web app (with companion apps for your phone), that has really changed the way that we’ve been viewing and spending our money.  First I’ll tell you a bit about YNAB and the way it works, and then I’ll share some personal ways we are tweaking finances and making changes!  Exciting stuff!

And before I do that, you can click here to get your first three months free – no credit card required!  Also, it’s always free for all students!

YNAB is really easy to set up, and it took me about one hour to get all our accounts synched and organized.  You can directly import your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage information, investments, etc. – so that you can see your full financial profile in the sidebar.

The philosophy behind the YNAB method of saving and organizing comes in four rules.

1.  Give every dollar a job – This means that every dollar you have is accounted for – whether it’s budgeted, saved, or spent.  This greatly reduces the likelihood of overspending or surprises.

2.  Embrace your true expenses – This is one of my favorite features of the program.  True Expenses are those things that come up periodically (but don’t require payments every month) – car repairs, a broken water heater, birthday gifts, travel, etc.  Instead of seeing these as big lump sums that have to be dealt with in one month, using True Expenses helps you set money aside monthly for so you are prepared when the times comes.

3.  Roll with the punches – Overspending happens to all of us.  And instead of freaking out when a budget goes into the red, YNAB allows you to move money from one budget to another, so you can cover overspending.

4.  Age your money – Once you get beyond the 30 day mark, you can start paying bills with money you saved 30 days ago, and get yourself out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle.  This is also a great way to make sure you aren’t carrying balances forward on any credit cards.

Here are the basic budgets and expenses that we are categorizing for our family.  My goal was to make it specific enough, but not to make it so detailed that it became unmanageable.  Our Immediate Obligations are things that are monthly bills – these are typically the same amount every month, and rarely surprise us.

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Our True Expenses are the things that need more specific budgeting – like kids activities and groceries. 

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This month, I signed Cullen up for summer swimming lessons so we are already over budget for kids activities – I’ll need to pull that money from other areas to cover the difference.  Hopefully down the road as we’ve use the program longer, there would have been enough month to month roll-over to cover that excess.  Same goes for the pet expenses, as we had to pay for Huey’s cremation and vet services, which were several hundred dollars.

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And our Quality of Life Goals are the other extras that we’d like to save for.  I’m not sure why they included the education categories here, and since they are part of our regular monthly bills I will probably move them into Immediate Obligations. 

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One thing I’ve always been frustrated by in other programs is the need to assign each transaction to ONE budget.  You Need A Budget allows you to split transactions – meaning if I go to Costco and buy a bunch of different things, I can then break the transaction down from the receipt – allocating part of the total toward groceries, and the rest toward budgets for dogs, household items, kids, etc. 

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Without being able to do this before, our grocery budget would go way over because it often included other incidentals that snuck their way into the food category.

So with all of that said – I thought I’d share some basic budgeting changes we’ve tried to implement (and continued to work on) as we’ve worked to become more financially mindful and organized.  We are by no means perfect or pros, but here’s what has been working for us this year:

Identify our priorities

For us this meant focusing our “extra” money on allocating for the things that are really important to us – travel and savings.  With all of our family living thousands of miles away, travel is a part of life.  And unfortunately, we can’t realistically pack up the car and drive to our loved ones – trips home require plane tickets – four of them!  One change to the way we’ve thought about travel as we’ve worked on our budget is to pay more attention to the big picture – travel is not just plane tickets and accommodations.  It is also things like dog sitters, destination activity money, and incidentals.  It’s important to include ALL of those things in the travel budget, and not just the big pieces.  We also try to use skymiles and promotions, as well as book far in advance to get the best deals.

Savings is self-explanatory, but obviously very important.  Now that our income has shifted to both being self-employed, we are looking to be a lot more mindful of actively saving, and finding new ways to do this.

Neither of us is into fancy labels or clothes, and our kids wear very basic stuff that’s all bought on sale.  We don’t have a ton of toys, and what we do have often comes from Craigslist or resale shops, or from neighborhood FB swap groups.  But we do care a lot about the quality and source of our food, so we shop at higher end grocery stores and pay more for food that meets our family standards.  I’m happy to wear old jeans and eat good cheese – again, all about priorities, because we can’t (and don’t need to) have it all. 

Make small changes.

Budgeting 101 will tell you that many small charges will add up to lots of spending.  And while of course we all know that, actually remaining mindful of it every day is another story.  It’s easy to see something as “only $5” but spending that extra 5 dollars every day can add up to almost $200 each month!

I look for little ways to save by not buying drinks out, always searching for free parking, and trying to stick to free kids’ activities.  It’s easy to spend $20+ on admissions to kids’ places, and while that can be tempting in the rainy slog of winter, this year I was much more mindful of sticking to the spots where we have memberships, utilizing free First Thursdays at museums, and getting more creative with art projects and activities we did at home.

Make big changes.

The biggest changes we have made in the past few years have been car-related.  We traded in our big SUV and now I drive an entirely electric tiny Nissan Leaf!  I can write more about this change in another post (if folks are interested), but it has been a huge savings to us.  And I have found that it is actually plenty roomy for our needs (I can get my double BOB in the back!), and it is a million times easier to park in the city too.  We pay zero gas, zero maintenance, and the estimated cost in electricity to charge the car is a whopping $150 per year.  We also bought it when there were both federal and state tax credits available, so it was very affordable.

Casey has a business truck, and that was also chosen with affordability and functionality being the most important considerations.  We are not fancy car people, so we are fine with base models, fabric seats, basic radio, etc. – since having fancier cars isn’t something that really appeals to either of us, it didn’t make sense to be spending any extra dollars there.

We also looked at things like fitness memberships and classes, prioritized and picked the things we wanted to do most, and cut out the rest.  Part of what I love about running is that other than the gear, the workout itself is FREE, and it’s available right outside your front door pretty much all the time.

Stop throwing money away.

This topic is mostly food related, and it means to literally stop throwing money away.  I get super frustrated when I fill up the kids lunch plates and they don’t touch them, and perfectly good food ends up in the garbage.  These days, if they don’t want to eat something I don’t force it, but the plates go back in the fridge and are offered an hour later when the kids are begging for snacks. 

It also means paying better attention to what food we already have, and using that up before we buy more.  I tend to be the immediate gratification type, so I’ve had to really work on cooking and eating food that is on hand instead of always making exactly what we WANT RIGHT NOW.  This has helped immensely in reducing our food waste, and cutting down on grocery bills. 

Avoid impulse buying.

This is something that I have to be mindful of daily.  It is so easy to grab those little things here and there, but I often regret them a few hours later (and they add up so quickly!).  I actually don’t shop in stores (other than grocery stores) often at all, so for me the issue is online shopping. 

With Amazon apps and discount coupon codes right at our finger tips all day long, it is SO easy to spend money without even really thinking about it.  We are big time Amazon users, and recently I’ve been forcing myself to put things in my cart and wait a few days before checking out.  More often than not, I end up taking most items out other than essentials because the “need” for these items wanes away pretty quickly. 

I’ve also unsubscribed from most of the promotional brand and store emails that flood my inbox all day long.  If I don’t know that Gap is having a 40% off sale, I’m not going to be tempted.  I’m a huge sucker for sales, but I also know that buying something on sale is still spending money that wasn’t necessarily planned for or budgeted.  Also, buying less makes the things that I do buy feel a lot more exciting! 

So there you go – a look into how we’re managing the shift in finances as we navigate the world of self-employment and business ownership.  It’s such an exciting time for us, and being more connected to our money gives me a much better understanding of our financial health on a daily basis, which leads to daily peace of mind as well.

Thanks so much to You Need A Budget for helping us look at finances in a new way.  If you want to try YNAB yourself, click here to get your first three months for free (with no credit card required)!

This post is sponsored by You Need A Budget.  Thanks for your continued support of Daily Garnish!

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