Sunday, May 31, 2009


I'm extremely excited about a new budget system we're trying out - BucketWise. It was written by Jamis Buck, who actually used to work at BYU on the same team as Ryan, and it's basically everything we've been wanting. When we were first married we used Quicken, but that didn't allow us to create different categories to sort our money into and then draw from. It was a decent way to track overall spending and make sure we were syncing up with our bank account, but it didn't really do what we wanted. And once our version became too old to download online account information we stopped using it.

Next we tried the YNAB approach without buying the YNAB product. Ryan coded up a complete clone of the YNAB spreadsheet where we could enter our purchases into a register, dole money out to specific categories, and it would record how much was spent, budgeted, and remaining in each category. If we went over in a category it would subtract that amount from our available amount to budget in the next month. This worked pretty well except that there was no way to account for different bank accounts. And then Ryan was going to need to roll it over for the new year (I didn't have the time or inclination to learn how to do it myself), but he was too busy with school so it never happened. A scary 5 months of not keeping track of our purchases ensued.

Now we've successfully transitioned over to BucketWise (thanks to Ryan allowing me free reign at the Mac for one weekend so I could enter everything from the past 5 months and figure out how the program works). The program allows you to set up multiple bank or credit card accounts and then you can create "buckets" within each acount. For us, I have all deposits go into a "general" bucket and then I can dole it out from there. With this program I can tell exactly what we can afford to pay for from our main account and what we'll need to pay for from our secondary account (where my paychecks go). I'm hoping this will gradually end the worries about if we've got any money left in our primary account. We're being better about making sure we have the money for a purchase before we make it - even the little ones, which was usually what caught us before. And we're using it to help us save for items we want to get in the future; we already have a "bucket" for Ryan's drumset! We'll see how it works over time, but so far I'm excited.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Triple XXX Date

Once Ryan finished his semester we took his mom's advice and went on a date - a rare and unusual occurrence indeed. We planned to go to a movie, but the theatre looked more run-down than a Provo dollar theatre, so we decided to pass on that option. Instead we went to Triple XXX. Despite it's odd name, it's just a harmless burger joint. The name comes from the Triple XXX root beer they serve. It is one of only two remaining Triple XXX root beer restaurants in the nation and has been featured on The Food Network. We had a great time - the root beer is superb, I enjoyed looking at some of their old pictures showing views of the area from the restaurant (which has been around since 1929), and they have a unique burger that is served with peanut butter on it. Yes, peanut butter. Ryan was the one to brave it, and he says it's delicious and he can't figure out why no one else has thought to do it. We'll be more than happy to have any family or friends who want to try it come and visit!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Concert

We didn't have a very exciting Memorial Day - Ryan worked and I did laundry. We didn't get together with anyone and we had a casserole for dinner, not the typical bbq. We didn't see any parades or bike races. We don't even have a flag to hang out. I was feeling a little bummed about our lack of celebration, so thankfully I'm playing in the local Citizen's Band this year. The first concert was yesterday evening.

I'd always wrinkled up my nose at the thought of playing in a community band or orchestra. I felt that it would just be disappointing after the other ensemble experiences I've had. But Citizen's Band is unique amongst community bands. It's been around for over 160 years and the performers range from talented high school students to people in their 80's. Some of the older members have been playing in the band for 50 or 60 years. Several members of the band are war veterans, one of whom hang-glided in behind enemy lines on D-Day. Most of the local band directors, studio teachers, and orchestra members participate in the band, which definitely helps the quality of the playing. The band is primarily a sight-reading band. For most concerts we only have one rehearsal the evening before. We don't get the music until that rehearsal, so we sight-read it and perform it the next night. And the band is very skilled at pulling it off. Apparently they're hoping to start having the band tour occasionally - performing at a conference in the next couple of years and then a trip to Europe after that.

The music isn't middle-school level either. Well, occasionally they'll throw one of the better of those in there, but for the most part it's good music. At our concert last night we played the to-be-expected patriotic pieces such as Armed Forces Salute and Stars and Stripes (as a side note, does anyone else get sick of Sousa marches?). But we also threw in there the ever-favorite Beguine for Band (remember that one Susan?), which isn't nearly as annoying when not paired with 15 other schmaltzy pieces, and even a great transcription of Shostakovich's Festive Overture. Definitely sight-readable material (though I did have to practice a few licks in the Shostakovich), but it seems they stick to good quality sight-readable material.

It was awesome to be able to play at the Memorial Day concert. We let Gareth stay up late so that he and Ryan could come. The audience consisted of mostly elderly people (I'm curious to see if that's always the case or if it's just due to the holiday) which meant there were actually several veterans in the audience. Playing that concert was a great way to feel a part of the community and feel that we'd done something to celebrate the holiday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Farmer's Market

The long-awaited opening of our local farmer's market occurred in the first week of May. I took Gareth out in the slight drizzle and was surprised to find the place packed. Toward the end of last summer it never seemed so busy as it does this month. I was hoping to find asparagus, since I know that it's one of the first crops ready for harvest, and I wasn't disappointed. It costs the same as in the store, but why pay for asparagus shipped from Mexico or Canada when you can get some that was cut that morning only a few miles away?! We've been enjoying asparagus once a week so far. We've also been enjoying the lettuce and spring greens. Ryan's comment on our first salad with the fresh greens: "It actually has flavor!" We're also starting to stock up on the homemade jam, hoping that come wintertime we'll have enough extra to get us most of the way through until we can get it again.

I never thought we'd go this far with the whole fresh food thing, but we're actually contemplating trying out the local pasture-raised meats as well. I was surprised to see that the ground beef isn't all that much more than in the store: $4.25 - $5.25/lb. Just to get 85% lean has been costing us $2.99 at the store lately, with more lean options costing almost $4. Unfortunately the ground beef is the least expensive of the local meats. I'm not sure that the market prices can compete with the store prices where chicken and pork products are concerned, but I've still got some checking to do. If we weren't a poor grad. student family I'd maybe do it anyway.

We did get a couple of tomato plants - an Early Girl and some variety of grape that I can't remember the name of. We've had plenty of rain and sun since planting them and it looks like they're shooting up quite nicely. I'm so excited to (hopefully, if all goes well) have our own tomatoes this summer!