Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trader Joe's Love

This past Saturday I went to Trader Joe's with my dad, Matt and the kids. 45 minutes later we left with a few bags of groceries. Seems simple enough, right?

Not so simple though. You see, when I walk into Trader Joe's my eyes kind of glaze over and I become overwhelmed by all the interesting items in front of me. From fresh fruits, veggies, breads, baked goods, all varieties of frozen foods - from fish to bon bons, deli selections, sauces, chips, canned goods, trail mixes, cereals - I walk in that store and want it all!

For whatever whatever reason my brain gets all foggy (too busy imagining eating everything) and I just can't think clearly, so I need your help!

What are some of your favorite items from TJ's?
What have you found to be a real bargain?
What do you really love, regardless of the price?
How about anything you've tried that you wouldn't buy again?

I'd love some input because I always like trying different things and getting good deals - both of which are easy to find at Trader Joe's.

And since I'm asking you to share, I figured I would share some of my favorites....

Guacomole and Salsa - it's in with the fruits and veggies and oh so delicious. We've run out of chips and I'm just looking around for stuff to dip in it. I actually like it more than regular guacomole (gasp!).
Toasted Almonds - I don't typically like whole almonds, but these are slightly salted and toasted and wonderful little snacks.
Frozen pizza with carmelized onions and gryere cheese and ham - This was in the freezer for a long time before I finally made it and it was yummy. Cut it into bit size pieces and it would make a great appetizer
Frozen tuna steaks - Trader Joe's carries a variety of well priced flash frozen fish. I've only tried the tuna and it was great. Try marinating it in TJ's Mojito sauce.
Spicy Black bean dip - One of Matt's favorites. Also, fat free!
Frozen Spinach artichoke dip - why bother making your own.
Bruschetta (in a jar, not fresh) - tastes wonderful on Italian toast or on your favorite pasta.

That might be it for now. I'm sure I'll continue to think of more!

Looking forward to hearing your input! I might have to schedule another trip this weekend!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

If you've got some time on your hands

I'm feeling a bit of writer's block so I figured instead of not posting at all I would direct you to some fun stuff on the web that I've seen recently...

Bloggy Giveaway Carnival. Run, don't walk, over to Shannon's @ Rocks in My Dryer Bloggy Giveaway page. Over 600 bloggers have listed giveaway items - from the smallest things like books and aprons, to larger things like MP3 Players and $50 gift cards - and all you have to do to enter each giveaway is follow the rules on their blog - usually as simple as leaving a comment telling them to count you in. I say RUN - because each giveway has a different deadline so I can't tell you for sure how long you have.

Pioneer Woman AKA Ree. Her whole site is great but my favorite is the saga of how she met and eventually married her husband, whom she refers to as the Marlboro Man. It's called "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels" and reads like romance novel - she even uses the phrase "hiney tingles" - but that's as steamy as it gets! Click HERE to go to a listing of each installment - starting at the bottom of the page. Warning, this story is still ongoing so if you catch up, you'll be forced to wait for the latest installment. Waiting = no fun! ;)

Pioneer Woman Cooks. I think I gain weight just looking at this site. Ree posts step by step pictures and instructions for the many delicious recipes she makes for her kids and husband - tried and true "man pleasing" recipes that are nine times out of ten full of butter. I am not kidding you when I say that I am usually drooling while I skim through her recipes. We had this one for dinner tonight. We did have a few modifications - we used turkey bacon instead of peppered bacon because it's what we had. I'm glad we did because I don't know if we could have handled much more pepper. Also, I used American cheese because we buy it by the pound at the deli 'round here. It was super yummy and Matt raved over it. For those of you who know my husband, he is not one to rave. I find myself looking through her recipes trying to find a reason to make them. I know some of you are Pioneer Woman readers so if you have tried any recipes please let me know how you liked them.

Excited for Lost to start up again in two days? Having trouble keeping track of all that went on in the last three seasons. Check out this video to get an eight minute summary starting at day one. It's does a good job of catching you up and is kind of hilarious at the same time.

I found this next one through a friend who posted it on facebook. Found on weburbanist, it's untitled, "Seven Abandoned Wonders of the Former Soviet Union." I found the pictures as well as the story behidn each one really fascinating. It's worth checking out as well as the American Abondments - you'll probably see some familiar sights.

Finally, I don't even know how this blog came on my radar. Perhaps through a facebook friend? Anyway, it's called Confessions of a CF Husband and I urge you to check it out. The blog is mainly written by Nate, and he is sharing his about his life and his wife Tricia, who has Cystic Fibrosis. They were trying to get a double lung transplant when she got pregnant and she gave birth about 3 weeks ago to a little girl named Grace - born at I think 25 weeks. Grace and Tricia still have a long road ahead of them and could use all the prayers they can get. Nate shares very honestly and is steadfast in his faith, never wavering despite some really trying times. I would suggest reading some of their older posts to get a picture of what the past few months have been like.

That's all for now. Let me know if you check any out and while you're doing that I'll come up with something original to share with you all!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snow shots

Last week we got between 2-3 inches of snow. Because that's the most we've had all winter AND quite possibly the most we'll get, we all bundled up and had some fun.

Here are a few pictures from our time in the snow.

Ella all bundled up in her snow gear. We never can seem to find the right type of gloves for snow play and that usually limits how long they last. Those purple gloves did surprisingly well for basically being a piece of fleece.

Here's the cute snowman that Ella and Matt made. He is sportin' blue eyes just like the rest of us. It was a great way to use up some old blueberries.
Ella and her friend Evan, along with Matt's help, made another snowman, named leafy. Goldie does her business in the backyard and I was kind of freaking out that the snowman had more than leaves in it. But Matt assured me it didn't. Not sure how he knows, but I trusted him.

After her nap Catherine decided to join us. It was pretty obvious that our kids have not had alot of exposure to snow play because Catherine was really confused about putting on snow pants. She stripped down to her diaper and really was not sure why she should wear two pairs of pants. But once I explained that it was like a coat for your legs, she was good to go. I amaze myself daily with the wisdom that I am imparting to my children.

The snow was super sticky - perfect for snowmen and snowballs. Catherine was so funny because she would try and throw a snowman and it would stick to her hand almost everytime.
I just love pictures of kids all bundled up. Makes me want to squeeze them!

Ella standing tall on the remains of leafy.
And finally, what snow experience would be complete without a few snow angels!

I'm hoping we have a real snowstorm and get to go sled riding. One of my other hopes for this winter is to go snowboarding again. It's been four years (hmmm, wonder why??) since I've last been and I would really to get back into this winter. Even if it's just once or twice so I know I can still do it - that would be great, and a reason not to put all our gear up on ebay.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A New Year's Miracle

In the past week and a half we have experienced, not one, but two, minor in the grand scheme of things, miracles.

But to me they are miracles and that is why I must share them with you.

Of course, with me, there's no such thing as a short story so for the first one we must go back four and a half years. It was June of 2003 and I was towards the end of my first trimester in my pregnancy with Ella. I travelled to Europe with my parents to visit my brother Mike, who was living and working in Germany, and then for all of us to tour around the surrounding areas for about 10 days. The trip in itself is worthy of it's own post because traveling through Germany, Switzerland and Austria with my parents was full of many memories that deserve to be shared with my blogging friends!

While I hiked in the Alps in Switzerland (most beautiful place I've been) Matt and his father were back at our place working on a little project. Our kitchen originally had a wall half way through it - making one very small kitchen and on the other side of the wall, a small breakfast nook/junk room. Our plan in redoing our kitchen was to knock out this wall, making one large flowing kitchen. Problem was this was a weight bearing wall and supposedly it was going to cost alot of money to secure and then remove. Also, our kitchen radiator was built into that wall. Can't leave that out because it's really the point of this long drawn out story.

Matt took advantage of me being away to risk our house falling down and added a support beam and removed the wall and radiator himself. Remember that was in June 2003. That was the last time that we had heat in our kitchen. It's made for some pretty unpleasant winter mornings and a yearly threat to Matt that I will divorce him if I have to go through another winter without heat. It's been 3 1/2 years so I think he's called my bluff! I've been using what might be considered a more urban approach to warming the area by turning on all the gas burners - just for a short time because I do know it isn't safe. But it is a quite effective way to warm your hands up. Again, I know it's not safe but we do have a Carbon Monoxide detector - at least I think we did until the batteries started dying and Matt took them out in the middle of the night. Hmmm....

Anyway - to sum it all up - a few months ago Matt pulled out one of our kitchen cabinets and installed a baseboard heater. Unfortunately it didn't work and Matt couldn't call our plumber because we used a different plumber to install our new heating system and didn't want the old one to see the new one's work so we had to find a new plumber and he came the day before he was leaving for Disney World for a week and then forgot about us until two weekends ago when we called him to come fix another plumbing problem and I begged Matt to have him look at the heater again and he did.....AND he fixed it! Phewwww...deep breath needed after the longest run-on sentence ever. Did you follow that? Me neither! Anyway - our kitchen isn't warm and toasty yet (but it's still much much warmer) because the fan to the heater isn't connected yet, but I'm confident that by 2009 it should up and running. All in all it's truly a miracle that it's almost finished and I don't have resort to anymore drastic threats to have a warm kitchen.

The second New Year's miracle is that we sold our Pathfinder. It had been sitting for 2 YEARS. It seemed every time Matt would fix one part on it, another one would go. Once it got into running condition about 6 months ago, Matt cleaned it up and took pictures. Last Sunday he figured now was a good a time as any to put those pictures up on Craig's list - and hallelujah - three days later it was gone! As in sold. Not stolen or anything. Because I wouldn't be saying hallelujah about that. At least not out loud.

And guess what we're doing with the money? Finishing the kitchen project from 2003!!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Farewell to a (furry) Friend

Almost 15 years ago I sadly said good-bye to our beloved dog Broozer who had been a part of our family longer than me. The house felt empty without a dog but I don't think any of us were ready to think about another pet.

Ready or not, a few months later, during the fall of my junior year of high school, we found Pokey. My younger brother, Mike, and I were at our respective soccer practices when a strong thunder storm opened up and everyone scattered. Mike and I had both noticed the dog that had been running around the field over the past few days and were worried about him. After we got home we talked it over with our mom and headed back over to the field. If he was still there and willing to get in the car with us, we'd bring him home until we could find his owners. Of course we fell in love with him and were sad when a few days later we figured out (thanks to some helpful cross country runners who had also been visited by Pokey) where his owners lived and realized we needed to take him home. I don't know how accurately I remember the scene, but in my head I picture the house as being out in woods, run down and dirty and a little scary. We showed up with the dog and immediately they said "oh yup, that's Pokey - he ran away a week ago." At least now we knew his name. They didn't seem especially thankful that we brought him home and he didn't seem especially excited to be back. I noticed they had rabbits in pens on the porch and asked how Pokey did with the rabbits. To which they responded "dunno - we just got 'em a few days ago." Hmmmm.....maybe they weren't expecting him to come back.

My mom was either oblivious or just ignoring their luke-warm welcome and was gushing all over Pokey and how much we loved him and wondering where they had got which they responded "do you want him?" I don't think any of us expected that so I'm sure there was a short pause but I think as a group we said "yes, yes" and got out of there as quick as possible before they could change their mind.

That was almost 15 years ago and Pokey has been a part of our family ever since. He was a bit of a scaredy cat - I mean dog - scared of the vacuum cleaner and the heating vents. Before he was fixed he had a little problem when he got excited or happy that we liked to refer to as "red alert, red alert". Sorry that I had to type that, but it's a part of my early memories of Pokey's life with us. My mom and Mike discovered that he could howl so they would howl at the top of their lungs and he would eventually join in with them. It was often embarrassing for me because they enjoyed demonstrating Pokey's talent in front of anyone - usually my friends or boyfriend.

But most of all Pokey loved my mom. We all went away to college and eventually got married and he remained my mom's constant companion (besides my dad of course - but he worked all day whereas Pokey stayed home). Where ever she went, Pokey followed. He definitely got a little jealous when the grandbabies came along and took away some of his attention.

Yesterday was a sad day as my mom said goodbye to Pokey for all of us. He was a good and faithful dog and he will be missed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wonderful World of Disney

I imagine that Disney has a great marketing team because everywhere you go, you see the Disney Princesses. Anything a kids could ever want is now made with a Disney Princess on it, just to make it that more tempting to strong willed little four year olds. How many of you knew that there is a Disney Princess version of the EZ Bake Oven? We don't own one yet, but let me think about all the other things we do have that one of the very lovely Princesses on it...hmmm...we have nail polish and lip stick, stick on earrings, of course lots of dresses and shoes and tiaras, blankets, nightgowns, t-shirts, purses, cell phones, cameras, coloring books, wands, dvds....I'm sure I've missed some and I know there are many more. Of course, last but certainly not least, we have the teensy tiny Princess dolls with their removable flexible clothing...

I included my hand in the picture on purpose (no really) so you could get an idea of how stinkin' small these things are. Ella loves them so much. She got some for her birthday and because I love her and I love how excited she gets about things, I got her a big set for Christmas. They come with the smallest shoes imagineable, jewelry and lots of other fun pieces to lose. For the first week or so I was pretty crazy about following Ella around and making sure I had every shoe and every necklace. I've given up a little bit and now we have a nice little container they all go into and she's doing pretty well about keeping them contained.

Ella loves putting all dolls in different dresses and just having them all be friends and play together. Did you catch that their clothing is flexible? I know there is a name for it but it's basically stretchy thick plastic. I'm sure it was designed by Disney with parent-child bonding on mind because it is very difficult for Ella to get the dresses on (off, not so much) and that means I get to play princess with her. There are reasons this isn't always good and I'll get to that in the end.

But Ella does try her hardest to dress her dolls without my assistance and that means a few of the dresses have torn. Therefore this is what I got to do this afternoon...

Do see any tears or flaws? I think not! Because I am quite the expert with the Duco Cement. Actually I am not really sure if that was the intended use of the Duco Cement but what could it hurt?

So now all is happy in Princess land. The wardrobe is intact!

I forgot to mention that we do have one prince for whom all the princesses are competing. Technically he belongs to Belle and even has a Beast oufit he can wear, depending on his mood. Because since it's so much easier to take off the clothing, the prince is usually naked. That doesn't deter Ella from continuing to include him in the play. The other day I overheard one of the princesses (Ella) telling the prince "oh no, go away...I can't see you naked before the wedding day!" Oops - where did she ever hear that from?

Of course it's actually good stuff that I know one day we'll discuss. But with Ella at age four I am praying that I didn't open a can of worms and now have to field questions right before bed about boys and girls and nakedness and wedding nights. Just not ready to go there yet....

But I'm sure you'll hear all about it!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Giveaway

I found this giveaway through my friend Julie (at Green Eggs and Hammes - a new and very active blogger). Her friend Greta is doing a jewelry giveaway that ends tomorrow. She's giving a pair of really cute earrings that she made. She'll pick a winner at random tomorrow and the only catch is that she needs 20 entries - and she's not there yet! So if you're interested in winning some earrings...head on over - ASAP!!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Just a little something

To make up for the lack of pictures over the last few posts I figured I'd put up a few Christmas shots to hopefully give you a tiny glimpse of our Christmas this year....

Aunt Sharon trying to keep Ella from exploding with excitement as she waited anxiously to go down and open gifts Christmas morning.

Don't you just love the look on Sharon's face? To me it says "take the picture and get this flailing child off my non existent 9 month pregnant lap!"

I thought Catherine looked adorable in her little Disney headband. She wore it all morning long.

A cute picture of all the Koerber cousins in their Christmas eve jammies. Obviously not a Christmas theme, but it's nice to be able to wear them all winter long. I absolutely love Ella and Catherine in their matching Tinker Bell outfits.

Catherine got a super soft Tinker Bell blanket that Ella was definitely coveting. I had to post a nice moment of sisterly love as they snuggled in it together and watched TV.
I know that's not much but we tend to forget to take pictures of ourselves and as a family. You all got to see the lovely family shot I posted right before Christmas - showing the reason why you won't see many deMontaigne family pictures - we just don't cooperate for them.
One final note totally unrelated. For those of you Grey's Anatomy fans - The Caedmon's Call and Derek Webb song Ten Thousand Angels (written by Sandra McCracken) was played last night during one of the final scenes with Bailey's baby. I watched it and really liked the song and wanted to find who did it - and then received an email from Derek Webb himself (HA!) telling me all about this morning. I can't believe I didn't recognize them but I wasn't expecting to hear Caedmon's Call on one of the most watched shows in the country. Pretty cool! Let me know if you happened to catch it...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

In My Opinion

I sat down the other day and was messing around with my blog template, changing some of the code and moving things around - you know, just tweaking it a bit! Hopefully that statement will be true at some point this year because I've decided I need to want to learn some basic html. See, I've already mastered the strikethrough. Not really though, even that took me awhile! I just want to be able to adjust things and perhaps personalize it a bit more and sometimes I get so frustrated with the layout that I know it would make things easier if I knew how to fix it.

As you may have noticed I added some new lists to my sidebar. I figured it would be fun to add the books that I'm reading and movies and shows I've watched recently and enjoyed. Because I have mastered the strikethrough I am able to show that I already finished The Other Boleyn Girl and One Missippi. With The House that Cleans Itself I probably will be reading it all year long because I can't get past the chapter where I have to draw a layout of my whole house and divide into zones. Not gonna happen.

I also hope to indicate, especially with the movies, whether I liked them or not. Matt and I have a monthly blockbuster plan so we watch alot of movies. I'd like to offer my highly refined opinion to my fellow bloggers so I can let you know when not to bother. For instance with Hairspray -"I was bored and John Travolta in drag and a fat suit was weird". I know, I should have pursued a career in film review. Any type of organized system may prove to be too complicated for me so I'll probably go the Michael Scott route and give some a thumbs up or down, some stars and some smiley or sad faces.

Rather than going back and trying to include all the books and movies that I've enjoyed I figure I'll just start with the most recent! I realize everyone has different reading and viewing tastes and we won't always agree. But when I find something I really have enjoyed I am compelled to share that enjoyment with others. I bet that for those of you out there that read this blog and have watched Veronica Mars and/or Friday Night Lights it's because I encouraged you to. And by encourage I mean put the DVD in and turned the TV on and made you! And for how much you resisted you have to admit you loved it! So therefore I must have decent taste so I feel alright in putting some likes and dislikes out there. Feel free to add your opinion at any point or offer some recommendations.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Toys, New Year and New Nephew

As I sat down to finally write something new on this blog I had titled it "New Toys, New Year New Baby." Thankfully I realized before posting that that might be a bit misleading so I changed the final word.

I am thrilled to have a new nephew - Caleb William Koerber was born last night January 3rd to Mike and Sharon Koerber, weighing in at 8lbs even and 19 inches long. I still can't believe my little brother is a dad! Sharon went into labor two weeks early. Did I mention he was 8lbs??? Sharon and baby are doing great and I'm sure she is thankful that she didn't go another two weeks! If you want to see some pictures of the little one and offer your congrats to the new parents, click HERE or on Boston Koerbers on my blogroll.

I've been enjoying reading all your Christmas updates. So much so that I really haven't been motivated to add one of my own. But then New Year's came along and the resolutions were going up and I figured I probably need to get some Christmas highlights up before I touch on my goals/resolutions for the New Years. At the rate I'm going, you'll see those in February.

We enjoyed a week of visiting with both our families and now are home in our own beds. As nice as it is to have less responsibilities and more people around to hang out with and constant playmates for your kids, nothing can top sleeping in your own bed. And that's before we get our 3 inch memory foam topper!

Catherine and Ella unloaded all their toys in the family room and it's been a disaster ever since. We are slowly putting toys away and moving things to their new spots. All the Christmas decorations are put away - it was time for, as Catherine said "bye bye Christmas".

Overall it was a really fun Christmas. Last year Ella was able to totally understand Christmas and know it was coming but this year the excitement reached a high as we glued cotton puffs to Santa's beard and added ornaments to our advent tree. We ended up going to Clearfield a day early to have an extra day with Mike and Sharon, who made a late decision to make the trip, but had to head home the day after Christmas. The kids got to open their gifts from us and Santa in Clearfield. The difference between the two of them was hilarious. Ella would rip open a gift and exclaim over it and squeal and love it and seconds later want to move on to the next one. Catherine would rip open a gift and exclaim over it and squeal and love it and bring it over to her PapPap and be ready to play for the day.

The week after Christmas was filled with more presents and celebrations and time with cousins as we moved from the Koerber Christmas in PA to the deMontaigne Christmas in MD. After four years of holding out we have finally succumbed to the portable DVD player. It's a wonderful thing and I am going to suggest we drive to Boston to visit the new baby -that's how happy it made me to not have to be climbing over the seats for cups and toys.

Some of the favorite gifts for the girls include an easel from Ikea with lots of craft supplies to go with it, a digital camera for Ella (Catherine loves it as well, but refused to let anyone show her how to work it and she takes picture after picture of nothiness), Dora's magical castle and lots of new food for the play kitchen for Catherine and a doll house for Ella. Lots of wonderful toys with little pieces which result in me crawling around the ground trying to find all those wonderful little pieces. I can't even blame the grandparents - I'm the one who bought the tiniest of tiny toys. Because I am just dying to work on my fine motor skills.

We came home on New Year's Eve and like the party animals we vegged on the couch all night and watched movies. I happened to glance at the clock at 11:59 so we did see the last 10 seconds of 2007. And then put our movie back on.

I still feel a bit behind - getting laundry caught up, getting the house in order, getting into a workout routine - all things that will put us back to normal and out of vacation-lazy mode.

But, I'm giving it one more night and I'm heading for the couch as soon as I publish this....

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